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Jeremiah 4:3 . Break up your fallow ground. Hebrews ניר nir, novale; make new land, eradicate the thorns. Hosea 10:12. Our old phrase, the fallow deer, seems to give the exact import of the word. The deer that strays in the wilds and wastes of the forest, is an emblem of the unregenerate state of man. The old rabbins used to say, that the Spirit of prophecy was a rough spirit. Truly, soft words will not break up the heart where self-love has ever slumbered, and bitter weeds have ever grown.
Jeremiah 4:7 . The lion is come up from his thicket. Nebuchadnezzar, whose generals at the head of divisions are like wild beasts let loose on the country, and like wolves and leopards devouring the land: Jeremiah 5:6.
Jeremiah 4:11 . A dry wind, which bishop Heber calls the hotwind; if it blow long it destroys all the vegetation for that season. See on Psalms 48:7. Job 27:21.
Jeremiah 4:15-16 . Watchers, the scouts of the Chaldeans, are come from a far country. They enter at Dan Laish, the first northern town of Israel, and thence traverse the mountains of Ephraim! The voice of alarm, the cry of Dan, makes the land tremble. How grateful should England be that she does not hear this cry, and see her beacons burn.
Jeremiah 4:23 . I beheld the earth, the land of Israel, and lo, it was without form and void. Hebrews תהו ובהו tohu ve-bohu. The prophet uses here the words of Moses, Genesis 1:2. When the primitive mountains first rose by crystalization, they resembled naked islands of mud. So now, before this invasion the people fled; the birds also, finding no food in harvest, sought their meat in other places. All the vines and trees were stripped of their glory.
Jeremiah 4:31 . I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail. This figure is repeatedly used by the prophets; but never except when visitations come to extremity. Chastity in the use of figures was required of the sacred writers, as much as Quintilian, in the eighth book of his Institutes, required it of the gentile poets. The paucity of words in the Hebrew language was amply supplied by the eloquence of nature. The prophets, were great masters of rhetoric, a study worthy of the christian sanctuary. Those figures however were more impressive to the Jews than to us, because they knew better than we, the cosmography and the geology of their country.
This chapter opens with a clear view of the Assyrian invasion. But the effects were all frustrated by a spirit of atheism and stupor. Judah, and the remnant of the ten tribes, are here called Israel; for on their conversion, we have a promise that they should not be removed into captivity. Hence the Lord, ever piteous of the calamities of man, takes a new occasion to call his people to repentance from the alarming situation of the country. There was yet a remedy, if the nation would turn to God by a genuine reformation. Let all ministers learn from this and similar calls to national repentance, that they must enforce those duties on a wicked age, by adducing the recent motives which the visitations of providence may offer for their aid. In particular, the wicked must be exhorted to that circumcision of heart, which abhors a relapse into former sins.
To succeed in drawing the nation to repentance, he describes the terrors of the invader’s approach. The lion is gone up from his thicket; (so Daniel calls the king of Babylon, Daniel 7:4.) The destroyer of all gentile nations is in full route to Jerusalem. He makes the whole land desolate, and every city without an inhabitant. He enters at Dan, and spreads his myriads on mount Ephraim. The fugitives are covered with sackcloth, and they lament and howl under the fierce anger of the Lord. The heart of the king is appalled, the priests and princes are astonished, the false prophets are all confounded. A dry wind makes the land as in the droughty time of Ahab; for God has given sentence against the country. Lo, yonder he comes. The vast line of his chariots, and of his cavalry swifter than eagles, cover the mountains with a cloud of dust. Woe unto us, for his scouts, and advanced guards are just at hand.
The prophet, still in vision of the enemy’s approach, avails himself of the voice of justice to redouble the strength of his warning voice. Oh Jerusalem, wash thy heart from wickedness, that thou mayest yet be saved, as when the Assyrians were slain in the time of Hezekiah. How long shall vain thoughts lodge within thee? How long wilt thou rely on Egypt for help? How long wilt thou palliate crimes, and practise superstition? How long wilt thou indulge in mental wickedness, and the idle reveries of concupiscence which engender every vice? Here we see that vain thoughts and a fallacious dependence on human hopes, are subversive of repentance, and highly provoking to God. Let us therefore pray that he would graciously cleanse our hearts, and so purify them by his grace, that no thought inconsistent with holiness and love may lodge a moment there.
While Jeremiah was endeavouring to make Israel feel, he felt himself. My bowels my bowels. I am pained at the heart. Oh how tenderly he sympathized with his country when he saw it destitute of men, and even forsaken of the birds. And it was this sympathy and love which gave him courage to speak these hard words in the ears of the people.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26