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Jeremiah 8:1-2 . At that time they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah of the princes of the priests, and the bones (as in the Chaldaic) of the false prophets. They shall spread them before the sun, the moon, the stars and the planets, the gods they have adored, gods which now could neither pity nor save. Oh barbarous insults of a wanton soldiery!
The cause of those depredations was not malice against the dead, but conformably to ancient usages, and the hope of finding treasure in the tombs of princes. Herodotus says that Semiramis, queen of the Assyrians, built a stone bridge across the Euphrates in Babylon, and raised a sepulchre on one side in the middle of the bridge, that the passengers might ever have death before their eyes. She placed in front the following inscription. If any king, who shall reign in Babylon after me, shall find himself in need of money, he may open this sepulchre, and take whatever he may need; but let him not open it at all times in case of need, for if he do, he will find nothing to his advantage.
This sepulchre remained unopened till Darius the Mede had taken the city, who on opening the vault, found one dead body, with this inscription. Hadst thou not been insatiable of money, and infamously avaricious, thou hadst not violated the sepulcuhre of the dead. Such was the wit of Semiramis. Euterpe.
Solomon, says Josephus, (Antiquities of the Jews, book 9. and last chapter) laid up vast treasures in the sepulchre of his father, which remained untouched till the days of Harcanus, who in a case of emergency opened one of the vaults, and took out three thousand talents of silver. Herod also opened another vault, in which he found considerable treasure. This custom, it appears from Zozomon’s ecclesiastical history, near the end of book 9., was a general practice in the ancient world; and by consequence, the Chaldean army desecrated the tombs in the hope of finding treasures. Our Saxon ancestors had similar customs. A gentleman who had an ancient residence near Kirkstall Abbey, west of Leeds, affirmed that the masons, building a garden wall, said that the earth had been cast. He bade them go down till they could find a foundation. They presently found a stone coffin, which on being opened, contained the gold head of a cane, the heels of a man’s shoes, and an antique spoon of silver, whose handle and mouth were round. They searched for coins, or Peter’s pense, but none were found. It was the coffin of one of the abbots.
Jeremiah 8:7 . The stork, the ciconia; the turtle, mentioned twice by Solomon; the grus, or crane, birds of passage which returned to Syria in the spring; and the swallow, which enjoys two summers in one year, coming and going in their season, to teach man obedience to the laws and judgments of the Lord. Why should the ant reprove the sluggard; or the ox, and the ass, which know their master, reproach man so learned and wise that does not know his God? If according to St. Paul, the perfections of the invisible God be clearly seen in the mirror of creation, is not man left without excuse who revolts against a code so wise and good. By consequence, the hostility of his passions against all divine conformity, demonstrate the latent and inborn depravity of the human heart.
Jeremiah 8:10-15 . Therefore will I give their wives. These verses are repeated here, from Jeremiah 6:13-15.
Jeremiah 8:16 . The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan; that is, the colony of Dan, that stole Micah’s image, as they went out to seek a settlement in the north-east point of the land. This was the place, or great road to Carchemesh, where the Chaldean army entered.
Jeremiah 8:17 . Serpents, cockatrices [now called basilisks] that will not be charmed. The Chaldeans. See on Psalms 68:4.
Jeremiah 8:20 . The harvest is past we are not saved. When the Jews were become weak and idolatrous, they balanced in their minds whether it were better to seek alliance with Egypt, or with Babylon. The former of the great powers being preferred, they said, as soon as the Egyptians have reaped their harvest at midsummer, they will come up and save us. So they trusted in an arm of flesh, and were deceived by the broken spear.
Jeremiah 8:22 . Is there no balm in Gilead? Some say this was the gum of a tree peculiar to mount Gilead; others, that it was the resin of the terebinthus, far famed for its healing virtues. This mystically is Christ, the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. Jerusalem was a great hospital, all diseased and all astounded, as though they had drank a potion of hemlock.
Continuing the subject of the terrors of the Babylonian army, the prophet says that their generals, enraged against the Jews, should open the tombs of the kings, the priests, and the prophets, and strew their bones profanely abroad, as the bones of an ass. This was a sore reproach and affliction; and was used by Nehemiah as a powerful argument to Artaxerxes. “Why should I not be sad, seeing the sepulchre of my fathers lieth waste.” Nehemiah 2:8. Hence shame and the severest mortification must be expected in the day of God’s indignation.
As the principal thoughts in the middle of this chapter have already occurred, we may hasten to the sorrows of the prophet for the approaching calamities of his country. He bewails these with a profusion of tears, that sorrow in him might excite sorrow in others. So David wept for the men who kept not the law; and so Christ wept over the city when he announced the Roman invasion. Jeremiah’s piety we see was distinguished by tenderness and love; it associates most intimately with the piety of other inspired men. He laments in particular that the state of things was too bad for help and hope. The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. When the Egyptians had reaped their harvest, on which their existence depended, they were ready for military operations. But there was no help in Egypt, nor was there any help from the Lord; for the people misused his prophets, and mocked at their ministry. Hence there is a crisis both with men and nations when there is no more remedy. This last consideration, no more remedy, is the last of calamities. There was no more healing virtue in the far-famed balm, or gum of the tree in Gilead, which when mixed with oil was very efficacious in the healing art. The physicians there had now no skill. Judgments did not reform the people; and no prophet was believed, except the false prophets; therefore they consummated the measure of their wickedness by killing the prophets. Indulgence made them wicked, judgments seared their conscience, and grace revolted all their soul. Truly there was now neither balm nor physician which could do them good. Nothing would now do but the excinding arm of vengeance: hence God said to the heathen, “Prepare ye war against her.”
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 8". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19