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The answer of the Lord. - Jeremiah 4:1. " If thou returnest, Israel, saith Jahveh, returnest to me; and if thou puttest away thine abominations from before my face, and strayest not, Jeremiah 4:2. and swearest, As Jahveh liveth, in truth, with right, and uprightness; then shall the nations bless themselves in Him, and in Him make their boast." Graf errs in taking these verses as a wish: if thou wouldst but repent...and swear...and if they blessed themselves. His reason is, that the conversion and reconciliation with Jahveh has not yet taken place, and are yet only hoped for; and he cites passages for אם with the force of a wish, as Genesis 13:3; Genesis 28:13, where, however, נא or לוּ is joined with it. But if we take all the verbs in the same construction, we get a very cumbrous result; and the reason alleged proceeds upon a prosaic misconception of the dramatic nature of the prophet's mode of presentation from Jeremiah 3:21 onwards. Just as there the prophet hears in spirit the penitent supplication of the people, so here he hears the Lord's answer to this supplication, by inward vision seeing the future as already present. The early commentators have followed the example of the lxx and Vulg. in construing the two verses differently, and take אלי and ולא תנוּד as apodoses: if thou returnest, Israel, then return to me; or, if thou, Israel, returnest to me, then shalt thou return, sc. into thy fatherland; and if thou puttest away thine abominations from before mine eyes, then shalt thou no longer wander; and if thou swearest...then will they bless themselves. But by reason of its position after נאם יהוה it is impossible to connect אלי with the protasis. It would be more natural to take אלי תּשׁוּב as apodosis, the אלי being put first for the sake of emphasis. But if we take it as apodosis at all, the apodosis of the second half of the verse does not rightly correspond to that of the first half. לא תנוּד would need to be translated, "then shalt thou no longer wander without fixed habitation," and so would refer to the condition of the people as exiled. but for this נוּד is not a suitable expression. Besides, it is difficult to justify the introduction of אם before ונשׁבּאתּ , since an apodosis has already preceded. For these reasons we are bound to prefer the view of Ew. and Hitz., that Jeremiah 4:1 and Jeremiah 4:2 contain nothing but protases. The removal of the abominations from before God's face is the utter extirpation of idolatry, the negative moment of the return to the Lord; and the swearing by the life of Jahveh is added as a positive expression of their acknowledgment of the true God. תנוּד is the wandering of the idolatrous people after this and the other false god, Jeremiah 2:23 and Jeremiah 3:13. "And strayest not" serves to strengthen "puttest away thine abominations." A sincere return to God demanded not only the destruction of images and the suppression of idol-worship, but also the giving up of all wandering after idols, i.e., seeking or longing after other gods. Similarly, swearing by Jahveh is strengthened by the additions: בּאמת , in truth, not deceptively ( לשׁקר , Jeremiah 5:2), and with right and uprightness, i.e., in a just cause, and with honest intentions. - The promise, "they shall bless themselves," etc., has in it an allusion to the patriarchal promises in Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4; Genesis 28:14, but it is not, as most commentators, following Jerome, suppose, a direct citation of these, and certainly not "a learned quotation from a book" (Ew.), in which case בּו would be referable, as in those promises, to Israel, the seed of Abraham, and would stand for בּך . This is put out of the question by the parallel וּבּו יתהלּלוּ , which never occurs but with the sense of glorying in God the Lord; cf. Isaiah 41:16, Psalms 34:3; 64:11; Psalms 105:3, and Jeremiah 9:22. Hence it follows that בּו must be referred, as Calv. refers it, to יהוה , just as in Isaiah 65:16: the nations will bless themselves in or with Jahveh, i.e., will desire and appropriate the blessing of Jahveh and glory in the true God. Even under this acceptation, the only one that can be justified from an exegetical point of view, the words stand in manifest relation to the patriarchal blessing. If the heathen peoples bless themselves in the name of Jahveh, then are they become partakers of the salvation that comes from Jahveh; and if this blessing comes to them as a consequence of the true conversion of Israel to the Lord, as a fruit of this, then it has come to them through Israel as the channel, as the patriarchal blessings declare disertis verbis. Jeremiah does not lay stress upon this intermediate agency of Israel, but leaves it to be indirectly understood from the unmistakeable allusion to the older promise. The reason for the application thus given by Jeremiah to the divine promise made to the patriarchs is found in the aim and scope of the present discourse. The appointment of Israel to be the channel of salvation for the nations is an outcome of the calling grace of God, and the fulfilment of this gracious plan on the part of God is an exercise of the same grace - a grace which Israel by its apostasy does not reject, but helps onwards towards its ordained issue. The return of apostate Israel to its God is indeed necessary ere the destined end be attained; it is not, however, the ground of the blessing of the nations, but only one means towards the consummation of the divine plan of redemption, a plan which embraces all mankind. Israel's apostasy delayed this consummation; the conversion of Israel will have for its issue the blessing of the nations.
Threatening of Judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah. - If Judah and Jerusalem do not reform, the wrath of God will be inevitably kindled against them (Jeremiah 4:3, Jeremiah 4:4). Already the prophet sees in spirit the judgment bursting in upon Judah from the north, to the dismay of all who were accounting themselves secure (Jeremiah 4:5-10). Like a hot tempest-blast it rushes on, because of the wickedness of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 4:11-18), bringing desolation and ruin on the besotted people, devastating the whole land, and not to be turned aside by any meretricious devices (Jeremiah 4:19-31).
" For thus hath Jahveh spoken to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: Break up for yourselves new ground, and sow not among thorns. Jeremiah 4:4. Circumcise yourselves to Jahveh, and take away the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest my fury break forth like fire and burn unquenchably, because of the evil of your doings." The exhortation to a reformation of life is attached by כּי , as being the ground of it, to the preceding exhortation to return. The אם תּשׁוּב , Jeremiah 4:1, contained the indirect call to repent. In Jeremiah 4:1 this was addressed to Israel. In Jeremiah 4:3 the call comes to Judah, which the prophet had already in his eye in Jer 3; cf. Jeremiah 3:7-8, Jeremiah 3:10-11. The transition from Israel to Judah in the phrase: for thus saith Jahveh, is explained by the introduction of a connecting thought, which can without difficulty be supplied from the last clause of Jeremiah 4:2; the promise that the nations bless themselves in Jahveh will come to be fulfilled. The thought to be supplied is: this conversion is indispensable for Judah also, for Judah too must begin a new life. Without conversion there is no salvation. The evil of their doings brings nought but heavy judgments with it. אישׁ , as often, in collective sense, since the plural of this word was little in use, see in Joshua 9:6. ניר לו ניר , as in Hosea 10:12, plough up new land, to bring new untilled soil under cultivation - a figure for the reformation of life; as much as to say, to prepare new ground for living on, to begin a new life. Sow not among thorns. The seed-corns are the good resolutions which, when they have sunk into the soil of the mind, should spring up into deeds (Hitz.). The thorns which choke the good seed as it grows (Matthew 13:7) are not mala vestra studia (Ros.), but the evil inclinations of the unrenewed heart, which thrive luxuriantly like thorns. "Circumcise you to the Lord" is explained by the next clause: remove the foreskins of your heart. The stress lies in ליהוה ; in this is implied that the circumcision should not be in the flesh merely. In the flesh all Jews were circumcised. If they then are called to circumcise themselves to the Lord, this must be meant spiritually, of the putting away of the spiritual impurity of the heart, i.e., of all that hinders the sanctifying of the heart; see in Deuteronomy 10:16. The plur. ערלות is explained by the figurative use of the word, and the reading ערלת , presented by some codd., is a correction from Deuteronomy 10:16. The foreskins are the evil lusts and longings of the heart. Lest my fury break forth like fire; cf. Jeremiah 7:20; Amos 5:6; Psalms 89:47. ' מפּני רע מ as in Deuteronomy 28:20. This judgment of wrath the prophet already in spirit sees breaking on Judah.
From the north destruction approaches. - Jeremiah 4:5. "Proclaim in Judah, and in Jerusalem let it be heard, and say, Blow the trumpet in the land; cry with a loud voice, and say, Assemble, and let us go into the defenced cities. Jeremiah 4:6. Raise a standard toward Zion: save yourselves by flight, linger not; for from the north I bring evil and great destruction. Jeremiah 4:7. A lion comes up from his thicket, and a destroyer of the nations is on his way, comes forth from his place, to make they land a waste, that thy cities be destroyed, without an inhabitant. Jeremiah 4:8. For this gird you in sackcloth, lament and howl, for the heat of Jahveh's anger hath not turned itself from us. Jeremiah 4:9. And it cometh to pass on that day, saith Jahveh, the heart of the king and the heart of the princes shall perish, and the priests shall be confounded and the prophets amazed." The invasion of a formidable foe is here represented with poetic animation; the inhabitants being called upon to publish the enemy's approach throughout the land, so that every one may hide himself in the fortified cities.
(Note: By this dreaded foe the older commentators understand the Chaldeans; but some of the moderns will have it that the Scythians are meant. Among the latter are Dahler, Hitz., Ew., Bertheau ( z. Gesch. der Isr. ), Movers, and others; and they have been preceded by Eichhorn ( Hebr. Proph. ii. 96 f), Cramer (in the Comm. on Zephaniah, under the title Scythische Denkmäler in Palästina , 1777). On the basis of their hypothesis, M. Duncker ( Gesch. des Alterth. S. 751ff.) has sketched out a minute picture of the inundation of Palestine by hordes of Scythian horsemen in the year 626, according to the prophecies of Jeremiah and Zephaniah. For this there is absolutely no historical support, although Roesch in his archaeological investigations on Nabopolassar ( Deutsch-morgld. Ztschr. xv. S. 502ff.), who, according to him, was a Scythian king, alleges that "pretty nearly all (?) exegetical authorities" understand these prophecies of the Scythians (S. 536). For this view can be neither justified exegetically nor made good historically, as has been admitted and proved by A. Kueper ( Jerem. libr. ss. int. p. 13f.), and Ad. Strauss (Vaticin. Zeph. p. 18f.), and then by Tholuck ( die Propheten u. ihre Weiss , S. 94ff.), Graf ( Jer. S. 16ff.), Näg ., and others. On exegetical grounds the theory is untenable; for in the descriptions of the northern foe, whose invasion of Judah Zephaniah and Jeremiah threaten, there is not the faintest hint that can be taken to point to the Scythian squadrons, and, on the contrary, there is much that cannot be suitable to these wandering hordes. The enemies approaching like clouds, their chariots like the whirlwind, with horses swifter than eagles (Jeremiah 4:13), every city fleeing from the noise of the horsemen and of the bowmen (Jeremiah 4:29), and the like, go to form a description obviously founded on Deuteronomy 28:49., and on the account of the Chaldeans ( כּשׂדּים ) in Habakkuk 1:7-11 - a fact which leads Roesch to suppose Habakkuk meant Scythian by כּשׂדּים . All the Asiatic world-powers had horsemen, war-chariots, and archers, and we do not know that the Scythians fought on chariots. Nor was it at all according to the plan of Scythian hordes to besiege cities and carry the vanquished people into exile, as Jeremiah prophesies of these enemies. Again, in Jer 25, where he expressly names Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babel as the fulfiller of judgment foretold, Jeremiah mentions the enemy in the same words as in Jeremiah 1:15, ּ כל־משׁפּחות צפון (Jeremiah 25:9), and represents the accomplishment of judgment by Nebuchadnezzar as the fulfilment of all the words he had been prophesying since the 13th year of Josiah. This makes it as clear as possible that Jeremiah regarded the Chaldeans as the families of the peoples of the north who were to lay Judah waste, conquer Jerusalem, and scatter its inhabitants amongst the heathen. In a historical reference, also, the Scythian theory is quite unfounded. The account in Herod. i. 103-105 of the incursion of the Scythians into Media and of dominion exercised over Asia for 28 years by them, does say that they came to Syrian Palestine and advanced on Egypt, but by means of presents were induced by King Psammetichus to withdraw, that they marched back again without committing any violence, and that only ὀλίγοι τινὲς αὐτῶν plundered the temple of Venus Urania at Ascalon on the way back. But these accounts, taken at their strict historical value, tell us nothing more than that one swarm of the Scythian hordes, which overspread Media and Asia Minor, entered Palestine and penetrated to the borders of Egypt, passing by the ancient track of armies across the Jordan at Bethshan, and through the plain of Jezreel along the Philistine coast; that here they were bought off by Psammetichus and retired without even so much as touching on the kingdom of Judah on their way. The historical books of the Old Testament have no knowledge whatever of any incursion into Judah of Scythians or other northern nations during the reign of Josiah. On the other hand, we give no weight to the argument that the march of the Scythians through Syria against Egypt had taken place in the 7th or 8th year of Josiah, a few years before Jeremiah's public appearance, and so could be no subject for his prophecies (Thol., Graf, Näg. ). For the chronological data of the ancients as to the Scythian invasion are not so definite that we can draw confident conclusions from them; cf. M. v. Niebuhr, Ges. Assurs u. Babels , S. 67ff.
All historical evidence for a Scythian inroad into Judah being thus entirely wanting, the supporters of this hypothesis can make nothing of any point save the Greek name Scythopolis for Bethshan, which Dunck. calls "a memorial for Judah of the Scythian raid." We find the name in Judges 1:27 of the lxx, Βαιθσάν ἥ ἐστι Σκυθῶν πόλις , and from this come the Σκυθόπολις of Judith 3:10, 2 Macc. 12:29, and in Joseph. Antt. v. 1. 22, xii. 8. 5, etc. Even if we do not hold, as Reland, Pal. ill. p. 992, does, that the gloss, ἥ ἐστι Σκυθῶν πόλις , Judges 1:27, has been interpolated late into the lxx; even if we admit that it originated with the translator, the fact that the author of the lxx, who lived 300 years after Josiah, interpreted Σκυθόπολις by Σκυθῶν πόλις , does by no means prove that the city had received this Greek name from a Scythian invasion of Palestine, or from a colony of those Scythians who had settled down there. The Greek derivation of the name shows that it could not have originated before the extension of Greek supremacy in Palestine - not before Alexander the Great. But there is no historical proof that Scythians dwelt in Bethshan. Duncker e.g., makes the inference simply from the name Σκυθῶν πόλις and Σκυθοπολίται , 2 Macc. 12:29f. His statement: "Josephus (Antt. xii. 5. 8) and Pliny ( Hist. n. v. 16) affirm that Scythians had settled down there," is wholly unfounded. In Joseph. l.c. there is no word of it; nor will a critical historian accept as sufficient historical evidence of an ancient Scythian settlement in Bethshan, Pliny's l.c. aphoristic notice: Scythopolin (antea Nysam a Libero Patre, spulta nutrice ibi) Scythis deductîs . The late Byzantine author, George Syncellus, is the first to derive the name Scythopolis from the incursion of the Scythians into Palestine; cf. Reland, p. 993. The origin of the name is obscure, but is not likely to be found, as by Reland, Gesen., etc., in the neighbouring Succoth. More probably it comes from a Jewish interpretation of the prophecy of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 39:11, regarding the overthrow of Gog in the valley of the wanderers eastwards from the sea. This is Hävernick's view, suggested by Bochart.
Taking all into consideration, we see that the reference of our prophecy to the Scythians is founded neither on exegetical results nor on historical evidence, but wholly on the rationalistic prejudice that the prophecies of the biblical prophets are nothing more than either disguised descriptions of historical events or threatenings of results that lay immediately before the prophet's eyes, which is the view of Hitz., Ew., and others.)
The ו before תּקעוּ in the Chet. has evidently got into the text through an error in transcription, and the Keri, according to which all the old versions translate, is the only correct reading. "Blow the trumpet in the land," is that which is to be proclaimed or published, and the blast into the far-sounding שׁופר is the signal of alarm by which the people was made aware of the danger that threatened it; cf. Joel 2:1; Hosea 5:8. The second clause expresses the same matter in an intensified form and with plainer words. Cry, make full (the crying), i.e., cry with a full clear voice; gather, and let us go into the fortified cities; cf. Jeremiah 8:14. This was the meaning of the trumpet blast. Raise a banner pointing towards Zion, i.e., showing the fugitives the way to Zion as the safest stronghold in the kingdom. נס , a lofty pole with a waving flag (Isaiah 33:23; Ezekiel 27:7), erected upon mountains, spread the alarm farther than even the sound of the pealing trumpet; see in Isaiah 5:26. העיזוּ , secure your possessions by flight; cf. Isaiah 10:31. The evil which Jahveh is bringing on the land is specified by שׁבר גּדול , after Zephaniah 1:10, but very frequently used by Jeremiah; cf. Jeremiah 6:1; Jeremiah 48:3; Jeremiah 50:22; Jeremiah 51:54. שׁבר , breaking (of a limb), Leviticus 21:19, then the upbreaking of what exists, ruin, destruction. In Jeremiah 4:7 the evil is yet more fully described. A lion is come up from his thicket ( סבּכו with dag. forte dirim ., from שׂובך [ סבך , 2 Samuel 18:9], or from סבך , Psalms 74:5; cf. Ew. §255, d, and Olsh. §155, b), going forth for prey. This lion is a destroyer of the nations (not merely of individual persons as the ordinary lion); he has started ( נסע , or striking tents for the march), and is come out to waste the land and to destroy the cities. The infin. is continued by the temp. fin. תּצּינה , and the Kal of נצה is here used in a passive sense: to be destroyed by war.
For this calamity the people was to mourn deeply. For the description of the mourning, cf. Joel 1:13; Micah 1:8. For the wrath of the Lord has not turned from us, as in blind self-delusion ye imagine, Jeremiah 2:35. The heath of Jahveh's anger is the burning wrath on account of the sins of Manasseh, with which the people has been threatened by the prophets. This wrath has not turned itself away, because even under Josiah the people has not sincerely returned to its God.
When this wrath bursts over them, the rulers and leaders of the people will be perplexed and helpless. The heart, i.e., the mind, is lot. For this use of לב , cf. Job 12:3; Job 34:10; Proverbs 7:7, etc. נשׁמּוּ , be paralyzed by terror, like the Kal in Jeremiah 2:12. The prophets are mentioned last, because Jeremiah 4:10 cites a word of prophecy whereby they seduced the people into a false security.
" Then said I, Ah, Lord Jahveh, truly Thou hast deceived this people and Jerusalem in saying, Peace shall be to you, and the sword is reaching unto the soul." This verse is to be taken as a sign addressed to God by Jeremiah when he heard the announcement of the judgment about to fall on Judah, contained in Jeremiah 4:5-9. The Chald. has well paraphrased ואמר thus : et dixi: suscipe deprecationem meam, Jahveh, Deus . but Hensler and Ew. wish to have ואמר changed to ואמר , "so that they say," quite unnecessarily, and indeed unsuitably, since השּׁאת , thou hast deceived, is out of place either in the mouth of the people or of the lying prophets. That the word quoted, "Peace shall be to you," is the saying of the false prophets, may be gathered from the context, and this is directly supported by Jeremiah 14:13; Jeremiah 23:17. The deception of the people by such discourse from the false prophets is referred back to God: "Lord, Thou hast deceived," inasmuch as God not only permits these lying spirits to appear and work, but has ordained them and brought them forth for the hardening of the people's heart; as He once caused the spirit of prophecy to inspire as a lying spirit the prophets of Ahab, so that by promises of victory they prevailed upon him to march to that war in which, as a punishment for his godlessness, he was to perish; 1 Kings 22:20-23. Umbr. takes the words less correctly as spoken in the name of the people, to whom the unexpected turn affairs had now taken seemed a deception on the part of God; and this, although it was by itself it had been deceived, through its revolt from God. For it is not the people's opinion that Jeremiah expresses, but a truth concerning which his wish is that the people may learn to recognise it, and so come to reflect and repent before it be too late. On the use of the perf. consec. ונגעה , see Ew. §342, b. As to the fact, cf. Jeremiah 5:18, Psalms 69:2.
Description of the impending ruin, from which nothing can save but speedy repentance. - Jeremiah 4:11. " At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A hot wind from the bleak hills in the wilderness cometh on the way toward the daughter of my people, not to winnow and not to cleanse. Jeremiah 4:12. A wind fuller than for this shall come to me; now will I also utter judgments upon them. Jeremiah 4:13. Behold, like clouds it draws near, and like the storm are it chariots, swifter than eagles its horses. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled. Jeremiah 4:14. Wash from wickedness thy heart, Jerusalem, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thine iniquitous thoughts lodge within thee? Jeremiah 4:15. For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from the Mount Ephraim. Jeremiah 4:16. Tell it to the peoples; behold, publish it to Jerusalem: Besiegers come from a far country, and let their voice ring out against the cities of Judah. Jeremiah 4:17. As keepers of a field, they are against her round about; for against me hath she rebelled, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 4:18. Thy way and thy doings have wrought thee this. This is thy wickedness; yea, it is bitter, yea, it reaCheth unto thine heart."
A more minute account of the impending judgment is introduced by the phrase: at that time. It shall be said to this people; in other words, it shall be said of this people; substantially, that shall fall upon it which is expressed by the figure following, a hot wind blowing from the naked hills of the wilderness. רוּח is stat. constr., and שׁפים dna its genitive, after which latter the adjective צח should be placed; but it is interpolated between the nomen regens and the n. rectum by reason of its smallness, and partly, too, that it may not be too far separated from its nomen , while בּמּדבּר belongs to שׁפים . The wind blowing from the bleak hills in the wilderness, is the very severe east wind of Palestine. It blows in incessant gusts, and cannot be used for winnowing or cleansing the grain, since it would blow away chaff and seed together; cf. Wetzst. in Del., Job, S. 320. דּרך is universally taken adverbially: is on the way, i.e., comes, moves in the direction of the daughter of Zion. The daughter of Zion is a personification of the inhabitants of Zion or Jerusalem. This hot blast is a figure for the destruction which is drawing near Jerusalem. It is not a chastisement to purify the people, but a judgment which will sweep away the whole people, carry away both wheat and chaff - a most effective figure for the approaching catastrophe of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the carrying away captive of its inhabitants. Hitz. and Graf have, however, taken דּרך as subject of the clause: the path, i.e., the behaviour of my people, is a keen wind of the bare hills in the wilderness. Thus the conduct of the people would be compared with that wind as unprofitable, inasmuch as it was altogether windy, empty, and further as being a hurtful storm. But the comparison of the people's behaviour with a parched violent wind is a wholly unnatural one, for the justification of which it is not sufficient to point to Hosea 8:7: sow wind and reap storm. Besides, upon this construction of the illustration, the description: not to winnow and not to cleanse, is not only unmeaning, but wholly unsuitable. Who is to be winnowed and cleansed by the windy ways of the people? Jahveh?! Jeremiah 4:14 is indeed so managed by Hitz. and Graf that the tempestuous wind blows against God, "is directed against Jahveh like a blast of defiance and hostility." But this argument is sufficient to overthrow that unnatural view of the figure, which, besides, obtains no support from Jeremiah 4:12. מאלּה cannot refer to בּת־עמּי : a full wind from these, i.e., the sons of my people; and יבוא לי , in spite of the passages, Jeremiah 22:23; Jeremiah 50:26; Jeremiah 51:48; Job 3:25, does not mean: comes towards me, or: blows from them on me; for in all these passages לי is dativ commodi or incommodi . Here, too, לי is dative, used of the originator and efficient cause. The wind comes for me - in plainer English: from me. Properly: it comes to God, i.e., at His signal, to carry out His will. מלא מאלּה is comparative: fuller than these, namely, the winds useful for winnowing and cleansing. Now will I too utter. The intensifying גּם does not point to a contrast in the immediately preceding clause: becaus e the people blows against God like a strong wind, He too will utter judgment against it. The גּם refers back to the preceding לי : the storm comes from me; for now will I on my side hold judgment with them. The contrast implied in גּם lies in the wider context, in the formerly described behaviour of the people, particularly in the sayings of the false prophets mentioned in Jeremiah 4:10, that there will be peace. On דּבּר משׁפּטים , cf. Jeremiah 1:16.
These judgments are already on the way in Jeremiah 4:13. "Like clouds it draws near." The subject is not mentioned, but a hostile army is meant, about to execute God's judgments. "Like clouds," i.e., in such thick dark masses; cf. Ezekiel 38:16. The war-chariots drive with the speed of the tempest; cf. Isaiah 5:28; Isaiah 66:15. The running of the horses resembles the flight of the eagle; cf. Habakkuk 1:8, where the same is said of the horsemen of the hostile people. Both passages are founded on Deuteronomy 28:49; but Jeremiah, while he had the expression קלּוּ מנּמרים סוּסיו , Habakkuk 1:8, in his mind, chose נשׁרים ; instead of leopards ( נמרים ), in this following the original in Deut.; cf. 2 Samuel 1:23 and Lamentations 4:19. Already is heard the cry of woe: we are spoiled, cf. Jeremiah 4:20, Jeremiah 9:18; Jeremiah 48:1.
If Jerusalem wishes to be saved, it must thoroughly turn from its sin, wash its heart clean; not merely abstain outwardly from wickedness, but renounce the evil desires of the heart. In the question: How long shall...remain? we have implied the thought that Jerusalem has already only too long cherished and indulged wicked thoughts. תּלין is 3rd pers. imperf. Kal, not 2nd pers. Hiph.: wilt thou let remain (Schnur. and others). For the Hiphil of luwn is not in use, and besides, would need to be תּליני . The מחשׁבות און , as in Proverbs 6:18; Isaiah 59:7, refer chiefly to sins against one's neighbour, such as are reckoned up in Jeremiah 7:5., Jeremiah 7:8.
It is high time to cleanse oneself from sin, periculum in mora est ; for already calamity is announced from Dan, even from the Mount Ephraim. קול מגּיד , the voice of him who gives the alarm, sc. נשׁמע , is heard; cf. Jeremiah 3:21; Jeremiah 31:15. That of which the herald gives warning is not given till the next clause. און , mischief, i.e., calamity. משׁמיע is still dependent on קול . "From Dan," i.e., the northern boundary of Palestine; see on Judges 20:1. "From Mount Ephraim," i.e., the northern boundary of the kingdom of Judah, not far distant from Jerusalem. The alarm and the calamity draw ever nearer. "The messenger comes from each successive place towards which the foe approaches" (Hitz.). In Jeremiah 4:16 the substance of the warning message is given, but in so animated a manner, that a charge is given to make the matter known to the peoples and in Jerusalem. Tell to the peoples, behold, cause to be heard. The הנּה in the first clause points forward, calling attention to the message in the second clause. A similar charge is given in Jeremiah 4:5, only "to the peoples" seems strange here. "The meaning would be simple if we could take 'the peoples' to be the Israelites," says Graf. But since גּוים in this connection can mean only the other nations, the question obtrudes itself: to what end the approach of the besiegers of Jerusalem should be proclaimed to the heathen peoples. Jerome remarks on this: Vult omnes in circuitu nationes Dei nosse sententiam, et flagelatâ Jerusalem cunctos recipere disciplinam . In like manner, Chr. B. Mich., following Schmid: Gentibus, ut his quoque innotescat severitatis divinae in Judaeos exemplum . Hitz. and Gr. object, that in what follows there is no word of the taking and destruction of Jerusalem, but only of the siege; that this could form no such exemplum, and that for this the issue must be awaited. But this objection counts for little. After the description given of the enemies (cf. Jeremiah 4:13), there can be no doubt as to the issue of the siege, that is, as to the taking of Jerusalem. But if this be so, then the warning of the heathen as to the coming catastrophe, by holding the case of Jerusalem before them, is not so far-fetched a thought as that it should be set aside by Hitz.'s remark: "So friendly an anxiety on behalf of the heathen is utterly unnatural to a Jew, especially seeing that the prophet is doubly absorbed by anxiety for his own people." Jeremiah was not the narrow-minded Jew Hitz. takes him for. Besides, there is no absolute necessity for holding "Tell to the peoples" to be a warning of a similar fate addressed to the heathen. The charge is but a rhetorical form, conveying the idea that there is no doubt about the matter to be published, and that it concerned not Jerusalem alone, but the nations too. This objection settled, there is no call to seek other interpretations, especially as all such are less easily justified. By changing the imper. הזכּירוּ and השׁמיעוּ into perfects, Ew. obtains the translation: "they say already to the peoples, behold, they come, already they proclaim in Jerusalem," etc.; but Hitz. and Graf have shown the change to be indefensible. Yet more unsatisfactory is the translation, "declare of the heathen," which Hitz. and Graf have adopted, following the lxx, Kimchi, Vat., and others. This destroys the parallelism, it is out of keeping with the הנּה , and demands the addition (with the lxx) of בּאוּ thereto to complete the sense. Graf and Hitz. have not been able to agree upon the sense of the second member of the verse. If we make לגּוים de gentibus , then ' השׁמיעוּ וגו ought to be: proclaim upon (i.e., concerning) Jerusalem. Hitz., however, translates, in accordance with the use of משׁמיע in vv. 5 and 15: Cry it aloud in Jerusalem (prop. over Jerusalem, Psalms 49:12; Hosea 8:1); but this, though clearly correct, does not correspond to the first part of the verse, according to Hitz.'s translation of it. Graf, on the other hand, gives: Call them (the peoples) out against Jerusalem - a translation which, besides completely destroying the parallelism of the two clauses, violently separates from the proclamation the thing proclaimed: Besiegers come, etc. Nor can השׁמיעוּ be taken in the sense: call together, as in Jeremiah 50:29; Jeremiah 51:27; 1 Kings 15:22; for in that case the object could not be omitted, those who are to be called together would need to be mentioned; and it is too much to assume גּוים from the לגּוים for an object. The warning cry to Jerusalem runs: נצרים , besiegers, (acc. to Isaiah 1:8) come from the far country (cf. Jeremiah 5:15), and give their voice (cf. 1 Kings 2:15); i.e., let the tumult of a besieging army echo throughout the cities of Judah. These besiegers will be like field-keepers round about Jerusalem ( עליה refers back to Jerus.), like field-keepers they will pitch their tents round the city (cf. 1 Kings 1:15) to blockade it. For against me (Jahveh) was she refractory ( מרה c. acc. pers ., elsewhere with ב , Hosea 14:1; Psalms 5:11, or with את־פּי , Numbers 20:24, and often). This is expanded in Jeremiah 4:18. Thy way, i.e., they behaviour and thy doings, have wrought thee this (calamity). This is thy wickedness, i.e., the effect or fruit of thy wickedness, yea, it is bitter, cf. Jeremiah 2:19; yea, it reacheth unto thine heart, i.e., inflicts deadly wounds on thee.
Grief at the desolation of the land the infatuation of the people. - Jeremiah 4:19. " My bowels, my bowels! I am pained! the chambers of my heart - my heart rages within me! I cannot hold my peace! for thou hearest (the) sound of the trumpet, my soul, (the) war-cry. Jeremiah 4:20. Destruction upon destruction is called; for spoiled is the whole land; suddenly are my tents spoiled, my curtains in a moment. Jeremiah 4:21 . How long shall I see (the) standard, hear (the) sound of the trumpet? Jeremiah 4:22. For my people is foolish, me they know not; senseless children are they, and without understanding; wise are they to do evil, but to do good they know not. Jeremiah 4:23. I look on the earth, and, lo, it is waste and void; and towards the heavens, and there is no light in them. Jeremiah 4:24. I look on the mountains, and, lo, they tremble, and all the hills totter. Jeremiah 4:25 . I look, and, lo, no man is there, and all the fowls of the heavens are fled. Jeremiah 4:26. I look, and, lo, Carmel is the wilderness, and all the cities thereof are destroyed before Jahveh, before the heath of His anger."
To express the misery which the approaching siege of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah is about to bring, the prophet breaks forth into lamentation, Jeremiah 4:19-21. It is a much debated question, whether the prophet is the speaker, as the Chald. has taken it, i.e., whether Jeremiah is uttering his own (subjective) feelings, or whether the people is brought before us speaking, as Grot., Schnur., Hitz., Ew. believe. The answer is this: the prophet certainly is expressing his personal feelings regarding the nearing catastrophe, but in doing so he lends words to the grief which all the godly will feel. The lament of Jeremiah 4:20, suddenly are my tents spoiled, is unquestionably the lament not of the prophet as an individual, but of the congregation, i.e., of the godly among the people, not of the mass of the blinded people. The violence of the grief finds vent in abrupt ejaculations of distress. "My bowels, my bowels!" is the cry of sore pain, for with the Hebrews the bowels are the seat of the deepest feelings. The Chet. אוחולה is a monstrosity, certainly a copyist's error for אחוּלה , as it is in many MSS and edd., from חוּל : I am driven to writhe in agony. The Keri אוחילה , I will wait (cf. Micah 7:7), yields no good sense, and is probably suggested merely by the cohortative form, a cohortative being regarded as out of place in the case of חוּל . But that form may express also the effort to incite one's own volition, and so would here be rendered in English by: I am bound to suffer pain, or must suffer; cf. Ew. §228, a. - קירות , prop. the walls of my heart, which quiver as the heart throbs in anguish. הומה־לּי is not to be joined with the last two words as if it were part of the same clause; in that case we should expect הומה . But these words too are an ejaculation. The subject of הומה is the following לבּי ; cf. Jeremiah 48:36. In defiance of usage, Hitz. connects לבּי with לא : my heart can I not put to silence. But this verb in Hiph. means always: be silent, never: put to silence. Not even in Job 11:3 can it have the latter meaning; where we have the same verb construed with acc. rei , as in Job 41:4, and where we must translate: at thy harangues shall the people be silent. The heart cannot be silent, because the soul hears the peal of the war-trumpet. שׁמעתּי is 2nd pers. fem., as in Jeremiah 2:20, Jeremiah 2:33, and freq., the soul being addressed, as in Psalms 16:2 (in אמרתּ ), Psalms 42:6, 12. This apostrophe is in keeping with the agitated tone of the whole verse.
One destruction after another is heralded (on שׁבר , see Jeremiah 4:6). Ew. translates loosely: wound upon wound meet one another. For the word does not mean wound, but the fracture of a limb; and it seems inadmissible to follow the Chald. and Syr. in taking נקרא here in the sense of נקרה , since the sig. "meet" does not suit שׁבר . The thought is this: tidings are brought of one catastrophe after another, for the devastation extends itself over the whole land and comes suddenly upon the tents, i.e., dwellings of those who are lamenting. Covers, curtains of the tent, is used as synonymous with tents; cf. Jeremiah 10:20; Isaiah 54:2. How long shall I see the standard, etc.! is the cry of despair, seeing no prospect of the end to the horrors of the war. The standard and the sound of the trumpet are, as in Jeremiah 4:5, the alarm-signals on the approach of the enemy.
There is no prospect of an end to the horrors, for (Jeremiah 4:22) the people is so foolish that it understands only how to do the evil, but not the good; cf. for this Jeremiah 5:21; Isaiah 1:3; Micah 7:3. Jeremiah 4:21 gives God's answer to the woful query, how long the ravaging of the land by war is to last. The answer is: as long as the people persists in the folly of its rebellion against God, so long will chastising judgments continue. To bring this answer of God home to the people's heart, the prophet, in Jeremiah 4:23-26, tells what he has seen in the spirit. He has seen ( ראיתי , perf. proph.) bursting over Judah a visitation which convulses the whole world. The earth seemed waste and void as at the beginning of creation, Genesis 1:2, before the separation of the elements and before the creation of organic and living beings. In heaven no light was to be seen, earth and heaven seemed to have been thrown back into a condition of chaos. The mountains and hills, these firm foundations of the earth, quivered and swayed ( התקלקל , be put into a light motion, cf. Nahum 1:5); men had fled and hidden themselves from the wrath of God (cf. Isaiah 2:19, Isaiah 2:21), and all the birds had flown out of sight in terror at the dreadful tokens of the beginning catastrophe (Genesis 9:9). The fruitful field was the wilderness - not a wilderness, but "changed into the wilderness with all its attributes" (Hitz.). הכּרמל is not appell. as in Jeremiah 2:7, but nom. prop. of the lower slopes of Carmel, famed for their fruitfulness; these being taken as representatives of all the fruitful districts of the land. The cities of the Carmel, or of the fruitful-field, are manifestly not to be identified with the store cities of 1 Kings 9:19, as Hitz. supposes, but the cities in the most fertile districts of the country, which, by reason of their situation, were in a prosperous condition, but now are destroyed. "Before the heat of His anger," which is kindled against the foolish and godless race; cf. Nahum 1:6; Isaiah 13:13.
The devastation of Judah, though not its utter annihilation, is irrevocably decreed, and cannot be turned away by any meretricious expedients. - Jeremiah 4:27. "For thus saith Jahveh, A waste shall the whole land be, yet will I not make an utter end. Jeremiah 4:28. For this shall the earth mourn, and the heaven above darken, because I have said it, purposed it, and repent it not, neither will I turn back from it. Jeremiah 4:29. For the noise of the horseman and bowman every city flees; they come into thickets, and into clefts of the rock they go up; every city is forsaken, and no man dwells therein. Jeremiah 4:30. And thou, spoiled one, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself in purple, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou tearest open thine eyes with paint, in vain thou makest thyself fair; the lovers despise thee, they seek thy life. Jeremiah 4:31. For I hear a voice as of a woman in travail, anguish as of one who bringeth forth her first-born, the voice of the daughter of Zion; she sigheth, she spreadeth out her hands: Woe is me! for my soul sinketh powerless beneath murderers."
Jeremiah 4:27 and Jeremiah 4:28 confirm and explain what the prophet has seen in spirit in Jeremiah 4:23-26. A waste shall the land become; but the wasting shall not be a thorough annihilation, not such a destruction as befell Sodom and Gomorrah. עשׂה , as in Nahum 1:8., Isaiah 10:23, and freq. This limitation is yet again in v. Jeremiah 5:10, Jeremiah 5:18 made to apply to Jerusalem, as it has done already to the people at large. It is founded on the promise in Leviticus 26:44, that the Lord will punish Israel with the greatest severity for its stubborn apostasy from Him, but will not utterly destroy it, so as to break His covenant with it. Accordingly, all prophets declare that after the judgments of punishment, a remnant shall be left, from which a new holy race shall spring; cf. Amos 9:8; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 11:11, Isaiah 11:16; Isaiah 10:20., Micah 2:12; Micah 5:6; Zephaniah 3:13, etc. "For this" refers to the first half of Jeremiah 4:27, and is again resumed in the על כּי following: for this, because Jahveh hath purposed the desolation of the whole land. The earth mourns, as in Hosea 4:3, because her productive power is impaired by the ravaging of the land. The heaven blackens itself, i.e., shrouds itself in dark clouds (1 Kings 18:45), so as to mourn over the desolated earth. The vividness of the style permits "have decreed it" to be appended as asyndeton to "I have said it," for the sake of greater emphasis. God has not only pronounced the desolation of the land, but God's utterance in this is based upon a decree which God does not repent, and from which He will not turn back. The lxx have placed the זמּתי after נחמתּי , and have thus obtained a neater arrangement of the clauses; but by this the force of expression in "I have said it, decreed it," is weakened. In Jeremiah 4:29 the desolation of the land is further portrayed, set forth in Jeremiah 4:30 as inevitable, and exhibited in its sad consequences in Jeremiah 4:31. On the approach of the hostile army, all the inhabitants flee into inaccessible places from the clatter or noise of the horsemen and archers. He that casts the bow, the bowman; cf. Psalms 78:9. כּל־העיר means, in spite of the article, not the whole city, but every city, all cities, as may be gathered from the בּהן , which points back to this. So frequently before the definite noun, especially when it is further defined by a relative clause, as e.g., Exodus 1:22; Deuteronomy 4:3; 1 Samuel 3:17; cf. Ew. §290, c. For the first כּל־העיר the lxx have πᾶσα ἡ χώρα , and accordingly J. D. Mich., Hitz., and Graf propose to amend to כּל־הארץ , so as to avoid "the clumsy repetition." But we cannot be ruled here by aesthetic principles of taste. Clearly the first "every city" means the populace of the cities, and so בּאוּ is: they (i.e., the men) come, pouring forth. עבים is not here clouds, but, according to its etymology, to be dark, means the dark thickets or woods; cf. the Syr. ̀āb , wood. כּפים , rocks, here clefts in the rocks, as is demanded by the בּ . For this state of things, cf. Isaiah 2:19, Isaiah 2:21, and the accounts of Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6, where the Israelites hide themselves from the invading Midianites in caves, ravines, thorn-thickets, rocks, and natural fastnesses.
In vain will Jerusalem attempt to turn away calamity by the wiles of a courtesan. In Jeremiah 4:31 the daughter of Zion is addressed, i.e., the community dwelling around the citadel of Zion, or the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom, regarded as a female personality (as to בּת־ציּון , see on Isaiah 1:8). "Spoiled one" is in apposition not to the אתּי , but to the person in the verb; it is regarded as adverbial, and so is without inflexion: if thou art spoiled, like ערום , Job 24:7, Job 24:10; cf. Ew. §316, b. The following clauses introduced by כּי are not so connected with the question, what wilt thou do? as that כּי should mean that: what wilt thou do, devise to the end that thou mayest clothe thee? (Graf); the כּי means if or though, and introduces new clauses, the apodosis of which is: "in vain," etc. If thou even clothest thyself in purple. שׁני , the crimson dye, and stuffs or fabrics dyed with it, see in Exodus 25:4. פּוּך is a pigment for the eye, prepared from silver-glance, sulphur-antimony - the Cohol, yet much esteemed by Arab women, a black powder with a metallic glitter. It is applied to the eyelids, either dry or reduced to a paste by means of oil, by means of a blunt-pointed style or eye-pencil, and increases the lustre of dark eyes so that they seem larger and more brilliant. See the more minute account in Hillel, on the eye-paint of the East, in ref. to 2 Kings 9:30. קרע , tear asunder, not, prick, puncture, as Ew., following J. D. Mich., makes it. This does not answer the mode of using the eye-paint, which was this: the style rubbed over with the black powder is drawn horizontally through between the closed eyelids, and these are thus smeared with the ointment. This proceeding Jeremiah sarcastically terms rending open the eyes. As a wife seeks by means of paint and finery to heighten the charms of her beauty in order to please men and gain the favour of lovers, so the woman Jerusalem will attempt by like stratagems to secure the favour of the enemy; but in vain like Jezebel in 2 Kings 9:30. The lovers will despise her. The enemies are called lovers, paramours, just as Israel's quest for help amongst the heathen nations is represented as intrigue with them; see on Jeremiah 2:33, Jeremiah 2:36.
Jeremiah 4:31, as giving a reason, is introduced by כּי . Zion's attempts to secure the goodwill of the enemy are in vain, for already the prophet hears in spirit the agonized cry of the daughter of Zion, who beseechingly stretches out her hands for help, and falls exhausted under the assassin's strokes. חולה , partic. Kal faem. from חוּל ; see Ew. §151, b, and Gesen. §72, Rem. 1. צרה , in parallelism with קול and dependent on "I hear," means cry of anguish. התיפּח , breathe heavily, pant, sign. תּפרשׂ is joined asynd. with the preceding word, but is in sense subordinate to it: she sighs with hands spread out; a pleading gesture expressing a prayer for protection. עיף , be exhausted, here = sink down faint, succumb to the murderers.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Jeremiah 4". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent