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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Jeremiah 14

Verses 1-6

The Drought

Jeremiah 14-15 belong together. They are about a terrible drought. We see here again the personal utterances of Jeremiah. The LORD has brought His people into a land of abundant blessing (Deu 8:7). They would enjoy that blessing if they were obedient. But they have become disobedient. That explains the desolate sight of the land because of a drought about which the word of the LORD comes to Jeremiah (Jer 14:1). The land is dependent on the rain from heaven. Whether the rain comes is again dependent on their faithfulness to the LORD (Deu 11:10-15; Deu 28:23-24; 1Kgs 8:35-36; 1Kgs 17:1).

In short phrases, Jeremiah indicates in the following verses the effects of the drought on land and city, on rich and poor, on man and beast. All prosperity is gone. There is sorrow in Judah (Jer 14:2). The gates, through which food is brought in and where there are often many people to trade, give the picture of languishing, of fading away. Life flows out of them. The gates are also the places where justice is administered. The people who sit there to do that also don’t know anymore what to say. They see no hope of improving the situation, for they sit on the ground in mourning.

The cry of Jerusalem ascends. There will be prayers for rain. However, their pleas are not expressions of repentance for their sinful ways and not a plea to the LORD for forgiveness. There is only crying because of the drought and because of the thirst and famine as a result. The drought and lack of water reflect the dryness of their souls. They have forsaken the source of living water, the LORD (Jer 2:13), and therefore not only their bodies but also their souls are languishing.

Even “their nobles”, the distinguished and considerable people, have nothing to their standing when it comes to having water drawn from the cisterns, for there is no water (Jer 14:3). They don’t have to go out there themselves. They have their servants for that. But their servants return without success, with empty jugs and despondent. They can command their subordinates, but they cannot command God to give water. They have themselves to blame for the lack of rain.

Because there is no rain, the drought has also cracked the ground (Jer 14:4) and there will be no harvest. The farmers are also at their wits’ end. The animals in the field are also suffering from the drought. The doe, known for her care of her young, abandons it before it has grown up and can go its way on its own (Jer 14:5; Job 39:1b-4). The wild donkeys, used to the harsh and dry wilderness life, can no longer breathe (Jer 14:6; Job 39:5-8). They can no longer see anything either, because there is nothing to eat. Their powers fail them. The beasts share in the consequences of the unfaithfulness of God’s people (cf. Rom 8:22).

Verses 7-9

The Confession of the People

The prophet confesses the sins of the people and makes himself one with them by speaking of “our iniquities” (Jer 14:7). He does not speak his confession loudly in the presence of the people. He appeals to the Name of the LORD, while acknowledging that they have sinned against Him with a multitude of apostasies. His only hope and the only hope for the people is the LORD. He is the “Hope of Israel” (Jer 14:8). Jeremiah speaks more often of the LORD as a hope or trust for His people (Jer 17:7; 13; Jer 50:7; cf. Psa 71:5; Acts 28:20; Col 1:27; 1Tim 1:1). He alone is their “Savior in time of distress”, as He has so often shown (Judges 3-16).

Jeremiah asks “why” the LORD behaves like a stranger or a traveler, like someone who is only visiting the land for a short time. He would like the LORD to come to them and also to stay with them (cf. Lk 24:29). The previous ‘why-question’ concerns the prosperity of the wicked (Jer 12:1). This new “why-question” concerns the LORD’s relationship to those who do sincerely confess their sins. Why does He keep Himself apart from them?

It is impressive to note that Jeremiah compares the LORD to “a man dismayed” (Jer 14:9), while he himself is characterized by dismay. He makes an urgent appeal to Him not to stand aside as one who does not know how to deal with the situation, or to behave like a hero who falls short in strength to save. Here he resembles the disciples who, also in their dismay, reproach the Lord Jesus for not taking any notice of their distress (Mk 4:38). As Jeremiah does, the disciples cry out to the Lord Jesus, and both Jeremiah and the disciples do not do so in vain.

He pleads the presence of the LORD in their midst and the fact that they are called by His Name. He appeals to Him to do something for His people for the sake of His Name. Even though He should forsake them because of their sins, He cannot forsake them for the sake of His Name. With this he resorts to grace and unconditional promises.

For us, it is also true that we cannot live a moment without Him. Our prayer must therefore be that we will not deviate from Him. If we stay with Him, He stays with us. If we have forfeited all rights to His abiding with us, we can only resort to God’s grace and His unconditional promises in Christ.

Verses 10-12

The LORD’s Response Is Judgment

In His response to Jeremiah’s call, the LORD points out the wandering of the people (Jer 14:10). It is a harsh answer. They have not kept their feet in check in their love for other gods, but have used them to run after their gods. That is the reason He is not pleased with them. And because they persist in this, He calls their sins to account and punishes them. Jeremiah is not allowed to pray for the people, because it makes no sense (Jer 14:11).

For the third time Jeremiah is forbidden to pray for the people (Jer 7:16; Jer 11:14). Because of their resolute disobedience, they are beyond help. Intercession is an important duty of a prophet, but Jeremiah is not allowed to intercede during that fatal time. He loves them too much to let them go on their own sinful ways and therefore they will have to feel God’s discipline. That is why He tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people.

In the New Testament, we read of sin leading to death and that for this there should not be made request (1Jn 5:16b). When discipline is despised and the Spirit of grace is scorned, there comes a time when it is too late for supplication or intercession. As a final act of the holy government of God, the erring one is put away and the case is dealt with before the judgment seat of Christ (cf. 1Cor 11:30). So it is here with Israel. It is too late for them to exercise grace alone. They must now come to know the full government of God.

The LORD does not listen to the cries of His people, even though they are fasting (Jer 14:12). Even their offerings He does not accept. All their fasting, praying and religious activities are worthless. Neither fasting nor offering can bring the people back into God’s favor as long as they bow down to idols. The LORD looks for truth in the heart above all else. If that is lacking, outward signs of repentance are useless. Instead accepting them, He is going to put an end to them by more severe judgments than drought, namely war (the sword), lack (famine) and disease (pestilence). The combination of these three judgments occurs several times in the book (Jer 14:12; Jer 21:7; 9; Jer 24:10; Jer 27:8; 13; Jer 29:17-18; Jer 32:24; 36; Jer 34:17; Jer 38:2; Jer 42:17; 22; Jer 44:13).

Verses 13-16

Judgment on the False Prophets

Jeremiah points out to the “Lord GOD” the opponents of the truth, which are the false prophets (Jer 14:13). These are the ‘fair weather’ prophets. They preach pleasant things, things that lull the people to sleep and make them persist in their cherished sins. They dare to do this in the Name of the LORD. It is bad to preach lies, it is even worse to do so in the Name of the LORD.

They speak of peace that the LORD would give, yes, even of “lasting peace”, a peace that always remains and is not taken away. By speaking in this way they encourage the people in their sinful behavior, as if they had no sinful behavior. The hallmark of a false prophet is that he completely leaves out the conscience and does not speak of repentance.

Such false prophets are also many today. They are those people, theologians and church officials, who proclaim, for example, that gay and lesbian relationships are relationships of ‘love’. They are exposed when we see that they are not preaching Christ, but on the contrary are condoning sin. They pass on their own thoughts and not God’s Word. Sin always brings judgment, but false prophets do not speak of sin and therefore do not speak of judgment.

People who live in sin and do not want to break with it, always follow people who give them room to do so and even encourage them in it. We see this in religion and also in politics. There the ‘enlightened’ thinking of mankind is the starting point. That thinking is darkness and quicksand.

The LORD answers Jeremiah that those prophets are lying prophets and He did not send them (Jer 14:14). He knows exactly what they are like, He knows their intent. They are self-serving. What they prophesy, is invented, it’s hollow talk, it doesn’t amount to anything. It is deceit that springs from their own depraved heart. The LORD will bring judgment on them by the sword and by famine, the very means they deny (Jer 14:15). This is the irony of God.

The judgments that the false prophets have denied will also come on the people (Jer 14:16). The LORD will pour out their own evil on them. All of them will perish, they themselves, their wives and their sons and their daughters. They all perish. There is no one to bury them. The people may have been misled, but that does not make them any less guilty. How often have they been warned not to listen to false prophets. The blind people and the blind prophets both fall into the pit (Mt 15:14). The people themselves are responsible for having listened to those prophets and not turning away from them. Thus the foolishness of the false prophets will be revealed, as with Jannes and Jambres (2Tim 3:8-9). Denying or falsifying and twisting what God has said has no bearing on what God has said.

In these verses we see a serious picture of professing Christianity in which we find ourselves. The servants of satan turn the ear of their hearers away from the truth and turn it to fables. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They pretend to be servants of Christ, but they overthrow faith in the truth and the authority of Scripture. They ridicule it and trample on the great and holy truths of the atonement and the eternal judgment that awaits everyone “who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified” (Heb 10:29). Those who listen to such preachers with approval will be judged with the judgment that comes on these false preachers.

Verses 17-18

The Grief of Jeremiah

The faith of the people in the words of false prophets again brings great sorrow to Jeremiah (Jer 14:17). He is instructed to tell that sorrow to the people. The people who have been deceived by the false prophets must pay dearly for it. The enemy sent upon them by the LORD will break them with a great breach and cause wounds that hurt greatly. Jerusalem is again compared to a woman here. The city is called a virgin daughter to indicate that the city has not yet been inhabited by anyone other than its own people.

In his spirit Jeremiah sees the consequences of the coming of the Babylonians. Everywhere he looks, whether in the city or outside in the country, he sees death and disease (Jer 14:18). The people who have spoken with such certainty of peace are walking around dazed. Their talk is over. They now have nothing more to say and no more advice to give. Who would believe them now anyway?

Verses 19-22

Confession and Prayer for Help

Although Jeremiah was not allowed by the LORD to pray for this people (Jer 14:11), at the sight of the misery of his people he cannot help but pray to Him for them (Jer 14:19). The LORD is his only refuge in his distress. He cries out to the LORD asking if He has then rejected Judah altogether and if He then truly has loathed Zion. This is a third ‘why-question’. The first is: why does God leave the wicked in peace (Jer 12:1); the second is why does the LORD hold Himself as a stranger to the faithful (Jer 14:8). The third is the question of the discipline that comes upon the people, why it happens.

He cannot imagine that the LORD now loathed Zion, whom He loved so much and in whom He rejoiced so much. What is the reason that He has so smitten them that no healing is possible for them anymore (cf. 2Chr 36:16)? From the word “us” we see that Jeremiah takes the place of the repentant part of the people and identifies with them.

The people desperately look forward to peace, but it is nowhere in sight. There is nothing good from which they can derive any hope of improving the situation. Healing is nowhere to be found either. Instead, they see only more terror. Looking forward to peace is in vain because the people have forsaken the LORD. Therefore, there is terror instead of healing.

No one but Jeremiah knows better why God has so stricken His people and there is no healing. He then gives the answer himself: it is because of their wickedness and iniquity (Jer 14:20). He confesses the iniquity of their fathers and that they themselves have also sinned against the LORD. At the same time, he simply cannot believe that the LORD has made a final end of His people, that He has rejected them forever.

Therefore, he appeals to the Name of the LORD, to His glorious throne, and to His covenant with His people (Jer 14:21). There is no change in the conduct of the people, but surely not in the LORD either? Surely He can bless His people from His own Name and His own government and His own obligations? Yes, He can, but it must be on a righteous basis. He has that basis in Christ and His work on the cross.

Jeremiah’s only hope is the LORD, Whom he compares to the nullities, the idols, of the heathen nations (Jer 14:22). The idols can give nothing of rain – there is still that terrible drought. Only the LORD, Who is the God of His people, can do that (Job 38:25-28). Therein lies the hope of Jeremiah and of the remnant, and therefore they, “we”, look forward to Him, to Him Who “has done all these things”, Who alone can give rain and blessing.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 14". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.