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JEREMIAH CHAPTER 14
A grievous famine prophesied; its miseries, Jeremiah 14:1-6. The prophet prayeth, but God will not be entreated for them, Jeremiah 14:7-12. Lying prophets no excuse for them, Jeremiah 14:13-16. The prophet’s complaint, Jeremiah 14:17-22.
dearth we are not told, nor when it happened; some think that it was in the time of the siege of Jerusalem; others, that it was in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah; but they judge most probably that think it was in the time of Jehoiakim, for we read, Jeremiah 36:9, of an extraordinary fast by him proclaimed, which many judge was upon this occasion. The Hebrew phrase which is here used signifying, the matter of the restraints, gives interpreters some liberty to abound in their senses of this text; but the following words make it evident, Jeremiah 14:4,Jeremiah 14:5, that the restraints here mentioned were God’s restraining of water from them, so that the dearth was occasioned from a great drought, which is elegantly described in the five next verses, and deprecated Jeremiah 14:7-9, which make indeed but a preface to the revelation of the mind and will of God in this prophecy.
Judah is meant the men and women in the whole country of Judah. The
gates is put for their cities; or the men of their cities languished, for want of moisture for themselves or their beasts. They are all in the habits of mourners, or their faces looked swarthy and starvedly, for want of due and wholesome nourishment,
and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up; either their cry unto God by their prayers in his temple, or their cry by the reason of, their misery and grief, is gone up to heaven.
This scarcity of water afflicted not mean persons only, who have not so good means to supply their necessities as others; but their greatest persons; so as they sent their
little ones (it were better translated servants, for they are meant) to the places made to receive and retain water; but finding no water in the pits, they came back again with their vessels empty, like men ashamed and confounded, and troubled upon the seeing their expectations frustrated.
The Hebrew word signifieth more largely than chapt, broken, spoiled, turned into dust, as is usual in great droughts. The word also which we translate ploughmen, doth not strictly signify ploughmen, but husbandmen: there having been no rain upon the earth, it brought forth little or no grass for those that employed themselves in breeding or feeding cattle; and it was so hard, and so much wanted moisture, that they could not plough nor sow, but were like men ashamed and confounded, who knew not what to do.
Hinds use not to get their food in fields, but upon the mountains and in wildernesses; but the drought was such, that these wild creatures came into the lower grounds, nearer the habitations of men than they were wont, and there brought forth their young. The hinds are loving creatures, and as all creatures by a natural instinct love their young, so the hinds especially; but their moisture being dried up, they could not suckle them, but were forced to leave them, running about here and there to seek grass to eat.
The wild asses, wanting water, got upon
high places, where was the freest and coolest air, and sucked in the wind, and this it is said they did
like dragons, of whom Aristotle and Pliny report, that by reason of the great heat of their bodies, they ordinarily stand upon high places sucking in the cool air, and they tell us those creatures will live upon it for some time. The prophet describing this great drought, tells us the wild asses did the like. But for want of grass their eyes were either almost sunk in their heads, they being almost starved; or else the phrase signifies the frustration of their expectation, which this phrase also sometimes signifies in Scripture, Psalms 69:3.
The prophet having described their misery, both in the cause of it, the drought for want of rain, and the effects of it, he applieth himself to that God who he knew was he who alone could give the former and the latter rain; confessing that their sins and backslidings were very many, and testified against them that they had deserved God’s severe scourge, and God was righteous in what of this nature he had done against them. But yet, saith he,
do thou it; that is, do thou what we desire, and what we stand in need of; give us rain; though not for our sake, we deserve no such kindness from thee, yet for
thy name’s sake, thy word, or promise; or rather, hear for thine honour and glory’ sake. Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 48:11, where God promiseth them to show them kindness for his name’s sake; so as Jeremiah’s prayer is but a pleading of God’s promises, that he would fulfil his word.
For our backslidings are many; for here signifies though, and might have been better so interpreted.
O the hope of Israel; that is, the object of Israel’s hope, he in whom alone thy people Israel have been wont to hope, or he in whom alone Israel hath just reason to hope. The saviour thereof in time of trouble; thou who hast formerly been their Saviour in the times of their trouble, or who alone canst save them in such times of trouble as thou hast now brought them into. See Psalms 9:9; Psalms 46:1. Why shouldst thou be as one that regardest thy ancient people no more than a stranger or a traveller, who taketh no further care for the place or the house where he lodgeth than for the short time that he is to stay or abide in it.
Astonied; the Hebrew word here used being found in no place of holy writ but this, hath given interpreters a liberty to translate it variously, sleepy, weak, astonished, frighted, like a man in such disorder, through some great passions, that he is able to do nothing.
As a mighty man that cannot save; like a man who in his own nature is strong and mighty enough, but through sickness or passion is so weakened, that he cannot put forth any strength for the succour and relief of his friends.
Yet (saith the prophet)
thou art in the midst of us; that is, we have thy temple, to which thou hast promised thy special presence; or rather it is to be understood of the whole land, according to what God had declared, Numbers 5:3; Numbers 35:34, Defile not the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.
We are called by thy name; that is, we are called the Lord’s people, and that not only by others, amongst whom we have that repute, but by thyself. God often calleth his people in Scripture his people, his portion. Therefore he begs that God would not leave them; he means as to that special providence by which he had formerly watched over them, and cared for them, and been a protection to them; nor as to his ordinances, and his special gracious presence with them in his temple.
Here beginneth that Divine revelation mentioned Jeremiah 14:1, as an answer to the prophet’s complaint and prayer in the nine first verses; the substance of which is, that for their manifold sins he was resolved to punish them, and therefore would not be any more solicited on their behalf.
Thus have they loved to wander; they have gone aside out of the way of my precepts, and that out of a principle of love and delight, they have been fond of their idols. They have not refrained their feet; and they have persisted in those deviations and sinful courses, notwithstanding all counsels and arguments used with them to the contrary, nothing could keep their feet to the way of my testimonies.
Therefore the Lord doth not accept them; therefore though they pray, and cry, and fast, God will not accept them.
He will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins; but by his punishment of them for their sins, he will let them know, that as he hath seen and taken notice of, so he hath not forgot what they have done.
Twice before God had given the prophet this charge, Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14; how it could consist with the piety of Jeremiah after those charges to put up the prayer we have Jeremiah 14:7-9 of this chapter, See Poole "Jeremiah 11:14".
When they fast, I will not hear their cry; the like threatening we have Proverbs 1:28; Isaiah 1:15; Jeremiah 11:11; Ezekiel 8:18; Micah 3:4.
When they offer burnt-offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: men may so long despise God’s calls, exhortations, and counsels, as their case may be desperate, as to the prevention of temporal judgments by such religious applications to God as ordinarily have their effect to prevent and remove judgments. See Jeremiah 15:1; Ezekiel 14:14,Ezekiel 14:20.
But I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; he threateneth to add to their plague three sore judgments, ordinarily accompanying one another, both in God’s threatenings, and in the execution of them, Jeremiah 29:17,Jeremiah 29:18; Jeremiah 34:17, &c.
We have many complaints of this prophet against false prophets that contradicted his prophecies, Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 23:9, and we shall hereafter meet with the names of some of them. Corrupt governments never want prophets to their humour, though a bolder transgression can hardly be imagined, than for men to entitle God to their own imaginations and fancies, and we shall, Jeremiah 14:15, meet with the usual wages of such works.
They did not only prophesy falsehoods, but lies, what they knew to be false; for they pretended that God had revealed such things unto them; for admit the things they spake (as to men) but future contingencies, which might be true or false, yet it was a lie for them to pretend that God had told them any such things. The things were certainly false in themselves, being contrary to God’s revelation; but setting that aside, for them to pretend God had revealed that to them which he had not revealed was a formed lie. God denieth that he ever commanded them to speak any such things, or sent them upon any such errands; they prophesied what came in their own foolish heads, and the deceits of their own hearts.
It is a most dangerous thing for ecclesiastical ministers to deliver that to people as the will of God which is not so. God here threateneth that these prophets, in testimony of the truth of the word of God delivered by Jeremiah, should die by these very judgments which they falsely prophesied to this people, as from God, an immunity from: see Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 20:6; 1 Kings 22:25.
The security promised by these false prophets shall be no excuse to the people for giving credit to them; the prophets shall perish for prophesying falsely in my name, and the people that hearken to and believe what they say, practise accordingly, shall perish for their light and vain credulity. As the sinful commands of superiors in things civil will not free those from guilt that execute their commands, so the lies and false teachings of ministers will not excuse those that run into error upon the credit of their words: both the one and the other owe their first homage and allegiance to God, by whose word they ought to examine the precepts of the one, and the prophesyings of the other.
The prophet is by God directed to speak still of the calamities of this people as a thing past, though yet to come, according to the usual style of prophetical writings; and to tell them, that whatsoever their false prophets told them, yet he so certainly knew the contrary, that he could even wish himself melted into tears for them, and had even already before his eyes the doleful spectacle of their miseries; some in the field slain by the enemy’s sword, others within the walls almost starved to death.
Both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not: the word in the Hebrew סחרו which we translate go about, signifies so primarily, and in a second sense to merchandise, because merchants go about countries to trade. This hath made that variety of sense which the margins of our Bible have; but our translation is true enough, and the sense seems to be, that priests and prophets (though accounted sacred persons) should be made captives also, and wander in a land wherein they were foreigners. This is thought to relate to the first captivity in the time of Jehoiakim, when the people of the best fashion were carried into captivity.
The prophet again returns to God, expostulating with him, and humbly imploring mercy for his people, which lets us know that he did not understand God’s words to him, Jeremiah 14:11, as an absolute prohibition of him to pray for this people.
Zion was a place whose gates God loved, and Judah was his pleasant portion. Lord, saith the prophet, is it possible thou shouldst loathe a place which thou so much lovedst, or cast off a people which thou hast so much owned?
Why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? he acknowledgeth God to be he that had smitten them, and their condition without him to be helpless and hopeless; and that all their hopes and expectations were frustrated.
That is, both we and our fathers have sinned against thee, and have given thee a right to punish and destroy its; we desire not to cover or cloak our sin, we own and acknowledge it.
The thing which the prophet deprecateth is, the judgments come already and further coming upon this people, the famine, sword, and pestilence, with the drought, under the sad consequents of which they at present laboured; but he prays for the removal of these judgments, and the prevention of such as were yet to come, in this phrase, Do not abhor us; noting to us that the love of God to a people is the root of all good which they can expect, and his hatred and displeasure the root of all the evil that can betide them. Here are divers arguments brought to back this petition.
1. For thy name’s sake; that is, thine honour and glory sake; an argument often made use of in holy writ, in the prayers of God’s people, Joshua 7:9, &c., and upon a very good foundation, whether we consider God’s concern for his own glory, or the tenure of God’s promises, promising mercy for his own name’s sake. He also argueth with God from his former love and kindness to this people, which he had made
the throne of his glory. The words are either to be understood of the throne of the house of David, called the Lord’s throne, 1 Chronicles 29:23, or else the temple, and the ark in it, the more special symbol of God’s presence: hence he is said to have dwelt betwixt the cherubims, Psalms 80:1; so Jeremiah 17:12, the prophet saith, A glorious high throne from the beginning is our sanctuary. Lord, (saith the prophet,) we have deserved all the disgrace thou canst throw upon us, but do not thou disgrace the throne of thine own glory.
Remember, break not thy covenant with us. Did not Jeremiah then know that God could not break his covenant?
Answ. He did know it; but he also knew that it is our duty to pray to God to fulfil it; or possibly he would extend it a little further, and for God’s covenant’ sake made with the faithful in Israel he would have obtained mercy for the whole body of the nation.
The present judgment under which they groaned was a drought, which he had described in the six first verses; the prophet imploring God for the removal of it, argues from the impossibility of help in this case from any other way; none of the idols of the heathens, which he calls vain things, nothing in themselves, and of no use or profit to those that ran after them, could give rain. The heavens indeed give it, but in the order of second causes; if God stoppeth those bottles, they cannot run.
Art not thou he, O Lord our God? Lord, art not thou able to do it? (saith the prophet;) nay, art not thou he who alone is able to do it? (for so much the phrase doth import). The Scripture constantly giveth God the honour of giving rain, Genesis 2:5; Deuteronomy 28:12; 1 Kings 8:36; 2 Chronicles 6:27; Job 5:10; Job 38:26,Job 38:28; Psalms 147:8; Jeremiah 5:24; Jeremiah 51:16; Joel 2:23; Zechariah 10:1; Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17.
Therefore, saith the prophet,
we thy people
will wait upon thee by prayer, and the payment of those homages thou requirest;
for thou hast made all these things; that is, (say some,) thou hast caused all these judgments, or afflictive dispensations; or rather, thou hast made the rain, last mentioned.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 14". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19