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The grievous famine causeth Jeremiah to pray. The Lord will not be entreated for the people. Lying prophets are no excuse for them. Jeremiah is moved to complain for them.
Before Christ 601.
Jeremiah 14:1. The word of the Lord—concerning the dearth— The drought. Taylor observes, that the chapters of this prophet, from 3: to 21: lie in regular order as to time. There is a date, chap. Jeremiah 3:6. In the days of Josiah, without mentioning the year of his reign, which, however, shews that that chapter was delivered in some part of his reign; and whereas a severe drought is mentioned in several of these chapters, this shews that they are to be laid together in the same year or years in which the drought continued; all the rest to the 21st may follow in order of time, and all might be delivered in the last years of king Josiah. See Dr. Lightfoot, and Taylor's Script. Div. p. 341. Houbigant is of opinion, that this drought happened at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah, before the Chaldeans besieged Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 14:2. Judah mourneth— The prophet represents Jerusalem as a mother who has lost her children, and who is oppressed with grief. The gates are put for the city. Instead of, Its gates languish, &c. Houbigant reads, Its crops fall down and grow black upon the earth.
Jeremiah 14:3. Little ones to the waters, &c.— Their younger ones for water. Jeremiah 14:6. The wild asses, &c.] The wild asses stood upon the cliffs. These animals are said to stand on the high places or cliffs, because in that situation the current of air is stronger and cooler than in lower places: and for the same reason it is that they are said to snuff up the air like dragons, because they are reputed to delight in cool places. The LXX. omit the words like dragons. AElian tells us, that the dragons, which are a sort of large serpents, hold their heads up during a certain space of time every day to suck in the air, and by this means reach the birds which fly near them. See AElian. Nat. Hist. lib. 2: cap. 19. Ludolf thinks that the crocodiles are here meant, which frequently raise their heads above the water to breathe, as do many other amphibious creatures. There is a passage in Virgil very similar to this of Jeremiah:
——Bucula coelum, Suspiciens, patulis captavit naribus auram.
The heifer, tossing high her head in air, With broader nostrils snuffs the gale afar. Georg. i. 375. WARTON.
Jeremiah 14:7. Do thou it for thy name's sake— Do thou act with a regard to thine own name. That is, deal not with us according to our deserving, but so as not to give occasion to strangers to speak evil of thy name, to question thy power, wisdom, or goodness. So God says, Eze 22:31 that amidst the various provocations he had received, he had still acted uniformly upon this principle.
Jeremiah 14:8. As a stranger in the land— Strangers are supposed to ransack and plunder a land of its riches; and a wayfaring-man, or traveller, to have little or no regard for it. The prophet's meaning therefore is, that the Lord seemed to have as little regard for Judah, as a hostile stranger, who would endeavour to ruin it; or as a traveller, for the place where he lodged only one night, without expecting ever to see it again. The opposition is between God, who had his dwelling in the midst of Judaea in the temple, and a passing traveller. See Calmet and Houbigant.
Jeremiah 14:9. Why shouldest thou be as a man astonished— Why shouldest thou be as a man void of counsel? Houbigant.
Jeremiah 14:10. Thus saith the Lord unto, &c.— Thus saith the Lord concerning this people. They altogether love to wander, &c. Houbigant. God here returns an answer to the complaints and expostulations of the prophet, and tells him, that the miseries of the people are owing to themselves; ever turbulent and unquiet as they were, fond of novelty, forsaking God for the worship of idols, and despising the divine succour, to run after that of strangers.
Jeremiah 14:18. The prophet and the priest go about, &c.— Jeremiah is here manifestly describing what he saw when he entered the city; namely, men sick and worn out with famine; and among these even the priests and the prophets, panting on the ground, half dead, and not able to distinguish anybody. See Psalms 38:11. And in this view the passage should be rendered, Yea, both the prophet and the priest lie panting on the ground, nor do they know any one. This is Houbigant's interpretation, which seems in every respect agreeable to the context. Others, however, understand it according to our translation, of the captivity of the priests and prophets, who were carried away by Nebuchadnezzar.
Jeremiah 14:21. Do not abhor, &c.— Do not reject, for thy name's sake,—do not, &c. By the throne of God's glory, is here principally to be understood the temple; and Jeremiah beseeches God not to give up that sacred structure, with the holy city, to be profaned by infidelity; the place which he had chosen for his peculiar residence, and where he sat between the cherubims as upon a throne. See Lowth and Calmet.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The dearth here at large described, had been before intimated. It was the beginning of sorrows, and a call to them by repentance to prevent the greater judgments in store. We have here,
1. A most affecting description, which God gives the prophet, of the distress which this visitation would bring upon the land. The voice of bitter mourning and the cry of anguish are heard throughout Judah and Jerusalem. The very gates languish, deserted by those who used to sit in them, and every face gathers blackness, pining with famine, and bowed to the ground with weakness and despair. The nobles, as well as people, are involved in the calamity: in vain their servants search for water; the heavens give no showers, the rivers are dry; they return with their vessels empty, and, with their masters, are overwhelmed with grief and shame at the disappointment. Parched up for want of rain, the earth cleaves in wide fissures, impenetrable to the plough, and leaves the husbandman confounded under the affliction. The very beasts suffer: the loving hind, now grown unnatural, abandons her young for want of nourishment to supply them; the wild asses on the mountains' top, scorched with the heat, pant for breath, and snuff the wind; and their eyes fail, famished, because there is no grass. Note; (1.) The common blessings of life are usually disregarded: yet, if God stays the bottles of heaven, we shall quickly find a drop of water more valuable than mountains of gold. (2.) They who take no shame for their sins justly provoke God to confound them with disappointments. (3.) Many mourn over their miseries, who shed no tears over the guilt which provokes them.
2. The prophet addresses his importunate prayer to God in this their wretched situations and herein sets them an example to pray for themselves, and in what manner.
[1.] He begins with deep and humbling acknowledgments of their guilt and sinfulness. O Lord, our iniquities testify against us; too great to be palliated or excused, too public to be denied; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee; in open violation of thy law, and in opposition to all the methods of thy grace; for which they stand convicted before God, and own the justice of his judgments; Note; True penitents are liberal in self-accusation, and never desire to cover their sins, but to confess them in all their malignity.
[2.] He pleads earnestly for mercy, though he acknowledges that they deserve punishment: do thou it for thy name's sake, this being the sinner's prevailing plea; not his own deserts, but that God would glorify the riches of his grace and power in the salvation of the unworthy.
[3.] He fills his mouth with arguments, to enforce his petition, drawn from their relation to God, and his glory concerned in their sufferings: O the hope of Israel, their only hope, who had in time past saved them, notwithstanding their provocations, and to whose endless mercy they had still recourse: the saviour thereof in time of trouble; who had often heard and answered their cries and prayers in the day of their distress, and in whom they trusted that he would yet deliver them: why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land? an unconcerned spectator of their miseries, as not interested in them; and as a way-faring man, that turneth aside to tarry for a night? lodging at an inn, and departing without the least connexion formed with the people. Why shouldest thou be as a man astonished, as a mighty man that cannot save? for such reflections would be cast upon him by the Heathen, if he suffered his own people to become a prey to their enemies, as if he wanted wisdom or power to deliver them. Yet thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, no stranger among them, but had long dwelt in the temple at Jerusalem, and therefore he begs that it may not now be forsaken; and we are called by thy name; in profession, in outward covenant, the people of God; leave us not, for this is the consummation of all misery; to be deserted by him is to be irrecoverably lost and undone. Note; (1.) The most powerful arguments are those drawn from God's own glory. (2.) They who fly to God, as their only hope and Saviour in their deepest distress, shall not perish. (3.) If God seem to disregard our afflictions, we have only ourselves to blame for provoking him to leave us.
2nd, If aught could have prevailed to obtain pardon or respite, it had been this intercession; but we find it in vain.
1. God forbids him to pray for what he cannot grant; and he will not have the precious breath of prayer wasted. The measure of their iniquities was full, their sentence passed. They have loved to wander, have taken delight in sin, and, notwithstanding the repeated warnings, they have not refrained their feet, but continued to that hour obstinately impenitent; therefore the Lord doth not accept them: indeed it was impossible that he should: he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins, to punish them. In vain they fasted, prayed, sacrificed; their services were hypocritical, and, while their iniquities were not put away, so far from being acceptable, they were an abomination. Devoted, therefore, to destruction, he threatens, I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence, his three sore judgments. Note; (1.) While men continue determinately bent in the ways of sin, nothing can prevent their approaching ruin. (2.) They who bring down God's wrath on their heads by their iniquities, will not be able to cast their destruction on any fatal necessity which they were under, but owe it to their own choice; they have loved to wander. (3.) All formal duties and devotions are but hypocrisy and a provocation, when offered by an unawakened heart.
2. The prophet, reluctant utterly to abandon his people, suggests that they had been deluded by the fair promises and confident assertions of the false prophets: a poor excuse, it must be owned, when they had before warning of their danger, and rules to judge them by; but it was the best apology that he could make for them, and therefore he pleads it in their behalf. Note; When a case is really bad, charity will teach us to make the best of it.
3. God over-rules his plea. He disclaims all those prophets who pretended a commission from him which he never gave. Their divination is false, a thing of naught, and the deceit of their heart, groundless, worthless, and delusive, as will quickly appear when the judgments of God shall begin with them; and that sword and famine, which they so confidently pronounced would never come, shall consume those lying prophets themselves. And those who have been deceived by them must perish with them by sword and famine, together with their wives, their sons and their daughters, and their corpses lie unburied in the streets of Jerusalem; God being determined to bring the punishment of their wickedness in full measure upon them. Note; (1.) They who flatter to their ruin shall themselves receive the greater damnation. (2.) It will be no excuse for the deceived that they followed those who pretended a mission from God, when they have their Bibles, and some few faithful ministers who warn them of their delusions. (3.) When sinners suffer, they may look upon their wickedness as the cause of it. And when the deceived and deceiver lie down in hell together, they will prove but miserable comforters to each other.
3rdly, The desolations of Judah affect the prophet's heart, and he is permitted to lament them; and, though discouraged from prayer, he does not esteem it an absolute prohibition; therefore once more he intercedes in behalf of this guilty people.
1. He weeps, with ceaseless sorrow, over the dreadful calamities of his people, and God enjoins him to inform them of the cause of his tears, if peradventure it might affect their hearts with some apprehension of their impending miseries. Wherever he went, nothing but horrid scenes of devastation presented themselves to his view. Without, the Chaldean sword strewed the ground with the corpses of the slain; within the city famine raged, and every where the dying groans were heard of those who perished for want of food; and both the priest and prophet, those who had been the deceivers of the people, are sharers in their sufferings, dragged captives into a strange land, or wandering as vagabonds. But others understand this of the true prophets, such as Ezekiel and Daniel, who were carried into Babylon with the rest, and which would excite fresh grief, to see the righteous involved with the wicked. Note; Though we may not refuse pronouncing the sinner's doom, it should appear that we desire not the woeful day; and they, who will not hear our warnings, should see our weeping over their lost souls.
2. Once more, he cannot keep silence: he pours out his prayer, if there be but the peradventure of hope.
[1.] He humbly expostulates. Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? that once-favoured family, that stock from which Shiloh comes; hath thy soul loathed Zion? that once loved name, where God delighted to dwell: why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? not merely with the rod of affliction, but with the sword of judgment, whose wound is incurable. Far other expectations had they entertained: we looked for peace; such was their fond hope, and so had their prophets flattered them; and there is no good; their affairs went from evil to worse: and for the time of healing, after the heavy chastisement which they had endured; and behold trouble, without prospect of its end or abatement. But will God be no more entreated?
[2.] He confesses that they deserve all, and more than all that they have yet endured. We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, that it is great and aggravated, and the iniquity of our fathers, whose example they imitated, and filled the measure of their iniquities; for we have sinned against thee, and justly provoked his wrath and indignation against them. They own their guilt, and cast themselves on his mercy; which,
3. The prophet in their behalf, earnestly begs; Do not abhor us; if not embraced with the wonted tokens of divine favours, yet let us not be treated with utter detestation, and suffered to be intirely rooted out; for thy name's sake; for they have nothing but this to plead; his honour is concerned in their ruin; do not disgrace the throne of thy glory, that temple where his honour dwelt; and if this was laid desolate, the heathen would triumph as if their gods were greater than Jehovah, who sat between the cherubims. Remember, break not thy covenant with us. Indeed the covenant was broken on their part; but, on their penitent return, they might still plead his promise, and would prove his fidelity. Note; (1.) The most prevailing plea in prayer is to be drawn from God's glory, as interested in our salvation. (2.) It is a bitter grief to the pious soul, to see religion disgraced, and God blasphemed. (3.) We must plead God's promises, not as doubting his fidelity to his engagements, but for the encouragement of our own faith.
4. He disclaims all dependence upon idols, and looks to God alone for relief under the present distress by reason of the drought. Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? No. All these idols cannot produce one drop of dew. Or can the heavens give showers? No. All second causes can only act according to the will of the first Mover. Therefore they will look from these to Him who alone bindeth up the waters in the thick cloud. Art not thou he, O Lord our God? in whom our confidence is placed, and who alone canst open the windows of heaven. Therefore we will wait upon thee, till thou art pleased to answer our prayer, and cause the clouds to drop down from above: for thou hast made all these things, the heavens and earth, and all that in them is; even the rain hath a father, and the drops of dew are formed by him, and descend at his command. Note; (1.) We cannot place too little dependence on the creature, nor too much on the Creator. (2.) They who wait upon God must wait for him; and they who patiently continue so to do, will not be disappointed of their hope.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 14". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19