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The prophet, under the types of abstaining from marriage, and from houses of mourning and feasting, foresheweth the utter ruin of the Jews, because they were worse than their fathers. Their return from captivity shall be more strange than their deliverance out of Egypt. God will doubly recompense their idolatry.
Before Christ 602.
Jeremiah 16:1. The word of the Lord came, &c.— We have here a new discourse, wherein God forbids Jeremiah to marry, principally to mark out the miseries of parents, in the confused and ruinous state of things in Judaea. Fruitfulness was promised as a blessing under the law, but ceased to be so in such difficult times as were coming: for what comfort can parents promise themselves in their children, who must be exposed to all the miseries of a hostile invasion, and the insults of a barbarous and conquering enemy?
Jeremiah 16:6. Nor cut themselves— The cutting of their own flesh, as a mark of grief for their deceased friends and relations, though expressly forbidden to the Jews by the law, Leviticus 19:28. Deu 14:1 appears from hence to have been still in use among them as well as among their neighbours, on this and other occasions of great mourning and affliction. See ch. Jer 41:5 and compare chap. Jer 47:5 Jeremiah 48:37. The like practice attendant on funeral obsequies has been found among people lately discovered in the South Seas. "The New Zealanders have deep furrows marked on their foreheads. These were cut, in the frenzy of their grief, with a sharp shell, for the loss of their friends and relations. The Otaheitan women wound the crown of the head under the hair with a shark's tooth, to prove the sincerity of their grief: and the ancient Huns wounded their cheeks, on all occasions, where they wanted to testify their grief for the loss of a great man or a relation." Forster's Observations, p. 588. It is curious to remark, and to investigate the cause of such corresponding usages in nations so widely distant from each other.
Nor make themselves bald for them— Cutting off the hair was a still more general practice among mankind as a token of mourning. See Bishop Lowth's Note on Isaiah 15:2. Forster, in his Observations, p. 560 speaks of "the hair cut off, and thrown on the bier" at Otaheite. And at the Friendly Islands, it is expressly said, that "cutting off the hair is one of their mourning ceremonies." Narrative of Cook's and Clarke's Voyage, vol. 1: p. 112.—This also was forbidden by the Mosaic law, at the same time and on the same principles as the foregoing one. The hair is the natural ornament of the head, and the loss of it a considerable defect in the human figure. It was, therefore, not to be voluntarily assumed by those whose profession obliged them to "worship JEHOVAH in the beauty of holiness." At what time the observance of the law in these particulars began to be relaxed, does not appear; but I do not recollect any traces of such customs among God's chosen people, earlier than those which are alluded to in the prophetical books properly so called.
Jeremiah 16:7. Neither shall men tear themselves for them, &c.— Neither shall men break bread in mourning to comfort them, &c. Houbigant, &c. See John 11:19. Proverbs 31:6. Tobit orders his son to give bread on the burial of the just. See Tob 4:17. God tells Jeremiah, that nothing of this sort shall be done for parents or friends, in the state of confusion and desolation which was to follow.
Jeremiah 16:13. Where I will not shew you favour— Neither will I give you any favour with them there. Houbigant.
Jeremiah 16:14. Therefore, behold, the days come, &c.— Besides, lo! the days come, saith the Lord, &c. Houbigant. It may hence seem, that God's intent was, not only that they should consider their last deliverance by Cyrus to have been as much the effect of his providence, as was the rescuing of their fathers from the power of Pharaoh; but likewise that they were to consider the law of Moses, according to the interpretation which he had put upon it, and the alteration that he had made by the prophets, as preparatory to the introduction of a better covenant. See Durell's Parallel Prophecies, p. 226.
Jeremiah 16:16. Behold, I will send for many fishers— It is common with the sacred writers to represent enemies and oppressors under the metaphor of fishers and hunters, because they use all the methods of open force and secret stratagem, to make men their prey. These two similitudes imply, that the Chaldeans should make an entire conquest of their whole land, and strip it of its riches and inhabitants. Nothing can be more absurd than the imagination of some, that by these fishermen are meant the apostles of Christ.
Jeremiah 16:18. I will recompense—double— This phrase signifies, to punish with severity. See ch. Jer 17:18 and Isaiah 40:2. The carcases of their detestable things, means their idols, which are called carcases, not only because they are without life, but also because of their being so detestable in the sight of God. See Lowth and Calmet.
Jeremiah 16:19. O Lord, my strength, and my fortress— To demonstrate more emphatically the absurdity of idolatry, the prophet here foretels, that the time will come when the Gentiles themselves shall be ashamed of their idols, and address themselves to the true God in all their wants, as their only rock, their refuge, and defence; acknowledging the errors of their fathers, and that their former confidence was only vanity and lies. See Calmet.
Jeremiah 16:21. I will this once cause them to know— Instead of this once, Houbigant reads by this turn, or change; "that is," says he, "after the Jews are rendered unworthy to be called the people of God:" for the Gentiles were then to be called to the faith of the Gospel, when the Jews were rejected. To know my hand and my might, signifies, "my vengeance and power, shewn in the destruction of their idolatry."
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Example is often more effectual than precept. He who was sent to warn others of the destruction of the land, must by his conduct shew his assured conviction of the truth of what he preached. They who are urging men to look to the eternal world, must shew their own hearts fixed upon it, by their holy self-denial and deadness to every thing on earth. Three things are forbidden the prophet, and the reasons for these prohibitions subjoined.
1. He must not marry, nor have a family. Not as if a life of celibacy were, in an abstract view, either enjoined or desirable; but because of the distress coming upon the land, which would make a family a burden, and occasion the bitterest anguish from the grievous deaths of those so near and dear to him. For God was about to pour down his judgments; to send forth death in all its terrors, armed with the famine, pestilence, and sword; and to cover the earth with carcases so numerous, that there should not be graves to receive them, nor any to lament over or to bury them.
2. He must not go to the house of mourning. With friendly sympathy he had, no doubt, been wont to weep with those that wept; but now he must abstain, and shew no usual expression of grief for his nearest friend or relation, because either the dead were removed from the evils to come, or rather as a sign to the living of the greatness of the approaching calamities; when death would make such terrible devastation, that even the great should lie unburied on the ground, and none be left to shew the last kind office to the corpse, or to mourn over it. God having removed his peace from the land, a consumption utter and universal is decreed against it.
3. He must not go to the house of feasting. He had been accustomed, no doubt, to join with his friends when they made an entertainment, and innocently to partake of their repast; but this was now unseasonable; and when he foresaw the terrible wrath of God impending, he wanted by his own conduct to awaken their concern. The voice of mirth and bridal songs were about to cease, and no voice to be heard but the shrieks of the miserable and the groans of the dying.
2nd, We have,
1. The insolent and unhumbled challenge which this hardened people should make, beholding his conduct and hearing his warnings. They would ask, Wherefore hath the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? as if they had never given him any provocation: or, What is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God? They pretend a claim to God, as their God, and would deny the charge which the prophet continued to lay against them; so blind, hardened, and obstinate, are sinners in the error of their ways; and, instead of justifying God in his judgments, quarrel with his visitations as unjust or severe.
2. The prophet has his answer given him, and enough to silence their presumption. Their fathers' iniquities, backslidings, disobedience, and idolatries, were great and shameful; but their own far exceeded: instead of being warned by the judgment which they suffered, or being led to repentance by God's patience, they had grown worse and worse, filling up what was lacking of the wickedness of their predecessors; more perversely set on their own evil ways, and more resolutely hardened against all the rebukes of God's prophets; therefore no wonder that, as the just punishment of their iniquities, God would cast them out of that good land which they had defiled, send them far off into a miserable captivity, make that idolatry which had been their sin their grievous punishment, and withdraw from them every token of favour which might alleviate their miseries.
3rdly, In judgment God still remembers mercy.
1. He gives them hopes that a glorious day of deliverance should come, so much greater than that of their redemption from Egypt, that in a measure it should obliterate the mention of it. And this was primarily fulfilled in the recovery of the Jews from Babylon, and the countries of the north, whither they had been carried away captives, and may have reference to that more glorious expected event, when the Lord shall call them into his church from their present dispersion.
2. Before he shewed them this favour, he would severely visit their iniquities. As fishes taken in an evil net, and beasts in the hunter's snare, so would God give them up to the Chaldeans to be taken and destroyed, who should pursue them into all their lurking-places, and drag them into captivity. Their evil ways, however secret, were not hid from God's eye: he marked their impious rites and abominable idolatries, the carcases of their detestable things, offered to their idols, so many, and so universally practised through the land, that they filled God's inheritance with their horrid profanations. For this, therefore, he threatens to recompense their sin double; not beyond what it deserved, but double above all other visitations that he had brought upon them, or much more than they feared or apprehended. Note; (1.) No darkness can hide the sinner from God's eye. (2.) Flight is in vain when he pursues: no cave, no mountain can then conceal the guilty from his judgment.
3. The prophet is comforted, not only in the prospect that the punishment of his people, however severe, would have an end, but also with the foresight of the conversion of the Gentiles; O Lord, my strength and my fortress, who had hitherto supported him amidst all his infirmities, and against all his enemies; and my refuge in the day of affliction, who would preserve him amidst all the approaching evils: the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth; either when the Jews returned from Babylon, and many proselytes came up with them; or when the Gospel was preached, and the Gentiles became obedient to the faith, renouncing the idols of their fathers, convinced of their vanity and unprofitableness, and astonished at their absurdity, that any could think those to be gods which were the workmanship of their own hands, wood or stone. But now God will cause them to know better, making them, by his divine grace, acquainted with his own glorious perfections as the only living Jehovah, with the Gospel of his dear Son, and the way of life and salvation attainable through the Redeemer.
Some choose rather to understand all this of the Jews, called Gentiles, because of their imitation of their sins, and now quitting with shame their idolatries, and returning to the one living and true God. Note; (1.) They who make God their refuge shall find support under the heaviest afflictions. (2.) When the sinner, convinced and ashamed of his folly, begins bitterly to reflect upon himself, then God will again restore him to his favour, and make him know once more the wonders of his grace.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 16". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26