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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 4

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Jeremiah 4:0


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

Judah Threatened With InvasionA Call To Repentance
Jeremiah 4:1-2(vv. Jeremiah 4:1-2)Jeremiah 4:1-2(vv. Jeremiah 4:1-2)Jeremiah 4:1-4(vv. Jeremiah 4:1-4)Jeremiah 4:1-2Jeremiah 4:1-2(vv. Jeremiah 4:1-2)
Jeremiah 4:3-4(vv. Jeremiah 4:3-4)Jeremiah 4:3-4(vv. Jeremiah 4:3-4)Jeremiah 4:3-4Jeremiah 4:3-4(vv. Jeremiah 4:3-4)
An Imminent InvasionThe Foe From the NorthJudah Is Threatened With InvasionInvasion From the North
Jeremiah 4:5-9(vv. Jeremiah 4:5-8)Jeremiah 4:5-6(vv. Jeremiah 4:5-6)Jeremiah 4:5-8(vv. Jeremiah 4:5-8)Jeremiah 4:5-8(vv. Jeremiah 4:5-8)Jeremiah 4:5-8(vv. Jeremiah 4:5-8)
Jeremiah 4:7-8(vv. Jeremiah 4:7-8)
Jeremiah 4:9(vv. Jeremiah 4:9)Jeremiah 4:9-10Jeremiah 4:9Jeremiah 4:9-12(vv. Jeremiah 4:9-12)
Jeremiah 4:10Jeremiah 4:10(vv. Jeremiah 4:10)Jeremiah 4:10
Jeremiah 4:11-13(vv. Jeremiah 4:13)Jeremiah 4:11-18(vv. Jeremiah 4:11-12)Jeremiah 4:11-18Jeremiah 4:11-12
Judah Is Surrounded by Enemies
(vv. Jeremiah 4:13)(vv. Jeremiah 4:13-17)Jeremiah 4:13Jeremiah 4:13-18(vv. Jeremiah 4:13-18)
Jeremiah 4:14-18(vv. Jeremiah 4:14-18)(vv. Jeremiah 4:14-18)Jeremiah 4:14
Jeremiah 4:15-17
(vv. Jeremiah 4:18)Jeremiah 4:18
Lament Over Judah's DevastationSorrow For the Doomed NationJeremiah's Sorrow For His People
Jeremiah 4:19-22(vv. Jeremiah 4:19-22)Jeremiah 4:19-22(vv. Jeremiah 4:19-21)Jeremiah 4:19-22(vv. Jeremiah 4:19-22)Jeremiah 4:19-22(vv. Jeremiah 4:19-22)Jeremiah 4:19-21(vv. Jeremiah 4:19-21)
(vv. Jeremiah 4:22)Jeremiah's Vision of the Coming DestructionJeremiah 4:22-28(vv. Jeremiah 4:22-28)
Jeremiah 4:23-26(vv. Jeremiah 4:23-26)Jeremiah 4:23-26(vv. Jeremiah 4:23-26)Jeremiah 4:23-28(vv. Jeremiah 4:23-28)Jeremiah 4:23-31(vv. Jeremiah 4:23-26)
Jeremiah 4:27-31(vv. Jeremiah 4:27-31)Jeremiah 4:27-31(vv. Jeremiah 4:27-29)(vv. Jeremiah 4:30)(vv. Jeremiah 4:31)(vv. Jeremiah 4:28-31)
Jeremiah 4:29-31(vv. Jeremiah 4:29-31)Jeremiah 4:29-31(vv. Jeremiah 4:29-31)

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. This chapter is a series of poems on different subjects. Verses Jeremiah 4:5-31 are several independant poems about Judah's invasion.

B. Jeremiah 4:1-2 describe repentance and relate to Jeremiah 3:0, Jeremiah 4:21-25.

C. The theme of Judah's rebellion and YHWH's judgment by foreign invasion runs through Jeremiah 6:0.

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 4:1-2 1”If you will return, O Israel,” declares the LORD, “Then you should return to Me. And if you will put away your detested things from My presence, And will not waver, 2And you will swear, 'As the LORD lives,' In truth, in justice and in righteousness; Then the nations will bless themselves in Him, And in Him they will glory.”

Jeremiah 4:1 “If” Grammatically there seem to be four “ifs” or conditions in Jeremiah 4:1-2. This shows the conditional nature of the covenant (i.e., “if. . .then. . .,” cf. Leviticus 26:0; Deuteronomy 27-28).

“return. . .return to Me” The Hebrew root, שוב (BDB 996-1000, see Special Topic: Repentance in the Old Testament), is used in several words, in several lines in chapters Jeremiah 3:1-2.

1. שׁוב - “return,” Jeremiah 3:1 (twice), 7 (twice), Jeremiah 4:10, Jeremiah 4:12, Jeremiah 4:14, Jeremiah 4:19, Jeremiah 4:22; Jeremiah 4:1 (twice)

- “turn away,” Jeremiah 4:8

- “turn back,” Jeremiah 4:28

2. שׁובב (BDB 1000) - “faithless,” Jeremiah 3:14, Jeremiah 3:22

3. משׁובה, (BDB 1000) - “faithless,” Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:8, Jeremiah 3:11, Jeremiah 3:12

- “backsliding,” Jeremiah 3:22

Notice the personal emphasis (cf. Jeremiah 3:1, Jeremiah 3:4, Jeremiah 3:7, Jeremiah 3:10, Jeremiah 3:19, Jeremiah 3:20). Sin is more than a violation of a law code. It is a personal affront to a personal God!

“Israel” See Special Topic: Israel (the name). This title (BDB 975) can mean

1. a new name given to Jacob

2. a collective term for all the children of Jacob

3. the northern ten tribes after the split of the United Monarchy in 922 B.C. They were later taken captive by Assyria at the fall of the capital, Samaria in 722 B.C.

Context must determine which meaning. This is especially hard in Jeremiah when #2 and #3 are used in isolated poems without their historical setting specified.

“detested things” This is literally “abominations” (BDB 1055) and refers to idols. See Special Topic: Abomination.

“and will not waver” This VERB (BDB 626, KB 678, Qal IMPERFECT, lit. “wander,” cf. Genesis 4:12, Genesis 4:14) refers to wholehearted daily activities (i.e., lifestyle).

Jeremiah 4:2 “you will swear” This VERB (BDB 989, KB 1396, Niphal PERFECT) refers to a verbal act of worship, much like our modern liturgies (cf. Jeremiah 12:16; Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Isaiah 65:16). Idolaters swear by Ba'al, but YHWH's people swear allegiance only to Him! This is theologically parallel to Romans 10:9-13, which is a quote from Joel 2:32 (cf. Acts 2:21).

“In truth, in justice and in righteousness” This is the content of “swear.” It refers to a lifestyle response, not ritual or periodic emotional experiences. This would describe true repentance. Each of these three words carries theological meaning.

1. in truth (BDB 54, see Special Topic below)

2. in justice (BDB 1048, see Special Topic below)

3. in righteousness (BDB 842, see Special Topic below)




“the nations will bless themselves in Him” This is a recurrent theme in Genesis (BDB 138, KB 159, Hithpael PERFECT, cf. Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18; 26:41; Genesis 28:14). God's promises to the Patriarchs show Israel's purpose as an instrument of reaching the whole world (cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6, see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

This is such an important theological concept that I have included my notes from Genesis 12:3.

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, PESHITTA“and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” NRSV footnote, JPSOA“by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” TEV“and through you I will bless all the nations” TEVfootnote“All the nations will ask me to bless them as I have blessed you” NJB“and all clans on earth will bless themselves by you” LXX“and in you shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed” REB“All the peoples on earth will wish to be blessed as you are blessed” REBfootnote“All the peoples on earth will be blessed because of you”

The Niphal PERFECT (BDB 138, KB 159) stem is usually PASSIVE (LXX, NASB, “shall be blessed,” cf. Jeremiah 18:18; Jeremiah 28:14), but in Jeremiah 22:18 and Jeremiah 26:4 the Hithpael PERFECT stem is used, which is REFLEXIVE (“bless themselves”). It is possible that the Hithpael denotes a continuing action through time. It is significant that God includes all nations in His promise to Abram in light of the universal rebellion of chapter 11. God chose Abraham to choose all humans made in His image (cf. Psalms 22:27; Psalms 66:4; Psalms 86:9; Isaiah 66:23; Isaiah 49:6; Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8)! Also see note at Genesis 22:18.

This is really an important passage. It shows clearly God's purpose of using Abram to reach all the world. The universal promise of Genesis 3:15 is being implemented, even amidst the purposeful rebellion of Noah's children (i.e., Genesis 10:0 and 11). It s not only to those who show favor to Abram, but to those who will show favor to Abram's seed (i.e., the Messiah). There was/is a universal purpose in YHWH's choice of “one” to bring prophesied redemption through the special “One” of his descendants. In the big picture, this is not a text about an attitude toward Jews, but a faith response to the Jewish “promised One.” See Special Topic: OT Titles of the Special Coming One.

“in Him they will glory” The VERB (BDB 237, KB 248) is Hithpael IMPERFECT, denoting ongoing action. Followers of YHWH glory/boast in knowing Him and Him alone (cf. Jeremiah 9:23-24). Notice the wonderful, universal implications of Isaiah 45:20-25, especially Jeremiah 4:25b! Biblical faith is a personal relationship with the one true God!

Verses 3-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 4:3-4 3For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, “Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns. 4Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Or else My wrath will go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds.”

Jeremiah 4:3-8 This strophe is a warning and call for repentance. Notice the commands.

Jeremiah 4:1. Jeremiah 4:3, “break up” - BDB 644, KB 697, Qal IMPERATIVE (metaphor for prepare your heart, cf. Hosea 10:12)

Jeremiah 4:2. Jeremiah 4:3, “sow” - BDB 281, KB 282, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense (negated, “among the thorns” metaphor for established idolatry)

Jeremiah 4:3. Jeremiah 4:4, “circumcise yourselves” - BDB 557, KB 555, Niphal IMPERATIVE (a metaphor for the heart, cf. Jeremiah 9:25-26)

Jeremiah 4:4. Jeremiah 4:4, “remove” - BDB 693, KB 747, Hiphil IMPERATIVE (the literary parallel to “circumcise”)

In light of YHWH's warning of judgment (Jeremiah 4:4c-f), He calls for the proclamation of invasion and action (Jeremiah 4:5-8).

Jeremiah 4:1. Jeremiah 4:5, “declare” - BDB 610, KB 665, Hiphil IMPERATIVE (first of six IMPERATIVES about communication)

Jeremiah 4:2. Jeremiah 4:5, “proclaim” - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

Jeremiah 4:3. Jeremiah 4:5, “say” - BDB 55, KB 65, Qal IMPERATIVE

Jeremiah 4:4. Jeremiah 4:5, “blow” - BDB 1075, KB 1785, Qal IMPERATIVE

Jeremiah 4:5. Jeremiah 4:5, “cry” - BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal IMPERATIVE

6. Jeremiah 4:5, “aloud” - BDB 569, KB 583, Piel IMPERATIVE

7. Jeremiah 4:5, “say” - same as #3

The content of their commandment is, act now, judgment is coming (cf. Jeremiah 4:6-7)

8. Jeremiah 4:5, “assemble” - BDB 62, KB 74, Niphal IMPERATIVE , cf. Jeremiah 8:14

9. Jeremiah 4:5, “let us go” - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal COHORTATIVE, cf. Jeremiah 8:14

10. Jeremiah 4:6, “lift up a standard” - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal IMPERATIVE (i.e., a military signal)

1Jeremiah 4:1. Jeremiah 4:6, “seek refuge” - BDB 731, KB 797, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

1Jeremiah 4:2. Jeremiah 4:6, “do not stand still” - BDB 763, KB 840, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense (i.e., do not wait!)

Finally, in light of the coming judgment, they are called on to grieve.

1Jeremiah 4:3. Jeremiah 4:8, “put on sackcloth” - BDB 291, KB 291, Qal IMPERATIVE (see Special Topic: Grieving Rites)

1Jeremiah 4:4. Jeremiah 4:8, “lament” - BDB 704, KB 763, Qal IMPERATIVE

1Jeremiah 4:5. Jeremiah 4:8, “wail” - BDB 410, KB 413, Qal IMPERATIVE

Why? “The fierce anger of the Lord” is coming (cf. Jeremiah 4:26; Jeremiah 12:13; Jeremiah 25:37, Jeremiah 25:38; Jeremiah 30:24; Jeremiah 49:37; Jeremiah 51:45) and He will not change His mind (cf. Jeremiah 4:28).

Jeremiah 4:3 “to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem” This shows the collective call to individual repentance, which characterizes Jeremiah and Ezekiel (i.e., Ezekiel 18:0). Biblical faith is corporate but it is entered into by individual choice.

“Break up your fallow ground” Verse Jeremiah 4:3 relates to the agricultural practice of preparing ground for seed. The rabbis use the illustration that our minds are like a plowed field, ready for seed and what one lets in through the eyes and ears falls on that prepared ground. What we think and then dwell on becomes who we are!

Repentance is plowed, good ground, ready for fellowship and obedience in a daily walk with God.

Jeremiah 4:4 “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD. . .remove the foreskin of your heart” This shows that ritual alone was/is never effective, but a daily, internal faith attitude is essential (cf. Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 30:6). Other examples of this metaphor are:

1. ears, Jeremiah 6:10

2. lips, Exodus 6:12, Exodus 6:30

3. heart, Deuteronomy 10:16

4. flesh, Genesis 17:14

“My wrath go forth like fire” This is a recurrent metaphor (cf. Jeremiah 17:4; Jeremiah 21:12).


“with none to quench it” See Isaiah 1:31; Isaiah 66:24; Amos 5:6; Matthew 3:12; Mark 9:43, Mark 9:48.

See the word study gehenna in the following Special Topic.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

Verses 5-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 4:5-9 5Declare in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say, “Blow the trumpet in the land; Cry aloud and say, 'Assemble yourselves, and let us go Into the fortified cities.' 6Lift up a standard toward Zion! Seek refuge, do not stand still, For I am bringing evil from the north, And great destruction. 7A lion has gone up from his thicket, And a destroyer of nations has set out; He has gone out from his place To make your land a waste. Your cities will be ruins Without inhabitant. 8For this, put on sackcloth, Lament and wail; For the fierce anger of the LORD Has not turned back from us. 9It shall come about in that day,” declares the LORD, “that the heart of the king and the heart of the princes will fail; and the priests will be appalled and the prophets will be astounded.”

Jeremiah 4:5 “Blow the trumpet” This is the word shophar. It was used as a call to war or for religious observances. Jeremiah 4:5-9 forms a poem of a watchman.


Jeremiah 4:6 “evil from the north” This was a symbol of evil because it was the route of invasion for the Mesopotamian powers (i.e., Assyria, Babylon, Persia, cf. Jeremiah 1:14, Jeremiah 1:15; Jeremiah 6:1, Jeremiah 6:22; Jeremiah 10:22; Jeremiah 50:3; Isaiah 41:25).

Jeremiah 4:7 “a destroyer of nations has set out” This is literally “struck his tents.” It refers to Nebuchadnezzar II of Neo-Babylon, who took Judah into exile in 605, 597, 586, 582 B.C., as Assyria did Israel in 722 B.C.

Jeremiah 4:9 “in that day” This phrase was a way of referring to the special future day of YHWH's visitation (cf. Jeremiah 4:11a). It can be for blessing or judgment, here judgment.


“the king. . .the princes. . .the priests. . .the prophets” This refers to those leaders who rejected Jeremiah's message (cf. Jeremiah 1:18; Jeremiah 2:8, Jeremiah 2:26; Jeremiah 5:31; Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 8:1, Jeremiah 8:10; Jeremiah 13:13; Jeremiah 14:18; Jeremiah 23:33-34). Judah had no godly leaders!

Notice the parallel VERBS.

1. fail - BDB 1, KB 2, Qal IMPERFECT

2. appalled - BDB 1030, KB 1563, Niphal PERFECT (related form “waste” in Jeremiah 4:7)

3. astounded - BDB 1069, KB 1744, Qal IMPERFECT (found only here in Jeremiah)

The leadership (civil and religious) will utterly fail and not know what to do in light of the invasion. Their eyes have been blinded by idolatry and false prophets (cf. Jeremiah 4:10); they cannot find YHWH! As the leaders go, so go the people!

Verse 10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 4:10 10Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Surely You have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, 'You will have peace'; whereas a sword touches the throat.”

Jeremiah 4:10 “Surely You have utterly deceived this people” Jeremiah 4:10 is a comment from Jeremiah to YHWH about the message of the false prophets. Jeremiah speaks bluntly and honestly to God (cf. Jeremiah 12:1; Jeremiah 15:17-18; Jeremiah 20:7-9). This false message of hope and deliverance from invasion was what the false prophets were preaching in God's name (cf. Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11; Jeremiah 14:13; Jeremiah 23:16-17; Jeremiah 28:1ff). God let this occur but the speaker and hearer are responsible!

One more possibility in understanding this difficult phrase is that the people were clinging to Isaiah's prophecies about the invulnerability of Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 36-39). Jeremiah would have to remind them that Isaiah's promises were also based on a conditional covenant model (i.e., “if. . .then. . .,” cf. Jeremiah 4:1-2). Judah did not obey the covenant, therefore, its curses, not its promises, were what they would reap (cf. Leviticus 26:0; Deuteronomy 28-29).

“throat” This is the word nephesh (BDB 659, cf. Genesis 2:7 [of man] and Jeremiah 2:19 [of animals]). It basically means the life on this planet that breathes (related to the Hebrew word for “breath”). See Genesis 35:18; Genesis 35:18.

Verses 11-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 4:11-13 11In that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, “A scorching wind from the bare heights in the wilderness in the direction of the daughter of My people-not to winnow and not to cleanse, 12a wind too strong for this-will come at My command; now I will also pronounce judgments against them. 13Behold, he goes up like clouds, And his chariots like the whirlwind; His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are ruined!”

Jeremiah 4:11 “A scorching wind” This refers to the sirocco desert winds, often used in the OT as a metaphor for judgment (i.e., “not to winnow, and not to cleanse,” cf. Jeremiah 4:12).

“from the bare heights” This was the physical locality of Ba'al worship (cf. Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:2, Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah 4:11; Jeremiah 7:29; Jeremiah 14:6; Jeremiah 17:2; Isaiah 57:7; Deuteronomy 12:2).

“not to winnow” The wind will be too strong and too hot for harvesting grain. The last item, “cleanse,” probably refers to the process of separating the husk from the grain.

Jeremiah 4:12 “at My command” God sent these judgments; they were carried out by Mesopotamian pagan nations! There are consequences to covenant disobedience (cf. Leviticus 26:0; Deuteronomy 28-29)! See Special Topic: Keep.

Jeremiah 4:13 This is a metaphorical description of God's judgment (i.e., lines a-c) and the results.

1. woe to us (BDB 17, cf. Jeremiah 4:31; Jeremiah 6:4; Jeremiah 10:19; Jeremiah 13:27)

2. we are ruined (BDB 994, KB 1418, Pual PERFECT, same VERB found in Jeremiah 4:20; Jeremiah 9:19; Jeremiah 10:20; Jeremiah 48:1, Jeremiah 48:15, Jeremiah 48:20; Jeremiah 49:3, Jeremiah 49:10)

Verses 14-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 4:14-18 14”Wash your heart from evil, O Jerusalem, That you may be saved. How long will your wicked thoughts Lodge within you? 15For a voice declares from Dan, And proclaims wickedness from Mount Ephraim. 16Report it to the nations, now! Proclaim over Jerusalem, 'Besiegers come from a far country, And lift their voices against the cities of Judah. 17Like watchmen of a field they are against her round about, Because she has rebelled against Me,' declares the LORD. 18”Your ways and your deeds Have brought these things to you. This is your evil. How bitter! How it has touched your heart!”

Jeremiah 4:14 “Wash your heart” This VERB (BDB 460, KB 459, Piel IMPERATIVE) is an allusion to washing a soiled garment, which is a metaphor for repentance and cleansing (cf. Psalms 51:2, Psalms 51:7; Isaiah 1:16). It is a call, like Ezekiel 18:0, for an individual to turn back to YHWH and change his ways (cf. Jeremiah 4:3-4).

“That you may be saved” The Hebrew VERB (BDB 446, KB 448) has two connotations.

1. physical deliverance

2. spiritual forgiveness

Both are needed for Judah to avert YHWH's coming judgment!


“wicked thoughts” Maybe this is best illustrated by Jeremiah 13:27.

Jeremiah 4:15 “voice. . .from Dan” This was the farthest northern tribe in Palestine. The tribe of Dan, in unbelief, moved from its tribal allocation in the south (cf. Joshua 19:40-48) to the north (cf. Judges 18:0). The phrase “from Dan to Beersheba” became a way to denote the whole Promised Land (cf. Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20; 2 Samuel 3:10; 2 Samuel 17:11; 2 Samuel 24:2; 2 Chronicles 30:5; Amos 8:14).

“Mount Ephraim” This refers to the central mountainous (i.e., hill country) region of Palestine, which was the tribal allocation of Ephraim (cf. Joshua 17:15; Joshua 19:50; Joshua 20:7). The mountains of Ebal and Gerizim (i.e., Samaria) were in this region.

Dan and Ephraim fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Now that destruction would come to Judah and Jerusalem (cf. Jeremiah 4:16-17) and the northern invaders were close!

Jeremiah 4:16 This verse starts with two commands to make known YHWH's coming judgment to Judah.

1. report - BDB 269, KB 269, Hiphil IMPERATIVE (this could refer to the mercenary invaders, Jeremiah 4:16c)

2. proclaim - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

The voice from Dan (Jeremiah 4:15) [1] tells the invaders (or the surrounding nations to Judah) they are close to Jerusalem and [2] tells Jerusalem that the invaders are close to them!

“Besiegers come from a far country” The VERBAL (BDB 665, KB 718, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) in this context has the meaning of “besiege” (BDB 666, #5, cf. Isaiah 1:8; Ezekiel 6:12). It usually is translated “enemies.” The UBS Handbook (p. 133) suggests advanced scouts of the Babylonian army.

Jeremiah 4:17 “Like watchmen of a field” I must admit that I do not understand this phrase in this context. TEV takes it to mean watchmen that surround a field ready to harvest. But here they guard against any persons escaping the besieged city.

The UBS Handbook (p. 134) suggests that the imagery is connected to the “tents” (booths) of the agricultural watchmen with the army tents of the invaders.

“Because she has rebelled against Me” Notice the personal affront that YHWH feels! It is not just the violation of His covenant, but the rebellion against Him, Him as husband, Him as King, Him as the only God! Possibly Jeremiah 5:20-29 describes the attitude best.

The VERB “rebelled” (BDB 598, KB 632, Qal PERFECT) is also found in Jeremiah 5:23; Lamentations 1:18, Lamentations 1:20 (twice); and Lamentations 3:42. However a SYNONYM (BDB 833, KB 981) is used in Jeremiah 2:8, Jeremiah 2:29; Jeremiah 3:13; Jeremiah 33:8; Lamentations 3:42.

Jeremiah 4:18 The invasion, destruction, and exile of the covenant people from the covenant land and city was their own fault. YHWH gave them only what they had sown (cf. Job 34:11; Psalms 28:4; Psalms 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-10; 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12).

“How bitter” This is the result of their rebellion (cf. Jeremiah 2:19; Amos 8:10). Note Job 20:11-16; sin tastes good initially but becomes poison and brings death!

Their idolatry had spread into their very being (i.e., heart). They were sinful through and through!

Verses 19-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 4:19-22 19”My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart! My heart is pounding in me; I cannot be silent, Because you have heard, O my soul, The sound of the trumpet, The alarm of war. 20Disaster on disaster is proclaimed, For the whole land is devastated; Suddenly my tents are devastated, My curtains in an instant. 21How long must I see the standard And hear the sound of the trumpet? 22For My people are foolish, They know Me not; They are stupid children And have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, But to do good they do not know.”

Jeremiah 4:19-22 This shows the way God truly feels (Jeremiah 4:22) about bringing judgment to Judah (cf. Hosea 11:8-9).

“soul” The term “soul” means “bowels” (BDB 588). The ancient Hebrew thought the seat of the emotions was in the lower viscera (BDB 589 #5).

The terms “soul” and “heart” are repeated for intensity.


Jeremiah 4:19

NASB“I am in anguish” NKJV“I am pained in my heart” NRSV“how great my agony” TEV“I can't bear the pain” NJB“I writhe in pain” JPSOA“How I writhe”

The VERB could come from

1. חול - BDB 296, KB 297, Qal COHORTATIVE, “writhe”

2. יחל - BDB 403 KB 407, Hiphil COHORTATIVE, “wait”

This information is from OT Parsing Guide (revised) by Beall, Banks, and Smith, p. 546. The UBS Text Project and AB do not even mention the option.

“The sound of the trumpet” The JPSOA notes that the MT has “you, O my being, hear,” but by a change of vocalization, yields, “I hear the blare of horns” (p. 931).

Jeremiah 4:20 “tents. . .curtains” The phrase “in an instant” (רגע, BDB 921), with revocalization, can be translated “torn to shreds” (cf. LXX, NEB). This would fit the parallelism better.

The NET Bible (p. 1298) makes the comment that this verse could refer to

1. the weakness of Judah's defenses

2. the destruction of a person's home (using an ancient cultural metaphor)

The UBS Handbook (p. 137) suggests that “tents” and “curtain” could be a reference to the temple in Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 4:21 The “standard” and “the trumpet” are military signaling devises, here of the invaders (cf. Jeremiah 4:19).

The two VERBS of this verse are

1. see - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERFECT used in a COHORTATIVE sense

2. hear - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal COHORTATIVE

Jeremiah 4:22 This verse shows God's disappointment in His covenant people in strong metaphors of irony.

1. they are foolish (BDB 17)

2. they do not know Me

3. they are stupid (BDB 698) children

4. they have no understanding

5. they are shrewd to do evil

6. they do not know how to do good

Notice how they are described in Jeremiah 5:21.

Verses 23-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 4:23-26 23I looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void; And to the heavens, and they had no light. 24I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, And all the hills moved to and fro. 25I looked, and behold, there was no man, And all the birds of the heavens had fled. 26I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness, And all its cities were pulled down Before the LORD, before His fierce anger.

Jeremiah 4:23-26 This strophe uses original creation in its chaotic state (i.e., formless and void, cf. Genesis 1:2; “the heavens, and they had no light” before Genesis 1:3) with the destruction caused by foreign (Mesopotamian) invasion.

As creation was originally without human habitation, so now the Promised Land is without human habitation. This is not to be taken literally; there were always some Israelites and Judeans not taken captive, but the land looked/seemed empty! (cf. Jeremiah 4:27).

Also notice the literary structure of “I looked. . .” (BDB 55, KB 65, Qal PERFECT) used four times.

Jeremiah 4:25 “all the birds of the heavens had fled” This may refer to the fact that even the carnivorous birds have left because there is no more food (i.e., those killed in battle or invasion).

Verses 27-31

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 4:27-31 27For thus says the LORD, “The whole land shall be a desolation, Yet I will not execute a complete destruction. 28For this the earth shall mourn And the heavens above be dark, Because I have spoken, I have purposed, And I will not change My mind, nor will I turn from it.” 29At the sound of the horseman and bowman every city flees; They go into the thickets and climb among the rocks; Every city is forsaken, And no man dwells in them. 30And you, O desolate one, what will you do? Although you dress in scarlet, Although you decorate yourself with ornaments of gold, Although you enlarge your eyes with paint, In vain you make yourself beautiful. Your lovers despise you; They seek your life. 31For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor, The anguish as of one giving birth to her first child, The cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath, Stretching out her hands, saying, “Ah, woe is me, for I faint before murderers.”

Jeremiah 4:27 “Yet I will not execute a complete destruction” This refers to hope amidst judgment (cf. Jeremiah 5:10, Jeremiah 5:18; Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 46:28)!

Jeremiah 4:28 This verse speaks of the determined judgment of God (cf. Jeremiah 23:20; Jeremiah 30:24; Numbers 23:19). There is a greater purpose in the discipline of His covenant people (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan). His discipline, in reality, was a sign of His love. He would not let them continue in their waywardness (i.e., Hebrews 12:5-13).

Verse Jeremiah 4:28 personifies YHWH's creation (i.e., earth and heaven). The first two created things mourn over the coming judgment of Palestine, and especially of Jerusalem and the temple (possibly Jeremiah 4:20c and d).

Jeremiah 4:29 This verse describes what happened when an invading army swept across the land, and smaller unwalled cities were defenseless and had to abandon their homes and shops. They tried to hide or seek the shelter of a walled city.

Jeremiah 4:30 This is an allusion to Judah as a harlot. Her lovers are the foreign powers with whom she makes political alliances.

Jeremiah 4:31 This allusion switches to birth pains. Not to bring forth life, but death! Judah's idolatry and covenant breaking have resulted in destruction, death, and exile!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. List the four conditions God demanded to show repentance (Jeremiah 4:1-2).

2. How many separate poems are there in Jeremiah 4:0?

3. Briefly express in your own words the central idea that Jeremiah 4:0 is trying to convey.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 4". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/jeremiah-4.html. 2021.
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