INTRODUCTION TO JEREMIAH 9
This chapter is a continuation of the judgments of God upon the Jews for their sins and transgressions herein mentioned; illustrated by the lamentation of the prophet; by calling for the mourning women, and upon other women that had lost their husbands or children, with an intimation that none of any rank and class should escape. The prophet is introduced mourning over the destruction of his people, Jeremiah 9:1, and as uneasy at his stay with them, because of their uncleanness, treachery, lying, unfaithfulness, and deceit, Jeremiah 9:2, wherefore the Lord threatens to melt and try them; and for their deceitfulness particularly to visit them, and avenge himself on them, Jeremiah 9:7, the destruction is described by the desolation of the mountains and habitations of the wilderness; they being so burnt up, that there were neither grass upon them, nor beasts nor birds to be seen or heard about them; and of Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, so that there was no inhabitant in them, Jeremiah 9:10, upon which a wise man is inquired after, to give the true reason of all this, Jeremiah 9:12 but none appearing, the Lord gives it himself; which were their disobedience to his law, and their worship of idols, following the imagination of their own hearts, Jeremiah 9:13 wherefore they are threatened to be fed with wormwood and gall; to be scattered among the nations, and a sword sent after them to their utter consumption, Jeremiah 9:15, hence, for the certainty of it, mourning women are ordered to be called for in haste, to assist them in their mourning, on account of their distress, Jeremiah 9:17, and such as were mothers of children are bid to teach their daughters and neighbours lamentation, because of the children and young men cut off by death, and for the carcasses of men that should fall as dung in the field, and as the handful after the harvestman, Jeremiah 9:20, and it is suggested that none should escape; not the wise man by any art or cunning he was master of; nor the strong man by his strength; nor the rich man by his riches; and therefore ought not either of them to glory in these things, but in the Lord, as exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth, Jeremiah 9:23, and the chapter is concluded with a strong asseveration, that the wicked, both circumcised and uncircumcised, should be punished, Jeremiah 9:25.
Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears,.... Or, "who will give to my head water, and to mine eyes a fountain of tears?" as the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions. The prophet wishes that his head was turned and dissolved into water, and that tears might flow from his eyes as water issues out from a fountain; and he suggests, that could this be, it would not be sufficient to deplore the miserable estate of his people, and to express the inward grief and sorrow of his mind on account of it.
That I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people; the design of all this is to set forth the greatness and horribleness of the destruction, signifying that words were wanting to express it, and tears to lament it; and to awaken the attention of the people to it, who were quite hardened, insensible, and stupid. The Jewish writers close the eighth chapter with this verse, and begin the ninth with the following.
Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men,.... Such as travellers take up with in a desert, when they are benighted, and cannot reach a town or village. This the prophet chose, partly that he might have an opportunity to give vent to his grief, being alone; for which reason he did not desire to be in cities and populous places, where he might be amused and diverted while his people were in distress: and partly to show his sympathy, not being able to bear the sight of their misery; and also some degree of indignation at their impieties, which had brought ruin upon them; on account of which it was more eligible to dwell with the wild beasts of the desert than with them in his native country: wherefore it follows,
that I might leave my people, and go from them; which of itself was not desirable; no man chooses to leave his country, his own people, and his father's house, and go into distant lands and strange countries; and especially into a wilderness, where there is neither suitable food nor agreeable company: wherefore this shows, that there must be something very bad, and very provoking, to lead him to take such a step as this: the reason follows,
for they be all adulterers; either in a literal or figurative sense; the latter seems rather intended; for though corporeal fornication and adultery might greatly prevail among them, yet not to such a height as that "all" of them were guilty; whereas idolatry did generally obtain among them: an assembly of treacherous men; not a few only, but in general they were apostates from God and from true religion, and treacherous to one another. The Septuagint calls them "a synod"; and Joseph Kimchi interprets it "a kingdom"; deriving the word from עצר, as it signifies to have rule and dominion; denoting, that the kingdom in general was false and perfidious.
And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies,.... Their tongues were like bows, and their lying words like arrows, which they directed against persons to their injury; see Psalm 11:2, or, "like their deceitful bow"
"they teach their tongues words of falsehood, they are like to a deceitful bow.'
Most agreeably to the accents the words may be rendered, "they bend their tongues, their bow is a lie"
but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; which a man should do everything for, and nothing against; and which he should earnestly contend for, and not part with or give up at any rate; not only for the truth of doctrine, for faith, as the Targum; for the doctrine of faith, the truth of the Gospel, and as it is in Christ; but for truth between man and man, for veracity, rightness, and integrity: for they proceed from evil to evil; from one sin to another, growing worse and worse, as wicked men and deceivers usually do. Kimchi observes, it may be interpreted, as of evil works, so of the evil of punishment, from one evil of the enemy to another; or this year they are smitten with blasting, another with mildew, or with the locust, and yet they turn not from their evil ways:
and they know not me, saith the Lord; the God of truth, and without iniquity, and who will severely punish for it; they did not serve and worship him as the only Lord God. The Targum is,
"the knowledge of my fear they learned not.'
Take ye heed everyone of his neighbour,.... Take care of being imposed upon by them, since they are so given to lying and deceit; be not too credulous, or too easily believe what is said; or keep yourselves from them; have no company or conversation with them, since evil communications corrupt good manners:
and trust ye not in any brother; whether by blood or by marriage, or by religion, believe not his words; trust him not, neither with your money, nor with your mind; commit not your secrets to him, place no confidence in him; a people must be very corrupt indeed when this is the case: or, "trust ye not in every brother"
for every brother will utterly supplant; or, in supplanting supplant
and every neighbour will walk with slanders; go about spreading lies and calumnies, as worshippers, backbiters, and tale bearers do. The word דכיל is used for a "merchant"; and because such persons went from place to place with their goods, and made use often times of fraudulent practices to deceive people, it is applied to one that is guilty of slander and calumny; Song of Solomon 3:8.
And they will deceive everyone his neighbour,.... In conversation, with lying words; and in trade and commerce, by art and tricking:
and will not speak the truth; with respect to facts they report, or goods they sell:
they have taught their tongue to speak lies; and become so accustomed to lying that they cannot do otherwise; it is as it were natural to them:
and weary themselves to commit iniquity; spared no pains to come at it, nor any in it, and go on even to weariness; are more laborious and indefatigable in committing sin than good men are in doing good; which shows great folly and stupidity. The Targum is,
"they are become foolish, they have erred.'
Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit,.... In the midst of a people of deceit, as Kimchi and Ben Molech. These are the words of the Lord to the prophet, showing what a people he dwelt among, and had to do with; how cautiously and prudently he should act; how little they were to be trusted to and depended upon; and what little hope there was of bringing them to true repentance, since there was so much deceit and hypocrisy among them. The Targum interprets the words not of the habitation of the prophet, but of the people, thus,
"they sit in the house of their own congregation, and talk of their iniquities deceitfully;'
and so Jarchi,
"while they are sitting they devise deceitful devices.'
Through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the Lord: or, "because of deceit"
Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts,.... Because of this deceit and hypocrisy, and lying:
behold, I will melt them, and try them: as the refiner does his gold and silver, by putting them into the fire of afflictions, and thereby remove their dross and corruption from them. So the Targum,
"behold, I will bring distress upon them, and melt them, and try them.'
For how shall I do for the daughter of my people? the sense is, what could be done otherwise or better? what was more fit or proper to be done, than to melt and try them, and purge away their sin, "from the face of the daughter of my people", as the words may be rendered? The Septuagint version is, "what shall I do from the face of the wickedness of my people?" and so the Targum,
"what shall I do from before the sins of the congregation of my people?'
that is, by way of resentment of them, and in order to remove them.
Their tongue is as an arrow shot out,.... As an arrow out of a bow, which moves swiftly, and comes with great force; or, "drawn out"
it speaketh deceit; deceitful words, by which men are imposed upon, and are led into wrong ways of thinking and acting:
one speaketh peaceably to his neighbour with his mouth; salutes him in a friendly manner; wishes him all health, peace, and prosperity; professes a sincere and cordial friendship for him, and pretends a strong affection to him:
but in his heart he layeth wait; to draw him into snares, and circumvent, trick, and defraud him.
Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the Lord,.... The Targum adds,
"to bring evil upon them.'
Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? the Targum is,
"or of a people whose works are such, shall I not take vengeance according to my pleasure?'
See Gill on Jeremiah 5:9.
For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing,.... Because of the desolation of them; because no pasture upon them, nor flocks feeding there; or "concerning" them, as the Arabic version; or "upon" them
And for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation; for the cottages of the shepherds, erected for their convenience, to look after their flocks, feeding on the mountains, and in the valleys; for the wilderness does not denote barren places, but pastures:
because they are burnt up; by the fire of the Chaldeans, who burnt the cottages, and drove off the cattle:
so that none can pass through them; or there is none that passes through; as no inhabitant there, so no passenger that way; which shows how very desolate these places were:
neither can men hear the voice of the cattle; the lowing of the oxen, or the bleating of the sheep, there being none to be heard, being all carried off; and indeed no men to hear them, had there been any:
both the fowl of the heavens and the beasts are fled, they are gone; or, "from the fowl of the heavens to the beasts", &c.
And I will make Jerusalem heaps,.... That is, the walls and houses of it shall be thrown down, and become heaps of stones and rubbish:
and a den of dragons; only inhabited by wild beasts:
and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without inhabitant; so that the calamity would be universal; not only Jerusalem, but all the cities of the land, would be destroyed, forsaken, and uninhabited.
Who is the wise man that may understand this?.... Not the calamity, but the cause of it; a man of wisdom would inquire into it, find it out, and understand it; but the intimation is, that there was not a wise man among them, at least very few; there were scarce any that took any notice of these things, or were concerned about them:
and who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord hath spoken; and foretold this desolation and destruction; meaning a prophet:
that he may declare it; as from the Lord, namely, what follows:
for what the land perisheth, and is burnt like a wilderness, that none passeth through? that is, what were the sins of the inhabitants of the land, which brought such distress upon it, and for which it became such a ruinous heap, and like the heath in the wilderness, so that it had no inhabitant, nor even a passenger: they must be some very great and abominable iniquities that were the cause of all this.
And the Lord saith,.... The Septuagint version adds, "to me"; there being no wise and understanding man, nor prophet
because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; in a plain and easy manner, so as to be readily understood; yet this they attended not unto, but forsook it, neglected it, and cast it behind their backs. Kimchi's note on the phrase, "before them", is,
"not in heaven is it, nor beyond the sea is it;'
see Deuteronomy 30:11,
and have not obeyed my voice; in the law, and by the prophets:
neither walked therein: according to it, as the Lord directed; they neither hearkened to the voice of the Lord, nor did as they were instructed by it.
But have walked after the imagination of their own heart,.... What their own hearts devised, chose, and were best pleased with; See Gill on Jeremiah 7:24,
and after Baalim; the idols of the Gentiles; these they served and worshipped, and not the true God:
which their fathers taught them; which was so far from excusing them, that it was an aggravation of their sin, that they had continued in their wicked ways and idolatrous practices, from age to age, from one generation to another. This then was the cause of their calamity and destruction; they had forsaken the law of the Lord, and had broken that; they had chose their own ways, and had been guilty of idolatrous practices time out of mind; wherefore the Lord had shown much longsuffering and patience with them, and would now no longer forbear he was just and righteous in his doings.
Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel,.... He calls himself "the Lord God of hosts", of armies above and below, in heaven and in earth, in opposition to Baalim, the idols of the Gentiles; which word signifies "lords"; which, though there be many who are called so, there is but one God, and one Lord, who is God over all, and "the God of Israel"; who had chosen them, and distinguished them by the blessings of his goodness; and yet they had forsaken him, and followed after other gods; by which the eyes of his glory were provoked, and he was determined to chastise them for it:
behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood; that is, with straits or difficulties, as the Septuagint version; with bitter afflictions; such are not joyous, but grievous; which are irksome and disagreeable, as bitter things, and particularly wormwood, are to the taste. The Targum is,
"I will bring tribulation upon them, bitter as wormwood:'
and give them water of gall to drink; meaning either of the entrails of a beast so called, or of the juice of the herb hemlock, as the word is rendered in Hosea 10:4, as Kimchi; or of the poison of a serpent, as Jarchi; and so the Targum,
"and I will give them the cup of cursing to drink as the heads of serpents:'
signifying that their punishment would be very severe, though just.
I will scatter them also among the Heathen,.... Besides the bitter judgments of famine and pestilence during the siege, what remained of them should be carried captive out of their own land into foreign countries, than which nothing could be more distressing:
whom neither they or their fathers have known; a circumstance greatly aggravating their captivity:
and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them; or men that kill with the sword, as the Targum: it chiefly regards such of them as were scattered among the Moabites and Ammonites, and especially that went into Egypt; see Jeremiah 44:27.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, consider ye,.... The punishment that was just coming upon them, as Kimchi; or the words that the Lord was about to say unto them; as follows:
and call for the mourning women, that they may come; the same with the "praeficae" among the Romans; persons that were sent for, and hired by, the relations of the dead, to raise up their mourning; and who, by their dishevelled hair, naked breasts, and beatings thereon, and mournful voice, and what they said in their doleful ditties in praise of the dead, greatly moved upon the affections of the surviving relatives, and produced tears from them. This was a custom that early prevailed among the Jews, and long continued with them; and was so common, that, according to the Misnic doctors
and send for cunning women, that they may come; such as were expert in this business, and could mimic mourning well, and had the art of moving the affections with their voice and gestures.
And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us,.... Deliver out a mournful song, as the Arabic version; setting forth their miseries and distresses, and affecting their minds with them. The prophet puts himself among the people, as being a party concealed in their sufferings, and sympathizing with them, as well as to show the certainty of then and how soon they would be involved in them:
that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters; or balls of the eye, as the Targum and Kimchi; these hyperbolical expressions are used to express the greatness of the calamity, and that no mourning was equal to it; see Jeremiah 9:1.
For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion,.... Out of the fortress of Zion, out of the city of Jerusalem, which was thought to be inexpugnable, and could never be taken; but now a voice is heard out of that, deploring the desolation of it:
how are we spoiled? our houses destroyed, and we plundered of our substance:
we are greatly confounded: filled with shame, on account of their vain confidence; thinking their city would never be taken, and they were safe in it:
because we have forsaken the land; the land of Judea, being obliged to it, the enemy carrying them captive into other countries:
because our dwellings have cast us out; not suffering us to continue there any longer, as being unworthy of them; or enemies have cast down our habitations to the earth, as Jarchi; and so the Targum, "for our palaces are desolate"; the principal buildings in Jerusalem, as well as the houses of the common people, were thrown down to the ground, or burnt with fire, and particularly the temple; so that the whole was in a most ruinous condition, and a fit subject of a mournful song.
Yet hear the word of the Lord, O ye women,.... Not the mourning women, but others who had lost their husbands and their children, and had just reason for real mourning; and therefore they are called upon to it, not only because they were more tenderhearted than men, as Kimchi observes; or because they were more attentive to the hearing of the word of God than men; but because of the paucity of men, such numbers being slain in the siege, and by the sword; and of the loss the women had sustained, see Jeremiah 9:22,
and let your ear receive the word of his mouth; by his prophets; so the Targum,
"let your ear hearken to the words of his prophets:'
and teach your daughters wailing. The Arabic version, "a mournful song"; but not the daughters of the mourning women are meant; but the real daughters of those who had lost their husbands or children; since it follows:
and everyone her neighbour lamentation; signifying that the mortality among them would be very universal, not a family escaping; which is described in the next verses. This wailing and lamentation was made by responses, according to the Jews; for they say
"what is lamentation? when one speaks, and all the rest answer after her, as it is written in Jeremiah 9:20.'
For death is come up into our windows,.... Their doors being shut, bolted, and barred, they thought themselves safe, but were not; the Chaldeans scaled their walls, broke in at the tops of their houses, or at their windows, and destroyed them: for the invasion of the enemy, and the manner of their entrance into them, seem to be described. Death is here represented as a person, as it sometimes is in Scripture; see Revelation 6:8 and as coming suddenly and unawares upon men, and from whom there is no escape, or any way and method of keeping him out; bolts and bars will not do; he can climb up, and go in at the window:
and is entered into our palaces; the houses of their principal men, which were well built, and most strongly fortified, these could not keep out the enemy: and death spares none, high nor low, rich nor poor; it enters the palaces of great men, as well as the cottages of the poor. The Septuagint version is, "it is entered into our land"; and so the Arabic version; only it places the phrase, "into our land", in the preceding clause; and that of "into", or "through our windows", in this:
to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets; these words are not strictly to be connected with the preceding, as though they pressed the end of death, ascending up to the windows, and entering palaces, to cut off such as were in the streets; but the words are a proposition of themselves, as the distinctive accent "athnach" shows; and must be supplied after this manner, and passing through them it goes on, "to cut off", &c. and so aptly describes the invading enemy climbing the walls of the city, entering at windows, or tops of houses, upon or near the walls; and, having destroyed all within, goes forth into the streets, where children were at play, and slays them and into courts or markets, where young men were employed in business, and destroys them. The Jews
Speak, thus saith the Lord,.... These are the words of the Lord to Jeremiah, to go on with his prophecy in his name; so the Targum,
"prophesy, thus saith the Lord:'
even the carcasses of men shall fall as dung upon the open field; or, "upon the face of the field"
"as dung spread upon the face of the field;'
which denotes the great number that should fall, which would cover the face of the field; the condition they should be in; and the contempt and neglect they should be had in:
and as the handful after the harvestman, and none shall gather them; as a handful of corn that is forgot, and left by the harvestman; or as ears of corn which are dropped by the reaper, or binder, and are usually gleaned or gathered up by the poor that follow; but in the case referred to, or supposed, are not gathered; so it would be with these people; they should be left upon the ground, like a handful forgot, or like ears of corn dropped, and not gathered up, and there they should lie, and none should bury them.
Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,.... Not in his natural wisdom, or knowledge of natural things: this is often but an appearance of wisdom, and is science falsely so called; and whatever is real of this kind is of God; and the best falls short of leading men to a true and saving knowledge of God; the foolishness of God is wiser than it; and it is made foolish, destroyed, and brought to nought by him: nor in evangelical wisdom and knowledge; not in that which is less common, or what fits men for public usefulness, as ministerial gifts; for such are received from above; are more for the use of others than a man's self; there is something better than these, which a man may not have, and yet have these, which is grace; those may fade, or be taken away; and a man have them, and be lost eternally: nor in that which is more general, speculative knowledge of Gospel truths; for if it is attended with conceit, it is little or nothing that a man knows; if he is proud of it, his knowledge is not sanctified; and it is no other than what the devils themselves have: nor in that which is more special; wisdom in the inward part, or a spiritual and saving knowledge of God in Christ; this a man has wholly of free grace, and should give the praise and glory of it to God, and not attribute it to himself:
neither let the mighty man glory in his might; not in his natural might or strength; this is of God, and is greater in some of the brutes than in men; and is what God can take away, and does often weaken it in the way by diseases, and at last destroys it by death; nor in moral strength, or in the power of free will; which is very weak and insufficient to do anything that is spiritually good: nor even in spiritual strength; this is from Christ; it is only through him strengthening his people that they do what they do; and all supplies and increase of it are from him; and therefore no room for glorying:
let not the rich man glory in his riches; these come of the hand of God, and are what he can take away at pleasure; they are very uncertain and precarious things; there is a better and more enduring substance; these cannot profit in a day of wrath, nor deliver from death, corporeal, spiritual, or eternal. And the intention of the words here is to show, that neither the wise man with all his art and cunning, nor the mighty man by his strength, nor the rich man through his riches, could save themselves from the destruction before prophesied of. The Targum paraphrases them thus,
"thus saith the Lord, let not Solomon the son of David the wise man praise (or please himself) in his wisdom; nor let Samson the son of Manoah the mighty man please himself in his might; nor let Ahab the son of Omri the rich man please himself in his riches.'
But let him that glorieth glory in this,.... In the Lord alone, as it is interpreted by the apostle, 1 Corinthians 1:31,
that he understandeth and knoweth me; or, "in understanding and knowing me"
that I am the Lord, which exercise lovingkindness; in such various instances; in election, redemption, effectual calling, the pardon of sin, justification, adoption, and eternal life; and towards persons so very undeserving of any favour; and to have an interest in this exceeds all things else; it is better than life, and all the enjoyments of it:
judgment; exercising it on Christ, sin being laid, found, and condemned on him; and through Christ protecting and defending his people; and by Christ at the last day:
and righteousness in the earth; wrought by Christ here on earth in our nature, and imputed to his people in their present state, whereby they have a right to eternal glory:
for in these things I delight, saith the Lord; in showing mercy, grace, and favour, to miserable and undeserving men; in making his Son an offering for sin, and bruising him; and in his righteousness, whereby the law is magnified and made honourable.
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,.... Or, "are coming"
that I will punish all them that are circumcised with the uncircumcised; Jews and Gentiles together. The circumcised. Jews trusting in their circumcision, and being, as is said in the next verse, uncircumcised in heart, were no better than the uncircumcised Gentiles; wherefore both being transgressors of the law, and despisers of the Gospel of Christ, are threatened with destruction; see Romans 2:12.
Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab,.... Places and people among which the Jews were dispersed, and whose punishment is predicted in Jeremiah chapters forty six through forty nine, and whose countries are now under the dominion of the Turks:
and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness; who dwelt in the desert of Arabia; these, according to Kimchi, were the Kedarenes, and the kingdoms of Hazor, a people that dwelt in the utmost corners, whom Nebuchadnezzar smote, as Jeremiah foretold, Jeremiah 49:28. Jarchi's note is,
"them that are cut off in a corner of the wilderness;'
that live by themselves, and have no communication with other people; were at the greatest distance, and secure; dwelt alone, and had neither gates nor bars, as is said of the same people, Jeremiah 49:31. The Septuagint version is, "upon everyone that shaves what is about his face, that dwells in the wilderness"; and so the Syriac and Arabic versions; to which agrees the Targum,
"upon all that round the corners of the head, that dwell in habitations in the wilderness,'
The Arabians used to shave the extreme hairs of the head round about, as the forehead, temples, and behind the ears, which are the corners of the head; so Herodotus
for all these nations are uncircumcised; in the flesh; though they were not punished on this account, because it was not commanded them, as Kimchi observes; but is mentioned to show that the Jews were no better than they, though circumcised, and that they should be punished together:
and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart; had not the circumcision made without hands; or were not circumcised in heart, to love the Lord, fear and serve him; the foreskin of their flesh taken off availed not so long as that on their heart remained, and they were stupid, impenitent, and disobedient.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://pro.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent