It is uncertain whether what we have in this chapter be a new revelation, or a continuance of his former prophecy. God commandeth the prophet in it under certain types to foretell their utter ruin and destruction. First he commandeth him to marry no wife, nor have sons or daughters. He expoundeth this command Jeremiah 16:3,4.
God in these verses opens the reason why he would not have the prophet marry nor multiply relations. In evil and calamitous times, those who multiply relations do but multiply sorrows and afflictions to themselves; the apostle in evil times tells the Corinthians that married persons should have trouble in the flesh, 1 Corinthians 7:28; and Christ pronounceth a woe to those that should be with child, and to those that gave suck, at the time when Jerusalem should be besieged. God tells the prophet he was resolved that the people of this land, both young and old, should die miserable deaths, and die so fast, that there should be none to bury them. They should die by the
sword and the
famine, and be devoured by the
fowls and the
beasts; and therefore it was better for him to abide free from relations, for whose miseries he would be as much concerned as for his own affliction.
Mourning, xzdj There is so great a difference in the translation of this word, that, Amos 6:7, the very same word signifieth a banquet, and is so translated; yet is there no contradiction, for banquets are now (and probably anciently were) in the houses of mourning, as well as in the houses of those that rejoiced. It appeareth plainly by the words that follow, that the apostle was here forbidden to go to funeral feasts, or to lament and bemoan any.
For (saith God)
I have, that is, I will take away peace from this people. Possibly the meaning of God might be this, Do not go to comfort such as mourn for any relations dead, (for their feastings upon those occasions were upon a consolatory account; thence, Jeremiah 16:7, you read of a cup of consolation,) for, saith God, they have no need of it; those that die are most happy; for I will take away the peace of this people, and deprive them of all my mercy and loving-kindness which I have hitherto showed them.
There shall so many of all ranks and sizes die in this land, that men shall have no time to bury them, or there shall not be enough left living to bury the dead; nor shall men, for their own miseries, have leisure to lament for the miseries of other men. Cutting themselves in their flesh, and cutting off their hair, were pagan customs, which God forbade his own people; but yet it should seem they practised these barbarous customs; but saith God, I will put an end to that practice, men shall die so fast and in such multitudes, as they shall have no leisure to cut themselves for such as are dead, they shall not have such solemn mournings as they have had.
Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning to comfort them for the dead: if we allow our translation here of the word odp with the word supplied, themselves, it will be hard to give a tolerable sense of these words, for then tearing is the same with the cutting themselves mentioned in the former verse, which though it might be as a passionate expression of the person’s sorrow that did it, yet how it should comfort the friends of the deceased will be very hard to conceive. But the truth is, the word hath but two significations, and we have here given it what doth worst suit this text. It signifies to divide, and to tear, or rend. Both in kal the first conjugation, and in pihel the third conjugation, it is used to signify dividing: in the former, Isaiah 58:7, where we interpret it deal; to deal, that is, divide thy bread to the hungry; which is the only text (excepting this) where it is used in this conjugation. In the ether conjugation it is so used in many texts, Leviticus 11:4,5 &c.; Deuteronomy 14:7; so certainly it ought to have been translated here, Neither shall men deal out bread for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead, and seemeth to hint to us a custom in use amongst them, when they had any friend that had lost his or her relations, to send them some meat or victuals, (for amongst the Hebrews all things that they ate were called bread,) and then to go and dine or sup with them, to have opportunity to speak comfortably to them. This doubtless is the sense of the words, and so it is plain enough, and this is confirmed by the next phrase.
Neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother; neither shall men drink the cup of consolation for their father, &c.; as in such cases they were wont to have something to eat, so they were also wont to send bottles of wine, or other cheering liquor, to drink, that they might forget their sorrows; this is called the cup of consolation, from the end for which the sending and drinking of it was intended. God tells them that the time should come that so many should die, and so fast, and the rest should be so much upon the brink of the grave, that they should have no leisure for or heart to these ceremonies.
God did not only forbade his prophet to go into houses of mourning, to eat and to drink according to their custom, to comfort those who had lost their friends; but he forbade him also to go into houses where they were wont to eat and to drink upon a more cheerful account.
And he declares that he laid this injunction upon him as a type that his countrymen, by such his forbearance, might understand that God in his providence was about to put an end to all their civil mirth in their days.
When thou shalt show this people all these words, or all these things; when thou shalt be observed by this people to refuse marriage, and to go to the houses of mourners, according to the custom, to eat or to drink with mourners, to make them to forget their sorrows, or to go into the house of feasting for jollity and mirth, and they shall ask the reason of thy singularity in this behaviour, and thou shalt give them the reason of it, according as I have instructed thee; and they shall pretend to be at a loss to know the reason why God is so severe against them, for what sin or iniquity it is, thinking perhaps that Manasseh’s or Jehoiakim’s commanding them to worship idols would excuse them, and only leave their superiors guilty; for otherwise, while there was such plain idolatry amongst them, they could not be ignorant of cause sufficient that God had, considering the multiplied threats in the law.
Your fathers; the idolatrous kings of Judah that were before Manasseh’s time, since whose time there were hardly forty years yet elapsed.
Ye in latter ages, in the time of Manasseh,
have done worse than your fathers did, and now in the time of Jehoiakim you run on much in the same course of idolatry and superstition, which in this is worse in you, because for thirty years together you had the better example of good Josiah the father of your present king, together with what his authority could do to reduce you; he hath not been gone now above five years, and you are returned to your old vomit, and are all of you serving me according to your own fancies, so stubborn are you, and resolved against obedience to me.
You would not hearken to me to obey my voice in that good land which I gave you, and which you have known and inherited now many years; therefore I will throw you out into a land which you know not, and which your fathers knew not. You would not serve me in this land, but chose to serve other gods in my land; you shall serve other gods in a strange land, you shall there have no such opportunities as you have here-at Jerusalem to worship me the true God, according to the prescription and direction of my word; ye shall there have no gods else but idols to worship, and what is now matter of choice to you shall then be forced upon you, the governors of those countries into which you shall be carried shall force you to fall down and to worship their idols, which was verified afterward by Nebuchadnezzar, Da 3, &c.
Therefore; it were better translated Notwithstanding, for that is manifestly the sense. God sweeteneth the dreadful threatenings preceding with a comfortable promise of their restoration.
Which he saith should be so grateful a mercy to them, that either in regard of the newness of this deliverance, or in regard of the great misery they should be in during the captivity of Babylon, when they should be delivered from it, they should not so much remember their deliverance front the house of bondage in Egypt, and magnify God for that salvation, as this new deliverance of them out of this captivity; for he would certainly bring them again into the land of Canaan, a land which he had given unto their fathers.
Though some interpreters make these words a promise, either of God’s restoration of this people, and making use of Cyrus, who, as a fisherman or huntsman, by his proclamation fetched the Jews out of all parts of his dominions, to return to Jerusalem; or of the calling of God’s elect by the apostles, who were God’s fishermen, and went up and down preaching the gospel in all places; yet the next verse rather guideth us to interpret it as a threatening, and by these fishermen and huntsmen to understand all those enemies whom God made use of to destroy these Jews, hunting them out of all holes and coverts wheresoever they should fly and take sanctuary.
God is of purer eyes than that he can behold iniquity in any so as to approve it, and therefore though he be long patient, yet he will at last punish evil-doers; for his eyes behold them, their sins are open in his sight, and he particularly observeth men’s actions, that he may render unto every one according to his works.
Before I will restore them, and return in my wonted favour to them, I will punish them for their ways which 1 have seen, which are ways of iniquity, and will plentifully punish them; (for so
double here signifies, not the double of what their sins deserve;) because by their idolatry, blood, and cruelty, and other sins, they have defiled the land which I own, and which I have given them; and have filled that country which I have chosen for and named
my inheritance with their
abominable things, that is, practices, or unclean beasts offered to their idols in sacrifices, or innocent persons slain by them.
The prophet hearing God’s resolution, before he showed this people any mercy, to be avenged on them for their sins, leaves off speaking to him upon that argument; but applieth himself to God for mercy for himself, and, to confirm his faith in him, gives him names suited to his hopes in him, and which might declare his faith in him for the obtaining favour from him in an evil day; and comforteth himself with the thoughts of those good days that were coming, when not only the Jews should be again restored to their country, but the
Gentiles also from all parts of the world (whom also many of the Jews should accompany) should apply themselves to God, confessing that both they and their fathers, in their worshipping dumb idols, had but inherited lies and vanity, and things that were unprofitable.
It is doubtful whether these be to be understood as the words of God, showing the unreasonableness of the sin of idolatry, or, as others make them, the continued speech of the Gentiles, who after their conversion should see the unreasonableness of worshipping the works of their own hands. Whoso owneth a God owneth an infinite Being, a First Cause, and Mover, and Creator of all things. Now can any be so sottishly stupid as to think that a finite being should give a being to an infinite Being; that he who is a creature should make his Creator, that he should be a cause to the First Cause? (things which are all contradictions to the common sense of men). A man is no god himself; how can he communicate a divine nature, which himself hath not, to another?
Because all the goodness and mercy that I have showed them will not learn them to know me, my power and might, I will once for all make them to understand it by the dreadful strokes of my vengeance. They shall know that my name is Jehovah; that I am not such a one as their idols, but one who have my being from myself, and give life and being to all other things, and have all might and power in my hand, and can do whatsoever I please; and one that will make good whatsoever I have spoken, whether in a way of promise or threatening.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://pro.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent