JEREMIAH CHAPTER 9.
Jeremiah's Lament for the Foolishness of the Jews and Their Punishment.
THE DECEIT OF THE PEOPLE. — V. 1. Oh, that my head were waters, an inexhaustible reservoir, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, flowing in an endless stream, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people, those who have become victims of their own foolishness in transgressing the Law of the Lord. Although the apostate Jews had fully deserved the punishment which came upon them, the prophet was still filled with deep compassion for them. At the same time his feeling of right and duty causes him to draw back in horror from every contact with them. V. 2. Oh, that I had in the wilderness, far from the wicked capital and the haunts of men, a lodging-place of wayfaring men, a traveling lodge or caravansary, such as are found in the Orient, that I might leave my people and go from them! He preferred the loneliness and filth of a desert dwelling to the companionship of his own people, who had forsaken the Lord. For they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men, who practice falsehood and deceit. V. 3. And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies, so that lies are the arrows which they send to their mark, but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth, they do not make adequate and proper use of fidelity in their dealings with others; for they proceed from evil to evil and they know not Me, saith the Lord, one wickedness being heaped upon the other. Therefore the Lord issues His warning in the form of a command: v. 4. Take ye heed every, one of his neighbor, even of those who profess to be friends, and trust ye not in any brother, the very ties of blood-relationship being insufficient to withstand the general perfidy; for every brother will utterly supplant, literally, "trip up by the heel," cp. Gen. 27, 36, and every neighbor will walk with slanders, go about for talebearing. Cp. Micah 7, 5. 6. V. 5. And they will deceive every one his neighbor, overreaching him, trying to get the advantage of him, and will not speak the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies, the tongue, as it were, being almost compelled, as though unwilling to become guilty of so much wickedness, and weary themselves to commit iniquity, going to much pains to that end, for sin is a hard master. V. 6. Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit, so God tells Jeremiah in characterizing the entire nation; through deceit they refuse to know Me, saith the Lord, their ignorance of Jehovah being willful and obstinate. V. 7. Therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, the mighty ruler of the heavenly armies. Behold, I will melt them and try them, test them in the fire of tribulation, as the refiner tests metals in his furnace; for how shall I do for the daughter of My people? There is nothing remaining for Jehovah to do but this. V. 8. Their tongue is as an arrow shot out, a sharp and deadly missile; it speaketh deceit, that being the burden of the Lord's complaint throughout this passage; one speaketh peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, professing nothing but kindness and good will for him, but in heart he layeth his wait, setting his ambush to harm and kill his neighbor. V. 9. Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the Lord, letting His punishment come upon them for their treacherous and deceitful behavior. Shall not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this? Cp. chap. 5, 9. 29. God's righteousness and holiness demand that He visit the iniquity of willful sinners upon them.
THE DESOLATION OF THE LAND. — V. 10. For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, the prophet once more taking up his lament, and for the habitations of the wilderness, for the pastures of the steppes, a lamentation because they are burned up, singed by the sun's excessive heat, no one remaining to tend and to irrigate them, so that none can pass through them, much less inhabit them; neither can men hear the voice of the cattle, their contented lowing in luscious pastures; both the fowl of the heavens and the beast are fled; they are gone, the land being deserted by every form of life. Upon this complaint Jehovah answers. V. 11. (And) I will make Jerusalem heaps, a shapeless ruin, and a den of dragons, or jackals; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant, the standing expression for the very height of desolation. The application of the prophet now follows. V. 12. Who is the wise man that may understand this? Who will heed and apply this lesson, this warning, in a proper manner? And who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord hath spoken that he may declare it, explain it to his countrymen, for what the land perisheth and is burned up like a wilderness that none passeth through? Evidently there is not one who possesses this divine wisdom. V. 13. And the Lord said, in answering the question which has just been proposed. Because they have forsaken My Law which I set before them and have not obeyed My voice, the message brought by the true prophets, neither walked therein, not making the Word of the Lord their one rule of life, v. 14. but have walked after the imagination of their own heart, following their own sinful desires in all the acts of their lives, and after Baalim, the idols of the heathen, which their fathers taught them, whose idolatry they made their own, thus becoming guilty of the same transgressions: v. 15. therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, the almighty and only God, Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, a bitter and poisonous food, and give them water of gall to drink, poison-water, cp. chap. 8, 14. V. 16. I will scatter them also among the heathen, in shameful captivity and exile, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, as an adequate punishment for their transgression; and I will send a sword after them till I have consumed them, a large number of them thus being destroyed, especially among those who sought the shelter of Egypt, against the warning of God. Cp. chap. 44, 27. V. 17. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider ye and call for the mourning women, those hired to give expression to their grief by plaintive cries and a general mournful behavior, found also in the New Testament, Matt. 9, 23, that they may come, and send for cunning women that they may come, for those most skilful in lamentation were required in this instance; v. 18. and let them make haste and take up a wailing for us, for the whole nation of Judah, that our eyes may run down with tears and our eyelids gush out with waters, in the strongest expression of excessive sorrow. V. 19. For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, in a lamentation over the city's pitiful fate, but without a true repentance of the heart. How are we spoiled, laid waste by the enemy! We are greatly confounded, heaped with shame and disgrace, because we have forsaken the land, having been compelled to leave it, because our dwellings have cast us out, or, "because the enemy has driven us out." V. 20. Yet hear the word of the Lord, O ye women, and let your ear receive the word of His mouth, in ready obedience to the suggestion which He here makes, and teach your daughters wailing and every one her neighbor lamentation, so that the older generation of mourning women might quickly be replaced, and that there might always be a sufficient number of professional mourners in view of the coming slaughter. V. 21. For death is come up into our windows, unexpectedly, stealthily, like a thief in the night, and is entered into our palaces, for the soldiers of the invading army, finding the doors barred, would gain admission through openings which are not so firmly barred, to cut off the children from without, those playing out in the streets and in the open places, and the young men from the streets. Thus death would take its harvest both in the houses and outside, in the streets and market-places. V. 22. Speak, this being addressed to the prophet, in continuing the command of verse 20, Thus saith the Lord, Even the carcasses of men shall fall as dung upon the open field, there to rot away, and as the handful after the harvest-man, the grain ready to be gathered into sheaves, and none shall gather them, there would be neither a gathering of the bundles nor the labor of gleaners to take care of this grain. The words imply utter destruction, an utter casting aside on the part of Jehovah.
THE WAY OF ESCAPE REJECTED. — V. 23. Thus saith the Lord, in once more picturing to the apostate Jews the one way of salvation, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, as though that were sufficient to bring him redemption, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, trusting in his strength and power to deliver him, let not the rich man glory in his riches, as though they could protect him from the threatening destruction, v. 24. but let him that glorieth glory in this, make this fact the one and only foundation of his boasting, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that he has learned to know the true God, the Triune God and the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the one Messiah of the world, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, His grace and mercy occupying first place in His attitude over against us, judgment, and righteousness, in the expression of His holiness and faithfulness in His Word, whether in reward or in punishment, in the earth, in His entire relation toward mankind; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord, He Himself is active in exercising His bliss in them, and He is anxious to have His children and all men walk in them. V. 25. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised, literally, "every circumcision in foreskin," that is. He would visit in anger all men whose heart was not turned to Him in the true obedience of faith, whether they had submitted to the rite of circumcision or not: v. 26. Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, the Jews with all the nations surrounding them, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness, literally, "all having their hair," that is, their beard, "clipped at the corners," a custom in use among the heathen nations, but expressly forbidden to the Israelites, Lev. 19,27; 21,5; for all these nations are uncircumcised, they had not accepted the rite by which the Jews were distinguished as the chosen people of the Lord under the covenant made with the patriarchs, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart, that is, in their case the outward observance of the formerly significant rite had lost its meaning, since they had not turned to the Lord in true repentance. Without such change of heart the rite of acceptance into the outward membership in Israel was of no avail, just as the Sacrament of Baptism has no value in the case of those who do not believe. A mere outward observance of the customs of religion will not bring men to true fellowship with the Lord.