Jeremiah 4


Sequel of the exhortations and promises addressed to Israel in

the preceding chapter, 1, 2.

The prophet then addresses the people of Judah and Jerusalem,

exhorting to repentance and reformation, that the dreadful

visitation with which they were threatened might be averted,

3, 4.

He then sounds the alarm of war, 5, 6.

Nebuchadnezzar, like a fierce lion, is, from the certainty of

the prophecy, represented to be on his march; and the

disastrous event to have been already declared, 7-9.

And as the lying prophets had flattered the people with the

hopes of peace and safety, they are now introduced, (when their

predictions are falsified by the event,) excusing themselves;

and, with matchless effrontery, laying the blame of the

deception upon God, ("And they said," &c., so the text is

corrected by Kennicott,) 10.

The prophet immediately resumes his subject; and, in the person

of God, denounces again those judgments which were shortly to

be inflicted by Nebuchadnezzar, 11-18.

The approaching desolation of Jerusalem lamented in language

amazingly energetic and exquisitely tender, 19-21.

The incorrigible wickedness of the people the sole cause of

these calamities, 22.

In the remaining verses the prophet describes the sad

catastrophe of Jerusalem by such a beautiful assemblage of the

most striking and afflictive circumstances as form a picture of

a land "swept with the besom of destruction." The earth seems

ready to return to its original chaos; every ray of light is

extinguished, and succeeded by a frightful gloom; the mountains

tremble, and the hills shake, under the dreadful apprehension

of the wrath of Jehovah; all is one awful solitude, where not a

vestige of the human race is to be seen. Even the fowls of

heaven, finding no longer whereon to subsist, are compelled to

migrate; the most fruitful places are become a dark and dreary

desert, and every city is a ruinous heap. To complete the

whole, the dolorous shrieks of Jerusalem, as of a woman in

peculiar agony, break through the frightful gloom; and the

appalled prophet pauses, leaving the reader to reflect on the

dreadful effects of apostasy and idolatry, 23-31.


Verse 1. Shalt thou not remove.] This was spoken before the

Babylonish captivity; and here is a promise that if they will

return from their idolatry, they shall not be led into captivity.

So, even that positively threatened judgment would have been

averted had they returned to the Lord.

Verse 2. Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth] Thou shalt not bind

thyself by any false god; thou shalt acknowledge ME as the

Supreme. Bind thyself BY me, and TO me; and do this in truth, in

judgment, and in righteousness.

The nations shall bless themselves in him] They shall be so

fully convinced of the power and goodness of Jehovah in seeing the

change wrought on thee, and the mercies heaped upon thee, that

their usual mode of benediction shall be, May the God of Israel

bless thee!

Verse 3. Break up your fallow ground] Fallow ground is either

that which, having been once tilled, has lain long uncultivated;

or, ground slightly ploughed, in order to be ploughed again

previously to its being sown. Ye have been long uncultivated in

righteousness; let true repentance break up your fruitless and

hardened hearts; and when the seed of the word of life is sown in

them, take heed that worldly cares and concerns do not arise, and,

like thorns, choke the good seed.

Verse 4. Circumcise yourselves] Put away every thing that has a

tendency to grieve the Spirit of God, or to render your present

holy resolutions unfruitful.

Verse 5. Blow ye the trumpet] Give full information to all parts

of the land, that the people may assemble together and defend

themselves against their invaders.

Verse 6. I will bring evil from the north] From the land of


Verse 7. The lion is come up] Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

"The king (Nebuchadnezzar) is come up from his tower."-Targum.

The destroyer of the Gentiles] Of the nations: of all the people

who resisted his authority. He destroyed them all.

Verse 8. Lament and howl] heililu. The aboriginal Irish

had a funeral song called the Caoinian, still continued among

their descendants, one part of which is termed the ulaloo: this is

sung responsively or alternately, and is accompanied with a full

chorus of sighs and groans. It has been thought that Ireland was

originally peopled by the Phoenicians: if so, this will account

for the similarity of many words and customs among both these


Verse 9. The heart of the king shall perish] Shall lose all


Verse 10. Ah, Lord God! surely thou hast greatly deceived this

people] The Targum paraphrases this verse thus: "And I said,

Receive my supplication, O Lord God; for, behold, the false

prophets deceive this people and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,

saying, Ye shall have peace." The prophet could not reconcile this

devastation of the country with the promises already made; and he

appears to ask the question, Hast thou not then deceived this

people in saying there shall be peace, i.e., prosperity?

Whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul.] That is, the life;

the people being generally destroyed.

Verse 11. - 13. A dry wind-a fall wind-as clouds-as a whirlwind]

All these expressions appear to refer to the pestilential winds,

suffocating vapours, and clouds and pillars of sand collected by

whirlwinds, which are so common and destructive in the east,

(See Clarke on Isa 21:1;) and these images are employed here to show

the overwhelming effect of the invasion of the land by the Chaldeans.

Verse 12. See Clarke on Jer 4:11.

Verse 13. See Clarke on Jer 4:11.

Ver. 13. Wo unto us!] The people, deeply affected with these

threatened judgments, interrupt the prophet with the

lamentation-Wo unto us, for we are spoiled! The prophet then


Verse 14. O Jerusalem, wash thine heart] Why do ye not put away

your wickedness, that ye may be saved from these tremendous

judgments? How long shall thy vain thoughts of safety and

prosperity lodge within thee? Whilst thou continuest a rebel

against God, and provokest him daily by thy abominations!

Verse 15. For a voice declareth from Dan] Dan was a city in the

tribe of Dan, north of Jerusalem; the first city in Palestine,

which occurs in the way from Babylon to Jerusalem.

Affliction from Mount Ephraim.] Between Dan and Jerusalem are

the mountains of Ephraim. These would be the first places attacked

by the Chaldeans; and the rumour from thence would show that the

land was invaded.

Verse 16. Watchers come from a far country] Persons to besiege

fortified places.

Verse 17. As keepers of a field] In the eastern countries grain

is often sown in the open country; and, when nearly ripe, guards

are placed at different distances round about it to preserve it

from being plundered. Jerusalem was watched, like one of these

fields, by guards all round about it; so that none could enter to

give assistance, and none who wished to escape were permitted to

go out.

Verse 19. My bowels] From this to the twenty-ninth verse the

prophet describes the ruin of Jerusalem and the desolation of

Judea by the Chaldeans in language and imagery scarcely paralleled

in the whole Bible. At the sight of misery the bowels are first

affected; pain is next felt by a sort of stricture in the

pericardium; and then, the heart becoming strongly affected by

irregular palpitations, a gush of tears, accompanied with

wailings, is the issue.-"My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my

very heart, (the walls of my heart;) my heart maketh a noise in

me; I cannot hold my peace." Here is nature, and fact also.

Verse 20. Destruction upon destruction] Cities burnt, and their

inhabitants destroyed.

My tents spoiled] Even the solitary dwellings in the fields and

open country do not escape.

Verse 23. I beheld the earth, (the land,) and lo it was without

form and void] tohu vabohu; the very words used in

Genesis to denote the formless state of the chaotic mass before

God had brought it into order.

Verse 24. The mountains-hills] Princes, rulers, &c., were

astonished and fled.

Verse 25. The birds of the heavens were fled.] The land was so

desolated that even the fowls of heaven could not find meat, and

therefore fled away to another region. How powerfully energetic is

this description! See Zep 1:3.

Verse 30. Though thou rentest thy face with painting] This

probably refers to the custom of introducing stibium, a

preparation of antimony, between the eye and the lids, in order to

produce a fine lustre, which occasions a distension of the eye-lid

in the time of the operation. In order to heighten the effect from

this, some may have introduced a more than ordinary quantity, so

as nearly to rend the eye-lid itself. Though thou make use of

every means of address, of cunning, and of solicitation, to get

assistance from the neighbouring states, it will be all in vain.

Reference is here particularly made to the practice of harlots to

allure men.

Verse 31. Bringeth forth her first child] In such a case the

fear, danger, and pain were naturally the greatest.

Spreadeth her hands] The gesture indicated by nature to signify

distress, and implore help. We have met with this figure in other

parts, and among the classic writers it is frequent.

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