Jeremiah 9

CHAPTER IX

The prophet bitterly laments the terrible judgments about to be

inflicted upon his countrymen, and points out some of the evils

which have provoked the Divine Majesty, 1-9.

Judea shall be utterly desolated, and the inhabitants

transplanted into heathen countries, 10-17.

In allusion to an ancient custom, a band of mourning women is

called to lament over the ruins of Jerusalem, 17, 18;

and even the funeral dirge is given in terms full of beauty,

elegance, and pathos, 19-22.

God is the fountain of all good; man, merely an instrument by

which a portion of this good is distributed in the earth;

therefore none should glory in his wisdom, might, or riches,

23, 24.

The judgments of God shall fall, not upon the land of Judea

only, but also upon many heathen nations, 25, 26.

NOTES ON CHAP. IX

Verse 1. O that my head were waters] mi yitten

roshi mayim, "who will give to my head waters?" My mourning for

the sins and desolations of my people has already exhausted the

source of tears: I wish to have a fountain opened there, that I

may weep day and night for the slain of my people. This has been

the sorrowful language of many a pastor who has preached long to a

hardened, rebellious people, to little or no effect. This verse

belongs to the preceding chapter.

Verse 2. O that I had in the wilderness] In the eastern

countries there are no such inns or houses of entertainment as

those in Europe. There are in different places public buildings

called caravanserais, where travellers may lodge: but they are

without furniture of any kind, and without food. Indeed they are

often without a roof, being mere walls for a protection against

the wild beasts of the desert. I wish to hide myself any where, in

the most uncomfortable circumstances, that I may not be obliged

any longer to witness the abominations of this people who are

shortly to be visited with the most grievous punishments. Several

interpreters suppose this to be the speech of GOD. I cannot

receive this. I believe this verse to be spoken by the prophet,

and that God proceeds with the next verse, and so on to the ninth

inclusive.

Verse 3. They bend their tongues like their bow for lies] And

their lies are such that they as fully take away life as the

keenest arrow shot from the best strung bow. The false prophets

told the people that there was no desolation at hand: the people

believed them; made no preparation for their defence; did not

return to the Lord; and the sword came and destroyed them.

They are not valiant for the truth] They are bold in sin, and

courageous to support their lies; but the truth they neither

patronize nor support.

Verse 5. And weary themselves to commit iniquity.] O, what a

drudgery is sin! and how much labour must a man take in order to

get to hell! The tenth part of it, in working together with God,

would bring him to the gate of glory.

Verse 7. Behold, I will melt them] I will put them in the

furnace of affliction, and see if this will be a means of

purging away their dross. See Clarke on Jer 6:27.

Verse 10. Both the fowl of the heavens and the beast are fled]

The land shall be so utterly devastated, that neither beast nor

bird shall be able to live in it.

Verse 11. A den of dragons] tannim is supposed to mean

here jackals; the chakal is a beast frequent in the east, an

attendant on the lion, the refuse of whose prey he devours. It is

an animal that seems to have been bred originally between the wolf

and the dog. The original is sometimes interpreted, dragons,

whales, &c.

Verse 12. Who is the wise man] To whom has God revealed these

things? He is the truly wise man. But it is to his prophet alone

that God has revealed these things, and the speedy fulfilment of

the predictions will show that the prophet has not spoken of

himself.

Verse 15. I will feed them-with wormwood] They shall have the

deepest sorrow and heaviest affliction. They shall have poison

instead of meat and drink.

Verse 17. Call for the mourning women] Those whose office it was

to make lamentations at funerals, and to bewail the dead, for

which they received pay. This custom continues to the present in

Asiatic countries. In Ireland this custom also prevails, which no

doubt their ancestors brought from the east. I have often

witnessed it, and have given a specimen of this elsewhere. See the

note on Mt 9:23. The first lamentations for the dead consisted

only in the sudden bursts of inexpressible grief, like that of

David over his son Absalom, 2Sa 19:4. But as men grew refined, it

was not deemed sufficient for the surviving relatives to vent

their sorrows in these natural, artless expressions of wo, but

they endeavoured to join others as partners in their sorrows. This

gave rise to the custom of hiring persons to weep at funerals,

which the Phrygians and Greeks borrowed from the Hebrews. Women

were generally employed on these occasions, because the tender

passions being predominant in this sex, they succeeded better in

their parts; and there were never wanting persons who would let

out their services to hire on such occasions. Their lamentations

were sung to the pipe as we learn from Mt 9:23. See the funeral

ceremonies practiced at the burial of Hector, as described by

Homer:-

οιδεπειεισαγαγονκλυταδωματατονμενεπειτα

τρητοιςενλεχεεσσιθεσανπαραδεισαναοιδους

θρηνωνεξαρχουςοιτεστονοεσσαναοιδην

οιμεναρεθρηνεονεπιδεστεναχοντογυναικες

IL. lib. xxiv., ver. 719.

"Arrived within the royal house, they stretched

The breathless Hector on a sumptuous bed,

And singers placed beside him, who should chant

The strain funereal; they with many a groan

The dirge began; and still at every close

The female train with many a groan replied."

COWPER.

St. Jerome tells us that even to his time this custom continued

in Judea; that women at funerals, with dishevelled hair and naked

breasts, endeavoured in a modulated voice to invite others to

lament with them. The poem before us, from the seventeenth to the

twenty-second verse, is both an illustration and confirmation of

what has been delivered on this subject, and worthy of the

reader's frequent perusal, on account of its affecting pathos,

moral sentiments, and fine images, particularly in the

twenty-first verse, where death is described in as animated a

prosopopoeia as can be conceived. See Lowth's twenty-second

Prelection, and Dodd. The nineteenth verse is supposed to be the

funeral song of the women.

"How are we spoiled!

We are greatly confounded!

For we have forsaken the land;

Because they have destroyed our dwellings."

Verse 20. Teach your daughters] This is not a common dirge that

shall last only till the body is consigned to the earth; it must

last longer; teach it to your children, that it may be continued

through every generation, till God turn again your captivity.

Verse 21. For death is come up into our windows] Here DEATH is

personified, and represented as scaling their wall; and after

having slain the playful children without, and the vigorous youth

employed in the labours of the field, he is now come into the

private houses, to destroy the aged and infirm; and into the

palaces, to destroy the king and the princes.

Verse 22. And as the handful after the harvestman] The reapers,

after having cut enough to fill their hand, threw it down; and the

binders, following after, collected those handfuls, and bound them

in sheaves. Death is represented as having cut down the

inhabitants of the land, as the reapers do the corn; but so

general was the slaughter, that there was none to bury the dead,

to gather up these handfuls; so that they lay in a state of

putrescence, as dung upon the open field.

Verse 23. Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom] Because God

is the Fountain of all good, neither wisdom, nor might, nor

riches, nor prosperity can come but from or through him.

Nothing can be more rational than that the Source of all our

blessings should be acknowledged. Riches cannot deliver in the day

of death; strength cannot avail against him; and as a shield

against him, our wisdom is foolishness.

Verse 24. But let him that glorieth] To glory in a thing is to

depend on it as the means or cause of procuring happiness. But

there can be no happiness but in being experimentally acquainted

with that God who exercises loving-kindness, judgment, and

righteousness in the earth. He who has God's mercy for his

portion may well exult; for he need not fear the power of any

adversary.

Sometimes the ancient heathen poets uttered sentiments of

morality far beyond their dispensation. Witness PHOCYLIDES on this

subject:-

μηγαυρουσοφιημηταλκημητενιπλουτω

ειςθεοςεστισοφοςδυνατοςθαμακαιτολυολβος

"If wisdom, strength, or riches be thy lot,

Boast not; but rather think thou hast them not.

ONE GOD alone from whom those gifts proceed

Is wise, is mighty, and is rich indeed."

Verse 25. I will punish all them which are circumcised with the

uncircumcised] Do not imagine that you, because of your crimes,

are the only objects of my displeasure; the circumcised and the

uncircumcised, the Jew and the Gentile, shall equally feel the

stroke of my justice, their transgressions being alike, after

their advantages and disadvantages are duly compared. In like

manner, other nations also were delivered into the hands of

Nebuchadnezzar, these he immediately enumerates: Egypt and Edom,

and the Moabites and the Ammonites, and the Arabians of the

desert. All these nations were uncircumcised in that way which

God required that rite to be practised as a sign of his covenant;

and the Israelites, that did practise it as a sign of that

covenant, did not attend to its spiritual meaning, for they were

all uncircumcised in heart. And it may be remarked, that these

people were in general confederated against the Chaldeans.

Verse 26. All that are in the utmost corners] col

ketsutsey pheah. These words have been variously understood. The

Vulgate translates: Omnes qui attonsi sunt in comam; "All who

have their hair cut short." The Targum, Septuagint, Syriac, and

Arabic have understood it nearly in the same way; and so our

margin. Others think that the insular or peninsular situation of

the people is referred to. Dr. Blayney thinks the Arabians are

meant, who dwelt in the great desert, between Mesopotamia and

Palestine. I really think our marginal reading should be

preferred, as expressing the sense of all the ancient Versions.

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