In this chapter the prophet goes on faithfully to reprove sin and to
threaten God's judgments for it, and yet bitterly to lament both, as
one that neither rejoiced at iniquity nor was glad at calamities.
I. He here expresses his great grief for the miseries of Judah and
Jerusalem, and his detestation of their sins, which brought those
miseries upon them,
II. He justifies God in the greatness of the destruction brought upon
III. He calls upon others to bewail the woeful case of Judah and
IV. He shows them the folly and vanity of trusting in their own
strength or wisdom, or the privileges of their circumcision, or any
thing but God only,
The Prophet's Lamentation; Wickedness of Judah.
B. C. 606.
1 Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of
tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the
daughter of my people!
2 Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring
men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they
be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.
3 And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but
they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they
proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD.
4 Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in
any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every
neighbour will walk with slanders.
5 And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not
speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies,
and weary themselves to commit iniquity.
6 Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit
they refuse to know me, saith the LORD.
7 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, I will melt
them, and try them; for how shall I do for the daughter of my
8 Their tongue is as an arrow shot out; it speaketh deceit:
one speaketh peaceably to his neighbour with his mouth, but in
heart he layeth his wait.
9 Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the LORD:
shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?
10 For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, and
for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation, because they
are burned up, so that none can pass through them; neither can
men hear the voice of the cattle; both the fowl of the heavens
and the beast are fled; they are gone.
11 And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and
I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.
The prophet, being commissioned both to foretel the destruction coming
upon Judah and Jerusalem and to point out the sin for which that
destruction was brought upon them, here, as elsewhere, speaks of both
very feelingly: what he said of both came from the heart, and therefore
one would have thought it would reach to the heart.
I. He abandons himself to sorrow in consideration of the calamitous
condition of his people, which he sadly laments, a one that preferred
Jerusalem before his chief joy and her grievances before his chief
1. He laments the slaughter of the persons, the blood shed and the
"O that my head were waters, quite melted and dissolved with
grief, that so my eyes might be fountains of tears,
weeping abundantly, continually, and without intermission, still
sending forth fresh floods of tears as there still occur fresh
occasions for them!" The same word in Hebrew signifies both the
eye and a fountain, as if in this land of sorrows our eyes
were designed rather for weeping than seeing. Jeremiah wept much, and
yet wished he could weep more, that he might affect a stupid people and
rouse them to a due sense of the hand of God gone out against them.
Note, It becomes us, while we are here in this vale of tears, to
conform to the temper of the climate and to sow in tears. Blessed
are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted hereafter; but
let them expect that while they are here the clouds will still
return after the rain. While we find our hearts such fountains of
sin, it is fit that our eyes should be fountains of tears. But
Jeremiah's grief here is upon the public account: he would weep day
and night, not so much for the death of his own near relations, but
for the slain of the daughter of his people, the multitudes of
his countrymen that fell by the sword of war. Note, When we hear of the
numbers of the slain in great battles and sieges we ought to be much
affected with the intelligence, and not to make a light matter of it;
yea, though they be not of the daughter of our people, for, whatever
people they are of, they are of the same human nature with us, and
there are so many precious lives lost, as dear to them as ours to us,
and so many precious souls gone into eternity.
2. He laments the desolations of the country. This he brings in
for impassioned mourners are not often very methodical in their
discourses: "Not only for the towns and cities, but for the
mountains, will I take up a weeping and wailing" (not barren
mountains, but the fruitful hills with which Judea abounded), and for
the habitations of the wilderness, or rather the pastures of
the plain, that used to be clothed with flocks or covered
over with corn, and a goodly sight it was; but now they are
burnt up by the Chaldean army (which, according to the custom of
war, destroyed to the custom of war, destroyed the forage and carried
off all the cattle), so that no one dares to pass through them, for
fear of meeting with some parties of the enemy, no one cares to pass
through them, every thing looks so melancholy and frightful, no one has
any business to pass through them, for they hear not the voice of
the cattle there as usual, the bleating of the sheep and the lowing
of the oxen, that grateful music to the owners; nay, both the fowl
of the heavens and the beasts have fled. either frightened
away by the rude noises and terrible fires which the enemies make, or
forced away because there is no subsistence for them. Note, God has
many ways of turning a fruitful land into barrenness for the
wickedness of those that dwell therein; and the havoc war makes in
a country cannot but be for a lamentation to all tender spirits, for it
is a tragedy which destroys the stage it is acted on.
II. He abandons himself to solitude, in consideration of the scandalous
character and conduct of his people. Though he dwells in Judah where
God is known, in Salem where his tabernacle is, yet he is ready to cry
out, Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech!
While all his neighbours are fleeing to the defenced cities, and
Jerusalem especially, in dread of the enemies' rage
he is contriving to retire into some desert, in detestation of his
"O that I had in the wilderness a lodging-place of wayfaring
men, such a lonely cottage to dwell in as they have in the deserts
of Arabia, which are uninhabited, for travellers to repose themselves
in, that I might leave my people and go from them!" Not only
because of the ill usage they gave him (he would rather venture himself
among the wild beasts of the desert than among such treacherous
barbarous people), but principally because his righteous soul was
vexed from day to day, as Lot's was in Sodom, with the
wickedness of their conversation,
2 Peter 2:7,8.
This does not imply any intention or resolution that he had thus to
retire. God had cut him out work among them, which he must not quit for
his own ease. We must not go out of the world, bad as it is,
before our time. If he could not reform them, he could bear a
testimony against them; if he could not do good to many, yet he might
to some. but it intimates the temptation he was in to leave them,
involves a threatening that they should be deprived of his ministry,
and especially expresses the holy indignation he had against their
abominable wickedness, which continued notwithstanding all the pains he
had taken with them to reclaim them. It made him even weary of his life
to see them dishonouring God as they did and destroying themselves.
Time was when the place which God had chosen to put his name there was
the desire and delight of good men. David, in a wilderness, longed to
be again in the courts of God's house; but now Jeremiah, in the courts
of God's house (for there he was when he said this), wishes himself in
a wilderness. Those have made themselves very miserable that have made
God's people and ministers weary of them and willing to get from them.
Now, to justify his willingness to leave them, he shows,
1. What he himself had observed among them.
(1.) He would not think of leaving them because they were poor and in
distress, but because they were wicked.
[1.] They were filthy: They are all adulterers, that is, the
generality of them are,
They all either practised this sin or connived at those that did.
Lewdness and uncleanness constituted that crying sin of Sodom at which
righteous Lot was vexed in soul, and it is a sin that renders men
loathsome in the eyes of God and all good men; it makes men an
[2.] They were false. This is the sin that is most enlarged upon here.
Those that had been unfaithful to their God were so to one another, and
it was a part of their punishment as well as their sin, for even those
that love to cheat, yet hate to be cheated. First, Go into
their solemn meetings for the exercises of religion, for the
administration of justice, or for commerce--to church, to court, or to
the exchange--and they are an assembly of treacherous men; they
are so by consent, they strengthen one another's hands in doing any
thing that is perfidious. There they will cheat deliberately and
industriously, with design, with a malicious design, for
they bend their tongues, like their bow, for lies, with a great
deal of craft; their tongues are fitted for lying, as a bow that is
bent is for shooting, and are as constantly used for that purpose.
Their tongue turns as naturally to a lie as the bow to the strong.
But they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth. Their
tongues are like a bow strung, with which they might do good service if
they would use the art and resolution which they are so much masters of
in the cause of truth; but they will not do so. They appear not in
defence of the truths of God, which were delivered to them by the
prophets; but even those that could not deny them to be truths were
content to see them run down. In the administration of justice they
have not courage to stand by an honest cause that has truth on its
side, if greatness and power be on the other side. Those that will be
faithful to the truth must be valiant for it, and not be daunted by the
opposition given to it, nor fear the face of man. They are not
valiant for the truth in the land, the land which has truth for the
glory of it. Truth has fallen in the land, and they dare not lend a
hand to help it up,
We must answer, another day, not only for our enmity in opposing truth,
but for our cowardice in defending it. Secondly, Go into their
families, and you will find they will cheat their own brethren
(every brother will utterly supplant); they will trip up one
another's heels if they can, for they lie at the catch to seek all
advantages against those they hope to make a hand of. Jacob had his
name from supplanting; it is the word here used; they followed
him in his name, but not in his true character, without guile.
So very false are they that you cannot trust in a brother, but
must stand as much upon your guard as if you were dealing with a
stranger, with a Canaanite that has balances of deceit in his
hand. Things have come to an ill pass indeed when a man cannot put
confidence in his own brother. Thirdly, Go into company and
observe both their commerce and their conversation, and you will find
there is nothing of sincerity or common honesty among them. Nec
hospes ab hospite tutus--The host and the guest are in danger from each
other. The best advice a wise man can give you is to take heed
every one of his neighbour, nay, of his friend (so some read
it), of him whom he has befriended and who pretends friendship to him.
No man thinks himself bound to be either grateful or sincere. Take them
in their conversation and every neighbour will walk with
slander; they care not what ill they say one of another, though
ever so false; that way that the slander goes they will go; they will
walk with it. They will walk about from house to house too,
carrying slanders along with them, all the ill-natured stories they can
pick up or invent to make mischief. Take them in their trading and
bargaining, and they will deceive every one his neighbour, will
say any thing, though they know it to be false, for their own
advantage. Nay, they will lie for lying sake, to keep their tongues in
use to it, for they will not speak the truth, but will tell a
deliberate lie and laugh at it when they have done.
(2.) That which aggravates the sin on this false and lying generation
[1.] That they are ingenious to sin: They have taught their tongue
to speak lies, implying that through the reluctances of natural
conscience they found it difficult to bring themselves to it. Their
tongue would have spoken truth, but they taught it to speak
lies, and by degrees have made themselves masters of the art of
lying, and have got such a habit of it that use has made it a second
nature to them. They learnt it when they were young (for the wicked
are estranged from the womb, speaking lies,
and now they have grown dexterous at it.
[2.] That they are industrious to sin: They weary themselves to
commit iniquity; they put a force upon their consciences to bring
themselves to it; they tire out their convictions by offering them
continual violence, and they take a great deal of pains, till they have
even spent themselves in bringing about their malicious designs. They
are wearied with their sinful pursuits and yet not weary of them. The
service of sin is a perfect drudgery; men run themselves out of breath
in it, and put themselves to a great deal of toil to damn their own
[3.] That they grow worse and worse
They proceed from evil to evil, from one sin to another, from
one degree of sin to another. They began with less sins. Nemo
repente fit turpissimus--No one reaches the height of vice at once.
They began with equivocating and bantering, but at last came to
downright lying. And they are now proceeding to greater sins yet, for
they know not me, saith the Lord; and where men have no
knowledge of God, or no consideration of what they have known of him,
what good can be expected from them? Men's ignorance of God is the
cause of all their ill conduct one towards another.
2. The prophet shows what God had informed him of their wickedness, and
what he had determined against them.
(1.) God had marked their sin. He could tell the prophet (and he speaks
of it with compassion) what sort of people they were that he had to
deal with. I know thy works, and where thou dwellest,
"Thy habitation is in the midst of deceit, all about thee are
addicted to it; therefore stand upon thy guard." If all men are
liars, it concerns us to beware of men,. and to be wise
as serpents. They are deceitful men; therefore there is little hope
of thy doing any good among them; for, make things ever so plain, they
have some trick or other wherewith to shuffle off their convictions.
This charge is enlarged upon,
Their tongue was a bow bent
plotting and preparing mischief; here it is an arrow shot out,
putting in execution what they had projected. It is as a slaying
arrow (so some readings of the original have it); their tongue has
been to many an instrument of death. They speak peaceably to their
neighbours, against whom they are at the same time lying in
wait; as Joab kissed Abner when he was about to kill him, and Cain,
that he might not be suspected of any ill design, talked with his
brother, freely and familiarly. Note, Fair words, when they are not
attended with good intentions, are despicable, but, when they are
intended as a cloak and cover for wicked intentions they are
abominable. While they did all this injury to one another they put a
great contempt upon God: "Not only they know not me, but
through deceit, through the delusions of the false prophets,
they refuse to know me; they are so cheated into a good opinion
of their own ways, the ways of their own heart, that they desire not
the knowledge of my ways." Or, "They are so wedded to this sinful
course which they are in, and so bewitched with that, and its gains,
that they will by no means admit the knowledge of God, because
that would be a check upon them in their sins." This is the ruin of
sinners: they might be taught the good knowledge of the Lord and they
will not learn it; and where no knowledge of God is, what good can be
(2.) He had marked them for ruin,
Those that will not know God as their lawgiver shall be made to know
him as their judge. God determines here to bring his judgments upon
them, for the refining of some and the ruining of the rest.
[1.] Some shall be refined
"Because they are thus corrupt, behold I will melt them and try
them, will bring them into trouble and see what that will do
towards bringing them to repentance, whether the furnace of affliction
will purify them from their dross, and whether, when they are melted,
they will be new-cast in a better mould." He will make trial of less
afflictions before he brings upon them utter destruction; for he
desires not the death of sinners. They shall not be rejected
as reprobate silver till the founder has melted in vain,
For how shall I do for the daughter of my people? He speaks as
one consulting with himself what to do with them that might be for the
best, and as one that could not find in his heart to cast them off and
give them up to ruin till he had first tried all means likely to bring
them to repentance. Or, "How else shall I do for them? They have
grown so very corrupt that there is no other way with them but to put
them into the furnace; what other course can I take with them?
It is the daughter of my people, and I must do something to
vindicate my own honour, which will be reflected upon if I connive at
their wickedness. I must do something to reduce and reform them." A
parent corrects his own children because they are his own. Note, When
God afflicts his people, it is with a gracious design to mollify and
reform them; it is but when need is and when he knows it is the best
method he can use.
[2.] The rest shall be ruined
Shall I not visit for these things? Fraud and falsehood are sins
which God hates and which he will reckon for. "Shall not my soul be
avenged on such a nation as this, that is so universally corrupt,
and, by its impudence in sin, even dares and defies divine vengeance?
The sentence is passed, the decree has gone forth
I will make Jerusalem heaps of rubbish, and lay it in such ruins
that it shall be fit for nothing but to be a den of dragons; and
the cities of Judah shall be a desolation." God makes
them so, for he gives the enemy warrant and power to do it: but why is
the holy city made a heap? The answer is ready, Because it has become
an unholy one?
B. C. 606.
12 Who is the wise man, that may understand this? and who is
he to whom the mouth of the LORD hath spoken, that he may
declare it, for what the land perisheth and is burned up like a
wilderness, that none passeth through?
13 And the LORD saith, Because they have forsaken my law which
I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked
14 But have walked after the imagination of their own heart,
and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:
15 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;
Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and
give them water of gall to drink.
16 I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither
they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after
them, till I have consumed them.
17 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the
mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women,
that they may come:
18 And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that
our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with
19 For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we
spoiled! we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the
land, because our dwellings have cast us out.
20 Yet hear the word of the LORD, O ye women, and let your ear
receive the word of his mouth, and teach your daughters wailing,
and every one her neighbour lamentation.
21 For death is come up into our windows, and is entered into
our palaces, to cut off the children from without, and the
young men from the streets.
22 Speak, Thus saith the LORD, Even the carcases of men shall
fall as dung upon the open field, and as the handful after the
harvestman, and none shall gather them.
Two things the prophet designs, in these verses, with reference to the
approaching destruction of Judah and Jerusalem:--
1. To convince people of the justice of God in it, that they had by sin
brought it upon themselves and that therefore they had no reason to
quarrel with God, who did them no wrong at all, but a great deal of
reason to fall out with their sins, which did them all this mischief.
2. To affect people with the greatness of the desolation that was
coming, and the miserable effects of it, that by a terrible prospect of
it they might be awakened to repentance and reformation, which was the
only way to prevent it, or, at least, mitigate their own share in it.
This being designed,
I. He calls for the thinking men, by them to show people the equity of
God's proceedings, though they seemed harsh and severe
"Who, where, is the wise man, or the prophet, to whom
the mouth of the Lord hath spoken? You boast of your wisdom, and of
the prophets you have among you; produce me any one that has but the
free use of human reason or any acquaintance with divine revelation,
and he will soon understand this himself, and it will be so clear to
him that he will be ready to declare it to others, that there is a just
ground of God's controversy with this people." Do these wise men
enquire, For what does the land perish? What is the matter, that
such a change is made with this land? It used to be a land that God
cared for, and he had his eyes upon it for good
but it is now a land that he has forsaken and that his face is against.
It used to flourish as the garden of the Lord and to be replenished
with inhabitants; but now it is burnt up like a wilderness, that
none passeth through it, much less cares to settle in it. It was
supposed, long ago, that it would be asked, when it came to this,
Wherefore has the Lord done thus unto this land? What means the heat
of this great anger?
to which question God here gives a full answer, before which all flesh
must be silent. He produces out of the record,
1. The indictment preferred and proved against them, upon which they
had been found guilty,
It is charged upon them, and it cannot be denied,
(1.) That they have revolted from their allegiance to their rightful
Sovereign. Therefore. God has forsaken their land, and
justly, because they have forsaken his law, which he had so
plainly, so fully, so frequently set before them, and had not
observed his orders, not obeyed his voice, nor walked in
the ways that he had appointed. Here their wickedness began, in the
omission of their duty to their God and a contempt of his authority.
But it did not end here. It is further charged upon them,
(2.) That they have entered themselves into the service of pretenders
and usurpers, have not only withdrawn themselves from their obedience
to their prince, but have taken up arms against him. For,
[1.] They have acted according to the dictates of their own lusts, have
set up their own will, the wills of the flesh, and the carnal mind, in
competition with, and contradiction to the will of God: They have
walked after the imagination of their own hearts; they would do as
they pleased, whatever God and conscience said to the contrary.
[2.] They have worshipped the creatures of their own fancy, the work of
their own hands, according to the tradition received from their
fathers: They have walked after Baalim: the word is plural; they
had many Baals, Baal-peor and Baal-berith, the Baal of this place and
the Baal of the other place; for they had lords many, which
their fathers taught them to worship, but which the God of their
fathers had again and again forbidden. This was it for which the
land perished. The King of kings never makes war thus upon his own
subjects but when they treacherously depart from him and rebel against
him, and it has become necessary by this means to chastise their
rebellion and reduce them to their allegiance; and they themselves
shall at length acknowledge that he is just in all that is brought upon
2. The judgment given upon this indictment, the sentence upon the
convicted rebels, which must now be executed, for it was righteous and
nothing could be moved in arrest of it: The Lord of hosts, the God
of Israel, hath said it
and who can reverse it?
(1.) That all their comforts at home shall be poisoned and embittered
to them: I will feed this people with wormwood (or rather with
wolf's-bane, for it signifies a herb that is not wholesome, as
wormwood is though it be bitter, but some herb that is both nauseous
and noxious), and I will give them water of gall (or
juice of hemlock or some other herb that is poisonous) to
drink. Every thing about them, till it comes to their very meat and
drink, shall be a terror and torment to them. God will curse their
(2.) That their dispersion abroad shall be their destruction
I will scatter them among the heathen. They were corrupted and
debauched by their intimacy with the heathen, with whom they
mingled and learned their works; and now they shall lose
themselves, where they lost their virtue, among the heathen.
They set up gods which neither they nor their fathers had known,
strange gods, new gods
and now God will put them among neighbours whom neither they nor
their fathers have known, whom they can claim no acquaintance with,
and therefore can expect no favour from. And yet, though they are
scattered so as that they will not know where to find one another. God
will know where to find them all out
with that evil which still pursues impenitent sinners: I will send a
sword after them, some killing judgment or other, till I have
consumed them; for when God judges he will overcome, when he
pursues he will overtake. And now we see for what the land perishes;
all this desolation is the desert of their deeds and the performance of
II. He calls for the mourning women, and engages them, with the arts
they practise to affect people and move their passions, to lament these
sad calamities that had come or were coming upon them, that the nation
might be alarmed to prepare for them: The Lord of hosts himself
says, Call for the mourning women, that they may come,
the scope of this is to show how very woeful and lamentable the
condition of this people was likely to be.
1. Here is work for the counterfeit mourners: Send for cunning
women, that know how to compose mournful ditties, or at least to
sing them in mournful tunes and accents, and therefore are made use of
at funerals to supply the want of true mourners. Let these take up a
wailing for us,
The deaths and funerals were so many that people wept for them till
they had no power to weep, as those,
1 Samuel 30:4.
Let those therefore do it now whose trade it is. Or, rather, it
intimates the extreme sottishness and stupidity of the people, that
laid not to heart the judgments they were under, nor, even when there
was so much blood shed, could find in their hearts to shed a tear.
They cry not when God binds them,
God sent his mourning prophets to them, to call them to weeping and
mourning, but his word in their mouths did not work upon their faith;
rather therefore than they shall go laughing to their ruin, let the
mourning women come, and try to work upon their fancy, that their
eyes may at length run down with tears, and their eyelids gush
out with waters. First or last, sinners must be weepers.
2. Here is work for the real mourners.
(1.) There is that which is a lamentation. The present scene is very
A voice of wailing is heard out of Zion. Some make this to be
the song of the mourning women: it is rather an echo to it, returned by
those whose affections were moved by their wailings. In Zion the voice
of joy and praise used to be heard, while the people kept closely to
God. But sin has altered the note; it is now the voice of
lamentation. It should seem to be the voice of those who fled from
all parts of the country to the castle of Zion for protection. Instead
of rejoicing that they had got safely thither, they lamented that they
were forced to seek for shelter there: "How are we spoiled! How
are we stripped of all our possessions! We are greatly
confounded, ashamed of ourselves and our poverty;" for that is it
that they complain of, that is it that they blush at the thoughts of,
rather than of their sin: We are confounded because we have
forsaken the land (forced so to do by the enemy), not because we
have forsaken the Lord, being drawn aside of our own lust and
enticed--because our dwellings have cast us out, not because our God
has cast us off. Thus unhumbled hearts lament their calamity, but not
their iniquity, the procuring cause of it.
(2.) There is more still to come which shall be for a lamentation.
Things are bad, but they are likely to be worse. Those whose land has
spued them out (as it did their predecessors the Canaanites, and
justly, because they trod in their steps,
complain that they are driven into the city, but, after a while, those
of the city, and they with them, shall be forced thence too: Yet
hear the word of the Lord; he has something more to say to you
let the women hear it, whose tender spirits are apt to receive
the impressions of grief and fear, for the men will not heed it, will
not give it a patient hearing. The prophets will be glad to preach to
a congregation of women that tremble at God's word. Let your ear
receive the word of God's mouth, and bid it welcome, though it be a
word of terror. Let the women teach their daughters wailing;
this intimates that the trouble shall last long, grief shall be
entailed upon the generation to come. Young people are apt to love
mirth, and expect mirth, and are disposed to be gay and airy; but let
the elder women teach the younger to be serious, tell them what a vale
of tears they must expect to find this world, and train them up among
the mourners in Zion,
Let every one teach her neighbour lamentation; this intimates
that the trouble shall spread far, shall go from house to house. People
shall not need to sympathize with their friends; they shall all have
cause enough to mourn for themselves. Note, Those that are themselves
affected with the terrors of the Lord should endeavour to affect others
with them. The judgment here threatened is made to look terrible.
[1.] Multitudes shall be slain,
Death shall ride in triumph, and there shall be no escaping his arrests
when he comes with commission, neither within doors nor without. Not
within doors, for let the doors be shut ever so fast, let them be ever
so firmly locked and bolted, death comes up into our windows,
like a thief in the night; it steals upon us ere we are aware. Nor does
it thus boldly attack the cottages only, but it has entered into our
palaces, the palaces of our princes and great men, though ever so
stately, ever so strongly built and guarded. Note, No palaces can keep
out death. Nor are those more safe that are abroad; death cuts
off even the children from without and the young men from the
streets. The children who might have been spared by the enemy in
pity, because they had never been hurtful to them, and the young men
who might have been spared in policy, because capable of being
serviceable to them, shall fall together by the sword. It is usual now,
even in the severest military executions, to put none to the sword. It
is usual now, even in the severest military executions, to put none to
the sword but those that are found in arms; but then even the boys and
girls playing in the streets were sacrificed to the fury of the
[2.] Those that are slain shall be left unburied
Speak, Thus saith the Lord (for the confirmation and aggravation
of what was before said), Even the carcases of men shall fall as
dung, neglected, and left to be offensive to the smell, as dung is.
Common humanity obliges the survivors to bury the dead, even for their
own sake; but here such numbers shall be slain, and those so dispersed
all the country over, that it shall be an endless thing to bury them
all, nor shall there be hands enough to do it, nor shall the conquerors
permit it, and those that should do it shall be overwhelmed with grief,
so that they shall have no heart to do it. The dead bodies even of the
fairest and strongest, when they have lain awhile, become dung, such
vile bodies have we. And here such multitudes shall fall that their
bodies shall lie as thick as heaps of dung in the furrows of the
field, and no more notice shall be taken of them than of the
handfuls which the harvestman drops for the gleaners, for
none shall gather them, but they shall remain in sight,
monuments of divine vengeance, that the eye of the impenitent survivors
may affect their heart. Slay them not, bury them not, lest my
B. C. 606.
23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his
wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not
the rich man glory in his riches:
24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he
understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise
lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in
these things I delight, saith the LORD.
25 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish
all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;
26 Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and
Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the
wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all
the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.
The prophet had been endeavouring to possess this people with a holy
fear of God and his judgments, to convince them both of sin and wrath;
but still they had recourse to some sorry subterfuge or other, under
which to shelter themselves from the conviction and with which to
excuse themselves in the obstinacy and carelessness. He therefore sets
himself here to drive them from these refuges of lies and to show them
the insufficiency of them.
I. When they were told how inevitable the judgment would be they
pleaded the defence of their politics and powers, which, with the help
of their wealth and treasure, they thought made their city impregnable.
In answer to this he shows them the folly of trusting to and boasting
of all these stays, while they have not a God in covenant to stay
Here he shows,
1. What we may not depend upon in a day of distress: Let not the
wise man glory in his wisdom, as if with the help of that he could
outwit or countermine the enemy, or in the greatest extremity find out
some evasion or other; for a man's wisdom may fail him when he needs it
most, and he may fail him when he needs it most, and he may be taken in
his own craftiness. Ahithophel was befooled, and counsellors are often
led away spoiled. But, if a man's policies fail him, yet surely
he may gain his point by might and dint of courage. No: Let not the
strong man glory in his strength, for the battle is not always to
the strong. David the stripling proves too hard for Goliath the giant.
All human force is nothing without God, worse than nothing against him.
But may not the rich man's wealth be his strong city? (money
answers all things) No: Let not the rich man glory in his
riches, for they may prove so far from sheltering him that they may
expose him and make him the fairer mark. Let not the people boast of
the wise men, and mighty men, and rich men that they have among
them, as if they could make their part good against the Chaldeans
because they have wise men to advise concerning the war, mighty men to
fight their battles, and rich men to bear the charges of the war. Let
not particular persons think to escape the common calamity by their
wisdom, might, or money; for all these will prove but vain things
2. He shows what we may depend upon in a day of distress.
(1.) Our only comfort in trouble will be that we have done our duty.
Those that refused to know God
will boast in vain of their wisdom and wealth; but those that know
God, intelligently, that understand aright that he is the
Lord, that have not only right apprehensions concerning his nature,
and attributes, and relations to man, but receive and retain the
impressions of them, may glory in this it will be their
rejoicing in the day of evil.
(2.) Our only confidence in trouble will be that, having through grace
in some measure done our duty, we shall find God a God all-sufficient
to us. We may glory in this, that, wherever we are, we have an
acquaintance with an interest in a God that exercises
lovingkindness, and judgment, and righteousness in the earth, that
is not only just to all his creatures and will do no wrong to any of
them, but kind to all his children and will protect them and provide
for them. For in these things I delight. God delights to show
kindness and to execute judgment himself, and is pleased with those who
herein are followers of him as dear children. Those that have
such knowledge of the glory of God as to be changed into the same
image, and to partake of his holiness, find it to be their perfection
and glory; and the God they thus faithfully conform to they may
cheerfully confide in, in their greatest straits. But the prophet
intimates that the generality of this people took no care about this.
Their wisdom, and might, and riches, were their joy and hope, which
would end in grief and despair. But those few among them that had the
knowledge of God might please themselves with it, and boast themselves
of it; it would stand them in better stead than thousands of gold
II. When they were told how provoking their sins were to God they
vainly pleaded the covenant of their circumcision. They were
undoubtedly the people of God; as they had the temple of the Lord in
their city, so they had the mark of his children in their flesh. "It is
true that Chaldean army has laid such and such nations waste, because
they were uncircumcised, and therefore not under the protection of the
divine providence, as we are." To this the prophet answers, That the
days of visitation were now at hand, in which God would punish all
wicked people, without making any distinction between the circumcised
They had by sin profaned the crown of their peculiarity, and lived in
common with the uncircumcised nations, and so had forfeited the benefit
of that peculiarity and must expect to fare never the better for it.
God will punish the circumcised with the uncircumcised. As the
ignorance of the uncircumcised shall not excuse their wickedness, so
neither shall the privileges of the circumcised excuse theirs, but they
shall be punished together. Note, The Judge of all the earth is
impartial, and none shall fare the better at his bar for any external
advantages, but he will render to every man, circumcised or
uncircumcised, according to his works. The condemnation of impenitent
sinners that are baptized will be as sure as, nay, and more severe
than, that of impenitent sinners that are unbaptized. It would affect
one to find here Judah industriously put between Egypt and Edom, as
standing upon a level with them and under the same doom,
These nations were forbidden a share in the Jews' privileges
but the Jews are here told that they shall share in their punishments.
Those in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness, are
supposed to be the Kedarenes and those of the kingdoms of Hazor, as
appears by comparing
Some think they are so called because they dwelt as it were in a corner
of the world, others because they had the hair of their head polled
into corners. However that was, they were of those nations that
were uncircumcised in flesh, and the Jews are ranked with them and are
as near to ruin for their sins as they; for all the house of Israel
are uncircumcised in the heart: they have the sign, but not the
They are heathens in their hearts, strangers to God, and enemies in
their minds by wicked works. Their hearts are disposed to idols, as the
hearts of the uncircumcised Gentiles are. Note, The seals of the
covenant, though they dignify us, and lay us under obligations, will
not save us, unless the temper of our minds and the tenour of our lives
agree with the covenant. That only is circumcision, and that baptism,
which is of the heart,
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Jeremiah' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".