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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 15

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



Of course, the first nine verses of this chapter, especially the first four, continue the thought of the last chapter. Henderson suggested the following chapter divisions:(F1) Judah had sinned beyond the possibility of God’s averting their punishment (Jeremiah 15:1-4); continued prophecy of Judah’s destruction (Jeremiah 15:5-9); beginning of Jeremiah’s lament (Jeremiah 15:10-11); destruction of Judah inevitable (Jeremiah 15:12-14); Jeremiah’s discouragement and denial of his commission (Jeremiah 15:15-18); God’s command to Jeremiah with promises contingent upon his obedience (Jeremiah 15:19-21).

Verses 1-4


“Thus said Jehovah unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind would not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth. And it shall come to pass when they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, thus saith Jehovah: Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for captivity, to captivity. And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith Jehovah: the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the birds of the heavens, and the beasts of the earth to destroy. And I will cause them to be tossed to and fro among all the kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.”

“Moses and Samuel” These were historical heroes of the Jewish people, who, upon serious occasions of Israel’s rebellion against the Lord, had interceded for them, praying for their forgiveness; and there were several examples of this in the Old Testament. (Exodus 32:11-14; Exodus 32:30-34; Numbers 24:13-23; Deuteronomy 9:18-20; Deuteronomy 9:15-29; 1 Samuel 7:5-9; 1 Samuel 12:19-25; and Psalms 99:6-8). However, the sad message here is that even the intercession of such intercessors as Moses and Samuel would be of no avail whatever in the present extremity of Judah’s total apostasy and rebellion.

We find no agreement with Thompson who thought that Jeremiah might have mentioned Moses and Samuel here, “because he saw in those two men a pattern of his own ministry; for he was in that succession of prophets `like unto Moses’ (Deuteronomy 18:9-22).”(F2) However, the Bible has no mention of a succession of “prophets” (plural) like unto Moses, but speaks of “The Prophet Like unto Moses,” a reference to Jesus Christ and to no other!

The perversion of this prophecy through Moses mentioned here is a favorite device of critics, but it stands upon no authority whatever.

“Let them go forth” The meaning of this was extensive: “Cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth. Do not bring them into my presence by your prayers; let them go forth into captivity.”(F3) The meaning is further elaborated in the next verse. Feinberg’s rendition of Jeremiah 15:2-4 here is excellent:

“Those destined for death, to death;
those for the sword, to the sword;
those for starvation, to starvation;
those for captivity, to captivity.
I will send four kinds of destroyers against them, saith the Lord, The sword to kill, and the dogs to drag away, and the birds of the air and the beasts of the field to devour and destroy.”(F4)

“Because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah” “The name of the pious father intensifies the horror at the wickedness of the son.”(F5)

It might appear from this that the invasion and captivity of Judah were the consequences of Manasseh’s wicked reign; but it was not that reign alone that resulted in such disasters. “It was because the people persevered in that wickedness.”(F6) They resented and disapproved of Josiah’s reforms; as soon as Jehoiachim came to the throne, they heartily supported that wicked king’s campaign to restore all of the idolatrous trappings of Manasseh’s evil reign; and, when Jeremiah’s magnificent prophecies appeared to be a hindrance to such a resurgence of paganism, they plotted to kill Jeremiah. It was all of that, plus the deliberate preference of the great majority of Israel for the licentious rites of idolatry far over above the righteous government of the Lord that led to their eventual destruction and the deportation of a remnant.

Verses 5-9


“For who will have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? or who will bemoan thee? or who will turn aside to ask of thy welfare? Thou hast rejected Jehovah, thou art gone backward: therefore have I stretched out my hand against thee, and destroyed thee; I am weary with repenting. And I have winnowed them with a fan in the gates of the land; I have bereaved them of children, I have destroyed my people; they returned not from their ways. Their widows are increased to me above the sand of the seas; I have brought upon them against the mother of the young men a destroyer at noonday: I have caused anguish and terrors to fall upon her suddenly. She that hath borne seven languisheth; she hath given up the ghost; her sun has gone down while it was yet day; she hath been put to shame and confounded: and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword before their enemies, saith Jehovah.”

The consistent use of the past tense in this paragraph should not be misunderstood. “The first few verbs here (Jeremiah 15:5) and the last verb (Jeremiah 15:9) are in the imperfect tense; and most of the rest are perfects. They portray that which has not yet happened as though it had already transpired, so certain is the prophet that it is going to come about.”(F7)

“Thou art gone backward” The whole nation had reverted to the gross paganism of the reign of Manasseh.

“I am weary of repenting” Judah was aware of the great truth that when they repented God would turn and bless them again, as fully expounded by Jeremiah a little later in this prophecy (Jeremiah 18:7-10); but this stresses another fact that Judah had either forgotten or had never even known, that being the fact that “there is a point of no return” in the persistent wickedness of any man or of any nation. It was evident in the classical account of Balaam, who set out on a rebellious course, contrary to God’s instructions; and when the going became really rough, he said, “I will get me back again” (Numbers 22:34); but God commanded him, saying, “Go with the men” (Numbers 22:35). There always comes the time in the career of rebellion against God that an angel with a drawn sword stands in the way and says, “Go on in the way you have chosen; you have made your bed, now lie in it; you have preferred to rebel, now abide by the consequences!” Even the forgiveness metered out to the repentant sinner in many cases can never nullify the physical consequences of a sinful life.

“They returned not from their ways” “It was no different in the seventh century from what it was in the eighth (Amos 4:6-11)”;(F8) and from this is seen the fact that a full century of God’s forbearance with the rebellious Israelites had made no significant difference whatever.

“The gates of the land” As Keil pointed out here, “`The gates of the land’ is undoubtedly a reference to the land of Judah.”(F9)

“Mother of the young men” This is a metaphor in which Jerusalem, or Judah, is represented as seeing her sons sacrificed to the sword.

Verses 10-11


“Woe is me, my mother, that thou has borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have not lent, neither have men lent to me; yet every one of them doth curse me. Jehovah said, Verily, I will strengthen thee for good; verily I will cause the enemy to make supplication unto thee in the time of evil and in the time of affliction.”

These verses and through the end of the chapter constitute “the second personal lament of Jeremiah,”(F10) according to Ash; and this one appears to be the most serious because it actually constituted a denial of Jeremiah’s commission, as we shall see a moment later.

“I have not lent, neither have men lent to me” What a glimpse of human nature is this! Yes indeed, one of the surest ways to make bitter enemies is either to borrow money from them or to lend it to them! Jeremiah refers to his having refrained from doing either as a grounds of his being unable to understand why everybody hated him!

Cheyne believed that this lament “belongs to a later period of the history of Judah”(F11) but there is nothing certain about such a speculation. Hyatt stated that, “We do not know the occasion of this lament.”(F12)

“Woe is me, my mother that thou hast borne me” Many commentators equate this with “cursing” the day of his birth. “To curse the day of his birth was tantamount to a rejection of his very mission.”(F13) This seems to be going a little too far with such implications, because certainly there is a vast difference in what is said here from the account of what was said when Job cursed the day of his birth (Job 3:1-6). Still, Jeremiah’s error, whatever it was, required his repentance (Jeremiah 15:19).

“I will strengthen thee for good” As Dummelow pointed out, Jeremiah’s enemies, of whom was Zedekiah, would not only spare his life, but invoke his aid. An example of this is given in Jeremiah 21:1-7.(F14)

“I will cause the enemy to make supplication unto thee” “This was literally fulfilled in Jeremiah 39:11. Nebuchadnezzar gave strict orders to his commander-in-chief to look well to Jeremiah, to do him no harm, and to grant him all the privileges he was pleased to ask.”(F15)

Verses 12-14


“Can one break iron, even iron from the north, and brass? Thy substance and thy treasure will I give for a spoil without price, and that for all thy sins, even in all thy borders. And I will make them to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not; for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you.”

The last two verses here simply state that all of the treasures and riches of Judah shall God cause to be taken away from them because of their sins. Those treasures shall not be paid for, but shall leave “without price,” and be carried away by Judah’s enemies into a country they do not know.

“Can one break iron” There are several different views about what this means. Dummelow believed that it meant, “Judah is not tough enough to withstand the Chaldean power.”(F16) “The prophet is protesting that he is not strong enough to stand against the hardness and stubbornness of the people.”(F17) “Jeremiah’s prayers are not strong enough to break the iron will of the divine purpose to destroy Judah.”(F18) Jellie also saw Jeremiah 15:12 as teaching that, “There is a limit to prayer,”(F19) quoting also this passage from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”:

“Prayer against God’s absolute decree
No more avails than breath against the wind,
Blows stifling back on him that breatheth forth;
Therefore to His great bidding I submit.”

The critical allegation that these verses do not fit is rejected. They clearly predict the exile, which prophecy surely emphasizes the negative answer God had already given in the first paragraph of the chapter to Judah’s appeal for mercy; and if the application of Jeremiah 15:12 is to the inability of Jeremiah’s prayers to break God’s determination to destroy Judah, then this passage is indeed in context. There are no legitimate grounds here for moving these verses or for calling them a gloss. Such allegations are almost certainly incorrect.

Robinson called Jeremiah 15:13-14 “Irrelevant”;(F20) Cheyne called them “a digression”;(F21) but a much more discerning scholar declared that, “They can hardly be regarded as simply an intrusion into the text; but they may be seen as a significant part of the total picture.”(F22)

Verses 15-18


“O Jehovah, thou knowest; remember me, and visit me, and avenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered reproach. Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy words were to me a joy and the rejoicing of my heart: for I am called by thy name, O Jehovah, God of hosts. I sat not in the assembly of them that make merry, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand; for thou hast filled me with indignation. Why is my pain perpetual? and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou indeed be unto me as a deceitful brook, as waters that fail?”

Jeremiah here fell into a distressing pit of self-pity. He had succumbed to the “me” virus, for he used the personal pronoun of himself no less than sixteen times in these four verses. It appears that the great prophet was almost totally discouraged about the seeming failure of his mission.

Green pointed out that Jeremiah’s appeal to God has the following: (1) he appeals to God to remember him; he feels forsaken, and checkmated by his enemies; (2) he reminds God of his love and respect for the divine word; (3) he protests his loneliness and his being left out of the assemblies of the people; (4) and he even echoed the sentiments of Christ on Calvary, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”; and (5) finally, in Jeremiah 15:18 he seemed to hit the very depths of despair, “The figure of the deceitful brook is devastating.”(F23) It appears that Jeremiah was even tempted to believe that God had become to him a lying water hole, that promised refreshment but failed to give it.

The so-called “weeping prophet” came near to deserving the title here. Halley noted that there is a grotto called Jeremiah’s Grotto which is located at the foot of the very hill where the Cross of Jesus would be raised some 600 years later. “Jeremiah is said to have retired there to weep.”(F24)

“Jeremiah had expected that, called to a high office, there would be a perpetual interference upon his behalf; but instead everything seemed to be taking its natural course.”(F25)

Jeremiah 15:18, here “is certainly a cry of distrust and despair by Jeremiah.”(F26) God’s dramatic answer came in the next verses.

Verses 19-21


“Therefore thus saith Jehovah, if thou return, then will I bring thee again, that thou mayest stand before me; and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: they shall return unto thee, but thou shalt not return unto them. And I will make thee unto this people a fortified brazen wall; and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith Jehovah. And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.”

God made it clear in these verses that he did not approve of Jeremiah’s conduct. If Jeremiah would win a place back in God’s favor, he was commanded to do the following: (1) he must repent of his distrust and selfishness; (2) he must rid his message of all that is unworthy.

If Jeremiah will do these two things, four results will follow. (1) He will again be God’s true messenger to the people; (2) He will not conform to the wishes of the people, but will cause the crowd to turn to him ultimately for the Word of God; (3) he will become what God promised him in his original call, “a fortified wall of bronze”; and (4) God will defend and deliver him from evil men.(F27)

Of course, Jeremiah only bared his innermost thoughts before the Lord; and there’s nothing wrong with that; “But, even so, one who has such thoughts as Jeremiah had must undergo a radical change if he would continue to be God’s mouthpiece.”(F28)

“If thou wilt return” These words are invariably understood as God’s commandment for Jeremiah to repent. The great prophet had permitted himself to drift into a critical attitude toward God; and it had begun to be reflected in some of the things that entered into his messages to the people. Therefore, God commanded him to separate the precious from the vile. This instruction is invaluable for anyone who preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ.

At any time, when human philosophy, or humanistic thoughts are permitted to share the emphasis along with the gospel of Christ, the precious has been mixed with the vile.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jeremiah 15". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/jeremiah-15.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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