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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 4

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


The conclusion of both sides of the prophecy; to Israel, Jeremiah 4:1-2; to Judah, Jeremiah 4:3-4.

Verse 1

Return - The repentance of Israel described in Jeremiah 3:21-25 was a hope, and not a reality. The return, literally, would be their restoration to their land; spiritually, their abandoning their sins.

Jeremiah 4:1-2 should be translated as follows:

If thou wouldst return, O Israel, saith Yahweh.

Unto Me thou shalt return:

And if thou wouldst remove thy abominations from before Me,

And not wander to and fro,

But wouldst swear truly, uprightly; and justly

By the living Yahweh;

Then shall the pagan bless themselves ... -

In him - In Yahweh. Two great truths are taught in this verse;

(1) that the Gentiles were to be members of the Church of the Messiah;

(2) that Israel’s special office was to be God’s mediator in this great work.

Thus, Jeremiah is in exact accord with the evangelical teaching of Isaiah.

Verse 3

To the men - To each man “of Judah.” They are summoned individually to repentance.

Break up - literally, Fallow for you a fallow ground, i. e., do not sow the seeds of repentance in unfit soil, but just as the farmer prepares the ground, by clearing it of weeds, and exposing it to the sun and air, before entrusting to it the seed, so must you regard repentance as a serious matter, requiring forethought, and anxious labor. To sow in unfallowed ground was practically to sow on land full of thorns.

Verse 4

See the Deuteronomy 10:16 note. Nature, such as it is in itself, unconsecrated to God, is to be removed from our inner selves, that a new and spiritual nature may take its place.

Lest my fury ... - God is long-suffering, but unless this change take place, the time of judgment must at length come to all as it came to Jerusalem - “like fire” (compare 1 Corinthians 3:13; Philippians 2:12-13).

Jeremiah 4:5-30 “God’s Judgment upon the Unrepentant”

A group of prophecies now commences, extending to Jeremiah 10:25, but broken at the beginning of Jeremiah 7:0 by a new heading. The subject of them all is the same, namely, the approaching devastation of Judaea by a hostile army in punishment of its persistence in idolatry. The prophecy of Jeremiah 7:0 was probably written in the first year of Jehoiakim, while as regards the rest they probably extended over a considerable period of time. This group, which we may reasonably believe to have come down to us much as it stood in Jehoiakim’s scroll, gives us a general view of the nature of Jeremiah’s efforts during that important period, when under Josiah a national reformation was still possible, and the exile might have been averted. The prophecy Jeremiah 7:0, spoken in the first year of Jehoiakim, when the probation of Judah was virtually over, was the solemn closing of the appeal to the conscience of the people, and a protest, while the new king was still young upon his throne, against that ruinous course upon which he so immediately entered.

Verse 5

Rather, Make proclamation “in Judah, and in Jerusalem” bid them hear, “and say, Blow the trumpet” throughout “the land:” cry aloud “and say etc.” The prophecy begins with a loud alarm of war. The verse sets forth well, in its numerous commands, the excitement and confusion of such a time.

Verse 6

The standard - A flag or signal, to which the people were to rally.Retire, stay not - Rather, gather your goods together: linger not; “for I” (emphatic, Yahweh) am bringing at this very time etc.

Verse 7

Rather, A “lion”... a “destroyer” of nations: a metaphor descriptive of the impending calamity. A lion is just rousing himself from his lair, but no common one. It is destroyer, not of men, but of nations.

Is on his way - literally, “has broken up his encampment.” Jeremiah uses a military term strictly referring to the striking of tents in preparation for the march.

Without an inhabitant - The final stage of destruction, actually reached in the utter depopulation of Judaea consequent upon Gedaliah’s murder.

Verse 8

Is not turned ... - As long as their sins are unrepented of, so long must their punishment continue.

Verse 10

Ah, Lord God! - Alas! my Lord Yahweh: an expression of disapproval on Jeremiah’s part. Jeremiah had constantly to struggle against the misgivings of his own melancholy nature, but he never let them prevent him from doing his duty. See the introduction of Jeremiah.

Ye shall have peace - These words are generally referred to the false prophets; they rather refer to real prophecies of future blessedness promised to the Jews. Jeremiah could not reconcile the doom he was now commanded to pronounce, either with his previous prophecy, or with what he read in the writings of his predecessors. Time only could solve the difficulty. Upon the struggles of the prophets to understand their own predictions see 1 Peter 1:10-11.

Unto the soul - The sword has reached the life. i. e., has inflicted a mortal wound.

Verse 11

At that time - See Jeremiah 4:7. Though the revelation of the certainty of Judah’s ruin wrings from Jeremiah a cry of despair, yet it is but for a moment; he immediately returns to the delivery of God’s message.

A dry wind - literally, A clear wind. The Samum is probably meant, a dry parching east wind blowing from the Arabian desert, before which vegetation withers, and human life becomes intolerable.

Not to fan ... - The Syrian farmers make great use of the wind for separating the chaff from the grain: but when the Samum blows labor becomes impossible. It is not for use, but for destruction.

Verse 12

Or, as in the margin; i. e., a wind more full, more impetuous than those winds which serve for fanning and cleansing the grain.

Unto me - Rather, for me: to perform my will.

Verse 13

His troops move on in large masses like dark threatening clouds Joel 2:2.

Woe unto us! for we are spoiled - Jeremiah’s own cry of grief.

Verse 14

Thy vain thoughts - “Thy” iniquitous “thoughts.” “Aven,” the word used here, is especially applied to the sin of idolatry: thus Bethel is generally called Bethaven by Hosea (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8, ...), because instead of being the house of God, El, it was the house of an iniquity, Aven, the golden calf.

Verse 15

Dan - The border-town of Palestine on the north Deuteronomy 34:1.

Mount Ephraim - The northern boundary of Judaea itself. The invading army presses on so rapidly, that scarcely have the news arrived of its appearance at Dan, before fresh messengers announce that it has traversed the whole length of Galilee, and is now defiling through the mountains of Samaria.

Affliction - The same word, aven, occurs in Jeremiah 4:14, and apparently there is a play upon its double meaning: for from a root signifying worthlessness, it is used both for wickedness and for misery. Thus, the “iniquity” of Judah proves also, to be her “affliction,” as being the cause of the ruin inflicted by the enemy.

Verse 16

Proclaim ye to the pagan, “Behold!” Cry aloud concerning “Jerusalem, that watchers” are on their way “from a far country: and” will “give out their voice against the cities of Judah.” The pagan are summoned to witness the chastisement of Jerusalem, that they may take warning thereby. By “watchers” are meant besiegers, who will surround the city with a line of sentinels.

Verse 17

Jeremiah compares the tents of the besiegers on guard round Jerusalem to the booths erected by shepherds or farmers for the protection of their flocks or produce.

Verse 18

Thy wickedness - This siege is thy wickedness, i. e., in its results; or better, this is thy wretchedness, this army and thy approaching ruin is thy misery.

Because - “For.” To feel that one’s misery is the result of one’s own doings adds bitterness to the anguish, and makes it reach, penetrate to the heart.

Verse 19

The verse is best translated as a series of ejaculations, in which the people express their grief at the ravages committed by the enemy:

“My bowels! My bowels!” I writhe in pain!

The walls of my heart! “My heart” moans for me!

I cannot keep silence!

For “thou hast heard, O my soul,” the trumpet’s voice!

“The alarm of war!”

Verse 20

Destruction ... - Or, breaking upon breaking Jeremiah 4:6. The news of one breaking, one violent calamity, follows close upon another.

My curtains - The curtains of the tent, put here for the tents themselves. tents were the ordinary habitations of the Israelites.

Verse 21

The standard - See Jeremiah 4:6. The alarm caused by the invasion is graphically described. The people are dispersed over the land following their usual pursuits, when tidings come of the enemy’s approach. The only chance of escape is a hasty flight. Flags stream from the hills to mark the safest route, while the blasts of the trumpet quicken the steps of the wavering.

Verses 23-26

In four verses each beginning with “I beheld,” the prophet sees in vision the desolate condition of Judaea during the Babylonian captivity.

Jeremiah 4:23

Without form, and void - Desolate and void (see Genesis 1:2 note). The land has returned to a state of chaos (marginal reference note).

And the heavens - And upward to the heavens. The imagery is that of the last day of judgment. To Jeremiah’s vision all was as though the day of the Lord had come, and earth returned to the state in which it was before the first creative word (see 2 Peter 3:10).

Jeremiah 4:24

Moved lightly - “Reeled to and fro,” from the violence of the earthquake.

Jeremiah 4:26

The fruitful place - The Carmel Jeremiah 2:7, where the population had been most dense, and the labors of the farmer most richly rewarded, has become the wilderness.

At the presence - i. e., because of, at the command of Yahweh, and because of His anger.

Verse 27

Desolate - a waste.

One of the most striking points of prophecy is, that however severe. may be the judgment pronounced against Judah, there is always the reservation, that the ruin shall not be complete Jeremiah 3:14.

Verse 28

For ... - Because of this doom upon Judah.

I have purposed it - The Septuagint arrangement restores the parallelism:

For I have spoken, and will not repent,

I have purposed, and will not turn back from it.

Verse 29

The whole city ... - Rather, Every city is fleeing. All the inhabitants of the tokens flee to Jerusalem for protection, or seek refuge in the woods and rocks.

The horsemen and bowmen - The cavalry Jeremiah 4:13 and bowmen formed the chief strength of the Assyrian armies.

They shall go - They have gone.

Verse 30

Translate, And thou, O plundered one, what effectest thou, that “thou clothest thyself with” scarlet, that “thou deckest” thyself “with ornaments of gold,” that thou enlargest thine eyes with antimony (2 Kings 9:30 note)? “In vain” dost thou beautify thyself; “thy lovers” despise” thee, they” seek “thy life.” Jerusalem is represented as a woman who puts on her best attire to gain favor in the eyes of her lovers, but in vain.

Verse 31

For a cry have I heard as of one writhing in vain:

Anguish as of one that bringeth forth her first-born:

The cry of the daughter of Zion.

She gasps for breath: she stretches out her palms:

Woe is me! for my soul faints before the murderers.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/jeremiah-4.html. 1870.
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