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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 12

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-17

Jeremiah 12:4 . He shall not see our last end. This is sadducean language, as Psalms 104:5. “The Lord will not see, neither will the God of Jacob regard.” This species of atheism blunts the edge of the ministry, and utterly supersedes the moral principle. Why then do the wicked fear the future? The mere probability of a day of final scrutiny should deter the unbeliever from the dreadful game of crime.

Jeremiah 12:5 . How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan. The river derives its name from Jor, which signifies a spring, and Dan a stream at Dan Laish, the northern frontier town of the Holy Land. These two streams meeting at Benias form the Jordan. A little to the south they form the waters of Merom, Joshua 11:5, or the lake Semechonitis. Here, by many tributary streams, Jordan assumes the character of a river.

The river, from Dan to the Dead sea, runs south about one hundred and thirty miles. It has been followed and surveyed by innumerable travellers, distinguished by genius and extensive learning, so that we see in their writings the swelling stream of this interesting river, adorned with stately trees, called in sacred literature the pride of Jordan; and intermixed with willows and shrubs.

The sea of Tiberias or lake of Galilee is one of the most pleasant scenes in that part of the country, and on all sides its distant shores and towns can be seen. The stream in some places is not more than from twenty to thirty yards broad, but rapid and deep. But after receiving powerful streams from the east, a few leagues below the lake, the river becomes broad, and may be forded in one or two places.

The whole plain of Jordan from the mountains of Judea on the west, to those of Arabia on the east, may be called the vale of Jordan. But in the centre of the plain, which is about ten miles wide, the river descends into a lower valley, varying in width from a mile to a furlong. In March, like the Nile, it rises from sixteen to twenty four feet, and the whole vale is one continuous sheet of water.

On the banks of the river there are close thickets, and thickets extending to the lower plain, which justifies the words of Jeremiah, “The lion is gone up from the thicket;” his anger is “like a lion from the swellings of Jordan.” Those coverts afford lairs, and ample retreats for the wild beasts.

The waters of the Jordan begin to rise in the month of March, by the latter rain just before the barley harvest, as is noted in Joshua 3:15; for the Israelites crossed the Jordan at the barley harvest, when the river had overflowed its banks. 1 Chronicles 12:15. This is the first month of their ecclesiastical year. But the main cause of the swelling of the river is the melting of the snows on the mountains of Shaik, the eastern range of Lebanon. This cause produces the same effects on the Euphrates, but more so on the Tigris. “He filleth all things with wisdom, as Phison, and as Tigris, in the time of the new fruits.” Sir 24:25 .

Burckhardt, the German traveller, says, “The valley of Jordan, now called El Ghor, begins at the lake of Tiberias, and has the direction of north by east, and south by west. The great number of rivulets on both sides which descend from the mountains, form numerous pools of stagnant water, and produce a pleasing verdure of wild herbs. But the ground, excepting spots cultivated by the Bedouins, is parched and desert. The river, on leaving the lake, flows near the western hills for three hours, and then inclines towards the east. The valley is about a mile in breadth, and much lower than the plain of Ghor. The river where we passed it, was about eighty paces broad, and three feet deep in the midst of summer. In winter, (say March) it inundates all the plain, but never rises to the upper plain, which is about forty feet higher than the level of the river:” pp. 344, 345.

Jeremiah 12:9 . As a speckled bird. The sense is, as a bird of prey. The eagle, the falcon, and hawk have a dappled plumage, and all the feathered race raise cries of alarm at their approach. Such was Zion to the Lord when polluted with idols. Their idolatrous priests and prophets also were to the people as birds of prey: Jeremiah 12:10.


When David, Psalms 37:0., and when Asaph, Psalms 73:0., saw the wicked in prosperity, and flourishing like the green bay-tree, their faith, for the moment, was staggered. Jeremiah here saw the wicked planted and taking root; yet he said, Righteous art thou, oh Lord. And he was soon answered, that God would pull them out as sheep for the slaughter. A wicked man by his pride and prosperity makes his fall the more conspicuous. As the swelling of Jordan drove out the wild beasts on the land, so should the Lord’s displeasure come upon them. In this way the man of God carried all his temptations to the throne of grace, and unfolded his soul in pleading with heaven.

The Lord gently expostulates with Jeremiah for his impatience. If thou hast run with the foot-men, or with thine equals in Anathoth, and they have wearied thee; how wilt thou contend with the princes of Judah, who ride on horses and in chariots? If thou art wearied in the land of peace, what wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan, when the Chaldees shall come in as a flood? Men who complain of troubles, had better think that their troubles might be far greater than they are. The Lord fully allows that Jeremiah’s brethren, the priests, were wicked beyond a name, in calling a multitude to assault him, on the one hand; and by fair words attempting to allure him from his duty, on the other. He therefore encourages him by the prohibition to believe them; for Satan’s promises are worse than his threatenings.

If Jeremiah complained when the priests menaced him with death, how much more had the Lord cause to complain when those very men had caused him by their wickedness to forsake his house, and to hate it; and to give the dearly-beloved of his soul into the hands of his enemies. The Hebrew pastors had first destroyed his vineyard with wickedness; then God brought the pastors of Babylon, as so many wild beasts, to devour and to trample it underfoot. It is an immutable law of providence, that all crimes soon or late recoil on the head of the delinquents. Hence the wicked who stubbornly flatter themselves with impunity shall surely be deceived.

The Lord closed this awful revelation by a word of distant comfort; for the true church is never destitute of hope and resource. He promised to bring back a remnant, and plant them in their lands and houses again. He promised to admit them to swear fidelity to his covenant once more; but if they obeyed not, then he would destroy them as a nation. This prophecy has been most obviously fulfilled. The Greeks and Romans subjugated them, and they were ultimately dispersed on the face of the whole earth, and under the whole heaven. Deuteronomy 28:64.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 12". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/jeremiah-12.html. 1835.
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