Lectionary Calendar
Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 8

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-3

Desecration of the Graves

These three verses still belong to the previous chapter. That chapter concludes with a picture of dead bodies not being buried. Thereby the nadir of humiliation is not yet reached. Something even more terrifying follows, if possible, and that is the digging up of already buried bodies, that is, their bones, in order to desecrate them (Jeremiah 8:1). Again, the constant repetition of words, in this case “the bones of”, makes the message all the more poignant (cf. Jeremiah 7:34).

“At that time” means the time of the national disasters that will come upon them because of their unfaithfulness and unrighteousness described above. The enemy, the army of the Babylonians, will come and commit desecration of the graves. The reason they may have for this is to see if, especially in the graves of the kings and princes, there are any valuables to be found. But the LORD is allowing this to happen in order to add to the deep reproach that the whole people, from the highest to the lowest among them, including the religious class, have brought upon themselves.

The enemy will spread the bones “out to the sun, the moon and to all the host of heaven” (Jeremiah 8:2). These heavenly bodies have been objects of worship to all of those to whom these bones belong when they lived (2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 21:52 Kings 23:4; 2 Kings 23:11). Their worship of them is detailed. They have these idols
1. loved,
2. served,
3. gone after,
4. sought and
5. worshiped.

It shows their great zeal and commitment to their idols. The worthlessness of the idols and the uselessness of their worship are also evident from this, that the idols do not prevent the great disgrace that now comes upon their bones. The disgrace finds its nadir when the exhumed bones are not reburied, but will be as dung on the face of the ground (cf. Jeremiah 25:33). An expression of even deeper contempt for these idolaters is not possible.

The LORD will know how to find those who belong to this wicked generation and who are still alive after the invasion of the enemy, wherever they are driven out by Him (Jeremiah 8:3). In the places where they are, they will be so unhappy that they will wish they had perished like the others (Leviticus 26:36-Malachi :; Deuteronomy 28:65-Tobit :). The bitter fate will deprive the exiles of all vitality.

Verses 4-7

Hardening of Israel in Idolatry

Jeremiah is to present to the people two examples from everyday life (Jeremiah 8:4). These are two situations that the people must recognize, because that is how it works. These examples are presented to the people as questions. The answer is also given directly, because it is too obvious to make anyone think about it. The first example is that of someone who falls. What does he do? Of course he does not stay down, but gets up again. The second example is about someone who has turned away, who has lost his way. Will he continue on that road when he becomes aware of his mistake? Of course not, he will want to return to the right path.

Why then – and now a question does follow that should make the people think – has Jerusalem turned away from the LORD, but does not return to Him (Jeremiah 8:5)? This is an unnatural behavior. They have apostatized from the LORD and fallen into idolatry, but will not get up and return to Him; they persist in turning away from the LORD and will not return. They persist in deception because they believe in themselves, trust in themselves and not in God. They refuse to return because they believe that the way they are going is the right way and that the way the LORD is presenting to them is not the right way.

The LORD has seen it and listened to them (Jeremiah 8:6). He has heard that their speaking is not virtuous. There is no repentance to be noticed in them, nothing of return. There is no one questioning what they have done, an attitude characteristic of an unrepentant person. God asks that question of people to make them reflect on their actions, so that they may repent (Genesis 4:10; 1 Samuel 13:11). Every one of His people turns away from Him and runs in the wrong direction, heading for destruction. Like runaway horses, they run on (Job 39:19-Lamentations :), with total disregard for the danger they are in, because they are blind to it.

When the connection with God is given up, man loses all sense of what is right. The animals are an example to him, but he himself does not realize it (Jeremiah 8:7; cf. Isaiah 1:3). The migratory birds, of which Jeremiah mentions a few, know where they are headed. When they have arrived there, they also know when to depart from there again. They respond to the natural laws established by God, they know the way they must go to survive and they go it. Man proves that he is dumber than the animals by not taking God’s laws into account for him. Similarly, the Lord Jesus reproaches the Pharisees and Sadducees for not knowing the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1-Leviticus :).

Jeremiah has many parables from nature. Nature is full of the laws of God. Not only is man subject to the law of God, but so are the animals. Man has, what animals do not have, reason and a will and the ability to consciously resist. The animals instinctively obey God’s natural laws. Man has been set by God as the head of creation. All other creatures are lower than him, but he sinks to a behavior below that of the animals when disobeying God.

Verses 8-13

Punishment for Judah’s Deceit

After all the sins mentioned, which make it clear how much they have departed from the LORD, the question sounds in amazement, how they get it into their heads to boast of their wisdom (Jeremiah 8:8). They boast of their wisdom because they have the law of the LORD with them (cf. Romans 2:17-Proverbs :). It is with it as with the boasting in the temple at the beginning of the previous chapter (Jeremiah 7:4). But what presumption that is. They indeed have His law, but they do not listen to it.

This is because of the scribes’ false presentation of the law. They have written about the law with a lying pen. They have given their own interpretation of it, as best suits them. By doing so, they have “invalidated the word of God” (Matthew 15:6).

The scribes are often encountered in the gospels, where they are the opponents of the Lord Jesus. There are certainly good scribes, for example Ezra (Ezra 7:6), but that is an exception. As a category, they distorted and falsified God’s Word “to their own destruction” and that of their hearers (2 Peter 3:16; 2 Corinthians 2:17).

In our day we acknowledge the boasting of being the temple of the LORD and having His law in those groups that claim to be the only ones to possess the truth. Statements like “we have” and “with us” prove a boasting in pride (cf. 2 Chronicles 13:10-2 Kings :). This is what we hear – or perhaps very secretly think ourselves in our hearts – when it is said: ‘We have knowledge and understanding, for we alone have commentaries in which the truth is set forth.‘

Such boasting is great folly. To claim to possess wisdom and to do so while despising the law, the word of the LORD (Jeremiah 8:9), is supreme folly. How can anyone have wisdom if they reject or bend to their will the source of wisdom, the Word of God? These are the theologians of Jeremiah’s day. However, these have their kindred spirits in our day. Modern theologians also use a liar’s pen, and the sharpeners, the sectarians, also use it. It shows the total lack of wisdom. True wisdom is “the wisdom that is from above” (James 3:17).

They will experience the consequences of their foolishness when they are robbed of their wives and when their fields are taken possession of by others (Jeremiah 8:10; Deuteronomy 28:30). Then they will be shamed with all their wisdom. That is the result of their greed for gain, which the whole people, from the least even to the greatest, are after (cf. Micah 3:11). The religious leaders, the priest and the prophet, are no better. They practices deceit by telling the people lies about peace coming (Jeremiah 8:11; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:3). “Peace, peace” means perfect peace. Instead of pointing out the rupture of the relationship with the LORD and preaching the way of repentance and conversion, they speak what the people like to hear. The LORD adds succinctly: “But there is no peace.”

The people are hardened (Jeremiah 8:12). There is no sense of guilt whatsoever. Without blushing, they commit the most heinous crimes. Their consciences have been cauterized. They have lost all sense of dignity and honor. If they were confronted with their grossest sins, they would still justify themselves and laugh at those who condemn their actions. This makes them ripe for destruction.

The words of Jeremiah 8:10-2 Kings : are a repetition of what has been said before in Jeremiah 6 (Jeremiah 6:12-Ezra :). Jeremiah must repeat the truth in order to imprint it indelibly in the minds of the people. But the people, refusing to listen to God’s Word, have been deceived by the false prophets and deceitful priests. Therefore, there is no salvation for them. The punishment is coming. Then they will fall and not be able to stand. They will stumble, for their strength is gone.

The extermination will be complete (Jeremiah 8:13). The LORD Himself will bring that destruction upon them. He will wipe them out. The harvest He has been expecting is not there. His people have borne no fruit for Him. The vine and the fig tree are empty. The leaves have also withered. They have passed by all the blessing the LORD has given them. Instead of thanking Him for His blessing, they have misused it and even served idols with it. Therefore, the former blessings are taken away from them and nothing remains but the total dreariness and desolation mentioned here. Nothing more can be expected from this people (cf. Matthew 21:19).

Verses 14-17

The Invading Army

It seems that the people see the enemy armies and want to seek refuge (Jeremiah 8:14). It causes a panicked fear. They call out to each other to go together to the fortified cities. There they will be able to await events, knowing that this calamity is coming from the LORD their God. They acknowledge that the LORD has given them the bitter “poisoned water” to drink as punishment for their deviance. However, this acknowledgment is neither a matter of the heart nor of the conscience. No repentance follows.

Certainly they look forward to peace and healing, as every man, even the most wicked, looks forward to it (Jeremiah 8:15). However, that peace does not come; on the contrary, nothing good comes at all. Peace was foretold to them by the false prophets and they expected it, but it does not appear to be there. Everyone wishes for peace, but it can only be found with God and His Christ. Those who ignore this believe in a different peace, which, however, will never come. Our expectations only have foundation if we derive them from God’s Word.

They also long for healing of their wounds. Because they do not go to the LORD as their Healer with this (Exodus 15:26), they are not healed, but on the contrary, a time of terrors breaks out. Instead of peace, they hear the advancing enemy who has entered the land in the north, near Dan (Jeremiah 8:16). The sound of the snorting of the horses of the enemy armies fills the air and already permeates Judah. The ground trembles from the sound of wildly charging, neighing stallions. The enemy armies come and devour the whole land and also the city of Jerusalem – all the people and all the produce.

The enemy is suddenly represented as serpents, yes, poisonous adders (Jeremiah 8:17). They will not be able to protect themselves from them (Ecclesiastes 10:11; Psalms 58:4-Deuteronomy :). These serpents will bite them, so that deadly poison will enter them. The false prophets’ incantation against the venom of these serpents will prove to be fruitless. This is because the LORD sends those serpents.

Verses 18-22

The Sorrow of Jeremiah

Jeremiah has now been a prophet for many years, but his prophesying has been without results. Instead of being healed by seeing that the people are listening, he only sees more apostasy (Jeremiah 8:18). The prospect of the very imminent destruction breaks his heart. He loves his people deeply, but his love is met with rejection. He knows the way of blessing for his people, but the people will not go that way.

That’s how it can be with us when we see what people need and present it to them, but they flatly refuse the offer of grace. That hurts, not for ourselves, but for them. Jeremiah and Paul and Moses loved God’s people wholeheartedly and suffered their rejection of grace. More than all of them, the Lord Jesus suffered from the rejection of Him and His grace.

Jeremiah hears the distant cries for help from his people (Jeremiah 8:19). His prophetic ear hears the people crying out for help even from the exile. The answer to the questions is that the LORD is most certainly in Zion and that her King is with her. But, the answer continues, why do the people who will soon ask if the LORD is in Zion now hold so fast to the idols from the foreign lands? That is the reason for His wrath. That is why He has had to surrender His people into the hands of enemies.

The people reply that the harvest time is over (Jeremiah 8:20). The summer, the prosperous time, when the full yield of the land may be harvested, has ended, without anything to harvest. The promise of harvest is connected to obedience to the LORD. They have given up that obedience. They have also spiritually let pass by the acceptable time, the time when the LORD called for repentance and conversion (cf. Luke 19:43-Acts :; 2 Corinthians 6:2). Salvation is no longer within reach.

This realization brings Jeremiah into great distress of soul (Jeremiah 8:21). The break is final. This breaks his heart and brings him to mourn. He pains himself asking for medicine and a physician (Jeremiah 8:22). Balm is used as medicine and also as a beauty aid (Genesis 37:25; Jeremiah 46:11; Jeremiah 51:8; Ezekiel 27:17). It is a restorative, nice-smelling ointment. Its use does a person good. But it is only available from the “physician” that is the LORD. They are both – the LORD as the Physician (Exodus 15:16) and His Word as the balm – available. So why didn’t the people make use of it?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 8". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/jeremiah-8.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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