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The Advice to Flee from Jerusalem
v. 1. O ye children of Benjamin, here addressed particularly because Jerusalem was situated on the border of their territory and because Jeremiah wanted to appeal especially to the members of his own tribe in the capital city, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, to escape the impending doom, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, the birthplace of the prophet Amos, south of Jerusalem, the signal being intended to call the people together for flight, and set up a sign of fire, as a warning of approaching danger, in Beth-haccerem, another village south of Jerusalem, situated on a lofty hill; for evil appeareth out of the North, with the invading armies of the Chaldeans, and great destruction. Since the enemy was approaching from the North, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the surrounding country would naturally flee toward the south. After this warning call the prophet describes the situation in Judah.
v. 2. I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman, literally, "The comely and delicate one! I destroy the daughter of Zion," laying waste the city and the entire country, as a rich and luxuriant meadow is laid waste by senseless cropping.
v. 3. The shepherds with their flocks shall come unto her, the hostile armies under their cruel generals; they shall pitch their tents against her round about; they shall feed every one in his place, ruthlessly pasturing and treading down the territory which he occupies. The invaders are now pictured as encouraging one another in the attack upon Jerusalem.
v. 4. Prepare ye war against her, literally, "sanctify war," the reference being to the solemn ceremonies with which a campaign of war was opened; arise and let us go up at noon, their zeal to attack being so great that even the unfavorable hour of noon could not detain them. Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out, and they fear that the approach of night will suspend their operations against Judah and Jerusalem. But even so they will not permit this fact to interfere with their assault, since they cry out:
v. 5. Arise and let us go by night, in spite of the night and all unfavorable circumstances, and let us destroy her palaces, all her lofty buildings including her fortifications.
v. 6. For thus hath the Lord of hosts said, either the prophet or the enemies inserting this statement in explanation of the assault made on Jerusalem, Hew ye down trees and cast a mount against Jerusalem, constructing breastworks for the siege. This is the city to be visited, where punishment is well applied; she is wholly oppression in the midst of her, literally, "she is altogether violence in her inside," wherefore she is altogether to be punished.
v. 7. As a fountain casteth out her waters, a well causing its water to flow in a steady and uninterrupted quantity, so she casteth out her wickedness, which springs forth in a steady stream; violence and spoil, injustice and plunder, is heard in her, because she was given to these forms of wickedness; before Me, namely, Jehovah, continually is grief and wounds, so that He is a witness of their acts of violence and is deeply offended by their wickedness.
v. 8. Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, so the Lord addresses her in a tender appeal, lest My soul depart from thee, unwilling as His love is to take this step, lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited, this warning being repeated here once more, in order to cause her to return to her senses. An appeal of this kind may often be a means of preventing the misery and ruin of a sinful people.
The Prophet Voices the Fury of the Lord
v. 9. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, They, namely, the invaders whose approach was here prophesied, shall thoroughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine, not hastily nor superficially, but with the greatest thoroughness, as the divine judgment is ever executed. Turn back thine hand as a grape-gatherer into the baskets, going back to the vines again and again in order to get even the last of the berries, said of the repeated invasions of the Chaldeans, at each of which they carried away captives to Babylon.
v. 10. To whom shall I speak and give warning, so the prophet now voices his objection, that they may hear? Of what use is all remonstrance under such circumstances? Behold, their ear is uncircumcised, closed against all admonitions by their own carnal-mindedness, and they cannot hearken, owing to the hardness of their hearts, brought on by their stubborn opposition. Behold, the Word of the Lord is unto them a reproach, a mockery and a derision; they have no delight in it.
v. 11. Therefore I am full of the fury of the Lord, so that its abundance must voice itself, like a stream overflowing its banks; I am weary with holding in, restraint was no longer a virtue; I will pour it out upon the children abroad, those playing in the streets and lanes, and upon the assembly of young men together; for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged, the one who is just growing old, with him that is full of days. Thus the sentence of the Lord would strike all classes of people and every age without exception, the whole nation being included in the outpouring of His wrath.
v. 12. And their houses shall be turned unto others, transferred to them as the spoils of war, with their fields and wives together. Cf Deuteronomy 28:30; for I will stretch out My hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord, namely, for the purpose of chastising them.
v. 13. For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them, all classes of people, those of no influence as well as the powerful and mighty, every one is given to covetousness, the love of money suppressing every good intention, every laudable purpose; and from the prophet even unto the priest, the very leaders and teachers of the people, every one dealeth falsely, practicing falsehood and deception.
v. 14. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, touching upon the faults and transgressions of the body politic in a superficial manner only, saying, Peace, peace! when there is no peace. The prophets and priests, the leaders of the people, who were, by God's command, the watchmen of the nation, ignored this duty in the interest of their own selfishness. Instead of exposing the evils, the wickedness, and idolatry of the people, they glossed over the conditions, treating the ulcerous growths of the body politic as insignificant bruises, after the manner of similar weak characters the world over.
v. 15. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? rather, "They are put to shame because they have wrought abominable things. " Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush; they were devoid of all sense of decency, of all feeling of shame. Therefore they shall fall among them that fall, with the rest of the people that are doomed to destruction; at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord. Words having proved unavailing, the Lord will now execute His vengeance in deeds which will bring home the lessons which He intended to convey. The false leaders of any Church will deceive only themselves if they hope to escape the wrath which will strike the people under their care due to their own defection in attending to their duty.
The Impending Judgment Announced
v. 16. Thus saith the Lord, rather, "Thus has Jehovah spoken," namely, in the ancient days, when He had shown the children of His chosen people the way of salvation. Stand ye in the ways and see, looking around on all sides, and ask for the old paths, diligently inquiring for the paths traveled in ancient times, where is the good way, the path of salvation, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls, a secure resting-place, with protection from all injury. The picture is taken from the predicament of travelers who have lost the right road and are now anxiously inquiring for the path from which they have wandered. But they said, We will not walk therein, the Jews stubbornly and rebelliously refused to walk the way of salvation pointed out to them by Jehovah.
v. 17. Also I set watchmen over you, seers and prophets, whose duty it was to point out threatening calamities to the people and thus to lead them to repentance, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet, which was blown for the purpose of rallying the children of Israel around the banner of the true God. But they said, We will not hearken, thus rejecting in the most stubborn fashion even the last warning of Jehovah.
v. 18. Therefore hear, ye nations, the Gentile people everywhere, and know, O congregation, either the entire assembly of the nations which are here summoned, or the faithful few in Israel who still formed the Church of Jehovah, what is among them, what punishment the Lord is about to inflict. And the prophet now addresses himself to a still greater circle of witnesses.
v. 19. Hear, O earth! Behold, I, Jehovah Himself, as He brings out with emphasis, will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, the result of their counsels, the consequence of their evil scheming, because they have not hearkened unto My words nor to My Law, but rejected it.
v. 20. To what purpose cometh there to Me incense from Sheba, that from the coasts and islands of Southern Arabia, and the sweet cane, the calamus, from a far country? the root of which was used in the preparation of the anointing-oil. All external worship without faith of the heart and the obedience of love is an abomination to the Lord, who hates sham and hypocrisy in every form. Cf Isaiah 1:11; Amos 5:21. Your burnt offerings are not acceptable nor your sacrifices sweet unto Me, because the Lord was not deceived by outward appearances which were not in agreement with the true condition of the heart.
v. 21. Therefore, thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will lay stumbling-blocks before this people, the devices of the enemies which would bring about their ruin, and the fathers and the sons together, both being equally guilty, shall fall upon them; the neighbor and his friend shall perish, all the people without exception being doomed to feel Jehovah's sentence on account of the depravity which was so generally prevalent.
v. 22. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth, from its remotest regions, the expression being vague in agreement with the indefinite geographical notions to be found among the Jews at that time. The Chaldean hordes, of course, are meant.
v. 23. They shall lay hold on bow and spear, as weapons of offense, of powerful attack; they are cruel and have no mercy, giving no quarter, determined on merciless extinction; their voice roareth like the sea, in their angry or triumphant battle-cry; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war, fitted out most perfectly for the planned invasion, against thee, O daughter of Zion, against Jerusalem and the land of Judah.
v. 24. We have heard the fame thereof, the report which was spread about their prowess, our hands wax feeble, sinking down without a show of resistance; anguish hath taken hold of us and pain as of a woman in travail.
v. 25. Go not forth into the field, in venturing outside of the walls of Jerusalem, nor walk by the way, along the roads of Judah; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side. All these facts are set forth as the basis of another appeal.
v. 26. O daughter of My people, the nation which the Lord has chosen for His own, gird thee with sackcloth, the garment of repentance, and wallow thyself in ashes, in an excess of sorrow and grief; make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation, such as was expressed by beating the breast; for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us.
v. 27. I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among My people, literally, "as a prover," or explorer, and an assayer, one who separates the metal from the dross, that thou mayest know and try their way, testing it out for truth and solid worth.
v. 28. They are all grievous revolters, mutineers and betrayers in the highest degree, walking with slanders, deliberately seeking opportunities to indulge in slandering and reviling others; they are brass and iron, debased and hardened in their opposition to the Lord; they are all corrupters, having only destruction in mind. The prophet continues his figure of the base metals.
v. 29. The bellows are burned, in the long process which was intended to purify the people and produce some amount of gold, the lead is consumed of the fire, or, "out of its fire comes lead," instead of the precious metal which the Lord had a right to expect; the founder melteth in vain, there were no such results as one might have expected; for the wicked are not plucked away, the great mass of the people are dross, worthless metal.
v. 30. Reprobate silver shall men call them, silver so thoroughly mixed with the baser metals as to be worthless for all ordinary purposes, because the Lord hath rejected them. All those whom the Lord has tried in the oven of His test, whom He has found wanting in the qualities which should be found in a true believer, will finally be cast out as base metal.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 6". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany