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JEREMIAH CHAPTER 15
The Jews’ rejection, and judgments, especially of four kinds; the sins which procured them, Jeremiah 15:1-9. The prophet complaineth that the people curse and persecute him for these prophecies; they are threatened, and he instructed and comforted, Jeremiah 15:10-21.
We are (though in another chapter) yet in the same prophecy, or discourse betwixt God and this prophet. Jeremiah having been once denied, solicited God again, as we had it in the four last verses of the former chapter. God here replieth to that prayer; and the sum of what he saith is, that he was inexorable in their case. Though Moses, who could obtain so much of God upon their sinning, in the case of the golden calf, Exodus 32:11,Exodus 32:14, and in the case of the people’s murmuring, Numbers 14:19,Numbers 14:20; and Samuel, who was so prevalent with God, 1 Samuel 7:9; though these two, formerly so potent and prevalent mediators for a people with me, stood before me, waited (that is) upon me, and solicited me on the behalf of this people, yet I could not favour this people. Cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth: q.d. I am not able to abide the sight of them, and therefore let them go forth.
If they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? if they ask thee what thou meanest by going forth; which being a term of motion, implieth a term to which the motion should be. Saith God, In the general, it is to ruin and destruction, but they shall not all be destroyed one and the same way; some shall be destroyed by the pestilence, (for that is here to be understood by
death, ) others shall be destroyed by the
famine, others by the sword of enemies, others shall go into
captivity, but one way or other the land shall be quitted of the most of you.
Four kinds of destroyers; the enemies’ swords shall slay them, and so make meat for the dogs, who shall tear their carcasses, and for the birds of prey, who shall prey upon their dead bodies that shall lie unburied. And I will also send amongst them wild beasts, who shall both tear their living bodies and their dead carcasses.
Though the body of the people were removed into Babylon, yet as it is more than probable that many of them fled into other countries to save themselves, so there is no doubt but the king of Babylon removed them into several kingdoms belonging to his large empire. What Manasseh did may be read 2 Kings 21:11,2 Kings 21:16, He did wickedly, above all that the Amorites did that were before him, and made also Judah to sin with his idols. Moreover, he shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, &c. Some make a question whether God means the personal sins of Manasseh and his ministers, or only the sins of the same kind that the Jews still continued. Manasseh lived fifty-five years, his son Josiah thirty-one years, it was now the time of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, who reigned but eleven years, and it is probable this was his fifth year, for in that year he proclaimed the fast for the drought, (as is supposed,) Jeremiah 36:9. Though the people were bad enough still, yet it is no way probable that they were so bad as in the time of Manasseh. We know all Josiah’s time, the father of this prince, was a time of reformation, though it be certain much of their old leaven of idolatry and superstition was yet in them. Whatever therefore some think, God undoubtedly meaneth the guilt that Manasseh and his subjects contracted forty years before this time: nor do I see any reason why any should question, whether it be consistent with the justice of God to punish the sins of parents upon their posterity, when it is no more than we see done every day in the punishments of traitors and felons, by the seizing the estates of their children, and in wars, upon the taking of cities and fortified places; and it is no more than God hath threatened in the second commandment, Exodus 20:0, and declared it as a piece of his name, Exodus 34:5, and done in a multitude of Scriptural instances. Manasseh is here named as the son of Hezekiah for his shame, because of his degeneracy from so good a parent; it is expressly said, 2 Kings 23:26, that notwithstanding Josiah’s reformation, yet the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his wrath kindled against Judah for the provocations of Manasseh.
The sum of this is, that this people should be in a most miserable, pitiless state and condition; none should regard them in the day of their calamity, nor so much as once inquire after them, or how they fared, or what they did.
God here, by more phrases of the same import with many that we have before met with, declareth his steady resolution to destroy them for their apostacy from him; and sets out himself to them as angry princes or parents, that had been often provoked against a subject or a child, and often resolved to punish the offender; but out of their own clemency, or upon the mediation and intercession of others for them, had altered their minds, and resolved to spare them, but at last met with so many fresh provocations, that they are weary of forgiving them any longer; so God declareth himself weary of his patient bearing with them, and resolved to bear no longer.
I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; not a purging fan by affliction, to separate their chaff and dross from them, but a scattering fan. Some translate it into the gates of the earth; so it is the same that God had before said, that he would remove them into all nations (gates being put for cities): but it is more probable that this is added in pursuit of the metaphor of fanning, men usually choosing barn-doors to fan at, that they may have the advantage of the wind.
I will bereave them of children; of children is not in the Hebrew, and is needlessly supplied; it may as well be, of any or all their comforts or good things.
I will destroy my people, since they return not from their ways; their privilege claimed of being my people shall not protect them, so long as they go on in their lewd and sinful courses.
The prophet speaking in the name of that God who calleth things that are not as if they were, still continueth his style, speaking of things to come as if present. In Jehoiakim’s time we read of no such plenty of
widows; they were multiplied when the city was besieged and taken in Zedekiah’s time to a great number, hyperbolically compared to the sands of the sea. I have brought upon them against the mother of the young men a spoiler at noon-day: there is a great variety amongst interpreters as to their sense of this phrase, about which those that are curious may consult the English Annotations upon this verse. By
the spoiler at noon-day is meant Nebuchadnezzar, in the sense of the best interpreters, who came not like a thief, who cometh by night to rob and to spoil, but with an army in the day time: the question only is about those words
against the mother of the young men. The Hebrew word, which our translation renders young men, is בחור which properly signifieth a choice man, or a person chosen, from the Hebrew verb which signifieth to choose; so as it may as well be translated the mother of the chosen, as the mother of the young men. Because young men are looked upon as the choice men, whether for beauty, or strength and ability for any thing, the word often signifies a young man, Deuteronomy 32:25; 2 Samuel 6:1; Psalms 148:12; Song of Solomon 5:15; Isaiah 23:4; Ezekiel 9:6, and in many other texts. Some will have the sense, (as in our margin,)
against the mother a young man, meaning by the young man Nebuchadnezzar, and by the mother Jerusalem. The Jews are in the Canticles called the daughters of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem which is above is by the apostle called the mother of us all. The Hebrew word is in the singular number; how we translate it young men I understand not. Pagnine translates it electi, the mother of the chosen. I do think that by the mother is meant Jerusalem, and that populi may be understood to electi. Jerusalem was the mother of the Jewish people, or Judea at least, against whom Nebuchadnezzar the spoiler at noon-day was sent; and we know that the Jews were God’s chosen people. I have caused him to fall upon it suddenly, and terrors upon the city: this last clause is yet more obscure than the other; word for word, as it is in the Hebrew, it is, I have caused to fall upon it suddenly, the city and terrors. The word here used ציד commonly signifies a city in Scripture, and is very rarely translated otherwise. Were it not for the adverb suddenly coming between it and city, the sense were plain, and thus, I will cause to fall upon that city terrors; others read it, I will cause him to fall upon it, terrors upon the city. The word sometimes in Scripture signifies enemies, and is so translated, 1 Samuel 28:16 Psalms 139:20; Daniel 4:19. In this signification of the word the sense is plain, I will send upon it the enemy and terrors. The learned author of our English Annotations observes it is translated a watcher, Daniel 4:13,Daniel 4:23, and thinks the sense may be thus, I have caused it to fall upon them suddenly, a watcher that bringeth terrors; to which purpose he tells us the Chaldean forces are compared to watchers, Jeremiah 4:16,Jeremiah 4:17; Jeremiah 5:6.
Seven signifies many, 1 Samuel 2:5; Job 5:19. The prophet complains that Jerusalem, or the country of Judah, that had been very numerous in people, now grew feeble, neither able to maintain those she had borne, nor yet to bear more.
Her sun is gone down while it was yet day; in the midst of her prosperity she became thus miserable.
She hath been ashamed and confounded: a part of them were confounded by the judgments of God, which came upon them before their captivity. For the remainder of them, (saith God,) they shall be destroyed by the sword of the enemy.
The prophet in this verse cannot be excused from a great measure of passion and human infirmity; he almost curseth the day of his birth, denouncing himself a woeful, miserable man, to be born a man of strife and contention to the whole world, that is, those nations in it against which God sent him to denounce his judgments; which denunciations, how true soever, and the truth of which they afterward did effectually find, yet they were not able to bear, and therefore they strove with him, and contended against him; yet it was not for his sin.
Usury was forbidden the Jews, Deuteronomy 23:19, and so was the more odious; but saith the prophet, I have not followed that trade, I have neither lent nor borrowed upon usury; I have done them no wrong, or given them any occasion against me; yet they will not be reconciled to me, but speak of me all manner of evil. This was the lot of the old prophets, the lot of Samuel, of Christ, of his apostles, and of all the faithful ministers of the gospel ever since; let them carry themselves never so innocently and obligingly to people, yet if they will be faithful, and truly reveal unto people the mind and will of God, that is enough to anger a people whose wills are not subjugated to the will of God, and they will curse them.
The latter words of the verse expound the former; for by remnant is here meant the residue or remnant of days Jeremiah had yet to live, not the remnant of the people who should come out of Babylon.
I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction; I will, by my providence, so order it, that how cruelly and severely soever the enemy deals with thy country, yet he shall use thee kindly when he shall take the city. See the fulfilling of this prophecy Jeremiah 39:11; Jeremiah 40:3,Jeremiah 40:4.
There is a great variety among interpreters as to this verse also, some interpreting this as a prophecy that none should break the prophet, whom God would make
as the northern iron and steel, which was the hardest of all iron, the Chalybes (from whom steel had its name Chalybs) being northern people, and the most famous of any then known in the world for tempering iron to make it hard and tough; others interpreting it, as denying that there should ever be an agreement betwixt the Jews and the Chaldeans: but to me the words of the next verse seem to give us the sense, that the Jews should certainly be overrun and conquered by the Babylonians; for as the northern iron and steel is the hardest, and no iron could break that, so God having edged and hardened their enemies the Chaldeans, all their opposition to them would signify nothing.
All thy riches and precious things shall be spoiled, I will have no regard. saith God, to loss or gain in it, or there shall be no price taken for the redemption of them; for what shall be done shall be by me done for all the sins which thou hast been guilty of in all the parts of the country.
As the former verse, so this also, must be understood, not of the prophet, for he was not carried into Babylon, but of the people, whose captivity is threatened in this place, and the cause of it declared, the wrath of the Lord against them for their sins, the effects of Which are compared to a fire which should burn them.
O Lord, thou knowest; either thou knowest my sincerity, how faithfully I have revealed thy will; so Psalms 139:1,Psalms 139:23; or thou knowest my sufferings, how wickedly they deal with me; or thou knowest what thou hast to do, what is in thy purpose and resolution to dc; I will say no more unto thee; only for my. own sake I beg, remember me and visit me, that I may not be out of thy thoughts, nor without the visitations of thy love, while this people is under the visitations of thy wrath, Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 13:14; Jeremiah 18:20.
Revenge me of my persecutors: thou hast commanded me not to avenge myself, Lord, do thou avenge me upon my persecutors. (See the notes on Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:18, how the prophet could thus pray against his enemies.)
Take me not away in thy long-suffering; confirm thy word, let not me be taken away into captivity; though I be a sinner, yet exercise toward me patience and long-suffering.
Know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke; Lord, remember that my reproach, and all that I suffer, is for thy sake, because I have faithfully published thy truth, and maintained and defended thine honour and glory.
Either the words which from time to time thou didst reveal to me were by me greedily digested; and though some of them were dreadful and terrible words, yet because they proceeded from thee, I was glad to hear them, and to be thy instrument to communicate them to thy people; or, (which better pleaseth the learned author of our English Annotations, and possibly may be more the Sense of the place,) Thy word of commission, (of which see Jeremiah 1:0) by which I was made thy prophet, was at first very grateful and pleasing to me; I was glad at the heart, when thou at any time didst reveal thy will to me. Thou art the Lord of hosts, and so able to protect thy messengers. Lord, I am called by thy name, I became a prophet by thy authority, therefore do thou own, protect, and defend me.
I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced, some, and those the most, interpret these words as an argument the prophet useth with God to obtain his favour, because though the country was full of wicked men, such as scoffed at the denouncings of God’s judgments, yet he had no share with them; therefore he desires he might have no share with those wicked men, in whose company he had no delight, and in whose profane contempt of God he had no share: but the learned author of our English Annotations thinks (and that very probably, if we consider what follows) that the words should rather be translated thus, I sat not in the assemblies of those that made merry; intimating, that though he rejoiced in his heart when God gave him commission to be his prophet, yet God had all along filled his mouth with such dreadful messages to be delivered to his people, that his whole prophetical life had been to him a time of mourning and solitude, a time when he sat alone, mourning and weeping in secret for the wrath of God revealed to him against his people, and by him to be revealed unto the people.
The words are judged to be the words of Jeremiah, and that with relation unto himself, complaining of the hard task which God had put upon him, continually filling his mouth With such bitter words of evil against the people, as exposed him to their most implacable rage against him, and persecution of him, so as his misery seemed like a
pain and a
wound, for which was no remedy but patience. Jeremiah, though a great prophet of the Lord, was (as Elijah) a man subject to like passions with other men; he here chargeth God with unfaithfulness, as if he had deceived his expectations, and had been to him as a pit of waters that promised fair, but failed a man when he had most need of them. The servants of God have sometimes been surprised with such passions and temptations, 1 Samuel 27:1; Psalms 77:7,Psalms 77:9. It is a hard thing not to see, and yet believe.
If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: at the first reading of these words, one would take them to be a promise of God to restore this people to their former state, if they would reform; but upon a more wise and diligent consideration of what follows, both in this and in the following verse, they seem rather God’s words unto the prophet, rebuking his diffidence and distrust in God, and promising him, that if he did return from that his diffidence and distrust in God’s promise and providence, he would restore him to the former favour he had had with him, and he should be his prophet to reveal his mind to the people. And if he would separate the precious truths of God from the vile conceits of men, or rather preach so as to distinguish good and bad men one from another, then God would continue him as his prophet, to speak in his name unto the people.
Let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them: he chargeth the prophet to keep his ground, and not to go over unto wicked men, but to use his endeavour to reduce them to that obedience which he yielded to him.
And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall: these words are expounded by those that follow.
They shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: look, as men may throw stones or strike at a brazen wall, but do it no hurt; so, saith God, though thou shalt have enemies that will be offering at thee, yet if thou continuest steady in the doing of thy duty, they shall do thee no harm; for thou shalt have my power engaged for thee, to deliver and save thee from their malice.
I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked; the wicked Jews;
and out of the hand of the terrible; and the power of the terrible Chaldeans, into whose hands thou shalt come, but be preserved from any harm by the workings of my providence for thee.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 15". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18