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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter. Chapters 16 and 17 form one prophecy. The taunt in chap. Jeremiah 17:15 shows that this message from God was delivered before the capture of Jerusalem, which occurred at the close of Jehoiakim’s career. Jehoiakim was slain in the eleventh year of his reign, i.e., in common chronology, B C. 597, or in Assyrian chronology, B.C. 578. There are allusions in the prophecy which lead to the conclusion that it was delivered during this reign; and we may conjecture it to be a few years before its end.
2. Contemporary Scriptures; 3. National Affairs; and 4. Contemporary History; cf. Notes in chapters 7, 10, and 11. 5. Geographical References—none. 6. Personal Allusions—none. 7. Natural History—none.
8. Manners and Customs.—Jeremiah 16:6. “Nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them.” Among the Jews, as among almost all ancient nations, it was customary to lacerate themselves, and to make bald a patch on the front of their heads, as signs of excessive grief. This had been prohibited the Jews by Divine law (Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1), yet seemed still to be a common practice (chaps. Jeremiah 7:29; Jeremiah 41:5; Isaiah 22:12; Ezekiel 7:18; Amos 8:10; Micah 1:16). Jeremiah 16:7. “Tear themselves” (see MARGIN)—“Break bread:” the bereaved having fasted for a while, their friends came and urged food upon them (2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 3:35; 2 Samuel 12:16-17); food was also distributed to the mourners at the funeral (Ezekiel 24:17; Hosea 9:4). Jeremiah 16:16. “Many fishers: many hunters.” Fishers were wont to use drag-nets, which swept the waters and captured all the fish; so hunters would surround a large space with beaters and nets, and drive every creature forward into some enclosed spot for capture or destruction. “Literally understood, the ‘fishers’ are the main armies, who, in the towns and fortresses, capture the people in crowds as in a net; while the ‘hunters’ are the light-armed troops, who pursue the fugitives over the whole country, and drive them out of their hiding-places with an eager pleasure us hunters track out their game (comp. Amos 4:2; Habakkuk 1:15).”—Speaker’s Com.
9. Literary Criticisms.—Jeremiah 16:4. “Grievous deaths:” lit., deaths of diseases, i.e., deaths by those manifold diseases which accompany war. The word תַחֲלֻאִים, here rendered grievous, is the same as occurs in chap. Jeremiah 14:18 [see Lit. Crit, in loc.], tortures of famine.
Jeremiah 16:5. “House of mourning:” בֵית מַרְזֵחַ. In Amos 6:7 (the only other occurrence of this word in Scripture), מִרזְחַ is rendered banquet. Doubtless the root רָזַח means a loud cry: in this verse it is the shriek of grief; in Amos, the shout of jubilation. Enter not into the house of shouting. The LXX. give the rendering, “Enter not into their bacchanalian assembly” (θίασον); Vulgate and Tareum have feast; Jerome, domus convivii.
Jeremiah 16:7. “Neither shall tear for them:” פָּוַס is used interchangeably by Jeremiah for פָּרַשֹ (Lamentations 4:4); here eliptically for פָּוַס לֶחֶם, to break bread, frangere.
Jeremiah 16:12. “Imagination:” stubbornness (comp. Jeremiah 3:17; Jeremiah 9:11-15).
Jeremiah 16:13. “There shall ye serve other gods, where I will not,” &c. The form of the sentence is ironical: there ye may serve other gods night and day, since I will show you no favour.
Jeremiah 16:14. “Therefore, behold:” לכן should be rendered nevertheless, not “therefore.” Blayney gives, After this.
Jeremiah 16:18. “And first:” וִאשׁוֹנָה, Henderson says, is used adverbially, and gives it as previously, i.e., before God restores them, as stated in Jeremiah 16:14. Venema agrees with this: And I will first recompense doubly their iniquity; i e., before I restore them. Calvin, rendering the word formerly—from the beginning, explains thus: God would collect together all the iniquities which had been long buried, so as to include fathers and children in the punishment thereof. Jerome, Hitzig, Ewald, Keil, and Umbriet accord with Henderson and Venema.
“Carcases of their detestable things:” LXX. = θνησιμαίοις, “the dead bodies of their abominations;” Vulgate, “the carrions of their idols;” Syriac, “the sacrifices of their idols;” Blayney, “the vileness of their odious practices;” Keil, “the carcases of their detestables”—which may refer either to “their lifeless and hateful idols” (Dr. Payne Smith), or “victims offered to idols” (Rosenm.).
HOMILETIC OUTLINES ON SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 16
Impending national desolations warn from contracting social relationships.
Apostasy punished with exile.
Benignant promises of future restoration and conversion.
Jeremiah 16:1-9. IMPENDING DESOLATIONS WARN FROM CONTRACTING SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS
Near calamities! With death and woe approaching, it was no time for social alliances and family life. Happy they who were not parents, for they would be spared anguish over offspring. Dark the day for those who had loved ones, for destruction would seize those whom they cherished. They who were usually condoled with because of family loneliness would now be congratulated that they had none to love, none therefore over whom to grieve.
i. Home life requires, in order to its enjoyment, inward serenity and external security.
ii. Family relationships multiply our sorrows in times of adversity and experiences of calamity.
iii. Without a prospect of affording happiness, marriage and the creation of a home are inexcusable. (See Addenda: MARRIAGE.)
Thus the topics of the section suggest:—
I. Domestic alliances discouraged.—Jeremiah 16:2. With Jeremiah the case was special. The impending disasters emphatically forbade him to entail on himself domestic responsibilities and claims. If a man “provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” And his very calling in such adverse and calamitous times would render it impossible for him to fulfil a husband’s or a parent’s part.
1. We should have regard to the future in forming home relationships, and estimate contingencies.
2. We should endeavour, by caution and frugality, to screen our loved ones from impending distress.
3. We should realise how seriously the welfare and happiness of the entire household depends upon our conduct.
II. Family desolations depicted.—Jeremiah 16:3-4. A piteous prospect! Whole families destroyed (Jeremiah 16:3). Agonising deaths shall overtake them (Jeremiah 16:4). None shall perform the offices of lamentation or sepulture (Jeremiah 16:5).
The general lessons are these:—
1. How utterly desolating may be the calamities which shall despoil peaceful and pleasant homes!
2. How all the social respect and personal affection which prosperous times ensured us may fail us in evil days!
3. How ruthless are the destructions of the enemy! Nothing spared: not beautiful childhood, nor reverend age!
III. Unmerited pity prohibited.—Jeremiah 16:5-8.
1. Appalling ruin naturally arouses us to “lament and bemoan.”
2. Miseries entailed by sin should be discriminated from unprovoked calamities.
3. Amid the destruction of God’s enemies, His people must remember that He doeth all things well, and not allow a sentimental pity to overrule their recognition of righteous judgment.
4. God’s servants should shun any festive companionships with those whose iniquities invoke His anger (Jeremiah 16:8).
IV. Divine justice explained.—Jeremiah 16:5; Jeremiah 16:9. The “grievous deaths” (Jeremiah 16:4) and the social desolations will not be accidental.
1. The impending woes will be God’s righteous visitation (Jeremiah 16:9).
2. Forewarned by the prophet, the victims of hearing ruin paid no heed (Jeremiah 16:10).
3. The withdrawal of God’s mercy will expose them to the destroyer (Jeremiah 16:5). “I have taken away My peace from this people, saith the Lord.” His gracious security had ensured their serenity even amid all their sins thus far; but the hour of abandonment comes, and then “destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace” will be lost for ever.
Jeremiah 16:10-13. APOSTASY PUNISHED WITH EXILE
Rebels affecting ignorance of their wrong.—Jeremiah 16:10.
Iniquity brought home to the transgressors.—Jeremiah 16:11-12.
Banishment the penalty of apostates.—Jeremiah 16:13.
Jeremiah 16:14-21. BENIGNANT PROMISES OF FUTURE RESTORATION AND CONVERSION
The verses contain the following suggestions:—
I. God’s former miraculous acts of grace recounted.—Jeremiah 16:14. That is the background with which the following promise is brought into comparison.
II. God’s former miraculous acts of grace surpassed.—Jeremiah 16:14-15. Rescued from a more powerful foe, and more hopeless dispersions.
III. Effective ministries of restoration depicted.—Jeremiah 16:16. (See preliminary note under Manners and Customs on this verse.)
IV. Complete recovery of the scattered ones assured.—Jeremiah 16:16. None over-looked. Found in unlikely places. Brought from hiding-places safely home.
V. Omniscience fails not in minutest supervision.—Jeremiah 16:17. Has seen their “iniquities” in their own land. Will see their “ways” when scattered over all lands. [Here. however, the word “ways” refers not to the ways of flight, but their course of action.]
VI. Heavy chastisements to precede restoration.—Jeremiah 16:18. Grievous have been their apostate deeds; dishonouring God, and defying His holy land.
VII. Humanity returning to the true and living God.—Jeremiah 16:19. The prophet, by experience, knew God. The nations would in the end discover their need of Him, and seek the Lord.
VIII. Refuges of lies gladly renounced.—Jeremiah 16:19-20. In ignorance many follow “vanities;” often fall into the habits of their “fathers.” Idolatry will disprove itself (Jeremiah 16:20).
IX. Jehovah realised as Israel’s blessed hope.—Jeremiah 16:21.
1. A grand crisis of Divine manifestation. “I will this once cause them to know My hand and My might.”
2. A manifestation in which they shall recognise their God. “They shall know that My name is Jehovah.” (Comp. Isaiah 25:9.) “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is the Lord,” &c.
HOMILIES AND COMMENTS ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 16
Jeremiah 16:2. Theme: JEREMIAH CALLED BY ACTIONS TO ATTEST HIS PREDICTIONS.
1. He had complained that God’s word through him seemed to fail, because fulfilment was deferred (chap. Jeremiah 15:18).
2. He is now commanded to show his own faith in his messages by abstaining from social alliances.
3. He would by such conduct confirm his words and awaken serious expectancy among his people.
Actions preach where words are impotent. “For this I say, brethren, the time is short; it remaineth that they that have wives be as though they had none … for the fashion of this world passeth away.”
Jeremiah’s prohibition to marry has this application: “Let it not be that thy children charge thee as thou hast charged thy mother, chap. Jeremiah 15:10.”—Naegelsbach.
And these meanings:
“By remaining in a single state, Jeremiah was to be a symbol of the then future condition of his countrymen (comp. Ezekiel 24:15-27).”—Henderson.
“It was to show that the people were wholly given up to destruction; and the nearing desolation and solitude of the whole land. Celibacy is not here commended.”—Calvin.
Jeremiah 16:2-4. Theme: LIMITATIONS OF MARRIAGE.
Generally speaking, “it is not good for man to be alone.” God has made woman to be his companion and help meet. Generally speaking also, “children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3-5.) But there are some exceptions to the rule, and great discretion is needed even within the limits of the divine precept, else man may not have a helpmeet, nor will children be to him a comfort. Marriage may become a calamity to husband, wife, and children under some circumstances. It is not always necessary to show that a marriage, or any other act, is unlawful; for, though lawful, it may yet be inexpedient owing to the conditions of life, such as sickness, poverty, or public calamity. Let the peculiar circumstances pass away, and then that which is lawful may not be inexpedient.
I. Marriage may be inexpedient owing to a call to some peculiar work. It would appear that others were not forbidden to marry, but only the prophet. He was commissioned to a hazardous undertaking, and the cares of a family would have brought considerations which might not have been helpful to him in the work.
We can well imagine that Micaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, John Baptist, Paul, and such like men, might find it best to be free from the claims of a wife and family. Of course they had to sacrifice the comforts of home.
It would be difficult to imagine how our Lord could have carried out His work for us had He been married, and that not because there was any reason in Him why it would have been unlawful, but because He could not be entangled by any secondary considerations.
Paul gives advice most difficult to follow when he asks that those who have wives be as though they had none. This needs much grace and great wisdom to do aright.
Many workers for Christ, as missionaries, and those who have undertaken difficult tasks, have denied themselves the comforts of companionship, and the luxuries of home, “for His name’s sake.” This is not monastic celibacy, but divine singleness of eye and heart to one all-absorbing pursuit.
II. Marriage may be inexpedient owing to some peculiar phase in a nation’s history. Jerusalem was under divine threatening, and great calamities were about to come upon her; it was kindness to Jeremiah to advise and even to command that he should not involve others more than might be. So in times of epidemic, famine, siege of cities, or any great public misfortune, it may be a duty to limit ourselves in any indulgence or luxury, however lawful in itself, or justifiable under other circumstances.
We recognise the mercy of God in thus preventing much misery to any offspring which might have resulted from such a marriage. They would, according to the text, have been born to an inheritance of misery and ruin. God’s servants desire for their children a happy and useful life. There will be enough of sorrow taking life even at its best, but oh the grief of being born to almost necessary and unavoidable ruin!
III. Marriage may be inexpedient owing to some peculiar spiritual conditions. It was from spiritual causes that the troubles came upon Jerusalem.
It was for spiritual, as well as natural, reasons that God gave the command to Jeremiah.
Much of the sorrow of life arises from disregard to spiritual conditions as qualifications for marriage. There is often the marriage of the body when there is no real union of the soul.
Such marriages are not only inexpedient, but unscriptural.
The consequences to children, to society, and to the Church of Christ are very serious indeed.
The Scripture gives great liberty, but it also prescribes some rule. We are at liberty to be married to whom we will “only in the Lord.”
If we rightly understand the precept, it indicates God’s desire for our comforts, and His consequent direction as to the only way it can be realised.
Marry only to those who love God.
Marry only when you can confer real happiness on the object of your affection.
Marry only to those who will not impede your spiritual progress, or hinder your efforts to serve the Lord and His Church.—W. Whale.
See Addenda: MARRIAGE.
Jeremiah 16:4. “They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented, neither shall they be buried,” &c.
“Similarly in the plagues of Athens and London, the greatness of the general misery crushed out the gentler sympathies of human nature.” (Comp. Thuc. ii. 52.)—Dr. Payne Smith.
Jeremiah 16:5. Theme: SIN EXCLUDES FROM SYMPATHY AND SORROW. “Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them; for I have taken away My peace from this people, saith the Lord, even lovingkindness and mercies.”
I. Sin brings heavy woes upon transgressors.
1. The loss of God’s peace. “Taken away My peace.” Therefore there is no peace to the wicked.
2. The alienation of Providential favours. “Even lovingkindness and mercies.” Godly lives are girded about by heavenly ministries, and enriched with daily “blessings of goodness.”
3. The accumulation of calamities and sorrows. So that there is occasion to “lament and bemoan.” All men have trouble, are “born to trouble”; but the godly “hides himself in the sacred place of the Most High,” and finds “Everlasting arms underneath him” in his day of grief. But the wicked are comfortless in their miseries. No “consolations wherewith God comforts us in any sorrow” alleviate the transgressor’s desolations and distresses. Nor has the sinner any heavenly outlook which brightens his present gloom.
II. Sin, if prolonged, necessitates Divine abandonment.
1. God is slow in withdrawing His grace. And indeed the Intercessor pleads, “Let be this year also.”
2. Yet slighted patience leads to withdrawal of peace. Trifling with God’s “lovingkindness and mercies” compels Him at last to “take away His peace” and leave the soul to its terrors.
3. There are actual instances of such Divine abandonment. This is not a prediction, a menace; but a statement of fact: “Thus saith the Lord, I have taken away,” &c. Any in the assembly: old sinners, reckless and perverse youths! “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and ye perish from the way.”
III. Sin, when persistent, alienates tenderness and pity.
1. Criminals can expect little commiseration.
2. Condolence with sinners when suffering the consequences of their sins is an error. It overlooks the righteousness of punishment.
3. Generally the craving of guilty persons for sympathy amid their miseries is attended by no contrition for their iniquities which entailed such disasters upon them.
Without contrition there can be no conversion, and
Without conversion no consolation.
Jeremiah 16:9. Theme: GODLESS MIRTH SILENCED. Steeped in guiltiness as were these people, they yet were hilarious. Their sins were allowed license. They lived on in mirth as if there were no God.
See Addenda: FRIVOLOUS SINNING.
I. Sinful revelries.
1. Sinners sport with sin. Live as if free to do as they listed.
2. Unlicensed self-indulgences are their delight.
3. Conscience and God are silenced amid their revelries.
4. Mad mirth heeds not God’s frown. Indifferent and even defiant.
5. To silence Divine denunciations (as now through Jeremiah), sinners plunge into yet more exciting self-indulgences and gaieties. Oh, what a scene of reeking vice and appalling blasphemy lies under the eye of Heaven!
II. Nearing retribution. “I will cause to cease in your days.”
1. Reckless mirth cannot arrest the retribution it ignores.
2. Godless revelries will not escape God’s judgment. While revelry goes on within, “behold the Judge standeth before the door.”
3. The term of indulgence is alarmingly curtailed. “In your days.” While the prophet lived the end of all this impious conduct would come.
III. Silenced rejoicings. “I will cause to cease,” &c.
1. God will assuredly hush these impious revelries.
2. Death will seal the lips of carousers in silence.
3. Boon companions in sin will exchange hilarity for bitter lamentations.
4. Scenes of mirth will be deserted in the day of calamity. They supply no solace to crushed lives.
5. Troubles desolate the brightest homes, and silence the sounds of gladness.
(a.) Joy may be pure; and God would have us joyful.
(b.) Pure joy has no sting, and is enduring.
(c.) God will enrich the joys of the good.
(d.) Trouble nor death can silence the gladness of the godly.
(e.) Their earthly scenes of joy will be by them exchanged for a land “where there is fulness of joy and pleasure for evermore.”
(f.) Shun irreligious pleasures, and you shall inherit the blessedness of a life whose joys are Divine.
Jeremiah 16:10. Theme: SINNERS IN ALTERCATION WITH GOD.
The messages of Jehovah produce effect. Even rebels feel them. There is in Heaven’s words something which compels the most godless to notice them. Indeed sinners are stirred to vindicate themselves against God’s messages, and rise in strife with His prophets.
Instances of altercation with the prophets are numerous in the Scriptures (comp. especially chaps. Jeremiah 5:19; Ezekiel 2:6-8; Ezekiel 33:17; Malachi 3:13, &c.)
I. Challenging the justice of God. “Wherefore,” &c.
1. Willingly oblivious of their demerits.
2. Feigning innocency of great transgressions.
4. Professing ignorance of having done wrong.
II. Surprise at the severity of God.
Their reply is virtually this:—
1. The evil threatened is out of all reasonable proportion. “Wherefore hath the Lord pronounced all this great evil?”
2. Such severity disproves His assured graciousness. Did He not pledge Himself specially gracious to us? Yet “all this great evil against us!”
3. There has been no specific sin calling down such vengeance. “What is our iniquity, and what is our sin,” &c.
II. Resistance of the condemnations of God. For all springs from this purpose.
1. They refuse to be convinced of sin.
2. They resent the charge of God’s prophet.
3. They reject the call to contrition.
4. They affect religious feelings as a cloak for all their guilt. Speak piously: “What sin have we committed?” as if they could not be wicked. Further: What have we done “against the Lord our God”? Oh, the hypocrisy, to dare call Jehovah their God after such shameless apostasy? Rather, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord,” &c.
Jeremiah 16:10. “When people are desperately bad, and will not be told so, they must be regarded as heathens and publicans (Matthew 17:18; Titus 3:10; 1 Corinthians 5:9).”—Cramer.
“If people are so hardened in their sins as to expostulate with the prophet, he is to show them that the severe sentence passed upon them is the consequence of idolatry, persisted in through many generations till it has finally deepened into natural apostasy.”—Speaker’s Com.
Jeremiah 16:11. God’s reply. See Homilies on chapters Jeremiah 5:19; Jeremiah 7:25-28; Jeremiah 13:21-22.
Jeremiah 16:12. Theme: WORSE THAN YOUR FATHERS.
The stream swells as it extends its course. These men were guiltier because they had—
I. Fuller warning. The fate of their ancestors admonished them, giving emphasis to God’s threatenings.
II. More restraints. God’s dealings of mercy had been known for longer time, and proved in more manifold forms. They had a history to keep, a name to honour.
III. Greater advantages. Their Scriptures were larger than those their fathers possessed; for they grew as their history enlarged, and as successive prophets wrote and spake. Their acquaintance with God and His will was more clear. Their indebtedness to His grace was more evident.
IV. Heavier criminality.
Apostasy assumed most heinous forms.
Iniquity ran into revolting licenses.
Defiance of God’s messages and prophet was more insolent.
Disregard of their national safety and honour was more reckless.
(a.) Sin increases in volume and force by an inevitable law of accumulation.
(b.) Actions take their moral character from the inducements which prompt them, or the restraints which check them.
(c.) Guilt attains its climax when it becomes insolently “stubborn.”
Jeremiah 16:14-15. Theme: THE GREATER FUTURE OF ISRAEL.
Restoration from Egypt will be forgotten in contrast with the deliverance from the North. Doubtless the return from Babylon is primarily meant here, but there yet awaits the ingathering “from all lands.”
Note: This restoration is yet prospective: so points to the coming glories of God’s ancient people.
I. Severer preliminary sufferings.
1. The bondage in the iron furnace of Egypt would be easy and light contrasted with the despotism under which they would groan in the North.
2. Instead of their being carried away into one land, as in Egypt, they would now be “driven” through “all lands;” separated, helpless, abandoned.
II. More astonishing preservation in exile.
1. Dangers greater. In the hands of a more relentless despotism. The armies of Nineveh and Babylon ground other nations they conquered and captured into a confused mass, destroying their individuality. In this captivity they would not be kept together, nor localised, but driven into widest dispersion.
2. Destruction more threatening. The North meant their complete obliteration as a people, and did all that could be done to effect it. Egypt did not design nor attempt this.
III. Grander supernatural redemption.
1. It should be recognised as God’s work of rescue. “The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel.”
2. It should surpass their great historic deliverance from Egypt. All along their career hitherto Jehovah had perpetually reminded them that He was their God that brought them out of Egypt: see the frequency and varied circumstances under which He recurred to that fact. But it would henceforth be forgotten in contrast with the coming redemption.
IV. Richer revelation of Divine grace.
1. Their greater sin did not lead God to abandon them.
2. Renewed apostasy did not weary God’s patience.
3. Amid their exile He would jealously guard and individually care for them.
4. None should be lost in the glad ingathering to their own land.
Jeremiah 16:16-17. Theme: NETS TO CATCH MEN.
They used trawl-nets in those days for sweeping the waters of fish and the country of game. (See note under Manners and Customs for explanation.)
I. Imagery of invading captors. This is the meaning of the figures here.
1. “Fishers” express the ease with which these invaders would capture the prey. The Northern armies would secure them with as little difficulty or trouble as anglers gather fishes within their trawl-nets.
2. “Hunters” express the keenness and resoluteness with which these Northern invaders would pursue their prey; neglecting no hiding-place, penetrating into every retreat, and allowing small hope of escape.
(a.) Tempters thus throw out nets for the unwary, and gather the simple into the enclosures of pleasure and sin. “We are not ignorant of his devices.”
(b.) Disputers thus hunt the more valorous souls, and seek to capture them with doubts of the truths of religion, and conquer them by force of argument.
(c.) Various are the nets employed, for the resources of those who would capture souls are multitudinous, yet adapted to “catch men.” Flattery, indulgence, companionships, books, worldly advantages, to draw into sin; or annoyance, browbeating, calumny, argument, to drive to despair and neglect of God.
(d.) Death drags its net to gather in men, and it sweeps the sea of life effectually.
(e.) The angels of judgment will at the end of the world gather souls in from all lands, and not a sinner shall escape.
See Addenda: HUNTING.
II. Imagery of redeeming agencies.
1. Of the recovery of scattered Israel from the lands of the spoiler.
Some expositors misapplied these verses to that idea, and supposed God was here predicting their ingathering.
Yet the words may without inconsistency be so applied. The figure of fishing is so used by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47:9-10). And surely in Israel’s restoration they will be graciously hunted wherever they have been driven, and brought back from heights and valleys, and even repelling “holes of the rocks.” For God’s “eyes are upon all their ways” (Jeremiah 16:17) in their dispersion.
2. Of the capture of souls for Christ. “I will make you fishers of men.” “Being crafty, I caught you with guile.”
(a.) Gentle attractions of the Gospel. Easily drawing souls into the kingdom.
(b.) Manifold yet adapted truths of Scripture, winning men individually into conviction and faith. The precious promises, words of sacred comfort, convincing truths, inspiring teaching of God’s Word capture souls, and “sweetly force them in” to the enclosure of Divine assurances.
(c.) The Holy Spirit’s work, of awakening souls to their state and need, of witness in consciences and hearts, and of revealing Christ and the Gospel to men.
(d.) Wise ministrations of Gospel messengers. Preachers and teachers so present Christ’s truth, so contend with hearers’ doubts and hesitancy to “persuade men,” that, being wise, they “win souls,” and so draw sinners and weary lives to the Saviour.
III. Imagery of a grand ingathering.
1. Of the scattered sons of Israel to restored Zion. From all lands shall they come. It shall be “as life from the dead” (Romans 11:15).
2. Of humanity drawn into the faith of Christ. “Other sheep I have, them also will I bring,” &c. (John 10:16). “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” (John 12:32).
3. Of redeemed souls to the glorious heaven. “They shall come from the east and west, north and south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.” “Redeemed out of every kindred and people and tongue and nation.”
Jeremiah 16:17. Theme: OMNISCIENCE REGULATES JUDGMENT. “For Mine eyes are upon all their ways,” &c. Ways means career of conduct. God’s dispensations are determined upon full knowledge and examination of our doings.
I. Human life attracts the observant eye of God. “Mine eyes are upon all their ways.” This fact, that God so attentively and constantly watches us, suggests—
1. The Divine interest in His creature man.
2. Jehovah’s solicitude for His people’s welfare.
3. His great distress on beholding their faithlessness.
4. His longing to witness in them loyalty and love.
II. Man’s iniquity is minutely watched by Omniscience. “Neither is their iniquity hid from Mine eyes.” It so grieves Him, and is so amazing after all He has done, that He cannot withdraw His gaze.
1. Iniquity has a beginning, and a course of development.
2. The sinner’s path is beset with restrictions or indusements.
3. Ungodliness varies in degree and animus.
4. Much wrongdoing is done secretly, and guilt is often more in the heart than in the act. But God’s eyes search out, and His thoughts weigh the measure of every act, or thought, or motive of sin. Yea, our secret sins are set in the light of His countenance. He understands our thought afar off.
III. Divine chastisements are determined by men’s deeds. “Their ways are not hid from My face, neither their iniquities hid from Mine eyes.”
1. Caprice never moves God in His dispensations of wrath.
2. Heaviest judgment cannot exceed the sinner’s demerits.
3. Anguish derives its keenest pang from the sufferer’s knowledge that he righteously incurred it.
4. None can hope for escape from punishment so equitably administered. “None doeth good and sinneth not.” “He will appoint to every man according to his deed.” “Every mouth shall be stopped, and all become guilty before God.”
1. Who can expect to evade judgment? “If Thou, Lord shouldst work iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand?”
2. Where can redemption be found? If we cannot escape from judgment, can we from the sin which necessitates it? Yes; Christ removes the sin, and thus ransoms us from the judgment.
“Cover my defenceless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.”
Jeremiah 16:18. Theme: REQUITING SINNERS FOR THEIR WORK OF SPOLIATION. (See Lit. Crit. on this verse.)
We fail to recognise what wrong we do God, what ravages our misconduct works, when we sin.
I. Sin despoils what God prizes. “My land,” “Mine inheritance.”
1. God has a right to all the pleasant scenes which men wickedly use and prostitute to their selfish and sinful enjoyments. “The earth is the Lord’s,” &c.
2. Upon every life He has set His seal, and justly requires that we preserve its powers and affections inviolate. All we are, all our endowments and abilities He entrusted us with.
3. When we withhold from God His due, in love, loyalty, and service, we “rob God.” He made us for His glory.
4. Every use of God’s fair world for evil purposes is sacrilege. We do Him a wrong. We “defile His land.”
5. Such cruel misuse of our life and the scenes we occupy must be as offensive to God as it is criminal in itself. He values us, loves us—“so loved us that He gave His only-begotten Son” to redeem us, and grieves over our alienation and prodigality: “wasting our substance in a far country,” degrading our being, and dishonouring His handiwork.
II. Sin’s spoliations will God requite. “I will recompense their sin and their iniquity double, because,” &c.
1. The punishment foretold is but retribution for sins. It was so with these Jews, it is so with us. Nothing is threatened against the sinner but is the “due reward of our deeds.” Having defiled the land by their idolatry, they shall be driven out of it. And “the wicked,” having misused earth’s fair scene, “shall be turned into hell.”
2. Divine inflictions have a twofold severity. Yes; it may be thought that God’s punishments are therefore excessive; that He not merely requites sin, but goes beyond our deserts. St. Chrysostom here points out that “many, taking these words literally, have been troubled in mind, as though God did not punish men according to their desert, but more than their desert. But really every punishment is twofold; for first, there is the loss of the blessing which would have followed upon obedience, and secondly, the presence of actual misery.” So also, as Dr. Payne Smith suggests, sin is twofold: there is the leaving of God’s will undone, and the actual wrongdoing.
Sinners lose God’s favour and incur His wrath: “recompense double.”
They lose the bliss of heaven and inherit the woe of hell: “double.”
Yet nothing they lose and suffer can equal the wrong which, by “their iniquity and their sin,” they have done God!
(1.) They defiled His land with the vileness of their detestable things, and
(2.) They filled His inheritance with their abominations.
Thus did they pervert sacred scenes to detestable purposes; render the holy land offensive to Him whose inheritance it was; and by their foul idolatry they gave the glory of their service and worship to abominations. “Oh, do not the abominable thing which I hate.”
See Addenda: THE EVIL OF SIN.
Jeremiah 16:19. Theme: THE GOOD MAN’S STRENGTH, FORTRESS, AND REFUGE. “O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction.”
I. The Infinite becomes the strength of the finite. We may well ask how the Eternal becomes the strength of the mortal; God, the strength of a man? And reply—
1. By the confidence reposed in Him. Confidence in a leader is the very strength of those who follow. Thus Wellington was the strength of his army, and Nelson of his navy. God’s people have confidence in His wisdom, power, love; hence “through God they do valiantly, for He it is that treads down their enemies under them.”
2. The valorous deeds effected by men of God are marvellous. Paul’s list in Hebrews 11:0 illustrates the triumphs of faith. And what is faith but confidence in God? The triumphs of faith are the wonderful achievements effected through this confidence in God, so that God becomes the strength of men. Girded with strength Divine they can each say, “I can do all things.”
3. The man whose strength is the Lord is able to bear what would crush other men. He who gave Samson strength to bear and carry away massive gates, gives to His servants strength to bear weightiest troubles and heaviest sufferings. See Paul’s recital of his sufferings; yet he afterwards talks of “these light afflictions,” &c.
II. Yet the Lord gives to His people protection. He is their “fortress.”
This Divine fortress is impregnable. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Yet it may be asked, Have not thousands of God’s saints been slaughtered by persecutors? What is the Book of Martyrs out a record of God’s slain ones! True; but the Divine fortress is for the protection of souls, not of bodies. The exposure of the body to peril on the one hand, and the safety of the soul on the other, are clearly indicated by our Lord’s words, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.”
III. Further, He is “their Refuge in the day of affliction” In the evil day we hasten to Him as soldiers to a fortress when hotly pursued, or as vessels to a harbour when the wind blows a gale. When “tossed with tempest and not comforted,” we have found the Lord “a refuge from the storm and a covert from the tempest.” And this refuge is open still to every troubled saint and every penitent sinner.—Rev. D. Pledge: “Walks with the Prophet Jeremiah.”
Jeremiah 16:19-20. Theme: THE CONFESSION OF THE GENTILES. “The Gentiles shall come unto Thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?”
The result of God’s judgments on the Jews will be that both the Jews when restored, and the Gentiles who have witnessed those judgments, shall renounce idolatry for the worship of Jehovah (Fausset).
(Note: This prophecy in course of fulfilment.)
I. Their repentance. “Shall come.” They had followed the devices of their own hearts—its failure “profited them nothing.” Trusting in gods made by their own hands could not profit them; for, “Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?” a contradiction in terms. They repent of their folly, and come to Jehovah—the only true God.
(a.) Repentance is necessary to our acceptance by God. A man must realise the folly of his sin, and, turning from it with his face toward God, must make confession of his transgressions in order to their remittance. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
(b.) Must be with the heart. Sincere. “Our real existence in the sight of God consists in the inner and not in the outer life” (Farrar).
II. Their confession. “Our fathers have inherited lies and things wherein there is no profit.” Idolatry in all its forms; not only gods of wood and stone, but all the idols of our own heart, our own imagination—e.g., the love of riches. All idolatry must be renounced, and a confession made unto God that we have abandoned them. The essential element of confession is that it be spiritual and true. To a right confession we must have—
(a.) A knowledge of our own hearts. If this is possessed, the heart will be laid open to God for its purification. There is only one way of getting a heart and mind pure, and that is by confessing to God its present impurities—imploring Him to create in us a clean heart.
(b.) Faith in God. In His willingness to hear, in His power to do. Their faith was strong; they acknowledge that, apart from God, all is vanity and lies. The world promises much, but when those promises are chased and caught, you have in your hand nothing better than “vanity and lies.”
III. Their acceptance. This we infer, because “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (John 1:9). Wherever the contrite heart is, there is the forgiving God. The Gentiles shall come—they are coming, and by the power and attraction of the Cross. The Gospel has many victories yet to achieve. The Saviour said, “And I, if I be lifted up, shall draw all men unto Me.”—Achilles Taylor.
Jeremiah 16:19; Jeremiah 16:21. Theme: MISSIONARY SERMON.
The true knowledge of God:
I. It is to be had in Christianity (Jeremiah 16:19).
II. It will also make its way to the heathen. For
1. It is God’s will that they should be instructed (Jeremiah 16:21).
2. They are ready to be instructed (Jeremiah 16:19-20).
Jeremiah 16:19. “My strength and my fortress.” “Lit., my strength and my place of strength—the one for attack, and the other for defence.”—Speaker’s Com.
“The calling of the heathen is very consolatory. For as children are rejoiced at heart when they see that their parents are greatly honoured and obtain renown and praise in all lands, so do all true children of God rejoice when they see that God’s name is honoured and His glory more widely extended.”—Cramer.
Jeremiah 16:21. “I will this once cause them to know.” “As the Jews had chosen to put their trust in such senseless things as idols, of which the very heathen will be ashamed (Jeremiah 16:19), Jehovah will teach them this once, i.e., in a summary manner once for all, by a punishment which the nation shall never forget, that there is a difference between Him and idols.”—Dr. Payne Smith.
“THIS ONCE.” “Whether we consider the greatness of the national disgrace and suffering caused by it, or its effect upon the mind of the Jews, the burning of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, followed by the captivity of the people at Babylon, stands out as the greatest manifestation of God’s hand in all His dealings with them. Neither in the times of the Judges, nor in the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, was there anything comparable to it. Only one other event in their history is of equal magnitude—the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus; but that was the closing of their history as the preparatory Church, and comes therefore under a different category.”—Dr. Payne Smith.
“I WILL CAUSE THEM TO KNOW.” “Nothing can be learned of God without God. God instructs the people by His mouth and His hand, verbis et verberibus.”—Cramer.
“Know that my name is THE LORD.” “The fulfiller of His threatenings, as well as the performer of His promises” (Exodus 6:3).—Lowth.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 16: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jeremiah 16:2. MARRIAGE.
“God is the best Maker of all marriages.”—Shakespeare.
When the Rev. Philip Henry was minister at Worthenbury, he sought the hand of the only daughter of a wealthy man. The father demurred, saying that though Mr. Henry was an excellent preacher and a gentleman, yet he did not know from whence he came. “True,” said the daughter, “but I know where he is going, and I should like to go with him.”
“Marriage is a feast, where the grace is sometimes better than the dinner.”—Colton.
“We are really what we are relatively.”—P. Henry.
“Let us no more contend, nor blame
Each other, blam’d enough elsewhere; but strive,
In offices of love, how we may lighten
Each other’s burden, in our share of woe.”
—Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”
Family Maxims: “Let God be first.” “Be happy and make happy.”
Jeremiah 16:9. FRIVOLOUS SINNING.
“Fools make a mock of sin, will not believe
It carries such a danger in its sleeve.
‘How can it be?’ they say, ‘that such a thing,
So full of sweetness, e’er should wear a sting?’
They know not that it is the very spell
Of sin, to make men laugh themselves to hell.
Look to thyself then, deal with sin no more,
Lest He that saves against thee shuts the door.”—Bunyan.
Jeremiah 16:16. HUNTING.
The original term for hunting occurs in reference to the invasion of human rights, in 1 Samuel 24:12, Lamentations 3:15, and Jeremiah 16:16. This usage affords a clue to Nimrod’s character. With the band of lawless spirits his skill had attracted, he proceeded from hunting beasts to oppressing man:—
“Proud Nimrod first the mighty chase began;
A mighty hunter—and his prey was man.”
Hunting, with its snares, may remind us of that mighty hunter Satan, and his devices—pitfalls, decoys, snares, &c.—for the unwary. Hence the duty of watchfulness: “In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird” (Proverbs 1:17). “Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” Satan is now the “mighty hunter” who hunts down sins, ignorance, bad habits, &c. God helps us to escape out of the machinations of the wicked (Psalms 124:6-8). Death is a great hunter Ecclesiastes 9:12).—Topics for Teachers.
Jeremiah 16:18. THE EVIL OF SIN.
We might illustrate the evil of sin thus: Supposing I were going along a street, and were to dash my hand through a large pane of glass, what harm would I receive?—“You would be punished for breaking the glass.”—Would that be all the harm I should receive?—“Your hand would be cut by the glass.”—Yes; and so it is with sin. If you break God’s laws, you shall be punished for breaking them; and your soul is hurt by the very act of breaking them.—J. Inglis.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 16". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29