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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 8

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-22

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Chronology and History, as in chap. 7. Observe, however, that a new section in this extended prophetic address commenced with Jeremiah 8:4, which continues to chap. Jeremiah 9:22.

1. Geographical Reference. Jeremiah 8:22. “Gilead:” a mountainous region, bounded on the west by Jordan, east by high plateau of Arabia, north by Bashan, south by valley of Heshbon; covering an area of cir. 60 miles by 20. The mountains of Gilead have an elevation of between 2000 and 3000 feet. The valleys of Gilead are richly wooded, presenting all the noble features of forest scenery. The torrent-beds are filled with oleanders. The district so charmed the Reubenites and Gadites that they asked it for their inheritance rather than pass “over Jordan” (Numbers 32:1-5).

2. Personal Allusions. Jeremiah 8:8. “Scribes:” the Sopherim, students and interpreters of the written law, who probably owed their elevation into a distinctly-recognised order to Shaphan (2 Chronicles 34:13; 2 Chronicles 34:15); their employ was to write out the law, classify its contents, enumerate its clauses and letters, with “every jot and tittle” (cf. Jeremiah 2:8). Jeremiah 8:9. “The wise men:” specified also in chap. Jeremiah 18:18 as a distinct class; but probably here used of those who prided themselves on their knowledge, learned men of all orders of society (cf. Jeremiah 9:23).

3. Natural History, Jeremiah 8:7. “Stork:Chasidah, a name suggestive of piety and benevolence, from חֶסֶד, zeal, benignity; specially careful for her young and her aged parents, makes her nest on high (Psalms 104:17), soars very loftily (“in the heaven”), far above the range of human vision, annually migrates as soon as cold warns her of winter’s approach; arrives in Palestine about the middle of March, where it rests for about six weeks. “Turtle,” i.e., turtle-dove, Thor: heralds the spring (Song of Solomon 2:12) with sweet voice (Song of Solomon 2:14), yet mournful tones (Nahum 2:9); its plumage rich (Psalms 68:13), nestles in rocks (Psalms 68:28), has eyes of peculiar softness and lustre (Song of Solomon 1:15; Song of Solomon 5:12), migratory. “Crane:Sus, means the swift, also a bird of passage, very noisy, with a harsh note; in appearance resembling the stork. “Swallow:” here Agûr [the words Sus and Agur are used interchangeably in Scripture for swallow and crane; difficult, therefore, to fix the name on either]; the swallow prefers populous scenes, and builds her nest in dwellings of mankind; her note is quick and querulous (Isaiah 38:14), her migration is annual. Jeremiah 8:13. “Grapes on the vine:Anabim, cluster of grapes (Genesis 40:10). (See notes on chap. Jeremiah 2:21, Jeremiah 6:9.) “Figs:Tenim, three kinds in Palestine—the early, the summer, and the winter fig; tree grows to vast dimensions, and abounds throughout the land (Deuteronomy 8:8). (See notes on chap. Jeremiah 5:17.) Jeremiah 8:14. “Water of gall,i.e., poisonous water; lit. water of the poisonous plant, מַי־רֹאשׁ, Gesenius pronounces it the poppy; but Speaker’s Com. refers to the same word in Deuteronomy 32:32, where the further description, “their grapes are grapes of gall,” necessitates the abandonment of the poppy, which has no berries (“grapes”); and concludes, “probably it was the belladonna or nightshade, to the berries of which the grapes of Israel were compared.” In Hosea 10:4, rôsh is rendered “hemlock,” and in Job 20:16, “poison” of asps. The Targum renders it “the cup of malediction.” Jeremiah 8:17. “Serpents, cockatrices,” i.e., serpents, even cockatrices, or vipers: Tsiphoni, small but very venomous vipers, basilisks which cannot be charmed. Its name, Tsiphoni, given to it on account of its remarkable hissing; its sting deadly (Proverbs 23:32, where rendered “adder”). So fatal is its wound, that natural historians assert that all other serpents hurry away and hide themselves at its hiss, and that its very breath will blast plants and poison the air. “This dreadful snake is not a native of Canaan, but abounds in the miry fields of Egypt” (Dr. Porter). Jeremiah 8:22. “Balm in Gilead:” this balsam early mentioned in Scripture (Genesis 37:25) as an article of commerce with Midianitish merchants, who carried it to Egypt; sufficiently valued as to be among the presents sent by Jacob to Joseph (Genesis 43:11), and possessed of acknowledged medicinal properties. It cannot be identified with any particular tree. Pliny and Strabo attest the celebrated virtue of the opobalsamum or myrobalanus; but Bochart selects the resin drawn from the terebinth as the “balm” here alluded to. There is now no tree in Gilead which yields such balsam, but it may be found in Arabia and Egypt. A fragrant and medicinal balsam is used and sold among Turks which is obtained from Mecca.

4. Manners and Customs. Jeremiah 8:1. “They shall bring out the bones,” &c.: ornaments and treasures were buried with the dead; the enemies, knowing this, would ransack the sepulchres, and plunder the dead of their insignia and valuables. Refer to Josephus, Antiq. vii. ch. 15, § 3, for account of Hyrcanus rifling the sepulchre of David, robbing it of 3000 talents; and to Heredotus i. 187, for statement of like act of Darius with grave of Nitocris. A customary arrangement for crown, sceptre, and royal insignia to be interred with kings; nobles and the wealthy imitated this by burying other treasures and valuables. Jeremiah 8:8. “Pen of the scribes:” the pen or style was of iron, pointed (cf. Jeremiah 7:1), though this “iron pen,” or graver of steel, was probably used only for tracing letters upon stone or metallic plates. When tablets of wood covered with wax, skins, and parchments received the writing, a metal stylus or a reed formed the “pen.” Jeremiah 8:22. “Is there no physician there?” The inquiry suggests that practitioners in the medical art had established themselves in Gilead, who both collected the “balm,” and applied it to the suffering who resorted thither for healing.

5. Literary Criticism. Jeremiah 8:1. “At that time:” points back to chap. Jeremiah 7:32, “the days come.” Jeremiah 8:4. “Shall they fall … shall he turn?” More correctly, Shall men fall and not arise! shall one turn, &c.? An appeal to the general experience and conduct of men—viz., that it is customary for men to arise after having fallen, &c. Jeremiah 8:6. “No man repented him,” &c.: lit. No man has pity upon his wickedness; the sinner would compassionate and commiserate himself did he fully realise his sin and its consequences. Jeremiah 8:8. “Certainly in vain made he it,” &c. Margin, “The false pen of the scribes worketh for falsehood.” Lange also, taking the verb עָשָׂה as emphatically to work, translates thus: “Behold he has worked for a lie, i.e., has done lying work; the pen of the scribes has produced lies.” Keil and Speaker’s Com. render the words: “Lo! the lying pen of the scribes bath made it (the law of the Lord) into a lie.” The Vulgate has, “Verily, falsehood has the false pen of the scribe wrought.” Jeremiah 8:10-12. The LXX. omits from the words, “for every one from the least,” &c., to the end of Jeremiah 8:12. They are a repetition of words from chap. Jeremiah 6:12-15. Jeremiah frequently quotes his former utterances; hence Hitzig’s suggestion that they are an interpolation is without force. Jeremiah 8:13. “And the things that I have given them shall pass away from them:” the old translators (Chald., Syr., Vulg.) render the passage, “What I have given them they have trangressed.” Ewald sustains this. The A.V. translation suggests the meaning, they should lose God’s beneficent gifts. Umbriet, Venema, Keil, and Speaker’s Com. render the words, “So I appoint unto them those that shall pass over them:” נָתַן, to appoint; and עָבַר, to overrun (cf. Isaiah 8:8). Hitzig and Graf., “I deliver them up to mem who pass over them.” Jeremiah 8:14. “Be silent,” from, דּמָה the Niphil form (נִדְּמָה), meaning to perish; then “put to silence,” from דָּמָם, Hiphil form (הֵדֵם), meaning to destroy: hence, Jehovah hath decreed our ruin. Jeremiah 8:18. “When I would comfort myself,” &c.: lit., “Oh, my comfort in the sorrow! my heart within me is faint;” an outcry of anguish. Noyes renders it, “Oh, where is consolation for my sorrow?” Jeremiah 8:19. “Behold the voice … because of them in a far country.” More correctly, “Behold! the sound of the cry of the daughter of my people from a distant land;” her cry being, “Is not the Lord in Zion!” &c., from which she is now an exile. To this question God returns the counter-question, “Why have they provoked Me?” &c. Jeremiah 8:21. “I am hurt,” am broken, i.e., in heart. “I am black,” am in mourning (Keil); I go mourning (Speaker’s Com.). Jeremiah 8:22. “The health,” &c. Why, then, has no bandage (of balsam) been laid upon my people? (So Keil, Speaker’s Com.) But “health” is the more uniform rendering of the word (cf. Jeremiah 30:17, Jeremiah 33:6). Hend. remarks, “אֲרוּכָה, health, properly means length, from the circumstances of long linen bandages being employed in binding up wounds.”



Jeremiah 8:1-3.

The dead: their graves dishonoured.


Jeremiah 8:4-12.

The living: their unabashed iniquity.


Jeremiah 8:13-17.

Maledictions: God’s messages of doom.


Jeremiah 8:18-22.

Lamentations: the prophet’s dismay.


This would be done by the Chaldean hordes in search for booty. Jeremiah, however, suggests not the motive of this sacrilegious disturbance of the dead; he regards only the fact as the punitive judgment of an offended God. Even plunderers may carry into effect the righteous displeasure and retribution of the Most High.

“At the time of the siege of Jerusalem, not only will they bury in Tophet (Jeremiah 7:32-34) till there be no more room, such will be the carnage; but they who bury there will also open the graves of those who are buried, the kings and princes of Judah, and expose them to public contumely and shame. Perhaps the corpse of King Jehoiachim was then disinterred (Jeremiah 22:19).”—Wordsworth.

“Their dead bodies should lie unburied in the sight of these their deities (Jeremiah 8:2), whom these idolaters had worshipped while they were alive, and thought they could never do enough for, but who could do them no good either alive or dead.”—Trapp.

“In their reckless search, the barbarians would never think of replacing the bones which they had disturbed, but would leave them exposed to open gaze. The objects of idolatrous worship are here introduced with admirable effect, as unconcerned spectators of the indignity offered to their former worshippers. The condition of survivors (Jeremiah 8:3) would be more pitiable than that of the dead.”—Henderson.

I. The sanctuaries of the dead profaned (Jeremiah 8:1). What a conception does this fact supply of the barbarity of the Chaldean hordes! Nothing sacred in their esteem. War lets loose the worst passions of the best armies, but never did an army equal in lawless badness this Babylonian host. Lust and greed drove them on to ruthless violation of everything they met. (See Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 8:1, “Graves disturbed.”)

II. The pitiless indifference of idol deities (Jeremiah 8:2). How does this statement set before these idolaters the worthlessness of their gods! In their most evil hour their chosen deities will neither commiserate or help them. Suggestive of man’s treatment from those he substitutes for the true and gracious Lord; contemptuous unconcern in his day of calamity.

III. The horror and anguish of survivors (Jeremiah 8:3). There is something worse than death; yea, than a dishonoured burial: life, when itself “evil;” when “driven” away by God; when abandoned to “places” of exile, among foes and scoffers and cruel despots. To live experiencing and enduring God’s vengeance is the direst calamity man can bear (comp. Job 3:21-22; Revelation 9:6). (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 8:3, “Death desired.”)


I. They would not attend to the dictates of reason (Jeremiah 8:4-5). The most careful traveller may miss his way; but then, as soon as he is aware of it, “will he not return?” No man in his wits will go on in a way that he knows will never bring him to his journey’s end: “why then has this people slidden back with a perpetual blacksliding?” The nature of sin: it is—(1.) backsliding; (2.) perpetual, unless Divine grace prevent it; (3.) a cherished deceit; (4.) of which its dupes refuse to be undeceived.

II. They would not attend to the dictates of conscience (Jeremiah 8:6). Observe: 1. What expectations there were from them, that they would bethink themselves: “I hearkened and heard. (Comp. Job 33:27.) 2. How these expectations were disappointed: “They spake not aright;” and the only speaking “aright” would have been in words of “repentance of wickedness;” but this was refused. (a.) They did not take even the first step towards repentance: “None said, What have I done?” (b.) They were so far from repenting that they went on resolutely in their sins: “Every one turned to his course,” &c.

III. They would not attend to the dictates of Providence (Jeremiah 8:7). Though they are “my people,” yet, 1. They were heedless of God’s dealings with them: “Know not the judgments of the Lord.” 2. The inferior creatures around them showed more sagacity. (Addenda on Jeremiah 8:7. “Stork,” “Turtle,” &c.)

IV. They would not attend to the dictates of the written Word (Jeremiah 8:8-9). Many enjoy abundance of the means of grace, but they do not answer the end of their having them. Those who are “wise” yet do no better for their souls with their wisdom than they who pretended to none, will have reason to be “ashamed,” and will be taken in their own snare. 1. He threatens the judgments of God against them (Jeremiah 8:10). 2. He gives a reason for those judgments: they were greedy of wealth, “given to covetousness;” they made no conscience of speaking truth, “every one dealeth falsely;” they flattered people in their sins (Jeremiah 8:11); they were lost to all sense of virtue and honour (Jeremiah 8:12), “they could not blush.” Such as these were ripe for ruin.—Henry.


A succession of varied images and ideas; vine, stronghold, trouble, invasion, serpents: Jeremiah’s quick transitions from figure to fact is characteristic. Also observe the frequent change of speakers in this section: God speaks in Jeremiah 8:13, the people in Jeremiah 8:14-15; Jeremiah himself, Jeremiah 8:16; Jehovah again, Jeremiah 8:17; a style indicative of the passion and intensity of the prophet. Both the varied imagery and the interchange of speakers denotes the deep emotion under which Jeremiah now speaks: the dreadful theme harrows his own spirit. Behind his impetuous thoughts and words lay this great grief: “How can I endure to see the destruction of my people?” To announce “glad tidings of good things” is a far easier and happier task than to bear messages of wrath. Yet we must not say, “Peace, peace, where there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11); but tell fully what God bids. A series of maledictions under varied images.

I. The vine: Fruitless things God will consume (Jeremiah 8:13). “There are no grapes,” &c. (not, there shall be). Fruitlessness is the reason why God will “consume.” Keil translates Jeremiah 8:13 : “Away, away will I sweep them, saith Jehovah: no grapes on the vine, and no figs on the fig-tree, and the leaf is withered; so I appoint unto them those that shall pass over them.” And the Speaker’s Com. thus comments: “These intermediate clauses describe the present state of the Jews, and not, as in the Authorised Version, the result of God’s judgment. Judah is a vine which bears no fruit, a tree which makes even no profession of life, for her leaf is dry.” Others regard the words as threatening the Jews with the deprivation of the fruits of the earth; but the former interpretation has fuller authority and significance.

II. Strongholds: Defences cannot exclude the penalties of sin (Jeremiah 8:14). The people awake at length to the urgency of the case: would shelter themselves in fortified cities; yet withal they realise their sure destruction: “Let us perish (be silent) there.” Strong walls cannot exclude God’s judgments: “The Lord our God hath decreed our destruction.” (See Literary Criticisms on ver. supra.) Sin must eventuate in overthrow: “Because we have sinned,” &c. Though they rally one another to flee, yet they are conscious they cannot escape; they are irremediably lost. It is mournful abandonment to despair.

III. Trouble: Sinners’ false hopes assuredly shattered (Jeremiah 8:15). False prophets had beguiled them to “look for peace;” now they experience the utter reverse: “no good,” for where can “good” be found when God is lost? “and behold trouble,” properly “terror;” so overwhelming would the calamity prove. Suggestive of the sinner’s anguish of dread—in death, in judgment.

IV. Invasion: Terrible forces of retributive justice (Jeremiah 8:16). (See on chap. Jeremiah 4:15.) The border-line crossed by the foe. Health may be our border-line, or a carnal confidence; the enemy will pass that line, and then, oh our dismay! There are “strong ones,” rushing cavalry, which scour the land; no resisting their fury or checking their impetuous speed. The result: “devoured.”

V. Serpents: Alleviation and avoidance of misery impossible (Jeremiah 8:17): “not be charmed,” and “they will bite you.” No incantation, devices, or persuasives will disarm the attack of the foe; the venomous bite will inevitably bring death. Such is the issue of the “Serpent’s” bite. No crafty measures will avert the miseries which follow upon sin: “At last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.”


As Jeremiah regards his people’s ruin, his heart is sorely oppressed with grief and horror. (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 8:18. “Bitter lamentations.”) He was wholly unlike those fastidious philanthropists

“Who sigh for wretchedness, yet shun the wretched,
Nursing in some delicious solitude
Their dainty loves and slothful sympathies.”

—COLERIDGE, “Religious Musings.”

I. A disastrous event (Jeremiah 8:19). The invaders have carried the people into a “far country.” (See Lit. Crit. supra.) From the scene of their exile their bitter laments come ringing upon the prophet’s troubled ear. Yet their complaining cry, “Is not the Lord in Zion?” is answered by God’s accusing inquiry concerning their prolonged and provoking apostasy.

II. A grievous reflection (Jeremiah 8:20). The day of hope and remedy is irretrievably gone! This is the bitter outcry of the wretched exiles themselves. Sinners will one day see and bewail their impiety and folly. (Addenda, chap. Jeremiah 8:20. “Opportunity lost.”)

III. A stricken mourner (Jeremiah 8:18; Jeremiah 8:21). He can lay hold on no comfort in his sorrow; calls after it as lost, and his burdened heart is sick within him; while also he himself suffers (Jeremiah 8:21) the agonies which he witnesses his people bear. In this Jeremiah was a type of Him who was “stricken and afflicted;” for “surely He hath borne our griefs.”

IV. A bewildered inquiry (Jeremiah 8:22). (1.) A remedy existed; “balm.” (2.) Skilled administrators of the remedy could be found: “physicians there” (these physicians were her priests and prophets, scribes and wise men; comp. Jeremiah 8:8-11); yet she had suffered many things of many physicians, without being healed of any. For there is but one True Physician for the maladies of sin, and to Him she had not applied. “Why?” The prophet is staggered at Judah’s neglect of Him: what is her reason? “Neglect of the great salvation” is therefore unreasonable, unjustifiable, astounding. For because of such neglect unutterable miseries and grievous wounds remain, and must continually be borne. Verily, man’s wilful repudiation of the Divine remedy is appalling, and he thereby “wrongs his own soul.”


Jeremiah 8:1-3. Theme: THE DEAD DIS-HONOURED, YET DEATH DESIRED. (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 8:1; Jeremiah 8:3, “Dead molested; Death desired.”)

Note: Burial is an expression of our hope of resurrection; hence our common reverence for places of sepulture, and our horror at sacrilegious violation of the grave.
“The dreadful desolation which the Chaldean army would make in the land would strangely alter the property of death itself, and for the worse too:
I. Death shall not now be, as it always used to be, the repose of the dead. Threatened in former chapter that slain should be unburied, but here the graves of the buried are to be maliciously opened.

II. Death shall now be, what it never used to be, the choice of the living. And this, not in a believing hope of happiness in the other life, but in an utter despair of any ease in this life.”—Henry.


“There is great force in the piled-up verbs by which their worship of the heavenly bodies is described.
“1. With their hearts they ‘loved’ them. 2. With costly offerings they ‘served’ them. 3. With submissive following they ‘walked after’ them. 4. Frequenting their temples, in order to gain their favour, they ‘sought’ them. 5. Bowing down before them and publicly honouring them, they ‘worshipped’ them.

“Yet these gods, thus served with heart and hand, do nothing whatever for their worshippers, except to aid their bones to decay. Hitzig well points out how the prophet, beginning with the heart (‘loved’), describes their worship in the various stages of development, and then contrasts its fulness with the miserable reward which ensues.”—Speaker’s Com.

I. Progressive stages of idolatrous service.

II. Absolute entirety of idolatrous self-subjection.

III. Pitiless abandonment by idols of their votaries.

IV. Melancholy doom of idolatrous victims.


When they fall, they are not so senseless as to lie there; they can and they do get up. When they err and lose their way, they do not madly resolve to accept their mistake and continue to go wrong; they refuse to proceed along a road which leads they know not where, but certainly where they do not wish to go; and they retrace their steps.

Basil uses the text as a motive for repentance.

Chrysostom finds in it an argument that no sinner need despair of repentance.

It suggests: i. The sinner’s power to help himself. ii. The stupidity of doing nothing to better his case. iii. The extent to which his self-help can attain. iv. The common proneness of man to fall and err. v. The necessity for direction, that he may not continue to wander and so be lost. vi. That God approves man’s efforts to retrace his errors. vii. Grace will certainly avail for those who desire to tread the right way.

Jeremiah 8:5. Theme: PERPETUAL BACKSLIDING. (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 8:5.)

I. The causes of backsliding.

1. Fear of man. 2. Intercourse with worldly society. 3. Presumption. 4. Secret sin. 5. Neglect of prayer.

II. The symptoms of backsliding.

1. Absence of pleasure in attending to the secret exercises of religion. 2. Irregular and unprofitable attendance on public ordinances. 3. Unwillingness to act or suffer for the honour of Christ. 4. Uncharitable feelings toward fellow-Christians. 5. Indulgence in sins once abandoned.

III. The forms of backsliding.

1. Declension into error. 2. Into unbelief. 3. Into lukewarmness or want of love. 4. Into prayerlessness. 5. Into immorality. 6. Into open rejection of a Christian profession.

IV. The evils of backsliding.

1. Its evils to the backslider: (1.) It diminishes his happiness. (2.) It arrests his progress. (3.) It destroys his usefulness.

2. Its evils to others: (1.) It staggers the anxious inquirer. (2.) Seduces the weak Christian. (3.) Embarrasses all the friends of religion. (4.) Supplies materials to the mocker.

V. The cure of backsliding.

1. Let the backslider remember from whence he has fallen. 2. Let him reflect on his guilt and danger. 3. Let him return to God, from whom he has wandered. 4. Let him live near Christ. 5. Let him forsake the sin into which he has fallen. 6. Let him learn to depend on the promised aid of the Holy Spirit.—Brooks, “Plans.”

Jeremiah 8:6. “WHAT HAVE I DONE?” (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 8:6, “Self-interrogation.”)

1. In reference to God. 2. To myself. 3. To Christ. 4. To Christians. 5. To the unconverted.—Brooks.

“The thought expressed here is best explained by what St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:31 : ‘For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.’ ”—Speaker’s Com.

Jeremiah 8:6-7. Theme: MAN ON EARTH.

Text leads us to look upon man on earth in three aspects:

I. As the special object of Divine attention. “I hearkened and heard,” says God; expressing deep interest Two things show His special interest in man on earth:

(a) The language He employs in the Bible. “As I live, saith the Lord,” &c. “Lo, these three years I came seeking fruit,” &c.

(b.) The provision He has made in the Bible. Why this special attention?

i. We may imagine that man’s spiritual infirmities on earth would draw towards him the special notice of his Maker. The diseased child attracts most parental sympathy and attention. This world is the invalid member of God’s family.

ii. We may imagine that man’s critical position on earth would draw towards him, &c. Here, he has practically to decide his destiny.

iii. We may imagine that man’s social influence on earth would draw, &c. Who can tell the influence, for good or evil, of one man on this earth? One may send thousands to hell, or “turn many to righteousness.”

II. As the probationary subject of redemptive discipline.

Under this system three things are required of him:
1. Rectitude of language. “They spake not aright,” i.e., in accordance with moral truth.

2. Contrition of heart. “No man repented of his wickedness.” Repentance is essential to his recovery.

3. Self-searching thought. “What have I done?” in relation to my soul, the universe, God? When prodigal began to think he came to himself.

III. As the wicked abuser of the system under which he lives.

In two ways, as here specified:
1. Reckless obstinacy. “Every one turned to his course.” And the way of each was from God; as infidel; drunkard, &c. “As the horse rusheth” (Job 29:0.)

2. Unnatural ignorance. “Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth,” &c. (1.) These creatures have remarkable instincts, suitable to the external circumstances of their nature. So have you. They have instincts of perceiving coming changes, and of adjusting themselves to those changes. (2.) These creatures invariably render obedience to their instincts. You do not. How unnatural!—Homilist. (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 8:7, “Stork,” &c.).

Jeremiah 8:8. “Lying pen of the scribes.” (cf. “Personal Allusions,” on ver. supra, and Addenda.)


“The law of the Lord is with us;” that was the state of their case; but what did they do with it, and what did it do for them? What we have is of subordinate importance to the use we make of it and the advantage it secures to us. Men now have the Word of God; how do they treat it, what does it profit them?

I. Sources of sacred wisdom. “Law of Lord is with us.” They “knew the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make wise unto salvation.” The Jews, having in there possession these sacred oracles, might have attained to the “wisdom which is from above,” and consequently been the wisest people on earth. We possess a revelation which “makes the simple wise,” and teaches holiest and most precious truth to man.

II. Perversion of the sources of sacred wisdom. “Pen of scribes made it a lie.” (See Lit. Crit. supra, on Ver.). By false interpretation, and delusive application of the law. This is the constant result of:

1. Wilful trifling with the Scriptures. 2. Intellectual conceit, which reverses and mutilates Scripture language. 3. Narrow bigotry, which will bend revelation to its own shibboleth. 4. Blind hostility, which rebels against the plain Word, and hence explains away literal teachings. 5. Dainty sentimentalism, which softens and practically neutralises distasteful teachings, strong anathemas, and bold declarations.

III. Arrogant pretension to the possession of sacred wisdom. “We are wise;” for no other reason than that they had the Scriptures, and knew the letter. “The law of the Law is with us,” is a boast of more than outward possession of it, but also of inward acquaintance with it, mastery of its contents. Such a familiarity did not, does not, always engender reverence, or lead to obedience. It fostered vanity of mind, intellectual conceit, and became a snare. These scribes rose, indeed, to be “wise above what is within.”

IV. Delusion resulting from the arrogance of wisdom (Jeremiah 8:9). Thus, “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” God will refute such irreverent and merely literary wisdom. Christ thanked the Father that “from the wise and prudent” He had “hid” the precious truth. God denies real light to the intellectually proud, as they exclude themselves from a saving knowledge of the truth. Lowliness and submissiveness are qualifications for Divine enlightenment,—“revealed them unto babes.”

V. Refutation of man’s vaunted wisdom. God asks, “What wisdom is in them?” With all their knowledge and their satisfied vanity, they had practically “rejected the word of the Lord.” It is “he that doeth His will shall know of the doctrine:” hence God repudiates their boast,—denounces them as inflated fools, “wise (only) in their own conceits,” and predicts their coming shame. Intellectual vanity easily leads to tampering with and perverting God’s Word; and then the condemnation is inherited with which the volume of the book closes (Revelation 22:18-19).


Jeremiah 8:10-12. Almost identical with chap. Jeremiah 6:12-15; yet some distinctive dissimilarities exist sufficient to refute Hitzig’s suggestion that they are an interpolation. The LXX. omit them. Jeremiah, however, frequently reproduces his figures and phrases: e.g. (comp. Jeremiah 5:15 with Jeremiah 14:19).

To those that shall inherit them” (Jeremiah 8:10). “Rather to those that shall take possession of them, i.e., to conquerors who shall take them by force. To “inherit” is to obtain legally, but the verb here used is that applied to Ahab’s seizure of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:15), to the subjugation of Palestine by the Israelites (Leviticus 20:24), to the Babylonian conquests (Isaiah 14:21).”—Speaker’s Com.

Jeremiah 8:13. Theme. THREATENING OF COMING PUNISHMENT. i. Severity of the visitation. (a.) Certain: “surely.” (b.) Desolating: “consume.” (c.) Agonising: “consume.” ii. Reason of the visitation. (a.) Fruitlessness: “no grapes, no figs:” i.e., there are none. (b.) Decay: “leaf is withered.” In consequence of barrenness Christ cursed the fig-tree. iii. Selected agency of the visitation. Read, “I appoint those who will pass over them.” (a.) God regulates punishment: “I appoint.” (b.) Unconscious agents fulfilling His word: “them that shall pass over them.” Note: 1. God has fixed and serious designs concerning men. 2. He has His agents ready and able to carry them out. 3. When we talk of peace and safety, see no invader, suspect no foe; yea, while the enemy himself is without plan of attack, the design for our overthrow stands complete. 4. Hence, the certainty that “the wicked shall not go unpunished,” and the urgency of our forsaking evil, and seeking reconciliation with God.

Jeremiah 8:14-15. Theme: DEFIANCE REDUCED TO DESPAIR

Until now, Judah had resented God’s warning and messages: had carried on the war of resistance against His Word; entrenched in her carnal security and insolent indifference, had refused to repent or yield. This verse shows her vaunted confidence gone; she must “flee to defenced cities:” and her proud spirit broken; she must “be silent there.” Yet the opening sentence, “Why sit still?” may be, not a panic cry, that her peril is imminent, but a summons of her dejected soul to self-help: one more effort to keep above surrender and despair.

I. A rallying-call to action and self-defence. “Why sit still? Let us go to defenced cities.” (See Homily on Jeremiah 4:5.)

Calvin remarks that these words show “that they (as hypocrites are wont to do) had recourse to expedients, by which they thought to protect themselves against God’s wrath. They (hypocrites) indeed feel their evils, and seek to apply remedies; but they stop at the nearest reliefs, without seeking to pacify God, and to return into favour with Him; and think themselves to be safe if they betake themselves to this or that hiding-place.”

1. Self-chiding: “Why do we sit still?” 2. Self-reliance: “Assemble yourselves, and let us enter.” 3. Self-delusion: “enter into the defenced cities, and let us be silent there.” Silent there: some render the words, rest there: דָּמָה, to rest or be silent. Merely defend ourselves in quiet, until the storm blow over.

II. A despairing recognition of their woful case. “Let us be silent there; for the Lord our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink.” Authority determines the word “silent” to mean “perish,” lit. be put to silence, from דָּמָם. All that they can promise themselves, in fleeing to fortified cities, is a little respite. 1. Salvation is beyond hope: the “defenced cities” will fall; they cannot expect, therefore, to be saved, but only to put off a little longer the inevitable ruin. 2. Destruction is determined for them: “Jehovah hath put us to silence,” i.e., hath decreed our destruction, and there is now no escape. And “hath given us water of gall;” i.e., of poison. (See “Natural History” on verse.) This simile suggests the bitter suffering incident to their nearing ruin. Horsley renders the words, “And let us sit there in despair, since the Lord our God hath brought us to despair,” &c. For God had at last reduced their defiance of Him, and their self-confident indifference, to utter despair. (Addenda, chap. Jeremiah 8:14, “Defiance issuing in despair.”)

III. A paralysing acknowledgment of sin’s merited judgment. “The Lord hath put us to silence, &c., because we have sinned against the Lord.” Suggests

1. God is against sin: He will not condone it.

2. Sin hath entailed death. God decrees destruction, and gives the poisonous cup to the sinner,—which is the decree brought home to the transgressor against whose sin that decree has gone forth. Flee where they might, they would carry their impiety with them, and, therefore, God’s decree against iniquity would follow them into their fortifications, and wrath Divine would fall upon them there. There is no escaping the sentence and doom which sin entails, for there is no evading God, nor shutting off from us the operation of His omnipresent laws. Men will realise this at last.

IV. A melancholy confutation of the sinner’s vain hopes (Jeremiah 8:15).

1. Flattering expectations are easily cherished. By (1.) The sinner’s own foolish vanity. (2.) By the false counsellors to whom he listens. (See Notes on chap. Jeremiah 4:10, and also Jeremiah 8:11.)

2. Experience scatters our false expectations. Man has the making of his expectations; God of his experiences. Our expectations are what we desire; our experiences what we deserve.

Jeremiah 8:18. Theme: COMFORT IN SORROW. I. Need of comfort. II. Attempt to comfort ourselves. III. Such attempt vicious and vain.—J. Farren. (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 8:18, “Bitter lamentations.”)

Jeremiah 8:19-20. Theme: A BITTER CRY FROM SCENES OF EXILE.

“This verse should be translated thus:—‘Behold the voice of the cry for help of the daughter of my people from a distant land! Is not Jehovah in Zion? Is not her King there? Why have they provoked Me to anger with their carved images, with foreign vanities?’ The invaders have not merely wasted the land (Jeremiah 8:16), but carried the remnant into captivity. The prophet seems to hear their loud cry for help, but their complaint, Is there no Jehovah in Zion? is met by God demanding of them the reason why, instead of worshipping Him, they have set up idols.”—Speaker’s Com.

“Because they have chosen the empty idols from abroad (“strange,” foreign “vanities”), Jehovah, the Almighty God of Zion, has cast them out into a far country amidst strange people.”—Keil.

“The common cant was; Is not the Lord in Zion? And will not Zion’s God protect Zion’s king and kingdom? This outcry of theirs reflects upon God, as if His power and promise were broken or weakened; and, therefore, He returns an answer to it immediately, Why have they provoked Me? &c. They have withdrawn from their allegiance to Him, and so have thrown themselves out of His protection.”—Henry.

In the midst of their bitterness and woe, they remember the God whom they had forgotten in their prosperity; but this remembrance is not a gracious one,—they do not remember Him to humble themselves before Him, but to bring accusations against Him.
I. We have a cry: That is how the prayer is described. 1. It had in it a meaning: “the voice of their cry.” 2. The matter of the voice: “for them that dwell in a far country” [interpreting the words as Zion’s agonising appeal to God for those “afar-off,” like the prodigal “in a far country”]. 3. Their settled estrangement from God is implied, “them that dwell in a far country.” 4. This prayer for those long estranged is from God’s own people: “the cry of the daughter of my people.”

II. The question: “Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her?” Surely, yes. Then if the Lord be in the midst of Zion, 1. Why do we pray as if He were not? Rather pray, knowing Him near to answer as by fire. 2. Why do you despond because of your weakness? God is all-sufficient. 3. Why those great fears about the prosperity of the Church? The battle is the Lord’s: let us go on and conquer.

III. Another question: “Why have they provoked Me?” &c. 1. Here is a question for the Lord’s people. It is a very solemn thing when God is in His Church, how that Church behaves herself. 2. This text has a particular voice to sinners. You have been saying, God is amid His people; how is it I remain unblessed, unsaved? Because of your “vanities,” your idols, your sins.

IV. Another cry: “The harvest is past,” &c. (Jeremiah 8:20). We thought God would keep us in the days of harvest; but the harvest is past. We dreamed He would chase away our enemies when the summer months had come; but the summer is ended, and still Chaldea has her foot upon Judah’s neck—still we drink the wormwood and the gall: we are not saved.

What harvest, what summers (spiritually) we have had: ingathering of souls; yet you are not saved! Some in your home converted, &c., but you not saved. The day is near when you will have to cry in the sight of the approach of death, “The harvest is past, &c., and I not saved!” Yes, a day comes when, being in torments, you will cry those words! We are looking for Christ’s coming: and then, seeing Him gather His harvest into the sky, the cry again will rise, “Harvest past: we not saved!”—Spurgeon.

Jeremiah 8:20. Theme: THE LOST HARVEST. “Harvest is past,” &c.

Language descriptive of the awful position of those who, having trifled away gracious opportunities, are found at close of life unforgiven and unrenewed. Consider:

I. That the means and opportunities of securing salvation are graciously afforded to men.
II. That these means and opportunities will soon pass away.
III. That when once past, they will have disappeared for ever.
Irretrievable despair!—Sunday at Home.


I. That God has given you the gracious seasons of summer and harvest. 1. The summer (a.) of life; (b.) of reason; (c.) of opportunities. 2. The harvest (a.) of knowledge; (b.) of privileges; (c.) of blessings.

II. That these may pass away unimproved 1. Many do not think. 2. Will not forsake their sins. 3. Will not believe. 4. Will procrastinate.

III. That the regrets of such will be awful and unavailing. 1. Sometimes their regrets are expressed in this world. 2. They will surely be uttered in eternity. Regrets (1.) of intense agony, of recollection, of self-condemnation; (2.) regrets will be unavailing,—no space for repentance, no ear for prayer, no fountain, no cross! (3.) of black despair, “harvest past,” &c.

1. None would choose this portion. 2. Who would risk it? 3. Who will flee from it? Now is the “harvest,” &c.—Jabez Burns.


I. What considerations involved. 1. The object: “harvest.” 2. The opportunity: “summer.” 3. The limitation: “past,” “ended.” 4. The neglect irreparable: “We not saved.”

II. To what circumstances applicable. 1. Neglect of decision for God. 2. Neglect of spiritual culture. 3. Neglect of Christian service.

III. What lessons enforced. Importance of—1. Present opportunity. 2. Present dedication.—J. Farren.


Text may be accommodated so as to admit of a general application, and be interpreted in a spiritual sense. Then this lamentation may be understood as the

I. Language of final and absolute despair. That, having neglected means, wasted opportunity, resisted Spirit, “hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord,” now they have no longer hope of mercy: nothing to expect but judgment and misery! Let us dread the doom of the foolish virgins.

II. Language of deep and humbling conviction. That, having abused their only opportunity for seeking salvation, for attending to “the one thing needful,” for fulfilling the solemn object of life, it is gone for ever; their day of grace is over, they must therefore perish without remedy! Awakened at last to the interests of their souls, but awakened too late. “Redeem the time.”

III. Language of distressing and gloomy despondency. Such despondency as the afflicted and tempted servants of Jesus Christ sometimes experience: their minds clouded, peace gone, hope perished, they take up unrighteously the melancholy cry of text: “After all we have thought and felt, we find we have been deceiving ourselves, we have not really known and loved the Lord, our present gloom is proof against our being His; we are undone; harvest is past!” &c. They are “in heaviness through manifold temptations.”

Some have a well-assured hope that their harvest is not passed, that they are saved! For they have fled to Christ for refuge, have in themselves the witness of the Spirit. Remember, that for these who have reasons for hope and joy, the term of life is the “summer” in which they must labour in the service, and for the glory, of their Lord.—Rev. Ed. Cooper, A. D. 1816.


I. There are certain seasons which may be called the soul’s harvests. 1. Times of religious privilege. 2. Times of special religious action. 3. In a sense, the whole of life is a harvest time. 4. Now is emphatically a season of harvest.

II. These seasons have their period of close. 1. By national judgments. 2. By providential removal. 3. By the withdrawing of the Holy Ghost. 4. By death.

III. That these seasons may pass without due impression. 1. Proved from the fact that many take no heed concerning their souls at all. 2. Many are convicted, but never converted. 3. Exhort all to seek the Lord without delay, for

IV. The remorse of those who allow such seasons to pass without due impression, will be—1. Fearful. 2. Unavailing.—A. F. Barfield, “Christian World Pulpit.”


Summer and harvest are proper seasons of action; opportunities for armies to take the field, subdue enemies, and bring about deliverance of an oppressed people. The winter that follows is not a fit season for action. An awful thing when favourable seasons for saving a people from temporal enemies and calamities are lost; but infinitely more alarming to lose favourable seasons of saving their souls. This is ground for deepest lamentation when forced to say, “Harvest is past,” &c. Consider:

I. Favourable seasons, which we should be careful to improve to the salvation of our souls.

1. The summer days of youth. Hopeful season: God loves “first ripe fruits:” young prayers, young tears, young faith, love, &c. (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

2. When persons enjoy lively means and ordinances; when Christ crucified is set before them with holy fervour and feeling.

3. When there is a noise and shaking among the dry bones: work of conviction and conversion is going forward, &c.

4. When Satan’s power is restrained, and churches have rest from evil: this is a calm summer day.

5. When God is visiting mankind with alarming providences: then the inhabitants of the earth should learn righteousness.

II. Who may be said to have lost their summer days and favourable seasons of grace? We cannot be positive as to any while life remains, yet of some, sad grounds to fear.

1. Those who have had the Spirit long striving with them, but have resisted His striving and repelled Him (Ezekiel 24:13).

2. Those who persist in sinful courses and harden themselves against the reproofs of the Almighty (Proverbs 29:1).

3. Those who sin presumptuously, sin in the face of light, in hopes of repentance and pardon (Numbers 15:30).

4. Those who are so determinately bent on sin that God, their own consciences, and God’s ministers cease to reprove them (Ezekiel 3:27, Hosea 4:17).

5. Those who deliberately relapse into sin after having been Divinely corrected and aroused to resolutions (Isaiah 1:5).

6. Those who give themselves up to commit sin with greediness, and glory in it (Ephesians 4:19, Philippians 3:19).

7. Those who mock the offers of the Gospel, and despise those who bring them (2 Chronicles 36:16). “Harvest is past,” &c.

III. The causes why men lose their hopeful seasons.

1. Unbelief; did men believe God’s Word, threatenings, and wrath to come, they would improve their seasons of grace, and flee to Christ.

2. Promise themselves time; leisure to attend to work of salvation; regard death and eternity as distant.

3. Indulge sloth; do not “give all diligence” to the duties of religion, public and private.

4. Love of carnal company and sensual delights: amid sinful pleasures they trifle away their summer days.


(1.) How dreadful will be the end of those who have lost all their opportunities of salvation! Remembrance of them will not ameliorate but embitter their case.

(2.) Such characters act as if devoid of reason (Jeremiah 8:7, Proverbs 6:8); worse than the brutes that perish.

(3.) Let us endeavour to improve Gospel seasons, the summer and harvest for our souls, with greatest care.—Hannum.

There is in this text

I. The acknowledgment of opportunity.

II. The confession of neglect.

III. The anticipation of doom.

J. W. W., from Lange. (Addenda to chap. 8 Jeremiah 8:20, “Opportunity Lost.”)

Jeremiah 8:21. Comments:

For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt.” The hopeless case of the people and kingdom moves the seer so deeply that he bursts forth with the cry, “For the breaking of my people I am broken” (the Hophil form = the breaking of the heart). “I am black:” used of wearing mourning—in other words, to be in mourning (cf. Psalms 35:14; Psalms 38:7). “Astonishment hath taken hold:” horror hath taken hold on me (Jeremiah 6:24, Micah 4:9). Help is nowhere to be found.—Kiel.

“Because of the breaking … I am broken:” the words of the prophet, whose heart is crushed by the sad cry of his countrymen.—Speaker’s Com.

“Astonished:” the astonishment with which he was seized he no doubt sets down as being the opposite of the people’s torpor and insensibility; for they had no fear for themselves.—Calvin.

“I am contemned for bewailing my people’s misery, who neither feel nor fear hurt.”—Trapp.

“Observe here:
i. How great his griefs were (Jeremiah 8:21). For their sin, and the miseries incurred by it. It becomes us to lament the miseries of our fellow-creatures, much more to lay to heart the calamities of our country, and especially of the Church of God. Jeremiah had prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, yet he did not rejoice in the proof of the truth of it by its accomplishment, preferring the welfare of his country before his own reputation. If Jerusalem had repented and been spared, he would have been far from fretting, as Jonah did. Jeremiah had many enemies in Judah and Jerusalem, that hated, reproached, and persecuted him; and in the judgments brought upon them God reckoned with them for it, and pleaded His prophet’s cause; yet he was far from rejoicing in it, so truly did he forgive his enemies and desire that God would forgive them.

ii. How small his hopes were (Jeremiah 8:22). No medicine proper for a sick and dying kingdom; no skilful, faithful hand to apply the balm. He looks upon the case to be deplorable and beyond relief. The desolations made are irreparable, and the disease has come to such a height that there is no checking it.”—Henry.

“Our connection with those who hear us continually is so full, so intimate, so tender, no one can understand it who has not experienced it. We get love, we get somewhat from the heart which was broken for its enemies, and which could cry on the cross: Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”—Zinzendorf.

Jeremiah 8:22. Theme: A CURE FOR DISEASED SOULS.

I. That mankind universally are in a diseased state.

The soul of man is meant, hence the diseases are those of the soul. That the distempers of the mind are compared to wounds, disease, and sickness, will appear from Psalms 38:5; Psalms 103:3; Ezekiel 34:4; Matthew 9:12. Point out some of these diseases:

1. Atheism, infidelity, or unbelief of Divine truths.

2. Ignorance of God and Gospel truths, even among those who profess to know Him (Hosea 4:6). They may be cured (Revelation 3:17-18).

3. Hardness of heart. (Ezekiel 36:26; Philippians 1:6).

4. Earthly mindedness. Other plagues kill their thousands, this kills its tens of thousands. Pharaoh’s woods are true of them (Exodus 14:3). Yet there is help for this (Colossians 3:12).

5. Aversion to spiritual duties. Many would rather toil their bodies a whole day than spend a quarter of an hour on their knees in secret with God. (Malachi 1:13). Relief for this (Psalms 110:3; Isaiah 40:31; Ezekiel 36:27).

6. Hypocrisy and formality in God’s service (Isaiah 29:13). This also may be healed (Jeremiah 31:33; Proverbs 4:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16).

7. Trusting to our own righteousness (Romans 10:10).

8. Indwelling corruption (Psalms 65:3; Isaiah 64:6). Yet there is help for this (Micah 7:19; Romans 7:24-25).

9. Backsliding. This is a spiritual consumption, yet may be cured (Deuteronomy 30:6; Hosea 14:4-6).

There are several symptoms which seem to render our diseases almost desperate and incurable.

α. When the body is universally affected, and with a complication of diseases, the case is truly alarming: and this is the state of the soul (Isaiah 1:5-6). Still we may be recovered; David was (Psalms 103:2-3).

β. When diseases are of long continuance (Psalms 51:5; Deuteronomy 28:59). Yet the Lord can make dry bones live (Ezekiel 37:0).

γ. When all around consider their case desperate. Often the case with sinners (Ezekiel 37:3; Ezekiel 37:11). Yet see the promise (Jeremiah 30:17).

δ. When its threatening symptoms are not observed, so as to provide timely remedies. Our case not unlike Israel’s (Isaiah 57:17).

ε. When the patient becomes lethargic, loses his senses, and cannot be awakened (Isaiah 26:11; Isaiah 29:10). Still there is hope (Jeremiah 33:6).

II. That there is a physician who can cure all diseases.

God Himself (Exodus 15:26). Our cure is the work of the whole Trinity, but especially of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18; Matthew 9:12-13). In this office of Healer, He was typified by the brazen serpent (John 3:14); by the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2); by the Tree of Life (Revelation 22:2). Being God-man, He is nobly qualified: for

1. He is infinite in knowledge, and understands all diseases, with the proper remedies, so that He never can err (John 21:17).

2. He has sovereign authority, and almighty power, so that He can command diseases to obey (Matthew 9:2).

3. He has infinite pity, ready to help the distressed, even unasked, hence represented as Good Samaritan (Luke 10:33).

4. He has wonderful patience towards the distressed; bears with their ingratitude, and works their perfect cure.

III. The remedy which He applies to effect the cure.

It is His own blood. This is the true “Balm of Gilead” (Isaiah 53:5). Scripture speaks of other means of healing, subservient to the blood:

1. The Spirit of God, with His gracious operations on the soul (Galatians 3:13-14).

2. The word and ordinances of Christ; these are the “leaves of the Tree of Life,” &c. (Revelation 21:2; comp. Psalms 107:20).

3. Afflictions: making us mourn our wounds, and apply for remedy (Isaiah 22:9).

4. Faithful ministers. The Great Physician sends them to dispense wholesome doctrines (1 Timothy 6:3; Titus 2:1).

5. Pious Christians help by their prayers (James 5:15).

The Physician’s method of applying the remedy. He

α. Makes sinners sensible that they are sick (Matthew 9:12). This implies discovery of the nature of sin, grief over it (Psalms 38:6; Psalms 38:18), despair of healing ourselves (Hosea 14:3), and willingness to submit to the Physician’s prescriptions (Acts 9:6).

β. Works faith in the soul, by His Holy Spirit: i.e., persuades and enables him to embrace Christ as his Saviour, and apply the balm to his wounded soul. Then danger is over (John 5:24).

γ. Accomplishes and perfects the cure by the sanctifying influences of the Spirit (Matthew 5:8).

IV. The reasons why so few are healed, notwithstanding there is balm in Gilead, and a physician there. Cause in us: for

1. Many are ignorant of their disease, and wilfully so.

2. Many are in love with their disease, more than with their physician. God may say of them (Psalms 52:3).

3. Many neglect the season of healing (Jeremiah 8:20)

4. Many will not trust Christ wholly for healing.

5. Many will not submit to the prescriptions of Christ; to self-examination, repentance, godly sorrow, mortification; therefore are unhealed. To conclude:

α. Let those in a diseased state see their danger, for it is great; if they do not apply to this Physician, they cannot be healed.

β. Balm of Gilead is freely offered in the Gospel (Isaiah 45:22; Ezekiel 18:32).

γ. Consider how long you have slighted this balm already. Now improve your day, like the people of Capernaum (Luke 4:40; 2 Corinthians 6:2).

δ. Those whom Christ has healed, manifest their gratitude by living to His glory.—Hannum.

(Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 8:22. “Balm of Gilead.”)


Why health of my people not recovered?

Prophet referring to degeneracy and misery of Jews. Ask same question respecting the moral state of the masses of our own nation. Necessary to look.

I. At our moral and evangelical resources.

1. No country in the world in all respects equal in privileges.
2. No age comparable to this: (a.) Plenitude of God’s Word. (b.) Good books. (c.) Evangelical ministry. (d.) Rich variety of social institutions; for Young Men; Temperance; City Missions; Open Air Services, &c.

II. The fearful evils which still exist. Of these:

1. Avowed infidelity. Every form of scepticism.
2. General neglect of Divine worship.
3. Prevailing crime.
4. Juvenile precocity and profligacy.
5. Overwhelming intemperance.

III. The affecting inquiry presented. “Why then,” &c.

Three classes of reasons:
1. In the Church: (i.) Prevalence of spiritual indifference. (ii.) Sectarian contentions. (iii.) Fewness of workers. (iv.) Want of spiritual self-denial. (v.) Coldness in prayer. No sense of the ruin of souls. (vi.) Feeble faith; not proving God.
2. Reasons in the persons themselves. Feel they are separated from other classes; neglected; despised on account of their poverty, &c.
3. Reasons in the world. Seductive temptations, dissipating scenes, especially on Lord’s day. So Gospel is not heard and believed. Souls lost. Sin uncured. Crowds perishing.
1. We appeal to Church of Christ. Great responsibility.
2. Sinners are inexcusable. Every man must give account.
3. God’s mercy and grace are all-sufficient.
4. The provisions of the Gospel are freely published.—Rev. Jabez Burns.

INTERROGATING OUR CONDUCT. Text: “What have I done?” (Jeremiah 8:6.)

How attentive God is to us and our actions! He sees His prodigals when yet a great way off; to Him there is music in our sigh, and beauty in a tear. In this verse He represents Himself as looking upon man’s heart, and listening—if possibly He may hear something good. And how amiable God is, that turns aside, with grief in His heart, exclaiming, “I did listen, but no man spake aright,” &c. Never do we have a desire towards God, or breathe a prayer to heaven, but God has been watching and hearkening for it: it was but one tear on the cheek, yet the Father noticed it as a hopeful sign; but one throb went through the heart, yet He heeded it as an omen that not quite hardened by sin. Text, “What have I done?” calls for

I. Words of earnest persuasion, urging all, and especially the unconverted, to ask this question, each for himself, and solemnly answer it. Few men like to take the trouble to review their own lives. Like silly ostrich, when hard pressed by hunters, bury their sight from real evils and danger. But remember.

1. Searching yourself can do you no hurt. Little can be lost by taking stock. You cannot be any worse for a little self-examination. 2. You may be a great deal better for the process: for, if your affairs are all right with God, you may cheer and comfort yourself; but there are many probabilities that they are wrong; so many are deceived, and anything rather than self-delusion. 3. The time for self-examination is short: soon you will know the secret, death will rend off the mask. 4. Though you may deceive yourself, you cannot God. The everlasting Jehovah will grasp the balances of justice, put His law in one scale and the sinner in the other: “Weighed and found wanting!”

Various excuses will arise to check this inquiry: you will plead you are members of churches, have often received the sacramental bread and wine. Easy thing in this age to make profession of religion. Christ had one hypocrite in His twelve! Rest on no profession. Neither put off this question because too busy to attend to spiritual concerns. Know not how near death is to thee. May the Lord prepare each for death and judgment by leading all to ask, “What have I done?”

II. Words of assistance in trying to answer the question.
1. To Christians: “What hast thou done?” You reply, “Nothing to save myself; that was done for me. Nothing to make a righteousness for myself; Christ said, It is finished! Nothing to merit heaven; Jesus did that for me before I was born!” Yes, but say; What hast thou done for Him? for His Church? for the salvation of the world? to promote thine own spiritual growth in grace?

2. To moralists: “What hast thou done?” You answer, “All I ought to have done! You may tell me of sins, but I have done my duty: observed Sabbath, said prayers, given to poor, &c.; and if good works have any merit, I have done a great deal!” True, if any merit; but very unfortunate that they have not, for our good works, if we do them to save ourselves by them, are no better than our sins. Christ will never go shares with you in the work of salvation. Your morality is no help to you whatever as to eternal things.

3. To the worldly: “What done?” “It is very little I do amiss; now and then just a little mirth.” Stop; let us have the right name for that mirth. What do you call it in any one else? “Drunkenness.” “I have been a little loose in talk sometimes!” Write it down, “Lascivious conversation.” Sometimes you have been out on the Sabbath? “Sabbath-breaking.” You may have quoted texts of Scripture to make jokes of them, and used God’s name in foolish talk? “Swearing.” Did you ever adulterate in your trade? “Stealing.” Wished you could get your neighbour’s prosperity? “Covetousness, which is idolatry.” Ever really prayed? “Prayerlessness.” Neglected God and Bible? “Despising Him.” Few but will feel these sins lie at their door. May the Spirit touch your consciences, and convince you of your sins!

4. To the unconverted: “What done?” By your sins you have destroyed your soul, resisted the gospel, spurned Christ. Yes; and think what you have done to your children: taught them the ways of spiritual ruin. To your companions: tempted some to take the first stray step into folly, indulgence, iniquity. Doth not your heart quail within you because of self-ruin and ruin of others?

III. Words of affectionate admonition to those who have had to answer the question against themselves.

1. Solemn that the years roll on and yet you are unsaved. You, not altogether hardened, yet “done” nothing to determine for Christ, and lay hold on eternity. 2. There will be a time when you will ask the question, but it will be too late. “On the death bed?” No, not too late there; but when breath has gone out of your body. After the suicide has taken the fatal leap, he may cry, “What have I done?” but too late! Some mocking spirit in mid-air echoes, “Lost, lost, lost!” In the dreadful judgment, too, the soul will ask that question, as the eye of the Judge fixes itself upon him: He turns to your page in the book, but it has never been blotted with His blood. If you only knew what they feel, and could see what they endure, who have lost opportunity and lost themselves, you would, ere too late, pause and ask, “What have I done?” As immortal spirits, bound for endless weal or woe, fly ye to Christ, seek for mercy at His hand, trust in Him, and be saved.—Spurgeon. (Comp. Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 8:6, “Self-interrogation.”)

Topic: THE RAVAGES OF SIN: A PATHETIC REMONSTRANCE. Text: “Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there? Why, then, is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” (Jeremiah 8:22).—(Addenda, “Balm of Gilead.”)

“Astonishment” (Jeremiah 8:21) over “health not recovered” (Jeremiah 8:22) is followed by lament for “the slain” (Jeremiah 9:1). (1.) Between the two there is a distinction: “health” lacking, the soul diseased, impotent, suffering, prostrate, perishing, but not “slain.” (2.) Between the two there is a connexion; let the disease go unchecked, unhealed, the plague not stayed, and the issue will be—the suffering victim of sin “slain.” That sad word “slain” suggests the destroyer’s work done; the ruin of the “daughter of my people” is complete. Therefore, the prophet lifts his voice in the cry of anguish in which there sounds no strain of hope (Jeremiah 9:1). But, in this text, the case is less severe; the malady rages, but recovery is possible, “health may be restored.” To such as have lost spiritual health, and all as yet unsaved, come the hopeful tidings of “balm in Gilead and a physician there.” Four topics:

I. A malady. “Health not recovered:” needed “balm and physician.”

The malady which has devastated the health of humanity is sin. What is sin but a disease of soul? Analogy:
1. In the manner of its development. Disease lies concealed in blood before it assumes visible signs. Began in thought, grew into a desire, advanced into an intention, issued in act.

2. In the rapidity of its progress. Bursts forth into fierce forms, whole system inflamed. Malady quickly spreads through the whole nature, vitiating mind, corrupting character, consuming goodness, till “yield members to uncleanness, and from iniquity unto iniquity.”

3. In its contagious influence. Springs from one to another, speeding and spreading misery and death. Plague of London started from one person. So, “by one man sin entered into world,” &c. Broke out in Eden, pervaded earth, &c. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” “One sinner destroyeth much good.”

4. In its fatal termination. Unless arrested, disease soon completes its ravages, and victim sinks to the dead. And what the termination of sin? “Wages of sin is death.” “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

II. A remedy. “Balm in Gilead.” Remedy equal to the disease, for might have been “recovered.”

Gilead a mountain; balsam trees flourished; gum had medicinal properties, highly valued and widely celebrated. Thus extracted: Incision with axe or spear; issues a glutinous sap. Concerning its virtues, ancient botanists and physicians eloquent in praise.
Led by analogy from Gilead to Calvary; from balsam-tree to Cross; from issuing sap to Blood; from incision by axe to “with spear pierced His side.” Concerning its healing virtues, ten thousand times ten thousand tongues eloquent. “Health restored:” in heaven, never more sick!

1. It was highly precious. So valued that Pompey and Titus carried some back with them to Rome. “Precious blood of Christ.”

2. It had peculiar properties. Healing virtues in “balm” special to it. “Makes wounded spirit whole, calms troubled breast.”

3. It was easily obtained. Readily flowed forth. “Seek, and ye shall find.” “Whosoever call on name of Lord shall be saved.”

4. It was effectual in its operation. “Whole head may be sick,” &c. Yet healing virtue therein. “Though sins be as scarlet,” &c.

“Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power.”

III. A healer. There is “a physician there.” This a name which Jesus assumed: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

1. He is acquainted with the nature of the disease. Knows the cause of its commencement, mode of development, phases it assumes, issues to which it leads. Knows seat of disease, and how to assail it: “Out of heart proceed evil thoughts,” &c. Familiar with the malady and mode of treatment.

2. He is skilful in administering the remedy. Has had long experience and extensive practice. Every land, every age. “He went about doing good, and healing all manner of diseases and sickness among the people. (Comp. Romans 7:24-25.)

3. He is willing to afford relief. Never wearied, “waits to be gracious;” “desires not death of sinner, but that all come to repentance;’ chides with the dying, “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;” assures, “I will in no wise cast out.”

4. His ability to heal is widely attested. In our midst: “Ye are washed,” &c. In heaven: “Great multitudes; made white in blood of Lamb.”

IV. A remonstrance. “Why their health not recovered?” Many unhealed; what the explanation?

1. Some urge that they are not suffering from any malady. Not deny existence and ravages of sin as general truth, but repudiate charge of personal corruption, infection, and peril. Thus put “balm” and “physician” from them. For that is the issue; if men are not fatally diseased, Christ came not for them; they have no place in His redemptive mission. Because of this folly—ignoring their need of the Divine remedy—“health is not recovered.”

2. Others urge that they are not in a condition of serious danger. Admit personal sin, need remedy, but no occasion for alarm; they “know not that they are wretched, and poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked.” Delusion is a symptom of this malady of sin. “They hold fast deceit” (Jeremiah 8:5). And because of this self-flattery “health is not recovered.”

3. Others urge that they can secure healing at any time. Dreadful procrastination! Deliberate trifling with grace. Surely there is no certainty of finding salvation just when men determine. Death waits not upon our convenience. Melancholy presumption. Yet because of it “health is not recovered.”

4. Others urge that they are too near perishing for recovery. Write hard things against themselves. (See Jeremiah 8:20.) But what state surpasses the Almighty Physician? Have any proved Him unable? “Able to save to uttermost.” Yet because of despair “health is not recovered.”

Sorrow for misery, surprise at hesitancy, indignation over trifling, remonstrance with despair—all are expressed in this plaintive interrogation, “Why, then, is not health recovered!” There is “balm,” a “physician,” and, therefore, “health” for all, for “sinners, even the chief.” “He healed all them that had need of healing.”


Jeremiah 8:1. GRAVES DISTURBED: DEAD MOLESTED. Dr. Pusey writes of this sacrilege, that it was “a hatred carried beyond the grave, a hatred which is a sort of impotent grasping at eternal vengeance, hatred which, having no power to work any real vengeance, has no object but to show its hatred.” (Note on Amos 2:1.)

“He (David) was buried by his son Solomon in Jerusalem, with great magnificence, and with all the other funeral pomp which kings used to be buried with; moreover, he had great and immense wealth buried with him, the vastness of which may be easily conjectured at by what I now say: for 1300 years afterwards, Hyrcanus, the high priest, when he was besieged by Antiochus, and was desirous of giving him money to get him to raise the siege, and draw off his army, and having no other method of compassing the money, opened one room of David’s sepulchre, and took out 3000 talents, and gave part of that sum to Antiochus, and by this means caused the siege to be raised. Nay, after him, and that many years, Herod, the king, opened another room, and took away a great deal of money.”—Josephus, Antiq. bk. vii. chap. 15 § 3.

“For extremity of despite also, dead men’s bones have been digged up. Pope Formosas was so dealt with by his successor, Stephanus VI.; and many of the holy martyrs by their barbarous persecutors.”—Trapp.

Jeremiah 8:3. DEATH DESIRED.

“To die,—to sleep,

No more; and, by a sleep, to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished.”


“Death! to the happy thou art terrible,
But how the wretched love to think of thee!
O thou true comforter, the friend of all
Who have no friend beside!”


“A sleep without dreams, after a rough day
Of toil, is what we covet most; and yet
How clay shrinks back from more quiescent clay!”


“Soon may this woe-worn spirit seek the bourne
Where, lulled to slumber, grief forgets to mourn.”



“They fall deepest into hell who fall backwards into hell.”—Bunyan.

“Errare humanum est; perseverare diabolicum.”—Trapp.

Jeremiah 8:6. SELF-INTERROGATION. “What have I done?” The Pythagoreans once a day put this question to themselves. It is reported of Sextus that every night before he slept, he asked of his own heart, “What evil hast thou this day amended? what vice hast thou shunned? what good hast thou done? in what part art thou bettered?”

“As it is an evidence that those tradesmen are embarrassed in their estates who are afraid to look into their books; so it is plain that there is something wrong within, among all those who are afraid to look within.”—Secker.

Thales, the Milesian philosopher, flourished about A.M. 3330, and was cotemporary with Josiah, king of Judah, and Jeremiah, our prophet; and he it was who gave birth to the wise admonition which was the basis of his philosophic teaching, “Know thyself.” Cicero, however, ascribes the maxim to Apollo himself, “because,” he says, “it hath such weight of sense and wisdom in it as appear too great to be attributed to any man.” It was emblazoned in golden letters over the door of the temple of Apollo at Delphos.

Jeremiah 8:7. “Stork.” The same individuals return to the same place year after year.

“The stork-assembly meets; for many a day
Consulting deep and various, ere they take
Their arduous voyage through the liquid sky.
And now, their route designed, their leaders chose,
Their tribes adjusted, cleaned their vigorous wings,

… in congregation full

The figured flight ascends, and riding high
The ærial billows, mixes with the clouds.”



“The dove let loose in eastern skies,

Returning fondly home,

Ne’er stoops to earth her wing, nor flies

Where idle warblers roam.

But high she shoots, through air and light,

Above all low delay,

Where nothing earthly bounds her flight,

Nor shadow dims her way.”


Crane.” Homer (Iliad, Jeremiah 3:2-3) alludes to the harsh sound of the crane in her flight:

“The Trojans indeed advanced, with both clang and shout like birds,
Just in fact as is the noise of cranes in front of the sky.”

Swallow.” Its instinct is more true than man’s reason or faith.

“Bright bird of summer, what joys are thine!
Voice of the spring, if thy wings were mine,
My merry course should be with thee
To the orange grove and the banyan tree;
For who would dwell in the wintry chill,
And the gloom and cares of this world of ill,
If he could borrow thy wings, and stray
In chase of the summer, with thee away!”

Anon (See Gray’s “Topics.”)

Crane and swallow.” It is agreed by all philologists that our translators interchanged the words, and that in each case it should be “swallow and crane,” not “crane and swallow.” Soos, or sîs, rendered “swallow,” scarcely can mean the swallow, for though a migrant it is hardly so in Palestine as to justify these words, “the swallow observes the time of its coming.” But the difficulty was solved, says Dr. Tristram, when we found that soos is to the present day the vernacular or provincial, though not the classical, Arabic name of the swift; and when we noted that, unlike the swallows, the swifts return to Palestine on a sudden in one day, and cover the land in countless myriads.—Sunday at Home.

Jeremiah 8:8. SACRED WISDOM. Needed. Varro, a Roman writer of the first century B. C., states that in his day he had been at the pains to collect the various opinions on the question, “What is the true object of human life?”—in other words, “What is the supreme good?” He had reckoned up as many as three hundred and twenty different answers! How needful is Divine revelation!—Biblical Treasury.

“LYING PEN OF THE SCRIBES.” The mention of Scribes in this place is a crucial point in the argument whether or not the Pentateuch or Torah is the old law-book of the Jews, or a fabrication which gradually grew up, but was not received as authoritative until after the return from captivity. It is not until the time of Josiah that we find Scribes mentioned, except as political officers; here they are students of the Torah. But the Torah must have existed in writing before there could have been an order of men whose especial business it was to study it; and therefore Ewald, Hitzig, Graf, and others explain the verse away by saying that perhaps the Scribes were writers of books, and had published collections of false prophecies written in imitation of the true. But the Torah of Jehovah is mentioned in this very verse, and the whole gist of the passage is lost if what the Scribes turned into a lie was anything except that law, of which they had just boasted that they were the possessors.… Jeremiah’s whole argument depends upon the fact that there were in his days men who claimed to be “wise,” or rather learned men, because of their study of the Pentateuch, and is certainly inconsistent with the assumptions of the new critics, that Jeremiah wrote the book of Deuteronomy, and that Ezra wrote parts of Exodus and the whole of Leviticus.—Speaker’s Commentary.

Jeremiah 8:14. DEFIANCE ISSUING IN DESPAIR. Francis Spira, an Italian apostate, exclaimed on his deathbed, “My sin is greater than the mercy of God! I have denied Christ voluntarily. I feel now that He hardens me, and allows me no hope!

Hobbes, the infidel, before death, “I am taking a fearful leap into the dark.”

Jeremiah 8:18. BITTER LAMENTATIONS for others’ ruin. When our Redeemer wept over the city that was to perish, He considered it the more to be deplored as it knew not itself its deplorable condition. As many, therefore, as are set on fire by the torch of love weep over other men’s sins as if they were their own. St. Augustine says, “We mourn over the sins of others, we suffer violence, we are tormented in our minds.” St. Chrysostom says that Moses was raised above the people because he habitually deplored the sins of others. “He,” says the same holy doctor, “who sorrows for other men’s sins, has the tenderness of an apostle, and is an imitator of that blessed One who said, ‘Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?’ ”—F. W. Faber.

Jeremiah 8:20. “Harvest is past.” OPPORTUNITY LOST. “The mill can’t grind with the water that is lost.” Opportunities are importunities. Colossians 4:3, is literally “buying up the opportunity.”

One of the most ingenious tortures of the Hohenslaufen family, in the height of their despotic control, was that of a cell which, at the prisoner’s first entrance, presented an air of comfort and ease; so that it was not till he had been a few days confined that he observed the dimensions of his chamber beginning to contract. But the discovery once made, the fact became more appalling every day. Slowly but terribly, the sides drew closer, and the unhappy victim was crushed to death. What an emblem does this suggest of the sinner’s contracting day of grace! Oh, what would the poor victim in such a cell have given to see the door open, and hear a voice, “Escape for thy life!” Would that sinners would escape as eagerly by the door of grace!—Bowes’ “Illustrative Gatherings.”

“Many do with opportunities as children do at the seashore; they fill their little hands with sand, and then let the grains fall through one by one till all are gone.”—T. Jones.

Jeremiah 8:22. BALM OF GILEAD. Gilead, where the balm was found, was on the wilderness side of promised land; the true Balm of Gilead—Jesus Christ—is for our healing here, before we pass over Jordan. Men travelled far to get it, bought it at great price; but Jesus is nigh to heal us, and restores us “without money and without price.” Merchants conveyed the balm far and wide; missionaries travel far to make the free gift. The balsam tree had to be cut, pressed, &c., to yield the balm; Christ was “wounded” and “bruised” (Isaiah 53:5). The supply of balm almost exhausted: Christ the same for ever.—“Topics.”

Alexander the Great was dying of a wound, which did not seem very dangerous at first, but it baffled his physicians, and was rapidly becoming mortal. One night, however, it is said, he dreamed that some one had brought him a peculiar-looking plant, which, when applied to the festering sore, had cleansed and closed it. In the morning, when he awoke, he described the plant; and the historian informs us that it was sought for and found, and when applied to the wound, the fiery pain subsided, and he was speedily healed. Now your soul has received a deadly hurt; it has been stung by the old serpent, the devil. The wound gets worse. There is a tender plant which is able to heal you—it is the Balm of Gilead.—Dr. James Hamilton.

Compared with the virture and preciousness of the redeeming grace of Jesus, whose blood cleanses us from all sin.

“Not balm, new bleeding from the wounded tree,
Nor bless’d Arabia with his spicy grove,
Such fragrance yields.”


So highly prized was the balsam that, during the war of Titus against the Jews, two fierce contests took place for the balsam orchards of Jericho, the last of which was to prevent the Jews from destroying the trees, which they would have done, in order that the trade might not fall into the enemy’s hand.
Not a root nor a branch of the balsam tree is now to be found in all Palestine.
Twice was a balsam-tree exhibited in triumph to the Romans in their streets. The first time was B. C. 65, when Pompey returned from his conquest, and Judea became a Roman province; and the last time was after a lapse of 144 years, when the spoils of the temple of Jerusalem were borne in triumph through the imperial city, and, as a sign of the subjection of the whole country, the precious balm-tree was exhibited with pride by Vespasian.
Bruce saw the balsam-tree in Arabian valleys. The most considerable gardens of them is in a recess of the mountains, between Mecca and Medina.
The balm of Gilead is a small evergreen; at five feet from the ground it branches out something like an old hawthorn; bark is smooth, shining, of a whitish grey colour, with brown blotches; leaves are of a bright green, foliage is scanty and rugged. The greatest quantity of balsam flows from the wounded bark; but there are three kinds procured by art; best is the opobalsam, expressed from the green berry; second, from the ripe nut or berry; the last is obtained by bruising and boiling the young wood.—Scripture Herbal.

The balm of the soul is prayer, saith the Chaldee paraphrast; is repentance, saith Jerome; is Christ applied by faith, say we. Sanguis medici est curatio phrenetici.—Trapp.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/jeremiah-8.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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