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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 9

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-26

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES. For Chronology and History, see chap. 7.

1. Geographical References. Jeremiah 9:26. “Egypt.” sit. on N.E. angle of Africa; a vast plain; in general features it may be regarded as the valley of the Nile, by which river it is nourished; the country anciently divided into two great divisions, Upper and Lower Egypt; subdivided into smaller sections called Nomes, or provinces; now divided into Lower Egypt, called Delta (because enclosed within the arms of the Nile, resembling a Greek Δ); stretching about 80 miles inland from Mediterranean Central Egypt, extending cir. 150 miles further south: Upper Egypt, which reaches cir. 250 miles still further from the Mediterranean, where the First Cataract forms its natural boundary. Common Bible name of the land is Mizraim; ancient Egyptian name, inscribed in hieroglyphics, is KEM. Contains 115, 200 square geological miles. “Edom,” or Idumea: a district north of the peninsula of Sinai, itself bounded on the north by Moab, “a narrow, mountainous tract (about 100 miles long by 20 broad), extending along the eastern side of the Arabah.”—Dr. W. Smith. “Ammon:” originally the “children of Ammon “located themselves, together with Moabites, west of the Jordan, the Jabbok (midway between Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea) was anciently the northern border-line of their territory, and the Arnon (which flows into the Dead Sea nearly opposite to Engedi) the southern limit. In Jeremiah’s time they were in possession of the cities of Gad (south of the Arnon), from which Tiglath-Pilesar had removed the Jews (Jeremiah 49:1-6). “Moab,” occupied the plain of the Jordan-valley on the eastern side of the Dead Sea; afterwards spread themselves south of Judea towards Idumea. But the boundary lines of Ammon and Moab were continually shifting; hence their localisation can only be indicated, not determined. “All that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness.” (See Lit. Crit. on these words, “utmost corners,” below). Arabian tribes who resided in the desert S. E. of Palestine.

2. Natural History. Jeremiah 9:11. “Dragons,” תַּנִּים evidently “dragons” is a wrong interpretation, for serpents do not invade ruined cities, and make “dens” amid the “heaps;” the jackal is meant, whose habit is to prowl amid rocky places and ruins; size about that of a fox, but legs longer; colour, yellowish grey, with dark shades about the back; voice, hideous, a mingled bark and howl; generally jackals go in great troops (Maunder). Jeremiah 9:15. “Wormwood,” לַעֲנָה (Laănậh); several species in Palestine; Kitto specifies four: Artemisia nilotica, judaica, fruticosa, and cinerea; all distinguished for intense bitterness, and probably not only nauseous but hurtful (Deuteronomy 19:18; Proverbs 5:4; Amos 5:7; Amos 6:12). “Water of gall.” See Nat Hist. on Jeremiah 8:14, supra.

3. Manners and Customs. Jeremiah 9:2. “In the wilderness a lodging place.” A caravanserai, usually a large, square building (khan), erected in deserts and regions far removed from towns, on the route of caravans, either at the public expense or by private charity; they are mere shelters for the night, without furniture, comfort, or supplies, and generally filthy and abound in vermin. Jeremiah 9:3. “Bend their tongues like their bows,” properly, they tread their bow, i.e., to string it—the bow being held by the foot while it is strung. Jeremiah 9:7. “I will melt and try them:” (See notes on Jeremiah 6:27). Simile of metal refining: “smelting, in order to separate the pure metal from the ore, testing, to See if the metal is pure, or still mixed with alloy”—Speaker’s Com. Jeremiah 9:17. “Mourning women:” hired mourners, who, by frantic gestures, dreadful wailings, and doleful ditties, both professed grief and incited it in beholders. It demanded some skill to learn these shrieks, and gestures, and dirges, hence here described as “cunning women.” Jerome says the custom continued in Judea down to his days (Obit. A. D. 420). Lane states that it still exists in Egypt (“Modern Egyptians”); and Calmet, that the practice prevails in most of the provinces of the Levant. Jeremiah 9:20. “Teach your daughters wailing:” see above, Jeremiah 9:17 : the dead would be so numerous as to call for a much larger number of “mourning women” than at present were available; hence, train others in readiness for the appalling crisis. Jeremiah 9:22. “The handful after the husbandman:” i.e., the bundle of corn which the reaper cuts into his arm with a few strokes of his sickle, and which another who follows him “gathers,” to hind with several other such “handfuls” into a sheaf. Jeremiah 9:25. “Circumcised with the un-circumcised:” considerable difficulty among commentators as to whether the prophet asserted that circumcision was practised among the nations specified in Jeremiah 9:26; among which “Judah” is classed in this respect. Lange contends this is meant, and appeals to authority of Herodotus, who affirms that the practice existed both among the higher castes of Egyptians, and the Arabian tribes—probably Kedarenes descended from Ishmael, who was circumcised by Abraham (Genesis 17:23), and among whose descendants the rite still obtains, although the Koran nowhere enjoins the rite: the Edomites accepted circumcision at the dictation of John Hyrcanus, as the alternative of vacating their country (Josephus, Antiq. xiii. 9. §1). Lange urges that we must accept the prophet’s words as affirming that these people specified did practise circumcision. Yet he seems alone in this position, excepting that Jerome asserts that the rite did exist among these nations. It seems simple to accept the general verdict that these people are not all affirmed as circumcised, but that “circumcised” and “uncircumcised” indiscriminately are grouped together as forming the list of nations on whom God’s judgments would soon descend.

Literary Criticisms. Jeremiah 9:1. should be joined to chap. 8, it is so in Heb. Bibles. Jeremiah 9:3. “Not valiant for truth:” Lange, “not by truth do they prevail in the land.” Keil, “not according to faithfulness do they manage in the land.” Speaker’s Com., “neither do they rule faithfully in the land.” Maurer, “they do not prevail by truth” (Psalms 12:4). Jeremiah 9:8. “As an arrow shot out:” חֵץ שָׁוחֻט, a slaughtering arrow. “In heart he layeth his wait:” properly inwardly he layeth his ambush: אֹרָב = insidious scheming. Jeremiah 9:10. “habitations of the wilderness:” i.e., prairie, pasturage, encampment of the shepherds: the reference being probably to the wilderness of Judea, where cattle were pastured (cf. 1 Samuel 17:28). Jeremiah 9:19. “Our dwellings have cast us out:” “dwellings” is not the nominative, but “they,” the enemies, who have thrown down our dwellings (cf. 2 Kings 25:9). Jeremiah 9:26. “All in the utmost corners:” Margin, “Heb. cut off into corners, or, having the corners (of their hair) polled.” Speaker’s Com., all who have the corners of their hair shorn. Hend., Cut as to the corner of the beard (cf. Leviticus 19:27; Leviticus 21:5), a custom the Jews were prohibited to imitate. The description points to the Arabs, who “dwell in the wilderness.”


*** Sectional divisions of the chapter does violence to its structure and disorder; for its very confusion of topics, the intermingling of solemn messages with passionate exclamations, is characteristic of vivid dread and poignant grief; of these the chapter is full. Sections might, however, arranged thus:


Jeremiah 9:1-8.

Plaintive lamentations over sin.


Jeremiah 9:9-16.

God’s vindications of His judgments.


Jeremiah 9:17-22.

Vivid realisation of calamities.


Jeremiah 9:23-26.

Vainglorious confidences corrected.

The scope and significance of the entire chapter may be thus stated: Jeremiah presents to Judah:

1. A vivid portrayal of the direful disasters impending.
2. A justification of God’s judgments against sin.
By showing them how alarming would be the punishment, he would have them see how appalling was their sin. Their condition and conduct imprecated the retribution. Noticeable that appeal is made to the wisdom, the serious thought of his hearers, that they may “understand” (Jeremiah 9:12) the equity of God’s proceedings against them. Sinners would justify God’s punishments if they wisely considered their case, demerits, and the provocations of their sins: “We indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our sins.”

I. Sorrowful consternation over calamities. Both the revolting cause of these calamities (Jeremiah 9:2-6) and their poignant severity (Jeremiah 9:20-22) are carefully specified: thus the bemoaning is intelligently and adequately justified.

1. The prophet’s agony of grief (Jeremiah 9:1-2). Note the pathos of the reiteration, “my people!” Humanity, philanthropy, patriotism, and religious feeling, all summon us to bitter sorrow over—(1) the sufferings of our people; (2) the slaughter wrought by tyranny (especially the tyranny of Satan over the lives and souls of men; and the slaughter of virtue, happiness, and hope); (3) the sinfulness which underlies and explains all man’s woes. Characters wasted, lives degraded, hearts pierced with anguish, souls ruined: a sad world; the gentle, generous heart shudders amid these devastations, “weeps for the slain.”

2. The people’s realisation of their ruin (Jeremiah 9:17-19). It came late, yet it came: they awoke at last. God arrests the insensate nation with the appeal, “Consider ye!” The verses delineate the people’s (1) sudden consternation; (2) overwhelming distress, i. Professional mourners would have abundant occasion for wailing (Jeremiah 9:17). ii. The people would themselves be plunged into the agony of sorrow (Jeremiah 9:18). We cannot leave to others the bitter mourning, the pang in our hearts will be too keen. iii. Zion would resound with cries of anguish and desperation (Jeremiah 9:19). Sinners, though slow to recognise their dreadful state and prospects, are sure to realise them (Jeremiah 9:25). Because doom now tarries they make merry while godly men weep; but they will join the lamentations, though (alas! if as here) only when too late, when ruin is upon them (Jeremiah 9:19).

3. God summons the nation to grievous sorrow (Jeremiah 9:20-22). 1. He supplies the mourners with the national dirge (Jeremiah 9:21), than which no more piteous a refrain could be conceived. 2. He then portrays the awful disasters (Jeremiah 9:22): death in every home,—the slain covering the lands, childhood and youth perishing with the “men.” Judgment comes on all, “for that all have sinned.” When God bids us sorrow, it is time to “consider” and humble ourselves penitently before Him. “Now He hath commanded men everywhere to repent.” A wide difference between this “godly sorrow” and the grief of despair and doom. Timely penitence may avert ultimate desperation. Predictions of disaster are intended as persuasives to the sorrow which averts woe.

II. Appalling corruption of the nation (Jeremiah 9:2-6; Jeremiah 9:8).

1. As viewed by the prophet (Jeremiah 9:2-6). He would fain hide himself from the sickening and revolting spectacle of his people’s guiltiness (Jeremiah 9:2). (a.) They were foul and false (Jeremiah 9:2); (b.) maliciously deceptive, “tongues like bows” (Jeremiah 9:3); (c.) careless of public honour and faith, “not valiant for truth” (see Lit. Grit, on ver. supra); (d.) abandoned to iniquitous practices, “proceed from evil to evil;” (e.) ignore God in His own land, “know not Me, saith the Lord;” (f.) social confidence and integrity violated (Jeremiah 9:4), utterly insincere, treacherous, and unjust in their domestic and neighbourly intercourse; (g.) their falsity was deliberate and resolute (Jeremiah 9:5), they actually trained themselves to lying, and defiantly refused to speak or act truthfully; (h.) evil-doing exhausted all their powers, “they weary themselves,” &c., leaving them incapable of anything else.

2. As estimated by the Lord (Jeremiah 9:6; Jeremiah 9:8). For His eyes are upon, and His eyelids try, the children of men. Note: God marks what are the surroundings of His servants: “I know where thou dwellest” (Revelation 2:13). “Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit.” Their case before God showed (1.) criminal falsity; (2.) determined repudiation of God in order to practise “deceit” (Jeremiah 9:7); (3.) cruel treachery (Jeremiah 9:8). Observe: How severely God regards the violation of social laws: wrong done by man to man, sins of the tongue, faithless conduct, scheming selfishness. Yet, further, men fall away from God as their first stage of decline; it therefore argues their complete degradation when they become avowedly false to their fellow-men,—indicates utter moral corruption, loss of every virtue and of all worth.

3. Yet condoned by themselves (Jeremiah 9:23-26). They neglected “loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness” (Jeremiah 9:24), despised what God “delighted in,” and then gloried in their “wisdom, might, and riches” (Jeremiah 9:23). More: they relied upon the value of a rite, “circumcision” (Jeremiah 9:25-26), as a guarantee against being abandoned by God and consigned to heathen conquest. 1. Our own resources (“wisdom, might, riches”) will not protect us from hostile invasion. God menaced Judah with the Chaldean scourge because of their perfidious impiety, their neglect of “loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness;” Judah instantly comforted herself with looking at her resources of wisdom, might, and wealth. 2. Our religious professions (reliance on the covenant of circumcision) afford no answer to the denunciation against our sins, nor any excuse for them. Having violated practical piety—“loving-kindness, judgment, righteousness, and knowing God”—their vaunted circumcision would not protect them from the doom: they were “uncircumcised in heart.”

III. God’s vindication of His judgments. He does not leave it to His prophet to “justify the ways of God with men:” Himself expounds the righteousness of His proceedings.

1. The judgments delineated. The country devastated (Jeremiah 9:10). Jerusalem destroyed (Jeremiah 9:11). Cities desolated (Jeremiah 9:11). Life embittered (Jeremiah 9:15). The people banished and consumed in exile (Jeremiah 9:16). Zion a scene of spoliation and slaughter (Jeremiah 9:19; Jeremiah 9:21). Fields strewn with the unburied slain (Jeremiah 9:22). God will not respect their covenant distinction (Jeremiah 9:25-26) in the impartial visitation of retribution. (1.) God’s punishments are far-reaching, vast, majestic, even as are His mercy and His grace. All His doings are on a scale of stupendous, awful magnitude. “Marvellous are Thy works, O Lord.” “Glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders.” (2.) God’s punishments are all-inclusive, beyond evasion or escape,—leaving for those condemned no refuge.

2. The judgments imperative. Note: (1.) His searching purpose (Jeremiah 9:7); (2.) His necessary severity (Jeremiah 9:9). Judgments have a twofold purpose: (a.) Corrective: “melt and try them,” purify some in the fires of affliction: “when Thy judgments are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants will learn righteousness.” This end must be sought, for nothing milder than severe punishments affected them for good. God asks, as if in perplexity, “How shall I do?” &c. Solicitous to secure their spiritual improvement even by the calamities which impended. (b.) Avenging: for they who will not be reformed must be ruined.

3. The judgments vindicated. Jehovah calls upon the thoughtful to ponder and declare “for what the land perisheth,” &c. (Jeremiah 9:12). Then follows (1.) The Divine indictment (Jeremiah 9:13-14): revolt against God’s law and service, abandonment to self-indulgence and idolatry. (2.) The Divine sentence (Jeremiah 9:15-16). Observe: Severity is wholly foreign to God’s designs and delight (Jeremiah 9:24). He desires not the death of a sinner, but delights in mercy; nevertheless, when all His “loving-kindness” avails nothing with sinners, when they resist His grace and repudiate salvation, there remains only this, “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” Yet “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”



I. His vivid anticipation of coming woes. Times were now tranquil; no cry of grief rang through the land. He the sole weeper! Like to a Greater, who also was a Lone Weeper; “Hosanas” around Him, revelry in Jerusalem, none dreamt of doom Hearing: yet Jesus “beheld the city and wept over it.” (1.) Doom is not less real or near because ignored by those who are doomed. (2.) Eyes divinely opened foresee what is hid from the godless.

II. His passionate distress over coming woes. This is natural to the Christian patriot, the Christian pastor. “I tell you even weeping” (Romans 9:2). (1.) Sinners ought to be concerned for themselves. (2.) Godliness creates true generosity,—the peril of others embitters the soul.

III. His baffling helplessness before coming woes. He can bemoan them: would readily weep and ceaselessly weep over His people’s ruin, but what could avail? He could do nothing to avert the terrible fate. (1.) None can by any means redeem a brother. (2.) Sinners thwart the agonising solicitude of the godly by their own hardened indifference. (3.) Each must deliver his own soul by going himself to the Saviour; pastors and prophets cannot deliver them. They can “weep,” but cannot save. Reflection: What a luxury of joy there must be in possessing the power to save! Jesus has this joy—He only. He obtained it on Calvary. In order to possess it, “He endured the cross, despising the shame.” Yet earnest servants of Christ will “enter into the joy of their Lord,” inasmuch as they have entered into His distress over sinners, and longing to rescue them.

Comments: “It becomes us, while, we are here in this vale of tears, to conform to the temper of the climate, and to sow in tears.… While we find our hearts such fountains of sin, it is fit that our eyes should be fountains of tears.”—Henry. “The meaning is, that the destruction of the people would be so monstrous and dreadful, that it could not be sufficiently bewailed.… As he saw that their hearts were inflexible, and that a common way of speaking would be despised, he was constrained to use such similes. Learn what vehemence they ought to use whom God calls to the same office of teaching.”—Calvin. “From the wish to be utterly dissolved in tears because of the misfortunes of his countrymen, the prophet passes naturally to the wish to flee away from the daily sight of those sins, which were the real cause of their sufferings,”—Speaker’s Com.

Jeremiah 9:1-2. Theme: GENUINE PHILANTHROPY.

Jeremiah a devout saint, true patriot, faithful prophet, model philanthropist. Early Church entertained so exalted an idea of him, that they pictured him as the very type of Him who was the most perfect incarnation of Heaven’s tenderness and love. Many in this age who are philanthropists for trade; impose on the credulous; they are an offence to genuine souls, and their lives a calumny on the holy cause. Two aspects of genuine philanthropy:

I. Genuine philanthropy melting with earnestness. “Oh, that head waters,” &c. He had wept copiously, but would weep more—“Rivers of water”—if thereby serve God and country.

1. Heart intensely earnest concerning the temporal condition of men. Chaldean army among them, sword staining the country with blood, groans of the dying and wails of the bereaved: “The slain of the daughter of my people.” This distresses him; weeps as patriot over grief of his country. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!”

2. Heart intensely earnest concerning the moral condition of men. Their carnalities, idolatries, and crimes affect his pious spirit more than physical sufferings and political disasters. He knew sin was the cause of all, that no salvation without removal of sin. No true philanthropists who not chiefly concerned with souls. “My heart’s desire,” &c.: see Paul (Romans 10:1). “Rivers of water … because keep not Thy law:” see David (Psalms 119:136; Psalms 42:3). Why all this earnestness about the soul? (1.) Think of the soul in relation to its capacity of suffering and happiness. (2.) In relation to the influences for good or evil it is capable of exerting. (3.) In relation to it’s power of being a delight or a grief to the heart of Infinite Love.

II. Genuine philanthropy sighing for isolation. “Oh, that in wilderness,” &c.

1. This is the sigh of a spiritually vexed soul. Like Lot in Sodom, the hideous forms of sin every day “vexed his righteous soul.” Like David, when “saw transgressors and was grieved.” Like Paul at Athens, “spirit stirred” at revolting iniquities which met him at every turn. Natures spiritually refined and ennobled recoil with inexpressible disgust from vanities and crimes of their age.

“Far from the world, O Lord, I flee,

From strife and tumult far;

From scenes where Satan wages still

His most successful war.”


2. This sigh for isolation is the sigh of disappointed love. He had worked earnestly and with self-denial to improve the spiritual condition of his country, yet it grew worse, sank deeper in iniquities. Nothing is more saddening to generous souls than the discovery of indifference, ingratitude, and growing vice in the very men they seek to bless. Elijah felt it, and betook himself to a cave; David, and cried, “Oh, that I had wings as of a dove,” &c.; Christ, and said, “I have laboured in vain.”

There is danger of a corrupt age exhausting the love of genuine philanthropists. Instances of loving souls becoming misanthropic through the ill-treatment of those whom they endeavoured to serve. A sublime fact that Christ’s philanthropy survived the fiendish cruelty of the cross, rose with Him from the sepulchre, and despatched a message of mercy to His most malignant enemies at Jerusalem.

(1.) The vicariousness of genuine philanthropy. It inspires the possessor with the spirit that will prompt him to sacrifice his very being for the good of others, to weep himself away. “I would that accursed from Christ for my brethren.” All genuine philanthropy bears the sins and sorrows of others.

(2.) The abuse of genuine philanthropy. How shamefully was the love of Jeremiah requited by countrymen! The greatest sin in universe is sin against love.

(3.) The imperfection of genuine philanthropy. Like the best of everything human, love is not perfect here. Disheartened, Jeremiah sought isolation. At one time we hear him exclaim, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name.”—Homilist.

N.B.—C. H. Spurgeon used Jeremiah 9:1 as text for sermon on “INDIA’S ILLS AND ENGLAND’S SORROWS,” at the time of the Sepoy mutiny, September 1857.

“Some men sent into this world for the purpose of being the world’s weepers. Mankind must have their heroes to express their courage, their philanthropists to live out mankind’s philanthropy, their weepers to weep from cradle to grave for the woes of others. If you have tears, these hard times will compel you to shed them now:
I. For persons actually slain: with murder and bloodshed. Our spirits, harrowed by the most fearful and unexpected cruelty, have felt the ties of kindred very strongly when found our race butchered in the East. England’s soldiers tortured; England’s daughters dishonoured. Who can read the tale of infamy without tears? Betake ourselves in agonies of prayer to God that He will interpose.

“II. For those morally slain. Sin aboundeth, and iniquity is still mighty. Worse deaths than those inflicted by the sword.

“1. Weep for the drunkenness of this land. Thousands every year murdered thereby. My soul might be an everlasting Niobé, perpetually dropping showers of tears, if it might know the doom and destruction wrought by the demon of drunkenness.

“2. Weep for the crime of debauchery. ‘A shame even to speak of the things done in secret.’ Harlots and seducers.

“3. Men are falling by every sin, disguised under the shape of pleasure. Ominous theatre notice—‘To the PIT!’

“In Jeremiah’s day Jerusalem was all mirth. They laughed him to scorn. So ye marvel I should weep for you! But I foresee the future; see you before the Judge; and the thought of your destruction bids us yield to tears. ‘Wages of sin is death.’ We weep for those who have had great privileges, but have neglected them; and who, having had great privileges, if lost, must expect greater punishment. ‘More tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah.’ Christians! cease not weeping amid prayerful pleadings for those in your families, for your neighbours, who are yet in the power of sin.”—Spurgeon.

I. He abandons himself to sorrow, in consideration of the calamitous condition of his people.

II. He abandons himself to solitude, in consideration of the scandalous character and conduct of his people.—Henry. (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 9:1, “Fountain of tears;” Jeremiah 9:2, “Solitude.”)


It has been wisely said that “every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.” Certainly falsity is a two-edged sword; it wounds the deceiver equally with the deceived. Heaven’s imprecations are upon, and heaven’s gates exclude, “all liars.”
Text contains:

I. Two affirmations: the positive side of a sinner’s life.

Charges upon these people:
1. Perfidious words: speech prostituted to falsity. A grievous crime to use words foully, to pervert speech. Like poisoning a public spring. It is the devil’s work; “for he is a liar, and the father of lies.” False words are crafty (Jeremiah 9:4), malicious (Jeremiah 9:5), ruinous (Jeremiah 9:8).

“Curse on the coward or perfidious tongue!”


“A lie should be trampled on and extinguished wherever found. I am for fumigating the atmosphere when I suspect that falsehood, like pestilence, breathes around me.”—Carlyle.

“Dare to be true, nothing can need a lie;
A fault which needs it most grows two thereby.”


2. Iniquitous deeds. A transgressor may begin with abusing language, misusing words, speaking deceitfully, covering over his sins by fair speech; but he will soon advance from words to deeds. Evil-speakers are always evil-doers. A man who can speak foully can act basely. George Whitfield would fasten his pockets when he heard any one speak ill; because he who could speak wrong could act so; a liar can steal. As progression from words to deeds is natural, so progression from evil deeds to greater evils is inevitable. “From iniquity unto iniquity.” In the case of these people their iniquitous deeds were (a.) A violation of mutual obligations between man and man; each wronged the other, in the home, in neighbourly intercourse, in commerce, &c. (b.) A violation of Divine obligations; each revolted from the control and claims of God. These two affirmations give the positive and practical side of a sinner’s life.

II. Two negations: the desolate side of a sinner’s life.

There is much in a sinner which we should desire to be without, viz., a lying tongue, an evil life. But he lacks much we should desire to have, “valour for truth,” and “knowledge of God.”

1. Faithless towards men. Social and civil responsibilities contemned: “Not valiant for the truth,” i.e., not energetic to maintain righteousness and fairness. They let order, law, and duty fall into neglect. “Not faithful to their convictions” (Hitzig). “Not faithful in their behaviour towards their fellow-men” (Kiel). Those who had power in their hands did not use it faithfully for righteous ends. “Not fidelity in their engagements with their fellow-men” (Speaker’s Com.). Christ’s parable of unjust judge. “It is indeed proof of impiety when men, trampling upon faithfulness and equity, allow themselves every kind of licentiousness” (Calvin). Iniquitous persons are scarcely likely to respect social and civil duties; righteousness may have “fallen among thieves,” but they are content to “pass by on the other side,” intent on “proceeding from evil to evil.”

2. Indifferent towards God. Sacred realities and Divine claims ignored. “They know not Me, saith the Lord.” They are willingly ignorant of Him, and they are necessarily ignorant of Him; for while they “desire not the knowledge of God’s ways,” they are also “blinded by the god of this world,” “walk in darkness,” benighted by their sins. For guilt darkens the soul, deadens the conscience, disables the mind, degrades the life; hence, “they know not Me.”

Terrible negation! it means doom: “Whom to know is life eternal.” He who shuts from himself the light of God shuts against himself the gates of light and life. “The pure in heart see God.”

“This above all, to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”


See Scripture illustrations of falsity and its issues: e.g., Jacob, Gehazi, Ananias. Truthfulness, like the light, moves in direct lines; and, like the sun’s rays, which start from and return to their source, so truthfulness is Divine in its origin and essence, and returns home to Him at last. But falsehood is as a “wandering star,” destined to “the blackness of darkness for ever.”

Jeremiah 9:4. Comments: “Take ye heed,” &c. In a state of such utter lawlessness, the bonds of mutual confidence are necessarily relaxed, and suspicion takes its place. The parallel passage in Micah 7:5-6, shows that Jeremiah’s complaint was not occasioned by his soreness at personal ill-treatment, but was too true a picture of the general faithlessness which existed at Jerusalem. “Every brother will utterly supplant;” an allusion to the name of. Jacob (Genesis 25:26; Genesis 25:34; Hosea 12:3). It might be rendered, Every brother is a thorough Jacob.—Speaker’s Com.

“Fratrum quoque gratia rara eat.”—OVID.

The words are very noticeable: עֲקֹב צָקוֹב. The verb עָקַב is derived from the heel of the foot, and suggests the effort to trip up another.

“Since this verb in Kal occurs besides only in Genesis 27:36 and Hosea 12:4, both times of Jacob, it is certainly probable that the prophet, speaking here of the deceit practised by one brother to another, had this early instance in view.”—Lange.

Jeremiah 9:4. Theme: SLANDERING. “Every neighbour will walk with slanders.” (Comp. Notes on Jeremiah 6:28.) (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 9:4, “Slander.”)

I. Unanimity in sowing mischief: “Every neighbour.” Virulent treachery.

II. Activity in spreading calumny: “Will walk,” travel about on this nefarious business; “feet run to evil” (Proverbs 1:16).

III. Malignity in neighbourly intercourse. This is to use familiarity to murder happiness. “Poison of asps under their lips.” “Madmen, casting firebrands, arrows, and death.” Such society intolerable, perilous, destructive of all honour and peace.

“The world with calumny abounds,
The whitest virtue slander wounds;
There are whose joy is, night and day,
To talk a character away.
“Eager, from rout to rout, they haste,
To blast the generous and the chaste,
And, hunting reputation down,
Proclaim their triumphs through the town.”



“They have taught their tongues to speak lies:” they are artists at it (Trapp); make a study of it. i. They are ingenious to sin, “have taught their tongues:” implying that through the reluctances of natural conscience they found it difficult to bring themselves to it, but by degrees they have made themselves masters of the art of lying. ii. They are industrious to sin, “weary themselves to commit iniquity:” put a force upon their conscience to bring themselves to it, to tire out their convictions by offering them continual violence; are wearied with their sinful pursuits, and yet not weary of them. The service of sin is a perfect drudgery.—Henry.

Weary themselves:” are at laborious pains to act perversely.—Maurer.

Take the utmost pains to go crookedly.—Speaker’s Com.

Wrong-doing is an abuse of our nature. A chemist finds it a vexing and thankless attempt to fuse mutually repellant substances, or to mix antagonistic gases. Sin never thoroughly naturalises itself to man’s conscience and aptitudes; all along there is a strife within as of conflicting forces. Hence “the way of transgressors is hard;” and “the wicked are like a troubled sea; no peace to the wicked.” This a benign fact, testifies of man’s nobler calling and destiny, and is an incentive within us to “cease to do evil and learn to do well;” it is, moreover, the preparation in man for Christ’s redeeming and reforming grace.


I. That our dwelling-place is recognised by God.

II. That our social surroundings attract the Divine observance.

III. That the peril and painfulness of our situation is fully estimated by Him.

IV. That the struggle it costs us to live righteously is measured by God in the light of the antagonism and snares which endanger us.

V. That maintenance of a holy life in unlikely scenes is the triumph of godly heroism.

VI. That He who recognises our danger will send adequate grace to help, and proportion ultimate rewards to our courageous fidelity (Revelation 2:13).

“Where duty calls or danger,
Be never wanting there.”


I. God’s gracious design in our calamities. “I will melt and try them.” Even with a people so defiantly impious and utterly corrupt, and even in such calamities as Chaldean overthrow and captivity, God intends good issues, seeks their reform rather than their ruin. Blank punishment for its own sake, justice merely avenging itself on sinners, this is not God-like, not possible. This, a sublime truth in all ages, leads some to cherish the “larger hope” of the purifying issues of punishment even upon “the lost,”—those who enter eternity doomed! A dark and solemn mystery.

II. God’s distress over the infatuation of sinners. “How shall I do for,” &c. 1. That infatuation frustrates His mercy. 2. It compels Him to harsh dealings. 3. It moves Him to reluctant anger. Milder processes were fruitless: tribulation must now be tried; in their anguish they may repent and return. He will melt the hardness of His people in the fire of affliction. Yes, and will consume the evil thereby. The exclamation, “How shall I do?” is not (as Hitzig and Graf), What dreadful forms of judgment shall I summon in vengeance? Note: “How shall I do for the daughter?” God still would find some way of blessing her even when He smites.

III. God’s necessary use of severe judgments. “How shall I do for my people?” i.e, “What else can I do!” (Maurer). How otherwise can I deal with her than to try her in the crucible of suffering? “A corruption so deeply rooted and so widely extended can be removed only by a process of entire melting, which will certainly be grievous, but will also refine. The Lord here asks how He should act if not as here indicated? There is nothing else remaining but to do this” (Naeg.). 1. Calamity is God’s last resort. 2. Sin must be severely punished. “I will cast them into the fiery crucible of sharp affliction. What can I do less to them, though they are ‘My people,’ since they are so shamelessly, lawlessly wicked? An unruly patient maketh a cruel physician; a desperate disease must have a desperate remedy” (Trapp). Verily, it is right to ask, “If judgment begin at the house of God (as here, ‘My people’), what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of Christ?” In the melting process, their “deceit” (Jeremiah 9:6) would soon be consumed, and woful the issue; nothing to resist the “fiery trial which is to try” them! Yet, mayhap, “they themselves might be saved, yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15).

Jeremiah 9:8-9. Ruinous conduct (“tongue, a deadly arrow,” &c.), followed by avenging judgment. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (See notes on chap. Jeremiah 5:9; Jeremiah 5:29.) (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 9:8, “Seductive speech.”)

Jeremiah 9:10. An interruption by Jeremiah of Jehovah’s address, for Jeremiah 9:11 continues the Divine utterance of maledictions against this guilty people. Amid God’s threats of coming woe, the prophet interposes a piteous and embittered wail over the threatened desolations of his country. (See Homily on chap. Jeremiah 4:23-26.) The verse is a frightful yet truthful picture of an invaded country wasted by hostile forces.

“Mountains,” not barren eminences, but fruitful hills, with which Judea abounded.

Habitations of the wilderness,” pasture-lands lately occupied by numerous herds, restful and bountiful scenes where flocks fed in luxuriance and peace; now “burned up.” The Chaldeans would, as is usual in war; burn up the forage and carry off the cattle. And so utterly devastated would these fair and flourishing scenes become, that even the birds would take their flight from a land so parched as no longer to furnish them food.

Jeremiah 9:11. Theme: RUINED JERUSALEM. (Addenda on Jeremiah 9:11. “Jerusalem in ruins.”) God proceeds with His decree of desolating judgment. Not only shall the country be burned, but the cities; yea, Jerusalem specially shall be overthrown and become “heaps.” Note:

i. The prophecy, how apparently incredible! Jerusalem was at that very time a well-fortified city, and filled with valorous people ready to defend it as well as to boast of it. Predicted crises always seem incredible; e.g., the flood, the doom of mighty nations, the coming judgment and overthrow of the world.

ii. The prophet, how courageously invincible! Standing there in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 7:2), he proclaimed what looked impossible, was certainly exasperating to his hearers, was equally shocking to his own patriotic soul, and exposed him to no small animosity and danger.

(a.) Improbable events very commonly occur; foolish, therefore, to screen ourselves from danger by that futile delusion.

(b.) Despising God’s threatenings does not defeat them: they come upon mockers, “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish!”

(c.) Divine heralds may convey tidings which evoke incredulity. Yet their part is to proclaim, let men act as they will.

(d.) Intrepidity is a seal and credential to a religious preacher. It asserts his own assurance of High Authority for his words. But for this, Jeremiah had grown disheartened by indifference and terrified by hostility. But, knowing in Whose name he spake, he “feared not the wrath of the king” nor his malevolent counsellors, but “with all boldness” delivered the tidings of doom.


Words imply that the “wise” would “understand” both the reason and the justice of the coming judgments, “for what the land perished,” i.e., on account of what provocations, and that the punishment was equitable and merited.

I. Providence acts on manifestly righteous principles. Fools may not recognise or receive this fact, but very little “wisdom” will avail to vindicate this.

1. Invariable laws regulate the Divine dispensations in every age. As with Israel (Jeremiah 7:12), so would it be with Judah (Jeremiah 7:15); and similarly with all who act their course.

2. The issues of human conduct are not obscured from men. They stand out vividly in the careers of men around us; while history is also full of illustrations: “Well with the righteous; ill with the wicked.” There is no equivocation, no uncertainty, no chance respecting these things: every age shows the same.

II. Human intelligence can recognise the justice of God’s ways.

1. By natural wisdom. “Who is the wise man that may understand this?” Needed no supernatural revelation to teach that desecration of holy scenes and defiance of holy laws must entail disaster; for unless so, there could be no God judging righteously in the earth. No one but can recognise that sin merits and must bring punishment.

2. By enlightened wisdom. For in their case they had “wisdom which is from above,” and boasted themselves “wise, for the law of the Lord is with us” (Jeremiah 8:8). We can open the Bible and read the curses against and the consequences of iniquity. Examine “MY LAW, which I have set before them” (Jeremiah 9:13).

III. Ample justification is furnished for severest judgments. God Himself gives the explanation (Jeremiah 9:13-14). He will allow to none the plea of ignorance. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men.”

1. How vividly our sins are arrayed before the Lord. Minutely specified by God: “forsaken law,” “not obeyed voice,” “neither walked therein,” “walked after imagination,” “walked after Baalim.” Our sins are “set in the light of His countenance.”

2. How repugnant our sins are to the holiness of God. The “land perished,” and “none to pass through it” (Jeremiah 9:12), shows how He will overthrow His chosen habitation rather than connive at guilt.

3. How provoking our sins are to the mind of God. He is “angry with the wicked.” Read that terrifying fact in Jeremiah 9:15-16. “Of how much sorer punishment worthy who trampled under foot the Son of God?”

IV. Direful maledictions forewarn the guilty of their future.

1. This forewarning is a merciful fact. It offers time of escape. “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish.” “Flee for refuge to the hope set before you.”

2. This forewarning is an appalling fact. “God hath spoken, and He will perform His word.” (1.) Bitter experiences; “wormwood.” (2.) Destructive calamities; “water of gall.” (See Literary Notes and Homilies on Jeremiah 8:14.) (3.) Banished to their adversaries (comp. Matthew 25:41). (4.) Escape impossible, either by flight or in far distance; “I will send a sword after them,” &c. When the Lord God, whose eyes are in every place, pursues, He will surely discover and overtake.

Conclusion: The “wise” should use their wisdom to find redemption from evidently nearing disasters. “The prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself.” 2. The wise should use their wisdom to forwarn others to escape, “that he may declare it” (Jeremiah 9:12). “Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men.” Heedlessness is suicidal (Hebrews 2:3); silence is criminal (Ezekiel 33:8).

Jeremiah 9:17-22. Theme: THE BITTERNESS AND BEMOANINGS OF DEATH. (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 9:17. “Mourning women;Jeremiah 9:21. “Death.”)

“The citizens of Zion are called upon to give heed to the state of affairs now in prospect, i.e., the judgment preparing, and are to assemble mourning women that they may strike up a dirge for the dead.”—Keil.

Although the nation was now in no dirge-like mood, but made light of the woful predictions, yet God directs them to arrange their doleful obsequies as though death had already transpired.

I. The certainty of death’s approach. Though they as yet saw not the grim form, the spectre neared: the “mourning women” would have their melancholy task (Jeremiah 9:17).

II. The speed of death’s advance (Jeremiah 9:18). No time to waste in making preparations: quick, or not ready. This ever true: the interval is brief; therefore “make haste;” for death treads upon our heels. “Weep,” also, for there is cause.

III. The ravages of death’s desolations (Jeremiah 9:19). “Spoiled,” “confounded;” enforced desertion of cherished scenes [“forsaken” implies voluntary abandonment, but this was involuntary], driven from dwellings into homeless despair. Analogy of death’s work on the ungodly: their resources in which boasted “spoiled;” false hopes “confounded;” scenes where they fain would have tarried “forsaken,” the “tabernacle” they had occupied left. For what? for where? Alas! “voice of wailing is heard” over desolations, and despair attendant upon death.

IV. The vastness of death’s spoliation. “The harvest of death would be so large that the number of trained women would not suffice.”—Speaker’s Com. Therefore Jeremiah 9:20. The mothers must therefore teach their daughters the melancholy refrain. Note: young voices (“daughters”) as well as old (“ye women”) will join in the dirge for the dead; for no age is sacred or screened from death. Evidently from Jeremiah 9:21 this is the reason why the daughters should be taught the wailing cry: they would soon have to lament the loss of “children and young men.” None, old or young, would be exempted from mourning.

V. The variety of death’s victims (Jeremiah 9:21-22).

1. Enters all scenes: “palaces,” “streets” (Jeremiah 9:21), “open fields” (Jeremiah 9:22).

2. Desolates all social ranks: those who dwell in “palaces” equally with labourers in “streets,” and shepherds in “open field.”

3. Strikes down all ages: “children,” “young men,” “men.”

VI. The irresistibleness of death’s invasions.

1. Bolted doors cannot exclude him from our dwellings: he “comes up into our window.”

2. Fortified palaces are no defence from his assaults: “enters palaces.”

3. The highways in the city he invades: where children play, and young men resort.

4. Lands groan with the burden of the slain (Jeremiah 9:22). So dreadful would be the slaughter that the carcases would be left unburied. But what a great sepulchre earth is!

Note 1. It was the custom anciently to give a fanciful interpretation to the words “death is come up into our windows”—viz., the windows are the five senses; and death “comes in” with the pleasures admitted by these “windows.”

Note 2. The degradation to which the body is reduced is suggested in Jeremiah 9:22. Just as the Chaldeans would lay all their glory in the dust, and make their beauty loathsome “as dung,” so does death turn our comeliness into corruption.

Jeremiah 9:21. Theme: DEATH AN INVADING ENEMY.

As an enemy:

I. He is cruel. 1. He strikes at the dearest objects of our affection. 2. He robs us of our most useful men: patriots, philanthropists, preachers, &c. 3. He drags us from the dearest things of the heart: occupation, social circles, cherished plans, &c. 4. He reduces our bodies to the dust. Cruel death! Deaf to the strongest and most piercing cries of social life.

II. He is unremitting. Never sheathes his sword; never pauses in march; not an hour that he does not strike a thousand fatal strokes; as restless as the sea; whoever idle, he is active—in every man, in every family, in every community, in every nation; busy with all.

III. He is subtle. Fights in ambush, steals into the house, touches the food and it becomes poison, breathes into the air and it becomes pestiferous, lays his hand on the heart and it is still. While his victims speak of health, he instils mortal disease; works through the delicate dish and the sparkling wines.

IV. He is resistless. Men through ages have tried to resist him; every effort and expedient has failed. All that science, art, wealth, and caution could do failed. Granite castles and royal bodyguards are powerless before him. The mighty warrior drops his sword and becomes dust in his presence.

V. He is ubiquitous. No spot on earth where he is not at work. He is in the waves of air, on billows of deep, in valleys, on mountain, river, and brook, forest and flowers; whole earth is his dominion.

VI. He is conquerable. “The last enemy shall be destroyed.” There is One who will swallow up death in victory: Christ has conquered death. 1. In His own resurrection. 2. In His power upon the minds of His disciples. “O death, where is thy sting?”—Homilist.

Jeremiah 9:20-21. “To be used in times when death snatches many away. i. Who sends Him? ii. Wherefore He is sent? iii. How we may protect, ourselves against Him?”—Naeg. in Lange.

Jeremiah 9:22-23. Theme: HUMAN GLORYING CORRECTED. (Addenda on Jeremiah 9:23, “Spurious glorying.”)

The prophet concludes his discourse with a general moral reflection, the object of which is to present the only means of escape from such fearfully threatening dangers—viz., a living and truly productive knowledge of the Lord.

I. The things in which they are not to glory.

1. Those which to the natural man seem most desirable, viz., wisdom, strength (power), riches. (Comp. 1 Kings 1:13, with 2 Chronicles 9:22; Job 12:13.

2. Those in which these Jews inclined presumptuously to boast. Jeremiah had censured their boast of external carnal advantages. (Comp Jeremiah 7:4; Jeremiah 7:8; Jeremiah 7:10; Jeremiah 7:14; Jeremiah 7:24; Jeremiah 7:26; Jeremiah 7:28). They gloried in their wisdom (Jeremiah 8:8-9); in their strength; yet lo! (Jeremiah 9:1) “slain” in their riches (Jeremiah 9:26).

The “wisdom” in which they are not to glory is not that called “better than strength” (Ecclesiastes 9:16), and which is identical with that recommended in Jeremiah 9:23, but worldly wisdom (Proverbs 3:5). “Strength,” is both physical strength (Psalms 147:10; Job 39:19), and power (2 Kings 10:34; 2 Kings 20:20).

II. Every man must have something in which to glory.

1. That which he esteems as his highest blessing and honour. (Comp. Isaiah 51:16; 1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17).

2. God sets before us the best objects of glorying. 1. “Me;” both “understood,” and “known:” God is to be known as “the only true God.” 2. The qualities in which God delights; mercy, or “loving-kindness,” as opposed to their vaunted “strength;” judgment and righteousness,” as in distinction from their oppression of the weak and distressed (Jeremiah 7:5-6; Psalms 145:17).—Arranged from Lange.


It consists in: i. Believing in the Lord. ii. Living in the Lord. iii. Working for the Lord. iv. Suffering for the Lord’s sake.—Luther, quoted in Lange.


i. Its nature: not dead science, but living experience.

ii. Its fruit: (a.) The highest blessing (mercy, justice, and righteousness in Jesus Christ); (b.) The highest honour (he who has it will not be put to shame, as he who glories in the flesh).—Naeg.

i. The wisest and surest reasonings in religion are grounded on the unquestionable perfections of the Divine nature (e.g., belief in Divine Providence and veracity).

ii. The nature of God is the true idea and pattern of perfection and happiness.—Abp. Tillotson, quoted in Lange.

“Paul says, ‘He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 10:17), and Jesus, ‘This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, and Jesus Christ,’ &c. (John 17:3). This is to glory, as though one should say, ‘God be praised, I am right well and sound!’ To be sound in the faith is to have the knowledge of Jesus Christ, to maintain it, to grow in it. To make a great noise of good works as our own, is ridiculous. For grace produces them, the power of God dwelling in us. We do nothing, and should do nothing if it were left to us; but the work of God in us, that we believe, is not to be passed over in silence, moroseness, and ingratitude. What a noise do humble saints in the Revelation make of their grace, freedom, priesthood, royal dignity, victory, redemption (chaps. 4, 5, 7, 12, 14, 17, 19). Oh, that the whole earth were full of our glorying in the Lord!

‘Oh, that we were able, our songs so high to raise,
That all the country round might echo with His praise.’

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify the Father in heaven.”—Zinzendorf.

“Examples of the folly of glorying (or trusting) in wisdom (Solomon), might (Samson), riches (Ahab).”—Bp. Bull.

(Comp. Addenda on Jeremiah 9:23, “Spurious glorying.”)


When Divine punishment for wrongdoing comes upon a people, there is proof made of the powerlessness of wisdom, might, and wealth to do their possessors any good. God refuses to tolerate the conceit of knowledge, strength, or wealth—His gifts; instead of glorying in the knowledge of His being and character, in what “He delights.

I. The glorying which is prohibited by God.

The tendency and temptation to self-glorification over these things. For “wisdom” is a great good, so also “strength,” and “wealth;” but each being the gift of God, the Giver is to be gloried in, not the gifts; otherwise the glorying becomes the glorification of self.

1. Glorying in wisdom is the glorification of self; therefore forbidden. The mind that knows and the subjects known are both from God. “Knowledge,” possessed or contemplated apart from God, “puffeth up;” and so endangers. Scripture commends “wisdom,” which glories not in itself, but in God our Saviour. “Christ is the wisdom of God.” The law of Christian submission and adoration is that which we are called to follow.

2. Glorying in strength is forbidden as self-glorification. Many animals far surpass man in strength. The early history of man exhibits the consequences of glorying in mere physical strength. Giants performed astonishing feats of valour; but the ungigantic David made manifest the weakness of mere bodily bulk and strength. Need to be “strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in the inner man.” Sickness corrects our glorying in the forces of the flesh. History shows God’s repudiations of this boast: in destruction of Sennacherib’s army, decline and fall of empires founded on mere force, &c. Not self, but “Christ the power of God “must be our glory.

3. Glorying in wealth is forbidden as self-glorification. The lust of possession strong in man. Sad to be behold a spirit entombed in a mausoleum of gold and silver.

II. The glorying which is Divinely sanctioned. To glory is an instinct in man; is right, therefore, where the object is worthy of him. God here presents Himself. There is a gradation set before us: God as the object of understanding; God as the object of knowledge; God as the object of glorying.

1. Understanding God. “There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding.” This common human faculty is a gracious gift of God. Early education calls it into exercise; events of life afford it discipline; profound spiritual verities may be by it examined. Man may understand God! By Divine inspiration even the uncultivated mind may be in communion with Eternal Love.

2. Knowing God. This is more than “understanding” Him. “Life eternal to know Him and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.” Our filial relation to God in Christ is the true ground of our knowledge of Him. Deeply blessed is the knowledge of Christ, for it is the knowledge of God incarnate. Eternity will reveal new deeps of God’s eternal love and being.

3. In the understanding and knowledge of God, the spirit of man glories, and may glory for ever. God glories in our glorying in Him. That which a man glories in truly intimates his character. He who glories in music or art continually occupies himself in it. Thus day and night the soul delights in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion: Let us rightly estimate our being and our possessions in Christ. Because we are what we are, we are forbidden to glory in anything beneath our God.—Rev. W. R. Percival, fromHomilist.”

Comments: “Wisdom”—political sagacity; as if it could rescue from the impending calamities. “Might”—military prowess. “Riches”—accumulated wealth; none of which boasted resources, nor all combined, would prove a means of defence, and their confidence in them would be a snare. Well would it be for them to abandon hope in these futile gloryings, and seek refuge and protection in God, which they might do by obedient and reverent regard to those duties in which He “delights.”

“Understandeth me”—theoretically; “knoweth me”—personally, experimentally, and practically.

“Loving-kindness”—God’s mercy is put in the forefront, since that alone can save us from fleeing in fear from His presence; “Judgment” towards the rebellious who will not submit; “Righteousness,” His faithfulness to His gracious promises, to all who take refuge in His goodness and care. “In the earth:” which contradicts the heartless philosophy which teaches that God does not interest Himself or interfere in terrestrial affairs. (See Critical Commentary.)

“This then is the prophet’s remedy for the healing of the nation. It is the true understanding and knowledge of God, of which the first, “understanding,” means the spiritual enlightenment of the mind (1 Corinthians 2:13-14); the other, “knowledge,” the training of the heart unto obedience (John 8:31-32). This knowledge of God is further said to find in Him three chief attributes: (1.) “loving-kindness,” i.e., readiness to show grace and mercy; (2.) “judgment,” a belief in which is declared (Hebrews 11:6) to be essential to faith; (3.) “righteousness,” which is essential to religion absolutely. Unless men believe that God’s dealings with them in life and death are right and just, they can neither love nor reverence Him.”—Speaker’s Com.

“In these things I delight, saith the Lord;” i.e., both in doing them myself, and in seeing them done by others (Micah 6:8; Micah 7:18).

Jeremiah 9:25-26. Theme: TRUE AND FALSE CIRCUMCISION. “I will punish all [omit words in italics here]—circumcised with the uncircumcised.

“The Jews gloried in their circumcision, ignoring the true circumcision of the heart. (See Romans 2:25-29; Galatians 5:6; Colossians 2:11, which are the best comments on the passage.) Therefore they are regarded as uncircumcised, and will be punished with the enemies of Israel and of God—Ammon and Moab. Jeremiah does not raise the question as to whether the Egyptians, &c., were also circumcised in the flesh, but combines Judah with Egypt, Edom, &c., the bitterest enemies of God and His Church; and tells them that they have made themselves to be as the uncircumcised among the nations by their apostasy from God. Here is a solemn warning to all that a mere formal observance of religious ceremonies, without spiritual holiness and dutiful obedience, is rejected and loathed by God, as no better than the abominations of idolatry; and apostates are reckoned as on a level with heathen votaries of false deities.”—Wordsworth.

Egypt is put first to degrade Judah, who, though in privileges above the Gentiles, by unfaithfulness sank below them. Egypt, too, was the power in which the Jews were so prone to trust, and by whose instigation they, as well as the other peoples specified, revolted from Babylon.”—Critical Com.

“It is a common thing with Moses and the prophets to call an unrenewed heart ‘uncircumcision,’ and to say that the people are ‘uncircumcised in heart:’ for circumcision, while an evidence of free salvation in Christ, initiated the Jews into the worship and service of God, and proved the necessity of a new life; it was a sign of repentance and faith. When, therefore, the Jews presented only the sign, they were justly derided by Moses and the prophets; for they seemed as though they sought to pacify God with a thing of nought, without regarding the end. The same is the case when we boast of baptism, and are destitute of repentance and faith; our boasting is absurd and ridiculous; for the interior power is renovation, when our old man is crucified in us, and we rise again with Christ into newness of life.”—Calvin.

“A clear testimony that the holy sacraments procure nothing for the work’s sake. For the Jews were indeed circumcised in the flesh, but this was to be a sign to them of righteousness, that they should be spiritually circumcised in faith and good works. But since such spiritual circumcision did not follow, and they remained uncircumcised at heart, the other fleshly circumcision helped them not, but redounded instead to their sin.”—Cramer.

Circumcision as a figure of the relation of man to God. i. The three stages of circumcision—uncircumcised, outwardly circumcised, truly circumcised, correspond to the three stages of our being without God, serving God outwardly, serving God in spirit and in truth. ii. As external circumcision, without that of the heart, is equivalent to uncircumcision, so the outward service of God without the inward is equivalent to no service at all.—Naeg.


I. External religious observances are not necessarily accompanied by internal spiritual elevation. They do not prove nor produce inward purity and piety.

II. Without inward spiritual elevation our external advantages aggravate our impiety. They ought to promote piety; they offer a pretence of piety; they continually pronounce against our impiety.

III. Aggravating our impiety, our abuse of external advantages will ensure heavier condemnation. “Punished with the uncircumcised;” classed with the godless; guiltier than the godless; condemned to the keener woe which such must feel, even though the punishment itself be the same as that borne by the godless (Luke 13:26-28).


Topic: LAMENT FOR THE SLAIN DAUGHTERS OF SOCIETY. Text: “Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughters of my people” (Jeremiah 9:1).

It is a fastidious morality which leads the virtuous to banish the wretched creatures of vice from thought, pity, effort. Wretchedness in any form should evoke commiseration. Physical suffering summons our ameliorating arts; surely moral degradation should not be passed by with stolidity or scorn! Guilty ones oft shed tears for themselves “for the misery which has come upon them,” and have shown themselves grateful for the tears of the virtuous who have “wept with them that weep.” There is a winning force in tears, a saving force. A word of scorn, a look of wrath, cast at a fallen being, drives the guilty one, maddened to shame, agony, and indignation, into deeper crime.

I. A sight for tears. “Weep for the slain,” &c. Over the moral and spiritual prostitution of his people, the prophet bewailed. The fair comeliness, the sweet, virginity, the chaste piety of the “daughter of Zion” was destroyed.

1. It displayed the ravages of cruelly. “The slain.” A strong figure: God’s fair daughters murdered!

(a.) Cruelty perpetrated: the “slain” speaks of slayers: and no language is too strong with which to denounce those who devastate virtue, assassinate happiness, ravage purity, and destroy character. The blood of victims cries out against them to heaven. (b.) Cruelty suffered: the “slain”—the word implies agonies. He mourns not the dead, who died in peace, but the murdered who perished by violence. Read the miserable case of the daughters of iniquity in the records of desperate deeds, who, “mad from life’s history, glad to death’s mystery,” rush “out of the world.”

2. It shocked the feelings of patriotism. “Weep for the slain of the daughters of my people.” He lacks true nobleness who lacks patriotism; and patriotism will urge him in whom it lives to alleviate all wretchedness under which his own people groan. We need more to feel that a brother’s or sister’s misery is our own misery. Thus Jesus “bore our griefs,” &c.

II. A cry of lament. “Oh, that my head were waters,” &c. A bitter wail bursting from an aching heart. Insensibility to the piteous condition of the fallen declares against our own moral consciousness. Think of: 1. Homes which mourn for daughters worse than dead, a silent shame breaking every tender heart! Think of: 2. Hopes which are destroyed; children, which promised to be the light of age, “slain.” And Christian hopes destroyed also,—souls slain, “twice dead,”—dead to happiness on earth, dead to happiness beyond.

Yet the cry of lament need not be a cry of despair. “Can these slain live?” Yes; for them Jesus atoned on Calvary, for them there is a quickening Spirit, for them room in heaven! Jesus spoke to a “woman who was a sinner;” saved her, loved her, severely rebuked those who repelled her; said tenderly to her, “Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven; faith hath saved thee, go in peace.” (a.) Banish not the degraded from purposes of mercy. From Mary the Magdalene Jesus “cast out seven devils.” (b.) Banish them not from hope. “Jesus saves to the uttermost;” and tells the self-righteous that “publicans and harlots shall go into the kingdom of heaven before them.”

III. An appeal to pity. Oh, for tears, “that I might weep day and night.”

1. Our pity need not be dried up by the consideration that the guilty and fallen merit censure. “Let him that is without sin first cast a stone.” “If Christ so loved us—while we were yet sinners—we ought also to love one another.” Being ourselves “forgiven ten thousand talents,”—our delinquencies against Heaven, let us not seize on a fellow-creature cruelly because society has been wronged to the extent of “five hundred pence.” None can wrong society as humanity has wronged God. “Be merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful.”

“Touch her not scornfully, Think of her mournfully, Tenderly, humanely.”

Let tears flow for “the slain,” as Jesus “wept over” Jerusalem, though it merited curses, and soon would clamour for His blood. “Begin at Jerusalem”—take to the worst sinners, and take first to them, the blessed message of love.

2. Nor should our pity be transient. “Day and night” let us “weep for the slain.” Our pity will soon be too late for many. Redeem the time, that “the blessing of those ready to perish” may be won. “On some have compassion, making a difference; and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garments spotted by the flesh.” The “Fountain opened for sin and all uncleanness” is open still.

Topic: JEREMIAH: A LESSON FOR THE DISAPPOINTED. Text: “O that I had in the wilderness a lodging place, that I might leave my people, for they be all treacherous men” (Jeremiah 9:2).

The prophets were ever ungratefully treated by the Israelites, themselves resisted, their warnings neglected, their good services forgotten. Yet the earlier prophets fared better than the later; for outward honour was paid them, as with Moses and Samuel; while those who came in after times suffered maltreatment, as Elijah, Micaiah, and Zechariah (Matthew 23:35).

No prophet commenced labours with greater encouragements than Jeremiah. A king reigned who was bringing back the times of the man after God’s own heart. This devout and zealous king was, moreover, young. What might not therefore be effected in the course of years? Bright fortunes seemed in store for the Church.

Schism, too, was at an end since Israel’s captivity. Kings of the house of David again ruled over the whole land. Idolatry was destroyed by Josiah in all the cities. Thus, at first sight, it seemed reasonable to anticipate further and permanent improvements.

I. Every one begins with being sanguine.

Jeremiah did. God’s servants entered on their office with more lively hopes than their after fortunes warranted. Very soon the cheerful prospect was overcast for Jeremiah, and he was left to labour in the dark.

Huldah’s message fixed the coming fortunes of Judah: she foretold the early death of the good king, and a fierce destruction to the unworthy nation. This prophecy came five years after Jeremiah entered office; so early in his course were his hopes cut away.

Or the express word of God came to and undeceived him. Or the hardened state of sin in which the nation lay destroyed his hopes. But so it was that his mind sobered into the more blessed and noble temper, resignation.

II. Resignation a more blessed state of mind than sanguine hopei.e., hope of present success. Because:

1. It is a truer state of mind. 2. More consistent with our fallen state of being. 3. More improving to our hearts. 4. The grace for which the moat eminent servants of God have been conspicuous.

a. To expect great effects from our religious exertions is natural and innocent, but arises from inexperience of the kind of work we have to do—to change the heart and will of men.

b. Far nobler frame of mind to labour, not with hope of seeing fruit, but for conscience’ sake, as matter of duty, and in faith, trusting good will be done though we see it not.

c. The Bible shows that though God’s servants began with success, they ended with disappointment. Not that God’s purposes or instruments fail, but because the time for reaping is not here, but hereafter. Thus: Moses began with leading forth Israel in triumph; ended before journey finished and Canaan gained. Samuel’s ministry wrought reformations; ended in the people wilfully choosing a king. Elijah, after his successes, fled from Jezebel into the wilderness to mourn his disappointments. Isaiah, after Hezekiah’s religious reign and miraculous defeat of Sennacherib’s army, fell upon the evil days of Manasseh. Apostles show the same order of experience; for after all the great works God enabled them to do, see 2 Timothy 3:13.

III. The vicissitude of feeling which this transition from hope to disappointment produces.

Jeremiah’s trials during Josiah’s reign were considerable, but afterwards experienced persecution from every class of men: from the people (Jeremiah 18:18), men of Anathoth (Jeremiah 11:21), priests and prophets (Jeremiah 26:16 sq.), chief governor (Jeremiah 20:2), Zedekiah (Jeremiah 32:3), conspirators (Jeremiah 37:14). Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 39:14) and an Ethiopian were of the few persons who showed him any kindness. Such were his trials.

And their effect upon his spirit? Affliction, fear, despondency, sometimes restlessness, even impatience under his trials, find frequent expression in his writings (Jeremiah 5:3; Jeremiah 5:30-31; Jeremiah 12:1-3; Jeremiah 15:10-18; Jeremiah 20:7-14). Such is the succession and tide of feelings which most persons undergo before their minds settle into the calm of resignation.

IV. The issue of these changes and conflicts of feeling was resignation.

He comes to use language which expresses that chastened spirit and weaned heart which is the termination of all agitation and anxiety in religious minds.
He who at one time could not comfort himself, was sent to comfort a brother; and in comforting Baruch he speaks in that nobler temper of resignation which takes the place of sanguine hope and harassing fear, and betokens calm and clear-sighted faith and inward peace (chap 45):—Seek not success; be not impatient; fret not thyself; be content if, after all thy labours, thou dost but save thyself, without seeing other fruit of them.

V. These truths apply not to the prophets only, but to all.

All live in a world which promises well but does not fulfil. All begin with hope, and (apart from religious prospects) end with disappointment. Much difference in our respective trials, arising from difference of tempers and fortune.
1. Still it is in our nature to hope: to begin life thoughtlessly and joyously; to seek great things in one way or other; to have vague notions of good to come; to love the world, believe its promises, and expect satisfaction and happiness from it.

2. And it is our lot, as life proceeds, to encounter disappointment. Exceptions may seem to show themselves in the retired ranks of society and settled wealth. Still all begin life with health and end it amid sickness. Youth leaves even those most favoured with fortunes, and they lament the days gone, remember them with pleasure mingled with pain. For they have lost something they once had; whereas at the outset they anticipated something they had not.

VI. It is not religion which suggests this sad view of things, but experience.

It is the world’s doing. Though the Bible said nothing about the perishing nature of all earthly pleasures, it is a fact from which we cannot escape.
1. Here it is that God Himself offers us His aid: by His Word and His Church. Left to ourselves we seek good from the world and cannot find it: in youth look forward, and in age look back. Well that we be persuaded of these things betimes, to gain wisdom and provide for evil days.

2. Seek we great things? We must seek them where and in the way they are to be found, as He who came into the world to enable us to gain them has set them before us. We must be willing to give up present hope for future enjoyment.

3. We must be changed before we can receive our greatest good. Our nature is not in a state to enjoy happiness, even if offered to us. We seek it, feel we need it, but are not fitted for it. If we would gain true bliss, cease to seek it as an end, postpone the prospect of enjoying it.

4. Learn to know ourselves, and have thoughts becoming ourselves. Impetuous hope and undisciplined mirth ill become a sinner. Our guilt brought down the Son of God from heaven to die upon the cross for us. Should we live in pleasure here when the Gospel tells us of the Saviour’s life-long affliction and disappointment?

5. Prepare for suffering and disappointment, which befit us as sinners and are necessary for us as saints. Accent affliction as a means of improving our hearts. Look disappointment in the face; “taking the prophets as examples of suffering and patience.”

Give not over your attempts to serve God, though you see nothing come of them. Watch and pray, and obey your conscience, though you cannot perceive your progress in holiness. Do the duties of your calling, though they are distasteful. Persevere in the narrow way.

Mourn that you may rejoice (Matthew 5:4). Take up the cross of Christ that you may wear the crown. Give your hearts to Him, and you will solve the difficulty how Christians can be “sorrowful yet alway rejoicing.”

6. But you must begin in faith. “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.” You cannot at first see where Christ is leading you, or how light will arise out of darkness. Must begin with pain, self-denial, refusing sin, mastering evil impulses, enduring irreligious sneers for Christ’s sake, forcing your minds to prayer, keeping thought of God before you daily. The Holy Spirit will enable you to do this; then “shall your light rise in obscurity,” &c. (Isaiah 53:10-11).—Abridged and arranged from “Plain Sermons,” by contributors to the “Tracts for the Times.


Jeremiah 9:1. “Fountain of tears.

“Like a pent-up flood, swoln to the height,
He poured his griefs into my breast with tears,
Such as the manliest men in their crossed lives
Are sometimes forced to shed.”


“Every one can master a grief but he that has it.”—SHAKESPEARE.

Jeremiah 9:2. Solitude: “A lodging-place, that I might leave my people.” “There is no flight for him into quiet religious contemplation; he cannot withdraw from the circle of interests in which his countrymen are dwelling. He may pass hours or months in solitude, but he will not be away from the events which are befalling them; he will be more deeply occupied with them; he will be contemplating them with a closeness and intensity to which the mere actors in them are strangers. The poor young priest of Anathoth can in no way sever himself from the policy of nations and rulers: Judea, Egypt, Chaldea, every tribe and power of the earth must be about him in his closet, must enter into his most inward personal experiences and sufferings.”—Maurice, “Prophets and Kings.”

“It is this childlike tenderness (Jeremiah 1:6) which adds force to the severity of his denunciations, to the bitterness of his grief. He was not one of those stern characters which bear without repining the necessary evils of life. He who was to be hard as brass and strong as iron, who had to look with unmoved countenance on the downward descent of his country, yet longed that his ‘head were waters, and his eyes a fountain of tears, that he might weep day and night for the daughter of his people.’ He whose task it was to run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, like the Grecian sage (Jeremiah 5:1-2), to see if he could find a single honest man—to live, as it were, in the market-place as a butt of scorn, alike from the religious and the irreligious world—he was, by his own nature and inclination, the prophet of the desert, longing for a ‘lodge’ in some vast wilderness, that he ‘might leave his people,’ and avoid the sight of their crimes.”—Stanley, “Jewish Church,” ii. 442.

“Oh, for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
Where rumour of oppression and deceit,
Of unsuccessful or successful war,
Might never reach me more! My ear is pained,
My soul is sick, with every day’s report
Of wrong and outrage with which earth is filled.”—COWPER, “Slavery.”

“Far hid from the pitiless plunderer’s view,
In the pathless depths of the parched Karroo;
And here, while the night-winds around me sigh,
And the stars burn bright in the midnight sky,
As I sit apart by the desert stone,
Like Elijah at Horeb’s cave alone,
‘A still small voice’ comes through the wild—
Like a father consoling his fretful child—
Which banishes bitterness, wrath, and fear,

Jeremiah 9:4. Slander.

“Malicious slander never would have leisure
To search, with prying eyes, for faults abroad,
If all, like me, considered their own hearts,
And wept the sorrows which they find at home.”—ROWE.
“Slander, the foulest whelp of sin! The man
In whom this spirit entered was undone;
His tongue was set on fire of hell; his heart
Was black as death; his legs were faint with haste
To propagate the lie his soul had framed;
His pillow was the peace of families
Destroyed, the sigh of innocence reproached,
Broken friendships, and the strife of brotherhoods.”—POLLOK.

“Against slander there is no defence. Hell cannot boast so foul a fiend, nor men deplore so foul a foe. It stabs with a smile. It is a pestilence walking in darkness, spreading contagion far and wide, which the most wary traveller cannot avoid. It is the heart-searching dagger of the assassin. It is the poisoned arrow whose wound is incurable. It is as fatal as the sting of the most deadly asp; murder is its employment, innocence its prey, and ruin its sport.”—Gray’sTopics.”

Jeremiah 9:8. Seductive speech: like a poisoned arrow.

“The devil hath not, in all his quiver’s choice,
An arrow for the heart like a sweet voice.”


Jeremiah 9:11. Jerusalem in ruins.

“Every stone is a witness of God’s revelation, and every ruin a monument of his wrath.”—Pierotti.

“Alas! we were warned, but we recked not the warning,

Till our warriors grew weak in the day of despair;

And our glory was fled as the light cloud of morning,

That gleams for a moment, and melts into air.”—DALE.
“Her outcast tribes no longer come
To greet her as their hallowed home,
But sadly joy to lay their head
Beneath their foes’ insulting tread;
To fall by her they could not save,
Their glory once, and now their grave.”


Jeremiah 9:17. “Mourning women.” African incident.—“The mother of poor Touda, who heard that I wished to see him once more, led me to the house where the body was laid. The narrow space of the room was crowded; about two hundred women were sitting and standing around, singing mourning songs to doleful and monotonous airs. As I stood looking, the mother of Touda approached. She threw herself at the foot of her dead son, and begged him to speak to her once more. And then, when the corpse did not answer, she uttered a shriek, so long, so piercing, such a wail of love and grief, that tears came into my eyes. Poor African mother! she was literally as one sorrowing without hope; for with them there is no hope beyond the grave. ‘All is done,’ they say, with inexpressible sadness of conviction that sometimes gave me the heartache. As I left the hut, thinking these things, the wailing recommenced. It would be kept up by the women, who are the official mourners on these occasions, till the corpse was buried.”—Du Chaillu.

Jeremiah 9:21. Death.

“What disarrays like death? It defaces the fascination of the beautiful. It breaks the lamp of the wise. It withers the strength of the mighty. It snatches the store of the rich. Kings are stripped of trapping, trophy, treasure: ‘their glory shall not descend after them.’ ”—Dr. R. W. Hamilton.

“The glories of our blood and state

Are shadows, not substantial things;

There is no armour against fate;

Death lays his icy hand on kings.

Sceptre and crown
Must tumble down,

And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

“Some men with swords may reap the field,

And plant fresh laurels where they kill;

But their strong nerves at last must yield;

They tame but one another still.

Early or late,
They stoop to fate,

And must give up their murmuring breath,
When they, pale captives, creep to death.

“The garlands wither on your brow:

Then boast no more your mighty deeds?

Upon Death’s purple altar now

See where the victor-victim bleeds?

Your heads must come
To the cold tomb:

Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust.”


“Death comes on with equal footstep

To the hall and hut:

Think you Death will tarry knocking

Where the door is shut?

Jesus waiteth, waiteth, waiteth;

But thy door is fast:

Grieved, away the Saviour turneth!

Death breaks through at last.”


“I congratulate you and myself that life is passing fast away. What a superlatively grand and consoling idea is that of death! Without this radiant idea, this delightful morning star, indicating that the luminary of eternity is going to rise, life would, to my view, darken into midnight melancholy. Oh, the expectation of living here and living thus always would be indeed a prospect of overwhelming despair. But thanks be to that fatal decree that dooms us to die! thanks to that Gospel which opens the vision of an endless life! and thanks, above all, to that Saviour Friend who has promised to conduct all the faithful through the sacred trance of death into scenes of Paradise and everlasting delight.”—John Foster.

Jeremiah 9:23. Spurious glorying. Wisdom: a bane or a blessing, according as it is used. Water well directed will turn the mighty mill, and thus spare wearisome toils; but if it break through its banks, it is a desolating and destructive thing. Sails are an advantage to a ship which steers aright; but if wrongly directed, the more sail she carries the worse for her, since they hasten her to the ominous rocks.

“Knowledge and Wisdom, far from being one,
Have ofttimes no connection. Knowledge dwells
In heads replete with thoughts of other men;
Wisdom, in minds attentive to their own.”


Might: “What illustration have we of such glorying in the history of Napoleon! At the head of his congregated legions he made the world stand in awe of him; but the scene changes, till we see him gnawing his heart away on a barren rock under the equator.”—Pilkington.

“Our mightiest endeavours show us that, after all, we are only beating ourselves against the bars of a great cage. Can your feet stand upon the flowing river? Can you lay your finger upon the lowest of all the stars that shine in heaven. We are hemmed in by the impassable.”—Parker.

Riches: Crœsus, whose name is a synonym for great wealth, was himself taken captive, stripped of all his treasures, and in old age was supported by the charity of Cyrus.

“If thou art rich, thou art poor;

For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear’st thy heavy riches but a journey,
And Death unloads thee.”—SHAKESPEARE.

“To purchase heaven has gold the power?
Can gold remove the mortal hour?
In life, can love be bought with gold?
Are friendship’s pleasures to be sold?
Cease then on trash thy hopes to bind,
Let nobler views engage thy mind.”


“I have read of a man who had a suit, and when his case was to be heard, he applied himself to three friends to see what they would do. One answered he would bring him as far on his journey as he could; the second promised to go with him to his journey’s end; the third engaged to go with him before the judge and speak for him, nor leave him till his cause was determined. These three are a man’s riches his friends and his graces. His riches may not very long stay with him; his friends can go with him to the grave, but must there leave him; but his graces will go with him before God, never forsake him, but accompany him to the grave and to glory.”—Brooks.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/jeremiah-9.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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