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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 16

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3403. B.C. 601.

The prophecy which begins here is continued to the end of the 18th verse of the next chapter. Nor is there any reason to suspect its being out of its proper place, but that it was delivered, as well as those of the preceding chapters, toward the beginning of Jehoiakim’s evil reign.

(1,) The prophet is forbidden to marry or beget children, because of the judgments that were about to fall upon all the inhabitants of the land, both old and young, Jeremiah 16:1-4 .

(2,) For the like reasons, he is commanded not to join with any of his neighbours, either in their mourning, or in their convivial mirth, Jeremiah 16:5-9 .

(3,) He shows that their calamities were the effect of their apostacy and disobedience, for which God would drive them into exile, and give them no quarter till he had fully requited their wickedness, Jeremiah 16:10-18 . But,

(4,) Their future restoration is intermediately foretold, Jeremiah 16:14 , Jeremiah 16:15 ; as is also the conversion of the Gentiles, Jeremiah 16:19-21 .

Verses 1-4

Jeremiah 16:1-4. The word of the Lord came, &c. Here begins a new discourse, wherein God forbids Jeremiah to marry, principally with a view to show the miseries of parents, and the confused and ruinous state of things in Judea. “Fruitfulness was promised as a blessing under the law, Deuteronomy 28:4, but ceased to be so in such difficult times as were coming upon the Jewish nation. For parents could not promise to themselves any comfort in their children, who must be exposed to the many miseries that attend a hostile invasion and a conquering army.” Lowth. They shall die of grievous deaths Hebrew ממותי תחלאים , mortibus ægritudinum, id est, ægerrimis, Buxtorf. Literally, of deaths of sicknesses, that is, very sorrowful deaths; meaning, Blaney thinks, epidemical disorders, (such as the pestilence,) terminating in death. It, no doubt, however, also includes death by the sword and by famine.

Verses 5-6

Jeremiah 16:5-6. Enter not into the house of mourning Or, of a mourning feast, according to the reading in the margin, the word מרזח , occurring also Amos 6:7, and being there rendered a banquet. The sense seems to be, Do not go to comfort such as mourn for any friends or relations dead; their feastings on those occasions being upon a consolatory account: those that die are most happy. For I have taken away my peace from this people That is, I have put a full period to their prosperity, and deprived them of every thing wherewith they might comfort themselves and one another; even loving-kindness and mercies These shall be shut up and restrained, which are the springs from whence all the streams of comfort flow to mankind. Both the great and the small shall die in this land The land of Canaan that used to be called the land of the living. They shall not be buried, &c. So many of all ranks and ages shall die that men shall have no time to bury them, or there shall not be a sufficient number left alive to bury the dead. Neither shall men lament for them Nor shall men have leisure, through their own miseries, to lament for the miseries of others. Or their own calamities shall be so great that they will render them insensible to the calamities of others. Nor cut themselves, &c. The law expressly forbade the Israelites to make any cuttings in their flesh at funeral obsequies, Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1. Notwithstanding which prohibition, this practice seems to have been adopted by the Jews, among other heathenish customs. Shaving of the head also was a usual expression of mourning, chap. Jeremiah 7:29.

Verse 7

Jeremiah 16:7. Neither shall men tear themselves for them According to this translation the phrase alludes to another expression of immoderate grief, which consisted in tearing their flesh with their nails. But according to the marginal reading, the sense is, Neither shall men break bread for them; alluding to the mourning-feast, mentioned Jeremiah 16:5. So the LXX., ου μη κλασθη αρτος εν πενθει αυτων εις παρακλησιν επι τεθνηκοτι , “bread shall by no means be broken in their mourning, for consolation concerning the dead.” So also the Vulgate. As to the custom alluded to, Jerome informs us, in his commentary on this place, that “it was usual to carry provisions to mourners, and to make an entertainment, which sort of feasts the Greeks call περιδειπνα , and the Latins parentalia.” The origin of which custom undoubtedly was, that the friends of the mourner, who came to comfort him, (which they often did in great numbers, as we learn from John 11:19,) easily concluding, that a person so far swallowed up of grief, as even to forget his own bread could hardly attend to the entertainment of so many guests, each sent in his proportion of meat and drink, in hopes to prevail upon the mourner, by their example and persuasions, to partake of such refreshment as might tend to recruit both his bodily strength and his spirits. To this custom Tobit is thought to refer when, among other exhortations to his son, he directs him to pour out his bread on the burial of the just. See Blaney. It must be observed, that among the Hebrews all things eaten were called bread. Neither shall men give them the cup of consolation for their father, &c. They were also wont, on these occasions, to send wine, or some other cheering liquor to drink, that they might forget their sorrows. This is called here the cup of consolation. Sir John Chardin, in one of his MSS. tells us, that “the oriental Christians still make banquets of the same kind, by a custom derived from the Jews; and that the provisions spoken of in this verse were such as were wont to be sent to the house of the deceased, where healths were also drunk to the survivers of the family.” God here tells the Jews by his prophet, that the time should come when so many should die, and so fast, and the rest should be so much upon the brink of the grave, that they should have neither leisure nor heart for using these ceremonies.

Verses 8-9

Jeremiah 16:8-9. Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting God not only forbade his prophet to go into houses of mourning, but forbade him also to go into houses where people were wont to eat and drink on joyful occasions, because it would be unseasonable, and would not agree with the afflictive dispensations of Providence that were coming on the land and nation. God called aloud for weeping, mourning, and fasting, because he was coming forth against them in his judgments, and it was time for them to humble themselves before him. And it well became the prophet, who gave them the warning, to give them an example of taking the warning himself, and complying with it; and so to make it appear that he did himself believe what he declared to them. For, behold I will cause to cease the voice of mirth, &c. In the approaching time of general desolation, all the solemn seasons of mirth and gladness shall cease, as well public as private. The solemn feasts, which were always observed with great expressions of joy, shall be no more celebrated, nor shall nuptial solemnities and other private occasions of rejoicing be any longer observed.

Verse 13

Jeremiah 16:13. There shall ye serve other gods day and night The opportunities of frequenting the public worship of the true God shall be taken from you, as a just judgment upon you for your neglect of his service in your own country; and you shall be exposed to the peril of being seduced by the Chaldeans to the worship of idols: see Deuteronomy 4:28; Deuteronomy 28:36, where Moses utters a similar prediction. Compare also 1 Samuel 26:19.

Verses 14-15

Jeremiah 16:14-15 . Therefore, behold the days come, saith the Lord, &c. The particle לכן seems to be very improperly rendered therefore here. It evidently sometimes signifies notwithstanding, or nevertheless; see note on Isaiah 30:18, and sometimes, yet surely, as Jeremiah 5:2, of this prophecy; which sense agrees well with the scope of this place, and connects this verse with the words foregoing. And so it seems it should be rendered, Jeremiah 30:16; Jeremiah 32:36. Blaney, however, thinks that both in this verse and in all these passages, as also Jeremiah 23:7, and Hosea 2:14, it more properly signifies, after this. Accordingly, he translates this clause, after this, behold the days come, saith Jehovah, &c., observing, “that this notice of a future restoration was here inserted on purpose to guard the people, during their exile, from falling into idolatry through despair, by letting them see they had still a prospect of recovering God’s wonted favour and protection.” To which may be added, that he probably intended also, in thus sweetening the dreadful threatenings preceding with this comfortable promise, to prevent such as were pious among them, or should be brought to repentance by these terrible calamities, from being swallowed up of overmuch sorrow. It shall no more be said, &c. The bringing of Israel out of the Egyptian bondage shall not be so much spoken of and celebrated as their deliverance from their captivity in Babylon. In fact, the latter was in several respects more remarkable than the former. Their deliverance from the power of the king of Egypt was extorted from him by terrifying miracles, which scarcely brought him to a compliance; but their deliverance from their captivity in Babylon was voluntarily granted them by Cyrus, a far greater king than the king of Egypt, and attended by a decree extremely honourable to them.

Verses 16-18

Jeremiah 16:16-18. Behold, I will send, &c. This may be better rendered, But now I will send, &c. Because here the prophet returns to denounce threatenings; many fishers, and they shall fish them “It is common with the sacred writers to represent enemies and oppressors under the metaphors of fishers and hunters, because they use all the methods of open force and secret stratagem to make men their prey.” By these two characters the same enemies are probably meant, namely, the Chaldeans, who should take different methods, one after another, to destroy them; besieging them in their cities, and taking them like fish, enclosed in a net; and afterward pursuing the scattered parties from place to place, till they got them into their hands; so that one way or other, few, if any, would be suffered to escape. Compare Isaiah 24:17-18, where it is in like manner foretold, that those who escaped from one danger should fall by another. See Blaney. For mine eyes are upon all their ways I mark all their sins, though they commit them never so secretly, and palliate them never so artfully. They have not their eyes upon me; have no regard to me, stand in no awe of me: but I have mine eye upon them, and neither they nor any of their ways are hid from me. I will recompense their iniquity double Not double to what it deserves, but double to what they expect, and to what I have done formerly. Or, I will recompense it abundantly; they shall now pay for their long reprieve and the divine patience they have abused; because they have defiled my land By their idolatry, blood, cruelty, and other sins; have filled mine inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable things Their idols, which are elsewhere called carcasses, not only because they were without life, but also because of their filthiness and hatefulness in the sight of God: see Leviticus 26:30; Ezekiel 43:7; Ezekiel 43:9. Or the words may be explained of the human sacrifices which were offered to idols.

Verses 19-20

Jeremiah 16:19-20. O Lord, my strength To support and comfort me; my fortress To protect and shelter me; and my refuge in the day of affliction To whom I may flee for deliverance and consolation; the Gentiles, the nations, shall come to thee from the ends of the earth The prophet, shocked at the apostacy of Israel, and concerned for God’s honour, here comforts himself by looking forward to the time when even the Gentiles themselves should become sensible of the absurdity of their hereditary idolatry, and be converted to the acknowledgment of the one living and true God: and this remarkable and desirable event he predicts, the more emphatically to demonstrate the unreasonableness and folly of forsaking him for idols. And shall say That is, the Gentiles shall say, Surely our fathers, our ancestors, have inherited lies, vanity, &c. And did not receive the satisfaction they promised themselves and their children; we are now sensible of the folly and deception of their idolatrous worship, by which they were cheated to their ruin, and therefore we will entirely and for ever renounce it, and in all our wants address ourselves to the true God as our only refuge and protection. Shall a man make gods unto himself? Thus the prophet represents the Gentiles, when enlightened by the truth, as reasoning with themselves. Shall a man be so ignorant and foolish; so perfectly void of reason and discernment, as to make gods to himself, the creatures of his own fancy, the work of his own hands, which are really no gods? Can a man be so infatuated, so entirely lost to human understanding, as to expect any divine blessing or favour from that which pretends to no divinity but what it first received from him? Observe, reader, that reformation is likely to be sincere and durable which results from a rational conviction of the gross absurdity which there is in sin, and the service of Satan.

Verse 21

Jeremiah 16:21. Therefore I will this once Or, as בפעם הזאת may be rendered, at this time, as the same expression is rendered, 2 Samuel 17:7. Cause them to know my hand and my might, &c. “The time alluded to is undoubtedly that when the gospel was to be preached to, and embraced by, the Gentiles; when God promises that he would make such a display of his mighty power as should amply convince them of the truth of his existence and divinity. They shall know that my name is JEHOVAH A name which implies absolute and necessary existence, the real source and origin of all perfection; and they shall know it by the blessings which shall, from my providence, be derived to them.” Blaney.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 16". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/jeremiah-16.html. 1857.
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