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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 5

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


A.M. 3392. B.C. 612.

In this chapter, which intermixes awful threatenings with sharp reproofs, to render them the more afflicting, we have,

(1,) A list of the most notorious sins of the Jews; injustice and falsehood, Jeremiah 5:1 ; hypocrisy and perjury, Jeremiah 5:2 ; incorrigibleness, Jeremiah 5:3 ; ignorance and profligacy, Jeremiah 5:4 , Jeremiah 5:5 ; idolatry and adultery, Jeremiah 5:7 , Jeremiah 5:8 ; treacherous apostacy from, and impudent defiance of, God, Jeremiah 5:11-13 ; want of his fear, notwithstanding repeated calls to it, Jeremiah 5:20-24 ; violence and oppression, Jeremiah 5:25-28 ; combination of priests and prophets, who ought to have been reformers, to debauch the nation, Jeremiah 5:30 , Jeremiah 5:31 .

(2,) A list of terrible judgments that God would certainly and fearfully inflict, Jeremiah 5:9 , Jeremiah 5:29 ; that, according to this prophet’s predictions, the Chaldeans should waste the country, Jeremiah 5:14-17 ; besiege and destroy their cities, Jeremiah 5:6 , Jeremiah 5:10 ; slay or carry the people into captivity, but not utterly destroy them, Jeremiah 5:10 , Jeremiah 5:18 .

Verse 1

Jeremiah 5:1. Run ye to and fro, &c. In this chapter, which seems to be a continuation of the preceding discourse, God justifies the severity of the judgments denounced in the foregoing chapter. The expressions are strong, but not to be taken strictly in the letter, signifying only the extreme degeneracy of the times, and the great want of justice and piety in Jerusalem. And see now and know, &c. Search here and there, and in every part of the city. The words, saith the Lord, should be supplied; for it is plain that the first and second verses are the words of God. In Jer 5:3 the prophet speaks, and goes on to Jeremiah 5:7, where God speaks again. And seek in the broad places thereof The word רחבותיה , thus rendered, means, no doubt, the market-places, and other spacious areas, where citizens used to meet to do business with each other. If ye can find a man Namely, a man fearing God, and working righteousness. If there be any that executeth judgment That in the magistracy rightly administers justice. That seeketh the truth Any one among the commonality that deals faithfully and uprightly. The universal corruption of manners was such, that a man might walk the streets of Jerusalem long enough before he could meet with any one that was truly religious. And I will pardon it Namely, the city of Jerusalem. The strong expressions of this verse, if they were taken strictly, would imply that Jerusalem was now worse than Sodom, in the days of Lot: for, in offering pardon to Sodom and Gomorrah, God came no lower than ten, but, according to the literal meaning of these expressions, he promises to pardon Jerusalem if there should be one righteous man found. But it seems evident that, as we have intimated above, they are not to be taken in so strict a sense as if, in so great a city, there was not one good man; for certainly the prophet could not be reckoned among the number of the wicked, and there were besides, Baruch his disciple, and Ebed-melech, and, without doubt, some others that were truly pious. So that the meaning can be no more than that there were very few good men compared with the number of the wicked.

Verse 2

Jeremiah 5:2. And though they say, The Lord liveth, &c. Though, when they swear, they use the common form of an oath, and say, The Lord liveth, or, as the Lord liveth, or, by the living God. Surely, or rather, nevertheless, they swear falsely That is, either, 1st, They are not sincere in the profession they make of respect to God, but are false to him; they honour him with their lips, but their hearts are far from him, nor have they any proper conviction or sense that he lives and sees them, Genesis 16:13-14. Or, 2d, Though they appeal to God only, they make no conscience of calling him to witness a lie: though they do not swear by idols, they forswear themselves, which is no less an affront to Jehovah, as the God of truth, than the other is to him, as the only true God.

Verses 3-5

Jeremiah 5:3-5. O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth Dost thou not approve of truth and faithfulness? And dost thou not search men’s hearts, and clearly discern their real dispositions from their hypocritical pretences? Thou hast stricken them With one affliction after another; but they have not grieved They have remained insensible as stocks or stones: they have not been humbled, and made truly penitent. Thou hast consumed them Not chastised them lightly, but wasted them by several enemies: but they have refused to receive correction To accommodate themselves to, and answer thy design in, correcting them. They have not been instructed or amended by it. They have made their faces harder than a rock, &c. They have been obstinate and impudent in their evil practices, and have wilfully rejected thy counsel, and disregarded thy judgments. Therefore I said, These are poor, &c. I thought at first, says the prophet, that such insensibility and want of concern respecting the duties of religion could be only charged upon the rude and ignorant vulgar, who, through the ignorance and poverty of their parents, were not sufficiently instructed when young, and afterward had neither leisure nor opportunity of learning their duty. I will get me to the great men And see if I can find them better acquainted with, and regardful of, the providence and word of God. For I thought, rarely they have been better educated, and have had all opportunities and means of instruction and improvement, and therefore they must have known the way of the Lord, &c. But these have altogether broken the yoke, &c. These are more refractory than the others; no law of God is able to hold them.

Verse 6

Jeremiah 5:6. Wherefore a lion, &c. Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldean army are here pointed at under the metaphor of beasts of prey, of three kinds: being powerful, courageous, and violent as a lion; rapacious, greedy, and devouring as a wolf; and swift, lively, and active as a leopard. The word ערבוה , rendered evenings in the text, is translated deserts in the margin of our Bibles, which probably is the sense here intended. “And those wide and extensive plains, or unenclosed commons, seem to be meant, which were used only for sheep-walks and pasturage, and were, of course, most likely to be infested with wolves.” Blaney.

Verses 7-9

Jeremiah 5:7-9. How shall I pardon thee for this? How canst thou expect that the holy God, the righteous Governor and Judge of the world, should connive at, or bear with, such iniquitous conduct in his intelligent and accountable creatures. He appeals to themselves, whether they can think it consistent with his justice to let such enormous offences as he mentions go unpunished. Thy children Thy people, both in city and country; have forsaken me Have apostatized from my worship and service; and have sworn by them that are no gods Have made their appeals to them, as if they were omniscient and their proper judges. This is here put for all acts of religious worship which are due to God only, but with which they honoured their idols, thereby robbing God of his essential attributes, and ascribing them to creatures of their own fancy. When I fed them to the full Gave them temporal blessings in abundance; then they committed adultery Such is the natural effect of unsanctified prosperity. Shall I not visit for these things? Do not such crimes as these call for some remarkable judgments as their chastisement? Can you yourselves suppose that Jehovah, whose name is Holy and Jealous, will let them go unpunished? Shall not my soul be avenged? &c. God’s anger and vengeance signify, in Scripture, the execution of his justice, the effects of which are as terrible against obstinate sinners as if they proceeded from the highest resentment.

Verses 10-13

Jeremiah 5:10-13 . Go ye up upon her walls, &c. Ye Babylonians, go, execute my vengeance on them; and destroy I commission you not only to take the city, but to make havoc of its inhabitants. But make not a full end Leave a remnant. Thus he sets bounds to the destroying sword, beyond which it must not go. Take away her battlements Lay her fortifications level with the ground. For they are not the Lord’s I disown them, and take away my protection from them. For the house of Israel and the house of Judah The two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, as well as the ten; have dealt very treacherously Have acted perfidiously beyond measure. They have belied the Lord Given the lie to his threatenings in the mouth of his prophets: or have disbelieved and denied his providence, justice, and power, and his government of human affairs, ascribing his judgments to chance or fortune, or mere second causes. And have said, It is not he Hebrew, לא הוא , “not he:” that is, he hath not spoken, or he wilt not do as the prophets have threatened in his name; or, he hath no hand in these affairs. Thus the wicked are represented as speaking, Psalms 94:7, “The Lord shall not see: neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.” Neither shall we see sword or famine The dreadful judgments which the prophet speaks of shall not befall us. And the prophets shall become wind A proverbial expression, implying that the prophecies of the prophets were vain, and to no purpose; and that all their threats should come to nothing. And the word is not in them That is, the word of true prophecy; the prophets’ words are not from God. Thus shall it be done unto them Nay, the very evils which they denounce upon others shall happen to themselves. So said the infidels.

Verses 14-18

Jeremiah 5:14-18. Wherefore, thus saith the Lord God of hosts The prophet now, in the name of God, answers the blasphemous speeches of these infidels, ascribing to Jehovah that power and supremacy which were calculated to give his words the greater influence. Because you speak this word because these scoffers express themselves in this manner; I will make my words in thy mouth fire, &c. Thy words shall take effect, and thy predictions begin to be accomplished suddenly and unexpectedly, irresistibly and fiercely, (as fire is wont to kindle upon and consume dry wood,) to their utter overthrow and ruin. They shall be but fuel to my wrath, which shall be executed upon them by the Chaldean army. I will bring a nation upon you from far The prophet, in the two following verses, “marks out the Chaldeans by their distance; by their power and valour; by their antiquity; by their language, unknown to the Jews; by their arms, their might, and their cruelty.” And they shall eat up thy harvest In the field; and thy bread In the house; which thy sons and thy daughters should eat Necessary for the sustenance of thy own offspring. They shall consume all, leaving thee no supports of life, but bringing an utter famine upon thee. Here is a plain allusion to the predictions of Moses, Deuteronomy 28:49-51. They shall eat up thy flocks and thy herds Out of which thou hast taken sacrifices for thine idols. They shall eat up thy vines and thy fig-trees They shall leave thee no part of the produce of thy vineyards or fields. They shall empoverish thy fenced cities, &c. After besieging, they shall take and destroy thy cities, though defended by high and strong walls; wherein thou trustedst For the protection of the country; slaying the garrisons and inhabitants thereof with the sword, and leaving them desolate. See this also foretold, Deuteronomy 28:52.

Verse 19

Jeremiah 5:19. And when ye shall say, Wherefore doeth the Lord our God all these things? Those that fall under the severity of God’s judgments are apt to think so favourably of themselves, as to wonder why they should be singled out for examples of the divine vengeance, and of terror to others. And particularly the Jews were very apt to think themselves innocent, however guilty they were, and to contend they did not deserve the punishments inflicted on them; and that this severe proceeding was not consistent with those many gracious promises which God had made to their nation. Then shalt thou answer them, &c. God doth not execute these judgments upon you without cause. All his promises were made to you, to be fulfilled upon condition of your obedience, which, when you withheld, you had reason to expect that his threatenings, instead of his promises, as he had repeatedly warned you, would take effect. Like as ye have forsaken me I only retaliate upon you your own conduct: you have forsaken me, therefore I forsake you. You, in that good land which I gave you, have served strange gods, to whom you owed nothing; as being, indeed, the work of your own hands, of mere imaginary beings that had no existence; so will I make you to serve strange masters and lords in a land that is not yours And where you shall not be able to call any thing your own. You have loved strangers, and to strangers you shall go. Or, as some paraphrase the words, “As you have refused to have me for your God, your Master, and your King, you shall have other kings and masters in a strange land, and shall experience the difference between my dominion and that of these severe and tyrannical masters.”

Verse 21

Jeremiah 5:21 . Hear this, O foolish people Ignorant and imprudent, as blind to your interest as to your duty; and without understanding Hebrew, ואין לב , and there is no heart, or without heart, stupid and regardless of all counsel, wisdom, and common sense. Which have eyes and see not, &c. Wilfully blind, and obstinately deaf, who will neither see nor hear the word, will, or works of God; of which he gives two instances in the two following verses.

Verses 22-24

Jeremiah 5:22-24. Fear ye not me? saith the Lord He ascribes their stupidity and foolishness to their want of the fear of God. As if he had said, If you would but call to mind God’s almighty power, and your own weakness, and keep an awe of him upon your minds, you would be more observant of his commands, and be afraid to disobey them. Which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea Who need not place rocks or walls to keep it in; but can give an effectual check to it by a little despicable sand. “The keeping of the waters within bounds, so that they cannot overflow the earth, is often mentioned in Scripture as an immediate effect of God’s overruling power and providence. For water being specifically lighter than earth, by the common laws of gravitation it should rise above it, and overflow it. And then the adjusting the proportion of the tides, that they rise no higher, to the prejudice of the lower grounds, is another remarkable instance of God’s special providence.” Lowth. But this people are more ungovernable than the unruly waves of the sea: they have a revolting and a rebellious heart They have not only revolted from me and gone back, but they continue obstinate, and will not return. They persist in their evil courses, and are determined so to do: they are gone quite away, and are irreclaimable. Neither say they in their heart They are so careless that they never trouble themselves about any thing of the kind; or are so obdurate that they never lay it to heart, nor consider that it is God, who disposeth of all things according to his own pleasure, both in the great deep and on dry land. Let us now fear the Lord our God Or, worship and obey him; all acceptable service to God being both performed in his fear, and proceeding from it. That giveth rain Without which the earth could produce no fruits. By this the true God is distinguished from all false gods, Jeremiah 14:22; and in this appears not only his power in appointing and preparing it, (Psalms 147:8,) and his sovereignty in withholding it, (Amos 4:7,) but his general goodness in bestowing it, (Deuteronomy 28:12,) and his special providence in distributing it according as there is need. As in the former instance God shows how insensible his people were of his power and glorious greatness in taming such an unruly element as the sea; so here he further sets forth their inattention to, and disregard of, his providence and goodness; implying that they were grown so stupid, unfeeling, and obstinate, that they neither stood in awe of him for his greatness, nor feared to offend him for his goodness. “The vicissitudes of seasons, of cold and heat, of drought and moisture, so wisely fitted for the growth of the fruits of the earth, and other uses of human life, are so remarkable a proof of the being and attributes of God and his providence, as to be obvious to the meanest capacity, and on this account they are frequently insisted on by the inspired writers.” Lowth. Concerning the former and latter rain, see note on Deuteronomy 11:14; and Proverbs 16:15. He reserveth, &c., the appointed weeks of the harvest He gives seasonable harvests, according to his appointment. The sum is: the prophet would let them know what a foolish as well as wicked thing it was to set themselves against that God who kept, as he still keeps, the whole order of nature at his disposal, governing and changing it as he sees men behave toward him.

Verses 25-29

Jeremiah 5:25-29. Your iniquities have turned away these things See note on Jeremiah 3:3. For among my people are found wicked men I need not search for such among the heathen nations, for they are easily found among them that are called by my name. They lay wait, &c. They use all the arts of fraud and cunning, that they may overreach others, and make a prey of them and their substance. They set a trap, they catch men Such a trap did Jezebel lay for Naboth, 1 Kings 21:9-10. Such a one was that conspiracy of more than forty men against Paul, Acts 23:13-15. As a cage is full of birds, &c. As in the foregoing words they were compared to a hunter, or a fowler, who takes beasts or birds in snares; so here, carrying on the same similitude, he describes their houses as cages full of birds, that is, of goods gotten by robbery and fraudful arts. They are waxen fat, they shine Or, so fat that they shine. By living at ease, and bathing themselves in all the delights of sense, they look so fair and gay that every body admires them. Yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked “They exceed the common instances of injustice and oppression, and make no conscience of enriching themselves with the spoils of the fatherless, and those who have most need of their charity and kindness.” Lowth. Waterland renders the clause, “Yea, they have exceeded all expression of wickedness; or, have been wicked beyond expression.” Shall I not visit, &c. See note on Jeremiah 5:9.

Verses 30-31

Jeremiah 5:30-31 . A wonderful and horrible thing is committed So stupendous a crime, that it is beyond the apprehension of man to conceive, much more to express, its greatness; and so abominable, that a man ought even to loathe the thoughts of it. What this is, we have in the next verse; in the land That is, this land, which aggravates the greatness of the wonder that such a thing should exist in such a land! The prophets prophesy falsely, &c. Both priests and prophets agree to speak pleasing things to the people, thereby to keep up their interest and authority with them. And my people love to have it so They are well enough pleased to be thus misled. If the prophets and priests will let them alone in their sins, they will give them no disturbance in theirs. They love to be held and governed by a loose rein, and like those rulers very well that will not restrain their lusts, and those teachers that will not reprove them: see note on Isaiah 30:10. And what will ye do in the end thereof And what can this end in, but a total corruption of manners? The consequence of which must be the utter ruin of the state.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 5". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/jeremiah-5.html. 1857.
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