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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 9

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


A.M. 3404. B.C. 600.

Jeremiah continues his lamentation over the Jews; and,

(1,) Expresses his great grief for the miseries impending over them, and his detestation of the sins which brought these miseries upon them, Jeremiah 9:1-11 .

(2,) He justifies God in the greatness of their approaching destruction, Jeremiah 9:9-16 .

(3,) He calls upon others to lament their miserable condition, Jeremiah 9:17-22 .

(4,) He shows them the folly and vanity of trusting in their own strength or wisdom, or the privileges of their circumcision, or any thing but God only, Jeremiah 9:23-26 .

Verse 1

Jeremiah 9:1. O that my head, &c. The prophet sympathizes with the calamities of his people, as before, Jeremiah 1:19; Jeremiah 8:21; and thereby excites them to a sense of their own misfortunes, that they might humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. The passage is a fine instance of the pathetic, wherein Jeremiah so much excels. That I might weep day and night for the slain, &c. For the multitudes of his countrymen that he foresaw would fall by the sword of the Babylonians. When we hear of great numbers slain in battles and sieges, we ought not to make a light matter of it, but to be much affected with it; yea, though they be not of the daughter of our people For of whatever people they are, they are of the same human nature with us; and there are so many precious lives lost, as dear to them as ours to us, and so many precious souls gone into eternity.

Verse 2

Jeremiah 9:2. O that I had in the wilderness, &c. The prophet here wishes that he had a lodging-place, or tent, such as travellers in this country were wont to lodge in when they travelled over the deserts, professing that he would rather pass his days in such a habitation in some desert place, than at Jerusalem, which was filled with wicked men. That I may leave my people and go from them Not chiefly because of the ill usage he met with among them, but rather because his righteous soul was vexed from day to day, as Lot’s was in Sodom, with the wickedness of their conversation, 2 Peter 3:7-8. It made him even weary of his life to see them dishonouring God and destroying themselves. Time was when the place where God had chosen to put his name, there were the desire and delight of good men. David, in the wilderness, longed to be again in the courts of God’s house; but now Jeremiah, in the courts of God’s house, (for there he was when he said this,) wishes himself in a wilderness! Those have made themselves very vile and very miserable, that have made God’s people and ministers weary of them, and desirous to get from among them. It may not be improper to observe here, that “travellers in the East are not, nor ever were, accommodated at inns on the road, after the manner of the European nations. In some places indeed there are large public buildings provided for their reception, which they call caravansaries; but these afford merely a covering, being absolutely without furniture; and the traveller must carry his own provisions and necessaries along with him, or he will not find any. Nor are even these empty mansions always to be met with; so that if the weary traveller at night comes into a town where there is no caravansary, or πανδοχειον , as it is called Luke 10:34, he must take up his lodging in the street, unless some charitable inhabitant will be pleased to receive him into his house, as we find Judges 19:15. And if he passes through the desert, it is well for him if he can light upon a cave, or a hut, which some one before him may have erected for a temporary shelter. And this last is what I conceive to be here meant by מלון ארחים , a solitary and not very comfortable situation, but yet preferable to the chagrin of living continually in the society of men of profligate manners.” Blaney. For they be all adulterers The expression seems here to be metaphorical, implying that they were apostates from God, to whose service they were engaged by the most solemn covenant, like that which obliges a wife to be faithful to her husband. See note on Jeremiah 2:2; and compare Matthew 16:4; James 4:4.

Verse 3

Jeremiah 9:3. They bend their tongues like their bow With a great deal of craft, their tongues are fitted for lying, as a bow which is bent is for shooting. Thus the psalmist compares the tongue to a bow and words of calumny and falsehood to arrows, Psalms 64:3-4. But they are not valiant for the truth They use their tongues in defence of lies rather than of the truths of God; and, in the administration of justice, they have not courage to stand by an honest cause that has truth on its side, if greatness and power be on the other side. Truth is fallen in the land, and they dare not lend a hand to help it up, Isaiah 59:14-15. They proceed from evil to evil From one sin to another, and from one degree of sin to another. They every day grow more bold in their wickedness, because they escape punishment, and they enrich themselves by their evil deeds, and so become formidable, defending and maintaining their wickedness by fresh acts of wickedness. And they know not me, saith the Lord And where men have not the true knowledge of God, what but evil can be expected from them? Observe, reader, men’s ignorance of God is the cause of all their bad conduct one toward another.

Verses 4-6

Jeremiah 9:4-6. Take ye heed every one of his neighbour Or, of his friend, as רעהו rather signifies; of him who pretends friendship to him, or whom he has befriended. And trust ye not in a brother Against whom you must stand as much upon your guard as if you were dealing with a stranger. For every brother will utterly supplant Will deceive, overreach, and take all possible advantage of his nearest relation; and every neighbour Or friend, rather, as before; will walk with slanders Will not care what ill he says of another, though never so false. The Hebrew, רכיל יהלךְ , is properly, will go about as a detracter, or calumniator, namely, carrying slanders with him from house to house. This is a strong description of the falsehood and calumny which universally prevailed among them. And weary themselves to commit iniquity They are so inclined and enslaved to iniquity, that they not only commit it when they can do it easily, but when the commission of it is attended with difficulty; for they take more pains to carry on their ill designs than the practice of truth and integrity would cost them. Thy habitation is in the midst of deceit That is, all about thee are addicted to it, therefore stand upon thy guard. They are God’s words to the prophet. If all around us are false and deceitful, it concerns us to beware of them, and to be wise as serpents. Through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the Lord “The knowledge of God, which is true religion, is incompatible with the practice of any wickedness. And therefore it is natural enough for those that are resolved at all events to abide in their evil courses, to endeavour, if possible, to divest themselves of all religious principles, which, if insufficient to restrain, will be sure at least to be very troublesome to them.”

Verses 7-8

Jeremiah 9:7-8. Behold, I will melt them and try them I will cast them into the furnace of affliction, that I may purify them from their dross. See note on Jeremiah 6:29-30, and on Isaiah 1:25. For how shall I do, &c. I have tried all other means, and they have proved ineffectual. Their tongue is as an arrow, &c. It was compared to a bow bent, Jeremiah 9:3, plotting and preparing mischief; here it is an arrow shot out, putting in execution what they had projected. Dr. Waterland renders the words, as a sharp, or killing arrow; it speaketh deceit They speak what they do not mean, that they may more easily deceive the credulous: they speak fair when they mean to destroy, as the next words explain it.

Verses 10-11

Jeremiah 9:10-11. For the mountains will I take up a weeping “These words,” says Houbigant, “as they now lie, must belong either to Jeremiah or the daughter of Zion; and yet it follows in the next verse, And I will make, which are the words of God: therefore this verse should be rendered, by a slight alteration of the text, ‘Take ye up a weeping and wailing on the mountains, a lamentation in the dwellings of the wilderness; for they are desolate, because there is no traveller; nor is the voice of cattle heard in them; both the fowl of the heavens and the beast are fled.’“ The prophet laments that general desolation which he sees coming upon the whole land, and which would involve all the parts of it, both high and low, in one common destruction. I will make Jerusalem heaps Of rubbish, and lay it in such ruins that it shall be fit for nothing but to be a den of dragons

Or serpents, as the word תנים frequently signifies, or such creatures as are usually found in ruins or desolate places.

Verses 12-13

Jeremiah 9:12-13. Who is the wise man Or, Is there not a wise man, who understands this? Is there none of you so well acquainted with the will of God and the methods of his providence, as to be able to declare the reasons why he has given such severe instances of his anger against this land? The question implies, that there are none, or very few, that consider common calamities in the cause of them, but rather impute the divine chastisements to chance, not seeing the hand of God in them. And the Lord saith. Because they have forsaken my law, &c. Here God himself declares the reasons of his judgments by the mouth of his prophet.

Verses 15-16

Jeremiah 9:15-16. I will feed them, &c., with wormwood See on Deuteronomy 29:18. The word rendered wormwood here, it seems, had better be rendered wolfsbane, as signifying an herb which is not only bitter and nauseous, but also noxious. And give them water of gall to drink Or juice of hemlock, as some read it; some other herb that is poisonous as well as distasteful. By these expressions is signified not only a scarcity of meat and drink, but the most grievous calamities. I will scatter them also among the heathen They have been corrupted by their intimacy with heathen idolaters, with whom they mingled themselves, and whose works they learned, and now they shall lose themselves among those through whom they lost their virtue. Whom neither they nor their fathers have known They set up gods to worship, which they had not known, strange gods, new gods, Deuteronomy 32:17; and now God will scatter them among those people whom they had not known, those with whom they can claim no acquaintance, and from whom therefore they can expect no favour. The nations to the east, beyond the Euphrates and Tigris, seem to be chiefly meant here, whom the Jews knew little or nothing of before they were carried into captivity among them. And from that time to this the Jews have been scattered among those people. They are now also scattered through almost all the nations of the earth; so that this prophecy has received its full accomplishment in the most literal sense; for they have indeed been scattered among those whom neither they nor their fathers had known. And what deserves highly to be remarked is, that among none of these nations have they attained to any share of supreme power, but have always lived among them upon courtesy or sufferance. And I will send a sword after them, &c. A judgment threatened by Moses in case of their disobedience, Leviticus 26:23, and fulfilled upon several of the Jewish captives in Egypt and elsewhere.

Verse 17

Jeremiah 9:17. Consider ye, and call for the mourning women Consider the evil circumstances you are in, which call for mourning and lamentation: and since you yourselves are not sufficiently affected with the dangers that threaten you, send for those women whose profession it is to mourn at funerals, and upon other sorrowful occasions, and let their lamentations excite true sorrow in you. The prophet seems here to compare the Jewish state to a person dead, and going to be buried, and therefore calls upon the people to send for those who used to be hired to make lamentations and wailings at funerals. The reader will observe, “it was an ancient custom of the Hebrews, at funerals, and on other like occasions, to make use of hired mourners, whose profession it was to exhibit in public all the signs and gestures of immoderate and frantic grief, and by their loud outcries and doleful songs to excite a real passion of sorrow in others. Women were generally employed in this office, either because it was an office more suitable to the softness of a female mind, or because the more tender passions being predominant in that sex, they succeeded better in their parts; nor were there ever wanting those artists well instructed in the discipline of mourning, and ready to hire out their lamentations and tears on any emergency. It was the chief excellence of other arts to imitate nature; it was likewise esteemed so in this; their funeral dirges, therefore, were composed in imitation of those which had been poured forth by genuine and sincere grief. Their sentences were short, querulous, pathetic, simple, and unadorned; somewhat laboured indeed, because they were composed in metre, and to be sung to the pipe, as we learn from Matthew 9:23; and from Homer,” where, speaking of Hector’s funeral, he says, Παρα δ ’ εισαν αοιδους ,

Θρηνων εξαρχους , οιτε σονοεσσαν αοιδην ,

Οι μεν αρ ’ εθρηνεον , επι δε σεναχοντο γυναικες . ILIAD, Ω . 720.

A melancholy choir attend around, With plaintive sighs, and music’s solemn sound; Alternately they sing, alternate flow Th’ obedient tears, melodious in their wo. See POPE’S IL., book 24. ver. 900.

Jerome tells us, in his comment on this verse, that the practice was continued in Judea down to his days; “That women, at funerals, with dishevelled hair, and naked breasts, endeavoured, in a modulated voice, to unite others in lamentation with them.” Frequent allusions to this custom are to be met with in Scripture, particularly 2 Chronicles 35:25, where the singing men and singing women are said to have made it a constant rule, after King Josiah’s death, to commemorate that excellent prince in all their future dirges or lamentations, as one in whom the public in general had sustained an irreparable loss. Such were the mourners, mentioned Ecclesiastes 12:5, and said to go about the streets; and those whom Amos calls, יודעי נהי , skilful of lamentation; Amos 5:16. And such no doubt were the minstrels and the people making a noise; οχλον θορυβουμενον , whom our Saviour found in the house of the ruler of the synagogue, whose daughter was just dead; who, St. Mark says, wept and wailed greatly, κλαιοντας και αλαλαζοντας πολλα , Mark 5:38. There are especially several traces of this custom to be met with in the prophets, who frequently delivered their predictions of approaching calamities in the form of funeral dirges. The poem before us, from Jeremiah 9:19-22, is both an illustration and confirmation of this, and worthy of the reader’s frequent perusal, on account of its affecting pathos, moral sentiments, and fine images; particularly in Jeremiah 9:21, where death is described in as animated a prosopopœia as can be conceived. See Lowth’s Prelec., Calmet, and Blaney.

Verses 23-24

Jeremiah 9:23-24 . Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom Let not men value themselves on account of their wisdom, strength, or riches, which are things in themselves of a very uncertain continuance, and such calamities are coming, (see Jeremiah 9:25-26,) in which they will stand the owners of them in very little stead. The only true, valuable endowment is the knowledge of God, not as he is in himself, which is too high an attainment for poor mortals to pretend to, but with respect to his dealings with men; to have a serious sense of his mercies to the penitent, of his judgments to the obstinate, and of his truth and integrity, in making good his promises and threatenings to both. It is in the exercise of these attributes God chiefly delights; and it is by these he desires to make himself known to the world; and he that forms a just and lively apprehension of God, chiefly with regard to these his perfections, will always demean himself suitably toward him. Judgment and righteousness are often equivalent terms, but here the former seems to denote God’s severity against the wicked, and the latter his truth, justice, or holiness. See Lowth. Upon the whole, all other wisdom is vain and dangerous, except that which has God himself for its object, and teaches us to despise ourselves, to be humbled beneath his mighty hand, and to glory in him alone.

Verses 25-26

Jeremiah 9:25-26. Behold the days come, &c. Blaney translates these two verses, “Behold, the days are coming, saith Jehovah, that I will punish all the circumcision with the uncircumcision; Egypt, &c., and all those that have their coast insulated, those that dwell in the wilderness: for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.” The Greek word ακροβυσια , which properly means uncircumcision, is several times used by St. Paul for the persons who are uncircumcised, as περιτομη , circumcision, is put for persons circumcised. See Romans 2:26-27; Romans 3:30. Because the Jews valued themselves so much upon their circumcision, God here tells them that, when he should send his judgments abroad into the world, they should find no more favour than those that were not circumcised; and, accordingly, in mentioning the heathen nations whom he would punish, he places Judah among them, because they were, in effect, uncircumcised as well as the heathen, contenting themselves with the outward sign of circumcision in the flesh, without seeking that internal circumcision, which is of the heart and spirit, and the purification and holiness signified thereby. By those that have their coast insulated, as Blaney renders one of the clauses of Jeremiah 9:26, he supposes the Arabians are designed, which he thinks may be fairly concluded from the connection in which the same words. קצוצי פאה , stand with the context, in Jeremiah 49:32. Concerning the precise meaning, however, of these words, he justly observes, “interpreters differ very greatly. Some represent them as signifying persons cut off from other people, by being thrust into a remote corner; in which light the translators of our Bible appear to have considered them, when they rendered them in the text, All that are in the utmost corners, and in the margin, cut off into corners. But all the ancient versions understand them as expressing the peculiar manner in which the Arabians cut the hair of their heads or beards,” expressed also in our marginal reading; which reading, Dr. Durel says, ought doubtless to be received into the text; the Arabs, who are meant, he thinks, by this periphrasis, being accustomed to cut their hair short, particularly about the crown of the head; and in respect to their beards, leaving only a tuft of hair growing about their chins; a practice which was forbidden to the Jews, Leviticus 19:27. But it seems much more probable that the words have a respect to the peninsular form of the country, surrounded on all sides by the sea, excepting only the isthmus to the north; and thus almost insulated, or cut off, from any other land.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/jeremiah-9.html. 1857.
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