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The utter rejection and manifold judgments of the Jews. Jeremiah, complaining of their malice, receiveth a promise for himself, and a threatening for them: he prayeth, and receiveth a gracious promise.
Before Christ 601.
Jeremiah 15:1. Then said the Lord, &c.— This is the answer of the Lord to the fervent prayers of Jeremiah in the last chapter: "If Moses and Samuel," saith he, "could revive, and unite in their intercessions for this people, those two men, my faithful servants, heretofore so prevalent with me, could not change my resolution." Jeremiah may be here considered as in the temple, at the head of an humble people, asking mercy for them. The Lord dismisses them with a severity whereof we have few examples in Scripture. See Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:16. By death, in the next verse, is meant the mortality occasioned by the drought and dearth; and accordingly we may render it, Such as are for the mortality, to the mortality.
Jeremiah 15:7. And I will fan them— The simile is taken from a man who stands in the gate of his threshing-floor, to separate with his fan the chaff from the wheat; God denouncing that he would cast the people of Judah out of his hand, as the wind scattereth abroad and disperseth the chaff.
Jeremiah 15:8. I have brought upon them, against the mother of the young men, &c.— Houbigant renders this verse in the future, thus, Their widows shall be increased to me above the land of the sea; and upon the mothers, and upon the young men, will I bring down him who spoileth the southern country: I will oppress them with calamity and sudden terror. We may read the latter part, Against the mother a young, or chosen man; a spoiler at noon-day: I have drawn down upon her suddenly an enemy and terrors.
Jeremiah 15:9. Her sun is gone down, &c.— See Amos 8:9. Isaiah 59:9. The expression is extremely strong, and denotes a sudden change from the highest prosperity to the lowest distress.
Jeremiah 15:10. That thou hast borne me a man of strife— The prophet here complains of the opposition he met with from his countrymen for speaking unwelcome truths, which had occasioned him as much uneasiness, as if he had engaged in the most invidious of all occupations, and the most likely to engender strife, that of lending and borrowing upon usury.
Jeremiah 15:11. Verily it shall be well with thy remnant— Verily I will give thee a happy deliverance. Or, I will bring thee to better things. Houbigant.
Jeremiah 15:12. Shall iron break the northern iron— Houbigant renders the verse, I will raise up iron from the north, iron and brass; which seems to give the best interpretation of this difficult verse. Others understand it in a different manner, thus: The Lord, to comfort Jeremiah, promises him in the 11th verse, that he will cause his enemies at the end to treat him well: but he adds in this verse, "What do you fear from the Jews? What can they do against you? Though they were as hard as iron or as steel, they cannot hurt you. I will give you the solidity of brass, the force of northern iron: thou shalt be as a brazen wall, against which all their attacks shall be in vain." See Jer 15:20 and ch. Jeremiah 1:17-18.
Jeremiah 15:16. Thy words were found— Thy words were pure and clean, and I have eaten them: thy words were my delight, and my heart is refreshed on this account, because I am called, &c. Houbigant. Jeremiah here declares in what manner he engaged and acquitted himself in his office of prophet. "From the moment that thou didst speak to me, and inspire me with thy Spirit, I opened my mouth, and received thy word greedily, like a man, who, pressed with hunger, finds food which is agreeable to his appetite. I treasured it in my memory; I meditated upon, and inwardly digested it. I found it my satisfaction, my comfort, my joy."
Jeremiah 15:18. Wilt thou be altogether, &c.— Wilt thou be altogether unto me as the lying of waters that are not sure? Our translation certainly conveys too harsh an idea, nor is there any reason for it; for the passage may very well be rendered differently. Houbigant renders it, Why is my life unto me as waters which fail and flow away: and others, Thou art become to me a fountain which faileth, and as waters which are not to be trusted. See Isaiah 58:11. "Thou hast promised to be my defence and protector against all my enemies; and wilt thou altogether disappoint and deceive me; like rivulets, which, being dried up in the summer, disappoint the thirsty traveller?" Instead of incurable, in the former part of the verse, some read, not to be touched; so painful and tender, that it will not bear the touch of the healer. See Dr. Waterland's Script. Vind. part. 3: p. 81.
Jeremiah 15:19. If thou return, &c.— Houbigant reads, If thou wilt sit still, I will give thee a certain seat: yea, thou shalt stand before me. "Thou shalt not be of the number of those who shall be carried away captive." But the passage seems better explained by the parallel one, Zechariah 3:7. It seems the intention of the Lord to strengthen and encourage Jeremiah in the difficult office wherein he was engaged.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, When the measure of a nation's iniquities is full, then vengeance to the uttermost will overtake them, and all intercession for them is vain.
1. The decree is gone forth; terrible, irreversible. The greatest favourites of heaven, the mightiest men in prayer, if they were again upon earth, could avail nothing. They are abandoned to their fate, and doomed to destruction: and if, when their ruin was told them, they should tauntingly say, Whither shall we go forth? the answer is ready. According to the divine decree, some should die by the sword, by pestilence, by famine, and their carcases, unburied, be food for dogs and the fowls of heaven, and the remnant go into a miserable captivity; not a friend shall remain to pity their deplorable case, or to testify the least concern for them. God's patience is at an end; his hand stretched out to destroy them without sparing, and they shall be dispersed as chaff before the fan: a spoiler at noon-day, Nebuchadnezzar, with the Chaldean army, shall come upon them openly, suddenly consume their men of war, increase the number of their widows, and leave the mothers childless, robbed of those darlings which were as the light of their eyes; ashamed, confounded, and deprived of that support on which they trusted: part shall be slain with the famine, and the residue fall by the sword of the enemy, when Jerusalem shall be taken. Note; (1.) God's Spirit will not always strive, nor his patience always wait for impenitent sinners: when their day of grace is trifled away, the day of recompence will overtake them. (2.) When the Lord begins, he will make an end. Let us fear to provoke his indignation, lest repentance should come too late.
2. The cause of these judgments is their sins, past and present: for God never smites without cause. Their former iniquities under Manasseh, son of Hezekiah; his idolatry, murders, and abominations, aggravated by the consideration how horridly he had degenerated from his pious father's ways, cried for vengeance; and the measure of the sins of that generation was filled by the impenitence of the present. They forsook God, went backward, apostate from his commands and ways and worship; and, notwithstanding all the methods that he had used to reclaim them both by his ministers and his providences, they returned not from their ways. And when sinners persist in their wickedness, and refuse to hearken, they may be assured that eternal perdition will be the consequence.
2nd, Jeremiah, returned from his public ministry, in private pours out his complaints unto God.
1. He bewails his unhappy case; persecuted and reviled by his ungrateful countrymen; and this not without some appearance of impatience, as if angry with his mother for having borne him: so hard it is, under great provocations, to keep the heart quiet. He complains that he was a man of strife: not contentious in his own spirit; but abused for his faithfulness, and every occasion taken to quarrel with him, though he had not given them the least cause: he had neither lent on usury, nor borrowed; had not entangled himself with secular affairs, but given himself up wholly to the work of his ministry; was engaged in no transactions and trade which could give occasion to debate, or afford matter for litigious suits at law: yet they cursed him; treated him with contempt or with abhorrence, pouring out curses upon him for the fidelity that he shewed in delivering the messages which he received from God. Note; (1.) It is too commonly the lot of the faithful ministers of God to meet with the basest usage, and the most ungrateful return for their labours. (2.) The Gospel teaches us to follow peace with all men; yet, through the perverseness of the world, it too often happens, that when we speak to them of peace, they make them ready to battle. (3.) Desirable as it is to live in friendship and quiet with those around us, it must never be purchased by base compliances, or by flattering them in their sins. (4.) Ministers of God must not entangle themselves with the affairs of this world; the care of men's souls ought wholly to engross their time and thoughts.
2. The Lord in mercy answers him with gracious assurances of his protection: Verily it shall be well with thy remnant. The words are in form of an oath, assuring him of God's blessing during the residue of his days: whatever became of the people, he should be preserved. Those very enemies, who were the rod of God's indignation to his countrymen, should shew him kindness and favour, as was fulfilled, chap. Jeremiah 39:11-12. Note; (1.) They who are faithful to God, he will be careful of them. He has in his hands the hearts of all men, and can raise us up friends where we least expected them. (2.) The zealous ministers of God have often found protection from those who shew no concern about religion, when bitterly persecuted by the false professors of it.
3. God threatens his enemies with ruin. Shall iron break the northern iron? Either the Jews should not be able to hurt him who had been set as an iron pillar against them; or rather, all their efforts to resist the northern army of the Chaldeans should be useless; their substance and treasures should fall an easy prey; in shameful captivity they should be led to Babylon; and the heavy wrath of God pursue them; and this the just punishment of their sins, aggravated and universal in all their borders, the corruption of their manners being general, and spread from one end of the land to the other.
3rdly, We have,
1. The prophet's earnest application to God, appealing to him who searcheth the heart for his integrity, and intreating the fulfilment of his promises.
[1.] He prays, O Lord, thou knowest my innocence, my sufferings, and the malice of my enemies; remember me for good, and visit me with thy salvation, and revenge me of my persecutors. Perhaps this was his infirmity; or he desired it for God's glory, in whose name he had spoken: take me not away in thy long-suffering; give me my life for a prey, when they are cut off, or leave me not to their power and malice. He acknowledges that to the long-suffering of God he must owe it; the best, in the rigour of justice, being obnoxious to God's wrath. Know, acknowledge and make it evident to my enemies, by thy interposition on my behalf, that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke, because of his fidelity in discharging his office: and when this is really the case, we may confidently expect that God will plead our quarrel, and vindicate our integrity from all the revilings of men.
[2.] He pleads the diligence that he used in executing his commission, the delight which he took in God's word, and his carefulness to keep himself from every sinful compliance with them. Thy words were found and I did eat them, as a hungry man his food: his ears were attentive to drink in what God delivered to him; he carefully thought over and digested the words in his mind, and his heart feasted upon them: thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: either he hoped that the terrible threatenings which he brought would move the people to repentance; or the gracious assurance that God would support him encouraged him; or, above all, amid the dark judgments, the promises of the incarnation of the Messiah, and his great salvation, which mingled therewith, revived and comforted his soul. For I am called by thy name, O Lord God of Hosts, which he delighted in as his greatest honour, though others, perhaps, turned it to his reproach. I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, partaking with them in their sins, or by silence conniving at their wickedness; or with them that make merry, levity being inconsistent with the seriousness of his character; and rejoiced not, not even partaking of any lawful recreation, which the dreadful evils that he beheld approaching would not suffer him to taste. I sat alone, meditating on his message, and mourning over the people, because of thy hand, which he saw lighting down upon the nation in vengeance; or because of the spirit of prophesy which he felt; for thou hast filled me with indignation; either the indignation of the people against him, or his displeasure against them for their impenitence, or a sense of the heavy wrath of God ready to overtake them. Note; (1.) The word of God is the sweetest repast to the believer's soul, and thence he derives his most reviving draughts of consolation. (2.) When we have work to do for God, we must not only forsake what is in itself sinful, but forego what to others might be innocent. (3.) There is a holy indignation without sin, when ministers grieve over the hardness of men's hearts.
[3.] He expostulates with God, it seems, with something of a murmuring spirit: why is my pain perpetual? which he suffered for the people's sake in his own mind, or from their ill usage. Why is my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? there appearing no hopes of a change for the better, or any end of their reproaches. Wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail? leaving him in their hands, though he had promised to deliver him, chap. Jer 1:19 and giving his enemies occasion to reproach his confidence? No. God will not suffer him to be thus confounded, nor any that put their trust in him. Therefore,
2. God answers his prayer. He had expressed some distrust and impatience; therefore, says God, if thou wilt return, ashamed of this impatience, and humbly confessing it, then will I bring thee again to peace of conscience, and the exercise of the ministry with which God had entrusted him; and thou shalt stand before me, established in his office as a prophet: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, speaking comfort to God's people, and terror to the impenitent, thou shalt be as my mouth, employed as God's mouth to the people. Let them return unto thee, in penitence and obedience to thy word; but return not thou unto them, giving way in the least, keeping back a syllable of the threatenings to be denounced against them, or making any compliance with them: and then, if he approved himself thus faithful, God would fulfil to him his promise, chap. Jer 1:18 making him a brazen wall, against which all the efforts of the princes should be vain and impotent: God's presence should comfort him, and his power support him, and save him from his foes, however many or mighty. Note; (1.) If we would return to the enjoyment of comfort, we must be restored to the right spirit from which we have departed. (2.) They who minister before God must carefully divide the word of truth, giving to the truly sincere their portion of comfort, and to the ungodly faithful warnings of their danger. (3.) When we approve ourselves faithful, we shall be supported against all opposition; God's strength shall be made perfect in our weakness, and all our terrible foes shall be compelled to lick the dust.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 15". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17