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The enemies sent against Judah, encourage themselves: God setteth them on a work because of the sins of the people. The prophet lamenteth the judgments of God because of their sins: he proclaimeth God's wrath: he calleth the people to mourn for the judgment on their sins.
Before Christ 612.
Jeremiah 6:1. O ye children of Benjamin— Jeremiah continues to inveigh against the disorders of the Jews; he addresses himself to the tribe of Benjamin, to prepare to defend themselves and their city against the Chaldeans; and for that purpose to flee out of the city, and erect their standards in Tekoa, and Beth-haccerem. The Benjamites were always remarkable for their skill and address in war. Jerusalem belonged to this tribe, as well as to that of Judah. Tekoa was a village about twelve miles from Jerusalem; and Beth-haccerem was a village between Tekoa and Jerusalem. It was built upon a mountain situate in the way which led to Jerusalem from Chaldea.
Jeremiah 6:2. I have likened the daughter of Zion— There seems to be nothing in the simile in this verse, that can at all suit with the continuation of it in the third; and therefore I cannot but approve the interpretation which Houbigant and several others give; I have likened the daughter of Sion to pleasant pasture, wither the shepherds with the flocks come to feed, that is to say, "the Chaldeans with their army, who were to feed upon and devour Jerusalem." Houbigant reads the latter part of the next verse, They have pitched their tents near it, and they feed round it, every one in his place.
Jeremiah 6:4. Woe unto us, &c.— This is the complaint of the enemy, that they are retarded from their intended expedition by the approach of the night. In the next verse they determine to go up, though it be by night; whereby the great eagerness of the Chaldeans to undertake the siege, from their confidence of success, is signified.
Jeremiah 6:6. Cast a mount— The margin of our Bibles reads, Pour out the engine of shot. The original word סללה solelah, signifies a warlike engine used in sieges for casting stones or missile weapons. See Pilkington's Remarks, and Calmet's Dissertation, Sur la Milice des anciens Hebreux.
Jeremiah 6:8. Lest my soul depart from thee— That is to say, "Lest my affections be utterly alienated from thee, so that I cast off all bowels of compassion towards thee, and give thee up to ruin and desolation." Houbigant renders it, Lest my soul be alienated, &c. See Psa 81:12-13 and chap Jeremiah 51:9.
Jeremiah 6:9. They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine— As much as to say, "Come, ye Chaldeans, into my vineyard; make the vintage; gather even to the very last grapes." The people of the Lord are very frequently represented under the figure of a vine, and their enemies as vintagers, or gatherers of the grapes.
Jeremiah 6:11. Therefore, &c.— Houbigant is of opinion, that these words cannot with any propriety be applied to the prophet; but that they are a continuation of the discourse from Jeremiah 6:9. Accordingly he renders them, Therefore, I will fulfil my fury, I am weary with bearing these things, I will pour out my anger, &c.
Jeremiah 6:14. They have healed also the hurt, &c.— But they apply only a slight medicine to the wounds of the daughter of my people; saying, Peace, peace, when there shall be no peace. See chap. Jeremiah 8:11. Houbigant renders the latter part of the next verse, Therefore they shall fall, when I bring their ruin upon them; They shall entirely fall, when I visit them, saith the Lord.
Jeremiah 6:16. Stand ye in the ways— "Imitate the traveller, when at a loss which way to direct his steps; inquire in what way the patriarchs of old walked: imitate their practices, wherein you will find true comfort and satisfaction." See Lowth and Calmet.
Jeremiah 6:17. Also I set watchmen over you— "I have given you prophets, as watchmen or centinels, to advertise you of the approach of the enemy, that you may obey their voice, and prevent the evils which they threaten. But all this has answered no end with you." See Isaiah 56:10.
Jeremiah 6:18. Therefore hear, ye nations— "You, Chaldeans, and all the various people who compose the army coming against Jerusalem; nay, let all the world (Jeremiah 6:19.) be witnesses of the resolutions which I have taken against my people, in just vengeance for their sins,"
Jeremiah 6:20. To what purpose, &c.— Sheba was part of Arabia Felix, and famous for its incense and perfumes. Respecting the sweet cane, see Isaiah 43:24. The prophet here reproves the hypocrisy of the Jews, who endeavoured to cover their inward corruption by the external appearances of religion:—which the prophets often declare to be of no value, when they do not proceed from a devout mind;—and thereby paved the way for the abolition of the external ceremonies of the Mosaic Dispensation, and for the practice of that spiritual worship recommended by the Gospel. See chap. Jer 5:2 Jeremiah 7:2, &c. and Isaiah 1:11.
Jeremiah 6:22. Behold, a people, &c.— The Chaldeans are here again described as in chap. Jeremiah 5:15, &c. a distant nation, violent, cruel, armed with bows and spears, and well mounted: Instead of sides of the earth, we may read, the coasts, ends, or extremities.
Jeremiah 6:26. Gird thee with sackcloth— As the wearing of sackcloth girt round the body next the flesh (see 2 Kings 6:30.) is often mentioned in Scripture as usual in times of mourning and lamentation, and appears, according to our notions, a very harsh kind of discipline, it may not be amiss to take notice what kind of sackcloth is meant. Mr. Harmer cites Sir John Chardin's manuscript, to shew that the sacks used by travellers in the East for carrying their necessaries with them, were made of coarse wool, guarded with leather; and then proceeds to infer with great probability, that "if the sacks were woollen, the sackcloth, with which the Eastern people were wont to clothe themselves at particular times, means coarse woollen cloth, such as they made sacks of, and neither hair-cloth, nor rough harsh cloth of hemp, as we may have been ready to imagine; for it is the same Hebrew word שׂק sak, which signifies sack, that is here rendered sackcloth. And as the people of very remote antiquity commonly wore no linen, there was not that affectation in what they put on in times of humiliation, as we in the West may perhaps have apprehended. They only put on very coarse mean woollen garments, instead of those that were finer, but of the same general nature." Harmer's Observ. ch. 5: Obs. 4:—Sitting or lying down in ashes was another custom observed on the like occasions. See Esther 4:3.Job 2:8; Job 2:8; Job 42:6. Isaiah 58:5.Jonah 3:6; Jonah 3:6. &c. &c.
As for an only son— A proverbial expression among the Hebrews, to denote the greatest grief. See Amos 8:10. Zechariah 12:10.
Jeremiah 6:27-30. I have set thee for a tower, &c.— The prophet in these verses evidently takes his ideas from metals, and the trial of them; and the verbs in the latter clause of this verse, referring to such trial, manifestly require something corresponding in the preceding part. But what have a tower and a fortress to do with the trying of metals? In this view the reader will agree with me, that the passage is rendered much more properly in some of the versions, and indeed more agreeably to the Hebrew, I have given or established thee, as a strong prover or trier of metals among my people; that thou mightest know, &c. The French version is nearly the same, I have established thee Comme un robuste fondeur des metaux, au milieu de ce peuple, pour sonder leur voie, &c. They are brass and iron, Jeremiah 6:28, means, "They have basely degenerated. It appears, upon trial, that they have nothing in them of the purity of silver or gold; but their impudence resembles brass, and their obstinacy iron." They are all corrupters, should be rendered, They are all corrupted, or degenerated, Jeremiah 6:29. The bellows are burned, &c. that is to say, "All methods to purify and amend them are ineffectual." Lead was made use of in refining metals before the application of quick-silver. Houbigant renders the latter part of this verse, The founder heapeth up fire in vain: the dross of iniquity is not purged away. Reprobate or rejected silver shall men call them, Jer 6:30 means, that they are good for nothing but to be rejected for ever, and thrown into the flames. "As base money is refused by every one, because it cannot bear the touch-stone; so shall these hypocrites and evil-doers be rejected both by God and man."
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. An alarm spread of the approaching foe coming from the north, and spreading destruction before him. The trumpet is blown in Tekoa, the beacon lighted in Beth-haccerem, as a signal for their flight, if they hoped to escape, Jerusalem being ready to be besieged.
2. Their weakness, and the formidable power of their foes, are described. The daughter of Zion is as helpless, and unable to make resistance, as a comely and delicate woman, or, as others read it, a pleasant pasture; in correspondence with the following similitude, where their invaders are compared to shepherds with their flocks, who would pitch their tents there, and eat up the land, and make it bare, as easily as the ox licks up the grass of the field. Note; To have been brought up delicately, makes every hardship more acutely felt.
3. In pursuance of God's commission, their enemies hasten to the attack. Prepare ye war against her, and press the siege; hew ye down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem, to batter the walls; and, as soon as the breach is practicable, make the assault. With mutual encouragements, they quicken each other boldly to storm the place; arise, and let us go up at noon; and, as if some delay had prevented their design from being immediately executed, they regret that the shadows of the evening are advancing, yet resolve to carry their point, and are confident of success; the time of Jerusalem's visitation being come, they are too impatient to wait for the morning, and resolve that night to attempt the breach. Note; (1.) When God's day of visitation is come, the sinner can be no longer safe. (2.) If they were so eager to storm the city and seize the wealth of Jerusalem, shall we shew less zeal and earnestness to enter the kingdom of heaven and obtain the unsearchable riches of glory? (3.) Nothing encourages the heart so much as confidence of success. And thus it is, in our spiritual warfare, that faith enables us to overcome. Possunt, quia posse videntur.*
* They can conquer who believe they can.
4. The cause of all these judgments is their sins. Jerusalem was become a sink of wickedness: it flowed incessantly and abundantly as the waters of a fountain; and all ranks and degrees of men were tainted: particularly the whole city was a scene of oppression, where, like riches in the sea, the great preyed upon the little; violence and spoil is heard in every corner, and grief and wounds, the blood and the cries of the oppressed, are continually before God, calling for vengeance. Note; There is a day when the wrongs of the oppressed will be examined and avenged.
5. A fair admonition is once more given, if they have yet ears to hear. Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem: at last attend to understand and obey the calls to repentance, lest my soul depart from thee, or be violently plucked away from thee; his favour utterly departing from them: and his love to them turned into abhorrence; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited. Note; (1.) God is unwilling to give up the sinner; and therefore he is patient, and pleads long with him, and late, to return. (2.) When all his offers of mercy are obstinately rejected, at last God will depart, and leave the sinner to his ruin; and then woe, woe unto him.
2nd, Farther iniquities are here discovered, and farther judgments denounced.
1. Their transgressions were multiplied.
[1.] They were deaf to all the warnings of the prophets. To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? intimating the universal disregard paid to his message. Their ear is uncircumcised. At first they would not hearken, and now they are left to the hardness of their hearts, and they cannot hearken. Nay, they counted God's word, which rebuked their sins, a reproach to them; and treated it, and those who delivered it, with insult and contempt. They have no delight in it; but the very contrary, a loathing and aversion to it. Note; (1.) The fidelity of God's ministers, in rebuking men's sins, is often construed into personal abuse. (2.) We are not to wonder that the word of the Gospel is looked upon as a reproach; it was so from the beginning. (3.) They who have no delight in the Bible, have no name in the book of life.
[2.] They were slaves to the love of money. High and low, rich and poor, priest and prophet, all were given to covetousness, and cared not by what falsehoods or means they enriched themselves, so they could but secure the mammon of unrighteousness. Note; Nothing more fatally hardens the heart against God's word, than this rooted attachment to gain.
[3.] The prophets and priests, who by profession and office should have endeavoured to stop the torrent of ungodliness, contributed to make the disease more desperate and incurable by their lying visions, false glosses, and smooth discourses, suited to lull the sinner's conscience into a fatal security, crying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace. Note; There is no surer mark of a false prophet than this, that he avoids those alarming expressions of God's word which are suited to startle the sinner; that he is solicitous to soften what are counted harsh sayings; that it is his study not to offend, and his labour to lull those to their rest, who may have been made uneasy by more faithful advocates for the truth.
[4.] They were shameless in their abominations. The preachers of lies refused to blush, when never so clearly detected in their false doctrines and flattering divinations; and the people, alike hardened, were neither ashamed of their sins, nor afraid of the threatened punishments. Note; Those faces which will not blush at rebuke, shall soon be pale as flames, when the terrors of God shall seize them.
[5.] The kindest admonitions of God had no influence on them: he would have gathered them, but they would not. Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see; consider your path, and whither it will lead you, to heaven or to hell; and ask for the old paths; consult your Bibles, inquire the way wherein the holy patriarchs walked: Where is the good way, the good old way of faith and holiness, which was revealed in the first promise, and which all God's saints have trod from the beginning? and ye shall find rest for your souls, from all your fears; but they said, We will not walk therein, as if determined to rush on their destruction. Every method had God taken to deter and divert them from so fatal a resolution. I set watchmen over you, faithful ministers of the sanctuary, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet, breathing the voice of peace and mercy, or spreading the tremendous alarm of the guilt and punishment of sin. But they said, We will not hearken; refusing every method that God had taken to save them, and faithless, and fearless of his judgments, persisting in their impenitence. Note; (1.) The importance of that eternity which depends thereon, should engage us to a frequent and serious consideration of our ways, what we are doing, and whither we are going. (2.) The paths of life and truth are easily found of those who are at pains to inquire after them. (3.) The good way to heaven is Christ, his infinite merit and divine grace; and he is the old way; for from the beginning the Gospel was preached, and the saints of old were saved, even as we. (4.) They who are found in this way will obtain rest to their souls, peace with God, internal consolation, and comfortable confidence of arriving safe at their journey's end in heaven. (5.) God's faithful ministers must lead men in this way, and cry aloud to invite sinners to walk in it. (6.) They who will not be persuaded by God's word, must be left to their own delusions; and miserable, eternally miserable, will be the end of those men.
2. The terrible punishment of the Jewish people is foretold. Because they are thus obstinate and hardened, the prophet declares, I am full of the fury of the Lord; the revelation made to him of the wrath ready to be revealed, was so awful, that it filled his heart with terrible apprehensions for them; I am weary with holding in; as if unwilling to be the messenger of evil, he had refrained, till, like a fire within him, it forced a passage, and he was constrained to speak. And fearful, indeed, are the devastations threatened; I will pour it out upon the little children playing in the streets, upon the assembly of young men associated for mirth and pleasure, husband and wife shall be taken captives, and the most decrepit with age find no reverence or pity. Their houses are given to their enemies, with their wives and fields: upon the whole land the hand of God's vengeance is stretched out. Their lying prophets shall then meet their doom, and fall among them that fall, in spite of all their vain confidence; at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord. Thus shall their enemies plunder and destroy them; and, as if solicitous to leave none to escape, they shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine, as the poor after the vintage picked off every berry which was left. Turn back thine hand as a grape-gatherer into the baskets, till all the spoil is collected, and every Israelite led captive. Note; It is the most unpleasing part of our office to be the messengers of evil; but it is absolutely necessary that by the terrors of the Lord we should persuade men: and, however tremendous the subject, they who hear, ought not to be displeased with the servants who barely report what they have received of the Lord.
3rdly, We have,
1. God's appeal to the whole world for the equity of his procedure. When tidings of what was done among them, judgments so terrible and strange, were reported, it might astonish them that God should thus deal with his once so favoured people; but the wonder will cease when their provocations are known. Their sufferings are the necessary fruit of their thoughts; evil, and only evil, and that continually; and the consequence of their wicked ways, as disobedient against all the warnings of God's prophets, and rebellious against all the restraints of his law. Note; If men will not be ruled by God's word, they will justly be ruined by his wrath.
2. The vanity of their pretended services. Their incense and perfumes, their offerings and sacrifices, however rich, expensive, and numerous, when brought with a hypocritical heart, as a means of purchasing God's favour, with the hopes of expiating unrepented sins, or to obtain a licence to abide in them; so far were they from being pleasing and acceptable, that they were his detestation and abhorrence.
3. The destruction that God would bring upon them. Stumbling-blocks should be set in their ways, their false prophets permitted to delude them, or the Chaldeans, by whom they should be dashed in pieces, both father and son; for sinners together must suffer together; the neighbour and his friend; for those who have walked in evil fellowship, will be involved in the same calamity. From the north, a far distant country, the mighty enemies come, armed with bow and spear; fierce and cruel, they shew no mercy; their voice terrible as the roaring of the sea; their cavalry swift and strong; advancing in battle array against thee, O daughter of Zion.
4. Terrible consternation will seize the Jewish people at their approach. Frightened at the very report, like a woman with child, who falls into travailing pangs, anguish will seize them, their hearts fail them, and their hands be feeble and incapable of resistance. In terror they shut themselves up within their city, not daring to stir, to face the foe, or carry on their husbandry, or attempt to travel, for the sword of the enemy, or because the enemy hath a sword ready drawn to slay; and fear is on every side, no place being safe. Note; (1.) The sinner's terrors will seize him suddenly and severely, as the pains of a travailing woman. (2.) When God sends his panic into the heart, the mighty are feeble, and the brave turn cowards.
5. The prophet calls them to lamentation and bitter mourning, to lie in sackcloth and ashes, as one under the most afflicting anguish for the loss of an only son; and this either as a token of repentance for their sin, or as expressive of their desperate sorrows under their sudden desolations. Note; How much wiser is it to prevent the judgment by speedy humiliation, than by impenitence provoke the scourge, when our anguish will come too late to profit us?
6. God appoints the prophet to inspect their ways, and a sad report he makes of them. I have set thee for a tower, to observe them; or a trier, to examine them; and for a fortress among my people, that, as safe in the divine protection, he might not fear their threatenings; that thou mayest know and try their way, into which the more he searched, the more would God's judgments appear righteous. And what is the consequence of this inquisition? They are all grievous revolters, or revolters of revolters, the most contumacious and stubborn transgressors: walking with slanders: playing the hypocrite with God, or incessantly backbiting one another. They are brass and iron; base and vile as these metals, having brazen fronts which cannot blush, and hearts steeled that are impenetrably hardened. They are all corrupters; as those who adulterate metals, so they corrupt the doctrines of truth; or, in Satan's stead, turn tempters to each other. The bellows are burned; either the judgments which they suffered had no effect on them; or the true prophets, who prophesied till they were hoarse with crying, could avail nothing; or the false prophets, who flattered them, are now consumed with them. The lead is consumed of the fire, which was used in refining silver, but here was in vain: or, out of the fire it is perfect lead; such are the people, without any thing precious or valuable in them, notwithstanding the furnace of affliction through which they had gone. The founder melteth in vain; all the prophet's labours were fruitless, and God's dispensations without effect: for the wicked are not plucked away from their former abominations, but persist in them. Reprobate silver shall men call them; mere dross, because the Lord hath rejected them, from being his people, and given them up for a prey to their enemies. Note; God tries every method with sinners, by calls of grace, and corrections of Providence; and if, after all, they continue reprobate silver, their eternal ruin will lie at their own door.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 6". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28