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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 4

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verses 1-2

1, 2. Return unto me This second “return” is a mere repetition of the former, and falls into the same relation. The protasis extends so as to include the word righteousness, making the reading of the first two verses as follows: If thou wilt return, O Israel,… wilt return unto me; saith Jehovah, and if thou wilt put away abominations from before me, and shalt not wander to and fro, and shall swear, as Jehovah liveth, in truth, and right, and uprightness: then shall the nations bless themselves in him, and in him shall they make their boast.

Verses 1-18

THE CALL TO RETURN, Jeremiah 4:1-18.

The chapter-division here, as in the last instance, is peculiarly unfortunate. There is the closest relation between the concluding verses of the preceding chapter and the beginning of this. The words contained in the first two verses of the present chapter are Jehovah’s answer to the words of shame and penitence in the last verse of the preceding, and cannot be fully appreciated except this relation is kept in mind.

Verses 3-4

3, 4. For, connects the two following verses with the preceding, as being the ground of them. That these verses refer to Judah, while the preceding refer to Israel, suggests a difficulty more apparent than real. For Jeremiah was the prophet of Judah, and the reference to Israel was for the sake of Judah. Hence, having thus prepared the way, it was fitting that he should urge home the lesson on those for whom he laboured.

To the men Literally, to each man. Break up, etc. Keil translates, Break up for yourselves new ground. As much as to say, Prepare new ground for cultivation: enter upon a new life. Thoroughly prepare the field of your hearts, so that the good seed of repentance may not fall among thorns. See Matthew 13:7, and Hosea 10:12.

Circumcise A call to entire consecration. The phrase to the Lord is one of emphasizing force. It implies that not a mere ceremony is required, but an actual putting away of spiritual impurity. Lest my fury, etc., etc. A consciousness of sin is as fuel which is sure to be ignited by the divine presence. Consult chap Jeremiah 8:20; Amos 5:6, and Psalms 89:46.

Verse 5

5. Blow ye the trumpet, etc. The invasion of a hostile army is proclaimed. The cry of alarm resounds throughout the land. The inhabitants are called to betake themselves to their cities. From the first, the most fundamental notion of a city was that of a covert from danger; a place fortified and thus protected from hostile incursions, and so supplying the conditions of possible culture and development. Thus the “city” which Cain built was simply a natural stronghold selected and built up in such a way as to become a starting point and centre of that world-culture which so eminently characterized the Cainitic race.

Verse 6

6. Set up the standard Making it point toward Zion, to show the route to a place of safety.

Verse 7

7. The lion Literally, a lion.

The destroyer of the Gentiles Rather, destroyer of nations; a vivid description of such beasts of prey as are figured by Assyria and Babylon.

Verse 8

8. Gird you with sackcloth This calamity, which on its surface would seem to be merely human, attributable solely to the ambition and rapacity of the Babylonish nation, is here referred to as an expression of the fierce anger of God: thus illustrating the truth so often brought out in the Old Testament, that God has a purpose even in the actions of evil agents. The grand condition of safety is harmony with God. His favour is the only defence which man’s hate cannot beat down.

Verse 10

10. Ah, Lord God, etc. This is interjectional. It is Jeremiah’s sigh of sorrow and deprecation. He confronts what seems to be a vision of utter ruin and extermination, and protests that it is incongruous with God’s promises to his people.

Thou hast greatly deceived this people In assuring them of thine everlasting covenant, while the sword reacheth unto the soul. It is better to take this view than to assume a reference to the lying spirits in false prophets, as do most commentators.

Verse 11

11. A dry wind “A hot wind,” Keil; “a violent wind,” Furst. The reference is to the simoom, which is too fierce to be used for winnowing, as it would carry away both chaff and grain; a fit symbol of irresistible destruction. The figure of the lion sets forth the fierceness and bloodthirstiness of their enemies; the simoom, their resistlessness.

Verse 12

12. Full wind from those Rather, fuller than these; namely, the winds which are used for cleansing the grain.

Verse 13

13. Behold Prophetic vision.

Clouds… whirlwind… eagles Located in the same region as that before suggested in the figure of the dry wind. The dark, angry, swiftly moving masses of clouds, the destructive sweep of the tornado, and the sudden and resistless swoop of the birds of prey, constitute the terrible imagery by which the great danger of the nation is set forth.

Verse 14

14. O Jerusalem, wash thine heart Again does the prophet pause, but this time it is not to remonstrate with God, but to plead with man. In the presence of this great calamity, so rapidly and resistlessly moving on, he urges the people to hide themselves in God, and to cast out all evil from their own hearts, for it is only when there is evil within us that there can be evil without us. Sin is the only fuel of the fire which burns to our destruction.

Verse 15

15. A voice… from Dan… mount Ephraim Indicating the direction and marking the progress of the coming danger.

Verse 17

17. Keepers of a field As fields in Palestine were not enclosed, they had to be watched. The huts, or lodges, of these “keepers” might be seen in every direction commanding views of the entire country. Hence the comparison of this verse.

Verse 19


19. My bowels, my bowels Again is the course of thought interrupted by an expression of Jeremiah’s personal experiences. For it is much better to interpret these as the words of Jeremiah than of the people. But the prophet stands for all the friends of God. What he says in his own character, and for himself, expands into an expression in behalf of the people. He passes, in his own thought, perhaps unconsciously, from individual suffering to national desolation. Hence, the expression in Jeremiah 4:20, “my tents.”

I am pained The original word here is, with little doubt, a mongrel form. It is an instance exceeding rare of the Keri having affected the form of the Kethib. The form is probably from חול , ( chul,) “to writhe in pain.”

Verse 20

20. Tents spoiled… curtains These terms are used synonymously as corresponding members in the parallelism. Such passages as this indicate that tents were a common, if not the most common, form of Jewish habitations at this time.

Verse 22

22. My people… foolish The answer to the question in the preceding verse. The statement substantially implies This trouble is not fortuitous, neither is it unjust, but has come from Israel’s wickedness.

Verses 23-26

23-26. I beheld, etc. Resuming the general course of thought, another group of images is brought forward to show the fearfulness of the destruction impending. And this time they are the most terrible which nature furnishes; the same which, in other passages, are employed to set forth God’s great judgment days. See Isaiah 13:10; Joel 2:10, etc., etc. The established order by which time is both created and measured here gives place to a kind of primeval chaos. The earth again becomes desolation and emptiness without form, and void. The lights in the heavens go out in darkness. The mountains tremble to their bases, and the hills totter to their fall. All life of man, and even of birds, has fled away; only darkness, solitude, and death remain. The fruitful place (Carmel) is a wilderness, and all the cities are destroyed. Though Jeremiah has sometimes been set down as wanting in force and finish of style, yet there is no similar passage in the Bible which surpasses this.

Verse 27

27. Not… a full end Again does the light shine through the gloom. God has not forsaken his people utterly. Appalling as is this picture, yet God’s faithfulness is beneath, behind, and over all.

Verses 28-29

28, 29. For this, etc. But once more does the prophet return to the sad story. In language more simple and intelligible he sets forth the coming desolation. The city shall be forsaken, and the people shall take refuge in the thickets and clefts of the rocks.

Verse 30

30. When thou art spoiled No arts, as of a courtezan, such as the putting on of crimson clothing and ornaments of gold, and rending or enlarging the eyes with pigment, can turn away the ruin. This pigment was a black powder made of sulphur-antimony, and was applied by drawing a style smeared with it horizontally between the closed eyelids. This Jeremiah calls rending the face (eyes) with paint.

Verse 31

31. I have heard But all in vain. The prophet hears the cry of distress as the agony of a woman in travail. The daughter of Zion stretches out her hands in unavailing supplication, and falls beneath the stroke of her murderers.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/jeremiah-4.html. 1874-1909.
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