Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, July 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 5

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


1. Seek… a man The thought is not completed at this latter word, but is carried forward to the end of the verse. The meaning is not, “seek a man” that is, any man but, “a man” who executeth judgment and seeketh the truth. Of course, language of this kind must not be construed with servile literalness. It is simply a strong statement of prevalent corruption. And yet there were doubtless many who were still faithful to the true God, and some of these are mentioned in this book.

Broad places Such as the open spaces at the gates, at the meeting of the streets, the markets, and all places where the people congregate.

Truth As is common, especially in the Old Testament, this word has here a subjective meaning truth in character rather than truth in belief.

Verse 2

2. Falsely Implying an outward confession of Jehovah, but combining with it spiritual hypocrisy, falling in perfectly with the intimations which came in other ways, that these were times of outward rather than inward religion.

Verse 3

3. Upon the truth This phrase stands over against the term “falsely,” in the preceding verse. If there is not first honesty, no other virtue is possible. Even the oath of fealty of those who are false at heart is an abomination.

Verses 4-5

4, 5. This corruption extends to high as well as low. The prophet thought that those who showed this lack of truth and uprightness were of the baser sort the poor and the foolish; but on betaking himself to the great men he found the same state of things; these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds that is, of duty.

Verse 6

6. Lion… wolf… leopard This is a drawing out in detail of the curse denounced in Leviticus 26:22: “I will also send wild beasts among you,” etc. The strongest, the most ravenous, and the swiftest of the beasts are here mentioned, as showing the thorough fulfilment of this threatening. The verbs in this verse should be rendered by the English present rather than the future, for the intention seems to be to point out the infliction of this curse.

Of the evenings Rather, of the plains. This, in the parallelism, stands over against out of the forest, which in itself is strongly confirmatory of the above rendering.

Verse 7

7. How Rather, why.

Shall I pardon thee The form of the word translated “pardon” is difficult to account for. The Masoretes evidently considered it a future, and so have given as a Keri the usual form for the Kal future of the lamedh guttural. The form in the text may be a future after the type of the perfect verb, of which there are also other instances among the lamedh guttural verbs; or it may be, as suggested by Furst, Keil, and others, that aleph in the text has become substituted for lamedh, the two being very much alike in the MSS. If this is so, the verb is an infinitive, and the meaning given above is more clearly brought out, How could one pardon thee?

Thy children have… sworn There is doubt and disagreement as to the original text in this place. Most of the Versions and about forty MSS., together with the Keri, give the reading, I had sworn them; that is, had bound them by an oath to fidelity. But the reading which is the basis of the Authorized Version is easier, and agrees in sentiment with many other passages. The rule, however, is, in disputed readings, that the more difficult is likely to be genuine, as its substitution for an easier one cannot readily be accounted for, while the reverse process is the natural one. Besides, the thought in the reading “I have sworn them,” is even more perfectly suited to the remainder of the verse. The sense, then, is, I bound them by the marriage covenant, but they committed adultery.

Harlots’ houses Literally, house of the harlot; an expression doubtless intended to cover both carnal uncleanness and spiritual adultery.

Verse 8

8. Fed horses The lechery of horses is alluded to in many passages, for example, Ezekiel 23:20. In Ezekiel 22:11, the thing stated in this verse is brought out more plainly and fully.

In the morning Many suggestions have been made as to the meaning of the original word thus translated, as “from meshech,” “stallions,” “draught horses,” “lustful,” etc. The least doubtful thing is, that the sense of the word is missed in the Authorized Version, though some are still disposed to defend it. The view which best commends itself is, that the word is a Hiphil participle, from the root which means to wander, and hence should be rendered, as in the Ethiopic, they roam about.

Verse 10

10. Go ye up upon her walls The word rendered “walls” occurs nowhere else in this form and in this sense. In Ezekiel 27:25, the same word is translated in the English Version, “did sing of thee.” Furst gives it here the meaning palms. But this sense is most unlikely, the palm being neither so common nor so characteristic as to justify its use in such a passage as this. There is, indeed, no sufficient reason for rejecting the sense of “walls,” indicated by all the important versions. This unusual form of the plural has several parallels, or at least analogous forms; as, for instance, the plurals of יום , day, ראשׁ , head, etc. The sense, however, is not walls, as of a city, but of a vineyard.

Battlements Rather, tendrils. The word is used in Isaiah 18:5. The stock of Judah’s vine was not to be destroyed, but only the branches which had degenerated out of their kind.

Verses 12-13


12, 13. Belied the Lord Either by stating that he does not exist, or, more probably, that it is not he who speaks by the prophets threatening these calamities. The thirteenth verse is a continuation of the same denial. The prophets who predict our ruin shall come to naught, because he that speaketh (not the word) is not in them. Some understand this as the language of God with reference to the false prophets, but that view is not to be preferred.

Verse 14

14. My words Still God’s, though spoken by Jeremiah.

Fire Rather, as a fire. The words, and the things expressed by them, are taken together. This threatening of judgments would be fulfilled, and so this word will be like the “fire” as to its devouring energy. See also Isaiah 1:31; Isaiah 10:17.

Verse 15

15. House of Israel Judah, which now represents the true Israel of God.

Mighty nation… ancient nation The Babylonian. “Mighty” rather, firm, enduring. The epithet “ancient” is well vindicated by the statement in Genesis 10:10, that this nation was founded by Nimrod. This makes the people Hamitic in origin, a fact which has been denied, (Bunsen,) but has been of late fully demonstrated. In this, Homer ( Odys. 1: 23, 24) agrees with Moses, for he represents the Ethiopians as being both east and west of the Arabian Gulf. That their language is strange is brought in to heighten the force of the description by creating a sense of mystery and distance.

Verse 16

16. Their quiver is as an open sepulchre Some conjecture this language to be used in allusion to the shape of the quiver; others, with a more delicate poetical sensibility, say, Because filled with death-dealing weapons, so that to see it is to see an open grave. The bowmen of the Assyrian, and probably also of the Babylonian, army, were especially formidable. (See LAYARD’S Monuments of Assyria.)

Verse 17

17. They shall eat up thine harvest The English differs from the other Versions on this passage, and clearly misses the construction. It should be rendered, as by Keil, It shall eat up thy sons and thy daughters: it shall eat up thy flocks and thy cattle; eat up thy vine and thy fig tree.

They shall impoverish Rather, it shall break down. The word is used besides only in Malachi 1:4.

Verse 18

18. Not make a full end How often does this merciful refrain come in!

Verse 19


19. Like as The penalty answers to the sin. Because Judah in her own land served the gods of foreigners, so she must serve strangers in a foreign land.

Verse 21

21. Hear… this The prophet strives to impress upon the people the greatness of their sin, and so of their folly. As in all cases of persistent wickedness it is such stupidity or insanity as men show who have eyes, and see not; or ears, and hear not.

Verse 22

22. Fear ye not me The greatness of God measures the greatness of sin. They have set at defiance that God against whom the furious sea cannot successfully rebel.

Placed the sand What so resistless as the sea? What so yielding as the sand? And yet by the appointment of God this contemptible thing is the conqueror!

Verse 24

24. That giveth rain The former rain falls from the middle of October until the first of December, and is necessary to the germination of the newly sown seed. The latter rain falls just before the reaping, which commences about April 1, and so is necessary to the perfection of the harvest. Upon them the very life of the people depended. And yet only that God against whom they had rebelled could give them. How evidently, then, is the apostasy of the people an insane severing of the tie that bound them to life!

Reserveth… weeks of the harvest The only hope of the people. God faithfully keeps them for these rebellious ones, thus showing his wonderful patience and tenderness.

Verses 26-28

26-28. Wicked men The fact of their rebellion, as well as its extent and bitter fruits, is set forth in the prevalent corruption. Men make a prey of each other; they are false to one another; they are prosperous in their wickedness; they close their ears to the prayer of the needy and the orphaned.

Verse 31

31. Bear rule by their means Rather, under their lead. The passage is not free from difficulty, as is shown by the various interpretations which have been given. One of the original words is ambiguous as to its root-form. It may be from the root ירד , to go down, or רדה , to rule.

Nagelsbach prefers the former, and so translates go down upon their hands. Keil, Noyes, and others, prefer the latter, and translate rule upon their hands, that is, according to their guidance.

Love to have it so The saddest count in the indictment! The crimes committed are chargeable, not upon the agents alone, but also upon those who in their hearts consent.

The end That is, the judgment. Can you turn it away or escape from it?

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/jeremiah-5.html. 1874-1909.
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