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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Jeremiah 6

 

 

Verse 1

Jeremiah 6:1. O ye children of Benjamin, &c. — The prophet proceeds in his remonstrances, rebukes, and faithful warnings to the disobedient Jews. A great part of Jerusalem stood in the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:28; on which account, and because Jeremiah, being of Anathoth, was of that tribe, and probably lived therein, the inhabitants are here addressed by the name of the children of Benjamin, and are directed to leave the city, which God was about to destroy, and to take refuge in the mountains. Blow the trumpet in Tekoa — One of those cities which Rehoboam built, 2 Chronicles 11:6, twelve miles from Jerusalem. Set up a sign of fire — A beacon; in Beth-haccerem — A village between Tekoa and Jerusalem, built upon a mountain, situate in the way which led from Chaldea to Jerusalem. As the word signifies the house of the vineyard, it was probably at first some high tower, built among the vineyards, for the keepers of them to watch in, and that it afterward became a village of some note. The design of such signals of war as the prophet here mentions, is generally to assemble men together in order to their mutual defence; but, as he knew it was utterly in vain to attempt any thing of that kind, he seems only to have meant that by these means general notice should be given of the enemies’ approach, that the people might disperse, and escape from danger and destruction. For evil appeareth, &c. — See note on Jeremiah 1:14. Dr. Waterland reads this verse, “Haste away the children of Benjamin out of, &c., and set up a signal in Beth-haccerem; for mischief threateneth out of the north.”


Verse 2-3

Jeremiah 6:2-3. I have likened, &c. — There being nothing for woman in the Hebrew text, and the word נוה, here rendered comely, frequently signifying a pasture, a sheep-fold, and a habitation, the verse is translated different ways by learned men. Houbigant and several others read it and the next verse thus: “I have likened the daughter of Sion to a pleasant pasture, whither the shepherds, with their flocks, come to feed: they have pitched their tents near it, and they feed round it, every one in his place.”

According to this reading, in which Sion is likened to a rich pasture, the shepherds and their flocks that come together to take possession of it, and eat it up, mean the Chaldean generals and their armies, who should possess themselves of Judea and Jerusalem, with as much ease as shepherds lead their flocks into a fresh and open pasture, and should enrich themselves with the spoil thereof. This is certainly a very easy and probable sense of the passage. Blaney, however, prefers rendering the word נוהhabitation; and, taking the verb דמיתיto signify here, not, I have likened, but, I have destroyed, (a sense which it sometimes bears,) he reads the passage, “The habitation, even the delightful one, have I doomed to destruction, the daughter of Sion. The shepherds, with their flocks, shall come to her. And they shall pitch their tents against her round about.” “Jerusalem,” he observes, “is in like manner called simply נוה, the habitation, Isaiah 27:10. And it seems entitled to the name by way of eminence, as the chief residence both of Israel and the God of Israel. Accordingly, speaking of the very desolation here intended, the psalmist says, They have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling-place, נוהו, Psalms 79:7. It is also called God’s habitation, Exodus 15:13; 2 Samuel 15:25, &c. And, with respect to the epithet annexed, the delightful one, Jerusalem is frequently spoken of in terms that show it to have been, in a very eminent degree, the object of delight both with God and man.”


Verse 4-5

Jeremiah 6:4-5. Prepare ye war against her — The prophet now drops the metaphor, and tells them in plain terms whom he means by the shepherds namely, warriors. These seem to be the words of God giving a commission to the Chaldeans, by his prophet, to make war upon Jerusalem. Arise, and let us go up at noon, &c. — “The alacrity and eagerness with which the Chaldeans should undertake and execute the commission with which they were charged, are described in these and the following words in a beautiful vein of poetry. Though it was late in the day before they received their orders, they are for beginning their march immediately and though it was night before they got to the place, they are unwilling to put off the assault till morning.” — Blaney. Let us destroy her palaces — And make ourselves masters of the wealth contained in them. This was the motive that influenced them, and produced such eagerness. The end they had in view was not that they might fulfil God’s counsels; but that they might enjoy the spoils of all the stately palaces and rich houses of the nobles and great ones: hereby, however, God served his own purposes.


Verse 6-7

Jeremiah 6:6-7. For thus hath the Lord of hosts said — To the Chaldeans: God would have the Jews to know, that they have not so much to do with the Chaldeans as with him; that they are his rod to scourge them for their sins. And thus God is said to hiss for, or hist, those whom he would employ in such work, Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 7:18. And he styles himself the Lord of hosts, to show that it is in vain to contend in battle with them whom he sent forth, and would be, as it were, the captain of their hosts. Hew down trees, &c. — That is, to be employed in the siege: see Deuteronomy 20:19, where the same word is used as here. Cast up a mount — Throw up one continued trench, as a mount, round about it. This is the city, &c. — The Hebrew may be literally rendered, She is a city to be visited — That is, a proper object of punishment; the reason of which follows in the next words. As a fountain casteth out her waters, &c. — A metaphor, to express how natural all manner of wickedness was to her, how full she was of it, and how incessant in it. Violence and spoil is heard in her — I hear the continual complaints of those that groan under the oppression that they suffer, being cruelly used and spoiled in her.


Verse 8

Jeremiah 6:8. Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, &c. — Take warning by the many threatenings and judgments I have denounced against thee; amend thy ways and doings, lest, if thou persist in thy wickedness, I be utterly alienated from thee; and I cast off all bowels of compassion toward thee, and give thee up to ruin and desolation. This threatening God fulfilled afterward, when he suffered the city and nation to be utterly ruined and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar: but it still received a further completion, in that final desolation brought upon them by the Romans, under Titus Vespasian.


Verse 9

Jeremiah 6:9. They shall thoroughly glean — As if he had said, Come, ye Chaldeans, into my vineyard; collect the vintage; gather even to the very last grapes; the remnant of Israel as a vine — The prophet, by this, seems to express, that all the remains of the Israelites, who had escaped when the main body of them had been carried into captivity by the Assyrians, and who had taken refuge in Judea and Jerusalem, should also be carried away into captivity by the Babylonians. Turn back thy hand, &c. — That is, begin the work of gathering or gleaning anew: return again after the first time, and pick up those few inhabitants that were left before, and carry them also into captivity. Thus the Chaldeans did, as may be seen Jeremiah 52:28-30.


Verse 10

Jeremiah 6:10. To whom shall I speak and give warning? — I cannot find out any that will so much as give me a patient hearing, much less will any take warning. I cannot speak with any hope of success. Behold, their ear is uncircumcised — A figurative expression, not unfrequent with the prophets, signifying the rejecting of instruction; as an uncircumcised heart signifies an obstinate and rebellious will. As if he had said, Their mind is unbelieving and carnal, and therefore not disposed to hearken to the voice of God. Nay, they are not only deaf to it, but prejudiced against it; and they cannot hearken — Namely, because they are resolved they will not. Behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach — Both the reproofs and the threatenings of it are so; they consider themselves as wronged and affronted by both, and resent plain dealing as they would the most causeless slander and calumny. They have no delight in it — More is implied than expressed; they have an antipathy to it, their hearts rise against it; it exasperates them, and inflames their passions; and they are ready to fly in the face of their reprovers.


Verse 11-12

Jeremiah 6:11-12. Therefore I am full of the fury את חמת, the anger, or wrath, as it should rather have been rendered; of the Lord — An expression which is to be understood of that divine justice which is worthy of God, and which inflicts most heavy, and yet most just, punishment on the obstinately wicked, after having a long time waited for their repentance. I am weary with holding in — Or, as the words may be rendered, I have laboured to hold it in. They are the words of the prophet, who was unwilling to declare to the people the avenging justice which was ready to fall upon them. I will pour it out — The word in the Hebrew, שׁפךְ, is imperative, Pour it out: God, as it seems, commanding his prophet not to delay to denounce his judgments, about to be inflicted on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, of all ages and orders. The prophets are said to do things, when they declare God’s purpose of doing them, as hath been observed on Jeremiah 1:10; upon the children abroad — Or, in the streets, where they are wont to play: the sword of the merciless Chaldeans shall not spare them, Jeremiah 9:21. The children perish in the calamity, which the sins of their fathers have procured. And upon the assembly of young men — Who meet together for diversion or conversation. The husband with the wife shall be taken — One sex, as well as the other, shall be a prey to the enemy. The aged with him that is full of days — From hence it appears, says Blaney, that the word, זקן, here and elsewhere rendered aged, “means only a man that has passed a certain time of life, which may be considered as his zenith, so as from thenceforth to be upon the decline. In contradistinction to whom is placed one who is arrived at what is esteemed the full period of human life; in respect to which the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, David, and Job, are said to have died full of years, or days. See the same distinction made Isaiah 65:20.” No age or condition shall escape. And their houses shall be turned unto others, &c. — According to the threatening denounced by Moses, Deuteronomy 28:30.


Verses 13-15

Jeremiah 6:13-15. For, from the least of them, &c. — Old and young, rich and poor, high and low, those of all ranks, professions, and employments; every one is given to covetousness — Greedy of filthy lucre; and this made them oppressive, for of that evil, as well as others, the love of money is the bitter root. Nay, and this hardened their hearts against the word of God and his prophets: they were the covetous Pharisees that derided Christ. From the prophet to the priest, every one dealeth falsely — Not only in speaking false things, but, as the Hebrew, עשׁה שׁקר, signifies, doing falsehood; acting a lie; that is, playing the hypocrite; keeping up an outward form, or appearance, of piety, and desiring to be accounted righteous, when, before God, they were abominably wicked. They have healed also the hurt, &c., slightly — Skinning over the wound, and never searching it to the bottom; applying lenitives, soothing speeches, when there was need of corrosives, or sharp reproofs, which might have brought them to a true sense of the danger of their condition: encouraging them in their sins, and carnal security, by promising them peace and safety when they were on the brink of ruin and destruction. So that the ministry of these priests and prophets, instead of proving a blessing, became a real curse to them. Were they ashamed, &c. — Nothing is a greater sign of an incorrigible temper than being past shame. Such the prophet tells us was the character of the generality of the Jews at this time: their hearts were so hardened that they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush. Nay, it seems they even gloried in their wickedness, and openly confronted the convictions that should have humbled and brought them to repentance. This is thought by some to refer especially to the priests and prophets, who had soothed the people in their sins, with false hopes of peace, and yet were not ashamed of their deceit and treachery; no, not when the event disproved and gave the lie to their promises. Therefore shall they fall among them that fall

They shall have their portion with those whom they have deceived and destroyed.


Verse 16-17

Jeremiah 6:16-17. Stand ye in the ways, &c. — He now turns his speech to the people, and gives them counsel; by a metaphor taken from travellers, who, being in doubt of their way, stand still, and consider, whether the direction, which they have received from some false guide, be right or not. Ask for the old paths — Inquire in what way the patriarchs, the judges, the kings, and prophets of former times walked, and imitate their practices. And ye shall find rest for your souls — You will find peace with God, will be safe under his protection, and in consequence thereof will have comfort and satisfaction in your own minds. See Matthew 11:28-29. But they said, We will not walk therein — If they did not say so in express words, yet such was the language of their actions: though the prophets had directed them into the right way, and though they knew others had experienced it to be so, yet they would not be persuaded to walk in it, but deliberately refused the blessings offered them. Also I set watchmen over you — I gave you prophets, as so many watchmen, to warn you of the evils that threatened you. And they faithfully discharged their duty, admonishing you of your sins, and giving you faithful warning of the judgments they would bring upon you; saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet — That is, to the warning given you of approaching danger. It was customary, in those days and countries, to have continually watchmen placed on high towers, or on hills, who observed the country all round, to prevent any sudden hostile invasion, by giving early notice of any appearance thereof by sound of trumpet. “So the prophets, who were the observators of the manners of the people, and who had early notice from God what evils were coming, unless prevented by repentance and amendment of life, are called watchmen.”


Verse 18-19

Jeremiah 6:18-19. Therefore hear, ye nations — The very heathen are called upon to take notice of these threatenings and denunciations of God’s wrath against the Jews, lest they should think that the calamities which were soon to fall upon that people had happened by chance, and not by the appointment of that God whom they had dishonoured and refused to obey; and know, O congregation — Of Israel, namely, the general assembly of the people at Jerusalem; what is among them — Rather, what I have decreed against them. God would have all the world to know that the judgments which were coming on the Jews had been foretold by him, and inflicted for the punishment of their sins. Hear, O earth — God’s people, meant, it seems, by the word congregation, in the former clause; and the heathen nations are justly equivalent to the earth. Behold, I will bring evil upon this people — The Chaldean army, with all the direful effect of it; even the fruit of their thoughts — They may thank themselves for what is coming upon them, being the fruit of their contrivances and sinful imaginations. As they have sown, so shall they reap. They thought to strengthen themselves by their alliances with foreigners, which they formed independent of me, and in opposition to my express prohibition, and by having recourse to various species of idolatry, and other superstitions; and these very things will bring ruin upon them.


Verse 20

Jeremiah 6:20. To what purpose — incense from Sheba? — Sheba was a part of Arabia Felix, and famous for its spices and perfumes, Isaiah 9:6. Here the prophet reproves the hypocrisy of the Jews, who sought to cover their inward corruption by the external shows of religion; which the prophets often declare to be of no value, when they do not proceed from a devout mind. See Jeremiah 7:21-22; Isaiah 1:11. And the sweet cane from a far country — Respecting which, see on Isaiah 43:24. A far country seems equivalent with Sheba before mentioned, whose queen is said, Matthew 12:42, to have come from the uttermost parts of the earth, namely, from the southern extremity of the peninsula of Arabia, which, with respect to Judea, was a far country, and at the extreme parts of the earth, or bordering upon the ocean on the south.


Verses 21-26

Jeremiah 6:21-26. Behold, I will lay stumbling-blocks before this people — I will suffer such things to be laid in their way as shall be the occasion of their destruction. Or, I will bring calamities upon them, by which they shall fall. The neighbour and his friend shall perish — Men of all sorts and conditions. Behold, a people cometh, &c. — The Chaldeans are here again described, as in Jeremiah 5:15; a distant nation, violent, cruel, armed with bows and spears, and well mounted. A great nation from the sides of the earth — Or rather, from the coasts, ends, or extremities of the earth, as Dr. Waterland reads it. Their voice roareth like the sea — The shouts of hostile armies are fitly compared to the waves of the sea, which dash upon the shores with a great noise. And they ride upon horses — Of which there was a great scarcity in Judea, which was one reason that induced the Jews to enter into alliances with Egypt, that they might be furnished with horses from thence. We have heard the fame thereof — The prophet personates the people, and describes the very great consternation which Judah and Jerusalem should be in, upon the approach of this formidable enemy. Our hands wax feeble — We have no heart to make any resistance; anguish hath taken hold of us — We are in an extremity of pain, like that of a woman in travail. Go not forth into the fields, &c. — Thus he expresses the great danger that would be everywhere. O daughter of my people, &c. — Here the prophet calls upon them to lament the desolations that were coming upon them; as if he had said, Hear thy God calling thee to weeping and mourning, and answer his call. Gird thee with sackcloth — Not only put on sackcloth for a day, but gird it on thee to be worn constantly. Wallow thyself in ashes — Lie down among them; use all the tokens of the deepest mourning, and most bitter lamentation; and that not forced, and for show, but with the greatest sincerity, as parents mourn for an only son, and think themselves comfortless because they are childless. The expression, as for an only son, was proverbial among the Jews, to denote the greatest grief. For the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us — Though he is not come yet, he is coming; the decree is gone forth, let us therefore meet the execution of it with a suitable sadness.


Verse 27

Jeremiah 6:27. I have set thee for a tower, &c. — According to this reading, God speaks here by way of encouragement to the prophet, and tells him he had made him a fortified tower, that he might be safe, notwithstanding all the attempts of the wicked against him. But Lowth, with some others, thinks that “the sense would be plainer if the words were translated thus: I have set thee (in) a watch-tower, and (in) a fortress;” that is, God tells the prophet that he hath placed him as a watchman in a high tower, or fortress, to take an account of the people’s behaviour, and to warn them accordingly. That thou mayest know and try their way — That is, their actions and manners, and how they stand affected toward God and his word; that thou mayest bring their whole conduct under thy strict observation and scrutiny, as refiners do metals. Hereby the prophet is encouraged to reprove them more freely, and with authority, because God promises to defend him from injury, and would give him prudence to see what was amiss, and undauntedness to oppose it. It may be proper to observe here, that this latter clause of the verse favours the sense in which the LXX. and the Vulgate have taken the preceding clause. They render the word בחון, which we translate a tower, δοκιμαστην, probatorem, a prover, or trier, which Blaney interprets thus: “I have appointed thee the office of an assay-master among my people, as to the gold thereof; that is, to try what is in them of genuine worth and excellence, which, like pure gold, will stand the utmost test.” Dr. Dodd considers the passage in the same light, observing, “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 has a tower and 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.”


Verse 28-29

Jeremiah 6:28-29. They are all grievous revolters — Obstinate and refractory; walking with slanders — Making it their business to detract from thee and the other prophets. Blaney translates the clause, They are all of them the dross of revolters, passing with a fraudulent currency; an interpretation for which he assigns plausible reasons. They are brass and iron — 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 — Hebrew, משׁחיתים, corrupting, or adulterating; or, as Blaney renders it, instruments of adulteration, alluding to brass and iron, or any base metals, being used to adulterate the pure silver. The bellows are burned, &c. — All methods to purify and amend them are ineffectual. All the expressions to the end of the chapter are metaphorical. The lead is consumed of the fire — Before the use of quicksilver was known, the refiners used lead to separate the silver from the other substances mixed with it. Thus Pliny, Nat. Hist., lib. 31. sec. 31, “Excoqui (argentum) non potest, nisi cum plumbo nigro, aut cum vena plumbi.” The founder melteth in vain — Or, as Houbigant reads it, heapeth up fire in vain. For the wicked are not plucked away — Or rather, The dross of iniquity is not purged away. The word רעים, meaning here, it seems, the base ingredients among the metals; that is, the bad principles and habits, which prevailed so much, and adhered so closely, that all endeavours and pains used to purge them away and get clear of them proved ineffectual; so that, as it follows in the next verse, nothing remained but to throw them aside, as metal disallowed, and cried down by authority; counterfeiting silver, but not capable of being brought to the sterling standard. See Blaney. In other words: As base money is refused by every one, because it cannot bear the touchstone; so should these hypocrites and evil-doers be rejected both by God and man.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 6:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/jeremiah-6.html. 1857.

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Friday, October 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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