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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Jeremiah 8

 

 

Verse 1-2

Jeremiah 8:1-2. At that time, &c. — The first three verses of this chapter properly belong to the preceding, and ought not to have been separated from it. They shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah — “The Chaldeans shall regard neither the living nor the dead. They shall put the living to death without remorse; and shall break open and defile the tombs of the dead, in hopes of finding riches deposited there. They shall cast them out of their sepulchres, and leave them upon the ground, without staying to collect them together, and replace them.” We learn from Josephus (Antiq, lib. 7, cap. ult.) that King Solomon laid up vast treasures in his father’s sepulchre, which remained untouched till the pontificate of Hyrcanus, who, on a public emergency, opened one of the cells, and took out at once three thousand talents of silver. And afterward Herod the Great opened another cell, out of which he also took considerable wealth. That it was no uncommon practice at the sacking of cities to open the monuments of the great, and scatter their bones abroad without concerning themselves to cover them again, the learned reader may see in Horace’s 16th Epod. Jeremiah 50:13. And they shall spread, or expose, them before the sun and the moon, &c. — The idols which they have worshipped, but which shall not be able to help them in their misery. Whom they have loved, served, walked after, sought, worshipped — The prophet multiplies words to express their extraordinary zeal in the service of their idols, and to ridicule the folly and madness of their idolatry. And they shall not be gathered, &c. — The bones which shall be thus scattered about shall not be gathered again, or laid up in their sepulchres.


Verse 3

Jeremiah 8:3. And death shall be chosen rather than life — Not through a lively and well-grounded hope of happiness in another life, but through an utter despair of any ease in this life. It denotes the extremity of misery, when men have no comfort left wherewith to alleviate their calamities, or render their lives tolerable. This appears by the next words to be spoken chiefly of the miseries which those should suffer who should survive the siege, and either flee or be carried captive into divers countries.


Verses 4-6

Jeremiah 8:4-6. Moreover, thou shalt say, &c. — The prophet is here directed to set before the Jews the unreasonableness and folly of their impenitence, which was the thing that brought this ruin upon them. And he represents them as the most stupid and senseless people in the world, that would not be made wise by any of the methods which infinite wisdom took to bring them to a right mind. Thus saith the Lord, Shall they fall and not arise? — If men happen to make a false step and fall to the ground, do they not endeavour immediately to rise again? Shall he — Shall any traveller; turn away — Namely, out of his right road, and not return into it when he is informed of his error? Why then is this people slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? — Having fallen into sin, why do they not endeavour to rise again by repentance? Having missed their way, and being clearly shown that they have, why to they not correct their error and return into it? It is “an expostulation,” says Lowth, “implying that men are seldom so far gone in wickedness as not to be touched with some remorse for their evil doings, and make some general resolutions of amendment:” but the Jews were “guilty of one perpetual apostacy, as if they could deceive God by their hypocritical pretences, without taking any steps toward a reformation.” They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return — They have turned aside into a false way, a way in which they promise themselves prosperity, but which will bring them to ruin; their error is demonstrated to them, and yet they refuse to relinquish it: they hold it fast, and proceed forward to destruction. I hearkened and heard, &c. — These also are the words of God, expressing himself after the manner of men, who are wont to look and listen diligently after the things they are very desirous of. Thus God represents himself as waiting and looking continually to see marks of the people’s repentance, that he might show them mercy, and avert his threatened judgments. But they spake not aright — I neither heard a word nor saw an action which manifested any sorrow for their apostacy, or any inclination to return to their duty and allegiance. No man repented him, saying, What have I done? — None of them did so much as take the first step toward repentance; they did not even examine into their conduct, and call themselves to an account for their actions. Every one turned to his course, &c. — Proceeded on in his accustomed way, committing all wickedness without restraint.


Verse 7

Jeremiah 8:7. Yea, the stork knoweth her appointed times — Of going and returning; the turtle and the crane, &c., the time of their coming — The proper season for changing their climate. Taught by natural instinct, they change their quarters as the temper of the air alters, removing to a warmer climate when the winter approaches, and returning when the spring comes on; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord — Understand neither their duty nor their happiness; they apprehend not the meaning either of God’s mercies or judgments, nor how to accommodate themselves to either so as to answer God’s intention therein. They know not how to improve the seasons of grace which God affords them when he sends them his prophets; nor how to make use of the rebukes they are under when his voice cries in the city. They discern not the signs of the times, (Matthew 16:3,) nor are aware how God is dealing with them. They know not the law which God has prescribed them, though it be written both in their hearts and in their books.


Verse 8

Jeremiah 8:8. How do ye say, We are wise? — As if he had said, These things considered, where is your wisdom? you see the very fowls of the air are not so stupid as you are. He speaks not merely to the princes and priests, but to the whole body of the people. And the law of the Lord is with us — They were wont to boast much of the law, as well as of the temple, Jeremiah 18:18; Romans 2:17-23. Lo, certainly in vain made he it — For any use you make of it, you might as well have been without it. As if he had said, It is to no purpose for you to boast of your wisdom and skill in the knowledge of God’s law, if you do not govern your lives by its directions; otherwise it was written and delivered to you in vain. The pen of the scribes is vain — Neither need it ever have been copied out by the scribes. “The title of scribe, as applied to the skill of transcribing or interpreting the law, is first given,” in the Scriptures, “to Ezra, (Ezra 7:6,) who was not merely a copier of the law, but likewise an explainer of the difficulties of it, Nehemiah 8:1-13; and it is likely none made it their business to write copies of the law but those who were well versed in the study of it, which would best secure them from committing mistakes in their copies; hence the word, in the New Testament, signifies those who were learned in explaining the law, and answering the difficulties arising concerning the sense of it.” — Lowth.


Verse 9

Jeremiah 8:9. The wise men are ashamed — That is, they have reason to be so, who have not made a better use of their wisdom, and reduced their knowledge to practice. They are confounded and taken — All their wisdom has not served to keep them from those courses that will issue in their ruin. They shall be taken in the same snares that others of their neighbours, who have not pretended to so much wisdom, are taken in, and filled with the same confusion. Those that have more knowledge than others, and yet provide no better than others for their own souls, have reason to be ashamed. They have rejected the word of the Lord — They would not be governed or guided in their conduct by it, would not act as it directed them, nor comply with their duty as there set forth; and what wisdom is in them? — None to any purpose: none that will yield them comfort in life, support in death, or boldness at the day of final accounts: none that will be found to their praise when God shall bring every work into judgment, how much soever it may exalt them in their own opinion in the present world.


Verses 10-12

Jeremiah 8:10-12. Therefore will I give their wives unto others — See on Jeremiah 6:12; and their fields to them, that shall inherit, or possess, them — For the word inherit is sometimes taken for any sort of possession. See Psalms 32:8. So Israel is called the Lord’s inheritance, chap. Jeremiah 10:16, and elsewhere. The expression, however, implies that their fields should not only be taken possession of by the victorious Chaldeans, should be ravaged and stripped of their crops and cattle, but that these their enemies should possess their fields as their own, and acquire a property in them which they should transmit to their posterity. For every one is given to covetousness, &c. — For the elucidation of this and the two following verses, see notes on Jeremiah 6:13-15.


Verse 13

Jeremiah 8:13. There shall be no grapes on the vine — A figurative expression, to signify that there should be none of them left. And the leaf shall fade, &c. — As both leaves and fruit wither and fade when a tree is blasted or killed, so will I utterly deprive this people of all the blessings I had given them, of those which are for use, as well as those which are for ornament.


Verse 14-15

Jeremiah 8:14-15. Let us enter into the defenced cities — In these verses the prophet seems to turn to and address his countrymen by way of apostrophe; and, as one of the people that dwelt in the open towns, advises those that were in the like situation to retire with him into some of the fortified cities, and there wait the event with patience; since there was nothing but terror abroad, and the noise of the enemy who had already begun to ravage the country. By this the prophet signifies, that when the Chaldeans should come, there would be no hope of safety left but in fleeing to fortified places, and that none would dare to stay in the open country. He speaks of the thing as already present, because it was soon to happen, and it was represented to him, in his vision, as already present. Let us be silent there, for the Lord hath put us to silence — This may mean, that God had suffered the forces of the king of Judah to be so diminished that they were not able to defend the country and open towns, but must of necessity keep themselves cooped up in their fortified cities, and leave the country to be ravaged everywhere by the Chaldeans. And given us water of gall to drink — Hath brought us into grievous calamities for the punishment of our sins. We looked for peace — We were willing to believe the false prophets, who foretold prosperous times. For a time of health — Or, for a time in which we should be cured; that is, for a time of peace, in which we might recover our strength.


Verse 16

Jeremiah 8:16. The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan — Dan was situated in the northern extremity of Palestine, on the side whence the Chaldeans were to come against Jerusalem. Accordingly, Grotius observes, after Jerome, that Nebuchadnezzar, having subdued Phenicia, passed through the tribe of Dan in his way to Judea. When the enemy therefore was advanced so near, it was time for the people of Judah to take the alarm, and to provide for their own safety. The whole land trembled at the neighing of his strong ones — The word אביריו, here rendered strong ones, signifies horses in several places, and is so rendered here by Dr. Waterland, (see 5:22; Jeremiah 47:3,) and is so understood by the LXX. By the whole land trembling is meant the inhabitants being terrified at the vast number of horses that were in the Chaldean army, the neighing of which they heard; which struck them with great dread, as they had few or no horses in Judea to oppose to them. For they have devoured the land, and all that is in it — All the fruits, and all the forage, they have devoured or taken away. It is to be observed, that the prophet speaks of it as already done, because it was so represented to him in his vision. The city, and those that dwell therein — Both town and country are laid waste before them, and not only the wealth, but the inhabitants of both are taken or destroyed. Jerusalem is here chiefly meant by the city, for, though the taking of other cities was attended with a slaughter of the inhabitants, the sacking of Jerusalem was the greatest of all their calamities, as being the metropolis, and the richest and most populous of all their cities.


Verse 17

Jeremiah 8:17. For behold, I send serpents, &c., which shall not be charmed — Such enemies as you shall not be able to soften by any entreaties you can use. That some persons possessed the faculty of rendering serpents harmless, is a fact too well attested by historians and travellers to admit of contradiction: but by what means this effect was produced is not quite so clear. Pliny speaks of certain herbs which, being carried about, prevented the bite of serpents, Nat. Hist., lib. 20. sec. 16, lib. 22. sec. 25. Others tell surprising, but not altogether incredible stories, of the influence of musical sounds. See Shaw’s Travels, p. 429; and Sir John Chardin’s MS., cited by Harmer, chap. Jeremiah 8:14. In this same MS. the author remarks, that “those who know how to tame serpents by their charms are wont commonly to break out their teeth; and supposes this to be alluded to, Psalms 58:6, Break their teeth, O God, in their mouths.” But whatever were the methods commonly practised to charm serpents, the enemies of the Jews are here compared to such serpents as were not to be mollified nor disarmed by any of those means. They shall bite you, saith the Lord — See Blaney, and note on Psalms 58:5.


Verse 18-19

Jeremiah 8:18-19. When I would comfort myself, &c. — “When I would apply comfort to myself, my heart misgives me: I find great reason for my fears, and none for my hopes.” Blaney translates the verse, sorrow is upon me past my remedying; my heart within me is faint. They seem to be the words of the prophet, who had endeavoured to comfort himself in his trouble by acquiescing in the will of God; but the miseries coming on his countrymen continually occurring to his mind in all their horrors and aggravations, deprived him of all comfort, and rendered him inconsolable. Behold the voice of the cry — The bitter cries and lamentations, which methinks I hear; of the daughter of my people — To whose welfare I cannot be indifferent; because of them that dwell in a far country — Namely, their enemies the Chaldeans, who were coming against them. But the words may be rendered more agreeably to the Hebrew thus, The voice of the cry of the daughter of my people from a land afar off. Compare Isaiah 33:17, where the phrase in the original, ארצ מרחקים, is the same. Thus interpreted, the words express the doleful complaints of the Jews in their state of captivity, as if God had quite forsaken and disowned them. In this light many commentators understand the prophet. He “anticipates,” says Blaney, “in his imagination, the captivity of his countrymen in Babylon, a far country; and represents them there as asking, with a mixture of grief and astonishment, if there was no such being as JEHOVAH, who presided in Zion, that he so neglected his people, and suffered them to continue in such a wretched plight. Upon this complaint of theirs, God justly breaks in with a question on his part, and demands why, if they acknowledged such a protector as himself, they had deserted his service, and by going over to idols, with which they had no natural connection, had forfeited all title to his favour.” Why have they provoked me to anger? — Some translators, to render the sense more evident, supply here the words, saith God; for it is evident that it is God, and not the prophet, who speaks here, telling them that their sins were the cause of his forsaking them; and that as they provoked him to anger by their idolatries, so he would no longer defend them.


Verse 20

Jeremiah 8:20. The harvest is past, &c. — Here the prophet speaks again in the name of the people, or, rather, represents the people besieged in Jerusalem complaining on account of the length of the siege. Their false prophets had amused them with vain hopes of deliverance, and they had expected the Egyptians to come to their relief; but now the harvest and the summer were past, and yet there was no appearance of succour or deliverance coming to them. Jerusalem began to be besieged in the winter of the year, but was not taken till the end of the summer of the following year.


Verse 21-22

Jeremiah 8:21-22. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt, &c. — These are the words of the prophet, lamenting the miserable condition of his country. The Hebrew is more literally rendered, For the breach of the daughter of my people am I broken, that is, heart-broken: or, as Houbigant renders it, I am wounded with the wound of my people. I am black — I look ghastly, as those who are dying. Astonishment hath taken hold on me — I am so stupified that I know not what to do, or which way to turn. Is there no balm in Gilead — Balm, or balsam, is used with us as a common name for many of those oily, resinous substances, which flow spontaneously, or by incision, from certain trees or plants, and are of considerable use in medicine and surgery, being good, as physicians inform us, to soften, assuage, warm, dissolve, cleanse, dry up, and purge. The Hebrew word here used, צרי, is rendered by the LXX., ρητινη, and interpreted resin by the ancients in general. For this balm, resin, or turpentine, as the word might be rendered, Gilead was famous from very ancient times. See Genesis 37:25, where we find Joseph was sold to Ishmaelite merchants, who came from Gilead, and carried it, with sweet spices, into Egypt. This made many physicians and surgeons to resort to Gilead. The prophet applies this metaphorically to the state of the Jews, which was all over corrupted, (compare Isaiah 1:6,) and represents God as asking whether there have been no methods used to heal these mortal wounds and distempers? or, if there have, how it comes to pass they should have so little success? As if he had said, Whence comes it that the wounds of my people have not been healed and closed? Have means of healing been wanting? Spiritual medicines or physicians? Have I not sent you prophets, who have admonished, warned, and instructed you? Have I not given you time, and furnished you with helps sufficient to enable you to return to your duty? Why then are not your spiritual disorders cured? Doubtless it is your own fault: it is because you would not make use of the remedies provided, nor follow the prescriptions of the physicians. Thus we may apply the words spoken concerning Babylon, Jeremiah 51:9, to the present case: we would have healed Babylon, but she is not, or rather, she would not, be healed. The words may likewise be understood of a temporal deliverance. As if he had said, Is this people so forsaken both of God and men, that there is no remedy left to effect their deliverance? Are there no salutary means within reach, or no persons that know how to apply them, for the relief of my country from those miseries with which it is afflicted? Observe, reader, if sinners die of their wounds, their blood is upon their own heads. The blood of Christ is balm in Gilead, his Spirit is the physician there: both are sufficient, all-sufficient, to effect a perfect cure; so that they might have been healed, but would not.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 8:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/jeremiah-8.html. 1857.

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Monday, May 25th, 2020
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