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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Jeremiah 49

 

 

Verses 1-6

Verse 8

Jeremiah 49:8

Dwell deep, O inhabitants of Dedan.

Dwell deep, O Dedan

We do not quite know who these inhabitants of Dedan were, but in all probability they were some Arabian tribe or tribes. The text intends one of two things--either to inform these inhabitants of Dedan, that however deep in the cavernous rocks they should hide themselves, they would certainly be destroyed; or else it was a gracious warning to remove from Edom, strike their tents, and retreat into the depths of the wilderness, and so escape from the invaders.

I. Let us take it sarcastically. It is as though the prophet said to these Edomites, and those that dwelt with them, “You think you never can be destroyed, for your city is situated in a rocky defile, where a handful of men can hold the pass. You suppose that the mightiest armies will fail to conquer you, and therefore you are very proud; but your pride is vain.” “Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill:” though thou shouldest, make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord.” That word has been terribly fulfilled, for the ancient rock-city stands as a wonder to all travellers, and when they ride through it, which is not often, for it is with great difficulty that you reach the place at all, they find the city standing, but the houses desolate, and without inhabitants. Edom is a perpetual desolation, because of her sins:

1. From the text I hear a cry, like the stern voice of Elias, to every profane stoner who thinks that he will ultimately escape the wrath of God. Thou mayest dwell deep, O transgressor, but God shall find thee out. Thou sayest, “How shall He reach me?” The hand of death has only to be stretched out, and thou art HIS captive at once: and a little thing will do it--the wind has but to pass over thee, and thou art gone. A drop of blood may go the wrong way, a valve may refuse to open, a vessel may burst, a band may snap, and there thou liest, beneath God’s avenging hand, like a stag smitten by the hunter. Thou art dust, and a breath wilt scatter thee to the four winds. Thy spirit will be equally unable to escape from God. When it leaves this body, whither will it fly?

2. The same solemn warning may be applied to those who are self-righteous, and who think that they are forming a hiding-place for themselves You think that you will save yourselves by your works Ah! labour mightily; for hard must be your toil if you think to finish a righteousness of your own. In the very fire must you labour. You would make a dwelling for yourself as secure as the Rock of Ages? You had need build anxiously. I do not wonder that you are ill at ease. I wonder you have any peace, for the labours which you propose are more stupendous than those of Hercules! You would work miracles without the God of miracles! Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!

3. The same text, in the same way, might be applied to those who are hypocrites, and are practising secret sins while they yet wear the name of Christ, and are numbered amongst His people. Where are the deep places which can afford refuge to religious pretenders? Where shall liars conceal themselves? O hypocrite! it may be you have planned your sin so cleverly that the wife of your bosom does not know it: your scheme is so admirably cunning that you carry two faces, and yet no Christian sees other than that Christian mask of yours. Ah, sir! but you are a greater fool than I take you for, if you think you can deceive your God. Cast off your double-mindedness. “Cease to do evil, learn to do well,” for it is time to seek the Lord, and may God grant you His effectual grace that you may do so at once, ere He condemn you to the lowest hell.

II. But now we will use the text instructively, in which view, the first and natural sense would be, that the prophet warns the tribe of Dedan, who had come to live among the Edomites, to go away from them, and dwell in the depths of the wilderness; so that when the destroyer came, they might not participate in Edom’s doom. It was the warning voice of mercy, separating its chosen from among the multitude of the condemned.

1. The people of God, like the tribes of Dedan, to some extent, dwell in Edom. Your business, your duty, is to come out from among them. “Be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing.” Better go to heaven alone, than to hell in company. Better be true to God, with Abdiel, “faithful among the faithless found,” than win the applause of the crowd by great liberality and equal inconsistency. More important still, however, is the separation of every Christian from worldly habits, customs, and ways. Wherever you are, dear friend, though you must be in the world, take care that you be not of it. Dwelt deep in the solitudes where Jesus dwelt--in the lonely holiness which was fostered on the cold mountain’s side, and then shone resplendent amid temptation and persecution! Commit yourself unto no man; call no man master; lean on no arm of flesh; walk before the Lord in the land of the living, and so dwell deep, as did your Lord.

2. My earnest desire is that every saved soul among you may dwell deep, that is to say, that none of you may be superficial Christians, but that; you may be deep believers, well rooted plants of grace, thorough, downright, out-and-out Christians--that you may not only dwell in the Rock of Ages, but dwell deep in it. To this let me call your attention.

3. If any inquire what are our reasons for bringing forward at this time such an exhortation as this, I will briefly answer them.

Dwell deep

I. Dwell deep in the peace of god. God’s peace is so deep and blessed that it cannot be fathomed or explained; the fugitive into its sacred secrets cannot be followed or dragged forth to perish by the merciless pack of the wolves of care. Men of the world cannot understand that mystery of peace; but the believer knows the way into it, and makes it his hiding-place and pavilion.

II. Dwell deep in communion with God. Get away from the rush and strife around, and go alone into the clear, still depths of His nature. The Rhone loses all its silt in the deep, clear waters of Geneva’s lake. A few hasty words of prayer will not avail for this. A day’s climb is often necessary before one can reach the heart of the mountains.

III. Dwell deep in stillness of soul. Get within. God awaits thee there. Centre thyself. When the world is full of alarm and harassments, study to be quiet. The soul’s health cannot be maintained apart from the observance of times of waiting on God in solitude. The great importance of perseverance in the exercise of prayer and inward retirement may be sufficiently learnt, says one, next to the experience of it, merely from the tempter’s artifices and endeavours to allure us from it, and make us neglect it. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Deep dwellers

The plants which grow in the Alps are, as a rule, firmly and largely rooted. An authority on this topic says: “The roots of some plants enter so far into the gritty soil as to defy the tourist to bring them out, while others simply search farther into the heart of the flaky rock, so that they are safer from any want of moisture than if in the best and richest soil.” So in many lives, the very strength and beauty of Christian character are a proof that the roots of the soul have struck deep into the everlasting truth and love, the granite truths of the Divine Being and attributes. “Dwell deep! O Dedan!” (H. O. Mackey.)


Verse 11

Jeremiah 49:11

Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in Me.

The compassion and beneficence of the Deity

No subject is more open to general observation, or more confirmed by manifold experience, than the goodness of God. In Scripture it is most frequently presented to us in the light of compassion to the distresses of mankind (Psalms 102:17; Psalms 10:17; Psalms 58:5; Psalms 69:33; Psalms 146:7; Psalms 22:24, &c.).

I. The discoveries of Divine compassion were purposely intended to furnish to us particular ground for trust in God amid all the vicissitudes of human life. Compassion is a principle which we all feel and know. We know that it is the strongest of all benevolent instincts in our nature, and that it tends directly to interest us in behalf of those who need our aid. We are taught to believe that a similar attribute belongs to the Divine nature; in order that, from that species of goodness which we are best acquainted with, and which we can most rely upon, we may be trained both to love our Almighty Benefactor, and, as long as we are in the practice of our duty, to trust to His protection amid every distress. Compassion to the unfortunate, as it is exerted among men, is indeed accompanied with certain disturbed and painful feelings, arising from sympathy with those whom we pity. But every such feeling we must remove from our thoughts when we ascribe an affection of this nature to the Deity. His compassion is such a regard as suits the perfection of the great Governor of the universe, whose benignity, undisturbed by any violent emotion, ever maintains the same tranquil tenor, like the unruffled and uninterrupted serenity of the highest heavens.

II. Such discoveries of the Divine nature were designed, not only to administer encouragement and consolation, but also to exhibit the pattern of that disposition which we are bound, in our measure, to imitate and follow. That hardness of heart which renders men insensible to the distresses of their brethren, that insolence of prosperity which inspires them with contempt of those who are fallen below them, are always represented in Scripture as dispositions most opposite to the nature of God, and most hateful in His sight. In order to make this appear in the strongest light, He has turned His goodness chiefly into the channel of compassionate regard to those whom the selfish and proud despise (Psalms 12:5; Psalms 10:17-18).

III. In the course of human life innumerable occasions present themselves for all the exercises of that humanity and benignity to which we are so powerfully prompted. The diversities of rank among men, the changes of fortune to which all, in every rank, are liable, the necessities of the poor, the wants of helpless youth, the infirmities of declining age, are always giving opportunities for the display of humane affections. (Hugh Blair, D. D.)

The God of orphans and widows

The Rev. J. Brown of Haddington, said that his epitaph might appropriately be: “Here lies one of the cares of providence, who early wanted both father and mother, and yet never missed them.”


Verse 16

Jeremiah 49:16

Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart

On the deceitfulness of the heart, in the abuse of prosperity

The words afford us the following doctrine, That worldly prosperity is often abused by the heart, as the occasion of self-deceit; or, that the heart often discovers its deceit in the abuse of prosperity.
All that is intended here is to illustrate the actions of this corrupt principle in abusing prosperity.

1. By ingratitude.

2. By disposing us to make a God of our mercies. The deceitfulness of the heart, so violent is its opposition to the living God, works by contraries, and often by extremes. If it do not tempt us to despise His mercies altogether, it will excite us to put them out of their proper place. By either of these methods, although directly opposite, it gains its wicked purpose, in making us forget the God of our mercy. He will suffer no rival in thy heart, O Christian, for it all belongs to Him; and when thy love to worldly comforts ceases to be secondary and subordinate, it is an encroachment on His prerogative. Therefore must the usurper of the throne of God be cast down, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence. When precious comforts are thus converted into severe crosses, how great is the trial! There is a double bitterness attending it; not only that of the distress presently felt, but the painful recollection of the happiness formerly enjoyed.

3. By consuming Divine mercies on lust. The wicked ask that they may consume it on their lusts. They neither desire mercies, nor improve those which are bestowed, for the glory of God; but only as making provision for their inordinate or unlawful affections.

4. By ascribing their prosperity to some other cause than God. Even the Lord’s people, from the prevalence of deceit, are in great danger of ascribing their mercies to some other cause than God, or to something besides Him. They will not wholly deny the praise to the God of their salvation; but they do not ascribe it entirely to Him. When they receive signal mercies from Him, they are apt to imagine that these are in some degree deserved by their holiness and integrity of conversation; that He could not justly deny them such tokens of His favour, when they are so faithful and diligent in His service.

5. By denying God the use of those mercies which He hath Himself bestowed. When, in the course of His providence, He confers on one a greater portion of common blessings than on another; it is for this end, that he may use them for His glory, and in the manner of laying them out, return them to the Lord. No talent is to be laid up in a napkin. According to the measure of temporal benefits received from God, we are stewards for Him.

6. By unsatisfied desires and immoderate longings for a greater degree of temporal prosperity. When the heart hath tasted of mercies of this nature, it is not satisfied; it craves more. If its desires be fulfilled, instead of being content with these, it flatters itself, that if such another mercy were bestowed, it would ask nothing further. But this only argues its deceit; for even though this be granted, it is still as importunate as ever. The more it receives, its desires are enlivened and enlarged the more.

7. By hardening itself under prosperity. No mercy whatsoever can leave us as it finds us. It must either prove a blessing or a curse. It will either have a mollifying, or a hardening influence on our hearts. (J. Jamieson, M. A.)

Deceitfulness of pride

How nimbly does that little lark mount up, singing towards heaven in a right line, whereas the hawk, which is stronger of body and swifter of wing, towers up by many gradual compasses to its highest pitch. That bulk of body and length of wing hinder a direct ascent, and require the help both of air and scope to advance his flight; while the small bird cuts the air without resistance, and needs no outward furtherance of her motion. It is no otherwise with the souls of men. Some are hindered by those powers which would seem helps to their soaring: great wit, deep judgment, quick apprehension, send about men, with no small labour, for the recovery of their own incumbrance, while the good affections of plain and simple souls raise them up immediately to the fruition of God. Why should we be proud of that which may slacken our way to glory? (Bishop Hall.)


Verse 23

Jeremiah 49:23

There is sorrow (as) on the sea; it cannot be quiet.

Life on the ocean

That which was true of the cities spoken of in our text, is also true, though in a different sense, of every voyager on the sea of life. “There is sorrow (as) on the sea.”

I. Sorrow as on the sea is divinely predicted. Voyagers you all must be. Out on that wide mysterious ocean which is swept by storms untold, and which teems with dangers innumerable, you must sail. Many of you axe as yet but as landsmen lying in the docks. You are admiring your vessel, and putting on nautical airs, and wondering when you will be freed from the trammels of the shore. Some of you are just dropping down the stream, your breasts big with hope, and your imagination painting glowing pictures of the ocean life beyond. ‘Mid the songs of the sailors, and the music of the passengers, bright visions are rising of sunny seas and blue skies, of mirth and boundless happiness. With all my heart I wish you God-speed. I would not unnecessarily becloud that fair prospect. May the sunbeams which begild the waves around you follow you abundantly. And yet, though at the risk of being charged with unkindness, I must warn you that “there is sorrow on the sea.” I would not, I could not, prevent your sailing; but I must remind you of that which should not be always forgotten, that in life’s voyage troubles will come.

II. Sorrow as on the sea is universally experienced.

1. From the mutability of life. I have no wish to play the misanthrope, to paint you a leaden landscape under a lowering sky, where no break of sunshine ever comes to chase the shadows from an ebon sea. There is sunshine! Though all life has its clouds, life is not all sorrow. But while life’s joys may be many and real, it will have its sorrows by reason of its changes. To-day the sea may he calm, and the sky may be without a cloud, but even while we speak the glass is falling, and the calm sea will soon be lashed into foaming fury, and the cloudless sky will soon be overcast with messengers of coming woe.

2. From the uncertainties of life. Which way to steer--what to do--whether to enter into this speculation or to avoid that transaction--how to meet this engagement, or how to be relieved of that responsibility--often drives men to their wits’ end. Business goes wrong, markets are unsteady, panics are abroad, and fogs and thick darkness so enshroud the mercantile world, that with dangers and uncertainty everywhere around, the perplexed tradesmen often just throws up the helm in despair, and allows the vessel to drift whithersoever the current will take her. And in his spiritual voyage the Christian is not always free from similar sorrow. With the Psalmist, we have sometimes to lament that “we see not our signs.”

3. The disappointments of life.

III. Sorrow as on the sea may be greatly mitigated.

1. A good ship. Let a sailor be persuaded of the soundness of the ship in which he sails, and “it may blow big guns”--he is comparatively at ease. We want similar faith in the grand old Gospel ship. We want the unswerving confidence which will inspire us ever to say, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” Classed A1 for ever in the heavenly register, this “everlasting Gospel” can never fail. In this good ship millions have reached the “desired haven” in peace; on her deck millions are sailing thither now; and there is room for millions yet unborn.

2. A reliable chart. Without this a man may well be anxious. By what chart are you steering? Is it the Bible, or is it the “Age of Reason”? Blessed be God, we know whom and we know what we believe.

3. Sufficient provision. Lacking provision, what can the sailor do? There is often such “sorrow on the sea.” Want often stares men in the face when they are far from port, and when they can by no possible means obtain supplies. This can never happen on board the ship of the Gospel. This vessel is stored abundantly with the choicest provisions of free eternal grace. (W. H. Burton.)

The sea, a parable of human life

The ocean is, and always will be, so long as man keeps the faculty of imagination, a mournfully suggestive parable of human life. The restlessness of the sea, its constant alternations of storm and calm, its treachery, for ever deceiving us by false appearances, the atmosphere of mystery that broods over it, all these contribute to make it the natural symbol of man’s condition here in this world. Take only one of those characteristics--mysteriousness. David had been visited by this thought also. “Thy judgments,” he says, while pondering the strange confusion of good and evil in the world, “are like the great deep.” The sea does suggest, with wonderful power, the mysteriousness of God’s providence in the affairs of men. “Thy way is in the sea, and Thy path in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known.” The human mind is by nature prone to the misgiving that fate rather than providence orders the procession of our life. Events, so the temptation whispers, fall out according to an iron law of necessity. There is no loving Father who notes the sparrow’s fall, and gives His children their daily bread; neither is there any blessed consummation, any final victory of the good over the evil towards which history may be supposed to move. These hopes are delusive; they rest on no foundation. The only thing of which we are certain is that effect follows upon cause in uniform succession, any given human life being as powerless to quicken, or retard, or alter the movement of this endless chain, as if it were only a tiny bubble molten in the fibre of the iron of one single link. This is what we understand by such words as “destiny,” “fate.” “necessity,” and this is the idea which the sea, looked at as a parable, most easily suggests. You sit upon some rocky promontory and watch the incoming tide. You note how wave after wave dashes itself against the hard face of the cliff, and perishes in the act. You observe that every now and then a larger wave comes in, and seems to make a braver effort; but that also, like its predecessor, falls back and is gone. Meanwhile the general level of the water rises and rises, until a predetermined point is reached, and then, as gradually, the tide recedes, sure to return again as soon as a few hours have past, and to make its mark a little higher, or a little lower, according to rules which the astronomers wrote out long ago, which you might have found all calculated for you in their books before you started on the walk. Surely, if there be anywhere in nature a vivid emblem of the idea of destiny, it is here. And, if anything were needed to heighten the impression which the eye has already carried to the mind, the ear might find it in the monotonous, melancholy music of the breaking waves, a sound which possibly suggested to the mourner among the prophets his pathetic cry, “There is sorrow on the sea.” What is the relief for a mind oppressed, weighted down with thoughts like this? “The sea is His, and He made it.” “Have faith in God,” said our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples, when they found themselves in perplexity. Have faith in God. He who made the sea is greater than the sea. He who ordained the strangely tangled scheme of providence, is greater than His scheme. He who is responsible for the mystery of human life, holds the key of that mystery in. His hands. Do you ask for proof of this? There is no proof. If there were proof, Christ need not have said, “Have faith in God.” Where knowledge leaves off, there faith begins. At the outer boundary of demonstration, belief lifts up her voice and sings. Do you say, Convince me that the idea of destiny is false, and that the idea of providence is true? No, I cannot convince, I can only, by God’s help, persuade you; and yet, when once persuaded, you will be as certain as if you had been convinced; for what a man believes with all his heart, he holds as firmly as he does that which he knows with all his mind. “We know,” says St. Paul, grandly asserting his faith in a doctrine the opposite of destiny, “that all things work together for good to them that love God.” How did he know this? Had it been proved to him by strict processes of reasoning in which his keen intellect had been able to detect no flaw? Was that the ground of the confidence with which he spoke? Far from it. The foundation of his certainty was what he elsewhere calls the “assurance of faith.” And who is the teacher of this glad faith? To whom shall we go that we may learn to believe that God is love? I know not, if not to Him who, standing once upon the deck of a tempest-tossed ship, rebuked the wind, and said unto this same sea, “Peace, be still.” Did not He, the Redeemer, come into this world, and take our nature upon Him, and suffer death upon the Cross, for the very purpose of freeing men from the bondage of their fears, for the very purpose of breaking up this evil dream of destiny and enfranchising us with the liberty of the sons of God? Has He not made for us, as for Israel of old, a pathway through the dreaded sea, and having overcome the sharpness of death, has He not opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers? Well may He ask, Where is your faith? One who has done so much for us has at least the right to expect that we shall trust Him; having at so great a cost purchased us this freedom, He has at least the right to expect that we shall be thankful for it, and use it as His gift. (W. R. Huntington, D. D.)


Verses 23-27

Verses 28-33

Verse 30-31

Jeremiah 49:30-31

Flee, get you far off, dwell deep, O ye inhabitants of Hazor, saith the Lord.

Dangers to the Church

What is called “Underground Jerusalem” is largely the space from which the stones were taken for the building of Solomon’s temple. That space, according to Josephus, was afterwards honeycombed with passages, canals, and secret galleries, not for sanitary purposes, but as places of refuge for women and children in times of war. These passages were all connected with the forts and towers of the city, and were a secret means of escape when the city was besieged. When Jerusalem was surrounded by the Romans under Titus large numbers of the Jews fled for refuge to these underground hiding-places. Before the Romans knew of these hiding-places, they were often astonished, and sometimes startled, by seeing persons rising as from the ground and making their escape by the towers, when at length they entered the city, and had passed from Moriah to Mount Zion, they thought that their work of destruction was ended; but they only then learned that thousands of the Jews were living beneath the ground. It is alleged that more than a hundred battles were fought underneath the city, and that more than two thousand dead bodies were taken out of the tunnels and secret chambers of what is now called Underground Jerusalem when the prophet enjoined the inhabitants of Hazor to flee, and dwell deep, he may have had some such invisible cities of refuge in view. But even in such hiding-places they were only comparatively safe. Their enemies often sought them, and found them, and put them to death.

I. One of the dangers to which the Church is exposed in modern times is shallowness of thought. Many seem to be satisfied with as little of Christianity as possible. Shallowness of thought means want of heart, want of understanding, want of principle, moral purpose, and power. The Church can outlive pagan conspiracies, tyrannical laws, and cruel persecutions; but she cannot outlive thoughtlessness. “Dwell deep” may be regarded as synonymous with Solomon’s injunction, “With all thy getting, get understanding.” It means that we should get beneath the surface and find out the true meaning of things. We are to know things not as they may have been perverted, or as they seem, but as they are who that is wise would estimate the value of a chronometer by its cases, or of a picture by its frame, or of a book by its binding? We would sooner expect a man to tell us all about the growth and development of a tree without reference to sunshine and showers, or the soil in which the tree was planted and in which it grew, than we should expect him to understand all about salvation without any reference to sin, or all about God without any reference to Jesus Christ. Things can only be known thoroughly and satisfactorily as they are studied in their proper connections. Take the letters of the most precious word you know, and transpose them, and they cease to convey thought to your thought. Separate the Old Testament from the New, or the first Adam, in his federal relationships, from the second Adam, and you will fail to understand one of the deepest doctrines of the Bible. But unite these as Paul does in his Epistle to the Romans, and you have the key to understand much of the great mystery of godliness.

II. Another source of danger to the Church in these days is superficiality of character. In the course of our voyage to America, some years ago, the motion of the ship was on some days very disagreeable to the passengers. She pitched and lurched and rolled Among the waves so constantly as to render it impossible for us to rest or be at peace in any position. The sea on the surface being comparatively calm, some of us wondered why the vessel was so unsteady, and on making inquiry were informed that it was owing to her light cargo. The ship had no grip of the water, and the water had no grip of her, and hence her unsteady movement. Men of superficial character are somewhat like this ship, not very steady. Superficial Christians remind you of those shopkeepers who make the most of their limited stock by putting it all or nearly all in the windows. In all substantial buildings there is much invisible mason work. The foundation of every palatial edifice is not only deep and solid, but it has been laid with a view to sustain the structure that rests upon it. It is also well known that there is a fair proportion between the roots of a tree in the ground and its height and breadth above it. It is even so with respect to human character. Those who grow up to Christ in all things cannot be strangers either to the depths from which the Psalmist cried, “Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord!” or to the secret place of the Most High, when the soul resides under the shadow of the Almighty.

III. Another source of danger to the Church in modem times is her apparent acquiescence in pious frauds. “The greatest obstacle,” says Archbishop Whately, “to the following of truth is the tendency to look in the first instance to the expedient. Pious frauds,” he says, “fall naturally into two classes--positive and negative: the one refers to the introduction and propagation of what is false; the other refers to the toleration of it. A plant may be in a garden from two causes, either from being planted designedly or being found there and left there. In either case some degree of approbation is implied. He who propagates a delusion, and he who connives at it when already existing--both alike tamper with truth.” (J. K. Campbell, D. D.)
.


Verses 34-39

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jeremiah 49:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/jeremiah-49.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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