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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Jeremiah 9

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. IX.

Jeremiah, lamenteth for the manifold sins of the Jews, and for their judgment. Disobedience is the cause of their bitter calamity, he exhorteth to mourn on account of their destruction, and to trust not in themselves, but in God: he threateneth both Jews and Gentiles.

Before Christ 600.


Verse 1

Jeremiah 9:1. Oh that my head were waters We have here a fine instance of the pathetic, wherein Jeremiah so much excels. He sympathizes with the calamities of his people, in order to excite them to a sense of their own misfortunes, and to prevail upon them to humble themselves under the afflicting hand of the Almighty.


Verse 2

Jeremiah 9:2. A lodging-place of wayfaring men Travellers in the East are not, nor ever were, accommodated at inns on the road, after the manner of the European nations. In some places, indeed, there are large public buildings provided for their reception, which they call caravanseras: but these afford merely a covering, being absolutely without furniture; and the traveller must carry his own provisions and necessaries along with him, or he will not find any. Nor are even these empty mansions always to be met with; so that if the weary traveller at night comes into a town, where there is no caravansera, or πανδοχειον, as it is called, Luke 10:34 he must take up his lodging in the street, unless some charitable inhabitant will be pleased to receive him into his house, as we find, Judges 19:15. And if he passes through the desart, it is well for him if he can light upon a cave, or a hut, which some one before him may have erected for a temporary shelter. And this last is what I conceive to be here meant by ארחים מלון melon orchim, a solitary, and not very comfortable, situation; but yet preferable to the chagrin of living continually in the society of men of profligate manners.


Verse 4

Jeremiah 9:4. Take ye heed, &c.— See Micah 7:5. Matthew 10:35.


Verse 6

Jeremiah 9:6. Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit Houbigant follows the LXX, and renders the verse, They add usury to usury, and deceit to deceit, they refuse, &c. The experimental knowledge of God, which is true religion, is incompatible with the practice of any wickedness; and therefore it is natural enough for those, who are resolved at all events to abide in their evil courses, to divest themselves of all religious principles, which if insufficient to restrain, will be sure at least to be very troublesome to them; for this cause they are ready to say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways, Job 21:14.


Verse 7

Jeremiah 9:7. Behold, I will melt them The prophet uses here the same metaphor as in chap. Jeremiah 6:28, &c. where see the note. Houbigant renders the last clause; So will I do, for the perversity of the daughter of my people.


Verse 8

Jeremiah 9:8. Their tongue is as an arrow shot out Their tongue is the arrow of a murderer.


Verse 10

Jeremiah 9:10. For the mountains, &c.— These words, says Houbigant, as they now lie, must belong either to Jeremiah, or the daughter of Zion; and yet it follows in the next verse, And I will make; which are the words of God: therefore this verse should be rendered, Take ye up a weeping and wailing on the mountains; a lamentation in the dwellings of the wilderness; for they are desolate, because there is no travellers; nor is the voice of cattle heard in them: both the fowl, &c. The prophet here describes the total desolation of the country. The remark which St. Jerome makes on Hosea 4:3 is suitable to this place: "He who thinks that this has not happened to the people of Israel, let him behold Illyricum, let him behold Thrace, Macedonia, and Pannonia, and all that tract of land from Propontis and Bosphorus to the Alps; and he will then confess that not only men, but likewise every animal which was formed for the use of men, are extinct and swept away by the before of destruction."


Verse 15

Jeremiah 9:15. Behold, I will feed, &c.— See Deuteronomy 29:18.


Verse 17

Jeremiah 9:17. Consider ye, &c.— The first lamentations for the dead consisted only in the sudden bursts of insuppressible grief, like that of David over his son Absalom, 2 Samuel 19:4. But, as men grew refined, it was not deemed sufficient for the surviving relation to vent his sorrows in these natural and artless expressions of woe; but, unsatisfied with the genuine language of sighs and tears, he endeavoured not only to vent his sorrow by terms of grief, but likewise joined others as partners in his sorrow, and strove to extort tears from the surrounding crowd. This was practised by David in his lamentation for Abner, 2 Samuel 3:32-34. This ostentation of grief gave rise to the custom of hiring persons to weep at funerals, which the Phrygians and Greeks borrowed from the Hebrews. Women were generally employed on these occasions, either because it was an office more suitable to the softness of a female mind, or because, the tenderer passions being predominant in that sex, they succeeded better in their parts; nor were there ever wanting artists well instructed in the discipline of mourning, and ready to hire out their lamentations and tears on any emergency. It is the chief excellence of other arts to imitate nature; it was likewise esteemed so in this. Their funeral dirges, therefore, were composed in imitation of those which had been poured forth by genuine and sincere grief. Their sentences were short, querulous, pathetic, simple, and unadorned; somewhat laboured indeed, because they were composed in metre, and to be sung to the pipe, as we learn from Matthew 9:23 and from Homer, where, speaking of Hector's funeral, he says,

A melancholy choir attend around, With plaintive sighs, and music's solemn sound: Alternately they sing, alternate flow Th' obedient tears, melodious in their woe. See POPE'S ILIAD, Book 24. ver. 900 and the Note.

St. Jerome tells us, that even to his time this custom continued in Judaea; that women at funerals, with dishevelled hair and naked breasts, endeavoured in a modulated voice to unite others in lamentation with them. There are several traces of this custom to be met with among the prophets, who frequently delivered their predictions of approaching calamities, not without a singular elegance, in the form of funeral dirges. The poem before us, from this to the 22nd verse, is both an illustration and confirmation of what has been delivered upon this subject, and worthy of the reader's frequent perusal, on account of its affecting pathos, moral sentiments, and fine images; particularly in the 21st verse, where death is described in as animated a prosopopoeia as can be conceived. See Lowth's 22nd Prelection, and Calmet.


Verse 22

Jeremiah 9:22. Speak, Thus, &c.— For it shall come to pass, saith the Lord, that the carcases, &c. Houb.

And as the handful after the harvest-man Behind the reaper. This alludes to the manner of reaping corn in the field, where the reaper, as soon as he has cut what he can hold in his hand, lets it fall, and passes on; but is usually followed by another, who gathers what is cut, and binds it into sheaves. But here it is said, that there would be none to gather; and consequently the corn, after being cut, would lie neglected and rot on the ground, which renders the simile a very apt one.


Verse 23-24

Jeremiah 9:23-24. Let not the wise man glory, &c.— "Unless this wisdom hath for its object God himself, and teaches us to despise ourselves, to be humbled beneath the mighty hand of God, and to glory in him alone. All other wisdom is vain and dangerous." Phocylides has said excellently,

If wisdom, strength, or riches be thy lot; Boast not, but rather think thou hast them not: One God alone, from whom these gifts proceed, Is wise, is mighty, and is rich indeed.


Verse 26

Jeremiah 9:26. And all that are in the utmost corners All having the angular tonsure, or, having the corners of their hair polled. The reader will find a more particular account of these nations, who drank of the cup of the Lord's fury after Jerusalem had drunk it, in ch. Jeremiah 25:17, &c. They used circumcision as well as the Jews; but are here called uncircumcised, as being in the same state with Israel; that is to say, uncircumcised in heart. Respecting the tonsure of the Arabs, see the note on Leviticus 19:27.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, With bitter grief the prophet beheld the sins of his people, and the ruin which they provoked.

1. He wishes that his head were waters, and his eyes a fountain of tears, that streams incessant might run down his cheeks for the miseries that he foresaw. Weary of dwelling amid so polluted a people, and that he might give full vent to his sorrows, or be removed from the dreadful spectacle before him, he wishes for some desert, some lonely cave; preferring the company of the savages of the wood to so wicked a nation; and safer amid the lions of the forest, than his own treacherous and cruel countrymen. Note; (1.) A good man must be a patriot, and cannot, unmoved, behold the ruin of his country. (2.) They who suffer nothing to interrupt their carnal joy, must never hope to receive the blessedness promised to those that mourn. (3.) It is a dreadful symptom of the wickedness, and a sign of the approaching ruin of a people, when the souls of God's prophets, like Lot, are vexed with their abominations, and weary of dwelling in the midst of them. 2. The causes of these complaints are,

[1.] The sins of his people. They were all adulterers, corporally and spiritually; an assembly of treacherous men, apostates from God and his worship, and false and faithless one to another; bending their tongues like their bow for lies; destitute of all zeal for truth, yea, rather opposing it with all their power; proceeding from evil to worse, instead of repenting and reforming; ignorant of God, and desiring to remain so. Not a neighbour, no, not a brother could be trusted, so selfish and perfidious were they grown. Lies were become familiar to their tongue, and slander the constant topic of their conversation; and no truth was to be expected from them. They spared no pains to compass their ends; they weary themselves to commit iniquity, so eagerly were they bent on it. In the midst of such a people the prophet dwelt, and therefore had need be on his guard against them; nor wonder if they acted deceitfully with him, when they acted hypocritically towards God, as the latter clause of Jeremiah 9:6 may be interpreted. Through the delusions of their false prophets they refused to receive the knowledge of God: no arrow was sharper than their bitter and lying words: and while the guise of friendship and peace seemed to breathe in all their discourse, mischief was in their hearts, and they lay in wait to make a prey of those whom they had deluded. Note; (1.) Lewdness and lying are among the most deadly and prevailing iniquities. (2.) To be silent, and refuse to espouse the suffering cause of God and truth, is highly criminal. (3.) They who have accustomed themselves to a habit of lying, will not speak truth, even when they have no purpose or design to serve, but lie for lying's sake. (4.) The service of sin is usually a wearisome task; and yet so enslaved are sinners to the love of it, that, though the pain exceeds the pleasure, they pursue it yet again, and take more pains to go to hell, than was requisite to carry them to heaven. (5.) There is no stopping in the way of wickedness; every sin indulged opens a way for a greater. (6.) In a wicked and deceitful world we need be ever on our guard.

[2.] The sufferings of his people. They shall be put into the hottest furnace of affliction, to melt and try them, since all other methods have proved ineffectual. The sword shall be bathed in blood, the country wasted, the villages burnt, the lowing herds and bleating sheep no more be heard on the mountains, plundered and carried off by the Chaldean army; not a living creature seen passing through the desolate land; even the wild beasts and the fowls of heaven shall desert it, unable to find food for their hunger, except the dragons, who take up their abode in the ruined palaces of Jerusalem; and so utter will be the overthrow, that not an inhabitant shall remain in all the cities of Judah. Thus will God visit for their iniquities, and his soul be avenged on such a people as this. Note; (1.) In the severest of the afflictions that God lays upon any land, he intends to make the same fire which consumes the wicked, a means of purifying the remaining faithful, and separating them as silver from the dross. (2.) The iniquities of the people have often turned a fruitful land into barrenness. (3.) The prophet who beholds these desolations cannot withhold the tear of pity; yea, his eyes are fountains to bewail them: and when we look round upon the world which lieth in wickedness, and see that great day of the perdition of ungodly men approach, ought we not to be more affected at a sight so unspeakably more terrible?

2nd, If the people perish, it is not for want of awful and repeated warnings.

1. A summons is given to the wise men among them, to understand and declare the cause of these calamities; but, as no such are found, the prophet himself is commissioned to proclaim both the reason of God's judgments and the terribleness of the vengeance which he is about to execute. Their sin is, apostacy from the worship and service of God commanded in the law, and disobedience against all the warnings and notices that he had sent unto them; in direct opposition to which, they followed the imaginations of their own wicked hearts, and served Baalim, a multitude of false gods, plunging into idolatry after their fathers' example, and filling up the measure of their iniquities. Most righteous therefore, and just as fearful, are God's judgments upon them. They shall be fed with bread of wormwood, and water of gall, the bitterest afflictions. The sword and the famine shall devour them, and their carcases lie unburied on the plain as dung, or as a handful dropped after the harvest-man, which is not regarded or gathered up; and if a few escape the general massacre, they shall be scattered in heathen lands, which their fathers never knew, and even there shall find no rest, the sword of vengeance still pursuing them till they are consumed. Note; (1.) Every step of departure from God tends only to misery. (2.) Wherever the sinner flies, or is driven, the curse of God follows him closer than his shadow.

2. A summons is sent to the mourning women. It was customary among the Jews, as well as other nations, to hire such on the decease of their relations, who, by their cries, their doleful plaints, and melancholy ditties, awakened afresh the sorrows of the survivors. There would now be abundant occasion for them, when the multitude of deaths by famine and the sword should fill every house with lamentation, and cause not merely fictitious, but real anguish; when out of Zion the voice of wailing is heard, How are we spoiled! we are greatly confounded, at seeing their city stormed and taken, themselves captives, driven from their dwellings, and forced from their own, are led into a strange land. Under such a dire calamity God calls on them, as most befitting their circumstances, to weep and wail. The word is addressed to the women, whose husbands probably had fallen in the siege; and, the men being chiefly slain, scarcely any but they remained to lament the desolations. They are enjoined to teach their daughters wailing, and every one her neighbour lamentation. So universal would be the misery, that none would be exempted from feeling it, and therefore all are called to bewail it. For death is come up into our windows, like an enemy that scales the walls, though the gates are shut; and is entered into our palaces: the king on the throne, as well as the beggar on the dunghill, is exposed to the famine and the sword; and even the children in the streets are murdered; and the young men, unable to make resistance, are slain by their cruel enemies, who have stormed the city. Note; (1.) This is a vale of tears, where death continually spreads his ravages, and wakens up our sorrows. (2.) No palaces can keep out this invader: kings and princes are dying worms. (3.) To grieve for the dead is natural, humane, pious; only let us not be swallowed up with immoderate sorrow. (4.) Many lament their losses and crosses bitterly, who never lament their sins, which are the occasion of them; and this is the sorrow of the world which worketh death.

3rdly, Having foretold their impending calamities, the prophet concludes with a warning to them, not to have recourse to those vain confidences which would prove a refuge of lies; but to take that only method which remained of preventing their ruin, returning to the knowledge of God, and obedience to his will.

1. He warns them against depending on their own wisdom, power, and wealth, to protect them; and directs them to the only sure refuge. Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; as if by his politics he could avert the storm: neither let the mighty man glory in his might, which would afford no safety when fighting against God. Let not the rich man glory in his riches; as if these could bribe the invaders, or hire auxiliaries to defend them; for vain would these things prove. If therefore any man would have solid grounds for glorying, it must be in this, that he understandeth, and knoweth me, the only object in whom a sinner can glory; that I am the Lord, the only hope, help, and Saviour of the guilty; which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth; shewing mercy to the miserable, pardoning the sinful, strengthening the weak, just in all his providences, and righteous in all his ways; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord. Note; (1.) Worldly supports are often a dangerous snare. Wisdom, strength, and riches, are apt to swell the heart with pride and self-importance, and then they prove our ruin. (2.) Christ is our only glory. Without him we have nothing but what we had need to be ashamed of, and renounce; in him there is all fulness. (3.) What is God's delight, should be ours; and to be partakers of his compassions, to walk in his judgments, and be found in the practice of righteousness and true holiness, will be infinitely more profitable than the higher attainment of worldly wisdom, or the greater possessions of worldly wealth.

2. He warns them against trusting in their peculiar privileges; as promising themselves, because of the covenant of circumcision, that they should be preserved from evil; for this would stand them in no stead while their hearts were uncircumcised, and they continued devoted to the service, not of the Lord, but of their lusts; therefore they would share with Egypt and Edom, and the neighbouring uncircumcised nations, in their punishment, and find no distinction in the day when God arose to judgment. Note; Our partaking of the outward privileges and seals of the covenant will stand us in no stead, if we are destitute of the inward and spiritual grace; yea, will rather aggravate our guilt. The baptized, unconverted, and unhumbled sinner, will meet even a heavier doom than the unbaptized unconverted heathen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/jeremiah-9.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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