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Jeremiah Chapter 4
The looming destruction of Judah.
Chapter 4 begins with a close of Jeremiah’s address to the Northern Israel (Jer. 4:1-2); then there is a call for Judah's repentance and return to duty as the very last hope of her preventing destruction (Jer.4:3-4). The Babylonian invasion is prophesied (Jer.4:5-9); there follows the most difficult verse in the chapter (Jer.4:10); a continued description of the forthcoming invasion is given (Jer.4:11-18); personified Judah bewails her fate (Jer. 4:19-21); God's answer and the cause of their misery are related (Jer.4:22); a prophecy of the awful extent of the destruction is announced (Jer.4:23-26); and, even though God's Promise does not to make a "full end" of Judah (Jer.4:27); there follows the magnificent prophecy of the Judgment of Judah in language that also suggests the final destruction of Adam's rebellious race in the Day of Judgment (Jer. 4:16-31).
Theme: Jeremiah deals with backsliding of the people
Chapter 4 is in that period of time when King Josiah was carrying on a restoration, but it was before the Word of God had been found in the Temple. Therefore it was reformation not revival because what took place was very shallow. Josiah was sincere, and he indeed did move toward God. He listened to Jeremiah, but the people were NOT turning back to God in any honest and sincere way, even though Jeremiah had struck home in some of the prophecies he had given.
This second message which Jeremiah gave began in chapter 3 and continues through chapter 6, and it deals with the backsliding of the people. "And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD " (Jer. 3:10). They were turning to God only in an outward manner. They were going to the Temple and were going through the rituals, but their heart was not in any of it. It was just something Josiah was trying to produce. Dear one, reformation without revival NEVER brings a genuine change.
Even though in Jeremiah's time there was reformation rather than a true turning to God, it was enough to ready Jeremiah to give a tremendous prophecy in Jeremiah 3:16-18. He tells us that "in those days" ALL the nations will gather to the House of God in Jerusalem. Even though Jeremiah warned Judah not to make their Temple worship ritualized, they did not listen to him . . . yet the LORD continues to plead with them, "Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings" (Jer. 3:22).
I believe that that warning goes for us in our day as well, for who among us, at one time or another, has not backslid from the LORD?
It would seem that Jeremiah 4:1-2 of this chapter might have been better to have been joined to the close chapter 3, for they are directed to Israel, the ten tribes, by way of reply to their compliance with God's call, directing and encouraging them to hold their resolution. The rest of the chapter concerns Judah and Jerusalem.
Close of Jeremiah’s Address to Northern Israel (Jer. 4:1-2)
Jer. 4:1 If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove. (KJV)
If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me . . . this seems to be a continuation of the former sermon; with Israel having promised repentance, they are here directed what they must do. Repentance must not be deceitful and hypocritical but real and from the heart (Jer. 24:7), as Josiah's was (2 Ki.23:25); and it must be unto the LORD; not to any idol, but unto the LORD or to His worship, and as they had promised, (Jer.3:22). They must return, and make no delay about it (Isa. 21:12). This may be taken partly as a Promise, and that with reference either to their returning to their own land (Deut. 30:2-5: Jer. 3:14). If this is be taken as resting, not returning (Isa.30:15), then it concerns Judah. They shall abide quietly where they are, and not wander go in captivity.
And if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove . . . idolatry is absolutely abominable in God's sight (Deut. 27:15; Eze. 20:7-8); it is called dungy gods (Deut. 29:17; 2 Chron.15:8). Out of my sight . . . although God's Eye is everywhere; this so indicates that idols are nowhere to be admitted, either in private or public. This does above all relate to the place of God’s more immediate Presence, as their land and Temple (1 Ki. 9:3), and spiritually to their hearts. Hypocrites always think it is enough if they conceal their wickedness from man's eye, but dear one, God SEES what you do.
Jer. 4:2 And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory. (KJV)
And thou shalt swear . . . this is to be understood, partly by way of command (Deut. 10:20); and partly by way of direction . . . it is put here for the whole worship of God, thus acknowledging and owning God as the ONLY God.
The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness . . . the form of the oath.
The LORD liveth or, by the life of God, which was the form which they used in swearing (1 Sam. 14:39, 45), and other places . . . so Joseph swore by the life of Pharaoh (Gen. 42:15-16); and Elisha often used this form (2 Ki. 2:2, 4; 3:14; 5:16); which is also to be understood exclusively NOT by any idol, as Baal, or any creature but by God alone (Isa. 65:16; Hos. 2:17). In truth, the matter and substance of it be really true (Rom. 9:1), that which agrees with the intent of the mind (Ps. 24:4), not doubtful or deceitful as they did (Isa. 48:1; Jer. 5:2), but as TRUE as the LORD lives. In judgment . . . for decisions of controversies, advisedly and reverently, well considering the matter of the oath (Lev. 5:4), that God's Name not be taken in vain (Deut. 5:11), nor abused by rash oaths such as Saul's was (1 Sam. 14:39), and Herod (Mat.14:7), and without need. In righteousness . . . that none be injured by it.
The nations shall bless themselves in him . . . nations bless themselves by Him (Isa. 65:16). The conversion of the nations will be the result of Israel's conversion (Ps. 102:13, 15; Rom 11:12, 15).
And in him shall they glory . . . they shall glory in God alone (Ps. 106:5), who without a doubt, He alone is the glory of His people (Ps. 89:17; 148:14).
Call for Judah to Repent and Prevent Destruction (Jer.4:3-4)
Jer. 4:3 For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. (KJV)
For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem . . . Jeremiah tells them, I speak to every person of Judah and Jerusalem (Eze.20:7-8). The LORD having spoken what He had to say to Israel, turns now His speech from Israel to Judah, which involves several things, and first being repentance.
Break up your fallow ground . . . prepare your hearts by making them soft and tender, suitable to embrace My Word . . . a symbol taken from farmers that prepare the ground that hath laid untilled for a time, by tearing up the surface to make it soft to receive the seed. God used the same word when He speaks of the same purpose to Israel (Hos.10:13) and so it is used in (Pro.13:23).
And sow not among thorns . . . rid your hearts of what may hinder you of embracing My Word; tear out all those briers, thorns and weeds that will not allow My counsels to take root, or my graces to thrive with you; such as overrun the sluggard's field (Pro.24:30-31). The LORD begins to call upon them to repent, using His prophet Jeremiah. This seems to
indicate that the Jews had been in the habit of mixing the Truths of God with their own inventions (Mat.15:9), as seed among thorns (Mat.13:22), and so badly corrupted it. They reserved many secret and hidden sins, like hypocrites, which God urges them to remove.
*****In the rest of this section, there will first be an accusation of the people. God will pronounce a judgment upon them and will call to them to return to Him, and there will be a clear foretelling of judgment. Jeremiah will not mince words about that.
I wish that there were more messages of the prophets instead of the message of comfort in our own day, that people want to hear. The fallow ground needs to be broken up. We are a nation in danger. Babylon fell in one night; Alexander the Great died in a night, and his entire empire crumbled; the Roman Empire fell from within, and we can go down just like that. Our greatness does NOT depend up bombs or the almighty dollar. America is decaying from within. There is great deterioration, moral deterioration, but very few are saying anything about it! We are sowing seed on thorny ground. The LORD warns us NOT to do that.
God continues to offer to Judah an opportunity to come back to Him, and dear one, He also warns us as well.
I wish we had some like Jeremiah today, instead of these namby-pamby preachers who only speak that, “God is good, everyone is going to Heaven” sermons. They are afraid to tell people that they are sinners, and unless they repent, Hell will be their eternal home! If they spoke the Truth, like Jesus always did, the pews would be empty! People do NOT want to hear the TRUTH! The LORD Jesus spoke more on Hell than He did any other subject (Mat.3:12, 18; 5:9; 10:28; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 25:30, 41, 46; Lk.16:25) . . . WHY? Because He does NOT want anyone to go there! BEWARE!!! https://www.judgmentcoming.org/j_c_hell_is_it_there.htm
See Special Comments at the end of this chapter for The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire.
Jer. 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings. (KJV)
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD . . . cast away your natural corruptions; which is indicated by the sacrament of circumcision (Col. 2:11; 1 Pet. 3:21).
Take away the fore-skins of your heart . . . let it be inward, not outward in the flesh only. Take away the stubbornness that have to do with God that is upon your hearts (Deut. 10:16; Eze.44:9; Acts 7:51; Rom.2:29).
Lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it . . . not only fierce and consuming, like fire (Deut. 4:24); but unquenchable, especially when it gets among your thorns (verse 3), which are very likely to ignite (Isa. 10:17); for fear that you proceed so far in your persistence that you will not be calmed down (Jer. 21:12; Am.5:6).
Because of the evil of your doings . . . There is nothing that stirs up God’s anger but sin, which clarifies the symbols of thorns and foreskins.
*****The men were going through the outward form of circumcision. Circumcision was a badge that showed they belonged to the nation Israel, but God had not given it just as a form or a ceremony. Circumcision has been shown to have a very definite therapeutic value, but the important thing was its spiritual value. Their hearts needed to be turned to God.
Now Jeremiah lets them know that there will come a power out of the north, which will be Babylon, and which will eventually destroy them.
The Babylonian Invasion is Prophesied (Jer.4:5-9)
Jer. 4:5 Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities. (KJV)
Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say . . . the LORD was now about to bring enemies upon them, He warns them of a speedy delivery, and warns them of their upcoming judgment . . . not famine or plague but a foreign enemy from without (Jer. 6:1-30; 1:1-19), the coming of Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans.
Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry . . . cry loudly, that your voice may be heard afar off, that all may hear.
Gather together, and say . . . unite your forces to take counsel what to do, that you may be safe, implying that the calamity was general.
And let us go into the defenced cities . . . to secure them from these invasions that are coming.
Jer. 4:6 Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction. (KJV)
Set up the standard toward Zion . . . the standard, for them to go to, as is usual in war; and it is therefore said to go towards Zion or Jerusalem, as being a signal to show them where they would repair (Jer.1:5); Jerusalem was their main place of strength, and Zion the strongest part of it (2 Sam.5:6-7).
Retire, stay not . . . rest, strengthen yourselves for the fight. Make haste away, as men do in a great fight for their security (Isa.10:31; Jer.6:1), which is confirmed by the words stay not, or stay not yourselves in sin, where you promise yourselves security.
I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction . . . God was about to bring a great destruction upon them from Chaldea (Jer.1:13-15). Some take this and the former verse to be spoken fatefully.
Jer. 4:7 The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant. (KJV)
The lion is come up from his thicket . . . Nebuchadnezzar is here called a lion from his fierceness and strength (Pro. 30:30); a symbol; especially in this expedition (Isa. 5:27-29) shall come up from Babylon, where his chief seat is (Dan. 4:30); as lions are principally among the thickets of the forest, in thickets; this place being so remote and hid from them, that they least expected trouble to arise from there.
And the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way . . . destroyer of the Gentiles is another name of Nebuchadnezzar, whose destroying armies the nations (Gentiles) had a mournful experience (Isa. 14:16-17), called the hammer of the whole earth (Jer.50:23). How do you think to escape him?
He is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate . . . he is already on his march, determined to bring desolation.
And thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant . . . this seems to mean, just as places uninhabited soon lie waste, and are overgrown with grass.
Jer. 4:8 For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us. (KJV)
For this gird you with sackcloth . . . the usual habit of mourners, especially in those days (Isa. 22:12; Jer. 6:26). This is a warning for them to repent.
Lament and howl . . . these expressions almost certainly import the several ways that men have to set forth their bitter complaints and sorrows of the mind, both by the gestures of the body (Jer. 2:37; Lu. 18:13), and expressions of the tongue (Ps. 32:3; Isa. 59:11).
For the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us . . . the LORD’S fierce anger (wrath) will not turn back until it has completed what He sent it for (Jer. 30:24).
*****Judah saw the ten tribes of the north go into captivity. Jeremiah is telling them to take a warning from that. God is raising up a power in the north that power will come down and will finally destroy them.
Natural man CANNOT produce any righteousness, which is why Jeremiah calls for the people to circumcise their hearts. But . . . the people refused to turn to God; and when a nation or a church or an individual rejects God, He in turn, rejects them. The LORD Jesus came and offered Himself as the King to Israel. When they rejected Him, He in turn rejected them. He said to them, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Mat. 23:38). If you read that whole chapter of Matthew 23, it should make you grow white with fear. So many today preach a “gentle Jesus” . . . dear one do NOT talk about the gentle Jesus until you read that chapter! They rejected Him as their King, and then HE rejected them . . . just as He shall reject ANYONE who rejects Him!
Dear one, God gave you a mind of your own, and you are indeed FREE to reject God . . . but remember, IF you reject God, He will reject you! YES! Absolutely, He is gracious, He is good, He is patient and He is longsuffering, and He gives you abundant opportunities to turn to Him. But . . . ANYONE who refuses God, be it Israel or be it you, God will finally refuse them.
There are far too many people today who pretend to be followers of the Living and TRUE God, many of them are members in churches today. It has been said that America is a Christian nation. I am saying that America is NO longer a Christian nation. There is NO importance placed on the Word of God, and the vast majority (Mat.7:13-14), are NOT following the One and Only TRUE God.
I say to you that we are in the same kind of position today as were those people in the days of Jeremiah. The nation at that time had rejected God, but the people were still pretending to follow Him. All such people today will find themselves rejected by God, for I believe that America is following that same path today as in Jeremiah’s days.
There is so much lawlessness and violence in our land, mass killings, bombings of churches, violence everywhere! We find ourselves despised by other nations. Jesus said it would be that way. No people can pretend to fear God and still expect the world to look up to them. John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (KJV) . . . Jeremiah was not very popular in his day, and neither is anyone who speaks the Truth in today’s world! But I must tell you in good conscience, the message of this Book: People who turn away from God will find that God turns away from them. BEWARE!!!’
Jer. 4:9 And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the LORD, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder. (KJV)
And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the LORD . . . when God makes a Promise, it shall come to pass . . to the letter!
That the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes . . . Judah's leaders will be so afraid at the approach of the enemy that they will be at a loss to know what to do.
And the priests shall be astonished . . . the priests were dumbfounded, not knowing what to do or say.
And the prophets shall wonder. . . the false prophets that had nothing but visions of peace for them (Eze.3:16; Zec.13:3-4; Jer.8:11), shall wonder not at the disappointment of their prophecies, for they knew they were false (Jer. 23:26-27), but they were filled with the same horror and fears with the rest, not knowing where to go or hide, for their lies would be exposed, they would be put to shame, and perish with the rest.
Very Difficult Verse in the Chapter (Jer. 4:10)
Jer. 4:10 Then said I, Ah, LORD GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall have peace; whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul. (KJV)
Then said I, Ah, LORD GOD! . . . the Hebrew aha is a word both of admiration and lamentation together; they are Jeremiah's words and complaint breathed out in the great sorrow and sighing of soul, which he expressed more emphatically (Jer.23:9).
Surely thou hast greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem . . . had deceived them to be deluded by these false prophets (Isa.63:17; Eze.14:9; 1 Ki.22:21-23; 2 Thes.2:11). How was it possibly that they could be deluded by their false prophets (Num.23:19), for their God is a God that cannot lie (Tit.1:2).
Ye shall have peace . . . the word peace consists of and is intended for all good, indicating all things should go prosperously with them (Gen.37:14); and seems to be thus expressed, because it was the common language and phrase of the false prophets (Jer.8:11; 23:17).
Whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul . . . not only ready to take away the comforts of life, but even life itself, soul being put for life (Jer.4:30; Ps.69:1; Mat.16:25-26). It may indicate a great cutting off and slaughter among them, especially their great ones; they being, as it were, the soul of the people.
*****Jeremiah was deeply moved by God's Words, expressing his sorrow and confusion to the LORD. Jeremiah was intercessor for the people. These people had false hopes because of the past false promises of blessings, their blindness to their own sin, and the false prophets who kept telling them that all was well.
Many have called this the most difficult verse in the chapter; because, as it is written, we find it very difficult either to believe or to interpret. Some say that this is really the way Jeremiah felt about it.
The leaders of Israel are the ones who accused God of deceiving them. Without a doubt it was the false prophets who, all along, were deceiving God's people with promises of peace and safety.
Description of the Coming Invasion (Jer.4:11-18)
Jer. 4:11 At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse, (KJV)
At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem . . . when Nebuchadnezzar is on this expedition (verse 4), it shall be said to this people and to Jerusalem; there shall be tidings brought both to the country and city (verse 5).
A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness . . . a drying wind, such as shall blast and scorch where it goes, without any rain or moisture, and it may also refer to the coast from where this wind comes, from Babylon, or the north, which drives away rain (Pro.25:23); and it points at the stormy and furious irruption of the Babylonian army, destroying all before them (Jer.23:19; 30:23-24). In the wilderness . . . or, in the plain, where there is no obstacle in the way to hinder the wind, or to break its fury (Isa.21:1; Jer.3:24; Isa.63:13).
Toward the daughter of my people . . . coming in the way leading to God’s people; for so we are to understand this to be the daughter of my people, as the daughter of Zion (Isa.1:8), which is beautiful in God’s Eyes and tender to Him as a daughter (Jer.9:1).
Not to fan, nor to cleanse . . . this was not a gentle wind to separate the chaff from the wheat, but boisterous and violent, that shall sweep away and lay waste all at once (Jer.51:1; Eze.21:3).
Jer. 4:12 Even a full wind from those places shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them. (KJV)
Even a full wind from those places . . . a wind too strong for them. This is a further description of the former wind; it shall be full, that shall do its work thoroughly.
Shall come unto me . . . the wind shall presently come to God, to receive His commission, and be at His beck and call, and do His will, (Ps.148:8).
Now also will I give sentence against them . . . God will also utter judgments against them. It is the LORD Who is speaking, although through the voice of Jeremiah. The message is one of judgment . . . condemnation (Jn.3:18; 5:24). The coming of this full wind (terrible) speaks of the execution of God’s judgment upon them, which is pointed at by this word now, at the time of the coming of this terrible storm from Chaldea. The wind in this verse is a symbol for the invading army that will soon arrive from the north.
Jer. 4:13 Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled. (KJV)
Behold, he shall come up as clouds . . . noting the vast number of them (Isa.60:8; Heb. 12:1); or the suddenness of them, when not expected, clouds often rise suddenly, and over the whole of the heavens; or with great speed and swiftness with which Nebuchadnezzar shall march against them (Isa.19:1), symbolically described by the swiftness of eagles in this verse (Jer.48:8).
And his chariots shall be as a whirlwind . . . Nebuchadnezzar shall come as a whirlwind, which beside the swiftness, also notes the confusion and amazement that he will cause (Isa 66:15; Dan.11:40). The people have dreadful anxieties of their woeful condition.
Jer. 4:14 O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? (KJV)
O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness . . . cleanse your inward parts, not only your hands, as hypocrites do, but your hearts (Jam.4:8). We had the same warning in verses 3-4, only in another form of washing, which seems to be taken from such remedies first physicians give to clear away the inward parts from noxious sickness (Isa.1:16-17).
From wickedness . . . from all filthiness of flesh and spirit (2 Cor.7:1; Jam.1:21).
That thou mayest be saved . . . this refers to temporal salvation; it is prescribed as a means to prevent the judgments that are impending on them as in verse 4, yet does not exclude spiritual salvation (2 Thes.2:13; Tit.3:5).
How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? . . . wicked thoughts and hopes of expecting any help (Jer.2:5, 37); as they pleased themselves with vain notions of safety and security, which thoughts will certainly bring ruin and misery upon them, which is inevitably coming.
Jer. 4:15 For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from mount Ephraim. (KJV)
For a voice . . . either the voice of the prophets that is still loud in their ears, or the rumor and noise of the army that is already come through their land. They already have the reports of this great affliction (Jer. 8:16), to know the near approach of it.
Declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from mount Ephraim . . . this is said to come from Dan and Ephraim, because Dan was the first place these Chaldeans would come to, it being the north boundary of Canaan, and Ephraim the innermost border of Israel in the north of Judea, indicating the march of the Babylonians through all Israel toward Jerusalem.
Day of Judgment (Jer.4:16-31)
Jer. 4:16 Make ye mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah. (KJV)
Make ye mention to the nations . . . the neighboring nations are also warned of God's judgments on His rebel people (Jer.6:18, 19).
Behold, publish against Jerusalem . . . let her know what is coming, give her have public notice beforehand, that she may be warned.
Tthat watchers come from a far country . . . military watchers, besiegers (2 Sam.11:16). And give out their voice against Judah . . .the watchers will proclaim war, the Chaldean soldiers shall carefully and watchfully encompass Jerusalem, that none shall escape; possibly a symbol from hunters, that in hunting their prey lay wait at every passage, that the game may not escape (2 Ki.25:4-5). Give out their voice shout and encourage the soldiers to the battle.
Jer. 4:17 As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD. (KJV)
As keepers of a field . . . the enemy is like those who watch a field, to frighten away the wild beasts. This may be a reference to the besiegers or their advance scout who will brutally besiege her, and as keepers of a field will be careful who goes in and out (Zec.
12:2). They will watch that no one goes in to relieve them, and that escape (2 Chron. 16:1).
Because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD . . . God does not threaten with His judgments only, He also labors to convince them that there is a sufficient reason for it, both here and in the next verse. The reason for Judah being overwhelmed by this invader is clearly stated: she has rebelled against God. This thought is extended in the following verse.
Jer. 4:18 Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart. (KJV)
Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee . . . their manner of life, and especially their idolatries. Have procured these things unto thee . . . theycannot lay the blame on God!
This is thy wickedness . . .their vile wickedness was the cause of this their grievous affliction (Isa. 1:1; Jer. 2:17, 19), their wickedness is what brought such a bitter enemy against them, and the bitterness had reached into their hearts, as the sword is said to reach unto the soul (verse 10).
Judah Grieves Her Fate (Jer.4:19-21)
Jer. 4:19 My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. (KJV)
My bowels, my bowels! . . . this begins the sad complaint and great trouble that Jeremiah was in. When he considered all these things, he cried out as one under great pain and torment, repeating his words for lack of exit, thus expressing the excess of his sorrow, which in words could not be told (2 Sam.18:33); and which sorrow of he could not express (Jer. 9:1, 10).
I am pained at my very heart . . . his heart was ready to break. He may possibly be referring to the encompassing the walls of Jerusalem.
My heart maketh a noise in me . . . my heart is disturbed within me, I can have no rest nor quiet within (Job 30:27; Lam.1:20).
I cannot hold my peace . . . I am so troubled and grieved (Job 7:11; Isa.22:4).
Because thou hast heard . . . my soul has heard the sound of the trumpet, I have heard in the spirit of prophecy; it is as certain as if I now heard the trumpet sounding, and the alarm of war beating up.
*****I wonder how many preachers in today’s world ever have any sadness at all in what God’s Word does say? They do NOT preach on God’s wrath, they do NOT preach on God’s Coming Day, they do NOT preach on repenting of sin, they do NOT preach on Hell! Beware of God’s holy wrath! Dear one, there certainly is a Judgment Day!
Jer. 4:20 Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment. (KJV)
Destruction upon destruction is cried . . . this is more of his bitter expression of grief, increasing his complaint; the end of one, but the beginning of another; worse and worse (Deut.32:23; Eze.7:26); godly Josiah killed, and four of his successors carried away or slain (2 Chron.36:1-23).
For the whole land is spoiled . . . this is in more detail described in verses 23-26.
Suddenly are my tents spoiled . . . the enemy overthrows my stately cities and magnificent palaces, sometimes described by tents (Isa.54:2), as if he were plundering a camp, or overturning tents made of curtains (Jer.49:29). This either refers to their ancient way of living (Num.24:2, 5), or their wilderness condition, when they lived in tents. It is done with as much ease as overturning a poor shepherd's cottage (Lam.2:5-6). Jeremiah probably consider himself a shepherd of God’s flock, speaking in the shepherd's way, and may here suggest the destruction of their whole country, including all the places and fields where shepherds pitched their tents.
Jer. 4:21 How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet? (KJV)
Jeremiah wonders how long these symbols of war, the standard and the trumpet, will be around. He seems to have these tools of war, both of Judea preparing for defense, and the enemy preparing for ruin and destruction, always in his eye and ear (see verse 19), and grieving over the continuance of it in taking city after city, with the several sackings of Jerusalem under her three last kings.
*****Jeremiah 4:13-21. Anguish and Destruction
These verses tell of chariots as the whirlwind and horses . . . swifter than eagles (v. 13). They tell of people saying “Woe unto us! For we are spoiled” (v. 13b). They tell of people from the city of Dan in the far north and Mount Ephraim in the near north warning of the armies coming from the north (v. 15). They tell of anguish and utter disaster (vv. 19-20). These things would actually happen. The Babylonian army would besiege Jerusalem, level the city, kill many of its inhabitants, and take most of those who remain into a long and sad exile.
Jer. 4:22 For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. (KJV)
For my people is foolish, they have not known me . . . they are foolish, they do not know God. The Speaker is the LORD, and in the midst of His wrath He still continues to speak of them as “my people.” This is a very harsh Passage in which the LORD tells these people of the disaster that is about to befall them because of their sin . . . by saying my people, He softens the Passage a little. The LORD is angry, but He has NOT totally disowned these people. There is a reminder of His grace here, which we will also see in verse 27.
They are sottish children, and they have none understanding . . . these people have no wisdom, because they failed to observe the law. They failed to keep a strong relationship with the LORD. They had worshiped Baal and other false gods, so they are foolish and had no understanding.
But to do good they have no knowledge . . . they were experts in doing evil. The idea here is that the only wisdom or understanding that these people possess is knowing how to do evil.
Note the repetition: “Foolish” and “no understanding.” The picture that the LORD paints here is the opposite of wisdom. Wisdom makes it possible for people to make good decisions and to avoid bad consequences. In the Old Testament, wisdom is the kind of understanding that helps people to choose the good and to avoid the evil.
Prophecy of the Extent of the Destruction (Jer.4:23-26)
Jer. 4:23 I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. (KJV)
I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void . . . the land was so filthy and so ruined, that he imagined it to be like the first chaos, for which reason possibly he calls Judea the Earth, in reference to Gen.1:2; and here implies that Judah's sins were such, that they had even overturned the course of nature, being laid waste and desolate, not of inhabitants only, but of all things . . . without men, without houses, without fruit, without beasts or birds for food or service (4:25-26).
And the heavens, and they had no light . . . some say being darkened by the abundance of smoke that would ascend from the desolating fires of towns and cities (Isa.9:18-19). He seems to proceed in his view of the chaos, it being an expression where the Scriptures set forth the saddest desolations (Isa.13:9; Eze.32:7; Joel 2:10, 30-31). Everything above and below seemed to Jeremiah to be in a mournful posture, wrapped in dismal blackness.
Jer. 4:24 I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. (KJV)
I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled . . . Jeremiah proceeds in his symbolic style. The mountains of Judea tremble! (Ps.18:7-8; Isa.5:25), as if they were senseless creatures and were amazed at the greatness of God's anger; and he mentions these as being in the most stable part of the Earth, yet they shake before him.
And all the hills moved lightly . . . as easily as if they were a very lightweight matter, or as dust or feathers in a whirlwind (Ps. 114:4, 6). Or these may be said to tremble and move because of the multitudes of prancing horses and chariots furiously passing over them.
Jer. 4:25 I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. (KJV)
I beheld, and, lo, there was no man . . . all had been depopulated and laid waste, all of the people either slain, carried captive or fled.
All the birds of the heavens were fled . . . birds that are used to inhabited places, live, feed and build among men, fled, which only implies the greater desolation and waste of the land, as is threatened against Babylon (Isa.13:19-22), either to seek provisions, here being no food left for them, or scared with the loud clamors and noises of armies, that birds have fallen down to the Earth (Jer.9:10; Zep 1:2-3).
Jer. 4:26 I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, and by his fierce anger. (KJV)
I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness . . . the fruitful land had become a wilderness.
And all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD . . . there was no place left for men to inhabit (Isa.1:7).
And by his fierce anger . . . the enemy could NOT have done anything unless God had given him the OK to do it (2 Ki. 24:3; Jer. 9:12-13). The Earth was devoid of life, both human and animal. Even the birds, sensed disaster and fled. The LORD’S wrath came because of their sin.
Jer. 4:27 For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end. (KJV)
For thus hath the LORD said . . . this adds authority to the statement that follows.
The whole land shall be desolate . . . . this gives us a picture of utter destruction, a wasteland.
Yet will I not make a full end . . . (v. 27b). This is a note of grace in the midst of this very depressing Passage. It suggests that a remnant agrees with what will finally happen at the end of the Babylonian Exile. Babylon will not be dominant forever. When Persia succeeds them, King Cyrus will not only allow the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem, but will also provide funds and support to make it possible for them to do so.
Jer. 4:28 For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it. (KJV)
For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black . . . expresses how dreadful the judgment was. He makes the elements to personate mourners, a sad face of things above and below, a metaphor, and therein to shame the stupidity of his people.
Because I have spoken it, I have purposed it . . . they would not believe that God’s prophets spoke for Him, nor did they believe what they said. What God had determined He would not revoke (Eze. 24:13-14; Jer.15:6).
Neither will I turn back from it . . .when God makes up His mind, He will do what He said He would do.
Jer. 4:29 The whole city shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen; they shall go into thickets, and climb up upon the rocks: every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein. (KJV)
The whole city shall flee . . . all the people of all ranks and abilities shall try to escape the fury of the Chaldean army (Jer. 39:4).
For the noise of the horsemen and bowmen . . . either at the report of their coming, or when they arrived, for they were nearly overwhelmed before they fled (2 Ki. 25:4).
They shall go into thickets, and climb up upon the rocks . . . such a bewilderment there shall be upon them, that they shall run into every hole to hide themselves (Heb.11:38; Rev.6:16): like Manasseh was taken among the thorns (2 Chron.33:11). Some render it caves, and so the rocks for shelter, or the clefts, caves, and hiding-places in the rocks (Isa.2:21).
Every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein . . . there shall be an utter desolation, their cities forsaken, with no one to inhabit them (verses 25-26).
Jer. 4:30 And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life. (KJV)
And when thou art spoiled,. . . this destruction shall come upon them, which is very near.
What wilt thou do?. . . what will they do when they are overcome by the Babylonians? It cannot be avoided. This is an insulting way of speech, as it were rebuking them with their pride and confidence.
Though thou clothest thyself with crimson . . . or scarlet (2 Sam. 1:24: 1:18).
Though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold . . . 2 Sam. 1:24 Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. (KJV)
Though thou rentest thy face with painting . . . they paint their face and eyes, their shamelessness being probably set out more by painting (Isa. 3:16); thy face and eyes, being sometimes put one for the other (1 Sam. 16:12; Isa. 25:8).
In vain shalt thou make thyself fair . . . all their fooling themselves, thinking to cozy up with the Chaldeans, will be to no purpose, for they will work your ruin (Jer. 19:7).
Thy lovers will despise thee . . . they shall hate thee (2 Sam. 13:15); this may indicate that no lovers at all will look after them; they shall be cast off by all (Isa. 23:15-16). Those that were in union with them, and their supposed friends (Hos. 2:5), shall not only forsake you but join your enemies to destroy you (Lam. 1:2).
They will seek thy life . . . your primping will do you no good! The friends you thought you had and your lovers hate you and seek to kill you.
Jer. 4:31 For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers. (KJV)
For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail . . . when the Bible wants to express any stunning sorrow, exceeding all other pains, it does it by a woman in travail (Ps. 48:5-6; Isa. 13:8-9; 21:3-4; 26:17; Jer. 6:24; 30:6-7; 49:22, 24; 50:43; 1 Thes.5:3).
And the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child . . . which seems to be the most painful, both from natural causes, and having not had former experience of the like.
The voice of the daughter of Zion . . . Jerusalem (Isa. 1:8).
That bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands . . . that spreads her hands in great distress as she reaches out to God for help that is not there (Isa. 1:15); or possibly referring to persons in great anguish, wringing their hands together, breathing deep sighs and mourning (Jer. 2:37).
Saying, Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers . . . the time of my woe is at hand; it draws near. I am sinking in my distress, not only that my destruction is so near, but that those idols I have so zealously served, should become my murderers (verse 30), and that I should fall into the hands of such as will have no compassion (2 Chron. 36:17). Jeremiah had deep feelings for his people. He hated to tell them what God had said, but he had no choice.
Edward Gibbon “The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire” (published 1776-1789), said the 5 reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire: (Taken from J. Vernon McGee’s study on Isaiah, Ch. 1:4-18, in his “Thru The Bible” program.)
1. The undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis of human society.
2. Higher and higher taxes; the spending of public money for free bread and circuses for the populace.
3. The mad craze for pleasure; sports becoming every year more exciting, more brutal, more immoral.
4. The building of great armaments when the great enemy was within; the decay of individual responsibility.
5. The decay of religion, fading into a mere form, losing touch with life, losing power to guide the people.
From The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Book of Jeremiah
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