This chapter must be read in connection with ch.15. They describe chiefly Jeremiah’s
twofold attempt at intercession (see vs. 7-9 and 19-22) — a tender and appealing
attempt indeed. The terrible sufferings of the people during a drought went to the
prophet’s heart. He even ventured, when repelled the first time, to intercede anew,
on the ground of the covenant, but in vain. On receiving (ch.15:2-9) a revelation of
the bitter fate in store for his people, he bursts out into a heartrending complaint that
his own destiny should throw him into such a whirlpool of strife. His Lord at once
corrects and consoles him (ch.15:10-21). The date of the drought is not stated; but
as the punishment of Judah is described as future, and no reference is made to the
captivity of Jehoiachin, we shall probably be right in setting it during the reign of
1 “The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the
dearth.” - rather, the drought, or, more literally, the droughts, the plural being
used to indicate the length of time the drought lasted.
2 “Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish;” - i.e. the people
assembled there - “they are black unto the ground; and the cry of
Jerusalem is gone up.” “To be black,” in Hebrew, is “to be dressed in
mourning” (so e.g. Psalm 35:14, “I bowed down in black”). Here we
must understand the same verb which is expressed in the psalm, “They
bowed down in mourning attire to the ground.” “Black,” however, is not
to be taken literally; it means rather “squalid, unwashed” (of garments).
3 “And their nobles” - i.e. the upper classes of Judah and Jerusalem - “have
sent their little ones to the waters:” - rather, their mean ones; i.e. their
servants, or perhaps simply, “the common people;” it was not a matter concerning
the rich alone - “they came to the pits,” (cisterns) “and found no water; they
returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and
covered their heads.” - a sign of the deepest mourning (II Samuel 15:30; 19:4;
4 “Because the ground is chapt,” - Perhaps: but it is more obvious to
render, is dismayed, according to the usual meaning of the word. Words which
properly belong to human beings are often, by a “poetic fallacy,” applied to inanimate
objects (as in v. 2) - “for there was no rain in the earth,” - rather, in the
land - “the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.”
5 “Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there
was no grass.” Even the animals starve. Yea, the hind also. The hind, contrary
to that intense natural affection for which she was famous among the ancients,
abandons her young.
6 “And the wild asses did stand in the high places,” - rather, on the bare
heights - The wild asses were especially fond of treeless mountains - “they snuffed
up the wind like dragons;” - render rather, like jackals (as in ch.9:11; 10:22). The
allusion is to the way jackals hold their head as they howl. We are told that even the
keen eyes of the wild asses fail, “their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.”
- rather, herbage. They grow dim first with seeking it so long in vain, and then from
lack of nourishment.
A Plague of Drought (vs. 1-6
A PLAGUE OF DROUGHT IS AN INSTANCE OF A NATURAL
CALAMITY OCCASIONING GREAT DISTRESS. Jeremiah gives a
vivid picture of the trouble such a plague causes. Men of all classes, from
the noble to the ploughman, suffer under it; the animal world is driven from
its natural instincts; universal desolation and agony prevail. Yet this is all
natural. It is not the result of war nor of any human interference; it is a
natural calamity. Nature is not always placid and pleasing. She has her
frowns, her storms, her droughts. The world is not a waste, howling
wilderness; but neither is it a garden of Eden. Thorns spring up among the
wheat. Even away from the perpetual deserts fertile fields are occasionally
parched and withered. We must expect a mixed experience in human life,
as we meet with it in nature. Showers of blessing are not always failing.
There come also periods of dearth, seasons of natural distress.
A PLAGUE OF DROUGHT IS AM EXAMPLE OF ONE FORM OF
THE PUNISHMENT OF SIN. Though the drought is natural, it is not,
therefore, to be separated from all relation to human and moral affairs. God
rules Nature through her laws when He does not supersede them. In His
government of men God may overrule natural events to the execution of
His decrees. When such a calamity as a plague of drought falls upon a land,
it is well to ask whether there are no national sins for which it is sent as
chastisement. Sometimes the calamities of nature are the direct result of
because the felling of trees has diminished the rainfall, and partly because
what rain there is is quickly drained off for want of proper irrigation
arrangements. Still, we must not assume that every natural calamity is sent
for the punishment of sin. This is but one among many Divine purposes.
Wholesome discipline, ulterior advantages, the avoiding of worse though
unseen calamities, etc., may enter into the Divine reasons for permitting the
trouble. Such calamities should make us examine ourselves, not humiliate
ourselves without thought and clear conviction of conscience. (Katrina;
tsunamis; tornadoes of great magnitude – CY – 2011)
A PLAGUE OF DROUGHT IN NATURE SHOULD SUGGEST
THE POSSIBILITY OF SPIRITUAL DROUGHT. Outward things are
symbolical of inward experiences. There is a drought of the soul — when
the soul is not partaking of the “water of life,” and it is the most fearful
kind of drought. Yet, while the physical calamity excites all attention and
occasions universal distress, this calamity is often unheeded. But the effects
of it are not the less destructive. The soul becomes barren, unfruitful; the
heavenly graces within, the instincts of Christian charity, are lost; the
spiritual vision fails. It is unnatural not to feel thirst in a season of drought.
The soul that is in this condition will first come to itself with a feeling of
deep distress, a pain of inward, longing, a panting and thirsting after God
A PLAGUE OF DROUGHT SHOULD MAKE US MORE THANKFUL
FOR THE COMMON BLESSINGS OF DAILY LIFE. The
commonest blessings are the most valuable. The first necessary of life is air,
and air is the most abundant thing in nature. The next most important
requirement is water, and water is usually exceedingly plentiful. Gold and
diamonds are rare, but these can easily be spared. This very fact, which is a
result of God’s providential care, induces an ungrateful neglect. We take
without thought that which we are always receiving. We must lose it to
appreciate it. In sickness we prize health; in thirst we value water. It would
be more wise and grateful to acknowledge God’s blessings while we have
them, instead of requiring Him to take them from us to teach us their worth.
7 “O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy
name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.”
The intercession of Jeremiah begins. Do thou it; a pregnant expression, equivalent
to “act gloriously” (as Psalm 22:31; Isaiah 44:23); For thy name’s sake. Jehovah’s
name pledges Him to be merciful to His people, and not to make a full end of them,
even when they have offended (compare “Our Redeemer was thy name from
of old” - Isaiah 63:16).
A Plea for Mercy in Spite of Guilt (v. 7)
The common habit of people is to take the opposite course — to excuse
themselves, extenuate their faults, or ignore, or even deny them. But this is
vain before God, and while persisted in it shuts the door against forgiveness.
God can only forgive sin that is confessed, can only have mercy on the humble
and penitent. This confession must be frank and full. Such a confession is
contained in the prayer of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah asks for the sake of God’s honor. God has promised to have mercy
on the penitent (e.g. Deuteronomy 30:1-10). Psalm 130:4,7 reveals with God
“there is forgiveness” and “with Him is plenteous redemption.” Thus He has
pledged His Name, and bound Himself by His own certain faithfulness.
Jeremiah asks for the sake of God’s glory. God’s highest glory is his goodness.
When He delivers His children His own Name is glorified. Redemption honors
God more than creation. The song of the redeemed at the end of the world will
be more sweet and more noble than the song of the sons of the morning at
the dawn of creation. As Christians we see these truths more clearly
revealed in Christ. He is the “Word” incarnate, the “Name,” the highest
manifestation of the character of God, the fulfillment of His greatest
promises, the expression of His brightest glory. For us to pray “for Christ’s
sake” is the same as praying “for God’s Name’s sake.”
8 “O the hope of Israel, the savior thereof in time of trouble, why
shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man
that turneth aside to tarry for a night?” How pathetic a supplication!
Jehovah will surely not be as a stranger in the land — the strangers, or
“sojourners,” like the me>toikoi, metoikoi – captives; exiles; - enjoyed no
civil rights, and consequently had no interest in the highest concerns of the state,
and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside — or perhaps, pitcheth his tent;
for the traveler in Palestine doubtless carried his tent with him then as now —
to tarry for a night.
9 “Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied,” - As a man astonished; rather
(comparing the Arabic dahama), as one struck dumb but the Septuagint reading,
equivalent to “as one in a deep sleep.” - “as a mighty man that cannot save?
yet thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name;
leave us not.” - literally, lay us not down; as if a burden of which the bearer is tired.
The Hope of
IT IS MOST SAD THAT GOD SHOULD BE WITH US AS A STRANGER.
is our Father. Shall our Father be but as a stranger passing through our
midst? How, then, do we ever find ourselves in this unnatural condition?
The cause is in us (v. 10). Great sin cherished in impenitence severs us
from God, and makes it necessary that He should depart from us.
(compare Romans 1:24,26,28) God is a stranger when with us:
ü because we are too earthly minded to discern His presence,
and too occupied with worldly things to think of Him;
ü because we do not open our hearts to receive Him in inward
companionship (John 14:23); and
ü because we do not seek and trust his help in our need (Romans
The Answer of Jehovah (vs. 10-16)
10 “Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander,
they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them;”
- i.e. with such pertinacity have they been set upon “wandering” (roving lawlessly
about), that the Lord hath no more pleasure in them. “Therefore,” is, literally, and.
“Thus,” or “so,” is used in the same sense as in I Kings 10:12, which runs literally,
“... there came not so [abundantly] among timber.” The particle of comparison has
given much occupation to the commentators, but the above view is at once simple and
suitable to the context; for Jeremiah has already admitted that “our backslidings are
multiplied” (v. 7). The Lord doth not, etc. (to the end of the verse), is quoted
verbatim from Hosea 8:13. Jeremiah puts conspicuous honor on the older inspired
writers; he has no craving for originality. Nearly all has been said already;
what he has to do is chiefly to adapt and to apply - ,“He will now remember
their iniquity, and visit their sins.” He will now remember - The emphasis is
on “now” Nothing is more remarkable in the prophets than the stress laid on the
unerring justness of the time chosen for Divine interpositions. When the iniquity is
fully ripe, it as it were attracts the punishment, which till then is laid up in store
(compare Genesis 15:16; Isaiah 18:5; 33:10).
11 “Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their
good.” So in ch. 7:16 (on which see note);11:14. (Thus we moderns should
“seek the Lord while He may be found”; obey Him; respond to Him when He
calls; for like wickedness of the Ancient Jewish people in 21st century Americans
puts us in jeopardy, lest God gives us a STRONG DELUSION that we should
believe a lie. [II Thessalonians 2:11] – I am in the same situation as Jeremiah as
stated in the previous verse - Nearly all has been said already; what you and
I have to do is chiefly to adapt and to apply!
12 “When they fast, I will not hear their cry;” - Their cry. The word is very
forcible; it is the shriek in which an unsophisticated man gives vent to his
pain and grief - “and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation,” -
An oblation. It is the vegetable offering (Authorized Version, “meat offering;”)
which is referred to in the so-called minkhah (literally, gift). Though sometimes
offered separately, it regularly accompanied a burnt offering. “I will not accept
them:” - the analogy of other similar passages (e.g. Isaiah 1:15) warrants the
view that the ground of the rejection of the worship is its heartless formalism and
insincerity, which was equally a bar to Jehovah’s favor and the prophet’s
intercession - “but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine,
and by the pestilence.”
Pleading with Providence, the good prophet lays the blame on ill teaching, but
the stern answer (v. 14), admitting the plea as true, rejects it as inadequate (Ibid.),
and denounces sorrows which (vs. 17-22) the prophet passionately deprecates.
13 “Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD!” - rather, Alas! O Lord Jehovah (see on
ch.1:6).“behold, the prophets say unto them,” - The greater part of the prophetic
order had not kept pace with its more spiritual members (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.).
They still traded on those natural gifts of divination (Micah 3:6) which were,
no doubt, where genuine, of Divine origin, but which, even then, needed to
be supplemented and controlled by a special impulse from the Spirit of holiness.
Jeremiah, however, declares, on the authority of a revelation, that these prophets
did not divine by any God-given faculty, but “the deceit of their own heart”
(v. 14). The Deuteronomic Torah, discovered after a period of concealment at
the outset of Jeremiah’s ministry (II Kings 22:8), energetically forbids the practice
of the art of divination (Deuteronomy 18:10). “Ye shall not see the sword,
neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.”
14 “Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name:
I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them:
they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of naught,
and the deceit of their heart.” A thing of naught. The word, however, is
collective, and means all the various futile means adopted for prying into
15 “Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that
prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and
famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those
prophets be consumed.” 16 “And the people to whom they prophesy
shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and
the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives,
nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon
them.” I will pour their wickedness; i.e. the fruits of their wickedness
(compare ch. 2:19, “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee”).
False Prophets (vs. 15-16)
The authority of a teacher must be sought in his message, not in his office. It is our
duty to try the spirits by their correspondence with known revelation (I John 4:2),
by the fruits of their lives and doctrines (Matthew 7:16), and by the standard of
our own conscience (II Corinthians 4:2). The prophet may have a piercing intellect
and a towering imagination. Yet he will err if he be blinded by unholiness and
excluded from the revelations of spiritual communion. He speaks only out
of his own heart; but the heart is“deceitful above all things” (ch. 17:9). Attempts
are constantly made to evolve religious truth out of the inner consciousness of the
thinker. No idle dreams are more delusive, since:
perverts the spiritual vision, prejudice and self-interest distort views of
The Prophet’s Grief, and Second Intercession (vs, 17-21)
17 “Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run
down with tears night and day, and let them not cease:” - Jeremiah’s tender
compassion shows itself in his choice of the expression, “for the virgin daughter
of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.” -
just as we feel an added bitterness in the premature death of a cherished
18 “If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword!
and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with
famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land
that they know not.” A picture of the state of things after the capture of
Jerusalem: the slain without, the famine-stricken within. The latter are
described allusively as “sicknesses of famine” (so literally). As a peculiarly
striking evidence of the downfall of greatness, it is added that even prophet
(Ezekiel) and priest (Ezra) have to go about into a land they know not. The
verb used here can obviously not have its ordinary sense of going about for
purposes of traffic. Aramaic usage suggests, however, a suitable meaning; what the
prophet sketches before us is a company of these ex-grandees “begging
their way” into an unknown l
19 “Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul loathed Zion? why
hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for
peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold
trouble!” We looked for peace; a repetition of ch.8:15.
20 “We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of
our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.” There is a mysterious connection
between the sin of the past and of the present. So in another prophet we read,
“Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together [will I requite].”
21 “Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of
thy glory:” - i.e. the temple (ch.17:12; Ezekiel 43:7), or Jerusalem (ch.3:17). It is
the same conception where Jehovah is said to “dwell between” [or, ‘sit upon’] “the
cherubim” (Isaiah 37:16; Psalm 80:1; 99:1) - “remember, break not thy covenant
22 “Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause
rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou He, O LORD
our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all
these things.” None of the vanities, or false gods (3:17), of the heathen
can deliver us in this our strait (want of rain). “Rainmakers” is still
a common name of soothsayers among savage nations. Thou alone art
God, and our God; or, in Jeremiah’s phrase (not, Art not thou He?
but) Art thou not Jehovah our God? and the ground of the appeal follows,
Jehovah is the Maker of all these things; i.e. all the heavenly phenomena,
especially the clouds and the rain.
Prayer for Mercy Rejected (vs. 20-22- ch. 15:1))
Intercession is useless for those who will not repent and seek mercy for
themselves. The prayer was that of the prophet on behalf of his impenitent
countrymen. The intercession of good men is recognized as powerful.
Their character adds weight to their intercession (James 5:16). But not
only must Jeremiah’s prayer be rejected, even Moses the founder of the
nation and Samuel the father of the prophets could not prevail in the
present case (ch. 15:1). - The intercession of one greater than Moses, of
Christ Himself, will not save those who are obstinately hardened against
returning to God. For a judge to acquit all criminals would be fatal to
The Jews feared discredit to the temple in its desecration by the heathen.
It was more desecrated by their corrupt practices in it. To make
the temple a den of thieves is more dishonoring than to overthrow it so as
not to leave one stone upon another. The sins of Christ’s Church are more
dishonoring to His Name than her sufferings, her willing subservience to the
spirit of the world more humiliating than her apparent lowly condition
when trampled under the feet of persecutors. The pure martyred Church is
a glory to Christ, the corrupt prosperous Church a shame to his Name.
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