Jeremiah 14

 

 

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

Jehoiakim.

 

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;

Esther 6:12).

 

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

human conduct. Thus Palestine now suffers from lack of water, partly

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

(Psalm 63:1).

 

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, metoikoicaptives; 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 Israel a Stranger in the Land (vs. 8-9)

 

IT IS MOST SAD THAT GOD SHOULD BE WITH US AS A STRANGER.

 

  • It is sad because the blessings of God’s  presence are not received.

 

  • It is sad because it is a violation of our natural relations with God. God

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

10:21).

 

 

 

                                    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

 the future.

 

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:

 

  • men have not the materials out of which to build a theology of their own;

 

  • they have not the faculties capable of using those materials — sin

            perverts the spiritual vision, prejudice and self-interest distort views of

            truth.

 

 

            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

maiden.

 

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].”

(Isaiah 65:7)

 

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

with us.”

 

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

justice!

 

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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