Jeremiah 4 commentary

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JEREMIAH 4 COMMETARY EDITED BY GLE PEASE 1 “If you, Israel, will return, then return to me,” declares the Lord. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, BARES, "Return - The repentance of Israel described in Jer_3:21-25 was a hope, and not a reality. The return, literally, would be their restoration to their land; spiritually, their abandoning their sins. Jer_4:1-2 should be translated as follows: If thou wouldst return, O Israel, saith Yahweh. Unto Me thou shalt return: And if thou wouldst remove thy abominations from before Me, And not wander to and fro, But wouldst swear truly, uprightly; and justly By the living Yahweh; Then shall the pagan bless themselves ... - In him - In Yahweh. Two great truths are taught in this verse; (1) that the Gentiles were to be members of the Church of the Messiah; (2) that Israel’s special office was to be God’s mediator in this great work. Thus, Jeremiah is in exact accord with the evangelical teaching of Isaiah. CLARKE, "Shalt thou not remove - This was spoken before the Babylonish captivity; and here is a promise that if they will return from their idolatry, they shall not be led into captivity. So, even that positively threatened judgment would have been averted had they returned to the Lord. GILL, "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord,.... To which they had been encouraged, and as they had promised they would, and said they did, Jer_3:14 , return unto me; with thy whole heart, and not feignedly and hypocritically, as Judah

Transcript of Jeremiah 4 commentary


    1 If you, Israel, will return, then return to me,declares the Lord.If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray,

    BARES, "Return - The repentance of Israel described in Jer_3:21-25 was a hope, and not a reality. The return, literally, would be their restoration to their land; spiritually, their abandoning their sins.

    Jer_4:1-2 should be translated as follows:

    If thou wouldst return, O Israel, saith Yahweh.Unto Me thou shalt return:And if thou wouldst remove thy abominations from before Me,And not wander to and fro,But wouldst swear truly, uprightly; and justlyBy the living Yahweh;

    Then shall the pagan bless themselves ... -

    In him - In Yahweh. Two great truths are taught in this verse;

    (1) that the Gentiles were to be members of the Church of the Messiah;

    (2) that Israels special office was to be Gods mediator in this great work.

    Thus, Jeremiah is in exact accord with the evangelical teaching of Isaiah.

    CLARKE, "Shalt thou not remove - This was spoken before the Babylonish captivity; and here is a promise that if they will return from their idolatry, they shall not be led into captivity. So, even that positively threatened judgment would have been averted had they returned to the Lord.

    GILL, "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord,.... To which they had been encouraged, and as they had promised they would, and said they did, Jer_3:14,

    return unto me; with thy whole heart, and not feignedly and hypocritically, as Judah

  • did, Jer_3:10. Some render the words (and the accents require they should be rendered so) "if thou wilt return to me, O Israel, saith the Lord, thou shalt return" (l); that is, to thine own land, being now in captivity; or, "thou shalt rest" (m); or "have rest"; so Kimchi interprets the last word; see Jer_30:10, and these words may very well be considered as the words of Christ, and as spoken by him, when he entered upon his ministry, who began it with calling the people of the Jews to repentance, and promising to give them rest; and all such who return to God by repentance, and come to Christ by faith, find spiritual rest for their souls now, and shall have an eternal rest hereafter, Mat_4:17,

    and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight; not only their sins, but their self-righteousness, and dependence upon it; the rites and ceremonies of the old law abolished by Christ, together with the traditions of the elders, by which they made void the commandments of God; all which were abominations in the sight of the Lord, Isa_1:13,

    then shalt thou not remove; from thine own land again when restored, or further off, into more distant countries, for they were now in captivity; or rather the words may be rendered, not as a promise, but as a continuation of what is before said,

    and not move to and fro (n); or be unstable and wavering, tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, and precept of men; but be established in the faith of the Gospel, and steadfast and immovable in every good work. The Targum is:

    "if thou wilt return, O Israel, to my worship, saith the Lord, thy return shall be received before thy decree is sealed; and if thou wilt take away thine abominations from before me, thou shalt not be moved;''

    or wander about.

    HERY 1-2, "When God called to backsliding Israel to return (Jer_3:22) they immediately answered, Lord, we return; now God here takes notice of their answer, and, by way of reply to it,

    I. He directs them how to pursue their good resolutions: Dost thou say, I will return? 1. Then thou must return unto me; make a thorough work of it. Do not only turn from thy idolatries, but return to the instituted worship of the God of Israel. Or, Thou must return speedily and not delay (as Isa_21:12, If you will enquire, enquire you); if you will return unto me, return you: do not talk of it, but do it. 2. Thou must utterly abandon all sin, and not retain any of the relics of idolatry: Put away thy abominations out of my sight, that is, out of all places (for every place is under the eye of God), especially out of the temple, the house which he had in a particular manner his eye upon, to see that it was kept clean. It intimates that their idolatries were not only obvious, but offensive, to the eye of God. They were abominations which he could not endure the sight of; therefore they must be put away out of his sight, because they were a provocation to the pure eyes of God's glory. Sin must be put away out of the heart, else it is not put away out of God's sight, for the heart and all that is in it lie open before his eye. 3. They must not return to sin again; so some understand that, Thou shalt not remove, reading it, Thou shalt not, or must not, wander. If thou wilt put away thy abominations, and wilt not wander after them again, as thou hast done, all shall be well. 4. They must give unto God the glory due unto his name (Jer_4:2): Thou shalt sear, The Lord liveth. His existence shall be with thee the most sacred fact, than which

  • nothing can be more sure, and his judgment the supreme court to which thou shalt appeal, than which nothing can be more awful. Swearing is an act of religious worship, in which we are to give honour to God three ways: - (1.) We must swear by the true God only, and not by creatures, or any false gods, - by the God that liveth, not by the gods that are deaf and dumb and dead, - by him only, and not by the Lord and by Malcham,as Zec_1:5. (2.) We must swear that only which is true, in truth and in righteousness,not daring to assert that which is false, or which we do not know to be true, nor to assert that as certain which is doubtful, nor to promise that which we mean not to perform, nor to violate the promise we have made. To say that which is untrue, or to do that which is unrighteous, is bad, but to back either with an oath is much worse. (3.) We must do it solemnly, swear in judgment, that is, when judicially called to it, and not in common conversation. Rash swearing is as great a profanation of God's name as solemn swearing is an honour to it. See Deu_10:20; Mat_5:34, Mat_5:37.

    II. He encourages them to keep in this good mind and adhere to their resolutions. If the scattered Israelites will thus return to God, 1. They shall be blessed themselves; for to that sense the first words may be read: If thou wilt return to me, then thou shalt return,that is, thou shalt be brought back out of thy captivity into thy own land again, as was of old promised, Deu_4:29; Deu_30:2. Or, Then thou shalt rest in me, shalt return to me as they rest, even while thou art in the land of thy captivity. 2. They shall be blessings to others; for their returning to God again will be a means of others turning to him who never new him. If thou wilt own the living Lord, thou wilt thereby influence the nations among whom thou art to bless themselves in him, to place their happiness in his favour and to think themselves happy in being brought to the fear of him. See Isa_65:16. They shall bless themselves in the God of truth, and not in false gods, shall do themselves the honour, and give themselves the satisfaction, to join themselves to him; and then in him shall they glory; they shall make him their glory, and shall please, nay, shall pride, themselves in the blessed change they have made. Those that part with their sins to return to God, however they scrupled at the bargain at first, when they go away, then they boast.

    JAMISO, "Jer_4:1-31. Continuation of address to the ten tribes of Israel. (Jer_4:1, Jer_4:2). The prophet turns again to Judah, to whom he had originally been sent (Jer_4:3-31).

    return ... return play on words. If thou wouldest return to thy land (thou must first), return (by conversion and repentance) to Me.

    not remove no longer be an unsettled wanderer in a strange land. So Cain (Gen_4:12, Gen_4:14).

    K&D 1-2, "The answer of the Lord. - Jer_4:1. "If thou returnest, Israel, saith Jahveh,returnest to me; and if thou puttest away thine abominations from before my face, and strayest not, Jer_4:2. and swearest, As Jahveh liveth, in truth, with right, and uprightness; then shall the nations bless themselves in Him, and in Him make their boast." Graf errs in taking these verses as a wish: if thou wouldst but repent...and swear...and if they blessed themselves. His reason is, that the conversion and reconciliation with Jahveh has not yet taken place, and are yet only hoped for; and he

    cites passages for with the force of a wish, as Gen_13:3; Gen_28:13, where, however,

  • is joined with it. But if we take all the verbs in the same construction, we get a or very cumbrous result; and the reason alleged proceeds upon a prosaic misconception of the dramatic nature of the prophet's mode of presentation from Jer_3:21 onwards. Just as there the prophet hears in spirit the penitent supplication of the people, so here he hears the Lord's answer to this supplication, by inward vision seeing the future as already present. The early commentators have followed the example of the lxx and Vulg.

    in construing the two verses differently, and take and as apodoses: if thou returnest, Israel, then return to me; or, if thou, Israel, returnest to me, then shalt thou return, sc. into thy fatherland; and if thou puttest away thine abominations from before mine eyes, then shalt thou no longer wander; and if thou swearest...then will they bless

    themselves. But by reason of its position after with it is impossible to connect

    the protasis. It would be more natural to take being put first as apodosis, the for the sake of emphasis. But if we take it as apodosis at all, the apodosis of the second

    half of the verse does not rightly correspond to that of the first half. would need to be translated, "then shalt thou no longer wander without fixed habitation," and so would

    refer to the condition of the people as exiled. but for this is not a suitable expression.

    Besides, it is difficult to justify the introduction of before , since an apodosis has already preceded. For these reasons we are bound to prefer the view of Ew. and Hitz., that Jer_4:1 and Jer_4:2 contain nothing but protases. The removal of the abominations from before God's face is the utter extirpation of idolatry, the negative moment of the return to the Lord; and the swearing by the life of Jahveh is added as a

    positive expression of their acknowledgment of the true God. is the wandering of the idolatrous people after this and the other false god, Jer_2:23 and Jer_3:13. "And strayest not" serves to strengthen "puttest away thine abominations." A sincere return to God demanded not only the destruction of images and the suppression of idol-worship, but also the giving up of all wandering after idols, i.e., seeking or longing after other

    gods. Similarly, swearing by Jahveh is strengthened by the additions: , in truth, not

    deceptively (, Jer_5:2), and with right and uprightness, i.e., in a just cause, and with honest intentions. - The promise, "they shall bless themselves," etc., has in it an allusion to the patriarchal promises in Gen_12:3; Gen_18:18; Gen_22:18; Gen_26:4; Gen_28:14, but it is not, as most commentators, following Jerome, suppose, a direct citation of

    these, and certainly not "a learned quotation from a book" (Ew.), in which case would

    be referable, as in those promises, to Israel, the seed of Abraham, and would stand for

    . This is put out of the question by the parallel which never occurs but with the ,sense of glorying in God the Lord; cf. Isa_41:16, Psa_34:3; 64:11; Psa_105:3, and Jer_

    9:22. Hence it follows that must be referred, as Calv. refers it, to , just as in Isa_65:16 : the nations will bless themselves in or with Jahveh, i.e., will desire and appropriate the blessing of Jahveh and glory in the true God. Even under this acceptation, the only one that can be justified from an exegetical point of view, the words stand in manifest relation to the patriarchal blessing. If the heathen peoples bless themselves in the name of Jahveh, then are they become partakers of the salvation that comes from Jahveh; and if this blessing comes to them as a consequence of the true conversion of Israel to the Lord, as a fruit of this, then it has come to them through Israel as the channel, as the patriarchal blessings declare disertis verbis. Jeremiah does

  • not lay stress upon this intermediate agency of Israel, but leaves it to be indirectly understood from the unmistakeable allusion to the older promise. The reason for the application thus given by Jeremiah to the divine promise made to the patriarchs is found in the aim and scope of the present discourse. The appointment of Israel to be the channel of salvation for the nations is an outcome of the calling grace of God, and the fulfilment of this gracious plan on the part of God is an exercise of the same grace - a grace which Israel by its apostasy does not reject, but helps onwards towards its ordained issue. The return of apostate Israel to its God is indeed necessary ere the destined end be attained; it is not, however, the ground of the blessing of the nations, but only one means towards the consummation of the divine plan of redemption, a plan which embraces all mankind. Israel's apostasy delayed this consummation; the conversion of Israel will have for its issue the blessing of the nations.

    CALVI, "The Prophet no doubt requires here from the people a sincere return to God, inasmuch as they had often pretended to confess their sins, and had given many signs of repentance, while they were acting deceitfully with him. As then they had often dealt falsely with God and with his prophets, Jeremiah bids them to return to God without any disguise and in good faith. With regard to what is here substantially taught, this is the Prophets meaning; but there is some ambiguity in the words.

    Some read thus, If thou returnest, Israel, to me, saith Jehovah, connecting to me, ;teshub, thou shalt rest , with the first clause, then they read separately ,and so they think that what follows is the repetition of the same thing, If thou wilt take away thine abominations from before me, thou shalt not migrate; that is, I will not cast thee out as I have threatened. Others take the verb , teshub, in the same sense, (for it is the same verb repeated,) If thou wilt return, Israel, return to me. The Prophet doubtless bids the Israelites to return to God in sincerity, and without any disguise, and not to act falsely with him, as they had often done.

    I have as yet mentioned only what others have thought; but, in my judgment, the most suitable rendering is, If thou wilt return, Israel, rest in me, arrete toi, as we say in French. Rest then in me; and then a definition is given, If thou wilt take away thine abominations (for the copulative is to be taken as expletive or explanatory) from my sight, and wilt not wander What some of those I have referred to have given as their rendering, If thou wilt return to me, Israel, thou shalt rest, I wholly reject, as it seems forced: but I allow this reading, If thou wilt return, Israel, thou shalt rest in me; or this, If thou wilt return, Israel, return to me; for the difference is not great. The Prophet here evidently condemns the hypocrisy which the Israelites had practiced; for they had often professed themselves as ready to render obedience to God, and afterwards proved that they had made a false profession. Since then deceit and emptiness had been so often found in them, the Prophet demands here, in the name and by the command of God, that they should in truth and sincerity return to him.

    If this reading be approved, Israel, return to me, the intimation is, that they ever

  • took circuitous courses, that they might not return directly to God: for it is usual with hypocrites to make a great show of repentance and at the same time to shun God. If then we follow this reading, the Prophet means this, Israel, there is no reason for thee hereafter to think that thou gainest anything by boasting with thy mouth of thy repentance; return to me; know that thou hast to do with God, who is not deceived, as he never deceives any: return then faithfully to me, and let thy conversion be sincere and in no way deceptive.

    But if the verb, , teshub, be taken in the other sense, there would be no great difference in the meaning; If thou wilt return, Israel, thou shalt rest in me; that is, thou shalt hereafter have nothing to do with idols and with thy perverted ways. Thus the Prophet briefly shews that the return of Israel would be nothing, except they acquiesced in God alone, and wandered not after vain objects, as they had often done. And with this view corresponds what follows, Even if thou takest away (for the copulative, as I have said, is to be taken as explanatory) thine abominations from my sight, and wilt wander no more, , vela tanud. For the vice which Jeremiah meant especially to condemn was this, that Israel, while pretending a great show of religion, yet vacillated and did not devote themselves with all their heart to God, but were changeable in their purpose. This vice then is what Jeremiah justly condemns; and hence I am disposed to embrace this view Israel, if thou wilt return, rest in me; that is, continue constantly faithful to me: but how can this be done? Even if thou wilt take away thy abominations, and if thou wilt not wander; for thy levity and inconstancy hitherto has been well known. (98)

    Whatever view we may take, this passage deserves to be noticed as being against hypocrites, who dare not openly to reject prophetic warnings; but while they shew some tokens of repentance, they still by windings shun the presence of God. They indeed testify by their mouth that they seek God, but yet have recourse to subterfuges: and hence I have said that this passage is remarkably useful, so that we may know that God cannot be pacified by those fallacious trifles which hypocrites bring forward, but that he requires a sincere heart, and that he abominates all dissimulation. It is therefore expressly said, If thou wilt take away thy abominations from my sight For hypocrites ever regard display and seek to be approved by men, and are satisfied with their approbation; but God calls their attention to himself. It must at the same time be observed, that he cannot be deceived; for he is the searcher of hearts. It follows

    1.If thou wilt return, Israel, saith Jehovah, to me, Thou shalt be restored, (that is, from captivity:) If thou wilt remove thy abominations from my sight, Thou shalt not be a wanderer.


    COFFMA, "Verse 1JEREMIAH 4


    The chapter begins with a conclusion of the prophet's address to the orthern Israel (Jeremiah 4:1-2); then there is a call for Judah's repentance and return to duty as the very last hope of her averting destruction (Jeremiah 4:3-4); next, the Babylonian invasion is prophesied (Jeremiah 4:5-9); there follows the most difficult verse in the chapter (Jeremiah 4:10); a continued description of the forthcoming invasion is given (Jeremiah 4:11-18); personified Judah bewails her fate (Jeremiah 4:19-21); God's answer and the cause of their misery are related (Jeremiah 4:22); a prophecy of the awful extent of the destruction is announced (Jeremiah 4:23-26); and, notwithstanding God's promise not to make a "full end" of Judah (Jeremiah 4:27); there follows the magnificent prophecy of the Judgment of Judah in terminology that suggests also the final destruction of Adam's rebellious race in the Day of Judgment (Jeremiah 4:16-31).

    Jeremiah 4:1-2

    "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith Jehovah, if thou wilt return unto me, and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight; then shalt thou not be removed; and thou shalt swear, as Jehovah liveth, in truth, in justice, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory."

    What marvelous things could have happened if only Israel had repented and returned to God. This promise came a hundred years after their going captive into Assyria; but even then God could have achieved wonders through them IF, only IF, they had repented. Of course, it proved a vain hope. There is no evidence whatever of any slightest intention upon their part of returning to God.

    ote especially that "the nations," that is, the Gentiles would have been converted, and that Israel would have been the means of God's reaching them! Gentiles and nations are alternate renditions of the same Hebrew noun.

    As Cook stated it:

    "Two great truths are taught in this verse: (1) that the Gentiles were to be members of the Church of the Messiah, and (2) that Israel's peculiar office was to be God's instrument in that great work. Thus Jeremiah is in exact accord with the evangelical teaching of Isaiah."[1]It should not be overlooked that, "The situation envisaged here was a prospect, rather than a reality."[2] There could be neither a return of Israel to their homeland nor the conversion of the nations without a genuine abandonment of their apostasy, which never happened.

    These verses appear to be God's answer to Israel's response to the invitation of Jeremiah 3:22. "When God called Israel to repent, they immediately answered, Lord, we return; now God takes notice of it in this reply."[3] "If you have it in mind to return to me, return; but come all the way back to me"![4] Of course, there are

  • three things involved in such a return: (1) the immediate and total abandonment of their idolatry, (2) a return to the sincere and wholehearted worship and service of the true God, and (3) a radical revision and restructuring of their lives in a pattern of obedience, justice, and faithfulness. These remain still, in all ages, the basics of true repentance.

    COKE, "Jeremiah 4:1. If thou wilt returnreturn unto me If thou wilt returnthou shalt return. [Thou shalt dwell with me. Houb.] If thou wilt remove thy idols, thou shalt not be removed. In the former part, says Houbigant, the conversion of their [hearts and] morals is spoken of; in the latter, the stability of their government. These words are evidently a continuation of the discourse beginning at the 6th verse of the preceding chapter, and of the prophet's address to the Israelitish captives in the 20th verse of the same chapter.

    TRAPP, "Jeremiah 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.

    Ver. 1. If thou wilt return, O Israel.] As thou seemest willing to do, and for very good reason. [Jeremiah 2:22-24] Thou art but a beaten rebel, and to stand it out with me is to no purpose; thou must either turn or burn. either will it help thee to return fainly, for I love truth in the inward parts, and hate hypocrisy, halting, and tepidity. If therefore thou wilt return,

    Return unto me.] Return as far as to me; not from one evil course to another, [Jeremiah 2:36] for that is but to be tossed as a ball from one of the devils hands to the other, but "to me with thy whole heart," seriously, sincerely, and zealously; for on amat, qui non zelat. To a tyrant thou shalt not turn, but to one that will both assist thee, [Proverbs 1:23] and accept thee. [Zechariah 1:2]

    And if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight,] i.e., Thine idols out of thine house and out of thine heart. [Ezekiel 14:3-4]

    Then shalt thou not remove.] But still dwell in the land and do good; feeding on faith, as Tremellius rendereth that Psalms 37:3.


    Jereremiah 1:1 - Jeremiah 5:31

    "Count me oer earths chosen heroes-they were souls that stood alone, While the men they agonized for hurled the contumelious stone; Stood serene, and down the future saw the golden beam incline To the side of perfect justice, mastered by their

  • faith divine, By one mans plain truth to manhood and to Gods supreme design."

    - LOWELL

    TRULY Jeremiah was a prophet of evil. The king might have addressed him in the words with which Agamemnon reproaches Kalchas.

    "Augur accursed! denouncing mischief still:

    Prophet of plagues, forever boding ill!

    Still must that tongue some wounding message bring,

    And still thy priestly pride provoke thy king."

    ever was there a sadder man. Like Phocion, he believed in the enemies of his country more than he believed in his own people. He saw "Too late" written upon everything. "He saw himself all but universally execrated as a coward, as a traitor, as one who weakened the nerves and damped the courage of those who were fighting against fearful odds for their wives and children, the ashes of their fathers, their altars, and their hearths. It had become his fixed conviction that any prophets-and there were a multitude of them-who prophesied peace were false prophets, and ipso facto proved themselves conspirators against the true well-being of the land Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11, Ezekiel 13:10. In point of fact, Jeremiah lived to witness the death struggle of the idea of religion in its predominantly national character. {Jeremiah 7:8-16; Jeremiah 6:8} The continuity of the national faith refused to be bound up with the continuance of the nation. When the nation is dissolved into individual elements, the continuity and ultimate victory of the true faith depends on the relations of Jehovah to individual souls out of which the nation shall be bound up."

    And now a sad misfortune happened to Jeremiah. His home was not at Jerusalem, but at Anathoth, though he had long been driven from his native village by the murderous plots of his own kindred, and of those who had been infuriated by his incessant prophecies of doom. When the Chaldaeans retired from Jerusalem to encounter Pharaoh, he left the distressed city for the land of Benjamin, "to receive his portion from thence in the midst of the people"-apparently, for the sense is doubtful, to claim his dues of maintenance as a priest. But at the city gate he was arrested by Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the captain of the watch, who charged him with the intention of deserting to the Chaldaeans. Jeremiah pronounced the charge to be a lie; but Irijah took him before the princes, who hated him, and consigned him to dreary and dangerous imprisonment in the house of Jonathan the scribe. In the vaults of this house of the pit he continued many days. {Jeremiah 37:11-15} The king sympathized with him: he would gladly have delivered him, if he could, from the rage of the princes; but he did not dare. Meanwhile, the siege went on, and the people never forgot the anguish of despair with which they waited the re-investiture of the city. Ever since that day it has been kept as a fast-the fast of Tebeth.

  • Zedekiah, yearning for some advice, or comfort-if comfort were to be had-from the only man whom he really trusted, sent for Jeremiah to the palace, and asked him in despicable secrecy, "Is there any word from the Lord?" The answer was the old one: "Yes! Thou shalt be delivered into the hands of the King of Babylon." Jeremiah gave it without quailing, but seized the opportunity to ask on what plea he was imprisoned. Was he not a prophet? Had he not prophesied the return of the Chaldaean host? Where now were all the prophets who had prophesied peace? Would not the king at least save him from the detestable prison in which he was dying by inches? The king heard his petition, and he was removed to a better prison in the court of the watch where he received his daily piece of bread out of the bakers street until all the bread in the city was spent. For now utter famine came upon the wretched Jews, to add to the horrors and accidents of the siege. If we would know what that famine was in its appalling intensity, we must turn to the Book of Lamentations. Those elegies, so unutterably plaintive, may not be by the prophet himself, but only by his school but they show us what was the frightful condition of the people of Jerusalem before and during the last six months of the siege. "The sword of the wilderness"-the roving and plundering Bedouin-made it impossible to get out of the city in any direction. Things were as dreadfully hopeless as they had been in Samaria when it was besieged by Benhadad. {Lamentations 5:4} Hunger and thirst reduce human nature to its most animal conditions. They obliterate the merest elements of morality. They make men like beasts, and reveal the ferocity which is never quite dead in any but the purest and loftiest souls. They arouse the least human instincts of the aboriginal animal. The day came when there was no more bread left in Jerusalem. {Jeremiah 37:21; Jeremiah 38:9; Jeremiah 52:6} The fair and ruddyazarites, who had been purer than snow, whiter than milk, more ruddy than corals, lovely as sapphires, became like withered boughs, {Lamentations 4:7-8} and even their friends did not recognize them in those ghastly and emaciated figures which crept about the streets. The daughters of Zion, more cruel in their hunger than the very jackals, lost the instincts of pity and motherhood. Mothers and fathers devoured their own little unweaned children. There was parricide as well as infanticide in the horrible houses. They seemed to plead that none could blame them, since the lives of many had become an intolerable anguish, and no man had bread for his little ones, and their tongues cleaved to the roof of their mouth. All that happened six centuries later, during the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, happened now. Then Martha, the daughter of icodemus ben-Gorion, once a lady of enormous wealth, was seen picking the grains of corn from the offal of the streets; now the women who had fed delicately and been brought up in scarlet were seen sitting desolate on heaps of dung. And Jehovah did not raise His hand to save His guilty and dying people. It was too late!

    And as is always the case in such extremities, there were men who stood defiant and selfish amid the universal misery. Murder, oppression, and luxury continued to prevail. The godless nobles did not intermit the building of their luxurious houses, asserting to themselves and others that, after all, the final catastrophe was not near at hand. The sudden death of one of them-Pelatiah, the son of Benaiah-while Ezekiel was prophesying, terrified the prophet so much that he flung himself on his face and cried with a loud voice, "Ah, Lord God! wilt Thou make a full end of the remnant of

  • Israel?" But on the others this death by the visitation of God seems to have produced no effect; and the glory of God left the city, borne away upon its cherubim-chariot. {Ezekiel 11:22}

    Even under the stress of these dreadful circumstances the Jews held out with that desperate tenacity which has often been shown by nations fighting behind strong walls for their very existence, but by no nation more decidedly than by the Jews. And if the rebel-party, and the lying prophets who had brought the city to this pass, still entertained any hopes either of a diversion caused by Pharaoh Hophrah, or of some miraculous deliverance such as that which had saved the city from Sennacherib years earlier, it is not unnatural that they should have regarded Jeremiah with positive fury. For he still continued to prophesy the captivity. What specially angered them was his message to the people that all who remained in Jerusalem should die by the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, but that those who deserted to the Chaldaeans should live. It was on the ground of his having said this that they had imprisoned him as a deserter; and when Pashur and his son Gedaliah heard that he was still saying this, they and the other princes entreated Zedekiah to put him to death as a pernicious traitor, who weakened the hands of the patriot soldiers. Jeremiah was not guilty of the lack of patriotism with which they charged him. The day of independence had passed forever, and Babylon, not Egypt, was the appointed suzerain. The counseling of submission-as many a victorious chieftain has been forced at last to counsel it, from the days of Hannibal to those of Thiers-is often the true and the only possible patriotism in doomed and decadent nations. Zedekiah timidly abandoned the prophet to the rage of his enemies; but being afraid to murder him openly as Urijah had been murdered, they flung him into a well in the dungeon of Mal-chiah, the kings son. Into the mire of this pit he sank up to the arms, and there they purposely left him to starve and rot. But if no Israelite pitied him, his condition moved the compassion of Ebed-Melech, an Ethiopian, one of the kings eunuch-chamberlains. He hurried to the king in a storm of pity and indignation. He found him sitting, as a king should do, at the post of danger in the gate of Benjamin; for Zedekiah was not a physical, though he was a moral, coward. Ebed-Melech told the king that Jeremiah was dying of starvation, and Zedekiah bade him take three men with him and rescue the dying man. The faithful Ethiopian hurried to a cellar under the treasury, took with him some old, worn fragments of robes, and, letting them down by cords, called to Jeremiah to put them under his arm-pits. He did so, and they drew him up into the light of day, though he still remained in prison.

    It seems to have been at this time that, in spite of his grim vaticination of immediate retribution, Jeremiah showed his serene confidence in the ultimate future by accepting the proposal of his cousin Hanameel to buy some of the paternal fields at Anathoth, though at that very moment they were in the hands of the Chaldaeans. Such an act, publicly performed, must have caused some consolation to the besieged, just as did the courage of the Roman senator who gave a good price for the estate outside the walls of Rome on which Hannibal was actually encamped.

    Then Zedekiah once more secretly sent for him, and implored him to tell the

  • unvarnished truth. "If I do, " said the prophet, "will you not kill me? and will you in any case hearken to me?" Zedekiah swore not to betray him to his enemies; and Jeremiah told him that, even at that eleventh hour, if he would go out and make submission to the Babylonians, the city should not be burnt, and he should save the lives of himself and of his family. Zedekiah believed him, but pleaded that he was afraid of the mockery of the deserters to whom he might be delivered. Jeremiah assured him that he should not be so delivered, and, that, if he refused to obey, nothing remained for the city, and for him and his wives and children, but final ruin. The king was too weak to follow what he must now have felt to be the last chance which God had opened out for him. He could only "attain to half-believe." He entrusted the result to chance, with miserable vacillation of purpose; and the door of hope was closed upon him. His one desire was to conceal the interview; and if it came to the ears of the princes-of whom he was shamefully afraid-he begged Jeremiah to say that he had only entreated the king not to send him back to die in Jonathans prison.

    As he had suspected, it became known that Jeremiah had been summoned to an interview with the king. They questioned the prophet in prison. He told them the story which the king had suggested to him, and the truth remained undiscovered. For this deflection from exact truth it is tolerably certain that, in the state of mens consciences upon the subject of veracity in those days, the prophets moral sense did not for a moment reproach him. He remained in his prison, guarded probably by the faithful Ebed-Melech, until Jerusalem was taken.

    Let us pity the dreadful plight of Zedekiah, aggravated as it was by his weak temperament. "He stands at the head of a people determined to defend itself, but is himself without either hope or courage."

    PARKER, "The Pleadings of God

    Jeremiah 4

    The people had just said they would return, for they were tired of their evil ways. They had been looking to the hills for salvation, and no salvation came; they had turned their eyes to the multitude of mountains, and found them to be utterly barren of hope. The Lord had told them this, and they had confirmed it by much experience of a painful kind. The people said: "We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God" ( Jeremiah 3:25). Men can say that as if they could not help doing the wickedness they complain of. This matter of confession needs analysis. We should look into it very penetratingly, for there may be irreligion in religion, impiety in piety. Why do men do the things that they are ashamed of, knowing that they will have to repent of them? And yet with all this staring them in the face with appalling vividness, they put out both hands to do evil, and they drink deeply at the streams of wickedness. They will repent tomorrow, and repeat the evil on the third day; they rest that they may get energy to serve the devil more faithfully; they retire to pray

  • that they may come back with a keener appetite to the devil"s banquet. This is the mystery of human nature; this is the insoluble point in the study of the soul. Yet the Lord allows himself (we speak reverently) to be mocked and deceived for a time. The moment he sees a tear he says, If you will return, I will dry that tear away. Whenever he hears a returning one crying out in the bitterness of his soul, he seems to say, The past is now forgotten; come in, and feast upon the true bread; come and be shielded by my omnipotence.

    A strange ministry is that of Almightiness. It is almightinessalmost. Men who are critics only have found out that God cannot be almighty, or things would be different; and this they have held up as a revelation: whereas, it is no Revelation , but the veriest commonplace of the Bible. It is God who "repents" that he made manin some sense we cannot understand; but there is no other word which could convey even a hint of his meaning to our obtuse minds. It is God who says, I cannot do it: I have failed. I have planted a vineyard and looked for grapes, and behold it has brought forth wild grapes; the vineyard has been ungrateful. I might have been the most unskilled husbandman, nay, I might have been a niggard in the vineyard, sparing everything that tended to nurture and develop; for hereholding up the wild grapesis the result of all my toil and love and care. So we come upon a mysterious if in all the history of God"s administration. "If thou wilt return"why not make them return? Here man is stronger than God. We have seen in innumerable instances how true it is that God, who can handle universes, can do nothing with the heart he has made except with the heart"s consent. He made man in his own image and likeness: it is dangerous to give your personality to another. What is there to be had without danger, without an infinite risk? It were better to be a man with the pain of manhood as a daily portion, than to be the proudest beast that shakes the earth with his great hoofs. It is better that the child should live to smite you in the face, than that it should be a child made of marble which has been carved, and which can neither speak nor pray nor sin nor laugh nor die. There is a grim comfort even in gravedigging under the hearthstone: when it is all over the afflicted one says: I had the child awhile, and during his sojourn with me he doubled my life and made every day a Sabbath; even now I would not give up the experience of the joy because of this rain of bitterest tears. It may be that God has some comfort in this old earth yet. We are not children that cannot lie. If we could not lie, we could not pray. It is because we can distress God that we can please him. Displeasure is a multiple; it is a complex term; it involves much; it is full of giving and taking and exchanging and transforming, so that heart passes into heart, life into life, and love doubles love, and prayer ennobles life into immortality. Behold God, then, as a pleader. "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight,"if thou wilt swear, "The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness,"if thou wilt do these things, the issue will be glorious; it will also be beneficent, it will have an evangelistic effect upon the world. The reason seems to be curious, but it allows itself to be examined with the assurance that when it is really understood it will cast light upon many a mystery.

    How does the reasoning culminate? Thus: If thou wilt returnif thou wilt put away

  • the things of thy shameif thou wilt wander no moreif thou wilt swear, "The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness," then "nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory." The meaning Isaiah , the heathen nations round about shall see thy return, and they will begin to own the power of God. That is the converting force that must be brought to bear upon the whole of the nations. The Church must be so beautiful as to attract attention. There must be something in prayer that there is in nothing else. Heathen nations may answer arguments: they cannot answer character. When Christians do right, pagans will believe; when Christians claim their uniqueness of quality and exemplify it, the men who get up arguments against Christianity will be ashamed of their own ingenuity, and run away from the things their hands have piled, saying, We cannot build fortresses against such quality of character. This is true missionary work. An honest England means a converted India. A drinking England means a sneering China. When we take our evil customs to other shores as well as our missionaries, what wonder if the natives should follow the customs and allow the missionaries to do what they please, and all their work to come to an impotent issue? We do the same thing: we copy the bad, we mimic the evil in all our mimetics, we reproduce defects; being skilled reproducers of feature and tone. It is the defect we reproduce, and not the sterling excellence The Lord here lays down the sublime doctrine that if his Church would be right the world would soon be converted.

    The chapter proceeds"Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns." There is a negative work to be done. The ground wants cutting up, exposing to the light and the rain. "Sow not among thorns." Here is the hint of a great parable already. When Jesus Christ borrowed he borrowed from himself. He was never indebted to any man for a thought. He quoted no parables, he made them for the occasion; and how exquisitely they fitted the opportunity! How upon all human life he laid the line of his imagination, and caused that imagination to take its mould from the immediate circumstances, and gathered from those circumstances his most solemn expositions and appeals. "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart" ( Jeremiah 4:4). Already the book begins to be spiritual. For a long time we have been with the symbols and types and hints of things, and we could not understand them; we said, Thank God we are not Jews! we never could go through all this dreary curriculum: surely the Lord was taunting the people and mocking them, and loading them with grievous burdens, in all this fire-lighting, and all this blood-shedding, and all this continual ritual, always ending where it began, and. in its ending but creating a new beginning: we became weary of the infinite monotony. Here and there the book has revealed the true spiritual element. The commandments at the very first, as we have seen, put out tentacles that meant a kingdom invisible, for the commandments ended with "Thou shalt not covet." What a rise in the education of Israel! "Thou shalt not steal"a vulgar exhortation: who wants to steal? But at the end, having got through the nine well, we come to "Thou shalt not covet." Already the kingdom of the spiritual is setting in; and now the prophet says, speaking in the name of God, "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart:" "rend your heart, and not your garments." This was the meaning of all the education. It was very irksome, most tedious, the people were groaning under it; but it was all required in order that the spiritual

  • revelation might be made complete and vivid; the meaning was, It is the heart that must be circumcised; it is the spirit that must be cleansed; it is the soul that must be attuned to heaven"s music. Be real, not ceremonial. Do not only be in the open church, into which every man may go, but find your reverent way into the inner sanctuary, and have an interview with God, face to face, when no one else is present Do not have a set of dogmas, all trimmed and dressed, and marked in plain figures, to which you pay a moment"s court once a week; but have living principles active doctrines, penetrating beliefs, convictions that seize the whole nature, and conduct it through a purifying and ennobling process. The Lord will have no ritual that is not significant of an inward ministry. He will have no cleanliness of the body, unless it mean that the soul has undergone divine catharism, and is spiritually cleansed, as a vessel may be chemically purified. This is a sublime issue; this explains everything. It is so with our intellectual education. Who likes to learn alphabets? What do they all amount to, when the five- or six-and-twenty letters are all learned, in this shape and that, curious as if the genius of learning had determined to puzzle the intellect of the world? What are they? They say nothing; they do not know one another; they have to be introduced to one another, and combined, and related, and interrelated, and run into one another; they have to undergo a process of tessellation: but when the child first sees the living meaning of a sentence, and that sentence is full of light and poetry and music, he says, This is worth all the toil. To have been studying a foreign tongue, and then to be able to pass into the nation where it is spoken, and to hold intercourse with the inhabitantseasy, confident, ample intercoursethen the student says, It was worth all the long nights I spent upon the acquisition of this language: it has given me a new world, it has enlarged the horizon of my outlook, I am thankful for all the pains I underwent. So it is with Christian education. There are rituals, observances, penances, ceremonies, and they become irksome, until they yield up their meaning; and the moment a soul can out of its own self pray, shoot out one living sentence, it beholds new heavens and a new earth, and says, This is the meaning of all the discipline; blessed be God, I am a free man of the heavens; I can in my own name for my very self pray through Christ and receive blessings direct from God. If we have not circumcised our hearts, if we have not taken away the foreskins of our hearts and souls, we know nothing about the Christian religion and ought not to profess it.

    In the twenty-second verse we have a remarkable charge:

    "For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding." ( Jeremiah 4:22)

    Here is inverted genius; here is abused faculty. Here is a man who is in the high pay of the devil. For the devil could hardly do without him, so inventive is he in all evil; he has coined a new language, minted a new currency of evil; he has achieved the right to share the throne of blackness with Beelzebub. The Lord has determined that all falsehood shall come to an unholy end.

    "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" ( Jeremiah 4:30).

    This renting of the face Isaiah , literally, enlarging of the eyes, through kohl or antimonya trick of artificial beauty. And the poor creature has taken out her best clothes, painted herself with the fairest colours, done all she could from the outside, and behold the issue is: "Thy lovers will despise thee"they will see through thee. The knave shall know that he is more seen through than he supposes. He is very skilful up to a given point. The accusation relates both to men and women; charges can easily be made; but it is the whole human nature that is involved in this impeachment. There is clothing, and there is painting, and there is decoration with gold, and there is renting of the face; but after all is over men feel that this is unreal, untrue, utterly rotten at the core; they say this is "a goodly apple rotten at the heart." Let us understand this, that whether we be discovered now or then, we shall be discovered. The hollow man shall be sounded, and shall be pronounced void. Thou art weighed in the balances, and found wanting; and thou, poor fool, hast covered up the hectic flush of consumption with indigo that will wash off, or with some other colour that can be cleansed away; thou hast made thyself look otherwise than as thou art: but all that is external shall be taken from thee, and thou shalt be seen in thy naked hideousness and ghastliness. This is right! The revelation will be awful; but it ought to be made, or heaven itself will be insecure. Oh what disclosures then! The canting hypocrite without his cloak; the skilful mocker who has lost his power of jesting; the knave who always said a grace he had committed to memory before he cut the bread he had stolen; the preacher who knew the right, and yet the wrong pursued; the fair speaker, who knew the very subtlety of music as to persuasion, and yet decoyed souls down the way at the end of which is hell. Then the other revelation will also be made. There may be men of rough manners who shall prove to have been all the while animated by a gentle spirit; there may be those who have been regarded as Philistines who are God"s gentlemen; there may be those who have been thought as unworthy of courtesy who shall be set high among the angels. "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye Judges , ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." To be seen through,that is an awful thought. To have it made plain that the smile was only on the lips and not in the soul,who could bear the disclosure? To have the royal purple taken away and the lurch of the cripple revealed,who could bear it? Who can stand before the judgment of God? When the day burneth like an oven, who can bear the ardour? Unless we face these solemn and fundamental questions we never can understand what is meant by God"s great offer, by Christ"s redeeming Cross, by the ministry of the Holy Ghost. If we tell lies to ourselves, we disqualify ourselves for hearing the music of the gospel. If we live a frivolous surface-life, eating, drinking, talking, sleeping, buying, selling, getting gain, moving to and fro like a weaver"s shuttle, then we shall know nothing about the agony of Golgotha, and the meaning of the shed blood of the Son of God: it will be mockery to us; the Sabbath will be a burden, the church will be a nuisance, the grand appeal will be wasted eloquence. But let a man come to feel that he is really a soul, in very deed, made in the image and likeness of God; let him feel one sting of conscience; let him know that he can do nothing towards obliterating the past, even if he could live

  • a beautiful life from this day forth evermore; then he will begin to ask, Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Has no provision been made in this great medical universe for the healing of wounds such as gape in my soul? Does the world grow herbs for the healing of the body, and is there no garden where things are grown for the healing of the soul? It is in that hour that the Christian evangelist has his glorious opportunity; it is then he can say, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved; the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost; thy shame is thy introduction to the Father; thy penitence shall open the door of the sanctuary in which he dwells; he needs no introduction to a broken heart, a contrite spirit, a soul that afflicts itself because of its self-helplessness. Thus from the Old Testament, as from the ew, there comes up a gospelin the one case, the necessity for deliverance; in the other, the living Delivererthe tender, sympathetic, all-understanding, mighty, infinite Son of God.

    PULPIT 1-2K, "The form and structure of the translation require a change. Render, If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith Jehovah, wilt return unto me; and if thou wilt put away, etc; and not wander; and wilt swear, As Jehovah liveth, with good faith, with justice, and with righteousness; then shall the nations bless themselves by him, and in him shall they glory. The clause, "and not wander," seems too short; the Septuagint had a choicer reading, "and put away, etc; from his [thy] mouth, and not wander from before me." It is the close of the prophecy which we have here. The prophet subjoins a promise which he has heard from Jehovah. True, it does not appeal to Israel's self-love (as Isaiah 48:18, Isaiah 48:19; Psalms 81:13-16), but to a nobler feeling of responsibility for the world's welfare. Israel has been entrusted with a mission, and on the due performance of this mission hangs the weal or woe of humanity. Hence Jehovah's longing for Israel's repentance. If Israel will but "return," and obey God's commandments, all nations will be attracted to the true religion. The form of expression used for the latter statement is borrowed probably from Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4 (it is less closely parallel with Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18). To "bless by" any one is to use his name in the benediction formula. Seeing Israel so blessed through his allegiance to Jehovah, all nations shall wish themselves a similar blessing (the reverse of the process in Jeremiah 29:22; comp. Isaiah 65:16). To "swear, As Jehovah liveth," means to call Jehovah to witness to the truth of a statement. This is to be done "with good faith," etc; i.e. the object of the oath must be consistent with honesty and probity. Abominations; i.e. idols, as often (see 2 Kings 23:24).

    BI 1-4, "If thou wilt return,. . .and if thou wilt put away thine abominations . . . then shalt thou not remove.

    The pleadings of God

    A strange ministry is that of Almightiness. It is almightinessalmost. So we come upon a mysterious if in all the history of Gods administration. If thou wilt returnwhy not make them return? Here man is stronger than God. We have seen in innumerable instances how true it is that God, who can handle universes, can do nothing with the heart He has made except with the hearts consent. Behold God, then, as a pleader. If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto Me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of My sight,if thou wilt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth, in

  • judgment, and in righteousness,if thou wilt do these things, the issue will be glorious; it will also be beneficent, it will have an evangelistic effect upon the world. The meaning is, the heathen nations round about shall see thy return, and they will begin to own the power of God. That is the converting force that must be brought to bear upon the whole of the nations. The Church must be so beautiful as to attract attention. When Christians do right, pagans will believe; when Christians claim their uniqueness of quality and exemplify it, the men who get up arguments against Christianity will be ashamed of their own ingenuity, and run away from the things their hands have piled, saying, We cannot build fortresses against such quality of character. This is true missionary work. (J. Parker, D. D.)

    Putting away of sin

    A great warrior was once persuaded by his enemies to put on a beautiful robe which they presented him. Not suspecting their design, he wrapped himself tightly in it, but in a few moments found that it was coated on the inside with a deadly poison. It stuck to his flesh as if it had been glued. The poison entered into his flesh, so that in trying to throw off the cloak, he was left torn and bleeding. But did he for that reason hesitate about taking it off? Did he stop to think whether it was painful or not? Did he say, Let me wait and think about it awhile? No! he tore it off at once, and threw it from him, and hastened away from it to the physician. This is the way you must treat your sins if you would be saved. They have gone into your soul. If you let them alone you perish. You must not fear the pain of repentance. You must east them from you as poison, and hasten away to Jesus Christ. Do this, or your sins will consume you like fire. (T. Meade.)

    And thou shalt swear.

    On swearing

    I. The command. Did Christ countermand this? (Mat_5:34.) The Son forbid in the Gospel what the Father bids in the law? God bids thee swear, so thy oath be truthful and needful; Christ forbids swearing which is truthless and needless.

    II. The form. God bade us swear; now He tells us how. The Lord liveth. It is, then, impiety to swear by creatures. God prevents all evasion by the name He here givesthe Lord; not any god the swearer would substitute, as some swear by angels, called in Scripture Elohim, and superstition worships them as gods.

    III. Three particulars.

    1. In truth. Perjury is impiousmakes that which is the sign and seal of truth, the cloak of falsehood.

    2. In judgment. Swear not upon guess only.

    3. In righteousness. To any act against right or religion bind not thyself, let not any bind thee. (R. Clerke, D. D.)

    Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.

    Soul agriculture

  • I. Proper attention to the soil.

    1. Variety of condition.

    2. Capability of improvement.

    II. Proper attention to the seed.

    1. Care in selection of true spiritual seed. The Gospel

    (1) Perfect in itself.

    (2) Fitted to grow in all climates.

    (3) It does not sow itself.

    (4) It is the support of life.

    2. Attention must also be paid to its growth.

    III. Proper attention to the season.

    1. Youth.

    2. The season of moral seriousness, when the heart has been softened. (Homilist.)

    The life of the sinner a foolish agriculture

    The people referred to as sowing among thorns are those, perhaps, who are endeavouring by religious study and effort to get the seeds of Divine good into them when their hearts remain full of worldly things.

    I. A grand evil. Sowing precious seed in bad soil involves three things.

    1. Loss of seed. The precious grain has been thrown away.

    2. Loss of labour. All the efforts employed go for nothing.

    3. Loss of hope. All the bright anticipations of a glorious future frustrated.

    II. An urgent duty. Break up your fallow ground. This means in one word evangelical repentance for sin.

    1. This in moral, as well as material, agriculture is hard work. A skilful ploughman, a strong plough and a vigorous team are necessary. It is hard work to repent.

    2. This in moral, as well as in material, agriculture is indispensable work. (Homilist.)

    The fallow ground broken

    I. The necessity of fallowing the ground is obvious to all who are practically acquainted with tillage: and such as are experimentally informed on the subject of the evil and barrenness of their own hearts, will admit the absolute requirement of a similar mental process. All your carnal hopes, and criminal opposition to the Divine will, must be completely eradicated.

    II. The nature of this part of a farmers business will well Illustrate the correspondent toil of a believer. No attempt to cleanse the heart, however disagreeable, is intentionally neglected by the sincere believerno effort is relied upon; all is subservient to the

  • expected influences of heaven.

    III. The advantages of this procedure. Those who make thorough work with their own hearts, will find that their religious joys and better hopes, though delayed, shall be most vigorous; their subsequent sufferings from the grieving thorn and pricking brier shall be fewer; and a richer harvest shall at length crown their toil.

    1. If you desire permanent prosperity and joy in the Holy Ghost, break up the fallow groundsow not among thorns.

    2. Be personal in this labour. Turn your eyes from others to yourself.

    3. Remember your own unworthiness, and the poverty of your unassisted endeavours. (W. Clayton.)

    Ploughing and sowing

    This season of spring, with its ploughing, and sowing, and opening of life, typifies the time which God has given for forming in us enlightened principles and virtuous habits, holy motives and pure desires, and for becoming possessed of the grace and goodness which Jesus has to impart, in order that we may grow up into the Divine life of God, which shall abide with us through old age as the source of true enjoyment, and as the first beginnings of eternal glory. The ploughshare of the Divine Word must pierce into us, and break up our hardness and indifference, and make us impressible and movable, to fit us for bringing forth the fruits of righteousness. For example, the seedtime of life, like that of spring, regulates and determines the moral results which the future shall unfold, whether in time or in eternity. Our life on earth is the scene of moral causes and operationsthe sowing time of our spiritthe period for the earnest cultivation of our moral nature; and it is to us all the more important, because it is far-reaching in its effects, stretching beyond the present earthly existence into eternity, bearing the flowers and blossoms of spiritual beauty and grace, a manifestation of Deity in humanity. And if these moral causes do not operateif the seed time of life be wastedif the cultivation of the moral nature be neglected, equally true the effects of such a life are eternal, stretching beyond the present earthly existence, and bearing into eternity the fruits of moral depravity and corruption. Now, this cultivation of our moral nature is no easy task. Even in matters connected with this life, if we neglect any duty from time to time, or if we delay entering upon any employment necessary to our material or social well-being, indolence increases, disinclination to perform the duty strengthens, dislike to the employment springs up, until habit entirely unfits us for action. In the same way, to ignore religious truth in its relation to our heart, and to neglect religious duties, is to deepen false impressions, strengthen ignorant prejudices, and confirm evil habits. This also is certain, that if good seed is not germinating in our hearts, thorns of evil are, do what we will. If, for instance, our mind is not exercised with religious truth, and no effort made on our part to understand intelligently the revelation which God has made of human salvation; or if the heart be unopened to the power of the Divine Spirit and the moral impressions of Divine truth; and if we continue to refuse accepting Christ as the Saviour of our soul; then our mental and moral nature will become as hard-baked fallow ground, almost impenetrable to the ploughshare of heaven. The indifference of the mind to religious truth keeps the heart spiritually cold, and the coldness of the heart induces in the mind a distaste for spiritual things. On the other hand, any powerful awakening in connection with religion or religious truth, whether it affect the mind alone, or the heart alone, or both together, is in the highest sense beneficial to our soul. Whatever acts on

  • the mind so as to turn it in upon itself, whatever makes the soul depend upon God, and believe in an invisible spiritual world as a reality, though accompanied with strong excitement or inward conflict, is good, and leads to spiritual power. Besides, the precise form of treatment that does good to one spiritual nature, is not always successful with every other, even in like circumstances, any more than the same culture would be successful with different soils in the same climate. We cannot, therefore, project our own feelings and experience into the mind and soul of others, as if we were examples of the only way in which Divine grace and power plough all human souls for the seed of salvation. This breaking up of our moral nature is nothing else than the softening of our hearts under the influence of Divine trutha humble, penitent spirit, a constant sense of the evil of sin, a willingness to be reconciled to God, whom our transgressions have offended, and an earnest desire after a holier life in God. It is only in such a heart as this that Divine truth will take root, and grow up and bring forth fruit. As the ground must be broken before the tiny fibrils of the root can descend into the earth, which they do, as by a sensitive instinct, in search of vegetable nourishment and life; so the spiritual nature must be humbled and made penitentbroken under a sense of sin, and under the operation of Divine lawin order that the seed of the Divine Word may hide itself deep down into the subsoil of the soul, until it establishes itself firmly there. While the tangled threads of the root are shooting themselves downwards, and gathering strength and nourishment from the soil, the blade in spiral form shoots itself upwards to the light, and the leaf opens, then comes the ear, and then the full corn in the ear, ripe for the sickle of harvest. In the same way Divine truth and heavenly principles, spiritual thought, emotion, and life descend and ascend, as by an unchangeable law. In every truly spiritual life there is this two-fold operationa movement upwards and downwards, a working within and without, a meditative disposition expressing itself in active habits, believing prayer, conjoined with earnest effort in doing good. (W. Simpson.)

    The duty of moral cultivation

    Our nature at its largest is but a small farm, and we had need to get a harvest out of every acre of it, for our needs are great. Have we left any part of our small allotment uncultivated? If so, it is time to look into the matter and see if we cannot improve this wasteful state of things. What part of our small allotment have we left fallow? We should think very poorly of a farmer who for many years allowed the best and richest part of his farm to lie altogether neglected and untilled. An occasional fallow has its benefits in the world of nature; but, if the proprietor of rich and fruitful land allowed the soil to continue fallow, year after year, we should judge him to be out of his wits. The wasted acres ought to be taken from him and given to another husbandman who would worthily cherish the generous fields, and encourage them to yield their harvests. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    A fallow field

    Do you know what happens to a fallow field? how it becomes caked and baked hard as though it were a brick? All the friable qualities seem to depart, and it hardens as it lies caked and unbroken; I mean, of course, if year succeed year, and the fallow remains untouched. And then the weeds! If a man will not sow wheat, he shall have a crop for all that, for the weeds will spring up, and they will sow themselves, and in due time the multiplication table will be worked out to a very wonderful extent; for these seeds,

  • multiplying a hundredfold, as evil usually does, will increase and increase again, till the fallow field shall become a wilderness of thorns and briars and a thicket of dock nettle and thistle. If you do not cultivate your heart, Satan will cultivate it for you. If you bring no crop to God, the devil will be sure to reap a harvest. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    2 and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, As surely as the Lord lives,then the nations will invoke blessings by him and in him they will boast.

    CLARKE, "Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth - Thou shalt not bind thyself by any false god; thou shalt acknowledge Me as the Supreme. Bind thyself By me, and To me; and do this in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness.

    The nations shall bless themselves in him - They shall be so fully convinced of the power and goodness of Jehovah in seeing the change wrought on thee, and the mercies heaped upon thee, that their usual mode of benediction shall be, May the God of Israel bless thee!

    GILL, "And thou shalt swear, the Lord liveth,.... Or by the living Lord, by him and him only; not by the creatures, but by the God of truth. This is sometimes put for the whole worship and service of God, Deu_6:13 and for a confession of Christ, and profession of faith in him, Isa_45:23, compared with Rom_14:11 and which ought to be done,

    in truth, in righteousness, and in judgment; in sincerity, integrity, and uprightness of soul; in spirit and in, truth; in righteousness and true holiness:

    and the nations shall bless themselves in him, not in Israel, as the Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi, interpret it; but in the Lord, even in the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed with all spiritual blessings; with which being blessed, they call and count themselves happy, being pardoned through the blood of Christ, justified by his righteousness, and having peace, life, and salvation by him, Gen_22:18,

    and in him shall they glory; not in themselves, nor in any creature, or creature

  • enjoyment; but in the Lord, and in what he is to them, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; in whom all the seed of Israel, being justified, glory; see 1Co_1:30. The sense of the words seems to be, that upon the Gospel being preached by Christ and his apostles to the Israelites, and some of them being converted, and their abominations put away, and they cleaving to the Lord, and to his worship; the Gentiles should have the Gospel sent to them, and receive it, and place all their blessedness in Christ, and glory in him.

    JAMISO, "And thou rather, And if (carried on from Jer_4:1) thou shalt swear, Jehovah liveth, in truth, etc., that is, if thou shalt worship Him (for we swear by the God whom we worship; compare Deu_6:13; Deu_10:20; Isa_19:18; Amo_8:14) in sincerity, etc.

    and the nations Rather, this is apodosis to the if; then shall the nations bless themselves in (by) Him (Isa_65:16). The conversion of the nations will be the consequence of Israels conversion (Psa_102:13, Psa_102:15; Rom_11:12, Rom_11:15).

    CALVI, "Here the Prophet goes on with the same subject; for he denudes these flatteries, by which they thought that God could be pacified: for when they had his name in their mouth, they thought it sufficient for their defense, What! do we not call upon God? do we not ascribe to him his due honor, when we swear by his name? There is in the Prophets words a part given for the whole; for swearing is to be taken for the whole of Gods worship. When therefore the Israelites made a profession of Gods name, they thought themselves absolved from all guilt.

    Hence the Prophet says, Thou shalt swear truly in the name of God; that is, Ye are indeed self confident, because an external profession of religion seems to you to be a sort of expiation, whenever ye seek to contend with God: ye boast that you are Abrahams seed, and swear by the name of God; but ye are sacrilegious, when ye thus falsely profess Gods name. Swear then, he says, in truth

    We hence see how the words of the Prophet harmonize together: he had said, that Israel had hitherto dealt falsely with God, because they had not performed what in words they had promised, for they went astray; and now he adds, that it availed the Israelites nothing, that they openly called on God and shewed themselves to be his people by an external worship: this, he says, is nothing, except ye worship God in truth and in judgment and in righteousness

    Truth is no doubt to be taken here for integrity, as we shall see in the fifth chapter: it is the same as though he had said, that God is not rightly worshipped, except when the heart is free from all guile and deceit; in short, he means that there is no worship of God without sincerity of heart. But the truth, of which the Prophet speaks, is especially known by judgment and righteousness; that is, when men deal faithfully with one another, and render to all their right, and seek not their own gain at the expense of others. When therefore equity and uprightness are thus observed by men, then is fulfilled what is required here by the Prophet: for then they worship not God fallaciously, nor with vain words, but really shew that they do, without disguise, fear and reverence God.

  • What follows is variously explained by interpreters; but the Prophet, I have no doubt, does here indirectly reprove the Israelites, because Gods name had been exposed to many reproaches and mockeries, when the heathens said, that there was no power in God to help the Israelites, and when the people themselves expostulated with God, as though they had a just cause for contending with him, What! God has promised that we should be models of his blessing; but we are exposed to the reproaches of the heathens: how can this be? Since then the Israelites thus deplored their lot, and cast the blame on God, the Prophet gives this answer, Bless themselves shall the nations and glory in him Some refer this to the Israelites, but not correctly. It had indeed been said to Abraham, In thy seed shall all nations be blessed, or, shall bless themselves. But this blessing had its beginning, as it is here noticed by the Prophet. For we must look for the cause or the fountain of this blessing: how could the nations bless themselves through the seed or the children of Abraham, except God, the author of the blessing, manifested his favor towards the children of Abraham? Very aptly then does the Prophet say here, Then bless themselves in God shall all the nations, and in him shall they glory; that is, Ye are to be blamed, that Gods curse is upon you and renders you objects of reproach to all people, and also, that heathens disdain and despise the name of God: for your impiety has constrained God to deal more severely with you than he wished; for he is ever ready to shew his paternal clemency. What then is the hindrance, that the nations bless not themselves in God and glory in him? that is, that pure religion does not flourish through the whole world, and that all nations do not come to you and unite in the worship of the only true God? The hindrance is your impiety and wickedness; this is the reason why God is not glorified, and why your felicity is not everywhere celebrated among the nations. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet, that the Jews groundlessly imputed blame to God, because they were oppressed by so many evils; for they had procured for themselves all their calamities, and at the same time gave occasion to heathens to profane Gods name by their reproaches. (99) It follows

    2.When thou shalt swear, Live does Jehovah, In truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; Then call him blessed shall nations, And in him shall they glory.

    To swear is to avow Jehovah as our God. The verbs bless and glory are both in Hithpael, which has commonly a reciprocal sense, but not always. See Psalms 72:17; Psalms 105:3. This and the preceding verse belong to the last chapter. Ed.

    COKE, "Jeremiah 4:2. And the nations shall bless, &c. This is a prediction of the Gospel-times, when the heathens should join with the Israelites in paying all solemn acts of worship and devotion to the true God only, and in ascribing all honour and glory to him, and to his only Son, the Messiah, in whom all the nations were to be blessed. Literally, it is, "The nations shall wish the same blessings for themselves, as the God of Israel hath bestowed upon his people; nor shall withhold their praise from him, who hath given so great peace and prosperity to those who worship him." See Houb.

  • TRAPP, "Jeremiah 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.

    Ver. 2. And thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth.] ot by Baal shalt thou swear, or other idols, but by the living God, or by the life of God. The Egyptians once sware by the life of Pharaoh, as the proud Spaniards now do by the life of their king. But, to speak properly, none liveth but the Lord, and none should be sworn by but he alone, an oath being a proof of the divine power, which one worshippeth. The Pythagoreans used to swear by , Quaternity, which they called , the fountain of eternal being; and this doubtless was the same with , Jehovah.

    In truth, in judgment, and in righteousness.] Vere, rite, et iuste: (a) (1.) In truth, [Romans 9:1] that is, to that which is true, lest we fall into perjury. [Leviticus 19:12] And (2.) Truly, agreeable both to the intentions of our mind, not deceitfully, [Psalms 24:2] and agreeable also to the intentions of him that ministereth the oath, and not with mental reservations, as Romish priests oft swear.

    In judgment.] Or, Considerately, duly weighing the conditions and circumstances, not rashly and unadvisedly, [Leviticus 5:4 1 Samuel 14:39] as those that swear in heat and choler, swear when they should fear. [Deuteronomy 10:20; Deuteronomy 28:58] The Romans used that most considerate word arbitror, when the jurors said those things which they knew most certainly. (b) The Grecians, when they would swear by their Jupiter, out of the mere dread and reverence of his name, forbore to mention him. And the Egyptians bore such respect to Mercurius Trismegistus, that they held it not lawful to pronounce his name lightly and rashly. This is check to many swearing pseudo-Christians. Such also as swear in jest, will, without repentance, go to hell in earnest. The ancient form of taking and imposing an oath was, Give glory to God. [Joshua 7:19 John 9:24]

    And in righteousness.] (1.) Promising by oath lawful and possible things only, not making an oath a bond of iniquity. [1 Samuel 25:21-22; 1 Samuel 28:10] (2.) Careful to perform what we have sworn, though to our own hindrance. [Psalms 15:4]

    And the nations shall bless themselves in him.] Or, Shall be blessed in him - that is, in that God to whom thou returnest, and by whom thou thus swearest. They shall turn to God by thine example, and hold themselves happy in such a good turn.

  • 3 This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem:

    Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.

    BARES, "To the men - To each man of Judah. They are summoned individually to repentance.

    Break up - literally, Fallow for you a fallow ground, i. e., do not sow the seeds of repentance in unfit soil, but just as the farmer prepares the ground, by clearing it of weeds, and exposing it to the sun and air, before entrusting to it the seed, so must you regard repentance as a serious matter, requiring forethought, and anxious labor. To sow in unfallowed ground was practically to sow on land full of thorns.

    CLARKE, "Break up your fallow ground - Fallow ground is either that which, having been once tilled, has lain long uncultivated; or, ground slightly ploughed, in order to be ploughed again previously to its being sown. Ye have been long uncultivated in righteousness; let true repentance break up your fruitless and hardened hearts; and when the seed of the word of life is sown in them, take heed that worldly cares and concerns do not arise, and, like thorns, choke the good seed.

    GILL, "For thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem,.... The two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who were at the time of this prophecy in their own land; and so are distinguished from Israel the ten tribes, who were in captivity; unless the same persons should be meant, who were called by these several names, the people of the Jews; and it was in Judea that our Lord appeared in the flesh, and to the inhabitants thereof he ministered, he was the minister of the circumcision; and so to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, whom he called to repentance, and would have gathered, Mat_23:37,

    break up your fallow ground; this is ground that lies untilled, not ploughed, nor sown, on which nothing grows but the produce of nature, as weeds, thorns, briers, &c. is common to men and beasts, and is trodden upon, and, so is hard and unsusceptible of seed; which, if it accidentally falls upon it, makes no impression on it, and is not received by it; and the breaking of it up is by the plough. The "fallow ground" fitly represents the hearts of unregenerate men, which are unopened to the word, and unbroken by it; nor have they the seed of divine grace sown in them; but are destitute of faith, hope, love, fear, and the like; there is nothing grows there but the weeds of sin and corruption; and

  • are like a common beaten road; are the common track of sin, where lusts pass to and fro, and dwell; and so are hardened and obdurate, as hard as a stone, yea, harder than the nether millstone; and who, though they may occasionally be under the word, it makes no impression on them; it has no place in them, but is like the seed that falls by the wayside, Mat_13:4, unless divine power attends it; for the Gospel is the plough, and ministers are the ploughmen; but it is the Lord alone that makes it effectual to the breaking up the fallow ground of men's hearts, Luk_9:62, but when the Lord puts his hand to the plough it enters within, and opens the heart; it is quick, powerful, and sharp; it cuts deep, and makes long and large furrows, even strong convictions of sin; it throws a man's inside outward, as the plough does the earth; and lays all the wicked of his heart open to him; and roots up the pride, the vanity, and boasting of the creature, and other lusts; and so makes way for the seed of divine grace to be sown there:

    and sow not among thorns; or, "that ye may not sow among thorns" (o); for, unless the fallow ground is broken up, it will be no other than sowing among thorns; and unless the hearts of men are opened by the power and grace of God, they will not attend to the things that are spoken; preaching and eating the word will be like sowing among thorns; cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, the pleasures of life, and the lusts thereof, which are comparable to thorns, because pricking, perplexing, and distressing, and because vain and unprofitable, choke the word, and make it unfruitful; see Mat_13:7, now this exhortation in the text does not suppose power in man to break up and open his heart; but to show his want of renewing grace; the necessity of it; and the danger he is in without it; and to awaken in him a concern for it; see Eze_18:31. The words may be applied to backsliding professors, since backsliding Israel and Judah are the persons addressed; and this may be done with great propriety and pertinence to the simile; for fallow ground is that which has been broke up and sown, and laid fallow. It is usual to till and sow two years, and lay fallow a third: and backsliding Christians look very much like fallow ground; so faithless, so lukewarm, and indifferent; so inattentive to the word, and unconcerned under it; so barren and unfruitful, as if they had never had any faith, or love, or good work in them; so that they need to be renewed in the spirit of their minds; to have a new face of things put upon them: and to have a clean heart, and a right spirit, created in them. The Targum is,

    "make to yourselves good works, and seek not salvation in sins.''

    HERY 3-4, "The prophet here turns his speech, in God's name, to the men of the place where he lived. We have heard what words he proclaimed towards the north (Jer_3:12), for the comfort of those that were now in captivity and were humbled under the hand of God; let us now see what he says to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, who were now in prosperity, for their conviction and awakening. In these two verses he exhorts them to repentance and reformation, as the only way left them to prevent the desolating judgments that were ready to break in upon them. Observe,

    I. The duties required of them, which they are concerned to do.

    1. They must do by their hearts as they do by their ground that they expect any good of; they must plough it up (Jer_4:3): Break up your fallow-ground. Plough to yourselves a ploughing (or plough up your plough land), that you sow not among thorns, that you may not labour in vain, for your own safety and welfare, as those do that sow good seed among thorns and as you have been doing a great while. Put yourselves into a frame fit to receive mercy from God, and put away all that which keeps it from you, and then you may expect to receive mercy and to prosper in your endeavours to

  • help yourselves. Note, (1.) An unconvinced unhumbled heart is like fallow-ground, ground untilled, unoccupied. It is ground capable of improvement; it is our ground, let out to us, and we must be accountable for it; but it is fallow; it is unfenced and lies common; it is unfruitful and of no advantage to the owner, and (which is principally intended) it is overgrown with thorns and weeds, which are the natural product of the corrupt heart; and, if it be not renewed with grace, rain and sunshine are lost upon it, Heb_6:7, Heb_6:8. (2.) We are concerned to get this fallow-ground ploughed up. We must search into our own hearts, let the word of God divide (as the plough does) between the joints and the marrow, Heb_4:12. We must rend our hearts, Joe_2:13. We must pluck up by the roots those corruptions which, as thorns, choke both our endeavours and our expectations, Hos_10:12.

    2. They must do that to their souls which was done to their bodies when they were taken into covenant with God (Jer_4:4): Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskin of your heart. Mortify the flesh and the lusts of it. Pare off that superfluity of naughtiness which hinders your receiving with meekness the engrafted word, Jam_1:21. Boast not of, and rest not in, the circumcision of the body, for that is but a sign, and will not serve without the thing signified. It is a dedicating sign. Do that in sincerity which was done in profession by your circumcision; devote and consecrate yourselves unto the Lord, to be to him a peculiar people. Circumcision is an obligation to keep the law; lay yourselves afresh under that obligation. It is a seal of the righteousness of faith; lay hold then of that righteousness, and so circumcise yourselves to the Lord.

    II. The danger they are threatened with, which they are concerned to avoid. Repent and reform, lest my fury come forth like fire, which it is now ready to do, as that fire which came forth from the Lord and consumed the sacrifices, and which was always kept burning upon the altar and none might quench it; such is God's wrath against impenitent sinners, because of the evil of their doings. Note, 1. That which is to be dreaded by us more than any thing else is the wrath of God; for that is the spring and bitterness of all present miseries and will be the quintessence and perfection of everlasting misery. 2. It is the evil of our doings that kindles the fire of God's wrath against us. 3. The consideration of the imminent danger we are in of falling and perishing under this wrath should awaken us with all possible care to sanctify ourselves to God's glory and to see to it that we be sanctified by his grace.

    JAMISO, "Transition to Judah. Supply mentally. All which (the foregoing declaration as to Israel) applies to Judah.

    and Jerusalem that is, and especially the men of Jerusalem, as being the most prominent in Judea.

    Break ... fallow ground that is, Repent of your idolatry, and so be prepared to serve the Lord in truth (Hos_10:12; Mat_13:7). The unhumbled heart is like ground which may be improved, being let out to us for that purpose, but which is as yet fallow, overgrown with weeds, its natural product.

    K&D 3-4, ""For thus hath Jahveh spoken to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: Break up for yourselves new ground, and sow not among thorns. Jer_4:4. Circumcise yourselves to Jahveh, and take away the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest my fury break forth like fire and burn unquenchably, because of the evil of your doings." The exhortation to a reformation of life is attached

  • by , as being the ground of it, to the preceding exhortation t