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Go to Bible: Jeremiah 14
“The word of Yahweh that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought.” A drought had struck Judah, but we are not told how long it lasted. We do know from Scripture that when a nation continually sins and defies God, the Devil and demons can affect the land and change the weather patterns. It is one of the great lessons of the Bible that the behavior of people affects the land that they live on. This lesson about people’s behavior affecting the land is throughout the Old Testament (cp. Deut. 11:13-17; 28:1, 12, 15, 22-25, 38-40; Lev. 18:24-25; Ps. 107:33-34; Jer. 3:2-3; 9:10-14; 12:4; 23:10; Amos 4:6-10). [For more on sin affecting the weather see commentary on Lev. 18:25].(top)
“her gates languish.” The drought affects people coming and going out of the cities—there is not as much traffic—so the gates languish. The servants do not go to the wells and cisterns for water, and the farmers do not go out to farm (Jer. 14:3-4).(top)
“their servants.” The Hebrew text literally reads “little ones,” but in this context, where it is “nobles” (Lit. “great ones,” “majestic ones”) who do the sending, their “little ones” are their servants.(top)
“the ground is cracked.” Israel had a dry season and a wet season. The Fall rain (the “former rain”) usually started in October and softened the ground and began the wet season which lasts usually until April. Usually by the end of April the dry season starts and it does not rain again until October. The hot sun bakes the ground from April to October and it becomes dry, hard, and cracked. The farmers have to wait for the Fall rains to soften the ground so they are able to plow the ground and plant the seed. God promised that if Israel obeyed God the rain would come in its proper season (Lev. 26:3-4; Deut. 11:13-14; 28:12). If the rains do not come, the farmers know something is wrong and they are ashamed and cover their heads.(top)
|Jer 14:5||- (top)|
“their eyes fail.” When a person or animal lacks food and water, and they have no energy, their eyes glaze over and they do not look around. That is the picture that is being painted here; even the wild donkeys are close to death.(top)
“Though our iniquities testify against us.” The subject suddenly shifts from the word of Yahweh to Jeremiah speaking. In the Israelite court of law there needed to be two or three witnesses, but there are many iniquities that testify against Judah and Jerusalem. In fact, Jeremiah lists three different “sin witnesses” in this verse: iniquity, apostasy (lit. “turning away”), and sin. Jeremiah openly admits and confesses the sin of the people to God and has no excuse or defense to offer for them because, indeed, there is none. The people have openly and willfully defied and disobeyed God. All Jeremiah can do is plead mercy and ask God to “act for your name’s sake,” that is, to ask God to act because to some extent His honor and reputation are at stake.
The drought should show those who have eyes to see that Baal and the other gods do not protect and bless the land. The land is ravaged in spite of the Baal worship going on. Sin always puts people, and God, into a difficult situation. If God helps the people then they just go on sinning, which will hurt them in the long run and especially on the Day of Judgment. But if He does not help them He hurts because He loves the people, and also it then looks like the national God of Judah, Yahweh, is not able to save His people. God’s people often face the same dilemma when people they love sin. Is it the right thing to help, or let the sinner suffer the consequences of their sin? Each situation is different and the decisions are difficult.(top)
|Jer 14:8||- (top)|
“a helpless man.” The Hebrew word translated “helpless” is daham (#01724 דּהם), and this is the only time it appears in the Old Testament. The lexicons generally have “astounded, surprised, confused” (cp. BDB; Holladay), but the NET text note says, “the word has been found in a letter from the seventh century [the time Jeremiah lived] in a passage where it must mean something like "be helpless"; see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:433, for discussion and bibliography of an article where this letter is dealt with.” The word “helpless” fits the context, and appears in some modern versions (cp. CSB; NET).
Jeremiah makes his plea to God more forceful, asking God why He stands aloof from the problems of Judah and Jerusalem. He asks God why He seems like a foreigner, someone disinterested who is just traveling through, someone who is helpless and cannot save (Jer. 14:8-9). Of course he has the answer; Judah has turned their back on Him and turned to other gods (see commentary on Jer. 14:7).
“we are called by your name.” The Hebrew is more literally, “your name is called over us” (cp. YLT). The phrase refers to ownership, and it might well be translated “we belong to you” (cp. NET; J. A. Thompson, The New Internatioanl Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Jeremiah).(top)
“Now he will.” Yahweh speaks about Himself in third person, “he,” distancing himself from the people.
“remember.” This is the idiomatic sense of “remember” that means “remember and do something about” (see commentary on Luke 23:42). In the phrase, “remember their iniquity and punish their sins,” “remember” and “punish” are synonymous. “Iniquity” and “sins” are mentioned in Jeremiah 14:7.(top)
“Do not pray for the welfare of this people.” God had said this to Jeremiah twice before, Jeremiah 7:16 and 11:14 (see commentary on Jer. 7:16).(top)
“When they fast, I will not hear their cry.” In this context, the people’s fasting was to appeal to God for help, and their fasting would be accompanied by prayers and cries for help, but the sin is entrenched and their fast is insincere, and God will not listen to their cries.
“I will not accept them.” Sacrifices and offerings made to God by wicked people are detestable to God; He has no respect for them and will not accept them. Sacrifices and offerings were never designed to make a person with an evil heart acceptable in the sight of God. Proverbs 21:27 and 28:9 say that the sacrifices of a wicked person are an abomination to God. Similarly, God will not listen to the prayers of wicked and unrepentant people; they are an abomination to Him (Prov. 28:9). [For more information about the sacrifices of wicked people being of no value, see commentary on Amos 5:22].(top)
“the prophets.” The context tells us these are the false prophets. We can see why Jeremiah felt so alone and wept for the people. He heard from God and was not confused, but the people would have been confused by all the false voices. Furthermore, as we see in the fact that Jeremiah was beaten, put in stocks, etc., that these false prophets came against Jeremiah personally.
“lasting.” The Hebrew word has many meanings, including “firm, faithful, sure, reliable, stable, continuing, true, etc.” The versions differ as to which meaning to chose for the best fit here. To the people listening to the false prophets, the word would indicate all of those things, and thus the false prophets were saying there would be a true, firm, reliable, lasting, stable state of wellbeing in Judah. They were very wrong.
“peace and prosperity.” The Hebrew word “shalom” means more than “peace,” it means wellbeing, wholeness. In this context of conflict and war with the Babylonians, “peace” is too narrow a meaning, The prophets were foretelling “shalom,” peace and prosperity.(top)
“The prophets prophesy lies in my name.” It was a very serious sin to say that Yahweh said something that He did not say. Being a false prophet at all is a serious sin, but people who say that Yahweh, the God of Israel, told them to say something that He did not tell them to say are sinning very grievously. If a person says he is a prophet of Baal, God’s people can make a choice as to whether they want to listen or not, but if a person pretends to be a prophet of Yahweh, or says he represents Yahweh when he doesn’t, that requires a whole different level of diligence on the part of God’s people. People who say they represent God when they don’t are in danger of serious consequences, as Jeremiah 14:14-16 shows. Other verses that show false prophets prophesying in God’s name are Jeremiah 23:1-40, Jeremiah 28, Ezekiel 13:1-9 and 13:17-22.
“worthless divination.” The Hebrew text reads “divination and worthlessness,” which in this context is the figure of speech hendiadys (“hen-die-a-des”), in which two nouns are joined by “and” with the second noun acting as an adjective of the first. “Divination and worthlessness” become “worthless divination” by hendiadys. This gives us some insight as to the source of the information of the false prophets; at least some of it was coming from divination. Divination was an abomination to God (Deut. 18:9-14), and it gave the Devil plenty of ways to feed false information to the false prophets.(top)
|Jer 14:15||- (top)|
“they will have none to bury them.” The dead bodies of animals and unwanted or uncared for humans were not buried in the biblical culture, but were left unburied and were usually eventually eaten by animals, birds, and vermin such as rats. For a person to have a proper burial showed that the person was honored and respected. In contrast, people were sometimes left unburied as a sign of disrespect and contempt. It still happens in some of the Middle East today that animals are sometimes left unburied. In 1935, Ida Bebbington made a pilgrimage to Israel and wrote in her diary, “At one part in the road lay a dead camel’s carcass, they never bother about removing the dead bodies (so you will gather what a lot of places are like)” (“The Jerusalem Report,” Tamuz 5, 5779 (July 8, 2019), Vol. XXX, No. 13, p.22).
In a culture where family tombs and burial plots were common and family and community ties were strong, to not have family or friends bury one’s dead body was considered a terrible curse. In fact, many people believed (falsely, but it was a very widely held belief) that a proper burial was important for a comfortable existence in the afterlife. Thus the threat of not being buried but having one’s dead body eaten by animals, birds, and vermin was a horrifying threat of unspeakable loneliness and rejection, both on this earth and in the afterlife. A lot of verses in the Bible speak of people not being buried (cp. 1 Sam. 17:44, 46; Prov. 30:17; Ecc. 6:3; Isa. 5:25; Jer. 7:33; 9:22; 15:3; 16:4; Rev. 19:21).
A major part of the threat of not getting a proper burial is that one’s dead body would be eaten by dogs. Dogs were considered unclean in the biblical world and were not generally kept as pets, but roamed the city streets and ate garbage and whatever else they could find, including dead bodies. In fact, the dogs that roamed the cities and countryside of the ancient world were a major reason that dead bodies usually disappeared fairly quickly. The Law of Moses prescribed that if there was a dead animal body found in the field it was not to be cooked and eaten but was to be thrown to the dogs (Exod. 22:31). The presence of feral dogs in the cities was so common that a standard curse was that the dogs would eat dead bodies in the city while carrion birds would eat the bodies that were in the field (cp. 1 Kings 14:11; 16:4; 21:24). The Bible has a number of verses about dogs eating dead bodies (cp. Exod. 22:31; 1 Kings 14:11; 16:4; 21:19, 23, 24; 22:38; 2 Kings 9:10, 36). For example, dogs ate the body of Queen Jezebel after Jehu had her thrown down from an upper window (2 Kings 9:10; 36-37).
There are a number of people in the Bible who were held in such contempt that they were not buried or were threatened with not being buried. For example, Goliath told David that he would leave David’s dead body to the birds of the air and animals of the field (1 Sam. 17:44). David gave the same threat to Goliath, and it was David’s threat that came to pass (1 Sam. 17:46). The first king of Israel, King Jeroboam, was told by the prophet Ahijah that because of his sins none of his family would be buried but instead the dead bodies would be eaten by dogs and birds (1 Kings 14:11). King Jehoiakim of Judah was an ungodly king who cut up part of a scroll containing the Word of God and threw it in the fire (Jer. 36:21-23). For that and other sins, God’s pronouncement upon Jehoiakim was that he would be “buried with the burial of a donkey, dragged off and cast outside; beyond the gates of Jerusalem” (Jer. 22:19). The phrase “buried with the burial of a donkey” is irony because donkeys were not buried, they were just left where they died or they were dragged away to where they could be eaten by vultures and vermin.
The case here in Jeremiah 14:16 was that so many people would be killed or carried away captive by the Babylonians that there would be no one left to bury the bodies of the men, women, and children who died in the Babylonian attack.(top)
“the virgin daughter—my people.” The Hebrew is literally, “the virgin daughter of my people, but the genitive “of” is appositional, “the virgin daughter, that is to say, my people.”(top)
|Jer 14:18||- (top)|
“utterly rejected.” The Hebrew uses the figure of speech polyptoton, repeating the word “rejected” (“have you rejected, yes rejected Judah;” see commentary on Gen. 2:16).
“your soul.” That is, “you” (see Appendix 7, “Usages of ‘Soul’”).(top)
“We acknowledge our wickedness.” Jeremiah intercedes for his sin and the sin of his people.(top)
“your glorious throne.” That is, the ark of the covenant in the Temple.
“do not break your covenant.” Judah had broken their covenant with Yahweh, but Jeremiah pleads with God not to completely break away from the covenant.(top)
“Is it not you.” The Hebrew is idiomatic, “Are you not he.”(top)