JEREMIAH CHAPTER 8.
The Calamity of the Jews on Account of Their Persistent Impenitence.
RETRIBUTION UPON THE JEWS. — V. 1. At that time, saith the Lord, namely, when the sentence of God upon Jerusalem would be carried into effect, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, of all the rulers and leaders of the people, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem out of their graves, the Babylonians defiling even the resting-places of the dead in carrying out the judgment upon Judah; v. 2. and they shall spread them before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, exposing them under the open sky to the influence of these heavenly bodies, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshiped, the many synonyms serving to bring out the accumulation of their idolatrous practices, the extremity of the foolish zeal with which they worshiped the host of heaven. They shall not be gathered nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth, the decomposing flesh and the skeletons serving as fertilizer of the fields. But the lot of the survivors would be still worse. V. 3. And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the Lord of hosts, literally, "shall prefer death to life in all places of the survivors whither I have driven them, saith Jehovah Sabaoth," the people in exile and captivity among the heathen being thus called to repentance even now.
THE JEWS PERSIST IN WICKEDNESS. — V. 4. Moreover, thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord, Shall they fall and not arise? Shall he turn away and not return? or, "Shall a man fall and not get up again? Shall one wander off and not return to the right path?" It is a natural instinct and inclination of men to get up after a fall, to search for the right path if one has lost his way. V. 5. Why, then, is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? Why do they persist so obstinately in their perverse ways? They hold fast deceit, clinging to their hypocritical behavior, they refuse to return, they stubbornly cling to the error of their ways. V. 6. I hearkened and heard, listening carefully for some evidence of repentance, but they spake not aright, they were far from confessing any wrong on their part; no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? aghast at the evidences of his guilt. Every one turned to his course, to his own wicked ways, as the horse rusheth into the battle, with a mad impetuousness which cannot be restrained. V. 7. Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times, the regular migration seasons; and the turtle, that is, the turtle-dove, and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming, returning with unfailing certainty from their winter quarters to their summer homes; but My people, those whom the Lord had originally chosen to be His children, know not the judgment of the Lord, thus showing less understanding than the irrational birds. Cp. Is. 1, 3. V. 8. How do ye say, We are wise, and the Law of the Lord is with us? They prided themselves upon their possessing the Law, Rom. 2, 17; but this fact alone served rather to emphasize their dead orthodoxy, since they ignored the very teachings which they so emphatically proclaimed. Lo, certainly in vain made He it; the pen of the scribes is in vain, the false teachers, who spread their lies with word of mouth and pen, were spreading falsehood, even while they professed to be zealous for the truth. Their false pen converted the Law of God into a lie, just as the false teachers of all times have done. V. 9. The wise men are ashamed, put to shame and reproach, they are dismayed, confounded, and taken. Lo, they have rejected the Word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them? Having despised and set aside the only norm of doctrine and life, the only source of true wisdom, they could not lay claim to any kind of knowledge and understanding any more, they were fools in the sight of God. V. 10. Therefore, on account of the wickedness thus shown by the false teachers, will I give their wives unto others and their fields to them that shall inherit them; for every one, from the least even unto the greatest, is given to covetousness; from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. V. 11. For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, Peace, peace! when there is no peace. V. 12. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush; therefore shall they fall among them that fall, in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the Lord. Cp. chap. 6, 12-15. The punishment of the Lord will ever strike the false teachers, if not here in time, then at the Last Judgment.
FURTHER DESCRIPTION OF THE IMPENDING PUNISHMENT. — V. 13. I will surely consume them, saith the Lord, making a clean sweep of them all; there shall be no grapes on the vine nor figs on the fig-tree, both of these plants representing unfruitful Israel, and the leaf shall fade. As it had been at the time of Isaiah, Is. 5, 2, and as it later was at the time of Christ, Matt. 21, 19, so it was emphatically stated of Israel in the last years before the Chaldean invasion that the Lord was deeply disappointed in the fruit which He expected of the people as such. And the things that I have given them shall pass away from them, rather, "I will give them to those who shall overrun them," overwhelming and subduing them in the invasion which was here predicted. V. 14. Why do we sit still? So the prophet hears the people of Judah cry out in view of the impending calamity. Assemble yourselves, so they are represented as urging one another, and let us enter into the defensed cities, seeking security behind their buttressed walls, and let us be silent there, to perish after but a little respite; for the Lord, our God, hath put us to silence, having definitely determined their destruction, and given us water of gall to drink, a poisonous draught, which would surely result in their extermination, because we have sinned against the Lord, a realization which came to them when it was too late. V. 15. We looked for peace, still expecting deliverance, but no good came, their hope of blessing being utterly vain; and for a time of health, when healing would come to them, and behold trouble! So all the promises of the false prophets upon which the people had depended were found to be vain. V. 16. The snorting of his, the invader's, horses was heard from Dan, on the extreme northern border of Canaan, the prophet here seeing the Chaldean hordes advancing to subdue the country; the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones, of the proud chargers of the Chaldean cavalry; for they are come and have devoured the land and all that is in it, the food and the treasures and everything of value, the city and those that dwell therein. V. 17. For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, reptiles of a most poisonous kind, which will not be charmed, rendered harmless by soothing music, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord. The Chaldeans are here represented as cruel and destructive enemies, whose power no means could counteract. With this fate of his beloved nation before his eyes, the prophet breaks forth in a bitter lamentation. V. 18. When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me, literally, "O my exhilaration in sorrow! My heart very ill!" His sorrow was so great that he despaired of finding consolation. He hears the bitter complaint of his people, v. 19. Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of My people because of them that dwell in a far country, a lament from the people in exile in distant lands: Is not the Lord in Zion? Is not her King in her? namely, to deliver His people from their captivity and to lead them back to Jerusalem. But the divine justice asks in turn. Why have they provoked Me to anger with their graven images and with strange vanities, with foreign gods? so that He was compelled, as it were, to carry out His punishment upon them. V. 20. The harvest is past, so the people continue to lament, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. As the farmer who expects a good harvest and is disappointed sees only failure and ruin before his eyes, so Israel despaired of deliverance. V. 21. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt, so the prophet once more cries out in bitter grief; I am black, deeply sad and mournful, his face expressing dark despair; astonishment hath taken hold on me, a horror and dread of the ultimate consequences. V. 22. Is there no balm in Gilead? the reference being to a balsam which was in wide use in the Orient for the cooling and healing of wounds. Is there no physician there? Because this balsam, found chiefly in the country east of Jordan, drawn from the terebinth-tree and similar plants, was considered so very healthful, many persons established themselves in that territory and practiced the profession of physician. But for the wound of the daughter of Zion no physician of the body was sufficient. Why, then, is not the health of the daughter of My people recovered? Why could not the healing of her illness proceed? For the wounds of the soul, for the illness of sin, there is no healing except by the Word of God's grace.