Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Not the living only but the dead shall be exposed to the ruthless violence of the enemy, who will ransack the graves of the wealthier classes.
Loved ... served ... walked ... sought ... worshipped - There is great force in the piled-up verbs by which their worship of the heavenly bodies is described. The prophet beginning with the heart's "love" describes that worship) in the various stages of its development, and then contrasts its fulness with the miserable reward which ensues.
This evil family - The whole Jewish race.
Which remain - The words are omitted by the Septuagint and Syriac versions.
The prophet here resumes from Jer 7:28 the main subject of his prophecy. He again invites the Jews to repentance.
Shall they fall? - The argument is that when men fall, they do not lie upon the ground, but endeavor to get up again: and when a man loses his way, he does not persist in going on, but turns round, and retraces his steps. Israel then will be only following the dictates of comnon sense in desisting from that which she now knows to be her ruin.
When men act as in Jer 8:4, why is God's own people alone an exception?
Slidden back ... backsliding - The same words as "turn" and "return" in Jer 8:4. They should be rendered, "Why doth this people of Jerusalem turn away with a perpetual turning?"
Deceit - i. e., idolatry; because men worship in it that which is false, and it is false to the worshippers.
Refuse - From a feeling of dislike.
I hearkened and heard - God, before passing sentence, carefully listens to the words of the people. Compare Gen 11:5, where the divine judgment is preceded by the Almighty going down to see the tower.
Not aright - Or, "not-right;" which in the Hebrew idiom means that which is utterly wrong.
No man repented - The original phrase is very striking: No "man had pity upon his own wickedness." If men understood the true nature of sin, the sinner would repent out of very pity upon himself.
As the horse rusheth - literally, "overfloweth." It is a double metaphor; first, the persistence of the people in sin is compared to the fury which at the sound of the trumpet seizes upon the war-horse; and then its rush into the battle is likened to the overflowing of a torrent, which nothing can stop in its destructive course.
Jeremiah appeals to the obedience which migratory birds render to the law of their natures. The "stork" arrives in Palestine about March 21, and after a six weeks' halt departs for the north of Europe. It takes its flight by day, at a vast height in the air ("in the heaven"). The appearance of the "turtle-dove" is one of the pleasant signs of the approach of spring.
The crane and the swallow - Rather, "the swift and the crane."
The law of the Lord - The "Torah," or written law, the possession of which made the priests and prophets so boastfully exclaim, "We are wise."
Lo, certainly ... - Rather, Verily, lo! the lying pen "of the scribes" hath made it - the Law - into a lie. The mention of "scribes" in this place is a crucial point in the argument whether or not the Pentateuch or Torah is the old law-book of the Jews, or a fabrication which gradually grew up, but was not received as authoritative until after the return from the captivity. It is not until the time of Josiah Ch2 34:13 that "scribes" are mentioned except as political officers; here, however, they are students of the Torah. The Torah must have existed in writing before there could have been an order of men whose special business it was to study it; and therefore to explain this verse by saying that perhaps the scribes were writers of false prophecies written in imitation of the true, is to lose the whole gist of the passage. What the scribes turned into a lie was that Law of which they had just boasted that they were the possessors. Moreover, the scribes undeniably became possessed of preponderating influence during the exile: and on the return from Babylon were powerful enough to prevent the restoration of the kingly office. That there should be along with the priests and Levites men who devoted themselves to the study of the written Law, and who in the time of Josiah had acquired such influence as to be recognized as a distinct class - is just what we should expect from the rapid progress of learning, which began with Elisha's active management of the schools of the prophets, and culminated in the days of Hezekiah. Jeremiah's whole argument depends upon the fact that there were in his days men who claimed to be "wise" or "learned" men because of their study of the Pentateuch, and is entirely inconsistent with the assumptions that Jeremiah wrote the book of Deuteronomy, and that Ezra wrote parts of Exodus and the whole of Leviticus.
They have rejected the word of the Lord - It became in the hands of the Soferim or scribes a mere code of ceremonial observance. Compare Mar 7:13.
These verses are almost identical with Jer 6:12-15.
To them that shall inherit them - Rather, "to those that shall take possession of them, i. e., "to conquerors who shall take them by force.
Or, "I will gather and sweep them away, saith Jehovah: there are no grapes on the vine, and no figs on the fig-tree, and the leaf is dry: therefore will I appoint those that shall pass over them." Judah is a vine which bears no fruit: a tree which makes even no profession of life, for her leaf is dry. Many explain the last words of an army sweeping over the land like a flood.
The people rouse one another to exertion. "Why," they ask, "do we remain here to be overwhelmed?" They are ready now to follow the command given (see the marginal reference), but with the conviction that all hope is over.
Let us be silent there - Rather, let us perish there, literally "be put to silence."
Water of gall - i. e., poison. The word rendered "gall" was probably the belladonna, or night-shade, to the "berries" of which the grapes of Israel were compared.
Health ... trouble - Or, "rest ... terror."
Dan - i. e. the northern boundary of the land.
His strong ones - i. e., "his war-horses."
I will send - Or, am sending. No prophet changes his metaphors so suddenly as Jeremiah. The invading army is now compared to snakes, whom no charming can soothe, and whose bite is fatal. Compare Num 21:5-6.
Cockatrices - "Vipers." See Isa 11:8 note.
Rather, "O my comfort in sorrow: my heart faints for me." The word translated "comfort" is by some supposed to be corrupt. With these mournful ejaculations a new strophe begins, ending with Jer 9:1, in which the prophet mourns over the miserable fate of his countrymen, among whom he had been earnestly laboring, but all in vain.
Or, "Behold the voice of the cry for help of the daughter of my people from a distant land: Is not Yahweh in Zion? Is not her king there? Why have they provoked Me to anger with their carved images, with foreign vanities?" Their complaint, "Is there no Jehovah in Zion?" is met by God demanding of them the reason why instead of worshipping Him they have set up idols.
The summer - Rather, the fruit-gathering, which follows the grain-harvest. The grain has failed; the fruit-gathering has also proved unproductive; so despair seized the people when they saw opportunities for their deliverance again and again pass by, until God seemed utterly to have forgotten them.
For the hurt ... hurt - literally, "Because of the breaking ... broken." These are the words of the prophet, whose heart is crushed by the cry of his countrymen.
I am black - Or, I go mourning.
No physician there - i. e., in Gilead. Balm used to grow in Israel for the healing of the nations. Her priests and prophets were the physicians. Has Israel then no balm for herself? Is there no physician in her who can bind up her wound? Gilead was to Israel what Israel spiritually was to the whole world.
Why then is not the health ... recovered? - Or, "why then has no bandage," or plaster of balsam, "been laid upon my people?"