Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Course to be Pursued by the Prophet in Reference to the Approaching Overthrow of the Kingdom of Judah. - The ruin of Jerusalem and of Judah will inevitably come. This the prophet must proclaim by word and deed. To this end he is shown in Jer 16:1-9 what relation he is to maintain towards the people, now grown ripe for judgment, and next in Jer 16:10-15 he is told the cause of this terrible judgment; then comes an account of its fulfilment (Jer 16:16-21); then again, finally, we have the cause of it explained once more (Jer 17:1-4).
The course to be pursued by the prophet with reference to the approaching judgment. - Jer 16:1. "And the word of Jahveh cam to me, saying: Jer 16:2. Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place. Jer 16:3. For thus hath Jahveh said concerning the sons and the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bear them, and concerning their fathers that beget them in this land: Jer 16:4. By deadly suffering shall they die, be neither lamented or buried; dung upon the field shall they become; and by sword and by famine shall they be consumed, and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of the heavens and the beasts of the field. Jer 16:5. For thus hath Jahveh said: Come not into the house of mourning, and go not to lament, and bemoan them not; for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith Jahveh, grace and mercies. Jer 16:6. And great and small shall die in this land, not be buried; they shall not lament them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them. Jer 16:7. And they shall not break bread for them in their mourning, to comfort one for the dead; nor shall they give to any the cup of comfort for his father and his mother. Jer 16:8. And into the house of feasting go not, to sit by them, to eat and to drink. Jer 16:9. For thus hath spoken Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I cause to cease out of this place before your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride."
What the prophet is here bidden to do and to forbear is closely bound up with the proclamation enjoined on him of judgment to come on sinful Judah. This connection is brought prominently forward in the reasons given for these commands. He is neither to take a wife nor to beget children, because all the inhabitants of the land, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, are to perish by sickness, the sword, and famine (Jer 16:3 and Jer 16:4). He is both to abstain from the customary usages of mourning for the dead, and to keep away from mirthful feasts, in order to give the people to understand that, by reason of the multitude of the dead, customary mourning will have to be given up, and that all opportunity for merry-making will disappear (Jer 16:5-9). Adapting thus his actions to help to convey his message, he will approve himself to be the mouth of the Lord, and then the promised divine protection will not fail. Thus closely is this passage connected with the preceding complaint and reproof of the prophet (Jer 15:10-21), while it at the same time further continues the threatening of judgment in Jer 15:1-9. - With the prohibition to take a wife, cf. the apostle's counsel, Co1 7:26. "This place" alternates with "this land," and so must not be limited to Jerusalem, but bears on Judah at large. ילּדים, adject. verbale, as in Ex. 1:32. The form ממותי is found, besides here, only in Eze 28:8, where it takes the place of מותי, Jer 16:10. תחלאים ממותי, lit., deaths of sicknesses or sufferings, i.e., deaths by all kinds of sufferings, since תחלאים is not to be confined to disease, but in Jer 14:18 is used of pining away by famine. With "they shall not be lamented," cf. Jer 25:33; Jer 8:2; Jer 14:16; Jer 7:33.
The command not to go into a house of mourning (מרזח, loud crying, cry of lament for one dead, see on Amo 6:7), not to show sympathy with the survivors, is explained by the Lord in the fearfully solemn saying: I withdraw from this people my peace, grace, and mercy. שׁלום is not "the inviolateness of the relation between me and my people" (Graf), but the pace of God which rested on Judah, the source of its well-being, of its life and prosperity, and which showed itself to the sinful race in the extension to them of grace and mercy. The consequence of the withdrawal of this peace is the death of great and small in such multitudes that they can neither be buried nor mourned for (Jer 16:6). התגּדד, but one's self, is used in Deu 14:1 for נתן שׂרט, to make cuts in the body, Lev 19:28; and קרח, Niph., to crop one's self bald, acc. to Deu 14:1, to shave a bare place on the front part of the head above the eyes. These are two modes of expressing passionate mourning for the dead which were forbidden to the Israelites in the law, yet which remained in use among the people, see on Lev 19:28 and Deu 14:1. להם, for them, in honour of the dead.
פּרס, as in Isa 58:7, for פּרשׂ, Lam 4:4, break, sc. the bread (cf. Isa. l.c.) for mourning, and to give to drink the cup of comfort, does not refer to the meals which were held in the house of mourning upon occasion of a death after the interment, for this custom cannot be proved of the Israelites in Old Testament times, and is not strictly demanded by the words of the verse. To break bread to any one does not mean to hold a feast with him, but to bestow a gift of bread upon him; cf. Isa 58:7. Correspondingly, to give to drink, does not here mean to drink to one's health at a feast, but only to present with wine to drink. The words refer to the custom of sending bread and wine for refreshment into the house of the surviving relatives of one dead, to comfort them in their sorrow; cf. Sa2 3:35; Sa2 12:16., and the remarks on Eze 24:17. The singular suffixes on לנחמו, אביו, and אמּו, alongside of the plurals להם and אותם, are to be taken distributively of every one who is to be comforted upon occasion of a death in his house; and להם is not to be changed, as by J. D. Mich. and Hitz., into לחם.
The prophet is to withdraw from all participation in mirthful meals and feasts, in token that God will take away all joy from the people. בּית־משׁתּה, house in which a feast is given. אותם, for אתּם, refers, taken ad sensum, to the others who take part in the feast. On Jer 16:9, cf. Jer 7:34.
"And when thou showest this people all these things, and they say unto thee, Wherefore hath Jahveh pronounced all this great evil against us, and what is our transgression, and what our sin that we have committed against Jahveh our God? Jer 16:11. Then say thou to them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith Jahveh, and have walked after other gods, and served them, and worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and not kept my law; Jer 16:12. And ye did yet worse than your fathers; and behold, ye walk each after the stubbornness of his evil heart, hearkening not unto me. Jer 16:13. Therefore I cast you out of this land into the land which he know not, neither ye nor your fathers, and there may ye serve other gods day and night, because I will show you no favour. Jer 16:14. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jahveh, that it shall no more be said, By the life of Jahveh, that brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt, Jer 16:15. But, By the life of Jahveh, that brought the sons of Israel out of the land of the north, and out of all the lands whither I had driven them, and I bring them again into their land that I gave to their fathers."
The turn of the discourse in Jer 16:10 and Jer 16:11 is like that in Jer 5:19. With Jer 16:11 cf. Jer 11:8, Jer 11:10; Jer 7:24; with "ye did yet worse," etc., cf. Kg1 14:9; and on "after the stubbornness," cf. on Kg1 3:17. The apodosis begins with "therefore I cast you out." On this head cf. Jer 7:15; Jer 9:15, and Jer 22:26. The article in על־הארץ, Graf quite unnecessarily insists on having cancelled, as out of place. It is explained sufficiently by the fact, that the land, of which mention has so often been made, is looked on as a specific one, and is characterized by the following relative clause, as one unknown to the people. Besides, the "ye know not" is not meant of geographical ignorance, but, as is often the case with ידע, the knowledge is that obtained by direct experience. They know not the land, because they have never been there. "There ye may serve them," Ros. justly characterizes as concessio cum ironia: there ye may serve, as long as ye will, the gods whom ye have so longed after. The irony is especially marked in the "day and night." Here Jeremiah has in mind Deu 4:28; Deu 28:36, Deu 28:63. אשׁר is causal, giving the grounds of the threat, "I cast you out." The form חנינה is hap leg . - In Jer 16:14 and Jer 16:15 the prophet opens to the people a view of ultimate redemption from the affliction amidst the heathen, into which, for their sin, they will be cast. By and by men will swear no more by Jahveh who redeemed them out of Egypt, but by Jahveh who has brought them again from the land of the north and the other lands into which they have been thrust forth. In this is implied that this second deliverance will be a blessing which shall outshine the former blessing of redemption from Egypt. But just as this deliverance will excel the earlier one, so much the greater will the affliction of Israel in the northern land be than the Egyptian bondage had been. On this point Ros. throws especial weight, remarking that the aim of these verses is not so much to give promise of coming salvation, as to announce instare illis atrocius malum, quam illud Aegyptiacum, eamque quam mox sint subituri servitutem multo fore duriorem, quam olim Aegyptiaca fuerit. But though this idea does lie implicite in the words, yet we must not fail to be sure that the prospect held out of a future deliverance of Israel from the lands into which it is soon to be scattered, and of its restoration again to the land of its fathers, has, in the first and foremost place, a comforting import, and that it is intended to preserve the godly from despair under the catastrophe which is now awaiting them.
(Note: Calvin has excellently brought out both moments, and has thus expounded the thought of the passage: "Scitis unde patres vestri exierint, nempe e fornace aenea, quemadmodum alibi loquitur (xi. 4) et quasi ex profunda morte; itaque redemptio illa debuit esse memorabilis usque ad finem mundi. Sed jam Deus conjiciet vos in abyssum, quae longe profundior erit illa Aegypti tyrannide, e qua erepti sunt patres vestri; nam si inde vos redimat, erit miraculum longe excellentius ad posteros, ut fere exstinguat vel saltem obscuret memoriam prioris illius redemptionis.")
לכן is not nevertheless, but, as universally, therefore; and the train of thought is as follows: Because the Lord will, for their idolatry, cast forth His people into the lands of the heathen, just for that very reason will their redemption from exile not fail to follow, and this deliverance surpass in gloriousness the greatest of all former deeds of blessing, the rescue of Israel from Egypt. The prospect of future redemption given amidst announcements of judgment cannot be surprising in Jeremiah, who elsewhere also interweaves the like happy forecastings with his most solemn threatenings; cf. Jer 4:27; Jer 5:10, Jer 5:18, with Jer 3:14., Jer 23:3., etc. "This ray of light, falling suddenly into the darkness, does not take us more by surprise than 'I will not make a full end,' Jer 4:27. There is therefore no reason for regarding these two verses as interpolations from Jer 23:7-8" (Graf).
Further account of the punishment foretold, with the reasons for the same. - Jer 16:16. "Behold, I send for many fishers, saith Jahve, who shall fish them, and after will I send fore many hunters, who shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rock. Jer 16:17. For mine eyes are upon all their ways, they are not hidden from me, neither is their iniquity concealed from mine eyes. Jer 16:18. And first, I requite double their iniquity and their sin, because they defiled my land with the carcases of their detestables, and with their abominations they have filled mine inheritance. Jer 16:19. Jahveh, my strength and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of trouble! Unto Thee shall the peoples come from the ends of the earth and say: But lies have our fathers inherited, vanity, and amidst them none profiteth at all. Jer 16:20. Shall a man make gods to himself, which are yet no gods? Jer 16:21. Therefore, behold, I make them to know this once, I make them to know my hand and my might, and they shall know that my name is Jahveh."
Jer 16:16-18 are a continuation of the threatening in Jer 16:13, that Judah is to be cast out, but are directly connected with Jer 16:15, and elucidate the expulsion into many lands there foretold. The figures of the fishers and hunters do not bespeak the gathering again and restoration of the scattered people, as Ven. would make out, but the carrying of Judah captive out of his land. This is clear from the second of the figures, for the hunter does not gather the animals together, but kills them; and the reference of the verses is put beyond a doubt by Jer 16:17 and Jer 16:18, and is consequently admitted by all other comm. The two figures signify various kinds of treatment at the hands of enemies. The fishers represent the enemies that gather the inhabitants of the land as in a net, and carry them wholesale into captivity (cf. Amo 4:2; Hab 1:15). The hunters, again, are those who drive out from their hiding-places, and slay or carry captive such as have escaped from the cities, and have taken refuge in the mountains and ravines; cf. Jer 4:29, Jdg 6:2 Sa1 13:6. In this the idea is visibly set forth that none shall escape the enemy. שׁלה c. ל pers., send for one, cause him to come, as in Jer 14:3 (send for water), so that there is no call to take ל according to the Aram. usage as sign of the accusative, for which we can cite in Jeremiah only the case in Jer 40:2. The form דּוּגים (Chet.) agrees with Eze 47:10, while the Keri, דּיּגים, is a formation similar to ציּדים. In the second clause רבּים is, like the numerals, made to precede the noun; cf. Pro 31:29; Psa 89:51. - For the Lord knows their doings and dealings, and their transgressions are not hid from Him; cf. Jer 23:24; Jer 32:19. על for אל, indicating the direction. Their ways are not the ways of flight, but their course of action.
The punishment foretold is but retribution for their sins. Because they have defiled the land by idolatry, they shall be driven out of it. ראשׁונה, first, is by Jerome, Hitz., Ew., Umbr. made to refer to the salvation promised in Jer 16:15 : first, i.e., before the restoration of my favour spoken of in Jer 16:15, I requite double. Against this Graf has objected, that on this view "first" would appear somewhat superfluous; and Ng., that the manifestly intended antithesis to משׁנה is left out of account. There is little force in either objection. Even Ng.'s paraphrase does not do full justice to the presumed antithesis; for if we render: "For the first time the double shall be requited, in the event of repetition a severer standard shall be used," then the antithesis to "first" would not be "double," but the supplied repetition of the offence. There is not the slightest hint in the context to lead us to supply this idea; nor is there any antithesis between "first" and "double." It is a mere assumption of the comm., which Rashi, Kimchi, Ros., Maur., etc., have brought into the text by the interpolation of a ו cop. before משׁנה: I requite the first of their transgressions and the repetition of them, i.e., their earlier and their repeated sins, or the sins committed by their fathers and by themselves, on a greater scale. We therefore hold the reference to Jer 16:15 to be the only true one, and regard it as corresponding both to the words before us and the context. "The double of their iniquity," i.e., ample measure for their sins (cf. Isa 40:2; Job 11:6) by way of the horrors of war and the sufferings of the exile. The sins are more exactly defined by: because they defiled my land by the carcases of their detestables, i.e., their dead detestable idols. שׁקּוּצים נבלת is formed according to פּגרי , Lev 26:30, and it belongs to "they defiled," not to "they filled," as the Masoretic accentuation puts it; for מלא is construed, not with בּ of the thing, but with double accus.; cf. Eze 8:17; Eze 30:11, etc. So it is construed in the last clause: With their abominations they have filled the inheritance of Jahveh, i.e., the land of the Lord (cf. Jer 2:7). The infin. חלּלם is continued by מלאוּ in verbo fin., as usual.
In Jer 16:19-21 we have more as to the necessity of the threatened punishment. The prophet turns to the Lord as his defence and fortress in time of need, and utters the hope that even the heathen may some time turn to the Lord and confess the vanity of idolatry, since the gods which men make are no gods. To this the Lord answers in Jer 16:21, that just therefore He must punish His idolatrous people, so that they shall feel His power and learn to know His name.
In his cry to the Lord: My strength...in the day of trouble, which agrees closely with Psa 28:8; Psa 59:17; Psa 18:3, Jeremiah utters not merely his own feelings, but those which would animate every member of his people. In the time of need the powerlessness of the idols to help, and so their vanity, becomes apparent. Trouble therefore drives to God, the Almighty Lord and Ruler of the world, and forces to bend under His power. The coming tribulation is to have this fruit not only in the case of the Israelites, but also in that of the heathen nations, so that they shall see the vanity of the idolatry they have inherited from their fathers, and be converted to the Lord, the only true God. How this knowledge is to be awakened in the heathen, Jeremiah does not disclose; but it may be gathered from Jer 16:15, from the deliverance of Israel, there announced, out of the heathen lands into which they had been cast forth. By this deliverance the heathen will be made aware both of the almighty power of the God of Israel and of the nothingness of their own gods. On הבל cf. Jer 2:5; and with "none that profiteth," cf. Jer 2:8; Jer 14:22. In Jer 16:20 the prophet confirms what the heathen have been saying. The question has a negative force, as is clear from the second clause. In Jer 16:21 we have the Lord's answer to the prophets' confession in Jer 16:19. Since the Jews are so blinded that they prefer vain idols to the living God, He will this time so show them His hand and His strength in that foretold chastisement, that they shall know His name, i.e., know that He alone is God in deed and in truth. Cf. Eze 12:15; Exo 3:14.