Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.
Jer 14:1-22. Prophecies on the Occasion of a Drought Sent in Judgment on Judea.
1. Literally, "That which was the word of Jehovah to Jeremiah concerning the dearth"
drought—literally, the "withholdings," namely, of rain (De 11:17; 2Ch 7:13). This word should be used especially of the withholding of rain because rain is in those regions of all things the one chiefly needed (Jer 17:8, Margin).
Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.
2. gates—The place of public concourse in each city looks sad, as being no longer frequented (Isa 3:26; 24:4).
black—that is, they mourn (blackness being indicative of sorrow), (Jer 8:21).
unto the ground—bowing towards it.
cry—of distress (1Sa 5:12; Isa 24:11).
And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads.
3. little ones—rather, "their inferiors," that is, domestics.
pits—cisterns for collecting rain water, often met with in the East where there are no springs.
covered … heads—(2Sa 15:30). A sign of humiliation and mourning.
Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.
Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass.
5. The brute creation is reduced to the utmost extremity for the want of food. The "hind," famed for her affection to her young, abandons them.
And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.
6. wild asses—They repair to "the high places" most exposed to the winds, which they "snuff in" to relieve their thirst.
eyes—which are usually most keen in detecting grass or water from the "heights," so much so that the traveller guesses from their presence that there must be herbage and water near; but now "their eyes fail." Rather the reference is to the great boas and python serpents which raise a large portion of their body up in a vertical column ten or twelve feet high, to survey the neighborhood above the surrounding bushes, while with open jaws they drink in the air. These giant serpents originated the widely spread notions which typified the deluge and all destructive agents under the form of a dragon or monster serpent; hence, the dragon temples always near water, in Asia, Africa, and Britain; for example, at Abury, in Wiltshire; a symbol of the ark is often associated with the dragon as the preserver from the waters [Kitto, Biblical Cyclopædia].
O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.
7. do thou it—what we beg of Thee; interpose to remove the drought. Jeremiah pleads in the name of his nation (Ps 109:21). So "work for us," absolutely used (1Sa 14:6).
for thy name's sake—"for our backslidings are so many" that we cannot urge Thee for the sake of our doings, but for the glory of Thy name; lest, if Thou give us not aid, it should be said it was owing to Thy want of power (Jos 7:9; Ps 79:9; 106:8; Isa 48:9; Eze 20:44). The same appeal to God's mercy, "for His name's sake," as our only hope, since our sin precludes trust in ourselves, occurs in Ps 25:11.
O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?
8. The reference is, not to the faith of Israel which had almost ceased, but to the promise and everlasting covenant of God. None but the true Israel make God their "hope." (Jer 17:13).
turneth aside to tarry—The traveller cares little for the land he tarries but a night in; but Thou hast promised to dwell always in the midst of Thy people (2Ch 33:7, 8). Maurer translates, "spreadeth," namely, his tent.
Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save? yet thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not.
9. astonied—like a "mighty man," at other times able to help (Isa 59:1), but now stunned by a sudden calamity so as to disappoint the hopes drawn from him.
art in the midst of us—(Ex 29:45, 46; Le 26:11, 12).
called by thy name—(Da 9:18, 19) as Thine own peculiar people (De 9:29).
Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.
10. Jehovah's reply to the prayer (Jer 14:7-9; Jer 2:23-25).
not refrained … feet—They did not obey God's command; "withhold thy foot" (Jer 2:25), namely, from following after idols.
remember … iniquity—(Ho 8:13; 9:9). Their sin is so great, God must punish them.
Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.
11. (Jer 7:16; Ex 32:10).
When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.
12. not hear—because their prayers are hypocritical: their hearts are still idolatrous. God never refuses to hear real prayer (Jer 7:21, 22; Pr 1:28; Isa 1:15; 58:3).
sword … famine … pestilence—the three sorest judgments at once; any one of which would be enough for their ruin (2Sa 24:12, 13).
Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.
13. Jeremiah urges that much of the guilt of the people is due to the false prophets' influence.
assured peace—solid and lasting peace. Literally, "peace of truth" (Isa 39:8).
Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.
14. (Jer 23:21).
Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.
15. (Jer 5:12, 13).
By sword and famine … consumed—retribution in kind both to the false prophets and to their hearers (Jer 14:16).
And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.
16. none to bury—(Ps 79:3).
pour their wickedness—that is, the punishment incurred by their wickedness (Jer 2:19).
Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.
17. (Jer 9:1; La 1:16). Jeremiah is desired to weep ceaselessly for the calamities coming on his nation (called a "virgin," as being heretofore never under foreign yoke), (Isa 23:4).
If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not.
18. go about—that is, shall have to migrate into a land of exile. Horsley translates, "go trafficking about the land (see Jer 5:31, Margin; 2Co 4:2; 2Pe 2:3), and take no knowledge" (that is, pay no regard to the miseries before their eyes) (Isa 1:3; 58:3). If the literal sense of the Hebrew verb be retained, I would with English Version understand the words as referring to the exile to Babylon; thus, "the prophet and the priest shall have to go to a strange land to practise their religious traffic (Isa 56:11; Eze 34:2, 3; Mic 3:11).
Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!
19. The people plead with God, Jeremiah being forbidden to do so.
no healing—(Jer 15:18).
peace … no good—(Jer 8:15).
We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.
20. (Da 9:8).
Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.
21. us—"the throne of Thy glory" may be the object of "abhor not" ("reject not"); or "Zion" (Jer 14:19).
throne of thy glory—Jerusalem, or, the temple, called God's "footstool" and "habitation" (1Ch 28:2; Ps 132:5).
thy covenant—(Ps 106:45; Da 9:19).
Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.
22. vanities—idols (De 32:21).
rain—(Zec 10:1, 2).
heavens—namely, of themselves without God (Mt 5:45; Ac 14:17); they are not the First Cause, and ought not to be deified, as they were by the heathen. The disjunctive "or" favors Calvin's explanation: "Not even the heavens themselves can give rain, much less can the idol vanities."
art not thou he—namely, who canst give rain?