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Jeremiah 14:2-3

2. Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.

2. Luxit Jehudab et portae ejus debilitatae sunt, (vel, dissipatae sunt;) obtenebrati sunt in terra (refernut quidam ad portas, sed malo ad homines referre;) et clamor Jerusalem ascendit.

3. 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. Et proceres coturn (hoc est, qui pollent dignitate) miserunt minores (hoc est, homines plebeios et mercenarios) ad aquas; venerunt ad cisternas, non invenerunt aquas; reversi sunt cum vasis inanibus (vel, reversa sunt vasa eorum vacua;) confusi sunt, et erubuerunt, et operuerunt caput suum.

 

The Prophet intimates in these words, that so great would be the scarcity as to appear to be a manifest and remarkable evidence of God’s vengeance; for when God punishes us in a common way, we for the most part refer the event to some fortuitous circumstances, and the devil also ever retains our minds in the consideration of secondary causes. Hence the Prophet declares here that an event so unusual could not be ascribed to natural causes, as that the earth should become so sterile, but that; it was the extraordinary judgment of God. This is the reason wily he employs so many figurative expressions. He might indeed have said, in one sentence, that there would be in the land a most grievous famine; but hardly one in a hundred would have been moved by words so simply expressed. Therefore the Prophet, in order to arouse their stupor, uses terms the most forcible.

Hence he says, Mourned has Judah Though he speaks of what was future, yet, according to his own usual manner and that of others, he uses the past time in order to shew the certainty of what he said. He then declares that there would be mourning in Judah. He afterwards says, His gates have been weakened, or scattered. In mentioning gates, he takes a part for the whole, for he means the cities: but as judgments were wont to be administered at the gates, and as men often assembled there, he says that the gates would be reduced to solitude, so that hardly any one would appear there. He in the third place adds, They have become darkened to the ground, or, in plainer words, they became overwhelmed with grief; but the proper meaning of the word is to become darkened: and he says, to the ground, as though he said that they would be so cast down as to he in the dust, and would not dare to raise up their heads, nor would be able to do so, being worn down by want and famine. We hence see what he means, even this, — that the scarcity would be so great that men would be down on the ground, and in a manner seek darkness for themselves, as it is the case with us when we flee as it were from the light and he on the ground; for we then shew that we cannot enjoy the light, it being disagreeable to us: and hence we see more clearly what I have stated, — that the Prophet uses very strong terms to produce an impression on the Jews, that they might know that the earth was so sterile, not through any natural or common cause, but through the judgment of God. 105105     The versions connect the two verbs with gates: and if we take “gates” metonymically for those who attended them, the meaning will be evident. We may then render the verse thus, —
   Mourned hath Judah, And her gates, they have languished; Grieved have they for the land; And the cry of Jerusalem hath ascended.

   In the gates was the court of justice; there the chief men or governors assembled. The languishing belonged, not to the gates, but to those who attended them, and so the grief or lamentation. The first meaning of the verb is to be dark, to be black, but it is used to signify extreme grief or lamentation. See Psalms 35:14; 38:6; Jeremiah 8:21. As light denotes joy, so darkness is a symbol of grief or mourning. We use a similar kind of metonymy, when we say, “The court is in mourning.” The Septuagint render the verse thus, —

   Mourned hath Judah, And her gates have been emptied, And have become dark for the land; And the shout of Jerusalem hath ascended.

   Blayney’s version of the third line is as follows, —

   They are in deep mourning for the land.

   The Targum paraphrases the verb thus, — “Their faces are covered with blackness.” — Ed.

He afterwards adds, The cry of Jerusalem has ascended Here he sets forth their despair: for in doubtful matters we are wont to deliberate and to devise remedies; but when we are destitute of any counsel or advice, and when no hope appears, we then break out into crying. We hence see that it was an evidence of despair when the cry of Jerusalem ascended; for they would not be able to complain and to disburden their cares and griefs by pouring them into the bosoms of one another, but all of them would cry and howl.

It is then added, Their chiefs will send the common people to the waters The Prophet’s object was again to point out something extraordinary, — that the great, possessing authority, would constrain and compel the common sort to draw water. They have sent them, he says, that is, by authority; they who could command others sent them to the waters. 106106     The persons here mentioned are called by the Septuagint “chieftains — μεγιστᾶνες,” and “young men — τους νεωτέρους;” by the Vulqate, “the elder ones — majores,” and “the younger ones — minores;” by the Syriac, “the chiefs,” and “the common sort;” and by the Targum, “chief men,” and “subjects.” The first word is well expressed in our version, “nobles,” — the illustrious; and the most suitable word for the others is “menials;” they were the servants. — Ed They came, he says, to the cisterns By the word גבים gabim, he means deep ditches, or pits; but some render them cisterns. With regard to the subject in hand, it signifies not; for the Prophet no doubt meant that they would come to the deepest wells or pits, as it is usually done ia a great drought; for many springs become often dry, and pits also, situated in high places; but in valleys some water remains, and there it may be had: there are also some wells ever full of water, where its abundance never fails. It was therefore the Prophet’s design to refer to such wells. They came, he says, to the wells, where they thought they could find a sufficient supply; but he adds, They found no waters; they returned with their empty vessels 107107     would render the verse thus, —
   3. When their nobles sent their menials for water, They came to the reservoirs, they found no water; They brought back their vessels empty: They were ashamed and confounded, And they covered their heads.

   The word I render “reservoirs” means literally arches or vaults. They were places arched over to preserve water. Parkhurst thinks that the reservoirs made by King Hezekiah are intended, 2 Chronicles 32:30. That the verb שב has the meaning of bringing back is evident from Isaiah 52:8; and this is according to the Vulgate and the Septuagint in this place. Gataker and Venema think that the shame and confusion refer to the nobles, and not to the servants. This verse speaks of Jerusalem, the last mentioned in the former verse; and what follows refers to Judea, spoken of in the former part according to the usual manner of the prophets. — Ed

We now perceive what I have said, — that the Prophet here reproves the Jews for their stupidity in not understanding that God was angry with them when the order of nature, which ought ever to continue the same, thus failed. Droughts indeed often happen when there are no waters in most places; but when no well supplies any water, when there is not a drop of water to be found in the most favorable places, then indeed it ought to be concluded that God’s curse is on the people, who find nothing to drink; for in nothing does God deal more bountifully with the world than in the supply of water. We do not speak now of wine; but we see fountains everywhere pouring forth waters, and rivers also flow through countries: moreover, pits are dug through the labors of men; there are also cisterns in which the rain is preserved in places that are commonly dry: but when in cisterns no water remains, and when the fountains themselves refuse any supply, we may hence surely know that it is the special judgment of God; and this is what Jeremiah intended here to shew; and therefore he says that they were confounded and ashamed, and that they covered their head It now follows —


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