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The Utter Corruption of God’s People


Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,

look around and take note!

Search its squares and see

if you can find one person

who acts justly

and seeks truth—

so that I may pardon Jerusalem.


Although they say, “As the Lord lives,”

yet they swear falsely.


O Lord, do your eyes not look for truth?

You have struck them,

but they felt no anguish;

you have consumed them,

but they refused to take correction.

They have made their faces harder than rock;

they have refused to turn back.



Then I said, “These are only the poor,

they have no sense;

for they do not know the way of the Lord,

the law of their God.


Let me go to the rich

and speak to them;

surely they know the way of the Lord,

the law of their God.”

But they all alike had broken the yoke,

they had burst the bonds.



Therefore a lion from the forest shall kill them,

a wolf from the desert shall destroy them.

A leopard is watching against their cities;

everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces—

because their transgressions are many,

their apostasies are great.



How can I pardon you?

Your children have forsaken me,

and have sworn by those who are no gods.

When I fed them to the full,

they committed adultery

and trooped to the houses of prostitutes.


They were well-fed lusty stallions,

each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.


Shall I not punish them for these things?

says the Lord;

and shall I not bring retribution

on a nation such as this?



Go up through her vine-rows and destroy,

but do not make a full end;

strip away her branches,

for they are not the Lord’s.


For the house of Israel and the house of Judah

have been utterly faithless to me,

says the Lord.


They have spoken falsely of the Lord,

and have said, “He will do nothing.

No evil will come upon us,

and we shall not see sword or famine.”


The prophets are nothing but wind,

for the word is not in them.

Thus shall it be done to them!



Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts:

Because they have spoken this word,

I am now making my words in your mouth a fire,

and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them.


I am going to bring upon you

a nation from far away, O house of Israel,

says the Lord.

It is an enduring nation,

it is an ancient nation,

a nation whose language you do not know,

nor can you understand what they say.


Their quiver is like an open tomb;

all of them are mighty warriors.


They shall eat up your harvest and your food;

they shall eat up your sons and your daughters;

they shall eat up your flocks and your herds;

they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees;

they shall destroy with the sword

your fortified cities in which you trust.


18 But even in those days, says the Lord, I will not make a full end of you. 19And when your people say, “Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?” you shall say to them, “As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve strangers in a land that is not yours.”



Declare this in the house of Jacob,

proclaim it in Judah:


Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,

who have eyes, but do not see,

who have ears, but do not hear.


Do you not fear me? says the Lord;

Do you not tremble before me?

I placed the sand as a boundary for the sea,

a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass;

though the waves toss, they cannot prevail,

though they roar, they cannot pass over it.


But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;

they have turned aside and gone away.


They do not say in their hearts,

“Let us fear the Lord our God,

who gives the rain in its season,

the autumn rain and the spring rain,

and keeps for us

the weeks appointed for the harvest.”


Your iniquities have turned these away,

and your sins have deprived you of good.


For scoundrels are found among my people;

they take over the goods of others.

Like fowlers they set a trap;

they catch human beings.


Like a cage full of birds,

their houses are full of treachery;

therefore they have become great and rich,


they have grown fat and sleek.

They know no limits in deeds of wickedness;

they do not judge with justice

the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper,

and they do not defend the rights of the needy.


Shall I not punish them for these things?

says the Lord,

and shall I not bring retribution

on a nation such as this?



An appalling and horrible thing

has happened in the land:


the prophets prophesy falsely,

and the priests rule as the prophets direct;

my people love to have it so,

but what will you do when the end comes?


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Jer 5:1-31. The Cause of the Judgments to Be Inflicted Is the Universal Corruption of the People.

1. a man—As the pious Josiah, Baruch, and Zephaniah lived in Jerusalem at that time, Jeremiah must here mean the mass of the people, the king, his counsellors, the false prophets, and the priests, as distinguished from the faithful few, whom God had openly separated from the reprobate people; among the latter not even one just person was to be found (Isa 9:16) [Calvin]; the godly, moreover, were forbidden to intercede for them (Jer 7:16; compare Ge 18:23, &c.; Ps 12:1; Eze 22:30).

see … know—look … ascertain.

judgment—justice, righteousness.

pardon it—rather, her.

2. (Tit 1:16).

swear falsely—not a judicial oath; but their profession of the worship of Jehovah is insincere (Jer 5:7; Jer 4:2). The reformation under Josiah was merely superficial in the case of the majority.

3. eyes upon the truth—(De 32:4; 2Ch 16:9). "Truth" is in contrast with "swear falsely" (Jer 5:2). The false-professing Jews could expect nothing but judgments from the God of truth.

stricken … not grieved—(Jer 2:30; Isa 1:5; 9:13).

refused … correction—(Jer 7:28; Zep 3:2).

4. poor—rather, "the poor." He supposes for the moment that this utter depravity is confined to the uninstructed poor, and that he would find a different state of things in the higher ranks: but there he finds unbridled profligacy.

5. they have known—rather, "they must know." The prophet supposes it as probable, considering their position.

but these—I found the very reverse to be the case.

burst … bonds—set God's law at defiance (Ps 2:3).

6. lion … wolf … leopard—the strongest, the most ravenous, and the swiftest, respectively, of beasts: illustrating the formidable character of the Babylonians.

of the evenings—Others not so well translate, of the deserts. The plural means that it goes forth every evening to seek its prey (Ps 104:20; Hab 1:8; Zep 3:3).

leopard … watch … cities—(Ho 13:7). It shall lie in wait about their cities.

7. It would not be consistent with God's holiness to let such wickedness pass unpunished.

sworn by—(Jer 5:2; Jer 4:2); that is, worshipped.

no gods—(De 32:21).

fed … to the full—so the Keri (Hebrew Margin) reads. God's bountifulness is contrasted with their apostasy (De 32:15). Prosperity, the gift of God, designed to lead men to Him, often produces the opposite effect. The Hebrew Chetib (text) reads: "I bound them (to Me) by oath," namely, in the marriage covenant, sealed at Sinai between God and Israel; in contrast to which stands their "adultery"; the antithesis favors this.

adultery … harlots' houses—spiritually: idolatry in temples of idols; but literal prostitution is also included, being frequently part of idol-worship: for example, in the worship of the Babylonian Mylitta.

8. in the morning—(Isa 5:11). "Rising early in the morning" is a phrase for unceasing eagerness in any pursuit; such was the Jews' avidity after idol-worship. Maurer translates from a different Hebrew root, "continually wander to and fro," inflamed with lust (Jer 2:23). But English Version is simpler (compare Jer 13:27; Eze 22:11).

9. (Jer 5:29; Jer 9:9; 44:22).

10. Abrupt apostrophe to the Babylonians, to take Jerusalem, but not to destroy the nation utterly (see on Jer 4:27).

battlements—rather, tendrils [Maurer]: the state being compared to a vine (Jer 12:10), the stem of which was to be spared, while the tendrils (the chief men) were to be removed.

11. (Jer 3:20).

12. belied—denied.

It is not he—rather, "(Jehovah) is not He," that is, the true and only God (Jer 14:22; De 32:39; Isa 43:10, 13). By their idolatry they virtually denied Him. Or, referring to what follows, and to Jer 5:9, "(Jehovah) is not," namely, about to be the punisher of our sins (Jer 14:13; Isa 28:15).

13. Continuation of the unbelieving language of the Jews.

the prophets—who prophesy punishment coming on us.

the word—the Holy Spirit, who speaks through true prophets, is not in them [Maurer]. Or else, "There is no word (divine communication) in them" (Ho 1:2) [Rosenmuller].

thus, &c.—Their ill-omened prophecies shall fall on themselves.

14. ye … thy … this people—He turns away from addressing the people to the prophet; implying that He puts them to a distance from Him, and only communicates with them through His prophet (Jer 5:19).

fire … wood—Thy denunciations of judgments shall be fulfilled and shall consume them as fire does wood. In Jer 23:29 it is the penetrating energy of fire which is the point of comparison.

15. (Jer 1:15; 6:22). Alluding to De 28:49, &c.

Israel—that is, Judah.

mighty—from an Arabic root, "enduring." The fourfold repetition of "nation" heightens the force.

ancient—The Chaldeans came originally from the Carduchian and Armenian mountains north of Mesopotamia, whence they immigrated into Babylonia; like all mountaineers, they were brave and hardy (see on Isa 23:13).

language … knowest notIsa 36:11 shows that Aramaic was not understood by the "multitude," but only by the educated classes [Maurer]. Henderson refers it to the original language of the Babylonians, which, he thinks, they brought with them from their native hills, akin to the Persic, not to the Aramaic, or any other Semitic tongue, the parent of the modern Kurd.

16. open sepulchre—(Compare Ps 5:9). Their quiver is all-devouring, as the grave opened to receive the dead: as many as are the arrows, so many are the deaths.

17. (Le 26:16).

18. Not even in those days of judgments, will God utterly exterminate His people.

I will not make a full end with you—(Jer 5:10; Jer 4:27).

19. Retribution in kind. As ye have forsaken Me (Jer 2:13), so shall ye be forsaken by Me. As ye have served strange (foreign) gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers (foreigners) in a land not yours. Compare the similar retribution in De 28:47, 48.

21. eyes … ears, and—Translate, "and yet" (compare De 29:4; Isa 6:9). Having powers of perception, they did not use them: still they were responsible for the exercise of them.

22. sand—Though made up of particles easily shifting about, I render it sufficient to curb the violence of the sea. Such is your monstrous perversity, that the raging, senseless sea sooner obeys Me, than ye do who profess to be intelligent [Calvin], (Job 26:10; 38:10, 11; Pr 8:29; Re 15:4).

23. (Jer 6:28).

24. rain … former … latter—The "former" falls from the middle of October to the beginning of December. The "latter," or spring rain in Palestine, falls before harvest in March and April, and is essential for ripening the crops (De 11:14; Joe 2:23).

weeks of … harvest—the seven weeks between passover and pentecost, beginning on the sixteenth of Nisan (De 16:9). By God's special providence no rain fell in Palestine during the harvest weeks, so that harvest work went on without interruption (see Ge 8:22).

25. National guilt had caused the suspension of these national mercies mentioned in Jer 5:24 (compare Jer 3:3).

26. (Pr 1:11, 17, 18; Hab 1:15).

as he that setteth snares—rather, "as fowlers crouch" [Maurer].

trap—literally, "destruction": the instrument of destruction.

catch men—not as Peter, to save (Lu 5:10), but to destroy men.

27. full of deceit—full of treasures got by deceit.

rich—(Ps 73:12, 18-20).

28. shine—the effect of fatness on the skin (De 32:15). They live a life of self-indulgence.

overpass … the wicked—exceed even the Gentiles in wickedness (Jer 2:33; Eze 5:6, 7).

judge not … fatherless—(Isa 1:23).

yet … prosper—(Jer 12:1).

29. (Jer 5:9; Mal 3:5).

30. (Jer 23:14; Ho 6:10).

31. bear rule by their means—literally, "according to their hands," that is, under their guidance (1Ch 25:3). As a sample of the priests lending themselves to the deceits of the false prophets, to gain influence over the people, see Jer 29:24-32.

love to have it so—(Mic 2:11).

end thereof—the fatal issue of this sinful course when divine judgments shall come.