Jeremiah 4:19

19. My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.

19. Viscera mea, viscera mea doleo, parietes cordis mei (ad verbum, hoc est, praecordia mea,) cor meum tumultuatur mihi (hoc est, intra me;) non tacebo, quoniam vocem tubae (vel, clangorem tubae) audivit (vel audivisti) anima mea; et clamor belli auditus est (vel, clamourem belli audivit anima mea.)


Some interpreters think that the Prophet is here affected with grief, because he saw that his own nation would soon perish; but I know not whether this is a right view. It is indeed true, that the prophets, though severe when denouncing God's vengeance, did not yet put off the feelings of humanity. Hence they often bewailed the evils which they predicted; and this we shall see more clearly in its proper place. The prophets then had two feelings: when they were the heralds of God's vengeance, they necessarily forgot their own sensibilities; but this courage did not prevent them from feeling sorrow for others; for they could not but sympathize with their brethren, when they saw them, even their own flesh, doomed to ruin. But in this place the Prophet seems not so much to mourn the calamities of the people, but employs figurative terms in order to awaken their stupor, for he saw that they were torpid, and that they neither feared God nor were touched with any shame. Since then there was so much insensibility in the people, it was necessary for Jeremiah and other servants of God to embellish their discourses, so as not simply to teach, but also forcibly and strongly to rouse their dormant minds.

He therefore says, My bowels, my bowels! We shall see that the Prophet in other places thus laments, when he speaks of Babylon, of Edom, and of other enemies of his people, and why? The Prophet was not indeed affected with grief when he heard that the Chaldeans would perish, and when God declared to him the same thing respecting other heathen nations, who had cruelly persecuted the holy people; but since thoughtless men, as I have said, take no notice of what God from heaven threatens them with, it is necessary to use such expressions as may rouse them from their torpor. So I interpret this place: the Prophet does not express his own grief for the calamities of his people, but by the prophetic spirit enlarges on what he had previously said; for he saw that what he had stated had no effect, or was not sufficient to rouse their minds. My bowels! he says. He had indeed grief in his bowels, for he was a member of the community; but we now speak of his object or the purpose he had in view in speaking thus. It is not then the expression of his own grief, but an affecting description, in order that what he had said might thoroughly rouse the minds of those who heedlessly laughed at the judgment of God.

He then adds, My heart tumultuates, or makes a noise: the verb means to resound, and hence it is metaphorically taken for tumultuating. He speaks of the palpitation of the heart, which takes place when there is great fear. But he calls it noise or tumult, as though he had said, that he was not now master of himself, so as to retain a calm and tranquil mind, for God smote his heart with horrible dread. He afterwards adds, I will not be silent, for the sound of the trumpet has my soul heard, or thou, my soul, hast heard, and the clamor of battle; for the word hmxlmchme, is to be thus taken here. He says that he would not be silent because this clamor made a noise in his heart. We hence conclude that he grieved not from a feeling of human sorrow, but he did that which he had been bidden to do by God; for he had been chosen to be the herald of God's vengeance, which was nigh, though not dreaded by the Jews.1

Some think that soul is here to be taken for the prophetic spirit, for trumpets had not yet sounded, nor was yet heard the clamor of battle. They therefore suppose that there is to be understood here a contrast, that Jeremiah did not perceive the noise by his ears, but in his heart. But I know not whether this refinement may be fitly applied to the Prophet's words. I therefore think that Jeremiah means, that he spoke in earnest, because he saw God's vengeance as though it were already made evident. And this availed not a little to gain credit to what he had stated, so that the Jews might know that he did not speak of himself, nor act a part as players do on the stage. They were then to know that he did not relate what God had pronounced, but that he was God's herald in such a way, that he heard in his soul or heart, to his great terror, the tumult of war and the sound of the trumpet. It follows --

1 Remarkably concise and striking are the words of this verse,-

My bowels! my bowels! I am in pain! O the enclosures of my heart! Turbulent is my heart within me; I will not be silent; for the sound of the trumpet Have I heard; my soul, the shout of battle.

To change the person of the verb, "I am in pain," or in labor, as it literally means, as Blayney does, destroys the force and the vehemence of the passage; and all the early versions retain the first person. "The enclosures," literally "the walls," that is, what encloses or surrounds the heart, he mentions first the bowels, then what surrounds the heart, and afterwards the heart itself: and his pain was like that of a woman in travail. Being in this state, he resolved not to be silent but to declare their danger to the people.-Ed.