Jeremiah 9:17-18

17. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women, that they may come:

17. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Attendite et votate lamentatrices, ut veniant, et ad peritas mittite ut veniant:

18. And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters.

18. Et festinent et tollant super nos luctum, et descendant oculi nostri in lachrymas, (alii vertunt, descendant cum lachrymis, vel, emittant lachrymas,) et palpebrae nostrae defluant in aquas.


In this passage, as in many others, the Prophet endeavors by a striking representation really to touch the hearts of his people, for he saw that they were extremely refractory, insensible, and secure. Since then the threatenings of God were either wholly despised, or had not sufficiently moved the hearts of the people, it was necessary to set forth God's judgments as present. Therefore the Prophet gives a striking description of what takes place in times of mourning. At the same time he seems to condemn indirectly the Jews for not knowing, through God's word, that there was a calamity at hand: for God's word ought indeed to be like a mirror, by which men ought to see God's goodness in his promises and also his judgment in his threatenings. As then all prophecies were deemed as fables by the people, it was not without some degree of derision that he addressed them in this manner, --

Hearken ye, and call for mourners, that they may come. An absurd and a foolish custom has prevailed almost in all ages to hire women as mourners, whom they called proeficoe; they were employed to mourn for others. Heirs no doubt hired these foolish women, in order to shew their reigned piety; they spoke in praise of the dead, and shewed how great a loss was their death. The Prophet does not commend this custom; and we ought to know that Scripture often takes similes from the vices of men, as from filth and dirt. If then any one concludes from these winds of Jeremiah, that lamentations at funerals are not to be condemned, this would be foolish and puerile. The Prophet, on the contrary, does here reprove the Jews, because they heedlessly disregarded all God's threatenings, and were at the same time soft and tender at those foolish exhibitions, and all mourned at the sight of those women who were hired to lament; as the case is at this time, when a faithful teacher reprobates the prevailing folly of the Papists. For when the unprincipled men, who occupy the pulpits under the Papacy, speak with weeping, though they produce not a syllable from God's word, but add some spectacle or phantom, by producing the image of the Cross or some like thing, they touch the feelings of the vulgar and cause weeping, according to what actors do on the stage. As then the Papists are seized as it were with an insane feeling, when their deceivers thus gesticulate, so a faithful teacher may say to them, "Let any one come and set before your eyes the image of a dead man, or say, that you must all shortly die and be like the earcase shewn to you, and ye will cry and weep; and yet ye will sot consider how dreadful God's judgment is, which I declare to you: I shew to you faithfully from the law, from the prophets, and from the Gospel; how dreadful is God's vengeance, and set before you what ye deserve; yet none of you are moved; but my doctrine is a mockery to you, and also my reproofs and threatenings: go then to your prophets, who shew you pictures and the like trumperies." So the Prophet says now, "I see that I can do you no good; the Lord will therefore give you no teachers but women." Of what sort? Even such, he says, as lament, or are hired to mourn.

We now then perceive why the Prophet speaks of hired women. Attend ye, he says; and why? They ought indeed to have been attentive to or to understand (for Nb ben, means properly to understand, and in Hithpael it signifies to consider) his words; but as he saw that he was ridiculed or despised, and that all the threatenings which proceeded from God were esteemed as fables, he now says, "Consider ye and call for your lamenters: -- as I see such perverseness in you, be taught at least by those women who are commonly invited to lament, and who sell their tears!" Send, he says, for the skilfu1, that they may come. By these words he intended more clearly to express, that the calamity which the people feared not was not far distant.

Let them, he says, take up for us a wailing, and let our eyes come down to tears, and let our eyelids flow down into waters. These are hyperbolical words, and yet they do not exceed the intensehess of the coming vengeance: for it was not in vain that he said at the begSnning of the chapter, "Who will make my head waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears?" As then the greatness of the calamity could be expressed by no words, the Prophet was constrained to adopt these hyperbolical expressions: Let them then take up for us a wailing, that our eyes may come down to tears: and this he said, because he saw that he was heard with dry eyes, and that the people disregarded what had been denounced:, when yet all ought to have been smitten with fear, from the least to the greatest. As then the Prophet saw that their contempt was so brutal, he says, that when lainenters came, there would then be the time for wailing, not indeed the seasonable time; but it is the same as though he had said, that the Jews would then find out how insensible they had been, in not having in due time considered the judgment of God.1 It follows --

1 I render the verses thus, --

17.Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, bethink yourselves; And call for mourning women, that they may come; Yea, for the skillful send, that they may come,

18.And hasten, and raise for us a wailing, That our eyes may pour forth tears, And our eyelids drop down waters. -- Ed.