Jeremiah 5:20-21

20. Declare this in the house of Jacob, and publish it in Judah, saying,

20. Nuntiate hoc in domo Jacob, et promulgate (ad verbum, audire facite) in Jehudah, dicendo,

21. Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:

21. Audite agedum hoc, popule stulte et absque corde; oculi illis, et non vident; aures illis, et non audiunt (et non audient, ad verbum.)


The Prophet confirms what he had said, lest the Jews should think that they were only terrified by words, and not dread the consequences. Hence he says, Declare this. The Prophet, no doubt, alludes to a custom which prevailed; for wars were usually proclaimed by heralds. Enemies did not immediately march forth, but they proclaimed war that the cause might appear just. Hence God here declares, that he had spoken in earnest by the mouth of Jeremiah, as though war had been in the usual manner proclaimed, and armed enemies were already nigh at hand.

Declare ye then this; and what is it? Hear, O foolish people, etc. Here he first reproves the Jews and Israelites for their stupidity, because they were even without common sense; for the heart in Hebrew means the mind or understanding, as we have seen elsewhere. He then says, that this people were destitute of all understanding. He first calls them fatuous or foolish; but as many are slow and heavy and yet not without common sense, he adds that they were a people without heart or understanding. He seems indeed to add by way of correction, that they had eyes and ears: but his object was ironically to enhance what he had said, and to shew that they were stupid, and no less so than blocks of wood or stones. How so? "Ye have ears and eyes, "he says, "but ye neither see nor hear."1

He no doubt alludes to the idols to which they had become devoted: for it is said in Psalm 115:8, that those who made idols were like them, as well as those who trusted in them; for it had been previously said, that idols had ears but heard not, and eyes but saw not. Jeremiah then indirectly condemns the Jews here for having become so stupid in their superstitions as to be like dead idols: for there is in an idol some likeness to man; it has various members but no understanding. So also he says, the Jews had eyes and ears and the external form of men; but they were at the same time no less stupid than if they were stones or blocks of wood. Now follows the proclamation --

1 It is better to retain the future tense, as their obstinacy is thereby more fully expressed; the whole verse may be thus literally rendered,-

Hear, I pray, this, Ye perverse people and without understanding,- Eyes they have, but they will not see, Ears they have, but they will not hear.

The "this" which they were to hear is contained in the next verse. The two last lines are only explanatory of the preceding. They were "without understanding, "for they would not see, though they had eyes; and they were "perverse, "or perversely foolish, for they would not hear, though they had ears. When two things are mentioned and afterwards referred to, the prophets usually explain the last, and then the first, as the case is here. The two last lines may be included in a parenthesis.-Ed.