Lecture Twenty-Third


Jeremiah 6:1

1. O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction.

1. Congregamini filii Benjamin e medio Jerusalem, et in Thekua clangite tuba, et Bethhacherem tollite signum; quia malum visum est ab Aquilone et afflictio magna.


WE have already seen that oftentimes punishment is not only mentioned by this Prophet as being nigh at hand, but is also set as it were before our eyes; and we have shewn the reason for this, -- because men are not only deaf, but wholly thoughtless, whenever God threatens them. As reproofs make no impressions, and even threatenings are not sufficient to arouse and awake them, it is necessary to set before them vivid descriptions, and to represent the event as present. Jeremiah continues this mode of teaching; he addresses the tribe of Benjamin; for one half of Jerusalem was in the territory of that tribe; And as he was from Anathoth, he addresses his own people and kindred rather than others, as he could use greater freedom. Had he directly reproved the Jews, they might not have so well borne with him; but as he begins with his neighbors, the tribe of Benjamin, it became more easy to bear his reproofs.

Some understand the words, "Be ye assembled, and flee;" others read, "Go ye in haste, "but for what reason I know not. I do not think that flight is meant here; but I rather regard the Prophet as ironically encouraging the citizens of Jerusalem and their neighbors to go forth, as it is usual, to meet their enemies; and this we may easily learn from the context: Be ye assembled, he says, from the midst of Jerusalem; that is, Be aroused and go forth. And he indirectly condemns their indulgences, for they had been lying as it were in the bosom of their mother. Like infants in the womb, the Jews were not apprehensive of any danger; they indulged themselves, and were wholly secure and thoughtless. Hence he says, "From the midst of Jerusalem be ye assembled."1

Then he says, Blow ye the trumpet in Tekoa. They were wont, no doubt, when any danger was at hand, to blow the trumpet in that town; and then the citizens of Jerusalem went forth in large bodies to resist their enemies: for the Prophet follows the usual custom, and speaks as of things well known. And set up a sign on the house of Haccerem, Mrkh. No doubt this place was so called, because many forces were planted there. It means literally the house of the vineyard. It is, indeed, a proper name; but its etymology ought to be borne in mind; for as vines were usually planted on hills, it is probable that this place stood high; and a sign might have been thence given to many around. He therefore says, "Set up a sign, tasm, meshat, a word derived from asn, nesha, which is also found here: but some interpreters render it "fire" or bonfire; others "banner;" and others "tower." They who render it tower or citadel have no reason in their favor; for towers could not have been suddenly raised up. But it is probable, as I have already said, that thence a sign was given to those around, as from a watch -- tower, whenever there was any cause of fear. I am therefore inclined to take the word as meaning a sign; for the word "banner" would have been too restricted. Literally it is, "Elevate an elevation." The word "sign, "then, is the most suitable.2

For an evil, he says, from the north has appeared.3 The Prophet points out whence ruin would soon come, even from the Chaldeans, for God had appointed them as the ministers and the executioners of his vengeance in destroying Jerusalem and the whole tribe of Judah. We hence see what the Prophet means: he ridicules the Jews, who were asleep in their vices, promising to themselves impunity, and despising all the judgments of God: "Be now assembled, "he says, "from the midst of Jerusalem;" as though he said, that they could not be safe in the city, without going forth to meet their enemies: "Blow ye the trumpet in Tekoa;" and then he adds, "Let the inhabitants of Bethhaccerem, "that is, of the house of the vineyard, "set up signals; for an evil is nigh at hand, and a great distress;" from whom? from the Chaldeans. The prediction was more likely to be believed, when he thus pointed out their enemies, as it were, by his finger. It afterwards follows --

1 See note on Jeremiah 4:6. The meaning of the verb is, no doubt, to haste, or to hasten. It is singular that the Septuagint render it in Jeremiah 4:6, "Haste ye," and here, "Be ye strong." The Targum renders it "migrate," or, remove ye. The idea of assembling it never has. The line rightly rendered is,-

Hasten, ye sons of Benjamin, from the midst of Jerusalem.

Where Blayney got the phrase, "Retire in a body, "it is difficult to say.-Ed.

2 "Raise ye a sign (sh>meion)" is the Septuagint and the Targum; "Raise ye a banner (vexillum)" is the Vulgate and the Syriac. The word has no connection with "fire, "as mentioned in our version, which has been derived from the Rabbins. Blayney's rendering is, "light up a fire-beacon;" but the words admit of no such meaning. It is a general expression, and may be rendered, "Raise ye a signal;" there is no definition as to what the signal was to be.-Ed.

3 Literally, "For evil is seen from the north." So the Vulgate and the Targum. The verb in Kal, Niphal, and Hiphil, is rendered "look" in our version. See Genesis 19:28; Judges 5:28; Deuteronomy 26:15. But in Niphal, as it is found here, it may be rendered passively, "is seen;" and also in Psalm 85:12; and in Cant. 6:10, and in most other places. Blayney renders it, "is seen coming onwards, "which is a paraphrase.-Ed.