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The Great Drought


The word of the L ord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought:


Judah mourns

and her gates languish;

they lie in gloom on the ground,

and the cry of Jerusalem goes up.


Her nobles send their servants for water;

they come to the cisterns,

they find no water,

they return with their vessels empty.

They are ashamed and dismayed

and cover their heads,


because the ground is cracked.

Because there has been no rain on the land

the farmers are dismayed;

they cover their heads.


Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn

because there is no grass.


The wild asses stand on the bare heights,

they pant for air like jackals;

their eyes fail

because there is no herbage.



Although our iniquities testify against us,

act, O L ord, for your name’s sake;

our apostasies indeed are many,

and we have sinned against you.


O hope of Israel,

its savior in time of trouble,

why should you be like a stranger in the land,

like a traveler turning aside for the night?


Why should you be like someone confused,

like a mighty warrior who cannot give help?

Yet you, O L ord, are in the midst of us,

and we are called by your name;

do not forsake us!



Thus says the L ord concerning this people:

Truly they have loved to wander,

they have not restrained their feet;

therefore the L ord does not accept them,

now he will remember their iniquity

and punish their sins.


11 The L ord said to me: Do not pray for the welfare of this people. 12Although they fast, I do not hear their cry, and although they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I do not accept them; but by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence I consume them.

Denunciation of Lying Prophets

13 Then I said: “Ah, Lord G od! Here are the prophets saying to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you true peace in this place.’ ” 14And the L ord said to me: The prophets are prophesying lies in my name; I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. 15Therefore thus says the L ord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name though I did not send them, and who say, “Sword and famine shall not come on this land”: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. 16And the people to whom they prophesy shall be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword. There shall be no one to bury them—themselves, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their wickedness upon them.



You shall say to them this word:

Let my eyes run down with tears night and day,

and let them not cease,

for the virgin daughter—my people—is struck down with a crushing blow,

with a very grievous wound.


If I go out into the field,

look—those killed by the sword!

And if I enter the city,

look—those sick with famine!

For both prophet and priest ply their trade throughout the land,

and have no knowledge.


The People Plead for Mercy


Have you completely rejected Judah?

Does your heart loathe Zion?

Why have you struck us down

so that there is no healing for us?

We look for peace, but find no good;

for a time of healing, but there is terror instead.


We acknowledge our wickedness, O L ord,

the iniquity of our ancestors,

for we have sinned against you.


Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake;

do not dishonor your glorious throne;

remember and do not break your covenant with us.


Can any idols of the nations bring rain?

Or can the heavens give showers?

Is it not you, O L ord our God?

We set our hope on you,

for it is you who do all this.

The Prophet, no doubt, intended here to exhort the Jews by his own example to seek pardon; nor does he so assume the character of others, as though he was free himself from guilt; for he was not more righteous than Daniel, who, as we find, testified that he confessed before God, not only the sins of the people, but also his own sins. (Daniel 9:4, 5) And Jeremiah, though not one of God’s despisers, nor of the profane, who had provoked God’s wrath, was yet one of the people; and here he connects himself with them; and he did this in sincerity and not in dissimulation. But he might have prayed silently at home; why then did he make public his prayer? What was his purpose in consigning it to writing? It was that he might rouse the people, as I have already said, by his example, so that they might flee as suppliants to God’s mercy, and seek forgiveness for their sins. This then was the Prophet’s object. Thus we see that the prophecy concerning the scarcity and the famine was announced, that the people might through repentance escape the wrath of God; for we know that when God has even taken his sword he may possibly be pacified, as he is in his nature merciful: and besides, the design of all such predictions is, that men, conscious of their sins, may by faith and repentance escape the destruction that awaits them. We now then understand the design of the Prophet in this passage.

He says first, Even though our iniquities testify, etc. The verb ענה, one, properly means to answer; but it means also to testify, as in this place. O Jehovah, 109109     All the versions connect “Jehovah” with the next words; and so do Veema, Gataker, and Blayney. The particle אם if, or though, is omitted by the Septuagint and the Arabic; but is retained by the Vulgate, Syriac, and the Targum. It may be rendered verily, or truly, —
   Verily, our perversities, they have responded against us.

   The word עון means perverse or headstrong wickedness. There is an allusion in responding to a trial. “They have stood against us,” is the Septuagint. See Job 15:6. — Ed.
he says, there is no reason now to contend with thee, or to expostulate, or to ask why thou denlest so severely with us; let all such excuses be dismissed, for our sins testify against us; that is, “Were there no angels nor men to accuse us, our own conscience is sufficient to condemn us.” But when do our iniquities testify against us? Even when we know that we are exposed to God’s judgment and are held guilty by him. As to the reprobate, their iniquities cry to heaven, as it is said of Sodom. (Genesis 18:20, 21) But the Prophet seems here to express something more, — that the Jews could not make evasions, but must confess that they were worthy of death.

For he says, For thy name’s sake deal with us. We see that the Prophet first condemns himself and the whole people; as though he had said, “If thou, Lord, summonest us to plead our own cause, we can expect nothing better than to be condemned by our own mouths, for our iniquities are sufficient to condemn us. What then remains for us?” The Prophet takes it as granted that there was but one remedy, — that God would save his people for his own name’s sake; as though he had said, “In ourselves we find nothing but reasons for condemnation; seek then in thyself a reason for forgiving us: for as long as thou regardest us, thou must necessarily hate us and be thus a rigid Judge; cease then to seek anything in us or to call us to an account, but seek from thyself a reason for sparing us.” He then adds, For multiplied have our defections, and against thee have we done wickedly 110110     The latter part may be thus rendered, —
   Jehovah! deal with us for thy name’s sake: For many have been our defections,
Against thee have we sinned.

   The Syriac renders fitly the first line, —

   O Lord, spare us on account of thy name.

    — Ed.
By these words the Prophet shews that he did not formally, like hypocrites, confess sins, but really acknowledged that the Jews would have been found in various ways guilty had God dealt with them according to justice.

As we now perceive the import of the words, let us learn from this passage, that there is no other way of being reconciled to God than by having him to be propitious to us for his name’s sake. And by this truth is refuted everything that has been invented by the Papists, not less foolishly than rashly, respecting their own satisfactions. They indeed know that they stand in need of God’s mercy; for no one is so blinded under the Papacy, who does not feel the secret misgivings of his own conscience: so the saintlings, who lay claim to angelic perfection, are yet self — convicted, and are by necessity urged to seek pardon; but in the mean time they obtrude on God their satisfactions and works of supererogation, by which they compensate for their sins, and thus deliver themselves from the hand of God. Now this is a remarkable passage to confute such a diabolical delirium, for the Prophet brings forward the name of God; as though he had said, “This is the only way by which we can return to God’s favor and obtain reconciliation with him, even by having him to deal with us for his name’s sake, so that he may seek the cause of his mercy in himself, for in us he can find none.” If Jeremiah said this of himself, and not feignedly, what madness is it for us to arrogate so much to ourselves, as to bring anything before God by which he may be induced to shew mercy? Let us then know that God forgives our sins, not from a regard to any compensation, but only on account of a sufficient reason within himself, that he may glorify his own name. Now follows a clearer explanation and a confirmation of this verse.

I have said that the former verse is confirmed by these words; for since the Prophet mentions to God his own name, we must consider the cause of the confidence with which he was supported, which was even this, — because God had chosen that people, and promised that they should be to him a peculiar people. It is then on the ground of that covenant that the Prophet now prays God to glorify his name; such a prayer could not have been made for heathen nations. We hence perceive how the Prophet dared so to introduce God’s name, as to say, Deal with us for thy name’s sake

He calls God, in the next place, the hope of Israel; not that the Israelites relied on him as they ought to have done, for the ten tribes had long before revolted from him, and so great a corruption had also prevailed in Judah, that hardly one in a thousand could be deemed faithful. Hope then among the people had become extinct; but the Prophet here regards the perpetuity of the covenant, as though he had said, “Even though we are unworthy to be protected by thee, yet as thou hast promised to be always ready to bring us help, thou art our hope. In short, the word hope or expectation, is to be referred to God’s promise, and to the constancy of his faithfulness, and not to the faithfulness of men, which did not exist, at least it was very small and in very few.

To the same purpose he adds, His Savior in time of trouble He had in view the many proofs by which God had manifested his power in the preservation of the faithful. And he expressly mentions trouble or distress, as though he had said, that the aid of God had been known by evidences sufficiently clear; for had the people never wanted his help, his favor would have been less evident; but as they had been often reduced to great straits, the bounty and the power of God had become more manifest by delivering them from extreme dangers.

It is then added, Why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land? as a traveler, who turns aside for a short time in his journey to pass the night? Here must be noticed a contrast between a stranger and one that is stationary, spoken of afterwards. God would have his name to be invoked in Judea; it was therefore necessary that his favor should continue there; and hence he called the land his rest, and he had also promised by Moses that he would ever be in the midst of his people. The Prophet no doubt had taken from the law what he relates here, Thou art in the midst of us, Jehovah, thy name is called on us He therefore reasons from what seemed inconsistent, that he might obtain pardon from God; for if he was inexorable, his covenant would have failed and perished, which would have been unreasonable, and could not indeed have been possible. Hence he says, “Lord, why shouldest thou be as a stranger and as a traveler, who seeks only a lodging for one night, and then goes forward?” God had promised, as I have already said, that he would rest perpetually in the land, that he would be a God to the people; it, was not then consistent with the covenant that God should pass as a stranger through the land. As he had then formerly defended the Jews, and made them safe and secure even in the greatest dangers, so the Prophet now says, that it was right that he should he consistent with himself and continue ever the same.

As to the words which follow, Why shouldest thou be as a man astonished or terrified? I take “terrified” for an uncultivated person, as we say in our language, homme savage 111111     The word נדהם, rendered “astonished,” is only found here; it is evidently a Niphal participle, and rendered, by the Septuagint “sleeping — ὑπνῶ,” — by the Vulgate, “wandering — vagus,” — by the Siyriac, “weak — imbecillis,” — by Montanus and Paginius, “astonished.” Parkhurst, after Grotius, derives it from an Arabic verb, which means to “come upon one unexpectedly,” or to overwhelm, and renders it overwhelmed, astonied. It may then be rendered, surprised. Grotius says, that it means a precipitant person, coming to the aid of one in danger, and not capable of delivering him.
   As in the former instance, “the sojourner” and “the traveler” are the same, only what is said of the latter is more specific; so it seems to be here: the man, taken by surprise, is only farther described as one who is not able on that account to save. The two verses may be thus rendered —

   8. The hope of Israel! his Savior in time of distress! Why art thou like a sojourner in the land? Or like a traveler turning aside to pass the night?

   9. Why art thou like one taken by surprise — Like a man who is not able to save? Yet thou art in the midst of us, Jehovah; And thy name, on us is it called: Do not forsake us

    — Ed.
It is then added, As a giant who cannot save; that is, a strong helper, but of no skin, who possesses great strength, but fails, because he is rendered useless by his own bulk. And so the Prophet says, that it would be a strange thing, that God should be as a strong man, anxious to bring help and yet should do nothing.

After having said these things, he subjoins the contrast to which I have referred, But thou art in the midst of us, Jehovah, thy name is called on us, forsake us not We now see that the Prophet dismisses all other reasons and betakes himself to God’s gratuitous covenant only, and recumbs on his mercy. Thou art, he says, in the midst of us God had bound himself by his own compact, for no one else could have bound him. Then he says, Thy name is called on us Could the people boast of anything of their own in being thus called? By no means; but that they were so called depended on a gratuitous covenant. As then the Prophet did cast away every merit in works, and every trust in satisfactions, there remained nothing for him but the promise of God, which was itself founded on the free good pleasure of God. Let us hence learn, whenever we pray to God, not to bring forward our own satisfactions, which are nothing but filthy things, abominable to God, but to allege only his own name and promise, even the covenant, which he has made with us in his only — begotten Son, and confirmed by his blood.

The Prophet goes on with the same subject; but he reproves the Jews more severely and shews what their sins were. He says then that they were given to inconstancy; but by saying, “to wander,” לנוע lenuo, which means to move here and there, he no doubt mentions this inconstancy as a contrast to that quiemess and rest, of which Isaiah speaks, when he says,

“Behold the Lord hath commanded, In returning and in confidence shall be your strength, in quietness and tranquillity.”
(Isaiah 30:15)

He then wished the Jews to adopt different counsels, and not to run here and there when any danger was at hand, but to wait until he, according to his promise, came to their aid. Hence Jeremiah now accuses them of inconstancy, because they would not rely on God’s help and remain firm in their purpose, but run here and there for vain helps; besides a diabolical frenzy led them after idols, as Isaiah says in another place,

“Thou hast wearied thyself in thy ways and without profit,”
(Isaiah 47:13)

This fact is often mentioned by the prophets, — that they were like roving strumpets who seek paramours everywhere; for their confederacies with the Egyptians and the Chaldeans cost them much, and yet they spared no expenses. They might have waited quietly for the aid of God, which had been promised; but they did not.

We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet when he says, that they loved to wander, 112112     The כן so, before “loved,” is not well accounted for, nor is it given in any of the versions. The previous complaint was that God was like a “traveler” in the land, who made no stay: the answer given is, “so have ye been; ye have loved to wander here and there.” It is an ironical retort. The verse may be thus rendered, —
   Thus saith Jehovah of this people, — “So have they loved to wander, Their feet have they not restrained.” And Jehovah has not been pleased with them; He will now remember their iniquity, And he will visit their sin.

    — Ed.
or to move here and there, and that they restrained not their feet At the first view, indeed, this seems to have been but a small offense; but if we consider its source, that they distrusted God and his power, and placed their safety in the Egyptians, or the Chaldeans, it will appear to have been a shameful and an intolerable sacrilege. Unbelief, then, is here condemned; for the Jews looked around for foreign aids, and made no account of God.

Now this passage, is worthy of being especially noticed, for unbelief is here painted to the life. It is indeed true that even the children of God are not so tranquil in their minds that they never fear, that they are never solicitous or anxious, that they dread no danger; but yet, though the faithful are disturbed by many inquietudes, cares, anxieties, and fears, still God ever preserves them; and the firmness of their faith within continues, though it may happen that they are apparently not only shaken, but even stagger and fall. But God gives to the unbelieving their just reward, who derogate from his power, while they place their safety on men or on idols, for they never find where they may safely stand. They therefore weary themselves without any advantage. On this account he says, Therefore Jehovah will not be pleased with them, that is, God will not give them courage: nay, he says, he will now remember their iniquities and visit their sins In short, he teaches us, that so grievous was the wickedness of that people, that there was no place for the mercy of God. He afterwards adds —

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