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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.

Though the Prophet does not distinctly express that what had not yet happened was divinely revealed to him, yet it may be easily gathered that it was a prophecy with reference to what was future. Of this sterility nothing is recorded in sacred history: there is, however, no doubt but God had in an unusual manner afflicted the Jews, as previously in the days of Ahab. As then a drought was near at hand which would cause great scarcity, his purpose was to forewarn the Jews of it before the time, that they might know that the dryness did not happen by chance, but was an evidence of God’s vengeance. And we know that whenever any adversity happens, the causes of it are sought in the world, so that hardly any one regards the hand of him who smites. But when there is a year of sterility, we consult astrology, and think that it is owing to the influence of the stars: thus God’s judgment is overlooked. As then men contrive so many expedients by which they throw aside the consideration of Divine judgment, it was necessary that the Prophet should speak of the sterility mentioned here before it happened, and point it out as it were by the finger, though it was yet not made manifest.

He therefore says that the word of God came to him respecting the words of restraints 103103     The Septuagint express it in one,word, “ἀζροχία — the want of rain;” the Vulgate, by words of dryness, or drought: and the Syriac, by “defect of rain.” We may take “words” here in the sense of effects; so we may render the Hebrew, “concerning the effects of restraints;” and the last word is put in the plural number because there was a twofold restraint, — that of the heavens from rain, and that of the earth from producing fruit. The “effects” of these restraints are described in the following verses. — Ed Though דבר, deber, signifies a thing or a business or concern, yet, what seems here to be intended is the contrast between דבר, deber, the word of God, and דברים deberim, the words of men; for he says, על דברי הבצרות ol deberi ebetserut, because the Jews, as it is usual, would have many words of different kinds among themselves respecting the sterility: when anything uncommon or unexpected happens, every one has his own opinion. But the Prophet sets up the word of Jehovah in opposition to the words of men; as though he had said, “They will inquire here and there as to the causes of the scarcity; there will yet be but one cause, and that is, God is punishing them for their wickedness.”

He calls sterility prohibitions or restraints: for though God could in an instant destroy and mar whatever has come to maturity, yet, in order to shew that all the elements are ready to obey him, he restrains the heavens whenever he pleases; and hence he says,

“In that day the heavens will hear the earth, and the earth will hear the corn, and the corn will hear men.” (Hosea 2:21, 22)

For as this order of things is set before us, it cannot be otherwise but that, whenever we are hungry, our eyes turn to the corn and bread; but corn does not come except the earth be fruitful; and the earth cannot of itself bring forth anything, and except it derives moisture and strength from the heavens. So also, on the other hand, he says,

“I will make for you the heaven brass and the earth iron.” 104104     There is a little inadvertence here: “iron,” in this text, is applied to heaven, and “brass” to the earth, — Ed. (Leviticus 26:19)

We hence see the reason for this word, prohibitions, by which the Prophet designates the dryness of the heavens and the sterility of the earth; for the earth in a manner opens to us its bowels when it brings forth food for our nourishment; and the heavens also pour forth rain, by which the earth is irrigated. So also God prohibits or restrains the heavens and the earth, and closes up his bounty, so as to prevent it to come to us. It now follows —

Jeremiah 14:2-3

2. Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.

2. Luxit Jehudab et portae ejus debilitatae sunt, (vel, dissipatae sunt;) obtenebrati sunt in terra (refernut quidam ad portas, sed malo ad homines referre;) et clamor Jerusalem ascendit.

3. And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads.

3. Et proceres coturn (hoc est, qui pollent dignitate) miserunt minores (hoc est, homines plebeios et mercenarios) ad aquas; venerunt ad cisternas, non invenerunt aquas; reversi sunt cum vasis inanibus (vel, reversa sunt vasa eorum vacua;) confusi sunt, et erubuerunt, et operuerunt caput suum.


The Prophet intimates in these words, that so great would be the scarcity as to appear to be a manifest and remarkable evidence of God’s vengeance; for when God punishes us in a common way, we for the most part refer the event to some fortuitous circumstances, and the devil also ever retains our minds in the consideration of secondary causes. Hence the Prophet declares here that an event so unusual could not be ascribed to natural causes, as that the earth should become so sterile, but thai; it was the extraordinary judgment of God. This is the reason wily he employs so many figurative expressions. He might indeed have said, in one sentence, that there would be in the land a most grievous famine; but hardly one in a hundred would have been moved by words so simply expressed. Therefore the Prophet, in order to arouse their stupor, uses terms the most forcible.

Hence he says, Mourned has Judah Though he speaks of what was future, yet, according to his own usual manner and that of others, he uses the past time in order to shew the certainty of what he said. He then declares that there would be mourning in Judah. He afterwards says, His gates have been weakened, or scattered. In mentioning gates, he takes a part for the whole, for he means the cities: but as judgments were wont to be administered at the gates, and as men often assembled there, he says that the gates would be reduced to solitude, so that hardly any one would appear there. He in the third place adds, They have become darkened to the ground, or, in plainer words, they became overwhelmed with grief; but the proper meaning of the word is to become darkened: and he says, to the ground, as though he said that they would be so cast down as to he in the dust, and would not dare to raise up their heads, nor would be able to do so, being worn down by want and famine. We hence see what he means, even this, — that the scarcity would be so great that men would be down on the ground, and in a manner seek darkness for themselves, as it is the case with us when we flee as it were from the light and he on the ground; for we then shew that we cannot enjoy the light, it being disagreeable to us: and hence we see more clearly what I have stated, — that the Prophet uses very strong terms to produce an impression on the Jews, that they might know that the earth was so sterile, not through any natural or common cause, but through the judgment of God. 105105     The versions connect the two verbs with gates: and if we take “gates” metonymically for those who attended them, the meaning will be evident. We may then render the verse thus, —
   Mourned hath Judah, And her gates, they have languished; Grieved have they for the land; And the cry of Jerusalem hath ascended.

   In the gates was the court of justice; there the chief men or governors assembled. The languishing belonged, not to the gates, but to those who attended them, and so the grief or lamentation. The first meaning of the verb is to be dark, to be black, but it is used to signify extreme grief or lamentation. See Psalms 35:14; 38:6; Jeremiah 8:21. As light denotes joy, so darkness is a symbol of grief or mourning. We use a similar kind of metonymy, when we say, “The court is in mourning.” The Septuagint render the verse thus, —

   Mourned hath Judah, And her gates have been emptied, And have become dark for the land; And the shout of Jerusalem hath ascended.

   Blayney’s version of the third line is as follows, —

   They are in deep mourning for the land.

   The Targum paraphrases the verb thus, — “Their faces are covered with blackness.” — Ed.

He afterwards adds, The cry of Jerusalem has ascended Here he sets forth their despair: for in doubtful matters we are wont to deliberate and to devise remedies; but when we are destitute of any counsel or advice, and when no hope appears, we then break out into crying. We hence see that it was an evidence of despair when the cry of Jerusalem ascended; for they would not be able to complain and to disburden their cares and griefs by pouring them into the bosoms of one another, but all of them would cry and howl.

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