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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.

In order to conciliate the favor of God, Jeremiah says here, that with him is the only remedy in extremities; and it is the same as though by avowing despair he wished to turn God to mercy; as if he had said, “What will become of us, except thou shewest thyself propitious? for if thou remainest implacable, the Gentiles have their gods from whom they seek safety; but with us it is a fixed principle to hope for and to seek salvation from thee alone.” Now this argument must have been of great weight; not that God had need of being reminded, but he allows a familiar dealing with himself. For if we wish stoically to dispute, even our prayers are superfluous; for why do we pray God to help us? Does he not himself see what we want? Is he not ready enough to bring us help? But these are delirious things, wholly contrary to the true and genuine feeling of piety. As then we flee to God, whenever necessity urges us, so also we remind him, like a son who unburdens all his feelings in the bosom of his father. Thus in prayer the faithful reason and expostulate with God, and bring forward all those things by which he may be pacified towards them; in short, they deal with him after the manner of men, as though they would persuade him concerning that which yet has been decreed before the creation of the world: but as the eternal counsel of God is hid from us, we ought in this respect to act wisely and according to the measure of our faith.

However this may be, the Prophet, according to the common practice of the godly, seeks to conciliate the favor of God by this argument, — that unless God dealt mercifully with his people and in his paternal kindness forgave them, it was all over with them, as though he had said, “O Lord, thou alone art he, from whom we can hope for salvation; if now we are repudiated by thee, there remains for us no refuge: wilt thou send thy people to the idols and the inventions of the heathens? but we have looked for thee alone; thou then seest that there remains for us no hope of salvation but from thy mercy.”

But the Prophet here testifies in the name of the faithful, that when extremities oppress the miserable, they cannot obtain any help from the idols of the heathens. Can they give rain, he says? He states here a part for the whole; for he means that the idols of the heathens have no power whatever. Hence to give rain is to be taken for everything necessary to sustain mankind, either to bring help, or to supply the necessaries of life, or to bestow abundance of blessings. Paul also, in speaking of God’s power, refers to rain, (Acts 14:17) and Isaiah often uses this kind of speaking, (Isaiah 5:6)

He then says, Are there any among the vanities of the heathens? etc. He here condemns and reproaches all superstitions; for he does not call them the gods of the heathens, though this word is often used by the prophets, but the vanities of the heathens. Are there any, he says, who can cause it to rain? and can the heavens give rain? I may give a more free rendering, “Can they from heaven give rain?” for it seems not to me so suitable to apply this to the heavens. If, however, the common rendering is more approved, let every one have his own judgment; but if the heavens are spoken of, the argument is from the less to the greater; “Not even the heavens give rain; how then can vanities? how can the devices of men do this, which only proceed from their foolish brains? Can they give rain? For doubtless there is some implanted power in the heavens? but man, were he to devise for himself a thousand gods, cannot yet form one drop of rain, and cause it to come down from heaven. Since, then, the heavens do not of themselves give rain, but at the command of God, how can the idols of the heathens and their vain inventions send rain for us from heaven?” The object of the Prophet is now sufficiently evident, which was to shew, that, if God rejected the people, and resolved to punish their sins with the utmost rigor, and in an implacable manner, their salvation was hopeless; for it was not their purpose to flee to idols.

Art not thou, he says, Jehovah himself, or alone? Art not thou Jehovah himself, and our God? 125125     It is better to regard this line as declaring that God is the giver of rain and showers, —
   22. Are there any among the vanities of the nations who bring rain? And do the heavens give showers? Art thou not he who givest them, Jehova, our God? So we will look to thee, For thou makest all these.

   To introduce the word “can,” borrowed from the Vulgate, into the first questions, obscures the passage. “All these” refer, as it appears, to the rain and showers. The perfect tense in Hebrew often includes the past and the present, “For thou hast made and makest all these,” etc. So Gataker regards the meaning. The Syriac has “For thou makest,” etc. Calvin as far as I can find, stands alone in the sense he attaches to these words. If we take the verb strictly in the past tense, the meaning commonly given is, that God made the heavens, rain, and showers, and that, as he has made them, they are still under his control. But the other meaning is more suitable to the passage, — that God makes the rain and the showers. — Ed.
He first mentions the name Jehovah, by which is meant the eternal majesty and power of God; and then he joins another sentence, — that he was their God, to remind him of his covenant. Then it is added, We have looked to thee, for thou hast made all these things

Here many, in my judgment, are mistaken, for they apply “these things” to the heavens and the earth, and to all the elements, as though the Prophet declared that God was the creator of the world, and that therefore all things are under his control. But I have no doubt but that he speaks of those punishments which God had already inflicted on the people, and had resolved soon to inflict; for he does not speak here of God’s power, whiich shines forth in the workmanship of the world; but he says, “We have looked to thee, for thou hast made all these things;” that is, from thee alone salvation will come to us: for thou who hast inflicted the wound canst alone heal, according to what is said in another place,

“God kills and brings to life, he leads to the grave and restores.”
(1 Samuel 2:6)

It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, “We, O Lord, do now flee to thy mercy, for no one but thou alone can help us, as thou art he who has punished our sins. Since then thou hast been our Judge, thou also canst alone deliver us now from our calamities; and no one can resist thee, since the highest power is thine alone. Let all the gods of the heathens unite, yea, all the elements and all creatures, for the purpose of serving us, yet what will all that they can do avail us? As then thou hast made all these things, that is, as these things have not happened to us by chance, but are the effects of thy just vengeance — as thou hast been judge in inflicting these punishments, be now our Physician and Father; as thou hast heavily afflicted us, so now bring comfort and heal those evils which we justly suffer, and indeed through thy judgment.” We now understand the real meaning of the Prophet.

And hence may be learned a useful doctrine, — that there is no reason why punishments, which are signs of God’s wrath, should discourage us so as to prevent us from venturing to seek pardon from him; but, on the contrary, a form of prayer is here prescribed for us; for if we are convinced that we have been chastised by God’s hand, we are on this very account encouraged to hope for salvation; for it belongs to him who wounds to heal, and to him who kins to restore to life. Now follows —

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