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.
Benjamin — Judah, when the ten tribes fell off, the tribe of Benjamin adhered to Judah, and was incorporated into them; if it be asked why the prophet rather speaks to Benjamin than to Judah, the reason probably may be, because he being of Anathoth was of that tribe, and therefore mentions them as his own countrymen.
Gather — Gather yourselves together by the sound of the trumpet at Tekoa, one of those fenced cities twelve miles from Jerusalem that Rehoboam built.
A sign — Fire a beacon.
Beth-haccerem — Signifies the house of the vineyard, probably some high tower built among the vineyards for the keepers of them to watch them.
 The shepherds with their flocks shall come unto her; they shall pitch their tents against her round about; they shall feed every one in his place.
The shepherds — The Chaldean princes, with their armies, as so many flocks, shall come into this pleasant land.
In his place — Each one in his quarter or station.
 Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out.
Prepare — These seem to be the words of God calling them to this work.
Arise — This shews how ready they will be to obey God's call.
The day goeth — We delay, and tarry too long, and the day spends apace.
The shadows — They were so eagerly set upon it, that they watched the lengthening of the shadow, which shews the approach of the evening.
 Arise, and let us go by night, and let us destroy her palaces.
This night — They would lose neither day nor night; which shews that, they were extraordinarily stirred up by God in this expedition.
 For thus hath the LORD of hosts said, Hew ye down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem: this is the city to be visited; she is wholly oppression in the midst of her.
Said — To the Chaldeans: God would have the Jews to know, that they have not so much to do with the Chaldeans as with him; that they are his rod to scourge them for their sins. And thus God is said to hiss for such whom he will employ in such work, Isaiah 5:26; 7:18. And he styles himself the Lord of hosts, to shew that it is in vain to contend in battle with them, whom he sends forth.
Trees — Such as you may have need of to raise up works against the strong places.
Cast a mount — Throw up one continued trench, as a mount round about it.
Oppression — There are found in her all kinds of oppression and injustice.
 Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.
Be thou instructed — I would yet willingly spare them if it might be.
Depart — Heb. be disjointed, a most emphatical metaphor, whereby God would express how great grief it is to him to withdraw himself from them, even like the separating one limb from another.
 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets.
Glean — Judah shalt be gleaned over and over, 'till there be a full end, none left.
Turn back — As much as to say, they should not be content with one spoiling, but they should go back a second and a third time, to carry away both persons and spoil.
 To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.
Their ear — An uncircumcised ear, signifies the rejecting of instruction; an uncircumcised heart, an obstinate and rebellious will.
They cannot — They had brought themselves under that incapacity by their obstinacy and wilfulness.
A reproach — They laugh at it, and scorn it.
 Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD; I am weary with holding in: I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days.
I am full — I am, as it were, filled with the fire of God's wrath, which I am forced to discharge myself of.
Abroad — The streets being the places where children are wont to sport.
The husband — One sex as well as the other, shall be a prey to the enemy.
Full of days — Such as had filled up the number of their days, as were at the edge of the grave.
 For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.
Falsely — Heb. doing falsehood, as if that were their whole work, the proper sin of the priests and prophets, to deceive the people, and to flatter them by false visions.
 They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
They have — This refers peculiarly to the prophets; making light of these threatenings, daubing over the misery and danger that was coming on the people, by persuading them, that it should not come, or if it did, it would be easily cured.
 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.
Committed — Both by encouraging the people, and joining with them in their idolatries.
 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
Stand — He now turns his speech to the people, and gives them counsel; by a metaphor taken from travellers, that being in doubt of their way, stand still, and consider, whether the direction they have received from some false guide, be right or not.
 Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.
Trumpet — The voice of his prophet, intimating his loud crying upon the account of eminent danger.
 Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.
Nations — He calls upon the nations round about to be spectators of his severity against Judah.
What — The greatness of their punishment, as the effect of the greatness of their sins.
 To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.
Sheba — A country in Arabia Faelix, to which country frankincense was peculiar.
The sweet cane — The same that is mentioned as an ingredient in the holy oil, Exodus 30:23. To what purpose art thou at this trouble and charge to fetch these ingredients for thy incense.
 Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbour and his friend shall perish.
I will say — I will suffer such things to be laid in their way, as shall be the occasion of their destruction.
The neighbour — Men of all sorts and conditions.
 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth.
Behold — God shall stir up the Chaldeans like a great storm.
The sides — The uttermost parts of the Babylonian territories.
 We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
We — The prophet personates the peoples affections.
 Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.
Go not forth — Expressing the great danger that there would be everywhere.
 O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us.
Gird thee — The prophet calls upon them to mourn in the deepest manner.
 I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way.
I have set thee — Here God speaks by way of encouragement to the prophet, and tells him, he had made him a fortified tower, that he might be safe, notwithstanding all the attempts against him.
And try — As refiners do metals; hereby be is encouraged to reprove them more freely, God will give him prudence to see what is amiss, and undauntedness to oppose it.
 The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away.
The bellows — The prophet prosecutes his metaphor taken from refining of metals, intimating, that the prophets had spent their breath to no purpose, and their strength was consumed by their labour.
The lead — The judgments which were heavy, as lead upon them, are all wasted, and do no good.
In vain — Let the artist use his greatest skill and industry, yet is it all in vain.
 Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them.
Refuse — Such as will be rejected in payments.