Jeremiah 4 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Jeremiah 4)

Verse 1

[1] If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove.

If — If thou wilt return, return; make no longer delay.

Remove — Thou shalt not go out of thine own land into exile.

Verse 2

[2] And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.

Swear — This is put here for the whole worship of God, acknowledging and owning God as the only God; which is strongly exprest by this act.

In truth — That the matter and substance of it be true.

In judgment — Deliberately, advisedly, and reverently.

In righteousness — That none be injured by it, that the things we engage be both lawful and possible, and that we look to the performance.

The nations — This shall be a means to work upon the Heathen nations, to come into the same way of worship. They shall think themselves happy to be incorporated with thee, that it may be with them according to that promise, Genesis 12:3.

Glory — Whereas before they gloried in their idols, they shall glory in God alone.

Verse 3

[3] For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.

For — The Lord turns now his speech from Israel to Judah.

Break up — Prepare your hearts by making them soft, tender, and pliable, fit to embrace my word. A metaphor taken from plow-men.

Thorns — Rid your hearts and hands of what may hinder you of embracing my word.

Verse 4

[4] Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Circumcise — Put away your corruptions.

Heart — Let it be inward, not outward in the flesh only.

Verse 5

[5] Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities.

The trumpet — The Lord being now about to bring enemies upon them, speaks in martial language, warning them of the nature of their approaching judgment.

Verse 6

[6] Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.

Retire — Make haste away.

Verse 7

[7] The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant.

The lion — Nebuchadnezzar, so called from his fierceness and strength.

Verse 9

[9] And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the LORD, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder.

The heart — They shall have no heart to do any thing, they shall not be able to help their people, either by their counsel or arms.

Prophets — False prophets that had nothing but visions of peace for them.

Verse 10

[10] Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall have peace; whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul.

Deceived — Hast suffered them to be deceived by their false prophets.

Whereas — To persuade them it should be well with them, when the sword is at the door, not only ready to take away the comforts of life, but even life itself.

Verse 11

[11] At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse,

At that time — There shall be tidings brought both to the country and city.

A dry wind — A drying wind, such as shall blast and scorch where it comes, without any rain or moisture. It points at the stormy and furious irruption of the Babylonian army.

In the plain — Where there is no stop in the way to break its fury.

Toward — Directly, and designedly, coming in the way leading to my people.

Not — Not such a gentle wind, as is made choice of to separate the chaff from the wheat; but so boisterous and violent, that it shall sweep away, and lay waste, all together.

Verse 12

[12] Even a full wind from those places shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them.

Full — Heb. Fuller than they. A wind too strong for them.

Shall come — It shall presently come to me, to receive my commission, and do my will.

Verse 13

[13] Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled.

As clouds — Denoting the suddenness of them, when not expected, clouds often rising on a sudden, and overspread the whole face of the heavens; or the great swiftness with which Nebuchadnezzar should march against them.

As a whirlwind — Which, besides the swiftness, denotes also the confusion and amazement that they will cause.

Verse 14

[14] O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?

Wash — As a means to prevent the judgments that are impending.

Vain thoughts — Vain fancies of safety.

Verse 15

[15] For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from mount Ephraim.

From Dan — Dan was the first place the Chaldeans came to, being the utmost boundary of Canaan northward. Ephraim was the innermost border of Israel in the north of Judea, intimating the march of the Babylonians thro' all Israel.

Verse 16

[16] Make ye mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah.

Make mention — These words are a proclamation, summoning the nations by the Chaldeans.

Watchers — Chaldean soldiers, who shall so carefully encompass Jerusalem, that none shall escape.

Give out — They give a shout, encouraging the soldiers to battle.

Verse 17

[17] As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD.

As keepers — They will watch that none relieve them, and that none get out to escape.

Verse 18

[18] Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart.

Bitter — Thy wickedness hath been the cause of bringing such a bitter enemy against thee, which hath reached unto thy very heart.

Verse 19

[19] My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.

My bowels — Here begins the complaint of the prophet.

My heart — Is disturbed within me.

Because — I have heard in the spirit of prophecy; it is as certain, as if I now heard the trumpet sounding.

Verse 20

[20] Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.

Destruction — Good Josiah slain, and four of his successors carried away, or slain.

My tents — The enemy makes no more of overthrowing my stately cities, than if he were overturning tents made of curtains.

Verse 23

[23] I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.

I beheld — I Jeremiah saw this in a vision.

It — The land was squalid, and ruined, like the first chaos, for which reason possibly he calls Judah the earth, in allusion to Genesis 1:2.

The heavens — He seems to proceed in his metaphor of the chaos. Every thing above and below seemed to be wrapped up in dismal blackness.

Verse 24

[24] I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly.

Trembled — He proceeds in his figurative expressions. Behold how the very mountains of Judea tremble! Moved - As easily as dust, or feathers in a whirl-wind.

Verse 25

[25] I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled.

No man — All being either slain, or carried captive, or fled.

Verse 27

[27] For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.

Yet — In the midst of judgment he will remember mercy.

Verse 28

[28] For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.

Mourn — Expressions to set forth the dreadfulness of the judgment; he makes the elements to personate mourners.

Verse 31

[31] For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers.

In travail — When the scripture would express any exquisite sorrow, it doth it by a woman in travail.

First child — Which is usually the most painful.

Spreadeth her hands — According to the use of persons in great anguish, clapping or wringing their hands together.