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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 7–13
Verses 7–13

The people of the Jews are here marked for ruin.

I. God is here brought in falling out with them and leaving them desolate; and they could never have been undone if they had not provoked God to desert them. It is a terrible word that God here says (Jer. 12:7): I have forsaken my house—the temple, which had been his palace; they had polluted it, and so forced him out of it: I have left my heritage, and will look after it no more. His people that he has taken such delight in, and care of, are now thrown out of his protection. They had been the dearly beloved of his soul, precious in his sight and honorable above any people, which is mentioned to aggravate their sin in returning him hatred for his love and their misery in throwing themselves out of the favour of one that had such a kindness for them, and to justify God in his dealings with them. He sought not occasion against them, but, if they would have conducted themselves with any tolerable propriety, he would have made the best of them, for they were the beloved of his soul; but they had conducted themselves so that they had provoked him to give them into the hand of their enemies, to leave them unguarded, an easy prey to those that bore them ill-will. But what was the quarrel God had with a people that had been so long dear to him? Why, truly, they had degenerated. 1. They had become like beasts of prey, which nobody loves, but every body avoids and gets as far off from as he can (Jer. 12:8): My heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest. Their sins cry to heaven for vengeance as loud as a lion roars. Nay, they cry out against God in the threatenings and slaughter which they breathe against his prophets that speak to them in his name; and what is said and done against them God takes as said and done against himself. They blaspheme his name, oppose his authority, and bid defiance to his justice, and so cry out against him as a lion in the forest. Those that were the sheep of God’s pasture had become barbarous and ravenous, and as ungovernable as lions in the forest; therefore he hated them; for what delight could the God of love take in a people that had now become as roaring lions and raging beasts, fit to be taken and shot at, as a vexation and torment to all about them? 2. They had become like birds of prey, and therefore also unworthy a place in God’s house, where neither beasts nor birds of prey were admitted to be offered in sacrifice (Jer. 12:9): My heritage is unto me as a bird with talons (so some read it, and so the margin); they are continually pulling and pecking at one another; they have by their unnatural contentions made their country a cock-pit. Or as a speckled bird, dyed, or sprinkled, or bedewed with the blood of her prey. The shedding of innocent blood was Jerusalem’s measure-filling sin, and hastened their ruin, not only as it provoked their neighbours likewise; for those that have their hand against every man shall have every man’s hand against them (Gen. 16:12), and so it follows here: The birds round about are against her. Some make her a speckled, pied, or motley bird, upon the account of their mixing the superstitious customs and usages of the heathen with divine institutions in the worship of God; they were fond of a party-coloured religion, and thought it made them fine, when really it made them odious. God’s turtle-dove is no speckled bird.

II. The enemies are here brought in falling upon them and laying them desolate. And some think it is upon this account that they are compared to a speckled bird, because fowls usually make a noise about a bird of an odd unusual colour. God’s people are, among the children of this world, as men wondered at, as a speckled bird; but this people had by their own folly made themselves so; and the beasts and birds are called and commissioned to prey upon them. Let all the birds round be against her, for God has forsaken her, and with them let all the beasts of the field come to devour. Those that have made a prey of others shall themselves be preyed upon. It did not lessen the sin of the nations, but very much increased the misery of Judah and Jerusalem, that the desolation brought upon them was by order from heaven. The birds and beasts are perhaps called to feast upon the bodies of the slain, as in St. John’s vision, Rev. 19:17, 18. The utter desolation of the land by the Chaldean army is here spoken of as a thing done, so sure, so near, was it. God speaks of it as a thing which he had appointed to be done, and yet which he had no pleasure in, any more than in the death of other sinners.

1. See with what a tender affection he speaks of this land, notwithstanding the sinfulness of it, in remembrance of his covenant, and the tribute of honour and glory he had formerly had from it: It is my vineyard, my portion, my pleasant portion, Jer. 12:10. Note, God has a kindness and concern for his church, though there be much amiss in it; and his correcting it will every way consist with his complacency in it.

2. See with what a tender compassion he speaks of the desolations of this land: Many pastors (the Chaldean generals that made themselves masters of the country and ate it up with their armies as easily as the Arabian shepherds with their flocks eat up the fruits of a piece of ground that lies common) have destroyed my vineyard, without any consideration had either of the value of it or of my interest in it; they have with the greatest insolence and indignation trodden it under foot, and that which was a pleasant land they have made a desolate wilderness. The destruction was universal: The whole land is made desolate, Jer. 12:11. It is made so by the sword of war: The spoilers, the Chaldean soldiers,have come through the plain upon all high places; they have made themselves masters of all the natural fastnesses and artificial fortresses, Jer. 12:12. The sword devours from one end of the land to the other; all places lie exposed, and the numerous army of the invaders disperse themselves into every corner of that fruitful country, so that no flesh shall have peace, none shall be exempt from the calamity nor be able to enjoy any tranquillity. When all flesh have corrupted their way, no flesh shall have peace; those only have peace that walk after the Spirit.

3. See whence all this misery comes. (1.) It comes from the displeasure of God. It is the sword of the Lord that devours, Jer. 12:12. While God’s people keep close to him the sword of their protectors and deliverers is the sword of the Lord, witness that of Gideon; but when they have forsaken him, so that he has become their enemy and fights against them, then the sword of their invaders and destroyers becomes the sword of the Lord; witness this of the Chaldeans. It is because of the fierce anger of the Lord (Jer. 12:13); it was this that kindled this fire among them and made their enemies so furious. And who may stand before him when he is angry? (2.) It is their sin that has made God their enemy, particularly their incorrigibleness under former rebukes (Jer. 12:11): The land mourns unto me; the country that lies desolate does, as it were, pour out its complaint before God and humble itself under his hand; but the inhabitants are so senseless and stupid that none of them lays it to heart; they do not mourn to God, but are unaffected with his displeasure, while the very ground they go upon shames them. Note, When God’s hand is lifted up, and men will not see, it shall be laid on, and they shall be made to feel, Isa. 26:11.

4. See how unable they should be to guard against it (Jer. 12:13): “They have sown wheat, that is, they have taken a gre 311a at deal of pains for their own security and promised themselves great matters from their endeavors, but it is all in vain; they shall reap thorns, that is, that which shall prove very grievous and vexatious to them. Instead of helping themselves, they shall but make themselves more uneasy. They have put themselves to pain, both with their labour and with their expectations, but it shall not profit; they shall not prevail to extricate themselves out of the difficulties into which they have plunged themselves. They shall be ashamed of your revenues, ashamed that they have depended so much upon their preparations for war and particularly upon their ability to bear the charges of it.” Money constitutes the sinews of war; they thought they had enough of that, but shall be ashamed of it; for their silver and gold shall not profit them in the day of the Lord’s anger.