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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 12–21
Verses 12–21

Here is, I. A judgment threatened against this people that would quite intoxicate them. This doom is pronounced against them in a figure, to make it the more taken notice of and the more affecting (Jer. 13:12): Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, every bottle shall be filled with wine; that is, those that by their sins have made themselves vessels of wrath fitted to destruction shall be filled with the wrath of God as a bottle is with wine; and, as every vessel of mercy prepared for glory shall be filled with mercy and glory, so they shall be full of the fury of the Lord (Isa. 51:20); and they shall be brittle as bottles; and, like old bottles into which new wine is put, they shall burst and be broken to pieces, Matt. 9:17. Or, They shall have their heads as full of wine as bottle are; for so it is explained, Jer. 13:13; They shall be filled with drunkenness; compare Isa. 51:17. It is probable that this was a common proverb among them, applied in various ways; but they, not being aware of the prophet’s meaning in it, ridiculed him for it: “Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine? What strange thing is there in that? Tell us something that we did not know before.” Perhaps they were thus touchy with the prophet because they apprehended this to be a reflection upon them for their drunkenness, and probably it was in part so intended. They loved flagons of wine, Hos. 3:1. Their watchmen were all for wine, Isa. 56:12. They loved their false prophets that prophesied to them of wine (Mic. 2:11), that bade them be merry, for that they should never want their bottle to make them so. “Well,” says the prophet, “you shall have your bottles full of wine, but not such wine as you desire.” They suspected that he had some mystical meaning in it which prophesied no good concerning them, but evil; and he owns that so he had. What he meant was this,

1. That they should be a giddy as men in drink. A drunken man is fitly compared to a bottle or cask full of wine; for, when the wine is in, the wit, and wisdom, and virtue, and all that is good for any thing, are out. Now God threatens (Jer. 13:13) that shall they shall all be filled with drunkenness; they shall be full of confusion in their counsels, shall falter in all their talk and stagger in all their motions; they shall not know what they say or do, much less what they should say or do. They shall be sick of all their enjoyments and throw them up as drunken men do, Job 20:15. They shall fall into a slumber, and be utterly unable to help themselves, and, like men that have drunk away their reason, shall lie at the mercy and expose themselves to the contempt of all about them. And this shall be the condition not of some among them (if any had been sober, they might have helped the rest), but even the kings that sit upon the throne of David, that should have been like their father David, who was wise as an angel of God, shall be thus intoxicated. Their priests and prophets too, their false prophets, that pretended to guide them, were as indulgent of their lusts, and therefore were justly as much deprived of their senses, as any other. Nay, all the inhabitants, both of the land and of Jerusalem were as far gone as they. Whom God will destroy he infatuates.

2. That, being giddy, they should run upon one another. The cup of the wine of the Lord’s fury shall throw them not only into a lethargy, so that they shall not be able to help themselves or one another, but into a perfect frenzy, so that they shall do mischief to themselves and one another (Jer. 13:14): I will dash a man against his brother. Not only their drunken follies, but their drunken frays, shall help to ruin them. Drunken men are often quarrelsome, and upon that account they have woe and sorrow (Prov. 23:29, 30); so their sin is their punishment; it was so here. God sent an evil spirit into families and neighbourhoods (as Jdg. 9:23), which made them jealous of, and spiteful towards, one another; so that the fathers and sons went together by the ears, and were ready to pull one another to pieces, which made them all an easy prey to the common enemy. This decree against them having gone forth, God says, I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them; for they will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy one another; see Hab. 2:15, 16.

II. Here is good counsel given, which, if taken, would prevent this desolation. It is, in short, to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. If they will hearken and give ear, this is that which God has to say to them, Be not proud, Jer. 13:15. This was one of the sins for which God had a controversy with them (Jer. 13:9); let them mortify and forsake this sin, and God will let fall his controversy. “Be not proud.; when God speaks to you by his prophets do not think yourselves too good to be taught; be not scornful, be not wilful, let not your hearts rise against the word, nor slight the messengers that bring it to you. When God is coming forth against you in his providence (and by them he speaks) be not secure when he threatens, be not impatient when he strikes, for pride is at the bottom of both.” It is the great God that has spoken, whose authority is incontestable, whose power is irresistible; therefore bow to what he says, and be not proud, as you have been. They must not be proud, for,

1. They must advance God, and study how to do him honour: “Give glory to the Lord your God, and not to your idols, not to other gods. Give him glory by confessing your sins, owning yourselves guilty before him, and accepting the punishment of your iniquity, Jer. 13:16. Give him glory by a sincere repentance and reformation.” The and not till then, we begin to live as we should, and to some good purpose, when we begin to give glory to the Lord our God, to make his honour our chief end and to seek it accordingly. “Do this quickly, while your space to repent is continued to you; before he cause darkness, before you will see no way of escaping.” Note, Darkness will be the portion of those that will not repent to give glory to God. When those that by the fourth vial were scorched with heat repented not, to give glory to God. When those that by the fourth vial were scorched with heat repented not, to give glory to God, the next vial filled them with darkness, Rev. 16:9, 10. The aggravation of the darkness here threatened is, (1.) That their attempts to escape shall hasten their ruin: Their feet shall stumble when they are making all the haste they can over the dark mountains, and they shall fall, and be unable to get up again. Note, Those that think to out-run the judgments of God will find their road impassable; let them make the best of their way, they can make nothing of it, the judgments that pursue them will overtake them; their way is dark and slippery, Ps. 35:6. And therefore, before it comes to that extremity, it is our wisdom to give glory to him, and so make our peace with him, to fly to his mercy, and then there will be no occasion to fly from his justice. (2.) That their hopes of a better state of things will be disappointed: While you look for light, for comfort and relief, he will turn it into the shadow of death, which is very dismal and terrible, and make it gross darkness, like that of Egypt, when Pharaoh continued to harden his heart, which was darkness that might be felt. The expectation of impenitent sinners perishes when they die and think to have it satisfied.

2. They must abase themselves, and take shame to themselves; the prerogative of the king and queen will not exempt them from this (Jer. 13:18): “Say to the king and queen, that, great as they are, they must humble themselves by true repentance, and so give both glory to God and a good example to their subjects.” Note, Those that are exalted above others in the world must humble themselves before God, who is higher than the highest, and to whom kings and queens are accountable. They must humble themselves, and sit down—sit down, and consider what is coming—sit down in the dust, and lament themselves. Let them humble themselves, for God will otherwise take an effectual course to humble them: “Your principalities shall come down, the honour and power on which you value yourselves and in which you confide, even the crown of your glory, your goodly or glorious crown: when you are led away captives, where will your principality and all the badges of it be then?” Blessed be God there is a crown of glory, which those shall inherit who do humble themselves, that shall never come down.

III. This counsel is enforced by some arguments if they continue proud and unhumbled.

1. It will be the prophet’s unspeakable grief (Jer. 13:17): “If you will not hear it, will not submit to the word, but continue refractory, not only my eye, but my soul shall weep in secret places.” Note, The obstinacy of people, in refusing to hear the word of God, will be heart-breaking to the poor ministers, who know something of the terrors of the Lord and the worth of souls, and are so far from desiring that they tremble at the thoughts of the death of sinners. His grief for it was undissembled (his soul wept) and void of affectation, for he chose to weep in secret places, where no eye saw him but his who is all eye. He would mingle his tears not only with his public preaching, but with his private devotions. Nay, thoughts of their case would make him melancholy, and he would become a perfect recluse. It would grieve him, (1.) To see their sins unrepented of: “My soul shall weep for your pride, your haughtiness, and stubbornness, and vain confidence.” Note, The sins of others should be matter of sorrow to us. We must mourn for that which we cannot mend, and mourn the more for it because we cannot mend it. (2.) To see their calamity past redress and remedy: “My eyes shall weep sorely, not so much because my relations, friends, and neighbours are in distress, but because the Lord’s flock, his people and the sheep of his pasture, are carried away captive.” That should always grieve us most by which God’s honour suffers and the interest of his kingdom is weakened.

2. It will be their own inevitable ruin, Jer. 13:19-21. (1.) The land shall be laid waste: The cities of the south shall be shut up. The cities of Judah lay in the southern part of the land of Canaan; these shall be straitly besieged by the enemy, so that there shall be no going in or out, or they shall be deserted by the inhabitants, that there shall be none to go in and out. Some understand it of the cities of Egypt, which was south from Judah; the places there whence they expected succours shall fail them, and they shall find no access to them. (2.) The inhabitants shall be hurried away into a foreign country, there to live in slavery: Judah shall be carried away captive. Some were already carried off, which they hoped might serve to answer the prediction, and that the residue should still be left; but no: It shall be carried away all of it. God will make a full end with them: It shall be wholly carried away. So it was in the last captivity under Zedekiah, because they repented not. (3.) The enemy was now at hand that should do this (Jer. 13:20): “Lift up your eyes. I see upon their march, and you may if you will behold, those that come from the north, from the land of the Chaldeans; see how fast they advance, how fierce they appear.” Upon this he addresses himself to the king, or rather (because the pronouns are feminine) to the city or state. [1.] “What will you do now with the people who are committed to your charge, and whom you ought to protect? Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock? Whither canst thou take them now for shelter? How can they escape these ravening wolves?” Magistrates must look upon themselves as shepherds, and those that are under their charge as their flock, which they are entrusted with the care of and must give an account of; they must take delight in them as their beautiful flock, and consider what to do for their safety in times of public danger. Masters of families, who neglect their children and suffer them to perish for want of a good education, and ministers who neglect their people, should think they hear God putting this question to them: Where is the flock that was given thee to feed, that beauteous flock? It is starved; it is left exposed to the beasts of prey. What account wilt thou give of them when the chief shepherd shall appear? [2.] “What have you to object against the equity of God’s proceedings? What will thou say when he shall visit upon thee the former days? Jer. 13:21. Thou canst say nothing, but that God is just in all that is brought upon thee.” Those that flatter themselves with hopes of impunity, what will they say? What confusion will cover their faces when they shall find themselves deceived and that God punishes t 3302 hem! [3.] “What thoughts will you now have of your own folly, in giving the Chaldeans such power over you, by seeking to them for assistance, and joining in league with them? Thus thou hast taught them against thyself to be captains and to become the head.” Hezekiah began when he showed his treasures to the ambassadors of the king of Babylon, tempting him thereby to come and plunder him. Those who, having a God to trust to, court foreign alliances and confide in them, do but make rods for themselves and teach their neighbours how to become their masters. [4.] “How will you bear the trouble that is at the door? Shall not sorrows take thee as a woman in travail? Sorrows which thou canst not escape nor put off, extremity of sorrows; and in these respects more grievous than those of a woman in travail that they were not expected before, and that there is no manchild to be born, the joy of which shall make them afterwards to be forgotten.”