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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 17–22
Verses 17–22

The present deplorable state of Judah and Jerusalem is here made the matter of the prophet’s lamentation (Jer. 14:17, 18) and the occasion of his prayer and intercession for them (Jer. 14:19), and I am willing to hope that the latter, as well as the former, was by divine direction, and that these words (Jer. 14:17), Thus shalt thou say unto them (or concerning them, or in their hearing), refer to the intercession, as well as to the lamentation, and then it amounts to a revocation of the directions given to the prophet not to pray for them, Jer. 14:11. However, it is plain, by the prayers we find in these verses, that the prophet did not understand it as a prohibition, but only as a discouragement, like that 1 John 5:16; I do not say he shall pray for that. Here,

I. The prophet stands weeping over the ruins of his country; God directs him to do so, that, showing himself affected, he might, if possible, affect them with the foresight of the calamities that were coming upon them. Jeremiah must say it not only to himself, but to them too: Let my eyes run down with tears, Jer. 14:17. Thus he must signify to them that he certainly foresaw the sword coming, and another sort of famine, more grievous even than this which they were now groaning under; this was in the country for want of rain, that would be in the city through the straitness of the siege. The prophet speaks as if he already saw the miseries attending the descent which the Chaldeans made upon them: The virgin daughter of my people, that is as dear to me as a daughter to her father, is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow, much greater and more grievous than any she has yet sustained; for (Jer. 14:18) in the field multitudes lie dead that were slain by the sword, and in the city multitudes lie dying for want of food. Doleful spectacles! “The prophets and the priests, the false prophets that flattered them with their lies and the wicked priests that persecuted the true prophets, are now expelled their country, and go about either as prisoners and captives, whithersoever their conquerors lead them, or as fugitives and vagabonds, wherever they can find shelter and relief, in a land that they know not.” Some understand this of the true prophets, Ezekiel and Daniel, that were carried to Babylon with the rest. The prophet’s eyes must run down with tears day and night, in prospect of this, that the people might be convinced, not only that this woeful day would infallibly come, and would be a very woeful day indeed, but that he was far from desiring it, and would as gladly have brought them messages of peace as their false prophets, if he might have had warrant from heaven to do it. Note, Because God, though he inflicts death on sinners, yet delights not in it, it becomes his ministers, though in his name they pronounce the death of sinners, yet sadly to lament it.

II. He stands up to make intercession for them; for who knows but God will yet return and repent? While there is life there is hope, and room for prayer. And, though there were many among them who neither prayed themselves nor valued the prophet’s prayers, yet there were some who were better affected, would join with him in his devotions, and set the seal of their Amen to them.

1. He humbly expostulates with God concerning the present deplorableness of their case, Jer. 14:19. It was very sad, for, (1.) Their expectations from their God failed them; they thought he had avouched Judah to be his, but now, it seems, he has utterly rejected it, and cast it off, will not own any relation to it nor concern for it. They thought Zion was the beloved of his soul, was his rest for ever; but now his soul even loathes Zion, loathes even the services there performed, for the sake of the sins there committed. (2.) Then no marvel that all their other expectations failed them: They were smitten, and their wounds were multiplied, but there was no healing for them; they looked for peace, because after a storm there usually comes a calm and fair weather, after a long fit of wet; but there was no good, things went still worse and worse. They looked for a healing time, but could not gain so much as a breathing time. “Behold, trouble at the door, by which we hoped peace would enter. And is it so then? Hast thou indeed rejected Judah? Justly thou mightest. Hath thy soul loathed Zion? We deserve it should. But wilt thou not at length in wrath remember mercy?”

2. He makes a penitent confession of sin, speaking that language which they all should have spoken, though but few did (Jer. 14:20): “We acknowledge our wickedness, the abounding wickedness of our land and the iniquity of our fathers, which we have imitated, and therefore justly smart for. We know, we acknowledge, that we have sinned against thee, and therefore thou art just in all that is brought upon us; but, because we confess our sins, we hope to find thee faithful and just in forgiving our sins.”

3. He deprecates God’s displeasure, and by faith appeals to his honour and promise, Jer. 14:21. His petition is, “Do not abhor us; though thou afflict us, do not abhor us; though thy hand by turned against us, let not thy heart be so, nor let thy mind be alienated from us.” They own God might justly abhor them, they had rendered themselves odious in his eyes; yet, when they pray, Do not abhor us, they mean, “Receive us into favour again. Let not thy soul loathe Zion, Jer. 14:19. Let not our incense be an abomination.” They appeal, (1.) To the honour of God, the honour of his scriptures, by which he has made himself known—his word, which he has magnified above all his name: “Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake, that the name of thine by which we are called and which we call upon.” The honour of his sanctuary is pleaded: “Lord, do not abhor us, for that will disgrace the throne of thy glory” (the temple, which is called a glorious high throne from the beginning, Jer. 17:12); let not that which has been the joy of the whole earth be made a hissing and an astonishment. We deserve to have disgrace put upon us, but let it not be so as to reflect upon thyself; let not the desolations of the temple give occasion to the heathen to reproach him that used to be worshipped there, as if he could not, or would not, protect it, or as if the gods of the Chaldeans had been too hard for him. Note, Good men lay the credit of religion, and its profession in the world, nearer their hearts than any private interest or concern of their own; and those are powerful pleas in prayer which are fetched thence and great supports to faith. We may be sure that God will not disgrace the throne of his glory on earth; nor will he eclipse the glory of his throne by one providence without soon making it shine forth, and more brightly than before, by another. God will be no loser in his honour at the long-run. (2.) To the promise of God; of this they are humbly bold to put him in mind: Remember thy covenant with us, and break not that covenant. Not that they had any distrust of his fidelity, or that they thought he needed to be put in mind of his promise to them, but what he had said he would plead with himself they take the liberty to plead with him. Then will I remember my covenant, Lev. 26:42.

4. He professes a dependence upon God for the mercy of rain, which they were now in want of, Jer. 14:22. If they have forfeited their interest in him as their God in covenant, yet they will not let go their hold on him as the God of nature. (1.) They will never make application to the idols of the heathen, for that would be foolish and fruitless: Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? No; in a time of great drought in Israel, Baal, though all Israel presented their prayers to him in the days of Ahab, could not relieve them; it was that God only who answered by fire that could answer by water too. (2.) They will not terminate their regards in second causes, nor expect supply from nature only: Can the heavens give showers? No, not without orders from the God of heaven; for it is he that has the key of the clouds, that opens the bottles of heaven and waters the earth from his chambers. But, (3.) All their expectation therefore is from him and their confidence in him: “Art not thou he, O Lord our God! from whom we may expect succour and to whom we must apply? Art thou not he that causest rain and givest showers? For thou hast made all these things; thou gavest them being, and therefore thou givest them law and hast them all at thy command; thou madest that moisture in nature which is in a constant circulation to serve the intentions of Providence, and thou directest it, and makest what use thou pleasest of it; therefore we will wait upon thee, and upon thee only; we will ask of the Lord rain, Zech. 10:1. We will trust in him to give it to us in due time, and be willing to tarry his time; it is fit that we should, and it will not be in vain to do so.” Note, The sovereignty of God should engage, and his all-sufficiency encourage, our attendance on him and our expectations from him at all times.