We scarcely find any where more pathetic expressions of divine wrath against a provoking people than we have here in these verses. The prophet had prayed earnestly for them, and found some among them to join with him; and yet not so much as a reprieve was gained, nor the least mitigation of the judgment; but this answer is given to the prophet’s prayers, that the decree had gone forth, was irreversible, and would shortly be executed. Observe here,
I. What the sin was upon which this severe sentence was grounded. 1. It is in remembrance of a former iniquity; it is because of Manasseh, for that which he did in Jerusalem, Jer. 15:4. What that was we are told, and that it was for it that Jerusalem was destroyed, 2 Kgs. 24:3, 4. It was for his idolatry, and the innocent blood which he shed, which the Lord would not pardon. He is called the son of Hezekiah because his relation to so good a father was a great aggravation of his sin, so far was it from being an excuse of it. The greatest part of a generation was worn off since Manasseh’s time, yet his sin is brought into the account; as in Jerusalem’s last ruin God brought upon it all the righteous blood shed on the earth, to show how heavy the guilt of blood will light and lie somewhere, sooner or later, and that reprieves are not pardons. 2. It is in consideration of their present impenitence. See how their sin is described (Jer. 15:6): “Thou hast forsaken me, my service and thy duty to me; thou hast gone backward into the ways of contradiction, art become the reverse of what thou shouldst have been and of what God by his law would have led thee forward to.” See how the impenitence is described (Jer. 15:7): They return not from their ways, the ways of their own hearts, into the ways of God’s commandments again. There is mercy for those who have turned aside if they will return; but what favour can those expect that persist in their apostasy?
II. What the sentence is. It is such as denotes no less than an utter ruin.
1. God himself abandons and abhors them: My mind cannot be towards them. How can it be thought that the holy God should have any remaining complacency in those that have such a rooted antipathy to him? It is not in a passion, but with a just and holy indignation, that he says, “Cast them out of my sight, as that which is in the highest degree odious and offensive, and let them go forth, for I will be troubled with them no more.”
2. He will not admit any intercession to be made for them (Jer. 15:1): “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, by prayer or sacrifice to reconcile me to them, yet I could not be prevailed with to admit them into favour.” Moses and Samuel were two as great favourites of Heaven as ever were the blessings of this earth, and were particularly famed for the success of their mediation between God and his offending people; many a time they would have been destroyed if Moses had not stood before him in the breach; and to Samuel’s prayers they owed their lives (1 Sam. 12:19); yet even their intercessions should not prevail, no, not though they were now in a state of perfection, much less Jeremiah’s who was now a man subject to like passions as others. The putting of this as a case, Though they should stand before me, supposes that they do not, and is an intimation that saints in heaven are not intercessors for saints on earth. It is the prerogative of the Eternal Word to be the only Mediator in the other world, whatever Moses, and Samuel, and others were in this.
3. He condemns them all to one destroying judgment or other. When God casts them out of his presence, whither shall they go forth? Jer. 15:2. Certainly nowhere to be safe or easy, but to be met by one judgment while they are pursued by another, till they find themselves surrounded with mischiefs on all hands, so that they cannot escape; Such as are for death to death. By death here is meant the pestilence (Rev. 6:8), for it is death without visible means. Such as are for death to death, or for the sword to the sword; every man shall perish in that way that God has appointed: the law that appoints the malefactor’s death determines what death he shall die. Or, He that is by his own choice for this judgment, let him take it, or for that, let him take it, but by the one or the other they shall all fall and none shall escape. It is a choice like that which David was put to, and was thereby put into a great strait, 2 Sam. 24:14. Captivity is mentioned last, some think, because the sorest judgment of all, it being both a complication and continuance of miseries. That of the sword is again repeated (Jer. 15:3), and is made the first of another four frightful set of destroyers, which God will appoint over them, as officers over the soldiers, to do what they please with them. As those that escape the sword shall be cut off by pestilence, famine, or captivity, so those that fall by the sword shall be cut off by divine vengeance, which pursues sinners on the other side death; there shall be dogs to tear in the field to devour. And, if there be any that think to outrun justice, they shall be made the most public monuments of it: They shall be removed into all kingdoms of the earth (Jer. 15:4), like Cain, who, that he might be made a spectacle of horror to all, became a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth.
4. They shall fall without being relieved. Who can do any thing to help them? for (1.) God, even their own God (so he had been) appears against them: I will stretch out my hand against thee, which denotes a deliberate determined stroke, which will reach far and wound deeply. I am weary with repenting (Jer. 15:6); it is a strange expression; they had behaved so provokingly, especially by their treacherous professions of repentance, that they had put even infinite patience itself to the stretch. God had often turned away his wrath when it was ready to break forth against them; but now he will grant no more reprieves. Miserable is the case of those who have sinned so long against God’s mercy that at length they have sinned it away. (2.) Their own country expels them, and is ready to spue them out, as it had done the Canaanites that were before them; for so it was threatened (Lev. 18:28): I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land, in their own gates, through which they shall be scattered, or into the gates of the earth, into the cities of all the nations about them, Jer. 15:7. (3.) Their own children, that should assist them when they speak with the enemy in the gate, shall be cut off from them: I will bereave them of children, so that they shall have little hopes that the next generation will retrieve their affairs, for I will destroy my people; and, when the inhabitants are slain, the land will soon be desolate. This melancholy article is enlarged upon, Jer. 15:8, 9, where we have, [1.] The destroyer brought upon them. When God has bloody work to do he will find out bloody instruments to do it with. Nebuchadnezzar is here called a spoiler at noon-day, not a thief in the night, that is afraid of being discovered, but one that without fear shall break through and destroy all the fences of rights and properties, and this in the face of the sun and in defiance of its light: I have brought against the mother a young man, a spoiler (so some read it); for Nebuchadnezzar, when he first invaded Judah, was but a young man, in the first year of his reign. We read it, I have brought upon them, even against the mother of the young men, a spoiler, that is, against Jerusalem, a mother city, that had a very numerous family of young men: or that invasion was in a particular manner terrible to those mothers who had many sons fit for war, who must now hazard their lives in the high places of the field, and, being an unequal match for the enemy, would be likely to fall there, to the inexpressible grief of their poor mothers, who had nursed them up with a great deal of tenderness. The same God that brought the spoiler upon them caused him to fall upon it, that is, upon the spoil delivered to him, suddenly and by surprise; and then terrors came upon the city. the original is very abrupt—the city and terrors. O the city! what a consternation will it then be in! O the terrors that shall then seize it! Then the city and terrors shall be brought together, that seemed at a distance from each other. I will cause to fall suddenly upon her (upon Jerusalem) a watcher and terrors; so Mr. Gataker reads it, for the word is used for a watcher (Dan. 4:13, 23), and the Chaldean soldiers were called watchers, Jer. 4:16. [2.] The destruction made by this destroyer. A dreadful slaughter is here described. First, The wives are deprived of their husbands: Their widows are increased above the sand of the seas, so numerous have they now grown. It was promised that the men of Israel (for those only were numbered) should be as the sand of the sea for multitude; but now they shall be all cut off, and their widows shall be so. But observe, God says, They are increased to me. Though the husbands were cut off by the sword of his justice, their poor widows were gathered in the arms of his mercy, who has taken it among the titles of his honour to be the God of the widows. Widows are said to be taken into the number, the number of those whom God has a particular compassion and concern for. Secondly, The parents are deprived of their children: She that has borne seven sons, whom she expected to be the support and joy of her age, now languishes, when she has seen them all cut off by the sword in one day, who had been many years her burden and care. She that had many children has waxed feeble, 1 Sam. 2:5. See what uncertain comforts children are; and let us therefore rejoice in them as though we rejoiced not. When the children are slain the mother gives up the ghost, for her life was bound up in theirs: Her sun has gone down while it was yet day; she is bereaved of all her comforts just when she thought herself in the midst of the enjoyment of them. She is now ashamed and confounded to think how proud she was of her sons, how fond of them, and how much she promised herself from them. Some understand, by this languishing mother, Jerusalem lamenting the death of her inhabitants as passionately as ever poor mother bewailed her children. Many are cut off already, and the residue of them, who have yet escaped, and, as was hoped, were reserved to be the seed of another generation, even these will I deliver to the sword before their enemies (as the condemned malefactor is delivered to the sheriff to be executed), saith the Lord, the Judge of heaven and earth, who, we are sure, herein judges according to truth, though the judgment seem severe.
5. They shall fall without being pitied (Jer. 15:5): “For who shall have pity on thee, O Jerusalem? When thy God has cast thee out of his sight, and his compassions fail and are shut up from thee, neither thy enemies nor thy friends shall have any compassion for thee. They shall have no sympathy with thee; they shall not bemoan thee nor be sorry for thee; they shall have no concern for thee, shall not go a step out of their way to ask how thou dost.” For, (1.) Their friends, who were expected to do these friendly offices, were all involved with them in the calamities, and had enough to do to bemoan themselves. (2.) It was plain to all their neighbours that they had brought all this misery upon themselves by their obstinacy in sin, and that they might easily have prevented it by repentance and reformation, which they were often in vain called to; and therefore who can pity them? O Israel! thou hast destroyed thyself. Those will perish for ever unpitied that might have been saved upon such easy terms and would not. (3.) God will thus complete their misery. He will set their acquaintance, as he did Job’s at a distance from them; and his hand, his righteous hand, is to be acknowledged in all the unkindnesses of our friends, as well as in all the injuries done us by our foes.