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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 14–19
Verses 14–19

The prophet, further to evince the folly of their forsaking God, shows them what mischiefs they had already brought upon themselves by so doing; it had already cost them dear, for to this were owing all the calamities their country was now groaning under, which were but an earnest of more and greater if they repented not. See how they smarted for their folly.

I. Their neighbours, who were their professed enemies, prevailed against them, and this was owing to their sin. 1. They were enslaved and lost their liberty (Jer. 2:14): Isa. Israel a servant? No; Israel is my son, my first-born, Exod. 4:22. They are children; they are heirs. Nay, their extraction is noble; they are the seed of Abraham, God’s friend, and of Jacob his chosen. Isa. he a home-born slave? No; he is not the son of the bond-woman, but of the free. They were designed for dominion, not for servitude. Every thing in their constitution carried about it the marks of freedom and honour. Why then is he spoiled of his liberty? Why is he used as a servant, as a home-born slave? Why does he make himself a slave to his lusts, to his idols, to that which does not profit? Jer. 2:11. What a thing is this, that such a birthright should be sold for a mess of pottage, such a crown profaned and laid in the dust! Why is he made a slave to the oppressor? God provided that a Hebrew servant should be free the seventh year, and that their slaves should be of the heathen, not of their brethren, Lev. 25:44, 46. But, notwithstanding this, the princes made slaves of their subjects, and masters made slaves of their servants (Jer. 34:11), and so made their country mean and miserable, which God had made happy and honourable. The neighbouring princes and powers broke in upon them, and made some of them slaves even in their own country, and perhaps sold others for slaves into foreign countries. And how came they thus to lose their liberties? For their iniquities they sold themselves, Isa. 50:1. We may apply this spiritually. Isa. the soul of man a servant? Isa. it a home-born slave? No, it is not. Why then is it spoiled? It is because it has sold its own liberty and enslaved itself to divers lusts and passions, which is a lamentation, and should be for a lamentation. 2. They were impoverished and had lost their wealth. God brought them into a plentiful country (Jer. 2:7), but all their neighbours made a prey of it (Jer. 2:15): Young lions roar aloud over him and yell; they are a continual terror to him. Sometimes one potent enemy, and sometimes another, and sometimes many in confederacy, fall upon him, and triumph over him. They carry off the fruits of his land, and make that waste, and burn his cities, when first they have plundered them, so that they remain without inhabitant, either because there are no houses to dwell in or because those that should dwell in them are carried into captivity. 3. They were abused, and insulted over, and beaten by every body (Jer. 2:16): “Even the children of Noph and Tahapanes, despicable people, not famed for military courage nor strength, have broken the crown of thy head, or fed upon it. In all their struggles with thee they have been too hard for thee, and thou hast always come off with a broken head. The principal part of thy country, that which lay next Jerusalem, has been and is a prey to them.” How calamitous the condition of Judah had been of late in the reign of Manasseh we find, 2 Chron. 33:11; and perhaps it had not now much recovered itself. 4. All this was owing to their sin (Jer. 2:17): Hast thou not procured this unto thyself? By their sinful confederacies with the nations, and especially their conformity to them in their idolatrous customs and usages, they had made themselves very mean and contemptible, as all those do that have made a profession of religion and afterwards throw it off. Nothing now appeared of that which, by their constitution, made them both honourable and formidable, and therefore nobody either respected them or feared them. But this was not all; they had provoked God to give them up into the hands of their enemies, and to make them a scourge to them and give them success against them; and “thus thou hast procured it to thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, revolted from thy allegiance to him and so thrown thyself out of his protection; for protection and allegiance go together.” Whatever trouble we are in at any time we may thank ourselves for it; for we bring it upon our own head by our forsaking God: “Thou hast forsaken thy God at the time that he was leading thee by the way” (so it should be read); “Then when he was leading thee on to a happy peace and settlement, and thou wast within a step of it, then thou forsookest him, and so didst put a bar in thy own door.”

II. Their neighbours, that were their pretended friends, deceived them, distressed them, and helped them not, and this also was owing to their sin. 1. They did in vain seek to Egypt and Assyria for help (Jer. 2:18): “What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt? When thou art under apprehensions of danger thou art running to Egypt for help, Isa. 30:1, 2; 31:1. Thou art for drinking the waters of Sihor,” that is, Nilus. “Thou reliest upon their multitude, and refreshest thy self with the fair promises they make thee. At other times thou art in the way of Assyria, sending or going with all speed to fetch recruits thence, and thinkest to satisfy thyself with the waters of the river Euphrates; what hast thou to do there? What wilt thou get by applying to them? They shall help in vain, shall be broken reeds to thee, and what thou thoughtest would be to thee as a river will be but a broken cistern.” 2. This also was because of their sin. The judgment shall unavoidably come upon them which their sin has deserved; and then to what purpose is it to call in help against it? Jer. 2:19. “Thy own wickedness shall correct thee, and then it is impossible for them to save thee; know and see therefore, upon the whole matter, that it is an evil thing that thou hast forsaken God, for it is that which makes thy enemies enemies indeed, and thy friends friends in vain.” Observe here, (1.) The nature of sin; it is forsaking the Lord as our God; it is the soul’s alienation from him and aversion to him. Cleaving to sin is leaving God. (2.) The cause of sin; it is because his fear is not in us. It is for want of a good principle in us, particularly for want of the fear of God; this is at the bottom of our apostasy from him; men forsake their duty to God because they stand in no awe of him nor have any dread of his displeasure. (3.) The malignity of sin; it is an evil thing and a bitter. Sin is an evil thing, only evil, an evil that has no good in it, an evil that is the root and cause of all other evil; it is evil indeed, for it is not only the greatest contrariety to the divine nature, but the greatest corruption of the human nature. It is bitter; a state of sin is the gall of bitterness, and every sinful way will be bitterness in the latter end; the wages of it is death, and death is bitter. (4.) The fatal consequences of sin; as it is in itself evil and bitter, so it has a direct tendency to make us miserable: “Thy own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee, not only destroy and ruin thee hereafter, but correct and reprove thee now; they will certainly bring trouble upon thee; and punishment will so inevitably follow the sin that the sin shall itself be said to punish thee. Nay, the punishment, in its kind and circumstances, shall so directly answer to the sin, that thou mayest read the sin in the punishment; and the justice of the punishment shall be so plain that thou shalt not have a word to say for thyself; thy own wickedness shall convince thee and stop thy mouth for ever and thou shalt be forced to own that the Lord is righteous.” (5.) The use and application of all this: “Know therefore, and see it, and repent of thy sin, that so the iniquity which is thy correction may not be thy ruin.”