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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–8
Verses 1–8

Here is I. Judgment threatened against Judah and Jerusalem. The city and the country were at this time secure and under no apprehension of danger; they saw no cloud gathering, but every thing looked safe and serene: but the prophet tells them that they shall shortly be invaded by a foreign power, an army shall be brought against them from the north, which shall lay all waste, and shall cause not only a general consternation, but a general desolation. It is here foretold,

1. That the alarm of this should be loud and terrible. This is represented, Jer. 6:1. The children of Benjamin, in which tribe part of Jerusalem lay, are here called to shift for their own safety in the country; for the city (to which it was first thought advisable for them to flee, Jer. 4:5, 6) would soon be made too hot for them, and they would find it the wisest course to flee out of the midst of it. It is common, in public frights, for the people to think any place safer than that in which they are; and therefore those in the city are for shifting into the country, in hopes there to escape out of danger, and those in the country are for shifting into the city, in hopes there to make head against the danger; but it is all in vain when evil pursues sinners with commission. They are told to send the alarm into the country, and to do what they can for their own safety: Blow the trumpet in Tekoa, a city which lay twelve miles north from Jerusalem. Let them be stirred up to stand upon their guard: Set up a sign of fire (that is, kindle the beacons) in Beth-haccerem, the house of the vineyard, which lay on a hill between Jerusalem and Tekoa. Prepare to make a vigorous resistance, for the evil appears out of the north. This may be taken ironically: “Betake yourselves to the best methods you can think of for your own preservation, but all shall be in vain; for, when you have done your best, it will be a great destruction, for it is in vain to contend with God’s judgments.”

2. That the attempt upon them should be bold and formidable and such as they should be a very unequal match for. (1.) See what the daughter of Zion is, on whom the assault is made. She is compared to a comely and delicate woman (Jer. 6:2), bred up in every thing that is nice and soft, that will not set so much as the sole of her foot to the ground for tenderness and delicacy (Deut. 28:56), nor suffer the wind to blow upon her; and, not being accustomed to hardship, she will be the less able either to resist the enemy (for those that make war must endure hardness) or to bear the destruction with that patience which is necessary to make it tolerable. The more we indulge ourselves in the pleasures of this life the more we disfit ourselves for the troubles of this life. (2.) See what the daughter of Babylon is, by whom the assault is made. The generals and their armies are compared to shepherds and their flocks (Jer. 6:3), in such numbers and in such order did they come, the soldiers following their leaders as the sheep their shepherds. The daughter of Zion dwelt at home (so some read it), expecting to be courted with love, but was invaded with fury. This comparing of the enemies to shepherds inclines me to embrace another reading, which some give of Jer. 6:2; The daughter of Zion is like a comely pasture-ground and a delicate land, which invite the shepherds to bring their flocks thither to graze; and as the shepherds easily make themselves masters of an open field, which (as was then usual in some parts) lies common, owned by none, pitch their tents in it, and their flocks quickly eat it bare, so shall the Chaldean army easily break in upon the land of Judah, force for themselves a free quarter where they please, and in a little time devour all. For the further illustration of this he shows, [1.] How God shall commission them to make this destruction even of the holy land and the holy city, which were his own possession. It is he that says (Jer. 6:4), Prepare you war against her; for he is the Lord of hosts, that has all hosts at his command, and he has said (Jer. 6:6), Hew you down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem, in order to the attacking of it. The Chaldeans have great power against Judah and Jerusalem, and yet they have no power but what is given them from above. God has marked out Jerusalem for destruction. He has said, “This is the city to be visited, visited in wrath, visited by the divine justice, and this is the time of her visitation.” The day is coming when those that are careless and secure in sinful ways will certainly be visited. [2.] How they shall animate themselves and one another to execute that commission. God’s counsels being against Jerusalem, which cannot be altered or disannulled, the councils of war which the enemies held are made to agree with his counsels. God having said, Prepare war against her, their determinations are made subservient to his; and, notwithstanding the distance of place and the many difficulties that lay in the way, it is soon resolved, nemine contradicente—unanimously. Arise, and let us go. Note, It is good to see how the counsel and decree of God are pursued and executed in the devices and designs of men, even theirs that know him not, Isa. 10:6, 7. In this campaign, First, They resolve to be very expeditious. They have no sooner resolved upon it than they address themselves to it; it shall never be said that they left any thing to be done towards it to-morrow which they could do to-day: Arise, let us go up at noon, though it be in the heat of the day; nay, (Jer. 6:5), Arise, let us go up at night, though it be in the dark. Nothing shall hinder them; they are resolved to lose no time. They are described as men in care to make despatch (Jer. 6:4): “Woe unto us, for the day goes away, and we are not going on with our work; the shadows of the evening are stretched out, and we sit still, and let slip the opportunity.” O that we were thus eager in our spiritual work and warfare, thus afraid of losing time, or any opportunity, in taking the kingdom of heaven by violence! It is folly to trifle when we have an eternal salvation to work out, and the enemies of that salvation to fight against. Secondly, They confidently expect to be very successful: “Let us go up, and let us destroy her palaces and make ourselves masters of the wealth that is in them.” It was not that they might fulfill God’s counsels, but that they might fill their own treasures, that they were thus eager; yet God thereby served his own purposes.

II. The cause of this judgment assigned. It is all for their wickedness; they have brought it upon themselves; they must bear it, for they must bear the blame of it. They are thus oppressed because they have been oppressors; they have dealt hardly with one another, each in his turn, as they have had power and advantage, and now the enemy shall come and deal hardly with them all. This sin of oppression, and violence, and wrong-doing, is here charged upon them, 1. As a national sin (Jer. 6:6): Therefore this city is to be visited, it is time to make inquisition, for she is wholly oppression in the midst of her. All orders and degrees of men, from the prince on the throne to the meanest master of a shop, were oppressive to those that were under them. Look which way you might, there were causes for complaints of this kind. 2. As a sin that had become in a manner natural to them (Jer. 6:7): She casts out wickedness, in all the instances of malice and mischievousness, as a fountain casts out her waters, so plentifully and constantly, the streams bitter and poisonous, like the fountain. The waters out of the fountain will not be restrained, but will find or force their way, nor will they be checked by laws or conscience in their violent proceedings. This is fitly applied to the corrupt heart of man in his natural state; it casts out wickedness, one evil imagination or other, as a fountain casts out her waters, naturally and easily; it is always flowing, and yet always full. 3. As that which had become a constant practice with them; Violence and spoil are heard in her. The cry of it had come up before God as that of Sodom: Before me continually are grief and wounds—the complaint of those that find themselves aggrieved, being unjustly wounded in their bodies or spirits, in their estates or reputation. Note, He that is the common Parent of mankind regards and resents, and sooner or later will revenge, the mischiefs and wrongs that men do to one another.

III. The counsel given them how to prevent this judgment. Fair warning is given now upon the whole matter: “Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem! Jer. 6:8. Receive the instruction given thee both by the law of God and by the prophets; be wise at length for thyself.” They knew very well what they had been instructed to do; nothing remained but to do it, for till then they could not be said to be instructed. The reason for this counsel is taken from the inevitable ruin they ran upon if they refused to comply with the instructions given them: Lest my soul depart, or be disjoined, from thee. This intimates what a tender affection and concern God had had for them; his very soul had been joined to them, and nothing but sin could disjoin it. Note, 1. The God of mercy is loth to depart even from a provoking people, and is earnest with them by true repentance and reformation to prevent things coming to that extremity. 2. Their case is very miserable from whom God’s soul is disjoined; it intimates the loss not only of their outward blessings, but of those comforts and favours which are the more immediate and peculiar tokens of his love and presence. Compare this with that dreadful word (Heb. 10:38), If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 3. Those whom God forsakes are certainly undone; when God’s soul departs from Jerusalem she soon becomes desolate and uninhabited, Matt. 23:38.