These verses might fitly have been joined to the close of the foregoing chapter, as giving a further description of the dreadful desolation which the army of the Chaldeans should make in the land. It shall strangely alter the property of death itself, and for the worse too.
I. Death shall not now be, as it always used to be—the repose of the dead. When Job makes his court to the grave it is in hope of this, that there he shall rest with kings and counsellors of the earth; but now the ashes of the dead, even of kings and princes, shall be disturbed, and their bones scattered at the grave’s mouth, Ps. 141:7. It was threatened in the close of the former chapter that the slain should be unburied; that might be through neglect, and was not so strange; but here we find the graves of those that were buried industriously and maliciously opened by the victorious enemy, who either for covetousness, hoping to find treasure in the graves, or for spite to the nation and in a rage against it, brought out the bones of the kings of Judah and the princes. The dignity of their sepulchres could not secure them, nay, did the more expose them to be rifled; but it was base and barbarous thus to trample upon royal dust. We will hope that the bones of good Josiah were not disturbed, because he piously protected the bones of the man of God when he burnt the bones of the idolatrous priests, 2 Kgs. 23:18. The bones of the priests and prophets too were digged up and thrown about. Some think the false prophets and the idol-priests, God putting this mark of ignominy upon them: but, if they were God’s prophets and his priests, it is what the Psalmist complains of as the fruit of the outrage of the enemies, Ps. 79:1, 2. Nay, those of the spiteful Chaldeans that could not reach to violate the sepulchres of princes and priests would rather play at small game than sit out, and therefore pulled the bones of the ordinary inhabitants of Jerusalem out of their graves. The barbarous nations were sometimes guilty of these absurd and inhuman triumphs over those they had conquered, and God permitted it here, for a mark of his displeasure against the generation of his wrath, and for terror to those that survived. The bones, being dug out of the graves, were spread abroad upon the face of the earth in contempt, and to make the reproach the more spreading and lasting. They spread them to be dried that they might carry them about in triumph, or might make fuel of them, or make some superstitious use of them. They shall be spread before the sun (for they shall not be ashamed openly to avow the fact at noon day) and before the moon and stars, even all the host of heaven, whom they have made idols of, Jer. 8:2. From the mention of the sun, moon, and stars, which should be the unconcerned spectators of this tragedy, the prophet takes occasion to show how they had idolized them, and paid those respects to them which they should have paid to God only, that it might be observed how little they got by worshipping the creature, for the creatures they worshipped when they were in distress saw it, but regarded it not, nor gave them any relief, but were rather pleased to see those abused in being vilified by whom they had been abused in being deified. See how their respects to their idols are enumerated, to show how we ought to behave towards our God. 1. They loved them. As amiable being and bountiful benefactors they esteemed them and delighted in them, and therefore did all that follows. 2. They served them, did all they could in honour of them, and thought nothing too much; they conformed to all the laws of their superstition, without disputing. 3. They walked after them, strove to imitate and resemble them, according to the characters and accounts of them they had received, which gave rise and countenance to much of the abominable wickedness of the heathen. 4. They sought them, consulted them as oracles, appealed to them as judges, implored their favour, and prayed to them as their benefactors. 5. They worshipped them, gave them divine honour, as having a sovereign dominion over them. Before these light of heaven, which they had courted, shall their dead bodies be cast, and left to putrefy, and to be as dung upon the face of the earth; and the sun’s shining upon them will but make them the more noisome and offensive. Whatever we make a god of but the true God only, it will stand us in no stead on the other side death and the grave, nor for the body, much less for the soul.
II. Death shall now be what it never used to be—the choice of the living, not because there appears in it any thing delightsome; on the contrary, death never appeared in more horrid frightful shapes than now, when they cannot promise themselves either a comfortable death or a human burial; and yet every thing in this world shall become so irksome, and all the prospects so black and dismal, that death shall be chosen rather than life (Jer. 8:3), not in a believing hope of happiness in the other life, but in an utter despair of any ease in this life. The nation is now reduced to a family, so small is the residue of those that remain in it; and it is an evil family, still as bad as ever, their hearts unhumbled and their lusts unmortified. These remain alive (and that is all) in the many places whither they were driven by the judgments of God, some prisoners in the country of their enemies, others beggars in their neighbour’s country, and others fugitives and vagabonds there and in their own country. And, though those that died died very miserably, yet those that survived and were thus driven out should live yet more miserably, so that they should choose death rather than life, and wish a thousand times that they had fallen with those that fell by the sword. Let this cure us of the inordinate love of life, that the case may be such that it may become a burden and terror, and we may be strongly tempted to choose strangling and death rather.