Two things the prophet designs, in these verses, with reference to the approaching destruction of Judah and Jerusalem:—1. To convince people of the justice of God in it, that they had by sin brought it upon themselves and that therefore they had no reason to quarrel with God, who did them no wrong at all, but a great deal of reason to fall out with their sins, which did them all this mischief. 2. To affect people with the greatness of the desolation that was coming, and the miserable effects of it, that by a terrible prospect of it they might be awakened to repentance and reformation, which was the only way to prevent it, or, at least, mitigate their own share in it. This being designed,
I. He calls for the thinking men, by them to show people the equity of God’s proceedings, though they seemed harsh and severe (Jer. 9:12): “Who, where, is the wise man, or the prophet, to whom the mouth of the Lord hath spoken? You boast of your wisdom, and of the prophets you have among you; produce me any one that has but the free use of human reason or any acquaintance with divine revelation, and he will soon understand this himself, and it will be so clear to him that he will be ready to declare it to others, that there is a just ground of God’s controversy with this people.” Do these wise men enquire, For what does the land perish? What is the matter, that such a change is made with this land? It used to be a land that God cared for, and he had his eyes upon it for good (Deut. 11:12), but it is now a land that he has forsaken and that his face is against. It used to flourish as the garden of the Lord and to be replenished with inhabitants; but now it is burnt up like a wilderness, that none passeth through it, much less cares to settle in it. It was supposed, long ago, that it would be asked, when it came to this, Wherefore has the Lord done thus unto this land? What means the heat of this great anger? (Deut. 29:24), to which question God here gives a full answer, before which all flesh must be silent. He produces out of the record,
1. The indictment preferred and proved against them, upon which they had been found guilty, Jer. 9:13, 14. It is charged upon them, and it cannot be denied, (1.) That they have revolted from their allegiance to their rightful Sovereign. Therefore. God has forsaken their land, and justly, because they have forsaken his law, which he had so plainly, so fully, so frequently set before them, and had not observed his orders, not obeyed his voice, nor walked in the ways that he had appointed. Here their wickedness began, in the omission of their duty to their God and a contempt of his authority. But it did not end here. It is further charged upon them, (2.) That they have entered themselves into the service of pretenders and usurpers, have not only withdrawn themselves from their obedience to their prince, but have taken up arms against him. For, [1.] They have acted according to the dictates of their own lusts, have set up their own will, the wills of the flesh, and the carnal mind, in competition with, and contradiction to the will of God: They have walked after the imagination of their own hearts; they would do as they pleased, whatever God and conscience said to the contrary. [2.] They have worshipped the creatures of their own fancy, the work of their own hands, according to the tradition received from their fathers: They have walked after Baalim: the word is plural; they had many Baals, Baal-peor and Baal-berith, the Baal of this place and the Baal of the other place; for they had lords many, which their fathers taught them to worship, but which the God of their fathers had again and again forbidden. This was it for which the land perished. The King of kings never makes war thus upon his own subjects but when they treacherously depart from him and rebel against him, and it has become necessary by this means to chastise their rebellion and reduce them to their allegiance; and they themselves shall at length acknowledge that he is just in all that is brought upon them.
2. The judgment given upon this indictment, the sentence upon the convicted rebels, which must now be executed, for it was righteous and nothing could be moved in arrest of 5230 it: The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, hath said it (Jer. 9:15, 16), and who can reverse it? (1.) That all their comforts at home shall be poisoned and embittered to them: I will feed this people with wormwood (or rather with wolf’s-bane, for it signifies a herb that is not wholesome, as wormwood is though it be bitter, but some herb that is both nauseous and noxious), and I will give them water of gall (or juice of hemlock or some other herb that is poisonous) to drink. Every thing about them, till it comes to their very meat and drink, shall be a terror and torment to them. God will curse their blessings, Mal. 2:2. (2.) That their dispersion abroad shall be their destruction (Jer. 9:16): I will scatter them among the heathen. They were corrupted and debauched by their intimacy with the heathen, with whom they mingled and learned their works; and now they shall lose themselves, where they lost their virtue, among the heathen. They set up gods which neither they nor their fathers had known, strange gods, new gods (Deut. 32:17); and now God will put them among neighbours whom neither they nor their fathers have known, whom they can claim no acquaintance with, and therefore can expect no favour from. And yet, though they are scattered so as that they will not know where to find one another. God will know where to find them all out (Ps. 21:8) with that evil which still pursues impenitent sinners: I will send a sword after them, some killing judgment or other, till I have consumed them; for when God judges he will overcome, when he pursues he will overtake. And now we see for what the land perishes; all this desolation is the desert of their deeds and the performance of God’s words.
II. He calls for the mourning women, and engages them, with the arts they practise to affect people and move their passions, to lament these sad calamities that had come or were coming upon them, that the nation might be alarmed to prepare for them: The Lord of hosts himself says, Call for the mourning women, that they may come, Jer. 9:17. the scope of this is to show how very woeful and lamentable the condition of this people was likely to be. 1. Here is work for the counterfeit mourners: Send for cunning women, that know how to compose mournful ditties, or at least to sing them in mournful tunes and accents, and therefore are made use of at funerals to supply the want of true mourners. Let these take up a wailing for us, Jer. 9:18. The deaths and funerals were so many that people wept for them till they had no power to weep, as those, 1 Sam. 30:4. Let those therefore do it now whose trade it is. Or, rather, it intimates the extreme sottishness and stupidity of the people, that laid not to heart the judgments they were under, nor, even when there was so much blood shed, could find in their hearts to shed a tear. They cry not when God binds them, Job 36:13. God sent his mourning prophets to them, to call them to weeping and mourning, but his word in their mouths did not work upon their faith; rather therefore than they shall go laughing to their ruin, let the mourning women come, and try to work upon their fancy, that their eyes may at length run down with tears, and their eyelids gush out with waters. First or last, sinners must be weepers. 2. Here is work for the real mourners. (1.) There is that which is a lamentation. The present scene is very tragical (Jer. 9:19): A voice of wailing is heard out of Zion. Some make this to be the song of the mourning women: it is rather an echo to it, returned by those whose affections were moved by their wailings. In Zion the voice of joy and praise used to be heard, while the people kept closely to God. But sin has altered the note; it is now the voice of lamentation. It should seem to be the voice of those who fled from all parts of the country to the castle of Zion for protection. Instead of rejoicing that they had got safely thither, they lamented that they were forced to seek for shelter there: “How are we spoiled! How are we stripped of all our possessions! We are greatly confounded, ashamed of ourselves and our poverty;” for that is it that they complain of, that is it that they blush at the thoughts of, rather than of their sin: We are confounded because we have forsaken the land (forced so to do by the enemy), not because we have forsaken the Lord, being drawn aside of our own lust and enticed—because our dwellings have cast us out, not because our God has cast us off. Thus unhumbled hearts lament their calamity, but not their iniquity, the procuring cause of it. (2.) There is more still to come which shall be for a lamentation. Things are bad, but they are likely to be worse. Those whose land has spued them out (as it did their predecessors the Canaanites, and justly, because they trod in their steps, Lev. 18:28) complain that they are driven into the city, but, after a while, those of the city, and they with them, shall be forced thence too: Yet hear the word of the Lord; he has something more to say to you (Jer. 9:20); let the women hear it, whose tender spirits are apt to receive the impressions of grief and fear, for the men will not heed it, will not give it a patient hearing. The prophets will be glad to preach to a congregation of women that tremble at God’s word. Let your ear receive the word of God’s mouth, and bid it welcome, though it be a word of terror. Let the women teach their daughters wailing; this intimates that the trouble shall last long, grief shall be entailed upon the generation to come. Young people are apt to love mirth, and expect mirth, and are disposed to be gay and airy; but let the elder women teach the younger to be serious, tell them what a vale of tears they must expect to find this world, and train them up among the mourners in Zion, Titus 2:4, 5. Let every one teach her neighbour lamentation; this intimates that the trouble shall spread far, shall go from house to house. People shall not need to sympathize with their friends; they shall all have cause enough to mourn for themselves. Note, Those that are themselves affected with the terrors of the Lord should endeavour to affect others with them. The judgment here threatened is made to look terrible. [1.] Multitudes shall be slain, Jer. 9:21. Death shall ride in triumph, and there shall be no escaping his arrests when he comes with commission, neither within doors nor without. Not within doors, for let the doors be shut ever so fast, let them be ever so firmly locked and bolted, death comes up into our windows, like a thief in the night; it steals upon us ere we are aware. Nor does it thus boldly attack the cottages only, but it has entered into our palaces, the palaces of our princes and great men, though ever so stately, ever so strongly built and guarded. Note, No palaces can keep out death. Nor are those more safe that are abroad; death cuts off even the children from without and the young men from the streets. The children who might have been spared by the enemy in pity, because they had never been hurtful to them, and the young men who might have been spared in policy, because capable of being serviceable to them, shall fall together by the sword. It is usual now, even in the severest military executions, to put none to the sword. It is usual now, even in the severest military executions, to put none to the sword but those that are found in arms; but then even the boys and girls playing in the streets were sacrificed to the fury of the conqueror. [2.] Those that are slain shall be left unburied (Jer. 9:22): Speak, Thus saith the Lord (for the confirmation and aggravation of what was before said), Even the carcases of men shall fall as dung, neglected, and left to be offensive to the smell, as dung is. Common humanity obliges the survivors to bury the dead, even for their own sake; but here such numbers shall be slain, and those so dispersed all the country over, that it shall be an endless thing to bury them all, nor shall there be hands enough to do it, nor shall the conquerors permit it, and those that should do it shall be overwhelmed with grief, so that they shall have no heart to do it. The dead bodies even of the fairest and strongest, when they have lain awhile, become dung, such vile bodies have we. And here such multitudes shall fall that their bodies shall lie as thick as heaps of dung in the furrows of the field, and no more notice shall be taken of them than of the handfuls which the harvestman drops for the gleaners, for none shall gather them, but they shall remain in sight, monuments of divine vengeance, that the eye of the impenitent survivors may affect their heart. Slay them not, bury them not, lest my people forget, Ps. 59:11.