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Deeper Commentary


Jeremiah 14:1 The word of Yahweh that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought- See on Jer. 17:8. Drought was the specific punishment for serving other gods, and would lead to the destruction of the people (Dt. 11:16,17).

Jeremiah 14:2 Judah mourns, and its gates languish, they sit in black on the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up-
This could mean that God heard their situation as if it were a prayer, even if unarticulated. The intensity of the drought and famine was to try to get the people to repent, as it was in Elijah's time; so that the even worse blackening of the gates of Jerusalem with fire need not happen at the hands of the Babylonians.

Jeremiah 14:3 Their nobles send their little ones to the waters: they come to the cisterns, and find no water; they return with their vessels empty; they are disappointed and confounded, and cover their heads-
This again recalls the recorded search for water during the drought of Elijah's time. It was to elicit repentance. The covering of heads in shame and confusion is all language of the exile; they were intended to experience those things through the famine and repent, so that the shame of the exile need not have happened. This is typical of how God works, to this day. To focus solely upon His final execution of judgment and to cry foul is to fail to appreciate all the effort made to not have to judge like that.

Jeremiah 14:4 Because of the ground which is cracked, because no rain has been in the land, the ploughmen are disappointed, they cover their heads-
See on :3. "Cracked" is the word usually translated "dismayed"; and there are multiple exhortations not to be dismayed (Jer. 23:4; 30:10). Judah were dismayed with the dismay of the Gentiles (Jer. 10:2 s.w.). And the state of the land reflected their internal mental condition.

Jeremiah 14:5 Yes, the hind also in the field calves and forsakes her young, because there is no grass-
Perhaps we are intended to recall that it is the voice of the Lord which makes the hinds to calve (Ps. 29:9); but the lack of grass was a result of a drought which Israel had brought upon themselves. God's word had set up a potential which they refused to allow to come to realization.

Jeremiah 14:6 The wild donkeys stand on the bare heights, they pant for air like jackals; their eyes fail, because there is no greenery to eat-
The impression is of them scanning the countryside from the high places for food. Those high places were where idols had been worshipped as part of fertility cults; and clearly they had failed to deliver on their promises, as all idols do.

Jeremiah 14:7 Though our iniquities testify against us, work for Your name’s sake, Yahweh; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against You-
God had said He would destroy Israel and make of Moses a new nation. But He relented of that, and in Ez. 20:22 we see the picture of His internal struggle, working for His Name's sake, for the sake of the principles incorporated within His Name. So it is an intrinsic part of His Name and essential personality that He changes His judgments from pity. When the Psalmist of Ps. 109:21 asks for God's grace, He asks God to "do" or "work" for the sake of His Name, and not bring about a threatened judgment. Jeremiah likewise understood this and asks God to still be gracious to Israel despite their lack of repentance- through working for His Name's sake (Jer. 14:7). To save by grace was therefore working or doing according to His Name's sake, rather than according to human merit (Ez. 36:22). Thus by working for His Name's sake, the repentant exiles would come to 'know Yahweh' (Ez. 20:44), they would come to see who He essentially is. And He is revealed as the very opposite of a stone faced, unchanging, insensitive God, which was then the standard conception of a deity.

Jeremiah 14:8 You hope of Israel, its Saviour in the time of trouble, why should You be as a foreigner in the land, and as a wayfaring man who turns aside to stay for a night?-
This could be saying that God seems as disinterested in the land as a traveller passing through a foreign country who only spends a night there in transit. But the idea may be that
God was to Israel as a wayfaring man who wanted to lodge with them, but they only let Him stay one night. It must be so awful to have such a wonderful spirit of lavishing grace and love, consciously giving out life and patient forgiveness to so many; and yet not be appreciated for it, to have puny humans shaking their fist at God because they die a brief moment of time sooner than they think they should, to have tiny people arrogantly questioning His love. Seeing that God is Almighty, and God could have made [and could re-make] His creation to ‘understand’ and respond in a robot-like way... and seeing God has real and deep emotional feelings... it all makes God almost a tragic figure.

A slightly different slant of interpretation opens when we perceive that the word for "stay" is that used in the phrase "lodging place" in Jer. 9:2, where God says that He wished to leave His people and find a "lodging place in the wilderness for wayfaring men" and spend the night there, away from His adulterous people. Jeremiah here recalls those statements of God in Jer. 9:2, and sees it as tragic that God had felt this way about His people. And indeed it was and is. The desire to leave them was because they were adulterous women and dishonest men (Jer. 9:2). And so the God of all grace, the most surpassingly loving husband, wanted to become an endlessly travelling man, weary of the road, who wanted to just turn in to a one night motel and rest from His weariness. He elsewhere speaks as if the emotional drain of the relationship wearied Him (Jer. 15:6). This of course is Almighty God adjusting Himself to mortal man, allowing Himself to feel through our limitations.


Jeremiah 14:9 Why should You be like a scared man, as a mighty man who can’t save? Yet You, Yahweh, are in the midst of us, and we are called by Your name; don’t leave us-
The idea of God limiting His omnipotence and also His omniscience explains why God is described as if He suddenly becomes aware of something, makes haste to intervene, or is hurt by sudden apostasy. These ideas are hard to understand if in fact God has total knowledge, i.e. awareness, from the beginning. They either express God to us in human terms; or God limits His omniscience, as He limits His omnipotence, and therefore disallows Himself from foreseeing all our possible futures.  The fact is, God ‘the Saviour of Israel’ can become “as a mighty man that cannot save” by our refusal to accept His salvation (Jer. 14:8,9). God left Himself as a mighty man that cannot save, as a wayfaring man wandering through His own deserted land- so much does He respect our freewill decisions concerning Him, no matter how much they hurt Him.

Jeremiah 14:10 Thus says Yahweh to this people, Even so have they loved to wander; they have not refrained their feet: therefore Yahweh does not accept them; now He will remember their iniquity, and visit their sins-
God's response seems to suggest that Jeremiah's desperate plea for God to remain with them (:9) is out of step with how things really are. The reality is that they had wandered away from Him. They had no applied any self control in going away from Him. See on :12.

Jeremiah 14:11 Yahweh said to me, Don’t pray for this people for their good-
Ez. 22:30 says that if a person had been found at this time who would have powerfully interceded for Jerusalem, 'stood in the gap', God wouldn't have destroyed Jerusalem - "that I should not destroy it" in Ez. 22:30 is an allusion to Abraham interceding for Sodom in Gen. 18:28. But there was not such a person, because they were "all" dross (Ez. 22:18,19). Jeremiah was in the land at the time and was surely righteous, but he had been told not to intercede for the people (Jer. 11:14; 14:11). It seems that if another like him had been found, in addition to Ezekiel in exile, then the judgments could have been averted. There were simply so many possible scenarios! And this is what we must expect if even time periods can be shortened or extended in response to human behaviour. And yet Jeremiah himself seems to have been too 'pro' Israel. He was shocked at the depth of their weakness and even naive to it; and in Lamentations he seems to consider God had acted too harshly against His people. So perhaps in any case Jeremiah was not the appropriate interceder.

Jeremiah 14:12 When they fast, I will not hear their cry-
The command had been for Jeremiah not to pray for the people (:11). But the reason is given that God would not hear their prayer. So we see reflected here the way in which in some circumstances God is prepared to hear the prayer of a third party as the prayer of the person being prayed for. See on Mk. 2:5. But Judah had moved so far from God that this was now not possible.

And when they offer burnt offering and meal offering, I will not accept them- Although in real spiritual terms, Judah had gone far away from God to their idols (see on :10), they still made offerings to Yahweh. But these were unacceptable because they were worshipping other gods and offering to them too at the same time. 

But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine and by the plague- Judah were in fact not consumed by these things; in wrath God remembered mercy, by grace. See on Jer. 10:18.

Jeremiah 14:13 Then I said, Ah, Lord Yahweh! Behold, the prophets tell them, You shall not see the sword, neither shall you have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place-
Again we sense the overly positive view of Israel held by Jeremiah. It ought to have been intuitively obvious to him that these were not Yahweh's words. And yet Jeremiah apparently enquires of God what is going on. It likewise ought to have been obvious to Judah, with the severe drought upon them, that they already had famine. They were asking a lot of faith from people to believe that their prophecies of "peace in this place" would come true. And yet that promise was also given by the true prophets, word for word the same in Hag. 2:9, requiring faith in it as well. But it was the perversity of human nature to put their faith in a false prophecy.

Jeremiah 14:14 Then Yahweh said to me, The prophets prophesy lies in My name; I didn’t send them, neither have I commanded them, neither spoke I to them: they prophesy to you a lying vision and divination, a thing of nothing and the deceit of their own heart-
"A thing of nothing" is the language of idols. This is how the Hebrew word is usually translated. Their false prophecies were therefore connected with idolatry. They claimed that the idols of Babylon and the nations were inspiring them with messages of peace. That Babylon should come and destroy them, the very opposite of peace, was an appropriate judgment. Yet they made these prophecies in Yahweh's Name. We see here how they claimed that their idolatry was all sanctioned by Yahweh and was a form of worshipping Him.

Jeremiah 14:15 Therefore thus says Yahweh concerning the prophets who prophesy in My name and I didn’t send them, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land: By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed-
Whilst the deaths of the false prophets is not recorded, we can assume that this judgment was not ameliorated as that upon the entire society was (see on :12). The anger of Judah's "lovers" was because she had promised total loyalty to them and their gods; but then they discovered Judah had made such agreements with many nations, and the Jerusalem temple was full of idols of various nations. We can understand therefore that the priests and prophets would have been particularly targeted by the invaders, and indeed would have been slain by the sword.

Jeremiah 14:16 The people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them- them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness on them-
Sin is its own judgment; the judgment / punishment is likened here to their own sin. The judgment of the teachers / prophets is paralleled with that of their hearers. It wasn't simply that the masses were genuinely misled. The teachers taught what they perceived their audience wanted to hear, and this explains why teacher and listener alike were condemned. And yet when the people were cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, Jeremiah, the true prophet, laments as if this judgment is somehow unreasonable (e.g. Lam. 2:21). I feel that whilst the human tragedy was enough to make anybody cry "Too much!", Jeremiah is here out of step with the God who had inspired him to make just this prophecy in places like Jer. 14:16.

I have noted several times that the prophesied judgments in Jeremiah differ from each other; he has also predicted that there would be such mass destruction that there would be nobody to bury the dead, for all would be slain (Jer. 14:16). But Jer. 19:11 speaks of burying bodies in Topheth. These different scenarios didn't all come true. There were various prophetic options, according to the exact measure of Israel's repentance and Jeremiah's intercession; or perhaps, simply according to the pity which Yahweh would finally show this sinful people.

Jeremiah 14:17 You shall say this word to them, Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease-
This could be read as an invitation to repent in tears, in the desperate hope God may yet change His intended judgment; hence
LXX "Let your eyes shed tears day and night, and let them not cease: for the daughter of my people has been sorely bruised, and her plague is very grievous". But there is an ambiguity in the text, whereby apparently God is the one who is mourning night and day. Perhaps this is purposeful; they were to mourn as He did, seeing the coming judgments from His perspective, rather than from the human perspective of considering them as just a tragic misfortune. Jeremiah himself entered into this, for he wept night and day for Zion. This passage is alluded to in Lam. 2:18, where Jeremiah appears to ask the remaining Jews in Jerusalem to pray night and day; and yet there too, the grammar is ambiguous. For he may be saying there that they had already done this. The truth was they had not, Jeremiah had done so, but contrary to what he hoped, God was not prepared to accept his tears of repentance and mourning as theirs (see on Jer. 14:11).

For the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous wound- This is the language of the rape of a virgin. And yet as Jeremiah and Ezekiel have made very clear, Judah had long since given up her virginity to the nations. So this loss of virginity had been of her own eager choice. The "breach" recalls the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Jer. 39:2; 52:7); indeed the word seems to have the sense of the rape of a virgin here when we read that the virgin daughter of Zion had been breached (Jer. 14:17). And both Jeremiah and even God, according to Jer. 8:21, felt themselves breached in this breach of God's people and city. This was how closely identified God was with His wicked people; and how much more does He feel with us in Christ, we who at least seek not to live as Judah did at that time...

Like us, Jeremiah didn’t consistently have a heart of compassion. Initially he didn’t even want to preach to his people. And he even prayed that he would so grieve for them in regard to the message he gave them, that he would cry for them day and night: “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1). And this prayer was heard. For by Lamentations, this is just what he was doing. And if what we read of Jeremiah troubles us, we too can pray for a heart that bleeds, and through the experience of life which the Lord allows us, He will develop such a heart in those who want it. You may be so caught up in your business, your family, your ecclesia even, your web of social contact… that in honest moments, you know that your heart doesn’t bleed as it should. You see the needs and pain and struggle of men and women, but it doesn’t touch your heart very deeply. Jeremiah may well have been like this; but he prayed for a new heart, and so can you. Jeremiah had actually been commanded by God to have such a level of grief for His people: “Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken” (Jer. 14:17). Jeremiah’s grief was God’s word of care and concern to the people; and so it can be with us. Jeremiah was to be like this, to reflect God’s passion for His people; so he prayed that he would have such a heart of true compassion [note that the chapters in Jeremiah are totally out of sequence chronologically]; and in the end, he found it.

In Jer. 6:7, God laments that the continual bubbling forth of their wickedness, as from a perpetual fountain, was matched in His continual woundedness. That God can be wounded by our behaviour... is a stunning concept. This reveals the extent to which God has sensitized Himself toward man, when we are but ants before Him, the King of the cosmos. Yet the same word is used here of the deep wounding of God's people by the invaders (Jer. 14:17; 30:14); but God felt that Himself even before they did.

Jeremiah 14:18 If I go forth into the field, then, behold, the slain with the sword! If I enter into the city, then, behold, those who are sick with famine! For both the prophet and the priest go about in the land, and have no knowledge-
This is Jeremiah looking ahead in faith to the fulfillment of God's words. "Go about..." is the language of trading. Jeremiah blames his own people- the priests and prophets- for the situation. And it was their love of material benefit and gain which led them to their false teachings, and which in turn led the people to accept it so eagerly. They had "no knowledge" in the Hebraic sense of relationship with God. Again we see that the acceptance of false doctrine / understanding is often based on subconscious immoral desires or is predicated upon moral rather than purely intellectual issues.

Jeremiah 14:19 Have You utterly rejected Judah? Has Your soul loathed Zion? Why have You struck us, and there is no healing for us? We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of healing, and behold, dismay!-
Again we sense Jeremiah somewhat out of step with God, accusing Him of not giving peace and healing- despite the reasons for that having been specifically stated by God. However he may be quoting the words of the people, which :22 then comments upon. The lack of quotation marks and expected rubric for quotations often makes interpretation of Jeremiah difficult. They "looked for peace" because the false prophets told them that; or perhaps they referred to Isaiah's prophecies of peace in the restored Kingdom of God. The terms of God's covenant had been clear, using the same phrase for 'the soul loathing'; if Israel's soul loathed God's judgments, then His soul would loathe them (Lev. 26:11,15,30,43). They had loathed or literally 'cast away' God their husband (s.w. Ez. 16:45), and so the distance between God and themselves was of their making and initiative. 

The level of shameless self-justification is extreme; so extreme that we reflect it could only have arisen from allowing themselves to be utterly convinced that they were serving Yahweh through serving the idols, and that the words of the false prophets were those of God. But this utter conviction was not simply a case of intellectual failure or being mislead by their teachers. It had a strong moral basis to it; in that they were believing what they wanted t believe, in order to justify their lusts.

Jeremiah 14:20 We acknowledge, Yahweh, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers; for we have sinned against You-
As noted on :21, the lack of quotation marks and expected rubric for quotations often makes interpretation of Jeremiah difficult. This seems to be God's fantasy about their response of repentance; or these could be Jeremiah's words, hoping that his feelings would be counted as those of the people. But as discussed on :12, he had been specifically told that God was not going to accept this. In which case he was absolutely out of step with God in this matter; for God had said that he should not pray nor reason in this way (see on :11).

Jeremiah earlier has repeated God's request that they "acknowledge iniquity" (Jer. 3:13). But they did not. But here he says that "we" have done so. He either considered that he was representative of the people, or he failed to accept that their acknowledging of iniquity was only on a surface level. Although on one hand Jeremiah is in step with God's feeling and thinking, he comes over so often (especially in Lamentations) as implying that God is unjust. He had an over positive view of his people. They did not "acknowledge iniquity" as required, but he considers they had done.

Jeremiah 14:21 Do not abhor us, for Your name’s sake; do not disgrace the throne of Your glory-
we find something wonderful: “Do not abhor us… do not disgrace the throne of Your glory”. We, weak humans, are paralleled with the throne of God’s glory. Although Jerusalem is in mind, Jeremiah seems to understand that God's throne is essentially His repentant people.

Remember, don’t break Your covenant with us- Jeremiah appears again out of step with God. For he has repeatedly lamented how Israel have broken the covenant. Israel's breaking of the covenant meant that God had therefore broken the covenant (Lev. 26:15,44 s.w.). Idolatry was therefore to "break My covenant" (Dt. 31:20; Ez. 44:7). God's covenant was broken by them. So the issue of God breaking His covenant was not relevant; He had broken His covenant insofar as they had broken it. What was required was their repentance and desperate seeking of a new covenant with God to replace the one they had broken.

Jeremiah 14:22 Are there any among the vanities of the nations that can cause rain? or can the sky give showers? Aren’t You He, Yahweh our God? Therefore we will wait for You; for You have made all these things
- As explained on :20, Jeremiah is apparently assuming that his feelings will be accepted as the peoples'. He indeed waited for Yahweh, but the people did not. As Jeremiah elsewhere has to point out and prophecy, the people continued in their mad devotion to the idols right up to the fall of the city. And those idols were supposed to have been the creators of the various planets. Here Jeremiah appears to deny those idolatrous beliefs by saying that Yahweh alone is their creator and therefore in total control of the rainfall. But in reality the people were still worshipping the various rain gods and planets, in the hope they would give rain. And so Jeremiah was wrong to speak for the people in this way; and he has been specifically told not to do so, as explained on :11,12.