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Jeremiah 8:1 At that time, says Yahweh, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves- The valley of dry bones vision in Ez. 37 depicted Israel in captivity as bones waiting to come together and return to the land as a great army. We noted on Jer. 7:32 that this vision was as it were being set up by the picture of Israel's bodies being left in a valley unburied. Jer. 8:1 and other passages in Ezekiel (Ez. 6:5; 24:4) had described both Judah and Israel as dry bones. The feeling of those bones was that "our bones are dried and our hope is lost" (Ez. 37:11). Judah in captivity felt that they had no "hope", that God had cast them off, and that they were unable to have a full relationship with Him outside the land. However, it seems that this was a rather convenient piece of theology for them- they were doing well in Babylon, and despite the opportunity to return to the land, they largely chose to remain in Babylon.

But instead of allowing this revival to happen, instead the people would superstitiously use those dry bones in order to desperately appeal to their false gods to respond (:2). The revival of Ez. 37 was therefore precluded by Judah at the time; that is the point of the connection. But it will ultimately come true in the last days.

Jeremiah 8:2 And they shall spread them before the sun, the moon and all the army of the sky which they have loved, and which they have served, and after which they have walked, and which they have sought, and which they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried, they shall be for dung on the surface of the earth
- See on :1. They were so devoted to their idolatry that even when their leadership were slain, they would use the bones to implore their idols to still save them. They would not be reformed even by the experience of national condemnation. "Walked... sought... worshipped... served" are all terms used of how they ought to have served Yahweh. "They shall not be gathered" stands in tension with the repeated prophecies that judged Judah would then be gathered. They could have been, there could have been a restored Kingdom of God in Judah, but they precluded its fulfilment at that time by refusing to be gathered.

Jeremiah 8:3 Death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue that remain of this evil family, that remain in all the places where I have driven them, says Yahweh of Armies
- I suggested on :1 that Ezekiel's prophecy of the revived dry bones could have been fulfilled, but instead of allowing the Spirit of new life to enter them, Judah preferred death to life. They used the dead bones to desperately implore the help of their idols. And this would be done by the exiles, who were driven into exile in "all places". Ezekiel's ministry was specifically to those exiles, and yet he was up against the fact that it was here prophesied that the exiles would preclude the fulfilment of the prophecies of life, and choose death instead.

Jeremiah 8:4 Moreover you shall tell them, Thus says Yahweh: Shall men fall, and not rise up again? Shall one turn the wrong way, and not return?
- As explained on :1-3, they could have been revived fro those dead bones. Men who take a wrong turning do eventually retrace their steps. But these would not (:5). Jeremiah often makes a play upon the Hebrew word shub- it can mean to turn away (from God), and also to 'turn back' or repent (e.g. Jer. 3:1,7,10,12,14,19,22; 4:1). If Israel turned in repentance, then God would return them to their land (Jer. 15:19); if they turned away from Him, He would turn them out into the Gentile world. Our lives are a twisting and turning, either to or away from God; and God is waiting to confirm us in those twists and turns. Jer. 8:4-6 comment that if one turns from the right road, then they must turn back. We all know how when we miss the way in finding an unfamiliar address, there's a tendency to keep on going along the wrong road- because turning back is so psychologically difficult. And this is the image that God uses here- to appeal to Israel, and ourselves, not to foolishly 'backslide', keep on turning away, from Him- just because that's the course we're set upon.

Jeremiah 8:5 Why then is this people of Jerusalem sliding back by a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return
- The Hebrew words for “sliding back” and “return” are identical. The image is of a man on a muddy slope; he slides back either into sin, or into the way of the Lord. We must ‘slide’ one way or the other; every micro decision which makes up the stream of daily life is confirmed by God one way or the other. The refusal to return after taking a wrong turning (:4) is readily imaginable by our generation. If we take a wrong turning, we must come to a point where we humble ourselves and turn back. If we refuse to do this, then we shall be forever lost. We continue going further and further along the wrong path only because we are proud. But they were on a perpetual sliding back from God's intended path. They "refused to return", because they refused to be ashamed (Jer. 3:3 s.w.); and they "refused" God's word through the prophets because it shamed them (Zech. 7:11). It was pride which was at the core of their refusal, and their perpetual lostness.

Jeremiah 8:6 I listened and heard, but they didn’t speak aright-
The speaker here is God (:5). He was intently listening for the words of repentance He so wished to hear. We see here His eagerness for human repentance. As we go forth into this world to witness, the word we preach is being watched over by God, with His ear eager to hear any sounds of response. This word for intently listening is that used for God's wish that people would intently listen to His word (Jer. 6:17,19 etc.). If we listen, then God will listen to us. Again we see related our attitude to God's word, and His attitude to our words in prayer. Bible reading and response thereto is part and parcel of God's response to our words in prayer.

No man repents him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Each one turns to his course, as a horse that rushes headlong in the battle- "What have I done?" is the question God asked Adam and Cain (s.w. Gen. 3:13; 4:10). Adam is everyman, and he specifically represents Israel in their sin. But they refused to listen, and were like a horse set on a course, blinkered to anything apart from rushing headlong forwards along a chosen course. Their question was "Why has Yahweh done this to us?" (Jer. 5:19); when the question should have been rather elicited as to "What have I done?".

Jeremiah 8:7 Yes, the stork in the sky knows her appointed times; and the turtle-dove and the swallow and the crane observe the time of their coming; but My people don’t know Yahweh’s law
- The parallel is between knowing God's law, and repenting (:6). To know God's word is not therefore an academic issue; engagement with His word as intended will elicit repentance. The birds return from migration naturally, and there is the sense that repentance ought to have been somehow the natural response from Israel. A child will naturally repent of bad behaviour; but Israel didn't do this because they were driven by an underlying narrative, that they were right, God was unjust, and they were too proud to accept they had sinned. This is the awful power of human pride. Israel therefore chose to be oblivious of what they well knew; there was no (awareness of) God's judgment in their way of life (Is. 59:8; Jer. 5:4) and therefore they lacked that innate sense of judgment to come which they ought to have had, as surely as the stork knows the coming time for her migration (Jer. 8:7).

Jeremiah 8:8 How do you say, We are wise, and the law of Yahweh is with us? But, behold, the false pen of the scribes has worked falsely
- As explained on :7, engagement with God's law was and is designed to elicit repentance. But it didn't in Israel's case, because their scribes had misrepresented God's law as meaning that their idolatry was in fact legitimate worship of Yahweh. As noted on Jer. 7:8,10 and often, the priests and prophets were teaching the illiterate people what they subconsciously wanted to hear. And so it was not simply that the false prophets mislead the ignorant masses; the masses wanted to believe that they had not sinned and were free to worship idols as part of their Yahweh worship. And so all society were judged. Those who said "The law of Yahweh is with us" were the prophets and priests, of whom Jeremiah was one. Here he is therefore deeply condemning his very own people. "False.... falsely" is the same word used in 2 Chron. 18:22, where God put a false or lying spirit in the mouth of prophets, to confirm His apostate people in the path they chose. And so at Jeremiah's time, "the prophets prophesy falsely" (Jer. 5:31; 6:13 s.w.), falsely saying that the temple would never fall (Jer. 7:14), twisting Yahweh's words to say that.

Jeremiah 8:9 The wise men are disappointed, they are dismayed and taken: behold, they have rejected the word of Yahweh; and what kind of wisdom is in them?
- Misrepresenting Yahweh's word (:8) was the same as rejecting it. This needs some meditation. Interpreting God's word can so easily be done with our own unconscious agenda in mind; and this can effectively be a rejecting of His word. "Disappointed [ashamed]... dismayed" is the phrase used of all the other nations overcome by the northern invader (Is. 37:27). As noted often so far in Jeremiah, the deliverance of Jerusalem at the last minute during the Assyrian invasion a few generations previously could have been repeated during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. But it wasn't, because there was not enough repentance. And this is the tragedy of those who twist God's word to what they wish it would say- they end their days in disappointment. Judah were not ashamed [s.w. "disappointed"] at their sins (:12), but they would be ultimately. So the disappointment and dismay spoken of here finally will be true only at judgment day. And then it will be too late to change the outcome.

Jeremiah 8:10 Therefore will I give their wives to others, and their fields to those who shall possess them
Land and wife were the supreme possessions of a man, and God would give these to others.

For each one from the least even to the greatest is given to covetousness; from the prophet even to the priest each one deals falsely- The leadership reflected what the people wanted, and so all of the society was equally guilty. Although there was a special priesthood, it was clearly God's intention that all Israel should be like priests; they were to be a "Kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19:6). Israel were all “saints”, and yet saints and priests are paralleled in passages like Ps. 132:16. Israel in the wilderness had clothes which didn’t wear out- just as the Priestly clothes didn’t, and were handed down from generation to generation (so Ex. 29:29 implies). Israel were to teach every man his neighbour and brother, saying, Know the Lord (Heb. 8:11). God therefore saw all Israel as represented by the priests (Hos. 4:9; Is. 24:2; Jer. 5:31; 8:10).

Jeremiah 8:11 They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace
- There were false prophets both in Judah as the Babylonians approached, and also amongst those of them already in exile (Jer. 6:14; 8:11; Ez. 13:16). They were assuring the sinful people that in fact they were at peace with God, and that contrary to the prophetic message of desolation at the hand of the Babylonians, they would instead have "peace". This is described in Jeremiah as "slightly" healing the great wound or illness of Judah. That wound is described ambiguously; it was a wound or breach in themselves caused by God's smiting of them in the earlier Babylonian incursions (Jer. 14:19), but also caused by them to God Almighty. "Lightly" carries with it the idea of not serious, light hearted, superficial, trifling. And we must likewise beware of this kind of religion that is pedalled in the name of Christianity; not facing our personal issues, and using a few Bible words from here and there to superficially cover over the most fundamental issues of our eternal destiny. And this was and is so attractive. But sin and its consequences are far deeper than any superficial, light hearted covering. It requires nothing less than the blood and word of the Lord Jesus.

Jeremiah 8:12 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush-
"Ashamed" is s.w. "disappointed" in :9. They refused to be ashamed, yet they will be ashamed ultimately- in the shame of the rejected in the last day. We are either ashamed of our sins in repentance; or we will be made ashamed of them in the judgment (Jer. 6:15 RVmg.)- it’s shame either way. We either wail for our sins now, or we will wail for them at judgment day (Jer. 9:19,20). Our shame should be before God for our sins against Him, and not before men. Hence the prophets often criticize Israel for not being ashamed of their sins before God. Our shame before men leads to anger; our shame before God is resolved in repentance and belief in His gracious forgiveness. Thus Jeremiah recalls how his repentance involved being ashamed, and yet then being "instructed" (Jer. 31:19). It's through knowing this kind of shame before God that we come to a position where we are unashamed.

Therefore shall they fall among those who fall; in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, says Yahweh- The allusion is to falling down before idols. By doing so they were living out how they were to fall before the nations of those idols. They would be cast down by God, but they had cast themselves down. Sin is its own condemnation.

Jeremiah 8:13 I will utterly consume them, says Yahweh: no grapes shall be on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade-
By grace, the people were not utterly consumed. They produced enough fruit even after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem to bring produce to the temple site as an offering (Jer. 41:5). Jer. 2:21 had stated that Judah brought forth bad grapes; but here, the Hebrew suggests there were no grapes brought forth. So bringing forth an appearance of spiritual fruit is going to be revealed as having no fruit.

And the things that I have given them shall pass away from them- The idea is "And I will give them to those who shall pass over them". This is the language of invading armies (Is. 8:7; Dan. 11:10,40).

Jeremiah 8:14 Why do we sit still? Assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the fortified cities, and let us be silent there-
This was an act of disobedience. There was to be destruction in the land, but there was potentially safety / salvation in Jerusalem for those who were obedient and repentant (Jer. 4:5-7). This was a test to Judah, because they trusted in their defenced cities (Jer. 5:17). But the prophecy of Jeremiah 4 (and Mic. 5:11) asks them to believe that these cities would fall, and there would be salvation only in Jerusalem. And yet they were disobedient, and did go into those other defenced cities.


For Yahweh our God has put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against Yahweh- The sufferings of Christ on the cross have connections with the punishments for Israel's sins (e.g. being offered gall to drink = Jer. 8:14; Lam. 3:5). Israel were temporarily forsaken by God because of their sins (Is. 49:14; 54:7), and therefore so was Christ. Christ was chastened with the rod of men "and with the stripes of the children of men", i.e. Israel (Is. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24; Mic. 5:1), in His death on the cross.

Jeremiah 8:15 We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of healing, and behold, dismay!
- The false prophets predicted "peace", but it didn't come. And now the people blame this dashed expectation on Yahweh. They liked to cling on to their belief that the false prophets were in fact prophesying from Yahweh, and therefore the failed fulfilments of their words were Yahweh's fault. This was just perversity.

"Good" here refers to the promised Kingdom of God. The future Kingdom is called “good things” in Is. 52:7 (quoted in Rom. 10:15) and Jer. 8:15. "All things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28) doesn’t mean that somehow everything will work out OK for us in this life- for so often they don’t. We are asked to carry the Lord’s cross, to suffer now and be redeemed in glory later at His return, in the “good things” of the Kingdom.

Jeremiah 8:16 The snorting of his horses is heard from Dan: at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones the whole land trembles; for they have come, and have devoured the land and all that is in it; the city and those who dwell therein
- News of the Babylonian advance came from Dan in the north, which was in the territory of the ten tribes. This continues the theme that Judah were intended to have learnt from what happened to the ten tribes. The past tense is put for the future here, so certain was God's word of fulfilment. The people trembled in fear because of the Babylonian advance, and yet endlessly assured themselves that the predictions of "peace" by the false prophets were true. This is a quite imaginable situation, and is yet another internal coherence to the Biblical record. 

Jeremiah 8:17 For, behold, I will send serpents, adders, among you, which will not be charmed; and they shall bite you, says Yahweh
- "Charmed" is also translated "orator" or "prayer" (Is. 3:3; 26:16). No prayer, using even the most charming words, was now going to be heard; and for this reason Jeremiah had been told not to pray for the people. But he continued to do so, knowing that God is always open to dialogue. See on Jer. 7:16. There may be an intentional allusion to the serpents in the wilderness (s.w. Num. 21:6,8) whose deadly bite could only be healed by looking in desperate repentance at the brazen serpent, which represented their lifted up future Messiah. For in all these words of judgment there are allusions which suggest the possibility of forgiveness and restoration even at the last moment.

Jeremiah 8:18 Oh that I could comfort myself against sorrow! My heart is faint within me
- What begins as Jeremiah's cry from the heart merges into God's- for it is Yahweh who becomes the speaker in :19. Jeremiah's conflicted emotions can be read as his having a too positive view of Israel, and his book of lamentations could therefore be read as a statement of protest at God's judgments. But it could also be that Jeremiah was so in tune with God's thinking that these struggles at the amount of suffering brought upon Judah were also God's. The struggles within Jeremiah would therefore reflect God's changes of mind and feeling about judging His people were endlessly "kindled together", just as they were reflected in Hosea's oscillations of feeling concerning Gomer; see on Hos. 11:8. Jeremiah's heart was "faint within me" both before (Jer. 8:18) and after (Lam. 1:22), the destruction of Jerusalem. He was so sure that the prophetic word that he even felt as if it had come true before it did. It was the heart of Judah which was faint (Is. 1:5), and Jeremiah identified totally with their feelings in sorrow with them.

Jeremiah 8:19 Behold, the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people from a land that is very far off: Isn’t Yahweh in Zion? Isn’t her King in her? Why have they provoked Me to anger with their engraved images, and with foreign vanities?
- Both God and Jeremiah foresee here the captivity in the "land that is very far off". Or we can read with AV "Because of them that dwell in a far country". Until the cherubim of glory departed from Zion, God's shekinah glory was still there. Despite that very clear statement of His presence in Zion, they still worshipped the vain idols of their enemies. It all seemed so incomprehensible even to God. This impression that God found it incomprehensible reflects the degree to which He limits His omniscience in order to enter into legitimate relationship with His people in real time. Israel after all was the only nation to have the visible symbols of their God's living  presence amongst them, as seen in the shekinah glory between the cherubim. And still they preferred the vanities of foreign idols. The same apparently incomprehensible rejection of an evidently living God and Lord goes on today. See on :22.

Jeremiah 8:20 The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved
- Jeremiah seems to now be thinking ahead, to after the destruction of Jerusalem. That harvest of judgment (Jer. 51:33; Rev. 14:15) would end, and so would the 'Summer harvest', the harvest of tree fruits which followed the main harvest season, which was from April to June- and yet still he foresaw that Judah would not be saved. He speaks in the present tense of that which was yet future. "Saved" is the word which in Greek would form part of the word 'Jesus', Yah saves. And this has been the abiding tragedy of Israelite history; that all the harvests of judgment did not bring them to accept Yah's salvation, which is now in the person of His Son Jesus. Not being saved is paralleled effectively with there being no fruit harvest. Spiritual fruit was required for the intended salvation to come, and that meant repentance. Perhaps in a literal sense, the people looked for salvation from the Babylonian siege in the summer, but it didn't come. Jerusalem fell in August 587 BC (2 Chron. 36:18,19), which would have been at the end of the 'summer [harvest]'.

Jeremiah 8:21 For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt: I mourn; dismay has taken hold on me
- We noted on :18 how as the heart of Judah which was faint (Is. 1:5), so was Jeremiah's. He identified totally with their feelings in sorrow with them. And yet "My people" surely speaks of Yahweh Himself as well. God likens Himself to a young man hopelessly in love with a woman (Israel) who was really no good, a man who took the blame when it was undoubtedly her fault (Is. 54:6,7), grieving that she wouldn't return to Him (Am. 4:8 etc.). "I am broken with their whorish heart... I am crushed" (Ez. 6:9; Jer. 8:21 NIV). God likens Himself to a broken man because of Israel's fickleness. He went through the pain of the man who knows He has been forgotten by the woman he still desperately remembers (Hos. 2:13). "Hurt" in Hebrew carries the idea of a breach, and we recall 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 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...

Jeremiah 8:22 Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there? Why then isn’t the health of the daughter of my people recovered?
- Gilead's balm was well known (Gen. 37:25; Ez. 27:17). There was balm and a physician in Gilead which could heal the sick person- but they wouldn't go to it. This continues the sense of incomprehension we explained on :19. The cure was readily available- but Judah refused to make use of it.