Chapter 4 (Verse by Verse)
"How is the gold become dim!": Gold symbolizes faith --
a tried faith in God, as gold that has passed through the fire and been purified
(1Pe 1:7; Rev 3:18). Thus, gold -- or faith -- is the basis of the kingdom of
God, both in the past and in the future. In Jeremiah's time, true faith had all
but completely disappeared, and thus the kingdom was removed from the "daughter
of Zion" (Ezek 21:25-27). The gold in short, became "dim".
"How is the most fine gold changed!": This is a
reference to the deeds of Solomon and Rehoboam (see 1Ki 10:17; 14:26,
"The stones of the sanctuary": "The holy stones" (RSV),
perhaps the gems of the breastplate (Exo 28:17-21). This is figurative language;
the literal gold and precious stones would never be discarded or ignored by the
avaricious Babylonians. What was scattered about in the streets were the young
children dying of hunger (see v 2 and 2:19)!
"How are they esteemed as earthen pitchers": Those who
might have been precious stones and fine gold instead failed to please
God, and like cheap pottery they were to be broken, as in Jer 18:2-6; 19:11; and
Isa 30:14 (compare 2Ti 2:12).
As in Isa 1:3 and Jer 8:7, the people of Israel are compared,
and that unfavorably, to animals.
"Sea monsters": By which the AV translators (so also
those of the NEB) must have meant whales. But the Hebrew "tannin" may signify
several different beasts -- either of the water or the land. Since these
particular "tannin" give suck to their young, some mammal must be intended here.
Suggestions of various translators include "jackals" (RSV, NIV, and as in Isa
13:21), "she-wolves" (Keil), and "wild dogs" (Roth.).
"The daughter of my people is become cruel": The Jews
were compelled by God's mercy (Exo 34:6, 7) to show mercy to others (Mat 22:37),
but they failed, becoming covetous and proud (as in 2Ti 3:2-4), "without natural
affection" (Rom 1:31).
"Like the ostriches in the wilderness
('desert')": The ostriches are cannibals, eating their young (cp Job
39:13-18). See Lam 2:20 and 4:10 for the depth of the cruelty of
Even contemptible beasts of prey suckle their young, but the
mothers of Israel under the pressures of the siege and famine behaved like the
ostriches, notoriously indifferent toward their offspring (see Deut 58:53, 56,
See 1:11 and 2:11, 12.
How fragile and unstable is "high society", then and now! How
sad that so much time and thought and wealth is given over to the cultivation of
"good taste" -- dress, furnishings, art and food -- while the "weightier
matters" of truth, justice and mercy are ignored! But some day (and it will be
soon) the tables will be turned!
"They that did feed delicately": "Those who feasted on
dainties" (RSV). Isa 3:16-26 and Amos 6:3-7 provide the details for the same
general condemnation of Israel: their sumptuous mode of life.
"Scarlet": The garments of the wealthy (2Sa 1:24),
connected with sin in Isa 1:18.
"Dunghills": Better, "ash heaps" (RSV; NIV). Or
"garbage" (Hillers), as though searching for food.
"For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my
people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom": Sodom and
Gomorrah were destroyed swiftly (Gen 19:24), but the final pangs of Jerusalem
were intense and drawn-out (vv 8-10). Their deeds were the same (Isa 1:9, 10;
Ezek 16:46-50), but the responsibility of the Jews was far greater (Amos 3:2;
Mat 11:23, 24: see the introductory notes). The lesson is for us too (Heb 2:3;
Luke 12:47). We are just as responsible to God -- perhaps more so -- than were
"That was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on
her": Sodom was directly destroyed by God. But Jerusalem was left to human
hands -- a much worse fate, as witnessed by David's choice of God's punishment
over man's punishment (2Sa 24:14) and Christ's reference to Sodom's judgment
(Mat 10:15; 11:24).
Sodom was "overthrown as in a moment", yet Jude speaks of
Sodom and Gomorrah "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (v 7). This
apparent contradiction is easily explained in that the effect of the fire (ie,
absolute annihilation), but not the literal flames, was indeed
The former state of Israel. This refers to holiness and
dedication -- Israel's former state of mind toward God. Contrast this with v
"Her Nazarites": "Separated ones" (Num 6). Compare Amos
2:11, 12 and Jer 35 (the Rechabites). The entire nation had once been this way:
reverent and healthy (cp David in 1Sa 16:17, Daniel in Dan 1:8-15, and Christ in
"Polishing": From a Hebrew word "gazar", meaning "to
"Their visage is blacker than a coal": Symbolic of
distress and depression (Job 30:25-31), mourning and famine (Rev 6:5,
In Joel 2:6, to "gather blackness" means literally to "grow
pale" (as in Nah. 2:10 also), in fear of coming judgments.
Hunger and starvation, being prolonged, were worse than
The privations of the siege bring out the worst in men and
women (cp 2:20; Jer 19:9; Lev 26:29; Deut 28:56; 2Ki 6:26-29). The darkness of
this scene accentuates the brightness of Zechariah's "Kingdom" promise, that the
streets of this very city Jerusalem will one day be full of boys and girls at
"Sodden": "Boiled" (RSV).
"The LORD hath accomplished His fury;
He hath poured out His fierce anger,
and hath kindled a fire in Zion,
and it hath devoured the foundations thereof":
Jerusalem was besieged approximately 18 months (2Ki 25:1-3). A literal fire is
mentioned in 2Ch 36:19, but fire is also a common symbol of any destruction (Jer
21:14; Deut 32:22).
"The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the
world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have
entered into the gates of Jerusalem": Wonderment, as in Deut 29:24-28; Psa
48:4-6; and Rev 18:9,10. The gates of Jerusalem had been saved by Hezekiah's
faith (Isa 36 and 37), but that faith had lasted only as long as that righteous
king had lived. The once-fine gold was dim, the faith was gone (v 1). Judah
trusted in idols, and thus relinquished her peculiarity and became as other
nations, which God destroyed by Sennacherib (2Ki 18:35). The elaborate
fortifications which had been built by Uzziah, Hezekiah and Manasseh to protect
Jerusalem were useless before the Babylonians.
"The sins of her prophets,
and the iniquities of her priests": The "prophets" and
priests, supposedly the spiritual leaders of Israel, bore the greatest burden of
guilt (Hos 4:6-10; Isa 9:14-16; they caused the people to err) because of their
idolatry and injustice.
"That have shed the blood of the just in the midst of
her": As they almost did to Jeremiah (Jer 26:7, 23), and as they did in fact
to the other prophets (2Ch 24:21; 2Ki 21:16; Mat 23:31, 37) and to Christ (Luke
"They have wandered ('staggered') as blind men in
the streets": They were blind leaders of the blind (Mat 15:14; 23:16), in
such a pitiful condition that they did not even realize their "blindness" (cp
"They have polluted themselves with blood": They made
no effort to cleanse their ways. They were ministers of God's sanctuary, which
they thoughtlessly polluted (Zep 3:4), worshipping "other gods" (Jer 19:4-6),
and polluting at last all the land by their idolatry (Num 35:33).
The only remedy was for God to require their blood, or
"They cried unto them": The "they" are the men of v 14,
who could not so much as touch the garments of the prophets and priests. See
"Depart ye... unclean... touch not": An allusion to the
leprous defilement of Lev 13:45.
"They shall no more sojourn there": The type of Jew
represented by the wicked priests and prophets became despised by his people and
refused even by the Gentiles among whom he fled. So again with Jewry's present
religious leaders (Zec 13:3-6).
"The anger of the Lord hath divided them": "Scattered"
"They respected not the persons of the priests": The
"they" here are the Babylonian invaders. Even the most barbarous of the Gentiles
could see the hypocrisy of the Jewish priests (5:12).
Verses 17-20: This section describes the sins of the
Common People. They were deceived by their leaders, condemned for false trust
and for itching ears which wanted only to hear "smooth things" (Isa
"As for us": Jeremiah speaks for the commoners, the
poor of Israel, those without a shepherd whose part Christ took.
"In our watching we have watched": Rotherham has,
rather descriptively, "In our Watchtower have we watched". In this verse
Jeremiah is recalling actual events during the siege.
"A nation that could not save us": Egypt (Isa 36:6; Jer
37:7), was neither willing nor able to help Israel when the crunch came -- as,
in the end, all Gentile nations will be unwilling or unable to help
"They hunt our steps": See 1:13 and 3:52.
"Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of
heaven": Eagles are used as a symbol of Babylon in Jer 4:13 and of Rome in
"They pursued us upon the mountains": As they did
Zedekiah (Jer 39:4, 5; 52:8, 9).
"The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD":
To whom was Jeremiah referring? Perhaps there are several answers:
"Was taken in their pits": "Destruction" (Psa
- Josiah, the last righteous king of Judah, and a type of Christ in many
ways, but who had died 608 BC (2Ch 35:25).
- Zedekiah, Judah's last king, and
the center of their feeble hopes, although a weak and wicked man -- who was
carried captive (2Ki 25:4-7).
- As typical of later days, Christ himself, the
only true hope of Israel (Luke 24:21), who was slain (Luke 19:14), leading to
the dispersion of 70 AD.
"Of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the
- The "pit" of nations -- from 588 BC to the twentieth century, a political
- Death, which Christ suffered (Luke 24:25, 26) to deliver others
from this same "pit" (Psa 107:20).
- The nation's sad, unrealized hopes in the kingship of Zedekiah.
true hope found in Christ, fulfilled in vv 21, 22 -- when Israel is cleansed
The "cup" is passed to "Edom": compare the notes, 1:15, 21,
"Daughter of Edom": Which allied itself with Babylon
against Judah (Oba 1:11; Joel 3:19; Psa 137:7).
"Edom" may symbolize "all nations" (as in Isa 34, where the
two are used interchangeably). "Edom", like "Adam", is related to the Hebrew
words for "red" (the color of sin) and "flesh" (the seat of sin). Thus it is a
fitting symbol for that last great fleshly sin-power to oppose Christ's kingdom,
the Russian "Reds" and their allies -- who will be destroyed by the "saviours"
upon the mountains of Israel (Oba 1:21; cp Isa 63:1).
Of course, the ancient territory of Edom is currently occupied
by the modern nations of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, nations that with their Arab
allies may yet play a significant part in the developing affairs of the last
"That dwellest in the land of Uz": "Uz", the territory
of righteous Job (Job 1:1), signifies "wisdom, advice, counsel". The citizens
were famed for their learning, and thus are typical of all Gentile enemies of
Israel, who boast in the "wisdom of this world", but are oblivious to the one
"hope of Israel".
"The cup also shall pass through unto thee": Judgments,
as in Psa 11:6; 75:8; Jer 49:12; Rev 14:10; 16:19 -- "rendered double" (Rev
18:6). The exact sentiment was earlier expressed by Jeremiah 25:15.
"Thou shalt be drunken, and shalt make thyself naked":
The association of drunkenness and self-exposure occurs also in Gen 9:21, 22 and
Hab 2:15, 16. In the spiritual sense, Israel had become "drunken" in arrogance
and worldliness, and she thereby uncovered the "nakedness" of her sin. Now she
sees the same fate awaiting her neighbor Edom.
"The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished":
Compare Isa 40:2: "Her warfare is accomplished... her iniquity is pardoned..."
The Jews have received recompense enough for their sins, and they will now be
healed in Christ's kingdom (Zec 1:13-16, 13:1; Rom 11:23).
"He will no more carry thee away into captivity": The
Israelites, gathered back to the Holy Land (Mic 2:12; Zep 3:19), become the
first dominion (Mic 4:6-8), sanctified unto God (Ezek 37:26-28). See also Jer
30:11: 31:10, 31-34; 33:15, 16; Zec 8:4, 5.
"He will discover thy sins": "He hath stripped the veil
from off thy sins" (Roth).