Jeremiah 8 Commentary

Sin and its punishment (8:4-17)

It is natural for a person who falls to pick himself up again, but the people of Jerusalem who have fallen spiritually make no attempt to return to God (4-6). It is natural for a bird to obey the laws of instinct

 

and know the time to migrate, but the people of Jerusalem do not know the laws of God or when to return to him (7).

The teachers of the law, the wisdom teachers, the priests and the prophets have all led the people astray. Instead of denouncing wrongdoing, they have told the people there is nothing to fear. They work solely for the benefits they hope to receive for themselves, but their gains will all be lost (8-11). Their behaviour is shameful, though they themselves feel no shame. They are supposed to be servants of God, but they are as useless as fruit trees that bear no fruit (12-13).

When the enemy invades, the people will realize that this is God’s judgment on them because of their sin, but it will then be too late. There will be no safety for them, not even inside the walled cities. They have deceived themselves and now they must bear the consequences (14-15). The prophet sees them shaking with fear as the enemy armies descend on them from the north (16-17).

Mourning for Judah (8:18-9:22)

The prophet is overcome with grief as he foresees the tragic end of the nation. The people wonder why God their King does not save them. God replies that it is because of their idolatry. They now realize that they can no longer expect his salvation (18-20). Nothing can heal Judah’s spiritual sickness now; the end has come. And nothing can heal the wounds of grief in Jeremiah’s heart as he sees his people suffer (21-22).

Jeremiah is unable to express the extent of his grief. He feels he could weep for ever (9:1). On the other hand, he knows that the judgment is fitting. As he returns to consider the sinful city in which he lives, he wishes he could leave it and go to some quiet resting-place in the country (2).

Since Judah’s society is characterized by lies and deceit (3-6), God warns that it is heading for a fiery judgment (7-9). The prophet foresees the desolation in Judah, with its cities ruined, its pasture lands destroyed, and its people either killed or taken captive to a foreign land (10-11).

If anyone asks why the land has been desolated (12), the answer is that the people have turned away from Yahweh and followed heathen gods. They have turned away from the law of God and followed their own stubborn hearts (13-16). In their distress and sorrow the people invite the professional mourners to come and wail over the dead city (17-19). This time, however, the mourning is real. Rich and poor, young and old die alike. Their corpses lie unburied in the streets and fields (20-22).

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