(1) Concerning the dearth.—Literally, on the word or tidings of the drought. This is clearly the opening of a new discourse, which continues to Jeremiah 17:18; but as no special calamity of this kind is mentioned in the historical account of Jeremiah’s life, its date cannot be fixed with certainty. As Jeremiah 15:15 -implies that he had already suffered scorn or persecution for his prophetic work, we may reasonably assume some period not earlier than the reign of Jehoiakim.
The pits.—The tanks or reservoirs where, if anywhere, water might be looked for.
Covered their heads.—The extremest sign of a grief too great to utter itself to others, craving to be alone in its wretchedness (2 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 19:4). The student will recollect it as occurring also in the account of the painting of Agamemnon at the Sacrifice of Iphigenia, ascribed to Timanthes.
As the “gates” in Jeremiah 14:2 stood for the people of the city, so the “ground” stands here as in visible sympathy with the tillers of the soil, the “plowmen” of the next clause.
They covered their heads.—There is a singular, almost awful, pathos in the iteration of this description. Cities and country alike are plunged into the utter blackness of despair.
There was no grass.—The word is not the same as that in Jeremiah 14:5, and implies a larger and ranker herbage than that on which the hind fed.
Do thou it.—Better, more generally, act thou, not according to the rigour of inexorable justice, but according to the Name which witnesses of mercy and long-suffering (Exodus 34:6).
Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us.—After all, then, so the prophet’s reviving faith tells him, Jehovah is more than the passing guest. He abides still among His people. He is as a mighty man, strong to save, though as yet He refrains from action.
We are called by thy name.—Literally, as in the margin, Thy name is called upon us, i.e. (as in Isaiah 4:1; Isaiah 63:19; Isaiah 65:1), “we are still recognised as Thine, the people of Jehovah.”
By the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence,—The history of the world shows how constantly the latter plagues have followed in the wake of the former, and the union of the three has become proverbial (Leviticus 26:25-26; Ezekiel 5:12). In Ezekiel 14:21 the “noisome beast” is added to make up the list of the four sore judgments of God.
Ye shall not see . . .—To the eye of Jeremiah the future was clear. The sins of the people must lead to shame, defeat, and exile. Out of that discipline, but only through that, they might return with a better mind to better days. The false prophets took the easier and more popular line of predicting victory and “assured peace” (literally, peace of truth, i.e., true peace) for the people and their city.
Go about into a land that they know not.—Literally, go about (as in Genesis 34:10, where the Authorised version has “trade”) in a land and know not, i.e., whither they go—are in a land of exile, and know not where to find a home, or where they may be dragged next, or, perhaps, with some commentators. learn no wisdom from their bitter experience. There is no adequate ground for the rendering in the margin, which, besides, gives no satisfactory meaning.
Hath thy soul lothed Zion?—The Hebrew implies the act of rejection as well as the feeling which leads to it.
The throne of thy glory.—This is, of course, the Temple (see Jeremiah 17:12). Shall that become a bye-word of reproach, scorned (so the word means) as a fool is scorned?
Are there any . . . that can cause rain?—The question is asked with a special reference to the drought which had called forth the prophet’s utterance (Jeremiah 14:1). Israel remembers at last that it is Jehovah alone who gives the rain from heaven and the fruitful seasons, and turns to Him in patient waiting for His gifts. The words contain an implied appeal to the history of Elijah (1 Kings 18:41) and that of Joel 2:23).