(1) The new discourse, or section of a discourse, deals more locally with the coming desolation of Jerusalem.
O ye children of Benjamin.—The city, though claimed as belonging to Judah, was actually on the border of the two tribes, the boundary running through the valley of Ben-Hinnom (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16), and its northern walls were in that of Benjamin. It was natural that the prophet of Anathoth should think and speak of it as connected with his own people.
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa.—i.e., “give the signal for the fugitives to halt, but not till they have reached the southernmost boundary of Judah.” Tekoa was about twelve miles south of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 11:6). The Hebrew presents a play upon the name Tekoa, as nearly identical with its sound is the verb “blow,” and the town is probably mentioned for that reason. The play upon the name is analogous to those that meet us in Micah 1:10-16.
Sign of fire.—Better, signal. The word, though applied to a fire or smoke signal in Judges 20:38; Judges 20:40, does not necessarily imply it. Such signals were, however, in common use in all ancient warfare.
Beth-haccerem.—i.e., the house of the vineyard, halfway on the road from Jerusalem to Tekoa. There, too, the signal was to be raised that the fugitives might gather round it. Jerome states (Comm. on Jeremiah 6) that it was on a mountain, and was known in his time as Bethacharma. It has been identified with the modern Jebel Fureidis, or “Hill of the Franks.”
Evil appeareth out of the north.—Literally, is bending over us, as looking down on its prey. The word is that used of “righteousness looking down from heaven” in Psalm 85:11.
Every one in his place.—Literally, each on his hand, or perhaps, “they shall feed, each his hand,” i.e., shall let it rove in plunder at will by the side of his own tent. The work of plunder was to go on everywhere. The imagery is drawn from the attack of a nomadic tribe on a richly-cultivated plain.
Is . . . to be visited.—Literally, is visited, in the sense of “punished,” but Hebrew usage gives to the verb so employed a gerundive force. The words admit, however, of the rendering, this is the city; it is proved that wholly oppression is in the midst of her.
Grief.—Better, sickness. The word and the imagery are the same as in Isaiah 1:5.
Lest my soul.—As in Jeremiah 4:19, the Hebrew formula for emphasised personality. The word for “depart” may be better rendered tear itself away.
Into the baskets.—The noun is found here only, and probably means, like a kindred word in Isaiah 18:5, the tendrils of the vine upon which the hand of the gatherer was to be turned.
A reproach.—i.e., the object of their scorn.
I will pour it out.—Better, as the command coming from the mouth of Jehovah, Pour it out. The words that follow describe the several stages of man’s life, upon all of which that torrent of wrath is to flow forth—the children abroad, i.e., playing in the streets (as in Zechariah 8:5); the assembly, or gathering of young men, whether in their natural mirth (Jeremiah 15:17) or for secret plans (Proverbs 15:22); the husband and wife in full maturity; the “aged,” i.e., the elder, still active as well as venerable; lastly, the man “full of days,” whose time is nearly over and his sand run out.
From the prophet even unto the priest . . .—The two orders that ought to have checked the evil are noted as having been foremost in promoting it. (Comp. Note on Jeremiah 5:31.)
Dealeth falsely.—Literally, worketh a lie, in the sense of “dishonesty.”
Peace, peace.—The word is taken almost in the sense of “health,” as in Genesis 43:27-28, and elsewhere. The false prophets were as physicians who told the man suffering from a fatal disease that he was in full health. As the previous words show, the prophet has in his mind the false encouragements given by those who should have been the true guides of the people. Looking at Josiah’s reformation as sufficient to win the favour of Jehovah, they met Jeremiah’s warnings of coming evil by the assurance that all was well, and that invasion and conquest were far-off dangers.
What is among them.—Better, what comes to pass for them, i.e., for the sinful people.
“Sabæan odours from the spicy shores
Of Araby the blest.”
So the Queen of Sheba brought spices and gold (1 Kings 10:10).
The sweet cane.—Literally, the good cane, or, as in Exodus 30:23, sweet calamus (comp. Isaiah 43:24; Song of Solomon 4:14), numbered among the ingredients of the Temple incense. The LXX. renders it by “cinnamon.” It came from the “far country” of India The whole passage is a reproduction of the thought of Isaiah 1:11-13.
Shall be raised.—Literally, shall be roused, or awakened.
The sides of the earth.—sc., its ends, or far-off regions.
Cruel.—The ferocity of the Chaldæans seems to have been exceptional. Prisoners impaled, or flayed alive, or burnt in the furnace (Jeremiah 29:22; Daniel 3:11), were among the common incidents of their wars and sieges.
They ride upon horses.—This appears to have been a novelty to the Israelites, accustomed to the war-chariots of Egypt and their own kings rather than to actual cavalry. (Comp. Jeremiah 8:16; Job 39:21-25; Habakkuk 1:8; Isaiah 30:16.) Both archers and horsemen appear as prominent in the armies of Gog and Magog, i.e., of the Scythians, in Ezekiel 38:4; Ezekiel 39:3.
Set in array . . .—The Hebrew is singular, and implies a new clause. It (the army of bowmen and riders) is set in array as a warrior, for war against thee.
Fear is on every side.—The words are more notable than they seem. They impressed themselves on the prophet’s mind, and became to him as a watchword. So, in Jeremiah 20:3, he gives them as a name (Magor-missabib) to Pashur, and apparently (as in Jeremiah 20:10) it was used as a cry of derision against himself.
Walking with slanders.—The phrase was a common one (Leviticus 19:16; Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 20:19), and pointed to the restless eagerness of the tale-bearer to spread his falsehoods. (Comp. 1 Timothy 5:13, “wandering about . . . idle tattlers.”)
Brass and iron.—Base metals serving for vile uses, no gold or silver in them. The imagery, which carries on the thought of the previous verse, had been made familiar by Isaiah (Isaiah 1:22; Isaiah 1:25), and was reproduced afterwards by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 22:18-22) and Malachi (Malachi 3:3).
Corrupters.—Better, workers of destruction.
The lead is consumed . . .—Better, from their fire is lead only. A different punctuation gives, The bellows burn with fire; yet lead is the only outcome. The point lies in the fact that lead was used as a flux in smelting silver ore. The founder in the case supposed went on with his work till the lead was melted, but he found no silver after all.
Plucked away.—Better, separated or purified, as in keeping with the metaphor.