For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

6:1.  "O Ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire (signal fire) in Beth-haccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction."


The prophet now directs his message specifically to Benjamin, meaning son of the right hand, indicating that the application was to the genuine believers among the apostate mass of the nation represented, in the present context, by apostate Jerusalem, the spiritual application for the Church age being to the true believers found in the midst of apostate Christendom.  God's command to His own today, as then, is to separate themselves from the apostate mass upon which His judgment is soon to be poured out.  That we are in the closing days of the age, and that judgment is about to fall, is apparent to all but the spiritually blind.


Tekoah, meaning a trumpet blast: to thrust, was located in Judah about 12 miles south of Jerusalem.  This not only reminds us of the close literal tie between these two tribes, but it points symbolically to the far more important spiritual truth that praise (worship) is inseparable from the faith which Benjamin here represents.  A professed faith that has no desire to worship is suspect.


Beth-haccerem, believed to have been about five miles west of Jerusalem, means the vineyard-house, and the command to "set up a sign of fire" there is literally "light a warning beacon fire."  The spiritual message isn't difficult to read when we remember that the vineyard is used frequently as a symbol of God's people, so that the vineyard house is clearly a figure of God's house today.  The command is no less to the Church than it was to Benjamin, to sound the warning to saint and sinner alike, of the  judgment about to engulf this evil world.


As has been noted in other studies, the compass directions mentioned in Scripture all have significance, the north speaking of human intelligence (working very frequently in opposition to God).  This reference therefore to the north as the direction from which the destruction was to come, has special significance for the day in which we live, for it is doubtful if there has ever been a time when man's intellect was more adamantly set against all that is of God.   Man's "wisdom" declares that the Bible is a fable; that there is neither a heaven nor a hell; that there is nothing after death; and that there is no God.  And even within the professing church, human order has largely replaced the Divine, while human schemes have replaced the power of the Holy Spirit.


It was God, however, Who foreknew all this, and Who bade John depict the church at the end of the age as being Laodicean, with the Lord standing outside its door closed against Him.  And it is that same God who reveals to faith that the judgment of which Jeremiah warned is, like all of Israel's history, simply a foreshadowing of the history of the professing church.


6:2.  "I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman."


As the Church is likened to a fair chaste virgin, so here God declares that Israel was beautiful to Him, but that beauty couldn't save her from the consequences of her wickedness, for the God Who loved her is also a God of absolute holiness "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and (Who) canst not look on iniquity," Hab 1:13.


6:3.  "The shepherds with their flocks shall come unto her; they shall pitch their tents against her round about; they shall feed every one in his place."


"The shepherds with their flocks" were the Babylonian commanders with their armies, and there is peculiar propriety in God's likening the invaders and their armies to "shepherds with their flocks."  It was her own evil shepherds - false prophets, evil priests, and rulers - who had led Israel astray, and who had therefore brought God's wrath upon her.  Having willingly accepted the evil promoted by her own evil shepherds, she was now going to have to accept unwillingly the tyranny of Babylonian "shepherds" (masters).


Their "pitching their tents against her" refers to their besieging her and leaving no way of escape; while its being said that "they shall feed every one in his place" is that they would literally take over her fields and pastures.


Transcending the literal, however, is the spiritual truth being declared relative, not only to Israel, but to an apostate church that has followed all too faithfully in the footsteps of that rebellious nation.  As Judah was brought under the dominion of the Babylonian prophets, priests, and leaders (false shepherds), so does an apostate church today lie under the dominion of the same evil religious system, which upon the decline of Babylon, moved first to Pergamos, and then to Rome, and from there has ruled Christendom with an iron fist for the past two thousand years, for the Roman Catholic system is simply the old Babylonian mystery religion dressed in Christian garb.


And just as the godly remnant in the midst of the professing, but apostate mass of Judah, had to endure the Babylonian captivity, so today does the true Church in the midst of the professing, but apostate mass of Christendom, lie largely under that same Babylonian dominion.  Only spiritually blind eyes will fail to see how closely the Protestant system resembles the Roman Catholic, and only the same myopia will prevent men from seeing that the present ecumenical movement is insidiously, but quickly and surely, removing the few remaining distinctions.


Encouragement for those with a heart for the things of God is the record of the faithfulness of Daniel and his three companions in response to the edict of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 1).


6:4.  "Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out."


The first part is literally that they will agree together to attack Jerusalem "at noon," i.e., early in the day, this being the metaphoric expression of their eagerness to seize and destroy her.  The second part “Woe unto us! for the day goeth away,” continues to express their impatience at every moment’s delay in getting to Jerusalem to begin their rapine.


The lust of the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem, however, is also a foreshadowing of the zeal with which the Romans destroyed her in AD 70, and with which her foes will seek her devastation in the Great Tribulation.  But nothing can destroy God’s city.  Jerusalem will survive to become the governmental center, not just of Palestine, but of the millennial world.


6:5.  "Arise, and let us go by night, and let us destroy her palaces."


This continues to be the metaphoric announcement, not only of Babylon’s eagerness to get to the work of destroying the Jerusalem addressed by Jeremiah, but also of the desire that will impel the enemies arrayed against her in the Great Tribulation.


Again, the spiritual message transcends the literal.  The enemy, Satan, has sought with the same murderous zeal to destroy the Church "by daylight," i.e., by open warfare; but all the deadly persecution by political and military Rome (often incited by Jewish hatred) failed to achieve that objective during the first three centuries of the Church's existence.  And when the Roman empire fell in 476 AD, religious Rome, having seized the scepter of earthly dominion, continued the attack even more viciously, staining her hands for over a thousand years with the blood of countless multitudes of believers who refused to bow to her; but again the efforts failed: the Church still lives, and will yet reign with Christ eternally!


But now, for spiritual Babylon, as for literal Babylon in the days of Jeremiah, "the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out."  Satan, the power behind Rome today, as he was behind Babylon long ago, knows that the Church age is almost ended, and as the darkness of spiritual night settles over a rebel world, he presses the attack on the Church under cover of darkness - and is achieving far greater success than he has ever done by open warfare.  Having exchanged the role of "roaring lion" for that of "angel of light," he has succeeded in bringing the professing church to ruin, so that, as in Israel twenty-six hundred years ago, the number of genuine believers to be found in the midst of the apostate mass is pitifully small.


Without the persecution that weeded out false profession, Christianity has become popular, the "mustard seed" has become a monstrosity, a tree in whose branches the fowls of the air have lodged, see Mt 13:31; Mk 4:31; Lk 13:19, and note that the fowls represent Satan and his evil spirits, see Lk 8: 5,8.  The scriptural Gospel has been replaced with a polite social "gospel" purged of warning relative to hell, of the need of conviction, repentance, and holy living, and which makes "conversion" available to all who will "pray the sinner's prayer" or sign a card certifying assent to the historicity of Jesus Christ. 


And where false religion holds no appeal, Satan has still another weapon in his arsenal: intellectualism, by means of which he convinces the "sophisticated" that the Bible is mere mythology, heaven and hell nonexistent, with God existing only in the imagination of the ignorant.


And as Judah, on the verge of captivity, had her multitudes of false prophets to contradict the genuine, and assure her that there would be no captivity, so has an apostate church her hordes of false teachers to assure her that there is no judgment impending.  That judgment, however, is as sure for an apostate church and an evil world as it was for an apostate Israel and Judah.


6:6.  "For thus hath the Lord of hosts said, Hew ye down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem: this is the city to be visited (judged, punished); she is wholly oppression in the midst of her."


God's command to the enemy was to cut down the trees growing around the city, for use as battering rams, and for the construction of mounts.  The city that had been "visited" with blessing had rebelled against God and multiplied her wickedness to the point where that same God must now visit her with judgment. 


So too must it be with the man or nation that rebels against God and exhausts His patience.  The city that ought to have been characterized by righteousness, was instead marked by cruel oppression of the poor, and by every other form of wickedness.  Only the spiritually blind will fail to see that the world, and an apostate church, are marked by the very same evils today, so that the judgment of God is also about to fall upon them.


6:7.  "As a fountain casteth out her waters, so she casteth out her wickedness: violence and spoil (oppression and outrage) is heard in her; before me continually is grief and wounds."


Wickedness gushed out from the city with the same constancy as do the waters of a spring well.  The description is as applicable to today's world and apostate church as it was to Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah. 


"Violence and spoil (oppression and outrage) is heard in her" has the same aptness, for grief and wounds characterize the present evil world and apostate church no less than they did ancient Jerusalem, and are just as surely to be visited with the fierce judgment of the God Whose patience they have exhausted.


6:8.  "Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited."


This seems to imply that there was yet time for Jerusalem to repent, but in spite of the warning, God foreknew that it would go unheeded, that there would be no repentance on her part, and that His foretold judgment would fall.  He is no less aware that all His warnings to the world and the apostate church today will also go unheeded, and that judgment is inevitable.  But this raises the question, Why then did He give the warning?  It was for the same reason which impels Him to give warning today: while there is no hope for a godless world and an apostate church, there is still the opportunity for individuals to avail themselves of His mercy.


It betrays lamentable ignorance of Scripture to believe that there will be improvement in today’s world or apostate church.  Each has filled its cup of judgment to the brim.  There will be no repentance, no recovery.  The rapture of the true Church, the believing remnant within the apostate mass, is imminent, and following her removal there will be a little interval, after which the terrible Tribulation judgments will be poured out, sweeping two thirds of the world's population into eternity, and leaving the earth as desolate and depopulated as was Canaan following the Babylonian invasion.


6:9.  "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall thoroughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets."


Another translation renders this, "for as a grape-gatherer checks each vine to pick what he has missed, so the remnant of My people shall be destroyed again."  All of this was fulfilled in the period between the reign of Jehoiakim and the flight of the remnant into Egypt following the murder of Gedaliah, see 2 Ki 24-25.  It foreshadows the coming Tribulation when rebellious Israel, a rebellious world, and an equally rebellious apostate church, will be similarly "gleaned" by God by means of the terrible judgments of the Great Tribulation.


6:10.  "To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised (closed), and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach (a contemptible thing); they have no delight in it."


As then God found no one to listen to His voice, to heed His warning, so is it also today.  Men's ears today are as deaf to His Word as in the days of Jeremiah, not only in the world, but in an apostate church.  It is held in the same contempt now as then, professed believers displaying the same distaste for it as their unbelieving fellows.  Note, for example, how few professing Christians are willing to spend time studying Scripture.  How few attend the weekly Bible study meeting, Gospel meeting, or  teaching meeting, compared with the numbers who flock to a church musical evening, a film, or a dinner!



He who claims to love the Lord, yet evinces no desire to study the Scriptures which are the written revelation of Him, has a very questionable profession, because the two things are a contradiction in terms: they are mutually exclusive.


6:11.  "Therefore I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary with holding it: I will pour it out upon the children abroad (playing in the streets), and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days."


Who can begin to comprehend the fury of the Lord?  It is impossible to measure, though glimpses of it are given us throughout Scripture, e.g., the flood that destroyed the pre-Adamic world; the later deluge which destroyed the world again in the days of Noah; the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, and the thousands who died of the plague from time to time.  We do well to heed the warning, "He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" Pr 29:1, for, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," He 10:31.


None would be spared.  The child as well as the aged man would suffer God's wrath.  (God's destruction of infants and children invariably raises the question of His justice, but only in the minds of those who fail to take account of His foreknowledge.  He Who knows the end from the beginning knows whether the infant would repent and believe when it comes to years of wisdom.  For example, few will deny that Hitler deserved to die, but our judgment is based on what he did when he became a man, not what he was as an infant.  Before Hitler was born, however, God knew what a monster he would become.  He possesses the same knowledge of all men, choosing in His sovereignty to permit some to display by their wickedness their worthiness of judgment, while cutting others off in infancy or childhood.  All are born on the broad and crowded way that leads to hell, and Scripture knows of no other way into heaven than through the new birth).


6:12.  "And their houses shall be turned unto others, with their fields and wives together: for I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord."


How few take account of the fact that all we have has been given by God, entrusted to us as stewards, who, when our brief day of stewardship is over, must relinquish those things into the hand of another, and then stand before the Lord to render an account of our stewardship!  Do we not in our hearts sometimes display towards earthly possessions the same proud independent spirit as was disclosed in the words of Nebuchadnezzar relative to Babylon, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?"?


Judah's day of accountability had come.  Ours is near, and just as certain.  For those addressed by Jeremiah, their deaf ears and continued rebellion sealed their doom.  May we be preserved from similar deafness, similar rebellion!


6:13.  "For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely."


This is the description of a people as greedy for gain as they were indifferent to the means of acquiring it, and no spiritual mind will fail to see how accurately the description fits today's world. 


But those described weren't the heathen.  They were God's people; and sadly, it must be confessed that the description still applies to many professed Christians today.  It is this greed for money that has caused many an evangelist, elder, and teacher to neglect his spiritual gift, to fail to stir it up, with the result that he neither has food for his own soul, nor for the saints, nor for the unconverted, so that the professing church, and a godless world both languish in the grip of a spiritual famine worse than any literal famine ever experienced by Israel. 


Nor was the sin confined to just one segment of the people.  No, "from the least of them even unto the greatest" all were guilty, and again no one can deny that the evil today is equally pervasive, not only in the world, but amongst those who claim to be Christians.  In the world, the same love of money that has corrupted virtually all those in high places, is found in every strata of society; and so also in the professing church.  It isn't just the average believer who is to be charged with this sin: it is rampant also amongst those who ought to be examples to the people.


In that distant day prophet and priest were equally guilty, and today many of those who should be teaching the saints, being examples to them, interceding for them, are to be charged with the same sin.


"... dealeth falsely" is literally practices deceit, fraud


6:14.  "They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace."


The charlatan prophets and priests had treated Israel's deadly wound as though it were a minor injury, by minimizing the enormity of the offense against God, and assuring the people that peace would continue, when in fact, God's judgment was about to fall upon them.  It is no different today.  Deluded government leaders proclaim that the world is about to enter the long dreamed of age of peace, little realizing that the present tenuous peace is just the calm before the storm, when the earth will be convulsed by war, famine, disease and anarchy far worse than anything it has ever known.


Equally blind religious leaders are also busy minimizing the magnitude of man's sin against God, offering healing through a spurious "gospel" that omits mention of man's ruined state, all reference to hell, the need of repentance and faith in a crucified and risen Savior, and that promises men everlasting peace in response to a mere assent to the historicity of Christ, or the parroted repetition of the so-called "sinner's prayer," a prayer in regard to which Scripture is ominously silent.  People aren’t saved by repeating the trite little prayers presented by today’s would-be evangelists.  Salvation comes only to those who are convicted of their sin, who repent and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, demonstrating the reality of their conversion by their changed lives, and their verbal confession of Christ as Savior and Lord.


The condition of apostate Judah in the days of Jeremiah is but the OT picture of the state of apostate Christendom today, the judgment that overtook the one being but a foreshadowing of that which is about to engulf the other.


6:15.  "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord."


They had become so inured to every form of sin that they didn't even blush when confronted with that which was abominable to God, namely their idolatry.  Nor is it different today.  Men worship money, education, power, pleasure, sport, and a host of other gods, while indulging without any shame every lust of corrupt fallen human nature, declaring in brazen defiance of God that they have every right to adopt their own self-chosen "lifestyles," even though He has declared that many of those practices are abominable to Him, and are to be punished with death.


But God's patience with His rebel people had come to an end though they knew it not; and it has also come to an end with today’s godless world and those who call themselves Christian, but who by their lifestyles demonstrate that they have never been born again.  They too are ignorant of the fact that they have exhausted God's patience, that His judgment is about to fall.  Their falling "among them that fall" simply declares that the same judgment that consumes the unprofessing sinner will consume also the false professor.


"... at the time that I visit them" reminds us that however much man may choose to ignore it, God has appointed a day of judgment for all men: for the believer, the judgment seat of Christ, Ro 14:10; for the unbeliever, the great white throne, Re 20:11.  See also all of Romans chapter 2.


6:16.  "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.  But they said, We will not walk therein."


Even as He assured them of coming judgment, God paused to exhort them to stop at the cross-roads and remember the old paths of long ago, paths of obedience, and therefore of blessing.  That they had come to the cross-roads is clear, for nothing could avert the long-threatened judgment, but even as they went into captivity in Babylon they could have repented, and there in the land of captivity, walked in “the old paths” of obedience, and enjoyed God's blessing, saving their souls even in their captivity; but they would not.  They would continue to be as disobedient in captivity as they had been when free.


The lesson He would teach us in this is that even though we may not escape the consequences of our folly here on earth, it is possible even while we endure those consequences, to repent and walk again in the paths of obedience, and enjoy blessing.   For example, there are in our prisons today those who are suffering the consequences of their sin, but who have there found Christ, and in spite of prison bars, enjoy God's blessing.  There are those dying as a result of sinful living, who have repented, trusted the Savior, and even as their physical bodies succumb to disease, know the peace of God which passeth understanding. 


A lesson we would all do well to remember is that God's blessings aren't limited by outward circumstances; and while we may not always escape the consequences of our folly, we can repent, walk again in obedience, and experience blessing.  There is no more dramatic evidence of this truth than that presented at Calvary.  On either side of Christ hung two malefactors, the one as guilty as the other, each suffering the same measure of physical torment, but how different their spiritual states!  The repentant thief was going to heaven; the other, to hell, repentant faith and lack of it alone making the difference.


God didn't promise the penitents of Jeremiah’s day deliverance from Babylonian captivity, but He did promise them "rest for your souls," even in captivity.  Sadly, however, they refused His mercy, rejected the "old paths," saying, "We will not walk therein."


The world and the apostate professing church stand today at that same cross-roads.  The coming judgment can't be averted, but He Who in the midst of wrath remembers mercy, calls in patient grace, "Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."  The response of a rebel world and an equally rebellious professing church, however, is the same as that returned by Israel in the days of Jeremiah, "We will not walk therein."  As then, false "prophets" mock those who teach truth, assuring their blinded followers that by means of the "new gospel" the world will be converted and the long-sought day of peace ushered in.  As then, false "priests," belittling the deadly nature of sin, heal the hurt of the people but "slightly," assuring their dupes that all they need to do is repeat "the sinner's prayer," and give verbal assent to the historicity of Christ.


The "old paths" in which alone blessing is to be found, are mocked and despised today; sound doctrine is dismissed as being mere useless tradition; while a giddy Christendom, as spiritually blind as those addressed by Jeremiah, and having as their "ministers" those as blind as the false prophets and priests who deceived ancient Judah, sings and dances on its way to hell.


6:17.  "Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet.  But they said, We will not hearken."


The watchmen were the faithful prophets whom God had sent to encourage obedience, and to warn the people of the evil that would follow disobedience.  The messages they preached were the trumpet blasts reminding the people of the need to obey God if they would enjoy His blessings, and warning them of the wrath that would fall upon them if they disobeyed.  But their words had gone unheeded, while the pronouncements of the false prophets had been received as the utterances of God. 


Nor was this state relative only to the men of Jeremiah's day: it is an evil in the heart of every generation, the Lord's scathing denunciation of those of His own day being concluded with the lament, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings;, and ye would not!  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate," Mt 23:29-39. 


Stephen likewise castigated them, "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it," Ac 7:52-53.


Israel and Judah, however, are but the mirror in which God would have all men see themselves.  The men of this generation - Jew and Gentile alike - are no different from those of past generations.  The unregenerate heart is incorrigibly evil, and will not bow to the will of God.  The multitudes of false professors who constitute the bulk of Christendom today, are equally rebellious against His Word, and have just as surely therefore made themselves heirs of judgment.  But now, as  then, in their blindness they reject truth, and heed the lies of the charlatan preachers and teachers who promise them peace through a false gospel, the teachers and people alike oblivious of the storm of judgment about to burst upon a world that has filled its cup of wickedness to the brim.


6:18.  "Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them."


Knowing that there would be no repentance on the part of the people, God called upon the nations (the Gentiles) to take note of how He would punish His rebellious people. 


They too were to witness the wrath of God poured out upon those who refused to obey Him.  The seventy-year Babylonian captivity, and the resulting desolation of the once fertile land, were the dramatic evidence of God's anger; and the record of both has been preserved as a warning to all generations not to repeat Israel's folly.  The warning, however, has gone unheeded, with the result that a still more terrible judgment is about to overtake, not only apostate Israel and the nations, but also an apostate church, in the impending seven-year Tribulation.


“Congregation” is generally understood as referring to the few godly, the believing remnant, who were to be found in the midst of the apostate mass. 


Unlike the believing remnant of Jeremiah's day, who had to experience the Babylonian captivity in company with their unbelieving fellows, the true Church will be raptured home to heaven before the storm of judgment breaks, those who constitute her being exhorted to hold fast what they have, Re 2:25, and to be watchful and to strengthen the things that remain, Re 3:2, as they wait for the Lord's coming, even in the midst of rapidly deepening apostasy.


6:19.  "Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it."


God still calls upon the whole earth, not simply to witness his dealings with disobedient Israel, but to heed His warning that the coming Tribulation judgments, while being especially "the time of Jacob's trouble," Jer 30:7, will embrace also the whole world.


"... the fruit of their thoughts" reminds us of what is written concerning men's thoughts, "As he (man) thinketh in his heart, so is he," Pr 23:7.  Their wicked thoughts had expressed themselves in evil deeds which had included their robbery and murder of the innocent; and now their own blood was to be shed by the sword of the Babylonian who would also carry away their ill-gotten gains. As they had done to others, so would God do to them. 


It is to be noted that the root cause of their wickedness, and therefore of their chastisement, was their rejection of God's Word.  No one will deny that the tide of evil which has engulfed the whole world today, stems from the same rebellious spirit, nor will any Spirit-taught believer doubt that the world, and the apostate counterfeit of the true Church, like Israel of old, are about to reap the evil harvest they have sown.


Incidentally, a distinction is to be noted between God's Word and His law.  His Word is the revelation of Himself; His law is that which is to govern men in their relationship with Him, and with their fellow-men.  The world today, like the Israel of Jeremiah's day, has rejected both.


6:20.  "To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me."


It might be supposed that a nation so blatantly evil would have abandoned even the pretext of acknowledging God, but such was not the case.  They still maintained the outward form of worshiping Jehovah, even as they bowed also to the Baals, but it was nothing more than an empty ritual, the OT counterpart of the similar empty ritual now used by the apostate church.


Sheba (modern Yemen), on the south western tip of the Arabian peninsula, and famous for its spices, has three meanings: he who is coming: seven: oath, and the alternate spelling Shebah means the place of the oath: to the oath.  Since incense is the biblical symbol of worship, and since all worship is in essence the presentation of Christ to the Father, and since everything offered under the Levitical ritual, is a symbol of Christ, it is easy to see in these meanings allusions to Him.  It is He Who is the coming One; He in Whom are found all the perfections associated with the number seven; and it is He Who is the Mediator of the covenant or oath which guarantees the believer eternal, incomprehensible blessings.  The meanings of the alternate spelling “Shebah” focus on the place where that "oath" was sealed by His precious blood, i.e., Calvary.


All of this reminds us that in the OT age, faith, in some measure at least, even if indistinctly as through a veil, saw Him portrayed in the offerings, and looked for His coming.  Except for the very small believing remnant, the blind eyes of those addressed by the prophet, however, saw none of this.  What they offered Jehovah had no more spiritual significance than what they offered their idols.  It is little different with the apostate church.  In the midst of her worship of money, education, fame, sport, art, music, literature, pleasure, etc., the harlot church still maintains the charade of worshiping God, but her “worship” is as much an empty ritual as was the "worship" of apostate Israel - and it is just as abominable to God.


Another rendering of "sweet cane" is fragrant spices, and the reference may be to the sweet spices mentioned in Ex 30:22-38, and used for the anointing of the Tabernacle furniture and of Aaron and his sons, so that it is particularly associated with the priests.  God's rejection of the sweet cane therefore speaks unmistakably of His rejection of the corrupt priests and of everything associated with the Temple which had become His house in name only.


6:21.  "Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbor and his friend shall perish."  


We can't read this without remembering what is written concerning God's Word, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path," Ps 119:105.  The people had rejected the Word of God, both that which had already been written, and that which was delivered by the prophets then in their midst.  As they who had rejected that Word found their path strewn with stumblingblocks, so must it be with all who reject God's Word.


But there is a special significance connected with the meaning of the word stumblingblock.  It is literally, as well as figuratively, an obstacle, enticement (especially an idol), (Strong's Concord.).  Until the fall, that part of man which is spirit, found its highest fulfillment in the worship of the Creator, nor has the fall destroyed that inherent impulse to worship, but it has so corrupted the spiritual part of man that God has ceased to be the object of his worship.  The fallen creature, however, can no more ignore that impulse than he can deny himself food and rest, but it now finds its gratification in the worship of another object, e.g., the heavenly bodies, animals, birds, insects, trees, stones, and the idols made by his own hands, but as Paul reminds us in 1 Co 10:19-21, those who worship anything other than God worship demons, such worship, in the final analysis of course, being the worship of Satan.


Judah, having turned aside from the worship of Jehovah, to bow down to the gods of the heathen, was now to learn that those idols were "obstacles" or "enticements" over which they had stumbled to their doom.  Nor was recovery possible for the rebellious nation which had contemptuously ignored God's warnings so long that His patience had come to an end, reminding us of what is written relative to that folly, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man," Ge 6:3, "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,  Pr 29:1 .  It is a fearful, fatal mistake to cross that invisible line which separates God's mercy from His wrath, so that repentance becomes impossible.


The erroneous notion entertained by our modern supercilious society is that today idolatry is practiced only by primitive peoples.  In his proud complacency modern man fails to see that he is as much an idolater as those he despises, the only difference being that they have literal idols, but the money, pleasure, fame, ease, sports, education, art, literature, music, etc., which he worships are as much gods as are the idols of the heathen.  And like Israel, he too has scoffed at the Word of God, and is equally blind to the fact that his idolatry has made him also the object of God's wrath, he, like Israel, having long since exhausted God's patience.  That long-threatened wrath is about to fall.  Nor is there any possibility of recovery, in spite of the euphoria begotten by the promises of the false teachers who are the modern counterparts of the false prophets of the OT age.


The reference to "fathers and sons" falling over the stumblingblocks, would remind us that today's spiritual counterparts of those "fathers" are they who beget spiritual "sons" through the new popular but spurious "gospel."  Both will perish.  Inasmuch as “neighbor” appears to be the biblical symbol of the Gentiles (Israel's neighbors), the reference here to the perishing of "the neighbor and his friend" would remind us that Gentile and Jew alike have made themselves the objects of God's wrath.


6:22.  "Thus saith the Lord, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides (far ends) of the earth."


Babylon of course is the "people from the north country," but in the symbolic language of Scripture, the north is the direction that speaks of intelligence, and very frequently of mere natural intelligence in opposition to God and to spiritual wisdom.  Remembering that what has already befallen Israel is but the OT foreshadowing of what yet awaits, not only her, but also an apostate church, and a rebel world, in the Tribulation, it isn't difficult to see the peculiar aptness of the symbol relative to the present day.  Nothing has been more inimical to the things of God than modern man's vaunted wisdom, not only in the world and in the professing church, but also amongst genuine believers.  This, however, is but the precursor of the still more terrible ruin that will result from the opposition of man's wisdom to God under the reign of the coming Beast ruler who will be the evil epitome of human wisdom, see Eze 28 where, it is generally agreed, there is a blending of what relates to Satan, and to the man who will be his instrument in the Tribulation.  Note the emphasis there upon the Satanic wisdom which is the source of unregenerate man's wisdom.


Since the earth is one of the biblical symbols of Israel, particularly the believing remnant within the apostate mass of the nation, the reference to the great nation to be raised "from the sides of the earth" may speak of a nation that was Israel's neighbor.  The description certainly fits ancient Babylon, but continuing to keep in mind that Israel's past experience foreshadows what is still future, the reference may well be to what Babylon represents, i.e., the world's false religious systems.  Those systems will be unified under the Beast emperor during the Great Tribulation, i.e., the last half of the Tribulation era, and it will be during those three and a half years that he will desecrate the temple as did also his prototype Antiochus, demanding that he be worshiped as God, and hounding to death all who belong to Christ. 


Keeping in mind, however, that “the sides of the earth” is literally “the far ends of the earth,” the latter half of this verse is much more likely to refer to the northern coalition headed up by Russia, that will invade Israel in the Great Tribulation, seeking to destroy her.


Much of the teaching of Jeremiah will be lost if we fail to recognize that it points, not only to the Babylonian captivity which began in the days of his prophecy, but also to the final terrible judgment of the Tribulation era, the shadows of which are already beginning to fall across the earth.


6:23.  "They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of Zion."


The merciless cruelty of the Babylonians is too well documented to require elaboration; and since the sea is the symbol of the nations in their restless rebellion against God, Isa 57:20, the reference to their voice roaring "like the sea" may be intended perhaps to emphasize that Israel's final terrible chastisement will come, not just from one nation, but from many, see e.g., Re 16:14,16; 19:19, all of them marked by the same merciless cruelty as characterized the Babylonians of Jeremiah's day.


Since horses are one of the biblical symbols of strength, their riding upon horses declares the invincible power, not only of ancient Babylon, but of those who will seek Israel's destruction in the Tribulation.


"... in array as men for war against thee" points certainly to the determination of the Babylonians to destroy ancient Judah, but also to the same adamant determination of the Gentile nations to destroy Israel in the Tribulation.


6:24.  "We have heard the fame thereof; our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail."   


Certainly Judah had heard the fame (report) of the Babylonians, but, as noted already, the prophecy goes beyond the Babylonian captivity of the people in Jeremiah's day, to the far more terrible chastisement that will befall Israel in the soon-coming Tribulation era.  The fame or report of the Beast ruler will exceed that of Nebuchadnezzar or of any other monarch; and as ancient Babylon's phenomenal might instilled in Judah a fear that robbed her of all strength, so will Israel’s fear of the Tribulation-age Beast ruler weaken the Israel who will then be the object of his Satanic malice.


Nor is the likening of her anguish to that of a woman's travail pain mere hyperbole.  In Isa 66:7 it is written, "Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child."  The prophecy was fulfilled two thousand years ago when Israel, without travail pain, without even being aware of it, "brought forth" the Messiah.  But it will be very different in the Tribulation, which, significantly, is repeatedly described by the prophets as being the time of Israel's travail, see e.g., Mic 5:3, et al.  Then will be fulfilled what is written in Isa 66:8, "Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things?  Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Israel travailed she brought forth her children."


Out of Israel's Tribulation travail will come forth the believing remnant which will be the new nation that will rule all nations in the Millennium.  But more: out of that same travail will come forth her Messiah, the One of Whose presence she was ignorant at His first advent, when He came as God's Lamb to bear away the sin of the world, but of Whose presence she will then have no doubt, for it will be He, coming in power and glory as the Lion of Judah, Who will deliver her out of the hand of the Beast and of the other Gentile nations, and lead her into the enjoyment of the millennial blessings delayed so long by her disobedience.


6:25.  "Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side."


This was God's warning of the futility of going out to cultivate the fields.  Such labor would be wasted.  Whether they sowed or reaped, they wouldn't be there to enjoy the fruits of their labor.


The warning not to "walk by the way" may have reference, not only to the danger attending such travel, but also to the impossibility of their going anywhere to escape the coming judgment.  Both warnings will be as applicable in the coming Tribulation as when Jeremiah pronounced them; but we should note also their pertinence to those who walk in disobedience in every age.  There is an inevitable day when every man must leave his occupation with the things of earth, there being no possibility of escaping that day when he must face the judgment of a holy God.  Hence the warning of the prophet Amos, "Prepare to meet thy God," Amos 4:12.


"... for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side."  It is tragedy beyond description when a man or a nation so lives as to make God Himself the enemy, and the sword His.


6:26.  "O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us."


Jeremiah's addressing the people as a daughter rather than as a son continues to emphasize their utter helplessness against the oppressor, their sin not only having cut them off from God's help, but having provoked Him to ally Himself with the enemy, and make it His instrument of chastisement against rebellious Judah.


Sackcloth and ashes were symbols of mourning, and how bitter that mourning would be is indicated in that ordinarily the ashes were sprinkled on the head, but Judah's sorrow would be such that she would become like one who had rolled in ashes so as to be completely covered.  Her mourning likewise was to be of an extraordinary degree: the bitter hopeless sorrow of one lamenting the death of an only son.  No deeper sorrow could be known, the death of an only son being tantamount to the death of the parent himself, for it meant the cutting off of his line, the blotting out of his name.


"... for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us."  Jeremiah might be the Lord's spokesman to warn Judah of the terrible consequences that would attend her rebellion, but he has been well named "the weeping prophet," for clearly it was with a broken heart that he delivered his message.  Even though they mocked and hated him, he had no pleasure in the terrible retribution soon to fall upon them, his complete identification with them being disclosed in the words "upon us." 


Surely no one will fail to see in the prophet's compassion, the foreshadowing of the Lord's for that same rebellious nation, and for all men, when He Himself stood also as Prophet in their midst and warned of what terrible results would follow their rejection of Him.  Nor can we forget how complete was His identification with those He sought to warn, He Who was God had deigned to become man.  "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death .... For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.  Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God," He 2:14-17.  There could be no fuller identification.  But their response was the same as that given Jeremiah.  They mocked and hated Him, and thereby sealed their doom.


"... for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us."  In Jeremiah's day the spoiler was Babylon, and in the Lord's day it was Rome, two chastisements which are but adumbrations of the still future, but fast approaching, far more terrible Tribulation judgments.


6:27.  "I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way."


Here God addresses the prophet, assuring him that as God's spokesman and tester or assayer in the midst of the rebellious people who hated him because of the truth he declared, he would nevertheless be protected from their malice, being like a tower or fortress which they would be unable to destroy.  Set thus as God's tester or assayer, his messages would be the element of testing, the people's rejection of those messages revealing their own moral corruption.  This is always the nature of God's testing.  Its purpose is to reveal to man his sinfulness, that revelation producing repentance, or hardening still further the heart of the impenitent, and justifying God in condemning them.


6:28.  "They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters."


The testing of the rebels wasn't to reveal anything to God, but to manifest to men Judah's utter depravity.  They who had most cause to praise and worship God, slandered Him!


Brass is the biblical symbol of judgment; and iron, of strength, so that His likening them to these metals was the symbolic announcement that they who had dared to pass judgment on God and strengthen themselves against Him, had thereby made themselves the objects of His judgment, His strength being  exercised against them, rather than on their behalf as formerly.


Their being described as corrupters points to the fact that their sin went beyond personal rebellion: by their evil words and deeds they corrupted others also.  There is in this the sobering reminder that we are either advancing the cause of Christ, or hindering it, as He Himself declared, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad," Mt 12:30.


6:29.  "The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away."


As the refiner, by fire purifies metal, so had God through the fire of judgment, sought to purify rebellious Judah, but to no purpose: she would not be separated from her sin.  To experience what we often term adversity, without considering whether it might perhaps be God's refining, is to be in danger of becoming like Judah, conscience-seared.


The severity of the chastisements is indicated in the words, "the bellows are burned (blow fiercely)."  The severity of the coming Tribulation judgments may be gauged from the fact that they will surpass the intensity of any that have preceded them.


6:30.  "Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them."


There is peculiar aptness in the use of the term reprobate silver, for silver is the biblical emblem of redemption.  Those who were reprobate, i.e., about to be spurned, or cast away by God, were those who professed to be His redeemed people, reminding us of the Lord's own words relative to a yet future day of judgment, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in they name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?


And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity," Mt 7:21-23.


Anticipation of that day when profession will be tested by the fire of God's holiness, ought to impel a careful testing of our profession by the Word of God now, while there is time to exchange mere profession for genuine confession.  In eternity it will be too late.  There, change is impossible.

[Jeremiah 7]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough