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 

15:1.  “Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.”


The intercession of Moses is recorded in Ex 32:11-14; Nu 14:13-20; Dt 9:18-29; and that of Samuel in 1 Sa 7:5-13; 12:19-23.

But the Lord here assures Jeremiah that even if Moses and Samuel interceded for rebellious Judah He would not grant their petition to spare the guilty nation.  Their wickedness, unrepented of, had made them so abhorrent that He wanted them cast out of His sight, i.e., destroyed. 


A wicked, unrepentant Christendom has brought itself into the same awful position.  It has passed irrevocably beyond hope of mercy.  It too is to perish, the only exceptions being the very few who will confess their sinful state, repent, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior while it is still the day of grace.


This is the dreadful position in which every unbeliever will ultimately find himself.  Though once so much the object of Divine love that God had given His Son the Lord Jesus Christ to die a terrible death at Calvary for that same sinner’s redemption, rejection of that sacrifice will transmute the love into hatred, and he whose entrance to heaven had been bought at such cost, will be cast out of God’s sight, first into hell, and following the resurrection of damnation, into the eternal torment of the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire.


15:2.  “And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth?  then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the Lord; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.”


The Lord’s utter rejection of that wicked generation of Judah continues in His instruction to Jeremiah relative to the answer to be given by the prophet when the guilty people would ask, Where shall we go?  As the answer makes clear, there was no place  they might run to in order to escape God’s fierce wrath.  He had passed the sentence of death upon them, and now instructed His servant to inform the rebels as to how the sentence would be executed.  Some were to die by pestilence; some, by the sword; some, by famine; the remainder being led captive into Babylon to die there, except for the small godly remnant who would also be carried into Babylon, but some of whom God would preserve, and eventually restore again to the land.


The same fate awaits every unrepentant sinner.  Death in all its varied forms will terminate their earthly lives and sweep them down to hell, and ultimately into eternal torment in the terrible lake of fire. 


Since Babylon is synonymous with the world’s false religious systems, those who would die in Babylonian captivity represent those who live their lives in bondage to some earthly religion.  They too will die and plunge into hell.  Men are saved, not by adherence to the teaching of a religious system, but by repentant confession of their sinful state, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, as it is written, “For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” Ac 4:12.


15:3.  “And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the Lord; the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and destroy.”


“... four kinds” is literally “four agents of destruction.”  First was the sword.  Their enemies would slay them.  Then the dogs would devour the flesh of the unburied bodies, and what the dogs left would be food for the birds of prey and the wild beasts.  A more grisly portrait couldn’t be painted.  It is indeed a terrible fate to fall unsaved into the hand of the living God!


15:4.  “And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.”


Their being dispersed among “all kingdoms of the earth” indicates that this looks beyond the then imminent captivity in Babylon, to the scattering that occurred in AD 70; and the severity of their punishment is better conveyed in Taylor’s translation of this verse, “... I will punish you so severely that your fate will horrify the peoples of the world.”  The wonder with which the nations have witnessed this world-wide scattering that has lasted for two thousand years, testifies to the accuracy of God’s Word.


The account of the evil committed by Manasseh in the early years of his reign is preserved in 2 Chr 33, which records also his being delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria, from which captivity God eventually restored him following his genuine repentance and apparent conversion.  In the years of his restoration as king of Judah he undid all the evil of his earlier reign, a fact which would suggest that the fate about to overtake Judah was not literally for the evil done by Manasseh, but for their greater offense in having duplicated his sins, but without duplicating also his genuine repentance.


As Manasseh had been the son of a good father, Hezekiah, so was Judah the son of a better: God Himself.


15:5.  “For who shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? or who shall bemoan thee? or who shall go aside to ask how thou doest?”


No one can sin against God without injuring himself, the terrible nature of that injury being revealed in the ultimate end of the man who dies unrepentant, passing thereby from time into eternal torment.  Israel had sinned very grievously, and was now about to die, with no one to pity her, or regret her demise, or even to care what happened to her.


In the final analysis the only thing that matters is our relationship with God, for if that isn’t right nothing else can be either.  His favor is to be desired above all else, for unlike the brief relationships of earth, that with Him endures for ever.


15:6.  “Thou hast forsaken me saith the Lord, thou art gone backward; therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.”


Foolish Judah had forsaken her only Friend, and having tired of walking with Him, had reverted to her former evil ways, and had thus destroyed herself.  The hand that had been stretched out to deliver her from Egypt, that had brought her into the enjoyment of Canaan’s milk and honey, was now stretched out to destroy her!


“I am weary with repenting” is translated by Taylor, “I am tired of always giving you another chance.”  God’s patience is great but not infinite, and he who exhausts it by continuing in sin and refusing to repent, inevitably makes himself the object of God’s destroying anger.  Judah had been guilty of that very folly, and so has Christendom.  She too will be destroyed in the Great Tribulation.


15:7.  “And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy this people, since they return not from their ways.”


The metaphor used here is based on the winnowing or separating activity of the threshing floor, where after the threshing is finished, the grain is thrown up into the air where the worthless light chaff is blown away by the wind, while the heavier grain drops back on to the threshing floor.  So was God about to winnow guilty Judah, she by her evil deeds, of which she refused to repent, having made herself as worthless as chaff in His sight.


Since one’s life is perpetuated in the lives of his children, their being bereaved of children is simply another of saying that their lives were going to be cut off.  God was about to destroy them because of their refusal to abandon their evil ways and return to Him.


15:8.  “Their widows are increased to me above the sand of the seas: I have brought upon them against the mother of the young men a spoiler at noonday: I have caused him to fall upon it suddenly, and terrors upon the city.”


The coming slaughter is graphically depicted in the phenomenal number of women who would be widowed, and bereft, not only of husbands, but also of their sons; and the eager ferocity of the invaders is portrayed in that they would continue to kill and plunder even in the noonday heat when men usually rested.  The latter part of the verse may be paraphrased, “I will cause the enemy to fall upon the city suddenly, causing anguish and terror.”


“... the mother of the young men” is taken by some to be Jerusalem.


15:9.  “She that hath borne seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost; her sun is gone down while it was yet day; she hath been ashamed and confounded: and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword before their enemies, saith the Lord.”


“Seven” is used here as a synonym for “many sons.”  Such women would sit in hopeless anguish and despair, their own lives having been virtually cut off in the death of their sons through whom their own lives would normally have been perpetuated.  “... she hath given up the ghost;” doesn’t mean that the woman was literally dead, but that she might as well be; ”her sun is gone down while it was yet day” meaning that while she might have been relatively young, in the midst of her days, i.e., middle aged, the cutting off of her sons rendered impossible the perpetuation of her life through them, so that for all practical purposes she was dead.  Her being “ashamed and confounded (disgraced)” is related to the fact that it was considered a disgrace for a women to have no children.


In addition to the virtual death of those bereft of their children, there would be the actual death of the others: they would be slain by the enemy.


15:10.  “Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention in the whole earth!  I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me.”


The speaker here is Jeremiah expressing bitter regret that his position as Jehovah’s spokesman had caused him to be hated by the very people whose welfare he sought.  Taylor has translated the second sentence of this verse, “I am neither a creditor soon to foreclose nor a debtor refusing to pay - yet they all curse me.”  Such was the perversity of the people that they hated him simply because he spoke the truth when he warned them that they were doomed to destruction.  And so is it still.  He who faithfully declares God’s word, and warns men of coming judgment, is universally hated, but he is in good company, for it was for the same reason that the Lord Himself was hated and crucified.


15:11.  “The Lord said, Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction.”


The Lord responded by assuring His discouraged servant of His protection and care, “it shall be well with thy remnant” meaning literally, “it shall be well when I set thee free,” i.e., when the foretold destruction would come, freeing him, i.e., ending his ministry, validating his words, and vindicating him before all his enemies.


While the Babylonians would be merciless to all the rebels of Judah, God would put it into the heart of Nebuchadnezzar to be kind to His faithful prophet; nor did His promise fail: Jeremiah was well treated, being given the choice of going to Babylon to be courteously treated, or of remaining with the remnant left in Judah, see 39:11-14; 40:4-5.


No man should fear to be faithful to God, for the reward of that faithfulness is assured, if not here on earth, certainly in heaven.


15:12.  “Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?”


Other translators have rendered this, “Am I of iron to withstand them (the Babylonians)?” Moffatt; “Can a man break bars of northern (Babylonian) iron or bronze?” Taylor.  It is generally understood that this question was asked by Jeremiah, the implication seeming to be that he could see no way whereby he himself could induce the Babylonians to treat him differently from the rest of the people.


15:13.  “Thy substance and thy treasures will I give to the spoil without price, and that for all thy sins, even in all thy borders.”


The ambiguity of the KJ translation is removed by the Amplified rendering, “Your [nation’s] substance and your treasures will I give as spoil without price, and that for all your sins, even in all your territory.”  It was all the substance and treasures of Judah that would be given to the Babylonians, because of all her sins.


15:14.  “And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not, for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you.”


God continues to address His words to rebellious unrepentant Judah.  She would be carried into slavery by her enemies the Babylonians, because her failure to repent of her many sins in God’s time had carried her beyond His mercy, and had made her the object of his fierce wrath which He likens to a fire that would destroy her.


15:15.  “O Lord, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke.”


The speaker is Jeremiah pleading with God to save him from the murderous hatred of his own countrymen, and reminding God that it was the faithful deliverance of His word that had provoked their hatred.


“... in thy longsuffering.”  Jeremiah prayed that God’s patience with Judah might not result in their being allowed to execute their desire to kill him.


15:16.  “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.”


His plea continues with the reminder that he had gladly and eagerly received all God’s words, those words filling his heart with joy, his additional pleasure lying in the fact that he was owned by God as one of His own.


Inasmuch as eating is synonymous with satisfaction, the thought expressed here may be that the prophet found complete satisfaction in God’s Word.


15:17.  “I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.”


The prophet never participated in the activities of those who mocked God and engaged in feasting and revelry.  He sat alone under God’s hand, i.e., obedient to God’s will, filled with the same anger as that felt by God because of the wickedness of the people.


It would be well if all God’s people had the same attitude, but the sad truth is that many of them have as their close friends those who are God’s enemies.  They know little of sitting alone under His hand in prayer or meditation or the study of His Word, nor are they concerned, much less angry, at the defiance of God demonstrated in the wicked activity of a world that has made itself the object of His judgment.


15:18.  “Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed?  wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?


The prophet continues to complain that his pain is ceaseless, like that of an incurable wound; and unbelievable as it sounds, he even accuses God of being untrustworthy, like a winter brook that dries up in the heat of summer when the water is needed most.  His fear and distress resulting from the murderous hatred by which he was surrounded because of his faithful delivery of the message God had given him, he likened to the distress of a man dying of thirst in unbearable summer heat, who coming to what in winter had been a brook, finds only the dried up bed.  In this dramatic language he portrayed himself as having been abandoned in his greatest hour of need, by the God he thought he could depend on.


When adversity overwhelms us, and it seems that God doesn’t care, that He has abandoned us, the remedy is to remember that every circumstance of life is ordered or permitted by Him, and is for His glory and our ultimate blessing, as it is written, His will is “good, and acceptable, and perfect,” Ro 12:2, and “all things work together for good to those who love God,” Ro 8:28.


15:19.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them.”


“If thou return” implies departure on Jeremiah’s part, the prophet’s complaint being a further evidence of departure, for no man walking in harmony with God would ever use such language.  The evidence of an obedient walk in the midst of every seeming adversity, is revealed in the words of the Lord Himself in Gethsemane, “Not my will, but thine, be done,” Lk 22:42. 


But “If thou return” implies also willingness on God’s part to take back His errant servant, and restore him to his former place of honor as His spokesman.


“... if thou take forth the precious from the vile,” is translated also, “If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,” Revised Standard Version.  What Jeremiah had been saying was “vile” for it impugned God’s character; whereas the warnings he had formerly proclaimed faithfully were precious, for they were God’s words, the fulfillment of which would confirm His righteous character, and bring Him glory.  But they would do more: they would also vindicate God’s servant and bring him glory which would far outweigh all the shame he had incurred by being God’s faithful messenger.


Every servant of God - and every believer is such a servant - would do well to take this lesson to heart.  Whatever shame and mockery we may have to endure for His sake here on earth will be abundantly recompensed by a corresponding measure of eternal glory, our vindication being announced by the Lord Himself in His approving, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” Mt 25:21.


“... let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them,” is translated by Moffat, “Let other men come over to your side, but go not over to join them,”; and by Taylor, “You are to influence them, not let them influence you!”


15:20.  “And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the Lord.”


God would make His servant like an impregnable wall of bronze that would render him impervious to every effort on the part of the people to harm him, for they would be fighting against Jehovah, not just against His servant.  Every obedient servant enjoys the same protection, as it is written, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Ro 8:31.


15:21.  “And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked (evil men), and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.”


God would not only deliver His servant out of the hand of the wicked (evil men), i.e., out of the hand of the men of Judah, but also from “the terrible,” i.e., the cruel, ruthless, violent Babylonians.  None can harm those whom God protects!  It is necessary to note, however, that His protection doesn’t always necessarily include deliverance from physical death.  Some of His choicest servants have died violent, terrible deaths, but we have to remember that death simply transports the believer from earth to eternal joy and bliss in heaven, as Paul declared, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain ... for I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better,” Php 1:21-23, and again, “... while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord ... we are confident ... and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord,” 2 Cor 5:6-8.

[Jeremiah 16]


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