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

16:1.  “The word of the Lord came also unto me, saying,”


16:2.  “Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.”


This declares in unmistakable language the wickedness of Judah.  It was destined for utter destruction, and God would spare His servant the sorrow of seeing his family perish; for even if they didn’t become infected with the general abounding wickedness, and weren’t killed by the invaders, they would still be carried captive into Babylon.


16:3.  “For thus saith the Lord concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bare them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land;”


16:4.  “They shall die of grievous deaths (deadly diseases); they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine, and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.”


The description is of destructive judgment of such magnitude that there would be none left to lament the death of loved ones; nor would enough  survive to bury the dead: the carcases would lie rotting in the streets and fields, to be devoured by the wild beasts and birds of prey, famine and the sword of the enemy being God’s instruments to cleanse the land from the contamination of its wicked inhabitants.


The type will be fulfilled, not just in Israel, but world-wide in the Great Tribulation.


16:5.  “For thus saith the Lord, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the Lord, even loving kindness and mercies.”


In forbidding His servant to participate in any of the normal funeral activities, God was in effect commanding Jeremiah to thus demonstrate his complete approval of God’s judgment on the sinful nation.  Their wickedness had compelled God to withdraw his blessing, and He would demonstrate the fierceness of His anger by forbidding His servant to do anything that might give the slightest degree of comfort to those who had incurred His wrath.


God is as perfect in the execution of His judgment as in the extension of His mercy.


16:6.  “Both the great and the small shall die in this land: they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them:”


So great would be the number of the dead that the usual funeral rites would be abandoned, the extent to which the people had adopted pagan ways being demonstrated in that the mourners normally cut themselves and shaved their heads - heathen practices which God had forbidden.


16:7.  “Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.”


“... tear” is misleading.  It is from a primitive root meaning “to break bread,” that being the sense in which it is used here.


God forbade the preparation of the customary funeral meal by friends of the bereaved as a gesture of comfort; as He did also the presentation of the cup of wine customarily given to those bereft of a parent.  Since, in the present context, all of these gestures of sympathy and comfort would be virtual subtle protests against God’s having sent this judgment, He would permit none of them.  The day of mercy for Judah had ended: that of unmitigated judgment had come.


16:8.  “Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink.”


Even though the judgment hadn’t yet fallen, Jeremiah was forbidden to participate in any feast, for their feasting was nothing less than the evidence that the people didn’t believe God’s warning, and He would not have His prophet encourage their unbelief. 


The practical lesson for believers today is that our participation in the giddy amusements of those we are responsible to warn of eternal judgment, is a contradiction in terms.  How can we carouse and play with them if we really believe that the only thing between them and eternal torment is the present fleeting breath they draw?  Do we ever stop to think that it may be their last?


16:9.  “For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.”


“... in your eyes, and in your days,” is literally “in your lifetime.”  Revelry ill became a people who were but a step from death, nor would they have engaged in any of their frivolous activity had they believed Jeremiah’s warning. 


The specific mention of bridegroom and bride is of particular ominous significance in the present context, for marriage is the virtual assurance of future generations. Judah was to be destroyed.  The generation that will inherit the blessings promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, will be that which will emerge in repentant belief from the Great Tribulation - a generation separated from the unbelieving one of Jeremiah’s day by at least twenty-six hundred years.


16:10.  “And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?”


Long continuance in sin had so inured the people that they had no consciousness of guilt.  They could conceive of no reason why God should want to punish them.  And so is it with today’s equally guilty Christendom.  They also have no awareness of guilt.


Judah was convinced that the maintenance of the outward ritual of worshiping Jehovah guaranteed her absolution from the penalty of all sin; and having that false assurance she worshiped also a host of idols in the superstitious belief that they too would bestow blessing.  Thus convinced that she had insured every possible blessing she then plunged headlong into every form of sin and the indulgence of every lust.


Only those who are spiritually blind will fail to see her folly replicated by today’s Christendom.  She too, convinced that maintenance of the outward ritual of worshiping God absolves her from the penalty of every sin, puts in a brief appearance in church on Sunday; and then seeks to secure temporal blessing and pleasure by worshiping also money, education, sport, art, etc., and having thus placated all the gods, she too plunges headlong into every form of sin and the indulgence of every lust.


And as Judah disbelieved God’s warnings of imminent destruction, so does Christendom, and like Judah, she too will be destroyed, her destruction coming in the foretold and now imminent Great Tribulation.


16:11.  “Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the Lord, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshiped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law;”


The sin hadn’t begun with the generation addressed by the prophet: their fathers had begun the departure from God, and each succeeding generation had widened the distance between Him and them.  And so has it been with Christendom.  Departure from God is invariably a gradual thing, and today’s abounding wickedness has been developing over many generations, but every word of Scripture points to the fact that this is the generation in which wickedness has culminated - and will be judged.


16:12.  “And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me:”


This continues to emphasize that Judah’s wickedness had reached its zenith in that evil generation. 


16:13.  “Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favor.”


“...cast you out” is literally “hurl you out headlong,” and it indicates the violence of their expulsion from the land.

The land to which they would be carried captive was Babylon, and since there is nothing to indicate that they were compelled to worship the Babylonian gods, it may be that the meaning here is correctly stated in Taylor’s translation of this verse, “... and there you can go ahead and worship your idols all you like - and I will grant you no favors.”


16:14.  “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;”


Judah’s coming captivity in Babylon would render meaningless the popular reference to Jehovah as the One Who had delivered Israel out of Egyptian bondage, and the saying would therefore fall into disuse, for it would be absurd to continue designating as a deliverer One Who had delivered the people into captivity.


16:15. “But, the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.”


The future deliverance spoken of here certainly may include the return of the remnant from Babylon at the end of foretold seventy years, but the words “and from all the lands whither he had driven them” indicate that the reference is to that regathering which will occur at the end of the Tribulation, when the believing remnant will be brought back from all the lands to which they were scattered in AD 70, to enjoy the promised millennial blessings so long forfeited by national unbelief.


16:16.  “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.”


This verse continues to indicate that the reference is to what has occurred since the Diaspora; and what is written will be more easily perceived if we stop first to consider the significance of fishing and hunting.  Fishing is associated with the sea, but the sea is a biblical symbol of the rebellious Gentile nations, see Isa 57:20, “The wicked (unbelieving) are like the troubled sea...” so Israel’s being “fished” is the symbolic announcement of the persecution she has suffered at the hand of the Gentiles  for the past two thousand years during which she has been scattered amongst them.  Her sorry history during those two millennia has been one of persecution, slaughter, and flight from one country to another in search of refuge. 


But notice the words which follow, “and after....”  After being the prey of the fishers, she is to become the prey of the hunters, hunting being associated with the land in contrast with the sea.  The message couldn’t be clearer.  She is to be brought back to the land after her long sojourn amongst the Gentiles, but she is to return still in unbelief, that return having begun with the restoration of Jewish autonomy in 1948, and continuing today.


And now the “the hunters” continue the evil work of “the fishers.”  No longer in the sea of the nations, but back in the  land (Palestine), she is still hunted for her life, the Arabs being those who now seek to destroy her, the persecution reaching its zenith in the fast approaching Great Tribulation when the Gentiles will join the Arabs in the attempt to destroy her.  There will be no peace for Israel until the Tribulation judgments will have brought a remnant to repentant faith in their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.


16:17.  “For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.”


Flee where she may, that nation whose hands are stained with the blood of God’s Son, cannot escape.  Her blinded eyes may fail to see it, but all her persecutors have been but instruments in the hand of Him she calls her God, His hand continuing to be against her until the Tribulation judgments will have elicited sorrowful confession of her terrible sin, and brought her to repentant faith in the One she slew at Calvary: the Lord Jesus Christ.


16:18.  “And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things.”


It seems that the double recompense of their iniquity may have been not only the Babylonian captivity, but also the then future Diaspora, and the still future but now imminent Tribulation judgments, their wickedness consisting of having defiled the land with the multitudinous idols they worshiped; the defilement of the land by the presence of the dead idols being the same in God’s sight as that caused by the presence of unburied corpses.  The one was as dead and as abominable to Him as was the other.


16:19.  “O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.”


The speaker is Jeremiah acknowledging his implicit trust in Jehovah, and expressing his confidence in the fact that a day was coming when the Gentiles also would be brought to see that in worshiping idols they and their fathers had been deluded, each succeeding generation having inherited the foolish false teaching that there was power in their idols, worthless inanimate things their own hands had formed out of metal and wood.


16:20.  “Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?”


Whether the speaker here is God or the prophet is unclear, and is unimportant, for the truth declared is axiomatic: if the thing worshiped has been formed by man’s own hand then clearly it cannot be a god at all, for it is absurd to believe that a man could make anything greater than himself.


16:21.  “Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is the Lord.”


The truth declared in the preceding verse was that Israel should have believed what God had spoken concerning Himself, His power, and His might; but since they had refused to believe His word, they would now learn by bitter experience just how very great His might and power were as He exercised both against them.  The demonstration of His omnipotence in His destruction of the Egyptians at the time of Israel’s deliverance from that bondage should never have been forgotten, but it had been, and now they were to experience his might in their own destruction.  And so will it be with every man who dies in unbelief.  He will experience eternally God’s omnipotence exercised against him, while the believer will enjoy eternally that power exercised for his blessing.


“... hand” is literally “power or authority,” while “might” refers to the ability to enforce that power or authority.  Judah was about to learn that the One she had despised was not only the Source of all power, but also the One capable of enforcing His will, she having mistaken His patience for weakness.  Apostate Christendom has made the same mistake, and is about to learn the lesson she should have learned from the record of God’s destruction of that rebellious generation of Judah.


“... this once” has about it an ominous air of finality and doom: it was the last demonstration of God’s omnipotence that Judah would be given.  It would destroy her because she had ignored all the warnings previously given to bring her to repentance and blessing.  The impending Tribulation judgments will be of the same character, and will be sent for the same reason: they will destroy apostate Christendom because she too has exhausted God’s patience by ignoring all previous warnings.

[Jeremiah 17]


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