Devotional Commentary on Jeremiah 9

The first verse is considered by the original Hebrew to belong to the last verse of the previous chapter.


Calvin in his commentary of 1567 translated the verse correctly and the reading of the Targum is the same, but modern translators just make it “were” and paraphrase it as “be” whereas Calvin correctly translated it as ponet in Latin meaning, “set, place” and ultimately give. “Who will give My head water?” Meaning, who will calm Me down. As right as the translation of Calvin was, as wrong was his interpretation that it is Jeremiah talking instead of God. Middle Age Rabbi Redak interpreted like Calvin that it is Jeremiah speaking. But, this is not correct and Middle Age Rabbi Kara differed correctly with Redak saying it is not Jeremiah but the Lord speaking. God is replying to the wayward remnant here.


He is suppose to meet them in Jerusalem regularly on set times but He wishes to just run away and find a overnight place in the desert. They are adulterers and a company of traitors (verse 1). Calvin said that if people just preach the simple message, there is no warmth unless there are some thorns on it. Calvin is right, nothing has changed in 1567 and nothing has changed in our own day. “They have directed their tongues” (wayyaderku = the same root as road or way), like bows falsely (sheqer).” Normally the shooter wants to shoot on target but the wayward spiritual Israel seeks to purposefully pull the bow too much or too little to fall short of God’s expectations or slightly left or right, up or down biblical standards of God’s Revelation and Torah to miss the mark. This they rationalize away with their tongues and cover it up, says the Lord (verse 2). This kind of slight deviation from God’s biblical truths, made them grow popular or strong in the country or countries of the world but not for truth (welo le-emunah) (verse 2c). Since they go out from evil unto evil (mera-ah el ra-ah) “and Me they do not know” says the Lord (verse 2d). It is clearly the Lord speaking and not Jeremiah.


The Lord asked them to be careful of their so-called spiritual neighbors and that they should not trust them (verse 3a) for “every neighbor will walk fraudulently”.


The Lord is seeking a certain spiritual quality not a seeking of human populist trends. “And a man upon his neighbor will compel [Egyptian tr meaning “tax, compel, levy”] and truth they will not speak” (verse 4a).”They have taught to their tongues the speaking of lies” (verse 4b). This is an education of deception.


Jeremiah did then a very ungrammatical thing: he wrote two verbs next to each other, “they cause iniquity, they are weary” (verse 4c). There are no copulative between the two verbs.


He did the same at the end of verse 9. They are staying in the middle of deceit and in deceit they do not know Me “says the Lord” (verse 5). God does not approach near deceit since that is the domain of Satan himself.


God decided to refine them and test them since what else can the Lord do with the remnant (the daughter of my people) (verse 6). Their tongues is a deadly arrow and they speak peace to each other but in their inside they lay a trap for their neighbor. (God says they are double-faced) (verse 7). This double life is the cause that God wonder if He should not visit them for these things and whether He shall not avenge His soul on a nation [remnant] like this (verse 8).


God says He will weep and wail for the mountains and lament for the restplaces of the wilderness, because they are withered (dry) and without anyone passing through (deserted) (verse 9). The sound of cattle is not heard and the birds of the heavens “and unto the beasts, they have fled, they have walked”. This is again a very interesting case of a double verb side by side without a copulative between them. Almost ungrammatical. However, that is how the mind of a human works. There are people who talk this way so that their conversation and personality are fitting to their conversation or their conversation are fitting to their personality and they do this.


“And I will give Jerusalem to heaps, from a howl [Egyptian cwn meaning howl] of jackals and the cities of Judah I will give desolation without inhabitant” (verse 10).


Jeremiah then asks the question to his fellow remnant members, who is so wise to understand this or declare it? Someone has to explain why the land is a wilderness in his vision of events to come (verse 11). The answer does not come from a human but from the Lord to Jeremiah to explain the horrified condition in his vision. The Lord says that they have forsaken His law (Torah) which He set before them and have not listened in His voice nor walked in it (verse 12).


God set before their feet a way of the commandments to walk in and to listen to His voice of command to walk in that way for happiness and salvation.


But, they do not walk in the way of the Lord. They followed the way of their own heart and walk after Baalim which their fathers taught them (verse 13). There even was an education for Baal. The Rabbis of the Talmud came to the conclusion that the remnant of Jeremiah’s day “did not proceed with the Torah according to its proper intention and devotion”. This was Jesus’ underlying message to them already in His days.


One may ask, how is it possible for one who knows Israelite religion practices to switch so easily and smoothly to Baal-worship. Here is the answer: At Ugarit in Syria they have discovered since 1929 tablets at Ugarit or Rash Shamra with hymns dating from the middle time of the Judges nearly a 150 years after Moses. Many of those hymns compare very well with Psalms in the collections of David and other psalm writers in the Hebrew Bible. Sometimes only the name of Yahweh or Elohim is replaced with Baal or Astarith.


Here is how they originated. When the Israelites entered Canaan in 1410 BCE, some of them secularized and to do business, (SAGAZ or secular habiru) went and lived at Ugarit. They took their songbooks and other worship material like the law of Moses with them and favorite Israelite songs and laws became Ugaritized. To find mirrors of Israelite Psalms then with hymns to Baal is thus truth mixed with error and this situation persisted for centuries so that in Jeremiah’s time the remnant could easily close their eyes for the word Baal although the rhythm and song is exactly the same for Yahweh. This ecumenical playing between religions is also evident in our own day and the struggle and rejection by God of this phenomenon is exactly the same.


The punishment that God had in mind for this rebellious remnant is then explained in verse 14: He will feed them “to a living one” [Egyptian word cnh meaning “living one”] and He will give them to drink “water of a head” literally in Hebrew, but since Jeremiah knew Egyptian as well one can maybe suggest that the word is the Egyptian word rs or rst which means “south”. Translate then “water of the south” or Egypt.


Egypt is punishment for the remnant to return to because in their history that is where they came from with a bitter historical past. To return is punishment and horror. The Middle Age Rabbis thought it is the “head [of a snake]” thus “poison”. They would be scattered among the nations and a sword would destroy them (klwty) (verse 15).


Now we come to two verses 16-17 which is the doctrine of the Trinity. That the Rabbis missed it, is the real question. Jeremiah said it is the Lord speaking: They are to consider and call mourners and skillful women are to come as for a funeral. In verse 17, the Lord is still speaking and said that these wailers should come and wail “over us” (alynu) with the –nu = us. God is more than one, namely “us”? Of course. That is what the Trinity doctrine is all about. There is the same doctrine in Genesis 1:26 “Let us make man”. Moses knew the Trinity doctrine, Jeremiah had it, Amos had it in Amos 1-2 but the Rabbis lost it. Wail “so that our (-nu) eyes may shed tears and our (-nu) eyelids gush with water”.


In verse 18 is a complete switch from God in the previous verses to Jeremiah and his people. The wailing is no longer the Lord and the Trinity, it is Zion. “For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion.” Jeremiah also heard the reaction from the remnant of Zion on earth. It is not only the Trinity crying about the remnant sins and results of punishment, it is also the remnant themselves crying because of the punishment but hard-heartedly occupied with sin. “How we [Jeremiah and the remnant] are ruined. We are much ashamed, because we have left the land because they have cast down our dwellings” (verse 18). This was a vision of what is going to happen in 586 BCE by Jeremiah long in advance.


Jeremiah addresses the women of the remnant that they have to teach their daughters a lamentation and teach their neighbors (verse 19). Jeremiah said that he saw that “death has come up in our windows; it has come into our palaces; to cut off the infants from the streets and the young men from the squares” (verse 20). These females are to speak that the carcasses of men shall fall like dung on a open field and like sheaves after a reaper with none to gather them” (verse 21).


The Lord speaks and said to Jeremiah to tell them that no man bust boast of his own strength and ability and IQ (verse 22). The only one who can boast is the one who boasts in the Lord in that the person knows the Lord (verse 23). That person needs to understand and know that the Lord practices kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth. These qualities are making God unique on earth since they are intertwined.


He has to punish because of justice and He has to expect a standard because He is righteous but He is also kind to forgive the contrite repenting sinner. “For in these things I delight, says the Lord” (verse 23). It is important in life to find out what delights the Lord and to follow in His steps to do likewise and refrain from not doing likewise.


“Behold days are coming, says the Lord, when I will punish every circumcised one with his uncircumcision” (verse 24). Watch this: circumcised people can be uncircumcised. The Rabbis of the Middle Ages were totally confused here. So they altered the text by creating new copulatives and conjunctions for the text that is not in the original. The original reads: “every circumcised one in his uncircumcision”. Rabbi Rashi changed the text to apply it not to the good in the remnant alone but also to the bad in the remnant: “Every circumcised one who has a foreskin, even an uncircumcised heart [still the remnant for punishment from the Lord] and surely I will punish the heathens”.


Rashi made a double entry from a single entry and distinguish between physically circumcised and uncircumcised.


Rabbi Redak took another direction: “Every circumcised one and everyone who has a foreskin”. For Redak it is two different groups and nations here, Jews and Gentiles. He changed the preposition “in” to a copulative “and”. Changed the Word of God to fit his own concept. Rashi was the closest although also wrong.


The Targum completely misunderstood the theology behind the verse with many elaborations: “Look, days are coming says the Lord and I will punish upon all the peoples the searching of the stars and upon the house of Israel to pay their works for the searching of the stars”. Astrological worship is wrong but this is not what the text reads. It says that even though a person is circumcised but that person’s heart is not with God or following God in His Torah, not obeying Him, turning away from Him, then that (physical) circumcised person is counted as “uncircumcised’ of heart with God and that cancels the physical circumcision.


The true purpose of circumcision in the Old Testament is not only to be a signifier of nationhood but also an accompanied spiritual circumcision of heart. “I belong to God and not to myself”. To elaborate on this situation of physical circumcision and spiritual circumcision Jeremiah added one more verse saying that Egypt, Judah, Edom, the children of Ammon, Moab and all those cast off to the corners, who dwell in the desert, all are uncircumcised, Judah included, although they are physically circumcised. They are all under the umbrella of “uncircumcision” because “all the house of Israel are of uncircumcised of hearts” (verse 25).

Dear God

Jeremiah showed us a Trinity that cries over the uncircumcised unspiritual condition of His people the remnant, ancient and in our times. We desire to return to God whole-heartedly and receive the circumcision of heart for eternal salvation. Amen.