Devotional Commentary on Jeremiah 4


Jeremiah’s message is one of conversion. The Lord desires them to turn back to Him. It is basically last minute calls for rescue before disaster comes. Beautiful things will happen if the people focus on reformation (verses 1-2).


For the people of Judah who are involved in lifestyles that are entertainment orientated, the Lord said that they should not plow in furrow ground, they should not sow on thorns and they should remove the foreskins of their hearts. Their hearts are unhealthy, their thinking full of mice-nests, their attempts to develop something useless since it is done among thorny disabilities, and they try to seek a future on ground that is not good (verse 4). They need to reform since Hell or a fiery burning is a reality in future in the eschaton (verse 4 last part).


For the reformation they should sound a shofar (verse 5b). They should gather in fortified cities (verse 5c-d). A standard should be raised to Zion for evil will come from the North (verse 6). Zion is not Jerusalem or in Jerusalem. Zion is a heavenly concept, a habitation to come. They are in various cities and not assembled in Zion. It does not read in the original that they should assemble in Zion. It says “towards Zion” [vertical Zion] not horizontal Zion.

In the absence of a reformation, Jeremiah can only see the Lion coming from the North, the approaching Babylon empire to make destruction in the country (verse 7). This is seen by Jeremiah before the Reformation of Josiah in 624 BCE.


Even though destruction is on the agenda for future, if they repent and put on sackcloth, lament and wail the Lord can turn things around (verse 8). We should be careful to not write people off from salvation easily. “I know him/her, he or she will never change.” What we know and what the Lord knows are two different things.


When disaster finally comes the heart of the king and princes shall fail; priests shall be astonished and prophets shall wonder (verse 9).


As a young man between 16-20 years old, a PK (preacher’s kid) with his father as High Priest, it does not seem as if he has his father as audience in his sermons since when later Josiah the king asked for Reform, Hilkiah the father of Jeremiah consulted the prophetess Huldah and not his son although she had the same message as his son.


The content of his sermon is paraphrasing Isaiah 22:3-5 for verse 9; Isaiah 22:12 for verse 8; Isaiah 1:7 and 6:11 for verse 7; Isaiah 62:10 for verse 6; Hosea 8:1 for verse 5; Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6 for verse 4; Hosea 10:12 for verse 3; Deuteronomy 10:20 for verse 2 and Joel 2:12 for verse 1. His father’s scrolls on Isaiah, Hosea, Deuteronomy and Joel were open next to his own writing and he was citing ideas from each of them for his sermon. Maybe because of his style his father was not clear whether the Lord was directly speaking to his son or whether it was ideas through study, the same that pastoral training produce?


Delitzsch 1889 page 108 admitted that the word “deceived” in verse 10 is “out of place either in the mouth of the people or of the lying prophets.” In fact, the word is dubious and unknown so scholars, like himself used Arabic words from the time of the 7th century AD and later to explain Jeremiah’s word more than a millennium earlier. It is strange that he wants to suggest an Arabic word since his own outcry against this method is known:

 “When I commenced the study of Assyrian, Assyriology was in a state of slavish dependency on Arabic lexicography” (Delitzsch 1883: VI). “I soon became convinced that Arabic was less important to the study of Assyrian than the North Semitic languages, the Hebrew and the Aramaic dialects, a conviction which I regard as the fundamental principle of Assyrian research” (ibid). Delitzsch found that Arabic cannot be a prototype for Hebrew: “Arabic cannot be the prototype of the other Semitic languages, least of all of Hebrew. This opinion receives the fullest confirmation from Assyrian research” (Delitzsch 1883: VIII). He then asked that Arabic should not be forced on Hebrew meanings: “It is, therefore, time to abandon the ordinary practice of forcing the peculiar, often late, meanings of the Arabic words upon the much older Hebrew sister” (ibid). The need for revision of Hebrew lexicography was stated in this way: “Hebrew-lexicography in its present state has to supply desiderata of a far more solid and important character. A sharper understanding of the Hebrew stems themselves as to their sounds and accurate meaning or shades of meaning is especially required” (Delitzsch 1883: XI). He said that vague meanings to Hebrew words could be deleted: “I think, all these speculations upon the roots and their vague meanings could be omitted without any harm to the Hebrew dictionary and the enormous space saved by this omission could be turned to a better and more useful account” (Delitzsch 1883: XII). The value of Arabic for Hebrew semantics was exaggerated: “The value of Arabic for Hebrew lexicography has been greatly exaggerated” (Delitzsch 1883: 5). There is a false presupposition of a preserved unchanged origninality in Arabic: “The well-known fact that the Arabic language has preserved in numerous instances original forms of the Semitic idiom which are lost in the kindred dialects, combined with the enormous copiousness of its vocabulary, has led to the erroneous supposition that the same degree of unchanged originality is to be assumed for the meanings of the Arabic words” (Delitzsch 1883: 5). The error is to force Arabic meanings onto Hebrew ones: “The common practice of arbitrarily forcing Arabic meanings upon Hebrew words constitutes a fundamental error of modern Hebrew lexicography” (ibid). He then described the differences between Arabic and Hebrew: “Their plausibility becomes, however, seriously impaired when we consider the totally different history of the two languages. Hebrew became a literary language many centuries before the Christian era. Arabic was not used for literary purposes until the seventh century of our era. How, then, is it possible to make Arabic the prototype of a sister tongue so much older as Hebrew? Further, it must be taken into account, that the Aramaic dialect and, in some instances, even Ethiopic exhibit the same late meanings ascribed to Hebrew. If we admit that Arabic is the prototype of the other Semitic languages, we cannot but conclude, that they have passed side by side through the same phases of development to arrive at the same stage of decay as to the meanings of their words. How, then, can we account for the differences of sound by which one is separated from the other? These considerations alone suffice to shake our belief in a system of etymological research so exclusively based on Arabic. The whole fabric is, however, finally overturned by the monumental literature of Babylonia and Assyria” (Delitzsch 1883: 8). F. Deltizsch, The Hebrew Language Viewed in the Light of Assyrian Research  (London: Williams and Norgate, 1883) However, Delitzsch had also his pitfalls. He was very doubtful of the role of Egyptian in Hebrew semantics “If we except the geographical names and the proper names, including the title Pharaoh, there is hardly a single word of certain Egyptian origin to be found in the vocabulary of the old Hebrew language” (Delitzsch 1883: 27).

The best option for the word “deceived” is the word “make insignificant” which is derived from the Late Egyptian form ìsy. Jeremiah was familiar with Egypt so that such a derivation of meaning is not out of place. “Ah Lord, surely you have made insignificant/light this people and Jerusalem, saying ‘You will have peace’ whereas a sword touches the throat” (verse 10). It is not deception. God does not work with deception and Delitzsch came short of explaining it that way unfortunately. God promised blessings but due to their sins the promise is changed into a curse, not because of God’s decision but the people’s wish to continue in sins.


The time of the Second Coming of Christ is in mind in verses 11ff. The remnant weed that did not want to turn to the Lord will experience during the Time of Trouble great trouble and at the Second Coming great destruction. A wind (ruach = Spirit) will sweep the rivers in the desert on the way to the weed in the Remnant of the Lord, not to winnow them or not to cleanse them, which are functions of the Holy Spirit as third person of the Trinity (verse 11). These were functions of the Spirit during the grace and salvation period. After the Close of Probation when the Door of Mercy closes and Christ completes His Highpriestly role in the Investigative Judgment, then the Spirit is fully active “full [Holy] Spirit” (verse 12) to assist God in His wrath. At that time the Holy Spirit will come to assist Christ: “Spirit [ruach] …shall come to Me [Christ].” The “now” is not in Jeremiah’s day in 629-624 BCE, but at that time in future at the Second Coming of Christ. The Spirit with all the functions to assist in destruction will come to Christ at the Second Coming. Christ then said that “I too will debate with them [the weed in the remnant]” (verse 12b).


Then Jeremiah saw in verse 13 the same that Joel 2 and Hosea 3 described of the Second Coming of Christ: “He [Christ] like clouds [angels] He will ascend and like the whirlwind His chariots [angels], His steeds are swifter than eagles”. Jeremiah heard the voice of the weed of the remnant at that time: “woe to us [not Jeremiah but the weed of the remnant] for we have been plundered” (verse 13d).


God has still big room for repentance (verse 14a). The heart should be cleansed of evil. The problem with them is their evil thoughts (verse 14).


A prophet is announcing calamity in future from mount Ephraim from Dan it seems (verse 15). The Eschaton calamities were a constant subject of the prophets.


The announced that in the future of Jeremiah’s Jerusalem, besiegers are coming from a distant land [probably Babylon with Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BCE] (verse 16). Their focus will be Judah. They will be around Judah like watchers of a field (verse 17).


In verse 18 Jeremiah spelled out how their sin originated: they were following in the way of their own, doing deeds of their own evil choice, they were mala fide and the result is bitter in their experiences.


Jeremiah made a citation in verse 19 from 2 Kings 4:19 indicating moaning sounds: “My bowels, my bowels! I writhe in pain”. Rabbi Rashi is correct that it is not yet since it is just in vision between 629-624 BCE.


The description of destruction must be in vision since they did not happen yet in verses 20-22. “My people are foolish, they know Me not, they are foolish children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but they know not to do good”.


When one comes to verses 23-26 some scholars thought it is the reverse of Creation. Fishbane (1971) wrote an article on it but his article was investigated by David Tsumura 2005, 28ff. pointing out the words that Fishbane missed and that it is not exactly the Creation order since birds is after humans for example. All scholars agree that there is definitely a word link between Genesis 1 and Jeremiah 4:23-26. The words tōhû wābōhû is one example. Fishbane thought the Jeremiah tried to recover the pattern of Creation in Jeremiah 4:23 but as Tsumura indicated, it was not a recovery for the theme is not the same, although some words similar. He argues that one should put these verses in the context of verses 27-28. God will not make a complete end of it (verse 27c wĕkālâ lō’ ‘e`ĕśeh). Tsumura is also somewhat in the dark about the passage since he wants to see it only as a return to “’desert-like’ state of the ‘earth’” (Tsumura 2005 page 32).


The quaking of the mountains has to do with the Second Coming of Christ. The earth that Jeremiah saw was void. When the saints are in heaven and mountains quake and fall on the evil, the earth will be void for a thousand years and Satan will be trapped alone here (verse 24). Tsumura is not an Adventist so he will not know what to do with these verses. Preterists have hard time to explain the Eschaton. Joel 2 and Habakkuk 3 is applicable also. Now during the Time of Trouble the environmental impact will be one of drying-up since Revelation says they will chew their tongues, thus a global warming situation (verse 26). The cities are destroyed. Isaiah 25 depicted the same conditions before the Second Coming of Christ. Migrations will take place (in Isaiah 25) and here in verse 25. It is actions against the evil from the Lord since it says that it is because of the wrath of God (verse 26). All the land shall be desolation “but I will not make an end” (verse 27c). It is not yet the Second Coming of Christ. The earth shall mourn and this period is almost a funeral since the namelists of all those who got an F for the exam of life will be known and the jury in the Investigative Judgment left and “heavens above shall darken” (verse 28). They do not want to see evil and what is going to happen to them. It is too sad to see. These events of the Time of Trouble on the wicked is planned by God “for that which I spoke as I had planned”. Jesus presented the same information to the masses in Matthew 13 with parables and in every parable the historical chronological harvest by the angels, not by the Trinity, is the evil before the righteous. They are separated during the Time of Trouble from the righteous somewhat. “I did not regret and I will not turn back from it” (Christ said in verse 28d).


In verse 30, Jeremiah the evil weed in the remnant beautify themselves to ecumenically link with the world and impress the world’s Education Boards of Inspectors evaluating the status of their schools and operations. “In vain you beautify yourself, lovers despise you, they seek you life”. Tragic will be the evil during this time since spoliation took place as is also mentioned by Isaiah 25. They will mourn and cry during this time (verse 31).

Scholars may argue that it describes the events of the coming exile. Yes, later he does, but in this we have a vision (ra’îtî) (verses 26a, 25a, 24a, 23a).


Dear Lord

Jeremiah is not trying to rewrite Moses and saw anything the other prophets did not see and even us can recognize easily what he is talking about for Jeremiah is biblical in harmony with all the other authors. We also want to be that way. In Jesus name, Amen.