As we begin this Jeremiah 14 commentary, we’ll be studying Jeremiah 14 in just a moment.
But first I want us to consider Deuteronomy 28. You can turn there if you’d like, but you probably don’t have to.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Deuteronomy – Retelling the Law
Deuteronomy is – among other things – Moses’ retelling of the Law that he received from the Lord back in the book of Exodus. A lot had transpired in the 40 years between Exodus and Deuteronomy. And so at this point in Deuteronomy 28, Israel was ready to finally enter the Promised Land. And Moses was compelled to remind this new generation of their responsibilities under this covenant that God made with this nation about 40 years previous.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Deuteronomy 28 – Blessings and Curses
Deuteronomy 28 then – right at the end of the book –is Moses telling the people of the blessings promised for keeping this covenant. Those are listed in Deuteronomy 28:1-14.
But the rest of that chapter – Deuteronomy 28:15-68 is a listing of all the bad things that would happen to the people if they broke this covenant.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 11 – Broken Covenant
Now, let’s turn our attention from Deuteronomy 28 to the book we’re studying – Jeremiah. And not Jeremiah 14 just yet. Three chapters prior in Jeremiah 11:10 we have recorded God saying the following of his people, Israel: “…the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.”
The covenant has been broken! The people have taken themselves out of the realm of Deuteronomy 28:1-14 with all the blessings for obedience. And they have transferred themselves into the realm of Deuteronomy 28:15-68 and all the curses and bad things that they deserve for disobeying their God.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Comprehensive Effect
Now, this will affect everything for them. The Lord is pretty comprehensive in Deuteronomy 28 about how he planned to bless or curse based on the people’s choice to obey or disobey.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Rain, in Particular
One of the areas that the Lord speaks of in Deuteronomy 28 is the matter of sending rain.
In the blessings section of Deuteronomy 28:12 the Lord wants to bless his people with rain. He says there, “The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season…”
But the Lord can’t do that anymore – especially not after Jeremiah 11:10 and the Lord’s declaration that the people had broken the covenant. Now, they’ve brought upon themselves this word from the Lord in Deuteronomy 28:24 – “The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.”
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14 – A Drought!
With all that in mind, then it’s no surprise that we find what we find in Jeremiah 14. There’s a drought in the land of Judah – just as the Lord told them would happen if they broke his covenant with them.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:1 | Introduction to the Section
So, let’s notice the introduction to this chapter of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 14:1.
Jeremiah 14:1 ¶ The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the [dearth/drought].
I want us to notice one thing from this introduction to Jeremiah 14. God keeps his word. In the Mosaic Covenant he promised a drought if the people broke that covenant. They broke that covenant. He sends a drought. God keeps his word.
In the New Testament, the church is – we are – told that if we sow to the flesh – if we give in to our sinful nature and carry out its desires – we are promised that we will reap corruption.
Thankfully, as we noted last time, we apparently cannot break the New Covenant like Israel broke the Mosaic Covenant. Halelujah for that!
But – to the extent that we engage in fleshly thoughts and practices, we will receive corruption for it.
And it might not come right away. When you sow seed it doesn’t become a full plant the next day. There’s delay. But it happens eventually. So too for our entertaining sin in our lives. The corruption will eventually develop and we will be forced to reap its results. Because God keeps his word.
So, that’s an example of how the Lord keeps his word to his church in a way that’s more negative for us. Positively though we have so many promises that we can bank on because we have a God who keeps his word.
For example, God will never leave us. And no one can pluck us out of Christ’s hand or the Father’s. And Christ is with us always. And he’s coming quickly with nothing needing to happen before he returns. And if you’ve called upon the name of the Lord you shall be saved. And the sufferings we endure now are not to be compared to the glory that’s stored up for us.
All these promises and more will certainly happen because we have a God who keeps his word.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:2-6 | Effects of the Drought
Well, as I say, God indeed kept his word to his people Israel – in a way that was decidedly disadvantageous for them. And so in Jeremiah 14:2-6 we have the effects of this promised drought graphically pictured for us.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:2
To begin, Jeremiah 14:2 speaks of the effect of the promised drought on the nation of Judah and city of Jerusalem – as well as their inhabitants, generally.
2 Judah mourneth,
and the gates thereof languish;
they are black unto the ground [i.e., in black mourning clothes, on the ground];
and the cry of Jerusalem [is gone up/has ascended].
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:3-4
Then Jeremiah 14:3-4 highlight the effect of this promised drought on individuals in a more focused fashion.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:3
Jeremiah 14:3 speaks of the nobles or “majestic ones” of Judah trying to find water with no success.
3 And their [nobles/leading men/majestic ones] have sent their [little ones/servants] to the waters [i.e., to get some water]:
they [i.e., the “little ones”] came to the [pits/cisterns], and found no water;
they returned with their vessels empty;
they were [ashamed/put to shame/disappointed] and [confounded/humiliated/dismayed], and covered their heads.
So, nobles send their servants to find water. The servants come back ashamed because they can’t find any because of the drought that God promised for Israel’s disobedience.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:4
Then Jeremiah 14:4 speaks of the effects of the promised drought on the farmers of Judah.
4 Because the ground is [chapt/cracked],
for there [was/has been] no rain [in/on] the [earth/land/eretz],
the [plowmen/farmers] were [ashamed/put to shame],
they covered their heads.
Again, you see mention of shame and covering of heads by the people. The servants did this because they couldn’t find water. The farmers now do it too because without rain, nothing in their ground will grow. And when nothing in their ground grows, they can’t eat anything. And if they can’t eat, they don’t live. Neither crops nor people can live without water.
Let’s consider rain for a moment. Rain is such an interesting thing. It’s totally free. I get a bill every month from my city’s water department. But I never get a bill for the rain that falls on my grass and on my garden crops and on my trees and bushes. And in fact I’ve never paid a cent my whole 33 years of existence for rain.
And so it’s free, and that’s a really good thing. And yet if you need it and it doesn’t come, you can’t pay enough to get it to come. The richest man in the world – a conglomeration of the richest men in the world – can’t pay for rain to come. God is the one who decides when it falls and when it doesn’t. He apparently uses natural processes. And yet, behind those processes is his sovereign decision-making at work.
And so, because his people Israel had broken his covenant, he was obliged to withhold the rain. I imagine some of this was to punish them, yes. But some of the reason behind this withholding rain no doubt was to get them to turn back to him whom they had forsaken.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:5-6
Alright, now people aren’t the only ones affected by God’s promised drought here in Jeremiah. In fact, in Jeremiah 14:5-6 animals are presented as suffering as well.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:5
First, we see the effects of this drought on the deer in Jeremiah 14:5.
5 Yea, the [hind/doe] also [calved/gave birth] in the field, and [forsook/abandoned] it,
because there was no grass.
The grass is all dead because there’s no rain. Without grass, the mother deer doesn’t have enough strength to take care of her young. So she just leaves them to die in the field.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:6
And of course deer aren’t the only animals affected by this promised drought. Donkeys are as well in Jeremiah 14:6.
6 And the wild [asses/donkeys] did stand in the [high places/bare heights/hilltops],
they [snuffed up/pant for] [the wind/breath] like [dragons/jackals – apparently, some beast that’s known for panting];
their eyes [did fail/are strained],
because there was no [grass/vegetation/food] [i.e., they were trying hard to look for food but couldn’t find it].
So, again, no grass means great hardship for these animals of Judah.
And this drought came because of the people’s sins. And yet, the results effect not only the sinful people, but also the animals. That makes me think of Romans 8:22 where we’re reminded that the whole creation groans – not just you and I – but the whole creation groans as a result of sin and its consequences.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:7-9 | Jeremiah Intercedes for Judah
Well, in light of this severe drought, Jeremiah shows himself to be a faithful prophet and priest on behalf of the people – because, again, remember, he was both a prophet and a priest.
So, he prays for his people in Jeremiah 14:7-9. He intercedes for them to God.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:7
Jeremiah confesses the collective sin of the people and asks the Lord to act and reverse the drought in Jeremiah 14:7.
7 [Jeremiah says] O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us,
[do/act/intervene] thou it for thy name’s sake:
for our [backslidings/apostasies/turnings from you] are many;
we have sinned against thee.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:8
Jeremiah then confesses to God that he’s their only hope and savior in Jeremiah 14:8.
8 O the hope of Israel [i.e., the object of Israel’s hope],
the saviour thereof in time of [trouble/distress],
Jeremiah next laments the Lord’s apparent aloofness from his people’s distressing circumstances.
why shouldest thou be as a [stranger/resident foreigner] in the land,
and as a [wayfaring man/traveler] that [turneth aside to tarry/pitches his tent/stops in only] for a night?
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:9
In fact, Jeremiah goes so far as to even suggest that God is looking kind of weak for not helping his people in their distress in Jeremiah 14:9.
9 Why shouldest thou be as a man [astonied/dismayed/helpless],
as a [mighty man/champion] that cannot save?
And yet, Jeremiah knows that the Lord is far from weak. He’s the epitome of strength. And he’s also in the midst of Judah. And Judah is uniquely the Lord’s.
yet thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us [i.e., you’re with us],
and we are called by thy name [i.e., we belong to you];
And therefore, Jeremiah begs the Lord to help them.
[leave/forsake/abandon] us not.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:10 | The Lord Justifies the Drought
Now, the Lord is compassionate and gracious. Slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness according to Psalm 103.
And yet, a promise is a promise. And the Lord promised Israel to withhold rain if they broke his covenant with them. And therefore, the Lord responds by justifying his sending the drought in Jeremiah 14:10.
10 Thus saith the LORD [unto/about] this people,
[Thus/Even so/Truly] have they loved to [wander/go astray],
they have not [refrained/kept in check] their feet [i.e., from running away from God],
therefore the LORD [doth not accept/is not pleased with] them;
he will now [remember/call to mind] their iniquity,
and [visit/call to account/punish] their sins.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:11-12 | The Lord Refuses to Hear Intercession for Judah
So, that’s the Lord’s word to Jeremiah about the people as a whole.
In addition, the Lord also has a word to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 14:11. After that, he goes back to the people again in Jeremiah 14:12. The message in these two verses is – God is not going to hear intercession for Judah anymore.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:11
First, God’s word to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 14:11.
11 ¶ Then said the LORD unto me,
Pray not for this people for their [good/welfare].
So, God tells Jeremiah that he doesn’t want that faithful prophet to intercede for his people anymore. He doesn’t want Jeremiah to ask for God to revoke the promised drought. The people broke the covenant. God must send the drought.
This is now the third time in this book that the Lord has to tell Jeremiah to stop interceding for his people (Jeremiah 7:16, Jeremiah 11:14, and Jeremiah 14:11 (here)).
This tells me two things.
First, Jeremiah is an example for us of steadfast intercessory prayer for sinful people. He’s a model of persevering in prayer – even for his enemies. Right?! These people wanted to kill him! And yet he prayed for them to the point where the Lord has to tell Jeremiah 3 times to stop it.
Second, though, there’s a time when human intercession with God fails. When God refuses to hear it. Here in Jeremiah, God has promised drought for breaking the covenant. God had to keep his word and punish with drought.
But under the New Covenant though we have a merciful and faithful high priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25).
As the hymn “Arise My Soul, Arise” by Charles Wesley says,
He [Christ] ever lives above for me to intercede.
His all-redeeming love, his precious blood to plead.
And then another stanza concludes that thought,
The Father hears him pray [interceding for us], His dear anointed one.
He cannot turn away the presence of his son.
God could turn away Jeremiah. But he cannot and will not turn away his interceding son – our Lord Jesus Christ – whose primary activity currently is to pray for you and me to the Father. He’s doing that right now.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:12
But the Lord had to reject Jeremiah’s intercession.
Further, God also had to reject the prayers of his sinful people according to Jeremiah 14:12.
12 When they fast, I will not hear their cry;
and when they offer burnt offering and [an oblation/grain offering], I will not accept them:
but I will [consume/make an end of/kill] them
by the [sword/wars], and
by the famine, and
by the [pestilence/plagues].
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:13 | Jeremiah Points to False Prophets and Their Influence
Now, at this point, Jeremiah has attempted to intercede for his people. His intercession has been rejected because they’ve broken the covenant and basically have no right to good things from the Lord. They need to repent.
And so, Jeremiah recognizes those realities. But he doesn’t immediately give up on interceding for his people. In Jeremiah 14:13 he brings to the Lord’s attention that a good deal of the blame for the people’s disobedience and breaking of the covenant falls on their teachers and religious leaders.
13 ¶ Then said I,
Ah, Lord GOD! [behold/look!], the prophets say unto them [i.e., on your behalf],
Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine;
but I [i.e., speaking for the Lord] will give you [assured/lasting] peace in this place.
So, the people who are supposed to be representing the Lord to the people – his prophets – are actually saying the exact opposite of what God is promising to do to them. That’s confusing. Surely, God will relent and deal only with those false prophets! Right?
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:14-16 | The Lord Will Punish the False Prophets and the People Who Listen to Them
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:14-15
Well, the Lord does recognize the corrupting influence of the prophets on the people in Jeremiah 14:14-15.
14 Then the LORD said unto me,
The prophets prophesy lies [in my name/while claiming my authority]:
I sent them not,
neither have I [commanded/commissioned] them,
neither spake unto them:
they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination,
and [a thing of nought/futility/worthless predictions],
and the [deceit/deception/delusions] of their [heart/own minds].
And so here’s the promised punishment for the false prophets.
15 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land;
By sword and [famine/starvation] shall those prophets [be consumed/meet their end/be killed].
So, the prophets will not get away from the punishment that God had determined for his covenant-breaking people. Even though they say there’s no punishment coming, they will be punished just like all the rest of the people.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:16
But – at the same time that God recognizes the influence of the false prophets on the people’s behavior and thinking – he doesn’t let the people off the hook. God holds them accountable for what they listen to and what they believe and what they follow in Jeremiah 14:16.
16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem
because of the famine and [the sword/war];
and they shall have none to bury them,
them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters:
for I will pour their wickedness upon them.
And this is informative for us regarding how God thinks about false teachers and those who follow them. The people who buy the books, and listen to the messages, and attend the services, and contribute to the so-called “ministry” of modern-day false teachers will not escape the punishment that those false teachers themselves face. When people chose to listen to these unorthodox unsound people, they really are making their own choice. And they will be judged accordingly.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:17-18 | Jeremiah Commanded to Lament the People’s Fate
Well, so, the Lord just laid out certain punishment on both the false prophets and the people. This punishment is certain, unless they turn to the Lord.
And yet, amazingly, the Lord still wants Jeremiah to plead with the people – which is why I think repentance is still an option for them. In Jeremiah 14:17-18 the Lord commands Jeremiah to recite a lament to the people concerning their fate if they don’t repent.
17 Therefore thou [i.e., Jeremiah] shalt say this word unto them;
Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day,
and let them not cease:
Well, why the tears?
for the virgin daughter of my people is [broken/crushed] with a [great breach/sorely infected wound/serious wound],
with a [very grievous blow/mighty blow/crushing blow].
Ok, so, what will that look like in reality? Answer: It will look like death everywhere.
18 If I go forth into the [field/country], then behold [the/those] slain [with the sword/in battle]!
and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick [with famine/because of starvation]!
yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land [that they know not/without any real understanding].
And that last statement about the prophet and the priest can be indicating that these groups of people will be exiled. Or it could be stating that all of this is happening in part at least because these two groups who should know where they’re going so that they can lead others right are wandering just like everyone else from where they should be.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:19-22 | Jeremiah Intercedes Again for the People
Now, as we move past Jeremiah 14:18, we enter the last sub-section of this chapter. And to me it’s pretty amazing that we see what we see here again.
Jeremiah has interceded for his people. God rejects that intercession.
Jeremiah points to the false prophets’ fault in the matter. God still holds to punishing the people in addition to the false prophets.
So, Jeremiah has been turned back by the Lord twice. But that doesn’t stop him from coming back to the Lord one more time in Jeremiah 14:19-22 and interceding for the people.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:19
19 [i.e., Jeremiah says/People say?] Hast thou [utterly/completely] rejected Judah?
hath thy soul [lothed/loathed] Zion?
why hast thou smitten us,
and there is no healing for us?
we looked for peace,
and there is no good;
and for the time of healing,
and behold [trouble/terror]!
Folks, I guarantee you that Jeremiah knew the answer to the question he’s posing. Why has God struck them? It’s because they broke the covenant! Jeremiah knew that.
And yet, do you find yourself asking the Lord questions – the answer to which you know very well? Especially when times are hard?
That’s what Jeremiah is doing here. Interceding for the people. Asking questions with obvious answers.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:20
He even goes on to confess the people’s sins once more in Jeremiah 14:20.
20 We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness,
and the iniquity of our fathers:
for we have sinned against thee.
Both they and their ancestors had sinned. They deserve what the Lord is doing to them. At least Jeremiah is acknowledging that fact.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:21
And based on the confession of their sin, Jeremiah pleads with God for mercy in Jeremiah 14:21.
21 Do not [abhor/despise/treat with contempt] us, for thy name’s sake,
do not [disgrace/treat with disdain] the throne of thy glory [i.e., the Temple]:
remember, [break/annul] not thy covenant with us.
Jeremiah is indicating that if God totally destroys Judah, then the Lord’s name and reputation will suffer some damage. His Temple – his throne will be disgraced. Bringing punishment on God’s people – according to Jeremiah, the intercessor – will not look good for God, in other words.
This kind of wording is very similar to another man who interceded with God for his rebellious people. I’ll read Exodus 32:10-14 and you see if you can pick up on the similarities.
[God said to Moses] Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them [id est, the Israelites for making and worshipping the golden calf], and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? 12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? [i.e., in other words, people will impugn God’s character for destroying his sinful people] Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. 14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
So, keep Moses in mind as we look at the last verse of Jeremiah 14. We’ll get back to him.
Jeremiah 14 Commentary | Jeremiah 14:22
Jeremiah ends this chapter by acknowledging to God his totally unique power and essence – he’s the only God there is! No one and no thing can do what he does – not even his creation. And therefore, Jeremiah hopes against hope in this God that he will show mercy once more to his rebellious covenant-breaking people.
22 Are there any among the [vanities/worthless idols] of the Gentiles that can cause rain?
or can the heavens give showers?
art not thou he, O LORD our God?
therefore we [will wait upon/hope in] thee:
for thou hast made all these things.
Now, I mentioned Moses a few moments ago. He successfully interceded for God’s sinful people. God heard his intercession. God showed mercy to his covenant-breaking people just a few hours after that covenant was given!
And Jeremiah has shown himself to be in the same league as Moses, the intercessor of old. But next time in Jeremiah 15 we’ll hear the Lord’s response to Jeremiah’s follow-up attempt at intercession. In short – the Lord will tell Jeremiah that even if that legendary intercessor – Moses – as well as another godly man like Samuel – even if those two were to intercede for Israel, God would not hear them. It was too late.
And once again, for us, folks, this was all coming on Israel because they had broken the Mosaic Covenant – a covenant which could be broken. A covenant that had built-in stipulations for what happened if the people broke it. A covenant based on performance and laws. A covenant that was written externally on stone.
Brothers, we have a New Covenant. One that’s internally-written on our hearts. One that’s based on God’s gracious choice. One that as far as I can tell doesn’t have built-in instructions for what happens if we don’t keep it. One that is, therefore, unbreakable.
Praise God for bringing us into this “better” covenant – and himself being in us and working in us to both want to do – and to actually do – his good pleasure.