Jeremiah 8:1. At that time, saith the LORD, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves:
The prophet Jeremiah had to foretell terrible judgments upon the guilty people, who had been often warned, but who had at last gone beyond all bearing, and were about to be destroyed by the Chaldeans, for here we have the picture of Judah and Jerusalem invaded by the Chaldeans and Babylonians, just before the city was utterly destroyed. It was a very common practice to bury treasure with the bodies of kings, hence when any land was invaded by foreign foes, they broke open the tombs, and searched for hidden valuables and it was a sign of the special detestation of the enemy, and of their fury against the people, when they dragged the carcases out of the graves, and scattered the bones to the four winds of heaven. In this case, it was foretold that this desecration would not only take place with regard to the bones of the kings, in whose tombs the greatest treasure might be expected to be found, but the bones of princes, priests, prophets, and people were all to be alike brought forth.
Jeremiah 8:2. And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth.
What a striking and appropriate judgment that was! As they had worshipped the sun, that very sun was to dry their bones. As they had worshipped the moon, that moon’s rays should fall upon their relics, and the stars, which they had adored, would also be quite unable to help them.
Jeremiah 8:3. And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the LORD of hosts.
There was to be stern treatment for the dead; but it would be worse with the living, for the Chaldeans were strong, fierce, cruel, and most ingenious in the torments which they inflicted upon their captives. It was an awful thing to be living in such times as those, and it always is a terrible thing to be living when God’s judgments are abroad in the earth, and sinners are hardened in their sin.
Jeremiah 8:4-5. Moreover thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD, Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return? Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.
Perseverance in sin is a great aggravation of it. There are some who fall into sin, but, by God’s grace, they are raised out of it, and they turn away from iniquity, and are restored to God’s favour. Where there is true grace in the heart, where there is spiritual life there will be restoration sooner or later; but there are others, like the people of Jerusalem, who have “slidden back by a perpetual backsliding.” Day after day, they grow more outrageous in their wickedness.
Jeremiah 8:6. I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course as the horse rusheth into the battle.
God listened; he waited to be gracious; he was eager to hear one penitent cry, and to observe one tear of genuine repentance, but, as the war-horse is eager for the fray, and, at the first blast of the trumpet, seeks to dash into the very centre of the fight, so did these ungodly people. Instead of turning to God, they turned more desperately to sin.
Jeremiah 8:7. Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.
When God’s judgments are being experienced, it is high time to repent. But these people did not think of such a thing, they were not half so sensible as migratory birds, which come and go as the seasons guide them.
Jeremiah 8:8. How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.
What! do they talk like that, the people who do not know and do not regard God’s judgments, do they talk in such a style as that? Ah, yes! Some of the most wicked of them have a so-called “religion” upon which they still pride themselves. Their hands are red with blood, yet they keep a Bible handy. They say, “We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us;” all the while that they are sinning against the Lord and his law. Scribes multiplied copies of the law, and some of these very people, who were most hardened in guilt, possessed a copy. But, says God, “certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain;” and our own Bible Societies may go on printing Bibles by the million; but, as long as men do not obey what is taught in the Bible, the work of the printing press, like that of the copyist, will be in vain. We need more than the letter of the Word, valuable as that is; we need to know, in spirit and in truth, what the Spirit teaches through the letter, and also to practice it. God grant that even our Bibles may not rise up in judgment against us.
Jeremiah 8:9. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD, and what wisdom is in them?
See God’s judgment upon a man wise in his own conceit. You hear every now and then, of some wonderfully learned, philosophic, scientific man, and many folk are frightened because he is an infidel. He does not possess true wisdom; God’s description of such a man is this, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”
Jeremiah 8:10-11. Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them; for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
It is a dreadful thing when those, who ought to warn the people simply flatter them; when, instead of speaking sharp, stern, honest, faithful words, they cry, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” Such false teachers say, “Do not trouble yourself; all will come right at last. You may live as you like, but there is no hereafter that need alarm you; in another state, you may get set right, whatever God’s Word declares as to the punishment of the impenitent. There are far too many of these smooth-tongued deceivers living now. God deliver this land from them, lest they become an occasion of judgment against the people!
Jeremiah 8:12. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.
They had gone so far that they could not blush. It is a dreadful thing when a man has lost the very sense of shame; there will be no repentance where that is the case.
Jeremiah 8:13. I will surely consume them, saith the LORD: there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them.
They would not recognize the Giver, so the gift should be taken away from them. Now the people dwelling in the country villages begin to be alarmed because of the Chaldeans, and they say:
Jeremiah 8:14-16. Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defended cities, and let us be silent there: for the LORD our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the LORD, We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble! The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones, for they are come, and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein.
Dan was the northernmost tribe, bordering on Phoenicia, and after Nebuchadnezzar conquered the Phoenicians, he began to march through the territory of Daniel. The mighty horses of the Chaldeans can be seen represented upon the slabs brought home by Mr. Layard, they are a very prominent part of the Chaldean force; so the poet-prophet pictures them as being heard as far as from Dan as all the way to Jerusalem, so terrible was their snorting. This, of course, is the imagery of poetry, but there was terrible reality behind it.
Jeremiah 8:17. For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD.
Such were the Chaldeans, crafty as serpents, full of the venom of cruelty wherever they came, there was no way of charming them as a serpent may be charmed. They came on a deadly errand, and thoroughly did they perform it.
Jeremiah 8:18-21. When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me. Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the LORD in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me.
The weeping prophet sorrows over the desolation of his land, in words that have seldom been surpassed for sublime sympathy and pathos:
Jeremiah 8:22. Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?