Bible Commentary: Jeremiah 4:5-31

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Jeremiah 4:5-31

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"The Sound of the Trumpet"

Verse 5 of chapter 4 begins a prophecy that continues to the end of chapter 6. It is addressed here at the outset to Judah and Jerusalem. This undoubtedly referred to the Jews of Jeremiah's day, but could also refer to future inhabitants of the land. Moreover, reference is later made to the recipients of the message being the "house of Israel" or "house of Jacob" as well as Judah (see Jeremiah 5:15, 19). Israel had been taken into captivity long before Jeremiah wrote, so that at least would seem to look to the future.

Still, the message was clearly intended for Jeremiah's fellow countrymen. Tragically, the people do not yet heed God's call to repentance (see Jeremiah 4:4). They are therefore instructed to "blow the trumpet" (verse 5), the shofar or ram's horn, an "alarm of war" (verse 19)—a symbol repeated throughout Scripture. For God will bring "disaster from the north." As explained in the highlights for chapter 1, this was the course of invasion followed by ancient Babylon and that will yet be followed by end-time Babylon.

The warning is to be raised from Dan to Ephraim (verse 15). These areas were in the northernmost and southernmost parts of the ancient northern kingdom and would have seen a northern threat coming against Judah.

God warns of "watchers" (verse 16), which could indicate advanced scouts of a coming army. However, the term may also be translated "besiegers" (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary, note on verse 16).

All this was rather unsettling to Jeremiah. He was "overwhelmed at what God was about to bring upon Jerusalem. This passage indicates the deep inner struggle Jeremiah faced in his proclamation of the divine message. Jeremiah challenged God's dealings with His people, claiming that God had deceived the people with a message of peace" (note on Jeremiah 4:10). Remember that in chapter 3 God had just told Jeremiah to convey a message of Israel's repentance and return under the reign of the Messiah. Now here he was delivering an ominous message of doom—to people he deeply cared about. God well understood Jeremiah's compassion—and was no doubt merciful to him in his anguished remarks.

Verse 18 declares that the people have brought this on themselves. Just as in today's world, God said the people are "experts at doing what is evil, but failures at doing what is good" (verse 22, Today's English Version).

The prophet then sees in vision a destroyed land—employing the same language used in Scripture of the chaotic, desolate planet Earth before man's creation (verse 23; see Genesis 1:2). It is now the result of the destruction God will bring because of the people's sins (see verse 26). But thankfully, the land will not be utterly destroyed and not everyone will die (verse 27; 5:18). Yet the consequences will be severe—and, as the people are set in their sinful ways, the punishment is now inevitable (Jeremiah 4:28).

If Zion tries to appease, distract and seduce her enemies—like a harlot with seductive clothes and makeup, offering favors—it won't work (verse 30). Instead, she will soon experience unavoidable pain, as a woman in labor with her first child. And in the end, her lovers will become her murderers (verse 31).