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The crown is fallen from our head:
"Woe unto us, that we have sinned I
For this our heart is faint;
For these things our eyes are dim.
Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate,
The foxes walk upon it.
19—22. Final appeal to God for deliverance.
Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever;
Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned;
Renew our days as of old.
But thou hast utterly rejected us;
Thou art very wroth against us.
16. The crown is fallen from our head] The crown upon (literally Of) our bead is fallen, i.e. our honour is brought to the dust.
woe unto us, that we have sinned!] These words shew that ver. 7 is not intended to imply that the generation which utters it does not inherit the sins of its ancestors quite as much as the punishment which is their due.
18. foxes] jackals. This shews what a comparative desert it was become.
19—22. Final Appeal To God For Deliverance.
19. remainest] literally, sittest. The thought is that though the sanctuary of God on earth is desolate, yet there is hope and comfort in remembering that His heavenly dwelling is and must be unshaken.
20. Since this is so, why is Israel left desolate?
21. Turn thou us...] taken from Jer. xxxi. 18. The appeal to God as the only source from which repentance could arise in the people has for its underlying thought the same which appears in 2 Cor. iii. 5.
22. But] rather, unless. The whole sentence is an hypothesis not to be accepted as fact, and to express this, there should be a note of interrogation after us in both parts of the verse and we should also insert an unless before thou art. God's anger cannot last for ever, and thus there is yet hope.
Although the Book of Lamentations, like so many even of the saddest of the Psalms, does in fact close with the language of hope, that is in the present case so little apparent on the first reading that in many Heb. manuscripts ver. 21 is repeated at the end, that so its words may rather be the last to fall upon the ear. A similar expedient is used in the case of Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, and Malachi. See note on Jer. Hi. 34.
Traditions Relating To Jeremiah.
1. That Jeremiah addressed a severe rebuke to the Jews in Egypt is the last undoubted fact which we possess in connection with him (chap. xliv.; see note onver. i), and it has been conjectured that it was in accordance with his own desire that his faithful minister Baruch refrained from inserting in the Book of his prophecies any further particulars of his life or record of his end—so slender at the outset and even inconsistent are the traditional notices.
2. The Christian tradition was that the Jews in Egypt, provoked by his rebukes, stoned him to death "Jeremias lapidatur" Tert. adv. Gnost. c. 8; "Jeremias lapidatus...a populo," Hieron. adv. Jcrv. II. 37. See also beginning of § 8 below.
3. The Jewish tradition, perhaps however invented by way of hiding the truth of the charge brought against them by the Christians, was that the prophet had escaped from Egypt to Babylon, and there died.
4. In the (Apocryphal) Book of Ecclesiasticus (chap. xlix. 7), the date of which is very uncertain, Jeremiah is referred to thus:—" They entreated him evil, who nevertheless was a prophet, sanctified in his mother's womb, that he might root out, and afflict, and destroy; and that he might build up also, and plant." See Jer. i. 10.
5. In 2 Mace. ii. 1—7 we are toll that Jeremiah at the exile "commanded them that were carried away to take of the fire," and that "the prophet, being warned of God, commanded the tabernacle and the ark to go with him, as he went forth into the mountain, where Moses climbed up, and saw the heritage of God. And when Jeremy came thither, he found an hollow cave, wherein he laid the tabernacle, and the ark, and the altar of incense, and so stopped the door. And some of those that followed him came to mark the way, but they could not find it. Which when Jeremy perceived, he blamed them, saying, As for that place, it shall be unknown until the time that God gather his people again together, and receive them unto mercy."
6. Judas Maccabaeus before his conflict with Nicanor sees in a vision (i Mace. xv. 12—16) "a man with grey hairs, and exceeding glorious, who was of a wonderful and excellent majesty...a lover of the brethren,...Jeremias the prophet of God," who presents him with a sword of gold, by which to prevail.
7. The following is the form which the tradition had assumed in the time of Polyhistor (brought from the East to Rome by Sylla the Dictator). He is quoted by Eusebius (Praepar. Evang. iX. 39). In the time of Jehoiakim Jeremiah prophesied. He found the Jews sacrificing to a golden idol, named Baal, and announced the impending disaster. Jehoiakim was for burning him alive, but he said that they (the Jews) should as captives cook food for the Babylonians and dig canals for the Tigris and Euphrates. The historian adds that Nebuchadnezzar hearing of these prophecies came with Astibar, king of the Medes, and captured Jerusalem, removing to Babylon the treasures of the Temple, "except the Ark and the Tables which were in it j these remained with Jeremiah." On this last point, see § 5 above.
8. In our Lord's time there are traces of a popular belief that Jeremiah's work on earth was not yet done, and this was one of the phases of Messianic hope. See Matt. xvi. 14, and compare John i. 21, where "that" (rather the) "prophet" is by some thought to have reference to him.
For other prophecies attributed to him, see Note ii.
9. The treatise De Vitis Prophetarum attributed to St Epiphanius (died A.D. 402) relates as follows (shewing that meanwhile the tradition had grown considerably), "Jeremiah the prophet was of Anathoth, and he was stoned to death by the people at Taphnae in Egypt. And he lies at the site of Pharaoh's house, for the Egyptians honoured him, having received benefits from him; for asps and...crocodiles were destroying them, and at the prayer of the prophet Jeremiah both the venomous asps were driven from that land, and in like manner the treacherous beasts from the river, and all the faithful to the present day pray at that spot, and taking of the dust cure the bite of asps and put the crocodiles themselves to flight. This prophet gave a sign to the Egyptian priests, saying, that all their idols must be overthrown and all the works of their hands [see note on Jer. xxv. 7] collapse, when there should set foot in Egypt a virgin about to bear a Divine Child [Matt. ii. 14]. And so it was." Epiphanius adds that the memory of this prophecy is kept up by a ceremony continued to his own time. He continues:—"This prophet before the capture of the temple seized the Ark of the Law with all its contents, and caused it to be swallowed up in a rock, and said to the priests of the people and to the elders who stood by, The Lord departed from Sinai into the heavens, and He will come again in sacred might. And this shall be the sign of His coming, when all nations bmu down before wood (the Cross, see Matt. xxiv. 14). And he said to them, No one of the priests or prophets shall disclose this Ark, save Moses the chosen of God. The Tables that are in it none shall open save Aaron. And in the Resurrection the Ark shall rise first, and shall go forth from the rock and be placed on the Mount Sinai, and all the saints shall be gathered together to it, there awaiting the Lord, and shunning the enemy who desires to destroy them. And with his finger he impressed upon the rock the name of the Lord, and the impression was as though it had been cut with an iron tool, and a cloud overshadowed the rock, and no one knows that spot till the end of the world. And this rock is in the wilderness, where the Ark was first made, between the two mountains where Moses and Aaron lie. And at night a cloud like fire rests upon the spot, after the likeness of those of olden time, inasmuch as the glory of God will never desert His Law."
Other Prophecies Ascribed To Jeremiah.
1. The 6th chapter of the (Apocryphal) Book of Baruch purports to be an Epistle from Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon.
2. A quotation is attributed to "Jeremy the Prophet" in Matt, xxvii. g, really found however in Zech. xi. 12, 13. Lightfoot (Horae Hebraicae) on this N. T. passage quotes a Talmudic treatise (Baba Bathra, foL 14 a) which makes the order of O. T. Books Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, giving as the reason, that since the Books of Kings end with disaster, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel also deal with disaster, while Isaiah contains comfort, the former class should go together. Lightfoot accordingly explains the passage on this principle, and takes "Jeremy" to denote the whole section of which it was the opening Book; comparing Luke xxiv. 44, where by "the psalms" are denoted all the Books not included under the two other divisions there mentioned.
3. Justin Martyr (Dialoguewith Trypho, p. 646 § 72, Migne Edition) ascribes evidently by mistake to Jeremiah a passage resembling 1 Pet. iii. 19.
4. Eph. v. 14, "Awake, thou that, etc." Grote in his commentary on this passage remarks that certain (among whom he mentions, apparently by error, St Epiphanius) say that this is from the Apocryphal writings of Jeremiah. He adds that at any rate the word "Christ" does not agree with such a view.
5. In the works of Pseudo Abdias (about the latter part of the Cth century A.D.) these words (see Fabricius, Codex Pseudepigr. V. T. p. 1109) are quoted as Jeremiah's: "Behold thy redeemer shall come, Jerusalem, and this shall be his token, He shall open the eyes of the blind, he shall restore to the deaf their hearing, and with his voice shall raise the dead.
6. Other portions of scripture which have been at one time or another ascribed to Jeremiah are Deuteronomy, Kings, many of the Psalms, e.g. v., vi., xiv., xxii., xxxi , xli., Iii—Iv., lxix—lxxi., Isaiah, chaps. xlix.—lxvi., Zechariah, chaps. ix.—xiv.