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Jeremiah 9


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

A Lament Over Zion       The Moral Corruption of Judah
  Sorrow In Zion
9:12-16 9:12-16 9:12-16 9:12 9:12-15
  The People Mourn in Jerusalem   The People of Jerusalem City Cry Out For Help  
True Wisdom
9:23-24 9:23-24
9:23-24 9:23-24
        Circumcision, A False Guarantee
9:25-26 9:25-26 9:25-26 9:25-26  

READING CYCLE THREE (see introductory section)


This is a study guide commentary,which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



1Oh that my head were waters
And my eyes a fountain of tears,
That I might weep day and night
For the slain of the daughter of my people!
2Oh that I had in the desert
A wayfarers' lodging place;
That I might leave my people
And go from them!
For all of them are adulterers,
An assembly of treacherous men.
3"They bend their tongue like their bow;
Lies and not truth prevail in the land;
For they proceed from evil to evil,
And they do not know Me," declares the Lord.
4"Let everyone be on guard against his neighbor,
And do not trust any brother;
Because every brother deals craftily,
And every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
5Everyone deceives his neighbor
And does not speak the truth,
They have taught their tongue to speak lies;
They weary themselves committing iniquity.
6Your dwelling is in the midst of deceit;
Through deceit they refuse to know Me," declares the Lord

9:1 The prophet is using emotional figurative language to express his pain over YHWH's necessary judgment of His covenant people (cf. Heb. 12:5-11). In reality it is YHWH's pain that the prophet is revealing (cf. Hosea 11:8-9). This same emotion is seen in 8:18; 13:17; Isa. 22:4; Lam. 2:18. See SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM) (anthropomorphism) at 1:9.

This verse is one of the sources of Jeremiah being known as "the weeping prophet." He was such because YHWH was the weeping God (cf. Hos. 11:8-9).

9:2-4 Notice how the prophet/YHWH describes the covenant people.

1. adulteress, v. 2

2. treacherous men, v. 2

3. lie, v. 3

4. evil to evil, v. 3

5. do not know YHWH, v. 3

6. untrustworthy, v. 4

7. crafty, v. 4

8. slanderer, v. 4

9. deceiver, v. 5

10. do not speak truth, v. 5

11. liars, v. 5

12. commit iniquity, v. 5

13. deceitful, v. 6

14. refuse to know YHWH, v. 6

And those are the people of God. He must do something lest His purpose for this planet is lost (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38).

9:2 "A wayfarers' lodging place" This was a lean-to or an uninhabited wooden shelter used by travelers in desert areas. What a shocking metaphor that God's prophet wanted to run away from (i.e., two Qal cohortatives, "leave" and "go") the covenant people and hide in the desert.

▣ "For all of them are adulterers
An assembly of treacherous men" There is an obvious comparison and play on these two phrases as a title for the people of God. Their lifestyle and attitude reflected both physical and spiritual adultery.

9:3 "They bend their tongue like their bow" Their speech showed who and what they really were (cf. v. 8). This metaphor seems to refer to one of three things.

1. their tongues were bent which reflected the words for sin, a deviation from the standard

2. they were ready to shoot their words at anyone (cf. Ps. 64:3-4)

3. it refers to the pain that their lies caused both to God and their fellow Israelites (cf. Lev. 19:15-16)


▣ "And they do not know Me" This is the tragedy-the pain that God felt (cf. Hos. 4:1,6; 5:4; 8:2; 11:8-9) after He had given so much to this people and they had knowingly, willfully turned their backs on Him. There is a word to the church today in these verses.

9:4 Even among the covenant people, there is no trust. They not only lie, cheat, and steal from others, but from each other. The terrible results of the Fall are obvious.

1. let everyone be on guard against his neighbor - BDB 1036, KB 1581, Niphal imperative

2. do not trust any brother - BDB 105, KB 120, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. craftily - this is an infinitive absolute and an imperfect verb from the same root (BDB 784, KB 872), which shows intensity

The people of God were more like Jacob (supplanter, BDB 784) than Israel (see Special Topic at 2:3).

9:5 "They weary themselves committing iniquity" What a horrible description of God's people as they go headlong into rebellion and idolatry (BDB 521, KB 512, Niphal perfect).

9:6 "Your dwelling is in the midst of deceit" This describes metaphorically this people's worldview and daily lifestyle!

▣ "they refuse to know Me" The verb (BDB 549, KB 540, Piel perfect) denotes a settled condition. They are not duped but willful rejecters of truth.

For "know" see Special Topic at 1:5.

7Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts,
"Behold, I will refine them and assay them;
For what else can I do, because of the daughter of My people?
8Their tongue is a deadly arrow;
It speaks deceit;
With his mouth one speaks peace to his neighbor,
But inwardly he sets an ambush for him.
9Shall I not punish them for these things?" declares the Lord.
"On a nation such as this
Shall I not avenge Myself?"

9:7-9 This is another strophe of Judah's sins.

1. liars

2. ambush neighbors

YHWH must act!

1. He will refine and assay them (cf. 6:27)

2. He will punish them (cf. 5:9,29)

3. He will avenge Himself (cf. Isa. 1:24)

YHWH wants to use the covenant people to reach all other nations. He has an eternal redemptive plan (see Special Topic at 1:5). However, His people have not revealed Him, but rather their own weaknesses and failures (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38).

9:9 "On a nation such as this" This is a play on the word goy (BDB 156), which the Jews used in derision for the Gentiles. Here it is used to describe Israel herself.

10"For the mountains I will take up a weeping and wailing,
And for the pastures of the wilderness a dirge,
Because they are laid waste so that no one passes through,
And the lowing of the cattle is not heard;
Both the birds of the sky and the beasts have fled; they are gone.
11I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins,
 A haunt of jackals;
And I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant."

9:10-11 Again the question arises as to who is speaking in these two verses. The NIV translates v. 10 as the prophet speaking and v. 11 as God speaking. But the NASV and RSV translate them as God speaking in both verses. It is basically an extended metaphor that the land is being affected by mankind's sin (cf. Deuteronomy 27 and 28; Rom. 8:18-22).

9:11 "A haunt of jackals" This is a metaphor for ruin and destruction (cf. 10:22; 49:33; 51:37; Isa. 34:13) and possibly even the presence of the demonic.

12Who is the wise man that may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined, laid waste like a desert, so that no one passes through? 13The Lord said, "Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it, 14but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them," 15therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, "behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood and give them poisoned water to drink. 16I will scatter them among the nations, whom neither they nor their fathers have known; and I will send the sword after them until I have annihilated them."

9:12-16 These verses are a strong statement by God (introduced by three questions in v. 12) on the results of Judah's rebellion. In verses 13 and 14 the reasons for the exile are enumerated.

1. they have forsaken My law (written revelation, cf. Exodus 19-20; Deut. 4:8; 5)

2. they have not obeyed My voice (oral prophetic revelation)

3. they have not walked according to My voice

4. they walked after the stubbornness of their heart (cf. 7:24; 11:8)

5. they walked after the Ba'als (cf. 2:8,23; 23:27)

Revelation should result in godly lifestyle (cf. Hos. 14:9)!

9:14 "walked after the stubbornness of their heart" This is a characteristic of the Jewish people delineated in the book of Deuteronomy. God's mercy is seen against the backdrop of their natural rebellion (cf. Deut. 9:6,13; 10:16; 31:27). It also says that they walked away open-eyed; they were not tricked nor did they do it in ignorance!

▣ "and after the Baals" This refers to the fertility worship of Canaan. Originally El and Ashtorah were the chief deities of the Canaanite pantheon (Ras Shamra texts from Ugarit). Ba'al was their son. The myth involved the rising and dying of the agricultural deity every year. By the means of imitation magic, including the sex act, fertility was assured each spring. There was a Ba'al for every different locality. See Special Topic at 2:20.

▣ "as their fathers taught them" This may be an historical allusion to Exodus 32 and Numbers 25. This shows the potential corruption from one generation to the next (cf. Deut. 5:19; Isa. 29:13). Family faith can be a blessing or a curse depending on the content (cf. 7:18)!

9:15 "wormwood. . .poisoned water" The false family faith of 9:14b reflects the curse of Deut. 29:18. This was specifically mentioned in 8:14e. Notice it is YHWH, Himself, who gives it! Sin has consequences, especially for those who know better (cf. Luke 12:48; Rom. 9:4-5).

9:16 "I will scatter them among the nations" This is either an allusion to the exile of the northern tribes in 722 b.c. by Assyria or it is a prophecy of the exile of the southern tribes by Babylon in 605, 597, or 586 b.c. Exile was one of the consequences of covenant disobedience in Lev. 26:33; Deut. 28:64.

17Thus says the Lord of hosts,
"Consider and call for the mourning women, that they may come;
And send for the wailing women, that they may come!
18Let them make haste and take up a wailing for us,
That our eyes may shed tears
And our eyelids flow with water.
19For a voice of wailing is heard from Zion,
'How are we ruined!
We are put to great shame,
For we have left the land,
Because they have cast down our dwellings.'"
20Now hear the word of the Lord, O you women,
And let your ear receive the word of His mouth;
Teach your daughters wailing,
And everyone her neighbor a dirge.
21For death has come up through our windows;
It has entered our palaces
To cut off the children from the streets,
The young men from the town squares.
22Speak, "Thus says the Lord,
'The corpses of men will fall like dung on the open field,
And like the sheaf after the reaper,
But no one will gather them.'"

9:17-22 This is a funeral dirge (cf. v. 20), personifying death. Notice the two terms for professional mourners.

1. "the mourning women" - BDB 884, KB 1096, Polel participle

2. "the wailing women" - BDB 314, KB 314

Notice the number of commands.

1. Verse 17

a. "consider" - BDB 106, KB 122, Hithpolel imperative

b. "call" - BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal imperative

c. "come" - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

d. "send" - BDB 1018, KB 1511, Qal imperative

e. "come" - same as c

2. Verse 18

a. "let them make haste" - BDB 554, KB 553, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

b. "let them take up a wailing for us" - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

c. "let our eyes shed tears" - BDB 432, KB 434, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (NRSV)

d. "let our eyelids flow with water" - BDB 633, KB 683, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (NRSV)

3. Verse 20

a. "hear the word of the Lord" - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal  imperative

b. "let your ear receive the word of His mouth" - BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

c. "teach. . ." - BDB 540, KB 531, Piel imperfect

4. Verse 22 - "speak" - BDB 180, KB 210, Piel imperative


9:17 "the wailing women" In the Ancient Near East (ANE) professional mourners were used at funerals (cf. Amos 5:16). Here it is a literary way to highlight the fact that death is coning.

In v. 20 the daughters are going to be taught how to wail. This is either an allusion to the fact that the mothers passed on their idolatry to their daughters or that there will be so many dead people that more and more wailers will be needed.

9:19 This verse expresses the content of their lamentations.

1. we are ruined (cf. 4:13; Deut. 28:29)

2. we are put to great shame

3. we have left the land (cf. 7:15)

4. our homes are destroyed

9:20 This verse is addressed to the professional mourners of v. 17. See note at v. 17.

9:21 "For death has come up through our windows" This personification of death (cf. personification of Sheol and death in Hab. 2:5) as coming through the windows is very similar to (1) the Canaanite myth of Ba'al being killed by the god of the underworld, Mot, in the Ugaritic literature found at Ras-Shamra or (2) the Mesopotamian myth of a demon who climbs through the windows to kill. This may be an allusion by the prophet to the type of mythology (Canaanite fertility worship, see Special Topic at 2:20) to which the people of God were listening.

▣ "To cut off the children. . .The young men" The last two lines of v. 21 are a way of saying (1) that death is no respecter of persons or (2) that death will cut off the next generation.

9:22 "The corpses of men will fall like dung on the open field" This is a common metaphor of death in Jeremiah (cf. 7:33; 8:2; 16:4; 26:33; Deut. 28:26).

▣ "And like the sheaf after the reaper" This is possibly the origin of the modern metaphor of death as the grim reaper, but please note that God, not the evil one, is in control of death (i.e., the death angel of Exodus 12).

23Thus says the Lord, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the Lord.

9:23-24 This is a beautiful description of true wisdom in contrast with the false wisdom of the scribes mentioned earlier in 8:8-12. Note the fivefold repetition of "glory."

1. four Hithpael imperfects used in a jussive sense

2. one Hithpael participle in v. 24


9:23 "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom" The wise person will know that it is not in human might or riches but in YHWH that one's strength lies (cf. Zech. 4:6).

9:24 "but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord"

Notice all the things that humans tend to boast in

1. wisdom

2. strength

3. wealth

are not what should be gloried in, but

1. that he/she understands Me - BDB 968, KB 1328, Hiphil infinitive absolute

2. that he/she knows Me - BDB 393, KB 390, Qal infinitive absolute

These infinitives speak of human reception of divine revelation. They have heard and responded to the law of YHWH, the voice of YHWH (cf. v. 13) and the Person of YHWH (i.e., "Me," v. 24; Hos. 4:1,6; 5:4; 8:2)! This is the opposite of vv. 3d and 6.

Characteristics of YHWH are delineated in this verse. The mandate that believers boast in God is a common biblical theme (cf. 4:2; Ps. 44:8; Isa. 41:16; I Cor. 1:31; II Cor. 10:17; Gal. 6:14).

The characteristics of God in v. 24 can also be seen beautifully expressed in Exod. 34:6,7 and Neh. 9:17.

1. lovingkindness (see Special Topic at 2:2)

2. justice (see Special Topic at 4:2)

3. righteousness (see Special Topic at 4:2.



▣ "for I delight in these things" If YHWH "delights" (BDB 342, KB 339, Qal perfect), then we should take special notice of it and emulate it (cf. Isa. 58:2; opposite of 11:10; 13:10).

25"Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord, "that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised-26Egypt and Judah, and Edom and the sons of Ammon, and Moab and all those inhabiting the desert who clip the hair on their temples; for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart."

9:25-26 This is a theological contrast between physical circumcision and spiritual circumcision. Circumcision was an outward sign of the covenant between YHWH and Abraham (cf. Gen. 17:10). All of the surrounding nations practiced circumcision, but not for the same spiritual purposes as Israel. The only uncircumcised people in the Ancient Near East that we know of were the Philistines, a group of mercenaries from Aegean Islands who invaded Palestine around the middle of the twelfth century b.c. But, although circumcision was meant to be a sign of the covenant, what God really wanted was an inner attitude of love for Him, as well as the outward covenant stipulations. This is why the Bible repeatedly speaks of different parts of the body being circumcised: (1) the ears, Jer. 6:10; (2) the lips, Exod. 6:12,30; and (3) the heart, Lev. 26:41; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; Ezek. 44:7,9. This same radical truth is reflected in the NT in Rom. 2:28,29! As temple ritual and liturgy without faith offered no hope, so too, family liturgy and ritual without faith offered no hope (i.e., chapter 7)!

9:26 "who clip the hair on their temples" There have been two basic interpretations of this Hebrew phrase. The NASB, REV, and NJB interpret this as an idolatrous act reflected in Lev. 19:27; Jer. 25:33; 49:32. It may relate to mourning for the dead (cf. Deut. 14:1) or a part of the idolatrous worship of the foreign gods (cf. Herodotus 111,8).

The other interpretation is found in the NKJV, NIV, and REB, which translate this as a metaphor for the universal judgment of God (i.e., NKJV, "and all who are in the farthest corners, who dwell in the wilderness").