In Jeremiah chapter 9, the prophet Jeremiah continues his message of judgment against the kingdom of Judah for their rampant idolatry and wickedness. This chapter contains some of the most passionate and emotional language in the book, as Jeremiah grieves over the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people. He longs for his eyes to be fountains of tears so he can adequately mourn the devastation that is coming upon his people.
While there are brief glimpses of hope and restoration in this chapter, the dominant themes are sin, judgment, and lament. Jeremiah declared that God will punish Judah for their deceit, lies, faithlessness, and idolatry. Their land will become a wasteland and their cities will be reduced to ruins. Even so, in the midst of pronouncing judgment, Jeremiah cries out in anguish over what is coming upon the people he loves.
Key Takeaways from Jeremiah Chapter 9
- God laments and grieves over having to bring judgment on His people for their sins (vs. 1, 10)
- The people of Judah are characterized by deceit, lies, adultery, faithlessness, and idolatry (vs. 2-9)
- God will punish them severely, making their land desolate and their cities in ruins (vs. 11-16)
- Jeremiah longs for his eyes to be fountains of tears to adequately mourn this devastation (vs. 1, 18)
- Even in judgment, God remembers mercy and offers hope of restoration (vs. 24-25)
- True wisdom, might, and riches are found in knowing and fearing God (vs. 23-24)
In this commentary, we will explore this powerful chapter verse-by-verse, looking closely at Jeremiah’s passionate lament, the specific sins of Judah, the nature of the coming judgment, and the glimpses of future hope and restoration even in the midst of devastating punishment for sin.
Commentary on Jeremiah 9
Jeremiah’s Anguish Over Judah’s Sin (9:1-11)
The first 11 verses of chapter 9 contain Jeremiah’s agonized lament over Judah’s sin and the punishment that is soon to come upon them. He longs to weep day and night over the destruction of his people.
Oh, 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! (9:1 NKJV)
Jeremiah is heartbroken over the coming judgment on Judah and Jerusalem. The language is intensely emotional, reflecting God’s own grief over the necessary judgment of His people’s sin.
In verses 2-9, Jeremiah details the sins that will bring this judgment:
- Deceit and lies – “They are adulterers and an assembly of treacherous men.” (v. 2) “Your dwelling place is in the midst of deceit.” (v. 6)
- Adultery – “And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies. They are not valiant for the truth on the earth. For they proceed from evil to evil, And they do not know Me.” (v. 3)
- Faithlessness – “Everyone take heed to his neighbor, And do not trust any brother; For every brother will utterly supplant, And every neighbor will walk with slanderers.” (v. 4)
- Idolatry – “And they will deceive every one his neighbor, And will not speak the truth; They have taught their tongue to speak lies; They weary themselves to commit iniquity. Your dwelling place is in the midst of deceit; Through deceit they refuse to know Me,” says the LORD.” (vs. 5-6)
Jeremiah declares that because of these sins, God’s judgment will make the land desolate so that no one can pass through (v. 10). He poetically describes the Land as mourning and the cities being laid waste with no inhabitants (v. 11).
This shows how heartbreaking God’s judgment is, even though it is necessary and just. Sin always brings consequences, and Judah’s idolatry could not go unpunished. Yet God takes no pleasure in bringing disaster upon His people.
A Cry For Retribution Against Israel’s Enemies (9:12-16)
In the next section, Jeremiah calls for the enemies of Israel to be judged and punished by God for gloating over Israel’s destruction. This likely refers to nations like Babylon who would wage war against Judah:
Who is the wise man who may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD has spoken, that he may declare it? Why does the land perish and burn up like a wilderness, so that no one can pass through?
And the LORD said, “Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, nor walked according to it, but they have walked according to the dictates of their own hearts and after the Baals, which their fathers taught them,” (9:12-14 NKJV)
Even though God is punishing Israel, He is still their covenant God. He will not tolerate Israel’s enemies mocking and taking advantage of Judah’s situation to exalt themselves. While God may use pagan nations to enact His judgment, they too will face His wrath (v. 16). This demonstrates God’s justice and commitment to punish sin wherever it is found.
A Call to Mourning and Lamentation (9:17-22)
After pronouncing coming judgment on the nations, Jeremiah returns to calling upon his people to mourn and lament over the destruction coming to Judah:
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Consider and call for the mourning women,
That they may come;
And send for skillful wailing women,
That they may come.
Let them make haste
And take up a wailing for us,
That our eyes may run with tears,
And our eyelids gush with water.
For a voice of wailing is heard from Zion:
‘How we are plundered!
We are greatly ashamed,
Because we have forsaken the land,
Because we have been cast out of our dwellings.'” (9:17-19 NKJV)
He tells them to summon professional mourners and wailing women to come and lead them in grieving, because great devastation is coming to the land of Judah. Jeremiah paints a vivid scene of weeping and “gushing” tears over the destruction and exile coming to the people.
Verses 20-22 continue the theme of grief and lamentation:
Hear the word of the LORD, O women,
And let your ear receive the word of His mouth;
Teach your daughters wailing,
And everyone her neighbor a lamentation.
For death has come through our windows,
Has entered our palaces,
To kill off the children—no longer to walk in the streets!
And the young men—no longer on the outside! (9:20-21 NKJV)
Death and destruction will come suddenly through warfare (“through our windows”) and there will be no more children playing in the streets. Even the young men will perish. Jeremiah is describing the grim devastation that accompanies military conquest, slaughter, and exile.
Speak, “Thus says the LORD:
‘Even the carcasses of men shall fall as refuse on the open field,
Like cuttings after the harvester,
And no one shall gather them.’” (9:22 NKJV)
This is a terribly graphic image of unburied bodies scattered over the ground after the coming invasion, with no one left even to bury them. The scene of devastation and lament is total.
Let Not the Wise Boast in His Wisdom (9:23-26)
Jeremiah now contrasts arrogant boasting in human wisdom and might with the true wisdom of fearing and knowing God:
Thus says the LORD:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the LORD. (9:23-24 NKJV)
In the midst of pronouncing judgment, Jeremiah calls the people back to what really matters – knowing and fearing God, not earthly wisdom, might or riches. True meaning is found in loving God and living righteously before Him.
Verses 25-26 transition to a message of hope that in the future, after judgment, God will restore Israel’s fortunes because of His covenant loyalty. Though He will punish them severely under the terms of the covenant (Deut 28), yet because of His grace He will also regather them back to the land:
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised— Egypt, Judah, Edom, the people of Ammon, Moab, and all who are in the farthest corners, who dwell in the wilderness. For all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” (9:25-26 NKJV)
This demonstrates that God’s purposes for Israel were not totally finished. Beyond the coming judgment is a future hope that God would be faithful to His promises to Abraham and David to restore their descendants back to the Land (see Gen 12:1-3, 2 Sam 7:12-16).
Jeremiah 9 is one of the most emotionally impactful chapters in Jeremiah’s far-reaching prophecy of judgment against Judah. Jeremiah’s anguish leaps off the page as he poetically describes and mourns over the coming devastation on Jerusalem for their sins of deceit, idolatry, and faithlessness.
Even though the tone is one of grief and lament, this chapter also demonstrates God’s justice and righteousness in punishing sin. It reveals His unwavering commitment to judge wickedness wherever it is found, even among His own covenant people. Yet in the midst of necessary judgment, God’s mercy and restoration gives hope for the future redemption of Israel.
The wisdom Jeremiah calls God’s people back to – knowing and fearing the Lord – echoes throughout the rest of Scripture as the true essence of godliness in every generation. This timeless message remains relevant for the people of God today.