The punishment described in general terms in the preceding three verses is now detailed at great length.
The habitations i. e - the temporary encampments of the shepherds (see Jeremiah 6:3).
So that none can - Or, “They are parched up, with no man to pass through them; neither do they hear the voice of cattle; from the birds of the heaven even to the beasts they “are fled, they are gone.”
Dragons - Rather, jackals.
For what the land perisheth - This is the question proposed for consideration. The prophet calls upon the wise man to explain his question; that question being, Wherefore did the land perish? He follows it by the assertion of a fact: “It is parched like the wilderness with no man to pass through.”
The cause of the chastisement about to fall upon Jerusalem, was their desertion of the divine Law.
Imagination - Or, as in the margin.
Which their fathers taught them - It was not the sin of one generation that brought upon them chastisement: it was a sin, which had been handed down from father to son.
I will feed them - Rather, I am feeding them. The present participle used here, followed by three verbs in the future, shows that the judgment has beam, of which the successive stages are given in the next clause.
This verse is taken from Leviticus 26:33. The fulfillment of what had been so long before appointed as the penalty for the violation of Yahweh‘s covenant is one of the most remarkable proofs that prophecy was something more than human foresight.
Till I have consumed them - See Jeremiah 4:27 note. How is this “consuming” consistent with the promise to the contrary there given? Because it is limited by the terms of Jeremiah 9:7. Previously to Nebuchadnezzars destruction of Jerusalem God removed into safety those in whom the nation should revive.
The mourning women - Hired to attend at funerals, and by their skilled wailings aid the real mourners in giving vent to their grief. Hence, they are called “cunning,” literally “wise” women, wisdom being constantly used in Scripture for anything in which people are trained.
Take up a wailing for us - i. e., for the nation once God‘s chosen people, but long spiritually dead.
Forsaken - Or, left: forced to abandon the land.
Because our dwellings - Rather, “because they have east down our dwellings.” The whole verse is a description of their sufferings. See 2 Kings 25:1-12.
The command is addressed to the women because it was more especially their part to express the general feelings of the nation. See 1 Samuel 18:6; 2 Samuel 1:24. The women utter now the death-wail over the perishing nation. They are to teach their daughters and neighbors the “lamentation, i. e., dirge,” because the harvest of death would be so large that the number of trained women would not suffice.
Death is come up - i. e., death steals silently like a thief upon his victims, and makes such havoc that there are no children left to go “without,” nor young men to frequent the open spaces in the city.
The “handful” means the little bundle of grain which the reaper gathers on his arm with three or four strokes of his sickle, and then lays down. Behind the reaper came one whose business it was to gather several of these bundles, and bind them into a sheaf. Thus, death strews the ground with corpses as thickly as these handfuls lie upon the reaped land, but the corpses lie there unheeded.