What does Jeremiah mean in Chapter 4 when he says "there were NO MEN and ALL the cities were broken down"? Is he speaking about Noah's flood?
Chapter 4 of Jeremiah is not set in the time of Noah nor in any other time of Genesis. Jeremiah 4 is speaking of the events of the seven-year Tribulation that will come upon Israel immediately before the Second Coming of Christ. We are still waiting for the fulfillment of this prophecy.
In his previous chapter, Jeremiah explained the terms for Christ’s return and the arrival of the kingdom for Israel. Israel would see this glory only if and when the nation repented, confessing their sin for rejecting the Messiah and accepting Jesus as their Messiah:
Jer. 3:12 “Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say, ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord; ‘I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,’ declares the Lord; ‘I will not be angry forever.
Jer. 3:13 ‘Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the Lord your God And have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ declares the Lord.
Jer. 3:14 ‘Return, O faithless sons,’ declares the Lord; ‘For I am a master to you, And I will take you one from a city and two from a family, And I will bring you to Zion.’
Jer. 3:15 “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.
Jer. 3:16 “It shall be in those days when you are multiplied and increased in the land,” declares the Lord, “they will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ And it will not come to mind, nor will they remember it, nor will they miss it, nor will it be made again.
Jer. 3:17 “At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of the Lord,’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord; nor will they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart.
Jer. 3:18 “In those days the house of Judah will walk with the house of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers as an inheritance.
Jer. 3:19 “Then I said, ‘How I would set you among My sons And give you a pleasant land, The most beautiful inheritance of the nations!’ And I said, ‘You shall call Me, My Father, And not turn away from following Me.’
Jer. 3:20 “Surely, as a woman treacherously departs from her lover, So you have dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,” declares the Lord.
Jer. 3:21 A voice is heard on the bare heights, The weeping and the supplications of the sons of Israel; Because they have perverted their way,
They have forgotten the Lord their God.
Jer. 3:22 “Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.” “Behold, we come to You; For You are the Lord our God.
Jer. 3:23 “Surely, the hills are a deception, A tumult on the mountains. Surely in the Lord our God Is the salvation of Israel.
Jer. 3:24 “But the shameful thing has consumed the labor of our fathers since our youth, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.
Jer. 3:25 “Let us lie down in our shame, and let our humiliation cover us; for we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day. And we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.”
As Israel receives the Lord (see v.19) the Lord will bring the blessings of the kingdom to Israel. Notice the promises in this passage are clearly speaking of an obedient and repentant Israel receiving the Kingdom in a future day. These are not matters of the past but of the future.
Then in chapter 4, the Lord continues this discussion by moving to describing the consequences for Israel failing to repent. The consequences described in chapter 4 are the plagues, judgments, and disasters of Tribulation, which are described in various places in the OT and in Revelation.
Jer. 4:20 Disaster on disaster is proclaimed, For the whole land is devastated; Suddenly my tents are devastated, My curtains in an instant.
Jer. 4:21 How long must I see the standard And hear the sound of the trumpet?
Jer. 4:22 “For My people are foolish, They know Me not; They are stupid children And have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, But to do good they do not know.”
Jer. 4:23 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void; And to the heavens, and they had no light.
Jer. 4:24 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, And all the hills moved to and fro.
Jer. 4:25 I looked, and behold, there was no man, And all the birds of the heavens had fled.
Jer. 4:26 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness, And all its cities were pulled down Before the Lord, before His fierce anger.
For example, in 4:20-26 the Lord describes the outpouring of His wrath upon the Earth and the utter devastation that it produces: cities with no inhabitants, mountains brought low, celestial bodies cease giving their light and human population virtually extinct. These consequences mirror the descriptions of Tribulation found in Revelation 6-18.
When Jeremiah says the earth is “formless and void,” he’s invoking the description of Genesis 1 to emphasize the complete chaos and destruction that is coming upon the earth because of Israel’s sin. He’s not describing a literal repeating of the Genesis 1 moment or circumstances, but rather he’s associating the one with the other to emphasize the magnitude of the destruction in Tribulation.
Tribulation is a period of judgment brought upon the whole earth but aimed specifically at Israel. In fact, later Jeremiah calls the time of Tribulation a time of "Jacob’s distress:"
Jer. 30:4 Now these are the words which the Lord spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah:
Jer. 30:5 “For thus says the Lord, ‘I have heard a sound of terror, Of dread, and there is no peace.
Jer. 30:6 ‘Ask now, and see If a male can give birth. Why do I see every man With his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale?
Jer. 30:7 ‘Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress, But he will be saved from it.
Notice the similarity of the language describing this coming time of great destruction.
For a more detailed accounting of these matters, we highly recommend you listen to our Revelation Bible Study available online for free. This study covers the purpose and events of Tribulation as they relate to Israel.