THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Part I: Oracles Against Jerusalem and Judah
(the Oracles of Condemnation)
The Moral Corruption of the Southern Kingdom
Idols of the Nations and the True God
In our current modern age (current because every new generation of humanity believes it is the most advanced and the most modern), we are apt to think that our advances in science and technology contain all the answers we need. We have made our faith in science into a false god that many believe surpasses Your sovereignty and majesty, Lord. We are committing the same sins of the people in Jeremiah's time. We have forgotten that these things and theories in which we have placed our faith cannot save us. You, Lord, are the Creator who has power over the natural world. You direct the course of human history in both judging sin and saving the righteous. Help us to remember the majesty and might of the only true Living God who loves us and has called us, through His covenant, to the knowledge and intimacy of being holy children of a holy God. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Help, Yahweh! No one loyal is left,
the faithful have vanished from among the children of Adam. Friend tells lies
to friend, and, smooth-tongued, speaks from an insincere heart. May Yahweh cut
away every smooth lip, every boastful tongue, those who say, "In our tongue
lies our strength, our lips are our allies; who can master us?" "For the poor
who are plundered, the needy who groan, now will I act," says Yahweh, "I will
grant salvation to those who sign for it." ... The wicked will scatter in every
direction, as the pinnacle of worthlessness among the children of Adam.
Psalm 12:1-5, 8
Chapter 9: The Moral Corruption of Judah
The oracles that began in chapter 7 continue in chapters 8-10. Jeremiah is a broken-hearted prophet, living in the midst of a people who have abandoned the God of Israel and who have taken up everything that is vile (8:6; 9:2-9). In Chapter 9, the verse numbers are listed differently in other translations; for example, 9:1 is listed as 9:2 and so on.
Jeremiah 9:1-8 ~ Yahweh Laments the Moral Corruption of His People
1 Who will find me a wayfarer's shelter in the desert, for me to quit my people, and leave them far behind? For all of them are adulterers, a conspiracy of traitors. 2 They bend their tongues like a bow; not truth but falsehood holds sway in the land; yes, they go from crime to crime, but me they do not know, Yahweh declares. 3 Let each be on his guard against his friend; do not trust a brother, for every brother aims but to supplant, and every friend is a peddler of slander. 4 Each one cheats his friend, never telling the truth; they have trained their tongues to lie and devote all their energies to doing wrong. 5 You live in a world of bad faith! Out of bad faith, they refuse to know me, Yahweh declares. 6 And, so, Yahweh Sabaoth declares, now I shall purge them and test them, no other way to treat the daughter of my people! 7 Their tongue is a deadly arrow, their words are in bad faith; with his mouth each wishes his neighbor peace, while in his heart plotting a trap for him. 8 Shall I fail to punish them for this, Yahweh demands, or on such a nation fail to exact vengeance?
This oracle is in the poetic form from 9:1-10 and then continues in as
a poetic oracle from 9:16-22. Jeremiah is the one referring to "my people" in
verse 1: Who will find me a
wayfarer's shelter in the desert, for me to quit my people, and leave them far
behind? Is Jeremiah fearful for his life, and does he think that perhaps
he should have a safe place to hide from his enemies?
Question: What flight of an earlier prophet who sought shelter in the desert might Jeremiah be recalling? See 1 Kng 19:1-8.
Answer: He is likely recalling the 9th century BC Prophet Elijah's escape into the wilderness after threats on his life.
Perhaps like Elijah, Jeremiah may be thinking of making a similar journey. His words in verse 1a closely resemble Psalm 55:6-7, And I say, "Who will give me wings like a dove, to fly away and find rest?" How far I would escape, and make a nest in the desert! I would soon find a refuge from the storm of abuse, from the destructive tempest, Lord, from the flood of their tongues.
Yahweh sympathizes with His prophet and recounts the sins of the people, For all of them are adulterers, a conspiracy of traitors. This verse uses the word "adulterers" in the sense of those who apostatize from the covenant with Yahweh, which is a traitorous act.
2 They bend their
tongues like a bow; not truth but falsehood holds sway in the land; yes, they
go from crime to crime, but me they do not know, Yahweh declares.
A crooked or bent tongue like a bow is a tongue that speaks falsely. Untruth is prevalent in the land. That the people "do not know" Yahweh in the sense of a covenant relationship is a repeated phrase from 4:22, where not knowing Yahweh is said to be the sign of a stupid and foolish people. The difference is between "knowing" Yahweh in the intimacy of a covenant relationship versus only "knowing about" Yahweh.
Question: What did Hosea, a prophet to the Northern Kingdom
before the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians in the 8th century BC,
write about the lack of knowing Yahweh in Hosea 4:1-6?
Answer: He wrote that the people's broken covenant with Yahweh was the cause of their lack of knowledge of God.
3 Let each be on his
guard against his friend; do not trust a brother, for every brother aims but to
supplant, and every friend is a peddler of slander. 4 Each one cheats his friend, never
telling the truth; they have trained their tongues to lie and devote all their
energies to doing wrong. 5 You
live in a world of bad faith! Out of bad faith, they refuse to know me, Yahweh
Isaiah observed that when society is filled with wickedness, each person seeks what benefits him despite ties to family and friends (Is 9:19). The prophet Micah wrote, For son insults father, daughter rebels against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law; a person's enemies come from within the household itself (Mic 7:6).
6 And, so, Yahweh
Sabaoth declares, now I shall purge them and test them, no other way to treat
the daughter of my people! 7 Their
tongue is a deadly arrow, their words are in bad faith; with his mouth each
wishes his neighbor peace, while in his heart plotting a trap for him.
Other translations read "refine them and assay them," suggesting the refining of metals like silver, a metaphor in Jeremiah 6:29-30. Yahweh says that He has no other choice than to purge His people of their sins and then assess their worth, with Jerusalem as representative of the entire people.
The accusation in verse 7 goes beyond the accusation in verse 2 about the lying tongues. Jeremiah accuses the people of teaching their tongues to lie. The point is that deceit is often self-taught, and people work to perfect the quality of their lying through frequent practice. Their words are deceptive, sounding like "peace" but intending, like an "arrow," to cause harm. The people are saying one thing but thinking and planning something entirely different.
8 Shall I fail to punish
them for this, Yahweh demands, or on such a nation fail to exact vengeance?
Question: What is the definition of vengeance? What is the point of God's vengeance?
Answer: Vengeance is punishment inflicted or penalty exacted for an injury or wrong. The point of God's vengeance is justice and not merely retribution.
Jeremiah 9:9-10 ~ Sorrow in Zion
9 I raise the wail and lament for the mountains, the dirge for the desert pastures, for they have been burnt: no one passes there, the sound of flocks is heard no more. Birds of the sky and animals, all have fled, all are gone. 10 I shall make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair for jackals, and the towns of Judah an uninhabited wasteland.
In verse 9 Jeremiah again expresses his anguish for his people. It is not only because of what he knows is their fate (the destruction and exile God pronounces in verse 10), but because they reject God's invitation to repent and be spiritually healed.
Jeremiah 9:11-15 ~ Questions Asked and Answered
11 Who is wise enough to understand this? To whom has Yahweh's mouth spoken to explain it? Why is the country annihilated, burnt like the desert where no one passes? 12 Yahweh says, "This is because they have forsaken my Law which I gave them and have not listened to my voice or followed it, 13 but have followed their own stubborn hearts, have followed the Baals as their ancestors taught them." 14 So Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this, "Now I shall give this people wormwood to eat and poisoned water to drink. 15 I shall scatter them among nations unknown to their ancestors or to them; and I shall pursue them with the sword until I have annihilated them."
Verse 11a breaks the poetic form with Jeremiah's first question but returns with his second question in 11b, only to return to prose in verses 12-15. In verse 11, Jeremiah asks Yahweh three question concerning the destruction of the people. Yahweh answers Jeremiah in verses 12-13.
12 Yahweh says,
"This is because they have forsaken my Law which I gave them and have not
listened to my voice or followed it, 13 but
have followed their own stubborn hearts, have followed the Baals as their
ancestors taught them."
Question: What are the three reasons for God's judgment of destruction and exile?
The word "baal" means "owner" and by extension "lord" or "master" in the Northwest Semitic languages spoken in the Levant.(1) A concubine called the man who owned her "my baal," but a married woman called her husband "my man" (see Hos 2:18/16). Baal was the honorific title for the god of storms (rain), and fertility who became the principal god in the Canaanite pantheon. In Scripture, the plural form of Baal is often used to represent all false gods. However, every city that worshipped Baal had its own concept of the false god and expressed devotion to Baal in various forms of worship since there was no central religious authority (for example there was Baal of Ekron, Baal of Ugarit, Baal/Molech, etc.).(2)
Notice that God's warrior God title "Yahweh Sabaoth," "Yahweh of the Hosts (angelic army)" is used more frequently as Jeremiah's oracles continue. "Sabaoth" is the transliteration of the Hebrew word tsebha'oth, meaning "hosts," "armies." In the Septuagint and some English translations, the word is rendered by "Almighty" (see Rev 4:8 and compare to Is 6:3). It designates Yahweh as God the commander of the armies of the angelic host who controls the destiny of Heaven and earth. In Scripture, Yahweh Sabaoth describes Yahweh as the defender of His faithful covenant people against all enemies and also Yahweh who brings judgment as in verses 14-15.(3)
14 So Yahweh
Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this, "Now I shall give this people wormwood
to eat and poisoned water to drink."
Yahweh's concluding oracle in this section moves from indictment (verses 12-13) to judgment (verse14-15). The threat of drinking poisoned water reappears from Jeremiah 8:14 (see the previous lesson). The Hebrew word translated "wormwood" is la'anan (Strong's Concordance, H3939) and comes from the Hebrew root meaning "to curse." It refers to any bitter or poisonous plant such as hemlock (see Amos 6:12 where the word la'anan is rendered "hemlock" in some translations) and wormwood. Wormwood is believes to refer to the desert shrub Artemisia. The plant is abundant in the desert of southern Judah and produces leaves with an extremely bitter taste. In Scripture, the words wormwood and poisoned water are metaphors for bitterness, affliction, suffering, and death (Lam 3:15, 19; Rev 8:10-11), and always occurs in connection with judgment and the result of sin. Wormwood is mentioned ten times in nine verses in the Bible (Dt 29:18; Prov 5:4; Jer 9:15; 23:15; Lam 3:15, 19; Amos 5:7; 6:12 as la'anan and in Rev 8:11 twice in the Greek, apsinthos).(4)
15 I shall
scatter them among nations unknown to their ancestors or to them; and I shall
pursue them with the sword until I have annihilated them.
Exile and dispersal among the Gentile nations is one of the curse-judgments for covenant disobedience in Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 4:27; 28:36 and 64. Not all the people will die. As God promised through His prophets, a faithful remnant of the covenant people will survive.(5)
Jeremiah 9:16-21 ~ Yahweh's Advice to the Women of Jerusalem
16 Yahweh Sabaoth says this, "Prepare to call for the mourning women! Send for those who are best at it! Let them lose no time in raising the lament over us! 17 Let our eyes rain tears, our eyelids run with weeping! 18 A lament makes itself heard in Zion, 'What ruin is ours, what utter shame! For we must leave the country, our homes have been knocked down!' 19 Now listen, you women, to Yahweh's word, let your ears take in the word his own mouth speaks. Teach your daughters how to wail and teach one another this dirge, 20 Death has climbed in at our windows, and made its way into our palaces; it has cut down the children in the street, the young people in the squares. 21 Speak! Yahweh declares this: human corpses are strewn like dung in the open field, like sheaves left by the reaper, with no one to gather them.'"
The oracles are in prose in verses 11a-15 (except verse 11b), and then the oracle returns to the poetic form in verses 16-23. The laments are to be offered for the people, the land, and for the fall of Jerusalem which has not yet taken place. Yahweh says the people of Zion should prepare for the funeral of the city of Jerusalem (verse 16). The poem calls for women to lead the mourning for the destruction of the people and the land. Verse 16 doesn't just refer to the professional mourners (the "best at it"), women who were hired to present the customary expression of grief at funerals. All the women must join in the mourning, and mothers must teach their daughters to mourn (verse 19).
Notice the progression of the mourning:
The background for these poems is probably the ravaging of Judah that was the result of the Babylonian invasion of 598-97 BC. The Babylonians moved through Judah to reassert their dominance over the nation and besieged the city of Jerusalem after King Jehoiakim attempted to rebel against Babylonian rule (2 Kng 24:10-11; 2 Chr 36:10). He apparently attempted to set up his eighteen-year-old son as co-ruler, but the Babylonians deposed the father and three months later the son. The Babylonians took father and son away in chains to Babylon (2 Chr 36:5-10) and established Josiah's last son, Zedekiah as their vassal king of Judah (2 Kng 24:11-20; 2 Chr 36:10-13). If Jeremiah's birth was the year Josiah became king, he would be about 42 years old at this time.
Jeremiah 9:22-23 ~ Yahweh Defines True Religion
22 Yahweh says this, "Let the sage not boast of wisdom, nor the valiant of valor, nor the wealthy of riches! 23 But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this: of understanding and knowing me. For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love [hesed], justice, and uprightness on earth; yes, these are what please me," Yahweh declares. [...] = literal Hebrew.
People prize human wisdom, valor in war, and riches and
boast of these attributes. However, in themselves these attributes are not
prized by God. Jeremiah denounced the "boast of the wise" in Jeremiah 8:8 when
speaking for his foolish countrymen, and he asked, How can you say, "We are
wise since we have Yahweh's Law?"
Question: What two reasons did Jeremiah give as for why his people are without wisdom? See Jer 8:9.
Answer: The people are without wisdom, he says, when they falsify Yahweh's written word in the Torah and reject His spoken word through His prophet.
In this passage, Jeremiah says one should only boast about understanding and knowledge of Yahweh. Verse 22 defines "knowledge of Yahweh" as the sum of true religion. The word "religion," is from the Latin word religare, "to tie, fasten, bind," or relegere, "to gather up, treat with care." Religion is not a feeling, emotion, or a series of meaningless actions. True religion is the moral virtue by which a person is disposed to render God worship and righteous service as an expression of a love relationship that comes from an intimate knowledge and understanding of God.
23 But let anyone
who wants to boast, boast of this: of understanding and knowing me. For I am
Yahweh, who acts with faithful love [hesed], justice, and uprightness on earth;
yes, these are what please me..."
The Hebrew word hesed means love in the context of covenant. Knowledge of God comes from a relationship with the Lord God as defined by hesed, the covenant love between God and the one who worships and serves Him. Faithful covenant-love is what pleases God.
Question: How are we called to express our hesed/covenant-love
for God? What role do the Sacraments play in our relationship with Christ?
Answer: Faithful obedience to the commands and prohibitions of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus and His Church is the way we express our hesed/covenant-love. The Sacraments, instituted by Christ, give us invisible grace and the inward sanctification we need, binding us in our intimate relationship to the Most Holy Trinity. We in turn, freely and lovingly, give God our worship and praise. And, as an expression of our love for Him and His gift of eternal salvation, as Christ's disciples, we render righteous service in carrying on Jesus' earthly ministry of love and service to those members of the human family most in need of God's love.
Speaking through the prophet Hosea, and using the symbolic image of covenant marriage, Yahweh said that one day His apostate people would be restored to Him, I shall betroth you in uprightness and justice, and faithful love [hesed] and tenderness. Yes, I shall betroth you to myself in loyalty and in the knowledge of Yahweh (Hos 2:21). That day dawned in Jesus the eternal Bridegroom and the New Covenant Church that is the Bride of Christ (promised by Jeremiah in 31:31-34). In humanity's relationship with God, love is expressed through the family bond created through God's holy covenant.
Jeremiah 9:24-25 ~ No Security in the Outward Sign of Circumcision
24 "Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh: 25 Egypt, Judah, Edom, the Ammonites, Moab, and all the men with shaven temples who live in the desert. For all those nations and the whole House of Israel too, are uncircumcised at heart."
For Israel the physical sign of circumcision was the symbol of their covenant relationship with Yahweh (Gen 17:9-14). In this prose section, Yahweh repeats that the physical sign of circumcision is not enough.
Question: Verse 25 names six different pagan Gentile
peoples who do not belong to Yahweh but who practice circumcision of the flesh.
How are these Gentiles compared to Jeremiah's generation of Judahites?
Answer: The verse compares circumcised Gentiles who do not "know" Yahweh in the bond of a covenant relationship to Jeremiah's countrymen who are also circumcised "in the flesh" but do not "know" Yahweh in a covenant relationship because they do not have circumcised hearts.
Moses told the people in one of his last homilies, Circumcise your hearts then and be obstinate no longer... (Dt 10:16), and Yahweh told the people earlier through Jeremiah in 4:4a, Circumcise yourselves for Yahweh, apply circumcision to your hearts ... The symbol is of physical circumcision is meaningless without inward devotion (see Dt 10:16; 30:6). The circumcision which is the mark of the true people of God is circumcision of the heart, as Paul will teach in Romans 2:5-29 (also see 1 Cor 7:19; Gal 5:6; 6:15; Phil 3:3; Col 2:11; 3:11).
Chapter 10: Idols of the Nations and the True God
Not to us,
Yahweh, not to us, but to your name give the glory, for your faithful love and
your constancy! Why should the nations ask, "Where is their God?" Our God is
in heaven, he creates whatever he chooses. They have idols of silver and gold,
made by human hands. These have mouths but say nothing, have eyes but see
nothing, have ears but hear nothing, have noses but smell nothing. They have
hands but cannot feel, have feet but cannot walk, no sound comes from their
throats. Their makers will end up like them, everyone who relies on them.
Chapter 10 is divided into two parts: the first part is a hymn that contrasts meaningless idols with the majesty of the living God who created the heavens and the earth in verses 2-16. The second part is a call for judgment against those who stand in opposition to God in verses 17-25.
Chapter 10:1-16 is a hymn that switches back and forth between the condemnation of foreign idols and Yahweh the One True God in verses 2-16:
|Verses 2-5||foreign idols|
|Verses 6-7||Yahweh, King of the nations|
|Verses 8-9||foreign idols|
|Verse 10||Yahweh the true God, the living God, and everlasting King|
|Verse 11||foreign gods|
|Verses 12-13||Yahweh God who has sovereignty over Creation|
|Verses 14-15||foreign idols|
|Verses 16||Yahweh, heritage of Jacob, maker of everything|
Jeremiah 10:1-5 ~ The Meaningless Idols of the Gentile Nations
1 Listen, House of Israel, to the word that Yahweh addresses to you. Yahweh says this: 2 "Do not learn the ways of the nations or take alarm at the heavenly signs, alarmed though the nations may be at them. 3 Yes, the customs of the peoples are quite futile: wood, nothing more, cut out of a forest, worked with a blade by a carver's hand, 4 then embellished with silver and gold, then fastened with hammer and nails to keep it from moving. 5 Like scarecrows in a melon patch, they cannot talk, they have to be carried, since they cannot walk. Have no fear of them: they can do no harm, nor any good either!"
Two themes are the focus of Chapter 10:1-16:
2 "Do not learn
the ways of the nations or take alarm at the heavenly signs, alarmed though the
nations may be at them.
Notice the repetition of the heavens and the earth that provide a link to the parts of the oracle in verses 2-13:
The "ways of the nations" is a false path that leads away from God and His promise of salvation. Most pagan nations practiced divinization in seeking to determine the future either through the condition of the internal parts of animals or through the stars and the planets. The study of astrology was especially prevalent in Egypt and Babylon, and some ancient sources recorded that the Babylonians were the originators of astronomy and astrology.(6) God warns that to take alarm at the predictions of such things is foolish. Psalm 25:4-5 advises, Direct me in your ways, Yahweh, and teach me your paths. Encourage me to walk in your truth and teach me since you are the God who saves me.
Question: Divination is the art of knowing and
declaring future events or hidden things by the means of communicating with
occult forces. What did the Law say concerning divination and why? See Lev 19:26,
31; 20:27; Dt 18:10-12.
Answer: Divination was forbidden. It is an attempt to control one's own destiny or to determine one's future apart from God.
Divination is an activity contrary to God. There is always a religious element to divination. The Church identifies such influences as diabolical, and it is a grave sin to attempt to elicit knowledge from such influences (see CCC 2115-17).
Verses 3-5 denounce the worship of meaningless and
powerless idols made by human hands.
Question: Why doesn't the denouncement against idols in this passage and the prohibition in the first and second of the Ten Commandments refer to the Catholic practice of statues of saints and the Virgin Mary? See Ex 20:4-6; 25:17-22; 1 Kng 6:23-29; 8:5-7
Answer: The prohibition in the Ten Commandments commands that there is to be no other god to rival Yahweh, and no image or carving for the purpose of worship shall be made (Ex 20:4-6). The statues of saints and the Blessed Virgin are to remind us of the persons in our family of the Church who lived and served God in the same way the photograph of a family member or friend or the statue of a hero or heroine reminds you of that person. Catholics do not worship statues; we honor the person the statue represents. God allowed (even commanded) statues in the Old Covenant Church. Two statues of cherubim were on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, and two huge statues of cherubim stood above the Ark in Solomon's Temple.
Jeremiah 10:6-16 ~ The Uniqueness of Yahweh the Creator
6 Yahweh, there is no one like you, so great you are, so great your mighty name. 7 Who would not revere you, King of nations? Yes, this is your due. Since of all the wise among the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is not a single one like you. 8 All of them are brutish and stupid: the Futile Ones' teaching is but wood, 9 silver leaf imported from Tarshish and gold from Ophir, the work of carver or goldsmith; then dressed up in violet and purple, all the work of skilled men. 10 But Yahweh is the true God. He is the living God, the everlasting King. The earth quakes when he is wrathful, the nations cannot endure his furry. 11 "Tell them this, 'The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth will vanish from the earth and from under these heavens.'" 12 By his power he made the earth, by his wisdom set the world firm, but his discernment spread out the heavens. 13 When he thunders there is a roaring of waters in heaven; he raises clouds from the remotest parts of the earth, makes the lightning flash for the downpour, and brings the wind from his storehouse. 14 At this all people stand stupefied, uncomprehending, every goldsmith blushes for his idols; his castings are but delusion, with no breath in them. 15 They are futile, a laughable production; when the time comes for them to be punished, they will vanish. 16 The Heritage of Jacob is not like these, for he is the maker of everything, and Israel is the tribe that is his heritage. His name is Yahweh Sabaoth.
Verses 6-9 are missing from the Greek Septuagint translation and also from the Dead Sea Jeremiah Scroll 4QJer6. Jeremiah summed up the ineffectiveness of the pagan idols in verse 5, Like scarecrows in a melon patch, they cannot talk, they have to be carried, since they cannot walk. Have no fear of them: they can do no harm, nor any good either! Then in verses 6-7, he compares the nothingness of pagan idols to the majesty of Yahweh, 6 Yahweh, there is no one like you, so great you are, so great your mighty name. 7 Who would not revere you, King of nations? Yes, this is your due. Since of all the wise among the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is not a single one like you.
so great your mighty name.
"Name" (shem) signifies the essential character of Yahweh (Ex 3:13-14). God and His name are synonymous, and therefore Yahweh is Himself great (vs 6b).
7 Who would not revere you, King of nations?
Verse 7 begins by offering a contrast to the pagan idols that no one should fear (verse 5) and a rebuke to the people who have no fear of God, as Jeremiah lamented in 5:22. The point is that fear/reverence of Yahweh is founded upon the awesome power of the Creator and His relationship to those who are obedient to His covenant. The title "King of nations" is a reminder of God's sovereignty over the earth He created and the nations that dwell on it, as is repeatedly proclaimed in the Psalms:
8 All of them are
brutish and stupid: the Futile Ones' teaching is but wood, 9 silver leaf imported from Tarshish and gold
from Ophir, the work of carver or goldsmith; then dressed up in violet and
purple, all the work of skilled men.
All of them could refer to the idols or to the men who make them; that the people who create and worship them are stupid appears again in verses 14 and 21. The Book of Wisdom curses the idol made with hands and also the one who makes it ... but accursed the man-made idol, yes, it and its maker, he for having made it, and it because, though perishable, it has been called god (Wis 14:8).
9 silver leaf
imported from Tarshish and gold from Ophir, the work of carver or goldsmith...
Since Jonah tried to escape his mission to Nineveh in the northeast by traveling west to Tarshish (Jonah 1:1-3), it is assumed that Tarshish is in the southern Iberian Peninsula. It must have been a mineral rich area since it is also mentioned in association with silver and other metals in Ezekiel 27:12, 25; 38:13. The location of Ophir is unknown. The region was the source of large amounts of gold imported by Judah; western Arabia, Oman, Somalia and even India are suggested (see 1 Kng 9:28; 10:22; 22:49; 2 Chr 8:18).
then dressed up in violet and purple, all the work of skilled men.
Violet and purple were the colors of royalty (see Judg 8:26; Esth 8:15; Mk 15:17-20), and were also used in the textiles for the Sanctuary of Yahweh and also the vestments of the high priest and the chief priests (Ex 26:1-4, 31, 36; 28:31-35; 39-42; 39:22-24, 29). Lydia, who befriended St. Paul in the New Testament, was a business woman who manufactured purple cloth (Acts 16:14).
10 But Yahweh is
the true God. He is the living God, the everlasting King. The earth quakes
when he is wrathful, the nations cannot endure his furry.
That Yahweh is the true and eternal is the significant difference between Yahweh and pagan idols. Idols are man-made objects without out life, but Yahweh is "the living God," as Jesus identified God the Father in Matthew 22:32 (also see Mk 12:27, Lk 20:38, and Jn 6:69; and in the Old Testament also see Dt 5:26; 1 Sam 17:26, 36; 2 Kng 19:4; Ps 42:2; 84:2; Jer 23:36 and Hos 1:10). He is also the "everlasting King" whose reign will never come to an end (see Ps 10:16 and 145:1), and He has sovereign power over all of creation, as Jeremiah testifies in verses 11-14.
10b The earth
quakes when he is wrathful, the nations cannot endure his furry. 11 "Tell them this, 'The gods who did not make
the heavens and the earth will vanish from the earth and from under these
heavens.'" 12 By his power he made
the earth, by his wisdom set the world firm, but his discernment spread out the
heavens. 13 When he thunders there
is a roaring of waters in heaven; he raises clouds from the remotest parts of
the earth, makes the lightning flash for the downpour, and brings the wind from
Yahweh is the great Creator, and false gods who create nothing cannot compare with Yahweh's power over the forces of nature and everything nature contains created by Him. Notice the repetition of the heavens and the earth that continues to provide a link to the parts of the oracle:
14 At this all people stand stupefied, uncomprehending, every goldsmith blushes for his idols; his castings are but delusion, with no breath in them. 15 They are futile, a laughable production; when the time comes for them to be punished, they will vanish. 16 The Heritage of Jacob is not like these, for he is the maker of everything, and Israel is the tribe that is his heritage. His name is Yahweh Sabaoth.
Question: What is the contrast in this part of the hymn?
Answer: This part of the hymn contrasts the majesty of the Living God who created heaven and earth with the stupidity of humans who make non-living gods that can do nothing for them because their gods are only objects made from material elements.
One of the great works of Yahweh is Israel, the covenant people God has made for His heritage in His divine plan for the good of humanity. The hymn reaches its climax in naming the Creator God who has chosen Israel out of all the nations of the earth; His name is Yahweh Sabaoth, Yahweh of the Hosts of Heaven!
Jeremiah 10:17-21 ~ Prepare for Judah's Mortal Wound
17 Pick up your pack from the ground, you the besieged! 18 For Yahweh says this, "Now I shall throw out the inhabitants of the country, this time, and bring distress on them, so that they may find me!" 19 Disaster is on me! What a wound! My injury is incurable! And I used to think, "If this is the worst, I can bear it!" 20 But now my tent is destroyed, all my ropes are snapped, my sons have left me and are no more; no one is left to put my tent up again or to hang the side-cloths. 21 The shepherds are the ones who have been stupid: they have not searched for Yahweh. This is why they have not prospered and why their whole flock has been dispersed.
Verses 17-21 comprise the second part of Chapter 10. Yahweh is speaking through His prophet. The danger to Judah and Jerusalem appears more imminent than in Jeremiah 9:9-21.
18 For Yahweh
says this, "Now I shall throw out the inhabitants of the country, this time,
and bring distress on them, so that they may find me!"
Verse 18 proclaims the redemptive purpose of the people's suffering. The theme of redemptive suffering appears frequently in the writings of prophets, beginning with Moses in Deuteronomy 4:29-31: If, however, from there you start searching once more for Yahweh your God, and if you search for him honestly and sincerely, you will find him. You will suffer; everything I have said will befall you, but in the final days you will return to Yahweh your God and listen to his voice. For Yahweh your God is a merciful God and will not desert or destroy you or forget the covenant which he made on oath with your ancestors.(7)
Physical and emotional suffering is the result of sin, either as a consequence of personal sins committed by an individual or as a result of the suffering of the innocent caused by the corrupting power of sin and evil in the world. The etymology of the word "suffering/suffer" is from the Latin, sufferer, "to sustain, to bear"; sub, "up from under" + ferre, "to bear" (Modern Catholic Dictionary, John A. Hardon, S.J., page 421).
Question: Does God intend that the innocent should
suffer? See Wis 2:13, 24.
Answer: No! It is not God's will that the innocent should suffer, Because God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being ... But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world...
We should view personal suffering that is the result of sinful influences as a chastisement that is an opportunity for us to turn away from sin and to turn back to fellowship with God. Scripture addresses the condition of suffering for both the guilty and the innocent. In the Old Testament, the innocent who suffered because of the guilty became an offering to God, and their suffering counted toward their ultimate salvation. In the New Testament, personal suffering of the innocent that comes from sin in the world can be of value when the person unites his/her suffering to the suffering of Christ on the Cross. His/her suffering then becomes a holy sacrifice. Redemptive suffering can atone for sin and can bring the person to a more intimate personal relationship with Christ, aiding in the person's journey to salvation.
St. Paul wrote concerning the expiation of our sins and our promise of glory associated in offering up our sacrifice of suffering united to Christ, The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:16-17). St. Peter wrote ...Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example so that we should follow in his steps (1 Pt 2:21; see CCC 307, 618, 1460, 1508).
19 Disaster is on
me! What a wound! My injury is incurable! And I used to think, "If this is
the worst, I can bear it!" 20 But
now my tent is destroyed, all my ropes are snapped, my sons have left me and
are no more; no one is left to put my tent up again or to hang the side-cloths.
Jeremiah cries out, lamenting his suffering and the suffering of the people, personally feeling their anguish in verse 20. Jeremiah is unmarried and has no sons/children, but 31:15 casts light on his lament where Rachel, the "mother" of the tribes of Jacob, is symbolically heard mourning for her children that are no more, a reference to the exile (also see Lam 1:5). Children/sons were expected to help in erecting the "tent" or dwelling for the family and its cloth partitions. The meaning is that there are no children left to rebuild. For the restoration of the "tents" and "side-cloths/curtains" see Isaiah 54:1-3.
Here and in 15:18, Jeremiah laments a blow or wound he has sustained. In 15:19 God promises His prophet restoration and in 30:17 God promises, I will restore you to health and heal your wounds... And in verse 18, Look, I shall restore the tents of Jacob and take pity on his dwellings: the town will be rebuilt on its mound, the stronghold where it ought to stand. Jeremiah tells himself that he has received an incurable blow, but he also tells himself this is a suffering he knows he must endure (19b).
21 The shepherds
are the ones who have been stupid: they have not searched for Yahweh. This is
why they have not prospered and why their whole flock has been dispersed.
Question: Why is it that there are no children left to rebuild Judah and Jerusalem?
Answer: It is because of the failure of Judah's leaders.
"Shepherds" can refer to kings, chief priests, elders and even prophets. The promised Davidic Messiah in Ezekiel 34:23 is described as ... one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd. The leaders have failed the people, their "flock," because they have not searched for Yahweh's presence in their lives; therefore, their "flock" is dispersed in exile.
Jeremiah 10:22-25 ~ Pour out Your Anger
22 Listen! A terrible noise! A mighty uproar from the land of the north to reduce the towns of Judah to desert, to a lair for jackals! 23 I know, Yahweh, no one's course is in his control, nor is it in anyone's power, as he goes his way, to guide his own steps. 24 Correct me, Yahweh, but with moderation, not in your anger, or you will reduce me to nothing. 25 Pour out your anger on the nations who do not acknowledge you, and on the families that do not call on your name, for they have devoured Jacob, have devoured and made an end of him and reduced his home to desolation.
Jeremiah is speaking to Yahweh. Verses 22 announces the end of the foe-lament series that began in Jeremiah 4:5-6, and the series ends as it began with a watchman's report that the enemy is advancing. Like Habakkuk and Ezekiel, Jeremiah is Yahweh's watchman. Verse 22 is the third repetition that the enemy from the north is coming (see 4:6 and 6:22).
to reduce the towns of Judah to desert, to a lair for jackals!
The curse of jackals was mentioned in 9:10. It is a frequent curse in Scripture; wild animals were known to inhabit the ruins of an abandoned city (see for example Ps 44:19; 63:10; Is 13:22; 34:13; 35:7; Jer 9:11; 10:22; 14:6; 49:33; 51:37; 5:18; Ez 13:4; Mic 1:8; Ma 1:3).
23 I know,
Yahweh, no one's course is in his control, nor is it in anyone's power, as he
goes his way, to guide his own steps.
Question: What does Jeremiah affirm in this confession?
Answer: Human beings may think their destiny is in their own hands, but they are deceiving themselves.
Jeremiah knows that ultimately it is Yahweh who guides the lives of people and their affairs. It is a theme repeated throughout Scripture (for example see 2 Chr 27:6; Ps 37:23; Prov 3:5-6; 16:9; 20:24; Rom 7:18-20).
24 Correct me,
Yahweh, but with moderation, not in your anger, or you will reduce me to
Jeremiah petitions God to correct or chasten him with moderation when he goes astray, something pagan gods cannot do. Like the Psalmist in Psalm 6:1/2 and 38:1/2, he asks God to make corrections out of love and not wrath.
Question: What does the inspired writer of Proverbs write about God's correction in 3:11-12?
Answer: He says not to despise God's correction because it is a sign of His love, My child, do not scorn correction from Yahweh, do not resent his reproof; for Yahweh reproves those he loves, as a father the child whom he loves.
25 Pour out your
anger on the nations who do not acknowledge you, and on the families that do
not call on your name, for they have devoured Jacob, have devoured and made an
end of him and reduced his home to desolation.
This verse is similar to Psalm 79:6-7. Verse 25 is the final verse in the foe-lament series of oracles that began in chapter 4. The question is, does Jeremiah only speak of judgment for the Gentile nations that do not know Yahweh, or is Judah included in his call for judgment? Jeremiah spoke of the covenant people who do know "know" Yahweh in 4:22 and 9:3. Yahweh judges nations because of the evil they do to humanity, including His covenant people of Judah and the holy city of Jerusalem (Jer 46:10; 51:35), which is probably the point Jeremiah is making here.
Question: 10:25 is Jeremiah's call for divine judgment. What are the reasons Jeremiah says God punishes nations?
See Jer 10:25; 25:31; 50:31-32; 50:38; 51:47, 52.
Answer: God also judges nations because:
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: God sends His divine judgment against nations that practice wickedness in bringing harm to humanity (Jer 25:31), to nations because of their pride (Jer 50:31-32), and to nations that worship false gods, whether literally or materially (Jer 50:38; 51:47, 52). Does your nation fall into any of these categories that call for God's intervention through His divine judgment?
The Catechism teaches that idolatry is "... divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, You cannot serve God and mammon'" (CCC 2113). In using the word "mammon," Jesus was referring to worldly, secular desires in Matthew 6:24.
Question: What are the ways that people in modern, secular society practice idolatry under the Catechism's definition?
1. Levant is a place name given the area of the Eastern Mediterranean now occupied by the nations of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. It comes from the old French present participle lever, "to rise," referring to the rising of the sun in the east, from the Latin verb for "to rise," levāre.
2. A variation in doctrine and worship is common in any religion that does not have a central governing authority. For the Israelites, that central authority was placed with the chief priests led by the anointed High Priest and the Temple hierarchy. The lower order of religious leaders that included the Levites (lower order ministers), the scribes (teachers of the Law), and the Pharisees in the village Synagogues recognized the authority of the central hierarchy. Jesus spoke of this central authority in Matthew 23:1-2 as "the chair of Moses," saying, "You must therefore do and observe what they tell you ..." Jesus gave that same central authority of His Kingdom of the universal Church led by St. Peter, the Apostles and their successors. The Popes of the Roman Catholic Church continue to sit on "the chair of Peter" and with the Magisterium, the successors of the Apostles, they continue teaching the same sacred Tradition Jesus gave His Church (see Mt 16:16-19; 18:18; and Jn 20:22-23; 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Tim 2:2). Protestantism has no central authority, and therefore there are many variations and conflicting doctrines among the over 30,000 different Protestant denominations.
3. For New Testament uses of "Yahweh Sabaoth" see Rom 9:29 and Jam 5:4.
4. In the Book of Revelation, Wormwood is a star or angel (Rev 8:11 twice). In the Greek Septuagint translation, the word is apsinthos (also in Rev 8:11), derived from the Greek word absinthion that means "undrinkable." This Greek word is the origin of the alcoholic beverage made from the Artemisia plant called Absinthe.
5. Is 10:20, 21, 22; 11:11, 16; 14:22; 28:5; 37:4, 31, 32; 46:3;
Jer 23:3; 24:8; 31:7; 40:11, 15; 42:2, 15, 17, 19; 43:5; 44:12, 14, 28; 50:20;
Mic 4:7; 5:7, 8;
Zep 2:7, 9; 13:3;
Hag 1:12, 14; 2:2;
Zec 8:6, 12, 9:7.
6. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 1.166-68; Diodorus of Sicily, II.30.
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Catechism references for this lesson (* indicated that Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the catechism citation):