THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Part I: Oracles Against Jerusalem and Judah
(the Oracles of Condemnation)
Chapters 11-13: The Curse-Judgments of Covenant Failure
The Linen Waistcloth Object Lesson and the Smashed Jugs
Holy and Eternal Father,
The moral views of peoples and the laws of their nations may change over time, but Your holiness and divine Law does not alter with the times or seasons of human history. If we believe that You are everything that is holy, then we must accept that Your commands and prohibitions are also holy and for our good. Give us, Lord, the fortitude to be numbered among the remnant of the faithful obedient, and send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study of the morally corrupt and unashamed generation of Jeremiah's times. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Moses and the
Levitical priests then said to all Israel: "Be silent, Israel, and listen.
Today you have become a people for Yahweh your God. You must listen to the
voice of Yahweh your God and observe the commandments and laws which I am
laying down for you today. [...] Accursed be anyone who does not make the words
of the Law effective by putting them into practice. And the people must all
On the other
hand, all those who depend on the words of the Law are under a curse, since
Scripture says: "Accursed by he who does not make what is written in the book
of the Law effective, by putting it into practice." Now it is obvious that
nobody is reckoned as upright in God's sight by the law, since "the upright
will live through faith;" and the Law is based not on faith but on the
principle, "whoever complies with it will find life in it." Christ redeemed us
from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake since Scripture says:
Anyone hanged is accursed, so that the blessing of Abraham might come to the
Gentiles in Christ Jesus, and so that we might receive the promised Spirit
St. Paul in Galatians 3:10-14, quoting Deuteronomy 27:26a; Habakkuk 2:4 and Deuteronomy 21:23
Chapter 11 is from the period after good King Josiah's death when his son, Jehoiakim, immediately overturned all his father's religious reforms. The people showed their approval by restoring their false idols and apostatizing again from their covenant with Yahweh (see 2 Kng 23; Jer 11:9). This part of the book contains what are called the "confessions of Jeremiah," in which the prophet confesses his anguish over his people's wickedness and his deepest personal feelings to his Lord. Jeremiah's five confessions:
The theme of Jeremiah 11:1-13:27 is that broken covenants leave everyone hurting, including Jeremiah whose opposition to the people's renewed apostasy from the covenant results in threats against his life (11:19-21).
Chapter 11:1-13 is divided into three covenant oracles:
The oracles in 11:1-13 move from Jeremiah's present time, to the past of the Exodus wilderness generation, and then back again to Jeremiah's time:
The three oracles that are all in prose form until verse 13 share common words and phrases clustered in verses 3-5, 7-8, and then the result in verse 10 (underlining added for emphasis):
|who will not listen to the terms [words] of this covenant which I ordained (verse 3-4a)||But they did not listen ... the words of this covenant which I had ordered/ordained (verse 8)||The House of Israel and the House of Judah have broken my covenant (verse 10)|
|for your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt(verse 4)||For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt (verse 7)||They have reverted to the sins of their ancestors(verse 10)|
|Listen to my voice ... carry out all my orders ... as is the case today (verses 4b-5)||warned them until today, saying: Listen to my voice. But they did not listen ... they had not obeyed (verses 7-8)||who refused to listen to my words (verse 10)|
There are two key words in the three oracles. "Word" in Hebrew is debar (Strong's H1697). It is in both the singular and the plural in the oracles, and it is repeated seven times in verses 1, 2, 3, 6 (twice), 8 and 10. The other key word is "covenant," berith (Strong's H1285), repeated five times in the three oracles in verses 11:2, 3, 6, 8 and 10.
Jeremiah 11:1-5 ~ The Curses of the Covenant
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, 2 "Hear the terms [words] of this covenant; tell them to the people of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 3 Tell them, Yahweh, God of Israel, says this: Cursed be anyone [the man] who will not listen to the terms [words] of this covenant 4 which I ordained for your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of that iron-foundry. Listen to my voice, I told them, carry out all my orders, then you will be my people and I shall be your God, 5 so that I may fulfil the oath I swore to your ancestors, that I may give them a country flowing with milk and honey, as is the case today.'" I replied, "So be it [Amen], Yahweh!" [...] = literal translations IBHE, vol. IV, page 1763.
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh
This same introduction to an oracle as in Jeremiah 7:1; 18:1; 21:1 (with a slight variation) and in 30:1. Verses 1-5 contain the first of the three covenant oracles.
2 Hear the terms [words]
of this covenant; tell them to the people of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Verse 2 is a summary of the oracle's message. The word "hear" is plural and defines the scope of this directive that is to all the people without exception of their social standing in the community. The literal Hebrew is "words (debar plural) of this covenant," but it is also acceptable to translate debar as "terms" in this context.
Verse 2 has the first of many "covenant" references in the Book of Jeremiah. Covenants mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah:
Jesus' referred to the New Covenant at the Last Supper in Luke 22:20 and so did St. Paul in his description of the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:25. See the chart on Yahweh's eight God-ordained covenants in handout 2.
3 Tell them, Yahweh,
God of Israel, says this: Cursed be anyone [the man] who will not listen to the
terms [words] of this covenant ...
The "curse" is a reference to the list of covenant curses in Deuteronomy 28:15-46 that King Josiah read to the people at the covenant renewal ceremony in 622 BC. He then made the people and the priests swear allegiance to faithful observe the commands of the covenant (2 Kng 23:1-3; 2 Chr 34:29-32). That passage, after the list of blessings for covenant obedience in verses 1-14 begins with the warning, But if you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, and do not keep and observe all is commandments and laws which I am laying down for you today then all these curses will befall and overtake you (Dt 28:15). A detailed list of covenant curse-judgments follows in Deuteronomy 28:16-46. The first curse in Deuteronomy 28:15 has the same Hebrew wording as Jeremiah 11:3 and the final warning in Deuteronomy 28:45 has the same content.
4 which I ordained for
your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of that iron-foundry.
The Sinai Covenant is God-ordained and not the work of human beings. The Exodus generation, freed from bondage in Egypt, was the first generation of Israelites to receive the terms of the Sinai Covenant. An iron-foundry was a small furnace for smelting iron. The metaphor describes Israelite slavery in Egypt (see the same metaphor in Dt 4:20 and 1 Kng 8:51).
4b Listen to my voice, I
told them, carry out all my orders, then you will be my people and I shall be your God...
Just "hearing" or "listening" to the words of God was never enough. In Deuteronomy 29:8/9 the command was to, Keep the words of this covenant, put them into practice, and you will thrive in everything you do.
5 so that I may fulfil
the oath I swore to your ancestors...
Yahweh's oath to "your ancestors" refers to the promise of the land to Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12:1-3 and again in Genesis 15:1-21. It was a promise repeated to Abraham's son Isaac and grandson Jacob (Gen 26:4; 28:14). In the ancient Near East, covenants were formed by oath-swearing, sacrifice, and a sacred meal. At Sinai, God swore to give the Israelites the land He promised the Patriarchs, to protect Israel, and to ensure her prosperity if they remained obedient to His covenant (Ex 23:20-26). The Israelites, in turn, swore to obey all the laws God laid down for them (Ex 24:3, 7). Blood sacrifices and a sacred meal ratified the covenant treaty (Ex 24:4-6, 8-11). Secular covenant treaties followed the same formula (see 26:26-30; 31:44, 53-54).
that I may give them a country flowing with milk and honey, as is
the case today.
The milk from herd animals thriving in the land, the fertility of crops, the nectar produced from fruit and by bees often describes the richness of the Promised Land in Scripture (Ex 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3; Lev 20:24; Num 13:27; 14:8; 16:13, 14; etc.). "As is the case this day" makes the point that the land is still blessed despite the sins of the people.
I replied, "So be it [Amen], Yahweh!"
Jeremiah's "Amen" corresponds to the Israelites' twelve corporate "amens" in the list of self-curses for covenant disobedience in Deuteronomy 27 (see Dt 27:15-26). In Hebrew, "amen" is an acrostic formed from the first letter of the three Hebrew words El Melech Ne'eman, "the Lord is a trustworthy King" (see Rev 3:14). As the response to a prayer (Ps 89:53), or as a declaration (Dt 27:15-26), "amen" means "truly," or so be it," or "I believe," as it does in this verse.(1)
Jeremiah's oracles announce the consequences of covenant disobedience that are the result of the self-curse the generation of the Exodus swore to Yahweh in Deuteronomy chapter 27. Any individual or the people as a whole who disobey the covenant are cursed.
Jeremiah 11:6-8 ~ Obeying the Covenant
6 Then Yahweh said to me, "Proclaim all these terms [words] in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Listen to the terms [words] of this covenant and obey them. 7 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, I solemnly warned them, and have persistently warned them until today, saying: Listen to my voice. 8 But they did not listen, did not pay attention; instead, each followed his own stubborn and wicked inclinations. And against them, in consequence, I put into action the words of this covenant which I had ordered them to obey and which they had not obeyed.'"
[...] = literal translation IBHE, vol. IV page 1763.
This passage is the second of the covenant oracles, and it stresses the necessity of not just "hearing" but "doing" the commandments. Jeremiah is told to proclaim the covenant oracle to every citizen of Judah, telling them that because of their apostasy the covenant curse-judgments are now "put into action." That he is to proclaim the covenant lawsuit "in the towns of Judah" doesn't mean that he traveled to all the towns. It is a reoccurring phrase and means his message in Jerusalem concerns all the towns in Judah. Those citizens from other towns visiting Jerusalem and the Temple will carry his message to their towns.
saying, Listen to the terms [words] of this covenant and obey them.
This verse is a repeat of the command in 4b to put Yahweh's commands into action.
7 For when I brought
your ancestors out of Egypt, I solemnly warned them, and have persistently
warned them until today, saying: Listen to my voice.
These are the ancestors of the Exodus generation mentioned in verse 4 and again twice in the summing up in verse 10. The warning to remain obedient to the covenant continued from the time of the Exodus generation up to and including "today."
8 But they did not
listen, did not pay attention; instead, each followed his own stubborn and
It is a re-occurring theme that the people listen but do not understand and act. Yahweh warned Isaiah of this same failure in Isaiah 6:9; and Jesus, referring to the reason He taught in parables, quotes the passage from Isaiah in Matthew 13:13-15.
And against them, in consequence, I put into action the words of
this covenant which I had ordered them to obey and which they had not obeyed.
Yahweh refers to the judgment on the Exodus generation for their constant rebellion and failure to fulfill their sworn oath to keep the covenant.
Question: What was Yahweh's judgment on the Exodus generation? See Num 14:26-35.
Answer: Yahweh condemned the Israelites to forty years in the wilderness. No member of the Exodus generation twenty years old or older lived to enter the Promised Land except Joshua and Caleb who demonstrated unwavering faithfulness.
Question: What is God's purpose in mentioning His judgment on
the Exodus generation?
Answer: The men and women of the Exodus generation were the founding fathers and mothers of the nation of Israel. If God could judge the Exodus generation so harshly for their rebellion, Jeremiah's generation should realize that God will not spare them His divine judgment for their sins of rebellion and covenant failure.
Jeremiah 11:9-13 ~ The Covenant is Broken
9 Yahweh said to me, "Plainly there is conspiracy among the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem. 10 They have reverted to the sins of their ancestors who refused to listen to my words: they too are following other gods and serving them. The House of Israel and the House of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their ancestors. 11 And so, Yahweh says this, I shall now bring a disaster on them which they cannot escape; they will call to me for help, but I shall not listen to them. 12 The towns of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem will then go and call for help to the gods to whom they burn incense, but these will be no help at all to them in their time of distress! '13 For you have as many gods as you have towns, Judah! You have built as many altars to Shame, as many incense altars to Baal, as Jerusalem has streets!"
This passage is the third of the covenant oracles. Notice the movement of the oracles from Jeremiah's present time to the past of the Exodus generation and now in verses 9-14 back again to Jeremiah's present time. The charge of the people's treason, that includes the already destroyed Northern Kingdom of Israel (722 BC), is that 10 They have reverted to the sins of their ancestors who refused to listen to my words: they too are following other gods and serving them. The House of Israel and the House of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their ancestors. Verse 10 is the summary statement for the oracles. "Their ancestors" in this case refers to the Exodus generation and the covenant formation at Mt. Sinai establishing Israel as a nation belonging to Yahweh their divine King, So now, if you are really prepared to obey me and keep my covenant, you, out of all peoples, shall be my personal possession, for the whole world is mine (Ex 19:5).
Question: Why in verse 11 does Yahweh say He will not listen to
the people's call for help when they are in the midst of the disaster of their
divine judgment, and how is it a warning for us?
Answer: Yahweh will not listen because the time for repentance is past. All human beings must accept that when they come to the end of their earthly lives and face God's divine judgment that the opportunity for repentance and salvation is past.
Verse 13 returns to poetry in repeating the covenant lawsuit indictment of idol worship as the sin that led to the apostasy of the people from Yahweh's covenant. "Shame" refers to false gods in addition to Baal.
Jeremiah 11:14-17 ~ Yahweh's Rebuke of Temple Worshippers
"14 You, for your part, must not intercede for this people, nor raise either plea or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when their distress forces them to call to me for help. 15 What is my beloved doing in my house? She has achieved her wicked plans. Can vows and consecrated meat turn disaster from you for you to be so happy? 16 Green olive-tree covered in fine fruit', was Yahweh's name for you. With a shattering noise he has set fire to it, its branches are broken." 17 And Yahweh Sabaoth, who planted you, has decreed disaster for you because of the evil the House of Israel and the House of Judah have done, provoking me by burning incense to Baal.
In this passage, there are two speakers:
Returning to prose in verse 14, Yahweh commands Jeremiah again to cease
interceding for the people as He did in 7:16 and will again in 14:11.
Question: What is the reason Yahweh is so offended as to refuse to hear Jeremiah's intercessions for the people? See Yahweh's complaint in 7:1-15 that preceded His first command not to intercede and Yahweh's complaint 11:15.
Answer: The offense in the earlier command to Jeremiah not to intercede for the people is the people's abuse of God's Holy Temple in illicit worship and the people's reliance on insincere sacrifices.
16 Green olive-tree
covered in fine fruit', was Yahweh's name for you. With a shattering noise he
has set fire to it, its branches are broken.
Verses 15-16 are in the poetic form. Speaking directly to the people in verse 16, Jeremiah uses a fruitful olive tree as a metaphor for the once faithful covenant people.(2) Then, speaking in general to an unspecified audience, Jeremiah announces that God in His judgment will break the evil-doers off from His covenant like an orchard keeper breaks the diseased branches off a healthy olive tree, consigning the branches to the fire.(3)
17 And Yahweh Sabaoth,
who planted you, has decreed disaster for you because of the evil the House of
Israel and the House of Judah have done, provoking me by burning incense to
It is Yahweh who "planted" Israel in the Promised Land to flourish as His covenant people. In this verse, Jeremiah again directly addresses the people, giving the breaking of the first two of the Ten Commandments as the reason for their destruction.
Jeremiah 11:18-23 ~ Jeremiah's Persecution
18 Yahweh informed me and I knew it; you then revealed their scheming to me. 19 I for my part was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughterhouse, not knowing the schemes they were plotting against me, "Let us destroy the tree in its strength [lehem = bread], let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name may no longer be remembered!" 20 Yahweh Sabaoth, whose judgment is upright, tester of motives and thoughts, I shall see your vengeance on them, for I have revealed my cause to you. 21 Against the people of Anathoth who are determined to kill me and say to me, 22 "Do not prophesy in the name of Yahweh or you will die at our hands!" Yahweh says this, "I am about to punish them. Their young people will die by the sword, their sons and daughters by famine. 23 Not one will be left when I bring disaster on the people of Anathoth, when the year for punishing them comes." [...] = literal Hebrew, IBHE, vol. IV, page 1765.
This passage is the beginning of Jeremiah's first confession that extends to 12:6. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in several caves in 1947, was a passage from the Book of Jeremiah 11:19-23 that was missing from the Jewish Masoretic text. However, this passage was in the DSS Greek Septuagint copies, in other existing Greek versions of Jeremiah, and in quotations from the Septuagint in the writings of the early Church Fathers. All editions of the Douay-Rheims and other Catholic Bibles, including the New Jerusalem Bible and the St. Ignatius RSV Catholic edition, have this passage. However, verses 19-23 are missing from the New American Catholic Bible 1990 edition of the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah.
After the missing verses from the Jeremiah DSS had been published, they were accepted as authentic and added to later editions of the Jewish Tanakh and Protestant Bibles. The NABRE now has the missing verses, but 11:19 is poorly translated, substituting the word "vigor" for "bread," just as the NJB mistranslates "strength" for "bread"; probably because the translators did not see how a tree is "in" or "with its "bread," and therefore completely missing the connection between Jeremiah, Christ, and the Eucharist that the early Church Fathers saw in the Greek translation.
informed me and I knew it; you then revealed their scheming to me. 19 I for my part was like a trustful lamb
being led to the slaughterhouse, not knowing the schemes they were plotting
against me, "Let us destroy the tree [ ets] in its [belehmo] strength [lehem
= bread], let us cut him off from the land of the living, so
that his name may no longer be remembered!"
In verses 18-19, Jeremiah becomes a figure of Jesus Christ who was also rejected by His people (Mt 13:57; Mk 6:4; Lk 4:24; Jn 7:5-5) and sacrificed as the Lamb of God to atone for the sins of His people and all humanity (Jer 11:19; Is 53:7, 12; Jn 1:29; 19:31).
Jeremiah 11:19 is a verse frequently used as a proof-text by the Fathers of the Catholic Church in support of the prophecies in the Old Testament that referred to the promise of Eucharist. The key words are the Hebrew word ets that can mean "tree" or "wood" (Strongs, H6086) and the Hebrew word for "bread" that is lehem/lechem (Strongs, H3899). An additional key word is be/belehmo that can mean "in," "for," "with," or "through" and where belehmo translates "in" or "with" or "for" its bread. The Fathers of the Church and Catholic liturgy applied this verse to the Passion of Christ who died on the wood/tree of the cross and to the gift of the Eucharist when Jesus offered the bread at the Last Supper, saying "this is my Body" (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19).
In his commentary on the Book of Jeremiah, St.
Jerome wrote, All of the churches believe that what is said of Jeremiah
refers also to the person of Christ (Commentarii in Ieremiam, 2.11).
And, in refuting the Marcion heresy in circa 155 AD, the Roman Christian lawyer Tertullian wrote: Having taken bread and having distributed it to His disciples, He made it His own Body by saying This is My Body' that is, the figure of My Body.' A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there was in truth a body. Some empty thing, which is a phantasm, was not able to satisfy a figure. Or, if He pretended that bread were His Body, because in truth He lacked a Body, then He must have given bread for us. It would support the vanity of Marcion, had bread been crucified! But why call His Body bread, and not rather a pumpkin, which Marcion had in place of a brain! Marcion did not understand how ancient is that figure of the Body of Christ, who said Himself through Jeremiah: "They have devised a device against Me, saying, Come, let us throw wood onto his bread'... the cross, of course, upon His Body.'"
Tertullian wrote that there is an emphatic affirmation of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in Jeremiah 11:19. When he refers to "the figure of My Body," Tertullian is making a reference to "the bread" of verse 19 that is a figure or a "Biblical type" of Christ's Body. Tertullian's point is that the wood is the cross and the bread is Christ. When Christ took bread and, in Tertullian's words, made it His own Body, by saying, "This is My Body," Christ thereby gave substance to the figure in Jeremiah and enabled the prophecy of "throwing wood on bread" to be fulfilled by actually making bread the figure of His Body, as it had already been prefigured in Jeremiah (Tertullian, Against Marcion).
In verses 20-21, Jeremiah asks God to bring His vengeance
upon Jeremiah's kinsmen who conspire to kill him. In verses 22-23, God
promises Jeremiah that He will indeed bring divine judgment against Jeremiah's
Question: When did God bring vengeance on another priestly line in 1 Samuel 2:12-17, 27-36?
Answer: The priestly line of Eli received a similar judgment at Shiloh.
23 Not one
will be left when I bring disaster on the people of Anathoth, when the year for
punishing them comes.
This curse judgment probably refers to the wicked who plotted Jeremiah's death and not the entire family line. Ezra 2:23 records that 128 men of Anathoth returned from the Babylonian exile (also see Neh 7:27).
Chapter 12: The Prosperity of the Wicked and Yahweh's Ravaged Covenant Inheritance
Why do the wicked
still live on, their power increasing with their age? They see their posterity
assured, and their offspring secure before their eyes. ... Yet these are the ones
who say to God, "Go away! We do not want to learn your ways. What is the
point of our serving Shaddai? What should we gain from praying to him?"
Job 21:7-8, 14-15
people lose their good sense, they become no better than dumb animals. So they
go on in their self-assurance, right up to the end they are content with their
Chapter 12 divides into three parts. The first part is the conclusion of Jeremiah's first confession where he asks Yahweh why it appears that the wicked prosper (verses 1-3), followed by a response from God (verse 5). Jeremiah's confession and Yahweh's answer are in poetry, and the additional reflective comments in verse 4 (concerning human evil and the ruined land) and 6 (Jeremiah's betrayal by his kinsmen) are in prose. Then, in verses 7-17, there are two oracles that refer to Israel as the "heritage of Yahweh":
Jeremiah 12:1-4 ~ Jeremiah Asks: Why do the Wicked Prosper?
1 Your uprightness is too great, Yahweh, for me to dispute with you. But I should like to discuss some points of justice with you: Why is it that the way of the wicked prospers? Why do all treacherous people thrive? 2 You plant them, they take root, they flourish, yes, and bear fruit. You are on their lips, yet far from their heart. 3 You know me, Yahweh, you see me, you probe my heart, which is close to yours. Drag them off like sheep for the slaughterhouse, reserve them for the day of butchery. 4 (How long will the land be in mourning, and the grass withers all over the countryside? The animals and birds are dying as a result of the wickedness of the inhabitants). For they say, "God does not see our fate."
In this passage, Jeremiah asks the question on the lips of the righteous in every generation. He begins by acknowledging Yahweh's righteousness as the Divine Judge, and he then asks, "Why do the wicked appear to prosper?"
for me to dispute with you is also translated "I made accusation to you," using the Hebrew words ariv eleyka. Jeremiah's case is not made against Yahweh but to Him. The verb riv/rib has legal connotations, meaning to issue a complaint or accuse as in a court trial. Yahweh issued a grievance using the same verb against the nation for their breach of covenant in 2:9, and again, using the same verb in 2:29, God objected to an accusation from the people who themselves persist in rebellion.
But I should like to discuss some points of justice with you ...
Jeremiah challenges Yahweh on this issue not as a criticism of Yahweh but because he wants to know the answer. Isn't it justice that the righteous should prosper and the wicked should perish?
He acknowledges that Yahweh created the wicked in the
same way He created all human beings, and therefore He has authority over their
lives. Since He has authority over them, why does He allow the wicked to take
root... flourish ... and bear fruit when You are on their lips, yet far from
their heart, Jeremiah asks in verse 2.
Jeremiah longs for the day when the will wicked experience their just punishment, and he asks "how long" will the just, who feel that "God does not see our fate" have to suffer because of the wicked? Then in verses 3-4, Jeremiah asks for their destruction.
Jeremiah 12:5-6 ~ Yahweh's Answer
"If you find it exhausting to race against me on foot, how will you compete against horses? In a country at peace you feel secure, but how will you fare in the thickets of the Jordan? For even your brothers and your own family will betray you. They will pursue you in full cry. Put no faith in them when they speak you fair!"
Jeremiah's burden from the beginning of his ministry was the "way of the wicked" among his people. However, with the opposition now coming in his hometown and among his kinsmen, the problem is disturbingly personal for Jeremiah. God has already stated in 11:22-23 that the wicked of Jeremiah's generation will receive the justice they deserve. As to the prospering of the wicked down through history, God answers Jeremiah in verses 5-6, but the answer is more of a non-answer. Yahweh asks Jeremiah, if he feels exhausted from this small contest, what how will he fare in the greater contest that is coming when Jeremiah will face more hardships and dangers. It is God the Son who promised a final justice for the wicked that only seem to prosper throughout history in Luke 6:24-25 when they face their eternal judgment.
The point is that no human being has the right to call
God to account for the choices human beings make or His response to those
Question: What must we understand concerning the question of justice for the wicked? See Wis 3:10 and 4:20.
Answer: We must accept what the inspired writer of Wisdom teaches concerning the mystery of the temporal prosperity versus the judgment of the wicked: But the godless will be duly punished for their reasoning, for having neglected the upright and deserted the Lord (Wis 3:10). The prospering of the wicked is only a temporary condition, When the count of their sins has been drawn up, in terror they will come and their crimes, confronting them, will accuse them (Wis 4:20).
Jeremiah 12:7-13 ~ Yahweh Laments His Ravaged Inheritance
7 I have abandoned my house, left my heritage. I have delivered what I dearly loved into the clutches of its enemies. 8 To me, my heritage has behaved like a lion in the forest, it roared at me ferociously: so I now hate it. 9 I see my heritage as a brightly-colored bird of prey attacked by birds of prey on every side! Go, assemble all the wild animals, make them come and dine! 10 Many shepherds have laid my vineyard waste, have trampled over my plot of land, and the plot of land which was my joy, reducing my favorite estate to a deserted wilderness. 11 They have made it a waste; wasted, it mourns before me. The whole country has been devastated and no one takes it to heart. 12 The devastators have arrived on all the bare heights of the desert (for Yahweh wields a devouring sword); from one end of the country to the other, there is no peace for any living thing. 13 Wheat they have sown, thorns they reap: they have worn themselves out, to no profit. They are disappointed in their harvests, because of Yahweh's burning anger.
This first poetic oracle describes Israel as Yahweh's heritage. He created the nation of Israel from an enslaved, disenfranchised people, making them His "personal possession" (Ex 19:3-6). In verse 1 there are three verbs of rejection and three metaphors for Israel as Yahweh's possession. The verbs are: "have abandoned/forsaken," "have left/abandoned," and "have delivered." The metaphors are "my house," "my heritage," and "[my] dearly loved."
Question: What two metaphors does Yahweh use to
describe Israel's rejection of her God and His covenant in verses 8-9?
Answer: Israel is a roaring lion and a bird of prey intent on refusing to acknowledge Yahweh as Lord and Master.
9 I see
my heritage as a brightly-colored bird of prey attacked by birds of prey on
every side! 10 Many shepherds have
laid my vineyard waste, have trampled over my plot of land, and the plot of
land which was my joy, reducing my favorite estate to a deserted wilderness.
These verses probably an allude to the continuous raids against Judah by Babylonians and their vassals the Aramaeans (Syria), Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites after 602 BC when King Jehoiakim rebelled against his Babylon (2 Kng 24:1-2). "Shepherds" refers to foreign rulers. Once again God uses the vineyard imagery to describe Israel's intended fruitfulness and prosperity that is now "trampled over" and ruined.
Question: Why does Yahweh call the Promised Land
"my joy"? To whom did the Promised Land belong? See Lev 25:23 and Jesus'
parable of the Wicked Tenants in Matthew 21:33-43 and Luke 20:9-19.
Answer: The land of Canaan, like all the earth, belongs to Yahweh. The Promised Land never belonged completely to Israel but was only placed in Israel's trust with the Israelites serving as Yahweh's tenants.
The people's apostasy resulted in God withdrawing His promised blessings and, therefore, The whole country has been devastated and no one takes it to heart. 12 The devastators have arrived on all the bare heights of the desert (for Yahweh wields a devouring sword); from one end of the country to the other, there is no peace for any living thing. 13 Wheat they have sown, thorns they reap: they have worn themselves out, to no profit. They are disappointed in their harvests, because of Yahweh's burning anger.
Question: The expression the "thorns they reap" reminds us of what earlier covenant judgment?
Answer: The "thorns they reap" reminds us of the judgment on Adam for his covenant failure in Genesis 3:18-19.
Jeremiah 12:14-17 ~ The Judgment of Israel's Neighbors
14 Yahweh says this, "As regards all my evil neighbors who have laid hands on the heritage I granted my people Israel, look, I shall uproot them from their soil, (though I shall uproot the House of Judah from among them). 15 But having uprooted them, I shall take pity on them again and bring them back each to his own heritage, each to its own country, 16 and if they carefully learn my people's ways and swear by my name, As Yahweh lives,' as they have taught my people to swear by Baal, then they will be re-established among my people. 17 But if any nation refuses to listen, I shall uproot it forever and destroy it, Yahweh declares."
Verses 12:14-13:14 are in prose. God calls the nations surrounding Israel/Judah "my neighbors" because Israel is God's cherished vineyard (Is 5:1-7) which makes the nations surrounding His vineyard His neighbors. All the nations surrounding Judah were vassals of the Babylonians and aided them in destroying Yahweh's people. Those nations include the Moabites, Edomites, and Syrian Arameans (Babylon is too distant to be a neighbor).
Question: In verse 13 Yahweh promises to bring
divine judgment on Judah's neighbors for crimes against His people by forcing
them into exile like the Judeans. However, what promise does God make that is
a sign of His mercy and His desire to bring repentance and belief in Him to all
Answer: God promises to restore them to their lands so that they will have the opportunity to come to know Him through His restored people.
In the future, Judah's neighbors are some of the first to hear Jesus' Gospel of salvation preached by Jesus' Apostles and disciples to Gentile nations. The community of believers in Antioch, Syria becomes the first faith community to call themselves "Christians."
Chapter 13: The Waistcloth and the Wine Jugs
Jeremiah 13:1-11 ~ The Object Lesson of the Useless Linen Waistcloth
1 Yahweh said this to me, "Go and buy a linen waistcloth and put it round your waist. But do not dip it in water." 2 And so, as Yahweh had ordered, I bought a waistcloth and put it round my waist. 3 A second time the word of Yahweh came to me, 4 "Take the waistcloth that you have bought and are wearing round your waist. Up, go to (the) Euphrates [Parah] and hide it there in a hole in the rock." 5 So I went and hid it by (the) Euphrates [Parah] as Yahweh had ordered me. 6 A long time later, Yahweh said to me, "Up, go to (the) Euphrates [Parah] and fetch the waistcloth I ordered you to hide there." 7 So I went to [the] Euphrates, and I searched, and I took the waistcloth from the place where I had hidden it. And there was the waistcloth ruined, no use for anything. 8 Then the word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 9 "Yahweh says this, In the same way I shall ruin the pride of Judah, the immense pride of Jerusalem. 10 This evil people, these people who refuse to listen to my words, who follow their own stubborn inclinations and run after other gods, serving and worshipping them; this people will become like this waistcloth, no good for anything. 11 For just as a waistcloth clings to a man's waist, so I made the whole House of Israel and the whole House of Judah cling to me, Yahweh declares, to be my people, my glory, my honor and my pride. But they have not listened.'" (...) this article is not in the Hebrew text; [...] = literal Hebrew, IBHE, vol. IV, page 1767.
This passage is the third of Jeremiah's object lessons (see Lesson 1 handout 3 for a list of Jeremiah's symbolic object lessons). Jeremiah is told to purchase an item of clothing, a strip of cloth that is wrapped around the waist, to carry out a symbolic act as part of his preaching.
The Hebrew word translated "Euphrates" does not refer to the river in Mesopotamia but to the Wadi Parah and the town of Parah, about four miles (six km) north of Jeremiah's hometown of Anathoth. The place-name Parah is similar to that of the River Euphrates (the Hebrew word for the river is perat). See Joshua 18:23 where Parah is one of the towns in the tribal lands of Benjamin north of Jerusalem.
As a chief priest, Jeremiah wore a special linen tunic and a waistband that was probably embroidered (Ex 28:40), but he only wore his priestly vestments when in priestly service within the Temple (Ez 44:17-19). Since he is to take the waistband outside of the Temple, it is probably an ordinary waistband that a man wore tied around the midsection of his tunic. When the people saw the worn and soiled waistband so uncharacteristic of Jeremiah's normal attire, it became an opportunity for Jeremiah to use it as an object lesson in his preaching.
Question: What is the meaning of the object lesson?
Answer: Yahweh gave Israel His covenant, which bound the people to God by His Law, tying Israel/Judah as close to Himself as a waistcloth is close to a man's body. However, the people have not listened to Yahweh. They broke His covenant, abused His Law, and corrupted by idolatry they became as useless as a rotten waistcloth that was good for nothing but to be cast off.
Jeremiah 13:12-17 ~ The Smashed Wine Jugs and the Vision of the Exile
12 "You will also say this to them, Yahweh, God of Israel, says this: any jug can be filled with wine.' And if they answer you, Do you think we do not know that any jug can be filled with wine?' 13 You are to say, Yahweh says this: Look, I shall fill all the inhabitants of this country, the kings who occupy the throne of David, the priests, the prophets and all the citizens of Jerusalem, with drunkenness. 14 Then I shall smash them one against the other, parents and children all together, Yahweh declares. Mercilessly, restlessly, pitilessly, I shall destroy [ruin] them.'"
Jeremiah's announcement in verse 12 is followed by two oracles in verses 13 and 14. The first oracle begins with the familiar "Look." He is to stand before a row of jars filled with wine, probably at a festival, and to say to the crowd "Every jar is filled with wine," to which the crowd will respond that of course, they see that this is the case. The teaching is that just as the jars are filled up with wine, Yahweh intends to fill all the people of Jerusalem with wine until they are drunk to the point of senseless behavior that is destructive, even to the point of violent behavior in their families.
Key word connecting the second oracle to the object lesson in verses 1-11 is destroy/ruin: I shall destroy/ruin them in verse 14b with the same word in verses 7, And there was the waistcloth ruined, no use for anything and 9, In the same way I shall ruin the pride of Judah [Strong's H7843, shachath, IBHE, vol. IV, page 1768). The citizens of Judah will be doubly "ruined," from within by their bad behavior and from without by their enemies!
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: What are the differences between the Old Covenants and the New Covenant in Christ Jesus? See the chart on Yahweh's Eight Covenants. What were the Old Covenant Sinai and the other Old Testament covenants incapable of giving that is our gift of divine grace in the New and Eternal Covenant in Christ Jesus? Why was it necessary that the Old Sinai Covenant came to an end in its fulfillment by Jesus' death and Resurrection? See CCC 1963-67, Jesus' parable of the old and new cloth and the old and new wineskins comparing the Old and New Covenants in Matthew 9:14-17; also see Hebrews 8:13; 10:8-10.
Question: Under the commands and obligations of the Sinai Covenant, the faithful were required to keep the entire Law without exception or deviation (Dt 4:1-2). What about the New Covenant in Christ Jesus? Are we required to observe all that Jesus and His Church teaches or only what we feel applies or "works" for us? See Jn 14:15, 21; 1 Jn 2:3-4; 3:22-24; 5:2-4; 2 Jn 6; Rev 12:17; 14:12.
1. The Jewish Talmud, Shabbat 119b, indicates that "amen" is an acrostic meaning "God is a trustworthy King." This meaning is why Jesus is called "the Amen" in Revelation 3:14. The word "amen" itself appears for the first time in the Book of Numbers 5:22. In the times of the First and Second Temple, the response to the blessings of the priests was "Blessed by His glorious Name forever and ever." After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, "Amen" was used instead (Mishnah Ta'anit 16; The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 152).
2. The olive tree is a metaphor for Israel only one other time in the Old Testament in Hosea 14:7. In Psalm 128:3, olive shoots represent the growth of the family under Yahweh's blessings, and in Psalm 52:8 (52:10 in the NAB) the psalmist compares himself worshipping in God's Temple to a healthy olive tree.
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