Author: Jeremiah (627-585 B.C.)
Jeremiah was born (about 100 years after Isaiah) in Anathoth, 2.5 miles northeast of Jerusalem (modern day Anata). He was the son of a priest, Hilkiah. Some think it was his father who was the priest who brought the Book of the Law to the notice of King Josiah (2 Kings 22). Jeremiah is often referred to as the “weeping prophet” (8:6; 9:1-9; 13:17) because of his sorrow over the course of his nation, and as the “prophet of loneliness” (16:1-2) because he was commanded not to marry due to the impending danger of his ministry. But he was also the “reluctant prophet” because he did not readily accept his call to the ministry of prophet…citing several reasons why he did not feel qualified: 1-his youth (only 21); 2-inexperience; 3-lack of eloquence (1:6). Opposition to his preaching was so strong that on numerous occasions he wanted to resign his office of prophet (20:9). Even so, he faithfully prophesied against the sins of Judah for over 40 years and incurred opposition, beatings, and imprisonment (11:18-23; 18:18; 20:1-3; 26:1-24; 37:11-38:28).
Jeremiah was about 20 years old (627 B.C.) when he began his ministry and the good King Josiah (with whom he had a cordial relationship) ruled in Judah. When Josiah was killed (609 B.C.) opposition to Jeremiah arose. He was almost arrested at that time, was not allowed to enter the Temple, and had to send his secretary Baruch to deliver his prophecies. King Jehoiakim destroyed Jeremiah’s written predictions…but he rewrote them (36:22ff). King Zedekiah allowed nobles who had a nationalistic zeal to put Jeremiah in prison, but later reduced the punishment.
When Nebuchadnezzar (King of Babylonia) conquered Jerusalem (586 B.C.) he released Jeremiah from prison and gave him the choice of going to Babylon or staying in Jerusalem…he chose to stay. However, a group of Jews who decided to flee from Nebuchadnezzar’s rule abducted Jeremiah and took him to Egypt. He prophesied for a few more years there and then died. There are conflicting traditions concerning how he died. Tertullian says that the Jews in Egypt stoned him to death. But, according to others he eventually escaped to Babylon and died there.
Opposition to Jeremiah arose primarily on two counts:
- He strongly opposed the idol worship and rampant wickedness of the people. If they repented, God would forgive them and save the nation. However, if they did not repent…God would bring destruction upon the nation. There were many false prophets who opposed him…and prophesied prosperity and peace.
- He openly predicted that if they did not repent that Babylon would destroy them. When he saw that Judah was not going to repent he told them to submit to Babylon. To many of the zealous, nationalistically minded Jews this sounded like treason. In their minds…this was verified when Nebuchadnezzar offered Jeremiah a place in the Babylonian court (39:12). They thought he was being paid off. However, he never stopped speaking out against the sin and crimes of the Babylonian king against the Lord’s people. Jeremiah predicted that indeed, Judah would be destroyed by Babylon…but, that she would recover and yet rise again to dominate the world. Babylon would ultimately be destroyed…never to rise again (50, 51).
Prophets of this time in Israel’s history…
- Isaiah (through his prophetic leadership) had saved Jerusalem from Assyria.
- Jeremiah began his ministry in Jerusalem about 100 years after Isaiah…and attempted to save it from Babylon, but failed.
- Ezekiel was a priest who was among the captives taken to Babylon.
- Daniel was also one of the captives taken to Babylon.
- In Jerusalem…Habakkuk and Zephaniah were prophesying about Jerusalem. Nahum was predicting the fall of Nineveh. And, Obadiah was predicting the ruin of Edom.
The setting (2 Kings 22-25):
Internal: Israel (the northern kingdom) had already fallen and now much of Judah (the southern kingdom) was in shambles. The nation had become fanatically attached to idol worship and wickedness…paying tribute to numerous foreign gods. Jeremiah comes on the scene as the voice of God…crying out that if they would repent God would save them. But instead of obeying…they mocked and persecuted him. He appears as a lonely figure standing against the establishment. Jeremiah was Judah’s last chance.
International: There is a 3-way power struggle for world domination…
- For 300 years Assyria (in the north Euphrates valley, with Nineveh as its capital) had ruled the world…but had now grown weak.
- Babylon (south Euphrates valley) was now growing in strength.
- Egypt (Nile valley), had ruled the world 1,000 years before but had declined…it was now re-strengthening.
- Babylon won. It broke the power of Assyria (607 B.C.) and two years later crushed Egypt in the Battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.)…and for 70 years ruled the world…the same 70 years that the Jews were in captivity.
The book of Jeremiah is not written chronologically. No doubt he made his predictions many times and sometimes repeated them often before they were ever written down by his faithful secretary, Baruch. After he would write down one discourse…a message he had delivered years before would come to mind and he would have Baruch write it down…without dating it. Then later, he would make another prophecy and it would be written down. Each time he would simply have Baruch begin writing on the scroll where he had left off last time.
The following chart identifies key historical events and approximate times that sections of Jeremiah were written.
722 B.C. Israel (northern kingdom) destroyed by Assyria.
697-642 Manasseh was King of Judah (southern kingdom). He was very evil. Jeremiah was born during his reign.
641-640 Amon was King of Judah.
639-608 Josiah was King of Judah. A good King. Implemented many positive religious reforms…they were only accepted on an external level by the people.
627 Josiah was called of God and began his reforms (2 Chronicles 34). Judah was under tribute to Assyria, whose power was beginning to wane.
626 Jeremiah’s call by God to be a prophet.
621 A book (we don’t know for sure what part of Scripture was found…possibly the entire Pentateuch, or Deuteronomy, or portions of Scripture such as Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 which speak of God’s judgment) was found…Josiah read it and his great reformation began (2 Kings 22, 23)
612 Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was sacked.
Jeremiah 1-6 (written while Josiah was King)
609 King Josiah was killed at Megiddo by Necho, King of Egypt, who was fighting to bolster Assyria (2 Kings 23:29-30).
609 Jeohahaz ruled Judah for 3 months before being deposed by Necho and taken to Egypt in chains (2 Kings 23:32-33; cf. Jeremiah 22:10)
Jeremiah 22:10-12 (written while Jehoahaz/Shallum was King)
609-598 Jehoiakim reigned over Judah as an Egyptian vassal (a person, nation, or group that is dependent on or subordinate to another) (Jeremiah 22:13-17)
Jeremiah 7-20; 25; 26; 35; 36; 45; 46:1-12; 47-49 (written while Jehoiakim was King)
607 Babylon destroys Assyria (Nineveh)
606 Nebuchadnezzar entered Palestine and took Daniel and others hostage (2 Kings 24:1-first captivity). Jehoiakim abandoned Egyptian suzerainty (a ruler or nation that controls a dependent nation's international affairs but allows it to control its internal affairs) and became a vassal of Babylon. Jerusalem was partially destroyed.
605 Battle of Carchemish…Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egyptian forces (Jeremiah 46:2).
601 Jehoiakim sided with Egypt against Jeremiah’s warnings (Jeremiah 22:13-19).
597 Jehoiakim died (either late in 598 or early in 597).
597 Jehoiachin was King of Judah for 3 months.
Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem (it is further devastated) and deported King Jehoiachin, replacing him with Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17).
597-586 Zedekiah was King of Judah. A weak king who gave in to the pressure of other leaders. However, he was somewhat sympathetic towards Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 22-23 (written while Jehoiachin/Coniah was King)
586 Nebuchadnezzar again occupied Jerusalem because Zedekiah had entered into negotiations with Egypt (2 Kings 25:1-7). Jerusalem is burned. There is a temporary end to David’s kingdom.
Jeremiah 21; 24; 27-34; 37-39 (written while Zedekiah was King)
Gedaliah appointed governor of Judah (2 Kings 25:22-26). Gedaliah assassinated. Jeremiah taken to Egypt.
Jeremiah 40-44 (written while Gedaliah was King)
There are several archaeological discoveries that corroborate the historicity of Judah and the accounts in the Bible.
- The Babylonian Chronicle contains information about the Babylonian military campaigns from 626 B.C. on, and includes the capture of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
The Babylonian Chronicle records events in ancient Babylon dating from about 750 BC to 280 BC. This tablet is part of that chronicle and records events from 605-594 BC including Nebuchadnezzar II's campaigns in the west, where Jerusalem is. It also records the defeat of the Assyrians and the fall of the Assyrian Empire and the rising threat of Egypt. It records the Battle of Carchemish where Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon defeated Pharaoh Necho of Egypt in 605 BC. It records Nebuchadnezzar's rise to power, it records the removing of Jehoiachin, king of Judah and inserting Zedekiah as king in his place, as recorded in Scripture, and it records the capture of Jerusalem on the 16th of March, 598 BC. The discovery of this part of the Babylonian Chronicle is important in the study of Biblical Archaeology because it contains several events mentioned in the Bible that are in harmony with one another.
"And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire." 2 Kings 25:8
- The Lachish letters contain a description of the conditions in Judah just prior to the time when Nebuchadnezzar seized it in 586 B.C. A seal was also discovered at Lachish that bears the name of Gedaliah.
Lachish is generally regarded as the second most important city in the southern kingdom of Judah. It enters the biblical narrative in the battle accounts of Joshua, Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar.
The discovery of the Lachish Letters in 1935 of eighteen ostraca (clay tablets with writing in ink) written in an ancient Hebrew script, from the 7th century BC reveal important information concerning the last days of the southern kingdom of Judah. They were discovered at Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir) among the ruins of an ancient guard room just outside the Lachish city gate.
Then a few years later three inscribed potsherds were also found at the site, and like the others, they contained names and lists from the period just before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
Most of the letters were dispatches from a Jewish commander named Hoshaiah who was stationed at an outpost north of Lachish, who apparently was responsible for interpreting the signals from Azekah and Lachish during the time when the Babylonians came against Jerusalem:
Jer 34:7 "when the king of Babylon's army fought against Jerusalem and all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish and Azekah; for only these fortified cities remained of the cities of Judah."
The ostraca read: "To my lord Ya'osh. May Yahweh cause my lord to hear the news of peace, even now, even now. Who is your servant but a dog that my lord should remember his servant?'"
These final communications which mentioned the political and religious turmoil of the last days of Judah reveal the intensity of this time period and confirm that which was written in the Bible by the prophet Jeremiah.
The Lachish Letters are an important discovery in the study of Biblical Archaeology and shed much light on the last days of Judah.
- Tablets that include the name of King Jehoiachin were excavated near the Ishtar Gate of the ancient city of Babylon. They record that he received a royal bounty. This coincides with 2 Kings 25:29-30.
Jeremiah is full of warnings against sin and judgment. But it also contains messages of hope and restoration.
Important prophecies include:
- the curse on Jehoiachin (22:30)
- the prediction of the Messiah (23:5-6)
- the duration of the Babylonian captivity (25:11)
- the revelation of the New Covenant (31:31-34)
Backsliding is a key word (occurring 13 times), and there are more references in Jeremiah to Babylon (164) than in the rest of the Bible put together.
Jeremiah used many symbols to teach the people.
- Almond rod (1:11-12)
- Boiling caldron (1:13-14)
- Marred girdle (13:1-11)
- Full bottle (13:12-14)
- Drought (14:1-12)
- Potter’s vessel (18:1-6)
- Broken bottle (19:1-2)
- Two baskets of figs (24:1-10)
- Bonds and bars (27:1-12)
- Buying a field (32:6-15)
- Hidden stones (43:9-13)
- Book sunk in Euphrates (51:59-64)
Christ is pictured as:
- The Fountain of Living Waters (2:13)
- The Great Physician (8:22)
- The Good Shepherd (31:10; 23:4)
- The Righteous Branch (23:5)
- The David the King (30:9)
- The Redeemer (50:34)
- The Lord our Righteousness (23:6)
The Call of Jeremiah Jeremiah 1
Jeremiah 1:1-3-The name “Jeremiah” may mean, “the Lord exalts”, or “the Lord founds”. The term “words of Jeremiah” is a broad term that speaks of both spoken words and deeds. Speaking of the reign of King Josiah over Judah (southern kingdom), the “thirteenth year of his reign” was 627 B.C. This was the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry. The phrase “the exile of Jerusalem in the fifth month” is in reference to 586 B.C. Jeremiah continued his ministry for a short time after this.
Jeremiah 1:4-19-God tells Jeremiah that he has called him to be a prophet…but Jeremiah is uncertain about his ability to fulfill such a duty (:6). God is fully aware of the difficulties that Jeremiah will face in his ministry (see the introductory comments about Jeremiah above). So, God gave Jeremiah five reasons why he should have courage to be the prophet that He has called him to be. Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry will be based on…
- God’s sovereignty…God had decided on this course of action before Jeremiah was ever even conceived. This expression of God’s for-knowledge of the future and absolute sovereignty over events was intended to give Jeremiah courage to perform his duties as a prophet. But instead of focusing on God’s abilities…he focused on his own inadequacies. Jeremiah says that he is young (about 20-years-old), and untrained…not ready for such responsibility. But God tells him that he should not be afraid and let such minor issues stop him (similar words were also spoken to: Abraham-Genesis 15:1; Moses-Numbers 21:34, Deuteronomy 3:2; Daniel-Daniel 10:12,19; Mary-Luke 1:30; Peter-Luke 5:10; Paul-Acts 27:24). It is not his knowledge, or training, or ability that is necessary. It’s is God’s.
- God’s presence…Jeremiah is to go where God tells him and speak what God commands him. The key for Jeremiah’s success in being obedient lay in the words, “For I am with you…” (:8). God says that whatever happens…He will be there to guide him. He will never be alone in his ministry. God will always be with him.
- God’s provision…God did not make Jeremiah rely solely on this promise. He then, “stretched out His hand and touched my mouth”. Somehow, by some means known only to God and Jeremiah…God “touched” him. This word can mean everything from a gentle brush to a violent strike…it can be used in both a figurative and a literal meaning. Here, it suggests that God laid His hand on Him in a symbolic act of transferring to Him the very words that He wanted him to speak. Again, this was intended to give Jeremiah courage. He was not responsible for determining what he would say. God would give him the very words.
- touched my mouth—a symbolical act in supernatural vision, implying that God would give him utterance, notwithstanding his inability to speak (Jer 1:6). So Isaiah's lips were touched with a living coal (Isa 6:7; compare Eze 2:8, 9, 10 Dan 10:16).
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Jeremiah 1,
Subjugation. The touched thigh signifies His power to subdue (Gen. 32:25).
Purification. The touched lips denote His power to cleanse (Isaiah 6:7).
Inspiration. The touched mouth refers to His power to enable to speak (Jeremiah 1:9).
Illumination. The touched eyes signify His power to give sight (Matthew 9:29).
Impartation. The touched ear points to His power to cause to hear (Mark 7:33).
Liberation. The touched tongue indicates His ability to unloose the powers of speech (Mark 7:33).
Compassion. The touched hand illustrates His power to raise for His service (Matt. 8:15).
Attraction. The touched heart shows His power to mould the wills of men in causing them to follow His word and to fulfil His pleasure (1 Sam. 10:26).
God-touched hearts are sympathetic hearts to succour, steadfast hearts to influence, sure hearts to comfort, strong hearts to sustain, stalwart hearts to encourage, staunch hearts to endure, and sincere hearts to follow.
- God’s call…God then gives him another word of encouragement…”I have appointed you” (:9). This was not simply a matter of Jeremiah having a sense of civic responsibility. Nor was it part of his regular duties as a priest. God had “appointed” him. This was an unmistakable call of God on his life.
- set thee over—literally, "appointed thee to the oversight." He was to have his eye upon the nations, and to predict their destruction, or restoration, according as their conduct was bad or good. Prophets are said to do that which they foretell shall be done; for their word is God's word; and His word is His instrument whereby He doeth all things ( Gen 1:3 Psa 33:6, 9 ). Word and deed are one thing with Him. What His prophet saith is as certain as if it were done. The prophet's own consciousness was absorbed into that of God; so closely united to God did he feel himself, that Jehovah's words and deeds are described as his. In Jer 31:28, God is said to do what Jeremiah here is represented as doing (compare Jer 18:7 1Ki 19:17 Eze 43:3 ).
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Jeremiah 1,
Ver. 10. See, I have this day…to build and to plant. These words represent the second part of the act of inauguration, the conferring of authority and of the commission. Authority is at the same time power. The prophet is not only formally authorized, but rendered physically capable. He is first authorized and empowered to act vigorously in the offensive. הִפְקַדְתִּיךְ I have set thee as a פָקִיד, i.e., overseer, administrator (ἐπίσκοπος, οἰκόνμος), consequently as my officer over the nations and kingdoms, which are my dominion and property. In הִפְקִיד is also included the idea of official plenipotence, which forms the legal basis of the prophet’s ministry. The sphere in which this ministry is to be exercised is “the nations and the kingdoms.” These are not designated more exactly, but the definite article and the plural denote that not only the kingdom of Judah, but all the nations and kingdoms are meant which were then present on the arena of history. They are enumerated 25:17–26. The commission which the prophet received with respect to them has two sides—a positive and a negative. First, he is to extirpate and exterminate (we may thus express the alliteration), to destroy and to throw down, but then also to build and to plant. The first he does by prophesying the Divine judgment, the second by the promise of Divine mercy and grace. נָתַשׁ corresponding to נָטַע. is used of plants (12:14 sqq.; 24:6; 45:4) נָתַץ corresponding to בָנָה, of buildings (39:8; 52:14; Ezek. 26:9, 12). It is noteworthy that the negative side is expressed by four verbs, the positive by only two. With this the contents of the book correspond, as owing to the moral condition of the times, it contains more threatenings and rebukes than promises of grace It is full of the former with respect to Israel. The latter are found with respect to the theocracy, besides in many scattered passages, especially in ch. 30–33. With respect to the heathen nations both are found especially in ch. 46–51. It is understood that the prophet was not actually to destroy and to build, but only by word, which as spoken by God involves the certainty of the accomplishment. Analogous modes of expression are found in Gen. 49:6; Isa. 6:10; Ezek. 32:18; 43:3; Hos. 6:5Rev. 11:5—Comp. Jer. 5:14; 23:29.
Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Nägelsbach, C. W. E., & Asbury, S. R. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Jeremiah (pp. 19–20). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- God’s protection…God gives Jeremiah a vision and he clearly sees it as an affirmation that God has called him. First, in the vision, he sees a “rod of an almond tree”. The almond tree bloomed earlier than other trees…suggesting that it woke up from its winter sleep ahead of them…that it was more aware, more watchful of its surroundings than other trees.
- rod—shoot, or branch.
almond tree—literally, "the wakeful tree," because it awakes from the sleep of winter earlier than the other trees, flowering in January, and bearing fruit in March; symbol of God's early execution of His purpose; Jer 1:12, "hasten My word" (compare Amo 8:3 ).
- hasten—rather, "I will be wakeful as to My word," &c.; alluding to Jer 1:11, "the wakeful tree" [MAURER].
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Jeremiah 1,
Then God told Jeremiah that in much the same way…He was more aware of what was going on than anyone else. And, that through this awareness He was making certain that what He said He would cause to happen in the future…would actually happen. Second, in this vision, God showed Jeremiah what it was that He would cause to happen in the future. God was going to bring the nations to the north of Judah (Jerusalem-the capital city) to attack it. They would pour down from the north like the contents pour out of a large boiling pot that has been tipped over (:13-15, this described the coming invasion of Babylon, cf. 3:18). This was God’s punishment, His discipline on them for their disobedience (:16). God was sending Jeremiah to warn them of His impending judgment because of their sin (:16). But, they will not be receptive to his message and will in fact fight against him (:19)…but he is to not be “dismayed” (afraid, discouraged, terrified). God has strengthened him like a “fortified city”, a “pillar of iron”, as “walls of bronze” (:18). God promises Jeremiah that “they will not overcome you” because of one simple, profound fact…”I am with you to deliver you”. God would protect Him. And so He did. For over forty years God protected Jeremiah.
The Concern for Judah Jeremiah 2-45
Jeremiah 2-20 Undated Prophecies
Jeremiah 2:1-3-God says that when He first chose the Jewish people as His own that they were like a bride who was faithful in her devotion to her husband. And as a result of this relationship…any nation that attempted to harm her was punished.
Jeremiah 2:4-19-But there came a time when the people stopped following God…and turned to other gods, instead. God asks Judah to identify the reason why it turned away from Him (:5). The “fathers” (:5, national leaders) stopped seeking the Lord…they no longer asked, “Where is the Lord?” when seeking counsel and direction…even though He had guided them out of Egypt, through the wilderness and had brought them safely to the Promised Land (:6-7). The priests (:8, spiritual leaders) stopped seeking the Lord…they no longer asked, “Where is the Lord?” as they led the people to follow the law (:8). As a result, God says that He is going to “contend” (to present an argument or case against them, :9) with Judah. God says that this has never been done before…for a people to change the god that they worship (:10-11). By doing so…they have committed two sins. One, they had forsaken God…the one and only true God…Who is like a fountain that gives live-giving water. And two, they have followed a god that is no god at all and that therefore can offer them nothing (:12-13). The result is that they have effectively sold themselves into slavery (:14-17)…such as they had experienced in Egypt, and as Israel (the northern kingdom) had more recently experienced under Assyria (:18). Now, they will suffer the consequences of their behavior (:19).
2:13 Israel had committed two sins. The people had abandoned their “glory” (v. 11), the Lord who had brought them into the promised land and had embraced worthless idols. Jeremiah compared that decision to the exchange of a well of flowing water for a cracked cistern that could not hold water. Jeremiah’s hearers would understand the comparison, for it was necessary to line the porous limestone rock cisterns of Palestine with plaster in order for them to hold water. Judah was committing the same sin that had brought about the earlier destruction of the Northern Kingdom because of its idolatrous practices (cf. Ezek 16:44–52; 23:1–48). Would anyone today be so foolish as to trade an artesian well for a broken cistern? Unfortunately, many do. Some of today’s “broken cisterns” are the pursuit of wealth, power, fame, or pleasure.
2:14 In Jeremiah’s world a person could become a slave by birth to slave parents, by nonpayment of debts, by purchase, or by capture in war time. Although the Lord had made Israel free (Exod 6:6–8), Jeremiah reminded the people that they had exchanged their freedom under God for bondage to idols.
2:15–18 Jeremiah compared the humiliation Israel had experienced at the hands of Egypt and Assyria to the mistreatment slaves often experienced. Israel had turned to Egypt for help (v. 18; “Shihor” refers to a branch of the Nile) but was treated like a slave by the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes (modern Tel Defneh in northeastern Egypt). “Shaving the crown” (v. 16) was practiced by slave owners as a mark of subjugation. Jeremiah reminded Judah that Israel had brought calamity on itself by forsaking God (2:17).
Israel had not learned from its experience with Egypt (cf. Ezek 29:6–9), so it turned to Assyria (v. 18; “the River” is the Euphrates; see 2 Kgs 16:7). Jeremiah’s audience knew very well that it had been the broken cistern of Assyria that had brought destruction on the Northern Kingdom. Alternatives to God always lead to destruction.
2:19 The passage closes with a solemn warning about the evil and bitter consequences of abandoning the Lord Almighty, a name suggesting the omnipotence of God over all creation (Gen 2:1), earthly armies (Judg 4:15), celestial bodies (Isa 40:26), and angelic beings (Ps 103:21).
Huey, F. B. (1993). Jeremiah, Lamentations (Vol. 16, p. 64). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, Logos Bible Software
- They were enslaved and lost their liberty (v. 14): Is Israel a servant? No; Israel is my son, my first-born, Ex. 4:22. They are children; they are heirs. Nay, their extraction is noble; they are the seed of Abraham, God's friend, and of Jacob his chosen. Is he a home-born slave? No; he is not the son of the bond-woman, but of the free. They were designed for dominion, not for servitude. Every thing in their constitution carried about it the marks of freedom and honour. Why then is he spoiled of his liberty? Why is he used as a servant, as a home-born slave? Why does he make himself a slave to his lusts, to his idols, to that which does not profit?
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Jeremiah 2,
Jeremiah 2:20-28-God tells them that He had set them free from slavery…but now, they had chosen to return to it…as evidenced by the fact that everywhere you turn there was a worship site dedicated to some pagan deity (:20). When He “planted” them (first chose them to be His own people) they were “A completely faithful seed” (meaning that their roots were only planted in Him, they were devoted to Him alone). But now, they have forsaken Him and become the product of another god (:21). God tells them that there is no denying or hiding it, no matter what they try to do (:22). And yet, they deny that they have done so (:23a).
2:23 Judah’s denial of wrongdoing is incredible. The people denied running after the Baals even though the evidence was close at hand, in the “valley” (the Valley of Hinnom, where Judah practiced child sacrifice and worshiped Baal and Molech).
Huey, F. B. (1993). Jeremiah, Lamentations (Vol. 16, p. 66). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, Logos Bible Software
They have been shameless in their idolatry. They have been like a female camel or donkey in heat…running after any male with which to mate. (:23b-25). And when confronted with their behavior they refuse to repent…instead, saying that this is just the way that they are and they cannot stop, now (:25). God says that they should be ashamed for their behavior…praying to trees and stones (the idols that they have made to represent their gods, :26-27). God says that they have turned their backs to Him (meaning their faithfulness and obedience)…but not their faces (meaning their false smiles and feigned attention). They are trying to deceive God into believing that they are still faithful to Him…just in case a problem arises when they have to cry out to Him to save them (:27). God says that when that day comes…let their new gods save them…if they can. After all, they’ve got so many new gods…there must be one for every city in Judah (:28). Surely one of them should be able to save them.
Jeremiah 2:29-37-Now the people begin to “contend” with God…they want to argue that they do not deserve such treatment by Him (:29a). But God is firm and direct in His findings…they have sinned and then when confronted, they not only refused to repent, but they murdered the very prophets that He sent to them to identify their sin (:29b-30). God asks if He had been unclear about what it meant to be His people. How is it possible that they think that they can simply decide on their own that they can worship any god that they please (:31)? The common practices of marriage teach that a woman cannot be married to a man and at the same time have relationships with other men (:32). And yet, that is exactly what they have done and then they claim that they are innocent (:33-34). This only brings further judgment…not only have they sinned, but they refuse to repent when confronted with their sin (:35). God’s instrument for their punishment was going to be Assyria. They were aware that Assyria was beginning to pose a threat…so consideration was being given to seek help from Egypt. But God tells them that if they do that they will be disappointed…it will not work out the way that they think that it will. Instead of being victorious, they will be defeated and they will walk around with their “hands on your head”. Some interpreters suggest that this was a sign of dismay and sorrow…walking with your head down and your hands on your head. Others see this as a person who has been captured and commanded to put his hands on his head as he is being led away. Either way, it is God’s warning to not trust in human power to protect them…but to turn back to Him.
Prayer: Father, as I begin to study this book I am grateful for how You encouraged Jeremiah. You reminded him that he would never be alone when He was faithful to You. You gave Him Your continuing presence. He would go through many years of struggle, of people hating him, of being persecuted by the very nation that he was trying to save. No wonder that he wept and felt discouraged. His is not the ministry that most of us would choose to have. And yet, You never left his side…not for a moment. Through all of it…You gave him the wisdom, and strength, and protection that he needed. But more than anything…You gave him Your presence. You were with him. The other things that You gave him helped him to accomplish the ministry which You had called him to do. But Your presence…helped him to be the man that You had called him to be. It is in Your presence that I find faith. It is Your presence that I find hope. It is in Your presence that I find love. Thank You, Father, for Your presence with me.