Bible Commentary for Jeremiah 1 thru 22
Jeremiah Chapter 1
Jeremiah, a priest from Anathoth in Benjamin, was called by Jehovah to be a prophet in the thirteenth year of Josiah, king of Judah. He prophesied for forty years down to the last year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, when the nation was taken into exile by the king of Babylon.
When Jehovah spoke to Jeremiah, He told him that He had chosen him to be a prophet to the nations before he was formed in the womb. But Jeremiah was apprehensive about the assignment because he believed that he was too young and not skilled in speaking. But Jehovah told him that he was not to consider himself too young to do this assignment because he had been set apart ,sanctified, oconsecrated to do this work. He would go to whomever Jehovah sent him and he would say what He commanded him to. He is not to be afraid of the ones that he was sent to because Jehovah would be with him. Jehovah then touched his mouth and told him that He had put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth. He would not need to worry about what he was to say as Jehovah would give him the words. Not only would Jeremiah uproot, tear down, destroy and overthrow but he would also plant and build.
Jeremiah now receives his first two visions from Jehovah. He showed him an almond tree and told him that He was watching or was awake to see that His word is fulfilled. The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, page 1130, says this of the almond tree: “The almond tree was named the “awake tree” because in Palestine it is the first tree in the year to bud and bear fruit. Its blooms precede its leaves, as the tree bursts into blossom in late January.”
Jehovah next shows Jeremiah a boiling pot that was tilted away from the north. He then explained to him that Judah was facing disaster that would come from the northern kingdoms. These kings would set their thrones inside the gates of Jerusalem and would tear down her walls and her cities would fall to them. This punishment would come to them as retribution for their leaving him and turning to false gods. Jeremiah was to prepare himself to do as Jehovah commanded him. He was not to become terrified of these people or Jehovah would terrify him. Jehovah had made Jeremiah as strong as a fortified city, a bronze wall and an iron pillar because he would have to face the kings, officials, priests and all the people of the land who would not accept his words from Jehovah. They would fight against him but Jehovah would deliver him.
Jeremiah Chapter 2
Jehovah told Jeremiah to go to the people of Judah and proclaim the message he would give him. Jeremiah was to say to the people that there was a time, during her youth, when she was devoted to Him and had followed Him through the desert. She was holy to Jehovah and anyone who attacked her would be called to account by Him. But now they had strayed far from him and followed worthless idols making themselves worthless. None searched for Him remembering that He had brought them out of Egypt and led them through the fear inspiring desert and brought them into a fertile land where they would eat its rich produce.
They had now defiled the land and made it detestable. The priests, who were instructors in the law, did not know Jehovah; their leaders had rebelled against Him and those who were prophets had prophesied in the name of the Baals. Therefore Jehovah would bring an indictment against the nation because they had done something that no other nations had ever done. They had exchanged their original God for ones that were not really gods but were worthless idols. Even the pagan nations remained loyal to their pagan gods. This was an act that caused the heavens to be appalled and to shudder in horror.
The two sins that Jehovah put before them were that they had rejected Him and had chosen other means to provide for their spiritual needs. He compared their new source of water to broken cisterns that could not hold real water whereas He was feeding them from springs of living waters. Israel was not in slavery but she was being plundered and her land had been laid waste by other nations. She brought all of these things upon herself because she had left Jehovah. Now her own wickedness would reprove her and her apostasies would rebuke her. She would learn how useless it was for her to seek the protection of other nations in lieu of Jehovah’s help. She would experience the bitter calamity of captivity due to forsaking Jehovah.
Judah is compared to a prostitute that had broken her covenant with Jehovah and was prostituting herself on every high hill and under every spreading tree. Jehovah had planted her as a choice vine of exceptionally good quality but she had become a foreign vine with degenerate roots that could not produce good fruit. The stain of her sin was so deeply ingrained that it could not be washed away as far as Jehovah was concerned. Even so, Judah still claimed that she had not defiled herself but Jehovah saw her activities. She was likened to a she-camel or a wild donkey in heat that could not be restrained from her vigorous pursuit of her idolatry. She could not be persuaded even to stop and rest when her shoes were wearing out or she was becoming thirsty but continued to pursue her idolatry because she loved the foreign gods.
Judah is suffering disgrace because she has called a tree ‘her father’ and a piece of stone ‘her mother’ and completely turned her back to Jehovah. But as soon as she experiences troubles, her first reaction is to call on Jehovah. But Jehovah calls her attention to the fact that since she has as many gods as she has towns, let her call on them for help. In spite of all that she had done, Judah still finds fault with Jehovah. She did not like the fact that He tried to correct her by disciplining her because she refused to admit that she had done anything wrong.
Judah has accused Jehovah of being like a desert to them offering them no sustenance so they believe that they are free to go elsewhere to find what they need. He wonders in amazement at how quickly she forgot all that He had done for her and how skilled she was at finding affection elsewhere. She had become so good at seduction that she could teach even the wickedest of women something. She was also guilty of the sin of shedding innocent blood. (2 Kings 21:16) Because she continued to proclaim her innocence in these matters, Jehovah would pass judgement on her. (1 John 1:8-10) She did not take seriously Jehovah’s warnings to her about making alliances with nations such as Assyria and Egypt, He would see to it that they would be of no help to her when she was about to be lead into captivity. (Isaiah 31:8, 9)
Jeremiah Chapter 3
Judah’s denunciation continues. Jehovah shows how inappropriate it would be for Him to accept Judah back after she has had so many other lovers. He cites the example of a man who divorces his wife who then marries another, but he also divorces her. If her first husband were to take her back after this, he would be bringing defilement on the land. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) Judah has been incessant in her quest for lovers and nothing Jehovah has done has caused her to slow down though at the same time she still wants to refer to Jehovah as her "Father and her friend" while she still does all the evil that she can.
Jehovah now calls Jeremiah’s attention to the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. She too had prostituted herself on every high hill and under every spreading tree. Jehovah had hoped that she would eventually return to Him but she did not. Judah was well aware of the fact that Jehovah had then given Israel a certificate of divorce and sent her away. But she was not impressed at all by this fact and she walked in the footsteps of her unfaithful sister. She gave a pretense of returning to Jehovah but her heart was committed to her idolatries. Because Judah had seen the example of her sister and what Jehovah had done to her still she chose to remain unfaithful, Jehovah declared that Israel was more righteous than Judah. (Ezekiel 16:51, 52; 23:11-13)
So Jehovah issued a call to faithless Israel to return to Him because He would not remain angry with her forever. If she would acknowledge her sin and rebellion against Jehovah when she turned to other gods, then he would take her back. He would choose a remnant from among them and restore them to Zion after their captivity to Babylon. He would give them shepherds who would lead them with knowledge and understanding. They would not refer to the Ark of the Covenant, (which will not be seen again after they we taken into captivity) nor will they miss it nor will another one be made. Instead they will call Jerusalem "The throne of Jehovah" where all nations will gather to honor His name. They will have experienced spiritual renewal and both the house of Israel and the house of Judah will again live in the land together.
Jehovah had treated Israel like sons giving them an inheritance that was the most desirable of all the lands. They should have called Him their father and listened to Him not turning away from Him. But like a wife who was unfaithful to her husband, they had dealt treacherously with Him. Now that Jehovah has deserted them, they are now lamenting and pleading with Him because they had perverted their own ways and had forgotten Him. Jehovah says that if they would return to Him, he would heal them.
The nation is depicted as accepting Jehovah’s offer of healing by admitting that their idolatrous practices were nothing but a deception and that Jehovah is the true source of salvation. They have, from their youth, allowed these gods to consume them and the fruits of their labor. Shame and humiliation should cover them because of their sin against Jehovah.
Jeremiah Chapter 4
Jehovah tells Israel that if they would return to Him in truthfulness, justice and righteousness, putting away their detestable idols, and acknowledging Him as their God, then blessing will flow to the nation. This cannot be just a perfunctory repentance but must be one from the heart. He tells them that they must circumcise their hearts, that is, they must plow their hearts as a farmer would before planting seed in order to remove all the thorns that had grown. They needed to do this to remove the badness that had grown there while they were in idolatry. If they did not do this then Jehovah’s wrath would break out upon them like an unquenchable fire.
Jeremiah was to announce to Judah that they should sound the trumpet and announce that all should flee to the fortified cities because Jehovah was bringing disaster from the north. A lion-like individual that is bent on destroying Judah had left his land intent on causing ruin. Everyone should put on sackcloth and wail because Jehovah’s fierce anger has not turned away from them. Their leaders would be of no help to them because they would loose their courage as well. If this is the case, then Jeremiah laments the fact that Jehovah had not stopped the false prophets from predicting peace for the people when there was a sword poised at their throats.
The Babylonian army is described as advancing like a cloud, his chariots like a whirlwind and his horses like swift eagles. Jerusalem can still be saved if they are willing to rid themselves of their wickedness. The army is first seen in its advance from Dan, the northernmost tribe, and it is to be announced to the nations that it is headed for the cities of Judah. This punishment is due entirely to their conduct and it will be very bitter. Jeremiah is in pain and anguish because he can hear the sound of the trumpet that signals the battle cry. He sees disaster and ruin throughout the land. He wonders how long must he see the battle standard and hear the trumpet sounding.
Jehovah told him His people were foolish people who do not know Him and had no understanding. They are very skillful in doing bad but have no knowledge of how to do good. As Jeremiah continued watching, it seemed as if the heaven and the earth were involved in this disaster. Even the mountains and the hills appear to be affected. Judah and her towns all lay in ruins because of Jehovah’s fierce anger. Although the land would be ruined Jehovah would not destroy it completely. He would temper His justice with mercy because He will restore a remnant of His people. Jehovah has spoken and He will carry out all that He has decreed.
Jeremiah Chapter 5
Jehovah was willing to forgive Jerusalem if Jeremiah could find just one person who dealt justly and who loved truth. Everyone was swearing falsely before Jehovah and even when He struck them there was no response, they simply made their faces harder and refused to repent. Jeremiah believed that this was the attitude of those who were uneducated in Jehovah’s ways so he went to the leaders to see if he could find someone among them who would know Jehovah’s ways. But they too had turned away from Jehovah. Their rebellion was so great in Jehovah’s eyes that He would send against them a beast-like nation who would ravage them. Jehovah could find no reason to forgive because they had forsaken Him and sworn by their worthless idols. Even though He had provided for them, they preferred to continue in their own ways of adulteries and idolatries.
He would instruct the nation that He sent against them to go through their vineyards and destroy all the branches on the vines that were dead, those that did not belong to Him. But they were not to completely destroy the entire vineyard by pulling the vines up by their roots. The people were also lying about Jehovah saying that He would not do anything to them, they would never have to face famine or the sword. They also said that Jehovah’s prophets were not bringing God’s words to them. Their talk was nothing but wind and what they were predicting should come back upon their heads.
Because they rejected his prophets, Jehovah told Jeremiah that the words that He would put in his mouth would now be like a devouring fire that would consume the people. He would send a nation against them, one whose language they neither knew nor understood, whose warriors were all mighty men carrying large quivers. They would devour their crops, their children, their flocks and herds, their trees, their vineyards and would destroy their fortified cities. Still Jehovah would not bring a complete end of His people. While they were in exile, they would ask why Jehovah treated them in this manner. Jeremiah is to tell them it was because they had forsaken Jehovah and served false gods in their own land and now they have to serve them in a foreign land.
Jeremiah was now told to proclaim to the senseless people of Judah that Jehovah was the God before whom they should tremble in fear as He is the one responsible for keeping the mighty waves of the sea from going beyond the sand boundary that He had set for it. Yet the people did not observe the boundaries that He had set for them because of their rebellious and stubborn hearts. They were not appreciative of all that He had done for them. There were those among them who had become rich and powerful by oppressing the poor and needy. The prophets were prophesying lies to the people giving them a false sense of security (4:10), the priest were ruling them by their own authority not that of Jehovah and the people were so morally corrupt that they accepted this type of leadership willingly. Is it any wonder that Jehovah felt the need to avenge Himself upon this nation that had sunk to such a low spiritual level?
Jeremiah Chapter 6
Jeremiah now envisions Jerusalem under siege by the Babylonian armies. The people are told to sound the warning and to flee to safety away from Jerusalem because disaster is coming from the north. Zion, the beautiful and delicate city, is about to be destroyed. The invaders are eager to begin the battle against her at noon but their preparations took so long that they would start the battle that night. Jehovah told them to cut down the trees and build siege ramps against Jerusalem. The city is so full of oppression and wickedness that she must be punished. The people are told to take heed of the warning given to her or she will become a desolate waste. Jehovah would allow the invaders to glean Jerusalem just as one would go over the vine to make sure there were no grapes left on it.
Jeremiah wondered if there was anyone in Judah who would listen to the warnings given by Jehovah. They all had closed their ears to Jehovah’s word; it was offensive to them. In spite of this, Jeremiah was consumed with these words and he could not hold back from telling the people what Jehovah said whether or not they listened. Jehovah’s anger would be poured out on everyone, children, young men, husbands, wives and the aged. At this time, all that they possessed would be given to others. They were all, including the prophets and priests, greedy for dishonest gain and they all practiced deceit. Their prophets persisted in lying to the people by declaring peace to them when Jehovah had not said that they would have peace and they felt no shame in deceiving the people this way.
Jehovah urged the people to ask where the ancient paths are, those that represented the good way so that they could walk in these and find rest but they refused to do this. He had appointed watchmen over them to sound the trumpet but they would not listen to these either. Jehovah would now bring disaster upon them and He had witnesses to vouch for the fact that He had warned them many times. They could offer sacrifices and incense to Him but these had no meaning because they had rejected His law.
The army that Jehovah was bringing would come from the north and they were armed with bow and spear. They were a numerous people who were cruel and they would show no mercy to those that they captured. The reports that had been heard about this nation would cause anguish to Judah as would labor pains to a pregnant woman. Because of the threat from the enemy, the people would be afraid to venture out into their fields or into the roadways. The people should put on sackcloth and lay in ashes, mourning and wailing for Jerusalem as destruction was imminent.
Jehovah had made Jeremiah like one who tests metals, an assayer, who would test the ways of God’s people. Jehovah described them as hardened rebels who slander others. They are hard like bronze and iron and are corrupt. No matter how hot the fire is kept, there is no refining taking place, the wicked remain. So Jehovah calls them rejected silver and they must be destroyed.
Jeremiah Chapter 7
Jehovah now directs Jeremiah to go and stand at the gate to the temple and proclaim His message. He was to tell the people that Jehovah was urging them to change their ways and actions so that they could remain in the city. They were to reject the deceptive words of their prophets who were fooling them by saying that because the temple was in the city nothing would happen to it. If they truly changed their ways and dealt with each other justly, stopped oppressing the poor, the alien, the orphan and the widow, shed no more innocent blood and left off following other gods, then they could possess the land forever.
They see nothing wrong with engaging in all sorts of detestable things such as stealing, murdering, committing adultery and worshipping the Baals and then, afterward, to stand before Jehovah at the temple pretending they had done nothing wrong. This was tantamount to saying that the place where Jehovah’s name resided was nothing more to them than a den where robbers rested after they had committed one evil deed and before they went forth on another raid. (Matthew 21:13) But Jehovah is awake to all that they are doing. If they thought that because the temple was in Jerusalem that they would be safe, they were wrong. Jehovah called their attention to the first place where the tabernacle resided, Shiloh, and told them to consider what He had done to that place when the people became so wicked. (Psalms 78:60, 61) After giving the people countless warning which they refused, Jehovah tells them that He is going to do to this temple that they trust in just as he had done at Shiloh, He will abandon it and He would also remove them from the city.
Jehovah cautioned Jeremiah not to pray to Him on behalf of this people as He would not listen to him. The people were making cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven, a Babylonian goddess, and were pouring out drink offering to her. It was not Jehovah who would be harmed by these activities, it would be them because Jehovah was going to pour out his anger on this city and everything in it would be destroyed.
Although the people were obeying Jehovah with regards to their sacrifices, they had completely forgotten that these commands were not the only ones that He had given their forefathers. They were also to obey Jehovah and walk in all His ways in order that they would prosper. (Deuteronomy 15:5, 6) But they had not listened but chose to walk in the stubbornness of their hearts. They chose to reject the words of the prophets that He had sent to them. Each succeeding generation had done worse than the previous generation and so Jehovah warned Jeremiah that the present generation were not going to listen to him. They were to be labeled as the people who had not obeyed their God or responded to correction. Therefore they were going to be abandoned to Jehovah’s wrath.
The people were so corrupt that they had set up their detestable idols in the courtyard of the temple defiling Jehovah’s house. They had built a high place in the Valley of Hinnom where they sacrificed their children in the fire to the god Molech, something that was detestable to Jehovah. This place was later to become a garbage dump where refuse was burned but at this time Jehovah told them they were going to call it the Valley of Slaughter because of all the dead bodies that would be buried there. There would be so many that would die that there would be no room to bury them all, they would be food for the birds and the animals. According to the footnote for verse 33 in the NIV, “To remain unburied was an unspeakable abomination in ancient times.” There would be no more rejoicing in this city because it would become a desolate waste.
Jeremiah Chapter 8
Jehovah declared that the bones of the kings, officials, priests and prophets would be exhumed and exposed to the heavenly bodies that they had worshipped where they will lie as refuge upon the ground. The NIV Bible Commentary, Volume I, page 1175, says this: “This practice of violating the dead was not unknown in ancient warfare (cf. Amos 2:1). The dead, especially kings and prominent leaders, were buried with treasures, so the graves may have been vandalized also for plunder.” After they are banished from the land and taken into captivity, Jehovah declares that the people would prefer to be dead rather than live under these conditions.
Jehovah illustrates how stubborn the people of Judah are. If a man falls down, he instinctively gets up or if he turns away from what is right, he will repent. Judah has fallen into idolatry but has no desire to rise above it; she has turned away from Jehovah but has no desire to return to him. Even though Jehovah is listening yet no one repents of his wickedness. Even the birds know the appropriate time to migrate but Judah is ignorant of the fact that it is the appropriate time for her to return to Jehovah.
Yet Judah claimed to be wise because of having Jehovah’s law but their scribes were misinterpreting and manipulating it, which caused the people to reject it. They therefore have no wisdom at all and will receive judgment from Jehovah. He will take away everything that He had given them. When the Babylonian army comes upon them, they will flee to their fortified cities but they will be aware that Jehovah will not protect them there because of their sins against Him. Their hopes for peace and a healing would not be realized. They will be able to hear the sound of the enemy’s horses coming from Dan and they will know that they are coming to devour the land and everything in it. This army is also compared to venomous snakes that Jehovah will send among the people to bite them. These vipers cannot be charmed. (Numbers 21:6)
Jeremiah pleads with Jehovah that he would listen to the cry of His people who have been taken into captivity. He asks if Jehovah is not still in Zion? Jehovah responds that it was His people that provoked Him to anger with their worthless idols that brought about their condition. The people respond that much time has passed and they are still in captivity. Jeremiah responds that he is crushed due to the condition of his people. Is there no balm in Gilead, he asks? Is there no physician there who can heal the wound of his people? The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, page 1141, says of this balm: “Balm was the resin of the storax tree that was used medicinally. Gilead, east of the Jordan River, was famous for its healing balm. (cf. Gen. 37:25; Jer. 46:11; Ezek. 27:17).”
Jeremiah Chapter 9
Jeremiah would weep day and night on behalf of those slain among his people but he preferred not to live among them because they were adulterers and treacherous. They were inveterate liars and by this means they triumph in the land but they did not acknowledge Jehovah. Friends and brothers cannot trust each other because everyone deceives everyone else and they wear themselves out with their sinning. But because they prefer deceit to truth, they refuse to acknowledge Jehovah.
Jehovah has no choice but to test and refine them to remove the wickedness from them. There is no other way that He could reasonably deal with them if He did not punish them. Again Jeremiah mourned over the land as he sees desolated and untraveled roads and the sound of cattle is not heard nor the songs of the birds as they have all fled. Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, a place where jackals would live. Is there no one who understands why this has happened to Judah? If not, Jehovah knows why. It is because they forsook His law and refused to obey Him. They chose to follow the Baals something they learned from their fathers. So Jehovah would give them poisoned food to eat and bitter water to drink. He would scatter them among the nations and pursue them until they were destroyed.
Jehovah told them to bring the most skillful of the wailing women so that they would cause the eyes of the people to overflow with tears. The NIV Bible Commentary, page 1178 says of these women: “The ‘wailing women’ were professionals employed to arouse relatives and others at funerals to outward display of their grief. They used plaintive cries, baring their breasts, flailing their arms, throwing dust on their heads, and disheveling their hair.” The sound of wailing would be heard coming from Zion as they will have to leave the city when the Babylonians came. The wailing women were told to teach others the art of wailing because there would be such a great need for their services as children and young men would die in large numbers.
But Jehovah reminds them that there would be so many dead bodies that they would be like refuse in the open field as there would not be enough people left alive to bury them. Many people boast in their personal achievements such as their wisdom, strength or riches but Jehovah reminds them that these are not what He considers worthwhile. They should boast that they know and understand Jehovah intimately and recognize His qualities of kindness, justice and righteousness that he exercises towards humans on earth.
Jehovah compares Judah with the pagan nations around them who also practiced circumcision. They all fell into the same category, as far as He was concerned, their circumcision was of the flesh not of the heart. He would have to punish them also.
Jeremiah Chapter 10
Jeremiah warns Israel not to be like the nations around them in their worship or be anxious about what they see in the sky that these people make much of such as eclipses, comets and meteors thinking they portend some extraordinary event on the earth. Their worship of idols is worthless in Jehovah’s eyes. They fashion their gods from trees out of the forests, shape them into some form and cover them with silver or gold. Then they attach them to a platform to keep them from falling over. They are like a scarecrow in a field, they cannot talk nor can they walk. They can do neither good nor bad so they should not be feared.
Jeremiah continues his warning to Israel. He tells them that there is no God like Jehovah, they should all revere Him, as He is king of all the nations. All of their wise men are senseless and foolish because they were taught by idols made by men. Jehovah is the true God, the only living God. When He is angry, the nations cannot endure His wrath. The gods that they are looking up to did not make the heavens and the earth and so will perish. By His power, wisdom and understanding, Jehovah made the heavens and the earth. He causes the clouds to rise and sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from storehouses. Those who make images will be shamed by them as they are a fraud and have no breath in them. They are worthless and will perish when Jehovah punishes their makers. The God of Jacob is not like this as He is the maker of all things including Israel, the tribe of His inheritance.
Judah is told to gather their belongings together for they are about to leave the land. Jehovah will throw them out and bring distress on them as they will be captured. Judah now realized that she is the cause of her distress and she must endure it. She has been deprived of her housing and her sons who helped her. Those who led the nation became senseless and they did not inquire of Jehovah. So they did not prosper and their flock has now been scattered. There is a report of a great commotion coming from the north. It will desolate the towns of Judah.
Jeremiah ended his message to Israel with a plea to Jehovah that since man cannot direct his own way, he would need correction. But Jeremiah asks Jehovah that He would temper His discipline with justice because if He did so in anger, man would be reduced to nothing. He then asked that Jehovah would pour out his wrath on the nations that did not know him especially the one that had taken Jacob into captivity. He believed that the aim of this nation was to completely eradicate Israel from the face of the earth.
Jeremiah Chapter 11
Jehovah tells Jeremiah to go to the people and remind them of the terms of the covenant that their forefathers had concluded with Him. One of the terms of this covenant was that any man who does not obey the covenant will be accursed. When He brought them out of Egypt, the main focus of their covenant was that they were to obey Him and they would be His people and He would be their God. If they obeyed, then He would fulfill His oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He would give them the land that they were in possession of at this time. They were to be reminded that their obligation was to listen and follow the terms of this covenant. From the days of their forefathers, Jehovah continually warned them about keeping their oath to obey Him but they refused to do so. So He brought all of the curses of the covenant upon them.
Jehovah told Jeremiah that the people had formed a conspiracy to return to the sins of their fathers, that of leaving Him and following other gods. The time that this message was given to Jeremiah may have been after the death of Josiah, whose reforms had brought about a temporary return of the people to Jehovah that obviously did not last. (2 Chronicles 34:14-33) Both houses of Israel had broken the covenant so Jehovah was determined to bring disaster upon them and He would not listen to their cries to Him for help. They would then turn to their own gods but they would not be of any help either.
Jeremiah was reminded that he was not to pray on their behalf because Jehovah would not be listening. The people of Judah apparently were going to the temple offering sacrifices to Jehovah while they were at the same time working out their many schemes to commit wickedness. Jehovah compared them to a thriving olive tree that would be set on fire. Although He had planted this tree, they had angered Him with their worship of Baal.
Jehovah revealed to Jeremiah that the people of Anathoth, his native city, were plotting in secret against him. They wanted to kill him because they were angry because he was telling them what they did not want to hear, the words of Jehovah. Jeremiah asked Jehovah if He would allow him see Him take vengeance upon his enemies, that is, his brothers. Jehovah told him that He would punish them such that there would not be a remnant left to them.
Jeremiah Chapter 12
Jeremiah now complains about the seeming prosperity that the wicked are enjoying. He knows that Jehovah always renders righteous decisions whenever he brings a case before him. But he wonders why Jehovah allows the wicked to prosper and those without faith to live at ease. It seems that Jehovah himself has planted them because they take root, grow and bear fruit. They speak of Jehovah but not from their hearts. He thinks that these ones should be dragged off like sheep and slaughtered. How long would Jehovah allow everyone, including the animals, to suffer because of the wicked? The wicked feel a measure of security because they are sure that Jehovah is indifferent to what they are doing.
Jehovah answers Jeremiah that if he is worn out by his assignment during times of relative peace, how will he fare when times become really difficult. Even now his own family had betrayed him and he should not trust them even if they spoke well of him.
Jehovah is still determined to abandon His people. They have raised their voice in opposition to Him. They would be surrounded and attacked by the other nations in order to devour them. Their land would be ruined just as a vineyard would be if a shepherd would allow his sheep to graze there. Jehovah’s sword will devour from one end of the land to the other. Because of the devastation of war, the people would not reap the crops that they planted. They would bear the shame of their wicked ways because Jehovah will pour out His anger upon them.
Jehovah now speaks of the future. Those nations that took Israel’s land will also themselves be uprooted from their land and Judah will be taken from among them. He will after a while, have compassion on all of these nations and will restore them to their own land. If they choose to learn Jehovah’s ways and would swear by His name, He would allow them to live among His people. Any nation that refuses to listen will be completely destroyed.
Jeremiah Chapter 13
Jehovah told Jeremiah to buy a linen belt and tie it around his waist. He was not to let it get wet. Later he was told by Jehovah to take the belt and hide it in a crevice of some rocks. When Jehovah commanded him to go and dig the belt up, he found that it was ruined and not useful anymore. Jehovah told him that this was the way that He looked at Judah, they were completely useless to Him because they had followed other gods. He had bound them to Him to bring praise to Him but they had closed their ears to His voice.
Jeremiah is to tell the people that their wineskins should be filled with wine to which they answered that they already know this. Jehovah was saying this to them because these empty wineskins represented them and He was going to fill them with drunkenness, that is judgment, including the king, the priests and the prophets. He would then smash them against each other so as to destroy them and He would not have any compassion or mercy upon them.
Again Jeremiah appeals to the people to pay attention and not to continue in their arrogance. Jehovah is speaking to them and they should acknowledge Him before He brings on them darkness and deep gloom. But if they choose to remain hostile to Him, Jeremiah would weep for them because they will be taken into captivity. Jeremiah now speaks to the king and the queen mother. He tells them to humble themselves because their crowns are about to be taken off their heads. It is believed that he may have been speaking to Jehoiachin and his mother who Nebuchadnezzar took into captivity in 597 BCE. (2 Chronicles 36:9, 10)
Jerusalem is personified here as a shepherd who has been put in charge of a flock of sheep. She is told to look to the north and see the army that is coming against her. The flock that was put in her care has been taken away. Those that she cultivated as allies will become her captors and this will cause her great pain and agony. She may then ask herself why these things have happened to her and the obvious answer will be that it is because of her many sins. Just as a leopard cannot change its spots, she will be unable to change her heart condition and turn to doing good after so long a time of doing bad. She will be scattered like chaff that the wind blows away because she forgot Jehovah and put her trust in false gods. She will be treated in a disgraceful manner because of her prostitution. But there is still time left for her to repent of her uncleanness.
Jeremiah Chapter 14
The land is suffering from a drought that Jehovah has brought in order to get them to repent of their sins. It has affected all of the cities of Judah and Jerusalem. The nobles are not exempt from its effects. The farmers are dismayed because the ground is so dry and cracked that they cannot plant their crops. The animals suffer too because they do not have sufficient pasture from which to feed. All of this is happening because Judah refuses to repent. They finally appealed to Jehovah for help. They admit that their sins were great but for the sake of His Holy Name, He should act. To them, His lack of action made Him like a traveler who passes through the land and stays only a night or as a warrior who is surprised by an attack and is unable to act in time to save anyone. They appealed to Him on the basis that they carry His Name and He should not forsake them for this reason. But Jehovah knows them well, that they love to go astray. He will not accept them back because of their wickedness so they will have to be punished.
For the third time, Jehovah tells Jeremiah that he is not to pray for the people. They may hope to appease Him by means of their fasts and their sacrifices but Jehovah will not accept them. The only thing that they will receive from Him is sword, famine and plague. Jeremiah tells Jehovah that it is the prophets that keep fooling the people telling them that they will not see any suffering and that He will give them peace. Jehovah tells Jeremiah that these prophets are lying in His Name as He did not send them. They are prophesying delusions of their own minds. The ones who are telling the people that no sword or famine will come upon the land will themselves die by sword and famine. The people who are listening to their lies will themselves die because of famine and the sword and there will be no one to bury their dead bodies.
Tears will flow profusely from Jeremiah’s eyes when God’s people suffer this crushing blow. No matter where he looks he will see those who have been killed by the sword and by the famine. The prophets and priests have been taken to a land that they are not familiar with. There the people will question Jehovah as to why He has rejected them and afflicted them with such a severe wound. They had hoped for peace and a healing but had only seen terror. They were again prompted to acknowledge their sins against Him but for the sake of His Name He should not despise them but He should keep in mind the covenant that He had concluded with them so as to keep it in force. They know that it is Jehovah and not their idols who gives the rain, therefore He is the one they will look to for help.
Jeremiah Chapter 15
Jehovah is still not listening to their pleas. He told Jeremiah that even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before Him on behalf of the people, He would not relent so as not to send them away. Moses is mentioned here because he did successfully intercede for the people and Jehovah did not destroy them. (Exodus 32:11-14, 30-34; Numbers 14:13-23) Samuel had also interceded in behalf of the people to save them from the Philistines. (1 Samuel 9:2-14) If the people wanted to know to where they would be sent, Jeremiah was to tell them that some would be destined for death, some for the sword, some for starvation and some for captivity. He would appoint four kinds of doom for them, the sword for killing, the dogs to drag away, the birds and the beasts to devour. Jehovah would make Judah repulsive to all the other nations because of the sins that Manasseh committed in Jerusalem. (2 Kings chapter 21)
Jehovah asked Jerusalem who will mourn for her or have pity on her. Since she has rejected Jehovah and has continued in her backsliding, Jehovah can no longer show compassion for her. Because of the people’s refusal to change their ways He will have to destroy them and their widows will be numberless. At midday the destroyer will come and anguish will come upon the mothers of the warriors who will have been killed in battle. These sons will not now be able to provide security for them from the enemy.
Jeremiah feels sorry for himself because he is hated by all in the land and he has not engaged in any activity that would warrant such feelings. Jehovah assures him that He will deliver him and He will make his enemies come to him for help in times of distress. (Jeremiah 21:1, 2; 37:3) Judah will not be able to stop the attack of the nation from the north. Her wealth and treasures will be given to them as plunder and she will become a slave in a foreign land.
Jeremiah prays that Jehovah will take vengeance on his enemies quickly. Because Jehovah is long-suffering, Jeremiah believes that his enemies will kill him before Jehovah acts against them. He is suffering reproach for the sake of His name. When Jehovah gave him His words, he ate them as they were his joy and his heart’s delight. He had avoided associating with those who were only interest in revelry and merriment but had sat alone because Jehovah had filled him with indignation. He wondered why was he suffering so. Why had Jehovah been like a deceptive brook that promises water but is dry? Jehovah rebuked Jeremiah because of his uttering worthless words of self-doubt and pity and told him that if he would repent, he would continue to be his spokesman. He would strengthen him so that the people would not overcome him.
Jeremiah Chapter 16
Jehovah told Jeremiah that he was not to marry and have children because parents and children would all die of deadly diseases and they would not be mourned or buried but would become food for the birds and wild beasts. He was not to enter a house where there was mourning. He should not show sympathy with the mourners because He had withdrawn His blessing, His love and His pity from the people. He was not to enter a house where there was feasting and sit down to eat and drink as He was going to bring an end to the sound of joy and gladness in the land.
When the people asked Jeremiah why Jehovah was being so harsh on them, he will tell them that as their fathers had left Him to follow other gods, they have acted more wickedly than even these did. Because of this, they will be taken to a foreign land where they will be forced to serve other gods and Jehovah would show them no mercy. In previous times, Israel swore by "Jehovah who brought them out of Egypt," but this would change. After being released from captivity they will swear by "Jehovah who brought them out of the land of the north," where He had banished them.
Jehovah would send fishermen and hunters to catch them because of all of their sins that were before His eyes. There would be no place where they could hide. He would repay them double for their wickedness because they had defiled the land with their lifeless images and detestable idols. But He would restore them and the pagan nations would also come from the ends of the earth and confess that they had spent their lives worshipping worthless idols that could do them no good. Jehovah would teach them about His power and His might and they would learn that His name is Jehovah.
Jeremiah Chapter 17
Judah’s sins are so ingrained in them that it could be said that they were etched on their hearts with an iron tool, a tool that would normally be used chisel words on stone. Even the children were allowed to participate in these idolatrous practices. Because of this, Jehovah would give all their wealth as plunder to the conquering army. They had kindled Jehovah’s anger to the point that he would take their inheritance from them and enslave them in another land. Judah had turned away from Jehovah and had sought alliances with other nations hoping these could give them protection. They would become an accursed people for doing this. Jehovah compared them to a bush in the desert that withers away because of the lack of water. But blessed will be those who put their trust in Jehovah. They will prosper and be as fruitful as a tree planted by streams of water. (Psalms 1:3)
The people of Judah did not understand that it was their heart condition that would not allow them to trust in Jehovah. Only He knows the heart of man that it is deceptive and desperate. Jehovah searches and examines the heart and mind and is able to know the innermost motives of individuals. That is why His judgments are just and He could render to His people their just due in accordance with their works. Riches gained unjustly will desert the person just at the time he is most dependent on them and he will have been shown to be a fool. This will be the case with Judah.
Jeremiah speaks of Jehovah as being the place of his sanctuary and the hope of all Israel. Any who leave Him will be put to put to shame and their names will be written in the dust because He is the source of living waters. Jeremiah looked to Jehovah for his salvation and it was His Name that he praised. The people were ridiculing him on a daily basis because Jehovah’s words of judgment upon them had not yet been fulfilled and he was being labeled a false prophet. Yet he had not left his assignment nor had he looked forward to the day of Jehovah’s judgments with anticipation. Jehovah knew what words Jeremiah had spoken. Jeremiah asked Jehovah not to desert him but to continue to be a refuge for him so that his persecutors would be put to shame for doubting His word.
Jehovah told Jeremiah to go and stand at the gates of Jerusalem through which the people and the kings entered and left the city. He was to tell them that they were not to desecrate the Sabbath day by bringing any goods into the city on this day. They were also to do no work at all on this day but were to keep it holy. If they were obedient to this command of Jehovah then their kings would continue to sit on David’s throne, the city would be inhabited forever and worship at the temple would continue. But if they chose to disobey Jehovah and continue to desecrate the Sabbath then He would start an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that would destroy her completely.
Jeremiah Chapter 18
Jeremiah was told to go to the house of the potter and Jehovah would give him a message there. As he waited for Jehovah’s word, he watched the potter shaping some clay that did not turn out right so he reshaped it into something else. Then Jehovah spoke to him saying that since Israel was clay in His hands, then He should have been able to do to Israel what the potter had just done to the clay in reshaping it. If He warns a nation that it will be uprooted and destroyed and the people repent then He will not bring upon it what He had intended. If He determines to build up a nation and the people begin to do evil then He can reconsider the good He had intended for them.
Jeremiah is to tell the people that Jehovah is preparing to bring disaster upon them and that they should repent of their evil ways and turn to doing good. But He also tells Jeremiah that they will not listen to him, they prefer to go on in their own way. Therefore Jehovah says that those among the nations would be appalled at what Judah has done in rejecting Jehovah. She has shown herself to be unreliable and fickle. Because they have forgotten Jehovah and worshipped other gods, they have gone away from the correct paths to byways that lead them along rough roads. Therefore their land will become an object of scorn and those passing by will shake their heads because they will know that these people had angered their God, Jehovah.
The leaders of the people were now determined stop Jeremiah from pronouncing Jehovah’s judgment messages to them. They decided to slander him and turn a deaf ear to his message. Jeremiah went to Jehovah when he learned what they had planned for him and he asked Him, "should good be repaid with evil?" He had stood before Jehovah on their behalf so that He would turn away His wrath from them. But now he wants Jehovah to repay them by handing them over to be killed by famine and by the sword. Their wives should become childless widows and their men put to death. Jehovah should not forgive them nor should he ever blot out their sins. They should feel His anger when He poured it out. (Psalms 140:4, 5)
Jeremiah Chapter 19
Jehovah instructed Jeremiah to buy a clay water jar from the potter. Then he was to take some elders and priests along with him and go to the Valley of Ben Hinnom and stand near the Potsherd Gate and proclaim Jehovah’s words there. He was to say in the hearing of the people that Jehovah was going to bring such a disaster upon that place that the ears of those hearing about it would tingle. (1 Samuel 3:11) They had made the valley a place of foreign gods where they offered sacrifices to them; they had offered their children in the fire to them and so had filled it with the blood of innocent ones. This was something that Jehovah had never required them to do nor had it ever come into His mind. Therefore days would come when the name of the valley would be changed to the Valley of Slaughter. (7:32)
The people would now fall by the sword and their carcasses would be food for the birds and the beasts. The city would be devastated and those passing by will be astonished by the disasters that have befallen it. Because of the severity of the siege, the people will be reduced to eating the flesh of their own children and each other’s flesh. Then Jeremiah was to smash the water jar before the ones who were watching him, breaking it and he was to tell them this is what Jehovah was going to do to this nation and this city. They would be smashed to the point that they could not be repaired just as the water jar could not be repaired. The dead would be buried in Topheth until it was full and completely defiled. He would also defile the king’s house and those in Jerusalem where they had burned incense on the roofs to the heavenly bodies and offered drink offerings to their gods. Jeremiah returned to the temple courtyard and told the people again about the disaster Jehovah was planning for them because of their disobedience. (Ezekiel Chapter 8)
Jeremiah Chapter 20
When Pashhur, the priest, heard Jeremiah’s words to the people, he had him beaten and put in the stocks that were located in Upper Gate of Benjamin. The next day he released him and Jeremiah told him that Jehovah had given him a new name. It was Magor-Missabib, which means ‘terror of every side,’ because Jehovah was going to make him a terror to himself and all his friends. When Jehovah brought the king of Babylon against Judah, he would see his friends either killed by the sword or carried into captivity. All of Judah’s wealth, products, valuables and the treasures of the king will be given to Babylon as plunder. Pashhur and his family would be taken into exile and he would die in a strange land.
Jeremiah complained to Jehovah the He had deceived him in not telling him the extent to which he would be persecuted because of the message he brought to the people. All day long he was ridiculed and mocked because he always spoke of violence and destruction. He had faithfully reported God’s words to them and it had brought him nothing but insults and reproach. If he said that he would no longer speak this message to them, it would become like a fire in his bones and he became weary trying to hold it in. He heard constant whispering from the people repeating the phrase ‘terror on every side! Let’s report him.’ His friends were always waiting for him to make a wrong prediction so that they could take their revenge on him. (Luke 20:20)
The NIV Bible Commentary, Volume I, page 1199 has this to say about this situation: "They mimicked him (Jeremiah) with the phrase "Terror on every side!" Because he had used it so many times, they made it into a nickname. Their plots were intolerable to his sensitive soul. They plotted to report him for treason by beguiling him into unguarded words that could be construed as treasonable. Even his trusted friends waited for him to make a misstep."
But Jeremiah put his trust in Jehovah whose power could protect him and cause his persecutors to stumble and be disgraced. He wanted to see Jehovah, who probes the heart and mind, bring vengeance upon them for he had laid his case before Him. He would sing and give praise to Jehovah because He rescued him from the wicked. Jeremiah becomes melancholy and curses the day he was born and says that that day should not be blessed. The man who brought the news of his birth to his father should also be cursed. He should be like a town that was unexpectedly overthrown that hears wailing in the morning and the battle cry at noon. Jeremiah wished that he had died while in the womb so that he would not have seen the trouble and sorrow that he would see come upon his own people. (Job 3:3-19)
Jeremiah Chapter 21
Jehovah now directs a message against Zedekiah, king of Judah who was inquiring of Him because the king of Babylon had come up against him. He told Jeremiah to tell him that even the weapons that he was using against the king of Babylon would be turned against him. Jehovah would bring the army that was outside the city at this time into the city and they would strike down both men and animals. Then Jehovah would hand him, all his officials and those who survived the plague, sword and famine over to the Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon who would not show them any mercy or compassion but would put them to death.
Jehovah still holds out a ray of hope of survival for these people. He tells them that if they would surrender to the king of Babylon, they would escape death. He had determined to destroy the city of Jerusalem and any that remained in it would die by plague, famine or sword.
The message in these verses was probably given before the events related above occurred. This message from Jehovah was directed to the royal house of David. They were told to administer justice on a daily basis and rescue those who were being robbed from their oppressors. If they did not do this, then Jehovah’s wrath would break out against them and burn like fire that could not be put out. Jehovah is against all those in Jerusalem who put their trust in the fact that they lived on what they considered to be an impregnable rock that no army could scale. They did not consider that Jehovah could bring them down.
Jeremiah Chapter 22
Jehovah’s message to the kings of Judah continues. Jeremiah was told to say to them that they should do what is just and right. They should rescue the oppressed, protect the alien, the orphans and the widows, and should not shed innocent blood. If they would carefully obey these commands then there would always be someone to sit upon David’s throne. But if they would not obey, Jehovah swore that their palace would come to ruin. The palace of the kings was a majestic and beautiful place but Jehovah would make it like a desert or an uninhabited town. The Babylonians would use his weapon to cut down the cedar beams and would throw them in the fire. People passing by the city would ask each other why had Jehovah brought such destruction on the great city of Jerusalem. The answer would be that they left His covenant and worshipped other gods.
Judah was told not to mourn Josiah, king of Judah, who had died, but were to weep bitterly for the kings following him who would go into exile and would never see their native land again. Jehovah’s message to Shallum or Jehoahaz who succeeded Josiah as king but who had been taken into exile by Neco, king of Egypt, was that he would die in Egypt and would never return to or see Judah again. (2 Chronicles 36:2-4)
The next message is to Jehoiakim, also a son of Josiah. He had gone on a building spree that Jehovah viewed as being done in unrighteousness and injustice. He made the people work and he refused to pay them their wages. He was intent on building a large, sumptuous palace that would be the envy of everyone. He was doing this at a time when Egypt was exacting a heavy tribute from the people. Jehovah asked him if having more and more cedar would make him more of a king. He reminded him that his father did not need all of this and he had had sufficient food and drink but he had done what was right in Jehovah’s eyes. He had defended the cause of the poor and needy so he fared well before Him. But Jehoiakim was not like his father. His heart was set on accumulating dishonest gain, shedding innocent blood, oppressing others and extortion. Jehovah’s judgment on him would be that he would not be mourned by anyone when he died, but would have the burial of a donkey, being dragged and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem. (36:30, 31)
Lebanon, Bashan and Abarim here represent the extent of the land of Israel with Abarim being the border with Moab on the other side of the Jordan River. The land would cry out because all of the allies that Judah had cultivated had by now been crushed by the Babylonian army. Jehovah had warned them but they would not listen. Her kings would be taken away and she would suffer disgrace because of her wickedness. Those who lived in building made of cedar from Lebanon would groan like a woman in labor when the invaders came to Jerusalem.
Jehovah then speaks to Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim and tells him that even if he were a signet ring on His right hand, he would pull him off. The signet ring of a king was used to authenticate official correspondence and documents. He was going to hand him over to Nebuchadnezzar both he and his mother. He would never return to Jerusalem. Jehoiachin would be like a despised and broken pot that no one wanted who would be hurled into a land that he did not know. He was to be recorded in history as a man who was childless because none of his offspring would sit on the throne of David and rule Judah.
NOTE: This commentary is based on the following Bible translations: The New American Standard Bible (NAS), the New International Version (NIV) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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