THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Part I: Oracles Against Jerusalem and Judah
(the Oracles of Condemnation)
Judah's Indelible Sins, Jeremiah's Third Confession, and Two More Object Lessons
You have told us that You require repentant, humble, and circumcised hearts from Your covenant people. These are the pure hearts that submit in perfect love to Your will as opposed to serving a selfish human will. Help us to give You our complete, undivided selves, yielding our entire beings in obedience to Your will and Your plan for our lives. We know that this is the kind of man or woman who "knows the heart of God." Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us, Lord, as we study Jeremiah's message to the citizens of Judah whose hearts, hardened by sin, took them away from Your grace and peace and the destiny You had planned for them. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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love [hesed = faithful covenant love] and constancy never leave you: tie them
round your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Thus you will find
favor and success in the sight of God and of people.
just as sin does. Therefore, we must learn not to resign ourselves to human
failure, but to support the "ransoming" of the Creator's design at all costs.
The collection of Jeremiah's oracles that began in Chapter 16 continues through 17:18. The oracles in 17:1-18 are poetic, with the exception of verses 1c-3a that are in prose. The sin of Judah's citizens is indelible, written with an iron pen with a diamond point (verse 1), and their downfall due to their sins is inevitable. Yet the promise is made again: if only they will return to Yahweh and their covenant obligations, Jerusalem will remain forever (17:24-25).
Jeremiah 17:1-4 ~ Judah Forfeits her Heritage because
of Idol Worship
1 "The sin of Judah is written with an iron pen, engraved with a diamond point on the tablet of their heart and on the horns of their altars, 2 while their children remember their altars and their sacred pole beside the green trees, on the lofty hills. 3 My mountain on the plain, your wealth and all your reassures I shall hand over to be plundered, because of the sin of your high places throughout your territory. 4 You will have to relinquish your heritage which I gave you; I will enslave you to your enemies in a country which you do not know, for my fiery anger kindled by you will burn forever.
17:1-4 are missing from the Septuagint text. There is a link between 16:18, I shall requite their guilt and their sin twice over, since they have polluted my country with the carcasses of their Horrors, and filled my heritage with their Abominations (underlining added) and 17:1 and 4: The sin of Judah is written with an iron pen, engraved with a diamond point on the tablet of their heart ... and, You will relinquish your heritage which I gave you ...
1 "The sin of
Judah is written with an iron pen, engraved with a diamond point on the tablet
of their heart and on the horns of their altars ...
"Heart" is the key word in chapter 17; see verses 1, 5, 9 and 10. An iron pen is a stylus for engraving metal and stone. It is not the pen of scribes in Jeremiah 8:8 that write with ink on papyrus, skins, or pottery sherds. That this pen has a diamond point indicates that it is the kind of iron stylus used in ancient times by gem-engraving for fine engraving on extremely had surfaces (see Pliny, Natural History, xxxvii 60, 200).
Question: What does the condition of the people's
communal heart tell us if this kind of tool is needed to record their sins?
What does their condition have to do with their reception of Jeremiah's
Answer: That a tool of this description is needed to write the people's collective sin on the "tablet of their heart" indicates the extreme hardness of the people of Judah's communal heart. It is the reason they will not listen to Jeremiah's oracles that warn to repent before the day of Yahweh's wrathful judgment.
2 while their
children remember their altars and their sacred pole beside the green trees, on
the lofty hills.
Verses 1-2 should be compared to God's commands in Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (Dt 6:5 is quoted by Jesus in Mt 23:37) and 11:18-20:
In other words, the covenant people are to observe God's commandments and continually teach them to their children at all times!
Question: If the covenant people had kept the
commands in Deuteronomy 6:5-7 and 11:18-19 to love Yahweh with all their heart
and to teach their children, what would have been the result?
Answer: Their hearts wouldn't have become hardened by sin, they would have taught their children to love God, and their children wouldn't be worshipping false gods on the hills.
3 My mountain on
the plain, your wealth and all your reassures I shall hand over to be
plundered, because of the sin of your high places throughout your territory. 4 You will have to relinquish your heritage
which I gave you; I will enslave you to your enemies in a country which you do
not know, for my fiery anger kindled by you will burn forever.
"My mountain on the plain" or "level area" probably refers to the Temple of Yahweh on what had been a threshing floor on the height Mt. Moriah (2 Chr 3:1). That the place of their exile will be "a country which you do not know" doesn't mean they do not know of the existence of the place but that they have no intimate knowledge of the place or its people.
The point of this oracle is that the nation of Judah is incapable of cleansing itself from its deeply engrained and eradicable sin. It will take the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah to free the Old Covenant people from the curses of the covenant when He takes those covenant curses on Himself (Dt 21:22-23; Jn 19:31; Gal 3:13; 1 Pt 2:24).
Verses 2-3 link the people's sin to illicit sacrifice and worship that has polluted the nation and profaned the name of Yahweh. Yahweh's divine judgment is once again pronounced as the removal of all God's blessings and exile for the people from His holy land, just as Adam and Eve lost the blessings of God that were theirs in the Garden Sanctuary and were exiled from Eden for their sin and their failure to keep His covenant (Gen 3:23-24; Hos 6:7, But they, like Adam, transgressed the covenant; there they betrayed Me). It is a repeat of the judgment pronouncement in Jeremiah 15:14 and the curse-judgment of Deuteronomy 28:49-64.
Jeremiah 17:5-11 ~ Curses, Blessings, and Wisdom Sayings
5 Yahweh says this, "Accursed be anyone who trusts in human beings, who relies on human strength and whose heart turns from Yahweh. 6 Such a person is like scrub in the wastelands: when good comes, it does not affect him since he lives in the parched places of the desert, uninhabited, salt land. 7 Blessed is anyone who trusts in Yahweh, with Yahweh for his reliance. He is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it has nothing to fear, its foliage stays green; untroubled in a year of drought, it never stops bearing fruit. 9 The heart is more devious than any other thing, and is depraved; who can pierce its secrets? 10 I, Yahweh, search the heart, test motives, to give each person what his conduct and his actions deserve [according to the fruit of his doings]. 11 The partridge will hatch eggs it has not laid. No different is the person who gets riches unjustly: his days half done, they will desert him and he prove a fool after all." [...] = literal translation, IBHE, vol. IV, page 1778. The key words are underlined for emphasis.
Jeremiah 17:5-18 is composed of a number of brief teachings/sayings all of which are in the poetic form. Together with verse 1, these verses are linked by the key words "heart" and "fruit." Notice the underlined words in the passage above.
Question: What two kinds of people are contrasted
in verses 5-8?
Answer: The contrast is between the cursed and the blessed:
9 The heart is
more devious than any other thing, and is depraved; who can pierce its
secrets? 10 I, Yahweh, search the heart,
test motives, to give each person what his conduct and his actions deserve
[according to the fruit of his doings].
Verses 9-10 return to the subject of the human heart, introduced in 17:1. Notice the repetition of the key words "heart" and "fruit":
Question: According to verse 10, how does God
reward the heart that has been tested and found pure? See Mt 16:27; 25:31-46; 1
Answer: The righteous persons who, in serving God, "bear good fruit/deeds" are rewarded according to those good deeds.
In Mark 7:21-22, Jesus said, For it is from within, from the heart, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean. Only God can judge the human heart. This is why human beings are not qualified to judge someone's eternal destination. We can only judge sin according to the moral laws God has given us in the Ten Commandments and the extended moral law. The psalmist wrote: God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns. Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road of eternity (Ps 139:23-24).
11 The partridge
will hatch eggs it has not laid. No different is the person who gets riches
unjustly: his days half done, they will desert him and he prove a fool after
The point of this proverb is that a person who amasses riches by injustice cannot fool death the way he has fooled human beings. In the end, death will find him, and there is nothing he can do. He is the fool for thinking he could deceive God. The proverb reiterates the point in verse 10 of one receiving from Yahweh the "fruit of his doings."
Jeremiah 17:12-13 ~ Praise for the Temple
12 A glorious throne, sublime [on high] from the beginning, such is our Holy Place. 13 Yahweh, hope of Israel, all who abandon you will be put to shame, those who turn from you will be registered in the underworld [written in the earth], since they have abandoned Yahweh, the fountain of living water.(1) [...] = literal translation, IBHE, vol. VI, page 1778.
"Our Holy Place" refers to the Jerusalem Temple. Jeremiah uses two honorific names for the Temple and two for Yahweh. He calls the Jerusalem Temple:
Notice the contrast between God's throne "on high" and those who abandon Yahweh who are consigned to the underworld where their names are written in Sheol, the abode of the dead. The reference to "glorious throne" and "on high from the beginning" probably refers not only to the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple's Holy of Holies that is God's earthly throne and sometimes referred to as "God's footstool," but to God's heavenly throne from the "beginning" as a focus of worship in humanity's relationship with Yahweh.
The two honorific titles Jeremiah gives Yahweh are:
For a second time, the words "fountain of living water" are applied to Yahweh (see Jer 2:13 when Yahweh applied the title to Himself). Jeremiah affirming that Yahweh is "the fountain of living water" is a renunciation of his earlier accusation that Yahweh is a "deceptive stream with uncertain waters" from 15:18. It was an accusation against the goodness of God that earned Jeremiah Yahweh's rebuke and the necessity for his repentance and re-commissioning as Yahweh's prophet to the covenant people (15:19-21).
Jeremiah 17:14-18 ~ Jeremiah's Third Confession
14 Heal me, Yahweh, and I shall be healed, save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. 15 Look, they keep saying to me, "Where is Yahweh's word? Let it come true then!" 16 Yet I have never urged you to send disaster [And I have not hurried away from shepherding/following after you], I never desired the fatal day, this you know; what came from my lips was not concealed from you. 17 Do not be a terror to me, you, my refuge in time of disaster. 18 Let my persecutors be confounded [be shamed], not me [be shamed], let them [be broken], not me, be terrified [be broken]. On them bring the day of disaster, destroy them, destroy them twice over!
[...] = literal translation, IBHE, vol. IV, page 1778; Strong's H7462 = ra'ah, "to tend a flock," "shepherd").
This poetic passage is the third of Jeremiah's five confessions (see the previous two confessions in 11:18-12:6 and 15:10-21) and contains two prayers: one for personal healing and salvation (verse 14-16a) and the second for protection from Yahweh's divine anger but to unleash a full measure of His anger on Jeremiah's enemies (verses 16b-18). In his second confession, a sorrowful and bitter Jeremiah poured out his heart to Yahweh (especially in 15:15-18), and he received Yahweh's answer, promising him protection and deliverance if he repented/"turned back" and continued his mission (15:19-21). Here, in his third confession, Jeremiah once again pours out his heart, but this time it is in faith and confidence of Yahweh's protection and the justness of God's indictment against Judah.
In 17:16b-18, Jeremiah asks God to remember him and to remember the people. His wound that he spoke of in 15:18 is personal, and it is also one he shares with his people (8:21). However, now he acknowledges that only Yahweh can heal him personally as well as the covenant people (17:14).
15 Look, they
keep saying to me, "Where is Yahweh's word? Let it come true then!"
Jeremiah is probably referring to the people's taunts and challenges to his oracles as they say "Well, why hasn't Yahweh's judgments that you have been telling us about happened yet?" And "Where is the judgment with which Moses threatened us (cf. Dt 18:21-22; 28:9)?" Jeremiah petitions God to answer their taunts by letting all the words He has spoken through His prophets come true. These taunts must be directed at Jeremiah before the capture of Jerusalem in 598 BC since after that time the taunts would not have been made because events proved that the oracles he gave were true.
16 Yet I have
never urged you to send disaster [And I have not hurried away from shepherding/following
after you], I never desired the fatal day, this you know; what came from my
lips was not concealed from you.
The Septuagint has "following after you" instead of "shepherding after you." The Hebrew text uses ra'ah, "to tend a flock," or "to shepherd," but that literal meaning does not make the verb "following after" in the Greek incorrect.(2)
Question: What is Jeremiah's point in verse 16?
Answer: Jeremiah's point is he has always been obedient to Yahweh's oracles in never adding his own voice. The divine words of judgment have all be Yahweh's words.
17 Do not be a
terror to me, you, my refuge in time of disaster. 18 Let my persecutors be confounded [be shamed],
not me [be shamed], let them [be broken], not me, be terrified [be broken]. On
them bring the day of disaster, destroy them, destroy them twice over!
Jeremiah appears to be asking for Yahweh's continual protection as he refers to Yahweh's warning at the time of his commissioning that he would not allow Jeremiah to be broken by the enemy (1:17). The pairing of the words "be shamed" and "be broken" occur eight times in the Hebrew text of the Book of Jeremiah (8:9; 14:3-4; 17:18; 48:1, 20, 39; 50:2). In asking that his persecutors be destroyed "twice over," Jeremiah is referring to the "double disaster" Yahweh predicted in 16:18, I shall requite their guilt and their sin twice over, since they have polluted my country with the carcasses of their Horrors, and filled my heritage with their Abominations."
Question: What is different now in Jeremiah's
dialogue with Yahweh as opposed to 14:19-22?
Answer: Now, instead of arguing with Yahweh not to bring His words to fulfillment, Jeremiah petitions Yahweh to answer the people's own taunt to "Let it come true then!", as he said they challenged him in 17:15c.
Jeremiah 17:19-27 ~ Salvation in the Sabbath Observance
19 Yahweh said this to me, "Go and stand at the Gate of the Sons of the People by which the kings of Judah go in and out, and at all the gates of Jerusalem. 20 Say to them Listen to the word of Yahweh, you kings of Judah, all you people of Judah too, and all you inhabitants of Jerusalem who pass through the gates. 21 Yahweh says this: As you value your lives, on no account carry a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in through the gates of Jerusalem. 22 Bring no burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, and do no work. Keep the Sabbath day holy, as I ordered your ancestors. 23 They would not hear, would not pay attention; they deliberately refused to listen or accept instruction. 24 But if you listen carefully to me, Yahweh declares, and bring no burden in through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, if you keep the Sabbath holy and do no work on that day, 25 then, through the gates of this city, kings and princes occupying the throne of David will continue to make their entry, riding in chariots or on horseback, they, their chief men, the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And this city will be inhabited forever. 26 They will come from the towns of Judah, from the districts round Jerusalem, from the territory of Benjamin, from the lowlands, from the highlands, from the Negeb, to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice, and cereal offering and incense, to offer thanksgiving sacrifices in the Temple of Yahweh. 27 But if you do not listen to me to keep the Sabbath day holy, and to refrain from entering the gates of Jerusalem with burdens on the Sabbath day, then I shall set fire to its gates; it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched.'"
The key word in this passage is "Sabbath," repeated seven times. The Hebrew word is from the root "to cease" or "to rest" that is first found in Scripture in Genesis 2:3, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day he rested after all his work of creating.
God sent Jeremiah to the Temple Gate in 7:2, and he will be sent to the Potsherd Gate leading to the Valley of Ben-Hinnom in 19:1-2. For this oracle, he is first sent to preach at the "Gate of the Sons of the People" and afterward to all the gates of Jerusalem. The exact location of the first gate is uncertain, yet it is said this is a gate the kings "go in and out." Therefore, it may be the gate that led from the palace built by King Solomon into the Temple proper that was used by the Davidic kings and their families. That the Davidic kings "go in and out" (verse 1) is an expression used in the Old Testament for Israel's leaders exercising their leadership roles. In the literal Hebrew text, see Moses' request for a leader to succeed him in Num 27:15-17 and in 2 Samuel 5:2 for King David. Jeremiah is to preach the oracle on Sabbath observances to all the people, both high and low and, therefore, the city's gates are the best location to reach a greater audience (verse 21).
Question: In verses 20-26, Yahweh holds out the possibility of the
people's temporal salvation from the enemy from the north. However, what is
the condition of that promise of salvation?
Answer: The people and their rulers must return to the faithful observance of the Sabbath prohibitions.
Question: What are the people forbidden to do on the Sabbath?
Answer: Jeremiah lists a number of Sabbath commands associated with the Sabbath:
Question: If they people will renew their commitment to the
Sabbath obligations, what three promises does God make to the covenant people
of Judah? See 2 Sam 7:16, 29. Please note that the extent of the Southern
Kingdom of Judah was from the tribal lands of Benjamin to the southern desert
of the Negeb.
Question: However, if they ignore Yahweh's warnings and do not
keep the Sabbath obligations and prohibitions, what will happen?
Answer: Jerusalem will be destroyed by fire (verse 27).
Question: When was the Sabbath day inaugurated and consecrated as
a "holy day" by Yahweh? When in salvation history was the Sabbath restrictions
first established for the covenant people and to who were the commands directed?
When were they repeated? Gen 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11; 23:12; 31:12-17; 34:21;
35:1-3; the Holiness Code in Lev 19:3 and 23:3; Dt 5:12-15.
Answer: Yahweh established the Sabbath as a holy day of rest on the seventh day of the Creation (Gen 2:2-3). The prohibition against work and the command to keep the observance of the seventh day Sabbath (our Saturday) was not given by Yahweh until His theophany on Mt. Sinai in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:8-11). Everyone living with the Israelites was to observe the Sabbath rest including children, animals, non-Israelite slaves/servants and resident aliens.
Question: The Sabbath command is given eight times in the
Pentateuch (Torah). What are the conditions of the Sabbath obligation listed
in these Biblical passages Ex 20:8-11; 23:12; 31:12-17; 34:21; 35:1-3; the
Holiness Code in Lev 19:3 and 23:3; Dt 5:12-15?
Answer: The first command and repeated commands:
In Numbers 15:32-36, the death penalty is carried out for a man who violated the prohibition against working on the Sabbath. It can be understood as a violation of the covenant with Yahweh that has an impact on life itself "temporal life in the Old Covenant.
Question: What is significant about the placement of the command
to keep the Sabbath in the list of the Ten Commandments in Exodus and
Answer: In the list of the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath observance command comes between the commandments concerning the covenant people's relationship to God and those commandments concerning the covenant people's relationship with others. It is the bridge of holiness between God and His people.
In chapters 18-19 we have two more of Jeremiah's ten
Object lesson #4: Jeremiah 18:1-17 ~ The object lesson of the potter's clay
Object lesson #5: Jeremiah 19:1-12 ~ The object lesson of the broken clay jars
Jeremiah 18:1-12 ~ The Object Lesson of the Potter and his Clay
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh as follows, 2"Get up and make your way down to the potter's house, and there I shall tell you what I have to say." 3 So I went down to the potter's house; and there he was, working at the wheel. 4 But the vessel he was making came out wrong, as may happen with clay when a potter is at work. So he began again and shaped it into another vessel, as he thought fit. 5 Then the word of Yahweh came to me as follows, 6 House of Israel, can I not do to you what this potter does? Yahweh demands. Yes, like the clay in the potter's hand, so you are in mine, House of Israel. 7 Sometimes I announce that I shall uproot, break down and destroy a certain nation or kingdom, 8 but should the nation I have threatened abandon [turn back = shuv] its wickedness, I then change my mind [repent] about the disaster which I had intended to inflict on it. 9 Sometimes I announce that I shall build up and plant a certain nation or kingdom, 10 but should that nation do what displeases me and refuse to listen to my voice, I then change my mind [then I will repent] about the good which I was intending to confer on it. 11 So now, say this to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Yahweh says this: Listen, I am preparing a disaster for you, I am working out a plan against you. So now, each one of you, turn back [shuv] from your evil ways, amend your conduct and actions.' 12 They, however, will say, It is no use! We shall follow our own plans; each of us will act on his own wicked inclinations.'" [...]= literal translation, IBHE, vol. IV, page 1781.
The key word in this passage is shuv in verses 8 and 11, which means "turn back;" it is a link back to Yahweh's call for Jeremiah's repentance in 15:19 where the word is used three times. It is now used in a call for the possibility of Judah's repentance. This is Jeremiah's fourth object lesson; see the complete list of Jeremiah's Object Lessons in handout 3 for Lesson One. The passage is in prose and is divided into three parts:
In the fourth object lesson, Yahweh sends Jeremiah to a potter's workshop where the prophet observes a potter working at his wheel. The inspired writer of Sirach has a description of the working potter: Similarly with the potter, sitting at his work, turning the wheel with his feet; constantly on the alert over his work, each flick of the finger premeditated; he pummels the clay with his arm, and with his feet he kneads it; he concentrates on applying the glaze right and stays up late to clean the kiln (Sir 38:29-30).
Jeremiah observed that when the clay the potter was using didn't yield to what the potter intended and turned out misshapen, the potter would ball it up and began again to reshape the clay (verses 1-4). The word of Yahweh then came to Jeremiah in two divine oracles that follow Jeremiah's experience of observing the potter.
The first oracle makes an analogy between the potter and his clay on
the one hand and God and Israel on the other.
Question: What is the object lesson of the potter and his clay?
Answer: If a potter can rework clay that is misshapen and not lending itself to his intended creation, how much more can God, the divine Creator, rework the nation of Israel that has turned out not as intended.
Like the potter who reworked the misshapen pot, God has the sovereign authority to reject what He has created when individual humans or nations refuse to yield to God's divine plan. He can destroy a sinful nation that turned out, because of God's gift of free-will, not as the perfect creation He intended unless they repent before it is too late. Jeremiah is told to use this object lesson in preaching to the people of Jerusalem. The point is that Yahweh has both creative and destructive power over the nations of the earth. God is also free to revoke a judgment He has planned for a nation when the people repent their sins and seek His intervention, as in the case of the withdrawal of divine judgment against the nation of Judah and the Assyrian siege of the city of Jerusalem in 722 BC when King Hezekiah led his people in communal repentance (2 Kng 19:20-37).
A question arises from verses 7-10: does God change His mind like a human being? The Hebrew word in verse 10 is wenihami (Strong's H6162), and is more literally translated "then I will repent." Yahweh is not like a human being who changes his mind. God knows the future, and therefore He knows when a people will respond to His warnings of divine punishment by offering genuine repentance. In those cases, God will revoke what could have been their destruction. Another example of God revoking the judgment He planned to carry out because of human repentance is found in the repentance of the pagan Assyrians of the city of Nineveh. See the study of the Book of Jonah.
The first oracle after the object lesson ends on an ominous note: God says that nations judged as good will have that good revoked if they do evil or no longer listen to His voice. Of course, the only nation that has listened to the voice of Yahweh in the past has been Israel/Judah.
now, say this to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Yahweh
says this: Listen, I am preparing a disaster for you, I am working out a plan
against you. So now, each one of you, turn back [shuv] from your evil ways, amend
your conduct and actions.' 12 They,
however, will say, It is no use! We shall follow our own plans; each of us
will act on his own wicked inclinations.'"
The second oracle is a call to repentance in verses 11-12. The "turn back" (shuv), repeated three times in 15:19, is repeated in verse 8 and once again in verse 11. It is not a communal call to repentance but a call to every individual in the nation of Judah. However, knowing the heart of every individual in Judah, God tells Jeremiah the people will respond that "it is no use" and they will follow their own plans in acting on their "own wicked inclinations."
Jeremiah 18:13-17 ~ The Failure of Virgin Israel
13 Therefore, Yahweh says this, "Ask, please [Now ask], among the nations if anyone has heard anything like this. The Virgin of Israel has done a very horrible thing. 14 Does the snow of Lebanon ever leave the rocks of its slopes? Do the rivers of foreign lands, their cold flowing waters, ever run dry? 15 And yet my people have forgotten me! They burn incense to a Nothing! They have been made to stumble in their ways, the ancient paths, to walk in paths, on an unmade road, 16 to make their country an object of horror, everlastingly derided: every passer-by will be appalled at it and shake his head. 17 Like the east wind, I shall scatter them before the enemy. I shall show them my back, not my face, the day they are ruined." [...] = literal translation, IBHE, vol. IV, 1781.
This poetic section is God's judgment concerning the object lesson in verses 1-12. The people are told to ask the neighboring states two rhetorical questions to which the answer is "No."(3) To make His point, Yahweh uses two examples from nature. Both questions concern natural laws to which the elements of nature are obedient, like the perpetual snow that covers the top of Mt. Hermon in Lebanon and feeds the rivers that flow from the mountain. God compares the obedience of nature to the disobedience of the people of Israel who abandoned the God who created the mountains and the rivers.
Question: What is the "horrible thing" in verse
13b and the "object of horror in verse 16?
Answer: The "horrible thing" is Virgin Israel's adultery with pagan gods/idol worship and defilement of Yahweh's Temple with illicit worship (verse 15).
15 And yet
my people have forgotten me! They burn incense to a Nothing! They have been
made to stumble in their ways, the ancient paths, to walk in paths, on an
The complaint that the people have forgotten Yahweh is repeated again (see Jer 2:32; 3:21; 13:25; 23:27), and refers back to Moses' accusation against future generations in his final homily: You forget the Rock who fathered you, the God who made you, you no longer remember (Dt 32:18). Instead of walking the righteous path God set for the people if they followed His Law and kept His covenant, their forgetting has caused them to "stumble in their ways" and to walk a path of idolatry.
16 to make
their country an object of horror, everlastingly derided: every passer-by will
be appalled at it and shake his head. 17 Like
the east wind, I shall scatter them before the enemy. I shall show them my
back, not my face, the day they are ruined."
Those who pass by the ruined city of Jerusalem will shudder at the devastation. The passage ends once again with a judgment of exile and disbursement among the pagan nations in verse 17.
Jeremiah 18:18 ~ The Plot Against Jeremiah
18 "Come on," they said, "let us concoct a plot against Jeremiah, for the Law will not perish for lack of priests, or advice for lack of wise men, nor the word for lack of prophets. Come on, let us slander him and pay no attention to anything he says."
In this short prose section, the people plan to do away with Jeremiah by making false accusations against him. They reason to themselves, what does the loss of life of just one priest matter? In this passage, Jeremiah becomes another Christ figure whose people also slandered His name and brought false charges against Him, calling Jesus a blasphemer, agent of Satan, and planned His death (Mt 12:24; 26:59; Mk 2:6-7; Jn 7:1; 11:49-53). Persecution and plots against Jeremiah are mentioned twelve times: 11:19; 12:6; 15:20-21; 18:18, 20; 20:10; 26:24; 36:26; 37:11-12; 38:1-16.
Jeremiah 18:19-23 ~ Jeremiah Appeals to Yahweh
19 Pay attention to me, Yahweh, hear what my adversaries are saying. 20 Should evil be returned for good? Now they are digging a pit for me. Remember how I pleaded before you and spoke good of them, to turn your retribution away from them. 21 So, hand their sons over to famine, abandon them to the edge of the sword. Let their wives become childless and widowed. Let their husbands die of plague, their young men be cut down by the sword in battle. 22 Let cries re-echo from their houses as you bring raiders suddenly to them. For they have dug a pit to catch me, they have laid snares to trap my feet. 23 But you, Yahweh, know all about their murderous plot against me. Do not forgive their guilt; do not efface their sin from your sight. Let them be hurled down before you, deal with them while you are angry!
In this poetry section, Jeremiah appeals to Yahweh to protect him from his enemies. He reminds the Lord that, in the past, he had offered prayers of intercession for the people, but now, since that are actively planning his death, Jeremiah asks for God's judgment to be delivered against them. Notice how Jeremiah repeats the same judgments God gave him in his various judgment oracles (c.f., Jer 11:11, 22; 12:12-13; 14:12; 15:2; 16:4). Jeremiah's anger at his people's betrayal recalls his similar angry denunciation of them in 11:20. Jeremiah's reaction is very humanly realistic: when it becomes personal, Jeremiah is not willing to ask for mercy for the people!
The fifth object lesson and its preaching oracle must date prior to 605 BC. In the fourth year of King Jehoiakim's reign, in 605 BC, the Temple hierarchy barred Jeremiah from entrance into the Temple precincts (Jer 36:1, 5). The incident recorded in 19:14, when Yahweh commanded Jeremiah to preach the oracle associated with the fifth object lesson within the inner courtyard of the Temple, probably disrupted the daily liturgical worship service and led to the drastic measure of completely banning Jeremiah from entering the Temple.
Jeremiah 19:1-9 ~ The Fifth Object Lesson
1 Then Yahweh said to Jeremiah, "Go and buy a potter's earthenware jug. Take some of the people's elders and some of the senior priests with you. 2 Go out towards the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, just outside the Gate of the Potsherds. There proclaim the words I shall say to you. 3 You must say, Kings of Judah, inhabitants of Jerusalem! Listen to the word of Yahweh! Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: I am about to bring such disaster on this place that the ears of every one who hears of it will ring. 4 For they have abandoned me and have made this place unrecognizable, and offered incense here to other gods which neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah ever knew before. They have filled this place with the blood of the innocent; 5 for they have built high places for Baal to burn their sons as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing I never ordered, never mentioned, that had never entered my thoughts. 6 So now the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when the people will no longer call this Topheth, or Valley of Ben-Hinnom, but Valley of Slaughter. 7 Because of this place, I shall empty Judah and Jerusalem of sound advice; I shall make them fall by the sword before their enemies, by the hand of those determined to kill them; I shall give their corpses as food to the birds of the sky and the animals of earth. 8 And I shall make this city an object of horror and derision; every passer-by will be appalled at it and whistle at the sight of all the wounds it has sustained. 9 I shall make them eat the flesh of their own sons and daughters: they will eat one another during the siege, in the shortage to which their enemies, and those determined to kill them, will reduce them.'"
All of chapter 19 is in prose. The event of the fifth object lesson and the pronouncement of Yahweh's judgment on Jerusalem associated with the object lesson probably took place in 598 BC, just before the Babylonian siege and capture of the city. As in the linen waistcloth in 13:1, Jeremiah is told to go and purchase an object to use in his preaching. This time the object is a pottery jug.
Take some of the people's elders and some of the
senior priests with you. 2 Go out
towards the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, just outside the Gate of the Potsherds.
That Jeremiah is able to enlist certain of the elders of the people and chief priests from the Temple to accompany him says something about Jeremiah's importance in the city and at the Temple. Perhaps these are the same elders who spoke up in Jeremiah's defense at his trial about a decade earlier at the beginning of the reign of King Jehoiakim in 609 BC (see Jer 26:1, 17). The Potsherd's Gate must have been a gate leading out of the city to the south. It was probably near the district where professional potters had their shops and where broken pots were dumped.
The Valley of Ben-Hinnom was south of the city of Jerusalem and had an infamous reputation as the site where children were burned alive in sacrificed to Baal/Molech, and it was the location of the ceremonial graveyard called the Topheth, meaning "incinerator" (see Lev 18:21; 20:2-5; Dt 12:31; 18:10; 1 Kng 16:3; 21:6; 23:10; 2 Chr 33:1, 6; Jer 7:31; 32:35; Ez 16:21).
The oracle that begins in verse 3 is to be addressed to the Kings of Judah and the people in the presence of the delegation of elders and chief priests. That Jeremiah's announcement is to include the "Kings of Judah" (plural in verse 3), may suggest that Jehoiakim had made his eighteen-year-old son, Jehoiachin, a co-ruler. Both Davidic Kings Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin were deposed by the Babylonians and carried away into exile in 598 BC (2 Kng 24:1-9; 2 Chr 36:5-10). Chapter 21 will take place during the reign of Jehoiachin's successor, King Zedekiah, the last Davidic king of Judah.
In verses 3-15 Jeremiah lays out the reason for the covenant lawsuit: the kings of Judah and their people have abandoned Yahweh and His covenant and have worshipped false gods (verse 4). What follows is a list of sins and a description of divine punishment for their apostasy and idol worship.
They have filled this place with the blood of the
innocent; 5 for they have built
high places for Baal to burn their sons as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing I
never ordered, never mentioned, that had never entered my thoughts.
The "blood of the innocent" probably not only includes child sacrifice but the miscarriage of justice. Yahweh's firm stand against the Canaanite practice of child sacrifice, later adopted by the Phoenicians and other neighboring states, is repeated numerous times in the Law (see for example: Lev 18:21; 20:2-5; Dt 12:31; 18:10). If God feels so strongly about the misguided practice of sacrificing children to a false god like Baal/Molech, what will be the judgment against nations that have legalized abortion?
9 I shall make
them eat the flesh of their own sons and daughters: they will eat one another
during the siege, in the shortage to which their enemies, and those determined
to kill them, will reduce them.'
It is a fact that sometimes people suffering under a prolonged siege will resort to cannibalism. This happened to Jerusalem during the Babylonian siege and centuries later during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It was an event that was prophesied in the covenant curse-judgments in Deuteronomy 28:53-57.(4)
Jeremiah 19:10-15 ~ The Broken Jug
10 "You must break this jug in front of the men who are with you, 11 and say to them, Yahweh Sabaoth says this: I am going to break this people and this city just as one breaks a potter's pot, so that it can never be mended again. 12 Topheth will become a burial ground, for lack of other burial spaces. That is how I shall treat this place, Yahweh declares, and its inhabitants, by making this city like Topheth. 13 The houses of Jerusalem and those of the kings of Judah, all the houses on the roofs of which they offered incense to the whole array of heaven and poured libations to other gods, will be unclean, like this place Topheth." 14 Jeremiah then came back from Topheth where Yahweh had sent him to prophesy, and stood in the court of the Temple of Yahweh and said to all the people, 15 "Yahweh Sabaoth, God of Israel, says this, Yes, on this city, and on all the towns belonging to it, I shall bring all the disaster which I had decreed for it, since they have stubbornly refused to listen to my words.'"
Jeremiah completes the object lesson by delivering the oracle and breaking the clay jug in the presence of the crowd while announcing that Yahweh will destroy the city and its people in the same way and with such force that it will never be the same again. He delivered the first part of his oracle in the ritual cemetery outside the southern gate of Jerusalem in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, and then he returned to the Temple, perhaps to the inner court where the sacrificial altar stood, to complete the last part of his oracle.
Question: According to Jeremiah's prophecy, the
ceremonial burial ground for sacrificed children will be put to what new
Answer: It will become a burial ground for the citizens of Jerusalem.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
In Jeremiah 17:19-27, Yahweh promised temporal salvation through the Sabbath observance.
Question: What are our obligations in the observance of the New Covenant Sabbath of the Lord's Day "a day of worship that promises eternal blessings? See the Five Precepts of the Church, the minimum obligation for those who call themselves "Catholic" in Catechism citations 2041-46; also see 1389 and 2180-81.
Question: Is it a mortal sin to willfully ignore the Lord's Day obligation?
Question: If someone is guilty of missing Mass without a good reason, can that person receive the Eucharist without going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? What are the excused reasons for missing Mass? See CCC 2181.
1. Some translations interpret verse 13b as Yahweh speaking instead of Jeremiah, rendering the passage: Those turning from me will be written in the earth for they have forsaken the spring of living water. However, the better reading is probably as it is presented in the NJB with Jeremiah speaking the entire time in verses 13-18 and with verse 13b serving as a renunciation of his earlier accusation against Yahweh in 15:18b.
2. If the intended word is indeed "shepherding," it is the only time the shepherd metaphor is applied to a prophet in the Old Testament. It is usually applied to kings/rulers and to the Davidic Messiah (see Ez 34:23).
4. Cannibalism occurred in the famine resulting from the siege of the Northern Kingdom's capital of Samaria by the Assyrians in 722 BC (see 2 Kng 6:26-29). This horror also took place in 70 AD during the famine in the city of Jerusalem under siege by the Roman legions (Josephus, The Jewish Wars, 6.3.4 [206-8].
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson: