THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Part I: Oracles Against Jerusalem and Judah
(the Oracles of Condemnation)
Jeremiah's Spiritual Crisis and Prophetic Renewal
What is it about the human condition that causes us to strain against Your gentle "yoke" and the "narrow path" Your Law established for the good of humanity? We know that the simple answer is the human defect called concupiscence; an attraction to sin inherited from our original parents who knew all that was good but chose to know instead both the good and the evil that Satan offered them. We pray constantly for Your mercy over Your judgment, and yet we continually test Your mercy by straining to push the limits of Your divine justice. Send Your Holy Spirit, Lord, to guide us in our study of Jeremiah's mission to the people of Judah in the late 7th and early 6th centuries BC. They were a people disturbingly like modern society, and we seem not to have learned from their mistakes. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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For not having
joyfully and with happy heart served Yahweh your God, despite the abundance of
everything, you will have to serve the enemy whom Yahweh will send against you,
in hunger, thirst, lack of clothing and total privation ... Against you, Yahweh
will raise a distant nation from the ends of the earth like an eagle taking
wing: a nation whose language you do not understand, a nation grim of face,
with neither respect for the old, or pity for the young.
Deuteronomy 28:47, 49-50
Double disaster has befallen you; who
is there to sympathize? Pillage and ruin, famine and sword; who is there to
Chapter 15 is the continuation of the poetic dialogue between Jeremiah and Yahweh that began in Chapter 14. The suffering that is the result of divine judgment described in 15:7-9 must date to the war years of 601-598/7 BC. The devastation began with the bands of brigands who ravaged Judah in the last years of King Jehoiakim's reign (described in 2 Kng 24:2) that culminated in Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem. The shift from the past to the future in 15:9c gives the impression of a war still in progress and probably points to the time just before the Babylonian subjugation of Jerusalem in 598/7 BC.
Jeremiah 15:5-9 ~ The Disaster Jerusalem Brought on Herself
5 Who is there to pity you, Jerusalem, who to grieve for you, who to go out of his way and ask how you are? 6 "You yourself have rejected me, Yahweh declares, you have turned your back on me; so I have stretched my hand over you and destroyed you. Tired of relenting, 7 I have winnowed them with a winnow at the country's gates. They have been bereft, I have destroyed my people, but they refuse to leave their ways. 8 I have made their widows outnumber the sand of the sea. On the mother of young warriors I bring the destroyer in broad daylight. Suddenly I bring anguish and terror down on her. 9 The mother of seven sons grows faint and grasps for breath. It is still day, but already her sun has set, she is dismayed and distracted; and the rest of them I shall consign to the sword, to their enemies. Yahweh declares."
Jeremiah begins the first part of the poem in verses 5 by reminding Yahweh (with his rhetorical question) that Jerusalem can only look forward to a desolate existence and there is no one who cares enough to inquire concerning her suffering or her welfare. Yahweh responds by repeating the indictment against Judah and His sentence of judgment. Jeremiah has heard this before, and God is tired of repeating it, but it is the nation of Judah who abandoned Yahweh, and so He has withdrawn His divine protection. God has stretched out His hand that was intended to give blessings to an obedient people (Lev 26:1-15; Dt 28:1-14) and, instead, withdrew His divine protection and allowed their destruction through the worldly events common in all wars: bad decisions by leaders resulting in war, death by the sword, famine resulting in destroyed crops, unburied corpses, and disease. The wording is similar to Deuteronomy 32:15b-16, He [Judah] has disowned the God who made him, and dishonored the Rock, his salvation, whose jealousy they aroused with foreigners; with things detestable they angered him.
Verse 7 begins a litany of judgments. All the verbs in verses 7-9 are in the past tense until the future imperfect "I shall consign" in verse 9, and the rest of them I shall consign to the sword, to their enemies. Yahweh declares."
Question: What symbolic imagery does Yahweh use for Judah's
judgment in verse 7?
Answer: He uses the imagery of "winnowing" when the good wheat is separated from the unusable chaff.
Yahweh also spoke of "winnowing" His people in 4:11. Yahweh's "winnowing" has left the Judahites childless and produced many widows of the men killed by the sword of their enemy, but the people have not turned back to Him. However, there is hope because Yahweh who "winnows" His people in this passage will also "gather them up" again in Jeremiah 31:10.
8 I have made their
widows outnumber the sand of the sea.
Hyperbole is used to accentuate the devastation.
9b It is still day, but
already her sun has set, she is dismayed and distracted; and the rest of them I
shall consign to the sword, to their enemies. Yahweh declares."
The "sun has set," figuratively, on the beauty and greatness that was the holy city of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 15:10-21 ~ Jeremiah's Lament and Second Confession
10 A disaster for me, mother, that you bore me to be a man of strife and dissension for the whole country. I neither lend nor borrow, yet all of them curse me. 11 Have I not genuinely done my best to serve you, Yahweh? Have I not interceded with you in time of disaster and distress!
12 "Can iron break the iron of the north and the bronze? 13 Your wealth and your treasures I shall hand over to plunder, without repayment, because of all your sins, throughout your territory. 14 I shall enslave you to your enemies in a country which you do not know, for my anger has kindled a fire that will burn you up."
Jeremiah's lament continues:
15 Yahweh, you know! Remember me, take care of me, and avenge me on my persecutors. However long your anger endures, do not snatch me away. Realize that I suffer insult for your sake. 16 When your words came, I devoured them: your word was my delight and the joy of my heart; for I was called by your Name, Yahweh, God Sabaoth. 17 I never sat in the company of scoffers amusing myself; with your hands on me I held myself aloof, since you had filled me with indignation. 18 Why is my suffering continual, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, for me you are a deceptive stream with uncertain waters!
Yahweh's response and Jeremiah's recommissioning:
19 To which Yahweh replied, "If you repent, I shall restore you to plead before me. If you distinguish between the precious and the base, you shall be as my own mouth. They will come back to you, but you must not go back to them. 20 As far as these people are concerned, I shall make you a fortified wall of bronze. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, because I am with you to save you and rescue you, Yahweh declares. 21 I shall rescue you from the clutches of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the violent."
Jeremiah 15:10-21 is the second of Jeremiah's five confessions (see the handout for lesson 7).
Jeremiah begins with a poetic confession of his spiritual crisis followed by God's response. His prophetic lament in verse 10a is followed by a defense of his ministerial service in verses 10b-11.
Question: In the lament, beginning in verse 10, what does
Jeremiah's suffering in his prophetic mission make him regret? When did his
divine call to his prophetic ministry begin? See Jer 1:5 and 20:14-18.
Answer: He regrets his birth since his prophetic call was ordained before he was conceived in his mother's womb, as Yahweh told him, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I appointed you as prophet to the nations." The grief his mission, in his prophetic messages of doom and in his loneliness and rejection by his family has made him regret his very existence.
...that you bore me to be a man of strife... A "man of stifle" refers to the division his ministry causes among his people. The word "strife" is the Hebrew word riv; it is the same legal word for a lawsuit (see Jer 2:1-37 in lesson 2). Jeremiah's sorrow is grounded in his prophetic call, the result of which is the opposition to his message that has caused persecution from Judah's civil and religious leaders and from members of his own priestly family who threatened his life for proclaiming God's divine judgment (Jer 11:21-23).
11 Have I not genuinely done my best to serve you, Yahweh? Have I not interceded with you in time of disaster and distress! The translation of verse 11 as part of Jeremiah's lament is found in the Greek Septuagint, the NJB, RSV, NAB, and New Vulgate. However, this verse can also be translated as Yahweh's response; see the Jewish Tanakh and KJV: "Yahweh said [or "the LORD said"]: Have I not set you free for good? Have I not stood by you in time of evil and in time of distress with the enemy?'" In the second translation that appears as Yahweh's response, it makes little sense to speak of Jeremiah being "set free." The point in this version is that God has delivered the prophet so far, which He promised to do in when He first called Jeremiah to his prophetic mission (Jer 1:8). However, the interpretation of verse 11 as part of Jeremiah's lament that started in verse10 makes more sense if a grief-stricken Jeremiah is asking the Lord if he hasn't faithfully fulfilled his mission.
Question: What three acts of service does Jeremiah cite?
Jeremiah probably mentions borrowing and lending because those practices could be interpreted as an abuse of his position as covenant mediator and prosecuting attorney in Yahweh's covenant lawsuit. Proverbs 22:7 warns ...the borrow is the lender's slave. In addition, one who lends is sometimes cursed by a borrower who cannot repay the loan (verse 10b).
As covenant mediator between Yahweh and the people, Jeremiah has continued to plead for Yahweh's mercy. However, God has commanded him three times to cease pleading for a people who refuse to repent (7:16; 11:14, and 14:11).
12 "Can iron break the
iron of the north and the bronze?
The NAB omits verses 12-14 that are included in the Greek translation, and the ancient copy of Jeremiah found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. In these verses, Yahweh gives His divine answer to Jeremiah's lament.
The expression "iron of the north and the bronze" are metaphors that
refer to the enemy from the north (the second iron reference) and their allies
Question: The first reference to "iron" in verse 12 might refer to the stubborn and unrepentant Judahites (6:28). However, it might also be a metaphor that refers to Jeremiah (see Jer 1:18-19), and if that is the case, what is the answer to God's question?
Answer: When Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry, God promised, For look, today I have made you into a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of bronze to stand against the whole country ... God promised Jeremiah that he was to stand firm in the face of opposition. The question is, therefore, "Can the iron-clad enemies using bronze weapons break an even stronger iron and bronze Jeremiah?" The answer to the question is "No!" Even the enemy from the north and their allies cannot overcome Jeremiah and his God-ordained mission.
The answer to Yahweh's rhetorical question in verse 12 is one that Jeremiah must answer if he is to continue in his prophetic ministry. Perhaps Jeremiah wants Yahweh's pity more than His reassurance. We can hardly blame him for wanting his loneliness to end and to have freedom from the knowledge of the suffering his people will experience. However, he must admit that Yahweh has not failed him and has continued to deliver him from his enemies just as He promised. If Jeremiah wants a deeper answer to why he must suffer, he must simply find contentment in the realization that Yahweh's ways are not his to know. It is the "not knowing" with which every person of faith has to deal concerning the question of bearing the burden of personal suffering in their walk of faith. We might also compare Jeremiah's pain and questioning to the same pain and questioning of St. John of the Cross in his "dark night of the soul" and to the suffering St. Therese of Calcutta experienced as she ministered among the desperately poor, those suffering from disease, and those in the grip of a lingering, painful prelude to death.
13 Your wealth and your treasures I shall hand over to plunder...
Yahweh is speaking in verses 13 and 14, and his words are directed to the citizens of Judah and Jerusalem. This same message is repeated (with a slight variation) in 17:3-4. It was the condition of war that a defeated nation's wealth became the booty of the victorious enemy (see 2 Kng 14:11-14). When King Nebuchadnezzar took possession of the city of Jerusalem in 598/7 BC, he took away Jerusalem's treasures (2 Kng 14:13), and the same looting will be repeated by the army of Babylon in 587/6 BC in the final destruction of Jerusalem (2 Kng 25:13-17; Jer 52:17-23).
without repayment, because of all your sins, throughout your
territory. 14 I shall
enslave you to your enemies in a country which you do not know...
The nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem will not receive compensation for their losses. The prophet Isaiah said that when the time of judgment comes, Jerusalem will be sold for nothing, for which reason she will later be redeemed by Yahweh without money (Is 52:3). The reason for the loss is because of the people's moral failure, because of all your sins, and the judgment is exile into a foreign land.
for my anger has kindled a fire that will burn you up.
This passage is a repeat of the warning in Deuteronomy 32:22, Yes, a fire has blazed from my anger, it will burn right down to the depths of Sheol; it will devour the earth and all its produce, it will set fire to the footings of the mountains.
Question: What is the six-part summary of Yahweh's judgment in 15:13-14?
Answer: God tells Judah through Jeremiah:
There is both bad news and good news in Yahweh's judgment. The bad news is that all the wealth of Judah will go to the enemy, and they will become a captive and enslaved people again, as they were in Egypt. The good news is that a remnant of the people will be preserved in exile, and so there is hope for a future restoration. Did the people remember Isaiah's prophecy a century earlier in 59:21 that God will never abandon His people or His covenant with them, and also Isaiah's promise of restoration in 62:1-12?
15 Yahweh, you know! Remember
me, take care of me, and avenge me on my persecutors. However long your anger
endures, do not snatch me away. Realize that I suffer insult for your sake. 16 When your words came, I devoured them:
your word was my delight and the joy of my heart; for I was called by your
Name, Yahweh, God Sabaoth. 17 I
never sat in the company of scoffers amusing myself; with your hands on me I
held myself aloof, since you had filled me with indignation.
In verses 15-17, Jeremiah continues his dialogue with Yahweh, defending his ministry and reminding Yahweh of His promise of protection. The confession and divine answer in verses 15-21 refer back to the drought on the land in chapter 14, and the passage concerns Jeremiah's "drought within" (verse 18). Jeremiah responds to Yahweh in verses 15-18 by recalling the discovery of the missing "Book of the Law" in the Temple in 622 BC at the beginning of his public ministry: When your words came, I devoured them: your word was my delight and the joy of my heart; for I was called by your Name, Yahweh, God Sabaoth (2 Kng 22:3, 8-10). Devouring God's words is a metaphor for God placing the divine word in His prophet's mouth, which he is commanded to speak to the people (Jer 1:9; also see Is 55:1-11 and Ez 2:8-3:3).
...for I was called by your Name, Yahweh, God Sabaoth.
Jeremiah may be referring to the Hebrew meaning of his name, which is "Yahweh exalts," and he may also be referring to his prophetic calling in which he is Yahweh's possession.
17 I never sat in the
company of scoffers [in the happy crowd] amusing myself, with your hands on me
I held myself aloof, since you had filled me with indignation.
Remembering back to the covenant renewal ceremony when he first spoke the words of God's covenant lawsuit in 622 BC, Jeremiah recalls how he held himself apart from the celebration and the crowd because the people's insincerity filled him with indignation (2 Kng 23:1-23; 2 Chr 34:29-35:19; Jer 2:1-37).
Jeremiah refers to Yahweh's hand; the literal translation is "under the weight of your hand" (IBHE, vol. IV, page 1774). It is a metaphor for prophetic inspiration that is a heavy responsibility and has left Jeremiah alone without friends or family (see the same expression in 1 Kng 18:46; 2 Kng 3:15; Is 8:11; Ez 1:3 and 3:14).
18 Why is my suffering
continual, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, for me you are a
deceptive stream with uncertain waters!
In verse 18, Jeremiah goes too far!
Question: How has Jeremiah crossed a line in his accusation against Yahweh?
Answer: He accuses Yahweh of not helping him when he is in distress and not being dishonest and untruthful with him about the suffering he would have to endure in his ministry.
Jeremiah is feeling sorry for himself. He is angry, hurt and afraid. A distraught Jeremiah refers to God's promise of His divine protection as he accuses Yahweh of being deceitful, like a deceptive stream with uncertain waters, or like treacherous and uncharted waters and unlike God's promise of being "a fountain of living waters" when he was first called to his ministry in Jeremiah 2:13.
19 To which Yahweh
replied, "If you repent [turn back = shuv], I shall restore you to plead before
me [in my presence you shall stand]. If you distinguish between the precious
and the base, you shall be as my own mouth. They will come back [turn back =
shuv] to you, but you must not go back [turn back = shuv] to them.
In verse 18, God tells Jeremiah that he has gone too far in accusing God of being deceptive. He needs repentance and renewal. In Verse 19, Yahweh takes full responsibility for the unjust persecution Jeremiah has suffered. However, Yahweh also reassures His prophet that He has intervened in Jeremiah's life "for good," because this kind of persecution can strengthen his character if he trusts his Lord and will give Jeremiah the fortitude he needs to complete his mission.
The Lord patiently, and with compassion, answers His prophet and gives Jeremiah the opportunity to repent. In the Hebrew, the three-time repetition of the word shuv, "turn back," (Strong's H7725) echoes Jeremiah's call to repentance in Jeremiah 3:1, 14.
I shall restore you to plead before me [in my presence you shall stand].
The literal Hebrew, "In my presence you shall stand" may echo the image of a royal messenger who stands before the king to hear his commands and judgments that will be carried to the people. However, God reminds His prophet, if he continues in his ministry, he will be fulfilling the unique mission of speaking the very words of God to the people, and they will turn to him instead of them having victory over him: They will come back [turn back = shuv] to you...
20 As far as these
people are concerned, I shall make you a fortified wall of bronze. They will
fight against you but will not overcome you, because I am with you to save you
and rescue you, Yahweh declares. 21 I
shall rescue you from the clutches of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp
of the violent."
Jeremiah's recommissioning in verses 20-21 recall Jeremiah's commissioning in 1:18-19, using some of the same imagery, For look, today I have made you into a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of bronze to stand against the whole country: the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests and the people of the country (Jer 1:18). Yahweh not only reminds Jeremiah of his prophetic call, but Yahweh also admonishes him to return to his divine mission and not to be distracted by his compassion for a people who have brought God's judgment on themselves.
Question: The people may fight against him, but what promises
does God give that Jeremiah's enemies shall not prevail that is a repeat of His
promise in 1:18-19? See verses 15:20-21.
Answer: Yahweh promises:
Yahweh reminds Jeremiah of His promises when Jeremiah was first commissioned that were meant to encourage Jeremiah to persevere in his mission. The reminder of God's power over all forces that are human and supernatural is a message for all of us when we suffer persecution for the sake of the Gospel of salvation and its message of truth. We should think of the valiant priest martyred by Islamic terrorists at God's holy altar in France in the spring of 2016. They destroyed his body, but they could not touch his immortal soul or deprive him of his eternal salvation and his place in the heavenly assembly of the saints.
Chapter 16: The Symbolic Nature of Jeremiah's Life and the Reason for the Exile
Yahweh's prophets often spoke symbolically and performed symbolic actions to reinforce their preaching (see Is 8:18; Ez 24:15-24; Hos 1:3). In Jeremiah's case, his very life became a symbol and a sign.
Jeremiah 16:1-9 ~ Yahweh Commands Jeremiah to Remain Celibate and
Separate from the Normal Life of the People
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows in this place. 2 "You are not to marry or have sons and daughters in this place. 3 For Yahweh says this regarding the sons and daughters to be born in this place, about the mothers who give birth to them, and about the fathers who beget them in this land, 4 They will die of deadly diseases, unlamented and unburied; they will be like dung spread on the ground; they will meet their end by sword and famine, and their corpses will be food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth.' 5 Yes, Yahweh says this, Go into no house where there is mourning, do not go and lament or grieve with them; for I have withdrawn my peace [shalom] from this people, Yahweh declares, and faithful love [hesed*] and pity too. 6 High or low, they will die in this country, without burial or lament; there will be no gashing, no shaving of the head for them. 7 No bread will be broken for the mourner to comfort him for the dead; no cup of consolation will be offered him for his father or his mother. 8 And do not enter a house where there is feasting, to sit with them and eat and drink. 9 For Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: In his place, before your eyes, in your own days, I will silence the shouts of rejoicing and mirth and the voices of bridegroom and bride."
[...] = literal Hebrew, IBHE, vol. IV, page 1775. The Hebrew word hesed means covenant-love.
Chapter 16 begins a collection of Jeremiah's oracles that continues through 17:18. Chapter 16:1-18 is in prose, and 16:19-17:18 is in the poetic form. Chapter 16:1-9 is divided into three oracles preceded by divine commands telling Jeremiah what he may not do:
These are three symbolic non-actions Jeremiah is
commanded to observe. Each command is followed by a divine oracle giving the absence
of the action an interpretation. The first is that he must not marry or have
children in verse 1 and the reason for the command is given in verses 2-4.
Question: What is the reason for the first command?
Answer: Sons and daughters and their parents who are born in Jerusalem and Judah are destined for death from war, famine, and the diseases of war.
Disease and famine suggest Jerusalem is under a prolonged siege, while the sword symbolizes death as a direct result of war in the country of Judah. The large numbers of the dead described in the oracle that will not be lamented or buried but left as carrion suggests the ravages of war. Under such conditions, God tells his prophet, he must not marry or have children and face such sorrows. Since marriage and having children were considered obligations of obedience to the covenant that fulfills the promised blessing of many descendants for Abraham (Abrahamic covenant, Genesis 12:3; 16:10; 22:17), people will ask Jeremiah the reason for his celibacy and he will share his oracle.
The second command prohibits Jeremiah from attending
mourning feasts. He is not to lament the dead or console the bereaved families.
Question: What reason is given for this prohibition?
Answer: God has taken away His peace/shalom from His people and also His covenant love and compassion. As a result, all the people are under the covenant curse-judgment that predicts they will die unburied and unlamented.
Funeral rites that offered respect for the dead were very important, and the absence of a proper burial was regarded as a frightful curse (Jer 22:18-19; 1 Kng 14:11; Ez 29:5). The shocking nature of this command will undoubtedly make people ask why Jeremiah is behaving in this disrespectful manner, giving Jeremiah another reason to share his oracle.
will be no gashing, no shaving of the head for them.
Such funeral rites as cutting the flesh and shaving off one's hair were pagan and forbidden by the Law (Lev 19:27-28; Dt 14:1). However, this prohibition suggests that, along with other pagan rituals, these funeral rites were practiced in Judah (Jer 7:29; 41:5).
7 No bread
will be broken for the mourner to comfort him for the dead; no cup of
consolation will be offered him for his father or his mother.
This verse refers to the customary communal meal eaten by family and friends after the burial.
The third command prohibits Jeremiah from entering houses
where feasting is taking place.
Question: What is the reason given for this prohibition?
Answer: Yahweh is bringing an end to all joy for a people who rejected Yahweh and His gift of joy and well-being.
At the end we are reminded of the joy Jeremiah will not experience as the bridegroom of the bride denied him; there will be no joyful wedding sounds or feasts for him either (verse 9).
Jeremiah 16:10-13 ~ The Explanation Jeremiah is to give
for the Disaster of the Invasion
10 "When you tell these people this and they ask you: Why has Yahweh decreed such complete and total disaster for us? What have we done wrong? What sin have we committed against Yahweh our God? 11 then you are to answer: it is because your ancestors abandoned me, Yahweh declares, and followed other gods, and served and worshipped them. They abandoned me and did not keep my Law. 12 And you for your part have behaved even worse than your ancestors. Look, each of you follows his own stubborn and wicked inclinations, without listening to me. 13 And so, I shall eject you from this country into a country unknown to you or to your ancestors, and there you can serve other gods, day and night, for I shall show you no more favor."
King Josiah gave the answer to the people's question in 16:10 at the covenant renewal ceremony in 622 BC when he read from the Book of the Law in the section of the covenant curse-judgments for apostasy from the Sinai Covenant: And all the nations will exclaim, "Why has Yahweh treated this country like this? Why this great blaze of anger?" And people will say, "Because they deserted the covenant of Yahweh, God of their ancestors, the covenant which he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt; because they went and served other gods and worshipped them, gods hitherto unknown to them, gods that were no part of their heritage from him: this is why Yahweh's anger has blazed against this country, afflicting it with all the curses written in this book (Dt 29:24-26).
Question: What list of wrongs is Jeremiah to use in
16:11-13 in answering the question in verse 10 that repeats the curse-judgment
in Deuteronomy 29:24-26? Into what two parts is his answer divided? What is
Yahweh's final judgment and how is it related to the curse-judgment in
Part I lists the accumulation of the sins of their ancestors:
Part II summarizes the sins of the current generation in
which each person follows his own inclinations regardless of the Law, repeating
all the sins of their ancestors.
The judgment is exactly what Yahweh warned would happen for apostasy from the covenant: the withdrawal of His divine protection and exile into a foreign land.
Question: What does Jesus pronounce as a
generational curse-judgment against the citizens of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:33-36, during His last week in Jerusalem?
Answer: During His last week in Jerusalem, Jesus pronounced a curse-judgment against the citizens of Jerusalem that His generation will reap for all the righteous prophets killed by their ancestors. The judgment extends from the murder of Abel, son of Adam, to the prophet Zechariah. And, as inferred, to include their unjust condemnation and death of Jesus, God's Supreme Prophet.
The judgment Jesus pronounced will be the same judgment that Yahweh pronounced on the Jerusalem of Jeremiah's day: the destruction of the city and its Temple by a foreign army followed by captivity and exile. The historical fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy took place on the 9th of Ab, 70 AD, when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans. It was the same day when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple on the 9th of Ab in 587 BC.
Jeremiah 16:14-15 ~ The New Exodus
14 "Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when people will no longer say, As Yahweh lives who brought the Israelites out of Egypt!' 15 but, As Yahweh lives who brought the Israelites back from the land of the north and all the countries to which he had driven them.' I shall bring them back to the very soil I gave their ancestors."
Jeremiah 16:14-21 contains three prophetic oracles:
Question: The first oracle is delivered to an
audience facing exile. What do these people no longer acknowledge concerning
their relationship with Yahweh?
Answer: They no longer acknowledge Yahweh as the God who delivered them from bondage in Egypt.
The seven annual feasts of the covenant people's entire liturgical calendar were based on reliving the greatest event in their history that was their ancestors' deliverance from bondage in Egypt and their creation as a free people and God's holy nation at Mt. Sinai (i.e., Ex 13:3-16). When a people forget their history, they lose their national identity, their moral compass, and their unity as a nation.
Jeremiah is told to use the Exodus liberation as an example of a historical precedent for God's promise of restoration to the land of Israel after their exile. Notice that "As Yahweh lives" is an oath formula that is repeated twice in verses 14 and 15. "As Yahweh lives" is an oath formula containing the central confession of Israel's faith in remembering Yahweh's deliverance of Israel from Egypt (verse 14). It will be replaced by a new oath confessing the covenant people's belief in Yahweh in verse 15.
15 but, As
Yahweh lives who brought the Israelites back from the land of the north and all
the countries to which he had driven them.' I shall bring them back to the
very soil I gave their ancestors."
The people will profess a new oath of allegiance to Yahweh in a promised restoration to their ancestral Promised Land when God delivers them from their captivity and exile from "the land of the north." The reference to deliverance probably refers to the return of the Israelite exiles from Assyria and Babylon.
Once again in Scripture, there is the promise of
salvation and restoration in the midst of divine judgment and destruction.
Question: Can you name two earlier events of divine judgment in salvation history where there was also the promise of salvation and redemption for a remnant when the majority of people are associated with disaster and destruction? See Gen 6:5-8, 17-22; Ex chapters 7-12.
Answer: The flood judgment with the salvation of Noah and his family, and the ten Egyptian plague judgments and judgment on the Egyptians and their false gods but the salvation of the Israelites.
The scattering of Israel's population began with the Assyrian deportations in 732 BC, again in 722 BC. The scattering of the remaining Israelites of the nation of Judah that continued through three Babylonian deportations in 605 BC, 598 BC, and finally the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC. In addition, peoples in antiquity who were captured as slaves were often sold to other countries. Jeremiah will record that there were fugitives from Judah in Moab, Ammon, Edom, Egypt, and other nations in the ancient Near East (Jer 40:11; 41:15; 42:14-43:7). The promise of Israel's restoration to the Promised Land will be fulfilled in the late 6th century BC (see 2 Chr 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-3).
Jeremiah 16:16-18 ~ No Refuge for the Wicked
16 "Watch, I shall send for many fishermen, Yahweh declares, and these will fish them up; next, I shall send for many huntsmen, and these will hunt them out of every mountain, every hill, and out of the holes in the rocks. 17 For my eyes watch all their ways, these are not hidden from me, and their guilt does not escape my gaze. 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."
Horrors and Abominations refer to pagan gods. The fishing metaphor is used to describe catching people as a fisherman uses hooks and nets to catch fish (see the same imagery in Amos 4:2; Hab 1:14-15; Eccl 9:12). Jesus will use the same metaphor for His Galilean disciples who He says will become "fishers of men/people" (Mk 1:17, 20; Lk 5:10). The hunter metaphor comes from an organized hunt where hunters drive the game into traps (see Lam 4:19; Ez 19:1-9), just as the army of the Babylonians will hunt down and trap the citizens of Judah.
In verses 16b-18, the warning is that there will be no place to hide from the enemy just as there is no way to hide their guilt from Yahweh. The double payment for their sins in verse 18 recalls Isaiah 40:2, and in 17:18 Jeremiah calls for a "twice over" destruction upon his enemies. There is a judgment of a double payment in Exodus 22:8/9 where the guilty party must make a double reimbursement to the one who suffers loss. Revelation 18:6 also calls for "double the amount" of judgment.
Jeremiah 16:19-21 ~ Jeremiah's Profession of Faith in
Yahweh and the Conversions of the Nations
19 Yahweh, my strength, my stronghold, my refuge in time of distress! To you the nations will come from the remotest parts of the earth and say, "Our fathers inherited nothing but Delusion, Futility of no use whatever. 20 Can anyone human make his own gods? These are not gods at all!" 21 "Now listen, I will make them acknowledge, this time I will make them acknowledge my hand and my might; and then they will know that Yahweh is my name."
The third oracle is more an antiphonal hymn in which Jeremiah sings the praise of Yahweh in verses 19-20, and Yahweh responds in verse 21. Jeremiah professes his belief that Yahweh is his personal strength and refuge in times of trouble. His profession of faith in verse 19 recalls Davidic Psalm 37, verses 39-40. His confession of faith and trust shows that he has repented his accusation against Yahweh in 15:18. Jeremiah also confesses the sins of Judah's ancestors who worshipped false gods without life or power.
"To you the nations will come from the remotest parts
of the earth and say, "Our fathers inherited nothing but Delusion, Futility of
no use whatever. 20 Can anyone human
make his own gods? These are not gods at all!"
The concept of the conversion of the Gentile nations beyond Israel and the rejection of their false gods was already envisioned a century earlier in Isaiah 66:18-24 and also promised in oracles by Jeremiah in 3:17 and 12:15-16. The prophecy will be repeated by Ezekiel in 34:13 and by Jesus in Matthew 24:31 and 25:23.
In verse 21 Yahweh responds with a prophetic message to
Jeremiah and his people: 21 "Now
listen, I will make them acknowledge, this time I will make them acknowledge my
hand and my might; and then they will know that Yahweh is my name."
Yahweh and His name are one. Yahweh means "I AM who I AM" (Ex 3:14), and the expression "Yahweh is my name" is the same as saying "I AM Yahweh!" The prophecy is that all nations of the earth will acknowledge Yahweh as the One True God and will petition Him by His divine Name, as God told Moses in Exodus 3:15b, This is my name for all time, and thus I am to be invoked for all generations to come.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Jeremiah experienced a spiritual crisis in today's lesson. His experience is not uncommon for servants of the Lord involved in a deadly spiritual battle with the forces of evil. The term "dark night (of the soul)" is used by the Roman Catholic Church for a spiritual crisis in a journey towards union with God and is taken from the writings of St. John of the Cross in the 16th century.
The kind of confusion and questioning concerning one's relationship with God that leads to a feeling of fearful despair was described by the priest and mystic, St. John of the Cross. It is a feeling of separation from God's astringent grace. However, as St. John discovered, his experience opened him up to a new realm of spiritual grown and an infusion of grace he never anticipated. St. John wrote two book-length poems/commentaries on his experience: The Ascent of Mount Carmel (Subida del Monte Carmelo), and The Dark Night (Noche Oscura). The main idea of the poem, The Dark Night, can be seen as the experience of being guided towards God. The only light in this dark night is that which burns in the soul and is a guide more certain than the mid-day sun: Aquesta me guiaba, más cierto que la luz del mediodía. This spiritual light leads the soul to engage in the mystic journey to divine union with the Most Holy Trinity.
St. Therese of Lisieux, a 19th century French Carmelite, wrote of her own experience of the "dark night," centering on doubts about the afterlife. While this spiritual crisis is usually only temporary, it can last for extended periods. The "dark night" of St. Paul of the Cross in the 18th century lasted for 45 years. St. Therese of Calcutta, according to letters released in 2007, had a similar experience, beginning in 1948 and lasting most of her life with interludes of relief until the darkness finally left towards the end of her life in 1997.
Question: Have you ever had such an experience? If so, how did you deal with it, and what was your spiritual condition afterward?
Question: Never having had such an experience, how might you prepare yourself to fend off a spiritual attack of doubt and despair by the forces of evil?
Question: What are the possible bad results of such an experience and what might be a positive outcome, as in the case of St. John of the Cross?
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson (* indicated
that Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the catechism citation):
Jer 15:14 (CCC 710)
Jer 15:15-18 (CCC 2584*)
Jer 17:5-6 (CCC 150*)
Jer 17:14-16 (CCC 1431-32)