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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 12

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

An attempt to kill Jeremiah 11:18-12:6

This pericope contains one of Jeremiah’s "confessions," a self-revelation of the prophet’s own struggles to cope with God’s actions (cf. Jeremiah 10:23-24; Jeremiah 15:10-12; Jeremiah 15:15-21; Jeremiah 17:9-11; Jeremiah 17:14-18; Jeremiah 18:18-23; and Jeremiah 20:7-18). [Note: See Kelley, pp. 172-73, for an excursus on Jeremiah’s confessions.] The heart of this one is Jeremiah 12:1-6.

Verse 1

Jeremiah wanted some answers from righteous Yahweh, and he approached the Lord in prayer as though he were in court. He wanted to know why God allowed the wicked to prosper and the treacherous to live in ease (cf. Job 21:7; Psalms 37; Psalms 73:3-5; Psalms 73:12; Psalms 94:3; Habakkuk 1:12-17). It appeared to the prophet that the Lord, as well as Israel, had broken covenant (cf. Psalms 1:3-4).

"The problem of the prosperity of the wicked in the light of God’s righteousness is not directly solved here or elsewhere in Scripture. The only final answer is faith in the sovereign wisdom and righteousness of God." [Note: Feinberg, p. 457,]

Verse 2

The Lord had been responsible for these wicked people coming into existence, growing, and flourishing, like trees. This was a result of His "common grace" (cf. Matthew 5:45; Luke 6:35). They spoke freely about Yahweh, but they did not really take Him into consideration.

Verse 3

The Lord knew that Jeremiah’s attitude toward Him was entirely different than those hypocrites. The prophet prayed that the Lord would drag them off to punishment like sheep going to the slaughter (cf. Jeremiah 11:19). He prayed that God would reserve them for special destruction, as He had set Jeremiah apart for his ministry (Jeremiah 1:5).

Verse 4

The prophet continued to ask the Lord how long the promised judgment on the land would last. He knew it would come because of the people’s rebellious and defiant attitude, even saying that they could hide their sins from the Lord.

Verse 5

The Lord replied by asking Jeremiah how he expected to be able to endure the rigors of coming antagonism if the present hostility he was experiencing wore him out (cf. Jeremiah 11:19; Jeremiah 11:21; Jeremiah 23:21). If he fell in a relatively peaceful environment, how could he get though the turbulence to come, which resembled the violent, overflowing Jordan River in the spring. The Jordan Valley was a sub-tropical jungle, inhabited by lions, that was hard to penetrate at any season of the year (cf. Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44; 2 Kings 6:2).

Verse 6

Even Jeremiah’s near relatives had been hypocritical with him: they had spoken out against him while saying nice things to his face (cf. Matthew 10:36).

"The plot against him [Jeremiah] and the injustice this represented was tied inextricably to the suffering and sin of the people. He was called to announce judgment upon the people. Being one of them caused him to suffer with them because of the Lord’s judgment. As God’s messenger, he suffered as a result of his prophetic ministry." [Note: Kelley, p. 181.]

"The world today needs more Jeremiahs who, in the midst of opposition, are true to the standards of the Bible, patient in the proclamation of the gospel, gentle in the hands of persecutors, committed to the protective care of the Chief Shepherd, and burdened for the souls of lost men and women." [Note: Jensen, p. 48.]

Verse 7

Yahweh mourned that He had forsaken the nation and abandoned His people to their captors (cf. Deuteronomy 9:29; Joel 2:17; Joel 3:2). [Note: ] He had turned over the nation-that He had loved like a husband loving his wife-to her enemies’ domination. The Hebrew verbs in this section are prophetic perfects, which view future events as already past. The "house" may refer to the people, the land, or the temple, but the meaning is the same in any case.

Verses 7-13

A lament about Yahweh’s ravaged inheritance 12:7-13

Many scholars believe this lament dates from the time when Jehoiakim revolted against Babylon after three years of submission (about 602 B.C.; cf. 2 Kings 24:1-2). [Note: Feinberg, p. 459.]

"The second part of God’s reply is remarkable, saying in effect, ’Your tragedy is a miniature of mine.’" [Note: Kidner, p. 61.]

Verse 8

Judah had become like a "lion roaring" in defiance against Yahweh, rather than ruling as a noble leader of the Israelites (cf. Genesis 49:8-10). Judah opposed and turned against Him, and for this He had grown to hate (i.e., reject) "the beloved of My soul" (Jeremiah 12:7; cf. Jeremiah 9:1-10).

Verse 9

Judah was like a different, colorful bird, among birds of prey that had gathered all around her to attack her. Another translation possibility, represented by the Septuagint, is that Jeremiah described Judah as a hyena’s lair, surrounded by birds of prey ready to peck up the scraps that the hyenas left. The Lord instructed His servants (the angels?) to assemble all the wild animals that surrounded Judah to come and devour this bird.

Verses 10-11

Many of the foreign kings had ruined the Lord’s people, like unfaithful shepherds sometimes ruined a vineyard. They had trodden the people down so that they had become as unproductive as a wilderness, completely desolate. Furthermore, Judeans did not express enough concern to do something about the situation; they failed to repent.

Verse 12

The Lord would bring "destroyers" against His people from the wilderness, who would act as His "sword" and "devour" them. The whole land would experience war.

Verse 13

Because of the coming invasion, the harvest that the Judahites would sow would turn out to be nothing but "thorns" (cf. Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:38; Hosea 8:7; Micah 6:15). All their labors to bring something profitable to fruition would come to nothing, because their angry Lord would bring judgment on them.

Verse 14

The Lord promised to judge Judah’s neighbor nations that had robbed His people of what the Lord had given them. Many of these neighboring peoples would go into captivity as well, just like the people of Judah. Among these were the Egyptians, Assyrians, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Arameans, and even the Babylonians.

"Numerous ancient Near Eastern texts include the threat of exile among the lists of curses designed for evildoers, especially treaty-breakers." [Note: Thompson, p. 360.]

Verses 14-17

Death or life for Israel’s neighbors 12:14-17

This prophecy about Israel’s neighbors anticipates chapters 46-51, which contain oracles against Gentile nations.

Verse 15

The Lord would have compassion on these neighbors of Judah, as well as on Judah, and would bring some of them back to the land at the end of the captivity, along with the Judahites (cf. Jeremiah 48:47; Jeremiah 49:6).

Verse 16

If these neighbors came to trust and worship Yahweh (cf. Genesis 31:51-53), as they had formerly taught the Judahites to trust in Baal, the Lord would accept them (cf. Ruth).

"At the same time, there is no concession to the old ways or the old gods-in our modern terms, to religious pluralism" [Note: Kidner, p. 62.]

Jeremiah 12:15-16 will find fulfillment in the Millennium (cf. Genesis 12:1-3; Zechariah 14:16; Romans 11:15).

Verse 17

If they would not respond to the Lord positively, the Lord promised to destroy these nations again (cf. Jeremiah 12:14; Zechariah 14:9; Zechariah 14:16-19).

"This passage gives us a rare glimpse into the consternation and anguish that evil causes God. The anguish is especially acute for him when his own people are responsible for it. In these verses the Lord expresses both love and hate for his people, emotions we usually consider mutually exclusive, at least for God. When the Lord opened himself up to his people in love, he also opened himself to the possibility of hurt." [Note: Kelley, p. 185.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/jeremiah-12.html. 2012.
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