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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 13

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-2

The Lord instructed Jeremiah to purchase a linen waistband (or sash, Heb. ’ezor) and to wear it without first washing it, which he did. Washing it would wear it out to some extent.

Verses 1-11

The linen waistband 13:1-11

This is the first of several symbolic acts that Jeremiah performed to communicate divine messages (cf. Jeremiah 16:1-4; Jeremiah 18:1-12; Jeremiah 19:1-2; Jeremiah 19:10-11; Jeremiah 27:1 to Jeremiah 28:17; Jeremiah 32:1-15; Jeremiah 43:8-13; Jeremiah 51:59-64). Other prophets did the same thing (cf. Isaiah 20:2-6; Ezekiel 4:1-13; Ezekiel 5:1-4). This acted sermon confronted the Judahites with the polluting effect of their associations and the consequences.

Verses 3-5

Sometime later, the Lord told Jeremiah to take his waistband and go to perathah, and hide it in a crevice in the rock there, which he did.

The Hebrew word perath describes the Euphrates River elsewhere in the Old Testament, and that may be its meaning here (cf. Jeremiah 46:2; Jeremiah 46:6; Jeremiah 51:63; Genesis 2:14; Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Kings 24:7). [Note: Leon Wood, p. 72; Keil, 1:231-33.] If so, Jeremiah traveled at least 500 miles each way four times. Such a destination is plausible, since the Euphrates was the source of the coming invasion of Judah, and the destination of the Judahite exiles.

However, several commentators have suggested that the Hebrew word should be read differently, as parah, which refers to a site just four miles northeast of Anathoth, Jeremiah’s hometown (cf. Joshua 18:23). Still others believe the Hebrew word is an abbreviated form of the name Ephrathah, an old name of Bethlehem six miles south of Jerusalem (cf. Micah 5:2). [Note: See Charles H. Dyer, "Waistbands, Water, and the Word of God: Where Did Jeremiah Bury His Girdle?" in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands: Biblical and Leadership Studies in Honor of Donald K. Campbell, pp. 62-81.] Since Jeremiah’s action was symbolic, he may not have made the long trip to the Euphrates to bury his waistband, but may have hidden it in a closer place, perhaps in the general direction of Babylon.

A third view is that this was a vision, and that Jeremiah never really went anywhere, except in his mind. But there are no clues in the text that this was a vision.

Regardless of where Jeremiah went, the meaning of the prophet’s action is clear; it does not depend on our identifying his destination.

Verses 6-7

Again, the Lord’s instructions came to Jeremiah after some time, telling him to return to the same site, and to retrieve the waistband that he had hidden there. When he did this, he discovered that the waistband had become ruined, and was useless.

Verses 8-9

Then the Lord told Jeremiah that He would destroy the pride of Judah and Jerusalem as the waistband had been destroyed.

Verse 10

The people of Judah, pure and untarnished at the time of their call (Jeremiah 2:2-3), would be just as worthless as Jeremiah’s ruined waistband-because they had refused to listen to the Lord. They had been stubborn in their hearts (cf. Deuteronomy 26:17-19), and had pursued idols by serving and worshipping them.

Verse 11

The Lord had purposed for His chosen people to cling closely to Him, and to be an ornament of glory for Him, like a waistband served its wearer. But they did not listen to Him. They had become tarnished and spoiled by contact with polluting influences. Linen was a priestly material (Leviticus 16:4), and similarly Israel was to be a priestly nation that was to cling to Yahweh (Exodus 19:6).

Verse 12

Yahweh, Israel’s God, also told Jeremiah to instruct the people to fill all their jugs with wine. He could expect them to reply that they knew that this was the purpose of jugs. The prophet’s words may have been a common cry among the local people who wanted more wine to drink.

Verses 12-14

The parable of the wine jars 13:12-14

This parable stressed the destructive effects of Yahweh’s judgment that were coming on the people of Judah because of their self-indulgence and complacency.

Verse 13

Then the prophet was to explain that the jugs represented all the people of Jerusalem-the Davidic kings, the priests, the false prophets, and the ordinary citizens. As the people filled their jugs with wine, the Lord would fill His people with the wine of His wrath. They had become intoxicated with idolatry and probably with real wine. As drunkards, they would be unable to defend themselves in the critical hour of the coming invasion, and would dash against and destroy one another.

"Drunkenness was one of the major social problems in the ancient Near East, where the range of available beverages was considerably narrower than at present." [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 99.]

Verse 14

The Lord would destroy His people, like jugs when they collided with one another and like drunkards when they stumbled into each other. He would not show pity on them. All generations of His people, from the oldest to the youngest, would suffer when He brought this destruction on them. [Note: See William McKane, "Jeremiah 13:12-14: A Problematic Proverb," in Israelite Wisdom: Theological and Literary Essays in Honor of Samuel Terrien, pp. 107-20, for a technical study of this passage.]

Verse 15

Jeremiah called the people to pay attention, and not to disregard what he would tell them because they thought it was unimportant. Yahweh had a message for them.

Verses 15-17

A final plea and warning 13:15-17

Verse 16

They were to give glory to Yahweh before the darkness of God’s judgment overwhelmed them and they stumbled in their walk, as people descending a mountain at twilight. Presently there was some light for the people to walk in, and they were hoping for more light, but deep darkness was about to overtake them. "Giving glory to the Lord" is an idiom for confessing sins (cf. Joshua 7:19; John 9:24).

The historical background for this oracle may be the deportation of Jehoiachin in 597 B.C., which was as twilight compared to the darkness of 586 B.C., when Jerusalem fell and Judah lost her independence. [Note: Thompson, p. 369.]

Verse 17

If the people would not listen to the Lord’s Word, Jeremiah would weep profusely for them, because their failure to listen would signify that the people, like a flock of sheep, would be taken captive by an enemy.

"Let no one think that the good news of Jesus Christ is to be communicated in a cold ’take it or leave it’ manner. Evangelical preaching and Christian witnessing must not be limited merely to a correct interpretation of the doctrines of the Word. We must have a love for sinners, so great a love that we will be driven urgently to unfold to them the way of salvation, whatever the cost." [Note: Goddard, p. 66.]

Verse 18

Jeremiah was to tell the king and the queen mother of Judah to humble themselves, because the Lord had removed their authority (in heaven) and would remove it soon (on earth). Pride was the besetting sin of royalty. The individuals in view are probably young King Jehoiachin and his mother Nehushta (cf. Jeremiah 22:26; 2 Kings 24:8-17). They were taken to Babylon as captives in 597 B.C. [Note: Less probably they were King Jehoiakim and his mother Zebidah (2 Kings 23:36).]

The queen mother was an important official throughout Israel’s monarchy, evidently as a counselor to the king, as was common in the ancient Near East (cf. 1 Kings 2:19; 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 10:13). Queen mothers assumed unusual prominence because of the widespread practice of polygamy among the kings.

Verses 18-19

A lament over the king and the queen mother 13:18-19

Verse 19

All the people of Judah had been or would be carried into exile, even those who lived in the Negev towns to the far south in Judah. That is, most of the people from all over Judah were involved. There were still some who did not leave the land in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:22). Jeremiah’s statement in this verse is somewhat hyperbolic.

Verse 20

The Lord beckoned Jerusalem to look north and she would see people coming. [Note: The imperatives in these verses are feminine indicating that probably Jerusalem is being addressed.] The city was about to lose the flock of special people over whom the Lord had made her responsible, namely, His people of Judah.

Verses 20-27

Jerusalem’s incurable wickedness 13:20-27

Verse 21

What would the city say when the Lord appointed other rulers over her whom the leaders of Jerusalem had cultivated, namely, the Mesopotamians? This may be a reference to King Ahaz’s earlier request for Assyrian help against Israel and Aramea (2 Kings 16:7; Isaiah 8:5-8). [Note: Kelley, p. 193.] However, there were many times when Judah had relied on and courted Mesopotamian powers in the past (cf. Jeremiah 4:30). Jerusalem would be in agony over this situation, like a woman in labor pains.

Verse 22

If the people of the city asked themselves why such a state of affairs had overtaken them, they should remember that it was due to the greatness of their sins. The Lord would humiliate the city because it had humiliated Him. Lifting the skirt is a euphemism for sexual attack (cf. Leviticus 18:6-19; Leviticus 20:17; Deuteronomy 22:30; Deuteronomy 27:20; Isaiah 47:3; Nahum 3:5), and exposing the heels seems to have been another one (cf. Deuteronomy 28:57; 1 Samuel 24:3; Isaiah 6:2). One scholar took the "exposed heels" to mean "driven into exile barefooted." [Note: Keil, 1:241.]

Verse 23

The Jerusalemites were so steeped in evil that it was impossible for them to change. They could no more change then than the dark Ethiopian could change the color of his skin or the leopard his spots. They had passed the point of no return; repentance was now impossible for them (cf. Hebrews 6:4-6).

"Here is a classic example of loss of freedom of the will through persistent sinning. Sin becomes natural. Jeremiah is speaking of the force of habit, not denying freedom of choice (cf. John 8:34)." [Note: Feinberg, p. 466.]

Verse 24

Because of their inveterate sinning, the Lord would scatter the people from their land, like straw blown by the wind. Like the straw, they would end up in desert lands, namely: Babylonia.

Verse 25

This was the fate that Yahweh assigned the capital of Judah because she had forsaken Him and trusted in false gods.

Verse 26

Yahweh Himself would be the One responsible for Jerusalem’s humiliation (cf. Jeremiah 13:22).

Verse 27

Her citizens had behaved like adulterers and like copulating horses (cf. Jeremiah 5:8). The Lord had seen their unfaithful, lewd behavior toward Him when they worshipped idols and practiced sacred prostitution in the open-air shrines across the land. Jerusalem was in deep trouble. How long would she continue in her wicked ways and remain unclean?! The question was expressing frustration, not requesting information.

Laments during a drought and a national defeat 14:1-15:9

Evidently droughts coincided with the Babylonian invasions from the north. Many commentators believe that the droughts and the defeat that this section describes took place at about the same time, because of what Jeremiah wrote.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 13". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/jeremiah-13.html. 2012.
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