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3. Warnings in view of present conditions 11:1-15:9
This collection of warnings in view of present conditions can be divided into two parts: seven pericopes dealing with the consequences of breaking the Mosaic Covenant (chs. 11-13); and three laments describing the coming invasion (Jeremiah 14:1 to Jeremiah 15:9).
The consequences of breaking the covenant chs. 11-13
This section provides an explanation for God’s judgment on His people: the Judahites broke the Mosaic Covenant. It also contains two laments that portray the tragedy of the situation and the Lord’s reluctance to send judgment. The final sub-section contains a symbolic action that pictures the horror of the people’s sin.
A lament during a national defeat 14:17-15:4
The national defeat pictured in this lament was a serious one. It may have been the first Babylonian invasion of Judah in 597 B.C., which resulted in severe destruction and exile for some Judeans.
The Lord assured Jeremiah that even if two of Israel’s most effective intercessors stood before Him and pleaded for the people now, they would not change His mind about bringing judgment. Moses had been effective in getting God to change His plans when Israel had been unfaithful (Exodus 32:11-14; Exodus 32:30-32; Numbers 14:13-20; Deuteronomy 9:13-29). Samuel had also obtained God’s mercy for Israel when she had sinned greatly (1 Samuel 7:8-9; 1 Samuel 12:19-25). But now these "defense attorneys" would prove ineffective, and the Lord would drive the guilty from His presence. [Note: See Thomas L. Constable, "What Prayer Will and Will Not Change," in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, pp. 99-113.]
If the people asked where they should go now, Jeremiah was to tell them that they would each go to their appointed judgment: death, the sword, famine, or captivity-the consequences of military invasion.
The Lord would assign four destroyers of His people: human warriors, dogs, birds, and beasts. These would be His agents in carrying out His sentence. The prospect of dying without burial was a horrible one for ancient Near Easterners, and being consumed by animals was even worse (cf. Jeremiah 15:16).
All the kingdoms of the earth would look on Judah’s fate with horror. This judgment would come because of all the sins that wicked King Manasseh had introduced and revived in Jerusalem and throughout Judah (cf. 2 Kings 21:10-15; 2 Kings 23:26; 2 Kings 24:3). Manasseh was the most syncretistic of all the Davidic kings. This was especially deplorable since Manasseh was the son of one of Judah’s most godly kings, Hezekiah. The wickedness that Manasseh was responsible for so saturated life in Judah, even after he died, that it was impossible to remove.
The Lord said that no one would have pity on Jerusalem when she had experienced His judgment (cf. Lamentations 1:1; Lamentations 1:12; Lamentations 1:21; Lamentations 2:13; Lamentations 2:20).
A lament concerning Jerusalem’s terrible fate 15:5-9
Invasion and war had already overtaken Jerusalem when Jeremiah wrote this lament, but more destruction was to come (Jeremiah 15:9).
The city had forsaken Yahweh. It had regressed rather than advanced morally and spiritually. The Lord promised to destroy her with His own power. He was tired of returning to a people who implored Him not to leave them (Jeremiah 14:9). He was weary of waiting to judge a people who had grown weary of repenting (Jeremiah 9:4).
He would also scatter the people of the outlying towns, as when a farmer winnows his grain by throwing it up to the wind that blows the chaff away (cf. Matthew 3:12). Children would die because God’s people did not repent. Former winnowings, like the exile of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C., had not brought the Judahites to repentance.
"The gates of the land are either mentioned by synecdoche for the cities, cf. Mic. Jeremiah 15:5, or are the approaches to the land (cf. Nah. iii. 13), its outlets and inlets." [Note: Keil, 1:257.]
So many young men of military age would die that the land would be full of widows who would mourn the deaths of their sons (cf. 2 Chronicles 28:6). This judgment would constitute a setback in the promise to multiply Abraham’s descendants as the sand of the sea (Genesis 22:17).
The woman who had had a perfect family and complete happiness would become so sad that she would hardly be able to breathe (cf. 1 Samuel 2:5; Ruth 4:15). It would be as though the day of her rejoicing ended at noon. Her sunshine disappeared at noon with the death(s) of her son(s). She would have no heirs and comforters in her old age (cf. Jeremiah 14:3-4). It is possible that Jeremiah was personifying Jerusalem and or Judah as a widow, but a literal fulfillment is also probably in view (cf. Matthew 23:37-38; Luke 23:28-31).
The swords of the enemy would also devour many survivors of earlier invasions. This seems to indicate that at least one invasion of Jerusalem had already occurred when Jeremiah wrote this prophecy, probably the one in 597 B.C. (cf. 2 Kings 24:10-17).
|Deportations of Judahites to Babylon|
|First deportation||605 B.C.|
|Second deportation||597 B.C.|
|Third deportation||586 B.C.|
In this lament, Jeremiah first addressed his mother and mourned that she had borne him (cf. Jeremiah 20:14-18; Job 3:3-10). It is normal for a single man like Jeremiah to think of his mother when he gets lonely and discouraged. Since the Lord’s call of him antedated his birth (Jeremiah 1:5), cursing his birth was tantamount to rejecting God’s call on his life. His ministry had produced much strife and contention, both for him and his people (cf. Jeremiah 11:18-20). He sounds like a lawyer who was tired of bringing accusations against his countrymen. He felt that everyone cursed him. Their disagreements with him did not spring from borrowing and lending, a common cause of animosity, but from his preaching. Today we would say that Jeremiah felt burned out.
A collection of Jeremiah’s personal trials and sayings 15:10-20:18
This section of text is highly autobiographical. It contains, among other things, most of Jeremiah’s so-called "confessions" (Jeremiah 15:10-12; Jeremiah 15:15-21; Jeremiah 17:9-11; Jeremiah 17:14-18; Jeremiah 18:18-23; Jeremiah 20:7-18). This section can be a great help and encouragement to modern servants of the Lord.
The prophet’s inner struggles and Yahweh’s responses 15:10-21
This pericope contains two instances in which Jeremiah faced crushing discouragement in his ministry (Jeremiah 15:10-21). He confessed his frustration to the Lord, and the Lord responded with encouragement.
4. Warnings in view of Judah’s hard heart 15:10-25:38
This section of the book contains several collections of Jeremiah’s confessions, symbolic acts, and messages. These passages reflect conditions that were very grim, so their origin may have been shortly before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
The Lord told Jeremiah that He would set him free (of his own frustrations) so that he would be a force for good in the coming national crisis. Another view is that God meant He would strengthen or support Jeremiah for the prophet’s own good. [Note: Ibid., 1:260.] The enemy of Judah would even ask him for help in the coming distress (cf. Jeremiah 21:1-7; Jeremiah 37:1-10; Jeremiah 38:14-18; Jeremiah 42:1-6). Jeremiah would emerge from this catastrophe a tower of strength. The Lord had similarly encouraged His prophet previously (Jeremiah 12:5-6), after he had voiced his discouragement the first time (Jeremiah 12:1-4). And He would do so again, in the next pericope (Jeremiah 15:15-21).
The enemy from the north would be impossible to defeat, as strong as iron or bronze. What Jeremiah had been preaching would indeed come to pass.
Furthermore, the Lord would hand over the wealth of Judah to the enemy freely, as war booty, because of all her sins. The Lord knew what He would do, and what was coming, even though Jeremiah would seem to stand alone in a sea of unbelievers of God’s Word.
The enemy would indeed carry off Judah’s wealth to a distant land the Judahites were unfamiliar with, because Yahweh was angry with His people.
The following passage is similar to the immediately preceding one, in that they both contain: Jeremiah’s confessions of complaint (Jeremiah 15:10; Jeremiah 15:15-18), followed by the Lord’s response (Jeremiah 15:12-14; Jeremiah 15:19-21). However, this passage reveals a more serious crisis that Jeremiah faced.
Jeremiah asked Yahweh, who knows all things, to remember him and to punish his persecutors. He requested that the Lord not allow him to die because he had endured reproach for the Lord’s sake.
"There is a boldness about such words which only those in a very close relationship with Yahweh may show." [Note: Thompson, pp. 395-96.]
When the priests discovered God’s Word in the temple during Josiah’s reign (2 Kings 22:13; 2 Kings 23:2), Jeremiah had consumed it. He may have had a deep appreciation for God’s Word even before that event. Whenever Jeremiah began to relish God’s Word, it had become his delight and a joy to his soul (cf. Ezekiel 2:8 to Ezekiel 3:3; Revelation 10:9-10), in contrast to the majority of people who despised it (Jeremiah 8:9). The Lord’s words included His messages to the prophet, as well as His written Word. Jeremiah’s love for the Word was a result of God’s initiative-because Almighty Yahweh had called him to Himself (cf. Jeremiah 1:4-10).
One of the greatest blessings God can give His servants is a hunger for His Word. If you do not have it, ask Him to give it to you. Then cultivate a taste for it (cf. 1 Peter 2:2).
Jeremiah had not spent much time with the people who disregarded God’s messages to repent. Rather, he felt indignation at their hard hearts and separated from them (cf. Psalms 1:1; Psalms 26:4-5). Their attitude repulsed him, and he felt under divine constraint to behave with integrity, in harmony with his preaching. Jeremiah felt that he had become a social leper (cf. Leviticus 13:46).
"Every true servant of God is likely to experience tensions of this kind, especially if, like Jeremiah, his foes are his relatives (cf. Matthew 10:36)." [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 103.]
The prophet asked God why his broken heart refused to heal (cf. Jeremiah 6:14). The Lord promised refreshment to His people, even Himself (Jeremiah 2:13), but this had not been Jeremiah’s personal experience. God seemed like an unreliable wadi (stream bed) to Jeremiah. It promised water but was completely dry for most of the year (cf. Job 6:15-20).
"The prophet Jeremiah found himself in a situation of conflict, conflict with his people and conflict with his God. He was at conflict with his people because of the message of judgment he proclaimed to them. He was at conflict with his God because he considered it unjust that he should suffer as a result of proclaiming God’s message. He consequently complained to the Lord about his situation." [Note: Kelley, p. 212.]
The Lord replied that if Jeremiah would turn to Him, he would find restoration and renewed strength to stand for his God. Jeremiah had been calling the people to repent, but he needed to repent of his self-pitying attitude (Jeremiah 15:15-18). If he would purify himself inwardly (undergo a refining process), the Lord would continue to use him. Some of the people might turn to follow Jeremiah, but he must not turn to follow them. He must lift them up, and at the same time, not allow them to drag him down.
"Perhaps God was telling the prophet that he had been overconcerned about what people thought and said about him when his one concern should have been to heed God’s word and proclaim it." [Note: Thompson, p. 398.]
If Jeremiah repented, the Lord would make him as indestructible as a bronze wall (cf. Jeremiah 15:12; Jeremiah 1:18-19). No one would be able to destroy him because the Lord would be with him and deliver him from his adversaries. He would rescue him from the wicked who would try to kill him, and He would free him from the grasp of those who would treat him violently.
"The antidote for the prophet’s earlier ’Woe is me’ [Jeremiah 15:10] was the Lord’s ’I am with thee’ (Jeremiah 15:20). No better word could ever be given by God to one of His servants, anywhere or anytime!" [Note: Jensen, p. 54. Cf. Matthew 28:20.]
This passage appears to reflect Jeremiah’s lowest point emotionally in his ministry.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 15". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany