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Yahweh’s declaration of divine judgment 4:5-6:30
The Judahites-having sinned greatly (ch. 2)-failed to repent (Jeremiah 3:1 to Jeremiah 4:4). Consequently, judgment in the form of military invasion would overtake them. This whole section is an amplification and explanation of the overflowing cauldron vision in Jeremiah 1:13-16.
This section provides a clear example of the mosaic structure of the Book of Jeremiah. It consists of 13 separate messages that all deal with the threat of approaching invasion from the north. Someone, Jeremiah and or others, skillfully arranged them in the present order to make a strong impact on the reader.
The Lord called the Benjamites, Jeremiah’s tribal kinsmen, to flee for safety from the coming invader from the north (cf. Jeremiah 4:5-6). Jerusalem stood on the southern border of Benjamin. Benjamin’s tribal border was the Hinnom Valley, which was also the southern boundary of Jerusalem.
Tekoa, the prophet Amos’ birthplace (Amos 1:1), was a Judean town about 10 miles south of Jerusalem, and Beth-haccerem (lit. house of the vineyard) stood three miles south of Jerusalem. These representative villages needed to warn their inhabitants, with trumpets and signal fires, to flee in view of the destroyer’s advance toward Jerusalem. Tekoa, of all the northern Judean cities, may have been selected for literary reasons. In Hebrew its name, teqoa’, is very similar to the word translated "blow the trumpet," tiq’u. Beth-haccerem may have been chosen for the meaning of its name, since Jeremiah often referred to Judah as "Yahweh’s vineyard."
The siege of Jerusalem predicted 6:1-8
"The striking feature of this chapter is its rapidity of movement leading to the gathering storm of invasion soon to engulf the capital and the land." [Note: Feinberg, p. 419.]
The Lord would cut off Jerusalem, which He compared to an attractive and dainty young lady. Even though Jerusalem was attractive to the Lord, He would still bring destruction on her.
The enemy leaders and their soldiers would encamp around Jerusalem like shepherds with their sheep (cf. Jeremiah 4:17; Jeremiah 12:10). Even though Jerusalem lay in a pleasant pastoral setting, its beauty would not deter the Lord from destroying her.
These enemies would encourage themselves to attack Judah’s capital before they lost their opportunity. They would be so eager to destroy the city that they would even attack at night, a highly unusual practice.
In attacking Jerusalem, the enemy soldiers would be responding to the instructions of Yahweh of armies for them to: cut down the trees around the city, with which to make implements of war, and to lay siege. Jerusalem was due for punishment because its people were responsible for so much social oppression.
The residents had an unusual ability to keep wickedness as fresh as wells kept water fresh (cf. Proverbs 4:16). Wicked violence and destruction had resulted in all kinds of sickness and wounds.
These announcements were to function as a warning to the people of Judah, who still had time to repent before the enemy from the north would descend. If they did not repent, the results would be alienation from God (in captivity), the desolation of their city and their lives, and the ruination of their land.
"We may be reminded of the care lavished in our own day on presenting and practising [sic] an ’alternative morality’, and may be warned, with Jerusalem . . ." [Note: Kidner, p. 45.]
The sovereign Lord promised that the coming enemy would remove the people of Judah from their land as a grape harvester removed the grapes from his vines (cf. Jeremiah 5:10; Isaiah 5:1-6). The harvest would be so thorough that even the small number of Israelites left in the land, that remnant, would be taken captive.
The Lord also commanded Jeremiah to assess the nation as carefully as a grape gatherer examined the branches of his grapevine (cf. Jeremiah 6:27; Jeremiah 5:1). What follows in this pericope is what he discovered.
"All of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry, however fruitless it seemed, was a kind of grape harvesting, a gleaning of the vine of Israel. Jeremiah’s task was to glean Israel. Once more he must return (shub) to the task to make certain that there was none remaining who had not heard his message." [Note: Thompson, p. 257.]
The breadth of Judah’s guilt 6:9-15
Jeremiah wondered to whom he could deliver this warning so they could benefit from it. The people he ministered to had closed their ears to his prophecies, and they were so steeped in sin that it was not even possible for them to hear. Messages from the Lord had become offensive to them, and they no longer welcomed them.
"This is the first of more than three dozen times in Jeremiah where the people did not listen to (i.e., they disobeyed) God’s Word." [Note: Dyer, "Jeremiah," p. 1138.]
Yet the prophet was full of messages announcing God’s coming wrath that he felt incapable of containing. The Lord instructed him to pour out his pent-up messages of wrath on everyone in Jerusalem-children, adolescents, husbands, wives, older people, and the very aged-because all of them would be taken captive.
"Ancient Near Eastern war was essentially total in nature, so that a city which resisted a siege unsuccessfully could only expect complete destruction, without respect to property, age or sex." [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 81.]
The Lord would turn the people’s houses, fields, and wives over to others. It would be the Lord Himself, acting in power, who would be responsible for this judgment on Judah.
Everyone was guilty and worthy of judgment, from all levels of society including the false prophets and the unfaithful priests. They all behaved selfishly and deceived others (cf. Jeremiah 4:3-5).
The leaders of the people had tried to heal the cancer of the populace with a bandage. They kept promising that everything would be all right, but there would be no peace because of Judah’s sins.
These leaders did not even feel ashamed or embarrassed by their actions; they were completely insensitive to their sins (cf. 1 Samuel 15:22-23). Consequently they would fall along with the rest of the population when the Lord brought judgment.
"When evil is pursued and practiced regularly and devotedly, it produces eventually a moral blindness in the perpetrator." [Note: Craigie, p. 104.]
Yahweh commanded the Judahites to compare the paths in which they could walk. Then they should ask their leaders to direct them in the good old paths, the teachings of the Mosaic Covenant, or perhaps the ways of the patriarchs. [Note: Keil, 1:142, took the old paths to refer to the ways in which Israel’s godly ancestors had walked, "the patriarchs’ manner of thinking and acting."] Then they should walk in those ways and so experience rest (cf. Isaiah 28:12; Matthew 11:28-29). But the people refused to follow those old paths. Probably they confused the ancient ways with obsolete ways, as many in our day do.
"The importance of the covenant for Jeremiah cannot be overrated. For him the covenant was fundamental to Israel’s very life, involving as it did the acknowledgment of Yahweh as Israel’s only sovereign Lord, and the glad acceptance of the covenant obligations. When Israel took this way she followed the ancient paths, the good way, and found rest. It was a theme to which Jeremiah returned again and again (Jeremiah 7:22-23; Jeremiah 11:1-13; etc.)." [Note: Thompson, p. 261.]
The inadequacy of mere ritual worship 6:16-21
The Lord had set prophets over the people to warn them of their wicked ways, but the people refused to listen to them.
Because the people refused to listen to the Lord’s words and had rejected His Law, the Lord announced to the whole earth that He would bring disaster on His people.
Even though the Judeans still worshipped God formally, their sacrifices made no impression on Him (cf. Isaiah 1:11-14; Amos 5:21; Micah 6:6-8). It was their true attitudes and actions that He saw.
"Sheba" was a famous southwest Arabia (possibly modern Yemen) source for the incense used in the offerings (cf. 1 Kings 10:1-13; Ezekiel 27:22). Sweet cane (calamus) was an ingredient in the anointing oil (Exodus 30:22-25; cf. Song of Solomon 4:14; Isaiah 43:24) and was also an expensive import item, perhaps coming from India. Burnt offerings were those in which the entire animal was offered up to God, and sacrifices were those offerings that were partially eaten by their worshippers.
Because of this hypocrisy, the Lord would trip His people up. He would humiliate them and interrupt their progress, probably with their own sins and with the coming invader. This would include all generations and involve people in all relationships (cf. Jeremiah 6:11).
Again Yahweh announced that people from a great and distant land would descend on Judah from the north.
The people’s response to the invader’s attack 6:22-26
They would be cruel warriors, riding on instruments of warfare, shouting loud battle cries, and making as much noise as the roaring sea. Their target would be God’s beloved residents of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah responded that the news of this invasion had made the people physically weak, mentally anxious, and extremely distressed (cf. Jeremiah 4:31). This is a proleptic (anticipatory) description of their reaction when it would happen.
He counseled the people not to leave the city, to stay out of their fields, and off the highways. There was an armed enemy out there waiting to kill them, and it should inspire terror among them all (cf. Jeremiah 20:3; Jeremiah 20:10; Jeremiah 46:5; Jeremiah 49:29).
The prophet implored the people to repent while there was still time (cf. Jeremiah 6:8). Mourning over the untimely death of an only son was especially bitter, because the family would have no one to perpetuate the family name and line. Unless the people repented, the destroyer would overtake them.
Yahweh informed Jeremiah that He had given the prophet a role in Judah that was similar to that of an assayer of metals. He would be able and be responsible to test the "mettle" of the Lord’s people (cf. Jeremiah 5:1).
Jeremiah’s evaluation of his people 6:27-30
The Judahites were stubborn, rebellious, and deceitful. All of them were also hardened to outside influences, like bronze and iron, and were impure (cf. Malachi 3:3).
". . . the people of Judah are not, so to speak, precious metal marred by some impurities, but base metal from which nothing of worth can be extracted." [Note: Kidner, p. 47.]
The Lord had applied the fires of testing to His people, but still they remained impure.
"When lead was placed in a crucible with silver ore and heated, the lead became oxidized and served as a flux to collect impurities." [Note: Thompson, p. 266.]
Because the people were impure, the Lord would reject them, as a silversmith rejects dross or slag. The implication is that He would toss them aside out of His land.
". . . the imagery is employed not to indicate that judgment would be a refining process but rather to convey its terminal nature; since no purity could be found, no solid silver, the mixture would be cast away as dross." [Note: Craigie, p. 110.]
Because of the possibility of repentance that Jeremiah referred to in chapters 2-6, most scholars believe that these messages date from the reign of Josiah and possibly the early years of Jehoiakim. This would place their origin between 627 and 609 B.C., or a little later. The possibility of repentance disappears later in the book, probably indicating that Jeremiah delivered those prophecies later in his ministry.
Other recurring themes in chapters 2-6, which Jeremiah introduced in chapter 1, include the nations, uprooting and tearing down, destroying and razing, building and planting, and Yahweh watching over His Word. The coming invader from the north, wickedness, forsaking Yahweh, idolatry, and Judah’s leaders and ordinary citizens are also prominent themes. [Note: See Thompson, pp. 268-69, for further discussion.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 6". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26