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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Jeremiah 11

Verses 1-14

The Breaking of the Covenant

A new word from the LORD comes to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 11:1). The LORD instructs him to listen to “the words of this covenant”. By this He refers to His covenant that He gave His people after their exodus from Egypt at Sinai (Exodus 19:5-Joshua :; Exodus 24:7; Deuteronomy 29:1). Jeremiah must first listen to this himself. Then he is to address the word to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 11:2). This is the order of God. If He wants us to say something to His people, we can only do so if we have first listened to Him ourselves.

When we think of the call to listen to the covenant, we need not think only of the giving of the law at Sinai. The people had also recently renewed the covenant during the revival under King Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:19; 2 Chronicles 34:31-Jonah :). Jeremiah is to pronounce the curse on behalf of “the LORD, the God of Israel” on anyone who does not heed the words of the covenant (Jeremiah 11:3; cf. Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 28:15-Proverbs :). These powerful words should bring the people to an inward turn.

The revival of Josiah only produced an outward return among the people and not an inward one. Therefore, Jeremiah must remind the people of what the LORD commanded their fathers when He led them out “from the iron furnace” of Egypt (Jeremiah 11:4; Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51). The “iron furnace” emphasizes the horrors they suffered there. After their exodus, He urged them to listen to His voice. This means that they should do all the words that He commanded. If they did, they should be His people and He would be their God (cf. Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 24:7Jeremiah 32:38). Their connection to Him, and His recognition of them, is dependent on their obedience.

If they were obedient, He would keep the oath He swore to their fathers to give the people a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Jeremiah 11:5; Exodus 3:8). The LORD has brought them there, as they see for themselves, but they have been unfaithful time after time. Therefore, the overflowing riches of the land disappeared. That, too, is the result of what the LORD swore if they were unfaithful.

At the time, the whole people answered the curse time and again with “amen” (Deuteronomy 27:15-Ezekiel :). Here the uttering of “amen” is done by just one man, Jeremiah: “Then I said, “Amen, O LORD.”” There must have been more faithful ones then too, but we only hear it from this one man. It is reminiscent of the days of Elijah who also stood up for the rights of the LORD as a loner, yet there were also seven thousand who did not bow their knees to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). But where are they?

In connection to the command to proclaim and what he should proclaim, the LORD tells Jeremiah to go out now (Jeremiah 11:6). He is to go and proclaim all the words the LORD has told him in Judah and Jerusalem, calling them to obedience to the covenant. Once again the LORD offers the opportunity hear the words of this covenant and do what it says.

Jeremiah should add, as an additional exhortation, that the LORD had already warned their fathers severely from the day He led them out of Egypt (Jeremiah 11:7). He has continued to do so over and over again, “even to this day”, that is, the day He gives the command to Jeremiah. Again and again, persistently, continually He has called them to listen to His voice (Jeremiah 7:13; Jeremiah 7:25). Unceasingly, He has labored to get them to listen to Him and obey His words. His concern to reach their hearts to bless them is truly impressive.

Therefore, it is not because of Him that they did not listen (Jeremiah 11:8). They have not even inclined their ear to hear some of His words. They chose to continue in acting according to their stubborn, wicked hearts. When a person rejects the Lord’s abundant efforts to turn him from his evil ways, it means that he himself is hardening his heart. Because they have shown this hardening, the judgments have come on them.

With “all the words of this covenant” which the LORD has brought upon them, the judgments of the covenant are meant in this context. The LORD is faithful to His covenant, both where blessing is involved in obedience and where judgment is involved in disobedience. Their whole history in the land testifies to their unfaithfulness. It must be said that “they did not” do the words of the covenant to obey the LORD. The judgments that the LORD has had to bring are entirely their own fault.

We are tempted to trust that God is like the modern, indulgent parents who do not punish their children when they disobey. A small reprimand perhaps, but still no harsh disciplinary measures. We are very much mistaken if we think that God is like that. Discipline will surely come if, despite many admonitions, we persist in doing what is evil in His sight.

The LORD informs Jeremiah of “a conspiracy” that He has discovered among the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 11:9). This indicates a secret, organized opposition to Josiah’s reforms. They swore not to keep the renewed covenant and to return to a life of serving idols (Jeremiah 11:10). We can apply that to the effort to bring God’s people back to the idolatry of Rome. It is a conspiracy of the powers of darkness.

The covenant breaking applies to both northern Israel and southern Judah. The LORD speaks of “My covenant”. That is what makes its breaking so bad. The covenant breaking has happened knowingly and is directed against Him. His judgment will come upon it, a calamity from which there will be no escape (Jeremiah 11:11). No matter how severe it will be, the most severe thing is that He will not answer their cry to Him (Jeremiah 7:16). The LORD does not listen to those who deliberately disobey and remain disobedient (Proverbs 1:28-Joel :). Such people do want to be saved, but only out of misery, only to continue with their ungodly lives.

Then, if the LORD does not answer, they will resort to their idols (Jeremiah 11:12). They have honored those gods with their incense offerings. Surely those will help them. But surely those will not be able to help them, despite the fact that they have a huge number of idols (Jeremiah 11:13; Jeremiah 2:28; Deuteronomy 32:37). No matter how many zeros are put in a row, the total number remains zero.

Once again Jeremiah is forbidden to pray for the people (Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 7:16). It does show how hopeless the condition of the people is when the LORD forbids intercession for them. He has given them over to their wrong thinking and they will eat the fruit of their own actions.

Verses 15-17

Inadequacy of Sacrifices

In the midst of all the iniquity He enumerates, the LORD nevertheless speaks of His people as “My beloved” (Jeremiah 11:15). This is evident from all the care He has taken of them. It actually makes their sins intolerable to Him that they commit them as His beloved. How did it come up to do “many vile deeds” in His house? This refers to the abominable idolatry they commit en masse in His house.

He does not hate them (or us), but their (or our) sins. Their behavior in His house is repugnant to Him (cf. Isaiah 1:11-2 Kings :). The reproach that “the sacrificial flesh take away from you your disaster” refers to the futility of their sacrifices to the LORD. They bring the flesh into the sanctuary, into the temple, but they bring it with a corrupt heart, in an evil mind. The thought is that their sacrificial flesh does not make them pleasing to God. It does not cause Him to assert Himself in favor of them before their enemies, but He turns Himself away from them and gives them over to the enemies.

They take the greatest pleasure in doing evil and doing it in His house, in His presence. It betrays total insensitivity to Who He is. We can be pleasing to God only if we are faithful to the instructions of His Word. All our sacrifices are worthless and objectionable to Him if we neglect His Word.

The LORD has made His people “a green olive tree” with beautiful, shapely fruit (Jeremiah 11:16; cf. Psalms 52:8; Hosea 14:6). That is how He has called Israel. In giving them that name, He has wanted to give them the consciousness that He is their origin and that they are there for Him. He has made His people prosperous and wealthy and given them many privileges, that they might enjoy them. Above all, it has been His intention that He should enjoy them, both from the sight and the fruit of them. We may well pray that as a church on earth we may respond to His intention for us.

But now He must burn and break up that tree with great tumult (Jeremiah 11:16), which He will do by calling Babylon against them. The “the noise of a great tumult” is the warfare with which Nebuchadnezzar’s armies will invade Judah. They will ignite a devastating fire. As a result, the branches of the trees are broken. The tree, however, remains standing. The LORD does not make a final end of His people.

Though the LORD has planted His people, He will bring evil upon them (Jeremiah 11:17). He will do so as “the LORD of hosts”, as the One Who has power over all the armies in heaven and on earth. He has had to pronounce evil against those whom He Himself has planted, because of the evil they have done and thereby pronounced upon themselves. Here again northern Israel and southern Judah are mentioned separately (Jeremiah 11:10). Both houses brought Him to wrath by offering their abominable incense sacrifices to Baal.

Verses 18-23

Conspiracy Against Jeremiah

After his preaching comes the response of the people. The LORD makes this known to Jeremiah, so that he will be aware of what they are up to (Jeremiah 11:18). The LORD has shown him their actions. Thus He protects His servant here, for Jeremiah can now take precautions. We see here that the LORD does not judge the devisers of evil and thus remove the danger, but warns His servant. He always knows the best way for His own when dangerous situations arise.

When Jeremiah is informed of the plans that have been devised against him, he feels like an unsuspecting lamb being led to the slaughter without noticing (Jeremiah 11:19). He knows nothing of their plans that they are devising against him. But the LORD has told him what they have devised. It is a plan in which Jeremiah will be dealt with radically and forever. Not even his name will be thought of again. This is another clear example of man’s prideful thinking. How much the LORD has disturbed and destroyed this thinking.

In Jeremiah 11:18-Psalms : we see in Jeremiah the true Israel who has been given insight by the LORD into the wickedness of their enemies. It is the Spirit of Christ in him and them. As the lamb, he is a picture of the Lord Jesus (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32). But there is a distinction. The Lord Jesus did not go to the slaughter like an unsuspecting lamb, but in full awareness of what was going to happen to Him (John 18:1; John 18:5). Jeremiah, in the tree with its fruit, is a picture of the faithful remnant of God’s people (Jeremiah 11:16) whom the enemies want to eradicate and from whom they want to erase the remembrance of His name (Jeremiah 11:19).

The enemies, in their description of Jeremiah as a tree with fruit – that is him and his preaching – unwittingly give a wonderful testimony of him. Similarly, in all the evil of which the enemies of the Lord Jesus accuse Him, His perfection is all the more evident. Jeremiah is besieged by men from Anathoth, his fellow townsmen (Jeremiah 11:21; Jeremiah 1:1). He experiences the same thing the Lord Jesus experienced from the people of Nazareth, the city where He was raised (Luke 4:24).

When Jeremiah is informed by the LORD of their plans, his first reaction is to cry out to the LORD. He calls on Him as the “LORD of hosts, who judges righteously” (Jeremiah 11:20). He places the matter in the hand of the LORD. The Lord Jesus did the same (1 Peter 2:23). He knows that the LORD “tries the feelings [literally: kidneys] and the heart”, that is, the deepest inner being of every person, that He knows all motives and intentions, all thoughts and feelings, and can therefore judge them (cf. Revelation 2:23). Jeremiah does not avenge himself, but asks the LORD to take revenge for the evil his enemies want to do to him. He also expects this of the LORD, for to this end he has given his cause into His hands.

It is in keeping with the spirit of the Old Testament and God’s government that Jeremiah prays here for the destruction of these enemies of the LORD. It is not the grace of the gospel here, but the righteousness of God’s government (cf. Revelation 6:10). For us, in the face of those who seek our doom, the prayer that the Lord Jesus prayed on the cross for His murderers is appropriate: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34; cf. Acts 7:60).

The LORD answers him (Jeremiah 11:21). He knows that Jeremiah’s enemies are after him because he has prophesied to them in the Name of the LORD. They don’t want that. He knows that they have said that they will make him stop if he does not stop himself. Thus, in effect, they want to stop the LORD’s mouth. In His servant they reject Him. As if He does not have the right to choose His servants and to meddle in His own affairs, that is, in His own people.

After the indictment comes the judgment, pronounced by “the LORD of hosts” (Jeremiah 11:22). With Him they have to deal through Jeremiah. The LORD will judge from the men of Anathoth all those who are out for Jeremiah’s blood. The hatred of Jeremiah seems to be especially present in the younger generation. It involves the young men and their sons and their daughters. The young men will perish by the sword and their sons and their daughters by famine. That there will be “no remnant of them” (Jeremiah 11:23) refers to all those who have been out for Jeremiah’s death (Jeremiah 11:21), for a number return to Anathoth after the exile (Ezra 2:23).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 11". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/jeremiah-11.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.