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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 13

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-2

Jer 13:1-2

Jeremiah 13:1-2


There are five warnings given to Israel in this chapter. The nation of the Chosen people, which should have been living in a happy and intimate relationship with the Creator, and also should have been busily engaged in teaching the benighted nations of mankind the wonderful facts regarding the true and Almighty God, had, contrary to all reason, itself succumbed to the sensual allurements of paganism. Their spiritual discernment had almost disappeared; and the whole nation was thoroughly overcome with abandoned wickedness. The dramatic warnings of this chapter were designed to stem the headlong rash of Israel to destruction; but the warnings were not heeded.

The warnings were: (1) the parable of the mined linen loin-cloth (Jeremiah 13:1-11), (2) the parable of the wine jars (Jeremiah 13:12-14), (3) the warning against pride and arrogance toward God (Jeremiah 13:15-17), (4) the warning to the king and the queen-mother (Jeremiah 13:18-19), (5) the warning that identified "friends" of Israel, such as Babylon, as their conquerors and exploiters.

Jeremiah 13:1-2


Thus saith Jehovah unto me, Go, and buy thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water. So I bought a girdle according to the word of Jehovah, and put it upon my loins.

Linen girdle...

(Jeremiah 13:1). Why linen? This was a mark of the priesthood; and because this garment was given as a representation of Israel, it had to be linen in order properly to symbolize that nation of priests unto God which Israel was intended to be.

Put it upon thy loins...

(Jeremiah 13:1). This was not an outer girdle, but a covering worn next to the skin. F1 This very intimate and personal garment symbolized the intimate relationship between God and Israel during the long centuries of the nation’s development.

And put it not in water...

(Jeremiah 13:1). This meant that Jeremiah was not to wash the garment either before or after he had worn it. This would illuminate the meaning of the linen loincloth in later portions of the parable.

Verses 1-11

Jer 13:1-11

Arrogant, willful, stubborn pride was at the root of all Judah’s sins. In chapter thirteen Jeremiah issues five stern warnings concerning pride and its consequences. Pride results in deterioration (Jeremiah 13:1-11), drunkenness (Jeremiah 13:12-14), darkness (Jeremiah 13:15-17), dishonor (Jeremiah 13:18-19), and disgrace (Jeremiah 13:20-27). The prophets frequently relied upon object lessons to attract attention to their message and enforce the point they were trying to make. These men of God were following sound principles of teaching long before the study of pedagogy as a science. By means of an action parable (Jeremiah 13:1-7) and the application of that parable (Jeremiah 13:8-11) Jeremiah forced the nation to see the ultimate consequences of their sinful pride.

1. The action parable (Jeremiah 13:1-7)

The word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah and instructs him to purchase a girdle or loin-cloth. The loincloth was a strip of cloth, sometimes leather, wound several times around the waist with its ends hanging down over the thigh. The loin-cloth served the purpose of holding up the loose upper garment when walking or working. Jeremiah is to wear his new linen loin-cloth both to attract the attention of people and to provide the basis for the symbolism which he will later explain. The prophet is specifically instructed not to put his new loincloth in water (Jeremiah 13:1). Various explanations of this prohibition have been offered. Some think he was not to wash the garment; he was to wear it until it became filthy. Others think he was not to soak the garment in order to soften it and make it more comfortable for wearing. Doubtlessly Jeremiah was puzzled by this instruction to purchase and wear a new loin-cloth. But he obeyed the Lord in full confidence that further revelation would be forthcoming (Jeremiah 13:2).

After wearing the garment about for some time Jeremiah received additional instruction from the Lord (Jeremiah 13:3). He is to take his new loin-cloth and hide it at the Euphrates river or perhaps the town of Parah in the crevice of a rock (Jeremiah 13:4). Once again Jeremiah complied with the commandment of the Lord even though he must have thought it very strange (Jeremiah 13:5). After many days Jeremiah received still further instruction from the Lord. He is to retrieve his loin-cloth (Jeremiah 13:6). Jeremiah returned to the spot where he had hidden his garment, dug away the earth with which he had covered the crevice in the rock, and removed his loin-cloth. Naturally the garment was moldy, rotted, filthy and utterly worthless (Jeremiah 13:7).

Commentators are divided into two major schools of thought as regards this episode. Some feel that the story has no foundation in fact. The account is to be interpreted as a vision or perhaps a parable which was related for purely didactic purposes. But if this were the case, would Jeremiah have represented the events as actually happening? Other commentators feel that this was an actual experience of the prophet; but these commentators are themselves divided into two schools. The point of contention is the place where the waistcloth was buried. Did Jeremiah actually make a trip to the Euphrates river as suggested in the standard English versions? Many conservative and many liberal commentators for that matter answer that question in the affirmative. Other equally competent scholars feel that two trips to the Euphrates river some 300–400 miles north of Anathoth is out of the question. These scholars translate the Hebrew word perathah, “to Parah.” According to this view Jeremiah buried his garment in the rocky environs of the little village of Parah a few miles from his home. They feel that in the Hebrew text at least, a trip to the Euphrates river is both unlikely and unnecessary. The position taken here is that Jeremiah did make a journey to the Euphrates to bury his waistcloth and returned later to retrieve the tattered garment. For additional comment see the special note which follows.


As one surveys the various commentaries on the Book of Jeremiah he will discover five basic arguments which are advanced to support the position taken in this work that Jeremiah actually made a trip to the Euphrates river during his ministry. Some of these arguments have little if any weight. In order to aid the student in separating the wheat from the chaff as he peruses the various commentaries on the book, the following critique of the various arguments is offered.

ARGUMENT ONE: Jeremiah was forced to go into hiding after the fifth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36:9-32) and probably would have been secure only in the far north. Another prophet who tried to take refuge from Jehoiakim in Egypt was extradited and executed (Jeremiah 26:20-23), RESPONSE: The present narrative gives not the slightest hint that Jeremiah was fleeing to the north to escape the wrath of Jehoiakim or anyone else for that matter. There are many adequate hiding places much nearer than the Euphrates river as is made clear from the narratives of Saul and David.

ARGUMENT TWO: The silence regarding the activities of Jeremiah during the last part of Jehoiakim’s reign suggests that he was absent from Jerusalem. This would be the ideal time to place his trip to the Euphrates. RESPONSE: Several gaps in the knowledge of Jeremiah’s activities exist. Does every silent gap indicate that Jeremiah was absent from Jerusalem? Even if the prophet was temporarily absent from the city this in itself would not prove that he made the trip to the Euphrates. Furthermore the material of this section seems to date to the late years of Josiah or, more likely, to the early years of Jehoiakim.

ARGUMENT THREE: The Chaldean officers who conquered Jerusalem seemed to know Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:11-14). This would suggest that they had met the prophet on some previous occasion. Jeremiah’s trip to the Euphrates could have been that occasion. RESPONSE: No evidence actually exists that the Chaldean officers knew Jeremiah personally. They could have learned of the prophet through those who were deported in 605 B.C. and 597 B.C. Those Jews who deserted to the Chaldeans during the siege would certainly have been interrogated by their captors. Since Jeremiah was perhaps the one most responsible for those desertions his name must have been frequently mentioned. The Chaldeans knew Jeremiah by reputation only.

ARGUMENT FOUR: The Euphrates is “the essential point of the parable” representing the corrupting religious influence of Mesopotamia on Judah. RESPONSE: This argument is strange in that Jeremiah does not once mention the Euphrates, Babylon, Mesopotamia or the north in his inspired application of the parable. While the Euphrates may play a part in the symbolism it certainly is not the “essential point.”

ARGUMENT FIVE: The normal meaning of the Hebrew word Phrath is Euphrates. Thus the word should be translated and thus the word should be understood in this passage. RESPONSE: This is perhaps the best argument to back the position that Jeremiah actually made a trip to the Euphrates river. However even this argument is not without its difficulties. The Hebrew word Phrath when it refers to the Euphrates usually has the Hebrew word for river following. This is true twelve out of the fifteen times the word Phrath occurs in the Hebrew Bible. Yet the very fact that in three passages Phrath refers to the Euphrates when the word for river is not present indicates that this is proper usage. In no other passage does the word Phrath mean anything other than the Euphrates river.

After studying all the arguments on both sides of the controversy concerning where Jeremiah hid his waist-cloth the present writer has opted for the view that Jeremiah actually made a trip to the Euphrates river. The alternate view that he buried the waistcloth near his home town at Parah cannot be ruled out altogether. The distance to the Euphrates still remains a problem for those who hold the prophet went there. Yet it should be remembered that the prophets often did curious and sometimes almost impossible acts in order to dramatize their message.

2. The application of the parable (Jeremiah 13:8-11)

When Jeremiah returned from the Euphrates he carried or perhaps even attempted to wear his tattered loin-cloth through the streets of Jerusalem. Naturally people would ask about the filthy piece of cloth and then Jeremiah would relate the story narrated above. Then he would begin to make the application of the parable. Judah and Jerusalem were guilty of sinful pride and self-exaltation. But their pride is about to be marred, tattered and torn, like the loin-cloth (Jeremiah 13:9). God will rend Judah to pieces as easily as a rotten piece of cloth is torn. Perhaps as Jeremiah uttered these words he actually tore the old loin-cloth to illustrate his point. He then describes the pride of Judah in more detail. That pride manifested itself in refusal to hear i.e, obey the word of God. They wanted no part of the old stern God of Sinai with His prohibitions and restrictions. That God was tolerable as long as they wandered in the wilderness. But now they had settled down to become farmers. They wanted new gods who would guarantee them fertility of the soil and at the same time condone their sensuality. For this reason the children of Israel began to follow after, bow down to and serve the gods of Canaan. The corrupting influence of idolatry had slowly eaten away at the strength of the nation until finally the nation, like Jeremiah’s loin-cloth, had become utterly worthless, fit for nothing but destruction (Jeremiah 13:10).

In this action parable Jeremiah represents God and the lovely new linen loin-cloth represents the Covenant people, both Judah and Israel. In the ancient Near East the loin-cloth was the principal ornament of a man’s dress. This article of clothing was one of the most prized possessions of a man. When Jonathan made a covenant with David he gave him his robe, his armor “even his sword and his bow and his girdle” (1 Samuel 18:4). As Jeremiah had chosen his waist-cloth so God had selected Israel from among all the nations as his special possession. Three times Jeremiah notes that the loin-cloth was worn close to the body. The prophet wishes to emphasize the intimate and beautiful relation ship which had once existed between God and His chosen people. Israel was His people, the means by which God’s name would be made known throughout the world. They were a source of praise and glory to God. But as time went on Israel would not obey the word of God. They continued to deteriorate spiritually and morally until they were of no more value to God (Jeremiah 13:11).


Jeremiah 13:1-11

Jeremiah selected and purchased his waistcloth as a personal possession.God selected Israel as His special possession.
Jeremiah wore his waistcloth about his waist for a time.Israel cleave to God in intimate fellowship for a time.
The waistcloth was not to be washed but worn till filthy.God maintained his relationship to Israel until the nation became utterly filthy with sin.
When removed from the waist the waistcloth no longer was performing its proper function.When Israel departed from the Lord she was no longer fulfilling her function in the divine plan.
The garment when removed from the person of Jeremiah degenerated rapidly.When Israel turned her back on God she rapidly deteriorated.
Jeremiah journeyed far to bury the waistcloth.Israel had traveled a long way from God.
The waistcloth was buried near the Euphrates river.Israel would be carried into exile to lose its glory and be despised among the nations.
When retrieved the waistcloth was damaged beyond repair.Judah in Jeremiah’s day was marred beyond recognition, good for nothing.
The rotted garment could be easily ripped and torn,God will rip asunder the tattered remains of the nation.

Verses 3-5

Jer 13:3-5

Jeremiah 13:3-5

And the word of Jehovah came unto me the second time, saying, Take the girdle that thou hast bought, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a cleft of the rock. So I went, and hid it by the Euphrates, as Jehovah commanded me.

The word of Jehovah came to me the second time...

(Jeremiah 13:3). The implication, though not clearly stated, is that some considerable time-lapse had occurred, at least ample time for the loincloth to have required washing had not God forbidden it.

Go to the Euphrates, and hide it...

(Jeremiah 13:4). This statement has precipitated a whole barrage of quibbles and denials by commentators. The problem is that the Euphrates river was almost four hundred miles from Anathoth; and the two journeys to that river by Jeremiah would have required his traveling a distance of some sixteen hundred miles.

We have no problem at all with this, because Jeremiah 13:5 flatly declares that, Jeremiah went and hid it as Jehovah had commanded him. Where is there any problem? Rationalistic critics, however, believe that such an extended amount of traveling, while not impossible, was certainly not very practical in those times. Therefore, other solutions are proposed. They are interesting, and we include these alternative understandings on the premise that they might even be correct, although we cannot be sure.

(1) One alternative interpretation is that the Hebrew word rendered here as "Euphrates" may not be a reference to the "Euphrates River" at all but to a village three and one half miles north of Anathoth (where Jeremiah probably lived), which was also known locally as "Euphrates." This appears to be possible. It is principally upon the authority of the Septuagint (LXX) and the Vulgate that translators insist on making it refer to the Euphrates River. The Hebrew word is actually [~Phrath]; and there is no doubt that in many other Old Testament passages the word does refer to the Euphrates River. The word occurs fifteen times elsewhere in the Old Testament and four times in this chapter. Nevertheless, as Henderson noted: "In twelve of the other fifteen references another word is included with [~Phrath], a word that means river. It seems a little strange, therefore that the word [~Phrath] should occur no less than four times in this chapter without that qualifying term which means river. This is certainly enough to suggest the possibility of the word’s being in this instance a reference to a local village. If this was indeed the case, the close identity of the name with the Great River would have had the same symbolical meaning that accrued to the Euphrates itself. Thus the meaning of the parable is not affected, no matter which view of the meaning of [~Phrath] is accepted.

And what is that meaning? The meaning is that the apostate nation, symbolized by the dirty, unwashed loincloth will be "hidden," that is, in captivity in Babylon on the Euphrates River.

(2) Another interpretation suggested by Dummelow is also plausible, perhaps even more so, than No. 1, cited above. "Jeremiah appears to have been absent from Jerusalem during a major part of Jehoiachin’s brief three-year reign; and he may very well be supposed to have been during that time in or near the city of Babylon. This would account for the kindly feeling toward him by Nebuchadnezzar after his capture of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:11). There is nothing at all unreasonable about this understanding of the passage, in which [~Phrath] would be understood as actually a reference to the Euphrates River itself.

(3) Another school of commentators have suggested that, "We are here dealing with a visionary experience," an interpretation which does not appear to be in any manner reasonable to this writer. We believe that Jeremiah actually bought a clean, white, linen girdle, wore it until it became thoroughly dirty, then hid it in the earth until it was completely rotted, mined, and spoiled, that he also recovered it as God commanded him, and that he showed it to his fellow-Israelites, expounding the whole history of that girdle to them as a parable of what was going to happen to the apostate nation.

Verses 6-7

Jer 13:6-7

Jeremiah 13:6-7

And it came to pass after many days, that Jehovah said unto me, Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there. Then I went to the Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it; and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.

It came to pass after many days...

(Jeremiah 13:6). The passing of many days was necessary in order to allow plenty of time for the linen girdle to be thoroughly rotted and spoiled. However, there was another reason: By the ’many days’ are meant the seventy years of the captivity.

It is a mistake to assume that it was the Babylonian captivity that mined Israel. That captivity was not the cause of Israel’s apostasy; it was the result and consequence of it. Let it be remembered that the loincloth was ’already dirty’ when Jeremiah buried it by the Euphrates River. The complete ruination of the girdle, therefore, was not a symbol of Israel’s apostasy, which was already complete, but a symbol of the complete spoiling of their pride, national institutions, and their general attitude of rebellion against God. After their return from Babylon, the "righteous remnant" never again resorted to the Baalim. It may be also that the symbolism of the rotten, mined girdle applied to the "vast majority" of the Once Chosen People who never returned to Judah, even after God commanded them to do so. They were lost forever as an identifiable race or nation.

Verses 8-11

Jer 13:8-11

Jeremiah 13:8-11

Then the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, that refuse to hear my words, that walk in the stubbornness of their heart, and are gone after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is profitable for nothing. For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith Jehovah; that they may be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.

From this paragraph it is evident that Jeremiah, after his recovery of the rotten girdle, showed it to the citizens of Judah and Jerusalem and explained the symbolism of it. This seems to imply also that the citizens were aware of the place (The Euphrates River) where the ruination of the nation would be executed by God’s judgment upon them.

Verses 12-14

Jer 13:12-14

Jeremiah 13:12-14


Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word: Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine: and they shall say unto thee, Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine? Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon David’s throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness. And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith Jehovah: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have compassion, that I should not destroy them.

The parable was brief enough: "Every bottle shall be filled with wine;" but when the prophet’s critics heard him, they answered with a mocking, "Of course, everybody already knows that." What they then learned was that God was not talking of literal wine jars at all, but about the citizens of the land, all of them; and here God promised to bring drunkenness upon the total population, even including all of the upper echelons of their society, kings, priests, prophets, everyone; and Jeremiah 13:14 prophesied that the result of this alcoholic oblivion would be the total destruction of the nation.

In this parable, "The bottles represent all the people, and the wine represents the wrath of God." The intoxication of all the people, rendering them helpless against all their enemies, indicated the certainty of God’s impending punishment for the people’s headstrong continuation in their licentious idolatry.

Pride Causes Drunkenness Jeremiah 13:12-14

The exact background of this little passage is not known. Perhaps Jeremiah was addressing those who were assembled at some festival. The presence of some empty earthen jars or wine skins might have provided the occasion for the parable which he offered. Jeremiah solemnly pronounced the formula, “Thus says the Lord.” The crowd of merrymakers became hushed and listened with rapt attention to what the eloquent orator from Anathoth might have to say. They no doubt expect a colorful sermon filled with biting sarcasm, pungent metaphors and daring attacks upon the unpopular king Jehoiakim. Instead they heard the commonplace and obvious truth: “Every bottle shall be filled with wine.” In shocked silence the crowd awaited for something more. But that was it. The prophet was through, for the moment at least. Someone in the crowd chuckled then all enjoyed a hardy laugh. They began to heckle the prophet: What marvelous wisdom! But tell us something we do not already know Jeremiah! Have you nothing more profound to say in the name of the Lord than this childish ditty? (Jeremiah 13:12).

Jeremiah did have something more to say and when the crowd had finished its laughter he drove home his point. Empty bottles are meant to be filled and that is just what God is about to do with the population of Judah. They are empty bottles and they will be filled with the wine of God’s wrath (cf. Jeremiah 25:15). They will be filled with drunkenness i.e., irrationality and helplessness. When men depart from the Lord they blunder, stagger and fall like a Skid ROW drunk. Men who are mentally and spiritually intoxicated are oblivious to danger, insensitive to warning, devoid of moral scruples. inconsiderate of and offensive to others. The drunk is dazed, confused, befuddled. What a perfect picture of the man who has rejected God. To emphasize the universality of this forthcoming judgment Jeremiah mentions five different segments of the national population: The inhabitants of the land, the residents of Jerusalem, the prophets, the priests and the kings who OCCUPY the throne of David. The plural “kings” is used no doubt to refer to all the kings who reigned during the final years of the history of Judah (Jeremiah 13:13).

Reeling helplessly as drunken sots the inebriated inhabitants of Judah will crash into one another. They will all fall; they will all perish. The reference here is probably to the internal confusion within Judah at the time she is under attack by her enemies. But God will have no pity upon these fallen sots and he will not intervene to prevent them from being destroyed (Jeremiah 13:14). The grace period has ended, Those who have through the years rejected the infinite mercy of God will now face His fierce wrath.

Verses 15-17

Jer 13:15-17

Jeremiah 13:15-17


Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud; for Jehovah hath spoken. Give glory to Jehovah your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret for [your] pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because Jehovah’s flock is taken captive.

Be not proud. my soul shall weep for your pride .....

(Jeremiah 13:15; Jeremiah 13:17). These are the key words in the passage and show that the warning is directed primarily against the pride of Israel. Jeremiah is the one who promises to weep over Israel’s condition, as indicated by his reference to Jehovah’s flock in Jeremiah 13:17.

What is symbolized here is the gathering darkness of the wrath of God. "Only a sincere response to Jehovah’s word could hold back the calamity and allow the light to shine over the land."

The approaching gloom of darkness was a dual symbol of the invasion and of the captivity.

Pride Brings On Darkness Jeremiah 13:15-17

After predicting the eventual outpouring of the wine of God’s wrath, Jeremiah earnestly appeals to his audience to hear i.e., obey, the word of the Lord. He points out that it is stubborn and inexcusable pride that prevents these leaders from really hearing God’s word (Jeremiah 13:15). If a man will only humble himself God will speak to him. Every Christian who opens a Bible should be uttering the prayer of Samuel: “Speak for thy servant heareth.” Jeremiah urges his hearers to give glory to God. Men give glory to God when they acknowledge His claims and submit to His will. Life at best is a rocky, cregy mountain route over which a man must walk. Even when the sun is brightly shining the way is tricky and dangerous unless the Lord is leading the way. But when the day of grace ends and the sunshine of God’s benevolent protection sinks over the horizon then those dangerous mountain paths become even more difficult to find and follow. The traveler hopes, wishes, longs for more light; but the sky grows darker and darker. Finally impenetrable darkness envelops the traveler and he is caught in the Stygian darkness with no Guide. “While the day of grace remains,” pleads Jeremiah, “give God glory. Before the midnight hour of divine judgment, humble yourselves, listen to His word” (Jeremiah 13:16).

If the men of Judah refuse to humble themselves and heed the admonition to hear the word of God Jeremiah will be broken hearted. He is not ashamed to admit it. Well has he been called the weeping prophet. Behind his stern and uncompromising messages was a broken heart. “My soul will weep” i.e., I will weep because of the pride which prevents these men from hearing the word of God. He will weep because he knows that stubborn pride will lead inevitably to captivity. So certain is he of this truth that he can speak of the captivity as though it had already taken place (Jeremiah 13:17).

Verses 18-19

Jer 13:18-19

Jeremiah 13:18-19


Say thou unto the king and to the queen-mother, Humble yourselves, sit down; for your headtires are come down, even the crown of your glory. The cities of the South are shut up, and there is none to open them: Judah is carried away captive, all of it; it is wholly carried away captive.

The mention of the queen-mother indicates the importance of the king’s mother among the kings of Judah. "They seem to have had some official status in Judah; indeed, 1 Kings 2:19 suggests that she even occupied a throne adjacent to that of the king." The passage before us also may indicate that she likewise wore a crown. "Because Jewish kings generally married subjects, and lived in polygamy, the king’s mother took precedence over his wives."

Dummelow also mentioned the importance of this verse in ascertaining the date when this chapter was written. "The date of this prophecy is shown pretty clearly by the word queen-mother, namely, Nehushta, mother of Jehoiachin. The queen-mother always had a high position; and, in Jehoiachin’s case, this would have been especially so, owing to the king’s young age."

Pride Leads to Dishonor Jeremiah 13:18-19

Three problems face the interpreter of Jeremiah 13:18-19. The first problem is the identity of the king to whom this brief oracle was addressed. A likely candidate is Jehoiachin who was deported to Babylon after a brief reign of three months. If this identification is correct then the queen-mother (lit., mistress) would be Nehushta, the widow of Jehoiakim and mother of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:8). In the kingdom of Judah the position of queen-mother seems to have been a position of no little prestige and dignity. The Book of Kings is always careful to mention the name of the mother of the reigning king in all but two cases. Scripture commends Asa for removing the wicked Maachah from this position (1 Kings 15:13). Athaliah was able to use this position as a stepping stone to the throne (2 Kings 11).

The second problem is to identify the tone of this passage. Is Jeremiah sincerely urging the king and queen-mother to humble themselves or is this a sarcastic imperative intended to drive home a warning concerning pride? Sarcasm is often difficult to recognize. One needs to hear the voice inflection, and see the facial expression in order to be assured that sarcasm is being employed. Even then when sarcasm is used artistically the listener may ponder many moments before he is sure that this rhetorical device has indeed been employed. And if sarcasm is difficult to detect in speech how much more in writing! However a comparison with the sincere invitation to repent in Jeremiah 13:14 would lead one to conclude that Jeremiah 13:18 falls into the category of a sarcastic imperative. The meaning then would be that the king and queen-mother would be dethroned and dishonored, reduced to the status of commoners. They had refused to humble themselves before God. Therefore God would debase and dishonor them in the sight of all men. The royal crown and headdress of which they were so proud would topple from their brow. If the king is Jehoiachin the fulfillment of this prediction is recorded in 2 Kings 24:15.

The third problem concerns the tense of this utterance. Was Jeremiah predicting something which would take place in the future or was he describing what had recently happened? Frequently in the English Bible, Hebrew predictive prophecy is couched in past tense. The prophet was so sure of what would transpire that he could describe it as though it had already happened. If Jeremiah 13:18 is indeed sarcastic imperative then it is predictive for such is the nature of this rhetorical device. In the case of Jeremiah 13:19 it is impossible to determine whether the two statements are descriptive or predictive. If the former, then Jeremiah was speaking at a time when the northern enemy had overrun the entire land even as far as the remote southern cities. These cities are spoken of as “shut up” i.e., under siege. All of Judah, i.e., the outlying regions of the land, had fallen to the enemy. This would fit quite well the situation that existed just prior to the surrender of Jehoiachin in 597 B.C. If Jeremiah 13:19 is predictive it could be dated to almost any year between 609 and 587 B.C.

Verses 20-27

Jer 13:20-27

Jeremiah 13:20-21


Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock? What wilt thou say, when he shall set over thee as head those whom thou hast thyself taught to be friends to thee? shall not sorrows take hold of thee, as of a woman in travail?

That come from the north...

(Jeremiah 13:20). Practically all of the invaders of Judah came from the north, as that was the most feasible military entrance into the city of Jerusalem; but the particular invasion prophesied here was that of the Babylonians.

Whom thou. hast taught to be thy friends

(Jeremiah 13:21). The plural here indicates that both Egypt and Babylon are meant. Contrary to the warnings of Isaiah and Jeremiah, Judah’s kings had cultivated the friendship of foreign powers, seeking to make alliances with them from time to time. It will be remembered that Hezekiah had embraced Merodach-baladan as his friend, showing him all of the treasures of the whole kingdom (Isaiah 39:1-2); and the question of this passage is, What are you going to say when such a ’friend’ becomes your king?

Jeremiah 13:22-24

And if thou say in thy heart, Wherefore are these things come upon me? for the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts uncovered, and thy heels suffer violence. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. Therefore will I scatter them, as the stubble that passeth away, by the wind of the wilderness.

For the greatness of thine iniquity...

(Jeremiah 13:22). This is God’s blunt answer to the question of why? all these things happened to Israel.

Thy skirts uncovered...

(Jeremiah 13:22). See under Jeremiah 13:26. below, for comment on this.

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots...

(Jeremiah 13:23)? A negative answer is required for both of these questions; and the meaning is simply that it is too late for Israel to change her ways. She has persistently wallowed in sin such a long time that there is no longer any hope of her changing. Such a condition came about because of (1) the deliberate rebellion of Israel against her God, and (2) the consequent judicial hardening of the apostate nation so frequently mentioned in Isaiah (See Isaiah 6:9-10, etc).

Jeremiah 13:25-26

This is thy lot, the portion measured unto thee from me, saith Jehovah; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood. Therefore will I also uncover thy skirts upon thy face, and thy shame shall appear.

Thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood

(Jeremiah 13:25). Trusting in falsehood means worshipping idols and believing in them. Such worship is also designated as The Lie in Jeremiah.

Uncover thy skirts upon thy face...

(Jeremiah 13:26). The shameful punishment of an adulterous woman in antiquity included lifting her skirts above her head, exposing her nakedness, smearing her with filth, and driving her through the city. The expression, your heels shall suffer violence (Jeremiah 13:23) could refer to your body, or genitals.

This drastic kind of punishment prescribed for Israel was justified and appropriate, because, the uncovering of her most intimate parts during her adulterous worship of the Baalim in their orgiastic ceremonies closely paralleled the punishment. For a more complete description of this awful punishment, see Nahum 3:5, Isaiah 47:2, and Ezekiel 16:37.

Jeremiah 13:27

I have seen thine abominations, even thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, on the hills in the field. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! thou wilt not be made clean; how long shall it yet be?

This is a further elaboration of the reasons why the dreadful punishment prescribed for Israel in the above verses was justified and appropriate.

Thy neighings...

(Jeremiah 13:27). Jeremiah mentioned this same thing back in Jeremiah 5:8 where he compared the behavior of the people to well-fed stallions, everyone neighing to his neighbor’s wife, indicating that they wanted a sexual experience with every woman in sight. The use of such a metaphor as this, as Robinson pointed out, most certainly indicates, actual sexual immorality, which was so prominent a feature of the cultic worship of the Baalim.

"The tragic thing was that these same people frequented the temple, mouthing formulas like, ’the temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh.’ "

How long shall it yet be...

(Jeremiah 13:27)? The actual meaning of these words is somewhat ambiguous. They may mean, how long will it be before Jerusalem is cleansed? or how long will it be before the judgment of God falls upon her? If Jeremiah still retained any hope of averting the terrible judgment which God through him had prophesied, the former meaning might be correct; but if he no longer supposed that Jerusalem would ever be cleansed, then the latter meaning is correct.

"Jeremiah lived to see the judgment fall; and after that, his hope rested upon the promise of a future day of restoration (Jeremiah 31:31-34)," upon which occasion "all would know the Lord, from the least unto the greatest of the people," and when the sins of the people would be gloriously forgiven.

That occasion, of course, would be the coming of the Kingdom of Messiah; and we may not suppose that Jeremiah understood all the implications of the prophecies God gave to mankind through him.

This concludes the five warnings set forth in this chapter. If Israel ever made the slightest gesture toward heeding any of them, the sacred scriptures retain no record of such a thing.

Pride is Punished by Disgrace

Jeremiah 13:20-27

Jeremiah 13:20-27 are related topically if not chronologically with the preceding two verses. In Jeremiah 13:19 all the outlying districts of Judah are depicted as having fallen to the enemy; only Jerusalem remains. Jeremiah 13:20-27 are addressed to Jerusalem. The daughter of Zion is urged to take note of the invading armies from the north. The Hebrew has a feminine singular verb but a masculine plural suffix on the object. This seems to be a clear indication that the person addressed is a collection of people. Then in a series of rhetorical questions the prophet tries to make Jerusalem see the folly of her past pride. Five such questions are asked. (1) Where is the glorious flock that was given to you? (Jeremiah 13:20). In this question Jerusalem, the capital, is regarded as the shepherd of the rest of the cities of the nation. God has placed His flock under the care of the rulers of Jerusalem. The question has, of course, already been answered in the preceding verse. All the cities of Judah have fallen under enemy control. (2) What will you say when He, i.e. God, shall appoint as your head those you had cultivated as friends? The word translated “head” can also mean “poison.” Perhaps a deliberate play on words is intended. Those you thought to be your friends and allies, those whose friendship you labored so hard to secure, will become your head, master, or perhaps, your poison. (3) At that time will you not experience the terror, pain and agony of a woman in childbirth? (Jeremiah 13:21). What a terrible and frightening thing it must be to see friends turn away or turn against one in an hour of need.

(4) The fourth rhetorical question is placed in the mouth of the astonished daughter of Zion. As she begins to taste of the bitter hemlock of divine judgment she shall cry out, “Why has all this happened to me?” Jeremiah can answer that question. He had been giving the answer to that question for many years. Jerusalem must suffer disgrace and humiliation because of her enormous iniquity. The skirts being uncovered is a figure taken from the public shaming of a woman caught in the act of harlotry (cf. Hosea 2:10). Before being executed an adulteress seems to have been stripped of her garments in order to shame her, Even the sandals of the daughter of Zion will be removed and she will be forced to walk barefoot into captivity (Jeremiah 13:22). What disgrace, what humiliation for the proud daughter of Zion!

(5) The fifth rhetorical question is intended to offer further reason for the impending humiliation of Jerusalem: Can an Ethiopian change his skin and a leopard[199] his spots? As recently as the beginning of the present century there were still leopards in the mountains of Galilee, on Carmel, in the hills around Jerusalem, and in the Jordan valley. Only a few survive today in the Galilean hills. Obviously not! Just so it is impossible for the people of Judah to do good, to obey the commands of God. Men who are unwilling to humble themselves and submit to God can do nothing good (cf. Romans 8:7-8). The inhabitants of Judah were accustomed i.e., taught or trained in the ways of evil. They were in fact students of evil! It was impossible that they could do anything to please God so long as they were in rebellion against Him.

Because Judah will not submit to God so that they might be enabled to do that which is good, God must bring judgment upon His people. They would be scattered as the chaff or stubble blown by the wind. Broken straw had to be separated from the wheat after the grain had been trampled out by oxen. The wind was used to blow away the worthless particles of chaff (Jeremiah 13:24). Because they had forgotten God and trusted in falsehood, i.e., false gods, therefore God had measured out the appropriate amount of judgment to be poured out upon Judah (Jeremiah 13:25). Jerusalem’s punishment is that of the adulteress caught in the act. She is stripped that her shame might be exposed to all. This judgment is the doing of God and that is emphasized by the emphatic position of the first person pronoun (Jeremiah 13:26). God knows of Jerusalem’s adulteries. The people of Judah are noted for their “neighings,” their passionate cravings for illegitimate objects of worship. The lewdness of the pagan rites practiced on the hills of the land He has observed. In view of all this sin and corruption Jeremiah can only pronounce a “woe” on Jerusalem. God for years had been offering the scarlet daughter of Zion cleansing and pardon if she would but turn to Him in sincere repentance. But even after all this time Jerusalem still prefers her filthy ways to the purity which God offers (Jeremiah 13:27).

Jeremiah Prophesies Destruction - Jeremiah 11:1 to Jeremiah 13:27

Open It

1. What is an issue of fairness that has direct impact on your life?

2. If you knew that someone was trying to kill you, what would you do?

Explore It

3. Of what important era in their history did God want Jeremiah to remind Israel? (Jeremiah 11:1-5)

4. Why was God punishing His people? (Jeremiah 11:9-11)

5. What did God say the people would discover when they sought help from the gods they had been worshiping? (Jeremiah 11:12-13)

6. How did Jeremiah find out about the plot on his life, and where did he turn for help? (Jeremiah 11:18-20)

7. What did the Lord promise to do to the people of Anathoth who had threatened Jeremiah? (Jeremiah 11:21-23)

8. What questions did Jeremiah pose to God concerning His justice? (Jeremiah 12:1-4)

9. What did God reveal that He intended to do to His unfaithful people? (Jeremiah 12:7-13)

10. How would the response of the nations to God’s judgment on Israel affect those nations? (Jeremiah 12:14-17)

11. What physical demonstration did God require of Isaiah as a lesson to the people? (Jeremiah 13:1-7)

12. How was Israel like Jeremiah’s belt? (Jeremiah 13:8-11)

13. How did Jeremiah know that God was not going to change His mind about punishing Israel? (Jeremiah 13:12-14)

14. If Israel refused to listen to God, what would happen to them and to Jeremiah? (Jeremiah 13:15-17)

15. What future did God predict for all Judah? (Jeremiah 13:18-19)

16. What had it become impossible for Israel to do in her hardheartedness? (Jeremiah 13:20-23)

17. What sins caused God to declare the destruction of Jerusalem? (Jeremiah 13:24-27)

Get It

18. What has God promised to us, and what does this require of us as believers?

19. What idols (false gods) are worshiped in society today that pose a temptation even to believers?

20. Why do people try to silence people who speak for God or those who remind us of God’s commands?

21. Where do you see instances around you of wicked people seeming to prosper?

22. Why is it sometimes tempting to give up living God’s way if you see no immediate results?

23. Why is it unwise to claim to be "religious" if God does not reside in your heart?

24. What determines whether a person is useful to God?

25. If we cannot change our natural tendency toward sin, what hope is there for us?

26. Why are people who do not trust in God for their righteousness destined to shame?

Apply It

27. What do you want to remember the next time you see an unrighteous person prosper or get undeserved rewards?

28. In what area of your life do you need to be on guard against pride standing in the way of God’s blessing?

Questions On Jeremiah Chapter Thirteen

By Brent Kercheville

1 What is the message of the loincloth (Jeremiah 13:1-11)? What do we become when we refuse to listen to God’s words?

2 What is the purpose of God’s people (Jeremiah 13:11)? What does this mean for us?

3 What is the message of the jar flled with wine (Jeremiah 13:12-14)?

4 What is terrifying about Jeremiah 13:14?

5 What is God’s message (Jeremiah 13:15-27)?

6 What must God’s people do (Jeremiah 13:15-16)?

7 What is the message of Jeremiah 13:23? What do we learn from this?


How does this relationship change your relationship with God?

What did you learn about him?

What will you do differently in your life?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 13". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/jeremiah-13.html.
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