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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 2

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-3

Jer 2:1-3

Jeremiah 2:1-3

THE APOSTASY OF ISRAEL

"In this chapter, `Israel’ refers to the whole nation, but in Jeremiah 3 the reference is to the Northern Israel.’ Keil’s summary of the chapter notes these divisions: Israel had indeed loved God at first during the days of their delivery from Egypt (Jeremiah 2:1-3); but Israel had fallen away from the love of God and had taken up the worship of idols (Jeremiah 2:4-8); therefore God will punish Israel for her shameful conduct (Jeremiah 2:9-19). From of old, Israel had been renegade, and by their pursuit of idols had contracted terrible guilt, not even God’s punishments leading them to repentance (Jeremiah 2:2-30); and therefore God will severely punish them (Jeremiah 2:31-37).

In our study of the Pentateuch, especially in Deuteronomy, we learned the importance of the old fifteenth century B.C. suzerainty treaties executed during that mid-second millennium B.C. period between overlords and their vassals, that being the form followed by the author of Deuteronomy and establishing the near-certainty of a very early date for Deuteronomy in the vicinity of 1,500 B.C. A full discussion of this is given by Meredith G. Kline in the Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary..

That the Book of the Law discovered by Hilkiah (2 Kings 22:8) was indeed a mid-second millennium document, and not a recent invention of Jewish priests is certified here in Jeremiah by the fact that the pattern of those old treaties is found right here in this chapter. Furthermore, this part of Jeremiah honored the very procedures that were required under those old treaties.

When lesser kings offended their overlords in some act of rebellion, the overlord sent a written message by the hands of a messenger. There was a proper legal way to do this: (1) There was an appeal to the vassal to pay heed, and a summons to the earth and sky to act as witnesses. (2) There was a series of questions, each of which carried an implied accusation. (3) There was an enumeration of past benefits conferred upon the vassal by the overlord. (4) There was a refutation of the notion that ritual compensations would do any good toward healing the breach; and (5) there was a declaration of the vassal’s guilt and culpability and a stern threat of judgment against the offender.

This pattern is clearly visible in this chapter, despite the fact of its being somewhat concealed by the particular style of Jeremiah’s writing. This prophecy, therefore, has the element of being a legal compliance with what was required to bring an offending vassal in to judgment and punishment.

From this, it is clearly evident that Jeremiah had before him the Book of Deuteronomy, in which this pattern appears; but by no means does this mean that he did not have also the entire Book of the Law. It is unfair the way some scholars neglect to stress this. For example, Cheyne cited a dozen references from Deuteronomy which are reflected in this chapter; but he failed to notice that there are far more passages from the other portions of the Pentateuch that should also be cited. A careful study will reveal that Jeremiah used material or made references more frequently from the books other than Deuteronomy in the Pentateuch than he did from Deuteronomy alone.

The Cross-Reference Bible, which we have as our text in this study, has the following references to that Book of the Law that Hilkiah found in the temple. This 2chapter has twenty-two references to Genesis, eighteen to Exodus, ten to Leviticus, five to Numbers, and seventeen to Deuteronomy! This is a fair sample of the way it is throughout this prophecy of Jeremiah. This is the only proof that is needed to demonstrate that it was not merely the Book of Deuteronomy that was found in the temple by Hilkiah, but that it was, as the Bible flatly declares, "The Book of Law" namely, those first five books of the Bible usually called the Pentateuch. This cannot mean Deuteronomy only!

Jeremiah 2:1-3

"And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying Thus saith Jehovah, I remember thee for the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto Jehovah, the first-fruits of his increase: all that devour him shall be found guilty; evil shall come upon them, saith Jehovah."

"The word of the Lord ..." (Jeremiah 2:1-3). Notice the triple declaration that the words of this chapter came from Jehovah. This truth is reiterated no less than a dozen times in this chapter.

"The love of thine espousals ..." (Jeremiah 2:2). "The word `love’ in this passage is a reference to Israel’s love as a bride for God her husband.: The NIV renders this, "your love as a bride;" and Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 edition) translated it, "your bridal love."

Such expressions of Israel’s devotion to the Lord are quite generous on the part of Jehovah, because the record reveals their countless murmurings and rebellions against God’s will. Still, in a relative sense, compared with the gross idolatries which later corrupted the Chosen People, the words are appropriate.

The period when Israel loved God was in that era when he sent the plagues upon Egypt, delivered Israel from slavery, and ratified the covenant with them at Sinai.

The very next passage begins the recitation of Israel’s apostasy; and despite this chapter’s being usually assigned to the earliest years of Jeremiah’s ministry, we do not believe that it is necessary to suppose that it was necessarily delivered before the great reforms of Josiah that followed the discovery of the Book of the Law. Many respected scholars, Ash, for example, so understand it; but we believe it probably came concurrently with Josiah’s reforms. Why?

As this chapter surely reveals, Judah’s reforms under Josiah were external only and did not at all touch the heart of the people who went right on delighting in the sexual orgies of their shameless love of the old Canaan fertility gods. "The valley" mentioned later in the chapter (v. 23) indicates the sacrifice of their children to Molech at the very time of their brazen claim of innocence. If the reform under Josiah had truly resulted in the repentance of Israel and their return to the God of their fathers, the Lord would most certainly have postponed their terminal judgment in the captivity.

One of the great benefits bestowed upon Israel by their great Benefactor God was that he made them secure against all foreign enemies (Jeremiah 2:3).

SERMONS FROM THE REIGN OF JOSIAH

Jeremiah 2:1 to Jeremiah 6:30

Chapters 2–6 contain several discourses uttered at different times in the early years of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry. Some of these messages seem to be addressed to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel. The material is cast in poetic form as can be seen from the verse arrangement in the New American Standard Version. The theme which runs through these chapters is that of past faithfulness and present apostasy. Several times Jeremiah amplifies the contrast between the implicit faithfulness of Israel during the early stage of national existence and the present state of backsliding. Needless to say, only a summary of the actual words of Jeremiah have been preserved here. It is impossible to tell whether this section contains two or three longer addresses, each given on a specific occasion, or a number of shorter speeches or excerpts from sermons which were gathered up by Jeremiah or Baruch at a later time. The second alternative is more probable.

Nearly all commentators are agreed that the messages in chapters 2–6 should be assigned to the reign of king Josiah, A reference to that king appears in Jeremiah 3:6. Certain verses seem to point to the period of Josiah’s reformation which fell between the years 627 and 621 B.C.

THE INAUGURAL SERMON Jeremiah 2:1-37

Jeremiah’s inaugural sermon might well be entitled “God’s Indictment of His People.” If chapter 2 does contain Jeremiah’s first sermon or at least excerpts from his earliest sermons, it is apparent that this young man from the very beginning did not pull any punches. The language is tough and hard-hitting. The logic is impeccable and the conclusion is inevitable: Judah is deserving of divine judgment. The prophet begins by bringing to the attention of his hearers the past association which they as a nation had enjoyed with God (Jeremiah 2:1-3). He then attacks the present apostasy (Jeremiah 2:4-8) and offers a penetrating analysis of it (Jeremiah 2:9-19). Jeremiah then drives home his accusations with a series of devastating analogies and figures of speech (Jeremiah 2:20-28). The chapter closes with the prophet smashing whatever arguments the apostate people might use to justify their behavior (Jeremiah 2:29-37).

Past Associations Jeremiah 2:1-3

Apparently Jeremiah did not have to wait long to receive the first message from the Lord which he was to deliver to his people. While still at Anathoth instructions came to go and preach in Jerusalem the capital city. His message is to open with a nostalgic note which would certainly have gained Jeremiah an initially favorable hearing. The introduction to his sermon was psychologically sound. He proceeds to paint a beautiful picture of the tender relationship which had in past years existed between God and His people. He points out Israel’s loving care for God (Jeremiah 2:2) and God’s loving care for Israel (Jeremiah 2:3).

1. Israel’s loving care for God (Jeremiah 2:2)

God still remembered the loving care which Israel had demonstrated toward Him in the days of national youth. It is in the period of the Exodus and wilderness wandering that the tribes of Israel became a nation. During those formative years Israel had shown tender and affectionate “kindness” to the Lord their God. This “bridal love,” as Jeremiah calls it, had caused Israel to follow the Lord from Egypt, a land of comparative plenty (Numbers 11:5) into the wilderness (“a land not sown”). As a bride in loving trust follows her husband into a strange land so Israel had followed God into the barren wastes of Sinai. The figure of a bride is also used in Hosea 2:19-20, Isaiah 54:4-5 and Ezekiel 16:8. But how can the period of wilderness wandering be regarded as a time of love and trust when the narratives of Exodus and Numbers are replete with examples of murmuring and lack of faith? Jeremiah was not ignorant of the wilderness failings of Israel but he apparently felt that these shortcomings did not detract in the least from the loving trust displayed by Israel in venturing into the desert with God. For Jeremiah, and other prophets as well, the wilderness wandering was the honeymoon period of Israel’s history. Cf. Isaiah 1:26; Hosea 11:1; Hosea 11:3-4; Ezekiel 16:6-14. In the wilderness Israel was completely dependent on God. He had no rivals for their affections. Israel was completely devoted to Him.

2. God’s loving care for Israel (Jeremiah 2:3)

God reciprocated the loving care of Israel. He regarded Israel as his holy portion. According to Isaiah, God was the holy one of Israel; according to Jeremiah, Israel was the holy one of God. Israel belonged to God (Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:19.) just as did the first-fruits of the harvest. See Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:12-13. The use of the term “first-fruits” in reference to Israel implies that God expected a later harvest among the nations of the world. with the spread of the Gospel such has been the case. This being the case, Israel was under the divine protection of the Lord. Foreigners were forbidden to eat of consecrated things; by breaking this law they became guilty of a “trespass” (Leviticus 22:10; Leviticus 22:15-16). Since Israel was consecrated to God that nation could not be harmed with impunity. Though elsewhere Jeremiah regards the nations as agents used of God to punish Judah, here he lays down the general principle that any who attack God’s people will be punished.

Verses 4-8

Jer 2:4-8

Jeremiah 2:4-8

"Hear ye the word of Jehovah, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel: Thus saith Jehovah, What unrighteousness have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain? Neither said they, Where is Jehovah that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and pits, through a land of drought and of the shadow of death, through a land that none passed through, and where no man dwelt? And I brought you into a plentiful land, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. The priests said not, Where is Jehovah? and they that handle the law knew me not: the rulers also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit."

The gross stupidity and sinfulness of the whole nation are dramatically stated here. Israel, once the Chosen People, enjoying the exalted position as the wife of Jehovah himself, protected from every enemy, and moved into Canaan to replace its ancient pagan inhabitants, had themselves become worse than the people they replaced, and had "walked after worthlessness." RKH tells us that the word "worthlessness," through a play on words (paronomasia) is a reference to Baal. He also stated that, in those Near Eastern international treaties, `To go after’ (or walk after) meant to serve as a vassal.”

In Israel’s pursuit of worthlessness in their going after Baal, they had themselves become worthless, because men invariably become like what they love and worship. This immortal truth was allegorized by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his Legend of the Great Stone Face.

"Land of deserts and pits ... etc." (Jeremiah 2:6).

"The desert between Mount Sinai and Palestine abounds in chasms and pits, in which beasts of burden may sink down to their knees. `Shadow of death’ refers to the darkness of the caverns amidst the rocky precipices (Deuteronomy 8:15)."

God indeed had tenderly led Israel safely through countless difficulties and dangers; so what had gone wrong? Jeremiah 2:8 cites four classes of the leadership of the nation as extremely culpable, these being, (1) the priests, (2) the Levites, (3) the rulers (shepherds), and (4) the prophets.

The priests were complacent and indifferent; the Levites knew not God; the shepherds (rulers) were disobedient; and the prophets were working for Baal rather than for the Lord, money and sensual indulgence probably being the inducements that took them away from their duty. The text states that they walked after things that do not profit. Ash tells us that, "The Hebrew word rendered `do not profit’ comes from the same root as `worthlessness’ in Jeremiah 2:5," and it is therefore connected with Baal. This is a terrible summary of the incompetence and inability of Israel’s leadership. They were a stupid group of blind, selfish, and apostate leaders. With that type of leadership, the people hardly had a chance. As Jesus stated it, "They were as sheep not having a shepherd" (Mark 6:34).

“Hear the word of the Lord” is a characteristic introduction to a prophetic oracle, This formula occurs at least twenty-three times in Jeremiah with slight variation. Note that Jeremiah calls upon all families of the house of Israel to hear his message (Jeremiah 2:4). He apparently regarded Judah as the representative of the entire covenant nation. It may be that the prophet is also addressing the exiles of the northern kingdom as well as some Israelite families who were still left in Samaria. In pointing out the present apostasy of the people Jeremiah makes three points: the apostasy is (1) unjustified (Jeremiah 2:5); (2) ungrateful (Jeremiah 2:6-7) and (3) universal (Jeremiah 2:8).

1. Unjustified apostasy (Jeremiah 2:5)

In verse five God asks a question and that question implies an emphatic negative answer: “What fault did your fathers find in Me?” There is no reason or fault on God’s part which can account for the infidelity of the nation. Yet they have forsaken Him and gone after idols, “vain things” (lit., a breath, a vapor). With all of its pomp and pageantry idolatry in the eyes of Israel’s prophets was mere nothingness, utterly futile, useless and vain. Following after these vain deities, the men of Israel became vain. 2 Kings 17:15 uses the same wording as the present verse. Bright sees a word play here: They think that they are following habbaal. The Baal, but in reality they are following hahebel the wind, emptiness. The thought that men become like the object of their worship can be traced back to Hosea. Concerning the initial apostasy of the nation Hosea declares: They came to Baal-peer, and consecrated themselves unto the shameful thing (i.e., the idol) and became abominable like that which they loved” (Hosea 9:10). A man is no better than the god that he worships.

2. Ungrateful apostasy (Jeremiah 2:6-7)

Once the great apostasy set in, Israel seemed to forget about the God who had led them through the barren desert wastes. The word rendered “wilderness” in this verse may have the connotation “pastureland” or it may refer to a barren and inhospitable region. Several phrases are added to the word “wilderness” to paint a picture of the Sinaitic peninsula through which the Israelites had passed so many years before. It was a land of drought, deserts, and darkness. The word “darkness” in the Old Testament frequently connotes distress or extreme danger (cf. Psalms 23:4). A trackless desert can be every bit as bewildering as Stygian darkness. But God had brought Israel through that hostile land of pits, holes, rents and fissures in the soil to a beautiful land (Jeremiah 2:7). The Hebrew uses the word “Carmel” to describe this land. A Carmel-land is a land planted with vines and other choice plants. Cf. Jeremiah 4:26; Isaiah 29:17; Isaiah 37:24. Bright translates the phrase “a land like a garden” while Freedman renders it “a land of fruitful fields.” Yet the Israelites were still unappreciative. They took that holy land that God had consecrated to His own purposes and defiled it by their idolatry. With their pagan rites they made the holy land an abomination to God.

3. Universal apostasy (Jeremiah 2:8)

The apostasy extended even to the political and spiritual leaders of the nation. Even the priests and those who handle, i.e., were skillful in, the law were guilty. One can know the Book but not really know the Lord of the Book! The shepherds or rulers of the nation did not restrain the apostasy but in fact they too transgressed against the Lord. The term “shepherds” in the Old Testament generally refers to civil, not spiritual, leaders. See Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 10:21; Jeremiah 22:22; Jeremiah 25:34; Zechariah 10:3; Zechariah 11:5; Zechariah 11:8; Zechariah 11:16; Isaiah 44:28. Many prophets began to walk after idol gods and prophesy by Baal. The reference is not to the band of the prophets which appears in 1 Samuel 10, 19 or to the sons of the prophets which appear in connection to Elijah and Elisha. The Scriptures no where link these early prophets to Baal worship. Rather the reference is to prophets like those in the court of Ahab who actually had gone over to the cult of Baal (1 Kings 18:19). Since Jeremiah himself was both a priest and a prophet it must have particularly grieved his heart to point out that apostasy had infected both orders. The entire nation had ceased to follow the Lord who brought them to Canaan and had begun to follow useless things, gods which had not done nor could do anything for them.

Verses 9-13

Jer 2:9-13

Jeremiah 2:9-13

"Wherefore I will yet contend with you, saith Jehovah, and with your children’s children will I contend. For pass over to the isles of Kittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently; and see if there hath been such a thing. Hath a nation changed its gods, which yet are no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be ye horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith Jehovah. For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."

Jeremiah 2:13 is the climax of this paragraph. The first verse (Jeremiah 2:9) uses legal terms that represent God as pressing a lawsuit against his people for doing a totally unheard of thing, namely, they had deserted the true God and gone after Baal. Furthermore, in all history it was never even heard of that even a pagan nation would forsake its ancestral gods!

Perhaps the reason why pagan nations had so generally clung to their ancient "no gods" was rooted in the fact that the worship of such nonentities was rooted in and designed to satisfy basic instincts and passions; whereas the higher religion of the true God was designed to lift man to a far more spiritual and exalted level.

"Kittim ... and Kedar ..." (Jeremiah 2:10). Kittim (Chittim in some versions) is the same as Cyprus. "Cyprus represents the West; Kedar (in N. Arabia) represents the East. Taken together they stand for the whole pagan world.”

"My people have committed two evils ..." (Jeremiah 2:13). Whereas the pagan nations were guilty of the one evil of worshipping their "no-gods," Israel was guilty of two evils: (1) forsaking the true God, and (2) going after worthlessness.

The foolishness and stupidity of Israel’s dual crime is illustrated here by the imaginary action of a rancher or farmer stopping up a flowing spring of water and constructing cisterns in place of it. The cisterns soon cracked and could hold no water.

Sermons sometimes stress the stagnant waters of a cistern compared with spring waters; but the text states that such cisterns "could hold no water," not even stagnant water. This is indeed an apt illustration of the folly of men who turn away from the saving religion of God to build instead of it their own worthless systems of religion.

Verses 9-19

Jer 2:9-19

In Jeremiah 2:9-19 the prophet analyzes the present apostasy pointing out (1) the deplorable condition of apostasy (Jeremiah 2:9-13) and (2) the terrible consequences of their backsliding (Jeremiah 2:14-19).

1. The deplorable condition of apostasy (Jeremiah 2:9-13)

As a prosecutor arguing his case before a jury the Lord presents His case against Israel. A technical legal word is actually used in Jeremiah 2:9 which means to plead in a legal sense or present one’s case. The “you” of Jeremiah 2:9 probably refers to the past generation of apostates about whom the prophet has been speaking in Jeremiah 2:4-8. The children’s children would be the present generation to which Jeremiah was preaching. Repeated acts of rebellion through the years have called forth repeated reproach and punishment on the part of God.

The prophet argues that the apostasy of Judah is unprecedented in all the history of the world. He challenges his hearers to go westward to Kittim and eastward to Kedar to see if they could uncover another example of a nation which had changed deities (Jeremiah 2:10). Kittim refers to the isles of the Mediterranean (cf. Numbers 24:24; Daniel 11:30) and perhaps also the coastlands of Italy and Greece (cf. Genesis 10:4). Kedar was the name of one of the sons of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13) and is here used of Arabia in general. A pagan nation will not voluntarily change gods even though they have the best reason in the world to do so viz., their gods are nonentities (Jeremiah 2:11). Yet Israel has changed their Glory (God) for the useless one (Baal). The use of Glory for God occurs in Psalms 106:20 and Psalms 3:3. A similar title for God is “the Pride of Israel” (Amos 8:7; Hosea 5:5). When a nation ceases to trust in God that nation has lost its true glory.

It is characteristic of the divine lawsuit that God or the prophet calls upon the heavens to bear testimony in the case (e.g., Micah 6:1 f.; Isaiah 1:2). Thus in Jeremiah 2:12 the prophet calls upon the heavens to be appalled, to bristle (lit., make your hair stand on end) and be exceedingly amazed (lit., become stiff with horror) over the sin of Judah. The heavens had looked down upon the original prophetic admonition and warning to Israel (Deuteronomy 32:1). Now they look down upon the willful and reckless transgression of the divine will. Nature which functions in perfect obedience to the will of the Creator is, as it were, horrified at the thought of God’s highest creatures rebelling against His will.

Two specific charges are leveled against the people of God in Jeremiah 2:13. They have forsaken the Lord, a fountain of living water, in order to hew out for themselves cisterns. Jeremiah uses the figure again in Jeremiah 17:13. Many years earlier David had said of the Lord: “With you is the fountain of life” (Psalms 36:9). A cistern in antiquity had three fundamental deficiencies: (1) The best cisterns in Palestine, even those cut in solid rock, were prone to crack thus causing the precious water to be lost. (2) Even if by constant care the cistern was made to hold, yet the water collected from clay roofs has the color of weak soapsuds, tastes like the earth and is full of worms. (3) A cistern at its best is limited in the amount of water it can hold. In the hour of greatest need, during the long dry spells, it fails to supply the life-giving water. Who in their right mind would prefer this unwholesome and inadequate water supply to the sweet and wholesome water of a bubbling fountain? Why do men prefer man-made systems of salvation to the over-flowing, ever-fresh and invigorating fountain of divine grace? God satisfies the needs of the whole man both for time and eternity. One who truly drinks at this fountain shall never thirst again (John 4:13).

2. The terrible consequences of apostasy (Jeremiah 2:14-19)

In making the transition from considering the condition of apostasy to pointing out the consequences of apostasy, Jeremiah points to the example of the northern kingdom of Israel. Israel had been dragged away into slavery by the Assyrians. By means of two rhetorical questions the prophet drives home the point that Israel had not been born to be a slave to nations. Israel was in fact a member of the Lord’s family, the firstborn son of the Lord (Exodus 4:22). That Israel should be captive in another land is an unnatural state of affairs and demands a reasonable explanation. Why then has Israel become a prey to the nations, helpless to resist the advances of neighboring states? (Jeremiah 2:13). Israel’s enemies like lions have roared against God’s people, have made the land a desolation and laid waste the cities (Jeremiah 2:14). Why?

From Israel in the north Jeremiah turns his attention to Judah in Jeremiah 2:16. The verse is best regarded as a prediction written as though it has already been fulfilled. The Hebrew language has no past, present and future tenses as does English. Hebrew is concerned only with whether a certain action is complete or incomplete. In English translations predictive prophecy has often been obscured by past tense. The translation “cracked your skull” is based on a slight alternation in the Hebrew vowel points which, in effect, the American Standard Version has also followed. Noph and Tahpanhes are important Egyptian cities, the latter being a fortress commanding the road to Palestine (Jeremiah 44:1; Jeremiah 46:15). The prophecy then is that Judah will receive a mortal blow at the hands of Egypt. The fulfillment is to be found in the defeat of Josiah at Megiddo and the consequent subjugation of Judah (2 Kings 23:29). Some would date these verses after 609 B.C. and since the passage is not dated, this possibility cannot be ruled out. Unable to learn from the fate of the northern kingdom, Judah was doomed to repeat that fate.

Now why had Israel suffered? Why was Judah yet to suffer? “You have brought it upon yourself,” says the prophet. From the time of the wilderness wanderings to the present they had refused to follow the leading of the Lord (Jeremiah 2:17). Having turned from the Fountain of Living Water Judah was drinking desperately from the waters of the Nile and from the River, i.e., the Euphrates in Assyria (Jeremiah 2:18). The Euphrates river was regarded as the boundary between Syria-Palestine and Assyria. Genesis 15:18 points to the fact that “the River” is the Euphrates. These broken cisterns could not provide the life-giving water the nation needed. In the view of Jeremiah there was no advantage whatsoever for Judah to become entangled in international politics. Isaiah (Isaiah 30:2-5; Jeremiah 31:1) and Hosea (Hosea 7:11; Hosea 7:16) had already in veighed against an Egyptian alliance. The historical books of the Old Testament bear witness to the fact that Israel’s vacillation between Egypt and Assyria proved disastrous. Since they had forsaken the Lord and no longer feared Him they were doomed to chastisement and punishment at the hands of their enemies (Jeremiah 2:19). Through the depths of their suffering they would come to realize how heinous was their crime against God. They had sowed the wind and they were about to reap the whirlwind.

Verses 14-19

Jer 2:14-19

Jeremiah 2:14-19

"Is Israel a servant? is he a home-born slave? why is he become a slave? The young lions have roared upon him, and yelled; and they have made his land waste: his cities are burned up, without inhabitant. The children also of Memphis and Tahpanhes have broken the crown of thy head. Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken Jehovah thy God, when he led thee by the way? And now what hast thou to do in the way to Egypt, to drink the waters of the Shihor? or what hast thou to do in the way to Assyria, to drink the waters of the River? Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and a bitter, that thou hast forsaken Jehovah thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts."

"Why is he become a slave ..." (Jeremiah 2:14)? There are two ways of looking at this. One is to suppose that Israel is here depicted as a home-born slave of Jehovah; and the question, according to Cook, means: "How does it happen that the member of so powerful a family is spoiled?" The other view considers the first two of the three questions here as stressing the fact that Israel is not a slave, but the wife of God; and how, then, is it possible for him to be mined?

"The young lions have roared upon him ..." (Jeremiah 2:15). These words make it certain that the passage applies to the Northern Israel particularly, because since 722 B.C., when the Samaritan Israel had fallen to Assyria, the young lions (definitely identifying Assyria. See Nahum 2:11-13), had indeed been feeding upon the rains of the Northern Israel. The significance of "the young lions" is that they remained in the den where they fed upon the prey brought to them by the adult lions. What an appropriate picture, because the Northern Israel had already been taken as a prey to Assyria.

"They have made his land waste ... etc." (Jeremiah 2:15). "Not only had Israel been wasted, till the multiplication of wild beasts rendered human life unsafe (2 Kings 17:25), but the Assyrian invasions had also reduced Judaea to a state almost as sad.” The argument here is: Israel, look at what has already happened to your sister nation because of her apostasy!

"Egypt ... and Assyria ..." (Jeremiah 2:16). The mention of Egypt here is surprising; but it is due to the fact of their fighting against Jerusalem, taking it, and murdering the good king Josiah. Jeremiah, being familiar (from history) with the fall of Samaria and personally with the events around the death of Josiah mentioned both together as Judea’s suffering from the nation’s apostasy.

"Tahpanhes ..." (Jeremiah 2:16). "This is the Greek Daphnae, modern Tell Defennch, on the eastern border of the Egyptian Delta.”

"Hast thou not procured this unto thyself ..." (Jeremiah 2:17)? This through Jeremiah 2:19 stresses the lesson that Judaea should be willing to learn: "Know therefore, and see that it is an evil thing, and a bitter, that thou hast forsaken Jehovah thy God!" As the subsequent verses of the chapter reveal, Judaea would not learn, having fallen completely in love with the Baalim and their licentious worship. These words do not take account of the "righteous remnant," of whom, of course, was Jeremiah.

"What hast thou to do in the way to Egypt... or in the way to Assyria ..." (Jeremiah 2:18)?. In full keeping with Jeremiah’s constant opposition to all kinds of alliances and intrigues with foreign nations, these words stress the warning that traversing such ways by Israel will lead only to disaster. "To lean on Egypt, or any foreign power, was a violation of the principles of the theocracy, which required God’s people to be an independent power, firmly closed against all foreign influences.”

Verses 20-25

Jer 2:20-25

Jeremiah 2:20-25

"For of old time I have broken thy yoke and burst thy bonds; and thou saidst, I will not serve; for upon every high hill and under every green tree thou didst bow thyself, playing the harlot. Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate branches of a foreign vine unto me? For though thou wash thee with lye, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord Jehovah. How canst thou say, I am not defiled, I have not gone after the Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways; a wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind in her desire; in her occasion, who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her. Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst. But thou saidst, It is in vain; no, for I have loved strangers, and after them I will go."

The change to the first person in Jeremiah 2:20 should not be confusing. This type of abrupt change of persons is common in most of the Biblical writings. The Anchor Bible gives the true meaning of the passage thus:

"Long ago you snapped your yoke,

Shook off your lines.

And said, "I will not serve!"

Nay, on every high hill,

Under every green tree,

There you sprawled a-whoring.”

Even more explicit is the rendition of Thompson who rendered the last two lines here as:

"And under every green tree

You sprawled in sexual vice.”

All are familiar with the usual scholarly emphasis that harlotry and adultery in the Bible are actually metaphors for turning from the worship of God to any form of false worship; but the raw facts of human lust and depravity were basic factors involved in such "spiritual adultery". "The reference in Jeremiah 2:20 is to the fertility cults of ancient Canaan, whose rites included so-called sacred prostitution and the ritual self-dedication of young women to the god of fertility.”

As Feinberg put it, "It must not be forgotten that sexual immorality of the lowest order was always a part of this so-called worship.” There can be no doubt whatever that the basic attraction to the Hebrews of the Baalim cults was precisely this: they provided abundant gratification of sexual lust upon the payment of the usual fee of a cake of raisins. As Ash expressed it, "The harlotry, or whoredom, was both literal in the sexually oriented worship of Baal, and spiritual in the people’s abandonment of Jehovah for other gods.”

These verses, and through Jeremiah 2:29, furnish a list of seven similes illustrating Israel’s apostasy: (1) She is like an ox that throws off the yoke and refuses to work; (2) She is like a prostitute. (3) She is like the choice grapevine that became a corrupt vine yielding poisonous berries. (4) Israel’s guilt is a stain that neither lye nor soap can remove. (5) She is like a she-camel in @@rut, running around in all directions seeking a mate. (6) She is like a she-ass in heat, crazed by desire, seeking a male partner. (7) The shame of Israel is like that of a thief who has been caught. All of these analogies are developed by Hyatt.

Jeremiah 2:21 gives Jeremiah’s version of the "corrupt vine" a passage with the same essential message as that of Isaiah 5:1-7. The message is that the promising nation of Israel had degenerated beyond all hope of its being preserved. "The noble or choice vine which God planted, in the Hebrew is literally `Sorek vine,’ a high-quality red grape grown between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean."

Jeremiah 2:22 points out that Israel’s uncleanness was of a type that soap and water, even with lye, could in no manner cleanse. This is the fourth simile describing the wickedness of the Once Chosen People: (1) the ox that threw off her yoke, (2) the unfaithful wife who became a whore, (3) the noble vine that degenerated into a corrupt plant; and (4) their person so filthy that lye and soap were powerless to cleanse her!

"How canst thou say, I am not defiled ..." (Jeremiah 2:23)? Keil identified the "valley" mentioned here as "Ben-Hinnom, to the south of Jerusalem, where children were offered to Molech, ... and taken in connection with what follows, the words certainly imply the continued existence of practices of that sort."

In Jeremiah 2:23-24, we have two more of the similes regarding Israel’s guilt, (5) that of the young camel filly and (6) that of the she-ass, the behavior of either of them in heat being regarded as a description of the crazed, lustful search of Israel for illegal lovers. Those particular animals, when their time is upon them, search frantically for the male counterpart, not waiting to be sought by them. This was the manner of Israel’s shameless pursuit of gratification in the shrines and "high places" of the pagan cults.

"Withhold thy foot from being unshod ..." (Jeremiah 2:25). This is a plea by the prophet that Israel should stop running barefooted after lovers, forcing herself into a state of thirst, in her mad, lustful pursuit of false lovers, "Like a shameless adulteress, running after strangers.”

Verses 20-28

Jer 2:20-28

In a series of brilliant metaphors Jeremiah sharpens his accusation against Judah. The nation is compared to (1) an ox that breaks his yoke (Jeremiah 2:20); (2) a vine that bears strange fruit (Jeremiah 2:21); (3) a stain that will wash off (Jeremiah 2:22); (4) a roving dromedary (Jeremiah 2:23); (5) a wild ass in heat (Jeremiah 2:24); (6) a persistent paramour (Jeremiah 2:25); and (7) a thief caught in the act (Jeremiah 2:26-28).

1. An ox that breaks his yoke (Jeremiah 2:20)

Jeremiah 2:20 presents some difficult textual problems and consequently the differences between English translations of the verse are considerable. The Hebrew permits and the ancient Greek and Latin versions support the reading “you have broken . you have burst.” This is also the marginal reading in the American Standard Version. Like a stubborn ox Israel refused to submit to the yoke of divine restraint and the bands of ethical obligation. Israel categorically declared, I will not serve. The Greek and Syriac versions support the reading “serve” rather than the alternate translation “transgress.” Having demanded freedom from the Lord, Israel became the slave to the passion and lust of idolatrous worship. On the bare treeless heights Israel offered sacrifices to the Baalim. The groves and leafy trees provided the necessary privacy for the lewd rites of Asherah and Ashtoreth. Sacred prostitution was part of the rites of these fertility cults and thus Jeremiah likens the national apostasy to harlotry and adultery.

2. A vine that bears strange fruit (Jeremiah 2:21)

To produce choice grapes takes many years of patient and tender care of the vines. The divine Horticulturist had planted a choice seed in the soil of human history. The Hebrew says God planted a “Sorek vine,” the choicest kind of Oriental vine. The word “Sorek” refers to the deep-red color of the grapes which this type of vine produced. Over the years He had trained the temperamental vine, pruned it, and had given it the tender and loving care it required. But when the vine reached the age of productivity it bore strange fruit of inferior quality. The vintage was not commensurate with the time and effort and care expended by the One who had planted the vine. It was a degenerate plant worthy only of destruction. In this brief but brilliant metaphor Jeremiah surveys God’s dealings with Israel. Abraham, the father of the faithful, was the choice seed. During the years of the Patriarchal journeying, the Egyptian bondage and the wilderness wandering God had patiently and lovingly watched over the tender young plant. When the people reached Canaan they refused to yield the fruit of service and obedience to the Lord but on the contrary rendered their allegiance to other gods. How sad it is, says the prophet, as he shakes his head in amazement at what has become of that noble vine. The Hebrew interjection used here is one of the distinctive words in the vocabulary of lamentation as can be seen in Ezekiel 26:17; Jeremiah 48:39; 2 Samuel 1:19; 2 Samuel 1:26-27. English translations have failed to capture the spirit of the word by rendering it “how.” The translation “how sad it is” better conveys the melancholy force of the word.

3. A stain that will not wash off (Jeremiah 2:22)

The iniquity of Israel is clearly visible to the Holy One of Israel. It is an indelible stain which cannot be removed through human effort. The best cleansing agents of the day are not sufficient to eliminate that blot. Lye (Hebrew, neter) is a mineral alkali deposited on the shores and on the bed of certain lakes in Egypt. This substance was collected for making lye for washing purposes (see Proverbs 25:20). Soap (Hebrew, borit) is the corresponding vegetable alkali (m Isaiah 1:25). Though the outward man may be scrubbed clean yet the ugly’ blot of iniquity remains upon the heart and the soul. Only God can wipe it away. What joy it is for the Christian to know that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin (1 John 1:7).

4. A roving dromedary (Jeremiah 2:23)

The people who were secretly worshiping Baal apparently did not regard this as apostasy as long as they went through the formal acts of worshiping the Lord. Perhaps they even went so far as to claim that the rites of Baal were performed in the service of God. Jeremiah calls their attention to what was taking place in the Valley of Hinnom. From the days of Ahaz this valley had been used for the rites of Molech, a god who demanded human sacrifice. The prophet compares their conduct to that of a swift young camel running hither and yen. Most commentators have interpreted this figure to be that of a female camel in heat, driven by lust, pacing to and fro. Kenneth Bailey, who spent seventeen years in the Middle East, argues that this is not the point of comparison in Jeremiah 2:23. As a matter of fact, says Bailey, the female camel does not come into heat; rather it is the male camel that experiences rut. It is true that the word camel in this verse is feminine, but all references since Jeremiah 2:16 have been feminine singular. It is not the femaleness that is being stressed in this verse, but rather the youthfulness of the camel. On the basis of his personal observation Bailey writes:

The young camel is the perfect illustration for all that is ‘skittery’ and unreliable. It is ungainly in the extreme and runs off in any direction at the slightest provocation, much to the fury of the cameldriver.

5. A wild ass in heat (Jeremiah 2:24)

In Jeremiah 2:24 the prophet compares the apostasy of Israel to the dramatic and vulgar actions of a female ass in heat. In the month of mating, sires need not weary themselves in seeking out the female ass; on the contrary she will eagerly seek them out. So Israel eagerly turns to the lewd rites of Baalism. The impact of this metaphor becomes even more forceful when one studies it in detail. Bailey from his own personal observation has thrown considerable light on the phrase “in her desire, (she) snuffs at the wind.”

She sniffs the path in front of her trying to pick up the scent of a male (from his urine). When she finds it, she rubs her nose in the dust and then straightens her neck and, with head high, closes her nostrils and “sniffs the wind.” What she really is doing is snuffing the dust which is soaked with the urine of the male ass. With her neck stretched to the utmost she slowly draws in a long, deep breath, then lets out an earthshaking bray and doubles her pace, racing down the road in search of the male.

6. A persistent paramour (Jeremiah 2:25)

In Jeremiah 2:25 the divine Husband pleads with his adulterous wife, Israel, to cease from her wild pursuit of illicit lovers. The difficult first part of the verse might allude to the fatiguing practices of the Baal cult—the barefoot dances and endless repetition of the name Baal (see 1 Kings 18:26). In a more general sense the admonition might be taken to be: “Do not run till your sandals wear out and you faint with thirst chasing your gods.” In any case Israel rejects this earnest appeal. She cannot be turned from the paths of apostasy. The lure of false worship was too great to be resisted. “It is no use,” she cries, “I love the strange gods and I will continue to go after them.”

7. A thief caught in the act (Jeremiah 2:26-28)

A thief caught in the act is embarrassed and ashamed. Under the Mosaic law a thief if apprehended in the act had to restore what he had stolen and pay a stiff fine (Exodus 22:1; Exodus 22:4). In addition to the shame of public exposure he would then experience the shame of disappointment in having his anticipated gain result in a substantial loss. All segments of the Israelite population would experience the shame of embarrassment and the shame of disappointment when the folly of their ways became manifest (Jeremiah 2:26). In times of peace and prosperity the Israelites turned their back upon God to experiment with idolatry. They bowed down before a tree, a sacred pole or idol made of wood and piously confessed, “You are my father,” i.e., my guardian, my protector. Before the cold and lifeless stone pillar or idol made of stone they bowed and said, “You brought me forth,” i.e., you are my mother, my creator. But in the hour of national or personal calamity when their idols of wood and stone proved utterly worthless they would cry out to the living God in their desperation (Jeremiah 2:27). With Elijah-like sarcasm Jeremiah taunts the idolaters in Jeremiah 2:28 : “Your gods are as numerous as the cities of your land! The famous Ras Shamra texts indicate that the Canaanites venerated fifty gods and half as many goddesses. No doubt many if not most of these native gods were adopted by the Israelites during the wicked reign of Manasseh. Surely among the multiplicity of the gods you have made for yourselves there is one deity who can aid you in the day of your calamity!

Verses 26-28

Jer 2:26-28

Jeremiah 2:26-28

"As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets; who say to a stock, Thou art my father, and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face; but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise and save us. But where are thy gods which thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah."

"As the thief is ashamed when he is found ..." (Jeremiah 2:26). This is the last of the seven similes developed in this chapter, concluding a totally devastating account of Israel’s gross apostasy. Also, this paragraph has a sarcastic admonition to the apostate people that instead of asking the true God to save them every time they run into trouble, maybe they should appeal to some of the gods they have made for themselves, especially since there are so many of them, one in every single city of the whole nation!

This had long been the strategy of the Chosen People. Regardless of the extent of their apostasy, when troubles came, they invariably turned to the True God with pleas for their deliverance; but like the little boy who cried "Wolf" once too often, the time came soon enough, when God exacted the full price of their shameless rejection of Him who had redeemed them.

Verses 29-37

Jer 2:29-37

Jeremiah 2:29-37

"Wherefore will ye contend with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith Jehovah. In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured the prophets, like a destroying lion. O generation, see ye the word of Jehovah. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? or a land of thick darkness? wherefore say my people, We are broken loose; we will come no more unto thee? Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number. How trimmest thou thy way to seek love! therefore even the wicked women hast thou taught thy ways. Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the innocent poor. Thou didst not find them breaking in; but it is because of all these things. Yet thou saidst, I am innocent; surely his anger is turned away from me. Behold, I will enter into judgment with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned. Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou shalt be ashamed of Egypt also, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria. From thence also shalt thou go forth, with thy hands upon thy head: for Jehovah hath rejected those in whom thou trustest, and thou shalt not prosper with them."

"Wherefore will ye contend with me ..." (Jeremiah 2:29)? "Here again we have the legal terminology of a lawsuit, this time a suit of Israel against God; but no grounds are specified." God’s answer to such a ridiculous lawsuit is given in the same breath, "Ye all have transgressed against me."

"Your own sword hath devoured the prophets ..." (Jeremiah 2:30). The constant description of Israel throughout her history was cited by Jesus when he wept over the city, saying, "O Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee!" It seems that only an unqualified miracle spared Jeremiah for such a long ministry; and even in the end he was (as tradition affirms) stoned to death in Egypt.

"Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire ..." (Jeremiah 2:32)? Cook tells us that ancient Hebrew women always treasured the particular girdle that indicated her status as a married woman, "just as brides now cherish their wedding ring.” Nevertheless, Israel treasured no fond memories of their God, but simply forgot him "days without number!"

"How trimmest thou thy way to seek love! therefore even the wicked women thou hast taught thy ways ..." (Jeremiah 2:33). Seeking love in this verse is a reference to erotic love and refers to the embellishments and refinements that the Chosen People had learned through their countless adulteries, which they are here said to have taught even to prostitutes regarding how to make their services more tempting, seductive and satisfying. Feinberg pointed out that:

"Israel could even teach wicked women new methods of seduction, and that she used all kinds of artifices to make herself desirable to her lovers and that she cared nothing at all for the love of God.”

Harrison also had a word on this: "The immoral pursuit of Baal worship by Israel enabled them to become thoroughly proficient in iniquitous ways; and now they had become so skilled that they could instruct experienced professional prostitutes in the techniques of their nefarious trade.”

"The blood of the souls of the innocent poor ..." (Jeremiah 2:34). Had the Jews murdered the poor for "breaking in?" No, "It was not for any crime, but because of this thy lust after idolatry." The text does not explain exactly how such murders contributed to the gratification of their passion for idolatry.

"I am innocent ..." (Jeremiah 2:35). It appears from this that the most aggravated element of the Chosen People’s wickedness was simply that of their stubborn protestations of innocence in spite of the wretched profusion of their sins. This verse states categorically that it was because of this that God hailed them into the severe judgment about to fall upon them.

"From thence also shalt thou go forth ..." (Jeremiah 2:37). This was a final sentence, The judgment was captivity at the hands of the Babylonians; and the meaning of it is that just as the Northern Israel had gone away into captivity, so also would Judah, there being also this difference, that in the case of Judah a "righteous remnant" would return.

These last words regarding "whom thou trustest" "apply equally to Egypt and to Assyria," and to any other earthly power upon whom Israel might seek to rely. Her only hope was in God, and that she had stubbornly refused to seek.

Pungent Argument Jeremiah 2:29-37

In the closing verses of the inaugural sermon Jeremiah drives home his final arguments against the apostasy of the people. He points out that their complaints against God are unjustified (Jeremiah 2:29-30). Their rebellion indicates ingratitude (Jeremiah 2:31-32), their protestations of innocence are useless (Jeremiah 2:33-35) and their alliances with foreign powers are utterly unprofitable (Jeremiah 2:36-37).

1. Unjustified complaints (Jeremiah 2:29-30)

The brazen-faced apostates actually attempted to justify themselves before God. They contended with Him or complained against Him. The Hebrew word used here is the same technical legal term used in Jeremiah 2:9. It means to go to court with, to present a legal case against. The people think that they have a legal case against God; but He replies by resuming His case against them. All of the people of Israel had transgressed against God! (Jeremiah 2:29). They cannot blame Him for their failures. He had done everything in His power to keep them in the narrow paths of fidelity. As a concerned Father He had attempted to discipline his wayward children. He had smitten them with sword, drought, famine and pestilence. But these disciplinary disasters had not brought the nation to its senses. God had raised up mighty men to preach his word and call His people to repentance. Instead of heeding the message of God the people destroyed the messengers (Jeremiah 2:30). Jeremiah probably has reference here to the reign of Manasseh when much innocent blood was shed (2 Kings 21:16). According to Josephus, Manasseh’s persecution extended especially to the prophets. Isaiah is said to have died a martyr’s death during the reign of this tyrant.

2. Ungrateful rebellion (Jeremiah 2:31-32)

Rather than the usual “Hear the word of the Lord” Jeremiah here calls upon the people to “see” the word of the Lord. He wants his hearers to get a mental picture of the ingratitude of their rebellion against God. Has God been barren? Has He failed to provide for His people? God has not been a wilderness to His people nor a land of thick darkness. The latter expression is literally in the Hebrew “land of the darkness of the Lord.” It probably refers to that deep kind of darkness such as the Lord sends in judgment upon the wicked (Exodus 10:21-23). This thick darkness is symbolic here of misery and uncertainty. God did not leave Israel to grope in such darkness without guidance. Yet the people of Israel have declared, “We are free!" The King James Version has taken this word to be from an entirely different root and has translated it “we are lords.” The word translated “free” means basically, to wander restlessly, to roam. As used here it is equivalent to a declaration of independence from God. As far as the people were concerned the estrangement from God was permanent: “We will not come again unto you!” God is asking His people in Jeremiah 2:31, “How can you say such terrible things? How can I be deserving of such treatment?” A maiden will not forget the ornaments or jewels which are part of her dowry, nor will a bride forget the girdle or sash which is a token of her married state. The ornaments and girdle would be objects in which any woman would take pride. Just so, God is the source of Israel’s glory. Yet Israel has forgotten Him.

3. Useless protestations (Jeremiah 2:33-35)

The evidence in the case against Israel is clear. Israel is so skillful, so brazen, so experienced in the ways of the licentious and immoral “love” of the Baal cult that she became a teacher to the prostitute of the street (Jeremiah 2:33). Their very garments were stained as it were with the blood of poor innocent people. No doubt the reference here is to the persecutions which spring up during the wicked reign of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:16). What a paradox! Those who were most skillful in pursuing “love” were at the same time belligerent towards, and intolerant of those who tried to remain faithful to the laws of God. The populace to a large degree must have supported their king in his attacks upon the faithful and the humble. Had these folks been caught red-handed attempting to break through (lit., dig through) the mud brick sides of a house then perhaps homicide might have been justified (Exodus 22:2). But this was not the case. Those who had been slain were innocent of wrong doing. They were executed “because of all those things,” viz., the apostasy and zeal for the false gods (Jeremiah 2:34).

In spite of the clear evidence against them Israel continued to raise strong protestations of innocence of any wrong doing. Their argument was simple: “We cannot be as guilty before God as the prophets say we are because God’s wrath has turned from us.” The nation had been undisturbed for so long by foreign powers that they thought they were pleasing to God or at least not offending Him. “If we were sinners God would have punished us; God has not punished us; therefore we must not be sinners.” The fatal flaw in this reasoning is that God sometimes delays the punishment for sin in order to give the sinners ample time to repent. “It will not be long now,” says the prophet, “and God will enter into judgment with you” (Jeremiah 2:35). In that hour Israel would come to realize how utterly corrupt and sinful she had been.

4. Unprofitable alliances (Jeremiah 2:36-37)

Israel will not be able to maintain the status quo and forestall the divine judgment by political alliances. The political history of both Israel and Judah since the accession of Tiglath-pileser III in 745 B.C. had been characterized by frequent and often disastrous shifts in foreign policy. One king would yield to Assyria; his successor would secretly negotiate with Egypt. The Egyptian party seems to have held sway in Jerusalem at the time Jeremiah was preaching his first sermon. The guiding principal among the royal advisers seems to have been that a strong Egypt to the south would mean a free and independent Judah. Jerusalem would not be in danger of attack from the north so long as Egypt was a friendly ally. Sadly Jeremiah warns these political optimists that Egypt would disappoint them just as Assyria had done many years before. The prophet probably has in mind that episode when king Ahaz urgently called upon Tiglath-pileser III to come and rescue him from an attack by neighboring kings. The king of Assyria was more than glad to comply with this request but at the same time demanded that the king of Judah render tribute to him. Ahaz stripped the Temple and his own palace to bribe Tiglath-pileser (2 Chronicles 28:20).

Political alliances with Egypt would not be able to deliver Jerusalem from destruction. The day would come when they would go out from Jerusalem with their hands upon their heads in a gesture of shame and surrender (cf. 2 Samuel 13:19). They will not prosper because of their political schemes for God had rejected that nation in whom Israel trusted, viz., Egypt. Hosea had warned against alliance with Egypt (Hosea 7:11; Hosea 12:1) and Isaiah had repeated the warning (Isaiah 31:1). The prophetic warning against trusting Egypt was justified more than once in the history of both Israel and Judah. The most dramatic demonstration of Egyptian ineffectiveness came during the final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. Pharaoh Hophra tried to march to the aid of Jerusalem but the great Babylonian monarch easily defeated him and resumed the siege which he had temporarily suspended (Jeremiah 37).

Israel Forsakes God - Jeremiah 2:1 to Jeremiah 3:5

Open It

1. What is one of the more outrageous excuses or rationalizations you’ve heard recently?

2. How would people be likely to view the heir to a large fortune who refused it and insisted on striking out on his or her own?

Explore It

3. What did God, through Jeremiah, remind Judah about her history with God? (Jer 2:1-3)

4. What acts had God performed on behalf of His people only to be answered by disobedience? (Jer 2:6-7)

5. What two sins did God say His people had committed? (Jer 2:13)

6. How was Israel being humiliated because of her disobedience? (Jer 2:14-16)

7. Why were terrible things happening to God’s people? (Jer 2:17)

8. What attitude did the people of Judah fail to have toward the Lord? (Jer 2:19)

8. What two pictures from the practice of farming did Jeremiah use to illustrate Judah’s rebellion? (Jer 2:20-21)

9. To what animal behavior did God compare the behavior of Judah? (Jer 2:23-24)

10. To what did Jeremiah compare the disgrace of Israel? (Jer 2:26)

11. How did Israel respond to God’s correction? (Jer 2:29-30)

12. To what did God compare Israel’s abandonment of God? (Jer 2:31-32)

13. Besides spiritual prostitution, of what sin did God find Judah guilty? (Jer 2:33-34)

14. What behavior on the part of Israel made it unthinkable that God would return to her? (Jer 3:1-3)

15. How did Judah’s talk contrast with her behavior? (Jer 3:4-5)

Get It

16. What should a history lesson on God’s dealings with His people inspire in us?

17. How is it possible for people to have no awe of God?

18. What options do men and women have once they are stained by sin?

19. What was ironic about the way Judah cried out to God, or even blamed God, when they were in trouble?

20. Why does violence toward the powerless tend to follow when people abandon respect for God?

21. Why are people inclined to call upon God without changing their sinful ways?

Apply It

22. What meditation would help revive your awe of God in the coming week?

23. To whom could you tell about God’s love and provision in your life?

Questions on Jeremiah Chapter Two

By Brent Kercheville

1. What is God recalling in Jeremiah 2:1-3? What were God’s people like?

2. What is God’s question (Jeremiah 2:5)? What have the people failed to do (Jeremiah 2:5-8)? What have the people done? What lessons do we learn from the people’s failure?

3. What are the charges laid against Israel (Jeremiah 2:9-12)? What is God’s point?

4. What are the two sins the people have committed (Jeremiah 2:13)? Explain. What is the result (Jeremiah 2:13-19)?

5. What sins does God identify in Jeremiah 2:19? What lessons do we learn?

6. What sins are described in Jeremiah 2:20-22? What is the condition of the people (2:20)?

7. What condemnations are stated against the people (Jeremiah 2:23-25)?

8. What has sin done to the people (Jeremiah 2:26-28)?

9. How else have the people failed (Jeremiah 2:29-30)?

10. How are the people sinning against God in Jeremiah 2:31-34?

11. What is the ultimate reason for the condemnation of the people (Jeremiah 2:35-37)?

TRANSFORMATION:

1. What are the sins that God charges the people in this chapter?

2. What do you notice about the nature of these sins?

3. What does God desire the people to do?

4. What mindset is condemned?

5. What lessons do you learn for your life as you live as a follower of Jesus?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 2". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/jeremiah-2.html.
 
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