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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 5

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-6

Jer 5:1-6

Jeremiah 5:1-3


One would find it difficult to exaggerate the extent of Judah’s wickedness. Halley gave a summary of the chapter thus: Not a single righteous person was found in the whole kingdom; there was promiscuous sexual indulgence of all the people whose behavior was compared to that of animals; the people openly scoffed at the prophetic warnings; they were continually engaged in deceit, oppression, and robbery; they were contented with wholesale corruption in both their religion and their government.

Cheyne divided the chapter into only four major divisions; but we shall break it down into smaller units.

Jeremiah 5:1-3


"Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that doeth justly, that seeketh truth; and I will pardon her. And though they say, As Jehovah liveth; surely they swear falsely. O Jehovah, do not thine eyes look upon truth? thou hast stricken them, but they were not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return."

We may exclaim with horror over Jeremiah’s inability to find an honest man in Jerusalem; but as McGee said, "Today you would probably have the same difficulty in Los Angeles or your own town!”

Henderson proposed a solution to this difficulty, pointing out that:

"It is beyond dispute that there did live in Jerusalem at the time of the prophet such good men as Josiah, Baruch, and Zephaniah ... therefore we may suppose (1) either that the search was confined to certain classes of people (the magistrates, for example), or (2) that the pious had withdrawn into hiding or retirement.”

We do not believe any such explanation is necessary. The language here is evidently hyperbole, a figure of speech in which there is a deliberate exaggeration for the purpose of emphasis. Such figures abound throughout the Bible. A New Testament example is Matthew 3:5, "Then went out Jerusalem and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan; and they were baptized of him in Jordan!" This is hyperbole, because Luke 7:30 declares that the Pharisees and lawyers were not baptized. Making full allowance for this, however, cannot conceal the terrible state of Jewish morals at that time, shortly before the fall of the nation to Babylon.

Some have suggested that the words here are the words of Jeremiah and not the words of Jehovah, "But such a distinction is merely academic; because Jeremiah was not preaching his own thoughts, but the word of Jehovah.”

The purpose of these verses has been described as "a theodicy," that being, of course, an explanation of why the just and merciful God must, on occasion, severely punish and destroy sinful men. These verses fully explain why it was necessary to bring suffering and death upon God’s people. It was all because of the terrible wickedness of the people.

It is of interest that the search for an honest man, recounted here, came centuries before the behavior of Diogenes, the fourth century cynic, who is supposed to have gone about with a lantern in broad open daylight, "looking for an honest man!”

"I will pardon her ..." (Jeremiah 5:1). God promised Abraham to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if ten righteous persons could be found; but here he even went beyond that, showing his great love and affection for the Chosen People.

"Run to and fro through the streets ..." (Jeremiah 5:1). "The verb here is plural; and this direction is addressed to the whole city.”

"They swear falsely ..." (Jeremiah 5:2). "This does not refer to a judicial oath, but means that their professions of faith in Jehovah were insincere.”

In spite of repeated punishments by the Lord and his constant pleading with them to return to him, the people continued in stubborn rebellion.

Jeremiah 5:4-6

"Then I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish; for they know not the way of Jehovah, nor the law of their God: I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they know the way of Jehovah, and the justice of their God. But these with one accord have broken the yoke, and burst the bonds. Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, a wolf of the evenings shall destroy them, a leopard shall watch against their cities; everyone that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces; because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased."

Among other things, these verses suggest that the initial search for the honest man had not indeed included a search of the whole population, but that it was somewhat partial, hence the decision here to search among the higher echelons of society; but the results were no better.

"Once Judah had abandoned Jehovah and acknowledged some other sovereignty, it was inevitable that the curses of the covenant would follow. It was natural, therefore, that Jeremiah in this passage should have mentioned their failure to worship the Lord sincerely. As Thompson accurately noted, `Moral and religious evils are finally inseparable since they stem from a common cause.”

"They have broken the yoke ... burst the bonds ..." (Jeremiah 5:5). "The bonds were the fastenings by which the yoke was securely fixed upon the neck of the animal." The meaning of the verse is simply that the well educated, "great men" were just as wicked as the remainder of the population.

"The lion, the wolf, the leopard ..." (Jeremiah 5:6). These wild and dangerous animals metaphorically represent the Babylonians whom the Lord was shortly to bring against Judah. Following the fall of the Northern Israel, such wild animals became a great threat to the safety of the people living in the depopulated area (See 2 Kings 17:25 ff).

Although not stressed here, the message is clear enough. The ox that throws off the yoke and flees from its owner will be devoured by wild beasts. Henderson’s comment stressed the aptness of choosing these three wild animals to represent the terror coming upon God’s people. "The lion is the strongest, the wolf the most ravenous, and the leopard the swiftest of the wild animals.”

In chapter five Jeremiah discusses the various reasons why God must judge His people. The nation has been guilty of at least six terrible sins: (1) moral corruption (Jeremiah 5:1-6); (2) sexual impurity (Jeremiah 5:7-9); (3) treacherous unbelief (Jeremiah 5:10-18); (4) religious apostasy (Jeremiah 5:19-24); (5) social injustice (Jeremiah 5:25-29); and (6) international deception (Jeremiah 5:30-31).

1. Moral corruption (Jeremiah 5:1-6)

In order to impress upon the mind of the prophet the necessity for divine judgment the Lord instructs Jeremiah to walk to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem and make a personal observation of the moral condition of the city. Specifically he is to search in the broad places or marketplaces for a man, i.e., someone who was worthy to be called a man. Jeremiah was to search for a man who does what is just and right and who seeks truth or faithfulness. The Hebrew word translated “truth” often times refers to the faithfulness of a man in performing his duties to God and his fellowmen. See 1 Chronicles 9:22; 1 Chronicles 9:26; 1 Chronicles 9:31; 2 Chronicles 31:15; 2 Chronicles 31:18, etc. The prophet is looking for a man who was true to God, true to man and true to himself. But sometimes in the Old Testament this Hebrew word has a more specialized meaning. It refers to faith in the promise of God to bring a Redeemer into the world. See Habakkuk 2:4. Cf. Romans 1:17. Faith in the Gospel promise sustained the Old Testament heroe. See Genesis 4:1; Genesis 5:29; Genesis 49:18; 2 Samuel 7:18-29; Hebrews 11. It may well be that Jeremiah here is to search for a man who possessed Messianic faith. Abraham prayed that Sodom be spared if there were ten righteous men. But God here goes even further. If Jeremiah can find one just man in the city who seeks truth or faith He will forgive Jerusalem and withhold the execution of His wrath.

With the zeal of Diogenes Jeremiah searched for a real man in the streets of Jerusalem. He found many who used the name of the Lord in their oaths but only to sware to that which was untrue (Jeremiah 5:2). To use God’s name in a solemn oath and then lie was tantamount to blasphemy against the holy name. God was looking for truth or faithfulness or faith in the hearts of men. Not finding it in the men of Judah God brought disciplinary disasters upon them. The judgments of God are sometimes rehabilitative and sometimes retributive. Here the former class of judgments is intended. God had smitten them but they felt no pain; God had almost completely destroyed them but they refused to accept the correction. With stoic determination they endured the discipline of God hardening their faces and refusing to repent (Jeremiah 5:3).

Jeremiah could not believe what he saw among the common people on the streets of Jerusalem and so he began to make excuses for them. These people are poor; they are uneducated in the way of the Lord; they know nothing of the judgment, i.e., religious law of their God. It is their lack of education which causes them to foolishly sin, and the hardship of their poverty has caused them to harden their hearts in unbelief (Jeremiah 5:4). Jeremiah was confident that he would not find a real man among the down and out; but he was not ready to relinquish his search. He decided to check on the “great ones,” the wealthy and cultured of the nation. They had all the advantages of education and instruction in the way of the Lord. They were literate and could read the law of God for themselves. But Jeremiah found that the up and out were worse than the down and out. Among the elite he found nothing but lawlessness and license. They had altogether broken the yoke of divine restraint (Jeremiah 5:5). The straps which they burst were the thongs by which the yoke was secured to the neck (cf. Isaiah 58:6). These men wanted to be free from the law of God and from any divine control. They wanted to do their own thing. Thus, in the entire nation Jeremiah could not find one man who by God’s standards was a real man.

Because of the all-pervasive apostasy, God will bring judgment upon Judah: a lion from the forest, a wolf from the desert; and a leopard or panther watching over their cities (Jeremiah 5:6). Lions were common in the hills and valleys of Palestine. A few leopards are still to be found in the hills of Galilee. The singular words: lion, wolf, leopard, are probably to be regarded as collective singulars. These animals may be symbols of the calamity which would befall Judah. On the other hand, numerous prophecies make it clear that the land would be overrun by wild creatures after the Jews had been deported. See Ezekiel 14:16; Ezekiel 14:21; Leviticus 26:22; Deuteronomy 32:24; 2 Kings 17:25 ff.

Verses 7-9

Jer 5:7-9

Jeremiah 5:7-9

"How can I pardon thee? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods. When I had fed them to the full, they committed adultery, and assembled themselves in troops at the harlot’s houses; they were as fed horses roaming at large; everyone neighed after his neighbor’s wife. Shall I not visit for these things? saith Jehovah; and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?"

The sentiment voiced in Jeremiah 5:9 here surfaces again in Jeremiah 5:29, forming a kind of recurring refrain in the prophecy.

"Committed adultery and assembled ... in harlot’s houses ..." (Jeremiah 5:7). "The reference here is both to the worship of the `no-gods,’ and to the literal immorality which resulted.”

"Immorality always accompanied idolatry. Apostasy and adultery are a horrendous pair. Publicly and unashamedly the people thronged to the prostitute’s house, that is, the idol temple (the noun here in the Hebrew is singular!). Jeremiah 5:8 proves that their sins included physical immorality.”

"Only stern retribution and burning judgment were in store for such a generation, notwithstanding the word of the false prophets whose words would prove to be nothing but wind.”

2. Sexual impurity (Jeremiah 5:7-9)

Persistent unbelief makes divine forgiveness of Judah impossible. The children of Judah have forsaken God and have indicated their allegiance to idols by swearing in the name of these non-entities. God had fed them, granted to them prosperity. But instead of gratitude, here is depravity. They had committed the sin of adultery. The prophet may be referring to literal adultery here or he may be using adultery as a metaphor for apostasy. The men of Judah flocked (lit., assembled in troops) to the house of the harlot (Jeremiah 5:7). They were utterly unashamed of their actions and made no attempt to hide their immoral acts. The reference here might be to the obscene orgies which characterized certain of the Canaanite cults. In any case, the immoral acts of the Baal cult could not be confined to “religious” exercises. The men of Judah roam about like well-fed stallions, each one neighing to the wife of his neighbor (Jeremiah 5:8). The meaning of the Hebrew word is obscure. The best Hebrew authorities suggest that the word means “weighted or furnished with weights.” The morals of a nation have sunk to rock bottom when sexual desire becomes merely an animal appetite to be satisfied in any manner and with anyone. Can God do anything other than bring punishment and divine vengeance upon such a nation? (Jeremiah 5:9). Divine vengeance in Scripture is just retribution for sins which are an affront to God.

Verses 10-18

Jer 5:10-18

3. Treacherous unbelief (Jeremiah 5:10-18)

the work of judgment against Israel. In verse ten Judah is compared to a vineyard or perhaps an olive orchard. The enemy is instructed to go up against the rows of vines and begin a ruthless pruning operation. The American Standard and King James versions have rendered this Hebrew word as “walls.” While this translation has the support of some of the ancient versions the translation “rows” is equally possible and fits better the imagery of the verse. The degenerate and dead shoots, the apostate people who no longer render allegiance to the Lord, are to be removed. The rendering of the American Standard, “branches,” is much to be preferred over the King James “battlements.” But the enemy is not to completely destroy the vine. Through the process of their pruning the degenerate members of the nation will be removed and the believing kernel of the nation will be left (Jeremiah 5:10). Here again is the idea of the remnant which plays such an important role in the Old Testament (cf. Jeremiah 4:27).

But why must any judgment against Judah take place? The house of Israel and the house of Judah, both kingdoms, have been “treacherous” with the Lord (Jeremiah 5:11). The word “treacherous” in the Old Testament carries the idea of violating the most sacred relationships as, for example, marriage vows (Malachi 2:11). Furthermore, the people of Judah have lied against the Lord (Jeremiah 5:12). They were saying, “No calamity of any kind shall befall us for His is not” (lit., not He!). Were they denying the very existence of God? This is not likely. Were they saying, “God has nothing to do with either our well-being or our misfortune?” In view of the prevailing religious attitudes of that day this again seems unlikely. Were they saying, “It is not He who is speaking through prophets like Jeremiah?” This seems to be reading too much into the text. In the view of the present writer the people were saying,

“God will not turn against us, He will not bring calamity upon us.” The notion that God could not destroy Judah because of the covenant with them was deeply rooted in the popular theology of that time. Whatever it was that they were saying God regarded it as a lie concerning Himself.

Not only were the people lying against God, they were ridiculing the prophets of God. They regarded the prophets who claimed to be men of the Spirit as nothing but windbags. The same Hebrew word can be rendered “spirit” or “wind.” The word of God is not in them (lit., He who speaks is not in them). “Let these prophecies of doom fall upon those who utter them,” sneered the people (Jeremiah 5:13). But God will not let the slanderous words of the people go unchallenged. He acknowledges Jeremiah as His spokesman and affirms that He, the Almighty, has placed those words upon the lips of the prophet. The judgment words spoken by Jeremiah will eventually consume the people as fire consumes dead timber (Jeremiah 5:14). The title “Lord God of Hosts” appears in Jeremiah 5:14 for the first time in the book. This title, frequent in Isaiah, became even more popular in the period of the exile and restoration. The identity of “the hosts” is uncertain. Is He Lord of the hosts of angels, the hosts (armies) of Israel or the hosts of the nations? God is Lord of all hosts; He is sovereign over all men and angels.

The threat of divine judgment so repugnant to the people of Judah is repeated in Jeremiah 5:15-18. God is about to bring a powerful and ancient nation against the house of Israel. The “house of Israel” is here the kingdom of Judah, for after the destruction of Samaria in 722 B.C. Judah became the sole representative of the people of Israel. The attacking nation is “powerful.” The word used here is one used primarily of rivers which flow the year around. The enemies have inexhaustible resources and therefore do not fail in the purpose which they undertake. The nation is ancient, dating back to the very dawn of history. They speak a language which the men of Judah cannot comprehend (Jeremiah 5:15). Here Jeremiah seems to borrow the terminology used earlier by Isaiah to describe the Assyrians (Isaiah 28:11; Isaiah 33:19). Every man in the enemy army is a mighty of valor. The arrows of their archers are deadly (Jeremiah 5:16). The armies of the enemy sweep over the land and devour the crops and the cattle. The phrase, “they shall eat up your sons and your daughters,” is metaphorical, meaning they shall eat the food which the children would normally eat. This would mean, of course, that the children would then die of starvation. With the sword, i.e., with their weapons of war, they will batter down the walls of the cities in which the men of Judah placed their confidence (Jeremiah 5:17). Yet as terrible as this judgment is, the nation will not be utterly destroyed. A remnant will survive (cf. Jeremiah 4:27; Jeremiah 5:10).

Jeremiah 5:10

"Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her branches; for they are not Jehovah’s."

Due to its importance, we shall take a careful look at this verse. Note the figure of pruning the grapevine, "Take away her branches," the ones that do not pertain to Jehovah. The figure here is not that of destroying the vine completely, but that of pruning it severely. This is important in refuting the speculations that would delete the pledge here that God would not allow the complete destruction of Judah. Not only here, but in Jeremiah 5:18 below, and in Jeremiah 4:27 above, this pledge is given no less than three times. It is one of the most important things in Jeremiah. It meant that all of the glorious promises to the patriarchs would yet be fulfilled in that "righteous remnant" announced by Isaiah, which would indeed return from Babylon and form the nucleus of the New Israel in Jesus Christ.

We shall note together what the critics have said about this pledge of "no full end" in both Jeremiah 5:10 and Jeremiah 5:18. Robinson stated that, "Like many similar remarks, this seems to be a later insertion meant to qualify the rigor of the destruction in Jeremiah 5:17.” On this expression in Jeremiah 5:10, Hyatt declaimed, "The word `not’ is probably a mitigating gloss.” Notice the absolute lack of evidence cited in support of these presumptuous and arrogant denials of what the Word of God says. Fortunately, this type of blatant denial has been tempered significantly by current critics, who still mention the old prejudice against these pledges, but point out reasons for rejecting them.

Feinberg, for example, mentioned the old canard about those pledges in Jeremiah 5:10; Jeremiah 5:18. being "later additions or glosses"; but immediately added that, "That view lacks MS authority; furthermore the immediate context speaks of pruning not of destroying the vine." (This comment, written in 1965, shows how far we have come from the arrogant denial of Robinson in 1924). Why do not the critics ever tell us that no MS authority whatever backs up their devices against these verses but that the, "Syriac, Septuagint, and Arabic versions all agree with the words, `Destroy, but make not a full end’? (See Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible (London: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1837), p. 369). We learned long ago that the strict fairness of radical critics cannot be counted upon. We also appreciate what Ash said about this: "Some suggest that the word `not’ be deleted from Jeremiah 5:10; but since the vine was not uprooted, the idea of its continued existence can be supported from the rest of the verse.”

We shall be happier when Christian scholars no longer feel it is necessary to pay lip service to those old shibboleths of the radical critics. They have already been long discredited and rejected by believers.

Jeremiah 5:11-13

"For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against me, saith Jehovah, They have denied Jehovah, and said, It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine: and the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them."

"It is not he ..." (Jeremiah 5:12). Ash tells us that the Hebrew expression, "It is not he," simply means that, "God will do no such thing as punish us, regardless of what any prophet says.” Zephaniah accused the people of exactly that same attitude (Zephaniah 1:12).

It is strange indeed that, despite all of the specific warnings God gave to his people through Moses in such specific terms as those of the last three or four chapters of Deuteronomy, the Jewish people should have decided that, as God’s Chosen People, they were blessed forever no matter what they did! Green gave an explanation of that thus:

"The people perverted the doctrine of election. Instead of regarding it as a moral act subject to moral criticism and control, they came to look upon it as an unconditional relationship, guaranteeing them national victory and glory. They made it the basis of grandiose dreams and; `It can’t happen here ... not to us... God’s elect!”

Jeremiah 5:14-18

"Wherefore thus saith Jehovah, the God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them. Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith Jehovah: it is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say. Their quiver is an open sepulchre, they are all mighty men. And they shall eat up thy harvest, and thy bread, which thy sons and thy daughters should eat; they shall eat up thy flocks and thy herds; they shall eat up thy vines and thy fig-trees; they shall beat down thy fortified cities, wherein thou trustest, with the sword. But even in those days, saith Jehovah, I will not make a full end with you."

In regard to the identity of that terrible nation God would bring against Judah, two clues are given here. (1) It is an ancient nation, which excludes the Scythians and points squarely at Babylon. Ash, quoting Herodotus, called the Scythians, "The youngest of the nations." (2) The other clue comes from the words "mighty nation," rendered "enduring nation" by Ash. "These words describe Babylon, not the Scythians.”

Feinberg listed the earmarks of Babylonian identity here as: (1) distant, (2) ancient, (3) enduring, (4) unintelligible in speech, and (5) deadly in war, all of these being evident in this passage.

"Their quiver is an open sepulchre ..." (Jeremiah 5:16). This is an unusual metaphor indicating the deadliness of the Babylonians in waging war.

"I will not make a full end with you ..." (Jeremiah 5:18). See a full discussion of this promise under Jeremiah 5:10. This is one of the great phases of Jeremiah’s prophecy, reiterating God’s pledge to spare a remnant of the rebellious nation. It is a remarkable contrast with God’s promise to make "a full end" of Nineveh (Nahum 8), ranking it among the most remarkable predictive prophecies of the Bible. Anyone familiar with critical writing against the scriptures has no difficulty at all of pinpointing right here the reason behind critical hostility toward this and similar passages throughout Jeremiah. "If it is undeniably a predictive prophecy," according to critical bias, "Get rid of it by any means whatsoever: (1) call it gloss; (2) ascribe it to another writer; (3) late-date it; (4) refer it to some unrelated subject; (5) delete it from the text; (6) mis-translate it; or (7) simply declare, "Of course, we must not make too much of this!"

Verses 19-25

Jer 5:19-25

4. Religious apostasy (Jeremiah 5:19-25)

Once the divine calamity begins to fall upon Judah men will inquire of the prophet as to why their nation is suffering so. His answer is to be honest and uncompromising: “you willingly forsook God and served strange gods in your own land. As your punishment you must serve strange people in a foreign land” (Jeremiah 5:19). The divine punishment corresponds to the crime which the people have committed against God. On at least four occasions, possibly more, Nebuchadnezzar led away captives from Jerusalem, in 605, 597, 587 and 582 B.C.

In order to impress once again the seriousness of the national apostasy upon the people Jeremiah is commissioned to deliver another oracle to “the house of Jacob,” i.e., Judah (Jeremiah 5:20). The people of Judah are foolish, without understanding. They have eyes and ears but they do not see and hear (Jeremiah 5:21). This same terminology is used in Psalms 115:5 f. where it refers to idols. Perhaps by applying this familiar terminology to the people of Judah Jeremiah is suggesting that people become like the object of their worship (cf. Ezekiel 12:2). These people are blind to the omnipotence of God revealed in nature. In the Hebrew “Me” and “My presence” are placed in an emphatic position as if to stress how incomprehensible it is that people cannot recognize the might and majesty of the Creator. As but one example of His handiwork Jeremiah mentions how the creator has placed the sand as an impassable barrier to the sea. This is an eternal statute or perpetual decree, a law of nature (Jeremiah 5:22). But while inanimate nature is submissive to the divine will, Israel has a rebellious heart or will. They have actually defied and opposed their God and gone away from His will (Jeremiah 5:23). They, were utterly blind to their dependence upon God for their sustenance. God had faithfully given to His people the autumn and spring rains upon which the agricultural prosperity of Palestine depends. Year in and year out God kept the weeks of the harvest for the benefit of His people. This expression may simply mean that God granted to His people an annual harvest in late April or early May. On the other hand, God may have “kept” the harvest in the sense of preserving the harvest period from rain until the crops were gathered. In other words, God gave them rain when they needed it and restrained the rain when it would have been harmful to them. Yet in blind ingratitude they never thought of rendering to God the fear and reverence due to Him (Jeremiah 5:24).

Jeremiah 5:19

"And it shall come to pass, when ye shall say, Wherefore hath Jehovah our God done all these things unto us? then shalt thou say unto them, Like as ye have forsaken me, and served foreign gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours."

Here is a definite prophecy of the captivity.

"So shall ye serve strangers ..." (Jeremiah 5:19). "Serving strangers is a detail that would not fit the Scythians, who sold their prisoners as slaves." Thus we should add this to the details mentioned under Jeremiah 5:18, above.

Jeremiah 5:20-25

"Declare ye this in the house of Jacob, and publish it in Judah, saying, Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; that have eyes, and see not; that have ears, and hear not; Fear ye not me? saith Jehovah: will ye not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it? and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet they cannot prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it. But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone. Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear Jehovah our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in its season; that preserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest. Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good from you."

"Eyes, and see not, and have ears, and hear not ..." (Jeremiah 5:21). This, of course, is a reference to the judicial hardening that had already been divinely inflicted upon the unfaithful people, as is clear enough from the following verse.

"Will ye not tremble at my presence ..." (Jeremiah 5:22)? What an incredible marvel is it when intelligent people will not fear God, the great and Almighty God who hurled the suns in space, who set the planets in their orbits, who lifted the continents above the rolling seas, and whose tenderness and concern for human beings sends the former and the latter rains! Now wonder, God Himself exclaimed, "Will ye not fear me? will ye not tremble at my presence?"

Since the sun, moon, and stars obey God’s will, what incredible folly it was for Israel or for any one who ever lived, to rebel against the will of God!

Verses 25-29

Jer 5:25-29

5. Social injustice (Jeremiah 5:25-29)

The iniquities of the people of Judah have deprived them of continued divine blessing (Jeremiah 5:25). The judgment envisioned by Jeremiah was not wholly in the future. A foretaste of that judgment was already being given in the form of disciplinary disasters designed to shake the people up and bring them to repentance (cf. Amos 4). These judgments are necessary because there are wicked men among the people of God, men who will stop at nothing to enrich themselves. Like the fowler (cf. Micah 7:2) they crouch and wait until an innocent and helpless victim is ensnared in their trap. By wicked and diabolical schemes they are attempting to catch men (Jeremiah 5:26). As the home of the successful fowler is full of caged birds, so the homes of these wicked schemers give evidence of their prowess. Their homes are full of deceit, i.e., objects obtained through deceit, ill-gotten gain (Jeremiah 5:27). These wicked men grow fat and sleek as their riches increase. Their wickedness grows ever more bold and reprehensible. They exceed or go beyond the deeds of the most wicked men. No crime is out of the question if it serves to enhance their wealth and power. They were totally inconsiderate of the rights of helpless minorities, the poor and the fatherless. Never would one of these powerful men intervene to help the less fortunate get justice in the courts (Jeremiah 5:28). Repeating the rhetorical question of Jeremiah 5:9 the Lord asks, “Shall I not take vengeance on such a nation as this?” Acts of injustice are offences against God and He must avenge them. The intervention of God on behalf of the helpless and in judgment upon those who oppress them is one of the major themes of prophetic literature.

Jeremiah 5:26-29

"For among my people are found wicked men: they watch as fowlers lie in wait; they set a trap, they catch men. As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxed rich. They are waxed fat, they shine; yea, they overpass in deeds of wickedness; they plead not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, that they may prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge. Shall I not visit for these things? saith Jehovah; shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?"

In this paragraph goes a step beyond the religious failure of the nation and cites the social oppression and injustice that inevitably follow unfaithfulness in the worship of God.

"Waxed rich ... waxed fat ..." (Jeremiah 5:27-28). The intransitive verb "wax" is now obsolete; but it is an Old English word that means, "to grow, to increase" or "to become." It contrasts with its opposite, "to wane," which means "to decrease" or "to diminish."

"Shall I not visit for these things ..." (Jeremiah 5:19)? By such statements as this, Jehovah strives to convince the rebellious nation of the justice of the judgment and punishment about to fail upon them.

The whole paragraph pertains, "To three classes of people: the rich who oppress the poor, the false prophets who deceive, and the priests who also misbehave.”

Verses 30-31

Jer 5:30-31

6. Intentional deception (Jeremiah 5:30-31)

That which is commonplace among men often is shocking in the eyes of God. As the Lord evaluated the religious situation in Judah He regarded what was taking place as astonishing and horrible (Jeremiah 5:30). Not only the political rulers (Jeremiah 5:28) but the spiritual rulers as well were utterly corrupt. Jeremiah was both prophet and priest and he criticized those who held both offices. The prophets were prophesying falsehoods, promising the people that God was on their side and no ill would befall their nation. They peddled a false security based on empty forms and rituals. It was a superficial religion, a religion which did not get in the way of one’s everyday life. The priests “rule at their side,” i.e., at the beck and call of the prophets. But the people were as guilty as their religious leaders for they encouraged and supported them. Falsehood is generally far more pleasant to the ear than truth and the men of Judah were quite anxious to hear the assurances of peace and prosperity. But what will all of these men do at the end when they ultimately face the God of judgment and truth? The word “end” might refer to the death of the individual apostates or to the end of the national existence when Judah would as a nation stand face to face with God.

Jeremiah 5:30-31

"A wonderful and horrible thing has come to pass in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end?"

This, in fact is an eloquent summary of the prevailing conditions in Judah in the times of Jeremiah, preceding the fall of Jerusalem and the captivity of God’s people.

The cause of the trouble is the failure of the nation to honor their religious duty of praising and worshipping God. This made way for the false prophets and the reprobate priests who deceived and encouraged the people in their wickedness. With all religious restraint out of the way, the whole people at once fell into the pursuit of selfish and lustful goals. With no adequate guidance, they quickly degenerated into a nation of idolaters, oppressors, and debauchees; and "the people just loved it!" There was no genuine hope whatever of such a condition ever healing itself.

As it was in the days of the flood when every thought and imagination of men’s hearts was evil, and only evil, continually, the mission of Abraham and his posterity to keep alive the knowledge and love of the true God had, at last, totally failed (except for the righteous remnant).

"What will ye do at the end thereof ..." (Jeremiah 5:31)? This was the question that not only concerned Israel, but God Himself. What would God do, now that the Chosen People had failed in one of their principal purposes?

No disaster ever took God by surprise; and we can read God’s answer to the disastrous situation that surfaces here in the first two chapters of Paul’s Book of Romans.


The judicial hardening of mankind was at this point complete, it was the third such emergency in God’s dealings with humanity. (1) There was the condition before the flood; and God’s answer then was the Great Deluge. (2) Then there was the organized wickedness that culminated in the Tower of Babel; and God’s answer then was the confounding of the languages of humanity and the introduction of the device of the Chosen People; (3) Now that the whole race of Adam, Jews and Gentiles alike, had given themselves to Satan for the third time, what would God do? He sent the Blessed Saviour in his FIRST ADVENT. That is the reason God has been so careful to announce three times in the last two chapters that "this is not the end of Israel." This will be a mission of mercy. Is this hardening of all mankind ever going to happen again? The answer is yes. And what will God do then? (4) The Final Judgment will come upon Adam’s rebellious race.

Not One Is Upright - Jeremiah 5:1-31

Open It

1. Why do you expect more or less of your leaders than of the average citizen?

2. In your mind, where does a national ruler get the authority to rule?

Explore It

3. On what condition did God say He would forgive the city of Jerusalem? (Jeremiah 5:1)

4. What words on the part of the Israelites did God discern as a lie? (Jeremiah 5:2)

5. How did Jeremiah report that the people responded to the Lord’s rebuke? (Jeremiah 5:3)

6. How did Jeremiah try to give the leaders the benefit of the doubt? (Jeremiah 5:4-5)

7. Why did Jeremiah predict vicious attacks by wild animals? (Jeremiah 5:6)

8. What sins provoked God to punish Israel? (Jeremiah 5:7-9)

9. What limitation did God place on the destruction of Israel and Judah? (Jeremiah 5:10-11)

10. How did the people deceive themselves about God and His prophets? (Jeremiah 5:12-13)

11. What did God say Jeremiah’s words would be to the people of Israel and Judah? (Jeremiah 5:14)

12. How did God specify the manner in which He would punish Israel? (Jeremiah 5:15-17)

13. In what way did Israel’s punishment fit the offense? (Jeremiah 5:18-19)

14. What was wrong with the people’s perspective? (Jeremiah 5:20-22)

15. Why did the harvests fail in Judah? (Jeremiah 5:23-25)

16. What were the characteristics of the wicked people condemned by Jeremiah? (Jeremiah 5:26-29)

17. What was the shocking condition of the people of Israel during Jeremiah’s time? (Jeremiah 5:30-31)

Get It

18. Why do you think it would make a difference to God to find one honest person in a sin-filled city?

19. What result did God hope to see from the punishment He inflicted on the people?

20. Even without the words of the prophets, why do we have ample reason to respect God?

21. Why is a willful offense worse than ignorant breaking of a law?

22. How can the Word of God be a blessing to some and a curse to others?

23. How have you experienced the lack of respect for God in our society today?

24. To what extent does God care about how people acquire wealth?

25. Why is it significant that lack of concern for the poor and powerless is often mentioned among the sins God judges?

26. What is the proper source of authority for those who minister to or hold authority over God’s people?

Apply It

27. In what way can you visibly show respect for God in the coming week?

28. What is one way you can submit your sources of income and use of money to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit?

Questions On Jeremiah Chapter Five

By Brent Kercheville

1 What is God’s condemnation of these people in Jeremiah 5:1?

2 What is the people’s sin in Jeremiah 5:2-3?

3 What did God determine to do (Jeremiah 5:4-6)? What was the response of the people?

4 Should the people be forgiven (Jeremiah 5:7-11)? Why shouldn’t forgiveness be offered?

5 What is the false thinking of the people (Jeremiah 5:12-13)? Is this still true today?

6 Explain the imagery of Jeremiah 5:14-17.

7 What does God promise (Jeremiah 5:18-19)?

8 What is wrong with the people (Jeremiah 5:20-31)? What is the result of their errors?


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 5". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/jeremiah-5.html.
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