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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 15

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary

Verses 1-9

Jeremiah Still Feels That He Must Make Some Plea On Behalf Of His People, But Is Firmly Informed That Even Though Moses And Samuel Were There To Plead The Cause Of The People They Would Not Prevail, Because Judgment On His Obstinate people Was Determined (Jeremiah 14:19 to Jeremiah 15:9 ).

Jeremiah puts in a desperate plea for his people, unable to believe that YHWH has utterly rejected His people, and acknowledges their sin on their behalf, calling on YHWH not to forget His covenant. For he recognises that only YHWH can end the series of droughts. But he learns that for this generation YHWH’s rejection is indeed final, and that even the intercessions of men like Moses and Samuel would have made no difference. The only end that awaits is death through wild beasts, through the sword, through famine and through captivity, the latter resulting in their being scattered among the nations. And this is because of what Manasseh had done in Jerusalem in leading it astray after idols, a leading astray which they had avidly seized on to and participated in even after Manasseh’s repentance. For even though He had made every effort to win them back they had not returned from their ways. Thus inevitable judgment must come upon them. There is in this a warning for us all not to delay repentance, lest we become hardened and the opportunity slip away.

Jeremiah 14:19

‘ Have you utterly rejected Judah?

Has your soul loathed Zion?

Why have you smitten us,

And there is no healing for us?

We looked for peace,

But no good came,

And for a time of healing,

And, behold, dismay!

The pattern of questions here should be compared with Jeremiah 2:14 where a similar pattern is followed, two general questions followed by a request for an explanation. Here Jeremiah (or the people) just cannot intellectually accept that YHWH has rejected Judah, and views Zion with loathing, and seeks an explanation as to why they have been smitten with no remedy available. They had looked for such a remedy, but it had not come, and all that they had received in respect of the time of healing that they sought was dismay because it had not happened. (The questions will be answered in Jeremiah 15:5-6).

Jeremiah 14:20-21

‘We acknowledge, O YHWH, our wickedness,

And the iniquity of our fathers,

For we have sinned against you.

Do not abhor us, for your name’s sake,

Do not disgrace the throne of your glory,

Remember, do not break your covenant with us.

Jeremiah then confesses the people’s sins on their behalf, and calls on YHWH not to bring dishonour on Himself by not responding and by breaking His covenant. It was a similar basis to that on which Moses had previously prayed for the people centuries before when he had been concerned for YHWH’s honour and for His faithfulness to His promises made to Abraham, and then it had been effective (Exodus 32:11-13). But that had been in the beginning when the nation was still young, not when it had become hardened by sin as it was now.

‘The throne of your glory’ probably refers to Jerusalem as containing the Dwellingplace of YHWH (compare Jeremiah 3:17; Ezekiel 43:7). His hope was still that YHWH would observe the covenant even in the face of the people’s disobedience. He still clung to the hope that it was not too late for God to show mercy. But he is to learn that it is now too late for that (Jeremiah 15:1).

Jeremiah 14:22

‘Are there any among the vanities of the nations that can cause rain?

Or can the heavens give showers?

Are not you he, O YHWH our God?

Therefore we will wait for you,

For you have made all these things.

The drought is still in mind as Jeremiah asserts on behalf of the people that he at least recognises the futility of appealing to false gods. He recognises that there are none among the gods of the nations who can bring showers when called on. They cannot cause it to rain. Nor can the heavens (the sun, moon and stars). It is only YHWH Who can do such things because He is the Creator. Because His is ‘HE’, the One Who is. That is why he and the people need to ‘wait for Him’ (pray in expectancy and hope), because He made the rain and ‘all these things’.

Outwardly the people would appear to ‘wait for Him’, but it would only be by using ritual in order to persuade Him to act differently. There would be no thought of obedient response to the covenant.

Verses 1-21

Section 5. The Word Concerning The Droughts: The Certainty Of Exile For Judah (Jeremiah 14:1 to Jeremiah 17:27 ).

The new section is again introduced by the words ‘The word of YHWH which came to Jeremiah --’ (Jeremiah 14:1) although in slightly altered form (literally ‘that which came, the word of YHWH, to Jeremiah’). “The word concerning the droughts” gives illustrative evidence confirming that the impending judgment of Judah cannot be turned aside by any prayers or entreaties, and that because of their sins Judah will be driven into exile, although a promise of hope for the future when they will be restored to the land is also incorporated (Jeremiah 16:14-15), but this only with a view to stressing the general judgment (Jeremiah 14:1 to Jeremiah 17:4). The passage then closes with general explanations of what is at the root of the problem, and lays out cursings and blessings and demonstrates the way by which punishment might be avoided by a full response to the covenant as evidenced in the observance of the Sabbath (Jeremiah 17:5-27).

Verse 10

Jeremiah Grieves Over His Unhappy Situation And The Effect That It Is Having On His Mother (Jeremiah 15:10 ).

Jeremiah 15:10

‘Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me,

A man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!

I have not lent, neither have men lent to me,

Every one of them curses me.’

The ‘woe is me’ or ‘alas’ is wrung from him as he thinks about the mothers who will have lost their sons in Jeremiah 15:9, for he grieves over what his own mother has to bear. He recognises that while his own mother may not have lost him to death she has lost him in another way. She has had to look on with grief in her heart as all men curse him and call him ‘traitor’ and she suffers the affliction of seeing every man’s hand turned against him, even that of his own family. And that is in spite of the fact that he has given them no reason to hate him apart from by his acting as YHWH’s mouthpiece. For he has lent no money, thus making men wary of him, nor does he owe money, causing dissension through not paying it back (see Deuteronomy 23:19; Psalms 15:5). He is not involved in anything that is the usual cause of dissension between men. As far as he is aware there is nothing in his personal life that should cause them to hate him. But they do.

The reference to lending and borrowing brings out how much such activity was despised in Judah if it was connected with obtaining gain by doing so. This was in fact in accordance with the covenant which forbade lending for interest, apart from to foreigners (Deuteronomy 23:19-20; Deuteronomy 15:2-3). Any loans to fellow Israelites had to be made in goodwill without any hope of gain (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).

Verses 10-14

Jeremiah Too Feels That He Has Been Born To Affliction And Strife But Is Comforted By YHWH As He Outlines The Future That Lies Ahead, Including The Invasion From The North (Jeremiah 15:10-14 ).

The thought of the mothers who have borne their sons only for them to die turns Jeremiah’s thoughts to his own situation, equally terrible in his eyes. Is his mother any better off? She may not have physically lost him but she has borne him only for him to cause strife and contention worldwide, and even in his own family (Jeremiah 12:6), with the result that in spite of the fact that he has not become involved with debt or with lending (in other words not with anything of a doubtful nature) all men curse him, something that he is finding difficult to bear, and something which must have been a great grief and affliction to her. She too had cause to ‘give up the spirit’ and be ashamed and confounded (Jeremiah 15:9).

Verse 11

YHWH Responds By Assuring Him That He Is Watching Over Him For Good For He And His Remnant Are The Hope Of The Future (Jeremiah 15:11 ).

YHWH’s response is to encourage him by pointing out what He is doing through him, and what the future holds for him. He will act on his behalf ‘for good’. There is a difficulty in translating the word shrwthch. The natural translation would be to take it as a shortened form for ‘your remnant, those of you who remain’. Then we would read ‘Truly your remnant will be for good’. This, however, appears difficult to most (including the Masoretes) and causes them to seek an alternative which involves alterations in the text, a number of which have been suggested including, ‘I will serve/strengthen/afflict/ deliver you for good’. The Qere has here ‘I will deliver you --.’ The Hebrew srr produces ‘I will afflict you --.’. The Aramaic sra produces ‘I will strengthen you --.’ The use of srh produces ‘I have served you --.’ The general meaning is, however, clear, that YHWH will act on his behalf and watch over him.

Jeremiah 15:11

‘YHWH said,

“Truly those of you who remain will be for good.

Truly I will cause the enemy to make supplication to you,

In the time of evil,

And in the time of affliction.”

Accepting the MT ‘those who remain (faithful to YHWH)’, YHWH’s response to Jeremiah’s despair is to assure him that while it may not appear like it, He is using him and his disciples (those who remain loyal) ‘for good’. They are the one bright spot in the gathering darkness. As with Elijah before him God has those set apart who have not bowed the knee to Baal, and they would be the foundation for the future.

Indeed in the future YHWH would cause some of those who were his enemies (opposed to him) to make supplication to him, both for his prophetic guidance, and for help in their distress, when the times of evil and affliction came on them. One example of such supplication would be Zedekiah’s private consultation with Jeremiah in Jeremiah 38:14 ff.; compare also reference to enquiries in Jeremiah 21:1-2; Jeremiah 37:7; Jeremiah 37:17. Note also his request for Jeremiah’s prayers in Jeremiah 37:3.

Verses 12-14

But Jeremiah Is To Recognise That His Prayers Will Not Alter What Must Inevitably Happen And The Total Desolation Of Judah (Jeremiah 15:12-14 ).

Jeremiah 15:12

“Can one break iron,

Even iron from the north, and bronze?”

But their supplication to Jeremiah would be in vain, because the future was already determined and would not be altered. Nothing could break the iron coming from the north accompanied by its bronze allies. They were powerful, unbreakable, invincible, and relentless, and they were coming at YHWH’s behest. Iron was seen as the strongest of metals, especially in warfare, while bronze was somewhat inferior but was also regularly used in warfare. Both were difficult to break. Thus the reference is to the power of Babylon and its slightly inferior allies. There may also be a reference here (‘iron from the north’) to a special type of iron of particularly strong quality known to have been produced in the Black Sea area. But as ‘the north’ is constantly used in describing the source of the future invasion (Babylon) that would appear to give the most satisfactory interpretation.

Jeremiah 15:13

“Your substance and your treasures,

Will I give for a spoil without price,

And that for all your sins,

Even in all your borders.”

The words are spoken to Jeremiah as representative of the people of Judah. The iron (Babylon) coming from the north would take Judah’s substance and their treasure for spoil, at no cost to themselves. It would not be by trading or negotiation, but by expropriation. And that would be because of Judah’s widespread sins, sins committed all over Judah ‘within all her borders’. Judah had on the whole ceased to be the people of God. We have descriptions of the fulfilment of this in the carrying off of Temple treasures (and the treasures of the king’s house) in Jeremiah 52:15 ff.; 2 Kings 20:17; 2Ki 24:13 ; 2 Kings 25:13 ff.; 2 Chronicles 35:7; 2 Chronicles 36:18.

The emphasis on ‘without price’ is intended to bring out the ignominy of their defeat, and in order to emphasise that they will be unable to do anything about it. They will be helpless in the hands of their enemies. We can compare Isaiah 52:3-5, another instance in which Israel had been ‘sold for nought’. But there it was with their redemption in mind, a totally different situation to this.

Jeremiah 15:14

“And I will make them to pass with your enemies,

Into a land which you do not know,

For a fire is kindled in my anger,

Which will burn on you.”

For all their treasures, including the Ark of the covenant of YHWH, as well as they themselves, will ‘pass over’ with their enemies into a land which is strange to them, an unknown land, and this was because YHWH’s anger had caused the kindling of a fire which will burn on them and their land (compare Deuteronomy 32:22). There is possibly a deliberate contrast here with the way in which Israel ‘passed over’ Jordan with the Ark of the covenant and with all their treasures when they first entered the land. Then it had been in triumph. Now that was being reversed. Judah would be passing out of the land along with the Ark of the Covenant and their other treasures. It would be to a land ‘which they do not know’. And this time they would have no Redeemer going with them (at least in the short term).

Verses 15-21

Private Dealings Between Jeremiah and YHWH (Jeremiah 15:15-21 ).

In this passage where he is wrestling with self-doubt Jeremiah stresses that he has been faithful to God’s word (Jeremiah 15:16) and God’s ways (Jeremiah 15:17) and reminds Him of the loneliness that he has endured in serving Him (Jeremiah 15:17). In his anguish at what ministering for Him has meant for him (Jeremiah 15:18), for it has been very costly, he calls on God and asks Him to step in on his behalf (Jeremiah 15:15). He is clearly both troubled and puzzled as to why things are as they are. He was learning that God’s ways are not men’s ways, and finding it very hard.

We must never underestimate what Jeremiah had to go through. For long periods he stood ‘alone’ against the world with almost every man’s hand against him, while he himself bore the burden of the nation’s sin. We can understand therefore why it had begun to get him down.

YHWH’s reply is intriguing for it reveals that to some extent He saw Jeremiah as faltering in his ministry (Jeremiah 15:19). But He graciously promises him that if he will but return to Him with all his heart, and seek what is pure, true and right (Jeremiah 15:19), He will give him the strength to endure and make him strong in the face of his adversaries (Jeremiah 15:20), delivering him out of their hands (Jeremiah 15:21). He will restore him to being a successful ‘man of God’.

We have a reminder in this that while God will make all provision for us as we seek to serve Him, walking with Him does not promise an easy and carefree life, nor is it a guarantee of outward success. Indeed, like Jeremiah, we might find ourselves alone against the world. For like Jeremiah, some sow and see little reward, laying the foundation for others who will follow and reap. That is God’s way. Some sow in hardship for others to reap in rejoicing (John 4:34-38). And it is such lonely sowing that requires the greatest grace from God. But what all His people are called to do, whether they sow or reap, is to receive and rejoice in His word (Jeremiah 15:16), and not to be conformed to this world, but to keep themselves separate from ‘worldliness’ and worldly attitudes (Jeremiah 15:17), by having a new and transformed mind (Romans 12:2).

Jeremiah 15:15

‘O YHWH, you know, remember me,

And visit me, and avenge me of my persecutors.

Do not take me away in your longsuffering.

Know that for your sake I have suffered reproach.’

The first thing that he stresses here, and which is a comfort to him, is that YHWH knows exactly what his position is. ‘O YHWH you know.’ In the words of Job he could say, ‘you know the way that I take, and when you have tried me I will come forth as gold’ (application of Job 23:10). So he is confident in this at least that God has not forgotten him, and that He is acquainted with all his ways. Nevertheless he calls on Him urgently to take note of those ways (‘remember me’), and prays that God will ‘visit him’ by acting on his behalf, and will avenge him on his persecutors. This cry for vengeance may initially surprise us in the light of Jesus’ later teaching, but we should note that he is not himself by this seeking to take personal vengeance but, aware that what they are doing to him is because their hearts are hardened towards God, he is following out the injunction that declares, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord (See Romans 12:19; Deuteronomy 32:35; Hebrews 10:30; compare Luke 18:7; Revelation 6:10) and calling on Him to vindicate His word. We must remember in this regard that, unlike us, he is speaking of those for whom God has forbidden him to pray because their doom is determined (Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14). Thus he knows that only judgment awaits them and his desire is to survive in order that he might see the vindication of his ministry as God brings His will about and obtains vengeance on His adversaries, as indeed He had promised him when He initially called him (Jeremiah 1:14-16).

He recognises that at the present time God is showing longsuffering towards the people, giving them an opportunity, if they will, to repent, and he prays that such longsuffering may not result in his own demise. He might well have recalled that it had certainly had that result for Uriah the prophet (Jeremiah 26:20-23). So he reminds Him in this regard of the reproach that he is suffering for His sake, and indicates firmly that he does not want to be cut off in the middle of his ministry with his work left undone.

Jeremiah 15:16

‘Your words were found, and I did eat them,

And your words were to me a joy and the rejoicing of my heart,

For I am called by your name,

O YHWH, God of hosts.’

He draws attention to his faithfulness to the word of YHWH. He had, he points out, fully absorbed His words (‘eaten them’) and they had been a delight to him. The ‘finding of His words’ may refer to the discovery of the Law Book in the Temple in the days of Josiah, or it may simply signify the different ways in which YHWH’s words came to him, for God is not restricted in His methods. But he stresses what a joy those words of God had been to him, and how they had rejoiced his heart. This was because he was one of God’s true people. He was ‘called by His Name’ (or more strictly had ‘His Name called upon him’), that is, the name of YHWH, God of hosts. To be ‘called by YHWH’s name’ was to be someone who responded to and served Him, honoured Him in his life, and revealed His attributes in his own life. That is what happens to anyone who is truly ‘begotten by the word of truth’ (James 1:18; compare John 3:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 1:23). By their fruits they are known.

Jeremiah 15:17

‘I did not sit in the assembly of those who make merry,

Nor did I rejoice,

I sat alone because of your hand,

For you have filled me with indignation.’

Jeremiah points out the loneliness that he had suffered because of his concern for the truth of YHWH, and the price that he had been willing to pay. He had not joined in with those who made merry, he did not enter into the general rejoicing of men and women, he had not set out to ‘enjoy life’, rather he had ‘sat alone’ because God had had His hand on him and had filled him with indignation at the behaviour of the people, whose ways were so contrary to YHWH’s covenant. He had refused to compromise what he stood for by partaking in what was displeasing to YHWH, and this was because he was responding to the call of God. For the hand of YHWH upon him compare Jeremiah 1:9; Jeremiah 16:21; Isaiah 8:11; Ezekiel 8:1. The idea was of His irresistible power and pressure.

Jeremiah 15:18

‘Why is my pain perpetual,

And my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed?

Will you indeed be to me as a deceitful wadi,

As waters that fail?’

But such dedication to YHWH had not been easy, and he finally asks why it is that, if God is pleased with him, he is suffering such pain and anguish, unable to find healing? Why do his wounds hurt so much and continue doing so? Indeed he asks, whether God will be to him like a river that is there one moment and gone the next, a flash flood, a river that appears to be permanent and then dries up? He is referring to a wadi, a river that flows in the rainy season, giving an impression of permanence (being ‘deceitful’) but dries up in the hot summer, and he wants the assurance that God will not be like that, and will not desert him in the end. We can contrast this with his previous confident certainty that God was like an ever-flowing spring of living water, in contrast with cisterns that did dry up (Jeremiah 2:13). But the vicissitudes of life had begun to wear him down and it is clear that he senses that he is going through periods when, in the midst of his travail, he feels that God is not satisfying the needs of his soul. How treacherous such feelings are when they cause us to doubt the One Who is our Rock. But it happens to most of us, for such an experience is often that of Christians when they are being chastised or tested with a view to their refinement.

Jeremiah 15:19

‘Therefore thus says YHWH,

“If you return, then will I bring you again,

That you may stand before me,

And if you take forth the precious from the vile,

You will be as my mouth.

They will return to you,

But you will not return to them.”

YHWH’s response was to bring home to Jeremiah that the fault lay at his own door. His problem lay in the fact that he had gone astray from his own dedication, and needed to sort out his life and return to God in repentance. Then God would bring him again to the place where he could ‘stand before Him’ and his ministry would one again be powerful. To ‘stand before God’ was a technical description for effectively coming before Him as a prophet or a priest ( 1Ki 17:1 ; 1 Kings 18:15; 2 Kings 3:14). But it was Jeremiah’s choice (‘if you return’) whether he did so.

And if he did truly return, seeking the pure spiritual gold and rejecting the dross, becoming righteously zealous instead of begrudgingly reluctant, speaking words of God’s truth rather than the ideas of his own mind, then his ministry would be restored, and he would once more become God’s mouthpiece, the one through whom the mouth of God would speak (compare Exodus 4:16). But he must certainly not let himself become like those against whom he spoke. They might turn to him, but he must not ‘turn to them’ and become like them.

Jeremiah 15:20-21

“And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze-covered wall,

And they will fight against you,

But they will not prevail against you,

For I am with you to save you,

And to deliver you,” the word of YHWH,

And I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

And I will redeem you out of the hand of the terrible.”

And if he did once again turn back to God with all his heart then his prophetic calling would be restored. Once again (compare Jeremiah 1:18) He would make him like a strong city wall reinforced with bronze, (which helped to absorb the impact of the siege machines). The people would still fight against him, but they would not prevail (compare Jeremiah 1:19). And this would be because YHWH was with him to save him and to deliver him (compare Jeremiah 1:19). No matter how wicked and terrible his opponents might be, he would be delivered out of their hand as Israel had been ‘redeemed’ from the mighty Pharaoh so long ago (Exodus 20:2).

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 15". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/jeremiah-15.html. 2013.
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