Jeremiah 10 really goes with the preceding chapters, but chapters 11-15 reflects this idea of Jeremiah as the new Moses. Chapter 11 is a sermon with the feel of Deuteronomy. And Jeremiah, like Moses, offers laments and goes before God to intercede for the people of Israel (or is prohibited from doing so). A major part of the prophetic role was intercessory prayer on behalf of the people, but Jeremiah was ordered not to intercede. In a later post I will show you the pattern of the laments in Jeremiah. But for now, we are simply looking at some of the main themes and content of Jeremiah 10-15 and then I have a section on the paragraph markers of Jeremiah 10-17.
The main theme of chapters 7-10 is false religion and its punishment. This is a major concern of the prophets with extended critiques of idolatry.
“Every man is stupid and without knowledge; Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, For his images are false, And there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of delusion; At the time of their punishment they shall perish” (Jeremiah 10:14-15).
And the religious leadership of Judah is to blame for the mess: “For the shepherds are stupid And do not inquire of YHWH; Therefore they have not prospered, And all their flock is scattered” (Jeremiah 10:21). They are like sheep without a good shepherd.
These chapters close this way: “Correct me, O YHWH, but in justice; Not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing. Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, And on the peoples that call not on your name, For they have devoured Jacob; They have devoured him and consumed him, And have laid waste his habitation” (Jeremiah 10:24-25).
Most of chapter 11, like chapter 7, is prose. But are Deuteronomic sermons. It has the feel of Deuteronomy.
“Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace” (Jeremiah 11:3b-4).
Deuteronomy 4:20 is the source of calling Egypt an “iron furnace.” But the language just sounds like something Moses would say in Deuteronomy.
Jeremiah has that same focus on the heart that was in Deuteronomy: “Hear the words of this covenant and do them. For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not” (Jeremiah 11:6c-8).
The sermon mentions the prohibition for Jeremiah to intercede for the people: “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble” (Jeremiah 11:14).
Jeremiah says that their gods have become as many as the cities of Judah and they have as many altars to Baal as there are streets in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 11:13). This, of course, provoked YHWH to anger because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah had done and so he had decreed disaster against them.
The sermon does not really add any new information to what we have already seen, but is a sermon applying Deuteronomy to his present day and confirming the earlier prophecies in Jeremiah.
The poetic portion of the sermon says this: “YHWH made it known to me and I knew; Then you showed me their deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me they devised schemes, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, Let us cut him off from the land of the living, That his name be remembered no more.’ But, O YHWH of hosts, who judges righteously, Who tests the heart and the mind, Let me see your vengeance upon them, For to you have I committed my cause” (11:18-20)
Here we get a little autobiography of Jeremiah, which is continued in the verses to follow. This was how they treated the true prophets – they sought their death.
“Therefore thus says YHWH concerning the men of Anathoth [Jeremiah’s hometown], who seek your life, and say, ‘Do not prophesy in the name of YHWH, or you will die by our hand’–therefore thus says YHWH of hosts: ‘Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine, and none of them shall be left…” (Jeremiah 11:21-23).
Next, chapter 12 begins with Jeremiah’s complaint. He begins by noting that YHWH is righteous when Jeremiah complains but Jeremiah is going to plead his case anyway.
The case: “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” (Jeremiah 12:1b).
This is a classic complaint in Scripture, this is not the way things are supposed to be. Yet it is from God, “You [God] plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit;” (Jeremiah 12:2a).
Then we see, as in Isaiah, the wicked say the right things but their heart is far from God – “You are near in their mouth and far from their heart” (Jeremiah 12:2b).
This complaint sounds like the Psalms: “But you, O YHWH, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you” (Jeremiah 12:3a). And contains the usual question of the wisdom writings: “How long? – “How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither?” (Jeremiah 12:4a).
This time without any introduction or paragraph marker, YHWH answers Jeremiah. The answer gives us some more biographical information about Jeremiah: “For even your brothers and the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; they are in full cry after you; do not believe them, though they speak friendly words to you” (Jeremiah 12:6).
It also repeats the themes of earlier chapters: “I have forsaken my house; I have abandoned my heritage; I have given the beloved of my soul Into the hands of her enemies” (Jeremiah 12:7). “Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; They have trampled down my portion; They have made my pleasant portion A desolate wilderness” (Jeremiah 12:10).
We saw earlier in the chapter language of planting and now at the end there is language of plucking up.
“Thus says YHWH concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit: ‘Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land” (Jeremiah 12:14-15).
“And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, ‘As YHWH lives,’ even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people. But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares YHWH” (Jeremiah 12:16-17).
In chapter 13 there are a couple symbolic actions: one with a loincloth and one with jars filled with wine.
For the first Jeremiah wears the loincloth around his waist for a while but the loincloth is eventually buried and when dug up it was “spoiled; it was good for nothing” (Jeremiah 13:7).
The explanation: “Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. For as the loincloth clings to the waiste of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares YHWH, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen” (Jeremiah 13:9b-11).
The jars full of wine was symbolic of the people being filled with drunkenness: “Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares YHWH. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them” (Jeremiah 13:13-14).
After this the chapter changes to poetry, one line in particular is well known: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23).
The point is that the people of Israel and Judah had been worshiping idols and doing other wicked things for so long that they were pretty much hardened into this state of rebellion.
The poetry also has some rather sexually explicit language: “And if you say in your heart [see Deuteronomy], ‘Why have these things come upon me?’ it is for the greatness of your iniquity that your skirts are lifted up and you suffer violence” (Jeremiah 13:32). This means that they were sexually violated in some way. “I myself will lift up your skirts over your face, and your shame will be seen” (Jeremiah 13:26). “I have seen your abominations, your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings, on the hills in the field. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! How long will it be before you are made clean?” (Jeremiah 13:27). This language should all be familiar from earlier in the book where it is spelled out in more detail. Here we see the language of cleanness from Leviticus.
This is the chapter with the word of YHWH concerning the drought.
To show you how bad things got the text even says this, “Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn because there is no grass. The wild donkeys stand on the bare heights; they pant for air like jackals; their eyes fail because there is no vegetation” (Jeremiah 14:5-6).
In the chapter we hear a prayer of intercession: “Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O YHWH, for your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you. O you hope of Israel, it savior in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for the night? Why should you be like a man confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot save? Yet you, O YHWH, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not leave us” (Jeremiah 14:7-9).
The response: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore YHWH does not accept them; now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins” (Jeremiah 14:10).
And again we see the prohibition repeated to Jeremiah not to intercede: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence” (Jeremiah 14:11-12).
The exchange continues: “Then I said: ‘Ah, Lord YHWH, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.” And YHWH said to me: ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. Therefore thus says YHWH concerning the prophets….By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed” (Jeremiah 14:13-15).
The false prophets led the people to their destruction. “And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them” (Jeremiah 14:16). Notice the note of justice – “I will pour out their evil upon them.”
In chapter 15 this theme of intercession continues, the rest of chapter 14 was a poetic prayer of intercession that Jeremiah was supposed to tell the people, but chapter 15 begins, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go!” (Jeremiah 15:1b-c). And when they ask there they are going the answer is poetic – those for pestilence to pestilence, for the sword – to the sword, for famine – to famine, for captivity – to captivity.
“And I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 15:4).
It is because of the actions of Manasseh that the people of Judah were going to suffer these things, and there was no way to avoid this, even for good king Josiah.
“I have made their widows more in number than the sand of the seas” (Jeremiah 15:8a). They were under the curse of God.
And Jeremiah replies to all these things (and more) with a complaint: “Woe is me, my mother, that you bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me” (Jeremiah 15:10).
Later he says, “O YHWH, you know; Remember me and visit me, And take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance take me not away; Know that for your sake I bear reproach” (Jeremiah 15:15).
And we see language that you will find elsewhere in the prophets: “Your words were found, and I ate them, And your words became to me a joy And the delight of my heart, For I am called by your name, O YHWH, God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).
And like Psalm 1: “I did not sit in the company of revelers, Nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, For you had filled me with indignation” (Jeremiah 15:17).
Jeremiah had a holy hatred for those who were doing these wicked things.
Jeremiah is the righteous sufferer like we see in the Psalms.
Paragraph markers in Jeremiah 10-17
A new paragraph opens chapter 10 – “Hear the word that YHWH speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says YHWH:”
Jeremiah 11 starts a new section with the third person subtitle: “The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH:”
There are three new paragraphs in this section in the chapter:
Jeremiah 11:6 “And YHWH said to me,”
Jeremiah 11:9 “Again YHWH said to me,”
Jeremiah 11:21 “Therefore thus says YHWH concerning the men of Anathoth, who seek your life, and say, ‘Do not prophesy in the name of YHWH, or you will die by our hand’–therefore thus says YHWH of hosts:”
Jeremiah 12 has no marker indicating a new paragraph at the beginning but gives us Jeremiah’s complaint and YHWH’s answer in poetry.
The next paragraph that is marked begins with Jeremiah 12:14 “Thus says YHWH concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit:”
Jeremiah 13:1 “Thus says YHWH to me”(the next seven verses can be further subdivided, v.3 “And the word of YHWH came to me a second time, v.6 “And after many days YHWH said to me,”)
Jeremiah 13:8 “Then the word of YHWH came to me: Thus says YHWH:”
Jeremiah 13:12 “You shall speak to them this word: ‘Thus says YHWH, the God of Israel,’” (there is a further subdivision with verse 13 “Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says YHWH:’”)
Jeremiah 14 begins a new section with the third person subtitle: “The word of YHWH that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought:”
This is likely a reference to the same drought mentioned in Jeremiah 3.
A new paragraph begins with Jeremiah 14:10 “Thus says YHWH concerning this people:” and then “YHWH said to me:” (Jeremiah 14:11), the next several verses can be outlined by noting the back and forth markers for Jeremiah speaking and YHWH speaking.
A particularly long one is Jeremiah 14:15 “Therefore thus says YHWH concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them. You shall say to them this word:”
A new paragraph begins, “Then YHWH said to me,” (Jeremiah 15:1). Later in the chapter we have another one of Jeremiah’s laments (Jeremiah 15:10ff) and YHWH’s answer (Jeremiah 15:19, “Therefore thus says YHWH:”)
“The word of YHWH came to me:” (Jeremiah 16:1)
The word that came was this: “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place” (Jeremiah 16:2). Contrast Hosea.
Then the next paragraph begins, “For thus says YHWH concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bore them and the fathers who fathered them in this land:” (Jeremiah 16:3). Let’s just say what would happen to them is not good.
A new paragraph then begins, “For thus says YHWH:” (Jeremiah 16:5).
“For thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel:” (Jeremiah 16:9).
This chapter also gives us a new catechetical training: “And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has YHWH pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against YHWH our God?’ then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares YHWH, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor” (Jeremiah 16:10-13).
“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares YHWH,” (Jeremiah 16:14). Again the return from exile is part of the eschatological events – the latter days. Most of chapter 16, where you find these words, “The days are coming” is prose.
In chapter 17 there is a new paragraph marker at verse 5: “Thus says YHWH:”
As with the laments of Jeremiah there is no introduction marker for his prayer that begins in Jeremiah 17:14. But the response by YHWH is marked, “Thus said YHWH to me:” (it is likewise a double “Thus says YHWH” intro – see verse 21).