The Broken Covenant (11:1-17)
As we discussed in 2:9, prophets were preachers of the covenant, serving as prosecutors on behalf of the Lord. In 11:1-8, the Lord tells Jeremiah to remind them of the words of the covenant (11:2, 6), as well as the curse that would come upon the one who does not obey (11:3, reflecting Deut. 28).
Yet the people refused to listen to God’s repeated admonitions, conspiring to rebel against Him (11:9-10). Therefore they will face the wrath of God (11:11-13). Since the people have demonstrated they do not have a genuine desire to please the Lord, Jeremiah is commanded not to pray for them (11:14-17).
Application: it is important to remember that being God’s people brings the responsibility to act like God’s people! See 1 Peter 2:9-12.
The Plot Against Jeremiah (11:18-12:6)
Jeremiah often faced persecution for his work as God’s spokesman (see also 18:18; 26:8; 36:26). In this text we learn of a plot devised against him by people from his hometown of Anathoth (11:21; cf. 1:1; 12:6).
11:18-20 contain Jeremiah’s prayer for help in view of this plot, in which he says he is a lamb led to the slaughter, and a tree the people want to cut off. But he is sure the Lord will help him, and the Lord tells him He will destroy those who have threatened him (11:21-23).
In 12:1-4 Jeremiah brings a complaint to God that is common in the Bible – why do the wicked prosper? Jeremiah prays for God to do to them what they planned to do to him – slaughter them like sheep (12:3). Their evil has brought mourning to the land (12:4; cf. 1 Kings 17-19).
The Lord responds by saying that if Jeremiah is weary now, when the persecution is limited to his hometown, how will he fare when the persecution comes from the king and other powerful forces (12:5). And then God warns him not to trust even his family (12:6).
Application: Speaking the truth is never easy, but God has promised to be with us if we are faithful to Him. See 2 Timothy 4:17-18.
I Have Forsaken My House (12:7-17)
In 12:7 the Lord says He has given “the beloved of my soul” into the hands of her enemies. But He had no choice. His own people had become “like a lion” in its fierce opposition to Him (12:8). In 12:9a, God says His people are like a “hyena’s lair” (ESV, reflecting the LXX), or “a speckled bird of prey” (NASB, cf. “vulture” in other translations). But instead of being a scavenger or predator, His people will become the prey (12:9b). “Many shepherds” (leaders of other nations) will destroy His vineyard, ultimately acting as the “sword of the Lord” (12:10-13).
In 12:14-17, God makes two startling promises. First, He will “pluck up” Judah out of captivity (cf. 1:10). Second, the “evil neighbors” who had taught Israel to swear by Baal (esp. Tyre and Sidon; see 1 Kings 16:31) can learn God’s ways and be built up. But if they refuse, they will be plucked up and destroyed (see Gen. 12:3).
Application: serving idols profits nothing (12:13; cf. Col. 3:5).
Signs and Warnings of Exile (13:1-27)
In 13:1-11 the Lord gives Jeremiah the first of several object lessons. He is told to take a “linen loincloth” (the priestly undergarment, see Ex. 28:42), put it on, but never wash it. Then he is told to go to hide it in the cleft of a rock (13:3-7). There is some debate as to where Jeremiah does this. Perhaps the ESV is correct and the location is the Euphrates, 700 miles away. But it is more likely that this is a reference to Parah (cf. “Perath”, NIV), which in Hebrew is identical to “Euphrates.” This city was only 3-4 miles away (see Josh. 18:23). The main point is that a cloth once useful has become spoiled, just as Israel was made to cling closely to God but has become spoiled by sin (13:8-11).
In 13:12-14 the Lord gives another illustration, jars filled with wine then dashed against each other. This illustrates the drunken sinfulness of the leaders of the nation (and anticipates the drinking of the cup of God’s wrath in 25:15).
In 13:15-17 the prophet pleads with Israel to humble itself and return to the Lord before He turns its lights out (cf. Amos 5:20). Otherwise, he will weep at the nation’s punishment.
In 13:18-27 the Lord announces that judgment is coming on the king and queen mother. This likely refers to Jehoiachin and Nehushta, taken captive in 597 BC (see 2 Kings 24:8-17). In 13:22, 26 the Lord graphically depicts the punishment of the people in terms of a sexual assault, in keeping with the imagery of Israel’s sins as sexual impurity (13:27). The chapter concludes with a question that ties in to the lesson of the loincloth – how long before Israel is clean (13:27)?
Application: just as Israel will be violated for its spiritual adultery, we will always reap what we sow (see Gal. 6:7-8).