|<< Jer 9|
Jeremiah 10-13 Listen
No! That's not a Christmas tree! (Jeremiah 10)
1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.
7 Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.
8 But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
9 Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.
10 But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.
11 Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.
12 He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.
13 When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.
14 Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.
15 They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
16 The portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.
17 ¶ Gather up thy wares out of the land, O inhabitant of the fortress.
18 For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this once, and will distress them, that they may find it so.
19 Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.
20 My tabernacle is spoiled, and all my cords are broken: my children are gone forth of me, and they are not: there is none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtains.
21 For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.
22 Behold, the noise of the bruit is come, and a great commotion out of the north country, to make the cities of Judah desolate, and a den of dragons.
23 O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
24 O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.
25 Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name: for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and have made his habitation desolate.
Idol worship! That's the big sin of Judah that Jeremiah has devoted so much time to in the preceding chapters. It's idol worship and reverence toward the false gods they represent. You may have had people approach you with their special rendition of verses 2-5 proclaiming that Jeremiah was describing Christmas trees. Therefore, they conclude, Christmas trees are a form of idol worship according to Jeremiah 10:2-5. If you've been reading closely, you've seen that what they were doing was something completely different. The inhabitants of Israel/Judah had jumped wholeheartedly into the worship of false gods represented by those wooden idols. These are God-forsaking people being described here who are erecting idols of wood for the express purpose of worshipping the false gods they represent. Christmas decorations simply don't rise to this level. This chapter does deal with the people and the idols they make...and the rejection from God along with the destruction that follows. In Isaiah 44:10-14 (see notes), we see additional detail on the process of creating these man-made idols used by these Jews for worship.
Jeremiah begins in verse 2 with this admonition to Judah, "Learn not the way of the heathen." In verse 11 Jeremiah proclaims that these false gods will "perish from the earth." Why do they do it? Verse 14 says it's because of ignorance. Interestingly enough, out of the whole Book of Jeremiah, only verse 11 is written in Aramaic instead of Hebrew. It appears that Jeremiah intends to capture the exact words that would be spoken to the heathen nations who embrace these false gods, and so those words are written in Aramaic. It was the common language of the Assyrian Empire and was used in both the Babylonian and Persian empires that followed as a diplomatic and commercial language. In the entire Old Testament, only Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; Jeremiah 10:11; and Daniel 2:4-7:28 were written in Aramaic.
And their pastors (Hebrew: "raw-aw´" - shepherds, leaders) are ignorant too (verse 21). So, what's to be the result of Judah's embracing of those pagan idols? There's the punishment in verse 18, "For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this once, and will distress them, that they may find it so." Judah is to be exiled from their land. We're talking exile here. There were two major invasions by the Babylonians of the Palestine area prior to the final fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The first was the one in which Daniel was taken in 605 B.C. The second was 597 B.C. when King Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim surrendered to the Babylonians and was deported along with all the other influential people in Jerusalem/Judah. Because of a Jewish uprising against Babylon, Jerusalem was finally shut down completely by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and more people were exiled to Babylon. The reference in verse 22, "great commotion out of the north country," speaks of the approaching Babylonian army. As stated in several other passages, Assyria and Babylon always approached from the north due to the mountain range that was due east of Israel.
In verses 23-25, Jeremiah makes a plea to God that the enemies of Judah will not succeed in causing God's people to cease to exist. He calls upon God to destroy them before this can take place. In fact, the Babylonian Empire did come to an end shortly thereafter. Their King Nebuchadnezzar was punished with insanity (Daniel 4, see notes), his grandson Belshazzar was slain in his revelry (Daniel 5, see notes), and the empire was conquered by the Medo-Persians in 539 B.C. (see introduction to Ezra).
Just kill the prophet! (Jeremiah 11)
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
2 Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
3 And say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant,
4 Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God:
5 That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. Then answered I, and said, So be it, O LORD.
6 Then the LORD said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them.
7 For I earnestly protested unto your fathers in the day that I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice.
8 Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; but they did them not.
9 And the LORD said unto me, A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
10 They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.
11 Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.
12 Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go, and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense: but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble.
13 For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal.
14 Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble.
15 What hath my beloved to do in mine house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many, and the holy flesh is passed from thee? when thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest.
16 The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.
17 For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal.
18 And the LORD hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou shewedst me their doings.
19 But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.
20 But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause.
21 Therefore thus saith the LORD of the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the LORD, that thou die not by our hand:
22 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, I will punish them: the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine:
23 And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation.
Jeremiah's prophecy in this chapter points out the similarity of these inhabitants of Jerusalem/Judah with their forefathers; they were both bent on rejecting the one true God. Their continual worship of Baal had crossed the line. Jeremiah is told not to pray for them; they are going to fall into destruction for their wickedness. As a matter of fact, look at the strong words of verses 2-3: Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; And say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant, A curse is pronounced on those who resist God. Where's the kindness and gentleness in that. Modern-day religionists would have had a field day with Jeremiah's lack of political correctness.
Let's let history speak. What happened to your ancestors when they rejected the covenant of God? Notice verse 8, "Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; but they did them not."
These covenant provisions referenced here are found numerous places, but here are three of them:
- Leviticus 18:28 (see notes) That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.
- Leviticus 20:22 (see notes) Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.
- Deuteronomy 29:27-29 (see notes) And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day. The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
What is Jeremiah to do with his fellow Jews? Pray for them? NO! The line had been crossed. See what God says in verse 14, "Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble." There's a lesson here for us: Don't pray for the prosperity of those who rebel against God.
Then in verses 18-23 we see a plot by the men of Anathoth (a small Jewish town just north of Jerusalem) to silence Jeremiah by taking his life. The result: Jeremiah lives and the townspeople who sought to kill him will die. Ooooo! Tough decree! What's worse, this is Jeremiah's own hometown. You know what they say, "Playing before a hometown crowd is tough!" We aren't given any of the details regarding the result of this decree. We do know from Ezra 2:23 (see notes) that it did not include all the men of Anathoth because exiles returned to Judah from that city at that time.
Jeremiah gets a little impatient (Jeremiah 12:1-4)
1 Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?
2 Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.
3 But thou, O LORD, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.
4 How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.
Imagine Jeremiah's frustration. He prophesies to his God-rejecting, pagan-acting people, the Jews, that they are going to meet destruction at the hand of God because of their wickedness. But day after day, year after year, they go on prospering. Jeremiah complains that they don't even seem to believe him anymore in verse 4, suggesting that Jeremiah, himself, will be gone before they are.
5 If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?
6 For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee.
7 I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies.
8 Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me: therefore have I hated it.
9 Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.
10 Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
11 They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.
12 The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness: for the sword of the LORD shall devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land: no flesh shall have peace.
13 They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns: they have put themselves to pain, but shall not profit: and they shall be ashamed of your revenues because of the fierce anger of the LORD.
After Jeremiah expresses his frustration in verses 1-4, God breaks the news to him: Jeremiah's own family will turn on him (verse 6). Whoa! That hurts. Nonetheless, their destruction is coming - just not on Jeremiah's timetable. Incidentally, the "pastors" (Hebrew: "raw-aw´") of verse 10 aren't good guys; they're not even Jews. The Hebrew word there means rulers/shepherds - in this case enemy foreign rulers who have ransacked Judah's land. They are called "spoilers" in verse 12.
Destruction and restoration (Jeremiah 12:14-17)
14 Thus saith the LORD against all mine evil neighbours, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit; Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them.
15 And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.
16 And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.
17 But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the LORD.
In this passage, destruction is prophesied at the hands of the Babylonians for Israel's neighbors as well. But then we see a promise of restoration, not only to Israel, but to those nations, "if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name" (verse 16). If not...total destruction (verse 17).
How about a visual aid? (Jeremiah 13:1-11)
1 Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.
2 So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins.
3 And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying,
4 Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.
5 So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me.
6 And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.
7 Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.
8 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
9 Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.
10 This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing.
11 For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.
This passage is a little more interesting than you may think. Jeremiah is called upon to buy this linen loin cloth and hide it in the Euphrates River. Hey! That's 400 to 500 miles away from Jerusalem - many, many days of travel by foot. The lesson: Judah will rot just like the loin cloth.
It is widely held that "Euphrates" (Hebrew: perat) there is not really talking about the river, but a city nearby with the same Hebrew spelling. Consider the journey by foot that Jeremiah made twice. It does make more sense if there were a nearby city named "Perat." Some scholars have maintained that this was the original name of Bethlehem, while others believe he was speaking of the town of Parah, about three miles from his hometown of Anathoth. It is worth noting that usually the "Euphrates" is rendered "the river Euphrates" in the Old Testament.
Exile is in your future (Jeremiah 13:12-27)
12 Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word; Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine: and they shall say unto thee, Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine?
13 Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon David’s throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness.
14 And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.
15 Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken.
16 Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.
17 But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD’S flock is carried away captive.
18 Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.
19 The cities of the south shall be shut up, and none shall open them: Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive.
20 Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?
21 What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? for thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief over thee: shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail?
22 And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me? For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare.
23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
24 Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.
25 This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the LORD; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.
26 Therefore will I discover thy skirts upon thy face, that thy shame may appear.
27 I have seen thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thine abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?
It's not a popular message; Jerusalem will fall into exile. Notice what he says in verse 13-14, "Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon Davids throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness. And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them." But wait! Here's yet another plea from Jeremiah for Judah to repent and avoid the wrath of God in verses 15-16. Will they listen? Naaaaaw. And Jeremiah says as much in the remainder of the chapter.
There's some specifically-directed bad news in verses 18-19, "Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory. The cities of the south shall be shut up, and none shall open them: Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive." That's a reference to Judah's King, 18-year-old Jehoiachin and his mother, who were taken captive into Babylon (Jeremiah 29:2, see notes; II Kings 24:1-16, see notes)
Notice verse 27, "I have seen thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thine abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?" Israel's fascination with false gods is frequently referred to by the prophets as spiritual adultery. That's the context in which it is used here.