Scriptures

Jeremiah 11

Introduction

It’s believed that Jeremiah 11 and Jeremiah 12-13 were written about the same time, that is, in the early part of the reign of Jehoiachim. This would be about 620 B.C. during the four or five-year period when God’s people felt secure because of their friendship with Egypt.

The theme here is the breaking of the covenant given to God’s people at Sinai, the sacred covenant given to them when they came out of Egypt. This covenant was almost forgotten until a copy of the Law of Moses was discovered by Hilkiah during the renovation of the temple during the time of the good king, Josiah, 2 Kings 22-23.

Deuteronomy 27:14-26 tells us that in God’s covenant there were curses, if you leave the Law you will leave the land. But, in the next chapter, Deuteronomy 28:1-14, there were blessings. These were God’s promises. If you do this, this will happen. If you don’t do this, this will happen. If you keep the Law, you will keep the land. What was the prophet’s conclusion? So be it Lord. Let it be. Let it happen.

God tells Jeremiah, in this chapter, that he isn’t to plead or to pray for these people. The people will cry to God. but God says I am not going to listen. Therefore, they will turn to their idols, but the idols won’t do anything for them.

‘This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and tell them to the people of Judah and to those who live in Jerusalem. Tell them that this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Cursed is the one who does not obey the terms of this covenant—the terms I commanded your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the iron-smelting furnace.’ I said, ‘Obey me and do everything I command you, and you will be my people, and I will be your God. Then I will fulfil the oath I swore to your ancestors, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey’ —the land you possess today.’ I answered, ‘Amen, LORD.’ The LORD said to me, ‘Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them.’ Jeremiah 11:1-6

Jeremiah, at the time indicated here, would be in possession of the whole Pentateuch, and probably had many of the prophets as well, certainly Isaiah. How could God have commanded Jeremiah to teach ‘the terms of this covenant to the people, if he didn’t have them in his possession?

‘Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah’. This shows that, for a certain time, Jeremiah visited some of the cities of Judah urging God’s people to renew their love for the covenant. We have no further information about a travelling ministry by Jeremiah in the Bible, other than this.

‘From the time I brought your ancestors up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, ‘Obey me.’ But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So, I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.’ Then the LORD said to me, “There is a conspiracy among the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. They have returned to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both Israel and Judah have broken the covenant I made with their ancestors. Therefore, this is what the LORD says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. The towns of Judah and the people of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes. You, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.’ Jeremiah 11:7-13

God redeemed Israel out of Egyptian bondage. He took the initiative to free the people from bondage and give them birth into nationhood. He established a covenant with them, exhorting them to hear the words of the covenant and do them. Nevertheless, their fathers failed to be obedient. They walked in the imagination of their own hearts and followed after their stubborn attitude.

God told Jeremiah that there was a conspiracy among the men of Judah. Josiah had implemented outward reforms, but the hearts of the people had not changed. They were rebellious and stubborn as their forefathers, and thus conspiring to turn again to idols. The revival of rebellion among the people would be punished. In their punishment, God told Jeremiah that they would not cry out to Him, but to their idol gods, proving that they had a heart of conspiracy. Their idol gods, however, would not save them, Jeremiah 2:28 / Jeremiah 7:17-18.

‘Do not pray for this people or offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress. ‘What is my beloved doing in my temple as she, with many others, works out her evil schemes? Can consecrated meat avert your punishment? When you engage in your wickedness, then you rejoice.’ The LORD called you a thriving olive tree with fruit beautiful in form. But with the roar of a mighty storm he will set it on fire, and its branches will be broken. The LORD Almighty, who planted you, has decreed disaster for you, because the people of both Israel and Judah have done evil and aroused my anger by burning incense to Baal. Because the LORD revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing.’ Jeremiah 11:14-18

This is the second time that God has forbidden Jeremiah to pray for His sinful nation, Jeremiah 7:16. This admonition is still applicable to God’s people, 1 John 5:16. Israel was once seen as a beautiful green olive tree. ‘Green’ indicates life. They were once alive and bearing fruit for God. But now they are seen as a dead branch. Jesus said, cut off the dead branches, and burn them.

The people are planning to get rid of Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s long life was certainly a miracle. God preserved and protected him in a most unusual manner. The ‘conspiracy’ referred to arose because people recognised that Jeremiah was an obstacle. They could have killed him, had not God protected him.

‘I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.’ But you, LORD Almighty, who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause. Therefore, this is what the LORD says about the people of Anathoth who are threatening to kill you, saying, ‘Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD or you will die by our hands’—therefore this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish them. Their young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters by famine. Not even a remnant will be left to them, because I will bring disaster on the people of Anathoth in the year of their punishment.’ Jeremiah 11:18-23

Even the people of his home town of Anathoth wanted to get rid of him. Just as Jesus Christ was rejected in His home town of Nazareth, we find that people from Jeremiah’s home town of Anathoth are plotting to kill him. Jesus said, ‘he came to his own and his own received him not.’ John 1:11.

Jeremiah had become their thorn in the flesh, so they wanted him out of the way. Jesus also said, as Jeremiah does here, ‘a lamb led to the slaughter’.

It was because of these similarities that some people believed that Jesus was himself Jeremiah, risen from the dead, Matthew 16:14.

We read in Ezra 2:23 that 128 men of Anathoth returned to Jerusalem after the exile in Babylon. We must therefore suppose that this verse in Jeremiah, claiming that a remnant would not return, must have refer to the actual conspirators who wanted to take the life of Jeremiah, and that this didn’t apply to the whole community.

Go to Jeremiah 12

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Matthew 11:28

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