Jeremiah 16


This chapter is pretty straight forward. At the very beginning of it God says to Jeremiah, ‘stay unmarried’. Why is God saving this?

Because of the suffering coming to the wives and children. There is going to be heartache. You will not suffer that heartache, Jeremiah, if you stay unmarried. Some believe that that is the reason why Paul said something similar. God says, in this chapter, no-one is going to mourn for Judah. There will be no big burial service. There will be no tears.

‘Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘You must not marry and have sons or daughters in this place.’ Jeremiah 16:1-2

Marriage was pretty much obligatory for the Jew, especially so for the members of the Sanhedrin. Telling Jeremiah not to marry was a sign of the devastation to come. This devastation would be so great that God felt that the normal rules and duties of the Jews should be abolished, in Jeremiah’s case.

‘For this is what the LORD says about the sons and daughters born in this land and about the women who are their mothers and the men who are their fathers: ‘They will die of deadly diseases. They will not be mourned or buried but will be like dung lying on the ground. They will perish by sword and famine, and their dead bodies will become food for the birds and the wild animals.’ Jeremiah 16:3-4

Notice that it was clear that God Himself gave the reasons here, in these two verses, why He forbad Jeremiah to marry. What’s the point in trying to raise a family if they are going to be butchered?

‘For this is what the LORD says: ‘Do not enter a house where there is a funeral meal; do not go to mourn or show sympathy, because I have withdrawn my blessing, my love and my pity from this people,’ declares the LORD. ‘Both high and low will die in this land. They will not be buried or mourned, and no one will cut themselves or shave their head for the dead. No one will offer food to comfort those who mourn for the dead—not even for a father or a mother—nor will anyone give them a drink to console them. ‘And do not enter a house where there is feasting and sit down to eat and drink. For this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Before your eyes and in your days, I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in this place. ‘When you tell these people all this and they ask you, ‘Why has the LORD decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the LORD our God?’ then say to them, ‘It is because your ancestors forsook me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law.’ Jeremiah 16:5-11

It’s a serious business for ‘this people’, to have God’s blessing withdrawn from them. The consequence of this is so many people would die that they couldn’t all be buried or mourned over. We may feel great pity for the disaster that is to befall God’s people.

We may also remember the terrible way in which God told Joshua to destroy, completely, the entire populations of Canaan, the Promised Land, so that these lands could be occupied by the Israelites. We also recall God’s punishment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Now God’s people had become worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, and they too were going to be removed.

‘No-one will offer food to comfort those who mourn.’ This is a reference to a custom that is still followed by Christians today, that is, providing food for a funeral. The people are being warned, this is going to happen to you, in your lifetime, in the very near future. God was weary of repenting and repeating His warnings.

‘But you have behaved more wickedly than your ancestors. See how all of you are following the stubbornness of your evil hearts instead of obeying me. So, I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you nor your ancestors have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favour.’ Jeremiah 16:12-13

Sinful cultures do not get better. They continue to digress further into moral degradation, Genesis 6:5. They were at the point of no moral return. Their consciences had been seared, Romans 1:18-21 / 1 Timothy 4:1-2.

‘However, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.’ Jeremiah 16:14-15

Some people believe that this section was written in much later. But there is no reason to believe this. This wonderful promise of restoration belongs just where it is in God’s Word. God will bring them, and the day will come when people will not say, ‘God brought us out of Egypt, but that, God brought us out of the north.’

God promises to restore them to the land that He gave to their forefathers.

‘But now I will send for many fishermen,’ declares the LORD, ‘and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks. My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols.’ Jeremiah 16:16-18

But right now, these people need to be taught a lesson. The fishermen and the hunters in these verses are metaphors used to describe the thoroughness of the destruction by the Babylonians. All of these wicked people will be flushed out of their hiding places, none of them will escape.

‘LORD, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress, to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, ‘Our ancestors possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. Do people make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!’ ‘Therefore, I will teach them—this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the LORD.’ Jeremiah 16:20-21

Jeremiah seems to be rejoicing over God’s future promises, even rejoicing that the Gentiles also have a hope. This is, in fact, a pretty clear prophesy of the Gentiles coming to God. Also, it tells of their rejection of idolatry. I think it clearly identifies the coming of the Messiah and the spreading of Christianity. Jeremiah, and the people who heard his message, wouldn’t have understood this.

You have been warned, again. This verse stresses the certainty of the punishment to come. And, as verse 9 tells us, it’s going to happen in their lifetime, to quote from the NIV, ‘before your eyes and in your days.’

Go To Jeremiah 17



"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

Hebrews 11:1