Jeremiah 3


I’m sure you have learnt from your previous studies that when God talks about His people committing adultery and going with prostitutes, he isn’t talking about sexual activities. As we study God’s Word we see over and over again that God’s anger is directed at their idolatry. Idolatry is the number one thing that angers God throughout Scripture.

In Jeremiah 3:14 God says, ‘I am your husband’. When they start worshipping idols and turn away from Him, He is a jealous God. In Jeremiah 3:20 He says, ‘like a woman unfaithful to her husband, you have been unfaithful to me.’

In this chapter, we continue to find difficulty in deciding the actual dates within the various chapters of Jeremiah. In very few cases can it be confirmed what the exact dates were. The date of the first paragraph is believed to be in the 13th year of Josiah, but the next paragraph is believed to be in the 17th year of his reign. However, dates aren’t so important as content.

‘If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers—would you now return to me?’ declares the LORD. ‘Look up to the barren heights and see. Is there any place where you have not been ravished? By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers, sat like a nomad in the desert. You have defiled the land with your prostitution and wickedness. Therefore, the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen. Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame. Have you not just called to me: ‘My Father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?’ This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can.’ Jeremiah 3:1-5

We’re going to see this corruption in parable form. If Judah goes away and does all that she wants to do and then comes back, she will be defiled. God cannot be defiled, so He won’t have it. By Law, an Israelite who divorced his wife was not allowed to re-marry her once she had been defiled, Deuteronomy 24:4.

It’s not a case of someone coming home who is sorry, but someone who is polluted. Israel doesn’t just have a surface problem, it has penetrated the people. You refuse to be ashamed. You don’t know how to blush. You pretend to be pure, yet still, mess about with idols. Even when you suffer, you have no shame. You belong to God. Cry! And even as you cry, you blame God. God’s anger is a righteous anger.

They don’t want Him to be angry, but He will be until they get themselves sorted out. They have departed from God, not God departed from them. The true meaning of the last phase of Jeremiah 3:1 is, ‘After your wretched conduct, do you really suppose that you can return as the wife of God?’

These words in Jeremiah 3:2 explode the arrogant notion of Israel that she might again be God’s wife. Jeremiah, therefore, challenges her to look everywhere, to find a single tree under which she has not committed whoredom, by worshipping false gods and indulging in their sexual orgies. Israel has been like the Arabians in the wilderness, either

1. Lying in wait to rob a caravan, or

2. Sitting by the highway and seducing travellers to adultery.

This was a device often followed by immoral women. Tamar’s seduction of Judah in Genesis 38:14ff is a good example of this.

‘During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, ‘Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me, but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretence,’ declares the LORD. The LORD said to me, ‘Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah.’ Jeremiah 3:6-11

Even while they are crying out for God they continue to sin. They have turned away. All of this, the whole pattern, has been set by Israel. Judah had seen what happened to Israel, yet she walks in the same steps. She hadn’t learnt the lesson. She has no fear of God.

‘Go, proclaim this message toward the north: ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt—you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favours to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’ declares the LORD.’ Jeremiah 3:12-13

This part relates to Israel in captivity. The requirements for the remedy. God says, return to me. God’s anger is the reason why they have been removed. But God’s mercy reacts. Acknowledge your guilt and I will not be angry. God can do nothing for the sinner until he acknowledges that he is a sinner, and repents. Obey me. Don’t just think it, do it. God’s promise to look with tenderness and forgiveness upon any return of Israel or Judah, didn’t meet with any response from Israel.

‘Return, faithless people,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘people will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time, they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honour the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In those days the people of Judah will join the people of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance. ‘I myself said, ‘How gladly would I treat you like my children and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’ I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me.’ Jeremiah 3:14-19

This talks about their rewards if they respond to God’s will. They will be given a place, ‘bring you to Zion.’ They will be helped by God. Remember, says God, I married you. I am the Master. We should be together; knowing each other. But you don’t know me anymore. The priests don’t cry. Where are the unity and love?

They will be given a home If they repent and turn back. They will also have precepts, laws and the proper shepherds. Shepherds will feed you with knowledge and understanding. Wisdom to make decisions, to develop properly. We still need such shepherds today, to give us wisdom, and show us how to develop our growth.

We see a change going to take place in God’s government. People will not miss the ark of the covenant. It won’t mean anything to them.

‘It will never enter their minds or be remembered: it will not be missed, nor will another one be made.’ It’s unbelievable that no one would ever think about the ark again.

In Jerusalem, the change will come from God’s gathering. ‘In those days the house of Judah will join with the house of Israel.’ This seems to suggest a change, uniting the divided forces of Israel and Judah. Such a union between these two divided kingdoms could never occur until there was genuine repentance and return to God by both peoples.

And there has never been the slightest indication that anything like that ever happened. The projected union points to the Messianic age of grace, when Jew and Gentile were united to honour the Lord, in Ezekiel 37:15ff we have a better way of understanding this.

‘Together they will come from the northern land’ refers to the glorious days of Christianity and the ingathering of Jews from all the lands of their dispersion and the uniting of them with the Christian church.

‘But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you, Israel, have been unfaithful to me,’ declares the LORD. A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the LORD their God. ‘Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.’ ‘Yes, we will come to you, for you are the LORD our God. Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception; surely in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. From our youth shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our ancestors’ labour—their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters. Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the LORD our God, both we and our ancestors; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the LORD our God.’ Jeremiah 3:20-25

Here is a repetition of previous verses. The cost? Neglecting them because they neglected Him. The call? Return to Him. God promises to supply the remedy, He will heal your faithlessness and backsliding.


1. Return to God.

2. Reject all other gods.

3. Remember the ruin of rebellion.

4. Have remorse for shame over the confusion that has come about by rebellion.

The overwhelming sorrow, both of the great prophet, and of the people who had fallen away from God, suffering the consequences of their sin, is the emotion that surfaces here at the end of this chapter. In all the history of mankind, there is hardly any greater tragedy than that which befell the disobedient people of God.

Go To Jeremiah 4