Today we begin the book of Jeremiah. He was a prophet of Judah who prophesied from the reign of King Josiah through the destruction of Jerusalem and carrying off in to captivity (1:2-3). Often called the “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah’s message was one of judgment. This book of his prophecy is the longest book in the Bible.
We begin with the introduction of the prophet. He was of the priestly line (v. 1). He is a prophet and priest, and a man of sorrows. In this way, he is a type of Christ. He tells of his calling to the prophetic ministry by God. YHWH tells him that He made him for this purpose, for this time (v. 5). Yet Jeremiah – in Mosaic fashion – objects to his calling. He believed he was too young to be effective (v. 6). But God called him to obedience (v. 7) and promised to be with him (v. 8). YHWH then symbolically touched the mouth of Jeremiah signifying that His words would be spoken (v. 9).1 In verse 10, we see the ministry of Jeremiah. It is both to destroy and to build. There will be judgment, but there will also be salvation.
In verse 11, God gives Jeremiah a vision of an almond branch. The almond tree was often called the “Watching Tree” because the word for “almond” sounds like the word for “watching” (saqed and soqed). In verse 12, God interprets the vision for the prophet: God is sovereignly watching over His own word to do it. God will do it all! Then God gives him another vision: a boiling pot facing away from the north (v. 13). God is going to bring from the north nations to punish Judah (vv. 14-15). Why? Because Judah has worshiped other gods (v. 16). So God encourages Jeremiah to go and speak His words, having no fear of man (v. 17). Jeremiah will not be overcome by them (vv. 18-19).
In chapter 2, Jeremiah is given his first oracle to declare against Jerusalem. The people of Judah were once like a new bride to God through the Exodus and wilderness wanderings (2:2). They were His own firstfruits of the earth, but they turned away from Him (v. 3 – see Hos 9:10). They are no longer the bride; they are no longer the firstfruits (the church is called both in the New Testament). God asks Judah why it has come to this? What wrong did He do (v. 5)? Why do they ask where He is, Who brought them from Egypt through the wilderness (v. 6) to a land of plenty (v. 7)? They went and defiled the land! The priests didn’t seek Him (v. 8). The teachers didn’t know Him. The leaders (“shepherds” often refers to kings) of the people were sinners. The prophets prophesied falsely. So God is contending with them (v. 9). To “contend” means to bring a legal case against them. God is bringing them back to the courtroom here (note the similarity with the legal case brought against Judah in Micah 6:1-5).
God then calls Judah to go into Gentile nations and see if they ever change the gods they worship (vv. 10-11). Yet that is wat Judah did. They had as their God the true God of the universe, and they exchanged Him for false gods. This is appalling (v. 12)! They have forsaken YHWH, the fountain of life (v. 13)! In exchange, they have made for themselves idols that cannot give life. Should those chosen of YHWH have become slaves? Should they be plundered (v. 14)? Should they abandon the land YHWH gave them (v. 15) at the hands of foreigners (v. 16)? But this is what they have brought upon themselves by forsaking God (v. 17). They will now go into exile in foreign lands (18).2 This is the cost of forsaking YHWH (v. 19).
In verse 20, we see that God broke the yoke of slavery that was on Israel, but they would not willingly serve Him. Instead they worshiped other gods. They were a pure vine, but have made themselves a wild vine (v. 21). And there is no way to clean their guilt off of themselves (v. 22). And they don’t even know they are stained with sin (v. 23)! God compares their worship of false gods to wild animals crazy with lust (vv. 23-24), and with those who sexually desire foreigners (v. 25).
The shame of their guilt will be plain – those wicked kings, priests, and prophets! – because they turned their back on YHWH and worshiped idols (vv. 26-27). They might now pray to YHWH to save them, but YHWH will leave them to their other gods (vv. 27-28). Judah did not repent when given the chance (v. 30). They have forgotten YHWH (v. 32). They have sought love from other gods (v. 33). They are wicked (v. 34) yet deny their own guilt (v. 35). But God will judge justly. In verse 36, we see that the trust that Jehoiakim and some of the escapees have in Egypt will prove to be their downfall, just as the Northern Kingdom was undone by Assyria after their trust in Egypt (see 2 Kings 17:4-5). That their hands will be on their heads is a picture of being taken away as captives (v. 37).
Chapter 3 begins with God invoking the law against divorce and remarriage given in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (3:1). This kind of remarriage is an abomination. Judah has forsaken (divorced) YHWH and married themselves to other gods. They cannot return to YHWH, for that would be an abomination for Him to take them back. They have whored themselves with other gods (v. 2). So God has withheld blessing from them, and they have still refused to repent (v. 3). Thy worship YHWH as one among many gods (v. 4 – note that they call their wooden idols “my father” in 2:27). They will turn to Him for help (see 2:27-28). But they have chosen their gods (v 5), and YHWH will let them reap what they have sown.
1 Note that “the Word of YHWH” came to Jeremiah “saying” these words. This is more than hearing God speak. It is an appearance of YHWH Himself. We know this because He physically reaches out His hand to physically touch Jeremiah’s mouth. This “Word of the Lord” that came to Jeremiah is none other than the pre-incarnate Christ – the same Word Who would become flesh in the incarnation (see John 1:1, 14).
2 We will see that some of Judah will try to escape to Egypt. We also know that Jehoiakim was a willing vassal of Pharaoh Neco. Judah’s looking to Egypt for help in trouble is condemned by God.