Our reading today begins with God indicting Judah for their refusal to repent. God tells Jeremiah to go find even one person in Jerusalem who is righteous, and He will pardon all of them (5:1). But God knows that they honor Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him (v. 2 – see Isa 29:13, Matt 15:5). God has chastised and corrected them, but they only hardened themselves to Him more (v. 3). The point of verses 5-6 is that sin is no respecter of persons. The great and the lowly, the rich and the poor, the ignorant or the educated – they are all sinners.
So God pronounces judgment: they will be destroyed for their apostacy. God cannot pardon them (v. 7). As opposed to their abandonment of justice (vv. 4-5), God is just and must punish sin. The people have worshiped other gods. Though God provided for them, they lusted for what they did not have (vv. 7-8). So God will punish them (v. 9). In verse 10, we see that judgment is not the end of the matter (see 4:27). There is a glimmer of hope though both Israel and Judah have forsaken God and yet presumed upon His mercy (vv. 11-12) at the words of the false prophets (v. 13, 31).
So God will punish the false prophets and the people through them (v. 14). The prediction of the Babylonian siege may contain a subtle reminder of Babel (which became Babylon) in the reference to not understanding the language (v. 15). Babylon will completely destroy Judah (v. 17). In verse 18, we see again that the judgment is not the end of the matter. There will be a remnant persevered. And when they ask why all of this has come upon them, God tells them that they will answer that it is because of their worship of other gods (v. 19).
God now calls all of Judah senseless (v. 21 – see v. 4). They have made themselves blind and deaf (see Isa 43:8). They do not fear Him (v. 22 – see Prov 1:7). God is Creator and Sustainer of all things, yet Judah has chosen to rebel against Him, (v. 23) because they do not fear Him (v. 24). Foolish indeed! So God has removed blessing from them (v. 25). Then after more indictment for sin (vv. 26-28), God repeats that He will punish them (v. 29 – see v. 9).
Chapter 6 begins with more imagery of the trumpet being blown to warn of an invasion (6:1 – see 4:5, 19, 21). The judgment is again said to come from the north (see 1:14).1 Verse 2 is a poor translation. The word “destroy” is not in the Hebrew. It literally says “the lovely and the delicate you compare to the daughter of Zion.” However, the word “daughter” was often used to describe a suburb of a large city. Some believe that the “daughter” of Zion may refer to Jerusalem, which would make sense when taken together with verses 3-8. The Septuagint reads in verse 2: “your exaltation will be taken away, O daughter of Zion.”
Verse 6 describes the coming siege of Jerusalem. Verse 7 is a description of the total depravity of the people, while verse 8 seems to be a call to repentance. Verse 9 describes the captivity in terms of someone gleaning the grapes that were missed during the harvest. Everyone will be taken. God again wonders who He can warn that will actually repent (v. 10). God’s patience has run out (v. 11). Once again, we see that the captivity will be complete (vv. 11-12). Verse 13 again tells us that sin is no respecter of persons. We also see that the prophets and priests are again condemned (see 5:31). The prophets have falsely spoken for God (v. 14) and will be punished for it (v. 15).
Verse 16 again speaks of God’s many calls for Judah to repent. He called them to walk in His ways, but they refused. He sent prophets to warn them and call them to repentance, but they refused (v. 17). God calls all of creation as witness against them (v. 19 – see Isa 1:2). The “fruit” of their labors is judgment. They rejected God’s Word and His Law. Their outward shows of worship mean nothing (v. 20 – see Mic 6:6-8). So God will block the people’s access to Him (v. 21). This is the removal of the people from His presence.
Verses 22-23 are a description of Babylon. Note again that they are coming “from the north” (see v. 1). The anguish of birth pains (v. 24) and the image of fleeing quickly (v. 25) are images used by Christ to describe judgment (see Matt 24:8, 17-18). God calls Judah to mourn over the coming destruction like one who has lost their only son (v. 26 – see Amos 8:10).
In verse 27, God is speaking to Jeremiah. God sent him to test the people. He calls him a “tester of metals,” then refers to the people as bronze and iron (v. 28 – see Ezek 22:18-20) being refined in the fire (v. 29). But the refining is all for nothing! They are all completely rejected (v. 30).
1 Babylon was actually to the east. There are two things going on here. First, the Euphrates was both north and east of Judah, and often any nation across the Euphrates was said to be “from the north”. Second, the idea of judgment coming from the north has spiritual overtones, since “north” (“up” on a compass) represented heaven. This is also a spiritual judgment.