Our reading today begins with God reminding Judah of the covenant He made with them at the Exodus. He starts by reminding them of the curse for disobedience (11:3 – see Deut 27:26, Gal 3:10). Then He reminds them that He commanded obedience when He saved them (v. 4 – see 7:23, Deut 4:20, Lev 26:12) so that He could bless them as His people, the Promised Land being the symbol of their salvation (v. 5 – see Ex 3:8). In verse 6, God is offering another chance to Judah. He is the God of second chances. He had been calling Israel back to Him from the very beginning (v. 7) because they have been disobedient from the very beginning (v. 8).
In verses 9-10, God indicts Judah for willingly breaking the covenant. They conspired against Him by worshiping other gods. And since they chose to break the covenant, He will no longer be their God (v. 11). He is leaving them to their other gods (v. 12), of which there are many (v. 13). In verse 14, God again tells Jeremiah not to bother interceding for the people. They were once the people He planted in the Land like an olive tree, but now He will burn the tree in judgment (vv. 16-17).
In verses 18-19, Jeremiah appears to speak of those who are against him because of his prophetic ministry (we will see much opposition to Jeremiah later in the book). God has already warned him about this (v. 18 – see 7:27). Jeremiah is just being obedient to God and warning the people, yet they want him dead (v. 19). Jeremiah prays for God to judge them justly (v. 20). And God will. Those that seek to do Jeremiah harm (apparently from his hometown of Anathoth – see 1:1 and Matt 13:57) will suffer greatly in the Babylonian siege (vv. 21-23).
Chapter 12 begins with Jeremiah asking why good things happen to wicked people (12:1-2). He wants God to make them suffer the way they make him suffer (v. 3 – see 11:19), and the whole land suffer (v. 4). Yet God tells Jeremiah that his suffering is only just beginning (vv. 5-6). And God ties in Jeremiah’s suffering with the suffering of the wicked. God has forsaken Judah and turned her over to Babylon (v. 7). He has grown to hate her (v. 8). The people have brought this on themselves (vv. 10-13). YHWH is telling Jeremiah that He has suffered the most loss because of the wickedness of the people.
The chapter ends with a glimmer of hope. Jeremiah prophesies of restoration. God will judge Babylon for her evil and take Judah back from her (v. 14). He will have compassion again on Judah and bring them back to their land. In verse 16, though, it is evident that God is not talking about Judah when He says “if they will diligently learn the ways of my people” even though “they” taught Judah to worship false gods. If “they” follow YHWH, “they” will be built up in the midst of Judah. Who is the “they”? Those from every tribe, people, and nation that will believe. But any nation that will not follow Him will be destroyed (v. 17). God is picturing a restoration that involves Judah and all nations together. It is the spiritual people of God that will experience restoration!
In chapter 13, God has Jeremiah carry out a prophetic action – act prophesy to go along with the verbal prophecy. The loincloth (13:1-11) represents the intimate relationship God established with Israel and Judah, and how they once clung to Him as their God. But through their worship of other gods, they have spoiled the relationship YHWH established with them. So God will spoil the pride of the people. He will no more readily reestablish that relationship than a man would wear the spoiled, good-for-nothing loincloth.
In verses 12-14, Jeremiah is to prophesy that the people will be drunk (“vessels filled with wine”) as a picture of the coming judgment (see Ezek 23:33). No one will be exempt from judgment (v. 13). And God will not relent from carrying judgment out (v. 14). In verse 15, Jeremiah calls Judah to humble herself (see v. 9). He then calls Judah to repentance (v. 16). If they do not, he will weep over their pride that will lead them into captivity (v. 17).
Jeremiah then describes the captivity. Judah – even the royal family – will be humbled (v. 18). Babylon comes from the north (v. 20) and takes all of Judah – all the way to the Negeb (the southern part of Judah) – into exile (v. 19). And Judah should not wonder why this will be happening to her (v. 22). It is because of their great sin – sin that they can’t not commit (v. 23). And this sin is worshiping other gods (v. 27). Because of this, God will mete out judgment (v. 25) and expose their shame (v. 26).