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Jeremiah’s Call and Commission

The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, [one] of the priests who were in [a]Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came during the thirteenth year (627 b.c.) of the reign of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah. It came [to Jeremiah] also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, [continuing] until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, [and continuing] until the exile of [the people of] Jerusalem in the fifth month (July-August, 586 b.c.).(A)

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,


“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you [and approved of you as My chosen instrument],
And before you were born I consecrated you [to Myself as My own];
I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”(B)

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God!
Behold, I do not know how to speak,
For I am [only] a young man.”(C)

But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am [only] a young man,’
Because everywhere I send you, you shall go,
And whatever I command you, you shall speak.

“Do not be afraid of them [or their hostile faces],
For I am with you [always] to protect you and deliver you,” says the Lord.

Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me,

“Behold (hear Me), I have put My words in your mouth.
10 
“See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To uproot and break down,
To destroy and to overthrow,
To build and to plant.”

The Almond Branch and Boiling Pot

11 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see the branch of an [b]almond tree.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am [actively] watching over My word to fulfill it.”

13 The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north [its mouth about to pour out on the south, on Judea].” 14 Then the Lord said to me, “Out of the north the evil [which the prophets foretold as the result of national sin] will reveal itself and spill out on all the people of the land. 15 For, behold, I will call all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north,” says the Lord; “and they will come and each one will set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all its surrounding walls, and against all the cities of Judah [as My judicial act, the consequence of Judah’s deliberate disobedience]. 16 I will speak My judgments against them for all the wickedness of those who have abandoned (rejected) Me, offered sacrifices or burned incense to other gods, and worshiped the [idolatrous] works of their own hands. 17 But you [Jeremiah], [c]gird up your loins [in preparation]! Get up and tell them all which I command you. Do not be distraught and break down at the sight of their [hostile] faces, or I will bewilder you before them and allow you to be overcome. 18 Now behold, I have made you today like a fortified city and like an iron pillar and like bronze walls against the whole land—against the [successive] kings of Judah, against its leaders, against its priests, and against the people of the land [giving you divine strength which no hostile power can overcome].(D) 19 They will fight against you, but they will not [ultimately] prevail over you, for I am with you [always] to protect you and deliver you,” says the Lord.

Judah’s Apostasy

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord,

“I remember [earnestly] the lovingkindness and devotion of [d]your youth,
Your time of betrothal [like that of a bride during the early years in Egypt and again at Sinai],
When you followed Me in the wilderness,
Through a land not sown.

[e]Israel was holy [something set apart from ordinary purposes, consecrated] to the Lord,
The first fruits of His harvest [in which no outsider was allowed to share].
All who ate of it [injuring Israel] became guilty;
Evil came on them,” says the Lord.’”

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord,

“What injustice or unrighteousness did your fathers find in Me,
That they have wandered far from Me
And [habitually] walked after emptiness and futility and became empty?

“They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord
Who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
Who led us through the wilderness,
Through a land of deserts and of pits,
Through a land of drought and of the deep darkness [of the shadow of death],
Through a land that no man passed through
And where no man lived?’

“I brought you into a plentiful land
To eat its fruit and [enjoy] its good things.
But you came and defiled My land
And you made My inheritance repulsive.

“[Even] the priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’
And those who deal with the law [given to Moses] did not know Me.
The rulers and shepherds also transgressed against Me,
And the prophets prophesied by [the authority and in the name of] Baal
And walked after [idolatrous] things that did not benefit [them].


“Therefore I will still contend (struggle) with you [by bringing judgment on you],” says the Lord,
“And I will contend with your children’s children.”
10 
“For cross over to the coasts of Kittim (Cyprus) [to the west] and see,
Send also to Kedar (Arabia) [to the east] and carefully observe and consider
And see whether there has been such [a thing] as this!
11 
“Has a nation [ever] changed gods
Even though they were not gods [but merely man-made objects]?
But My people have exchanged their Glory (the true God)
For that [man-made idol] which does not benefit [them].
12 
“Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
Be shocked and shudder with horror [at the behavior of the people],” says the Lord.
13 
“For My people have committed two evils:
They have abandoned (rejected) Me,
The fountain of living water,
And they have carved out their own cisterns,
Broken cisterns
That cannot hold water.

14 
“Is Israel a servant? Is he a slave by birth?
Why has he become a captive and a prey?
15 
“The young lions have roared at him,
They have made their voices heard and roared loudly.
And they have made his land a waste;
His cities have been destroyed and are burned ruins, without inhabitant.
16 
“Moreover, the men of [f]Memphis and [g]Tahpanhes [as powerful enemies]
Have shaved the crown of your head [to degrade you].
17 
“Have you not brought this on yourself
By abandoning (rejecting) the Lord your God
When He led you in the way?
18 
“Now what are you doing by going to Egypt [in search of an ally],
To drink the [muddy] waters of the Nile?
Or what are you doing by going to Assyria [in search of an ally],
To drink the [muddy] waters of the Euphrates?
19 
“Your own wickedness will discipline you,
And your desertion of the faith will punish you.
Know therefore that it is an evil and bitter thing
For you to abandon (reject) the Lord your God,
And for you to be indifferent to Me and dismiss the [reverent] fear of Me,” says the Lord God of hosts.

20 
“For long ago you broke your yoke [in deliberate disobedience]
And tore off your bonds [of the law that I gave you];
You said, ‘I will not serve and obey You!’
For on every high hill
And under every green tree
You have lain down [in idolatrous worship] like a [compliant] prostitute.
21 
“Yet I had planted you [O house of Israel as] a choice vine,
A completely faithful seed.
How then have you turned against Me
Into degenerate shoots of a foreign and wild vine [alien to Me]?
22 
“For though you wash yourself with lye
And use much soap,
The stain of your guilt is [still] before Me [and you are soiled and dirty],” says the Lord God.
23 
“How can you say, ‘I am not defiled,
I have not gone after [man-made gods like] the Baals’?
Look at your way in the valley;
Know [without any doubt] what you have done!
You are a swift and restless young [female] camel [in the heat of her passion] running here and there,
24 
Or [you have the untamed and reckless nature of] a wild donkey accustomed to the wilderness,
That sniffs the wind in her passion [for the scent of a mate].
In her mating season who can restrain her?
No males seeking her need to weary themselves;
In her month they will find her [looking for them].
25 
“[Cease your mad running after idols to]
Keep your feet from becoming bare
And your throat from becoming dry;
But you said, ‘It is hopeless!
For I have loved strangers and foreign gods,
And I will walk after them.’

26 
“As the thief is shamed when he is caught,
So the house of Israel is shamed—
They, their kings, their leaders,
Their priests, and their prophets—
27 
Who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’
And to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’
For they have turned their backs to Me,
And not their faces;
But in the time of their trouble they will say,
‘Arise [O Lord] and save us.’
28 
“But where are your gods
Which you made for yourself?
Let them get up, if they can save you
In the time of your trouble!
For [as many as] the number of your cities
Are your gods, O Judah. [Why do not your many man-made idols run to help you?]

29 
“Why do you complain and contend with Me?
You have all rebelled (transgressed) against Me,” says the Lord.
30 
“In vain I have punished your people [with the consequences of their disobedience];
They received no insight from correction [and refused to change].
Your [own] sword has devoured your prophets
Like a destroying lion.
31 
“O generation [that you are], consider and regard carefully the word of the Lord.
Have I been a wilderness to Israel [like a land without food],
A land of thick and deep darkness [like a path without light]?
Why do My people say, ‘We [have broken loose and we] are free to roam [at will];
We will no longer come to You’?
32 
“Can a virgin forget [to wear] her ornaments,
Or a bride her attire [that identifies her as a married woman]?
Yet My people have forgotten Me
Days without number.
33 
“How well you prepare your path
To seek and obtain [adulterous] love!
Even the most wicked of women
Have learned [indecent] ways from you.
34 
“Also on your skirts is found
The lifeblood of the innocent poor;
You did not find them breaking in [a house].
But in spite of all these things [your disobedience, your love of idolatry, your lack of compassion]—
35 
Yet you keep saying, ‘I am innocent;
Surely His anger has turned away from me.’
Behold (listen very carefully), I will bring you to judgment and will plead my case against you
Because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’
36 
“Why do you go around and wander so much
Changing your way?
Also, you will be shamed by Egypt
As you were shamed by Assyria.
37 
“From Egypt also you will come away [as captives]
With your hands on your head;
For the Lord has rejected those in whom you trust (confide),
And you will not be successful with them.”

The Polluted Land

That is to say, “If a man divorces his wife
And she goes [away] from him
And becomes another man’s [wife],
Will he return to her again? [Of course not!]
Will not that land [where such a thing happened] be completely desecrated?
But you [rebelled against Me and you] are a prostitute with many lovers;
Yet you turn to Me.” says the Lord.

“Lift up your eyes to the barren heights and see;
Where have you not been violated?
You sat by the road waiting [eagerly] for them [those man-made gods]
Like an Arab [tribesman who waits to attack] in the desert,
And you have desecrated the land
With your [vile] prostitution and your wickedness (disobedience to God).

“Therefore the showers have been withheld,
And there has been no spring rain.
Yet you have the forehead (appearance) of a prostitute;
You refuse to be ashamed.

“Will you not just now call out to Me,
‘My Father, you were the guide and companion of my youth?

‘Will He be angry forever?
Will He be indignant to the end?’
Behold, you have spoken,
And you have done all the evil things [you could],
And you have had your way and have carried out your wickedness.”

Faithless Israel

Moreover, the Lord said to me in the days of Josiah the king [of Judah], “Have you seen what that faithless Israel has done—how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there she was a prostitute? I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous (faithless) sister Judah saw it. And I saw [that even though Judah knew] that for all the acts of adultery (idolatry) of faithless Israel, I [the Lord] had [h]sent her away and given her a certificate of divorce, yet her treacherous sister [i]Judah was not afraid; but she went and was a prostitute also [following after idols]. Because of the thoughtlessness of Israel’s prostitution [her immorality mattered little to her], she desecrated the land and committed adultery with [idols of] stones and trees. 10 Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with her whole heart, but rather in [blatant] deception [she merely pretended obedience to King Josiah’s reforms],” declares the Lord.(E)

God Invites Repentance

11 And the Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel has proved herself less guilty than treacherous Judah [a land of renegades]. 12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north [where the ten tribes have been taken as captives] and say,

‘Return, faithless Israel,’ says the Lord;
‘I will not [j]look on you in anger.
For I am gracious and merciful,’ says the Lord;
‘I will not be angry forever.
13 
‘Only understand fully and acknowledge your wickedness and guilt,
That you have rebelled (transgressed) against the Lord your God
And have scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree,
And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the Lord.
14 
‘Return, O faithless children [of the twelve tribes],’ says the Lord,
‘For I am a master and husband to you,
And I will take you [not as a nation, but individually]—one from a city and two from a [tribal] family—
And I will bring you to Zion.’(F)

15 “Then [in the final time] I will give you [spiritual] shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and [true] understanding. 16 It will be in those days when you have [repented and] multiplied and increased in the land,” says the Lord, “they will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It will not come to mind, nor will they [seriously] remember it, nor will they miss it, nor will it be made again [for instead of the ark, which symbolized My presence, I will be present].(G) 17 At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of the Lord,’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name (renown) of the Lord; and they will not walk anymore after the stubbornness of their [own] evil heart. 18 In those days the house of Judah will walk with the house of Israel, and [k]they will come together from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers as an inheritance.

19 “Then I said,

‘How [gloriously and honorably] I would set you among My children
And give you a pleasant land—a wonderful heritage,
The most beautiful inheritance of the nations!’
And I said, ‘You shall call Me, My Father
And not turn away from following Me.’
20 
“Surely, as a wife treacherously (unfaithfully) leaves her husband,
So you have dealt treacherously with Me,
O house of Israel,” says the Lord.

21 
A voice is heard on the barren heights,
The weeping and pleading of the children of Israel,
Because they have lost their way,
They have [deliberately] forgotten the Lord their God.
22 
“Return, O faithless sons,” [says the Lord],
“I will heal your unfaithfulness.”
[They answer] “Behold, we come to You,
For You are the Lord our God.
23 
“Truly, [the hope of salvation from] the hill [where idols are worshiped] is a deception,
A tumult and noisy multitude on the mountains;
Truly in the Lord our God
Is the salvation of Israel.

24 “But the shameful act [of idolatry] has consumed the labor of our fathers since our youth—their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. 25 Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor and humiliation cover us; for we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers; from our youth even to this day we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.”

Footnotes

  1. Jeremiah 1:1 Jeremiah’s hometown, two or three miles north of Jerusalem.
  2. Jeremiah 1:11 The almond tree was known as the “awake tree” because it was the first tree to bud in the new year (late January). It was the symbol of watchfulness.
  3. Jeremiah 1:17 Gird up your loins, a phrase often found in the Bible, may be an urgent call to get ready for immediate action, or it may be a call to prepare for a coming action or event. The phrase is related to the type of clothing worn in ancient times. To keep from impeding the wearer during any vigorous activity, e.g. battle, exercise, strenuous work, etc., the loose ends of a garment (tunic, cloaks, mantle, etc.) had to be gathered up and tucked into the girdle. The girdle was a band about six inches wide that had fasteners in front. It was worn around the loins (the midsection of the body between the lower ribs and the hips) and was normally made of leather.
  4. Jeremiah 2:2 In 2:2-3:5 you and your are plural and their antecedent is always the nation of Israel. The nation is sometimes called “Israel” and sometimes “the house of Israel.”
  5. Jeremiah 2:3 In general, sons (children) of Israel or Israel or Israelites refers to all the people (males and females) of the various tribes descended from the twelve sons (Gen 35:23-26) of Jacob (later renamed Israel by God).
  6. Jeremiah 2:16 The ruins of ancient Memphis are located on the west bank of the Nile River, about twelve miles south of Cairo.
  7. Jeremiah 2:16 This city was located on the eastern edge of the Nile delta. Known today as Tell Defenneh (Defneh). Memphis and Tahpanhes were the most powerful Egyptian cities at this time.
  8. Jeremiah 3:8 Israel (the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom) was destroyed by Assyria in 722 b.c.
  9. Jeremiah 3:8 Judah (the Southern Kingdom, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) was destroyed by the Babylonian Empire in 586 b.c.
  10. Jeremiah 3:12 Lit cause My countenance to fall.
  11. Jeremiah 3:18 The kingdom divided when King Solomon’s son Rehoboam came to the throne. The ten northern tribes rejected him, rebelled against the Davidic line and chose Jeroboam as their king.

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