Jeremiah 13 Commentary: There’s no denying that we’ve seen a lot of talk about judgement in the book of Jeremiah. And I think we’re all acquainted with the fact that most of this book is God declaring judgement on his people. And we’ve seen that in detail so far in this series.
What’s more, this is a main component in all of the Old Testament prophets’ writings. There’s a lot of speech about how God needs to judge his people in all of the prophets.
So, let’s remind ourselves of why this is. God made a covenant with Israel at Sinai. He saved them from Egypt and he wanted them to be his very own people. So, he made a covenant with them stipulating that all they had to do was to obey him and he’d be their God and would bless them for keeping the covenant. Seems like a pretty simple plan. But it turned out that the people would not keep their side of the bargain. And so for hundreds of years God patiently dealt with his disobedient people – enacting parts of the curses that come from breaking their covenant with God.
And now finally in this book of Jeremiah, we’re a mere three decades or less away from God finally enacting the worst of the curses detailed in Deuteronomy for breaking the covenant – exile from the land promised to God’s people.
So, let’s turn to Jeremiah 13 where we again step into a new section of this book. We’ll study just the 13th chapter this time. The next chapter, Jeremiah 14 starts a new section.
I come away from Jeremiah 13 with three main thoughts presented in the text. They are: Belt, Bottles, and Pride. Jeremiah wears a belt. The people are compared to bottles – they’re also compared to that belt that Jeremiah wears. And those two concepts so far – belt and bottles – are used as warnings to Jerusalem that God will have to destroy them. But why? That’s where pride comes in. Several times in this chapter, the Lord points to the pride of Judah as a big reason that he needs to judge them. So, Jeremiah 13 – Belt, Bottles, and Pride.
Now, in Jeremiah 13:1-7, the Lord has Jeremiah engage in an activity that carries an underlying meaning for the people of Jerusalem. The Lord then explains the significance of it in Jeremiah 13:8-11.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | The Symbolic Activity
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | Buy the Girdle
So, here’s the first part of Jeremiah’s symbolic activity. He’s to buy a girdle or belt in Jeremiah 13:1.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | The Lord’s Command
KJV Jeremiah 13:1 ¶ Thus [saith/said] the LORD unto me,
Go and [get/buy] thee a linen [girdle/waistband/shorts/ezor – belt like Elijah wore around his waist or like soldiers wear around the waist],
and put it [upon/around] thy [loins/waist],
[and/but] put it not in water.
So, the Lord commands Jeremiah to buy a belt made of linen.
And he’s not to put it in water. I think the idea is that he’s not supposed to take it off even to wash it. Keep it close to him at all times. Let it cling uninterruptedly to him.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | Jeremiah’s Obedience
And so Jeremiah does just that in Jeremiah 13:2.
2 So I [got/bought] [a girdle/the waistband/the shorts] [according to the word of the LORD/like the Lord commanded],
and put it [on/around] my [loins/waist].
So, God spoke. Jeremiah obeyed. He has a linen belt on him now. For how long? We don’t know. A little while at least.
By the way, Jeremiah is an example for us in his unquestioning obedience even when what God told him to do didn’t make immediate sense to him. And this buying of the belt and what’s to follow certainly wasn’t understood by Jeremiah for a while – until the Lord revealed to him the meaning behind the activity. We, too, need to obey the Lord even when it doesn’t make sense.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | Hide the Girdle
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | The Lord’s Command
Well, now the Lord issues a second command to Jeremiah concerning this belt in Jeremiah 13:3-4. He must now hide the belt.
3 And [the word of the LORD came unto me the second time/the Lord spoke to me again], saying,
4 Take the [girdle/belt/waistband/shorts] that thou hast [got/bought], which is [upon/around] thy [loins/waist],
and arise, go to [Euphrates/Perath] [Jos 18:23],
and [hide/bury] it there in a [hole/crevice/crack] of the rock.
So, the Lord has Jeremiah change direction a little. At first he was to get a belt and not take it off. But now he’s telling Jeremiah to take it off and go somewhere.
The text says “Euphrates” or Perath in the Hebrew text. There’s some debate about what location God is identifying here.
It could be the Euphrates River over in the area of Babylon and Assyria. That would be a journey of several months, which is why some think it’s not talking about the river in Mesopotamia. But that doesn’t make such a trip impossible – just very long. Another reason some don’t think this is speaking of the river is because there’s no article on the word in Hebrew – and even in English in the KJV. Usually if the author is speaking of the river then he puts an article on the word Perath.
So, those are some reasons that this might not be speaking of the Euphrates River. So then, what location is the Lord commanding Jeremiah to go to?
Well, there’s a place just a few miles away from Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth named Perah. We see it mentioned in Joshua 18:23.
But you might say – “well then how is Jeremiah supposed to put the belt in the water?” That’s the thing – he’s not commanded to put the belt in the water. He’s commanded to put it in a hole or crevice or crack of a rock there.
So, whether Jeremiah is going to the Euphrates or to Perah – he has his orders. Find a rock and take that belt off and bury it in a hole in that rock.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | Jeremiah’s Obedience
And as before, Jeremiah obeys the Lord in Jeremiah 13:5.
5 So I went, and [hid/buried] it by [Euphrates/the Euphrates/Perath], as the LORD commanded me.
And now, we have the last phase of this symbolic activity – not that the activity didn’t happen, mind you. It did happen. Jeremiah says so. But the activity served as a symbol to Jeremiah and to those to whom he was preaching.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | Retrieve the Girdle
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | The Lord’s Command
So, lastly, Jeremiah was to get the belt back from the cleft of the rock in Jeremiah 13:6.
6 And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me,
Arise, go to [Euphrates/the Euphrates/Perath], and take the [girdle/waistband/shorts] from thence, which I commanded thee to [hide/bury] there.
So, we’re given a time frame here finally. Jeremiah left the belt in the hole in the rock for “many days”. And then finally the Lord tells him to go get it again.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | Jeremiah’s Obedience
And yet again Jeremiah obeys in Jeremiah 13:7.
7 Then I went to [Euphrates/the Euphrates/Perath], and digged, and took the [girdle/waistband/shorts] from the place where I had [hid/buried] it:
and, behold, the [girdle/waistband/shorts] was [marred/ruined/shachath (147x) – in KJV 7x as “mar”, 96x as “destroy”, 22x as “corrupt”; modern “mar” involves impairing the appearance or quality – which seems a little less severe than what the passage is communicating],
it was [profitable for nothing/good for nothing/totally worthless].
So, the belt that once continually clung to Jeremiah’s waist was now utterly ruined.
And that’s the end of the activity.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | The Meaning of the Action
Well, what does all of that mean? That’s what God explains in Jeremiah 13:8-11.
8 ¶ Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
9 Thus saith the LORD,
After this manner [i.e., how the girdle was ruined] will I [mar/destroy] the pride of Judah,
and the great pride of Jerusalem.
So, that’s the meaning behind Jeremiah’s actions. Jeremiah destroyed the belt by burying it in Perath. And just like that, God was promising to destroy the pride of Jerusalem.
Why? Why the destruction? Jeremiah 13:10.
10 This evil people,
which refuse to hear my words,
which walk in the [imagination/stubbornness/stubborn inclinations] of their heart,
and [walk/go/pay allegiance] after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them,
shall even be as this [girdle/waistband/linen shorts], which is [good for nothing/totally worthless].
So, the people of Judah would be destroyed because they didn’t listen to God and they turned from him to worship other gods.
And since these activities of disobedience and idolatry rendered these people good for nothing in God’s sight, he would add to that worthlessness with his punishment of them.
The Lord continues to explain the application of the symbolic action with the belt to Judah in Jeremiah 13:11.
11 For as the [girdle/waistband/shorts] [cleaveth/cling] to the [loins/waist] of a man, so have I caused to [cleave/cling] unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah,
saith the LORD;
that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: [i.e., to bring me these things]
but they would not [hear/listen/obey].
Here we see God’s heart. We hear so much of judgement in this book and really in all the prophets. And yet, let’s not miss where God’s mercy and tenderness appear. He pictures his people as a belt that clings to him. He intends for them to be close to him. Just like Jeremiah was to not remove his belt even to wash it – so the Lord wanted his people to be near to him always.
This is the same God we worship today. But we’re not Israelites. We’re the Church. And yet God’s desire for constant closeness is no different for us than it was for Israel. We’re commanded in the New Testament to draw near to God and we’re promised that in return he will draw near to us. Jesus commands us to come unto him – all of us who are weary and heavy-laden and he’ll give us rest. Jesus is right now preparing a place for us for all eternity and he gives his purpose behind doing that — so that where he is there we may be also. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord – to be near him and close to him forever! God wants his people close to him.
And yet for Israel – they wouldn’t have it. They didn’t want to be close to this God. And so he lets them have their own way.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | Wine Bottles
Well, the Lord continues painting pictures in the people’s minds in an effort to get through to them. He compared them to a belt. And now in Jeremiah 13:12-14 he pictures them as wine bottles.
12 ¶ Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word;
Thus saith the LORD God of Israel,
Every [bottle/jug/wine jar] [shall/is to/is made to] be filled with wine:
So, Jeremiah needs to tell the people of Judah that wine bottles are meant to be filled with wine. That’s a no-brainer. And so they’re going to respond like this:
and [i.e., when] they shall say unto thee,
Do we not [certainly/very well] know that every [bottle/jug/wine jar] [shall/is supposed to] be filled with wine?
So, the people will feel like Jeremiah is talking down to them. They might mock him for saying what he’s commanded to say. But then that’s where Jeremiah is to explain the meaning behind this statement which seems so childish to the people. Jeremiah 13:13…
13 Then shalt thou say unto them,
Thus saith the LORD,
Behold, I will fill
all the inhabitants of this land,
even the kings that sit upon David’s throne,
and the priests,
and the prophets,
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
Now, what is God threatening here? He’s saying that he’s going to deal with everyone in Judah and Jerusalem – even the highest officials. He’s going to bring upon them effects that mimic intoxication – relating to the wine he just mentioned before. God resists the proud. That’s what he’s doing here.
Some of us might wonder at the decisions made by people in this country – from those in highest office to just ordinary fellow-citizens. The only reason you can think of in your mind for some of these actions and decisions might be to think that the people were inebriated when they made them. And wherever that’s the case, you do need to wonder if the explanation for such awful decisions and thoughts and actions is possibly a result of God’s judgement.
Well, the Lord continues to threaten the people along this wine-related theme in Jeremiah 13:14.
14 And I will dash them one against another [i.e., like wine bottles], even the fathers and the sons together,
saith the LORD:
I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.
So, the Lord will deal with them in such a way that makes it seem that they’ve drank too much wine, as has already been said. And he’ll deal with them to such an extent that their ruin will be like the results of smashing two clay bottles together. Not a positive picture – but definitely intended to be sobering to a people characterized by insobriety.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | Repent While There’s Time!
So, we’ve seen so far two parts of this message that have been adorned with poetic imagery or symbolic actions. But now it seems like in the rest of Jeremiah 13, God sets all of that aside and just lays out another very direct plea for the people to repent.
In Jeremiah 13:15-17 Jeremiah himself urges the people to repent while there’s still time – because at this point there apparently was still time to turn back to the Lord.
15 [i.e., Jeremiah says:] Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken.
16 [Give glory/show due respect] to the LORD your God,
before he cause darkness [i.e., of disaster],
and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains,
and, while ye [look/hope] for light, he turn it into [the shadow of death/deep darkness],
and make it [gross darkness/gloom].
You can sense the urgency in the plea. It’s as if darkness is casting its shadow on a mountain. The people are to imagine themselves as on this mountain and being plunged into darkness. There’s danger and insecurity that’s coming to them – if they refuse to repent.
So, Jeremiah just said what the Lord will do to the people of Judah if they don’t repent. But now in Jeremiah 13:17 he lets them know what he himself will do if they don’t repent of their pride.
17 But if ye will not hear [it/this warning], my soul shall weep [in secret places/secretly/alone] for your pride;
and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears,
because the LORD’S flock is carried away captive.
This is one of those passages that has earned Jeremiah the label of “the weeping prophet”. This is how Jeremiah will react to Judah’s unrepentant pride – with tears. The Lord will react with punishment. Jeremiah with tears.
And this is another area where I think we can find easy application to our lives.
How do you respond to these bizarre new bathroom rules where men can now use women’s bathrooms and vice versa? And the godless in this society are pushing this on us. How do you respond to this? Frustration and anger are understandable responses. But have you wept?
What about the way you respond to someone to whom you’ve witnessed? You’ve told them about their sin and their need to be delivered by Jesus Christ from the wrath to come. And they just ignore you. Or they mock you. Or they pretend like they’re fine with God. What’s your reaction? Anger? Loathing? But what about weeping?
I was not at Seminary very long before I found myself in a group of really good folks my age who genuinely loved the Lord. One of them is currently a missionary in Asia. But this man once said to all of us something to the effect that he doesn’t remember the last time he cried. It’s just something he just — at that point at least — didn’t do.
But it’s OK to weep over sin – both yours and others. Jesus – around 500 years after Jeremiah’s ministry – lamented and maybe even wept over the pride of Jerusalem just like Jeremiah did. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets – How often I would gather you like a hen but you would not!” Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. Why? It was because of the death of Lazarus and the pain which sin and its resulting death has caused. Sin brought death into the world and its effects don’t leave the Son of God unmoved.
Neither should we be unmoved by sin and its effects in our own lives and in the lives of others all around us.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | Message to the King & Queen
Well, at this point in Jeremiah 13 the Lord seems to break in once more. And at this point he communicates a message to the royal family of Judah.
18 Say unto the king and to the [queen/queen mother],
[Humble yourselves, sit down/Take a lowly seat/Surrender your thrones]:
for your [principalities/what is at the head] shall come down,
even the crown of your glory.
So, God tells the king – maybe Jehoiachin – to abandon his throne and his crown. And if it is Jehoiachin then we know that he was actually exiled in 597 BC, about 10 years before all of Judah was exiled. And so this really did happen – he left his throne, and his crown was taken from him.
Then the Lord speaks of this exile – either the one Jehoiachin experienced or the one all Judah would experience in Jeremiah 13:19.
19 The cities of the [south/Negev] shall be [shut/locked] up, and none shall open them: [cf Jos 6:1]
Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive.
There was once a city in Canaan that was recorded as being “shut up”. That city was Jericho in Joshua 6:1. And in that case it was shut up because of an invading army – the army of Israel. But now – how things have changed! Now it’s Israel’s cities that will be shut up against an invading army. But this time the army will be Babylon – not Israel. And Israel will be the one defeated.
Jeremiah 13 Commentary | Message to Jerusalem
Then the Lord turns to addressing Jerusalem, though the royal family which he just spoke of is probably not far from his mind in Jeremiah 13:20-22.
20 Lift up your eyes [i.e., Jerusalem], and behold [them/the enemy] that come from the north:
Where [i.e., now] is the flock [i.e., of people] that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?
21 What wilt thou say when he shall [punish/appoints over] thee?
[-] for thou hast taught them [-] to be captains, and as chief over thee:
shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail?
22 And if thou say in thine heart,
Wherefore come these things upon me?
For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts [discovered/removed], and thy [heels/limbs] [made bare/exposed].
So, as I say, this is a message to Jerusalem. I think the king is also still in view though. And the message to the king and his city is basically another warning of coming punishment at the hands of this invading army from the north.
The Lord gives a few pictures of this coming destruction.
First, in Jeremiah 13:20 he portrays Jerusalem and her king as a shepherd and her inhabitants and probably everyone who remains in Judah as sheep. And these sheep have been taken from the shepherd. This is a sad development.
The second picture the Lord paints of the destruction to come is the concept of appointing someone else over the kingdom of Judah. That’s in Jeremiah 13:21. And the idea is that the Lord will appoint over Judah and her king the very allies that she tried so hard to attain and appease. In that sense, since Judah had so often treated these allied nations as sovereign over them, it just makes sense that the Lord would give one of these nations total control over them. So often, Judah would run to these ally nations – Assyria and Egypt in particular, but there were others – when they should have been running to God. So, God is going to finally give his people over to be totally controlled by another nation – Babylon, as we’ll discover later in this book.
And God reiterates once more that this is all happening because of Judah’s sin and breaking of their covenant with God.
And this sinning and rebellion run deep with Judah. That’s what the Lord asserts in Jeremiah 13:23.
23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin [i.e., color],
or the leopard his spots?
then may ye also do good,
that are accustomed to do evil.
God is saying here that doing evil is as fundamental to Judah’s nature as is the color of a person’s skin or the markings on an animal’s coat.
And because doing evil is so ingrained into Judah’s very fabric, the Lord needs to carry out the action of Jeremiah 13:24.
24 Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.
In other words: Exile.
And they deserve this treatment. This is all happening because of their idolatry – which was a violation of the covenant that their ancestors made with God. And because of that, they have brought upon themselves the curses of that covenant for breaking it.
25 This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the LORD;
because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in [falsehood/false gods].
And because of their idolatry God needs to expose their shameful behavior.
26 Therefore will I [discover/strip/pull up] thy skirts [upon/over] thy face,
that thy shame may appear.
God has seen all their sins against him.
27 I have seen thine adulteries, and thy neighings,
the lewdness of thy [whoredom/prostitutions], and thine abominations on the hills in the fields.
And here’s the final word from the Lord in this chapter.
Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! [wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?/How long will you continue to be unclean?]
Folks, let me ask you something. Why did God need to punish his people in this book? It’s because they broke his covenant with them. That was the Old Covenant or the Mosaic Covenant. It could be broken and they broke it.
Are we under that covenant? No. We’re not “under the law”. We’re under grace. We’re actually partaking of the New Covenant at least partially.
And let me ask this – can you break the New Covenant? Can you sin your way out of the New Covenant that was inaugurated by Jesus’ blood? Is there listed for us curses for breaking the New Covenant? I’m not aware of any. The New Covenant is different from the Old in that the Old was made between God and some who knew him and many who didn’t. The New Covenant is made only with those who know God. That’s why no one in the New Covenant will need to go over to his neighbor who’s also under the New Covenant and tell him “hey, you better come to know God!” All of us in the New Covenant know God. God writes his law on our hearts, not externally on tablets but internally. I don’t think we can break the New Covenant!
So in one sense that makes it harder to apply what we’re hearing in the book of Jeremiah. I mean, we can’t say “well look, Israel was being punished for breaking her covenant with God and so will we if we break our covenant with God.” We can’t break his covenant with us! The New Covenant is unbreakable. And therefore, when we’re reading of what God had to do to Israel for breaking his covenant – we can rejoice at God’s abundant, overwhelming, gratuitous, free mercy and grace to us who are the least deserving of such things. The Lord Jesus Christ has made a covenant with those of us in this room who trust him. And he’s not going to let us break that covenant.
Praise the Lord!
Jeremiah 13 Bible Commentary
The glory of the Jews should be marred. (1-11) All ranks should suffer misery, An earnest exhortation to repentance. (12-17) An awful message to Jerusalem and its king. (18-27)
Commentary on Jeremiah 13:1-11
(Read Jeremiah 13:1-11)
It was usual with the prophets to teach by signs. And we have the explanation, verses 9-11. The people of Israel had been to God as this girdle. He caused them to cleave to him by the law he gave them, the prophets he sent among them, and the favours he showed them. They had by their idolatries and sins buried themselves in foreign earth, mingled among the nations, and were so corrupted that they were good for nothing. If we are proud of learning, power, and outward privileges, it is just with God to wither them. The minds of men should be awakened to a sense of their guilt and danger; yet nothing will be effectual without the influences of the Spirit.
Commentary on Jeremiah 13:12-17
(Read Jeremiah 13:12-17)
As the bottle was fitted to hold the wine, so the sins of the people made them vessels of wrath, fitted for the judgments of God; with which they should be filled till they caused each other's destruction. The prophet exhorts them to give glory to God, by confessing their sins, humbling themselves in repentance, and returning to his service. Otherwise they would be carried into other countries in all the darkness of idolatry and wickedness. All misery, witnessed or foreseen, will affect a feeling mind, but the pious heart must mourn most over the afflictions of the Lord's flock.
Commentary on Jeremiah 13:18-27
(Read Jeremiah 13:18-27)
Here is a message sent to king Jehoiakim, and his queen. Their sorrows would be great indeed. Do they ask, Wherefore come these things upon us? Let them know, it is for their obstinacy in sin. We cannot alter the natural colour of the skin; and so is it morally impossible to reclaim and reform these people. Sin is the blackness of the soul; it is the discolouring of it; we were shapen in it, so that we cannot get clear of it by any power of our own. But Almighty grace is able to change the Ethiopian's skin. Neither natural depravity, nor strong habits of sin, form an obstacle to the working of God, the new-creating Spirit. The Lord asks of Jerusalem, whether she is determined not be made clean. If any poor slave of sin feels that he could as soon change his nature as master his headstrong lusts, let him not despair; for things impossible to men are possible with God. Let us then seek help from Him who is mighty to save.
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The Lord instructed Jeremiah to purchase a linen waistband (or sash, Heb. ’ezor) and to wear it without first washing it, which he did. Washing it would wear it out to some extent.
The linen waistband 13:1-11
This is the first of several symbolic acts that Jeremiah performed to communicate divine messages (cf. Jeremiah 16:1-4; Jeremiah 18:1-12; Jeremiah 19:1-2; Jeremiah 19:10-11; Jeremiah 27:1 to Jeremiah 28:17; Jeremiah 32:1-15; Jeremiah 43:8-13; Jeremiah 51:59-64). Other prophets did the same thing (cf. Isaiah 20:2-6; Ezekiel 4:1-13; Ezekiel 5:1-4). This acted sermon confronted the Judahites with the polluting effect of their associations and the consequences.
Sometime later, the Lord told Jeremiah to take his waistband and go to perathah, and hide it in a crevice in the rock there, which he did.
The Hebrew word perath describes the Euphrates River elsewhere in the Old Testament, and that may be its meaning here (cf. Jeremiah 46:2; Jeremiah 46:6; Jeremiah 51:63; Genesis 2:14; Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Kings 24:7). [Note: Leon Wood, p. 72; Keil, 1:231-33.] If so, Jeremiah traveled at least 500 miles each way four times. Such a destination is plausible, since the Euphrates was the source of the coming invasion of Judah, and the destination of the Judahite exiles.
However, several commentators have suggested that the Hebrew word should be read differently, as parah, which refers to a site just four miles northeast of Anathoth, Jeremiah’s hometown (cf. Joshua 18:23). Still others believe the Hebrew word is an abbreviated form of the name Ephrathah, an old name of Bethlehem six miles south of Jerusalem (cf. Micah 5:2). [Note: See Charles H. Dyer, "Waistbands, Water, and the Word of God: Where Did Jeremiah Bury His Girdle?" in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands: Biblical and Leadership Studies in Honor of Donald K. Campbell, pp. 62-81.] Since Jeremiah’s action was symbolic, he may not have made the long trip to the Euphrates to bury his waistband, but may have hidden it in a closer place, perhaps in the general direction of Babylon.
A third view is that this was a vision, and that Jeremiah never really went anywhere, except in his mind. But there are no clues in the text that this was a vision.
Regardless of where Jeremiah went, the meaning of the prophet’s action is clear; it does not depend on our identifying his destination.
Again, the Lord’s instructions came to Jeremiah after some time, telling him to return to the same site, and to retrieve the waistband that he had hidden there. When he did this, he discovered that the waistband had become ruined, and was useless.
Then the Lord told Jeremiah that He would destroy the pride of Judah and Jerusalem as the waistband had been destroyed.
The people of Judah, pure and untarnished at the time of their call (Jeremiah 2:2-3), would be just as worthless as Jeremiah’s ruined waistband-because they had refused to listen to the Lord. They had been stubborn in their hearts (cf. Deuteronomy 26:17-19), and had pursued idols by serving and worshipping them.
The Lord had purposed for His chosen people to cling closely to Him, and to be an ornament of glory for Him, like a waistband served its wearer. But they did not listen to Him. They had become tarnished and spoiled by contact with polluting influences. Linen was a priestly material (Leviticus 16:4), and similarly Israel was to be a priestly nation that was to cling to Yahweh (Exodus 19:6).
Yahweh, Israel’s God, also told Jeremiah to instruct the people to fill all their jugs with wine. He could expect them to reply that they knew that this was the purpose of jugs. The prophet’s words may have been a common cry among the local people who wanted more wine to drink.
The parable of the wine jars 13:12-14
This parable stressed the destructive effects of Yahweh’s judgment that were coming on the people of Judah because of their self-indulgence and complacency.
Then the prophet was to explain that the jugs represented all the people of Jerusalem-the Davidic kings, the priests, the false prophets, and the ordinary citizens. As the people filled their jugs with wine, the Lord would fill His people with the wine of His wrath. They had become intoxicated with idolatry and probably with real wine. As drunkards, they would be unable to defend themselves in the critical hour of the coming invasion, and would dash against and destroy one another.
"Drunkenness was one of the major social problems in the ancient Near East, where the range of available beverages was considerably narrower than at present." [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 99.]
The Lord would destroy His people, like jugs when they collided with one another and like drunkards when they stumbled into each other. He would not show pity on them. All generations of His people, from the oldest to the youngest, would suffer when He brought this destruction on them. [Note: See William McKane, "Jeremiah 13:12-14: A Problematic Proverb," in Israelite Wisdom: Theological and Literary Essays in Honor of Samuel Terrien, pp. 107-20, for a technical study of this passage.]
Jeremiah called the people to pay attention, and not to disregard what he would tell them because they thought it was unimportant. Yahweh had a message for them.
They were to give glory to Yahweh before the darkness of God’s judgment overwhelmed them and they stumbled in their walk, as people descending a mountain at twilight. Presently there was some light for the people to walk in, and they were hoping for more light, but deep darkness was about to overtake them. "Giving glory to the Lord" is an idiom for confessing sins (cf. Joshua 7:19; John 9:24).
The historical background for this oracle may be the deportation of Jehoiachin in 597 B.C., which was as twilight compared to the darkness of 586 B.C., when Jerusalem fell and Judah lost her independence. [Note: Thompson, p. 369.]
If the people would not listen to the Lord’s Word, Jeremiah would weep profusely for them, because their failure to listen would signify that the people, like a flock of sheep, would be taken captive by an enemy.
"Let no one think that the good news of Jesus Christ is to be communicated in a cold ’take it or leave it’ manner. Evangelical preaching and Christian witnessing must not be limited merely to a correct interpretation of the doctrines of the Word. We must have a love for sinners, so great a love that we will be driven urgently to unfold to them the way of salvation, whatever the cost." [Note: Goddard, p. 66.]
Jeremiah was to tell the king and the queen mother of Judah to humble themselves, because the Lord had removed their authority (in heaven) and would remove it soon (on earth). Pride was the besetting sin of royalty. The individuals in view are probably young King Jehoiachin and his mother Nehushta (cf. Jeremiah 22:26; 2 Kings 24:8-17). They were taken to Babylon as captives in 597 B.C. [Note: Less probably they were King Jehoiakim and his mother Zebidah (2 Kings 23:36).]
The queen mother was an important official throughout Israel’s monarchy, evidently as a counselor to the king, as was common in the ancient Near East (cf. 1 Kings 2:19; 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 10:13). Queen mothers assumed unusual prominence because of the widespread practice of polygamy among the kings.
A lament over the king and the queen mother 13:18-19
All the people of Judah had been or would be carried into exile, even those who lived in the Negev towns to the far south in Judah. That is, most of the people from all over Judah were involved. There were still some who did not leave the land in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:22). Jeremiah’s statement in this verse is somewhat hyperbolic.
The Lord beckoned Jerusalem to look north and she would see people coming. [Note: The imperatives in these verses are feminine indicating that probably Jerusalem is being addressed.] The city was about to lose the flock of special people over whom the Lord had made her responsible, namely, His people of Judah.
Jerusalem’s incurable wickedness 13:20-27
What would the city say when the Lord appointed other rulers over her whom the leaders of Jerusalem had cultivated, namely, the Mesopotamians? This may be a reference to King Ahaz’s earlier request for Assyrian help against Israel and Aramea (2 Kings 16:7; Isaiah 8:5-8). [Note: Kelley, p. 193.] However, there were many times when Judah had relied on and courted Mesopotamian powers in the past (cf. Jeremiah 4:30). Jerusalem would be in agony over this situation, like a woman in labor pains.
If the people of the city asked themselves why such a state of affairs had overtaken them, they should remember that it was due to the greatness of their sins. The Lord would humiliate the city because it had humiliated Him. Lifting the skirt is a euphemism for sexual attack (cf. Leviticus 18:6-19; Leviticus 20:17; Deuteronomy 22:30; Deuteronomy 27:20; Isaiah 47:3; Nahum 3:5), and exposing the heels seems to have been another one (cf. Deuteronomy 28:57; 1 Samuel 24:3; Isaiah 6:2). One scholar took the "exposed heels" to mean "driven into exile barefooted." [Note: Keil, 1:241.]
The Jerusalemites were so steeped in evil that it was impossible for them to change. They could no more change then than the dark Ethiopian could change the color of his skin or the leopard his spots. They had passed the point of no return; repentance was now impossible for them (cf. Hebrews 6:4-6).
"Here is a classic example of loss of freedom of the will through persistent sinning. Sin becomes natural. Jeremiah is speaking of the force of habit, not denying freedom of choice (cf. John 8:34)." [Note: Feinberg, p. 466.]
Because of their inveterate sinning, the Lord would scatter the people from their land, like straw blown by the wind. Like the straw, they would end up in desert lands, namely: Babylonia.
This was the fate that Yahweh assigned the capital of Judah because she had forsaken Him and trusted in false gods.
Yahweh Himself would be the One responsible for Jerusalem’s humiliation (cf. Jeremiah 13:22).
Her citizens had behaved like adulterers and like copulating horses (cf. Jeremiah 5:8). The Lord had seen their unfaithful, lewd behavior toward Him when they worshipped idols and practiced sacred prostitution in the open-air shrines across the land. Jerusalem was in deep trouble. How long would she continue in her wicked ways and remain unclean?! The question was expressing frustration, not requesting information.
Laments during a drought and a national defeat 14:1-15:9
Evidently droughts coincided with the Babylonian invasions from the north. Many commentators believe that the droughts and the defeat that this section describes took place at about the same time, because of what Jeremiah wrote.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 13". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/jeremiah-13.html. 2012.
Jeremiah 13 – Two Warning Signs
This chapter seems to be a compilation of several signs and prophetic words given to Jeremiah at different times.
A. The Sign of the Linen Sash.
1. (1-5) Hiding the linen sash.
Thus the LORD said to me: “Go and get yourself a linen sash, and put it around your waist, but do not put it in water.” So I got a sash according to the word of the LORD, and put it around my waist. And the word of the LORD came to me the second time, saying, “Take the sash that you acquired, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole in the rock.” So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me.
a. Go and get yourself a linen sash: Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, told Jeremiah to take a sash and tie around himself as an object lesson. The sash was associated with the priestly garments both for the High Priest (Exodus 28:4) and the regular priest (Leviticus 16:4). Such a linen belt was a sign of dignity and nobility.
i. Some such as Harrison believe this sash was more properly a waist-cloth or loincloth, but it seems to be best understood as a decorative belt, something like a cummerbund.
ii. “If Jeremiah wore the traditional prophetic garb he would have been clothed in a fairly tight tunic of coarse material with a hair cloak over it. A linen girdle around his waist, such as was worn by priests and the rich nobility, would have made him something of a spectacle.” (Thompson)
b. Arise, go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole in the rock: God commanded Jeremiah to make a long journey, all the way north (and somewhat east) to the Euphrates River. This was in the direction from which the future conquerors of Judah would come. Once there, he was to bury the sash, presumably by the river.
i. Some think that Jeremiah didn’t go all the way to the Euphrates, but to a much closer water source with a similar name. Others think this was merely a prophetic vision. Yet there is no good reason to believe that Jeremiah did not take this long journey as an acted-out parable. “Personally, I believe that it is history, that Jeremiah actually travelled to Babylon and back twice.” (Morgan)
ii. “A three months’ disappearance by the prophet would have caused a stir in Anathoth, and his return without the girdle would have been cause for much comment.” (Thompson)
iii. “The prophet’s journey therefore thither seemeth to have been but visional, as was Isaiah’s going barefoot, Hosea’s marriage with a whore, Ezekiel’s lying on one side three hundred and ninety days together.” (Trapp)
2. (6-7) Finding the decayed, useless sash.
Now it came to pass after many days that the LORD said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the sash which I commanded you to hide there.” Then I went to the Euphrates and dug, and I took the sash from the place where I had hidden it; and there was the sash, ruined. It was profitable for nothing.
a. Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the sash: Some many days later, God commanded Jeremiah to take the long journey once again, this time to take the sash from the place he buried it.
b. There was the sash, ruined. It was profitable for nothing: Jeremiah found what he might have expected. The sash had deteriorated in the dirt and the moisture. It still existed, but it was ruined and good for nothing. It had nothing of the previous nobility and prominence that it once displayed.
i. “Whereas plain words might not have been noticed, this little piece of acting commanded the attention and excited the curiosity of the people. Blame us not if we sometimes dramatize the truth: we must win men’s hearts, and to do so we dare even run the risk of being called theatrical.” (Spurgeon)
3. (8-12) Ruining the pride of the people.
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘In this manner I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and walk after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be just like this sash which is profitable for nothing. For as the sash clings to the waist of a man, so I have caused the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah to cling to Me,’ says the LORD, ‘that they may become My people, for renown, for praise, and for glory; but they would not hear.’
a. In this manner I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem: The noble sash was taken to the Euphrates and ruined. So also would Judah and Jerusalem be taken to the Euphrates (and beyond) in their coming captivity, and thus God would ruin the pride of His people.
i. “Just as the girdle had been spoiled, so also would the gross pride of Judah and the gross pride of Jerusalem be destroyed.” (Thompson)
b. Shall be just like this sash which is profitable for nothing: At one time God had great use for His people Israel in the world, but they had so rejected God, that at that point they were profitable for nothing. This was through their three main sins.
· Who refuse to hear My words: The people of God had become hard and cold towards the word of God to them.
· Who follow the dictates of their hearts: The people of God instead trusted in their own hearts, and looked to self instead of the LORD.
· And walk after other gods to serve them: When they stopped listening to God and started following their own hearts, it led them to the corruption of idolatry.
c. As the sash clings to the waist of a man, so I have caused the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah to cling to Me: Just as a fine sash expressed beauty and nobility, so God wanted His people to be ornaments of His greatness to all the world. If they would cling to Him, they would be My people, for renown, for praise, and for glory.
i. “The chief purpose and ultimate goal of human beings is to be wrapped around God’s waist like a fashion accessory. When we are at our very best, we adorn God with glory.” (Ryken)
d. But they would not hear: Because of their stubborn and persistent sins against the LORD, Judah did not fulfill the noble and beautiful destiny God planned for them. They became useless and ruined like the buried sash.
i. What was true for ancient Judah is true among God’s people today. God’s plan is to make His people a noble ornament, a decoration of His own presence and work. If we reject this noble calling, we become useless for His highest and best purpose – and our own.
B. The Sign of the Wine Bottle.
1. (12) Every bottle filled with wine.
“Therefore you shall speak to them this word: ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Every bottle shall be filled with wine.”‘ And they will say to you, ‘Do we not certainly know that every bottle will be filled with wine?’”
a. Every bottle shall be filled with wine: This proverbial phrase had the sense, “Everything will fulfill its purpose.” A bottle (actually a clay jar to hold wine, not a glass bottle) was meant to contain wine, so to say “every bottle shall be filled with wine” was another way to say, “everything shall fulfill its purpose” or “it will all be right in the end.”
i. “Here the tag evidently meant something optimistic, such as, ‘The more you expect, the more you’ll get,’ or perhaps, ‘It’ll all come right in the end.’” (Kidner)
ii. Bottle: “The nebel was the largest earthenware container used for storing wine (cf. Isaiah 22:24; 30:14; Lamentations 4:2).” (Harrison)
b. Do we not certainly know that every bottle will be filled with wine? The people’s response showed their confidence in the principle of the proverb. If God had planned a noble and high purpose for Israel, surely it would be fulfilled – and good times would follow.
2. (13-14) The people of Judah drunk and destroyed.
“Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land — even the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem — with drunkenness! And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together,” says the LORD. “I will not pity nor spare nor have mercy, but will destroy them.”’”
a. I will fill all the inhabitants of this land…. with drunkenness: Instead of fulfilling their purpose before God in a high and noble way, God’s rebellious people would be filled with stupor and stupidity. If they had a fatalistic confidence in their destiny as the people of God, the LORD wanted to break it.
i. “Their heads (not altogether unlike bottles for roundness and emptiness of all good) shall be filled with a dry drunkenness, even with errors and terrors, a spirit of giddiness.” (Trapp)
b. I will dash them one against another: Bottles not only have destiny to be filled; they also have a destiny to be broken. God promised His rebellious people that they would face this destiny if they continued in their sin against Him.
i. “Jeremiah announced that God would fill the people with the wine of his wrath, and just as wine jars about which the people joked were smashed by dashing them one against the other, so God would destroy his people.” (Thompson)
C. How to respond to God’s warnings.
1. (15-16) Humble yourself and give glory to the LORD.
Hear and give ear:
Do not be proud,
For the LORD has spoken.
Give glory to the LORD your God
Before He causes darkness,
And before your feet stumble
On the dark mountains,
And while you are looking for light,
He turns it into the shadow of death
And makes it dense darkness.
a. Do not be proud, for the LORD has spoken: Every time God speaks to us, we have the choice to respond in pride or humility. We have the choice to reject or resist the word of the LORD, or to humble ourselves before His authority. God warned Judah to take the humble path.
i. “Refusing to hear what Jehovah has spoken, thou wilt follow other voices,which shall allure thee into an Egyptian night of confusion. Thou wilt go on meditating and excogitating, or criticizing and trifling, till thou art enveloped in a cloud of doubts, wrapped as in a dense smoke of speculation, and well nigh smothered in exhalations of unbelief. Thou shalt not know what to do, nor what to think, nor what to say, nor whither to betake thyself, for thou wilt have renounced thy guide and quenched thy torch.” (Spurgeon)
b. Give glory to the LORD your God before He causes darkness: The promised judgment was not far away. There was urgency for Judah to turn to the LORD before the darkness came, before your feet stumble. In rejecting God, they would become like mountain travelers trying to make their way through dangerous paths in dense darkness.
i. Specifically, Judah could give glory to the LORD by recognizing His superior place and their proper place beneath Him. They could humbly confess their sin and reject their idols, which robbed God of His glory.
ii. Give glory to God: “Confess your sins and turn to him, that these sore evils may be averted.” (Clarke)
2. (17-20) The price to be paid for not heeding God’s warnings.
But if you will not hear it,
My soul will weep in secret for your pride;
My eyes will weep bitterly
And run down with tears,
Because the LORD’s flock has been taken captive.
Say to the king and to the queen mother,
For your rule shall collapse, the crown of your glory.”
The cities of the South shall be shut up,
And no one shall open them;
Judah shall be carried away captive, all of it;
It shall be wholly carried away captive.
Lift up your eyes and see
Those who come from the north.
Where is the flock that was given to you,
Your beautiful sheep?
a. If you will not hear it, my soul will weep: This was Jeremiah’s painful lament. He wasn’t a dispassionate observer, throwing the thunderbolts of God’s judgment against Judah. His eyes ran down with tears because of their sin and pride, and because soon, the LORD’s flock has been taken captive.
i. “Good ministers should be full of compassionate tears, weeping in secret for their people’s unprofitableness, and their danger thereby.” (Trapp)
b. Say to the king and to the queen mother, “Humble yourselves”: If Judah’s royalty would submit and surrender to God, surely the people of the kingdom would follow. In this spiritual work, the leaders had to take the lead.
i. This word applied to the young King Jehoiachin and his mother Nehushta (2 Kings 24:8-16). They were perhaps already in Babylonia by this time, yet could still benefit if they humbled themselves before Yahweh.
ii. “The address is an exhortation to humility in view of their impending loss of sovereignty. Pride was characteristic of the royal house.” (Feinberg)
c. For your rule shall collapse, the crown of your glory: If the king and queen mother of Judah had a special responsibility to lead in repentance, they also had a special reason to do so. Because of their heights, the coming fall would affect them the worst.
i. The cities of the South shall be shut up: “Not only the cities of the north, the quarter at which the Chaldeans entered, but the cities of the south also; for he shall proceed from one extremity of the land to the other, spreading devastation every where, and carrying off the inhabitants.” (Clarke)
ii. Judah shall be carried away captive, all of it: “The statement that ‘all Judah’ will be exiled is rhetorical exaggeration, since only some leaders and skilled workmen were taken to Babylon at that time (597 BC). Yet they represented the whole nation.” (Feinberg)
d. Where is the flock that was given to you, your beautiful sheep: The invaders from the north would take the people of Judah captive. Since a king was often thought of as a shepherd of his people, the picture of the invaders stealing the beautiful sheep of the king of Judah was especially appropriate.
i. Lift up your eyes: “The imperatives are feminine and would appear therefore to be addressed to the city of Jerusalem.” (Thompson)
3. (21-23) The guilt of those whom the LORD punishes.
What will you say when He punishes you?
For you have taught them
To be chieftains, to be head over you.
Will not pangs seize you,
Like a woman in labor?
And if you say in your heart,
“Why have these things come upon me?”
For the greatness of your iniquity
Your skirts have been uncovered,
Your heels made bare.
Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?
Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.
a. What will you say when He punishes you? When the promised calamity came upon Judah, they would have no excuse. Though they did not listen to Jeremiah, he clearly warned them as the messenger of the LORD.
i. “Like nominal believers in all ages, the people were incredulous that such calamities could overtake them.” (Harrison)
ii. You have taught them to be chieftains, to be head over you: “This is said of their enemies, whether Assyrians or Chaldeans…Their enemies were thus taught to be their lords and masters.” (Clarke)
b. For the greatness of your iniquity your skirts have been uncovered, your heels made bare: With strong images, God warned Judah that their iniquity was so great that the judgment coming against them would be as a severe violation.
i. The idea here is that unfaithful Judah would be terribly and tragically violated by their conquerors, or that they would be humiliated and exposed as prostitutes for their continual spiritual adulteries (as in Isaiah 47:2-3; Hosea 2:3). Either image fits this context.
ii. “Exposure of the secret parts (here euphemistically described as tearing off the skirt and mistreating the body) was the public disgrace heaped on prostitutes.” (Feinberg)
iii. “The expression ‘lift up the skirt’ is a euphemism for sexual attack both here and elsewhere in the OT (Leviticus 18:6-19; Deuteronomy 23:1 [English 22:30]; 27:20; Isaiah 47:3; Nahum 3:5, etc.).” (Thompson)
iv. “The heels of AV is another euphemism, more literally rendered ‘body ravished’ (RSV suffer violence; NEB limbs uncovered).” (Harrison)
v. “Under the savage metaphors the lesson is that a people that parts with its virtue – its morals, its integrity, its faith – will find itself not liberated, only cheapened: stripped of everything that gave it value and respect.” (Kidner)
c. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil: Jeremiah quoted this proverb to warn the people that they were stuck in their sinful nature, and unable to change themselves. The answer was not first in national reform, but in national repentance and reliance upon the God who can change the nature of man.
i. “Evil, not only fitting them like a glove, not only deep-dyed, was by now something they could not more change or wish to change than the colour of their skin.” (Kidner)
ii. Evil may be so ingrained in men that they find it impossible to change. Yet, especially from a broader Biblical perspective, we see the transforming work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). The changes don’t come all at once and they are not complete until we are resurrected in glory, but the transformation is nevertheless real. The Ethiopian cannot change his skin nor the leopard his spots; but the LORD God can transform men and women.
iii. ‘The question of the text is, ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin?’ The answer is, — No, no, no, no, no, no. Here is the other question, — Can the Ethiopian’s skin be changed? The answer to that is, — Yes, yes, yes, as emphatically as we have just now said no, no, no. Can the Ethiopian’s skin be changed? Can the sinner’s nature be renewed? Yes, for God can do everything.” (Spurgeon)
4. (24-25) The determination of the LORD to scatter His people.
“Therefore I will scatter them like stubble
That passes away by the wind of the wilderness.
This is your lot,
The portion of your measures from Me,” says the LORD,
“Because you have forgotten Me
And trusted in falsehood.”
a. I will scatter them like stubble: Judah would not be conquered and exiled, but scattered across the Babylonian Empire and succeeding empires. This was their lot, the portion of your measures from the LORD.
i. This is your lot: “Look for no better, since thou, by going after lying vanities, forsakes thine own mercies, being miserable by thine own election.” (Trapp)
b. Because you have forgotten Me and trusted in falsehood: Even in this severe warning, God gave His people a roadmap back to His favor and blessing. Where they had forgotten God they must remember Him again, and where they had trusted in the falsehood of self and idols, they must turn away from them.
i. Trusted in falsehood: “The attachment of Judah to The Lie was in itself a great shame, an act of adultery.” (Thompson)
ii. “The irony of it all is that this will be inflicted by the very people whom Judah once courted. Because of her indulgence in the unfruitful works of darkness Judah would be exposed publicly as the corrupt wanton that she was by the One who had first espoused her in covenant love.” (Harrison)
5. (26-27) The exposed shame of God’s people.
“Therefore I will uncover your skirts over your face,
That your shame may appear.
I have seen your adulteries
And your lustful neighings,
The lewdness of your harlotry,
Your abominations on the hills in the fields.
Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
Will you still not be made clean?”
a. Therefore I will uncover your skirts over your face, that your shame may appear: God’s people chronically refused to humble themselves before the Lord (as in the plea of Jeremiah 13:18). Therefore they would face a far greater shame, one appropriate for their literal and spiritual harlotry.
i. Your lustful neighings: “The ‘neighings’ are a bestial figure for illicit love.” (Feinberg)
b. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! Will you still not be made clean? It was not only the Prophet Jeremiah who ached over the destiny of this stubborn, self-willed, idolatrous people. Yahweh Himself joined in the woe and the plea.
i. “He closeth with this emphatical and most affectionate contestation, pressing them to hearty and speedy repentance, as he had done oft before, but with little good success.” (Trapp)
(c) 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
13 meaning jeremiah
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FIVE WARNINGS FOR ISRAEL
There are five warnings given to Israel in this chapter. The nation of the Chosen people, which should have been living in a happy and intimate relationship with the Creator, and also should have been busily engaged in teaching the benighted nations of mankind the wonderful facts regarding the true and Almighty God, had, contrary to all reason, itself succumbed to the sensual allurements of paganism. Their spiritual discernment had almost disappeared; and the whole nation was thoroughly overcome with abandoned wickedness. The dramatic warnings of this chapter were designed to stem the headlong rash of Israel to destruction; but the warnings were not heeded.
The warnings were: (1) the parable of the mined linen loin-cloth (Jeremiah 13:1-11), (2) the parable of the wine jars (Jeremiah 13:12-14), (3) the warning against pride and arrogance toward God (Jeremiah 13:15-17), (4) the warning to the king and the queen-mother (Jeremiah 13:18-19), (5) the warning that identified "friends" of Israel, such as Babylon, as their conquerors and exploiters.
PARABLE OF THE RUINED LOINCLOTH
"Thus said Jehovah unto me, Go, and buy thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water. So I bought a girdle according to the word of Jehovah, and put it upon my loins."
"Linen girdle ..." (Jeremiah 13:1). Why linen? This was a mark of the priesthood; and because this garment was given as a representation of Israel, it had to be linen in order properly to symbolize that nation of "priests unto God" which Israel was intended to be.
"Put it upon thy loins ..." (Jeremiah 13:1). "This was not an outer girdle, but a covering worn next to the skin." This very intimate and personal garment symbolized the intimate relationship between God and Israel during the long centuries of the nation's development.
"And put it not in water ..." (Jeremiah 13:1). This meant that Jeremiah was not to wash the garment either before or after he had worn it. This would illuminate the meaning of the linen loincloth in later portions of the parable.
"And the word of Jehovah came unto me the second time, saying, Take the girdle which thou hast bought, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a cleft of the rock. So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as Jehovah commanded me."
"The word of Jehovah came to me the second time ..." (Jeremiah 13:3). The implication, though not clearly stated, is that some considerable time-lapse had occurred, at least ample time for the loincloth to have required washing had not God forbidden it.
"Go to the Euphrates, and hide it ..." (Jeremiah 13:4). This statement has precipitated a whole barrage of quibbles and denials by commentators. The problem is that the Euphrates river was almost four hundred miles from Anathoth; and the two journeys to that river by Jeremiah would have required his traveling a distance of some sixteen hundred miles.
We have no problem at all with this, because Jeremiah 13:5 flatly declares that, Jeremiah went and hid it as Jehovah had commanded him. Where is there any problem? Rationalistic critics, however, believe that such an extended amount of traveling, while not impossible, was certainly not very practical in those times. Therefore, other solutions are proposed. They are interesting, and we include these alternative understandings on the premise that they might even be correct, although we cannot be sure.
(1) One alternative interpretation is that the Hebrew word rendered here as "Euphrates" may not be a reference to the "Euphrates River" at all but to a village three and one half miles north of Anathoth (where Jeremiah probably lived), which was also known locally as "Euphrates." This appears to be possible. It is principally upon the authority of the Septuagint (LXX) and the Vulgate that translators insist on making it refer to the Euphrates River. The Hebrew word is actually [~Phrath]; and there is no doubt that in many other Old Testament passages the word does refer to the Euphrates River. The word occurs fifteen times elsewhere in the Old Testament and four times in this chapter. Nevertheless, as Henderson noted: "In twelve of the other fifteen references another word is included with [~Phrath], a word that means river. It seems a little strange, therefore that the word [~Phrath] should occur no less than four times in this chapter without that qualifying term which means river. This is certainly enough to suggest the possibility of the word's being in this instance a reference to a local village. If this was indeed the case, the close identity of the name with the Great River would have had the same symbolical meaning that accrued to the Euphrates itself. Thus the meaning of the parable is not affected, no matter which view of the meaning of [~Phrath] is accepted.
And what is that meaning? The meaning is that the apostate nation, symbolized by the dirty, unwashed loincloth will be "hidden," that is, in captivity in Babylon on the Euphrates River.
(2) Another interpretation suggested by Dummelow is also plausible, perhaps even more so, than No. 1, cited above. "Jeremiah appears to have been absent from Jerusalem during a major part of Jehoiachin's brief three-year reign; and he may very well be supposed to have been during that time in or near the city of Babylon. This would account for the kindly feeling toward him by Nebuchadnezzar after his capture of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:11). There is nothing at all unreasonable about this understanding of the passage, in which [~Phrath] would be understood as actually a reference to the Euphrates River itself.
(3) Another school of commentators have suggested that, "We are here dealing with a visionary experience," an interpretation which does not appear to be in any manner reasonable to this writer. We believe that Jeremiah actually bought a clean, white, linen girdle, wore it until it became thoroughly dirty, then hid it in the earth until it was completely rotted, mined, and spoiled, that he also recovered it as God commanded him, and that he showed it to his fellow-Israelites, expounding the whole history of that girdle to them as a parable of what was going to happen to the apostate nation.
"And it came to pass after many days, that Jehovah said unto me, Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there. Then I went to the Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it; and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing."
"It came to pass after many days ..." (Jeremiah 13:6). The passing of many days was necessary in order to allow plenty of time for the linen girdle to be thoroughly rotted and spoiled. However, there was another reason: "By the `many days' are meant the seventy years of the captivity."
It is a mistake to assume that it was the Babylonian captivity that mined Israel. That captivity was not the cause of Israel's apostasy; it was the result and consequence of it. Let it be remembered that the loincloth was `already dirty' when Jeremiah buried it by the Euphrates River. The complete ruination of the girdle, therefore, was not a symbol of Israel's apostasy, which was already complete, but a symbol of the complete spoiling of their pride, national institutions, and their general attitude of rebellion against God. After their return from Babylon, the "righteous remnant" never again resorted to the Baalim. It may be also that the symbolism of the rotten, mined girdle applied to the "vast majority" of the Once Chosen People who never returned to Judah, even after God commanded them to do so. They were lost forever as an identifiable race or nation.
"Then the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, after this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, that refuse to hear my words, that walk in the stubbornness of their own heart, and are gone after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is profitable for nothing. For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Judah, saith Jehovah; that they may be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear."
From this paragraph it is evident that Jeremiah, after his recovery of the rotten girdle, showed it to the citizens of Judah and Jerusalem and explained the symbolism of it. This seems to imply also that the citizens were aware of the place (The Euphrates River) where the ruination of the nation would be executed by God's judgment upon them.
THE PARABLE OF THE WINE JARS
"Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word: Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Every bottle shall be rifled with wine? and they shall say, Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine? Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit on David's throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness. And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith Jehovah: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have compassion, that I should not destroy them."
The parable was brief enough: "Every bottle shall be filled with wine;" but when the prophet's critics heard him, they answered with a mocking, "Of course, everybody already knows that." What they then learned was that God was not talking of literal wine jars at all, but about the citizens of the land, all of them; and here God promised to bring drunkenness upon the total population, even including all of the upper echelons of their society, kings, priests, prophets, everyone; and Jeremiah 13:14 prophesied that the result of this alcoholic oblivion would be the total destruction of the nation.
In this parable, "The bottles represent all the people, and the wine represents the wrath of God." The intoxication of all the people, rendering them helpless against all their enemies, indicated the certainty of God's impending punishment for the people's headstrong continuation in their licentious idolatry.
WARNING AGAINST THE PRIDE OF ISRAEL
"Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud; for Jehovah hath spoken. Give glory to Jehovah your God, before he causes darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turns it into the shadow of death, and makes it gross darkness. But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because Jehovah's flock is taken captive."
"Be not proud ... my soul shall weep for your pride ..." (Jeremiah 13:15,17). These are the key words in the passage and show that the warning is directed primarily against the pride of Israel. Jeremiah is the one who promises to weep over Israel's condition, as indicated by his reference to Jehovah's flock in Jeremiah 13:17.
What is symbolized here is the gathering darkness of the wrath of God. "Only a sincere response to Jehovah's word could hold back the calamity and allow the light to shine over the land."
The approaching gloom of darkness was a dual symbol of the invasion and of the captivity.
WARNING TO THE ROYAL FAMILY
"Say thou unto the king and to the queen mother, Humble yourselves, sit down; for your headtires are come down, even the crown of your glory. The cities of the South are shut up, and there is none to open them: Judah is carried away captive, all of it; it is wholly carried away captive."
The mention of the queen-mother indicates the importance of the king's mother among the kings of Judah. "They seem to have had some official status in Judah; indeed, 1 Kings 2:19 suggests that she even occupied a throne adjacent to that of the king." The passage before us also may indicate that she likewise wore a crown. "Because Jewish kings generally married subjects, and lived in polygamy, the king's mother took precedence over his wives."
Dummelow also mentioned the importance of this verse in ascertaining the date when this chapter was written. "The date of this prophecy is shown pretty clearly by the word queen-mother, namely, Nehushta, mother of Jehoiachin. The queen-mother always had a high position; and, in Jehoiachin's case, this would have been especially so, owing to the king's young age."
WARNING OF DEFEAT; CAPTIVITY AND HUMILIATION
"Lift up your eyes and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock? What wilt thou say, when he shall set over thee as head those whom thou hast thyself taught to be friends to thee? shall not sorrows take hold of thee, as of a woman in travail?"
"That come from the north ..." (Jeremiah 13:20). Practically all of the invaders of Judah came from the north, as that was the most feasible military entrance into the city of Jerusalem; but the particular invasion prophesied here was that of the Babylonians.
"Whom thou ... hast taught to be thy friends" (Jeremiah 13:21). The plural here indicates that both Egypt and Babylon are meant. Contrary to the warnings of Isaiah and Jeremiah, Judah's kings had cultivated the friendship of foreign powers, seeking to make alliances with them from time to time. It will be remembered that Hezekiah had embraced Merodach-baladan as his friend, showing him all of the treasures of the whole kingdom (Isaiah 39:1-2); and the question of this passage is, "What are you going to say when such a `friend' becomes your king?"
"And if thou say in thy heart, Wherefore are these things come upon me? for the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts uncovered and thy heels suffer violence. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. Therefore will I scatter them, as the stubble that passeth away, by the wind of the wilderness."
"For the greatness of thine iniquity ..." (Jeremiah 13:22). This is God's blunt answer to the question of why? all these things happened to Israel.
"Thy skirts uncovered ..." (Jeremiah 13:22). See under Jeremiah 13:26. below, for comment on this.
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ..." (Jeremiah 13:23)? A negative answer is required for both of these questions; and the meaning is simply that it is too late for Israel to change her ways. She has persistently wallowed in sin such a long time that there is no longer any hope of her changing. Such a condition came about because of (1) the deliberate rebellion of Israel against her God, and (2) the consequent judicial hardening of the apostate nation so frequently mentioned in Isaiah (See Isaiah 6:9,10, etc).
"This is thy lot, the portion measured unto thee from me, saith Jehovah; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood. Therefore will I uncover thy skirts upon thy face, and thy shame shall appear."
"Thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood" (Jeremiah 13:25). Trusting in falsehood means worshipping idols and believing in them. Such worship is also designated as "The Lie" in Jeremiah.
"Uncover thy skirts upon thy face ..." (Jeremiah 13:26). The shameful punishment of an adulterous woman in antiquity included lifting her skirts above her head, exposing her nakedness, smearing her with filth, and driving her through the city. The expression, "your heels shall suffer violence" (Jeremiah 13:23) could refer to "your body, or genitals."
This drastic kind of punishment prescribed for Israel was justified and appropriate, because, the uncovering of her most intimate parts during her adulterous worship of the Baalim in their orgiastic ceremonies closely paralleled the punishment. For a more complete description of this awful punishment, see Nahum 3:5; Isaiah 47:2, and Ezekiel 16:37.
"I have seen thine abominations, even thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, on the hills, in the field. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! Thou wilt not be made clean; how long shall it be?"
This is a further elaboration of the reasons why the dreadful punishment prescribed for Israel in the above verses was justified and appropriate.
"Thy neighings ..." (Jeremiah 13:27). Jeremiah mentioned this same thing back in Jeremiah 5:8 where he compared the behavior of the people to well-fed stallions, "everyone neighing to his neighbor's wife," indicating that they wanted a sexual experience with every woman in sight. The use of such a metaphor as this, as Robinson pointed out, most certainly indicates, "actual sexual immorality," which was so prominent a feature of the cultic worship of the Baalim.
"The tragic thing was that these same people frequented the temple, mouthing formulas like, `the temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh.' "
"How long shall it yet be ..." (Jeremiah 13:27)? The actual meaning of these words is somewhat ambiguous. They may mean, "how long will it be before Jerusalem is cleansed?" or "how long will it be before the judgment of God falls upon her?" If Jeremiah still retained any hope of averting the terrible judgment which God through him had prophesied, the former meaning might be correct; but if he no longer supposed that Jerusalem would ever be cleansed, then the latter meaning is correct.
"Jeremiah lived to see the judgment fall; and after that, his hope rested upon the promise of a future day of restoration (Jeremiah 31:31-34)," upon which occasion "all would know the Lord, from the least unto the greatest of the people," and when the sins of the people would be gloriously forgiven.
That occasion, of course, would be the coming of the Kingdom of Messiah; and we may not suppose that Jeremiah understood all the implications of the prophecies God gave to mankind through him.
This concludes the five warnings set forth in this chapter. If Israel ever made the slightest gesture toward heeding any of them, the sacred scriptures retain no record of such a thing.
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jeremiah 13". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/jeremiah-13.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
Thus saith the Lord unto me
In a vision, and by the spirit of prophecy: when this was said is not certain, very likely in the reign of Jehoiakim; the prophet gives an account of what had been done, the present tense is put for the past. Go and get thee a linen girdle;
or, "a girdle of linens" F12; a girdle made of flax or fine linen, which the prophet had not used to wear; and having none, is bid to go, perhaps from Anathoth to Jerusalem, to "get" one, or "buy" one: this girdle represents the people of the Jews in their more pure and less corrupted state, when they were a people near unto the Lord, and greatly regarded by him, and had a share in his affections; when they cleaved unto him, and served him, and were to his praise and glory: "and put it upon thy loins"; near the reins, the seat of affection and desire, and that it might be visible and ornamental; denoting what has been before observed: "and" or but put it not in water
or, "bring it not through it" F13; meaning either before he put it on his loins; and the sense is, that he was not to wash it, and whiten it, but to wear it just as it was wrought, signifying that those people were originally taken by the Lord of his own mercy, and without any merits of theirs, rough, unwashed, and unpolished as they were: or else, after he had wore it, as Jarchi, when it was soiled with sweat; yet not to be washed, that it might rot the sooner: and so may design the corrupt and filthy state of this people, and the ruin brought thereby upon them, which was not to be prevented.
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Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers(1) A linen girdle.—The point of comparison is given in Jeremiah 13:11. Of all garments worn by man the girdle was that most identified with the man’s activity, nearest to his person. The “linen girdle” was part of Jeremiah’s priestly dress (Exodus 28:40; Leviticus 16:4), and this also was significant in the interpretation of the symbolic act. Israel, represented as the girdle of Jehovah, had been chosen for consecrated uses. The word “get” implies the act of purchasing, and this too was not without its symbolic significance.
Put it not in water.—The work of the priest as a rule necessarily involved frequent washings both of flesh and garments. The command in this case was therefore exceptional. The unwashed girdle was to represent the guilt of the people unpurified by any real contact with the “clean water” of repentance (Ezekiel 36:25). In the “filthy garments” of Joshua, in Zechariah 3:3, we have a like symbolism. This seems a much more natural interpretation than that which starts from the idea that water would spoil the girdle, and sees in the command the symbol of God’s care for His people.
Benson CommentaryJeremiah 13:1-2. Thus saith the Lord unto me — The prophet here begins a new discourse. Go and get thee a girdle, &c. — “God explains, at Jeremiah 13:11, what was meant by the symbol of the girdle, or sash, worn about the loins, namely, his people Israel, whom he redeemed of old, and attached to himself by a special covenant; that as a girdle served for an ornament to the wearer, so they should be subservient to the honour and glory of his name. But it is added, They would not hear, or conform to his intentions; therefore, being polluted with the guilt of their disobedience, they were, in that state, and on that very account, to be carried into captivity; conformably to which the prophet was commanded not to put the girdle in water, that is, not to wash it, but to leave it in that state of filthiness which it had contracted in wearing.” So I got the girdle, according to the word of the Lord — That is, according to God’s command. And put it on my loins— Used it as God directed me, not disputing the reason why God commanded me to do such a thing.
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary13:1-11 It was usual with the prophets to teach by signs. And we have the explanation, ver. 9-11. The people of Israel had been to God as this girdle. He caused them to cleave to him by the law he gave them, the prophets he sent among them, and the favours he showed them. They had by their idolatries and sins buried themselves in foreign earth, mingled among the nations, and were so corrupted that they were good for nothing. If we are proud of learning, power, and outward privileges, it is just with God to wither them. The minds of men should be awakened to a sense of their guilt and danger; yet nothing will be effectual without the influences of the Spirit.
Barnes' Notes on the BibleA linen girdle - The appointed dress of the priestly order (Leviticus 16:4, ...).
Put it not in water - i. e., do not wash it, and so let it represent the deep-grained pollution of the people.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible CommentaryCHAPTER 13
Jer 13:1-27. Symbolical Prophecy (Jer 13:1-7).
Many of these figurative acts being either not possible, or not probable, or decorous, seem to have existed only in the mind of the prophet as part of his inward vision. [So Calvin]. The world he moved in was not the sensible, but the spiritual, world. Inward acts were, however, when it was possible and proper, materialized by outward performance, but not always, and necessarily so. The internal act made a naked statement more impressive and presented the subject when extending over long portions of space and time more concentrated. The interruption of Jeremiah's official duty by a journey of more than two hundred miles twice is not likely to have literally taken place.
1. put it upon thy loins, &c.—expressing the close intimacy wherewith Jehovah had joined Israel and Judah to Him (Jer 13:11).
linen—implying it was the inner garment next the skin, not the outer one.
put it not in water—signifying the moral filth of His people, like the literal filth of a garment worn constantly next the skin, without being washed (Jer 13:10). Grotius understands a garment not bleached, but left in its native roughness, just as Judah had no beauty, but was adopted by the sole grace of God (Eze 16:4-6). "Neither wast thou washed in water," &c.In the type of a linen girdle God prefigureth their destruction, Jeremiah 13:1-11. Under the parable of bottles filled with wine, is foretold their drunkenness with misery, Jeremiah 13:12-14. He exhorteth to prevent these judgments by repentance for their sins, which are the cause thereof, Jeremiah 13:15-27.
God’s design, by what is recorded in this chapter, is by two types, as in two glasses, to let the people understand by the prophet how he looked upon them, and what they were in his eyes, and also what he would do unto them, and they might expect from him; to this purpose he directeth the prophet to procure himself a girdle, not woollen, but linen, made of flax, or the like, and to put it not upon his clothes, but upon his loins, to signify (as some think) that this people were a people whom God had made near to him. He commands him not to put it in water, to soften it, as some think; linen newly made, before it is wetted in water, being rough; and this they conceive the prophet was forbidden, for a further type of the stiffness, and roughness, and stubbornness of this people. Others think, to typify that God was no cause of this people’s rotting and growing corrupt.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire BibleThus saith the Lord unto me,.... In a vision, and by the spirit of prophecy: when this was said is not certain, very likely in the reign of Jehoiakim; the prophet gives an account of what had been done, the present tense is put for the past.
Go and get thee a linen girdle; or, "a girdle of linens" (l); a girdle made of flax or fine linen, which the prophet had not used to wear; and having none, is bid to go, perhaps from Anathoth to Jerusalem, to "get" one, or "buy" one: this girdle represents the people of the Jews in their more pure and less corrupted state, when they were a people near unto the Lord, and greatly regarded by him, and had a share in his affections; when they cleaved unto him, and served him, and were to his praise and glory: "and put it upon thy loins"; near the reins, the seat of affection and desire, and that it might be visible and ornamental; denoting what has been before observed: "and" or
but put it not in water or, "bring it not through it" (m); meaning either before he put it on his loins; and the sense is, that he was not to wash it, and whiten it, but to wear it just as it was wrought, signifying that those people were originally taken by the Lord of his own mercy, and without any merits of theirs, rough, unwashed, and unpolished as they were: or else, after he had wore it, as Jarchi, when it was soiled with sweat; yet not to be washed, that it might rot the sooner: and so may design the corrupt and filthy state of this people, and the ruin brought thereby upon them, which was not to be prevented.
(l) "cingulum linorum", Montanus. (m) "sed per aquam non duces eam", Schmidt.
Geneva Study BibleThus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges1. a linen girdle] Linen, not woollen, garments were appointed for priestly wear. See e.g. Exodus 28:42. It was thus the fittest material for that which should symbolize the people of God.
put it not in water] He is not to soften it for greater comfort in wearing, or, with more direct bearing on the spiritual significance of the figure, he is to keep it at first separate from that which was to be the cause of its being marred, and so to symbolize Israel in its earlier independence and in the sunshine of Jehovah’s favour.
Ch. Jeremiah 13:1-11. The acted symbol of the linen girdle
This ch. consists of five sections, quite independent of one another. The first two are in poetic prose, and the remaining in Ḳinah metre. Three questions arise in respect to this first section: (i) Does it relate a real transaction or a vision? (ii) What is the application of the symbol? (iii) To what date may we refer it?
As regards (i) we may state that Du. rejects with scorn the passage, as non-Jeremianic, considering it as childish, and as a later insertion. Most commentators, however, refuse to accept this view. If we accept the view that the transaction was real, where was it carried out? Some think that the Heb. Pěrath, rendered elsewhere Euphrates (though generally “the river” is prefixed to it), may have here meant Parah (Joshua 18:23), now Wady Fara, a town in a rocky valley three miles N.E. of Anathoth, chosen by Jeremiah for this purpose because its name suggested that of the actual river. Gi. and Erbt, however, understand Euphrates, the latter making the prophet perform the double journey (one of 300 or 400 miles) with the aim of enforcing by act what he had failed to do by his words. But it is more natural to consider that the transaction was of a subjective character, taking place in the prophet’s mind only, and then announced by him as a picturesque method of illustrating the truth which he sought to bring home. As regards (ii), Judah shall be humiliated by exile. She has been in closest intimacy with her God, but, owing to her becoming corrupt in religion and morality, He has been compelled to cast her off. See on Jeremiah 13:9-11. As to (iii) we may place the date early in Jeremiah’s ministry, seeing that idolatrous corruption was already at that time in vigorous being. It is, however, by no means impossible that the date may fall within Jehoiakim’s reign.
The section may be subdivided as follows.
(i) Jeremiah 13:1-7. The prophet, in obedience to the Lord’s command, procures, in vision or reality, a linen waist-cloth, which has not yet been washed, and after wearing it a while, covers it up in a rocky cavity on the banks of Euphrates, and after a long interval, returns thither, digs it out, and finds that it is spoilt and useless. (ii) Jeremiah 13:8-11. The meaning of the symbol. The self-esteem of the nation shall be crushed, because of their idolatrous ways. As a waist-cloth clings to the person of the wearer, so had Jehovah given Israel the glorious position of close and constant attachment to Himself, but they had utterly slighted the honour.
Pulpit CommentaryVerses 1-11.- The entire people of the Jews is like a good-for-nothing apron. Verse 1.- A linen girdle; rather, a linen apron. "Girdle" is one of the meanings of the Hebrew ('ezor), but is here unsuitable. As Ver. 11 shows, it is an inner garment that is meant, one that "cleaveth to the loins of a man" (in fact, περίζωμαof the Septuagint, the lumbareof the Vulgate). The corresponding Arabic word, 'izar, has, according to Lane, the meaning of "waist-wrapper.' Israel was to Jehovah in as close a relation spiritually as that in which the inner garment referred to is to him who wears it materially. There is an Arabic proverb which well illustrates this: "He is to me in place of an 'izar"(Freytag, 'Studium der Arab. Spraohe,' p. 298). "A linen apron" may perhaps be specified, because linen was the material of the priestly dress (Leviticus 16:4), and Israel was to be spiritually" a kingdom of priests." But this is not absolutely necessary. The common man used linen in his dress as well as the priest; the only difference between them was that the priest was confined to linen garments. But an ,' apron" would in any case naturally be made of linen. Linen; literally, flax (a product of Judah, Hosea 2:5). Put it not in water. The object of the prohibition is well stated by St. Jerome. It was at once to symbolize the character of the people of Israel, stiff and impure, like unwashed linen, and to suggest the fate in store for it (Ver. 9). Jeremiah 13:1
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old TestamentThe spoilt girdle. - Jeremiah 13:1. "Thus spake Jahveh unto me: Go and buy thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, but into the water thou shalt not bring it. Jeremiah 13:2. So I bought the girdle, according to the word of Jahveh, and put it upon my loins, Jeremiah 13:3. Then came the word of Jahveh to me the second time, saying: Jeremiah 13:4. Take the girdle which thou hast bought, which is upon thy loins, and arise, and go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a cleft of the rock. Jeremiah 13:5. So I went and hid it, as Jahveh had commanded me. Jeremiah 13:6. And it came to pass after many days, that Jahveh said unto me: Arise, go to the Euphrates, and bring thence the girdle which I commanded thee to hide there. Jeremiah 13:7. And I went to the Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it; and, behold, the girdle was marred, was good for nothing. Jeremiah 13:8. And the word of Jahveh came to me, saying: Jeremiah 13:9. Thus hath Jahveh said, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem. Jeremiah 13:10. This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the stubbornness of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them and to worship them, it shall be as this girdle which is good for nothing. Jeremiah 13:11. For as the girdle cleaves to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith Jahveh; that it might be to me for a people and for a name, for a praise and for an ornament; but they hearkened not."
With regard to the symbolical action imposed on the prophet and performed by him, the question arises, whether the thing took place in outward reality, or was only an occurrence in the spirit, in the inward vision. The first view seems to be supported by the wording of the passage, namely, the twice repeated account of the prophet's journey to the Phrat on the strength of a twice repeated divine command. But on the other hand, it has been found very improbable that "Jeremiah should twice have made a journey to the Euphrates, merely to prove that a linen girdle, if it lie long in the damp, becomes spoilt, a thing he could have done much nearer home, and which besides everybody knew without experiment" (Graf.). On this ground Ros., Graf, etc., hold the matter for a parable or an allegorical tale, But this view depends for support on the erroneous assumption that the specification of the Euphrates is of no kind of importance for the matter in hand; whereas the contrary may be gathered from the four times repeated mention of the place. Nor is anything proved against the real performance of God's command by the remark, that the journey thither and back on both occasions is spoken of as if it were a mere matter of crossing a field. The Bible writers are wont to set forth such external matters in no very circumstantial way. And the great distance of the Euphrates - about 250 miles - gives us no sufficient reason for departing from the narrative as we have it before us, pointing as it does to a literal and real carrying out of God's command, and to relegate the matter to the inward region of spiritual vision, or to take the narrative for an allegorical tale. - Still less reason is to be found in arbitrary interpretations of the name, such as, after Bochart's example, have been attempted by Ven., Hitz., and Ew. The assertion that the Euphrates is called נהר פּרת everywhere else, including Jeremiah 46:2, Jeremiah 46:6,Jeremiah 46:10, loses its claim to conclusiveness from the fact that the prefaced rhn is omitted in Genesis 2:14; Jeremiah 51:63. And even Ew. observes, that "fifty years later a prophet understood the word of the Euphrates at Jeremiah 51:63." Now even if Jeremiah 51:63 had been written by another prophet, and fifty years later (which is not the case, see on Jeremiah 50ff.), the authority of this prophet would suffice to prove every other interpretation erroneous; even although the other attempts at interpretation had been more than the merest fancies. Ew. remarks, "It is most amazing that recent scholars (Hitz. with Ven. and Dahl.) could seriously come to adopt the conceit that פּרת is one and the same with אפּרת (Genesis 48:7), and so with Bethlehem;" and what he says is doubly relevant to his own rendering. פּרת, he says, is either to be understood like Arab. frt, of fresh water in general, or like frdt, a place near the water, a crevice opening from the water into the land - interpretations so far fetched as to require no serious refutation.
More important than the question as to the formal nature of the emblematical action is that regarding its meaning; on which the views of commentators are as much divided. from the interpretation in Jeremiah 13:9-11 thus much is clear, that the girdle is the emblem of Israel, and that the prophet, in putting on and wearing this girdle, illustrates the relation of God to the folk of His covenant (Israel and Judah). The further significance of the emblem is suggested by the several moments of the action. The girdle does not merely belong to a man's adornment, but is that part of his clothing which he must put on when about to undertake any laborious piece of work. The prophet is to buy and put on a linen girdle. פּשׁתּים, linen, was the material of the priests' raiment, Ezekiel 44:17., which in Exodus 28:40; Exodus 39:27. is called שׁשׁ, white byssus, or בּד, linen. The priest's girdle was not, however, white, but woven parti-coloured, after the four colours of the curtains of the sanctuary, Exodus 28:40; Exodus 39:29. Wool (צמר) is in Ezekiel 44:18 expressly excluded, because it causes the body to sweat. The linen girdle points, therefore, to the priestly character of Israel, called to be a holy people, a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6). "The purchased white girdle of linen, a man's pride and adornment, is the people bought out of Egypt, yet in its innocence as it was when the Lord bound it to Himself with the bands of love" (Umbr.). The prohibition that follows, "into water thou shalt not bring it," is variously interpreted. Chr. B. Mich. says: forte ne madefiat et facilius dein computrescat; to the same effect Dahl., Ew., Umbr., Graf: to keep it safe from the hurtful effects of damp. A view which refutes itself; since washing does no kind of harm to the linen girdle, but rather makes it again as good as new. Thus to the point writes Ng., remarking justly at the same time, that the command not to bring the girdle into the water plainly implies that the prophet would have washed it when it had become soiled. This was not to be. The girdle was to remain dirty, and as such to be carried to the Euphrates, in order that, as Ros. and Maur. observed, it might symbolize sordes quas contraxerit populus in dies majores, mores populi magis magisque lapsi, and that the carrying of the soiled girdle to the Euphrates might set forth before the eyes of the people what awaited it, after it had long been borne by God covered with the filth of its sins. - The just appreciation of this prohibition leads us easily to the true meaning of the command in Jeremiah 13:4, to bring the girdle that was on his loins to the Euphrates, and there to conceal it in a cleft in the rock, where it decays. But it is signifies, as Chr. B. Mich., following Jerome, observes, populi Judaici apud Chaldaeos citra Euphratem captivitas et exilium. Graf has objected: "The corruptness of Israel was not a consequence of the Babylonish captivity; the latter, indeed, came about in consequence of the existing corruptness." But this objection stands and falls with the amphibolia of the word corruptness, decay. Israel was, indeed, morally decayed before the exile; but the mouldering of the girdle in the earth by the Euphrates signifies not the moral but the physical decay of the covenant people, which, again, was a result of the moral decay of the period during which God had, in His long-suffering, borne the people notwithstanding their sins. Wholly erroneous is the view adopted by Gr. from Umbr.: the girdle decayed by the water is the sin-stained people which, intriguing with the foreign gods, had in its pride cast itself loose from its God, and had for long imagined itself secure under the protection of the gods of Chaldea. The hiding of the girdle in the crevice of a rock by the banks of the Euphrates would have been the most unsuitable emblem conceivable for representing the moral corruption of the people. Had the girdle, which God makes to decay by the Euphrates, loosed itself from him and imagined it could conceal itself in a foreign land? as Umbr. puts the case. According to the declaration, Jeremiah 13:9, God will mar the great pride of Judah and Jerusalem, even as the girdle had been marred, which had at His command been carried to the Euphrates and hid there. The carrying of the girdle to the Euphrates is an act proceeding from God, by which Israel is marred; the intriguing of Israel with strange gods in the land of Canaan was an act of Israel's own, against the will of God.
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