“Jeremiah, what do you see?” ch1 v11
In the first half of the chapter, the Lord told Jeremiah that he had been chosen to speak to the world as a prophet. This was not an impulse decision,
and this destiny was not optional.
The Lord is showing to Jeremiah (in vision?) something which Jeremiah recognises as a rod of almond. This is the right answer, because the Lord is
“watching over my word to perform it”. The translation footnote points out that the Hebrew word for “almond” resembles the word for
“watching”, so the image in this vision conveys its message in word-play.
Then “The word of the Lord came to me a second time” (v13) and Jeremiah is shown an image. Which confirms in my mind that the rod of almond was
also a visionary picture, not something which he happened to spot in the vicinity. He sees a boiling pot, “facing away from the north”. That is,
it is ready to be tipped over to pour its contents all over the south.
The prophets are always talking about “the north” as the source of hostile power. That’s because most of Judah’s enemies did come from that
direction. Egyptian armies approached from the south. The tribesmen of the wilderness came in from the east. All the other menacing armies came down
the northern road, like Scotsmen coming down to London in the imagination of Doctor Johnson. Even if their home base was eastward, as the crow flies,
they would not try to cross the great deserts. Their safe route was to go round by Antioch, followed by Damascus or Mt. Lebanon.
So, from the viewpoint of the prophets, “the north” was the inevitable source of hostility. Assyria was “the north”, and Babylon was “the
north”, and also Persia. Modern readers are prone to see “the north” as a reference to Russia, but that is the European perspective. For the
inhabitants of Jerusalem, the boundary-line of “the far north” is the Sea of Galilee.
V15 “Lo, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, says the Lord”. They would all come together and besiege Jerusalem and the
other cities of Judah. When Jeremiah first heard this warning, he would have been thinking “Assyria”. But the world would change before he was
many years older. The warning would be fulfilled by a Babylonian siege, twice over during his own lifetime.
The coming of these enemies is to be regarded as the Lord’s judgement on Jerusalem. They have ceased to be his people, because they have decided to
abandon him and worship other gods instead, including “the work of their own hands”.
If this message is being received in the thirteenth year of king Josiah, then the reforms of Josiah would begin five years later. These reforms would
sweep away; vessels made for Baal and for Asherah, found in the temple itself; priests burning incense to Baal, the sun and the moon and all the host
of heaven; the Asherah itself; houses provided for male cult prostitutes; the place Topheth, where people were burning their children as an offering
to Molech; horses and chariots dedicated to the sun; and the altars originally established by Solomon for Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom (2 Kings
ch23). And the reform would have been very short-lived. Undoubtedly most of these cults would have come back in the aftermath of the battle of
Megiddo, when Josiah lost his life, which would have been blamed on his commitment to the Lord. Some of them are seen in Ezekiel’s vision of the
idolatry in Jerusalem, including worship of the sun, and “the image of jealousy” (which I think is Molech).
V17 “But you, gird up your loins”.
In these circumstances, Jeremiah’s task is to pass on to the people every word that God commands him to speak. He will be complaining about their
sins and warning them of the coming judgements, in order to give them one last chance to repent and change the outcome.
“Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them”.
There will be violent opposition to Jeremiah’s message. He must not be afraid of what they might do, because God is there to support him. If he does
not continue to depend on that support, it may be withdrawn.
We have been told that the peoples of the north will be coming down to besiege the city. In Isaiah’s time, the promise would have been that God
would himself strengthen the city walls in order to protect the city. In the changed circumstances of Jeremiah’s time, the promise is now that the
Lord will make Jeremiah himself into a fortified city with walls of bronze and iron, in order to protect him from the attacks of the kings, princes,
priests, and people of the land, who have become the new enemies of the Lord.
They “shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.”
edit on 14-1-2022 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)