posted on Feb, 18 2022 @ 05:00 PM
“Run through all the streets of Jerusalem… Search to see if you can find a man who does justice and seeks truth; that I may pardon her”
(Jeremiah ch5 v1)
This is a very unflattering comparison between Jerusalem and Sodom. Sodom would have been saved if ten innocent men had been found. As for Jerusalem,
Jeremiah is invited to see if he can find one. And it must be done quickly, because judgement is coming soon.
The fifth chapter follows a pattern which will probably become familiar. An alternation between warnings of judgement and explanations of the reasons
for judgement. There is an obvious break after v17, but I will treat that first part of the chapter as one prophecy.
I might have taken “False words” as a title, because that is one of the themes of this chapter.
Though they say “As the Lord lives”, yet they swear falsely. O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?” (vv2-3)
“You have heard that it was said to the men of old; You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn” (Matthew ch6
In fact Jesus is quoting an accurate exposition of the third commandment. It was normal to add the Lord’s name in validation of a statement or a
promise, because everybody knew that he would punish the misuse of his name. That was the other party’s guarantee. The problem was that people were
getting immune to the threat of punishment and glibly attaching the Lord’s name to untruthful statements, something which offends him as the God of
That is one reason why God has been “smiting” them, but they refused to see the connection. They would not take correction, they would not
Jeremiah does not jump to this conclusion without giving the city a chance to redeem itself. In his “run” through Jerusalem, he has observed this
issue among the poor, those who “do not know the way of the Lord” (v4). If he goes to talk to “the great”, he might find them better educated
and better behaved. But he finds very quickly that everybody without exception has “broken the yoke” (the “rebellious ox” metaphor again).
In the time of Jesus, the corruption of the practice of “swearing to the truth” had gone too far to be healed, so his advice was to give it up
altogether. For Jeremiah, the threatened punishment is not a bluff and will be carried out.
Because their transgressions have been great, they will be slain by
A lion from the forest
A wolf from the desert
A leopard watching at the gates of their cities to tear to pieces anyone who comes out.
All three animals are presumably representing the invader prophesied in the previous chapter.
From v7, he brings up another grievance.
“Your children [addressing Jerusalem, I think] have forsaken me and sworn by those who are no gods.”
So when they are not breaking the third commandment, they are breaking the first commandment.
Also there is their promiscuity. When he fed them to the full (that is, when he was not withholding the rains), they responded to his generosity with
habitual adultery, “trooping” to the houses of harlots, or like lusty stallions, each “neighing for his neighbour’s wife”.
V9 “Shall I not punish them for these things? Shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?”
V10 is the instruction given to the agents of vengeance;
“Go up through her vine-rows and destroy… strip away her branches, for they are not the Lord’s”
Here is the source of the vine-trimming metaphor in John ch15 vv1-2. In both cases, the pruned branches are the false individuals while the central
root stock itself remains.
This is followed by a fresh explanation of the reasons for judgement.
The house of Israel and the house of Judah (both kingdoms, that is) have been faithless to me. “Faithless” is the word that ran through the
criticism of Israel in ch3.
V12 “They have spoken falsely of the Lord”.
They do not believe any warnings of judgement. “He will do nothing, no evil will come upon us.”
Specifically, they do not believe the prophets of judgement, like Jeremiah. They say “They will become wind, the word is not in them” (So let’s
punish them ourselves, anyway).
In response to this attack on the value of prophecy, Jeremiah reports a promise the Lord has made to himself (v14);
“Behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them”.
This is one of the powers made available to the Two Witnesses of Revelation ch11. So they are “Jeremiah” (in their function) as well as
“Moses” and “Elijah”.
This prophecy ends with a warning of judgement in the form of “a nation from afar”. It is “an enduring nation… an ancient nation, a nation
whose language you do not know”. If this was an early prophecy, Jeremiah’s conscious mind may still have been thinking about Assyria. It would
have taken time for him to appreciate that Assyria had ceased to be a factor in world affairs. As we now know, the Lord means Babylon, who are even
more distant and unfamiliar, though the city had been a great power in earlier days.
“vv16-17 “Their quiver is like an open tomb, they are all mighty men”. They will eat your harvest and your food, your sons and daughters, your
flocks and herds, and your vines and fig trees. This almost implies the “locusts” imagery of Joel.
They will more literally destroy your fortified cities.