The Word Made Fresh
1Then the LORD said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before me, my heart would not yield for these people. Send them out of my sight. Let them be gone! 2When they ask where they should go tell them this is what the LORD says:
Those whose fate is the plague, to the plague.
Those whose fate is the sword, to the sword.
Those whose fate is famine, to famine.
Those whose fate is captivity, to captivity.
3I will destroy them in all these ways:
to the sword to be killed,
to the dogs to be dragged away,
to the birds and the animals to be devoured.
4They will be a horror to every kingdom on earth
because of what King Manasseh son of Hezekiah of Judah
did in Jerusalem.
5And who will have pity on you, Jerusalem?
Who will miss you?
Who will bother to ask how you are?
6You have rejected me. You are going the wrong way.
That is why I have reached out to destroy you,
for my compassion has reached its limits.
7I will winnow you with the winnowing fork in the gates of the land.
I am bereft of you; my people are destroyed
because they didn’t change their ways.
8There are more widows among them now
than there are grains of sand by the sea.
I have sent a destroyer against them,
and will make them suddenly languish in terror.
9She who had seven children has fainted away,
her sun gone down while it was yet daytime.
She is ashamed and disgraced.
And the rest I will turn over to the sword
of their enemies,” says the LORD.
10Oh, my mother, woe is me! I am a man of strife contending against the whole country. I have neither lent nor borrowed, but they all curse me. 11The LORD has decided to intervene in my life and send enemies against me in these troubled times of distress. 12Can bronze or iron break the weapons from the north?
13“I will give your wealth and your treasures as plunder for all your sins, all through your land. 14I will make you servants of your enemies in an unknown land. I am angry enough to kindle a fire that will burn forever.”
15LORD, you know me. Remember me and come to me
and punish my enemies for my sake.
Don’t allow them to take me away,
for I am suffering because of you!
16I found your words and swallowed them.
Your words were a joy to me
and my heart delighted in them,
for I am known by you, LORD God Almighty.
17I didn’t pal around or rejoice with merrymakers.
I stayed apart, weighed down by your hand,
filled with the indignation you gave me.
18Why, then, is my pain getting worse?
Why are my injuries incurable, refusing to be healed?
You are to me a crooked stream
whose waters have failed.”
19So, this is what the LORD says:
“If you turn back, I will take you back
and you will stand before me.
If you speak words that are valuable, not worthless,
you may serve as my mouthpiece.
And they will turn to you, not the other way around.
20I will make you a strong wall of bronze to these people.
They will fight you, but they won’t prevail
because I am with you, and I will deliver you,” says the LORD.
21“I will rescue you from the hands of wicked people
and will deliver you from the grasp of the ruthless.”
1-4: We learn that King Manasseh is responsible for God’s unyielding determination to punish Israel. Manasseh succeeded his father Hezekiah, who had been a good king, but Manasseh introduced pagan worship wholesale throughout the country. His was a long reign of 55 years. He was succeeded by his son Amon, also judged to have been a wicked king. Amon was succeeded by his son Josiah, who instituted religious reforms more in keeping with the Law but apparently not effectively enough to please God (read 2 Kings 21, 22). Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry began during the reign of Josiah.
5-9: Here we have more graphic descriptions of the awful suffering that is to come.
10-12: Jeremiah laments the uncomfortable position in which God has placed him. God tells him that the discomfort he is experiencing is all for the good. Verse 12 is obscure but seems to be a rhetorical question intended to indicate that nothing can stop the coming onslaught.
13-14: These words are surely spoken to the people as a whole, not just to Jeremiah.
15-18: Jeremiah complains boldly about the trouble God is causing him. God is “like a deceitful brook” to him. This is one brave (or stupid) prophet!
19-20: This is a curious turn indeed. Has Jeremiah offended God? Apparently so, and maybe because of his complaint in the previous verses, but God insists he will be rescued if he repents (of calling God a “deceitful brook?”). Perhaps at issue is the fact that Jeremiah has been arguing with God rather than simply accepting the terrible pronouncements of calamity to come. Note that in verse 20 Jeremiah is referred to as “a fortified wall of bronze.” This may shed light on verse 12. Judah’s “iron” (their military) cannot defeat Assyria’s “iron” even though they have Jeremiah (“bronze”) on their side.
21: Given the above interpretation, the “wicked” and the “ruthless” here would have to be a reference to the nobles and leaders in Jerusalem who have been opposing Jeremiah.
It is no easy task to be a prophet of the LORD; to say what needs to be said to those who are leading the people to forsake the God who established them as a nation. Still, that voice is just as needed in our times as in Jeremiah’s.