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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 11

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-23

Shall we turn to Jeremiah the eleventh chapter as we continue our study through the book of Jeremiah.

Chapter 11 begins a new section of the book, not a whole new division, but it's a new message, and Jeremiah is divided into many messages that the Lord gave to him. With chapter 10 we concluded the message of the Lord to Jeremiah that he was to give at the temple gate. Now he is to give a message to the people concerning their broken covenant with God.

Now you remember when God brought the children of Israel into the land, it was on a conditional basis. It was conditioned upon their obedience to God and to His commandments. So they were commanded when you come into the country, you take it over. There in the valley where Shechem is, there are two hills. One is Gerizim; one is Mount Ebal. And a part of the tribes were to... some of the men from the tribes were to stand on Mount Gerizim; others were to stand on Mount Ebal. And from Mount Ebal, they were to cry out the curses that would come upon the people if they disobeyed the covenant and the commandments of God. "Cursed be he." And all the people down the valley, as these guys would yell out these various curses that would come upon those that turn from God, they would answer and respond, "Amen, Amen." And then from the other side at Gerizim, they pronounced the blessings. And, of course, these are found in Deuteronomy as God laid forth for them the covenant and, really, the conditions by which you will inherit this land. "Blessed are they that obey the law of the Lord." "Amen, Amen." "Blessed are they that walk in His statutes. Blessed are they." And so it must have been quite a scene as more than a million people gathered in the valley and these guys were calling down these curses and blessings, which were the basis, the covenant, the basis by which they were to inherit this land that God had promised unto Abraham.

Now God is officially declaring to them that they have broken that covenant. So God is no longer bound by that covenant to give to them this land, for they have broken the covenant of God. And so this is,

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; And say unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant ( Jeremiah 11:1-3 ),

Now, this is one of the curses that was cried from mount Ebal. And so he is repeating the one cry from Ebal.

When I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God ( Jeremiah 11:4 ):

That's the condition. If you will obey these commandments and do them.

Now Paul speaks of one of the mistakes that the Jews had made in his epistle to the Romans, and that was, having the law, just because they have the law, they felt they were all right. But he said, "It isn't having the law, it's keeping the law that is important." Just because you have the law really doesn't mean anything. In fact, it could be greater condemnation if you're not keeping it. James said, "Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only" ( James 1:22 ), because that's deceptive. So many times because we do hear the law of God, because we know the law of God, because God has given us His commandments, we feel that's enough. No, with knowledge is responsibility, and the greater the knowledge, the greater the responsibility. The responsibility to obey and to do what we know is right. "He that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, it's evil" ( James 4:17 ). So it isn't just having the law of God. It isn't just having the covenant. It is keeping, it is obeying, and the emphasis, doing that which God has commanded.

Now God said, "The commandment that I gave to your fathers when I said, 'Obey My voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be My people.' On this basis you will be My people, I will be your God. This is the basis upon which I will claim you as My people upon which you can claim Me as your God."

That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land that is flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day ( Jeremiah 11:5 ).

"Now I promised to give them a land flowing with milk and honey. Look around, the land is flowing with milk and honey. I kept My part of the covenant," God is saying. "I've kept my promise. The oath that I made to Abraham when I said I would give to you and your seed this land." God said, "I've kept My part of the covenant, but the people have broken their part."

Then answered I, and said, Amen, O LORD ( Jeremiah 11:5 ).

So be it means... or Amen means, So be it. And in the Hebrew it is, "Amen, O Lord." So he responded with the cry that the people cried out there in the valley at Shechem when the guys were up on a mountain giving the curses and the blessings. He responded as the people did. As God said to him, "This is the basis upon which I'll be your God and you'll be My people." And he says, "Amen, so be it, O Lord."

Then the LORD said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them ( Jeremiah 11:6 ).

So it isn't enough to hear. We must be doers.

For I earnestly protested unto your fathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; but they did them not ( Jeremiah 11:7-8 ).

So God is speaking to the nation in an official sense concerning their having broken that covenant and thus they can expect those curses that were pronounced upon them from Mount Ebal and the curses that would befall them for their breaking of that covenant of God.

Now if you go back into Deuteronomy the twenty-eighth chapter, here in, beginning with chapter 27 the verse Jeremiah 11:9 it tells you about this incident there at Mount Ebal and how that, "These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people." And then on verse Jeremiah 11:13 , the tribes that were to stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce the curses. And so in verse Jeremiah 11:15 , "Cursed be the man that makes any graven image, an abomination unto the Lord." God is telling in the broken covenant here that as many as are there cities, that's how many gods they have. That they've... in Jerusalem on every corner have built an altar to some pagan deity. And so the very first thing that God pronounces a curse upon, they're guilty of these false gods that they were worshipping. And so all of these curses. You notice each verse beginning with sixteen on to the end of the chapter begins with a curse upon them if they would break the covenant. And it tells the covenant and all.

Now in chapter 28, God enumerates what the curses will be and in verse Jeremiah 28:16 , "Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store." Or their food supplies would run low. "Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of the land, the increase of your cattle, and the flocks of your sheep. Cursed shalt thou be when you come in, and cursed shalt thou be when you go out. The Lord will send upon you the cursing, vexation," and so forth. He'll make the pestilence to cleave to you. "The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption," verse Jer 28:22 . And verse Jer 28:25 , "He'll cause you to be smitten before your enemies." "The Lord will smite you," verse Jer 28:27 , "with the botch of Egypt." Whatever that was. But it doesn't sound good, does it? And so He tells all of these things that are going to transpire if they break the covenant.

Now Jeremiah is pronouncing, "You've done it. You've broken the covenant of God. Therefore, the curses are going to be coming upon you because they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but they walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart. Therefore I will bring upon them the words of the covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did them not."

And the LORD said unto me, A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers. Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them ( Jeremiah 11:9-11 ).

What a tragic position for a person to get into where he has gone so far that God says, "That's it. Even when they cry unto Me, I'm not going to listen. They've gone too far. They've taken that step over and it's gone too far and even though they cry unto Me I will not listen." Very, very tragic indeed. And we find God even telling Jeremiah, "Look, don't even pray for them anymore. That's it. They've had it. I've had it. And I'm not going to handle anymore."

Now you remember this morning we had explained to you the historic background. Josiah the king, a good king, who had reigned for thirty-one years, who had brought the spiritual reforms, had died in a battle against Pharaoh Necho there at Megiddo. And he was killed in that battle and so Jehoahaz seized the throne.

Now Jehoahaz was an extremely wicked man and immediately reintroduced the worship of Baal and all of these other gods that Josiah had sort of cleansed out of the land. Now Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, was the most wicked king of all. He was the one that really started the whole downward trend into that never-never land of oblivion away from God. But Josiah had instituted reforms. But now Jehoahaz plunges them right back in to the sins of your forefathers or the sins that were brought upon them by Manasseh. And so God complains to them, "They have broken the covenant which I made with your fathers because you turned back to the iniquities of your forefathers." That would be during the time of Manasseh.

So God declares, verse Jeremiah 11:12 :

Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go, and cry unto the gods ( Jeremiah 11:12 )

If they cry unto Me I'm not going to hear. Let them cry unto their gods.

unto whom they offer incense: but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble ( Jeremiah 11:12 ).

These little gods that they were worshipping had no power to help, to hear. Actually, you remember how that so often in the Psalms and in the prophecy of Isaiah God spoke out, or the psalmist spoke out against the worship of these false gods and showed the idiocy of it all. Because a man would take a stick and from this stick carve out a little idol. And with part of the stick he would kindle his fire to bake his bread. And yet to this part of the stick that he carved out as a little God he says, "That's my God." But with the same stick part of it is being burned in the fire, being consumed. And yet the idiocy to say, "Hey, this little wood thing is a god." And to pray to it and to worship and so forth, it's a work of his hands. He's created it himself. And he put eyes on it, the psalmist said, but they can't see. He put ears on it but it can't hear. He put feet on it but they can't walk. How foolish. You got a god that can't hear. You got a god that can't see. A god that can't talk.

So they'll cry unto their gods but they won't hear. Why? Because they can't hear. They are not really gods. But that's when, of course, when the chips are down, when trouble comes, that's when you really want to call upon God. But it's tragic if you've turned your back upon God so long that when you get to that place of desperation and you call upon God, you say, "O God, God, help me." And He just shakes His head and says, "I'm not your God. You haven't been worshipping Me. You've been living after your own pleasure. You've been walking after your own desires. You're not serving Me. Don't call unto Me; I'm not your God. Don't call Me God. I haven't been your God." That would be tragic indeed. And yet God said that's what's going to happen. "They'll call unto Me but I'll say, I'm not your God. You call unto your gods that you've been worshipping because I'm not going to hear you. I'm not going to answer you." For God said,

For according to the number of thy cities were also thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense to Baal ( Jeremiah 11:13 ).

Now isn't that horrible? Here is the city of God, glorious Jerusalem, on every corner an altar, an incense burning unto the god Baal.

Therefore [God said,] don't pray to me for this people ( Jeremiah 11:14 ),

Jeremiah, just don't pray to Me anymore about them.

neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me because of their trouble ( Jeremiah 11:14 ).

So Jeremiah is commanded not to pray for them anymore. I mean, a person is really out when God says, "Hey, don't pray for them anymore." In another place God said, "Don't pray for their good. If you do, I'm not going to hear you." How tragic when God says of a person, "That's it, that's enough, don't even pray for them anymore. They've gone too far." You say, "Is it possible for a man to go that far?" The scripture teaches it is. God said, "My Spirit will not always strive with man" ( Genesis 6:3 ). Man can go so far in his rejection of Jesus Christ that God says, "Okay, that's it. You want to live that way, you want to walk that way, have at it. But never call unto Me. For if you do, I won't even listen." "Therefore they could not believe," Joh 12:39 of his gospel. So Israel had gone over the line from which there is no return.

What hath my beloved to do in my house [God said], seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many, and the holy flesh is passed from thee? when you do evil, you rejoice in it. The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he has kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken. For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal. And the LORD hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou showedst me their doings ( Jeremiah 11:15-18 ).

So this is the message that Jeremiah had to take to the people. No wonder the people didn't like it. No wonder they were going to kill him. Man, he was saying harsh things. So Jeremiah now in verse Jeremiah 11:19 speaks of himself and the problems that he was running into.

But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered ( Jeremiah 11:19 ).

So there were men that were conspiring to kill him.

But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins ( Jeremiah 11:20 )

Now the reins are that which guides and directs the animal. You use the reins for leading or guiding. And so that is the guiding area of your life. And a lot of people haven't given the reins over to the Lord. They're trying to guide their lives themselves. But God tries the reins.

and the heart, let me see thy vengeance ( Jeremiah 11:20 )

And now Jeremiah's praying, "Oh God, let me see Your vengeance. They're plotting to kill me, Lord. Now let me see Your vengeance."

on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause ( Jeremiah 11:20 ).

There is within the Christian circles today sort of a, I feel it's a phony kind of a, "Oh, but we're to love everybody, brother, you know, and even the wicked and all." And you know, we're never to think any thoughts of vengeance or we're never to think any thoughts of, "God destroy the wicked" kind of a thing but... and there's almost a weakness in our position against wickedness and against sin because of this prevailing attitude. "Oh well, we ought to be forgiving and all." Yes, we ought to be forgiving. Yes, we ought to love and I don't deny that and I'm not denying that. But there is also a time when we need to be calling for God's righteous judgment. And I think that a part of our whole moral laxity in the nation today has come from a very tolerant, soft attitude towards evil, towards wickedness. And I think that that's a dangerous attitude. And so Jeremiah is saying, "God, let me see Your vengeance on them: for unto Thee have I revealed my cause. God, let me see You wipe them out."

Therefore thus saith the LORD ( Jeremiah 11:21 )

God answers Jeremiah.

of the men of Anathoth, that seek your life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the LORD, that thou die not by our hands ( Jeremiah 11:21 ):

Quit prophesying in God's name, we're going to kill you.

Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, I will punish them: the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by a famine: And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation ( Jeremiah 11:22-23 ).

So God promises He's going to bring judgment upon these who have conspired to kill the prophet of God.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Jeremiah 11". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/jeremiah-11.html. 2014.
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