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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 11

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-2

The Lord’s Word again came to Jeremiah. The prophet was to listen to the words of the Mosaic Covenant, and then address the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

Verses 1-9

3. Warnings in view of present conditions 11:1-15:9

This collection of warnings in view of present conditions can be divided into two parts: seven pericopes dealing with the consequences of breaking the Mosaic Covenant (chs. 11-13); and three laments describing the coming invasion (Jeremiah 14:1 to Jeremiah 15:9).

The consequences of breaking the covenant chs. 11-13

This section provides an explanation for God’s judgment on His people: the Judahites broke the Mosaic Covenant. It also contains two laments that portray the tragedy of the situation and the Lord’s reluctance to send judgment. The final sub-section contains a symbolic action that pictures the horror of the people’s sin.

Verses 1-17

The broken covenant 11:1-17

This passage consists of five short parts (Jeremiah 11:1-17). Most scholars believe it dates from the reign of Josiah, perhaps after the discovery of the Law but before he initiated his reforms (about 621 B.C.; cf. 2 Chronicles 34:8-33).

Verses 3-4

Yahweh, Israel’s God, announced a curse on any of His people who did not obey the covenant that He gave their forefathers when He liberated them from their Egyptian hardships (cf. Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 11:28; Deuteronomy 27:26; Deuteronomy 28:15-19; Deuteronomy 29:20-21; 1 Kings 8:51; Isaiah 48:10). At that time, the Lord had commanded the Israelites to listen to His voice and to be completely obedient (cf. Exodus 19:5-6). By promising to do so, they entered into a covenant relationship with Yahweh; they became His special people and He became their national God (cf. Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 32:38).

"Ancient Near Eastern international treaties normally contained a section of benedictions and maledictions which were expected to occur according to whether or not the covenant was horoured." [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 95.]

Verse 5

The Mosaic Covenant was to be the means by which God would fulfill His earlier promises to Abraham concerning the Promised Land (Genesis 12:7). Jeremiah replied, "So be it, Yahweh," a standard response to a covenant (cf. Exodus 19:8; Exodus 24:7; Deuteronomy 27:15-26). He promised to do what God had just told him to do.

"There’s no growth without challenge, and there’s no challenge without change. As they get older, many people resist change, forgetting that without the challenge of change, they’re in danger of deteriorating physically, mentally, and spiritually. God wanted Jeremiah to grow, and He also wants us to grow." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 95.]

Verse 6

Again the Lord instructed His prophet to bear a similar message to the same audience. Since the expression "in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem" was proverbial language for the length and breadth of the country, Jeremiah may not necessarily have carried on an itinerant preaching ministry. [Note: Feinberg, p. 453.] The people were to listen to and obey the Mosaic Covenant as Jeremiah proclaimed it.

Verse 7

The importance of doing so was clear, in that the Lord had commanded His people to hear and obey the covenant, when He first gave it and ever since.

Verse 8

Nevertheless the Israelites had failed to listen and obey. Consequently, the Lord had brought all the curses warned of in the covenant upon them. The root of the problem was Israel’s stubborn and evil heart.

"We are prone to hope that God will be like the modern indulgent parent and that there will be no reckoning if we, also, disobey Him. It is a vain hope. Judgment is sure to come. As God punished Israel, so will He punish all whose hearts are confirmed in disobedience toward Him." [Note: Goddard, p. 56.]

Verse 9

Another word from the Lord informed Jeremiah of a conspiracy among his people.

Verse 10

They had returned (Heb. shub) to the sins of their forefathers who had rejected Yahweh’s words and had pursued idols (cf. Exodus 32; Judges 2:11-13; et al.). This constituted breaking the covenant. Both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms were guilty, and the Northern Kingdom had already gone into captivity for its failure.

Verse 11

The result of this conduct would be disaster for them all. The Lord would bring this upon them, and all their appeals to Him for relief would be of no avail. People who do not listen are not heard.

Verse 12

Receiving no relief from the Lord, the people would appeal to their idols, but they would not save them either.

Verse 13

The Judahites had worshipped multitudes of idols, described hyperbolically, as numbering as many as Jerusalem’s streets and Judah’s cities (cf. Jeremiah 11:6; Jeremiah 2:28).

Verse 14

The Lord instructed Jeremiah again (cf. Jeremiah 7:16) not to pray that He would withhold judgment from his people. Their sin was so great that the Lord would not defer judgment, even though the prophet or his people cried out to Him for mercy (cf. Jeremiah 11:11). Genuine repentance was the only thing that would affect His punishment.

Verse 15

The Judahites, even though they were beloved by the Lord, had no right to come into His temple to worship Him, because they had committed so many sins, and had not repented. Their sacrifices alone could not make things right with Him. Judgment was inevitable.

Verse 16

Even though the Lord had compared His nation to a beautiful and fruitful green olive tree (cf. Hosea 14:6; Psalms 52:8; Psalms 128:3), He would burn it up in a great tumult because it had proved worthless as far as fulfilling His purpose for it (cf. Jeremiah 21:14; Psalms 52:8; Psalms 80:16; Isaiah 27:11; Romans 11:17-24). He would destroy the nation as He might destroy a tree by striking it with lightning.

"The olive [tree] was the source of oil for light, cooking, medicine, anointing for the body, and many other uses. It became the symbol of ’prosperity and divine blessing, of beauty and strength.’ Thus it is here an apt picture of the Hebrew people, blessed by God, but now rejected." [Note: Graybill, p. 667.]

Verse 17

Even though Almighty Yahweh had planted Israel, He would bring evil (Heb. ra’ah) on her, because she had done evil (ra’ah) in provoking Him by worshipping Baal.

"There is nothing in this oracle that does not appear in earlier oracles except that there is here a certain sense of the imminence of coming doom. Such language would certainly provoke the kind of reaction we find in Jeremiah 11:18 to Jeremiah 12:6, where we are told of a plot against Jeremiah’s life in his own village." [Note: Thompson, p. 347.]

An attempt to kill Jeremiah 11:18-12:6

This pericope contains one of Jeremiah’s "confessions," a self-revelation of the prophet’s own struggles to cope with God’s actions (cf. Jeremiah 10:23-24; Jeremiah 15:10-12; Jeremiah 15:15-21; Jeremiah 17:9-11; Jeremiah 17:14-18; Jeremiah 18:18-23; and Jeremiah 20:7-18). [Note: See Kelley, pp. 172-73, for an excursus on Jeremiah’s confessions.] The heart of this one is Jeremiah 12:1-6.

Verse 18

Jeremiah announced that the Lord had revealed the fate of the Judahites to him, and had given him insight into his people’s deeds ("plots" in context).

Verse 19

He had preached to the people without realizing that some of them were plotting his death. He was as unaware of their intention as a lamb going to its slaughter (cf. Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 2:21). They planned to get rid of him, the tree, as well as his messages, the fruit, so all memory of Jeremiah would end. [Note: Keil, 1:218, believed this was a proverbial or figurative saying.] This would be a tragedy since the existence of descendants demonstrated God’s blessings on one’s life under the Old Covenant.

"It will be recalled that Anathoth was the home of the priestly house of Abiathar, a friend of David. The house was deposed by Solomon, who supplanted it with the house of Zadok. Anathothites resented Jeremiah’s favoring the deposition of the sanctuaries other than Jerusalem. This seemed to them like siding with Zadok against their own ancestor Abiathar. Furthermore, being priests, they doubtless hated his castigation of empty priestly ritual." [Note: Feinberg, p. 456.]

Verse 20

The prophet prayed to Almighty Yahweh, who evaluates people’s motives and intentions, to judge them for their evil plans (cf. Psalms 17:13-14; Psalms 99:8; Psalms 149:7; Isaiah 34:8; Isaiah 35:4). He would not take vengeance himself, but he trusted the Lord to take vengeance for him (cf. Jeremiah 20:12).

Verse 21

Men from Jeremiah’s hometown had warned him to stop prophesying in Yahweh’s name or they would kill him.

Verses 22-23

The Almighty Lord promised to punish those men with disaster. The young men of military age would die violently, and others would die by famine, evidently during the siege of Jerusalem. The Lord would not leave them any descendants, so the memory of them would end. This would be fitting since they purposed to cut off all memory of Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 11:19). God evidently meant that among those who persecuted Jeremiah, none would have descendants, since Ezra 2:23 records that 128 men of Anathoth returned from the Exile.

"The judgment may seem harsh, but this is just one of many instances in the Hebrew Bible where children experience the consequences of their fathers’ sins. The principle of corporate solidarity was integral to Israelite thinking. Ancient Israelites realized that the actions of individuals profoundly affect others in their social context and that one’s social context affects the individual adversely or positively." [Note: Chisholm, Handbook on . . ., p. 170. See also Joel S. Kaminsky, Corporate Responsibility in the Hebrew Bible.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 11". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/jeremiah-11.html. 2012.
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