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The Approaching Invasion
Jeremiah here prophetically describes the coming siege of Jerusalem by the armies of the king of Babylon (Jer 6:1). The prophet empathizes so much with the horror to come that he describes it as if it had already happened. He sees them advancing in spirit toward Jerusalem, ready to take the city. The “sons of Benjamin” – Jeremiah is living in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin – who are in Jerusalem are called upon to get to safety and not to rely on their own strength. Safety is of utmost importance, especially when calamity threatens.
They are to blow the trumpet in Tekoa to warn the inhabitants there. Tekoa is the birthplace of Amos (Amos 1:1). It is a Judaean city about eighteen kilometers south of Jerusalem. In addition to an audible warning signal, a visible signal must raise i.e. in the form of a fire signal. This visible signal is to be raised over Beth-haccerem, which is about five kilometers south of Jerusalem, so that all who see it may flee the calamity. The calamity “looks down from the north”, that is, the armies of Babylon are preparing there to advance toward Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is a “comely” and “dainty” woman (Jer 6:2). The LORD’s care has made her charming, but she has abused her beauty by acting like a harlot (Eze 16:1-16). This caused her to receive a lot of attention from the surrounding peoples at first and as a result she became spoiled. The result is that she has begun to behave unruly toward the LORD. Therefore, He will exterminate her.
The city will lose everything because of shepherds who graze everything with their flocks (Jer 6:3). They are a picture of the enemy who will move against her and leave nothing of her beauty. The enemy army captains, the “shepherds”, with their soldiers, “their flocks”, will pitch their tents around Jerusalem. In doing so, each captain will pitch his tents on a piece of land. This will thereby be completely covered with tents and meticulously pastured, making it unusable for God’s people.
The enemy comes and declares war. The declaration of war is preceded by preparations and followed by the beginning of war. Their language demonstrates haste and impatience and the thirst for destruction. In broad daylight they want to attack (Jer 6:4). Then it turns out that the day will pass faster than expected after all. That is a setback. Then they have to march in the night (Jer 6:5).
Thus, for Jerusalem, the day passes when the attack is imminent and there is fear of the night because the city will be attacked. The soldiers are full of war rage and unstoppable. They see the spoils before them. In the night the palaces, which are the mansions, are destroyed. The comfortable homes of those who have feasted on life are being destroyed.
The Siege of Jerusalem
Jerusalem is besieged because the LORD of the enemy’s armies has commanded it (Jer 6:6). The armies of the enemy are in fact His armies. The command to cut down trees and thereby cast up a siege against Jerusalem comes from Him. It is emphasized to the enemy that this is the city that must be punished. That city is the one he must attack.
The reason follows. For in her “midst there is only oppression”. By this is meant the behavior of leaders who oppress the people for their own benefit. We see this great evil today when believers in a local church are oppressed by leaders, when laws are imposed, or when absolute obedience to the leaders is demanded.
The wickedness of the city is not merely seen here and there in someone doing evil. It is a wickedness that is produced as an everyday habit by the whole city (Jer 6:7). Just as a spring gushes forth water incessantly and unstoppably, so from the city an unstoppable stream of “wickedness” rises incessantly. Wherever you listen in the city, you hear nothing but “violence and destruction” everywhere. The depraved source of all this is the heart, which is far from the LORD. The LORD sees the consequences of this. There is continual “sickness and wounds” in the city as a result of the violence and destruction being committed there.
In His great patience, the LORD expresses once again that He wants to forgive Jerusalem if her inhabitants allow themselves to be punished, meaning that they accept His discipline (Jer 6:8). He calls out to them, as it were, that they will allow themselves to be punished after all, that they will see that by punishing them He wants to correct them. If they do not listen, His soul – as it literally says – shall be alienated from them. The word “alienated” does indicate how unwilling the LORD is to give up the connection with His people. This speaks of His intimate connection with the city. But if they do not bow under His discipline and return to Him, He must make them a desolation and a land not inhabited.
The Fall of the City
The LORD compares “the remnant of Israel”, that is Judah and Benjamin, to a vineyard (Jer 6:9; Isa 5:1-7). He says as “the LORD of hosts” that the enemy will go through the land one more time after the judgment, just like a grape gatherer goes through the vineyard one more time to see whether there are still grapes left somewhere. It is pictorially represented how the hand of the grape gatherer goes along the vines. He searches branch after branch to see if there is still a forgotten grape somewhere. In this way the enemy will comb through Jerusalem in a gleaning that will lead to those who have escaped still being taken into exile or killed.
Jeremiah wonders to whom he will speak (Jer 6:10). Is there anyone left who will listen to the word of the LORD that he speaks? His words seem to have no effect whatsoever. The reason is that the ear of the people is uncircumcised, as is their heart (Jer 4:4; Acts 7:51). They do not want to listen, because they do not want to judge themselves. Their ears are closed by the filth of sin. Then they also put their fingers in their ears. They cannot hear the Word and they do not want to hear the Word.
The word of the LORD is scorned by them, that is, ridiculed and despised. Such a reaction hurts both the LORD and the prophet. The people find no joy in the word of the LORD, it has nothing attractive to them, there is no taste in it for them. The reason is that they have never felt its power in their heart and conscience. How quite different this is with Jeremiah and with those who are born again (Jer 15:16; Psa 1:2; 1Pet 2:2-3).
The utterly indifferent and even defamatory attitude of the people toward the word of the LORD produces great indignation in Jeremiah (Jer 6:11). He is filled with the wrath that is also present with the LORD over such an attitude of His people. Jeremiah has wanted to hold back that wrath, but he no longer succeeds. He preaches doom not because he loves to do so, but if then they are so apostate, judgment must come.
Jeremiah is then instructed by the LORD to pour out His wrath on the entire population. Wrath must be poured out on
1. the “children” playing in the street,
2. “the young men” standing together in a circle and entertaining each other,
3. “husband” and “wife” and
4. “the aged and the very old”.
All people groups, in every age group and in all compositions, from young to old, fall under the judgment of being taken away into exile because corruption is present in everyone.
Judgment also comes on their houses and their fields and their wives (Jer 6:12). Fields and wives are mentioned in the same breath, as if wives were also “property”. Everything passes into the hands of others, that is, of the enemy, the Babylonians. They will become the new owners. This will happen because the LORD stretches out His hand in wrath against His people. To stretch out His hand means that He actually intervenes and reveals His power. This is what Moses warned about (Deu 28:30).
The wrath of God is aroused by the conduct of the whole people. From the least of them even to the greatest of them, they are only out for profit (Jer 6:13). The desire for more dominates them. The prophet and the priest participate in this just as hard. Instead of telling the people what the LORD wants, each one of them cheats to get hold of as much money as possible.
They deceive the people by not demonstrating the true cause – sin – of the brokenness that has occurred with the LORD. Instead, they encourage the wicked to continue sinning by proclaiming them peace (Jer 6:14; cf. Mic 3:5; 1Thes 5:3). This is quite a superficial cure for the breach. It is something like covering a cancerous tumor with a band-aid. Therefore, it is not real healing. It is the false optimism of sin. There is no peace at all. On the contrary, there is the threat of the coming of a cruel enemy.
Does it also make any impression on them when they are confronted with their actions (Jer 6:15)? No. There is no sense of shame in them for what they have done. They commit the gravest evil without the slightest blush of shame on their faces (Jer 8:12). Total insensitivity regarding their sins characterizes them. As a result, they are not open to the message of truth. Therefore, at God’s time His judgment comes on them.
The Cause of Judgment
There is a way to escape all the disaster announced. That is by going to “stand by the ways” and see and ask “for the ancient paths” (Jer 6:16). The call is first to stand by the ways they are now taking, to see if those are ways by which the LORD is leading them, or if they are their own ways (cf. Lam 3:40). If they are honest, they will say they are their own ways. Then follows the call to ask “for the ancient path” (cf. Job 8:8; Job 22:15; Deu 32:7). These are the paths along which the LORD led the fathers, the paths indicated by the good directions and ancient laws the LORD gave them for their blessing (cf. 2Chr 17:3-4).
It is about asking the LORD with the heart to make His will known to them. The sincerity of asking for those paths will lead them to start listening to the Holy Scriptures. In it they will discover the will of the LORD concerning the way He wants them to go. What then remains to be done is to walk the discovered way. The result will be that they will find rest for their souls. Going the way of the Lord gives inner rest and joy. This also includes peace, prosperity, security, an ordered life.
In the New Testament, we are also constantly called to return to the word of the apostles (2Pet 3:2; Jude 1:17). It is not going back to tradition or the fathers, but to the Word of God. It is about the paths of the fathers insofar as they are in accordance with God’s Word. Whoever follows the Lord in obedience to God’s Word finds rest for his soul (Mt 11:29-30). This is what the Lord Jesus says. Those who do so are looked upon with pity by those around them, especially the professing Christians, and called old-fashioned, even narrow-minded. But whoever goes this way finds rest for his soul that all modern ways cannot give.
Unfortunately, the reaction of the people is that they are not going down that way. It is a conscious choice. They refuse to go that way. Even when the LORD urgently warns them through His watchmen, which are His prophets, they say they will not listen (Jer 6:17). They turn a deaf ear to the call of the LORD, Who wants to lead them on the good way to bless them.
Then, when the people are so unwilling to listen to the LORD, He speaks to the nations and all the earth that He will punish His people for their rejection of Him (Jer 6:18-19). What He brings upon them, they have brought upon themselves, it is “the fruit of their plans”. Here we see once again that the crimes and sins of the people are not whims, but the effects of deliberate inner deliberation. A man is what he thinks. In their thoughts there is no place for God. Therefore, they did not heed God’s words and rejected His law.
The LORD wonders if there is any reason to accept from them the frankincense they bring Him (Jer 6:20). The ingredients for their frankincense as a symbol of their worship are precious because they come from a distant land. But to the LORD it is worthless. If they are so opposed to Him, if their heart is so far from Him, He can do nothing with it. He doesn’t want it at all. A purely outward service is disgusting to Him (cf. Isa 1:11-13; Jer 7:21-23; Hos 6:6; Amos 5:21-27; Mic 6:6-8). Nor are their burnt offerings and sacrifices pleasing and pleasant to Him. Their worship is not accepted by Him if there is no obedience to Him (1Sam 15:22).
Depraved worship will lead to stumbling blocks that the LORD puts in the way of those who come to Him and through which they will perish (Jer 6:21). In light of the following verses, we can think of an enemy invading the land and depriving them of all freedom. The evil of hypocritical worship is found in families, “fathers and sons together”, and in society, “neighbor and friend”. The LORD does not cause their fall, they do that themselves.
The Horror of the Enemy
The LORD foretells that the apostate people will be overrun by a ruthless people from the north, which is Babylon (Jer 6:22-23). Without any mercy they will cause death and destruction around them. The impetuosity with which they come crashing in is like the roaring of the sea, from which one wave follows another. Thus it goes on incessantly. This succession of waves cannot be stopped by any human power. They ride on horses, underlining the speed of their arrival. The men are lined up for battle, indicating their determination. It is all directed against “the daughter of Zion”, indicating that Jerusalem is a desirable target for the oncoming enemy.
The mere rumor of the arrival of this enemy causes panic and paralysis, there is total dismay (Jer 6:24). All courage sinks in. Their throats are constricted by fear. They feel like a woman in childbirth. There is much sorrow that cannot be stopped or undone. There is no point in fleeing, for the sword of the enemy is everywhere (Jer 6:25). Wherever one looks, there are enemies everywhere. There is literally “terror … on every side”.
In Jer 6:26, the LORD speaks to His people. He calls for mourning and a lamentation in view of the coming of the destroyer (cf. Jona 3:8). Their mourning should be as profound as if it were the death of an only child. The grief over the death of a child is great, the grief over an only son is extremely great because with it all hope of continuation of the lineage is lost. Therefore it must also be a “most bitter” lamentation. In this deep mourning Jeremiah identifies himself with his people. We see this in the word “us”.
The LORD connects to this (Jer 6:27). He has appointed Jeremiah as one who is completely identified with the people to assay them. His fellowship with the LORD enables him to know and test the way of the people, as the LORD knows it. This presupposes careful and sometimes lengthy examination. Judgment is not pronounced suddenly, in a fit of anger. Also, He has made Jeremiah a fortress [as the word for “tester” can also be translated] for them (cf. Jer 1:18-19). That is, whoever listens to him will be safe.
The conclusion of the assayer Jeremiah is that of all the apostates, his fellow citizens are the worst (Jer 6:28). This concerns their attitude toward the LORD. This has implications for their relationship to their fellow citizens. They blaspheme the Name of the LORD with unprecedented harshness, “bronze and iron”, and corrupt what is good. Whatever the LORD has tried to do by His judgments to turn His people from their evil ways, it has all been in vain (Jer 6:29).
We can see the bellows as a picture of the means the LORD used to bring His people to repentance. Here we can think of the speaking of the prophets and of the enemies He has sent. The bellows have been burned, they no longer work. The lead did go into the fire and the smelter did his best to melt it and thus purify it, but all effort is in vain: “The wicked are not separated.”
On the contrary, it has been shown that the whole nation is made up of bad people, that there is no one who is an exception (cf. Jer 5:1). There are no bad ones to be separated out at all, because there are no good ones. The people as a whole are a base metal. Jeremiah concludes that the LORD must reject them all as unrefined silver, as worthless metal (Jer 6:30). The LORD cannot do otherwise; their incorrigibility compels Him to do so.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 6". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13