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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 11

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-23

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter.—The “covenant” summarised in Jeremiah 11:2-5 refers to the nation’s renewal of vows with Jehovah upon the Book of the Law being discovered during Josiah’s reign. The prevalency of idolatry (Jeremiah 11:13) seems to point back to the public establishment of idol-worship under Manasseh. Both these allusions favour an early date for this and chap. 12—i.e., during Josiah’s reign, cir. B.C. 620. (So Keil and Dr. Payne Smith.) Others (Maurer, Hitzig, Umbriet, and Graff) find in chap. Jeremiah 12:14 (which is a continuation of this chap.) a reference to the “neighbours” spoken of in 2 Kings 24:2. If this be so, the chapter must date at the end of Jehoiakim’s reign, cir. B.C. 600. But the absence of all explicit mention of the Chaldeans (Lange), shows this prophecy to have been delivered before Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem; for, after the battle at Charchemish, Jeremiah invariably specifies the Chaldeans by name. Hence the chapter is assigned to the first or second year of Jehoiakim, cir. B.C. 610. Probably Bleek is correct in assigning Jeremiah 11:1-17 to Josiah’s reign, and Jeremiah 11:18 to Jeremiah 12:17 to Jehoiakim’s reign.

2. Contemporary Scriptures.2 Kings 23:34-37; 2 Chronicles 36:4-5.

3. National Affairs.—Jehoiakim on the throne. Quick development of the nation’s apostasy from Jehovah, and revulsion from Josiah’s reforms, led on by the impiety of the king.

4. Cotemporary History.—Egypt at this time (first or second year of Jehoiakim) enjoying a short-lived ascendancy over the Babylonian domination. This international supremacy, however, was speedily wrested from Pharaoh-Necho by Nebuchadnezzar in the fourth year of Jehoiakim.

5. Geographical References.—Jeremiah 11:5. “A land flowing with milk and honey:” the euphemism for the fertile and beautiful Land of Promise, cf. Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Deuteronomy 6:3, &c. Jeremiah 11:23. “Anathoth.” See Crit. Notes and Geog. References on chap. Jeremiah 1:1, in loc.

6. Personal Allusions.Jeremiah 11:21. “Men of Anathoth:” these would be the acquaintances of Jeremiah in his youth, and even his relatives (Jeremiah 12:6). It is on record that the “men of Anathoth,” 128 in number, returned from exile with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:23; Nehemiah 7:27; 1Es. 5:18).

7. Natural History.Jeremiah 11:16. “Green olive-tree, and of goodly fruit:” olive very common in Judea; of two kinds, the cultivated and the wild; the latter a mere bush, the former grows to the average height of 25 feet. Its leaves are of a refreshing green hue, conspicuous in contrast with the foliage of darker trees. An object of “beauty” (Hosea 14:6); an evergreen. Its “fruit” is at first green; in its early stage almost white, tinged with yellow; in its maturity, a rich purple, almost black: rich to the taste. Particularly famed for the oil it so abundantly yields.

8. Manners and Customs.Jeremiah 11:4. “The iron furnace:” metaphorical reference to Egypt; a figure used by Moses (Deuteronomy 4:20). Jeremiah 11:19. “As a lamb (see Lit. Crit. below) led to the slaughter:” a tamed pet lamb, which afterwards had to be killed.

9. Literary Criticisms.Jeremiah 11:2. “Hear ye, and speak ye:” the plurals שִׁמְעוּ and דִּבַּרְתֶּם, indicate that not Jeremiah alone, but others in the nation, were, if not commissioned, yet urged to publish the “covenant” (comp. 2 Kings 23:2; 2 Chronicles 34:30). Jeremiah 11:5. “So be it, O Lord,” אָמֵז יְהֹוָה; lit. “Amen, Jehovah:” it was the precise response which was required by the law (Deuteronomy 27:14-26), and was Jeremiah’s solemn assent. Jeremiah 11:6. “Proclaim:” קָרָא, read aloud (Hitzig, Graff, Lange), as in 2 Kings 22:8; 2 Kings 22:10; 2 Kings 22:16; but it means declare as used by Jeremiah, chap. Jeremiah 2:2, Jeremiah 3:12 (Keil). Jeremiah 11:8. “The imagination,” i.e., stubbornness (cf. Jeremiah 3:17). Jeremiah 11:13. “That shameful thing … Baal.” See Lit. Crit. on chap. Jeremiah 3:24.Jeremiah 11:15; Jeremiah 11:15. “What hath my beloved to do?” &c. The text is corrupt and obscure. The words, “with many,” הָרַבִּים, is better disconnected from the words, “wrought lewdness.” The LXX. read the word as הנדרים, or (as Maurer, Graff, &c., suggest) הָרָנִּים; i.e., vows or prayers, and read, Will vows and holy flesh (i.e., sacrifices) take away thy sins? Retaining the word in the text as it is, by הָרַבִּים must be understood, thy great ones, princes; and then read: thy great ones, in which thy earthly strength consists; and thy sacrifices, on which depends thy religious sanctity, shall pass away from thee (Speaker’s Com.). Keil renders the verse, “What would My beloved in My house? they who practise guile? Shall vows and holy flesh remove thy calamity from thee? then mayest thou exult.” Blayney: “Shall vows and holy flesh be allowed to come from thee? When thou art malignant, shalt thou then rejoice?” Dr. Payne Smith: “What hath My beloved in My house, to practise guile there? The chiefs and the holy flesh shall pass away from thee. When thy evil (is done) then thou rejoicest.” Jeremiah 11:19. “Like a lamb or an ox:” כֶּבֶשׂ אלּוּף, i.e. a lamb domesticated, אַלּוּף is an adjective, familiar, intimate, “a tame lamb” (Gesenius). The substantive אֶלֶף is “ox,” so called as being tamed by familiar use. “Let us destroy the tree with the fruit: לֶחֶם, fruit; prop. food, especially bread. The LXX. render it ἐμβάλωμεν ξύλον εἰς τὸν ἄρτον αὐτοῦ, let us cast wood into his bread, i.e., poisonous wood. Targum: “Let us cast deadly poison into his food.” Jeremiah 11:20. “Let me see Thy vengeance upon them:” אֶרְאֶה is future, “I shall see,” anticipating God’s vindication and interposition.



Jeremiah 11:1-8.

Jehovah’s covenant.


Jeremiah 11:9-13.

Idolatrous conspiracy.


Jeremiah 11:14-17.

Mediation and sacrifice unacceptable.


Jeremiah 11:18-23.

Murderers in ambush.

Jeremiah 11:1-8. JEHOVAH’S COVENANT

It was the one solemn compact which God made with Israel; never altered, never superseded. By it this nation first became the Lord’s, and Jehovah pledged Himself to be their God. On its being faithfully observed, Israel’s very existence and distinction as a theocracy depended. Wonderful: it had for many years been lost; only found as by accident, during Josiah’s renovation of the temple. (See Addenda, Jeremiah 11:2, “The lost book of the covenant found.”) Worse: it had been ignored by the whole nation; they regarded not the sacred charter given on Sinai, and revolted from Jehovah with indifference as to results. Yet has not humanity equally “broken the covenant,” apostatised from God, and virtually cancelled the solemn compact which united God in gracious relationship? “O Israel! thou hast destroyed thyself.”

I. The terms of this Divine covenant. “Obey My voice,” &c. (Jeremiah 11:4-5). 1. It proposed a gracious relationship. “So shall ye be My people, and I will be your God.” 2. It pledged a glorious inheritance. “To give a land flowing with milk and honey.” 3. It depended on absolute conditions. “Obey, and do according to all which I command you.” (a.) The terms were unambiguous; “obey, and do.” (b.) The response must be unhesitating and uncompromising; “all I command.” (c.) Jehovah alone was to be their Lawgiver and God; “I will be your God”—“do according to all I command.”

II. The circumstances which emphasised this covenant. “Which I commanded your fathers in the day,” &c. (Jeremiah 11:4). 1. The national crisis when it was made. This is noteworthy; “in the day,” &c. When Israel was just escaping from the oppressions and degradations which well-nigh denationalised the people. This covenant was made “in the day” of their emancipation. 2. The miraculous experience which immediately preceded it. This is equally remarkable, “I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt.” 3. The miseries from which they were freed lent special significance to this Divine act; “the iron furnace.” In return for all this, which should have ensured unfaltering loyalty and devoted gratitude, God asked, “Obey My voice.”

III. The importunity with which God instituted the covenant. “For I earnestly protested,” &c. (Jeremiah 11:7). It denotes—1. The Divine earnestness and anxiety. (a.) God fervently desired this relationship; (b.) He ratified the covenant amid the most solemn asseverations, “earnestly protested;” (c.) He recognised the perils which menaced it, for it was made with “your fathers”—fickle, wavering men. 2. The fervent reiteration of the compact. “Even unto this day; rising up early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice.” So that with “line upon line, precept upon precept,” God encouraged them to fidelity and protested against disloyalty.

IV. The penalty attached to a breach of the covenant. It was made a condition of blessings; God should be their God, and Canaan their possession (Jeremiah 11:5): but there was also appended a “curse” if it were violated (Jeremiah 11:3). 1. There is a black alternative of every promise. 2. By the terrors of the Lord men are to be urged to fidelity. Not alone allured by promises, but menaced by curses; for Jehovah may not be trifled with by men. 3. The individual responsibility is enforced. “Every man;” not the nation, but the person, he who sins, shall suffer. 4. There are ruinous penalties threatening the disobedient. The “curse” of the Almighty.

V. The lengthened period through which God had urged this covenant. He had not grown dissatisfied with it, nor had He allowed it to pass from His thoughts, nor from Israel’s attention. From “the day that I brought your fathers out of Egypt even unto this day” (Jeremiah 11:7). 1. God reckons the years of our opportunity. 2. He follows man during those years with persuasions and protests. “Rising early,” &c. 3. Our criminality and responsibility will be in proportion to the time and the persuasives.

VI. The persistent violation of this covenant. “Yet they obeyed not,” &c. (Jeremiah 11:8). 1. Practical defiance; “they obeyed not.” 2. Habitual indifference; “nor inclined their ear.” 3. Wilful disloyalty; “walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart.”

VII. The Divine vindication of the violated covenant. “Therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant.” 1. Blessings promised for obedience withdrawn. 2. Curses threatened for disloyalty performed. 3. God Himself administers judgment. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”


“Jeremiah saw that many lived in open disobedience to God, but the Lord told him the matter was worse than he thought of: ‘A conspiracy is found among them,’ by Him whose eye is upon the hidden things of darkness. There is a combination against God and religion, a dangerous design formed to overthrow God’s government and bring in the counterfeit deities. A cursed conspiracy! Oh, that there were not the like in our day!

“I. Observe, what the conspiracy was. They designed to overthrow Divine revelation, and persuade the people not to heed the words of God: did all they could to derogate from the authority of the Scriptures, to draw people to consult other gods as their oracles and court them as their benefactors. Human reason shall be their god, the light within their god, saints and angels their gods, deities of other nations shall be theirs; thus, under several disguises, the confederacy exists ‘against the Lord and against His Anointed.’

II. Who were in the conspiracy. Not foreigners; but 1. ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem with the men of Judah;’ city and country agree in this, however they may differ in other things. 2. This generation with the foregoing generation; ‘they are turned back to the iniquity of their forefathers,’ &c. (Jeremiah 11:10); a conspiracy to carry on the war from age to age against religion. The house of Israel began the revolt, but Judah soon came into the conspiracy. In Josiah’s time there had been a reformation, but after his death the people returned to the idolatries they had then renounced.

III. The chastening of the conspirators and the crushing of this conspiracy. God would take severe methods for this; for none ever hardened his heart thus against God and prospered. He that rolls this stone will find it return upon him. ‘Therefore I will bring evil upon them’ (Jeremiah 11:11); the evil of punishment for the evil of sin; and there is no remedy, no relief. 1. They cannot help themselves (Jeremiah 11:11). There is no fleeing from God’s justice. Evil pursues sinners and entangles them in snares from which they cannot extricate themselves. 2. Their God will not help them; ‘they shall cry unto Me,’ &c. (Jeremiah 11:11). 3. Their idols shall not help them (Jeremiah 11:12). If the idols could have done any real kindness to their worshippers, they would have done it for this people, who had renounced the true God to embrace them, and had multiplied them ‘according to the number of the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem.’ But in their distress their many gods and many altars should stand them in no stead.”—Henry.


These are and ever have been the sole resources of the sinful in seeking God. If He will not permit mediation (Jeremiah 11:14) for transgressors, nor accept sacrifices, (“holy flesh,” Jeremiah 11:15; see Lit. Crit. on ver.), then nought remains.

I. Offerings beautiful in themselves: mediatorial prayer and holy sacrifices.

II. Offerers who might expect acceptance. 1. Jeremiah, who as a prophet was also an acknowledged intercessor with God for the people, and withal a man Divinely chosen and approved; he would have offered prayers. 2. Judah, cherished by God as “His beloved” (Jeremiah 11:15); once admired by God,” called (alas! not calls) thy name, a green olive-tree, fair, and of goodly fruit” (Jeremiah 11:16); enstated by God in sacred possessions and privileges, “planted thee” (Jeremiah 11:17); she would have offered “holy flesh.”

III. Offerings must represent those for whom they are made.

1. Prayer for others, that they may be spared and pardoned, avails only when they also pray for themselves. But Judah would not kneel before God for deliverance from her sins; she was prayerless, would continue so, until calamity befell her, and would then only “cry in her trouble,” not bemoan her guilt.

2. Sacrifices to God require that the offerers are themselves dedicated to Him. To give Him “holy flesh” while they lived in “lewdness” (Jeremiah 11:15) was a flagrant mockery. Public worship is an insolence to Heaven when it covers private immorality.

IV. Incongruous offerings refused by God. “Pray not thou for this people” (Jeremiah 11:14). “What hath My beloved to do in Mine house?” (Jeremiah 11:15). 1. For those who love sin no prayer can be heard. Even the Divine Intercessor could not pray for the soul determined in guilt. 2. Those who live in sin defile God’s house by their presence and His altar with their sacrifices. For such persons, who, “when doing evil, rejoice,” to offer aught to God is impious effrontery.

V. Mocking hypocrites doomed.

1. There will come to such pretenders a “time of trouble” (Jeremiah 11:14); wrong will not prove always pleasant.

2. Their former goodness will not protect them from the doom of apostates. “Fair and goodly” they may have been; and so really so as to be called by God “His beloved;” but the goodness of former years will not atone for the guilt of the present, nor their experience of Divine love save them from the wrath their perfidy has provoked (Jeremiah 11:16).

3. Their enstatement in Divine favour can be reversed. “Planted” in Canaan, intrusted with “Mine house,” Judah’s condition suggests the case of those within the Church of Christ, once ostensibly (perhaps sincerely) God’s people. But “if any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy.”

Jeremiah 11:18-23. MURDERERS IN AMBUSH

How many dangers beset us which we fail to recognise! Jeremiah had no perception of his peril until “the Lord gave him knowledge of it” (Jeremiah 11:18). An eye more discerning than our own is upon the righteous; and it “neither slumbers nor sleeps.” (Addenda on Jeremiah 11:19.)

I. Malevolent designs against a witness for God. A life of godliness rebukes the guilty; and thus holy men incur their hate. Jeremiah incensed the men of Anathoth unwittingly, unwillingly; but “a good deed in a naughty world” disturbs and distresses and provokes the wicked.

1. A concerted plot: “They devised devices against me.” 2. A merciless purpose: “Let us destroy, … cut him off from the land of the living,” &c 3. An unsuspecting victim: “I was like a tame lamb” (see Lit. Crit.). 4. A vigilant Watcher: “Thou showedst me their doings” (Jeremiah 11:18).

II. A holy man’s secure defence amid foes (Jeremiah 11:20).

1. Goodness rejoices in the consciousness of God’s discernment. Though evil-doers malign and plot, God “judgest righteously,” recognises the unsullied virtue of His faithful servants (Jeremiah 11:19). 2. Integrity relies confidently on Divine vindication. “I shall see Thy vengeance” (see Lit. Crit. on verse). God would defeat their designs. 3. Faith finds calm shelter in Jehovah’s protection. “Unto Thee have I revealed (confided) my cause.” (See 1 Peter 2:23.)

III. Divine indignation towards the persecutors of His servants. He knows them and marks them out; “the men of Anathoth.” 1. The form in which their hostility expressed itself (Jeremiah 11:21): he must keep silence or be slain; be faithless to his mission or die at their hands. It showed hatred of God, from whose word they recoiled. 2. The sentence of destruction which this evoked (Jeremiah 11:22-23). They meant Jeremiah’s death; they themselves should cruelly perish. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”


Jeremiah 11:2-5. Theme: COVENANTED ALLIANCE. (Comp. Homily on section, supra.)

The word came from the Lord “to Jeremiah” (Jeremiah 11:1), but to be imparted to and reiterated by others—“hear ye, and speak ye” (Jeremiah 11:2). Some think these were other prophets; some suggest the priests of Anathoth, which might have so exasperated them that they plotted his destruction (Jeremiah 11:19; Jeremiah 11:21), as the Popish priests sought the life of Savonarola because he incited them to do their duty.

This “covenant:” alluding to the Book of the Law, found by Hilkiah during Josiah’s restoration of the Temple (2 Kings 22:8 to 2 Kings 23:25; comp. Deuteronomy 27:0). (Addenda, Jeremiah 11:2, “Book of the covenant found.”) This discovery of the law occurred five years after Jeremiah was called to the prophetic office. Observe: Though the book was lost, the covenant should not have been ignored. Their past history, their present occupancy of Canaan, appealed to them concerning their sacred relationship and Jehovah’s claims.

I. God allies Himself with His people by a method peculiarly solemn and imposing. “A covenant.” 1. The terms defined. 2. Mutually binding. 3. Intended to endure. 4. The method most impressive. 5. The responsibilities great—great as are the benefits and privileges.

II. To this sacred compact God exacts from His people unfaltering adherence. They must “obey the words” (Jeremiah 11:3) as the condition on which Jehovah “may perform His oath” (Jeremiah 11:5). 1. God looks for their part to be performed; desires it, watches for it, eagerly, paternally. 2. He claims that their fidelity should be as full as His own; no vacillation, no compromise, no departure. 3. Is wronged by their perfidy; wounded also.

III. Violation of the covenant forfeits its blessings and ensures its penalties. Cancels the agreement for Divine benefactions, invokes instead the Divine displeasure. The faithless soul puts God’s favours aside and invites the “curse.” So by repudiating the salvation of Christ, the sinner imprecates judgment. 1. God earnestly desires to bless us: “So shall ye be my people” (Jeremiah 11:4), “that I may perform the oath,” &c. (Jeremiah 11:5). 2. Man’s conscience recognises the righteousness of the covenant: “So be it, O Lord.” In the human heart there is a response to the justice of God in punishing the faithless soul, as truly as in blessing the obedient. Even in the last judgment there will be heard the human acknowledgment that “the Judge of all the earth doeth right.”

Notes: The obedience here agreed for is not performance of the stern legal statutes of the law, but fulfilment of the benignant terms of a “covenant”—a gracious and reciprocal covenant. The “covenant” more naturally expresses itself in “Thou shalt love:” the law, in, Thou shalt do.

The crime of slighting the alliance of love is the greatest in itself and in its consequences. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha” (1 Corinthians 16:22). (Addenda, Jeremiah 11:4, “Covenant alliance of love.”)

The Jews still occupied this goodly land, and it was still affluent in natural wealth: God had thus fulfilled His part of the covenant. It remained now with His people, by keeping the terms, to decide whether this inheritance should remain theirs.


Most probably (so Hend., Naeg., and Speaker’s Com.) Jeremiah, obeying this Divine command, journeyed with Josiah in his reforming tour through the land (2 Kings 23:15-20), everywhere reading to the people the words of the newly-found book. The word “proclaim” has the meaning of read aloud. (See Lit. Crit. on verse.)

All through the land the covenant is to be heard. All over the earth the Gospel is to be published: not in “cities of Judah and streets of Jerusalem” alone, but to “all people.” “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.”

I. That none may remain in sorrowful ignorance, or have excuse for neglect. The Light must shine into darkness.

II. That all may feel the persuasiveness of the earnest call. “Faith cometh by hearing:” hearts are moved by the heavenly appeal.

III. That every hearer may clearly know the full plan of safety. “Hear the words and do them.” (Comp. Romans 2:13; James 1:22.) “Do them:” Trapp remarks, “Else ye hear to no purpose; as the salamander liveth in the fire, and is not made hot by the fire; as the Ethiopian goeth black into the bath, and as black he cometh forth.” (Addenda, Jeremiah 11:6, Poem by Trench.)


Observe 1. God Himself earnestly pleads; “I.” 2. God persistently pleads; “in the day I brought them out of Egypt, even unto this day.” 3. God fervently pleads, vehemently, with pathos and power; “protesting.” 4. God anxiously pleads; “rising up early,” &c., as one too concerned and troubled to rest. (See on chap. Jeremiah 7:13. Addenda, Jeremiah 11:7, “Rising early.”)

Yet, (1) Men oppose God in practice; “obeyed not.” (2) Refuse God their attention; “nor incline their ear.” (3) Pursue their own defiant course; “walked every one in the imagination (“stubbornness,” see on chap. Jeremiah 3:17) of their evil heart.” (4) Turn God’s goodness into inevitable anger; “therefore will I bring upon them,” &c. (See 2 Kings 17:13, ff.)


The decisive course being now pursued by king Josiah in exterminating idolatry had led the opponents of the king’s purpose into determined league against his reformatory schemes; or the general dislike which prevailed among the people for this overthrow of their cherished idolatry may be meant. The consentaneous disapproval of the nation is spoken of as being a preconcerted opposition, a “conspiracy.”
Note, that opposition to religious work, and workers for Jehovah (Josiah the king and Jeremiah the prophet), is in truth a conspiracy against God Himself. So when Christ arrested Saul of Tarsus with the challenge “Why persecutest thou Me?” (Addenda, Jeremiah 11:9, “Conspiracy against God.”)

I. The darkness of the human heart. Rebelled against the reformation; rose in resistance of the king’s work of purifying the land. “Love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” “Heart desperately wicked.”

II. The antagonism of man towards God. Any idol, any number of idols, will men rear and serve, but not Jehovah. “We will not have Thee,” &c. “My people love to have it so” (chap. Jeremiah 5:31).

III. The deliberate purpose to defeat God’s work. Men combine to frustrate the designs of the Almighty. They determine to oppose those who would evangelise the world. They meet the progress of religion with combined and deliberate assaults. Guilt is implacable, defiant, restless. It hates God and godliness. They had “taken counsel together against the Lord, and against His Anointed” (Psalms 2:2-3). Note, that their idolatry was not the issue of ignorance—they would not exchange it for Jehovah; nor was it the result of a hasty impulse, but deliberate design (Psalms 83:5); nor was the national relapse into idolatry after Josiah’s death the consequence of indifference, but of a set purpose, a “conspiracy” (Jeremiah 11:10).

IV. The confederacy for sin suffices to prevail over mutual estrangement. To oppose God and His kingdom men—mutually antagonistic—will ally themselves. (See Jeremiah 11:10.) “The house of Israel and the house of Judah,” the two kingdoms which were in fierce hostility one to another politically, became conspirators against the God whose goodness gave them national existence and political power. Men can forswear their own antagonisms, when impiety is in the ascendant, in order to trample God’s claims beneath their feet in scorn. But “though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished.” “These (ten kings) have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast; these shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them,” &c. (Revelation 17:12-14).

Jeremiah 11:11-13. Theme: THE CRY OF THE GODLESS IN CALAMITY. (See Homily, and Notes on chap. Jeremiah 2:28, also on sections, chap. Jeremiah 2:14-28.)

“Cry unto Me,” contrasted with “cry unto the gods.” “I will not hearken unto them;” set over against “they shall not save them at all.” God also places in juxtaposition His own power to afflict—“I will bring evil”—with the idols’ powerlessness to help them. Note, too, that the “thing” for which the people deserted God is “a shameful thing;” in itself a degraded object, in its rites and orgies loathsome, and certain to cover with shame those who worship and trust in it. With the one true God alienated, and all false gods, however numerous (Jeremiah 11:13), proved to be worthless and impotent, none to “hearken” or “save” though they “cry”—how desolate the outlook of the impious when the day of sore trouble and dismay arrives! “Seek the Lord, seek righteousness, seek meekness; it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.”


For there is a climax of iniquity which renders pity misplaced, and prayer a mockery; these must not then intervene. (See on chap. Jeremiah 7:16.) Praying men are arrested in their very prayers by the dreadful fact that the guilty scorn to pray for themselves until doom is upon them.

I. A bound is here set to prayer; because there is a bound to possibility.

II. A warning is here given to the prayerless: they must not reckon on the successful prayers of others for them so long as they refuse to pray for themselves.

III. A correction is here suggested to the prayerful: when God’s purposes are evidently fixed, do not attempt to interpose; nor, when you have prayed unwisely, and He therefore does not answer, conclude that He is not the Hearer of prayer. There is a time for solemn silence and submission. (See on chap. Jeremiah 7:16.)

Jeremiah 11:15. Theme: THE UNWELCOME SACRIFICE. (Addenda on verse.)

I. Offered by one whom God held dear: “my beloved.” For God tenderly cherishes even His sinning people.

II. Presented amid solemn surroundings: “in Mine house.” The scene was good, where God was ready to meet the worshipper, and where sacrifices were pleasant to Him.

III. Itself a proper and approved offering to God: “holy flesh.” Beautiful and holy things God desires from us.

IV. Rendered abhorrent by the worshipper’s guilt: “she hath wrought lewdness;” and “when doing evil, exulted.” God can have no pleasure in pure things offered with defiled hands. “Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings,” &c. (Isaiah 1:11-16). (See Lit. Crit. on verse.)


A favourite and frequent figure for God’s ancient people. Observe: 1. How carefully Jehovah cherishes the remembrance of our early fidelity and spiritual beauty: He had not lost the vision of Judah’s former piety. 2. How clearly God delineates the mournful difference; fully recognises the degeneracy and decay of that early goodliness. He is watchful over our careers, and notes our present state as compared or contrasted with our former years.

I. The beautiful tree of God’s fostering.

1. Its fair proportions were God’s own work. To His grace Judah owed all her beauty. “The Lord called thy name, A green olive,” &c. (Jeremiah 11:16), i.e., He made her what she was.

2. Its localisation in fruitful soil was an act of Divine planting. “The Lord planted thee” (Jeremiah 11:17). Observe: To God’s grace, which made us what we are, we must trace all our spiritual advantages: He hath wrought all our works in us.

III. Goodly fruit grossly misused. All that this fair tree yielded was carried away from Him who planted it, and offered to Baal (Jeremiah 11:17). 1. He who planted the tree should gather the fruit; an unnatural alienation of human life. 2. A tree whose fruits are deteriorated must be removed: evil growths must not remain in God’s fair garden. Wickedness forfeits privileges. “Pronounced evil against thee, for the evil done” (ver; 17).

III. Destruction by fire of the degenerate tree.

1. Calamity threatened: “The Lord hath pronounced evil.” 2. Complete devastation effected: “with the noise of a great tumult,” &c. (Jeremiah 11:16), i.e., by the fury of a thunderstorm and the fiery lightning, by which “fire is kindled upon it, and the branches are broken.”

Jeremiah 11:17. Theme: THE SINNER’S SIN HURTS HIMSELF. Text: “The evil which they have done against themselves.”

i. Intentionally against God: “To provoke Me to anger.”

ii. Practically to their own injury. Guilt rebound, returns upon the guilty. (See Outlines on chap. Jeremiah 7:19.)

Jeremiah 11:18-23. Theme: PERSECUTION OF GOD’S PROPHET. (See Homily on section, supra. Addenda on Jeremiah 11:19, “Murderers in ambush.”)

i. Secret counsels revealed by Jehovah (Jeremiah 11:19). The general “conspiracy” (see Jeremiah 11:9) of the nation against Jehovah was accompanied by a family conspiracy against Jeremiah, his own brethren being determined to take his life. This cruel plot was revealed to His unsuspecting servant by God Himself.

“Although the human heart cannot be fathomed (chap. Jeremiah 17:9), yet nothing can be hidden from God, and He frequently reveals hidden counsels, so that they are known and manifest, as in the case of Absalom and Ahithophel (Isaiah 8:10). Therefore do nothing in secret, in the hope that it will remain hidden, for the birds of the heaven carry the voice, and the winged repeat it. (Ecclesiastes 10:20).”—Cramer.

ii. Cruel treachery against a harmless prophet (Jeremiah 11:19). It was not that Jeremiah wronged them, but the truth troubled them. Criminals are wroth against their captors. So Ahab against Elijah (1 Kings 18:0). Note: how defenceless the godly leave themselves: “as a lamb,” with no protection against guile or malevolence; even as Christ Himself: “As a Lamb before His shearers.” God keeps His own while they serve His will. Mark, also, how typical was Jeremiah’s case: “like a lamb brought to the slaughter;” not violent, as angry men are wont to be, but gentle and submissive, free from vindictiveness; and also fulfilling his work at the peril (in Christ’s case, at the expense) of his life.

“Let us destroy the tree with the fruit;” that is, the man, who is the tree, and his teaching, which is the fruit; thus ridding ourselves at once of both causes of disturbance, the living presence of this witness against our sins, and his incisive words of condemnation and reproach.

“Let us cut him off from the land of the living.” Wordsworth remarks, “So of Christ it is said by Isaiah (Isaiah 53:8). All that happened to the prophet Jeremiah, who was specially the suffering prophet; was a foreshadowing of what would happen to the Great Prophet of whom Moses spoke, ‘the Man of Sorrows;’ and we read these narratives concerning Jeremiah with comparatively little advantage unless we see here a prophetic adumbration of Christ.” Jerome says, “Almost all things that the prophets did and suffered were figurative of Christ; and whatever was fulfilled in Jeremiah was a prophecy concerning the Lord Himself.

iii. Vengeance imprecated on foes (Jeremiah 11:20). This wish for vengeance was not personal, but ministerial; not because of wrong done him, but because they were the determined and unscrupulous adversaries of God and His word. The noteable difference between this appeal to God against His foes and Christ’s prayer for those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them,” and Stephen’s “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” marks the wide distinction between the old and new covenants; the former was grounded on righteousness, the latter on love. Zinzendorf remarks, “The first New Testament vengeance was executed on the Cross, when an evil-doer, who had mocked at Jesus, cringed on the cross and asked for a gracious remembrance.” Wordsworth: “Jeremiah, the human type, fails in some things where Christ, the Divine Antitype, excels.”

Unto Thee have I revealed my cause.” A teacher is advised to say this if he can, “I have ceased to concern myself about myself.” Luther says:—

“Once I grasped too many things:—
None stayed; they all had wings.

But since I’ve weary grown,
And all away have thrown,
Not one from me has flown.

And do you ask, How can it be thus?
Because I’ve cast my all on Jesus.”

Messengers and servants who concern themselves about their own injuries must have bad masters.—Zinzendorf.

iv. The implacable malice of familiars (Jeremiah 11:21). “Where shall a man find worse friends than at home? A prophet is nowhere so little set by as in his own country (Matthew 13:57).”—Trapp. None were so bitter to Christ as His fellow-townsmen (Luke 4:24-29). “That which the people of Anathoth say here to Jeremiah, the people of this world say everywhere and at all times to the preachers of the truth. (Comp. 2 Timothy 4:3-4.) It is important, then, to preach the word; to be instant in season and out of season; to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine.”—Naeg. in Lange. “It appears from this passage that the holy man had not only to contend with the king and his courtiers, and the priests who were at Jerusalem, but that when he betook himself to a corner to live quietly with his own people, he had even there no friend, but that all persecuted him as an enemy.”—Calvin.

v. God’s visitation on His people’s foes (Jeremiah 11:22-23). Henry comments thus: “The sentence passed upon them for their crime. God says, I will punish them; let Me alone to deal with them. I will visit this upon them: so the word is: will inquire into it and reckon for it.… They sought Jeremiah’s life, therefore. they shall die. They would destroy him, that his name be no more remembered; therefore shall there be no remnant of them. And herein the Lord is righteous.” Cramer: “When the people will not endure the rod of Christ’s mouth, with which He smites the earth (Isaiah 11:4), item, His rods Beauty and Bands (Zechariah 11:7), God sends one with the sword to preach, and then we see what the smooth preachers have effected (Isaiah 30:10).”

JOSIAH’S DISCOVERY OF THE LAW. Text: “Hear ye the words of this covenant” (Jeremiah 11:2).

Josiah, the last sovereign of David’s house (for his sons had not independent rule), showed the zeal and prompt obedience of the son of Jesse. Character: “heart was tender” (2 Kings 22:19). Discovery of Moses’s law the great event of his reign. 1. It shows that the Holy Scripture had for a long time been neglected, and was practically lost. This Book of the Law was the five “books of Moses,” containing the original covenant between God and His people. Moses had enforced the domestic study of these Scriptures (Deuteronomy 11:18-20), enjoined upon each king that they be constantly read and recited (Jeremiah 17:19-20), ordered that at feast of tabernacles they be publicly read to the whole nation (Jeremiah 31:7-13). 2. The loss of the book and this negligence of God’s word resulted from the diversities and depths of national apostasy. The nation did not want to hear the law which testified against their multiplied transgressions, nor to listen to a condemnation of the idols they had chosen. Nor would the kings copy out the law for themselves when finding that it was against the will of God that the nation should have a king.

I. Josiah’s evil parentage explains his total ignorance of the law.

1. His parental alienation from God and His word. The last good king before him was Hezekiah, who had been dead sixty or seventy years. His son Manasseh, who succeeded him, was the most profane of all the line of David; he it was who committed the inexpiable sins which sealed the sentence of Judah’s destruction. He had set up idols in the temple, made his sons pass through the fire, dealt with spirits and wizards, shed much innocent blood in Jerusalem, done wickedly above all before him. On his return from Babylonian captivity, Manasseh attempted reformation, but found it easier to seduce than to reclaim the people (2 Chronicles 33:15-25). Amon, who succeeded him, followed during his short reign the first ways of his father, and “trespassed more and more,” till slain by his subjects. Josiah was the son of this wicked king.

2. His own irreligious education. Brought up among very wicked men, in a corrupt court, after an apostasy of more than half a century, far from God’s prophets, in the midst of idols.

II. Religion is not determined wholly by outward circumstances. Like Manasseh, Josiah came to the throne in his boyhood. But Manasseh was the son of pious Hezekiah; Josiah, the son of wicked Amon. Thus religious life is not dependent on parentage, but, under God, who gives grace, on the state of the heart.

1. His early life of piety. Boyhood is not revealed to us, except that he came to the throne when only eight. But scarcely was he old enough to think for himself and profess himself a servant of the true God, ere he chose that good part which could not be taken from him. When but sixteen he began to seek after the God of David his father (2 Chronicles 34:3). Blessed they who so seek, for they shall find.

2. His disadvantages. He had not the aid of the revealed volume; was surrounded by diversities of idol-worship, sophistries of unbelief, seductions of sinful pleasure. Every temptation to go wrong. Had he gone into a life of sin, we might have made allowance; not so bad as other kings, for he had not sinned against light, as they had done. Yet he had enough light to show him how to go right; if, therefore, he had gone wrong, he would have sinned against what light he had; not light so clear as Solomon or Joash had, yet still against his better knowledge.

III. Every one has knowledge enough to be religious. Even the most unfavoured, poorest, and most ignorant. Education does not make a man religious; nor is it an excuse for irreligion that he has not been educated to his duty. It only makes him less guilty than those taught; but still he is guilty.

1. Scarcely any one in a Christian land can be in more disadvantageous circumstances than Josiah; nay, scarcely in a heathen country; for idolatry was around him, and his mind was unformed.

2. But he had that, which all men have, a natural sense of right and wrong; and he did not blunt it. He heard and obeyed a constraining Divine voice. Though all the world had told him other, he would not believe he could sin without offence or with impunity.

3. The same inward sense led him to choose, amid all the various worships offered to his acceptance, the true one—the worship of the God of Israel (Psalms 111:10; Psalms 119:100.

4. His religious life was spontaneous. At sixteen he began to seek the God of his fathers; at twenty commenced his reformation—began of himself. Jeremiah did not begin to prophecy till after Josiah commenced his work. So that the king set about his pious task unaided by others.

IV. Thus following the biddings of his natural conscience, God gave him clear light. He set out in his work of reformation not knowing whither he went. But it is a rule of God’s providence, that those who act up to their light shall have clearer. “To him that hath shall be given.” While engaged in his work of restoring the temple, the Book of the Law was found.

1. His character here reveals itself in his conduct. Not inflated; as some who, though beginning humbly, become self-confident and proud. He still had “a heart tender, and humbled himself before God.” Felt his own blindness and weakness, and earnestly sought to know his duty better and practise it more entirely. “Rent his clothes” (2 Kings 22:11), for he saw how incomplete his reformation had been, how far more guilty the nation was than he had supposed, and the fearful punishments overhanging them (Deuteronomy 30:15; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 11:26-28). And there had been in part a fulfilment of those threats. Samaria, the ten revolting tribes, Israel, had been carried away. Though he knew their sins had wrought this, yet here he finds it threatened beforehand, and discovered that the same punishment awaited his own people should they persist in sin.

2. He sought guidance of a Divine teacher. Sent to Huldah for counsel (2 Chronicles 34:21, &c.).

V. His zealous and solicitous course of action in consequence of the Divine message. Assembled all Judah at Jerusalem, publicly read the Book of Law, then made all the people renew the covenant with the God of their fathers. Then, more exactly following the directions of the Lord, he carried on further reformations, and after that celebrated the Passover.

1. Greater knowledge was followed by stricter obedience (2 Kings 23:22).

2. What he did he did with all his might (2 Kings 23:25).

(a.) Observance of God’s will, however we learn it, ensures God’s favour. Learning it from His Word in Scripture, as Christians do, or from His Word in our consciences, as the heathen do; it is by following it, in spite of seductions of the world around us, that we please God (Acts 10:25).

(b.) If such is God’s mercy on all men who seek Him, what will be His grace to Christians? Far greater and more wonderful. Elected out of the world in Jesus Christ our Saviour to a glory incomprehensible and eternal.—Abridged and arranged from “Plain Sermons,” by authors of “Tracts for the Times.”

Topic: SINS OF OMISSION. Text: “Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear” (Jeremiah 11:8).

God commisioned Jeremiah to bring solemn accusation against Judah; he gives the first place to their shortcomings in positive service, reminds them of what they had not done, but ought to have done—constantly and persistently refused active obedience to the righteous will of the Most High.

I. The great commonness of sins of omission: in the world, in our circle of society, in our own hearts.

1. In a certain sense all offences against the law of God come under the head of sins of omission. Every sin is a breach of the all-comprehensive law, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.” How multitudinous our omissions in respect to this command of Christ! Too often we have had other gods beside Him. He deserved, having bought us with the blood of His dear Son, to be served with all-consuming earnestness. He rightly claims our best thoughts and utmost love; yet “unprofitable servants.” So too in regard to our “neighbour.” What sins of omission daily occur in our various relationships—our neighbours, our children, our household.

2. Sins of omission are seen in all who neglect to perform the first and all-essential Gospel command: “Repent and be converted;” “Repent and be baptised;” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Yet, though urged to repentance and to faith in Christ, sin is not sorrowed for, faith in Christ not exercised. This true of dense masses everywhere, and of many in God’s house who hear but not obey.

3. Sins of omission in religious duties. Multitudes neglect the outward worship of God. But others show religious regard; yet what omissions as to prayer; how lax in devotion are the most of us! As to the Bible: left unread! As to service: talents wrapped up in napkin! Our omissions lie upon the horizon of memory like masses of storm-clouds accumulating for a horrible tempest.

II. The cause of this excessive multiplicity of sins of omission.

1. The great cause lies in our evil hearts. Absence of clean heart and right spirit is at the root: “Ye must be born again.”

2. The conscience of man is not well alive to sins of omission. While conscience will chastise men for direct acts of wrong, not awake to sins of neglect.

3. These sins are multiplied through indolence. Men sleep on, awake not to righteousness and the service of God. In the face of eternity, life, death, heaven, and hell, multitudes are simply ruined because they neglect the great salvation, and are absolutely too idle to concern themselves.

4. Ignorance. With many ignorance is wilful; have Bible, conscience; yet sin against light and knowledge.

5. Men excuse themselves so readily about these sins of omission. A more convenient season is anticipated for repentance, faith, prayer. This postponement of service is the perpetuation of rebellion.

6. Many neglect because of the prevalence of the like conduct. To omit to love and serve the Lord is the custom. But enlightened conscience warns us that custom is no excuse for sin: it will be no plea at the bar of God.

III. The sinfulness of sins of omission. They cannot be trivial, for

1. Consider what would be the consequences if God were to omit His mercies to us for one moment! Suppose He should omit to supply breath or life for one minute, or omit to restrain the axe of judgment for an hour! Suppose for a day He should omit His natural blessings to the world; the sun would forbear to shine, life would forget to be, world perish. Suppose Jesus had left an omission in His plan of salvation; the whole would have failed, and humanity left without remedy or hope.

2. Reflect what an influence they would have upon an ordinary commonwealth. If one person has a right to omit his duty, another has, and all have—watchman, judge, merchant, husbandman; society soon collapse, kingdom break to pieces.

3. Think how you would judge of omissions towards yourselves. In the case of your servant, you instantly resent it. So in a soldier. Even in your child: to neglect your command is regarded as equally criminal as to commit offence. Perhaps you have given God all except loving Him; outward worship and profession, but not love. Consider this to be the case in your home, in your wife: omission of love is a fatal lack, and so is your love of God.

4. Consider what God thinks of omissions. Saul was ordered to kill the Amalekites—not one to escape: he saved Agag and best of the cattle; therefore the Lord said, “I have put thee away from being king over Israel!” Ahab was commanded to kill Benhadad on account of great criminality: Ahab only captured him; therefore, “Because thou hast let this man go, thy life shall be for his life!” Our Lord cursed the fig-tree because no fruit! The man with one talent was condemned because he neglected to use it. The Holy Spirit convinces of sins of omission,—“of sin, because they believe not on Me.”

IV. The result and punishment of sins of omission.

1. They will condemn us. “The king shall say, I was hungered and ye gave me no meat,” &c. The absence of virtue rather than the presence of vice condemned them. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Though we know nothing of salvation by works, yet the Baptist’s words echo loud, “Now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore, every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.”

2. If persevered in, they will effectually shut against us the possibilities of pardon. “He that believeth not”—is there pardon, rescue for him? No; he “is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the Son of God.” Will the mercy of God blot out sins unrepented of? Nay; sins will cling to us as the leprosy to the house of Gehazi. In the marriage feast in Gospel, many would not come, and they perished because they would not come; and one came but “had not on the wedding-garment,” and because of that omission, “Bind him hand and foot, and deliver him to the tormentors.” So if you have not—mark that point—put on the righteousness of Christ by a living faith in Him, salvation will be forfeit for ever.—C.H. Spurgeon.


Jeremiah 11:2. The lost book of the covenant found. “The Temple during the previous reign had fallen into a state of neglect, such that, as in the time of Joash, a complete restoration had become necessary. On this occasion, however, the king and the priesthood acted in entire harmony. Suddenly, under the accumulated rubbish or ruins of the Temple (as it would seem), the High Priest discovered a roll containing the ‘Book of the Law.’

Whatever may have been the exact nature of this document, two points, and two alone, are clear. First, it was as complete a surprise as if the book had never been known before. During the troubles of the reign of Manasseh there is no proof of its destruction, while during the previous reigns there is no proof of its existence. David, Solomon, Asa, and Jehoshaphat had lived in constant, and apparently unconscious, violation of the ordinances which came home with such force to Josiah. It is possible that the book may have now been first composed. It is possible that it may have been a mere rediscovery.… But, in either case, this sudden appearance of the law amounted almost to a new revelation.
“Secondly, whatever other portions of the Pentateuch may have been included in the roll, there can be little doubt that the remarkable work to which the Greek translators gave the name of ‘the Second Law’ (Deuteronomy) occupied the chief place.”—Stanley’s “JewishChurch.”

Jeremiah 11:4. The covenant an alliance of love. “So shall ye be My people,” &c. “Now, for the first time, the love of God, as the chief ground of His dealings with His people—the love towards God as the ground of their service to Him—the spiritual character and free choice of that service (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 7:6-11, &c.), were urged on the nation with all the force of Divine and human authority.”—Stanley, ibid.

Jeremiah 11:6. JEHOVAH’S MESSAGE WIDELY PUBLISHED. “Proclaim all these words.”

“I say to thee, Do thou repeat
To the first man thou mayest meet,
In lane, highway, or open street,
That he and we and all men move
Under a canopy of love,
As broad as the blue sky above.
And ere thou leave him, say thou this
Yet one word more: They only miss
The winning of that final bliss
Who will not count it true that Love,
Blessing, not cursing, rules above,
And that in it we live and move.
And one thing further make him know:
That, to believe these things are so,
This firm faith never to forego,
Despite of all that seems at strife
With blessing—all with curses rife;—
That this is blessing, this is life.”


Jeremiah 11:7. “Rising early and protesting;” as Plutarch reporteth of the Persian kings, that they had an officer to call them up betimes, and to mind them of their business.—Trapp. Yet God rose unsolicited, so eager and earnest was He on His people’s behalf.

Jeremiah 11:9. Conspiracy against God. Did you ever, on a hot afternoon, witness the contest of innumerable worms over a carrion carcass? Did you ever notice the greediness, selfishness, and quarrel-someness displayed by the actors in a scene like that? And yet such a contest is decent compared with the gigantic contest that has been carried on for thousands of years by the vermicular human race; and God has looked upon it, pondered over it, and carried it in His heart; and all this time He has not ceased to pour out upon the world, in rich abundance, the blessings of His never-failing love.—Beecher.

Jeremiah 11:15. The unwelcome sacrifice. He that offers in sacrifice, O Pamphilus! a multitude of bulls and of goats, of golden vestments or purple garments, of figures of ivory or precious gems, and imagines by this to conciliate the favour of God, is grossly mistaken, and has no solid understanding; for he that would sacrifice with success ought to be chaste and charitable, no corrupter of virgins, no adulterer, no robber or murderer for the sake of lucre. God, who is near thee, perpetually beholds thy actions.—From the Greek.

Jeremiah 11:19. Murderers in ambush. Between the priesthood and the prophets there had hitherto been more or less of a conflict; but now that conflict was exchanged for a fatal union. “A wonderful and horrible thing was committed in the land: the prophets prophesied falsely, and the priests bore rule by their means;” and he (Jeremiah) who by each of his callings [Stanley regards Jeremiah as having been a priest before he was called to become a prophet] was naturally led to sympathise with both, was the doomed antagonist of both—victim of one of the strongest passions, the hatred of priests against a priest who attacks his own order,—the hatred of prophets against a prophet who ventures to have a voice and a will of his own. His own village of Anathoth, occupied by members of the sacred tribe, was for him a nest of conspirators against his life. Of him first in the sacred history was the saying literally fulfilled, “A prophet hath no honour in his own birthplace” (Ἐντῇ αύτοῦ πατρίδι, Luke 4:24).—Stanley.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/jeremiah-11.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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