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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Jeremiah 2

Jeremiah 2:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Judah's ApostasyGod's Case Against IsraelThe Apostasy of IsraelGod's Care for IsraelThe Earliest Preaching of Jeremiah: the Infidelity of Israel
Jeremiah 2:1-3(vv. Jeremiah 2:2-3)Jeremiah 2:1-3(vv. Jeremiah 2:2-3)Jeremiah 2:1-3Jeremiah 2:1-3(vv. Jeremiah 2:2-3)Jeremiah 2:1-13(vv. Jeremiah 2:2-13)
The Sin of Israel's Ancestors
Jeremiah 2:4-8(vv. Jeremiah 2:5-8)Jeremiah 2:4-8(vv. Jeremiah 2:5-8)Jeremiah 2:4-8(vv. Jeremiah 2:5-8)Jeremiah 2:4-8(vv. Jeremiah 2:5-8)
The LORD's Case Against His People
Jeremiah 2:9-13(vv. Jeremiah 2:9-13)Jeremiah 2:9-13(vv. Jeremiah 2:9-13)Jeremiah 2:9-13(vv. Jeremiah 2:9-13)Jeremiah 2:9-13(vv. Jeremiah 2:9-13)
The Results of Israel's Unfaithfulness
Jeremiah 2:14-19(vv. Jeremiah 2:14-19)Jeremiah 2:14-19(vv. Jeremiah 2:14-19)Jeremiah 2:14-19(vv. Jeremiah 2:14-19)Jeremiah 2:14-19(vv. Jeremiah 2:14-19)Jeremiah 2:14-19(vv. Jeremiah 2:14-19)
Israel Refuses to Worship the LORD
Jeremiah 2:20-25(vv. Jeremiah 2:20-25)Jeremiah 2:20-22(vv. Jeremiah 2:20-22)Jeremiah 2:20-25(vv. Jeremiah 2:20-25)Jeremiah 2:20-25(vv. Jeremiah 2:20-25)Jeremiah 2:20-25(vv. Jeremiah 2:20-25)
Jeremiah 2:23-25(vv. Jeremiah 2:23-25)Israel Deserves To Be Punished
Jeremiah 2:26-28(vv. Jeremiah 2:26-28)Jeremiah 2:26-28(vv. Jeremiah 2:26-28)Jeremiah 2:26-28(vv. Jeremiah 2:26-28)Jeremiah 2:26-27Jeremiah 2:26-32(vv. Jeremiah 2:26-32)
Jeremiah 2:28-34a
Jeremiah 2:29-37(vv. Jeremiah 2:29-37)Jeremiah 2:29-32(vv. Jeremiah 2:29-32)Jeremiah 2:29-32(vv. Jeremiah 2:29-32)
Jeremiah 2:33-37(vv. Jeremiah 2:33-37)Jeremiah 2:33-37(vv. Jeremiah 2:33-37)Jeremiah 2:33-35(vv. Jeremiah 2:33-35)
Jeremiah 2:34-37
Jeremiah 2:36-37(vv. Jeremiah 2:36-37)

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

BACKGROUND

A. Jeremiah 2:1 through 6:30 possibly occur during the reign of Josiah (see Chart at Appendix Four #3).

B. Jeremiah 2:0 is a classic example of Hebrew prophecy (see Appendix Two).

C. The change in the PRONOUNS has caused some to assert that there are several sermons combined, but it seems that Jeremiah switches from speaking to the nation, to individuals and then back to the nation.

D. Jeremiah 2:0 is structured in the imagery of a lawsuit (cf. Jer. 4-8, Jeremiah 4:9, Jeremiah 4:12, Jeremiah 4:29; Isaiah 1:2, Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 3:13-15; Hosea 4:1; Hosea 12:2; Micah 6:2).

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 2:1-3 1Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 2”Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, 'Thus says the LORD, “I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown. 3Israel was holy to the LORD, The first of His harvest. All who ate of it became guilty; Evil came upon them,” declares the LORD.'“

Jeremiah 2:1 This is a literary phrase in the prophets to designate YHWH's message. These were His words not Jeremiah's! It was a very specific revelation. The question is how much of the

1. genre (poetry)

2. vocabulary

3. imagery

is YHWH's and how much is Jeremiah's mind, education, and culture. We simply do not know, but by faith all believers assert it is God's self-revelation (i.e., “Thus says the LORD,” Jeremiah 2:2). See Special Topic: Inspiration.

“Go and proclaim” One would think these are IMPERATIVES but they are not.

- go, Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE

- proclaim, Qal PERFECT

“in the ears of Jerusalem” Poetry condenses for emphasis. This phrase is addressing the people of Jerusalem, not a personification of the city. Also the message was for all Judeans not just the capital city.

Does this imply that Jeremiah is speaking only to Judah and that Israel has already been exiled (i.e., 722 B.C.)? It is hard/impossible to date the individual poems of Jeremiah. The word “Jerusalem” is missing in the LXX.

In Jeremiah 2:2 YHWH speaks of the time of the beginning of Israel as a nation (i.e., the exodus and wilderness wandering period of 38 years).

1. “I remember” (anthropomorphic metaphor, see Special Topic at Jeremiah 1:9)

a. the devotion (hesed) of your youth (see Special Topic below)

b. the love of your betrothal

c. your following after Me in the wilderness

The rabbis called this period “the honeymoon” period between YHWH (husband) and Israel (wife). He provided their every need. See Special Topic below.

1. food (manna and quail)

2. water

3. clothing

4. shade

5. His personal guidance

In a sense this strophe is like Revelation 2:4, which describes how the OT people of God, like the church at Ephesus, had “left her first love” (i.e., beginning devotion and commitment).

SPECIAL TOPIC: LOVINGKINDNESS (HESED)

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE WILDERNESSES OF THE EXODUS

Jeremiah 2:3 “Israel” See Special Topic.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ISRAEL (THE NAME)

SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY

“The first of His harvest” This imagery is an allusion to the offering of the first fruits which symbolized YHWH's ownership of the whole crop (cf. Leviticus 23:10-11; 1 Corinthians 15:20; James 1:18). Here the imagery turns negative. The nations attacked and rejected YHWH by rejecting His chosen vessel of revelation, Israel.

“ate” This term (Qal PARTICIPLE, BDB 37, KB 46) was used in Akkadian for an “illegal invasion,” but here it denotes the nations of Palestine's rejection and attack on Israel. This phrase shows Israel's specialness (cf. Genesis 12:3; Genesis 27:29). She was created and called for a larger purpose (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

Verses 4-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 2:4-8 4Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5Thus says the LORD, “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, That they went far from Me And walked after emptiness and became empty? 6They did not say, 'Where is the LORD Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who led us through the wilderness, Through a land of deserts and of pits, Through a land of drought and of deep darkness, Through a land that no one crossed And where no man dwelt?' 7I brought you into the fruitful land To eat its fruit and its good things. But you came and defiled My land, And My inheritance you made an abomination. 8The priests did not say, 'Where is the LORD?' And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me, And the prophets prophesied by Baal And walked after things that did not profit.”

Jeremiah 2:4 “Hear” This is the theologically significant VERB Shema (Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 1033, KB 1570). Its basic meaning is “to hear, so as to do.” It has great importance in Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 6:3, Deuteronomy 6:4. Jeremiah was deeply influenced by Deuteronomy.

“O house of Jacob. . .families of the house of Israel” These are parallel phrases used of all the seed of Abraham, after the split of the United Monarchy (Saul, David, Solomon) in 922 B.C. The northern ten tribes are called Israel, Ephraim, or Samaria. This has caused great confusion in the use of the term “Israel” (see Special Topic: Israel [the name]).

Jeremiah 2:5 “What injustice did your fathers find in Me” This is the literary imagery of a court scene (cf. Jeremiah 2:4-8). YHWH's true nature is expressed in Deuteronomy 32:4. YHWH asked this same question in Micah 6:3. He was not the problem, they were!

“they went far from Me” The VERB (Qal PERFECT, BDB 934, KB 1221) is in direct contradiction to “follow after Me” in Jeremiah 2:2.

Also notice the personal element. Not just follow my laws but follow “Me”! Biblical faith is a personal faith, in a personal God, on a daily moment-by-moment basis. It is a faith relationship, but it is personal (i.e., prayer, daily trust, and obedience to the known will of God).

“walked” This (BDB 229, KB 246) is a biblical metaphor of lifestyle choices and actions.

“emptiness and became empty” The NOUN (BDB 210 I) and VERB (Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 211, KB 236) are put together for emphasis. This refers to idolatry (cf. Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 10:3-5, Jeremiah 10:8-10, Jeremiah 10:14-15; Jeremiah 16:19-20; Jeremiah 51:17-18).

Jeremiah 2:6-7 These verses refer to the exodus and wilderness wandering period.

Notice the things YHWH did for them as He fulfilled His promise/prophecy to Abraham (cf. Genesis 15:12-21).

1. brought us up out of the land of Egypt

2. led us through the wilderness

a. a land of deserts and pits (natural holes or steep ravines)

b. a land no one crossed (hyperbole)

c. a land of drought and deep darkness (i.e., “shadow of death,” cf. Jeremiah 13:16; Psalms 23:4)

d. a land where no one dwelt (symbol of a curse)

3. brought you into the fruitful land (i.e., Palestine/Canaan)

The exact date, route, and number of the Exodus is uncertain. See Special Topic: The Exodus (uncertainties).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DATE OF THE EXODUS

Jeremiah 2:7 Palestine of this period was a very fertile place (cf. Numbers 13:23-24, Numbers 13:27; Deuteronomy 8:1-9; Deuteronomy 11:10-12).

“defiled My land” The VERB (Piel IMPERFECT, BDB 379, KB 375) is used of

1. sexual defilement - Ezekiel 18:6, Ezekiel 18:11, Ezekiel 18:15

2. murder - Numbers 35:29-34; Deuteronomy 21:22-23

3. idolatry - Leviticus 20:3; Ezekiel 23:38; Ezekiel 36:17, Ezekiel 36:18

4. ceremonial uncleanness - Leviticus 15:31; Numbers 19:13, Numbers 19:20

Notice this is God's land and He will not tolerate those who live inappropriately (cf. Leviticus 18:24-30). As He removed the Canaanites (cf. Genesis 15:16) He will remove Abraham's seed if they reject Him (cf. Jeremiah 2:6a, Jeremiah 2:8a).

“abomination” This term (BDB 1072) appears often in Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 2:7; Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 7:10; Jeremiah 8:12; Jeremiah 16:18; Jeremiah 32:35; Jeremiah 44:4, Jeremiah 44:22). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ABOMINATION

Jeremiah 2:8 What a terrible condemnation of the leadership of God's covenant people.

1. priests (BDB 463) - those who administrate the temple and sacrificial system

2. those who handle the law - this would refer to Levites who taught and interpreted the law of Moses to the people (i.e., Nehemiah 9:0, later “scribes,” cf. Jeremiah 8:8)

3. the rulers (lit. “shepherds,” BDB 944 I) - this refers to leadership, civil or religious (cf. Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 56:11; Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 23:4; Ezekiel 34:0)

4. the prophets

Notice their sins.

1. questioned the presence of YHWH with them (lit. “where is the YHWH,” cf. Jeremiah 2:6a)

2. did not have a personal faith relationship with YHWH (lit. “did not know Me,” see Special Topic at Jeremiah 1:5)

3. they transgressed His law

4. prophesied by Ba'al (i.e., fertility worship, cf. Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 23:13)

5. walked after things that did not profit (i.e., adultery, cf. Jeremiah 16:19; Habakkuk 2:18)

“things that did not profit” In Hebrew poetry one looks for several markers.

1. Hebrew parallelism

2. Hebrew imagery

3. Hebrew sound plays

4. parallel passage from Israel's history/wisdom literature, or other prophets

It is surely possible that an intended sound play is here (Jeremiah 2:8).

1. profitless - יעל

2. Ba'al - בעל

Verses 9-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 2:9-13 9”Therefore I will yet contend with you,” declares the LORD, “And with your sons' sons I will contend. 10For cross to the coastlands of Kittim and see, And send to Kedar and observe closely And see if there has been such a thing as this! 11Has a nation changed gods When they were not gods? But My people have changed their glory For that which does not profit. 12Be appalled, O heavens, at this, And shudder, be very desolate,” declares the LORD. 13”For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water.”

Jeremiah 2:9 “contend” This VERB repeated twice (Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 936, KB 1224, cf. Jeremiah 2:29) refers to a legal lawsuit (cf. Jeremiah 2:35). This literary structure is one of three used by Prophets to communicate their message (lament, legal case, promise oracle).

“with your sons' sons I will contend” This shows that lifestyle priorities are passed on to our children with the result of blessing or cursing (cf. Exodus 34:7; Deuteronomy 5:9). Just an additional thought, I so rejoice in Deuteronomy 7:9, where God's love and mercy extends to the “thousand generations” of those who love and trust Him.

Jeremiah 2:10 Notice the series of IMPERATIVES.

1. cross - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 716, KB 778

2. see - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 906, KB 1157

3. send - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 1018, KB 1511

4. observe closely - Hithpolel IMPERATIVE, BDB 106, KB 122

5. see - same as #2

“Kittim” This refers to the original Phoenician settlement on Cyprus, but came to refer to all of the islands to the west of Palestine.

“Kedar” This was an Arab tribe to the east. This entire phrase is used metaphorically for “from east to west.” The whole point of the verse is “Ask anyone!” Let anyone be a witness about the things of Jeremiah 2:11-13.

Jeremiah 2:11 What a powerful question. Israel had abandoned the only true God and went after the false, vain, non-existent idols of the surrounding pagan nations (cf. Jeremiah 2:13).

“their glory” The NKJV and NRSV capitalize “glory” (BDB 458, see Special Topic: Glory), thereby showing it is a characteristic title for God (cf. Romans 1:23). He was Israel's glory! When they reject Him they have no glory (cf. Hosea 4:7).

“For that which does not profit” If Jeremiah 2:8, lines 3 and 4, are parallel, then this may refer to Ba'al worship (see , Special Topic: Fertility Worship of the Ancient Near East).

Jeremiah 2:12 “O heavens” The heavens are often used as witnesses in God's lawsuit (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 32:1).

Notice that YHWH directs the oldest witness (O heavens, usually paired with O earth) to

1. be appalled - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 1030, KB 1563, cf. Jeremiah 4:9; Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 19:8; Jeremiah 49:17; Jeremiah 50:13; Ezekiel 27:35; Ezekiel 32:10

2. shudder - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 972, KB 1343, cf. Ezekiel 27:35; Ezekiel 32:10

3. be very desolate, Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 351 II, KB 349 plus “utterly,” BDB 547, cf. Isaiah 60:12; literally “dry up,” cf. Isaiah 44:27

Jeremiah 2:13 “fountain of living waters” This is another descriptive title for God (cf. Jeremiah 17:13; Psalms 36:9; John 4:10-14; John 7:38-39; Revelation 21:6).

“To hew for themselves” This is the problem of fallen humanity, even covenant humanity. They try to run their own lives (cf. Jeremiah 2:17, Jeremiah 2:19). Their failure will open the door for YHWH's mercy and grace in the “new covenant” of Jeremiah 31:31-34 (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38).

Verses 14-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 2:14-19 14”Is Israel a slave? Or is he a homeborn servant? Why has he become a prey? 15The young lions have roared at him, They have roared loudly. And they have made his land a waste; His cities have been destroyed, without inhabitant. 16Also the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes Have shaved the crown of your head. 17Have you not done this to yourself By your forsaking the LORD your God When He led you in the way? 18But now what are you doing on the road to Egypt, To drink the waters of the Nile? Or what are you doing on the road to Assyria, To drink the waters of the Euphrates? 19Your own wickedness will correct you, And your apostasies will reprove you; Know therefore and see that it is evil and bitter For you to forsake the LORD your God, And the dread of Me is not in you,” declares the LORD God of hosts.

Jeremiah 2:14 Another question starts a new strophe. This question is answered by another rhetorical question in Jeremiah 2:17. Israel is reaping what she sowed (cf. Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 32:19). She is no longer what she was when she was formed (i.e., Jeremiah 2:2-3, devoted, loving, holy to the Lord, the first of His harvest). Now she is a slave who has become a prey (i.e., of other nations and their false gods).

Jeremiah 2:15 “young lions” This is a metaphor of power and strength used of the nations. Young lions were well known top predators. Here it symbolized Israel's invading enemies. Without her God, she was vulnerable and weak! The false gods who could not see or hear, could not help!

NASB“destroyed” NKJV, NRSV“burned” TEV, NJB“in ruins” JPSOA“desolate” REB“razed to the ground”

The MT has “burned” (נצתה, Niphal PERFECT, BDB 428, KB 429, but the Masoretic scholars suggested נצתו), which would be translated “are in ruins.” Both options fit the context (see above line which is in synonymous parallelism).

Jeremiah 2:16 “Memphis and Tahpanhes” These were ancient capitals of Egypt (cf. Jeremiah 44:1). Each city in Egypt had its own patron deity.

NASB, NRSV“shaved” NKJV, NJB“broken” TEV, NET“cracked” JPSOA“lay bare” REB“will break”

The VERB “break,” ירעיך, BDB 949, KB 1270, is from root עער II. The other option, “shave,” וערוך, from רעה, BDB 944, KB 1258, meaning “to graze” (cf. Jeremiah 47:5; Jeremiah 48:37; Isaiah 7:20), would denote a sign of slavery. The UBS Text Project gives option #1 a B rating (p. 176).

Jeremiah 2:17 See note at Jeremiah 2:13d. Line 3 of the MT is printed in the NASB. The Septuagint has a totally different line. It is not a textual corruption, but a separate tradition. The DSS have Hebrew copies of both the MT form of Jeremiah and the radically shorter LXX version.

Here is the LXX:

“'Has not your abandoning of Me brought about these things for you?' says the Lord GOD.”

Jeremiah 2:18 “on the road to Egypt. . .Assyria” Israel tried to find security themselves by political alliances against Babylon instead of with faith in YHWH. These alliances included involvement (ceremonies) with their national idols!

“To drink the water” This repeated VERBAL (Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, BDB 1059, KB 1667) is a metaphor used as voluntary service of another. In a sense this was “self-imposed” exile!

Jeremiah 2:19 Like Jeremiah 2:13d and 17, this verse emphasizes the terrible results of Israel's choices (cf. Jeremiah 4:18)! Notice how “wickedness” (BDB 948) and “apostasies” (BDB 1000, cf. Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:8, Jeremiah 3:11, Jeremiah 3:14) will reprove and correct.

YHWH responds with two Qal IMPERATIVES (i.e., “know” and “see”). They will realize the consequences of their choices.

1. left YHWH

2. embraced idolatry

SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTÇMI)

“God of hosts” See Special Topic: Lord of Hosts.

Verses 20-25

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 2:20-25 20”For long ago I broke your yoke And tore off your bonds; But you said, 'I will not serve!' For on every high hill And under every green tree You have lain down as a harlot. 21Yet I planted you a choice vine, A completely faithful seed. How then have you turned yourself before Me Into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine? 22Although you wash yourself with lye And use much soap, The stain of your iniquity is before Me,” declares the Lord GOD. 23”How can you say, 'I am not defiled, I have not gone after the Baals'? Look at your way in the valley! Know what you have done! You are a swift young camel entangling her ways, 24A wild donkey accustomed to the wilderness, That sniffs the wind in her passion. In the time of her heat who can turn her away? All who seek her will not become weary; In her month they will find her. 25Keep your feet from being unshod And your throat from thirst; But you said, 'It is hopeless! No! For I have loved strangers, And after them I will walk.'“

Jeremiah 2:20-25 The UBS Handbook on Jeremiah lists the metaphors used to describe Israel's apostasy (p. 69).

1. a rebellious animal, Jeremiah 2:20a

2. a prostitute, Jeremiah 2:20b

3. a worthless vine from good stock, Jeremiah 2:21

4. a guilty person who cannot be washed, Jeremiah 2:22

5. a wild camel in heat, Jeremiah 2:23-24

6. a fool bent on self-destruction, Jeremiah 2:25

7. a thief, Jeremiah 2:26

Jeremiah 2:20 The first two parallel lines speak of the Exodus, where God formed Israel into a nation (cf. “planted” in Jeremiah 2:21) as He promised in Genesis 15:13-16. There are several other texts that use slavery imagery (cf. Leviticus 26:13; Isaiah 52:2-3; Jeremiah 30:8; Ezekiel 34:27). Israel traded the slavery of Egypt for the slavery of Mesopotamia!

Lines 4-6 refer to the pervasiveness of the fertility cult of Ba'al and Asherah (cf. Jeremiah 3:2, Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah 17:2; Deuteronomy 16:21; Hosea 4:11-14).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Fertility Worship of the Ancient Near East

Jeremiah 2:21 “choice vine” This is sorek (BDB 977 I), which means “red grape.” This was one of the best varieties of grapes (cf. Isaiah 5:1-7). But Israel became idolatrous and “turned yourself” (Niphal PERFECT, BDB 245, KB 253) “into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine.”

Jeremiah 2:22 God's people needed a spiritual cleaning (cf. Jeremiah 4:14; Jeremiah 13:27).

1. lye (BDB 684) refers to a mineral alkali

2. soap (BDB 141) refers to an alkali potash soap (cf. Malachi 3:2)

This, of course, is figurative language for “repentance.”

SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

“Lord GOD” This is the common title for Deity using Adon and YHWH in combination. See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

Jeremiah 2:23 “How can you say, 'I am not defiled'“ Here is the real problem (cf. Jeremiah 2:35). They thought

1. they were religious

2. they were worshiping YHWH

Self-deception is the worst possible blindness (cf. Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 30:12; Luke 16:15; Luke 18:9-14).

“the Baals” This was the male fertility god of Canaan. See Special Topic: Fertility Worship of the Ancient Near East.

“the valley” This is possibly a reference to Ben Hinnom (cf. Jeremiah 7:31-32; Jeremiah 19:2-6; Jeremiah 32:35; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6). It was where Molech, the fertility fire god, was worshiped by child sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 18:21).

SPECIAL TOPIC: MOLECH

Verses 26-28

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 2:26-28 26”As the thief is shamed when he is discovered, So the house of Israel is shamed; They, their kings, their princes And their priests and their prophets, 27Who say to a tree, 'You are my father,' And to a stone, 'You gave me birth.' For they have turned their back to Me, And not their face; But in the time of their trouble they will say, 'Arise and save us.' 28But where are your gods Which you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you In the time of your trouble; For according to the number of your cities Are your gods, O Judah.”

Jeremiah 2:26 These are the same leaders mentioned in Jeremiah 2:8.

1. kings

2. princes

3. priests

4. prophets

“is shamed” This VERB (Hiphil PERFECT, BDB 101, KB 116) is also found in Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 46:24; Jeremiah 48:1, Jeremiah 48:20; Jeremiah 50:2, also notice Jeremiah 8:9, Jeremiah 8:12! Fear of shame was a powerful motivation for eastern people (i.e., Jeremiah 15:9; Jeremiah 31:19; Jeremiah 48:13, Jeremiah 48:39; Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 19:9; Isaiah 20:5; Isaiah 23:4; Isaiah 37:27; Isaiah 45:16).

Jeremiah 2:27 “tree, 'You are my father'. . .stone, 'You gave me birth'“ This is a play on the symbols of the Canaanite fertility gods. Ba'al was symbolized by an uplifted stone (i.e., phallus) and Asherah by a carved stake or live tree (i.e., the tree of life).

“You gave me birth” The MT has the SINGULAR VERB (Qal PERFECT, BDB 408, KB 411); the Masoretic scholars suggested it be changed to the PLURAL.

“they have turned their back to Me” This parallels Jeremiah 32:33. In response YHWH turns His back to them (cf. Jeremiah 18:17).

There are two IMPERATIVES used to mock what idol worshipers said to their non-existent idols (cf. Jeremiah 2:28).

1. arise - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 877, KB 1086

2. save us - Hiphil IMPERATIVE, BDB 446, KB 448

Superstition is a sad and powerful reality in our fallen world (cf. Isaiah 44:17; Isaiah 45:20; Isaiah 46:6-7).

“save us” In the OT this refers to physical deliverance.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (OLD TESTAMENT TERM)

Jeremiah 2:28according to the number of your cities

Are your gods, O Judah” This refers either to the local Ba'als (cf. Jeremiah 11:13) or as we learn from Ugaritic literature, the Canaanite pantheon, which had 250 gods.

Verses 29-37

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 2:29-37 29”Why do you contend with Me? You have all transgressed against Me,” declares the LORD. 30”In vain I have struck your sons; They accepted no chastening. Your sword has devoured your prophets Like a destroying lion. 31O generation, heed the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness to Israel, Or a land of thick darkness? Why do My people say, 'We are free to roam; We will no longer come to You'? 32Can a virgin forget her ornaments, Or a bride her attire? Yet My people have forgotten Me Days without number. 33How well you prepare your way To seek love! Therefore even the wicked women You have taught your ways. 34Also on your skirts is found The lifeblood of the innocent poor; You did not find them breaking in. But in spite of all these things, 35Yet you said, 'I am innocent; Surely His anger is turned away from me.' Behold, I will enter into judgment with you Because you say, 'I have not sinned.' 36Why do you go around so much Changing your way? Also, you will be put to shame by Egypt As you were put to shame by Assyria. 37From this place also you will go out With your hands on your head; For the LORD has rejected those in whom you trust, And you will not prosper with them.”

Jeremiah 2:29 See note at Jeremiah 2:9.

“You have all transgressed against Me” Sin is personal and it is a rebellion against YHWH. The VERB is a Qal PERFECT (BDB 833, KB 981) denoting a settled attitude of rebellion and disobedience (cf. Jeremiah 2:8, Jeremiah 2:29; Jeremiah 3:13; Jeremiah 33:8; Isaiah 43:27; Isaiah 66:24; Ezekiel 2:3; Ezekiel 20:38; Hosea 7:13).

Notice the word “all,” which could refer to

1. everyone in that generation (cf. Jeremiah 2:31; Jeremiah 5:1; Jeremiah 6:13)

2. their ancestors as well

The rebellion of all Israel, and all humans, is clearly seen in Paul's litany of OT verses in Romans 3:9-18 and the summary statement in Romans 3:23!

Jeremiah 2:30-31 YHWH disciplined Israel (cf. Leviticus 26:0; Deuteronomy 28-29) so that she would return to Him, but she would not. She had forgotten His gracious presence, provision, and protection during her formation (i.e., exodus and wilderness wanderings).

Israel's rejection of their God was surprising and unnatural! They wanted their freedom (i.e., the results of the Fall, cf. Genesis 3:0)! The VERB in Jeremiah 2:31, line 4, is a Qal PERFECT, BDB 923, KB 1194.

Jeremiah 2:31

NASB“We are free to roam” NKJV“We are lords” NRSV“We are our own masters” NJB“We are free” JPSOA“We have broken loose” LXX“We will not be ruled”

The VERB רוד (Qal PERFECT, BDB 923, KB 1194, cf. Hosea 12:1) is rare. KB translates the Qal PERFECT as “to roam about freely.”

The UBS Handbook (p. 85) suggests it means “go here and there” and links back to the female camel of Jeremiah 2:23.

Jeremiah 2:32 “attire” This (BDB 905) was a sash that shows marital status of women (as does “ornaments,” BDB 725). Israel had broken YHWH's covenant symbolized by the marriage contract. This chapter is YHWH's divorce proceedings.

“My people have forgotten Me” This VERB (Qal PERFECT, BDB 1013, KB 1489) is a shocking comment about Israel's relationship to her Deity (the only true Deity). This tragedy continues (cf. Jeremiah 3:21; Jeremiah 13:25; Psalms 106:21-22).

Here the forgetfulness is a choice not an accident! Israel deliberately chose to leave YHWH, even after all He had done for her.

Jeremiah 2:33 “You have taught your ways” Israel was so evil that she taught prostitutes a thing or two about evil. This is an allusion to

1. fertility worship

2. foreign alliances

Jeremiah 2:34 “lifeblood of the innocent poor” The wealthy and powerful were taking advantage of the poor and powerless, see Jeremiah 7:6; Jeremiah 22:3, Jeremiah 22:17; and the book of Amos.

“You did not find them breaking in” The word translated “breaking in” is a NOUN (BDB 369, KB 573) found only here and in Exodus 22:2, where it refers to the killing of a burglar.

“But in spite of all these things” The Hebrew phrase is very uncertain. The AB, vol. 21, simply puts it in brackets!

The UBS Text Project has two options.

1. in spite of all these things (RSV)

2. on every oak (LXX, NEB)

It gives #1 a C rating (considerable doubt). The UBS Handbook also prefers #1 as “the least problematic” (p. 88).

The NASB, NRSV, NJB, and NIV connect the last line of Jeremiah 2:34 with Jeremiah 2:35.

Jeremiah 2:35 This shows the depth of their sin and self-deception as they rationalize their conduct. Possibly their prosperity blinded their eyes as they claimed promises from Deuteronomy 28-29, but forgot the conditional nature of YHWH's covenant!

Jeremiah 2:36-37 These verses clearly threaten an exile by Babylon. The political alliances (i.e., Egypt and the remnant of the Assyrian army, cf. Jeremiah 2:18) cannot save Israel from Nebuchadnezzar.

Jeremiah 2:36

NASB“go around so much” NKJV“gad about so much” NRSV“how frivolously. . .” NJB“how lightly you gad about” JPSOA“how you cheapen yourselves” REB“why do you so lightly. . .” LXX“whatever did you greatly despise”

The root of the VERB is uncertain and the ADVERB, “lightly” (BDB 547), seems to fit well with option #2. Here are the options for the VERB.

1. אזל - BDB 23, KB 27 - “go”

2. זלל - KB 272 -”to treat lightly”

Jeremiah 2:37 “hands on your head” This is a sign of captivity or mourning.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GRIEVING RITES

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 2". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/jeremiah-2.html. 2021.