John T. Willis

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Thirsty Traveler--Jeremiah 2:1-19

One theme holds Jeremiah 2:1-19 as a unified paragraph: the people of God [Israel, Jacob, Judah] has FORSAKEN Yahweh. Note the words: Israel [Jacob, Judah, the people of God] "were held guilty"--2:3; "went far from" God--2:5; "went after worthless things"--2:5, 8, 11; "defiled my [God's] land"--2:7; "transgressed against" God--
2:8; "changed their glory"--2:11; "forsook" God--2:13, 17, 19. Jeremiah presents this in three shorter sub-paragraphs.

I. The people of God rejected Yahweh after they settled in the land of Canaan. Jeremiah 2:1-3.
a. Jeremiah himself in the first person [note "me" in 2:1] reports that "the word of the Lord came" to Jeremiah. 2:1. Jeremiah does not explain HOW the word of the Lord came to him. This could have been by a vision or a dream or a voice or a message from another prophet. The Bible just does not say.
b. Yahweh tells Jeremiah to go and proclaim Yahweh's message to Jeremiah in the hearing of Jerusalem. 2:2a. Jeremiah does not specify WHERE he was to do this. This could have been at the Jerusalem temple or in the city gate of Jerusalem or near Jeremiah's house. The Bible just does not say.
c. First, Yahweh commends his people for their DEVOTION to Yahweh as a YOUTH to a loving parent, for their LOVE to Yahweh as a BRIDE shows her love for her newly married GROOM. 2:2b. The statements here assume the figure of Yahweh as a parent, and Israel or Judah as a child; AND the figure of Yahweh as a groom or husband, and Israel or Judah as a bride.
d. Further, Yahweh commends his people for FOLLOWING Yahweh during the forty years when the Israelites were in the WILDERNESS from the crossing of the Red Sea to the stay at Shittim just before the crossing of the Jordan in the days of Joshua.
e. In the wilderness period, Israel was HOLY to Yahweh, the FIRST FRUITS of Yahweh's harvest. 2:3a.
f. BUT, when the Israelites came into the land of Canaan and began living there, they changed. Their HEARTS turned from Yahweh to profitless pursuits. Those who ATE of the land of Canaan WERE HELD GUILTY, and DISASTER came upon them. 2:3b. Israel or Judah forsook Yahweh.

II. In response to Yahweh's charge to Jeremiah in 2:1-3, Jeremiah now proclaims Yahweh's message to the people of God in Jerusalem. Now, Yahweh through Jeremiah denounces God's people because they have forsaken Yahweh. Jeremiah 2:4-13.
a. First, Jeremiah addresses "the house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel"--2:4. In context, this refers to the people of Judah.
b. Yahweh ironically asks his people: What WRONG did I [Yahweh] do to cause your ancestors to "go away from" Yahweh? 2:5. Yahweh is saying: I MUST have done something wrong, otherwise YOUR ANCESTORS and you yourselves would not have forsaken Yahweh. 2:5. God's people "went after" worthless things--here idols or false gods, and became worthless themselves. Any time we forsake the true God, and go after other gods of any kind, we become worthless ourselves.
c. God's people FORGOT all the mighty acts of Yahweh to deliver and sustain them: Yahweh brought them out of Egypt, led them in the wilderness forty years, and brought them into the land of Canaan. 2:6-7a.
d. BUT, when the Israelites settled in the land of Canaan, they "defiled" this land by forsaking Yahweh and worshipping the gods of the land: Baal, Dagon, and other gods. 2:7b.
e. The "priests," "rulers"--literally "shepherds," and "prophets" of Judah "transgressed against" Yahweh and "went after things that do not profit"--in this context, "Baal," the god of the Canaanites. 2:8.
f. In response, Yahweh "accuses" the people of God of their sins. 2:9.
g. Yahweh declares that no other nations has ever acted at the people of God have acted. Other nations have not "changed" their gods, BUT "MY PEOPLE" [Israel, Jacob, Judah] have "changed" "their glory" [Yahweh] for "something that does not profit"--in this context--foreign gods, especially Baal. 2:10-12.
h. "My people" [Judah] have commited TWO EVILS [sins]. 2:13.
1. They have FORSAKEN Yahweh, "the fountain of living water."
2. They have "dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water."
Here, Yahweh through Jeremiah compares the people of God with A THIRSTY TRAVELER. The traveler has been on a very long journey. He has run out of water, and is very thirsty. Suddenly, he comes to a fork in the road. Before him are two paths. One path goes to a gushing fountain with flowing water. The other path goes to some broken cisterns that can hold no water--foreign gods, especially Baal. Which path will the thirsty traveler choose to pursue? EVERYONE will NATURALLY take the path to the foundtain with flowing water. BUT NOT GOD'S PEOPLE. Unlike everyone else, God's people will take the path to the broken cisterns.

III. Yahweh denounces the people of God, BECAUSE they have deliberately decided to FORSAKE Yahweh and trust in EGYPT and ASSYRIA, which they view as powerful and dependable. Jeremiah 2:14-19.
a. Historically, this paragraph seems to refer to the time when Josiah king of Judah fought against Pharaoh-Neco and the Egyptians as they were going to fight against the Babylonians at Carchemish--609 B. C. This story appears in 2 Kings 23:28-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-27. Jeremiah 2:16 apparently specifically refers to this event. "The people of Memphis and Tahpanhes" are the Egyptians. "The crown of your 'Judah's' head" is the king, namely, Josiah.
b. Israel [Judah] is not a slave or a homeborn servant. 2:14. But because of Judah's sins, Yahweh is treated them as if they were a slave or a homeborn servant.
c. "Lions"--a symbol of the enemies of Judah [see Jeremiah 4:7] have "roared against" the people of Judah. 2:15. Jeremiah seems to be using the language of Amos in this text--see Amos 1:2; 3:8, 12. See also Hosea 13:7-8.
d. Yahweh is about to punish his people BECAUSE "they brought this upon themselves" as a result of their sins. 2:17.
e. The people of Judah sent to Egypt and Assyria for help rather than trusting in Yahweh. 2:18. One may think of Ahaz sending to Tiglath-pileser III for help--Isaiah 7:1-17; 8:1-18; and of Hezekiah sending to Egypt for help--Isaiah 30:1-7; 31:1-3.
f. Judah's "wickedness" and "apostasies" cause Yahweh to "punish" and "convict" them. They have "forsaken" Yahweh. "The FEAR [awe, respect, reverence] of Yahweh is not in them. 2:19.

When the people of God forsake God and turn to anyone or anything else, God inevitably will punish them. This is Yahweh's message through Jeremiah in Jeremiah 2:1-19.

Share YOUR thoughts and insights to others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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