John T. Willis

Monday, October 11, 2010

Yahweh will soon Punish Jerusalem--Jeremiah 4:5-31

A common theme runs through Jeremiah 4:5-31: Yahweh is about to devastate Jerusalem because of the sins of God's people Judah. Rhetorically, the composer uses several voices crying out to the audience. It is best to follow the text here.

I. Metaphors of the Foe from the North and a Lion. Jeremiah 4:5-10.
A. First, Yahweh through Jeremiah commands a group of people to "Blow the trumpet" and "Raise a standard" to call the Judeans to flee to nearby fortified towns, including Jerusalem [=Zion] to try to escape from the foe from the north. The verbal imperatives: "declare," "proclaim," "blow," "shout aloud," "gather together," and "raise" are all plural, demonstrating that the composer is addressing a group of people. "Blowing a trumpet" and "raising a standard" [flag, sign] are a common way to charge a people to respond in a certain way--see 4:5-6, 19, 21; 6:1, 17; 42:14; 50:2; 51:12, 27; Isaiah 18:3; 27:13; 58:1; Amos 3:6; and often. "Evil" means disaster or punishment. A foe from the north is a common theme in Jeremiah--1:13-16; 6:1, 22; 10:22; 13:20. 4:5-6.
B. Yahweh will "pounce" on Jerusalem [=Zion] likes a LION pounces on its prey. See 2:15; 5:6; Amos 1:2; 3:8, 12; Hosea 13:7-8; etc. The "destroyer of nations" is Babylon in this context. Putting on sackcloth, lamenting, and wailing are common means of demonstrating grief and repentance and sorrow. See 2 Samuel 1:17, 24, 26; Micah 1:8-9, 16; Amos 5:14-15. 4:7-8.
C. Yahweh through Jeremiah specifically denounces the kings and officials [princes], the priests, and the prophets of Judah. See 1:18; 2:26; and often. Hence, Jeremiah mocks the false prophets of Judah who declare PEACE, when in reality, punishment is ahead. 4:9-10.

II. Yahweh's Punishment of Judah has brought it on themselves. Jeremiah 4:11-18.
A. Yahweh declares he will send a "hot wind" on the people of Judah, not to "winnow" or "cleanse," but to destroy. 4:11-12.
B. Yahweh through the Babylonians comes up like clouds, his horses and chariots like the whirlwind and attacking eagles. Hence, Yahweh admonishes the Judeans to "wash their hearts." This is a powerful metaphor symbolizing repentance and change of life. 4:13-14.
C. Yahweh through Jeremiah declares that the Babylonians will come from the north. First, they will attack Dan in the far north, then Ephraim moving south, destroying the cities of Judah. The reason for this punishment is that the Judeans have rebelled against Yahweh. The ways and doings of the people of Judah have brought this on themselves. 4:15-18.

III. Yahweh himself is in great anguish over the stubborn sinfulness of his people. Jeremiah 4:19-22.
A. In many biblical texts, it is very difficult to distinguish between Yahweh and the prophet or composer. The speaker in 4:22 is clearly Yahweh, and most likely 4:19-22.
B. Yahweh is very emotional. Yahweh throws up his hands in anguish over the sinful deeds of his people. 4:19-21.
C. The REAL PROBLEM is that the people of God do not KNOW Yahweh, that is, they do not really have an intimate, personal, daily relationship with Yahweh. The people of Yahweh are just opposite of what they should be. They are skilled in doing EVIL=sin, but do not know how to do GOOD. 4:22.

IV. Yahweh announces that he will reverse creation into chaos. Jeremiah 4:23-28.
A. Jeremiah 4:23-26 uses the metaphor of the reversal of creation to communicate the idea that Yahweh is about to punish his people. The hearer [reader] surely detects the language of Genesis 1:1-2:3, but in reverse. 4:23-26.
B. Yahweh will indeed punish his sinful people, BUT Yahweh "will not make a full end." This is a recurring theme--see 5:10, 18; 30:11; 46:28. 4:27-28.

V. Yahweh uses the metaphor of "a woman in labor" to announce the impending punishment of the people of Judah. Jeremiah 4:29-31.
A. Yahweh announces that the towns of Judah will be forsaken as the Babylonians approach. 4:29.
B. Like Jezebel [see 2 Kings 9:30], Jerusalem adorns herself with various types of perfume and makeup to try to persuade the enemy [Babylon] to turn aside and not destroy this city. This is all in vain. Her "lovers," that is, her allies, will not come to her rescue. 4:30.
C. Jerusalem is like "a woman in labor," crying out in anguish, gasping for breath, stretching out her hands, imploring someone to rescue her from her plight. This metaphor occurs often in Jeremiah: see 6:24; 13:21; 22:23; 30:6. See further Micah 4:9-10; 5:3.

This paragraph is moving and powerful. When human beings persistently sin against God, in time Yahweh will punish the sinners. Jeremiah made such a proclamation in the seventh century B. C.

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

John Willis


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