John T. Willis

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hear the Words of this Covenant--Jeremiah 11:1-17

As indicated in a previous blog, Jeremiah 2-20 seems to be a unified section of the book of Jeremiah. Within chapters 2-20, chapters 2-10 are closely connected, and chapters 11-20 are closely connected. We now turn to this second portion of Jeremiah 2-20. A dominant theme of Jeremiah 11-20 is Jeremiah's Laments or Complaints. There are six complaints of Jeremiah sprinkled along through Jeremiah 11-20. Of course, there are several other themes running through these chapters, and in many ways these are linked with chapters 2-10.

The editor or redactor or composer of author of Jeremiah 11:1-17 tells his audience that Yahweh's word came to Jeremiah, and this word is: "Hear the words of this covenant" (this expression appears in 11:2, 3, 6, 8). We modern readers do not know for certain what "this covenant" is. In the historical context of Jeremiah, "this covenant" seems to be the Book of Deuteronomy. Throughout the Book of Jeremiah, there are frequent references and quotes to Deuteronomy. Hilkiah the priest found a copy of the law in the temple when Josiah was repairing the Jerusalem temple, and this was probably Deuteronomy or a portion thereof. See 2 Kings 22:3-20. Jeremiah 11:1-17 falls into four sections or paragraphs.

I. Yahweh commands Jeremiah to speak to the people of Judah to obey his law. Jeremiah 11:1-5.
a. Yahweh declares through Jeremiah to Yahweh's people that Yahweh will "curse" them if they do not keep his commandments. When Yahweh brought his people Israel out of Egypt, Yahweh gave them his commandments at Mount Sinai=Horeb. 11:1-4a.
b. Yahweh proclaims that if his people obey him, "they will be his people, and he will be their God," the common Biblical expression for the marriage between God and his people. See Exodus 6:7; Deuteronomy 4:20; 7:6-8; and often. Yahweh also promised his people that he would give them the land of Canaan. 11:4b-5b.
c. Jeremiah responds: "So be it, Lord." 11:5c.

II. Yahweh instructs Jeremiah to tell the people of Judah that Yahweh will punish them because they have constantly disobeyed him. Jeremiah 11:6-8.
a. Yahweh specifically commands Jeremiah to proclaim his message to the Judeans in the cities of Judah and in Jerusalem. This message is: "OBEY MY VOICE." 11:6-7.
b. However, the people of Judah "walked in the STUBBORNNESS of an EVIL will." Therefore, Yahweh will punish them. 11:8.

III. Yahweh tells Jeremiah that the people of Israel and the people of Judah have turned against God to serve other gods. Jeremiah 11:9-13.
a. Yahweh declares that not only the present generation, but the previous generations of God's people have turned away from Yahweh to go after other gods and in this way broken the covenant [marital relationship between Yahweh and Yahweh's people]. 11:9-10.
b. THEREFORE, Yahweh declares that he is about to punish his sinful people. They will "cry out" to Yahweh, but Yahweh will not answer their prayers. 11:11.
c. Then, Yahweh's people will go to other gods, especially the Baals, to try to persuade these gods to intervene and deliver them from Yahweh's destruction. These gods are everywhere, when none of them can save Yahweh's people from destruction. 11:12-13.

III. Yahweh forbids Jeremiah to pray for Yahweh's sinful people. Yahweh will punish them. Jeremiah 11:14-17.
a. Just as in Jeremiah 7:16, now again Yahweh specifically commands Jeremiah not to pray in behalf of Yahweh's people. This is strange and awkward for many of us, because we assume we must always pray in behalf of all people under all circumstances. According to the Bible, this is often true, but not always. When people are stubborn against God for a long period of time, Yahweh commands Jeremiah NOT to pray for such people. 11:14.
b. God's people perform many external religious acts "at church," but Yahweh does not accept such people when they do not obey him. 11:15.
c. When Yahweh first chose his people, they were "a green olive tree," but by consistently rebelling against Yahweh, they became rotten, and now Yahweh will consume this tree. 11:16.
d. The people of Yahweh has done EVIL [sin] against Yahweh. Now, in response, Yahweh will bring EVIL [punishment] on his wicked people. They have turned against Yahweh to worship and serve Baal. Therefore, Yahweh, "the Lord of hosts" [of the armies of angels, of Babylon] will punish them. 11:17.

We do not want to receive and accept a message like this. But Yahweh is trying to save at least a remnant when the entire people stubbornly turn against God. A loving God is a God of tough love to save his people.

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

John Willis


  • I was very pleased to find your blog. I had been reading "Insights from the Psalms" and wondered if these three volumes had been consolidated and republished as a single book, so I googled your name and found the blog. While at Lipscomb I had the privilege of taking a course or two that you taught. To this day I think of you whenever I read Amos, Hosea or Micah. I bookmarked the blog and will enjoy it often. Rob Robinson (LU nee DLC 1971)

    By Blogger Rob, at 6:58 AM  

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