Searching for One Righteous Person [Part III]--Jeremiah 6:16-30
The final portion of Jeremiah 5-6: Searching for One Righteous Person, is Jeremiah 6:15-30. This portion falls into three parts: 6:16-21, 22-26, 27-30. Here are some of the major highlights in this text.
I. Yahweh's people have rejected the Law and the Prophets. 6:16-21.
a. Jeremiah reports this message from Yahweh [the introduction is "Thus says Yahweh"]: Yahweh calls on the people of God [the imperatives are PLURAL]:
"Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ANCIENT PATHS,
where the GOOD WAY lies; and walk in it
and find rest for your souls"--6:16.
The "ancient paths" and the "good way" refers to the Law of Yahweh first given through Moses at Mount Sinai. BUT, the people of God reply flatly: "We will not walk in it." That is, we will not live according to God's ordinances and decrees and commandments.
b. Yahweh says further that he had raised up "sentinels," watchmen, proclaiming: "Give heed to the sound of the trumpet!" This is metaphorical language referring to God's true prophets. In the ancient world, people would station designated watchmen or sentinels on the walls of a fortified city to protect the people about possible invaders or spies. See 2 Samuel 18:24-27; Isaiah 21:6-12. Watchmen often used a trumpet to warn the people in the city. See Ezekiel 3:16-21. BUT, the people of God reply flately: "We will not give heed!" 6:17.
c. Yahweh now turns to "the nations" and "the earth," calling all peoples to see what the chosen people of God are doing. They are intent on external acts of worship: offerings burnt offerings and sacrifices using frankincense and sweet cane, but have no intention of changing their hearts and their lives. So Yahweh will punish his chosen people in the eyes of the whole world, all the nations. 6:18-21.
II. Yahweh announces that he will bring the Babylonians to punish the sinful people of God. Jeremiah 6:22-26.
a. Yahweh declares that he is bringing "a foe from the north," "a great nation," clearly Babylon. 6:22-24. See 1:13-16; 4:5-6; 6:1.
b. Now, Yahweh uses two metaphors to communicate this imminent punishment.
1. The punishment of Judah is like "pain as of a woman in labor." 6:25. This same figure appeared earlier in 4:31, and will appear several more times in the book of Jeremiah.
2. Yahweh warns his chosen people not to go outside, because the enemy [Babylon] has a sword: "TERROR IS ON EVERY SIDE." 6:25. This expression occurs five times in the book of Jeremiah. In Hebrew, this term is "MAGOR MISSABIB."
III. Yahweh tells Jeremiah that his role or function is to be a REFINER. Jeremiah 6:27-30.
a. In the ancient world, miners or excavators unearthed various types of precious jewels: silver, gold, topaz, onyx, crystal, sapphire, etc., and then refined them to remove the alloys or dross. They did this by putting the metals in a furnace, and heat the furnace to a certain temperature to remove the alloys. See the extended description of this in Job 28:1-19.
b. Yahweh compares Jeremiah with a refiner. Yahweh says to Jeremiah:
"I have made YOU [singular] a tester and refiner among my people
so that you may know and test their ways." 6:27.
c. Yahweh's people are stubborn and rebellious. They are not like silver and gold, but like bronze and iron. "All of them act corruptly." 6:28.
d. By preaching, but proclaiming Yahweh's message to his chosen people, Jeremiah functions like a "bellows blowing fiercely." The hot fire CONSUMES the lead, and the refining is in vain. Yahweh calls his people "REJECTED SILVER," because they had rejected Yahweh. 6:29-30.
Yahweh desires to bring his people to repentance, but they refuse to respond. Accordingly, Yahweh's only alternative is to punish his people. This is essentially the message of Jeremiah 5-6.
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