For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

11:1.  “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,”


11:2.  “Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem:”


This indicates a fresh communication from God, and implies that an interval of unspecified duration had elapsed since the giving of the message contained in the first ten chapters.


It is generally accepted that the covenant mentioned here is  that given through Moses at Sinai, and recorded again in detail in Dt 29-30.


11:3.  “And say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel: Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant,”


God’s describing Himself as “the Lord God of Israel” indicates also that the present message is directed to the nation as a corporate body as well as to the Judah about to go into captivity.  While God deals with each generation of Israel on the basis of its conduct, He also sees each generation as but a link between the nation He had called out of Egypt and that which He will yet bring out of the Great Tribulation into millennial blessing.  There has always been a small believing remnant within the apostate mass of the nation, and it is that remnant which is the seed through which the life of the nation is preserved.


This present warning therefore applied not only to the generation addressed by the prophet, but to every generation, and not just of Israel but of all nations.  It is man’s disobedience that has brought God’s curse rather than His blessing upon every individual on the face of the whole earth, the perversity of man’s corrupt mind being disclosed in the fact that every man since Adam has chosen to be cursed rather than blessed, except for the tiny minority in each generation who have believed the Gospel.


11:4.  “Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them (keep My commandments), according to all which I command you: so shall you be my people, and I will be your God.”


This verse confirms that the covenant was that into which the people entered with God at Sinai.


The terrible nature of their bondage in Egypt is indicated in God’s describing their deliverance as having been “from the iron furnace,” the iron speaking perhaps of the relentless tyranny of their taskmasters; and the furnace, of the unremitting nature of their toil.  (The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary points out that, “The furnace was of earth, not of iron, Ps 12:6; a furnace, in heat and duration enough to melt even iron).


We miss the full force of the message, however, if we fail to remember that Egypt is a type of the world of business and pleasure where the unconverted, under the thraldom of Satan, spend their lives in bondage to the lusts of the flesh, scrabbling for worthless earthly gold, and fleeting, unsatisfying pleasure.


Obedience to His word was the link that made them, as it does every man, God’s people; and He, their God.  How simple is the Divine formula for happiness and eternal blessing, compared with the tortuous schemes of men, which keep them in bondage to sin, Satan, and death, and ultimately into the eternal torment of the lake of fire!


Man in his spiritually darkened natural state cannot understand that his greatest blessing is to be numbered amongst God’s people, and to walk in obedience to His commands.


11:5.  “That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day.  Then answered I, and said, So be it, O Lord.”


God fervently desired them to keep their part of the covenant, so that He could fulfill His, i.e., shower them with blessings.  He had brought them into and had given them a land flowing with milk and honey, but their flagrant disobedience had compelled Him to curtail the measure of blessing, for He will not impugn His Own holy character by blessing disobedience.  They, having cut themselves off from His blessing by their blatant disobedience, then had been guilty of the consummate folly of turning to worship idols, believing that blocks of wood and stone could give them what the Creator of the universe had withheld from them in chastisement!


It surely doesn’t require much spiritual insight to see that today’s world has aped Israel’s folly - including the worship of idols - in an effort to obtain what it mistakes for blessing: money, pleasure, ease, fame, etc., when simple obedience to God would have brought them present and eternal blessing.  Like Israel, however, through disobedience they have cut themselves off from blessing, and made themselves heirs of judgment, that judgment about to break on their guilty heads in the now imminent Tribulation.


We who are God’s people would do well to profit by the folly of Israel and Judah, and not cut ourselves off from blessing by similar disobedience, keeping in mind that His blessings during this Church age are spiritual rather than temporal.


Jeremiah responded by promising to deliver the message God had given him; and again we would do well to follow his example.  We too have been commanded to deliver God’s message - the Gospel - to earth’s perishing multitudes.  Surely honesty must compel us to confess how disobedient we have been.  Is it any wonder we experience so little blessing!


11:6.  “Then the Lord said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them.”


Above and beyond the literal command to Jeremiah to proclaim throughout the length and breadth of the land the imperative of obeying Jehovah, lies the spiritual lesson for believers of this present day to preach the Gospel at every opportunity. 


The specific mention of Judah and Jerusalem is obviously for a reason, and it may be to remind us that the world is also divided into the two parts represented by these names.  Since Judah, meaning he shall be praised, obviously speaks of worship; and since Jerusalem the capital is associated with the government of the land, their being mentioned here may be to remind us that the world to which we are to preach the Gospel is also divided into two parts: the religious and the secular.  The one as much as the other needs to hear the Gospel, for behind the facade of religion lies an ignorance of God just as great as that which marks the secular world.


It is to be remembered, however, that Judah’s destruction was inescapable.  As a nation her day of grace had ended.  She had exhausted God’s patience, and so is it with today’s world.  It too is doomed, but the Gospel is to be preached to that world so that the individual here and there who has ears to hear, may obey and save his soul, even while he experiences the results of God’s judgment on the world around him.  The few in Judah who might respond to Jeremiah’s preaching wouldn’t necessarily escape being carried into Babylon with their guilty fellows, but they would save their souls, and the soul is worth more than the whole world.


11:7.  “For I earnestly protested unto your fathers in the day that I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice.”


“... protested” as used here means admonished, warned; and “rising early,” means persistently.  God had spared no effort to warn the people of the need to obey Him if they hoped to be blessed, the alternative being to suffer His wrath if they refused to obey.  It has been the same with today’s world.  For the past two thousand years it too has been similarly warned, but it too has refused to listen, and now it too faces inexorable   judgment, the imminence of the Tribulation emphasizing the urgency of the need for us to sound the warning while it is still the day of grace.


11:8.  “Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; but they did them not.”


In spite of all God’s patient earnest pleading with them to obey, so that He might bless them, they refused to listen, and had thereby made themselves instead the heirs of judgment, that judgment being in the form of the fast approaching Babylonian captivity.  Instead of recognizing the wisdom of God, and walking according to His direction, they had stubbornly chosen to follow the dictates of their own corrupt minds, so that instead of inheriting all the blessings of God’s covenant, they were about to suffer its curses. 


Christendom has followed in Judah’s foolish footsteps, and having thus cut herself off from blessing, is also about to inherit judgment in the form of the terrible Tribulation cataclysms that will leave the earth in ruins, and see two-thirds of its population swept into eternity.


11:9.  “And the Lord said unto me, A conspiracy (mutiny, evil scheme) is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”


Their stubborn determination to reject God’s wise and beneficent control, and to live instead according to the dictates of their own evil minds, was mutiny.  Nor was it confined to just a fragment of the nation: all the people were involved, from the governors to the governed.  The mutiny against God was universal, and we are reading this page of Israel’s history wrongly if we fail to see in it the prewritten history of today’s world, the rebellion of that world precipitating the impending judgments of the Great Tribulation.


11:10.  “They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.”


The evil wasn’t confined to that present generation of Judah.  From the day God had delivered them out of Egypt’s bondage they had exhibited the same rebellious spirit; and in this we see demonstrated the principle that the rebellion of Adam has been practiced by all his descendants.  Man in his natural state is an incorrigible rebel against all that is of God; nor will anything change him except the new birth by which he dies vicariously in Christ, and is raised up also vicariously in his resurrected Savior as a new creation, possessing His life, His nature, and being clothed in His perfect righteousness, that new nature being willingly submissive to God, and making the believer therefore heir of present and eternal blessing.


Proof that there is inherent in man the consciousness of God, is the universal instinct to worship; but proof that man, made originally in the image of God intellectually, emotionally and volitionally, has become a ruined creature, is also clearly demonstrated in that he will worship every idol invented by his corrupt imagination, but he will not worship God!  Israel worshiped images of wood, stone, or metal, the only difference between her idolatry and that of our present society being that sophisticated man has dispensed with the literal idols, but he is no less an idolater, for his gods are money, education, pleasure, etc., the travesty which passes for the worship of God being as different from true worship as is day from night.  It is simply a modernized version of the same charade as passed with Israel for the worship of Jehovah, and is just as abominable in God’s sight.


11:11.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold I will bring evil (calamity, disaster, misfortune) upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.”


That foretold judgment, the Babylonian captivity, was far nearer than any of them suspected; and so is that which is about to engulf this present evil world, for every sign relative to the foretold Tribulation has already been fulfilled, except for the Rapture of the Church, and that event could occur before you have finished reading this sentence.


There was no escape for Judah, nor is their any for today’s equally rebel world.  It is doomed just as surely as if the judgment had already fallen.  And as Judah’s cries fell upon deaf ears when the judgment did come, so will the cries of today’s rebel world also go unheeded when the terrible Tribulation judgments begin.  God’s present gracious invitation is, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord; and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon,” Isa 55:6-7.  He is a fool who refuses to accept that gracious invitation while it is still the day of grace, for tomorrow could begin the day of judgment when God will refuse to listen.  That dreadful day will find earth’s rebels calling on the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them “... from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” see Re 6:12-17.


11:12.  “Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go, and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense: but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble.”


Judah’s futile appeals to their impotent idols will be duplicated in the Tribulation when the unbelievers of that dreadful era will find their idols: money, education, etc., equally powerless to save them from the wrath of the God they had despised.


11:13.  “For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal.”


Every city in Judah had its own false god, and the altars they had erected for the worship of them were multitudinous, “that shameful thing” being God’s angry description of the Baal worship generally. 


The “gods” of apostate Christendom are equally numerous, as are also the altars that have been erected for the worship of them; consider, for example, not only money, education, pleasure, etc., but the personalities associated with them, particularly the “stars” from the world of sport, music, theater, television.  The adulation given them is nothing short of worship.  Look at the “temples” that have been built to facilitate this idolatry: lavish corporate office complexes, magnificent theaters, art galleries, sports stadiums.  Consider the prices paid for admission to the events associated with sport, music, theater, etc.  That money is simply the “incense” burnt in the worship of the idol, the deluded devotees never giving a thought to the good that could be done with that money in helping to alleviate the misery of millions world-wide who are starving, sick, homeless, unemployed, illiterate, exploited, etc.


Our affluent western world has filled its cup of iniquity to the brim, and the day is almost here when God will call it to account, and execute judgment.


11:14.  “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble.”


The Judah represented by that generation had exhausted God’s patience and must perish, the only exception appearing to be, as always, the tiny believing remnant within the apostate mass of the nation.  He would consider no plea presented on behalf of the impenitent rebels, nor would he listen to any prayer for them.  Their doom was irrevocable.


It is tragedy beyond description when man or nation crosses over the invisible line that separates God’s mercy from His wrath; and it is sadly apparent that today’s world has crossed that line, for only the spiritually blind will fail to see the imminence of the Tribulation judgments that will leave the world in ruins.


11:15.  “What hath my beloved to do in mine house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many, and the holy flesh is passed from thee? when thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest.”


In spite of all her wickedness Judah was, and still is, beloved by God, but the evil of which she refused to repent made it impossible for Him to allow her to remain in His house, i.e., to continue dwelling in Canaan and polluting His holy Temple with the hypocritical travesty she foolishly expected Him to accept as worship.


Her “lewdness” was her idolatry with all its accompanying licentiousness; and “the many” with whom she had wrought this evil were the countless idols she worshiped, while keeping up the empty form of also worshiping Jehovah.


The Amplified rendering of “... and the holy flesh is passed from thee,” is, “Can vows and the holy flesh [of your sacrifices] remove from you your wickedness and avert your calamity?”  The answer, of course, is emphatically NO!


The last phrase and clause of this verse are also rendered, “Can you by these [hypocritical offerings] expect to escape judgment and thus be able to rejoice?” and again the answer is NO!  The God Who deals in reality abhors hypocrisy.


11:16.  “The Lord called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.”


It had once been God’s delight to look upon a united Israel and see her as a sturdy, beautiful, olive tree bearing fruit for His glory; and since olive oil is one of the biblical symbols of the Holy Spirit, the implication is that those brief halcyon days had been when she had first entered Canaan and walked in obedience, guided by the Holy Spirit.  How brief those days had been!  What sad changes the passing years had brought!  She was now ugly and vile, so marred by sin as to be unrecognizable as God’s once “green olive tree.”  She who had basked in the sunshine of His love, had now become the object of His fierce anger as He prepared to destroy her because she refused to repent and forsake her sin.


Significantly “the noise of a great tumult” is also translated “a rushing mighty wind,” “the roar of a great tempest;” and “a rushing mighty wind” is also used in Ac 2:2 to describe the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  The lesson appears to be that as the Holy Spirit had once been the Agent of Israel’s blessing, so was He now to be the Agent of her destruction, the Babylonians being His instrument.  That generation of the once beautiful olive tree was about to be consumed by the fierce anger of the Almighty.  The “fire” is believed by many to have been lightning indicating the unexpectedness with which the judgment would fall.


Today’s wicked, unrepentant world is also about to be destroyed by the fierce anger of that same offended God.


11:17.  “For the Lord of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced (decreed) evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal.”


The same almighty Jehovah Who had planted them in Canaan, and Who desired to bless them, was now compelled by their multiplied sins to visit them with judgment.  Nor should we miss the force of the words “which they have done against themselves.”  Every sin that a man commits is first against God, but ultimately also against himself.  His sins will be the criterion that will be used at the great white throne to measure the degree of eternal punishment to be endured by each unbeliever in the lake of fire.  And sadly, each sin committed by the believer will reduce the measure of his eternal reward at the judgment seat of Christ.


Did we but grasp how much God desires our love and worship (obedience being the measure of both) we would tremble at the very thought of giving to anyone or anything else what belongs first to Him.  This is not because He is selfish, but because as we love Him we will be better able to demonstrate His love to others. 


A question we would do well to ask ourselves relative to the things upon which we expend our time and money, is whether that expenditure could be viewed in any way as an expression of our love for God.  It is to be feared that too often those expenditures are the equivalent of idolatry!  Does pride, for example, impel the purchase of my clothes, car, house, etc?  Does my attendance at a sporting event demonstrate my love for God?  And the same question might be asked relative to my reading material, the time I spend watching TV or films, the games I play, the pastimes with which I while away precious time.  A question we might ask relative to every activity in which we engage, is, “Does this glorify Christ?  Will it bring me reward or loss when He reviews my life at His judgment seat?”


11:18.  “And the Lord hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou shewedst me their doings.”


God didn’t send His servant to pronounce a message of doom without first fully revealing the cause of the judgment.  He gave Jeremiah a full revelation of all the evil on Judah’s part that had provoked His righteous anger, and that justified His destruction of them.


He makes the same revelation available to believers today relative to the impending Tribulation judgments, by imparting the ability to read the typological and symbolic language of Scripture, but sadly few are willing to give to the study of the written Word the necessary time, with the result that to many professing Christians biblical typology and symbolism are unknown languages which they never learn, their failure robbing them not only of knowledge, but of fascinating enjoyment in the study of God’s Word.


11:19.  “But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.”


This describes Jeremiah’s feelings upon learning from God that the men of Judah were plotting to kill him.  Their purpose was to cut him down as one would a tree so that he would no longer be able to exasperate them by speaking the truth relative to their sin, and God’s punishment of them, and so that the very memory of him would be quickly forgotten.


“... a lamb or an ox” is generally understood to be simply “a docile lamb.”  It surely isn’t difficult to see in Jeremiah a figure or type of the Lord Jesus Christ Who was “led as a lamb to the slaughter,” and against Whom the venomous hatred of a later generation of that same wicked nation was also directed.  As they hated the prophet for speaking the truth, so did they also hate Christ for the same reason: He exposed their sin, foretold their judgment, and pleaded with them to repent, but they would not.  


Their evil intention was to destroy the Lord so that the memory of Him would also soon be forgotten, but they left God out of their plans.  Their gloating was short-lived.  It lasted only till the third day when He arose victorious over them, over Satan, hell, sin, and the grave.  And contrary to all their vain hope, His memory lives, not only in Palestine, but to the ends of the earth, revered by millions, while theirs is held in opprobrium.


It is interesting to note how God has requited the vindictive hatred of those who sought to blot out the memory of Jeremiah: his name is still known world-wide, while theirs is forgotten.  No man need ever fear to leave his cause in God’s hands.


11:20.  “But, O Lord of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins (kidneys) and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause.”


The ancients believed the kidneys or inward parts to be the seat of the emotions; and the heart, of intelligence or understanding.  Jeremiah knew the wisdom of leaving his case in God’s hands, being assured of his vindication at the hand of Him Whose judgment is according to perfect knowledge, not only of men’s thoughts, but also of the motives that prompt them.


And appropriate to the age of law, the prophet called for vengeance; but how different was Christ’s plea to the Father on behalf of those who had crucified Him, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Lk 23:34.


Jeremiah lived to see his imprecation answered: those who had plotted his death were themselves slain or carried off into captivity in Babylon.  The Lord also, though He had not called for vengeance, saw the Jews of His day also slain and carried away captive by the Romans in AD 70.  But the Christ Who wept over Jerusalem, and Who implored the Father to forgive the guilty nation for having crucified Him, will yet be seen in a very different role by the generation that will meet Him, not as the Lamb as at His first advent, but as King of kings, returned to reign in power and glory at the end of the Great Tribulation.  Following His gracious invitation to the believing remnant of Israel and of the Gentiles, assembled on His right hand as sheep, to enter His millennial kingdom, will be His command to the unbelieving remainder assembled on His left hand as goats, “Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels ... And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal,” Mt 25:41-46.


11:21.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord of the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the Lord, that thou die not by our hand:”


Anathoth meaning affliction: answers, and located a few miles north-east of Jerusalem, was Jeremiah’s hometown, and the bitter hatred of his townsmen, and possibly of his kinsmen who were also priests, displayed in their threat to kill him, is an example of the truth declared by the Lord Himself in Jn 4:44, “A prophet hath no honor in his own country.” It reminds us also of what is written concerning the Lord in Ps 41:9, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”


11:22.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will punish them: the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine:”


In the Psalm of David recorded 1 Chr 16:22 it is written that the Lord’s command concerning His servants was, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”  Having given this command, however, He did permit some of His faithful prophets to be slain, but that doesn’t mean that their murderers won’t be called to account.  They will!  At the judgment of unbelievers at the great white throne every such murderer, together with every other unrepentant sinner, will be banished into eternal torment in the lake of fire, including those who killed the greatest of all the prophets, the Lord Jesus Christ.  But the punishment isn’t always delayed until the great white throne.  Sometimes the judgment has been swift.  In the present instance it came in Jeremiah’s lifetime in the form of the Babylonian captivity.


11:23.  “And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation (punishment).”


Not one would be left of the men who plotted Jeremiah’s death, and “the year of their visitation,” i.e., the time appointed by God to pour out His judgment upon them, was far nearer than any of them suspected.


And so was it with those who slew the Lord Jesus Christ.  Within thirty-eight years Jerusalem was left a smoking ruin, thousands of the people throughout the land were slain, thousands more sold as slaves, the few who escaped being scattered amongst the hated Gentiles, where their descendants remain to this day, with the exception of the few who have began to return to Palestine since the restoration of their autonomy in 1948, that foretold restoration and return being the warning that the foretold judgment of this whole evil world is also now imminent in the form of the terrible Tribulation judgments that will leave the world in ruins.


He who fails to see in Israel’s history and judgment a miniature of the history and judgment of the world, is reading Scripture without understanding.

[Jeremiah 12]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough