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

13:1.  “Thus saith the Lord unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.”


The linen girdle or loin cloth is a symbol of Israel, her unclean spiritual state being portrayed in the fact that it was not to be put in water, i.e., washed.


An obvious question is, Why did God direct that an undergarment rather than an outer one be used?  The answer is that His omniscient eye beheld what man could not see: all the secret evil of Israel.  She in her spiritual blindness imagined that adherence to an outward religious ritual made her righteous in God’s sight.  It didn’t; nor is today’s apostate Christianity justified in His sight by its similar dependence on empty hypocritical religious ritual.


13:2.  “So I got a girdle according to the word of the Lord, and put it on my loins.”


13:3.  “And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying,”


13:4.  “Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates (Parah or Perath), and hide it there in a hole of the rock.”


Euphrates may also be translated Perath (Parah), a village a little northeast of Anathoth, the writers of The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pointing out that, “In Hebrew the spelling for ‘to Parah’ and ‘to Euphrates’ is identical.  By using a location so close to home the people were able to observe Jeremiah’s symbolic actions, and the similarity of name would remind the nation of the army from the Euphrates that was coming to destroy them.”  It seems more likely therefore that Jeremiah hid the girdle in the vicinity of Perath rather than at the Euphrates.


Since the Euphrates is the river of Babylon, the hiding of the unwashed girdle in a hole in Parah is symbolic of Judah’s seventy year captivity in that land, the hiding of the girdle portraying the fact that during those years her autonomy would cease: she would be the slave of the Babylonians. 


As has been discussed already, the Babylonian captivity was itself the precursor of the Diaspora (the world-wide scattering of the Jews in AD 70), and it is instructive to note that during the past two thousand years the type has been fulfilled.  The Jews, without national identity, have had to live amongst those portrayed by Babylon, people whose religion is a travesty of that appointed by God, i.e., the Levitical order, and it is significant that that same Levitical order will be the universal form of worship in the Millennium when Jewish autonomy will be restored and will be also universal.


13:5.  “So I went and hid it by Euphrates (Perah), as the Lord commanded me.”


Had Judah exhibited similar obedience she would never have had to experience either the Babylonian captivity or her present two-thousand year dispersal amongst the Gentiles.  The Divine principle which Israel and the nations have chosen to disregard is that God blesses obedience, and punishes disobedience, nor will they live by that principle until the terrible Tribulation judgments will have ended with the destruction of every unbeliever, and the bringing of an obedient remnant of Israel and of the Gentiles into the millennial kingdom.  The phenomenal peace and blessing of that halcyon age will demonstrate by comparison the utter folly of all past generations in their having chosen to disobey God.


13:6.  “And it came to pass after many days, that the Lord said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates (Parah), and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.


The long time between God’s having commanded Jeremiah to hide the girdle, and this present command to retrieve it from its hiding place, portrays the long time - two thousand years - that would elapse between the Diaspora and the restoration of a believing Israel to her land in the Millennium.


13:7.  “Then I went to Euphrates (Parah), and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.”


While the first application of this may be to Judah’s return from Babylon at the end of the foretold seventy years, it is much more likely that the primary application is to her regathering from the Diaspora in unbelief, that regathering having begun in 1948 and continuing till the present, and being the assurance that these are the closing days of the age, the Lord Himself having warned that the generation witnessing Israel’s return would not have passed from the earth until all was fulfilled relative to the Tribulation and the inauguration of the millennial kingdom, see Mt 24:34, Mk 13:30, and Lk 21:32.  As the digging up of the long buried girdle revealed its worthlessness, so will the “digging up” of Israel (her being brought out of her two-thousand-year-long “burial” amongst the nations) reveal also her moral worthlessness.


13:8.  “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”


13:9.  “Thus saith the Lord, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.” 


The Diaspora, the present regathering in unbelief, and the Tribulation judgments, will all be used of God to expose Israel’s sin, bringing a repentant remnant of the nation to faith in their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, thus fitting them to enter into the enjoyment of the millennial blessing so long deferred by their rebellion.


The mention of Judah and Jerusalem points to the two-fold character of Israel’s pride, that associated with the name Judah being religious and involving the erroneous belief that all God required was the mechanical performance of the Levitical ritual, and their failure to realize that He had appointed that ritual for the presentation of the worship of only the believing remnant which has always existed in the midst of the apostate mass of the nation.  Performance of that ritual apart from loving obedience was and still is a hypocritical travesty which angered God and provoked His judgment rather than His blessing.


Christendom is guilty of the same sin, for the hypocritical performance of the ritual of Christian worship is equally obnoxious to God, and will also be visited with judgment.


As religion is associated with the name Judah, meaning he shall be praised, so is government associated with Jerusalem, meaning dual peace shall be taught: lay (set) ye double peace, and “the great pride of Jerusalem” refers here to Judah’s erroneous belief that because God had chosen Jerusalem to be His city, and had placed His Temple there, they were invincible: God would never permit the enemy to touch them.


Christendom, comprised largely of the powerful western nations, labors under the delusion that their military might renders them also invincible.  The Tribulation judgments will teach them their error.


13:10.  “This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing.”


How different was God’s view of Judah compared with that which she entertained of herself!  She considered herself righteous.  God said she was evil.  She considered herself obedient.  God called her a rebel who rejected His Word and followed the dictates of her own stubborn mind.  She thought that her token acknowledgment of Jehovah by means of the mechanical observance of the Levitical ritual more than balanced her idolatry.  How terribly mistaken she was!  Her multiplied sins, combined with her brazen hypocrisy, had made her as worthless in God’s sight as the rotted girdle.  She had made herself fit only for the destruction about to come upon her at the hand of Babylon; and today’s Christendom, having duplicated her wickedness, has also made herself fit only for the destruction about to come upon her in the imminent Great Tribulation.


13:11.  “For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the Lord; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.”


As a girdle or loin cloth clings to a man’s body so did God intend Israel and Judah to cling to Him in obedient dependence so that He might bless them.  He wanted them to be His specially chosen people in whom others, seeing the blessedness that attends obedience, would honor, glorify, and praise Him also.  But they chose to rebel rather than obey, thus thwarting His purposes, bringing dishonor to His name, and chastisement to themselves.


Every Christian has been invested with the same responsibility and privilege, but sadly, many have chosen also to disobey, so that they languish under chastisement, when they could have been enjoying blessing.


13:12.  “Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word; Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine; and they shall say unto thee, Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine?”


The word here used for bottle is earthen jar rather than the usual skin; and the more accurate rendering is “Every bottle is meant to be filled with wine.”  Since wine is a biblical symbol of joy and gladness, and since these earthen jars represent people, the truth being declared here is that God desires everyone to be filled with the joy that is His recompense of obedience, His desire being explicitly declared in the words of Peter, “The Lord ... is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Pe 3:9.


Like many today, however, rebellious Judah saw only the literal meaning of the words, their failure to discern the symbolic meaning robbing them of the ability to understand what God was saying to them.  The almost universal ignorance of the symbolic and  typological meaning of Scripture on the part of nominal Christians today, is simply another evidence that Christendom is largely apostate, and is as near to judgment as was the Judah addressed by the prophet.


13:13.  “Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon David’s throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness.”


Because the people refused to obey and thus be filled with the joy and gladness which God gives to those who obey Him, He would

cause them instead to be filled with foolishness so that they would act as stupidly as drunken men, the malaise being endemic, afflicting prince, priest, and peasant alike.


One has but to look at today’s apostate Christendom to see that she suffers from the same sickness, and will be visited with the judgment of which the Babylonian captivity of Judah is but a type.


13:14.  “And I will dash them one against another (scatter, shatter), even the fathers, and the sons together, saith the Lord: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.”


This smashing of the wine jars is the graphic description of the destruction of Judah at the hand of the ruthless Babylonians who would slaughter multitudes of the rebels, and carry the remainder off into captivity.  God, using the Babylonians as His instrument of chastisement, would have neither pity nor mercy.  That rebel generation would be destroyed; as will be also apostate Christendom in the Great Tribulation.


13:15.  “Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken.”


See comments on verse 9 relative to the pride of the people.  They would have been much better heeding Jehovah’s words than finding false confidence in their hypocritical so-called worship and imagined invincibility.


13:16.  “Give glory to the Lord your God, before he causes darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while you look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.”


This may not be taken to mean that there was hope of reprieve.  There wasn’t.  Their doom was sealed.   It was the warning for them to give heed to the matter of the salvation of their souls.  It was too late for the repentance that would have averted their national destruction, but not yet too late for the repentance that would have ensured the salvation of their souls.


Apart from repentance the darkness they would ultimately enter is the eternal darkness of hell and the lake of fire.


Since mountains are the biblical symbol of kings and kingdoms, the dark mountains they were being warned to avoid may be the powers of darkness ruled by Satan, though we may not dismiss the thought that the dark mountains may refer to the great white throne, where the Lord Jesus Christ, no longer in His role of Savior, but of Judge, will banish all those arraigned there into the eternal darkness and torment of the lake of fire.


The warning was against the fatal delusion that their being Jews was the guarantee of the salvation of their souls after death.  They were being warned that just as that false belief had doomed them to physical destruction at the hand of the Babylonians, so would it also doom them to that which is eternal.  That darkness would indeed be “gross,” i.e., thick, impenetrable, and eternal, see Jude 12.


That same warning applies no less to those who constitute apostate Christendom.  The hypocritical religious so-called worship that is bringing upon them the Tribulation judgments, will also sink them down to hell.


13:17.  “But if you will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock is carried away captive.”


This discloses the prophet’s deep love for the rebellious people, even though he was aware that they hated him and sought his life, and surely no one will fail to see in that love a faint foreshadowing of that of the Lord Jesus Christ for that same rebellious nation.  He too, foreknowing her terrible end, wept over Jerusalem, and even as He hung on the cross, besought His Father, “... forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Lk 23:34.


13:18.  “Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities (headship, dominion) shall come down, even the crown of your glory.”


The king thus addressed was Jehoiachin, also called Jeconiah; and the queen was the queen mother Nehushta, widow of Jehoiachim.  They were among those carried captive into Babylon following the siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC.  Whether Jeremiah knew that the deportation of the people would be in two stages - this one in 597 BC, and the next in 589 BC - isn’t disclosed, nor is it important.  Knowing that the captivity was imminent, and that these two royal personages were about to be stripped of their royal glory and power, he advised them to get down in humble penitence before God, and it isn’t unlikely that he also advised them to seek the salvation of their souls since that was the only thing that really mattered, and everything else they had valued was about to be snatched away.


Since Jehoiachin reigned for only three months, Jeremiah’s message was obviously delivered during those three months, i.e., in 597 BC.


This is the lesson God would have every man learn, for there comes a moment in every man’s life when he must leave the things of earth behind him for ever as his soul takes it flight into eternity - to hell or heaven depending on whether he had accepted or rejected God’s pardon and gift of eternal life while on earth.


13:19.  “The cities of the south shall be shut up (besieged), and none shall open (relieve) them: Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive.”


The “south” was the Negeb, the semi-arid region in the south of Judah, the capture of that area showing that the Babylonian incursion involved the whole land from north to south.  The all-inclusiveness of the captivity is declared in the fact, that unlike the invasion of 597 BC which left some of the people in the land, that of 589 (still future when Jeremiah uttered this warning) would leave none.


13:20.  “Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?”


This was addressed to Jerusalem, i.e., to the rulers of Judah, bidding them to look northward at the approaching mighty Babylonian army; and the question asked was rhetorical, Where is the flock, i.e., the people over whom God had set them as shepherds?  The answer is all too obvious.  The people would all be carried away into Babylonian captivity, and so would those same rulers whose evil example had encouraged the people to sin, and had thus brought God’s judgment on the whole nation, from king to peasant.


“Beautiful flock” is literally “the flock of which you were so proud; that was your boast.”  This continues to indicate the basic pride which was so abhorrent to God, see comments on verse 9.


13:21.  “What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? for thou hast taught (accustomed) them to be captains, and as chief over thee: shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail?”


Other translations remove the ambiguity of the KJ version, e.g., “What will you say when they sit as head over you, those whom you yourself have taught to be friends to you” - Revised Standard Version; “What will you say when they descend on you as conquerors, those you yourself taught to be your friends?” - Jerusalem Bible; “How will you feel when I set your allies over you as your rulers?” Taylor.


Judah, having sought alliances with Babylon, instead of walking in trusting obedience with her omnipotent God, would be left without excuse when He Whom she had despised, brought the Babylonians into the land as conquerors rather than allies.  In seeking alliances with Babylon, Judah had taught or accustomed the enemy to look upon her as an inferior, and her anguish while under Babylon’s iron yoke would be similar to that of a woman in labor.


13:22.  “And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me?  For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare.”


She had become so accustomed to sin that she no longer saw her conduct as sinful, and would therefore be unable to discover a reason for the calamities that were about to overtake her.  But God was telling her in advance why she would be carried into captivity in Babylon: her iniquity in having abandoned Him, to worship idols, had ensured her destruction.


There could be no more accurate picture of today’s apostate Christendom.  She too has become so inured to sin that she fails to see how very sinful she is, hence her refusal to heed any warning of coming judgment.  She, like the Judah addressed by the prophet, can see no reason for God to punish her!


“... thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare” is the graphic description of rape.  It is the figure used by God to warn rebel Judah of the terrible nature of her coming judgment at the hand of the Babylonians.  It is also a figure of the judgment about to break upon today’s godless, wicked, hypocritical Christendom.


13:23.  “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?  then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”


Just as it is impossible for an Ethiopian to change the color of his black skin, or a leopard his spots, so, said God, was it also impossible for Judah, long accustomed to doing evil, to begin to do good.  Her seared conscience made repentance impossible.  God must destroy that wicked generation.  And so is it also with today’s Christendom.  She too is beyond hope of repentance, and therefore of mercy: she too will perish in the Great Tribulation. 

And as it is with nations, so is it also with individuals.  He who stifles the voice of conscience, will find himself one day with that conscience so seared as to be incapable of any response, and at that instant he will have passed for ever beyond hope of salvation.  He will be as sure of hell as if he were already there, as it is written, “He, who being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,” Pr 29:1.


13:24.  “Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.”


Judah’s utter worthlessness is declared in her being likened to stubble or chaff; and the severity of her impending judgment is disclosed in its being as violent and destructive as the scorching sirocco blasting in from the hot desert.  Since the wind is a biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit, the mention of it here as the agent of destruction may have an oblique reference to Him as the Divine agent of the judgment.


13:25.  “This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the Lord; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.”


Her fate was to suffer the portion of punishment measured out by Jehovah because she had forsaken Him and turned to worship false gods.  She was to be destroyed in spite of the assurances to the contrary that had been given by the false prophets.  Apostate Christendom, guilty of the same wickedness, is about to suffer the same fate in the impending Great Tribulation, in spite of the babbling of the false teachers who assure their duped audiences that God is too loving to punish anyone or anything.  Their lying assurances are contradicted by every word of Scripture.


13:26.  “Therefore will I discover thy skirts upon thy face, that thy shame may appear.”


God’s coming exposure of her sin was likened to that of a woman whose clothing was pulled up over her head exposing her nakedness.  It is instructive to remember that clothing is a biblical symbol of righteousness: the filthy rags of self-righteousness, or the righteousness of Christ which clothes the believer.  Her imagined righteousness, which to Judah’s impaired spiritual vision seemed to be gorgeous apparel hiding her inward corruption, was in God’s sight filthy rags which he was about to strip off exposing her utterly sinful state.


The same fate awaits today’s apostate Christendom.


13:27.  “I have seen thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thine abominations on the hills in the fields.  Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?”


Gross sexual sin was an inherent part of the vile idolatry practiced by apostate Judah and her heathen neighbors, the Spring sowing time particularly involving night time orgies and every form of debauchery disguised under the cloak of religion, the vile practices being promoted by the debased heathen priests as the means of assuring abundant harvests.  Virtually every temple had a corps of male and female prostitutes whose fees swelled the coffers of the priesthood.


The vileness is graphically described here as adultery, prostitution, etc., the burning lust of the people being likened to the lustful whinnying of stallions.  Only blind eyes will fail to see this as the vivid description of today’s society, the only difference being that the cloak of religion has been discarded.  There is no attempt to hide or even disguise the wickedness.  The gratification of every lust enjoys the approval of our debauched western society, inciting the contempt and hatred of nations which haven’t yet thrown off the reigns of moral restraint, and who are disgusted and angered by the corruption of their young people through the moral filth transmitted via the western media.


The woe pronounced upon ancient Judah is pronounced also upon corrupt apostate Christendom, and the judgment which overtook the former is the assurance that Divine judgment will also destroy the latter.  As Judah’s doom was sealed by her adamant refusal to be made clean, so is that of apostate Christendom assured, and for the same reason: she refuses to repent.


[Jeremiah 14]


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