New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Jeremiah 16:1 The word of Yahweh came also to me saying- This appears to continue from the previous chapter, where Jeremiah has been rebuked and is told that he must repent and continue his mediation. This perhaps is why he is asked here to make himself representative of condemned Judah in a very personally demanding way.

Jeremiah 16:2 You shall not take a wife, neither shall you have sons or daughters in this place-
This is not to say Jeremiah had never had a wife; she may have died in one of the earlier Babylonian invasions. The reason given is that she and their children were likely to be killed. Whether that was of itself a reason not to marry isn't quite the point; Jeremiah was to live out an acted parable in order to demonstrate the reality of judgment to come. He was demonstrating his connection with God's people, both Judah and the ten tribes. For the allusion is to Hos. 9:9: "Ephraim is bringing forth his children to the murderer". To not have children was a form of death for people of that age. 1 Cor. 7:26 appears to allude here, where Paul advises that in the tribulation of the last days of AD70, it would be better not to have wife and children.

Jeremiah 16:3 For thus says Yahweh concerning the sons and concerning the daughters who are born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bore them, and concerning their fathers who became their father in this land-
This would imply that Jeremiah should not have a family, because if he did then he too would die, as only the single, unmarried would escape. But that doesn't quite ring true to the situation. Jeremiah is being asked to act out a kind of parable in which he is representative of the people; see on :1.

Jeremiah 16:4 They shall die grievous deaths: they shall not be lamented, neither shall they be buried; they shall be as dung on the surface of the ground; and they shall be consumed by the sword and by famine; and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the sky, and for the animals of the earth-
Jeremiah was told not to have a family, lest this happen to him. That would imply that all families would be destroyed. But this scale of devastation simply didn't happen. Within Jeremiah's prophecies, there are many different variations on the amount of judgment. The reality was that in wrath, God remembered mercy. See on Jer. 10:18.

Jeremiah 16:5 For thus says Yahweh, Don’t enter into the house of mourning, neither go to lament, neither bemoan them; for I have taken away My peace from this people, says Yahweh, even loving kindness and tender mercies-
Jeremiah was commanded not to make lamentation for the punishment of his people. But he did, and God inspired the record of them in Lamentations, and because they are inspired words, He spoke through those words to all subsequent generations. The reason for this was that God's covenant, referred to as "kindness and mercy", was broken; they were not at peace with Him. And so they should not be pitied in their death. And yet although the covenant was broken by Israel, and God broke His side of it in response to that... He in fact still treated them as His covenant people. This is not to say that God is not serious about His statements. He is; but His love, grace and pity is displayed as the more extraordinary, in that it leads Him to break the words and threats spoken in justifiable and understandable wrath. For the same Hebrew phrase "loving kindness and tender mercies" is used again by Jeremiah in Lam. 3:22, where he reflects that these have not been withdrawn from God's people, even though Zion is now in ruins.

Jeremiah 16:6 Both great and small shall die in this land; they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them-
When we read that those who were to die in the land due to the Babylonian invasion would not be buried “neither shall men lament for them”, this sounds like a prediction. But actually it’s a command- for Jeremiah was told “Neither go to lament nor bemoan them” (Jer. 16:5). But he did lament them- and God didn’t ignore that, but rather inspired the record of the book of Jeremiah’s Lamentations! Likewise God told Jeremiah not to pray for the people, but when Jeremiah insisted on doing so, God did in fact hear him. So we must be careful to discern what is prediction and what is command or intention. And even then we have to recognize that God’s purpose is to some extent open-ended- if men and women wish to walk with Him but don’t strictly follow His preferred intentions, He may still walk and work with them in the extension of His purpose.

Jeremiah 16:7 neither shall men break bread for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother-
The reason for this lack of mourning and burial may simply be because the idea was that all the people would perish. There would be none left to bury or lament; all were to die. But in reality that didn't happen (see on Jer. 10:18), and there are various degrees of destruction spoken about in the various prophecies. 

'Breaking bread' or 'eating bread' is simply an idiom for sharing in a meal (Is. 58:7; Jer. 16:7; Lam. 4:4; Ez. 17:7; 24:17; Hos. 9:4; Dt. 26:14; Job 42:11). 'Bread' is used for any food, just as 'salt' is used in the same way in Arabic. The way the Lord broke His bread with sinners, with anyone, is therefore evidence enough that the 'breaking of bread' is inclusive and not exclusive. LXX "and there shall be no bread broken in mourning for them for consolation over the dead: they shall not give one to drink a cup for consolation over his father or his mother". This refers to how at the funeral, food and gifts were given to a child who lost parents. But there would be none to do so. The "breaking of bread" meeting is therefore set up as a kind of funeral celebration, but also a "cup of consolation".

Jeremiah 16:8 You shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and to drink-
Because the day was to come when they would all be dead, because of their sins, Jeremiah was not to feast with them before judgment came. The marriages and family events which they were celebrating were to come to a tragic end in the mass destruction of family life by the invaders which has just been predicted. Jeremiah, like us, was to live life now in light of how things were going to ultimately be.

Jeremiah 16:9 For thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel: Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride-
This specifically states that it would happen in their days and before their eyes. The image is of a wedding being interrupted by the invaders. This suggests a sudden, unexpected invasion, rather than what happened- a lengthy siege, famine, desperate poverty, all leading towards an inevitable end when Zedekiah fled the city and the Babylonians entered Jerusalem. The sudden nature of Jerusalem's fall is emphasized (Jer. 4:20; 6:26; 15:8; 18:22); she was to fall as Babylon would "suddenly" fall (Jer. 51:8). Jerusalem fell predictably after a siege, there were no great surprises that she fell. It was not a sudden fall that came out of left field, unexpectedly. And yet that is the implication of the prophecies. Babylon was reveling in prosperity when the Medes unexpectedly took the city; but the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon was totally expected and inevitable. Yet the fall is spoken of as "sudden". It could be that a potential "sudden" invasion and destruction of Jerusalem was projected by God, but the intercession of the few faithful, or the repentance of a tiny remnant, changed this possible outcome of their sin. So many different possibilities of judgment are given, ranging from a quarter destruction to total destruction of people and even all animal life. This reflects the open nature of God's working with His people, setting up various potentials in order to be fully responsive to human freewill decisions.

Jeremiah 16:10 It shall happen, when you shall show this people all these words and they shall tell you, Why has Yahweh pronounced all this great evil against us? Or what is our iniquity? Or what is our sin that we have committed against Yahweh our God?-
The "great evil" had been done by them (Jer. 44:7 s.w.), and s the "great evil" of judgment was only an extension of their own sins. And that ought to have been obvious. Repeatedly we encounter this shameless refusal to accept they had done anything wrong, and apparently genuine shock and surprise that God should speak of judging them so severely. This indicates the degree to which they were psychologically hardened in their belief that they could serve the idols as part of serving Yahweh. This is why the reason for their judgments was not simply 'Because you worship idols', but because of their state of heart (:11,12).

Jeremiah 16:11 Then you shall tell them, Because your fathers have forsaken Me, says Yahweh, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken Me, and have not kept My law-
This is not to say that they were going to be punished because of the sins of their fathers. I noted on :10 how shameless they were in their idolatry, and how they were genuinely unaware of wrongdoing. But this was because they had become so hardened in sin, as people are today, that they consider that their wrongdoing is in fact righteousness. The reason why that generation was punished was because of this hardened, evil state of heart (:12); not simply because they worshipped idols. Their fathers had done that and had not received the judgment for it which they were going to. 

Jeremiah 16:12 And you have done evil more than your fathers; for behold, you walk each one after the stubbornness of his evil heart, so that you don’t listen to Me-
Se on :10,11.
The choice was between walking after God's word (:11), or walking after their own hearts. This is where God's word is not like any other literature. It is to take a grip upon the human heart and to inculcate a way of thought which is contrary to our own natural heart or thinking. This points up the danger of using the Bible simply to reinforce our own natural ideas, whilst disregarding the rest. "Stubbornness" also can mean "imagination". Dt. 29:19 speaks directly of Judah at this time- when they heard the words of the curses for disobedience, they would think they would still have peace because they walked in the imaginations [s.w. "stubbornness"] of their own hearts. The false prophets were preaching exactly such "peace" (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). The heart [mind] is a fountain of imagination, of fantasy, and it is this which can be redirected by the influence of God's word and Spirit upon the human heart. But the sense of "stubbornness" in the Hebrew word for "imagination" shows that by exercising our own imaginations without the influence of God's word, we become set in those ways of thought, until they come to define us.

Jeremiah 16:13 Therefore will I cast you forth out of this land into the land that you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, where I will not show you favour; and there you shall serve other gods day and night-
LXX "and ye shall serve their other gods, who shall have no mercy upon you". Yahweh alone has grace / mercy; this is what distinguishes Him from all forms of idolatry.

The passion and love of God leads Him time and again to apparently contradict Himself. He says that He will cast Judah out of their land, they would go to Babylon and serve other gods there, “where I will not show you favour” (Jer. 16:13). But actually Esther and her people were shown favour there [s.w. Esther 4:8; Esther 8:5]. God was gracious [s.w. ‘show favour’] to those in exile (Is. 30:18,9; Am. 5:15; Mal. 1:9). But Jer. 16 goes on to state that God would not ever hide His eyes / face from the iniquity they had committed, i.e. the reason why they were in captivity (Jer. 16:17). But actually He did do just that- He hid His eyes from the sin of Judah and the sin of the exiles (Is. 65:16); the hiding of His face from them was in fact not permanent but for a brief moment (Is. 54:8). God then outlines a plan- He will recompense their sin double, and this would lead them back to Him (Jer. 16:18). But this was to be an unrepeatable, once-for-all program that would “cause them to know mine hand… and they shall now that my name is The Lord” (Jer. 16:21). This double recompensing of Judah’s sin happened in the exile in Babylon (Is. 40:2), and therefore the joyful news was proclaimed to Zion in Is. 40 that now the Messianic Kingdom could begin. But there wasn’t much interest nor response to the call to return to Judah in order to share in it. The exile didn’t cause God’s people to repent nor to know His Name. It wasn’t the once-for-all program which He intended. Now none of this makes God out to be somehow not serious or unreliable. Rather is it all an indication of His passion and how deeply He wishes His plans of redemption for us to work out. He’s not ashamed to as it were humiliate Himself, lay Himself open to petty critics, in His passion for us. Thus God was so [apparently] sure that the exile would bring about Judah’s repentance and return to Him: “Thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness” (Jer. 22:22). But actually the very opposite happened. It’s rather like “They will reverence my son” (Mt. 21:37)- when actually they crucified Him.

Jeremiah 16:14 Therefore behold, the days come, says Yahweh, that it shall no more be said, As Yahweh lives, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt-
The form of swearing in covenant relationship was to be changed. The same verses occur in Jer. 23:7,8 in the context of Judah being offered a new covenant, seeing they had broken the old covenant. That new covenant was to be made when the exiles left Babylon and the various nations within her empire where they had been scattered. But this didn't work out; because Judah refused it.


Jeremiah 16:15 But, As Yahweh lives, who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the countries where He had driven them. I will bring them again into their land that I gave to their fathers-
See on :14. The new covenant was to be made once they left Babylon and the subject nations, just as the old covenant was made once they had left Egypt. There was intended to be some even more dramatic and powerful source of exodus in leaving Babylon than there had been in leaving Egypt. But in reality. nothing like the parting of the Red Sea or the plagues upon Egypt happened. The decree of Cyrus was clearly overruled by God, but other prophecies make it clear that the exodus of the exile was to be associated with the fall of Babylon. Indeed they were to flee Babylon so that they didn't share in her fall. And it was this dramatic action which was to convert the remnants of the Babylonian empire to Israel's God. But this didn't happen; instead this prophetic theme has been reapplied and rescheduled to the events of the last days.

Jeremiah 16:16 Behold, I will send for many fishermen, says Yahweh, and they shall fish them up; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and out of the clefts of the rocks-
This suggests a total regathering of all who were in captivity. This didn't happen because the exiles preferred the soft life in Persia. The effort made wasn't responded to. Indeed Jeremiah later laments that the people were "hunted" after Jerusalem fell (s.w. Lam. 3:52; 4:18). He ought to have realized that the exiles were to be hunted back to the restored kingdom- if they responded. But in his depression, he focused only upon the negative, the glass half empty rather than half full.

And perhaps the prophecy therefore was rescheduled and reapplied to the fishing of individuals to comprise a new Israel. It was whilst Simon and Andrew were in the very act of casting their net into the sea, snap shotted in a freeze-frame of still life, silhouetted against the sea and hills of Galilee, that the Lord calls them to go preaching (Mk. 1:17). The Lord surely intended them to [at least later] figure out His allusion to Jer. 16:14-16, which prophesied that fishermen would be sent out to catch Israel and bring them home to the Father. And He called them to do that, right in the very midst of everyday life. His preachers were like harvesters working in the very last hour to bring in the harvest- in fact, the harvest was spoiling because it’s not being fully gathered. No delay for anything was possible in the light of the knife-edge urgency of sharing Christ with others.

Jeremiah 16:17 For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, neither is their iniquity concealed from My eyes-
Their sin and breaking of the covenant meant that God would hide His face from them (Dt. 31:17; 32:20; Mic. 3:4).  But the paradox is that God did not hide His face from their sins, His eyes were upon their ways. He didn't turn off His sensitivity to behaviour which so sorely hurt Him at His heart; because He desperately wishes to retain relationship for as long as possible, no matter how painful. The iniquity of Israel was not concealed from God's eyes because He Himself chose not to conceal His face from it.

Jeremiah 16:18 First I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double, because they have polluted My land with the carcasses of their detestable things, and have filled My inheritance with their abominations-
The land was literally filled with idols; the sacrifices to them are described as carcasses, which God saw as polluting the land. And so God desired to punish them "double", and so did Jeremiah, because he had the mind and feelings of God (Jer. 16:18; 17:18). But Ezra 9:13 states that God punished them less than their iniquities deserved- and not double punishment. So again we have God, through Jeremiah, speaking in the fire of His anger; but this didn't actually work out like this. The pole of His pity and grace is finally far stronger than that of His anger and judgment.

Jeremiah 16:19 Yahweh, my strength, my stronghold and my refuge in the day of affliction, to You shall the nations come from the ends of the land and shall say, Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, vanity and things in which there is no profit-
This is Jeremiah's interjection. He is confident that he shall be preserved in the siege which was ahead. God would be his refuge; although his confident faith at this point was sorely tested when he was thrown into the dungeon to die. Jeremiah caught God's vision, of the repentant nations crossing the borders of Palestine confessing that the idols were lies and vanity. This was the Divine intention- that when Israel and Judah returned from captivity, they would come back to the land along with the repentant peoples of the nations to whom they had been scattered. But instead, they learnt the ways of the nations and worshipped their gods, as Ezekiel often laments.

Jeremiah 16:20 Shall a man make to himself gods, which yet are no gods?-
This is apparently part of the fantasy of Jeremiah and Yahweh concerning the repentance of the surrounding nations and their turning to Yahweh having thrown away their idols. The hope was that they would confess that what a man makes with his own hands cannot therefore be God. For God by His hands has created man. It is the worship of works, of what we have devised by our own device... which is our modern idolatry. Hence GNB "Can people make their own gods? No, if they did, those would not really be gods".

Jeremiah 16:21 Therefore behold, I will cause them to know, this once will I cause them to know My hand and My might; and they shall know that My name is Yahweh-
LXX "I will at this time manifest my hand to them, and will make known to them my power; and they shall know that my name is the Lord". "This once" could suggest that God would do this once and for all, as if the intention was to begin the restored Kingdom there and then. The refusal of the exiles to repent precluded so much potential happening. And likewise the Gentiles continued in their idolatry. If they had repented as envisioned in :19,20, "therefore... I will cause them to know... My name". Their repentance would have been followed by a special revelation of Yahweh to them. Having quit what was wrong, His Spirit would have revealed to them what was right. The Name of God is not so much Yahweh or Jehovah, but effectively refers to God's "hand and might", His actions and characteristics in history.