Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Jeremiah

Jeremiah 15 Commentary

Enjoy this free digital Jeremiah 15 commentary.

Since Jeremiah 15 shares a section with the 14th chapter of that same book, a review of Jeremiah 14 is in order here.

In Jeremiah 14 we saw Jeremiah three times intercede for his people who were under the condemnation of God for their constant rebellion against him.

And though we saw Jeremiah interceding three times, we saw the Lord responding only twice. That’s because there’s a chapter break at the end of Jeremiah 14 that cuts off God’s last response to Jeremiah’s intercession.

Each of God’s two responses to Jeremiah’s prayers that God would relent concerning his promised punishment of them was basically negative. God told Jeremiah that, no, he would not be changing his mind concerning the coming punishment.

Do you think God’s last response will be any different? What we find out in Jeremiah 15 is that, no indeed, God’s final response will not be any different than his first two responses.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | God’s Response

The Lord’s response to Jeremiah’s last intercession is in Jeremiah 15:1-9.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Intercession is Fine

In other words, as I mentioned at the end of Jeremiah 14, it’s not as if there’s something deficient in Jeremiah’s ministry of intercession for his people. The best intercessors ever known to the Lord – Moses and Samuel – wouldn’t be able to turn God from his planned destruction of his rebellious people.

One thing to note at the end of Jeremiah 15:1 is God’s ironic word choice. “Cast them out” in the KJV is the same Hebrew word (shalach) that’s used in Exodus 5:1 where Moses reports to Pharaoh that the Lord wants him to “let My people go”.

So, it’s as if the coming exile is a sad reversal of the glorious exodus of old.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | How to Answer People

Well, the Lord in Jeremiah 15:2 envisions a scenario in which the people ask Jeremiah where God wants them to go. Most likely, they will ask this mockingly and not sincerely. But God gives Jeremiah a genuine answer to their factitious question.

It’s a pretty terse message. But when people ask questions that are intended to mock God’s threats, this is sometimes what they get. Very short and brief and sobering.

If your lot is to die, then that’s what’s going to happen. If you’re supposed to be killed in war with a sword, then that’s what’s going to happen. Same with those who are supposed to die by famine or starvation and those who will be forcibly removed from their land. If it’s destined to happen, it’s going to happen.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Fours

Then the Lord moves on from those four different destinations where his people will be finding themselves to now in Jeremiah 15:3 four different ways in which his people will meet their end. And the Lord speaks of them as four “kinds” or the KJV translates the word elsewhere many times as “families” [mishpachah].

So, after the sword does its work, these three species or categories of animals will finish the business. How awful.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Captivity

But remember, in Jeremiah 15:2, death wasn’t the only option mentioned. Some in Judah would go into captivity as well.

And so, the Lord adds that option here as well in Jeremiah 15:4. And in addition, he gives the reason for his sending his people into captivity. And it’s a reason we haven’t heard yet in this book.

This reason for God exiling his people is always shocking to me when I’m reminded of it.

This factor behind the exile is given elsewhere in Scripture as well. At the end of Josiah’s life, the author of Second Kings says the following in 2 Kings 23:26-27:

Notwithstanding [i.e., the great reforms that Josiah made] the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, [why?] because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal. 27 And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.

Now, we don’t know exactly when Jeremiah 15 was written, but it would have been at least 15 years after the reign of evil king Manasseh ended with his death.

God is stating both here in Jeremiah and in 2 Kings that he’s bringing this punishment on Judah for what a previous monarch of theirs did. And you might say “Why would God punish people for what their former ruler did?

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Punishment for Former Ruler?

And we’d have to respond to that question with a few thoughts.

First, the Lord has made it abundantly clear in these 15 chapters of Jeremiah so far that Judah is getting what they deserve. They have sinned and broken the covenant. It’s they who have earned this punishment themselves. And God is not denying that here.

Second, though, Manasseh did certainly play a large role in the demise of his people, and God won’t deny that. Even the sin that the people themselves were so prone to – the idolatry and all that goes along with worshiping false gods – so much of that which even outlasted the reign and ministry and reforms of Josiah was introduced or zealously encouraged by this wicked king Manasseh. The role of an authority figure can outlast his time on earth.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Talking to Judah

Well, there’s a small shift when we move from Jeremiah 15:4 to Jeremiah 15:5. For the first four verses of Jeremiah 15 the Lord is speaking about Judah, using pronouns like “they” and “them”. But starting in Jeremiah 15:5 the Lord takes two verses to address Judah directly.

The answer? No one. What would Israel have been without the Lord’s care and constant concern? If the Lord hadn’t chosen Abraham and his descendants, no one would know about this tiny nation. We wouldn’t be considering them right now today. They would have remained in obscurity.

And so, the answer to the questions in Jeremiah 15:5 is “no one”. No one will mourn the destruction of Judah. The Lord alone – who was himself administering the punishment – he would be the only one who would care about this calamity to come on his people.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Why the Punishment?

And then in Jeremiah 15:6 the Lord gives the reason for punishing his people.

God is so merciful and long-suffering. He is indeed slow to anger. But there’s a time where he needs to exact punishment for disobedience. He says at the end of Jeremiah 15:6 that he’s actually tired of turning from his just punishing of these people for their constant sins. And he’s not going to restrain himself anymore.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Talking About Judah

Then in Jeremiah 15:7 the Lord changes again from speaking to Judah to now speaking about Judah. He begins by speaking of the devastation to come to all of the people.

Again, if only the people would repent, the Lord could avoid destroying them.

By the way, isn’t that significant? We have several times in this series noted that there is a difference between the Old and New Covenants and how the Lord dealt and is dealing (respectively) with his people through them.

All this calamity was coming on Judah because as the Lord says in Jeremiah 11 they had broken the covenant he made with them – the Old or Mosaic or Sinai Covenant. They broke it and so they needed to face the curses listed in Deuteronomy. One of those curses was drought. And that’s what the people were experiencing as Jeremiah was relaying the message we’re reading about right now.

In addition, we’ve acknowledged also that it seems that those who are in the New Covenant cannot break it. The Lord writes the Law on our hearts. He remembers our sins no more. There is total forgiveness. His Holy Spirit indwells and occupies and seals us.

But how do we enter that New Covenant? What was the message of John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles? Repent and believe the Gospel!

And not unrelated, what is the one “out” that God keeps offering the Judeans of Jeremiah’s day? Repent! The Lord will turn from his punishing the people if they repent!

We who are in the New Covenant enter it by repenting. And that isn’t the way Israel entered into the Old Covenant. But even back then God was desiring this response from sinners.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Mothers

Back to the text. I must say that I am really quite glad that I didn’t get to teach this chapter on Mother’s Day – just a few weeks ago (in 2016). Because the next two verses are focused squarely on the effects on mothers in Jeremiah’s day of the wrath that God will have to pour out on his sinful rebellious people.

Note the bitter irony of that statement. The Lord tested the ancestor of these people – Abraham. He promised Abraham a son and finally fulfilled his promise in Abraham’s old age by causing his wife Sarah to conceive and bear Isaac. But then a few years later the Lord commanded Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son. As you know, the Lord delivered Isaac and commended Abraham’s obedience. And as a result, the Lord in Genesis 22:17 promised Abraham descendants that would rival the sand on the seashore for numbers. That’s a blessing!

And there are promises similar to that blessing in the Law. If the people obeyed, their children would be blessed – Deuteronomy 28:4 “Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body”. Deuteronomy 28:11 “And the Lord shall make thee plenteous … in the fruit of thy body.”

But if the people broke the covenant then Deuteronomy 28:18, “Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body.” Deuteronomy 28:53, “And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body.”

And it’s these promised threats from the Lord in Deuteronomy 28 that are now shifting things from God making Judah’s children like the sand of the sea – which is very positive and blessed. And now that they’ve broken his covenant, not their children, but rather their widows will be like the sand on the sea shore.

What a tragic reversal of things.

The rest of Jeremiah 15:8 tells the people why their widows are going to be so numerous.

Babylon will come and destroy so many of the men of war – the husbands and fathers. And really, the invasion of the land and the siege that would take place against Jerusalem all would leave so very many people dead. This is the source of all these widows.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Children

Even women at that time who were blessed to have borne several children wouldn’t escape this fate according to Jeremiah 15:9.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Lament for Mothers

Well, based on this very dark prognostication concerning the wives and mothers of Judah, Jeremiah considers his own mother in Jeremiah 15:10.

We might sense some self-pitying going on here with Jeremiah.

But he has a point. This – the gloomy content of this chapter and the entire book – is the message that he had to give to his fellow countrymen throughout his entire ministry. Basically, “you are all going to be killed because you’re sinners and you broke the covenant”. It certainly wasn’t a popular message. It made Jeremiah an outcast. As he says, everyone cursed him.

Money – and particularly the borrowing and lending of it – can cause some hard feelings. And Jeremiah isn’t in that business, and yet it’s as if he is because of all the animosity that his message has earned him.

And now he hears that mothers are going to be bereaved of their children and that life is going to be really hard for them – maybe he’s even thinking about his father and the fact that he might be killed when Babylon comes – and he utters woe upon himself. He’s saying that it would be better if he hadn’t been born.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | God Responds

The Lord then in Jeremiah 15:11-14 responds to Jeremiah and also continues speaking of the coming punishment.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | It Will Be Well

To begin with, the Lord responds to Jeremiah’s lament in Jeremiah 15:11.

So, the Lord reminds Jeremiah that things will be well for him. God will strengthen him for good. It’s as if God is saying, “Jeremiah, remember when I commissioned you? I told you (in Jeremiah 1:8) that I would be with you to deliver you. Everything is going to be OK for you.

The enemy will come and entreat Jeremiah. That same enemy – if it’s speaking of Babylon – will kill or exile everyone else more or less, but they will actually entreat Jeremiah. Or maybe the enemy there is a reference to his fellow-Judeans who had become his enemies. Well, there is a time when they’ll entreat Jeremiah. He’ll have a king – Zedekiah – just a number of months before Jerusalem finally falls ask him what the Lord has said and what he should do in light of it. Jeremiah will have the people entreat him before they foolishly go down into Egypt. Jeremiah will indeed have his enemies – both foreign and domestic – entreat him.

And so that’s the Lord’s response to Jeremiah concerning his fears.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Doom

And with that out of the way, the Lord resumes predicting doom for Jeremiah’s people in Jeremiah 15:12.

So, iron – can anyone break it in Jeremiah’s day? The answer: a mere man couldn’t. But then this mention of the north. What else is associated with the north in this book? Babylon, the coming enemy. So, the Lord is alluding to the fact that he’s bringing a powerful force from the north which no man will be able to resist.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Everything Taken

And when that force comes, the Lord will let them take everything from Judah according to Jeremiah 15:13-14.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Worry

And so in Jeremiah 15:15-18 Jeremiah continues to worry about what will happen when this all takes place.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Deliverance

He asks the Lord for deliverance in Jeremiah 15:15.

So, deliver me from my persecutors, is Jeremiah’s request.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Love for God’s Word

Jeremiah then goes on to confess his love for God’s word and his belonging to God alone in Jeremiah 15:16.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | He Did Right

So, Jeremiah did right. That’s his point. In addition, Jeremiah avoided doing wrong or even associating with those who did wrong according to Jeremiah 15:17. And that often resulted in loneliness for the prophet.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | God is Lying???

And all of this seems fine so far. But I think Jeremiah 15:18 is where our beloved prophet goes off the tracks a bit. He starts to entertain thoughts that maybe God is not telling him the truth.

Like, you told me that things would be well for me and that you’d be with me to deliver me – but I don’t sense that happening right now!

Jeremiah, no doubt under a great deal of stress and pressure, is struggling with thoughts that perhaps God wouldn’t come through for him. The Lord was promising to be with him and deliver him. But … that doesn’t really match what the prophet is feeling. What if the Lord failed him?

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | God Corrects the Prophet

And this is where the Lord has to pause from his message to Judah and really fix his gaze on his prophet, Jeremiah. The Lord is very patient. He takes a surprising amount of accusation from his own people – especially in the Psalms. But he does have limits. And so the Lord has to gently correct Jeremiah for the rest of this chapter in Jeremiah 15:19-21.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Repent!

To begin, the Lord tells Jeremiah that he needs to repent of that way of thinking that he’s just expressed – that perhaps God is unreliable. In Jeremiah 15:19 the Lord uses the Hebrew term for “repent” four times.

So, Jeremiah needs to repent, just like everyone else in that society. If he does, God will continue to use him. And the inverse is implicit rather than explicit. If Jeremiah doesn’t turn? Well, the Lord doesn’t say. He leaves that for the prophet to guess.

Jeremiah must present the precious words that God has him to speak and leave out the vile or the words that are worthless and untrue – like what Jeremiah just suggested concerning God perhaps being unreliable. He’s to nix that kind of talk.

And I think the Lord’s last statement in Jeremiah 15:19 indicates that perhaps Jeremiah was being influenced negatively by his rebellious culture around him. Accusing God would have been common among Jeremiah’s contemporaries. But it was not to affect him. Jeremiah needed to be different than they were in order to win them. He must not let himself be brought down to their level of sin and rebellion.

Jeremiah 15 Commentary | Promise

Then in Jeremiah 15:20-21 God reiterates his promise to Jeremiah that he issued to him all the way back in Jeremiah 1:8 and Jeremiah 1:19 and the surrounding verses. God is with him to deliver him! Don’t worry!

And that ends this section of Jeremiah that has consisted of Jeremiah 14-15. Next time, Lord-willing, we’ll consider Jeremiah 16 with God’s command to Jeremiah against having sympathy for his people.

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