Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Jeremiah

Jeremiah 5 Summary

In Jeremiah 5:1-2 God declares that there isn’t a single man whose righteous life would move him to turn away his wrath against Judah.

So, Jeremiah takes God up on this challenge. And what he discovers in Jeremiah 5:3-5 is that all Judah – from the greatest to the least of them – refuse to repent.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
The Poor and Ignorant Refuse to Repent

In Jeremiah 5:3, Jeremiah agrees with the Lord that the people of Judah have generally refused to repent. Then in Jeremiah 5:4-5 Jeremiah reaches the conclusion that the poor and foolish don’t know the Lord. That’s why they refuse to repent.

But maybe – just maybe! – the well-to-do – the great people of the land – know the Lord and are willing to repent!

Jeremiah 5 Summary
The Great People Refuse to Repent

But the rest of Jeremiah 5:5 has Jeremiah relating to the reader that there is none that do good. No, not one. There is none who seek God. They have all gone astray. From the least to the greatest. Economic and social standing have nothing to do with whether one is godly or not – whether one is repentant toward the Lord or not.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
The Enemy Is Terrifying Like a Wild Animal

And we end this section with God saying that because of the wholesale lack of repentance on the part of Judah that he will need to send the enemy to punish them. And he compares the enemy in Jeremiah 5:6 to wild animals and the fear that they incite.

So, that ends our study of Jeremiah 4:3 – 5:6. Refusal to Repent Necessitates God’s Punishment.

In Jeremiah 5:7-9 God declares that Judah’s spiritual and sexual immorality call for his punishment.

The Lord gives with a rhetorical question that’s intended to justify his threatening of punishment for Judah in Jeremiah 5:7.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Judah’s Immorality

Why — you ask — is God not willing to pardon Judah? Because that nation was committing both spiritual and sexual immorality (Jeremiah 5:7).

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Spiritual Immorality

First, the spiritual immorality or idolatry that called for punishment (Jeremiah 5:7).

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Sexual Immorality

Now God addresses the sexual immorality that Judah was practicing which called for punishment (Jeremiah 5:7-8).

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Sins Against Men

And this is the start of the Lord focusing not only on the sin that Judah was committing against him but also of the sin that they were committing against other men. Until now it seems that God was focusing on the first tablet of the 10 Commandments, so to speak – the “Love God” part. But especially in this sub-section that we’re studying today the Lord starts to bring into focus the second tablet of the Law – the part about “Loving One’s Neighbor”.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Hebrew Word Play

Now, also worthy of noting, in what we just read, I think there’s a word play in the Hebrew. The people swore (shabang) by false gods. But it was the Lord, the true God, who fed them to the full (sabang). The people should have been swearing by (shabang) the one who was feeding them to the full (sabang)… But alas, they didn’t.

And God ends this three-verse section with a rhetorical question intended to justify his punishment of Judah (Jeremiah 5:9).

What’s the answer to that question? Yes, the Lord is justified in punishing Judah for their spiritual and sexual immorality.

Now, having reached that conclusion, the Lord in Jeremiah 5:10 actually addresses his means of punishing his immoral people – this coming enemy that we’ve heard about previously…

In Jeremiah 5:10 the enemy is commanded to go up upon the walls of Judah.

Since this word walls is used only once in the Old Testament it’s difficult to know what that’s referring to. So, that’s where in Hebrew poetry — which this is — you can look at the parallel statement and try to gain some insight.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
What is a Battlement?

In this case the parallel statement reads battlements in the King James Version (KJV). But that word battlements is used three times in the Old Testament.

In the KJV, that word is used…

As the saying goes, one of these things is not like the other. And that one thing is battlements, which it’s translated as here.

So, I’d say this word translated battlements has something to do with plants or branches or horticulture.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
What are Walls?

So, branches or something to do with horticulture is what’s in view here in this parallel statement. And in light of that, walls back in the beginning of Jeremiah 5:10 is probably speaking of walls of some horticultural product – or even walls upon which horticultural activities would take place.

For this reason, some translations say vine rows or vineyards – walls, yes – but not in the sense of concrete or brick or stone. No, in this context it’s probably speaking of walls of grape vines or something like that.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Pulling Out Vine Branches

So, then the reality behind the poetic expressions is that God is commanding the enemy to destroy Judah. And poetically, God is picturing the destruction like someone coming along and pulling out branches from rows of grape vines.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Limited Destruction

But notice that this taking of branches – this destruction – is again not a complete one. God will not allow the enemy to completely destroy his people.

And this decision of whether or not to completely destroy his own people is totally in God’s hands. It reminds me of God’s words to Satan in the book of Job. In the case of Job, God wasn’t displeased at all with Job like he is here with Judah. But when it comes to God’s ability to limit the chastening of his people – whether that comes in the form of Babylon in Jeremiah or even Satan himself in Job – God is in full control.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Why All the Destruction?

And the last thing I want to point out in this verse is the reason for the destruction. Why does God issue a command to the enemy here to destroy the branches that represent Judah – his very people?

Well, precisely because they are not his people! They are not the Lord’s. Those branches are not his, he says. So, pull ’em out!

As the apostle Paul would state later in the timeline of history, all Israel is not Israel.

This was one problem with the Old Covenant given under Moses. Most of the people who were in that covenant with God still needed to actually know God. They didn’t automatically.

And that’s one of the blessings of the New Covenant. Every single person who has entered the New Covenant automatically knows God.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Denying God’s Truth

But as it was, so many in Judah were not true Jews. And they demonstrated that fact by engaging in activity like we see in Jeremiah 5:11-13 where the people are portrayed as outright denying the truthfulness of the kinds of threats that God has been issuing them.

In Jeremiah 5:11-13 the people of Judah deny the truthfulness of God’s threats.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Treachery Against the Lord

This behavior has been an ongoing thing (Jeremiah 5:11). Judah now – and Israel before they were exiled – all were treacherous toward the Lord.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
What that Treachery Looked Like

And we’re told what that treachery looked like in Jeremiah 5:12.

The people denied the truthfulness of God’s warnings – warnings of sword, famine, and general evil or destruction.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Who Encouraged Judah’s Treachery?

How bold of Judah! How ignorant! Why were the people so confident that the threats that God was making wouldn’t happen?!

The answer is in Jeremiah 5:13 where we’re told about a particular group that was encouraging this denial of God’s threats.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
God Vindicated

Throughout the book of Jeremiah we see that the people mostly ignored and disbelieved God’s threats. But in the end, we know who was vindicated. The Lord’s threats came to pass.

And that’s what the Lord says basically in Jeremiah 5:14-18. Though the people don’t believe God’s words, those words will still come to pass.

Despite Judah’s denying God’s warnings to them, in Jeremiah 5:14-18 God declares that his threats which he was giving through Jeremiah will surely come to pass.

Jeremiah 5:14 contains a metaphor that I think we’ll benefit from studying.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Fire + Wood = Burning

God says that Jeremiah’s words will be like fire that burns up the people to whom he will speak who are pictured as wood.

This portrayal of both Jeremiah’s words and the people is poetic or metaphoric.

Jeremiah never literally breathed out fire. The people were flesh and bone – they were not literally wood. Jeremiah’s words never literally burned the people alive and consumed them.

The concrete images of fire and wood are supposed to heighten the reality of the threat that is posed by the Lord to his unrepentant people.

The people were to picture Jeremiah’s speaking these threats to them. But instead of words that you can’t see or feel, God wants his people to picture blazing hot, painful, dangerous fire proceeding from Jeremiah’s mouth hurtling in the direction of his wicked people.

And he wants the people to picture themselves – not as flesh and bone – but as dry wood just ready to ignite with the faintest hint of heat.

And God wants the people to picture that fire meeting with that dry wood and he wants them to picture an ignition that will completely burn them to death.

And if they understand the meaning behind the metaphor then they will realize that the threats that Jeremiah is speaking from the Lord are not idle. God’s words will surely come to pass.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
The Coming Enemy

And the content of those threats which are veiled in metaphor is that the people need to repent or face a literal enemy that will come and destroy them.

Now, it’s the reality of the coming of that very enemy nation that we just spoke of that God comes back to in Jeremiah 5:15-17. The people don’t believe it’s going to happen. God says it will surely happen! They’re coming!

And God hasn’t yet told the people the identity of this nation. We know it’s Babylon and so that removes a little of the suspense that Judah surely would have felt if they even so much as listened to God’s warnings. But they don’t know who it is. And here in Jeremiah 5:15 God is describing this unknown nation.

Here’s how I think the people should have responded, whether they did or not…

This enemy is far away! Gasp! Who could that be?!

The coming enemy is strong and ancient! Oh no! Who is it?!

This nation speaks in a foreign language. You won’t be able to figure out what they’re saying.

And they’re strong and deadly – Jeremiah 5:16.

And this nation is insatiable and they will take or destroy everything you have – Jeremiah 5:17.

So, this is a terrifying description of what’s to come for Judah if they don’t repent. This mysterious coming enemy is strong, deadly, insatiable, and ultimately unidentified. And the indented result of all of these descriptions of this enemy is meant to scare Judah out of their hardheartedness so that they would turn to God and he could relent concerning his planned punishment.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
God Will Not Completely Destroy Judah

Now, in light of those momentous and severe threats, you would think that when the enemy does eventually come, Judah will be completely destroyed. But again in Jeremiah 5:18 we have God issuing a totally gratuitous promise to his rebellious people. God himself will see to it that this enemy nation will not fully destroy Judah.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Answering Contentious Questions

Now, amazingly despite the Lord’s mercy that we just saw in Jeremiah 5:18 and his dire warnings before that, the Lord reveals to Jeremiah that the people of Judah will still contend with the Lord! What they should be doing is repenting! And yet, they would rather contend with the Lord.

And so the Lord tells Jeremiah in Jeremiah 5:19 how to answer the people’s contentious questions about why the Lord is threatening his people. They’re not going to be asking these questions to gain information. They will be asking to both 1) impugn God’s righteous character and 2) to try to exonerate their own corrupt character.

In Jeremiah 5:19, God tells Jeremiah how to answer the people’s contentious questions concerning God’s promised punishment for their refusal to repent of their sins.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
The Justice of God’s Judgement

Do you see the justice behind God’s reasoning? He responds to the people’s abuse of him in kind.

You invited strangers into your land and you served them when you should have been serving me!

Now I’m going to let you go so that you can keep serving those foreign or strange gods. But you’re also going to be serving a foreign enemy and you’re going to be forced to do so in a foreign land – not your own.

You’ve loved strange things. So you’re going to get strange things.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Politics As Unusual

Can I talk about our current political climate for a moment? I’m publishing this post in the USA on the night of “Super Tuesday” where it looks like Donald Trump is going to win most of the GOP states’ primaries and go on to be the nominee of the Republican Party for the presidential election this year. That’s just to give a little background to what I’m about to say.

Our nation as a whole loves violence and protests and general disorder. We as a people hate authority. We buck it at every turn. We love our own way. And we violently oppose any restrictions to whatever we feel like we want to do.

So are we surprised when that’s the way in which our public officials conduct themselves? As bullies and name-callers? As uncivil as you can get? Without decency?

We’re getting what we as a people want. And I think a number of people are discovering that this is really not what they want.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Next: Judah Doesn’t Fear God

OK, back to the Bible.

Now, God gets to the root of Judah’s problem in Jeremiah 5:20-25. Namely, they don’t fear the Lord.

In Jeremiah 5:20-25, the Lord reveals Judah’s true problem. The people don’t fear the Lord.

Here’s another way to state Jeremiah 5:21. Hear this, you who don’t hear! They don’t – or won’t – hear, but they must!

Now, the main question that God knows the people desperately need to hear and answer and face is posed in Jeremiah 5:22. Do they fear God? They should. But they don’t.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Fear the One Who Controls the Sea

Then God gives just one impressive reason to fear him in the rest of Jeremiah 5:22. God controls the sea and even the sea level. It doesn’t move without his permission. He determined how far it would go and where it stops.

And the lesson to learn from that fact is – Should we not fear and reverence and hold in awe this kind of powerful God?

And yet that’s not the only point God is making here – that we should fear him because he’s so mighty and sovereign. Yes, he does have all authority. And like the message of the book of Jeremiah teaches, we must submit to God’s authority and live.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
God Controls His People, Too

But, here’s the other point that God’s making in Jeremiah 5:22. God can control something as uncontrollable as the sea with its roaring and raging. But did you know that there is an aspect of his creation that is even more difficult to control – and yet will and must be controlled?

That uncontrollable aspect is known as God’s people – Judah here (Jeremiah 5:23)! The sea obeys God but his own people didn’t.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Fear the One Who Feeds You

God continues to highlight Judah’s lack of reverence for himself in Jeremiah 5:24. Why should they fear the Lord according to this verse?  Here’s one more reason besides his control of even the most uncontrollable parts of creation. Because he gives you food.

You don’t eat if God doesn’t want you to. God could not send another drop of rain anywhere on the earth and all of his creation would completely perish in a very short time and they couldn’t do a thing to stop it.

Now, thankfully God doesn’t do that. But he could. So fear him! Reverence him! He is both mighty and gracious. He is sovereign and good. He is severe and kind. Fear him!

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Why God Sometimes Withholds Good Things

But his people apparently hadn’t been receiving these good gifts like they once did and like the Lord wanted to give it to them. They apparently hadn’t been getting the rain that they needed or the harvest that they so desperately needed. Why? Jeremiah 5:25. Judah’s iniquity and sin caused God to withhold good things from them.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
The Identity of the Sin

But what iniquities? What sins?

Sin against God usually doesn’t stop with sin against God. When a person’s heart is set against the Lord, his heart will usually be set against those made in the Lord’s image.

All of the Old Testament Law and Prophets is this one message – Love God, Love men. The two tablets of the 10 Commandments were – Love God, Love Men. And when the Love God dimension is ignored, the Love Men aspect of God’s commands will also typically be jettisoned.

And that’s what we see evidence of in Jeremiah 5:26-29. Highlighted in these verses is the people’s sin against one another. And it’s these sins – as well as those against the Lord – that are contributing to God’s withholding good things (rain, harvest, etc.) from Judah.

Jeremiah 5:26-28 expose the people of Judah for sinning against one another. Again, this is one reason why God had to withhold good things from them.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
What Else Can God Do?

And because this is how the people were behaving toward those who are the neediest and weakest in their society – with deception and fraud and injustice, God again asks what else he should be expected to do to these people besides what he writes in Jeremiah 5:29.

It’s as if God is telling the story of all of the evil that his people are engaged in. And then he turns to us and as it were opens it up for the audience. What do you guys think about this? I mean, have you seen what my people are doing? Surely there’s not a person listening to this who thinks this is right and doesn’t deserve punishment! We’d all agree that yes punishment is called for.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Where Were the Leaders?

Well, the question that needs to be posed is where are the religious leaders of Judah for such a time as this? Surely, where God’s professing people are wild and rebellious, it’s the job, duty, and responsibility of the religious leaders to confront their sin. The people surely have their own will and they might not listen, but God calls the leaders of his people to be his spokesmen and to tell the people what the Lord wants and requires of them.

So, then it comes as no surprise concerning what God expresses in Jeremiah 5:30-31 to end Jeremiah 5. God is appalled at the fact that the leaders who were to guide and inform his people’s religious experience were lying and deceiving.

Jeremiah 5:30-31 reveals why the situation in Judah during Jeremiah’s time was so bleak. The people were following their religious leaders – but these leaders were ungodly and false.

Jeremiah 5:30 gets us ready for some horrible news. What is it?

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Lying Religious Leaders

Jeremiah 5:31 says that the prophets and priests were doing their own thing. They weren’t guiding God’s people as they should have. They were doing wrong and God is calling them on it.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
The People Love It!

But how do the people feel about what their religious leaders are doing? Jeremiah 5:31 says that the people can’t get enough of it!

They love religious leaders who hand out rules based on their own authority. I mean, it’s not like they’d want God’s rules – which can be so restrictive!

And the people love to hear lies. Because it’s not like they’d want to hear God’s truth – which again can be so restrictive and humbling.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
A Remarkably Modern Problem

In our day this is why the bookshelves in Walmart are filled with Joel Osteen. This is why Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland and TBN and the whole entire false prosperity gospel have a large following. This is why the Romans Catholic Church is filled with members and why every other fake false man-made religion flourishes.

People love to hear lies. They don’t want God’s truth. They don’t want the narrow restrictive way. They don’t want to say no to themselves.

The message of Christ – that we must lose our life in this world and take up our cross – is not appealing. It doesn’t tickle the ears. It doesn’t boost the ego. It’s not living our “best life now”.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
Watch Yourself

And you and I will fall into that trap if we’re not careful. Let’s not be like the Pharisee who thanked God because he didn’t do certain things that were evil. We are just as susceptible to falling – apart from the Lord’s constant help. We must humbly receive the word implanted as James says. Humbly receive God’s instructions, even when those instructions are uncomfortable for you.

Jeremiah 5 Summary
God’s Take on Lying Religious Leaders

Well, the people loved false prophesies and man-made rulings. But how does God feel about it?

The end of Jeremiah 5:31 says that there’s judgement coming. There’s an end in sight.

For Jeremiah and his people, the judgement was coming in the form of Babylon. That nation was going to come and decimate the population and leave the land of Judah desolate. And that nation was coming because God needed to deal with his unrepentant people.

We too know that judgement is coming. It’s appointed for a man to die once and after that is the judgement. Let the fact that judgement is coming cleanse you of a desire for your own way. What good does listening to false religious proclamations do for you when the show is over and you stand before the Lord? You and I need God’s proclamations. We need to know and do God’s will in our lives. We need to trust Jesus to save us from that coming judgement for our sins. And we need to tell others about the way of escape from eternal punishment.

God help us! May he help us to – as the message of the book of Jeremiah states – Submit to God’s Authority and Live.

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Comments

  1. Right on. The whole of chapter 5 should BE READ BY EVERY WORLD LEADER NOW BEFORE C0VIN-19 KILLS 1 OR 2 MILLION OR MORE OF GOD’S BEAUTFULL CREATION.

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