Jeremiah 11-13
(The Life of Jeremiah)
August 7th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

And the Lord said to me: Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them.

- Jeremiah 6:11 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

Chapter 11 begins a nine-chapter section that tells stories from Jeremiah’s life and can be considered an explanation of his personal ministry. We will also notice a shift in style, as this section includes more verses of prose than the earlier sections. We will hear illustrations and examples of the life of Jeremiah, but will also see sections of poetry and prophecy interspersed between lines of prose, and will read dialogue between the prophet and the LORD(1).

The three chapters in today's study focus on Israel's breach of its covenant with God. The LORD tells Jeremiah to review the terms of the deal: If they followed his instructions then he would bring them to the land of milk and honey (lush and fertile). God held up his part of the bargain, but his people did not. They disobeyed him and had been warned on numerous occasions, but they continued to do what they wanted to do, as a result there would be grave consequences for these people, explained the LORD.

Later in that chapter Jeremiah describes a plot against him that the LORD revealed. The men of Anathoth (perhaps his own townspeople) warned him to stop prophesizing or he would be killed, but the LORD promised that it would be they who perish.

In chapter 12, Jeremiah begins with a complaint that evil seems to prosper. The LORD responds by reminding Jeremiah that his own brothers and family have betrayed him. The LORD then explains how he will hand over his people to the enemy because they have forsaken him and even roared at the LORD “ ‘like a lion in the forest’ (Jer 12:8 - NIV).”

The LORD adds that the people will be uprooted, but he will eventually show compassion for those who are willing to “ ‘learn the ways of my people’ (Jer 12:16 - NIV).”

In chapter 13, the LORD gives Jeremiah a series of symbolic tasks. He tells him to buy a new linen belt (or loin cloth or undershorts in some translations) and wear it. Later he tells him to go to a river and hide it in the rocks. After many days he tells him to go back and dig up the piece of clothing, which, by that time is ruined. The LORD then explained the symbolism by comparing the relationship between him and his people to this piece of clothing.

Jeremiah ends the chapter with another warning to the people – encouraging them to return to the LORD before the light changes to darkness. But the LORD says these people cannot do anything good because they are too accustomed to evil.

Reflection and Application

An agreement normally requires some type of action on the behavior of each party: One party agrees to sell a house at a certain price; the other party agrees to deliver the money on an agreed date and receive the keys in return. An employee agrees to work diligently at an assigned task and the employer agrees to pay him or her and not fire him or her without cause.

In God's covenantal agreement, he agrees to care for the people if they worship him, listen to him, and keep his commands. However, God is not obliged to fulfill that role if the other party breaches their part of the agreement. The language in Jeremiah chapter 11 is very similar to the standard flow of a contract during the time of the Assyrian empire. It begins with a section of curses for those who break the agreement, followed by a reminder of what one party has done for the other, and then concludes with an Amen(2):

The agreement known as the covenant between God and his people was first described in Deuteronomy which, as we read earlier in the year, followed the dramatic exodus from Egypt that freed God's people from the bondage of slavery to their Egyptian masters:

The exercise with the loin cloth had multiple levels of symbolism. Note that the LORD said "For as the loincloth clings to one’s loins, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord, in order that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. But they would not listen (Jer 13:11)." The exercise would not have been as meaningful if the LORD had not asked Jeremiah to wear the loin cloth before he buried it in the rocks. This part of the exercise helped Jeremiah to understand "God's intimate attachment to Israel; he must not only know about it, but experience it form within." Moreover, "Jeremiah must learn the grief of God in having to spoil what is intimately precious to him (3)."

God was faithful to the people, and patient through many generations, but when he had enough he was quick and forceful with the punishment. Sometimes we may try to accuse God of allegedly abandoning us, but we need to first examine ourselves and determine the ways we have broken the covenant.

If we have broken the covenant, we can remind ourselves that an innocent lamb has been sacrificed on our behalf. The Suffering Servant that Isaiah had talked about became realized in the person of Jesus Christ, who took on the sins of the world. Therefore, we can bring our sins and concerns to the Cross and accept the gentle yoke of our friend Jesus.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Have you ever buried one of your belongings in the ground or found something valuable that someone else lost or buried?
    2. Why do you think God waited so long before delivering the consequence?
    3. What do you think was the trigger for him to finally impose the consequences of destruction described in these chapters?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we acknowledge that you have saved us repeatedly and have been patient with us. Help us to keep our end of the bargain.

    Prayer Request
    People who make and sell clothes


    (1) Boadt, Lawrence, Jeremiah 1-25, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 1982, p 91
    (2) IBID, p. 94
    (3) Heschel, Abraham Joshua, The Prophets, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2001, New York (originally published by Harper & Row in 1962), p.134, 149

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Jeremiah 14-16 (Turn to the LORD)

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