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JEREMIAH 5

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Jerusalem's Godlessness The Justice of God's Judgment The Corruptions For Which Judgment Is Coming
(5:1-6:30)
The Sin of Jerusalem Reasons For the Invasion
5:1-3
(1-3)
5:1-2
(1-2)
5:1-3
(1-3)
5:1-11
(1-11)
5:1-6
5:3
(3)
5:4-6
(4-6)
5:4-9
(4-5a)
(5b-6)
5:4-5
(4-5)
5:6
(6)
5:7-9
(7-9)
(7-9) 5:7-9
(7-9)
5:7-11
5:10-13
(10-13)
5:10-13
(10-11)
(12-13)
5:10-13
(10-13)
The Lord Rejects Israel
Judgment Proclaimed 5:12-14 5:12-17
5:14-17
(14-17)
5:14-17
(14-17)
5:14-17
(14-17)
5:15-17 Lessons To Be Drawn From the Punishment
5:18-19 5:18-19 5:18-19 5:18-19 5:18-19
God Warns His People In A Time of Famine (?)
5:20-29
(20-29)
5:20-29
(20-25)
5:20-31
(20-29)
5:20-25 5:20-25
Resumption of the Theme of the Invasion
(26-29) 5:26-28 5:26-31
5:29-31
5:30-31
(30-31)
5:30-31
(30-31)
(30-31)

READING CYCLE THREE(see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary,which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND

A. Jeremiah 2 speaks of the religious problems of Judah, while Jer. 5 speaks of the civic problems.

 

B. Jeremiah 4-6 are unified by their subject (i.e., Judah is sinful and will be invaded, destroyed, and exiled).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JEREMIAH 5:1-3
1"Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
And look now and take note.
And seek in her open squares,
If you can find a man,
If there is one who does justice, who seeks truth,
Then I will pardon her.
2And although they say, 'As the Lord lives,'
Surely they swear falsely."
3O Lord, do not Your eyes look for truth?
You have smitten them,
But they did not weaken;
You have consumed them,
But they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
They have refused to repent.

5:1 Notice the commands in Jer. 5:1 as Jeremiah is instructed to search for one righteous person (obviously, besides himself).

1. "roam to and fro" - BDB 1001, KB 1439, Polel imperative

2. "look" - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative

3. "take note" - BDB 393, KB 390, imperative

4. "seek" - BDB 134, KB 152, Piel imperative

This theme of "no righteous person" among the covenant people is repeated several times in the OT (cf. Isa. 59:16; 63:5; Ezek. 22:30). How shocking!

Remember this is poetry, not historical narrative. It is figurative, hyperbolic language to describe the prevalent sin of Judah! There were faithful individuals (i.e., Josiah, his advisers, Jeremiah, Baruch, etc.).

"who does justice; who seeks truth" This is the kind of faithful follower mentioned in Jer. 4:1-2. The "if. . .then. . ." of both passages is a literary way to heighten the lack of such a person, who should not have been the exception but the rule for Israel/Judah, who had the benefits of

1. the Patriarchs

2. the promises

3. the covenant

4. the leaders (Moses, Joshua, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, etc.)

5. the prophets

6. YHWH's revelation of Himself and His will

 

▣ "Then I will pardon her" This verb (BDB 699, KB 757) is a Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense.

Notice one righteous person brings pardon to the whole (i.e., city or nation). This is surely hyperbole (cf. Gen. 18:26,32), but it does show

1. the sin of Judah

2. the heart of YHWH

The LXX adds, "says the Lord," which clarifies who the speaker is. It is often difficult to know who is speaking to whom.

This Hebrew concept of corporality can also be seen in Joshua 7 and 2 Chr. 7:14. One can affect the whole for the better or worse! Jesus affected the whole positively (cf. Rom. 5:12-21), as Adam did negatively (cf. Genesis 3).

5:2 "As the Lord lives" Judeans used God's name flippantly (in violation of Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12), but denied His lordship by their lives (cf. Isa. 29:13). This phrase is a play on YHWH, which is from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14). See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.

5:3 Because YHWH could not find a faithful person, this verse, in a series of parallel lines, describes what He will do (all perfects).

1. You have smitten them but they refused to be sickened

2. You consumed them but they refused to take correction

3. You made their faces harder than rock but they refused to repent (cf. Jer. 5:5e,f)

Since repentance (see Special Topic at Jer. 2:22) was no longer a real option, only judgment remained!

Just a note about the second verb in #1 above. It could come from two possible Hebrew roots.

1. חלה - BDB 317, KB 316, "to be weak" or "to be sick"

2. חול - BDB 296, KB 297, "to feel anguish"

 

"truth" This Hebrew term denotes "faithfulness" (BDB 53, cf. Jer. 5:1e; Hab. 2:4). See Special Topic: Amen. Truth is more than accurate facts. It is a godly, faithful lifestyle.

▣ "their faces harder than rock" "Harder" (Piel perfect, BDB 304, KB 302) is often used metaphorically of people hardening their hearts (cf. Exod. 8:15; Ezek. 3:7-9). The context confirms this play on word meaning. The Judeans refused (Piel perfect, BDB 549, KB 540) to repent (Qal infinitive construct, BDB 996, KB 1427).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JEREMIAH 5:4-6
4Then I said, "They are only the poor,
They are foolish;
For they do not know the way of the Lord
Or the ordinance of their God.
5I will go to the great
And will speak to them,
For they know the way of the Lord
And the ordinance of their God."
But they too, with one accord, have broken the yoke
And burst the bonds.
6Therefore a lion from the forest will slay them,
A wolf of the deserts will destroy them,
A leopard is watching their cities.
Everyone who goes out of them will be torn in pieces,
Because their transgressions are many,
Their apostasies are numerous.

5:4-6 It seems that the prophet acknowledges Judah's rebellion, but asks permission to address them again in hopes of diverting YHWH's judgment.

1. Judah's spiritual condition

a. they are poor (BDB 195, the opposite of "great," BDB 152, Jer. 5:5)

b. they are foolish

c. they do not know the way of the Lord (i.e., willful ignorance and violations)

2. Jeremiah's proposal

a. I will go and speak (both cohortatives) to the great (i.e., leadership, cf. Jer. 5:31)

b. I will remind them of their knowledge of YHWH's covenant

c. I will inform them of their corporate sin

(1) with one accord

(2) broken the yoke

(3) burst the bonds

 

5:4 "the way. . .ordinance" These two words (BDB 202 and 1048) are two of several terms used to describe God's revelation.

The point of Jer. 5:4-5 is that those who are uneducated and spend all their time just surviving, might not know God's revelation, but the socially elite do have education and instruction in God's revelation.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Terms for God's Revelation (Using Deuteronomy and Psalms)

5:5 "the yoke" This word (BDB 760) was used by the rabbis to refer to the regulations of the law (cf. Matt. 11:29).

"burst the bonds" These were the cords which held the yoke in place. It is another metaphor of known rebellion and covenant violation.

5:6 This verse describes YHWH's judgment in metaphors of predators (a metaphor for invaders, cf. Jer. 2:15; 4:7).

1. a lion

2. a wolf

3. a leopard

The reason for the attacks was Judah's open-eyed rebellion.

1. many transgressions (BDB 833)

2. numerous apostasies (see Special Topic: Apostasy [aphistēmi])

Notice here the parallelism in the first three lines and the last two lines of Jer. 5:6.

▣ "apostasies" See Special Topic: Apostasy (aphistēmi).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JEREMIAH 5:7-9
7"Why should I pardon you?
Your sons have forsaken Me
And sworn by those who are not gods.
When I had fed them to the full,
They committed adultery
And trooped to the harlot's house.
8They were well-fed lusty horses,
Each one neighing after his neighbor's wife.
9Shall I not punish these people," declares the Lord,
"and on a nation such as this
Shall I not avenge Myself?"

5:5-7 YHWH speaks to Judah and outlines their sins and His appropriate response.

1. their sin

a. your sons have forsaken Me (cf. Jer. 1:16)

b. they have sworn by false gods (opposite of Jer. 4:2 and 5:2) who are not real (cf. Jer. 2:11)

c. they committed adultery (i.e., idolatry)

d. they were involved in fertility worship with all the women of the community (cf. Jer. 3:8-9)

2. YHWH's response

a. He will not pardon them (opposite of Jer. 5:1)

b. He fed them to the full (revelation and blessing)

c. they deserve judgment (Jer. 5:9)

 

5:7 "sworn by those who are not gods" This is a denial of the existence of the Canaanite gods. See Special Topic: MONOTHEISM.

▣ "sworn. . .fed them to the full" There is a word play between

1. שׁבע - swear (BDB 989)

2. שבע - fed to the full (BDB 959)

It is even possible that "swear" should be in both lines, thereby denoting false allegiances to fertility gods.

▣ "trooped to the harlot's house" The MT has a word (BDB 151, KB 177) in Hithpoel that has two distinct meanings.

1. gash/cut - an aspect of pagan worship (cf. Deut. 14:1; 1 Kgs. 18:28; Jer. 16:6; 41:5; 47:5; possibly  Hos. 7:14)

2. assemble in troops or bands (cf. Hosea 7:14; Micah 5:1) with the implication of spending much time there

The LXX has "lodged" and the Peshitta has "fought one another." Obviously there is some confusion in meaning in the ancient versions.

5:8 Again the animal world is used to describe human activity. Humans, made in God's image, should act differently than animals in heat!

The first two verbs are uncertain in this context.

1. "well fed" - BDB 402, KB 404, Pual participle, occurs only here. BDB suggests it possibly parallels an Arabic root, "to weigh," hence a metaphor for "testicles." KB suggests "to be in heat," from another Arabic root.

2. "lusty" - BDB 1013, KB 1488, Hiphil participle, which occurs only here. KB suggests it also means "possessing testicles" (אשׁך = testicle, cf. Lev. 21:20)

The LXX has "they were lusty stallions, each neighing for his fellow's wife." Remember for interpreting poetry, look to

1. context (i.e., the strophe)

2. parallelism

3. general sense of the book's larger context

4. similar Hebrew roots

5. cognate language roots

6. common sense

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JEREMIAH 5:10-13
10 "Go up through her vine rows and destroy,
But do not execute a complete destruction;
Strip away her branches,
For they are not the Lord's.
11For the house of Israel and the house of Judah
Have dealt very treacherously with Me," declares the Lord.
12They have lied about the Lord
And said, "Not He;
Misfortune will not come on us,
And we will not see sword or famine.
13The prophets are as wind,
And the word is not in them.
Thus it will be done to them!"

5:10-13 This strophe is very similar to Jer. 5:7-9. These were probably independent judgment poems collected and edited.

Notice the imperatives of Jer. 5:10.

1. "go up" - BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperative

2. "destroy" - BDB 1007, KB 1469, Piel imperative

3. "do not execute a complete destruction" - BDB 793, KB 889, Qal imperfect negated, used in a jussive sense, cf. Jer. 4:27c; 5:18; 30:11; 46:28

4. "strip away" - BDB 693, KB 747, Hiphil imperative

Also notice the intensified form in Jer. 5:11, "have dealt very treacherously with Me." This is a Qal infinitive absolute and an imperfect verb of the same root (BDB 93, KB 108).

In light of this, Jer. 5:10b is a startling statement of hope (cf. Jer. 4:27; 5:10,18; 30:11; 46:28)! A faithful remnant will be spared.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE REMNANT, THREE SENSES

5:10 "For they are not the Lord's" This is referring to the "vines." These Judeans saw their agricultural abundance as a sign of Ba'al's favor! This will change (cf. Jer. 5:12; Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-29).

5:11 "house of Israel. . .house of Judah" All the sons of Abraham had rebelled (cf. Jer. 3:6-10).

5:12 The verb "lied about the Lord" (BDB 471, KB 469, Piel perfect) may be a word play. Its basic meaning is "lean," the exact opposite of the leaders of Jer. 5:7-8. It denotes people who seem to acknowledge one thing, but in reality acknowledge someone else (cf. Jos. 24:27; Job 8:15; Isa. 59:13). This is an example of Isa. 29:13! They say one thing ("As the Lord lives," Jer. 5:2); they do mean it but they practice fertility rites and swear by Ba'al.

NASB"Not He"
NKJV"It is not He"
NRSV"He is nothing"
TEV"He won't really do anything"
TEV(footnote) "We don't want anything to do with Him
NJB"He will do nothing"
JPSOA"It is not so!"
REB"He does not matter"

This is irony. The only true God (i.e., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 43:13) is said to be irrelevant (i.e., will not act, cf. Ezek. 8:12; 9:9; Zeph. 1:12) and the false fertility gods are praised and trusted!

It is possible that this brief phrase means "YHWH would never bring judgment on Jerusalem" (AB, p. 40), which was the prophecy of Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 5-12; 36-37) and the message of the false prophets in Jeremiah's day. Isaiah's statement would be true if His people were faithful, but they were not and the consequences of covenant infidelity (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-29) will come to pass!

5:13 Those who were called and charged to speak for YHWH did not have His "spirit," "wind" (BDB 924, i.e., they do not have YHWH's word, Jer. 5:13b). False prophets are a recurrent theme in Jeremiah (i.e., 5:31; 14:13-15; 23 and typified by Hananiah in chapter 28). Often people hear what they want to hear! The heart controls the ear!

But there are true prophets who do speak for God; Jeremiah was one of them. Verse 13 could be

1. the people's comment about God's prophets, as Jer. 5:12 is their comment about God

2. this is God's comment about the false prophets who are speaking "peace," "safety"!

The last line of Jer. 5:12 favors #2. But it is hard to know "who" is speaking to "whom" in the poems of Jeremiah. The interpretation depends on the identity of the speaker and the recipients. Dogmatism is certainly inappropriate. It is best to ascertain the central truth of the strophe (or series of strophes) and not push the details!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JEREMIAH 5:14-17
14Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of hosts,
"Because you have spoken this word,
Behold, I am making My words in your mouth fire
And this people wood, and it will consume them.
15Behold, I am bringing a nation against you from afar,
O house of Israel," declares the Lord.
"It is an enduring nation,
It is an ancient nation,
A nation whose language you do not know,
Nor can you understand what they say.
16Their quiver is like an open grave,
All of them are mighty men.
17They will devour your harvest and your food;
They will devour your sons and your daughters;
They will devour your flocks and your herds;
They will devour your vines and your fig trees;
They will demolish with the sword your fortified cities in which you trust.

5:14-17 YHWH ("the Lord, the God of hosts," see Special Topic at Jer. 1:2) discloses what He will do in response to His people's rebellion and specifically because of their words in Jer. 5:12.

God is bringing a foreign pagan nation to judge His people (cf. Isa. 5:26-30). Apparently Jer. 5:14 is YHWH speaking to Jeremiah (UBS Handbook, p. 163). Notice the description of this nation.

1. from afar

2. an enduring nation (or "strong," cf. Jer. 5:15)

3. an ancient nation

4. a nation with a different language (cf. Isa. 28:11)

5. a nation with a mighty army

a. devour your current harvest

b. devour your children

c. devour your herds

d. devour your fields

e. demolish your walled cities and forts

 

5:16 The MT has אשפתו (BDB 80), which means "quiver." However, the previous line in Jer. 5:15 speaks of a language; שׁפתו, which means "his lip" (cf. NEB, REB). The UBS Text Project gives option #1 a B rating (some doubt), which is followed by most English translations.

The LXX of this verse has only "all are strong" for Jer. 5:16.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JEREMIAH 5:18-19
18"Yet even in those days," declares the Lord, "I will not make you a complete destruction. 19It shall come about when they say, 'Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?' then you shall say to them, 'As you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you will serve strangers in a land that is not yours.'"

5:18-19 This is a statement of hope, forgiveness, and restoration to

1. the faithful remnant, see Special Topic: The Remnant, Three Senses

2. all of the seed of Abraham who will repent of their idolatry

The phrase "I will not make a complete destruction" (cf. Jer. 4:27; 5:10) implies #1.

YHWH is addressing His prophet (Jer. 5:19) about how to respond to the obvious question, "Why has God allowed this destruction and exile?" (cf. Jer. 16:10-13; Deut. 29:24-28; 1 Kgs. 9:8-9). It is theologically crucial in an ANE setting that the reason for the exile is not YHWH's weakness, but His people's idolatry!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JEREMIAH 5:20-29
20"Declare this in the house of Jacob
And proclaim it in Judah, saying,
21'Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
Who have eyes but do not see;
Who have ears but do not hear.
22Do you not fear Me?' declares the Lord.
'Do you not tremble in My presence?
For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea,
An eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it.
Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail;
Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.
23But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;
They have turned aside and departed.
24They do not say in their heart,
"Let us now fear the Lord our God,
Who gives rain in its season,
Both the autumn rain and the spring rain,
Who keeps for us
The appointed weeks of the harvest."
25Your iniquities have turned these away,
And your sins have withheld good from you.
26For wicked men are found among My people,
They watch like fowlers lying in wait;
They set a trap,
They catch men.
27Like a cage full of birds,
So their houses are full of deceit;
Therefore they have become great and rich.
28They are fat, they are sleek,
They also excel in deeds of wickedness;
They do not plead the cause,
The cause of the orphan, that they may prosper;
And they do not defend the rights of the poor.
29Shall I not punish these people?' declares the Lord,
'On a nation such as this
Shall I not avenge Myself?'"

5:20-29 This is yet another strophe/poem about YHWH's people's (both Israel and Judah) sin (Jer. 5:20). It has imagery from Isa. 6:9-10.

It starts off like Jer. 4:5, with several imperatives related to "hear and respond."

1. "declare" - BDB 616, KB 665, Hiphil imperative

2. "proclaim - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Hiphil imperative

3. "hear" - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative

Notice how the covenant people are characterized (Jer. 5:21-23).

1. foolish - BDB 698, cf. Jer. 4:22

2. senseless (lit. "without heart")

3. eyes but cannot see

4. ears but cannot hear

5. do not fear - BDB 431, KB 432, cf. Jer. 1:8; 3:8

6. do not feel anguish - BDB 296, KB 297, cf. Jer. 5:3; 4:19,31; 51:29

7. stubborn heart - BDB 710, KB 770, cf. Jer. 6:28; Deut. 21:18

8. rebellious heart - BDB 598, KB 632, cf. Jer. 4:17; Deut. 21:18

9. turn aside - BDB 693, KB 747, cf. Jer. 6:28; 15:5; 17:5; 32:40

10. departed - BDB 229, KB 246

Notice the emphasized personal element ("Me" and "My presence") of #5 and #6.

5:22c-f In these lines of poetry and Jer. 5:24 c-f, God describes Himself as the creator and sustainer of the planet. It is He, not the false, non-existent fertility gods, who controls nature.

The specific parallel passages that describe YHWH setting bounds on the waters are Job 38:8-11 and Ps. 104:5-9.

Verse 23 describes rebellious covenant people as breaking through the set boundaries of God! The results of the self-assertion and self-directedness of the Fall (cf. Genesis 3) are obvious and pervasive!

5:24 "Let us now fear the Lord" This is the often repeated admonition of Exod. 20:20; Deut. 4:10; Ps. 34:11; Pro. 1:7; 9:10; Eccl. 12:13; Isa. 11:2-3. However, these hearers would not respond to Him! They did not fear the Lord (cf. Jer. 2:19).

5:25 "Your iniquities have turned these away" The nation's sins caused these calamities (cf. Jer. 2:17; 4:18).

5:26-29 These verses describe the wealthy, powerful leaders.

1. lie in wait

a. watch like fowlers

b. set a trap

c. catch men

2. become great and wealthy by evil means

a. fat (cf. Deut. 32:15)

b. sleek (BDB 799, found only here)

c. excel in deeds of wickedness (i.e., could mean [1] "overlook evil," cf. Pro. 19:11; Mic. 7:18 or [2] "go beyond" as it is used in Jer. 5:22, BDB 716, KB 778)

d. do not plead the case of the orphan and poor (LXX, "the widow")

Judgment is coming (Jer. 5:29)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JEREMIAH 5:30-31
30"An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
31The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so!
But what will you do at the end of it?"

5:30-31 This short strophe is the conclusion of the description of the apostasy of Abraham's seed. The leaders are corrupt (cf. Jer. 2:8,26; 4:9; 5:13; 6:13; 8:10; 13:13; 14:14-16,18; 18:18) and the people not only tolerate it but revel (cf. Mic. 2:11) in their wickedness and, by implication, participate in it, or would like to! What has happened to covenant faith and faithfulness?

5:31

NASB, NKJV"the priests rule on their own authority"
NRSV"the priests exploit the people"
NJB, TEV,
JPSOA"the priests rule as the prophets direct"
REB"the priests are in league with them"

This question is, from what root does the verb come?

1. רדה - BDB 921, KB 1190, Qal imperfect, "to rule" (NASB, NKJV)

2. ירד- BDB 432, KB 434, "to go down" in the sense of joining hands or cooperation (cf. NJB, TEV. JPSOA, REB)

 

▣ "But what will you do at the end of it" This may refer to the false promises and hopes of the false prophets. What will they do when the invader comes? They will lose all credibility (cf. Deut. 18:20-22).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Where else does the concept of Jer. 5:1 appear? How is this passage related to that text?

2. How are chapters 2 and 5 of Jeremiah related?

3. Does Jeremiah have a good relationship to other prophets of his day?

4. Why does Judah not listen to Jeremiah's message?

 

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