Jeremiah Chapter 12  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Jeremiah 12
Jer 12:1

“bring a case against.” The Hebrew word is riyb (#7378 רִיב, pronounced reeb), and it means to quarrel or contend, to lodge a complaint, to make a lawsuit against. In this context, the best meaning seems to be “bring a case, or lawsuit, against” (cp. HCSB; NASB; NIV; NRSV). On the basis of the Torah and the covenant God made with Israel, for example, the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy, it would seem that righteous people would do well and wicked people would suffer. However, in Jeremiah’s lifetime the opposite seemed to be the situation, so Jeremiah was “bringing his case” before Yahweh. Of course, like Job the righteous sufferer, God was always able to vindicate Himself. However, Jeremiah, like Job, complained to God about the situation.

We now see things much more clearly than Job or Jeremiah ever could. Jesus Christ made known God in a way that He had never been known before (John 1:18; Luke 10:24). Today we see the great war between Good and Evil, between God and the Devil. Also, the New Testament makes it clear that the Devil is the ruler of the world, which is why the world has the nature of the Devil and not the nature of God. It is because the Devil is the ruler of the world that “the world” hates followers of Christ, and neither Christ himself or his followers are “of the world” (John 15:18-19; John 17:14, 16). “The world” and the Father are opposed to one another (1 John 2:16), and the world is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19). [For more on the Devil being in control of the world, see commentary on Luke 4:6].

“Why does the road of the wicked prosper.” Godly people have noticed that wicked people often prosper, and have asked this same question for millennia (cp. Job 21:7-15; Ps. 10:3-11), but it has a good answer. Ungodly people are ruthless and often get ahead by evil and treachery. Also, being “of this world” they tend to pay closer attention to how to get ahead in life than godly people do, who are more interested in pleasing God and helping others than in buiding any kind of personal kingdom on earth. Furthermore, Satan, the god of this age, wants the wicked to be in charge and helps them in all kinds of ways. Job complained about the prosperity of the wicked some 1500 years before Jeremiah did (see commentary on Job 21:7).

Jer 12:2

“near in their mouth but far from their heart.” Religious hypocrisy and dishonesty are often hidden by smooth words, and sadly, too many people believe what people say and do not pay attention to what they do. Jesus taught us to watch what people do very carefully if we are going to know them (Matt. 7:16, 20).

Jer 12:3

“test my heart, that it is toward you​.” God tests the attitude and posture of our heart towards Him.

“Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter.” Jeremiah is praying to God, “Pull them out of the flock of mankind and get rid of them, the way sheep are pulled out of the flock and slaughtered.” This is what Theologians refer to as an imprecatory prayer, a prayer for judgment against an enemy. We are not to curse people, but that does not mean we cannot pray that evil people will be dealt with so their evil comes to an end. We can and should pray for them to change, but we can also pray their evil comes to an end.

Jer 12:4

“Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it​​​.” One of the great lessons of the Bible is that the behavior of people affects the land that they live on. This lesson is throughout the Old Testament (cp. Deut. 11:13-17; 28:1, 12, 15, 22-25, 38-40; Lev. 18:24-25; Ps. 107:33-34; Jer. 3:2-3; 12:4; 23:10; Amos 4:6-10). (See commentary on Lev. 18:25).

Jer 12:5

“If you have run with the footmen.” In Jeremiah 12:1-4, Jeremiah has been speaking. The speaker now changes to God, but without any introduction such as “Then Yahweh said.” The reader has to pick up the change from the content of what is said.

“horses.” Jeremiah has been dealing with some very difficult situations, but they are “men” compared to the situations in store in his future, which God sees coming, and those future difficult people and situations are the “horses” (horses were the fast and powerful animals of the time). If we have trouble maintaining our trust in God and positive attitude when things are somewhat bad, how will we do if things get really difficult? We cannot be so connected to the things we enjoy in this life, including our hopes and dreams for here on earth, that we become discouraged and dejected if we lose them or never see them realized. God makes no promises for our prosperity here on earth, but He promises to be with us always and reward us for our faithfulness to Him.

Jer 12:6

“For even your brothers and the house of your father.” Even people from Jeremiah’s own family joined the plot to kill him (see commentary on Jeremiah 11:18).

Jer 12:7

“I have forsaken my house.” This is God speaking. The kingdom of Judah had so forsaken God that He in turn has forsaken Judah. In this context, God’s “house” is “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer. 11:17). He had left “his house,” and cast off his heritage, the people of Judah, and given what His soul dearly loved, i.e., His people, into the hand of her enemies. The enemies are called “her enemies” because God is using the figure of speech personification and portraying Judah as the woman He has loved. [For more on the figure of speech personification, see commentary on Proverbs 1:20].

Jer 12:8

“like a lion in the forest.” God’s people have rejected Him and raised their voice against Him; they roared against Him. Like a lion in the forest, Judah has even become dangerous to God, she rejects Him, twists His words, and hurts and even kills the individuals He loves, such as the prophets, the poor, and the widows.

“raised her voice against me.” The Hebrew is more literally like Young’s Literal Translation: “She gave forth against Me with her voice,” but that is not very clear in English, and the meaning is that Judah raised her voice against God.

Jer 12:9

“Is my heritage to me like a speckled bird of prey.” The reading in the REV follows the Masoretic text and the majority of English translations. However, there are scholars who support a different reading based on understanding the Hebrew differently and more closely following the Septuagint, for example, the NAB, which has: “My heritage is a prey for hyenas, is surrounded by vultures” (cp. NRSV). In any case, the meaning of the verse is that Judah is under attack from enemies, who are like wild animals ready to attack and devour her.

Jer 12:10

“many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard.” The “shepherds” are the rulers and leaders. This was a powerful word-picture in biblical times because the animosity between shepherds, especially people shepherding goats, and farmers is age-old. The sheep and goats wandered the hillsides and often got into the crops and vineyards of the farmers. In this verse, God’s people are the vineyard, and the “shepherds” are the rulers, here especially foreign rulers, that trample God’s people.

The word “shepherd” was a common idiom for a ruler. That fact is in part obscured by the Christian tradition to translate the Greek word “shepherd” as “pastor” in the New Testament Epistles. If the Greek word “shepherd” were translated as “shepherd” in the New Testament, we would see much more clearly that God set “shepherds” over His people to care for them.

[For more on leaders being called “shepherds,” see commentary on Jer. 2:8].

Jer 12:11(top)
Jer 12:12

“the sword of Yahweh devours.” A beautiful and powerful personification. God’s sword is described as if it was a person with a great appetite, eating the people of the land.

Jer 12:13(top)
Jer 12:14(top)
Jer 12:15

“I will bring them again, each to his heritage and each to his land.” The promise of God is that the exiles will eventually be brought back to their countries. Although this prophecy was fulfilled in small part when the Judeans returned to Israel after the Babylonian Captivity, the ultimate fulfillment will be in the Millennial Kingdom, when Christ rules the earth (see commentary on Jer. 32:37).

[For more on the Millennial Kingdom when Christ rules the earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].

Jer 12:16

“learn, yes, learn.” The verb “learn” is repeated twice in different aspects for emphasis, which is the figure polyptoton (see commentary on Gen. 2:16). The meaning is that if the people will really learn and do.

“then they will be built up in the midst of my people.” This remarkable prophecy shows God’s great compassion for all humanity. Here he tells Judah’s enemies that if they will learn the ways of God’s people, the Judeans, and learn to swear by the name of Yahweh instead of the name of Baal, God will build them up, even in the midst of His people. God speaks of nations repenting in Jeremiah 18:8.

Jer 12:17

“But if they will not listen.” In a context like this, the word “listen” can also be used idiomatically and have the meaning “obey.” Some scholars refer to this as the “pregnant sense” of the word. In this verse it has the meaning “listen to and obey.” Many Hebrew words are used with an idiomatic or pregnant sense (see commentary on Luke 23:42). A number of versions translate the Hebrew word as “obey” here (CSB; KJV; NAB; NKJ; NLT).


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