Jeremiah Chapter 15  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Jeremiah 15
Jer 15:1

“my mind.” The Hebrew translated “mind” is the word nephesh (#05315 נֶפֶשׁ), which has a wide range of meanings, a few of which apply here, making the translator’s choice difficult. Here in Jeremiah 15:1, nephesh seems to best refer to God’s thoughts and desires, which is why many English translations say “mind,” although some read “heart,” which also catches some of the meaning. [For more on nephesh and soul see Appendix 7, “Usages of ‘Soul’”].

Jer 15:2(top)
Jer 15:3

“four kinds of punishment.” The Hebrew word generally means “clans” in the sense of ethnic or national groups, or “kinds” in the sense of species, thus the sense is four different types of punishments. The idea of punishments is taken from the word “appoint” which is also translated as “visit” or “punish” in many places.

“the dogs...the birds...the animals.” The people who were killed by the sword would face the horrible fate of not being buried, but their dead bodies being eaten by the animals and birds. Not having a proper burial was considered a terrible curse (see commentary on Jer. 14:16).

Jer 15:4(top)
Jer 15:5(top)
Jer 15:6

“You have rejected me.” The pronoun is emphatic and thus accusatory; “YOU have rejected ME.”

“I am tired of relenting.” God is compassionate and merciful, but His mercy and grace have limits. He will not continue to give grace after grace to people who are stubbornly defiant and continually stand against Him. Indeed, when people constantly and defiantly sin, He cannot hold back the forces of evil over and over and still be a righteous God. [For more about God “relenting,” “regretting,” and “changing His mind,” see commentary on Jer. 18:8].

Jer 15:7

“a winnowing fork at the gates.” Threshing floors for winnowing grain were often near the gates of the city. The grain was brought to the threshing floor, threshed to separate the grain from the stalk, and then the grain was gathered for use, the stalk gathered for fires and other uses, and the chaff was blown away, scattered to the wind. So too, different things would happen to the captives at the gates of the cities at the hands of the enemy, and Judah would end up divided and scattered.

Jer 15:8

“at noonday.” Ancient armies typically fought during the day, and so noonday was a good time to attack.

Jer 15:9

“her sun went down while it was still day.” The woman’s sons, the light of her life, were killed by the enemy so “her sun went down.”

Jer 15:10

“Woe is me, my mother.” The speaker now shifts to Jeremiah. It had been God. The reader is expected to notice the shift from the content itself, the Bible does not point out the shift. Jeremiah is under such pressure that here he laments his birth, similar to Job (cp. Job 3:1-16). Jeremiah was called by God from the womb, now things are so difficult in his life that he says he regrets being born. It is doubtful that he actually did, but his grief was deep and he expressed it by saying he wishes he had not been born.

“a man of accusation and a man of contention.” The two Hebrew words, rib (#07379 רִב), here translated “accusation,” and madon (#04066 מָדוֹן), here translated “contention,” were used in the legal system, and used of accusations and legal cases and also of the contention that occurs in courts. The genitive construction, “a man of accusation” can have either a subjective or objective meaning; so it can mean that Jeremiah instigated the court cases and contention, i.e., he accused others, or he was accused and contended with by others. Also, however, the genitive case leaves open both possibilities; sometimes Jeremiah accused others and sometimes they accused him, and that is likely what happened. Here in Jeremiah 15:10, Jeremiah expressed that he felt like he was always in battles with people and it was difficult for him. Frankly, he likely was in almost daily battles over the Law and doing what was godly, and that would have been difficult, but that was the ministry that God called him to (Jer. 1:10): that was what God wanted and needed him to do to try to call godless Judah back to God.

God called Jeremiah to an extremely difficult ministry, and although Jeremiah was up to the task, it did not mean that he did not often personally suffer for it. The fact is that the world is very ungodly, and people who stand up for God and take a stand against ungodliness regularly suffer for it. That is why we must know that great rewards will be given to those who stand for God and we must draw strength from that hope (Matt. 5:10-12). Even Jesus drew strength to endure the cross from the joy he saw coming in the future (Heb. 12:2), and we must also draw strength from the hope that is promised to us (Rom. 8:18).

“I have not lent.” In the context of breaking (or “stretching”) the law, “lending” was lending with interest (cp. Deut. 23:19).

Jer 15:11

“I will send you away.” The meaning of this verse is not well understood, and translations vary greatly. In this translation, the “you” refers to Jerusalem, not Jeremiah, which fits with the context and next verses (cp. NET First Edition text note).

Jer 15:12(top)
Jer 15:13

“all your sins throughout all your territory.” The sin and idolatry of Judah was not just in Jerusalem or only localized in certain places. The sin of Judah was throughout Judah.

Jer 15:14

“It will burn against you.” That is, it will burn you up. There are some Hebrew manuscripts that read “burn forever,” but the Masoretic Hebrew reads “burn against you.”

Jer 15:15

“Yahweh, you know.” The brevity of this statement combined with the context gives us its meaning. Jeremiah was saying, “Yahweh, you know my situation.” Yahweh knew Jeremiah’s situation, his needs, and his enemies.

“Do not take me away from life because of your longsuffering.” This phrase in Jeremiah 15:15 is hard to understand without a scope of what Jeremiah knew about God. He knew God was longsuffering and slow—sometimes very slow—to punish evil (cp. Exod. 36:6; Ps. 86:15). But Jeremiah felt that if God did not move quickly in avenging him from persecutors, they would kill him and thus take him from life. The NET Bible more freely translates Jeremiah’s request so it is easier to understand: “[God], do not be so patient with them [the persecutors] that you allow them to kill me.”

One lesson we can learn from Jeremiah is the love of life. To say that Jeremiah’s life was difficult is to understate the fact. Jeremiah’s life was so difficult, and things were going so badly for the country of Judah, that God told him not to marry and have children (Jer. 16:2). In that context, we might think that Jeremiah would have been happy to have his life end because not only was his life very difficult, he had confidence that he would be resurrected to a wonderful life in Paradise. In fact, it looked at one point he would be executed because of the prophecies he was giving (Jer. 26:14-15). But here we see the great love of life that Jeremiah had, and as tough as his life was, he prayed to God not to let people take his life from him.

Life can be difficult, but if we focus on God and His love for us, and focus on others and what we can do for them even if our own life is painful, we can love our life and the opportunities that we have each day.

Jer 15:16

“Your words were found, and I ate them.” This statement in Jeremiah 15:16 is generally taken by scholars to be a general statement, meaning that as Jeremiah got the Word of God from various sources, including revelation, he digested them and got great joy from them. Although that is certainly true, the word “found” is matsa (#04672 מָצָא) in the niphal aspect, and it literally means “to be found; to be discovered.” Only a few years before Jeremiah started prophesying, Manasseh had reigned over Judah for 55 years, and the vast majority of that time he had been extremely evil. He repented, but the evil he had done was not reversed and set in motion disaster for Judah many years after his death in the reign of king Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:3). After Manasseh, his son Amon ruled Judah, and he was very evil also.

During that long time of evil, the scrolls of the Old Testament were apparently lost. Jeremiah started his ministry in the 13th year of the godly king Josiah (Jeremiah 1:1-2). In the 18th year of Josiah, when the Temple was being refurbished after years of neglect, the scrolls of the Law were found in the Temple (2 Kings 22:8-10). It was the first time Josiah the king had seen the scrolls of the Law, as is apparent from his reaction and the reform that he then started (2 Kings 22:11-13). Since Jeremiah lived in Anathoth in Benjamin, only 5 miles or so from Jerusalem, it is almost certain that he had never seen the scrolls of the Law either. When Josiah read the scrolls, he started a kingdom-wide reform. When Jeremiah read the scrolls of the Lord, he “ate” them, and they were to him the joy and rejoicing of his heart.

“for I am called by your name.” The Hebrew is literally, “for your name was called over me,” and the phrase seems to denote ownership, e.g., “I belong to you.”

Jer 15:17

“of those who make merry.” Although some versions read “mock” instead of “make merry,” the meaning of the Hebrew word here means more to laugh and make merry than to mock, and most modern versions have some version of making merry and having a good time. Jeremiah understood the consequences of the sin of the people and could not join them in their merrymaking as if nothing evil was going to happen in the future.

“I sat alone because of your hand.” Jeremiah sat alone because of the “hand” of God upon him. “Hand” in this context is multifaceted and refers to the many ways God was working with him, including the revelation he received, his calling and ministry, and his responsibility to try to turn the people from their ignorant and evil ways. Often true men and women of God are compelled to stand apart from people who ignorantly sin and party to their doom, and thus Jeremiah’s statement is similar to Psalm 26:4-7.

Jer 15:18

“like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” This is a reference to a physical attribute of Israel that was well known, and thus it is similar to a custom or idiom because you have to know the land of Israel to understand it.

The majority of the streams in Israel only flow during the rainy season. Thus, at some point during the dry season they stop flowing, but the exact time that happens depends on the amount of rain that fell that year, how long the rainy season lasted, etc. That meant that if a person needed water, if the dry season had started they could never really be sure if the stream would still be flowing or if it had already dried up. The ironic thing about those streams was that often during the rainy season there was water in lots of places so the streams were not quite as necessary, but then late in the dry season when they were really needed, they did not have any water.

Jeremiah is asking God if He is like that; like a stream that only provides water during the “good” times and then stops providing when conditions get tough. It can seem like in the good times, when we do not need God’s comfort, it is there in abundance, but then in the tough times God’s comfort is not there. Jeremiah’s statement, expressing some doubt in God, brings a quick and stern rebuke from God (Jer. 15:19).

We can rely on God all the time, although sometimes it may not seem that way. Sometimes our pain and grief are so great that it makes God seem abnormally distant, and we expect more from God than we should. God is God, and life is difficult, and we need to have the strength and confidence to bear up in difficult times and not expect to be somehow coddled by God. In Jeremiah 15:21, God assures Jeremiah that He will deliver him, and we can rely on God’s deliverance too. But, as we learn from Proverbs, that does not mean that He will support our wrong expectations. We have to walk righteously and with wisdom.

Jer 15:19

“If you return back to me, then I will take you back.” God addresses Jeremiah directly and rebukes him. The Hebrew is hard to express in English. In this first sentence, the verb shub (#07725) is repeated twice in a row but in different conjugations making the statement very punchy and powerful, literally “shub shub” but it is shub (qal), shub (hiphil). “If you return back (shub in the qal aspect: “return, turn back, repent”) to me, then I take you back (shub in the hiphil aspect: “make you return, cause you to return, take back, restore). To continue the emphasis on shub, God uses it twice in the last sentence of the verse. The people must turn back to Jeremiah and what he is saying, but Jeremiah is not to turn to them.

“You will stand before me.” A powerful promise and hope for Jeremiah. God uses the language of trusted leaders and ministers: They stand before the king, in his presence, to carry out his will.

“utter the precious and not the worthless.” The Hebrew is more literally, “if you bring out (i.e., utter, speak) the precious from (away from) the worthless.” God challenges Jeremiah to only utter “precious” words, His words or words of truth, and not “worthless” words, words that are not true, and if Jeremiah does that, he will continue to be God’s mouth, His prophet.

Jer 15:20(top)
Jer 15:21(top)

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