This book tells us not only of the immediate future of Judah, but end time for all including the dispersed ten tribes of the northern kingdom. However, the first verse in Jeremiah 3 has an application per some translations that can send one off with the wrong emphasis. It has a parallel meaning to what Jeremiah is being told by God.
Jeremiah begins with something the Judeans and all of the Israelites already know about Hebrew law therefore comparing it to them as a people chosen of God to be his *special people, like a wife. He IS NOT talking or making an emphasis per marriage between a man and woman but is using it as a platform to help them understand (see the learning pyramid in this website) via their current knowledge of the Law. [Awareness – Knowledge – Understanding…]
*Jesus uses the same analogy with the church of the New Testament; i.e. the church being the bride of Christ. This is addressed in greater detail in previous articles published on this website. Israel, all of the Tribes, is the bride of God.
SUPPOSE that a man divorces his wife, then she marries another man. According to the Law of Moses, her first husband cannot return to her without defiling her second marriage. (Paraphrased). The second half of verse 1 states… “People in Israel, you have lived like a prostitute. You have loved many false gods. So do you think that you can return to me now?’ asks the LORD.”
Jeremiah then makes the analogy of Israel (Judah included) living like a prostitute. They have taken in other gods of wood, stone, religion, all while giving very limited lip service to the monotheistic God of Judaism. Judah, even more so than did the Northern Kingdom of Israel, made alliances with other nations (kingdoms) to protect them or join them in a defense without consulting God as to their decisions to do so. They put their lives in the hands of other men and kingdoms rather than in the hands of God. In verses 4 and 5 Judah calls out to God as if they “really didn’t mean to leave him. Please get over your anger so we can be rescued from these men (other kingdoms) who wish to abuse us.” This has some rather strong resemblances to being a fox-hole Christian.
This was simply a repeated plea from the Israelites after each time of separation from their God and desperate moments (might this sound familiar personally?). If wanting to dig a bit deeper in your studies, go to the Book of Hosea and read it. You will find a brief outline of Hosea in a graphic form on the next page. Hosea actually married a prostitute and was commanded by God to do so. It was an example of things to come regarding Israel. Jeremiah is pointing back to Hosea in his analysis and warnings. Hosea was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom which by the time of Jeremiah, it no longer existed.
What Jeremiah is actually saying in these early verses of chapter 3 is: “oh Israel and Judah. You are my [God’s] wife who lived as a prostitute with other nations instead of depending on me. Do not expect me to simply dismiss your intentional acts of ungodliness. I will forgive in the end as promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but there will be a price to pay for your actions.” The oddity found in verse 11 is that God sees Judah as worse than their kindred northern cousins, long since these 10 tribes being dispersed and ceasing to exist as a kingdom after the Assyrians conquered them.
Judah had some good kings. The northern ten tribes basically had un-Godly kings. So how might one justify God’s attitude per these cousins but two different kingdoms, that is, Israel being the worse of the 12 divided Tribes of Israel but lasting longer as a kingdom? It is not really that difficult. Judah too had several backslidden kings including child sacrifices. But the real taker is that 100 plus years earlier, the southern kingdom saw what God allowed to happen to the northern kingdom as judgment for their sins and did not learn from it. It is much like attitudes of people today when we think “it won’t happen to me.” Back up to verse 10; “they only pretend to worship or be loyal to me.”
Sunday only Christians… beware and leery of our own thoughts that Sunday attendance and desperation moments are evidence enough so that God thinks we have been loyal to him. Jeremiah 3:12 & 13 is a promise of fascinating reassurance. It reads:
V12 Go. Announce this message to the people who are in the north.
‘Israel, you have not been loyal’, declares the LORD.
‘Return to me.
I will not frown on you any longer.
I am kind and I am willing to forgive’,
declares the LORD.
‘I will not be angry for always.
v13 You must [first] admit that you are guilty.
You have refused to obey the LORD your God.
You have loved false gods everywhere.
You have worshipped them under every green tree.
You have not obeyed me’, declares the LORD.
“Return to me.” Even though the ten tribes in the north are at this time scattered throughout the known world, they can return to God in their hearts. This has still to happen even though Daniel, a student of Jeremiah’s writings, offered a prayer of confession for Israel as a nation from his captivity in Babylon [Daniel 9:1-19]. God says “I am willing to forgive.”
His one-person prayer may or may not be the confession God is seeking. Time will tell. However, in verse 13 of Jeremiah 3 we also read, “You must admit that you are guilty.” Daniel admits it, but what about the other millions of dispersed Israelites who by now have possibly forgotten that they are descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (renamed Israel)? The next line reads, “You have refused to obey the LORD your God.” It is more than confession but it also means a life lived IN GOD, just as the New Testament tells us [2 Corinthians 5:15] that we are to live IN JESUS. That means Christianity is a way of life; not just a religion. Just as true today with the lost ten Tribes of Israel, far too many Sunday Christians don’t get or don’t want this to be a condition of their salvation.
Adam Clark has one of the best commentary explanations for Jeremiah 3:14. He writes:
“I will take you one of a city, and two of a family” – [Clark] If there should be but one of a city left, or one willing to return, and two only of a whole tribe, yet will I receive these, and bring them back from captivity into their own land.
In other words, a confession of one or two within a given family of Israel is possibly good enough for God to welcome back the entire tribe. This makes Daniel’s prayer in Danial 9 very significant. JIV NOTE: It can be noted that some commentaries simply skip past this verse therefore avoiding comment and commitment to what God is saying through Jeremiah. The answer is actually found in Jeremiah 31… (CEV) “Oh Israel, I [God] promise [to covenant] that someday ALL YOUR TRIBES will again be my people.”
NOTE: We are running out of blog space and reader patience, but Jeremiah 3:19-25 should not be skipped. (CEV; Contemporary English Version)
Jer 3:19 I have always wanted to treat you as my children and give you the best land, the most beautiful on earth. I wanted you to call me “Father” and not turn from me.
Jer 3:20 But instead, you are like a wife who broke her wedding vows. You have been unfaithful to me. I, the LORD, have spoken.
Jer 3:21 Listen to the noise on the hilltops! It’s the people of Israel, weeping and begging me to answer their prayers. They forgot about me and chose the wrong path.
Jer 3:22 I will tell them, “Come back, and I will cure you of your unfaithfulness.” They will answer, “We will come back, because you are the LORD our God.
Jer 3:23 On hilltops, we worshiped idols and made loud noises, but it was all for nothing– only you can save us.
Jer 3:24 Since the days of our ancestors when our nation was young, that shameful god Baal has taken our crops and livestock, our sons and daughters.
Jer 3:25 We have rebelled against you just like our ancestors, and we are ashamed of our sins.”
What a conclusion for chapter 3; a true confession of guilt and a full-time return to honoring God as the one and only god. This means putting into second place all other things in life. Israel will eventually do just that. Though Israel today is basically populated and established by those few who descend from those who returned (536 B.C.) from captivity in Babylon, a time will come when they will be called from the four corners of the earth and return in mass to a nations with Jesus on the throne. It is verse 22 that is critical. God says, “I will tell them to come back…”
This is very likely to be an event that immediately follows the second advent of Christ when he returns to set up his millennial kingdom. Why? The compelling words are COME BACK, not go back. God and Jesus are already there setting up this Kingdom.