Drought, drought and more *drought. This does not mean a season of little or no rain. It means several seasons of dry arid weather. The oddity of drought in this land can’t be avoided. It is or WAS the land of milk and honey [Deuteronomy 31:20].What happened? Rabbi Yuval Cherlow once said, “The health of the land depends on our responsible behavior.” This is secular thought. What he didn’t say was what God told Israel over and over, “If you worship me, I will bless the land I have given you. It is a Promised Land. If you don’t then…” Jeremiah was the last prophet before the demise of Israel as an independent kingdom; this chapter and a few others is his warning from God to them.
*Prolonged drought in California, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, the Southeast and northern east coast states. Hmmmmmm? Since October of 2016, huge amounts of moisture have refilled the reservoirs or places where water levels had dropped to serious lows; i.e. October of this year. Prayers for this country have gone up from many Christians and churches per saving this country and the national elections. Franklin Graham prayed on the steps of every State capital this past summer. He prayed for God to forgive America. One can’t help but wonder if there is a connection. I report the facts. You decide for yourself!
The Talmud interpreters try to minimize God’s involvement by identifying the milk as that from goats and honey meaning the figs grown there [http://www.myjewishlearning.com]. But that does not support the fact God called it “an already existing land of milk and honey.” Did someone forget the huge crop of grape clusters brought back by the original 12 spies sent into the land by Moses [Numbers 13:27]? This was hundreds of years before this drought in Israel.
Now, what does chapter 12 hold for us:
Drought is the theme of chapter 14. Other than God telling Jeremiah to “not pray for these people of Judah” [V14], Jeremiah’s confessional plea, and questioning God’s ability to keep the promises to the fathers of his chosen people are of chapter 14. Let’s consider these points as a basic chapter 14 outline. But we need to fill in and explain some of the details for the bible student.
Since both Judah and Israel kingdoms [once the nation of Israel] existed in the Levant. It is an area of great lands, fertile for crops, grass for herds, and well-watered. God used its strength against them as a form of punishment. God was once again trying to get their attention. Jeremiah writes in verse 12 that God sees them as wanderers; not place to place, but god to god. The very first verse says “God came to Jeremiah concerning the drought [dearth].” Obviously it was a serious subject. There was no debate that a great need for reservoir water existed; and a great need for rainfall.
Here is an interesting side note about the idol-god Baal, the predominant idol in Judah during this time. One of the defining characteristics of Baal is, as the David Guzik Commentary puts it: “Baal was thought to be the god of weather and rain. Many ancient Israelites were drawn to Baal worship because they wanted rain.” How ironic. The very god that Judah was worshiping as the god of weather and rain was a god that could not provide conducive weather and desperately needed rain. This rain-god theory is supported many years earlier by the confrontation of the Prophet Elijah, the 600 priests of Baal and Jezebel in I Kings 18:19-40. The northern Kingdom of Israel under King Ahab was in a drought situation and for the same reason, worshiping false gods.
Their situation was the same then, years of no rain in the northern Kingdom of Israel. Ahab was king at this time. Jezebel was queen and devoted to Baal. Once again God was punishing the Kingdom of Israel for their unfaithfulness (wandering feet that go god to god while ignoring the only God; (Jeremiah 14:10). The idol-rain-god Baal failed them back then also.
JIV NOTE: The existence of King Ahab is historically; i.e. secularly supported outside of the Bible. Shalmaneser III documented in 853 B.C. that he defeated an alliance of a dozen kings in the Battle of Qarqar; one of these was King Ahab of the northern Kingdom of Israel. [Kurkh Monolith, discovered in 1861 by the British archaeologist John George Taylor]
In verse 2 we read that Judah mourned…but for the wrong thing. They did not mourn their lost relationship with God, but their loss of water and comfortable way of life. It is suggested by some theologians including us, the reason verse 3 says the nobles (fathers) sent their little ones to fetch water was that the drought had become a self-survival exercise; their servants had left to seek a life of self-existence since their landlords could no longer provide them a living or life.
Even the animals of the wild and open fields suffered greatly; the deer; the cattle; the sheep and goats; the wild donkeys [14:4-6].
Now Jeremiah, the ever faithful Judean, pleads with God to make things right for God’s name sake [v7 and again in v14]. He admits the sins of Judah are great but does not confess or speak for the people. Why? God appointed him as a young prophet to condemn Judah for their sins; not to plead for them. He identifies God as “the hope of ISREAL” (not just Judah) and the one who has redeemed them from other troubles. In short, Jeremiah pleaded “God you did it before so do it again.”
Isn’t this like many Christians today? One gets into trouble then pleads with God to get him or her out of that trouble. Frightfully, making promises during the plea-bargaining with God that they do not fulfill. Jeremiah is getting quite pointed in his comments to God by his time. Why are you (God) a stranger like one to whom only occasionally visits this land? Are you (God) a powerless warrior? Where are you (God) in this time of need?
Jeremiah already knew the answers but was hoping to change God’s mind as had some of Israel and Judah’s ancestral prophets and leaders. V10 should have scared these Chosen People right out of their evil ways but it didn’t. It only made Jeremiah more determined to petition God for relief. God points out Judah’s sin: “The people of Judah really love to leave me. They don’t stop themselves from leaving me. So now the LORD will not accept them. Now he will remember the evil they do. He will punish them for their sins.” If the Lord God will now “remember the evil they do,” it defaults back to a time when God opted to not remember their sins. The word ‘remember’ in the Hebrew is zâkar. It means to “make note of; to put it to record.”
At this point God changes the subject while Jeremiah continues to act as an intercessor (attorney) for Judah. God heats up the pending punishment of Judah by telling Jeremiah to not even pray for these people because he will turn a deaf ear to his and their prayers. In other words, at this point God has spoken and the consequences are now irreversible. There is an often unspoken reason that God will bring them into punishment even if (v11) they repent, fast, cry, wail, use sackcloth and ashes, or offer burnt offerings. It is because the people of Judah do not want to return to God. They want to return to their life style, worshiping other gods AND feel protected since they have the Temple of God. They got caught and this is now their sorrow. WE have the Temple they say, but forgot to worship God in it.
In v13, Jeremiah points out to God that there are other “so-called” prophets in the land making contrary prophecies; like God didn’t already know this? These are what is called “tickle the ear” prophets; something like “tickle the ear ministers” today. Their messages are anything but from God, the bible or the scrolls. They sound wonderful if only they were truthful, but they aren’t. After all, Israel has the Temple so why would God leave them? He didn’t! They left HIM!!!!
The word “consume” in v12 needs to be understood. It is “kâlâh” in the Hebrew. The intent is to convey that the fertility, milk and honey of Judah that once knew will come to an end; cease to exist. This is precisely what happened including during their 70 banishment to Babylon. They had gone from a land of plenty to a land that is now desolate, without much water, wind torn territory, and greatly reduced in population. This became the opportunity for the surrounding Gentile neighbors to move in and claim it as their own land. This is still the debate and issue today in the Middle East. Arabs believe the Jews (Israelis) lost their right to the land. They forget as conquered people themselves; Assyrians and Babylonians (Persians) moved them to this land when they removed them from their original home lands. This was a common practice of victorious nations at this time.
Consumed by the sword can simply mean that the existence of a self-ruling Judah would be the result of and under the rule of someone’s sword. Conquered or controlled by the sword.
JIV NOTE: Most people do not connect the Judah Jeremiah is talking about in chapter 14 is today called the West Bank. The West Bank is the territory Jordan captured from the new Israel in 1948 and then occupied it with undesirables in their own land. Today’s West Bank IS THE JUDAH OF JEREMIAH. Today’s Palestinians have a home land. Jordan is 80% Palestinian Arab. Jordan occupied this part of Israel in order to force its undesirables into that territory. Yasser Arafat was one of them. The PLO didn’t exist until 1963. (To not know history is to delete it –Jstark)
What the false prophets of Judah are saying in their ‘tickling of the ears’ prophecies, God calls a LIE in v14. However, the people prefer to believe them over Jeremiah. How closely this resembles Daniel’s and Revelation’s end time message when people will totally fall for the lies rather than the honest truths. Even if one only considers the two witnesses [Revelation 11:1-14], the people of this world or in this case of the two witnesses, most of the people of Judah will once again opt to not side with the truth. “When one does not understand their own history, they are destined to delete it from memory” (Jstark, 2017). In other words, within one or two generations, it never happened.
If one questions God’s anger and deep disappointment of Israeli’s from the Tribe of Judah, re-read v10a. It says. “Thus said Jehovah concerning this people: Well they have loved to wander,…” THIS people? He doesn’t even call them His people at this time. This is very similar in meaning when in the New Testament Jesus on the cross cries, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” [Matthew 27:46].
It will be bad for these people of Judah (Prophets, priests, rulers and residents) who fake a worship of the true God because they have the Temple, but put other values in front of God and first in their lives while actually sacrificing to Baal and other false gods. V16…And the people to whom they prophesy shall be slain and cast out in the streets of Jerusalem,…There will be no one to bury them.” Their death will be so sudden and their removal from the Promised (West Bank) Kingdom of Judah will be swift. Those who try to resist the Babylonians will die on the spot and left for the wild beasts and birds to devour.
Note in V16d God says it is not his punishment but “the calamity they deserve” (NIV). He simply allows it to happen. After all, Babylon is already invading, rampaging and conquering the former lands of the Assyrians and Egypt. God simply removed his protection. If the king and the leaders of Judah did as Jeremiah instructed them to do, just surrender, none of these consequences would have happened. God promised in a later passage that the Babylonians will suffer for their brutality.
V18 explains the vast dismay of Judah. Those in the field of battle will be slain by the Babylonians. Those who are sick and starving within the walled cities of Judah and particularly Jerusalem will be left to die; those already dead in the streets will simply be ignored by this invading army of Nebuchadnezzar. Their leaders and most of the remaining population will be transported to Babylon; a place and a language they do not know. This is explained in the historical reference to what happened to Daniel, *Hananiah, **Mishael and ***Azariah (Hebrew) also known in the Babylonian Chaldean language; *Shadrach, **Meshach, and ***Abed-Nego.
Now Jeremiah gets down right pointed in his conversations with God. Do you despise Judah? Why have you afflicted *us? We cannot be forgiven or healed? FOR YOUR NAME’S SAKE (putting the responsibility back onto God’s shoulders a second time) SAVE JUDAH [v21].
*Jeremiah already knew the consequences of Judah’s sins. Why he would include himself in their ranks by saying US is a human attempt at avoiding the obvious. If I tell God that he is also doing this to Jeremiah, then perhaps Jeremiah’s credentials will bring salvation (forgiveness). God doesn’t bite.
V32 God immediately challenges Jeremiah with a counter-question. He asks, ”Do the worthless idols bring rain or the skies themselves send down rain?” This is enough to snap Jeremiah back into God’s reality reminding him with whom he is arguing to whom he is offering a defense. Jeremiah simply replies in the last verse, ”No, it is you oh Lord.”
In our next chapter, God gives Jeremiah a very good counter-explanation as to the irreversible consequences for Judah’s continuing sins.
Rev. Dr Jstark