Jeremiah 13:1-27

Submitted by admin on Thu, 2016-10-27 14:22.

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YHWH told Jeremiah to go to obtain a linen loincloth for himself and to wear it around his loins. He was not to dip the loincloth “in water,” indicating that he was not to wash it at any time. (13:1) Jeremiah did as the “word” or message from YHWH instructed him, obtaining the loincloth and wearing it around his loins. (13:2)

For a second time, Jeremiah received a “word” or message from YHWH. (13:3) He was directed to take the loincloth he had worn around his loins and to go on a journey to “Perath [Euphrates],” and there hide the loincloth in a “cleft of the rock. The roundtrip over the shortest route to the Euphrates River would have been in excess of 600 miles (over 1,000 kilometers). Therefore, a view that has gained a measure of acceptance is that the Hebrew designation Perath here refers to the town of Parah that was located not far from Jerusalem and from Jeremiah’s hometown Anathoth. The Septuagint rendering, however, is Euphrates, and this is definitely the meaning of “Perath” in other contexts. (13:4; 46:2, 6, 10; 51:63) As YHWH had commanded him, Jeremiah departed and hid the linen loincloth at Perath (by the Euphrates [LXX]). (13:5)

After “many days,” or a considerable time, had passed, Jeremiah was divinely instructed to return to Perath (the Euphrates [LXX]) and to “take from there the loincloth” which YHWH had commanded him “to hide there.” (13:6) He went to Perath (the Euphrates [LXX]), dug at the location where he had left the loincloth, and took it from the place where he had hidden it. Jeremiah found that the loincloth was ruined and not good for anything. (13:7)

The “word of YHWH” came to Jeremiah, revealing to him the significance of what had happened in connection with the loincloth. (13:8) Just as the loincloth had been ruined, YHWH purposed to bring ruin to the “pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.” The end of “pride” for Judah and Jerusalem would mean that the kingdom of Judah, including the capital Jerusalem, would experience the humiliation of conquest and devastation. (13:9) The “bad people” in the realm of the kingdom of Judah had refused to “hear,” listen to, or obey the “words” of YHWH, disregarding his commands and paying no attention to the words or messages he conveyed to them through his prophets. The disobedient people walked “in the stubbornness of their heart,” or conducted themselves defiantly according to the corrupt inclination of their inner selves or thoughts. Instead of choosing to become loyally devoted to YHWH, the people went after other gods, serving them and bowing down before them in worship. Therefore, YHWH decreed that the lawless people would come to ruin just like the loincloth that had become unfit for use. (13:10)

Worn over the bare skin, a loincloth “clings to the loins of a man.” Likewise YHWH made “all the house of Israel and all the house of Judah” cling to him so that they might be to him a “people and a name and a praise and a glory [a people of name (or high repute) and for boasting and for glory (LXX)].” The “house of Israel” (or the people of the former ten-tribe kingdom of Israel) and the “house of Judah” (or the people of the kingdom of Judah) did not listen to (or did not obey) YHWH. As a consequence, they lost out on being his beloved people, having a prominent “name” or reputation as exclusively belonging to him, being the object of praise as a people whom he blessed and prospered, and having a glorious standing among all the nations because of what he did and continued to do for them. (13:11)

Jeremiah was told to speak this “word” or message to the people. “Thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, Every jar shall be filled with wine.” To this, the people are quoted as saying, “Do we not indeed know that every jar will be filled with wine?” Earthenware jars were not used exclusively as containers for wine. Therefore, it may well be that the reference is to “all the jars” lined up at the location where Jeremiah was directed to speak. The word of YHWH to Jeremiah revealed that the people would answer sarcastically in a way that suggested they did not need to be told something that was clearly obvious. (13:12; see the Notes section.)

What Jeremiah was to say in response to the people revealed that the words about filling jars with wine conveyed a serious message for them. “Thus says YHWH, Look! I will fill with drunkenness all the residents of this land and the kings who are sitting on David’s throne [the throne of members of the Davidic dynasty (sons of David sitting on his [their (in other texts)] throne [LXX])], and the priests, and the prophets [the false prophets], and all the residents of Jerusalem.” All of them would have to drink the bitter potion of YHWH’s wrath and experience the ill effects therefrom as if made drunk with humiliation and misery. Within a few short years, three Judean kings (Jehoiakim, Jehoichin, and Zedekiah) became drunk in this way during the military campaigns of King Nebuchadnezzar, as also did the priests, false prophets, and many others in the realm of the kingdom of Judah, including the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (13:13)

Like earthenware jars that break when one is dashed against another, so the people would be dashed against one another to their ruin — “the fathers and the sons together [or at the same time].” YHWH would do so with the instrument of his choosing. At the time of the commencement of the smashing process by the military forces under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar, YHWH would not be compassionate, spare, or have mercy. He would not shield the people from experiencing destruction. (13:14; see the Notes section.)

“Hear and give ear. Do not be arrogant, for YHWH has spoken.” In this way, the people were admonished not to be defiantly inattentive to the message that YHWH conveyed to them through Jeremiah. (13:15)

There was still opportunity for the people to repent before the time for the execution of YHWH’s punitive judgment arrived. Therefore, they were told, “Give glory to YHWH your God before he brings darkness.” The people were to ascribe the glory, splendor, dignity, or majesty that rightfully belongs to YHWH, acknowledging him as their God whose commands they should heed. “Darkness” would be the time of calamity when any prospect of hope for escape from the distressing circumstances would cease to exist. The danger that darkness poses is revealed in the words that follow, “before your feet stumble on the mountains at twilight [on dark mountains (LXX)],” either at dusk in the evening or in the morning before the light of dawn. Without the benefit of a sunlit path, mountainous terrain is far more treacherous, with increased hazards for stumbling that can result in deadly falls. At the time of calamity, the people would “look for light,” deliverance from their dire situation. Having refused to repent when they had the opportunity to do so, they would not experience any relief. YHWH would turn the “light” for which they hopefully looked into “death’s shadow” and “gloom” or thick darkness. The Septuagint says, “You will wait for light, and [there will be] death’s shadow, and they [the people] will be put into darkness.” (13:16)

If the people did not “hear,” listen to, or heed YHWH’s word, or the message he directed to them through his prophet, Jeremiah (literally, “my soul” [“your soul” (LXX)]) would “weep in hidden places” (in secret or alone in isolated or secret locations) “in the face of pride” (on account of the arrogance of the people in having refused to heed the word of YHWH). He would weep bitterly, and tears would run down his face from each eye, “for the flock of YHWH [his people] has been taken captive.” According to the rendering of the Septuagint, it is the “soul” of the people or they themselves who would weep and their eyes would shed tears, “for the flock of the Lord has been crushed.” (13:17)

To the “king and the queen mother” (the men in power [LXX]), Jeremiah was to relate the word of YHWH, “Come down, sit” (seat yourselves as humiliated persons on the ground), “for down from your heads has come your crown, the crown of your glory.” The rendering “from your heads” is based on an emendation of the Hebrew text, for the Hebrew literally reads “head places” (pillows or headrests). According to the Septuagint rendering, “the crown of your glory was removed from your head.” In this context, the king probably was Jehoiachin and the queen mother Nehushta. (13:18; 2 Kings 24:8-12)

The “cities of the Negeb [or south],” the semiarid region situated south of the mountains of Judah, were “shut up.” This could mean that the gates remained shut because the cities faced a military threat or were under siege. Another possible significance is that rubble blocked the entrances of conquered cities. No one was opening the cities, indicating that no one was leaving or entering them. “All of Judah” (or the people of the kingdom of Judah) is then referred to as having been “taken into exile, wholly taken into exile.” This could apply to the exile during Jehoiachin’s reign, which exile resulted in the loss of the leading members among the people. It appears that the Edomites took advantage of the situation when the northern region of the kingdom of Judah was being invaded and then launched their attacks in the Negeb. (13:19; 2 Kings 24:8-12; Ezekiel 25:12)

It appears that Jerusalem personified is being addressed, and this is specifically indicated in the Septuagint. “Lift up your eyes, Jerusalem [LXX], and see the ones coming from the north” (the direction from which the military invasion would be coming). “Where is the flock that was given to you, your beautiful flock [sheep of your glory (LXX)]?” The “flock” denotes the people of the kingdom of Judah. As a flourishing population, the people would have been a credit to the capital city or truly something of beauty. During the military campaign against the kingdom of Judah, much of the “flock” would perish, and survivors would be taken into exile. (13:20)

What will Jerusalem personified say when a visitation of punitive judgment comes upon her? The one turning his attention upon her may be understood to be YHWH who would be using foreign military forces to punish the disobedient people of the kingdom of Judah. According to the Septuagint, the ones making the visitation are the invaders who would be coming from the north. Through her leaders, Jerusalem personified had jeopardized her independence and security when failing to trust in YHWH and making alliances with foreign powers. These alliances placed Jerusalem in a subservient position. Possibly regarding this, Jerusalem is represented as having taught confidants to be “head” over her (“taught them lessons for rule over [her]” [LXX]) At the time of the visitation for punitive judgment, Jerusalem would be seized with pangs “like those of a woman giving birth.” (13:21; see the Notes section.)

In her “heart” or to herself, Jerusalem personified would say, “Why have these things [these calamities] befallen me?” On account of her guilt or her unfaithfulness to YHWH, her humiliating punishment is represented as being like that of a woman whose skirts are lifted up, thus being exposed to shame and violated. The violence to her “heels” may euphemistically refer to being raped or, more literally, refer to being forced to go barefoot like a slave. According to the Septuagint rendering, the humiliation befell Jerusalem because of the greatness of her iniquity or injustice. It refers to her “hind parts” as being “uncovered” or exposed and her “heels” as being made an example. (13:22)

The people of the kingdom of Judah had become so habituated to a course of unfaithfulness to YHWH that the possibility for change in conduct had ceased to exist. This is stressed with a rhetorical question. “Can a Cushite [Ethiopian (LXX)] change his skin and a leopard his spots?” That was just as impossible as for the people to change to doing good as they had been “taught to do evil.” From the people of other nations, they had learned the abominable idolatrous practices that they avidly pursued. (13:23)

For their unfaithfulness to him, YHWH would scatter the people like chaff that wind from the wilderness or desert blows away. The Septuagint rendering refers to the scattering as being like that of dried twigs that the wind carries into the wilderness. The surviving people of the kingdom of Judah would be taken into exile. (13:24)

The previously mentioned punishment was the “lot” for the unfaithful people, the portion that YHWH had measured out to them. He revealed the reason to be their having “forgotten” him (turning their backs on him as their God and treating him as if he did not exist), and their having trusted “falsehood” or the lie, probably meaning the nonexistent or false deity Baal. The Septuagint contains the plural “lies” (nonexistent or false deities). (13:25)

YHWH determined to treat his people like an adulterous wife. The humiliating treatment would be comparable to a woman’s having her skirts pulled up over her face, causing her shame to be seen or exposed. (13:26)

The idolatry of the people in the kingdom of Judah constituted a violation of their covenant relationship that bound them to YHWH like a wife to her husband. Therefore, he is represented as referring to their adulteries, neighings (their intense lusts as if they were horses in heat) and their “plans of whoring” (“shameless prostitutions” [NAB], “wanton lewdness” [REB], “vile prostitution” [NJB], “vile acts” [Tanakh (JPS, 1985 edition)]). “On the hills, in the field,” or at the many sites for idolatrous worship, YHWH saw the “abominations” or the disgusting rituals performed for nonexistent deities. For this reason, “woe” or calamity was pronounced for Jerusalem personified (the people in the realm of the kingdom of Judah). In view of all that she (the people) had done, Jerusalem was not clean or was completely defiled. The question was, “After how much longer?” (How much longer would it take for the state of defilement to end?) The Septuagint rendering (“for you were not cleansed after me”) could be understood to mean that Jerusalem personified was not cleansed so as to follow after God, doing his will. (13:27)


The wording of verse 12 in the Septuagint expresses as conditional what the people might say. “And it will be if they say to you, Do we not certainly know [literally, knowing not know] that every wine skin will be filled with wine?”

The Septuagint rendering of verse 14 differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “And I will scatter them, a man and his brother, and their fathers and their sons in the same way. I will not long [for them], says the Lord, and I will not spare [them], and I will not be compassionate at their ruin.”

In their wording of verse 21, numerous modern translations are more specific in the meaning they convey than is the Hebrew text. “What will you say when the Lord sets over you those you cultivated as your special allies? Will not pain grip you like that of a woman in labor?” (NIV) “What will you say when they place as rulers over you those whom you taught to be your lovers? Will not pangs seize you like those of a woman giving birth?” (NAB) “What will you say when they come and punish you, you yourself having taught them? Against you, in the lead, will come your friends. Then will not anguish grip you as it grips a woman in labour?” (NJB) “You once trusted them to help, but now I’ll let them rule you. What do you say about that? You will be in pain like a woman giving birth.” (CEV) “What will you say when your leaders are missing, though trained by you to be your head? Will not pangs seize you like the pangs of a woman in labour, when you wonder, ‘Why has this happened to me’?” (REB, including part of verse 22)