Jeremiah 12 Commentary

Jeremiah’s complaint; God’s answer (12:1-17)

As he thinks back on the treachery of the people of Anathoth, Jeremiah is prompted to complain to God. Innocent people suffer, whereas wicked people live at ease. Why is it, he asks, that God allows the wicked to prosper? God gives them life and food, and they grow fat and prosperous, though their hearts are far from God (12:1-2). Jeremiah, by contrast, remains true to God, yet he suffers. Indeed, the whole land suffers because of the sins of people who are arrogant and evil. Jeremiah wishes they could all be destroyed (3-4).

In reply God rebukes his servant with some challenging questions. If he is discouraged by the comparatively small opposition of the people of his home town, how will he overcome the far greater opposition that he will face from the nation at large? If he is running from the opposition of a few friends and relatives, how will he survive when he faces a jungle of wild animals (5-6)?

God then assures Jeremiah that there is justice, and in God’s time the wicked will be punished. Judah may be compared to God’s household and God’s beloved, but she has fought against God like a wild beast or a killer bird. God will therefore use other ‘wild beasts’ and ‘wild birds’ (enemy nations) to devour her (7-9). In another picture, Judah is likened to God’s vineyard. But the leaders of the nation have trampled down his vineyard, and the enemy will now come in and destroy it completely. Judah will reap the fruits of her sin (10-13).

Not only Judah will be conquered, but also the neighbouring nations. They took advantage of Judah’s weakened position to carry out raids against it (cf. 2 Kings 24:1-2), but they themselves will now be raided. Like Judah, they will go into captivity in Babylon (14). However, if any of these conquered nations renounces Baal and swears allegiance to Yahweh, then, like Judah, it will be brought back to its homeland (15-17).

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