Jeremiah 13 Commentary

A nation useless and disgraced (13:1-27)

In an effort to emphasize God’s warnings to Judah more forcefully, Jeremiah gave them an illustration that they could all see. He took a piece of clean new cloth, put it around his waist, then walked to a distant river where he buried the cloth in the river bank. Some time later he returned to the river and brought back the cloth for all to see. It was now rotten and useless (13:1-7). The meaning is that Judah, the nation that was supposed to be morally pure and tied closely to God, has now become rotten and


useless. Because it has rebelled against Yahweh and served other gods, it too will be taken to a distant land (8-11).

God then instructed Jeremiah to give a second illustration of warning to the people of Judah. To them there was nothing unusual in the sight of wine jars filled with wine, for they liked to enjoy their wrongly gained prosperity to the full. Jeremiah explains that wine, instead of symbolizing pleasure, now symbolizes wrath, God’s wrath. The nation will drink that wrath till it becomes drunk and unable to save itself from disaster (12-14).

Jeremiah has a sincere love for his country and will be deeply grieved to see such a catastrophe occur.

He urges the proud nation to humble itself and turn to God, otherwise judgment will overtake it, as darkness overtakes a frightened traveller in dangerous hill country (15-17). The king and others of the royal family will suffer the humiliation of being stripped of their royalty and taken to Babylon as common prisoners, along with citizens from the farthest areas of the kingdom (18-19).

Judah had once been friends with Babylon (2 Kings 20:12-19). How great, then, will be Judah’s surprise when it sees Babylon’s armies descending upon it from the north. They will attack Judah with the ruthlessness of wolves attacking sheep or a rapist attacking a woman (20-22). Judah’s sin is so deeply embedded that reform is now impossible. The nation will be driven off into captivity, just as chaff is driven away by the desert wind (23-25). It has acted like a prostitute, and will be punished with public disgrace like a prostitute (26-27).

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