Jeremiah 16 Commentary

Symbolic actions (16:1-21)

Again God instructs his prophet concerning certain courses of action designed to attract the people’s attention. Jeremiah is to be a living reminder to the Judeans of what will happen to them if they do not repent. Firstly, he is not to marry or have children, as a grim warning to people that those with families will have greater distress when the final slaughter comes (16:1-4). Secondly, he is not to attend any funeral, as a warning that when Judah falls there will be no funerals, since the dead will lie unburied (5- 7). Thirdly, he is not to join in any feast, as a sign that soon all merriment will be gone from Judah for ever (8-9).

When people question Jeremiah about his strange behaviour and the doom to which it points, he must give a forthright explanation. He must tell them plainly that this judgment is because of their rebellion against God in following false gods (10-13). Beyond the judgment there will be restoration. Just as God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, so in due course will he bring his people from captivity in Babylon back into their own land (14-15). First, however, they must go into captivity. As fish caught in a net or beasts hunted down by hunters, so the Judeans will be captured and dragged off to a foreign land (16-18).

As the prophet looks beyond the captivity to the restoration, he offers a prayer that expresses his confidence in God. He sees a day when God’s people will return to their land and people of other nations will join with them to worship Yahweh as the only God (19-21).

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