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Bible: What Does Jeremiah 10-12 Teach Us About Idolatry and the Curse of the Law?

Updated on September 9, 2016

The Debasement of Idolatry


Yahweh Versus Idols

Jeremiah commands Israel to hear and obey God's word, admonishing them not to learn "the way of the Gentiles" (vv. 1-2).

Having witnessed certain "signs of heaven," the dismayed nations construct idols (gods, to them) for protection.

The man of God lists the processes that these peoples follow to make idols (vv. 3-5a).

Having reminded Israel of the powerlessness of these “gods,” Jeremiah warns his people to change their attitude toward them (v. 5b).

To Jeremiah, Yahweh is the unique God, great and mighty, whose majesty demands due reverence (vv. 6-7).

In contrast, he speaks unflattering words about idols.

Beautiful though they may be outwardly (vv. 8, 9), these creations of man cannot compare with the true, living, and everlasting Creator and Judge (v. 10), who will accomplish their destruction (v. 11).

God controls His creation through omnipotence, wisdom, and discretion (vv. 12-13); idol-makers, on the other hand, are dull of heart and without knowledge.

Their idols are false, futile, and erroneous, and they bring shame to the craftsmen (vv. 14-15).

Again, Jeremiah contrasts the LORD with the idol, and true Israel with the idolater (v. 16).

The Lamenting Prophet of God


The Prophet Laments His "Fate"

The prophet then urges his people to gather their stuff together, for God is going to throw them out of the land (vv. 17-18).

Jeremiah then laments his own status once more, underscoring his "severe wound"; the whole of his life is experiencing upheaval (vv. 19-20).

Great loss results from the shepherds' unfaithfulness to God (v. 21), as ominous sounds of imminent destruction come out of the north (v. 22).

In a solemn prayer Jeremiah admits that man is totally dependent upon Yahweh for direction (v. 23), and that he must petition Him for justice while being corrected (v. 24).

He desires that the LORD judge severely those who have devoured His people (v. 25).

The Curse of the Law


Green Olive Tree


False Worship Brings a Curse

Jeremiah 11

Next, Yahweh commands the prophet to remind Judah and Jerusalem of the curse of the Mosaic Law recorded in Exodus and Deuteronomy (vv. 1-5).

[Verse four alludes to the Exodus 19 incident, but God issued the blessings/curses choice in Deuteronomy 11 and 27-29 also].

After the LORD calls upon the people to obey the covenant, He reviews His past attempts to instruct Israel in the right way.

These efforts ended in disaster, too, because the nation disobeyed Him (vv. 6-8; see chapter seven).

The same demeanor pervades Judah in Jeremiah's day, as its men form a national conspiracy to defect to other gods, thereby effectively breaking the covenant (vv. 9-10).

Therefore, God resolves to judge Judah with calamity and abandon the people to their many gods (vv. 11-13).

He again admonishes Jeremiah not to intercede for them (v. 14; cf. 7:16), and then laments over their wicked idolatry (v. 15).

Fire has consumed Yahweh's "Green Olive Tree" (v. 16); doom will surely overtake the people because of their Baal worship (v. 17).

Jeremiah acknowledges a divine warning to beware of those who would kill him (vv. 18-19).

In response to their threats, the prophet prays that Yahweh Sabaoth might avenge him for their misdeeds (v. 20).

While predicting catastrophe by sword and famine, God proclaims the demise of these would-be assassins from Anathoth (vv. 21-23).

Israel's Ghastly Future

Jeremiah 12

Jeremiah honestly questions his LORD’s judgments, saying, "Why do You allow the wicked to prosper?" (vv. 1-2; cf. Ps. 73).

After seeking to justify his heart's attitude before Yahweh (v. 3), the man of God then asks Him to make an end of those men on whose account the land and all life therein suffer (v. 4).

The LORD answers the prophet with questions, saying, in effect, "You ain't seen nothing yet" (v. 5).

[To discover a more precise meaning of this verse, it is necessary to determine what God's symbols mean.

For instance, who are the “footmen,” and the “horses,” and what is the “land of peace” and the “flooding of the Jordan?”

The first two symbols cannot refer to Jeremiah's blood relatives, for God mentions them as also dealing treacherously with the prophet (v. 6).

Perhaps “footmen” are his adversaries among the people, and the “horses” refer to the Babylonians.

The last two may picture times when Judah is relatively safe at home and when foreigners invade the land, respectively].

A Lion and A Vulture

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The Babylonian "Feast"

Likening the Babylonian conquest to a ghastly feast of vultures and beasts upon carrion, God bemoans the future of His people.

[Notice, however, the terms of endearment He employs with respect to Israel: My house (v. 7), My heritage (vv. 7-9), the dearly beloved of My soul (v. 7), My vineyard (v. 10), My portion (v. 10), My pleasant portion (v. 10)].

Interestingly, He also refers to His heritage as a lion in the forest (v. 8) and as a speckled vulture (vv. 8-9).

The former beast He hates perhaps because it is proud; the second seems to be a misfit and thus doomed.

Still, this state of affairs is nothing new.

The land has experienced desolation before at the hands of many rulers and plunderers, all resulting from the LORD's judgment (vv. 10-13).

The chapter ends with a mixed message of “plucking” and “blessing” to Israel's neighbors.

God will not spare them from a “plucking out” (v. 15) for touching the land, but He will also not withhold from them a privileged position among Israel if they turn to Him (v. 16).

Refusal to submit, however, will result in their utter “plucking up” (v. 17).

© 2013 glynch1


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