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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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JEREMIAH 11

THE SINAI COVENANT BROKEN BY ISRAEL

This and the next two chapters are thought to have been written about the same time, coming in the early part of the reign of Jehoiachim, during that four or five year period while Israel was still feeling a false sense of security by reason of their friendship for Egypt.F1 This would have been about 620. B.C.

The great theme here is the breaking of the Sinaitic covenant by the Chosen People. That sacred covenant made by God with the Children of Israel at the time when he brought them up out of Egypt had been neglected and nearly forgotten for ages, until the copy of the Law of Moses was discovered by Hilkiah during the renovation of the temple during the days of Josiah the king (2 Kings 22-23).

Along with Feinberg, we are surprised that, "So much discussion has gone on among expositors as to `which' covenant is meant in Jer. 11:1-3, the one made with the nation at Sinai, or the one promulgated by Josiah."F2 There is no doubt whatever that the Sinaitic covenant, all of it, as set forth in the Pentateuch, is the covenant in view here.

THE SINAITIC COVENANT IN VIEW HERE

We are fully aware that the radical critics have exhausted themselves in efforts to prove that the covenant mentioned here was only some small part of the Sinaitic covenant, limited to the Book of Deuteronomy, or even to some very small portion of Deuteronomy. That eighteenth century falsehood of Satan needs to be exploded.

God's Word tells us what book was discovered. It was designated by Hilkiah as The Book of the Law (properly capitalized here, as should be the case in every mention of it) (See 2 Kings 22:3,8). The king referred to it as The Book of the Covenant (2 Kings 23:21), as did also the inspired author of 2 Kings, who called it The Book of the Covenant (2 Kings 23:2). These references absolutely disprove the falsehood that anything less than the whole Pentateuch constituted that Book of the Law, or Book of the Covenant, which led to the extensive reforms under king Josiah. "Surely 2 Kings 22--23 makes it clear that Josiah was not introducing a new covenant but only calling for a reaffirmation of the old Mosaic Covenant."F3

Absolutely everything connected with the reforms of Josiah indicated the restoration in Israel of the entire Mosaic covenant. The whole Mosaic covenant is structured after the pattern of the old suzerainty treaties; and the invocation of the "list of curses" always attached to such treaties, as Henderson pointed out, "is indicated in the phraseology of Jer. 11:5 which is borrowed from Deut. 27:26."F4

Furthermore, there is not even any difference between the covenant as it appears in Deuteronomy from the one in Exodus; for it is expressly declared in Deuteronomy that:

"When Moses made an end of writing the words of this law in a book ... Moses commanded that it be placed by the ark of the covenant." (Deuteronomy 31:24) And upon that same occasion, Moses entrusted that Law to the custodianship of the Levites.

More and more scholars of the present era are accepting the proposition that no fragmentary or incomplete document ever invented by evil men can be substituted for that whole Book of the Law written by Moses. Note the following:

"This covenant refers to the covenant made at Sinai, as related in Exo. 24, with its strong emphasis upon the moral law.F5 The covenant (Jeremiah 11:1-8) is a reference to the covenant that Yahweh made at the time of the national deliverance of Israel from Egypt, as the condition of God's continued blessing.F6 It is a reasonable conjecture that `this covenant' refers to the Mosaic covenant of Sinai.F7 The covenant was the historic agreement sealed centuries earlier at Sinai.F8 "The words of this covenant" are, as is clear from the succeeding context, the words of the covenant recorded in the Pentateuch, known from the reading of the Torah.F9

Jer. 11:1-5


 
Verses 1-5
The word that came to Jeremiah from Jehovah, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and say thou unto them, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man that heareth not the words of this covenant, which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God; that I may establish the oath which I sware unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day. Then answered I, and said, Amen, O Jehovah.

This paragraph fully corroborates all that we stated above concerning what covenant is here under consideration. Jeremiah at the time indicated here possessed the whole Pentateuch at least, and he probably also had available to him a great many of the prophets, certainly including Isaiah. Nothing is any more unbelievable than the allegation of radical critics that there were no scriptures at that time except, maybe, some fragment of Deuteronomy. How could God have commanded Jeremiah to teach the people "the words of this covenant" if, indeed, he did not have them in his possession?

Besides that, it was not the whole people of Israel who had lost the Book of the Law; it was that gang of reprobate priests and scribes in the temple that had lost it! That there was, indeed, at this time, throughout Israel, a residual knowledge of the whole Law of Moses is evident. "The righteous remnant" would indeed have preserved countless portions of it. The proof of this is in 2 Chr. 34, which reveals that, "The centralization of worship in Jerusalem preceded the discovery of the Book of the Covenant in the temple by Hilkiah."F10

In the light of all these things, how can we understand a remark like that of Cheyne, who substituted for "the words of this covenant" the totally inadequate expression, "the words of this ordinance!?"F11 In the same breath, he admitted that "the words of this covenant" is a correct rendition of the text; but he declared it to be "unsuitable." Of course, it is "unsuitable" for all of the erroneous allegations the radical critics have thrown at the passages here.

The great significance of God's appeal through Jeremiah to the Israelites at this juncture in their affairs, calling upon them to hear and obey the commandments of the covenant, derived from the fact that, "Whether the promised land would remain in the possession of Israel or not depended upon their observance, or non-observance, of the covenant."F12

Amen…
(Jeremiah 11:5). This is the standard response to a covenant; and it is Jeremiah's pledge to recall Israel to the historic Sinai event when God promised to supply the material and spiritual needs of his people in their infancy as a nation, in return for their undivided worship and obedience.F13


 
Verses 6-8
And Jehovah said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them. For I earnestly protested unto your fathers in the day that I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the stubbornness of their evil heart: therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did them not.

Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah…
(Jeremiah 11:6) These words indicate that, for a period of time, at least, Jeremiah went about the various cities of Judah urging the people to renew their love and adherence to the ancient covenant, which also was their charter for remaining in Palestine. The Bible gives us no further information about such a traveling ministry by Jeremiah.

It has never been true that obedience to God's commands in any sense, earns, merits, or deserves the promised rewards; but it is also true that disobedience of God's commands can most certainly result in the forfeiture of the promised rewards and benefits. This principle was valid in the days of ancient Israel; and it is valid today under the grace of the Gospel of Christ. Just like many today, the ancient Jews did not believe it.


 
Verses 9-13
And Jehovah said unto me, A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words; and they are gone after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers. Therefore thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and they shall cry unto me, but I will not hearken unto them. Then shall the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem go and cry unto the gods unto which they offer incense: but they will not save them at all in the time of their trouble. For according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to the shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal.

Conspiracy. among the men of Judah ..…
(Jeremiah 11:9). There are two views of when this conspiracy occurred. Dummelow thought it happened during the reign of JosiahF14 but Henderson placed it in the times of Jehoiachim's first four years, When those who were hostile to Josiah's reforms bound themselves to introduce again all of the idolatrous practices (popularized by Manasseh) which had been abolished by Josiah.F15 A common denominator in both positions is that the whole population (except the righteous remnant) of the Chosen People (Israel and Judah alike) had given themselves completely to idolatry. This is the background of the crucial announcement in the following verse that all Israel had broken the covenant.

The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant…
(Jeremiah 11:10). Graybill observed that, God was now in the act of terminating the covenant and bringing the punishment;F16 but, a better view appears to be that this declaration from God Himself then and there terminated the racial covenant with Abraham finally and irrevocably, except as it should be renewed in the New Israel without any racial overtones whatever.

Hosea's unhappy marriage with Gomer was terminated exactly in the same manner at the time when he bought back his adulterous wife from slavery and returned her to his home, not as his wife, but as his slave. Prior to the terminal action registered here, the whole racial Israel had been judicially hardened (always with the exception of the righteous remnant), as repeatedly mentioned by both Isaiah and Jeremiah.

The pressing question that always surfaces in the consideration of such things is "Why did God continue to preserve Israel?" In the case of judicial hardening, except for Israel, it always meant the summary and final end of the person or cities hardened; why then was it to be different in the case of Israel? The answer lies squarely in the truth that the Messiah had not yet been born. Until that glorious event should come to pass, it was absolutely necessary for fleshly Israel to be preserved and continued as an identifiable entity upon the earth, because that only could make the identification of the Son of God absolutely indisputable for all time to come!

According to the number of the cities of Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem…
(Jeremiah 11:13) Such a proliferation of altars erected to Baal indicates that the rampant idolatry of the times of Manasseh had indeed come back full force, At this point the conspiracy which God revealed to Jeremiah had achieved one of its purposes. However, there was another purpose of it; and that included the destruction of the prophet himself, which would be revealed later in the chapter.


 
Verses 14-17
Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me because of their trouble. What hath my beloved to do in my house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness [with] many, and the holy flesh is passed from thee? when thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest. Jehovah called thy name, A green olive-tree, fair with goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken. For Jehovah of hosts, who planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, because of the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have wrought for themselves in provoking me to anger by offering incense unto Baal.

Pray not for this people…
(Jeremiah 11:14). There is a climax of guilt which admits of no further intercessory prayer. Our minds should be at one with God in all that he is doing, even in the rejection of the reprobate.F17 That this is really true appears in God's command to Moses (Exodus 32:10), also in God's forbidding Samuel to grieve any longer for Saul (1 Samuel 16:1). This is now the second time that God has forbidden Jeremiah to pray any more for the apostate nation (Jeremiah 7:16); and this admonition is still applicable to God's people as in 1 John 5:16.

A goodly olive-tree, fair and goodly fruit…
(Jeremiah 11:15). This figure of Israel as the olive-tree was adopted by the apostle Paul in Rom. 11:17-24.

What hath my beloved to do in my house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many? and the holy flesh is passed from thee…
(Jeremiah 11:15) This refers to the hypocrisy of cloaking their apostasy by offering sacrifices in the temple and passing themselves off as worshippers of God.F18

The holy flesh is passed from thee…
(Jeremiah 11:15). This is not a reference to the sacrifices and their lack of efficacy, because the sacrifices of hypocrites has no efficacy, or holiness. What is meant is that the lewd and immoral practices of the people have robbed them (the people) of that holiness, without which no man shall see God.

The evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah…
(Jeremiah 11:10,17). The reason for the double reference repeatedly to both Israel and Judah is to show that the whole Chosen People are meant. In context, Israel means the northern kingdom; and Judah means the southern kingdom, the whole nation. The licentious worship of the Baalim had finally destroyed the whole nation of the Chosen People, morally, nationally, politically, and religiously, the righteous remnant alone being excepted.

JEREMIAH'S PERSONAL LAMENT (JER. 11:18--12:6)

Ash identified the six passages in this prophecy which are classified as personal laments of Jeremiah thus: (1) Jer. 11:18--12:6; (2) Jer. 15:12-21; (3) Jer. 17:14-18; (4) Jer. 18:18-23; (5) Jer. 20:7-13; and (6) Jer. 20:14-18. He added that, "This is a form of writing unique to Jeremiah in the prophetic books."F19


 
Verse 18
And Jehovah gave me knowledge of it, and I knew it: then thou showedst me their doings.

We have already observed that Jeremiah's long life was most certainly a miracle. God preserved and protected him in a most unusual manner. The conspiracy (Jeremiah 11:9) recognized that Jeremiah was an obstacle in the way of their purpose completely to restore total idolatry in Israel; and they doubtless could have killed the unsuspecting Jeremiah if God had not warned and protected him.


 
Verse 19
But I was like a gentle lamb that is led to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, [saying], Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.

Just as Christ was rejected in his home town of Nazareth, Jeremiah's home town of Anathoth was a party to this plot to kill him, reminding us of what the Lord said, "A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country." Another similarity in the lives of Jeremiah and of our Lord is seen in this mention of his being like "a lamb led to the slaughter." It was such similarities that caused some of the people to think that perhaps Christ himself was Jeremiah risen from the dead (Matthew 16:14).


 
Verses 20-23
But, O Jehovah of hosts, who judgest righteously, who triest the heart and the mind, I shall see thy vengeance on them; for unto thee have I revealed my cause. Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Thou shalt not prophesy in the name of Jehovah, that thou die not by our hand; therefore thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Behold, I will punish them: the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; and there shall be no remnant unto them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation.

There shall be no remnant unto them…
(Jeremiah 11:23). In Ezra 2:23, the Scriptures mention among those returning to Jerusalem after the captivity certain men of Anathoth; and for that reason we must suppose that the denial of any remnant to be left to Anathoth was evidently limited to the actual conspirators against the life of Jeremiah and did not apply to the whole community.

Thou shalt not prophesy in the name of Jehovah, lest thou die by our hand…
(Jeremiah 11:21). At some point in the conspiracy, but after God had revealed it to Jeremiah, the men of Anathoth attempted to silence the prophecies of Jeremiah by threatening to kill him. Only the providence and protection of God could have preserved the prophet's life through the dreadful dangers to which he was exposed. The bitter and implacable hatred of Satan and his followers is here revealed in its stark reality.


Footnotes for Jeremiah 11
1: W. Harvey Jellie, Jeremiah, in Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company), p. 231.
2: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press), p. 452. <3> Ibid.
4: E. Henderson, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Company, 1851), p. 73.
5: James P. Hyatt in the Interpreter's Bible, p. 905.
6: WR, p. 481.
7: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), p. 77.
8: R. K. Harrison, Jeremiah in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, p. 95.
9: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p 210.
10: Ibid.
11: T. K. Cheyne, Jeremiah in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 294.
12: Barnes' Notes, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House), p. 179.
13: J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archeology (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972) p. 344.
14: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 464.
15: E. Henderson, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Company, 1851), p. 74.
16: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 667.
17: Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary, p. 518.
18: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 215.
19: Anthony L. Ash, Psalms (Abilene, Texas: A.C.U. Press, 1987), p. 122.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jeremiah 11". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=jer&chapter=011>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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