Enjoy this free digital Jeremiah 16 commentary!
In Jeremiah 16 the Lord promises the invasion, exile, and then restoration of Judah.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | God Speaks
To begin with, the Lord speaks to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 16:1-18.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | Introduction
Jeremiah gives an introduction to this section in Jeremiah 16:1.
1 ¶ The word of the LORD came also unto me, saying,
So, this is starting a new section in this book that combines the 16th and 17th chapters of the book of Jeremiah. We’ll cover Jeremiah 16 only today.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | Three Actions & Their Reasons
Well, after that brief introduction we’ll now see in Jeremiah 16:2-9 the Lord commanding Jeremiah to take three actions. He also then gives Jeremiah the reason behind the actions.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | No Marriage
The first action that the Lord commands Jeremiah to take is to avoid marrying and having children in Jeremiah 16:2.
2 Thou shalt not take thee a wife,
neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.
Now, for most people, God’s plan involves both marriage and children. So, this command to Jeremiah is of course not one for all of God’s people.
And by the way, let’s not let the impact that this would have on Jeremiah slip our notice. We’ve noted recently that the prophet experienced loneliness because of his purposeful avoidance of evil. And now he’s forbidden from marrying and raising a family. He is truly all alone. And that’s by God’s design. And it meets with God’s approval.
So, if it’s normally God’s will for a man to be married and have children, why is he telling Jeremiah to avoid these normal features of life?
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | Why Celibacy?
Well, the Lord gives the reason as to why Jeremiah must not marry and have children in Jeremiah 16:3-4.
3 For thus saith the LORD
concerning the sons
and concerning the daughters that are born in this place,
and concerning their mothers that bare them,
and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land;
4 They shall die of [grievous deaths/deadly diseases];
they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried;
but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth:
and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine;
and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.
So, God has a message behind this action he wants Jeremiah to take. That would lead us to classify this action as symbolic. It’s not that the action is not real – it is very real. But the action has an underlying meaning that God himself is intending to convey to the people. It’s symbolic.
And the underlying meaning behind not having a wife and children is that husbands and wives and their children will face indiscriminant slaughter at the hands of the coming army from the north that’s been prophesied so many times in this book. And this slaughter would be so massive and widespread that there wouldn’t be enough people left to bury the dead. The animals would be the only means of disposing of the carcasses.
That’s not a pleasant picture in the least. And that’s exactly why Jeremiah is commanded to avoid having a wife and family. God is wanting to communicate that this is going to happen and he’s going to use the prophet’s actions to do the communicating.
The Lord has revealed this kind of thing before – of certain destruction for all and mass death at the hands of the invading enemy if they don’t repent. So, why use Jeremiah’s actions to communicate this message?
I think again I see God working every angle to let his people know that there is going to be real trouble if they don’t turn to him. He sends a verbal message. They don’t listen. So he sends Jeremiah to take some physical action like wearing a belt or like not marrying – and that’s to be a message to the people. They still don’t listen. So, the Lord sends them a confusing statement like we’ve seen before – something like “every wine jug is to be filled with wine” and then he explains the significance of that statement. And all of this is God changing up his method of communication – I think in hopes that the people will actually catch on to one of the ways that he’s communicating and take the appropriate action of repenting.
It’s like any of us parents know – sometimes you find yourself saying the exact same things in the exact same way to your children – especially as you’re trying to correct them. And how do they respond to that? They can often respond by checking out. There’s something in us that can identify recognizable patterns and just kind of tune them out. Our brains are made to differentiate between noise and things that it considers as important. And so, as a parent you’re mindful to try to not let your instruction become mere noise to your child. And yet, the child is also responsible for recognizing that your instruction isn’t noise, as well.
But God here I think is stooping to human frailty and giving the same message in different forms to try to shake his people out of their complacent disobedience.
Alright, so Jeremiah is told not to marry and have children.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | No Funeral Attendance
The second action that the Lord commands Jeremiah to take is to avoid any funerals for his people in Jeremiah 16:5.
5 ¶ For thus saith the LORD,
Enter not into the house of mourning,
neither go to lament nor bemoan them:
And then the Lord explains why he’s forbidding Jeremiah to attend funerals in the rest of Jeremiah 16:5-7.
for I have taken away my peace from this people,
saith the LORD,
even lovingkindness and mercies.
6 Both the great and the small shall die in this land:
they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them,
nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them:
7 Neither shall men [tear/break] themselves [or, bread] for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead;
neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.
So, no funeral attendance for Jeremiah because there will be a time when those who die won’t have funerals. There will be so many deaths from the battle against the coming army from the north that there won’t be sufficient numbers of living to take care of the overwhelming number of the dead.
And this will happen because the Lord had taken away his peace, his lovingkindness, and his mercy from these people.
And we need to keep reminding ourselves that this is all happening because the people broke their covenant with the Lord.
If the people obeyed the Lord and kept his covenant then they were to be blessed. Deuteronomy 28:1 tells them “that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth”. Deuteronomy 28:7 promises “The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.”
But if the people break God’s covenant, then here’s God’s promise to them in Deuteronomy 28:25-26, “The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away.”
And that’s why what we’re seeing promised in this chapter will happen. And that’s why Jeremiah is commanded to take these actions to symbolize what’s to come for this rebellious people.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | No Celebrating
The third action that the Lord commands Jeremiah to take is to avoid celebrating with his people in Jeremiah 16:8. No marriage, no funerals, and now no celebrations.
8 Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink.
Then the Lord gives the reason that Jeremiah is to avoid celebrating with his people in Jeremiah 16:9.
9 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;
Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days,
the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness,
the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.
There will be a time in Jeremiah’s lifetime when there would be no celebrating. You can imagine why – all the people by-and-large will be exiled or killed.
And so, Jeremiah was to avoid weddings and other celebrations in order to picture for the people the time to come when celebrations would cease in Judah.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | One Cause
And now that the Lord has laid out for Jeremiah these three actions that he wants the prophet to take, having already given the explanation as to what each one of the actions means and the significance behind each one, the Lord will now explain the need for the actions and for the realities which they symbolize in Jeremiah 16:10-12.
10 ¶ And it shall come to pass,
when thou shalt [shew/tell] this people all these words,
and they shall say unto thee,
Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil [i.e., not moral – disaster] against us?
or what is our iniquity?
or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?
So, God envisions a time when the people, in response to Jeremiah’s symbolic activities, will ask him why the Lord has laid out such destruction for them.
Here’s how Jeremiah is to answer them.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | Answers
First, the destruction is coming because the ancestors of the people had sinned against God and broken his covenant.
11 Then shalt thou say unto them,
Because your [fathers/ancestors] have forsaken me,
saith the LORD,
and have [walked after/followed/paid allegiance to] other gods,
and have served them,
and have worshipped them,
and have [forsaken/rejected] me,
and have not [kept/obeyed] my law;
But the destruction is coming not only because of the sins of the people’s ancestors. Second, destruction was coming because the people themselves sinned against God and broke his covenant – and did so even worse than their ancestors.
12 And ye have done worse than your [fathers/ancestors];
for, behold, ye walk every one after the [imagination/stubbornness] of his evil heart,
[that they may not/without] [hearken/listen/obey] unto me:
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | Two Results
So, with three actions commanded and explained, and then the one cause that underlies those actions and the realities they symbolize, then in Jeremiah 16:13-18 the Lord gives two results – two things that will happen because of what we’ve just considered.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | Exile
The first result is exile according to Jeremiah 16:13.
13 Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not,
neither ye nor your fathers;
and there shall ye serve other gods day and night;
where I will not shew you favour.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | Restoration
The second result is maybe not what you’d think from the general tenor of what we’ve been hearing so far in this chapter. The second result of all of this is restoration – a return of the Jews to the land of Israel after the exile, according to Jeremiah 16:14-15.
14 ¶ Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said,
[i.e., As (an oath)] The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them:
and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | But First, Exile
Well, then the Lord goes back to considering the first result he already mentioned of exile in Jeremiah 16:16-18.
16 ¶ Behold, I will [i.e., speaking either of the coming exile or the coming restoration] send for many fishers, saith the LORD,
and they shall fish them;
and after will I send for many hunters,
and they shall hunt them from every mountain,
and from every hill,
and out of the holes of the rocks.
Now, it’s easy to interpret Jeremiah 16:16 as speaking of the restoration of the Jews to the land after the exile. I myself have actually stated that this is the case in a previous message I gave from this text.
However, I now have come to think that the hunters and fishers are not pictured as brining the people back to the land of Judah. I think the hunters and fishers are actually equivalent to Babylon – the coming enemy from the north who would invade Judah and take them away.
And I think that change in interpretation is validated by Jeremiah 16:17-18.
In Jeremiah 16:17 God gives the reason that he’s sending the hunters and fishers. It’s the sin of the people.
17 For mine eyes are upon all their ways:
they are not hid from my face,
neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.
So, if the hunters and fishers were bringing the people back to the land, why would the Lord give the reason for their activities as being the people’s sin? I see that as more naturally addressing the reason that he’s sending the people into exile, rather than why he’ll restore them to the land.
Then in Jeremiah 16:18 the Lord goes into more reasons why he’d need to exile the people through these hunters and fishers.
18 And first [i.e., before I restore them] I will [recompense/repay] their iniquity and their sin double;
So, before the restoration comes these hunters and fishers would come to carry away the people out of their land because of the people’s sin. Why?
because they have defiled my land,
they have filled mine inheritance with the [carcases/lifeless statues] of their detestable and abominable things.
Again, this doesn’t sound like justification for sending the people back to their land. It sounds like reason for sending them out of it. And so, I think that’s what those hunters and fishers are doing – sending the people out of the land into exile.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary |:The Prophet Speaks
Then in Jeremiah 16:19-20 the prophet looks forward to a time when the entire world will reject their idolatry and will instead finally worship the Lord alone.
19 O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction,
If you recall Jeremiah 15, it’s there that the Lord promised the worrying prophet that he would be with Jeremiah and cause the enemy to entreat him in the time of affliction [tsarah]. It seems that Jeremiah got the message. Because right here in the next chapter Jeremiah is confessing this very reality – that God is his refuge in the day of affliction. God would be there for him as a place of protection when affliction comes.
And with that confession, Jeremiah looks forward to a time when all the nations – not just his restored people – but all the nations would come to the Lord and forsake their idols.
the [Gentiles/nations] shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say,
Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.
20 Shall a man make gods [unto/for] himself, [and/yet] they are no gods?
Folks, do you believe this? Do you believe that there is really a time coming when everyone on this planet will throw away their idols and worship the true God – the one we have come to know and worship? And the one who is so ignored and despised by most of the world currently.
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | Gentiles Will Know God
Scripture speaks of the nations coming to know the Lord in the future.
Psalm 22:27 says “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.”
Psalm 86:9 – “All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.”
Zechariah 14:16-19 speaks of the Millennium when Christ reigns in Jerusalem – “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem [i.e., at the Battle of Armageddon] shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. 17 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. 18 And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.”
Isaiah 2:2-4 – “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established [in the top/as the chief] of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Micah 4:1-4 says something very similar.
Zechariah 8:20-23 says “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: 21 And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also. 22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. 23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.”
And last for now, in Revelation 15:4 those who come out of the Great Tribulation who have been victorious over the Beast sing the Song of Moses which includes this statement “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.”
The point is this is really going to happen and the Lord is getting us ready for it in many of his books in the Scripture. The entire world during the literal physical Millennial reign of Jesus Christ our Lord and King will worship him in Jerusalem. They will forsake their idols. They will worship the Lord alone.
It will happen. And you and I will go from the minority to being in the overwhelming majority. You and I are outcasts for believing the truth right now. Jeremiah was, too. But a time is coming when what is being outlawed throughout our land will be the law. Right now in our nation, everyone is going away from the Lord and you and I are staying put and it’s not easy for us. But there is a time coming when everyone will flock to the Lord. And if they don’t they’ll be the ones who get in trouble – not us!
Jeremiah 16 Commentary | God Speaks
And because there is a future time when all the nations will forsake their idolatry and worship the Lord alone, the Lord is determined to rid his people of their idolatry and expresses this resolve in Jeremiah 16:21.
21 ¶ Therefore, behold, I will this once cause [them/this wicked people] to know,
I will cause them to know mine hand and my might;
and they shall know that my name is The LORD.
If the entire world is going to forsake their idols and come to worship the Lord someday, then can’t the Lord expect this of his very own people? Well, he does expect it, and that’s why he’s going to have to exile them for their sin and to teach them to not commit idolatry.
That’s Jeremiah 16. Invasion, Exile, and Restoration.