Jeremiah 5 Study Notes


5:1-2 The phrase find one person is a hyperbole. Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch would certainly count as two righteous persons. This reminds us of the five cities of the plain, which would have been spared had just ten righteous people lived there (Gn 18:22-32). God still extends mercy to cities and nations on the grounds of the few righteous people they contain. To act justly is to act according to the norms of behavior that God has established. This is clear in Hab 2:4: “The righteous one will live by his faith.”

5:3 On faces harder than rock, see Ezk 3:7-9.

5:4-5 Jeremiah thought, I will go to the powerful. He was probably expressing irony because the prominent citizens of Judah were no more loyal to the covenant than were the poor people.

5:6 On lion, see notes at 2:15; 4:7.

5:7 The phrase I satisfied their needs is literally “I fed them to the full.” They gashed themselves as in the Canaanite cultic practices (1Kg 18:28).

5:8-9 Jeremiah pictured the people of Judah as well-fed, eager stallions or “lusty stallions.” Their sexual immorality at the brothels of pagan temples was like horses whinnying after a mate. The necessity of judgment was obvious.

5:10-11 God will severely prune his vineyard, which has turned into a wild vine; but he will not completely destroy the nation (God’s vine; cp. Is 5:1-7; Ezk 17:1-6). The branches will be pruned back, but the root and stock will remain, much as Paul argued in Rm 11:17-24.

5:12 The phrase it won’t happen is literally “not he,” meaning the Lord will not punish Judah. This attitude mistakenly presumed that God’s promises to bless Israel precluded the possibility of judgment for sins.

5:13 The false prophets of peace fostered in the people a belief that nothing bad would happen to them. Jeremiah’s rejoinder was that these false prophets were “windbags” (lit “will become wind”). The Hebrew word ruah can mean “wind” or “spirit”; thus, this verse forms a wordplay in which the false prophets are said to be filled with wind rather than spirit.

5:14-17 In a solemn introduction, Jeremiah declared his message in the name of the Lord God of Armies. God is the commander of the armies of heaven and earth (1Sm 17:45). In contrast to the words of false prophets, the words in Jeremiah’s mouth would consume the unrepentant nation. An enemy nation would fall on the house of Israel. The description of that nation as being established . . . ancient, with an unintelligible language, and boasting warriors fits Babylon well.

5:18 On I will not finish you off, see note at vv. 10-11. A remnant of faithful people will be preserved even as God’s judgment falls.

5:19 The verse plays on the similarity between foreign and strangers.

5:20-21 The word for hear this is the same Hebrew word (shema) that introduces the great Shema of Dt 6:4. It called Israel to covenantal accountability.

5:22-23 One who can set boundaries for the sea is one who should be feared, but Israel is too foolish and stubborn.

5:24 The fixed weeks of the harvest were the seven weeks from Passover to Pentecost in which the barley harvest was gathered first, followed by the wheat harvest.

5:25 As water can be diverted or dammed up, so Israel’s sin and guilt have kept God’s blessings from reaching them.

5:26-28 Those who had grown powerful and rich through dishonest gain and neglect of the fatherless were like hunters lying in wait. As fowlers set a net with several tame birds in the net to attract wild, unsuspecting birds, so too wicked men preyed upon innocent victims.

5:29 It seemed obvious that Israel deserved punishment.

5:30 The word horrible is derived from a Hebrew stem meaning “filthiness” or “rottenness” (29:17; Hs 6:10). Here it describes the wickedness of the false prophets, priests, and people.

5:31 The phrase priests rule by their own authority is literally “rule by their hands,” meaning either at the direction of the false prophets, or on the priests’ own authority.