The Broken Covenant (Jeremiah 11-12)

"If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?" (Jer 12:5).

Ch.1-29 deals primarily with the broken covenant and the consequent judgment. Ch.1 is the call. Ch.2 is the charge--the formal, legal lawsuit. Ch.3 is the unsuccessful call for Judah to repent and return to the covenant. Ch.4-6 describes the consequent judgment: the Babylonian invasion. Ch.7-10 indicts their false religion (primarily idolatry) and its punishment. Idolatry is at the heart of the broken covenant the the broken relationship with God.

Ch.11--which continues to ch.29--focuses on Jeremiah's role as God's prophet in conflict with the kings of Judah and their false prophets, who oppose God's word and prophesy lies in God's name. In 11:1-17 God instructs Jeremiah to proclaim to the people of Jerusalem that they have shattered the covenant, and thus their relationship with God is over. This results in one of the central themes in these chapters: the conflict and hostility that Jeremiah will face from all the leaders (kings, prophets, priests--even his own family and clan).
  • 1-5 God tells Jeremiah to remind the people of Judah and Jerusalem of the curses and blessings spelled out in the covenant (Dt.)
  • 6-8 Because the people disobeyed the curses will fall on them.
  • 9-13 The people's idolatry has annulled the covenant.
  • 14 Since they broke the covenant, Jeremiah is told to not intercede anymore for the people (7:16).
  • 15-17 God laments the tragedy that his own beloved people must now be destroyed.
11:1-17 stresses the broken covenant and in 11:18-12:6 Jeremiah is betrayed by his own people (his neighbors and relatives in his hometown), so he calls for justice and judgment on them.

  • By word count Jeremiah is the largest of the prophetic books of the OT. Because of its size, this book was placed at the head of the Major Prophets in some ancient lists and manuscripts. Later tradition identifies Jeremiah as the author of the book of Lamentations.
  • Jeremiah's ministry extended > 40 years, encompassing much of the reigns of the last 5 kings of Judah. He was a contemporary of the prophets Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Ezekiel. Jeremiah's ministry beginning with his call in 627 b.c. extending beyond the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c.
  • Because his ministry is one of the most thoroughly documented in the OT, Jeremiah is one of the best known of the prophets.
  • Jeremiah is known as "The Weeping Prophet." This man suffered as no other Biblical character save the Son of God himself. Some scholars have documented aspects of Jeremiah's public ministry themed as that of "agony" with 3 distinct aspects of his personal suffering being:
    • Ministerial: Jeremiah experienced the agony of his message of judgment. He saw clearly in vision the total destruction of the land he loved. He saw the suffering of men, women and children. Emotionally he was drained each time he shared those dire visions with his audience (13:17). The people he loved—the people he knew were standing on the brink of national destruction —refused to listen. The men of his own hometown plotted his demise (11:19, 21).
    • Psychological: Jeremiah's personal loneliness intensified his agony. If ever a man needed a sympathetic spouse, this prophet surely did. Yet God ordered him not to marry (16:2). For the same reason God prohibited Jeremiah from attending social gatherings, whether feasts or funerals (16:5– 9). This prophet was to be a "loner" and through his loneliness he would preach a sermon.
    • Physical: Jeremiah's agony had physical as well as psychological dimensions. The chief officer of the Temple had him seized, flogged and put in the public stocks overnight (20:1). During the last days of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was arrested on the charge of treason. Again he was beaten, then was thrown into a subterranean dungeon where he nearly died (37:11).
  • Historical Contextual Analysis A Timeline Perspective… Historical Background of the Book. As predicted by the prophet Nahum, the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh had fallen to the expanding Babylonian empire around 612 B.C. During this time, King Josiah finished his reign in Judah around 609 B.C. (2 Kings 22). He was initially replaced in rapid succession first by Jehoahaz and then by Jehoiakim who ruled from 609 B.C. to about 602 B.C. During his reign, the Babylonians first invaded Judah in 606 B.C. and carried some Jews into captivity. Very shortly, Jehoiakim would rebel against the Babylonians and be replaced by Jehoiachin around 598 B.C. In turn, Jehoiachin rebelled, the Babylonians again invaded the land, confiscated most of the treasures from the temple, carried most of the Jews into captivity in Babylonian territory, and installed Zedekiah as King. After about 10 years, Zedekiah also rebelled which resulted in the third deportation of Jews, an 18 month siege of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the city in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25). Solomon's temple, which had existed for about 360 years, was destroyed along with the city.
  • The prophet dictated his messages to the scribe Baruch.
    • This first edition of the Book of Jeremiah was destroyed in 604 b.c. by the tyrant King Jehoiakim. God, however, commissioned Jeremiah to produce another scroll.
    • This second edition of the book contained all the words of the first scroll and "many similar words" as well (36:32).
    • A third edition of the book must have been produced by Baruch about 560 b.c in Egypt after the death of Jeremiah.
  • The historical Jeremiah was deeply in the politics of his day and paid a high price for it by way of ridicule, rejection, persecution, imprisonment, and exile. At the same time, the literary character of Jeremiah personifies the sufferings of the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
  • Clustered in the first major section of the book are the "Confessions" of Jeremiah which are specifically found in passages 11:18-12:6, 15:1021, 17:4-18; 18:18-23, and 20:7-18. "Confessions" are variations of the lament genre found principally in the Psalms and in the Book of Job. Laments which are "appeals for divine help in distress and are subdivided into two principal categories of Individual Laments and Communal Laments.