Yirmiyahu 13 opens last week’s reading with an analogy. Yirmiyahu allows a brand new linen loin cloth to rot. The loin cloth represents the house of Israel, which is placed close to the body much the way Hashem has kept Israel close to Himself. But the house of Israel, especially the tribe of Yehudah, has been wicked. Now Hashem will distance himself from Israel, as He instructed Yirmiyahu to put the loin cloth under a rock, and Israel will be destroyed, just as the abandoned loin cloth was ruined.
It is interesting that 13:18 refers to the king and queen-mother, not the queen. It suggests to me that, in a polygamous society, the queen-mother, and not any of the king’s wives, holds the influence generally associated with queens in monogamous societies.
Chapter 14 begins with prophecies regarding a drought that plagued the land during this period. But water isn’t the only thing the land lacks. It also suffers a dearth of honest prophets, and instead endures a surfeit of yes-men, who wrongly reassure the people of future peace and prosperity.
The end of chapter 14 a short prayer for mercy (20-22):
We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, even the iniquity of our fathers; for we have sinned against Thee.Do not contemn us, for Thy name’s sake, do not dishonour the throne of Thy glory; remember, break not Thy covenant with us.Are there any among the vanities of the nations that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? Art not Thou He, O LORD our God, and do we not wait for Thee? For Thou hast made all these things.
Chapter 15 reiterates the promise of war, famine, and exile in Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem, but attributes the necessity of all this to the wrongdoing of Manasheh, Hizkiyahu’s son and Yosiyahu’s grandfather. Manasheh was Yehudah’s longest ruling monarch and the first to rule solely after the destruction of Israel. He also saw economic rejuvenation in his kingdom, due largely to his willingness to play nicely with his Assyrian overlord.
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said: ‘As the LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’but: ‘As the LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the countries whither He had driven them’; and I will bring them back into their land that I gave unto their fathers.
O LORD, my strength, and my stronghold, and my refuge, in the day of affliction, unto Thee shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say: ‘Our fathers have inherited nought but lies, vanity and things wherein there is no profit.’
Chapter 17’s prayer (17:11-18) is noteworthy for its similarity to several psalms, and is followed by a choice being given to Jerusalem. If Jerusalem chooses to observe Shabbat, then she will meet with prosperity and the throne of David will be preserved. But if Jerusalem continues in its refusal to observe the Shabbat, she will meet with destruction.
Chapters 18 and 19 contain Yirmiyahu’s example of the potter and the vessel. Just as the potter can and will destroy the vessel’s he makes when they are marred, Hashem will destroy Jerusalem for its seeming inability to serve His purpose. And Yirmiyahu delivered this prophecy to the priests and elders at Topheth, which was discussed previously in chapter 7. Not surprisingly, this prophecy does not go over well, and the son of the priest who manages the Temple has Yirmiyahu put in the stocks overnight (chapter 20).
The rest of the chapter is concerned with Yirmiyahu’s condemnation of that priest (20:3-6) and Yirmiyahu’s lament that his service to Hashem is going so ill (20:7-18). Hashem’s response is to give Yirmiyahu the ear of the king. Zedekiyahu sends two priests to ask Yirmiyahu to prophecy concerning the kingdom’s fate in reference to the Chaldeans. Hoping for a prophecy of Israelite victory, Yirmiyahu tells the king that the Chaldeans will win, the king will be taken into bondage, and those who flee will have the best chance of survival. And to support the call to flee, Yirmiyahu cites Devarim (Deuteronomy) 30:
And unto this people thou shalt say: Thus saith the LORD: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. (Yirmiyahu 21:8)
This is the last chance for the house of David to redeem itself. The monarchy must crack down on corruption, or else. Hashem is done with second chances.