Jeremiah 11-20: Talking to God

Most of this segment is a kind of conversation between Jeremiah and God while anarchy seems to ensue around them. Jeremiah wants to understand why his world is so messed up and God seems to want him to see it.

Chapter eleven

This chapter mostly talks about men and fathers breaking covenant. Not sure if this is semantics in that only the men are in the wrong, only the men are being held responsible for the wrong, or the masculine plural for mixed groups is making it sound that way, especially when sons and daughters are used when addressing the next generation.

Other than that, there is a reference to Judah and Israel that as a beloved and the feminine pronouns are used. Its in verse 15:

15What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds? Can even sacrificial flesh avert your doom? Can you then exult?

It sounds harsh, but we are talking about multiple betrayals that most married person today wouldn’t put up with more than maybe once unless there was some more pressing financial or familial concern.

Chapter twelve

Jeremiah begins with questions we all ask:

1You are always righteous, Lord,

when I bring a case before you.

Yet I would speak with you about your justice:

Why does the way of the wicked prosper?

Why do all the faithless live at ease?

2You have planted them, and they have taken root;

they grow and bear fruit.

You are always on their lips

but far from their hearts.

3Yet you know me, Lord;

you see me and test my thoughts about you.

Drag them off like sheep to be butchered!

Set them apart for the day of slaughter!

4How long will the land lie parched

and the grass in every field be withered?

Because those who live in it are wicked,

the animals and birds have perished.

Moreover, the people are saying,

“He will not see what happens to us.”

To this, God just let’s him know that it’s worse than he thinks and that it will continue to get worse. God has “forsaken” them and has plans to “devour” them,  but not quite yet. They don’t believe in Him and He’s going to let them see where that’s going to get them.

The response does include some unfavorable uses of feminine pronouns, but the point is being made that God is the husband to Judah and the nation takes on feminine pronouns whenever referenced, much like we still do with most countries. In this case, Judah has been unfaithful and hateful toward God, so His response is consistent with the husband of an unhappy marriage. The references then change over to shepherd destroying that which they should have been protecting.

Chapter thirteen

This chapter has some language toward the end with some rape or sexual assault imagery that is really troubling. It reads like victim blaming.

I get that the situation is really about Judah turning their backs on God to worship false gods and that God is making this comparison but the part that troubles me most is the imagery and it’s intended source.

If the language used is God’s way of speaking to the people in terms they understand, because they have become so despicable that they honestly believe women deserve their rape for having had sex before, then He’s simply trying to make them understand. On the other hand, if we are meant to believe that God Himself uses rape as a tool to punish women, then it’s an entirely different situation.

Fortunately,  we have the old laws here to guide us from back in Deuteronomy. While the way to judge whether sex was rape and the judgement given to rapists may not have been what we would prefer today, God was trying to set judgement and law in a new direction, and even the more lenient laws have clearly not taken root. Still, rape is never used as a punishment. That should show us that is not the point here either. But is it?

That’s the problem. I feel like I’m justifying these statements every time I think about them.

26I myself will lift up your skirts over your face,
and your shame will be seen.
27I have seen your abominations,
your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings,
on the hills in the field.
Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
How long will it be before you are made clean?”

Are “her” genitals shameful? Are genitals shameful or just women’s? Or just “her”s for whoring around? Is it exposing her for a whore the part that is meant to bring shame?

That’s about the only part I can understand. I’m all about personal choice and mutual responsibility for wrongdoing done by more than one person and sex positivity, but I just can’t sympathize with cheating, which is at the crux of God’s anger here.

Or is it that God understands the shame one feels even when you know it’s not your fault that something like this happened and He wants them to feel that level of shame and understand what they actually did do in this case? Is it about exposure or rape in these verses?

I don’t know but the whole chapter is just disturbing.

Chapter fourteen

More uses of feminine pronouns when referring to Judah as well as that the women were going to be collateral damage for the key perpetrators. In this case those key perpetrators are the false prophets who go behind Jeremiah and say that God hadn’t forsaken them.

Chapter fifteen

First God has some things to say about the punishments that people will have, men and women differently by situation. Then Jeremiah expresses being upset about it but God assures him that he will be taken care of as long as he continues to struggle for God.

There’s also a reference that helps place this book that the king God is mad at is Manasseh, from 2 Kings 21.

Chapter sixteen

God tells Jeremiah not to get married or have kids because they’ll die there and not to mourn with anyone. He talks about bringing Israel back from exile and how it will be that He brought them back from the places He sent them rather than from Egypt so long ago.

Chapter seventeen

Here are more warnings that things could possibly not end up as promised if they turn it around and at least do these few things God has asked.

Chapter eighteen

Jeremiah delivers a warning from God to the people and they talk about punishing him for it. He asks God for help concerning them. He asks first that they be dealt with, them that their children die, them that their wives be made widows and childless. It’s a terrible prayer but I can see how he mat have thought of himself as finally relenting to what God had been wanting to do.

Chapter nineteen

The imagery gets pretty graphic here but is about the same sentiment. “You’re all going to die if you don’t get with the program.”

Chapter twenty

Jeremiah gets locked up for everything he’s been saying by one of the priests and delivers a pretty harsh prophecy to him personally. Then he hears of everyone wanting to turn their backs on him and begs God for support. At the end of it, he wishes to have never been born but his phrasing is terrifying.

16Let that man be like the cities
that the LORD overthrew without pity;
let him hear a cry in the morning
and an alarm at noon,
17because he did not kill me in the womb;
so my mother would have been my grave,
and her womb forever great.
18Why did I come out from the womb
to see toil and sorrow,
and spend my days in shame?

Forever great? Yeah, yeah, I get that he means forever huge, but I can’t imagine carrying around a big pregnant belly forever. Worse is the thought of being the grave for your baby. I get that he’s not thinking as he says it, but I just can’t even.

Chapter links go to the ESV translations at but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

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