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My Notes on Jeremiah 1:4-19

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2016

The Call of Jeremiah

Jer 1:4  And there is a word of LORD unto me, saying,

And there is a word of LORD unto me.  A stock prophetic phrase found throughout the prophetic books.

Jer 1:5  `Before I form thee in the belly, I have known thee; and before thou comest forth from the womb I have separated thee, a prophet to nations I have made thee.’

 Note the contrast in tenses: “Before I form thee…”, “before thou comest forth.”  Using the present tense of future events is typical of prophetic literature.  It commuicates the idea that what is being prophecied will come to pass (except when a prophecy is conditional, i.e., wont come to apss if the people repent).  Here, the contrast in tenses seems to emphasize the certainty of God’s foreknowledge of the prophet.  St Paul tells us that God chose him before his birth to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles (i.e., poeple of the nations) in Gal 1:15:16. See also Luke 1:13-17.

Jer 1:6  And I say, `Ah, Lord God! lo, I have not known–to speak, for I am a youth.’

And I say, `Ah, Lord God! lo, I have not known (how) to speak, for I am a youth.’ This reminds one of Moses’ initial response to his call in Exodus 4:10.  There Moses claimed to be a poor speaker, here Jeremiah appeals to his youth or inexperience in speaking to men concerning important subjects.

Jer 1:7  And the LORD saith unto me, `Do not say, I am a youth, for to all to whom I send thee thou goest, and all that I command thee thou speakest.

His youth and inexperience are irrelevant where God’s power is concerned.  The authority of the word, and, consequently the authority of the one preaching it, comes from the source of the word and the mission, namely God.

Jer 1:8  Be not afraid of their faces, for with thee am I to deliver thee, –an affirmation of the LORD.’

 Face is Hebrew idiom for presence, thus the meaning is: “Be not afraid in their presence.”

The phrase With thee I am is not merely a statement of the divine presence.  The promise of the divine presence when given in the context of a mission is a promise and guarrantee of divine help and power in the performance of that mission.  See God’s promise to deliver St Paul in Acts 26:17.

Jer 1:9  And the LORD putteth forth His hand, and striketh against my mouth, and the LORD saith unto me, `Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth.

God’s striking the mouth of the prophet calls to mind the fact that the angel touched Isaiah’s lips with an ember in Isaiah 6:7.  the words “I have put my words into thy mouth” recalls the commissioning of Moses in Exodus 4:10-17.

Words and themes found in verse 7-9 are typical of prophetic call narratives (see Exek 3:1-10; Matt 28:18-20; ect).

Jer 1:10  See, I have charged thee this day concerning the nations, and concerning the kingdoms, to pluck up, and to break down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.’

Jeremiah’s mission is for both Jew and Gentile; and his message is one of both weal and woe.  See 18:7-9; 25:15-38; chapters 30-31,  46-51; ect.

Jer 1:11 And the word of the Lord came unto me, asking, “What is it that you see, Jeremiah?”  I replied, “I see the staff of a watching tree.”

The word of the Lord came unto me is, as I noted in my previous post on this prophet, a stock prophetic phrase.  The prophet speaks on God’s authority, not his own (see 2 Pt 1:21).  Jeremiah will have some harsh, brutal words to say against false prophets (see 2:8; 8:10-12; 23:9-40).  The word can come to a prophet in a number of ways, sometimes the revelatory phenomenon is described in both oracular and optical terms (see Ezek 1).  It’s possible that what Jeremiah sees is a vision, but it is also possible that he is in the fields around his hometown during the blossoming of the watching tree (but see note verse 12). The word which I have translated as staff can refer to a stick or branch, but also a rod or staff.  Why I’ve translated it as I have will be noted below, under verse 12.  The watching tree is a reference to the almond tree.  Almond shaped eyes are a common physiological feature of near eastern peoples, hence the name.

Jer 1:12    And the Lord answered me, saying to me, “You see soundly: for I  watch without sleeping to do my word.

You see soundly: for &c. The Hebrew word translated as for serves as a causal conjunctive.  Jeremiah has seen correctly precisely BECAUSE the Lord is looking to bring about his word.  Had God not called him as a prophet he would not have seen soundly.  What Jeremiah saw was the branch (rod, staff) of a watching (almond) tree (vs 11).  God (so it seems) is here comparing himself to a rod or staff made from such a tree, and having its fruit (nuts) still on it.  In the Scripture, both watchfulness and a rod (staff) are associated with vigilance and readiness (see Ex 12:11. Note: several different Hebrew words are used for rod/staff in the OT).

I watch without sleeping. The Hebrew word  שׁקד  (shaqad=watching tree) and the word שׁקד  (shaqed=to be alert, wakefulness) are from the same root; my translation (adding the words “without sleeping”) has tried to convey the fulness of the latter word’s meaning.

To do my word. “To do” translates the Hebrew word לעשׂתו (asah),which can refer to both human action (or God’s action) or of a tree’s bearing seed or fruit (see Gen 1:11-12).  Just as a tree bears fruit (produce) a man produces action.  God is watching to do his word because of the evil the people have “done” (see 2:12-13, 17, 23, 28.  These verses all employ the word asah, which the NAB variously translates as “done,” “conduct,” “made”).

Jer 1:13 And the word of the Lord came unto me a second time, asking, “What is it you are seeing?” And I replied, “I see a a rapidly boiling cauldron which is turning towards us from the north.”

A rapidly boiling cauldron. “Rapidly boiling” translates a word which means “to seeth,” “snort,” “breath heavily.”  Steam rising from a boling pot of water is a fitting image of anger; even today we say “i was boiling,” to denote feelings of anger.

Which is turning towards us from the north. The Hebrew reads literally: “and the face thereof is from the face of the north.”  The sentence is somewhat convoluted but makes sense once the significance of the words are known and seen in relation to the image.  (1) The cauldron has just bee described as boiling (seething, snorting breathing heavily), hence its face is the open end (i.e., the mouth) of the pot from which its breath (steam) is issuing.  (2) The word “face” in Hebrew can mean “towards,” for one can only see another’s face if it is turned towards them.  We are to understand then the Jeremiah sees the “face” (mouth) of the cauldron because it is turning (tipping) towards him in the Holy Land.  (3) He sees this vision while turned toward (i.e., as he’s facing) the north and seeing the north’s “face.”

1:14  And the Lord said unto me, “from the north evil shall be opened wide upon all who sit in the land.”

The north was the proverbial place from which invasions came.  Evil shall be opened wide implies that the coming evil will be full and unrelenting.  The boiling cauldron of evil will not just trickle out its contents upon the land.  The boiling cauldron is an image of the Babylonian empire, which would invade and destroy the kingdom of Judah (see 4:5-31; 39:1-10).

Jer 1:15  “Because, look, I will beckon all the families of the kingdoms of the north,” says the Lord; “and they shall come, and every one shall set up his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, and over against all the walls that surround her, and against all the encampments of Judah.

Because, look, I will beckon. What is about to befall Jerusalem and the entire kingdom of Judah is God’s doing, but he is not its cause (see vs 16).

All the families of the kingdoms of the north…and they shall come, and every one shall set up his throne. “Families of the kingdoms of the north” is probably a reference to the various royal tribes and clans (i.e., minor dynasties) which had joined or been subsumed under the king of Babylon.  Essentially, they were minor rulers under him, but as such they were entitled to a share in any booty gained by military victory.

Everyone shall set up his throne at the entrance of the gates. The entrance of the gates of a city was the place where officials conducted trials, heard peoples pleas/complaints, and issued their judgments.  In a capital city such as Jerusalem, this would have been done by the king, though he could delegate the authority to others.  The fact that foreign potentates are setting up their thrones at the entrances of the city implies that they are sitting in judgment; and indeed they are, for they are God’s instruments of judgment against his people.

Over against all the walls that surround her, and against all the encampments of Judah. The judgment against God’s people takes the form of a siege.  This is in accord with the covenant curses promised as punishment should the people of God (who had entered the covenant freely) ever break it (see Deut 28:49-57).   All the encampments of Judah probably refers to the many fortified cities which surrounded the capital as added protection against siege.

Jer 1:16  And I will proclaim my verdict against them on account of all their wickedness in forsaking me, and for burning incense to other gods, and for bending the knee to the work of their own hands.

I will prolaim my verdict. Continues the judgment theme mentioned earlier.

All their wickedness. The Herew word for wickedness used here is the same as that used for evil in verse 13.  The evil coming from the north is due to the wickedness of the people.

Forsaking me. The Hebrew word עזבוני (azab) means to leave, loosen, abandon, ect.  The word is often used in Jeremiah to denote apostasy from God (2:13, 17, 19; 5:7, 19, ect).

Burning incense to other gods. This could also read: “offering burn offerings to other gods.”  Other may have pejorative connotations.  The Hebrew word isאחרים (acher), which has the proper meaning of “hinder.”    It is derived from the Hebrew word achar, to loiter, to be a slacker.  When it comes to observing the covenant demands they have become slackers, and now seek after less morally demanding gods.

Bending the knee to the work of their own hands. They prostrate themselves before the idols they have made (see Jer 25:6-7, 14; 32:30).  The Hebrew word for work used here is  derived from the word לעשׂתו (asah), used by God in verse 12 when he said he was watching to do his word.  This work of the people in constructing and worshipping idols is what has led God to do his word (start the process of a reeb, a covenant lawsuit against them.

Jer 1:17  You, therefore, gird up your loins, rise up and speak unto them all that I command you.  Do not break down before their faces, lest I break thee down before their faces.

Gird up your loins. In the Bible this is a call to vigilance and action (see Ex 12:11; 1 Kings 18:46; Job 38:3).  Just as God is vigilante to do His word (see note under 1:12), so too must the prophet be ready and willing to fulfill his service to God’s word.

Speak unto them all that I have commanded. Recalls the end of Matthew’s Gospel.  The phrase or its equivalent is often used in prophetic commissioning texts (see Deut 18:15-20).

Do not break down before their faces, lest I break thee down before their faces. In performing his ministry, Jeremiah is not to fear his enemies, rather, he is to fear God.  “If Jeremiah appears before his adversaries in terror, then he will have cause to be terrified of them; only if by unshaken confidence in the power of the word he preaches in the name of the Lord, will he be able to accomplish anything. Such confidence he has reason to cherish, for God will furnish him with the strength necessary for making a stand, will make him strong and not to be vanquished” (Keil & Delitzsch).

Jer 1:18-19  For behold I have made thee this day a fortified city, and a pillar of iron, and a wall of brass, over all the land, to the kings of Juda, to the princes thereof, and to the priests, and to the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee, and shall not prevail: for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee. (Douay-Rheims Bible).

The image stands in marked contrast to that of Jerusalem sieged against in verse 15.  In the face of his enemies Jeremiah will be like a heavily fortified city.  The passage is reminiscient of Matt 16:16-18).

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Background and Notes on Jeremiah 18:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 26, 2014

BACKGROUND: Here I will primarily be summarizing the content of chapters 2 and 7 for these contain major themes (not the only ones) which recur throughout much of the book.

God’s people in Jeremiah’s day were under the delusion that God would defend them no matter what. With intense irony the Book of Jeremiah opens with God’s threats against the people, indicating that punishment was indeed coming (Jer 1:11-16), and is followed by the promise that He would protect Jeremiah as he delivered this news to them (Jer 1:17-19).

Just as God has it in his power to protect His people in their devotion to him (Jer 2:3), so too He has it in His power to bring punishment upon them for their infidelity and loss of devotion (Jer 2:4-13). It is their sin of forsaking their Lord that has corrupted them and brought trouble upon them (Jer 2:14-17). Human powers cannot save them (Jer 2:18-19). Neither can they cleanse themselves from their wickedness (Jer 2:20-21), and still less can they deny its existence (Jer 2:23-24). They have become helplessly in need of their idols (Jer 2:25-26), yet when these cannot help them in time of trouble, they call to the Lord (Jer 2:27), but He will leave them to their false gods (Jer 2:28). How dare they still plead with Him! (Jer 2:28).

God has not been useless to His people, yet they have moved on; they have forgotten their God (Jer 2:30-32). Steeped in the blood of those they have murdered the pick their way among their lover gods, still pleading their innocence and thinking that God’s anger is turned from them; but they are deluded (Jer 2:33-35). The human powers they have relied upon will come to naught, having been rejected by God, and the people will go into exile (Jer 2:36-37).

The people have taken to presuming upon the Lord’s presence in the Temple as a safeguard against his punishing them for their sins of oppression and idolatry (Jer 7:1-10). But judgement will come upon the Temple (Jer 7:11-14). The people will be cast away (Jer 7:15). The Temple, the city will bear the wrath of God because of the people’s presumptions, idolatries, child sacrifices, disobedience and rejection of prophecy, ( (Jer 7:16-34).

NOTES: Read Jeremiah 18:1-6.

Jer 18:1 is stock prophetic phrasing employed to introduce prophetic words or actions. What follows in Jer 18:2-3 is a brief command and compliance narrative. The prophet does as he is told and this provides the Lord with an opportunity to instruct the prophet concerning His power, using as his starting point a lesson from a humble, commonplace image: that of a potter working with clay.

Jeremiah observes that when the object the potter is fashioning from a lump of clay turns out badly, he simply begins to refashion the lump into another object as seems right to his professional potter’s eye and judgment (Jer 18:4).

The words in Jeremiah 18:5 recall the stock prophetic phrasing of Jer 18:1 which opened the passage and indicates that the point of the command to Jeremiah, along with the observation he made as a result, have come to fruition, i.e., the teaching which follows beginning in Jer 18:5. The Lord can do to Israel as he sees fit, just as the potter can with his lump of clay (Jer 18:6).

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My Notes on Jeremiah 31:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 24, 2012

Background~Lo, I have set thee this day over the nations, and over kingdoms, to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant (Jer 1:10). The emphasis is on the negative. Of the six verbs used to describe the purpose of the Prophet’s mission, the first four are foreboding (root up, pull down, waste, destroy).

With these words God indicates to Jeremiah what his mission as a prophet is to entail; it is a mission primarily of judgment, its purpose is, however, to bring about renewal (build, plant). It is a mission that demands a response (preferably repentance) from those who hear the preaching:  I will suddenly speak against a nation, and against a kingdom, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy it. If that nation against which I have spoken, shall repent of their evil, I also will repent of the evil that I have thought to do to them. And I will suddenly speak of a nation and of a kingdom, to build up and plant it. If it shall do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice: I will repent of the good that I have spoken to do unto it. Now therefore tell the men of Juda, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying: Thus saith the Lord: Behold I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: let every man of you return from his evil way, and make ye your ways and your doings good (Jer 18:7-11). The people of Judah and Jerusalem failed to amend their ways (Jer 25:2-11, Jer 34) and were taken into exile (Jer 39:1-11).  Those who would come through the purifying fire of the Babylonian invasion and exile would be built up, planted once again in the promised land (Jer 24:1-6, Jer 31:27-28) It is against this background that the “The Book of Consolation” (Jer 30-33) from which today’s reading is taken. the “Book of Conslation” begins:  This is the word that came to Jeremias from the Lord, saying: Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, saying: Write thee all the words that I have spoken to thee, in a book. For behold the days come, saith the Lord, and I will bring to and end the captivity of my people Israel and Juda, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land which I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it (Jer 30:1-3). It is this return with which today’s reading is concerned.

Jer 31:1  At that time, saith the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.

At that time. When the end of the time decreed for the exile comes.

I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Reverses the fact that the people had fallen into idolatry. No longer willing to be God’s children (Jer 3:4, Jer 3:19) they declared that wood and stone (i.e., idols) were their father and mother (Jer 2:27).

Jer 31:2  Thus saith the Lord: The people that were left and escaped from the sword, found grace in the desert: Israel shall go to his rest.
Jer 31:3  The Lord hath appeared from afar to me. Yea I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee.

The Lord has appeared from afar to me. It is the people personified (“me”) rather than the prophet speaking here. The separation of exile which took the people far from God is coming to an end.

Found grace in the desert. God’s people who escaped from the punishment of exile have repented and returned to the devotion their ancestors showed early in the Exodus (see Jer 2:1-2). It was precisely for this reason that the punishment had come (Deut 30:1-5, see Hos 3:14-20). Thus God’s everlasting love is manifested. The people had utterly forsaken him, but he was unwilling to utterly forsake them.

Jer 31:4  And I will build thee again, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy timbrels, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.
Jer 31:5  Thou shalt yet plant vineyards in the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and they shall not gather the vintage before the time.

I will build thee again.The prophet’s mission from God was to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, but only so that things might be rebuilt and replanted (Jer 1:10). Here God is said to do the rebuilding, the people the planting. Behind all of this is the fact that the Promised Land had been devastated by the Babylonian invasion (Jer 4:23-28, Jer 9:9-15), one of the covenant curses for infidelity (Deut 28:38-44). The situation will be reversed.

O virgin of Israel. God’s once devout bride (Jer 2:2) had turned to infidelity, breaking the covenant (symbolized as a marriage) and went chasing after false gods like a common harlot (Jer 2:20); like a camel in heat (Jer 2:23-3:4). The people’s covenant infidelity (often called “harlotry”) will be reversed, the people will once again be “virginal.”

Thou shalt again be adorned with thy timbrels, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry. Reversing the end of joy and the silence that ensued because of the exile (Jer 7:34, Jer 16:9, Jer 25:10).

Jer 31:6  For there shall be a day, in which the watchmen on mount Ephraim, shall cry: Arise, and let us go up to Sion to the Lord our God.

The worship of idols will end, and worship will once again be centered on Sion.

Jer 31:7  For thus saith the Lord: Rejoice ye in the joy of Jacob, and neigh before the head of the Gentiles: shout ye, and sing, and say: Save, O Lord, thy people, the remnant of Israel.

The RSV translation reads: For thus says the LORD: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, `The LORD has saved his people, the remnant of Israel.’

As head of the Gentiles (“chief of the nations”) God was in control of both his own people and their captors, and his renewed, repentant people are here bidden to both celebrate and make known to all what God as done for them.

Jer 31:8  Behold I will bring them from the north country, and will gather them from the ends of the earth and among them shall be the blind, and the lame, the woman with child, and she that is bringing forth, together, a great company of them returning hither.

I will bring them from the north country. A reference to Babylon which had invaded from the north (see Jer 1:13-16, Jer 4:6, Jer 6:1, Jer 10:22, Jer 47:2). The people will be brought back from their exile by the way they entered it (Jer 3:18, Jer 23:8, Jer 31:21).

And will gather them from the ends of the earth. This could be taken in parallel with the previous clause for, according to some scholars, the ends of the earth was a common designation for an empire or its capitol.

And among them shall be the blind, and the lame, the woman with child, and she that is bringing forth, together, a great company of them returning hither. An image of the ease of the return journey (see next verse with comments, also Isa 40:11, Isa 42:16.

Jer 31:9  They shall come with weeping: and I will bring them back in mercy: and I will bring them through the torrents of waters in a right way, and they shall not stumble in it: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

They shall come with weeping. A sign of their repentance.

I will bring them through the torrents of waters…they shall not stumble….for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. God’s providential care for his people on their return from exile. Even the lame mentioned in the previous verse will be able to cross raging torrents of water. The reference to God as Father to Israel and Ephraim as his firstborn connects nicely with the previous verse which spoke about pregnant women and mothers with children being part of the return.

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Pope John Paul II’s Commentary/Meditation on Jeremiah 31:10-14 (The Canticle of Jeremiah)

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 4, 2012

1. “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, proclaim it on the distant coasts” (Jer 31, 10). What is the good news that is to be announced with the solemn words of Jeremiah in the Canticle which we have just heard. It is consoling news, and it is no accident that the chapters that contain it (cf. 30-31) are called the “Book of Consolation”. The announcement refers directly to ancient Israel, but in some way it foreshadows the message of the Gospel.

Here is the heart of this announcement:  “The Lord will redeem Jacob, he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror” (Jer 31,11). The historical background of these words is found in a moment of hope experienced by the People of God, about a century after the Assyrians in 722 occupied the Northern part of the Holy Land. In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, the religious reform of King Josiah brought about a return of the people to the covenant with God and fostered the hope that the time of punishment was over. It fostered the further hope that the North might regain its freedom and that Israel and Judah might be reunited. All, even “the distant coasts” should be witnesses of this wonderful event:  God the Shepherd of Israel is about to intervene. He who allowed his people to be scattered, now comes to gather them together.

2. The invitation to rejoice is constructed with the aid of the profoundly moving images. It is an oracle which makes one dream! It delineates a future in which the exiles “will come and sing”, and will find not only the Temple of the Lord, but also every good thing:  wine, wheat, oil, the young of flocks and herds. The Bible does not know of an abstract spirituality. The promised joy does not just affect man’s inner being because the Lord takes care of human life in all its dimensions. Jesus himself highlights this, when he invites his disciples to trust in Providence even for their material needs (cf. Mt 6,25-34). Our Canticle insists on this point of view:  God wants to make the whole man happy. To convey how all embracing is the happiness, the prophet uses the image of the “watered garden” (Jer 31,12), images of freshness and fruitfulness. Mourning is turned into feasting, being satiated with choice portions (cf. v. 14) and abundant goods, so that it will come naturally for them to dance and sing. It will be an unlimited joy, the joy of the people.

3. We know from history that this dream has not yet come true. Certainly not because God has failed to keep his promise:  because of their infidelity. the people were to blame for this delusion.

The Book of Jeremiah undertakes to demonstrate it with the unfolding of the prophecy which becomes suffering and hardship, and gradually leads to some of the saddest phases of the history of Israel. Not only do the exiles of the North not return, but Judah itself will be occupied by Nabuchodonosor in 587 BC. Bitter days now begin when, on the shore of Babylon, the lyres were hung from the willows (cf. Ps 136,2). There was no desire to sing for the satisfaction of the jailers; no one can rejoice when he is uprooted by force from his own country, the land where God made his dwelling.

4. The Canticle’s invitation to rejoice does not lose its meaning. Indeed, the final reason for rejoicing on which it leans remains firm, and we find it in some very intense verses that precede the verses we use in the Liturgy of the Hours. One must keep the verses in mind while reading the expressions of joy in our canticle. The verses describe in vibrant terms the love of God for his people. They indicate an irrevocable covenant:  “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer 31,3). They sing the fatherly outburst of the God who calls Ephraim his first born and covers him with his tenderness:  “They shall go forth with weeping, I will lead them back with consolations; I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; because I am a father to Israel” (Jer 31,9). Although the promise could not then be fulfilled because of the children’s lack of correspondence, the Father’s love retains all its touching tenderness.

5. This love is the golden thread that brings together into unity the ups and downs of the history of Israel, its joys and sorrows, successes and failures. God’s love does not fail, and punishment is an expression of his love since it intends to teach and to save.

On the solid rock of this love, the invitation to joy of our Canticle evokes a future plan of God which, though delayed, will come sooner or later, despite all of human frailty. The future comes to fulfilment in the new covenant with the death and resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Spirit.

However, it will be totally fulfilled with the final return of the Lord at the end of time. Interpreted by the light of such certainty, the “dream” of Jeremiah continues to be a real historical opportunity, conditioned by faithfulness of human beings, and, above all, it refers to a final goal, guaranteed by the faithfulness of God and already begun by his love in Christ.

In reading the oracle of Jeremiah, we should let the Gospel resound in our hearts, the wonderful news proclaimed by Christ in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lk 4,16-21). Christian life is called to be a true “Jubilation”, which only our sin can threaten. By making us pray these words of Jeremiah, the Liturgy of the Hours invites us to keep our life attached to Christ our Redeemer (cf. Jer 31,11) and in our personal and communal life to find in him the secret of true joy.


The Holy Father greeted the various groups of pilgrims in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak and Croatian. Returning to Italian, the Holy Father pointed out the bronze door for the Church of St Catherine in Bethlehem which he blessed after the audience. It was donated by the Diocese of Verona as a prayer for peace in the Holy Land. In the English greeting the Holy Father asked all to pray for peace and to be committed to building a world based on respect for the dignity of every human being and free of violence.

I extend a special greeting to the groups of young people from various countries present at this audience. I invite you all to pray for peace and to be committed to building a world without violence, founded on respect for the dignity of every human being. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors I invoke the blessings of which the Canticle of Jeremiah speaks. God be with you all!

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My Notes on Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 31, 2012

Today’s reading is taken from one of several pericope’s scholars have named “the Confessions of Jeremiah” (Jer 11:18-12:6; Jer 15:10-21; Jer 17:12-18; Jer 18:18-23; Jer 20:7-18). “In these the prophet lays bare his inmost soul, his trials and colloquies with God. They reveal to us his sensitive nature an help us to trace his spiritual itinerary” (New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture).

Jer 15:10  Woe is me, my mother: why hast thou borne me a man of strife, a man of contention to all the earth? I have not lent on usury, neither hath any man lent to me on usury: yet all curse me.

The prophet laments the day of his birth (see Jer 20:14). The wise Job does the same in the midst of his suffering (Job 3:1-19). Jeremiah’s suffering is the result of his having been appointed a prophet. That appointment came long before his call to prophecy and, indeed, long before his conception in his mother’s womb (Jer 1:6). Much like Elijah before him, Jeremiah is facing a crisis of his ministry (1 Kings 19:4).

At his call, God had indicated that Jeremiah would be a man of strife, while at the same time promising him divine protection:  Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak to them all that I command thee. Be not afraid at their presence: for I will make thee not to fear their countenance. For behold I have made thee this day a fortified city, and a pillar of iron, and a wall of brass, over all the land, to the kings of Juda, to the princes thereof, and to the priests, and to the people of the land. And they shall fight against them, and shall not prevail: for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee (Jer 1:17-19).

He has obeyed God’s words, avoiding acting against the law as those who engaged in the hated practice of usury towards a fellow Jew (Ex 22:25; Lev 25:35-37; Deut 23:19-20).

Jer 15:16  Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was to me a joy and gladness of my heart: for thy name is called upon me, O Lord God of hosts.

They words were found, and I did eat them. A possible allusion to the finding of the book of the Law in the time of good king Josiah (2 Kings 22:8-10). The finding of the book kicked the king’s reform into high gear and corresponded with the early ministry of Jeremiah. More likely it refers to the call of Jeremiah: And the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth: and the Lord said to me: Behold I have given my words in thy mouth (Jer 1:9). The reference to eating the word reappears as a prophetic context in Ezekiel 2:8-3:1-4; Rev 10:8-11).

And thy word was to me a joy and gladness of my heart. This clause is to be explained in light of what follows: for thy name is called upon me, O Lord, God of Hosts. Jeremiah was overjoyed that he would receive the divine protection of God’s name, often synonymous with his protecting presence (Jer 14:9). God had promised that he would be with Jeremiah during his mission as prophet (Jer 1:8; Jer 1:19)

Lord of Hosts = Lord of Armies-i.e., the angels; Lord of power and might, etc. The divine protector and  warrior.

Jer 15:17  I sat not in the assembly of jesters, nor did I make a boast of the presence of thy hand: I sat alone, because thou hast filled me with threats.

I sat not in the assembly of Jesters. As translated, the first part of this verse recalls the last part of Psalm 1:1~Nor sit in the assembly of mockers. The word used here (שׂחק) is different from that used in the Psalm and would be better translated as childish. The Hebrew word, like its Greek counterpart in the LXX implies boyish frivolity (Gr. παιζοντων). When first presented with the divine call to prophecy Jeremiah had objected that he was too young (Jer 1:6), but the Lord had assured him of the divine protection (Jer 1:7).

Nor did I boast of the presence of thy hand. God’s hand is the power behind the prophet;s action (Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 37:1). He did not boast concerning the solemn charge God had given him.

I sat alone, because thou has filled me with threats. This does not mean that God has threatened the prophet rather, it refers to the fact that God had informed Jeremiah that his ministry would be difficult, arousing opposition (Jer 1:17-19), even from among family (Jer 12:6), and townspeople (Jer 11:19-23). If the words I sat alone are taken in relation to I sat not in the assembly of jesters (the childish), then we may have an indication that many of the prophets opponents were people he had grown up with, friends of his youth from whom he separated. For the theme of separation from those not oriented toward God see Psalm 1:1-2; Psalm 26:4-5.

Jer 15:18  Why is my sorrow become perpetual, and my wound desperate so as to refuse to be healed? it is become to me as the falsehood of deceitful waters that cannot be trusted.

Why is my sorrow become perpetual, and my wound desperate so as to refuse to be healed? In some ways the crisis of Jeremiah mirrors that of his countrymen (Jer 14:19). Those who are constantly in need of a slap on the wrist will never be healed of a bruised wrist (Isa 1:5-6). Those who have to deal with such a class of people-as Jeremiah had to-will themselves be bumped and bruised. The suffering of Jeremiah, who suffered for the sake of his people, foreshadowed the sufferings of Jesus: And Jesus came into the quarters of Cesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophet (Matt 16:13-14).

 It (the prophet’s suffering) is become to me as the falsehood of deceitful waters that cannot be trusted. Jeremiah had been told of the suffering (opposition) he would endure, but it seems as if it had all been for naught. The implication is that the Lord has deceived him. Jeremiah lived in a dry climate with a paucity of water, and here God’s promises regarding his protection are portrayed as a thirsty man’s mirage (deceitful waters that cannot be trusted).

Jer 15:19  Therefore thus saith the Lord: If thou wilt be converted, I will convert thee, and thou shalt stand before my face; and thou wilt separate the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: they shall be turned to thee, and thou shalt not be turned to them.

If thou wilt be converted. God calls the prophet to repentance, something his countrymen seemed incapable of. He can once again stand in the presence of God (thou shalt stand before my face) and separate the precious from the vile, i.e., understand the distinction between why he suffers and why sinners suffer and, more importantly, continue his mission of separating the precious (repentant) from the vile (unrepentant). The suffering of the just is a trial by fire, often compared to what gold or other precious metals go through. The purpose is to refine and increase the value of the precious by burning off the vile. (1 Peter 1:3-8; 1 Cor 3:13).

They shall be turned to thee, and thou shalt not be turned to them. The people will be converted (turned) to God’s way of thinking, rather than the prophet being turned to their thoughts (see Matt 16:23).

Jer 15:20  And I will make thee to this people as a strong wall of brass: and they shall fight against thee, and shall not prevail: for I am with thee to save thee, and to deliver thee, saith the Lord.
Jer 15:21  And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the mighty.

vs. 20. I will make thee to this people as a strong wall of brass. These words both recall and reiterate the call of Jeremiah to prophecy.

They shall fight against thee and not prevail, &c. Also recalls the call narrative (Jer 1:19; see also Jer 1:8).

vs. 21. I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked. For punishment, God sometimes gives his people into the hands of her enemies (Jer 12:6), but Jeremiah will be saved this fate if he repents. It should be kept in mind that while the enemies of God’s people are the pagans, often times those who claim to be God’s people are nothing more than pagan-like enemies, and such are the enemies of Jeremiah.

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My Notes on Jeremiah 14:17-22

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 30, 2012

Jer 14:17  And thou shalt speak this word to them: Let my eyes shed down tears night and day, and let them not cease, because the virgin daughter of my people is afflicted with a great affliction, with an exceeding grievous evil.

And Thou shalt speak this word to them. The conjunctive and which opens the verse draws a connection between this word from God which the prophet is to speak (Jer 14:17-22), and what has preceded, namely, the prediction of the impending dissolution of the kingdom (Jer 13:18-19); the disgrace of military conquest (Jer 13:20-27); drought (Jer 14:1-6); the cheap ease with which the people “repent,” only to wander again (Jer 14:7-10); the Lord’s command that the prophet not intercede for them (Jer 14:11); the coming judgement on false prophets and the people (Jer 14:12-16). It should be kept in mind that although it is the prophet who is speaking, he is doing so by God’s order, on God’s behalf, and using words given him by God. The word Jeremiah is to speak is a lamentation; God’s lamentation over his people. It is spoken as if God himself is the people, or at least a representative of them.

Let my eyes shed down tears. A sign of lamentation and woe (see lamentations 2:18; Lamentations 3:48-49; Jer 9:18; Jer 13:17).

Because the virgin daughter of my people is afflicted with a great affliction. The feminine image could be a reference to Jerusalem or to God’s people in general. In the Bible, the religious and/or political center of a people often symbolized that people, hence, however one takes it (Jerusalem or the people), the other is involved.

The maiden (virgin daughter) imagery is probably to be taken as sarcasm. By depending on idols and foreign nations for protection the people have forsaken the covenant with their God. The covenant was often symbolized as a marriage (Hosea 2:16-20; Isa 62:4-5; Jer 2:2-3; Jer 3:, and covenant breaking as harlotry. The people have played the harlot (Jer 3:20; Jer 13:21, Jer 13:27), and will suffer a harlots disgrace (Jer 13:22, Jer 13:26).

Jer 14:18  If I go forth into the fields, behold the slain with the sword: and if I enter into the city, behold them that are consumed with famine. The prophet also and the priest are gone into a land which they knew not.

Sword, famine,  and exile into a land which they knew not are all the result of covenant infidelity, the covenant curses come down upon them. According to Jeremiah, the false prophet whom the people were listening to had promised them such things would not come (Jer 14:13), but God informed Jeremiah that they would (Jer 14:14-16).

Sword. Military invasion and conquest. See the covenant curses in Deut 28:25-26; Deut 28:49-57

Famine. And effect of war (Deut 28:30-34; Deut 28:53-57).

Into a land which they knew not. Exile (Deut 28:63-68).

Jer 14:19  Hast thou utterly cast away Juda, or hath thy soul abhorred Sion? why then hast thou struck us, so that there is no healing for us? we have looked for peace, and there is no good: and for the time of healing, and behold trouble.
Jer 14:20  We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, the iniquities of our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.

Jer 14:21  Give us not to be a reproach, for thy name’s sake, and do not disgrace in us the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.
Jer 14:22  Are there any among the graven things of the Gentiles that can send rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou the Lord our God, whom we have looked for? for thou hast made all these things.

These words of lament are something one might expect from the people, and they do call to mind the lament earlier in the chapter, put on the people’s lips by God (Jer 14:7-9). It was intended to highlight the people’s feckless devotion and attitudes which can only lead God to rebuff and rebuke (Jer 14:10). A sailor’s philosophy is any port in a storm; a sinner’s philosophy is any god in a crisis (see Jer 2:10-11). In fact, the people have already been condemned for chasing after idols (Jer 2:25-28) while still pleading for help to the God they abandoned (Jer 2:29-37; Jer 3:4-5).

There is an answer to the questions asked in verse 19, God will eventually respond (Jer 16:14-15), but first, punishment must be brought to bear. Empty words, however beautiful they might be, remain empty if they have no heart behind them. Indeed, they harden the heart, and this can only lead to continuing punishment.  See Hosea 5:15-6:6 where God again puts a beautiful prayer on his people’s lips in order to highlight their mere lip service to him. The purpose of the covenant curses was medicinal, oriented towards bringing the people to repentance so that God might once again bestow his blessings (Deut 30:1-10).

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My Notes on Jeremiah 13:1-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 29, 2012

Jer 13:1  Thus saith the Lord to me: Go, and get thee a linen girdle, and thou shalt put it about thy loins, and shalt not put it into water.
Jer 13:2  And I got a girdle according to the word of the Lord, and put it about my loins.

Today’s first reading is made up in part by three command and compliance sequences (vv. 1-7) which are in the overall form of a parable in action, the meaning of which is explained in vv. 8-11. (For a brief description of a parable in action see this commentary on 13:1-11 in the right hand column).

The first command issued to Jeremiah is that he take a linen girdle (i.e., a loin cloth) and wear it next to his body. The intimacy and closeness of the garment is meant to symbolize the closeness that should have existed between God and his people (see verse 11). Jeremiah does according to the word of the Lord, complying with this first command. Why Jeremiah is commanded to not put it (the loin cloth) in water is usually explained as symbolizing the corrupt state of the people. Their failure to clean themselves (repent) will lead to even more corruption (Jer 13:27).

Jer 13:3  And the word of the Lord came to me the second time, saying:
Jer 13:4  Take the girdle which thou hast got, which is about thy loins, and arise, go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.
Jer 13:5  And I went, and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord had commanded me.
Jer 13:6  And it came to pass after many days, that the Lord said to me: Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from thence the girdle, which I commanded thee to hide there.
Jer 13:7  And I went to the Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle out of the place where I had hid it and behold the girdle was rotten, so that it was fit for no use.

Here we have the second (vv. 3-5) and third (vv. 6-7) command and compliance sequences. How long Jeremiah wore the loin cloth is unstated. The command that he arise, go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock (v. 4) is symbolic. The Bible uses the word Parath to refer to the Euphrates, but this was also the name of a stream located not far from Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth, and it is probably this stream where the action takes place. Because it shares the same name as the Euphrates in Babylon, the action can symbolize the coming Babylonian exile, (Jer 13:18-27), the consequence of the people’s uncleanness, i.e., idolatry and lack of holiness, etc.

The loin cloth is to be hidden in a hole of the rock, possibly symbolizing the humbling of Judah’s pride because of its idols (see v. 10 below). Men hiding in holes in the rock because of God’s wrath at their idolatry is found in Isaiah 2:6-22; especially verses 10, 19 and 21,

Jer 13:8  And the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
Jer 13:9  Thus saith the Lord: After this manner will I make the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem to rot.
Jer 13:10  This wicked people, that will not hear my words, and that walk in the perverseness of their heart, and have gone after strange gods to serve them, and to adore them: and they shall be as this girdle ,which is fit for no use.
Jer 13:11  For as the girdle sticketh close to the loins of a man, so have I brought close to me all the house of Israel, and all the house of Juda, saith the Lord: that they might be my people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.

I understand the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem to be a reference to the royal family (Jer 13:18-19) and the idolatries of the people in general, symbolized as prostitution in Jer 13:21-27. This wicked people would not hear my (God’s) words, (hence the warnings in Jer 13:15 and Jer 13:17), choosing instead to walk in the perverseness of their hearts, going after strange gods.  Such actions rob God of his intentions in choosing a people for a name, and for praise, and for glory, making the people as useless as the rotted loin cloth. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

293 Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: “The world was made for the glory of God.”[Dei Filius, can. 5] St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things “not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it”,[In II Sent. I, 2, 2, 1] for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: “Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand.”[St. Thomas Aquinas, Sent. 2. Prol] The First Vatican Council explains:

This one, true God, of his own goodness and “almighty power”, not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel “and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal. . .”[De Filius 1]

294 The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created. God made us “to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace”,[Eph 1:5-6] for “the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God: if God’s revelation through creation has already obtained life for all the beings that dwell on earth, how much more will the Word’s manifestation of the Father obtain life for those who see God.”[St Irenaeus, Adv. haeres 4, 20, 7] The ultimate purpose of creation is that God “who is the creator of all things may at last become “all in all”, thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and our beatitude.”[AG 2; cf. 1 Cor 15:28].

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Pope John Paul II’s Commentary/Meditation on Jeremiah 31:10-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 21, 2012

Canticle of Jeremiah
(Jer 31,10-14) 

1. “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, proclaim it on the distant coasts” (Jer 31:10). What is the good news that is to be announced with the solemn words of Jeremiah in the Canticle which we have just heard. It is consoling news, and it is no accident that the chapters that contain it (cf. 30-31) are called the “Book of Consolation”. The announcement refers directly to ancient Israel, but in some way it foreshadows the message of the Gospel.

Here is the heart of this announcement:  “The Lord will redeem Jacob, he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror” (Jer 31:11). The historical background of these words is found in a moment of hope experienced by the People of God, about a century after the Assyrians in 722 occupied the Northern part of the Holy Land. In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, the religious reform of King Josiah brought about a return of the people to the covenant with God and fostered the hope that the time of punishment was over. It fostered the further hope that the North might regain its freedom and that Israel and Judah might be reunited. All, even “the distant coasts” should be witnesses of this wonderful event:  God the Shepherd of Israel is about to intervene. He who allowed his people to be scattered, now comes to gather them together.

2. The invitation to rejoice is constructed with the aid of the profoundly moving images. It is an oracle which makes one dream! It delineates a future in which the exiles “will come and sing”, and will find not only the Temple of the Lord, but also every good thing:  wine, wheat, oil, the young of flocks and herds. The Bible does not know of an abstract spirituality. The promised joy does not just affect man’s inner being because the Lord takes care of human life in all its dimensions. Jesus himself highlights this, when he invites his disciples to trust in Providence even for their material needs (cf. Matt 6:25-34). Our Canticle insists on this point of view:  God wants to make the whole man happy. To convey how all embracing is the happiness, the prophet uses the image of the “watered garden” (Jer 31:12), images of freshness and fruitfulness. Mourning is turned into feasting, being satiated with choice portions (cf. v. 14) and abundant goods, so that it will come naturally for them to dance and sing. It will be an unlimited joy, the joy of the people.

3. We know from history that this dream has not yet come true. Certainly not because God has failed to keep his promise:  because of their infidelity. the people were to blame for this delusion.

The Book of Jeremiah undertakes to demonstrate it with the unfolding of the prophecy which becomes suffering and hardship, and gradually leads to some of the saddest phases of the history of Israel. Not only do the exiles of the North not return, but Judah itself will be occupied by Nabuchodonosor in 587 BC. Bitter days now begin when, on the shore of Babylon, the lyres were hung from the willows (cf. Ps 136:2). There was no desire to sing for the satisfaction of the jailers; no one can rejoice when he is uprooted by force from his own country, the land where God made his dwelling.

4. The Canticle’s invitation to rejoice does not lose its meaning. Indeed, the final reason for rejoicing on which it leans remains firm, and we find it in some very intense verses that precede the verses we use in the Liturgy of the Hours. One must keep the verses in mind while reading the expressions of joy in our canticle. The verses describe in vibrant terms the love of God for his people. They indicate an irrevocable covenant:  “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer 31:3). They sing the fatherly outburst of the God who calls Ephraim his first born and covers him with his tenderness:  “They shall go forth with weeping, I will lead them back with consolations; I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; because I am a father to Israel” (Jer 31:9). Although the promise could not then be fulfilled because of the children’s lack of correspondence, the Father’s love retains all its touching tenderness.

5. This love is the golden thread that brings together into unity the ups and downs of the history of Israel, its joys and sorrows, successes and failures. God’s love does not fail, and punishment is an expression of his love since it intends to teach and to save.

On the solid rock of this love, the invitation to joy of our Canticle evokes a future plan of God which, though delayed, will come sooner or later, despite all of human frailty. The future comes to fulfilment in the new covenant with the death and resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Spirit.

However, it will be totally fulfilled with the final return of the Lord at the end of time. Interpreted by the light of such certainty, the “dream” of Jeremiah continues to be a real historical opportunity, conditioned by faithfulness of human beings, and, above all, it refers to a final goal, guaranteed by the faithfulness of God and already begun by his love in Christ.

In reading the oracle of Jeremiah, we should let the Gospel resound in our hearts, the wonderful news proclaimed by Christ in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Luke 4:16-21). Christian life is called to be a true “Jubilation”, which only our sin can threaten. By making us pray these words of Jeremiah, the Liturgy of the Hours invites us to keep our life attached to Christ our Redeemer (cf. Jer 31:11) and in our personal and communal life to find in him the secret of true joy.

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My Notes on Jeremiah 1:4-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 16, 2012

The Call of Jeremiah

Jer 1:4  And there is a word of LORD unto me, saying,

And there is a word of LORD unto me.  A stock prophetic phrase found throughout the prophetic books.

Jer 1:5  `Before I form thee in the belly, I have known thee; and before thou comest forth from the womb I have separated thee, a prophet to nations I have made thee.’

 Note the contrast in tenses: “Before I form thee…”, “before thou comest forth.”  Using the present tense of future events is typical of prophetic literature.  It commuicates the idea that what is being prophecied will come to pass (except when a prophecy is conditional, i.e., wont come to apss if the people repent).  Here, the contrast in tenses seems to emphasize the certainty of God’s foreknowledge of the prophet.  St Paul tells us that God chose him before his birth to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles (i.e., poeple of the nations) in Gal 1:15:16. See also Luke 1:13-17.

Jer 1:6  And I say, `Ah, Lord God! lo, I have not known–to speak, for I am a youth.’

And I say, `Ah, Lord God! lo, I have not known (how) to speak, for I am a youth.’ This reminds one of Moses’ initial response to his call in Exodus 4:10.  There Moses claimed to be a poor speaker, here Jeremiah appeals to his youth or inexperience in speaking to men concerning important subjects.

Jer 1:7  And the LORD saith unto me, `Do not say, I am a youth, for to all to whom I send thee thou goest, and all that I command thee thou speakest.

His youth and inexperience are irrelevant where God’s power is concerned.  The authority of the word, and, consequently the authority of the one preaching it, comes from the source of the word and the mission, namely God.

Jer 1:8  Be not afraid of their faces, for with thee am I to deliver thee, –an affirmation of the LORD.’

 Face is Hebrew idiom for presence, thus the meaning is: “Be not afraid in their presence.”

The phrase With thee I am is not merely a statement of the divine presence.  The promise of the divine presence when given in the context of a mission is a promise and guarrantee of divine help and power in the performance of that mission.  See God’s promise to deliver St Paul in Acts 26:17.

Jer 1:9  And the LORD putteth forth His hand, and striketh against my mouth, and the LORD saith unto me, `Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth.

God’s striking the mouth of the prophet calls to mind the fact that the angel touched Isaiah’s lips with an ember in Isaiah 6:7.  the words “I have put my words into thy mouth” recalls the commissioning of Moses in Exodus 4:10-17.

Words and themes found in verse 7-9 are typical of prophetic call narratives (see Exek 3:1-10; Matt 28:18-20; ect).

Jer 1:10  See, I have charged thee this day concerning the nations, and concerning the kingdoms, to pluck up, and to break down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.’

Jeremiah’s mission is for both Jew and Gentile; and his message is one of both weal and woe.  See 18:7-9; 25:15-38; chapters 30-31,  46-51; ect.

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My Notes on Jeremiah 17:5-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 3, 2012

Jer 17:5  Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

Cursed be the man that trusteth in man. Setting one’s hope for success, protection, etc., on man (or oneself) rather than on God leads to a curse. The nation had forsaken God by entering into military alliance with pagan nations, an act compared to abandoning fresh springs of water in order to dig a faulty, useless well that retains no liquid (see Jer 2:14-19). This was one of the reasons for the Babylonian exile, and so, as Jer 27:2-7 indicates, any attempt to thwart God’s punishment by alliance with foreigners is doomed to fail. Should the king, Zedekiah, continue on his course, trusting in men, he will become the object of a taunt song (Jer 38:22). See Psalm 146:3-4; Psalm 118:8-9; Acts 4:19).

Jeremiah himself had been warned by God not to trust the people in his own hometown, even his own kin, for they were plotting against him (Jer 12:6) and would come to grief via God’s punishment (Jer 12:21-23).

And maketh flesh his arm. The arm is a symbol of strength, flesh a designation for man, thus: “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and seeks strength in man.” Man and flesh stand in parallel, as do trusteth and arm.

And whose heart departeth from the Lord. The Hebrew is יסור,”to turn off or away from.” See 1 Sam 12:20; 2 Kings 10:29; Ezekiel 6:9.

Jer 17:6  For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

He shall be like heath in the desert. The word heath is a translation of the Hebrew  כערער,  word denoting something naked or destitute. Desert shrubs barely cling to life and when the desert winds of Palestine kick up they soon die. A dead tree in the desert cannot experience the goodness of rain, neither can a cursed man who trust not in the Lord see when good cometh from God. His fate is to remain dead in a parched and salt waste.

Jer 17:7  Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
Jer 17:8  For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

The beatitude and image and its contrast with verse 6 recalls Psalm 1.

Blessed is the man that trusteth…and whose hope the LORD is. He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, in contrast to the cursed man who trusted in man and human strength and who shall be like the heath in the desert (vs 6). Just as a bush naked and destitute of foliage cannot compare with a well rooted, well watered tree in leaf, so too there can be no real comparison between the blessed man who hopes and trusts in God, and the cursed man who trusts himself and/or his fellow men.

And shall not be careful in the year of drought. Many plants have natural “built in” protection devices to aid them during dry seasons. For example, some conserve water by dropping blossoms and growing smaller blooms. Others begin to feed more extensively through their foliage rather than their roots, thus being able to hydrate better when the only water available is in the form of early morning mist, dew, fog, etc. This can be described metaphorically as plants taking care of themselves. But just as a well watered, well rooted tree would have no need for such precautions, trusting (so to speak) in its supply of water, so too the man who trusts in the Lord has no need to seek supplements from some other source.

Jer 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

The heart is deceitful above all things. The Hebrew word translated here as deceitful is  עקב. The word originally referred to a rise of land, a knoll. It came to be applied to steeper inclines which were dangerous, treacherous, unpredictable, deadly, thus its extended meaning, is deceitful. It can have the sense of haughtiness or arrogance, and this would fit nicely with the description that the heart is deceitful (elevated, raised or looming up like a treacherous cliff) above all things.

Who can know it? The next verse answer this question.

Jer 17:10  I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

I the LORD search the heart, it try the reins. The haughty, arrogant, deceitful heart cannot deceive or accomplish treachery against God for it is searched (חקר, penetrated, examined) by God who, in Acts 1:24 is called  καρδιογνωστα, “the heart knower”. God also tries (בחן, tests, investigates) the reins (כליות, literally, the kidney, but here, figuratively, the inner man). See Jer 11:20; 12:3.

Even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. The purpose of his searching the heart and trying the reins

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, Latin Mass Notes, Lent, liturgy, Notes on Jeremiah, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | 2 Comments »

 
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