The Faithlessness of Judah

2:1 to 3:5

During the reign of Josiah

The flow of thought within this unit basically consists of an opening divine memory of the “honeymoon” with Isra’el (2:1-3), followed by an explosion of metaphors – especially the marital metaphor – that speaks with great intensity about the breakdown of the marriage (2:4 to 3:5). This material interweaves reflections, questions, accusations, complaints about enemies, and other matters, as is characteristic of human laments (see Psalm 13).

Nearly every indictment that ADONAI brings up in this section has to do with either the first (see the commentary on Exodus Dk – You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me), or second commandment (see the commentary on Exodus Dl – You Shall Not Make For Yourselves an Idol). Only in 2:34 do issues of social justice come into play. Only when the issue of the relationship with God has been clearly laid out as the fundamental problem do such symptoms of that brokenness appear (here and later). The marital metaphor assumes both promise and commitment on the part of both parties. The indictment focuses on the breaking of this commitment by Isra’el by committing spiritual adultery with other gods. Given this focus, little is said about future judgment (2:36-37), and even Babylon is not specifically in view. That will come later (20:4-6), but now the call to repentance is front and center (3:11-14), and a promised future is stated very clearly (3:15-18).

This section presents an anatomy of evil, documented with evidence from past and present sins.26 This is a vivid picture of the fallen nature of mankind. As presently situated prior to the calls for repentance in 3:6 to 4:4, this material is preaching designed to elicit repentance, not to write Isra’el’s epitaph. The point here was not to merely dwell on the past (though that was necessary), but to chart some possible ways of moving forward together. By the time this was being read by the exiles, judgment had already fallen. But Jeremiah’s message meant that ADONAI still wanted a relationship with them and whatever measure of judgment they had experienced, God had not rejected them. At the same time, Ha’Shem was profoundly concerned about their faithfulness in the relationship.27

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