The Judgments Upon Judah

4:5 to 6:30

During the reign of Josiah

Metaphors drawn from the arena of warfare are particularly prominent in this section (4:5-6, 13, 16, 19-21, 29, 5:15-17, 6:1, 4-7, 22-23, 25). But the range of metaphors is remarkable: wild animals – lion, leopard, wolf, eagles (4:7, 13, 5:6); scorching wind (4:11-12); clouds and whirlwind (4:13); men guarding a field (4:17); cosmic catastrophe (4:23-26); ravaged vineyards (5:10; 6:9); fire (5:14); open grave (5:17); and shepherds with flocks (6:3). The metaphors for the wicked are also rich in meaning: lusty stallions (5:7-8); prostitute’s dress and makeup (4:30); bird catchers (5:26-28). Metaphors of the anguish of the people suffering judgment are also present: a woman in labor (4:31). The use of such lively metaphors impresses us like no abstract or literal language can.56

The theme of judgment hinted at in the first three chapters of Jeremiah and announced so dramatically in 4:3-4 is now spelled out in some detail, providing the central theme of the next major section. The prophet from Anathoth had pleaded earnestly for repentance (shuwb), and had given warning that sincere repentance, accompanied by a radical change in the national and individual life and a circumcised heart, needed to take place. However, this was rejected! Consequently, judgment day was at hand . . . Babylon was coming in a bad mood.

The preceding unit (As – Return to Me) portrayed YHVH as a wounded, betrayed lover and husband yearning for a return. Even at the end of the unit there is still hope that Judah will ”come home.” The mood is starkly different as this next section begins. Now there is no such yearning. Now there is darkness and harshness. This is a very different voice of Ha’Shem, who has reached the limit of yearning and the far edge of compassion. For all of the LORD’s compassion . . . God will not be mocked.57

A. The apostasy of ADONAI’s people (2:1 to 4:4)

B. The inevitability of Ha’Shem’s near historical judgment (4:5-31)

a. The apostasy of ADONAI’s people (5:1-30)

b. The inevitability of Ha’Shem’s near historical judgment (6:1-30)


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