The Plot Against Jeremiah
Jeremiah’s Second Complaint

11: 18-23

DIG: Jeremiah helped Josiah close local shrines. Does this sit well in the prophet’s hometown of Anathoth? Why did the men of Anathoth listen to the false prophets? Why does this distress him (12:2)? How did he discover the plot? Why did it take him so long to realize that he was in danger? Why do you think that the plot was revealed?

REFLECT: How would you feel if a family member plotted to kill you? Jesus also had a “bad homecoming” (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Fj - Isn’t This the Carpenter’s Son? Aren’t Theses His Brothers?). Has obeying YHVH ever alienated those closest to you? Did you feel betrayed? How did you handle it? Are you comfortable with God seeking vengeance? What would you request if you were Yirmeyahu?

At the end of Josiah’s reign

When viewed historically, the prophet from Anathoth can be demonstrated to have handed down to us the fullest account of a prophet’s life and character, by far, to be found anywhere in Scripture. Therefore, our attention is focused on the seven so-called “complaints or confessions” of Jeremiah (1) Ax – Oh, Adonai ELOHIM, Surely You Have Deceived This People; (2) Bj – The Plot Against Jeremiah; (3) Bk – Why Does the Way of the Wicked Prosper? Why Do All the Faithless Live at Ease?; (4) Cm – Woe to Me, Mother, That You Gave Me Birth; (5) Cs – Heal Me ADONAI, and I Will Be Healed, Save Me and I Will Be Saved; (6) Cx – Jeremiah’s Response to a Threat Against His Life; and (7) Db – You Deceived Me, LORD, and I Have Been Deceived.

We observe that the “complaints” of Yirmeyahu are not merely laments, as we might expect from such a naturally timid man. Jeremiah, often called the “weeping prophet,” might in fact better be called the “groaning prophet,” or perhaps better still, the “screaming prophet.” His confessions were complaints, even accusations as charges brought in a lawsuit. Although Jeremiah was timid at the time of his call, ADONAI caused him to become a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land of Judah (Jeremiah 1:18). That strength of character shows up in various ways in Jeremiah’s confessions, and in the prophets’ complaints.

A subtly different metaphor may be implied by the name Jeremiah itself, which means something like ADONAI hurls, or launches. Yirmeyahu was the world’s first guided missile, aimed by God at specific targets and with pinpoint accuracy. His ministry was successful (from YHVH’s standpoint at least), a fact not only provoked retaliation from the prophet’s enemies but also provided additional ammunition for his complaints and confessions. His sense of freedom in “talking back” to God is similar in many respects to that of Moshe (Num 11:11-15), in whose prophetic tradition Jeremiah found himself.82

Jeremiah’s complaint: God revealed to Jeremiah a plot against his life. This information comes suddenly, and we must wait until 11:21 before the picture is complete. Nor are we informed how YHVH made it known to him. A sympathetic relative who brought the news very well may have been the LORD’s informant. Only then did he see what they were doing (11:18). This marks the first, but not the last, plot against Jeremiah’s life.

Believers of a later age saw this description, a gentle lamb led to the slaughter, as a picture of the betrayal of Messiah (Acts 8:32). The words also remind us of Isaiah 53:7. It seemed to Yirmeyahu that that his relationship to the men of Anathoth was that of a gentle lamb that was completely trusting and unaware of the intentions of its owner as he was led to the slaughter. The verse suggests that he was probably aware of some schemes afoot in the village, but could not imagine they were plotting his demise.

I did not realize that they had plotted against me, and quoting the words of his enemies: Let us destroy the tree and its fruit. Let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more (11:19). For any man of Y’hudah, rejection by his village was the ultimate tragedy. But it was the price Jeremiah was called upon to pay for being true to his call from YHVH (see Aj – The Call of Jeremiah). The village that gave him his basic social and psychological security turned against him. And like an Orthodox Jew of today who comes to believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, he was cut off from his family. He was totally alone. Little wonder that he fled to God in dismay and despair.83

Sensing himself to be like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter, Yirmeyahu pleaded with ADONAI to turn the tables on them and drag them off like sheep to the slaughter (12:3). Jeremiah requested God’s judgment.Such personal hatred against the spokesman of the LORD was both puzzling and infuriating to him. He therefore turned to the covenant God, ADONAI-Tzva’ot, the righteous Judge, the Searcher of the heart and mind, who knew the faithfulness of His servant as well as the treachery of his opponents, and in full reliance of Ha’Shem’s justice confidently stated his conviction: Let me see Your vengeance against them, for to You I have committed my cause (11:20).84

Believers sometimes ask, “Why should I tell God what’s on my mind? He already knows everything.” Yirmeyahu, like an attorney presenting his case, makes a full disclosure to the Judge. He reads all the facts into the record, anticipating a righteous verdict. YHVH did not learn anything during Jeremiah’s prayers, but Jeremiah learned a great deal (Matthew 6:8).

The LORD’s reply to Jeremiah’s complaint promises to bring disaster on the men of Anathoth who were threatening to kill him for his message of repentance to ADONAI and his challenging of the religious establishment in Jerusalem. In fact, Ha’Shem would punish the men of Anathoth with essentially the same punishment that they sought for him. The reason for Jeremiah’s second complaint is now made clear: the men of Anathoth had threatened Jeremiah with death because they thought he was prophesying falsely in God’s name (11:21). The false prophets had convinced them that Jeremiah’s prophecies of doom (if Judah did not surrender to Babylon) were not true. But what they didn’t realize was that the conspiracy against Jeremiah was also a conspiracy against Ha’Shem.

ADONAI-Tzva’ot responded by assuring Yirmeyahu of His ultimate judgment: I will punish them. The following verses point to the outcome of the Babylonian invasion in 586 BC and destruction of Tziyon and her surrounding villages: Their young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters by famine (11:22). The decree shows that Jeremiah’s word is indeed from the LORD, and that the prophet enjoyed God’s total support. Threats from the men of Anathoth did not silence Yirmeyahu any more than a night in the stocks (20:1-3), or confinement in the cistern (38:6), or in the courtyard of the guard (38:13).

Not even a remnant of the families of the conspirators will be left to them, because I will bring disaster on the conspirators and their families of Anathoth in the year of their punishment (11:23). We know that not everyone from Anathoth would be killed because Ezra 2:23 tells us 128 citizens from Anathoth returned from the exile to rebuild and repopulate the Holy City. The punishment will take a form that vindicates the prophet: the invasion he foretold will come to pass and in it the sword and famine would take their toll.


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