22 February 2016

Jeremiah 13:1-11

“For as the loincloth clings to one’s loins, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord, in order that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. But they would not listen.” (v. 11)

Psalm: Psalm 39


Jeremiah was "the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin" (Jeremiah 1:1), a village a few miles north-east of Jerusalem. This means that, despite the proximity to Jerusalem, he was from northern kingdom of Israel rather than southern one of Judah. He believed that he had been consecrated by God before he was born and appointed to be a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5). He began his ministry in 627 BC, the thirteenth year of the reign of the reforming King Josiah (Jeremiah 1:2), producing adverse reactions in his home town (Jeremiah 11:21 and 12:6). His prophetic ministry continued for over forty years, including the days of King Jehoiakim and King Zedekiah (Jeremiah 1:3), and so he prophesied during a period of Egyptian control and then the rise of the Babylonians who captured and destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC. Following the assassination of Gedaliah (a Babylonian governor), Jeremiah was taken to Egypt where he died.

Today's passage is an account of what some think is one of Jeremiah's symbolic actions and others think is a vision. If it is a symbolic action, we have to reckon with the prophet travelling approximately 700 miles from Jerusalem to the Euphrates and back again or an alternative rendering of the Hebrew word translated 'Euphrates'; a footnote in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible indicates that the Hebrew 'Perath' could be rendered 'Parah', the name of a village a few miles north-east of Anathoth. (The Revised English Bible simply uses 'Perath'.) Another reason pointing to this being a vision is that symbolic actions, such as the breaking of a pot in Jeremiah 19:1-13, are usually performed, and an interpretation offered to an audience; this passage, however, depicts a conversation between God and Jeremiah.

The story focuses on what Jeremiah is told to do and does with a linen loincloth; its meaning is made clear in verses 8-11.

To Ponder

  • How do you react to the loincloth as a metaphor of the intimate relationship between God and the people of Judah and Israel? What metaphors do can you think of that express the relationship God desires with God's people?
  • The prophet says that pride and not listening are important features of the spoiled relationship between the people and God: where do you see them affecting relationships with God today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Neil Stubbens

Neil Stubbens is a Methodist presbyter who is currently the connexional ecumenical officer. Previously, he has served in the Barnsley, Southport, St Helens and Prescot, and Sankey Valley Circuits.