Bible Study: Jeremiah Chapter 2

Posted: February 28, 2017 in Midrash, Mussar (Ethics), Prophets, Tanach
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[NOTE: I have included the verse numbers here and color coded the commentaries so that any words based on a particular commentary appear in a specific color. The first time a particular commentary is used, the name of that commentary will appear in parentheses. Subsequent appearances will be indicated by color only. I have used in some cases the Hebrew phonetic spelling for names such as “HaShem” for God, “Yirmiyahu” for Jeremiah, “Kohanim” for priests, etc.]

(1) Hashem spoke to Yirmiyahu, saying, (2) “Go and prophesy before the people in (Targum) Jerusalem, saying, ‘Hashem said, ‘Return to Me, for I desire to have mercy upon you! (Rashi) I remember the kindness of your youth, the goodness of times past, and the love we shared when I brought you under a bride’s canopy, when you followed after my messengers, Moshe and Aharon. You went out of a land that was settled to go into the wilderness, a land not sown, with no provisions for the journey, because you had faith in Me. (3) Israel is Hashem’s sanctified portion, as terumah is the sanctified portion of the earth’s produce, like the wheat harvest before the omer offering is brought. Just as these are forbidden to be consumed, and those who consume them incur guilt upon themselves, so too, all that devour Israel shall be held guilty; evil shall come upon them.

(4) “Hear the word of the Hashem, O House of Jacob, and all the families of the House of Israel. (5) What did your fathers find wrong with Me, that they have gone far from Me, and have gone after vanity, and become insignificant? (6) Neither did they consider, when seeking objects of worship (Radak): ‘Where is Hashem that brought us up from the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?’ Rather, they pursued foreign gods. (7) I brought you to the Land of Israel, that was planted like a forest, to eat its fruit and its bounty, but you came and defiled My land, and you made My heritage an abomination. (8) The Kohanim did not say, ‘Where is Hashem?’ and those who hold fast to the Torah, the Sanhedrin, did not know me, and the shepherds, the kings, rebelled against me, and the prophets prophesied in the name of Baal, and they followed after that which could not profit. (9) Therefore, before I bring evil upon you, I will continue to reprove you, through my prophets, and I shall reprove your children’s children, even though I have already reproved you for many days. (10) Pass over to the islands of the Kittites and see, send to Kedar and pay attention, observe their ways well; see if this has ever happened. (11) Has a nation forsaken its gods, though their gods are false? Yet My nation has forsaken its Glory for gods that can avail them not. (12) O heavens, be bewildered at this! Storm and be as though you are ruined, over the Holy Temple that will ultimately be ruined. (13) For my people have committed two evils! Had they merely forsaken Me for another like Me, that would be only one evil. However, they forsook Me, the source of the waters of life, and as a second evil, they have followed after false gods, like digging for themselves broken, fissured wells to hold stagnant water, wells that cannot contain their water, as it leaks through the cracks, and splashes over and against the walls, causing them to collapse. (14) Is Israel a slave or the child of a maidservant? Why have they become the spoils of others? (15) Kings threaten the nation of Israel; like roaring lions, they have raised their voices. They have desolated the Land of Israel; they have burnt their cities, rendering them uninhabited. (16) The people of Noph and Tachpanches, the Egyptians, shall also crush your skull. (17) Shall not your guilt and iniquity, having abandoned HaShem your God, while He tried teaching you to go upon the good and upright path, cause this evil and retribution to come upon you? (18) And now, why would you abandon Me and rely upon Egypt, to drink the waters of the Nile in which the Egyptians drowned your children? And why would you rebel against Me so that you will be exiled to Assyria, to drink the waters of the Euphrates River, across which Assyria is found? (19) Your evil shall bring suffering upon you, and your waywardness shall bring rebuke upon you, and know and see that evil and bitter is your forsaking Hashem your God, and that the fear of me was not in your heart. (20) For I have always broken the yoke of the nations from upon you, I have cut off your bonds, and you said, ‘I will not transgress Your words,’ yet upon every high hill and underneath every fresh tree you lay like a prostitute, serving other gods. (21) I planted you as a sorek, a choice vine. Just as sorek equals 606, I gave you 606 commandments in addition to the seven Noahide laws. You are children of upright and righteous fathers, completely pure seed, so how did you turn into unwanted, wild vines? (22) Even if you attempt to clean yourself with soda ash and use much soap, yet like a stain that cannot be cleansed is your iniquity, the iniquity of the Golden Calf, before Me, for that iniquity stands forever, and all retribution that befalls Israel includes some of the iniquity of the Golden Calf. (23) How can you say, ‘I have not been defiled, I did not go after the bealim’? See your way in the valley, know what you did, how you sinned in the matter of Baal Peor, and you continue in the same way, like a swift, young she-camel that continues in the wayward behavior of her youth. (24) A wild she-donkey, accustomed to the wilderness, runs in whatever direction she desires (Radak); who can retrieve her from her intended destination? All those who seek her shall become exhausted for naught; she shall be found and caught in the month of her sleep. So too you, Israel, shall be caught in the month of Av, that has been prepared for you since the time of the spies, when your forefathers established it as a time for crying with their baseless tears. (25) My prophets say, ‘Hold yourself back from serving idolatry, so that your foot not walk barefoot into exile, and hold back your throat from dying of thirst!’ Yet you say regarding the words of the prophets, ‘I have despaired of your words, no! For I have loved foreign gods, and I shall go after them.’ (26) Like the shame of a person thought trustworthy when he is discovered to be a thief, so shall Israel be ashamed, they, their kings, their officers and their priests and their prophets. (27) They say to the wooden image, ‘You are my father,’ and to that made of stone, ‘You gave birth to me,’ for they have turned to Me their back and not their face, but in the time that evil comes upon them they will reject their idolatry and confess before Me and say, ‘Arise, have mercy upon us and save us!’ (28) And where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, and see if they can save you in the time evil befalls you, for your gods have become as numerous as your cities, O Judah; in each city a different deity is worshipped!

(29) “Why do you contend to Me, saying, ‘We have not sinned!’ You have all rebelled against me, even the righteous among you! (30) In vain I struck your sons, for they did not accept reproof; your sword consumed your prophets, Zechariah and Isaiah, whom you killed, like a destroying lion.”


(31) Jeremiah held up the container of manna that had been preserved since the generation of the Exodus and declared, “You of this generation! See here what the word of Hashem can bring about! When I brought down from heaven this miraculous bread every single day, did your forefathers experience a barren wilderness, a land of darkness? Why has my people said, ‘We are distanced from you; we shall not come to you again’? (32) Will a maiden forget her jewelry or a bride her ornaments? But My people has forgotten Me for days innumerable. (33) O how you adorn yourself to seek love when you greet your adulterous lovers! Indeed, you have pursued even the worst of all ways to learn and behave. (34) Even on your skirt is found the innocent lifeblood of the destitute. You did not find them stealthily tunneling into someone’s home to rob them, in which case they forfeit their life by endangering others, when you killed them. Rather, it was because they rebuked you concerning these matters. (35) Yet you said in your heart, ‘Indeed, I am innocent, even His anger is turned back from me.’ Behold, I shall come with you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’ (36) How very lowly you will become, straying from your path, abandoning Me and depending upon Egypt for help!” Here Yirmiyahu refers to the future, to the days of the kings Yehoyakim and Tzidkiyahu. “You will also be embarrassed that you depended upon Egypt, just as you were embarrassed that you depended upon Assyria in the days of King Achaz. He depended on Assyria, but they besieged him rather than strengthen him. (37) You will also go out from this place with the shame of your sins upon your head, for HaShem is disgusted that you rely upon others (Metzudah), and you will not succeed because of them.”

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Comments
  1. Russell Mollot says:

    So, at the very, is the implication that when Israel relies on America instead of HaShem; when our Prime Ministers beg for crumbs (like dogs) at the President’s table; instead of trusting the G-d of our Fathers; when we seek the love of the Gentiles instead of rebuilding the Temple; when we cower before the Arab-Nazi scourge infesting Our Land instead of smiting them with the sword as we have been commanded; is Jeremiah implying that this is, in some way, improper behavior? If so, why aren’t our “Gedolim” out in force, preaching repentance to us and, especially, to the Government of Israel? Have they read Jeremiah? What is going on?

  2. Rafi Mollot says:

    What I see implied here is not that alliances are inherently bad, but that Israel abandoned the Torah and refused to repent because they relied upon natural phenomena, like the strength of their allies, to save them from any undesirable fate. In this case, their reliance upon others CAUSED them to sin, and therefore was itself improper. That may be the same case today. I do not see here an injunction to fight our enemies, rather a warning that not following the Torah will bring about retribution from our enemies. That our misfortunes that we suffer at the hands of the other nations are due to our sins. But repentance and reliance on Hashem will avert this. In fact, those who we rely on (and who therefore cause us to sin) will be those who bring about our demise. The particular sins that are highlighted here are idolatry and social injustice. What is today’s idolatry? What social injustices require correction today? Even the righteous have sinned, Jeremiah says. The “frummest” fellow says, “I’m so frum! I’m not a sinner! It’s the other person who is bad! Let’s get them!” Meanwhile, their duty to their fellow man is wholely neglected. They worship their own ego thinking they are better than all others. I do believe the Gedolim are doing their best to spread the true light of Torah, but there is a lot of darkness…

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