V 1: "Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, I would have no desire for this people." Rashi explains that Moses and Samuel both had to pray for mercy for Israel, but were not able to do so before first bringing the people to repent. Thus before Moses interceded for the people after the sin of the golden calf, he first ground it down and had the worshippers killed (Ex. 32). Likewise, before Samuel prayed for the people at Mitzpeh he first had them remove the idols from their midst (I Samuel 7:4-5). Here God was saying to Jeremiah that since he did not have the power to bring the people to repent, he should not try to pray for them.

V 2: Four punishments are mentioned in this verse: natural death, slaughter by the sword, death from starvation and captivity. Each is more severe than the one before it. From here the Talmud learns that there is no greater mitzvah than redeeming captives (Bava Basra 8b).

V 4: These relentless punishments are "because of Menasheh son of Hezekiah king of Judah , because of what he did in Jerusalem ". After the great religious revival accomplished by his father Hezekiah, Menasheh filled Jerusalem with idols, even bringing a graven image into the Temple , and he also shed innocent blood (Isaiah the prophet). Targum Yonasan on our verse says the people were likened to Menasheh because they refused to repent.

V 9: "She who gave birth to seven children is distressed." This refers to the Ten Tribes, who had already gone into exile on account of seven dynasties of wicked kings: Jeraboam, Ba'asha, Omri, Jehu, Menachem, Pekach and Hosea ben Elah (Rashi, Metzudas David). ".now I shall deliver their remnant to the sword." The remnant is Judah , whose exile came after that of the Ten Tribes.

V 10: "Woe to me, O my mother, that you gave birth to me, a man of strife." Jeremiah complains over his fate, because the people hated him for his reproofs. Despite his never having acted wrongly, whether as a creditor pressing hard for repayment or a debtor defaulting, he had to endure hostility from all directions.

V 11: God reassures Jeremiah that the destruction will not be total and that he himself will survive and that even his enemies would ask him to pray for them (cf. Jeremiah 21:2).

V 12: Despite this reassurance, the decree was irrevocable: "Can ordinary iron smash northern iron alloyed with copper?" Even the strength of Jerusalem would be no match for that of the Babylonians, who came from the north.

Vv 15-18: Jeremiah pleads with God to save him from his persecutors because of his unflinching loyalty. "As soon as your words come to me, I devour them." (v 16). Despite the grimness and unpopularity of his prophecies, Jeremiah was always ready and willing to receive them. He did not sit in the company of revelers (v 17) - his only joy was in the word of God. He was isolated and "sat alone" (v 17) and his pain was "everlasting" (v 18) because he saw no end to the relentless opposition he faced, despite God's promises of protection.

Vv 19-21: God reassures Jeremiah and promises him greatness "if you bring forth an honorable person (YAKAR) from a glutton" (v 20). The "glutton" is the evil inclination, which seeks to devour everything good. YAKAR is the glorious soul, which is held captive by the evil inclination. On the basis of this verse, the rabbis taught: "Everyone who teaches Torah to the son of an ignoramus merits that even if God makes a decree, He nullifies it on his account, as it says, 'And if you bring forth an honorable person from a glutton, you shall be like My mouth'" (Bava Metzia 85a).


Vv 1-4: Jeremiah prophesies that in the coming disaster the little children will perish together with their parents.

Vv 5-8: God instructed Jeremiah not to go to comfort mourners as a sign that death would be so commonplace that the few survivors would be unable to follow conventional mourning practices for all the victims.

Vv 14-15: The grim prophecy of impending exile in v 13 is immediately followed with a prophecy of comfort foretelling that in the end the exiles will return. The rabbis relate this prophecy to the future redemption of Israel . Verse 14 appears to imply that in time to come the Exodus from Egypt will no longer be mentioned because even that great miracle will have been superseded by the miracle of the future redemption. However the rabbis taught: "It is not that the Exodus from Egypt will be uprooted from its place. Rather, the redemption from the later oppressors will be the main thing, and the Exodus from Egypt will be secondary to it" (Berachos 12b).

V 16: "Behold I shall send many fishermen. and afterwards I shall send many trappers." - "Just as the fisherman pulls up the fish from the place where it grows, so these enemies will capture them in the city. And just as a fish taken out of the water dies immediately, so I shall bring killers against them. And afterwards I will send trappers against those who survive and against those who seek to flee from the sword: they will capture them and send them into exile and captivity" (Rashi).

V 19 prophesies that at the end of days the nations of the world will return to God and serve Him with one accord (Rashi, RaDaK).




By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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