Vv 1-9 analyze the moral decay of the people that is bringing upon them the coming calamity.

It is impossible to find a single trustworthy person in Jerusalem . People invoke the name of HaShem, but they do so to swear falsely.

V 3: Even though God has struck and chastised the people, they are not affected: they refuse to see the hand of God behind the blows they have received.

V 5: It is not only the common people that have descended so low, but even the great people, who should have known better.

V 6: The "lion" alludes to the coming exile to Babylon ; the "wolf" to Medea, and the "leopard" to Greece , while those who survive servitude to these nations will be "torn to pieces", i.e. by Edom (Rashi).

Vv 7-9: How can God not punish the people for their corruption and immorality?

V 10: The prophet calls upon the enemies to attack Jerusalem , yet even so, he tells them not to make a full end to the people. Even in anger, God will show compassion.

V 12: "They have denied HaShem." The people deny that God watches over and controls everything and they refuse to believe that God will requite their sins. They are encouraged in this by their false-prophet soothsayers.

V 14: Jeremiah prophesies that precisely because of the people's denial of providence, they will suffer the onslaught of the Babylonians. In v 15 Babylon is called an "ancient nation" because the Babylonians were the first to rebel against God with the building of the Tower of Babylon (Rashi).

V 18: Despite his grim prophecies, Jeremiah again and again promises that the destruction will not be total, because of God's endless compassion.

Vv 22ff: God has set limits to the creation. Despite the great power of the sea, it is unable to cross its boundaries and sweep over the sand to go inland. But Israel - who were created with free will and commanded to observe boundaries in their conduct - have crossed all the boundaries with their rebellion.

Vv 26-28: More than anything, the prophet castigates the people for their greed and rapacity and the social injustices they perpetrate.

V 31: The moral degradation is the result of the false prophets prophesying that all will be well. This has encouraged the priests (who should have taught the people Torah) to rule with force, and the people have come to love the corrupt state of affairs.


Vv 1ff: Again the prophet visualizes the coming onslaught of the enemies, forcing the people to take refuge in their fortified cities, and he depicts the herds of foreign armies invading the country.

It must be understood that Jeremiah was prophesying at a time when the First Temple was still standing and fully functioning. The corrupt establishment of the priests and their false prophets clearly believed that they were immune from harm because of their outward practice of the Temple rituals. Jeremiah's prophecies of coming calamity flew in the face of the "political correctness" of the time, leading him to suffer enormous opposition, abuse and even imprisonment, as we find in the later portions of the book. We might better understand the intensity of the rage and anger he aroused if we imagine how the established leaders of major present-day powers would react to a "credible" prophet who stood up and started painting pictures of their imminent destruction, striking terror into the hearts of the populace. This is why Jeremiah says:

Vv 10f: "To whom shall I speak and testify that they may hear: behold, their ear is stopped up and they are not able to hear; behold the world of HaShem has become a matter of reproach for them in which they take no delight. Therefore I am full of the fury of HaShem, I am weary with holding it in."

V 14: Jeremiah is forced to tell people the truth, because the false prophets have "healed" the wounds of the people by lulling them into complacency, promising them "Peace! Peace! - but there is no peace!" This phrase rings as true as ever today, as the secular leaders and pundits of Israel repeatedly promise peace but Israel knows only hostility and war!

V 16: God appeals to the people to come to their senses and ask what would be the good way to go, but the people refuse.

V 20: The people continue offering the Temple incense and other sacrifices, but God takes no pleasure in the outer forms of service without the inner devotion of the heart and soul.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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