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Jeremiah 11


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

The Broken Covenant The Broken Covenant Jeremiah and Observance of the Covenant Jeremiah and the Covenant Jeremiah and the Covenant
11:1-8 11:1-5 11:1-8 11:1-5 11:1-5
  11:6-8   11:6-8 11:6-8
11:9-13 11:9-10 11:9-12 11:9-14 11:9-13
11:14   11:14-17
    Rebuke to the Frequenters of the Temple    
    11:17 11:17  
Plots Against Jeremiah Jeremiah's Life Threatened Jeremiah Persecuted at Anathoth A Plot Against Jeremiah's Life Jeremiah's First Personal Lament. A Plot Against the Life of Jeremiah
11:18-19 11:18-19 11:18-20
11:21-23 11:21-23 11:21-23 11:21-23 11:21-23

READING CYCLE THREE (see introductory section)


This is a study guide commentary,which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Chapters 11-13 are about the Mosaic covenant (see Special Topic at 3:7), which Josiah took seriously, as did the prophets (see Special Topic at 1:4), but the people did not (cf. vv. 7-8)!


B. This discussion of "the covenant" has words and phrasing taken from Deuteronomy.


C. The first of several very frank discussions between YHWH and Jeremiah, called "Jeremiah's Confessions," occurs in this literary unit (cf. 11:18-12:6; 15:10-21; 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18).

Jeremiah felt comfortable being transparent in his conversations with YHWH.


1The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2"Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; 3and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, "Cursed is the man who does not heed the words of this covenant 4which I commanded your forefathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, 'Listen to My voice, and do according to all which I command you; so you shall be My people, and I will be your God,' 5in order to confirm the oath which I swore to your forefathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day."'" Then I said, "Amen, O Lord."

11:2 "Hear the words" This is a Qal imperative which so often introduces a new poem/thought in Jeremiah (see note at 10:1).
▣ "of this covenant" Chapters 11-13 are unified by the term covenant (BDB 260, see Special Topic at 3:7). This covenant, in context, seems to relate to God's revelation to Moses on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 19-24; Deuteronomy 5). God approached several of the early personages with promises and stipulations (i.e., Noah, Gen. 6:18; Abraham, Genesis 12,15,18). These covenants basically involve stipulations with benefits and warnings/cursings for non-performance (i.e., Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-29). They exactly follow the Hittite Suzerian Treaty formulas of the second millennium b.c.


11:3 "cursed" In Deuteronomy 27 and 28 Moses lays out the benefits and judgments connected with following God. When Joshua entered the Promised Land, he confirmed this covenant with the people (cf. Josh. 8:30-35). There are consequences to disobedience (i.e., Deut. 27:15-26; 28:15-19).

11:4 "the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt" It needs to be remembered that God dealt with the Israelites in grace (cf. Gen. 6:1-22; 15:12-21) before He dealt with them in law (cf. Exodus 19-24). The Law was YHWH's way to assure a people who reflected His character to a fallen world!

▣ "from the iron furnace" This (BDB 468 construct 137) is from the mining industry, a phrase that speaks of processing metal. It is used metaphorically for "hard labor" (cf. Isa. 48:10; Deut. 4:20).

▣ "Listen" See note at v. 2. It is important to remember that God's covenant is both conditional and unconditional. It is conditional on mankind's faith response (cf. 31:32), but unconditional on God's promise (cf. 24:4-7). It is important not only to hear (Qal imperative, cf. v. 2) the Word of God (Exod. 24:3-8), but to act on the Word of God (cf. James 2:14-20).

▣ "so you shall be My people, and I will be your God" This is covenant language. Notice that it is based on Israel's obedience; no obedience - no covenant!

This is why a New Covenant (31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) was needed. Fallen mankind, even covenant mankind, could not keep God's laws (cf. Galatians 3).

11:5 "the oath which I swore to your forefathers" This seems to refer to YHWH's call to Abram in Gen. 12:1-3.

▣ "a land flowing with milk and honey" This phrase was a technical name for the land of Palestine in Canaanite, Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian documents (cf. Exod. 3:8,17; Deut. 6:3; 11:9; 26:9,15; 27:3; 31:20).

▣ "as it is this day" This is a combination of BDB 398 and 260, which is used often especially in Deuteronomy (cf. 2:30; 4:20,38; 5:24; 10:8; 11:4; 27:9; 29:27), but is also found several times in

1. Joshua - 7:25,26; 14:14; 23:8

2. Judges - 9:19; 10:15; 12:3; 15:19

3. I Samuel - 14:45; 22:8,13; 24:19; 25:32; 26:21; 27:6; 28:18; 29:3,6,8

4. II Samuel - 16:12; 18:20

5. I Kings - 2:26; 3:2; 8:8,24

Jeremiah, who had access to previous OT books, did not get it uniquely from Deuteronomy, which many modern scholars assume was written in Josiah's day.


▣ "Amen" This is the Hebrew term for "faith" (cf. Hab. 2:4 and Special Topic at 3:12). It comes from the root "to be firm" or "to be sure." Its basic affirmation is "faithfulness" or "trustworthiness." Here and in 28:6 it is used in the sense of a verbal agreement, as we use today.

6And the Lord said to me, "Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, 'Hear the words of this covenant and do them. 7For I solemnly warned your fathers in the day that I brought them up from the land of Egypt, even to this day, warning persistently, saying, "Listen to My voice." 8Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked, each one, in the stubbornness of his evil heart; therefore I brought on them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.'"

11:6 This verse may imply an itinerant ministry. There is much about the lives of OT characters that is unknown. The verb "proclaim" is a Qal imperative (BDB 894, KB 1128, cf. 2:2; 3:12; 7:2; 19:2, same verb but Qal perfect).

11:7-8 These verses are omitted in the LXX (except for "And they did not obey," v. 8). They are theologically similar to 7:24-26. Basically they are Judah's response to YHWH's message through Jeremiah.

11:7 "I solemnly warned. . .warning persistently" This first phrase is an infinitive absolute and a perfect verb of the same root (BDB 729, KB 795), which was a grammatical way to show intensity. The second phrase is literally "rising early and warning," both Hiphil infinitive absolutes.

YHWH repeatedly warned His covenant people by revelations through Moses during the exodus and wilderness wandering period. YHWH manifested His personal presence then by

1. the Shekinah cloud

2. providing water

3. providing food

4. clothes

a. did not wear out

b. grew with the children

5. revelations at the tabernacle to Moses


▣ "Listen to My voice" See note at v. 2. "Voice" would be metaphorical for all of YHWH's revelations (see above).

11:8 This verse describes the covenant people's response to YHWH's revelation.

1. they did not obey - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal perfect (cf. 7:24; 9:13)

2. they did not incline their ear - BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil perfect (cf. 35:15)

3. they walked, every one, in the stubbornness of their evil heart (cf. 3:17; 7:24; 9:14; 13:10; 16:12; 18:12; 23:17)

YHWH's response was

1. to bring the stated curses among them (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-29)

2. even the curses did not affect their behavior

It must be remembered that biblical faith is not simply cognitive or a crisis experience, but a aily relationship with God through faith and repentance!

▣ "in the stubbornness of their evil heart" God possibly chose Israel because of their rebellious tendencies (cf. Deut. 9:6,7,13,24; 10:16; 31:27) so that the truth of His gracious and patient character (cf. Exod. 34:6-7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 4:31; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; 103:8-18; 145:8-13) might shine all the brighter!

9Then the Lord said to me, "A conspiracy has been found among the men of Judah and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10They have turned back to the iniquities of their ancestors who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers." 11Therefore thus says the Lord , "Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them. 12Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they surely will not save them in the time of their disaster. 13For your gods are as many as your cities, O Judah; and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to the shameful thing, altars to burn incense to Baal.


NRSV, NJB"A conspiracy"
TEV"plotting against"
LXX"a bond of union"
NET Bible"plotted rebellion"

The Hebrew verb (BDB 905) denotes a "planning together" or "binding" of men to do harm (used often in Kings and Chronicles). It is found only here in Jeremiah. What is shocking is that it was the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem against YHWH.

11:10 "They have turned back to the iniquities of their ancestors" The current generation refused to acknowledge the sin and rebellion of their ancestors. They themselves became covenant breakers and idolaters just as their ancestors had (cf. Exod. 20:5). Consequences of sin move through time!

▣ "the house of Israel and the house of Judah" The Jewish united monarchy (Saul, David, Solomon) split in 922 b.c. over the issue of taxation and forced labor between Solomon's son Rehoboam and the Ephraimatic leader Jeroboam. From this point on the Northern Ten Tribes are know as Israel (collective term), Ephraim (the largest tribe), or Samaria (the capital city).

▣ "have broken My covenant" The verb is a Hiphil perfect (BDB 830 I, KB 974), which denotes an intensified, settled condition!

What a shocking phrase. The covenants with the Patriarchs were conditional. Successive generations violated it (the perfect denotes a settled condition). It had stated consequences (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-29). YHWH abrogated the covenant and Jeremiah states clearly in 31:31-34 that a "new" covenant was necessary, one not based on human performance which, because of the Fall (Genesis 3), was impossible. Therefore, God Himself would act redemptively on their behalf (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38). The "new covenant" of Jeremiah is the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 3:21-31; Galatians 3; and the book of Hebrews).

11:11 The covenant curses come to fruition (cf. 6:19).

▣ "though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them" What a shocking phrase! God pleaded again and again with them and they would not listen. Even now, their cry to Him is from the fear of consequences, not true repentance! The covenant is broken! YHWH will not respond (cf. v. 11; 7:16).

11:12 "will go and cry to the gods to whom they burn incense" The lifeless idols cannot hear, see, or save!

▣ "they surely will not save them" This is an infinitive absolute and an imperfect verb from the same root (BDB 446, KB 448), which shows intensity. There is no possible deliverance from "non-existent" gods made with human hands!

11:13 "For your gods are as many as your cities, O Judah" Every city had their own Ba'al/Asherah worship site (cf. 2:28, see Special Topic at 2:20).

▣ "the shameful thing" The Hebrews often took the vowels from the Hebrew word "shame" and combined them with the names of foreign deities (i.e., Ishbosheth = "man of shame," cf. II Sam. 2:8, instead of Eshbaal, I Chr. 8:33). This was done to ridicule the idols. The term "shame" (BDB 102) became a word for the fertility worship of Ba'al and Asherah of the Canaanite pantheon (see W. F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel).

14"Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not listen when they call to Me because of their disaster.
15"What right has My beloved in My house
When she has done many vile deeds?
Can the sacrificial flesh take away from you your disaster,
So that you can rejoice?"
16The Lord called your name,
"A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form";
With the noise of a great tumult
He has kindled fire on it,
  And its branches are worthless.
17The Lord of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced evil against you because of the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done to provoke Me by offering up sacrifices to Baal.

11:14 "do not pray for this people" The first two verbs are imperfects used in a jussive sense. The time for intercession had passed (cf. v. 11; 7:16; 14:11). God had set his mind on judgment (cf. Exod. 32:10). It was an act of parental love (cf. Heb. 12:5-11). His people were so sick with sin only radical surgery could help!

A book that has helped me interpret prophecy in light of the original author's intent is by D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks. This is especially true of chapter 4, "How does the Language of Destruction and Blessing Work?" (pp. 73-102). Moderns do not understand ancient eastern ways of imagery. We tend to make everything literal, which is a disaster when interpreting prophetic poetry.

11:15-16 These two verses are poetry. God's people are spoken of in the metaphor of an unfaithful wife, as in the book of Hosea (chapters 1-3). This shows the intimate interpersonal family relationship that was desired between God and His people (cf. 2:2).

11:15 "Can the sacrificial flesh take away from you your disaster" The LXX's understanding of this difficult Hebrew text is that Judah was depending on the ritual of her sacrificial cultus instead of a personal relationship with God. Most modern English translations follow the LXX and see it as relating to Jeremiah's temple sermon in chapter 7.

The MT seems to imply that the people were (1) taking the sacrificial meat home to eat or (2) eating it at the temple but planning their evil deeds of Ba'al worship activities. In Moses' writings this was the privilege of the priests only, except for the peace offering. This showed the people's total disregard for YHWH and His word!

The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 455, offers a list of the textual problems.

1. a masculine plural adjective modifying a feminine noun

2. a singular noun construct followed by a plural verb

3. MT punctuation that does not make sense

4. an archaic ending to one of the nouns

5. an adverb before the last verb with an unusual meaning


SPECIAL TOPIC: Sacrifices in Mesopotamia and Israel and Their Significance

11:16 "A green olive tree" There are two major agricultural symbols used for the nation from Abraham's seed in the OT: (1) an olive tree (cf. Ps. 52:8; Hosea 14:6; Rom. 11:17-24) and (2) a grapevine (i.e., Isaiah 5).

NASB, LXX "its branches are worthless"
JPSOA"it branches are broken"
TEV"break its branches"
NJB, REB"its branches will be consumed"

There are three possible verbs.

1. רעע - BDB 949, KB 1270, meaning "to break," cf. 15:12 (alternate form הער, KB 1264)

2. רעה - BDB 94, KB 1262, meaning "that which is harmful or useless" (LXX, see Benjamin Davidson, Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, p. DCLXXXVI, IV)

3. בער - BDB 128, KB 145, meaning "to kindle"

The judgment of YHWH (i.e., fire, BDB 77, or possibly lightning) has destroyed the fruitful olive tree (i.e., Judah).

11:17 "The Lord of hosts, who planted you" Here again the people are described in agricultural terms as an olive tree or vineyard (cf. 2:21; Exod. 15:17; Ps. 44:2; 80:8; Isa. 5:2). YHWH is their source and life.

▣ "to provoke Me" This verbal (BDB 494, KB 491, Hiphil infinitive construct) is used often in connection with idolatry (cf. 25:6,7; 32:30; 44:3,8; Deut. 4:25; 9:18; 31:29; 32:16; I Kgs. 16:7; II Kgs. 17:15-17; 21:6).

▣ "by offering up sacrifices to Baal" See 7:9; 11:13; and 32:29; also see Special Topic: Fertility Worship of the ANE at 2:20.

18Moreover, the Lord made it known to me and I knew it;
Then You showed me their deeds.
19But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter;
And I did not know that they had devised plots against me, saying,
"Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
And let us cut him off from the land of the living,
That his name be remembered no more."
20But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously,
Who tries the feelings and the heart,
Let me see Your vengeance on them,
For to You have I committed my cause.

11:18-12:4 This is the first of several intimate conversations between YHWH and Jeremiah known as "Jeremiah's Confessions" (cf. 11:18-12:6; 15:10-21; 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18). Verses 18-20 and 12:1-4 are poems. This first one deals with the plot from Jeremiah's own kindred in Anathoth to take his life.

11:19 Jeremiah expresses his surprise at the divine information he received (v. 18). He was shocked at the intensity of the plot, because he was innocent (i.e., line 1, cf. Isa. 53:7).

Lines 3 and 4 are cohortatives.

1. let us destroy the tree with its fruit - BDB 1007, KB 1469, Hiphil cohortative

2. let us cut him off from the land of the living - BDB 503, KB 500, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense

In v. 20, line 3, Jeremiah uses a cohortative directed at those who plotted his death - "let me see Your vengeance on them," BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense.

Just an added note about "with its fruit" (#1 above). This word (בלחמו, BDB 536) usually means "bread" or possibly "food." REB translated it as "sap," which is a revocalization. TEV has "while it is still healthy," and NRSV has "in its strength" בלחו). The UBS Text Project, p. 211, gives "bread/fruit" an A rating.

The last two lines of v. 19 are parallel. The same thought is expressed in two images.

1. "cut off" - BDB 503, KB 500, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense; this verb is used in two ways

a. cut down a tree

b. cut off a piece of something, here, "the land of the living," cf. Ps. 52:5; Isa. 53:8

2. "name be remembered no more" - BDB 269, KB 269, Niphal imperfect , cf. Ps. 41:5; 83:4; 109:13

Both of these were metaphors for death.

11:20 "O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously" This section deals with the age-old question of why the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper (see John W. Wenham, The Goodness of God and The Enigma of Evil: Can We Believe in the Goodness of God). Jeremiah picks up on God as a righteous judge and in 12:1 he wants to plead his circumstances before Him. This is reminiscent of the book of Job, also note Ps. 37:73 and Hab: 1:2-4. It is always difficult to face and accept the unfairness of this fallen reality! But the problem is not YHWH but human rebellion (i.e., Genesis 3). This is not the world YHWH intended it to be!

▣ "Who tries the feelings and the heart" God does judge (verb, BDB 103, cf. 6:27) on the basis, not only of actions, but also motives (cf. 17:10; 20:12; Ps. 7:9; 17:3; 26:2; 66:10; 139:23).

The word "feelings" (lit. "reins") in the English text is basically the Hebrew word (BDB 480) for the lower viscera. The ancients believed that this was the area where the emotions and motives dwelt (cf. 12:2).

For "heart" see Special Topic at 4:19.

▣ "For to You have I committed my cause" The MT has the verb "uncovered" (BDB 162, cf. LXX), but most translations have "committed" (lit. "rolled upon," cf. Ps. 22:8), which is spelled very similarly.

21Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the men of Anathoth, who seek your life, saying, "Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, so that you will not die at our hand"; 22therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, "Behold, I am about to punish them! The young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters will die by famine; 23and a remnant will not be left to them, for I will bring disaster on the men of Anathoth-the year of their punishment."

11:21-23 This is YHWH's response to Jeremiah's prayer of v. 20. Anathoth was Jeremiah's hometown (cf. 1:1). There has been much discussion in the commentaries if these threats were based on the ancient rivalry between the two priestly families of Zadok and Abiathar. This connection is not certain in the text, but was obviously an undercurrent. Zadok was the current ruling high priestly family and Abiathar had been exiled to Anathoth by Solomon (cf. I Kgs. 2:26-27).

11:22 "the sword. . .famine" In the ANE there was a triad of terms used by Jeremiah to describe coming disaster (cf. 14:12; 21:7,9; 24:10; 27:8,13; 29:17-18; 32:24,36; 34:17; 38:2; 42:17,22; 44:13).

1. the sword - invasion

2. famine - drought or siege  

3. pestilence - insects, sickness, or siege



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is a covenant?

2. Define the Hebrew word "Amen" in v. 5.

3. Who is Ba'al and how was he worshiped?

4. How is v. 15 related to the book of Hosea?

5. Why were the men of Anathoth trying to kill Jeremiah?


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