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Jeremiah 13


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

The Ruined Waist Band Symbol of the Linen Sash The Useless Waist Cloth The Linen Shorts The Story of the Loincloth
13:1-7 13:1-7 13:1-11 13:1-5 13:1-7
13:8-11 13:8-11   13:9-11 13:8-11
Captivity Threatened Symbol of the Wine Bottles The Wine Jugs Smashed Together The Wine Jar The Allegory of the Wine Jar
13:12-14 13:12-14 13:12-14 13:12-14 13:12-14
  Pride Precedes Captivity A Vision of Exile Jeremiah Warns Against Pride The Last Opportunity
    Jehoiachin Threatened    
13:18-19 13:18-19
    An Admonition to Impenitent Jerusalem    
13:20-27 13:20-27

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. Verses 1-14 are a prose passage with two symbolic acts (also note I Kings 22; Isaiah 20; Ezekiel 4, 5)

1. a ruined linen waistcloth, vv. 1-11

2. a full clay jar of wine, vv. 12-14


B. The UBS Handbook For Translators divides the poetic section (vv. 15-27) into three strophes by content (p. 334).

1. a final urgent warning, vv. 15-17

2. a word to King Jehoiachin, vv. 18-19

3. Jerusalem depicted as a "shameless woman," vv. 20-27



1Thus the Lord said to me, "Go and buy yourself a linen waistband and put it around your waist, but do not put it in water." 2So I bought the waistband in accordance with the word of the Lord and put it around my waist. 3Then the word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, 4"Take the waistband that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a crevice of the rock." 5So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord had commanded me. 6After many days the Lord said to me, "Arise, go to the Euphrates and take from there the waistband which I commanded you to hide there." 7Then I went to the Euphrates and dug, and I took the waistband from the place where I had hidden it; and lo, the waistband was ruined, it was totally worthless.

13:1-7 This is a prophetic, symbolic act involving an intimate piece of clothing. Similar illustrative acts are common in Ezekiel (i.e., chapters 4,5). We would call them "visual aids" (cf. 19:1ff; 27:2ff).

13:1 "the Lord said to me" This is a prophetic formula for receiving direct revelation. Notice how often the message from YHWH is noted in this chapter.

1. "Thus the Lord said to me," v. 1

2. "the word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying," v. 3

3. "the Lord said to me," v. 6

4. "the word of the Lord came to me, saying," v. 8

5. "thus says the Lord," v. 9

6. "thus says the Lord , the God of Israel, v. 12

7. "thus says the Lord," v. 13

This was not Jeremiah's message!

▣ "Go and buy. . .and put it around. . .but do not put. . ." These verbals are translated as imperatives (cf. vv. 4,6) in English, but in Hebrew they are:

1. "go" - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal infinitive absolute

2. "buy" - BDB 888, KB 1111, Qal perfect (with waw)

3. "put" - BDB 962, KB 1221, Qal perfect (with waw)

4. "put" (negated) - BDB 97, KB 112, Hiphil imperfect


NASB"linen waistband"
NKJV"linen sash"
NRSV"linen waistcloth"
TEV"linen shorts"
JPSOA, REB"linen loincloth"

This refers to a thigh-length undershort (BDB 25 construct 833; the depictions of this type of undergarment [Canaan and Egypt] seem more like a short shirt than short pants). The exact meaning of the symbol is uncertain (cf. II Kgs. 1:8; Job 12:18; Isa. 5:5,27; Ezek. 23:15). Some have said it was used because of its close contact to the body, thereby symbolizing intimacy (cf. v. 11). Others say that because it was made of linen it refers to what the priest wore (cf. Lev. 16:4). It is obvious that God is trying to symbolize Himself and His relationship with Judah by means of this intimate, and possibly priestly, material.

▣ "but do not put it in water" This means "do not wash it." Therefore, it will become soiled and smelly. This is what happened to idolatrous, rebellious, stubborn Israel/Judah. She is unclean (cf. v. 27) and will not allow YHWH to clean her.

13:4 There is a series of imperatives in vv. 4 and 6 that relates to v. 1 (cf. v. 5).

1. take the waistband - BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperative

2. arise - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperative

3. go - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative

4. hide - BDB 380, KB 377, Qal imperative

Also in v. 6

1. arise - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperative

2. go - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative

3. take - BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperative


▣ "go to the Euphrates" This is the Hebrew word פרת, BDB 832. It is used throughout the OT to refer to the Euphrates River (cf. Gen. 2:14; 15:18; Deut. 1:7; 11:24; Jer. 46:2; 51:63). However, because this would involve a trip of over 350 miles each way, and the context probably refers to two different trips, it seems impossible that this could be the meaning of the term here.

Some have asserted

1. This was possibly symbolic of the battle of Carchemish (at a place on the Euphrates where there were rocks), which occurred in 605 b.c. whereby Babylon completely defeated the armies of Egypt and the remaining army of Assyria; the enemy from the north comes!

2. This was possibly a wadi, פרת, which flowed from the village of פרה, about five miles northeast of Jerusalem (cf. Josh. 18;23). It provided water for Jerusalem (IDB, vol. 4, p. 656).

3. It is a play on the sound of the word "linen" (פשת, BDB 833m cf. v. 1).


13:7 "the waistband was ruined, it was totally worthless" The first verb "ruined" (BDB 1007, KB 1469, Niphal perfect) denotes that which cannot be used for its intended purpose! This same verb is used of the clay pot in 18:4. Israel/Judah's intended purpose was to inform the world about YHWH and help draw them to Him (cf. TEV of v. 11; see Special Topic at 1:5). Their unrepentant (cf. v. 10), consistent idolatry thwarted that purpose (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38).

It is also possible that this text refers to a literal 700 mile trip twice to the headwaters of the Euphrates. It might symbolize:

1. the invasion, exile, and (i.e., "after many days") dominance of Babylon. Judah was "ruined" in a physical sense during this period. If so, then the "ruined waistcloth" (cf. Lev. 26:39) symbolizes Judah's temporal destruction.

2. the spiritual corruption of the Mesopotamian powers through political alliances which involved Judah and introduced their gods to Palestine


8Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9"Thus says the Lord , 'Just so will I destroy the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband which is totally worthless. 11For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,'declares the Lord , 'that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.'

13:9 This "pride" is also addressed in Leviticus 26 (cf. Lev. 26:19; also note Isaiah 28).

13:10 YHWH characterizes His covenant people as

1. wicked people

2. refusing to listen to My words

3. walking in stubbornness

4. going after other gods

a. to serve them (Qal infinitive construct)

b. to bow down to them (Histaphel infinitive construct)


▣ "let them be just like this waistband" This is a Qal jussive (BDB 224, KB 243). Invasion from

1. the enemy from the north is coming

2. the surrounding nations who will take advantage of the situation as well


13:11 God explains the symbolic actions of vv. 1-7. Verse 10 describes Judah in her rebellion, while v. 11 describes the purpose that God wanted for them (cf. Deut. 26:19). Israel and Judah were meant to be a light to the nations (cf. Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:5,6), but they had become totally corrupt. They would not listen and respond to God's word or prophets (cf. Jer. 7:13,24,26; Ps. 81:11).

▣ "clings. . .cling" This verb (BDB 179, KB 209) is used of

1. husband and wife in Gen. 2:24 and physical attraction in Gen. 34:3

2. the tribes holding on to their land allocations in Num. 36:7,9

3. clinging to the Lord and not the nations in Deut. 10:20; 11:22; 13:4; Josh. 23:8,12

God's people should have clung to Him, should have been close to Him, but they were not! They even went after the gods of Mesopotamia and Canaan.

Notice how YHWH expresses His purpose in calling the seed of Abraham.

1. a people for Himself

2. a people of renown (lit. "name," cf. Dan. 9:15; Neh. 9:10)

3. a people for praise (cf. 33:9)

4. a people for glory (cf. 33:9)

They were to bring honor to YHWH (cf. Isa. 63:12,14) and make Him a "name" (cf. 32:20)! But they would not "listen" (cf. 7:13,24,26).

12"Therefore you are to speak this word to them, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, "Every jug is to be filled with wine."' And when they say to you, 'Do we not very well know that every jug is to be filled with wine?' 13then say to them, 'Thus says the Lord, "Behold I am about to fill all the inhabitants of this land-the kings that sit for David on his throne, the priests, the prophets and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem-with drunkenness! 14I will dash them against each other, both the fathers and the sons together," declares the Lord. "I will not show pity nor be sorry nor have compassion so as not to destroy them."'"

13:12-14 This is another symbolic act in the form of a proverb (Luke 21:29). The proverb is given in v. 12 and God's reaction to it in vv. 13 and 15.

13:12 "jug" This is the Hebrew term nebel (BDB 614 I), which speaks of (1) a wineskin or (2) the largest earthen container (cf. Isa. 30:14) for liquids, about ten gallons (see Special Topic below). The phrase "every jug is to be filled with wine" may be (1) a truism or (2) the hope of drunken revelers. Wine jugs are meant to be filled with wine. So too, should God's people reflect God, however, the opposite was true. This is the thrust of this passage. God will make them drunk (cf. 25:15-17,27-28; 51:57; Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17-20; Ezek. 23:32-34), which was a symbol of judgment.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Ancient near Eastern Weights and Volumes (Metrology)

13:12 "Do we not very well know. . ." The forms Qal infinitive absolute and Qal imperfect of the same root (BDB , KB ) intensify the sarcastic response.

They claim to know but, in reality, they know nothing!

13:13 "inhabitants. . .sit" These are from the same root (BDB 442, KB 444) and are used three times.

1. Qal active participle, "to dwell" (i.e., inhabit, used twice)

2. Qal active participle, "to sit," metaphor for the place of power (i.e., throne of the king)

Notice the groups affected.

1. the Davidic kings (cf. 17:25; 22:2,4,30; 29:16; 33:21; 36:30)

2. the priests

3. the prophets

4. the inhabitants of Jerusalem


13:14 "clash" This verb (BDB 658, KB 711, Piel perfect) was used of the killing of babies by the invaders (i.e., Assyria, Babylon, cf. II Kgs. 8:12; Ps. 137:0; Isa. 13:16,18; Hos. 13:16; Nahum 3:10). The verb here is a word play on the shattered wine jug of v. 13 (cf. 51:20-23).

▣ "father and sons together" Sin, like faith, moves through families.

1. sin - Deut. 5:9; Jer. 7:18

2. faith - Deut. 5:10; 7:9

For the balancing truth that each person is responsible only for their own sin, see Ezekiel 18.

▣ "I will not show pity nor be sorry nor have compassion that I should not destroy them" Notice the things YHWH will not do.

1. show pity - BDB 328, KB 338, Qal imperfect, cf. 15:5; 21:7; Ezek. 5:11

2. be sorry - BDB 299, KB 298, Qal imperfect, cf. 21:7; Ezek. 5:11

3. show compassion - BDB 933, KB 1216, Qal imperfect, cf. 21:7

This same truth is stated in 16:5 (also note 21:7 about King Zedekiah). There are consequences to the repeated rejection of God's word and will (cf. Lam. 2:17-22; Ezek. 8:18; 9:10; 24:14). But, the OT ends on a promise of YHWH "sparing" in Mal. 3:17!

Remember these are hyperbolic, anthropomorphic, poetic metaphors.

1. see Special Topic at 1:9

2. see D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks


15Listen and give heed, do not be haughty,
For the Lord has spoken.
16Give glory to the Lord your God,
Before He brings darkness
And before your feet stumble
On the dusky mountains,
And while you are hoping for light
He makes it into deep darkness,
And turns it into gloom.
17But if you will not listen to it,
My soul will sob in secret for such pride;
And my eyes will bitterly weep
And flow down with tears,
Because the flock of the Lord has been taken captive.
18Say to the king and the queen mother,
"Take a lowly seat,
For your beautiful crown
Has come down from your head."
19The cities of the Negev have been locked up,
And there is no one to open them;
All Judah has been carried into exile,
Wholly carried into exile.

13:15-27 Verses 1-14 are prose but vv. 15-27 form two or three poetic strophes. The first strophe is the hopeless call of the prophet for repentance on the part of God's people and vv. 20-27 are a warning of what will happen if they do not repent. There is a real paradox between the "hear and do" (cf. v. 15) and the inability to change of v. 23. It is the tension between

1. God's sovereignty and human free will

2. the unconditional and conditional nature of OT covenants


13:15 "Listen and give heed" These are two Hebrew words for "hear." They are synonymous and both plead for Judah's positive repentant response (cf. 10:1).

1. BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative (see note at 2:4)

2. BDB 24, KB 27, Hiphil imperative , cf. Deut. 32:1; Isa. 1:2


▣ "do not be haughty" The verb (BDB 146, KB 170) is a Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (negated). The concept of haughtiness and pride are the theme of this particular section (cf. v. 17). Israel had become so haughty and proud that she would not respond in the appropriate way to God. This word is used of

1. kings

a. Uzziah - II Chr. 26:15

b. Hezekiah - II Chr. 32:25

c. king of Tyre - Ezek. 28:2,5,17

2. God's people

a. Isa. 3:16

b. Ezek. 16:50

c. Zeph. 3:11

Haughtiness, pride, and self-directed living are the results of the Fall (cf. Genesis 3; 6:5,11-12). Apparently even the covenant people could not escape its influence. Therefore, a new creation, a new covenant is mandatory (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38; Rom. 3:21-31; 4-5; Galatians 3; the book of Hebrews).

▣ "Give glory to the Lord your God" Because of the use of this phrase in Josh. 7:19, many believe this is a call for confession of sin or at least an oath of truthfulness (cf. John 9:24). The grammatical form is a Qal imperative (BDB 670, KB 733).

▣ "deep darkness" This is the Hebrew word salmawet (BDB 853), which is translated in the KJV in Ps. 23:4 as "the valley of the shadow of death." It really means a valley of deep darkness which may describe any and all of life's crises.

The NET Bible has a good note about this word at Jer. 2:6 (p. 1290, #6). It is used in poetic texts of

1. the darkness of prison, Ps. 107:10,14

2. the darkness of invasion, Isa. 9:1

3. the darkness of a mine, Job 28:3

4. the darkness of a ravine, Ps. 23:4

5. the darkness of a wasteland and ravines of the Sinai desert, Jer. 2:6

6. life's tragedies or confusions, Job 3:5; 12:22; 24:17; 28:3; 34:22; Ps. 44:19

7. the darkness of death, Job 10:21-22; 38:17

Notice the contrast between YHWH's word/truth as light, but sin as darkness (BDB 364, KB 361, Hiphil imperfect, cf. Isa. 8:22-9:2), deep darkness (BDB 853), and gloom (BDB 791). This darkness metaphor is characterized by "stumbling" (BDB 619, KB 669, Hithpael imperative). A life of faith is pictured as a person walking on a clearly marked path in light. If one

1. deviates from the path

2. stumbles on the path

3. rejects God's ways (path)

4. walks in darkness in difficult terrain

judgment is the result.

13:17 "if you will not listen to it" Jeremiah was commanded by God to preach this message of repentance, but he knew the people (i.e., YHWH's flock) would not respond (cf. Isa. 6:9-10). Humans have a choice but their choice has consequences (cf. line 5).

Jeremiah (the weeping prophet) describes his feelings (which mimic YHWH's feelings) about Judah's stubborn, unrepentant, sinful idolatry and it consequences.

1. my soul will sob in secret

2. my eyes will bitterly weep (Qal infinitive absolute and Qal imperfect from the same root)

3. my eyes will flow down with tears


13:18 "Say to the king and the queen mother" Verses 18 and 19 are either a historical allusion to

1. what happened in the second of Nebuchadnezzar's attacks on Jerusalem in 597 b.c. (cf. 22:24-26; 29:2), where Jehoiachin and his mother (see similar phrase used of the king of Babylon in Isa. 47:1), Nashushta, are taken into captivity (cf. II Kgs. 24:8-17)

2. a prophecy about the terrible fall of Jerusalem and burning of the temple in 586 b.c. by Babylon.

Remember, Nebuchadnezzar's army had several deportations, 605, 597, 586, 582 b.c. Whatever the allusion the king, representing God (cf. I Samuel 8), is now humiliated and taken away into captivity and the southern cities (i.e., the Negev) are under siege (cf. v. 19).

NASB, NJB"For your beautiful crown
Has come down from your heads"
NKJV"For your rule shall collapse the crown of your glory"
NRSV"Since your glorious crown has fallen from your head"
JPSOA"For your diadems are abased,
Your glorious crowns"

The LXX reads, "because your crown of glory has been removed from your head." The MT reads, "for your crown has come down, the crown of your splendor."

Most modern translations follow the LXX and other ancient versions.

13:19 "have been locked up" This verb (BDB 688, KB 742, Pual perfect) refers to a siege of a walled city (or fortress in the Negev). The result of these sieges was "exile" (BDB 162, KB 191, Hophal perfect, used twice in this verse).

▣ "there is no one to open them" The foreign alliances, in this case Egypt, cannot stop the Babylonian invasion of Palestine. It was YHWH's will!

▣ "Wholly carried into exile" This is hyperbolic; some of Judah's citizens escaped exile.

The problem with much modern interpretation of Wisdom Literature and Prophetic Literature is western literalism! Prophecy is a hyperbolic genre! See D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks.


20"Lift up your eyes and see
Those coming from the north.
Where is the flock that was given you,
Your beautiful sheep?
21What will you say when He appoints over you-
And you yourself had taught them-
Former companions to be head over you?
Will not pangs take hold of you
Like a woman in childbirth?
22If you say in your heart,
'Why have these things happened to me?'
Because of the magnitude of your iniquity
Your skirts have been removed
And your heels have been exposed.
23Can the Ethiopian change his skin
Or the leopard his spots?
Then you also can do good
  Who are accustomed to doing evil.
 24Therefore I will scatter them like drifting straw
To the desert wind.
25This is your lot, the portion measured to you
From Me," declares the Lord ,
"Because you have forgotten Me
And trusted in falsehood.
26So I Myself have also stripped your skirts off over your face,
  That your shame may be seen.
 27As for your adulteries and your lustful neighings,
The lewdness of your prostitution
On the hills in the field,
I have seen your abominations.
Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
How long will you remain unclean?"

13:20-27 This is the final strophe of chapter 13. Remember, try to identify the main truth of each strophe and let this guide your interpretation of the details.

13:20 "Lift up your eyes and see" These verbs are both feminine singular imperatives (kethiv), which refer to the city of Jerusalem. The Septuagint translates this "Jerusalem." The Masoretic scholars put the Qal masculine plural imperatives in the margin (Qere). These reflect different Hebrew manuscripts which they consulted.

▣ "from the north" This refers to the imminent invasion of Babylon. The north was an idiom of evil (cf. 1:13-15; 4:6; 6:1,22) because it was the invasion route for the empires (both Assyria, Babylon) of the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley into the land of Palestine.

13:21 "Former companions to be head over you" The Hebrew of lines 1-3 is uncertain. This seems to refer to Judah's foreign alliance (cf. 2:18). "Companion" is the Hebrew "chieftain" (BDB 910). Israel/Judah had many allies but now they have become their masters!

▣ "Will not pangs take hold of you,
Like a woman in childbirth" Labor pains are often used in the Bible as a symbol of judgment (cf. Jer. 4:31; 6:24).

13:22 The Judeans were questioning the bad things (invasion and exile) which were about to happen to them, and wondering why! They were God's people! They had the Patriarchal promises; they had the Promised Land; they had the prophets; they had the temple (cf. Rom. 9:4-5). Their (1) continuing idolatry; (2) unwillingness to listen to God's word or prophet; and (3) unwillingness to repent caused the curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-28 to become a reality.

▣ "Your skirts have been removed" This is a metaphor in the OT for a violent sexual assault (cf. Lev. 18:6-19; 20:17; Deut. 22:30; 27:20; Isa. 47:3; Hosea 2:3,10). Her lovers (foreign alliances, cf. 2:17-19) had now become her rapists (TEV).

▣ "And your heels have been exposed" This is a cultural metaphor for the act of public exposure, which was considered to be a great shame (cf. v. 26; Lam. 1:8; Isa. 47:2, 3). Sometimes the feet, and here the heels, were used as a euphemism for the human sex organs (cf. Deut. 28:57; Jdgs. 3:24; I Sam. 24:6; Isa. 6:2).

13:23 There are two questions in this proverbial statement which obviously expect "no" answers. This reflects the idea that the Judeans could not change, although God calls to them (cf. NRSV, REB), for they are morally unable to respond. This may be an incipient clue to the need for a new covenant which is based not on the performance of fallen mankind, but on the grace of God (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38).

13:24 Invasion and exile are coming, but it is YHWH who initiates and allows it (cf. 9:16; Lev. 26:33; Deut. 28:64). Notice v. 25, line 2.

13:25 "This is your lot, the portion measured to you" Originally Abraham's descendants were considered the "portion of the Lord," but now because of their rebellion, they had become the portion of foreigners (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-28).

Two reasons are given why YHWH took His protection from them and energized the invading army.

1. They forgot YHWH (BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal perfect, cf. 2:32; 3:21).

2. They continued to trust in falsehood (BDB 1055, i.e., Ba'al worship and other idols, cf. 3:23; 5:31; 10:14; 16:19; BDB 105, KB 120, Qal imperfect).


13:26 "So I Myself have also stripped your skirts off over your face,
  That your shame may be seen" This was the public punishment of a harlot or faithless wife (cf. Hos. 2:3,10; Isa. 47:2, 3). The New English Bible translates v. 22 with the very same metaphor.

13:27 "As for your adulteries and your lustful neighings" This last term means "rutting noises" (BDB 843, cf. 8;16). The people of God are described in their fertility worship (cf. 2:20) as mating animals (cf. 2:24; 14:6).

▣ "On the hills in the field" We learn of the magnitude and grossness of the covenant people's sex sins as they worship Ba'al from Hos. 4:13,14 (see Special Topic at 2:20).

▣ "How long will you remain unclean" The verb (BDB 372, KB 369, Qal imperfect) can be used of

1. freed from leprosy (cf. II Kings 5)

2. ceremonially clean (cf. Leviticus)

3. freed from idolatry (cf. here and Ezek. 24:13[twice]; 36:25)

This last line is confusing in Hebrew. The LXX translates it as "Because you were not cleaned after me, how long it yet be?"

The very last phrase can be viewed in two ways.

1. a literary way of asserting it will not happen (if there will be no cleansing)

2. an attempt to show there is still hope for repentance (but seems to violate v. 23)