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Jeremiah 15


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

Judgment Must Come The LORD Will Not Relent   Doom For the People of Judah  
  15:3-4 15:3-4    
    The Horrors of War   Jerusalem's End
  Jeremiah's Dejection The Call of Jeremiah Renewed Jeremiah Complains to the Lord Jeremiah's Second Personal Lament
15:10-12 15:10-12
Jeremiah's Prayer and God's Answer     15:13-14 15:13-18
  The Lord Reassures Jeremiah      
15:19-21 15:19-21

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. This chapter seems to be made up of disjointed poems.

1. vv. 1-4 (or possibly vv. 1-9) go with chapter 14

2. vv. 5-9 are YHWH's lament over Judah's destruction (using the imagery of widows and mothers)

3. vv. 10-11 are another poem involving birth and a mother (the MT of v. 11 is very difficult)

4. vv. 12-14 are a seemingly unrelated poem of destruction, possibly related to 1:18-19 and 15:20

5. vv. 15-18 are the second (or third) of Jeremiah's laments (i.e., confessions)

6. vv. 19-21 have YHWH's response to Jeremiah's prayer. In a sense this is like a second call to prophetic service.


B. The time for repentance has passed, even intercession by great leaders cannot stop the coming invasion from the north (cf. vv. 12-14).



1Then the Lord said to me, "Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not be with this people; send them away from My presence and let them go! 2And it shall be that when they say to you, 'Where should we go?' then you are to tell them, 'Thus says the Lord:
"Those destined for death, to death;
And those destined for the sword, to the sword;
And those destined for famine, to famine;
And those destined for captivity, to captivity."'
3I will appoint over them four kinds of doom," declares the Lord: "the sword to slay, the dogs to drag off, and the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. 4I will make them an object of horror among all the kingdoms of the earth because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem.

15:1 YHWH answers Jeremiah's intercession. The few spiritual leaders in Israel/Judah's history cannot avert the unbelief and rebellion of the current generation (cf. Ezekiel 18). Corporate prayers are effective only if the people share the faith and repentant attitude of the intercessor!

For the intercessory ministry (cf. Ps. 99:6-8) of

1. Moses - see Exod. 32:11-14,30-32; Num. 14:13-25; Deut. 9:18-20,25-29

2. Samuel - see I Sam. 7:9; 12:23

Notice YHWH's directives about Judah.

1. My heart (lit. nephesh, BDB 659, KB 711; see note at Gen. 2:7 at online) would not be with this people

2. send them away from My presence - BDB 1018, KB 1511, Piel imperative

3. let them go - BDB 422, KB 425, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

Judah had rejected YHWH ("Me," "My," "My," cf. v. 6). They were no longer in a covenant relationship with Him (see SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI) at 2:19)!

15:2 The people respond to YHWH's message through Jeremiah. They are not searching knowledge but flippantly responding! Therefore, YHWH tells them exactly where they will go (cf. 14:12).

1. some to death by the sword (warfare)

2. some to famine (siege)

3. some to captivity (exile)

The normal triad of judgment is the sword, famine, and pestilence (cf. Ezke. 14:21; 33:27), but here "captivity" or exile is used.

15:3 "I shall appoint" The verb (BDB 823, KB 955, Qal perfect) can mean

1. visit upon

a. in punishment - Isa. 10:12; Jer. 9:25; 11:22; 13:21; 21:14

b. in mercy - Gen. 21:1; 50:24,25; Isa. 23:17; Jer. 15:15; 27:22; 29:10; 32:5

2. appoint to, cf. Num. 27:16; Jer. 15:3; 49:15; 50:44; 51:27


▣ "four kinds of doom" There are four Qal infinitive constructs.

1. the sword to slay

2. the dogs to drag off (i.e., the horror of improper burial)

3. the birds of the sky to devour and destroy (cf. Deut. 28:26; Jer. 7:33; 16:4; 19:7; 34:20)

4. the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy (cf. Deut. 28:26; Jer. 7:33; 16:4; 19:7; 34:20)


15:4 "I will make them an object of horror among all the kingdoms of the earth" This Hebrew idiom is explained in 24:9; 29:18 (cf. Deut. 28:25). Israel was meant to reveal YHWH's loving character to the nations, but they did not see the mercy of YHWH because only His judgment was manifested in the life of Israel (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38).

▣ "because of Manasseh" YHWH gives the specific origin of Judah's idolatry-King Manasseh. He was Hezekiah's son who reigned longer than any other Judean king. He was by far the most evil king in Judah's history (cf. II Kgs. 21:1-18; 23:26-27; 24:3-4; II Chr. 33:1-17). He was saved and forgiven at the very end of his life, but the consequences of his idolatry were permanent to the people of Judah.

5"Indeed, who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem,
Or who will mourn for you,
Or who will turn aside to ask about your welfare?
6You who have forsaken Me," declares the Lord,
"You keep going backward.
So I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you;
I am tired of relenting!
7I will winnow them with a winnowing fork
At the gates of the land;
I will bereave them of children, I will destroy My people;
They did not repent of their ways.
8Their widows will be more numerous before Me
Than the sand of the seas;
I will bring against them, against the mother of a young man,
  A destroyer at noonday;
I will suddenly bring down on her
Anguish and dismay.
 9She who bore seven sons pines away;
Her breathing is labored.
Her sun has set while it was yet day;
She has been shamed and humiliated.
So I will give over their survivors to the sword
Before their enemies," declares the Lord.

15:5-9 Verses 5-9 are YHWH's lament! This poetic strophe (characterized by perfect verbs) describes the coming judgment of Judah's incalcitrant rebellion and idolatry.

Verse 5 is a series of questions.

1. who will have pity on you 

2. who will mourn you

3. who will turn aside to ask about your welfare

The theological implication is that without YHWH's help, there is no one else who cares, protects, and provides for them. But they have rejected Him.

1. you have forsaken Me

2. you keep going backward

Because of this YHWH will act as judge. He is tired of relenting (cf. 6:11; 7:6).

1. stretch out His hand against them

2. destroy them (cf. v. 8)

3. winnow them (cf. 51:2)

4. bereave them of children 

5. give them numerous widows

6. bring the destroyer at noonday

7. anguish and dismay

8. bring shame (BDB 101, KB 116) and humiliation (BDB 344, KB 340)

9. give the survivors to the sword

Wow! Idolatry has consequences! Lack of repentance (cf. v. 7, line 3) has consequences! If this were true then, why not now?

I do like the NET Bible's understanding of an outline of this poem based on who is speaking to whom (p. 1333).

1. vv. 1-4 - YHWH addresses Jeremiah

2. vv. 5-6 - YHWH addresses Jerusalem

3. vv. 7-9 - YHWH addresses Jeremiah


15:6 "I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you" This is an idiom from the exodus (cf. Exod. 7:5; Isa. 31:3) of YHWH's power in judgment (cf. Jer. 6:12). In Exod. 7:5 it is against the Egyptians on behalf of His covenant people, but now YHWH acts against His own people (cf. Isa. 5:25; 10:4; 14:27).

NASB, JPSOA"You keep going backward"
Peshitta"You have gone backwards"
REB, NET"You have turned your back to me"
LXX"you will go backward"
NIV"you keep on backsliding"

Hebrew verbs do not have a time element; that must be determined from context. Notice how the translations of v. 6 differ.

The best parallel use of "backward" (BDB 229) is 7:24.

▣ "I am tired of relenting" The verb (BDB 521, KB 512, Niphal perfect) is used of exhausted patience. The Niphal perfect can be used in a good sense.

1. 6:11, in relation to YHWH's wrath

2. 20:9, in relation to YHWH's word

3. Isa. 1:14, in relation to YHWH's feasts

It can be used in a bad sense.

1. 9:5, in relation to iniquity

2. Isa. 47:13, in relation to occult practices

The second verbal (BDB 636, KB 688, Niphal infinitive construct) means to be moved with pity. Here it is negated. YHWH will not be moved with pity (cf. 7:16). Judgment is coming! He has waited and waited but Judah would not repent and return to Him (cf. v. 7c; 7:13).

15:7 "At the gates of the land" This would refer to the

1. walled cities near the borders where invading armies would travel (i.e., coastal plain)

2. fortresses on the invasion routes (i.e., caravan routes)


15:8 This verse is difficult to understand.

1. Does it refer to the dead children of the widows who were strong young soldiers but now dead? (i.e., little children)

2. Does it refer to the death of the remaining widows by young invaders because their own children/warriors cannot defend them?

The "widows" described as "the sand of the sea" is an allusion to YHWH's promise to Abraham about his numerous descendants (cf. Gen. 22:17; 32:12). But now his many descendants will be destroyed! The fathers/husbands and their young men/soldiers are already dead, and now their mothers also (i.e., no hope for a next generation).

▣ "A destroyer at noonday" This seems to refer to the personification of an invading army that attacks at the time when the defenders could see best (cf. 6:4). This would then be a symbol of the invulnerability of the invaders.

▣ "Anguish" This word (BDB 735 I, KB 822 II) is found only here and in Hosea 11:9. It denotes "shock" and "agitation" (KB).

▣ "dismay" This word (BDB 96, KB 111) basically means "sudden fear" (cf. Ps. 78:33). It is used in the "cursing and blessing" section of Leviticus (cf. Rev. 26:16). In Isa. 65:23 it is used of what will not happen to a restored, repentant people of God.

15:9 There have been several ways to understand v. 9, line 2.

1. "her breathing is labored," NASB

2. "she has breathed her last," NKJV, NIV, NAB

3. "gasps for breath," NRSV

4. "she has swooned away," NJB

The numerous widows and mothers of vv. 7-8 are again used as imagery of Judah invaded, defeated, and taken into exile.

▣ "seven" This is a symbolic number, going back to Genesis 1-2, for perfection. A woman with seven sons would be considered uniquely blessed by God (cf. I Sam. 2:5).


▣ "So I will give over their survivors to the sword" This phrase appears to denote a complete destruction of Judah by the sword. This is prophetic hyperbole because we know many thousands were exiled. Poetry is meant to function on an emotional level, not a literal, historical level.

10Woe to me, my mother, that you have borne me
As a man of strife and a man of contention to all the land!
I have not lent, nor have men lent money to me,
Yet everyone curses me.
11The Lord said, "Surely I will set you free for purposes of good;
Surely I will cause the enemy to make supplication to you
In a time of disaster and a time of distress."

15:10-18 This is known as the second "Confession of Jeremiah," but it may be better characterized as his "complaint." He prays in vv. 15-18. YHWH responds and reassures him in vv. 19-21.

15:10-11 Verse 10 is obviously a lament from Jeremiah. He expresses how he feels about the way his ministry is being accepted.

1. expresses sorrow for his birth (cf. 20:14-18, i.e., a metaphor of his life)

2. he has become a man of strife (BDB 936) and contention (BDB 193 I) instead of a servant of YHWH (i.e., [1] he has no honor or [2] is always in a lawsuit against Judah)

3. he is rejected by his own (i.e., metaphor of lending money as causing problems)

Verse 11 is difficult to understand in the MT. It could mean

1. YHWH is answering (LXX) Jeremiah (NJB) by reminding him of his call (i.e., Jer. 1:4-10). His birth (#1 above) was the will of YHWH (i.e., Jer. 1:5).

2. Jeremiah continues to talk to YHWH of his faithfulness (NRSV, TEV)

3. YHWH speaks to Judah of the hope for a remnant (NKJV, JPSOA)

The Hebrew of v. 11 is uncertain. The diversity of the versions and the Kethiv and Qere of the Masoretes show this.

12"Can anyone smash iron,
Iron from the north, or bronze?
13Your wealth and your treasures
I will give for booty without cost,
Even for all your sins
And within all your borders.
14Then I will cause your enemies to bring it
Into a land you do not know;
For a fire has been kindled in My anger,
It will burn upon you."

15:12-14 The NASB strophe describes the judgment of Judah by YHWH (notice the "I will. . ."). He is addressing Judah in vv. 12-14 (cf. 17:3-4).

1. invasion from the north by a strong invader (iron)

2. wealth confiscated (i.e., because of their sin)

3. wealth taken out of the country (NASB, i.e., the temple treasures)

There is a problem with the first verb of v. 14.

1. "cause to pass" - BDB 716, KB 778, Hiphil perfect

a. NASB - "then I will cause your enemies to bring it"

b. NKJV - "and I will make you cross over with your enemies"

2. "cause to serve" - BDB 712, KB 773 (LXX, NRSV, TEV, NJB, REB, Net Bible, Peshitta, UBS's Text Project gives this a C rating)

3. "bring your enemies by way of a land you have not known" (JPSOA)


15:13 "without cost" This phrase is difficult to interpret in this context. The LXX omits it, which makes the verse much easier to understand in the strophe. This is followed by TEV. The "without cost" refers to the invaders confiscating Judah's wealth easily, without great loss to the invaders' military.

15:14 The threat of exile was initially stated in the "cursing and blessing" section of Deuteronomy (i.e., 28:36,64).

Lines 3 and 4 are related to Deut. 33:22. Remember the prophets are "covenant mediators." They hold Israel and Judah to the Mosaic legislation! If they obey - abundance; if they disobey - judgment (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-28).


15You who know, O Lord,
Remember me, take notice of me,
And take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
Do not, in view of Your patience, take me away;
Know that for Your sake I endure reproach.
16Your words were found and I ate them,
And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;
For I have been called by Your name,
O Lord God of hosts.
17I did not sit in the circle of merrymakers,
Nor did I exult.
Because of Your hand upon me I sat alone,
For You filled me with indignation.
18Why has my pain been perpetual
And my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream
With water that is unreliable?

15:15-18 This is Jeremiah's prayer for YHWH to take notice of his faithfulness and service. Notice the names for Deity.

1. "Thou who knowest" (BDB393, KB 390, Qal perfect)

2. "O YHWH" (i.e., YHWH)

3. "Thy name"

4. "O Lord of hosts" (see Special Topic below)

These are all covenant names (cf. v. 16, line 2, see Special Topic 1:2). If Judah has not been faithful, Jeremiah has and he has suffered for it.


15:15 Notice the prayer requests (i.e., imperatives) in this verse.

1. remember me - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperative

2. take notice of me (lit. "visit me," see note at 15:3) - BDB 823, KB 955, Qal imperative

3. take vengeance for me - BDB 667, KB 721, Niphal imperative

4. do not take me away - BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

5. know that for Your sake I endure reproach - BDB 383, KB 390, Qal imperative


15:16 Jeremiah is expressing, even in the midst of persecution (i.e., v. 15), the joy (BDB 965) and delight (BDB 970) of being YHWH's prophet. The idiom "I ate them" refers to God's message (cf. Ezek. 3:3).

Some commentators have suggested that the phrase "Your words were found" refers to the discovery of the Law found in the remodeling of the Temple during Josiah's reign (cf. II Kings 22; II Chronicles 34; i.e., 621 b.c.).

15:17-18 Jeremiah describes how being God's prophet affected his life.

1. I did not sit in the circle of merrymakers

2. I did not exult

3. I sat alone

He states that this is a result of YHWH's call.

1. Your hand was upon me

2. You filled me with indignation

3. I have perpetual pain

4. I have an incurable wound


15:18c-d This is one of the most shocking assertions about YHWH in the OT. Jeremiah feels so comfortable with YHWH that he can express himself in hyperbolic imagery (exactly the opposite of 2:13).

1. YHWH is like a deceptive stream (BDB 469). This phrase is intensified by the presence of an infinitive absolute and imperfect verb of "to be" (BDB 224, KB 243).

2. The parallel line is like water that is unreliable (BDB 52, KB 63, Niphal perfect, see Special Topic at 3:12; and Special Topic below).


SPECIAL TOPIC: Believe, Trust, Faith, and Faithfulness in the Old Testament (אמן)

19Therefore, thus says the Lord,
"If you return, then I will restore you-
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman.
They for their part may turn to you,
But as for you, you must not turn to them.
20Then I will make you to this people
A fortified wall of bronze;
And though they fight against you,
They will not prevail over you;
For I am with you to save you
And deliver you," declares the Lord.
21"So I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked,
And I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent."

15:19-21 YHWH answers Jeremiah's complaints and requests. YHWH is apparently offended by Jeremiah's characterization in 18c-d. Jeremiah himself must repent (BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal imperfect; see Special Topic at 2:22).

If Jeremiah "turns back" to YHWH, then YHWH will restore (same verb) him. The covenant always has two parties.

The play on the word "return" (used four times in v. 19) continues in v. 19f-g. Jeremiah, as YHWH's spokesman, would hopefully have the Judeans come to him to hear God's word, but he must be careful not to be influenced by their apparent response.

One wonders how much Jeremiah's sense of rejection and prayer for protection and vengeance is meant to reflect the feelings of the godly remnant of Judah/Jerusalem. Often the prophet feels for YHWH. Is it possible he now feels for the repentant remnant?

15:19 "And if you extract the precious from the worthless" I like what UBS Handbook (p. 379) says about line 4, "the precious is YHWH's message (v. 16) and the worthless is Jeremiah's evaluation" (cf. v. 18, lines 3-4).

15:20 This alludes to 1:18-19. Jeremiah must be strong to face the opposition that will surely come for speaking the true word of God.

▣ "save. . .deliver" These are in a parallel relationship. They both refer to physical deliverance (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil infinitive construct; BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil infinitive construct). The second verb is repeated in v. 21 (Hiphil perfect), parallel to "ransom" (BDB 804, KB 911, Qal perfect, see Special Topic below).

15:21 "deliver. . .redeem" These are also in a parallel relationship. For "redeem" (BDB 804, KB 911, Qal perfect) see Special Topic below.