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Jeremiah 16


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

Distresses Foretold Jeremiah's Lifestyle and Message The Prophet's Life Is Itself Symbolic The LORD's will for Jeremiah's Life Jeremiah's Life
16:1-4 16:1-4 16:1-4 16:1-4 16:1-4
16:5-9 16:5-9 16:5-7 16:5-7 16:5-9
    16:8-9 16:8-9 Judah's Fate
16:10-13 16:10-13 16:10-13 16:10-13 16:10-13
God Will Restore Them God Will Restore Israel The Return of the Scattered Israelites The Return From Exile Israel's Homecoming
16:14-15 16:14-15 16:14-15 16:14-15 16:14-15
    The Invasion Foretold The Coming Punishment No Refuge For Judah
16:16-18 16:16-18 16:16-18 16:16-18 16:16-18
    The Conversion of the Nations Jeremiah's Prayer of Confidence in the Lord Conversion of the Heathen
16:19-20 16:19-20
  16:21 16:21

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.



1The word of the Lord also came to me saying, 2"You shall not take a wife for yourself nor have sons or daughters in this place." 3For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bear them, and their fathers who beget them in this land: 4"They will die of deadly diseases, they will not be lamented or buried; they will be as dung on the surface of the ground and come to an end by sword and famine, and their carcasses will become food for the birds of the sky and for the beasts of the earth."

16:2 Jeremiah is restricted by YHWH from taking a wife (very unusual for a Jewish man) or having children (cf. Lev. 26:22). The reason given is that families will soon die in YHWH's judgment (cf. 15:2-3) for their idolatry.

1. deadly diseases (cf. Lev. 26:16)

2. sword (cf. Lev. 26:25)

3. famine

Their bodies will be unburied (no one left to bury them, cf. Ps. 79:2-3) and will be food for birds and animals (cf. v. 4; 19:7; 34:20).

YHWH surprisingly restricts Jeremiah from all societal comforts. He must be comforted by his service to YHWH, who would be his hope, comfort, and peace (cf. v. 19)!

16:3 Notice the three uses of the root for having children.

1. born - BDB 409, KB 411, adjective

2. bore - BDB 408, KB 411, Qal participle

3. begot - BDB 408, KB 411, Hiphil participle

The next generation, along with the current generation of Judeans, will be destroyed!

16:4 Notice the imperfect verbs.

1. "die" - BDB 559, KB 562, Qal imperfect

2. "lamented" - BDB 704, KB 763, Niphal imperfect (negated)

3. "buried" - BDB 868, IB 1064, Niphal imperfect (negated)

4. "will be as dung" - BDB 224, KB 243, Qal imperfect

5. "come to an end" - BDB 477, KB 476, Qal imperfect

Being unmourned, unburied, and devoured by animals was a great fear and curse for ANE people (cf. 7:33; 8:2; 9:22; 15:3; 19:7; 34:20; Deut. 28:26).

NJB, NIV"deadly diseases"
NKJV, JPSOA"gruesome deaths"
LXX"a sickly death"
REB"a horrible death"

This is a construct of BDB 560 (i.e., "deadly," cf Ezek. 28:8) and BDB 316 (i.e., "diseases," cf. 14:18; II Chr. 21:19; Ps. 103:3). These were the result of covenant disobedience (cf. Deut. 29:14-21, 22-28, esp. v. 22).


5For thus says the Lord, "Do not enter a house of mourning, or go to lament or to console them; for I have withdrawn My peace from this people," declares the Lord, "My lovingkindness and compassion. 6Both great men and small will die in this land; they will not be buried, they will not be lamented, nor will anyone gash himself or shave his head for them. 7Men will not break bread in mourning for them, to comfort anyone for the dead, nor give them a cup of consolation to drink for anyone's father or mother. 8Moreover you shall not go into a house of feasting to sit with them to eat and drink." 9For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: "Behold, I am going to eliminate from this place, before your eyes and in your time, the voice of rejoicing and the voice of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride.

16:5-9 The first strophe (vv. 1-4) denotes the death of families with no lamentation or burial (cf. v. 6). This second strophe picks up on

1. "mourning" - BDB 931

2. "lament" - BDB 704

3. "console" - BDB 626

4. "mourner" - BDB 5

5. "consolation" - BDB 637

The book of Jeremiah is structured/edited/compiled by

1. theological themes

2. word plays

3. genre (i.e., laments, court scenes)


16:5 Notice the commands of v. 5.

1. do not enter a house of mourning - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. do not lament - BDB 229, KB 240, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. do not console them - BDB 626, KB 678, Qal jussive


▣ "I have withdrawn" (BDB 62, KB 74, Qal perfect)

1. My peace, BDB 1022, cf. 12:12; 30:5; see Special Topic at 6:14

2. My lovingkindness, BDB 338 I, cf. 13:14, see special Topic at 2:2

3. My compassion, BDB 933, cf. Deut. 13:17; Neh. 9:19,27,31; Ps. 25:6; 40:12; 77:9; 79:8; 103:4; Isa. 63:7,15; Hos. 2:19 (this term is found only here and 42:12 in Jeremiah)

The eternal covenant is negated, broken, cancelled! Shocking! A new covenant must come now (cf. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38).

16:6 As all of the family dies in vv. 1-4, in v. 6 all levels of society die (cf. 6:13; 8:10)!

▣ "nor will anyone gash himself or shave his head for them" These are pagan mourning rites (cf. Lev. 19:28; 21:5; Deut. 14:1; I Kgs. 18:28; Jer. 41:5; 47:5; 48:37; see Special Topic at 2:37). This shows how far the Judeans had progressed in idolatry!


JPSOA, REB"break bread"

The LXX revocalized the Hebrew word "for them" to get the translation "bread." The KJV translates the phrase as "neither shall men tear themselves," which would relate to v. 6 (i.e., "gash").

Because of the mention of a cup later in the verse, probably "bread" or "food" (NIV) makes more sense. However, the Jerome Bible Commentary (p. 316) reminds us of food being offered to the dead (cf. Deut. 26:14; Ezek. 24:17,22; Tobit 4:17), which would make this another idolatrous practice, so perhaps KJV is a valid way of understanding this verse.

16:8 This may relate to 15:17. Apparently these dinners were connected to burial rites (i.e., breaking the fast of the mourning period. The word "mourning" (BDB 931) can denote a banquet in Aramaic. Also, the phrase "the cup of consolation" is found only here and may refer to a meal after the funeral.

Some commentators relate this verse to a marriage feast (cf. v. 9, UBS, Handbook, p. 382).

16:9 Beginning in v. 9 several covenant titles for Deity are used in this chapter (see Special Topic at 1:2).

1. the Lord of hosts, v. 9

2. the God of Israel, v. 9

3. the Lord our God, v. 10

4. as the Lord lives, vv. 14,15 (cf. 4:2)

5. my strength, v. 19

6. my stronghold, v. 19

7. my refuge, v. 19

8. My name is the Lord , v. 21


▣ "I am going to eliminate" The first list is YHWH telling "where," "who," and "when."

1. from this place (i.e., Judah)

2. before your eyes

3. in your time

He will cause all normal social activities to cease.

1. voice of rejoicing

2. voice of gladness

3. voice of the groom

4. voice of the bride

This phrase is repeated in 7:34; 25:10; 33:11. It is surprising that the text jumps from an occasion of grief to an occasion of joy. Possibly this is meant to highlight that all social life and events will cease because all are dead!

10"Now when you tell this people all these words, they will say to you, 'For what reason has the Lord declared all this great calamity against us? And what is our iniquity, or what is our sin which we have committed against the Lord our God?' 11Then you are to say to them, 'It is because your forefathers have forsaken Me,' declares the Lord, 'and have followed other gods and served them and bowed down to them; but Me they have forsaken and have not kept My law. 12You too have done evil, even more than your forefathers; for behold, you are each one walking according to the stubbornness of his own evil heart, without listening to Me. 13So I will hurl you out of this land into the land which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers; and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will grant you no favor.'"

16:10-13 The question "why us, why now" is addressed (cf. Deut. 29:24-36; Jer. 5:18-19; 9:12-16).

1. the people's (cf. v. 12) 

a. iniquity

b. sin

2. their forefathers

a. had forsaken YHWH

b. had not kept His law

c. followed after other gods

d. served other gods

e. bowed down to other gods

Because of their multi-generational idolatry, YHWH will

1. exile ("cast," BDB 376, KB 373, Hiphil perfect, v. 13; 22:26) them from the Promised Land

2. cause them to serve the pagan gods of that land (cf. 5:19)

3. cause them not to have the favor (BDB 337, this form of the root found only here in the OT) of YHWH

Notice the number of personal pronouns used of YHWH. His special, covenant people have rejected Him. It is personal!

16:12 The people's lifestyle actions are characterized.

1. walk according to the stubbornness of his own evil heart (cf. 7:24; 9:14; 11:8; 13:10)

2. without listening (Shema, BDB 1033) to YHWH (cf. 11:8)


14"Therefore behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when it will no longer be said, 'As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,' 15but, 'As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.' For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers."

16:14-15 This is the first of four brief strophes that deal with YHWH's promise of restoration! It is so common in the prophetic literature for "judgment" oracles to be matched with "promise" oracles.

These verses reappear in 23:7-8. The book of Jeremiah is an anthology of his poems!

▣ "days are coming" Usually phrases like this refer to Judgment Day (cf. 7:32, see Special Topic at 4:9), but here it refers to restoration (i.e., a new exodus) day. The same "living" God (in contrast to the lifeless idols) who fulfilled His promise to Abraham (cf. Gen. 15:12-21) will do it again, but instead of Egypt, it will be out of Mesopotamia.

The reason for the restoration is not stated. YHWH chooses to act based on His character, will, and actions not His fallen, disabled, covenant people (cf. vv. 17-18). A new covenant is present (cf. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38).

16"Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen," declares the Lord, "and they will fish for them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill and from the clefts of the rocks. 17For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes. 18I will first doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable idols and with their abominations."

16:16-18 YHWH (emphatic in v. 16) uses several metaphors to describe the return of all His exiled people.

1.fishermen (opposite of Amos 4:2)

2. hunters (opposite of Isa. 2:21)

It is surely possible that vv. 16-18 refer to judgment, while vv. 14-15 and vv. 19-20,21 refer to restoration. It seems to me that v. 17 is saying YHWH has not overlooked their sin. He has fairly and proportionally punished them, but now He is bringing them back (i.e., a new exodus)!

16:18 Before YHWH restores, He punishes them for their sin, especially idolatry. The phrase "doubly repay" is an idiom used in the sense of "fully" (cf. Isa. 40:2) or complete judgment.

▣ "My inheritance" The NET Bible (p. 1337) has a good note on how this word is used in Jeremiah.

1. the Promised Land (Palestine), 2:7

2. the covenant people themselves, 10:16; 12:8-9

3. the temple in Jerusalem, 12:7


19O Lord, my strength and my stronghold,
And my refuge in the day of distress,
To You the nations will come
From the ends of the earth and say,
"Our fathers have inherited nothing but falsehood,
Futility and things of no profit."
20Can man make gods for himself?
Yet they are not gods!

16:19-20 This is a wonderful universal promise that all humans will come to YHWH (cf. 3:17; 4:2; 12:15,16). These universal, inclusive statements are more common in Isaiah (cf. 2:2-4; 12:4-5; 25:6-9; 42:6-12; 45:22-23; 49:5-6; 51:4-5; 56:6-8), but surely present in Jeremiah. The hope of Gen. 3:15 and 12:3; 22:18 is fulfilled (see Special Topic at 1:5)!

16:19 The last two lines and v. 20 are clearly a turning from idols to YHWH, from falsehood to truth!

21"Therefore behold, I am going to make them know-
This time I will make them know
My power and My might;
And they shall know that My name is the Lord."

16:20 Notice YHWH will make the nations

1. know His power

2. know His might

3. know His name


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