PRIDE PERVERTS PRIVILEGED POSITION INTO THE SHAME AND HUMILIATION OF DEGRADING DOMINATION
We are all familiar with the axiom: Pride goes before a Fall; but when the privileged position and potential to be what God has created you to be is so great, the corresponding Fall sinks you to extreme depths. Such is the case here for the people and the leaders and the city of the Jews. They persisted in their arrogance and their idolatry and their assimilation of the sinful practices of the wicked nations around them to such an extent that God was forced to drive them into exile – away from the Promised Land – to deal severely with their unfaithfulness. They thought they were choosing a life of freedom and pleasure; but they ended up consigned to slavery and suffering. And still they lacked the perception to understand where they went wrong and how these troubles could be engulfing them.
PRIDE PERVERTS PRIVILEGED POSITION INTO THE SHAME AND HUMILIATION OF DEGRADING DOMINATION
I. (:1-11) METAPHOR OF LINEN BELT – FROM PRIVILEGE TO PUTRIFICATION – THE BEST BECAME THE WORST —
GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE HAVE PROVEN TO BE WORTHLESS AND WORTHY OF DESTRUCTION BECAUSE OF THEIR PRIDE AND IDOLATRY
A. (:1-7) The Commanded Actions
1. (:1-2) Command to Buy, Wear and Not Wash the Belt (or Girdle)
a. (:1) Command
“Thus 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.’”
Key instruction: do not wash it
Peter Hoytema: Linen was the fabric of clothing worn by the priests. Ex. 28:2 — It was a symbol of what God called his people to be. What was true of the priests’ clothing was supposed to be true of every aspect of life in the community of faith. Everyone was to be fully devoted to God, each one pursuing a common mission statement: for glory and for beauty.
A. F. Muir: represented, therefore, the idea of consecration arising from nearness and closeness. They were highly favored amongst the nations as being brought into immediate relation with Jehovah.
b. (:2) Action
“So I bought the waistband in accordance with the word of the LORD and put it around my waist.”
2. (:3-5) Command to Hide the Belt
a. (:3-4) Command
“Then the word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, ‘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.’”
Adam Clarke: The scene of hiding the girdle being laid near the Euphrates, intimated that the scene of the nation’s distress should be Chaldea, which that river waters . . Intending to point out, by this distant place, the country into which they were to be carried away captive.
Peter Hoytema: The people called to be set apart from all the other nations of the world intermingled with them. The men of Israel took foreign wives, and the people called to be dedicated to God alone worshiped foreign gods. Soon, the kingdom was divided, and rulers in both Israel and Judah turned their backs on God by making political alliances with the surrounding nations. Even the priests became corrupt. They perverted justice by taking bribes and by neglecting the poor. There may have been lots of religious activity in the land, but it was all empty formalism—all show with no substance. . .
When people see you, what do they see? Do they see a beautifully adorned and skillfully crafted tapestry graciously woven by God? Or do they see something else—something tattered and frayed by your rebellion against God, a once beautiful garment now rendered useless by a stubborn heart?
b. (:5) Action
“So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the LORD had commanded me.”
3. (:6-7) Command to Retrieve the Hidden Belt
a. (:6) Command
“And it came about after many days that the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go to the Euphrates and take from there the waistband which I commanded you to hide there.’”
b. (:7) Action
“Then 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.”
All rotted out and moldy; no longer something that you would want close to your body
Mackay: it is not the people who are going to ruined by the Exile, but their pride (v. 9). The nation had despised the special status accorded to them by God had had become superior in their own esteem. They should have functioned as a linen belt, an ornament bringing renown to the Lord (cf. Deut. 4:5-8). However, their disobedience and spiritual impurity showed that they had failed in the mission assigned them, and they had become in God’s sight like a cast-off garment. In many ways the Exile was a restorative influence for the people, but only after what blocked a right relationship with the Lord was removed. The message being conveyed was that what was going to come upon the nation would remove from them that outlook which was preventing them from giving due acknowledgment to their covenant Overlord.
B. (:8-11) The Condemning Application
1. (:8-9) Conclusion: Root Sin of Pride = Cause for Destruction
“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thus says the LORD, ‘Just so will I destroy the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.’”
2. (:10) Color Commentary – Rebellion Renders the Wicked Worthless
“This 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.”
Parunak: the people is “evil,” contaminated with disobedience, self-reliance, and idolatry. Perhaps this reflects the unwashed nature of the loincloth.
Constable: The people of Judah, pure and untarnished at the time of their call (Jeremiah 2:2-3), would be just as worthless as Jeremiah’s ruined waistband-because they had refused to listen to the Lord. They had been stubborn in their hearts (cf. Deuteronomy 26:17-19), and had pursued idols by serving and worshipping them.
3. (:11) Corresponding Metaphor Explained: Relationship of Privilege and Opportunity Squandered
“’For 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.’”
God has intended us to be trophies of His grace and glory
II. (:12-14) METAPHOR OF JUGS OF WINE – FROM IMBIBING TO INTOXICATION —
GOD’S WRATH WILL FILL THE WICKED AS THEY ARE DESTROYED
“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?’ then 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! And I 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 that I should not destroy them.’”
Parunak: This is a dual image, seen most clearly in Joel 2:24; 3:13. On the one hand, full wine-jars is an image of the Lord’s blessing; cf. Prov. 3:9,10; Lev. 26:10; Joel 2:24. On the other hand, it is an image of God’s judgment; Joel 3:13.
Adam Clarke: You, and your kings, and priests, and prophets, are represented by these bottles. The wine is God’s wrath against you, which shall first be shown by confounding your deliberations, filling you with foolish plans of defense, causing you from your divided counsels to fall out among yourselves, so that like so many drunken men you shall reel about and jostle each other; defend yourselves without plan, and fight without order, till ye all fall an easy prey into the hands of your enemies. The ancient adage is here fulfilled: – Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat.
“Those whom God determines to destroy, he first renders foolish.”
Mackay: In the Hebrew “drunkenness” is delayed to the very end of the sentence. The original saying had been an optimistic one, and “I am going to fill” leaves open the possibility of divine blessing, which the addition of “drunkenness” converts into a speech of judgment. No level of society will be exempted, but special mention is made of those in positions of leadership (2:26; 4:9). . . his judgment on them will in part consist of internal disorder and instability.
III. (:15-27) MESSAGES OF SHAME AND HUMILIATION – ADDRESSED TO THE PRIDEFUL PEOPLE, TO THE DEPOSED ROYAL LEADERS AND TO THE VANQUISHED CITY – 2 CYCLES
A. (:15-22) Cycle 1 – Darkness, Humiliation and Domination
1. (:15-17) Addressed to the People – Listen or Be Judged with Deep Darkness
“Listen and give heed, do not be haughty, For the LORD has spoken. Give 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. But 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.”
Mackay: a picture of travelers on a mountain track overtaken by night before they reach their destination . . . The repeated “before” emphasizes that this is their last opportunity to do something before catastrophe engulfs them.
Thompson: Darkness is symbol of both the invasion and the coming exile (cf. Isa. 5:20; 8:21-23; Amos 8:9).
2. (:18-19) Addressed to the King and Queen Mother – Humiliation
“Say to the king and the queen mother, ‘Take a lowly seat, For your beautiful crown Has come down from your head. The 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.’”
Constable: Jeremiah was to tell the king and the queen mother of Judah to humble themselves, because the Lord had removed their authority (in heaven) and would remove it soon (on earth). Pride was the besetting sin of royalty. The individuals in view are probably young King Jehoiachin and his mother Nehushta (cf. Jeremiah 22:26; 2 Kings 24:8-17). They were taken to Babylon as captives in 597 B.C. [Note: Less probably they were King Jehoiakim and his mother Zebidah (2 Kings 23:36).]
The queen mother was an important official throughout Israel’s monarchy, evidently as a counselor to the king, as was common in the ancient Near East (cf. 1 Kings 2:19; 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 10:13). Queen mothers assumed unusual prominence because of the widespread practice of polygamy among the kings.
Mackay: a call for humility as much as physical movement. They will shortly lose their regal status, and they may as well accustom themselves to that right away by sitting, presumably on the ground – as slaves?
3. (:20-22) Addressed to Jerusalem – Domination
“Lift up your eyes and see Those coming from the north. Where is the flock that was given you, Your beautiful sheep? What 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? And if 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.”
Mackay: So completely was their thinking dominated by the consensus outlook of popular religion – that Jerusalem was immune from total disaster – the people of the city cannot grasp that that is precisely what is staring them in the face.
B. (:23-27) Cycle 2 – Hopelessness, Exile, Shame
1. (:23) Addressed to the People (plural) – Hopelessness — No Possibility of Self Reformation
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil.”
2. (:24) Addressed to the King and Queen Mother – Exiled from the Land
“Therefore I will scatter them like drifting straw To the desert wind.”
Parunak: This time, the king and queen-mother are represented only by the Lord speaking to them about the people in the third person.
Mackay: The Lord says that there is no other solution to the problem of Judah’s persistent sin than by disrupting their link with the land, that is, blowing them off into exile.
3. (:25-27) Addressed to Jerusalem (feminine singular) – Deserved Shame
“’This is your lot, the portion measured to you From Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘Because you have forgotten Me And trusted in falsehood. So I Myself have also stripped your skirts off over your face, That your shame may be seen. As 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?’”
Thompson: The point is made again that the coming judgment was not a chance thing. It was Judah’s lot, and it came from Yahweh himself. The reason was that Israel had forgotten Yahweh and trusted The Lie. In three striking phrases Judah’s wickedness is described – Your adulteries, your lustful neighing, your lewd harlotries. All these are an abomination to Yahweh. They were perpetuated, as was the practice, on the hills and in the open fields.
Adam Clarke: It was the custom to punish lewd women by stripping them naked, and exposing them to public view; or by throwing their clothes over their heads, as here intimated. . . We see from this, that though the thing was difficult, yet it was not impossible, for these Ethiopians to change their skin, for these leopards to change their spots. It was only their obstinate refusal of the grace of God that rendered it impossible. Man cannot change himself; but he may pray to God to do it, and come to him through Christ, that he may do it. To enable him to pray and believe, the power is still at hand. If he will not use it, he must perish.
Constable: Her citizens had behaved like adulterers and like copulating horses (cf. Jeremiah 5:8). The Lord had seen their unfaithful, lewd behavior toward Him when they worshipped idols and practiced sacred prostitution in the open-air shrines across the land. Jerusalem was in deep trouble. How long would she continue in her wicked ways and remain unclean?! The question was expressing frustration, not requesting information.