Devotional Commentary on Jeremiah 3


Jeremiah was a real student of Deuteronomy and he knew it well. Moses was his favorite. Rather than polarizing Moses and Jeremiah as Fishbane 1989 did, it is better to keep perspective. In verse 1 Jeremiah is expounding Moses with a paraphrase. His plan is not to rewrite the law of Moses or to change it. He cites it to move into the spiritual sphere of the relationship of God with Israel. Fishbane blames Jeremiah that he allows for a return to God but in civil law in the case of a [palingamy] ‘again marry’ situation, it cannot be. Let us analyze:


Deuteronomy 24:1-4

[A-deut] If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, 

[B-deut] and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies,

 [C-deut] then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. [The issue of palingamy = again marry].

[D-deut] ((That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord.)) Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.


Jeremiah 3:1

(Paraphrasing Moses’ legal statement)

[A-jer] “If a man divorces his wife
   [B-jer] and she leaves him and marries another man,
[C-jer] should he return to her again? [The question of palingamy is under investigation here].
    [D-jer] Would not the land be completely defiled?

But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers—
would you now return to me?” [Conversion]
declares the Lord.

M. Fishbane thought that although the lexical [word] and topical [theme] components were the same there are still aggadic [storytelling aspects] variations (Fishbane 1989: 308). The old law was a civil Rechtspraxis, a real law for the court. Jeremiah, says Fishbane, recasted it in terms of national and spiritual. But this is not true. Jeremiah brought out what Moses packed into it whether explicitly or implicitly. The same Spirit helped Moses formulate that helped Jeremiah. Moses included also the application spiritual aspect that Fishbane missed and we have demonstrated it with ((…)) in Moses’ words from Deuteronomy. Does Jeremiah create an ambiguous situation here as Fishbane is pushing for? God would be happy if the sinner returns to Him in Moses as well as in Jeremiah’s text. Spiritually there is no difference between them. Jeremiah did not create ‘a legal-religious paradox here in his aggadic rhetoric spin’ (so Fishbane 310) for Fishbane missed the spiritual dimension embedded in Moses. There are no contradictions as he is trying to explain and it is not a case that Jeremiah is invoking the legal traditum in order to introduce a theological exegesis of it. Both Moses and Jeremiah is theological and both dealt with the same law and Jeremiah focus on the spiritual consequences of the civil law that can explain our relationship on vertical matters too.


In 629 BCE, the problem was that at Kuntillet `Ajrud and Khirbet el-Kom nearby in the Negev they have waited on a hill for the traders, Assyrian soldiers on their horses to provide comfort service for them in fashion-shows and cultic theater and music displays of wine, woman and songs (verse 2). In verse 2 the same thought as Moses in Deuteronomy 12:2 can be seen with this difference, in Moses it was applied to the abomination of the nations but in Jeremiah it was applied to Israel themselves since they have become mixed with the customs of the Canaanites. Moses sat on the other side of the Jordan and idealized the proper spiritual Israel actions and Jeremiah was sitting on the opposite side of the Jordan in the land knowing their spiritual decadence very well.


God punished them with drought but it did not help (verse 3). They returned in sin and not from sin (verse 4). God wants them to come clean (verse 5).


In the days of Josiah (629-624 BCE) the Lord showed him the faithlessness of Israel (verse 6). Asherah worship was popular since green trees were associated with the cult of Asherah. Israel did not return to the Lord but the Lord thought that Judah would but they did not (verse 7).


The punishment for Israel was a divorce in the relationship with God and that they would return but they did not and He hoped that Judah would at least take note and return but they did neither (verse 8). With stones and trees did they commit harlotry (verse 9). Judah remained deceived (verse 10.


In comparison to what Israel did and Judah, Judah was worse than Israel (verse 11). The Lord asked faithless Israel to return (verse 12). They need to acknowledge their iniquity and that they have played the harlot with Asherah cults under green trees (verse 13). The Lord will be willing to take them one from a city and two from a family and bring them to Zion (verse 14). At this Zion they will be educated to be Shepherds and these Shepherds will be of high knowledge “who will feed you on knowledge and understanding” (verse 15). In the Eschaton in mind here in verse 16 the ark will not be necessary. When the Second Coming took place and the saved ones are in Zion, then the New Jerusalem in heaven shall be called: “The Throne of the Lord”. They will all be perfect: “nor shall they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart” (verse 17).


In unity shall both Israel and Judah walk in those days (verse 18). In verse 19 is the dream of God with humanity: to give them a space of tranquility and make them sons and daughters of God so that they can worship the Father.


But, they have dealt very bad with God (verse 20). They perverted their way and forgot the Lord (verse 21).


Still God is holding out repentance as an way of escape (verse 22). The Asherah hills are deception but God is salvation (verse 23). But the situation is serious for a long time (verse 24).


Jeremiah is pleading by including himself that they should admit their shame, admit that they sinned and are thus humiliated, for a long time already and that they have not obeyed the voice of the Lord (verse 25).


Dear Lord

What a God that is standing on the corners to run after us. Keep grabbing us back Lord for that is what most of us need. Prevent us from falling from You ever. Amen.