Jeremiah 4, part 2: Creation Undone

Dear Reader,

[This ia part of a continuing series in the book of Jeremiah. Find all the previous posts here.]

In Jeremiah 4, part 1, I discussed the implications of our biblical text being edited. This time I promise to be a little more inspiring and not so scholarly.

One thing that really strikes me in this chapter is Jeremiah’s role. He is a true prophet — one who stands between the people and God. As a member of a priestly family, Jeremiah knew God’s Word and he knew how things should be. But then he looked at his people and saw how they fell short and, more than that, he saw their coming destruction and he stepped up and spoke out to try and turn them from their sinful ways. He was a brave man. And we must remember that many of his fellow priests, his kinsmen and the ones who should have been making sure Judah’s worship was kosher (so to speak), were dropping the ball here. It was not just the uneducated masses who were messing up; it was the leaders too.

Have you ever felt like this? Like the people who should be doing right are not? I have occasionally in my own small way. It is encouraging to think of Jeremiah standing up for what he believed and not being afraid to speak about what he sees. The prophet speaks the Lord’s words but you can sense that he feels them as well:

“My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent,
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
Crash follows hard on crash;
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are laid waste,
my curtains in a moment.
How long must I see the standard
and hear the sound of the trumpet?” (Jer. 4:19-22; ESV)

And what Jeremiah sees on the horizon is nothing less than the undoing of creation. In Genesis 1, we are told that in the beginning the earth was “formless and void.” The Hebrew words make a nice little pair: tohu va-vohu (Hebrew doesn’t normally use rhyme but we do find it here). The same phrase is used by Jeremiah in verse 23 of this chapter. (Quick! Check your translation. Does it use the same wording here as in the beginning of Genesis? If it doesn’t, it should.) And the picture of a creation unmade continues through the next few verses. Here is my translation:

“I saw the earth and behold — formless and void! and to the heavens [I looked] and their light was not.

I saw the mountains and behold — quaking! and all the hills were trembling.

I saw and behold — no man! and every bird of the heavens* had fled.

I saw and behold — the fruitful land was a wilderness! and all its cities were torn down

From before the LORD, from before His fierce anger.” (Jer. 4: 23-26)

* Sky and heaven(s) are the same word in Hebrew.

Don’t you love the parallelism here? In Hebrew its all much pithier. It tends to not need to many little words for things to make sense. But either way, it is a lovely (if one may say that of complete and utter destruction) picture of the undoing of creation. This is all very serious business for Jeremiah and he sees to be the only one who sees Judah’s doom looming on the horizon.

Next time: Jeremiah 5.

Nebby

 

 

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  1. […] Jeremiah 4, part 2: Creation Undone […]

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