By R. K. Harrison
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Extra info for Jeremiah and Lamentations: An Introduction and Survey
A look at the covenantal blessings reminds the Israelites of what they failed to receive through wilful disobedience. Instead of promised blessings implemented by a loving heavenly Father, they suffered punishment for their apostasy. In the same way God’s hopes for Judah have been thwarted because, like a woman playing false with her husband, she has merely paid lip-service to covenantal ideals while pursuing immorality. In his mind Jeremiah hears from the north a plaintive voice on the bare heights.
The Nile and Euphrates here represent the Egyptian and Assyrian empires, while drinking of their waters was a metaphor for voluntary subservience to pagan ways by the Judeans (cf. Isa. ). The mention of Assyria as a world power points to a date before 612 BC for this prophecy. Jeremiah evidently had in mind such incidents as those in 2 Kings 15:19; 16:7; 17:3, and the denunciations of Hosea (Hos. ). Jeremiah exceeds all other prophets in citing his predecessors. 19. Neither Egypt nor Assyria has any real say about the coming disaster, even though they may be agents in various ways, since the calamity had been decreed by God as a punishment for national sin.
The ingratitude and stupidity of the entire nation are evident here. Though Israel had been dignified uniquely by becoming God’s bride, she had soon forgotten her first love (cf. 2:32; 3:21). The question what wrong did your fathers find in me? (RSV) actually expressed an emphatic negative. In the phrase went after worthlessness (RSV) the noun hahebel and its related verb probably constitute a play on the name ‘Baal’, the principal deity of Canaanite worship. In Deuteronomy and secular Near Eastern international treaties the phrase ‘to go after’ meant ‘to serve as a vassal’.