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Why Are We Not Saved?

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Jeremiah is known as the “weeping prophet” or sometimes as the “prophet of doom” because of the impression of his message. Jeremiah lived during the last years of the 7th century BC in the historical crisis of the last days of Judah. The final blow was struck in 587 BC by the Babylonians and everything that was central to political and religious life in Jerusalem was destroyed. This was not in accordance with the ‘royal-temple’ ideology of Israel in Jeremiah’s day. The claim was that the God of Israel had made irrevocable promises to the temple and the monarchy, had taken up permanent residence in Jerusalem, and was for all time a patron and guarantor of the Jerusalem establishment. In such a view, obedience is not a crucial dimension of faith.

The governing paradigm for the tradition of Jeremiah is Israel’s covenant with Yahweh, rooted in the ‘blessings’ and ‘curses’ of the covenant of Sinai. The invasion and deportation was the result of the covenant curse being inflicted for continuous rebellion. In spite of this, however, Yahweh wills a continuing relation with Israel. Throughout the book, we see God’s inexplicable yearning or pathos. This pathos explains the tension often seen through the book: the severity of covenant sanctions, and the power of God’s yearnings. The pathos of God allows the book of Jeremiah to move beyond the crisis and death of the exile to envision a newness that is wrought out of God’s gracious resolve and powerful will, introducing an articulation of hope.


The message that is presented uses the technique of asking questions to probe people’s perception of their situation and to stir them up to a realisation of their danger. The message makes use of three commonsense observations to bring out how unnaturally Judah was responding to circumstances.

    1. Unnatural Conduct [4-7]

The Lord’s message begins with a series of questions to prod the people into thinking about their situation.

a.       A People

                                                                                                         i.            The Actions

The actions: “shall they fall and not arise…” [8:4].

  • הֲיִפְּל֖וּ - “fall” [8:4], ‘drop from high elevation to low elevation’; * יָשׁ֖וּב - “turn away” [8;4], ‘make linear motion to a point previously departed from’;

                                                                                                       ii.            The Normal Behaviour

The expected response: “and not arise…” [8:4].

  • יָק֑וּמוּ - “arise” [8:4], ‘be in a standing position’;
  • וְלֹ֥א יָשֽׁוּב - “not return” [8:4], ‘make linear motion to a point previously departed from’;

                                                                                                     iii.            The Spiritual Problem 

The question: “why then is this people of Jerusalem slid back…” [8:5].

  • שׁוֹבְבָ֜ה - “slidden back” [8:5], polel perfect, ‘make linear motion to a point previously departed from’;
  • נִצַּ֑חַת - “perpetual” [8:5], ‘enduring’; ‘lasting always’;
  • מְשֻׁבָ֣ה - “backsliding” [8;5], ‘waywardness’; ‘apostasy’; ‘faithlessness’;

                                                                                                     iv.            The Accusation

The accusation: “they hold fast deceit…” [8:5].

  • הֶחֱזִ֙יקוּ֙ - “hold fast” [8:5], ‘be harsh, hard’; ‘to be in a state of high degree of intensity’; hiphil ‘to grasp an object’;
  • בַּתַּרְמִ֔ית - “deceit” [8:5], ‘delusion’; ‘accusation of blame which is untrue’; ‘the delusive beliefs promoted by the false prophets’;
  • מֵאֲנ֖וּ - “refuse” [8;5], piel perfect, ‘to be in a state of rebellion and in defiance of authority’;


The picture may simply be that of someone going away from home, whether to work in the fields, or on a longer journey.

  • If he goes away, you would expect him to come back.
  • It may also depict an individual going of the path, and after getting lost, making every endeavour to retrace his steps back to the right route.
  • The people had deliberately and unnaturally rejected moving back to the Lord.


b.       Horses

                                                                                                         i.            Their Speech

The people’s speech and conversation: “I hearkened and heard, but they spoke not aright…” [8:6].

  • הִקְשַׁ֤בְתִּי - “hearkened” [8:6], hiphil perfect, ‘to accept information as true and respond to it’;
  • וָֽאֶשְׁמָע֙ - “heard” [8:6], ‘use perception of hearing to process information’;
  • יְדַבֵּ֔רוּ - “spoke” [8:6], ‘speak, tell, say, communicate’;

                                                                                                       ii.            The Failure

The people failed to stop and think of what they had done:  “no man repented him of his wickedness…” [8:6].

  • נִחָם֙ - “repented” [8:6], ‘be in a state of sorrow over wrong’;
  • רָ֣עָת֔וֹ - “wickedness” [8:6], ‘wrongdoing’; ‘covenant breaking’;
  • מֶ֣ה - “what” [8:6], interrogative,
  • עָשִׂ֑יתִי - “I done” [8:6], ‘to perform an action’;

                                                                                                     iii.            The Accusation

The accusation: “everyone turned to his course…” [8:6].

  • שָׁ֚ב - “turned” [8:6], qal participle, ‘make linear motion to a point previously departed from’;
  • בִּ מְרֻ֣צָ֯ותָ֔ם - “his course” [8:6], ‘running’; ‘manner of movement from one place to another at a speed faster than walking’;
  • שׁוֹטֵ֖ף - “rushes” [8:6], ‘charging’; ‘making swift, powerful movement into an area’;


Oblivious to th4e dangers around them, they sweep headlong in deliberate and vigorous action which is unstoppable.

  • The people commit themselves to a ‘headlong career’, something that is taken at a gallop so determined are they to get on with what they started.

c.        Migrating Birds

                                                                                                         i.            The Migratory Instinct

The migratory birds observe the God-appointed pattern for living: “the stork in the heavens knows her appointed times…” [8:7].

  • חֲסִידָ֣ה - “stork” [8:7], ‘water bird, stork, heron’;
  • יָֽדְעָה֙ - “knows” [8:7], ‘possess information about’;
  • מֽוֹעֲדֶ֔יהָ - “appointed time” [8:7], ‘appointed time’; ‘seasons’;
  • שָׁמְר֖וּ - “observe” [8:7], ‘cause a state or condition to remain’;
  • עֵ֣ת - “time” [8:7], ‘season’; ‘right time’;
  • בֹּאָ֑נָה - “their coming” [8:7], ‘to come, go’; ‘to arrive’;

                                                                                                       ii.            The People

The people of Judah behave in a different way: “but my people know not…” [8:7].

  • לֹ֣א יָֽדְע֔וּ - “know not” [8:7], ‘possess information about’; ‘carries the idea of inward commitment’;
  • מִשְׁפַּ֥ט - “judgement” [8:7], ‘decide a legal dispute or case’; ‘all acts of God’s kingly administration’;
  • The name of the “stork” [8:7] derives from the same root as hesed, ‘steadfast love’ [2:2], but the behaviour of God’s people reveals no such faithfulness’.


In the long-standing tradition in Israel, animal behaviour was not regarded as the product of instinct or an impersonal natural law, but of a divinely implanted norm.

  • Because animals regularly follow this pattern, they provide an object lesson to humans whose behaviour is erratic.
  • The people “knew” the requirements of God’s law at an intellectual level but there was no sense of inward commitment.

    1. Unwise Conduct [8-12]

This passage reflects a period when Jeremiah was in conflict with the religious leader of the community.

a.       The Question

                                                                                                         i.            The People’s Claim

The question implies that they think they have mastered the law: “how do we say, we are wise…” [8:8].

  • חֲכָמִ֣ים - “wise” [8:8], ‘capacity for understanding and discernment’; * וְתוֹרַ֥ת יְהוָ֖ה - “law of the Lord” [8:8], ‘Torah’; ‘legal prescription with a covenant context’;
  • אִתָּ֑נוּ - “with us” [8:8],

                                                                                                       ii.            The Actual Contrast

Introducing a strong contrast to the behaviour of those possessing the Law of the Lord: “lo, certainly in vain made he it…” [8:8].

  • לַשֶּׁ֣קֶר - “in vain” [8:8], ‘deception’; ‘misleading falseness’; ‘uselessness’;
  • עָשָׂ֔ה - “made” [8:8], qal perfect, ‘to perform an action’;
  • סֹפְרִֽים - “scribes” [8:8], ‘learned writer’; ‘they undertook to teach what they copied, principally the Law of Moses and the various regulations connected with it’;

                                                                                                     iii.            The Rejection of the Leaders

The leaders have rejected the divinely disclosed message: “the wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed…” [8:9].

  • חֲכָמִ֔ים - “wise men” [8:9], ‘capacity for understanding and discernment’; ‘leaders of the community’ [9:23]; ‘they would all be scribes’;
  • הֹבִ֣ישׁוּ - “ashamed” [8:9], hiphil, ‘be ashamed’; ‘humiliate’; ‘cause disgrace’;
  • חַ֖תּוּ - “dismayed” [8:9], ‘feeling of discouragement’; points to their ‘psychological brokenness’;
  • וַיִּלָּכֵ֑דוּ - “taken” [8:9], ‘capture’; ‘control an object implying being taken by force’; ‘ensnared by enemies’;
  • מָאָ֔סוּ - “rejected” [8:9], ‘reject, despise’; ‘limit or avoid association’;
  • בִדְבַר־יְהוָה - “word of the Lord” [8:9],
  • They have therefore acted unwisely: “what wisdom do they have” [8:9].

b.       The Covenant Curse

                                                                                                        i.            The Curse

The covenant curses have therefore fallen on the leadership: “I will give their wives unto others…” [8:10].

                                                                                                      ii.            The Cause

This is the result of their failure: “for they have healed the hurt of the daughter…” [8:11].

  • וַיְרַפּ֞וּ - “healed” [8:11], piel, ‘cause or promote the restoration of health or a right state after sickness’;
  • שֶׁ֤בֶר - “hurt” [8:11], ‘wound, crippling’; ‘fracture, bruise, the injury of soft-tissue on an object, either breaking the skin, or bruising the muscle and tissue, or fracturing the bone’;
  • בַּת־עַמִּי֙ - “daughter of my people” [8:11],
  • נְקַלָּ֔ה - “slightly” [8:11], ‘become trivial’; ‘be not serious’; ‘not be of value according to an estimation or evaluation’;
  • שָׁל֣וֹם - “peace” [8:11], ‘prosperity’; ‘wholeness, health’;
  • אֵ֖ין שָׁלֽוֹם - “no peace” [8:11],


They felt in no doubt that their claim to be wise would stand the scrutiny because they could say “the law of the Lord is with us” [8:8].

  • The work of the “scribes” was useless, not because they failed in their duty, but because the people ‘considered that possessing a copy of the law’ was enough.


    1. The Unfruitful Vineyard

Jeremiah proceeds to show how delusive the false teaching was when it asserted that there will be peace, when in fact there is no peace.

a.       The Calamity - The First Description

The agriculture of the land will be devastated by the enemy forces the Lord will bring on his people:

                                                                                                         i.            The Devastation

The devastation: “I will surely consume them…” [8:13].

  • אָסֹ֥ף - “surely” [8:13], qal infinitive absolute, ‘to gather’; * אֲסִיפֵ֖ם - “consume” [8:13], hiphil, ‘destroy, demolish’; ‘come to an end’;

                                                                                                       ii.            The Reversal

The reversal of the bounty of the Lord: “what I have given them shall pass…” [8:13].

  • וָאֶתֵּ֥ן לָהֶ֖ם - “given them” [8:13], ‘place an object in the possession of another’;
  • יַעַבְרֽוּם - “pass away” [8:13], ‘to cross over’; ‘to travel through’;

b.       The Impending Devastation [14-16]

The description of the impending devastation of the land through a report placed on the lips of the people as the enemy forces his way into their country and the long-threatened disaster starts to engulf them.

                                                                                                         i.            The Question

There is a switch from the words of the Lord to the response the people will give in the envisaged time of judgement: “why do we sit still? Assemble ourselves…” [8:14].

  • יֹֽשְׁבִ֔ים - “sit still” [8:14], ‘to inhabit, settle’, ‘remain in one place’;

                                                                                                       ii.            The Counsel

They give counsel to each other: “assemble yourselves…” [8:14].

  • הֵֽאָסְפ֗וּ - “assemble ourselves” [8:14], niphal, ‘to gather, be gathered’;
  • וְנָב֛וֹא - “enter” [8:14], ‘to come, go’; ‘to arrive’;
  • אֶל־עָרֵ֥י הַמִּבְצָ֖ר - “defenced cities” [8:14], ‘stronghold’; ‘defensive structure’;
  • The cities were the obvious place to make for in the event of invasion.

                                                                                                     iii.            The Fate & Root of the Problem

This action is not designed to organise their defence, far less a counter-attack; it is a pathetic gesture of those who have become unnerved: “let is be silent there…” [8:14].

  • וְנִדְּמָה־שָּׁ֑ם - “be silent” [8:14], qal imperfect, ‘perish’; ‘be laid waste’; ‘be silent’;
  • הֲדִמָּ֙נוּ֙ - “put to silence” [8:14], hiphil perfect, ‘doom to perish’;
  • מֵי־רֹ֔אשׁ - “water of gall” [8:14], ‘poison’; ‘substance which will harm or kill a living organism, usually made of plants’;
  • חָטָ֖אנוּ - “sinned” [8:14], ‘to miss the way’; ‘to incur guilt’;


They have heard the news of the enemy coming, and it has so confounded them that they were sitting appalled and unable to do anything about the situation.

4.       The People’s Reflection

The people are portrayed as trying to get their befuddled thoughts straight as realisation dawns on them of what had determined their relationship with God.

a.      Peace

Their thoughts on peace: “we looked for peace…” [8:15].

  • קַוֵּ֥ה - “looked” [8:15], piel infinitive, ‘to hope for’; ‘to wait for’;
  • לְשָׁל֖וֹם - “peace” [8:15], ‘completeness, wholeness’;
  • וְאֵ֣ין ט֑וֹב - “no good” [8:15], ‘moral good’; ‘good working order’ [Gen.1];

b.      Health

Their thoughts on good health: “for a time of health…” [8:15].

  • לְעֵ֥ת - “time” [8:15], ‘time, season’;
  • מַרְפֵּ֖ה - “health” [8:15], ‘good health’; ‘restoration’;
  • בְעָתָֽה - “trouble” [8:15], ‘terror, fear’; ‘state that is not peaceful but with a focus on the dismay of psychological elements of fear’;

c.        The Calamity – The Final Description

The catastrophe is again portrayed in terms of the arrival of the foe from the north: “the snorting of the horses is heard from Dan…” [8:16].

  • מִדָּ֤ן - “Dan” [8:16], ‘territory on the northern boundary of Israel’;
  • רָעֲשָׁ֖ה - “trembled” [8:16], qal perfect, ‘shake, tremble, quake, sway’;
  • וַיָּב֗וֹאוּ - “come” [8:16], ‘to come, go’; ‘to arrive’;
  • וַיֹּֽאכְלוּ֙ - “devoured” [8:16], ‘to eat, consume’;


They were completely taken in by the message of the false prophets: “peace, peace, when there is no peace” [8:11].

  • It was not covenant blessing they were experiencing but covenant curse.
  • They recognised that something had been wrong, but they thought that the Lord as the divine healer was so satisfied with them that he would sort matters out for them.
  • Instead they face the horrible realities of judgement and unwelcome death as the enemy forces invade the land with speed and strength.

    1. The Pathos of Jeremiah

The next section leads us into the prophet’s thought-world. 

a.       The Desire for Comfort

The intensity of Jeremiah’s reaction leads him to pray for relief: “when I would comfort myself against sorrow…” [8:18].

  • מַבְלִ֥יגִיתִ֖י - “comfort myself” [8:18], noun, ‘one who cheers up’; ‘comfort’; ‘encouragement as an attitude or emotion’;
  • עֲלֵ֣י יָג֑וֹן - “against sorrow” [8:18], ‘anguish’; ‘grief as an emotion or attitude’;

b.       The Constant Sorrow

The constant sorrow: “my heart is faint in me” [8:18].

  • לִבִּ֥י - “my heart” [8:18], ‘centre of being’; ‘mind, will affections’;
  • דַוָּֽי - “faint in me” [8:18], ‘afflicted with sorrow or other emotional injury’;
  • A sickness which strikes at the heart is the most serious of ailments: “broken and that without remedy” [Pro.6:15].


Jeremiah communicates his own reaction to the message entrusted to him and seeks to evoke a similar response of perplexity from his audience.

  • The possibility is still open that they will react appropriately to what they are being told.
  • The prospect of what is about to happen has so inwardly overwhelmed Jeremiah that he has become weak and distraught.
  • Jeremiah could see that the ‘final turning point’, the year 586 BC, was approaching: “for the slain of the daughter of my people” [9:1].

    1. The Question Concerning Presence  

a.       The Cry of Exiles

The cry of the exiles: “behold the voice of the cry…” [8:19].

  • ק֞וֹל - “voice” [8:19], ‘distinctive sound’; * שַֽׁוְעַ֣ת - “cry” [8:19], ‘cry for help’; ‘calling out for assistance’;
  • בַּת־עַמִּ֗י - “daughter of my people” [8:19], ‘a tender and affectionate address used both by the Lord and by the prophet’;
  • מֵאֶ֙רֶץ֙ מַרְחַקִּ֔ים - “far country” [8:19], ‘distant place’; ‘an area far off from point of reference’;

b.       The Presence   

What then follows is the confident speech of the people as they expect the Lord to intervene on their behalf.

                                                                                                         i.            Zion

The focus of the people’s expectation: “in Zion…” [8:19].

  • בְּצִיּ֔וֹן - “Zion” [8:19], ‘hill in SE Jerusalem’; ‘city of David’;
  • From the time Solomon built the temple, Zion became the center of Yahweh’s activity. Yahweh identified himself as “the One who dwells on Mount Zion” (Isa 8:18). Here he initiates his work of salvation and here he begins his judgment against sin (Amos 1:2).

                                                                                                       ii.            The

The question in the cry: “is the Lord not in Zion…” [8:19].

  • הַֽיהוָה - “Lord” [8:19], particle interrogative with ‘Yahweh’; ‘the covenant God of Israel’ [Exo.3:15].
  • אֵ֣ין בְּצִיּ֔וֹן - “not in Zion” [8:19],
  • אִם־מַלְכָּ֖הּ - “her king” [8:19], ‘royal ruler’; ‘head of kingdom’;
  • אֵ֣ין בָּ֑הּ - “not in her” [8:19],
  • The role of Yahweh: “the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us” [Isa.33:22].


The plaintive words have been revealed to the prophet as the reaction of those who have been taken into exile, perhaps in 605 BC or later in 597 BC.

  • It is difficult to see the words being used after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
  • In the distant land of their exile they are trying to rationalise what has happened.
  • They had been sure that the Temple presence of the Lord in Zion guaranteed security for the city.
  • It was His place; how then could he have permitted all these things to come upon his people?
  • Here we have questions arising from the ‘royal-temple’ ideology of Israel in Jeremiah’s day. The claim was that the God of Israel had made irrevocable promises to the temple and the monarchy, had taken up permanent residence in Jerusalem, and was for all time a patron and guarantor of the Jerusalem establishment. The people took Yahweh’s presence for granted: the Lord should be here.

    1. The Divine Word of Judgement [19b] 

The exiles’ two questions are then taken up by a question of the Lord which interrupts their chain of thought, but expresses clearly the fundamental factor in the situation: “why have they provoked me to anger…” [8:19].

  • הִכְעִס֛וּנִי - “provoked me to anger” [8:19], hiphil perfect, qal ‘be angry’; hiphil ‘provoke to anger’; * בִּפְסִלֵיהֶ֖ם - “graven images” [8:19], ‘idols’; ‘represent gods’;
  • נֵכָֽר - “strange” [8:19], ‘foreign land’;
  • בְּהַבְלֵ֥י - “vanities” [8:19], ‘idol’; ‘meaninglessness’; ‘uselessness’;


The words of divine remonstrance: such an expectation is inconsistent with their conduct.

  • If they really believed that the Lord was present in Zion, then they would not have indulged in behaviour that was such a blatant contradiction of his presence.
  • The people are portrayed as being unable to see the discrepancy between their confession and their conduct.
  • There is no way the Lord could be expected to stay in his abode in Zion if others were given residence there also.
  • The centre of the poem; God hurts because God is offended; the ground of the sickness is ‘the attempt to organise life around controllable objects rather than in reference to holy subject.
  • Wishful thinking is inadequate religion. Israel’s close commitment to fake loyalties immobilises the very power of God that would save them.

    1. The Question Concerning Timing  

The people then resume their lament: “the harvest is past, the summer is ended…” [8:20].

a.       The Seasons

                                                                                                         i.            The Harvest

The harvest season: “the harvest is past…” [8:20].

  • קָצִ֖יר - “harvest” [8:20], ‘reaping’; ‘gathering crops from the field’; * The “harvest” [8:20] is ‘the time of the wheat crop in May/June’;
  • עָבַ֥ר - “past” [8:20], qal perfect, ‘pass over’; ‘travel through’;

                                                                                                       ii.            The Summer

The summer season: “the summer is ended…” [8:20].

  • קָ֑יִץ - “summer” [8:20], ‘hot season of the year’; ‘time of harvest for may crops’;
  • The “summer” [8:20] is a ‘reference to the fruit crop that could be gathered in the late summer months of July/August’;
  • כָּ֣לָה - “ended” [8:20], qal perfect, ‘finish, complete’; ‘come to an end’;

b.       The Failed Expectation

The failed expectation: “we are not saved” [8:20].

  • וַאֲנַ֖חְנוּ - “we” [8:20], pronoun first common plural,
  • ל֥וֹא - “not” [8:20], negative particle, ‘factual negation’;
  • נוֹשָֽׁעְנוּ - “saved” [8:20], niphal perfect, ‘rescued, delivered’; ‘be in a situation free from danger’;


It is not agriculture that is at the forefront of their minds, but the conditions prevailing in Judah.

  • The proverb was used in daily life when men encountered a hopeless situation from which no deliverance or escape seemed possible.
  • The beliefs of Zion theology had led them to expect divine deliverance, even at the last minute.
  • That has not happened, and the people in exile are not going to be able to account for what has befallen them.
  • If the wheat-crop “harvest” in May/June proved to be a disaster, then the people could always look forward to the fruit-crop that would be gathered in the late summer months of July/August.
  • But once the fruit-crop has failed there can be no hope of deliverance from famine.
  • It is as if the people are reminding God that the ‘saving season’ is almost over. The ‘community’ expects to be healed by a certain point in the calendar.
  • The community expects to be healed by a certain point on the calendar. God may be a bit behind schedule, so the community attempts to remind God about the proper order of events (Brueggemann, 93).


    1. The Pathos of Jeremiah  

Jeremiah resumes from v.18 his expression of how distraught he personally is by the disaster coming on the people:

a.       The Future of the People  

The breaking of the people: “for the hurt of the daughter of my people…” [8:21].

  • עַל־שֶׁ֥בֶר - “hurt” [8:21], from the root sbr ‘to break’; ‘crippling, wound, bruise’;   * בַּת־עַמִּ֖י - “daughter of my people” [8:21], ‘a tender and affectionate address used both by the Lord and by the prophet’;
  • הָשְׁבָּ֑רְתִּי - “am I hurt” [8:21], hophal perfect, ‘to be broken, crushed, destroyed’;
  • The breaking of the people may be the physical disaster that will come upon them, but it goes beyond that to their spiritual condition: “set up the banner toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction” [4:6].

b.       Jeremiah’s Present Grief

What Jeremiah sees engulfing the people brings grief to him already: “I am black, astonishment…” [8:21].

  • קָדַ֕רְתִּי - “I am black” [8:21], qal perfect, ‘to be black’; ‘to mourn, grieve’; ‘to have an emotion or attitude of sadness or grief’;
  • שַׁמָּ֖ה - “astonishment” [8:21], ‘horror’; ‘an emotional personal state of fear’;
  • הֶחֱזִקָֽתְנִי - “taken hold” [8:21], hiphil perfect, qal ‘to be harsh, severe’; hiphil ‘to press on’, ‘to grasp’;


The burden of being the Lord’s prophet to an unresponsive people lay not only in the difficulty of putting up with their rejection of his message, but also in his own vivid imagination of what was coming upon them.

  • Their fate grieved him because he was certain that the Lord’s word was going to come true.
  • “To love another as you love a child is to become vulnerable in a whole new way. It is no longer through what can happen to yourself that the world can hurt you, but through what happens to the one you love also and greatly more hurting. When it comes to your own hurt there are things you can do. But when it comes to the hurt of a child you love, you are all but helpless” (Brueggemann, 92).

    1. The Prophet’s Challenge

Jeremiah then wonders if nothing can be done for the people

a.       The First Question

                                                                                                         i.            The Location

The location: “in Gilead…” [8:22].

  • בְּגִלְעָ֔ד - “Gilead” [8:22], ‘mountain range or hill country east of Jordan between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea’; * It was a rugged and wooded area that had long been associated with an aromatic resin which was used as a soothing ointment and also gave a pleasant odour.

                                                                                                       ii.            The First Rhetorical Question 

The rhetorical question: “is there no balm in Gilead…” [8:22].

  • הַצֳרִי֙ - “balm” [8:22], ‘gum material taken from the bark of a tree’; ‘used as a medicinal balm’;
  • Gilead’s balm would not heal the people: “go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; thou shalt not be cured” [46:11].
  • The rhetorical question expects the answer: ‘Of course there is balm in Gilead’.

                                                                                                     iii.            The Second Rhetorical Question

The second question: “is there no physician there…” [8:22].

  • רֹפֵ֖א - “physician” [8:22], qal participle, ‘to heal’; ‘to cause or promote restoration of health’;
  • The area that produced the balm would have people who were experts at applying it effectively: “physicians” [8:22].
  • The rhetorical question expects the answer: ‘Yes, there are those who can apply it’. 

b.       The Second Question

There then follows Jeremiah’s third question: “why then is the health…” [8:22].

  • בַּת־עַמִּֽי - “daughter of my people” [8:22],
  • לֹ֣א עָֽלְתָ֔ה - “not recovered” [8:22], qal perfect, ‘to go up, ascend’;
  • אֲרֻכַ֖ת - “health” [8:22], ‘lengthening of the flesh over a wound as new skin grows’; ‘restoration of relationship’; 

c.        The Healing

Jeremiah is asserting the need for spiritual care, and is pointing to the Lord himself who was viewed as the Healer par excellence in Israel: “For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD” [30:17]; “Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth” [33:6].

  • The Exodus: “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that heals thee” [Exo.15:26].
  • The Psalmist: Who forgives all thine iniquities; who heals all thy diseases…” [Psa.103:3].
  • The Servant: “and with his stripes we are healed” [Isa.53:5].
  • The false prophets: “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” [8:11].


If the medicine exists, and the doctors exist, then surely a cure can be effected.

  • Jeremiah is not talking about physical injuries, although they would abound during a military invasion.
  • When Jeremiah poses the question as to why there has been no healing, there can only be one answer: “there has been no repentance’.

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