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©Michael Player

Chapter 5:1-6 (ESV)

Posted on June 21, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 5:1-6 (ESV) - 1 Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
    look and take note!
Search her squares to see
    if you can find a man,
one who does justice
    and seeks truth,
that I may pardon her.
2 Though they say, “As the LORD lives,”
    yet they swear falsely.
3 O LORD, do not your eyes look for truth?
You have struck them down,
    but they felt no anguish;
you have consumed them,
    but they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
    they have refused to repent.

4 Then I said, “These are only the poor;
    they have no sense;
for they do not know the way of the LORD,
    the justice of their God.
5 I will go to the great
    and will speak to them,
for they know the way of the LORD,
    the justice of their God.”
But they all alike had broken the yoke;
    they had burst the bonds.

6 Therefore a lion from the forest shall strike them down;
    a wolf from the desert shall devastate them.
A leopard is watching their cities;
    everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces,
because their transgressions are many,
    their apostasies are great.

Question to consider: Why would Jeremiah think that it was only the poor who refused to repent?

Ordinarily, I remove the verse numbers and section titles from the scripture text because I think they tend to force mental breaks into a text that can affect the meaning. The translation of today’s passage seems to put paragraph breaks and quotation marks in places that weirdly break up the flow of what appears to be a conversation between Jeremiah and the LORD. So I have kept in the verse numbers to be able to more easily reference the sections.

Jeremiah was in a state of shock that the temple was going to be destroyed and the city of Jerusalem made utterly desolate. So I would argue that verses 1 and 2 was a statement from the LORD to Jeremiah which is reminiscent of His discussion with Abraham who interceded for Sodom that it may be spared the LORD’s wrath for the sake of the righteous. “‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’ And the LORD said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’” (Genesis 18:23-26)

Abraham continued along this line of inquiry until the LORD promised to spare Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people. Of course, we know that it ended up that Lot was the only one in the whole city found to be righteous so the LORD rescued him and his family from the judgment. Since Jeremiah had the heart of a priest, the LORD knew his desire would be to intercede for Judah that she may be spared. So the LORD immediately pointed out that there was not even one who was worthy of being pardoned.

So Jeremiah posed the question, “O LORD, do not your eyes look for truth?” Essentially, the question was trying to give people the benefit of the doubt. They may have outwardly sinned against the LORD, but surely He could find some bit of truth deep in their hearts if He searched hard enough.

I believe the rest of verse 3 was the LORD’s response. The way it is translated makes it look more like the comment was from Jeremiah to the LORD with insertions like “You have” into the translation. I would argue that the rest of verse 3 should be more like, “Struck down with no anguish; consumed but refused correction. They have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to repent.” In other words, the LORD had made every effort to find and bring out truth in them, but there was none, and so they set their faces against the LORD and refused to repent.

Jeremiah’s response was to propose that maybe this refusal was just among the poor. His assumption was that those who were poor were in that state because they did not know the way of the LORD— meaning they were disobedient. Jeremiah offered to approach the great men of faith to lead these poor sinners to repentance. Perhaps Jeremiah had this view because the wealthy gave generously to the priests of his town. Even after the exile, the wealthy tended to give to the priesthood as a bribe for them to turn a blind eye to their iniquity against the poor. Jeremiah was young and never actually got to serve in the priesthood so he most likely was naïve to these things.

I believe the last sentence in verse 5 was God’s response to this plan of Jeremiah’s saying that both great and poor had broken the yoke of His Law and refused to serve Him. Thus, they would all be cut down and judged for their transgressions. We’ll continue with this back and forth between the LORD and Jeremiah in our next study.


Dear heavenly Father, we have all broken the yoke of Your Law and are deserving of the judgment You described was coming upon Jerusalem. Thank You for the mercy of Christ who clothes us in true righteousness and makes us presentable before You. Amen.