I. Historical/Cultural Context
The Book of Jeremiah records the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah who undertook his prophetic duties in the thirteenth year of Judah’s King Josiah (627) and finished in the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. (586 BC) He prophesied in a time of great change for the region. He spoke into the period of Josiah’s reform, Babylon’s destruction of Assyria, Egypt’s imposing of vassal status upon Judah, Babylon’s defeat of Egypt and imposing of vassal status upon Judah. Judah revolted against the lording Babylon, but Babylon squelched that and the status continued. Judah revolted again and finally, for Babylon destroyed all of Jerusalem, even the temple, forcing the leaders of Judah into exile and ending Judah’s independence. Jeremiah had stepped into his prophetic office at a time when the people “were extremely corrupt, the whole of religion having become vitiated.”
II. Analysis of the Passage
“Though they beg for mercy, I will not listen to their cries.” (Jer. 11:11) Shall the God who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love do so? Indeed, he shall, to any people who pray hypocritically. Otherwise, when men cry to God, under a sense of sin, being truly sorry for it, and put their trust in him, he hears them and delivers them.
“Pray no more for these people, Jeremiah. Do not weep or pray for them…” (Jer. 11:14) Was not Jeremiah told before (7:16), even after (14:11), to pray no more for the reprobate people? Did God not forbid his intercession sternly? Why then do we see Jeremiah praying all the more, interceding again? Some have proposed that God forbids prayer in such moments to stir his faithful people up to a more fervent prayer. Some say that this was no permanent or absolute prohibition to the prophet, but a terrifying warning once more for the people. Others say that Jeremiah was forbidden a focus of prayer that would seek to avert God’s anger regarding a temporal sin and temporal punishment,...