"'Peace, Peace!' When There Is No Peace" (Jeremiah 6) June 10
The prophecy of the previous chapters continues and concludes in Jeremiah 6.
Jerusalem was situated in the former borderlands between Benjamin and Judah—and the tribe of Benjamin had remained part of the southern kingdom of Judah. So the "children of Benjamin" in verse 1 would represent the inhabitants dwelling on the north side of the city. Tekoa and Beth Haccerem were a few miles south of Jerusalem. Thus, the city and its outlying areas are all under immediate threat. Again, as in chapters 1 and 4, the people are warned that "disaster appears out of the north" (6:1, 22)—from ancient and end-time Babylon.
In verse 2, Judah is likened to a vulnerable and helpless woman. She sees her enemies surrounding her, but she is unprepared—for their attack is coming that night (verses 3-5). In verses 6-8, God directs Judah's enemies to make ready for their attack of Jerusalem. The only hope for Zion's inhabitants is to "be instructed" by God, but "their ear is uncircumcised [covered]" (verse 10)—they won't listen. God's Word is actually offensive to them (verse 10, NIV). "It's one thing for a modern society to be pluralistic and permit differences in belief and values. It's another thing for a society to become increasingly hostile to Christian beliefs and biblical values. Where the Word of the Lord offends, judgment will surely fall" (Lawrence Richards, The Bible Reader's Companion, 1991, note on verse 10).
Therefore God warns that He is about to unleash His fury on all the people, "because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely" (verses 8-13). "Healing the hurt of My people slightly" (see verse 14) refers to easing any discomfort concerning possible consequences by speaking reassuring words of promised "peace." This was the mantra even as conditions worsened—just as it often is today. Appeals to conscience did no good because the people "were not at all ashamed" (verse 15)—another example of people "having their own conscience seared with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:2). The words of this section of Jeremiah, it should be noted, are repeated later in the book (see 8:10-12).
God reminds the people of the "old paths" and "good way"—the laws He revealed long ago that expressed His way of life (6:16). The Jewish Tanakh renders it this way: "Stand by the roads and consider, inquire about ancient paths: Which is the road to happiness? Travel, it, and find tranquillity for yourselves." But they refuse to walk that way (same verse). God sent watchmen who trumpeted warnings, but they wouldn't listen (verse 17). So He says, "I will certainly bring calamity" (verse 19).
Offerings and sacrifices without obedience are worthless (verses 18-20). Or, put another way, "Religion without righteousness reeks" (Bible Reader's Companion, note on verse 20). God and His inexorable laws are stumbling blocks to those who want to walk contrary to them (verse 21; compare Isaiah 8:14). Also, just as God has many ways to give success to the righteous, He has many ways to cause failure to those who live in defiance of Him.
God uses Jeremiah as an assayer of metals to analyze the people for purity, but instead of silver (truth and righteousness), he finds only other metals of little value (verses 27-28). "In ancient times lead and silver were put in a crucible together and heated. The lead oxidized and carried off the alloys of baser metals, leaving the silver pure. The image of the refiner's fire is found several times in the O[ld] T[estament] and suggests a test for moral quality. Here, however, God's attempt to purify His people is futile. The ore is so impure that no silver can be found, and the whole batch is dumped out" (note on verses 27-30).