Jeremiah 2, and the Kingdom Split

Everything

What an amazing evening last night! It was great fun having some new faces, a full room, and full bellies. And to think, all the chairs where full, and there were seats spilling out of the room! (Sorry Shirley, Matt and Bill.)

All Those Chairs!

I wanted to share with you some resources for further study on the topics we discussed last night. We first started with discussing an overarching timeline. That can be seen here: The Prophets Timeline. It is by no means complete, but it does contain links, Scriptures and images of the time periods that should prove helpful. I will continue to add to it as we move forward through our journey of the Prophets.

Further reading on the Kingdom Split, 1 Kings 11:41-12:211

Shaving crowns or splitting skulls? Have a look at these commentaries. (I uploaded them as screenshots to preserve the original language rendering.

Screen-Shot-2015-07-23-at-7-28-10-AM-2 “Broken,” ISBE, n.p.

Screen-Shot-2015-07-23-at-7-28-48-AMW. Hall Harris, ed., The NET Bible Notes (1st, Accordance electronic ed. Richardson: Biblical Studies Press, 2005), n.p.

Did you have a favorite passage of the evening? I would love to hear your thoughts thus far.


  1. Scorpions? The NET Notes “Heb “My father punished you with whips, but I will punish you with scorpions.” “Scorpions” might allude to some type of torture using poisonous insects, but more likely it refers to a type of whip that inflicts an especially biting, painful wound. Cf. CEV “whips with pieces of sharp metal.”” 

Finding Our Identity in Jeremiah

Everything

After having to be absent from Abel House two Wednesday evenings, I found returning to be like homecoming. Gathering to grow a family and to share Bible study with other Christians brings a sense of belonging and peace. As we sat and related fun facts, I thought about our identities, both unique as individuals and shared as a group, and how our shared identity is growing. That stayed on my mind during our study of Jeremiah 1.

“Identity” is a fact of who or what a person is. To be identifiable by a fact, whether in terms of physicality or personality, that fact must be completely exclusive to who or what is being singled out. For instance, a person is most definitely distinguished from all other people physically by DNA because each of us has uniquely combined DNA in what must be a near infinite number of possible combinations or by the whorls in our skin captured as a print, such as a fingerprint or palm print. Both DNA and fingerprints have been used for decades to determine particular individuals from the rest.

And we have other differentiating physical marks of our identity. Except for identical twins, has anyone ever seen two faces exactly alike? Heard two exactly alike voices? Yes, those very DNA strands may be close enough to give us parts much like our parents’ or our siblings’, so we remark, “She has her mother’s eyes” or “He has his father’s build,” but they are not exact matches. Our physical selves are very much ours alone. (And people who know us just breathed sighs of relief!)

Those distinguishing physical marks must be the same or continuous throughout life. The tiny footprints taken at birth should match larger ones taken many decades later except in size. DNA extracted even a decade after death matches an extract taken when life was still present decades before death. True physical identifying characteristics are held by no other person and do not vary over time or alter with circumstances.

What is true of physical markers is also true of personality markers: Basic identifying characteristics are present even before birth and remain unchanged throughout life. If sameness and continuity in personality are suddenly lost or even disturbed, we are most likely to suspect mental illness or chemical or traumatic brain alteration.

I have heard parents say that they knew from birth that their baby was “fearful,” or “vocal,” or “demanding,” or “easy-going,” and on and on—just the way that child is as a teenager and, later, adult. I know adults adopted as infants who grew up to be like their birth parents—with the same interests, same physical and mental problems, same personality traits, even the same values! As a teacher, I could easily accept the cliché “The apple does not fall far from the tree” when the “tree” was nearby, but I was amazed when I observed that the truism holds even when the “apple” does not know or remember the “tree.”

This is not to say that no one can change but that either physical or personality identification change would likely require surgery or medication or an act beyond our comprehension at this time. And what can change will never be those finally identifying distinctions. The root of the words “identity” and “identify” (ident or idem) supports the idea that identity cannot change. It is Latin for “again and again” or “repeatedly.”

So what does that have to do with Abel House?

Our study of the Book of Jeremiah began with a brief study of Jeremiah himself. We are told at the beginning of Jeremiah 1 that Jeremiah was a man of words—both written and spoken, a son of Hilkiah, a descendant of priests, a native of Anathoth, a member of the Tribe of Benjamin, and a hearer of God’s word. Those six characteristics, however, do not distinguish Jeremiah from all other men, so they are not fully distinguishing traits. I ask then, What is it that distinguishes Jeremiah from other sons of Hilkiah, descendants of priests, natives of Anathoth, members of the Tribe of Benjamin, and writers and hearers of God’s word? What is it that singles him out for God’s work?

In the search for answers in Jeremiah 1, I find clues. I find that the Lord told Jeremiah what we believe to be true for all of us individually as it was for Jeremiah: God knew Jeremiah before Jeremiah was in his mother’s womb. The Lord also knew that Jeremiah would be a prophet, a calling set to take place in the time of his youth, before Jeremiah’s birth.

jeremiah

More clues followed in God’s response to Jeremiah’s very human, understandable protests of his own youth and his admission of inability to speak as he would need to speak. The Lord simply assured him that He would be the source of Jeremiah’s strength, words, and protection, even making him “as a fortified city, and as a pillar of iron, and as walls of bronze.” He promised Jeremiah that even though the whole population of the land might fight against Jeremiah, He would be with Jeremiah “to deliver him.”

All the clues serve to begin a description of Jeremiah that should eventually separate him from all others, that should eventually fully explain who he was and why God chose him. But I submit that Jeremiah is not distinguished to that extent in Jeremiah 1. He, at that point, is one of the all whom God knew before creation, set upon a path, strengthened, empowered, provided every need (even the words to speak), and protected. But the identity God had established before creation was there.

Do we not all of us have all of that, too?

Thus, I mull what we will learn in the weeks to come. What is it about Jeremiah that does separate him from the rest of us? Will we learn as we study all fifty-two chapters of Jeremiah’s words how he stands alone even though we all have gifts from God?

I do already see a difference in Jeremiah’s responses to God as compared to our all-too-common responses. In his responses, Jeremiah alluded to his weaknesses, to his humanity in contrast to the God before him. He admitted that he did “not know how to speak,” but he never said he would not speak. When God asked questions, Jeremiah answered immediately and honestly, never parsing his response, never searching for the “right” answer or what might be behind the question, never trying to figure out what God might be getting at before he answered. When the Lord gave his reassurance to Jeremiah, Jeremiah never said, “But what about . . . ?” He made no protests, voiced no doubts of God’s promises.

Is it then complete faith and obedience that set Jeremiah apart from other people? Is it that Jeremiah listened, heard, accepted, and followed? Are those traits of unquestioning faith and obedience what never change, what occur again and again, in the long years of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry?

I now am fascinated by Jeremiah and what makes him alone the Jeremiah God called upon to be His prophet beginning in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah. What about his single identity made him perfect for God’s plan? Will I learn from Jeremiah? Will I learn to listen, hear, accept, and follow as did Jeremiah? Will I learn to obey, as did Jeremiah? Will I learn to answer without seeking to deceive God as did Jeremiah? Will evenings spent at Abel House help us all to find answers to our single and group identities in Jeremiah’s story?

Nahum’s Conclusion — Mercy and Justice

Everything

It is a topic we have discussed regularly. Without either of these items we know that something is wrong in the world. When we are wronged, we beg God for justice. He listens. Then, when we wrong someone, we beg for mercy. He listens.

How can He do both?

An age old question. Too much for the side of justice, we cry that He is an unforgiving God, which we know, He isn’t. Too much mercy, well then, He isn’t loving. It is my understanding that only God can truly walk the line of perfectly existing and delivering both Justice and Mercy.

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings,
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings.
It is an attribute to God himself.
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.
Portia, The Merchant of Venice1

Jonah’s Lesson — Mercy

In the book of Jonah we see God’s character clearly. He is a merciful and forgiving God. In fact, Jonah is so aware of this fact, he refuses to deliver the message of repentance that leads to salvation for the Assyrians at Nineveh. (Jonah 4:2 HCSB)

Dore's Jonah

What Jonah is not aware of at the time, is that justice will come. Why did God allow the Assyrians a brief existence of mercy? He tells us that he cares for His creation. (Jonah 4:10-11 ESV) I believe that, had the Assyrians existed in a state of repentance and dependence on God, they would have continued into a state of His blessings. However, that wasn’t to be the case.

Nahum’s Message — Justice

Fast forward 100+ years, and we find that the Assyrians in Nineveh haven’t lived in a state of repentance.

The Fall of Nineveh

The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
the Lord will certainly not allow the wicked to go unpunished.
He marches out in the whirlwind and the raging storm;
dark storm clouds billow like dust under his feet.
Nahum 1:3 NET

While it is obvious that God knew this was the course, I don’t believe that invalidates His intent for Mercy. Why allow it then? Because it was the right thing to do. It is His very nature.

Final Thoughts

These two prophets highlight different aspects of God’s character and nature. It is tempting to draw out a parallel between this and His plans for our individual salvations. But don’t do that. These were writings and prophecies for a particular time to a particular peoples. What we can gather is this: He is Merciful and Just.


  1. I am aware of possible anti-Semitism in the play The Merchant of Venice. I only quote it here for the insight it provides on the relationship between mercy and justice and wholeheartedly disagree with anti-Semitic posturings.