33 How skilled you are at pursuing love!
Even the worst of women can learn from your ways.
34 On your clothes is found
the lifeblood of the innocent poor,
though you did not catch them breaking in.
Yet in spite of all this
35 you say, ‘I am innocent;
he is not angry with me.’
But I will pass judgment on you
because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’
36 Why do you go about so much,
changing your ways?
You will be disappointed by Egypt
as you were by Assyria.
37 You will also leave that place
with your hands on your head,
for the Lord has rejected those you trust;
you will not be helped by them.
(Jeremiah 2:33-37 NIV)
Today’s passage continues in the same courtroom setting as before. The Bridegroom (God) is bringing charges against His bride (the Jewish nation) because of her infidelity to Him. The Bridegroom is not seeking a divorce, but rather, reconciliation. He wants the bride to drop her claims of innocence, repent of her sins and return to Him.
As we wrap up Chapter 2, the pronouns (“you”, “your”) switch from plural male to singular female starting in verse 33. From our earlier studies, the Hebrew language scholars taught us that the plural male pronouns related to the Israelite nation as a whole, and the singular female pronouns referred to Jerusalem in particular.
In verse 33, the Lord builds upon the imagery of a beautiful woman and a bride in verse 32, as well as a prostitute in verse 20b. Jerusalem had not forgotten how to adorn herself (verse 32) and look absolutely stunning in her spiritual beauty. The problem was that she was not dressing up for her Bridegroom (the Lord), but for her lovers, the false Canaanite deities.
Jerusalem’s display of spiritual harlotry was not a one-night stand. The Lord uses the word “skilled”, implying that the bride had mastered her vice of spiritual idolatry with such sophistication and allure that she was now teaching (“schooling”) others how to do the same. The Lord points out that in the physical realm, even professional prostitutes who had no regard for any god could learn from the bride’s sinful ways.
In verse 34, the Lord points out that the bride’s spiritual prostitution was not a victimless act. There was real (actual) murder, with the loss of innocent lives. The Lord was likely referring to the terrible reign of Manasseh, where the entire city of Jerusalem was literally covered in the blood of innocent people (2 Kings 21:16). The Bridegroom even takes away the argument of justifiable homicide before the bride can offer it in her defense. The Lord was referring to Exodus 22:2-3, where the Lord held the homeowner guiltless for killing a thief while defending their home in the middle of the night. The Lord would not dismiss the charges; this was clearly a case of premeditated, cold-blooded murder in broad daylight.
The Bridegroom is astonished that His bride would still maintain her innocence and claim to be in good stead with her husband, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. His judgment on her does not even address the heinous acts themselves. Instead, He focuses on her hardened attitude and lack of repentance for saying ‘I have not sinned’. The word “sinned” (Hebrew “chata’ “, pronounced “khä·tä’ “) literally means “to miss the mark”. If the bride were practicing archery, the Lord would not be accusing her of missing the bull’s-eye in the middle of the target. Rather, the Lord would be accusing her of deliberately and intentionally shooting at a completely different target and claiming faultlessness from the loss of innocent life resulting from her calculated actions.
In verses 36 – 37, the Bridegroom pleads with His bride by asking her a series of questions. Why does she continually change her mind and her direction? She is wandering aimlessly like the female camel in the desert (v. 23) and wearing herself out with no benefit (v. 25). Yes, it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, but those decisions must first consider the consequences. The Lord reminds her that this will not end well. Playing power politics with Assyria and Egypt will not bring forth the benefits that they had promised and she had hoped for. They will abandon her in her time of need. She will end up grief-stricken, weeping, with her hands on her head. Why won’t she repent, turn from her sinful ways, and come back to her Bridegroom who still loves her unconditionally?
May we seek the Lord while He may be found, and allow Him to begin a revival in and through us.
And may we rejoice in the Lord, and in the joy of His salvation through the freedom that comes from walking in community with Him, our Bridegroom.