5 “Who will have pity on you, Jerusalem?
Who will mourn for you?
Who will stop to ask how you are?
6 You have rejected me,” declares the Lord.
“You keep on backsliding.
So I will reach out and destroy you;
I am tired of holding back.
7 I will winnow them with a winnowing fork
at the city gates of the land.
I will bring bereavement and destruction on my people,
for they have not changed their ways.
8 I will make their widows more numerous
than the sand of the sea.
At midday I will bring a destroyer
against the mothers of their young men;
suddenly I will bring down on them
anguish and terror.
9 The mother of seven will grow faint
and breathe her last.
Her sun will set while it is still day;
she will be disgraced and humiliated.
I will put the survivors to the sword
before their enemies,”
declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 15:5-9 NIV)
In our previous two passages, we saw God’s broken heart over backslidden Judah, and Judah’s half-hearted repentance so they could demand that the Lord fix their problem and restore them. We also saw the Lord seeing through the feigned repentance, calling them out, and rejecting their request.
In today’s passage, we see the Lord lamenting over the city of Jerusalem and her loss due to her unwillingness to walk with the Lord.
Like much of the book of Jeremiah, scholars are not sure of the exact date of this passage. Most scholars agree that this passage refers to the fall of Jerusalem in 597 BC. Some scholars translate this passage as a future event (for example, “I will” – future tense). Other Bible scholars explain this passage as if it has already happened (for example, “I have” – past tense). Either way, Jerusalem cannot escape her terrible fate.
In verse 5, the Lord asks the people of Jerusalem a hard question. If they have turned their backs on the Lord, who will look after them and check in on them in the aftermath of their calamity?
Verse 6 answers the unspoken yet implied response of the citizens of Jerusalem, supposing that the Lord would be her Father, protector, advocate, and friend. But the Lord reminds Jerusalem that she deliberately rejected Him and went on her path of self-destruction. The Lord had shown her so much grace, and yet, to no avail. It was time to bring the discipline she desperately needed to restore her to Himself.
Verse 7 uses the analogy of threshing grain to depict the fate of Jerusalem. The manual process of threshing grain involved separating the grain from the stalk and husk. The threshers would set up a threshing floor on the top of a hill, bring the grain stalks to the threshing area, and either chop or beat the stalks to force the stalks to release their kernels. They would then use a winnowing fork (something like a pitchfork) to toss the mixture into the air. The wind would carry away the lighter stalks and husks (the “chaff”), and the heavier grain would fall to the ground.
In the same way, the Lord would thresh the city of Jerusalem. The wind would separate the chaff from the grain. Notice in this passage, however, that there is no mention of seed – only chaff. This passage assumes there is no redeeming value (no “grain”) in Jerusalem. This analogy is in agreement with the Lord’s word pictures of Jerusalem in chapter 6:
- looking for grapes like a gleaner, turning over every leaf and finding nothing (see 6:9)
- melting down the city like raw ore to search for traces of silver and finding nothing (see 6:27-30).
Verses 8 – 9 describe the loss of life from the invasion. The young men would die in battle, and the survivors would perish at the hands of their captors. The number seven indicates completeness and joy, referring to Creation being complete in a week. The Lord describes Jerusalem as a mother losing all her sons, and the anguish being too much to bear – she dies of a broken heart over the loss of her pride and joy.
May we remember that the Lord loves us and desires to have a close relationship with us from now through eternity. Jesus exhibited this same heart of compassion and care when He said the following:
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.38 Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
(Matthew 23:37-38 NIV)
May we not reject our Lord’s call and care, but instead run to His protection and provision, willingly and joyfully abiding with Him and humbly serving Him all the days of our lives.