Jeremiah – Chapter 16

The Unwed Prophet

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d told Jeremiah that he was not to marry or have children* because the children born in that place (presumably Anasos) and their parents were doomed to fall to sickness and famine, never to be mourned or buried. Jeremiah was also instructed not to go to a house of mourning for them, since G-d has withdrawn His peace and kindness from them. Great and small will die, unburied and unmourned. There will be no meal to console mourners. Likewise, Jeremiah was not to go to a wedding feast because G-d said He would cut off the sounds of rejoicing from that place. When Jeremiah tells the people these things, they will ask what they did to deserve it. He will reply that it is because they rejected G-d and His Torah in favor of idols.

This generation is even worse than their ancestors because they know better, yet each one follows his own desires. That’s why G-d is exiling them to a foreign land where they will serve the nations that worship the idols they loved so much. The day is coming, G-d says, when people will no longer refer to Israel as the nation G-d took out of Egypt. Instead, they will be known as the nation G-d returned from exile, because He WILL return them to the land. He will send many “fishermen” and “hunters,” referring to the invaders who will pursue the Jewish people. The sins of the nation are not hidden from G-d, Who sees everything. He will punish them for repeating the sins of their ancestors and for defiling the land with idols.

Jeremiah speaks to G-d and says that nations will come from the ends of the Earth, saying that they inherited lies from their ancestors; they will realize that a person cannot make a “god!” Therefore, they will know G-d’s power and that He alone is G-d.

*It may seem strange that G-d commanded Jeremiah not to marry or have children, since doing so is a mitzvah. G-d occasionally suspended individual mitzvos to the prophets because of the needs of their missions. This is why Elijah was able to sacrifice on a private altar, outside the Temple, and the Judge Samson was able to marry non-Jewish women.

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