Jeremiah 2 is characterized by a series of rhetorical questions; that is, questions that are asked not for the sake of seeking an answer, but for the sake of making an obvious point. An example of a rhetorical question parents sometimes ask their kids is, “Well, if all your friends jump off a cliff, are you going to jump off too?” The question really doesn’t require an answer. The obvious answer is “No.”
The theme of this chapter is “contending,” highlighted by 2:9: “Therefore I will yet contend with you…and with your sons, I will contend.” This is followed by v.29: “Why do you contend with Me?” To “contend” means to get in a debate that could lead to a fight. The obvious answer is that Israel has chosen to contend with God and the obvious result is they lose.
Read verses 1-3
Q: To what do these verses refer, and what is meant by the latter part of verse 3?
A: The reference is to the calling of the nation out of Egypt (in spite of all their complaints) and the eventual conquest of Palestine. “You following after Me in the wilderness” refers to those years between the beginning of the journey out of Egypt and the sin at Peor when one generation died out and another arose purified, obedient and trained for warfare (years 2-40).
Read verses 4-9
Q: In what verse is the first rhetorical question, and what is its answer?
A: Verse 5. The obvious answer is that there is no injustice in God that they could find, so their reasons for walking “after emptiness” are not well founded.
Q: Meaning of verse 6, and how does God answer?
A: They never asked “How did we got here?” thus remembering that it was God who brought them up. God reminds them in verse 7a.
Q: Once in the Promised Land, what did the people and eventually the priesthood do?
A: Forgot about God and began seeking other gods.
Q: What is the results of their having departed from seeking God?
A: He Himself will be against them. He will contend with them.
Read verses 10-19
Q: How many rhetorical questions are there?
A: Approximately 6.
Q: What’s a “cistern”? What is the image/message being conveyed?
A: Not to be confused with a cesspool, it is a storage tank for water dug in bedrock. Instead of being cisterns that hold the spiritual living waters supplied by the One True God, they have become broken cisterns incapable of holding anything spiritual whatsoever.
Q: State the points being made in each of the rest of the rhetorical questions.
(v.14) Israel was to be free of worldly influence but instead had become both a slave to and victim of same.
(v.17) This has come about by Israel’s own choice to forsake God for false gods.
(v.18a) They have forsaken the spiritual living waters of God for the false spiritual water of Egyptian culture and religion.
(v.18b) They have forsake the spiritual living waters of God for the false spiritual water of Assyrian culture and religion.
Q: How is this condition described in v.19? What does it mean?
A: God calls it “apostasies”. It describes someone, who after having accepted God and followed His ways for a time, in full knowledge leave Him for a false teaching/religion, for another god to take His place. It’s not someone that has always worshipped incorrectly, but has known God and makes the conscience decision to reject Him.
Read verses 20-28
Q: Listed are a series of metaphors. Have group members attempt to interpret them.
“choice vine…seed” (v. 21)—raised up to bear the fruit of the vine (wine)
“foreign vine” (v. 21)—weeds, representing the influence of the nations around them
“camel entangling her ways” (23)—a camel in heat
“wild donkey…sniffs” (24)—a donkey in heat seeking a mate; i.e., however comes along
“strangers” (25)—the heathen nations around them.
“say to a tree…father” (27)—Baal worship; fertility cults; phallic symbol (actually, a long pole)
“stone…mother” (27)—same as above except rock = egg; note male/female components
Q: In verse 27, what will those who have turned away from God say in times of trouble?
A: Rescue us!
Q: How does God answer their cry for help?
A: God answers with a rhetorical question: “So, where are your gods when you need them?” The obvious answer is, “Not to be found.”
Q: How might God’s reply be different for apostates as opposed to, say, the Prodigal Son or non-believers coming to the Lord?
A: The Prodigal Son is a believer that seeks reconciliation with God by acknowledging his sin and disobedience; a non-believer seeks reconciliation with God in the same way; an apostate only cries to God when it is too late, when they’re about to reap the choices sown.
Read verses 29-37
Q: According to v.30, what is it that they’ve done that God defines as contending with Him?
A: “…accepted no chastening..” (they’ve become immune to discipline) and “Your sword has devoured your prophets…” (they actually destroy those that bring them God’s truth.)
Q: In v.31-32, how are they acting now and what was their original relationship with God?
A: Originally they were a virginal bride, dedicated and faithful to one husband—God. Now they go to whomever they please like an unfaithful wife. It’s like someone that commits adultery, fully aware of their wedding vows but no longer caring.
Q: According to v.35, what is the chief attitude of the apostate?
A: They actually believe they are innocent of sin. They come to believe that somehow their choices are in line with God’s will and Law, such is their deception.
Summarize the characteristics of the apostate.
They become immune to discipline.
They don’t just ignore but destroy messengers of God’s Word.
They engage in open unfaithfulness in their relationship with God.
They are deceived to the point that they don’t believe what they’re doing can be called sin.
Now, to make general and personal application…
Q: Is there any relationship between the issues presented here and Christians? The Church? Ourselves?
Q: What is the hope God gives those who have strayed?
A: (Read 3:11-14) What does this say to you personally, or how you should approach those that have forsaken their relationship with God for another?