from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 36

Jeremiah 13: The Prophet's Girdle

The Book

In general, the prophecy of Jeremiah may be divided into three sections. (1) Chapters 1-45 relate almost entirely to the kingdom of Judah; (2) chapters 46-51 deal with the prophecies against the nations; and (3) chapter 52 is historical, describing the siege and capture of Jerusalem. This division is to some extent helpful to an understanding of the prophecy as a whole. Yet it is not altogether satisfactory as regards the first section. It may be said of this portion that in the main it is arranged in historical order. But there are marked instances of a break in this order. Take, for example, chapters 24 and 25. The former refers to the days of captivity, the latter to "the fourth year of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah." A prominent feature of the chapters in this section is the frequent reference to the particular time at which they were written. Most of the chapters from 21 to 45 open with specific reference to a date. "The Word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah," etc. This increases their value as historical evidences.

Briefly, section 1 may be thus outlined. One, the call; 2-10, prophecies regarding the sins of the nation and the impending judgment; 11, the plot of the people of Anathoth; 12, the desolation of the land, and promised restoration; 13, the linen girdle and its meaning;14-15, an intercession on behalf of the fallen people; 16, the approaching disaster and its cause; 17, an exhortation to trust in the Lord and observe His Sabbath;18-20, lessons from the Potter; 21-23:8, judgments upon the kings of Judah, and promise of the ideal shepherd of Israel; 23:9-40, against the false prophets; 24, the good and bad figs, those in exile and those left in the land; 25, prophesies seventy years' captivity; 26, Jeremiah's narrow escape from death; 27-29, his experiences in the reign of Zedekiah; 30-33, "the Book of Consolation" for those in exile; 34, during the siege of Jerusalem; 35, the faithfulness of the Rechabites a lesson to the Jews; 36, the roll of prophecies burnt; 37-43, personal history during the siege and after the capture of the city; 44-45, to the fugitives in Egypt.

Respecting the second section of the book (46-51), compare it with the corresponding sections in Isa. 13-23 and Ezek. 25-32. In each case, the prophets' denunciations of the nations are grouped together. All three inveigh against Egypt, Moab, and Edom. Jeremiah has a special word against Ammon and Elam. In conjunction with Isaiah, he utters his oracle against Damascus, Kedar, and Babylon and together with Ezekiel against Philistia.

The third section (Jer. 52), as has been noted, deals with the capture of Jerusalem, and the exile of her inhabitants.

Spiritual Study


The parable of the linen girdle is explained by the Lord Himself. It is similar to the case of the parable of the Sower, which is followed by the explanation from the Lord's own lips, yet it is necessary to know what is meant by the seed—practical suggestions of Divine truth—to understand fully the explanation. So here it is needful to grasp what is signified by the linen girdle to see how it represents the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Linen made of the fibers of flax, signifies natural truth which serves as a garment for the deeper affections in a person. Expressions of truth keep warm within them the love which gave birth to them, as linen garments preserve the heat of the body. (A. 7601) A girdle is something that binds or conjoins. The prophet represents the teaching of the letter of the Word. Therefore, the linen girdle on the prophet's loins pictures "the conjunction of the church with the Lord by the Word." (E. 570) The house of Israel and the house of Judah possessed the teaching of the Lord in His Word, which conjoined them with Him (the linen girdle). But they falsified this truth by evils of life and the self-justification of them. This is the girdle marred in the hole of the rock at Euphrates. It was profitable for nothing. The reason is explained in verses 10 and 21. We have the teaching of the Word which conjoins us with the Lord. There is danger of destroying it by false reasoning. "The human mind is intensely subtle in inventing an apology for that to which its inclination leads." (Godwin) Evil inclinations can argue away even the plainest precepts of our Lord. Then spiritual truth is falsified (verses 12-13), and brings destruction upon the person. (Verse 14) The knowledge of this should act as a warning and put us on our guard, that we give ear to the Word, and do not shut out the light of heaven, and live in gross darkness. (Verses 15-16) This will pain the Lord. (Verses 17) Evil increases pride in the heart. But "the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low." (Isa. 2:17) How shall it be effected? Such pride leads us captive. (Verses 18-19) Our captor comes from the dusky north, from falsity which displaces truth. (Verse 20) The false thoughts are made effective leaders by the same master who marshals the truths in their order—the intellect. The keener the power of the intellect to grasp the truth, the sharper it is to formulate opposing falsities, hence the severity of the trial of a person who is held captive by falsities. (Verse 21) Wherefore this oppression? Because the hidden evils in the inner person are laid bare. (Verse 22) Evil is evil, and never can be good. The two cannot be mixed. (Verse 23; P. 223) Evil must be separated from good. (Verse 24) Therefore, oppression follows the presence of evil spirits with their false suggestions. (Verse 25) The Lord lays bare the inmost nature of evil to everyone who will listen to Him. (Verse 26) The Lord sees it all. He has granted the revelation of it to those who follow Him in the regeneration, painful though it be. "Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem!" He knows how trying it is. And then He bends the heart to Himself to be purified. "Wilt thou not be made clean? After when yet?" They are touching words. The Lord is searching the reins and the heart. Relief is nigh at hand, however, when we cry, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Rev. 6:10; 20) There is a close connect ion between the oppression of people represented by the captivity in Babylon, and that represented by the sufferings of the souls under the altar. (See E. 403.) They are both processes of vastation, of separating evil from the good.

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