by Piet van der Lugt
Lately a lot is being said and written about the prophecy of Jeremiah 16. Jeremiah’s prophecy mentions fishers and hunters. Who are they? Does God use them to bring the Jewish people back to the Promised Land, or does God use them to drive them out of the land?
The prophecy of Jeremiah is about God’s judgement upon His people. God commands Jeremiah not to take a wife, nor to have sons or daughters. God does not allow Jeremiah to break bread with a mourner nor to have compassion “for I have taken away My peace from this people, saith the LORD, even lovingkindness and mercies” (Jer. 16:5). As a result “Both the great and the small shall die in this land; they shall not be buried” (Jer. 16:6). If people ask why God has sent this judgement upon them, Jeremiah has to reply: “Because your fathers have forsaken Me, saith the LORD, and have gone after other gods, and have served them and have worshipped them, and have forsaken Me and have not kept My law; And ye have done worse than your fathers, for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto Me” (Jer. 16: 11, 12).
After the Lord gives His reason for sending the judgement (unbelief and disobedience) He reveals it’s going to end in casting out: “Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye, nor your fathers; and there ye shall serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour”. This is in accordance with Deuteronomy 28:64: “And the LORD shall scatter thee among all peoples, from one end of the earth even unto the other”. The Lord keeps His Word concerning the blessing and the curse. The Lord makes it clear He will not show mercy to His people. Fortunately He does show His mercy to individuals. Both Jeremiah and Baruch are examples of this.
The return to the Promised Land
It always surprises me to read at the same time about judgement and hope for the future.
“Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, ‘The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from of all the lands whither He had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave to their fathers” (Jer. 16:14,15).
The Lord promises Israel to return to their land because of His mercy. If they will return to the Lord and obey His voice, He will bring them back to the Promised Land (Deut. 30:1-5). Not men, but God Himself will bring them back to their own land and bring them up out of all the countries where He had driven them.
Fishers and hunters
The next verses of Jeremiah 16 speak of fishers and hunters. It might look as if these verses are a continuation of previous verses but if we take a closer look we discover they are not. Verse 17 says: “For Mine eyes are upon all their ways; they are not hid from My face, neither is their iniquity hid from Mine eyes”. This verse starts with the word ‘for’ and the following words speak of the reason why these fishers and hunters are being sent. They are being sent because of God’s judgement upon the sins and iniquities of the people. Deuteronomy 32:29,30 confirms this: “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up?”
After words of hope and a future the Lord continues His message of judgement. The Lord makes clear what He is about to do: to drive them out of their land. It will happen by the hands of fishers who will catch them and by the hands of hunters who will hunt them. Hunting and fishing are not positive in itself. Both fishers and hunters have a same goal: to catch their prey and kill it. These fishers and hunters are the peoples/nations like Babylon and the Roman Empire who drove the Jews out of their land. In a same way the fishers and hunters of Jeremiah’s prophecy will drive them out of their land instead of bringing them back.
Nothing is hidden from before the Lord and this is why the Lord says: “I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double, because they have defiled My land, they have filled Mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable idols, and abominable things”. Judging by the outward appearance one might have been positive about the Temple and the service of the priests. But it was only a show of sincerity. Men judge by the outward appearance but God judges the heart. The Lord looks for men who are humble and contrite in spirit (Isa. 66:2).
Even today a lot of people are led by what they see and/or feel instead of being led by the Word of God. God is love and He doesn’t want people to perish but to have eternal life. This promise of eternal life can be given to everyone, whether Jew or Gentile.
The Promised Land is God’s inheritance, which is being defiled. And it will be defiled until it’s final restoration (Isa. 6:11; Jer. 4:21-26; 30:7; Zech. 14:1-9; Matt. 24; Rev. 11:1-15). At the same time we also believe the Lord will make His people return to the land of their fathers, a return which the Lord Himself will bring about (Deut. 30:1-6).