Today’s reading forms a chiastic structure:
1A: Jer 11:1-5, Cursed is he who does not obey the LORD’s voice;
1B: Jer 11:6-10, The curse is coming upon Judah because they have broken their covenant;
1C: Jer 11:11-14, Judah will mourn her calamity but the LORD will not hear them;
1D: Jer 11:15-17, The LORD who planted them will break off their branches;
1E: Jer 11:18-20, Jeremiah trusts his cause to the LORD when men plotted against him;
CENTRAL AXIS: Jer 11:21, The men of Anathoth threaten Jeremiah with death if he prophesies;
2E: Jer 11:22-23, The LORD will punish the men of Anathoth;
2D: Jer 12:1-3, The wicked prosper for the slaughter, while the righteous are tested continually;
2C: Jer 12:4-11, The land mourns because of wickedness, its shepherds have made it desolate;
2B: Jer 12:12-13, Their wickedness has not profited them for the plunderers are coming;
2A: Jer 12:14-17, The nations who do not obey the LORD will be utterly destroyed.
This prophecy took place early in Jeremiah’s calling, while he was still just a local prophet in his hometown, the city of Anathoth. The LORD desired to expand his sphere of influence and instructed him to take his message, that the curse of the covenant was coming upon Judah because they have not obeyed the LORD’s voice, and have broken the LORD’s covenant without repentance, to all the cities of Judah and to Jerusalem. Of course Jeremiah began preaching this message in his hometown, in Anathoth.
We discover that his message so disturbed his hometown, that the men of Anathoth plotted against Jeremiah to take his life from him, if he continued to prophesy in the name of the LORD. The leaders of this plot were his own brothers! Now let’s examine this: Anathoth was a city of the Levites from the tribe of Benjamin — not just any Levites, but specifically given to the family of Aaron (Jos 21:18). It could very well be that the priests, the Aaronites, were the men of Anathoth who plotted against Jeremiah.
They may have thought, that since the LORD’s Temple where He caused His name to dwell, was established in Jerusalem, that it was akin to blasphemy to pronounce calamity and cursing on Judah and Jerusalem instead of prosperity and blessing. They may have actually considered Jeremiah a false prophet, thus their command that he prophesy no more “in the name of the LORD.” They may have actually thought, that they were doing the LORD’s work by planning to put him to death!
In fact, the central axis of these two chapters is the threat of death that is levied against Jeremiah. Tribulation arose for Jeremiah for the Word’s sake, as Jesus explained (Mar 4:17). And this is the universal principle: anyone who desires to stand for the truth of the LORD’s Word will attract tribulation and persecution. It has nothing to do with the person, and everything to do with the Word of the LORD that is coming out of their mouth. The enemy seeks to crush the Word by crushing the messenger who proclaims that Word.
The second reality is that the persecution came from the professionals who considered themselves the guardians of the LORD’s truth, and this was the same principle at work with Jesus also. It was the religious leaders who had Him arrested, put Him on trial, and brought Him before the Roman governor.
Jeremiah, when faced with this reality, did not strive in his own defense, but put his trust in the LORD, and the LORD took care of him. The plans of the wicked did not come to pass. They did with Yeshua, but it was the LORD’s will to crush Him. And that is the key: we must seek the LORD and His will, and not a specific outcome for ourselves of easy circumstances. It may be the LORD’s will that we go through trials, so that we gain strength to run with horses and not just footmen. We don’t know — but whatever happens, we can trust that He is on His throne and all things will work out ultimately for our benefit, even if we are martyred for His sake. We can rejoice and give honor unto Him in every instance!