This the third and final post in a short series looking at some interesting verses from the first thirteen chapters of the prophet Jeremiah. The first part considered aspects of chapters one through six whilst the second part covered chapters seven through twelve. This final part takes a look at chapter thirteen and focuses on one fairly extensive word picture that is painted or drawn in the first eleven verses. The extensive quote is from the New American Standard Bible.
Thus the LORD said to me, “Go and buy yourself a linen waistband and put it around your waist, but do not put it in water.” So I bought the waistband in accordance with the word of the LORD and put it around my waist. Then the word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, “Take the waistband that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a crevice of the rock.” So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the LORD had commanded me. After many days the LORD said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates and take from there the waistband which I commanded you to hide there.” Then I went to the Euphrates and dug, and I took the waistband from the place where I had hidden it; and lo, the waistband was ruined, it was totally worthless. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Just so will I destroy the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.
This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband which is totally worthless.
For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.’ (Jeremiah 13:1-11)
When I read this a few weeks ago I had little idea what was behind it - linen waistband - unwashed - Euphrates River - crevices and rocks - huh?
But as you delve into the imagery a little, it begins to make sense. There is a deal of symbolism here that is easy to gloss over as just “weird stuff”:
- Firstly, the waistband is linen. Linen was the material that the priestly tunic was to be made from as described in Exodus 25:39. So the idea of a linen waistband indicates something serving the Lord and implementing, manifesting or demonstrating His purposes.
- Secondly, how do we interpret or understand the waistband? A waistband was something that was close to the body. The linen waistband is thus representative of someone chosen by God to be held close to Him. It paints a picture of the Lord’s intent for Israel - a people in relationship with God and chosen to reveal His glory.
- Thirdly, the waistband is to be unwashed. It is not clean and therefore not fit to be worn.
- Fourthly is the reference to the Euphrates River. It was some 1,000 kilometres away and was the subsequent destination of the Jewish people who were exiled there by the Babylonians in the late 6th Century BC.
- Fifthly, the waistband is to be hidden in the crevice of a rock. As a result it would become dirtier and longer fit for purpose - ’totally worthless’ per the NASB.
The interpretation is described in the text in the last few verses listed above, but it makes more sense when we have some understanding of the images in use. A chosen people (linen waistband) who refused to repent (unwashed and becoming dirtier from being placed in a crevice) who are then exiled (Euphrates) and miss the mark of being people of renown and of praise and glory.