Jeremiah 3 - Outline of Jeremiah (MENU page)
Jeremiah's second message (3:6 - 6:30) begins where his first message ended (3:1-5), with the Lord's call for Judah to repent and return to Him (3:6-4:4). But because the call would be refused, most of the message (4:5-6:30) is a preview of the coming judgment upon the nation. The last three chapters, of the message, focus on three distinct aspects of that judgment: The Enemy from the north (4:5-31); The Enemies from within (ch. 5); and The City to be Visited with Judgment (ch.6).
Return thou backsliding Israel. (v.12)
This is the key phrase and key verse of chapter 3, and makes a suitable title for Jeremiah's second message.
  1. Return Wholeheartedly, Not Feignedly, 3:6-10
    • The words 'turn' and 'return' are the same Hebrew word (shuwb) which occurs 9x in this chapter.
    • The other word that occurs frequently here is "Backsliding" (meshubah), which is from the same root word (shuwb).
      Backsliding is simply "turning back" or "turning away" (as the word is translated in Prov 1:32). Specifically, it is turning away from or forsaking the Lord and His ways (Jer 2:19). This Hebrew word occurs 5x in chapter 3 (9x in all of Jeremiah, and only 12x in the Bible). Hosea accounts for 2 of the 3 remaining occurrences. In addition to these, another HB word (sarar) is translated "backsliding" in Hos 4:16. This word emphasizes a rebellious or stubborn heart attitude (and is translated "revolt" in Jer 5:23; 6:28). Why is it that Hosea and Jeremiah shared such an affinity for this word?
    • Hosea was a prophet to Israel, the northern kingdom.
      Hosea pled with Israel to return, in the same terms that Jeremiah pleads (in ch. 2 and 3) with Judah, as the unfaithful wife of the Lord.
    • Judah had watched as Israel turned away from the Lord to prostitute themselves to false gods (v.6).
      They had heard the prophecies of Hosea and the other prophets who called Israel to repentance (v.7), and they had seen the consequences of her refusal (v.8).
    • Yet, Judah, rather than learning from Israel's destructive ways, was following them.
      Beyond their family relationship (among the 12 tribes of Jacob), they were sisters in heart attitude (Eze 23:2-4), as indicated by the Lord's descriptive names: Aholah {'She has her own tent.'} and Aholibah {'She has My tent.'}. Judah had a spiritual advantage. She lived under the shadow of the Lord's Temple in Jerusalem. But she also had turned away from the Lord.
    • "in the days of Josiah the king..." (v.6).
      Even in the years prior to the rediscovery of the book of the Law, Josiah had instituted reforms in order to turn the people back to the Lord. See 2Chr 34:1-9, where "he returned" (v.7)... "they returned to Jerusalem..." (v.9), but "Josiah made them... to serve the Lord" (v.33).
    • v.10 "Judah hath not turned to me with her whole heart, but feignedly..."-
      She was pretending. She was "treacherous" (ie., covering or hiding her true intentions) even as she participated in the rituals of Temple worship.
  2. Return Acknowledging Sin, to Know My Mercy, 3:11-13
  3. Return Individually, to Know Full Restoration, 3:14-18
    • The paragraph begins: "Return, O backsliding children..."
      But the act of turning back, cannot restore what our sin has destroyed.
    • "I will restore... I will heal thee..., saith the Lord" (Jer 30:17).
      Note what He promises to do for Israel, when His unfaithful wife turns back to Him ("for I am married to you," v.14):
      • "I will take you..." one and two at a time.
        This is national restoration based on individual repentance and salvation. This offer is for "as many as received Him" (Joh 1:11-13) and "whosoever will" (Rev 22:17).
      • "I will bring you to Zion." -
        They had not yet been exiled from Jerusalem, but He promises to bring them home, not merely to Jerusalem, but to Zion, the holy hill upon which He will yet set His King (Psa 2:6), the very source of Help and Salvation (Psa 20:1,2; 53:6). Verses 16-18 describe nothing less than the future Millennial Kingdom of Christ. (cp. Psa 110:2; Zech 2:10)...
        • when the former Covenant shall be displaced by the New (Jer 31:31-34),
        • when all nations will be in submission to the Lord,
        • when there will no longer be any schism between Israel and Judah,
          but they will dwell together in the land which the Lord gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob forever. (cp. Eze 37:15-28)
      • "I will give you pastors according to my heart... to feed you..." (cf. 2:8)
        The Lord Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd (1Pet 5:4), but when He returns as ruler of Israel, He will establish under-shepherds to tend to His flock (Jer 23:1-6) and He will reward those who have faithfully fed His sheep prior to His second coming (1Pet 5:1-4).
  4. Return requires Healing of Hearts that Turn Away (backsliding hearts), 3:19-25
    • "How shall I place thee among the children?" (v.19)
      Those whose nature is in rebellion against the Lord have no place in the future restoration. But, to those who turn to Him, He gives a new nature. God's sons call Him "My Father" and never turn away from Him. John 1:12,13; Rom 8:14,15
    • As a wife treacherously departeth... Return... and I will heal your backslidings." (v.20-22)
      Note that, in v.21, those who return are in a state of contrition, acknowledging their sin (cp. v.13).
    • "Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills..." (v.23-25)
      The voice of contrition continues, acknowledging that they had foolishly looked for help from other nations and their gods (hoping to see their armies charging over the hills to save them from their enemies). But now, they understand that the Lord, whom they have forsaken, is their Help (Psa 121:1,2). This prayer of confession and repentance was uttered by Jeremiah (cp. the prayer of Daniel, Dan 9:3-19). Sadly, the suggested words were neither in the hearts, nor upon the lips, of his people.
  5. Return, if You Will, lest My Fury Come Forth, 4:1-4
    • The invitation to return was good only for a limited time.
      If they chose to return, they must confess and forsake all their sin, for there is nothing hid from the sight of the Living God, who exercises justice and righteousness in truth. If they would return in this way, they would not be removed from the land in judgment.
    • "Break up your fallow ground..." Hosea had spoken these words to Israel. (Hos 10:12)
    • "...sow not among thorns..." (cp. Mat 13:7,22)
      The Word of God cannot bring life to hearts hardened against it, or distracted from it by the deceitfulness of riches.
      "The plowshare of conviction must overturn the hardened soil of the heart." [in quotes, H.A.Ironside]
    • "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord..."
      Under Josiah's reforms, there was renewed attention to religious ritual.
      But the greater need was for the "cutting off" of the fleshly nature of their hearts.
      cp. Jer 9:26; Deu 10:16; 30:6; Eze 18:31; Rom 2:28,29; Col 2:11-14
    "...lest my fury come upon you... because of the evil of your doings."
    The northern kingdom had been swallowed up in that fury. How would Judah respond?

Click here to continue the study in Jeremiah 4 - 6
Return to Jeremiah - MENU page.

Limited permission is granted to copy & distribute these notes from

Go to The Book opening page.