Jeremiah 13:1-27

Historical/Cultural Context

            The entirety of this passage contains two parables followed by a poem. The two parables, as well as the poem, may have been originally independent of each other and like other passages in Jeremiah, their dates are uncertain.[1] Scholars have suggested a range between 605 B.C. and 597 B.C. as a possibility for this section.[2] The overall theme of Jeremiah 13 revolves around God’s judgment on the people for their rebellion and negligence. The people were still unresponsive to Jeremiah’s words and the threat of exile, unbeknownst to Judah, was approaching,

Analysis of the Passage

The material of the belt in 13:1 is significant. Linen was the material used for priestly garments (Lev. 16:4); for Judah was a priestly nation.[3] The Lord required that linen cloth remain clean, dry and fresh. This was the first out of three instructions from the Lord regarding the linen belt.

Jeremiah was then told by the Lord to hide the linen belt in a place known as Perath. There is much disagreement regarding the location of Perath but most scholars agree that it is symbolic of the Euphrates River.[4] After a period of time, the Lord then instructs Jeremiah to go and recover the linen belt, which was now completely useless.

A rather detailed description of the parable of the linen belt is provided in the follow-up verses of 13:8-11. The belt represents the people of God, and how they once clung to God’s side but as time passed the people became spoiled because of their relations with Mesopotamia.[5]

The wineskins mentioned in verse 13:12 (NIV) should be thought of as wine jars (Heb. nēbel) since they are intended to be smashed.[6] The people responded to Jeremiah with ridicule and contempt, which was probably an expected response. The wine jars represent the people who God was going to fill with His wrath. They where fit for nothing but destruction. Their drunkenness would render them powerless to act in their own defense in the critical hour.[7]

The poem that follows in verse 13:15-27 covers the theme of exile. 15-17 depicts a shepherd waiting for the dawn to arrive only to be greeted with further darkness. The king and the queen mother in verse 18 are referring to the exile of Jehoiachin and his mother Nehushta (2 K. 24:8) in 597 B.C. [8]

Verse 13:26 gives a visual of the peoples’ skirts being pulled up over their faces. It was considered a vial evil to expose one’s body in Jeremiah’s culture, and this exposure was considered especially offensive in the case of women.[9] Jerusalem was often spoken of as Yahweh’s daughter and the euphemism here suggests the violence she would suffer.

Synthesis of the Passage

            Within its literary context, the parables and the poem all deal with God’s judgment upon the people. The parable of the linen belt carries the message of how God’s people were once pure but have become tarnished. The empty wine jars represented the people living in Judah and how God was going to fill them with his judgment. Both the linen belt and the wine jars were to be destroyed. The poem carries out what seems to be Jeremiah’s final plea for the people to repent. Within the poem, God gives an account as to what will happen and why it has happened.


            On this side of the resurrection the linen belt has been restored and Christians have been fastened to the side of Christ through his redemptive work on the cross. Faithful followers of Christ are now filled with the seal of the Holy Spirit rather than God’s judgment, which he once filled the empty wine jars with. And rather than being exiled on the final Day of Judgment, Christians will be received. Unfortunately, for unbelievers, their story will unfold much like the two parables and the poem within Jeremiah 13.


Thompson, J A. The Book of Jeremiah. The New International Commentary On the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, ©1980.

[1]. John A.Thompson, The Book Of Jeremiah, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1980) 367.

[2]. Ibid., 365-369.

[3]. Ibid., 364.

[4]. Ibid., 364-365.

[5]. Thompson., 365.

[6]. Ibid., 367.

[7]. Ibid., 368.

[8]. Ibid., 370.

[9]. Ibid., 373.