Jeremiah’s Loincloth

February 4, 2006 at 12:04 am (Theology and the Bible)

I am currently reading through Jeremiah, and I finally came to this passage (Jeremiah 13:1-11), which I had forgotten was there. And I must say it amused me as much this time as the first time I stumbled across it:

1 Thus says the Lord to me, “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water.” 2 So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the Lord, and put it around my waist. 3 And the word of the Lord came to me a second time, 4 “Take the loincloth that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” 5 So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. 6 And after many days the Lord said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” 7 Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing.
8 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. 11 For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.

From my quick Libronix study of the word for loincloth (others, linen waistband) here, I see there is a slight variation of thought on whether it is more an undergarment or more of a belt (or maybe I’m missing the point and it’s both?). It comes from a root which means, according to my friends Brown Driver and Briggs, to gird, encompass and/or equip. Either way, it’s still rather odd. I mean…

“Okay, Jeremiah, here’s what I want you to do: Go and get yourself a loincloth and put it on. Then, take it off and stick it under a rock for a while. Then, take it out and observe how it is no longer good for being a loincloth anymore. What this means is that as a loincloth is tight to a man, so I stuck Israel tight to me. But since they didn’t listen, they are now ruined and useless, as this loincloth which you just put under a rock is.”

Let’s put it another way:

loincloth is to man as Israel is to God

Does anyone else see the humor in this analogy? Obviously in the context of what I’ve read up until this point, and the context of the passage in general, it’s not meant to be funny and really isn’t; the point is quite sad actually. But that aside, (and I think that’s okay temporarily, after all I can’t hide from God that I find his analogy here amusing anyways!)…a loincloth? I mean, a loincloth? He might as well have said that Israel was like a sock!

My apologies; perhaps next time I will have something to write more serious about Jeremiah (as it really is a good read and is giving me much to think about). But, for now – I just have to say how I am reminded that God is rather wierd sometimes…

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