Jeremiah 2:13 - Living Water or Broken Cistern?

Jer.2:13; Living Water or Broken Cistern?

CONTENT; What's in the verse; Translations; Paraphrase; Word 

Jer 2:13 (KJV)  For my people have committed two evils; they 
have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out 
cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. 

Jer 2:13 (NCV)  "My people have done two evils: They have turned 
away from me, the spring of living water. And they have dug their own 
wells, which are broken wells that cannot hold water. 

Jer 2:13 (CWB)  My people have committed two very great sins.  
They have forsaken me, the Spring of Living Water, and have dug their 
own wells, wells that crack and cannot hold water. 

CONTEXT; What's around the verse; Overview; Topic:

Judah had forsaken God in favor of pagan idols, despite His 
loving care (2:1-37). Even so, spiritually unfaithful Judah was urged 
to return (3:1-25), before judgment came from the north (4:1-31). 
Josiah's religious reformation had not touched Judah's heart (5:1-31), 
and the enemy was commissioned to punish the Holy City (6:1-16). 
Everyone listening to Jeremiah stood at a crossroads: the way he or she 
chose would determine his destiny (vv. 17-30). [The 365-Day Devotional 

2:1-37 The Initial Confrontation
God's love for Israel (2:1-37) contrasts with the apostasy of 
the nation. The figures of bride and bridegroom (2:2-3) depict the 
relationship between God and Israel during the nation's early life after the 
exodus ("through the desert"). Although God had been faithful to 
Israel, the people were unfaithful to him (2:5-8). They forsook the Lord 
(2:5-6) and defiled the land (2:7). The leaders (priests, teachers, 
rulers, and prophets) led the way to apostasy. The result was that the 
Lord had a case against Israel for violating the Mosaic covenant 
(2:9). The words "bring charges" denoted the activity of making an 
accusation or a complaint. "Kittim" (2:10) referred to Cyprus, and "Kedar" 
to Arabia. 
There are two kinds of water sources in Israel--springs with 
"living" or fresh water, and cisterns (small reservoirs) with stale or 
stagnant water. The metaphor of water sources (2:13) graphically 
illustrated Israel's apostasy. Jeremiah 2:15 apparently referred to the 
destruction of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. by Assyria. Jeremiah 2:16 
probably referred to the killing of Josiah by the Egyptians (cf. 2 Kings 
23:29). Memphis (near modern Cairo) was the ancient capital of Lower 
Egypt. Tahpanhes was on the eastern border of the Nile Delta commanding 
the road to Israel. 
For 2:21, see the vineyard imagery in Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 
80:8-13. The apostate nation was likened to a wild donkey in heat whose 
desire was so great that any mate that wanted her could have her 
without effort (2:24). Judah should not have expected to find help 
through an alliance with Egypt (2:36). The reference to "Assyria" 
recalled Ahaz's attempt to secure help from Assyria when the nation was 
threatened by Pekah (2 Kings 16:5-18). [New Bible Companion] 


The People Continue to Reject the LORD's Love for Them
Israel Turns from God
God Pleads with Israel to Repent

CROSS REFERENCES; What's in verses elsewhere.

Psalm 36:9 (KJV)  For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy 
light shall we see light.  

Psalm 81:11-13 (KJV)  But my people would not hearken to my 
voice; and Israel would none of me. [12] So I gave them up unto their 
own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels. [13] Oh 
that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my 

Isaiah 55:2 (KJV)  Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is 
not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken 
diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul 
delight itself in fatness.  

John 4:14 (KJV)  But whosoever drinketh of the water that I 
shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him 
shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.  

John 7:37 (KJV)  In the last day, that great day of the feast, 
Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto 
me, and drink.  

Rev. 21:6 (KJV)  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and 
Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst 
of the fountain of the water of life freely.  

Rev. 22:1 (KJV)  And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, 
clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 

Rev. 22:17 (KJV)  And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And 
let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. 
And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.  

COMMENTARY / APPLICATION: Moving From The Head To The Heart
What is God teaching here? What does it teach about Jesus?

The two evils were (1) forsaking the true God, the source of 
living waters, and (2) substituting idols that were like Broken 
cisterns (large plastered pits, which, if broken, would not hold the 
brackish water in them). [Ryrie SB] 

Ancient landowners would dig cisterns to collect the rainwater. 
To insure that the cistern would hold water, the landowner 
plastered it inside with lime. Often cracks would develop and the water 
would leak out. In like manner Israel had abandoned Yahweh, the 
"fountain of life" or "fountain of living waters" for man-made powerless 
gods. They had committed two "evils": they had forsaken Yahweh, and 
they had tried to improve upon Him. [Believer's SB] 

Water has always been a precious commodity in the Near East. 
Anyone who possessed a gushing spring of life-giving water would be 
foolish to trade it for a leaky cistern of stagnant water. [SDA 

Who would set aside a sparkling spring of water for a cistern, a 
pit that collected rainwater? God told the Israelites they were 
doing that very thing when they turned from him, the spring of living 
water, to the worship of idols. Not only that, but the cisterns they 
chose were broken and empty. The people had built religious systems in 
which to store truth, but those systems were worthless. Why should we 
cling to the broken promises of unstable "cisterns" (money, power, 
religious systems, or whatever transitory thing we are putting in place of 
God) when God promises to constantly refresh us with himself, the 
living water (John 4:10)?  [Life Application SB] 

Some partnerships betray a lack of trust in God. God is not 
against alliances or working partnerships, but he is against people 
trusting others for the help that should come from him. This was the 
problem in Jeremiah's time. After the days of David and Solomon, Israel 
fell apart because the leaders turned to other nations and gods 
instead of the true God. They played power politics, thinking that their 
strong neighbors could protect them. But Judah would soon learn that 
its alliance with Egypt would be just as disappointing as its former 
alliance with Assyria (2 Kings 16:8-9; Isaiah 7:13-25). [Life Application 

Following our own desires can make us forget God. Forgetting can 
be dangerous, whether it is intentional or an oversight. Israel 
forgot God by focusing its affections on the allurements of the world. 
The more we focus on the pleasures of the world, the easier it 
becomes to forget God's care, his love, his dependability, his guidance, 
and most of all, God himself. What pleases you most? Have you been 
forgetting God lately? [Life Application SB] 

"My people have committed two sins" Jer. 2:10-37. This passage 
takes the form of a rib, or an indictment presented in court. God 
brought two serious charges against Judah. 
God's people had forsaken Him, the "spring of living water." It 
was water alone that made the Holy Land produce crops. Thus water 
was the one necessity Judah required for prosperity. Despite the 
fact that God was the one utter necessity in the life of His people, 
they "long ago broke off Your yoke and tore off Your bonds; [they] 
said, 'I will not serve You'" (v. 20). 
Judah's even more serious sin was to dig "their own cisterns, 
broken cisterns that cannot hold water." Cisterns were plastered 
underground pits where water was stored for use during the dry season. Here 
they represent the pagan gods to whom Judah turned. The twin choices 
to reject God and to turn to idolatry are inexplicable. No pagan 
nation ever changed its gods. Yet Judah abandoned the LORD. The closest 
thing to an explanation is given in verses 23-24. The people of Judah 
had behaved like a female camel in heat, in the grip of an 
uncontrollable urge. There is no rational explanation for anyone to reject God, 
much less to seek spiritual or other help elsewhere! 
Perhaps this is the message of this lament. Human beings are not 
"rational" in making choices. Rather we often find ourselves in the grip of 
sin, which expresses itself as an instinctive rejection of the one 
true God, and in a hunger that leads men to turn anywhere in search 
of substitutes. Only the grace of God can preserve any of us from 
the power of indwelling sin. Only the grace of God can help us 
remember His benefits, and honor the LORD as the one essential source of 
our well-being. [The 365-Day Devotional Commentary] 

Grace in Christ is compared to water from a fountain, it being 
cooling and refreshing, cleansing and making fruitful: to living water, 
because it quickens dead sinners, revives drooping saints, supports and 
maintains spiritual life, and issues in eternal life, and is ever-flowing. 
To forsake this Fountain is the first evil; this is done when the 
people of God neglect his word and ordinances. They hewed them out 
broken cisterns, that could hold no water. Such are the world, and the 
things in it; such are the inventions of men when followed and depended 
on. Let us, with purpose of heart, cleave to the Lord only; whither 
else shall we go? How prone are we to forego the consolations of the 
Holy Spirit, for the worthless joys of the enthusiast and hypocrite! 
[Matthew Henry Commentary] 

Day after day He taught the people, until the last, "that great 
day of the feast." The morning of this day found the people wearied 
from the long season of festivity. Suddenly Jesus lifted up His 
voice, in tones that rang through the courts of the temple:-- 
"If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that 
believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow 
rivers of living water." The condition of the people made this appeal 
very forcible. They had been engaged in a continued scene of pomp and 
festivity, their eyes had been dazzled with light and color, and their ears 
regaled with the richest music; but there had been nothing in all this 
round of ceremonies to meet the wants of the spirit, nothing to 
satisfy the thirst of the soul for that which perishes not. Jesus 
invited them to come and drink of the fountain of life, of that which 
would be in them a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life. 
The priest had that morning performed the ceremony which 
commemorated the smiting of the rock in the wilderness. That rock was a 
symbol of Him who by His death would cause living streams of salvation 
to flow to all who are athirst. Christ's words were the water of 
life. There in the presence of the assembled multitude He set Himself 
apart to be smitten, that the water of life might flow to the world. 
In smiting Christ, Satan thought to destroy the Prince of life; but 
from the smitten rock there flowed living water. As Jesus thus spoke 
to the people, their hearts thrilled with a strange awe, and many 
were ready to exclaim, with the woman of Samaria, "Give me of this 
water, that I thirst not." 
Jesus knew the wants of the soul. Pomp, riches, and honor cannot 
satisfy the heart. "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me." The rich, 
the poor, the high, the low, are alike welcome. He promises to 
relieve the burdened mind, to comfort the sorrowing, and to give hope to 
the despondent. Many of those who heard Jesus were mourners over 
disappointed hopes, many were nourishing a secret grief, many were seeking to 
satisfy their restless longing with the things of the world and the 
praise of men; but when all was gained, they found that they had toiled 
only to reach a broken cistern, from which they could not quench 
their thirst. Amid the glitter of the joyous scene they stood, 
dissatisfied and sad. That sudden cry, "If any man thirst," startled them 
from their sorrowful meditation, and as they listened to the words 
that followed, their minds kindled with a new hope. The Holy Spirit 
presented the symbol before them until they saw in it the offer of the 
priceless gift of salvation. 
The cry of Christ to the thirsty soul is still going forth, and 
it appeals to us with even greater power than to those who heard it 
in the temple on that last day of the feast. The fountain is open 
for all. The weary and exhausted ones are offered the refreshing 
draught of eternal life. Jesus is still crying, "If any man thirst, let 
him come unto Me, and drink." "Let him that is athirst come. And 
whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." "Whosoever 
drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the 
water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing 
up into everlasting life." DA453,4 

Have you ever watched a sand castle begin to crumble as the tide 
advances? It's a study in erosion. First the foundation is undermined. 
Then the walls begin to sag. Finally the entire structure comes 
crashing down.  
Erosion is like that . . . even in the Christian life. A habit 
that you once considered unthinkable is grudgingly tolerated. And 
what you tolerate is all too soon condoned . . . then endorsed . . . 
then openly promoted as acceptable in God's eyes.  
It's such a subtle thing, this erosion. Subtle . . . yet 
devastating. It happened in the nation of Judah. Perhaps it's happening in 
your life as well. In your personal life . . . your business ethics . 
. . your use of money . . . your relationship with your spouse or 
children. And while you are free to ignore the presence of erosion, you 
are not free to escape its consequences, for they are as sure as the 
Word of God.  
Are you toying with defection or defilement in your Christian 
life, confident that God's patience will last? Then hear what God says 
by reading the penetrating reminder in Exodus 34:6-7.  [Your Daily 
Walk SB] 

Find a tennis ball and hold it several feet above the floor.  
Let go, and observe the result.  Does the ball hit the floor and 
bounce, or does it float lazily to the ceiling? 
Unless you live underwater or in outer space, the ball will 
fall, obeying one of the strictest laws of physics: the law of 
gravity.  You live each day under the influence of that law.  And anyone 
who has ever slipped in a bathtub can attest to the unavoidable - 
and sometimes severe - consequences of even an accidental 
Just as there are laws of physics that govern the physical 
universe, so God has established spiritual and moral laws to govern your 
relationship with Him.  Careless indifference to those laws brings 
consequences just as swift and severe as does the disregard of God's physical 
laws.  What Israel learned the hard way during Jeremiah's lifetime; 
you can learn the easy way from her sad example. 
Find a small notebook and title it, "My Profit from God's 
Prophets."  Keep it by your Bible this month and next.  Use it to record 
lessons that you don't want - or need - to learn the hard way!  [Daily 
Walk Bible] 

SITUATION  Many sinful kings led the people astray in both Judah 
and the Northern Kingdom.  Eventually, the Assyrians captured the 
Northern Kingdom (722 B.C.).  Judah was on the verge of similar 
punishment from Babylon.  Jeremiah began his prophecy against Judah by 
outlining the people's unfaithfulness to God and urging them to repent or 
face strong punishment. 
OBSERVATION    Any severe and prolonged pattern of sin, 
practiced by people who claim to be devoted to God, invites punishment 
from God.  
INSPIRATION    Many people will profess faithfulness, but very 
few will demonstrate it.  The virtue of faithfulness is often 
costly, and few people are willing to pay the price. But for the godly 
person, faithfulness is an absolutely essential quality of his 
character, regardless of what it might cost. What is faithfulness? How do 
we practice it, and when do we exhibit it in our lives? The 
biblical word denotes that which is firm and can be counted upon. . . . 
The faithful person is one who is dependable, trustworthy, and 
loyal, who can be depended upon in all of his relationships, and who is 
absolutely honest and ethical in all of his affairs.... If we are careful 
to be honest in the little things, we will certainly be careful to 
be honest in the more important things of life. . . If our society 
needs to reemphasize the virtue of honesty, it certainly needs to 
place great importance on dependability.... Reliability is not just a 
social obligation; it is a spiritual obligation. God is even more 
concerned about our faithfulness than the person who is relying on us in 
some particular situation. . . . The faithful person is not only 
honest and dependable, but also loyal.... Whether it be in honesty or 
dependability or loyalty, faithfulness is frequently a costly virtue, only the 
Holy Spirit can enable us to pay that price. (From The Practice of 
Godliness by Jerry Bridges)  
APPLICATION     Do you gossip about others? Do you criticize 
others?  Do you lustfully think about someone?  Last April, did you 
cheat the government?  Do you work hard on your job, or do you waste 
time?  If you repeat sin again and again, you will experience God's 
discipline!  Consider your life and ask the Holy Spirit to help you get rid 
of sin. [Inspirational SB]