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"
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.  So I gave them up unto their
own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.  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
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
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
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
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]