God placed restrictions on the personal conduct of the great weeping prophet. That should not shock us. It may, however, come as a surprise to some Bible students to learn that the Lord forbid Jeremiah to participate in activities which were common and, in fact, in and of themselves, were not sinful.
Hear what Jehovah told His prophet: “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place” (Jeremiah 16:1,2). There is more: “For thus says the Lord: ‘Do not enter the house of mourning, nor go to lament or bemoan them’ . . . Also you shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and drink” (16:5,8). So, Jeremiah was not allowed to get married, have children, go to funerals, or attend (wedding) feasts. Wow.
Let us remember always that the good Lord cared about Judah, and He cared about Jeremiah as an individual. He wanted what was best for them. God’s peace, lovingkindness, and mercies were available to Jeremiah and His people if they would humble themselves and submit to Him (16:5).
God knows what is best for humans. In the case of Jeremiah, God’s wisdom said that it was best for the prophet not to engage in certain social relationships and certain social activities. To some, such instructions may seem somewhat fanatical. The context of Jeremiah 16 indicates that the Lord had His reasons for giving Jeremiah such a special message. Why no marriage or children for Jeremiah? God said it was because of the grievous deaths that would come upon the people of Judah (16:3,4). The coming destruction of the nation at the hands of the Babylonians would disrupt family relations and bring about horrible suffering, which would result in many dead not being buried, and many scars would remain in the hearts of the survivors. God wanted to spare Jeremiah such misery. That sounds similar to a situation which Paul described as “the present distress” (1 Corinthians 7:26).
And what about Jeremiah not being allowed to go to join mourners? God said it was because He had taken His peace, lovingkindness, and mercies from the people of Judah (16:5). As far as staying away from marriage feasts, God said the time was coming that the voice of gladness from the bride and bridegroom no longer would be heard (16:8,9). For Jeremiah not to go to such social functions was like a foretelling that someday such functions would cease . . . again, due to the horrible suffering that would accompany the siege and fall of Jerusalem.
In God’s sight, marriage is honorable (Hebrews 13:4). Ezekiel, a contemporary prophet of Jeremiah, had a wife (Ezekiel 24:18), but not Jeremiah. The prophets Isaiah (Isaiah 7:3;8:3) and Hosea (Hosea 1:2-4) had kids, but not Jeremiah. There are other Bible cases in which the Lord called on humans to carry out unique actions or maintain uncommon practices. We think of the rich young ruler who was charged to sell all that he possessed (Luke 18:18-23).
Sometimes it is proposed that a man (a male in the prime of his life) cannot go without the gratitude of sexual pleasures, that is, that it is not possible for a “normal male” to live without having sexual relations. God forbid Jeremiah to marry and forbid him to bear children. Since the only sexual relations which Jehovah approves are those which take place between two persons who are married to one another, then the implication is that Jeremiah, since he was not permitted to be married, also was not allowed to have sexual relations. The Bible portrays the God of heaven as a God of fairness Who does not require anything of humans which they are not capable of carrying out. If God required Jeremiah to live without bed relations, then it was possible for him to control his desires and obey God.
“But it bothers me that God let one prophet get married, but would not allow another one to enjoy the same privilege.” When a famine occurred in the land of Canaan during the days of Isaac, the Lord forbid the patriarch from traveling to Egypt (Genesis 26:1,2). Later, though, when a famine again struck the area of Canaan, Jehovah allowed Jacob to go to Egypt (Genesis 46:2-6), just as Abram had done on an earlier occasion (Genesis 12:10). Rather than crying, “Not fair!” or questioning God’s justice and mercy, let us be content to leave such matters in His hands and acknowledge that His ways are right in every case – without exception. It is not our place to debate with our Maker and demand that He give us a detailed justification for all that He does or requires; rather, we should acknowledge that He is holy and without unrighteousness (Psalm 92:15).
As we read Jeremiah 16, God’s restrictions on Jeremiah’s personal behavior certainly catch our attention, yet there is a whole lot more in this section of Scripture that deserves our notice. God saw what was going on in Judah: “For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face . . .” (16:17). What He observed in Judah was not a pleasant sight. God’s people refused to hearken to Him, choosing instead to walk after the imagination of their own evil heart (16:12). As a result, the caring Creator chose to withhold His peace, lovingkindness and mercies from the Judahites (16:5). He did so as a means of disciplining His beloved people.
On Jeremiah’s part, rather than whine or pout because of God’s restrictions on his life, he burst into praise of the Almighty, saying, “O Lord, my strength and my fortress, My refuge in the day of affliction” (16:19. He sounds like a real man of God.
— Roger D. Campbell