Summary: It was just a linen "girdle" or waistband which Jeremiah purchased new, at the Lord's command. What happened to that waistband after Jeremiah bought it?

Introduction: Jeremiah was a prophet as well as a priest. During his ministry, God told him to make at least three unusual purchases. The first such purchase was a linen waistband (“girdle” in the KJV) and it served as an object lesson.

1 The command to purchase the waistband (girdle)

Text: Jeremiah 13:1-2, KJV: 1 Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water. 2 So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins.

The LORD spoke to Jeremiah, at an unspecified time, to purchase a linen waistband (“girdle”, in the KJV but referred to as “waistband” in this message). How Jeremiah was able to afford this thing is something I’ve never understood, as there is no record he had a “job” or career! He was a priest but there is no record he ever performed any priestly duties.

On the face of it, there wasn’t anything odd in buying this waistband: most people wore waistbands as part of their clothing anyway. Sometimes these waistbands were made of leather, like Elijah’s (2 Kings 1:8) but it seems most were made of some kind of cloth or fabric. The waistband for Aaron as High Priest was made of “fine linen (Exodus 28:6)”, for example.

Something was unusual, though, and that was the prohibition: “buy the waistband, but don’t put it in water.” This could mean Jeremiah was to buy the item “as is”, or walk in—choose—pay—and walk away or, it could also mean Jeremiah was never to wash the waistband. Jeremiah’s reaction to this command is not recorded but I’m sure he wondered, “What is the LORD telling me to do at this time?” or “Why can’t I wash this thing?”

But, not to worry, Jeremiah made his purchase and obeyed the LORD, placing the garment (the waistband) on his loins (midsection). How long he kept this waistband is anybody’s guess because we’re not given that information. Even so, there was something special in store for that piece of linen, and Jeremiah was about to get this new message.

2 The command to hide the waistband (girdle)

Text, Jeremiah 13:3-5, KJV: 3 And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, 4 Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock. 5 So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me.

Now, sometime later, Jeremiah gets another message: “take your waistband, go to the river Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock!”

Jeremiah must have been astounded when he got this word from the LORD! Here are a few possible reasons why:

First, we don’t know about the political situation. Was Israel at peace? We aren’t told of any foreign powers (looking at you, Babylon!) camped around Jerusalem, trying to force the people of Jerusalem to either surrender or starve; and there’s no mention of Egypt, whose forces had inflicted a fatal wound on King Josiah any number of years before. And even if there was peace around Jerusalem, there was no guarantee there would be peace all the way to the Euphrates and back! From Jerusalem to the Euphrates, the distance was many miles and many days away.

Then, there was the problem of traveling through what had been the Ten Northern Tribes. Jerusalem wasn’t too far from the border but there were still any number of people still living in the cities. Their opinion of the Judeans (men of Judah, the southern kingdom) is not known but feelings die hard. No doubt the Israelites still there, whose ancestors had been spared the forced march to Assyria and beyond (2 Kings 17) may have had some unpleasant thoughts. We may never know what they might do to a lone, single middle-aged man even if that man was a priest and a prophet of the LORD.

And there was Syria/Aram he would have had to go through. Relations between Judah and Syria/Aram had always been difficult, to say the least, especially during the days of Ahab and for many years later. Once he made it past there, he was still a good ways to the Euphrates area.

Finally, Jeremiah would have to find the one specific area where the LORD wanted him to hide the waistband. The geography and “lay of the land” around, most likely, the west bank of the Euphrates is not known to most of us, and it’s possible that Jeremiah didn’t know much about it either. Regardless, he made his way to the Euphrates and hid the waistband, according to the LORD’s specific command. Once he did that, he returned to Jerusalem.

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