Through Jeremiah, Yahweh instructs the Chaldeans to “go through [Judah’s] vine rows and destroy. Take away her tendrils, for they are not Yahweh’s” (Jeremiah 5:10). In his discourse on the vine in John 15, Jesus says something similar: The Father cute off the branches that do not bear fruit and throws them into the fire. In Jeremiah, the image has a political edge: Cutting off branches is what Judah’s enemies do. Perhaps Jesus implies the same: Unfruitful branches will be cut off as the pressures of persecution increase.

In Jeremiah, the branches that are cut off are the ones who deal treacherously with Yahweh, who lie about Him. Jeremiah 5:12 puns on the name Yahweh: “Of I am they say ‘Not he.’” They deny the name; they are guilty of apostasy - just like many of the Christians in the first century (“great apostasy”). In the context of Jeremiah, they deny Yahweh specifically by denying that He is judge: They lie by saying “Not He, misfortunate will not come on us” (5:12). “I am” implies “I am Judge”; and when we deny that God judges we are denying Him.