Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look,
send to Kedar and observe closely;
see if there has ever been anything like this:
Has a nation ever changed its gods?
(Yet they are not gods at all.)
But my people have exchanged their Glory
for worthless idols.
Be appalled at this, O heavens,
and shudder with great horror,”
declares the LORD.
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Is Israel a servant, a slave by birth?
Why then has he become plunder?
Lions have roared;
they have growled at him.
They have laid waste his land;
his towns are burned and deserted.
Also, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes
have shaved the crown of your head.
Have you not brought this on yourselves
by forsaking the LORD your God
when he led you in the way? (Jeremiah 2:10-17)
People do not easily change their minds about things like religion or politics. For hundreds, if not thousands of years the people of Canaan, Mesopotamia and Egypt continued worshipping all their multiple gods—gods that didn’t even exist. They never even thought about changing their religion. So, God wonders what to make of his people, who turned their backs on him. He’s real; they’ve seen evidence of his power repeatedly, unlike say Babylon, where no one had ever seen Marduk do anything but they faithfully worshipped him all the same.
Some identify Kittim with Syria. Others with the Philistines or all the islands of the Aegian. Kedar refers to a confederation of Arab tribes in northern Arabia. Memphis and Tahpenis refer to the two cities in Egypt. Memphis was Egypt’s capital, while Tahpenhes is where Jeremiah would be taken by those who fled the Babylonians (see Jeremiah 43:7). God’s point: no matter where you look, can anyone find people that have abandoned their own gods?
Sin is irrational. They turn from a God who is real, to gods who are fake. They turn from a God who is demonstrably powerful to things that are demonstrably ineffectual. As their lives spiral down, why do they exchange a treasure trove for a trash?