What does the Jeremiah 11.11 reference in the film 'Us' mean?

Jordan Peele’s horror film Us has been terrifying UK audiences for the last couple of weeks. One of its key motifs is a Bible verse – Jeremiah 11.11. It first appears on a cardboard placard, and 11.11 keeps coming back: the fateful figures appear on a clock, they’re referenced on a t-shirt and a baseball game is tied at 11-11.

At one level ’11.11’ is a visual trick, mirroring the theme of the film which features evil doppelgangers, identical in appearance to the main characters. But the Bible reference is more than that. The verse reads: ‘Therefore this is what the Lord says: “I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.”’

In the context of the film, the verse is a chilling prophecy of impending doom: disaster is coming and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. But what does it mean in its place in the Bible?

Jeremiah was a prophet who lived in the 6th century BC, when the southern Hebrew kingdom of Judah was under threat from the powerful Babylonians. During his lifetime Jerusalem was conquered and thousands of Judeans were taken into exile – a shattering blow. Jeremiah saw the tragedy coming. He saw the disaster as the consequence of people breaking faith with God. They abandoned their covenant with him and worshipped other gods. So God tells Jeremiah that he shouldn’t even pray for them: ‘I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress’ (verse 14).

The Bible passage Us draws on is bleak. It talks about how actions have consequences. The choices we make matter. We don’t always make wise choices and we can’t always undo what we’ve done.

But the overall message of the Bible is still one of hope. Jeremiah 11.11 warns of inescapable disaster, but just a few chapters later comes one of the most famous verses in the Old Testament: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Us is a story of horror. But the Bible is a story of hope. The exiles return, good overcomes evil and God restores what’s broken. 

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Jeremiah Bible Book Club notes

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The book of Jeremiah recounts the life and ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. It tracks Jeremiah’s message that the Kingdom of Judah will fall to the Babylonians from the point, a long time before the exile took place (around 626 BC), when his ministry began to after the exile had begun in 587 BC.

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