Early in Jordan Peele’s Us, young Adelaide sees a man holding a sign that says “Jeremiah 11:11” on a ripped piece of cardboard just before she runs into her own young doppelgänger. The bible passage then proceeds to become a recurring motif throughout the movie. We see it again when Gabe is watching baseball, the announcer says “we’re tied at 11:11.” Then, Jason points out that the clock in Adelaide’s bedroom reads 11:11 p.m. We also subtly see 11:11 represented in a Black Flag t-shirt worn by one of the Tyler twins in the form of four blocks.
When Adelaide returns to the Santa Cruz beach as an adult, she sees the same man who held the cardboard sign dead and being pushed into an ambulance. As Peele has explained about Us, “There’s a double meaning to everything…This movie’s about duality.” That type of duality is represented visually with the mirrored image of 11:11. But, beyond that, the idea works thematically with Us as well.
So, what does this specific bible verse mean? In the King James Bible, the verse reads:
“Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.”
As one fan on Reddit points out, this could be interpreted one of two ways: “The evil are the tethered, who are coming for mankind, unable to escape. OR The evil is the pointless suffering the tethered have to endure for the sake of humanity.”
This parallel interpretation speaks to the theme of duality in the movie. And it’s more likely that the latter interpretation is the one worth focusing on.
It helps to know a little context about Jeremiah. Here’s one passage from the Encyclopedia Brittanica:
During the reign of Josiah, after his call, Jeremiah preached to the people of Jerusalem and warned them against the sin of apostasy. Recalling the prophecies of the 8th-century Israelite prophet Hosea, Jeremiah reproached the Judaeans for playing harlot with other gods and urged them to repent. He prophesied that enemies from the north would be the instruments of Yahweh’s judgment on the apostate land and Jerusalem would suffer the fate of a rejected prostitute. The idolatry and immorality of the Judaeans would inevitably lead to their destruction. Because of the impending threat from the north, Jeremiah warned the people to flee from the wrath that was to come.
In other words, Jeremiah often prophesied certain doom for the worship of false idols. This sounds quite a bit like how Adelaide’s doppelgänger, Red, believes she’s being tested by God to lead the Tethered from doom. Jeremiah’s narrative in the Bible also coincides with the exile of the Jews in Babylon—which sounds similar to the exile of the Tethered below ground.
As the Reddit user theorizes, breaking the link between those on the surface and the Tethered could be that test:
Even though Us is a horror, and the tethered were portrayed as vicious villains, not ONCE did we see any of Red’s family members try to actually kill their counterpart with serious intent. To me it seemed more like they were ‘playing’ with them until the very end, knowing very well that they themselves would have to be the ones to die in order to complete God’s test. The link between them had to be broken somehow and thou shalt not kill, right?
Another reading of this reference could be the worshiping of false idols. In her first speech, Red explains how one girl was given the gifts on the surface, while the girl below was given nothing. Specifically in the scenes with the Tyler family (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker) we see them die among their riches, almost as if it is penance for their worshipping the false idol of wealth.
Or, as one YouTube breakdown posits, it could be more about the second half of this bible verse, which reads: “and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.” This might have something to do with the Tethered not having their voices heard by god. As the video theorizes, “perhaps that’s why when they finally get their revenge they attack the throats of their victims right around the voice box.”
What’s more likely, is that this reference to Jeremiah 11:11 is a combination of all of these theories—that the Tethered represented the exiled part of the country whose voices were never heard. Red symbolized Jeremiah, the prophet who wanted to save Jerusalem from destruction from the sins of those on the surface who sent the Tethered into exile.
It’s also interesting to think about this conclusion within the context of the big twist. Given the blurring of who is Tethered and who is not—meaning the switch of Adelaide and Red as children—it’s open to interpretation about who, exactly, this bible verse applies to. This also ties in, quite beautifully, with the recurring motif of Hands Across America, which points to this country’s struggle to take care of the forgotten people suffering beneath the surface of the United States.
It’s also worth noting, if you didn’t notice, that Us could also quite literally be U.S.