JEREMIAH

Charles Dyer with Eva Rydelnik

INTRODUCTION

Author. Jeremiah the prophet was, as early tradition maintains, the author of this book. It is an extensive collection of the prophet’s oracles opening with "The words of Jeremiah" (1:1) and stating, just before the historical epilogue of the book, "Thus far are the words of Jeremiah" (51:64). Thus, the book contains the words Jeremiah received from the Lord and includes the writings of Baruch ben Neriah, Jeremiah’s companion and scribe (36:4), to whom the prophet dictated some of his messages (36:32).

Perhaps Jeremiah, at different stages of his ministry, collected his prophecies and rearranged them in a definite pattern (cf. 25:13; 30:2; 36:2, 32). Maybe he completed the final form after he was taken hostage to Egypt (cf. 51:64), or possibly Baruch could have collected and organized Jeremiah’s writings, adding chap. 52 (from 2Kg 24:18–25:30) after Jeremiah’s death.

The text clearly states the book is "The words of Jeremiah," and it is by and about "Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah" (Jr 1:1). He was the foremost prophet of Judah during the dark days just prior to the Babylonian destruction and captivity. His heart was broken over Jerusalem’s sin and the judgment they had brought upon themselves, and his great sorrow earned him the title "the weeping prophet" (9:1). His book is the most autobiographical and spiritually transparent of the prophetic writings. Despite his circumstances and sorrow, Jeremiah had unwavering confidence in God’s faithfulness to His people (3:23).

Jeremiah is a common name, found nine times in the OT (eg., 2Kg 23:31; 24:18; 1Ch 5:23; 12:4, 10, 13; Neh 10:2; 12:1; Jr 35:3); but this prophet is the most significant person of that name. The meaning of the name is possibly uncertain, perhaps: "the Lord throws" in the sense of laying a foundation; or "The Lord establishes."

Jeremiah was from a priestly family, as were Moses (Ex 6:16–20), Ezekiel (Ezk 1:3), and Zechariah (Zch 1:1). Anathoth, a small village about three miles northeast of Jerusalem, was his hometown, and his father was Hilkiah, a Levite (Jr 1:1; Jos 21:15–19; 1Kg 2:26). Hilkiah was likely a descendant of Abiathar, the sole survivor of the priests of Nob (1Sm 22:20), who later was exiled by Solomon to Anathoth (1Kg 2:26). His father was probably not the same Hilkiah who discovered the law in the temple during the reign of Josiah (cf. 2Kg 22:3–14), since he was not living in Jerusalem, and because this key event is not mentioned in relation to him.

Although from a priestly family, Jeremiah does not seem to have served as a priest. But he was called to be a prophet when he was "a youth" or a young man, probably under 25, calculated from the time he began his ministry (Jr 1:2–6). The Lord commanded him not to marry, as an object lesson to the nation of the impending disaster (16:1–2). His ministry extended from the 13th year of the reign of Josiah (1:2) to the reign of Zedekiah, "until the exile" (1:3). Thus he prophesied from about 627 BC till at least 582 BC, after the fall of Jerusalem. He continued to minister to the survivors in Jerusalem and in Egypt, where he was taken against his wishes, after Gedaliah’s murder (41:2). He wrote his final prophecies in Egypt (chaps. 43–44), and according to tradition he died there by stoning.

Throughout his ministry, Jeremiah was hated, persecuted, and imprisoned for his message. He declared Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians, as a judgment from the Lord and advised surrender to Nebuchadnezzar (18:18; 37:15; 38; 40:1). After the fall of Jerusalem, he delivered God’s message for the remnant to stay in Judah and not go to Egypt, but he was ridiculed and ignored. Jeremiah was a man of outstanding courage, who boldly and unwaveringly proclaimed the Lord’s message despite almost total national opposition.

Date. Jeremiah began to prophecy during the 13th year of Josiah in 627 BC (1:2) and continued past the fall of Jerusalem in 582 BC. Thus, like Moses, he prophesied 40 years. He was a contemporary of Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Daniel, and Ezekiel. There were three phases of his prophetic ministry: (1) while Judah was under the threat of Assyria and Egypt, 627–605 BC; (2) while Babylon was threatening and laying siege to Judah, including the fall of Jerusalem, 605–586 BC; (3) while staying with the survivors in Jerusalem until the assassination of Gedaliah, and then forced to go with the exiles to Egypt, where he died 585–580(?) BC.

Recipients. During Jeremiah’s ministry his primary audience was Judah and Jerusalem. He spoke to the population in general (2:2; 3:17; 7:2; 18:11); and also directly addressed Judah’s kings (13:18; 21:3, 11; 22:1–2, 11, 18, 24); her priests (20:3–6); and her prophets (23:9; 28:15). In addition, Jeremiah served as God’s messenger to those nations surrounding Judah responsible for persecuting her (chaps. 46–51). The book in its final form, as gathered by Baruch, addressed the faithful remnant of Israel in captivity. However, the writer of Scripture knew the message was profitable for all who read it (2Tm 3:16).

Purpose and Themes. The purpose of Jeremiah is to encourage repentance and faith by revealing the Lord’s faithfulness to His promises both to discipline and restore Israel. Judgment, based on the holiness of the Lord, is one of the pervading themes of the book, but a parallel theme is the call to repentance and restoration (Jr 7:1–11, 23; 9:12–16, 23–24; 19:1–4).

The promise of restoration goes beyond the immediate return from Babylon after the 70-year captivity (29:10). The phrase "days are coming" (see comments on 16:14–15 and 31:27–40) looks forward to the reign of Messiah, the Righteous Branch, on the earth in the millennial kingdom (23:3–6; 30:1–9; 33:14–15).

An outstanding emphasis in Jeremiah’s ministry is the priority of a right relationship with the Lord, in contrast to external religious practices (4:4; 7:21–26; 11:1–13). The people of Jerusalem were outwardly religious, but they were following false prophets, not the Word of the Lord (7:28; 14:13–16). It was essential to have a circumcised heart that promoted genuine worship and obedience, in addition to physical circumcision, and other outward practices of obedience (9:23–26).

In addition to the holiness and righteousness of God as seen in His judgments, Jeremiah presented the Lord as: Creator (5:22; 10:12–16; 27:5; 31:35–37; 32:17; 51:15–19); the all powerful Lord of hosts (9:7; 10:6; 27:5; 31:35; 32:17, 27); everywhere present (23:23–24); Savior and Redeemer (3:23; 14:8; 31:11; 50:34), and loving and compassionate (12:15; 30:18; 31:3, 13). The Lord will always be faithful to His covenant with Israel, His chosen people, who are His inheritance (10:16; 12:14–15; 31:35–37; 33:14–21; 51:5). God is the Lord the God of Israel (11:3; 19:3; 24:5) and of the nations (5:15; 10:6–7; 18:7–10; 25:17–28; chaps. 46–51).

Jeremiah introduced the new covenant in his "Book of Consolation" (chaps. 30–33), using the formulaic expression "days are coming" and showing his readers the future. These chapters portray the Messianic restoration of Israel and Judah (chap. 30). They present the future change in God’s relationship with His people: It will not be on the basis of the Sinai/Mosaic covenant but instead a new covenant inaugurated by the Messiah (31:31–34; Lk 22:20).

Although Messianic prophecy is not as prominent in Jeremiah as it is in Isaiah, Daniel, or Zechariah, the Messianic hope is essential in Jeremiah. He described events that will occur "in those days": (1) Jerusalem will be called "The Throne of the Lord" (Jr 3:14–17) and the Lord’s presence there will replace that of the ark of the covenant; (2) the righteous Branch of David (23:1–5; 33:15) "shall reign as king … and do justice and righteousness in the land"; (3) the deity of the Messiah is seen in 23:6 because "He will be called ‘The Lord our righteousness’ "; (4) He will bring in the new covenant (31:31–34), which will fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham (Gn 12:1–3; 17:1–8), Moses and Israel (Dt 28–30), and David (2Sm 7:1–17).

Jeremiah has been an accepted book of the canon, first in the Jewish Scriptures before the advent of the Messiah Jesus, then in the complete Scriptures of the OT and NT.

The Hebrew canon is divided into three main sections: Law (Torah), Prophets (Nevi’im), and Writings (Ketuvim). An acronym formed from the first Hebrew letter of each section results in the Hebrew word for the OT: the Tanakh, (TaNaK). The Prophets are divided into the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Major and Minor Prophets).

In many ancient Hebrew manuscripts, as noted in the Talmud (Baba Bathra 14b), Jeremiah is the first book of the Major Prophets, so the Hebrew order is Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah. The location of Jeremiah in the Hebrew canon explains Matthew’s phrase, "that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled" (Mt 27:9), when the verse quoted is from Zechariah, not Jeremiah. As the first book of the Major Prophets, Jeremiah could be used to represent all of the prophets. Using the first book of a section to represent all the books of that section was a common Jewish practice. Matthew was using this method of taking the first book of a section, Jeremiah in the Prophets, to identify the whole group of prophets and quoting Zechariah. A paraphrase of Mt 27:9 would be, "as it was spoken by the prophets." In addition, this is what Jesus did when He used the word "Psalms" to represent the entire section of the Writings (Lk 24:44), because Psalms is the first book of the Writings. There Jesus was saying that the whole Tanakh, Law, Prophets, and Psalms (Writings), spoke of Him (Lk 24:44–46). English and Greek versions of the OT, as well as contemporary Jewish Bibles, Tanakh (JPS), place Jeremiah after Isaiah and before Lamentations and Ezekiel.

Unlike Ezekiel or Isaiah, whose prophecies are chronological, Jeremiah’s messages are not chronological, but are arranged more by emphasis, developing the theme of God’s judgment. The judgment on Judah is the theme of chaps. 2–45; the judgment on the Gentile nations is the theme of chaps. 46–51. The book ends with a supplement, not written by Jeremiah, almost identical to 2Kg 24:18–25:30, recording events at the end of the exile. Jehoiachin’s release foreshadowed God’s promises of restoration and blessing for Israel. The promised Redeemer had not yet come, but His coming was certain.

The book includes narrative, poetry, sermons, addresses, and parables. Object lessons are a major teaching tool of Jeremiah: the linen belt (chap. 13); the potter’s clay (chap. 18); the baskets of figs (chap. 24); the yoke (chap. 27); and the large stones in the Egyptian delta city of Tahpanhes (chap. 43). Jeremiah’s life itself was used by the Lord as a daily illustration to Judah (13:1–14; 14:1–9; 16:1–9; 18:1–8; 19:1–13; 24:1–10; 27:1–11; 32:6–15; 43:8–13).

Background. During the years of Jeremiah’s ministry, Judah was caught in a three-cornered international crisis as Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon struggled for world dominion. These historical events formed the backdrop to Judah’s situation and Jeremiah’s messages.

Internally, Judah experienced her final spiritual renewal in Josiah’s reign (622 BC; 2Kg 22:3–23:25). Prompted by the discovery of a copy of the Mosaic law in the temple in his 18th year as king, Josiah worked to rid the nation of the idolatry that had taken root during the 55-year reign of wicked King Manasseh (2Kg 21:1–9). Josiah succeeded in removing the outward forms of idolatry, but his efforts did not reach the hearts of his people. After Josiah’s untimely death, Judah returned to idolatry.

Internationally, the Assyrian Empire had taken the northern kingdom of Israel captive in 721 BC (2Kg 17) and had dominated the ancient Near East for centuries. At the outset of Jeremiah’s ministry, it was on the brink of collapse. Babylon, a new force in the region, had destroyed the Assyrian capital city, Nineveh, in 612 BC. A realignment of power was on the horizon.

Egypt, which had long been in decline, now saw an opportunity for expansion in Assyria’s weakness. If Assyria could be kept as a buffer state to halt Babylon’s advances, Egypt hoped to reclaim her former kingdom, including Judah. So Egypt allied with Assyria against Babylon, expecting to dominate a weakened Assyria and block Babylon’s advances.

King Josiah wanted to stop the alignment of Egypt and Assyria, seeing that allegiance as a threat to Judah. A decisive battle took place on the plain of Megiddo between Egypt and Judah, where Josiah was killed and Judah was defeated (2Ch 35:20–24). Meanwhile, Babylon was growing stronger and Assyria ceased to be a major empire.

Egypt assumed control of the area after Judah’s defeat. Pharaoh Neco deposed King Jehoahaz, (Josiah’s son) then plundered the treasuries of Judah and appointed Jehoiakim, another son of Josiah, as Egypt’s vassal king (2Kg 23:34–35).

Babylon and Egypt wrestled for power, but Babylon’s defeat of Egypt at Carchemish (605 BC; Jr 46:2) signaled the end of Egyptian military supremacy in the region. Jehoiakim became a vassal king under Babylon as Nebuchadnezzar solidified his rule in the area by appointing kings and taking hostages to assure continued loyalty. At this time, Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel and the other select young men captive (Dn 1:1–6). Judah remained a vassal state of Babylon until 605 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar made another advance through Judah, engaged Egypt in battle, but was defeated by Egypt.

The World of Jeremiah and Ezekiel

Adapted from The New Moody Atlas of the Bible. Copyright 2009 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.

Thinking the Egyptian-Babylonian balance of power was shifting, Jehoiakim switched allegiance back to support Egypt (cf. 2Kg 24:1). This was a disastrous decision. By 597 BC Jerusalem was under Babylonian attack for her rebellion. Jehoiakim died during the Babylonian assault, and Jehoiachin, his son, became king.

Nebuchadnezzar looted the city and took the chief individuals captive. After a three-month reign, Jehoiachin was deported to Babylon along with 10,000 leaders, skilled laborers, and soldiers (cf. 2Kg 24:12–16). This was probably when the prophet Ezekiel was taken to Babylon, where five years later he began his prophetic ministry.

Zedekiah was placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar as Judah’s vassal king. His 11-year reign was marred by spiritual decline and political instability (2Kg 23:26). With the enthronement of Pharaoh Hophra in Egypt (588 BC) Judah was once again enticed to revolt against Babylon (2Kg 24:1–4). This was a fatal mistake.

Nebuchadnezzar determined to make an example of Jerusalem to show the awful consequences of rebelling against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar’s response was swift and brutal. The army of Babylon surrounded Jerusalem and began a long siege (2Kg 24:20–25:1; Jr 52:3–4). From 588 to 586 BC Babylon’s army ground away at Jerusalem’s defenses (2Kg 25). Quickly Egypt, Judah’s ally, was defeated and Judah was alone in her defense. One by one, the cities of Judah were crushed (Jr 34:6–7) until only Jerusalem remained before the mighty Babylonian war machine.

As the army of Jerusalem fought to defend her walls and gates against the sword, inside the city was swept with disease and famine (14:12) so severe that mothers ate their own children (19:9; Lm 2:20; 4:10). Idolatry flourished as people cried out to any and every god for deliverance (7:30; 10:1–16), but they refused to turn to listen to Jeremiah and his message from the Lord God. Paranoia gripped the people until they were willing to kill God’s prophet as a traitor and spy just because he spoke the truth (37–38).

The 30-month siege ended in August 586 BC when the walls were breached (2Kg 25:2–4) and on August 14, 586 BC the destruction of the city began (2Kg 25:8–10). The temple, the king’s palace, and all other major buildings in Jerusalem were burned and the walls of the city torn down (Jr 52:13). The majority of the survivors of the siege were carried into Babylon for the 70-year exile (2Ch 36:21; Jr 25:11; 29:10; 39:9). Jeremiah was an eyewitness to all of these tragic events (39:1–14; 52:12–14).

The main link between Jeremiah and the NT is the new covenant (31:31–34; Lk 22:20; 1Co 11:25; 2Co 3:6; Heb 8:8–12; 10:16–17). However, the NT alludes to Jeremiah dozens of times with explicit and implicit references to his prophecy, e.g., Mt 2:17–18 (Jr 31:15); Mt 21:13, Mk 11:17, Lk 19:4 (Jr 7:11); Rm 11:27 (Jr 31:33); Heb 8:8–13 (Jr 31:31–34).

The Septuagint (LXX) is the ancient Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures, made in Alexandria, Egypt by a team (according to tradition) of 70 rabbis in the intertestamental period (third and second centuries BC). It was translated for the large Hellenistic Jewish community that spoke Greek, not Hebrew.

Jeremiah, of all the OT canon, shows the most striking divergences between the Greek LXX and the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT). The LXX of Jeremiah is about one-eighth shorter than the MT of Jeremiah (about 2,700 words), and the chapters in the LXX are in a different sequence. Discoveries at Qumran among the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) have revealed manuscript fragments from both the proto-masoretic text and the Hebrew text that lay behind the LXX.

According to Gleason Archer, the divergent traditions stem from the development of the book of Jeremiah. He proposes (and the book of Jeremiah itself seems to indicate) that scrolls of Jeremiah’s writings were circulated during the time of the prophet’s ministry (36:32). Furthermore, Jeremiah dictated to Baruch, his scribe (36:4), all the words of the scroll Jekoiakim had burned and added "many similar words" (36:32). It is reasonable to assume that, to this earlier composition, Jeremiah continued to add the messages given him by the Lord during the reign of Zedekiah and after the fall of Jerusalem. Thus, it is likely that the prophet himself composed an earlier, shorter, edition of his own book. This version was available in the prophet’s own lifetime and likely circulated in Egypt where he was living after the fall of Jerusalem. This could be the basis of the LXX translation.

After Jeremiah’s death, it appears Baruch gathered and edited Jeremiah’s work and made a more comprehensive collection of the prophet’s writings. He rearranged the material in the current order and added the text of 2Kg 24–25 as a conclusion to the book. This became the final composition of the book of Jeremiah. As Archer concludes: "The MT doubtless preserves this posthumous edition of Baruch" (Gleason Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction [Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2007], 342).

In the final analysis, the Masoretic text contains the canonical version of the book of Jeremiah. C. Hassell Bullock notes that although "the LXX readings may occasionally be preferred over the Hebrew, the opposite is more often the case." If the LXX translator used an earlier edition of Jeremiah, "it was not superior to the Hebrew" Masoretic version (C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books [Chicago: Moody, 1986], 206).

OUTLINE

I. Introduction to the Book of Jeremiah (1:1–19)

A. The Prophet’s Background (1:1–3)

B. The Prophet’s Call (1:4–10)

C. The Prophet’s Confirming Visions (1:11–16)

1. The Blossoming Almond Branch (1:11–12)

2. The Boiling Pot (1:13–16)

D. The Prophet’s Challenge (1:17–19)

II. Prophecies Concerning Judah (2:1–45:5)

A. Divine Judgment on Judah (2:1–25:38)

1. Jeremiah’s Nine General Prophecies of Judgment (2:1–20:18)

a. First Prophecy of Judgment—Jerusalem’s Faithlessness (2:1–3:5)

b. Second Prophecy of Judgment—Judah’s Call to Repentance in Light of Coming Judgment (3:6–6:30)

(1) The Summons to Repent (3:6–4:4)

(2) The Warning of Coming Judgment (4:5–31)

(3) The Reasons for Coming Judgment (5:1–31)

(4) The Certainty of Coming Judgment (6:1–30)

c. Third Prophecy of Judgment—Judgment on False Religion and Its Punishment (7:1–10:25)

(1) The Temple Address: Judah’s False Worship (7:1–8:3)

(2) The Temple Address: God’s Retribution on the People (8:4–10:25)

d. Fourth Prophecy of Judgment—The Broken Covenant (11:1–12:17)

(1) The Violation of the Covenant (11:1–17)

(2) The Consequences of Violating the Covenant (11:18–12:17)

e. Fifth Prophecy of Judgment—The Object Lessons of the Linen Belt and the Wineskins (13:1–27)

(1) The Illustration of the Linen Waistband (13:1–11)

(2) The Parable of the Wineskins (13:12–14)

(3) The Message on Sin and Its Results (13:15–27)

f. Sixth Prophecy of Judgment—The Drought and Prayer (14:1–15:21)

(1) The Fate of Jerusalem (15:5–9)

(2) Jeremiah’s Complaint (15:10–21)

g. Seventh Prophecy of Judgment—Jeremiah’s Restrictions and Judah’s Sin (16:1–17:18)

(1) Jeremiah’s Restrictions (16:1–9)

(2) Judah’s Sin (16:10–17:18)

h. Eighth Prophecy of Judgment—For Failure to Keep the Sabbath (17:19–27)

i. Ninth Prophecy of Judgment—Object Lesson of the Potter and the Broken Jar (18:1–20:18)

(1) The Message at the Potter’s House (18:1–23)

(2) The Message of the Broken Jar (19:1–15)

(3) Pashhur’s Response (20:1–6)

(4) Jeremiah’s Complaint (20:7–18)

2. Jeremiah’s Four Specific Prophecies of Judgment (21:1–25:38)

a. The Rebuke of the Kings of Judah (21:1–23:8)

(1) The Rebuke to Zedekiah (21:1–22:9)

(2) The Rebuke to Shallum (22:11–12)

(3) The Rebuke to Jehoiakim (22:13–23)

(4) The Rebuke to Coniah (Jehoiachin) (22:24–30)

(5) The Hope of Messiah, the Righteous Branch (23:1–8)

b. The Rebuke of the False Prophets (23:9–40)

(1) The Character of the False Prophets (23:9–15)

(2) The message of the false prophets (23:16–40)

c. The Two Baskets of Figs (24:1–10)

(1) The Vision of the Two Baskets of Figs (24:1–3)

(2) The Explanation of the Good Figs (24:4–7)

(3) The Explanation of the Poor Figs (24:8–10)

d. The Seventy-Year Captivity in Babylon (25:1–38)

(1) Warnings Ignored (25:1–7)

(2) Judgment Described (25:8–14)

(3) Wrath Promised (25:15–29)

(4) Universal Judgment Affirmed (25:30–38)

B. Jeremiah’s Personal Conflict with Judah (26:1–29:32)

1. Jeremiah’s Conflict with the People (26:1–24)

a. Jeremiah’s Message (26:1–6)

b. Jeremiah’s Arrest and Trial (26:7–15)

c. Jeremiah’s Deliverance (26:16–24)

2. Jeremiah’s Conflict with the False Prophets in Jerusalem (27:1–28:17)

a. Jeremiah’s Prophecy (27:1–22)

(1) The Message to the Ambassadors (27:1–11)

(2) The Message to Zedekiah (27:12–15)

(3) The Message to the Priests and People (27:16–22)

b. Hananiah’s Opposition (28:1–17)

(1) Jeremiah’s Conflict with Hananiah (28:1–11)

(2) Jeremiah’s Message to Hananiah (28:12–17)

3. Jeremiah’s Conflict with the False Prophets in Exile (29:1–32)

a. Jeremiah’s First Letter to the Exiles (29:1–23)

(1) The Introduction (29:1–3)

(2) The Announcement of a Long Exile (29:4–14)

(3) The Warning against False Prophets (29:15–23)

b. Jeremiah’s Second Letter to the Exiles (29:24–32)

(1) The Report of Shemaiah’s Letter to Jerusalem (29:24–29)

(2) The Condemnation of Shemaiah (29:30–32)

C. Future Comfort for Israel and Judah (30:1–33:26)

1. The Restoration of Israel and Judah Declared (30:1–24)

a. Physical Deliverance of Israel and Judah (30:1–11)

(1) The Nation’s Restoration to the Land (30:1–3)

(2) The Time of Jacob’s Distress Prior to Restoration (30:4–7)

(3) Restoration and Deliverance by the Lord (30:8–11)

b. The Spiritual Healing of Zion (30:12–17)

(1) Israel’s Sin Caused Her Wounds (30:12–15)

(2) God Would Heal Israel’s Wounds (30:16–17)

c. The Nation’s Material and Spiritual Blessing (30:18–22)

d. The Judgment on the Wicked (30:23–24)

2. The New Covenant: Israel’s Future Hope (31:1–40)

a. The National Restoration of Israel (31:2–22)

b. The National Restoration of Judah (31:23–26)

c. The New Covenant (31:27–40)

3. The Restoration of Israel and Judah Illustrated (32:1–44)

a. The Illustration: Buy a Field in Anathoth (32:1–12)

(1) Jeremiah’s Circumstances (32:1–5)

(2) The Purchase of the Field at Anathoth (32:6–12)

b. The Explanation of the Purchase (32:13–15)

c. The Prayer of Jeremiah (32:16–25)

(1) His Praise for God’s Greatness (32:16–23)

(2) His Puzzlement over God’s Promise (32:24–25)

d. The Answer of the Lord (32:26–44)

(1) The City Will Be Destroyed (32:26–35)

(2) The City Will Be Restored (32:36–44)

4. The Restoration of Israel and Judah Reaffirmed (33:1–26)

a. The Coming Judgment and Future Restoration (33:1–13)

(1) The Judgment (33:1–5)

(2) The Restoration (33:6–13)

b. The Covenants with David and the Levitical Priests (33:14–26)

(1) The Covenants (33:14–18)

(2) The Confirmation of God’s Covenant Promises (33:19–26)

D. Present Catastrophe of Judah (34:1–45:5)

1. Before the Fall of Jerusalem (34:1–36:32)

a. The Inconsistency of the People (34:1–22)

(1) The Warning to Zedekiah of His Exile (34:1–7)

(2) The Warning to the People for Enslaving Their Countrymen (34:8–22)

b. The Consistency of the Rechabites: An Object Lesson to Judah (35:1–19)

(1) The Fidelity of the Rechabites (35:1–11)

(2) The Example of the Rechabites (35:12–17)

(3) The Reward of the Rechabites (35:18–19)

c. Jehoiakim’s Scroll-Burning (36:1–32)

(1) The Writing of the Scroll (36:1–7)

(2) The Reading of the Scroll (36:8–19)

(3) The Burning of the Scroll (36:20–26)

(4) The Rewriting of the Scroll (36:27–32)

2. During the Fall of Jerusalem (37:1–39:18)

a. Jeremiah’s Message to Zedekiah about Egypt (37:1–10)

b. Jeremiah’s Imprisonment (37:11–38:28)

(1) Jeremiah’s Arrest and Confinement in a Dungeon (37:11–16)

(2) Jeremiah’s First Meeting with Zedekiah and Transfer to the Courtyard of the Guard (37:17–21)

(3) Jeremiah’s Confinement in a Cistern (38:1–6)

(4) Jeremiah’s Rescue from the Cistern (38:7–13)

(5) Jeremiah’s Second Meeting with Zedekiah (38:14–28)

c. Jerusalem’s Destruction (39:1–18)

(1) The Fate of the Jews (39:1–10)

(2) The Fate of Jeremiah (39:11–18)

3. After the Fall of Jerusalem (40:1–45:5)

a. Jeremiah’s Ministry to the Remnant in Judah (40:1–42:22)

(1) The Governorship of Gedaliah (40:1–12)

(2) The Assassination of Gedaliah (40:13–41:15)

(3) The Leadership of Johanan (41:16–42:22)

b. Jeremiah’s Ministry to the Remnant in Egypt (43:1–44:30)

(1) The Remnant’s Flight to Egypt (43:1–7)

(2) The Prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s Invasion of Egypt (43:8–13)

(3) The Warning of God’s Judgment (44:1–30)

c. Jeremiah’s Ministry to Baruch (45:1–5)

III. Prophecies Concerning Nations (46:1–51:64)

A. Prophecy against Egypt (46:1–28)

1. Egypt to Be Defeated at Carchemish (46:1–12)

2. Egypt to Be Invaded and Exiled (46:13–26)

3. Israel to Be Regathered (46:27–28)

B. Prophecy against Philistia (47:1–7)

C. Prophecy against Moab (48:1–47)

1. Moab’s Land to Be Destroyed (48:1–10)

2. Moab’s Complacency to Be Shattered (48:11–17)

3. Moab’s Cities to Experience Catastrophe (48:18–27)

4. Moab’s Pride to Cease (48:28–39)

5. Moab’s Destruction to Be Complete (48:40–47)

D. Prophecy against Ammon (49:1–6)

E. Prophecy against Edom (49:7–22)

F. Prophecy against Damascus (49:23–27)

G. Prophecy against Kedar and Hazor (49:28–33)

H. Prophecy against Elam (49:34–39)

I. Prophecy against Babylon (50:1–51:64)

1. The Announcement of Judgment (50:1–10)

2. The Fall of Babylon (50:11–16)

3. The Restoration of Israel (50:17–20)

4. The Attack on Babylon (50:21–40)

5. The Anguish of Babylon (50:41–46)

6. God’s Vengeance against Babylon (51:1–14)

7. God’s Sovereignty over Babylon (51:15–26)

8. The Summons to the Nations against Babylon (51:27–33)

9. God’s Revenge on Babylon (51:34–44)

10. The Warning to the Remnant in Babylon (51:45–48)

11. The Certainty of Babylon’s Fall (51:49–53)

12. God’s Repayment of Babylon (51:54–58)

13. Seraiah’s Symbolic Mission (51:59–64)

IV. Conclusion: Historical Supplement (52:1–34)

A. The Fate of Jerusalem (52:1–23)

1. The Fall of Zedekiah (52:1–11)

2. The Destruction of the City (52:12–16)

3. The Destruction of the Temple (52:17–23)

B. The Fate of Certain Individuals (52:24–34)

1. The Fate of Those in Jerusalem During Its Fall (52:24–27)

2. The Fate of the Exiles (52:28–30)

3. The Fate of Jehoiachin (52:31–34)

COMMENTARY ON JEREMIAH

I. Introduction to the Book of Jeremiah (1:1–19)

Jeremiah is introduced as the prophet at the opening of the book. His background and call into the prophetic ministry set the stage for his prophecies and eyewitness account of the fall of Jerusalem recorded in the book.

A. The Prophet’s Background (1:1–3)

1:1–3. Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, a Levitical priest. The name Hilkiah ("portion of the Lord") was a common OT name for priests or Levites (2Kg 22:2–14; 1Ch 6:45–46; 26:10–11; 2Ch 34:9–22; Neh 12:7). Jeremiah’s hometown was Anathoth, a Levitical city in the land of Benjamin, about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. Solomon exiled Abiathar the priest to Anathoth for supporting Adonijah as David’s successor (Jos 21:15–19; 1Kg 1:7; 2:26–27).

There is no mention of Jeremiah serving as a priest; he was called as a prophet when the word of the Lord came to him. This phrase is a typical introduction of divine calling (cf. Ezk 1:3; Jnh 1:1; Hg 1:1; Zch 1:1) of a prophet, someone through whom God spoke directly to His people.

The Lord called Jeremiah in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah, … king of Judah, the last righteous king of Judah (2Kg 22). Josiah became king in 640 BC, so Jeremiah received his call as prophet in 627 BC.

Jeremiah continued as God’s spokesman in the days of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, who did evil in the sight of the Lord (2Kg 22:12), down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah, Judah’s last king, who reigned 597–586 BC, until the exile of Jerusalem in the fifth month (July–August 586 BC). Thus Jeremiah’s ministry lasted at least 41 years during the reign of five kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. The phrase until the exile refers only to Jeremiah’s ministry to the nation of Judah, until the exile of Jerusalem, but does not mean his ministry ended with the fall of the city in the fifth month, ninth of Av in the Jewish calendar, August 14, 586 BC (2Kgs 25:3–10). Jeremiah continued to minister to the remnant who remained in Jerusalem (Jr 39:11–44:30) after the fall. Following the assassination of Gedaliah (41:1–3), he went with the exiles to Egypt (43:7) and continued to speak for the Lord there (44:1–30).

B. The Prophet’s Call (1:4–10)

1:4–5. God revealed His choice of Jeremiah: Before I formed you in the womb (Ps 139:13–16). Before Jeremiah was born God knew (yada‘) him. This is not just general knowledge, but indicates the sense of close relationship, and includes the idea of being "chosen" (Am 3:2) and having God’s protection or God "watching over" him (Ps 1:6). God had set him apart, consecrated him to be His spokesman to Israel. Consecration describes being set apart for holy service and is used to describe the Sabbath and the tabernacle and its furnishing (Ex 16:23; 20:8; 30:30; 40:9). This message would give Jeremiah courage and motivation for God’s task.

Jeremiah was appointed, commissioned, as a prophet to the nations. Though Jeremiah proclaimed God’s word to Judah (chaps. 2–45), his ministry as God’s spokesman extended to the Gentile nations (chaps. 46–51).

1:6. Jeremiah’s response of alas, an exclamation of pain or sorrow, indicates his self-doubt when God called him, articulated by two protests. First, Jeremiah objected: I do not know how to speak, similar to Moses’ response to the Lord at the burning bush (Ex 4:10). Jeremiah was not claiming that he was mute, but that he lacked the ability to be God’s spokesman. Second, he objected that he was a youth, a word used of infants as well as young men (Ex 2:6; 1Sm 4:21; Gn 14:24). Jeremiah’s exact age is not given, but his objections, and the length of his ministry, indicate that he was in his late teens or early twenties at the time of his calling. By using the term youth he emphasized his lack of experience and his feeling unprepared to be God’s spokesman.

1:7–10. God answered Jeremiah’s objections in three ways. First, the Lord stressed Jeremiah’s call to be a faithful messenger, to go everywhere I send you, obey all that I command, and speak the Lord’s message. Second, God told Jeremiah do not be afraid of them (the people) to whom he was sent because He promised to be with him and deliver Jeremiah even when people tried to kill him (cf. 11:18–23; 12:6; 20:1–2; 26:11; 36:15–32; 37:4–6). Third, God showed Jeremiah that He was the source of the message. The Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth (perhaps in a vision; cf. Ezk 1:1). This visible manifestation of God was His object lesson to tell Jeremiah that the Lord Himself would put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth. God would provide the very words he would speak and the exact protection he would need.

God graciously taught Jeremiah, and all believers, that He specializes in using ordinary people to accomplish His extraordinary work. The Lord will use people who: (1) trust Him in spite of fears; (2) obey Him in spite of inexperience; and (3) proclaim His Word in spite of feelings of inadequacy.

God then repeated Jeremiah’s calling, I have appointed you this day, and summarized the content of His message. It would be a message of judgment and blessing to nations and kingdoms, using two metaphors to describe his mission (cf. Jr 31:28). First, he compared Jeremiah to a farmer who would pluck up (announce judgment), then plant, (announce blessing). Next, He compared Jeremiah to a carpenter who would break down, destroy, and overthrow, announcing judgment—then build, announcing blessing.

C. The Prophet’s Confirming Visions (1:11–16)

God gave Jeremiah two visions to confirm his calling. The first (vv. 11–12) focused on the nature of the message, and the second (vv. 13–16) on the content of the message.

1. The Blossoming Almond Branch (1:11–12)

1:11–12. The Lord’s first confirming vision was a rod (branch) of an almond tree. The Hebrew word for "almond tree" (saqed) is from the word meaning to "watch" or "to wake" (saqad) because in Israel the almond is the first tree to bud and awaken in January as the first sign of spring. The almond branch represented God, who was watching over His word to perform it. The vision of the "awake tree" reminded Jeremiah that God was awake (Ps 121:4) and watching over His message to bring it to pass.

2. The Boiling Pot (1:13–16)

1:13. The Lord’s second confirming vision was of a boiling pot, literally a "blown upon" kettle, indicating a wind blowing on the fire to keep the caldron’s contents boiling. The pot was facing away from the north, so that its contents were about to be spilled out toward the south.

1:14–15. This tilting represented evil about to break forth on all the inhabitants of the land. God was summoning kingdoms of the north to punish Jerusalem and Judah. This refers to the coming invasion of Babylon and her allies (cf. 25:8–9). Although Babylon was located in the east geographically, the invading armies followed the routes along the Euphrates River in their march to Judah. So the enemy did approach from the north (cf. 4:6; 6:1, 22; 10:22; 13:20; 15:12).

When they conquered the city, Babylon would set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, thus replacing Judah’s royal authority (43:10; 49:38). Babylon took all the cities of Judah, not just Jerusalem.

1:16. The Lord’s judgments fell on Judah for idolatry; they offered sacrifices to other gods, worshiped the works of their own hands, and had forsaken God (Dt 28). The judgment of Judah was a fulfillment of the blessings and cursings laid out when they entered the land of Israel (Dt 28).

D. The Prophet’s Challenge (1:17–19)

1:17–19. Once his call was clear, God challenged Jeremiah to gird up his loins, a picture of tying up the long garments to be able to move quickly and to get ready for the task (cf. Ex 21:11; 2Kg 4:29; 9:1; Lk 12:25; Eph 6:14; 1Pt 1:13). God pictures His strength in three ways. First, He gave Jeremiah the needed strength to arise, to stand up against the people of Judah and not be dismayed (afraid). Next, through God’s enablement Jeremiah would be as strong as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze. Jeremiah could be confident that his enemies would not overcome him. By God’s power he could withstand those who attacked him and his message from the Lord. Finally, God assured him that He was with Jeremiah to deliver him. There is no greater assurance of victory than to know the Lord is standing with us.

II. Prophecies Concerning Judah (2:1–45:5)

This section begins with Jeremiah’s 13 oracles of divine judgment against Judah (chaps. 2–25), usually introduced with the phrase "the word of the Lord came" or "the Lord said" (e.g., 2:1; 3:6; 7:1). Following the messages of judgment, Jeremiah recorded the rejection of his message and the ensuing conflict (chaps. 26–29). The judgment of Judah was sealed, but before Jeremiah chronicled the execution of that judgment, he inserted God’s message of future comfort for Israel and Judah in what is often called the Book of Consolation (chaps. 30–33). Though Judah would go into captivity, God would never abandon His chosen people. He gave the hope of the new covenant and the certainty that He would fulfill the good word He had spoken concerning the house of Israel and Judah. After the message of hope, Jeremiah then recorded the fall of Judah to Babylon (chaps. 34–45), and God’s judgment pronounced by Jeremiah was fulfilled.

A. Divine Judgment on Judah (2:1–25:38)

1. Jeremiah’s Nine General Prophecies of Judgment (2:1–20:18)

Jeremiah’s nine general prophecies of judgment begin this opening section of prophecies concerning Judah.

a. First Prophecy of Judgment—Jerusalem’s Faithlessness (2:1–3:5)

2:1–3. Jerusalem, as a representative of the whole nation, was confronted with her waywardness. For emphasis, Jerusalem’s sinful condition was contrasted with her former devotion to the Lord. The Hebrew word for devotion (chesed) refers to the most intimate degree of loyalty, love, and faithfulness that can exist between two people or between an individual and the Lord. In Israel’s early history, in her youth, she was following after the Lord in the wilderness (the exodus), and holy to the Lord, set apart for His service. Despite Israel’s grumbling, she was the chosen nation, the first of His harvest, dedicated to the Lord (Lv 23:9–14). Anyone who ate of it was as guilty as those who ate of the first fruits dedicated to the Lord, and evil came upon them. They were judged for their mistreatment of Israel (Gn 12:3; Ex 17:8–16).

2:4–6a. The faithfulness of Jacob (a synonym for Israel) did not last. They went far from [God] and walked after emptiness (hebel, "worthlessness, uselessness, vanity"; the word is often used for idols and is used in Ecclesiastes 30 times for the vanity of life without God). These people became empty, like the objects of their worship, for whatever we worship shapes our lives. They followed empty idols (2:5, 8, 11; 8:19; 10:8, 14–15; 14:22; 16:19; 18:15; 51:17–18) forgetting the Lord who brought them out ofEgypt.

2:6b–8. The Lord had brought them from Egypt and the wilderness deserts, pits, drought, and darkness to the fruitful land, a synonym for the land of Israel (cf. 4:26; 48:33). The Lord identified the country of Israel as My land, and He holds the deed to it as the God of Israel. It is His inheritance According to Walter Elwell, in the theological sense, to inherit means to "receive an irrevocable gift" with an emphasis on the special relationship between the benefactor and the recipients (Walter Elwell, "Inheritance," in The Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996], 374). God has made Israel His inheritance, and He has a unique, permanent relationship with the land of Israel and the people of Israel as indicated throughout Scripture (3:18; 10:16; 16:18; Lv 25:23; Dt. 32:9; 1Sm 10:1; 2Sm 21:3; Pss 78:54, 71; 94:14; Is 19:25; Zch 2:12; 9:16). But the land was defiled, made an abomination, ceremonially unclean with idolatry (Jr 3:1; 16:18; Lv 4:12).

Jeremiah singled out the three groups who failed in their leadership duties, and he exposed their lack of obedience (2:8). First, the priests did not say, Where is the Lord? They should have instructed the people, but they did not know God themselves; "know" indicated intimate, personal knowledge, not just intellectual information.

Second, the rulers, (literally "the shepherds," meaning the political and civil leadership, including the king), also transgressed. Ironically the ones who were to lead Judah were in rebellion against the One who had appointed them to the task of leadership.

Third, the prophets, who should have been giving the word of the Lord, now prophesied by Baal, the chief deity of the Phoenicians and Canaanites. Jeremiah constantly warned against Baal worship (7:9; 11:13; 12:16; 19:5; 23:13, 27; 32:29, 34). Baal was the male deity (Asherah, the female deity in the Baal cult) and was worshiped for fertility, crops, and rain. Worship of Baal was on high places or in temples with ritual, incense, animal, and even human sacrifices (1Kg 16:31–33; Jr 19:5; 32:35). Israel was constantly lured into this pagan worship rather than staying true to the Lord and therefore suffered dire consequences (1Kg 18:18–40; 2Kg 10:18–28; 21:1–3). Their false teaching led Israel astray as they walked after things that did not profit (Jdg 2:11–13).

2:9–12. Jeremiah used the image of a court case to focus on the seriousness of Israel’s sin. God would yet contend (used twice, or "bring charges" or "I will bring a case against you," HCSB) with Israel. This is a legal term for presenting a lawsuit (Hs 4:1–4; Mc 6:1–2).

Jeremiah asked for an investigation from as far away as the coastlands of Kittim (the ancient name for Cyprus, but it came to be used for the lands around the Mediterranean Sea in general, and in Dn 11:30 it refers to the Romans) in the west to Kedar (Arabia) in the east. The rhetorical question: Has a nation changed gods when they were not gods? clearly expects a negative answer and points out the foolishness of Judah’s actions. Idolatrous nations surrounding Israel were more faithful to their false gods than Israel had been to the true God. Israel had changed their glory, the True and Living God, for dead idols, that which does not profit, that which is worthless, without the slightest benefit (see comments on Rm 1:18–24 for an allusion to this, where Paul targets both Gentiles and even the Jewish people).

2:13. God’s people had committed two evils. The first was a sin of omission: She had forsaken God, the fountain of living waters. Her second sin was one of commission: She replaced her true God with idols, described as broken cisterns, they had hewn (cut, carved) for themselves. Cisterns were large pits dug into the rock with walls sealed with plaster. They were used to collect and store rainwater. The stored water could become brackish, and during droughts, cisterns often dried up. Cisterns could develop cracks in their walls, and the water would leak out. Jeremiah compared Israel’s actions to a man abandoning a fountain of living waters, a fresh, plentiful, reliable stream, to go to broken cisterns that would hold no water. To turn from a dependable, pure stream of fresh running water to a broken, brackish cistern was idiotic. Yet that is what Judah did when she turned from the living God to worship idols.

2:14–16. Another rhetorical question highlighted Judah’s apostasy and its consequences: Is Israel a slave? She could no longer live as a free person, but as a slave, purchased in the market or a homeborn servant. She became prey to other nations, and her land was a waste because of foreign invaders who here were compared to lions. Her cities were destroyed and without inhabitant.

The Egyptian cities of Memphis and Tahpanhes (Ezk 30:13, 16, 18) could refer to Pharaoh Shishak’s invasion of Judah in 925 BC (1Kg 14:25–26) or more likely to the more recent event of Pharaoh Neco’s killing of King Josiah in the battle at Megiddo (609 BC; 2Kg 23:29–30). Either way, Egypt had triumphed over Judah or had shaved the crown of Judah’s head, a figure of mourning, disgrace, and devastation (cf. Jr 47:5; 48:37).

2:17–19. Judah had not only been forsaking the Lord for false gods, she had also forsaken the protection of the Lord. He had led her in the way, but now Judah made false alliances with Egypt and Assyria to guarantee her safety (cf. v. 36; Ezk 23; Hs 7:11). Like the broken cisterns (Jr 2:13), the waters of the Nile or Euphrates, referring to those alliances, could not protect Judah from her enemy or her sin. Only after she received her judgment would Judah realize how evil and bitter it was to forsake the Lord.

2:20. Judah’s spiritual apostasy was pictured as spiritual adultery, acting like a harlot. Jeremiah painted four verbal pictures of Judah’s wayward state and insatiable lust for false gods (vv. 20–28). First, Judah was rebellious, breaking her bonds with the Lord. It would be better to translate the opening of the verse according to the LXX: For long ago [you] (not "I") broke your yoke (NIV; NET Bible), implying that Israel had thrown off all restraint. This translation is clarified by Judah’s statement: I will not serve! Israel broke away, tore off, the yoke that bound her to the Lord. "The yoke of the law" is a common rabbinic phrase to indicate obedience to the Lord (cf. Mt 11:29). Instead of worshiping the Lord, she followed heathen practices of worship (cf. 3:2; Ezk 6:1–7, 13) on every high hill, frequently called "high places," where she had lain down as a harlot. Spiritually, Judah was acting like a prostitute giving herself to foreign gods, and committing spiritual adultery against the Lord.

2:21. Second, Judah is pictured as a choice vine from faithful seed that God had planted. Often described as God’s vine (Is 5:1–7; Ezk 15). Judah had transformed herself by choosing to forsake God, follow idols, and turn herself into a degenerate, foreign vine incapable of producing any good fruit.

2:22. Third, Judah had a stain of iniquity that could not be washed away, even with lye, a strong mineral cleaner, or much soap, a strong vegetable alkali. Her iniquity was ingrained.

2:23–25. Fourth, Judah is likened to animals in heat: a swift young camel running fast, entangling and tripping up, running after a mate, and a wild donkey in heat ready to breed, who sniffs the wind in her passion, seeking mates. Judah likewise vigorously pursued her false gods and could not be restrained in her passion for the idols of strangers.

2:26–28. Israel was shamed by her pursuit of false gods who could not help her, just as a thief is shamed when he is discovered. She declared a tree and a stone to be her creator: You are my fatherYou gave me birth. Yet when trouble came, Israel cried to God, Arise and save us! Her idols were powerless to help, although Judah had as many idols as the number of her cities (cf. 11:13).

2:29–31. Judah eventually became so spiritually irresponsible that she dared to contend with God. Earlier God had brought charges against Judah. Now she brought charges against Him (cf. 2:9). God’s judgment was necessary to curb their transgression, but His chastening (discipline, correction) was in vain. The people still refused to respond. They even killed (your sword has devoured) the prophets. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Mt 23:37), He said "Jerusalem, who kills the prophets," referring to Israel’s sad history of rejecting and even killing the messengers the Lord sent to bring the nation back to Him. Likewise, Jeremiah pled, O generation, heed the word of the Lord, but they would not come to the Lord and instead proclaimed their freedom to roam away from Him.

2:32–33. Judah’s unreliability was evident when she forgot God’s past goodness. This sin is introduced by another rhetorical question: Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Certainly a woman going to be married would never forget her wedding ornaments (jewelry), or wedding attire (her dress); but Judah had forgotten the Lord for a long time, days without number. She did not remember who had adorned her and set her apart from the other nations. Judah had become so skilled at illicit love that even wicked women have been taught secrets of seduction from her.

2:34–37. Judah also displayed her irresponsibility in acts of injustice and murder by spilling the lifeblood of the innocent poor. Perhaps this is a reference to the murder of the prophets (cf. 26:20–23) or taking advantage of the poor in the land (Is 3:14; Am 4:1–5). Though her clothes (skirts) were covered in blood of the guiltless, she claimed, I am innocent. Had the poor been found breaking in to another’s house to find provisions and had then been killed, the one responsible for the death would be guiltless (Ex 22:2). But the ones Judah killed were the innocent poor. These murderers were destined for judgment because they said, I have not sinned.

Another indication of Judah’s inconsistency was her fickle foreign policy, constantly changing [her] way in making alliances with Egypt (Ezk 23) and Assyria (2Kg 16:7–9; Is 7:13–25). But because the Lord had rejected these nations, Judah would not prosper with them. She could not be helped by them.

3:1–5. The spiritual harlotry of Judah is exposed by Jeremiah and linked to the Mosaic law. If a couple divorced and the wife married another man, and then was divorced or widowed from her second husband, she was prohibited from ever remarrying her first husband (Dt 24:1–4). This law seemed to have been given to protect the sanctity of marriage by discouraging hasty divorce. Judah had separated from her husband, the Lord, and had been a harlot with many lovers. Judah had been unfaithful in marriage to the Lord and had no right to turn to Him or expect Him to still return to her. Her unfaithfulness was evident in that the land was completely polluted with idols, and she had sat as a harlot by the roads (cf. Gn 38:13–14, 20–21)—an image of a cult prostitute. However, God’s faithfulness to His word is greater than Judah’s unfaithfulness to Him, as Jeremiah later recorded God’s promise of Israel’s national restoration under the new covenant (cf. Jr 3:18; 31:33–38).

God judged Judah by withholding showers and spring rain (Dt 28:23–34; Jr 14), yet Judah refused to be ashamed. Although Judah called God My Father, and the friend of my youth, her words were hypocritical and manipulative, not repentant, because she continued to do evil things.

b. Second Prophecy of Judgment—Judah’s Call to Repentance in Light of Coming Judgment (3:6–6:30)

Jeremiah was given this prophecy to call Judah to repentance during the days of Josiah, probably before the discovery of the law in 621 BC (cf. 11:1–8).

(1) The Summons to Repent (3:6–4:4)

3:6–11. The prophecy is built around the story of two sisters—Israel and Judah (cf. Ezk 23). The northern kingdom, Israel, was faithless and a harlot on every high hill, under every green tree. God waited for her to return to Him, but she did not and Judah, her treacherous sister, observed her behavior.

God sent her (Israel) away into captivity to Assyria (2Kg 17:5–20; 722 BC). Judah did not learn from Israel, but she went and was a harlot also. Judah became even worse than Israel by committing the same sins, but in deception (hypocrisy) pretending to follow the Lord.

The northern kingdom practiced a form of false worship of the Lord, instituted by their first king, Jeroboam (1Kg 12:25–33). They worshipped golden calves and did not go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. Yet Judah pretended to be faithful to the Lord, and followed the sacrificial system in Jerusalem, but practiced idolatry at the same time. God called faithless Israelmore righteous than treacherous Judah (Ezk 16:51–52; 23:11).

3:12–15. At this point in his message about condemnation because of sin, Jeremiah paused to offer a proclamation of hope and repentance to the north (the northern kingdom). If Israel would return (repent) to her God (7:3; 26:13), He would not look upon her in anger but would extend mercy. The term "return" literally means "to turn back" "to turn around" (shuv), and is a technical term that means "to repent." First used in Dt 4:30 and throughout the Pentateuch as a call to come back to the Lord, it is a common phrase in Jeremiah (Jr 3:12, 14, 22; 4:1; 8:5; 15:19; 24:7).

If they repented, God promised to gather a remnant from the north (one from a city and two from a family) and bring them to Zion, Jerusalem. This remnant would have shepherds (cf. 10:21; 22:22; 23:1–2, 4) who would provide leadership after God’s own heart.

3:16–18. Using the phrase in those days, an eschatological term that often introduces prophecies about more remote future events (cf. 16:14–16; 23:5–6; 30:3, 24; 31:17, 31), Jeremiah described Israel’s end-time restoration. Then Judah and Israel will be reunited (after having been divided since 931 BC) as a nation serving the Lord (31:31–33).

Further describing end-time circumstances, Jeremiah predicted that in the messianic kingdom the ark of the covenant, lost at the destruction of the temple (586 BC), would not come to mind or be missed. Rather, the very Throne of the Lord (Ezk 43:7) will be present with Messiah also ruling in Jerusalem as King (Zch 14:16–19), extending His dominion over all nations. In the kingdom there will be complete obedience to King Messiah, and no one of an evil heart will be found there. Judah will walk withIsrael and all the nations will be gathered to worship there in the land of Israel, which God gave Israel’s fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Gn 15:18) as an inheritance.

3:19–20. Although the Lord wanted to bless the house of Israel like sons and give them a beautiful inheritance, they were unwilling to return to Him. Instead, they acted like a treacherous woman unfaithful to her lover (rayah, "faithful companion, imitate friend" not sexual partner) indicating the breach of a committed matrimonial relationship.

3:21–25. The voice of weeping and the supplications of repentance will be prompted because they perverted their way and because they had forgotten the Lord their God. In Jeremiah’s ideal picture of repentance the nation would finally realize the depth of the pit into which they had fallen. God would respond to the cry by offering to heal their faithlessness if she would return.

Verses 22c–25 are an indication of the sort of repentance God wanted to see from Israel. Israel was to come to the LordGod, admitting that the shameful thing (idolatry) has consumed them. She must confess that she sinned against the Lord. This heartfelt confession of sin did not seem to occur in Jeremiah’s day. Instead it still awaits the future repentance of the nation when the Messiah returns as King (Zch 12:10–13:1).

4:1–4. While God promised to respond if Israel and Judah would return to Him, their repentance had to be genuine. They had to remove their idols and stop pursuing false gods. He pictured this in two ways. First, Jeremiah used the metaphor of farming to show the need to prepare their hearts, break up your fallow ground, a field that has been unplanted, but do not sow among thorns. The second metaphor, remove the foreskins of your heart, is a reference to circumcision, the sign of the Abrahamic covenant, the symbol of the Jewish people’s relationship with God (Gn 17:9–14). Though circumcised physically, the men of Judah needed to circumcise their hearts so that their inward condition matched their outward profession (Dt 10:16; 30:6; Jr 9:15–26; Rm 2:28–29). If Judah did not repent, God vowed that His wrath would burn against them because of their evil deeds.

(2) The Warning of Coming Judgment (4:5–31)

4:5–9. Judgment was certain, so it was time to blow the trumpet of warning and go into the fortified cities for defense because the judgment was coming from the northgreat destruction. The approaching army of Babylon was like a lion that would destroy the land because of the fierce anger of the Lord. Certainty of the coming destruction would cause the people to mourn: put on sackcloth, lament and wail. Fear would paralyze the leadership of the people, the king, princes, priests, and prophets (cf. 2:26; 4:9; 8:11) as they watched the annihilation of their country. Yet the destruction would come in part because of their own leadership failure (cf. 2:8).

4:10. This verse is one of the most challenging in the book to interpret. Jeremiah claimed that God had deceived this people by promising they would have peace when in fact a sword was at their throats. It is better to understand that Jeremiah was complaining that God had ordained the false prophets to proclaim their message of peace (cf. 6:14; 14:13–14; 23:16–17). Scripture is clear that it is not in God’s nature to lie (cf. Nm 23:19). But God is sovereign over all that happens in creation, even the false prophecies given by the deceptive teachers and leaders, though He is never blamed for the moral guilt of their sin, while people are (see comments on Rm 9:13–23). God ordained the deception of the false teachers as one of the rungs in the ladder leading up to the judgment they deserved for abandoning the Lord. In fact God’s true prophets had been predicting judgment, not peace (cf. Jr 1:14–16; Mc 3:9–12; Hab 1:5–11; Zph 1:4–13). Only the false prophets had been proclaiming peace. Thus, it is better to understand Jeremiah’s complaint that God, in His providence, ordained these false prophets to proclaim their false message.

4:11–14. Jeremiah gives two pictures of the coming invasion of Judah. First, the invading armies are pictured as a scorching wind that blows in from the wilderness, the desert (Ezk 17:10; 19:12). This wind does not cool, and it cannot be used to winnow because it is too strong and would blow the grain away with the chaff. Instead, this scorching wind withers vegetation (Gn 41:6) and causes extreme discomfort (Jnh 4:8). Second, the advance of Babylon’s army is pictured as an approaching storm of clouds sweeping into Judah, and their chariots as a whirlwind pulled by horses as fast as eagles. Both images are of rapid, powerful invasion (Jr 4:13–14).

In light of Judah’s certain destruction God again graciously called the people to repentance. If they were to wash the evil from their heart they would be saved (delivered) from judgment.

4:15–18. A voice, a messenger from Dan, the northernmost tribe of Israel and from Mount Ephraim, 35 miles north of Jerusalem, would signal the approach of Babylon’s army These areas would be the first to see the besiegers approach, and their watchmen would sound the alarm. God sent Babylon to punish the cities of Judah because she had rebelled against Him.

4:19–22. Jeremiah cried out in anguish at the news of the coming invasion. His heart pounded, and he could not be silent because he heard the coming alarm of war. The repetition disaster on disaster indicated the seriousness of the coming events, pictured as tents devastated in an instant. God said, My people are foolish, because they did not know Him. In an ironic reversal of wisdom living, the people were shrewd, skilled to do evil, but ignorant in knowing good (cf. Pr 1:2–3).

4:23–28. Jeremiah compared the coming judgment to a cosmic disaster. The description of the land as formless and void evokes images from the creation account, the chaos that preceded God’s work in creation (Gn 1:1–2). Jeremiah indicated that no aspect of life would remain untouched: heavens, mountains, man, birds, land, and cities. Jeremiah pictured the land as barren as it had been before the formation of the earth (Gn 1:11–13, 20–26).

The imagery was so stark that some might think He would totally destroy Israel. To guard against this misunderstanding, God qualified His statement: Yet I will not execute a complete destruction (Jr 4:27; cf. 5:18). Though the whole earth shall mourn as He judged the people, and the Lord would not change [His] mind (4:28), yet Israel as a people and a nation would not be eradicated (31:35–37).

4:29–31. Jeremiah warned that when the armies of horseman and bowman marched to attack, people in every city would flee for safety, hiding in thickets and among the rocks. Then addressing Jerusalem’s leaders collectively as the desolate one, Jeremiah challenged their plan for dealing with Babylon. These Jewish leaders thought if they would figuratively dress as a harlot (in scarlet with jewels of gold, and cosmetic paint on their eyes) they might seduce, or politically persuade, Babylon to prevent their attack (cf. Ezk 16:26–29; 23:40–41). But it was in vain; her former lovers (allies) now despise[d] her.

As the Babylonians pressed their attack, the daughter of Zion (the people of Jerusalem) cried out in anguish like a woman in labor (cf. Is 13:8; 21:3; 26:17; Jr 6:24; 13:21; 22:23; 30:6; 48:41; 49:22, 24; 50:43; Mc 4:9–10). She stretched out her hands for help that never came as she died at the hands of murderers.

(3) The Reasons for Coming Judgment (5:1–31)

In chap. 4, Jeremiah described the inevitability and reasons for the coming judgment. Here he has presented the extensiveness of the sin in Judah for which God would judge them.

5:1–3. Judah faced judgment because every person was guilty. Jeremiah was challenged to look through the streets of Jerusalem for just one man who did justice. But unlike Abraham looking for a righteous person in Sodom, Jeremiah could not find even one (Gn 18:26–32). They all refused correction, had hearts harder than rock toward God, and refused to repent.

5:4–6. Jeremiah thought perhaps only the poor—the foolish or uneducated masses did not know the way of the Lord. He decided if he went to the great, the leaders, they would know the way of the Lord. Sadly, the leaders had joined the people (cf. 2:8) and had broken off the yoke of service to God (cf. 2:20). So God would judge leaders and followers alike for their sin, using the image of three wild animals (the lion, the wolf, and the leopard) to symbolize the coming ravages of the Babylonian attack on Judah.

5:7–9. God asked Judah two rhetorical questions. First, Why should I pardon you (Judah)? (v. 7). Second, Shall I not punish these people? (v. 9). Between the two questions, Judah’s character is described in a way that made the answers obvious. God could not forgive Judah because she had forsaken Him and sworn by false gods, committing spiritual adultery. Though God had provided for them, the people were acting like lusty horses, each of whom went after his neighbor’s wife. God would not pardon, but would punish Judah for her idolatry and adultery.

5:10–19. God’s choice vine, Judah, had become a wild vine (2:21), so God called His invaders to go up through Judah’s vine rows and strip away the branches.

The people refused to believe that God would ever destroy Jerusalem, saying misfortune will not come on us (v. 12). The people said that the prophets—Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others who were predicting doom—were just full of wind (v. 13). They did not believe judgment would ever fall on them or their city, Jerusalem. Yet Jeremiah’s words became fire, and the people were as wood to be consumed in judgment (v. 14).

God would bring a nation (Babylon) from afar against Judah—a nation whose language the Judahites did not know (v. 15). Similarly, Isaiah had earlier predicted that Judah would know they were under judgment when the Assyrians arrived, speaking a language they did not know (Is 28:11; cf. 1Co 14:21). These warriors would devour the harvest, children, livestock, vines, and fig trees and would demolish the mighty fortified cities that Judah trusted for protection (Jr 5:16–17).

Yet again God emphasized that He would not destroy Judah completely (cf. 4:27) but would preserve a remnant. When these captives would ask, Why has God done all this to us? Jeremiah was told to say, "Because you had forsaken God to serve foreign gods in your own land." Therefore God would have them serve strangers (the Babylonians) in a foreign land (v. 19). His punishment fit their sin.

5:20–31. The house of Jacob, namely Judah, was willfully ignorant, foolish, and senseless. Though she had eyes and ears, she did not see or hear (i.e., comprehend) the true character of God (cf. Ezk 12:2). She refused to fear God (cf. Pr 1:7). Even the sea remains within its boundary (cf. Jb 38:10; Ps 104:9), yet the people of Judah refused to stay within God’s covenant limits. Instead they turned aside. They did not acknowledge God’s gracious hand at work—He who gives rain in its season and appoints the weeks ofharvest (Jr 5:23–25).

Specifically, the people were fat and sleek (rich and powerful), excelling in wickedness, waiting to take advantage (set a trap) of the poor. They refused to help the orphanor defend the rights of the poor (vv. 26–27). The prophets, who were to proclaim God’s word of truth, were prophesying falsely, and the priests who were to instruct the people in the ways of God, were instead ruling on their own authority (cf. 2:8). Rather than resisting this poor leadership, the people love[d] it. All the elements of society preferred wickedness to righteousness (vv. 26–31).

(4) The Certainty of Coming Judgment (6:1–30)

6:1–3. Warning of coming danger was given in two ways. First, a trumpet of alarm would announce an impending attack (cf. 4:5–6). The people of Benjamin, Jeremiah’s home area (cf. 1:1) just north of Jerusalem, were to fleefrom the midst Jerusalem for safety instead of going into the walled city. It would be safer to be outside the city than inside it. The warning trumpet would be sounded at Tekoa, about 11 miles southeast of Jerusalem (cf. Am 1:1). The second type of warning was signal fires at Beth-haccerem, a vantage point midway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, lit to warn people to flee. Jerusalem would be destroyed so completely that shepherds would pitch their tents and pasture their herds on its site. This extensive destruction was confirmed by Nehemiah (cf. Neh 1:3; 2:3, 11–17).

6:4–9. As the enemy gathered against Jerusalem, they were prepared (eager) to attack at noon or even by night. Most armies would wait until daybreak to begin, but the Babylonians decided to begin their attack that night. The Lord of hosts directed the soldiers of Babylon as they built siege ramps to breach the city’s defenses (cf. Ezk 4:1–2).

Jerusalem had to be punished because of her sin. Her wickedness poured forth like fresh waters from a well. Unless she would heed the warnings and repent, she would become a desolation. God would have Babylon thoroughly glean (Lv 19:10; Ru 2:2, 7) the remnant of Israel; when grapes were picked some were left either inadvertently or purposefully on the vine for use by the poor, but Babylon would pass over the land again to be sure none were left, as one would pick all the grapes from a vine. The attack would be merciless.

6:10–15. Behold their ears are closed, literally uncircumcised (cf. 4:4), not open to hearing the word of the Lord, and they cannot listen. Jeremiah responded in amazement to Judah’s unbelief—that no one would listen to him as he tried to warn them of the coming calamity.

This is the first of more than three dozen times Jeremiah recorded that the people did not listen to (i.e., disobeyed) God’s word. It was a reproach to them and they had no delight in it. Jeremiah was weary of holding in God’s message ofwrath, and had to pour it out for everyone to hear (cf. 20:9). God vowed that His wrath would be felt by all—from the children to the very old.

Both the prophet and the priest … dealt falsely, and the nation was injured by their bad leadership. The brokenness, or wound (v. 14) refers to the people’s spiritual condition and its physical effects (cf. 8:11, 22; 10:19; 14:17; 15:18; 30:12, 14, 17). The false prophets were proclaiming, peace, peace, but there [was] no peace (cf. 8:11; 23:17). God’s message was not of peace, but of judgment. These charlatans were not even ashamed and did not even know how to blush when their sin was exposed. God would punish them because they led Judah astray.

6:16. Judah had strayed from the ancient paths of God’s righteousness (cf. 31:21; Is 30:18–21). The Lord urged her to follow the good way and walk in it (Jr 7:23) to find rest for their souls. This important idea is by quoted by Jesus in Mt 11:29 (see comments there).

6:17–21. Because they would not listen (v. 17) to God’s instruction and rejected God’s law, they brought disaster upon themselves. They were reaping the fruit of their plans (v. 19). Judah had rejected God’s law, thinking she could substitute rituals for sincere obedience. God rejected faithless sacrifices made with frankincense imported from Sheba, in southwest Arabia (1Kg 10:1–13; Ezk 27:22) and of sweet cane (Ex 30:23; Sg 4:14), an ingredient in anointing oil imported from a distant land, perhaps India. The elaborate burnt offerings, divorced from genuine love for God, were sacrifices not pleasing to Him (Jr 6:20).

6:22–26. Jeremiah warned against the foe coming from the north who would be cruel and show no mercy (Hab 1:6–11), as he concluded his second message. Their target was you, O daughter of Zion! (people of Jerusalem). This report would bring anguish, like the pain of childbirth, and grief (cf. Jr 4:31). The people would be afraid to go into the field, or on the road, because the enemy has a sword. They should stay home and mourn for their sin and for the coming disaster—mourning as for an only son, with bitter lamentation (v. 26).

6:27–30. Jeremiah was appointed as an assayer and a tester, not of metal ore, but to test the moral quality of God’s people. They were found to be corrupt, and the refining efforts were useless. The wicked were not separated out. The smelting process separated silver from lead, so like impure, rejected silver,the Lord rejected them. The nation refused God’s call to return to Him, so judgment was inevitable.

c. Third Prophecy of Judgment—Judgment on False Religion and Its Punishment (7:1–10:25)

Jeremiah’s "Temple Address" focuses on God’s judgment on the people for their false religion. They believed that God’s punishment would never extend to Jerusalem or to them (cf. 5:12–13) because the temple was in Jerusalem and, they believed, God would never allow it to be destroyed (notice the repetition "the temple of the Lord" in 7:4). The Temple Address shattered this false hope and exposed the festering sore of idolatry that was producing spiritual gangrene in the people. The events in chap. 26 indicate the people’s response to this message.

(1) The Temple Address: Judah’s False Worship (7:1–8:3)

7:1–7. God summoned Jeremiah to go to the gate of the temple, the Lord’s house, and proclaim His message to all who enter by these gates to worship the Lord. The message was designed to help the people amend ("to make pleasing," "to do right") their ways, and Jeremiah gave three specific actions to assist them (vv. 1–7). The first two concern interpersonal relationships, and the third related to the Lord. First, the people should not oppress the helpless in society, the alien, the orphan, or the widow (cf. Dt 14:19; 16:11; 24:19; Ps 94:6). Second, they were not to shed innocent blood (cf. Dt 19:13–19; 21:1–9). Third, they were to stop idolatry and not to walk after other gods. The blessing of obedience would be permission to dwell in the land peacefully. Here the land of Israel is described as God’s gift to Israel, having given it to your fathers forever and ever. The phrase forever and ever (min olam v’ad olam) is the strongest expression in Hebrew to describe perpetuity and eternality. It is generally used of God’s nature and character (e.g., 1Ch 16:36; Pss 90:2; 103:17). The only exceptions to this general usage are found in this verse and Jr 25:5, describing God’s gift of the land of Israel to the people of Israel as being "from everlasting to everlasting."

7:8–15. Jeremiah warned that Judah’s trust in deceptive words would not help. Her hypocrisy was being spotlighted. She felt so secure because of the presence of the temple that she believed she was safe, saying, We are delivered! Yet they practiced all these abominations. This catalog of disobedience includes fully half of the Ten Commandments (cf. Hs 4:2). They steal, murder,commit adultery and swear falsely,offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods (Jr 7:9). Her vileness had actually turned this house, which is called by My name, into a den of robbers. This problem arose in NT times, and Jesus quoted this passage when He observed inappropriate activity in the temple (cf. comments on Mt 21:12–13).

What Judah failed to realize was that God had seen it and was aware of all her deeds. The people presumptuously trusted in the temple building for protection (repeated three times in v. 4 to emphasize their belief) rather than trusting in the God of the temple and obeying Him. The temple (v. 14) was called by My name, (cf. vv. 10, 12, 30) in the sense that it was a symbol of God’s presence (His name refers to His revealed attributes).

Judah was told to remember what God did to Shiloh, where the tabernacle had dwelt (Jos 18:1; Jdg 18:31; 1Sm 4:3–4). Because of Israel’s wickedness, that city was destroyed (cf. 2Kgs 17:5–20). If Judah did not repent, the Babylonians would destroy her just as the Assyrians had taken Israel, the northern kingdom, in 722 BC.

7:16–20. Judah’s sin was so serious that God told Jeremiah do not pray, do not lift up cry or prayer, do not intercede for her because He would not hear (cf. 11:14; 14:11–12). This does not mean that the Lord literally was incapable of hearing Jeremiah’s prayer. The Lord hears everything. The point was that Jeremiah’s pleas were futile because God had determined not to answer Jeremiah’s prayer on behalf of sinful Judah.

Throughout Judah, whole families (children, fathers, women) were uniting in pagan worship. They prepared cakes of bread (flat cakes possibly formed into the image of the goddess, cf. 44:17–19, 25) for the queen of heaven (cf. 44:17–19, 25). This pagan goddess is possibly Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love, sexuality, and fertility, who is also identified with Astarte, the Canaanite high goddess of sexual love and fertility. Israelites adopted her worship at the time of the conquest, and it continued through the monarchy (Jdg 2:13; 1Kg 11:5). The worship of Ishtar/Astarte included temple prostitution, lewd sexual promiscuity, sacrificial libations, and offerings of food. The Lord admonished the Jewish people because they would pour out drink offerings (wine) to other gods (cf. Jr 19:13). Yet such idolatrous rituals were only harming those who participated in them. Their false worship did not damage God. The people would bear the consequences of their actions when God’s anger and wrath would be poured out on all Judah, on both man and beast.

7:21–26. Although the people of Judah offered all the technically correct burnt offerings in the temple, they failed to understand God’s most important command given at Sinai in the day He brought them out ofEgypt. God commanded them to obey His voice and walk in all the way He commanded (cf. 6:16). Tragically, Israel did not obey or pay attention (incline their ear) to this command, and instead walked in their own counsels. Since the time of the exodus, when their ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until Jeremiah’s day, God continually sent [His] servants, the prophets like Jeremiah, to warn the people, but they did not listen (cf. 25:4–7).

7:27–31. God told Jeremiah the people will not listen to him. So Jeremiah was to go into mourning: cut off his hair (cf. Jb 1:20; Jr 48:37; Ezk 7:18), and take up a lamentation (qindh, "a funeral dirge") for the nation. He was to begin mourning because the destruction of Judah was certain, for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation because of His wrath against their evil actions. Specifically, they had set their detestable things, idols, in the temple itself, the house which is called by My name, to defile it (cf. Jr 7:14; Ezk 8:3–18).

Outside the city they built the high places of Topheth (cf. Jr 14) in the valley of the son[s] of Hinnom (cf. 19:2, 6; 32:35; the Valley of Ben-hinnom) in worship of Molech the Phoenician god. Molech had the most evil of worship rituals of any god in history, demanding parents to burn their sons and their daughters alive in the fire in a brass statue of the god as child sacrifice. This cruel practice was specifically forbidden by God (cf. Lv 18:21; 20:2–5) but practiced by some of the evil kings of Israel and Judah (cf. 2Kg 16:2–3; 21:6; 23:10; Jr 19:5). Worship of Molech was often combined with Baal worship (19:5; 32:35).

The word Topheth is possibly a word for a "cookstove" or "oven." The place of sacrifice was a fire pit, or a metal idol with outstretched arms, into which the living children were sacrificed. The Valley of Hinnom (Hb., ge’-hi’nom) is immediately south and west of Jerusalem, and in this valley the refuse of the city was burned. In Greek times the valley was called "Gehenna" (gehennah), and the name became synonymous with the picture of the fiery corruption of hell because of the children burned alive in sacrifice there to Molech (cf. comments on Mt 18:7–10; 2Pt 2:4).

The horror of child sacrifice was so abhorrent to the Lord, He explicitly said concerning it, I did not command, and it did not come into My mind (cf. 32:35). This expression does not mean that the Lord is not all knowing but rather that He totally disapproved of this wickedness. Compounding the phrases not command and did not come into My mind emphasizes God’s loathing of the abhorrent practice of child sacrifice.

7:32–34. God declared that the name of this place would be changed to valley of the Slaughter because of the number of dead bodies that would be burned after the destruction of Jerusalem. The prediction about birds and beasts eating the carcasses affirms the judgment of the Mosaic covenant for disobedience (cf. Dt 28:26). To remain unburied was an abomination in the Jewish community (cf. 2Kg 9:10, 30–37). Joy and gladness would cease, and the land will become a ruin (cf. Jr 16:9; 25:10).

8:1–3. The bones of the kings of Judah and the bones of its princes who worshiped the host of heaven, pagan gods, would be removed from their graves and exposed to the sun and moon, which they [had] loved, and they would not be buried again, but will be like dung on the face of the ground (cf. 25:33). The remnant who survived the fall of Jerusalem would be driven away and would have chosen death over life in exile.

(2) The Temple Address: God’s Retribution on the People (8:4–10:25)

This poetic section of the Lord’s message highlights Judah’s spiritual condition and her attitude toward her sin.

8:4–7. God posed a series of questions to expose Judah’s refusal to turn back to Him. When people fall do they not try to get up again? When a person turns away from the right path, will he not turn around (repent)? People should learn from instruction, but Jerusalem turned away in continual apostasy … and refuse[d] to return.

They refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing. No man repentedeveryone turned to his own way. She pursued her own ways with determination like a horse charging intobattle. Even birds, stork, turtledove, swift, and thrush, know the time of their migration, but Judah did not know that it was time to return to her God. She had less wisdom than a bird!

8:8–12. God asked Judah another question to point out her foolishness: How can you say, We are wise? Judah felt superior in her wisdom to other nations because she had the law of the Lord. Unfortunately false scribes had twisted that law and made it into a lie. Their rejection of the word of the Lord would bring judgment (cf. Dt 28:30–45) on everyone, from the least to the greatest.

The leaders treated the brokenness of God’s people superficially. They would dress (or bandage) the wound (cf. Jr 8:22 and comments on 6:14) as if it were not serious when in fact it was terminal. They proclaimed peace, peace, but there [was] no peace (vv. 10b–12 repeats the message the prophet had given in 6:12–15; cf. comments there). The truth was repeated for emphasis.

8:13–17. God would punish the nation by taking from them the blessings of the harvest, grapes and figs that He had earlier given them. When God’s judgment began, the people would flee in panic into the fortified cities. They would realize they were doomed by the Lord because they had sinned against Him. Their hopes for peace and healing were replaced by terror.

The snorting of (the enemy) horses was heard from Dan in the north (cf. 4:15), moving across the whole land to come to devourthe city and its inhabitants. God sent the Babylonians, compared to serpents, to bite the Judahites without a remedy (no charm).

8:18–9:2. Jeremiah cried out to the Lord with sorrowbeyond healing, and his heart was faint at the suffering of his people. He implored God to listen to the cry of his people who had been deported to a distant land. In anguish they questioned if their King, the Lord, was not in Zion. God responded that Jerusalem’s destruction was brought about by their sin, not by His absence. God brought the army of Babylon because Judah had provoked Him to anger with their graven images and foreign idols.

Judah continued to rebel, although God gave her every opportunity to repent. The people realized the seasons were passing (the Babylonian siege lasted 30 months), and they were not saved. They failed to repent and take God’s provision for deliverance from judgment when it had been available, now they were without hope.

Jeremiah’s reaction to Judah’s fate was sadness and despair. He so identified with his people that he was crushed by their certain destruction. In vain he sought for balm from Gilead to heal the wound of his people (cf. v. 11 and comments on 6:14). "Balm" was the resin of the storax tree that was used medicinally. Gilead, east of the Jordan River, was famous for its healing balm (cf. Gn 37:25; Jr 46:11; 51:8; Ezk 27:17). He longed for the health of the daughter of my people to be restored.

Jeremiah is known as the "weeping prophet" because of the tears he cried over the sin and fate of his people (cf. Jr 13:17; 14:17). The grief caused Jeremiah to wish his eyes would become a fountain of tears so he could weep continually (day and night) for those who had been slain. He spoke of the Jewish people with tender sympathy, while recognizing their sin. An isolated lodging place in the desert was preferable to living with the unfaithful people of Judah.

9:3–6. God commanded truth (Ex 20:16), but in Judah lying was a way of life. They would bend their tongue like their bow, using deception like a weapon, so that lies and not truth prevailed in the land. No one could be trusted, and all refused to know the Lord.

9:7–9. Because of Judah’s deceit, God sought to refine and assay (test) her because of her sin (cf. 6:28–30; Is 48:10; Ezk 22:18–22). Metal was heated in a crucible to melt it and test its purity. Likewise, God would place Judah in the crucible of judgment to test her integrity and deal with her deceit. God rhetorically asked Jeremiah if He should not punish their sin and avenge Himself on the nation.

9:10–16. Jeremiah was weeping and wailing, crying silently and aloud, over the condition of the land laid waste and untraveled, and Jerusalem a heap of ruins (cf. 10:22; 49:33; 51:37) because of the Babylonian attack. God asked the wise men of Judah to explain why was the land ruined, laid waste. The Lord replied with the obvious, because they have forsaken My Law and had followed the Baals (see comments on 2:23). This was why God would scatter them among the nations (cf. 13:24; 18:17; 30:11; 46:28; Dt 28:64) and why many in Judah would be killed by the sword (cf. Ezk 5:2, 12). But the Lord is faithful, and would not annihilate them completely because of His faithfulness to His people (cf. Jr 5:10; 31:35–37).

Although the Lord is faithful to preserve a remnant of His people, yet Jerusalem will certainly be judged and suffer the dire consequences of the city’s sin. Not only did Jeremiah weep; in the next section, the Lord calls for the people, mourning women, to join in the lamentation for the nation’s sin and the coming ruin.

9:17–24. This section contains three separate pronouncements from the Lord, each beginning with the phrase, Thus says the Lord. In the first section (vv. 17–21), God called for the mourning women, professional mourners (cf. 2Ch 35:25; Ec 12:5; Am 5:16), to lament for Jerusalem. The content of their lament was the word of the Lordthe word of His mouth, which they should then teach their daughters. This funeral dirge happened because death had cut off (killed) children and the young men.

In the second pronouncement (v. 22) God pictured the severity of the massacre by Babylon. The corpses of men will fall like dung in a field, or like sheaves of grain behind a reaper, so that unburied bodies would be everywhere (cf. 7:32–34). The Lord revealed this picture of certain future destruction of Judah by the armies of Babylon.

The third declaration (vv. 23–24) showed the response God expected from the people. The people were not to boast of their own wisdom or personal might or riches. Instead a person should boast only in the fact that he understands and knows the Lord (cf. 1Co 1:29–31). Again the word "know" (yada‘) pictured an intimate knowledge of God (cf. Jr 1:5). God wanted the people to be intimately acquainted with His lovingkindness, justice and righteousness. Lovingkindness (chesed) refers to God’s loyal love (cf. 31:3; 33:11; Lm 3:22). God would stand by His commitment to His people, even in the midst of their sin. Justice (mispoṭ) is a broad term that pointed to governing justly, with fairness and equity. God would vindicate the innocent and punish the guilty. Righteousness (akqah) conveys the idea of conforming to a standard or norm. God’s standards of conduct were supposed to be Israel’s norm.

9:25–26. A theme of Jeremiah is the contrast between external religious practice and internal righteousness. If personal achievement or ability would not please God (v. 23), neither would outward conformity to religious rituals (being circumcised only in the flesh) without a right heart of true obedience (being uncircumcised in the heart, i.e., without sincere trust in and obedience to the Lord; cf. 4:4). The uncircumcised Gentile nations of Egypt, Edom, Ammon, and Moab were compared to faithless Judah and all the house of Israel who were similarly uncircumcised of heart. Judah’s idolatrous, evil actions exposed the fact that although their foreskin was circumcised in obedience to the Abrahamic covenant (Gn 17:1–14), they indicated by their behavior that they were uncircumcised … in heart (cf. Jr 4:4). The apostle Paul also wrote that circumcision of the heart made Jewish people into true Jews (Rm 2:25–29, see comments there).

10:1–16. The series of Temple Messages concludes with a poetic section contrasting the vast difference between idols and the living God. It is a parenthetical address on the greatness of God before the judgment of God continues.

10:1–5. The poetic section begins as the Lord speaks to the whole house of Israel, both the northern kingdom already in exile and Judah, soon to be in exile, and explains the foolishness of idolatry. Israel was not supposed to learn the way of the nations, nor was she to be terrified by the signs in the heavens, as were the nations. "Signs" such as eclipses or comets were thought to be omens from the gods.

Such idolatrous practices were a delusion (hebel, "breath," "vanity," cf. Ec 1:2) because these gods were created by their worshipers (cf. Is 40:18–20). A person would cut from the forest a tree, then a craftsman would carve and decorate it with silver and with gold and fasten it with nailsso it will not totter. The Lord compared idols to a lifeless scarecrow in a cucumber field. It cannot speak to give knowledge and cannot walk, but has to be carried around and can do neither harm nor good. So Israel is exhorted to not fear them.

10:6–7. In contrast to idols, there is a burst of praise for God: there is none like You, O Lord. The uniqueness of God is an important theme in Scripture (cf. v. 7; Ex 15:11; Dt 33:26; Ps 86:8, 10; Is 40:18, 25). God alone is great and should be feared, for the Lord is King of the nations, that is, He is the King of kings (cf. Pss 47:8–9; 96:10).

10:8–9. The stupid and foolish wooden idols (10:15) were decorated with silverfrom Tarshish and gold from Uphaz. Tarshish was a city probably in southern Spain, and the name was a technical term for a "mineral-bearing land" (Jnh 1:3; Ezk 27:12). Uphaz is mentioned only here and is either unknown or possibly a textual variant for Ophir, possibly a region in Arabia known for its gold (cf. 1Kg 9:28; Jb 22:24; Ps 45:9), though certain identification is impossible.

10:10–11. Unlike gold-plated wooden idols, the Lord is the true God, genuine in contrast with the false idols. He is the living God and the everlasting King, but they were lifeless, not speaking, not walking (cf. v. 5), and temporary, carved into existence by craftsmen and destined to decay. Idols were powerless and harmless (cf. v. 5), but by His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.

Aramaic, a language similar to Hebrew was the trade language of the day. Verse 11 is the only Aramaic verse in Jeremiah. Probably it is in Aramaic because it was directed to the pagan idolaters surrounding Israel. The message to these idolaters, in a language they could understand, was that their false gods did not make the heavens and the earth and were temporary, sure to perish from the earth.

10:12–15. In distinction from the powerless idols, the Lord is Creator who made the earth by His power (vv. 12–13). He established the world by His wisdomandstretched out the heavens (10:12–16 is virtually the same as 51:15–19). This focus on the awesome nature of a thunderstorm with its clouds, lightening, and wind illustrates the continuing power of God (cf. Jb 38:22; Pss 33:7; 5:7).

In comparison with the Creator, every goldsmith who made idols would be put to shame by his idols, which are worthless, a work of mockery ("errors and delusion"). These idols and their makers will be judged and will perish.

10:16. In contrast, the Lord is not like these lifeless idols; they can make nothing! The Creator is the portion of Jacob (cf. Jr 51:19). A "portion" (heleq "share") usually referred to something allotted to an individual (cf. Gn 14:24; Lv 6:17; 1Sm 1:5). God, in a sense, belonged to Israel. But at the same time Israel belonged to God. She was, and remains, His inheritance, and He was her inheritance. God is also the Maker of all (cf. Gn 1:1; Jb 4:17; 32:22; 35:10; Ps 121:2; Ec 11:5) including Israel, His chosen people, the tribe of His inheritance (Dt 4:20).

This parenthetical portion (vv. 1–16) contrasting the living God and the everlasting King (v. 10) with the worthless (v. 15) idols concludes by a proclamation of who God is: The Lord of hosts is His name, a title of God often connected with His power as Creator and Redeemer (cf. Jr 31:35; 32:18; 50:34; Is 54:5; Am 4:13).

10:17–22. The Temple Address goes on to describe Jerusalem’s coming destruction and exile. The people under siege were to pick up their bundle, indicating their meager belongings, because God was slinging out the inhabitants of the land (cf. Ezk 12:3–16) so they would be found by the Babylonians.

The people responded in anguish: Woe is me. The wound she had suffered was incurable (cf. Jr 6:14). Jerusalem, the mighty, fortified city was pictured as a tent that had collapsed. Her sons were deported, and there was no one to stretch out the tent again.

The shepherds (ro’im, "leaders"; cf. 2:8) who were to guide the flock had failed because they had not sought the Lord and the flock was scattered (cf. 23:1–2; Ezk 34:1–10). The attack from the north (cf. Jr 4:5) would make the cities of Judah a desolation, a haunt of jackals (cf. 9:11).

10:23–25. The Temple Address concludes with Jeremiah’s prayer acknowledging God’s control: I know, O Lord that a man’s way, a person’s life, cannot be considered his own, not in himself, nor is he free to direct his steps. God is in command, and only those who let God direct their ways will be truly blessed (cf. Pr 3:5–6; 16:9; 20:24; Ps 37:23).

Judah’s judgment was unavoidable, therefore compassionate Jeremiah pleaded that it might come only with God’s justice and not with His anger. He asked for God’s patience and leniency in dispersing judgment lest the nation be reduced to nothing. By saying me (v. 24), Jeremiah was identifying with and representing Judah. Then Jeremiah asked that God’s judgment of Judah be accompanied by His wrath on the nations, who refused to call on God’s name, and had devoured and consumed God’s covenant people, Jacob.

d. Fourth Prophecy of Judgment—The Broken Covenant (11:1–12:17)

Jeremiah’s fourth general prophecy of judgment focused on Judah’s sin of breaking covenant with her God. Though the message does not contain a chronological marker, several points help date the events described in the passage at around 621 BC, six years after Jeremiah’s ministry began. The temple was being repaired by King Josiah that year, as part of his reforms, and a copy of the law was discovered in the renovation (cf. 2Ch 34:14–33). Several of Jeremiah’s references allude to this discovery of God’s law and the realization of the broken covenant (cf. Jr 11:3–5). Jeremiah called on the people to obey the words of the covenant that Josiah read to them (11:6; 2Ch 34:19–32).

(1) The Violation of the Covenant (11:1–17)

11:1–5. The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord to hear the words of this covenant and speak toJudah andJerusalem. The covenant was the Sinai (Mosaic) covenant, which God gave when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. God commanded obedience, saying, Listen to My voice (cf. Dt 28). God reminded them of His promise to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, a common description of Israel, picturing agricultural prosperity (cf. Jr 32:22; Ex 3:8, 17; 33:3: Lv 20:24; Nm 13:27; Dt 6:3; Jos 5:6; Ezk 20:6, 15). Jeremiah replied Amen, O Lord, reflecting the "amens" given at the conclusion of each of the curses recorded in Dt 27:15–26.

11:6–11. Jeremiah called the people to hear the words of this covenant and do them. He also reminded them of their past failure: Yet they did not obey. Though God had persistently warned them to listen to His voice they refused to hear His words and both Israel and Judah had broken the Sinai covenant. Therefore, He would be bringing disaster on them, all the curses of the covenant (cf. Dt 27:15–26) to which they had said, "Amen." Israel’s history was one of rebellion and correction. The book of Jeremiah is an outworking of the judgments for disobedience to this covenant.

11:12–13. With disaster on the way, the people would go and cry to the gods to whom they burn incense. They would seek help from the idols, but idols will not save them (cf. 10:1–16). Now it was too late to plead with God, for He would not listen to them (cf. 7:16). Though Josiah tried to rid the land of idolatry (2Ch 34:33), the incense altars devoted to Baal (cf. Jr 11:17) were still as numerous as the streets of Jerusalem.

11:14–17. Again Jeremiah was told do not pray for this people because their sin was so pervasive (cf. 7:16; 11:11; 14:11). Although God called Judah, My beloved (v. 15), the nation’s wickedness took away their right to be in God’s house, the temple. With many vile deeds of spiritual hypocrisy Judah continued to offer sacrificial flesh, while refusing to genuinely love and obey the Lord. She thought this feigned obedience would prevent disaster, so she could continue to rejoice. The Lord called Judah a green olive tree (v. 16) described as beautiful in fruit and form. But His judgment would be like a tumult, the noise made by an attacking army (cf. Is 13:4; Ezk 1:24). God kindled fire, to set Judah aflame and make her branchesworthless (cf. Ezk 31:12). Judgment would fall because of the evil of Israel and Judah when they offered sacrifices to Baal (v. 17).

(2) The Consequences of Violating the Covenant (11:18–12:17)

11:18–23. Instead of heeding Jeremiah’s warning, the people of Anathoth (his hometown, cf. 1:1) tried once again to kill him (cf. 1:8, 17–19). He was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter, unaware of their plot against him. They did not want to hear him prophesy in the name of the Lord.

However, God made it known to Jeremiah and he escaped, all the while praying for vengeance on his enemies. God promised to punish the wicked of Anathoth with the sword, famine, and disaster because they opposed God’s messenger.

12:1–6. After being delivered from the plot against his life, Jeremiah proclaimed, Righteous are You, O Lord, in thanksgiving for answered prayer.

Jeremiah then brought a case (rib, cf. 2:9, 29), a legal proposition before God, because he had an important question for the Lord. Jeremiah wanted to know Why hasthe wicked prospered, and why are the treacherous at ease if God is truly angry about their sin (cf. Jb 21:7; Pss 73:3–5, 12; 94:3)? Why had God planted them and allowed them to produce fruit? They were hypocrites in their devotion to God, praying with their lips, but obedience was far from their mind (cf. Mt 15:8). Jeremiah asked God to drag them off like sheep for the slaughter because they treated Jeremiah like "a gentle lamb led to slaughter" (Jr 11:19).

God had judged the nation for sin with drought. Lack of rain was causing the land to mourn because of the wickedness of the people (cf. 14:1–6; Lv 26:19–20; Dt 28:22–24). The people believed that God was indifferent to their sin as they claimed that He [would] not see what happened (cf. Pss 73:11; 94:7).

Instead of giving real comfort or a direct answer to Jeremiah, God indicated that if Jeremiah found his present circumstances difficult, his future situation would be even worse (v. 5). God used two metaphors to make this point—a race, and a cross-country walk. If Jeremiah had run with footmen and become tired, how could he compete later with horses? Or if Jeremiah would fall down, stumble, in a land of peace, how could he manage if he were in the thicket by the Jordan? The idea of this second question could possibly be paraphrased: If Jeremiah could trust in God only in a time of peace, how would he manage in the midst of difficulties?

God told Jeremiah the bad news that even his own family, his brothers and household, had dealt treacherously with him and warned Jeremiah not to believe them even if they said nice things. Evidently they had joined the plot against Jeremiah at Anathoth (cf. 11:18–23).

12:7–9. After presenting the plot against Jeremiah (11:18–12:6), God continued His pronouncement of judgment. God tenderly described Judah as My house, and My inheritance and beloved of My soul. By depicting the nation in this way God was indicating that their judgment would not come from a hardened heart of a capricious king but from a loving Sovereign (cf. v. 16; Dt 4:20). Though He had wanted to bless, the people’s sin would force the Lord to judge Judah (forsaken, abandoned, giveninto the hand of her enemies). The nation had become like a lion that had roared against Him in opposition to His loving commands (cf. Jr 11:10). He had come to hate her, i.e., He had chosen to withdraw His love from her because of her sin.

God’s inheritance had become like a speckled bird of prey to Him. A speckled bird’s markings were different from the other birds of prey. Consequently those other birds would surround and attack this strange bird. Judah had become so estranged from God that He would call the birds of prey against her, and the beasts of the field would devour her.

12:10–11. The coming devastation of Jerusalem was compared to shepherds (cf. 2:8) and their flocks ruining a vineyard (cf. 2:21) as they trampled down God’s pleasant field. The desolation of the land resulted from the false shepherds leading the people into idolatry and disaster. God’s once productive nation would become a desolate wilderness. Desolate (shamem) is used three times in this verse. It is used elsewhere of the utter destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (Dn 9:17) and the devastation of Judah by the Babylonians (Jr 44:6). The repetition emphasizes the certainty and totality of the coming devastation.

12:12–13. The destroyers were the Babylonians, but the action was ultimately caused by the judgment of the sovereign God, hence the invaders are called the sword of the Lord (i.e., the Babylonians’ swords were wielded as God’s instruments). There is no peace for anyone throughout the land. All would be forced to bear the shame of their harvest of judgment because of the fierce anger of the Lord.

12:14–17. The fourth message closes with hope and compassion. God identified the countries around Israel as My wicked neighbors, indicating the Lord’s unique relationship with the land of Israel (cf. Lv 25:23; Dt 32:43; Ps 78:54; Zch 2:12; 9:16). Those wicked neighbors of the Lord had seized Israel’s God-given inheritance (cf. Jr 10:16). Therefore, the nations would also be uprooted from their land (cf. 25:12–14, 27–29; chaps. 46–51). In contrast, God would later uproot the house of Judah from among them, the Gentile nations where they had been scattered, and would bringback Judah to his land (cf. 31:7–11; Ezk 37:1–14).

Though God would judge these Gentile nations, He will later have compassion, if they learn the ways of My people and swear by My name (cf. Is 56:7). Then God will restore them to their own lands. This will happen when Messiah returns to establish His millennial kingdom on earth. Those nations that follow the Messiah of Israel will be built up in the midst of My people. However, God would destroy any nation that will not listen (cf. Zch 14:9, 16–19).

e. Fifth Prophecy of Judgment—The Object Lessons of the Linen Belt and the Wineskins (13:1–27)

To clarify the message of judgment, the Lord directed Jeremiah to instruct the people with a series of object lessons and parables. These unusual means of communication were designed to provoke interest from unresponsive Judah (cf. 7:24, 28; 11:8; 32:33). Likewise Ezekiel was commanded to use similar techniques in Babylon to communicate truth from the Lord (cf. Ezk 4:1–5:4).

(1) The Illustration of the Linen Waistband (13:1–11)

13:1–7. God commanded Jeremiah to buy a linen waistband, and wear it, but not put it in water. A waistband was a sash or cloth tied around one’s waist as the innermost garment (cf. 2Kg 1:8; Is 5:27). Those observing Jeremiah’s actions would notice its significance—linen was the fabric used for the priestly garments (cf. Lv 16:4; Ezk 44:17–18).

After wearing the belt for a time, God told him to take it to the Euphrates (parah) and hide it there in a crevice of the rock. There are two possible meanings of parah. First, it may refer to the Euphrates River in Babylon, as reflected in the NASB translation. In this case, Jeremiah would have walked to the Euphrates River, a round-trip journey of about 700 miles, to bury this sash. However, a second possibility is that Jeremiah traveled to the village of Parah (pardh) about three miles northeast of Anathoth in the tribe of Benjamin (cf. Jos 18:21, 23). A deep wadi in this area, known today as ‘Ain Farah, fits the description of a place with crevices and rocks. This seems the more likely explanation for the following reasons. First, in Hebrew the spellings for "to Parah" and "to Euphrates" are identical (cf. Jr 13:4–7). Second, by using a location so close to home the people would be able to observe Jeremiah’s symbolic actions. Third, the similarity of name would remind the nation of the army of Babylon from the Euphrates that was coming to destroy them.

After many days, an unspecified but significant amount of time, God told Jeremiah to retrieve the belt from where he had hidden it. (Another round-trip walk of 700 miles would have been necessary if Parah is the Euphrates. This adds further support to the view that the place where Jeremiah was sent was the nearby village of Parah.) As he dug up the waistband he found that its exposure to the elements had made it totally worthless. The waistband was ruined.

13:8–11. The Lord explained the lesson of the waistband. Just as the linen was ruined, so would God destroy the pride of Judah andJerusalem. The belt represented the whole household of Israel andJudah. It was a symbol of their formerly intimate relationship with God, as they were to cling to Him and be His people for renown, praise, and glory. However, when they became wicked people who refused to listen to God’s words, they were just like this waistband which was totally worthless.

(2) The Parable of the Wineskins (13:12–14)

13:12–14. The next object lesson is more direct. Jeremiah declared, Every jug is to be filled with wine. The people scoffed at Jeremiah’s self-evident proverb. Of course every wine jar should be filled with wine. Then Jeremiah drove home the point of the parable. The empty jars represented all the inhabitants of this land including Davidic kings, priests, and prophets. God would fill them with drunkenness, a symbol of judgment (cf. Is 49:26; 63:6; Jr 25:15–25; 51:7, 39), dash them against each other, and they would be broken without pity or compassion.

(3) The Message on Sin and Its Results (13:15–27)

13:15–17. The haughty people were admonished to give glory to the Lord your God before He brought the darkness, deep darkness, and gloom of certain judgment (cf. Ezk 30:3, 18; 32:7–8; 34:12; Jl 2:12; Am 5:18–20; Zph 1:15). If they refused to listen and repent, Jeremiah would sob (Jr 14:17) because their foolish pride would cause the flock of the Lord to be taken captive.

13:18–19. Jeremiah’s earlier message had been to the people, now he addressed the king and the queen mother. The reference is probably to King Jehoiachin (also known as Jeconiah) and the Queen Mother Nehushta, the widow of King Jehoiakim (cf. 29:2; 2Kg 24:8, 12, 15). They were exhorted to humble themselves (take a lowly seat). Because yourcrown has come down from your head, and Judah has been carried into exile, wholly carried into exile (repeated for emphasis). Since they went into captivity in 597 BC after his reign of just three months (2Kgs 24:8), the events in this prophecy must have taken place during that three-month period.

13:20–21. The king was urged to lift up his eyes and see the armies coming from the north (1:14; 4:6; 6:1, 22; 10:22) who would remove the flock, the people of Judah (cf. 10:21; 13:17). Those with whom Judah had once tried to be aligned, her companions, would become her cruel taskmasters (cf. Is 39:1–7; Ezk. 23:14–27). As a result, Judah would be in pain like a woman in childbirth (cf. Jr 4:31).

13:22–27. The reason for these things, the coming disasters, was because of the magnitude of your iniquity. The people would be put to open humiliation, disgraced publicly like a common prostitute, skirts removed andheelsexposed (vv. 26–27; Is 47:3; Hs 2:3, 10). Judah was incapable of doing good. Just as an Ethiopian could not change his skin color nor a leopard his spots (Jr 13:23), neither could Judah change herself. Because they had forgotten God and trusted in falsehood (v. 25), they would certainly go into exile, scattered like drifting straw to the desert wind (v. 24; cf. 4:11–12). Using language to match Judah’s lewd conduct, God declared that He would pull her skirtsover her face (cf. v. 22). Her adulteries and lustful neighings (like wild animals in heat, cf. 2:23–24) characterized the lewdness of their prostitution. Her abominations of idolatry had been seen by God, and would lead to judgment (Woe to you, O Jerusalem!).

f. Sixth Prophecy of Judgment—The Drought and Prayer (14:1–15:21)

14:1–6. At the time of the exodus, God warned the Jewish people of judgment for disobedience. Drought was one of the covenant curses God said He would send on them for sin (cf. Lv 26:18–19; Dt 28:22–24; Jr 3:3; 12:4). The poetic section pictures the land of Israel suffering severe drought. Judah mourns because there was no water in the cisterns, where rain was collected for time of emergency.

There was no water because there was no rain. The ground is cracked, dried out, the animals suffered, the crops failed (the farmers have been put to shame). Both the people in the city and the farmers in the country covered their heads, a sign of grief or shame (cf. 2Sm 15:30). Those who had rejected the "living waters" of life for false cisterns (Jr 2:13) now found their physical water supply matching the useless spiritual water supply to which they had turned.

14:7–9. The severity of the drought forced the people to cry to God for deliverance. They implored Him to act for His name’s sake, calling on the Lord to honor His Name (cf. v. 21; Jos 7:9; Pss 25:11; 79:9; 106:8; 109:21; 143:11; Is 48:9–11) despite their iniquities. They admitted their many apostasies and asked God to intervene and supply rain. By calling God the Hope of Israel (cf. Jr 17:13; 50:7) and the Savior (cf. Is 19:20; 43:3, 11; 45:15, 21; 49:26; 60:16; 63:8) the people acknowledged the Lord as the only One who could deliver them.

Though God had the power to help, He did not answer the people’s pleas for rain. The people accused God of acting like a stranger in the land, or traveler who had no real concern for the country through which He was traveling. God’s failure to act reminded them of a man who had been dismayed, ambushed, and overcome before he could defend himself, or a mighty man who was powerless. Despite God’s silence, they acknowledged He was in their midst, and the nation was called by Your name (cf. Jr 7:10). So the people pleaded with Him not to forsake them. Times of adversity were driving the people back to seek God.

14:10–12. Instead of responding to their confession and plea, the Lord reminded them that they have loved to wander. He upbraided them for their waywardness. God knew that their confession was only superficial. They claimed God as their Lord, but they refused to keep their feet in check. Because of their continued bent toward sin, God said He did not accept them or their superficial confession. Instead, He would remember their iniquity and punish them for their sins.

God again told Jeremiah not to pray forthis people (cf. 7:16; 11:14). Their feeble efforts to manipulate God to answer them took several forms. They would fast and offer burnt offering, hoping to appease the Lord and avert His wrath. But God cannot be bought or tricked. He vowed to destroy, make an end, to the wicked with the sword, famine, and pestilence, the three hammer blows of divine judgment (cf. Lv 26:23–26; Jr 21:6–7, 9; 24:10; 27:8, 13; 29:17–18; 32:24, 36; 34:17; 38:2; 42:17, 22; 44:13; Ezk 5:12; 6:11; 7:15; 12:16; Rv 6:8).

14:13–16. Jeremiah interrupted the Lord: But, Ah, Lord God! The false prophets were contradicting His message. Instead of the sword or famine, they were announcing that God would give lasting peace to Jerusalem (cf. 5:12–13; 6:13–14; 7:4, 9–10; 27:16; 28:2–4). God explained that the messages of these false prophets were falsehood[s] because they had not been sent by Him (14:14, 15). Their messages were false visions and the deceptions of their own minds. God would judge them for their lies by destroying both the false prophets and those who listened to them. They would be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem, and all would perish by famine and sword (cf. vv. 13, 18). No one would even survive to bury them (cf. 7:33; 9:22) because God will pour out their own wickedness on them.

14:17–18. At the thought of this suffering, Jeremiah began to weep once more, and his eyes were filled with tears night and day over Jerusalem’s fall (cf. 9:1, 18; 13:17; Lm 3:48–51). He pictured the city as a virgin daughter (cf. Is 37:22; Jr 8:21; Lm 1:15) who was crushed with a mighty blow, a mortal wound (cf. Jr 6:14), and Jeremiah’s heart was broken for her. Conditions were terrible in and around the city. The country surrounding Jerusalem was covered with the corpses of those slain with the sword. People who escaped to the city were slowly falling to the ravages of diseases and famine. Both prophet and priest, who should have set the people aright, were roving, wandering about in the land, and had nothing to teach because they did not know.

14:19–22. In light of their circumstances, the people asked God two related questions: Have You completely rejected Judah? and Have You loathed Zion? They were puzzled as to why God would despise them and why He afflicted them (cf. "why" in vv. 8–9). Though they hoped for peace, they had experienced only terror. Their circumstances prompted them again to acknowledge their wickedness (cf. v. 7) and iniquity and to ask God to help them.

Again, they appealed for God’s help based on His personal character (for Your own name’s sake; cf. v. 7), His temple (throne of Your glory; cf. 3:17; 17:12), and His covenant (cf. 11:2–5). The people were quick to remind God of His obligations to the nation, but failed in their own obligations to Him. They finally admitted that the idols of the nations, the pagan gods (cf. 2:5) they had worshiped, could not give rain to quench the drought. They acknowledged the only source of rain was the Lord our God, therefore we hope in You (cf. 1Kg 17:1; 18:18–46).

15:1–4. Here the Lord responded to an earlier plea, "Have you completely rejected Judah?" and the related question, why "terror" instead of "healing"? (14:19–22). The nation’s sin was so habitual that judgment was inevitable. Even the intercessory prayer of Moses and Samuel could not stop God’s judgment. These two men were remembered in Israel for their leadership and intercession for the people. Moses pled for God to turn away His wrath from Israel when they sinned in the wilderness (Ex 32:9–14; Nm 14:11–20; Dt 9:18–20, 25–29). Samuel interceded to defeat their Philistine enemies and turn away God’s wrath when the nation sinned (1Sm 7:3–11; 12:19–25). The condition of the nation was so dire at this point, that even the prayers of Moses or Samuel would be useless.

The fate of Jerusalem was certain. The future held four kinds of doom (Jr 15:3). Some were destined to death, probably death by plague. Others would be cut down by the sword, killed by the Babylonian army, while others would die from famine when the city was under siege. However, those not appointed to death (cf. 14:12) would be taken into captivity. The future of four kinds of doom included the dead being devoured and destroyed by dogs, birds, and wild beasts (cf. 16:3).

The consequences of Judah’s sin were irreversible, because she followed the ways of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah (cf. 2Kg 21:1–18; 2Ch 33:1–20). Manasseh, whose name means "causing to forget" ruled Judah for more than 50 years (697–643 BC). He was Judah’s most wicked king, and he led the nation "to do evil more than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel" (2Kg 21:9–17). Even Josiah’s reforms could only postpone her certain destruction (2Kg 22:16–20).

(1) The Fate of Jerusalem (15:5–9)

15:5–7. The people of Jerusalem are questioned by God: Who will have pity when you are judged? The only One who had ever cared for her was God, but she had forsaken Him. Therefore God vowed to destroy her without relenting. He would winnow her as a farmer winnowed grain to remove the unbelievers who were like chaff because they did not repent.

15:8–9. In judgment, all the people would be struck by the destroyer. Widows would become more numerous than the sand of the seas, as the Babylonians slaughtered the men. To be a mother of seven sons symbolized a zenith of happiness and security. But she would pine away at the loss of her children. Though this "mother" could mean a physical mother, it is possible that Jeremiah was picturing Jerusalem as a mother who felt secure, but suffered tragic loss. Even the initial survivors would die by the sword. In either case, Babylon would shatter her security by destroying the city and those who lived in it.

(2) Jeremiah’s Complaint (15:10–21)

15:10–11. As Jeremiah considered the seriousness of Judah’s sin and the message he had to give, the prophet wished he had never been born: Woe to me, he lamented. He pictured the whole land against him, though he had not lent or borrowed, actions that could arouse tensions and conflicts (cf. Neh 5:1–13; Pr 22:7). The prophet was innocent of any wrongdoing, but the people despised him because of his unpopular message.

God assured him of vindication. In the future his enemy would make supplication to him when the times of distress arrived. This promise was fulfilled specifically by the requests of King Zedekiah to Jeremiah (cf. Jr 21:1–7; 37:1–10, 17–20; 38:14–26).

15:12–14. This rhetorical question emphasized the inevitability of judgment. Just as a man cannot smash iron or bronze with his bare hands, so the people of Judah would be unable to break the power of the Babylonian attack.

Indeed all their wealth would be plundered as booty, spoils of war (cf. 17:3; 20:5), by the invaders. The Babylonians would enslave the Judahites and deport them to a land you do not know (cf. 14:18; 15:2; 16:13; 17:4) because God’s angerwill burn upon them.

15:15–18. Jeremiah asked God to Remember and take notice of him. God had promised to deliver and vindicate Jeremiah (v. 11), but in light of the coming calamity (vv. 12–14) Jeremiah asked for speedy help and vengeance. He wanted to be vindicated before God would take [him] away in death.

Jeremiah’s request was based on his relationship with God. In contrast with the people of Judah who despised God’s word (cf. 8:9), Jeremiah accepted and internalized (ate) God’s words, his joy and delight (cf. Ps 1:2). He loved and identified with God, for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts. Jeremiah refused to associate with the company of merrymakers (cf. Ps 1:1), choosing instead to sit alone and be guided by God’s hand. He shared God’s indignation over the people’s sin.

Jeremiah ended this address by sadly recounting his pitiful condition. He wanted to know why his pain was perpetual and his wound incurable. He felt that God was protracting his suffering. Worse yet, he wondered if the God who claimed to be a spring of living waters (cf. Jr 2:13), had become like a deceptive stream with unreliable water. These tragic and harsh circumstances caused Jeremiah to waver in his hope in God. The difficult circumstances of both Elijah (1Kg 19) and John the Baptist (Mt 11:1–19) had a demoralizing effect upon them, just as Jeremiah’s deflated him. But like these men, Jeremiah was ultimately comforted and strengthened by the Lord.

15:19–21. God responded to Jeremiah’s discouragement. He instructed him to return, to refocus on the Lord, and God would restore him. His focus would have to be on the Lord to extract the precious from the worthless. Understanding God’s Word and His promises would enable Jeremiah to understand what was eternal and what was temporary (cf. 2Co 4:18). He was to remain steadfast before God so the people would turn to Jeremiah; in no case was he to turn to them.

God ended by restating the promises He made when He commissioned Jeremiah as a prophet (cf. Jr 1:18–19). He would strengthen Jeremiah as a wall of bronze so that those opposing him could not prevail over him. Though opposition would come, God reminded him, I am with you to save you, and promised to deliver Jeremiah from the grasp of the violent.

Like Jeremiah, we must remember that living for the Lord is not always easy. We must be prepared for trials, obstacles, and opposition, sometimes even from our own family (see 12:5–6). However, we have God’s Word and know that He is always faithful to us. Sometimes God needs to take us back to the basics to remind us of what He has promised (v. 16).

g. Seventh Prophecy of Judgment—Jeremiah’s Restrictions and Judah’s Sin (16:1–17:18)

(1) Jeremiah’s Restrictions (16:1–9)

16:1–4. To make God’s message graphically clear, Jeremiah was instructed to proclaim the warning not only with words, but also with his own life as an object lesson. God placed several restrictions on Jeremiah’s personal life that were object lessons for Judah. The first restriction on Jeremiah (vv. 1–4) concerned his personal life. He was commanded not to take a wife or to have sons or daughters. God’s purpose was to show that the coming catastrophe would disrupt all normal relationships because children born in Jerusalem will die by sword and famine (cf. 14:15–16; 15:2). The carnage would be so extensive that those killed would not even be mourned or buried, but their carcasses will become food for the birdsand for the beasts (cf. 15:3; 16:6; 25:33).

16:5–7. The second restriction on Jeremiah concerned his activities. He was not to enter a house of mourning or lament (mourn) or console the bereaved (cf. Ezk 24:15–24). He was not to display the normal emotion of grief or to offer comfort when someone died. There were three purposes in this restriction. First, it was to show that God had withdrawn [His] peacelovingkindness and compassion. Second, it served as a reminder to Judah that those who would die during the fall of Jerusalem would not be buried or lamented (cf. Jr 16:4). The survivors would find no one to comfort them in their grief, for the devastation would be too widespread. To gash oneself and to shave one’s head were signs of grief (cf. 41:5; 47:5; 48:37) though the law forbade these practices (Dt 14:1) because of their pagan associations (cf. 1Kg 18:28).

16:8–9. The third restraint on Jeremiah was not to enter a house where there was feasting. This prohibition indicated that times of rejoicing and gladness, even celebrations at a wedding, would soon cease (cf. 25:10).

(2) Judah’s Sin (16:10–17:18)

16:10–13. God forewarned Jeremiah of the peoples’ response to his message. Naively they asked for what reason they deserved such judgment. God’s answer underscored the root problem throughout Israel’s history. It was because the previous generations (forefathers) had forsaken the Living God and followed other gods and Jeremiah’s generation too had done evil. Instead of learning from their ancestors’ errors, the current generation was going further astray. Each person was following the stubbornness within his evil heart rather than listening to God.

Because of their continued rebellion, God vowed to hurl the people of Judah out of this land, (cf. 1Sm 18:11; 20:33; Jr 22:26–28). The people would be violently thrust into a land which you have not known (cf. 14:18; 15:2, 14; 17:4) where they would serve other gods (cf. 5:19). Because they rejected God He would show them no favor (cf. v. 5).

16:14–15. Again God interrupted His pronouncement judgment to present a word of hope. In case the people interpreted His previous words to mean that Israel would no longer have any place in His covenant program, God stated clearly that the judgment by Babylon was not permanent (cf. 4:27; 5:18). Jeremiah introduced God’s promise of future blessing for Israel with the phrase the days are coming. This is an eschatological formula the prophet frequently used (cf. vv. 14–16; 23:5, 7; 30:3; see comments on 31:27–40; 38; 33:14; 51:47, 52; Am 9:13) to speak of events occurring in the distant future during the end times. Here the prophet is telling of a time, after Judah’s return from captivity in Babylon, when there would be a new "exodus." No longer would the people look back to the first exodus when God brought Israel out of Egypt. Ultimately, at the end of days, Israel as a nation would be restored to her land and would then enjoy God’s blessing.

Although the Jewish people would return from the 70-year Babylonian exile (516 BC; cf. 29:10) and live in the land until the Roman expulsion in AD 70, they would then suffer an even more extensive expulsion from their homeland. So the return from Babylon did not fulfill the specifics of this prophecy. Rather, this passage predicts the ultimate return of the Jewish people to their land at the end of days. This return and blessing is yet to take place. In the millennial reign of Christ the nation will experience the full benefits of the Davidic covenant (cf. 1Ch 17:9) as well as the new covenant (Jr 31:31–34). In the messianic kingdom, the Jewish people will not just celebrate the return from Egypt, but will also point back to the time when God brought them back from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them. Following the Babylonian exile the Jewish people returned from Babylon—though not from a worldwide dispersion that Jeremiah is here describing. This is a future return at the end of days, beyond the return from the Babylonian exile. Thus God affirmed His promise ultimately to restore Israel to their own land which I gave to their fathers (cf. Gn 15:18; 17:8; 26:3–5; 35:9–12).

Because the texts of vv. 14–15 and 23:7–8 are nearly identical, some scholars suggest this may be a scribal error. It is better to understand that Jeremiah used the same or similar wording in several places throughout his book, for emphasis (cf. 1:18–19 with 15:20; 6:13–15 with 8:10–12; 7:31–32 with 19:5–6; 15:13–14 with 17:3–4).

16:16–18. After assuring Israel of her future blessing, Jeremiah foretold the means the Lord would use—persecution—to draw His people back to their ancient homeland. When the Jewish people returned to Israel from Babylon, it was by the decree of Cyrus (Ezk 1:1–8; Jr 25:12, 29:10). The return was peaceful and even aided by the Persian king. This passage is describing a different, post-Babylonian, return to the land and uses metaphors for persecution to describe it. First, there is the image of (v. 16), fishermen who would fish for them, catching them against their will. Also many hunters would hunt them from every mountainhill clefts, a terrifying image, but none could escape. God’s eyes saw all of their iniquity (32:10) and He would doubly repay their sin.

It is likely that these verses found their fulfillment in the restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Israel beginning in the 19th century and continuing to today. In the modern era, Jewish people have fled from pogroms in Russia, Nazi persecution in Germany, and Soviet oppression. As a result of these hunters and fishermen, the Jewish people made their way back to their ancient homeland Israel, even before the rebirth of the modern state of Israel. This remarkable return to the land of Israel through persecution from around the world has caused greater marvel than the much earlier exodus from Egypt or the peaceful return from Babylon.

The people will return to the land of Israel, God identifying it as My land and My inheritance (cf. 2:7; 3:18). This compounds the significance that they had polluted ("defiling," "desecrating" "make ceremonial unclean"; cf. 3:2, 9; 23:11) His holy land (Ps 78:54) with their detestable idols and abominations.

16:19–21. The prophet Jeremiah interjected words of hope and praise, and he affirmed his trust, identifying God as my strengthstronghold refuge (cf. Ps 18:2). He emphasized the protection God provided for him.

After affirming his trust in God, Jeremiah looked forward to the day when all the nations of the world will come to know the God of Israel (Jr 12:14–17; Is 56:7). They will admit their former objects of worship were futility, nothing but false gods (cf. Jr 2:5). At that time God will make them know (used three times for emphasis) of His power and might so they will understand His character and will know that My name is the Lord (cf. Ezk 36:22–23).

17:1–4. God would not overlook the sin of the Jewish people and their defilement of His land. He would enter into judgment with them, so they would know Him. He described the seriousness of the sin of Judah as being written with an iron stylus with a diamond point. This pictures the method used to engrave the most permanent writing into stone (cf. Jb 19:24). Judah was so entrenched in her ways that it was as if sin was engraved on the tablet of their heart and expressed itself on the horns of their altars. The horns were projections at the top of each altar on the four corners where sacrificial blood was sprinkled for forgiveness of sin (Lv 16:18).

Idolatry was so pervasive that even their children participated in worship to the Asherim. Asherah was the Hebrew name for the Canaanite fertility goddess who was worshiped in various parts of the ancient Near East. The biblical writers sometimes did not make a clear distinction between references to Asherah as a goddess and Asherim as objects of worship. The worship of Asherah was associated with sacred groves of trees and the erecting of wooden fertility poles of male or female sexual imagery (Dt 7:5; 16:21–22; 1Kg 15:13). Although the Lord strictly forbade the worship of Asherah, throughout the preexilic period Israel often sinned by worshiping this pagan deity (1Kg 14:23). Wicked King Manasseh had placed an Asherah pole in the temple (2Kg 21:7; cf. Dt 16:21). Though he ultimately removed it (2Ch 33:13, 15), it was evidently reinstalled, because Josiah took it out during his reforms and burned it (2Kg 23:6). However, after Josiah’s death the people resumed their idolatry, and again worshiped the Asherah (cf. Ezk 8:5). They worshiped their idols under green trees on the high hills, traditional places of pagan worship (cf. Ezk 6:13).

Because of Judah’s sin, God would give over the city of Zion, His mountain, and the wealth of its inhabitants, as booty to the invaders. The image of mountain of Mine expands the geographic location of the temple mount to refer to the whole city of Jerusalem (cf. Jr 15:13; 20:5). The people of Judah would be forced to let go of their inheritance, the land God gave them. He would make them serve their enemies in the land they did not know (cf. 14:18; 15:2, 14; 16:13).

17:5–8. Judah’s sin centered on her trust in false gods and foreign alliances, rather than in the Lord. This short poem contrasts the way of the wicked, who fail to trust in God (vv. 5–6), with the way of the righteous, who trust only in Him (vv. 7–8). It is similar to the message of Ps 1, but in reverse order.

Judah had been trusting false gods and foreign alliances for strength, but God said anyone who trusts in man (flesh) for protection is cursed because his heart turns away from God. Instead of prospering, he will be like a bush in the desert, living in a harsh wilderness. By contrast, a righteous person is blessed because he trusts in the Lord. He will flourish like a tree planted by the water, which puts down deep roots by a stream, and not be troubled by drought. When difficulties (represented figuratively by heat and drought) come, he will not fear, but will bear fruit. Jeremiah used the warning concerning disobedience and the consequences of drought as judgment to communicate the seriousness of Judah’s sin (Jr 2:13; 14:1–9)

17:9–11. The source of Judah’s problem was her heart. It was so deceitful and desperately sick that Jeremiah wondered who can even understand it. God informed Jeremiah that He alone understands it, that He alone has the ability to search the heart and test the mind. God knows those innermost thoughts and motives that an individual might hide from all others. Therefore God could justly render to each person what his deeds deserve according to his ways.

Jeremiah used a proverb to illustrate the point of cause and effect. If a partridge, perhaps a type of sand grouse, hatched the eggs of another bird, the offspring would soon desert the mother and fly away. Similarly, A man who makes a fortune, but unjustly, will also lose his wealth. It will forsake him, and the one who had been hoarding it would be exposed as a fool. This will happen when God brings the Babylonian destruction to discipline Judah.

17:12–13. The prophet contrasted the foolishness of trusting in wealth or human wisdom with the wisdom of trusting in the Lord. Here the focus shifts to the majesty of God. A glorious throne pictures His grandeur (cf. 14:21; Is 6:1). The location is on highthe place of our sanctuary (Ex 15:17), the temple on Mount Zion, the "high mountain of Israel" and the "joy of the whole earth" (Ezk 20:40; Ps 48:2). God’s eternality is accentuated with the phrase from the beginning (Ex 3:14; Dn 7:9). The Lord reigns and is the hope of Israel (cf. Jr 14:8; 17:13).

All who turn away from trust in the Lord would be written down, but not in the Book of Life (Ex 32:32–33; Ps 69:28). They deserved this fate at the hands of the Babylonians because they had forsaken the fountain of living water (cf. Jr 2:13; Is 12:1–6), even the Lord.

17:14–18. After the warning not to forsake the Lord, Jeremiah concluded with a personal lament, calling on God for help in two ways: Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed and Save me and I will be saved. He confirmed his confidence in the Lord regardless of the people’s response to his message. Jeremiah reminded the Lord, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd after You. He was confident in God, For You are my praise (cf. Dt 10:21; Ps 109:1).

Jeremiah contrasted his faithful devotion to God with the unbelief of those persecuting him. They scoffed at his predictions (Where is the word of the Lord?) and demanded that those prophecies now be fulfilled at once (Let it come now!) if they were true. Yet, in spite of this opposition, Jeremiah had not hurried away; he faithfully served as God’s shepherd and looked to Him for refuge when judgment fell in the day of disaster.

Therefore Jeremiah asked God to put his persecutors to shame by bringing on them the day of disaster he had been predicting. Because they refused to accept his message, he asked God to bring the full measure of judgment against them (twofold destruction; cf. Jr 16:18).

h. Eighth Prophecy of Judgment—For Failure to Keep the Sabbath (17:19–27)

Jeremiah’s previous message was against the general sin and rebellion of the people; it highlighted idolatry, sin against the temple, and the hypocritical sacrifices. This message of judgment focuses on one specific command in the Mosaic law, the Sabbath (cf. Ex 20:8–11; Dt 5:12, 14). Because the Sabbath was more than a component of the covenant (it was one of the primary "signs" of the Mosaic covenant; cf. Dt 5:15; 31:16–17), breaking of the Sabbath was exemplary of breaking the whole covenant, and showed how far the nation had departed from God. Again there is an explicit offer of repentance. Blessing will follow obedience, but judgment will follow disobedience.

17:19–20. The Lord commanded Jeremiah to stand in the public gate. The specific gate is unknown, though it is the gate through which the kings of Judahand all inhabitants of Jerusalem go in and out. Because it was so busy, many people would hear his message. After delivering his message there, he went to all the other gates of Jerusalem as well.

17:21–23. Jeremiah stood at the gates of Jerusalem and could observe people perpetually violating the Sabbath by carrying loads on the sabbath day. He cautioned them to not bring anything in through the gates, meaning that they should not conduct business, nor bring a load out of your houses (do work at home), on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given to Israel as a sign of the Mosaic covenant, with the seventh day designated as a time of complete rest, holy to the Lord (Ex 31:15–17). Their forefathers had violated this command, and Jerusalem now followed their example. Keeping the Sabbath was an essential visible test of Israel’s faithfulness to God’s covenant since it marked God as Creator (Jr 10:11–16), served as a witness against idolatry, and marked the covenant relationship between God and Israel.

17:24–27. Blessing would come from faithfulness to the law: If Israel would listen and obey God’s commandments, then God would bless Jerusalem with three distinct, conspicuous blessings: First would be the continuation of the Davidic dynasty, kingssitting on the throne of David. Second, people would come to the city from all around the country, the land of Benjamin, the lowland, the hill country (the hills of the Shephelah in southwest central Israel), and Negev (the far south wilderness of the Dead Sea and desert), and Jerusalem would be inhabited forever. All of this suggests the spiritual and financial health of the land and the city of Jerusalem. Third, the temple will be the center of worship as the people bring offeringsincensesacrifices of thanksgiving to the house of the Lord. King David’s dynasty will last forever when Messiah, Son of David sits on the throne of David (cf. 23:5–6; 30:9; 33:15; 2Sm 7:12–17), Jerusalem will be inhabited for all time (Zch 2:2–12; 8:3; 14:11), and the nation will live under the new covenant, worshiping the King (Jr 31:33–34). However, if they would not listen to keep the sabbath day holy, judgment would fall, and God would kindle a fire to devourJerusalem (cf. 49:27).

i. Ninth Prophecy of Judgment—Object Lesson of the Potter and the Broken Jar (18:1–20:18)

Jeremiah’s ninth general message of judgment was a series of parables and events that climaxed the first section of the prophecies of judgment. Rather than giving a direct message of judgment, Jeremiah delivered this section of judgment oracles in the form of parables and object lessons.

The lesson of the potter (18:1–19:15) demonstrated God’s sovereign rule over Judah (18:1–23) and its impending judgment (19:1–15). A pivot in the book, chap. 20 prepares the reader for the open opposition to Jeremiah’s messages and specific prophecies of judgment that follow.

(1) The Message at the Potter’s House (18:1–23)

18:1–12. God told Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house (v. 1–3) and watch him molding clay into his wheel reshaping unsatisfactory pots (for a similar use of this imagery, see Rm 9:20–21 and comments there). The potter pressed the clay into another vessel, as it pleased the potter (Jr 18:3–4). The potter and the clay illustrated the Lord’s relationship with Israel: like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand (v. 6). God has the right to uproot (v. 7) or plant (v. 9) a nation as He pleases. He had promised the nation blessing; but since she continued to do evil, He would reconsider, think better of the good, and bring about calamity (18:10–11). However, if Judah would turn back her evil way God would also revoke the disaster He threatened to send. But the people of Judah would say, It’s hopeless! (v. 12; cf. 13:23) and would stubbornly continue to follow their own plans of their evil heart[s].

18:13–17. Even the nations around Judah would testify of her appalling acts as she refused to follow her God (cf. 2:10–11). Even the snow of Lebanon and the cold flowing water were more dependable than fickle Judah. She had forgotten God to worship worthless gods (cf. 2:5), which only caused her to stumble away and abandon the ancient paths of obedience to God’s Word (cf. 6:16; Is 2:3–5; 30:21). God’s judgment would make their land a desolation. She would become the object of perpetual hissing—mockery (Jr 19:8) by people astonished at her condition (cf. 9:8; Lm 2:15). The Lord vowed to scatter the nation like the east wind (cf. Jr 4:11–12; 13:24). They should expect God’s judgment (His back), not His favor (His face).

18:18–23. Instead of heeding Jeremiah’s warning, they devised plans against him. His message conflicted with their false teachers of the law the priestthe sage and the prophet. Their solution was to attack him with their tongue, to mock, slander, and malign his message, and not heed his words. Evidently their plans were more sinister because Jeremiah prayed to the Lord for help, for they have dug a pit for me (they were plotting to take his life; vv. 20–21; cf. 11:18–21).

Judah had rejected both God and His messenger; Jeremiah could do no more for them. They would experience famine and the sword (v. 21). Jeremiah had earlier asked God to turn His wrath away (v. 20; cf. 7:16; 8:20–22), but now he called on God to deal with them in His time ofanger (v. 23).

(2) The Message of the Broken Jar (19:1–15)

19:1–6. Again Jeremiah used an object lesson to teach the leaders of Judah. God instructed him to buy an earthenware jar, then take some of the elders andsenior priests to the valley of Ben-hinnom (cf. 7:31) just outside the potsherd gate. The Hinnom Valley ran along the south and west of the city and served as Jerusalem’s community dump. The gate at the south of the city that opened into the valley was called the Potsherd Gate because people carried their potsherds (broken pieces of pottery) and other refuse through this gate to throw it in the Hinnom Valley. The Targum (ancient Jewish paraphrases of Scripture) identifies the Potsherd Gate with the Dung Gate (cf. Neh 2:13; 3:13–14). The modern Dung Gate in Jerusalem is also located on the southern wall, but the present walls are several hundred yards north of the walls in Jeremiah’s day.

With the Hinnom Valley as his backdrop, Jeremiah delivered his message. God vowed to bring a calamity so shocking that the ears of everyone that hears of it will tingle. They had forsaken the Lord and burned sacrifices in it [the Hinnom Valley] to other gods. The Valley itself was a witness against the people because it contained the high places of Baal where people would burn their sons in the fire as sacrifices. Because of these wicked deeds, God again (cf. Jr 7:32–33) vowed to rename the place the valley of Slaughter, as He would destroy the people there.

19:7–9. God declared Judah’s future. He would cause them to fall by the sword, and their carcasses would serve as food for the birds and beasts (cf. 7:33; 16:4; 34:20; Dt 28:26). The city’s disasters would cause those who pass by to hiss in scorn (Jr 18:16). As Babylon’s siege choked off the supply of food, famine would decimate the city to the point that people would resort to cannibalism (eat the flesh of their sons and daughters; cf. Lv 26:27–29; Dt 28:53–57; Lm 2:20; 4:10). All the curses God promised would overtake the people because of their sin (cf. Lv 26:14–39; Dt 28:15–68; Jr 11:1–8).

19:10–13. To illustrate the message, God commanded Jeremiah to break the jar in the valley in the sight of the men. God said He would smash this people and this city, both the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem, just as Jeremiah smashed the potter’s jar. Jerusalem would become like Topheth (cf. comments on 7:31). Its once-beautiful dwellings would be reduced to rubble, and the entire area would be defiled with decaying bodies of the slain. The cause for the destruction was their sin of offering sacrifices to all the heavenly host andother gods.

19:14–15. Jeremiah went directly to the temple court from Topheth. He reiterated the message he gave the leaders (cf. v. 1) to all the people. God’s judgment would come against Jerusalem and the towns around it because the people refused to heed the Lord’s words.

(3) Pashhur’s Response (20:1–6)

20:1–2. Pashhur, son of Immer who is otherwise unknown in Scripture was one of the priests who served in the temple in the years immediately prior to the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. He was the chief officer in the temple and was probably assigned to maintain order within the temple area (cf. 29:26). Pashur heard and rejected Jeremiah’s message of judgment from the Lord to take place in the Valley of Hinnom (19:1–6). As an official of the temple, Pashur seized Jeremiah and had him beaten and put him in the stocks for public ridicule near the busy Benjamin Gate. This was the first of several instances of open opposition against Jeremiah’s ministry.

20:3–6. On the next day Jeremiah was released, and he confronted Pashhur. Although Pashhur’s name means "freedom," Jeremiah told him the Lord has called youMagor-missabib "terror on every side." Because Pashhur refused to heed God’s message, he would not see freedom but instead God’s judgment. He would watch in terror as his own friends fell by the sword, and he would see Babylon carry away all the wealth of Jerusalem as plunder (cf. 25:13; 17:3). Pashhur and his family would go into captivity in Babylon and would die there.

This judgment was not just because he had Jeremiah beaten, but also because Pashhur prophesied lies (v. 6), denying the truth of Jeremiah’s message. The exact fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy about Pashhur was not given, but it is possible Pashhur was taken to Babylon during the second deportation (597 BC) along with Ezekiel (cf. 2Kg 24:15–16; Ezk 1:1–3).

(4) Jeremiah’s Complaint (20:7–18)

20:7–10. After his arrest by Pashhur, Jeremiah was feeling low. The NASB says he felt that God had deceived (pathah) him. However, the word can mean to be "enticed," "coerced," or "persuaded" (Hs 2:13). A more helpful translation would be "you coerced me into being a prophet, and I allowed you to do it. You overcame my resistance and prevailed over me" (NET Bible). At his call by God, Jeremiah pointed out he was not qualified to be a prophet, but God persuaded Jeremiah to obey His call (Jr 1:1–7). God did not deceive Jeremiah but persuaded him to become a prophet. God even told Jeremiah that his message would be rejected (1:8, 17–19). Here Jeremiah complained that the Lord prevailed in His plan for Jeremiah, a plan that the prophet did not like. Since he was beaten and made a laughingstock for his message, Jeremiah was discouraged (cf. 15:15–18). He had faithfully warned Judah of the coming violent destruction; but he was rewarded with reproach and derision all day long.

Disheartened, Jeremiah considered withholding God’s word to avoid persecution (I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name). But he loved the Lord and His word too much to disobey, and the word became like a burning fire shut up in my bones (23:29; cf. Jb 30:17; 33:19). The intensity of God’s word in his soul made it impossible for him to hold it in—he had to keep proclaiming the word of the Lord.

The people were whispering (Jr 18:18) against him, and Jeremiah wanted to quit. His message of terror on every side (6:25; 17:18; 20:3–14; 46:5; 49:29; Lm 2:22) was now being hurled back at him (Ps 31:13). Even his trusted friends betrayed him, watching for him to fall and give a wrong prediction so they could take their revenge on Jeremiah by accusing him of being a false prophet (cf. Dt 18:20).

20:11–13. Jeremiah expressed his confidence in God, despite these attacks. He realized the Lord is with me like a dread champion. God is described with the word dread (‘ariyts, "awe-inspiring, terror-striking, awesome, terrifying, ruthless, mighty"). Jeremiah had a powerful champion (defender), and he could have confidence his persecutors would stumble and not prevail.

God does test (baw-khan’, "examine" or "prove") the righteous, not in the sense that He is looking for failure. The purpose of His testing is to show the worth of the righteous, like a builder testing the strength of a bridge. He sees the mind and heart and was looking after Jeremiah’s cause. This assurance of God’s care and vindication allowed Jeremiah to sing to the Lord and praise the Lord, for He had encouraged Jeremiah, (delivered the soul), and would rescue Jeremiah from the hand of evildoers.

20:14–18. Jeremiah again plunged from a height of confidence (vv. 11–13) to the depths of despair. Perhaps he realized that the vindication he sought could come only through the destruction of the city and nation that he dearly loved. His agony made him again cursethe day he was born (cf. 15:10; Jb 3:1–19). He was brokenhearted at the trouble and sorrow he was experiencing and also because of the calamity that would occur in Jerusalem’s near future. Jeremiah’s self-pity could not erase the fact that he had been consecrated "in the womb" for service to the Lord (cf. Jr 1:5).

2. Jeremiah’s Four Specific Prophecies of Judgment (21:1–25:38)

Pashhur’s hostility (20:1–6) is a pivotal episode or bridge in the book of Jeremiah. Through a series of nine general, undated prophecies (spanning chaps. 2–20; see Outline in Introduction), Jeremiah had denounced Judah’s sin, foretold judgment, and offered hope if the people would repent. Though he had been opposed (11:18–23; 12:6; 15:10; 17:18; 18:19–23), he had not suffered serious physical persecution. After Pashhur’s opposition, however, Jeremiah’s messages become more specific, directed against particular individuals and groups. At the same time, Jeremiah’s hope that Judah would repent was replaced by the certainty of God’s judgment.

a. The Rebuke of the Kings of Judah (21:1–23:8)

Jeremiah first addressed the kings, those appointed by God to be shepherds of the flock of Judah (cf. 2:8; 10:21; 23:1–8; Ezk 34:1–10). After rebuking the wicked kings who had ruled Judah (Jr 21–22), he offered hope in the future righteous King, the Messiah, who would come to restore Judah (23:1–8).

Jeremiah’s messages to the wicked kings were arranged in an atypical order. Zedekiah, the first king addressed, was Judah’s last king (597–586 BC; cf. 21:1–22:9; 2Kg 24:17–25:7). The other kings were arranged chronologically beginning with Shallum (his more commonly known name being Jehoahaz; 609 BC; Jr 22:10–12), continuing with Jehoiakim (609–598 BC; 22:13–23), and ending with Coniah (598–597 BC; also known as Jehoiachin or Jeconiah, 22:24–30).

There are two reasons for the order of these rebukes. First, by discussing Zedekiah at the beginning, he linked it to the story of Pashhur the son of Malchijah (21:1), who was the grandson of Zedekiah (38:6). He was part of a group that later had Jeremiah imprisoned for treason (38:1–6). This Pashhur is not the same as Pashhur, son of Immer mentioned earlier (20:1–2).

Second, the accounts were arranged so that the prophecy against Coniah would climax God’s judgments against the kings. The line of the wicked kings would be cut off (22:30) until God would raise a Righteous Branch to rule the nation, King Messiah (23:1–8), who would not come from the line of Coniah (22:28–30). The Messiah would be born from the line of Nathan the third of four sons born to King David and Bathsheba in Jerusalem (2Sm 5:14; Lk 3:31). So the arrangement of these prophecies provided both continuity and climax.

(1) The Rebuke to Zedekiah (21:1–22:9)

21:1–2. King Zedekiah sent two priests, Pashhur, son of Malchijah (see above) and Zephaniah, son of Maaseiah, to inquire of Jeremiah (some time between 588 BC and 586 BC). Zephaniah’s duties included determining the veracity of a prophet’s message (29:25, 26). Shemaiah the Nehelamite later asked this priest to rebuke Jeremiah for the prophet’s message concerning Jerusalem’s fate (29:27). Here these officials asked Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord regarding Nebuchadnezzar and his planned attack on Jerusalem. Though Jeremiah was to ask God what the outcome would be, they hoped that God would perform wonderful acts as He had done in the past and make Nebuchadnezzar withdraw. Probably Zedekiah and his advisers were thinking of God’s rescue in the reign of King Hezekiah, when the Assyrians had threatened Jerusalem (2Kg 18:17–19:37; Is 36–37) but withdrew after King Hezekiah asked Isaiah for the Lord’s intervention (Is 37:2–7).

21:3–7. Jeremiah did not have the same good news for Zedekiah that Isaiah had for Hezekiah. Instead of rescuing Jerusalem, God would war against it with His own outstretched hand and a mighty arm. This phrase echoes God’s powerful redemption of Israel at the exodus (32:21; Ex 32:11; Dt 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 26:8), but here God’s might is turned against Israel. Those who were huddled for protection in the city would die of a terrible pestilence (plague), sword, or famine (cf. Jr 14:12).

Those who did survive the siege would fall into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. They could expect no pity or compassion, for he would kill them. This was fulfilled in 586 BC after the city fell. King Zedekiah’s sons were slain before his eyes; he was then immediately blinded and taken in chains to Babylon (39:5–7; 2Kg 25:7). The other city leaders were captured and sent to Riblah, where they were executed (Jr 52:24–27).

21:8–10. The people had two clear choices: the way of life and the way of death. The way of death was selected by those who chose to remain in the city. They would die by sword, famine, and pestilence. The way of life was selected by those who surrendered (the one who goes out to the Chaldeans, another name for Babylonians). This was the only hope for those still alive because God had set [His] face against this city for harm and not for good.

21:11–14. Jeremiah next focused on the sin of the remaining king of Judah, Zedekiah. The house of David was supposed to administer justice every morning and to deliver the rights of those who were oppressed. Since the king refused to heed God’s warning, God would punish him for his evil deeds, and kindle a fire to devour Jerusalem and its forest[s] and environs (cf. 4:4; 17:4; 21:12).

Evidently the king felt secure in Jerusalem, which had been impenetrable, and asked, who will enter into our habitations? He saw no need to obey God’s injunction. Because of this proud self-reliance coupled with arrogant disobedience, God would punish the king and his people.

22:1–5. God instructed Jeremiah to go down from the temple to the house of the king of Judah. His message was to the kingwho sits on David’s throne, his servants, and all the people who enter these gates. The message was simple: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the oppressed (cf. 21:12; Mc 6:8). The Lord demanded that the ruler on the Davidic throne make justice his primary goal.

If the king would indeed perform this justice, the Davidic dynasty would be uninterrupted in Jerusalem (cf. Jr 17:25–27). But if he did not obey, his house (i.e., his dynasty, not just his place of residence) would become a desolation. To emphasize the truth and solemnity of this command, the Lord swore by Himself, and there could be no stronger ratification of a decree (49:13; 51:14; Gn 22:16; Is 45:23; Am 6:8; Heb 6:13–18).

22:6–10. Here, with the phrase house of the king of Judah, Jeremiah was referring to the royal palace, not the dynasty. Both Gilead and Lebanon were famous for their cedar forests (Jdg 9:15; 1Kg 4:33; 2Ch 2:8). The royal palace in Jerusalem was known as the "House of the Lebanon" (1Kg 7:2–5; Is 22:8) because it was constructed of this luxurious wood. But after God’s judgment the palace would be as desolate as a wilderness. The Babylonian destroyers would cut down the palace’s choicest cedar beams and throw them on the fire (cf. Jr 52:13).

Jerusalem was such a great city, and so beautiful, that people from many nations would see her destruction and ask, Why has the Lord done thus? The answer was simple: Because they forsook the covenant of the Lord and practiced idolatry. The covenant they violated was the Mosaic covenant (confirmed in Dt 27–30), referred to throughout the book of Jeremiah, which was conditional.

In contrast to the Mosaic covenant, the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants were unconditional. The sign of God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham was circumcision. It had no conditions but was solely based on God’s work and faithfulness (Gn 12:1–3; 15:18–21). Failure to circumcise their sons did not abrogate God’s guarantee of the Abrahamic covenant. The Davidic covenant likewise was based on God’s faithfulness (2Sm 7:8–17; 1Ch 17:7–15). The obedience of David and his descendants affected the level to which they enjoyed the blessing of God’s covenant; however, the Lord guaranteed the fulfillment of the "house, kingdom, and throne" promise, which would ultimately find its fulfillment in the King Messiah Jesus and His yet future reign on the earth.

The extensive devastation of Jerusalem would be a lesson to the nations of the power and holiness of the God of Israel. The people were told not to weep for the dead, those killed in battle or siege, for they would be free from pain. Instead weep continually for the one who goes away into captivity. The 70-year captivity would mean the exiles deserved pity, for they would never return or see their native land, again.

(2) The Rebuke to Shallum (22:11–12)

22:11–12. King Shallum, also called "Jehoahaz," was a son of Josiah and came to the throne after Josiah was killed by Pharaoh Neco II (2Kg 23:29–33). After a reign of only three months, Shallum was deposed by Pharaoh Neco.

Jeremiah penned this prophecy after Shallum had been taken into Egyptian captivity (609 BC; 2Kg 23:34). Shallum would never return to Jerusalem but instead would die in captivity (the first ruler of Judah to die in exile) and not see this land again.

(3) The Rebuke to Jehoiakim (22:13–23)

22:13–14. Jehoiakim was appointed king by Pharaoh Neco (2Kg 23:34–24:5) to replace his exiled brother Shallum. He ruled as a corrupt, petty king who cared only for personal gain and nothing for the will of the Lord. His legacy was to build his house without righteousness.

He built an actual palace for himself at the expense of his subjects through taxation and services without pay. Jehoiakim paneled his palace with cedar and painted it bright red, a costly color. Judah was already under economic stress because she was paying heavy tribute to Egypt during the early part of his reign.

22:15–17. Jeremiah rebuked Jehoiakim for his cedar dwelling and contrasted him with his father, King Josiah, who ruled with justice and righteousness and pled the cause of the afflicted and needy. In contrast, Jehoiakim cared only for dishonest gain, shedding innocent blood, oppression, and extortion.

22:18–19. Because of Jehoiakim’s oppression of his people, they would not lament for him at his death. Instead of the lavish funeral normally given a king, Jehoiakim would have a donkey’s burial. He would be dragged away and thrown outside beyond the gates of Jerusalem to rot. Jehoiakim died in late 598 BC as Nebuchadnezzar was advancing on Jerusalem to punish the city for rebellion, and there is no record of his burial. The new king, Jehoiachin (also known as Coniah), surrendered and was taken to Babylon, and the city was spared temporarily (2Kg 24:1–17).

22:20–23. Because of Jehoiakim’s foolish leadership, Jeremiah called on Jerusalem to cry out and lament her fate. This passage should probably be dated in late 598 to early 597 BC, since it focused on the imminent invasion of Babylon in retaliation for Jehoiakim’s rebellion. Jerusalem’s cry would be heard throughout the mountains of the land. From Lebanon in the north, to Bashan in the northeast, to Abarim in the southeast, Judah’s lament would sound when her lovers (allies) would be crushed by Babylon.

God had warned Jerusalem of the consequences of disobedience when she felt secure in her prosperity, but, as usual, she would not listen (6:17; 7:26–27; 13:11; 17:23). Now she could only watch in sorrow as her shepherds (kings) were taken away along with her lovers, pagan political allies, possibly Egypt (cf. 2Kg 24:7).

Jeremiah referred to the people of Jerusalem as those who dwell in Lebanon. So much cedar had been imported to build palaces and mansions in Jerusalem from Lebanon (cf. Jr 22:6–7, 13–15) that living in Jerusalem was like dwelling among Lebanon’s cedars. Yet those nested in these cedar homes would groan when the pangs of God’s judgment came on them like a woman in childbirth (4:31).

(4) The Rebuke to Coniah (Jehoiachin) (22:24–30)

22:24–27. Coniah (also called both "Jehoiachin" and "Jeconiah") succeeded Jehoiakim as king (598–597 BC), and surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar after a three-month reign. He was deported to Babylon where he lived the rest of his life (cf. 52:31–34). God said that if Coniah was as valuable as a signet ring to Him, He would nevertheless pull [him] off. A signet ring was valuable because it was used to stamp the owner’s seal on official documents. Even if Coniah were this important to God (and the clear implication is that he was not), God would give him to Nebuchadnezzar as judgment for his sins. He and his mother (Nehushta, the widow of King Jehoiakim, 2Kg 24:8) would be exiled into another country (Babylon) where they both would die. This is Jeremiah’s second prophecy of their deportation (cf. Jr 13:18–19).

22:28–30. God had another message for Coniah (also known as Jeconiah and Jehoiachin) and his descendants that went beyond being cast into a land that they had not known (14:18; 15:2, 14; 16:13; 17:4). The Lord foretold severe judgment in the distant future and demonstrated Coniah[’s] rejection by the Lord in the near future. Jeremiah’s focus is on the Davidic line rather than Coniah personally. There are several components to this judgment.

First, some of the false prophets saw Coniah as deserving of his kingship (he was not, in their opinion, a shattered [worthless] jar, v. 28; cf. 28:1–4). But this was not God’s plan because in His eyes he was worthless as a ruler, and the kingly line of Coniah was at an end.

Second, some asked, Is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out? He was taken into captivity with the royal house (24:1) and did have a son, Shealtiel (1Ch 3:17–18; Mt 1:12). Since Coniah had sons who could serve as heirs to the Davidic throne, some thought one of them should become king (Jr 29:1–32), but this was not God’s plan. Coniah’s wickedness would keep his descendants from ruling on Judah’s throne.

Before posing the third component of the judgment, Jeremiah called on the land three times to bear witness and hear the word of the Lord. The repetition indicates the strongest intensity and seriousness of the statement (cf. 7:4). The whole nation was to notice carefully and remember this judgment of the Lord.

The third component begins, Thus says the Lord, focusing on the importance of the proclamation. The phrase write this man down childless relates to a register of citizens (Is 4:3), or a census list. Coniah did, in fact, have seven sons recorded by name (cf. Jr 22:28; 1Ch 3:17–18; Mt 1:12), but none succeeded him to the throne. He was to be considered childless because no man of his descendants will … sit on the throne of David. He was dynastically childless because he was the last of the Davidic kings in his family. This prophecy had both immediate and long-range significance. No offspring of Jehoiachin (also known as Coniah) followed him to the throne. Zedekiah, who replaced Coniah, was Judah’s last king, but Zedekiah was Coniah’s uncle, not his son.

The long-range significance is seen in the line of the Messiah, the exalted Son of David, because Jesus was not physically related to Coniah/Jechoniah. This prophecy helps explain the genealogies of the Messiah in Mt 1 and Lk 3. Specifically, Matthew recorded the legal line of Messiah through Joseph, his stepfather. Joseph was a descendant of David through Shealtiel, who was a son of Jeconiah/Coniah (Mt 1:11–12; cf. 1Ch 3:17). Had Jesus been a physical descendant of Joseph and not virgin-born, He would have been disqualified as Israel’s King based on the prophecy that no man of Coniah’s descendants would … sit on the throne of David. Luke recorded the physical line of Jesus the Messiah through His mother, Mary. She was descended from David through the line of Nathan, son of David (Lk 3:31; 1Ch 14:3–4). Being virgin-born of Mary, Jesus was not under the curse of Coniah, and was qualified to rule on the throne of David. However, since Jesus was a physical descendant of David through Nathan, He was the rightful Son of David.

(5) The Hope of Messiah, the Righteous Branch (23:1–8)

23:1–4. The prospects for the house of David were ominous in light of the sinfulness of the last Davidic kings. But the outlook was not completely hopeless, and vv. 1–8 contains a message of hope for the Jewish people.

Jeremiah pictured the false leadership of Israel and the unrighteous kings as shepherds who were destroying and scattering the sheep of God’s pasture. The shepherds deserved punishment because of the evil they had done (cf. Ezk 34:1–10).

Jeremiah presented a two-part picture of God’s plan for caring for His flock once the evil shepherds were removed. First, God Himself would gather the remnant of the people who were dispersed and would bring them back. The term remnant originally meant simply "the few survivors," but it came to have a more specific meaning of "the ones who are faithful to the Lord" (Is 4:2–6; 10:20–22; 28:5; Rm 9:27–10:4; 11:1–6). The Lord would assume responsibility for Israel’s regathering (cf. Jr 31:10; Mc 2:12; 5:4; 7:14). Just as the scattering of the people was literal, so their regathering would be. The promise of restoration goes beyond the return from Babylon, to bringing them back from all the countries (cf. Jr 16:14–15), indicating an eschatological return.

Second, God would raise up new shepherds over them who would tend them and care for the people the way God intended. When the Messiah reigns in His millennial kingdom, Israel will be assured of peace. The phrase nor will any be missing means there will be righteous shepherds in Judah, future leaders who will care for the Jewish people and keep them safe and obedient to the Lord, so that none of them will be lost. Jesus expressed this comforting idea during His earthly ministry (Jn 6:39; 10:27–28).

23:5–8. God promised the days are coming (often an eschatological term, here referring to the Messianic Age; cf. comments 16:14–15; 23:7; 30:3; 31:27–40) when He would raise up for David a righteous Branch. This is a key messianic passage in Jeremiah, and the promise centers on the Davidic covenant (2Sm 7:8–16). The image of the Branch is a frequent and important image of the promised Messiah (cf. Jr 33:5–15; Is 4:2; 11:1; 53:2; Zch 3:8; 6:12). For more on this messianic title, see comments on Zch 6:12–13. Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of this prediction.

King Messiah will reign wisely and with justice and righteousness (cf. Ps 72:2). The name of this coming King is the Lord our Righteousness (Yahweh tsideqenu). This is a powerful messianic title, as it presents Him as the righteous King, as God, and as Redeemer (cf. Is 45:24; Jr 33:16; 1Co 5:12). Though Jesus offered Himself as Israel’s Messiah at His first advent and provided the way of salvation, this prophecy’s fulfillment awaits His rule and reign in the millennial kingdom following His second advent. At that time, He will rule over the sons of Israel regathered backfrom all the countries where they had been scattered, to live on their own soil (adama, land). Israel will again be delivered (cf. Is 59:20; Zch 12:6–9; Rm 11:26) from oppression and reunited as a single nation and will live in safety (cf. Ezk 37:15–28).

The future restoration of Israel (Jr 23:6) is directly and inseparably related to the messianic hope (the days are coming; cf. comments on 16:14–15; 23:5; and see comments on 30:3; 31:27–40). It will be so dramatic that the people will no longer look back to the time when God brought them from the land of Egypt. The first exodus, a biblical watershed in Jewish history, will pale in comparison with this new exodus when God will bring the Jewish people out of all the countries where they have been and will restore them to their own land (cf. 16:14–15).

b. The Rebuke of the False Prophets (23:9–40)

Jeremiah refocused his message from Judah’s kings to deliver God’s judgment message against the false prophets. These pseudo-seers opposed Jeremiah’s declaration of doom (cf. 6:13–14; 8:10–11; 14:14–16; 28:1–4, 10–11; 29:8–9, 20–23, 31–32) and offered instead a false promise of peace.

(1) The Character of the False Prophets (23:9–15)

23:9–12. Jeremiah’s heart was broken, his body became weak, his bones tremble[d], and he staggered like a drunken man when he thought of God’s holy words abused by the false prophets. They claimed authority to speak (cf. 28:2, 15–16), but the land mourns under God’s judgment of drought (Dt 28:23–24), by which the land dried up (cf. Jr 14:1–6, 22). This was due in part to the teachings of the false prophets whose influence contributed to Judah’s waywardness, resulting in God’s curse upon them.

Judah’s spiritual leaders (both prophet and priest) were polluted, defiled (cf. 3:1–2, 9). They had such a low view of God’s holiness that they even profaned His temple with their wickedness. God vowed to bring calamity on them because of their sin.

23:13–15. Jeremiah compared the prophets of Samaria to the prophets of Jerusalem. The prophets of the northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria) had prophesied by Baal, leading the nation astray (cf. 1Kg 18:16–40; 2Kg 10:18–29; 17:16). Because of their wickedness, God destroyed the northern kingdom by the hand of the Assyrians (721 BC).

The prophets of Judah continued in similar paths of sin, committing spiritual and moral adultery, telling lies, and strengthening evildoers. Their repulsive conduct made them like Sodom and Gomorrah to God. He had to judge them for their sin and would feed them wormwood and poisonous water because of the lying messages they were teaching, by which pollution (spiritual corruption) came to all the land (cf. Jr 9:15; Lm 3:15, 19).

(2) The message of the false prophets (23:16–40)

23:16–22. The false prophets fabricated their own message, and Jeremiah warned the people not to listen to them. Their vision[s] came from their imagination (cf. v. 26) not from the mouth of the Lord. They proclaimed peace (cf. 6:14; 8:11) and said calamity will not come. This was not from God. The storm of the Lord would judge the wicked—it was coming and would destroy those in its path. The anger of the Lord would not turn back until He finished His judgment. Only then would the people understand God did not send these false prophets. If they had stood in God’s council they would have announced His words to turn Judah from her evildeeds.

23:23–32. The false prophets misrepresented God’s character. They saw Him as some localized deity from whom they could hide and He would not see (v. 24). Indeed, God in His omniscience fills the heavens and earth so that no place is outside His realm. He had heard what the false prophets had said when they spoke lies in His name (v. 25). The prophets also claimed that God had given them revelation in a dream, but their visions were imaginary (cf. v. 16). Their dreams, false prophetic visions, were designed to make Judah forget God’s name (v. 27), just as earlier prophets did through Baal worship (cf. v. 13). Their prophetic messages were as worthless for meeting spiritual needs as was straw, instead of grain, for meeting physical hunger (v. 28). Their words had no force, while God’s word is penetrating like fire (v. 29; cf. 20:9) and as effective as a hammer that shatters a rock.

God set Himself against the prophets, which is repeated three times (vv. 30, 31, 32) for intensity. They led My people astray, they were not sent by Him, and they did not furnishthe slightest benefit.

23:33–40. An oracle of the Lord was a revelatory message from God. The Hebrew word for oracle in daily use referred to the "load" or "burden that someone had to lift or carry" (Ex 23:5; Neh 13:19). The burden the prophet had to carry was the message or oracle given by God (Is 13:1; 14:28; Nah 1:1; Hab 1:1) often of judgment (cf. Is 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; 21:1, 11, 13; 22:1; 23:1). When the people, prophet, or priest asked Jeremiah, What is the oracle of the Lord? (Jr 23:33), he was to say, God will abandon you because the false prophets perverted the words of the living God (v. 36). The prophets who continued to claim divine oracles would be judged (vv. 38–40). God vowed to cast them away from His presence along with all Jerusalem (v. 39). Furthermore, these false prophets faced everlasting reproachand humiliation for their wicked words (v. 40).

Much of what Jeremiah recorded is relevant in the contemporary world. The people of Judah were led astray because they believed the false teachers and prophets who presented an appealing—but wrong—message supposedly from the Lord. They rejected Jeremiah because they did not like his message. Similarly, people today must guard against the tendency to become attached to a religious leader based solely on outward appearances or the presentation of endlessly inspiring and engaging messages that ignore sin and its consequences. God’s people then and now must always evaluate every teacher, message, and book by the contents of Scripture, which means they must spend time digesting God’s Word in order to know what it says, and thinking with discernment about what they are taught to determine if it concurs with Scripture. If it does not, then followers of Christ must align themselves with those who teach and live the truth as found in God’s Word, an adjustment Jeremiah’s audience failed to make, with appalling consequences.

c. The Two Baskets of Figs (24:1–10)

(1) The Vision of the Two Baskets of Figs (24:1–3)

24:1–3. Although written at a later time, the vision of the two baskets of figs was given to Jeremiah after Jeconiah and the officials, craftsmen, and smiths were carried into Babylon (cf. 2Kg 24:8–16) sometime in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah (597 BC).

In the vision Jeremiah saw two baskets of figs, each representing a group whose conditions would be different under the Babylonians. The vision is like the offering of the first fruits set before the temple of the Lord (cf. Dt 26:11). In one basket the figs were very good, like the first-ripe figs, the best of the crop (cf. Is 28:4; Hs 9:10; Mc 7:1), the first fruits that were to be offered to the Lord (Dt 14:22). The second basket contained bad figs, which could not be eaten because they were rotten. Such fruit was unacceptable to the Lord for sacrifice (cf. Mal 1:6–9).

(2) The Explanation of the Good Figs (24:4–7)

24:4–7. The Lord explained that the basket of good figs represented the captives from Judah who had been carried away to the land of the Chaldeans. This explanation was contrary to the belief of the people of Jerusalem who thought the people taken into in captivity were taken away from the nurturing of the Lord (cf. Ezk 11:14–15). But Jeremiah explained they were sent out of Jerusalem, exiled by God, and He regarded this plan as good. God promised to set My eyes on them for good, and bring them again to the land (cf. Ezk 11:16–17). The Lord also promised to give the Jewish people a new heart so they would know Him (cf. Jr 4:22). At that time they would be His people spiritually as well as nationally (cf. comments on 30:22) and would return to Him with their whole heart. Although God did restore a minority of the people to the land after the Babylonian captivity, following the exile they never experienced the full blessings of fellowship God had promised (cf. 31:31–34; Ezk 36:24–32). This awaits a still-future fulfillment when God again will regather Israel at the beginning of the Messiah’s millennial reign on earth (Mt 24:29–31).

(3) The Explanation of the Poor Figs (24:8–10)

24:8–10. The basket of bad figs represented Zedekiah and the other survivors (cf. 29:17–19), including those in Israel and those who fled to Egypt (cf. 43:4–7). God vowed to make them a terror, evil for all the kingdoms of the earth. They would be despised as a reproach and a proverb, ridiculed and cursed wherever they went, as Jeremiah often predicted (cf. 25:9, 18; 26:6; 29:18; 42:18; 44:8, 12, 22; 48:39; 49:13, 17; 51:37). God would send His three instruments of judgment, sword, famine, and pestilence (cf. 14:12; 15:2–4), until they were all destroyed.

d. The Seventy-Year Captivity in Babylon (25:1–38)

Jeremiah’s 13 messages of judgment spanning chaps. 2–25 were arranged topically, not chronologically. The prophecy about the 70-year captivity (25:1–38) was placed last because it was the climax of all Jeremiah’s judgment messages.

(1) Warnings Ignored (25:1–7)

25:1–3. Jeremiah’s final message concerned all the people of Judah. The time when it was given was recorded because of the significance of the message. It was delivered in the fourth year of Jehoiakimking of Judah (that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon). Calculating the Jewish and Babylonian calendars with ascension designations along with the modern calendar, that would have been between September 7, 605 BC and September 25, 604 BC. Jeremiah had been prophesying for twenty-three years (cf. 1:2), and though he had spoken to the people again and again, they had not listened to God’s warnings to repent.

25:4–7. God had also sent other servants and prophets who warned the people to turn from their evildeeds. If they had heeded the prophets’ warnings, God would have allowed them to stay in the land in peace and would have done them no harm. Yet the people did not listen to God. They continued in their sin to provoke God to anger with the work of [their] hands, making and worshiping idols (10:8–9).

(2) Judgment Described (25:8–14)

25:8–11. Because Judah had repeatedly not obeyed God’s words of warning, God would send for the Babylonians, under Nebuchadnezzar, called God’s servant (v. 9), to bring judgment on Judah. This pagan king was God’s servant (cf. 27:6; 43:10) in the sense that, even without acknowledging the Lord, he would carry out God’s sovereign plans by destroying Jerusalem and all the nations who had been her allies.

The sounds of joy and gladness would cease (cf. 7:34; 16:9) in Jerusalem because the whole land would become a desolation. Famine would replace wedding celebrations, and there would be no grain to grind in the millstones or olive oil to light the lamp. The whole land and surrounding nations would serve the Babylonians seventy years (25:11; 29:10; 2Ch 36:21; Dn 9:2; Zch 7:5).

The judgment was for idolatry, but the length of seventy years was a consequence of specific disobedience about the land. The captivity was destined to last seventy years (605–536 BC) because the Jewish people had failed to observe God’s law of a Sabbath rest for the land for the previous 490 years, the number of years of between Saul and the fall of Jerusalem at the hand of the Babylonians. God had decreed that every seventh year the land was to lie fallow (Lv 25:3–5). The people were not to sow their fields or prune their vineyards each seventh year to allow the land to rest. Failure to obey would result in expulsion from the land, and an enforced Sabbath rest for the land (Lv 26:33–35). The seventy-year Babylonian captivity did "fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation [the land] kept sabbath until seventy years were complete" (2Ch 36:20–21).

25:12–14. When the 70 years were completed God would also punish the king of Babylon and that nation because of their iniquity. He would fulfill all the judgments written in this book against Babylon by Jeremiah (cf. chaps. 50–51). This book may refer to the scroll mentioned in chap. 36:1–4. The LXX places chaps. 46–51, the judgment on the nations, at this point, a slightly different order of the chapters (see "Background" in Introduction of Jeremiah for the Septuagint / LXX issues). Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian empire in 539 BC, and the Babylonians were made their slaves; God would repay Babylon according to their deeds.

(3) Wrath Promised (25:15–29)

25:15–25. The coming wrath of God is presented in a vision to Jeremiah: He saw the Lord holding in His hand a cup of the wine of wrath (v. 15). God would send Jeremiah to specific nations to make them drink it (cf. Lm 4:21; Ezk 23:31–33; Rv 16:19; 18:6) and experience judgment because of the sword that God would send among them (v. 16). The first to drink God’s wine of wrath were Jerusalem and the cities of Judah (v. 18). Other nations (vv. 19–26) would follow Judah in judgment by the hand of the Babylonians. These included Egypt (v. 19), whose feeble assistance prompted Judah to rebel against Babylon (cf. Ezk 29:6–9). Uz (v. 20) was probably east of Edom in northern Arabia (cf. Jb 1:1). The Philistines’ key cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod (v. 20) were on the lower coastal shore of the Mediterranean, west of Judah. Edom, Moab, and Ammon (from south to north, v. 21) were the nations east of Judah to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. The Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon (v. 22) were north of Israel on the Mediterranean coast. Dedan, Tema, and Buz (v. 23) were cities in the northern Arabian Peninsula associated with the kings of Arabia and allthe foreign people (mixed multitude) in the desert (v. 24). The location of Zimri (v. 25) is uncertain, but it is associated with Elam (Gn 14:1–9; Is 11:11; Dn 8:2) and Media (2Kg 16:6; 18:11; Dn 6:8, 15), two countries east of the Tigris River, north of the Persian Gulf, an area now included in parts of Iran and Iraq. All these nations fell to Babylon.

25:26. Despite Babylon’s extensive conquest of all the kings of the north, near and far, ultimately she too would fall to God’s judgment (cf. 51:48–49). God would make the king of Sheshachdrink after them. The name Sheshach is a cryptogram, an atbash cipher, for the word "Babylon" in Hebrew. An atbash cipher substitutes the first letter of the alphabet for the last, the second letter for the next to last and so. For example, in English z would be an a, y would be a b, and so on; thus, the name Abby as an atbash would become zyyb. Using this cipher, Sheshach is a Hebrew atbash for "Babylon." Perhaps it was unsafe to speak directly against Babylon during the exile, so an atbash was used for safety. God would judge Babylon after judging the other nations (cf. vv. 12–14). Another atbash cipher is used in 51:1 for the word "Chaldea" ("Leb-kamai").

25:27–29. The nations told to drink from the cup of God’s wrath would be like a man who has become drunk. They would vomit and fall, because of the wine of God’s wrath and die by the sword He would send among [them]. His judgment could not be avoided (they shall surely drink!). If God would bring calamity on Jerusalem (which is called by My name) because of its sin, then these pagan inhabitants of the earth could not escape the sword of His judgment.

(4) Universal Judgment Affirmed (25:30–38)

25:30–33. Here in poetic form, the Lord is portrayed as a lion who will roar mightily (cf. Am 1:2; 3:4, 8) in judgment and would shout from His holy habitation in heaven against all the inhabitants of the earth.

God had a controversy with these nations and would enter into judgment against them. He would bring charges (cf. 2:9) that would extend beyond Judah to all humankind (all flesh). This judgment was pictured as a great storm that would envelop all nations. In its wake the slain would be scattered everywhere. Their corpses would be like dung lying on the ground, just as the citizenry of Jerusalem would be after the Babylonian siege (cf. 8:2; 14:16; 16:4–6).

25:34–38. The shepherds, the leaders of these many nations, would cry and wallow in ashes (a sign of deep grief, cf. 6:26; Mc 1:10), mourning because the days of [their] slaughter and dispersions had come. The judgment of God’s fierce anger (25:37–38) would make each landbecome a horror.

B. Jeremiah’s Personal Conflict with Judah (26:1–29:32)

Although there was some opposition to Jeremiah’s message earlier in his ministry (cf. 11:18–23; 15:10; 20:1–6), the focus of chaps. 1–25 was on God’s coming judgment if the people refused to repent. In this section (chaps. 26–29) Jeremiah refocused on Jerusalem’s response to his message. Both he and his message were rejected by the leadership and the people of Jerusalem.

1. Jeremiah’s Conflict with the People (26:1–24)

a. Jeremiah’s Message (26:1–6)

26:1–3. This message was delivered early in the reign of Jehoiakim, … king of Judah, who ascended to the throne in 609 BC. The message is probably part of the Temple Address (cf. chaps. 7–10), and the focus here is on the response to the message. The Temple Address is summarized here as God’s warning of judgment so the people would listen, then turn from their evil way, so that God would not carry out His threatened judgment if the people obeyed His commands. The word repent is an anthropomorphic term—ascribing to God human emotions and thoughts—and should not be understood literally, for God does not repent (Nm 23:19). He would not bring calamity on them if they changed (cf. 7:3–7). Certainly the all-knowing Lord God knew what they would do.

26:4–6. The message was of judgment for disobedience. If the people refused to follow God’s law and to listen to God’s servants the prophets (cf. 7:21–26), God would make the temple (this house) as desolate as Shiloh (cf. 7:14), and the Gentile nations of the earth would use the this city, Jerusalem, as a curse (cf. 24:9).

b. Jeremiah’s Arrest and Trial (26:7–15)

26:7–11. When the priests, the prophets, and all the people heard the Temple Address (see chaps. 7–10) they seized Jeremiah just as he finished his message and demanded that he must die for his words. They accused Jeremiah of being a false prophet because he had spoken in the name of the Lord. They believed that such a negative and condemnatory prophecy could never have come from God.

The charges against Jeremiah had to be brought to the officials of Judah who heard the case at the entrance of the New Gate. The city gate was where the leaders sat to administer justice and to conduct official business (cf. Dt 21:18–19; Ru 4:1–11; Jr 39:3). The mob demanded a death sentence because he had prophesied against this city of Jerusalem.

26:12–15. Jeremiah gave a three-part self-defense to the charges. First he announced, The Lord sent me to prophesy the message they had heard, so he was not a false prophet. Second, he announced that his message was conditional. If the people would amend their ways (cf. 3:12; 7:3) God would change His mind about the disaster (26:3). It was within God’s plan to be merciful if the people repented. Thus Jeremiah’s message did offer some hope for the city. Third, he warned that if they put him to death they would bring the guilt of innocent blood on themselves. He made a strong closing statement of self-defense: truly the Lord has sent me to you.

c. Jeremiah’s Deliverance (26:16–24)

26:16–19. After hearing Jeremiah’s defense, the officials along with all the people sided with Jeremiah against the religious leadership of priests and false prophets. They declared that Jeremiah did not deserve the death sentence. This verdict was supported by some elders who reminded the people that Micah of Moresheth (the prophet Micah) had given a similar message nearly seventy years earlier in the days of Hezekiah (Mc 3:12). This is the only place in the OT where one prophet quotes another and identifies his source. Instead of seeking to put Micah to death, King Hezekiah listened to Micah’s words and sought the favor of the Lord. In response to Hezekiah’s request God did not bring the disaster predicted by Micah. Failure to follow Hezekiah’s example was to bring a terrible disaster, great evil, on Judah.

26:20–23. Although Jeremiah’s life was spared, other prophets were not so fortunate. The prophet Uriah the son of Shemaiah (mentioned only here in the Bible) spoke words similar to all those of Jeremiah, but King Jehoiakimslew him with a sword and cast his dead body into a grave for common people.

26:24. Ahikam the son of Shaphan protected Jeremiah so the people did not put him to death. The family of Shaphan played an important part in the final years of Judah (2Kg 22:3–13) and Ahikam’s son, Gedaliah (Jr 40:5, 9), was appointed governor of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar after the fall of Jerusalem.

Sometimes God delivers us from our trials, while at other times He sustains us through them (Heb 11:32–40). In both instances our response must be the same: trust and obey!

2. Jeremiah’s Conflict with the False Prophets in Jerusalem (27:1–28:17)

The nation was reluctant to believe Jeremiah’s message that God’s judgment would result in the fall of Jerusalem to wicked Babylon. They opposed Jeremiah to the point of physical violence. In this section, the opposition to Jeremiah’s message is a counterattack by false prophets who contradicted Jeremiah’s message and gave the people false hope of deliverance.

a. Jeremiah’s Prophecy (27:1–22)

Jeremiah refuted the false prophets with three messages of truth and used an object lesson of yokes to make God’s point clear.

(1) The Message to the Ambassadors (27:1–11)

27:1–7. Early in the reign of Zedekiah (probably 593 BC; cf. below) God commanded Jeremiah to make yokes like those used to hitch together teams of oxen and to put them on [his] neck. This was an object lesson to envoys from Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon who had come to Jerusalem to meet with Zedekiah. They were probably meeting to discuss the possibility of uniting together in a revolt against Babylon.

This meeting occurred sometime between May and August 593 BC (cf. 28:1). The Babylonian Chronicles (a series of stone or clay tablets in cuneiform text written during the biblical period in Babylon, recording major events in Babylonian history, now in the British Museum) recorded that just over a year earlier a rebellion had occurred in Babylon. Evidently Nebuchadnezzar had to defend himself against an attempted coup. Certainly such unrest within Babylon might cause the various vassal states, like those mentioned here, to consider throwing off Babylon’s yoke of domination.

While Jeremiah wore the yoke, he gave the message that God had made the earth so He could give it to anyone He pleased (v. 5). For now, these nations should wear the yoke of Babylon. God selected Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (v. 6) as His instrument of judgment and all nations shall serve him (v. 7). Later Babylon’s time of judgment would come. Only then would other great kings be able to make him their servant (v. 7). For a set time Babylon would rule the world, but later even mighty Babylon would be conquered and serve an even greater nation, the Medo-Persian empire (539 BC).

27:8–11. With Nebuchadnezzar’s divine appointment clearly established, Jeremiah warned against rebellion. Any nation that refused to put its neck under the yoke of Babylon would be punished by God with sword, famine, and pestilence (cf. v. 13; 14:12). For the first of three times in this chapter, Jeremiah warned his audience not to listen to the false prophets (vv. 9, 14, 17), who might present themselves as diviners, dreamers, soothsayers, or sorcerers. The false teachers presented a lie when they promised a successful rebellion against Babylon. God had vowed to remove any nation who rebelled. Only those that would submit to the authority of Babylon (bring its neck under the yoke) would be allowed to remain on their land.

(2) The Message to Zedekiah (27:12–15)

27:12–15. Jeremiah gave the same message to Zedekiah king of Judah in two parts. First, God commanded Zedekiah to bring his necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and to continue to serve as a vassal king. If he refused to serve Babylon, the judgment of God would come on Judah by sword, famine and pestilence. Second, God warned him not to trust the false prophets who predicted victory and prophesied a lie because God had not sent them.

(3) The Message to the Priests and People (27:16–22)

27:16–22. Jeremiah’s message to the priests and all this people was slightly different. He cautioned them not to listen to the false prophets who were predicting that the vessels of the Lord’s house that had been taken to Babylon (cf. 2Kg 24:13; Dn 1:1–2) would soon be brought back (v. 16). In fact, just the opposite would happen. The furnishings still remaining in the house of the Lord (along with those of the king’s palace) that had not been removed during the deportation of Jeconiah would be carried to Babylon and remain there until God’s judgment was complete (vv. 19–22). Only then would He bring them back (cf. 2 Kg 25:13–17; Ezr 1:7–11).

b. Hananiah’s Opposition (28:1–17)

(1) Jeremiah’s Conflict with Hananiah (28:1–11)

28:1–4. There are no chapter breaks in the original Hebrew manuscripts, and this is clearly a continuation of the previous message. It was given in the same year as chap. 27, and specifically in the fifth month of the fourth year of King Zedekiah (August–September 593 BC). Jeremiah was careful in noting the date because of the events that happened later (v. 17).

Hananiah son of Azzur challenged Jeremiah. Perhaps Hananiah was a brother of "Jaazaniah son of Azzur" who was denounced by Ezekiel (Ezk 11:1–3); he was from Gibeon, about six miles northwest of Jerusalem, another town assigned by Joshua to the priests (cf. Jos 21:17–18), so possibly Hananiah, like Jeremiah, was from a priestly family.

Hananiah directly contradicted Jeremiah’s prophecy. He stated that God had broken the yoke of Babylonian oppression and urged Judah to rebel against Babylon, not to submit to her (cf. Jr 27:2, 8, 11–12, 17). Hananiah promised that the rebellion would be followed by restoration. Within two years, he said, God promised to bring back to Judah all the vessels of the Lord’s house (cf. 27:16–22). These would be accompanied by King Jeconiah and all the exiles.

28:5–11. Jeremiah wished he could say amen to Hananiah’s words (v. 6), yet he knew Hananiah’s prophecy was false. The ultimate test for prophets was whether their prophecies were fulfilled. A prophet was known to be sent by God only when the word of the prophet comes to pass (vv. 8–9; cf. Dt 18:20–22).

To demonstrate that he was right, Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of Jeremiah (cf. Jr 27:2) and broke it (v. 10). This dramatically visualized his prophecy of God breaking the yoke of Nebuchadnezzarwithin two full years. Jeremiah did not respond publicly to this insult, but went his way (v. 11).

(2) Jeremiah’s Message to Hananiah (28:12–17)

28:12–14. Jeremiah spoke privately to Hananiah with a three-part message from the Lord. First, Hananiah’s actions increased the harshness of the coming judgment. The false prophet had broken the yokes of wood, but God would replace them with yokes of iron that could not be broken (v. 13). These iron yokes, figuratively speaking, would be fastened to the necks of all these nations who gathered in Jerusalem that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar (27:3), as would the beasts of the field.

28:15–17. Second, Jeremiah revealed Hananiah’s lack of credentials as a prophet. God had not sent Hananiah as His spokesman, but through his eloquent speech the false prophet had made the nation of Judah trust in a lie.

Third, as a judgment on Hananiah, because he counseled rebellion against the Lord, he would be removed from the face of the earth (die). It was already the "fifth month" (v. 1), and Hananiah died in the same year in the seventh month two months later (v. 17). With this death, God vindicated His true prophet Jeremiah, and judged the false prophet Hananiah, and demonstrated to the priests and all the people Jeremiah’s accuracy.

3. Jeremiah’s Conflict with the False Prophets in Exile (29:1–32)

a. Jeremiah’s First Letter to the Exiles (29:1–23)

(1) The Introduction (29:1–3)

29:1–3. The words and influence of false prophets like Hananiah had spread even to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Jeremiah therefore wrote a letter to neutralize this influence if possible. Jeremiah inserted into his book the words of the letter that he sent from Jerusalem to the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets, and those deported with King Jeconiah and the queen mother (cf. 2Kg 24:8–17; Jr 13:18; 22:24–27; Dn 1:1–2). This deportation occurred in 597 BC, so Jeremiah’s letter was written after that date.

(2) The Announcement of a Long Exile (29:4–14)

29:4–9. God told the exiles to prepare for a long stay in Babylon, completely opposite of the teaching of the false prophets. In exile they were to build houses, plant gardens, take wives, and have sons and daughtersmultiply there and do not decrease (v. 6). They were to settle down and make a life for themselves in exile. Instead of hoping for Babylon’s quick collapse they were commanded to seek the welfare of the city (v. 7). Jeremiah even told them to pray to the Lord onbehalf of Babylon! Those prophets and diviners (cf. 27:9) who were predicting a soon return to Judah were prophesying falsely in God’s name (vv. 8–9). God made it clear: I have not sent them.

29:10–14. The exiles would return to Judah only when God’s seventy years of judgment had been completed (cf. 25:11–12). Then God would fulfill His good word to bring the exiles back to their land. The seventy-year exile was a part of God’s plans to give Judah a future and a hope (v. 11). The people were to be encouraged when they realized that, at the end of the exile—at the end of the time of judgment—God would provide for their welfare and not bring them calamity.

The judgment prompted the exiles to seek God wholeheartedly (cf. Dn 9:2–3, 15–19), and He promised that when they call upon Him, he would listen; and when they seek Him with all their heart, they would find Him. These verses are sometimes used to support the idea that even a person who never hears about Christ can be saved apart from conscious faith in Christ if he or she responds correctly to the light of God in creation and seeks Him sincerely. But such an understanding wrests this promise from its theological and literary context. These Jewish exiles had special revelation from God which had forecast such an exile, and which had forecast a restoration to the land after exile when they repented, when the Jewish people returned to the Lord and "searched for Him with all their heart." See, e.g., Lv 26:33–45; Dt 4:25–29; 30:1–3. This is a guarantee God made to a people already in a covenantal relationship with Him and cannot be applied to those who are not. This text is not helpful when it comes to considerations of those who never hear about Jesus. For more relevant passages, see comments on Rm 1:18–23; 3:9–19, where it is apparent that no one, apart from the intervening work of God, would begin a search for God based on the dictates of his or her own unregenerate heart.

Once they had turned back to the Lord, He would gather them from all the nations where they had been banished and restore them to their land (Jr 29:14). The Jewish people did not return from Babylon because of spiritual revival, but because of Cyrus’s decree. However, in the future the whole people of Israel will call upon the Lord and recognize Jesus as their Savior (Zch 12:10). This restoration is from all the nations, so it seems to look beyond the return from Babylonian exile to the future regathering of Israel at the end of days when Messiah will establish His kingdom.

The purpose of casting Israel out of their land, whether to Babylon or after the Roman expulsion, was more than judgment for sin. The larger purpose was to force Israel back to her God (cf. Dt 30:1–10). Whenever we face difficulties in our lives, we must remember God has a good plan for us, a plan that includes even the difficulties themselves. We should call on Him, pray to Him, and know that He is listening. Instead of being angry and shutting God out when we encounter trials, we should seek Him with our whole heart, keep reading the Bible, stay in fellowship in our local church, and anticipate a good outcome from the Lord (Jr 29:11–14; Rm 8:28; Jms 1:2–4; Heb 10:19–25).

(3) The Warning against False Prophets (29:15–23)

29:15–20. The people rejected Jeremiah’s message because it contradicted the message of the Jewish false prophetsin Babylon. Evidently these prophets were proclaiming the safety of Jerusalem and the swift return of those in captivity (cf. 28:2–4). Jeremiah shattered their optimistic forecasts by announcing that those who had not been exiled were destined for the sword, famine, and pestilence (cf. comments on 14:12). He reminded them of his earlier vision of the figs (cf. 24:1–2). Those remaining in Jerusalem were like split-open, rotten figs, destined to be thrown away because they were not good for anything. Still they would not listen (cf. 24:8–9).

29:21–23. Jeremiah singled out two of the false prophets in Babylon, Ahab the son of Koliah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah who were prophesyingfalsely and committing adultery with their neighbors’ wives. The Lord would judge them by delivering them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. For rebellion against Babylon, they would be publicly executed, roasted in the fire, a form of execution often used in Babylon (cf. Dn 3:6, 11, 15, 17, 19–23). Their death by fire would give rise to a curse the captives would use. These false prophets had said Nebuchadnezzar would not capture the city; when Babylon captured Jerusalem they were among the first to die for their insolence against mighty Babylon.

b. Jeremiah’s Second Letter to the Exiles (29:24–32)

(1) The Report of Shemaiah’s Letter to Jerusalem (29:24–29)

29:24–29. Evidently after Jeremiah’s first letter to the exiles (vv. 1–23) another prophet in Babylon, Shemaiah, wrote to Zephaniah, the priest, and to all the priests in Jerusalem urging them to rebuke Jeremiah (vv. 25–28). However, the letter was read to Jeremiah (v. 29) who then wrote a second letter to the exiles, quoting the text of Shemaiah’s letter.

(2) The Condemnation of Shemaiah (29:30–32)

29:30–32. Jeremiah quoted the text of Shemaiah’s letter (vv. 24–28), delivering God’s word of judgment against the false prophet. God would punish both Shemiahand his descendants. They would not live to see the good the Lord was about to do for His people (explained in chaps. 30–33). Because Shemaiah had preached rebellion and caused the people to trust in a lie, he had forfeited his right to the blessings of the Lord.

C. Future Comfort for Israel and Judah (30:1–33:26)

This section of Jeremiah’s prophecy is called "The Book of Consolation." It is a poetic description of the ultimate restoration and blessing of Israel and Judah. Certainly there would be a time of judgment for God’s people, but after the "time of Jacob’s distress" (30:7) Israel and Judah would be returned to their land, reunited as a nation, and restored to their God. Here is the promise of the new covenant and redemption. These prophecies look beyond Judah’s imminent situation and point to the Messianic Age.

1. The Restoration of Israel and Judah Declared (30:1–24)

a. Physical Deliverance of Israel and Judah (30:1–11)

(1) The Nation’s Restoration to the Land (30:1–3)

30:1–3. The Lord, the God of Israel told Jeremiah to write His promises of comfort in a book so they would be available to the exiles after Jerusalem fell. This book would declare a note of hope that the days are coming when God will restore the fortunes [i.e., deliver them from captivity] of His people Israel and Judah. The phrase the days are coming is an eschatological marker, looking forward to the end times and goes beyond the immediate future of the return from Babylon (3:16; cf. comments on 16:14–16; 23:5–6; 31:3, 31; 31:27; 50:1).

However, as in all prophetic material one must keep in mind the principle of "foreshortening" or "telescoping." That is, though Jeremiah saw all these predictions as one continuous series of events, they were fulfilled over a long period with intervening gaps of time. Thus, for example, prophecies about the suffering Messiah and the ruling Messiah appear together, though they describe two different advents of Christ (e.g., Is 9:6–7; 61:1–2) separated by at least 2,000 years. In the same way Jeremiah described the restoration of Judah after the Babylonian captivity and the still-future restoration of Judah in the Messianic Age within some of the same passage (Jr 31:15–20, cf. comments on 50:1). Therefore one should be cautious in interpreting the various parts of Jeremiah’s predictions about "the coming days" as having already been fulfilled at the return from the Babylonian captivity (see comments on 50:1).

God’s first promise, related to the first day, was to restore the nations of Israel and Judah back from captivity. God promised to bring them back to the land He had given them (cf. Dt 30:3–5). This promised return of both the northern and southern kingdoms served as an introduction to these chapters and provided hope to those who would soon be dispossessed from their land.

(2) The Time of Jacob’s Distress Prior to Restoration (30:4–7)

30:4–7. The final return of Israel and Judah to the land will be preceded by a time of national distress, "Cries of terror will be heard among the residents of Israel in the latter days, during the time of Jacob’s distress, and there will be no peace. Jeremiah compared the anguish of men clutching themselves in fear to a woman in childbirth (cf. 4:31; 6:24; 13:21; 22:23; 49:24; 50:43). The coming calamity will be so awful that there is none like it (cf. Mt 24:21; Dn 12:1).

This is the time of Jacob’s distress, also known as the day of the Lord, or the great tribulation. It is a time of judgment that will culminate in Israel’s physical and spiritual deliverance when the nation will recognize Jesus as the Messiah of Israel (see comments on Zch 12:10–13:1). The period includes a unique time of judgment on the nation for their sin (cf. Mt 24:21; Dn 12:1; Ezk 30:3; Jl 1:15; 2:1–2, 11; Am 5:18–20; Mc 1:2–5; Zph 1:2–3:8), including events more extreme than the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon (586 BC) or Rome (AD 70) (see comments on Mt 24:21–22).

The use of Jacob represents the whole nation, and this eschatological song looks to the Lord’s faithfulness. Despite the distress, all will not be lost because God guaranteed that the nation will be saved from it (Zch 14:1–8, 12–15), for He has guaranteed the survival and ultimate blessing of His chosen people (Gn 12:1–3; 17:1–14; Is 41:8–11; 31:5–7).

Some interpreters consider the time of Jacob’s distress to be the coming fall of Judah to Babylon. However, this is unlikely because these events are linked to that day, an eschatological term. A better solution is to see Jeremiah referring to the still-future tribulation period, when the remnant of Israel and Judah will experience a time of unparalleled persecution (there is none like it; Dn 9:27; 12:1; Mt 24:15–22). The result of this tribulation will be that Israel will call on Jesus the Messiah in faith (Zch 12:10–13:1). Then He will appear, rescue Israel (Rm 11:26), and establish His kingdom (Mt 24:30–31; 25:31–46; Rv 19:11–21; 20:4–6), providing Israel with their ultimate physical and spiritual deliverance.

(3) Restoration and Deliverance by the Lord (30:8–11)

30:8–9. God will come to rescue the nation on that day, and strangers will no longer make them their slaves. In addition, they shall serve the Lord and submit to the authority of David their king whom God will raise up for them. Many scholars view this, and the passages below, as a reference to Christ who is from the line of David. Others see this literally as David resurrected because he is referred to by name. However, it seems best to understand this and other passages like it (cf. Ezk 34:23–24; 37:24–25; Hs 3:5) as referring to the future restoration of a united Israel (see comments on Jr 50:1). The name David is not about resurrected King David but the scion of the house of David, the Messiah Jesus (see comments on Ezk 34:23–24). In the messianic kingdom, King Messiah, the Son of David will rule on the throne of David. Jesus is frequently identified as the Son of David in the NT (Lk 1:31; Mt 1:22; Mk 10:47; Ac 4:12; 2Tm 2:8; Rv 5:5).

This is a reference to the future millennial kingdom (on that day) when King Messiah, the Son of David, will rule from Jerusalem. From the Babylonian captivity until the coming of Messiah there was no king in Israel, just as the prophets foretold. Today we await the return of the King, the second coming of Jesus the Messiah to rule in His kingdom on earth (Hs 3:4–5). Here Jeremiah is speaking of restoration (Jr 30:3) in the remote future during the Messianic Age, when God will bring Judah and Israel into a new relationship with Him, and when He will judge the Gentile nations (cf. 3:16, 18; 16:14; 23:5, 7, 20; 30:3, 24; 31:27, 29, 31, 33, 38; 33:14–16; 48:12, 47; 49:2, 39; 50:4, 20; 51:47, 52). Both of these days, the time of Jacob’s distress and that day when they shall serve the Lordand David their king are yet future. In that day God will purify Israel, judge the nations, and fulfill the blessings of restoration promised in Dt 30:1–10 and Jr 31.

30:10–11. Jacob is told not to fear, and God’s promise of restoration was designed to give Israel hope. She had no need to be dismayed because God promised to save her from afar. No country would be too distant for God to reach and rescue His people. When He brings them back to their land they will live in quiet and at ease, with the peace and security that was absent in Jeremiah’s day (cf. 8:11), and for which Israel is still waiting.

God will destroy completely all the nations where Israel and Judah had been scattered. Though He would chasten Israel and Judah, He assured them that He would never destroy them completely. Any judgment would be done justly (cf. 10:24; 46:28) so that the punishment for His chosen people would be tempered with His faithfulness.

b. The Spiritual Healing of Zion (30:12–17)

This period of spiritual healing looks not to the return from Babylon but to the future end times. It is only then that God will destroy Israel’s enemies and remove the iniquity of Israel.

(1) Israel’s Sin Caused Her Wounds (30:12–15)

30:12–15. Israel’s condition was critical. Her wound appeared incurable (6:14), and no one was available to provide a healing for [her] sore. There appeared to be no recovery possible. The lovers, her allies, in whom the nation had placed such great hope, had forgotten her. Even God had wounded her as an enemy would and punished her because of her iniquity.

(2) God Would Heal Israel’s Wounds (30:16–17)

30:16–17. Israel’s condition appeared hopeless, but God promised to reverse her misfortunes. Those who were devouring the nation would themselves be devoured by God. He would send her adversariesinto captivity and plunder those who sought to make spoil of her. At the same time God promised to restore Israel to spiritual health. He would intervene for His outcast people. Although the nations said no one cares for her, the Lord cared for Zion.

c. The Nation’s Material and Spiritual Blessing (30:18–22)

Events described in this section go beyond the return from Babylon and detail a set of events that will take place at the end of days (cf. comments on 50:1).

30:18–20. God Himself will be involved in rebuilding the tents of Jacob (32:44; 33:11, 26; cf. Dt 30:3). The city of Jerusalem will be rebuilt on its ruin, including the king’s palace. The festive sound of thanksgiving and the voice of those who celebrate, which had been silenced by Babylon (cf. Jr 7:34; 16:19; 25:10), will once again be heard in the city, and God will increase Judah numerically (cf. Dt 30:5). The nation will be secured and established before God, and He will punish all their oppressors.

30:21. Their leader will be one of themfrom their midst instead of some foreign despot (cf. v. 9). This ruler will come close to God as the Lord brings him near into His service and will approach the Lord. Since unauthorized approaches to God’s presence were punishable by death (Ex 19:21; Nm 8:19) this leader’s proximity to God indicated spiritual qualifications for leadership.

Walter Kaiser identifies this passage as a picture of the Messiah. The Hebrew word translated leader (‘addir) can be translated "glorious one" and indicates divine origin; it is used four times of either the Lord or God. Nevertheless, this coming glorious ruler will come forth from their midst, be from the Jewish people, as predicted of the Messiah (Gn 49:10; Dt 18:15). The phrase I will bring him near and he shall approach Me indicates a priestly office of this ruler. To come near or to approach (Ex 24:2; Nm 16:5) means "to engage in the work of a priest." The privilege of drawing near to God in this technical sense belongs only to those persons whom God had set apart for the task. The closing challenge, who would dare to risk his life to approach Me? implies that only the Messiah would be qualified for the task of Glorious Ruler-Priest (W. C. Kaiser Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994], 189–90).

30:22. Immediately Jeremiah pictured the result of the Messiah’s ministry: You shall be My people and I will be your God. This ideal relationship between Israel and her God was expressed several times in the OT (cf. Lv 26:12; Dt 7:6; 26:16–19; Jr 7:23; 11:4; 24:7; 31:1, 33; Ezk 11:20; 14:11; 34:30; 36:28; 37:23, 27; Hs 2:23; Zch 8:8; 13:9). Israel will finally experience the relationship with God that He had always intended under the leadership of King Messiah.

d. The Judgment on the Wicked (30:23–24)

30:23–24. Jeremiah repeated a similar message to that written in 23:19–20. Before God’s blessing can be experienced, He must judge sin. His wrath will burst out against the wicked. Though these words applied to false prophets in 23:19–20, here they may refer to God’s judgment on the wicked nations who opposed Israel (cf. vv. 16–20). God’s fierce anger has accomplished the intent of His heart. The full meaning of this message will be understood only in the latter days (an eschatological expression pointing to the day of the Lord; 23:20; Gn 49:1), and points to a time after the judgment has passed.

2. The New Covenant: Israel’s Future Hope (31:1–40)

31:1. This verse should be connected with the text about the "latter days" in 30:23–24, as there are no chapter breaks in the original manuscript. It explains the results of God’s judgment on the earth and also serves to introduce the section on national restoration that follows. God promised that when He would judge the world for its sins He would also restore all Israel to Himself in the Messianic Age. All the families of Israel, not just the tribe of Judah, will be known as God’s people (cf. 30:22). An integral component of that restoration involves His establishment of the new covenant, the main topic of chap. 31.

a. The National Restoration of Israel (31:2–22)

31:2–6. God assured restoration even to the northern kingdom, which had fallen to Assyria in 721 BC. Those who had survived the sword would yet experience God’s grace as He led them into the desert for their new exodus (cf. 16:14–15; 23:7–8; Hs 2:14–15). The turmoil of their long years of exile would cease when God intervened to give rest to the nation Israel.

God would restore the nation because of His everlasting love (ahabah; Jr 31:3), which He will freely bestow on His people (cf. Hs 11:4; 14:4; Zph 3:17) and His lovingkindness (chesed; cf. Jr 9:24; 32:18; Lm 3:32; Dn 9:4). God had made unconditional covenants with Abraham (Gn 15:7–21) and with David (2Sm 7:12–16), as well as another covenant with Israel at Sinai (Ex 19:3–8; Lv 26; Dt 28:1–30:10). He vowed to stay faithful to His commitments. Therefore, Israel could look forward to experiencing God’s blessing. The people were called the virgin of Israel (Jr 31:4)—God will one day see them as pure and innocent, because in the future, by His grace, she will be forgiven and rebuilt.

Jeremiah drew three word-pictures of God’s restoration of Israel. First, it will be a time of renewed joy. Israel will once again take up her tambourines with dances and merrymakers (v. 4). The times of sadness will cease when the captivity ends and Messiah sets up His kingdom (cf. Ps 137:1–4; Jr 16:8–9; 25:10–11). Second, it will be a time of peace and prosperity as the people plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria (v. 5). Free from external threats, they will be able to enjoy their fruit (cf. Lv 26:16; Dt 28:33; Mc 4:4; Zch 3:9–10). Third, even more splendid, it will be a time of renewed commitment to the Lord. The watchmen stationed on the hills of Ephraim (Jr 31:6) will direct those from the northern kingdom to go up to Zion to worship the Lord our God. Not since the split of the northern kingdom from Judah (930 BC) had there been united worship in Zion by Israel and Judah. In the messianic age, the people will once again be united in their worship in Jerusalem.

31:7–9. The great salvation provided by the Lord is described with five joyful verbs: sing, shout, proclaim, praise, and say. The people will call out, O Lord, save (Pss 20:9; 28:9; 86:2). The same Hebrew word for save is the basis of the word "Hosanna," the cry of the people of Jerusalem to Jesus on Palm Sunday (Mt 21:9). God’s restoration will be accompanied by songs of joy and the praises of the people for His deliverance. God will gather His people from the remote parts of the earth. No one will be too insignificant or weak for the Lord to deliver. God will restore the blind and the lame as well as the mother with child and women in labor (i.e., those who are most vulnerable). A great company will return to the land, weeping tears of repentance (Jr 31:9) for their sin will be overcome with tears of joy at God’s salvation.

As God leads His people home to Israel, He will provide for their every need. He will guide the people beside streams of waters (cf. Ex 15:22–25; Nm 20:2–13; Ps 23:2; Is 41:18; 49:10) and they will travel on a straight path so they will not stumble—images of spiritual supply and guidance. God will do all this because of His special relationship to Israel. He is a father to Israel (Jr 31:9; cf. Dt 32:6; Is 63:16; 64:8; Jr 3:4, 19; Mt 6:9), and Ephraim (emphasizing the northern tribes of Israel) is his firstborn son (cf. Ex 4:22). Jeremiah used the image of a father/son relationship to show God’s deep love for His people (cf. Hs 11:1, 8).

31:10–14. The Lord will gather Israel, as a shepherd keeps his flock (cf. 23:3; Mc 2:12; 5:4; 7:14) with tenderness and compassion. Jacob will be blessed spiritually, ransomed (padah) suggesting financial payment to buy out of slavery (Hs 13:14), and redeemed (gaal, used of a family member acting on behalf of a relative to remove trouble, avenge wrong, or pay a debt; Ru 4:1; Hs 13:14) by the Lord. They will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion (Jr 31:12). They will be radiant over the bounty (tov, "goodness") of the Lord. There will be material blessings of crops (cf. v. 5) and flocks. Israel will enjoy such a life of material blessing that she will be compared to a watered garden that would never languish again. This outpouring of blessing will produce gladness from young to old, as mourning and sorrow are replaced by joy (cf. vv. 4, 7; 33:10–11). The prosperity will be so great that the priests will have abundance from the many sacrifices brought by the worshipers (Lv 7:34).

31:15–17. The nation’s future hope is certain. It is in stark contrast to her misery in Jeremiah’s day. The cry from Ramah was one of lamentation and bitter weepingRachelweeping for her children. It presents a heartbreaking picture of a mother’s grief. Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife, was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph was the father of Ephraim and Manasseh, who became two major tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel. Benjamin was the father of one of the two tribes that made up the southern kingdom. Thus Jeremiah was picturing Rachel as a symbol of mothers of the northern kingdom watching their children being carried into Assyrian exile (722 BC) and mothers of Judah who would see their children slaughtered or exiled to Babylon (586 BC) and be no more.

Significantly, near Ramah, a town in Benjamin five miles north of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar established his headquarters on the plain of Hamath (39:5) and used it as the deportation point where the captives were assembled before removal to Babylon (cf. 40:1). Those considered too weak for the journey were immediately slaughtered there.

But as the women of Israel and Judah wept for their exiled children, God offered a word of hope and comfort: Restrain your voice from weepingthey will returnThere is hope for your future (cf. comments on 29:11). Their children would return to their own land of Israel because God would bring about the restoration. This is a promise to be fulfilled in the Messianic Age, more than with a return from Babylon (see comments on 50:1).

This passage is most familiar because it is quoted in the NT regarding Herod’s slaughter of the all the baby boys "in Bethlehem and its vicinity … two years old and under" when Jesus was born (Mt 2:16). When Herod learned of the birth of Jesus from the Wise Men, he killed all the innocent male children age two and younger in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the baby Messiah. Matthew identified this tragedy as fulfilling that which "had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet" (Mt 2:17–18).

Understanding Matthew’s use of the word "fulfilled" (pleroo) in Mt 2:17 is important. Although Matthew did use the verb to record direct fulfillment of OT predictions (cf. Mt 21:4–5 with Zch 9:9), he also used the word to indicate a variety of other categories of fulfillment of prophecy. (For the different ways that Matthew uses the verb "to fulfill," and other ways he indicates fulfillment in his Gospel, see Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? [Nashville: B&H, 2010], 95). Specifically, in this quotation, Matthew used the word "fulfilled" in the sense of applicational fulfillment. This sort of usage highlights the contemporary relevance of an ancient prophetic text. Therefore, Matthew cited Jr 31:15 to show that Scripture had a continuing relevance, simply applying the language of this prophecy to the tragic situation of the slaughter of the innocents. Even as Jeremiah had described Rachel, representing Jewish motherhood, weeping at the death and exile of her sons, so Jewish motherhood once again mourned when wicked Herod murdered her children. And Rachel has continued to lament and has refused to be consoled for her children as they have been murdered by Crusaders, Nazis, and modern terrorists. Sadly, this Scripture has had continuing relevance for centuries of Jewish history (Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope, 104–08).

31:18–20. Jeremiah ended this section by recording the grief, shame, and contrition Ephraim (Israel) will express when she is restored to the Lord. Though she had behaved like an untrained calf she will return to the Lord, repent, and be instructed. God in turn will remember Israel, because the Lord’s heart yearns for His people (has great compassion) and will have mercy on them when Israel returns to their Father (cf. 31:9; Hs 2:16–23; Rm 11:28–29).

31:21–22. The imperatives in these verses show the urgency of Israel’s preparation for return: Set up, place, direct, return (twice). God called on the captives to set uproad marks and guideposts as they traveled to Babylon and to remember the road they would take home. They would need this information during His promised restoration so they could return to their cities (see comments on 50:1).

This time of promised restoration will be so remarkable that it will be as if God will create a new thing in the earth. That new event is described proverbially by the clause, a woman will encompass ("encircle, surround") a man. Although this verse is obscure, the possible idea is that a woman will seek or court a man. In Jewish culture of the biblical period a woman would not court a man; but instead the brides were brought to their arranged husbands (cf. Gn 2:22; 24; 29:16–30). This encompassing would indicate something unusual. The woman here is Israel (Jr 31:21) who had been faithless, but in the future she will return to the Lord—God, her true Husband—and ask to be united with Him again, loving Him wholeheartedly (29:32). This verse is the basis for the Jewish practice of a bride walking around the groom seven times at a wedding ceremony.

b. The National Restoration of Judah (31:23–26)

When God restores Israel, He will also reverse the fortunes of Judah. Those living in Judah will once again invoke a blessing on the abode of righteousness (Jerusalem, cf. Is 1:21, 26) and the holy hill (temple) (cf. Pss 2:6; 43:3; Is 66:20). The land will be repopulated, and God will meet every need and refresh everyone. As throughout this oracle, Jeremiah is speaking of events and conditions in the last days, not just the return from Babylon.

Jeremiah received this revelation (Jr 30:3–24) in a dream from the Lord, so he wrote, At this I awoke (Dn 10:9; Zch 4:1). Jeremiah’s sleep was pleasant because the truth he received from the Lord was a comforting preview of the future hope of his people.

c. The New Covenant (31:27–40)

Jeremiah used the Hebrew phrase "Behold, days are coming" to introduce the three sections of this unit (31:27, 31, 38).

The phrase "Behold, days are coming" (hinneh yamim ba’im) is used 15 times in his book. It is used in a negative sense seven times, and refers then to the coming destruction of Judah and surrounding nations. Some of the negative occurrences have eschatological implications (cf. 7:32; 9:25; 19:6; 48:12; 49:2; 51:47, 52). The final nine occurrences of this phrase are eschatological, pointing to a future period of blessing for Israel when (1) the nation will be restored to the land (cf. comments on 16:14–15; 23:7–8; 30:3); (2) the righteous Branch of David will be ruling over a united monarchy (23:5–6; 33:14–15); (3) the nation will be experiencing peace and prosperity in the land (vv. 27–28; 33:14, 16); (4) the new covenant with its cleansing from sin will be in effect (vv. 31–34), and (5) the city of Jerusalem will be rebuilt as a holy city that will never again be destroyed (vv. 38–40). These promises transcend anything that Israel has experienced throughout her long history. They will find their ultimate fulfillment only in the millennial age when the messianic kingdom is established, when God will fulfill all the promises He made to Israel and Judah (33:14).

31:27–30. In chap. 31, the three occurrences of the phrase Behold, days are coming introduce three aspects of the Lord’s new relationship with His people in the new covenant (vv. 27, 31, 38). First, God vowed to provide a new beginning for His covenant people, Israel. Behold the days are coming in the future messianic kingdom when God will sow the nations of Israel and Judah with man and beast (Ezk 36:8–11; Hs 1:11–13). Jeremiah used agricultural and architectural metaphors to illustrate God’s work of blessing and prosperity (cf. Jr 1:10). God had judged Judah for her sin and brought disaster, but He will reverse that judgment to build and to plant.

God’s work for the nation will silence a proverb that was common in Jeremiah’s day (cf. the comments on Ezk 18:2–4). Those facing judgment by the Babylonians felt they were being unfairly punished by God for their ancestors’ sins. Though the fathers [had] eaten sour grapes, it was the children who had their teethset on edge. This proverb would be false in those days because God’s justice will guarantee that each guilty person will die for his own iniquity.

31:31–37. Second, days are coming when God would make a new covenant with His people, the house of Israel (the northern kingdom) and the house of Judah (the Southern Kingdom). One aspect of this covenant is that it was new, and not like the covenant God made with their fathers at the time of the exodus from the land of Egypt, because that covenant had been broken by the people (cf. 11:1–8). This earlier covenant was the Mosaic (or Sinai) covenant contained in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (Ex 19:1–31:18; 34:1–27). Twice God had announced a series of punishments or "curses" that would be invoked on those who violated His law given at Sinai (Lv 26:1–46; Dt 28:1–68). The final judgment would be a physical deportation from the land of Israel.

The new covenant is related to the major covenants God made with Israel in the OT, and it was foreshadowed in the Abrahamic covenant. God promised that in the seed of Abraham "all the families of the earth will be blessed," which is a reference to the coming Messiah (Gn 12:3; 22:18). The opening verse of the NT identifies Jesus as the descendant of Abraham (Mt 1:1) who was the blessing to the whole world. The new covenant fulfilled the Mosaic covenant, because Jesus the Messiah kept the law perfectly, fulfilling all its requirements. He was the ultimate, final Passover Lamb (1Co 5:7) and Atonement (2Co 5:17; 1Jn 2:1–2). The Davidic covenant (2Sm 7:8–17) has far-reaching implications of establishing a dynasty in David’s line that would have an eternal house (descendants), throne (dynasty), and kingdom (land). The Davidic covenant looks forward to a descendant of David who would bring peace and justice to God’s people through His reign. This Son of David is the Messiah Jesus. The new covenant is linked to the Davidic covenant with the promise of the eternality of the Jewish people (Jr 31:35–37).

God had set a holy standard of conduct before the people, but because of their sinful hearts they could not keep those standards. A change was needed; days are coming when the temporary Mosaic covenant would be replaced by a permanent new covenant.

This new covenant will involve an internalization of His law. He will put (write) His law within them and on their heart, not just on stones, like the Mosaic covenant (Ex 34:1). People will not remind one another to know the Lord. They will already all know Him, because they have been forgiven (cf. Is 11:9; Hab 2:14) so God will include them in His new covenant community. God’s new covenant will give Israel the inner ability to obey His righteous standards and thus to enjoy His blessings.

Ezekiel indicated that this change will result from God’s bestowal of the Holy Spirit on these believers (cf. Ezk 36:24–32). In OT times the Holy Spirit did not universally indwell all believers. Thus one different aspect of the new covenant is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all the members of God’s covenant community (Jr 31:33; Rm 8:9).

The new covenant will be God’s final provision for sin. The sins of the people under the old covenant were temporarily covered by the continual offering of sacrifices according to the Sinai covenant (Ex 24:8; Lv 17:11; Heb 9:1–22). However, as part of the new covenant God will forgive Israel’s iniquity and remember their sins no more. God cannot overlook sin, and the Mosaic sacrificial system was set up to temporarily deal with sin. His righteousness demanded a payment for sin. Under the new covenant, the penalty for sin would be paid for by His Suffering Servant, the Messiah (cf. Is 53:4–6; Mt 5:17; Jn 19:30).

The Lord Jesus announced the new covenant in the Upper Room at His last Passover (the Lord’s Supper). He indicated that it would be inaugurated through the shedding of His blood (cf. Mt 26:27–28; Lk 22:20). Forgiveness of sin would be part of the new covenant because God provided Messiah Jesus as the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for sin once for all (2Co 5:17; Rm 6:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12; 10:10; 1Pt 3:18). The new covenant was promised to Israel and Judah and actually initiated with the faithful remnant of Israel embodied by the Jewish followers of Jesus. However, the new covenant’s benefits have a broader scope than Israel alone. The spiritual aspects of this new covenant are available to all people, whether Jewish or Gentile, who put their faith in the Messiah Jesus (1Co 11:23–26; 2Co 3:6).

To underscore Israel’s permanence in relation to the new covenant, God compared her existence to the heavens and the earth (Jr 31:35–37). As God had appointed the sun for light by day and the moon and stars for light by night (Gn 1:14–19), so He had appointed Israel as His chosen nationforever. Just as it is impossible to stop the natural fixed order of sun, moon, and stars, neither is it possible to make Israelcease from being a nation. The power God displayed in creating the universe was the power that He exercises in preserving Israel as a nation. Throughout history people have tried in vain to destroy Israel, but none have succeeded—and none ever will. Those who claim that the Church replaces Israel in God’s program, or who claim that the NT teaches this, fail to come to grips with promises such as these.

Not only will the Jewish people survive as a distinct people, they will be a nation before the Lord forever (Jr 31:36). He will never stop loving His chosen people; only if the heavens above could be measured and the foundations of the earth could be searched out (which is as impossible as pulling the moon and sun out of the sky), only then will the offspring of Israel be cast off by God for all that they have done (Rm 11:1–2, 28). In other words, God will always be faithful to His chosen people.

The new covenant was made with Israel (Jr 31:31, 33; Lk 22:1–20) just as the Mosaic covenant had been (Jr 31:32). Ultimately the new covenant will find its complete fulfillment during the millennium when Israel is restored to her God under King Messiah. Though the ultimate fulfillment of this covenant awaits the millennial reign of Christ, the Church today is participating in some of the spiritual benefits of the new covenant. The covenant was inaugurated at Christ’s sacrifice (Mt 26:27–28; Lk 22:20) with the faithful remnant of Israel, His Jewish disciples. After the resurrection and the birth of the Church at Pentecost, many Gentiles came to faith in Christ. The Church, by her union with Christ, is sharing in many of the spiritual blessings promised to Israel (cf. Rm 11:11–24; Eph 2:11–22) through the new covenant (2Co 3:6; Heb 8:6–13; 9:15; 12:22–24).

Though the Church’s participation in the new covenant is real, it is not the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise. That all believers today, Jewish and Gentile, enjoy the spiritual blessings of the new covenant (forgiveness of sins by faith in Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit) does not mean that God is finished with His plan for the Jewish people. Scripture clearly says days are coming when all the spiritual and physical blessings promised to Israel will be realized by her. That still awaits the day when Israel will acknowledge her sin and turn to her Messiah for forgiveness (Zch 12:10–13:1) when "all Israel will be saved" (see comments on Rm 11:25–27). The new covenant, made possible by the blood of Messiah, brought redemption to the world and will ultimately bring unique blessing to Israel.

31:38–40. Verse 38 includes the third use of the phrase behold, days are coming (cf. vv. 27, 31). In the future, God will establish a new city for His people. Jerusalem, the city that symbolizes God’s relationship with His people, was destroyed by Babylon. But even before that destruction, God promised that the city will be rebuilt.

The Tower of Hananel was at the northeast corner of Jerusalem (cf. Neh 3:1; 12:39; Zch 14:10), and the Corner Gate was probably at the northwest corner of the city (cf. 2Kg 14:13; 2Ch 26:9; Zch 14:10). Thus the northern wall will be restored. The locations of the hill of Gareb and Goah are unknown, but since Jr 31:38 describes the northern boundary and 31:40 describes the southern and eastern boundaries it may be assumed that Gareb and Goah detail the western boundary of the city. The southwestern and southern boundary will be the valley in which dead bodies and ashes are thrown. This is the Hinnom Valley (cf. 7:30–34; 19:1–6). The eastern boundary is the fields as far as the brook Kidron. This boundary would extend to the corner of the Horse Gate on the southeast tip of the city, where the Kidron Valley and Hinnom Valley unite. These geographic locations give an outline of Jerusalem.

God described two characteristics of this new city. First, it will be holy to the Lord (cf. Zch 14:20–21). The city and its inhabitants will be set apart to God who will dwell in her midst (Ezk 48:35). Second, the city will not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever. The ravages of war will never happen this new city. These verses were not fulfilled after the Babylonian captivity ended. The postexilic period provided clear evidence that holiness was not a primary characteristic of the people in Jerusalem and Judah (Mal 1:6–14; Lk 13:34), so the city was destroyed again in AD 70 by the Romans. Furthermore, war has ravaged Jerusalem from ancient times up until the present political turmoil. Therefore the city awaits the coming of her King Messiah to bring the peace that the prophets predicted. These promises await their future fulfillment during the millennium (Jr 31:31–40) when Israel will know, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness" (31:3–4; Is 11:9).

3. The Restoration of Israel and Judah Illustrated (32:1–44)

Although Israel’s ultimate restoration will come in the Messianic age (31:31–40), the captivity in Babylon would be for only 70 years (25:11–12; 2Ch 36:20–21). God promised that afterward the Jewish people would return to their land. This section illustrates the restoration of the Jewish people to their land.

a. The Illustration: Buy a Field in Anathoth (32:1–12)

(1) Jeremiah’s Circumstances (32:1–5)

32:1–2. Jeremiah’s message was given in the tenth year of Zedekiah, which was also the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. The time frame of this prophecy was given because of its significance to the message. The tenth year of Zedekiah ended on October 17, 587 BC (using the Jewish calendrical reckoning of Tishri-to-Tishri comprising a year) while the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar began on April 23, 587 BC (using Babylonian reckoning of a Nisan-to-Nisan year), so this prophecy occurred sometime between April 23 and October 17, 587 BC. Jerusalem was under siege from Babylon from January 15, 588 BC, until July 18, 586 BC. When this message was given, Babylon was besieging Jerusalem and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up under arrest in the house of the king of Judah.

32:3–5. Zedekiah imprisoned Jeremiah for the prophet’s messages, namely: (1) that God would give Jerusalem into the hand of the king of Babylon, (2) that Zedekiah would not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, and (3) any attempt to oppose the Babylonians would not succeed. These negative, defeatist statements were demoralizing to the nation and insulting to the king, who was trying to withstand Babylon’s assault.

(2) The Purchase of the Field at Anathoth (32:6–12)

32:6–9. God told Jeremiah of an impending visit by his cousin Hanamel the son of Shallum and gave him an unusual assignment. This Shallum, Jeremiah’s uncle, was a servant in the temple and was carried into exile (1Ch 9:19); he is not the royal Shallum, also known by the name Jehoahaz (1Ch 3:15). Hanamel visited Jeremiah in prison and asked Jeremiah to buy his field at Anathoth because Jeremiah had the right of redemption to buy it. The Mosaic law called for a person to redeem (purchase) the property of a relative who was forced to sell; this law kept property in the family (Lv. 25:23–28; Ru 4:1–6). Hanamel’s motives for selling the land are not given, but to purchase land in Anathoth that was already under Babylonian control would appear to be foolish. Who would buy a parcel of land that was already in enemy hands? God told Jeremiah in advance that Hanamel would come so Jeremiah would recognize God’s hand in the request and not dismiss this seeming foolishness. However, buying a field prior to going into captivity indicates a hope of return.

When Hanamel came, Jeremiah bought the field for seventeen shekels of silver (about seven ounces). Ordinarily this would have been a small price for a field (cf. Gn 23:12–16). But the size of the field is unknown.

32:10–12. Following the legal practice of the day, Jeremiah signed and sealed the deed and called in witnesses and weighedthe silver. Two copies of the deed of purchase were made, a sealed copy and open copy. One was sealed by being bound with a piece of cord with Jeremiah’s official seal stamped into a lump of clay placed over the string. The other copy remained unsealed so it could later be examined. Jeremiah handed both copies of the deed to Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe and friend (cf. 36:4, 8, 26). This was a public action in the sight of Hanamel, and in the sight of the witness who signed the deed, and before all the Jews who were sitting in the court of the guard, the area where Jeremiah was imprisoned (v. 2).

b. The Explanation of the Purchase (32:13–15)

32:13–15. Jeremiah commanded Baruch to take both deeds and put them in an earthenware jar for preservation. The documents had to last a long time in storage while the people were in exile. This object lesson was to show that houses, fields, and vineyards would again be bought by the people of Israel in this land. The people would return from exile in Babylon.

c. The Prayer of Jeremiah (32:16–25)

(1) His Praise for God’s Greatness (32:16–23)

32:16–19. As he prayed, Jeremiah focused on the incomparable greatness and majesty of God’s character. God’s creation of the heavens and the earth proved that nothing is too difficult for the Lord (31:27). He is omnipotent, and He is also a God of love and justice. He shows lovingkindness (chesed; cf. 9:24; 31:3) to thousands, countless generations; but He also punishes iniquity (cf. Ex 20:5; 34:7; Nm 14:18; Dt 5:9–10). In God’s omniscience He gives to everyone according to his ways (according to their behavior). Jeremiah worships God as great and mighty (Dt 10:17; Neh 9:32), the Lord of hosts (the name of God indicating His power, righteousness and covenant keeping, used hundreds of times in the OT, and dozens of times by Jeremiah; see 1Sm 17:45; 2Sm 5:10; Ps 89:8; Is 54:5; Jr 5:14; 50:34). Since nothing escapes His eyes He can justly reward everyone according to his conduct, the fruit of his deeds.

32:20–23. God’s character was evident in His deeds throughout Israel’s history, briefly recounted in this passage: From God’s signs and wonders (cf. Dt 4:34; 26:8; 29:3; 34:11) during the exodus, to the disobedience of Israel when they took possession of the land He promised, to the calamity that was about to occur (cf. Lv 26:14–39; Dt 28:15–68).

(2) His Puzzlement over God’s Promise (32:24–25)

32:24–25. After proclaiming God’s mighty character and deeds, Jeremiah expressed his confusion at God’s workings. In light of vv. 32:17–23 it seems unreasonable to believe that Jeremiah doubted God’s ability to restore His people. Probably Jeremiah was expressing in vv. 24–25 his bewilderment over how God would accomplish this restoration rather than doubting if God would accomplish it.

Babylon’s siege ramps had already reached the city. Jerusalem’s fate was sealed; she would be given over to the Chaldeans, and the people to the sword, famine, and pestilence (cf. v. 36 and see comments on 14:12.) Everything that God had foretold through His prophets had come to pass. Yet as the army of Babylon stood poised to reduce Jerusalem to rubble, God had commanded Jeremiah to buy a field and call in witnesses, although the city was doomed (vv. 6–12). Jeremiah did not understand how God’s promised restoration related to Judah’s present calamity.

d. The Answer of the Lord (32:26–44)

(1) The City Will Be Destroyed (32:26–35)

32:26–29. God answered Jeremiah by first reminding him of His identity and power: Behold, I am the Lordis anything too difficult for Me? (v. 17; Gn 18:14; Lk 1:34–37). Jeremiah could depend on God’s word even if he did not understand how it would be accomplished. Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Jerusalem. He would set it on fire and burn it down (cf. Jr 21:10; 34:2, 22; 37:8, 10; 38:18, 23) because of the people’s worship of other gods (cf. 19:13).

32:30–35. Doing only evil had characterized both Israel and Judahfrom their youth. They provoked God to anger by the work of their hands, practicing idolatry. Spiritually they turned their backs on God and refused to listen or respond to discipline. Everyone was guilty: their kings, leaders, priests, prophets, men of Judah, inhabitants of Jerusalem (2:26). They turned their back to God, despite His repeated lessons again and again. The temple was defiled with detestable things (7:30; Ezk 8:3–16), and the valley of Ben-hinnom had become the offering place of child sacrifice to Molech (cf. comments on Jr 7:31–32; 19:5–6), an act so abominable it had never entered the mind of God (cf. comments on 7:30–31). Jerusalem would fall to Babylon because of her sin.

(2) The City Will Be Restored (32:36–44)

32:36–44. Jerusalem was given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, famine and by pestilence (32:24; see comments on 14:12). Yet that catastrophic event did not signal the end of God’s chosen people. God offered hope in the midst of despair. First, He promised to gather them (cf. Ezk 37:1–14). God will regather His people from all the lands where they had been in exile and will bring them back to the land of Israel where they will dwell in safety (cf. Jr 31:1–17). They will have one heart to fear the Lord. Second, He promised an everlasting covenant, the new covenant (cf. 31:31–34; Ezk 36:24–32). It was called everlasting (‘olam) to stress its duration. Not only will the people of Israel be restored to their land, but also they will be restored to their God. They will be His people and He will be their God (see comments on Jr 30:22), and they will never turn away from Him. With singleness of heart His people will follow the Lord, and He will never stop doing all the good He promised to them.

Just as God had been faithful to His word in bringing great disaster on Israel because of her sin (Dt 28:15–68), so He will also be faithful in providing the good He had promised them (Dt 30:1–10). Thus Jeremiah’s purchase of the field (Jr 32:1–15) was a symbolic act to show that people will buy fields for money throughout Israel, from Benjamin and Judah to the hill country to the Negev, because God will restore their fortunes (cf. 30:18; 33:11, 26; Dt 30:3).

4. The Restoration of Israel and Judah Reaffirmed (33:1–26)

"The Book of Consolation" concludes in chap. 33, which is structurally and chronologically related to chap. 32. In chap. 33:1–13, Jeremiah continued relaying God’s promise of blessing, even as the Lord reaffirmed both the coming destruction and the future restoration of Jerusalem. God then reaffirmed His covenants with David and with the Levitical priests (33:14–26).

a. The Coming Judgment and Future Restoration (33:1–13)

(1) The Judgment (33:1–5)

33:1–3. While he was still confined in the guardhouse (cf. 32:2), the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the second time with a message similar to the first he received while in custody (chap. 32). God again reminded Jeremiah of who He was, stressing both His power and His character as the Lord who made the earth (cf. 32:17). This emphasized His covenant-keeping faithfulness to Israel by stating that the Lord is His name, it is the Lord who created the earth, and He is able to answer when called upon (cf. 32:18; Ex 3:13–15).

Jeremiah did not understand how God could restore a nation that was destined for doom (cf. Jr 32:24–25), so God challenged the prophet to call to Him for understanding. God promised to answer by revealing great and mighty things. The word for mighty (b’surot) means "something that is made impenetrable by fortifying it or enclosing it." It is used to describe heavily fortified cities (cf. Nm 13:28; Dt 3:5; 28:52; Ezk 21:20). God’s plans for the future are inscrutable to ordinary people. Only God can unlock the secrets of the future, and He offered this knowledge to Jeremiah. God would share with Jeremiah information the prophet did not know or understand about Israel’s future. Likewise, God wants us to come to Him for understanding and insight. All true wisdom ultimately begins with Him (Pr 1:7) and in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2:3).

33:4–5. As Babylon’s siege wore away at Jerusalem’s outer resistance, the defenders of Jerusalem used houses and the royal palaces to provide wood and stone to strengthen the walls against the siege ramps to prevent the sword of Babylon’s soldiers from making a breach in the walls and entering the city. God revealed that all these defensive plans would fail because of His anger andwrath. God would hide His face from this city, refusing to deliver it from this destruction because of all their wickedness (cf. 18:17; Ezk 4:1–3). Jerusalem had to be destroyed because of all their wickedness.

(2) The Restoration (33:6–13)

33:6–9. The key to understanding God’s seemingly contradictory prophecies of judgment and blessing is to realize that the judgment was to be only temporary. After the time of judgment God will, in days to come, bring health and healing to His city and His people with abundant peace and truth.

God spoke to Jeremiah about three elements of this blessing. First, the blessing will involve a restoration to the land (cf. 31:8–11; 32:37). God will bring both Judah and Israel back from captivity, and restore (shuv, "return") their fortunes (shavuth, "captivity" or "captives"). They will be rebuilt, reestablished. Second, the blessing will involve a restoration to the Lord (cf. 31:31–34; 32:33–40). God will cleanse the people from all their iniquity and pardon them of their transgressions. Third, the blessing will involve a restoration to a special place of honor among the nations (cf. 31:10–14; Dt 28:13). Jerusalem will bring renown, joy, praise, and glory to God before all the nations of the earth. Nations will be in awe and will tremble as they marvel at the good and peace God will lavish on His people (Jr 33:6, 9). The fulfillment of this prophecy did not occur following the exile and awaits an eschatological realization.

33:10–13. God drew two pictures that contrasted Israel’s present judgment and her future blessing. Each picture began with similar phrases, including the words Thus says the Lord, again, and in this place, and the theme of various cities being a waste (vv. 10, 12).

God emphasized that this is what the Lord (or Lord of hosts) says. In each picture the scene in Jeremiah’s day was similar (vv. 10, 12). Jerusalem was a desolate waste, without man or beast (cf. 33:12). Though the siege was still in progress, the fall of Jerusalem was so sure that God pictured it as if it had already happened. However, these events are yet in the future, when King Messiah reigns over his people, who will be cleansed from all their iniquity (v. 8).

At this point the two pictures changed. First, God illustrated the joy and gladness that will again return to Judah and Jerusalem (vv. 10–11). Next, He illustrated the peace and prosperity of the people, where flockspass under the hands of good shepherds, throughout all of Israel from the hill country to the lowland to the Negev in the south, to Benjamin, Jerusalem, and Judah (vv. 12–13; 17:26). The streets of Jerusalem that were desolate after its destruction by Babylon (cf. Lm 1:1–4) will again be filled with the voice of joy andgladness. This joyful sound will be typified by the voices of a bride and bridegroom in a wedding ceremony (cf. Jr 7:34; 16:9; 25:10) and the voices of worshipers who bring a thank offering into the house of the Lord (cf. Ps 100:1–2, 4; Jr 17:26). The song to be sung by the worshipers, Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, For the Lord is good, recorded by Jeremiah, resembled the refrain of several psalms (cf. Pss 100:4–5; 106:1; 107:1; 136:1–3). Joy will come when God restores Judah’s fortunes (cf. Jr 30:18; 32:44; 33:26; Dt 30:3).

Throughout the land flocks will again pass under the hands of the one who numbers them, as a shepherd counts his sheep to be sure none is absent. Return of flocks of sheep points to a time of prosperity. Possibly Jeremiah was using shepherd and sheep in a metaphorical sense to refer to the leaders of Israel and the people. He had already compared the leaders to shepherds (cf. comments on 3:15) and the restored nation to a regathered flock (cf. 23:3; 31:10). Ultimately the Lord is the Shepherd of Israel and will care for His flock (Ps 80:1; Ec 12:11; Ezk 34:11–31; Jn 10:11; Heb 13:20; 1Pt 5:4).

b. The Covenants with David and the Levitical Priests (33:14–26)

Jeremiah had also used this imagery of future blessing to introduce his message on the "righteous Branch" of David (23:1–6; 33:14–26).

(1) The Covenants (33:14–18)

The second section of this chapter is introduced with the phrase "Behold, the days are coming" (hinneh yamim ba’im, cf. comments on 31:27) when God would "fulfill the good word … concerning … Israel and … Judah." Although the monarchy and the priesthood were suspended during the exile, Jeremiah proclaimed there would be both an eternal Davidic kingship and an eternal Levitical priesthood (vv. 17–18) in the coming days. However, the fulfillment was not realized at the return from Babylon (Ezk 1:8; 2:2, 4–5; 8:15–18). The "good word," a phrase that captures the entire breadth of the glorious promises made to both parts of the nation (16:14–15; 23:3–6; 29:10–14; 31:1–14, 27–40; 32:37–44; Hs 1:10–11; 2:14–23; Am 9:11–15; Mc 7:18–20; Zph 3:10, 14–17; Zch 8:3–8, 10:6, 14:9–20) will be fulfilled in the Messianic Age.

33:14–16. The first aspect of this fulfillment will be the restoration of the monarchy (cf. 23:5). The righteous Branch of David (cf. 23:5–6; 33:15; Is 11:1–4) will rule as King over the nation. This was a prophecy about Jesus Christ who descended from the line of David and was promised David’s throne (cf. Mt 1:1; Lk 1:31–33). His reign is characterized by justice and righteousness and extends to the whole earth.

The second aspect of this fulfillment will be the restoration of Jerusalem as God’s dwelling place. The city that was about to be destroyed by Babylon (Jr 33:4–5) will, in the coming days, dwell in safety, and she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness. This verse is similar to 23:6, but here a significant change gives it a new meaning. In 23:6 Jeremiah pictured the safety of Israel and Judah through the ministry of the Messiah who was called "The Lord Our Righteousness." However, by changing "Israel" to "Jerusalem" and by changing the pronoun "He" to "she," Jeremiah here applied the title, the Lord Our Righteousness, to the city of Jerusalem instead of to the Messiah. Under the kingship of Messiah, Jerusalem will take on the same holy characteristics as the Lord who will dwell in her (cf. Ezk 48:35).

It is significant that Jeremiah singled out the royal (Jr 33:15) and religious (v. 16) aspects of God’s restoration. Both were vital to Israel’s existence as God’s covenant community. With the certain destruction by Babylon, the people would be carried into exile and the promised land reduced to rubble, and all God’s covenants with His people seemed to be at the point of annulment. The series of message to Jeremiah (vv. 17–26) confirms that the ancient covenant is secure, based on the character God.

33:17–18. To stress the importance of both priesthood and king, God reiterated His covenants with the line of David and with the Levitical priests. The first covenant mentioned was God’s covenant with David (cf. 2Sm 7:8–16; 1Ch 17:4–14). God vowed that David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel. Some have felt that this promise failed because the monarchy ended in 586 BC when Jerusalem fell. However, God did not promise an unbroken monarchy but an unbroken line of descendants from David who would be qualified to sit on that throne when it was reestablished. David’s line would not fail before the righteous Branch of David came to claim His throne (cf. Lk 1:31–33). The genealogies of Matthew and Luke show that this promise was fulfilled, as Messiah Jesus was able to trace both His legal line through Joseph and His physical line through Mary back to David (Mt 1:1–16; Lk 3:23–31).

The second covenant mentioned was God’s covenant with the Levitical priests. This covenant was God’s promise that the Levites would never lack a man to stand before Him to offer burnt offeringsgrain offerings, and sacrifices. Again the promise was not that the sacrifices would continue unabated, because they did cease in 586 BC and were not resumed till 537 BC (cf. Ezr 3:1–6). The promise here was that the Levitical priesthood would not be extinguished. God was referring back to the promise He made to Phinehas (Nm 25:12–13). Although the Messiah Jesus, our Redeemer King Priest who ever lives to make intercession, is our high priest, this prophecy is not about Him (Heb 7:24–25). Certainly, neither the monarchy nor the priesthood would ever be abolished. Messiah Jesus will reign as King from the line of David (2Sm 7:16; Ps 89:34–37; Jr 33:17, 20–22; Lk 1:32–33) and as High Priest. However, He is fulfilling the office of high priest, not from the Levitical priesthood, but as a priest in the line of Melchizedek; a change in law, from the Sinai covenant to the new covenant, leads to a change in high priesthood (Gn 14:18–20; Ps 110:4; Heb 5:5–6; 6:20; 7:1–28). However, in the messianic kingdom, there will be a messianic temple with offerings and sacrifices, and at that time, Levitical priests will continue to minister there under the high priesthood of the Lord Jesus (see Ezk 43:19; 44:15–19 and comments there).

(2) The Confirmation of God’s Covenant Promises (33:19–26)

Going into exile would cause the people to doubt their future and even God’s faithfulness to His promises. In this section, Jeremiah records reassurance from the Lord.

God gave two assurances that He would keep His covenant promises. Each assurance began with the same introductory phrase, "The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah" (33:19, 23), and each used God’s "covenant for day and … night" to illustrate the permanence of these institutions (33:20, 25; cf. 31:35–37).

33:19–22. Only if man could break God’s covenant for the day andcovenant for the night (cf. Gn. 1:14–19) could God’s covenant[s]with David and with the Levitical priests be broken. That is, God’s covenants with them were as fixed as the natural order in the universe. They could not be overthrown by mere mortals. The word for "covenant" (berit) referred to a treaty or agreement made between individuals or parties by which they bound themselves to a specific relationship or course of action. A covenant could be conditioned on the behavior of both parties, or unconditional, based on the behavior of one party. The covenants to Abraham, David, and the Levitical priesthood were unconditional covenants, assured by the actions of God alone.

God had promised to preserve the kingly line of David (2Sm 7:8–16) and priestly line of Phinehas (Nm 25:12–13), and He would not break His oath. Indeed, God promised to bless both lines of the descendants of David and the Levites, and both would become as countless as the host of heaven (the stars) and the sand of the sea.

33:23–26. God’s second promise was to Jeremiah because of the doubt and reproach raised against him by this people, a phrase used to refer only to Israel and/or Judah. Some people in the nation claimed that God had so rejected the two families of Israel and Judah that He would no longer regard them as a nation. They felt that Israel’s and Judah’s sin, and coming exile, had led God to invalidate His covenant promises.

God responded to this argument by reaffirming His commitment to His covenants. The covenants with Abraham and David were not conditioned on people’s obedience but on God’s character (cf. comments on the unconditional nature of these covenants at 22:6–10). They were as sure as His covenant for day and night and as immutable as the fixed patterns of heaven and earth. Only if these natural laws could be repealed would God reject the descendants of Jacob and David. The reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham and the patriarchs regarding His selection of Israel as the chosen people (cf. Gn 12:1–3; 15:7–21; 17:1–8; 26:1–6; 28:10–15). God was bound to His promises and He would restore the nation’s fortunes (cf. Jr 30:18; 32:44; 33:11; Dt 30:3) and have mercy on them. The greatest argument for the future restoration of Israel as a nation is the character of God. He made a series of covenants with the patriarchs, David, and the Levites; His character demands that He will preserve Israel and ultimately fulfill these promises to the Jewish people (Rm 11:1–6, 28–29).

D. Present Catastrophe of Judah (34:1–45:5)

After describing the future hope of Judah (chaps. 30–33), Jeremiah returned to their present judgment. The destruction he had been predicting (chaps. 2–29) would now occur. The theme of judgment that began in chaps. 26–29 is taken up again in chaps. 34–36. The prophet was clear about the coming judgment (chaps. 2–29 and chaps. 34–45), but used a central part of his message in this book to confirm the Lord’s mercy and faithfulness (chaps. 30–33).

1. Before the Fall of Jerusalem (34:1–36:32)

A detailed eyewitness account of the events that occurred during and after Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon is presented in chronological order in chaps. 37–45. However, Jeremiah introduces those events with a record of life in Jerusalem immediately prior to its fall, to show the necessity of God’s judgment.

a. The Inconsistency of the People (34:1–22)

(1) The Warning to Zedekiah of His Exile (34:1–7)

34:1–3. When Nebuchadnezzar and all his armywere fighting against Jerusalem, God gave Jeremiah a message for King Zedekiah. This message was that Zedekiah’s rebellion against Babylon would not succeed. God had already determined to give Jerusalem into the hand of the king of Babylon, who would burn it (cf. 33:22; 32:29; 37:8, 10; 38:18, 23). Though Zedekiah would try to flee, he would not escape. Instead he would see the king of Babylon and speak with him eye to eye and be judged for his rebellion. Zedekiah would be taken captive to Babylon as punishment for his rebellion. Everything Jeremiah predicted came to pass (cf. 39:4–7; 52:7–11).

34:4–5. Because of his rebellion Zedekiah could have been executed by Nebuchadnezzar, but God promised that he would not die by the sword. Rather, he would die in peace and have a funeral befitting a king (in contrast with Jehoiakim; cf. 22:18–19; 36:27–31). With spices burned is not a reference to cremation, which was not practiced by the Jewish people, but the custom of burning spices (incense) at royal funerals (cf. 2Ch 16:14; 21:19). The lament Alas, lord! is equivalent to "Alas, our Majesty!" It is not giving qualities of deity to the king since Israel did not view their kings as gods.

34:6–7. Jeremiah delivered his message to King Zedekiah when the armyof Babylon relentlessly continued its attack against Jerusalem and the only remaining fortified cities of Judah. The guard cities of Lachish, 27 miles southwest of Jerusalem, and Azekah, 18 miles southwest of Jerusalem, fell in 587 BC.

(2) The Warning to the People for Enslaving Their Countrymen (34:8–22)

34:8–11. Jeremiah highlighted the specific sin of keeping Jewish slaves. Perhaps in a desperate attempt to win God’s favor during Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem, Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people … to release their Jewish slaves because the law commanded that no one should keepa Jew, his brother, in bondage (cf. Ex 21:2–11; Lv 25:39–55; Dt 15:12–18).

The slaves’ freedom, however, was short-lived. All those who released their slaves afterwardturned around and took back the maleand the female servants and enslaved them again. The slave owners changed their minds when the Babylonians broke off their siege of Jerusalem to repel an attack by the Egyptians. The people hoped for an Egyptian victory, which would end the Babylonian threat. But after so much destruction from the siege, slaves would be needed to rebuild the cities and towns. So the people reneged on their promise to obey God when it seemed that life would return to normal (cf. Jr 37:4–13).

34:12–16. God rebuked the people for their inconsistency by reminding them of their history. He had made a covenant with their forefathers when He freed them from Egyptian bondage. The law required that every seven years all Hebrew slaves were to go free. No Israelite was to be forced into permanent bondage again. Unfortunately the people did not obey God’s Word. Because of Babylon’s attack, the people finally repented and did what was right by granting freedom to their countrymen, but it was an insincere obedience. When they no longer felt under threat, they no longer felt the need to obey the Lord, and so they profaned God’s name. They made a covenant before God in the house which is called by His name, the temple, and they broke that covenant, treating His name as unholy—with irreverence and contempt.

34:17–20. God’s penalty matched their sin. By revoking their covenant the people had not proclaimed release for those Israelites who were wrongfully enslaved. Therefore, God would give them release to die by the sword, pestilence, and famine (cf. comments on 14:12).

In making their covenant in the temple (cf. v. 15) the people had cut the calf in two, and passed between its parts to signify their commitment to the covenant. By walking through the parts of the animal they were symbolizing the judgment that would befall them if they violated the agreement. God promised to treat those who broke the covenant like the calf they had slaughtered for the covenant. All who made the agreement would be given into the hand of their enemies and their dead bodies would be food for the birdsand beasts (cf. 7:33; 15:3; 16:4; 19:7).

Significantly when God made His covenant with Abraham, the patriarch did not pass between the parts of the animal. Only God passed between the parts, symbolized by the blazing torch (Gn 15:4–18, especially v. 17). The Abrahamic covenant rested on God’s character, not on man’s obedience.

34:21–22. Zedekiah and his officials should have been models of godly leadership, but they were as godless as the people. Though the Babylonians had gone away from Jerusalem, God would command them to come back to this city. The siege would resume until the Babylonians would take Jerusalem and burn it down (cf. v. 2). The other cities of Judah would be devastated, and the whole country would be a desolation without inhabitant.

b. The Consistency of the Rechabites: An Object Lesson to Judah (35:1–19)

(1) The Fidelity of the Rechabites (35:1–11)

35:1–5. This prophecy was given during the reign of Jehoiakim (609–598 BC), at least 11 years earlier than the prophecies in chap. 34. Jeremiah placed the chapter here to contrast the faithfulness of the Rechabite people with the unfaithful Judeans. The Rechabites were a nomadic clan (vv. 7–10) descended from Jonadab [or Jehonadab] son of Rechab (v. 6), who assisted Jehu in exterminating Baal worship from Israel (2Kg 10:15–27). They were related to the Kenites (1Ch 2:54–55) who descended from Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro (Jdg 1:16). Jonadab chose to live as a nomad, not a city dweller, and his lifestyle became the norm for his clan (Jr 35:6–10). Rechabites dwelt in tents in the Negev (Jdg 1:16; 1Sm 15:6), but they were forced to move to Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar threatened Judah in 598 BC (Jr 35:11).

Jeremiah invited the Rechabites, including Jaazaniah, for a meeting in the house of the Lord in the chamber ofHananthe man of God, a term usually used of a prophet (cf. 1Kg 12:22; 1Kg 1:9–13; 4:21–22). These rooms surrounded the temple court and were used for meetings, storage, and as priests’ residences (1Kg 6:5; 1Ch 28:12; 2Ch 31:11; Neh 13:7–9). The room occupied a prominent position, near the chamber of the officials and over the room of Maaseiahthe doorkeeper. This was evidently a high position because doorkeepers were singled out by the Babylonians for judgment along with the chief priests (cf. 2Kg 25:18–21; Jr 52:24–27). Jeremiah brought the nomadic Rechabites to this serious meeting with high-level Jerusalemites. He offered hospitality with pitchers full of wine and cups, and invited them to drink wine.

35:6–11. As Jeremiah knew, the Rechabites would not drink wine because the founder of the Rechabites, Jonadab the son of Rechab had prohibited it. He commanded his descendants: You shall not drink wine, you or your sons, forever. Nor were they allowed to build a house, sow seed, or plant a vineyard. They were not to live as farmers or in the city; they were to live in tents as nomads.

Jonadab’s descendants, and their wives, sons and daughters, had obeyed the voice of Jonadab, the son of Rechabin all that he commanded. (vv. 8–10). Only the Babylonian war had driven them to Jerusalem.

(2) The Example of the Rechabites (35:12–17)

35:12–17. The Rechabites were an object lesson to Judah. They consistently obeyed their father’s command, in sharp contrast with the people of Judah who had consistently disobeyed God their Father (cf. 31:9). The Rechabites were a reminder of Judah’s sin. God vowed to bring on Judahall the disaster [He had] pronounced against them. This disaster could refer to either (1) the curses of the covenant (cf. Lv 26:14–39; Dt 28:15–68) or, more probably, (2) the fall of Judah and Jerusalem predicted by Jeremiah (cf. Jr 4:20; 6:19; 11:11–12; 17:18). Judah would be punished because she did not listen to God’s words and did not answer God’s summons.

(3) The Reward of the Rechabites (35:18–19)

35:18–19. In contrast to faithless Judah, the Rechabites had faithfully obeyed the command of their forefather Jonadab. God rewarded their faithfulness by assuring them they would not lack a man to stand before the Lord always. The word "always" should be understood in context. Here "always" does not mean necessarily forever into eternity, but has a limited duration of their service in the temple. The promise was given to the Rechabites prior to the destruction of the temple and fall of Jerusalem, indicating they would return to Jerusalem with the Jewish people after the exile and take up their worship of the Lord in the temple (Neh 3:14). They apparently continued their worship in the temple until the Romans destroyed it in AD 70.

"To stand before" was used of those who served in a variety of ways: as prophets (Jr 15:19; 1Kg 17:1), as officials who served the king (1Kg 10:8), and of priests in the temple (Dt 4:10; 10:8; 2Ch 29:11). It was these people of Israel who stood before the Lord at the tabernacle and the temple (cf. Lv 9:5; Dt 4:10; Jr 7:10). The Lord promised that the line of the Rechabites would always have descendants who would be able to worship the Lord. The promise pointed to a continuing line of people who followed God, rather than a specific office of ministry for Him. Although the Rechabites are not specifically mentioned in Ezekiel’s description of the millennial temple, perhaps they too will be part of the worship in that future temple, along with the Levitical priests (see 33:17–18; Ezk 43:18–19; 44:15–19).

God is always looking for individuals whose lives are characterized by faithfulness. Such people will experience God’s blessing even in the midst of trials and will always have opportunity to serve Him.

c. Jehoiakim’s Scroll-Burning (36:1–32)

(1) The Writing of the Scroll (36:1–7)

36:1–3. The events of this chapter began in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim (605–604 BC; cf. 25:1). This is just prior to Judah becoming a vassal to Babylon (2Kg 24:1) and Babylon taking the best of the young men captives (Dn 1:1–4). God commanded Jeremiah to take a scroll and write on it all the words God gave him about Israel, Judah, and … all the nations from the day I first spoke to you even to this day. God first spoke to him in the days of Josiah (627 BC; cf. Jr 1:2; 25:3). This was the first formal compilation of Jeremiah’s prophecies (25:13). At least two additional stages of compilation are mentioned in the book (cf. v. 32; 51:64).

One purpose for recording these prophecies was so they could be read aloud to the people. The hope was that the house of Judah would hear all the calamity God would bring on them and turn from his evil way and God would forgive their iniquity and their sin.

36:4–7. Jeremiah called Baruch, his scribe (cf. 32:12–16; 36:26), and dictated to him all the words of the Lord. It is not known whether Jeremiah recited all the prophecies from memory or if he read them from scrolls on which he had recorded them earlier. Either method allows for God’s superintendence.

Jeremiah was restricted and could not go into the house of the Lord, possibly because of his earlier unpopular Temple Address there (cf. 7:1–15; 26:1–19) or because of his message about the broken jar and Pashhur’s attack (cf. 19:1–20:6). So Jeremiah commanded Baruch to go to the temple in his place on a fast day when people would be assembled there. Prior to the fall of Jerusalem (586 BC) fast days were not specified (other than Yom Kippur, Lv 23:26–32) but were called in times of emergency (cf. Jr 36:9; 2Ch. 20:3; Jl 1:14; 2:15). Only after the fall of Jerusalem were regular fast days instituted (Zch 7:3, 5; 8:19). Jeremiah hoped that as Baruch read the scroll everyone [would] turn from his evil way.

(2) The Reading of the Scroll (36:8–19)

36:8–10. Some time elapsed before a national emergency arose that prompted all the people to proclaim a fast before the Lord. The scroll was written in Jehoiakim’s fourth year (v. 1), but it was not read until the fifth year, in the ninth month (December), a possible gap of several months. (For a detailed discussion of the chronological issues see Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, rev. ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1983]; and Richard A. Parker and Waldo H. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology: 626 BC–AD 75 [Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 1956]).

The date was significant because the Babylonian Chronicles (cf. 27:1–7) report that, at the same time, Nebuchadnezzar was in Judah collecting "vast tribute" from those nations he had conquered. In the same month the fast was called, Nebuchadnezzar captured the city of Ashkelon and plundered it. It is possible that the fast was called to plead for deliverance from Babylon’s harsh hand.

Baruch read from the book the words of Jeremiah in the chamber of Gemariah that was in the upper court of the temple (cf. v. 10) at the entrance of the New Gate. It seems Baruch stood at the door of Germariah’s room so that what he read could be heard by all the assembled people in the temple courtyard. This was the first of three readings that day (vv. 10, 15, 21). Because of the repeated readings, it is likely that only portions of the scroll were read each time.

36:11–19. Gemariah’s son Micaiahheard all the words of the Lord from the book. He went to the king’s house in the scribe’s chamber to report the contents of the scroll to the all the officials, including Delaiah and Elnathan the son of Achbor, who urged Jehoiakim not to burn Jeremiah’s scroll (v. 25). However, Elnathan had earlier led an expedition to Egypt to extradite the righteous prophet Uriah back to Jerusalem to be executed.

When Micaiah finished his report, Baruch was summoned to appear before them and read the scroll to them. The officials turned in fear to one another when they heard the message of the scroll, and knew they must report all these words to the king. They asked if Baruch wrote all these words at Jeremiah’s dictation.

To protect them from the king, the officials warned Baruch and Jeremiah: hide and do not let anyone know where you are. Jehoiakim’s prior reaction against Uriah the prophet showed the wisdom of this advice (cf. 26:20–23).

(3) The Burning of the Scroll (36:20–26)

36:20–22. The scroll was placed in the chamber of Elishama, the scribe, while the officials reported all the words to the king in court. Jehudi was sent to retrieve scroll, and he read it to the king and his officials.

The events took place in the ninth month (between November 24 and December 23, 604 BC). Since it was cold in Jerusalem, Jehoiakim was in his winter house (Am 3:15), probably facing south to catch the winter sun. Further, he had a fire burning in the brazier, a small stove, for warmth.

36:23–26. Hebrew scrolls are written in vertical columns. After Jehudi had read three or four columns, Jehoiakim interrupted him and cut those columns off the scroll with a scribe’s knife, then threw those pieces into the firein the brazier. What a contrast with his godly father Josiah’s (cf. 2Kg 22:11–13) responsive behavior when he found the scroll of the Lord. Instead, Jehoiakim burned the scroll column by column as it was read to him until all the scroll was consumed in the fire in the brazier.

This was shocking behavior. Yet the king and all his servants, who heard all these words were not afraid of God’s words of judgment. Neither did they rend their garments in grief and repentance for their sins enumerated in the scroll. Instead Jehoiakim ordered the immediate arrest of Baruch and Jeremiah. However, the Lord hid them and kept them safe from the king.

(4) The Rewriting of the Scroll (36:27–32)

36:27–31. A scroll can be burned, but the Word of God cannot be destroyed. Since Jehoiakim burned the first scroll, God told Jeremiah to write on another scroll all the words that were on the first scroll. Because Jehoiakim had burned the scroll and refused to believe God’s warning about the king of Babylon, God vowed to judge him. First, no descendant of his would permanently sit on the throne of David. Though his son, Jehoiachin, did follow him to the throne (cf. 2Kg 24:8–17), he was deposed by Nebuchadnezzar after only three months. No other descendant of Jehoiakim ascended the throne (see comments on Jr 22:24–30). Second, Jehoiakim would not receive a proper burial (cf. 22:18–19). Instead his dead body would be cast out and left unburied, exposed to the elements. Third, Jehoiakim’s descendants and his servants would be punished for their iniquity. God would bring on them and Jerusalem and Judah every calamity that He had declared … because they did not listen.

36:32. Jeremiah obeyed God’s command exactly. He took another scroll, and Baruch wroteat the dictation of Jeremiah on the new scroll all the words of the burned scroll. Plus Jeremiah, according to the instruction of the Lord, added many similar words, most likely the contents of chap. 36, including the judgment on Jehoiakim. This verse used the word scroll (megillah "a scroll") and book (sapher, "writing," "written document," "decree"—not a square bound book with pages) interchangeably. Ancient scrolls were made of tanned leather or papyrus sewn together in long sheets and rolled scrolls.

2. During the Fall of Jerusalem (37:1–39:18)

The events of chaps. 37–39 are arranged chronologically. They record Jerusalem’s final days before the fall, and trace Jeremiah’s life and ministry during the final siege and fall of Jerusalem. The events foretold in Jeremiah’s messages and recorded on the scroll begin to occur.

a. Jeremiah’s Message to Zedekiah about Egypt (37:1–10)

37:1–2. The section focuses on Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, who was placed on the throne as a vassal king by Nebuchadnezzar (cf. 2Kg 24:15–17). From the king to the common people, no one listened to the words of the Lord given by Jeremiah.

37:3–10. Although Zedekiah did not listen to the words of the Lord, he asked Jeremiah to pray to the Lord for Judah. Jeremiah was not yetin the prison, and Babylon, the Chaldeans, had just lifted her siege of Jerusalem to defend herself from Pharaoh’s army marching from Egypt as Judah’s ally. Perhaps Zedekiah hoped that Jeremiah’s prayers would induce God to grant a victory to the Egyptians and force Babylon out of Judah (cf. 21:1–7 for a similar request).

God’s answer was bad news for Zedekiah. Pharaoh’s army that had marched out to give assistance to Judah would be crushed by Babylon and forced to return toEgypt. Then the Chaldeans would return and fight against Jerusalem, capture it and burn it down (cf. 21:10; 32:29; 34:2, 22; 37:10; 38:18, 23). Those who hoped for a Babylonian withdrawal were deceiving themselves. Even if only wounded men were in Nebuchadnezzar’s army, they would rise up and burn Jerusalem (cf. v. 8).

b. Jeremiah’s Imprisonment (37:11–38:28)

(1) Jeremiah’s Arrest and Confinement in a Dungeon (37:11–16)

37:11–16. When the Babylonian army withdrew to fight the Egyptians, they lifted the siege from Jerusalem, and the city had a time of relative calm. Jeremiah used this pause in fighting to leave the city for a short journey (perhaps 10 to 15 miles or so, depending on the exact destination), to his home in the land of Benjamin (cf. 1:1). The purpose of his trip was to take possession of some property belonging to his family, either to secure some land or to divide up some land for sale to others. Apparently Jeremiah had purchased the field earlier without ever leaving the premises of the court of the guard (32:1–15). Now with the siege lifted, he went out from Jerusalem to care for the property.

On his way out of Jerusalem, at the Gate of Benjamin (38:7; Zch 14:10), the northeast city gate toward the territory of Benjamin, the captain of the guard at that gate arrested Jeremiah and charged him with deserting to the Chaldeans, a logical accusation since many people from Judah had defected (Jr 38:19; 39:9; 52:15), and Jeremiah constantly foretold Babylonian victory (21:9). Jeremiah called the charge a lie, but the captain, Irijah, arrested him anyway. Jeremiah was beaten and put into jail in the house of Jonathan the scribe. He was put in a dungeon (lit., "in the house of the cistern, in the vaulted rooms"). This was probably a broken or dry cistern made into a prison where Jeremiah stayed many days.

(2) Jeremiah’s First Meeting with Zedekiah and Transfer to the Courtyard of the Guard (37:17–21)

37:17–20. The Babylonian army returned to Jerusalem and renewed the siege of the city, as the Lord said (vv. 9–10). Zedekiah took Jeremiah out secretly because of Jeremiah’s unpopularity with the people (cf. 26:10–11; 37:11–13; 38:4) and brought him to the palace. The resumption of the Babylonian siege was crushing, so Zedekiah asked for a word from the Lord. Jeremiah gave him the same message as before: You will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon! (21:7; 32:4; 34:3).

Jeremiah used his audience with Zedekiah to plead his innocence. He asked how he had sinned against the king or his servants or this people that he should be put in prison. Other prophets had prophesied lies, declaring the Babylonians would not come againstthis land; Jeremiah was jailed for telling the truth. He petitioned Zedekiah to not make him return to the dungeon to die there.

37:21. Zedekiah granted Jeremiah’s request and had him transferred from the cistern to the court of the guardhouse in the royal palace (cf. 32:2) and arranged for Jeremiah to be given bread dailyuntil all the bread in the city was gone (cf. 52:6). Being imprisoned in the guardhouse of the palace assured Jeremiah of food during the siege, while many others in Jerusalem died of starvation. This is an example of how "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him" (Rm 8:28).

(3) Jeremiah’s Confinement in a Cistern (38:1–6)

38:1–3. Confinement in the courtyard of the guard (37:21) gave Jeremiah some freedom to speak to all the people (cf. 32:1–2, 6). He used this time to deliver God’s message to any who would listen. His message was overheard by four high-ranking officials: Shephatiah son of Mattan (not mentioned elsewhere), Gedaliah son of Pashhur (possibly a son of the Pashhur who beat Jeremiah, 20:1–3), Jucal son of Shelemiah (sent by Zedekiah to inquire about the lifting of Babylon’s siege, 37:3), and Pashhur son of Malchijah (sent by Zedekiah to inquire about Babylon’s initial attack on Jerusalem, 21:1–2). These four powerful officials heard the words Jeremiah was speaking to all the people.

Jeremiah’s message (summarized in 38:2–3) was the same one that Jeremiah gave before (21:3–10). Those who stayed in Jerusalem would die by the sword, famine, or pestilence (cf. comments on 14:12). Only those who went out to the Chaldeans would stay alive. Jerusalem’s only hope was to surrender. Any thought of withstanding Babylon’s siege was futile since the Lord had said the city will certainly be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon.

38:4–6. The officials went to the king and demanded Jeremiah be put to death for discouraging the men of war and all the people. These officials did not believe the word of the Lord, but thought Jeremiah was seeking … the harm of the people and the city. Zedekiah’s weak leadership was most evident in his response to these officials. He forsook his promise to protect Jeremiah (37:18–21) and handed him over to those who sought his life. Saying, Behold, he is in your hands, Zedekiah abdicated his authority concerning Jeremiah, and maintained that he could do nothing. Zedekiah was a political puppet, incapable of making strong, independent decisions. He was controlled either by Nebuchadnezzar (cf. 2Kg 24:17) or by the city officials who urged him to rebel against Babylon and then influenced his decisions (Jr 27:12–15; 38:5, 19, 24–28).

The officials took Jeremiah from the royal guardhouse (37:21) and cast him into the cistern of Malchijah, in the courtyard of the guard (cf. 2:13; 37:16). This cistern was so deep that they had to lower Jeremiah down with ropes. It had no water in it, probably because of the prolonged drought (cf. 14:1–4), but there was mud that collected in the bottom of the pit. Jeremiah then sank down into the mud, an even worse condition than the dungeon-prison in Jonathan’s house (37:15). Had the water or mud been deeper he would have drowned or suffocated, and death by starvation was likely. Perhaps people threw stones at Jeremiah in the cistern, hoping to kill him outright or to knock him unconscious so he would sink into the mud and die (Lm 3:52–54).

(4) Jeremiah’s Rescue from the Cistern (38:7–13)

38:7–9. Many of Jeremiah’s countrymen wanted him killed because they hated his message of the coming fall of Jerusalem and exile to Babylon. The only official who cared enough to intercede on his behalf was Ebed-melech (lit., "servant of the king") the Ethiopian. He was a eunuch. The word (saris) did not always mean castrated, but often was used in the sense of "officer" or "court official."

Ebed-melech went to the Gate of Benjamin (cf. 20:2; 37:13) where the king was sitting, perhaps conducting royal business. He described Jeremiah’s circumstances, and reported that other officials had acted wickedly by throwing Jeremiah into a cistern where he would starve to death. Evidently Zedekiah had not known the officials’ specific plan to kill Jeremiah or else he had not believed that they would carry it out. But now he knew Jeremiah’s death was imminent.

38:10–13. Zedekiah ordered Ebed-melech to rescue Jeremiahfrom the cistern before he died. He gave him thirty men to pull Jeremiah from the pit and to defend the rescue party. After being hauled up by ropes, with rags protecting his armpits, Jeremiah was again put in the court of the guardhouse (cf. 37:21).

(5) Jeremiah’s Second Meeting with Zedekiah (38:14–28)

38:14–16. Again Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah to meet him at the third entrance to the temple. This entrance, not mentioned elsewhere, may refer to a private entrance that connected the king’s palace with the temple. Zedekiah told the prophet to not hide anything from him.

Jeremiah voiced two objections. First, if he answered with a message the king did not want to hear he had no guarantee that the king would not put [him] to death. Second, any counsel Jeremiah gave would be wasted because the king would not listen to him. Zedekiah answered the first objection but not the second. He promised in secret that he would not put Jeremiah to death or give him over to men seeking his life; but the king made no promise to heed Jeremiah’s message.

38:17–23. Jeremiah’s message was unchanged (cf. 21:1–10; 37:17; 38:1–3). If Zedekiah would surrender to the Babylonians he would live, the city would not be burned down, and his household would survive. However, if he would not surrender, Zedekiah would not escape but would be seized by the king of Babylon (cf. 39:5–7; 52:8–11) and the city would be handed over to the Chaldeans who would burn it (cf. 21:10; 32:29; 34:2, 22; 37:8, 10; 38:23).

Zedekiah refused to heed Jeremiah’s message because he had a dread of the Jews who had already gone over to the Chaldeans. He believed if he went to Babylon he would be handed over to these Judahites who would abuse him for his past acts of cruelty and bad leadership. Jeremiah assured Zedekiah that this would not happen. He begged him to listen: Please obey the Lord, that you may live. Then Jeremiah detailed the horrible results of refusing to go out. Zedekiah would suffer the very ridicule and humiliation he sought to avoid. The women from his palace would be given to the officers of the king of Babylon to be raped. The women would mock Zedekiah’s weak leadership for following the advice of his close friends. Zedekiah would be misled and overpowered, his feet would sink in the mire of a dungeon, and his friends will have turned back from him. If Zedekiah refused to surrender to Babylon he would see his wives andsons being led away (cf. 39:6), he would not escape, and Jerusalem would be burned (cf. v. 18).

38:24–28. Zedekiah rejected Jeremiah’s advice. Such a bold step was beyond the ability of this spineless monarch. Instead he warned Jeremiah not to let anyone know about these words; their conversation needed to be kept secret for the sake of the king’s reputation and Jeremiah’s life. If word got out, the officials would try to kill Jeremiah. Palace spies were everywhere, so Zedekiah gave Jeremiah an alibi in case he was questioned. If the officials asked Jeremiah what he said to the king and what the king said to him, he was to tell them that he was pleading with Zedekiah not to send him back to the dungeon in Jonathan’s house (cf. 37:15–16, 20). Jeremiah had indeed made such a request during his first meeting Zedekiah, so this would be an accurate reply.

Zedekiah’s caution was well founded because the officials did hear about the meeting and questioned Jeremiah, and he reported to them as the king had commanded. His answer ended their questions, but he remained in the court of the guardhouse as a political prisoner until Jerusalem was captured by Nebuchadnezzar.

c. Jerusalem’s Destruction (39:1–18)

Chapters 39–45 give the most detailed account in the OT of the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, and the circumstances of the Jewish people who were not taken captive.

(1) The Fate of the Jews (39:1–10)

39:1–4. In one sense, chap. 39 is a climax to God’s messages of judgment against Jerusalem. Jeremiah provided a detailed account of how Jerusalem was captured.

The final assault began in the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah in the tenth month. This event was so traumatic that it was recorded three other times in the OT, even noting the day of the month (cf. 2Kg 25:1; Jr 52:4; Ezk 24:1–2). The siege lasted over 30 months. Using our modern calendar, the siege began on January 15, 588 BC. Jerusalem fell in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, specifically the ninth day of the fourth month, a day of mourning in the Jewish calendar to the present time, Tisah b’Av (ninth of Av, August 14, 586 BC).

After the 30-month siege by the Babylonians, the city wall was breached. The officials ofBabylon entered the city and sat down at the Middle Gate to establish their control over the city and to judge those taken captive (cf. comments on Jr 38:7; Ezk 11:1). One of the officials overseeing the siege was Nergal-sar-ezer Samgar-nebu (cf. Jr 39:13), Nebuchadnezzar’s son-in-law. He ascended Babylon’s throne after the death of Nebuchadnezzar’s son (560 BC). So the officials who oversaw the capture of Jerusalem were of the highest rank.

When King Zedekiah and his military commanders (men of war), saw that the city had fallen, they fled toward the Arabah, the Jordan Valley.

39:5–7. Escape was impossible, as Jeremiah had foretold (38:18). Zedekiah was captured by the army of the Chaldeans on the plains of Jericho, in the Jordan Valley, about 14 miles east of Jerusalem. He was taken north to Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian military headquarters at the city of Riblah inHamath. Riblah was a key city in the Beqa Valley, north of Damascus (2Kg 23:29–35; 25:6, 20, 21; Jr 52:10, and Hamath was a political territory in ancient Syria (2Sm 8:9–10; 2Kg 14:28, 17:24), part of modern Lebanon and Syria. The king of Babylon had established military headquarters there to direct the siege of Judah (2Kg 25:20–21; Jr 52:10). There Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on Zedekiah for rebelling against Babylon. First, Zedekiah was forced to watch as the Babylonians slaughtered his sonsbefore his eyes and killed all the nobles of Judah. Then, to seal this sight of horror in Zedekiah’s mind forever, Nebuchadnezzar blinded Zedekiah’s eyes. Finally he bound Zedekiah with fetters (shackles) of bronze to drag him in humiliation to Babylon. Zedekiah was shamed more than he even feared (cf. 38:17–23) because he had ignored the warnings of the Lord.

39:8–10. Jerusalem suffered the exact fate Jeremiah predicted. The Babylonians burned with fire the magnificent king’s palace and the houses of the people (cf. 21:10; 22:6–7; 32:29; 34:2, 22; 37:8–10; 38:18, 23). The soldiers also broke down the walls of Jerusalem so the city would remain defenseless (cf. Lm 2:8–9; Neh 1:3). Nebuzaradan, captain of the bodyguard, carriedinto exile everyone who was still alive in the city (cf. Jr 13:19; 15:2; Ezk 5:8–12), to join the people who had gone over earlier (cf. Jr 21:8–9; 38:1–4, 17–23). Only the very poorest people … were left behind in the land to insure stability and productivity; they were given vineyards and fields to keep them alive.

(2) The Fate of Jeremiah (39:11–18)

39:11–14. Nebuchadnezzar had apparently heard of Jeremiah, either through the letters the prophet had sent to Babylon (cf. chap. 29) or through the testimony of those who had defected to the Babylonians (21:8–9; 38:1–3). Nebuchadnezzargave orders for his soldiers to take Jeremiah and look after him. They were not to harm Jeremiah but were to do for him whatever he desired. Jeremiah was released from the court of the guardhouse (cf. 38:28). Apparently Jeremiah was moved from the guardhouse with the captives to Ramah, five miles north of Jerusalem (31:15; 40:1), but Nebuchadnezzar arranged for him to be released and not returned to the guardhouse. Instead, Jeremiah was entrusted to Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, the scribe in the reign of Josiah (2 Kg 25:22–25; Jr 39:14; 40:5–16; 41:1–18). Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah as governor of those who remained in the land (40:7, cf. 41:12 about the murder of Gedaliah). So Jeremiah stayed among the people of Jerusalem who were not sent to exile in Babylon.

39:15–18. While Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guardhouse, before the city fell, God gave him a message for Ebed-melech (cf. 38:7–13). God’s words against Jerusalem would be fulfilled before Ebed-Melech’s eyes on that day. God promised that when Jerusalem fell He would rescue Ebed-melech so that he would not fall by the sword, or be executed with all the other officials (cf. v. 6; 52:10, 24–27). Ebed-melech would escape because he had trusted in God by helping Jeremiah when he secured the prophet’s release from the cistern (cf. 38:7–13).

3. After the Fall of Jerusalem (40:1–45:5)

It seems the fall of Jerusalem would have taught Judah a permanent lesson. She would have learned to listen to and obey the word of God through Jeremiah. However, by recording the events that happened after the fall of the city, Jeremiah demonstrated that the basic character of the people who remained in the land was unchanged. They still refused to trust the Lord or the word of His prophet (cf. Ezk 33:23–29).

a. Jeremiah’s Ministry to the Remnant in Judah (40:1–42:22)

(1) The Governorship of Gedaliah (40:1–12)

40:1–6. After Jeremiah was released from Ramah where he had been taken bound in chains with the other captives, Nebuzaradan, the Babylonian captain of the bodyguard, said he was aware of Jeremiah’s prophecies, that the LordGod promised this calamity because the people had sinned and did not listen. However, Nebuzaradan was freeing Jeremiah from his chains and would look after him (cf. 39:12), because he was innocent in Judah’s revolt against Babylon.

Jeremiah was free to go, and the whole land was before him (Gn 13:9). Jeremiah was free to choose; he could go to Babylon with the other captives or stay anywhere in Judah. However, if he did stay in Judah, Nebuzaradan suggested that he go to Gedaliah and live with him. Governor Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed over the cities of Judah, could offer both the protection and the physical provisions that Jeremiah would need. To start Jeremiah on his new life of freedom and for the three-mile journey from Ramah to Mizpah, the administrative center for Judah after the destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuzaradan gave him a ration and a gift.

40:7–12. As often in war, scattered remnants of the army often still remained deployed under commanders of the forces in the field after the surrender of the main body of troops. The main forces of Judah, located in Jerusalem, Lachish, and Azekah, had been crushed; but groups of army officers and their men were still scattered in the open country. When these soldiers heard that Gedaliah was now governor over the land they came to him at Mizpah. Two of the leaders were worthy of special notice because of subsequent events (v. 8). Ishmael the son of Nethaniah (vv. 14–15) was from the royal family of David (cf. 41:1; 2Kg 25:25) and had served as one of King Zedekiah’s officers. Johanan was one of two sons of Kareah (cf. vv. 13–16).

These commanders wanted to know what would happen if they would lay down their arms and surrender. Gedaliah reassured them if they served the king of Babylon it would go well with them. Gedaliah promised to stand for, or represent, them before the Babylonians while they concentrated on harvesting the wine, summer fruit, and olive oil. They would be free to live in the cities they had taken over.

The news of Gedaliah’s appointment not only reached the scattered bands of Judah’s resistance fighters, but it also reached the Jews who had fled to Moab, Ammon, Edom, and all the other countries. These refugees returned to the land to resettle it, and helped in harvesting the wine and summer fruit in great abundance (cf. v. 10).

Judah’s prospects looked bright. Peace and stability were returning to the land. The warring factions had submitted to Gedaliah’s rule, and some refugees had returned.

(2) The Assassination of Gedaliah (40:13–41:15)

40:13–16. But despite the calm, forces of intrigue and rebellion were churning. News of danger was brought by Johanan the son of Kareah (cf. 31:8) and the field commanders of the forces. They reported to Gedaliah a plot by Baalis king of the Ammonites to have Ishmael son of Nethaniah (v. 8) kill Gedaliah. The motive for this assassination was woven into the relationship between Judah and Ammon and the political fabric of the area under Babylonian threat. Both nations were vassals to Babylon and had participated in a secret meeting of nations in 593 BC to evaluate their prospects of uniting in rebellion against Babylon (cf. 27:1–11). Although that meeting did not produce any definite action, Egypt’s new Pharaoh (Hophra) persuaded Judah, Ammon, and Tyre to revolt against Babylon in 588 BC.

Nebuchadnezzar had to decide which nation to attack first, and God directed him to Judah instead of to Ammon (cf. Ezk 21:18–23). Judah and Ammon were still allies when Jerusalem fell, and Zedekiah was probably heading for Ammon when he was captured (Jr 39:4–5). Despite the alliance of Judah and Ammon, they were not friends but allied because of strategy. Ammon rejoiced over Jerusalem’s fall because she knew that if Nebuchadnezzar committed his army against Jerusalem he would not be able to attack Ammon (cf. 49:1–6; Ezk 25:1–7).

Thus Gedaliah’s commitment to Babylon was unsettling to Ammon. If Judah did submit to Babylon, then after Nebuchadnezzar finished his siege of Tyre (cf. Ezk 29:17–18) he would probably attack Ammon. But a destabilized Judah could force Nebuchadnezzar to commit large numbers of troops there to maintain order, which would improve Ammon’s chances for survival. So it was to Ammon’s advantage to replace pro-Babylonian Gedaliah with an anti-Babylonian leader like Ishmael.

Unfortunately Gedaliahdid not believe these officers. Johanan spoke secretly with Gedaliah and offered to kill Ishmael to protect the governor for the good of Judah. Gedaliah ordered Johanan not to do this thing; Gedaliah thought the whole report was a lie about Ishmael. Gedaliah was an honorable man who made a fatal mistake when he misjudged Ishmael’s character.

41:1–3. Ishmaelcame to Gedaliah with ten men for a supposedly peaceful meeting, eating bread together. Then Ishmael and his cohorts struck down Gedaliah and also killed all the Jews who were with him, as well as the Chaldeanswhowere men of war there (cf. 2Kg 25:25). The killings occurred in the seventh month (late September/early October) Though the month was given, the year was not, so the exact dating of the assassination is uncertain. It would be difficult for all of these events to have occurred in 586 BC because the army of Babylon was still in Jerusalem as late as August 17th of that year (Jr 52:12). This would have allowed the Babylonians less than two months to deport the people, establish a government, allot the land, and withdraw the main body of their forces. So the assassination must have happened in a later year. Jeremiah records a little-known deportation in 583–582 BC (cf. 52:30), without giving the details of the event. Perhaps this Babylonian deportation was to restore order after the assassination of the governor and the Jewish migration to Egypt. If these events are related, then the seventh month when Gedaliah was assassinated began on October 4, 583 BC.

41:4–9. The assassinations probably took place in the evening. The plot had gone so well that the next day no one knew about it. The next day eighty men, a large caravan, were going to Jerusalem in mourning (with beards shavedclothes torn, cf. 16:6), from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria, three cities of the northern kingdom of Israel. Since these upright men were from the largely apostate northern kingdom, at least some of King Josiah’s reforms (cf. 2Kg 23:15–20; 2Ch 34:33) had a lasting impact. They were carrying grain offerings and incense to the house of the Lord. Though the temple had been destroyed (cf. Jr 52:13, 17–23), people still worshiped at its site. These worshipers were traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the three feasts held during the seventh month (Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, Booths; cf. Lv 23:23–44), yet were in mourning because of the destruction of the temple.

Ishmaelwent outto meet the pilgrims, weeping as he went. After feigning sympathy he invited them to come to Gedaliah. Certainly an offer to meet with the governor could not be refused, so they went together to Mizpah. Once inside the city, Ishmael and his band of cutthroats slaughtered them, and threw their bodies into the cistern. Though not specifically stated, the passage implies (Jr 41:8) that he intended to plunder his victims and seize their provisions. Certainly a caravan of 80 travelers would carry a large amount of food and money, plus the offerings for the temple. Ten of the 80 managed to bargain for their lives by announcing that additional supplies of wheat and barley, oil and honey were hidden in the field. If he would spare them, they would show him the location of this cache. Ishmael’s greed prompted him not to kill them.

Jeremiah explained the historical significance of the site where the slaughter occurred (v. 9): The cistern in which the bodies of the men and Gedaliah were cast had been constructed nearly 200 years earlier by King Asa. It served as part of the defense of Judah by King Asa’s men against King Baasha of the northern kingdom, in the war between Judah and Israel (cf. 1Kg 15:16–22). The cistern that had once helped preserve life was now filledwith the slain.

41:10–15. Ishmael had killed only a specific group living in Mizpah (v. 2), but he took captive all the rest, the remnant, who lived there. These included the king’s daughters and all the people who were left in Mizpah who been put under the charge of Gedaliah. Jeremiah was probably among the captives (cf. 40:6). The group set out from Mizpah to go to Ammon, Ishmael’s ally (40:14).

When Johanan the son of Kareah and the military commanders and troops heard about all the evil that Ishmaelhad done, they set off to fight Ishmael. The troops caught up with the slower group of captives near the great poolin Gibeon (2Sm 2:12–16). Those taken captive were glad when they spotted their rescuers, and escaped from Ishmael. However, Ishmael and eight men fled to Ammon.

(3) The Leadership of Johanan (41:16–42:22)

41:16–18. Johanan and the commanders took all the remnant they had rescued from Ishmael. This group included soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs. But instead of returning to Mizpah they went on. Their first place of rest was at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem, 13 miles from Gibeon. The group was on its way to Egypt to escape the Babylonians because they were afraid that Babylon would retaliate for the death of Gedaliah.

42:1–6. Before going on, all the commanders, including both Johanan and Jezaniah (called "Azariah" in 43:2), and all the people decided to seek the Lord’s guidance. They asked Jeremiah to pray for them to the Lord. They wanted God to tell them where they should go and what they should do. They had already decided to flee Israel, and they seemed to want God’s approval for their plan to escape to Egypt (v. 14; 43:7).

When speaking to Jeremiah they referred to the Lord as your God (vv. 2–3), as if they thought of the Lord as more of Jeremiah’s God than their own. Jeremiah agreed to pray for them, but corrected their thinking by referring to the Lord as your God, indicating that He was their God as well. He said he would pray and tell them the whole answer, while they vowed to act in accordance with whatever God commanded, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. After watching God destroy their nation because of disobedience they were careful to agree that they would obey the Lord.

42:7–12. Jeremiah prayed for the people, and then ten days later God answered. Jeremiah told them, if they would stay in this land, God promised to build them up and plant them. They should not be afraid of the Babylonians because the Lord was with them to save and deliver them. God would cause Nebuchadnezzar to have compassion (raham, "show tender concern") on them, a characteristic not associated with the Babylonians (cf. 6:23; 21:7). If the people submitted to the Babylonians, God promised that Nebuchadnezzar would restore them to their land.

42:13–18. Similar to the blessings and curses of Dt 28, Jeremiah followed his list of blessings for obedience with a list of judgments for disobedience. But if the people refused to stay in this land and did not listen to the voice of the Lord by going to Egyptthen they would experience God’s judgment for violating their oath (Jr 42:5–6).

Their desire to move to Egypt was understandable, considering their expectation that they would no longer see war or hear the trumpet announcing an impending attack (cf. 4:5, 19–21; 6:1). Also, in Egypt they would escape the famine (cf. Lm 1:11; 5:6, 9) of the siege of Jerusalem and would no longer hunger for bread.

Despite this logic, Jeremiah warned that if they disobeyed the Lord and settled in Egypt, they would die by the sword, famine, or pestilence (cf. Jr 14:12; 42:22). God’s wrath would be poured out on them when they entered Egypt, just as it was poured out onJerusalem. Like Jerusalem, they would become a curse, an object of horror, and a reproach (cf. 18:16; 24:9; 29:18; 44:12). The very dangers they wanted to avoid would overtake them, and they would never see Judah again.

42:19–22. Jeremiah repeated God’s word to the remnant of Judah, The Lord has spoken to youdo not to go into Egypt! God’s will was clear. For though they had vowed to do everything God said (v. 6), when His word finally came, they refused to obey and stay in Judah as He commanded. Thus, Jeremiah warned them, the only thing they could be certain was that they would die by the sword, famine, and pestilence (v. 17) if they went to Egypt to reside. Jeremiah was forced by the disobedient remnant to go down to Egypt with them (43:6), and the tradition is that Jeremiah died in Egypt.

b. Jeremiah’s Ministry to the Remnant in Egypt (43:1–44:30)

(1) The Remnant’s Flight to Egypt (43:1–7)

43:1–3. The true character of the remnant surfaced in their response to the Lord’s message. In spite of Jeremiah’s previous vindication as God’s prophet, they refused to believe him.

Immediately after Jeremiah finished speaking, both Azariah (called "Jezaniah" in 42:1) and Johanan, along with all the arrogant men, accused Jeremiah of telling a lie. They accused Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, confidant, and companion, of inciting Jeremiah to join a conspiracy to hand these former rebels over into the hand of the Chaldeans, who would then kill them or exile [them] to Babylon.

43:4–7. But the group did not return to Mizpah, they marched south toward Egypt (41:17). There was total disobedience: Johanan and all the commanders and all the people, did not obey the voice of the Lord to stay in the land of Judah. As leader, Johanantook the entire remnant of Judahtogether with Jeremiahand Baruchand they entered the land of Egypt. They settled in Tahpanhes, a fortress city on the eastern delta border of Lower (northern) Egypt.

(2) The Prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s Invasion of Egypt (43:8–13)

43:8–13. As some of the Jewish travelers watched, Jeremiah performed another symbolic act to teach them a lesson from the Lord (cf. 13:1–11). The Lord told him to take some large stones and bury them in mortar under the brick terrace (the pavement) that covered the large courtyard at the entrance of Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes. Since Pharaoh’s main residence at this time was at Elephantine in southern Egypt, the "palace" mentioned by Jeremiah was probably a government building that served as Pharaoh’s residence when he visited the city of Tahpanhes. Excavations at Tahpanhes have uncovered a wide pavement at the northern entrance to the fortress.

Jeremiah’s buried stones were to mark the spot where Nebuchadnezzar would set his throne when the Lord brought him to strike the land of Egypt. The specters of deathcaptivity, and the sword, which these exiles were fleeing (cf. 42:13–17), would follow them into Egypt. God would use Nebuchadnezzar to set fire to the temples of the gods of Egypt and take the gods captive. Nebuchadnezzar would wrap himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd wraps himself with his garment. Nebuchadnezzar would shatter the obelisks of Heliopolis, a center for Egyptian sun god worship with many obelisks and temples, all to be demolished by the Babylonians.

Because the Babylonian Chronicles (cf. 27:1–7) that have been discovered go only through 594 BC, there is a lack of extrabiblical detail on the invasion of Egypt. However, one fragmentary text has been found that implies an invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar in 568–567 BC. This would harmonize well with the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Egypt in Ezk 29:19. That prophecy, given on April 26, 571 BC, indicated that the invasion was still future. Therefore Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Egypt probably occurred sometime between 571 and 567 BC.

(3) The Warning of God’s Judgment (44:1–30)

44:1–10. God’s word came to Jeremiah a second time while he was in Egypt (cf. 43:8). This time it concerned all the Jews who were living in Egypt. It applied to those in northern Egypt, which included the cities of Migdol, Tahpanhes, and Memphis; and it extended south to Pathros, in southern Egypt. The message was for all the Jews throughout Egypt.

God reminded them of the disaster He brought against Jerusalem and all cities of Judah. Their ruins stood as testimonies to God’s judgment on their wickedness, especially in provoking the Lord to anger by continuing to burn sacrifices to other gods.

Though God had repeatedly warned the people through His servants the prophets to turn from their wickedness, they did not listen. God’s wrath then raged against Judah and Jerusalem, so they were a ruin and a desolation. Instead of learning from the recent events of Jerusalem’s judgment for idolatry, these Jews who had escaped to Egypt were burning sacrifices to other gods in the land of Egypt. They were in danger of becoming an object of curse and reproach (cf. 24:9) for their idolatry. It was as though they had forgotten the wickedness (repeated no less than five times in v. 9) that both they and their ancestors had committed and the resulting judgment of God. They had not become contrite before God nor feared Him, nor walked in His law, which was clearly set before them and their ancestors. How quickly they had forgotten God’s Word!

44:11–14. God would set His face against them to bring disaster on the remnant in Egypt for their sin, just as He had on all Judah. This remnant that had set their mind on entering Egypt would perish there by sword and famine (cf. 42:22). This judgment would include nearly everyone, small and great. Those living in Egypt would experience the same judgments God used when He punished Jerusalem—the sword, famine, and pestilence. Though these fugitives hoped to return home someday, they would not. All those who had fled to Egypt in violation of God’s command would die there, except for a few refugees whom God would allow to return.

44:15–19. The people totally rejected Jeremiah’s message. Whole families, men and their wives, were burning sacrifices to other gods. They said, We are not going to listen, and refused to repent. Instead of obeying every word that came from the mouth of the Lord (cf. Dt 8:3), they said they would carry out every word that has proceeded from their own mouths. They would continue burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven (see comments about this idolatrous worship at Jr 7:18). The widespread nature of that pagan practice of offering incense sacrifices to this goddess is evident because it was done by the people, their ancestors (forefathers), their kings, and their princes in Judah and Jerusalem.

In an ironic reversal of truth, the people blamed their difficulties on their failure to continue these pagan rituals. They said that as long as they sacrificed to the queen of heaven (see comments on 7:18), they had plenty of food and no misfortune. They said that when they stopped burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven, they lacked everything and began perishing by sword and famine. They were lying to themselves, for just the opposite would have been true had they followed God’s directions (cf. chap. 14; Hs 2:5–9; Am 4:4–12). Faithfulness and obedience to God brought blessing, while unfaithfulness and disobedience to God brought cursing (Lv 26:1–45; Dt 28).

44:20–23. Jeremiah responded to all the people, especially to the ones who were giving him such an answer. He reminded them the Lord did remember their smoking sacrifices. When He was no longer able to endure their sin, He judged the people, and the land became an object of cursing and a desolate waste. Because of their evil sacrifices Judah was under judgment—the worship of false gods had assured her doom and had not protected her in any way. This failure to acknowledge and follow the Lord had produced calamity in Judah. That same judgment would fall on them in Egypt for their sacrifices to the queen of heaven.

44:24–28. Jeremiah spoke to all the people, including all the women concerning their vow to continue worshiping the queen of heaven with incense sacrifices and drink offerings (v. 17). Since they were so determined to pursue their idolatry, God sarcastically told them to go ahead with the vows they had made to this false goddess. But as they worshiped her they were also to hear God’s message of judgment. The Lord took a solemn oath, swearing by His great name that none of the Judahites living anywhere in Egypt would ever again invoke His name or swear by Him in an oath. His judgment would pursue them until all were destroyed. God was watching over them for harm and not for good. Only a very few would survive to return to Judah. Then they would know whose word will stand, Mine or theirs, a direct rebuke at their vow to the queen of heaven and their claim that idolatry brought prosperity (vv. 17–18).

44:29–30. God then gave a sign to show that His words would surely stand against the idolatrous Jews in Egypt. The sign was that Pharaoh Hophra would be handed over to his enemiesjust as Zedekiah was handed over to Nebuchadnezzar. According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus (fifth century BC), Hophra was killed by his rivals in 570 BC (Herodotus 2. 161–3, 169), only a short time after Jeremiah gave this prophecy. Despite all God had done to vindicate His messages from Jeremiah, the people still refused to believe. The issue was not one of needing more evidence, divine miracles, or compelling messages, but a question of faith. "And without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb 11:6; cf. Gn 15:6).

c. Jeremiah’s Ministry to Baruch (45:1–5)

45:1–3. This chapter fits chronologically between 36:8 and 36:9, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (605–604 BC) after Baruch had written down at Jeremiah’s dictation God’s message on a scroll (cf. 36:1–8). Jeremiah likely placed this out of chronological order for the benefit of exilic readers. Having seen the judgment of the exile, the prophet wanted to emphasize the response that God desired from the godly remnant in difficult times. It uses Baruch’s discouragement and the exhortation to faith to be a model for all of the godly remnant who were disheartened. Baruch was discouraged by the message of judgment, saying, Ah, woe is me! He felt that God had added sorrow to his pain. Much as Jeremiah felt earlier (cf. 8:21–9:2; 14:17–18; 15:10, 15–18), Baruch was worn out with groaning and could find no rest.

45:4–5. God responded with a message to encourage Baruch’s faith in the midst of judgment. The Lord would indeed bring disaster and uproot what He had planted (cf. 1:10). Baruch’s discouragement came because the realities of judgment clashed with his personal aspirations of seeking great things. The Lord reminded him that instead of groaning because God did not provide all he wanted, Baruch should have been thankful that God would give him his life, despite the disaster happening all around. His contemporary Habakkuk should have been his model of faith in the midst of judgment (cf. Hab 3:16–19).

In the midst of disaster or national judgment, a godly person should have his hope fixed firmly on the Lord. We too can choose to be bitter because God has withheld what we expected, or we can choose to be thankful because God has supplied what we need, and protected us beyond our own limited vision.

III. Prophecies Concerning Nations (46:1–51:64)

Jeremiah had been commissioned as a prophet to the nations who would come against Judah and Jerusalem (cf. 1:5; 46:1). Before addressing those nations, he first prophesied concerning the nation of Judah (chaps. 2–45), showing what the nations would do to her because, despite being God’s covenant people, Judah had sinned against the Lord God of Israel. The nations, who rose up against Judah and were rife with their own sin and idolatry, did not escape the Lord’s judgment in Jeremiah’s prophetic voice. Jeremiah had already declared God’s sovereignty over the nations (27:1–5), so in chaps. 46–51 he described, in poetic form, the coming judgment on the nations, including Egypt (chap. 46) and Babylon (chaps. 50–51).

A. Prophecy against Egypt (46:1–28)

Egypt was the first nation selected for judgment. She was Judah’s ineffective ally who had encouraged Judah’s revolt against Babylon. However, when Judah needed Egypt’s military support for defense against Babylon, Egypt abandoned Judah (cf. 37:4–10; Ezk 29:6–7).

1. Egypt to Be Defeated at Carchemish (46:1–12)

46:1–6. Jeremiah’s message was directed against the army of Pharaoh Neco, who killed King Josiah of Judah in 609 BC (2Kg 23:29). Jeremiah penned his prophecy after Egypt’s army was defeated at Carchemish (in what is now southern central Turkey). This was the only major city on the upper Euphrates and was the key to Syria on the East and the passageway to the Euphrates. After the fall of the Assyrian Empire, Carchemish was the strategic battleground between Egypt and Babylon for control of the area. When Babylon defeated Egypt at Carchemish, it signaled the end of Egyptian military supremacy in the region. The victorious battle took place in 605 BC, the fourth year of Jehoiakim.

God gave a sarcastic message to the army of Egypt. They were to prepare their shield[s] and march out for battle against the Babylonians, to harness the horses and have the troops stand with helmets on ready to fight. Their spears and scale-armor were to be ready for battle. Although Egypt was famous for the finest horses, Babylon’s swift attack left terroron every side as their warriors were defeated, fleeing in panic and confusion. The retreating Egyptian soldiers obstructed their own retreat, so the swift were not able to flee nor were the mighty able to escape. Babylon overtook the Egyptians and destroyed them. The Babylonian Chronicles (see comments on 43:8–13) confirm this picture of hopeless confusion and defeat. The Egyptian army "withdrew" before the Babylonians, but the Babylonians "overtook and defeated them so that not a single man escaped to his own country" (Donald J. Wiseman, Chronicle of Chaldean Kings [626–556 BC] in the British Museum [London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1956], 67–69). The Babylonian defeat of Egypt at Carchemish was one of the most decisive battles in the ancient world, and it ended mighty Egypt’s position as a world power.

46:7–8. God sarcastically asked who this nation was that was trying to rise like the Nile with its surging waters that overflowed its banks and inundated the country with life-giving rich soil. Likewise Egypt planned to rise like the Nile and conquer the world. The surge of Egypt’s armies with her horses and charioteers would resemble the rushing of a mighty river. In prophetic judgment God would rise and cover that land of Egypt, and He would destroy the city and its inhabitants.

46:9–10. Egypt’s army contained mercenary soldiers from Ethiopia and Put (modern-day Libya) who carried shields as infantrymen, and Lydians (inhabitants of the west coast of Asia Minor) who were archers (they bend the bow). Ezekiel named these same groups of mercenaries (Ezk 30:5). Though Egypt amassed a mighty army, the day of battle belonged to the Lord God of hosts, as a day of His vengeance on Egypt. It would be a slaughter for the Lord God of hosts. Only then would His sword of judgment be satisfied. God compared this slaughter to the offering of a sacrifice (Is 34:4–5; Zph 1:7–8) as He destroyed the Egyptians at Carchemish, in the land of the north by the river Euphrates.

46:11–12. Even if the Egyptians went to Gilead to get balm for their wounds (8:22), their remedies would be in vain because God would permit no healing for them. The surrounding nations would hear of Egypt’s shame as her cry of distress and pain filled the earth. In the panic of war, the mighty warriors would stumble over one another (cf. v. 6) and fall down together in defeat.

2. Egypt to Be Invaded and Exiled (46:13–26)

46:13–17. Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish, the key city in modern Turkey, in 605 BC, but he did not invade Egypt until approximately 571–567 BC (see comments on 43:8–13). In this undated prophecy (vv. 13–26) God supplied additional details of the coming of Nebuchadnezzar to smite the land of Egypt. The warning of Nebuchadnezzar’s approach was to be sounded in Migdol, Memphis, and Tahpanhes in northern Egypt (cf. 44:1). Nebuchadnezzar’s forces were told to take [their] stand and getready for battle. Babylon and Egypt would fight in the area where the refugees of Judah had settled against God’s will after Gedaliah’s murder (chap. 43).

Jeremiah asked why Egypt’s mighty ones had become prostrate, or "laid low" (v. 15). There is a textual issue here. The Septuagint reads, "Wherefore has Apis fled …?" (Septuagint / LXX 26:15; the LXX has rearranged the order of several chapters in Jeremiah so that 46:15 in Hebrew is 26:15 in the Septuagint; cf. "The Book of Jeremiah and the Septuagint" in Introduction to Jeremiah). The Septuagint has divided the Hebrew verb for "laid low" (nishap) into two words (nas khaf, "Apis has fled," a reference to Apis, the bull god of Egypt. The defeat of a people was often symbolized by the defeat of their god (cf. Is 46:1–2; Jr 50:2; 51:44). If the Septuagint reading is accepted, then Jeremiah was pointing to the inability of Egypt’s god Apis to protect them from the judgment of the Lord. However, the Masoretic Text of Jr 46:15, Why have your mighty ones become prostrate? (laid low) seems to fit the context of the defeat of Egypt by the Babylonians (46:13) better. The point is the Lord God will be victorious, either over the Egyptian bull god Apis, or over the Egyptian army’s mighty warriors.

The text answers the question about the warriors. They could not stand because God had thrust them down. As the mercenary army stumbled over one another in their effort to flee from Egypt they decided to get upand go back home to their own people and their native land to escape the sword of the oppressor. Pharaoh Hophra had made bold claims about his ability to defeat the Babylonians, but these vanquished soldiers realized now that Pharaoh king of Egypt was only a big noise who could not deliver victory.

Pharaoh Hophra (44:30) had already let the appointed time pass to defeat Babylon. After being defeated at Carchemish, the Egyptians might have had the opportunity for a comeback victory over Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar did not follow up his triumph by invading Egypt right away; instead he returned to Babylon because of his father’s death. Pharaoh did not press this advantage to defend or fortify Egypt, so when Nebuchadnezzar returned to battle, Egypt was defeated by the Nile.

46:18–19. The eternal God proclaimed the certainty of coming judgment on Egypt. He swore by His own self (As I live; cf. Gn 22:16), announcing His sovereignty (declares the King; cf. Jr 8:19; 10:7, 10; 48:15; 51:57; Pss 10:16; 47:7; Is 43:15) and identifying the scope of His authority (Lord of hosts, used about 80 times in Jeremiah; cf. 2Sm 5:10; Is 14:27; 54:5; Jr 5:14).

God was sending one to Egypt (i.e., Nebuchadnezzar) who towered above all others just as Mount Tabor stood out among the mountains. This one would rise as impressively as Mount Carmel does by the sea. The Egyptians were to make [their] baggage ready for exile (cf. Ezk 29:9–16) because Nebuchadnezzar would attack Memphis (cf. Jr 46:14) and leave it a desolation without inhabitants.

46:20–24. Jeremiah described Egypt’s doom with clear word pictures. First, he compared Egypt to a pretty heifer. This metaphor is especially striking since Apis, one of Egypt’s gods, was a bull. However, a horseflyfrom the north (Babylon) is coming (repeated twice), to bite her. Second, he compared the mercenaries (vv. 9, 16) in the midst of Egypt’s soldiers to fattened calves who would turn and flee when the day of disaster came. Third, Jeremiah compared Egypt to a fleeing serpent. She could do little more than hiss at her enemy as she slithered away to avoid the axes of these mighty woodcutters who had come to chop down her forest. Fourth, he compared the size of Babylon’s invading army to a swarm of locusts that were too numerous to be counted. The point of the image was the same: Egypt would be put to shame (vv. 12, 24) because God had given her over to the people of the north, to Babylon.

46:25–26. Neither the gods nor the kings of Egypt would be spared from the judgment of God. He would punish Amon of Thebes in southern Egypt (Ezk 30:14–16). Amon (Amun-Ra) was the chief god of Egypt during much of its history. Amon was god of air, wind, fertility, and later the sun, creator of all things. God’s judgment began in the north (Pr 26:14, 19) and would extend to the south. It would encompass all her gods and kings, even Pharaoh and all who trust in him. They would be handed over to Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Ezk 29:17–20).

However, Egypt’s destruction would not be permanent. God promised that afterwards … Egypt would be inhabited as in the days of old. This could refer to the return of Egypt’s exiles from Babylon (cf. v. 19; Ezk 29:10–16). However, the association of Egypt’s fortunes with the still-future restoration of Israel (Jr 46:27–28) and the future focus in some of Jeremiah’s other prophecies to the nations (cf. 48:47; 49:39) suggests that the fulfillment would come during the millennial reign of the Messiah when Egypt would again be in her land and would join Israel in the worship of the God of Israel (see comments on 50:1; Is 19:24–25).

3. Israel to Be Regathered (46:27–28)

46:27–28. In contrast to the judgment on Egypt and her false gods, the Lord interjected a word of comfort for Israel. Although Judah and Jerusalem would be punished for their sin, God wanted them to have hope. Thus, after describing the judgment of Egypt, the Lord comforted His own people: O Jacob My servant, do not fear nor be dismayed. Israel could rejoice because God promised to save her and return her people from captivity. Israel could look forward to a time when she would enjoy peace and security, with no one making [Jacob] tremble. Though she went into exile, God vowed that He would make a full end of all the nations where He had driven Israel; but he would not make a full end of her. The Lord would correct her properly and punish her for her sins, but Jacob would be preserved. A remnant would survive to receive God’s blessings again (cf. 31:1–6).

B. Prophecy against Philistia 47:1–7

47:1. The Philistines were one of Israel’s most ancient and persistent enemies (Jos 13:2–3; Jdg 3:31; 13:1), but the Lord would judge them for their sin.

The Philistines occupied the coastal plain of Judah. Whenever they were strong, they tried to expand from the coast into the hill country of Judah. These attempts at expansion were opposed throughout Israel’s history: during the period of the Judges (Jdg 3:31; 13–16), by Samuel (1Sm 7:2–17), by Saul (1Sm 13:1–14:23; 17–18; 28:1–4; 29:1–2, 11; 31:1–10), and by David (2Sm 5:17–25). David finally subdued the Philistines (2Sm 8:1), and they remained a vassal of Israel through the reign of Solomon. During the time of the divided monarchy the balance of power shifted back and forth. Judah was in control during the reigns of Jehoshaphat (2Ch 17:10–11) and Uzziah, but Philistia regained dominion during the reigns of Jehoram (2Ch 21:16–17) and Ahaz (2Ch 28:16–18).

Jeremiah’s message was delivered before Pharaoh conquered Gaza. The exact date for this event is uncertain but the two most likely times were either 609 BC when Pharaoh Neco marched north through Judah to meet the Babylonians (2Kg 23:29–30), or 601 BC when Neco defeated the armies of Babylon.

47:2–7. The Babylonians were depicted as waters rising from the north to become an overflowing torrent that would sweep away the Philistines. The Philistines would cry out in anguish as the swirl of galloping hoofs and enemy chariots rushed through the land. The people would be so overcome by fear that fathers would not even turn back to help their children. Their allies, Tyre and Sidon, would not be able to help them (cf. Ezk 27–28).

The Philistines (philisti, meaning "to wander, immigrants") were one of the groups of sea peoples who made their way in ancient times to the coast of Canaan (see the map "The World of Jeremiah and Ezekiel," in the Introduction). They were the remnant people of the coastland of Caphtor, the ancient name for Crete (Am 9:7; Zph 2:5). When they settled the coastal plain of Judah they formed a coalition of five major cities, the Philistine pentapolis (cf. Jos 13:3; 1Sm 6:4, 18): Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron. Gaza was attacked by the Egyptians (cf. Jr 47:1), and Ashkelon was later destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar 604 BC (v. 1; cf. comments on 36:9). Archaeological evidence of layers of ash, broken pottery, and human remains reveals the destruction of Ashkelon at that time. As a result of their destruction, the people of Gaza and Ashkelon would shave their heads (thus their baldness) and gash themselves in grief (cf. comments on 16:6). The sword of the Lord would strike in judgment until Ashkelon and the seacoast were destroyed (cf. Ezk 25:15–17; Is 14:28–32).

"Philistia" or "Philistine" is the basis for the Latin term Palestina, from which the English word "Palestine" derives. Since this word is so common on Bible maps and resources, it is puzzling that the word "Palestine" cannot be found in the Bible. After the Romans crushed the Second Jewish Revolt (AD 135), they sent a message to the Mediterranean world ("Never revolt against Rome!") and made an example of Judah by bringing about many changes, three of them deserving special attention. First, Rome changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina (in honor of the Emperor Hadrian, whose family name was "Aeila"). Second, they banned all Jewish people from the city on pain of death. Finally, Rome changed the name of the country to Syria-Palestina, after the ancient Philistine coastal region. The Roman goal was to wipe the names of Israel and Judah off the face of the earth and from all of history. Syria-Palestina (Palestine) became the official name of the region on maps, documents, and scholarly works handed down from the Romans to the Byzantines, through the Middle Ages, even into the Reformation and Enlightenment eras, and into modern times as well. Although the name "Palestine" is never used in the Bible for the land of Israel or Judea, since the Roman period it has often been used as a synonym for the region. Because the term has once again taken on a political undertone, it might be best to use the more biblically accurate term (cf. 3:18–19; 16:18) to refer to the promised land: the land of Israel.

C. Prophecy against Moab (48:1–47)

Moab is the ancient name of the mountainous country alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, (now modern Jordan). It was separated from Edom on the south by the Zered River and from Ammon on the north by the Arnon River. Moabites were descendants of Lot (Gn 19:37). Much of the imagery used by Jeremiah for Moab is also used by Isaiah (Is 16:6–12). Moab was a frequent enemy of God’s people, from the time of the conquest (Nm 22–24) throughout the days of the kings (2Ch 20). The judgment of Moab is often pictured in terms of vineyards, wine, and drunkenness—a fitting image since Moab was famous for its vineyards (Jr 48:11–12; 26; 32–33; Is 16:8–10).

Nebo, Kiriathaim, Heshbon, and several other cities mentioned in this chapter are referred to in The Mesha Stele, also known as the Moabite Stone, a black basalt stele (an inscribed or carved stone for commemorative purposes), four feet by two feet, written about 840 BC as a memorial of Mesha, king of Moab (2Kg 3:3–10). This stele was discovered in what is now Jordan in 1868, and is kept in the British Museum. It records Mesha’s victories over "Omri king of Israel" (1Kg 16:23–28) and "his son" (his descendants, 2Kg 3:4), who had been "oppressing" Moab. The Mesha Stele bears the earliest known extrabiblical reference to the Hebrew name of God, YHWH, as well as a reference to "the house of David."

1. Moab’s Land to Be Destroyed (48:1–10)

48:1–5. The Lord’s judgment against Moab is frequently mentioned in Scripture (Is 15:1–16:14; Ezk 25:8–11; Am 2:1–3; Zph 2:8–11). In this section God’s judgment will result in devastation and great destruction! Moab is described as broken. The initial oracle describes Nebuchadnezzar’s advance against Moab.

Nebo is the name of the mountain from which Moses viewed the promised land and died (cf. Dt 32:48–50), as well as a Moabite city located southwest of Heshbon (Nm 32:3; Is 15:2). Since it has been destroyed this indicates that the Nebo here is the city. The phrase has been is a Hebrew prophetic perfect verb, indicating that the prophecy was so certain, it was if it had already occurred). The city of Kiriathaim was also inhabited by the tribe of Reuben (Jos 13:19) and later captured by Moab and would be captured again.

Heshbon was a region about 35 miles east of Jerusalem, northeast of the northern tip of the Dead Sea (Nm 1:26; Dt 2:24). As part of the conquest of the land, Heshbon was allotted to the tribe of Reuben (Nm 32:37; Jos 13:17) but assigned as a Levitical town to Gad since it was on the border of Gad (Jos 13:26; 21:39). It would suffer calamity.

The city of Madmen (mad-mane’, "dunghill") would be silenced by God in His judgment. The outcry from Horonaim (cf. 2Sm 13:34) would be, Devastation and great destruction! In summary Moab was broken, and her children would be crying in distress. The fugitives of Moab who fled up to Luhith and Horonaim (locations unknown) wept bitterly at the destruction.

48:6–10. The Moabites would flee for their lives to escape the coming judgment. They would become like a juniper bush in the wilderness (17:6), a short shrub that barely survived the harsh habitat. Because Moab had trusted in her achievements and treasures, she would be judged and captured. Chemosh (Jdg 11:24; 2Kg 23:13) was the chief god of Moab. Although little is known about the worship practices, he was associated with the control of the planets and stars. Chemosh is called "the detestable idol of Moab" (1Kg 11:7). Solomon built a sanctuary to Chemosh on the Mount of Olives (1Kg 11:7, 33) that was maintained until the reforms of Josiah (2Kg 23:13). Thus, the worship of Chemosh was a part of the religious life of Israel for nearly 400 years (cf. 1Kg 11:7). The priests of Chemosh and the princes of Moab would be defeated and go off into exile (cf. 49:3).

A destroyer would come on every city. The valley could refer to the many valleys of hilly Moab, or it could refer to the Jordan Valley on Moab’s western border. The plateau was the Transjordan highland where most of the cities of Moab were located. Moab would be destroyed.

The meaning of the Hebrew statement behind the English translation, Give wings to Moab (47:7) is uncertain. Some see a root from Ugaritic for the word (tseets) and translate it as "salt" (NIV); some, relying on the LXX, amend the text and translate it as "gravestone" (NET Bible). The NASB and ESV translate it as "wings," deriving the translation from an Aramaic root. Abu Walid and most medieval Jewish commentaries support the translation as "wings," as does the verb in the second part of the verse ("flee"), which makes it the more likely meaning. Thus, Moab will be given wings so she could flee away, leaving her cities as a desolation and without inhabitants. Moab’s destruction was so certain that God said anyone who was lax in performing His work of judgment would be cursed.

2. Moab’s Complacency to Be Shattered (48:11–17)

48:11–13. Protected by natural boundaries between the Dead Sea on the west and the desert to the east, Moab had a history of relative peace. She had been at ease from her youth. Jeremiah compared her to wine left on its dregs (lit., "his flavor has stayed in him") that had not been emptied from vessel to vessel. This was a picture of a people who had lived undisturbed and not gone into exile.

The Lord declared that the days are coming (cf. comments on 31:27) when He would arouse Moab from her complacency by sending those who would tip … and empty the jars. At that time Moab would be ashamed of Chemosh (cf. v. 7) just as Israel was ashamed of Bethel, one of the two cities in the northern kingdom where Jeroboam set up the golden calf worship following the secession of Israel from Judah (cf. 1Kg 12:26–30). Israel found out too late that her trust in the false god at Bethel could not prevent her destruction and deportation. Moab would learn the same lesson about Chemosh.

48:14–17. Moab felt confident in her warriors who were valiant in battle, yet they would go down in the slaughter. The image of slaughter is drawn from the slaughter of sacrificial animals (Is 34:6). Moab’s calamity was declared by the Kingthe Lord of Hosts (Jr 46:18) and would come soon and swiftly. Jeremiah called for those nations surrounding Moab to mourn for that nation at the time of its destruction, because the mighty scepter and staff (signifying rule and identity) had been broken (Gn 49:10; Ps 2:9; Ezk 19:11, 14).

3. Moab’s Cities to Experience Catastrophe (48:18–27)

48:18–25. The mighty city of Dibon would be humbled and come down because the destroyer of Moab would come up against her. Dibon was built on two hills, 13 miles east of the Dead Sea near the Arnon River. It was here the Moabite Stone was found (cf. the introduction to chap. 48). Those living in the remote city of Aroer were to stand by the road and ask the people fleeing what has happened. They would wail and cry out when they learned Moab has been destroyed.

Jeremiah listed the cities of Moab on the Transjordan plateau that would be destroyed from north to south. Though the exact location of some is not certain, many of them have been identified. By naming these 11 cities Jeremiah showed that all the towns of Moab, both far and near, would be destroyed. Bozrah here is probably the same as Bezer, the city of refuge (Dt 4:40–43). It may be represented today by Qusur Bashair, some 15 miles Southeast of Dibon (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1939). This is not the same city as Bozrah in Edom (cf. Jr 49:7).

Jeremiah used two symbols of strength and military power to show that Moab’s might would be broken. First, Moab’s horn would be cut off (cf. 1Sm 2:1, 10; Pss 75:4–5; 89:17, 24; Mc 4:13; Zch 1:19–21). Second, Moab’s arm would be broken (Dt 4:34; 11:2; Ps 77:15; Ezk 30:20–26). In Scripture the most common figurative use of horn is taken from the image of battling animals. Horns were emblems of power, dominion, glory, and fierceness, being the chief means of attack and defense for the horned animals such as oxen or rams. Horns represented power or strength of individuals or nations (Dt 33:17; 1Sm 2:1, 10; 1Kg 22:11; Ps 75:4; Jr 48:25). The figure of an arm likewise represented personal power, often in terms of strength in battle (Ps 10:15; Ezk 30:21). It is also used of the omnipotence of God (Ex 15:16; Pss 89:13; 98:1; 77:15; Is 40:10; 53:1).

48:26–27. Jeremiah pictured Moab’s impending doom for being arrogant toward the Lord as a drunk (cf. 25:15–29). Moab would now wallow in his vomit and become a laughingstock. Moab had mocked and scorned Israel with contempt, as toward one caught among thieves. Now Moab would experience the same scorn directed at her.

4. Moab’s Pride to Cease (48:28–39)

48:28–30. Moab would be forced to abandon his cities and dwell among the crags, to hide like dove[s] that nest inside a chasm from the invaders who sought their lives. Moab’s main characteristic was pride (he is very proud; cf. Is 16:6). The physical security and history of relative peace had fed his arrogance (Jr 48:11–12). Unfortunately his insolence and boasts were futile and accomplished nothing in preventing destruction.

48:31–33. Yet God expressed compassion for Moab. He would cry out and moan for Kir-heres, another of her chief cities (cf. Is 16:7, 11). Jeremiah pictured the Lord weeping along with the city of Jazer for the vine of Sibmah, an area covered with vineyards, which would be destroyed. The country of Moab was known for its vineyards (Jr 48:11–12), and Jeremiah pictured Moab as a vineyard that would be destroyed. The tendrils of her branches reached to the sea, a picture of Moab’s wide political and economic influence beyond the Dead Sea. Now the destroyer had fallen on her grape harvest. Moab’s civilization and population would be ruined. The vineyards, the fruitful field, would be devoid of gladness, and the flow of wine would cease from the wine presses. When destruction came there would be shouting (cf. vv. 3–5), but it would not be shouts of joy like those heard at the pressing of grapes.

48:34–39. The outcry of Moab at this destruction would be heard in all its cities, extending from Heshbon in the north to the waters of Nimrim in the southern part of the country. God would put an end to the one who offers sacrifice at Moab’s many high place[s] who burns incense to his gods.

Although the judgment of Moab is just, the Lord’s heart wails for Moab and the men of Kir-heres (cf. 49:31), like the sound of flutes played by mourners at funerals (Mt 9:22–23). Moab would lose her wealth, and the people would be in mourning with every head shaved bald … and beard cut, many wearing sackcloth (47:5). The Lord had broken Moab like an undesirable vessel (vv. 4, 12; 22:28). The once-proud country was to become a laughingstock and an object of terror to the surrounding nations (cf. 24:9).

5. Moab’s Destruction to Be Complete (48:40–47)

48:40–44. Moab’s enemies would fly swiftly like an eagle spreading its wings over Moab to seize her. The Moabite city of Kerioth would be captured, and their mighty men (cf. v. 14) would be as fearful as a woman in labor (cf. 49:24; 50:43). Jeremiah repeated parts of vv. 40–41 in 49:22 in his message to Edom.

The Lord told Moab exactly why she will be destroyed. Destruction would come because Moab was arrogant toward the Lord. None would escape: those who would try to flee God’s terror would fall into a pit; anyone who climbs up out of the pit would be caught in the snare (cf. Am 5:18–20). All in Moab would take part in the year of their punishment.

48:45–47. This section on Moab’s judgment is a quote from an old Heshbon song (cf. Nm 21:27–29). Balaam’s oracles against Moab would soon be fulfilled. The fugitives who had escaped the destruction stood without strength because God’s fire of judgment had gone out into all Moab to burn those who had been boasters. Now the nation was destroyed, the people of Chemosh have perished. The Lord’s judgment was upon Moab because of their enmity toward Judah (cf. Ezk 25:8–10). Yet God still offered hope to Moab. He vowed to restore the fortunes of Moab in the latter days. The phrase "the latter days" places this restoration during the millennial reign of Christ (cf. Dt 4:30; Jr 49:39; Dn 2:28; 10:14).

D. Prophecy against Ammon (49:1–6)

The Ammonites were descendants of Lot (Gn 19:38) and lived east of the Jordan River, north of Moab. Their capital was Rabbah, modern Amman, Jordan. The Ammonites were frequent enemies, and poor allies to Israel. In the days of Moses and Joshua they hindered the Jewish people from entering Israel and supported Balak in his plan to curse them (Dt 23:4), then during the reign of Jehoiakim they raided Judah (2Kg 24:2). Later they allied with Judah against Babylon during Judah’s final revolt, yet were a driving force for the assassination of Gedaliah for their own advantage (Jr 40:13–14). When Jewish people returned after the captivity, Ammonites hindered the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Neh 4:7).

49:1–3. The judgment on Ammon is introduced by a series of rhetorical questions of reproach focusing on Ammon’s sin. The northern kingdom of Israel had been taken captive in 722 BC, and Ammon, assuming Israel had no sons or heirs who would return to the land, seized Israel’s territory of Gad just east of the Jordan River and north of the Dead Sea.

The Lord announced that days were coming (cf. comments on 31:27) when an enemy would attack Ammon’s capital city of Rabbah, and it would become a desolate heap. Then Israel will take possession and repossess the land taken from them by Ammon.

Heshbon, on the border between Moab and Ammon, was controlled by different countries at different periods of time (cf. Jdg 11:12, 26; Jr 48:34, 45). The Ai mentioned in v. 2 was not the Ai in Israel (cf. Jos 7:2). It was a city in Ammon whose location is not known today. The people of Rabbah would put on sackcloth (see comments on Jr 4:8) and lament (cf. 48:37). Molech, also known as Malcam (which could be translated "their king") was the national god of Ammon and would go into exile together with his followers, priests and princes (cf. 48:7).

49:4–6. Ammon’s sin, like Moab’s, was pride (cf. 48:29). Ammon was boastful of her valleys that were so fruitful. She trusted in her treasures and felt secure enough to question who would have the courage to come against her (cf. Ezk 21:18–23). But God’s judgment would shatter Ammon’s confidence and pride when He brought His terror on her. Those who had been boasting of their security would be driven out, and no leader would be found to gather the fugitives. Yet in His grace God vowed that afterward He would restore the fortunes (captivity) of the Ammonites, just as He promised Moab (cf. Jr 48:47; 49:39).

E. Prophecy against Edom (49:7–22)

The country of Edom was south of Moab and southeast of the Dead Sea, stretching toward the Gulf of Aqaba. Edomites were the descendants of Esau (Gn 25:1–34; 36:1–19). It had a long history of conflict with Judah so that Edom came to symbolize all the heathen nations that sought Judah’s harm (cf. Jr 9:25–26; 25:17–26; Ezk 35; 36:5; Ob 15–16). Much of the imagery Jeremiah used to describe Edom parallels that used by Obadiah, whose prophecies were directed specifically at Edom.

49:7–13. The association of wisdom with the men of Teman (v. 7) is ancient (cf. Jb 2:11), and all of Edom was known for its wise men (cf. Ob 8). Teman was in central Edom. The district was named after Teman, the grandson of Esau, the son of his firstborn, Eliphaz (Gn 36:11; 1Ch 1:36). The area was associated with Bozrah (cf. Jr 49:13; Am 1:12), the capital of Edom in the days of Jeremiah (cf. Jr 49:13).

Dedan (v. 8), a city in the northern part of the Arabian peninsula southeast of Edom, was known for its trading (cf. 25:23; Ezk 25:13). The Dedanites living in Edom were warned to flee away and turn back from the disaster God was about to bring on Esau, the name of their progenitor being used by metonymy for the nation. Two images were used to show the thoroughness of God’s judgment. His judgment would be more thorough than grape gatherers who at least leave a few grapes on the vine as gleanings when they are done (Jr 49:9; cf. Ob 5c; Dt 24:21). God’s judgment would also be more thorough than thieves by night who steal only until they have enough (cf. Ob 5). In contrast, after God’s judgment Esau (Edom) would be stripped bare of her population (Jr 49:10) and have no hiding places. Only the helpless orphans and widows would be kept alive (v. 11).

Judgment against Edom is mentioned more frequently than against any other foreign nation (Is 11:14; 34:5–17; 63:1–6; Lm 4:21–22; Jl 3:19; Am 1:11–12; 9:11–12; Mal 1:4). Edom’s primary sin was its prideful, unrelenting and violent hatred of Israel and rejoicing over Israel’s misfortunes (Ob 3, 10–14). If nations unrelated to Judah were to drink the cup of the wrath of God (Jr 49:12) and be punished for their mistreatment of her, then nations closely related to Judah deserved greater condemnation (cf. 25:15–29; Ob 10).

The seriousness of this judgment is highlighted because God had sworn by Himself that He would enact this judgment (v. 13; cf. 22:5; 51:14; Gn 22:16; Is 45:23). This Bozrah is the ancient city of Jobab, one of the early Edomite kings (Gn 36:33). It is often mentioned by the prophets (Is 34:6; Jr 49:13; Am 1:12; Mc 2:12). It lies in the mountain district of Petra, 20 miles southeast of the Dead Sea and was the capital of Edom (not the same as the Bozrah in Moab, Jr 48:24). Falling under God’s judgment, it would become an object of horror and ruin (cf. 24:9; Is 63:1–6).

49:14–18. Borrowing language from international diplomacy, Jeremiah pictured God sending an envoy to His allies among the nations asking them to gather and rise up for battle against Edom (cf. Ob 1). The Lord would make Edom small among the nations and despised by all (cf. Ob 2). Edom’s pride in her strong natural defenses made her feel secure, but no topography could protect Edom from invaders sent by God. He would bring her down (cf. Ob 4) from her clefts of the rock, and people would be horrified at her condition (cf. Jr 24:9; 49:13). Edom would be destroyed as completely as Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. 50:40) so that no one will live there.

49:19–22. God is pictured as fierce as a lion when He rose up to make Edom run away from its land. No one would be able to challenge God: For who is like Me (Ex 15:11; Is 46:8–9) and who will summon Mewho then is the shepherdwho can stand against Me? Jeremiah laid out the plan of the Lord against Edom. He would drag away the young of the flock and destroy the pasture of Edom. The cry of destruction would carry to the Red (Reed) Sea—the site of God’s first destruction of a nation that threatened His chosen people (cf. Ex 14:21–31). Jeremiah repeated (with slight modifications) his message concerning Edom to his message about Babylon (compare Jr 49:19–21 and 50:44–46).

Jeremiah used images here earlier applied to Moab (48:40–41) for Edom. The noise of Edom’s downfall would shake the earth. God indicated that like an eagle He would swoop down in judgment upon Bozrah. The hearts of the warriors on which Edom depended would be as afraid as the heart of a woman in labor (cf. 48:41; 49:24; 50:43). They would not be able to stop God’s destruction.

Notably, Jeremiah offered no future blessing for Edom. Unlike Egypt, Moab, and Ammon (cf. 46:26; 48:47; 49:6), Edom was given no promise of future restoration. Her wickedness toward Israel, especially Edom’s assistance in the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, precluded future blessing (Ps 137:7; Is 34:5–8; 63:1–4; Lm 4:21–22; Ezk 25:13–14; Am 1:11–12; Ob 10). Amos predicted that Israel will "possess the remnant of Edom" (Am 9:12) indicating that in the messianic kingdom, the faithful remnant of Edom will not have a distinct national area but will become a possession of the land of Israel.

F. Prophecy against Damascus (49:23–27)

49:23–27. Damascus was the ancient capital of Aram (modern Syria) and is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. Damascus is located 70 miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee on a natural highway from east to west, making it a center of commerce (Ezk 27:18). Three major caravan routes passed through Damascus heading southwest to Israel and Egypt, south to Edom and the Red Sea, and east to Babylon and Mesopotamia. Damascus is mentioned in Scripture in connection with Abraham, first in the rescue of Lot (Gn 14:15), and second in connection with Abraham’s faithful servant Eleazar who was from Damascus (Gn 15:2). From the reign of David to its fall to Assyria in 732 BC (2Kg 16:7–9), Damascus was in conflict with Israel. When Babylon conquered Assyria, Damascus was also carried away into exile (605 BC).

When the trade route cities of Hamath, 115 miles north of Damascus, and Arpad, 95 miles north of Hamath, heard the bad news of the fall of Damascus, they were disheartened and could not be calmed (Is 10:9). These smaller fortified cities had their own kings and local gods, and were fearful that if Damascus fell, there was no hope for them.

Damascus’s pain was like that of a woman in childbirth (cf. Jr 4:31; 13:21; 22:23), as her young men and the men of war died (would be silenced) in her streets. As he did to other cities, Nebuchadnezzar burned the wall of Damascus (cf. Am 1:4; Jr 32:29; 38:23; 43:12). God vowed to consume the fortified towers of Ben-hadad, the name of the dynasty that ruled in Damascus ("Ben-hadad" means "son of the god Hadad") in the ninth and eighth centuries BC (cf. 1Kg 15:18, 20; 20:1–34; 2Kg 6:24; 8:7; 13:3, 24).

G. Prophecy against Kedar and Hazor (49:28–33)

Kedar was a nomadic tribe in the north Arabian desert, descendants of Ishmael (cf. Gn 25:13) known for their archery skills (Is 21:16–17), sheep herding (Is 60:7; Jr 49:28–29), extensive trade (Ezk 27:21), and warlike nature (Ps 120:5–6). The kingdoms of Hazor (not the Hazor in northern Israel) were a district of villages in the Arabian desert, not yet located. It is a general term designating several nomadic tribes in northern Arabia (Jos 15:23–25). Arab tribes sometimes served the Babylonians as mercenaries. The Babylonian Chronicles (cf. Jr 43:8) record Nebuchadnezzar’s campaigns against Arab tribes in 599 BC. The exact reason for God’s judgment on these desert people is not specified, but as Huey observes, "Perhaps the purpose for including these relatively insignificant peoples was to show that no one, however unimportant by our standards, would escape God’s judgment" (F. B. Huey, Jr., Jeremiah, Lamentations, NAC, ed. E. Ray Clendenen [Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1993], 405).

49:28–29. God summoned Nebuchadnezzar to attack Kedar, destroying their tents, flocks, and camels (Sg 1:5), causing terror on every side (Jr 6:25; 20:3, 10; 46:5).

49:30–33. The people of Hazor were warned to flee and hide from Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. These Arabian people felt so secure in their remote desert location that they had no gates or bars to protect against attack. The inhabitants would scatter to the all the winds, and the city would become a haunt of jackals (cf. 9:11; 10:22; 51:37). These metaphors of desolation are also used to describe Jerusalem (9:11) and the cities of Judah (10:22).

H. Prophecy against Elam (49:34–39)

49:34–39. The people of Elam were descendants of Shem (Gn 10:22; Ezk 4:9). Elam was east of Babylon in the lower Tigris River Valley (modern Iran). Their capital was Shusan (Susa) (Neh 1:1; Est 1:2; Dn 8:2). Elamites were skilled archers (cf. Is 22:6), and fought for control of Mesopotamia against the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians.

This prophecy was given at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah (597 BC). God would break the bow of Elam, their most notable skill, and the finest of their might (cf. Is 22:6). Her invaders would come from all directions (the four winds and the four ends of heaven) and would scatter them to all these winds.

Though there is some evidence that Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Elamites about 596 BC, their subjugation at that time did not fulfill this message. Elam became a central part of the Persian Empire that later conquered Babylon (cf. Dn 8:2). Jeremiah’s statement about Elam’s destruction seems to take on eschatological dimensions as God said He would set My throne in Elam to supervise her destruction. These events were to happen in the last days (cf. Jr 23:20). Yet Elam’s destruction will not be total because God will restore the fortunes of Elam (cf. 48:47; 49:6).

I. Prophecy against Babylon (50:1–51:64)

1. The Announcement of Judgment (50:1–10)

50:1–3. The time of fulfillment for Jeremiah’s prophecies of the judgments of Babylon and the restoration of Israel is a matter of controversy. Some have suggested that all the future events in the book of Jeremiah, spoken of as "days are coming" (see comments on 16:14 and 31:27–40), were fulfilled when the Jewish people returned from Babylon in 539 BC. However, for a number of reasons, it seems better to understand these as eschatological, end-time, events.

(1) The return is to be from "all the countries where He had banished them" not just from Babylon. This return will be so spectacular it will overshadow in importance the return from Egyptian captivity (16:14–15; 23:7–8; 29:14; 32:37; Is 43:5–7; Ezk 34:13–14; 37:21). (2) When the Jewish people return, they will be transformed spiritually, cleansed of all iniquity and idolatry (Jr 3:15–18; 31:14; 33:6–11; 50:4–5). Sadly, this was not the spiritual condition of the Jewish people when they returned from Babylon. Throughout their post-Babylonian history, Jewish people have wandered from the Lord. The spiritual transformation of Israel will only occur in the future, when the nation will turn and recognize Jesus as Messiah (Zch 12:10). (3) In the future Israel will "dwell securely" because the land of Israel will be in complete peace, "never to be overthrown again" (Jr 23:6; 31:40; 33:16; 46:27–28). However, when the Jewish people returned from Babylon, they were met with immediate and violent opposition by the Samaritans living in the land (Neh 4:1–8; 6:1–9). That opposition was just the beginning of conflict. Since the return from Babylon, Israel has never enjoyed a time of genuine security. After the captivity they lived under the domination of the Greeks and Romans, then were expelled from the land (AD 70) and suffered persecution (from the Crusades to the Inquisition to the Holocaust) up to the present time. Although the modern state of Israel provides a homeland for the Jewish people, since its founding in 1948 Israel has not had a single year of peace and has been under constant threat of war and annihilation. Only when the Messiah Jesus rules from Jerusalem will the nation be guaranteed to live in safety and "not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever." (4) In the future Israel will be ruled by King Messiah, the Son of David, the Righteous Branch (Jr 23:5–6; 30:8–11; 33:14–17). He will establish righteousness in the people and security in the land. This certainly did not occur at the return from Babylon, but awaits fulfillment after the time of Jacob’s distress, when all Israel will be saved (Rm 11:26–27; Is 59:20). (5) The destruction of Babylon described does not fit the historical events of the period. The prophet foretold that Babylon would be destroyed in a cataclysmic way (Jr 50:29–51:64). But when Babylon fell to the Medes, it was not by violent attack but rather peaceful takeover. The events described here certainly are yet future.

The Lord commanded Jeremiah to declare, proclaim (twice), lift up a standard, and not conceal the public humiliation of Babylon. She would be captured. Bel, her protecting god (also known as Marduk) was the supreme deity of Babylon (cf. 51:44; Is 46:1). He was their god of thunder, fertility, and power, but he would be shattered and put to shame (cf. Jr 46:24). Shattering the chief pagan god points to the God of Israel as the one and only true God (Jdg 16:23–31; 1Sm 5:1–7). The repetition of these phrases underscores the doom of these pagan idols (cf. Is 44:9–20).

Babylon would be destroyed by a nation from the north (cf. Jr 50:9). Many see this as a reference to Babylon’s fall to the Medo-Persian Empire, but several points do not fit historically. First, the Persians were from the east of Babylon, not from the north. Second, when Cyrus took Babylon he did not make her land an object of horror or destroy the city. Several times Jeremiah emphasized that Babylon would be uninhabited (cf. 50:39b–40; 51:29, 37, 43, 62). Yet Cyrus spared the city and made it one of the ruling centers for the Persian Empire. He appointed Daniel to a key administrative position there (cf. Dn 5:30; 6:1–3). Third, no one fled the city when it fell to Medo-Persia. In fact, Daniel, who had access to Jeremiah’s prophecies (cf. Dn 9:1–2), remained in the city during and after its fall (cf. Dn 5:28, 30–31; 6:1–3). Fourth, the promise that in those days and at that time … the sons of Israel … and the sons of Judah would again unite as a nation, return to Zion, and bind themselves to God in an everlasting covenant (cf. Jr 31:31; 32:40) was not fulfilled when Babylon fell in 539 BC. Jeremiah’s prophecy looked beyond the ancient destruction of Babylon to a future, eschatological devastation that will reverse the fortunes of Israel and Judah. The future destruction of Babylon will be the climax of God’s judgment on the Gentile powers that have oppressed His people, and it will open the way for the fulfilling of God’s promises to Israel. Scripture elsewhere points to this still future rebuilding of Israel and destruction of Babylon (cf. Zch 5:5–11; Rv 17–18). The ancient city of Babylon, which has fallen into ruin over the centuries, will be rebuilt prior to the coming of the antichrist only to be destroyed at the end of the tribulation before Messiah returns to establish His millennial reign.

50:4–5. In those days and at that time, the Jewish people, Israel and Judah, will return to the Lord, weeping in repentance (3:21–22; 31:9; Zch 12:10), and it will be the Lord their God whom they will seek. These events will take place following the future tribulation period (Jr 30:7) when Israel will turn and recognize Jesus at Messiah (Zch 12:10) and all Israel will be saved. The everlasting covenant refers to the new covenant (Jr 31:31ff.; Ps 84:5). At that time, Israel will return to Zion to join themselves to the Lord and enjoy the blessings of the messianic kingdom (cf. comments v. 1).

50:6–10. These verses are an editorial comment on the restoration of Israel and Judah. They will need to be restored because they have been lost sheep, led astray by false shepherds, wandering over mountain and hill (cf. 23:1–2; Ezk 36:5–6). They have forgotten their resting place in the Lord (Jr 50:19–20). They have been devoured by their enemies because they sinned against the Lord … the habitation of righteousness … the hope of their fathers (14:8, 22).

Their adversaries justified their attacks on the Jewish people by saying, We are not guilty, since the Jewish people deserve to be attacked—they have sinned against the Lord. This is a line of anti-Semitic logic that has been used by the Babylonians, the Crusaders, the Inquisition, and the Nazis—and that continues today against Jewish people and the nation of Israel.

2. The Fall of Babylon (50:11–16)

50:11–13. Babylon was judged because she was glad and jubilant when they pillage[d] Judah. God will judge any nation that rejoices, frolicking like a heifer and neighing like stallions, when it pillage[s] His heritage (whether it be the land of Israel, Ex 15:17; Jr 3:18; 12:14, or the people of Israel, Dt 9:26, 29; 10:16). The Lord vowed to disgrace Babylon by making it a wilderness, completely desolate, and a horror to all who pass by (cf. Lm 2:15).

50:14–16. Babylon will fall in battle because she has sinned against the Lord. The battle was graphically pictured with the enemy archers taking their positions around the city and shooting arrows at Babylon’s defenders. When the city finally surrenders, her pillars and walls will be torn down and God’s vengeance (used twice for emphasis) will be poured out. She would suffer what she had done to others. Again, this scene was not fulfilled when Cyrus the Mede conquered Babylon in 539 BC, taking the city without drastic warfare. This fall of Babylon awaits a future fulfillment at the end of days (vv. 1–3).

3. The Restoration of Israel (50:17–20)

50:17–20. Israel, here both the northern and southern kingdoms, had become like a scattered flock (vv. 6–7). The northern kingdom had been conquered by Assyria in 722 BC, and the southern kingdom was crushed by Babylon in 586 BC. The Lord vowed to restore His people, and punish the kings of Babylon and Assyria for their destruction of His people. He will bring Israel back to her land. Once again, the Mediterranean summit of Carmel and the fertile plains of Bashan east of the Sea of Galilee will belong to Israel, as will the hills of Ephraim and Gilead on the western and eastern banks of the Jordan River. These blessings are eschatological and will occur in those days and at that time (see comments on v. 1). These blessings are not just geographic, but they include a spiritual renewal. Though some will search for the iniquity of Israel, it cannot be found for there will be none. Israel’s guilt and the sins of Judah will not be found because God will pardon His remnant (31:31–34).

4. The Attack on Babylon (50:21–40)

50:21–28. Using two wordplays, God ordered the attack on the land of Merathaim and on the people in Pekod. Merathaim was the region of Mat Marratim in southern Babylon where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers enter the Persian Gulf. However, the word in Hebrew (meratayim) means "double rebellion." Pekod referred to an Aramean tribe (called the Pequdu) in southern Babylon on the east bank of the Tigris River; but the word in Hebrew (peqod) means "to punish" or "punishment," creating a play on words. Thus God was saying He would attack the land of double rebellion and inflict His punishment on it.

The noise of battle signaled the great destruction of Babylon. Like a hammer, Babylon had been shattering the whole earth, but now she would be broken. God spoke of Himself as a hunter who had set a snare and caught Babylon, because she had engaged in conflict with the Lord. To battle against Zion is to battle with the Lord, as the Psalmist says: "Your enemies … hate You … and make plans against Your people and conspire together against Your treasured ones" (Ps 83:2–3; Gn 12:3; 2Kg 19:21–22). The fall of Babylon will be reported by the refugees who will declare in Zion that Babylon’s destruction was the vengeance of the Lord our God as vengeance for His temple (Jr 52:13).

50:29–32. Many archers were summoned to encamp against Babylon to ensure that no one would escape, and to repay her according to her work. Judgment fell on Babylon because she had become arrogant against the Lord … the Holy One of Israel (regarding Damascus, cf. 49:26). The arrogant one would stumble and fall with no one to help as the Lord’s judgment set fire to her cities and environs (cf. 15:14; Lm 4:11; Am 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5).

50:33–34. The people of Israel and Judah were being oppressed and held captive by enemies who refused to let them go, a phrase reminiscent of Pharaoh’s response to Moses (Ex 5–10). Their release here is not just the return from Babylon, but an end-time deliverance (Jr 31:11; Is 63:1; see comments on v. 1).

Their Redeemer is strong, the Lord of hosts is His name who will plead their case (Mc 7:9) and bring rest to the earth (Is 2:4; 11:9). As Feinberg points out, "Few nations have ever realized that God is the Kinsman-Redeemer of Israel (50:34). The OT gave specific instructions for the kinsman redeemer, the male relative who had the responsibility to act to protect a relative from physical or financial danger (Gn 48:16; Ex 6:6; Lv 27:9–25, 27–34; Nm 5:8, 35:9–34). This is the background of Boaz’s purchase of the field from Naomi and marriage to Ruth, Naomi’s widowed daughter-in-law in the Book of Ruth. The Kinsman-Redeemer is voluntarily committed to champion Israel’s cause. He brings peace to His own but unrest to His oppressors" (Charles L. Feinberg, Jeremiah: A Commentary [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982], 322).

50:35–38. The "turmoil" their Redeemer will bring on Babylon (v. 34) is the sword (hereb), used five times in this section, followed by the pronouncement of a drought (horeb). This two-pronged judgment, a wordplay in Hebrew, will devastate the land of idols and the people who acted like lunatics in worship of idols (25:16).

50:39–40. The great Babylon will become desolate, a home for desert creatures … jackals (9:11; 10:22; 49:33; 51:37) and ostriches. After its destruction Babylon will never again be inhabited (cf. comments v. 3). Her desolation will be as complete as God’s overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (49:18; Gn 19:24–25). This prediction awaits end-time fulfillment, since Babylon has been inhabited throughout history.

5. The Anguish of Babylon (50:41–46)

50:41–46. The Lord applied the same words of judgment for Babylon as He had for Jerusalem (cf. 6:22–24). Verses 44–46 are almost verbatim the judgment expressed against Edom (49:19–21). Here the judgment is applied to Babylon.

6. God’s Vengeance against Babylon (51:1–14)

51:1–10. The Lord will arouse … a destroyer against Babylon and Leb-kamai. The expression "Leb-kamai" means "heart of my adversaries" but it is an atbash (see comments on 25:26) for Chaldea. The consonants for "heart of my adversary," when reversed in the Hebrew alphabet, spell "Chaldea." Foreigners sent by God to devastate Babylon will completely destroy her army.

The destruction of Babylon was a sign that neither Israel nor Judah had been forsaken by their God. He would destroy Babylon so that Israel and Judah would be free to return home (cf. 50:33–34). God called to His people to flee from Babylon to avoid being destroyed (cf. 50:8; Rv 18:4). Babylon had been the Lord’s golden cup (Jr 51:7) of judgment intoxicating all the earth (cf. 25:15–29; Rv 17:3–4; 18:6), and she too will be broken. As she suddenly falls, her allies will try to find balm for her pain (cf. Jr 8:22; 46:11); but she will not be healed so her allies will desert her to avoid the effects of her judgment. God’s people, knowing the Lord has brought about their vindication (51:5; 50:28, 34; Pss 9:1–6; 35:27; Is 54:17) by judging Babylon, will raise a song of praise in Zion to recount … the work of the Lord (cf. Jr 23:5–6; 50:28; Is 40:9).

51:11–14. Jeremiah described in familiar terms the preparations of the armies poised to attack Babylon (cf. 46:4, 9; 50:2). The attackers were, in a limited sense, the kings of the Medes (v. 28) when they conquered Babylon (539 BC; cf. Dn 5:31). This could indicate that one of the future kings who will invade Babylon during the tribulation period will come from the area controlled by the Medes (what is today northern Iran; cf. comments Jr 50:1–5). God will summon this army to take vengeance (v. 11; cf. 46:10; 50:15, 28, 34; 51:6, 36) on Babylon for her having destroyed His temple (cf. 50:28).

God will carry out His purpose to destroy the Babylonians who dwell by many waters, that is, near the Euphrates River, because He has sworn by Himself to do it (cf. 44:26; 49:13). The Lord has personally assured victory over Babylon.

7. God’s Sovereignty over Babylon (51:15–26)

51:15–19. Babylon’s downfall is guaranteed by the Maker of all, the Lord of hosts (v. 19). Jeremiah stressed God’s sovereignty and power, and His relationship with Jacob … His inheritance in language that is virtually synonymous with 10:12–16 (cf. comments there).

51:20–26. Babylon was God’s war-club, to shatter (napas, "to shatter to pieces") other nations (50:23). The phrase I shatter is used nine times in vv. 20–23 indicating the extent to which God had used Babylon for judgment. Now, however, the Lord will repay Babylon for the evil they had done in Zion. Babylon is called a destroying mountain; but it will become a burnt out mountain, like an extinct volcano, made desolate forever by God’s judgment.

8. The Summons to the Nations against Babylon (51:27–33)

51:27–33. God summoned the nations for the third time (cf. 50:2; 51:12) calling them to lift up their signal banner and rally their troops against Babylon. The nations set apart for this task include the Medes, as well as the kingdoms of Ararat (present-day Armenia), Minni (an area in western Iran), and Ashkenaz (northwestern Iran, near Turkey). The people in all three areas were warlike.

These invaders will be appointed to accomplish the purposes of the Lord against Babylon and make Babylon a desolation without inhabitants. Since this has not yet transpired, this desolation will be an end-time event (48:9; 51:29, 37; cf. comments on 50:3). Instead of offering resistance, the warriors of Babylon will stop fighting and withdraw to their strongholds for protection. The city will be captured, with every escape route and hiding place burned. Even the fords, ferries, or bridges, and marshes on the Euphrates surrounding the city of Babylon will be set ablaze preventing escape. Ancient Babylon had an extensive and well-known messenger network. These couriers will run the message from one to another … to tell the king that his whole city, from end to end, has been captured.

God compared Babylon to a threshing floor being prepared for use. At threshing time, the ground would be stamped firm to make it ready to use for threshing and winnowing grain. Likewise Babylon has been prepared for judgment, and would be stamped down, like the threshing floor awaiting the work of harvest, a familiar image of destruction (Is 27:12; Jl 3:13; Mc 4:12–13).

9. God’s Revenge on Babylon (51:34–44)

51:34–36. Zion complained that the violence she suffered at the hands of Babylon should be repaid. Nebuchadnezzar had devoured and crushed Jerusalem. Her complaint would be answered by the Lord, who would plead her case and exact full vengeance (Ps 140:12; Mc 7:9; cf. comments on Jr 50:33–34).

Babylon, built on the alluvial plain of the Euphrates, was famous for her extensive fountains and irrigated city gardens. In judgment, God would dry up the sea (lit., "broad river") and make her fountain dry.

51:37–44. God answered Zion’s question (v. 35) by declaring that He will make Babylon a heap of ruins and a haunt of jackals (cf. 50:39–40), a place where no one lives (cf. comments on 50:3). She will be an object of … hissing (cf. comments on 24:9). The Babylonians were fierce like young lions (cf. 2:15), and God will prepare a banquet for them to make them drunk (25:15–16, 26). As they drink from His cup of judgment they will sleep and never wake up (cf. v. 57). The Babylonians are also compared to lambs (cf. 50:45) being led to the slaughter.

Sheshak (or Sheshach) was an atbash for "Babylon" (see comments on "Sheshach" in 25:26; cf. 51:1). Babylon will be captured and destroyed. She will be engulfed as if the sea had risen over her. Her cities will become desolate (cf. comments on 50:3) like a desert.

Babylon was famous for its main god, Bel, and for its impressive walls. God will punish Bel (cf. 50:2) by making him spew out the wealth he had swallowed. The wall of Babylon was a double wall. The inner wall was 21 feet thick and wide enough for several chariots to race across the top side by side. It was separated from the outer wall by a 23-foot dry moat. Yet, even the wall of Babylon has fallen down!

10. The Warning to the Remnant in Babylon (51:45–48)

51:45–48. God ordered His people to come forth from Babylon to save themselves and escape God’s judgment. They were not to be afraid of the many reports of victory or violence. Instead they were to remain confident that the days are coming when God would punish … Babylon. At that time heaven and earth … will shout for joy over God’s victory. This was not fulfilled at the return from Babylon authorized by Cyrus (539 BC), but refers to Israel’s great end-of-days regathering from worldwide dispersion. (see comments on 16:14, 31:27–40; 50:1; Rv 18:20).

11. The Certainty of Babylon’s Fall (51:49–53)

51:49–50. God had ordained that Babylon must fall because she was responsible for the slain of Israel. God promised Abraham that those who cursed him would themselves be cursed (Gn 12:2–3). This assurance is applied to Babylon. When the Israelites escape from the future destruction of Babylon they should depart … not stay. Instead they should remember the Lord and think on Jerusalem (Pss 84:5; 137:5). Babylon’s destruction will be the catalyst God uses to bring the Jewish people home to their land. Babylon had a Jewish community from the OT period until the mid-1950s. After the birth of the modern state of Israel however, anti-Semitism became so intense in Iraq that virtually the whole Jewish population fled to the new state of Israel to save their lives. Persecution in modern Babylon was certainly a catalyst to bring Jewish people back to the land of Israel. The flight of the Jewish people from Iraq to Israel may be the fulfillment of this prophecy, escaping before the eschatological judgment of Babylon.

51:51–53. As the remnant in exile thought of Jerusalem, they were ashamed and disgrace[d] because they heard that aliens had entered the holy places of the temple. God comforted these exiles by assuring them that days are coming when He will punish (destroy) Babylon’s idols (cf. vv. 44, 47). No matter how she would fortify her … stronghold, God still vowed to send destroyers (cf. v. 48) against her.

12. God’s Repayment of Babylon (51:54–58)

51:54–58. An outcry … of great destruction will be heard from the land of Babylon, because the Lord is going to destroy Babylon. Her own loud noise of political power and world significance will vanish because the Lord is a God of recompense, He will fully repay (cf. 46:10; 50:15, 28; 51:6, 11, 36). Every class of officials in Babylon will become drunk on God’s wine of judgment (cf. 25:15–29; 51:7–8); they will sleep and not wake up (cf. v. 39). Again such wholesale destruction of Babylon’s leaders and warriors did not occur when Babylon fell to Medo-Persia (cf. Dn 5:29–6:2). It still awaits God’s future fulfillment in the tribulation (cf. Jr 50:1–3).

Since God had already announced that the broad wall of Babylon will be completely razed and her gates … set on fire (cf. 50:15; 51:30, 44; Hab 2:13), any toil expended to prevent His judgment is for nothing, only creating fuel for the fire.

13. Seraiah’s Symbolic Mission (51:59–64)

51:59. The capstone of Jeremiah’s oracle against Babylon was a message to Seraiah, a staff officer to king Zedekiah. Seraiah went to Babylon with Zedekiah in the fourth year of his reign (594–593 BC). William Shea offers strong evidence that Nebuchadnezzar summoned all his vassal kings to Babylon in 594 BC to ensure their loyalty after an attempted revolt less than a year earlier. Shea believes that this gathering was recorded in Dn 3 (William H. Shea, "Daniel 3: Extra-Biblical Texts and the Convocation on the Plain of Dura," Andrews University Seminary Studies 20 [Spring 1982]: 29–52). Whatever the cause, Zedekiah was forced to make an official trip to Babylon, and brought along Baruch’s brother, Seraiah.

51:60–64. Jeremiah wrote … a single scroll of all the prophecies of calamity … concerning Babylon. Probably this was the information recorded in chaps. 50–51 of Jeremiah. He gave the scroll to Seraiah with specific instruction. First, he was to read all these words aloud when he got to Babylon. Second, he was to proclaim to his audience this message: You, O Lord, have promised concerning this place … perpetual desolation. Third, as a visual lesson of God’s intention, Seraiah was to tie a stone to the scroll and throw it into the … Euphrates. Finally, as the scroll and stone sank beneath the water, Seraiah was to announce that, like the scroll, Babylon would sink down and not rise because of the calamity the Lord would bring upon her (cf. Rv 18:21; Jr 50:1–3).

The chapter closes with the sentence: Thus far are the words of Jeremiah (v. 64). J. Ludbom has pointed out that this phrase forms an inclusio with 1:1, as the book begins with the phrase, "The words of Jeremiah." The inclusio gives a suggestion of unity to the entire book (J. Ludbom, Jeremiah: A Study in Ancient Hebrew Rhetoric, SBLDS 18 [Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1975], 25). The sentence makes it clear that the rest of the book is the addition of an unidentified editor who later added chap. 52 to the already compiled work of the prophet Jeremiah. Whoever the editor was (many suggest Baruch), the Holy Spirit guided the editor to include chap. 52 as a fitting ending to the book.

IV. Conclusion: Historical Supplement (52:1–34)

Chapter 52 was written sometime after 561 BC, when King Jehoiachin was released from prison in Babylon (v. 31). It is nearly identical to 2Kg 24:18–25:30. Much of the material is parallel to information in Jr 39, and it serves as a historical supplement to the book of Jeremiah.

It shows that Jeremiah’s words of judgment against Jerusalem had been fulfilled and that his words about Judah’s release from the exile were about to be fulfilled. This final chapter served to vindicate the prophet and encourage the remnant still in captivity. It likewise serves as an encouragement for readers to believe that all the prophecies of the Lord will ultimately be fulfilled by Him.

A. The Fate of Jerusalem (52:1–23)

1. The Fall of Zedekiah (52:1–11)

52:1–11. This is a brief history of Zedekiah, Judah’s final king. It is nearly identical to 2Kg 24:18–25:7, as well as Jr 39:1–7 (cf. comments on 39:1–7).

2. The Destruction of the City (52:12–16)

52:12–16. The fall and burning of Jerusalem was described earlier (chap. 39), but this passage focuses more on the looting and burning of the temple. By the tenth day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar (August 17, 586 BC), Jerusalem had been cleared of rebels and sacked by the Babylonians. At that time, Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard … came to Jerusalem. He was in charge of the final events in Jerusalem and he burned the house of the Lord, as well as every large house in the city as Jeremiah had predicted (cf. 22:7). Those who survived the siege and had been civic leaders were carried away into exile. Only the poorest people were left behind.

There is a minor issue about the date in this passage, because 2Kg 25:8 indicates that Nebuzaradan came on "the seventh day of the fifth month," instead of the tenth day. Two possible answers have been suggested. Perhaps there was a scribal error in copying the text. However, there is no textual or manuscript evidence to support this position. The preferable understanding is that "the seventh" was the day Nebuzaradan came to Jerusalem (2Kg 25:8), entered the temple and removed the articles, then set fire to the temple on the ninth day, and the tenth day he burned the house of the Lord and continued burning the city. The Jewish remembrance of the burning of the temple is the fast of the ninth day of the month of Av (Tisha b’Av), a date that falls in late July to early August on the modern calendar.

3. The Destruction of the Temple (52:17–23)

52:17–23. Jeremiah’s conflict with the false prophet Hananiah (27:16–28:17) is the background for this passage. That passage contains Jeremiah’s prediction that the temple vessels would go and remain in Babylon (27:19–22) and the account of Hananiah predicting that the temple vessels would be restored to Israel in peace (28:3), in opposition to what Jeremiah had foretold. At that time Jeremiah said, "when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then that prophet will be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent" (28:9). This account is included at the end of the book as an affirmation of Jeremiah’s authenticity as a prophet and the truth of his entire prophetic work. The details of this chapter prove the accuracy of Jeremiah’s words. Everything from the temple was carried away to Babylon. The inventory is given in detail: the bronze pillars, the firepans, the bowls of fine gold and fine silver, the bronze pomegranates. This was such an extensive undertaking that the writer detailed the size of the bronze pieces that were removed and the number of pomegranates carried away (50:21–23). These treasures were all removed for transport to Babylon before the temple was burned.

B. The Fate of Certain Individuals (52:24–34)

1. The Fate of Those in Jerusalem During Its Fall (52:24–27)

52:24–27. All of Jerusalem’s leaders were rounded up by the captain of the guard. These included Seraiah the chief priest, who was grandson of Hilkiah, the high priest in King Josiah’s time (1Ch 6:13–15) (not the brother of Baruch; cf. Jr 32:12; 51:59), Zephaniah, who was the priest next in rank (cf. 29:25–29; 37:3), and the three officers, doorkeepers who were responsible for keeping order in the temple. Also captured were the official[s] in charge of the men of war, seven of the king’s advisers, and so on. The list indicates that Nebuzaradan took all the leaders of Jerusalem (spiritual, civil, and military) to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar’s field headquarters was located (v. 9). All these leaders of Jerusalem were struck down, or executed. Then Judah was led away into exile from its land.

2. The Fate of the Exiles (52:28–30)

52:28–30. This account of the fall of Jerusalem is not included in the 2Kg 25 account. It was added here to show that other groups of exiles were taken to Babylon. The dates given for the deportations (Jr 52:28–29) do not correspond with the dates of the two deportations given in 2Kg 24:12–14; 25:8–12. Two possible solutions to this difficulty have been advanced.

First, some suggest the deportations in 2 Kings and Jeremiah refer to the same events and should be harmonized. This is usually done by assuming that the writer of 2 Kings used a non-accession year method of dating the kings of Babylon, while Jeremiah employed an accession year method in Jr 52:28–30. In ancient times, the Israelite system for counting the dates of a king’s reign would include the first year ascended to the throne as the first year of the reign. Alternatively, the Babylonian system did not include the accession year in counting the years of a reign and instead counted the second year as the first. Since 1 and 2 Kings was likely written in Babylon, the author used the Babylonian method while Jeremiah always used the Israelite system (see comments at Dn 1:1 and also John Bright, A History of Israel, 3rd ed. [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981], 326 n. 45).

Second, others suggest the first two deportations listed in Jr 52:28–30 were not the same as those in 2 Kings but were minor ones preceding the major deportations associated with Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of Jerusalem in 597 and 586 BC. Two arguments make this second view the more likely view. First, the years given (the seventh and 18th years of Nebuchadnezzar) are each one year earlier than the years given in 2 Kings for the two major assaults on Jerusalem by Babylon (the eighth year, 2Kg 24:12–14; and 19th year, 2Kg 25:8–12 of Nebuchadnezzar). Second, the numbers of captives who were exiled in these deportations mentioned in Jeremiah do not correspond with the numbers taken during the 597 and 586 BC deportations as delineated in 2 Kings. In 597 BC about 10,000 people were taken (2Kg 24:14), but here Jeremiah (Jr 52:28) mentioned only 3,023. In 586 BC Nebuchadnezzar deported "the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon and the rest of the people" (2Kg 25:11). The figure in Jeremiah Jr 52:29 of just 832 seems far too low to correspond to this final deportation. So according to this second view it seems reasonable to assume that these two deportations (vv. 28–29) are secondary deportations. The writer included them (along with a third minor deportation mentioned in v. 30) to show the full extent of Babylon’s destruction of Judah. (See Alberto R. Green, "The Chronology of the Last Days of Judah: Two Apparent Discrepancies," Journal of Biblical Literature 101 [1982]: 57–73.)

The third deportation mentioned by Jeremiah perhaps corresponds with Nebuchadnezzar’s return to the land after Gedaliah’s assassination (cf. chap. 41). Certainly such a threat to Babylon’s control over Judah did not go unnoticed. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar sent a force to restore order and to remove anyone suspected of promoting rebellion. The small number of 745 Jews would support the limited size of this action. The dates of these three deportations (based on a Tishri calendar, counting the New Year from Rosh Hashanah, Feast of Trumpets in the Fall) mentioned in vv. 28–30 were then (1) Nebuchadnezzar’s seventh year (598 BC), (2) his 18th year (587 BC), and (3) his 23rd year (582 BC).

3. The Fate of Jehoiachin (52:31–34)

52:31–34. These verses are also found in 2Kg 25:27–30, with minor variations. In the thirty-seventh year of Jehoiachin’s exile (561–560 BC) Evil-merodach (Awl-marduk, "man of Marduk," god of Babylon) became king of Babylon. As part of the festivities at the end of his accession year he released Jehoiachin … out of prison on the 25th day of the 12th month (March 21, 560 BC). From that day until the day he died, he received a regular allowance and had his meals in the king’s presence, that is, he was cared for by the provision of the king of Babylon.

The book ends with a thread of hope. Just as Jeremiah’s prophecies of destruction had come true, now his prophecies of future blessing were beginning. Jehoiachin’s circumstances gave hope to the exiles that God’s promised blessing and restoration for Israel would be fulfilled.

The Lord will always keep His word. He will do exactly what He has promised and He is always righteous. If we believe this, our lives will be characterized by joy in the Lord and a sense of obedience and expectancy, no matter what our circumstances. We, like the remnant of Judah, are awaiting the coming of our King Messiah to fulfill all the good words He has promised.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Allen, Leslie C. Jeremiah. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.

Archer, Gleason Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2007.

Bright, John. A History of Israel, 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981.

Brown, Michael. Jeremiah. Expositors Bible Commentary, rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.

Bullock, C. Hassell. An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996.

Elwell, Walter. "Inheritance," in The Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 374. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996.

Feinberg, Charles L. Jeremiah: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982.

Freeman, H. Jeremiah. London: Soncino Press, 1949.

Green, Alberto R. "The Chronology of the Last Days of Judah: Two Apparent Discrepancies." Journal of Biblical Literature 101 (1982): 57–73.

Harrison, R. K. Jeremiah and Lamentations. The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973.

Huey, F. B. Jr., Jeremiah, Lamentations. The New American Commentary, edited by E. Ray Clenden. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1993.

Jensen, Irving L. Jeremiah and Lamentations. Everyman’s Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1974.

Kaiser, W. C. Jr. The Messiah in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.

Kidner, Derek. The Message of Jeremiah. The Bible Speaks Today, ed. J. A. Moyter. Downers Grove, IL. InterVarsity, 1987.

Kinsler, F. Ross. Inductive Study of the Book of Jeremiah. South Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1971.

Ludbom, J. Jeremiah: A Study in Ancient Hebrew Rhetoric. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 18. Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1975.

Mackay, John L. Jeremiah. A Mentor Commentary. Fearn, Rose-shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2004.

Parker, Richard A. and Waldo H. Dubberstein. Babylonian Chronology: 626 BC–AD 75. Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 1956.

Rydelnik, Michael. The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? Nashville: B&H, 2010.

Ryken, Philip Graham. Jeremiah and Lamentations. Preaching the Word, ed., R. Kent Hughes. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001.

Shea, William H. "Daniel 3: Extra-Biblical Texts and the Convocation on the Plain of Dura." Andrews University Seminary Studies 20 (Spring 1982): 29–52.

Thiele, Edwin R. The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1983.

Thompson, J. A. The Book of Jeremiah. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, ed. Robert L. Hubbard. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980.

Wiseman, Donald J. Chronicle of Chaldean Kings [626–556 BC] in the British Museum. London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1956.

 

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