Jeremiah 29

Disturbing hope: Settle down in Babylon

1 The prophet Jeremiah sent a letter from Jerusalem to the few surviving elders among the exiles, to the priests and the prophets, and to all the people Nebuchadnezzar had taken to Babylon from Jerusalem.
2 The letter was sent after King Jeconiah, the queen mother, the court officials, the government leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, and the craftsmen and smiths had left Jerusalem.
3 It was delivered to Babylon by Elasah, Shaphan's son, and Gemariah, Hilkiah's son—two men dispatched to Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar by King Zedekiah.
4 The LORD of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, proclaims to all the exiles I have carried off from Jerusalem to Babylon:
5 Build houses and settle down; cultivate gardens and eat what they produce.
6 Get married and have children; then help your sons find wives and your daughters find husbands in order that they too may have children. Increase in number there so that you don't dwindle away.
7 Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because your future depends on its welfare.
8 The LORD of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, proclaims: Don't let the prophets and diviners in your midst mislead you. Don't pay attention to your dreams.
9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I didn't send them, declares the LORD.
10 The LORD proclaims: When Babylon's seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.
11 I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.
12 When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.
13 When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me.
14 I will be present for you, declares the LORD, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the LORD.
15 Yet you say, The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon:
16 This is what the LORD proclaims concerning the king sitting on David's throne and all the people who live in this city, that is, those among you who didn't go into exile:
17 The LORD of heavenly forces proclaims: I'm going to send the sword, famine, and disease against them. I will make them like rotten figs that are too spoiled to eat.
18 I will pursue them with the sword, famine, and disease; and I will make them an object of horror to all nations on earth and an object of cursing, scorn, shock, and disgrace among all the countries where I have scattered them,
19 because they wouldn't listen to my words, declares the LORD, which I sent them time and again through my servants the prophets. They wouldn't listen, declares the LORD.
20 But now, all you exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon, listen to the LORD's word.
21 This is what the LORD of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, proclaims concerning Ahab, Kolaiah's son, and Zedekiah, Maaseiah's son, who are prophesying lies to you in my name: I will hand them over to Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar, and he will slay them before your very eyes.
22 Because of them, all the Judean exiles in Babylon will use this curse: "The LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, who were burned alive by the king of Babylon."
23 They committed a horrible scandal in Israel—adultery with their neighbors' wives and deceit spoken in my name, with which I had nothing to do. Yet I'm still aware of it and am witness to it, declares the LORD.
24 Tell Shemaiah the Nehelamite,
25 This is what the LORD of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, proclaims: You sent letters on your own accord to all the people in Jerusalem, to the priest Zephaniah, Maaseiah's son, and to the rest of the priests.
26 You said to Zephaniah: The LORD has appointed you priest in charge of the LORD's temple instead of Jehoiada. You are responsible for putting every madman who prophesies into stocks and neck irons.
27 So why haven't you threatened Jeremiah of Anathoth, who pretends to be a prophet among you?
28 He has sent a letter telling those of us in Babylon: "You are going to be there a long time, so build houses and settle down, plant gardens and eat what they produce."
29 The priest Zephaniah read this letter to the prophet Jeremiah.
30 Then the LORD's word came to Jeremiah:
31 Send word to all the exiles: The LORD proclaims concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Because Shemaiah prophesied to you when I didn't send him, and because he convinced you to believe a lie,
32 I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his descendants, declares the LORD. Not one member of this people will be around to see the good that I have in store for my people, declares the LORD, for he incited rebellion against me.

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Jeremiah 29 Commentary

Chapter 29

Two letters to the captives in Babylon; In the first, they are recommended to be patient and composed. (1-19) In the second, judgments are denounced against the false prophets who deceived them. (20-32)

Verses 1-7 The written word of God is as truly given by inspiration of God as his spoken word. The zealous servant of the Lord will use every means to profit those who are far off, as well as those who are near him. The art of writing is very profitable for this end; and by the art of printing it is rendered most beneficial for circulating the knowledge of the word of God. God's sending to the captives by this letter would show that he had not forsaken them, though he was displeased, and corrected them. If they live in the fear of God, they may live comfortably in Babylon. In all conditions of life, it is our wisdom and duty not to throw away the comfort of what we may have, because we have not all we would have. They are directed to seek the good of the country where they were captives. While the king of Babylon protected them, they must live quiet and peaceable lives under him, in all godliness and honesty; patiently leaving it to God to work deliverance for them in due time.

Verses 8-19 Let men beware how they call those prophets whom they choose after their own fancies, and how they consider their fancies and dreams to be revelations from God. False prophets flatter people in their sins, because they love to be flattered; and they speak smoothly to their prophets, that their prophets may speak smoothly to them. God promises that they should return after seventy years were accomplished. By this it appears, that the seventy years of the captivity are not to be reckoned from the last captivity, but the first. It will be the bringing to pass of God's good word to them. This shall form God's purposes. We often do not know our own minds, but the Lord is never at an uncertainty. We are sometimes ready to fear that God's designs are all against us; but as to his own people, even that which seems evil, is for good. He will give them, not the expectations of their fears, or the expectations of their fancies, but the expectations of their faith; the end he has promised, which will be the best for them. When the Lord pours out an especial spirit of prayer, it is a good sign that he is coming toward us in mercy. Promises are given to quicken and encourage prayer. He never said, Seek ye me in vain. Those who remained at Jerusalem would be utterly destroyed, notwithstanding what the false prophets said to the contrary. The reason has often been given, and it justifies the eternal ruin of impenitent sinners; Because they have not hearkened to my words; I called, but they refused.

Verses 20-32 Jeremiah foretells judgments upon the false prophets, who deceived the Jews in Babylon. Lying was bad; lying to the people of the Lord, to delude them into a false hope, was worse; but pretending to rest their own lies upon the God of truth, was worst of all. They flattered others in their sins, because they could not reprove them without condemning themselves. The most secret sins are known to God; and there is a day coming when he will bring to light all the hidden works of darkness. Shemaiah urges the priests to persecute Jeremiah. Their hearts are wretchedly hardened who justify doing mischief by having power to do it. They were in a miserable thraldom for mocking the messengers of the Lord, and misusing his prophets; yet in their distress they trespass still more against the Lord. Afflictions will not of themselves cure men of their sins, unless the grace of God works with them. Those who slight the blessings, deserve to lose the benefit of God's word, like Shemaiah. The accusations against many active Christians in all ages, amount to no more than this, that they earnestly counsel men to attend to their true interest and duties, and to wait for the performance of God's promises in his appointed way.

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Or I will restore you to the place from which I exiled you.
  • [b]. Syr; MT you
  • [c]. Or because you sent
  • [d]. Heb lacks You said to Zephaniah.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO JEREMIAH 29

Thus chapter contains a letter of Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon; and gives an account of another sent from thence by Shemaiah to the people at Jerusalem; and is closed with threatening him with punishment for so doing. Jeremiah's letter concerns both the captives at Babylon, and the people left at Jerusalem, The persons to whom and by whom it was sent, and the time of writing and sending it, are mentioned in Jer 29:1-3; and though the prophet was the amanuensis, God was the author of it, as well as of their captivity, Jer 29:4; the contents of, it, respecting the captives, are advices to them to provide for their comfortable settlement in Babylon, and not think of returning quickly, by building houses, planting gardens, marrying, and giving in marriage, Jer 29:5,6; and to seek and pray for the prosperity of the place where they were; in which their own was concerned, Jer 29:7; to give no heed to their false prophets and diviners, Jer 29:8,9; and to expect a return to Jerusalem at the end of seventy years; which they might be assured of, since God had resolved upon it in his own mind, Jer 29:10,11; and especially if they called upon him, prayed to him, and sought him heartily, Jer 29:12-14; the other part of the letter respects the Jews in Jerusalem; concerning whom the captives are directed to observe, that both the king and people should suffer much by sword, famine, pestilence, and captivity, with the reason of it, Jer 29:15-19; particularly it is foretold, that Ahab and Zedekiah, two lying prophets, should be made an example of vengeance; and a proverbial curse should be taken of them, because of their villany, lewdness, and lies, Jer 29:20-23; next follows some account of Shemaiah's letter from Babylon, to the people and priests at Jerusalem, stirring them up against Jeremiah the prophet; which came to be known, by the priests reading it to him, Jer 29:24-29; upon which Shemaiah is threatened with punishment, and his seed after him, Jer 29:30-32.

Jeremiah 29 Commentaries