2:1-3 That the word of the Lord came (2:1) is an all-important statement occurring many times throughout the prophetic books. Jeremiah was the recorder and deliverer of what he would share, but this opening denunciation of Judah’s people came directly from God’s mouth. Like the betrayed husband of a wayward bride, God recalls the days when his people were faithful. Israel (meaning the entire nation, not merely the northern kingdom) was holy to the Lord (2:3). Of all the nations of the world, Israel was set apart by God to be his chosen people.
One might think the exiles were the bad figs and the latter were the good figs, but not so. The exiles who went to Babylon actually were sent away by the Lord (24:5). They went with his promise of restoration once their hearts had turned fully back to him (24:6-7). “Seventy years” in exile would finally get their attention (see 25:1-14).
King Zedekiah, Judah’s final king, and those with him were the bad figs (24:8). They continued to disobey God and would experience his curse (24:9-10). Jeremiah warned Zedekiah to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, but he wouldn’t listen (see 38:14-28). He also advised those who rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar not to flee to Egypt, but they rejected his counsel (see 42:1–44:14). Therefore, God condemned them to be an object of scorn, ridicule, and cursing (24:9). Those who are determined to act like rotten fruit can’t complain when they’re treated like rotten fruit.
25:1-7 Chapter 25 marks the end of Jeremiah’s prophecies of doom for Judah as far as the arrangement of the book is concerned. The date for this chapter places it even earlier than the previous message, around 604 BC, at the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (25:1). But the topical way the book is arranged makes this message the climax of Jeremiah’s warnings to Judah. God’s faithful prophet had been at it for twenty-three years (25:3), and more suffering lay ahead.
I don’t know any pastor who would have wanted the flock Jeremiah oversaw. After all those years of delivering God’s word to them, Jeremiah could probably have counted his “converts” on one hand, with fingers left over. He himself said, I have spoken to you time and time again, but you have not obeyed . . . or even paid attention (25:3-4). As a result, God declared that the people of Judah had brought disaster on themselves (25:7).
25:8-14 Because of this disobedience, there would be seventy years of captivity in Babylon (25:11). But God immediately added that when he was finished using Babylon as his instrument of judgment, he would punish the king of Babylon and that nation and make it a ruin forever (25:12). The prophet Daniel was probably reading this portion of Jeremiah’s prophecy when he realized that “the number of years for the desolation of Jerusalem would be seventy” and prayed for God to end the exile and restore his people to their land (Dan 9:2-3).
The number “seventy” wasn’t chosen out of thin air. Over the years, Israel had failed to obey the law of Sabbath rest for the land, which required it to lie fallow every seventh year (see Lev 25:1-7). The people hadn’t failed to do this once or twice—but for 490 years! That equates to a total of seventy missed Sabbath years. God would see to it that his land received its rest—with his people’s obedience or without it. According to the Chronicler, the seventy-year exile “fulfilled the word of the Lord through Jeremiah, and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest . . . until seventy years were fulfilled” (2 Chr 36:21). The Lord is “slow to anger” (Exod 34:6), but that doesn’t mean he forgets.
25:15-26 The cup of the wine of [God’s] wrath (25:15) is a familiar biblical image for the stored-up judgment of a holy God against sin. Jeremiah was to make many nations drink from it (25:15, 17). Sadly, Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah were to be the first ones to do so (25:18). But all the surrounding nations and cities that had provoked the Lord to anger were also ripe for judgment (25:18-26).
25:27-29 An important principle of biblical justice is embedded in this prophecy. If God was going to righteously judge the people and the city that were called by his name (25:29), then those who did not acknowledge him could not expect to avoid judgment for their sins. And one of the sins for which Judah was repeatedly condemned was mistreatment of the poor and defenseless among her people. Also, one of the things that angered God most about the nations mentioned earlier in the chapter is that even though they were Israel’s relatives, they harassed the Jews on their journey to the promised land and picked off the weak and defenseless.
Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah regularly condemned the people of Israel for their social injustices as well as their idolatry. Injustices were not merely viewed as secular affronts to communities, but also as a spiritual affront to God (see Zech 7:9-12). God’s people were specifically instructed to seek the welfare of the secular city in which they were living and to pray for its well-being so that it would become a better place to live, work, and raise their families—as we will see in Jeremiah 29.
Therefore, the role of the church today, and of believers who comprise the church, is to execute divine justice on behalf of the defenseless, poor, and oppressed. Scripture relates biblical justice distinctly to these groups as a primary concern because they most often bear the brunt of injustices. We are not to mistreat the poor (see Jas 2:15-16) or have class and racial prejudice (see Gal 2:11-14). Rather, the church is commissioned to meet the physical needs of the “have nots” within it and in society.
This is not, however, to be confused with subsidizing irresponsibility, which the Bible strictly prohibits (see Prov 6:9-11; 10:4; 13:18; 24:30-34; 2 Thess 3:10). Even in the biblical practice of gleaning—leaving behind portions of a harvest for the poor to collect—the poor needed to exercise responsibility in gathering what had been left behind (see Lev 23:22). The amount of work that was put forth resulted in the amount of food obtained. The church is to work for conditions under which all people have the same opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. That’s also the job of our governmental leaders in their spheres of responsibility.
25:30-38 Jeremiah was commanded to relay the Lord’s judgment against the nations. Like a lion ready to pounce, God roars against them (25:30). The nations of Jeremiah’s day were cruel and oppressive, so fierce judgment was coming that would bring disaster (25:32). The leaders of the nations were warned: The lion has left his den. The Lord’s burning anger would not be quenched (25:36-38).
This is where the prophetic section of Jeremiah comes to an end. He had warned and pled for repentance, but Judah would have none of the Lord’s fatherly discipline. The only thing left was to experience his righteous wrath.
26:1-6 The message recorded here was actually delivered earlier, at the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah (26:1), probably in 609–608 BC. It contained the same warning of God’s judgment and offer to spare Judah if the people repented that Jeremiah proclaimed throughout his ministry. But this time the response to it was recorded.
26:7-11 Who responded? The priests, the prophets, and all the people (26:7-8). And rather than repenting, they were so furious at Jeremiah for his prophecy of doom for the temple and Jerusalem that they wanted to kill him (26:8-9). They even grabbed the prophet and dragged him to the temple for a trial! The city officials gathered at the New Gate of the Lord’s temple, where the priests and prophets themselves called for the death penalty on God’s spokesman—another indication of how far Judah had sunk into sin (26:10-11).
26:12-15 Jeremiah’s defense was simple but powerful. He had not spoken on his own, but God had sent him to prophesy all the words he had shared (26:12). In fact, Jeremiah began and ended his defense with a plea to God’s authority on him and his message (26:12, 15). Remember, then, that when you faithfully proclaim God’s truth, it’s backed by his authority, not yours.
Jeremiah also reminded the court that even though his word from the Lord contained a message of judgment on Judah, there was also the offer of forgiveness. In other words, Jeremiah was not simply bashing his people or giving them no chance to turn away God’s wrath. God was willing to relent concerning the disaster he had pronounced (26:13). However, if these rulers put God’s prophet to death, they would bring innocent blood upon their own heads and upon the city (26:15).
26:16 Wiser heads prevailed, and Jeremiah was spared execution. Interestingly, all the people, the same crowd that had helped drag him away to trial in the first place, changed their minds. They agreed with the officials and told the priest and prophets, “This man doesn’t deserve the death sentence, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God!” The wicked priests and prophets, however, obviously didn’t agree (26:7-8)—which made for a sorry picture of Judah’s spiritual condition.
Here we see the kingdom agenda in reverse. The secular officials and the people did what the nation’s spiritual leaders should have done—that is, recognize and authenticate God’s true word spoken by his true prophet, and then lead the way in repentance.
26:17-24 Some of the wisest elders of the land cited a precedent for listening to, rather than executing, Jeremiah: the case of the prophet Micah, who brought a similar message during the reign of Hezekiah (26:17-18). That king listened to God’s prophet and led Judah in repentance that delayed God’s hand of judgment (26:19). Their input helped Jeremiah win his release (26:24).
The text includes a historical note about an otherwise unknown prophet of Jeremiah’s time named Uriah son of Shemaiah (26:20). His message of judgment so infuriated the evil King Jehoiakim that he sent men to Egypt to extradite Uriah back to Judah after he had fled for his life. Uriah was executed (26:21-23), so Jeremiah had plenty of cause to be on edge.
27:1-11 Jehoiakim’s successor Zedekiah, the last king of Judah before its fall, learned nothing from the experiences of his predecessors when it came to obeying God’s word. Through Jeremiah, the Lord told Zedekiah to submit to Nebuchadnezzar and live, rather than resist and be crushed. But Zedekiah refused (see 38:14-28).
The kings of five other nations sent messengers (27:3) to Jerusalem asking Zedekiah to join them in a rebellion against Babylon, but Jeremiah was waiting for these envoys with a stark message of the futility of their plans. The prophet went to the court in Jerusalem with chains and yoke bars hanging around his neck as a warning not to try what they were planning, but to allow Nebuchadnezzar to put his yoke on them and take them away to Babylon (27:2-7).
Since these representatives were from pagan countries, it was time to identify the true God—the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel (27:4). There was no time for messing around. Jeremiah’s word to them came from the Creator of the universe, who held all the nations in his hands and could do with them whatever he pleased (27:5). God had decreed that all lands would have to submit to Babylon until that great kingdom’s own time of judgment and collapse came (27:6-7). Any nation that rejected the Lord’s command, then, would be devastated by his threefold messengers of suffering: sword, famine, and plague (27:8). God also added a warning for these pagan envoys: You should not listen to your prophets, diviners, dreamers, fortune-tellers, or sorcerers who say to you, “Don’t serve the king of Babylon!” They are prophesying a lie (27:9-10).
27:12-15 The sad thing is that God had to give Zedekiah the same warning through Jeremiah about the lying prophets of Judah (27:12, 14). The king was putting his hopes in these false preachers who were assuring him Judah would never be taken (27:14-15)! However, Zedekiah desperately needed to understand that submitting to Babylon was the only hope he and the people had if they wanted to live.
27:16-22 Then Jeremiah spoke to the priests and . . . people with the same warning not to believe their false prophets (27:16). Here we learn one specific way in which they were lying. When Nebuchadnezzar deported the first exiles from Judah in about 609 BC, including Daniel and his three friends, he took some of the “vessels” from the temple to Babylon (see Dan 1:1-7). Now it was about sixteen years past that time (the message of chapter 27 was probably given about 593 BC, judging by the time stamp of 28:1). Those temple articles were still in Babylon, but the false prophets boldly predicted that these items would be soon returned (27:16). According to Jeremiah, though, not only would the stolen articles remain in Babylon, but even the items currently in the temple would be carried off (27:17-22).
28:1-4 One of the false prophets who continually preached a prosperity gospel of success and restoration for Judah was Hananiah (28:1). He insisted that the nation’s trouble with Babylon was just a two-year problem, not a seventy-year captivity (28:3). All would soon be resolved. Hananiah wasn’t bashful about his lies either, spouting them to Jeremiah in the temple in front of the priests and all the people (28:1). His prophecy announced the return of the exiled king Jeconiah, the exiles, and the temple treasures to Jerusalem (28:3-4). Hananiah even stole Jeremiah’s signature phrase: This is the Lord’s declaration (28:4). Speaking lies is one thing; putting them in the mouth of the Lord is a whole other matter. Such audacity would cost Hananiah his life.
28:5-9 Surprisingly, Jeremiah declared, Amen! May the Lord do that. He did this not because Hananiah’s words were true but because Jeremiah wished that this optimistic message could be true (28:6). Unfortunately, it was contrary to what God had revealed to Jeremiah and other true prophets in times past (28:8). Then Jeremiah stated the test of a true prophet: Only when the word of the prophet comes true will the prophet be recognized as one the Lord has truly sent (28:9; see Deut 18:20-22). Hananiah’s prophecy wouldn’t meet the standard.
28:10-17 This all happened as Jeremiah was still wearing the yoke God had commanded him to make as an object lesson (28:10; see 27:2). Hananiah dramatically snatched the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck, broke it, and repeated his false prophecy about Babylon’s doom (28:10-11). But God was not impressed. He simply issued a new word through Jeremiah to Hananiah: I have put an iron yoke on the neck of all these nations that they might serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (28:14). And as for Hananiah, he died the same year (18:15-17).
Hananiah’s lying and strutting were pointless. The Lord God, the King of the universe, is sovereign. Any attempt to oppose his agenda will fail. He will always accomplish his purposes—with or without you. Will you join his kingdom work and experience blessing, then, or oppose him and be put to shame?
29:1-3 Chapter 29 includes the text of the letter that Jeremiah sent to those deported from Jerusalem to Babylon (29:1). As a result of the damaging lies spread by false prophets like Hananiah, the exiles had been encouraged to become passive in their captivity, sitting around waiting for a quick release that wasn’t coming (see 29:8-9). Jeremiah’s letter offered a reliable ray of light to them, but it also includes a critically important message for believers today. It teaches the foundational principle that society is transformed when God’s people execute his agenda in history. Through Jeremiah, God laid out his strategy for the Israelites in Babylon, explaining how to live and prosper in a pagan land.
29:4 The first thing the exiles needed to learn was that the Babylonians were not to blame for their captivity. In the grand scheme of things, God had deported them to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was merely the instrument God used to punish them for their sins. God’s message through Jeremiah here was essentially this: “You’re in this mess because I sent you there. And I sent you there because you forgot me.” It was their failure to be God’s distinct people who worshiped him alone that caused God to judge them.
29:5-6 God’s agenda for the exiles covered everything from their employment to building their families. Hananiah had led the people to believe they would return home soon (28:11), as if they didn’t need to do anything. But God told them, Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Find wives for yourselves, and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease.
As it was with the Babylonian exiles, so it is with Christians today. We need to prepare to do life because we might be here for a while. God wanted his people to establish a kingdom presence in exile. Building houses and planting gardens suggests ownership, a key element of a kingdom economic strategy. And ownership always requires some sort of investment. God told the exiles that while they were waiting for a better tomorrow, they were to be industrious today.
The exiles of Judah needed to understand that the Babylonians were not their problem; God was. And if God is your problem, then God is your only solution. It doesn’t matter whom we elect or what programs we start if we lose our spiritual perspective. We have to see that God put us here for a reason. Earth is not merely a place to wait for a ride to heaven. It’s where we live out God’s kingdom agenda in history.
29:7-9 Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive implies that God didn’t want the Jews to build walls around their homes and create a Jewish subculture within Babylon to shield themselves from the pagans. One reason the wheels are coming off of our culture morally, in fact, is that for too many years, Christians have secluded themselves within their churches. We have abandoned the culture to Satan. But God’s message is to pursue the good of the culture in which we live—not necessarily the so-called good that the culture wants but the good it needs. We are to pursue the social and spiritual wellbeing of the community where we live, work, and raise families, which will result in improved lives for us.
29:10-14 God promised to restore his people when the seventy years of captivity ended (29:14, 10). Many Christians are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, but they don’t know its context. For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope (29:11). This is God’s promise to bless his people in the midst of a pagan culture. And it takes on greater significance when it’s seen in the context of exile with no apparent hope (29:11).
Notice, though, that this promise was conditioned on God’s people seeking him in a new way: You will . . . find me when you search for me with all your heart (29:13). The economic titans and power brokers of the world can’t help us like God can, but enjoying this kind of blessing requires seeking God wholeheartedly. This demands more than attending church on Sunday, tapping our feet to the music, hearing a sermon, and saying, “Amen.” Unless we commit our hearts to the Lord 24/7, we will be no different twelve months from now. But when we worship and obey the Lord through our day-to-day walk with him, he’s ready to communicate with us and even reverse our circumstances.
29:15-19 Despite God’s strategy and promises for the welfare of his people in exile, they were deceived initially by false prophets telling them not to unpack their bags in Babylon (see 29:8-9). They had begun to listen to these fake messengers and longed to be back in Jerusalem. But the Lord reveals through Jeremiah what awaits those in Jerusalem—from the king sitting on David’s throne to all the people in the city (29:16). They will meet with sword, famine, and plague (29:17-18).
29:20-32 Jeremiah’s letter punctured the fantasy spread by the false prophets. God even called out several of them by name, including Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zed-ekiah son of Maaseiah (29:21). Not only had they spoken lies in God’s name, but they had also committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives—a reminder that wicked theology is often accompanied by a wicked lifestyle (29:23). What price did they pay for their wickedness? The king of Babylon roasted [them] in the fire (29:22). God also condemned Shemaiah, another false prophet who wrote letters to the people and the priests that they should confine Jeremiah in the stocks and an iron collar for being a madman who acts like a prophet (29:24-26). God assured the exiles that Shemaiah would be wiped out for his rebellion (29:32).
30:1-3 These chapters illustrate a common biblical prophetic technique in which a prophet speaks of two events—events that may be widely separated in fulfillment—as if they immediately followed each other. It’s as if the prophet were seeing and describing two distant mountain peaks—one behind the other—without describing the long valley between them. Often, in fact, the prophet himself didn’t see the valley because God didn’t reveal all the details to him. The most obvious examples of such prophecies are those that speak of Christ’s first and second coming in the same breath, as in Isaiah 61:1-3. Some of Jeremiah’s prophecies of Judah’s restoration occurred in history, while others can only be accomplished when Christ returns.
God promises that the days are coming . . . when [he] will restore the fortunes of . . . Israel and Judah (30:3). This looks forward to the end of time, because the northern kingdom of Israel was not impacted by Judah’s captivity, having gone into captivity itself well over a century earlier. This promise gave hope to the people of Judah, who were on the verge of defeat and captivity at the hands of the Babylonians. And there was hope for Israel too, as God prophesied a day when the two kingdoms would again join together as one in the promised land.
30:4-7 But first, the nation would have to undergo intense suffering: a time of trouble for Jacob (30:7). The language here is so strong that it seems to go beyond Judah’s defeat by Babylon—as terrifying and destructive as that was. The Hebrew phrase translated “time of trouble” is the same phrase translated in Daniel 12:1 as “time of distress.” Both passages speak of this time period as worse than any the world has ever seen: There will be no other like it (30:7); “such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time” (Dan 12:1).
This is a picture of the coming seven-year great tribulation immediately preceding Christ’s return. Matthew describes it in language similar to that of the Old Testament prophets: “For at that time there will be great distress, the kind that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again” (Matt 24:21; see commentary on Dan 9:24-27; Matt 24). It will be a time of unparalleled suffering for Israel until Jesus appears to judge her enemies and rescue her. Jeremiah compared this time of dread to the pain experienced by a woman in labor (30:6). Matthew also described these end time events as “labor pains” (Matt 24:8).
30:8-11 The promise of Israel’s deliverance at the end of 30:7 leads to a further prophecy of blessing and restoration. Strangers will never again enslave Israel, and God will raise up David their king (30:8-9) to rule over them. Christ, the Messiah from the line of David, will rescue and restore his people. In the meantime, they had no reason to be afraid because he promised to save them, return them from captivity, and bring destruction on their enemies (30:10-11).
30:12-17 This led to a restatement of Judah’s current desperate, sinful condition that left the nation with gaping wounds that no one could heal (30:12-15). Yet, “what is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). The Lord would intervene. Judah’s enemies would be devoured, and God would heal her wounds (30:16-17).
30:18-24 This promise included a glorious restoration of the people in the promised land (30:18). Even though Israel has been back in her territory since the rebirth of the nation in 1948, most of the Jewish people continue to disbelieve the gospel of Jesus Christ. In that day, Israel’s leader will be one of them (30:21), instead of a foreign tyrant like Nebuchadnezzar. When many Jews embrace Jesus as their Messiah during his millennial kingdom (see Rom 11:25-27), God will again gladly identify with Israel (30:22). Until then, however, the Lord’s burning anger would not be quenched until he had finished his hard work of judgment. But in time to come, they will understand (30:24).
31:1-30 Jeremiah 31 is one of the greatest mountain peaks of the Old Testament, encompassing both the glorious restoration of Israel under Jesus her Messiah and the prophecy of the new covenant that was inaugurated in his death and resurrection. The bulk of the chapter (31:1-30) is a beautiful prophecy of God’s Father-love for Israel and his tenderness in restoring the nation both to her land and to himself. Jeremiah received this prophecy as he slept (31:26).
Israel will be rebuilt and praise the Lord their God (31:4-6). He will gather them from the nations (31:8, 10), and they will be filled with joy (31:12-13). As the Lord was the one to uproot and to tear them down, so he will be the one to build and to plant them (31:28). Jeremiah depicts Rachel, the wife of Jacob (see Gen 29:28), weeping for her children, the people of Israel who had gone into exile. But God promises future joy, for the children will return. . . . There is hope (31:15-17). Similarly, Matthew sees “Rachel weeping” at Herod’s massacre of the children as he sought to slay the young Jesus (see Matt 2:16-18). But, again, this grief will one day turn to joy when many Jewish people receive their Messiah during his millennial reign (see Rom 11:25-27).
31:31-34 This section includes the glorious promise of the new covenant. This new covenant that God will make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah will be unlike the one he made with their ancestors, a reference to the Mosaic covenant (31:31-32). The blessings of the Mosaic covenant were conditioned on Israel’s obedience, but Israel failed to keep its side of the agreement: they broke the covenant (32:32). Therefore, God brought down curses on the people.
But under the new covenant, God will put his teaching within them and write it on their hearts (31:33). Israel broke God’s law—not because there was something wrong with the law—but because there was something wrong with their hearts. The law revealed their sinfulness and their inability to keep it. It showed their desperate need to have renewed hearts. God promised a new relationship with him that was so rich and dynamic that the people wouldn’t need to have his law written on stone tablets. It will be inscribed on their hearts.
The church partakes of the benefits of the new covenant. The author of Hebrews quotes this passage from Jeremiah and points to its fulfillment in Christ (see Heb 8:7-13). On the night he was betrayed, Jesus gave the cup to his disciples and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). The cup represented his blood, poured out on the cross, for the forgiveness of sins. By means of Jesus’s sacrifice, God is able to say, I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin (31:34). In the Communion ceremony, Christians are told to partake of the cup “in remembrance of” Christ and the new covenant instituted by his atoning death (see 1 Cor 11:25-26).
We as believers are living under the new covenant. But the day is coming when the people of Israel will also follow their Messiah, Jesus Christ (see 31:31). From their standpoint, the provisions of this covenant are still future, to be fulfilled when Jesus returns. When he comes to rule on David’s throne in his millennial kingdom, their hearts will turn to him (see Rom 11:25-27).
31:35-40 The Lord is the one who established the sun, the moon, and stars. Only if their fixed order can be undone will Israel’s descendants cease to be a nation before him (31:35-36). This covenant is unilateral, depending only on God, and is therefore unbreakable. It also includes the establishment of a new Jerusalem that will stand as the throne of Christ in his millennial reign (31:38-40).
32:1-5 Chapter 32 begins by telling us that it was the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah and the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar (32:1)—about a year before Jerusalem fell. Jerusalem was under siege by Babylon, and Zedekiah had imprisoned Jeremiah for prophesying that God would give over the city and its king to Nebuchadnezzar (32:2-5). The clueless Zedekiah demanded, Why are you prophesying as you do? (32:3). He couldn’t understand why Jeremiah would predict disaster on his own people and king. He felt the prophet was a traitor! It never occurred to him that Jeremiah might actually be speaking on behalf of the Lord—serving as a true prophet.
32:6-15 Once again, however, God remembered mercy in the midst of wrath and gave Jeremiah another vivid object lesson of his assurance that he would not destroy his people completely. Even with the Babylonians at the gates of Jerusalem, God told Jeremiah to redeem a plot of his family’s land in his hometown of Anathoth (32:6-12; see Lev 25:25-28), which was already under Babylonian control. God knew Jeremiah wouldn’t buy the field on his own initiative. Who would? It would be like buying a car that the owner no longer possessed because it had been stolen! So God revealed ahead of time to Jeremiah that his cousin Hanamel would ask him to do this unusual thing (32:8).
Jeremiah obeyed God and bought the land, although it seemed to make about as much sense as arranging deck chairs on the sinking Titanic. But he duly recorded the deed and had his secretary Baruch put the two copies in a jar where they would last a long time (32:14). Then Jeremiah learned from the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel what this meant: Houses, fields, and vineyards will again be bought in this land (32:15). God’s people would one day return home.
32:16-25 Jeremiah then prayed, expressing his faith and confidence in God—and his perplexity at how God was working out his plan. Jeremiah had a very high view of God’s greatness (32:16-19). He affirmed the Lord’s mighty works in bringing Israel from bondage in Egypt into their own land—where, tragically, they failed to obey him (32:20-23). Jeremiah knew God’s sovereignty and his people’s history. He knew that God had handed over Jerusalem to the Chaldeans (the Babylonians) because of Judah’s sins (32:24). But Jeremiah still expressed bewilderment at what God was doing. Why tell him to buy a piece of land in a country that was about to be overrun and its inhabitants deported? (32:25).
32:26-44 In his response to Jeremiah’s prayer, God first established some ground rules: I am the Lord, the God over every creature. Is anything too difficult for me? (32:27). Jeremiah himself had declared that nothing is too difficult for the Lord (32:17), so he knew this was not a multiple-choice question. Why, then, did God profess his omnipotence? Because he was about to tell Jeremiah that after Judah’s punishment was complete (32:28-35), God would bring the nation back to its land and the people would enjoy prosperity again (32:36-44). Jeremiah’s redemption of the field (32:6-15) was meaningful. It was a promise that God hadn’t abandoned his people. This is the Lord’s declaration (32:44) implies that you can count on it.
33:1-13 Chapter 33 contains further details about the ultimate restoration of God’s people after the devastating judgment of the Babylonian captivity. Neither Jeremiah nor anyone else could ever have put these two things together on his own. They had to be revealed by the God who said, Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know (33:3). Those things included Judah’s imminent judgment, but also the coming of the day when God will restore the fortunes of Judah and of Israel and will rebuild them as in former times (33:7). The picture that followed of a restored people in a restored land where there was joy and gladness (33:11) must have been an encouragement to Jeremiah as he heard the clanging of the Babylonians’ tools as they built siege ramps against Jerusalem’s walls.
33:14-16 As in 23:5-6 and 30:8-9, God reaffirms the Davidic covenant with its promise that a descendant of David will rule on his throne forever (33:15; see 2 Sam 7:12-17). The prophets often use tree imagery to speak of this Messiah who rises from the family of David. For instance, Isaiah says, “A shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse [the father of David]” (Isa 11:1). In other words, although God has chopped down the Davidic family tree—the royal dynasty of David—because of its sin, a new growth will sprout up from it. Isaiah calls him, “the Branch of the Lord” and “the root of Jesse” (Isa 4:2; 11:10). Zechariah refers to him as “the Branch” (Zech 3:8). In Revelation he is the “root of David” (see Rev 5:5; 22:16).
Using this same language, Jeremiah calls the coming king a Righteous Branch (33:15) whose reign would be so great that even Jerusalem herself will be named: The Lord Is Our Righteousness (33:16). The Davidic covenant did not promise an unbroken monarchy because the exiles who returned from Babylon did not reestablish Israel’s monarchy. Instead, God promised that a righteous king would arise from David’s line to rule. Jesus fulfilled this promise, as we see in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke (see Matt 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38).
33:17-22 God further promised that David would not fail to have a man sitting on the throne and that the Levitical priests would not fail to have a man always before [the Lord] (33:17-22). This is all fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is both king and priest (Ps 110:1, 4). In Old Testament Israel, these offices were kept distinct, but the New Testament reveals that they come together in Christ. Jesus is the true heir to the throne of David. He is also the true priest—not a Levitical priest—but a superior one, “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 5:6; 6:20; 7:17; see commentary on Heb 7:1-28). In Christ, the great priest-king, God’s promise through Jeremiah has become a reality.
33:23-26 But some still questioned either God’s ability or willingness to save his people, or maybe both. So the Lord gave Jeremiah a further reassurance regarding his promises: If I do not keep my covenant with the day and with the night, and if I fail to establish the fixed order of heaven and earth, then I might also reject the descendants of Jacob (33:25-26). Earlier he said that if “day and night cease to come at their regular time,” then his covenant with David “may be broken” (33:20-21). So in other words, God says, “Bank on me coming through as promised.” God has tied himself to his promises; the only way they can fail is if he ceases to be God.
34:1-7 Much of the book of Jeremiah focuses on the events surrounding the reign of King Zedekiah (34:2), ruler of Judah when Jerusalem fell, the temple was burned, and the people were led into captivity. He was a stubborn, rebellious leader who desperately clung to his futile hope that somehow he could escape defeat by the Babylonians. But through Jeremiah, God continually warned Zedekiah to stop resisting and accept God’s severe discipline of his sinful children (34:1-3).
It’s interesting that God said Zedekiah would meet the king of Babylon eye to eye (34:3), given that when they did meet, Nebuchadnezzar had Zedekiah blinded (see 52:11). But there was also grace for the king of Judah in God’s promise that he would die peacefully, suggesting a full life, and be honored at death (34:5). Zedekiah should have obeyed.
34:8-16 But Zedekiah was desperately looking for any edge. So he reached back into the Mosaic law and revived the stipulation that any Jew who was enslaved to a fellow Jew in a form of indentured service was to be freed after six years (34:8-10, 13-14; see Exod 21:2). The people had not been obeying this statute, but Zedekiah called the entire city of Jerusalem together to make a covenant before the Lord, releasing all their slaves (34:8, 14-15). All the officials and people who entered into covenant to let their male and female slaves go free . . . obeyed and let them go (34:10).
Yet afterward they changed their minds and reenslaved their fellow Jews (34:11, 16)! Why? Apparently because the Babylonians had suddenly withdrawn from the siege of Jerusalem to deal with the Egyptian army that had marched out to engage them (see 34:21; 37:5). In other words, with things seemingly back to normal, they saw no need to become so spiritual. These actions demonstrated the insincerity of their pledge to the Lord. The people of Judah took the Babylonian withdrawal as a sign that their scheme had worked and that God had delivered Jerusalem, but their false spirituality simply increased the Lord’s anger. Their actions initially pleased him, but reneging on their covenant profaned [his] name (34:15-16).
34:17-22 Thus, God had a bitterly ironic form of “freedom” in store for Judah: I hereby proclaim freedom for you . . . to the sword, to plague, and to famine! (34:17). All the people had ratified the slave-releasing covenant by passing between the two halves of the sacrificial animal—so God said their corpses would be treated in the same way (34:18-20). As for the withdrawal of the Babylonian army, that was only temporary. God assured them: I will bring them back to Jerusalem to fight against . . . capture . . . and burn it (34:22). Zedekiah and the people could run, but they couldn’t hide. As Paul told the Galatians, “God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap” (Gal 6:7).
35:1-5 Previously, God sent the prophet to visit a Jewish clan called the Rechabites, nomads who were forced to move to Jerusalem when the Babylonians marched into Judah. The story in this chapter is actually a flashback to the years before Zedekiah came to the throne and faced the siege. Jeremiah was instructed by God to invite several Rechabite leaders to a side room in the temple and offer them wine (35:2). Jeremiah obeyed the Lord and encouraged them to drink up (35:3-5).
35:6-11 But the Rechabites’ leaders kindly rejected the offer. They were under a long-standing family covenant not to drink wine or even live in permanent homes. Jonadab, son of [their] ancestor Rechab, had given them this command, and they were determined to keep it—they and their entire families (3:6-10).
35:12-16 Therein was the lesson God wanted Jeremiah to deliver to Judah. For generations, the Rechabites had remained faithful to their promises, although there was nothing inherently spiritual about living as they did. But the point was not the particular prohibition they had chosen to obey, but their unswerving faithfulness to their covenant.
In this instance God used an argument from “the lesser to the greater”—that which is true in a small matter is surely true in a similar, more significant matter. The Rechabites had obeyed Jonadab their ancestor even though he was a mere man. If these nomads could be so obedient to a man’s words, why could the people of Judah not bring themselves to obey the word of the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel (35:13)? We don’t know the reasons behind Jonadab’s commands, yet the Rechabites heeded him. God commanded his people time and time again for their own good—so they could live and enjoy his blessing—but they did not pay attention to him (35:15-16).
35:17-19 The outcome for Judah and Jerusalem, therefore, was inevitable: Disaster. Why? Because I have spoken to them, but they have not obeyed (35:17). Meanwhile, the Rechabites were rewarded for their obedience. The Lord promised them a continuing line of descendants to stand before him (35:19). Make no mistake: Rebellion against God has consequences. But so does a life of faithfulness.
36:1-3 Jeremiah turned from being a speaking prophet to becoming a writing prophet when God commanded him to take a scroll and record all of his prophecies from the time he first spoke to him during Josiah’s reign until that day (36:2). Perhaps if these warnings and judgments were read to the leaders and people of Judah, they would come back to the Lord, be forgiven, and be spared the fate that awaited them (36:3).
36:4-8 While Jeremiah dictated, his secretary Baruch faithfully wrote down all the words the Lord had spoken to him (36:4). However, Jeremiah was restricted from entering the temple (36:5). Imagine that. Jeremiah had been faithful to God’s word, but the spiritual leaders who rejected it barred this prophet from God’s house of worship. So he sent Bar-uch to read from the scroll to the people at the temple and to all the Judeans who are coming from their cities (36:6).
36:9-20 In the fifth year of Jehoiakim the king, Baruch read the scroll in the temple (36:9-10). Listening to Baruch was Micaiah. He reported what he heard to a group of officials who invited Baruch to read it to them (36:10-15). So, for the second time that day, he read God’s words through Jeremiah, this time to some of Jerusalem’s top officials (36:15). When he finished, they turned to each other in fear. Jerusalem was doomed. They knew they must tell the king (36:16). Yet the officials also knew King Jehoiakim was not likely to be happy about this news condemning Judah, its king, and its people. So they told Baruch and Jeremiah to hide while they approached him about the scroll (36:19-20).
36:21-26 When Jehoiakim requested that the scroll be read, the officials knew their fears were justified. The king revealed his lack of concern for God’s word and Judah’s sin. Piece by piece, he sliced up the scroll with a knife and tossed it into a fire until it was consumed (36:22-23). His officials begged him not to do it, but the king refused to listen (36:25). His heart was so calloused that neither he nor his servants were terrified or [tore] their clothes upon hearing God’s words of judgment (36:24). Then he ordered Jeremiah and Baruch arrested. But the Lord hid them away safely (36:26).
36:27-32 Jehoiakim’s actions did nothing to stop God’s program. If you receive an eviction notice, burning it won’t keep you from being evicted. The judgment of God continued to roll unhindered toward Judah. The Lord told Jeremiah to dictate everything to Baruch again (36:27-28). But this time God added specific judgments against Jehoiakim: He will have no one to sit on David’s throne (36:30). His son Jehoiachin would rule for only three months before the Babylonians carried him into exile. In addition, Jehoiakim’s corpse [would] be thrown out to be exposed to the heat of day and the frost of night (36:30; see 22:18-19). This was the price Jehoiakim paid for rejecting the Lord.
37:1-2 The events of chapters 37–39 are in chronological order, focusing on the final days of King Zedekiah and Judah before it fell to the Babylonians. Like his predecessors, Zedekiah paid no heed to the Lord’s warnings through Jeremiah. Zedekiah was a puppet king put on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar. Still, if he had listened to the Lord, he could have prevented disaster. But Zedekiah rebelled. Therefore, Nebuchadnezzar would swoop in for the final blow.
37:3-10 There was a deceptive lull in the siege of Jerusalem when the Babylonian army (the Chaldeans) temporarily withdrew to fight the armies of Pharaoh coming up from Egypt (37:5). The king asked Jeremiah to pray—probably for a victory by Egypt, so that the Babylonians would leave Judah standing (37:3). But it was not to be. God told Jeremiah to tell Zedekiah in no uncertain terms that Babylon would destroy Judah (37:6-9). It didn’t depend on human ability but on God’s sovereign judgment. Even if the invaders had only badly wounded men left, God was determined to see the wicked city burnt to the ground (37:10).
37:11-16 When the Babylonian army withdrew, the pressure on Jerusalem eased, for a while at least. So Jeremiah tried to leave the city to go to his home in the land of Benjamin on family business (37:11-12). But at the gate, the prophet was grabbed by an officer of the guard named Irijah (37:13), who accused him of deserting to the enemy. Despite the prophet’s protests, Irijah took him to the officials, who beat Jeremiah and tossed him into a dungeon where he languished for many days (37:14-16).
37:17-21 Zedekiah weakly allowed the prophet to be mistreated. This was typical of the king’s wishy-washy nature, which would be on display again with regard to Jeremiah in 38:5. But the king seemed to know in his heart that Jeremiah was speaking a true word from the Lord, so he sent for the prophet to see what God’s latest word was.
Unfortunately for Zedekiah, the message had not changed: You will be handed over to the king of Babylon (37:17). Jeremiah knew this was not what Zedekiah wanted to hear, but he also knew that he had a case when it came to pleading for better treatment. The false prophets who had told Judah that Babylon was no threat were suddenly nowhere to be found, while Jeremiah had fearlessly and faithfully stood his ground (37:18-20). The king saw the point, and brought the aging Jeremiah to a place where he could care for him (37:21). This helped spare Jeremiah undue suffering in the dungeon, but it did not mean his enemies had gone away or given up on their desire to kill him.
38:1-6 Jeremiah had a powerful array of enemies, government officials in the court of the puppet king Zedekiah who pulled his strings. They didn’t like that the prophet was urging the people to avoid death by surrendering to the enemy (38:1-3). To them, Jeremiah’s words were treason. So the leaders told the king that Jeremiah ought to die because he was weakening the morale of the warriors . . . and of all the people (38:4). Zedekiah’s sniveling reply was pathetic: Here he is; he’s in your hands since [I] can’t do anything against you (38:5). That’s all they needed to hear. They lowered Jeremiah into a deep cistern filled with mud. You may sometimes feel like your life is so bad that you’re metaphorically “sinking in mud,” but for Jeremiah, this was reality (38:6).
38:7-13 But, by God’s grace, Jeremiah had friends too. The bravest of them was an African named Ebed-melech, a Cushite court official in the king’s palace (38:7). This man obviously feared God, so he courageously approached Zedekiah and told him what Jeremiah’s enemies had done to him (38:8-9). Zedekiah gave Ebed-melech permission to rescue Jeremiah from the pit, although he went back to being under house arrest (38:10-13).
38:14-16 Jeremiah was summoned by King Zedekiah (38:14). The king’s vacillation was really on display as he arranged a secret meeting for fear of his own officials. He wanted to hear what Jeremiah had to say, but he lacked the courage and spiritual commitment to make the right call. Jeremiah was wary of speaking to Zedekiah; he knew his life was hanging by a thread. But the prophet didn’t pull any punches: If I give you advice, you won’t listen to me (38:15). The king, desperate to hear from the prophet, promised to keep him safe (38:16).
38:17-28 Jeremiah delivered God’s message to the king: surrender. Only by submitting to defeat at the hands of Babylon would the king and the city survive (38:17-18). Then Zedekiah revealed the real reason he was afraid to follow Jeremiah’s advice. The king was worried about the Judeans who have defected to the Chaldeans. They may hand me over to the Judeans to abuse me (38:19). Jeremiah assured the king this would not happen if he would only obey the Lord (38:20). Refusal to obey, however, would result in mocking, capture, and destruction (38:22-23). Zedekiah warned Jeremiah to say nothing of their conversation (38:24-26) and still couldn’t find the courage to do what was right. Jeremiah was kept in custody until the day Jerusalem fell (38:28).
39:1-10 The bottom fell out for Judah when the Babylonians breached Jerusalem’s walls and entered the city in 587–586 BC (39:1-2). The officials of Babylon sat at the Middle Gate to demonstrate that they were now in charge and to judge those still in the city who had resisted them (39:3). Zedekiah attempted to escape, but it was not to be. He was brought before Nebuchadnezzar (39:4-5). Judah’s king was made to watch the execution of his own sons and Judah’s nobles. Then he was blinded and led in chains to Bab-ylon (see 39:6-7). The southern kingdom had fallen, with only a handful of poor people permitted to stay behind (39:10).
39:11-18 But God had his eye on Jeremiah. Nebuchadnezzar gave orders for Jeremiah to be treated kindly (39:11-12). The prophet was entrusted to the care of a man named Gedaliah (39:14), whom the Babylonians had appointed as governor of the few people who were left behind in Judah (40:5, 7). Gedaliah took Jeremiah back to his home, which must have seemed a little surreal to the prophet with his nation in ruins. The Lord also preserved the life of Ebed-melech (39:15-18), the brave man who had saved Jeremiah’s life (see 38:7-13).
40:1-6 In a crowning ironic rebuke to Judah, the Babylonian captain of the guards named Nebuzaradan (40:1) repeated God’s judgment against Judah and verified its truth (40:1-3). Under orders from Nebuchadnezzar himself, Nebuzaradan gave Jeremiah the choice to come with him to Babylon or stay in Judah. Jeremiah’s desire must have been reflected in his face, because even before he turned to go back to his people, the Bab-ylonian advised him to go to the new governor Gedaliah for protection and provision (40:5-6). Knowing how many enemies he used to have in Judah, Jeremiah went to join Gedaliah in Mizpah (40:6), a town a few miles north of Jerusalem, which became the new administrative center following the total destruction of Jerusalem.
40:7-10 Yet even amid the devastation, rebellion still lingered in some of the Jews left behind. The commanders of the armies that were in the countryside that had survived the Babylonian invasion heard about Gedaliah’s appointment. These men and their leaders, most notably Ishmael (40:7-8), who was a relative of Zedekiah (see 41:1), came to Gedaliah at Mizpah to find out what was going on. The governor gave them the ground rules the Babylonians had established. They needed to serve the king of Babylon—which is what God had been telling the people of Judah to do for years. Then it would go well for everyone (40:9). Gedaliah also assured his visitors that he would represent them to the Babylonians (40:10).
40:11-14 The news of this arrangement spread quickly, and Jews who had fled to neighboring lands started pouring into Judah (40:11-12). These refugees helped bring in a great harvest (40:12), and things seemed to be looking up. But trouble was brewing. The army commanders, led by Johanan came to Gedaliah with disturbing news that Ishmael’s earlier visit was part of a plot against the governor and the new government in Judah, masterminded by Baalis, king of the Ammonites (40:13-14).
There were political reasons for this scheme—good ones, from Ammon’s point of view. Ammon was on Nebuchadnezzar’s list of places to conquer, so it may be that this plot against Gedaliah was concocted to keep the Babylonians occupied with Judah and to preserve Ammon. It’s also likely that Ishmael and his followers didn’t want to submit to the Babylonians.
40:15-16 Whatever the reasons for this assassination plot, Gedaliah dismissed it. Joha-nan privately offered to kill Ishmael to avoid having the Babylonians come down on the people of Judah again (40:15). But the governor was indignant: Don’t do that! What you’re saying about Ishmael is a lie! (40:16). Although Gedaliah may have been a good man, he was blind to the danger ahead.
41:1-10 Gedaliah’s naïve approach to the danger around him cost him his life and the lives of many others. Ishmael and his men killed the new governor, as well as the Judeans and the Chaldean soldiers at Mizpah (41:2-3). The news of the assassination had not yet gotten out when eighty men came from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria—that is, from what had been the northern kingdom of Israel. They had come grieving, hoping to make offerings to the Lord at the temple (41:5). Inexplicably, Ishmael lured them to Mizpah and almost killed them all (41:6-7)! However, ten men bribed him with supplies, so Ishmael let them live (41:8). As if this mass murder wasn’t bad enough, Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people of Mizpah and fled to the Ammonites (41:10), where they would presumably be out of the Babylonians’ reach.
We are not told Ishmael’s motives for his actions. Perhaps in his twisted mind, Ishmael thought he was rescuing his people from the “Babylonian collaborator” Gedaliah and his accomplices. All we know is that Ishmael was a brutal murderer who made a difficult situation much worse. What happens in the upcoming chapters must be weighed against the Lord’s repeated warning to those who survived the destruction of Jerusalem to submit to the Babylonians and be protected.
41:11-18 Johanan, the army commander who had warned Gedaliah about the danger Ishmael posed, heard the news, rallied his troops, and pursued him (41:11-12). Johanan and his men liberated the captives, but Ishmael escaped to Ammon (41:13-15). If the freed people had returned to Mizpah and resumed their lives, they might have been fine, despite the expected reprisals from Babylon. God had promised them his overseeing care. But fear dominated them. They were convinced that the Babylonians would return and slaughter them for Ishmael’s deeds. They decided to make their way into Egypt (41:17), determined to put as many miles between themselves and Babylon as possible.
God had warned his people not to trust in the Egyptians, but these survivors had witnessed the horror of Jerusalem’s destruction and the slaughter of thousands of Jews. That’s all they could see in their own future since Ishmael had messed everything up. But the people of Judah were looking in the wrong direction. Instead of looking north for the next attack from Nebuchadnezzar, or looking south for deliverance from Egypt, they should have been looking up to God for deliverance.
42:1-6 This straggly band of Israelites got together and decided it would be a good idea to get God’s rubber stamp of approval for their plans, so they went en masse to Jeremiah with a very pious-sounding request. They wanted the prophet to inquire of the Lord about the best course of action (42:1-3). Jeremiah had heard empty statements like theirs before; nevertheless, he promised to pray and tell them every word God revealed to him (42:4). In response, the people promised that whether the news was good or bad, they would certainly obey the Lord (42:5-6).
42:7-12 It took ten days, but the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah (42:7). It included both blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. If the people would stay in [their] land, God assured them of their welfare. He promised to rebuild and plant them after the disaster of Jerusalem’s destruction and the captivity (42:9-10). God even said, I relent concerning the disaster that I have brought on you (42:10). Part of that relenting included giving Nebuchadnezzar compassion (42:12) so that he wouldn’t take reprisals on them because of Ishmael’s murders. Now that was quite a deal God was offering: recovery and prosperity in their own land and protection from their feared enemy! All the people had to do was stay home and enjoy God’s blessings.
42:13-17 But Johanan and the people also needed to know the consequences of failing to obey the Lord. God knew exactly what they were thinking: “If we stay here, we’ve got a ravaged country to try and rebuild. And even if we get crops in the ground, we’ll live in constant fear of an attack from Babylon in punishment for what Ishmael did. Besides, we’ve seen enough of war, hunger, and all that mess.” And sure enough, the people made their decision: No, instead we’ll go to . . . Egypt (42:14). This was the equivalent of saying, “Thanks for your advice, God. But we’ve got a better plan.” Besides, they thought, their stay in Egypt would only be for a while (42:17). Once the coast was clear, they could return to Judah. But, through Jeremiah, God declared that everything they feared—sword, famine, and plague—would follow them to Egypt. There they would die (42:16-17).
42:18-22 Don’t go to Egypt (42:19) indicated that escape wasn’t God’s will for his people. Their plan to lie low there until things cooled off in Judah would backfire. God warned them that if they persisted in their plan, You will never see this place (Judah) again (42:18). If they abandoned their homeland, it would be for the last time. Jeremiah knew what the people’s reaction would be, which is why he told them, You have gone astray at the cost of your lives (42:20). While they’d claimed that they wanted the truth from God, in reality they had no intention of obeying him (42:20-21). If they were to return to Egypt, they’d be dead people walking. Don’t presume to ask for the King’s direction in your life if you aren’t truly prepared to follow in obedience.
43:1-7 Neither the Lord’s promise nor his warning could convince this band of survivors to stay in Judah and enjoy God’s blessings. In their arrogance, they claimed Jeremiah was a liar (43:2). They even went so far as to accuse Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, of inciting Jeremiah against them to hand [them] over to the Chaldeans (43:3). So Johanan and his fellow commanders (43:4) led the people on a trek down to Egypt—it included Jeremiah and Baruch, who must have been taken against their will (43:4-7). Interestingly, Tahpanhes (43:7) means “palace of the Negro.”
43:8-13 Once the group arrived in Egypt, God sent Jeremiah with a sign for the men of Judah, another object lesson of judgment for his disobedient people. Jeremiah told them he had a word from the Lord of Armies (43:10), one of the prophet’s favorite names for God. Frequently in the book of Jeremiah, in fact, God is either summoning or defeating great armies. The rebellious people of Judah—who feared the Babylonian army and ran to the Egyptian army for protection—needed to know that they had not outrun the reach of the God who controlled all the forces of earth.
Jeremiah’s sign was simple. He embedded some stones in the pavement leading to Pharaoh’s palace at Tahpanhes in northern Egypt (43:9-10). In this place where the people of Judah must have been feeling safe, Jeremiah then prophesied that they would see the Babylonian army invade Egypt to do there what they’d done in Judah (43:10-13). Where Jeremiah had placed the stones, Nebuchadnezzar would set up his headquarters (43:10)! A few hundred miles and a national border would be no problem for God to overcome when he stretched out his hand of judgment.
44:1-6 A popular proverb goes something like this: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” In other words, if you fail to learn from the mistakes of those who failed in the past, be prepared to follow in their footsteps. This seems to be God’s message to the people of Judah who had disobediently run off to Egypt. Through Jeremiah, the Lord reminds the Jews of the idolatry of Judah and the disaster that resulted (44:2-6). It’s unavoidable: Serving false gods and rejecting God is a sure path to ruin. The history of Israel and Judah demonstrates this vividly.
44:7-10 In light of the disastrous results of Judah’s sin, God asked the Jews in Egypt, Why are you doing such terrible harm to yourselves? (44:7). The people refused to heed God’s command to remain in Judah and receive his blessing. And not only did they flee to Egypt but—incredibly!—they angered God by burning incense to other gods there (44:8). Could they not anticipate what would happen? This is called a self-inflicted wound! They had forgotten the evils that they, their ancestors, and their kings had committed (44:9). They had learned nothing. They [had] not become humble (44:10).
When God takes a swat at your pride, it’s meant to lead you to repentance and humility. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6). One of the purposes for Jeremiah’s book was to teach subsequent generations the lessons about faithfulness to God that the Jews of his day failed to learn—and the price they paid.
44:11-19 The lessons of history were lost on the Jews who defiantly fled to Egypt. So Jeremiah repeated God’s words of judgment against them for their foolishness (44:11-14; see 42:15-22). In defiance, the people proclaimed, We are not going to listen to you! (44:16). The depths of their depravity became even more clear when they claimed that their problems began when they ceased to burn incense to the queen of heaven (44:18). This means they actually credited a pagan goddess with the prosperity and blessings they had enjoyed in Judah! The unspoken assumption was that worshiping the Lord had gotten them nowhere. Serving him instead of their idols, they reasoned, was the reason for their disaster. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
44:20-25 This blasphemy was so incredible that God essentially said, “Enough!” Jeremiah first corrected their twisted view of their history and the disastrous loyalty to pagan gods as the source of their well-being (44:20-23). Then God pulled down the curtain on this crowd. He had endured enough of their arrogance. If lies and destruction was what they demanded, lies and destruction is what they would receive: Go ahead, confirm your vows! Keep your vows! (44:25)—that is, “Have it your way. Worship and plead with the queen of heaven. See where that gets you.”
44:26-30 Then God made an even more ominous statement: My name will never again be invoked by anyone of Judah in all the land of Egypt. . . . I am watching over them for disaster and not for good . . . until they are finished off (44:26-27). God also said he would confirm his word of disaster and death by handing over Pharaoh Hophra, Egypt’s king, to his enemies (44:30). The leader to whom the Jews fled for protection, then, wouldn’t even be able to protect himself. This was fulfilled in 570–569 BC when Hophra was deposed in an army coup and eventually assassinated. When these things came to pass, the rebellious Jews would finally see, although it would be too late: [They] will know whose word stands, mine or theirs! (44:28).
45:1-5 As with other portions of the book of Jeremiah, the events of this chapter are out of sequence historically, since they occurred around 604 BC, years before Judah fell. Chapter 45 provides a short record of how God ministered through Jeremiah to the prophet’s faithful secretary, Baruch. The event that triggered Baruch’s lament (45:3) was writing Jeremiah’s words on a scroll—only to have King Jehoiakim cut it into pieces, burn it, and swear out a warrant for the arrest of the prophet and his scribe (45:1; see 36:1-26).
Baruch took a cue from his master in pouring out his grief and complaint to God (45:3). Apparently, Baruch thought serving alongside a great prophet like Jeremiah would bring him great things, like prominence and respect (45:5). But God made it clear to Baruch that his dream of the bright lights would go unfulfilled. By the time God finished destroying Judah, there wouldn’t be any nation left in which Baruch could realize his hopes of greatness (45:4). Instead, God gave him the best gift he could ask for in the midst of the destruction around him: his life (45:5).