Jeremiah 24 Commentary

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Today – in the 26th lesson of this study – we find ourselves in the 24th chapter of the book of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: A Separate Unit

This 24th chapter is a separate unit. It’s not tied to what precedes or what follows, as far as the flow of thought is concerned.

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Separate from What Precedes

In the chapters before this chapter we had Zedekiah – the last king of Judah, in his last months as king – asking Jeremiah for help. We then heard the response that God gave to that request.

But in Jeremiah 24 right here, we’ll see that we’re now in the days that followed the exile of the king who immediately preceded Zedekiah – that is, Jeconiah. So, we take a step back of about maybe 10 years or so as we come out of Jeremiah 23 and enter Jeremiah 24.

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Separate from What Follows

And then in the chapter that follows Jeremiah 24 –that is, Jeremiah 25 – we go even farther back chronologically into the reign of King Jehoiakim and in his fourth year as king. And there we’ll see next time that God is going to punish Babylon after 70 years of letting them win and conquer.

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Conclusion

So, both the timeframe and the content of the chapters that come before and after Jeremiah 24 are different than the timeframe and content of Jeremiah 24 itself. And so, it seems to be a self-contained unit – that certainly has tie-ins with the rest of the book generally – but which doesn’t really share a continuous unit of text with what comes before or after it.

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Overview

Now, what we’re going to see in Jeremiah 24 is as follows. Jeremiah is shown two baskets of figs in front of the Temple. That takes the first two verses of this chapter.

Then in the remaining eight verses, God will explain this vision of the two baskets of figs.

That’s it. The structure is pretty simple. The text is pretty short.

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Vision of Fig Baskets

So, let’s begin by considering the vision of the two baskets of figs in Jeremiah 24:1-2.

KJV Jeremiah 24:1 ¶ The LORD shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the LORD, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon.

2 One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are [first/early] ripe:

and the other basket had very [naughty/bad] figs, which could not be eaten, they were so [bad/rotten].

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: It’s a Vision

The first thing to notice is that we’re not told explicitly that this is a vision. And yet I think it’s best to consider this a vision. It seems that this scenario of two baskets sitting right in front of the Temple in Jerusalem was created just for Jeremiah’s instruction and through him for the instruction of Jerusalem. Why would these two baskets be sitting in front of the Temple? Maybe as an offering, you might think. But, if that were the case and this weren’t a vision, who would put a pile of rotten figs in a basket to offer them at the Temple? So, I think it’s best to interpret this as a vision from the Lord for Jeremiah that’s outside of time and space and rather within the realm of the mind.

Add to that this word in the text – “shewed”. That Hebrew word, raah, is also used in Jeremiah 1:11 where God shows Jeremiah the rod of the almond tree. It’s used in Jeremiah 1:13 in regard to God showing Jeremiah the boiling pot. So, the point is that this term is used in other contexts where God apparently is showing Jeremiah a vision in his mind for the purpose of teaching him something.

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: The Setting

The other thing to note in these two verses is the setting. We’re given the time frame – “after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah”. So, these things happened sometime after Jeconiah was exiled, which would mean that they likely happened when Zedekiah was king – but early in his decade-long reign.

Let us consider some background for this timeframe described here.

2 Kings 24:8 says “Jehoiachin [another one of Jeconiah’s names] was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months [Not a very long reign]. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.”

The parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 36:9 says about the same thing with one important addition – Jeconiah was evil: “Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign [some manuscripts say “eighteen” instead of “eight”, which is likely the correct reading], and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem [so, the author of kings rounds off this king’s reign to the month, while the author of Chronicles gives both the months and the days]: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.

And because Jeconiah did evil in God’s eyes, the Lord sent Nebuchadnezzar to fight against Jerusalem. That resulted then in what’s related in 2 Kings 24:12: “And Jehoiachin [a.k.a. Jeconiah] the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his [Nebuchadnezzar’s] reign.”

And just to give us a picture of the utter disaster this would have been on this society, I want to continue quoting 2 Kings 24:13-16:

And he [Nebuchadnezzar] carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. 14 And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land.

By the way, this is what King Zedekiah then inherited. I don’t want to sound harsh, but the reality is that he was left to rule over a bunch of talent-less, untrained, unskilled poor people. All the mighty and noble and skilled people were taken.

15 And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives

So, we weren’t told about wives yet, but here they are. Jeconiah did indeed have wives.

and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he [Nebu.] into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.”

So, you can tell that the author of kings wanted us to know very well that all the “desirables” in that society were taken away at this point. Everyone who knew how to do something well was removed from Jerusalem. And again what was left was a group of poor peasants. This would have been devastating to that society. And that was undoubtedly what Nebuchadnezzar intended.

And I’ve mentioned this in a previous lesson, but I do think the following additional consideration is helpful to note. I’ll read Esther 2:5-6 to give us some additional context as far as the timeframe is concerned relating to Jeconiah’s exile. “¶ Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; 6 Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.”

So, old Mordecai – the relative of Esther – was one person among these skilled people who was exiled in the days of Jeconiah.

And lastly, we won’t turn to it, but the prophet Ezekiel was also apparently exiled with Jeconiah, according to Ezekiel 1:2.

So, this is the setting of this vision of the two baskets of figs. It happens probably not very long after king Jeconiah was exiled along with all sorts of skilled and talented people.

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Explaining the Vision

So, now let’s move on from the vision itself to the explanation of the vision. To read the explanation see explaining the vision.

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: The Good Figs

Now, the Lord describes what the good figs mean next in Jeremiah 24:5-7. See the good figs for the explanation of that section.

Jeremiah 24 Commentary: The Bad Figs

Well, that’s all very positive. But now God returns to those bad figs in Jeremiah 24:8-10.

8 ¶ And [as/like] the [evil/bad] figs, which cannot be eaten, [because] they are so [evil/bad/rotten]; [surely/indeed] thus saith the LORD,

So will I [give/abandon] Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt:

9 And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth [for/and this will cause them to be] their [hurt/an example that will cause terror], to be a[n object of] reproach and a proverb[ial example of destruction], [a taunt/an object of ridicule] and a[n example to be used in] curse[s], in all places whither I shall drive them.

10 And I will send [the sword/war], [the famine/starvation], and [the pestilence/disease], among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers.

So, these awful things will happen to king Zedekiah and all those like him who refused to surrender to Babylon. And I don’t know if you caught it, but this includes those who will flee to Egypt. That’s what the end of Jeremiah 24:8 says.

And so I’ll explain what I think that’s referring to. When Babylon finally does come and overtake Jerusalem, they do actually leave a small group of the poorest in the land of Judah. That group is attacked and taken hostage by one of the king’s relatives. But they’re delivered from that guy only to be taken – with their full permission, it seems – to Egypt. And God makes it clear that he didn’t want them to go to Egypt. He wanted them to stay in Judah.

And that’s an interesting progression. First, God wants the people to repent and if they do, then he’ll withhold judgement. Then he’s given them enough time so he tells them all to clear out of Judah and surrender to Babylon and go there. Many don’t and most of them die. But some live. And then God wants that small group to stay in Judah and not go to Egypt. But they disobey and go to Egypt.

At any rate, that’s the reference to “them that dwell in the land of Egypt.”

And that’s Jeremiah 24 – the Two Baskets of Figs

Jeremiah 23 5 6, Commentary, Meaning, Messiah, Jesus

Jeremiah 23 5 6

Jeremiah 23 5 6: And now, God wants to focus in on one of those good rulers. But this one surpasses all the rest, as we’ll see in Jeremiah 23:5-6.

5 ¶ Behold, the days come,

saith the LORD,

that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch,
and a King shall reign and [prosper/act wisely],
and shall [execute judgment/do justice] and [justice/righteousness] in the [earth/land].

6 In his days Judah shall be saved,
and Israel shall dwell safely:

and this is his name whereby he shall be called,
THE LORD [OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS/has provided us with justice].

Jeremiah 23 5 6: Branch

Let’s explore for a moment why the Lord – as he looks forward to this future righteous king – calls him a “branch”.

We’re used to titles for our Lord Jesus like the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” or the “Lamb of God” or the “Light” or the “Word”. But, branch? That might be new to some of our ears.

The word translated “branch” is the Hebrew word tsemach. This word occurs a mere 45 times in the Old Testament in both its noun and verb forms. And there are two passages that I think shed some light on why that word is used here to foretell of Christ coming as the perfect king of Israel.

Jeremiah 23 5 6: 2 Samuel 23:5

First is 2 Samuel 23:5. This is a passage that contains some of David’s last word. And it’s there that David says that God “…hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” Or, really, that last phrase “he make it not to grow” could be translated as a question, like “Will he not make it grow?” And the answer expected would be “yes, he will!”

Now, the word “grow” in 2 Samuel 23 is the verb form of the word tsemach which we find in Jeremiah 23. So, David, many centuries before Jeremiah 23, looks back on his life and points to the fact that God had made an eternal covenant with him. The main stipulation of the Davidic Covenant was that God would cause one of David’s descendants to rule from his throne forever. And that’s just what this Righteous Branch, Jesus Christ, will do – as a son of David, he will rule on David’s throne forever.

Jeremiah 23 5 6: Psalm 132:17

The second reference that might help us understand why the Lord uses this fairly-rare term “Branch” or tsemach back in Jeremiah 23 is Psalm 132:17, which is a Psalm of Ascents. These are psalms which those going up to Jerusalem would sing as they approached the city – and especially its Temple – to worship the Lord. So, in this psalm they’re extolling Jerusalem. And in that context, they would say the words of Psalm 132:17, “There [in Jerusalem] will I make the horn of David to bud [tsemach]: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed.”

David will always have a lamp for himself in Jerusalem – meaning that he will always have one of his sons ruling at least part of Israel. That’s what God said in 1 Kings 11:36 where in that passage the Lord is taking away all but one tribe of Israel from David’s son. But God says that he will leave Judah to David’s sons so that David will always have a “lamp in Jerusalem”.

So, then, because Psalm 132 is poetry and we’d expect to see parallelism, David’s lamp has something to do with David’s horn. The horn is often a symbol of strength and power in the Scripture – and many times that word refers poetically to a king or ruler. And so, a Davidic ruler with power and strength will tsemach – our word from Jeremiah 23.

Jeremiah 23 5 6: Summary

So, again, you might come across this reference to Christ in Jeremiah 23 and wonder why God is using that word Branch to refer to Christ. And I think these two other passages help us understand the significance of God’s using this word Branch or tsemach. That fairly rare word appears in these two passages referring to David and his sons and God’s promise to put those sons of David on his throne forever.

Jeremiah 23 5 6: Our Righteousness

One other thing to note in this passage is that Christ, the Branch, will also be called “the Lord our righteousness” Jehovah Tsidqenu, if you’ve heard that phrase before.

And our New Testament-focused minds rightly look at this phrase and import into it all the meaning that is revealed in the New Testament of believers in Jesus having his righteousness imputed to us. And in that way, he’s our righteousness.

And yet in the context, this Branch will be dealing out justice and judgement in the land. And this will bring physical safety and security to Israel. And in that context the Branch will be called “the Lord our Righteousness” or “the Lord our Justice” or “the Lord has provided us with Justice”.

Now, we know from the New Testament that this righteousness and justice extend beyond mere physical and temporal justice. This Branch, Jesus Christ, the Lord our Righteousness – he provides us with justification – he declares us righteous by faith. As I’ve said already, he imputes his righteousness to those who believe in him. He cleanses us of our awful sins and their awful penalty. He forgives and releases those sins. That might not have been clear to the original readers of Jeremiah 23. But it certainly is clear from the New Testament.

Jeremiah 23 5 6: The Lord

And one last thing to note about this Branch. He will be our righteousness, yes. But we must not overlook this point. This king – whom this passage would cause us to think is a mere man – is actually the Lord.

Now, this is not the Hebrew word Adonai which can mean “lord” as in “master”. No, this is the Hebrew Yahweh, God’s covenant name.

This Branch and descendant of David will certainly be human. And we don’t know how much Jeremiah himself or those hearing his message would have understood this. But this man would somehow also be the Lord himself!

Back to Jeremiah 23 Commentary.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary, Chapter Meaning, Explain, Summary, KJV

Jeremiah 23 Commentary

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: The content of Jeremiah 23 is a continuation from all the way back in Jeremiah 21.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Chapter 21

In Jeremiah 21, Zedekiah – the last king of Judah – in his last days as king, asks Jeremiah for God’s help in defeating the Babylonians. But of course God had been promising for decades under Jeremiah’s ministry to send these very Babylonians to destroy his rebellious people.

And so, God replied to Zedekiah, telling him that he was going to lose to Babylon. Then the Lord sent a message to the people telling them to surrender to Babylon in order to keep their life. And last in Jeremiah 21, the Lord responded to the king’s household – him and his princes and his servants. And he told them to execute justice.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Chapter 22

Then we studied Jeremiah 22. And that chapter was basically a continuation of the message to the king’s household at the end of Jeremiah 21. And so in Jeremiah 22, the Lord again commands the king’s household to execute justice. Then the Lord spoke of the three kings that immediately preceded Zedekiah and their unenviable fates.

And that brings us to Jeremiah 23, which is at the very end of this three-chapter unit.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Why Study It?

Now, Jeremiah 23 contains 40 verses. And I wanted to try to explain why we’re not studying the whole chapter – all 40 of those verses – in one lesson.

I have two competing desires. At least, they seem to compete.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: I Want to Move Along

First, I have the desire to get through this book and then move on to other material. After all, I ran some numbers and figured out that at the rate of one chapter per week and doing that for 52 weeks per year with no interruption, we could finish the Old Testament in about 17 years. I’d be 50 years old by that point (this was published in 2016). How old will you be? Where will you be?

Now, I’m not saying that we’re going to go through the entire Old Testament necessarily, but I’m just pointing to the fact that there is so much Bible – even apart from the New Testament – and so little time. So, I don’t want to drag out our messages in Jeremiah any more than I need to. And therefore, I would be inclined to just teach all forty verses of Jeremiah 23 in this one lesson.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: I Want to Understand

But that’s where the second of my competing desires comes in. I want to actually understand what I’m teaching. It takes time to understand a chapter well enough to get to the point where you can say something thoughtful about it. And so it seems like anything beyond about 20 verses in one week – or 8 verses, like today – is pretty hard to study to the point where I can say something meaningful about it.

Added to that consideration, some parts of Scripture are just deeper than others. For example, Biblical narrative often repeats events a few times. So when we get to the second or third explanation there’s less of a need to interpret and explain that portion. Another example: when God through Jeremiah tells the people that he is going to judge them for the 20th time, we probably need less time to focus on that particular message than we did when we saw that theme for maybe the 1st or 2nd or 3rd time.

Today we are covering only eight verses. But we see Jesus in these verses. This is new territory in some ways for us. And so we need to park here and attempt to understand what the Lord is saying.

So, because of those two competing desires – the desire to get through the material and the desire to actually understand the material – we’ll be studying the first eight verses in Jeremiah 23.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Denouncing Evil Leaders

The message to the king’s household – the leadership of Judah – continues into this chapter. And so in Jeremiah 23:1-2 you have the Denouncing of Evil Leaders.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Chiasm

Let me just give us a lay-of-the-land and point out the four sub-sections in these verses and then we’ll get into each verse.

Jeremiah 23:3-8 appears to be what is called a “chiasm”. “Chi” is a Greek letter that looks like an English “X”.

And in this chiasm here in this chapter, the Lord starts by speaking of Return from Exile in Jeremiah 23:3.

Then he speaks of Good Rulers in Jeremiah 23:4.

Then he again speaks of Good Rulers and actually the best one that ever will be in Jeremiah 23:5-6.

And finally he returns to the matter of Return from Exile and speaks of something like a Second Exodus in Jeremiah 23:7-8.

Here’s what it would look like:

Return from Exile (A)

            Good Rulers (B)

            Good Rulers – the Best One Ever (B’)

Return from Exile – Second Exodus (A’)

So, the promise of Return from Exile (A), Good Rulers (B), Good Rulers in the form of the Best Ruler Ever (B’), and then a Return from Exile in the form of something like a Second Exodus (A’). A, B, B’, A’ – that’s the form of this chiasm.

So, now that we know how these verses are structured in God’s mind, let’s study them individually.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Return from Exile

To begin, God promises a return from exile for his people in Jeremiah 23:3.

3 [And/Then] I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them,
and will bring them again to their [folds/pasture/homeland];
and they shall be fruitful and increase.

So, note that these people do nothing to deserve or earn this promise from God. God just graciously declares that this is what he plans to do for them in the future.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Good RulersAnd when God brings the Jews back from Babylon and the other countries that they will be driven to, the Lord will also give them good rulers according to Jeremiah 23:4.

4 And I will [set up/install] [shepherds/rulers] over them which shall [feed/tend to/care for] them:

and they shall fear no more,
nor be [dismayed/terrified],
neither shall they be [lacking/missing],

saith the LORD.

Again, remember the context. Judah is full of sin. Their rulers and Zedekiah in particular are just plain bad folks. They all are in rebellion against God. And so God has declared their destruction.

And you might tend to think that that’s the end of Judah and Israel. But God promises by himself that he will indeed restore the people to the land which he promised them and will give them good rulers in contrast to what they at that time had in Zedekiah.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: The Righteous Branch

And now, God wants to focus in on one of those good rulers. But this one surpasses all the rest, as we’ll see in our study on Jeremiah 23 5 6.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: A Second Exodus

Now, closely associated with this man known as the Branch is the last promise of God made in this section. The Lord promises something like a Second Exodus in Jeremiah 23:7-8.

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: False Prophets

Jeremiah 23:9-40 deals with another branch of Judah’s leadership. But this time, it’s not the king’s household that’s in view. The Lord has already denounced the kings and their wickedness. Now he’s going to focus on the religious leaders of Judah – the prophets and priests – and he’s going to identify them as False Prophets.

Jeremiah 22 Commentary

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: In Jeremiah 22 we see a continuation of God’s addressing the king’s household that we saw started in our lesson in Jeremiah 21. Read more about the Last Five Kings of Judah here.

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Introduction

So, with the timeline of the last five kings of Judah out of the way, let’s get into the introduction to the chapter in Jeremiah 22:1-2. Read more about the Introduction to Jeremiah 22 here.

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Message to the King’s House

The content of the message of Jeremiah 22 is very similar to what we heard back in Jeremiah 21, as we’ll see from Jeremiah 22:3-5. Read more from the Message to the King’s House here.

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Devastating Deforestation

The Lord pictures the destruction that he’s going to need to bring on Judah as if it’s some sort of devastating deforestation in Jeremiah 22:6-9. Read more about that Devastating Deforestation here.

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Shallum Shall Not Return

The Lord begins by speaking of Shallum, who by this point is already in exile in Egypt. He declares in Jeremiah 22:10-12 that Shallum shall not return.

10 Weep ye not for the dead [i.e.,king – Josiah?],
neither [bemoan/mourn for/grieve for] him:

but weep sore for [him/the king] that goeth away:
for he shall return no more,
nor see his native country.

11 ¶ For thus saith the LORD touching Shallum
the son of Josiah king of Judah,
which reigned instead of Josiah his father,
which went forth out of this place;

He shall not return [thither/there] any more: [i.e., it will never happen]

12 But he shall die in the place whither they have led him captive,
and shall see this land no more.

So that’s the Lord’s message concerning Shallum. He shall not return to Judah. He will die in exile in Egypt.

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Jehoiakim Unjust Unburied

Next, the Lord speaks of Jehoiakim. And what I think is interesting about this section is that the Lord gives us a view into some of this king’s injustice in Jeremiah 22:13-19.

13 [Woe unto him/Sure to be judged is the king] that buildeth his [house/palace] by unrighteousness,
and his chambers by wrong;

that useth his neighbour’s service without [wages/paying],
and giveth him not for his work;

14 That saith,

I will build me a wide house and large chambers,
and cutteth him out windows;
and it is [ceiled/paneled] with cedar,
and painted with [vermilion/bright red].

So, apparently Jehoiakim was in the practice of not paying for services rendered him. That is a problem in God’s eyes. This is not how the Lord wants people to act. If you promise to pay someone for some amount of work then you need to pay him.

Now, it wasn’t a large palace that God was looking for in a king. It was justice and righteousness.

15 Shalt thou reign [i.e., are you more of a king for this?], because thou closest thyself in cedar?

did not thy father [i.e., Josiah] eat and drink, [i.e., and he was content with this]
and do judgment and justice,
and then it was well with him?

16 He [judged/pled/upheld] the cause of the [poor/afflicted] and needy;

then it was well with [him/Judah]:

was not this to know me? saith the LORD. [i.e., this is a good example of what it means to know me]

17 But thine [i.e., Jehoiakim] eyes and thine heart are [not but for/intent upon] thy covetousness,
and for to shed innocent blood,
and for oppression, and for violence, to do it.

18 ¶ Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah;

They shall not lament for him, saying,
[Ah/This makes me sad,] my brother! or, Ah sister!

they shall not lament for him, saying,
[Ah/Poor, poor] [lord/master]! or, Ah his [glory/splendor/majesty]!

19 He shall be buried with the burial of [an ass/a donkey], [i.e., apparently no burial]
[drawn/dragged off] and [cast forth/thrown out] beyond the gates of Jerusalem.

Now, again, this chapter is apparently written toward the end of Zedekiah’s reign. And it almost sounds as if we don’t quite know what happened yet to Jehoiakim. We were told of Shallum’s whereabouts, but all we know about Jehoiakim is that he won’t be lamented or receive a proper burial. So, it sounds as if Jehoiakim hasn’t died by this point.

Perhaps his death and burial are still future. And when he does die it will be outside of the gates of Jerusalem (probably in Babylon) and the burial to follow that death will not include mourning and will mirror the kind of dignity bestowed on a dead donkey.

But this is why I’ve said that Jehoiakim’s death is a little mysterious. Here we are in Zedekiah’s last years and the Lord is still – after almost a decade – speaking of the previous king’s death as if it’s yet a future event.

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Message to Jerusalem

Well, with that, that Lord turns from considering kings to considering the people of Jerusalem in Jeremiah 22:20-23. Read more about the Message to Jerusalem here.

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Coniah Childless

And with the aside to the people of Jerusalem out of the way, the Lord continues by addressing the last king mentioned in this chapter in Jeremiah 22:24-30. The king is Coniah and he is to be marked as childless. Read more about that here.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: First in Jeremiah 21:1-2 we start with the background that results in the delivering of those three messages.

KJV Jeremiah 21:1 ¶ The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD,

when king Zedekiah [597-587 BC] sent unto him

Pashur the son of Melchiah [Pashur in ch 20 was the son of Immer], and
Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest,

saying,

2 Enquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us;

for Nebuchad[r/n]ezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us;

if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his [wondrous/wonderful/past miraculous] [works/acts],

that he [i.e., Nebu…] may [go up/withdraw] from us.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Two Pashurs?

First, let’s just clear up something that could possibly be confusing to us. A man named Pashur here is said to be sent to Jeremiah with a message. We just saw a Pashur in Jeremiah 20. But these two Pashurs are different Pashurs. They’re not one in the same. Pashur in Jeremiah 20 was the son of Immer. And the Pashur here in Jeremiah 21 is the son of whom? Melchiah. So, they’re different guys with the same name.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Who is Zedekiah?

Next, let’s talk about the one who authorized this Pashur along with this man named Zephaniah to ask Jeremiah for help. It’s king Zedekiah. He ruled from 597-587 BC. He was the last king that Judah has ever had. This is the man whose children end up being slaughtered before his eyes before his own eyes are gouged out when Babylon finally destroys Judah. In fact, Zedekiah was installed as king over Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. But then 10 years later, Zedekiah rebels and Nebuchadnezzar comes and takes him out. And all of this information is found in biblical texts that we could go through and discover together, but we won’t right now.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: What Does Zedekiah Want?

So, that’s the man who sent the message to Jeremiah. But let’s consider the content of Zedekiah’s message.

Zedekiah wants Jeremiah to enquire of the Lord. And really, it becomes clear that what the king really wants is for Jeremiah to ask God to send the Babylonians away from him and his country because Babylon was making war against Judah at this time. And by the way, this places this episode right around the time when Judah was exiled. Nebuchadnezzar sieged Jerusalem for probably a year or two. So, this is just about the bitter end right before the exile, chronologically.

And you know, this is exactly what the Lord had been threatening Judah with for the last twenty chapters of Jeremiah. For the several decades of Jeremiah’s ministry he kept telling them to repent or he’d have to send an enemy from the north to destroy them. And now, here it is! And they don’t like it. And so, Zedekiah wants to get out of this promised punishment.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Pious Words

The king even pulls out some really pious vocabulary to make his request. He wants the Lord to do to Judah “according to all his wondrous works”. That word palah would be familiar to Jews who knew their Scripture.

Genesis 18:14 uses that word in connection with God giving Sarah the ability to conceive Isaac in her old age. That was miraculous! At least, beyond what man could do.

Exodus 3:20 and Judges 6:13 use this word to describe the miraculous plagues that God would send on Egypt and his deliverance of Israel from there.

Exodus 34:10 has God telling Moses that he would perform miracles in connection with the Mosaic covenant which he was about to make.

Joshua 3:5 uses this word to describe the miraculous crossing of the Jordan by the Israelites.

And that word is used many other times. But the point is that King Zedekiah is asking for a miracle. He has some faint hope that Jeremiah will pray to God and that God will answer Jeremiah’s prayer by doing the miraculous – that is, by somehow sending Babylon away from them. Maybe he has the Hezekiah/Sennacherib story in mind.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Experiencing Miracles

And so the last thing I want us to consider regarding this background section in Jeremiah 21:1-2 is that a desire to experience a miracle is no indication of true spirituality or a true faith in the living God.

Herod wanted to see Jesus for this reason – to experience a miracle. And Jesus wouldn’t grant him that privilege because God isn’t in the entertainment business. He wants converts and true disciples rather than thrill seekers.

Jesus fed large crowds of people miraculously with a few scraps of food. And the crowd’s reaction for the most part was rebuked by Jesus. He told them that they didn’t perceive the miracles correctly. All they wanted was to be fed. He wanted them to believe. God wants his miracles to make believers, not beggars. He wants his miracles to fill the hearts of people with faith rather than simply filling their bellies with food.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: God’s Response to Zedekiah’s Request

Well, king Zedekiah wants to experience a miracle. He sends a small delegation to Jeremiah around the last few years of Judah’s existence as a nation before the exile to try to get that miracle.

But God is not going to send them a miracle. Rather, he sends them a message. And it’s an extended message that lasts for the rest of this chapter and goes on through the next two chapters.

Here’s how God’s response begins.

3 ¶ Then said Jeremiah unto them,

And then in the rest of Jeremiah 21 we have three entities that God addresses.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: The Message to Zedekiah

First God addresses Zedekiah himself directly in Jeremiah 21:3-7.

Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah:

4 Thus saith the LORD God of Israel;

Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands,
wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon,

and against the Chaldeans,
which besiege you without the walls,

and I will assemble them [i.e., the weapons or the enemies] into the [midst/center] of this city.

5 And I myself will [fight/war] against you with an outstretched hand and with a [strong/mighty] arm,
even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.

6 And I will smite [the inhabitants of/everything living in] this city, both man and beast:
they shall die of [a great/terrible] [pestilence/diseases].

7 And afterward,

saith the LORD,

I will deliver   Zedekiah king of Judah, and
his servants, and
the people, [and/even] such as are left in this city

from the [pestilence/disease],
from the sword, and
from the [famine/starvation],

into the hand of Nebuchad[r/n]ezzar king of Babylon, and
into the hand of their enemies, and
into the hand of those that seek their life:

and he shall [smite/slaughter] them with the edge of the sword;
he shall not spare them,
neither have pity,
nor have mercy.

How is that for an answer? Zedekiah sends to Jeremiah asking him to pray for God’s help. God responds through Jeremiah saying basically, Zedekiah, you’re going to lose. I’m going to make your weapons worthless. Yes, I’m sending Babylon to destroy you and exile the rest who aren’t killed – but don’t miss this – I MYSELF am the one who is waging war against you.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Out of Control?

No doubt Jeremiah felt his situation spiraling out of control. I mean, he’s the one who hears this really frightening news first. The enemies are there and they’re going to destroy all that he’s known. His whole life up to this point has been doom and gloom and judgement and woe. The punishment is not directed against him. But he’s in the midst of it. He’s experiencing the effects of the judgement, though he’s not a recipient of that judgement.

And I think we need to realize a parallel to our current situation here.

Just think about some events that have transpired in the last few weeks. The Islamic State bombed an airport in Turkey, killing 50 and injuring 60 more. The citizens of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. Our president and his administration keeps pushing his agenda of advancing sexual deviancy – whether that be by allowing transgender troops into the military or declaring that national parks no longer have gender-restrictions on their bathrooms. Religious liberty is being threatened rather than upheld by the highest court in our land. And on and on.

Many of these events are marks of God’s judgement. Some of them might not be directly God’s judgement but are nonetheless a little concerning. They’re the kind of things that shake financial markets and generally contribute to worldwide instability.

And here you and I are in the midst of this. What is our reaction to these things?

There’s a real temptation to see things spiraling out of control to the point that not even God is in charge anymore. Do we look at our situation in these days and think that God is hiding himself and doesn’t care? Do we perceive that he’d really like to do something about these things but that he’s just too weak or he doesn’t know what to do?

Now, here’s something we need to take by faith – God is indeed in control and he’s got a plan.

In the eyes of Zedekiah and the people of Judah, Babylon’ arrival was something that couldn’t have possibly been God’s will or under God’s control. But it was. And actually, God was the very one fighting against Zedekiah and Judah through the means of Babylon.

Could it be that God in these days is using the Islamic State to punish western culture which has done so much to spite God and turn from him and deny him his rights? Could it be that God is giving our leaders over to utter foolishness as a way of punishing this nation that has turned from him in so many ways? Could it be that God is handing our country over to immorality as punishment for not recognizing him?

I think the answer in all these cases is yes.

Child of God – your Father is sovereign. Things around you might seem to be spinning out of control. But they’re not out of control. They’re under his control. You don’t understand every detail of what he’s doing and why. But you and I can trust him to do what’s right – even when it seems to be painful to us.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Message to the People of Jerusalem

Well, after God addresses Zedekiah directly, he then turns to the people of Jerusalem in Jeremiah 21:8-10.

8 ¶ And unto this people thou shalt say,

Thus saith the LORD;

Behold, I set before you          the way of life, and
the way of death.

First, the way of death.

9 He that abideth in this city shall die            by [the sword/battle], and
by [the famine/starvation], and
by [the pestilence/disease]:

But here’s the way of life.

but he that goeth out, and [falleth/falls away/surrenders] to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him [for a prey/as booty].

10 For I have set my face against this city for [evil/harm/disaster],
and not for good,

saith the LORD:

it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon,
and he shall burn it with fire.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Hope

So, God at this point had determined to destroy Jerusalem. And he could have left it at that. God could have said, Alright you folks, I have told you to repent and you haven’t done it. If you had repented, I would have let you live. But now it’s too late and all of you will die without exceptions.

No, God doesn’t leave it at that. God does need to destroy that city. But he is still being so merciful to the point that now he’s going to give the people one more chance. No, they can’t stay in the city, but they can keep their life. Their life will be very different from how they’ve lived it previously, but the point is – they can live and not die.

How? Simple. Just go out and surrender to Babylon. This is the way of life for them. The only way they’d be sure to avoid being killed.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Humility and Faith

But this would take two things on the part of the people. It would take humility and it would take faith.

It would take humility because, really, what strong brave man wants to give up? What proud nationalistic Israelite wants to lose to an unclean Gentile nation like Babylon? Which one of us would like to see the United States lose to Russia or China or Iran or – you name the country? To obey the Lord’s offer of life here in this situation would take humility.

And it would also take faith. Listen, these folks have been told over and over again how bloodthirsty and cruel these Babylonians are. We were just told in Jeremiah 21:7 that they won’t spare anyone or have mercy. And yet, God will see to it that these Babylonians treat the people well who surrender to them. But this would require faith of the Judeans that God would make this happen.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Jehoiachin Surrenders

And I just want to remind us that there’s a king who ends up doing this. Jehoiachin ends up surrendering to Babylon. And in the very last chapter of this book, we see that king being treated well by the Babylonian king. He got away with his life and was treated well because he submitted to God by surrendering to Babylon. And in that way, he demonstrated at least a faint amount of humility and faith.

Just like the message of this book teaches us – He submitted to God’s authority. And as a result he lived.

OK, so God’s response to Zedekiah’s request for help was first that Zedekiah was going to lose to Babylon and second that the people need to abandon the city of Jerusalem and surrender to Babylon.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: God’s Message to King Zedekiah’s Household

And finally in Jeremiah 21, God lastly speaks – not just to the king himself – but to the king’s household in Jeremiah 21:11-14.

11 ¶ And touching the house of the king of Judah [or household or royal court], say,

Hear ye the word of the LORD;

12 O [house of/royal family descended from] David,

thus saith the LORD;

[Execute/Administer] [judgment/justice] [in the/every] morning [i.e., judge people fairly every day],
and deliver him that is [spoiled/robbed] [out of/from] the [hand/power] of the oppressor,

[lest/so that not] my [fury/wrath] go out like fire,
and burn that none can [quench/extinguish] it,

because of the evil of your [doings/deeds].

13 Behold, I am [against/opposed to] thee,
O inhabitant of the valley, and [rock of the/rocky] plain, [i.e., who sit enthroned above the valley on a rocky plateau]

saith the LORD;

This is probably a reference to the king’s household which was located on a rocky plateau to the north of the Kidron Valley on the southern side of Jerusalem.

Here’s one reason God is against them.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Pride & Injustice

which [say/boast],

Who shall come down against us? [answer: no one]
or who shall enter into our habitations?

14 But I will punish you according to the [fruit/results] of your [doings/deeds],

saith the LORD:

and I will kindle a fire in the [forest/palace?] thereof,
and it shall devour all things round about it.

So, the household of the king was proud and not enforcing justice.

They were proud – the king and his princes and officials. They were boasting as if no one could attack them and prevail. We’ll see that their proud boasting was definitely not correct.

And let’s not ignore their lack of the enforcement of justice. The king was the final authority when it came to enforcing justice in the land. And God held them responsible for being unjust and not being concerned for the carrying-out of justice.

There are people in any society that are stronger than others and intent on abusing the weaker ones.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Martin Shkreli

A man named Martin Shkreli comes to mind. I personally am all for capitalism and free markets and I think that kind of arrangement is probably the best system possible in this fallen world. But this guy was in charge of a company that obtained the manufacturing license for an antiparasitic drug called Daraprim. According to the BBC Daraprim is the “best treatment for a relatively rare parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis. People with weakened immune systems, such as Aids patients, have come to rely on the drug.” Shkreli raised its price by 5,556 percent (from US$13.5 to US$750 per tablet). This lead him to be referred to by media as the “most hated man in America” according to the BBC. It’s hard to be a Christian capitalist and support the kind of price hikes that this guy was involved in. Yes, the market might support his actions. Yes, maybe there’s no law that expressly forbids this kind of activity. But I can’t say that I support it at all. And in fact, it seems to be a fairly-close parallel to the kind of thing that God was giving as support of him judging the household of the king of Judah.