Jeremiah 37 Commentary

…continuation of “the bitter end” from 36-45…

KJV Jeremiah 37:1 ¶ And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom [that is, Zed. …] Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah.

Just to give us the context of what we’re seeing here, I wanted to read an extended quote from the Old Testament book of 2 Kings.

2 Kings 24:8-25:2 – …

KJV 2 Kings 24:8 ¶ Jehoiachin [a.k.a., Coniah; This is the son of Jehoiakim, whom we saw in the last chapter burn the scroll with God’s message on it…] was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. 9 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father [Jehoiakim…] had done.

 10 ¶ At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. 11 And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it. 12 And Jehoiachin 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. 13 And he 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 [This is what would be left to the next king of Judah…]. 15 And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he 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.

And here’s where King Zedekiah comes into the picture…

 17 And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his [Jehoicahin’s…] father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah. 18 ¶ Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 19 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 20 ¶ For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

And because Zedekiah rebelled against the world power of that time…

 25:1 And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about. 2 And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.

We’ll stop there. That gives us a good idea of the context of this chapter. Jehoiakim – whom we saw in chapter 36 died. He was replaced by his son Jehoiachin. But Babylon apparently did not approve of that transition of power and so they attacked Jehoiachin and he surrendered. And in his place, Nebuchadnezzar installed his uncle – or Jehoiakim’s brother – or Josiah’s son – on the throne.

And you do feel bad for this man, whose name ended up being Zedekiah, because he inherits a really weakened country. Only the poorest and least skilled and capable of the land are left.

And yet, we can’t feel too badly for him, because as we’ve already seen testified to – he was evil in God’s eyes. And actually, more is said of the evil of him and his people in verse 2…

2 But neither he,
nor his servants,
nor the people of the land,

did hearken unto the words of the LORD,
which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah.

So, Zedekiah is a new king. But he’s only going to perpetuate what the wicked kings who preceded him committed.

And even though that was the case – even though he didn’t care at all to listen to God’s instructions and commands, we’re going to see this evil king seek God’s blessings from the prophet Jeremiah starting in verse 3…

3 ¶ And Zedekiah the king sent [21:2…]
Jehucal [38:1-4…] the son of Shelemiah and
Zephaniah [21:2; 29:25-26…] the son of Maaseiah the priest

to the prophet Jeremiah, saying,

Pray [now/please] unto the LORD our God for us.

Now, this is not the first time that Zedekiah sent a message like this to Jeremiah. Jeremiah chapter 21 starts like this:

“The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying, 2 Enquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.”

And what I pointed out when we studied that chapter is that Zedekiah sought God’s blessings, but he refused the repentance that will ensure those blessings. And so, we saw back in that chapter that God will not grant blessing apart from repentance.

But the point is that Zedekiah was apparently given to this kind of sending to Jeremiah to plead for help. In Jeremiah 21, he sent Zephaniah just like he did here. But now in Jeremiah 37, Zedekiah sent also this man named Jehucal. We’ll see his name again in the next chapter next time. This man actually ends up accusing Jeremiah and attacking him. But for now in this chapter he’s going to Jeremiah to seek God’s help at Zedekiah’s request.

OK, so far we know that Zedekiah is sending two men to ask Jeremiah to pray for Judah.

But now at this point in the story, God wants us to have a little more background for what’s to follow. That’s what takes up verses 4 and 5. Verse 4 tells us about Jeremiah’s situation. And verse 5 fills us in on a situation that affects all Judah.

4 Now Jeremiah [still…] came in and went out among the people:
for they had not put him into prison.

OK, so verse 4 is written from a perspective after Jeremiah is imprisoned. But this imprisoning happens in the future from the point of view of verse 4. So, Jeremiah is free at this point. He’s going in and out among the people.

It might be helpful to collect what we know of Jeremiah’s status as either free or imprisoned as recorded throughout his book.

It’s very clear that Jeremiah was imprisoned for the last two years or so before the Babylonian exile. These would have been the last two years of Zedekiah’s reign.

Passages like Jeremiah 32 and 33, 39, and even here later on in this chapter – they all testify to the fact that Jeremiah was imprisoned in the last two years of Zedekiah’s reign.

Now, we did read something last week about Jeremiah being unable to go into the Temple. And I wanted to address that passage in greater detail for a moment.

Jeremiah 36:5 has Jeremiah saying to Baruch “I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of the LORD:” That phrase “shut up” might lead someone to think that Jeremiah was imprisoned at that point. And because of that fact, that’s why he can’t go to the Temple to deliver his message.

But I’m going to give a few reasons why I think the only time that Jeremiah was imprisoned – so far as we have it recorded for us – was those last two years of Zedekiah’s reign.

First, in chapter 36 when that message of Jeremiah’s was delivered in the Temple by Baruch, the king at that time – Jehoiakim – was not happy and he sought to seize and kill Jeremiah. If Jeremiah was imprisoned – if he was even on some sort of house arrest like the Apostle Paul, where he was chained by the wrist to a guard or something like that – there’s no way that Jeremiah could have escaped and hidden himself. And yet, Jeremiah did hide himself. That’s one reason I think that Jeremiah was free to roam for most of his ministry, save the last two years of Jerusalem’s siege by Babylon.

Second, the statement we have here in Jeremiah 37:4 is pretty clear that Jeremiah was free to come and go as he pleased. Now, that will all change later in this chapter. But for now, Jeremiah is free. Not under house arrest, as far as I can tell. Free.

And those two thoughts we’ve just reviewed are helpful. But I think we might still be curious as to the meaning of Jeremiah’s being “shut up” in Jeremiah 36:5. What does that mean if it doesn’t mean that he was imprisoned?

The Hebrew word translated “shut up” in the KJV is atsar. It’s used 50 times in the Old Testament. In Genesis 16:2 it’s used of Sarah’s inability to conceive a child. In Genesis 20:18 it’s used twice to speak of the Lord closing the wombs of the household of Abimelech. Numbers 16:48 and 50 have Moses using that word to describe how he stopped a plague from attacking the people. Numbers 25:8 use it the same way. Deuteronomy 11:17 uses that word of the heavens being prevented from sending down rain.

This is a small sampling of verses. But I think it demonstrates that there is some range to the meaning of this word.

So, I think that this word in Jeremiah 36:5 is used by Jeremiah to communicate simply that he is stopped or unable or prevented from entering into the Temple to deliver his message. I think that what is likely is that Jeremiah delivered his fiery Temple sermon just shortly before this and as a result he was banned from the Temple. Not that he was under arrest or in prison or chained to a soldier – but that he was simply restrained by some sort of ordinance from entering the Temple.

In summary then, Jeremiah is in prison for the last two years of Judah’s pre-exilic existence under Zedekiah. Jeremiah was barred from the Temple for a certain amount of time under Jehoiakim. But apparently until Zedekiah’s last two years, Jeremiah was a free man.

So, that’s verse 4. It contains some background information about Jeremiah.

Now, we move on to verse 5 which contains background information concerning what was going on with all Judah at the time.

5 Then Pharaoh’s army was come forth out of Egypt:

By the way, this is Pharaoh Hophra, who reigned 589-570 BC. He was apparently summoned by Zedekiah so that Babylon would leave Jerusalem. The events here probably happened around 588 BC. And just to remind us, Jerusalem fell in 587/6 BC. So, these are the last two years or so of Jerusalem’s existence before the exile.

And now, we see something interesting happen as a result of Pharaoh coming out of Egypt with his army.

and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard [tidings of/new about] them,
they departed from Jerusalem.

So, Babylon hears of Egypt’s coming. And that causes their army to stop attacking Jerusalem.

So, to put things in perspective, Zedekiah asks for Jeremiah to pray for Judah because Babylon is attacking them. And then it looks like maybe God is answering Jeremiah’s prayer – at least this may have been what it looked like from Zedekiah’s perspective.

But sometimes what we can see with our human eyes is not the ultimate reality. Sometimes things can happen that can be misinterpreted by mortal man. Zedekiah probably would have been greatly encouraged that God heard and answered Jeremiah’s prayer and that the Babylonians would leave for good now.

And that’s why the Lord needs to send his word to interpret for Zedekiah what the events just recorded mean in verses 6 through 10.

6 ¶ Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying,

7 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel;

Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to enquire of me [20:2…];

Behold, Pharaoh’s army,
which is come forth to help you,
shall return to Egypt into their own land.

8 And the Chaldeans shall come again,
and fight against this city,
and [take/capture] it,
and burn it with fire.

So, that’s God’s interpretation of the fact that Babylon had left Jerusalem to fight Egypt. Egypt – in whom you’re trusting – will lose and Babylon will return and destroy your city.

But, so often the people of Judah would not hear a message from God like we just heard. In fact, that’s why they’re in the predicament they were in at this time. God was punishing them for not listening to his messages and for disobeying him.

And because that was the case, the Lord needs to really emphasize that what he just stated was really the truth.

9 Thus saith the LORD;

Deceive not yourselves, saying,

The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us:

That was their tendency – to reject God’s message. And what else can God say except what he says next?

for they shall not depart.

And then the Lord gives them a totally ridiculous scenario that is intended to get their attention and show them how serious he was about what he was saying to them.

10 For though ye had [smitten/defeated] the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you,
and there remained but wounded men among them,

So, picture a battlefield where Judah just totally defeated the Chaldeans. The only men left moving from the Babylonian side were all severely wounded and lying in their tents. God says – even if that were the case…

yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire.

In other words, God had determined that this destruction of Jerusalem would happen. He would use even injured soldiers lying in their tents to accomplish that promised destruction.

And really, what Judah was experiencing at this point in the book of Jeremiah is what Jeremiah for decades had been warning them about. From the beginning, the prophet was warning them to repent of their sins. If they wouldn’t, then an army from the north was coming. And that was the message back in Josiah’s day. Now, probably around 40 years later the warnings and threats are finally coming to pass.

Note two things about God from what we just said. Note his mercy and patience. He waited forty years to bring the threats to pass. But notice also God’s justice. He won’t let sin go unpunished – not even the sin of his professing people.

So, to summarize what we’ve seen so far, Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to pray. Babylon temporarily leaves their siege of Jerusalem. God wants everyone to be clear that Babylon’s leaving is temporary. And Jeremiah is the man to deliver that disappointing message.

And yet, this is just another day for Jeremiah. Delivering unpopular messages was pretty much his occupation for four decades. And so, he gives this message and then since the Babylonians were temporarily out of town, he thought he’d take the opportunity to take care of some business back home.

11 ¶ And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans [was broken up/had withdrawn] from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army,

12 Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin,

to [separate/chalak/divide/distribute] [for…] himself [land…] thence in the midst of [the/his] people.

So it seems that Jeremiah went north to Anathoth to get some land for himself amongst his people. Maybe a relative died and land was up for redistribution, according to the Old Testament rules.

And this kind of event might lead your mind to Jeremiah 32. Something similar happens there. That’s where Jeremiah’s relative comes to him in prison and tells him to buy some land from him. But in the case of Jeremiah 32, that actually happens after the events in this chapter.

Now, as we’re going to see, Jeremiah never gets to go to Benjamin for his original purpose. And so it’s possible that when Jeremiah couldn’t go to his relatives in this chapter, then his relative came to him in Jeremiah 32.

At any rate, as I’ve said, Jeremiah doesn’t make it to Benjamin. Let’s see why.

13 And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, [on the North of the city…]
a [captain of the ward/sentry/officer in charge of the guards] was there,
whose name was Irijah, [nothing else known about him…]
the son of Shelemiah,
the son of Hananiah; [probably not the false prophet…]

and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

Thou [fallest away/are deserting] to the Chaldeans.

And by the way, that was exactly God’s command to the people of Judah in Jeremiah 21:9. But Jeremiah had a job to do in Jerusalem by God’s command. And so he wasn’t planning to go out to the Chaldeans. And so he protests the charge.

14 Then said Jeremiah,

It is [false/a lie];
I [fall not away/am not deserting] to the Chaldeans.

But [he/Irijah] hearkened not to him:

so Irijah [took/seized/arrested] Jeremiah,
and brought him to the [princes/officials].

This is not the same group of people as we saw in Jeremiah 36. In that chapter, the officials were favorably disposed to Jeremiah. Those individuals would have been exiled with Jeconiah in 597 BC. Jeremiah 37 happens around 10 years later – sometime around 588 BC.

And we see that these new officials are not very friendly to Jeremiah.

15 [Wherefore/And] the princes were [wroth with/enraged at/very angry at] Jeremiah,
and [smote/beat/flogged] him,
and put him in prison
in the house of Jonathan the [scribe/royal secretary]:

for they had made that the prison.

The Lord in the Old Testament Law really didn’t make any provisions for prisons. Each crime was met with a corresponding punishment. And the punishment was intended to be carried out fairly swiftly. The punishments ranged from fines to death and in between those two extremes.

But the fact that prisons were not really envisioned in God’s Law explains why the house of this scribe named Jonathan had to be converted into a prison.

16 ¶ When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon [“house of the pit”, Gen 40-41…], and into the [cabins/cells], and Jeremiah had remained there many days;

17 Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out:

and the king asked him secretly in [his house/the palace], and said,

Is there any word from the LORD?

So, Zedekiah leaves Jeremiah in prison for “many days.” And we shouldn’t think that Zedekiah wouldn’t have had the power to release Jeremiah. I think everyone was pretty angry with him – Zedekiah, the officials, and that Irijah fellow. And yet, at least Zedekiah wasn’t willing to kill the prophet.

This again reflects the wavering of this king. He wants deliverance but won’t repent. He sort of wants Jeremiah to be silent – maybe even to die! – but he doesn’t want to be the one responsible for it. And yet, then we see him here asking if Jeremiah has a word from the Lord!

Now, recall that Jeremiah has been giving God’s word for decades by this point. Surely everyone knew what the Lord’s word was to them – surrender to Babylon! Repent! If you don’t, get ready for destruction!

So, this is without doubt one of the most ridiculous questions recorded in the Scripture. And yet, that’s the kind of behavior we see with Zedekiah.

And Jeremiah answers him with a little more than a hint of sarcasm.

And Jeremiah said,

There is:

[for/then], said he,

thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon. [34:3…]

So, now that Jeremiah revealed the obvious to the king, he goes on to question why he and his officials are treating him unjustly.

18 Moreover Jeremiah said unto king Zedekiah,

What have I [offended/done wrong] against thee,
or against thy servants,
or against this people,

that ye have put me in prison?

19 Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying,

The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?

So, the question that Jeremiah poses here is intended to force Zedekiah to acknowledge that he’s a faithful prophet. He’s the one who’s been telling the truth from the true God all along. And therefore, since Jeremiah has been giving God’s true message, it’s unjust for Zedekiah and his people to imprison him.

So based on that fact, Jeremiah says…

20 Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king:
let my [supplication/humble plea], I pray thee, be accepted before thee;

that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe,

lest I die there.

So, we wouldn’t have necessarily known it from the previous verses, but the makeshift prison was a pretty dangerous place. And unless this faithful prophet is all of a sudden exaggerating, then he really did believe that much more time in that prison would have eventuated in his death.

So, we see in the last verse of this chapter, Zedekiah doing something rather noble. He sees to it that Jeremiah is taken care of.

21 Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the [court/courtyard] of the [prison/guardhouse],

This was apparently the place where the royal guard was housed, so it would have been a better place than the makeshift prison.

and that they should give him daily a [piece/loaf] of bread out of the bakers’ street, until all the bread in the city [were spent/was gone].

Thus Jeremiah remained in the [court/courtyard] of the [prison/guardhouse].

So, Jeremiah had a place to stay and food to eat while the battle raged around him as the city of Jerusalem would eventually fall under siege once more by Babylon.

Now, in Jeremiah 36 last time we saw the futile attempt of Jehoiakim to restrict God’s written word. In this chapter we’re seeing Zedekiah’s attempt to restrict God’s spoken word.

We’re also seeing come to pass all the threats that God had made throughout this book.

And I think most uniquely we see Zedekiah’s wavering back and forth. He at first wants Jeremiah to pray for them as if he’s some pious individual concerned for God’s will. Then he goes along with Jeremiah’s imprisonment, which could have easily resulted in the death of the prophet. Then Zedekiah goes back and asks Jeremiah again for a word from God. When he receives that word, he doesn’t respond with repentance. But at least, he ends up being fairly kind to Jeremiah.

And yet, we should note that being kind to God’s people and God’s messengers really doesn’t do a person much eternal good. God isn’t looking for lost sinners to be kind to his people. He wants lost sinners to repent.

And you and I probably have a few lost people in our lives who are not maybe directly antagonistic to us. Maybe they have inquired a few times of you about the Lord. Maybe they’ve shown some interest in spiritual things. And yet, interest without repentance does not impress the Lord. This kind of man is no closer to being accepted by the Lord than is the man who is totally opposed to the Lord and his people.

And so, that’s the kind of man Zedekiah was. Interested but ultimately rebellious and disobedient. A double-minded man who was unstable in all his ways.

And we’ll hear more about him next time, Lord-willing.

Jeremiah 36 Commentary

As we enter Jeremiah 36 today we come to the third-to-last section in this great book. Let’s quickly note those three sections.

Our third-to-last section starts in Jeremiah 36:1 and ends in 45:5. I have called that section “The Bitter End.” After all the promises and warnings God has made and given, he finally brings the judgement of Babylon to Judah. This section starts with Jehoiakim’s burning God’s word. We’ll study that in a little bit. The section continues displaying the wavering of King Zedekiah. There’s then a brief flash-back about a man named Ebed-Melech. Then there’s record of the fiasco that ensues concerning the Jews that actually make it through the Babylonian attack. And those people in rebellion end up going down to Egypt, where God has a message for them. The section ends with another flashback – this time directed at Baruch, Jeremiah’s personal servant. And that just happens to be the shortest chapter in the book of Jeremiah – Jeremiah 45, with a mere 5 verses.

So, that’s the third-to-last section. And we’ll start studying that today.

After that section, there are six chapters (46-51) given to addressing the nations of the world. Remember that when God commissioned Jeremiah, he told him that he was going to be a “prophet to the nations.” And so, we see God speaking through Jeremiah concerning 8 nations. He proclaims that each one of these nations will fall at the hands of Babylon. And then finally, Jeremiah has the privilege of prophesying the fall of Babylon itself.

That’s the second-to-last section of this book.

The last section of Jeremiah – chapter 52 – consists of a rehashing of the fall of Jerusalem. But then the story goes beyond that to a time when one of the kings of Judah who obeyed God by going out to Babylon is treated well by the king of Babylon. And we’ve already stated that this is likely there to testify to everyone that God will bless those who submit to his authority.

So, that’s a run-down of what’s to come in the next several weeks. 17 chapters left. So, maybe about another four months or so and we might be done with this book. And this is our 40th message in the book, which roughly equates to 10 months. So, there are the numbers!

So, let’s begin to witness the Bitter End of Judah.

Jehoiakim’s 4th Year (36:1-8)

Background (36:1)

We begin Jeremiah 36 in verse 1 with some background information that will get us ready for the rest of this story.

KJV Jeremiah 36:1 ¶ And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah [605/4 BC], that this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,

So, what we’re going to be reading about from verse 1 to verse 8 all happens in Jehoiakim’s 4th year. The year was 605/4 BC. It was about this time – maybe a little bit earlier – that Babylon came and attacked Jerusalem and carried off the prophet Daniel, among other things. But Nebuchadnezzar allowed Jehoiakim to continue to reign over Judah. It seems that this was something of a power shift from Egypt to Babylon. Egypt had been the regional power until about this time in world history. Then Babylon came and defeated Egypt and asserted their control over Judah.

So, this is the timeframe we’re in here in Jeremiah 36. It’s actually about 15 years before Jerusalem was conquered and exiled to Babylon.

God’s Command to Jeremiah (36:2-3)

Within this timeframe we see God giving a command to Jeremiah in verses 2 and 3.

2 Take thee a [roll of a book/scroll], and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day

By the way, this would have represented Jeremiah’s messages from the last 18 years of Josiah, the 3 months of Shallum/Jehoahaz, and then the first 4 years of Jehoiakim.

Why did God want Jeremiah to write down a summary of his prophesies for those last 22 years and then deliver that message to Judah one more time?

3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the [evil/disaster] which I purpose to do unto them;

that they may return every man from his evil way;

that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.

So, here’s God’s desire. Is his main aim to punish his people? No. He reveals his heart-desire to be their repentance. Why? So that he can forgive them.

God has not changed at all in this regard. He still demands repentance. And when a person repents – turns from his sin and turns toward the God whom he was rejecting – God will forgive that man. And this is all possible – as we learn in the New Testament – because Jesus was punished for all of those sins.

And if anyone wants to be at peace with God, he needs to repent. There is no other option – in either the Old or the New Testament. Repentance is a requirement with the Lord, always.

Now, let me just point out what you’ve already noticed. God phrases verse 3 as if he’s not quite sure what’s going to happen. Maybe the people will repent.

And this is just part of the mystery regarding how God’s sovereignty works with man’s responsibility.

On the one hand, you have God communicating here as if he’s not quite certain as to how this will all turn out.

And yet, we know that God knows the end from the beginning. He has plans. He told these people back in Josiah’s day that an army from the north was coming. He reveals in the books of Kings that he determined to destroy Judah back before Josiah to the time of Manasseh because of all the wickedness of that king. We have a God who alone knows when the Time of the Gentiles will be filled up and at that point he will bring this age to a close. He is totally sovereign.

And yet, we have statements like this. “Maybe the people will hear my words and repent.”

I think in cases like this, it’s best to take both truths and treat them as complimentary rather than as competitive or contradictory. It might not compute in a tidy neat way in our human minds. But can we be humble enough to recognize that we don’t completely understand how God works? Can we accept that all that we know is what God reveals to us? When we go beyond that, our likelihood of making up strange teachings increases exponentially. I think it’s safest to take both truths together.

So, is God in control and sovereign over all things? Yes. Is he holding out some hope that these people will repent, but at least speaking as if he doesn’t know whether they will or not? Yes.

Very good. Now we can move on. 🙂

Jeremiah’s Command to Baruch (36:4-7)

Now, what we’ve heard so far in the story is actually good news to the people of Judah in Jeremiah’s day. There’s still time to repent and be made right with God. The possibility still exists! How gracious and merciful of our God. He is so patiently holding out this offer of repentance so that he can avoid destroying these people.

And so Jeremiah is going to try to get this message of good news communicated to his people. In order to do this, he gives some orders to his personal assistant Baruch in verses 4 through 7.

4 ¶ Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah:

and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.

5 And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying,

I am [shut up/banned/no longer allowed]; I cannot go into the house of the LORD:

6 Therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people in the LORD’S house [upon the fasting day/on a day of fasting]: and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities.

7 It may be they will present their [supplication/plea for mercy] before the LORD, and will return every one from his evil way:

for great is the anger and the fury that the LORD hath pronounced against this people.

Now, if the wording in verse 7 sounds familiar, it should. Similar words were spoken by the godly king Josiah when he was shown the recently-discovered book of the law in his day.

2 Kings 22:13 has Josiah saying “Because great is the wrath of Yahweh.”

2 Chronicles 34:21 has Josiah saying “Because great is the wrath of Yahweh.”

And here in Jeremiah 36:7 we have Jeremiah saying “Because great is the anger (aph) and the fury (chema – same as wrath in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles) of Yahweh.”

And of course, we know that Josiah went on from recognizing God’s burning anger and he repented and led the nation of Judah in that repentance. And God saw fit to delay the punishment.

Here in Jeremiah, we’re witnessing Jeremiah himself recognizing the burning anger of God. And yet, we’re going to see that it’s harder for a prophet to lead a nation in repentance than it is for a king. And it’s nearly impossible for a prophet to lead a nation to repent when the king himself is directly opposed to God’s humbling message.

Baruch’s Obedience Summarized (36:8)

Next we have in verse 8 just a brief summary of Baruch’s obedience.

8 And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of the LORD in the LORD’S house.

Now, I say this is a summary. Baruch needed to do this on a fast day. Not right away. So even though it might sound like he just went out and gave the message, again this is just a summary of what Baruch eventually ended up doing – which we’ll see in the very next verse. So, let’s move on to that next verse.

Jehoiakim’s 5th Year (36:9-32)

As we pass from verse 8 in this chapter into verse 9 we have maybe a year or a little less pass before us.

Introduction (36:9)

As we’ve already seen, Jeremiah is not able to go to the Temple. So, he tells Baruch to go on a fast day – a day on which the people would all agree to fast. And such a day is recorded in verse 9.

9 ¶ And it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the LORD to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem.

Now, this was probably our December timeframe. We know from records of history that one year previous to this time, Babylon came and invaded Jerusalem. And now a year later, Nebuchadnezzar was back in the area again to attack Ashkelon, which is near Jerusalem. So, this is probably the reason for this particular fast.

And does it strike you as strange that these people who are so opposed to God are actually proclaiming a fast “before the Lord?” There’s a disconnect here. But this is exactly what we’ve seen in this book. The people live ungodly lives and then come to the Temple and pretend like all is well between them and God.

And of course, this isn’t an issue that is isolated to Jeremiah’s day. We’ve had people in our church who have come to our worship services and seemed to be very respectful and even godly. And yet, when the truth comes to light we find out that they were like decorated graves full of corruption.

So, may the Lord help that to not be the case with anyone here tonight.

And so, yes, this is a confusing reality. Ungodly people parading as godly individuals – even fasting before the Lord. And yet, it is a reality. It’s not uncommon in our day. And it wasn’t in Jeremiah’s day either.

So, here the people are – ready to fast before the Lord.

Baruch’s Obedience (36:10)

And so, Baruch obeys Jeremiah and takes God’s message to the people in the Temple in verse 10.

10 Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the [scribe/secretary], in the [higher/upper] court, at the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house, in the ears of all the people.

Now, I see another sign here that God wants us to have Josiah’s repentance in mind as we read this chapter. There’s mention in verse 10 of a man who lived in the time of Josiah. His name is Shaphan and he was a scribe who was involved in the episode of Hilkiah the priest finding the book of the Law and then giving that message to Josiah – who immediately repented. I think that’s beyond coincidence. I think God is highlighting that the exact same thing could happen here as happened in Josiah’s day.

So, will it??

Michaiah (36:11-13)

Well, let’s see the reactions that God’s message receives. First of all, we see the response of a man named Michaiah in verses 11 through 13.

11 ¶ When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the [grand-…] son of Shaphan [another mention of Shaphan…], had heard out of the book all the words of the LORD,

12 Then he went down into the king’s [house/palace], into the [scribe’s/secretary’s] chamber:

and, lo, all the [princes/officials/court officials] [sat/were in session] there, even
Elishama the [scribe/secretary], and
Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and
Elnathan the son of Achbor [killed a prophet, but later urges Jehoiakim to hear Jeremiah…], and
Gemariah the son of Shaphan [there he is again…], and
Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and
all the [princes/officials].

13 Then Michaiah declared unto them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people.

So, Michaiah hears God’s message from Baruch. After all, Baruch was in the chamber of his father Gemariah when he proclaimed his message.

And then Michaiah goes to the king’s palace and finds these five royal officials involved in some official business. That’s what it means when it says that they “sat.” They “sat” just like Boaz did in the book of Ruth when he “sat” in the city gate – he was there to conduct some official business. That’s what these five are doing.

One of those five is a concern. His name is Elnathan. He’s the son of Achbor. We’re told in Jeremiah 26 that this is the man who pursued a fugitive prophet who was hiding in Egypt and brought him back to king Jehoiakim to have him killed for his prophesying. So, we might assume that this man’s reaction is not going to be positive to Jeremiah’s message.

So, Michaiah comes in to interrupt the official business of these men. And he gives them God’s message as Baruch delivered it.

The Officials (36:14-19)

How do these officials react to this news? That’s what we’ll see in verses 14 through 19.

14 Therefore all the princes sent

Jehudi
the son of Nethaniah,
the son of Shelemiah,
the [grand-…] son of Cushi,

unto Baruch, saying,

Take in thine hand the roll wherein thou hast read in the ears of the people, and come.

So Baruch the son of Neriah took the roll in his hand, and came unto them.

15 And they said unto him,

Sit down now, and read it in our ears.

So Baruch read it in their ears.

16 Now it came to pass, when they had heard all the words,

they [were afraid both one and other/turned to one another in fear/expressed their alarm to one another],

and said unto Baruch,

We [will surely tell/must report to] the king of all these words.

17 And they asked Baruch, saying,

Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words[?] [Was it…] at [his/Jeremiah’s] [mouth/dictation]?

18 Then Baruch answered them,

He pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the [book/scroll].

19 Then said the princes unto Baruch,

Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye be.

So, the officials reacted with fear. They seemed to get it right. They know what’s in store for them and their nation if these words come to pass.

So they seem to get it right.

But then they need to take that news to the king, because he’s the one who would ultimately need to do something about the state of their nation. And it seems like they’re not so sure that the king will have the same reaction. That’s what we see in verse 19 where they warn Baruch to hide himself and Jeremiah. It’s like the officials are expecting a poor reaction from Jehoiakim.

King Jehoiakim (36:20-23)

And the king delivers on their expectation in verses 20-23.

20 ¶ [And/So] they went in to the king into the court, but they [laid up the roll/put the scroll] [for safekeeping…] in the [chamber/room] of Elishama the [scribe/secretary], and told all the words in the ears of the king.

21 So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll [seems like Jehudi is a go-for…]: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe’s chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the [princes/officials] which stood beside the king.

 

22 Now the king sat in the winterhouse [maybe lower part of a two-story building…] in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the [hearth/firepot] burning before him.

 

23 And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four [leaves/“doors”/columns of the scroll], [he/the king] cut [it/them off] with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was [on the hearth/in the firepot], until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.

So, the buck stops here, so to speak. Until now there’s been this hopeful air. God says “maybe these people will repent.” Then Baruch speaks the word and Michaiah hears and reports to the officials. The officials hear and tremble. That’s a good thing. Then they bring the word to the king – the son of Josiah, the son of the man who heard the same kind of message of judgement and he trembled and repented. But, for Jehoiakim, in the spiritual realm it was not “like father, like son.”

This was a message from the God of heaven. The God who was uniquely the God of Israel and Judah. He is all they had. And yet this proud and godless king takes that message and rips it up and burns it.

The Leadership of Judah as a Whole (36:24-26)

And the king is not alone in his hard-heartedness. He had likeminded proud men attending him that we hear about in verses 24-26. And yet, that wasn’t the whole story, according to those verses. Some were trembling at God’s word and some were not.

24 Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.

25 [Nevertheless/Even when] Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them.

26 But the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of [Hammelech/The king] [Jehoiakim was 30, so maybe this was just a royal prince…], and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet:

but the LORD hid them.

So, three of the five officials we saw earlier pled with the king to humbly receive God’s word. And yet, Jehoiakim would not listen.

We see Jehoiakim here as a man who is totally proud and wicked. He hears God’s message and doesn’t tremble. He doesn’t even just quietly and politely ignore it. He actively opposed it by burning it. And not only that, but he also seeks to kill God’s mouthpiece – Jeremiah and his mouthpiece at this point – Baruch.

I get angry just reading about it.

The Lord (36:27-31)

And if I get angry about it, how much angrier do you think would the Lord be – the one whose word Jehoiakim burned? We get the answer to that question in verses 27 through 31.

27 ¶ Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah,

after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the [mouth/dictation] of Jeremiah, saying,

28 Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned.

29 And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah,

Thus saith the LORD;

Thou hast burned this roll, saying,

Why hast thou written therein, saying,

The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land,
and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast? [By the way, that’s the gist of Jeremiah’s message that Jehoiakim heard…]

30 Therefore thus saith the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah;

He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David [Jehoiachin did rule but only for 3 months, then Jehoiachin was promised to have no son on the throne in 22:30]:

and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. [Jer 22]

31 And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity;

and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they hearkened not.

Jeremiah Rewrites the Book (36:32)

32 ¶ Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.

So, Jehoiakim can rage all he wants against the Lord and his message. And yet, when it comes down to it, God’s word stands.

And that’s exactly the case even today in our context. We have high and mighty people in this land who oppose God’s word. They mock. They persecute. They try to fit everyone into their godless mold. They think they’re winning. And in this life, they might win. But God’s word stands. It will forever. It doesn’t matter how much anyone rages against it. It will surely stand.

Therefore, how should we respond to these realities? Read God’s word. Can I encourage us all to be daily in God’s word? It takes discipline and it’s not always easy. But it’s something we need to do if there’s any way possible.

And then we need to stand on God’s word without shame. Don’t be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord or of his servants who proclaim his word.

Don’t be worried. Don’t let this world shake you. God’s word will surely stand and will forever. You can count on it.

Jeremiah 35 Commentary: The Rechabites’s Obedience

Jeremiah 35 serves as a contrast to Jeremiah 34.

In Jeremiah 34, we saw the last king of Judah – Zedekiah – and all the people of Jerusalem making a covenant. They made a covenant with their Hebrew slaves to let them go. And they actually followed-through on that covenant. But then they went back on their covenant and took back their Hebrew slaves.

And God took issue with them for two reasons. First, they broke their promise – a promise they made before God in his Temple. And second, this covenant that they made was biblical.

When God released all of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt back in the Exodus, he commanded them that if they come into possession of a fellow Hebrew as a slave – they need to let that fellow-Hebrew go after 6 years. So, by ignoring this command – even if they thought it was a small issue – they were not just breaking a promise they made. They weren’t just being unloving to their fellow-Hebrews. They were disobeying the God in whose hands were their very lives – the God who could send the Babylonians to come and destroy them or who could actually send the Babylonians away from them, if he so chose.

Well, in contrast to those oath breakers and rebels in Jeremiah 34, Jeremiah 35 showcases a group of individuals who paid attention to detail, as it were. This group, known as the Rechabites had obeyed the command of their ancestor in a relatively minor point – maybe something that some would ignore or consider superfluous. But they obeyed that command and thus they’re held up by God for all Judah to consider. God uses the Rechabites’ example to urge Judah to obedience. He also promises to bless the Rechabites and thus he shows them as an example to all of what happens when you Submit to God’s Authority.

So, let’s consider how God Blesses Obedience in Jeremiah 35.

Introduction (35:1)

We’ll start by reading the introduction to this story in verse 1.

KJV Jeremiah 35:1 ¶ The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,

So, note the king mentioned here. It’s Jehoiakim.

What this means is that as you step from the last verse of Jeremiah 34 and come into Jeremiah 35 you are actually going back in time. You are going from Jeremiah 34 with King Zedekiah – who is the last king of Judah. He was king for about 11 years.

Then you go backwards and have about three months of the reign of a king named Jehoiachin.

And then go back one more king to Jehoiakim who also reigned about 11 years. And that’s where you are in Jeremiah 35 – under the reign of King Jehoiakim.

So, keep that time frame in mind as we proceed through this chapter.

Commanded Action from God (35:2)

Now, back in the reign of Jehoiakim, God came to Jeremiah and gave him a command in verse 2.

2 Go unto the [house/community] of the Rechabites,
and speak unto them,
and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the [chambers/side rooms],
and give them wine to drink.

A few things here.

First, who is this group of people?

Second, why is God commanding them to drink wine?

Who were the Rechabites?

So, let’s address the issue of who these people are. They’re known as Rechabites. And it turns out that they’re named after one of their ancestors whose name was Rechab. But we don’t know anything about this man.

However, later on in this chapter we’re going to hear about another ancestor of these folks. His name is Jonadab. And he’s the son of Rechab. Now, we do know a little bit about a man named Jehonadab who is said to be the son of Rechab way back in 2 Kings 10. This man was an associate of the king of Northern Israel whose name was Jehu. Remember him? He’s the one who obliterated Baal worship from Northern Israel.

Well, Jehu met this Jehonadab, son of Rechab on the way to destroy Baal worshippers. And it appears that this man Jehonadab helped Jehu exterminate the idolaters.

Now, Jehu reigned from 841-814 BC. Jehoiakim – the king in power in this chapter of Jeremiah – he reigned from 608-598 BC. So, there’s at least a 200-year gap between the time of Jehonadab and the events of this chapter in Jeremiah. Keep that in mind for later.

Why did God command them to drink wine?

But now let’s consider what God is actually commanding. Because when we think of wine in our 21st Century American context, we are rightly opposed to its consumption. Our church has an official statement in our Constitution that says we’re not going to drink intoxicating beverages – and modern wine would be included in that category.

And let me register support for that stance. That position is safe. It’s biblical. Professing Christians these days want to argue that it’s within the bounds of their scriptural liberty to be able to drink wine – just so long as they don’t get drunk. And yet, that is what modern wine is made to do, with an alcoholic content of anywhere from 9-16%. My best understanding is that wine in Bible times was more like 4-6% and then it was diluted with two or three parts water. So, that would bring the alcoholic content down to maybe 2-3%. It would also kill harmful bacteria and flavor your water – AND take quite a bit to get you drunk – which the Bible forbids.

But, as with everything that has to do with one’s pleasure in this hedonistic culture – if there are three professing Christians in a room and they’re asked to give their opinion concerning alcohol, you’ll hear four different opinions. I think the scenario I just mentioned fits with scriptural descriptions of wine as well as the commands concerning it.

So, I say that to help us think about God’s command here. He’s not commanding Jeremiah to give the Rechabites the incredibly intoxicating stuff that we know of as wine – the stuff that they are able to refine a great deal and even add extra alcohol to it.

Can I draw what I think would be an appropriate parallel to what God is saying in Jeremiah 35? It’s like God commanding you to go tell someone to drink apple juice – more or less. Or a carbonated beverage. Or flavored water. I just think that God’s command involves nothing related to drunkenness or some unethical action.

So, when God commands Jeremiah to offer the Rechabites some wine, he’s not enticing them to sin or drunkenness in any way.

And what that means is that whether they drink or they don’t drink, objectively it’s not a big deal either way. If they wanted to drink the “flavored water” that would be OK. If they didn’t want to drink it, that’s fine, too.

Does that make sense? The options set before these people are both equally acceptable – all else being equal.

So, with those realities in mind, let’s continue.

Jeremiah’s Obedience (35:3-5)

We’ve seen the time frame of this passage. Then we just saw God give Jeremiah a command to go invite the Rechabites to have some wine.

Now, in verses 3-5 we have Jeremiah obeying the Lord and inviting the Rechabites to have some wine.

3 Then I took

Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah,
and his brethren,
and all his sons,
and the whole [house/community] of the Rechabites;

So Jeremiah gathers up all the Rechabites.

4 And I brought them

into the house of the LORD,
into the chamber of the [sons/disciples] of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, [a man of God/the prophet],

[which/that room] was [by/next to] the [chamber/room] of the [princes/officials/temple officers],
[which/and] was above the [chamber/room] of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the [door/threshold]:

So, now we know where Jeremiah brought the descendants of this man named Rechab, who preceded them by about 200 years. Jeremiah gives us a lot of detail as to the exact location of where he brought them. And so that would typically make me think that this information is meaningful or important in some way. But all I can make of those details is the general location of this room that he brought them to. Perhaps that’s all that Jeremiah wants us to know.

They’re in the Temple. In one of these rooms that was built on the outside of the Temple to accommodate Temple-workers and their equipment. Apparently, they’re on the second level or story of such rooms. In the room of the disciples of a prophet named Hanan.

And then Jeremiah gives these men wine.

5 And I set before the [sons/members] of the [house/community] of the Rechabites [pots/pitchers] full of wine, and cups,

and I said unto them,

[Drink ye/Have some] wine.

The Rechabites’ Response (35:6-11)

So, here they are. Jeremiah on one side of the table (maybe) and the Rechabites on the other side. I’m not sure how many of them there are in this room. Maybe some of them stood outside the room if there were a lot of them.

But at any rate, they’re in the room with Jeremiah and these pitchers full of wine and cups that would allow them to drink it.

Again, Jeremiah is not inviting them to be drunk. He’s not commanding them to be immoral or to make some choice that is evil no matter what the circumstance. Jeremiah is simply giving them likely water mixed with wine, strong enough to kill bacteria and flavor the water, but diluted enough to be fairly low in alcoholic content.

From all that we know so far, their decision is really quite inconsequential.

And that’s why verses 6-11 are very helpful. Here we witness the response of this group and get more background as to why God commanded Jeremiah to offer them wine.

6 But they said,

We will drink no wine:

Why? Here’s their reason.

for Jonadab the son of Rechab our [father/anscestor] commanded us, saying,

Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever:

So, that’s why they don’t drink wine. Because of the command of a distant relative – maybe 200 years ago. None of the living Rechabites had ever seen this ancestor of theirs – Jonadab or Jehonadab if he’s the same guy in 2 Kings 10. They had never heard his actual voice. They just had a command from him from the distant past to not drink wine. And so, they simply didn’t drink wine.

And yet, that’s not the only thing they abstained from because of their ancestor’s command. We see a number of other restrictions placed upon them by this man in verse 7. He told them…

7 Neither shall ye build house,
nor sow seed,
nor plant vineyard,
nor [have/own] [any/one]:

but all your days ye shall dwell in tents;

that ye may live many days in the land where ye [be strangers/sojourn/wander about].

So, this distant ancestor of these people commanded them to basically live as nomads. They couldn’t own or work the land. They needed to wander around in tents as strangers or sojourners or resident aliens all their lives. I imagine that these people had animals that they let graze on whatever land they happened to be wandering through. Otherwise, I’m not quite sure how they would have survived. But that’s it. No settling down in comfortable houses. No farming, beyond maybe a few goats and other livestock. A pretty bare, austere, ascetic kind of life.

So, that much is fairly clear. Jonadab’s reasoning – though – is somewhat of a puzzle. He told them to do and not do all that he commanded so that something would happen. So that they would live many days in the land.

Now, I’m pretty sure that there is nothing about wandering as a nomad that causes you to live a long time. I think then that what Jonadab was saying is similar to the 5th Commandment to honor father and mother. The promise given to someone who obeys that command is long life. I think then that Jonadab is saying that if his descendants obey his commands then they will be obeying him and thus they will reap the blessing of the 5th Commandment.

So, we’ve seen the rules these people have been given which makes them reject Jeremiah’s offer of wine. And by rejecting that offer they were obeying this old command from Jonadab. And further they go on to testify to their obedience to Jonadab’s commands in every area in which he commanded them.

8 Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our [father/ancestor] in all that he hath charged us,

to drink no wine all our days,

we,
our wives,
our sons,
nor our daughters;

Nobody’s drinking wine in their clan. And again, this is extraordinary obedience because there was nothing wrong with drinking the wine they would have had available to them.

Drinking the wine they would have had available would have been as normal as the following actions that they rejected in order to obey their ancestor’s command.

9 Nor to build houses for us to dwell in:
neither have we vineyard,
nor field,
nor seed:

So, that’s their obedience negatively. It’s what they have not done. But here’s what they have positively done to obey.

10 But we have dwelt in tents,
and have obeyed,
and done according to all that Jonadab our [father/ancestor] commanded us.

And yet, the Rechabites did need to change their tactics just a little bit  – simply to preserve their own lives according to verse 11.

11 But it came to pass, when Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said,

Come, and let us go to Jerusalem
for fear of the army of the Chaldeans,
and for fear of the army of the Syrians:

so we dwell at Jerusalem.

So, the Rechabites’ nomadic lifestyle was challenged and really in some ways ended – at least temporarily – by Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of the land.

Now, keep in mind that this is not the final invasion of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. That’s not for at least another decade or so at this point. But this happened under Jehoiakim’s reign. And there may have been other times when Nebuchadnezzar came up against Judah during Jehoiakim’s reign, but we know at least that Babylon came to attack Jehoiakim at the end of his reign but he apparently died before they got there. So maybe that’s the timeframe we’re speaking of here or maybe a little earlier.

But back to the Rechabites’ obedience. Their being forced into the city of Jerusalem would surely have resulted in them not being able to perfectly obey Jonadab’s command to live a nomadic lifestyle. And they recognized that. But in every area in which they could still obey and at the same time keep their lives they did it.

So, living in Jerusalem for protection meant no more tents. They probably lived in houses. Maybe they had vineyards. I don’t know. So, in some ways they were actually forced to disobey. But where they could obey – in particular, in the matter of not drinking wine – they were still steadfastly seeking to obey Jonadab’s original commands to them.

What a contrast to what we see throughout the book of Jeremiah. No one in Jeremiah’s day needed to be forced to disobey God’s commandments. They could hardly be forced to obey them. And really, most people were flagrantly disobeying the Lord with their idolatry and abuse of their fellow-man.

God’s Commendation of the Rechabites (35:12-17)

And God takes note of that contrast. He sees – on the one hand – the chaos and widespread disobedience of the people of Judah. And on the other hand, he sees the steadfast attempt of the Rechabites to obey their ancestor.

By the way, I don’t think this means that the Rechabites were all really righteous individuals, necessarily. We all know people who obey some obscure tradition that was passed on to them by their family. That’s not necessarily the same thing as obeying the commands and traditions passed down to us from the Lord himself.

And yet, God is going to commend the Rechabites as an example for Judah to follow. We see that in verses 12-17.

12 ¶ Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,

13 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;

Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,

Will ye not receive instruction [from this example…] [to/and] [hearken/listen] to my words?

saith the LORD.

Well, what was it that God is wanting the people of Judah to take notice of? This: …

14 The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed;

for unto this day they drink none,
but obey their father’s commandment:

And then God contrasts the Rechabites’ obedience to Jonadab to the disobedience of Judah to himself.

notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, [rising early and speaking/persistently/over and over again];
but ye hearkened not unto me.

And it’s not just that the people didn’t listen to God. They also ignored the prophets that he sent to them.

15 I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, [rising up early and/persistently/over and over again] sending them, saying,

Return ye now every man from his evil way,
and amend your doings,
and go not after other gods to serve them,

and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers:

but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.

And, as we’ve heard often in this book, this kind of disobedience had to be punished.

16 Because the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them;

but this people hath not hearkened unto me:

17 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel;

Behold, I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the [evil/disaster] that I have pronounced against them:

because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard;
and I have called unto them, but they have not answered.

God’s Promise to the Rechabites (35:18-19)

But that’s not where God leaves it. God finishes this chapter by giving a promise to the Rechabites.

18 ¶ [And/But/Then] Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites,

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;

Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father,
and kept all his precepts,
and done according unto all that he hath commanded you:

19 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;

Jonadab the son of Rechab shall [not/never] [want/lack] a [man/male descendant] to [stand before/serve] me for ever.

So, God promises that there will always be a Rechabite to serve the Lord always. This is one of those promises that we don’t have anything else in Scripture that would allow us to verify that it’s happened. But God said it would happen and we can believe that it has indeed happened.

Application/Summary/Conclusion

So, what do we see in this chapter that we as New Testament Christians can learn from?

We see that God loves obedience. Even if that obedience is to some obscure command issued by an authority figure a long time ago. And yet, he loves obedience to himself and his word even more.

We also see that God hates when people disobey him. And especially when that disobedience takes the form of idolatry, the Lord is often moved to punish.

And yet, that punishment is often long-delayed. In the case of this chapter, the final punishment wouldn’t come for another decade. So, we see God’s patience as well in this chapter – allowing people a long time to repent.

Because that’s what he ultimately wants. He wants people to Submit to His Authority. And when they do, he often sees fit to bless them.