Jeremiah 26 Commentary: The chapter starts in Jeremiah 26:1 with an introduction that sets the scene for the entire story.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Introduction
KJV Jeremiah 26:1 ¶ In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah [608/609 BC] came this word from the LORD, saying,
Now remember that last time in Jeremiah 25 we were in the time frame of this king mentioned here – Jehoiakim. And in Jeremiah 25 we were in the 4th year of his reign. That was around 605 BC. But now here in Jeremiah 26 we’re told that the events in this chapter happen at the beginning of his reign. That’s a rather vague time reference. I imagine that this would be earlier than his 4th year. It’s probably around his first year.
In other words, we’re in a time period right after the exile of Jehoahaz, who reigned for only three months after king Josiah’s death. So, here we are in Jeremiah 26 likely only a few months after the death of one of the godliest kings of Judah.
And we’re going to see remnants of the godliness of what was, under Josiah. But that fading godliness is now going to be transitioning out and being replaced with the ungodliness that characterized Judah’s last four kings who came after Josiah.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Command to Preach in the Temple
Now that we’ve been introduced to this chapter, let’s get into the main section of it.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Where to Go
What we see next in Jeremiah 26:2-6 is God’s commanding Jeremiah to preach in the temple.
2 Thus saith the LORD; [might be a repeating of 7:1-15]
Stand in the court of the LORD’S house,
and speak unto all [people coming from] the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them;
[diminish/omit/leave out] not a word:
3 [If so be/Perhaps/Maybe] they will [hearken/listen/pay attention], and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the [evil/calamity/destruction], which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.
So, that’s God’s command to Jeremiah to go to the Temple where he will preach. In the next few verses God will specify what Jeremiah is to say. But let’s say a few things about these two verses first.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Chapter 26 vs. 7
Some have noticed similarities between this chapter and Jeremiah 7. Remember Jeremiah 7? That’s where God told the people through Jeremiah that he’s looking for inner righteousness working out of them into outward righteousness and not just the outward forms and rituals. He wanted ritual. But he didn’t want the ritual apart from the righteousness.
Now, I use two resources regularly for these messages. The first is the NET Bible’s study notes. They’re very helpful and insightful. The second resource is a commentary in the series entitled Teaching the Text. And I mention that both to direct you to materials that might be helpful for you in studying the Scripture and because I want to mention that both of these resources mention this possibility, that Jeremiah 26 and Jeremiah 7 might be rehearsing the same event.
And as much as I tend to appreciate these two books, I’m just not sure that these two chapters record the same event.
Consider this. Over Jeremiah’s several-decade long ministry in Judah, how many times do you think he went to the Temple? The main center of true religion. It wasn’t just one time, right? So, just because we read that Jeremiah was told to preach in the Temple in two different chapters, that doesn’t mean that this is the same event.
Plus there’s even a little bit of difference in where Jeremiah is told to go in Jeremiah 7 and 26. Jeremiah 7 has God saying “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house”. But here in Jeremiah 26, he commands Jeremiah to stand – not in the gate – but in the court of the Lord’s house.
So, the case for or against these two chapters – 7 and 26 – recording the same event is not undisputable either way. But I tend to think the evidence of these two chapters recording two separate events is stronger.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Is God Uncertain?
The other thing to note about Jeremiah 26:2-3 is the hint that God is uncertain about the outcome of Jeremiah’s preaching. He says to Jeremiah that “maybe” or “perhaps” or “if so be” that the people will hear his message and turn from their sin.
But doesn’t God know the end from the beginning? Isn’t he the one who numbered all of our days before a one of them existed? Isn’t he sovereign? Isn’t he the one who foretells what’s going to happen in the future – precisely because he’s working all things according to the counsel of his own will?
The answer is yes, he is all knowing. He is all powerful and uses his power to get this creation to exactly where he wants us to be. His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
And yet, we can recognize some mystery in relation to the way God works. We don’t understand everything about him and how he works and how he interacts with his creation. If we did understand all of this, then we’d be better than God in some way.
Let’s consider another example of how we don’t quite understand how God works.
God created man and willed for them to obey him. But Adam and Eve did not obey. Did that thwart God’s will? In a way, yes. But in a very important way, no. How could God have sent Christ to die for our sin without sin being committed?
Oh, so then God wanted Adam and Eve to sin so that he could send Christ? No. He didn’t want them to sin. He wanted them to obey him.
Oh, so then God is not in control and his will was thwarted. No. He’s in control and his will stands.
And we’re just left scratching our heads and hopefully giving glory to this God whose ways are above and beyond us.
So, back to Jeremiah 26. Does God know how the people will react to Jeremiah’s message? I think so. Does he hold out hope that maybe they’ll turn to him? Somehow, apparently yes. Does that make sense to our finite minds? Not fully. Is that OK? It has to be.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: What to Say
So, now that God has assigned a place for Jeremiah to station himself – in the court, not the gate – he’s going to tell him what to say in Jeremiah 26:4-6.
4 And thou shalt say unto them,
Thus saith the LORD;
If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you,
5 To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, [both rising up early, and sending them/again and again], [(] but ye have not hearkened [)];
6 Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city [a/an] [i.e., example to be used in a] curse to all the nations of the earth.
So, this is a warning. If they don’t submit to God’s authority by obeying his commands which his servants the prophets gave, then God will make the Temple like Shiloh.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Shiloh
Let’s remind ourselves of Shiloh. It was a city in northern Israel. It’s where Joshua set up the Tabernacle. It’s where Israel gathered to plan and strategize. It’s where Eli and his sons were and where Hannah and her family would visit every year. It’s where Samuel first heard the Lord speak to him. It’s the place where the ark of the covenant was housed.
Then David moved the place of worship to Jerusalem. And yet even in the days of Jeroboam, who took the northern kingdom away from David’s line, there was a prophet in Shiloh. So maybe it still held a religious atmosphere about it, even after the tabernacle and ark were taken away from it.
And you might wonder when Shiloh was abandoned. I mean, God in Jeremiah 7 and now here refers to Shiloh and uses its desertedness and forsakenness to serve as a warning to Judah.
One possibility is that Shiloh was forsaken when David moved the center of worship from that city to Jerusalem. And yet, that wouldn’t be correct.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Psalm 78
Psalm 78 gives us the answer as to when Shiloh was forsaken by God. Psalm 78 tells us how good God was to Israel. He brought them out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan and gave them all sorts of good things. But then let me read to you how they responded to God’s goodness in Psalm 78:56-61.
KJV Psalm 78:56 Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies: 57 But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. 58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images. 59 When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: 60 So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; 61 And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy’s hand.
So, here’s a God-inspired explanation of when he actually forsook Shiloh. It was when he sent the northern kingdom of Israel into exile for their sins. That’s when he forsook Shiloh.
And so, the warning to Judah here in Jeremiah 26 is one of exile. That’s what God is threatening when he threatens to make the Temple in Jerusalem like Shiloh. It’s exile – through an invading conquering enemy.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Reaction to Jeremiah’s Message
Well, this message that God gave to Jeremiah really is akin to God today threatening to make our country like – maybe the World Trade Center or New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina – only ten times worse. Maybe comparing our nation to Syria or Libya and the devastation those countries have experienced would be closer. And yet, even those comparisons don’t do justice to the impact of this threat. God is threatening Judah with punishment similar to that of a former national tragedy suffered by its neighbor and former brethren, Israel.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: The Christian Message
We Christians have a message from God for people just like Jeremiah had a message. Our message – the message we ourselves first had to hear and accept with humility – is that people are so wicked that they stand to face an eternity of suffering in Hell. That punishment far overshadows the threat that Jeremiah was giving.
And how do people like that message? Our message? How do people like being faced with the choice of surrendering to Christ or suffering eternal punishment? How do the proud people in our country react to hearing that their way is wrong and that they need to change? How do people react to hearing that there is something fundamentally flawed with them and that they are not alright?
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: My Testimony
A few months after I was saved, I was put in a situation where I ended up telling some family members what had changed in what I believed. I think I only had time to relate how my views on homosexuality had changed according to Scripture.
So, I was stunned when two of my family members took me outside and excoriated me like they had never done before for any reason. All the years of my vanity, profanity, and foolishness they could just wink at. But when all of a sudden I’m believing God’s word and applying that belief to life issues then in their mind I was to be reprimanded, warned, and practically threatened.
Two other family members that had gathered for that weekend, I was told later, were weeping because of me that night. Now, these two members of my family had never wept for me as far as I know when I was erring from truth and going astray and committing evil left and right. But all of a sudden when they got word that I was submitting to God’s authority, that’s when the tears started to flow.
And so, the point is that when you submit to God’s authority you might think everything is going to be just great. Life will be easy. People will respond joyfully. They’ll be ready to hear you.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: People React
That’s just not the case. And it wasn’t the case with Jeremiah. He obeyed God and delivered the message given to him.
And how did the people react? That’s recorded for us in Jeremiah 26:7-9.
7 ¶ So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.
Now, that’s a rather ominous note. Because the priests and the prophets who worked in the Temple in Jeremiah’s day – and especially in Jehoiakim’s day – didn’t really want to hear what the Lord had to say about anything that didn’t involve their physical and material blessing.
8 Now it came to pass,
when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak unto all the people,
that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying,
Thou [shalt surely/must/deserve to] die. [dying you will die] [the penalty for false prophesy]
9 [Why hast/How dare] thou prophesied [i.e., not asking for information but rather rebuking J] in the [name/authority] of the LORD, saying,
This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant?
And all the people were [gathered against/crowded around] Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.
So, basically, the priests and false prophets and generally all the people in the Temple did not like what they heard from Jeremiah.
They got the message, though. They were able to repeat it back to Jeremiah.
And what is evident from their comments to him is that they considered his message – catch this – a false prophesy. The penalty for false prophesy was death. So, Jeremiah, a true prophet of the Lord, is labeled by the false prophets of his day as a false prophet.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Officials Set Up Court
Well, a serious charge like false prophecy under the Mosaic Law needed to be seriously evaluated. And so, in Jeremiah 26:10-11 we have the officials of Jerusalem set up court to consider the charges pressed against Jeremiah.
10 ¶ When the [princes/officials] of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the [king’s house/royal palace] unto the house of the LORD, and [sat down/set up court] in the entry of the [new gate/New Gate] of the LORD’S house.
Then the false religious leaders and their followers officially make their charge against Jeremiah.
11 Then [spake/made their charges] the priests and the prophets unto the [princes/officials] and to all the people, saying,
This man is worthy to die;
for he hath prophesied against this city,
as ye have heard with your ears.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Jeremiah’s Defense
Then we have Jeremiah making his defense to the officials in Jeremiah 26:12-15.
12 ¶ Then [spake/made his defense] Jeremiah unto all the [princes/officials] and to all the people, saying,
The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.
13 Therefore now [amend/correct] your ways and your doings,
and obey the voice of the LORD your God;
and the LORD will [repent him/change his mind] of the [evil/misfortune] that he hath pronounced against you.
14 As for me, behold, I am in your hand:
do with me as seemeth good and [meet/right] unto you.
15 But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof:
for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.
So, Jeremiah’s main argument is that God is the one who gave the message to him so that he could deliver it to the people. And so he’s not prophesying falsely.
He then advises them in two directions. One is to urge them that they would actually listen to God and submit to his authority so that they might live. And second, they can kill him if they want – but they’ll only bring more guilt on themselves, seeing that Jeremiah is innocent.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Verdict of the Officials
Well, what verdict do the officials reach? Jeremiah 26:16.
16 ¶ Then said the [princes/officials] and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets;
This man is not worthy to die:
for he hath spoken to us [in the name/under the authority] of the LORD our God.
Note the fickleness of “the people”. First they’re with the false prophets. Now they’re on Jeremiah’s side.
But thankfully, the officials render a “not guilty” verdict for Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Support of the Elders
Now, the officials get some support in their decision from the elders of Judah in Jeremiah 26:17-19.
17 Then rose up [certain/some] of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying,
18 Micah [the Morasthite/of Moresheth] prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah,
and spake to all the people of Judah, saying,
Thus saith the LORD of hosts;
Zion shall be plowed like a field,
and Jerusalem shall become [heaps/ruins/rubble],
and the [mountain of the house/temple mount] as [the high places of a forest/a mere wooded ridge]. [Mic 3:12]
19 Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death?
did he not [fear/reverence] the LORD, and besought the LORD,
and the LORD [repented him/changed his mind] [of the evil/about the misfortune] which he had pronounced against them?
Thus might we [procure/commit] great evil against our [souls/selves].
This is where I see the waning influence of past godliness in this chapter. Listen to these elders. They’re pointing people back to Micah and King Hezekiah. Micah gave a faithful message from the Lord in his day – maybe about 100 years before the events here in Jeremiah 26. And King Hezekiah humbly received the rebuke of the prophet. And God was moved to be merciful to them.
And these elders – probably most or all of whom were around in Josiah’s day – were of the correct opinion that this is how it should be. Surely, the example set by Micah and Hezekiah was how the king and people should respond to a faithful message from a true prophet.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Story of Urijah
And yet, the story to follow in Jeremiah 26:20-23 – maybe added by Baruch later, though certainly still under inspiration, no matter how it was put in here – shows that the influence of Josiah and the elders who shared the same beliefs and approach when it came to spiritual matters was completely nullified by the wicked king Jehoiakim.
Jehoiakim – probably later on in his 11-year reign – had a true prophet speak words of judgment similar to both Jeremiah’s and Micah’s. But unlike these elders who were influenced by Josiah and unlike the godly Hezekiah, wicked Jehoiakim killed that prophet.
20 ¶ [And/Indeed] there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the LORD, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjathjearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land [according/similar] to all the words of Jeremiah:
This prophet said nothing significantly different from what Jeremiah just said in this chapter. And by the way, this story alerts us to the fact that Jeremiah wasn’t the only prophet in Judah in his day. There were apparently others who were still faithful to the Lord, though they were few and the people didn’t listen to them.
Now, here’s Jehoiakim’s very un-Hezekiah-ish response to this true prophet.
21 And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his [mighty men/bodyguards], and all the [princes/officials], heard his words, the king sought to put him to death:
Now, here’s one difference between this Urijah and Jeremiah – Jeremiah stayed where he was but Urijah fled.
but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt;
But Urijah couldn’t get away from his wicked king.
22 And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt.
23 And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him unto Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.
Now, the name Achbor is found a number of times in Scripture in relation to Josiah. So, here again we see the waning of godly influence from the past. Josiah was righteous, but his son Jehoiakim isn’t. Achbor was one who was pleased to follow Josiah’s righteous reforms, but his son Elnathan is one who ends up playing a role in the murder of a righteous prophet of the Lord.
Jeremiah 26 Commentary: Ahikam’s Help
Well, if this is how Jehoiakim dealt with faithful prophets, how is it that Jeremiah lived through Jehoiakim’s entire reign and remained faithful to the Lord?
One part of the explanation is that the Lord had promised to protect Jeremiah way back when he commissioned him.
But the second and human element is to be found in Jeremiah 26:24.
24 ¶ Nevertheless the [hand/influence/power] of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.
So then, in addition to the elders who were influenced by Josiah from times past, we have one man in particular who was helping Jeremiah. His name is Ahikam. He too was around under Josiah’s reign. His son actually becomes the Governor of Judah after the destruction of Jerusalem. And this man with the remaining influence he could exert on national affairs was a help to Jeremiah.
So in conclusion, there are several interesting comparisons and contrasts in this chapter. Jerusalem will become like Shiloh. But Jehoiakim is not like his father Josiah or like his ancestor Hezekiah. Urijah is like Jeremiah. Only, Urijah dies at Jehoiakim’s hand while Jeremiah lived. Maybe that’s because Urijah fled, but we don’t know for sure. In terms of message, both Jeremiah and Urijah were very similar to Micah of Moresheth. And all along through these comparisons and contrasts we get the message that The Influence of Past Godliness in Judah is Waning.
And with that, we’re finished with Jeremiah 26 and that means we’re half way through the 52 chapters of the book of Jeremiah!