Jeremiah 27 Commentary: To start, let’s just note the progression of Jeremiah 27, 28, and 29.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Chapter 27 Summary
In what we’ll be studying right now – Jeremiah 27 – we’re going to see Jeremiah giving a message from God to both the nations surrounding Judah as well as Judah itself – both to the king of Judah and to the priests and all the people of Judah. The message is Submit to Babylon. And the Lord has Jeremiah act out that submission by constructing a yoke – the kind worn by oxen – and then putting that yoke on his neck. This was to serve as a symbol of servitude to Babylon.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Chapter 28 Summary
Then in the next chapter, Jeremiah 28, a false prophet comes and breaks that yoke off Jeremiah’s neck. Then that false prophet utters a false prophesy. The Lord then gives that false prophet a true prophesy concerning himself that involves his death. A few months later that false prophet indeed does die.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Chapter 29 Summary
And last, in Jeremiah 29 the Lord addresses those who have submitted to Babylon – those who are in exile in the nation of Babylon. His message to them is to live well in exile. Seek the good of the city in which they find themselves. Don’t listen to agitators who are claiming that they will return to Judah in a few short years. It will actually take 70 years for them to be allowed to return to Judah – despite what their false prophets are telling them. So, the people were to do good in captivity and seek the welfare of the city in which they live. And finally also in Jeremiah 29, God singles out a few of the false prophets for special punishment.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Themes of Chapters 27-29
So, in these three chapters – Jeremiah 27-29 – we have at least two major recurring themes. One is submission to Babylon. The other theme is rejection of false prophets. And the former can happen only as they do the latter. That is, they will submit to Babylon only as they reject the false prophets. Because those false prophets are doing everything they can to convince the people that the Lord actually wants them to resist Babylon.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Yokes and Bonds
So, in Jeremiah 27:1-11, we have God telling Jeremiah to make yokes and bonds and then to command obedience of the nations to Babylon.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: The Scene
And first, Jeremiah sets the scene in Jeremiah 27:1.
KJV Jeremiah 27:1 ¶ In the beginning of the reign of [Jehoiakim/Zedekiah] the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
We’ll continue soon. But first, we need to note something in this verse.
I need to point out a seeming discrepancy here. What king does this verse mention? It has “Jehoiakim.” He was the king who came after Jehoahaz. Jehoahaz reigned for a few months right after Josiah died. So, Jehoiakim was the second king after Josiah.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Verse 3
But let me point our attention forward to Jeremiah 27:3. There, Jeremiah is told to send a message to five nations that surrounded Judah at the time. And that verse ends by mentioning which king? It speaks of “Zedekiah.”
Now, Zedekiah was the last king of Judah. After Jehoiakim dies, then Jehoiachin reigns for a few months and then the king of Babylon exiles him and replaces him with a man named Mataniah, whose name he then changes to Zedekiah.
So, what we have is Jeremiah 27:1 speaking of king Jehoiakim’s reign. But then in Jeremiah 27:3 God is speaking of doing something under the reign of a king who would come after the death of Jehoiakim. So, this is starting to get a little confusing.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Verse 12
What’s more, Jeremiah 27:12 records Jeremiah’s response to the commands that God is giving him in these first 11 verses of the chapter. And immediately, Jeremiah “spake also to Zedekiah king of Judah.” But again, if Jeremiah 27:1 is really telling us that this all happened in the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign, then why – and even how – did Jeremiah speak to Zedekiah – a king who reigns only after Jehoiakim’s death??
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: 28:1
Let’s consider one more issue with the mention of Jehoiakim in Jeremiah 27:1. Jeremiah 28 – the next chapter in this book – records the response of a false prophet to God’s message through Jeremiah in this chapter. When does that event in Jeremiah 28 occur? Jeremiah 28:1 says, “And it came to pass the same year, in the beginning of the reign of [whom?] Zedekiah king of Judah.”
So, if Jeremiah 28 is in the “same year” as Jeremiah 27, then we’d expect the king to be … Jehoiakim, according to Jeremiah 27:1. But it’s actually mentioned as “Zedekiah.”
Do you see the difficulty here? Several factors point to the events in Jeremiah 27 as occurring during the reign of Zedekiah. But the one statement in Jeremiah 27:1 indicates that these things happened during whose reign? Jehoiakim’s.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Manuscripts?
This is when you want to know what the Hebrew manuscripts say. And apparently almost all of them say “Jehoiakim” in Jeremiah 27:1. But a few have “Zedekiah” there instead.
So, there’s some manuscript evidence to say that the king mentioned in Jeremiah 27:1 should be “Zedekiah” rather than “Jehoiakim.” There’s also textual evidence to strongly indicate this as well – with the several references to Zedekiah in this chapter and the next chapter.
So, I would say this is a scribal error. God would have originally breathed out “Zedekiah” in Jeremiah 27:1 but a copier of the text would have accidentally written “Jehoiakim” instead.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: 26:1
Why? Is there any reason we can think of that would influence a scribe to accidentally write “Jehoiakim?” Look at Jeremiah 26:1. The chapter immediately preceding Jeremiah 27 starts this way, “In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah…” So, Jehoiakim was mentioned at the beginning of the last chapter. And so perhaps that influenced a scribe to write his name at the beginning of this chapter.
But when it comes down to it, I do think that we’re in the reign of Zedekiah in this chapter. I mean, we have to be, considering the two other references to him in this chapter as well as the reference to him in the next chapter. The events in Jeremiah 27 occur during his reign.
What we’re about to read then occurs around 593/4 BC. We’re in the start of the reign of the last king of Judah. Jeremiah survived the reign of the wicked and bloodthirsty Jehoiakim. And now God has a message for his people Judah.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Make Yokes and Bonds
To start, God tells Jeremiah to construct some farm equipment in Jeremiah 27:2.
2 Thus saith the LORD to me;
Make thee bonds and yokes,
and put them upon thy neck,
These bonds and yokes are what they would put on animals to keep control of them. This was something that most humans would not wear. As a result, this would make Jeremiah stand out at least when he was wearing them.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Send the Yokes and Bonds to the Nations
And yet, Jeremiah wasn’t the only one who was going to be exposed to these symbols of submission. God wanted the nations surrounding Judah to get these as well, according to Jeremiah 27:3.
3 And send [them/messages] to the king of Edom, and
to the king of Moab, and
to the king of the Ammonites, and
to the king of Tyrus, and
to the king of Zidon,
by the hand of the messengers which come to Jerusalem unto Zedekiah king of Judah;
So, the nations to the southeast, more directly east, and then north of Judah were to receive these bonds and yokes. And these pieces of equipment were to be sent with emissaries from those nations who visited Zedekiah, the current king of Judah at this time.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Message to the Nations
And, of course, determining the significance of receiving these bonds and yokes would be like receiving a bit or bridle or saddle in your mailbox from some anonymous sender. You would be clueless, unless you had an explanation that accompanied the package.
And so, that’s just what the Lord provides for these nations in Jeremiah 27:4-11.
4 And command them to say unto their masters,
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;
Thus shall ye say unto your masters;
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: The Lord is Creator and Can Delegate Control of His Creation
And the first part of the message is this. The Lord is Creator and can delegate control of his creation. That’s according to Jeremiah 27:5.
5 I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground,
by my great power and by my outstretched arm,
That’s the creation. Now, the delegation.
and have given it unto whom it seemed [meet/right/fit] unto me.
So, what God creates, he can delegate to the sub-authority of various parts of his creation.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: The Lord Has Delegated the Nations to Babylon
And in fact, the Lord goes on in Jeremiah 27:6 to identify the nation to whom he delegated much of his creation in those days – Babylon.
6 And now have I given all these lands into the [hand/power] of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant;
and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.
So, Babylon has been given all lands and even the animals – everything!
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: The Nations Will Serve Babylon and One Day Be Served by Babylon
Next, the Lord gives a very general and high-level timeline of the events to come concerning Babylon in Jeremiah 27:7.
7 And all nations shall serve him [Nebuchadnezzar], and his son [Evil-Merodach who is mentioned in Jeremiah 52], and his son’s son [Belshazzar], until the very time [i.e. to fall] of his land [come/comes]:
and then [the tables will turn and] many nations and great kings shall [serve themselves of him/make him their servant/subjugate Babylon].
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Punishment for Not Recognizing God’s Delegation of Authority
And so, now that these nations know God’s delegated authority over them, the Lord makes known to them that they will need to be punished if they don’t recognize and respond correctly to that authority in Jeremiah 27:8.
8 ¶ And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon,
and that will not put their neck under the yoke [i.e., of servitude] of the king of Babylon,
that nation will I punish, saith the LORD, with [the sword/war], and with [the famine/starvation], and with [the pestilence/disease], until I have consumed them by his hand.
So, from this verse we finally see the significance of the yokes and bonds. Just like a human takes a farm animal and harnesses it with a yoke and bonds and thus brings it into submission and service for its master, so too will these nations be brought under the power of the King of Babylon.
If they refuse to submit, there will be some serious punishment.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Don’t Listen to Prophets Who Are Contradicting the Lord’s Message
Now, there is a groups of antagonists who don’t like that message of submissions to God’s delegated authority. And strangely enough – and as we’ve seen so far in this book – this is a group who claim to speak on behalf of deity. They’re false prophets. And God tells the nations to not listen to their false prophets who disagree with God’s message in Jeremiah 27:9.
9 Therefore hearken not ye
to your prophets, nor
to [your diviners/those who claim to predict the future by divination], nor
[to your dreamers/by dreams], nor
[to your enchanters/by consulting the dead], nor
[to your sorcerers/by practicing magic],
which speak unto you, saying,
This was the message of the false prophets:
Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: The Result of Listening to the False Prophets
God warns the nations about listening to their false prophets rather than his true message in Jeremiah 27:10.
10 For they prophesy a lie unto you,
And this lie has some significant repercussions if one listens to be believes it, such as…
to remove you far from your land;
and that I should drive you out,
and ye should perish.
So, exile for any nation that listens to false prophets who contradict God’s warning of submitting to Babylon.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Promise of Remaining in the Land for Those Who Recognize God’s Delegated Authority
On the other hand, any nation that recognizes and submits to God’s delegated authority according to Jeremiah 27:11 will be allowed to remain in their land.
11 But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those will I let remain still in their own land, saith the LORD; and they shall till it, and dwell therein.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Summary of Verses 1-11
And that ends the initial communication of the Lord to Jeremiah in this chapter. In summary, Jeremiah was to make bonds and yokes, put one on himself, and then send a few to the neighboring nations, sending with the yokes a message demanding submission to Babylon.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Message to Zedekiah
And now, for the rest of the chapter, we see – not what we might expect. I would expect that the rest of the chapter would record this message going to the nations mentioned earlier. But the rest of the chapter chronicles Jeremiah’s delivering a similar message to people in Judah.
Jeremiah ends this chapter addressing the priests and people in Jeremiah 27:16-22.
But first in Jeremiah 27:12-15, Jeremiah addresses Zedekiah the king concerning his duty to submit to Babylon.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Submit to God’s Delegated Authority
The Prophet starts out telling Zedekiah of his need to submit to God’s delegated authority in Jeremiah 27:12.
12 ¶ I spake also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying,
Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Disobedience Will Result in Destruction
So, that’s the command. And disobedience against that command will result in destruction, according to Jeremiah 27:13.
13 Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by [the sword/war], by [the famine/starvation], and by [the pestilence/disease], as the LORD hath spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?
In other words, Judah will be no exception from the general rule that God laid out earlier in this chapter.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Don’t Listen to the False Prophets Who Are Denying What God is Saying
And just like with those nations, Judah also and their king had to be warned against listening to those prophets who were proclaiming that what God just said was not true. That’s Jeremiah 27:14.
14 Therefore hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying,
Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:
for they prophesy a lie unto you.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: False Prophets Exposed
And then in the last verse in this section where Jeremiah is addressing Zedekiah – Jeremiah 27:15 – God exposes the false prophets.
15 For I have not sent them, saith the LORD, yet they prophesy a lie in my name;
And here’s the result of the “ministry” of these prophets.
that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, ye, and the prophets that prophesy unto you.
So, as confidently as these prophets proclaim God’s peace to people who have no peace with God, these very prophets who are so confident will meet their end. The very prophesy from the Lord which they despise will seal their doom.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Summary of Verses 12-15
So, that’s Jeremiah 27:12-15 where Jeremiah addresses, not the nations, but his own nation and the king of that nation, Zedekiah. Zedekiah must submit to God’s delegated authority. If he doesn’t, destruction is inevitable. And Zedekiah must not listen to the prophets who are saying just the opposite of what Jeremiah – and ultimately, the Lord – is saying.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Message to the Priests and People
Now, on to the last of the three sections of Jeremiah 27.
The first section was a message from the Lord to Jeremiah concerning the nations and their need to submit to God’s delegated authority, which was Babylon.
The second section was Jeremiah delivering that same message to Zedekiah.
And now, lastly, in Jeremiah 27:16-22 Jeremiah addresses the priests and people in general, according to Jeremiah 27:16.
16 ¶ Also I spake to the priests and to all this people, saying,
Thus saith the LORD;
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Don’t Listen to False Prophets
And we’ve seen in the other two messages usually something of the following order: 1) Submit to Babylon and then 2) Don’t listen to false prophets who are contradicting that message.
But this message to the priests and people in general generally reverses course and tells them to 1) Ignore those false prophets who were lying to them on behalf of God. And then 2) to serve Babylon.
Hearken not to the words of your prophets that prophesy unto you, saying,
And actually, here is a more detailed revelation as to what exactly the prophets were saying. They were denying that God would send Babylon to destroy them. But positively, this is what they were promising to the people.
Behold, the vessels of the LORD’S house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon:
And yet, this was a lie.
for they prophesy a lie unto you.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: Serve Babylon or Perish
So, now that we’ve heard a warning against the prophets, God gives the priests and people the command to serve Babylon with an attendant warning.
17 Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and live: wherefore should this city [be laid waste/become a ruin/be made a pile of rubble]?
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: The Prophets Should Be Praying for God’s Help
Next, in Jeremiah 27:18, God makes somewhat of a sarcastic suggestion as to what these false prophets really ought to do. Instead of spreading lies and contradicting the Lord’s words, why don’t they make themselves useful and pray that God will be merciful and turn from his present course of action?
18 But if they be prophets, and
if the word of the LORD be with them,
let them now make intercession to the LORD of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the LORD, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, go not to Babylon.
Jeremiah 27 Commentary: But Even If They Do Pray, the Lord Has Determined Exile
But the reality that is evident from reading the last three verses of this chapter, Jeremiah 27:19-22, is that even if these prophets did turn their attention to pray for the Lord to turn from his determined destruction of his people, yet the Lord’s plans at this point would stand.
19 For thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the [i.e., two bronze] pillars, and concerning the [i.e., large bronze basin called ‘The] sea [’], and concerning the [bases/stands/moveable bronze stands], [and concerning/He has already spoken about] the [residue/rest] of the [vessels/valuable articles] that remain in this city,
20 Which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took not, when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem;
By the way, here’s another reason to see Jeremiah 27:1 as speaking of Zedekiah rather than Jehoiakim. Jeconiah was put on the throne after his father Jehoiakim was deposed. And the fact that all of this is referenced here would indicate that the events recorded here are from a later time – like under the reign of Zedekiah.
OK, we continue.
21 [Yea/Yes/Indeed], thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that remain in the house of the LORD, and in the house of the king of Judah and of Jerusalem;
22 They shall be carried to Babylon, and there shall they be until the day that I visit them, saith the LORD; then will I bring them up, and restore them to this place.
And the Lord does indeed restore these vessels when the Jews returned to Jerusalem under the reign of the Persian king Darius – who would have been represented by those kingdoms that were said earlier in this chapter to serve themselves of Babylon or make Babylon their servant. Darius and Persia was one of those nations.
So, God keeps his promises. You can count on it. If man contradicts God’s promises of either threats or blessings, don’t listen to them. God is true even if every man is a liar.
And we’re not submitting to Babylon, but God has delegated authority over his creation to various groups and individuals. Government is one such group. Parents are another. Spiritual leaders still another. May the Lord help us to submit to these various delegated authorities in our life.
And next time, we’ll see one particular false prophet openly oppose Jeremiah and what results from that in Jeremiah 28.