Jeremiah 29 Commentary: In the mid sixteen-hundreds, a group of apparently Christian men in England gathered and identified themselves as the “Fifth Monarchy.” Here’s how they adopted that name.
They considered the prophecy in Daniel chapter 2 where Daniel foretells of four coming world powers – Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. And these men noted that there was a fifth monarchy that came after those four kingdoms. That fifth kingdom was the kingdom of Christ which would put an end to all earthly rule.
So, these men came together to bring in this fifth kingdom – this fifth monarchy. They viewed it as their job to bring in the kingdom of Christ and the blessings associated with it. They took up arms and caused a great disturbance in England until they were defeated in just a few days. Their erroneous views of future blessings brought physical death to themselves and disrepute to not only their movement but also to the new religious group of that time known as the Baptists, since Baptists were somehow mistakenly associated with this movement.
This Fifth Monarchy group noted future blessings promised by God. And yet they erred when it came to the matter of what a person should do until those future blessings come. In their case, they were trying to bring those blessings to pass and the results were deadly.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Pre-Exilic Judah
Something similar is happening in our passage in Jeremiah. So, please turn to Jeremiah 29.
We’re going to be studying the first 14 verses of this chapter. And what we’re going to study in these verses and then the rest of the verses in this chapter later on is that the people of Judah were being led to think wrongly about the blessings promised to them which were yet future. The false prophets were leading the people to believe that the Babylonian exile would be short – maybe a few years, instead of the 70 years which God had already promised. And it seems that these false prophets were encouraging the people to be restless and agitated – maybe even violent. And all of this, in order to bring those promised future blessings to themselves sooner than God intended.
So, God – knowing their hearts – sends them a message through Jeremiah intended to guide them in how to think of these promised blessings and what to do until they come.
So, in Jeremiah 29:1-14 right now we’ll be considering the topic Until Future Blessings Come.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: For Us Christians
And this is not a message that Christians know nothing about. Struggling to deal with the concept of blessings which are afar off was an issue not only for Old Testament Jews.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Post-Millennialism
There’s a significant portion of Christians who believe that the Church in some way will be responsible for bringing in the Millennium – Christ’s thousand-year reign. That theological system is known as Post-Millennialism. The idea is that Christ will come after – post – the thousand years of blessings and peace and prosperity which the Church will supposedly usher in.
And we can at least realize that when you believe that you play some part in brining Christ back to earth, that will affect the way you think of the future blessings of the Millennium and the way you act and what you are expecting related to these realities.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Prosperity Gospel
The Prosperity Gospel is another way that those who claim to be Christian have responded to the reality of future blessings. The Prosperity Gospel teaches that basically the future blessings are here already! And all you need to do is *fill-in-the-blank*. Usually filling in that blank involves either giving money to the Property Gospel preacher or trying to believe really hard that those blessings are meant for you to have – not in the future – but right now.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: 2 Timothy & 1 Corinthians
And actually, professing Christians struggling with what to do until future blessings come is not something peculiar to our day and age.
The Apostle Paul wrote 2 Timothy as his last letter. And in it he had to identify two men who were teaching that the resurrection had already passed. At the very least, these guys failed to realize that the future blessing of the resurrection was indeed future rather than past.
You get a hint in 1 Corinthians that the church in Corinth had adopted the stance that future blessings had already come because they were thinking that they were really reigning – apparently in a Millennial sense! And Paul has to say in effect, “I wish!”
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Transition to the Text
So, I trust that the Lord will help us both to understand what this passage meant to the Jews of Jeremiah’s day as well as how to apply it to our own day and how we ought to believe, think, and live until future blessings come.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Setting the Scene
The first three verses of Jeremiah 29 sets the scene for the entirety of Jeremiah 29.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Author & Recipients
In verse 1, we’re given details about the author and recipients of Jeremiah 29.
KJV Jeremiah 29:1 ¶ Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem
unto the [residue/rest] of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon;
So, what we have in this chapter then is communication from Jeremiah, who is in Jerusalem at the time. And he’s corresponding with the elders, priests, prophets, and all the people who went into exile.
But when did that happen? When did these folks go into exile?
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Timeframe
That’s what Jeremiah 29:2 answers. In verse 2 we’re given the timeframe of this message.
2 ([i.e., This happened] After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen [i.e., mother], and the [eunuchs/court officials/palace officials], the [princes/leaders] of Judah and Jerusalem, and the [carpenters/craftsmen], and the [smiths/metal workers], were departed from Jerusalem;)
OK, so this message was sent to the Jewish exiles in Babylon after Jeconiah was taken there – along with all of the talented people of Judah.
So, again, the order of kings in Judah’s last days goes: 1) Josiah, 2) Jehoahaz/Shallum, 3) Jehoiakim, 4) Jeconiah (the one spoken of here), and so that means that we’re now in the reign of the last king of Judah, who is… 5) Zedekiah. And we’ll hear his name mentioned again in the next verse.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Couriers
Speaking of the next verse, it’s there in Jeremiah 29:3 that we learn how this message was conveyed to the exiles in Babylon all the way from little Judah. There were couriers who conveyed the message to Babylon.
3 [i.e., The letter was sent] By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) [saying/the letter said],
Now, there are two names that are very familiar to us here. Those names are Shaphan and Hilkiah. Shaphan was a scribe – one who copied the Law and was probably an expert in that Law. Only in this day apparently the Law had been somehow lost. But that’s when the other man, Hilkiah, who was a priest, found the book of the Law in the Temple as they were renovating it. So, Hilkiah found the Law and then gave it to Shaphan the scribe who brought it to Josiah and read that book of the Law to king Josiah.
But that was – by this point – about 3 decades ago. And these folks came and went. And now we’re not seeing them delivering a message from God in this verse, but we’re actually seeing their sons. And their sons aren’t conveying the book of the Law to the king of Judah – nevertheless, they do have a message from God to deliver to a king – the king of Babylon.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: God Speaks
And so, God’s message to those Jews in exile takes up the rest of the chapter. But again, we’ll only be focused on Jeremiah 29:4-14 right now.
And remember the theme of these 14 verses. How to live until future blessing come. God will give these Jews some instruction that, again, I think can be helpful to even us Christians.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Recognize God’s Sovereignty
So, God begins by advising his people to recognize his sovereignty in their difficult situations.
4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all [that are carried away captives/the exiles], whom I have [caused to be carried away/sent into exile] from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
So, notice first that God takes responsibility for this exile. Babylon was not where these Jews wanted to be. And yet, that’s where they found themselves.
And they surely wanted to return to Judah. And we’re going to see later in the chapter that there were false prophets who were causing them to get agitated and impatient about waiting for God’s promised restoration of them to Judah. But remember, we’ve seen already that the blessing of restoration was a promise to be fulfilled – not in 2 years like the false prophet Hananiah said in Jeremiah 28 – but in 70 years. That’s a long time and requires a lot of patience.
So, this might be the first thing to help us when we’re waiting for future blessings – when you as a Christian are waiting and longing for the return of Christ and your perfect likeness to him. No more sin. No more pain. Reigning with Christ. All of those blessings – which are yet future. Well, as you’re waiting for those realities – those future blessings – remember this. God has put you where you are right now and he wants you there. He doesn’t want you agitated and impatient. He wants you to know that he’s sovereign. He’s got it under control. Yield your situation in life to him.
You’re in a job you don’t like? Or you’re a stay-at-home mom and this is just getting to be such a burden to you? Don’t worry about it. Try to find a better job. Try to improve your home situation. But don’t get desperate. Don’t be agitated. Recognize God’s sovereignty in the matter and just keep going.
You have marriage problems? Or no marriage at all? Again, is God not in control of all of this? Be patient and recognize God’s control over every detail of your life.
So, what should we do while waiting for future promised blessings? First of all, recognize God’s sovereignty over your situation. He has you where he wants you right now and will make sure you get to where you need to go.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Make the Best of Now
Secondly, when waiting for future promised blessings, just make the best of what you have now. That’s what God tells his people in Jeremiah 29:5-7.
And there are four general areas that the Lord wants the exiles to act as if all is normal and to make the best of what they have.
They were to make the best of what they have in the area of homes and gardens. Jeremiah 29:5.
5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them;
and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
The houses gave them shelter. The gardens gave them food. Basically, they were to provide for themselves. And I think the implicit idea is that God would help them in these endeavors. He wasn’t going to thwart their efforts to make the best of what they had in these mundane areas.
The exiles were also to make the best of what they had in the areas of marriage and family. Jeremiah 29:6.
In the first generation…
6 [Take ye wives/Marry],
Then onto the second generation…
and [beget/become the father of/have] sons and daughters;
And that second generation needs spouses…
and take wives for your sons,
and give your daughters to husbands,
So then the third generation can come…
that they [i.e., too] may bear sons and daughters;
And what’s the purpose of all of this marrying and giving in marriage and bearing children?…
that ye may be [increased/multiplied] there,
and [i.e, do] not [diminished/decrease].
God didn’t want his people to dwindle in captivity. Remember, he had a plan for them to return to the land of Judah after 70 years. Again, he wanted them to make the best of what they had. And part of that is the seemingly-mundane areas of marriage and family.
And by the way, it’s not as if this is the sole mission of the church – to get married and raise children, but God does want us Christian parents to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He has things to say about how parents ought to treat children and vice versa. It’s not as if we get to the New Testament and God isn’t really all that interested in family dynamics anymore. Family life for a believer is crucial. How our kids turn out will affect us as individuals, as a church, and it will affect the testimony of Jesus Christ. Let us New Testament Christians who are waiting for future blessings not ignore the work we have to do in our families. God doesn’t despise that kind of work.
Well, next, God wanted the exiles to make the most of what they had in the civil or broader-community realm. Jeremiah 29:7.
7 And seek the [peace/welfare] of the city [whither/where] I have [caused you to be carried away captives/sent you into exile],
and pray unto the LORD [for it/on its behalf]:
for in [the peace thereof/its welfare] shall ye have [peace/welfare].
So, both do good in your community and pray to God for it. Actively seek to build up the pagan city you’re dwelling in. That’s God’s desire for his people in exile.
Now, that’s not to say in any way that God wanted his people to engage in the religion of that pagan city. No, indeed – he wanted his exiles to pray to him – not to false Gods.
But he did want his people to make the best of their civil or community situation.
And it’s the same with us Christians. None of us gain anything from civil turmoil – even if it seems to improve the situation of our favorite political ideology. Factions and strife and turmoil are not good things for anyone ultimately.
And neither is capitulating and bowing down to false systems. We need to be conciliatory and seek peace. And then there’s this limit beyond which we must not pass if we’re to be true to the Lord.
As an example, I can speak kindly to all my relatives and seek their welfare and try to do my best for them. I can pray for them and hope the Lord saves them. But when it comes down to it, there are certain things I just can’t do with or for them because of God’s word. It’s a balance. It’s oftentimes and uneasy balance. It’s nuanced. And certain people struggle more with nuances than others. But if we’re to live a life that’s pleasing to God, part of it is realizing those nuances and navigating them for God’s glory.
Well, so that’s the second thing that God wanted his exiled people to do while they were waiting for future blessings – make the best of what you have. Be a do-gooder. Live your life in an honorable way. Seek peace where it’s possible. And for the Jews, the emphasis seems to be, Survive! Live out these 70 years, because after that point you’re coming back to Judah!
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Don’t Listen to Lies
The third thing God urges on his exiled people while they wait for the future blessings that he promised to them is to not listen to lies in Jeremiah 29:8-9.
8 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;
Let not your prophets and [your diviners/those who claim to be able to predict the future by divination], that be in the midst of you, deceive you,
neither [hearken/pay attention] to [your/the] dreams which [ye cause to be dreamed/they dream/you are encouraging them to dream].
9 For they prophesy [falsely/lies] unto you [in my name/claiming my authority to do so]:
I have not sent them, [saith/affirm] the LORD.
Lies will throw you off the path that God has.
In Israel’s case, these lies were coming from their supposed religious leaders, the prophets. These men, who were supposed to be speaking God’s words to God’s people, were indeed speaking to God’s people. But they were speaking their own words rather than God’s words.
And we saw in Jeremiah 27 and 28 that these false prophets were telling these exiles that God was going to bring the people back from exile in just a few short years. But that’s not what God said. Now, false beliefs lead to a false lifestyle. When you don’t believe the truth, you’re very unlikely to practice the truth. So, if the exiles believed this message, they were very likely to not do what God told them to earlier in this chapter. They were unlikely to trust in God’s sovereignty or to make the best of their current situation.
And these dynamics happen in our day as well. While Christians like you and I wait for future blessings, we need to actively ignore lies that others tell us lest we fall into any sort of false practice that would derail us.
There was a time when I was waiting for a blessing that was yet future at that point which involved finding a wife! And there was one family member of mine that advised that I go to a nice large charismatic church near Milwaukee and that maybe through that I might find a wife. Now, I know that this family member meant well. I’m not saying she’s a false teacher or was intentionally lying to me. However, I know how Satan wanted to use that suggestion – to divert me from the path that the Lord wanted me to travel.
You all might have family and friends who are advising you to do something that you know God wouldn’t want. Our culture and world around us is full of bad and ungodly advice that it presses on us. We must resist such advice and do what we know God wants us to do based on what his word says.
So, while we’re waiting for future blessings, let’s not listen to lies that would derail us.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Think of those Future Blessings Correctly
And lastly for this portion of Jeremiah 29, while we’re waiting for future blessings to come, God urges us to think correctly of those blessings in Jeremiah 29:10-14.
10 ¶ For thus saith the LORD,
That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my [good word/gracious promise] toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
So, God wanted the exiles to know the timing of his future blessings for them. Those blessings were to come after 70 years. Not in two years. Seven. Zero. 70 years.
And for Christians, we need to get the timing of promised future blessings right.
Christ’s Millennial reign is not happening right now in some spiritual way. Neither will the Millennium never literally happen. It will happen. Not yet, though.
The resurrection has not yet occurred. So many spiritual blessings that God has promised in his word are yet to come. They’re not here yet. And yet, that doesn’t mean they won’t happen. We don’t need to spiritualize promised blessings that God made just because they haven’t happened. They will happen. And we need to wait patiently for them.
Jeremiah 29 11 13
See Jeremiah 29 11 Meaning for an explanation of what that verse means.
Well, when God’s thoughts of peace (as promised in Jeremiah 29:11) come to pass for the Jews of Jeremiah’s day, then God prophesies that the Jews’ actions will be totally different in Jeremiah 29:12-13.
12 Then shall ye call [upon/out to] me,
and ye shall [go/come] and pray unto me,
and I will [hearken/listen] unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me [i.e., in prayer], and find me [i.e., available to you],
when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
These actions are very different from what the Jews in Jeremiah’s day were doing. The Jews were rebelling and sinning and committing idolatry. But God is promising here that he would see to it that they come back to the land different than when they left.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Verse 14
And not only would the Jews’ actions be different when they returned. God’s actions would be different, too. Jeremiah 29:14.
14 And I will [be found of/make myself available to] you, saith the LORD:
and I will [turn away/restore/reverse] your [captivity/fortunes/plight],
and I will gather you from all the nations,
and from all the places whither I have [driven/exiled] you, saith the LORD;
and I will bring you [again/back] into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
God had to scatter the rebellious Jews. But 70 years later he would be the one gathering them.
God had to hide himself from the sinful Jews. But 70 years later he would be found of them.
God’s actions would be different. The Jews’ actions would be different. And this was all part of the blessings promised by God to be fulfilled in the future for these exiles. And it would all happen because God has good thoughts for his people. He wants to bless them. He wants to bless us.
Jeremiah 29 Commentary: Conclusion
Blessings were coming for the Jews. But they needed to wait. They needed to trust God’s sovereignty. They needed to make the best of their current life until the blessings finally came. They needed to ignore lies that were contrary to God’s word. And they needed to think correctly of those future blessings. And so do we. May the Lord help us this week to do just that.
Well, let’s study verses 15-32 of Jeremiah 29 now…
In these verses we see God Encouraging His People’s Submission to Him.
As we’re told in the first half of Jeremiah 29, there was a group of individuals in Judah who did submit to God. They obeyed God’s command to surrender to the king of Babylon. They had done the right thing.
And so now God plans to keep the exiles in Babylon for 70 years. And we saw at the beginning of this chapter that the Lord wants his people to settle there and do good. But now they have Jewish prophets in Babylon who are contradicting God’s word and telling them that the exile will be short and as a result, the false prophets are contributing to some agitation in the people. And if that agitation follows its natural progression and they start to rebel and revolt, it will not be good for the Jews.
And so, rather than encouraging the agitation among the exiles in Babylon, God wanted to encourage them that they did the right thing by submitting to God’s delegated-authority, which at that time was the nation of Babylon.
For Us Christians
And of course for us Christians, we can use some encouragement to continue to submit to God’s authority.
There are people all around us and our sin nature within that resist God’s message. They just refuse to hear what God is saying to them.
There are others who contradict God’s message. They not only disobey God’s message, but they have their own message to replace the one from God that they don’t like.
And then there are those who contradict God’s messengers. They dislike God’s true message so much that they seek to persecute those who have been entrusted with God’s messages.
So the presence of people who do one or more of these things can discourage us from submitting to God. And so, may the Lord encourage us just like he tried to do for the Jewish exiles in Babylon to continue to submit to him.
Correction of Error (Jeremiah 29:15)
We need to note first of all, that this entire half of the chapter begins with God referencing a mistaken assumption the Jews in exile were making in Jeremiah 29:15.
KJV Jeremiah 29:15 ¶ Because ye have said,
The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon;
So, these Jewish exiles recognized that there were men who claimed to be prophets. They were giving messages to the people and claiming God’s authority to do so. We saw one such prophet in Jeremiah 28. We’ll have named for us a few more of these men before the chapter ends.
And to recognize that there were men giving messages that claimed God’s authority and to recognize that they were speaking lies – that’s one thing. But the Jews in exile were actually thinking that these prophets were sent by the Lord. That’s what God says that the exiles were saying in Jeremiah 29:15.
The exiles were deceived. They thought that the very men who were contradicting God’s word were actually sent from God. And in order for God’s truth to be magnified, he needs to expose these men for what they really are – false prophets.
New Testament Support
Our Lord Jesus warned us to be vigilant against false prophets. Jesus Christ did this. This warning against false prophets then is not just an Old Testament phenomenon. It’s to be a concern for New Testament Christian as well.
Jesus told us to beware of these individuals. They will look like sheep – just like you and me. But inwardly they are violent and dangerous wolves. They will scatter the flock if given the ability to do so.
In the early 1800s there was a man in the United States named Alexander Campbell. He became concerned that the church had completely lost its moorings and that the church really in a sense didn’t even exist – it was totally corrupt. He saw it as his job to restore the church to its New Testament foundations.
Campbell had adopted the practice of Baptism by immersion, which is a good thing. He existed among Baptists for a while. But it soon became clear that the man was not sound. He basically taught that a person needs to be baptized in order to be saved.
So, his group split off from the Baptists and the result was that he took many away from good sound Baptist churches. His heresy came to be called The Church of Christ or the Disciples of Christ.
Alexander looked like a sheep. He adopted baptism by immersion – which by the way was not quite so common back in his day as it is in ours. He demonstrated some sort of concern for the wellbeing of the church. And yet, he taught error and did much harm to Christ’s church.
Back to the text
So, now for the rest of the chapter God encourages His people’s submission to his authority by describing three groups of people and then promising punishment on them.
And the idea is that these three groups of people were tending to cause the exiles in Babylon to second-guess their submission to God. They were advising the exiles to be agitated and restless, which was not at all what God was commanding them.
So, let’s see God’s declarations concerning these people who are discouraging God’s people from submitting to his authority.
Punishment for Those Who Resist God’s Message (Jeremiah 29:16-19)
The Lord starts by speaking to the exiles of those who resisted his message and stayed back in Jerusalem. These people should have submitted to God’s authority and surrendered to Babylon. But they were resisting God’s message.
And the temptation for the exiles was to cast a longing eye to Jerusalem from their new uncomfortable location in Babylon and to kind of covet what their fellow Jews in Jerusalem were experiencing.
And that’s why God needs to tell the exiles that their fellow-Jews who resisted God’s message were going to be punished in Jeremiah 29:16-19.
16 Know that thus saith the LORD
of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and
of all the people that dwelleth in this city [i.e., Jerusalem], and
of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into [captivity/exile];
17 Thus saith the LORD of hosts;
Behold, I will send upon them [the sword/war], [the famine/starvation], and [the pestilence/disease],
and will [make/treat] them like [vile/split-open] figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so [evil/rotten].
18 And I will [persecute/pursue/chase after] them with [the sword/war], with [the famine/starvation], and with [the pestilence/disease],
and will [deliver them to be removed/make them a terror] to all the kingdoms of the earth [i.e., they will be terrified of what happens to the remnant in Jerusalem],
to be a curse, and [an astonishment/a horror], and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them:
Why all of this destruction and punishment for those who remained in Jerusalem?
19 Because they have not [hearkened/listened/paid attention] to my words,
[saith/declares] the LORD,
which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets,
[rising up early and sending them/again and again/over and over again];
but [ye/you exiles] [would/did/have] not [hear/listen/paid any attention to them either],
[saith/declares] the LORD.
So, there’s a saying that asserts that “the grass is greener on the other side”. The human problem that statement addresses is our tendency to see someone else’s life and to covet the good things they have, while at the same time we’re ignorant of any negatives in their life.
So, in what we’ve just read, God is trying to disabuse his people in exile of the notion that somehow those who resisted God’s message were covetable in any way. Punishment would come to them. God promised it. It was only a matter of time.
Now, for us, do we struggle with coveting the position of people who are resisting God’s message? We’ve heard God’s message of judgement for sin. And we’ve turned from our sin and have become disciples of Jesus. We strive to live a circumspect life. We’ve renounced the hidden dark things in this world. We’ve turned from sin and keep on turning from sin.
But then we can look at people who resist God’s message of repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. And we can see their easy life. We can covet their riches. We can envy them on all sorts of levels.
But we need to remember God’s declared judgement against those who resist the Gospel message.
No doubt, the Lazarus of the biblical parable would have been tempted to covet the rich man at whose gates he sat and begged. But in light of eternity, how foolish that would have been.
The message to us is simple and we’ve heard it before and yet it’s something we need to hear again and be challenged about. Don’t covet the wicked. Don’t be ignorant that there is punishment coming to those who resist God’s message.
God is patient. The punishment likely won’t come to them right away. And yet it will certainly come.
And so, don’t covet the wicked. But beyond that, don’t let their circumstances as compared to yours discourage you from continuing to submit to God’s authority.
That was a real temptation to the exiles in Babylon. And it’s also a temptation for us. Don’t give in to it – lest we become like those whom God will eventually punish.
So, the Lord encouraged his people in exile to submit to his authority. And he did that by pointing to the punishment that those who resist God’s message will receive.
Punishment for Those Who Contradict God’s Message (Jeremiah 29:20-23)
Now, the Lord introduces a second encouragement for his people’s submission to his authority in Jeremiah 29:20-23. We’ve already seen the Lord speak of the coming punishment of those who stayed in Jerusalem when they were supposed to surrender to Babylon. They were those who resisted God’s message.
But now in Jeremiah 29:20-23, the Lord speaks of the punishment of a couple false Jewish prophets who were among the exiles in Babylon. These two prophets didn’t simply resist God’s message, as bad as that is. These men contradicted God’s message.
And so, the Lord declares that these folks will be punished. And again, that is intended to encourage the exiles to continue to submit to God’s authority.
20 [Hear/Pay attention to] ye therefore the word of the LORD,
all ye [of the captivity/exiles],
whom I have [sent/sent away] from Jerusalem to Babylon:
And again the Lord notes that it is he himself who had sent the exiles into Babylon. This was his will. The Jews had sinned for so long that God determined to send them out of the land of Judah. And those who participated in that process by surrendering and going out to Babylon ended up receiving God’s blessings, while those who resisted experienced much worse.
21 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel,
of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah,
which prophesy [a lie/falsely] unto you [in my name/claiming my authority to do so];
Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchad[r/n]ezzar king of Babylon;
and he shall slay them before your eyes;
22 And of them shall be taken up a curse
by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying,
The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab,
whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire;
23 Because they have [committed villany/acted foolishly/done what is shameful] in Israel,
and have committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives,
and have spoken lying words [in my name/while claiming my authority],
which I have not commanded them;
even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.
So, this group of individuals – these false prophets – are in some ways worse than the previous group. The previous group in vv. 16-19 were resisting God’s message – which is bad enough. But this group here is both resisting God’s message and actually giving a counterfeit and contradictory message. That’s what false prophets do.
And God names names here. Ahab and Zedekiah are the guilty ones. And we’re not told what exactly they were telling the people beyond that whatever they were saying was false. But based on what we’ve seen false prophets proclaiming so far in this book, the message was probably something like a promise from God to return the captives to Jerusalem after a few short years.
If the exiles listened to this message, they surely would have started agitating and revolting against King Nebuchadnezzar. And that’s why when Nebuchadnezzar heard of their fomenting rebellion, he would burn them to death in the presence of the other exiles as an example for them to avoid.
Now, for us, we have no promise that the false prophets of this age will pay for their false prophecies with their lives. Honestly, we’d love to see them repent and become a true follower of Jesus Christ and receive his pardon.
But we do know and can be assured of the end of all false prophets – everyone who gives a message that is contradictory to God’s true message in Scripture.
So, the Lord declares punishment for those who resist his message and for those who contradict his message. And in that way, he seeks to encourage his people who have – unlike those two groups – have submitted to his authority.
Punishment for Those Who Oppose God’s Messenger (Jeremiah 29:24-32)
And lastly in this chapter we see God declaring punishment on those who oppose God’s messenger.
God addresses another Jewish false prophet. But in this section in Jeremiah 29:24-32 the emphasis isn’t on only the message of the prophet, but we’re especially directed to the man’s opposition to God’s messenger – Jeremiah.
24 ¶ Thus shalt thou [sg] also speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite, saying,
25 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying,
Because thou hast sent letters in [thy/your own] [name/initiative]
unto all the people that are at Jerusalem,
and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest,
and to all the priests, saying,
Alright, so Shemaiah is sending messages to the people and priests in Jerusalem. He’s apparently stationed in Babylon.
Shemaiah’s Unauthorized Letter
And here is Shemaiah’s message to a priest in Jerusalem named Zephaniah in particular.
26 The LORD hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest,
that ye should be [officers/the overseer] in the [house/Temple] of the LORD,
for every [man that is mad/mad man/lunatic], [and maketh himself a prophet/who prophesies/who pretends to be a prophet],
[that thou shouldest/it’s your duty to] put him in [prison/an iron collar], and in the stocks.
27 Now therefore why hast thou not [reproved/rebuked/reprimanded] Jeremiah of Anathoth,
[which maketh himself a prophet/who prophesies/who is pretending to be a prophet] to you?
28 For therefore he sent unto us in Babylon, saying,
This captivity [is/will be] long:
build ye houses, and dwell in them;
and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
So, Shemaiah is commanding a priest in Jerusalem to basically imprison Jeremiah, the true and faithful prophet.
Aside: Zephaniah’s Response
And thankfully, this particular priest was apparently not in agreement with the sentiments of Shemaiah.
29 ¶ And Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet.
So, instead of imprisoning Jeremiah, Zephaniah read the letter to him. I take that to indicate that Zephaniah was looking for direction from the Lord’s prophet.
Well, we’ve seen Shemaiah’s false message which opposed God’s messenger. Now we’ll see the Lord’s message to – not Shemaiah directly – but to all of the exiles. And the Lord’s message regards Shemaiah and what is going to happen to him as a result of his opposition to God’s messenger.
30 Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,
31 Send to all [them of the captivity/the exiles], saying,
Thus saith the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite;
Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, [and/although] I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie:
32 Therefore thus saith the LORD;
Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his [seed/descendants]:
he shall not have a man to dwell among this people;
neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people,
saith the LORD;
because he hath taught rebellion against the LORD.
One thing to point out at the end in verse 32 is that God equates opposing one of his true messengers with direct opposition to himself.
Opposing God’s true messengers – especially as they’re delivering God’s true message – is especially odious to God.
There’s a certain type of authoritarianism that some unscrupulous pastors and other religious leaders engage in which basically attempts to shield the religious leader from any valid and legitimate criticism. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
Pastors are not immune from the same kind of evaluation that other Christians are. And yet, with all that said, we do need to recognize that historically, when there’s an argument that comes down between God’s appointed leadership and some challenger to that leadership, the appointed leadership is usually justified by the Lord.
And so, we do well to support and pray for our spiritual leadership, just like the Jews in the exile.
So, God has and will encourage his people’s submission to his will and authority. He often does this by showing the consequences of not submitting. So, may the Lord help us to heed the warnings against those who resist God’s message, contradict God’s message, and oppose God’s messenger.