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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary

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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Chapter 21

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

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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Chapter 22

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

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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Why Study It?

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

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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: I Want to Move Along

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

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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: I Want to Understand

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Denouncing Evil Leaders

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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Chiasm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what it would look like:

Return from Exile (A)

            Good Rulers (B)

            Good Rulers – the Best One Ever (B’)

Return from Exile – Second Exodus (A’)

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

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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: Return from Exile

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

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

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

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

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

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

saith the LORD.

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

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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: The Righteous Branch

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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: A Second Exodus

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

Jeremiah 23 Commentary: False Prophets

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

Jeremiah 22 Commentary

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

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Introduction

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

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Message to the King’s House

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

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Devastating Deforestation

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

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Shallum Shall Not Return

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Jehoiakim Unjust Unburied

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

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

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

14 That saith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

then it was well with [him/Judah]:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Message to Jerusalem

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

Jeremiah 22 Commentary: Coniah Childless

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Two Pashurs?

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Who is Zedekiah?

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: What Does Zedekiah Want?

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

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

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Pious Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Experiencing Miracles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how God’s response begins.

3 ¶ Then said Jeremiah unto them,

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: The Message to Zedekiah

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

Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah:

4 Thus saith the LORD God of Israel;

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

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

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

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

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

7 And afterward,

saith the LORD,

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Out of Control?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think the answer in all these cases is yes.

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Message to the People of Jerusalem

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

8 ¶ And unto this people thou shalt say,

Thus saith the LORD;

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

First, the way of death.

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

But here’s the way of life.

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

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

saith the LORD:

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Hope

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

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

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Humility and Faith

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

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

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Jehoiachin Surrenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear ye the word of the LORD;

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

thus saith the LORD;

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

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

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

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

saith the LORD;

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

Here’s one reason God is against them.

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Pride & Injustice

which [say/boast],

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

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

saith the LORD:

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 21 Commentary: Martin Shkreli

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

Jeremiah 20 Commentary

Enjoy this free digital Jeremiah 20 commentary published by…

Today we’ll be finishing the section that consists of Jeremiah 18-20. In Jeremiah 18 we saw the action and plot revolving around a potter. In Jeremiah 19 everything had to do with a pot. And now in Jeremiah 20 we finally become acquainted with a man named Pashur who is violent and aggressive and doesn’t care for Jeremiah’s message from the last chapter.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Offensive Message

So, let’s witness the aggression and subsequent judgement of this man named Pashur in Jeremiah 20:1-6.

KJV Jeremiah 20:1 ¶ [Now/When] Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief [governor/officer/of security] in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.

What things? What did Jeremiah prophesy that Pashur heard? And I break in here because this verse expects you to know what things Pashur heard but it doesn’t tell you in this chapter.

We learned that in Jeremiah 19. God had Jeremiah take a hardened clay pot and smash it in front of the religious and lay leaders of Judah. Then Jeremiah was to tell those leaders that Judah would be smashed in a similar way for their lack of repentance.

It was a controversial message – a confrontational message – and a message directly from the mouth of the living God.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Pashur’s Reaction

Well, when Pashur heard that message, Jeremiah 20:2…

2 Then Pashur [smote/had beaten/had flogged] Jeremiah the prophet,

and put him in the stocks that were in the [high/upper] gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.

This is so frustrating. Here we have this Pashur. He’s supposed to be a someone in the Lord’s Temple – an important person. He’s charged with governing in some way the Temple – the only place on earth that true religion had a chance. Right? Where else would you go on earth at this time in world history to hear the words of the only true God? It’s the Temple.

And this man, who’s been given some level of authority in this holy place and whom you’d expect to be one who is concerned with the desires of the one who ultimately owns that place – the Lord – well, this man reacts in a most despicable way to this message from the true Governor of that Temple.

God intended for his words of warning to be heard and heeded. He demanded repentance. But what did he get from Pashur? Certainly not repentance. Not humble obedience. No, the man beat Jeremiah and put him in chains in the Temple.

What arrogance. It reminds me of New Testament times. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came and he received this same treatment from those who should have been spiritual leaders of God’s people. The apostles also after Jesus suffered persecution at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders.

So, yes, Pashur’s actions are shocking. But they’re only a continuation of a practice that would be repeated again and again by unbelieving Jewish religious leaders.

By the way, I hope Pashur’s actions make you a little angry. I think this is one intention of God making this book 52-chapters long. He’s laid out his complaint against Judah. He’s shown himself to be merciful to them. He gives us this narrative to demonstrate the hardened wickedness of these people. He’ll show us more and more for another 30-some chapters!

We have such a tendency to side with people over God. We have a tendency to conceive in our minds that the Lord is unfair or too harsh or whatever else. But one reason God gave us the book of Jeremiah and the humongous section of the Bible known as the Prophets – one reason he gave us so much here is to exonerate himself and to justify his actions to would-be critics.

If you can walk away from the story of Pashur and his blindness and hardness of heart, then God’s going to give you the rest of the book of Jeremiah and the rest of the prophets to try to get it through to you just how awful and just how deserving of punishment his people were.

So, if Pashur makes you angry, good. The story is having its intended effect on you.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Release

OK, so Pashur responds to God’s message by beating and imprisoning his messenger. What happens next? Jeremiah 20:3…

3 [And it came to pass on the morrow/On the next day/But the next day], that Pashur [brought forth/released] Jeremiah [out of/from] the stocks.

Now, Pashur might have thought that Jeremiah learned his lesson, but actually the prophet has another grave message from God.

Then said Jeremiah unto him,

The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but [Magormissabib/“Terror is Everywhere”].

We’ve seen this term “Magor Missabib” before in this book. It appears seven times in the Old Testament – once in Psalm 31:14, once in Lamentations 2:22, and five times in Jeremiah.

Let’s quickly read those references to get an idea of what the Lord is saying with this phrase.

Psalm 31 is a lament psalm. Psalm 31:13 associates Magor-Missabib with the slander and violent deadly plots of enemies. “KJV Psalm 31:13 For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.”

Jeremiah 6:25 has the Lord speaking through the prophet and warning the citizens of Judah of danger from their enemies. That passage links the concept of danger from enemies with Magor-Missabib. “KJV Jeremiah 6:25 Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.”

Then of course we have our passage for today. Jeremiah 20:3-6 links Magor-Missabib with destruction from the enemies of Judah that we’ll read about in a few minutes.

Later in this chapter in Jeremiah 20:10 we have Jeremiah giving a lament where he links Magor-Missabib with slander and violent plots against himself from his enemies – just like we saw in Psalm 31.

Jeremiah 46:5 has the Lord speaking. And there he again connects Magor-Missabib with military defeat from enemies. “KJV Jeremiah 46:5 Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back? and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace, and look not back: for fear was round about, saith the LORD.”

Jeremiah 49 is speaking of coming judgement on the nations that surrounded Judah at that time. One of those nations spoken of there is told that enemies would come and defeat them and take their things. “KJV Jeremiah 49:29 Their tents and their flocks shall they take away: they shall take to themselves their curtains, and all their vessels, and their camels; and they shall cry unto them, Fear is on every side.”

Finally, Lamentations 2:22 links Magor-Missabib with the destruction that finally did come to Jerusalem from their enemies. “KJV Lamentations 2:22 Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of the LORD’S anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consumed.”

So, Magor-Missabib is consistently used as a phrase in the context of imminent danger from enemies – whether they be one’s own countrymen or foreigners.

And that’s the message for Pashur – this man who persecuted Jeremiah and ignored the Lord’s message though him. Destruction is coming to you, Pashur, from your enemies.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Magor-Missabib Fleshed Out

Now, the Lord spells out the details of that threat of Magor-Missabib in the next several verses.

4 For thus saith the LORD,

Behold, I will make thee [a terror to thyself/terrified], [and to all/and] thy friends [i.e., of what’s to come]:
and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies,
and thine eyes shall behold it:

and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon,
and he shall carry them [captive/away as exiles] into Babylon,
and shall slay them with the sword.

5 Moreover I will [deliver/hand over] all the [strength/wealth] of this city,
and all the [labours/produce/fruits of the labor] thereof,
and all the [precious/costly/prized] [things/possessions] thereof,
and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies,
which [i.e., the enemies] shall [spoil/plunder/seize as plunder] [them/these things],
and take them [i.e., away], and [carry/bring] them to Babylon.

6 And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity:
and thou shalt come to Babylon,
and there thou shalt die,
and shalt be buried there,
thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies.

And we weren’t told that Pashur was a prophet, but apparently through his affiliation with the Temple in his position of authority he was involved in supposedly giving God’s messages to the people. You wonder if maybe he was in the group of folks who were assuring the Judeans that they were safe because God’s Temple was in their midst – do you remember that emphasis that the Lord through Jeremiah had to correct? Maybe that was Pashur’s false message.

Well, so much for Pashur. Now that Jeremiah the prophet has suffered at his hands and then delivered God’s message of destruction to him, he’s out of the picture for the rest of the chapter. But Jeremiah remains in focus now for the rest of this chapter.

And so in Jeremiah 20:7-18 we see Jeremiah delivering a lament psalm. And we see him say some really bitter things.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary |  Invocation/Lament

He starts with a very short invocation and then the lament portion of his lament psalm – the reasons for his complaining.

7 O LORD, thou hast [deceived/coerced into being a prophet] me,
and I [was deceived/allowed you to do it]:

thou [art stronger than I/overcame my resistance],
and hast prevailed [i.e., over me]:

This is Jeremiah lamenting the fact that he was called into the prophetic ministry. His reference to being deceived is probably best translated as “coerced”. Jeremiah is looking back to the events described in Jeremiah 1 where the Lord called Jeremiah into the office of prophet. Do you remember how Jeremiah argued a little bit with God at that point? He told God that he was just a youth. But God “overcame” his objection. God “prevailed” over him. In that sense, you could say that God “coerced”. And Jeremiah went along with it. Jeremiah was originally looking for a way out. But he was ultimately willing to do God’s will.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | God’s Will

And you typically associate doing God’s will with temporal blessing and glory. But that’s not what Jeremiah experienced. Rather…

I [am/have become] [in derision/a laughingstock] [daily/all day long/constantly],
every one [mocketh/ridicules] me.

And he’s receiving ridicule and derision for the sole reason that he’s proclaiming God’s word – which was at that time a message of destruction unless people repent.

8 For [since/each time/whenever] I [spake/speak], I [cried out/cry aloud/must cry out (with the next verb)],
I [cried/proclaim] violence and [spoil/destruction] [i.e., are coming!];

because the word of the LORD [was made/has resulted in] [a reproach/insults] [unto/for] me,
and a derision, [daily/all day long].

So, Jeremiah has worked through this in his heart. If he speaks God’s word, people hate him and mock him and try to kill him.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Stay Silent?

So, what happens if he stops speaking God’s word? If he remains silent concerning the destruction to come? Jeremiah reviews that way of thinking in Jeremiah 20:9.

9 [Then/But if/Sometimes] I [said/think],

[“]I will not [make mention of/remember] [him/his message],
nor speak any more [in his name/as his messenger].[”]

[But/Then/But then] his [word/message] [was/becomes] [in mine heart/inside of me]
as a burning fire shut up in my [bones/heart and soul],

and I was weary [with/of] [forbearing/holding it in],
and I [could not stay/cannot endure it/cannot contain it].

So, if God’s given you a message and you’re discouraged by people’s response, there’s a temptation to just stop giving it. And things were a little different for Jeremiah from how they are for us. But we New Covenant Christians know what it’s like to have a message. And you probably know of situations where you have unfortunately withheld God’s message of future destruction unless people repent and turn to his Son Jesus Christ. And do you feel a little like Jeremiah? Like it’s just a weariness to hold in the message you were given? Well, if you can identify with that, you have some understanding of Jeremiah’s emotions regarding this task of giving God’s message to people who don’t want to hear it.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Slander

Well, Jeremiah seems to come back to the reason for his wanting to remain silent in Jeremiah 20:10. People slandering him and looking for him to stumble.

10 For I heard the [defaming/whispering] of many,
[fear/terror] on every side[./!] [i.e., this is what they’re saying or this is how Jeremiah feels]

[Report/Denounce], say they,
[and/yes] [we will report/let us denounce] [it/him].

All my [familiars/trusted friends/so-called friends] watched for my [halting/fall], saying,
[Peradventure/Perhaps] he will be [enticed/deceived/enticed into slipping up],
[and/so that] we shall prevail against him,
and we shall take our revenge on him.

So, that’s Jeremiah’s lament. The realities that are causing him to despair.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Confidence

But the prophet turns to express his confidence in the Lord in Jeremiah 20:11.

11 But the LORD is with me [i.e., to help me] as [a mighty terrible one/a dread champion/an awe-inspiring warrior]:

therefore my persecutors shall [stumble/fail], and they shall not prevail [i.e., over me]:

they shall be [greatly/utterly/thoroughly] [ashamed/disgraced]; for they [shall not prosper/have failed/did not succeed]:

their everlasting [confusion/disgrace] shall never be forgotten.

The Lord promised to be with the prophet to deliver him at least twice so far in this book. And that’s the basis of Jeremiah’s confidence – the Lord’s promised presence.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Petition

Now, Jeremiah moves to the petition section of his lament psalm.

12 But, O LORD of hosts,
that [triest/test] the righteous,
and seest the [reins/mind] and the heart,

let me see thy vengeance on them:

for unto thee have I [opened/set forth] my cause.

So, Jeremiah is calling on God to punish those who have persecuted him. Again, he’s not taking his own vengeance. He’s bringing it to the Lord and letting him do what he’s already promised he would do to these people who refuse to repent.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Praise

Then Jeremiah gives his praise in Jeremiah 20:13.

13 Sing unto the LORD,
praise ye the LORD:

for he [hath delivered/rescues] the soul of the [poor/needy one/oppressed]
from the hand of evildoers.

Now, we had a series on the first twenty or so psalms. And in that series we discovered the ingredients of a lament psalm. There were five. And we’ve seen all five already in this lament psalm of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 20:7-13.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | But…Five More Verses

But we’ve got five more verses left. And the content of these verses is probably some of the most depressing material contained in the book of Jeremiah. The prophet really lets us into his heart at this point.

He just got done with his lament psalm ending on a note of praise. He expressed his confidence in God as the dread champion who would defend him and destroy the opposition.

And now, this. What sounds like the deepest depression and bitterness a man could express.

There’s hyperbole at work in what we’re about to read. Now, remember, hyperbole is not exaggeration. It’s not falsehood. What it is, is emotional truth. And that emotional truth might not line-up exactly with factual objective truth. But it’s true on the emotional level.

Let’s read it.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Curse the Day

First, he wishes the day of his birth to be cursed.

14 Cursed be the day wherein I was born:

let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.

Then Jeremiah wishes the man who brought the news of his birth to his father to be cursed.

15 Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying,

A [man child/baby boy] is born unto thee;
making him very [glad/happy].

And he doesn’t stop there. He continues focusing on this man who brought his father the glad news of his birth.

16 And let that man be as the cities which the LORD [overthrew/destroyed],
and [repented/relented/showed mercy] not:

Which is probably a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah.

and [let him/may he] hear [the/an] [cry/outcry/cry of distress] in the morning,
and [the/a] [shouting/shout of alarm/battle cry] at [noontide/noon];

And that’s probably a reference to the coming punishment that God is promising for his rebellious people. That man will probably be among those who suffer at the hands of Babylon.

And at this point I wonder if Jeremiah’s mother or father is alive at this point. But unfortunately, I think the Scripture doesn’t inform us of that.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Heavy

And here’s where it gets really heavy. Jeremiah gives the reason that this bearer-of-good-news, this man he’s been talking about so much, why he should be like Sodom and Gomorrah and Judah in their destruction. Why?

17 Because he [slew/killed] me not [from the womb/before birth];
[or/so] that my mother [might/would] have been my grave,
and her womb to be always great with me.

So, as awful as this is, Jeremiah is dabbling with the thought that it would have been better for him if he was aborted before birth. That’s how miserable he was.

Now, again, this is hyperbole. It’s emotional truth. This is how Jeremiah is feeling about his situation. And in this case this emotional truth actually contradicts what Jeremiah himself would really believe about the sanctity of human life.

And this reference to his mother’s womb ties back to Jeremiah 1. Remember God’s statement there? Before I formed you in the – what? – womb, I knew you. God called Jeremiah to be a prophet before he was formed by God in his mother’s womb. And therefore, perhaps Jeremiah is imagining that the only way he could have escaped this hard life of his as a prophet would have been to be aborted before birth.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | End of Psalm

And so, Jeremiah ends Jeremiah 20 thusly…

18 Wherefore came I forth out of the womb
to [see/look on/experience only] [labour/trouble] and [sorrow/grief],
that my days should be [consumed/spent] [with/in] shame?

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | What’s to Come

And with that we finish this three-chapter section dealing with a Potter, a Pot, and Pashur.

And at this point we enter new territory in the book of Jeremiah. Two main changes are introduced in the next section of this book that we’ll start dealing with next time.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Babylon

First, the foreign enemy is finally identified as Babylon. Remember that so far in this book we haven’t seen mention of who exactly this enemy would be. We’ll see in the remaining chapters of this book that the coming army is identified as Babylon.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Surrender

Second, so far the Lord has held out the option of repentance to his people as a means by which they won’t have to be destroyed and exiled. But starting in the next section of this book that option apparently doesn’t exist anymore. From now on, the Jews’ only option would be to submit to Babylon. There’s no way that God will let them stay in their land anymore. But the Lord is still gracious and merciful and will allow the Judeans to live if they submit to his authority by submitting to Babylon.

So, that’s what’s to come. We’ll start seeing those new developments next time, Lord-willing.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary

Jeremiah 19 Commentary

Jeremiah 19 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Jeremiah

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Jeremiah 19 Commentary: We’re in the second lesson in a section that consists of Jeremiah 18, 19, and 20.

Jeremiah 18 was about a potter. That chapter described how God was like a potter and that Israel was like the clay in his hands. He could destroy the clay or build it up as he wished. And he would do that to Israel.

Well, Israel didn’t want to hear that message. And they disliked that concept of God’s sovereign dealings with them so much so that they made plans to kill Jeremiah. So, we ended Jeremiah 18 with the prophet letting the people go to God’s judgement. It was almost as if Jeremiah washed his hands of the people for whom he prayed so much previously.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: The Pot

Well, that brings us to Jeremiah 19. We’ve seen the action centered around a Potter in the previous chapter. Now in this chapter we’ll see the action centered around a Pot.

In the last chapter, the clay was moldable. In this chapter, it’s going to be irreversibly broken.

So, the chapter begins with the Lord responding to Jeremiah’s abandoning of his people to their fate.

KJV Jeremiah 19:1 ¶ Thus saith the LORD,

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: What to Bring

God starts by telling Jeremiah to get or bring several things in the rest of Jeremiah 19:1.

Go and [get/buy] a potter’s [earthen bottle/earthenware jar/clay jar],
and take of the [ancients/elders/leaders] of the people,
and of the [ancients/senior/leaders] of the priests;

So, Jeremiah was to get a jar and bring some of the leading people and leading priests.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Where to Go

Well, where is he taking them? That’s spelled out in Jeremiah 19:2.

2 And go forth unto the [i.e., part of the] valley of [the son of Hinnom/Ben-hinnom],
which is by the entry of the [east/Postherd] gate,
and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee,

So, Jeremiah is to go to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom by the Potsherd Gate. This is the place that’s behind the concept of “Gehenna” in the New Testament. It’s the city’s trash dump, located on the southern slope of Jerusalem. Trash would be burned there, which would burn pretty regularly, apparently. This is why the Lord Jesus uses this place as a picture of eternal fire in hell.

The Potsherd Gate was probably a place where the people of Jerusalem would discard old pottery. There was no doubt quite a large amount of shards or fragments of pots in that location, since pottery doesn’t decompose.

But, this is where the prophet is commanded to take some of the leaders of the lay people as well as the priests.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: What to Say

Well, now, what is Jeremiah to say to them there? Three things in Jeremiah 19:3-9.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Disaster Promised

First, in Jeremiah 19:3, God is promising disaster for Judah.

3 And say,

Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem;

Thus saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all], the God of Israel;

Behold, I will bring [evil/calamity/disaster] upon this place, [the/at] which whosoever heareth, his ears shall [tingle/ring].

This tingling- or ringing- or reverberating- or quivering-ear situation has been promised a few other times in Israel’s history. So, let’s consider a few passages where this phrase is found to get a better idea of what it means.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: 1 Samuel 3:11-14

God had a message for the boy Samuel which would give this affect to all Israel. Let me read 1 Samuel 3:11-14.

KJV 1 Samuel 3:11 And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. 12 In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. 14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.

So, the tingling ears in 1 Samuel 3 is caused by a message of judgement for sin.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: 2 Kings 21:10-16

The second and last passage I’ll reference and read is concerning the judgement God promised to send to Israel due to King Manasseh’s grave sin in 2 Kings 21:10-16.

KJV 2 Kings 21:10 ¶ And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying, 11 Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: 12 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. 13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. 14 And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; 15 Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day. 16 ¶ Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.

So, we see from these two additional references in Scripture that the kind of news that would cause ears to tingle always involved coming judgement.

Judgement for Eli and his house for their overlooked sin.

Judgement for all Judah because of Manasseh’s sin and their own.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: God’s Reasons for Bringing Disaster

And as we’ve seen in those two other passages outside of Jeremiah, the Lord typically gives the reason for sending the judgement. And it’s not different here in Jeremiah where in Jeremiah 19:4-5 the Lord gives his reasons for bringing this promised disaster on his people.

4 Because they have forsaken me,
and have [estranged/made alien/defiled] this place,
and have burned incense in it unto other gods,

whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah,

and have filled this place with the blood of [innocents/innocent children];

Can we have a little more specificity regarding the identity of these “innocents”? Whose blood is Jerusalem filling itself with?

5 They have built also [the high places of/places to worship] Baal,
to burn their sons [with/in the] fire for burnt offerings unto Baal,

which I commanded not,
nor spake it,
neither came it into my mind:

Child sacrifice. That’s what God is calling out here.

There is nothing quite so loathsome as a person who is strong taking advantage of someone who is helpless. And maybe the worst outworking of this kind of situation is child abuse.

And I suppose that there are ranges and types of child abuse and that you could probably place each form on a scale of badness and distastefulness and evil. And on such a scale, surely child sacrifice to false gods has to be the worst.

But that’s just what Judah was doing. Sacrificing their own children to gods who didn’t exist.

Let me briefly give a history of child sacrifices in Israel. In particular, we’ll look at where the term “pass through the fire” occurs in this context.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: God Forbid Child Sacrifice

To begin, God expressly forbids this practice of sacrificing one’s children to false gods by burning them alive. Deuteronomy 18:10 has God as saying, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.” So, when God says in Jeremiah here that he didn’t command this practice or speak it and that it didn’t even come to his mind as something that should be done, this is the start of that. He commanded against this wicked practice.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Ahaz Sacrificed Children

Evil King Ahaz of Judah sacrificed his children to demons in this way. 2 Kings 16:3 relates, “But he [Ahaz] walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel.”

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Northern Israel Sacrificed Children

Going chronologically through Scripture, right after the mention of Ahaz in Kings the author of that book describes the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel. And he gives reasons for why God had to exile them. One of those reasons is this kind of child sacrifice that was happening in those days. 2 Kings 17:17 says, “And they [Israel] caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.”

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Manasseh Sacrificed Children

Now, back to Judah. We saw already that King Ahaz did this abominable practice.

Then Ahaz had a son named Hezekiah. He was righteous.

But then Hezekiah bore a son who turned out to be the worst king ever over Judah. His name was Manasseh. In 2 Kings 21:6 we’re told that Manasseh practiced child sacrifice as well.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Josiah Stops Child Sacrifice

Manasseh’s son, Josiah, who was a very godly king, put an end to this practice. In fact, he did everything he could to defile this place in the Valley of Ben Hinnom called Topheth where this wicked practice was carried out, so that it would happen no more.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Child Sacrifice Continues After Josiah

And yet, despite the good that Josiah did in this regard as well as others, the people returned to this evil practice. That’s what’s indicated here in our text in Jeremiah. Something similar is communicated in the writings of the prophet Ezekiel, who was roughly contemporary with Jeremiah.

The point is that this was a problem for a while with the Jews. It had been more or less prevalent depending on who was ruling Judah. And yet, it was something that these people were drawn to – so much so that even righteous king Josiah couldn’t put a permanent end to the practice. And so, God would need to do that for them.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Results of the Coming Disaster

So then, in Jeremiah 19:6-9 the Lord gives the people the certain results of this coming disaster that he’s planning to bring on them. And we’ll see some bitter irony involved in the Lord’s plans.

6 Therefore, behold, the [days/time will soon] come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of [the son of/Ben-] Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter.

7 And I will [make void the counsel/thwart the plans] of Judah and Jerusalem in this place;

and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies,
and by the hands of them that seek their lives:

Let me just break-in here and highlight something I think is very relevant for us.

If you’re like me, you look at what’s happening in our nation – the kind of decisions coming down from our judicial branch – our court system, the kind of foreign and domestic policies of our executive branch – our president, the instability and inactivity of our legislative branch – our congress – and if you’re like me, you’re just stupefied. Like, how could these smart people be making such unwise decisions?! How can it be that our Supreme Court has taken it upon itself to redefine the ancient institution of marriage? How can it be that our president seems intent on creating instability all over the world and leaving the door open everywhere for radical Islam – a term which he refuses to use to identify the problem that his policies have helped to flourish? How can it be that both major political parties in this nation are so fractured?

I’ll tell you how. God is dealing with our nation like he dealt with his rebellious nation, Israel, in the Old Testament. He is making “void the counsel of” our country. History repeats itself because the same God is still sovereign and in control of past, present, and future. He hates pride and godlessness. He will humble the proud. And our nation is full of proud people.

We would do well, if we care at all about our country and about our neighbors and our children, we would do well to pray that on a wide scale people in this nation would, as the message of this book keeps hammering home, “Submit to God’s Authority”.

We see in this chapter of the book of Jeremiah that child sacrifice is something that makes the Lord really angry. Folks, we don’t have what would be termed “child sacrifice” in the United States, but what else do you call the murder of 1 million babies every year? No, parents aren’t sacrificing their children to Moloch or some other recognizable false god. But, this practice of abortion is abominable anyway. And it’s the kind of activity that calls for God’s retribution for the blood of innocents.

We could go on. Just call to mind all of the things that God has said in this book that he hates and the kind of activities that he points to as justification for sending a violent middle-eastern entity to Judah to destroy it. Idolatry. Lying. Adultery. Injustice. These are reasons that God sent Babylon to destroy and exile Judah. What stops the Lord from doing the same exact thing to this nation?

Brothers, we need to pray for massive repentance in this nation. Not massive professions. Massive repentance.

Brothers, we ourselves need to be repenting of our sins. We need to be walking with the Lord and being the salt and light that he’s called us to be.

Maybe the Lord will be merciful and answer our prayers and turn our fellow-citizens to himself. And if he doesn’t, this nation is doomed.

Well, the results of Judah’s total lack of repentance and then God’s sending Babylon to destroy them will eventually result in this…

and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven,
and for the beasts of the earth.

8 And I will make this city desolate,
and an [i.e., object of] hissing;

every one that passeth thereby shall be [astonished/filled with horror] and hiss [i.e., out their scorn] because of all the [plagues/disasters] thereof.

And here’s the bitter irony of God’s punishment.

9 And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters,

and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and [straitness/the distress],
wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall [straiten/distress] them.

So, do you see the irony? These people were sacrificing some of their children to false deities. God hated that. And so he would see to it that they would find themselves in the position of having to eat the very flesh of those children – the ones that for whatever reason they hadn’t sacrificed to their false gods.

Now, God of course didn’t want them to eat their children, either. That was not his perfect or his revealed will for them. And yet, when people disobey what God has clearly stated to be his will, their punishment will oftentimes involve more things that are not God’s perfect will.

I want to apply this to the situation in Orlando as graciously and lovingly as I possibly can. And I know this could be controversial, depending on who is listening to what I’m about to say. But I think it should be said.

Last Sunday, a US-born Muslim man in his twenties of Afghan descent named Omar Mateen murdered almost 50 people in a gay night club in Orlando, Florida.

Now, is it God’s will for people to be living a homosexual lifestyle like these individuals at that night club? It is not God’s will. OK, then is it God’s will for someone to murder others like Omar Mateen did? No, it’s not God’s perfect stated will for murder to happen. And yet, and even though no one is righteous in this situation, did God use the murderer Omar Mateen to judge, in a sense, the people in that night club?

Now, I will state that if our church was in Orlando right now, we should be doing everything we could to be reaching out to the people affected by this unjust taking of lives.

And at the same time I won’t deny what I just previously stated. That Omar Mateen was an agent of punishment, not just to the people in that night club, but to our entire nation. He was a sinful man who worshipped a false and bloodthirsty god. Further, there are reports that he himself was a practicing homosexual. And at least one commentator has said that he probably killed himself and so many others so that he could make up for his sin of homosexuality and be guaranteed a place in the Muslim heaven by killing so-called infidels.

And my point with all of this, is that sometimes God uses wicked men and things that are not his perfect will to punish other wicked men.

This very situation is what the prophet Habakkuk struggled with. He heard that God was going to send the Babylonians to destroy Judah. And he almost objected to God’s plan. Because, while Judah was wicked as Habakkuk acknowledged, the Babylonians were even worse!

But, again, God’s options are not limited when he finally determines to punish people for their sins.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: What to Do

OK, back to the text.

So, with all that we’ve seen so far – the instructions to Jeremiah on what and whom to bring and where to go and what to say, now in Jeremiah 19:10 God gives Jeremiah the action he’s to take. In other word, what Jeremiah is to do.

10 ¶ Then shalt thou break the [bottle/jar] in the sight of the men [that go with/who accompany/who have come with] thee,

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: What to Say

And when Jeremiah smashes that clay vessel by the Potsherd Gate where apparently all sorts of pottery had been smashed already, he is to say the following things that God lists in Jeremiah 19:11-13.

11 And shalt say unto them,

Thus saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all];

[Even so/Just like Jeremiah has done] will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be [made whole again/repaired] [i.e., unlike the unfinished pottery in Jeremiah 18]:

and they shall bury them in Tophet, [till/because/until] there be no place to bury.

12 Thus will I do unto this place, saith the LORD,
and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet:

13 And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled [i.e., by dead bodies] as the place of Tophet,

because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Jeremiah Obeys

And lastly in Jeremiah 19:14-15 we see Jeremiah obeying the Lord’s command.

14 ¶ Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the LORD had sent him to prophesy;

and he stood in the court of the LORD’S house; and said to all the people,

15 Thus saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all], the God of Israel;

Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the [evil/calamity/disaster] that I have pronounced against it,

because they have [hardened/stiffened] their necks, that they might not hear my words.

And so there the story leaves off. And we’ll see the rest of it next time when we see how one particular man reacted to that message of judgement.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: How We’re to be Like Jeremiah

And now, I’d like to discuss something.

I’ve already mentioned in some ways how our nation seems to be like Judah in Jeremiah’s day. And that’s helpful to some extent. But it’s not all that we need to know.

So, further, I actually want to focus in on how we as Christian ought to live in light of what we’re facing in our nation today. And I want to do this by putting up before our faces Jeremiah and his responses and activities and even his emotions.

Jeremiah was not unmoved by his people’s sin and God’s promised judgement of them. And you and I don’t need to be untouched by the plight of this nation and God’s apparent judgement on the US. Grieve with those who are touched by violence and sin. Plead with God for mercy for your family and your neighbors and our dear president and all of our rulers and our future rulers. It’s OK to struggle and wrestle with God. Jeremiah did these things and was not rebuked for doing them.

Now, there’s a way in which you and I could identify and sympathize with our fellow-citizens so much that we start to disagree with God. We could start to doubt God’s goodness. We could transfer our allegiance from God to our fellow sinful creatures. And we must not do that. Jeremiah didn’t. There’s one time so far that he started doubting the reliability of God. And that is the one time I can recall that God pretty directly rebuked him.

Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed God’s message to people he knew would hate it. He was truly on God’s side by-and-large. We need to be on God’s side. We need to proclaim his message of our utter sinfulness. We need to proclaim the worthlessness of trying to please God through formalism and works and false religion. We need to hold out the blessed gospel and the free grace of God to sinners like ourselves. We need to be unapologetic about the fact that you can have your sins forgiven by repenting and trusting Christ.

You and I are a nation of priests, brothers and sisters. We are called to call others to be reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus his Son.

So, may the Lord help us be what we need to be in these dark days. May we ourselves be submitting to God’s authority. And may we be bringing others to that same point of submission.