THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Part I: Oracles Against Jerusalem and Judah
(Oracles in the Last Year of Jerusalem)
The Oracles Against False Prophets,
The Sixth Object Lesson, and
Babylon: the Scourge of Yahweh
Holy and Eternal Father,
Help us to take seriously Your warnings concerning false prophets, and protect us from being deceived by them. We must be aware that false prophets come in different alluring forms. They can come outside the covenant community in the form of those who dismiss the teachings of Christ and Your Church as belonging to a former age or as replaced by what is claimed as new knowledge. They can also come from within the covenant family in the form of those who offer popular secular teachings that are contrary to what You have taught Your Church, dismissing certain sins like abortion or divorce or the prohibition against homosexuality as being uncharitable or intolerant. Protect us from their deceptions, Lord, and give us the wisdom to recognize their lying words and the damage they bring to unsuspecting souls. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us as we study Your divine word to the prophet Jeremiah and the failed covenant people of his times. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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If a prophet or
a dreamer of dreams arises among you, offering you some sign or wonder, and the
sign or wonder comes about; and if he then says to you, "Let us follow other
gods hitherto unknown to you and serve them," you must not listen to that prophet's
words or to that dreamer's dreams. Yahweh your God is testing you to know if
you love Yahweh your God with all your heart and all your soul. Yahweh your
God is the one whom you must follow, him you must fear, his commandments you
must keep, his voice you must obey, him you must serve, to him you must hold
But even if we
ourselves or an angel from heaven preaches to you a Gospel other than the one
we preached to you, let God's curse be on him.
Chapter 23:9-40 ~ The Oracles Against False Prophets
The oracles in 23:9-40 are called the Prophet Collection. The oracles come from different periods. The first may be from the reign of Josiah (ruled 640-609 BC) in the early part of Jeremiah's adult ministry that began in 622 BC; although most are from the reigns of Jehoiakim (ruled 609-598 BC) and Judah's last king, Zedekiah (ruled 598-597/6 BC). Jeremiah experienced opposition from Jerusalem's prophets and chief priests, having been excommunicated from Temple worship sometime just before 605 BC. Jeremiah's conflict with the Jerusalem prophets will reach a climax when the prophet Hananiah of Azzur confronts Jeremiah at the Temple in 594/3 BC (chapter 28).
Jeremiah 23:9-12 ~ Yahweh Condemns the False Prophets and Priests in Judah
9 On the prophets. My heart is broken within me, I tremble in all my bones; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome with wine, because of Yahweh and his holy words: 10 "For the country is full of adulterers; yes, because of a curse, the country is in mourning and the pasturage in the desert has dried up; they are prompt to do wrong, make no effort to do right. 11 Yes, even prophet and priest are godless, I have detected their wickedness in my own House, Yahweh declares. 12 Because of this, their way will prove treacherous going for them; in the darkness where they are driven, there they will fall. For I shall bring disaster on them, when the year for punishing them comes, Yahweh declares."
"On the Prophets" is the title of the section from 23:9-40. It is one of the few times in Scripture that a series of oracles receives a separate title from the rest of the book. The oracles are in the poetic form in verses 9-17, with the division of verse 18 in prose before the section returns to poetry in verses 19-24. Verses 25-40 are in prose except for the short poem in verse 28b-29. Jeremiah is the speaker in verse 9 but Yahweh is the speaker through Jeremiah in verses 10-12.
My heart is broken within me, I tremble in all my bones; I am like a
drunken man, like a man overcome with wine, because of Yahweh and his holy
Once again Jeremiah describes the force of God's holy words within him that he cannot resist. He compares his condition to someone reduced to physical, mental, and emotional weakness by consuming too much wine.
Question: Jeremiah feels the force of God's words physically as
well as spiritually. How does Jeremiah describe the force of God's words on
him in this verse and previously? Also see 4:19; 6:11; 15:18 and 20:9.
10 "For the country is full of
adulterers; yes, because of a curse, the country is in mourning and the
pasturage in the desert has dried up; they are prompt to do wrong, make no
effort to do right. 11 Yes, even
prophet and priest are godless, I have detected their wickedness in my own House,
After Jeremiah's confession in verse 9, Yahweh responds that He understands Jeremiah's distress over the people's grave sins and gives an oracle of indictment against them in verses 10-11 followed by a second oracle in verse 12. "Adultery" (verse 10) is the symbolic image for abandoning Yahweh's covenant by serving false gods (see the chart on the Symbolic Images of the Prophets from Lesson 1). That they are an "adulterous" people has been a charge against the Judahites and citizens of Jerusalem since Jeremiah first began his covenant lawsuit (Strong's H5003-05 = na'aph/niuph/na'aphuwph in Jer 3:8, 9; 5:7; 7:9; 9:2; 13:27; and will be repeated in 23:10, 14 and 29:23 for a total of ten times).(1)
The "curse" is the covenant curse-judgment of disaster for abandoning the covenant and the Law that bound Israel to Yahweh as His Bride (Lev 26:14-43; Dt 28:15-68). The land "mourns" because the curse judgment on the land foretold in Deuteronomy 28:23-26 is now taking place. Jeremiah already mentioned the drought that was part of the curse-judgment for abandoning the covenant in 14:1-6 (see Dt 28:23-24).
The shocking statement in verse 11 is that even those professing to be loyal prophets and priests are "godless/polluted" and practicing wickedness in Yahweh's "house" that is the Jerusalem Temple. The mention of Yahweh's house polluted by godless practices helps to date these two oracles to sometime after Jehoiakim's reign began in 609 BC, when pagan rites once again were practiced in the Temple.
God gives a second oracle introduced by "Because" in verse 12: 12 Because of this, their way will prove
treacherous going for them; in the darkness where they are driven, there they
will fall. For I shall bring disaster on them, when the year for punishing
them comes, Yahweh declares."
Verse 13 is Yahweh's judgment. "Darkness" is a common Biblical metaphor for sin, calamity, or judgment (see Is 8:22; Jer 4:28; 13:16; 15:9; Mic 3:6; and in the New Testament see Mt 22:13). There are several Hebrew words for "darkness," but here Yahweh uses the Hebrew word apela which means "thick, deep darkness" (Strong's H653). See the same word in Exodus 10:22 for the tenth Egyptian plague of darkness and death, and also see the same word in the curse-judgment in Deuteronomy 28:29 (Jeremiah used the same word in his indictment in Jer 2:31).
Jeremiah 23:13-15 ~ Yahweh Judgment on the False Prophets of Jerusalem
13 "In the prophets of Samaria I have seen insanity: they prophesied in the name of Baal and led my people Israel astray. 14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: adultery, persistent lying, such abetting of the wicked that no one renounces his wickedness. To me they are all like Sodom and its inhabitants are like Gomorrah. 15 So this is what Yahweh Sabaoth says about the prophets. Now I shall give them wormwood to eat and make them drink poisoned water, since from the prophets of Jerusalem godlessness has spread throughout the land.'"
The passage in verses 13-15 contains two poetic oracles spoken by Yahweh: verses 13-14 and the second in verse 15. These oracles can be dated early in the reign of Judah's last king, King Zedekiah in the years following the exile of 597 BC. Jeremiah was frequently in conflict with other prophets concerning the future of the nation and the covenant people (see chapters 20; 27-28). This conflict between prophets was not new to Jeremiah. Other conflicts occurred over competing claims of authority in speaking the word of God in 1 Kings Chapters 13, 18 and 22. Deuteronomy warns that one may only know a true or false prophet by whether the prophet's words come true (Dt 18:21-22).
There were a large number of prophets of Baal in the Northern Kingdom sponsored by Queen Jezebel, during the reign of her husband, King Ahab (874-853 BC). Yahweh compares the current abuses of the prophets of Jerusalem with the prophets of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in their capital city of Samaria.
Question: Why is it that the condition of the
Jerusalem prophets is more offensive to God than the practices of the false
prophets in the Northern Kingdom who served the false god Baal?
Answer: Unlike the false prophets of the Northern Kingdom, the prophet of Jerusalem claim to serve Yahweh when they are in fact lying, false prophets.
such abetting of the wicked that no one renounces his wickedness.
The sinful practices of the people and their leaders are so common that the people no longer recognize their practices as wicked and therefore "no one renounces his wickedness." A society that accepts sin as normal behavior or as a tolerated behavior is a society on the brink of self-destruction.
To me they are all like Sodom and its inhabitants are like Gomorrah.
God compares the sins of the false prophets and citizens of Jerusalem to the sins of the inhabitants of the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis chapter 19. Sodom and Gomorrah and their citizens paid the price for their sins when God's fiery judgment destroyed the cities. The same fiery judgment is going to fall on Jerusalem's false prophets. Because of the false prophets' failure in condemning sin and calling for repentance, the people of Jerusalem have become as evil as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Biblical image of excessive corruption and debauchery.
15 So this is
what Yahweh Sabaoth says about the prophets. Now I shall give them wormwood to
eat and make them drink poisoned water, since from the prophets of Jerusalem
godlessness has spread throughout the land.'"
This verse is the second time the bitter judgment of "wormwood" and "poisoned water" is mentioned (see Jer 9:14/15). The sins of the false prophets have contaminated the entire country and its people like an infectious disease.
Jeremiah 23:16-18 ~ Yahweh's Warning Against Listening to the False Prophets
16 "Yahweh Sabaoth says this, Do not listen to what those prophets prophesy to you; they are deluding you, they retail visions of their own, and not what comes from Yahweh's mouth. 17 To those who despise me, they keep saying: Yahweh has spoken: you will have peace! And to all who follow their own stubborn inclinations: No disaster will touch you.' 18 But who has been present [who has stood] in Yahweh's council and seen, and heard this word? Who has paid attention to his word and listened to it? [...] = IBHE, vol. VI, page 1793.
These verses are in the poetic form until verse 18 and can be dated to early in King Zedekiah's reign, in about 594/3 BC, at which time there is talk of rebellion against Babylon is taking hold in Judah. The lying prophets were selling visions of their own by telling the people not to submit to Nebuchadnezzar and that Yahweh will not let any no harm come to them. Jeremiah is commanded to tell the people not to listen to the lying prophets who preach peace and safety.
18 But who has
been present [stood] in Yahweh's council and seen, and heard this word? Who
has paid attention to his word and listened to it?
Yahweh asks two questions:
Question: What is the answer to the rhetorical
questions in verse 18? See Is 6:1-8; Jer 23:22 and Rev 4:1-8.
Answer: The answer is no one has permission to enter into Yahweh's council to see His visions and hear His word except His divinely appointed prophets, like the prophet Jeremiah. These are the true prophets who not only hear but speak Yahweh's words.
To "stand" before Yahweh is to be in His service, and to "stand in Yahweh's council" is to act as God's royal messenger in delivering His words and judgments to the people. Only a true prophet stands in the Council of Yahweh where he hears the divine word. This unique privilege, along with the truth of the word he speaks, is proof that he is a true prophet (cf. 1 Kng 22:19-23; Is 6; Ps 82).
In addition to being God's messenger to the people, the prophets also have an intercessory role in which they can bring requests from the people to God, which He either grants or refuses. Abraham petitioned God to spare the people of Sodom if ten righteous men could be found (Gen 18:32), and Moses petitioned God to spare the children of Israel after the sin of the Golden Calf (Ex 32:30-35). However, as you may recall, God refused three times when Jeremiah petitioned for mercy for the people over judgment in 7:16; 11:14 and 14:11.
Jeremiah 23:19-24 ~ Yahweh Renounces the False Prophets
19 Look, Yahweh's hurricane, his wrath, bursts out, a fearsome hurricane, to burst on the heads of the wicked; 20 Yahweh's anger will not withdraw until he has performed, has carried out, what he has in mind. In the final days, you will understand this clearly, 21 "I did not send these prophets, yet they ran! I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied! 22 Had they been present in my council, they could have proclaimed my words to my people and turned them from their evil way and from the wickedness of their deeds! 23 "Am I a God when near, Yahweh demands, and not a God when far away? 24 Can anyone hide somewhere secret without my seeing him? Yahweh demands! Do I not fill heaven and earth? Yahweh demands.
Yahweh's oracles of denunciation for the false prophets continue in the poetic form. Here Jeremiah is the speaker. Strong winds and storms are metaphors for coming destruction or judgment (Jer 25:32; Ez 13:13-14; Amos 1:14). Storm imagery can also portray the theophoric experience of Yahweh in which storm, clouds, lightning, thunder, etc. depict divine power (see for example Ex 19:16-19; Job 38:1/40:1; 40:6/40:1; Hab 3:9b-11; Ps 68).
20 Yahweh's anger
will not withdraw until he has performed, has carried out, what he has in mind.
It is not that Yahweh's anger cannot be averted, because it can, as God promised when He offered to withdraw His anger if the people and their leaders repented (see 18:7-8; 26:3). However, when there is no repentance, and God releases His wrath in divine judgment, it will accomplish what He said He would do.
In the final days, you will understand this clearly...
The point is that after these things Jeremiah has foretold come to pass, then the people will understanding the meaning and consequences of this divine judgment. It is a condition of human nature that often people engaged in wrong-doing do not consider the consequences of their actions at the time. It is only later, after they have experienced suffering or hardships because of their actions, that they can look back and understand what led them to their present hardship. The truth is all actions have consequences for the good and for the bad.
21 "I did not
send these prophets, yet they ran! I did not speak to them, yet they
prophesied! 22 Had they been
present in my council, they could have proclaimed my words to my people and
turned them from their evil way and from the wickedness of their deeds!
The repentance the prophets were supposed to preach is stated seven times in the Book of Jeremiah (see Jer 7:3; 18:11; 25:5; 26:3; 35:15; and 36:3, 7).
Question: Why must the false prophets take some responsibility for the coming destruction?
Answer: If the false prophets had truthfully spoken God's word to the people and supported Jeremiah, the people would have repented and implored God's mercy. Instead, the people believed the false prophet's lies and rejected Jeremiah's truth.
23 "Am I a God
when near, Yahweh demands, and not a God when far away? 24 Can anyone hide somewhere secret without my
seeing him? Yahweh demands! Do I not fill heaven and earth? Yahweh demands.
Yahweh's rhetorical questions in these two verses criticize the prophets whose ideas of God are too small and too localized. Therefore, they become too distant from the truth of who God is and what He can do. Yahweh is a God both near and far. He is the One from which no one can hide, and He fills heaven and earth with His presence.
Jeremiah 23:25-32 ~ Prophets and Their Dreams
25 "I have heard what the prophets say who make their lying prophecies in my name. I have a dream,' they say, I have had a dream!' 26 How long are there to be those among the prophets who prophesy lies and are in fact prophets of their own delusions? 27 They are doing their best, by means of the dreams that they keep telling each other, to make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forget my name in favor of Baal. 28 Let the prophet who has had a dream tell it for a dream! And let him who receives a word from me, deliver my word accurately! What have straw and wheat in common?' Yahweh demands. 29 Is my word not like fire, Yahweh demands, is it not like a hammer shattering a rock? 30 "So, then, I have a quarrel with the prophets, Yahweh declares, that steal my words from one another. 31 I have a quarrel with the prophets, Yahweh declares, who wag their tongues to utter prophecies. 32 I have a quarrel with the prophets who make prophecies out of lying dreams, Yahweh declares, who recount them and lead my people astray by their lies and their bragging. I certainly never sent them or commissioned them, and they serve no good purpose for the people, Yahweh declares.
In this prose section, Yahweh condemns the prophets who lie in saying Yahweh has given them dreams. Verses 25-28a are a polemic against lying dreams and is followed by six brief oracles: two contrasting these dreams with God's true word (verses 28b-29) and four oracles pronouncing judgment on lying prophets who do not possess Yahweh's word (verses 30-32).
The Bible does not condemn dreams as a means of divine revelation, especially in the Book of Genesis. Examples of Old Testament God-inspired dreams:
There are also examples of God-inspired dreams in the New Testament:
However, these lying prophets are only claiming to have dreams that are divine in nature. In verse 26 God asks "How long" is He to endure theses lying dreamers filled their delusions.
What have straw and wheat in common? Yahweh demands."
Or literally, "What is the straw to the grain?" which may be an old proverb. In comparing the lying dreams by false prophets to the truthful proclamation of the word by a prophet like Jeremiah, God asks how do you compare straw (false prophets) and wheat (the true prophetic word) since they have nothing in common, and, therefore, there is no comparison.
29 Is my word not
like fire, Yahweh demands, is it not like a hammer shattering a rock?'"
The prophet Nahum, who composed his book prophesizing the overthrow of the Assyrian Empire sometime between 663 and 612 BC, wrote of Yahweh's wrath being poured out like a consuming fire and a force with the power to shatter rocks: His fury, who can withstand it? Who can endure his burning wrath? His anger pours out like fire and the rocks break apart before him (Nah 1:6). In his fifth confession, Jeremiah spoke of God's word being a consuming fire that he could not contain within him in 20:8-9. Yahweh's word is a creative force. What is said becomes a powerful reality like a consuming fire or like a hammer that demolishes a rock.
Question: What did God tell Jeremiah about those
who denied His word, including the prophets, in 5:14, in 15:14b, and what is
the link in both passages to the prophecy for apostasy in Deuteronomy 32:22?
Answer: By the force of His word, God will bring about the fiery wrath of His divine judgment. It is the same prophecy uttered by Moses in his homily listing the future covenant curses for apostasy if the future generations of Israelites turned away from Yahweh in Deuteronomy 32:22.
30 "So, then, I
have a quarrel with the prophets, Yahweh declares, that steal my words from one another.
That the lying prophets "steal my words" probably refers to prophets taking the true revelations of Jeremiah and manipulating his words by turning them into lies and repeating the lies to one another. The most believable lies are those that contain half-truths.
Jeremiah 23:33-40 ~ Dreams and Burdens
33 "And when this people, or a prophet, or a priest asks you, What is Yahweh's burden?' you must answer, You are the burden, and I shall get rid of you, Yahweh declares!' 34 As for the prophet, the priest, or anyone else, who says, Yahweh's burden,' I shall punish that man, and his household too. 35 This is what you must say to one another, among yourselves, What answer has Yahweh given?' or What has Yahweh said?' 36 But stop using the expression Yahweh's burden,' for what each man says will be his own responsibility. And you twist the words of the living God, of Yahweh Sabaoth, our God. 37 This is the way to speak to a prophet, What answer has Yahweh given?' or What has Yahweh said?' 38 But if you say, Yahweh's burden,' then Yahweh says this, "Since you use the expression Yahweh's burden,' when I have warned you to stop saying, "Yahweh's burden," 39 believe me, I shall pick you up and fling you from my presence, you and the city I gave to you and to your ancestors. 40 I shall bring down everlasting shame on you, everlasting and unforgettable disgrace.'"
The second part of the oracle is in prose and focuses on the technical expression, masa, which means "burden" or "pronouncement." The English translation "burden" can mean both a literal load that one carries, or it can be used figuratively for the burden of the responsibility of a prophetic oracle, as in Jeremiah's case and in the case of every true prophet (see Jer 1:6-8; 20:8-9). In this passage, Yahweh is speaking to Jeremiah.
Question: How is Jeremiah to respond to the
question "What is the burden of Yahweh?"
Answer: Jeremiah is to respond to those who ask that they are the burden, meaning "heavy load" and not responsibility "those who ask are not true prophets and God will cast off those who falsely claim to speak a prophetic "burden/masa."
Chapter 24: The Vision of the Baskets of Figs
Jeremiah 24:1-10 ~ Object Lesson # Six
1 Yahweh gave me a vision: set out in front of the Temple of Yahweh were two baskets of figs. This was after Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had led Jechoniah son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, away into exile from Jerusalem, with the chief men of Judah, the blacksmiths and metal workers, and had taken them to Babylon. 2 One basket contained excellent figs, like those that ripen first; the other contained very bad figs, so bad they were uneatable. 3 Yahweh said to me, "What do you see, Jeremiah?" "Figs," I answered, "the good ones excellent, the bad ones very bad, so bad as to be uneatable." 4 Then the word of Yahweh was addressed to me, 5 "Yahweh, the God of Israel, says this, As these figs are good, so I mean to concern myself with the welfare of the exiles of Judah whom I have sent from this place to the country of the Chaldaeans. 6 My eyes will watch over them for their good, to bring them back to this country, to build them up and not to break them down, to plant them and not to uproot them. 7 I shall give them a heart to acknowledge that I am Yahweh. They will be my people and I shall be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. 8 As for the bad figs, the figs so bad as to be uneatable, yes, Yahweh says this, that is how I shall treat Zedekiah king of Judah, his chief men and what is left of Jerusalem: those who remain in this country and those living in Egypt. 9 I shall make them an object of horror, a disaster, to all the kingdoms of the earth, a thing of shame, a byword, a laughing-stock, a curse, wherever I shall drive them. 10 Sword, famine and plague I shall send against them until they have vanished from the soil I gave to them and to their ancestors.'"
This prose section is Jeremiah's sixth object lesson. However, Jeremiah does not receive it as a literal experience as in the past object lessons but as a vision. It may have been necessary for Jeremiah to receive a vision instead of a literal experience if Jeremiah could no longer go to the Temple. He was barred from entering the Temple in 605/4 BC (Jer 36:1, 5). Please remember that a number of the passages in the Book of Jeremiah are not in chronological sequence.
God communicates with His prophets through oracles, visions, and dreams. In the Bible, an oracle is a divine message that is heard and communicated, whereas a vision is something that is seen and experienced and then communicated in an oracle. Another form of divine communication is the dream, in which Yahweh or a divine messenger (angel) speaks to the subconscious of an individual in his sleep.
The passage sets the time of the vision to the reign of King Zedekiah, son of Josiah, the successor of his nephew King Jechoniah son of Jehoiakim. The Babylonians took King Jechoniah, along with his mother and other Jerusalemites of chief families, to exile in Babylon in 598/7 BC and placed Zedekiah on the throne of Judah in place of his nephew (2 Kng 24:10-17). We can, therefore, date the vision to between 597-593 BC and probably during the annual Feast of Sukkot/Tabernacles that closed the liturgical year, in the early fall.
Figs were offered at the Temple at the Feast of Sukkot (Shelters or Tabernacles), following the conclusion of the fruit harvest (Dt 26:1-15; Amos 8:1-3). Sukkot was one of the seven annual God-ordained festivals. It was also called the Feast of Ingathering since it was the last of the three annual "pilgrim feasts," and it lasted seven days and came to a close with a sacred assembly on the eighth day (Lev 23:33-44; Num 29:12-38; Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:5-17; 2 Chr 8:13).
The object lesson of the baskets of figs compares the future of the "good figs" who are the Jerusalemites sent away in the exile of 598/7 BC to those remaining bad Jerusalemites, or "bad figs" that remain under the rule of King Zedekiah until the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC.
6 My eyes will
watch over them for their good, to bring them back to this country, to build
[banah] them up and not to break them down [haras], to plant [nata] them and
not to uproot [natash] them.
The part of the oracle concerning those exiled to Babylon uses the verbs banah, "build," and nata, "plant" to describe the good God has in store for them. The verbs haras, "break them down" or "knock down," "overthrow," and natash, "uproot," refer to the fate of those left behind under the rule of King Zedekiah. It is interesting that all four verbs appear in the narrative of Jeremiah's initial call after Jeremiah attempted to reject his call because of his age in Jeremiah 1:10. However, in that verse the verbs appear in reverse order: Yahweh stretched out his hand and touched my mouth, and Yahweh said to me: "There! I have put my words into your mouth. Look, today I have set you over the nations and kingdoms, to uproot [natash] and to knock down [haras], to destroy and to overthrow, to build [banah] and to plant [plant]."
7 I shall give
them a heart to acknowledge that I am Yahweh. They will be my people and I
shall be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.
Question: What promise does God make to the exiles?
Answer: Yahweh promises to give the exiles a unique spiritual understanding to acknowledge Him as their God.
We will see this promise repeated in the promise of a New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34. They will be my people and I shall be their God is a mutual covenant formula that expresses the restoration of the faithful covenant relationship (also see Jer 7:23; 11:4; 30:22; 31:1, 33; 32:38).
The message of the object lesson is that God will protect the spiritual condition of the earlier exiles and bring them back. Jeremiah's object lesson and oracle matches the oracle God gave to His prophet in exile, Ezekiel, in the Book of Ezekiel 11:14-21, The word of Yahweh was then addressed to me as follows, "Son of man, to your brothers one and all, to your kinsfolk and to the whole House of Israel, the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Keep well away from Yahweh. This country has now been made over to us!' So say, The Lord Yahweh says this: Yes, I have sent them far away among the nations and I have dispersed them to foreign countries; and for a while I have been a sanctuary for them in the country to which they have gone.' So say, The Lord Yahweh says this: I shall gather you back from the peoples, I shall collect you in from the counties where you have been scattered and give you the land of Israel. When they come back, they will purge it of all its horrors and loathsome practices. I shall give them a single heart and I shall put a new spirit in them; I shall remove the heart of stone from their bodies and give them a heart of flesh, so that they can keep my laws and respect my judgments and put them into practice. Then they will be my people and I shall be their God. But those whose hearts are set on their horrors and loathsome practices I shall repay for their conduct, declares the Lord Yahweh.'"
Question: According to the oracle, what will
happen to all those left in Judah and Jerusalem with King Zedekiah and to those
Jews who seek refuge in Egypt when the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem as opposed
to those taken in the earlier exile in 598/7 BC? See object lesson 6 in verses
1-10. How can you compare the fate of Jerusalem's citizens to the people of
the Great Flood judgment?
Answer: The "bad" left behind in Jerusalem and Judah will be deprived of the Holy Land God gave their ancestors and will experience destruction. However, those "good figs" taken in the earlier exile will be preserved. In the Great Flood judgment, those "taken" in the Ark were saved, but those left behind were destroyed in God's divine judgment for their sins.
On Monday of Jesus' last week in Jerusalem before His death, He curses a fig tree that has no figs, and it withers and dies. His symbolic act was a covenant judgment on the "bad fruit" of the covenant people of Jerusalem who rejected their Messiah and like the "bad figs" of Jeremiah's oracle will face destruction (see Mt 21:18-22; Mk 11:12-14, 20-24; Lk 13:6-9).
Babylon the Scourge of Yahweh
Yahweh commands Jeremiah to preach submission to Babylonia in Chapters 25:1-29:32. The section contains four major parts:
Jeremiah 25:1-7 ~ To a People Who Have Not Listened
1 The word that was addressed to Jeremiah about all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, that is to say the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. 2 The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed it before all the peoples of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 3 "For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, until today, the word of Yahweh has been addressed to me and I have never tired of speaking to you, but you have not listened. 4 Furthermore, Yahweh has untiringly sent you all his servants the prophets, but you have not listened or paid attention. 5 The message was this, Turn back, each one of you, from your evil behavior and your evil actions, and you will go on living on the soil Yahweh long ago gave to you and your ancestors forever. 6 And do not follow other gods to serve and worship them, do not provoke me with things you yourselves have made and then I shall not harm you. 7 But you have not listened to me, Yahweh declares, so that you have not provoked me with things you yourselves have made, and thus harmed yourselves.'"
The prose section in verses 1-13 is set in the fourth year of the reign of King Jehoiakim and predates the last section. The year is probably 605 BC.(2)605 BC is the year King Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egypt and Assyria at the Battle of Carchemish and took control of the entire Levant, including the Davidic Kingdom of Judah.
Jeremiah begins his oracle by reminding the people that it was twenty-three years earlier that he received his prophetic call (Jer 1:4-18). From 627 BC until 605 BC, the prophetic "word of Yahweh has been addressed" to Jeremiah. He tells the people that he has faithfully delivered God's word to them, but they failed to listen to him just as they failed to listen to the prophets God sent before him.
5 The message was
this, Turn back, each one of you, from your evil behavior and your evil
actions, and you will go on living on the soil Yahweh long ago gave to you and
your ancestors forever.
The main mission of a prophet was to call the covenant people to repentance. If the people had listened to his message of repentance and renounced their evil practices, they could have continued living in the Promised Land. However, since the people rejected that part of Jeremiah's ministry, his role is now limited to explaining the calamities that they have brought on themselves because of the idols they have made with their hands and have followed instead of Yahweh (verses 6-7).
Jeremiah 25:8-13 ~ The Seventy Year Exile
8 "So, this is what Yahweh Sabaoth says, Since you have not listened to my words, 9 I shall now send for all the families of the north Yahweh declares, that is, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, my servant and bring them down on this country and its inhabitants and on the surrounding nations; I shall curse them with utter destruction and make them an object of horror, of scorn, and ruin them forever. 10 From them I shall banish the shouts of rejoicing and mirth, the voices of bridegroom and bride, the sound of the handmill and the light of the lamp; 11 and this whole country will be reduced to ruin and desolation, and these nations will be enslaved to the king of Babylon for seventy years. 12 But when the seventy years are over, I shall punish the king of Babylon and that nation, Yahweh declares, for the wrong they have done, that is, the country of the Chaldaeans, 13 and make it desolate forever, and against that country I shall perform all the words with which I have threatened it, that is, everything written in this book.'"
In the past, Jeremiah only referred to the "enemy from the north" (ten times in Jer 1:13, 14, 15; 3:18; 4:6; 6:1, 22; 10:22; 13:20; 16:15). Jeremiah identified Babylon as Judah's enemy in the oracle of 20:1-6, delivered sometime before 605 BC, and now, for the first time, he names the "enemy from the north" as the Empire of the Babylonians.
8 "So, this is
what Yahweh Sabaoth says, Since you have not listened to my words, 9 I shall now send for all the families of the
north Yahweh declares, that is, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, my servant
and bring them down on this country and its inhabitants and on the surrounding nations...
All nations of the earth, even pagan peoples, are under God's divine sovereignty. God refers to King Nebuchadnezzar as "my servant" because he will serve as God's instrument of justice in punishing Israel/Judah for the sins of apostasy, idol worship, and mistreatment of the poor.
10 From them I
shall banish the shouts of rejoicing and mirth, the voices of bridegroom and
bride, the sound of the handmill and the light of the lamp...
The invasion of the Babylonians will bring the cessation of marriage, pertinent to God's command to Jeremiah not to marry (Jer 16:1). However, in addition to marriage, the basic activities of daily life will cease for the citizen of Judah and Jerusalem.
11 and this whole
country will be reduced to ruin and desolation, and these nations will be
enslaved to the king of Babylon for seventy years.
In addition to the desolation of the people and the land, God condemns the citizens of Judah and their neighbor nations to seventy years of exile in Babylon.
Question: Seventy years was considered a normal
life span (see Ps 90:10), but there is a specific reason the covenant people
owe Yahweh a period of seventy years in atonement. What is that reason? See
Lev 25:1-7, 18-22 and 2 Chr 36:21.
Answer: The covenant people failed to obey the seventh year Sabbath rest for the land. That they owed God seventy years of "rest" for the land means they failed to observe the Sabbath year covenant obligation for 490 years.
The Promised Land never "belonged" to the Israelites. They were God's tenants on His land (Lev 25:23). The purpose of the Sabbath year was that it served as an opportunity for the covenant people to demonstrate their faith and trust in God to provide for them in the Promised Land, as He promised in His list of blessings for covenant obedience (Lev 26:3-13 and Dt 28:1-14). For an entire year, every seventh year, the land was to lie fallow. No crops were sown, the vineyards were not pruned, no grain was harvested, and no grapes harvested from the untrimmed vines. However, whatever the land produced naturally in its Sabbath year without labor served to feed the people, their servants, the resident aliens, the cattle, and even the wild animals (Lev 25:4-7). The land was at "rest" just as God rested on the seventh day of the Creation event in Genesis 2:1-3. In abandoning God's Law, the covenant people also failed to keep the Sabbath rest while they enjoyed the land. Therefore, God will now take them out of His land so it can receive the 490 years of Sabbath rest it was owed!
12 But when the
seventy years are over, I shall punish the king of Babylon and that nation,
Yahweh declares, for the wrong they have done, that is, the country of the
Chaldaeans, 13 and make it desolate
forever, and against that country I shall perform all the words with which I
have threatened it, that is, everything written in this book.'"
When God uses a nation as His instrument of justice, it does not mean that nation is free to act without justice. In fact, those nations are under a greater obligation to behave in a righteous and just manner. Like the Assyrians who were God's instrument of judgment against the Northern Kingdom of Israel and later punished by the Babylonians for their cruelty, the Babylonians will receive God's judgment for their actions. Yahweh, whose attributes include both mercy and justice, promises to judge the Babylonians at the end of Judah's seventy-year sentence of exile for the crimes the Babylonians committed against the people they oppressed.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
How do you discern a false prophet? What steps do you take to determine if what that person is preaching is true to the word of God or the promotion of a personal agenda? What did God say about discerning a false prophet in Deuteronomy 18:20-22? What advice does St. Paul give in his Letter to the Galatians 1:6-10?
How do false prophets "make their lying prophecies in God's name" (Jer 23:25) and "steal the words of God" (Jer 23:30) today by promoting their false teachings? These false prophets include those who claim to be Christian but misusing the very words of Christ, the Gospel writers, and the other inspired writers of Scripture to refute basic Christian teachings. Those Christian doctrines false teachers seek to undermine include the humanity and divinity of Jesus, the doctrines of the Most Holy Trinity and the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary, and the baptism of children that is necessary for their salvation. See the document "Catholic Apologetics Resource" in "handout 2" for this lesson to help you with your answers in refuting these errors.
2. Jehoiakim became king of Judah in 609 BC, and the fourth year of his reign as we count today is 605 BC. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon ruled from 605-562 BC.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
|The action of the Holy Spirit through God's prophets||CCC 243|
|Role in announcing the Messiah||CCC 522, 555, 702|
|John the Baptist the last of the O.T. prophets||CCC 523, 719|
|Jesus is God's supreme prophet||CCC 426, 1547|
|Role and mission of prophets in Israel||CCC 61, 64, 201, 522, 762, 1964, 2581, 2595|
|Prophets denounced insincere worship||CCC 2100, 2380|
|Witnesses of God's justice||CCC 2543|
|Witnesses of God's love for His people||CCC 218|