Archive for January, 2012

Jeremiah 1 (day 746) 16 January 2012

            1-3: The introduction to the book tells us that Jeremiah prophesied during roughly the same period as Isaiah, from the reign of Josiah until the Exile. Anathoth was a City of Refuge about 3 miles northeast of Jerusalem.

            4-10: The description of the Jeremiah’s call is unique among the prophets. He was apparently still quite young when God made known to him that he had been chosen since before he was born. In response to his objection that he doesn’t know how to speak, God touches his lips and says, “There! My words are in your mouth.” Wow. Moses, you may remember, had a bit of a problem with public speaking, too (Exodus 4:10-12).

            11-12: Jeremiah’s schooling begins. There a play on words in these verses between “almond tree” (shaqed) and “watching” (shoqed).

            13-19: Jeremiah’s duties are daunting. God is going to bring the nations of the north (Assyria, Babylon) to punish Jerusalem for their ungodly worship practices, and Jeremiah’s job will be to get in the face of the most powerful officials in the land.

 

Jeremiah 2 (day 747) 17 January 2012

            1-3: Jeremiah receives a word from God which he is to proclaim in public. God remembers when Israel was his faithful people, the “first fruits” of God’s harvest of people. “All who ate of it” – that is, Israel’s enemies – met with disaster.

            4-8: God demands to know why the generations before turned away from him and began worshiping Baal.

            9-13: Such a thing has never happened, says God, that a nation changed its gods, especially to no-gods – that is, idols. The “fountain of living water” in verse 13 is God; the “cracked cisterns” are idols and false gods.

            14-19: During the period of the prophets Israel was constantly threatened by the powers of the day – Egypt and Assyria. Memphis and Tahpanhes are Egyptian centers. The kings of Israel tried to balance the threat by seeking alliances with Egypt against Assyria and vice versa.

            20-25: Israel’s apostasy is likened to an animal in heat giving in to its lust.

            26-28: The people worship idols of wood and stone, but when trouble comes they call on the LORD. Let your idols save you, says the LORD.

            29-32: God’s questioning continues. Why have they forsaken him, he demands to know.

            33-37: Their alliance with Egypt will prove to be their downfall. God has rejected Egypt and Assyria, and Israel is making a mistake by making alliances with either of them.

 

Jeremiah 3 (day 748) 18 January 2012

            1-5: Israel’s unfaithfulness is likened to a wife who has been divorced and turns to prostitution. Jeremiah, more than any of the other prophets, uses the imagery of sexual infidelity to describe how Israel has forsaken God and pursued other religions.

            6-10: Israel in these verses is the northern kingdom, Judah the southern one. When the northern tribes rebelled and founded their own nation they also founded their own religion (see 1 Kings 12:25-33). But Judah also turned to pagan religious practices. King Josiah undertook significant reforms (2 Kings 23), but did not succeed in wiping out pagan influences.

            11-14: In spite of Josiah’s efforts, God judges Judah to be more faithless than Israel. So God turns to Israel and beckons them back into the fold.

            15-18: God offers to provide leaders for Israel if they will return and be rejoined to Judah.

            19-20: Israel does not respond to the invitation, however, and continues to “prostitute” itself to other gods.

            21-25: I think these verses represent an imaginary response from Israel, the response God is hoping for. Of course, we know from the books of Kings and Chronicles that Israel was not repentant and suffered destruction at the hands of the Assyrians.

 

Jeremiah 4 (day 749) 19 January 2012

            1-4: God’s message for Jeremiah to proclaim continues with a promise that, if they return to following the LORD and practice truth, justice and righteousness, then God will bless not only Israel but other nations through them. “Do not sow among thorns” means in this context “stop depending on idols and pagan gods.” The phrase “foreskin of your hearts” does not occur anywhere else in the Bible, but is an important metaphor for Christians. It essentially means “open your heart to God.” Steven, in his speech before the Jewish Council, says that they are a stiff-necked people, “uncircumcised in heart and ears” (Acts 7:51). You may want to read Paul’s treatise on the true meaning of circumcision at Romans 2:25-29. See also 1 Corinthians 7:19, Galatians 6:15, Colossians 2:11.

            5-8: God tells Jeremiah to announce that he is going to send “a lion” (Assyria) from the north that will bring destruction to Judah and Jerusalem.

            9-10: When that happens, God says, everyone will be surprised. Then Jeremiah challenges God! “You deceived this people!” he cries, because God has said through the prophets that Jerusalem would prosper.

            11-12: Nevertheless, God repeats that destruction is coming as God’s judgment against them.

            13-18: Jeremiah cries out the warning.  He begs them to “wash your heart clean of wickedness,” but the destruction is coming. Dan and Mount Ephraim are in the north, by the way, reinforcing the prediction that the destruction will come from that quarter.

            19-22: I think verses 19-21 are the voice of Jeremiah, in anguish over the vision he has been given of what is to come. Verse 22 is God’s voice, reinforcing the judgment.

            23-28: Jeremiah continues his description of the awful calamity to come. In verses 27-28 God speaks again, reinforcing the decision that he has made.

            29-31: Jeremiah’s vision of the destruction of Jerusalem now includes archers and cavalry searching down those who flee. He is appalled that the leaders of Jerusalem (“O desolate one”) are dressing in finery and jewelry when God’s judgment is fast approaching.

 

Jeremiah 5 (day 750) 20 January 2012

            1-3: The people are entirely corrupt. Jeremiah and God argue whether there are any good people in the city (I wonder why Jeremiah isn’t considered to be in that number?). God speaks in verse 1 and 2, Jeremiah in verse 3, the first sentence then God the last words in verse 3. The argument reminds me of Abraham’s dickering with God over the fate of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33).

            4-6: Jeremiah speaks: He examines poor and rich but finds none who have kept the covenant with God. His defense failed, he knows that the judgment is permanent and the destruction will happen.

            7-13: God seems to be looking for a way to change his mind, but concludes that his judgment is just.

            14-17: He repeats the decree: a foreign nation (surely a reference to Assyria) will invade and conquer Israel and Judah.

            18-19: But not all will be destroyed. A remnant will remain to give witness to why God allowed the devastation of Jerusalem. God tells Jeremiah that when people ask why God did this he is to tell them that God is treating them the way they treated God. They worshiped foreign gods in the land God gave them; God will send them to serve foreigners in a foreign land.

            20-29: God tells Jeremiah to proclaim his judgment to Judah. They have overstepped their spiritual bounds and have no fear of the LORD. The religious and political leaders have fattened themselves on the backs of the poor and needy. Again God asks the rhetorical question: doesn’t the punishment I have decreed fit the crime?

            30-31: Most appalling, says God, the prophets (not including Jeremiah and Isaiah!) and priests follow their own inclinations and pay no attention to God, and what’s worse, the people put up with this behavior. The question at the end of the chapter is not rhetorical.

 

Jeremiah 6 (day 751) 21 January 2012

            I have been wondering what I might have thought had I been a priest serving in the temple while Jeremiah was shouting his pronouncements of doom in the temple courtyard. Would I have resented his intrusions? Assuming I was an honest and upright man, would I even have been aware that our way of worshiping was tainted by pagan influences?  Would I have understood that the training I had received when I first began serving might have been terribly flawed? How would I have reacted to this strident prophet pointing his finger at me and telling me the city was doomed because of me and my colleagues?

            As you read Jeremiah, try putting yourself in the place of, say, a farmer just arrived in the city after a 50 mile trek on foot from a small village in the hill country. You’ve brought a nice goat to offer as a sacrifice in the temple, just as your parents and grandparents taught you to do when you were a child. As you enter the temple precincts and hear this strident young prophet, how would you react?

            1: It is interesting that Jeremiah should specify “children of Benjamin” here. The tribe of Benjamin was absorbed into the tribe of Judah after the reign of Solomon when the northern tribes seceded from Jerusalem. Perhaps Jeremiah is hinting that the responsibility for the current situation lies only with Judah. Beth-haccherem would have been a prominent hill near Jerusalem used as a signal site from which fires could be lit as warnings of approaching danger. Its exact location is unknown, but the warning of approaching evil “out of the north” may indicate that it was located in that direction from the city.

            2-3: Mt. Zion is an attractive target for the imperial ambitions of others.

            4-5: An imagined exchange between the attackers and the townspeople.

            6-7: Jeremiah says that God is summoning enemies to lay siege to the city.

            8-9: However, these verses would seem to indicate there is still the possibility that the judgment can be averted.

            10-12: Still, the prophet despairs of finding anyone who will listen. God tells him to “pour it out” on the children and youth; adults will not heed.

            13-15: It is the leaders of the people who are culpable, says God. They know no shame.

            16-19: God announces to the nations that he is going to “bring disaster on this people.”

            20-21: God rejects their sacrifices because they are not gifts from his people, but rather acquisitions from other lands. God will lay a stumbling block before them – the rejection of their traditions. St. Paul picks up on this image in one of his letters (1 Corinthians 1:23).

            22-23: God repeats the warning about the danger approaching “from the land of the north,” a reference to the Assyrians.

            24-25: I think this is the response of the people, who have heard about the relentless expansion of the Assyrian empire, and are frightened by what they have heard.

            26: These words, I believe, are from the mouth of Jeremiah, in anguish over the fate of his people.

            27-30: God responds to the prophet: God has appointed him to be the assayer of the value of the people, who are likened to silver which is so corrupt with worthless minerals it cannot be refined to produce any value.

 

Jeremiah 7 (day 752) 22 January 2012

            1-4: God gives Jeremiah specific instructions: stand in the gate and proclaim loudly that they must repent. The temple’s mere existence guarantees them nothing.

            5-7: It is God’s presence in the temple that counts, and justice and kindness are the virtues that will attract God to dwell with them.

            8-11: The gist of verses 8-11 basically mean that worship alone does not satisfy God. It is the way the people live that counts.

            12-15: Shiloh was an early worship center for the people of Israel (see 1 Samuel 1:3, for example). The destruction of Shiloh is not described in the Bible, but the implication is that, upon the death of Eli and his sons (1 Samuel 3:11-14), the site was no longer an important religious shrine. (See also Psalm 78:60).

            16-20: The corruption of Israel’s faith has caused God to move against them. The specific charge is that they have mixed pagan elements into their religious practices – baking bread for the “queen of heaven” (probably Astarte, a popular goddess among the deities worshiped by the peoples of that region) and pouring out drink offerings for other gods.

            21-26: Pagan idols and household gods had been a problem for God’s people at least back to the time of Jacob (see Genesis 31:30-32, for example).

            27-29: It is a common theme in the books of the prophets that God commands them to speak knowing the people would not listen.

            30-34: Specific crimes are noted: abominations in the temple and a pagan shrine being built in the valley of Hinnom where fire rituals involving children are being practiced. Scholars do not believe that this necessarily involved child sacrifice, but disfigurement and other ritual hurts done to children were forbidden by God.

Jeremiah 8 (day 753) 23 January 2012

            1-3: The spreading of the bones of prominent people is likely a reference to a ritual performed by conquering armies to disorient and humiliate the people.

            4-7: Jeremiah is to charge the people with refusing to acknowledge their wicked ways and turn back to God.

            8-13: The condemnation continues: the people are not at all ashamed of the greedy and selfish ways they have behaved. God says it is as if he came to a vine to gather grapes and found none, or to a fig tree in vain to gather figs (compare Jesus’ reaction to a barren fig tree at Mark 11:12-14).

            14-16: The leaders of the people are speaking here, complaining that God will give them no peace.

            17: God’s judgment, however, is persistent.

            18-22: There is disagreement among scholars as to whether these are the words of God or of Jeremiah. I believe it is the voice of God (the parentheses around the second part of verse 29 [NRSV] should be removed). The balm produced in the region of Gilead was believed to have pain-relieving qualities, but no human treatment can cure what ails them.

Jeremiah 9 (day 754) 24 January 2012

            1-3: God mourns over the spiritual poverty of the people, for they do not know him.

            4-6: The primary sins alluded to in this section are deceitfulness and dishonesty.

            7-9: Again God asks rhetorical questions – the obvious answer is “yes,” their punishment is deserved.

            10-11: Tens of thousands of Assyrian soldiers sweeping through the land will strip everything of value and leave what remains in ruins.

            12-16: Again the charge is made that the people have gone after the Baals, the pagan gods worshiped by the indigenous groups within and around Canaan.

            17-19: God is calling for a funeral procession complete with professional mourners to sing a dirge for Zion.

            20-22: The summoning of mourners continues, and a picture is painted of wholesale slaughter.

            23-24: The wise, the mighty and the wealthy count for nothing with God; only those who love justice and righteousness.

            25-26: God announces that circumcision no longer assures participation in the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:10-14).

 

Jeremiah 10 (day 755) 25 January 2012

            1-10: The Jewish people were not allowed to carve or sculpt or shape anything as an image of God, and the prophets simply could not understand why anyone would worship an idol, which they saw as no more than a chunk of wood or silver (see, for example, Isaiah 44:12-17). Jeremiah tells the people that God is denouncing them for worshiping such impotent statues (1-5), and then proclaims the LORD to be the only true God (6-10).

            11-16: Idols will perish from the earth, but the LORD, who created the earth, will remain.

            17-18: Because they believe idols have power over their lives, God will cast them out of the land he gave their ancestors.

            19-21: God cries out as though he himself is wounded by the gross negligence of the leaders (shepherds) who have allowed the flock to be scattered.

            22-25: Jeremiah can see the writing on the wall; Assyria is spreading across the land unstoppable, and they will soon reach the cities of Judah. But human beings are not in control, he argues, and begs God to be angry with the nations that are encroaching on Judah because, after all, they don’t know God.

Jeremiah 11 (day 756) 26 January 2012

            1-5: God tells Jeremiah to remind the people of the covenant they have with God.

            6-8: Jeremiah is to read the covenant (the Law) to them and warn them that if they are not obedient they will suffer the consequences spelled out in the covenant. (Go back and read Deuteronomy 31:16-21. It will make your spine tingle.)

            9-13: God tells Jeremiah that his people have reverted to the sins of their ancestors who refused to listen to God (God spoke to them through Moses), and when disaster strikes and they cry out to God, God will not hear them. They will cry out to their false gods to no avail.

            14-17: He tells Jeremiah not to pray for them – there are some prayers God will refuse to answer. Their destruction will be the result of their having worshiped the Canaanite deities (Baals).

            18-20: Jeremiah has been reporting what God has told him about what the future will bring. Now he steps back into the present, solemn with the realization that the people have actually been opposing him, Jeremiah. He tells God he is committed to being the prophet God has called him to be, and asks the favor of being allowed to see the devastations take place.

            21-23: Apparently Jeremiah has been threatened by the people of his hometown, Anathoth (probably by the priests, among whom had been Jeremiah’s father Hilkiah – see 1:1), saying that his life is in danger if he continues to prophesy in the name of the LORD. God’s response is that, when the calamity overtakes the country, the people of Anathoth will be caught up in the disaster. In other words, they aren’t listening, either. Anathoth was indeed overrun by Sennacherib and the Assyrians, and then by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. Only a small number returned to the town after the Exile (see Ezra 2:23).

 

Jeremiah 12 (day 757) 27 January 2012

            1-4: Jeremiah dares to question God’s actions. It is the ages old conundrum of theodicy: an attempt to defend God’s goodness and justice in the face of the injustice of innocent people suffering. Jeremiah, like Job, sees wicked people prospering. They give lip service to God, but not their hearts. Jeremiah insists that his heart is with God, and begs for God to punish the wicked.

            5-6: God replies, and essentially tells Jeremiah that if he can’t see the treachery of his own family he’ll never understand God’s justice. In other words, Jeremiah isn’t the one to judge who is wicked and who is not.

            7-13: God has forsaken Israel because they have forsaken God.

            14-17: God’s basic plan is outlined: his people will be uprooted and punished, but the day will come when they are re-established, and when that occurs, any other nation that does not honor them will suffer God’s wrath.

 

Jeremiah 13 (day 758) 28 January 2012

            1-7: God tells Jeremiah to buy a new loin cloth and wear it but not to wash it. Then God tells him to bury it in the cleft of a rock near a body of water. There is much debate over whether or not the word he uses is meant to refer to the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia or to another stream near Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth. The problem is that the Euphrates is some 400 miles away from Jerusalem. In any case, God is up to something because, after the loin cloth is left for awhile, God tells him to dig it up and he finds it damaged beyond repair.

            8-11: An explanation is given. The loincloth represents Israel, once close to God like an article of clothing, but now worthless.

            12-14: Another example is given by God, this one a bit more obscure, but obviously leading to a similar conclusion; God is going to punish them for their “drunkenness” in following the Baals.

            15-19: Jeremiah pleads with the people to turn back to God, but he is driven to tears as he sees a vision of the people being taken captive.

            20-27: Once again he sees the terror from the north overtaking them and humiliating them before the nations. God has judged that they are so attuned to the worship of idols that they are no more able now to keep their covenant with God than a leopard can change its spots. That’s a wonderful simile.

Jeremiah 14 (day 759) 29 January 2012

            1-6: These verses depict a prolonged drought. It is not known if it refers to an actual or figurative drought, but the description of it is graphic.

            7-9: The prophet (or the people?) cries out for God to come to their rescue.

            10-12: God tells Jeremiah for the third (and last) time not to pray for them (see 7:16, 11:14). Their fate is decided.

            13-16: Jeremiah reports that other prophets are telling the people that there will be no invasion from the north. God replies that those prophets are speaking on their own authority, and will be among the first to suffer when the invasion comes.

            17-18: God gives Jeremiah the words to speak to the other prophets. The siege will take place.

            19-22: It isn’t clear whether these verses are intended to be Jeremiah’s response to God or the collective plea of the people. I think it is Jeremiah, for we have been told that the people do indeed worship idols and disrespect God.

Jeremiah 15 (day 760) 30 January 2012

            1-4: We learn that King Manasseh is responsible for God’s unyielding determination to punish them. Manasseh succeeded his father Hezekiah, who had been a good king, but Manasseh introduced pagan worship wholesale throughout the country. His was a long reign of 55 years. He was succeeded by his son Amon, also judged to have been a wicked king. Amon was succeeded by his son Josiah, who instituted religious reforms more in keeping with the Law but apparently not effectively enough to please God. (Read 2 Kings 21, 22). Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry began during the reign of Josiah.

            5-9: More graphic descriptions of the awful suffering that is to come.

            10-12: Jeremiah laments the uncomfortable position in which God has placed him. God tells him that the discomfort he is experiencing is all for the good. Verse 12 is obscure; I can’t find any scholars who offer a valid explanation. It seems to be a rhetorical question which is intended to indicate that nothing can stop the coming onslaught.

            13-14: These words are surely spoken to the people as a whole, not just to Jeremiah.

            15-18: Jeremiah complains boldly about the trouble God is causing him. God is “like a deceitful brook” to him. This is one brave (or stupid) prophet!

            19-20: This is a curious turn indeed. Has Jeremiah offended God? Apparently so, and maybe because of his complaint in the previous verses, but God insists he will be rescued if he repents (of calling God a “deceitful brook?”). Perhaps at issue is the fact that Jeremiah has been arguing with God rather than simply accepting the terrible pronouncements of calamity to come. Note that in verse 20 Jeremiah is referred to as “a fortified wall of bronze.” This may shed light on verse 12. Judah’s “iron” (their military) cannot defeat Assyria’s “iron” even though they have Jeremiah (“bronze”) on their side.

            21: Given the above interpretation, the “wicked” and the “ruthless” here would have to be a reference to the nobles and leaders in Jerusalem who have been opposing Jeremiah.

 

Jeremiah 16 (day 761) 31 January 2012

            1-4: Unlike Isaiah, Jeremiah is told not to marry or to beget children because of the awful punishment that is coming in which children will undergo unimaginable abuse.

            5-9: More terrible descriptions of the approaching terrors are given in horrifying detail.

            10-13: When the people ask why God is planning such things, he is to tell them it is because of their longstanding rebellion against God that has lasted for generations.

            14-15: But, the LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away, and the LORD giveth again. In spite of the awful calamities that will befall them, God will bring them back to the land and restore them.

            16-19: Jeremiah imagines foreign peoples confessing that their gods are no gods. Then God will have an opportunity to teach them the true nature of things.

 

Jeremiah 17 (day 762) 1 February 2012

            1-4: The prophecy of doom begins all over again. One wonders if sections of the book might represent collections of sayings distributed over a long period of time, as if the prophet is recasting his dire predictions every few months or years.

            5-8: A contrast is drawn between those who trust in temporal powers and those who trust in the LORD. If you have ever been to Israel you can appreciate that the contrast is described in terms of a parched desert versus a fertile spring-fed oasis.

            9-13: Several disconnected sayings are grouped here: how God respects the inner person, not the outer appearance; the folly of accumulating dishonest gain; a little psalm of praise to God and shame to God’s enemies.

            14-18: Some time has apparently passed, and Jeremiah is being derided for pronouncing doom when no doom has yet appeared. But he is faithful and begs God to distinguish between him and his enemies by healing him and destroying them.

            19-23: God tells Jeremiah to stand at one of the primary entrances to the city and call the people to properly keep the Sabbath day. They ignore him, however.

            24-27: God tells Jeremiah that if the people will honor the Sabbath day observance the security of the city will be established and settled. If not, the city will be burned, particularly the palaces, the abodes of the wealthiest citizens. Could it be as simple as that? Could it be that simply keeping the Sabbath holy would have been adequate evidence of a change in the people’s hearts that would have persuaded God to stanch the advance of the mighty armies of the north? Is it possible that the blessed life begins with such a simple practice?

 

Jeremiah 18 (day 763) 2 February 2012

            1-11: God gives Jeremiah an object lesson by sending him to watch a potter at work. God is like a potter, he says, and Judah is like a lump of clay. God has in mind how he is going to shape Judah; he is going to shape it for destruction. But if they collapse like the clay in the potter’s hands – that is, if their wicked nature collapses and they change their ways and repent of their wickedness – God will shape them into a new design, one that seems good to him.

            12-17: But the people will not listen. God made them his own covenant people but they have behaved in a way that is not in keeping with their design, like a mountain stream run dry. The practice of pagan worship (“they burn offerings to a delusion”) is lifted up as the primary cause for God’s having rejected them.

            18: We are allowed to listen in on the people’s reaction to Jeremiah’s pronouncements.

            19-23: An interesting twist in the plot has occurred. Jeremiah, so determined to defend the people before God and beg for mercy, learns of their plans to have him arrested. His reaction is completely normal, and completely surprising. He tells God to go ahead and unload on them.

Jeremiah 19 (day 764) 3 February 2012

            1-9: The pottery wheel was Jeremiah’s object lesson; now he is to give the priests and elders an object lesson. He is to take a pottery vessel to the gate that leads out into the valley of Hinnom, the city dump. He is to tell them that God is going to allow indescribable horrors – even including cannibalism – to overtake them because they have allowed Baal worship to get completely out of hand, including child sacrifice.

            10-13: Then Jeremiah is to shatter the pot in their sight to illustrate how the city will be broken, and he tells them it will be turned into a cemetery (Topheth).

            14-15: After Jeremiah carries out the instructions he returns to the temple and announces to all the people that the disaster God is bringing is imminent.

 

Jeremiah 20 (day 765) 4 February 2012

            1-6: We meet Jeremiah’s primary adversary, the chief priest Pashhur. He is offended by Jeremiah’s shenanigans and has him arrested and put in stocks overnight as a public humiliation. But next morning Jeremiah is anything but cowed. He gives Pashhur a scathing moniker, “Terror-all-around”, and blasts him with a prediction that he will be exiled to Babylon along with the rest of Jerusalem and all the country’s wealth. This is the first time Babylon has been specifically mentioned.

            7-10: Jeremiah’s complaint: he has done everything God has told him to do, but has gotten only punishment and denunciation for it. Yet he finds that he cannot refuse God’s bidding.

            11-13: He has a resurgence of faith that God will protect him and not allow his enemies to prevail.

            14-18: Unexpectedly he returns to the despair with which the chapter began. We hear in these verses an echo of Job (see Job 3:1-3, 9-11).

 

Jeremiah 21 (day 766) 5 February 2012

            1-2: King Zedekiah (his Babylonian name; his Jewish name was Mattaniah – see 2 Kings 24:17) son of Josiah sends envoys to beseech Jeremiah for help. This is a different Pashhur – not the one who put him in the stocks – who is sent to Jeremiah along with the priest Zephaniah to ask him to ask God to turn the armies of Nebuchadnezzar back from their attack on Judah. This is not the first time Nebuchadnezzar has laid Jerusalem to siege. The first siege resulted in the surrender of Zedekiah’s brother, Jehoiakim, who subsequently rebelled and was taken captive by the Babylonians. His son Jehoiachin became king, but that idiot rebelled also and Nebuchadnezzar placed his uncle, his father’s brother Mattaniah/Zedekiah on the throne. Now Zedekiah has rebelled, demonstrating his rather questionable grasp of reality, and Nebuchadnezzar is on the way. (See 2 Kings 24, 25 for the story of the fall of Judah and Jerusalem.)

            3-7: In response to their request, Jeremiah tells them to tell Zedekiah that God will instead fight against Zedekiah. The city will be overrun – Nebuchadnezzar’s patience stretched beyond its limits – and the people will be killed. At first glance it appears he is predicting the death of Zedekiah as well, but in 2 Kings we are told that Zedekiah tried to escape the city but was captured and Nebuchadnezzar put all his sons to death and then put out his eyes and took him to Babylon in chains (2 Kings 25:2-7).

            8-10: Jeremiah advises the people of the city to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, for that is the only way they will save their lives.

            11-14: Another word of judgment from the LORD against Judah, the “house of David.”

Jeremiah 22 (day 767) 6 February 2012

            1-12: Chapter 22 backs up about 22 years to the end of the reign of Josiah. Josiah was killed in a battle with Pharaoh Neco of Egypt about 609 B.C. (2 Kings 23:29). Josiah, according to the earlier accounts, was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:30), not Shallum. Shallum was Josiah’s 4th son (1 Chronicles 3:15). Other than this mention, which is probably mistaken, there are no records to indicate that Shallum ever ruled. Johoahaz, however, fits the description we have in verse 11, which tells us that Josiah’s son who succeeded him was carried away and never returned: Jehoahaz only ruled for 3 months before Pharaoh Neco deposed him and carried him off to Egypt, where he died (2 Kings 23:31-34).

            It may be possible, then, to date this chapter to the last months of the year 609 B.C. Jeremiah is speaking out a warning to Josiah’s successors that they will come to a bad end unless they “act with justice and righteousness.” It is a time of great instability. Jehoahaz ruled 3 months. Jehoiakim ruled 11 years. Jehoiachin ruled 3 months, and finally Zedekiah ruled for 11 years, all under Babylonian administration, and then Judah and Jerusalem were no more.

            13-19: Jeremiah seems to be taking aim at the two guys who immediately followed the good king Josiah – Jehoahaz (or Shallum?) and now Jehoiakim (verse 18), who were brothers, both of them sons of Josiah. He obviously has no respect for Jehoiakim, sarcastically asking him “are you a king because you compete in cedar?” In contrast his father Josiah “did justice and righteousness” and as a result “it was well with him.”

            By the way (and I hate to bog you down with so much history here, but it is fascinating to me), when Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus he names Josiah but skips the next generation and doesn’t mention Jehoiakim but jumps to his son Jehoiachin (see Matthew 1:11, where he is called by his other name, Jeconiah). Jehoiachin was not a great king. His reign only lasted 3 months, but he had the good sense to simply surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, after which he was taken to Babylon as a captive but later released from prison and became an honored guest at Nebuchadnezzar’s table (2 Kings 24:10-12, 25:27-28).

            20-23: Lebanon, Bashan and Abarim are all high mountain ranges north, northeast and south of Jerusalem. Jeremiah taunts the king and the leaders, telling them to cry for help from their “lovers” – Egypt and Assyria, the nations they had in the past called on for help against their enemies instead of relying on God. They wouldn’t listen to God, so they ought to beg these former allies for help, he says. Unfortunately, he tells them, these “lovers” are also now captives: Egypt and Assyria have been supplanted as world powers by the Babylonians.

            24-30: A dirge for Judah: Coniah (alias Jeconiah alias Jehoiachin) will be taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar (sorry I gave that away in the last paragraph). He will never return. Jeremiah doesn’t think much of Coniah (verse 18), but he was very young, either eighteen (2 Kings 24:8) or eight (2 Chronicles 36:9) years old. Jeremiah casts him as childless, and prophesies that none of his children will become king, which turned out to be true, of course.

 

Jeremiah 23 (day 768) 7 February 2012

            1-4: The people will suffer in exile, but the leaders are to blame. Therefore God says the day will come when the people will be restored and new leaders will be raised up who will have the best interests of the people at heart instead of acting in self interest.

            5-6: Jeremiah even looks to a time when a new king will arise from among the descendants of David. That is perhaps why Matthew was so careful to include David and some of his royal descendants in the lineage of Jesus.

            7-8: The future return of the exiles will become the most important event in the history of God’s people, supplanting the exodus from Egypt.

            9-15: God bemoans the sorry record of the prophets of Samaria and Jerusalem. The prophets of Samaria prophesied by Baal, but the prophets of Jerusalem are worse because they claimed to be following God but allowed the worship of other gods to corrupt the people and to taint their prophesies.

            16-17: God (through the voice of Jeremiah) denounces them for pretending everything will be alright.

            18-20: Any idiot ought to be able to see that God is fed up and his wrath will overtake them. They’ll be able to see it, of course, in hindsight.

            21-22: God didn’t send them. God didn’t speak to them. If they really knew God they would shut up.

            23-32: The false prophets apparently had developed dream telling into a tool by which they could fool people into thinking they were really hearing God’s voice. God decries such practices. Do they think God’s range is limited? Do they think God’s can’t see what they’re doing? God denounces them as worthless prophets who lead the people astray.

            33-40: This section is particularly obscure because of the play on a word in Hebrew. The word is “massa,” and it is the word for “oracle,” referring to a genuine prophetic pronouncement, and also the word for “burden.” Jeremiah is saying that these false prophets are uttering sayings that they claim to be oracles but are instead burdens for the people because the people are being led astray by these ungodly, dream-influenced pronouncements. The situation has become so bad that God tells them not even to use the word massa anymore; the very use of the word provokes God’s wrath.

 

Jeremiah 24 (day 769) 8 February 2012

            1-10: The first exile to Babylon took place around 597 B.C. when King Jeconiah (also called Jehoiachin) surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar and he and his officials were taken captive. Zedekiah was placed on the throne, and ruled for 11 years and then rebelled, resulting in the second, more extensive, exile of the population in 586 B.C. This chapter is a word from God through Jeremiah given sometime after the first deportation but before the second one. Surprisingly, God tells Jeremiah that the exiles (Jeconiah and his officials) are to be regarded as the remnant on which God will rebuild Jerusalem. Zedekiah and the people left behind in Judah are the ones who will suffer God’s continuing wrath until they are utterly removed from the land.

 

Jeremiah 25 (day 770) 9 February 2012

            1-7: Once again the clock is turned back and we are looking at the years before the first exile, when Jehoiakim is the king in Jerusalem. It is the fourth year of his reign, which would be about 605-604 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar is in his first year as king of Babylon. When King Josiah died, his son Jehoahaz was named king, but Pharaoh Neco deposed him immediately and placed his brother Jehoiakim on the throne. Jehoiakim laid a heavy tax on the people in order to pay the tribute Neco demanded. In the midst of this unsettled time Jeremiah steps forward to explain that all that has happened has been due to the wrath of God in response to the people’s refusal to listen to the prophets.

            8-14: Jeremiah’s prophesy is that Nebuchadnezzar (whom he calls God’s servant!) will come and lay waste to the land and they will serve the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar ruled 43 years until 562 B.C. He was succeeded by Evil-Merodach who ruled for two years, and is the one credited with releasing Jehoiachin from prison (2 Kings 25:27-28). He was murdered and succeeded by Nergal-sharezer, a high-ranking officer in Nebuchadnezzar’s administration (Jeremiah 39:13), who ruled until 556 B.C. Nergal-sharezer was succeeded by Nabonidus, who ruled until 539 B.C. when Babylon was overthrown by Cyrus the Persian. Cyrus is the one who issued the decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem (see Ezra 1:1).

            15-26: Jeremiah is to take the “cup of God’s wrath” to the nations. It is a symbolic journey, of course, with just about all the known nations mentioned from verses 18 to 26. Sheshach is Babylon.

            27-29: If they refuse to drink he is to tell them they have no choice: if Jerusalem must drink God’s wrath, how can they think to escape?

            30-38: He describes God swarming over the earth in anger, wielding a sword with which he smites the nations. God is going to judge the whole earth, he says, and none will be exempted. The shepherds (verse 36) are the kings and generals and provincial rulers. The pastures (verse 36) are the territories they rule; the peaceful folds (verse 37) are the cities.

 

Jeremiah 26 (day 771) 10 February 2012

            1-6: We step back another four years to the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim. Jeremiah is given God’s word to warn the new administration that they must heed the voices of the prophets or drive Jerusalem into the kind of obscurity that visited Shiloh, an early religious center for the twelve tribes as they began to settle Canaan.

            7-9: The other priests and prophets threaten to kill Jeremiah for saying such things. Now there was a preacher!

            10-11: They actually bring him to trial before the officials.

            12-15: Jeremiah offers a “spirited” defense, you might say.  

            16-19: The officials who gathered to hear the case find against the priests and the prophets and even go so far as to support Jeremiah’s call for a revival. They remember another prophet, Micah, who prophesied such things, and King Hezekiah had paid attention, made reforms, and God’s wrath was stayed.

            20-24: Jehoiakim, however, is not Hezekiah, and when a third prophet, Uriah, speaks out Jehoiakim comes after him with murderous intent. Uriah flees to Egypt, but Jehoiakim is so incensed he has Uriah extradited and summarily executes him. Ahikam the high priest, though, protects Jeremiah.

            It is obvious that there are a lot of differing factions in Jerusalem during Jehoiakim’s reign.

 

Jeremiah 27 (day 772) 11 February 2012

            1-7: Jump ahead now ten or eleven years to the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah, the last King of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar has already carried away Jehoiachin and his officials, remember, and placed his uncle on the throne. Jeremiah takes to carrying a yoke around on his back to illustrate his pronouncements. He now engages in what can only be described as interference in affairs of state. He goes to the envoys from neighboring states and tells them to take back to their capitals the word that it is God’s will that all of them be slaves of Nebuchadnezzar, until God decides it’s time for Babylon to be the oppressed.

            8-11: Jeremiah actually tells them to persuade their rulers not to resist the Babylonians, but succumb to them and willingly place themselves under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. This is treason, of course. Now there was a preacher!

            12-15: Jeremiah warns Zedekiah and his officials that the best course is to submit to Nebuchadnezzar. Apparently Zedekiah is already thinking of the rebellion he will launch later (2 Kings 25:1).

            16-22: Now Jeremiah goes to the local priests, and tells them and the general public not to listen to any prophet who assures them that the temple items taken to Babylon with Jehoiachin will be brought back. Not only will they stay in Babylon, he says, but the remaining temple vessels and utensils will also be carried away. He tells them the best course is to submit to Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. The pillars, stands, bowls and other vessels of the temple will be returned to the temple when God is good and ready for it.

 

Jeremiah 28 (day 773) 12 February 2012

            1-4: We are in the fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah, around 594 B.C. Another prophet, one Hananiah, a court prophet who caters to the whims of the ruling authorities, makes a public announcement that he claims is the word of the LORD, that Nebuchadnezzar’s conquests are over and that within two years everything and everybody he had taken out of Jerusalem would be returned. This, of course, is in direct conflict with what we just read Jeremiah has told them.

            5-9: Jeremiah feigns agreement with Hananiah. Then, however, he lets everybody know that the true test of a prophet is whether or not the prophecy comes to pass. We’ll see, he says.

            10-11: In response Hananiah grabs Jeremiah’s yoke which he has been carrying around on his back for about four years, since the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah (27:1-2). He’s trying to grab Jeremiah’s thunder as well, saying that, just as Jeremiah took up the yoke to demonstrate Judah’s servitude to Nebuchadnezzar, Hananiah’s removal of the yoke demonstrates that they will break the hold of Babylon. Jeremiah, wise fellow that he is, simply walks away. Lighter.

            12-17: God tells Jeremiah to tell Hananiah that the wooden yoke will be replaced by an iron one. But Jeremiah has had enough of being jerked around. He goes and tells Hananiah that God is really angry with him and he is going to die! He does. Moral of the story: Don’t mess with God’s prophets.

 Jeremiah 29 (day 774) 13 February 2012

            1-9: Jeremiah sends a letter to the exiles in Babylon via an emissary King Zedekiah is sending to Nebuchadnezzar, probably a periodic delivery of whatever tribute Nebuchadnezzar requires. Jeremiah’s letter is perhaps surprising, and shows that the “battle of the prophets” has escalated beyond the city walls of Jerusalem.

            10-14: You have to stay there 70 years, he tells them, so hunker down; build houses, get involved in the community.

            15-23: The people left behind in Jerusalem are going to be subjected to the remainder of God’s wrath, he says, which I’m sure he thought would make them feel better about being in Babylon. The real reason, however, that he is writing the letter is because two self-styled prophets in exile with them, Ahab and Zedekiah (no relation to the current king of Judah) have spoken lying words in his name. He tells them that Ahab and Zedekiah are going to be roasted alive by Nebuchadnezzar. I don’t know how he knew that, but given what happened to Hananiah I don’t think I would want to be Ahab or Zedekiah right about now.

            24-28: In addition, some guy name Shemaiah had written the priest Zephaniah in Jerusalem asking them why they haven’t arrested Jeremiah for advising the exiles to build houses and settle in Babylon.

28-32: Unfortunately for Shemaiah, Zephaniah let Jeremiah read the letter, so Jeremiah tells Shemaiah that he won’t have a single descendant return to Jerusalem when the exiles are freed in 70 years. So says the LORD.

 

Jeremiah 30 (day 775) 14 February 2012

            1-3: God instructs Jeremiah to write down the words he has received, because “the days are coming” when God will restore Israel and Judah. If the words are written they will serve as evidence that what has happened was foretold by God.

            4-9: God gives Jeremiah a “word” that acknowledges the suffering that Israel and Judah have endured, but promises a day when their fortunes will be reversed, when the worship of the LORD will be restored, and when a new king like David will be their leader.

            10-11: God promises Israel that the exiles will be returned and will live in peace. God will make an end of the “nations among which I scattered you.” Let’s see; that would be Assyria, Babylon, Edom, Aram, and Moab. Where are they now?

            12-17: A helpless and hopeless situation is described, but once again God promises that restoration will come.

            18-22: To counterbalance the emphasis on their suffering that has characterized the first 17 verses of this chapter, now God describes their restored status. “You shall be my people and I will be your God” – this promise is articulated only 5 times in the Bible. The first time was at Exodus 6:7: “I will take you as my people, and I will be your God.” That was the original statement of God claiming the descendants of Jacob suffering in slavery in Egypt. Here it is being repeated as a promise that God is reinstituting his plan to claim these people as his own.

            23-24: That’s how God works: God’s wrath accomplishes God’s word. We’ll understand it all by and by.

 

Jeremiah 31 (day 776) 15 February 2012

            1-6: These verses present a vision of restoration that includes all the Promised Land, including both Israel and Judah. Indeed, the emphasis here is on the northern kingdom with a picture of Samaria’s vineyards being replanted and the people who live in the hill country of Ephraim (the principle one of the northern tribes) will once again travel to Jerusalem to attend the required festivals.

            7-9: The northern tribes were overrun by Assyria and the people scattered around the empire rather than exiled more or less intact, which was the fate of the southern tribes in Judah. God is specifically reclaiming them as well as the exiles from Jerusalem.

            10-14: Now all the nations hear the news of what God has done, and we have a picture of the rejoicing of the people as they return to the land God promised the descendants of Abraham.

            15-17: Verse 15 is quoted at Matthew 2:18 as a scriptural reference to back up the story of Herod having all the children of Bethlehem put to death. Ramah was a town about 6 miles north of Jerusalem in the territory of Benjamin.  Rachel, wife of Jacob, died giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis 35:18). Jeremiah imagines her weeping that her “children,” the tribe of Benjamin, were deported to strange lands. He tells her to rejoice, for they will return to their own country.

            18-20: Jeremiah imagines a conversation between Ephraim (another of Rachel’s “children” – actually her grandchild through Joseph) and God. Ephraim accepts the punishment given and pleas to be allowed to come home. God offers mercy.

            21-22: God invites them to come home. The last part of verse 22 is obscure, but seems to have to do with the imagery of God being touched by Rachel’s weeping for her sons.

            23-26: Turning now to the southern kingdom, Judah, Jeremiah sees them returning and rebuilding and once again worshiping God on Mt. Zion, the “holy hill.”

            27-30: Israel and Judah are at last mentioned in the same breath. The saying in verse 29 essentially means “the children suffer for their parents’ mistakes,” which is the judgment God made in sending them into exile – they were being punished for sins their ancestors committed (see 7:25-26).  Jeremiah says that will no longer be a rule, but that each generation would suffer its own consequences.

            31-34: God is proposing a new covenant, one that is not written on tablets of stone or on scrolls, but rather is written in the hearts of God’s people, both Israel and Judah.

            35-37: God says that he will never again reject the descendants of Israel (Jacob); such a thing is as unlikely as the cessation of night and day.

            38-40: The boundaries of the holy city will be expanded to include the terrible “valley of dead bodies and ashes,” a reference to the Hinnom Valley where bodies of the slain inhabitants of Jerusalem were tossed by the Babylonian soldiers (see 7:32) and where the horrible ritual of child sacrifice was enacted by pagan practitioners (7:31). God will redeem all of this territory, and it will “never again be uprooted or overthrown.”

 

Jeremiah 32 (day 777) 16 February 2012

            1-5: The siege of Jerusalem began in the ninth year of King Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:1), so it has been in progress for perhaps the better part of a year. At this point the siege is not yet an all-out attack, but a relentless step-by-step process by which the city will inevitably be taken. Earthen ramps have been placed against the city walls (see verse 24). The noose is tightening, and Zedekiah can’t have Jeremiah running around pronouncing doom and destroying what little morale remains among the people, so he has Jeremiah confined.

            6-8: God tells Jeremiah his cousin Hanamel will come and entreat him to buy a field from him, and that’s exactly what happens. Jeremiah knows it is the word of the LORD because it happens. That is the proof that God has spoken to a prophet, you know.

            9-15: Jeremiah buys the field and has it properly probated as a sign of his faith in the word he has received from the LORD that “houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in the land.”

            16-25: Jeremiah repeats all of Israel’s history in a prayer to God, and asks God why, in the face of the consummation of his wrath, would he want Jeremiah to buy a field, for heaven’s sake?

            26-35: God confirms what he is going to do: the Babylonians will indeed capture and then burn the city, because of the sins in which the people and the leaders have persisted – particularly the worship of other gods. “The people of Israel and the people of Judah have done nothing but evil since their youth (verse 30)” reminds me of God’s judgment on the whole human race in Genesis 6:5.

            36-41: However, God has every intention of bringing the people back from their exile, setting them up in their land again and changing their hearts so that they can no longer do evil but only good. And they will live happily ever after.

            42-44: Fields shall be bought again, God says, and therefore Jeremiah’s purchase of his cousin’s field is a statement of faith that God will do what God says God will do.

 

Jeremiah 33 (day 778) 17 February 2012

            1-9: I don’t know how God communicated with Jeremiah, whether through an audible voice or through images and ideas that came to him in such a way as to convince him that they were not his own thoughts. In any case it must have been quite comforting to him that God would not be silent while he is confined and under guard and surely afraid for his life. God repeats the prophesy he has been giving Jeremiah for some time now; the Chaldeans (Babylonians) are going to breach the city walls and destroy the city and kill much of the population but God will restore the city and the nation and they will be given a new and glorious beginning.

            10-11: Jeremiah imagines (with God’s prompting) the streets filled once again with wedding processions and the noise of festivals.

            12-13: The towns and villages ‘round about will not be left in ruin either, but will be restored completely, with fertile pasturelands on which flocks are well fed.

            14-16: A “righteous Branch” will be raised up to rule over the city and the countryside, God says. Christians have interpreted this as a reference to the Christ. Many Jewish scholars see it as a prophecy fulfilled by the emergence of Judas Maccabeus.

            17-18: The throne of Israel will be restored, and the religion of Israel will be also.

            19-22: The covenant with David and with the Levites (political and religious arms of government) cannot be broken any more than day and night can stop following each other. He tells Jeremiah that David’s progeny will grow until they are uncountable. The reference to the host of heaven and sands of the sea reminds us of the promise God made to Abraham (Genesis 22:17).

            23-26: These verses simply repeat the sentiment expressed in verses 19-22, couched in slightly different terms.

 

Jeremiah 34 (day 779) 18 February 2012

            1-7: Here we have the word of the LORD for which Zedekiah had Jeremiah placed under arrest (see 32:2-5).

            8-17: These verses relay an event not recorded elsewhere in the Bible. Zedekiah ordered the release of slaves in the city, in accordance with the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 15:12-13) which provided for such a release every seven years. There is no evidence that this particular provision had been obeyed at any time since the land was settled, but Zedekiah, who is judged to have been an evil king, apparently thought that such an act would help them in their present predicament by insuring the loyalty of the slaves when the fighting entered the city. The slave owners obeyed the decree, but then changed their minds and reclaimed their slaves. Jeremiah pronounces God’s judgment on them, not for disobeying Zedekiah but for disobeying God.

            18-22: The Babylonian army has temporarily abandoned the siege to deal with the approaching Egyptian forces (see 37:5), which may explain why the slave owners reneged on the release of their slaves. Jeremiah pronounces God’s judgment that these fickle slave owners will be dealt with harshly. The mention of the calf cut in two is a reference to a story in Genesis (15:9-18) in which Abraham laid out the halved carcasses of a heifer, a goat and a ram and dreamed that God passed between the divided parts and proclaimed the covenant with Abraham and his descendants, who are currently in the fight of their lives against the most powerful nation on earth. The destruction of Jerusalem and the slaughter of these slave owners will be God’s way of renewing the covenant relationship with Israel.

Jeremiah 35 (day 780) 19 February 2012

            1-11: The Rechabites are unknown elsewhere, but there is a little information about their ancestor Rechab and his son Jonadab (also Jehonadab) at 2 Kings 10:15-23. Jonadab was an ally of Jehu who assassinated King Jehoram son of Ahab of Israel. The point of the story here is, of course, the remarkable obedience of this nomadic family to the instructions of their ancestor Jonadab son of Rechab in stark contrast to the easy disobedience of the citizens of Jerusalem.

            12-17: That contrast now forms the basis of the pronouncement God tells Jeremiah to make to those citizens.

            18-19: The citizens of Jerusalem will be wiped out because of their disobedience. The Rechabites, at least some of them, will survive because of their demonstration of strict obedience. Let that be a lesson to us all.

 

Jeremiah 36 (day 781) 20 February 2012

            1-3: Another flashback, this time to the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, who ruled from about 608 B.C. until 597 B.C. Jehoiakim’s reign began under Egyptian domination (2 Kings 23:34-35) and ended in exile to Babylon (2 Kings 25:6-7). Thus, the actions in this chapter take place during the same time-frame as chapters 25 and 45. It is a crucial year in Judah’s history because it is the year in which the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians under Neco and brought to an end Egypt’s brief domination of the area. Because of this event, this may be a time in which the residents of Jerusalem are breathing a bit easier knowing they won’t have to bow and scrape to the Egyptians anymore. So, it is in this watershed year that God tells Jeremiah to write down all the terrible things that will happen to them if they don’t mend their ways.

            4-8: We met Baruch in chapter 32:9-15 when Jeremiah bought the field from his cousin Hanamel. He is a scribe who is faithful to Jeremiah and may have been in his employ. Jeremiah instructs him to write down the prophecy of the destruction God is planning for Jerusalem and to read it in the temple where Jeremiah is not currently permitted to go.

            9-10: Baruch waits nearly a year for a fast to be called so that a large crowd would be present, and then carries out Jeremiah’s instructions by reading the scroll in the hearing of as many people as possible.

            11-19: A court official named Micaiah hears Baruch reading the scroll and goes to inform King Jehoiakim. Some 18 years earlier, about 621 B.C. during the reign of Josiah the temple had undergone major repairs. The high priest Hilkiah found a scroll of the Law which he passed on to one Shaphan, who read the scroll to Josiah. Josiah was overcome with contrition, tore his clothes as a sign of it, and undertook major religious reforms in Judah. That Shaphan is the grandfather of the Micaiah mentioned here, who hears Baruch reading the scroll and goes to inform the head priests, including his father Gemariah son of Shaphan. I love these little connections. They summon Baruch, who reads the scroll to them. They realize they must tell the king what Jeremiah has had publicized in the city, but take the precaution of telling Baruch that he and Jeremiah need to hide.

            20-26: A man named Jehudi, a government functionary, is alerted and tells the king about Baruch’s actions. The king orders him to bring the scroll and read it to him. It strikes me during all this drama that the religious establishment, at least at this juncture, is not in the king’s pocket. Jehudi reads the scroll to Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim calmly burns each column after it is read. The three priests try to persuade the king not to burn the scroll, but they are ignored. Neither the king nor any of his officials tear their clothes at the reading of the scroll, a little detail designed to let us know that Jehoiakim is not the man his father was. When the scroll is completely consumed in the fireplace Jehoiakim orders the arrest of Baruch and Jeremiah. I don’t know what he’s planning – he just burned the evidence.

            27-32: God tells Jeremiah to redo the scroll, and add a particularly gnarly prophecy just for Jehoiakim.

Jeremiah 37 (day 782) 21 February 2012

            1-2: Josiah had at least three sons; Jehoahaz, Eliakim (Jehoiakim) and Mattaniah (Zedekiah). Josiah was succeeded by Jehoahaz, who only reigned 3 months before being deposed by Pharaoh Neco, who placed Eliakim on the throne, changing his name to Jehoiakim. He is the one we read about in the last two chapters. Jehoiakim ruled for 11 years. He was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin (aka Jeconiah, aka Coniah), who only ruled for 3 months before being taken captive to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar placed his uncle Mattaniah, third son of Josiah, on the throne, changing his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah ruled from 597 to 586 B.C. That’s where we are as chapter 37 begins.

            3-5: Jerusalem has been under siege by Nebuchadnezzar, but now enjoys a brief respite as the Babylonians withdraw to face the advancing Egyptian army. King Zedekiah sends word to Jeremiah to ask for prayers. Don’t be fooled; King Zedekiah is not a good man.

            6-10: In the course of praying for Zedekiah, Jeremiah receives a word from God that the Egyptians will go home and the Babylonians will return and burn Jerusalem. That message is to be delivered to Zedekiah by the two men he sent to Jeremiah – Jehucal and Zephaniah.

            11-16: With the momentary lifting of the siege Jeremiah decides to go to Anathoth and take a look at the field he bought from his cousin Hanamel. He is arrested by a guard at the city gate and turned over to the officials who accuse him of trying to desert to the Babylonians. They beat him and confine him in a makeshift prison, the home of one Jonathan, a royal secretary.

            17-21: After many days King Zedekiah summons Jeremiah. Although he is not a faithful worshiper of the LORD he does believe Jeremiah has a connection, and anxiously asks if there is a word. Jeremiah tells him the Babylonians are coming back and he will be captured. Then he implores Zedekiah not to send him back to the same prison. Zedekiah agrees and has him confined in more amenable arrangements, so the man does seem to have a heart.

Jeremiah 38 (day 783) 22 February 2012

            1-7: The men named in verse 1 are government functionaries. Pashhur had Jeremiah arrested once before and put in the stocks overnight (20:2). Now his son Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar later appoints as governor (see 40:5), is among those who accuse Jeremiah to Zedekiah and demand that he be punished. At this point in the siege it is apparent that Zedekiah’s authority is tenuous at best; he admits that he is powerless to stop them. They take Jeremiah and put him in a muddy cistern that belongs to the king’s son Malchiah – I wonder what might be brewing there between these official thugs and the king’s son, given the predilection of these princes to knock off their parents in order to ascend to the throne more quickly.

            8-13: A palace eunuch saves the day. His name is Ebed-melech, which means “servant of the king.” He tells Zedekiah about Jeremiah’s plight, and the king gives him leave to take some men and pull Jeremiah out of the cistern. He is then kept in the courtyard of the palace guards.

            14-23: Zedekiah has a grudging respect for Jeremiah, though, and obviously believes that he can hear the word of God. He sends for Jeremiah and asks him what God is saying. After receiving some assurances that Zedekiah won’t kill him, Jeremiah tells him that the only way out is to surrender to the Babylonians. Zedekiah is constrained by political fears, however – much like political leaders today – and balks at the suggestion. Jeremiah tells him that if he doesn’t surrender he will seal the doom of the city.

            24-28: Zedekiah instructs Jeremiah in what to say if the court officials question him. He is obviously afraid of them, and the only conclusion I can reach is that he sits on a shaky throne. The officials do question him, and Jeremiah tells them the lie the king told him to tell. Jeremiah will be under guard until the day Jerusalem falls.

Jeremiah 39 (day 784) 23 February 2012

            1-10: The walls are breached in the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year. Zedekiah tries to escape but is captured and brought to Nebuchadnezzar whose headquarters are at Riblah, located in the region of Gilead east of the Sea of Galilee. Nebuchadnezzar’s cruelty is on display as he puts to death all Zedekiah’s sons and then blinds him and has him hauled in chains to Babylon. Jerusalem is occupied by Babylonian officials and the populace except the poorest people is sent to Babylon with their king.

            11-14: It is surprising that Nebuchadnezzar arranges such kindness for Jeremiah, leaving us to speculate that somehow he had gotten word of Jeremiah’s attempts to get Zedekiah to surrender and save Nebuchadnezzar a lot of trouble. It sort of makes you wonder if he didn’t somehow get word to Jeremiah that he would spare the city if Jeremiah could convince Zedekiah to surrender. He orders Gedaliah (the same man who tried to persuade Zedekiah to kill Jeremiah – see 38:1-6) to protect Jeremiah.

            15-18: Back up just a moment: before Jeremiah was placed under Gedaliah’s protection God tells him to tell Ebed-melech that his life will be spared because of the kindness he had shown to God’s prophet. The one person who tried to help Jeremiah is not even an Israelite!

 

Jeremiah 40 (day 785) 24 February 2012

            1-6: These verses fill in the gap between 39:14a and 39:14b. While at Ramah Nebuzaradan, under orders from Nebuchadnezzar (39:11), sets Jeremiah free to go wherever he wishes. Jeremiah, as we learned in the last chapter, chooses to go to Mizpah with Gedaliah, the newly appointed governor. There was more than one Mizpah, but likely the reference here is to Mizpah in the territory of Benjamin, which was an early religious center along with Ramah and Gilgal. Although the exact location is a matter of conjecture the likelihood is that it was a town about two miles north of Ramah and 8 miles north of Jerusalem. Mizpah is the place where Saul was chosen to be the first King of Israel (1 Samuel 9). Apparently Jerusalem was in such a state of ruin that it could not serve as the administrative center of the area.

            7-12: Verses 7-9 contain basically the same information as 2 Kings 25:23-24. There are still little bands of soldiers scattered around the area, and when they hear that Gedaliah has been put in charge they come to him at Mizpah. He advises them to lay down their arms and take up farming. According to this account they do just that, and bring in a bountiful harvest – a detail left out of the 2 Kings account.

            13-16: The 2 Kings account says nothing about a warning being given to Gedaliah; only Jeremiah gives us that part of the story. Gedaliah is told that the king of Ammon has enlisted one of the Judean captains, Ishmael, to assassinate him. He refuses to believe the report.

 

Jeremiah 41 (day 786) 25 February 2012

            1-3: The 2 Kings account gives no hint of a plot by the king of Ammon, but does report the information we find here, that Ishmael and his men killed Gedaliah along with his Judean and Chaldean (Chaldea was a region in eastern Babylonia) functionaries. The 2 Kings account adds that Ishmael and his men then fled to Egypt, without any of the information Jeremiah provides us in chapters 41-42.

            4-8: Jeremiah goes on to tell us that the day after Gedaliah’s murder a group of 80 pilgrims from the primary northern cities of Israel came to Mizpah intending to offer sacrifices, probably as an act of supplication to God to restore the grain and wine to their ravished land. They are not aware of the murder, and Ishmael invites them into the city where he slaughters 70 of them and dumps their bodies in a large cistern. The other 10 buy their lives by saying they know where to find needed food supplies.

            9-10: Ishmael gathers up the hostages, including Jeremiah, and heads for Ammon where he has the support of King Baalis.

            11-18: They don’t get very far, however, when Johanan, who had tried to warn governor Gedaliah (40:13), caught up with him at Gibeon, a few miles south of Mizpah. The hostages are recovered, but Ishmael escapes to Ammon with 8 of his men. Johanan, fearing reprisal from the Babylonians, heads south to pick up the road to Egypt. They camp near Bethlehem.

 

Jeremiah 42 (day 787) 26 February 2012

            1-6: This chapter fleshes out the story hinted at in 2 Kings 25:26. Johanan and all the people who escaped Mizpah come to Jeremiah while they are camped at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem and ask him to seek God’s guidance. They promise to do whatever God tells them to do. I like the story. I have been a pastor for 35 years and no one has ever come to me with such a request: Probably not a bad thing.

            7-17: It takes Jeremiah ten days of praying before he gets an answer. Highlight verse 7 in your Bible – ten days of praying and listening and waiting, and as far as answers to prayers go, that’s pretty fast. He calls them together and announces that God’s advice is that they remain in Judah. God is sorry for all the suffering they’ve endured, an all too human sentiment! God will protect them and the king of Babylon will let them settle in peace. If they go to Egypt, they will be overtaken by the disaster that is about to befall that country.

            18-22: Jeremiah obviously senses that they have already decided to head to Egypt. He tells them God will be angry with them and they will come to a violent end. For heaven’s sake, think of all the trouble God went through to get them out of Egypt in the first place!

 

Jeremiah 43 (day 788) 27 February 2012

            1-7: Johanan and the others, who have suffered a lot more than anybody I have ever met, smell a rat. Baruch, who has helped Jeremiah in the past (see chapter 36), had been some sort of official in Jerusalem and these folks from the hinterlands simply don’t trust him (like some folks don’t trust anybody from Washington, D.C.). They suspect that Baruch is prompting Jeremiah to say such things because he plans to turn them in so that they will be taken into exile. How that would be much different from fleeing to Egypt I don’t quite understand, but they had made up their minds. They head for Tahpanhes and take Jeremiah and Baruch with them.

            8-13: Here they are in Tahpanhes, located in the Nile Delta region about where the Suez Canal passes now. Tahpanhes at the time was a fairly important border town with a large Greek population in which an Egyptian garrison of mercenary soldiers was stationed for national defense purposes. Archeological evidence of a palace has been found, perhaps confirming the report that Pharaoh kept a palace there – as well as in many other Egyptian cities.

Jeremiah is God’s prophet and when God speaks to him he cannot hold it in (see 20:9) but must proclaim it. And so when God tells him to bury some stones in the pavement outside the palace he does so in full view of the Judean refugees, then repeats the word of the LORD that disaster will overtake them in Egypt.

            Nebuchadnezzar did invade Egypt in 568-567 B.C., but no records have yet been uncovered that would provide details of the invasion and the extent of Babylonian influence in Egypt.

 

Jeremiah 44 (day 789) 28 February 2012

            1-10: We see now that there are many more Judean refugees in Egypt, not just at Tahpanhes. And there they fall easily into Egyptian religious practices, worshiping gods “that they had not known” (verse 3). God tries again to persuade them that their behavior is harmful, that it was the worship of other gods that caused the destruction of Judah. God had wanted them to stay in Judah, to be a faithful remnant in the land. Instead they are following the poor example of their leaders who brought down God’s wrath.

            11-14: Jeremiah tells them that God will bring disaster on them in Egypt, and they will suffer until they beg to go back to Judah but it will be too late.

            15-19: Jeremiah has accused them and their wives of apostasy (verse 9), and we learn in verse 15 that apparently Jeremiah has gone now to the refugee settlement at Pathros, having found no cooperation in Tahpanhes. The refugees in Pathros are every bit as recalcitrant as the others, and even go so far as to claim that the calamity that befell them in Judah happened because they stopped worshiping the queen of heaven (the Egyptian goddess Isis) as they should have. As long as they worshiped her, everything was grand, they argue.

            20-23: Jeremiah counters with his argument that the destruction came about because they did not worship the LORD or live according to the law God had given them.

            24-30: Jeremiah insists that history will prove him a prophet. God will do what God has said God will do, and as a sign Pharaoh Hophra, who has allowed them to settle in Egypt, will be dethroned. Other ancient records confirm that Hophra was deposed by one of his generals, Amasis, who became Pharaoh in 570 B.C. Hophra was killed in a battle against Amasis a couple of years later while trying to regain his throne with Babylonian help.

 

Jeremiah 45 (day 790) 29 February 2012

            1-5: By the way, years ago when Jeremiah had written that scroll and given it to Baruch to read to the people (chapter 36), God had told Jeremiah back then that Baruch would not perish when the kingdom of Judah fell, and his life would be spared “in every place in which you may go” – like Egypt, for example.

 

Jeremiah 46 (day 791) 1 March 2012

            Chapters 32-45 were narrative accounts that repeated much of the record from 2 Kings and added a great deal of information about Jeremiah’s personal story. The rest of the book will largely return to the poetic oracle style that characterized most of the first 31 chapters, and will be almost exclusively dedicated to descriptions of God’s judgment on all the nations with which Israel/Judah has had dealings. From an historical perspective Israel and then Judah were caught up in the world-changing imperialism of the superpowers of that day – Assyria, Egypt and Babylon.

            1-6: The first oracle of judgment is on Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Neco in one of the premiere battles of all time, the battle of Carchemish. It brought to an end Egypt’s expansionism and catapulted Babylon into superpower status.

            7-12: Until that battle Egypt had been progressively and aggressively taking over one area after another, expanding primarily into the Middle East. Jeremiah likens their growing expanse to the seasonal rising of the Nile – an excellent metaphor, for it puts in the reader’s mind that the Nile also receded in due season, and that, says Jeremiah, is what will happen to Egypt. Of course, Egypt’s diminution will be much more violent than the gradual lowering of the level of the Nile.

            13-17: The oracle continues – Nebuchadnezzar won’t stop with the victory at Carchemish but will invade Egyptian territory. The places named, however, are all in the Nile delta region where the Judean refugees settled. It is obvious that Jeremiah intended this oracle primarily for the Judeans in Egypt whom he had begged to stay in Judah. Apis (verse 15) is a reference to one of the principal gods of Egypt which was represented by a bull (some scholars think Aaron’s golden calf was a copy of it), and particularly in Memphis. “Your multitude” (verse 16) is likely a reference to all the gods worshiped in Egypt.

            18-19: The point he is making is that all these gods cannot stand up to Israel’s God who is sending Nebuchadnezzar as his instrument of justice.

            20-24: Egypt is portrayed as a heifer, consort of Apis, bedeviled by a gadfly, Babylon. “A sound like a snake gliding away” (verse 22) is a chilling metaphor for Egypt’s mercenary armies abandoning their employer and slinking back to wherever they came from.

            25-26: Amon is Amon-Ra, the primary god in Egypt’s pantheism, whose temple was located at Thebes. That Egypt will be inhabited “as in the days of old” is a reference to God’s opposition to the presence of the Judean refugees in Tahpanhes, Memphis, etc.

            27-28: But in spite of this sweeping description of God’s wrath overtaking Egypt, God will restore Israel as the dwelling place of the descendants of Jacob once their punishment is completed. The nations to which they are exiled, however – primarily Assyria and Babylonia – will cease to exist.

Jeremiah 47 (day 792) 2 March 2012

            1-7: The next oracle concerns Israel’s ancient enemy, the Philistines. The land of the Philistines will be overrun by first the Egyptians, then the Babylonians as those two powers vie for control of the profitable coastal trade routes. Tyre and Sidon, also located on the Mediterranean coast, are included in the judgment.

 

Jeremiah 48 (day 793) 3 March 2012

            1-2: Now the prophet turns to Moab, the kingdom directly across the Dead Sea from Judah. Judah and Moab have had a love/hate relationship – sometimes friends, sometimes enemies – but Moab had allied itself with Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:1-2) and for this God’s judgment is now pronounced against them. Kiriathaim, Nebo and Heshbon are locales in the northern part of the country, and likely Madmen, too, although its location has never been determined satisfactorily. Nebo is the mountain from which Moses saw the Promised Land before he died (Deuteronomy 34:1).

            3-6: Jeremiah seems to be cataloging the whole territory of Moab: Luhith and Horonaim are in the southern part of that kingdom.

            7-10: Chemosh, the primary god worshiped by the Moabites, is to be exiled – meaning the priests of Chemosh will become refugees. Every town is to be destroyed. Salting was a way of killing the soil to make it unproductive. The main idea is that Moab is going to suffer the same fate as Judah.

            11-13: Moab has had it too easy, says Jeremiah, but that’s about to change. They will be ashamed of Chemosh as Israel is of Bethel. Bethel was a religious center in early Israel during the time of the judges and even housed the ark of the covenant for awhile, but when Jeroboam led the northern tribes to separate from Judah he tried to establish Bethel as a rival to Jerusalem. The result was that Bethel became a center for pagan worship.

            14-17: Moab will no longer be able to brag about its prowess in battle. “We are heroes and mighty warriors” may be the boast the unfortunate citizens of Jerusalem heard as the Moabites participated in sacking the city.

            18-20: Dibon and Aroer are also cities in Moab. Jeremiah describes an imagined scene of people fleeing and being asked by roadside watchers what’s going on.

            21-25: A catalogue of cities in Moab that will fall under the judgment.

            26-27: The prophet wants Moab to suffer what his own people have suffered.

            28-33: The desolation and abandonment of the land and the fields and vineyards is described.

            34-36: Moab will be completely wiped out; and yet God grieves for their destruction.

            37-44: Shaved heads, gashed hands and sackcloth are all symbolic of deepest mourning. The central judgment is at verse 42: Moab “magnified himself against the LORD.” They dared to join with the Babylonians against Jerusalem.

            45-47: Yet, even against Moab, God cannot seem to resist a promised restoration.

 

Jeremiah 49 (day 794) 4 March 2012

            1-2: Ammon is the kingdom just north of Moab, its capital at Rabbath about 75 miles due east of Jericho. They, along with the Moabites, allied with Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:1-2). They worshiped a god called Milcom.

            3-6: They, too, will be scattered and exiled as Moab will be, but also like Moab God pledges to restore their fortunes.

            7-16: The Edomites, descendants of Esau, occupied the territory to the south of Judah, the Dead Sea and Moab. Their involvement in the destruction of Jerusalem is not as well attested as that of the Moabites and Ammonites, but they are roundly criticized by Obadiah (1:11-14) for having taken part in the sacking of the city. Centuries earlier, of course, the king of Edom had refused Moses safe passage through his territory (Numbers 20:14-21).

            17-22: A complete destruction of Edom is prophesied, and this time there is no concluding word of restoration as was the case with Moab and Ammon.

            23-27: Jeremiah turns now to Damascus, the Aramean kingdom, located north of Ammon and east of Israel. Hamath, Arpad and Damascus are its primary cities. Ben-hadad was the king of Damascus who had been an enemy of Israel in the days of King Ahab (1 Kings 20).

            28-33: The pronouncements move decidedly farther afield in this section. Kedar is another name for Arabia, a vast expanse of arid territories east of Israel and Judah inhabited primarily by nomadic Arabic tribes with few settled towns. Hazor appears in verse 28 to be the name of a king or warlord or sheik associated with these tribes, but is unknown aside from this reference. In verse 33 Hazor seems to be a town, perhaps the “capital” or principal town in the region. There are a number of towns in and around Israel with that name, but none of them could be intended here. Verses 30-32 describe a nomadic people being overrun by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar.

            34-39: Elam is far removed from Israel, located east of Babylon in what is now southwestern Iran. It is unclear why Jeremiah should include them in his pronouncements against the nations unless it is simply to show that God’s power reaches far beyond Israel and its enemies. Furthermore the agent of Elam’s destruction is not Nebuchadnezzar but only the LORD, who will dispose of Elam’s rulers and establish his throne in their place. Curiously, and perhaps significantly, the judgment ends on a positive note that Elam will nevertheless be restored – by God, of course.

 

Jeremiah 50 (day 795) 5 March 2012

            1-3: The lengthiest judgment is reserved for Babylon. Again the primary gods are named, in this case Marduk: Merodach is the Hebrew spelling and Bel is an alternate name, perhaps specifying a particular idol or statue representing the god. “Out of the north” is a reference to the Medes and Persians who overran the Babylonian empire after the death of Nebuchadnezzar.

            4-5: Jeremiah sees the exiles returning to Jerusalem; not just the exiles from Judah but the dispersed tribes of Israel as well.

            6-7: He never wants them to forget, however, that their exile was a result of their own unfaithfulness.

            8-10: As God’s people had been forced to flee Jerusalem, so the people of Babylon will be forced to flee their country.

            11-16: Now the Babylonians are exulting in their status as the world’s predominant nation, but the day of their shame is approaching when they will become the victims.

            17-20: Babylon will suffer the same end as Assyria, but the people of Israel and Judah will be restored.

            21-27: Merathaim means “double rebellion.” It is unknown as a city and so the likelihood is that Jeremiah uses the word as a synonym for Babylon which is destined to suffer twice as much rebellion as the nations it has conquered. Pekod has not been located either: the word means “visitation” and is probably used as a pseudonym for the Babylon that will be visited by God’s retribution. Babylon was caught in the snare they set for themselves. The snare was their lust for conquest. God opened the door for them to become his instrument of punishment for Judah and they could not resist the temptation. Thus they were caught in the snare. Because they took God’s people away into exile they themselves will in turn suffer God’s wrath.

            28: Jeremiah sees fugitives and refugees from Babylon arriving in Jerusalem, bringing the news of God’s judgment on the Babylonians.

            29-30: The Babylonians are to suffer the things they have caused other peoples to suffer; retributive justice.

            31-32: The Bible gives consistent witness that God abhors arrogance and haughtiness. I hope God doesn’t watch the Super Bowl.

            33-34: God will plead Israel’s and Judah’s case, and in their favor God will pass judgment on Babylon. These verses revive for me the picture of God as the supreme judge who rules the heavenly court where Satan accused Job.

            35-38: A curse is pronounced against the Babylonians, the people, the leaders, and even the animals and the rivers.

            39-40: Babylon will become an uninhabited waste. That had to be hard for anyone hearing it to believe it. Yet, where is Babylon today?

            41-43: The description of Babylon’s conquerors is not unlike the description given of the approach of the Babylonian army towards Jerusalem at the beginning of the book (see 1:13, 4:6, 13:20). What goes around comes around.

            44-46: Babylon has roared around like a lion in a pasture unguarded by shepherds, but God can stand up to this lion. Another will be appointed over her (another who is named Cyrus, by the way). The fate of Babylon will be a surprise to the whole world.

 

Jeremiah 51 (day 796) 6 March 2012

            1-5: Nebuchadnezzar was a Chaldean, a native of the plains region southeast of Babylon where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers empty into the Persian Gulf. He was second in the line of four Chaldean rulers of Babylon and thus the whole empire is sometimes referred to as Chaldea. Leb-qamai is a poetic reference to the same region. Jeremiah says that God has not forsaken Israel and Judah and will make an end to the Babylonian empire.

            6-10: Babylon has been like a golden chalice God was holding, but now God has dropped it and it is shattered. He imagines the exiles returning to Zion and praising God for their vindication.

            11-14: The Median Empire stretched from eastern Turkey through Iran. Although they applied considerable pressure to the northern rim of Babylon, they were conquered by Cyrus the Persian in 550 B.C., who subsequently conquered Babylon (and soon thereafter released the Judean exiles).

            15-19: In the midst of the oracle of judgment is a song of praise extolling God and acknowledging Israel as God’s people.

            20-26: These verses are in first person singular; God is speaking. Israel is God’s instrument of judgment on nations and peoples. Babylon will be punished for the damage they have done in Zion; they will be turned into a wasteland.

            27-33: Jeremiah pictures the destruction of Babylon in much the same language and imagery with which he had pictured the destruction of Jerusalem years before.

            34-37: Nebuchadnezzar enriched himself with the spoils of Jerusalem, but God will avenge them.

            38-40: A thumbnail history of Babylon: they roared like lions but they got drunk on the wine of conquest and have fallen asleep, and so are ripe for a sudden reversal of fortunes.

            41-44: The world will see the once great Babylon fallen, no more to rise. Sheshach is a poetic name for Babylon (also at 25:26). The god Bel will be dishonored to the point that no one will worship him.

            45-46: God calls to his people in exile, summoning them to come out of their captivity.

            47-49: He assures them that Babylon’s days are coming to an end.

            50-51: God speaks to them again, this time not calling to them from afar but speaking as if he is in their midst, urging them to remember Jerusalem.

            52-53: God will punish Babylon’s idols/gods. They will resist, but God will prevail.

            54-58: From within the city walls are heard the cries of destruction and defeat.

            59-64: All these prophetic utterances were revealed to Jeremiah in the fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah. He wrote them down and sent them to Babylon to be read to the exiles there to let them know that God had not abandoned them.

 

Jeremiah 52 (day 797) 7 March 2012

            1-11: These verses repeat 2 Kings 24:18 – 25:7. In verse 10 Jeremiah adds that Nebuchadnezzar “also killed all the officers of Judah at Riblah,” and in verse 11 he adds that Zedekiah stayed in prison in Babylon “until the day of his death.”

            12-16: Repeats 2 Kings 25:8-12, except that Jeremiah says that Nebuzaradan entered the city on the 10th day of the month while 2nd Kings says it was on the 7th.

            17-23: Repeats 2 Kings 25:13-17, but with more detail about the items taken out of the temple.

            24-27: Repeats 2 Kings 25:18-21, with some insignificant differences.

            28-30: At this point the two accounts diverge. In 2 Kings we have a report of the appointment of Gedaliah as governor of Judah and his subsequent assassination by Ishmael (about which we read in Jeremiah chapter 40). Jeremiah at this point inserts information regarding the number of people taken into exile on three different occasions. The first exile of 3023 Judeans was in 598 B.C. and the second exile of 832 people was in 587. But he adds a third exile of 745 people in 582 B.C., which deportation is unrecorded elsewhere. These numbers don’t represent the massive movement of people we would have expected from the sheer drama of the Biblical accounts of the Exile to Babylon. Remember, though, that the Babylonians didn’t bother to deport the poor people, assuming they would pose no threat, and in that culture the poor people likely represented a large majority of the total population.

            31-34: Repeats the account in 2 Kings 25:27-30. And so the book of Jeremiah ends with the prophet’s voice unheeded and the people of God defeated, their nation destroyed, and their prominent citizens in exile. The whole point of Jeremiah’s prophesy was that disaster would come unless the king, the city and the nation repented (52:2-3). They did not. Are there any lessons here for our modern world?