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JEREMIAH WEARS AN OX YOKE
We can hardly believe that no scholar whose works we have had the privilege of reading has discerned the most important lesson that shines like the sun at perihelion in such a passage as this. And what is that lesson? It is that all allegations of certain prophecies being "post eventum", or as having been written after the events prophesied, are absolutely devastated and destroyed by the behavior of the prophets who gave the prophecies.
For example, Micah the Morashtite rolled in the dust or the mud; he screamed like an ostrich and howled like a jackal; Isaiah went naked and barefoot for a period of two years; and here Jeremiah wears an ox yoke upon his own neck, and did so in the presence of the King of Judah and his court, including the ambassadors of five foreign nations! Such bizarre behavior was indulged by these prophets in connection with their declarations of predictive prophecy.
Basic intelligence makes it impossible to believe that such behavior would have marked the announcement by some interpolator of an event that had already occurred. Thus, God proves his own prophecies by such fantastic behavior on the part of his prophets.
"In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiachim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, came this word unto Jeremiah from Jehovah, saying, Thus saith Jehovah to me: Make thee bonds and bars, and put them upon thy neck; and send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the children of Ammon, and to the king of Tyre, and to the king of Sidon, by the hand of the messengers that came to Jerusalem unto the king of Judah."
Jeremiah 27:1 here places the events of this chapter in the accession year of Jehoiachim; but it is evident from Jeremiah 27:3 that Zedekiah was the king during the events of this chapter. What we have here is some kind of an error; and scholars usually agree that some ancient copyist accidentally copied the first verse of the preceding chapter. The Revised Standard Version is evidently correct, which gives the verse thus: "In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, etc."
Such errors are quite rare; and it is fortunate that the subsequent verses of the chapter enable the necessary correction to be made.
"Make thee bonds and bars ..." (Jeremiah 27:2). These are the elements of an ancient ox yoke which consisted of two pieces of wood, one to be place above the neck of the animal, and the other to placed under it, with both pieces held together by thongs of leather.
"And put them upon thy neck ..." (Jeremiah 27:2). An ox yoke was for two animals; and thus this contraption made quite a cumbersome and uncomfortable piece of wearing apparel for Jeremiah. He must have exhibited a startling spectacle at the court of' the king.
"Send them to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon ..." (Jeremiah 27:3). These were the neighboring kingdoms of Judah; and the presence of representatives from these kingdoms at this time in Judah was due to the political intrigue going on at that time against Babylon. There was a strong party in Judah who still regarded Jehoiachin as the rightful king of Judah and who hoped for his speedy return. The king of Babylon about the fourth year of Zedekiah's reign had encountered some opposition at home; and the vassal kingdoms, including Judah, were trying to form a coalition against Babylon with the hope of regaining their independence. Jeremiah was divinely inspired to oppose such a foolish maneuver.
"Send them ..." (Jeremiah 27:3). This indicates that five such yokes were to be made, not counting the one Jeremiah was wearing, and these were indeed sent to each of the five kings mentioned. Some dispute this; but we cannot interpret "them" as meaning only one yoke! After all, it would not be much harder to make six yokes than it would to make only one. If, as some say, only the messages were sent to the kings, the import of the instruction would have been the same either way.
"And give them a charge unto their masters, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, Thus shall ye say unto your masters: I have made the earth, the men and the beasts that are upon the face of the earth, by my great power, and by my outstretched arm; and I give it unto whom it seemeth right unto me. And now have I given all these lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field also have I given him to serve him. And all the nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the time of his own land come: and then many nations and great kings shall make him their bondman."
The Bible makes it clear indeed that "The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will" (Daniel 4:25). By divine inspiration, Jeremiah here made it plain enough that God had given dominion over the world of that period into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.
This is a staggering thought, especially in view of the truth that very evil men often prove to be the very ones to whom God gives such vast power and dominion. The wisdom of Matthew Henry in contemplating this is appropriate.
The things of this world are not the best things, for God often gives the largest share of them to bad men, men who are rivals of God and rebels against him. Nebuchadnezzar was a proud, wicked man, but he had world dominion by divine fight. He was a very bad man, but God called him his servant. If God so uses and rewards evil men who serve him, however unwittingly, how much more wonderfully will God reward and honor those who love God and truly serve him!
"I have made the earth and the men and the beasts that are upon the face of the earth ..." (Jeremiah 27:5). God here reveals himself to be not merely the Creator and Sustainer of all created things, but as their Sovereign Lord and Controller also. He is the God of history who has his hand firmly upon the progression of the nations as well. As Paul expressed it, "God made of one every nation of men to dwell on the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation" (Acts 17:26). Note in this very paragraph, God had appointed a "season" for the dominion of Babylon, and also that there would be another "season" when Babylon's time came to be themselves the bondmen of others!
"Him and his son, and his son's son ..." (Jeremiah 27:7). Cheyne declared that this is not intelligible unless we should understand the "seventy years" of captivity as "a round number." Cheyne's error was his failure to see that the expression here is, "a very general one, signifying Nebuchadnezzar and all of his successors until the whole seventy years expired." Of course, there were other successors to Nebuchadnezzar during this period. Thus it is not the number seventy which is "round," but this abbreviation of Nebuchadnezzar's successors.
"Until the time of his own land come ..." (Jeremiah 27:7). Of course, this is the predictive prophecy of an event to occur many years after the death of Jeremiah; and the radical critics, following their crazy rule about there being no predictive prophecy in the Bible promptly label this verse as a "vatticinium ex eventu". But, as noted above, if this event had already happened why was it necessary for the announcer to dress himself up in an ox yoke? Henderson, Keil, Graf, and many other discerning scholars refuse to allow such ridiculous, high-handed, illogical misinterpretations of the scriptures.
This predictive prophecy of the end of Babylonian domination and the subjection of them to others "was fulfilled in the destruction of the Chaldean Empire by Cyrus and his allies at the termination of the seventy years of Jewish exile in Babylon."
"And it shall come to pass, that the nation and the kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish saith Jehovah, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand. But as for you, hearken ye not to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreams, nor to your soothsayers, nor to your sorcerers that speak unto you, saying, ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land, and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish. But the nation that shall bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, will I let remain in their own land, saith Jehovah; and they shall till it, and dwell therein."
It appears from this paragraph that even the captivity of the whole of Judah might have been averted, even at that late date, provided that Zedekiah had led the people to accept the verdict of Jehovah and faithfully serve the king of Babylon. It was the eventual rebellion of Zedekiah against Babylon that resulted in the final total ruin of Jerusalem and the wholesale deportation of the people into their captivity. It seems to have been the possibility, however remote, of avoiding that ultimate disaster which was the very thing Jeremiah had in mind in his message to the false priests and prophets in Jeremiah 27:16ff.
Zedekiah was a weak and wavering monarch; and he managed to stand with Jeremiah in the events of his fourth year (the date of this chapter); but in his eleventh and final year, he went with the popular movement in favor of rebellion; and the final ruin of Judah was shortly accomplished. In this fourth year of Zedekiah, that monarch made a pilgrimage to Babylon, probably for the purpose of reaffirming his loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar, and for the purpose of convincing Nebuchadnezzar that he had not participated in the coalition which the neighboring nations had attempted to form against Babylon.
All of the evil practitioners mentioned here, the prophets, diviners, soothsayers, sorcerers, dreamers, etc. were banned and forbidden by the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:9-13). "They were pedlars of falsehood." They had no message at all from God. They merely told the people what they believed the people wanted to hear. If the nation consented to the overlordship of Babylon, they would have to pay tribute; but they could go on living in their land. Following their false leaders robbed them of this more favorable option.
"And I spake to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live. Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as Jehovah hath spoken concerning the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? And hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon; for they prophecy a lie unto you. For I have not sent them, saith Jehovah, but they prophesy falsely in my name; that I may drive you out, and that ye may perish, ye, and the prophets that prophesy unto you."
Green spoke of this chapter thus: "Jeremiah provides proof positive of his superb statesmanship in his assessment of the political situation." Although seemingly innocent, such a statement violates every true conception of the message of the inspired prophets of the Old Testament. It was not shrewd statesmanship on Jeremiah's part. What God revealed through him was in no sense dependent upon what the prophet himself might have been able to guess or forecast from the basis of his own knowledge or experience. "The revelations of this chapter are not shrewd political comment but something which Jeremiah received as he stood in the counsels of Yahweh."
This paragraph reveals that Jeremiah repeated for Zedekiah the same message which had been sent, along with the yokes, to the five neighboring kings by their ambassadors.. So powerful was the influence of all the false prophets, soothsayers, dreamers, sorcerers etc. of that day that Jeremiah found it appropriate to warn the king Zedekiah against paying any attention to their falsehoods. "To underestimate the power of a lie in times of national distress is sheer folly."
The Septuagint (LXX) has omitted much of this chapter; and, upon that basis, some scholars attempt to reject what is written here; but, "It is far too bold to insist that the shorter form is the original." Additionally, we reject the silly critical rule that the shorter of two passages is more likely to be the original. It is just as likely, or even more likely, that the shorter passage is merely an abbreviation. This is just another foolish critical dictum designed to serve their evil purposes. Furthermore, as Keil pointed out, "Considering the innumerable arbitrary interferences of the LXX with the text of Jeremiah, the omission of the words in question cannot justify the slightest critical suspicion of their genuineness." For many reasons, we are unwilling to accept changes found in the Septuagint (LXX) as any dependable reason whatever for altering the text of the American Standard Version.
"And I spake to the priests and to all the people, saying, Thus saith Jehovah: Hearken not to the words of your prophets that prophesy unto you, saying, Behold the vessels of Jehovah's house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon; for they prophesy a lie unto you. Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and live: wherefore should this city become a desolation? But if they be prophets, and if the word of Jehovah be with them, let them now make intercession to Jehovah of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of Jehovah, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, go not to Babylon."
What a courageous, blunt, overwhelming challenge this is. Jeremiah did not merely call the false prophets, diviners, soothsayers, etc. liars; but he did so to their face, and laid down the challenge that they were not merely lying when they prophesied the speedy return of the golden vessels from Babylon, but that if the false teachers had one word of truth in them they would be praying that the remaining "vessels" would not also be carried away to Babylon, a prophecy which Jeremiah at once pronounced in their hearing, namely, that the remaining vessels indeed, not merely of the temple, but of the king's house and of all Jerusalem also, would also all be carried to Babylon! (See next paragraph).
John Bright in the Anchor Bible commentary stated that "vessels" in Jeremiah 27:16 is an inadequate word, because much more was meant, as indicated in Jeremiah 27:19, below.
As Green observed, "Jeremiah's conflict with the false prophets was growing more and more acute."
"For thus saith Jehovah of hosts concerning the pillars, and concerning the sea, and concerning the bases, and concerning the residue of the vessels that are left in the city, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took not, when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiachim, king of Judah, from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem: yea, thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that are left in the house of Jehovah, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem: They shall be carried to Babylon, and there shall they be, until the day that I visit them, saith Jehovah; then will I bring them up, and restore them to this place."
Behold, what a magnificent predictive prophecy we have here:
(1) the remaining treasures of the temple, the king's house, and the city of Jerusalem shall also be carried away to Babylon;
(2) the vessels shall not be destroyed there, but shall be preserved to that day when God will visit them; and
(3) He will indeed visit them and restore them to Jerusalem at the time when his Divine Will may desire to do so!
Did it happen? Certainly! Was this prophecy written after the event? Ridiculous! The man who stated this was wearing an ox yoke; and if it had all already happened, he would never have been dressed like that! He was wearing the yoke only as an effort to persuade those sinners to believe the truth. They did not believe it; and of course they would have believed it if it had already come to pass.
Of course, the infidel critics never stop trying to "prove" the prophecy came after the captivity. As Smith said, "They seized upon the word `nobles' which Jeremiah used here; and they claimed that it was a word that came into use after the captivity; but that is not true.
Jeremiah used it again in Jeremiah 39:6; Isaiah used it Isaiah 34:12; and in 1 Kings 21:8, the word is used of the nobles of Samaria. In fact it was a word in very common usage both in Chaldee and Syriac."
"Then will I bring them up and restore them to this place ..." (Jeremiah 27:22). Ash stated that, "The Septuagint (LXX) says nothing about the eventual restoration of the treasures, nor does it offer any restoration hope. Some argue that the Septuagint (LXX) may represent the original text, since a restoration hope would be out of place in an oracle of this tenor." We regret that respected commentators would include a canard of this kind in their commentaries. Of course, it is true that "some argue" in this manner; but no believer can accept such false arguments.
Why all of this attention to the LXX? The critics glorify it when it supports their denials; but when it contradicts their denials, they seem to be totally ignorant of its existence. For example, the Septuagint (LXX) properly translates the Hebrew word [~`almah] as The Virgin; but has anyone ever heard of a radical critic accepting that?
Two radical critical dictums are respected in such a comment: (1) that the shorter text of similar ones is "original," a foolish rule that has never been proved and is clearly untrue in many cases; and (2) that a promise of blessing cannot be included in a prophecy of condemnation, disaster, or punishment. This rule also is false. Christ promised heaven in the same passage that speaks of hell; and we refuse to accept a rule that would butcher almost every statement Jesus Christ ever uttered.
A hundred years before Jeremiah was born, Isaiah promised the "return of the remnant," and proved the prophecy by naming one of his sons, "A Remnant Shall Return." Did Jeremiah know about that promise? Indeed he did; and can any one deny that this would have been an appropriate time for him to mention it and to embellish the thought of it with the additional prophecy that the sacred vessels of the temple would also return?
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jeremiah 27". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26