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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Bible Commentary

Jeremiah 21

Verses 1-14

Jeremiah chapter 21.

Now the book of Jeremiah is not written in a consecutive kind of an order. This particular prophecy Jeremiah dates. They're just the prophecies of Jeremiah at particular times in particular situations, but they don't necessarily follow in a sequential order or in a chronological order. So this particular prophecy in chapter 21 to king Zedekiah actually takes place about six years after the prophecy of chapter 24. So you see, they're not in a chronological order. They are just his prophecies at the various times and they're just thrown in, not in a chronological order, but just thrown in. Now I don't know what the order is, or if there is any, or if there's any reason for their not being in a chronological order. But he is careful to date for us the particular times of the prophecies. So he dates chapter 21, this particular prophecy to Zedekiah.

The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying, Inquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us ( Jeremiah 21:1-2 );

Now Pashur last week was the priest that when Jeremiah was prophesying put him in stocks. Arrested him and put him in stocks and all. And, of course, it brought great discouragement to Jeremiah, for he decided to quit his prophetic ministry until God's word like a fire burned in him and he could not hold back from speaking forth God's truth. And this same Pashur now is sent by king Zedekiah to find out what's going to happen because Babylon is marching. The armies of Nebuchadnezzar are there. What's going to happen to us? And so they're sending to Jeremiah now to find the word of the Lord concerning their present dilemma. "Inquire, I pray thee, to the Lord for us."

for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon is making war against us; see if will so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all of his wondrous works, that he [Nebuchadnezzar] may go up from us ( Jeremiah 21:2 ).

And so he is asking Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord concerning what is going to be happening. Will the Lord turn back Nebuchadnezzar according to God's marvelous works? and so forth. Jeremiah does not have a good message for Zedekiah.

Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah: Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith you fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls ( Jeremiah 21:3-4 ),

They're already outside besieging them.

I will assemble them into the midst of this city ( Jeremiah 21:4 ).

They're outside of the walls now, but they're going to be assembling right in the middle of town.

And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath. And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: and they shall die of a great pestilence. And afterward, saith the LORD, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; and he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy ( Jeremiah 21:5-7 ).

So the message that he has for Zedekiah is not at all a comforting message. Not only is God going to allow the Babylonian troops to assemble right here in the middle of the city, but God Himself is going to turn His hand against Israel, against Zedekiah, and against the armies, and God is going to destroy them. And there will not be a sparing of them, pity nor mercy.

And unto this people ( Jeremiah 21:8 )

Now that was the message to Zedekiah. Now to the people Jeremiah declares,

Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death ( Jeremiah 21:8 ).

Isn't this true always? That God sets before man the way of life and the way of death. When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, God set before him the way of life and the way of death. There were two special trees in the garden. There was the tree of life; there was also the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil, which also was the tree of death. For God said, "Thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" ( Genesis 2:17 ). So it was the tree of death. Now I always marvel to myself that Adam would have eaten of the tree of death before he ate of the tree of life. But after he had eaten of the tree of death and the Lord drove him from the garden, you remember that the Lord put an angel there to guard the way into the garden lest he would come back and eat of the tree of life and live forever in that degenerated spiritual state.

Now that always amazes and surprises me that God gives to man a way of life, a way of death, and man so foolishly oftentimes takes the way of death. Now it is true of every one of us tonight. God has laid before each of us tonight the way of life, the way of death. The Bible says the mind of the flesh is death. The mind of the Spirit is life and joy and peace in the Holy Ghost. You have your choice. You can live after your flesh, that's the way of death. You can live after the Spirit, that is the way of life. So don't blame Adam for making a foolish choice, because so many people today are making the same foolish choices because God has laid before each man the way of life and the way of death. This is the perpetual story of God. "I've laid before you the way of life, the way of death." And now you must exercise your own capacity of choice to choose either life or death. "He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" ( 1 John 5:12 ). "The wrath of God is abiding upon him" ( John 3:36 ). God has given you the way of life, the way of death.

So in this particular case, he said,

If you abide [or stay] in this city you will surely die by the sword, or the famine, or the pestilence: but if you'll go out, and surrender to the Chaldeans that are besieging you, you will live, and your life will be for him a prey ( Jeremiah 21:9 ).

So he is saying now, "Look, if you'll just go out and surrender they'll spare your life. If you stay in here, you're going to be slain in one of three ways-either by the pestilence that God will bring against it, the famine, or the sword of the Babylonians."

Now you can see how that this kind of a message would be interpreted as a treasonable statement. And so Jeremiah was accused of treason and thrown into the dungeon because of this particular prophecy, because he is encouraging them to capitulate, to surrender to the enemy. And so he's accused of being a traitor and placed into prison when this message was delivered to the people, because he's encouraging them to surrender. But it's God saying, "Hey, you have the way of life, the way of death. If you want to live, go out and surrender to them. If you want to die, just stay here in this city and you're going to die either by the sword, the pestilence or famine."

For the Lord said,

For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire ( Jeremiah 21:10 ).

This city's going to be destroyed, burned with fire.

And touching the house of the king of Judah, say ( Jeremiah 21:11 ),

And so this is a third part of the message. This is now to the house of Zedekiah.

Hear ye the word of the LORD; O house of David, thus saith the LORD; Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like a fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings. Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the LORD; which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations? But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the LORD: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it ( Jeremiah 21:11-14 ).

And so the message to Zedekiah in response to his request to find out how things are going to go. Not so good, buddy. It's looking tough, you know. You're in bad shape.


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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Jeremiah 21". "Smith's Bible Commentary". 2014.