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4. Warnings in view of Judah’s hard heart 15:10-25:38
This section of the book contains several collections of Jeremiah’s confessions, symbolic acts, and messages. These passages reflect conditions that were very grim, so their origin may have been shortly before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
Prior to the chapter 24 prophetic parable, Jeremiah received an earlier prophetic message from the Lord in 605 B.C., which he delivered to the people of Jerusalem and Judah. [Note: For a brief discussion of a minor chronological problem, see Dyer, "Jeremiah," p. 1160.] This was a timely prophecy, because in that year Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Neco at Carchemish. His victory resulted in the balance of power shifting in the ancient Near East from Assyria to Neo-Babylonia. The Judahites would have wondered how this change would affect them. Later the same year Nebuchadnezzar invaded Palestine, attacked Jerusalem, and deported some of the people of Judah to Babylon.
The length of the exile and Babylon’s fate 25:1-14
Chapter 25 serves as a capstone for all of Jeremiah’s previous prophecies. The prophet’s perspective now broadens quickly to include the whole world and divine judgments ordained for it.
The prophet announced that he had been preaching to his audience regularly for 23 years, but they had not paid attention to what he had said. According to Jeremiah 1:2, Jeremiah began his ministry in 627 B.C.
The Lord had repeatedly sent other prophets to them-true prophets-but the people did not listen to them, either. Contemporary prophets included Uriah (Jeremiah 26:20-23), Zephaniah, and Habakkuk.
The message of all these prophets had been to turn from evil lifestyles and activities. If the people did, the Lord would allow them to remain in their land indefinitely. They were to reject the pagan deities and handmade gods that they served and worshipped, because these angered Yahweh (cf. Matthew 4:10). If they did, He would do them no harm. It is possible that "the work of your hands" is a general reference to their actions. The expression is ambiguous.
Yet the people had not listened to the Lord, but instead provoked Him to anger by making idols-to their own harm.
The Lord announced that because they had not obeyed Him, He would bring Nebuchadnezzar down from the north, and destroy them and their neighbor nations with an awful, everlasting devastation. Nebuchadnezzar was the Lord’s servant in the same sense Cyrus was (cf. Isaiah 44:28 to Isaiah 45:1); he served the Lord by carrying out His will, for the most part unwittingly (cf. Jeremiah 27:6; Jeremiah 43:10; Acts 2:23). Since God’s people would not listen to His servants the prophets (Jeremiah 25:4), the Lord would send another type of servant to get their attention (cf. Isaiah 28:11).
He would remove everyday joy from their lives, even the joy of new marriages, as well as the productivity of the people. They would run out of grain, oil, and other necessities. He would leave them dwelling in darkness. All these expressions refer to the ending of life (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:3-6).
"I must say that when I pray for my country and our culture, I do not pray for God’s justice. I can only plead for His mercy. If we had the justice of God, we would not have peace. We would have a situation like Jeremiah’s. How dare we pray for justice upon our culture when we have so deliberately turned away from God and His revelation? Why should God bless us?" [Note: Schaeffer, pp. 50-51.]
The whole land would remain a horrible desolation for 70 years, during which Israel and Judah would be absent from the Promised Land. This is the first prophecy of the length of the Babylonian captivity. The Israelites had not observed 70 sabbatical years, so the seventy-year exile would restore rest to the land, i.e., replenish the soil (2 Chronicles 36:20-22; Daniel 9:1-2).
"The term of seventy years mentioned is not a so-called round number, but a chronologically exact prediction of the duration of Chaldean supremacy over Judah." [Note: Keil, 1:374.]
After 70 years, the Lord promised to punish the king of Babylon and his nation for their sins and make their land a desolation forever (cf. Habakkuk 1-2). Daniel was reading this passage or the one in Jeremiah 29:10, when God gave him the prophecy of the seventy weeks (sevens) of years yet future (Daniel 9:2). Babylon fell in 539 B.C. when Cyrus the Persian captured and overthrew it. [Note: Some scholars believe that Cyrus the Persian was another name for Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:30-31; 6:28).] It did not become a complete desolation, however, which has led literal interpreters to conclude that a future destruction of Babylon will fulfill this prophecy (Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:1 to Revelation 19:10). Some literal interpreters believe that this requires the rebuilding of the city of Babylon. Most believe it only requires the future fall of the nation. [Note: See my comments on chapters 50-51, and Chisholm, "A Theology . . .," pp. 349-50, for an excursus on Jeremiah’s prophecy of seventy years.]
The Lord would fulfill all the prophecies that Jeremiah had given concerning Babylon. When the Lord made this promise, some of Jeremiah’s prophecies had already been written down.
Other nations and great kings would enslave the Babylonians, Judah’s mighty captors. Yahweh would pay back Babylon for all that she had done (cf. Habakkuk 1-2). Some of these many nations with great kings included the Medes, the Persians, and their several allies under Cyrus the Great.
The Lord instructed Jeremiah to take from His hand, figuratively, a cup (or flagon) of His wrath, and to cause all the nations-to whom the Lord would send him-to drink from it. The cup is a common figure for the wrath of God in Scripture (cf. Jeremiah 13:12-14; Jeremiah 49:12; Jeremiah 51:7; Job 21:20; Psalms 60:3; Psalms 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:21-22; Lamentations 4:21; Ezekiel 23:31-34; Habakkuk 2:16; Mark 10:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 18:11; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 14:10; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 18:6). It is also a symbol of God’s blessing (cf. Psalms 16:5; Psalms 23:5; Luke 22:17; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25). In a larger sense, it refers to one’s lot in life, be it cursing or blessing. This was another symbolic action that God prescribed to communicate to His people, though in this case the action was not literal.
Yahweh’s cup of wrath for the nations 25:15-29
The outpouring of divine wrath on them, in war, would make them behave as though they had drunk too much wine. They would stagger around and lose control of their senses. Drunkenness in the Bible is sometimes a symbol of a sinful state that calls for judgment (cf. Jeremiah 13:12-14; Isaiah 19:14; Isaiah 28:7-13).
Jeremiah gave the messages of divine judgment to the nations to which God sent him. The following list of nations differs from the nations addressed in chapters 46-51 only slightly. Damascus does not appear here, but other nations, not mentioned in that later group, do. [Note: See the map of the ancient Near East at the end of these notes.]
"This section identifying the judgments of God against the evil nations is expanded in chapters 46 through 51. These chapters are appropriately held off until the end of the book of Jeremiah since the main burden of the prophet is the destiny of his own people, Judah, and the record would therefore give precedence to this. Furthermore, the judgments upon the evil nations would fall after the judgment upon Judah, and so the position of chapters 46 through 51 is chronologically fitting at the end of the book." [Note: Jensen, p. 75.]
Jeremiah sent messages of judgment to Jerusalem and Judah, Egypt, the land of Uz (to the east, Job 1:1), Philistia, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon and their colonies in the Mediterranean, the desert areas of Dedan and Tema (both southeast of Edom), Buz (possibly in northern Arabia), some desert Arab tribes and nations, Zimri (perhaps between Arabia and Persia), Elam and Media (east of the Tigris River), other nations farther north and everywhere else, and Babylon. The name "Sheshach" (Jeremiah 25:26) is apparently a code name for Babylon that the writer may have used when writing under Babylonian scrutiny. [Note: See Feinberg, p. 535. The same code, called atbash, occurs in 51:1 and 41 (cf. 1 Peter 5:13). For further explanation of this code, see Dyer, "Jeremiah," p. 1162.] Babylon conquered all these other nations.
Jeremiah was to announce the doom of all these nations by military conquest. Their fate would be similar to that of a drunken man.
If they refused to accept Jeremiah’s prophecies, the prophet was to tell them that they would experience God’s judgment anyway.
God’s work of judgment in Jerusalem was just the beginning of a larger scale judgment that would extend to all nations (cf. Amos 3:2; 1 Peter 4:17). Final fulfillment awaits the return of Jesus Christ when He will destroy all nations that oppose Him (Revelation 16:14-16).
Jeremiah was also to announce that God would prepare to judge all the inhabitants of the earth (Jeremiah 25:29). As a lion announces its intent to attack with a roar, so Yahweh would one day announce His attack on earth-dwellers (cf. Revelation 6). [Note: A less likely interpretation, I think, is that the roar is thunder, the metaphorical voice of God.] He would vigorously tread the nations in the winepress of His wrath (cf. Revelation 14:18-20; Revelation 16:14-16). This anticipates the Tribulation judgments (Revelation 6-18).
Universal judgment to come 25:30-38
His judgment would cause clamor worldwide. He would judge everyone because He holds them guilty in a lawsuit. The wicked would die violent deaths.
Almighty Yahweh also announced that evil was spreading all over the world. As a result, a storm of divine judgment of global proportions was also being stirred up.
The Lord would slay people in all parts of the world during this judgment. So many people would die that they would lie on the ground unburied like manure (cf. Revelation 14:20).
Leaders of peoples will then mourn and weep, because the day of their destruction and the dispersion of their nations had come. In this judgment, the shepherds (leaders) would die along with the sheep (followers). Like a choice piece of pottery, these nations would fall and break apart.
The leaders would not be able to escape the judgment, but they would weep and wail over their fate. They would bewail the fact that Yahweh was destroying their nations in His fierce anger (cf. Revelation 16:8-11).
The Lord would leave His place of obscurity and attack His enemies like a lion (cf. Jeremiah 25:30; Revelation 19:11-21). The earth would become a devastation because the Divine Warrior would vent His fury.
This is the end of the collection of prophecies that presented warnings of judgment on Judah and Jerusalem (chs. 2-25).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 25". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent