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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 29

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-4

Jer 29:1-4

Jeremiah 29:1-4

Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders of the captivity, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon, (after that Jeconiah the king, and the queen-mother, and the eunuchs, [and] the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the craftsmen, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem,) by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,) saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all the captivity, whom I have caused to be carried away captive from Jerusalem unto Babylon:

The queen-mother, and the eunuchs, and the princes...

(Jeremiah 29:2). The queen-mother’s name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan (2 Kings 24:8); and in the Jewish system she was a very important person who seems to have worn a crown and occupied a throne adjacent to that of the king.

Scholars have a lot of trouble with the word "eunuchs" in this passage; and Cheyne even called it a gloss; but the Bible fully explains it. The princes of Judah and Jerusalem had already been captured and carried away to Babylon, among whom were Daniel and his friends; and they had been emasculated, given new names, and given into the charge of Nebuchadnezzar’s "prince of the eunuchs" (Daniel 1:7). Therefore, the word "eunuchs" in this place is absolutely appropriate. As Thompson said, "The essential historicity of this material cannot be doubted."

The craftsmen and the smiths...

(Jeremiah 29:2). It was the policy of Nebuchadnezzar to bring skilled artisans and persons with technical knowledge into Babylon in order to help him, build and beautify the city. God later identified Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom as the head of gold, as it pertained to lesser kingdoms which would follow his; and this was surely one of the reasons for that preference. Nebuchadnezzar did not import young women to satisfy his lust, but skilled workers to help him build and beautify.

Elasah the son of Shaphan...

(Jeremiah 29:3). This man was probably a brother of Ahikam (See Jeremiah 26:24). He was therefore a friend and protector of Jeremiah; and, if it had been necessary to shield the contents of Jeremiah’s letter from the eyes of Zedekiah, Elasah was surely the person who could and would have done so.

The exact date and purpose of this embassy to Babylon is not known; but, "as Zedekiah himself went to Babylon in his fourth year," this embassy might have been preparatory to that visit.

The captives, whom I have caused to be carried away...

(Jeremiah 29:4). God here reveals himself as the cause of the captivity. God Himself has brought about the exile; and, since the Lord’s will was behind it, the better part of wisdom for Judah was submission.


Judging from the contents of chapter 29, the Jews in captivity in Babylon were free to correspond with their relatives and friends back in Palestine. This chapter contains two (possibly three) letters which Jeremiah sent to Babylon and alludes to several letters which were sent from Jews in Babylon to those in Jerusalem.

Jeremiah like other prophets regarded the exile in Babylon as a punishment for the sins of the nation. Yet once that exile had begun in 605 B.C. and still in greater measure in 597 B.C. Jeremiah deemed it his duty to offer encouragement to the exiles. Prophets had arisen in Babylon who were predicting a speedy end to the captivity. While Jeremiah wished to encourage those Jews in Babylon yet he was a realist. He could not allow those Jews to go on deluding themselves. As long as they thought the exile to Babylon was a mere episode to be endured and shortly to be ended there was no real incentive to repentance. The letters in this chapter are a blend of realism and idealism, of discouragement and hope;

The First letter to Babylon Jeremiah 29:1-23

1. Introduction to the letter (Jeremiah 29:1-4)

Jeremiah’s first letter to Babylon is addressed to “the residue of the elders of the captivity, the priests, the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried captive to Babylon” (Jeremiah 29:1). In the main these would be the leaders of the nation who had gone captive in 597 B.C. when Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) had surrendered to the great Babylonian monarch (Jeremiah 29:2). Why does Jeremiah speak of the “residue” of the elders? Perhaps many of the older leaders had perished during what must have been an arduous journey to Babylonia. The fact that Jeremiah mentions elders, priests and prophets would suggest that some sort of communal organization existed in Babylon similar to that which existed in Judah. This particular letter is intended for all segments of the population. It is an “open letter.”

For some unexplained reason king Zedekiah was sending an embassy to Babylon at this time. Perhaps the purpose was to carry the annual tribute to Nebuchadnezzar. The embassy consisted of, or was led by, two outstanding men. Elasah the son of Shaphan is named first. The family of Shaphan were among the most loyal friends which Jeremiah had. It was the brother of Elasah who protected Jeremiah when he was on trial for his life (Jeremiah 26:24). Since Elasah was from a God-fearing family he recognized the authority of Nebuchadnezzar whom God had appointed over all the earth (Jeremiah 27:4-14). He was no doubt more than willing to carry the letter of Jeremiah along with him to Babylon. The second member of the embassy was Gemariah the son of Hilkiah. Could this Hilkiah be the high priest who took such an active part in the reforms of king Josiah (2 Kings 22:4; 2 Chronicles 34, 35)? Could Gemariah have been a brother of Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 1:1)? These questions must remain unanswered. But it is likely that Gemariah too was a loyal believer. Even though the Judean leadership was by and large corrupt still there were those who bore witness for Him in the inner councils of the nation.

The letter deals with the immediate situation of the captives. The prophet offers to the captives practical advice (Jeremiah 29:5-7), warning (Jeremiah 29:8-10), and a word of hope (Jeremiah 29:11-14). Then he undertakes a refutation of the fake prophets in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:15-20) and finally makes a prediction respecting the fate of two notorious false prophets there (Jeremiah 29:21-23).

Verses 5-9

Jer 29:5-9

Jeremiah 29:5-7

Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them. Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply ye there, and be not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto Jehovah for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

What a marvelous anticipation of New Testament teaching is in this paragraph. The wholehearted cooperation with the governmental powers under which one may chance to live is spoken as a cardinal principle of the gospel of Christ in Romans 13:1-12. Praying for civil authorities is specifically commanded in 1 Timothy 2:1-3. If the Jewish nation had properly received and obeyed this commandment, the Roman destruction of 70 A.D. would have been averted.

Of course, instructions such as these infuriated the false prophets.

Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters...

(Jeremiah 29:6). The wives Jeremiah encouraged them to marry were Jewish wives, not foreign (Deuteronomy 7:3).

"The Hebrew exiles in Babylon were not slaves but deportees, and free to leave about as they pleased. Some became wealthy, and some, like Daniel, attained high places in government; and the commandments of Jeremiah 29:7 were made out of regard for the welfare of Israel."

As a matter of fact, the prosperity of many of the exiles was so great that when the command finally came for them to return to the Holy Land, countless numbers of them elected to remain in Babylon. It was indeed only "a remnant" that returned to Jerusalem.

2. Practical advice for the captives (Jeremiah 29:5-7)

No information is available regarding when Jeremiah sent this letter to Babylon. The likelihood is that the letter dates to the time shortly after the deportation of 597 B.C. No doubt the exiles were finding it hard to adjust to their new surroundings in Babylonia. They were in the midst of a people who spoke a different language, had strange customs, and worshiped different gods. False prophets arose who predicted a speedy return within two years. Many were expecting the momentary overthrow of Babylon and were making no effort to accommodate themselves to the new situation. Jeremiah had some inspired counsel for the exiles. Basically he encourages them to settle down for a long captivity. He urges them (1) to build permanent houses: (2) plant gardens; (3) take wives; (4) beget sons and daughters; (5) seek the peace of the city; and (6) pray for it. C. Paul Gray calls this the first admonition in the Old Testament to pray for one’s enemies. They are to make Babylon their homeland for the next seventy years and be loyal subjects of the government. They are to live as nearly as possible normal, peaceable lives. They should pay no heed to the dangerous agitators among them who viewed quiet submission as treasonous capitulation.

Verses 8-14

Jer 29:8-14

Jeremiah 29:8-9

For thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Let not your prophets that are in the midst of you, and your diviners, deceive you; neither hearken ye to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith Jehovah.

Your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed...

(Jeremiah 29:8) The dreams mentioned here seem to be accredited to the people themselves. We do not know if the meaning here is that, from the intense desire of the people for independence, their subconscious minds produced the dreams, or if the false prophets, knowing the longings of the people for liberty, invented the dreams to suit the wishes of the people; but we suppose the latter is intended.

Some scholars of the scissors and paste experts excise these verses; but, as Green stated it, "There is no real basis for the excision. The verses undergird what precedes and prepare for what follows."

3. A warning to the captives (Jeremiah 29:8-10)

In Jeremiah 29:8-9 Jeremiah points to three agents likely to lead the captives astray—prophets, diviners and dreams. False prophets promising a speedy deliverance had arisen in Babylon as well as in Jerusalem. Their object was to lead the people to dissatisfaction and revolt. The diviners were echoing the same optimistic prognostications as the prophets. Diviners are those who use external objects to discover what the future holds. Several different forms of definition are mentioned in and condemned by the Old Testament. E.g., rhabdomancy, the use of sticks and arrows, and hepatascopy, examination of the liver of animals, are mentioned in Ezekiel 21:21. Astrology is also a form of divination. It is therefore impossible to determine what particular form of the occult art had been appropriated by the Jewish diviners in Babylon. Dreams of early emancipation were also dangerous to the captives. The unusual phrase “dreams which you caused to be dreamed” indicates that the supply was created by a demand for dreams of this nature. The people wished to be deceived; they preferred darkness to light. So they caused or made the prophets to tell them encouraging dreams.

Jeremiah agreed with the prophets and diviners that the Lord would eventually visit His people and deliver them from bondage. But in the view of Jeremiah this deliverance would come only after the seventy years which God had prescribed for the duration of the Babylonian world empire. For the exiles to continue to believe in the delusion of speedy return from Babylon would have defeated the disciplinary objective of the captivity. Therefore Jeremiah insists that a full seventy years must run their course before God intervenes on behalf of His people (Jeremiah 29:10).

Jeremiah 29:10-14

For thus saith Jehovah, After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end. And ye shall call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith Jehovah, and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places wither I have driven you, saith Jehovah; and I will bring you again unto the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.

After seventy years. for Babylon .....

(Jeremiah 29:10). Yes, the captivity would end, but not until the seventy years were accomplished. Notice also that there are overtones here that reach unto the end of time. The gathering of God’s people from all the nations is at the present time taking place in the preaching of the gospel all over the world. There is far more in these verses than the mere return of a few Jews to Jerusalem.

The accomplishment of the seventy years for Babylon...

(Jeremiah 29:10). These words indicate that ’the seventy years’ are primarily the length of the Babylonian empire, and only in a secondary sense, the length of the Jewish exile. The actual duration of the Babylonian domination was from, The fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. to the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. a period of 73 years. Counting from the accession of Nebuchadnezzar in 606 (Jewish method of reckoning) to the fall of Babylon to Cyrus, there was a period of 67 years. As far as we are concerned, there is no need to talk about round numbers in a prophecy as exact as this one.

4. A word of hope for the captives (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

Since the explicit declaration that the exile is to last seventy years probably would have caused discouragement and doubt in the hearts of the captives, Jeremiah quickly adds in Jeremiah 29:11-14 a note of hope. God assures them that His thoughts toward them are for their peace and wellbeing and not their destruction. “I know the thoughts that I think toward you!” The pronoun in the Hebrew is emphatic. God knows His plan and purpose even when men are unable to comprehend and fathom the circumstances of life. The exiles needed to hear this. They needed to realize that their captivity was not an accident but was part of God’s plan for them as a people. No matter how tragic their seventy-year sojourn in Babylon seemed, they must believe that the entire episode was for their ultimate good and well-being.

God assures the people through His prophet that He will give to them “a latter end and hope” (ASV margin). They do have a future as a people. Though they were at present exiles in a foreign land, though their homeland was yet to be devastated by the hated Babylonians (Jeremiah 29:16-19), God still had a wonderful purpose for His people. Wrapped up in the words "clatter end and hope” are all the blessings of the Messianic salvation.

Genuine conversion of the people will be both a result of the seventy years of captivity and a prerequisite for deliverance from captivity (Jeremiah 29:12-14). The captivity must last seventy years in order to effect the change in the moral and spiritual disposition of the people depicted in these verses. The old rebellious generation would die and a new generation would arise which would turn to God. Return to the homeland would only be possible when they seek the Lord with all of their heart. God would answer their prayer and bring them back to the land of their birth. In other words when the people are restored to God, they will be restored to their homeland. Just as predictions of disaster are conditional upon whether the people persist in their evil, so are the promises of God dependent upon repentance. The dire and dreary circumstances of the captivity gave the Jewish people an opportunity to learn trust and reliance upon God. God often brings His people into difficult places so that they might learn to cast themselves upon Him.

Verses 15-20

Jer 29:15-20

Jeremiah 29:15-20

Because ye have said, Jehovah hath raised us up prophets in Babylon; thus saith Jehovah concerning the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and concerning all the people that dwell in this city, your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity; thus saith Jehovah of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so bad. And I will pursue after them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be tossed to and fro among all the kingdoms of the earth, to be an execration, and an astonishment, and a hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them; because they have not hearkened to my words, saith Jehovah, wherewith I sent unto them my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith Jehovah. Hear ye therefore the word of Jehovah, all ye of the captivity, whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Jehovah hath raised us up prophets in Babylon...

(Jeremiah 29:15). This evidently comes from some communication which Jeremiah had received from the captives themselves. Of course, such prophets were false prophets; and Jeremiah warned against the captive’s being deceived by them.

As regards Hananiah personally, Jeremiah had some rather harsh words to say. In Jeremiah 28:15-16 there is a stern word of indictment and a prediction of imminent death. As for the indictment, three charges are made: (1) Hananiah is an impostor. God has not sent him and therefore he is not entitled to call himself a prophet. He is called throughout the chapter “Hananiah the prophet” because that was his official title. But he was not a prophet by the will and call of God. (2) Hananiah has caused the people to trust in a lie. His optimistic but unfounded prophecy of the imminent fall of Babylon had created false expectations in the hearts of the people. National policy—a policy of rebellion against Babylon—was being formulated on the basis of these false expectations. While Hananiah’s motives might have been quite sincere and even patriotic his words were leading the people down the road to national suicide. (3) Hananiah has spoken rebellion against the Lord (Jeremiah 28:16). To advocate revolt against God’s appointed ruler, Nebuchadnezzar, was tantamount to advocating rebellion against God Himself. Others take these words to mean that Hananiah has perverted the word of the Lord. In either case it is a serious accusation to make.

Because of these crimes against God and the nation Hananiah must be punished. The law of Moses clearly states that if a prophet is guilty of speaking rebellion against the Lord he should be put to death (Deuteronomy 13:5). To advocate rebellion against God was a capital crime. The Great Judge announces the verdict: “Behold, I am about to remove you from upon the face to the earth” (Jeremiah 28:16). God did not send Hananiah to the people of Judah (Jeremiah 28:16) but He now will send him away to die. The same Hebrew word is used in both verses. The prophets were quite fond of using paronomasia or play on words. “This year you shall die!” What an awesome thought. One can only wonder how Hananiah received this word from the Lord. The crowds which had bolstered his courage in the Temple encounter are no longer present. Surely in his own heart he must have realized the emptiness of the prophecies he had been so bold to deliver on other occasions. Now he must have been trembling as the finger of Jeremiah pointed in his direction and those solemn words were uttered.

In the seventh month of that same year Hananiah died. This would have been about two months after the Temple episode (cf. Jeremiah 28:1). Not only did the death of Hananiah serve as a punishment for this teacher of lies, it also served to vindicate Jeremiah as a true prophet of God.

Jeremiah 29:16-17 have the prophecy of the complete destruction of the remainder of Judah in Jerusalem; and we reject the idea that this prophecy does not belong in Jeremiah’s letter. Oh yes, it is missing from the Septuagint (LXX), but what of that? As Smith noted, "The whole text of the Septuagint is here so brief and confused as to be practically inexplicable; but on the other hand the Hebrew text represents the original manuscript, and is especially trustworthy in the case before us." "The fact of these verses being lacking in the LXX proves nothing except that the translators of the Septuagint (LXX) were unable to understand the main thought of the passage!" It is for exactly this same reason that present-day commentators would prefer to omit the passage.

The vital relevance of this prophecy against the remainder of Judah in Jerusalem is that it was necessary to silence and destroy the campaign of the false prophets. Their whole message was, "All of us will be back home in Judah within two years." Jeremiah had already been fully verified as a true prophet of God; and this message sent to the exiles effectively killed their whole campaign. It infuriated them; but it also silenced them.

Cheyne’s notion that Jeremiah 29:16-20 "are an interpolation" is therefore an unfortunate error. It is another example of a scholar claiming "an interpolation" as an explanation of something he does not understand.

Henderson understood the necessity for these verses in Jeremiah’s letter, writing, "They are designed to contradict the false hopes held out to the captives that the Jewish state in Jerusalem should stand, and that they would be restored to their brethren in Judaea."

Vile figs...

(Jeremiah 29:17). The captives already knew about this prophecy; but Jeremiah repeated it here. See Jeremiah 24:2 f. This letter had nothing in it about the destruction of Judah that was not already known by Zedekiah; and any thought that he would not have allowed a communication like this to go to Babylon is denied by the facts that Zedekiah probably did not see the letter; and that, if he had seen it, he would have allowed it anyway. He evidently believed that Jeremiah was a true prophet. His later rebellion was due solely to his weakness.

5. Refutation of the false prophets in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:15-20)

Jeremiah’s correspondence with the captives was not appreciated. Some felt that the prophet from Anathoth was meddling where he had no business. “God has raised up for us prophets here in Babylon,” they protested. “We have no need to hear from would-be prophets in Jerusalem!” (Jeremiah 29:15). The captives much preferred the messages they were getting from their own prophets in Babylon. These deceivers continued to generate false hope by assuring the Jews that they would shortly be returning to their homeland. It was imperative that Jeremiah shatter this delusion. If the captives only could realize the agony which the inhabitants of Jerusalem were shortly to endure at the hands of the Babylonians they would not want to return home immediately. Sword, famine and pestilence would come upon the land in the not-too-distant future. Using a figure he used earlier (Jeremiah 24:2-10) Jeremiah likens the inhabitants of Jerusalem to rotten figs which are good for nothing but to cast out (Jeremiah 29:17). The nations of the world would see the terrible calamity which would befall Judah and they would shutter with fear and hiss or whistle in amazement. Thus instead of promising a speedy return of the Jews already in Babylon, Jeremiah declares that there would be further deportations of Jews from the homeland. In view of what would shortly befall Jerusalem, the exiles should be thankful that they had been spared the horrors of the last days of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah relates to the captives in Babylon what he had been preaching in the streets of Jerusalem. The inhabitants of Judah must be punished because they had refused to hearken to the words of the Lord spoken by the prophets (Jeremiah 29:19). In the sudden shift from third to second person in Jeremiah 29:19, Jeremiah includes those who read the letter in the charge of disobedience to God. He then pleads with the captives to hear the genuine word of the Lord (Jeremiah 29:20): “Those in Judah have refused to hear; then you in Babylon give heed to the word of God.”

Verses 21-23

Jer 29:21-23

Jeremiah 29:21-23

Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and concerning Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who prophesy a lie unto you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall slay them before your eyes; and of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captives of Judah that are in Babylon, saying, Jehovah make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire; because they have wrought folly in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken words in my name falsely, which I commanded them not; and I am he that knoweth, and am witness, saith Jehovah.

Concerning Ahab. and Zedekiah .....

(Jeremiah 29:21). This part of Jeremiah’s letter is directed to these two men, with a message from God that they shall be put to death. This was a rather lengthy communication which Jeremiah sent to Babylon, as Cawley and Millard noted, This letter includes messages to no less than four different groups:

(1) those already in captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10-14);

(2) those who would become captives later (Jeremiah 29:15-19);

(3) Ahab, Zedekiah and their fellow false prophets (Jeremiah 29:21-23); and

(4) to Shemaiah (Jeremiah 29:24-32)."

This extensive letter, addressed to different groups, indicates that Jeremiah’s communication with the captives had been rather extensive. Shemaiah was among those who had written a letter which Jeremiah read; and there were doubtless other examples also.

Roasted in the fire...

(Jeremiah 29:22). The Babylonian method of putting criminals to death was by casting them alive into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:6); But the Babylonians would hardly have put men to death for committing adultery ... Nebuchadnezzar probably put them to death for plotting a rebellion against Babylon.

The curse mentioned here is interesting. "When the exiles would imprecate the greatest evil upon one whom they hated, the heaviest curse in the fewest words they could think of was, ’The Lord make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab.’ "

Cheyne wisely commented that, "There is an important and melancholy addition to our knowledge of false prophets in Jeremiah 29:23, namely, that they committed adultery. They were not only misleading prophets, but immoral men in their private capacities." This pattern in the lives of false teachers has prevailed throughout history, and even to the present day.

6. The fate of two notorious false prophets (Jeremiah 29:21-23)

Two of the leading prophets in Babylon are singled out for special attention by Jeremiah. Nothing more is known of Ahab and Zedekiah than what is here recorded. Jeremiah makes two serious accusations against them. First, he accuses them of prophesying lies in the name of the LORD (Jeremiah 29:21). Then he accuses them of committing adultery (Jeremiah 29:23). Loose theology often is accompanied by loose morality. Jeremiah indicates that these two scoundrels would be delivered into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar who would “roast” them in a fiery furnace. The Babylonian king no doubt regarded their oracles as treasonous. This allusion to execution by fire brings to mind three brave Hebrew young men whom Nebuchadnezzar attempted to execute in this manner when they refused to bow to a golden image (Daniel 3:6 ff.). Ahab and Zedekiah would be remembered, but not as prophets. Their names would become part of a gruesome formula of imprecation which angry men would hurl at one another (Jeremiah 29:22). God Himself has taken note of the sins of these two hypocrites and He will see to it that they receive their just due (Jeremiah 29:23),

Verses 24-32

Jer 29:24-32

Jeremiah 29:24-28

And concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite thou shalt speak, saying, Thus speaketh Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Because thou hast sent letters in thine own name unto all the people that are at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, and to all the priests, saying, Jehovah hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that there may be officers in the house of Jehovah, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in the stocks and in shackles. Now therefore, why hast thou not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth, who maketh himself a prophet to you, forasmuch as he hath sent unto us in Babylon, saying, [The captivity] is long: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them?

The usual explanation of this passage is that, "These words are a second communication from Jeremiah to Babylon, sent after Shemaiah had sent Jeremiah the letter mentioned in Jeremiah 29:25." This may well be the case; and if this is right, it would indicate that the false prophets in Babylon were really infuriated by Jeremiah’s letter, and that they promptly mounted a campaign to get Jeremiah silenced. In that case, this letter has been added to "the letter" mentioned in Jeremiah 29:1, because of the similarity between them.

Smith explained this and the verses to the end of the chapter as being, "Appended to Jeremiah’s letter without any introduction, that it might tell its own tale, showing the effects of the letter. The Zephaniah mentioned here was the deputy high priest."

The whole account here is abbreviated, because Shemaiah’s letter stated that Jeremiah had prophesied a "long captivity," but the letter as recorded here omits the word "long." In such a condensation as we evidently have here, it is impossible to fill in all the details accurately.

Smith also noted that the letter which Shemaiah wrote to the deputy High Priest was manifestly different from the one written to "all the people," indicating that Shemaiah wrote a lot of letters (note that they are mentioned in the plural); and that one of those had, in fact, triggered what is here called "the letter" and that this paragraph addressed to Shemaiah was actually a part of it. The whole question is of no major importance.

The captivity is long...

(Jeremiah 29:28). The literal text here is, It is long. The omission of the noun here is far more forcible than its inclusion would have been. What is long? God’s anger is long; their punishment is long; the time necessary for their repentance is long; the exile is long; the seventy years are long; everything is indeed long for men who are homesick, and who will never live to see their native land again.

Jeremiah 29:29-32

And Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet. Then came the word of Jehovah unto Jeremiah, saying, Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith Jehovah concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he hath caused you to trust in a lie; therefore thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed; he shall not have a man to dwell among this people, neither shall he behold the good that I will do unto my people, saith Jehovah, because he hath spoken rebellion against Jehovah.

This paragraph might well indeed have been included as a fitting introduction to this whole chapter. The chronological sequence of events in Jeremiah is very difficult to know with any certainty.

Zephaniah. read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah .....

(Jeremiah 29:29). Evidently the deputy High Priest honored and trusted Jeremiah as the true prophet of God; and instead of placing Jeremiah in the stocks and shackles as Shemaiah had requested, he informed the prophet of all that was going on. Note that God here commanded Jeremiah to write not merely Shemaiah but, to all of them of the captivity, (Jeremiah 29:31). Thus the words to Shemaiah were to be included in the letter to all the captives, as it appears in this chapter.

A Letter from Babylon Jeremiah 29:24-29

The letter of Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon stirred up a great deal of hostility. One of the false prophets there, Shemaiah by name, sent letters to Jerusalem in an attempt to have Jeremiah silenced. In one letter Shemaiah urged Zephaniah, a leading priest in Jerusalem, to imitate his illustrious predecessor Jehoiada who had taken bold action in executing the idolatrous prophets (2 Kings 11:1-20). Shemaiah feels that action should be taken against the frenzied, “mad” prophets who were roving around the Temple area. Of course he has Jeremiah particularly in mind (Jeremiah 29:27). Jeremiah is regarded as a madman simply because he held a minority opinion with regard to the duration of the captivity (Jeremiah 29:28). It is to the credit of Zephaniah that he did not yield to the pressure which Shemaiah tried to bring against him. He seems to have been sympathetic towards Jeremiah and actually showed him the letter (Jeremiah 29:29).

A Second Letter to Babylon Jeremiah 29:30-32

Jeremiah received an oracle from the Lord concerning Shemaiah and proceeded to send a second letter to the captives. In it he affirms that the Lord will punish Shemaiah for perpetuating the delusion of a short captivity and encouraging the Jews there to rebel against Babylon. The punishment is two-fold: (1) Shemaiah would be deprived of descendants to carry on his name, and (2) he would not live to see the restoration of the people to their own land at the end of the seventy years of captivity (Jeremiah 29:32).

A Letter to the Exiles - Jeremiah 29:1-32

Open It

1. How do you respond when someone who is supposed to speak for you expresses an opinion or idea that is not your own?

2. What kinds of things would you do differently if you moved to a new community but only expected to stay for a year?

Explore It

3. To whom did Jeremiah, living in Jerusalem, send a letter? (Jeremiah 29:1-2)

4. Who was able to carry a letter to the exiles? (Jeremiah 29:3)

5. What specific commands did God give the exiles regarding how they should settle down? (Jeremiah 29:4-6)

6. How did God want the Israelites to think about and react to the foreign country in which they lived? (Jeremiah 29:7)

7. By whom were the exiles in danger of being deceived? (Jeremiah 29:8-9)

8. After what period of time did God promise to bring the people back to the land? (Jeremiah 29:10)

9. What was the nature of God’s plans for Israel? (Jeremiah 29:11)

10. Why would Judah’s seeking for God be fruitful after this period of exile? (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

11. How would the people of Israel be "reconstituted" after seventy years of exile? (Jeremiah 29:14)

12. What did Jeremiah’s letter inform the exiles about God’s judgment of those who remained behind? (Jeremiah 29:15-19)

13. What did God have in store for two specific false prophets who were telling the exiles they would soon be home? (Jeremiah 29:20-21)

14. What deeds of the false prophets had not escaped God’s all-seeing eye? (Jeremiah 29:22-23)

15. What did Shemaiah’s letter to Zephaniah the priest in Jerusalem contain? (Jeremiah 29:24-28)

16. How did Jeremiah learn about the letter encouraging his imprisonment? (Jeremiah 29:29)

17. What was God’s judgment on Shemaiah for his treachery against Jeremiah? (Jeremiah 29:31-32)

Get It

18. Why was it important for the exiles to know that God planned to prosper them and not to harm them?

19. What kind of prophet (false or true) told the people what they wanted to hear while requiring nothing of them in return?

20. What emotional reaction would most people have if asked to pray for the prosperity of their captors?

21. How do you think God would have us pray for our country?

22. Why does God want us to seek Him with our whole heart?

23. What does it mean to you to seek God with your whole heart?

24. Why is back-stabbing a risky way of trying to get rid of your enemies?

25. How should we react whenever someone promises us something for nothing in spiritual matters?

Apply It

26. How can you maintain a healthy skepticism toward people who promise too much for God?

27. How does God’s promise of a hope for the future enable you to persevere through the current difficulties in your life?

Questions On Jeremiah Chapter Twenty-Nine

By Brent Kercheville

1 Who did Jeremiah send his letter to (Jeremiah 29:1-9)?

Who are some of the people that would be included in this group?

What was the message to these people?

2 What will happen after the 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10-14)? Why did these people need this information?

3 What is God’s message in Jeremiah 29:15-23? Why is it important for these people to understand this message?

4 What was the false message Shemaiah was declaring (Jeremiah 29:24-28)?

5 What was God’s message to the exiles regarding Shemaiah (Jeremiah 29:29-32)?


How does this relationship change your relationship with God?

What did you learn about him?

What will you do differently in your life?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 29". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/jeremiah-29.html.
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