the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Pett's Commentary on the Bible Pett's Commentary
by Peter Pett
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD
Analysis of the Book of Jeremiah.
The Book of Jeremiah can be divided up into three main sections included within the envelope of an introduction and a conclusion. These may be seen as follows:
1. INTRODUCTION. Introductory opening chapter, which describes Jeremiah’s call by YHWH and explains the reason for his calling (Chapter 1).
2. SECTION 1. A number of general prophecies against Judah in the days of Josiah and Jehoiakim, including, in the final chapters, words spoken to Zedekiah (chapters 2-25).
3. SECTION 2. Biographical details from the life of the prophet and details of how he coped with his maltreatment which came as a result of his message that Judah should submit to Babylon, which leads up to the fall of Jerusalem and its aftermath in the rejection by the remaining remnant of the offer of a new covenant (chapters 26-45).
4. SECTION 3. Prophecies against foreign nations (chapters 46-51).
5. CONCLUSION. Concluding appendix, which summarises the final days of Jerusalem, summarises the different exiles, and finishes on a note of hope with the restoration of King Jehoiachin to a throne in Babylon (chapter 52).
Each of the sections will now be analysed further:
SECTION 1. An Overall Description Of Jeremiah’s Teaching Given In A Series Of Accumulated, Mainly Undated, Prophecies, Concluding With Jeremiah’s Own Summary Of His Ministry (Jeremiah 2:4 to Jeremiah 25:38 ).
Following the INTRODUCTION from Jeremiah 2:4 onwards up to chapter 25 we have a new major section (a section in which MT and LXX are mainly similar) which records the overall teaching of Jeremiah, probably given mainly during the reigns of Josiah (Jeremiah 3:6) and Jehoiakim, although leading up to the days of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 21:1). While there are good reasons for not seeing these chapters as containing a series of specific discourses as some have suggested, nevertheless they can safely be seen as giving a general overall view of Jeremiah’s teaching over that period, and as having on the whole been put together earlier rather than later. The whole commences with the statement, ‘Hear you the word of YHWH O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel, thus says YHWH ---.’ It is therefore directed to Israel as a whole, mainly as now contained in the expanded land of Judah to which many northerners had fled for refuge.
We may divide up the main subsections of this SECTION as follows, based partly on content, and partly on the opening introductory phrases:
1. ‘Hear you the word of YHWH, O house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel ---’ (Jeremiah 2:4). YHWH commences this subsection by presenting His complaint against Israel/Judah because they have failed to continue to respond to the love and faithfulness that He had demonstrated to them in the wilderness and in the years that followed, resulting by their fervent addiction to idolatry in their losing the water of life in exchange for empty cisterns. It ends with a plea for them to turn back to Him like an unfaithful wife returning to her husband. This would appear to be mainly his initial teaching in his earliest days in the days of Josiah, indicating even at that stage how far, in spite of Josiah’s reformation, the people as a whole were from truly obeying the covenant, but it also appears to contain teaching given in the days of Jehoiakim, for which see commentary (Jeremiah 2:4 to Jeremiah 3:5).
2. ‘Moreover YHWH said to me in the days of King Josiah --’ (Jeremiah 3:6). This subsection follows up on subsection 1 with later teaching given in the days of Josiah, and some apparently in the days of Jehoiakim. He gives a solemn warning to Judah based on what had happened to the northern tribes (‘the ten tribes’) as a result of their behaviour towards YHWH, facing Judah up to the certainty of similar coming judgment if they do not amend their ways, a judgment that would come in the form of a ravaged land and exile for its people. This is, however, intermingled with a promise of final blessing and further pleas for them to return to YHWH, for that in the end is YHWH’s overall purpose. But the subsection at this time ends under a threat of soon coming judgment (Jeremiah 3:6 to Jeremiah 6:30).
3. ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 7:1). In this subsection Jeremiah admonishes the people about the false confidence that they have in the inviolability of the Temple, and in their sacrificial ritual, and warned that like Shiloh they could be destroyed. He accompanies his words with warnings that if they continued in their present disobedience, Judah would be dispersed and the country would be despoiled (Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 8:3). He therefore chides the people for their obstinacy in the face of all attempts at reformation (Jeremiah 8:4 to Jeremiah 9:21), and seeks to demonstrate to them what the path of true wisdom is, that they understand and know YHWH in His covenant love, justice and righteousness. In a fourfold comparison he then vividly brings out the folly of idolatry when contrasted with the greatness of YHWH. The section ends with the people knowing that they must be chastised, but hoping that YHWH’s full wrath will rather be poured out on their oppressors (Jeremiah 9:22 to Jeremiah 10:25).
4. ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 11:1). He now deprecates their disloyalty to the covenant, and demonstrates from examples the total corruption of the people, revealing that as a consequence their doom is irrevocably determined (Jeremiah 11:1 to Jeremiah 12:17). The section closes with a symbolic action which reveals the certainty of their expulsion from the land, the hiding of a girdle by the Euphrates, which is subsequently spoiled (13). (Jeremiah 11:1 to Jeremiah 13:27).
5. ‘The word that came from YHWH to Jeremiah --’ (Jeremiah 14:1). “The word concerning the drought,” gives illustrative evidence confirming that the impending judgment of Judah cannot be turned aside by any prayers or entreaties, and that because of their sins Judah will be driven into exile. A promise of hope for the future when they will be restored to the land is, however, once more incorporated (Jeremiah 16:14-15) although only with a view to stressing the general judgment (Jeremiah 14:1 to Jeremiah 17:4). The passage then closes with general explanations of what is at the root of the problem, and lays out cursings and blessings and demonstrates the way by which punishment might be avoided by a full response to the covenant as evidenced by truly observing the Sabbath (Jeremiah 17:5-27). (Jeremiah 14:1 to Jeremiah 17:27).
6. ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 18:1). Chapters 18-19 then contain two oracles from God illustrated in terms of the Potter and his handiwork, which bring out on the one hand God’s willingness to offer mercy, and on the other the judgment that is about to come on Judah because of their continuance in sin and their refusal to respond to that offer. The consequence of this for Jeremiah, in chapter 20, is severe persecution, including physical blows and harsh imprisonment. This results in him complaining to YHWH in his distress, and cursing the day of his birth. (Jeremiah 18:1 to Jeremiah 20:18).
7. ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 21:1). This subsection, which is a kind of appendix to what has gone before, finally confirms the hopelessness of Jerusalem’s situation under Zedekiah. In response to an appeal from King Zedekiah concerning Judah’s hopes for the future Jeremiah warns that it is YHWH’s purpose that Judah be subject to Babylon (Jeremiah 21:1-10). Meanwhile, having sent out a general call to the house of David to rule righteously and deal with oppression, he has stressed that no hope was to be nurtured of the restoration of either Shallum (Jehoahaz), the son of Josiah who had been carried off to Egypt, nor of Jehoiachin (Coniah), the son of Jehoiakim who had been carried off to Babylon. In fact no direct heir of Jehoiachin would sit upon the throne. And the reason that this was so was because all the current sons of David had refused to respond to his call to rule with justice and to stamp down on oppression. What had been required was to put right what was wrong in Judah, and reign in accordance with the requirements of the covenant. In this had lain any hope for the continuation of the Davidic monarchy. But because they had refused to do so only judgment could await them. Note in all this the emphasis on the monarchy as ‘sons of David’ (Jeremiah 21:12; Jeremiah 22:2-3). This is preparatory to the mention of the coming glorious son of David Who would one day come and reign in righteousness (Jeremiah 23:3-8).
Jeremiah then heartily castigates the false shepherds of Judah who have brought Judah to the position that they are in and explains that for the present Judah’s sinful condition is such that all that they can expect is everlasting reproach and shame (Jeremiah 23:9 ff). The subsection then closes (chapter 24) with the parable of the good and bad figs, the good representing the righteous remnant in exile who will one day return, the bad the people who have been left in Judah to await sword, pestilence, famine and exile. (Jeremiah 21:1 to Jeremiah 24:10).
8. ‘The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah --’ (Jeremiah 25:1). This subsection contains Jeremiah’s own summary, given to the people in a sermon, describing what has gone before during the previous twenty three years of his ministry. It is also in preparation for what is to follow. He warns them that because they have not listened to YHWH’s voice the land must suffer for ‘seventy years’ in subjection to Babylon, and goes on to bring out that YHWH’s wrath will subsequently be visited on Babylon, and not only on them, but on ‘the whole world’. For YHWH will be dealing with the nations in judgment, something which will be expanded on in chapters 46-51. There is at this stage no mention of restoration, (except as hinted at in the seventy year limit to Babylon’s supremacy), and the chapter closes with a picture of the final desolation which is to come on Judah as a consequence of YHWH’s anger. (Jeremiah 25:1-38).
While the opening phrase repeated so regularly above, ‘the word that came from YHWH to Jeremiah’, will appear again in Jeremiah 30:1; Jeremiah 32:1; Jeremiah 34:8; Jeremiah 35:1; Jeremiah 40:1, it will only be after the sequence has been broken by other introductory phrases which link the word of YHWH with the activities of a particular king (e.g. Jeremiah 25:1; Jeremiah 26:1; Jeremiah 27:1; Jeremiah 28:1) where in each case the message that follows is limited in length. See also Jeremiah 29:1 which introduces a letter from Jeremiah to the early exiles in Babylon. Looking at chapter 25 as the concluding chapter to the first part, this change confirms a new approach from Jeremiah 26:1 onwards, (apparent also in its content), while at the same time demonstrating that the prophecy must be seen as an overall unity.
SECTION 2 (Jeremiah 26:1 to Jeremiah 45:5 ).
Whilst the first twenty five chapters of Jeremiah have mainly been a record of his general prophecies, mostly given during the reigns of Josiah and Jehoiakim, and have been in the first person, this second section of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:1 to Jeremiah 45:5) is in the third person, includes a great deal of material about the problems that Jeremiah faced during his ministry and provides information about the opposition that he continually encountered. This use of the third person was a device regularly used by prophets so that it does not necessarily indicate that it was not directly the work of Jeremiah, although in his case we actually have good reason to think that much of it was recorded under his guidance by his amanuensis and friend, Baruch (Jeremiah 36:4).
The SECTION can be divided up as follows:
· Subsection 1). Commencing With A Speech In The Temple Jeremiah Warns Of What Is Coming And Repudiates The Promises Of The False Prophets (Jeremiah 26:1 to Jeremiah 29:32).
· Subsection 2). Following The Anguish Which Is To Come Promises Are Given Of Eventual Restoration, Central To Which Is A New Covenant Written In The Heart And The Establishment Of A Righteous Branch Of The House Of David (Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 33:26).
· Subsection 3). YHWH’s Continuing Word of Judgment Is Given Through Jeremiah, And Its Repercussions Leading Up To The Fall Of Jerusalem Are Revealed (Jeremiah 34:1 to Jeremiah 39:18).
· Subsection 4). Events Subsequent To The Fall Of Jerusalem Are Described Including The Rejection By ‘The Remnant Of Judah’ Of YHWH’s Offer Of Full Restoration (Jeremiah 40:1 to Jeremiah 45:5).
Section 2 Subsection 1). can itself then be divided up as follows:
A) ‘In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim -- came this word from YHWH saying --’ (Jeremiah 26:1). The chapter commences in the Temple with a call to repentance, which is followed by a warning that their Temple would otherwise be made like Shiloh, (which was where the original Temple/Tabernacle was destroyed by the Philistines in the days of Samuel), and their city would become a curse among the nations (compareJeremiah 25:29; Jeremiah 25:29; Jeremiah 25:37). The resulting persecution of Jeremiah, especially by the priests and the cult prophets, is then described, although ameliorated by a counter-argument put forward by ‘the elders of the people of the land’ who clearly accepted Jeremiah as a genuine prophet and cited the prophecies of Micah in his support. (Chapter 26).
B) ‘In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim -- came this word to Jeremiah from YHWH saying --’ (Jeremiah 27:1). This chapter commences with Jeremiah, at the command of YHWH, starting to wear symbolic instruments of restraint on his neck as an illustration of the bondage that has come on them from Egypt and is coming at the hands of Babylon. Then during the reign of Zedekiah he is commanded to send these same instruments of bondage among the surrounding nations because of a planned rebellion against Babylon, conveying a similar message to them, that they must accept being subject nations, and warning them against listening to those who say otherwise. Meanwhile Zedekiah and Judah are given the same message together with the assurance, contrary to the teaching of the cult prophets, that rather than experiencing deliverance, what remains of the vessels of YHWH in the Temple will also be carried off to Babylon. (Chapter 27).
C) ‘And it came about in the same year at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah --’ (Jeremiah 28:1). In this chapter the false prophets, and especially Hananiah, prophesy that within a short time subservience to Babylon will be over and Jehoiachin and his fellow exiles will return in triumph from Babylon together with all the vessels of the Temple. Jeremiah replies that it will not be so. Rather ‘all these nations’ will have to serve Babylon into the known future. He then prophesies the death of Hananiah because of his rebellion against the truth of YHWH, something which occurs within the year. (Chapter 28).
D) ‘Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the Prophet sent from Jerusalem to the residue of the elders of the captivity, -- etc. (Jeremiah 29:1). In a letter sent to the exiles in Babylonia Jeremiah advises the exiles not to listen to false prophets but to settle down in Babylonia and make the best of a bad situation, because their exile is destined by YHWH to last for ‘seventy years’. Furthermore he emphasises the dark shadows of the future for those who are left behind, although promising that once His exiled people have been dealt with in judgment, YHWH will bring them back again to the land and cause them to acknowledge Him once again. He then prophesies against the false prophets, especially the prominent one who had put pressure on for him to be arrested. (Chapter 29).
SECTION 2 Subsection 2 (Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 33:26 ). Following The Anguish To Come Promises Are Given Of Eventual Restoration, Central To Which Is A New Covenant Written By YHWH In The Hearts Of His People, Together With The Establishment Of The New Jerusalem As The Eternal City, And The Triumph Of The Shoot (Branch) From The House Of David (Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 33:26).
This Subsection places a great emphasis, not only on the coming anguish, but even more on the glorious restoration that will follow. It presents a final picture of a wholly restored nation which has been spiritually transformed. It may be seen as divided up into two parts on the basis of the phrase ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 30:1; Jeremiah 32:1). (Jeremiah 33:1; Jeremiah 33:19, on the other hand, open with ‘and’ (waw), signifying continuation rather than a new part).
PART 1 (chapters 30-31) commences with ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 30:1) and deals with promises of glorious restoration and spiritual renewal ending up with the establishment of a new Jerusalem as the eternal city (compare Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5).
PART 2 (chapters 32-33) commences with ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 32:1) and contains an acted out prophecy in which Jeremiah purchases a piece of hereditary land in order to demonstrate his confidence in the final future of Judah, and gives further assurances of restoration and of the coming of the Shoot (or Branch) of David.
Analysis of PART 1 (chapters 30-31).
Part 1). ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 30:1). Out of the anguish of Israel/Judah is to come restoration, when YHWH will bring His people from all the places of exile to which He has scattered them, and will replant them and build them up in the land, establishing with them a new covenant, written not on stone but in their hearts. All will know Him and all will be made holy, and God’s holy city will be established for ever (Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 31:40).
Using Jeremiah’s own markers we may divide up PART 1 as follows:
Sub-Part A). (Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 31:22).
· An initial promise of restoration (Jeremiah 30:3).
· ‘Thus says YHWH.’ The period of ‘Jacob’s trouble’ is coming on them, a time of trembling and fear, a day so great that there will be none like it (Jeremiah 30:4-7). This will be followed by deliverance from the yoke of bondage and establishment ‘under YHWH their God and David their King’, for YHWH will act to bring them back to the land, finally dealing severely with their enemies, but sparing Judah/Israel, although this will only be once they have suffered necessary chastening (Jeremiah 30:8-11).
· ‘Thus says YHWH.’ Meanwhile Judah/Israel’s current state is like that of a fatally wounded warrior because of the greatness of their sins (Jeremiah 30:12-15). But in the end their enemy will be devoured and become a prey, and will themselves go into captivity, while Judah/Israel will be restored and healed in consequence of the derision of the nations at their seeming total rejection (Jeremiah 30:16-17).
· ‘Thus says YHWH.’ Full restoration is now described, with cities being rebuilt and joy and thanksgiving arising, as they are established under their own appointed rulers who will respond to YHWH, and they will be His people and He will be their God (Jeremiah 30:18-22), and all this will be due to the tempest of YHWH as He goes forth in wrath, not turning back until He has accomplished His will (Jeremiah 30:23-24). In consequence it is repeated that He will be their God and they will be His people (Jeremiah 31:1). (It will be emphasised again in Jeremiah 31:33).
· ‘Thus says YHWH.’ The survivors are seen as like Israel in the wilderness, beloved of YHWH and having escaped from the Egyptian/Babylonian sword, whom YHWH will now restore to great rejoicing and fruitfulness, so that once more they will go up to Zion, to YHWH their God (Jeremiah 31:2-5).
· ‘Thus says YHWH.’ A paean of praise arises over the glory of YHWH’s deliverance of His people as they return with weeping to YHWH their Father, and are delivered in a similar way to that in which Israel were delivered as they had once marched through the wilderness (Jeremiah 31:6-9). Let the nations witness how YHWH has restored His people so that the land blossoms and His people rejoice and make merry, and the firstfruits and tithes abound (Jeremiah 31:10-14). Note the continued emphasis on joy and merriment (Jeremiah 30:19; Jeremiah 31:13) in stark contrast with what now follows.
· ‘Thus says YHWH.’ A voice is heard in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children (Judah/Israel) because they are no more (Jeremiah 31:15). The future is sure but it must develop by God’s grace out of the present misery.
· ‘Thus says YHWH.’ But weeping may now cease because there is hope for the future. Ephraim, having confessed to their sinfulness, have turned back to YHWH in repentance, pleading to be brought back and restored. And YHWH will receive them back as a father his child because He loves them and will be merciful towards them (Jeremiah 31:16-20). They must thus set up the road signs that will bring them back to the land, and not hesitate because YHWH is doing a new thing (Jeremiah 31:21-22).
Sub-part B) (Jeremiah 31:23-40) is also introduced by the words, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel’ (Jeremiah 31:23) and a feature of this sub-part is the phrase ‘the days are coming, says YHWH, when --’ (Jeremiah 31:27; Jeremiah 31:31; Jeremiah 31:38), with its emphasis on the glorious future for God’s people. It may be analysed as follows:
· The fortunes of Judah and its cities will be restored and they will rejoice in YHWH’s holy habitation. Both town and country will rejoice together, for YHWH will satisfy all hearts (Jeremiah 31:23-26).
· ‘The days are coming, says YHWH, when’, rather than being broken down and destroyed, both the house of Israel and the house of Judah will be watched over by YHWH and built up and planted, with individuals responsible for their own sins. In other words they will no longer be a nation with joint responsibility for the covenant and suffering accordingly, but individuals each accountable for themselves (Jeremiah 31:27-30).
· ‘The days are coming, says YHWH, when’ He will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not one like the old covenant which they broke, but one written in their hearts so that He will be their God and they will be His people. And all will know YHWH and enjoy total forgiveness (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
· ‘Thus says YHWH.’ The continuation of Israel is as certain as the arrival of the sun by day and of the moon and stars by night and as YHWH’s control of the seas (Jeremiah 31:35-36).
· ‘Thus says YHWH.’ The fact that Israel will not be cast off for what they have done is as certain as the fact that the heavens cannot be measured, and the foundations of the earth explored (Jeremiah 31:37).
· The days are coming, says YHWH, when’ the city will be rebuilt for YHWH, and the whole area, even the unclean valley of Hinnom, will be sacred to Him. They will be established for ever (Jeremiah 31:38-40). Something only possible in the eternal kingdom.
Analysis of PART 2 (32-33).
Part 2). ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 32:1). Having Been Imprisoned During The Siege Of Jerusalem Jeremiah Buys A Piece Of Hereditary Land In Order To Demonstrate Confidence In The Future Of The Land Of Judah, Something Resulting In A Promise Of Restoration And Of The Coming Of The Shoot Of David (Jeremiah 32:1 to Jeremiah 33:16).
In Part 2 the promises of what would happen in ‘coming days’ having been given, Jeremiah is now given an initial earnest (tangible proof of occurrence) that it will happen. This part commences with the defining phrase, ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 32:1), and it describes how Jeremiah is shut up in prison by Zedekiah during the siege of Jerusalem, and yet nevertheless buys a piece of hereditary land on the death of his uncle as a token that Judah still has a future. After prayer he is then assured by YHWH that while Jerusalem must certainly suffer because of its sins and its sinful people must be taken into exile, He will one day restore them again under a Shoot (or Branch) of David through an everlasting covenant (Jeremiah 32:1 to Jeremiah 33:26).
Part 2 is divided up into two sub-parts, both occurring while Jeremiah was in the palace complex prison during the final stages of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and in both of them restoration is promised once the worst is over.
· Sub-Part A. ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --.’ After its destruction Jerusalem will one day be restored, something guaranteed to Jeremiah in a symbolic act of purchasing family land (Jeremiah 32:1-44).
· Sub-part B. ‘Moreover the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah the second time --.’ Despite the devastation coming YHWH promises that one day He will restore His people, settle them securely in the land, and will restore the Davidic kingship and the Levitical priesthood in accordance with His covenants made with them (Jeremiah 33:1-26).
Sub-part B especially uses the phrase ‘thus says YHWH ---’ to maintain continuity, see Jeremiah 33:2; Jeremiah 33:4; Jeremiah 33:10; Jeremiah 33:12; Jeremiah 33:17; Jeremiah 33:25, interspersed by ‘the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah --’ (Jeremiah 33:19; Jeremiah 33:23). The first part can be seen as divided up by ‘Thus says YHWH --.’ Verses 2, 10, 12, the second part as commencing with ‘Behold the days are coming --’ (Verse 14, compare Jeremiah 31:27; Jeremiah 31:31; Jeremiah 31:38), being then divided up by ‘in those days’ (verses 15, 16), ‘and thus says YHWH’ (verse 16), ‘and the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah saying, -- thus says YHWH’ (verses 19, 20a; 23, 25a).
SECTION 2 Subsection 3. YHWH’s Continuing Word of Judgment Is Given Through Jeremiah, The Continuing Disobedience Of The People Is Brought Out, And Jeremiah’s Resulting Experiences Leading Up To The Fall Of Jerusalem Are Revealed (Jeremiah 34:1 to Jeremiah 39:18).
The promise of future restoration having been laid out Jeremiah now returns to the current situation with Jerusalem under threat. He demonstrates the different ways in which YHWH has been rejected, and treated with contempt by 1). a hypocritical pretence of obedience to the covenant, which is reneged on, 2). a treating of YHWH’s Fatherhood with contempt by the people, something which is in stark contrast with the obedience and reverence shown by the Rechabites to their father, 3). a burning of YHWH’s very word in a brazier, and 4). a continuing misuse of YHWH’s prophet. All this but confirms YHWH’s prophecies of judgment against Jerusalem,
The subsection divides up easily into five parts, each of which is opened by a crucial phrase, thus:
1. 34:1-7 ‘The word which came to Jeremiah from YHWH when Nebuchadnezzar --- fought against Jerusalem and all its cities.’ This was a word declaring that Jerusalem would be destroyed and Zedekiah would be carried off to Babylon and meet Nebuchadnezzar face to face. There he will die ‘in peace’ and be lamented by his nobles.
2. 34:8-22 ‘The word which came to Jeremiah from YHWH after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people at Jerusalem to proclaim freedom to them.’ Zedekiah having persuaded the more wealthy in Jerusalem to enter into a covenant before YHWH to set free their Hebrew slaves, thus fulfilling the Sinai covenant, the more wealthy do so, but once the danger appears to be past, change their minds and re-enslave them, bringing down on themselves the renewed wrath of YHWH and the certainty of Babylonian subjection.
3. 35:1-19 ‘The word which came to Jeremiah from YHWH in the days of Jehoiakim.’ YHWH uses the example of the Rechabites as an illustration of a filial obedience to their father, which is the very opposite of Judah’s disobedience to their Father, something which will result in judgment coming on Judah and Jerusalem.
4. 36:1-32 ‘And it came about in the fourth year of Jehoiakim --- this word came to Jeremiah from YHWH.’ Jeremiah records his prophecies in a book in the days of Jehoiakim, prophecies which impress the nobles, but which are treated with disdain by Jehoiakim and his associates, resulting in Jehoiakim cutting up the ‘leaves’ of the book and burning them, thereby bringing judgment on himself.
5. 37:1-39:18 ‘And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah -- but did not listen to the words YHWH which He spoke by the prophet Jeremiah.’ YHWH’s prophet is rejected. Jeremiah warns the king not to expect deliverance through the approaching Egyptian army, and on seeking to visit his hometown during a lull in the siege is accused of attempted desertion and is shut up in prison, although there he is surreptitiously consulted by Zedekiah. His various sufferings, resulting from his prophesying, including a near death experience, are described, and he ends up in the royal prison where he is comparatively well treated.
It will be noted from this that after the initial warning of the success of the Babylonians there is a continuing emphasis on the growing disobedience towards, and rejection of, YHWH and His covenant. This is illustrated firstly by the breaking of a solemn covenant made by the people, a covenant in which they guaranteed to free their Hebrew slaves as required by the Sinaitic covenant, something which they subsequently reneged on; secondly by a disobedience which is shown to be the direct opposite of the obedience of the Rechabites (who sought to be faithful to the principles of wilderness days) to their father; thirdly by the disrespect shown to YHWH’s prophecies as written down by Jeremiah when Jehoiakim contemptuously burned them in a brazier; and fourthly by the continual disrespect shown to Jeremiah himself in his various imprisonments. The growth in intensity of the disobedience as each chapter progresses (breach of the ancient covenant, falling short of a righteous example presented before their very eyes, burning the currently received word of YHWH, and finally misusing the prophet of YHWH because of his up to date prophecies), helps to explain why the prophecies have been put in this order.
We may also see here a deliberate attempt to sandwich between two references to Zedekiah’s reign and to the approaching end, reasons from earlier days as to why that end is necessary. This follows a similar pattern to chapters 21-24 which also sandwiched earlier situations between two examples of the days of Zedekiah.
SECTION 2 Subsection 4. Events Subsequent To The Fall Of Jerusalem Resulting In Further Judgment On God’s Recalcitrant People (Jeremiah 40:1 to Jeremiah 45:5).
Within this subsection, which opens with the familiar words ‘the word which came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (which in this case indicates that the section as a whole contains prophecies of Jeremiah put into an historical framework, for what immediately follows is necessary historical narrative required to put the prophecy in context), we have described events subsequent to the fall of Jerusalem:
· ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --.’ The appointment of Gedaliah as governor of Judah and his attempt, along with Jeremiah, to re-establish it as a viable state (Jeremiah 40:1-16).
· Gedaliah’s assassination by a recalcitrant prince of Judah, who himself then had to flee to Ammon, resulting in the feeling among many who had been re-established in Judah that it would be necessary to take refuge in Egypt (Jeremiah 41:1-18).
· The people promise obedience to YHWH and are assured by Jeremiah that if they remain in Judah and are faithful to Him YHWH will ensure that they prosper, whereas if they depart for Egypt it can only result in disaster (Jeremiah 42:1-22).
· Jeremiah’s protestations are rejected by the Judeans who take refuge in Egypt and are warned by Jeremiah that soon Nebuchadrezzar would successfully invade Egypt itself (Jeremiah 43:1-13).
· ‘The word which came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt --.’ Having settled in Egypt the people return to idolatry, rejecting Jeremiah’s warnings of the consequences, and are assured by him that they will suffer as Jerusalem has suffered, with only a remnant being able to return to Judah (Jeremiah 44:1-30).
· ‘The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruk the son of Neriah when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah --.’ YHWH’s assurance given to Baruch in the days of Jehoiakim that He would be with him, come what may (Jeremiah 45:1-5).
It will be noted that the above division is mainly based on subject matter alone so that Jeremiah 40:1 to Jeremiah 43:13 could be seen as one whole part, the introductory words of Jeremiah 40:1 preparing for the ‘coming of the word of YHWH to Jeremiah’ in Jeremiah 42:7 onwards.
4). SECTION 3. Prophecies Against Foreign Nations (chapters 46-51).
This SECTION commences in Jeremiah 46:1 with the words, ‘The word of YHWH which came to Jeremiah the prophet --’ following the pattern that has gone before, and here indicating a new section. This word of YHWH is ‘against the Gentiles’. Thus it brings out what is to follow in chapters 46-51.
This then analyses out as follows:
A) ‘Against Egypt, against the army of Pharaoh-necho king of Egypt which was by the River Euphrates in Carchemish --’ - this was the army that had slain Josiah and had taken over the lands south of the Euphrates in the early days of Jehoiakim. Here it receives its judgment (Jeremiah 46:2-12).
B) ‘The word that YHWH spoke to Jeremiah the prophet how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon would come and smite the land of Egypt --’ (Jeremiah 46:13-28).
C) ‘The word of YHWH that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines before Pharaoh smote Gaza, thus says YHWH --’(Jeremiah 47:1-7).
D) ‘Against Moab, thus says YHWH of Hosts, the God of Israel -’ (Jeremiah 48:1-47).
E) ‘Concerning the Ammonites, thus says YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 49:1-6).
F) ‘Concerning Edom, thus says YHWH of Hosts --’ Jeremiah 49:7-22).
G) ‘Concerning Damascus --’ (Jeremiah 49:23-27).
H) ‘Concerning Kedar and concerning the Kingdom of Hazor, which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon will smite, thus says YHWH -- (Jeremiah 49:28-33).
I) ‘The word of YHWH which came to Jeremiah the prophet against Elam --’ (Jeremiah 49:34-39).
J) ‘The word that YHWH spoke against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet --’ (Jeremiah 50:1 to Jeremiah 51:58).
K) ‘The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah, the son of Neriah, --’ when at Jeremiah’s request he took to Babylon, to which he was being transported along with King Zedekiah, Jeremiah’s scroll of his prophecies against Babylon and, having read them over Babylon, threw them in the River Euphrates as evidence that Babylon would one day sink in a similar way (Jeremiah 51:59-64).
The concluding words ‘thus far are the words of Jeremiah’ (Jeremiah 51:64 b) possibly refer to this section, but more probably apply to the whole prophecy. They are then followed by the CONCLUSION (chapter 52), which outlines the taking of Jerusalem, the blinding and exile of Zedekiah, information about the different exiles, and the restoration to honour of King Jehoachin by Evil-merodach (Arwel Marduk), most of which is paralleled in 2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:30. The purpose of the conclusion is to end the prophecy with an indication of hope, of the commencement of the process by which the final son of David will take his throne.