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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 23

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Jeremiah 23:0


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

The Coming Messiah: The Righteous BranchThe Branch of RighteousnessMessianic OracleHope For the FutureMessianic Prophecies: The Future King
Jeremiah 23:1-4Jeremiah 23:1-4Jeremiah 23:1-4Jeremiah 23:1-4Jeremiah 23:1-4
Jeremiah 23:5-6(vv. Jeremiah 23:5-6)Jeremiah 23:5-6(vv. Jeremiah 23:5-6)Jeremiah 23:5-6Jeremiah 23:5-6Jeremiah 23:5-6(vv. Jeremiah 23:5-6)
Jeremiah 23:7-8Jeremiah 23:7-8Jeremiah 23:7-8Jeremiah 23:7-8Jeremiah 23:7-8
False Prophets DenouncedFalse Prophets and Empty OraclesOracles Concerning the ProphetsJeremiah's Message About the ProphetsA Tract Against the False Prophets
Jeremiah 23:9-12(vv. Jeremiah 23:9-12)Jeremiah 23:9-10(vv. Jeremiah 23:9-10)Jeremiah 23:9-15(vv. Jeremiah 23:9-15)Jeremiah 23:9-10(vv. Jeremiah 23:9-10)Jeremiah 23:9(vv. Jeremiah 23:9)
Jeremiah 23:10-12(vv. Jeremiah 23:10-12)
Jeremiah 23:11-15(vv. Jeremiah 23:11-15)Jeremiah 23:11-14(vv. Jeremiah 23:11-14)
Jeremiah 23:13-15(vv. Jeremiah 23:13-14)Jeremiah 23:13-15(vv. Jeremiah 23:13-15)
(vv. Jeremiah 23:15b)Jeremiah 23:15(vv. Jeremiah 23:15b)
Jeremiah 23:16-22(vv. Jeremiah 23:16-22)Jeremiah 23:16-17(vv. Jeremiah 23:16-17)Jeremiah 23:16-17Jeremiah 23:16-17Jeremiah 2:16-17(vv. Jeremiah 23:16-17)
Jeremiah 23:18-20(vv. Jeremiah 23:18-20)Jeremiah 23:18-20(vv. Jeremiah 23:18-20)Jeremiah 23:18-20Jeremiah 23:18
Jeremiah 23:19-22(vv. Jeremiah 23:19-22)
Jeremiah 23:21-22(vv. Jeremiah 23:21-22)Jeremiah 23:21-22(vv. Jeremiah 23:21-22)Jeremiah 23:21-22
Jeremiah 23:23-24(vv. Jeremiah 23:23-24)Jeremiah 23:23-24(vv. Jeremiah 23:23-24)Jeremiah 23:23-32Jeremiah 23:23-32Jeremiah 23:23-24(vv. Jeremiah 23:23-24)
Jeremiah 23:25-32Jeremiah 23:25-27Jeremiah 23:25-28a
Jeremiah 23:28-29(vv. Jeremiah 23:28-29)Jeremiah 23:28-29(vv. Jeremiah 23:28-29)
Jeremiah 23:30-32The LORD'S BurdenJeremiah 23:30-32
Jeremiah 23:33-40Jeremiah 23:33-40Jeremiah 23:33-40Jeremiah 23:33-40Jeremiah 23:33
Jeremiah 23:34-40

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. The literary context of Jeremiah 23:0 starts in Jeremiah 21:11-14, which begins YHWH's word to the royal house of Judah.

B. The basic outline of Jeremiah 22:1-8

1. Zedekiah, Jeremiah 22:1-9

2. Shallum, Jeremiah 22:10-12; Jeremiah 22:10-12 (Jehoahaz)

3. Jehoiakim, Jeremiah 22:13-23

4. Jehoiachim, Jeremiah 22:24-30; Jeremiah 22:24-30 (Coniah)

5. Zedekiah, Jeremiah 23:1-8 (although Zedekiah is not mentioned by name in Jeremiah 23:1-8, if the shepherd series continues, he is the object of the message)

C. This chapter is a sharp contrast between the false shepherd and YHWH's Righteous Branch (i.e., Messiah). The contrast is heightened by the use of

1. say - BDB 55, KB 65, used 16 times

2. speak - BDB 180, KB 210, used 5 times

3. prophesy - BDB 612, KB 659, used 6 times

D. This chapter has several titles for Judah's Deity.

1. the LORD God of Israel, Jeremiah 23:2

2. a righteous branch, Jeremiah 23:5

3. the LORD our righteousness (Davidic Messiah's name), Jeremiah 23:6

4. the LORD of hosts, Jeremiah 23:15, Jeremiah 23:16, Jeremiah 23:36

5. a God who is near, Jeremiah 23:23

6. not a God far off, Jeremiah 23:23

7. the living God, Jeremiah 23:36

8. our God, Jeremiah 23:36

E. In the midst of terrible judgment comes the wonderful promise of YHWH's righteous Branch! There is hope; there will be salvation; there will be justice! A new day will arise from the ashes of judgment.

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 23:1-4 1”Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD. 2Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,” declares the LORD. 3”Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. 4I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 23:1-4 This is a “woe” strophe (i.e., funeral dirge, a 3/2 meter/beat). The false shepherds (prophets, priests, civic leaders):

1. are destroying YHWH's flock, Jeremiah 23:1

2. are scattering YHWH's flock, Jeremiah 23:1-2

3. have not attended YHWH's flock, Jeremiah 23:2

4. have driven them away, Jeremiah 23:2

YHWH will raise up true shepherds.

1. He will gather His flock, Jeremiah 23:3

2. they will be fruitful and multiply, Jeremiah 23:3 (the expressed desire of YHWH in Genesis 1:22, Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:1, Genesis 9:7)

3. good shepherds will tend them, Jeremiah 23:4

4. they will not be afraid or terrified any longer, Jeremiah 23:4

5. none of them are missing, Jeremiah 23:4

YHWH's special Davidic leader (cf. Ezekiel 34:0):

1. Davidic seed

2. righteous seed

3. Branch (cf. Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15-16; Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1-5; Isaiah 53:2; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12-13)

4. He will reign as king, Jeremiah 23:5

5. He will act wisely, Jeremiah 23:5

6. He will do justice and righteousness, Jeremiah 23:5

7. His name will be “the LORD our righteousness,” Jeremiah 23:6

What a contrast!

1. the wicked leaders do not attend YHWH's flock. He will attend them for their evil deeds, Jeremiah 23:2

2. the righteous leader will

a. save, Jeremiah 23:6 (i.e., physical deliverance)

b. cause to dwell securely, Jeremiah 23:6

c. return them to the Promised Land, Jeremiah 23:8 (i.e., reflects the land promise of Genesis 12:1-3)

The God who acts, will act (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38)! The Good Shepherd will come (John 10:0), but He will be rejected (cf. Zechariah 11:0).

Jeremiah 23:3 “I Myself shall gather the remnant of My flock” Notice that the problem of fallen human's, even covenant humans, inability to follow God is answered by God Himself acting on their behalf. This is the “new covenant” of Jeremiah 31:31-34 (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38). The new covenant is based on grace, not performance (i.e., Romans 3:21-31; Galatians 3:0; the book of Hebrews).

The term “remnant” has several meanings. See Special Topic: The Remnant, Three Senses. However, in this context it carries the dual meaning of

1. returnee from exile

2. the faithful followers of YHWH

This chapter makes it hard to distinguish between the return from exile and the future Messianic reign (cf. Jeremiah 23:4).

Verses 5-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 23:5-6 5”Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. 6In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, 'The LORD our righteousness.'

Jeremiah 23:5 “I will raise up for David a righteous Branch” This is literally “sprout,” BDB 855. This was a symbol of life out of death. It was used of the Messiah in Jeremiah 33:15-16; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12; the same concept but different terms in Isaiah 11:1 (“twig,” BDB 310 and “shoot,” BDB 666); Isaiah 53:2 (“young plant,” BDB 413; “a root,” BDB 1057). It (BDB 855) apparently refers to Zerubbabel in Zechariah, but foreshadows the Messiah.

In the midst of oracles of judgment, judgment, judgment, comes hope, promise, and a new leader, a new day! The concept of a Messiah is recurrent in the OT although the term is not. The Aramaic Targums read “Messiah” in this context, paralleling “Branch,” which shows the rabbis of that day saw this text as Messianic. See Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 343-344, for the title's four different usages.

I would like to add my comments from Isaiah 4:2 which includes brief quotes from Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12, and Special Topic: The Branch of the Lord.

Isaiah 4:2 “the Branch of the LORD” To describe this title (BDB 855, Targums interpreted it as the Messiah) let me quote from my commentary on Daniel and Zechariah where the term is also used (but just a note of caution, we must be careful about assigning a technical meaning everywhere a word or phrase is used-context, context, context is crucial). This term may have developed over time from a reference to ideal abundance to God's special Servant who will restore that abundance (i.e., a shoot, a branch).

Let me share notes from my commentary on Zechariah.

Zechariah 3:8 “the Branch” This may be “sprout” (BDB 855). This is another Messianic title (cf. Jeremiah 6:12; Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15). See full discussion and Special Topic: JESUS THE NAZARENE.

This title is used of Zerubbabel in Jeremiah 6:12 as a symbol of the royal Davidic line. It is surprising that it is used in this context, which emphasizes the priestly aspect of the Messiah. The twin aspects of redeemer (priestly, cf. Isaiah 53:0) and administrative leader (kingly, cf. Isaiah 9:6-7) are merged in the book of Zechariah (cf. chapter 4).

Zechariah 6:12 “Branch” This word (BDB 855) means “sprout” (cf. Jeremiah 3:8; Jeremiah 6:12; Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15). This is a title for the Messiah. In Zechariah it refers to Zerubbabel as a type of the Messiah (cf. Ibn Ezra and Rashi). The name, Zerubbabel, in Akkadian, means “shoot of Babylon.” This was possibly a play on his name since he rebuilt the temple in 516 B.C., but it is really an ultimate reference to Jesus. This title and the matching VERB (“will branch out,” Qal IMPERFECT) appear together in this verse.


A description of YHWH's “Branch” (NKJV, NRSV, JB)

1.beautiful, BDB 840, cf. Jeremiah 3:19 (often used of Promised Land in Daniel 8:9; Daniel 11:16, Daniel 11:41)

2.glorious, BDB 458 means “abundance,” “honor,” and “glory” (“glory,” BDB 802, also in this verse)

These two terms are often used together (cf. Isaiah 13:19; Isaiah 28:1, Isaiah 28:4, Isaiah 28:5).

Some versions take this verse as a reference to plant growth in the period of restoration (LXX, Peshitta, TEV, NJB, REB, NET Bible). In a sense the Messiah and the age of restoration are lexically linked.

This is also from my notes on Isaiah 11:1:

Isaiah 11:1 “a shoot” This rare word found only here in the OT (“twig,” “branch,” or “shoot” translated “rod” in Proverbs 14:3, BDB 310, KB 307), obviously refers to a supernatural Davidic descendant (cf. Isaiah 6:13; 2 Samuel 7:0; Revelation 22:16). Out of this seemingly dead stump (i.e., exiled Judah) will come a new king! This imagery (but different Hebrew word) is seen again in the Suffering Servant Song of Isaiah Isaiah 52:13-12 (i.e., Isaiah 53:2).

The Jewish Study Bible (p. 807) adds an interesting comment on “stump.”

“If the translation 'stump' is correct, then the passage may presume that the Davidic dynasty will (or has) come to an end; this reading would deviate significantly from Isaiah's notion that Davidic kings will reign eternally (cf. 2 Samuel 7:8-16; Psalms 89:20-37). But the Hebrew 'geza' refers not only to a stump of a tree that has been cut down but also to the trunk of a living tree.”

I cannot confirm this meaning for “shoot” unless it is Isaiah 40:24.

“from the stem of Jesse” Jesse was King David's father. This future descendant is mentioned in Isaiah 23:10; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 16:5.

The OT gives the lineage of the Special Coming One, the Anointed One.

1. from the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49:8-12, esp. Genesis 49:10 and Revelation 5:5

2. from the family of Jesse, 2 Samuel 7:0

The special child of the new age has now been identified as a special ruler. His person will characterize the new age (cf. Isaiah 11:5).

“a branch from his roots” The NOUN “branch,” “sprout,” or “shoot” (BDB 666, cf. Isaiah 14:19; Isaiah 60:21; Daniel 11:7) is parallel to “branch” or “sprout” (BDB 855, cf. Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 61:11). New growth will come! Special Topic: The Branch of the Lord.

“will bear fruit” The MT has the VERB “bear fruit” (פרה, BDB 826, KB 963, Qal IMPERFECT, Dead Sea Scrolls, NASB), but most ancient and modern versions assume a similar VERB, פרח (BDB 827).

1. NKJV, NRSV, Peshitta, “shall grow out”

2. NJB, “will grow”

3. LXX, Targums, “shall come up”

4. REB, “will spring from”

5. JPSOA, “shall sprout”

The second option fits the parallelism best!


Jeremiah 23:6 “Judah. . .Israel” This would predict the reunited kingdom. The United Monarchy split in 922 B.C. under Solomon's son, Rehoboam, and Jeroboam II, an Ephraimitic labor leader (cf. 1 Kings 12:0).

“The LORD our righteousness” This may be a play on the name “Zedekiah,” which means “the Lord is righteous,” the person Nebuchadnezzar put on the throne to replace Jehoiachin (cf. 2 Kings 24:0). It is a descriptive Messianic title in Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:16. It is parallel to “a righteous Branch” in Jeremiah 23:5.

Jeremiah 23:7, Jeremiah 23:8 This is a repeated literary piece from Jeremiah 16:14-15. The same sentiment is found in Isaiah 43:18-19. A new day is coming (cf. Jeremiah 16:14; Hosea 3:4-5)! The new age of the Spirit, the new age of righteousness, the new age of the Messiah is coming!

Verses 7-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 23:7-8 7”Therefore behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when they will no longer say, 'As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,' 8but, 'As the LORD lives, who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them.' Then they will live on their own soil.”

Jeremiah 23:7As the LORD lives” See note at Jeremiah 22:24.

Jeremiah 23:8 “who brought up and led back” As YHWH's power and grace were seen in the Exodus, so too, in the return from exile!

“from the north land” Assyria and Babylon were to the east of Palestine, but the only land route was from/to the north (i.e., basically following the Euphrates River). This is due to the large desert between Palestine and the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (i.e., Mesopotamia).

“where I had driven them” God is in control of history. Assyria and Babylon were merely His tools of judgment (cf. Isaiah 10:5).

Verses 9-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 23:9-12 9As for the prophets: My heart is broken within me, All my bones tremble; I have become like a drunken man, Even like a man overcome with wine, Because of the LORD And because of His holy words. 10For the land is full of adulterers; For the land mourns because of the curse. The pastures of the wilderness have dried up. Their course also is evil And their might is not right. 11”For both prophet and priest are polluted; Even in My house I have found their wickedness,” declares the LORD. 12”Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them, They will be driven away into the gloom and fall down in it; For I will bring calamity upon them, The year of their punishment,” declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 23:9-32 Jeremiah addresses the false prophets, as they surely condemned him (cf. Example in chapter 28).

Jeremiah 23:9 The prophet is speaking of the physical effects of God's message on him. This is much like what happened to Daniel (i.e., Daniel 7:15, Daniel 7:28; Daniel 8:27; Daniel 10:8, Daniel 10:16).

1. broken heart (i.e., the center of the intellect, not emotions, cf. Jeremiah 8:18)

2. bones tremble

3. like an intoxicated person (i.e., with YHWH's revelation)

“drunken man. . .a man overcome with wine” Drunkenness here is a sign of confusion, but in Jeremiah 25:15 it is a sign of judgment. See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Biblical Attitudes Toward Alcohol (fermentation) and Alcoholism (addiction)

Lines 6 and 7 give the reason for Jeremiah's distress. He believed God's word! He knew it was true. I so wish modern believers would tremble at God's word (cf. Isaiah 66:5). Do we grieve over our own sinful societies and the sure wrath of God that will come (i.e., Romans 1-2; Galatians 6:7)?

Jeremiah 23:10 “adulterers” In this context this could refer to

1. fertility worship (literal adultery), Jeremiah 3:2, Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:8-9; Jeremiah 5:7-8

2. foreign alliances (spiritual adultery), i.e., “lovers” (cf. Jeremiah 2:25; Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 22:20, Jeremiah 22:22)

“land mourns” This is parallel to 10c, “dries up.” This is part of the curses of Leviticus 26:4, Leviticus 26:19-20; Deuteronomy 28:23-24; Deuteronomy 29:20-21; and Romans 8:18-22!

NASB“Their course also is evil, And their might is not right” NKJV“Their course of life is evil. And their might is not right” TEV“they live wicked lives and misuse their power” NJB“They are prompt to do wrong, Make no effort to do right” JPSOA“For they run to do evil. They strain to do wrong”

There is no VERB in these last two lines of Jeremiah 23:10. It seems that Jeremiah has changed imagery from nature disrupted to humans disrupted! Neither is what YHWH intended in Genesis 1:31!

Jeremiah 23:11 It is a common theme in Jeremiah to condemn both prophet and priest (cf. Jeremiah 2:8). What a terrible situation! The people only hear the false words.

The prophets of Israel are described in Jeremiah 23:12 and the prophets of Judah in Jeremiah 23:14. YHWH's judgment falls on both in Jeremiah 23:15.

One wonders about the historical setting of this strophe. It seems to assume Israel was still in the land. The time element of Hebrew VERBS is totally related to the context (see second opening Article: Brief Definition of Hebrew Verbal Forms that Impact Exegesis, p. iii). Jeremiah had his ministry soon after Josiah became king (+/- 626 B.C.). The northern kingdom of Israel was exiled in 722 B.C. by Assyria. This reference is not a “history thing” (western mindset), but a “theme thing” (eastern mindset).

Possibly the reason for mentioning the prophets of Israel is that the prophets of Judah should have learned from other's judgment (cf. Jeremiah 3:6-10; Ezekiel 23:4-49).

Jeremiah 23:12 “slippery paths” This is a Hebrew idiom of sinful living (cf. Jeremiah 13:16; Psalms 35:6; Psalms 73:18; Proverbs 4:19). It is the opposite of “faith,” which is “to be firm” or “to be sure” (see Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith, and Faithfulness in the OT). God's word/will was like a clearly marked path (cf. Psalms 119:105; Proverbs 6:23).

Verses 13-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 23:13-15 13”Moreover, among the prophets of Samaria I saw an offensive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led My people Israel astray. 14Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: The committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; And they strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one has turned back from his wickedness. All of them have become to Me like Sodom, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah. 15Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets, 'Behold, I am going to feed them wormwood And make them drink poisonous water, For from the prophets of Jerusalem Pollution has gone forth into all the land.'“

Jeremiah 23:13 “Samaria” This was the capital of the northern kingdom and used as a symbol for the nation as a whole.

“They prophesied by Baal” This refers to Canaanite fertility worship (cf. Jeremiah 2:8). See Special Topic: Fertility Worship of the Ancient Near East.

“astray” This VERB (BDB 1073, KB 1766, Hiphil IMPERFECT) denoted mental and moral confusion and the resulting poor choices (cf. 2 Kings 21:9; Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 9:16; Jeremiah 23:13, Jeremiah 23:32; Jeremiah 42:20; Amos 2:4; Micah 3:5). The people of Judah were morally responsible for their choices, but they also had been led astray by people they trusted!

Jeremiah 23:14 This verse describes the prophets of Judah (i.e., involved in Ba'al worship like Israel).

1. They committed adultery (see note at Jeremiah 23:10)

2. They walked in falsehood (i.e., lies)

3. They strengthened the hand of evildoers

4. No one repented (people or prophet or priest or shepherd)

Notice how often Jeremiah addresses the false prophets (cf. Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 4:9; Jeremiah 5:30-31; Jeremiah 6:13-15; Jeremiah 8:10-12; Jeremiah 14:13-15; Jeremiah 18:18-23; Jeremiah 26:8, Jeremiah 26:11, Jeremiah 26:16; Jeremiah 27:1-22; Jeremiah 28:1-17).

Every generation of believers must decide to whom they will listen and respond. There are charlatans, deceivers, crooks; how does a believer know who to believe! Here are some Scriptural guidelines.

1. the accuracy of their predictions, cf. Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Deuteronomy 18:18-22 (this does not relate to conditional prophecies like Jonah's)

2. lifestyle, cf. Jeremiah 23:13-22; Matthew 7:15-23

3. content of the message (for NT), cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 John 4:1-3

See Grant Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, pp. 210-211, “The Characteristics of False Prophets.”

Jeremiah 23:15 This verse describes what YHWH will do to these false prophets (cf. Jeremiah 9:15).

1. feed them wormwood

2. make them drink poisonous water

He gives them a taste of their own actions. They taught poison, now they must drink it themselves (cf. Jeremiah 17:10; Galatians 6:7). False teaching spreads like gangrene!

Verses 16-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 23:16-22 16Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD. 17They keep saying to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, “You will have peace”; And as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, They say, 'Calamity will not come upon you.' 18But who has stood in the council of the LORD, That he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? 19Behold, the storm of the LORD has gone forth in wrath, Even a whirling tempest; It will swirl down on the head of the wicked. 20The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; In the last days you will clearly understand it. 21I did not send these prophets, But they ran. I did not speak to them, But they prophesied. 22But if they had stood in My council, Then they would have announced My words to My people, And would have turned them back from their evil way And from the evil of their deeds.

Jeremiah 23:16 “They speak a vision of their own imagination” They speak in God's name but the message is their own (cf. Jeremiah 23:25; Jeremiah 5:31; Jeremiah 14:14; Ezekiel 13:2, Ezekiel 13:17).

“futility” This VERBAL (BDB 211, KB 236, Hiphil PARTICIPLE) occurs only here. The Qal form occurs in Jeremiah 2:5. The NOUN form (BDB 210) is used of the nothingness of idols.

Judeans are not to “listen” (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense) because they are prophesying (BDB 612, KB 659, Niphal PARTICIPLE) falsehoods. This is recorded in Jeremiah 23:17b (cf. Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11; Jeremiah 14:13-14). The Babylonians

1. will invade

2. will capture Judah and her leaders

3. will destroy Jerusalem and the temple

4. will exile most of the population

5. will take the temple treasures to the temple of Marduk in Babylon as spoils

“They speak a vision of their own imagination” “Imagination” is literally “heart.” One wonders if they knew it was a false vision. Were they self-duped or intentionally lying? Verse Jeremiah 23:17 implies they knew it was a false message of hope (cf. Jeremiah 23:21, Jeremiah 23:26).

Jeremiah 23:17 “They keep saying” This is the Qal PARTICIPLE and INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE of the same root (“to say,” BDB 55, KB 65), denoting intensity.

NASB, NKJV, NJB, JPSOA“to those who despise Me, The LORD has said” LXX, NRSV, REB“to those who despise the word of the LORD”

The UBS Text Project gives the first option (NASB) a “C” rating (considerable doubt). The difference is a matter of vowel choice, not a consonantal change. The NET Bible prefers option #2 (following LXX).

“You will have peace” This was the basic message of the false prophets (cf. Jeremiah 5:12; Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11; Jeremiah 14:13; Jeremiah 28:8-9; Ezekiel 13:10). God's word to the wicked is a “fire” and a “hammer” (cf. Jeremiah 23:29).

Jeremiah 23:18 Jeremiah is describing his own situation. He did “see” (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense) in the council of YHWH (cf. Amos 3:7). He heard YHWH's word (i.e., from Him directly, or a literary way of referring to the “heavenly council” of YHWH and those angels who serve Him, cf. 1 Kings 22:19-23; Job 2:1-6) and performed it/spoke it! YHWH honors those who hear/heed/live His word and will (cf. Jeremiah 23:22).

“in the council of the LORD” This may refer to the heavenly council of YHWH and those angels who surround Him.

1. for praise - Isaiah 6:2-3; Revelation 4:8

2. for protection - Genesis 3:24

3. for action - Genesis 1:26; Genesis 3:22; Genesis 11:7; 1 Kings 22:19-22; Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Job 29:4; Psalms 89:7

4. for judgment - Daniel 7:10, Daniel 7:22, Daniel 7:26

Jeremiah 23:19-20 This is similar to Jeremiah 30:23-24. The repetition occurs often in Jeremiah, which shows his various sermons and poems were collected and edited after his death or towards the end of his life (cf. Jeremiah 23:7-8, repeated in Jeremiah 16:14-15; Jeremiah 23:15 repeated in Jeremiah 9:15).

Jeremiah 23:20 YHWH's judgment will come (cf. Jeremiah 30:24; Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 55:11). The time for repentance has passed. Judah cannot repent (cf. Jeremiah 13:23). YHWH's only choice for His larger redemptive purpose of using Israel was to destroy and exile the current idolatrous generation. Only radical surgery can save the patient (cf. Isaiah 1:5-6).

The last line of Jeremiah 23:20 seems to be a promise of a future time when God's people will, one day, understand

1. His actions and greater purpose (i.e., eschatological, see chapter 17, “God's Plan” in Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, second ed., pp. 371-390; also see Special Topic at Jeremiah 1:5)

2. that they were duped by their false leadership (i.e., Babylonian invasion and exile, cf. Jeremiah 30:23)

The NET Bible (p. 1357) has a good comment about “clearly understand.” This is “a Hebrew construction where a noun functions as the object of a verb from the same word root (the Hebrew cognate accusative).” See BDB 106, KB 122, Hithpolel IMPERFECT and BDB 108.

Jeremiah 23:21-22 YHWH speaks again, as in Jeremiah 23:16-18 and also Jeremiah 23:23-24, Jeremiah 23:25-32. It is difficult to know how the OT writers received YHWH's revelation. Either they speak in His name and then comment on it or there is a more direct verbal reception of the message. See Hard Sayings of the Bible, chapter 8, pp. 66-69.



Jeremiah 23:21 YHWH rejects these proclaimers of “peace” (cf. Jeremiah 29:9, Jeremiah 29:23).

Jeremiah 23:22 YHWH's spokespersons can effect change and help His people turn from evil and walk in His word and ways!

Verses 23-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 23:23-24 23”Am I a God who is near,” declares the LORD, “And not a God far off? 24Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?” declares the LORD. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 23:23-24 Notice the three rhetorical questions. The first and third expect a “yes” answer and the second a “no” answer.

This brief strophe is a self-affirmation of YHWH's

1. personal presence with His people

2. desire for fellowship

3. active participation in His people's lives

4. His presence throughout creation (cf. 1 Kings 8:27; Psalms 139:7-16; Isaiah 66:1)

This expresses YHWH's immanence! He is the Holy One of Israel, but He is also “Father” (cf. Isaiah 57:15).

Some see this brief strophe as YHWH's way of denying that He is just one of many local deities (see Special Topic: MONOTHEISM). See chapter 15, “God's Nearness and Distance. . .” in Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, second ed., pp. 327-345.

Verses 25-32

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 23:25-32 25”I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, 'I had a dream, I had a dream!' 26How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart, 27who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another, just as their fathers forgot My name because of Baal? 28The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?” declares the LORD. 29”Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock? 30Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, “who steal My words from each other. 31Behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, “who use their tongues and declare, 'The Lord declares.' 32Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,” declares the LORD, “and related them and led My people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit,” declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 23:25-32 YHWH describes the false prophets. They claim revelation but have none! They even get their message from one another (Jeremiah 23:30). Their message (in dreams) is their own message and it will destroy Judah.

For “dreams” as a method of revelation in the ANE, see John Walton, ANE Thought and the OT, p. 243.

Jeremiah 23:25 “I had a dream, I had a dream” This was a claim to divine revelation. Dreams were common ways for God to communicate (cf. Genesis 20:3; Genesis 28:12; Genesis 31:11, Genesis 31:24; Genesis 37:5; Deuteronomy 13:1-5). Joseph had dream interpretation as a gift from God (cf. Genesis 40-41), as did Daniel (cf. Daniel 2:0).

Jeremiah 23:26

NASB“is there anything in the hearts of the prophets” NKJV“How long will this be in the heart of the prophets”

Other suggestions by scholars is to supply the missing SUBJECT (cf. JPSOA)

1. my word

2. lies (LXX)

3. My name

Jeremiah 23:27 “forgot My name” This is that special use of the name to refer to God's covenant relationship and eternal character. Judah was attributing God's acts to Ba'al!

Jeremiah 23:29 In this verse YHWH describes His word as

1. a fire (cf. Jeremiah 5:14; Jeremiah 20:9)

2. a hammer which shatters a rock

God's word has results (cf. Isaiah 49:2)! The false prophets bring no benefit (cf. Jeremiah 23:32; this is the Hiphi lINFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and IMPERFECT VERB of the same root [BDB 418, KB 420] which denotes intensity). The imagery in the NT of Jesus with a two edged sword coming out of His mouth is the same type of figurative language (cf. Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:12, Revelation 2:16; Revelation 19:15; Hebrews 4:12).

Jeremiah 23:30-32 the UBS Handbook says these verses are a summary of YHWH's message against the false, self-deceived prophets (p. 513, this is such a helpful grammatical and syntactical resource for translators and interpreters).

Verses 33-40

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 23:33-40 33”Now when this people or the prophet or a priest asks you saying, 'What is the oracle of the LORD?' then you shall say to them, 'What oracle?' The LORD declares, 'I will abandon you.' 34Then as for the prophet or the priest or the people who say, 'The oracle of the LORD,' I will bring punishment upon that man and his household. 35Thus will each of you say to his neighbor and to his brother, 'What has the LORD answered?' or, 'What has the LORD spoken?' 36For you will no longer remember the oracle of the LORD, because every man's own word will become the oracle, and you have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God. 37Thus you will say to that prophet, 'What has the LORD answered you?' and, 'What has the LORD spoken?' 38For if you say, 'The oracle of the LORD!' surely thus says the LORD, 'Because you said this word, “The oracle of the LORD!” I have also sent to you, saying, “You shall not say, 'The oracle of the LORD!'“' 39Therefore behold, I will surely forget you and cast you away from My presence, along with the city which I gave you and your fathers. 40I will put an everlasting reproach on you and an everlasting humiliation which will not be forgotten.”

Jeremiah 23:33-40 This strophe presents its message by a series of questions that Judeans ask each other about YHWH's revelation (i.e., what is the oracle of the Lord).

1. prophets

2. priests

3. people

Jeremiah's answer is that there are no more messages to be received, only judgment (i.e., “I shall abandon you,” cf. Jeremiah 12:7; Jeremiah 23:39). The religious leaders were making up their own message in YHWH's name (cf. Jeremiah 23:36). They did not really want to hear from Him.

Because of this false message from God, YHWH says

1. I will forget you (this is a PERFECT VERB and in INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE from the same root)

2. I will cast you away from My presence

3. I will cast away the Jerusalem/temple

4. I will give you an everlasting reproach

5. I will give you an everlasting humiliation, either of which will never be forgotten

Wow! These idolatrous Judeans and their leaders will be permanently cut off. The faithful remnant, though not specifically mentioned, will be restored.

Jeremiah 23:33 “oracle” The term (BDB 672 I) meant “to lift up a burden.” It is a play on the two uses of this term:

1. a heavy word from God

2. a load that an animal carried

The AB suggests that the Hebrew text be divided in a different way from the MT. If so it could read, “What is the massa” (that is, the utterance of Yahweh? say to them, “you are the massa [that is, the burden], and I will cast you off - Yahweh's word,” p. 150). The LXX and Vulgate, followed by NRSV, REB, NET, have, “You are the burden.” Hereby the word play on “burden” (BDB 672 I) is made clear.

Jeremiah 23:35-36 This is exactly the opposite of the “new covenant” of Jeremiah 31:31-34. Knowledge of the Lord is the exception, not the rule!

Jeremiah 23:36 “every man's own word will become the oracle” This very phrase is the reality of a post-modern, western, twenty-first century culture. There are no absolutes! Everyone's opinion has weight and authority! This is a tragedy if there is an inspired revelation from the one true God.

“you have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God” The VERB (BDB 245, KB 253, Qal PERFECT) means “to turn” or “to overturn.” To put this in modern idiom, these false religionists put a “spin” on their words, their interest, their presuppositions, their historical setting, their personal preferences, into God's words (notice the threefold titles. For “LORD of Hosts” see Special Topic: Lord of Hosts)! The same occurs today by denominations and secularists! Only a commitment to revelation and a knowledge of it can protect a believer.

Jeremiah 23:39

NASB“I shall surely forget you and cast you away” NKJV“I, even I, will utterly forget you and forsake you” NRSV“I will surely lift you up and cast you away” TEV“I will certainly pick them up and throw them far away” JPSOA“I will utterly forget you and I will cast you away”

There are several grammatical elements.

1. the first VERB, “forget” (BDB 674, KB 728, Qal PERFECT) is followed by its INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE of the same root in the MT

2. some Hebrew MSS and the Septuagint change the VERB to “lift up” (BDB 669, KB 724), which is the same root as “burden,” used in Jeremiah 23:33 (twice),34,36 (twice), 38 (thrice)

3. the parallel VERB in Jeremiah 23:33, “cast off” (BDB 643, KB 695, Qal PERFECT) is repeated in Jeremiah 23:39

4. the change made by the LXX makes sense in the context of Jeremiah 23:33-40 (i.e., word play), but does not answer why the INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE of the VERB “forget” is in the text; it is best to go with the MT

Jeremiah 23:40 “everlasting” This Hebrew term, 'olam (BDB 761), must always be interpreted theologically in light of

1. the context where it is used

2. the conditional nature of God's covenant with humans (i.e., mercy and repentance are possible)

See Special Topic: Forever ('olam).

“everlasting reproach” The first NOUN is 'olam (BDB 761). It must be interpreted in specific context because of its wide semantic field.

The second NOUN (BDB 357) means “reproach” or “scorn.” The root is used several times in Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 6:10; Jeremiah 15:15; Jeremiah 20:8; Jeremiah 23:40; Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 25:18; Jeremiah 31:19; Jeremiah 42:18; Jeremiah 44:8, Jeremiah 44:12; Jeremiah 49:13 (of Edom); Jeremiah 51:51.

“everlasting humiliation” The first NOUN is the same as above. The second NOUN (BDB 484) is found in this form only here in the OT and means “ignominy.” A related root is found in Jeremiah 20:11, where it is translated “eternal dishonor” or “eternal disgrace.”

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 23". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/jeremiah-23.html. 2021.
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