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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 25

 

 

Verse 1

‘The word which came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (the same was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon,)’

This is the first oracle to be so accurately dated, and it indicates that the oracle came to Jeremiah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim which was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar. Thus it was around 604 BC. Egypt were now licking their wounds after Carchemish and Hamath, and Jehoakim would have had to submit to Nebuchadrezzar and would be paying tribute. It was no doubt in the light of this that Jeremiah came to the feast and spoke these words.

Daniel dates it in the third year of Jehoiakim but that was because he was excluding the accession year according to Babylonian practise (the ‘first year’ always being the second year because the accession year was only a partial year.). Jeremiah was including the accession year.


Verses 1-38

Subsection 8). Jeremiah Summarises His Ministry Before The People And After Declaring What Is To Come On Judah Proclaims The Judgment Of YHWH That Is Coming On All Nations (Jeremiah 25:1-38).

This final subsection of Section 1 commences with ‘The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah --’ (Jeremiah 25:1), and contains Jeremiah’s own brief summary, given to the people in a sermon, describing what has gone before during the previous twenty three years of his ministry. It [provides a suitable conclusion to the whole Section but 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, but he then 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 all 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.


Verse 2

‘Which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying,’

The fact that the words were spoken to ‘all the people of Judah and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem’ suggests it was at a festal occasion when all the people had gathered to the Central Sanctuary.


Verses 3-11

Jeremiah’s Warning To The People Concerning Their Future (Jeremiah 25:3-11).

Jeremiah 25:3

‘From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, these three and twenty years, the word of YHWH has come to me, and I have spoken unto you, rising up early and speaking, but you have not listened.’

He pointed out to them that he had now been engaged in his ministry for twenty three years, diligently (‘rising up early’ - a typical Jeremaism) bringing to them the word of YHWH. But he points out that they had not listened.

Jeremiah 25:4

‘And YHWH has sent to you all his servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, (but you have not listened, nor bent your ear to hear,)’

Indeed YHWH had previously been diligent (rising up early) in sending many prophets among them who had been equally diligent and had proclaimed His word to them. But they had not listened to them either.

Jeremiah 25:5

‘Saying, “Return you now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land which YHWH has given to you and to your fathers, from of old and even for evermore,’

So he now with great patience calls on them, as the previous prophets had called on them (compare 2 Kings 17:12-14), again to return from their evil ways, and from the evil of their doings (for they needed to be right in both their behaviour and their attitude) if they wished to dwell ‘for evermore’ in the land which YHWH had of old given to their fathers.

Jeremiah 25:6

‘And do not go after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and do not provoke me to anger with the work of your hands, and I will do you no hurt.”

For YHWH’s promise was that if they did not go after other gods to worship and serve them, and did not provoke Him to anger by breaking the requirements of the covenant, then He would bring no harm upon them. This was still in the stage when repentance was seen as possible, and was looked for.

‘The work of your hands’ may indicate the idols that they had made, or it may be pointing to their general behaviour, or indeed both.

Jeremiah 25:7

“Yet you have not listened to me, the word of YHWH, that you may provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own hurt.”

But YHWH now charges them with the fact that they had not listened to any of the prophets, and had also certainly not listened to Jeremiah. And therefore they had not listened to Him. This was the sure ‘word of YHWH’. And the consequence was that they had provoked Him to anger by what they had been doing, and especially by their idolatry, in such a way as would bring hurt upon them.

Jeremiah 25:8-9

‘Therefore thus says YHWH of hosts, “Because you have not heard my words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, the word of YHWH, and I will send to Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against its inhabitants, and against all these nations round about, and I will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and a hissing, and perpetual desolations.”

And He warns them that because of their failure to listen to the prophets and to hear His word, He would now summon the people of the countries to the north, including ‘My servant’ Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and would bring them all against both their land, and also the land of neighbouring countries, to destroy them and make them a spectacle in the eyes of all. Note that the warning is to the whole neighbourhood. Judah would be one of many.

In Isaiah 44:18; Isaiah 45:1 YHWH had called Cyrus ‘My shepherd’ and ‘My anointed’. Here He calls Nebuchadrezzar ‘My servant (see also Jeremiah 27:6; Jeremiah 43:10). In both cases it was because they were adopted by Him as His instruments in carrying out His purposes. It did not indicate that they had become believers. And Nebuchadrezzar would come at the head of a coalition of different nations, for in the fight against Assyria the Medes and the Scythians, together with a number of other allies, had been involved.

Jeremiah 25:10

“Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the lamp.”

The devastating effect of the invasion is described. All festivities and activities, the things for which men lived, will come to a halt. There would be no more festal occasions with their mirth and gladness, there would no more be bridegrooms and brides enjoying their wedding celebrations, and even the maids who ground the corn during the day would be affected. The mill stones would cease operating, and the lamps at night would not be lit, for there would be no grain and no oil, and no one to tend to them. Life as they had always known it would have ground to a halt.

Jeremiah 25:11

“And this whole land will be a desolation, and an astonishment, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”

This description has in mind a land made so desolate that people who pass through look at it with open mouths, hardly able to believe what they are seeing. And the length of time during which these nations would have to serve the king of Babylon was ‘seventy years’ (see also Jeremiah 29:10), that is, the normal lifetime of a man from cradle to the grave. Like most numbers in the Old Testament it was to be taken as a round number, and not applied too strictly. This especially applies to a number incorporating ‘seven’ which in all countries was seen as an indicator of ‘divine completeness’. It was a general indicator.

Various attempts have been made to delineate the seventy years in mind more exactly, although in our view unnecessarily:

1. As indicating the period of Babylonian rule from the first time that they entered the area in around 605 BC and had taken people into exile (including Daniel and his three friends), after defeating the Egyptians at Carchemish and Hamath, to the time when the first exiles returned with Cyrus’ permission, which would be a year or so after Babylon was crushed in 539 BC. This interpretation would tie in with the date when this prophecy was given, and the fact that the first year of Nebuchadrezzar’s rule is (unusually) specifically mentioned (Jeremiah 25:1).

2. As indicating the period from when Assyria was finally crushed in around 609 BC to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC.

3. As simply indicating ‘within a full lifetime’. It would safely take it beyond the lifetime of Nebuchadrezzar.

The purpose of the seventy years according to 2 Chronicles 36:21 was so that the land could ‘enjoy its sabbaths’, which may be an indication that the seventh Sabbatical year during which no crops were to be sown (Exodus 23:10-11) had on the whole been ignored in Judah and Israel, or may simply be a symbolic indictor of a period of ‘rest’.


Verses 12-14

Babylon Herself Will Eventually Be Subject To YHWH’s Judgment (Jeremiah 25:12-14).

Jeremiah 25:12

“And it will come about, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, the word of YHWH, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and I will make it desolate for ever.”

But once the ‘seventy years’, the period determined by God, was over, the then king of Babylon, together with the whole nation of Babylon would be punished because of their iniquity. And this was the sure word of YHWH. So like the Assyrians before them, having been the ‘rod of YHWH’s anger’ (Isaiah 10:5), they would be punished because they themselves were utterly sinful. And eventually the whole land of the Chaldeans would be made desolate into the distant future. It would nevermore attain its former glory. As with much prophecy the timing for the last part (‘I will make it desolate for ever’) is vague (it will happen some time). It is the fact that is important.

That the mighty Babylonian empire would only last for around seventy years must have seemed inconceivable at the time to anyone who had no divine help in understanding the situation. The Assyrian empire had lasted far longer. But Jeremiah was to be proved correct.

Jeremiah 25:13

“And I will bring on that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, (even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah has prophesied against all the nations).”

The doom of Babylon had been already proclaimed by Isaiah long before (e.g. Isaiah 13-14), because of its arrogant pride. To Isaiah Babylon had symbolised the world in rebellion against God from the time of Babel onwards and he had prophesied its utter ruin. The note in brackets, referring to prophecies of Jeremiah made around this time (the fourth year of Jehoiakim; Jeremiah 45:1) and later recorded in his book (e.g. chapter 50), was probably added by his amanuensis. (LXX actually introduces chapters 46-51 around this point).

Jeremiah 25:14

“For many nations and great kings will make bondmen of them, even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the work of their hands.”

For Babylon also would be caught up in the tide of history and many great nations and great kings would arise and would bring Babylonia into bondage, commencing with Cyrus the Persian who would later be followed by Alexander the Great. Babylon too would be recompensed for their behaviour and doings, and also for their idolatry (compare Isaiah 47:11-15).


Verses 15-29

All The Nations Will Be Made To Drink From The Cup Of YHWH’s Wrath Against Sin And Idolatry (Jeremiah 25:15-29).

In these remarkable words the destinies of all nations are seen as in YHWH’s hands. And their destiny is to be drunk and to reel about as a result of YHWH’s wrath (antipathy against sin). None will escape. It is also an interesting summary of the nations of the area as seen by Jeremiah. The command to take the cup and make the nations drink it, and its fulfilment, is, of course, symbolic of Jeremiah pronouncing judgment against those nations. His words would have the effect of bringing what he spoke of about.

Jeremiah 25:15

‘For thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, to me, “Take this cup of the wine of wrath at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it.”

The visitation of God’s wrath (His antipathy against sin) is often seen in terms of drinking wine from a cup. It was a fitting picture of nations reeling at the disasters that came on them. It was the cup from which our Lord Himself would drink. See Jeremiah 13:12-14; Jeremiah 49:12; Jeremiah 51:7; Job 21:20; Psalms 60:3; Psalms 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:21-22; Lamentations 4:21; Ezekiel 23:31-34; Obadiah 1:16; Habakkuk 2:16; Zechariah 12:2; Mark 10:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 18:11; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 14:10; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 18:6). Jeremiah would take the cup and male the nations drink of it by proclaiming YHWH’s words.

Jeremiah 25:16

“ And they shall drink, and reel to and fro, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them.”

The cup is defined in terms of the sword at work among them in the hands of other nations. The reeling to and fro and being mad is an apt picture of the effects of war at the hands of a powerful conqueror.

Jeremiah 25:17

“Then I took the cup at YHWH’s hand, and made all the nations to drink, to whom YHWH had sent me,”

We have no way of knowing whether Jeremiah used any prophetic symbolism in this act of making the nations drink of the cup of the wrath of God. He may have done it in vision, or by symbolically offering wine to visiting ambassadors who would arrive in Jerusalem when plots were afoot to rebel against Babylonian rule (although this would be a little pointless unless it was accompanied with an explanation), or it may simply have been by proclaiming YHWH’s word ‘into the air’ (Jeremiah 25:27) in the way in which the prophets often made denunciations against enemies (e.g. Jeremiah 6:18-19).

Jeremiah 25:18

“Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and its kings, and its princes, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, a hissing, and a curse, as it is this day;

The first to drink are Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, along with their kings (the king and his co-regents, or alternatively successive kings) and princes. And it would result in their being desolated and becoming a spectacle to all nations, a cause for astonishment and hissing and a curse. Compare Jeremiah 18:16. The words ‘as at this day’ indicate that the words were written down after their fulfilment.

Jeremiah 25:19-22

“Pharaoh king of Egypt, and his servants, and his princes, and all his people; and all the mingled people, and all the kings of the land of the Uz, and all the kings of the Philistines, and Ashkelon, and Gaza, and Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod; Edom, and Moab, and the children of Ammon; and all the kings of Tyre, and all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the isle which is beyond the sea;”

The list commences with Judah’s nearest neighbours, commencing with the most powerful. It is comprehensive in scope covering not only the kings and their peoples, but also any who had come to dwell among them (‘all the mingled people’). Once mentioned of Egypt it is assumed for the remainder in the mention of their kings.

Egypt and Uz (a part of Edom, possibly mentioned because at this time seen as under the control of Egypt) were to the south, Philistia with its principal cities to the west, Edom, Moab and Ammon to the south east and the east, and Tyre and Sidon to the north west. The isle which was beyond the sea may have been Cyprus. The description of Ashdod demonstrated how it had suffered at the hands of Egypt under Psammeticus who had subjected it to a 29 year siege..

Jeremiah 25:23-24

“Dedan, and Tema, and Buz, and all who have the corners of their hair cut off; and all the kings of Arabia, and all the kings of the mingled people who dwell in the wilderness;”

The description then goes beyond the nearest neighbours to those more distant, in the south east, the Arab cities in Arabia, whose distinctive hair style is described (it was always seen as indicative of idolatry), and all the varied tribes which occupied the desert.

Jeremiah 25:25-26

“And all the kings of Zimri, and all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of the Medes; and all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another; and all the kingdoms of the world, which are on the face of the earth: and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.”

Zimri is unknown but was seemingly within the same area as the Elamites and the Medes to the north east. ‘All the kings of the north far and near’ is comprehensive, and any nation omitted is swept up in the description of ‘all the kingdoms of the (known) world, which are on the face of the earth’ which indicates those beyond Judah’s usual purview.

Finally Sheshach (Babylon) would drink after them. Sheshach is written in ‘code’ with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet reversed. Thus for Aleph Taw would be written, for Beth SHin would be written, for Gimel Resh would be written, and so on. Thus SheSHaCH signifies BaBeL. The purpose was probably not in order to hide the name from the uninitiated (the Babylonian spies were not stupid and such codes were well known) but in order to indicate that the world would be turned upside down.

Jeremiah 25:27

“And you shall say to them, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, Drink you, and be drunken, and spew, and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you.”

The picture of the drunkard drinking, and becoming more and more drunk, and vomiting, and then collapsing in a state of total inebriation is vividly descriptive of the confusion irrationality and effects of warfare. Notice that it is YHWH of the hosts of Heaven and earth, the God of Israel, Who is personally sending this sword among them.

Jeremiah 25:28

“And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup at your hand to drink, then you will say to them, Thus says YHWH of hosts, You shall surely drink.”

And that is why they have no choice but to drink. They cannot demur. They have no option. For YHWH of Hosts has determined that they will drink. There is an unashamed emphasis on the total sovereignty of YHWH as controller of all the hosts of men, all men’s armies.

Jeremiah 25:29

“For, lo, I begin to work evil at the city which is called by my name, and should you be utterly unpunished? You will not be unpunished, for I will call for a sword on all the inhabitants of the earth, says YHWH of hosts.”

And this had necessarily to be so because if YHWH was beginning to work evil on ‘the city which was called by His Name’ (Jerusalem) because they had followed the ways of the nations, how could the nations whose ways they had followed go unpunished? It would not be so, for YHWH of hosts was calling for the sword to come upon them.

‘The city which is called by My Name.’ This is an unusual phrase occurring elsewhere only in Daniel 9:18-19. Usually it is ‘the house which is called by My Name’ (Jeremiah 7:10-11; Jeremiah 7:14; Jeremiah 7:30). But see 2 Kings 21:4; 2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:27. It was the place where YHWH had chosen to set His Name.


Verses 30-38

YHWH Will Roar From Heaven And The Earth Will Face Its Judgment (Jeremiah 25:30-38).

What is coming on the world is pictured in terms of ‘universal’ catastrophe, as so often in the prophets. The idea is that the world will be turned upside down. But the nations described, and the context of the prophecy, make clear that this is not intended as eschatological but as practical. It was the world of Jeremiah’s own day that was to be affected. On the other hand it can also be seen as a reminder that man’s sinfulness is always such that it can only bring on him God’s future judgment from which none will be excluded. In that sense therefore it can be seen as eschatological. It is a principle of creation. ‘The soul who sins will die’. The significance of eschatological judgment lies in the fact that the hope of mankind is not be placed in the expectation of the world getting better, but awaits the coming of a Deliverer Who will restore all things, especially the hearts of men.

Jeremiah 25:30

“Therefore prophesy you against them all these words, and say to them,

‘YHWH will roar from on high,

And utter his voice from his holy habitation,

He will mightily roar against his pasture,

He will give a shout, as those who tread (the grapes),

Against all the inhabitants of the earth.’ ”

The initial picture is of YHWH roaring from ‘on High’ and speaking from His holy habitation, which in parallel with ‘on High’ must indicate Heaven. God is acting from above. The roaring is that of the Divine Lion as He comes to His pasture, here seen as the whole world, in order to attack the shepherds and seize the sheep (Jeremiah 25:34-36). For such roaring we can compare Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2. And like ‘the treaders’ He will cry out in enthusiastic vigour as He treads the grapes (compare Jeremiah 48:33;Jeremiah 16:9-10). The treading of grapes represents His bringing judgment on the people, compare Isaiah 63:2-6; Revelation 14:14-15. And this will ‘on all the inhabitants of the (known) earth’. The whole area will be in turmoil.

Jeremiah 25:31

“A noise will come even to the end of the earth,

For YHWH has a controversy with the nations,

He will enter into judgment with all flesh.

As for the wicked, he will give them to the sword,

The word of YHWH.”

The noise is the noise of approaching armies (Jeremiah 4:29; Jeremiah 11:16; Jeremiah 47:3; Jeremiah 50:46) and it comes from distant places, because YHWH is, as it were, bringing the nations to court to face up to His charges and there He will enter into judgment with all flesh, and will give the wicked to the sword. And this is the sure word of YHWH.

Jeremiah 25:32-33

“Thus says YHWH of hosts,

Behold, evil will go forth from nation to nation,

And a great tempest will be raised up from the uttermost parts of the earth.

And the slain of YHWH will be at that day

From one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth.

They will not be lamented, nor gathered, nor buried.

They will be dung on the face of the ground.”

The local judgment is seen in terms of the eschatological judgment, for the one merges into the other. Nation after nation will experience ‘evil’ from YHWH as the enemy armies arrive, and those armies will be like a great tempest raised up from the furthest points on earth (as known at that time). And those who are slaughtered in battle or as a result of invading armies will in fact be ‘the slain of YHWH’ for it is He Who is bringing their judgment on them. The slaughter will be so great that there will be none left to lament, none left to gather the bodies, none left to bury the dead (compare Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 16:4; Ezekiel 39:12). They will simply lie like pats of cow dung on the face of the ground.

Jeremiah 25:34-35

“Wail, you shepherds, and cry,

And wallow (in ashes), you principal of the flock,

For the days of your slaughter and of your scatterings are fully come,

And you will fall like a fine vessel.

And the shepherds will have no way to flee,

Nor the principal of the flock to escape.”

The picture turns back to the Divine Lion as He attacks the shepherds responsible for the flocks (the shepherds who have devastated His people - Jeremiah 12:10-11). The shepherds (rulers of the nations) are to wail and cry, and the king is to wallow in ashes in grief, because the day of slaughter has come on them and on the flock, and the day when they will be scattered has come. They will ‘fall like a fine, ornamental vessel’. We should compare here how Jehoiachin was seen as a broken vessel (Jeremiah 22:18) while Judah itself was also depicted in those terms, being broken in the Valley of Slaughter (Jeremiah 19:10). Nor will there be anywhere for the shepherds to flee, nor for their leader to escape. Death will be a certainty for all.

The alternative ‘choice rams’ instead of ‘fine vessel’ is not strictly correct as the word means ‘lambs’. In view of the relevance of a broken vessel to the wider context it is preferable to retain it.

Jeremiah 25:36-38

‘A voice of the cry of the shepherds,

And the wailing of the principal of the flock!

For YHWH lays waste their pasture,

And the peaceable folds are brought to silence,

Because of the fierce anger of YHWH.’

He has left his covert, as the lion,

For their land is become an astonishment,

Because of the fierceness of the oppressing sword,

And because of his fierce anger.’

The cries and wailings of the rulers of the nations will be everywhere as YHWH the Divine Lion lays waste their pasture, slaughtering the sheep, resulting in an eerie silence from the folds which had previously been so at peace. And it would be because of the severe anger of YHWH. For like a lion on the hunt for prey He has left His covert, and by means of foreign armies is turning their lands into spectacles which astonish all who see them (compare Jeremiah 18:16), as a result of the fierceness of the oppressing sword, a consequence of the fierce anger of YHWH. The picture is of total war.

And so this Section in which the sins of Judah have been underlined and openly declared, and the certainty of judgment has been revealed, ends in a picture of universal catastrophe. Compare Jeremiah 4:23-28. Such is the consequence of rebellion against God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 25:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/jeremiah-25.html. 2013.

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Friday, September 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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