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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 27

 

 

Verse 1

‘In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from YHWH, saying,’

The opening heading refers to the commencement of the reign of Jehoiakim. Whilst it is common practise to suggest that the name of Jehoiakim here in Jeremiah 27:1 is a scribal error because the remainder of the chapter concerns the reign of Zedekiah, it is not necessarily so. The heading may be referring to Jeremiah 27:2 alone, with the initial word that came being that of Jeremiah having to wear on his neck as a permanent symbol the imitation bonds and yokes described, because it was at this time that Judah had come under permanent bondage, first to Egypt and then to Babylon. This would be a continual reminder to Judah of Jeremiah’s message that their bondage was due to sin, and could over the years have become a recognised feature of the prophet. The remainder of the chapter can then be seen as describing how this symbol later came to be used in a special way when, in the reign of Zedekiah, these instruments, or copies of them, were sent to the kings of various nations.

This literal interpretation might be seen as supported by the fact that chapter 26 introduces the reign of Jehoiakim, whilst chapter 28 deals with well on into the reign of Zedekiah. Thus chapter 27 could be seen as intended to be a bridge between the two, uniting the reign of Jehoiakim with that of Zedekiah by means of the yokes made by Jeremiah, giving the account a splendid unity. It prevents disjointedness in the account.

Although not apparent from the English text this is the first mention of Jeremiah in the form recognised by English texts. Previously it has been Jeremyahu. In chapters Jeremiah 27:1 to Jeremiah 29:1 it is the shorter form Jeremyah, before reverting back in chapter Jeremiah 29:27 to Jeremyahu. As this change does not occur just in headings the reason for it is not immediately apparent. It may perhaps indicate that Jeremiah 27:1 to Jeremiah 29:23 once existed as a separate unit concerning the yoke of the King of Babylon.


Verses 1-22

Wearing The Yoke Of Subjection And Dependence (Jeremiah 27:1-22).

At YHWH’s command Jeremiah had to wear a yoke demonstrating bondage. Per the MT text this commenced at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign. This would tie in with the fact that that reign commenced in bondage to Egypt and continued in bondage to Babylon. The fact that the prophet of YHWH continually wore the yoke was an indication that the bondage was YHWH’s will. But it was when nations began to plot rebellion against Babylon that he was eventually told to send duplicates of his symbol of submission to many nations who were plotting rebellion against Babylon. All were to recognise that it was YHWH’s purpose that for the present they submit to Babylon’s yoke.


Verse 2

Jeremiah Was To Make Simulated Yokes And Bonds And Wear Them On His Neck (Jeremiah 27:2).

The plural of yokes possibly indicates the top and bottom bars of the yoke which would be bound together round the neck by the ropes (bonds). But if what follows is taken literally (the sending of yokes to five kings and the retention of the one worn by Jeremiah) a number of yokes and bonds would be required. They need not have been the size required for yoking animals. The very sight of even a small yoke would be sufficient to indicate bondage.

Jeremiah 27:2

“Thus says YHWH to me, Make for yourself bonds and bars, and put them on your neck,”

YHWH’s call to Jeremiah was initially that he make and wear bonds and yokes which were to fit on his neck. That he carried it out literally is clear from Jeremiah 28:10. The plural nouns, and what later happens, suggest that he made a number of sets. His wearing of them (not necessarily continually, but certainly on special occasions such as the great feasts) was probably intended to be a continual indication to Judah that it was now under permanent bondage, first to Egypt and then to Babylon because of its rebellion against YHWH. (YHWH had already indicated that the death of Josiah would end any guarantee of peace for Judah - 2 Kings 22:20; 2 Kings 23:26-27). It would be typical of Jeremiah to feel that while his people suffered bondage, he should do the same.

It will be noted that here the command was to wear them, whereas in Jeremiah 27:3 he was to send them to various kings. There is thus an interval between the two acts, and there is no reason why it should not have been a period of twelve years or more. Such rapid jumps in the narrative are often made in Scripture causing problems to modern man who likes to enter into historical detail. But Kings continually presents history in this way with huge but unidentified gaps between events during the lives of the kings. Compare also how Isaiah walked ‘naked and barefoot’ for three years, possibly wearing only a loincloth, in order to convey a similar message (Isaiah 20:2-3), and how Ezekiel lay on his side for well over a year (Ezekiel 4:4-5).

We are not called on to wear yokes as a symbol of our submission to God, but we are called on to ‘wear His yoke’ (Matthew 11:28-30) and to walk humbly before God, revealing that we are true followers of the One Who came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).


Verses 3-11

Jeremiah Was Later Commanded To Send Parallel Yokes To The Plotters Of Rebellion Whose Ambassadors Were Congregated In Jerusalem (Jeremiah 27:3-11).

The sending of the yokes to related nations, which would be copies of the one worn by Jeremiah, was to be accompanied by a stern warning from ‘YHWH of Hosts, the God of Israel’ that they remain in submission to Babylon.

Jeremiah 27:3

“And send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the children of Ammon, and to the king of Tyre, and to the king of Sidon, by the hand of the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah,”

The sending of the bonds and yokes to the various kings of the nations clearly follows after an interval, during which time Jeremiah has been wearing his. This indicates either that he had made a number of sets which he would wear in turn or that he had duplicates made for the purpose. They were to be sent to the Transjordanian nations of Edom, Moab and Ammon, and to Tyre and Sidon, because it was from them that messengers had come to King Zedekiah, seemingly to discuss rebellion from the yoke of Babylon. It was YHWH’s warning that they should not proceed with their aim because it was YHWH’s will that they be so subjected.

Jeremiah 27:4

“And give them a charge to their masters, saying, Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, Thus shall you say to your masters,”

Along with the bonds and yokes Jeremiah sent a charge to the various kings from YHWH. It was headed with the full title of ‘YHWH of Hosts, the God of Israel’, which always indicated an important saying and was a reminder that He was Lord of all hosts, whether the angelic hosts in Heaven or the human hosts on earth, the ‘hosts of Heaven’ which represented the stars in their courses, and indeed of all creation (Genesis 2:1).

Jeremiah 27:5

“I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth, by my great power and by my outstretched arm; and I give it to whom it seems right to me.”

YHWH first indicates His credentials as the Creator of all things, and indicates the authority that it gives Him to order things as He will. He makes clear that all living things are under His control, whether they be men or beast, because He created them all by His great power and ‘His outstretched arm’. The latter is simply a metaphor demonstrating His capability in doing things which require strength. He does not literally do things by means of a huge arm. Compare Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 26:8. Thus the situation in which they find themselves is because it ‘seems right to Him’. Rebellion would therefore be to act against God’s purpose. Notice how creation is summed up in terms of ‘men and beasts’ as the two primary life forms.

Jeremiah 27:6-7

“And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and the beasts of the field also have I given him to serve him. And all the nations will serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the time of his own land come, and then many nations and great kings will make him their bondman.”

He then particularises what He is saying to the particular case in hand. With regard to the lands which are ruled over by these kings He has chosen by His sovereign power to give them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (no longer Nebuchadrezzar) who is His servant, and He has given him all animals both wild and domestic in order that they might serve him. Furthermore it was His purpose that all nations should serve both ‘Nebuchadnezzar, and his son, and his son’s son’, that is his regular heirs, into the future until the appointed time. And this will go on until arrival of the time limit that YHWH has set, when Nebuchadnezzar’s own land will arrive at ‘its time’ and will in turn serve others. For then many nations and great kings will eventually arise who will in turn bring Babylonia into bondage.

The reference to animals wild and domestic, included along with the lands, indicating all created things within the area, but may well also have in mind the requirements laid on subject peoples that they provide him regularly with horses and cattle and submit to the Babylonians using their lands for hunting, a favourite sport of great kings which was not necessarily good for the land. The reference to ‘his son and his son’s son’ is not putting a limit on how many kings there will be, nor is it in fact saying that they will be directly related. A king’s heir would always be seen as his ‘son’ (we can compare how the Assyrians called all Israelite kings ‘sons of Omri’ long after there was no such relationship. Thus Jehu was described as ‘the son of Omri’ on Assyrian inscriptions). Basically therefore it indicated all his heirs, whether literal sons or otherwise, until the time appointed (compare Exodus 34:7; Deuteronomy 4:25). Nebuchadnezzar was in fact succeeded by his son Evil-merodach (Amel-marduk) (Jeremiah 52:31), and he by Nebuchadnezzar’s son-in-law Neriglissar (Nergal-shar-usur who married Nebuchanezzars’s daughter), followed briefly by his son Labashi-marduk. Labashi-marduk did not last long and was assassinated in childhood and replaced by Nabonidus and his son Belshazzar (although Belshazzar died before Nabonidus) who would be subjugated by Cyrus the Persian, with his allies.

‘Nebuchadnezzar.’ The change from Nebuchadrezzar (Nabu-kudurri-usur) to Nebuchadnezzar probably has no special significance. Baruch had input into both sections so that it is not necessarily an indication of change of authorship. The change from ‘r’ to ‘n’ is quite common when transliterating from Akkadian into Hebrew. It may simply indicate Jeremiah’s own development to a more sophisticated style.

27. 8 “And it will come about, that the nation and the kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, says YHWH, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.”

Moreover any nation who refused to submit to Babylon and serve Nebuchadnezzar would be punished by YHWH Himself for disobeying His will. Note the reference to the yoke based on the illustration that he had sent through the ambassadors. Their punishment would come about through sword, famine and pestilence (the regular Jeremaic means, compare Jeremiah 14:12; etc), until Nebuchadnezzar had totally consumed them. The three judgments were the constant price of war. War not only slaughtered people, but it burned and desolated fields, and caused conditions which encourage pestilence, especially when people had to ‘flee to the mountains’. But the three judgments could also arise separately. See Jeremiah 14:1; 2 Samuel 21; 2 Samuel 24:15; 1 Kings 17-18; etc.

Jeremiah 27:9-10

“But as for you, do not you listen to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreams, nor to your soothsayers, nor to your sorcerers, who speak to you, saying, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they prophesy a lie to you, to remove you far from your land, and that I should drive you out, and you should perish.”

Nor were they to listen to anyone who said otherwise (which they all did and had cause to rue it). The descriptions covered all means by which nations sought to obtain guidance from their gods, including prophets with their drug-induced prophecies, diviners with their differing divining methods (including casting lots, reading the dregs left in vessels, looking at the entrails of sacrificial animals, etc.), dreamers with their drug-induced dreams, soothsayers and sorcerers with all their different approaches including calling on familiar spirits, enchantments, secret arts, and the muttering of spells. Compare Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 47:12-13; 2 Kings 9:22. There would be a natural tendency to ‘divine’ against subjection to Babylon as that was undoubtedly the favoured option once the time seemed ripe, but the people were not to listen to such ideas because they were all lies.

Jeremiah 27:11

“But the nation that shall bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, that nation will I let remain in their own land, the word of YHWH, and they will till it, and dwell in it.”

Indeed the only way in which they could hope to remain in their lands was by bringing their necks under the yoke of the King of Babylon and serving him as Jeremiah had illustrated. Those who did so would be allowed to remain in their own lands, and till them and dwell in them, because they would thereby be being obedient YHWH. And this was the assured prophetic word of YHWH. (Thus being in submission to men can often go hand in hand with obedience to the will of God).


Verses 12-22

Zedekiah Himself Is Also Warned Of The Necessity For Continued Submission To The King Of Babylon (Jeremiah 27:12-22).

Zedekiah is also warned by Jeremiah of the consequences of not continuing to submit to the King of Babylon. He was to ignore the promises of the prophets who promised a quick deliverance and return of the previously stolen Temple vessels, for they were untrue. In fact the truth was that disobedience to YHWH’s warning would simply result in the remainder of the Temple furniture being transported to Babylon.

Jeremiah 27:12

‘And I spoke to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live.”

Jeremiah tells how he had spoken to Zedekiah in accordance with the same words that he had sent to the nations. Following his own example they were to bring their necks under the yoke of the King of Babylon and serve his people. By that means they would be serving YHWH, and by that means they would survive.

Jeremiah 27:13

“Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as YHWH has spoken concerning the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?”

But if they did not continue in submission, both the king and all his people would die, by sword, famine and pestilence, in accordance to the words sent to the nations. And that because their action would actually be rebellion against the will of YHWH. Was that really what they wanted to happen?

Jeremiah 27:14

“And do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they prophesy a lie to you.”

Thus they were not to listen to the words of the prophets who were so assiduously lying to them and declaring that they could safely ‘not serve the King of Babylon’. They were to recognise that their words were a lie.

Jeremiah 27:15

“For I have not sent them, the word of YHWH, but they prophesy falsely in my name, that I may drive you out, and that you may perish, you, and the prophets who prophesy to you.”

For on the assured word of YHWH they could be certain that YHWH had not sent these prophets. Rather they were prophesying falsely in His Name. But it did have a purpose, and that was in order that He might drive them out in accordance with His purpose, so that both they and the prophets might perish. The lying prophets would thus in their own way be bringing about YHWH’s will (compare 1 Kings 22:19-23). It is a reminder of YHWH’s control over history both good and bad (compare the opening of the seven-sealed book in Revelation 6 which conveyed the same message). While the offer of repentance was always open it was quite clear that they had no intention of responding, and therefore their doom was sealed.

Jeremiah 27:16

‘Also I spoke to the priests and to all this people, saying, “Thus says YHWH. Do not listen to the words of your prophets who prophesy to you, saying, ‘Behold, the vessels of YHWH’s house will now shortly be brought again from Babylon,’ for they prophesy a lie to you.”

He also spoke to the priests and all the people who were there warning them not to listen to the prophecies of the prophets who promised that the vessels of YHWH’s house, which had previously been taken away in the days of Jehoiakim/Jehoiachin, would shortly be returned from Babylon, for it was all a lie. (They would eventually be returned, but that was a long way ahead. It was not to happen within the near future). The promises being made by the false prophets clearly included a promise of the removal of the Babylonian yoke, which would be why the vessels were returned. It is noticeable that no one ventured to suggest who would be responsible for the return of the vessels.

Jeremiah 27:17

“Do not listen to them. Serve the king of Babylon, and live. Why should this city become a desolation?”

Jeremiah therefore tells them not to listen to the prophets, but to faithfully serve the King of Babylon, and thus be allowed to live. Why should they act foolishly by doing something which could only result in the desolation of their city?

Jeremiah 27:18

“But if they are prophets, and if the word of YHWH is with them, let them now make intercession to YHWH of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of YHWH, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, do not go to Babylon.”

Rather, if the prophets were true prophets so that the word of YHWH was in them (the word which was spoken as in Jeremiah 27:21), let them make intercession that the vessels which still remained in the Temple and in the king’s house, remain there and not be carried off to Babylon. This was a prayer that would be heard if they set aside any idea of rebellion. And it was the wise step to take.

Jeremiah 27:19-20

“For thus says YHWH of hosts concerning the pillars, and concerning the sea, and concerning the bases, and concerning the residue of the vessels which are left in this city, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take, when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem,”

For YHWH was not prophesying the return of vessels from Babylon. Rather He was prophesying concerning all that still remained in Judah, the ‘sea’, the bases, and the residue of the sacred vessels which had not been taken when Jehoiachin and so many of the leading citizens, including its nobles throughout Judah had been taken away by Nebuchadnezzar.

Jeremiah 27:21-22

“Yes, thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels which are left in the house of YHWH, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, they will be carried to Babylon, and there will they be, until the day that I visit them, the word of YHWH, then will I bring them up, and restore them to this place.”

And the word of YHWH concerning all the vessels which still remained in the house of YHWH and in the king’s palace, was that they also would be carried off to Babylon and would remain there until His allotted day of deliverance. And this was the guaranteed word of YHWH. It was only when that day of deliverance came that He would again bring all those vessels back up to Jerusalem, and restore them to their rightful place.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 27:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/jeremiah-27.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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