Chapter 3 is a psalm of praise to God for His greatness and His
judgments. Verses 17-19 form a beautiful climax to his prophecy and a fitting testimony to Habakkuk’s faith:
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the
vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no
meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no
herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God
of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make
my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine
LXXXI JEREMIAH: THE WEEPING PROPHET
Habakkuk was the last of the pre-exilic prophets who prophesied
prior to the exilic prophets, Ezekiel and Daniel. The three minor prophets who remain to be examined are all post-exilic: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. However, one major prophet spanned the last years of the kingdom and lived into the time of the exile.
Setting and Date
Jeremiah’s ministry began during the reign of Josiah. Following this early beginning, he prophesied of the Chaldean invasion and victory over Judah; then he actually witnessed it in 586. Turning to Jeremiah 1;1-2, we read:
The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in
Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: To whom the word of the Lord
came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the
thirteenth year of his reign.
The historical account of Josiah’s reign was studied when we examined II Chronicles. In that book, we have an interesting sidelight in chapter 34:8 which says, “In the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land, and the house, he sent ... to repair the house of the Lord his God.“ This repair of the temple and the discovery of the law which resulted from it, occurred five years after Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry began.
I believe that the encouragement of Jeremiah’s ministry gave Josiah
the necessary strength to carry out his spiritual reforms. We discussed earlier how the preaching of Nahum, that Assyria was to be destroyed (although Nahum preceded Josiah), gave him written encouragement.
Then, the preaching of Zephaniah in Josiah’s early years, gave him further encouragement that God was with him. Finally, the on-going prophetic ministry of Jeremiah, crystallized everything for Josiah; and I am sure, gave him the confidence that God would be a constant source of strength, as he carried out the earlier prophecy of the unnamed man of God, in the time of Jeroboam I, and purged the land of idol worship.
To validate that Jeremiah had a very long ministry, verse 3 says:
It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah,
unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king
of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.
Jehoiakim reigned from 609 to 597, and Zedekiah from 597 to 586.
So, Jeremiah was an eyewitness to all the invasions of Nebuchadnezzar in 605, 598-597, and 588-586. He was allowed to stay in Jerusalem after the captivity because, as the author of the book of Lamentations, he looked at the desolation of the land after the Babylonians had ravished it.
Beginning in verse 4, Jeremiah records the circumstances of Ws
call to the prophetic ministry. “Then the word of the Lord came unto me,
saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee.“ He was a man sovereignty selected by God before he was born; even before he was conceived.
His reply was, “Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak, for I am a child.“
Pleading his lack of ability as an eloquent orator is reminiscent of Moses’ response to his call by God at the burning bush. But the Lord said to Jeremiah, “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.“ Age and oratory would not determine his success because God would put His words into the prophet’s mouth. Neither was fear to silence him because he had the Lord’s promise of deliverance. His ministry would be far-reaching, extending beyond Judah “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.“ God used rural farming terms to the young prophet from Anathoth.
His first prophecy evidently followed soon after. “Out of the north
an evil will break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.“ It was from the north, following the battle of Carchemish in 605, that Nebuchadnezzar first invaded the land of Judah. Verses 18-19:
Behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron
pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings
of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof,
and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against
thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee,
saith the Lord, to deliver thee.
Jeremiah was going to need this spiritual encouragement and Divine
physical strength later on, because his entire ministry would be beset
by open and vicious opposition.
Basic Theme and Outline
Jeremiah’s central theme would be that the coming judgment at
the hand of the Chaldeans was from God. They were His chastening
rod, because the inhabitants of the land had become so evil. This agrees with the theme of Habakkuk. Their messages were the same: the Chaldeans are coming and God is allowing it because they are His chastening rod to judge the violence and wickedness in the city.
However, Jeremiah’s message had a somewhat different tone. He
followed up his predictions of the invasion by saying, “You must not
resist.” This was his central theme: “Do not resist the Babylonians; but bow your head in sub- mission. God is sending them to chasten you, so take the punishment you deserve. Then the Lord will deliver you when He is ready.”
The people of Judah did not want to hear this kind of message.
They wanted to resist the invading army. They would not recognize
Jeremiah’s message as coming from God, so they accused him of being a traitor. Throughout his entire ministry, he was rejected by everyone as a man who preached treason.
Jeremiah was a weeping prophet because he was rejected person-ally; because he saw the calamity that was coming on the land; and
because he preached a message which no one wanted to hear.
To outline the book, we must understand that his prophecies are
not arranged in chronological order. His prophecies under Josiah in
chapters 1-20, are followed in chapter 21 by a prophecy given during
the reign of Zedekiah, Judah’s final king. Between these two, there were three others on the throne: Jehoahaz in 609, Jehoiakim (609-597), and Jehoiachin in 597. The brief reigns of these three kings were completely passed over.
Again, chapters 35 and 36 precede 27-34 chronologically. Many
reasons have been advanced to explain why the book is arranged in
such an order. Some expositors, Kyle for instance, have suggested that Jeremiah arranged his book topically according to subject matter. Other expositors have said that certain portions circulated independently, in small separate collections, and were later gathered together. Still others explain the character of the book by the nature of its composition, saying that the earlier prophecies were destroyed and were predicated with additions (36:32, for example), while later prophecies were collected and edited by Baruch. Finally, Unger believes that because the book was written in stages, it was not arranged in strict chronological order.
The principle of arrangement is not easy to ascertain. The general
arrangement of the prophecies is discernable because they are divided based on the subject matter of their contents. Those concerning Judah and the future Messianic kingdom, come first in chapters 1-45. These are followed in 46-51, by prophecies concerning foreign nations. The final chapter is a historical appendix. The following listing is arranged according to the reigns of the rulers under which Jeremiah prophesied.
1. Prophecies under Josiah and Jehoiakim, ch. 2-20
2. Prophecies delivered only under Jehoiakim, ch. 25-27; 35-
3. Prophecies during Zedekiah’s reign, ch. 21-24; 28-34; 37-39;
4. Prophecies under Gedaliah, ch. 40-42
5. Ministry in Egypt, ch. 43-44
6. Historical appendix, ch. 52
Space will not permit analyzing each and every one of the fifty-two
chapters in the book of Jeremiah. Instead, I will examine some of
the highlights of the book, primarily as these concern the theme of his
message, and his personal involvement with the various leaders in Judah.
Causes for Weeping
One central thought in Jeremiah’s message is found in 6:16: “Thus
saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.“ It is an echo of David’s cry in Psalm 25:4-5, “Shew me thy ways, 0 Lord, teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”
The people’s response to the Lord’s plea through Jeremiah was,
“We will not walk therein.“ Thus, we see the stiff-necked rebellion of the
inhabitants of Judah because they were so steeped in Baalism that they did not want to be involved in the true worship of Jehovah. Jeremiah called them back to the Lord again and again, but they continued to rebel and stiffen their necks against His call. Because of that attitude, God went on in chapter 7 to call them murderers and adulterers who swore falsely and offered sacrifices to Baal. Then He asks, “Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in our eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord” (vs. 11).
God then draws their attention back about 460 years to the historic
battle of Aphek in 1075 B.C., saying, “Go ye now unto my place which
was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.“ That was the time period of Eli and his two wicked sons, Hophni and Phineas, when because of the evil in the land, God allowed the Philistines to capture the Ark and destroy the place of worship at Shiloh. Evidently, the tabernacle and altar were salvaged because they remained at Nob where the priests served God until they were slain by Doeg the Edomite during the reign of Saul.
These cultic objects were then moved to Gibeon where they remained until Solomon completed the temple and placed them in storage.
Because of their stubbornness, the Lord instructed Jeremiah not
to pray for the people (7:16). God was not going to hear them because of their wickedness. He determined to bring judgment on them and therefore it was too late for intercession. In verse 15 God said He was going to do to them just as He had done to Ephraim. They knew what had happened to Ephraim (Israel/Samaria), back in 722, when God allowed the Assyrians to invade them. Now, He was saying, He was going to do to them as He had done to Shiloh and to Ephraim, destroy them! “Jeremiah, God exclaimed, “Do you see what they are doing down there in the streets? They are baking cakes to the queen of heaven. “
As late as Jeremiah’s time, the Babylonian religion (established back during the time of Nimrod) was still around, and promoted the worship of the queen of heaven. Even the children were participating. Central to that system was the worship of Tammuz who, according to their myth, was virgin born. This was Satan’s ancient counterfeit to confuse the prophecy about the true virgin-born Son of God. This evil cult led their minds astray by the spirit of harlotry. Just a few years later, when God carried Ezekiel into the city in a vision, he saw the women weeping for Tammuz. And because of that, God had said, “I am going to destroy these
Seeing all that was happening, Jeremiah exclaimed in 9:l: “Oh that
my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” This is one of the verses used to identify Jeremiah as the weeping prophet. Verse 14 says, They “have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them.“ Jeremiah wept because he must deliver the message of judgment and because he knew it would go unheeded.
In the midst of Jeremiah’s weeping, because of his knowledge
about what would happen to the nation he loved, God added in chapter 15 that there would be four kinds of doom: the sword to slay; the dogs to drag off, the birds of the sky, the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy.
Knowing that all of these things would surely come to pass, because the people would not repent, Jeremiah prayed for himself (15:15-16):
0 Lord, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me
of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know
that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke. Thy words were found,
and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing
of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, 0 Lord God of hosts.
Because of Jeremiah’s intimacy with God, and his knowledge of
His ways, he did not fit into the evil clique of mockers and merry-makers. He could not involve himself in their activities. Because God’s hand was on him, he was alone.
Pattern of Rejection
Jeremiah continued to proclaim the words that God gave him.
Just as he had been forewarned, his hearers remained stubborn and stiff-necked.
Following one message, we read the response of the people
in 18:8. They said:
Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah: for the law shall
not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word
from the prophet. Come and let us smite him with the tongue, and
let us not give heed to any of his words.
They planned to use slander as a weapon against Jeremiah
and he turned to the Lord with his lament (vss. 19-20):
Give heed to me, 0 Lord, and hearken to the voice of them that
contend with me. Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have
digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to
speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.
In the remainder of chapter 18, he called down imprecations on the
Beginning in chapter 19, God gave Jeremiah a command to
go and buy a potter’s earthenware jar, then to take it out
into the valley of Ben-Hinnom. There he was to stand by
the potsherd gate and preach, saying:
Hear ye the word of the Lord, 0 kings of Judah, and inhabitants of
Jerusalem; Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold I
will bring evil upon this place, because they have forsaken me.
The sermon continues with several accusations, such as: verse 5: “They have built also the high Places of Baal.“ It reaches a climax in verses 8 and 9, “I will make this city desolate.“ And, “I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters.“ This would occur because of the siege Nebuchadnezzar would make against the city in 588, which would last for two years until 586, when he broke down the wall (II Kings 25:1-4).
God instructed Jeremiah that when he had finished preaching,
“Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee,“ and then close his sermon with: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again.”
Chapter 20 relates how when the priest, who was the chief
officer in the temple, heard about this sermon, commanded
that Jeremiah be beaten and then put in stocks. When he
was released the next day, Jeremiah said to him, “The Lord hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magormissabib.“ This name meant “terror on every side. “ It was a prophetic statement, because Jeremiah continued in
For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself,
and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their
enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah
into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword. Moreover I
will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labours thereof,
and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the
kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which
shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon. And
thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity:
and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there shalt thou die, and
shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast
In chapter 21, we learn that King Zedekiah sent messengers
to Jeremiah to learn what was going to happen. The request
which the king made to Jeremiah was (vs. 2):
Inquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us; for Nebuchadnezzar king of
Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the Lord will deal
with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up
I am sure that Zedekiah knew the history of his nation and, for ex-ample, how Hezekiah had been saved from the invading Assyrians by
turning to God through Isaiah. But, Jeremiah presented God’s message that this time there would be no deliverance, because the Lord Himself was against them to punish them. Then he gave this counsel:
Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death. He
that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine,
and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the
Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto
him for a prey.
But the king also rejected Jeremiah’s words. As a result, both he and the nation rejected the way of life which God had presented; viz., surrender.
LXXXII JEREMIAH: REJECTED AND PERSECUTED
The events of chapter 26 occur “In the beginning of the reign of
Jehoiakim.” This was in 609 B.C., although in the prophet’s earlier years, the response of the leaders to his message even then, was as intense in its opposition as it would be later on.
The Lord said to him in verse 2, “Stand in the court of the Lord’s
house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah.“ God encouraged and commanded him not to omit a word. Perhaps they would listen and every-one will turn from his evil way. But God said, “You shall say to them that if they will not listen and turn from their evil ways, Then will I make this house like Shiloh” (vs. 6).
Kill the Prophet!
The priests, and the professional prophets also, along with all the
people, heard Jeremiah speak those words. When he brought this pronouncement of doom on them, they agreed together against him, saying (vss. 8-9):
Thou shalt surely die. Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the
Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be
desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered
against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
When the leaders of the city heard what was going on, the princes
assembled together from the palace and sat down in the gates as judges. The priests and prophets quickly accused Jeremiah saying, “This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, and ye have heard with your ears” (vs. 11).
Jeremiah’s defense is in verses 12-15.
The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city
all the words that ye have heard. Therefore now amend your ways and
your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will
repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. As for me,
behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto
you. But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely
bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon
the inhabitants thereof- for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to
speak all these words in your ears.
The verdict of the princes, who were now backed by the people,
was, “This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.“ They did not want to take any chances. Then certain of the elders added their viewpoint, saying,
Micah the Morashtite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of
Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying... Zion shall be
plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain
of the house as the high places of a forest. Did Hezekiah king of
Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? Did he not fear the
Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil
which he had pronounced against them.
The elders did not understand that Micah was not making that
prophecy to Hezeldah for his time, but was prophesying the destruction under Nebuchadnezzar which was yet to come, and to which those at Jeremiah’s trial would be witnesses and participants. It was for them that Micah had made the prophecy. They misunderstood this, but at least their application was correct, because they assumed that Hezekiah responded properly to the preaching of Micah, and assumed that God changed His mind. They admitted to having committed a great evil against themselves by not hearing and obeying the words of Jeremiah.
A Visual Aid
In chapter 27, Jeremiah became a participant in the technique of
pedagogy in biography. God commanded him to make a yoke for his neck and then to walk around wearing it. When the people asked him what the yoke was for, he was to say this:
I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the
king of Babylon.... And all nations shall serve him.... And it shall
come to pass, that the nations and kingdom which will not serve
that same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not
put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation
will I Punish, . . with the sword, and with the famine, and with the
pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand. Therefore hear-ken
not ye to your prophets nor to your diviners, nor to your
dreamers, nor to your enchanter, nor to your sorcerers, which speak
unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: For they
prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land, and
that ye should perish. But the nations that bring their neck under
the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those will I let
remain still in their own land.
Jeremiah spoke these words to King Zedekiah, while imploring
him to obey and “bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live. Why will ye die?” (vss. 12-13a). His plea to the king and then to the priest, continues throughout the chapter; but still they did not heed.
Debate with Hananiah
Jeremiah continued to walk around preaching while wearing the
yoke on his neck. Chapter 28:1 tells us that in the same year “Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet, which was of Gibeon, spake unto me in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and of all the people.“ It was a public debate, a confrontation between Jeremiah the man of God, and Hananiah the “yes-man” false prophet. Hananiah began the debate (vss. 2-4):
Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have
broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full years will I
bring again into this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, that
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place ... and
I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of
Judah, with all the captives of Judah that went into Babylon ... for
I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.
This was the kind of message the people wanted to hear and which
Jeremiah had denounced before. In verse 6 Jeremiah gave his reply:
Amen: the Lord do so: the Lord perform thy words which thou hast
prophesied.... Nevertheless hear thou now this word that I speak in
thine ears,...The prophets that have been before me and before thee
of old prophesied both against many countries, and against great
kingdoms. . . . The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the
word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be
known, that the Lord hath truly sent him.
When Hananiah heard this, he reached over and broke the yoke
from around Jeremiah’s neck. Then, he used Jeremiah’s broken yoke to demonstrate his own message, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar ... from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years (vs. 11).
Jeremiah departed without his yoke; but God gave him some additional words for Hananiah. He first described the yokes of iron which would be on the necks of the nations brought under the power of Babylon. Then, He added a personal message for the false prophet (vss. 15-16):
Hear now, Hananiah; The Lord hath not sent thee, but thou makest
this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I
will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die,
because thou hast taught rebellion against the Lord.
The chapter concludes, “So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.“ The false prophet died with his message of false hope.
Messages of True Hope
Chapter 32 begins “in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah. “
This was in 587 B.C.; during the siege, but just prior to when
Nebuchadnezzar finally breached the wall of Jerusalem, in 586, ending the siege, destroying the city, and the temple.
Zedekiah had put Jeremiah in prison because he prophesied that
when the Babylonians invaded the city, the king would be taken captive. While he was imprisoned, God instructed him to buy a field at
Anathoth. This was to be yet another object lesson, demonstrating the prophet’s faith in God’s assurance that there would come a time after the invasion and exile, when “houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land” (vs. 15).
In chapter 33, while Jeremiah was still confined in prison, the
word of the Lord came to him again. God gave His prophet a wonderful promise, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (vs. 3). Then, He gave Jeremiah a marvelous and descriptive revelation of the future restoration of Israel and of His faithfulness to the Davidic covenant.
Thus saith the Lord; Again there shall be heard in this place, which
ye say shall be desolate ... the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness,
the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of
them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts; for the Lord is good;
for his mercy endureth for ever.
The destruction which Jeremiah dreaded would be temporary, because, the Lord continued (vss. 14-15):
Behold, the days come . . . that I will perform that good thing
which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of
Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of
Righteousness to grow up unto David, and he shall execute judgment
and righteousness in the land.
Then, in verse 20, God reaffirmed the inviolability of His covenant:
If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the
night, and that there should not be day and night in their season;
Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant,
that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne.
God’s Written Word Rejected
Chapter 36 looks in flashback to the year 605, and reconstructs an
event which took place in the fourth year of king Jehoiakim. The Lord
instructed Jeremiah, “Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the
words that I have spoken unto thee.“ Obediently, Jeremiah called in Baruch, his scribe (secretary) and dictated to him all of the prophecies he had received. However, the religious leaders had excommunicated Jeremiah and banned him from the temple. Since he could not go, he instructed Baruch to go to the temple on a fast day, when there would be many people present, and read to them from the dictated scroll. He hoped, when they heard God’s words, that “they will present their supplication before the Lord, and will return every one from his evil way.“ Verse 8 reported that Baruch followed Jeremiah’s directions, and according to verse 9.
In the fifth year of Jehoiakim, in the ninth month, . they proclaimed
a fast before the Lord to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the
people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem. Then read
Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
Micaiah, one of those who heard it, reported these things to the princes and leading officials of the city, repeating the words which Baruch had read from Jeremiah’s scroll. The city officials sent for Baruch and commanded him to read the scroll to them. Jeremiah’s messages put such fear in their hearts, that their response was, “We will surely tell the king.“
They questioned Baruch intensely regarding how Jeremiah had dictated these words and how he (Baruch) had written them all down. They kept the scroll, to give to the king, and advised Baruch that both he and Jeremiah should run away and hide themselves in fear of the king’s response.
When Jehoiakim heard the officials’ report, he sent for the scroll
and had it read to Him. As he listened, he cut off each section and cast it into his fireplace. Verse 24 says, “Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.”
Jeremiah and Zedekiah
As Jeremiah continued to preach and encourage his listeners to
surrender to the Chaldeans, the officials of the city became increasingly angry. Chapter 38:4 says that they begged the king to have him put to death for treason. They reported that he was discouraging the men of war and “seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.“ The king re-plied, “He is in your hand. “ So, they took Jeremiah by force and dropped him down into a deep cistern.
These cisterns were dug down in the courtyards of the
wealthy people. They were lined with a plaster-like coating
so that when it rained they would hold water, and the coated
walls prevented seepage. However, if they were not cleaned out regularly, the dust would blow in and eventually turn to mud when the
This particular cistern, which was chosen as Jeremiah’s dungeon,
had evidently not been used for a while, because when they lowered
Jeremiah down into it with ropes, he sank into the mud. An Ethiopian
took pity on him and received permission from the king to rescue him.
Jeremiah was stuck in the mud so securely, that it required thirty men to pull him out. Verse 11 says they sent down worn out clothes and rags which Jeremiah used for padding under his arms when he tied the ropes around his chest which were used to pull him up. After this, he was kept in the court of the guardhouse.
Soon after this terrible experience in the cistern, King Zedekiah
sent for Jeremiah to hear his counsel from the Lord. Jeremiah objected, saying that he knew the advice which he gave would not be heeded and that he would be put to death for giving it. The king swore to protect his life, so Jeremiah went to the king and repeated what he had said so often, viz., that the way to spare the city and the lives of its inhabitants, was to surrender to the Chaldeans.
It seems that Zedekiah understood what Jeremiah was saying,
but he was powerless to act because of his advisers. He commanded
Jeremiah not to let anyone know that they had talked together, and
gave him an alibi to use if their meeting did become known. It seems
that even King Zedekiah was afraid of his subordinates. Did he fear
assassination and a coup?
Chapter 39 describes the invasion of the city and the capture of
Zedekiah. They killed his sons before his eyes, then blinded him and
took him to Babylon where he later died.
After the Invasion
Nebuchadnezzar had heard of Jeremiah’s encouragement to the
people to surrender to them and gave orders to the captain of the guard, saying, “Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee” (39:12). Chapter 40 then relates how the captain freed him from his chains and gave him his choice between going to Babylon or anywhere he wished. In either case, the captain said, he would be well treated. Even with these options, Jeremiah chose to remain in Jerusalem.
Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah as governor over Judah, but
as we read in chapter 41, he was slain by a man named Ishmael, a
political zealot, who led an uprising. The people who were left in Judah decided to flee to Egypt in an attempt to escape the Babylonians. In revenge, they took Jeremiah with them by force because he had counseled them against going (42-44).
Chapter 46 is a flashback to a time prior to the battle of Carchemish
in 605, and it records the prophecy of what happened to the Egyptians when they armed themselves to fight against the Babylonians.
The remainder of the book of Jeremiah contains various prophecies
regarding all of the surrounding nations. Finally, chapter 52 is a
historical appendix which details some events down to about 560 B.C.
Verse 31 says that in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin
(who went into exile in approximately 597) the king showed favor to
him, brought him out of prison, and gave him a regular allowance and
portion of food for the remainder of his life. The parallel passage
is II Kings 25:27-30.
This concludes the message of Jeremiah. In its historical context,
the time span is from the reign of Josiah to approximately 560 B.C.
LXXXIII HAGGAI: MESSAGE OF MOTIVATION
We have now considered all of the prophets who prophesied about
the invasion of the Assyrians (to the kingdom of Israel), the invasion of the Babylonians (to the nation of Judah), the exile into Babylon and the release from Babylon. In Haggai and Zechariah, we find information detailing life in the latter part of the sixth century B.C., in Judah, where the people had been back in the land after the release by Cyrus, for almost twenty years. The temple had not yet been rebuilt, and the city walls around Jerusalem would not be rebuilt for another seventy-five years, under Nehemiah’s leadership in 444 B.C. These two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, were active just after the return of Zerubbabel, as recorded in the book of Ezra, but they prophesied before the returns of Ezra and of Nehemiah.
Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament; only
Obadiah is shorter. Haggai contains four messages which were preached during four months, in the year 520 B.C., which was the second year of King Darius of Persia. Since Cyrus had given specific instructions (under God) to return to the land and rebuild the temple, the message of Haggai is one of exhortation, in an attempt to motivate the people to begin work on the temple. We studied previously how the work had been stalled after the initial foundation was laid. Now Haggai has appeared to give them God’s will and promise, “From this day forward will I bless thee.” The seventy years of prophesied desolation for the temple had come to an end.
Time to Build
Haggai’s first message, which took place in 520 B.C., in the sixth
month (September-October), was that it is now time to begin work on
the house of the Lord. Its central theme was “Consider your ways” (vs. 5).
Because they had been disobedient in this regard, God had brought
judgment on their crops and on everything they had tried to put aside
as savings for the future. God said,
Ye have sown much, and being in little; ye eat, but ye have not
enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you,
but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages
to put it into a bag with holes.
In verse 7, He commanded again, “Consider your ways.” He had
been withholding blessings from them, but now He would shower it
down if they would obey Him. “Go up to the mountain, and bring wood,
and build the house, and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord” (vs. 8). God was saying, “Stop putting yourselves and your own houses first. Stop cheating Me, and start building My house.” According to verse 14, the end result of Haggai’s preaching was that the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the governor, and of Joshua the high priest, and all the people; “and they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.”
Haggai’s second message begins in chapter 2. It was delivered in
the same year, on the 21st day of the seventh month. It was addressed to Zerubbabel and began by pointing out the extent that the temple he was building departed from the splendor of the temple constructed by Solomon. “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” But this comparison in verse 3 is intended only as a prelude to the promise in verse 9: “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.“ Why will it be so glorious? because Zerubbabel’s temple, enlarged and beautified by Herod, will be the same one in which Jesus Christ taught during His earthly ministry.
Haggai 2:10ff contains the third message. It was delivered on the
24th day of the ninth month of the same year. In this third sermon,
Haggai described the infectious nature of sin. Using an analogy taken
from the law, he showed the people that just because they were living
in the holy land, and participating in the offerings and sacrifices, this
did not make them acceptable to God as long as they remained personally unclean through disobedience.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying,
If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch
bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the
priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a
dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered
and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this
people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.
Haggai showed that a man whose life was defiled by neglect of his
responsibilities to God could not sanctify himself by mere outward conformity to ritual. The analogy he made was that just as contact with a dead body produced ceremonial uncleanness, until it was purged by the proper rites, even so, worship and offerings from disobedient people were defiled in God’s sight until they were purified by total obedience.
A disobedient person is defiled in the sight of God and consequently
every work of his hands is also defiled. Limited obedience in the form
of sacrifices, cannot cleanse or make holy a person who is disobedient to God’s commands. And contrariwise, disobedience affects everything he offers and makes it unclean. Sin infects everything!
These priests, who heard Haggai’s message, were conforming to
outward ritual but were not obedient in their hearts to the Law of God.
This principle has its New Testament equivalent in John 14:21, where
the Lord Jesus said, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.“ Religion, or the outward trap-pings and rituals of religion, will not substitute for an obedient heart
(I Sam. 15:22).
Promise to Zerubbabel
The fourth message begins in verse 20 and was also delivered on
the 24th day of the month. It concerned Zerubbabel.
Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the
heavens and the earth; ... In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I
take thee, 0 Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shaltiel, saith the
Lord, and will make thee as a signet. for I have chosen thee, saith
the Lord of hosts.
We need to realize that during the time of Exile, the continuity had been broken between the exilic and post-exilic people, and the earlier promises which had been made to the pre-exilic descendents of David. Haggai, in his fourth sermon, links Zerubbabel to the Messianic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant, showing that through Zerubbabel, the descendents of David would continue without interruption. This is verified in Matthew 1:12, in the genealogy of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In verse 12, we see that the lineage of Joseph is traced back through Zerubbabel and Solomon to David. God strengthened Zerubbabel in those critical days of responsibility and re-confirmed the Davidic Covenant to the post-exilic community.
There are critics who attack this book also. They believe that
Haggai was reviving the doctrine of an ideal king and had mistakenly
identified Zerubbabel as the long-awaited Messiah. These critics use
chapter 2:2-23 as their proof of the Messianic character ascribed to
Zerubbabel, the prince of David’s house. Because, in his second discourse, Haggai had announced the shaking of the nations of the earth, and he repeats the announcement in his fourth discourse, as if to link the two events together. Haggai promised that the shaking of the thrones of the kingdoms would pave the way for the establishment of the kingdom of God under the rule of the Messianic king Zerubbabel. So, according to these critics, subsequent history would prove that Haggai was in error when he erroneously centered his Messianic hopes around this descendent of David, named Zerubbabel, who would establish the kingdom of God.
I cannot accept this position. In fact, this erroneous conclusion
has no historical basis whatever. It is just another critical allusion that is superimposed on the text of Haggai.
Haggai is the inspired author of this text. We know that this portion
of his book is Messianic, because other Messianic passages are found in his prophecies, such as in 2:7; the Desire of all nations; that is, the Messiah Himself.
What then is the true meaning of the passage? I believe that Haggai
set forth a message of consolation and hope. In Haggai’s message, the Lord promised to establish Zerubbabel, who, although only a temporary ruler approved by the Persians, was also a descendent of David and an ancestor of the true Messiah. So, the chosen line of David was reconfirmed in Zerubbabel and was to remain intact even though the kingdoms of the earth would disappear.
LXXXIV ZECHARIAH: PROPHET OF APOCALYPSE
Two months after the messages of Haggai began, the prophet
Zechariah began to preach in Jerusalem. In 1:1 he tells us that the word of the Lord came to him in the eighth month of the second year of Darius. From this we know that he began to receive his visions and
messages during the revitalization movement to rebuild the temple.
The differences between these two prophets appear to be that while
Haggai’s job was primarily to motivate the people to the outward physical task of rebuilding the temple; Zechariah, on the other hand, took up the prophetic end of the ministry and tried to motivate the people to a complete spiritual change. The prophecy of Haggai was primarily centered around the local historical situation as it affected the post-exilic community in Judah. Zechariah’s prophecies are universal in scope; they are both eschatological and apocalyptic.
Survey of Contents
The book of Zechariah can be divided into two distinct sections.
Chapters 1-8 consist of prophetic visions and chapters 9-14 contain assorted prophecies of the future. There are four natural divisions in the book: The introductory address (or call to repentance) is in 1:1-6. Then there is a series of eight visions which are followed by a symbolic trans-action.
These were all given to Zechariah in one night and although
they had reference to the historical situation, they were also
eschatological, extending to the latter days. These eight visions, and the symbolic transaction, are recorded in 1:7-6:15.
The third division is an address given in the fourth year of Darius,
which was two years later than his first message. It was in answer to the question of a deputation of men from Bethel. This is contained in chapters 7 and 8.
The fourth division is a prophecy delivered at a later period of
time. It looks beyond the prophet’s own day and is totally eschatological. It deals with the future of Israel, the future of the Gentile world powers, and the Messianic Kingdom. These prophecies are contained in chapters 9-14. This final eschatological division is divided into two parts.