Jeremiah: Judgment and Restoration

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Judgment and Restoration

Judgment on Judah, Jeremiah's life, Judgment on the Nations.

Background: Before and after the fall of the Southern Kingdom (586 BC) Jeremiah warns of God's judgment and urges submission to Babylon as the LORD's agent
Theme: Coming judgment, exile, and restoration
Outline: Judgment on Judah, Judgment on the Nations
Key Verse: "For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: 'Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.' But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward." (Jer 7:22-24, NIV)

Jeremiah Chapter Index


The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol I, Old Testament) is an excellent resource and is referred to as the BKC.

Mr. Chad Woodburn, of the Disciples' Institute of Biblical Studies, has made comments on this draft.  I have included them for the sake of fairness to other viewpoints, as I greatly respect his opinion. They are highlighted in blue.

For introductory notes on interpretation of the prophets, see my Notes on Isaiah.

I. Introduction ()

1:4-5 The Hebrew for know (YADA) also may carry the concept of a personal commitment or covenant. Certainly this is seen in the husband-wife relationship of Gen. 4:1.

1:5 The purpose of this verse is to show that God had planned to use Jeremiah as a prophet even before his birth. It is also appropriate for a common use today, as evidence that the LORD is the author of individual human life. "Before I formed you in the womb ..." does indicate an active purpose on the part of God. The intentional interruption (abortion) of God’s active forming of life in the human womb is a very serious matter.

1:6 Moses also claimed inability to speak well at the time of his call (Exodus 4:10).

1:14-16 Notice that "the peoples of the northern kingdoms" as really located East of Jerusalem. Due to the nature of the fertile crescent, trade routes from those eastern kingdoms enter Israel from the north. See the map on page 1121 of Bible Knowledge Commentary and locate Jerusalem and Babylon.

II. Prophecies Concerning Judah (2-45)

2:4-8 The priests did not know God! I fear that this is also true today. I am sorry to report from my personal experience and discussions with dozens of clergymen from various denominations that many simply do not have a personal relationship with the Lord. I advise everyone to ask their religious leaders, "Are you born again? Do you have a personal relationship with the Lord? Are you confident that all of your sins are forgiven?" I know there are a variety of ways to pose such questions. Some clergy will brush off these questions — be careful. Others will cheerfully tell you of how the Lord has led them — rejoice. Sadly, some will honestly have questions about their own faith and may even respect your assurance of faith but not have such faith themselves.

2:15 "Lions have roared." Without much thought we might take the lions to be a figure for Assyrians or other warlike people. However, the NIV Study Bible notes, "Possibly literal (see 2 Ki 17:25-26)." This passage describes how real lions attacked the people the Assyrians settled in Samaria after taking the Northern Kingdom into exile. This was reported to the King of Assyria who responded by sending a Jew to instruct those people in the what the God of that land (the LORD) requires! This led to the mixed race and religion of the Samaritans. It is often troublesome defining literalism. Here, Mr. Dyer (BKC) and I agree on a less than strictly literal interpretation, considering that lions do not burn towns and later verses are clearly speaking of Assyrians. However, the more literal interpretation of animal lions does have support from 2 Kings 17.

[Chad Woodburn] In view of the experience of people with literal lions, the poetic reference to the enemy as lions is particularly graphic.

3:12-18 The BKC states, "Israel and Judah divided as a nation in 931 BC, and have never reunited as a nation under God. The fulfillment of this promise awaits the return of Christ." This is supported by the geneologies in 1st Chronicles, which show that the return from exile under Ezra consisted mainly of Judah and a few from Levi, Benjamin, and Simeon, who had been in the Southern Kingdom.

Another view is that some descendants of both Israel and Judah (indeed, all of the current believing descendants) have become Christians, the collective body of all Christians being called "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. (1 Peter 2:9)" Admittedly this holy nation, the Church, includes Gentiles with Jews. Still, it is Peter who identifies it as a holy nation.

[Chad Woodburn] While that aspect of the prophecy can be seen as fulfilled in the Church, some of the other particulars of the prophecy cannot so easily be seen as fulfilled in the present age. In particular, all nations have not come to Jerusalem (3:17), but rather they are still walking after the stubbornness of their evil heart (contra 3:17).

4:4-6 When we see moral evils, we tend to assume it is due to a bad social environment. This may include poverty, lack of education, a poor environment and other similar causes. Jeremiah saw that it was not so, the rich and educated ‘nobles’ were without these excuses yet did evil.

4:10 False prophets were allowed to speak and forecast peace. We may assume that the leaders and people chose the false prophets over the true prophets. In the same way, many churches in this country and abroad have unbelieving ministers who preach only human wisdom, or an empty ritual religion. God allows this to happen. People choose a false religion over the true gospel, which is widely available in this country at least.

8:8-13 Dressing the wound superficially is similar to our modern phrase "put a Band-Aid on it." Band-Aids are fine for minor scratches, but inappropriate for a major wound or serious cut. The Israelites just wanted to put a Band-Aid over their sin to cover it up, instead of really cleaning it out and dealing with it.

10:11 Although only verse 10:11 in Jeremiah is in Aramaic, this is the third Biblical language. A considerable portion of Daniel is written in Aramaic, which would become the spoken language of the Jews during and after the Exile.

19:7-9 The bodies would feed birds because they would not be buried and no one would chase the birds and wild animals away. They would not only die, but it would be a dishonorable death and the bodies would be desecrated.

23:6 "The LORD our Righteousness" is a translation of the name (it’s meaning) rather than a transliteration (the name itself). Reading it in Hebrew would give us Adonai Tsidqeenu (Jews do not pronounce the sacred name of YHWH (either Yahweh or Jehovah) but substitute Adonai).

25:15-26 Refer to BKC 3: On the ‘atbash’, it must be remembered that vowels were not a part of the original Hebrew text. The analysis in BKC properly considers only the consonants. In later times scribes added vowel pointing which consists of small marks in, under, and over existing consonants. This was presumably done to insure proper pronunciation as Aramaic had become the primary language of Jews (rather than Hebrew) during the Exile. Even today, Hebrew newspapers and common literature are printed as consonantal texts, with vowels being included on legal documents or where a misunderstanding is possible.

33:2-3 Based upon who God is, the creator, He alone has unsearchable knowledge and is the source of revelation for those who will call upon Him. There are unsearchable things that we cannot learn or determine by any ‘scientific’ method except as the Lord chooses to reveal them.

38:6 cistern: Cisterns are usually large pits dug to collect rainwater. They could be covered with a large stone rock and sand to prevent discovery. Mud naturally accumulated in the bottom of these cisterns, and anyone falling in could be expected to perish.

38:7 Significantly, it is an Egyptian (Cushite) gentile who pleads for the rescue of Jeremiah. In verse 39:16 the Lord rewards him for his faith put into action.

39:6 Before blinding him, Nebuchadnezzar insures that the last thing Zedekiah will ever see is the slaughter of his family.

41:5 These are great signs of repentance or mourning. However, the Law specifically forbade cutting oneself for this purpose.

III. Prophecies Concerning the Nations (46-52)

50:1-5 Mr. Dyer (BKC) explains why this prophecy cannot refer to the conquest of Babylon by the Persians in 539 BC, and his logic is correct. However, in referring to a future Babylon we abandon a degree of literalism. Babylon in terms of the actual city and the political, social, and ethnic people group once inhabiting it is long gone, certainly by the early centuries of the Christian Era. It is true that modern Iraq covers this territory. Most commentators take the Babylon of the future as a figure for a revived Roman Empire with the characteristics of Babylon. The Babylon of Ezekiel is now destroyed and the prophecy fulfilled. This is not to say that the now fulfilled events may not foreshadow end time events, simply that the historic Babylon has been a ruin for many centuries.

[Chad Woodburn] This ongoing debate is significant. When I was in seminary, my professors presented arguments showing that the larger city of Babylon has been continuously occupied and even now is inhabited. Others would point to the ruins and desolation of the central part of the city as proof that the prophecy has been fulfilled. The dispute seems to revolve around how far out from "downtown" one may go int o the "suburbs" and still be in Babylon. Also, the desolation of Babylon that is mentioned in the passage is the result of invasion. However, the current state of being uninhabited is not the result of a sudden military attack, but of a progressive population decline and relocation.

50:14-16 Again, although not fulfilled in 539 BC it may be considered to have been fulfilled since then.

[Chad Woodburn] But even if we accept that the city was completely abandoned, it was not fulfil led in the way this passage describes. Not only is the WHAT of the prophecy important (the fact that it would be abandoned), but the HOW of the prophecy is equally important (the way it would be abandoned). Even though the other side could claim that it has been abandoned, it cannot (as far as I have seen) claim that it happened this way.

50:39-40 The BKC 1, "Babylon has been inhabited throughout her history" does not give the same picture as these quotes from the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, "Babylon":

"When the Persian Empire fell to Alexander the Great in 330 BC, Babylon was destroyed ... Although remaining an inhabited site, Babylon declined still further in importance under the Parthians (c. 125 BC) and was last mentioned on a Babylonian tablet around 10 BC. At the present time the Baghdad to Bassorah railway line passes within a few yards of the mound that was once the most splendid city of the world."

[Chad Woodburn] But even if we accept that the city was completely abandoned, it was not fulfilled in the way this passage describes. Not only is the WHAT of the prophecy important (the fact that it would be abandoned), but the HOW of the prophecy is equally important (the way it would be abandoned). Even though the other side could claim that it has been abandoned, it cannot (as far as I have seen) claim that it happened this way.

To say the "Babylon has been inhabited throughout her history" is technically correct, but we must take note that her history ended long ago. If Iraq, 2000 years later, rebuilds a city on that site — is it reasonably Babylon? [Chad Woodburn] I think so, in the same way that if Israel, 2000 years later, returns to the Promises land it is reasonably Israel. (However, the ethnic group of Jews reinhabited Israel. When inhabited by others, it was called Palestine, and no one in 1850, before the return of a significant number of Jews to the land, would have applied the prophesies concerning Israel to it.) God did say that Babylon would never again be inhabited. The jury is still out on whether God will allow Iraq to rebuild the city and if a future destruction of Babylon is then required by the prophecy.

51:54-58 Again, concerning the desolation of Babylon:

"Hillah, six miles southwest of Babylon ... has a population of 6000; but not one human dwelling rests upon the site of the ancient city — the glory of the Chaldeans excellency. The Bedouin, though he pastures his flock in the immediate neighborhood, regards the ruins themselves with superstitious dread, and the latter part of the prediction is also fulfilled to the very letter. The tents of the Arabs are freely pitched on the Chaldean plains, but not one of them is pitched on the ruins of Babylon." (John Urquhart, The Wonders of Prophecy, pp 139, Christian Publications, Inc.; 1925)

IV. Conclusions (52)

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Updated March 2012

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