Reflection and Discussion
Read through Jeremiah 21:1–29:32, which will be the focus of this week’s study. Following this, review the questions below concerning this section of the book of Jeremiah and write your responses. (For further background, see the ESV Study Bible, pages 1411–1425; available online at www.esvbible.org.)
1. Jeremiah Opposes Judah’s Kings (21:1–23:8)
Zedekiah, the last king of Judah (597–586 BC), asks Jeremiah to inquire of Yahweh (perhaps in 588 BC, when he refused to pay tribute to Babylon; 21:1–2). Yahweh warns that he himself will fight against Judah, and those who survive will be taken into exile (20:3–7). Those who stay in the city will die, while those who surrender to the Chaldeans will live (21:8–10). In contrast to King Zedekiah’s behavior, how were the kings of God’s people supposed to behave (21:11–22:10)?
The leaders of God’s people are frequently called shepherds. According to Jeremiah 23:1–2, what were the shepherds in his day doing? Look at Ezekiel 34:1–10 to see what God says about these same shepherds. In John 10:1–18 Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd; what does Jesus do, and do differently, that makes him the Good Shepherd?
Yahweh promises to “raise up for David a righteous Branch” to rule over and save God’s people; he will be called “The Lord is our righteousness” (23:5–8). According to 1 Corinthians 1:30, how is this passage fulfilled? Based on Romans 5:12–21, how did that fulfillment take place?
2. Jeremiah Opposes False Prophets (23:9–40)
Prophets were supposed to preach God’s covenant and make accurate predictions (Deut. 13:1–11; 18:15–22). But Jeremiah was forced to contend with false prophets. What does he observe about these false prophets (Jer. 23:9–15)? What is God’s perspective on them (23:16–32)?
3. Jeremiah Opposes the People (24:1–25:38)
In 597 BC King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took a second wave of exiles to Babylon, including many of the elite from Judah (King Jeconiah and the prophet Ezekiel among them), and installed Zedekiah as king of Judah. Soon after, God shows Jeremiah a vision of two baskets of figs (Jer. 24:1–10). The basket of bad figs represents the officials of Judah remaining in the land, who will experience God’s judgment. The basket of good figs represents those exiled to Babylon, whom God will one day bring back to the land of Israel. What does God promise to those he will bring back to the land? Where have we seen the language of verse 6 earlier in Jeremiah?
In Jeremiah 24:7 God promises, “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord.” What does it mean for God to give someone a new heart? Consult Deuteronomy 30:6 and Ezekiel 36:26–28 to fill out your answer.
In Jeremiah 25 the scene shifts back to 605 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar took his first wave of exiles to Babylon (including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; see Dan. 1:1–5). Jeremiah has been preaching his message of repentance and impending judgment, yet Judah has failed to listen (Jer. 25:1–7). According to 25:8–14, what will God do to Babylon? When will this take place? What reason does 2 Chronicles 36:20–21 give for the specific amount of time designated by Jeremiah?
The message of God’s impending judgment continues in Jeremiah 25:15–27. What symbol does God use to portray this judgment? What light does this passage shed on Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36–46)? What was Jesus contemplating as he prayed there?
4. Jeremiah Opposes False Belief (26:1–29:32)
Jeremiah 26 flashes back to 609 BC, after the death of King Josiah and the three-month reign of his son Jehoahaz. The new king is Jehoiakim (609–598), another son of Josiah. Yahweh instructs Jeremiah to stand in the court of the temple and announce Yahweh’s impending judgment if Judah does not repent (Jer. 26:1–6). The leaders threaten to kill Jeremiah (vv. 7–11) but eventually change their mind (vv. 12–24).
Jeremiah 27 flashes forward to the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah in 597 BC. Yahweh commands Jeremiah to illustrate submission to Nebuchadnezzar with yoke bars, warning that Judah will not escape his rule and exile. Several years later (594/593 BC) the false prophet Hananiah responds (ch. 28), claiming that Yahweh will break the yoke of Babylon, return the temple vessels, and bring back the exiles. He symbolizes this by breaking Jeremiah’s yoke bars. Soon afterward Yahweh reassures Jeremiah that Hananiah’s words are not from him, promising that Hananiah will die within the year—which happens just as Yahweh foretold.
In chapter 29, the scene shifts back to 597, when Babylon took the second wave of exiles (including the prophet Ezekiel). Some (e.g., Daniel and his friends) had already been in Babylon for eight years, while others had been there for just a few months. God inspires Jeremiah to write a letter instructing the exiles on how to conduct themselves in Babylon. What instructions does God give the exiles (29:1–9)?
What does Yahweh promise to do for the exiles (29:10–14)?
Read through the following three sections on Gospel Glimpses, Whole-Bible Connections, and Theological Soundings. Then take time to consider the Personal Implications these sections may have for you.
SEEKING THE LORD WHOLEHEARTEDLY. Twice in this section Yahweh speaks of a day when his people will seek him with their whole heart (Jer. 24:6–7; 29:12–14). Both Moses (Deut. 30:6) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 36:26–27) looked forward to a day when God would “circumcise” people’s hearts to seek him. That happens when the Holy Spirit causes a person to be born again (John 3:3–8; Rom. 2:29) and we are changed so that we seek God’s kingdom first (Matt. 6:33). Jesus invites us to “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7–8).
GOD WORKS FOR THE GOOD OF HIS PEOPLE. Amid the exile, God swears that his plans for his people are for their good (Jer. 24:6–7; 29:10–14). This did not mean a life of prosperity and ease, but that everything God was doing was for their ultimate good. God makes the same promise to us in Romans 8:28, grounding it in what God has done for us in Christ: “Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:29–30).
A RIGHTEOUS BRANCH. God had promised David that he would raise up one of his descendants to rule over an eternal kingdom (2 Sam. 7:12–16). Yahweh reaffirms that promise when he swears to “raise up for David a righteous Branch” who will rule wisely and justly (Jer. 23:5). His name will be “The Lord is our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6), a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who as a descendant of David (Rom. 1:3) “became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
THE CUP OF GOD’S WRATH. God’s righteous wrath toward human rebellion is often portrayed as a cup that will be poured out or drunk (Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17–23; Jer. 25:15–27). This is the cup that Jesus contemplates the night before his crucifixion when he prays three times, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39, 42, 44). On the cross Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath stored up for his people so that they would not have to drink it themselves (Matt. 27:45–50; Rom. 3:21–26). As a result, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). There will come a day when God will pour out his cup of wrath on all the wicked (Rev. 14:10; 16:19; 17:4; 18:6) who have not turned to Christ.
TRUE VERSUS FALSE PROPHECY. Throughout his lifetime Jeremiah had to deal with false prophets claiming to speak in the name of the Lord (e.g., Jer. 23:9–40; 28:1–17; 29:15–32). Moses warned that a prophet’s words must be tested by their fidelity to what the Lord has already revealed and by whether or not what they prophesy comes to pass (Deut. 18:21–22). As believers, we have the words of true prophets confirmed in Scripture itself (1 Pet. 1:10–12).
THE WORD OF THE LORD. In contrast to the empty words of false prophets, God’s words are like a fire and a hammer that smashes rock (Jer. 23:29). Yahweh says that his word “shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). Elsewhere the word of the Lord is described as “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). What a privilege it is for us to have this word of the Lord in written form to read, study, memorize, and apply!