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Jeremiah 23-25 Listen
1 Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.
2 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.
3 And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
4 And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.
5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
7 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
8 But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.
Jeremiah refers to the bad leaders of Judah as "pastors." The Hebrew word translated here ("raw-aw´") is usually rendered "shepherd" or "herdman." It's used in 144 Old Testament verses, but only translated "pastor" in 8 of those verses, and they are all in Jeremiah. As a matter of fact, the same Hebrew word is translated "shepherds" in verse 4. He's addressing the leadership of Judah, both civil and spiritual, prophets and priests. Prophets are addressed by name 17 times in this chapter, and priests 3 times. They have led Judah astray with their godless leadership.
With the fall of Judah as a given in verse 2, Jeremiah's prophecy declares that a new leadership team will be put into place (a new group of faithful pastors) headed up by the Messiah. These verses are clearly speaking of the yet-future millennium in terms of Israel's restoration. The specifications of this prophecy were not fulfilled with the return of the exiles beginning in 535 B.C. Christ said in Matthew 19:28 (see notes), "And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." There's your leadership team for the millennium when Christ will gather back to the land of Israel the scattered remnant from the nations of the world.
This "shepherd" analogy used by Jeremiah would have been well known to the corrupt Pharisees to whom Jesus directed his bad shepherd analogy in John 10 after they had kicked the healed, previously-blind man out of the synagogue in John 9. There's no question; they knew Jesus was talking about them when he spoke of the bad shepherds. Click here to read the notes on John 9 and 10.
9 Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.
10 For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.
11 For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.
12 Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD.
13 And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.
14 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
15 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.
16 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
17 They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
18 For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?
19 Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.
20 The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.
21 I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.
23 Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?
24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.
25 I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.
26 How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;
27 Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.
28 The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD.
29 Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?
30 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.
31 Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.
32 Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.
33 And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD.
34 And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the LORD, I will even punish that man and his house.
35 Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbour, and every one to his brother, What hath the LORD answered? and, What hath the LORD spoken?
36 And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man’s word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God.
37 Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the LORD answered thee? and, What hath the LORD spoken?
38 But since ye say, The burden of the LORD; therefore thus saith the LORD; Because ye say this word, The burden of the LORD, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the LORD;
39 Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence:
40 And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.
First of all, we should make certain we understand what is meant by the frequent usage in this passage of the word "burden." It comes from the Hebrew word "mas-saw´." It's a general-use word which describes a heavy load that might be carried. However, in this passage and other prophetic passages it is used figuratively to describe a heavy prophecy - one that carries bad news - burdensome news.
Perhaps the biggest challenge Jeremiah faced with the people of Judah was the constant contention between himself and the false prophets - pretend prophets. These false prophets did not declare the oracles of God, but they claimed they did. So which would you prefer, the doom-and-gloom prophecies or the kinder, gentler, politically-correct prophecies? The people of Judah had been blinded to the truth. They liked the encouraging prophecies from the false prophets. Jeremiah spends the rest of this chapter dealing with these guys. During this same period, Ezekiel similarly takes on the false prophets speaking to the exiled Jews over in Babylon in Ezekiel 13 (see notes).
So...when your fellow prophets and priests are misleading the people, what do you say about them? Here's what Jeremiah's prophecy declares regarding these godless leaders:
Verses 33-38 are a little difficult to understand without being able to capture the essence of the word "burden" as it is used in this context. The Hebrew word is "massa." The word literally refers to the load placed upon the back of a work animal such as a donkey. However, when used by the prophets, they generally refer to a heavy prophecy - usually one that involves doom and gloom. In this passage we see that the false prophets began to use this term in a mocking way against Jeremiah because they gave politically palatable prophecies while Jeremiah gave heavy rebuking prophecies..."burdens." So...in this passage Jeremiah determines not to fuel their taunting; he will not use this word "massa" any longer in reference to his own prophecies.
And finally, Jeremiah prophesies from the Lord concerning these bad, bad prophets in verses 39-40, Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence: And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten. Hey...Jeremiah! Where are your professional ethics? Don't you know it's not ethical to criticize your fellow prophets? It's interesting that Jeremiah treated those God-rejecting leaders the same way that Jesus treated the God-rejecting Sadducees and Pharisees in his day. Let's face it; when so-called "spiritual leaders" are responsible for blinding people of their day to the truth of God, they should be identified and rebuked, just as Jeremiah and Jesus did.
How do you like your figs? (Jeremiah 24)
1 The LORD shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the LORD, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon.
2 One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.
3 Then said the LORD unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.
4 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
5 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.
6 For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up.
7 And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.
8 And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the LORD, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt:
9 And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them.
10 And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers.
Before we get to the fig illustration, let's get a little perspective on the characters in play here. Of course, Nebuchadnezzar was the King of Babylon, but who was Jeconiah? Jeconiah was King Jehoiakim's son, sometimes called Jehoiachin (II Kings 24:8-16, see notes). He was carried as a captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar along with other influential residents of Judah. Meanwhile, his uncle, Zedekiah, was placed upon the throne of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar (II Kings 24:17-20, see notes). As a matter of fact, Jeremiah shortens his name to simply "Coniah" in 22:24 and 37:1. Eighteen-year-old Jehoiachin certainly acquired a lot of nicknames in 100 days of ruling.
Jeremiah has this vision of figs - really good figs, along with some really bad figs. You probably guessed; we are told that the figs are the people of Judah. The good ones will be deported, and the bad ones will stay in Judah. The ones that stay with Zedekiah (a puppet king remaining in Judah) will disgrace Judah (and they did). That's in verse 9, "And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them." However, Judah will be repopulated by the good folks (good figs). The remnant did return with enthusiasm from Babylonian/Assyrian captivity before the end of the century to begin rebuilding. We find this account beginning in Ezra 1 (see notes).
1 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon;
2 The which Jeremiah the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying,
3 From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, that is the three and twentieth year, the word of the LORD hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened.
4 And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear.
5 They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever:
6 And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt.
7 Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the LORD; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.
8 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words,
9 Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations.
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 candle.
11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.
13 And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations.
14 For many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of them also: and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands.
This is a very specific prophecy that Jeremiah issues here. For the purposes of this discussion, note the succession of last five kings of Judah:
The setting for this prophecy is 605 B.C. Josiah's reign is over along with the evil Jehoahaz who reigned only 3 months (II Kings 23:31-35, see notes). Jehoiakim is king, but in name only. Judah has been conquered, but would not completely fall until 586 B.C. So, here we are in 605 B.C., and residents of Judah are being deported to Babylon. This was the year that Daniel and his friends were taken to Babylon. Jeremiah is now prophesying that this captivity will last 70 years. In fact, it was 70 years later when, during the reign of Cyrus the Persian (the Persians defeated the Babylonians), a decree was issued in 536 B.C. that the exiles could return to Judah. So, the captivity of Jeremiah 25 lasted 70 years as Jeremiah prophesied it would.
So...here's your 70-year-exile prophecy in Jeremiah 25:11-12:
And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.
But before this return of the exiles, there's the judgment against all the nations which were conquered by the Babylonians in verse 13, "And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations."
There's a chilling reality in this passage with regard to Nebuchadnezzar's role in this whole ordeal. As the evil conquering Babylonian king, he is nonetheless referred to regarding his relationship to God in verse 9 as "my servant." He is also referred to in such a manner in Jeremiah 27:6 (see notes) and Jeremiah 43:10 (see notes). Sometimes God uses evil entities to accomplish his purposes.
Jeremiah does his scorched-earth prophecy (Jeremiah 25:15-38)
15 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.
16 And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them.
17 Then took I the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me:
18 To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse; as it is this day;
19 Pharaoh king of Egypt, and his servants, and his princes, and all his people;
20 And all the mingled people, and all the kings of the land of Uz, and all the kings of the land of the Philistines, and Ashkelon, and Azzah, and Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod,
21 Edom, and Moab, and the children of Ammon,
22 And all the kings of Tyrus, and all the kings of Zidon, and the kings of the isles which are beyond the sea,
23 Dedan, and Tema, and Buz, and all that are in the utmost corners,
24 And all the kings of Arabia, and all the kings of the mingled people that dwell in the desert,
25 And all the kings of Zimri, and all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of the Medes,
26 And all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth: and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.
27 Therefore thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue, and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you.
28 And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup at thine hand to drink, then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ye shall certainly drink.
29 For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the LORD of hosts.
30 Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, The LORD shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth.
31 A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD.
32 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.
33 And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.
34 Howl, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow yourselves in the ashes, ye principal of the flock: for the days of your slaughter and of your dispersions are accomplished; and ye shall fall like a pleasant vessel.
35 And the shepherds shall have no way to flee, nor the principal of the flock to escape.
36 A voice of the cry of the shepherds, and an howling of the principal of the flock, shall be heard: for the LORD hath spoiled their pasture.
37 And the peaceable habitations are cut down because of the fierce anger of the LORD.
38 He hath forsaken his covert, as the lion: for their land is desolate because of the fierceness of the oppressor, and because of his fierce anger.
There's really no point in leaving anyone out. He prophesies that, beginning with Judah, all the nations are going to fall to Babylon...and, of course, they did. Notice how specific Jeremiah was about those nations that would fall to the Babylonians. God declared it would happen through the prophet Jeremiah, and it happened just as he said it would.
Some might misunderstand this passage to be an end-time reference. First of all, understand that Jeremiah uses the Hebrew word "eretz," which is sometimes translated "earth" and sometimes translated "land." In this case, it's the whole "land" which is conquered by the Babylonians. The ruthless Babylonians mercilessly conquered the nations in that region as described in this passage. The term "in that day" is frequently used in the context of judgment by the Old Testament prophets. It is used to describe a period of time when the judgment takes place, not literally a 24-hour period of time. After displacing the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonians laid claim to everything in sight. The Assyrians had failed to conquer Jerusalem, but the Babylonians did.