Jeremiah 29 - Outline of Jeremiah (Book Notes menu page)
Letters to the Captives: Conflict with False Prophets already in exile (ch. 29)
This chapter consists of two letters sent by Jeremiah.
I. Counsel to the Jews in captivity (29:1-23)
  1. The Postmark on Jeremiah's letter (v.1-3)
    1. Addressees - the captives in Babylon, including elders, priests, prophets and people (v.1).
      • "...unto the residue {ie., remnant} of..." - Those addressed were the portion of Judah's population, which had been carried away captive to Babylon, in the first two deportations. They represented a minority of the nation. Yet, among them, few would heed the message of this letter. Those few were the believing remnant.
    2. Time sent - following the captivity of Jeconiah (v.2; cp. 2Kin 24:12-16).
      • Note those who were taken captive.
        Although the percentage of the population in captivity was still small, they represented a high percentage of the educated and skilled men. Similarly, Daniel and his three companions were among a select group which was deported in the third year of Jehoiakim's reign (the first year of king Nebuchadnezzar), about seven years prior to the deportation under Jeconiah. The intent of Babylon was to weaken Judah by deporting the intelligentsia, and to strengthen themselves politically by re-educating the young elite in the ways of Babylon. (Dan 1:1-6)
      • The precise time of Jeremiah's letter is not given.
        However, it seems likely that it was very early in the reign of Zedekiah, who was installed as king by Nebuchadnezzar at the time of Jeconiah's deportation (2Kin 24:17). This letter conveys the substance of the Message of the Yokes (ch.27-28), to those who could not hear it, due to their absence.
    3. Method of delivery (v.3) -
      • "By the hand of Elasah son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah..." -
        Hilkiah was the high priest who discovered the Book of the Law. Shaphan was the scribe who read it to king Josiah (2Kin 22:8). Both men had been instrumental in the revival under Josiah. So, it is possible that their sons, Elasah and Gemariah, were favorable toward Jeremiah and his message.
      • "...whom Zedekiah... sent... to Nebuchadnezzar..." - Elasah and Gemariah were probably on a diplomatic mission to Babylon, following the political summit, with representatives from neighboring nations, which Zedekiah had recently hosted (27:3).
  2. The LORD's Word regarding the captives already in Babylon (v.4-14) -
    • Although Jeremiah sent this letter, he had nothing to say for himself.
      He wrote as he spoke: the Words which the LORD put in his mouth. (Jer 1:6-9; 2Pet 1:20,21)
    • The essence of the message:
      1. Serve Babylon and live (v.4-7; cp. Jer 27:11,12,17)
        They were to settle in for a long stay (v.5,6), be good citizens, and pray for the peace of Babylon (v.7). In doing so, they would have peace. (eg., The example of Daniel and his companions.) "Those who heed God's counsels find a measure of tranquility and prosperity" even in a time and place of judgment. [in quotes, from GWms]
      2. God's Word will prevail over the word of the false prophets (v.8,9; cp. 27:9-10,14-16)
        • The false prophets proclaimed that the captivity would soon be ended (27:16).
        • The LORD said that the captivity would last for 70 years (v.10; cp. Jer 25:12; 27:7,21-22)
      3. God's Word is the Hope of the believing remnant (v.10-14)
        • thoughts of peace and not of evil... (v.10) -
          Though they would endure a time of evil {HB= ra', ie., misery, distress, injury, and wrong}, the Lord's purpose for His people is everlasting peace {HB=shalom, ie., tranquility, contentment, safety, well-being, prosperity}.
        • an expected end... (v.11) - "expected" means there is "a ground of hope." (cp. these words in Jer 31:17; Prov 23:17,18).
          This is the OT equivalent of "things hoped for" (Heb 11:1).
          Faith believes God's Word and waits for the promised redemption:
          - in the near view, the restoration of the remnant to Jerusalem (v.10),
          - in the far view, the restoration of all things, at Christ's return (Acts 3:19-21).
        • The LORD works in behalf of those who wholeheartedly seek Him (v.12-14) -
          Again, we have the example of Daniel and his companions, in seeking the Lord (Dan 2:17-19) and in watching for the "expected end" (Dan 9:1-3). The answer to Daniel's enquiry extends to the final restoration (Dan 9:24).
        • The LORD's promises to the believing remnant...
          • Ye shall call upon Me... I will hearken unto you.
          • Ye shall seek Me... I will be found of you.
          • I will turn away your captivity.
          • I will gather you from the nations.
          • I will bring you again into the place from which you were taken.
        [Many Christians are quick to claim the promises, of v.11-14, as assurance that God hears and answers our prayers. While that is true (1Joh 5:14,15), we must remember that God issued these promises specifically to Israel's believing remnant, in regard to the future restoration of their land and kingdom.]
  3. The Lord's Word regarding the residents of Jerusalem who were not yet captive (v.15-19).-
    Contrary to the false prophets' assertion that the captivity would soon end (v.15), those who still remained in Jerusalem (v.16) would soon suffer the effects of a siege, followed by dispersion to distant lands (v.17,18). They were like vile figs (the fig tree is a picture of Israel), which were so bad that their scattering would be without hope of return (cp. Jer 24:8-10). The reason for such severe treatment was their disregard of God's Word (v.19). (The promise of restoration was for the "good figs," the believing remnant already in captivity. 24:5-7)
  4. The Lord's Word regarding two false prophets among the captives (v.20-23).-
    • Ahab and Zedekiah (not the kings by those names) are unknown except for these verses.
    • They prophesied a lie in God's name (cp. v.8,9; 27:16).-
      The people regarded them as spokesmen for the Lord (v.15), but the Lord knew their hearts (v.23; cp. 17:9,10).
    • ...of them shall be taken up a curse (v.22a; cp. 26:6).-
      Their fate would be a visible illustration of the wrath of God, and would become a proverb for evil, taken up on the lips of the captives in Babylon.
    • ...whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire. (v.22b).-
      As Jeremiah wrote the content of the curse, the event which the curse would remember had not yet occurred.
         Such an occasion is recorded in Daniel 3. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar's image, and placed their trust wholly in the Lord. He delivered them from the flames (Dan 3:16-18). It may be that these false prophets also refused to bow before the image, but for the wrong reasons. Trusting their own false message, they believed Nebuchadnezzar's power would soon be broken, and their captivity reversed. Nebuchadnezzar would have regarded their stance as political rebellion. The Lord, knowing the moral and spiritual corruption of these men, delivered them to the fires of judgment.
II. Correspondence pertaining to another false prophet, among the captives (v.24-32) -
  1. The occasion of this letter (v.24,25) -
    • This section, of ch.29, is another letter sent by Jeremiah, some time after the letter above.
      This letter was occasioned by a letter sent by Shemaiah the Nehelamite (who was a false prophet among the captives), to Zephaniah the high priest in Jerusalem. (Zephaniah was one of the priests whom Zedekiah sent to enquire of the Lord via Jeremiah (21:1-14; 37:3).
    • "Because thou hast sent letters... unto the people... to Zephaniah... to all the priests..."-
      Apparently, Shemaiah had written to Zephaniah the high priest in Jerusalem. But he made it an open letter, by sending multiple copies ('letters') to other priests and to be posted in public places for the people. Shemaiah's letter demanded punitive action against Jeremiah.
         The purpose of Jeremiah's letter was to convey the LORD's judgment upon Shemaiah, for his attack against His true prophet (Jeremiah). The "because..." (of v.25) is answered by the "therefore..." in v.32.
  2. The substance of Shemaiah's letter to Zephaniah (v.26-28) -
       (Jeremiah's letter quoted a portion of Shemaiah's letter.)
    • The responsibility of Zephaniah -
      As high priest, Zephaniah was charged with guarding against those who would promote falsehood within the kingdom. He was occupying the office filled by Jehoida (about 275 years earlier), who defended and preserved the Davidic line, following the death of king Ahaziah, whose wicked mother, Athaliah, murdered all (but one) of the king's sons and usurped the throne, making herself queen (2Chr 22:10- 23:21).
         Similar bold action was necessary against 'mad' {insane} men, who currently present themselves as prophets who speak for God.
    • A reprimand of Zephaniah - for inaction against Jeremiah (v.27),
      who was obviously such a mad man. cp. Acts 26:24
    • The evidence against Jeremiah (v.28) - was the letter he wrote to the captives (v.4-7).
      Jeremiah's message was completely out of sync with the false prophets (v.8-10).
      On a prior occasion, Jeremiah had been put on trial, in Jerusalem, for speaking words which were considered traitorous and blasphemous (26:8-24).
  3. The substance of Jeremiah's reply (v.29-32) -
    • The Word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah...- Again, Jeremiah has no words of his own.
    • The LORD identified Shemaiah as a false prophet. (v.31)
    • The LORD pronounced punishment against Shemaiah (v.32) -
      • He would have no male descendant to carry on his name (v.32a).
      • Neither he, nor his seed, would live to see the promised restoration (v.32b).
        Scripture does not record what happened to Shemaiah. Several 'Shemaiahs' (but no 'Nehelamite') are listed among the returned remnant in Ezra and Nehemiah. Shemaiah {meaning 'Jehovah has heard'} was a relatively common name in the OT.
           Earlier, we observed the fate of Hananiah, another false prophet (Jer 28:15-17).
           Although Shemaiah the Nehelamite was not among them, some of his contemporaries did live to see the promised restoration, about 70 years later (eg., Ezra 3:11,12).

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