Jeremiah 34 - 36 - Outline of Jeremiah (Book Notes menu page)
God's Word stands Sure, though disobeyed and disregarded.

I. God's sure Word to Zedekiah regarding the outcome of the siege. (34:1-7)
  1. The time of the message:
    during the final siege of Jerusalem (34:1), after the entire country had fallen, with the exception of two other walled cities, which were also under siege (34:6,7). Lachish was 23 miles southwest, and Azekah was 18 miles west southwest of Jerusalem. Babylon, approaching from the north, had completely overrun the country.
  2. The essence of the message:
    1. the fate of the city: It would fall and be destroyed by fire. (34:2)
    2. the fate of Zedekiah (34:3-5): his captivity, his death in captivity (cp. 32:4,5), the mourning for him.
      The "burnings of the former kings" refer to ceremonies of honor (eg., for good king Asa, 2Chr 16:14; but not for evil king Jehoram, 2Chr 21:19). The predicted mourning for Zedekiah was in contrast to the unceremonious disposal of Jehoiakim's body (cp. Jer 22:18,19).
           Because of this prophecy, some feel that Zedekiah turned his heart to the LORD, in captivity. However, in Jer 24:8, Zedekiah is named among the "evil figs" which were not restorable, in contrast to the believing remnant (the "good figs") who would be given hearts to seek the LORD. So, perhaps the honor afforded Zedekiah by the people in captivity, was primarily mourning for the loss of the kingdom, as symbolized by the loss of its final king (Lam 4:20).
  3. The certainty of the message: "...for I have pronounced {spoken} the word, saith the LORD." (34:5b)
    In ch.34-36, the Hebrew word "dabar" is used 9x in its verb form, meaning "to speak, to pronounce, to declare" (except for one occurrence, all refer to the LORD's message to or through Jeremiah), and 27x in its noun form, translated as the "word" (that which was spoken). The line quoted above could be translated: "for I have pronounced the pronouncement, saith the LORD."
II. The certainty of God's Word demonstrated to Zedekiah by contemporary events.
  1. Disregard of the Covenant with God, illustrated by Zedekiah's ineffective covenant (34:8-22)
    1. Zedekiah's covenant of Liberty (34:8-11)...
      • was an act of desperation, during an earlier siege of Jerusalem.-
        That earlier siege was interrupted by the Egyptian army (Jer 37:5).
        However, this covenant, established by Zedekiah's decree, is not recorded elsewhere.
      • was a commitment to release all Jewish slaves within the city. There were dual motivations:
        • a show of righteousness, to gain God's favor.
        • a bid to recruit more defenders of the city (ie., the freed servants).
      • was in keeping with God's Covenant (ie., the Mosaic Law, 34:12-15; Ex 21:2; Deu 15:12).
        Israelites were not to enslave their Jewish brothers and sisters. Jewish servants were to be set free after six years of service. The city was under judgment, in part, because this law had been neglected. Therefore, Zedekiah made a covenant with the people, whereby the slaves were released.
      • was made before the LORD, in the Temple (34:15).
      • was made by blood (34:18; cp. Gen 15:10,17).
        The people had pledged to keep the terms of the covenant, under penalty of death.
    2. Their covenant of Liberty was disregarded and broken by king and people,
      though they had sworn, to the LORD, that they would keep it. (34:11-16)
      When the immediate danger had passed (37:5), the freed slaves were again brought under bondage.
    3. The serious consequences of disregard for God's covenant (34:17-22)...
      • violation of proclaimed liberty, results in loss of liberty (34:17).
        For enslaving their brethren, whom God had freed (34:13,14),
        they would be given "into the hand of their enemies" (34:20a,21a)
      • violation of blood covenant, results in loss of life (34:18-22).
        For breaking the covenant, which they had sworn on penalty of death,
        they would be given "into the hand of them that seek their lives" (34:20b,21b)
      • invalidation of the purpose of Zedekiah's covenant (ie., to escape Nebuchadnezzar's siege).
        Although the Babylonian armies had withdrawn for a time, they would return (37:5-9). As Zedekiah received this message, he was painfully aware that they had returned (34:1). He had hoped to escape, but it was increasingly evident that he would be given "into the hand of the king of Babylon's army" (34:21c, 22).
      Note: Today also, professed participation in a blood covenant with the Lord, has serious consequences for those who go their own way. (Heb 10:29; 2Pet 2:1)
  2. Disregard of the spoken Word of God,
    contrasted with the Rechabites' reverence for their ancestor's words. (35:1-19)
    ("I have spoken unto you speaking... I sent my prophets, saying..." 35:14b,15a)
    1. The demonstration of reverence for the word of Jonadab (35:1-11)
      • This event took place sometime during the reign of Jehoiakim (10-20 years prior to this final siege).
        It is recalled here, for Zedekiah's benefit, as an illustration, of the certainty of God's Word.
      • The Rechabites (35:2,3) were descended from Hobab, Moses' father-in-law.
        These people, also referred to as Kenites, accompanied the children of Israel on their journey from Egypt to Canaan (Num 10:29; Jud 1:16; 4:11; 1Chr 2:54,55).
           Jonadab, the son of Rechab (35:6), had fought alongside Jehu (one of the better kings of the northern kingdom of Israel) to eradicate Baal worship (2Kin 10:15-28). This clan had maintained a nomadic lifestyle, at the direction of Jonadab, until the presence of the Babylonian army forced them to seek refuge in the city (35:10,11). Jaazaniah is mentioned as a prominent leader of this clan (35:3).
      • This event would have been well attested (35:4), having taken place in a prominent place
        (a centrally located chamber of the Temple), before men of authority and renown: the sons of "a man of God" (ie., of a prophet), the "princes" (ie., temple officials), a keeper of the door (a position of responsibility).
      • At the LORD's instruction, Jeremiah set wine before the sons of Jonadab (35:5).
        This should be viewed as a presentation of social honor, rather than an invitation to drunkenness. The abundance of wine indicated the greatness of the honor (cp. Esther 1:7; Joh 2:10). Yet, they refused the honor, holding their ancestor's words in higher regard (35:6-11).
    2. The denunciation of disregard for the Word of God (35:12-15)
      • Jonadab's commands may or may not have been reasonable (eg., 35:6,7), but they were obeyed.
      • The LORD's ways and instructions are perfect (Psa 19:7), yet they are ignored.
    3. The consequences (35:16-19)
      • upon disobedient Judah: the Word pronounced against them would be fulfilled (35:17).
        The Word of the LORD, which Zedekiah had heard, would come to pass (34:1-5).
        When Jerusalem fell, many officials, including those who were witnesses to the example of the Rechabites (eg., priests and keepers of the door), were among those singled out for destruction by Nebuchadnezzar (2Kin 25:18-21).
      • upon the obedient sons of Jonadab: a perpetual place of honor before the LORD (35:18,19).
        At the time of Jerusalem's fall, Jaazaniah is mentioned among the survivors (35:3; 2Kin 25:22,23). He is called a Maachathite, because he had been displaced from Maachah, a region northeast of the Sea of Galilee (cp. 35:11).
  3. Disregard of the written Word of God, as shown by Jehoiakim's destruction of the scroll (36:1-32)
    1. The time of this incident is clearly stated as during the fourth and fifth years of Jehoiakim's reign (36:1,9).
      Thus, it took place about 15 years prior to the time of Jeremiah's discourse with Zedekiah, during the final siege of Jerusalem. Like the incident with the Rechabites (in ch.35), this incident is recalled and rehearsed for Zedekiah's benefit, to impress upon him the certainty of God's Word and the necessity of giving heed to all that He has spoken.
    2. The book written (36:1-10)...
      • was God's Word (36:2,4).- These verses describe the inspiration and recording of scripture.
        • "...all the words of the LORD, which He had spoken {pronounced}..."
        • The words received from the LORD, by the prophet, were committed to writing. 2Pet 1:20,21
      • was intended to warn of judgment, to call the people to repentance,
        in order to enable the LORD's forgiveness and cleansing, to avoid the LORD's wrath (36:3,7).
      • was read to the people by Baruch, the scribe (36:4-10).-
        • because of Jeremiah's imprisonment (36:5).
          The details of Jeremiah's imprisonment under king Jehoiakim are unknown. However, Jehoiakim's reign was characterized by the shedding of much innocent blood (2Kin 24:4,5), including the murder of Urijah (another true prophet). During Jehoiakim's reign, Jeremiah narrowly escaped a death sentence, when he was put on trial for treason (Jeremiah ch.26).
        • in the Temple (36:8).- The reading of "the Words of the LORD in the LORD's house"
          was apparently an unusual occurrence, during the reign of ungodly king Jehoiakim.
        • on the occasion of a fast (36:6b, 9) -
               This was a specially proclaimed fast (36:9) in the ninth month. There is no record of this fast elsewhere. None of Israel's regular feasts or fasts falls in this month. (The ninth month was mid-winter, corresponding to December, and explaining the fire on the hearth.)
               The Law commanded observation of one annual scheduled fast, the Day of Atonement, in the seventh month, for the purpose of personal and national repentance (Lev 16:29; 23:27-32). Evidently, the Day of Atonement had been neglected.
               Judging from the response to the written Word, the proclamation of this fast was not a call for repentance. However, the calling of a fast suggests an appeal to God for deliverance from some national distress. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim (36:1), Jerusalem was threatened by Nebuchadnezzar, due to one of Jehoiakim's repeated rebellions against Babylon. In Jehoiakim's eleventh year, Nebuchadnezzar took the king and a number of princes into captivity, which marked the beginning of the prophesied 70 years captivity (2Kin 24:1; Jer 25:1-11).
               Several months after Jehoiakim was deposed, Nebuchadnezzar had appointed Zedekiah as king. Therefore, he was very familiar with this history, which Jeremiah was rehearsing.
    3. The response received (36:10-26) -
      • some of the elders were afraid (36:16).
        They enquired as to how Baruch had received this convicting message.
        "He (Jeremiah) pronounced all these words... and I wrote them with ink..." (36:18).
           Here, "pronounced" is translated from a different Hebrew word (qarab) meaning "to bring near." The 'word' {HB= dabar} which God 'had spoken' {HB= dabar} to the listening heart of His prophet (36:2) was 'brought near' to insensitive and unbelieving hearts, through His written Word. (cp. 'qarab' in Deu 30:14, "is nigh"; Psa 119:169, "come near")
      • Jehoiakim, in unbelief and utter disdain...
        • destroyed the scroll (36:21-24),
          despite the appeals of a few of the elders to preserve it (36:25).
        • disregarded the Word of God.
          The king and his advisors "were not afraid, nor rent their garments..." (36:24)
          To tear one's garment would be an indication of grief and/or repentance.
          (Contrast the response of King Josiah, about 18 years earlier, 2Kin 22:10-13.)
        • threatened the lives of Jeremiah and Baruch (36:26).
      • The consequences (36:27-32)
        • God's written Word was preserved despite being burned in the fire (36:27-28,32).
        • God would fulfill every detail of His written Word (36:29; cp. 36:7b; 35:17, Mat 24:35; 5:18).
          • Jehoiakim, and his companions, would be overtaken by the things of which God's Word had warned them. (36:30,31).
          • Jehoiakim's royal lineage would be cut off (at his son Jeconiah's brief reign, Jer 22:30).
          • Jehoiakim's death without burial would be ignominious (36:30; Jer 22:19).
          All of these things had come to pass, before Jeremiah's interaction with Zedekiah.
        Zedekiah had heard God's Word (eg., 34:1-5). He had seen the consequences of his predecessor's disregard of God's Word. How would he respond?
Archaeological Note:
     In the 1970's, archaeologists discovered a cache of bullae in Jerusalem. A bulla is a lump of clay, which was flattened to seal official documents. The sender's name would be impressed upon the clay seal with a signet ring or similar engraved tool.
     The bullae in this cache were apparently hardened by the fire that destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. The sealed documents were consumed, but the clay was hardened, preserving these artifacts.
     The names of three men who are mentioned in Jeremiah ch.34-36 were found on different bulla.
[Condensed from "Bulla Lesson from Jeremiah 36," Israel My Glory magazine, July/August 2013, pg. 24.]

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