The Book of JEREMIAH
James J. Barker
A STERN MESSAGE TO KING ZEDEKIAH
- The book of Jeremiah revolves around the fall of Jerusalem.
- The book of Jeremiah is not in strict chronological order.
- The first twenty chapters take place during the reign of King Josiah and his son Jehoahaz.
- Now from chapter 21 through 34, most of the prophecies and events take place during the reign of King Zedekiah (21:1).
- King Josiah was the last good king of Judah.
- The four kings who followed him were all bad -- Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah, the last king of Judah.
- King Zedekiah was the third, and the youngest, son of King Josiah, and he was also the brother of King Jehoahaz, who had reigned only three months, and was then deposed by the Babylonians.
- King Zedekiah's original name was Mattaniah; but King Nebuchadnezzar changed his name to Zedekiah.
- King Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah on the throne as the successor to Zedekiah's nephew Jehoiachin.
- The Bible says King Zedekiah "did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon" (II Kings 24:19, 20; cf. Jeremiah 52:2, 3).
- King Zedekiah began his reign at the age of twenty-one. At that time Judah was paying tribute to Nebuchadnezzar; but, despite the strong remonstrances of Jeremiah, Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon, and entered into an alliance with the king of Egypt.
- This provocation brought Nebuchadnezzar and his army up against Jerusalem. Zedekiah didn't realize it wasn't just King Nebuchadnezzar he was provoking, but God (21:3-6).
- The events described here in Jeremiah 21 took place in the year 589 BC (Scofield Study Bible) when the mighty Babylonian army was camped outside the walls of Jerusalem.
- King Zedekiah looked to Egypt for help, and when that didn't work he sent messengers to the prophet Jeremiah (21:1, 2).
MESSAGE TO KING ZEDEKIAH
- King Zedekiah sent two emissaries to Jeremiah. One of the messengers was a man named Pashur, the son of Melchiah (21:1). This is not the same Pashur referred to in Jeremiah chapter 20. That Pashur was the son of Immer (20:1).
- The other messenger was a man named Zephaniah, the son of Maaseiah the priest (21:1). We are told in chapter 52 that this Zephaniah was killed in Riblah in the land of Hamath.
- King Zedekiah's message shows no hint of repentance or remorse (21:2). He expected the LORD to deal graciously with him, even though he was a wicked rebel.
- Psalm 18:25 and 26 says, "With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward."
- King Zedekiah was not upright. He was froward, and Psalm 18:26 says, "With the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward."
- Jeremiah's reply to King Zedekiah was from the LORD (21:3-7). Several times Jeremiah says, "saith the LORD" (21:4, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14).
- It was a stern message of judgment. God Himself was going to fight against King Zedekiah (21:5). King Nebuchadnezzar would be his instrument of judgment.
- The Bible teaches that when God's people rebel against Him, He becomes their enemy.
- Isaiah 63:10 says, "But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them."
- James 4:4 says, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
- Rather than trusting in the LORD, King Zedekiah looked to Egypt (the world) for help. "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4).
- What frightening words -- "therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them."
- That is what the LORD told King Zedekiah He was going to do.
- "I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight..." (21:4).
- "I will assemble them (the Chaldeans) into the midst of this city" (21:4b).
- "And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath" (21:5).
- "And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence" (21:6).
- "And afterward, saith the LORD, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah...into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar" (21:7).
- All throughout the Old Testament we read these encouraging words, "The LORD shall fight for you" (Exodus 14:14; Deut. 1:30; Joshua 10:25; etc.). But now the LORD would fight against them (Jer. 21:5, 6).
MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE OF JUDAH (21:8-10)
- Way back in Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses said, "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."
- Now we see a similar statement in Jeremiah 21:8 -- "Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death."
- They would live if they surrendered to King Nebuchadnezzar, but they would surely die if they continued to resist him (21:8-10).
- If they tried to stay in Jerusalem, death would come "by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence" (21:9; cf. 27:12, 13; 38:2, 3, 17, 18).
- We can certainly apply this choice today: if people choose to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, they will receive eternal life. But if they choose to reject Him, they will suffer eternal damnation (Mark 16:15, 16).
- The city of Jerusalem was marked for destruction and nothing could change that (21:10).
- This old world is marked for destruction and nothing is going to change that.
- God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to set Jerusalem on fire (21:10). Soon God will set this world on fire (cf. II Peter 3:3-14).
MESSAGE TO THE HOUSE OF THE KING (21:11-14)
- "The house of the king" (21:11) refers to the king's court -- the royal family and the chief noblemen.
- They were to "execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled (robbed) out of the hand of the oppressor" (21:12).
- The "inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain" (21:13) is figurative language referring to the people of Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Jerusalem is situated mostly on hills, with valleys between.
- Psalm 48:2 says, "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King."
- The people thought Jerusalem was their strong hold, but actually the LORD was supposed to be their strong hold.
- They thought they were safe from being attacked, not realizing that the LORD Himself was behind the Babylonian invasion (21:13, 14).
G. Campbell Morgan said this about the book of Jeremiah: "First, it teaches us that sin is its own destruction. No policy can outmaneuver God. National rebellion is national ruin. Sin carries within itself the force of its own punishment and its own retribution. Secondly, it affirms that the heart of God is wounded by sin. Judgment is His strange act. He weeps over the doom of a city. Finally it declares that the ultimate victory is with God...We are to learn that God must punish sin, that the most awful fact of sin is that it wounds God; and finally, that if we will but have it so, if we will but turn to Him and listen to His call, He overrules by canceling, and breaking the power of sin, makes again the vessel marred in the hand of the potter" (Living Messages of the Books of The Bible).