Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lecture Four: Jeremiah and the Destruction of Jerusalem


The man

Descendant of Abiathar, David’s high priest.

Jeremiah was probably about the same age as King Josiah when he began his ministry.

Jeremiah’s ministry spans more than forty years, and took place during the reign of Josiah as well as his four successors, the last kings of Judah.

Jeremiah saw the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians.

Jeremiah did not want to be a prophet.

The book

The book of Jeremiah is arranged according to theme rather than chronology.

The book of Jeremiah existed in at least two canonical forms in ancient times.

The Greek version is about one-eighth shorter than the Hebrew version.

The two versions are arranged in different orders.

Oracles of Judgment (1:1–29:32)

Jeremiah’s Call (1:4-19)

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Sermons on Sin, Judgment, Love, and Forgiveness (2:1–6:30)

A failing marriage

“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
    how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,
    through a land not sown.”

“What fault did your ancestors find in me,
    that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols
    and became worthless themselves.”

A story of two sisters

Israel was wicked so God exiled her.

Judah learned nothing from this, and became worse than her sister Israel.

Trouble from the north

God will send the Babylonians to destroy Judah.

God challenged Jeremiah to find a single righteous person in Jerusalem.

They have turned their backs to me
    and not their faces;
yet when they are in trouble, they say,
    ‘Come and save us!’”

Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband.”

In the future, “they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord. No longer will they follow… their evil hearts.”

Sermons on the Outcome of Judah’s Depravity (7:1–10:25)

The people had turned God’s house into a “den of robbers” and believed God would keep them safe as they sinned.

Just as God destroyed His house at Shiloh, so too will He destroy His house in Jerusalem.

In the place where the people sacrificed their own children, God will pile up their bodies in slaughter.

The Covenant with Yahweh is Broken (11:1–15:21)

“Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them. From the time I brought your ancestors up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, “Obey me.” But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.’”

The Plot Against Jeremiah

The people of Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth plotted to kill him, but God warned him about it, and promised that He would punish these people.

Jeremiah’s Complaint

“Everything you do is righteous, LORD…but can I have a word with you about your justice?”

“Why do you let the wicked prosper?”

God’s Answer

“If you have raced with men on foot
    and they have worn you out,
    how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble in safe country,
    how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?”

God again warns Jeremiah that his relatives are planning to kill him.

God’s Underwear?

God tells Jeremiah to buy new underwear

God tells Jeremiah to bury his new underwear

God tells Jeremiah to go find his buried underwear

God tells Jeremiah that Israel and Judah have become like dirty underwear to Him

Threat of Captivity

The kings and queens of Judah have been poor shepherds of their flocks.

“Can the leopard change his spots?”

“You’re so bad you couldn’t do good if you tried!”

“I will expose your shameless prostitution!”

“I will pull your skirts up over your face!”

False Prophets

God will destroy His people with “famine, sword, and plague.”

False prophets preached the opposite to the people.

“The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds…”

“Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people.”

Sin, Judgment, and Grace (16:1–17:27)

Day of Disaster

God told Jeremiah not to get married or have kids.

Everyone is going to be destroyed.

God told Jeremiah not to go to funerals.

Everyone’s going to die anyway.

God told Jeremiah not to go to weddings or feasts.

All celebrating would soon cease.

“However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.”

“Cursed (Arur) is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush (arar) in the wastelands;
    they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
    in a salt land where no one lives.”

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree (acacia) planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”
-- Jeremiah 17:5-8

Acacia in a Wadi

God’s Sovereignty (18:1–20:18)

The potter’s house

God is the potter

God’s people are the clay

The clay could not be shaped into what the potter wanted, so he shaped it to be something else.

Jeremiah smashes a jar

Symbolized the coming destruction of Jerusalem for all the innocent people they had killed, including sacrificing their children at the “tophit.”

The priest Pashhur didn’t like Jeremiah’s message and had him beaten and put in the stocks.

When Jeremiah was released the next day, he gave a new name to Pashhur – “Terror on Every Side.”

Jeremiah despairs of God’s calling

“You tricked me, God!”

“You didn’t tell me my job would be so hard!”

“Everybody hates me!”

“Cursed be the day I was born!
    May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!
Cursed be the man who brought my father the news,
    who made him very glad, saying,
    ‘A child is born to you—a son!’”

“Why did I ever come out of the womb
    to see trouble and sorrow
    and to end my days in shame?”

Ungodly Kings and Other Leaders (21:1–23:40)

Judgment against wicked kings

As King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Jerusalem, Zedekiah, Judah’s last king, sent messengers to ask Jeremiah for guidance.

God rejects Zedekiah’s request for “wonders of old” against the Babylonians.

Jeremiah’s list of failed kings (a.k.a. something to cry about):

Jehoahaz only reigned 3 months before Pharaoh exiled him to Egypt.

Jehoiakim was also Josiah’s son, but also a failure.

Jehoiachin was exiled to Babylon and is a “broken pot.”

“…none will sit on the throne of David, or rule in Judah anymore.”

The Righteous Branch

Judah’s other leaders only cared for themselves, but God promised He would someday raise up a righteous leader (“branch”) who would establish justice in the land.

Two Baskets of Figs (24:1-10)

God showed Jeremiah two baskets of figs – one good, one bad.

The good figs represented the exiles in Babylon, whom God would protect, bless, and one day restore.

The bad figs symbolized Zedekiah and those who remained in Jerusalem. This faithless group would die by sword, famine, and disease.

God’s Wrath on the Wicked (25:1-38)

Seventy years of captivity

Because the people of Judah refused to listen to the word of God sent by His prophets, they would be exiled and made to serve the king of Babylon for 70 years.

The cup of God’s wrath

God would cause His people to drink the cup of His wrath, and to spread His wrath among all the peoples to which they would be scattered.

Jeremiah Under Trial (26:1-24)

Jeremiah spoke against God’s holy city.

His defendants pointed out that the prophet Micah had done the same thing during Hezekiah’s reign but was not punished.

Another prophet named Uriah had preached the same message and then fled to Egypt, but was brought back and killed by Jehoiakim.

Jeremiah’s life was spared this time.

Controversy over the Babylonian Yoke (27:1–28:17)

Jeremiah put a yoke on his shoulders and told King Zedekiah that any nation that would not submit to Nebuchadnezzar’s yoke would be punished.

The prophet Hananiah predicted that Judah would be safe.

Hananiah broke Jeremiah’s yoke.

Jeremiah told Hananiah that the wooden yoke he had broken would be replaced with an iron one.

Hananiah died because he prophesied lies in God’s name.

The Letter to the Exiles (29:1-32)

Jeremiah told the exiles to settle down and raise families in Babylon because their rescue was far-off.

Shemaiah told the people they would be delivered very soon and tried to have “that maniac” Jeremiah arrested.

God said he would punish Shemaiah for prophesying lies.

Oracles of Hope (30:1–33:26)

The restoration of Israel

God promised to restore His people from captivity.

God promised to plunder the nations who had plundered His people.

God promised to restore David’s line.

God would turn the mourning and suffering of His people into joy and celebration.

Jeremiah also reported that God was making a new covenant with His people.

Moses wrote the old covenant on scrolls and stone tablets, and as the people read it, they knew what God expected.

But in the new covenant, God would place his law in His people’s hearts to a level He had not done in previous times, and God’s Spirit would guide their lives from within them in a deep, new way.

Jeremiah buys a field

As Jerusalem was under siege, God told Jeremiah to buy a field from his cousin Hanamel.

God intended Jeremiah’s land purchase to be a sign of hope.

One day, Judean land would again have value and God’s people would return and claim it.

Promise of restoration

“If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars in the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.’”

Historical and Biographical Accounts (34:1–45:5)

A Lesson on Covenant Faithfulness (34:1–35:19)

Freedom for slaves

As Nebuchadnezzar’s siege began, Zedekiah initiated a half-hearted attempt to win God’s favor by releasing all Hebrew slaves in accordance with the Mosaic Law, but the people soon reversed the king’s decree and took back their slaves.

God was displeased and said He would “release” His people to sword, pestilence, and famine.

The Rekabites remained faithful to the Covenant

As an object lesson, Jeremiah brought the Rekabites into the Temple and told them to drink wine, but they refused.

Jeremiah wanted to know why this small group of people was able to follow the command of their ancestor, but Judah was unable to follow the command of God.

Jehoiakim Burns the Scroll (36:1-32)

God told Jeremiah to prepare a scroll that contained all of his prophecies.

Jeremiah dictated the words to Baruch, his scribe, who carefully copied them.

Baruch took the scroll and had it tread to Jehoiakim and Judah’s officials.

Jehoiakim cut out the parts he didn’t like and threw them in the fire.

He tried to arrest Jeremiah and Baruch, but they managed to hide and escape.

Jeremiah prepared another scroll as a testimony to that generation and to future generations.

Jeremiah Persecuted (37:1–38:28)

Jeremiah in prison

When Egypt’s army invaded the land to stop the Babylonians’ advance, the Babylonian army temporarily lifted the siege from Jerusalem.

Zedekiah requested Jeremiah’s prayers for the city, but Jeremiah said once the Egyptians left, Nebuchadnezzar would return.

When Jeremiah tried to go to Benjamin on business, he was accused of desertion and arrested.

Later, Zedekiah summoned him and asked for a message from God.

Jeremiah said Babylon would soon take Judah captive.

He also complained about having been kept in prison.

Zedekiah put Jeremiah in the guard’s courtyard and made sure he was fed every day.

Jeremiah thrown in a cistern

Jeremiah preached to the soldiers in the courtyard, and they threw him in a cistern.

A Cushite eunuch named Ebed-Melek and 30 other men rescued him and he remained in the courtyard of the guard.

Zedekiah questions Jeremiah again

Zedekiah was nervous and secretly met with Jeremiah.

Jeremiah told him to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar and he’d be better off, but Zedekiah was too afraid.

The Fall of Jerusalem and Other Related Events (39:1–44:30)

The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem.

They killed Zedekiah’s sons and poked out his eyes.

The Babylonians freed and protected Jeremiah

They liked how he had prophesied against his own people.

Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah as governor over Judah, but he was assassinated by the people after a short time.

The few who remained in Judah were afraid of Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath and fled to Egypt against Jeremiah’s warning.

They dragged Jeremiah along with them.

Jeremiah prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar would soon also destroy Egypt and told the people to turn to Yahweh.

They instead worshiped “The Queen of Heaven” and told Jeremiah to shut up.

A Message to Baruch (45:1-5)

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You said, ‘Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest.’ But the Lord has told me to say to you, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the earth. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’”

Oracles Against the Nations (46:1–51:64)

God’s judgment extends to all nations and not just to the people of Judah.

Egypt is destroyed by Babylon

Philistia is destroyed by Babylon

Moab is destroyed by Babylon

Ammon is destroyed by Babylon

Edom is destroyed by Babylon

Damascus is destroyed by Babylon

Kedar and Hazor are destroyed by Babylon

Elam is destroyed by Babylon

Babylon will one day be destroyed as well

Jeremiah’s scroll of judgment against Babylon is symbolically tied up and thrown into the river.

Historical Appendix (52:1-34)

The Fall of Jerusalem Revisited

Jeremiah closed his book with a final reminder of the horrors of Jerusalem’s fall.

This chapter closely parallels chapter 39, but gives more detail about what happened afterwards.

Jehoiachin Released

As 2nd Kings 25 also records, when Awel-Marduk succeeded Nebuchadnezzar as King of Babylon, he set the captive king Jehoiachin free and treated him like a prince.

Babylonian cuneiform records have even confirmed Jehoiachin’s regular food ration from the royal table.


Attributed to the prophet Jeremiah.

Book’s main theme: “Has God abandoned us forever?”

This work poetically describes the violent destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C., and questions why God would let something so terrible happen.

Still read by Jews today to commemorate the Babylonian destruction, but also the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Made up of five poems, the first four are acrostics.

1st Acrostic Poem: No Comfort to Jerusalem (1:1-22)

2nd Acrostic Poem: God’s Anger (2:1-22)

3rd Acrostic Poem: A Personal Lament (3:1-66)

4th Acrostic Poem: The Wages of Sin (4:1-22)

Final Poem: A Prayer for Mercy (5:1-22)

Excerpts from Lamentations

“I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”
-- Lamentations 3:19-23

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
    while he is young.”
-- Lamentations 3:25-27

“For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.”
-- Lamentations 3:31-33

“Those who once ate delicacies
    are destitute in the streets.
Those brought up in royal purple
    now lie on ash heaps.
The punishment of my people
    is greater than that of Sodom,
which was overthrown in a moment
    without a hand turned to help her.”
-- Lamentations 4:5-6

“Those killed by the sword are better off
    than those who die of famine;
racked with hunger, they waste away
    for lack of food from the field.
With their own hands compassionate women
    have cooked their own children,
who became their food
    when my people were destroyed.”
-- Lamentations 4:9-10

“But it happened because of the sins of her prophets
    and the iniquities of her priests,
who shed within her
    the blood of the righteous.”
-- Lamentations 4:13

“You, Lord, reign forever;
    your throne endures from generation to generation.
Why do you always forget us?
    Why do you forsake us so long?
Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
    renew our days as of old
unless you have utterly rejected us
    and are angry with us beyond measure.”
-- Lamentations 5:19-22

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