Jeremiah 37

This talk was given last October to a group of Christadelphians as part of a series on Jeremiah. Jeremiah may have been sent to the children of Israel 2000 years ago to warn them of the impending invasion by the Babylonians, but it is just as relevant to us now. The world is becoming more and more anti-religion, men standing up in their own strength to reject the creator of the universe. Nations who were founded on the law of Moses and drifting further away from their foundations and creating their own justice and legal systems that exclude religion. We are in a world that rejects God and his ways, therefore the words of Jeremiah are exhortation for us in our day.
(You can also download this talk as a pdf)

Introduction

Please come with me to Jeremiah chapter 1, to set the context of our chapter. Where we read, in verse 13, of the second Prophecy given to Jeremiah of Yahweh.

Jer 1:13 And the word of Yahweh came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.
14 Then Yahweh said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.
15 For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith Yahweh; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah.
16 And I will utter my judgements against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other Elohim, and worshipped the works of their own hands.
17 Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.
18 For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.
19 And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith Yahweh, to deliver thee.

In chapter 37 it had been forty years since that first prophecy had been given to Jeremiah in the reign of Josiah. There had been four new kings of Judah, after Josiah, and Nebuchadnezzar had come and deported people to Babylon twice! Needless to say, this prophecy had undoubtedly come true, and all the people who heard this prophecy would know that Jeremiah was indeed a prophet of Yahweh.

The people indeed had continued to “burn incense to other Elohim”, as the Hebrew says… they had made images the work of their own hands, and called them Elohim (Heb. “mighty ones”)! They had rejected the words of Jeremiah over and over again, despite every one of his words coming to pass. The kings and the people had rallied around prophets who of their own volition falsely predicted the defeat of the Babylonians… despite the words of Yahweh through Jeremiah.

Zedekiah

When we come to the first verse of our chapter we find that Zedekiah is king on the throne. Please come with me to 2 Kings 24, to set the scene a bit and remind ourselves of the character of Zedekiah and his reign.

2Kgs 24:17 And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
:18 Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
:19 And he did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.
:20 For through the anger of Yahweh 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.

So we find that the king of Babylon made Zedekiah to be king after that he had taken away Yehoyaqim to Babylon. Zedekiah was the son of Josiah, and his given name was Mattaniah which means “gift of Yahweh”… Nebuchadnezzar had changed his name to mean “Yahweh is my righteousness”. His mother’s name is constructed from two Hebrew words, the first means “a wall”, as in the city wall that protects its inhabitants. The second word means “dew”, and conjures the idea of a walled garden watered by the dew… just as Israel was protected by the power of Yahweh as a walled garden. And he had sent them Prophets, Kings, and Priests to lead and teach them. In Deuteronomy 32 it says, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, as the showers upon the grass: because I will publish the name of Yahweh: ascribe greatness to our Elohim” (Dut 32:2-3).

Zedekiah’s purpose

So why does our chapter open with Zedekiah’s part in the lineage of the kings of Judah?

The meanings of the Hebrew names are very enlightening. Josiah or Yoshiyahu יאשיהו comes from a Hebrew word ‘Ashah אשה which seems to mean “to found” or “lay the foundations”. Interestingly the only other seemingly related word to this word can be found in Jeremiah 50, where the word is used to describe the foundations of Babylon.

Jer 50:15 Shout against her round about: she hath given her hand: her foundations are fallen, her walls are thrown down: for it is the vengeance of the Lord: take vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her.

We know that the foundations of Babylon will crumble as a house built on sand, yet Christ is a firm foundation that can not be removed. Josiah’s name means “Yahweh laid the foundations”, and this brings our minds to those foundations relayed through Josiah reviving the true worship of Yahweh – with its ultimate anti-type in Christ’s revival of the kingdom of Israel at his soon return.

Looking back at the names of the other kings, we find Yehoiakim יְה֣וֹיָקִ֔ים means “Yahweh will raise up”, Coniah כָּנְיָ֙הוּ֙ means “established of Yahweh”, and Zedekiah צִדְקִיָּ֖הוּ means “righteous of Yahweh”.

Please come with me to 2 Samuel 7 where we find the first two of these words used to describe the establishment of the reign of Christ, in the promise to David his father.

2 Sam 7:12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up (Qum) thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish (Can) his kingdom.
:13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
:14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:

We know that by the establishment of the reign of Christ, Yahweh establishes a righteous reign after the order of Melchizedek, “king of Righteousness”. So bound up in the names of these three kings are a network of links to the reign of Christ… completely hidden on surface of the text. This pattern of the reign of Christ is the ideal that Zedekiah should have lived up to… and yet in verse 2 of our chapter we are told:

2 But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of Yahweh, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah.

Bad Figs

In chapter 24, Yahweh speaks through Jeremiah describing two groups of people in the nation of Israel at the time when Nebuchadnezzar took away Coniah to Babylon. Those two groups were like two baskets of figs: a basket of good figs, and a basket of bad figs that could not be eaten. Those taken away into Babylon were described as the good figs, saved for their own good, taken away for their own protection that they would not see the oppression and destruction of those left behind.

These evil figs represent Zedekiah and the princes of the people, in whom were no sustenance and vitality to those whom they were supposed to feed. This is exactly the same as the time of Christ, where the rulership of the children of Israel at the time were described by Christ as a fig tree without fruit. Again we have another example where Jeremiah and Christ have a very similar role, preparing the people for the harvest to come. Where the wheat is gathered into the Garner, and the chaff is burnt in the fire. Both suffered considerably amongst their fellow countrymen, doing their best to bind those who are broken, and heal those who are sick. Filling their hands with the work of Yahweh.

Rebellion

In verse three of our chapter, Zedekiah sends Yehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the Prophet Jeremiah. We read in verse four that this was before Jeremiah had been put in prison, and he was free to walk among the people.

At some point in time between verses two and three, Zedekiah had rebelled against Nebuchadrezzar breaking the promise he had personally made to him… in the name of Yahweh.

Why would he do this? Perhaps we can see what might have transpired when we look at the meeting between Zedekiah and his princes in Jer 38, when they come to him to ask to put Jeremiah to death.

Jer 38:5 Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.

Zedekiah acknowledges that he does not have any authority against the princes. For whatever reason he is not willing to take leadership and do what is right. Instead Zedekiah lets the princes do whatever they will; either he took the decision to revolt himself, or perhaps more likely he is persuaded by the princes of the land.

Siege

As a result of this rebellion, Jeremiah is sent to Zedekiah in chapter 27, and told that the yoke of Nebuchadrezzar would be upon all the nations of the Levant. Yet in the following chapter, chapter 28, we can read of Hananiah who falsely prophesied to the people saying in verse 3:

Jer 28:3 Within two full years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of the Yahweh’s house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon:

It appears that Zedekiah took more notice of the words of Hananiah than he did of the words of Jeremiah. And as it says in Proverbs 29 verse 12…

Prov 29:12 If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked.

This proverb seems to describe the rule of Zedekiah very well. If a ruler can’t discern between truth and lies, then only liars prosper and those who hold the truth are eventually trampled upon so that they can not be heard.

What can we learn from this Brethren, Sisters and friends? The Ecclesia which at the time was the kingdom of Israel, fell because Zedekiah didn’t have the strength of his Father Josiah, to revive true worship. He didn’t discern between right and wrong, between the true words of Yahweh through Jeremiah, and the lies of Hananiah. Instead he did the wishes of the princes his servants to make them happy.

The leaders of the Ecclesia need to have good discernment between what is right and wrong… and the strength to do it, or else those strong in the truth will eventually leave, or be taken away, and the group will be left weakened. In these last days, let us strengthen the Ecclesia and help build it up as we are commanded to do in 1 John 4:

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God;and every one that loveth is born of God,and knoweth God.:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God;for God is love.

Love is described in 1 Corinthians 13 and is well worth a detailed study, but for now verse 5 says:

1Cor 13:5 (Love) Doth not behave itself unseemly,seeketh not her own,is not easily provoked,thinketh no evil;

Envoys to Yahweh

Coming back to our chapter and still in verse 3. It would seem that Zedekiah only sends Yehucal and Zephaniah when Nebuchadnezzar is approaching the borders of the land, or actually encamped around Jerusalem. However we read Chapter 21, it would seem that these two men, Yehucal and Zephaniah, were the second ambassadors to Jeremiah that Zedekiah had sent. The first being Pashur and Zephaniah.

The meanings of the messengers names are very interesting, and give an insight into the way Zedekiah is thinking. Pashur perhaps conveys the idea of ripping apart, and fits in with the words of Zedekiah in verse two where he refers to the wondrous works that he hoped Yahweh will perform against Nebuchadrezzar. The Hebrew word for wondrous is used to describe the exodus from Egypt, so Zedekiah is asking for a similar miraculous delivery from the Babylonians. Melchiah means “Yahweh reigns”, expressing subjection to the will of the father… although as we see later this is only lip service, or at best “faith without works”. Then there is Zephaniah, which means “Yahweh has hidden”, and Maaseiah which means “work of Yahweh”… perhaps in some recognition that the situation is of Yahweh.

The answer that Yahweh, through the mouth of Jeremiah, gives Zedekiah in response is not given in our chapter 37. However it is given in chapter 21… where Yahweh declares that he will “turn back the weapons of war that are in” Zedekiah’s hands: that the Chaldeans would besiege Jerusalem; Yahweh himself would fight against Zedekiah; and that Zedekiah himself would die by the sword of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon.

Upon hearing this it appears that Zedekiah sends back messengers, Zephaniah is sent once again, but Pashur is replaced with Yehucal. This substitution is very subtle, for Yehucal means “Yahweh is able”… almost completely ignoring the message, and the reason that the Babylonians had been sent against Jerusalem, Zedekiah is effectively says “you could save us if you want to”.

However Zedekiah did not accept that the character of Yahweh would not allow this. There is a purity which must be upheld, and that comes before the “leave me to do what I want” kind of peace that men desire… the Cheruvim were to preserve the way to the tree of the life, although Zedekiah through his apathy was destroying the way to the tree of the life.

We read in James,

James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.:18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Ironically, Yehucal later asks for Jerimiah’s death in chapter 38 verse 4.

Envoys to Egypt

Having been rejected by Yahweh, Zedekiah instead puts his trust in Egypt and made an allegiance with Pharaoh Hophra. Despite everything that his father Josiah had taught, Zedekiah trusted more in the chariots of Egypt than he did in the awesome power of Yahweh.

Going back to our chapter 37, and verse five, we read that Pharaoh’s army comes forth out of Egypt against the Chaldeans that had besieged Jerusalem. A short period of time the Chaldeans lift up from Jerusalem. Yet despite this we see in verse 7 to 10 Yahweh repeats his promise that the Egyptians returned back to their own land and the Babylonians burn the city with fire.

This is exactly the same as the later Roman invasion of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. There was an initial siege of the city under Vespasian, which was lifted when Vespasian allowing the people to heed the warning of the prophets. Later the army came back to destroy the city along with those who refused to hear the word of Yahweh.

The mercy of the father is incredible, despite everything that the people had done… Yahweh made them provision, even for the wicked city so if they had turned from their ways Yahweh would save. We read this in Ezekiel chapter 33 and verse 11:

Ezk 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith Adonay Yahweh, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

These words are a great comfort to us… if we are ever worried that our father “cannot forgive us”, we can read these words. Even right at the end, there is opportunity to put away wickedness and seek Yahweh, provided it is sincere.

Christ in a similar time, when the Jewish rulers were oppressing him his whole ministry. Even when he was hours from death, he prayed for the Roman soldiers that were to kill him. In the hope that they later understand what they had done and repented from their ways.

As we read in,

Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

Saul was part of the Jewish leadership that put Christ to Death, and later lead the persecution of the Ecclesia. His eyes were opened and he repented, he was forgiven and became a pillar of the Ecclesia.

Cornelius was in the other camp, as a prominent leader in the Roman army who crucified Christ. We don’t know how involved he was, but he was part of that organisation, and yet his eyes are opened too.

We never know who will be called and who will eventually fall away. We must trust our heavenly father, forgive as we wish to be forgiven, and try to build up everyone we meet.

Jeremiah imprisoned

Going back to our chapter and verse 11 and 12. When Pharaoh’s army had come out of Egypt and the Chaldeans had broken up from Jerusalem for a short period of time. Jeremiah attempts to go out the north gate Jerusalem, called the gate of Ephraim, or the gate of Benjamin.

In the AV it says “to separate himself thence”, yet in Hebrew it is literally translated “to divide from there, in the midst of the people”. This phrase is used regularly to describe the separating out of land or possessions in inheritance, or in the taking of spoils of war. Therefore I would suggest that, rather than Jeremiah leaving Jerusalem to separate himself from the people in the city, he was instead going to divide to himself an inheritance in the land of promise… showing great faith in the words of Yahweh. We find in chapter 32 that one of Jeremiah’s relatives comes to him in prison, and asks him to buy his field. Perhaps Jeremiah was on his way to buy this field, and having been stopped and put in prison Hana-m’el (grace from Ail) had to come to Jeremiah in prison instead.

Jeremiah is accused of falling away to the Babylonians by the captain of the guard in the gate. Iriyah the son of Shelemiah, son of Hananiah, was the brother of Yehucal from verse three of our chapter. Both sons held very prominent positions in the kingdom. In fact, we can prove the accuracy of these words, because a clay bulla, or inscribed seal used to seal letters of authority was found in the city of David excavations of 2005 by Elat Mazar. The bulla reads “of Yehucal, son of Shelemiah, son of Shevi”. However we see that neither Iriyah or Yehucal are favourable to Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was taken to the Princes, and we read in verse 15:

Jer 37:15 Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison.:16 When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days;

The description in the Hebrew seems to suggest the Jeremiah was taken into an ordinary house, that of Jonathan the scribe. This house had been repurposed as a prison, for within it there was a “pit” and the word is used regularly of the holes in rock, or natural caves that were used to store rainwater for drinking. However it appears that this was not a cistern in this case, but probably a natural cave which had a barred door at its entrance, and may have been used as a storage room for the writings of the scribe. Now Jeremiah had been placed in there in solitary confinement, he could not talk to the people.

The word for “Prison” means restricted or completed, perhaps suggesting finality, a permanent place of imprisonment without hope of freedom. This word is used in this form in only 5 places; once of Jeremiah’s imprisonment, two places talking of Coniah’s imprisonment, and twice in Isa 42. Please come there with me…

Talking of Christ in verse 6 of Isa 42, and the righteousness of his reign (a true Zedekiah), we read:

Isa 42:6 I Yahweh have called thee [Christ] in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
7 To open the blind eyes,to bring out the prisoners from the prison,and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
8 I Yahweh: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another,neither my praise to graven images.

Here is a contrast between the two Zedekiah’s, Christ the true “righteousness of Yahweh” who gives freedom to those imprisoned without hope and the Zedekiah who imprisoned Jeremiah… the very one who was the mouthpiece of hope.

Another petition to Yahweh

After many days in prison, Zedekiah the king sent and took Jeremiah, in verse 17, for we find in verse 19 that the Babylonians had come back… just as Yahweh through Jeremiah had said. It was only after the fear of the threat of the Babylonians returned that suddenly Zedekiah became interested in the word of Yahweh once again. It was only when the words of Yahweh directly affected his own life Zedekiah started to listen. Even then, after listening there was no response, no change of attitude or way of life.

Jeremiah challenges Zedekiah saying,

Jer 37:19 Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?

Yet Zedekiah does not listen, for we read,

Jer 32:2 For then the king of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house.
3 For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying,Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith Yahweh, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it;

After offering supplication to Zedekiah, Jeremiah was given a more lenient imprisonment. Instead of being shut up underground he was allowed to remain in house arrest in the court of the prison, with a bread ration given until there was no more bread and the city fell to the Babylonians.

In those days most houses had a courtyard which was used for domestic purposes, and sometimes contained animals which would be given free rein of the lower part of the house. The Hebrew word conveys the idea of protection, hedging in, and is used to describe the courtyard of the house, the wall of walled villages, and most importantly the courtyard of the house of Yahweh, the temple. By this we see that the villages, and houses, were to be patterns of the house of Yahweh in both structure and the way they were run.

The house of Jonathan “Yahweh has given” was to Jeremiah protection, reminding him that Yahweh in encamps around those that fear him; not only this, but Jeremiah and the house of Jonathan are symbolically replacing the priesthood and the temple.

Witness to the people

In the following chapter Zedekiah allows the princes of the land to do what they wanted with Jeremiah, consequently they placed him in the miry pit, only to be dragged out again by Obed-edom. In the beginning of this study we looked at the meanings of the names of the kings in verse 1, Coniah and Jehoiakim. Please come with me to Psalm 40, where we find another very relevant verse with those same two Hebrew words “to rise up”, and “to establish”

Reading from verse 1,

Ps 40:1 I waited patiently for Yahweh; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
:2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set (Qum) my feet upon a rock, and established (Can) my goings.
:3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our Elohim: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in Yahweh
:4 Blessed is that man that maketh Yahweh his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.

This Psalm is very relevant to the situation of Jeremiah and his imprisonment.

The Messianic words of Psalm 40 must have been a great comfort for Jeremiah, both for himself and for the nation of Israel. Jeremiah represented the nation in many of his prophecies that he acted out, and in this situation it is exactly the same. In verse two the word “set”in the Hebrew is “Qum”, and literally means to rise up. It is used several times in Scripture to describe resurrection from the dead (Psa 113). Set on a “rock”, the word rock is used of Christ, and the word “established” is used to describe the setting up of a kingdom. So putting all this together… Jeremiah would be released from prison and strengthened, and Israel would eventually be raised up again after the Babylonian destruction, founded upon that rock which is Christ, and in his kingdom established forever.

Verse 3 “many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust Yahweh”… Jeremiah would be lifted out of the pit, taken out of the prison, and set on his feet once again; it would be a sign to many who had heard the words of Yahweh that had been placed in his mouth. By the trials of Jeremiah, his witness would cause many to believe. And prophetically, in the ultimate sense, the restoration of Israel upon Christ and his righteous reign would be a sign to all peoples of the earth.

Conclusions

In conclusion then, we are in the time of the end just like Jeremiah, and just like Christ before the Roman invasion. Very soon the Russian army will besiege Jerusalem and history will repeat itself. We know that once again very few will heed the warning.

Are we prepared to stand out, and speak the truth as Jeremiah did? Despite knowing that the majority will not hear? Are we nurturing the Ecclesia, as Christ did, helping each other to grow in knowledge, understanding, and the wisdom to know when and how to apply what we have learned. Are we encouraging each other to develop the fruit of the spirit, our father’s mind, his name written in our foreheads.

Psa 122:6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:they shall prosper that love thee.:7 Peace be within thy walls,and prosperity within thy palaces.:8 For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say,Peace be within thee.

שַׁאֲלוּ שְׁלוֹם יְרוּשָׁלִָם יִשְׁלָיוּ אֹהֲבָֽיִךְ׃

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