Good morning! By this time we’ve read enough of Jeremiah to understand his main arguments against idolatry and self-righteousness in Judah. Today in Jeremiah 20-24 we see how those prophetic challenges lead to pushback against Jeremiah from other leaders, and then evoke his own denunciations of authority figures, specifically kings and other (self-proclaimed) prophets.
King Zedekiah is named in chapter 21, seeking a favorable prophesy from Jeremiah about the battle he is losing against the Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar. However, Jeremiah tells him that the king, nobles, and all the people of Jerusalem will indeed fall into Babylonian hands, as the Hebrew king fears. Though the poetic verses at the end of chapter 21 are likely from an earlier source closer to the historical Jeremiah, they give justification for the failure of Judah, because its kings have failed to secure justice for those who have been robbed or oppressed. This sentiment matches that of Jeremiah 22, where the prophet calls for the King of Judah to demonstrate justice, righteousness, and other characteristics of a noble leader. If (when) he does not, God promises the destruction we’ve grown so familiar with. The message to Shallum—son of the righteous king Josiah—likewise demonstrates desire for royal righteousness alongside the conviction that God will avenge any sinfulness. Shallum was captured by Babylon and taken into captivity to die there, and Jeremiah 22 suggests that his death comes as a judgment on greed. Whereas Josiah followed God and offered fair judgments, the next generation is dishonest and exploitative, which leads to their untimely, ignominious deaths. The only yardstick by which Jeremiah measures successful kingship is faithfulness to the God of the Hebrews.
The altercation with the priest Pashur at the beginning of Jeremiah 20 previews Jeremiah’s critique of other prophets. He accuses Pashur and many others of prophesying falsely, giving their own words instead of “the word of the Lord”. Prophets are an unmistakable presence in the community of Hebrews, and Jeremiah considers them as having utmost responsibility to tell the truth about what God is up to in the events of the world. Misbehaving prophets are woeful shepherds who mislead the flock of Israel, like adulterers whose words do not match their actions. For these falsehoods, the court prophets of Jerusalem deserve extra shame, and will experience the humiliation of being exiled into Babylon. Despite the false prophets who are so vociferous, Jeremiah promises a time when God intends to send a “righteous branch”, a true prophet who will shepherd the Hebrew people through challenging times. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Jeremiah 25-27. Thanks for reading!