Jeremiah 33-35

Good morning! As today’s passage (Jeremiah 33-35) opens, we find the prophet confined to house arrest, likely because of disfavor with King Zedekiah. (More on him in a moment.) Imprisonment doesn’t hinder Jeremiah’s prophecy though, for either ill or good. He gives the residents of Jerusalem a preview of the coming slaughter by Chaldeans (another word for the Babylonians), but then a promise of restoration by God’s power. Jeremiah reiterates God’s faithfulness to the covenant with David—the idle musings of those who presume God abandoned Israel and Judah are entirely false.

We reconnect with Zedekiah, the king who reigned over the final days of Judah, in chapter 34. According to 2 Kings 25 and other accounts, Zedekiah was set up as a puppet king by Nebuchadnezzar after Babylon defeated Judah, but Zedekiah sought alliances to resist Babylon. Rather than take Jeremiah’s word (even though it came with the imprimatur of God directly) and find a way to work with the Babylonian overlords, Zedekiah chose to “fight it out”. Therefore, Jeremiah says (and other accounts corroborate), Zedekiah will see Jerusalem burned to the ground as a result of his rebellion, and the deposed king will end his days in captivity.

Another issue that comes up in Jeremiah 34 is that of slavery in Jerusalem. The Judean leaders temporarily declare freedom to slaves in Jerusalem (presumably as a part of a political revolution to throw off the old order), but it doesn’t stick and people enslave their Judean neighbors again. Remember that this form of slavery was not the lifetime servitude of chattel slavery, but more the long-term loaning of oneself out to others in order to pay off debts. This is why there could be—at least in principle—the cancelling of slavery by cancelling those debts. However, I suspect the reality of that slavery is more likely what modern people face with payday lending, where there’s always more burden than ability to work/pay off, so the burden continues indefinitely. Because residents of Jerusalem returned to this practice after disavowing it, Jeremiah condemns them with charges of God’s wrath.

I’m fascinating by the Rechabites in Jeremiah 35. These were apparently a nomadic people driven within the protective walls of Jerusalem by the oncoming Babylonians. Their ancestors had taken a vow to forswear wine and live itinerantly (think of priestly vows of poverty as a correlary). These Rechabites now in Jerusalem maintain that custom, even as Jeremiah commands them to drink, contrary to their custom. Through Jeremiah, God holds them up as a model of fidelity to past covenants, in contrast to the unfaithful Judeans. They seem like a very interesting people, and I too respect them for their integrity. Happy reading!

Read Jeremiah 33-35.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Jeremiah 36-38. Thanks for reading!

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