Book of Jeremiah Summary
The Short Story
At first glance, The Book of Jeremiah has no real order to it. It jumps back and forth through time, and includes different kinds of material: prophecies attributed to Jeremiah regarding Judah's doom, stories about Jeremiah himself, and poetic passages attributed to Jeremiah about the bloody fate of other nations. There are also passages where, rather than prophesying, Jeremiah laments his sufferings as a persecuted outcast, going so far as accusing God of abandoning him and wishing he'd never been born. It's hard out here for a prophet.
In spite of the lack of chronological order in the actual text, we'll summarize Jeremiah's story in brief. Jeremiah's called to be a prophet by God when he's just a boy. From there, he goes onto a long and illustrious career, prophesying total destruction and angering the kings of Judah, who definitely aren't interested in hearing about their imminent and gruesome demise.
The central message of all Jeremiah's prophesying is Judah's inevitable destruction and exile by the Babylonians at the hands of a very wrathful God. While he's making these terrifying predictions, Jeremiah has to deal with kings who want to imprison him or execute him: King Jehoiakim tosses a copy of Jeremiah's prophecies into the fireplace, and King Zedekiah gives people permission to kill him (though he also helps save him—go figure.)
Sunny Side Up
Eventually, Judah and Jerusalem are ransacked and burned just like Jeremiah had been saying all along, and most of the population gets dragged off to Babylon. Jeremiah stays behind at first, but winds up reluctantly going to Egypt with a bunch of Judeans who—according to God—are also doomed to perish when the Babylonians continue their murderous ways and attack Egypt.
In contrast to the doom-and-gloom narrative of most of the book, chapters 30-33 are known as the "Book of Consolation," These are God's words of hope and comfort, four chapters of mercy surrounded by forty-eight chapters of stomping-around divine wrath. Jeremiah, speaking with God's voice, predicts that the people will be led back to Judah, but this time things will be different. They'll worship God with full devotion, and won't just go through the motions while actually wishing they were home watching "Real Housewives of Jericho." On the inside and the outside, the people of Judah will be in a real relationship with their God.
- The Book of Jeremiah begins by setting the scene—it says that these are the words of Jeremiah, the son of the priest Hilkiah, and that he began to prophesy during the thirteenth year of King Josiah's reign, (which would be around 626 BCE).
- The word of the Lord continued to come to Jeremiah through Josiah's reign and those of the kings after him, until King Zedekiah was defeated by the Babylonians and Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. This is one prophetic marathon.
- God's word first came to Jeremiah when he was a boy, telling him that God had known him before he was born and destined him to be a prophet.
- Boy Jeremiah protests that he's just a kid, but God tells him not to be afraid. He'll send him to different people, commanding him to prophesy different things, but he'll always have his back.
- God touches Jeremiah's mouth with his own hand, putting his divine word into Jeremiah's mouth. He makes Jeremiah someone who can speak truth to power, and can prophesy both destruction to the nations, and their eventual re-building.
- God shows Jeremiah two visions: the branch of an almond tree, and a boiling pot tilting away from the north.
- God helpfully explains the symbolism of the last image to Jeremiah: he's going to send an army of tribes from the north (meaning the Babylonians) to besiege Jerusalem and conquer it.
- But Jeremiah will need to be like a fortified city or pillar because the people won't like it. He needs to speak whatever God commands, and can't crack or give into their demands.
- God says that people will oppose Jeremiah, but God will save and sustain him. We'd guess J's getting a little nervous just about now.
You've Done Me Wrong
- Jeremiah says that the word of God came to him and told him to speak to Jerusalem.
- Through Jeremiah, the voice of God compares Israel to a bride who used to be devoted to him when they were together in the wilderness (headed out of Egypt). So romantic!
- But now Israel's become like a field where the fruits were eaten by robbers, who were put to death for trespassing on the harvest. Or like a runaway bride.
- God asks why they've all forgotten him and why they never mention that he led them out of Egypt and into their own land.
- The rulers and prophets forgot their sacred covenant with God and started worshipping Baal and doing other unholy stuff.
- God accuses the people and their descendants of abandoning him. He asks them to look at other nations to see if they've ever abandoned their gods. Jealous much?
- The heavens themselves should be shocked and disgusted at this: the people have abandoned the living fountain that's God, and built cisterns for themselves that are cracked and can't hold water (meaning the new religious practices they've adopted won't work).
Hot Foreign Fashions
- Even though Israel isn't supposed to be a slave or a servant to other nations, it's become those things.
- Foreign powers like the Egyptian cities of Memphis and Tahphanhes have had a bad influence on Israel.
- Rather than return to God, the Israelites continue to pay more attention to fancy foreign empires like Egypt and Assyria.
- Obviously, the people are going to get punished for their wicked and traitorous ways. They've forgotten to fear or revere God.
- Israel broke the yoke binding it to God, and started prostituting itself (Jeremiah's words) to other gods, participating in pagan rituals involving worshipping trees and hills. Weird.
- Israel's like a domesticated vine, planted by God, that somehow went wild. Or like an adulterous…um, camel or wild-ass, who wanders around in heat, waiting for potential mating partners to find her. She'll do it with anybody.
- The people are stained with guilt they can't wash off, and have turned their backs on God and turned their faces towards trees and stones, which they now worship as father and mother.
- Pretty soon they'll find out what a bad idea this is.
In the Mood for Vengeance
- When the people call on God to save them, he'll tell them to go ask their new gods for help.
- The people killed their own prophets, and obviously didn't learn a thing from the punishment God already directed at them.
- God asks if he's been like a wilderness of darkness to them, strongly implying that he has been free and available the whole time. But they never write, they never call…
- God says that the people have played around with wicked women and killed the innocent poor. They imagine that God will still have mercy on them, but he won't. It's vengeance time.
- They won't prosper by trusting in Egypt. That's backing the wrong horse.
God's Finally Single Again… And Ready to Destroy Stuff
- God implies that Israel won't even return to him, saying that she's like a wife that he's already divorced. She's moved on to other lovers, other gods.
- Israel's adultery with other gods—committed on practically every corner—has caused a terrible drought. But Israel still refuses to be ashamed.
- Israel's asked God to have mercy, calling on him as one of his children, but God says that they've already done too much evil. It's too late for mercy.
- God tells Jeremiah that Judah learned nothing from watching the Northern Kingdom of Israel's adultery and punishment. Rather than refusing to follow false gods, Judah dove right in.
- Judah's now only returned to God superficially and falsely—her heart's still with the stones and trees.
- God says that northern Israel wasn't even as bad as Judah is now. He asks the northern Israelites to repent and turn to him, saying that they can get their land back. If they apologize nicely for their adulterous ways, he'll lead them back to Zion.
- God predicts that, after the people have been instructed by shepherds and prophets he'll send to them, Israel and Judah will be united together, and all the nations will gather at Jerusalem, the "Throne of the Lord."
- The Ark of the Covenant won't be remembered in those future days and it won't be a part of worship anymore; it'll be unnecessary.
- God says that Israel's both like a child who failed to acknowledge him as a parent, and like a faithless wife.
- Despite what he'd said before about it being too late, God now says that he'll forgive his faithless children if they repent and actually mean it.
Circumcising the Heart—the Latest in Cardiovascular Surgery
- If the Israelites return to God, both in their hearts and in their actions, he'll forgive them and the nations will be blessed.
- God says that they need to circumcise their hearts—have inner purity—or else look out.
- The people should return to their fortified cities, and get ready for the invasion that's coming from the north like an angry lion. It would also be a good idea to put on some sackcloth and do some serious weeping.
- God says that the king, the priests, and the prophets will all be surprised and terrified at these new developments.
- Jeremiah responds, saying that God has deceived Jerusalem by telling them that all would be well when it's really gonna be quite horrible. Nervy move, J.
- God's wrath will come like a hot desert wind. He'll bear down on Israel with a chariot like a whirlwind.
- God and Jeremiah call out for more repentance. God says that prophets are warning Israel from Mount Ephraim and Dan. It's National Prophesy Doom Week.
- Jeremiah cries out in pain, saying that the horrible fate destined for his people is really upsetting him.
- In a vision, he looks around and sees that the world is totally desolate and empty. The heavens are dark, the mountains are quaking, the birds are gone, and God has laid all the cities to ruin.
- God says that he's going to wreak great desolation, but won't make a full end to the Israelites.
- The heaven and earth will mourn all this destruction, and the people will hide from the invaders, leaving all the towns empty.
- Although Judah continues to act like a prostitute, dressing in crimson and wearing way too much eyeliner, in the end she'll be destroyed by the same pagan forces that she'd taken as lovers, fainting and crying out like a woman in labor.
- We get it. God is very, very angry.
Lions, Wolves, and Leopards… Oh My!!!
- God tells Jeremiah and anyone who will listen to run around Jerusalem and try to find one faithful person who acts justly and searches for the truth, so that God can pardon Jerusalem as a whole.
- He can't find a single person.
- But Jeremiah realizes that the people he's been looking at are poor and ignorant about the laws of God. He decides to look at the rich and see if they're any better.
- Turns out that the rich aren't any better; they broke their covenant with God, too.
- Lions, wolves, and leopards (a metaphor for the invading army) are all gathered outside the cities just waiting to kill these faithless people.
- God says it's impossible to pardon these people because they've followed other gods and coveted their neighbor's wives.
- God orders Israel destroyed like a bad vineyard. The people and their false prophets have been comforting themselves by predicting they'll avoid punishment, but that's just wishful thinking.
- The so-called prophets are now an empty wind without God's word in them.
- The word that God's put in Jeremiah's mouth is a fire that will devour the people like they're made out of wood.
- God's sending the Babylonians to destroy Israel, and the Babylonians are an ancient and different people. The Israelites are unfamiliar with them and don't know their language.
- The invaders will demolish everything, destroying all the produce, killing everyone's sons and daughters, and pulverizing cities.
- God won't destroy Israel utterly, but they'll pay for serving foreign gods by being led into exile and being forced to serve a foreign people.
- God asks the people if they tremble before him and tells those who have eyes and ears but can't see or hear to listen up and pay attention.
- God says that he's the one who prevents the chaotic sea from overwhelming the land, but people still don't appreciate him.
- In their hearts, they're forgetful and disobedient, and don't remember God who controls the changing seasons and guides the growth of their crops and harvest.
- The scoundrels among the people are like hunters who trap humans, tricking them into doing evil things.
- They've all gotten rich at the expense of the orphans and other needy people.
- God rhetorically asks if he's going to punish these scoundrels (answer: yes.)
- The people love their false prophets and priests, but when the end comes, they'll definitely regret it.
- Jeremiah urges the tribe of Benjamin (the people of Judah) to flee Jerusalem because the invasion's imminent.
- God urges the invaders to attack, telling them to cut down trees and prepare a siege ramp to enter Jerusalem.
- God wants the Babylonians to scour Judah as thoroughly as a grape gatherer picking grapes from a vine.
- Jeremiah says that the people aren't listening to him, but he's filled with the wrath of God and is tired of holding it in.
- God's wrath will flow out onto everyone: children, young people, husbands and wives, and the elderly. Their houses will be inherited and lived in by others.
- Everyone's greedy and even the prophets and priests are corrupt.
- People should return to the ancient godly way they used to follow.
- But they don't, so of course God is going to dish out some more punishment.
- God doesn't care about frankincense or sweet cane or burnt offerings—not that there's anything wrong with that—but he wants to see the heart and soul behind these things.
Sackcloth is the New Linen
- Judah will be invaded by these merciless Babylonians from the north, who sound like a raging sea when they march into battle.
- The people are terrified and anguished, scared to go out onto the roads alone lest they be killed by the invaders.
- Fashion alert: Jeremiah urges everyone to wear sackcloth and repent.
- God tells Jeremiah that he's meant refine the people, but the people are still rebellious and are more like unrefined metals, bronze and iron. Judah's like silver that has been rejected because of its impurities.
- God tells Jeremiah to go to the gates of Jerusalem and tell people to change their ways.
- They shouldn't feel safe just because they're in the city where God's temple is located.
- God would dwell forever with the people in Jerusalem if they'd just stop oppressing the widow and the orphan and the alien, and stop shedding innocent blood and worshipping other gods. Is that too much to ask?
- The people are abusing God's temple, claiming it as a sanctuary when they're really polluting it with all sorts of sins: adultery, Baal-worship, stealing, murder, and false oaths.
- God tells the people to think about what happened to Shiloh in northern Israel: God checked out and the people were conquered and exiled.
- He'll do the same thing to Jerusalem and treat them the same way he treated the northern Kingdom, so remember and learn.
- God instructs Jeremiah and any righteous people not to pray for mercy for Jerusalem. The people keep going about their sinful ways: they pour drinks to offer to other gods and bake cakes to offer to the "queen of heaven." It's definitely wrath time.
- God says people might as well go ahead and eat up their burnt offerings, because he never demanded sacrifices from them when he brought them out of Egypt. He just wanted obedience—love and justice and morality.
- But instead, the people looked back to the way that they'd behaved in Egypt.
- God tells Jeremiah that the people are so corrupt that they simply won't listen to the message he's bringing them.
- Jeremiah is to tell them that they've been cut off from God: symbolically, they should cut their hair from their heads and wail in lamentation. God has forsaken them.
- The people have brought foreign gods into God's own temple, and they've built an altar at Topheth to sacrifice their own children in fire—something God clearly didn't want.
- That's the last straw. Judah will be a wasteland when God gets done with it.
- God proclaims that there will come a time when the bones of all the unrighteous dead—kings, priests, officials, prophets, and average citizens—will be dug up and spread around under the open sky.
- This is because the people worshipped the host of heaven, the different gods located in the sky, like the sun and moon and the planets and stars, instead of Israel's God.
- Those who are still alive will wish they were dead.
- God tells Jeremiah to ask the people why they won't pick themselves up again once they've fallen. They keep sliding backwards and never do anything constructive to better themselves.
- None of the people get back on course, which even birds know how to do.
- The so-called wise people aren't really wise, because they don't know what they're talking about.
- The people have pretended that peace would come, when there was never any peace to begin with.
- Jeremiah says that the best that people can do is retreat into the fortified cities. It's gonna be a time of big-time terror and wrath.
- The land quakes at the noise of Babylonian stallions. God says he's sending serpents to bite his people.
- Jeremiah feels sorry for the people of Judah. They can't understand why God is punishing them.
- Jeremiah bemoans the fact that there's no spiritual physician or "balm in Gilead" that can restore his people to a state of goodness. He's crying his eyes out over all this.
- As bad as he feels about his people's destruction, he sometimes wishes he could escape to a desert inn, since they're all such liars and cheats.
- There's so much deceit in the land that you can't trust anyone, even your friends and neighbors.
- Since he has no options left, God has to do what he has to do.
- Everyone outwardly pretends to act nice to their neighbors, but inwardly they're plotting against them. They need to be punished.
- The people should wail and lament. Jerusalem and Judah will be so thoroughly devastated that the animals and birds will run away.
- God says again that he's punishing people for disobeying his law by worshipping Baals and other gods.
- God tells the people to line up some women to sing sad songs about what's going down. Human corpses will be scattered all over the place like dung.
- The wise, the mighty, and the wealthy should stop feeling so smug: only those who truly love and know the Lord have the right to boast.
- God says that he'll deal with all the people who are circumcised only in the foreskin, but not in the heart. This includes Egypt, Judah, Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, desert dwellers with shaved temples, and last but not least, Israel, who should know better.
- God tells Israel not to follow the ways of foreign nations or check their horoscopes.
- The peoples of the world have false customs. God leads the reader through a description of how idols are made, showing that they're the work of human hands and not real gods. They're like scarecrows in a cucumber field (yes, it really says that), incapable of evil or good.
- Jeremiah agrees that idols are just the creations of goldsmiths and skilled workers.
- But God's the real deal, not like those images. The people who encourage idol worship are fools.
- The gods who didn't make the earth and heavens are false, temporary, and on deck for destruction.
- Jeremiah says that it's God who made the world and who controls nature—lightning, rain, mist, wind, everything.
- Idols are just delusions. Wake up, people!
- Once Babylon conquers Judea, the people better pack their suitcases for Babylon, because that's where they're going.
- Jeremiah cries out as the voice of all of Israel, saying that his tent is broken and his children have been lost and killed.
- Israel's like a flock, scattered because of its clueless shepherds who failed to follow God.
- The Babylonians are going to destroy Judah so that it will be a place where wild jackals come to hang out.
- Jeremiah says that he knows God directs the steps of human beings and that mortals are helpless without him.
- He asks God to correct him and his people—but not with anger, because that won't work.
- Instead, maybe God could pour out his wrath on some other nations, like the enemies of Israel.
- God tells Jeremiah to speak to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, saying that they're cursed unless they remember the covenant they made with God when he led them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land—namely to be obedient to all of God's instructions.
- So far, people have failed to live up to the covenant, despite God's warnings and calls for obedience. They are one stubborn bunch.
- The people still worship other gods. So of course, God's going to hit them with disaster.
- Judah will cry out to the false gods they've been worshipping, but it'll be no use.
- God says not to bother praying for the people. He'll see right through any last-minute repentance.
- Judah used to be like a fruitful olive tree, but now God's going to burn it down.
- Jeremiah says that people conspired to kill him.
- At first he had no idea that they were plotting against him, but God clued him in and destroyed Jeremiah's would-be killers.
- These conspirators were the people of Anatoth, whom God says he will annihilate: the young men will be killed by the sword, and the rest will starve to death. He's got Jeremiah's back.
- Even though Jeremiah knows that God's in the right, he says that he personally wants to air some grievances.
- He asks why the wicked have been doing so well without being punished.
- He asks God to kill the wicked and relieve the people's suffering.
- God answers that if Jeremiah is tired from dealing with these wicked people, he's like someone who has been exhausted from racing with foot-runners. So how can he compete when racing with horses (i.e. with really wicked opponents)?
- Jeremiah shouldn't even trust his own family.
- God says that he's forsaken Israel, even though they're still totally his favorite people.
- But since the people of Israel apparently hate God now, he's leaving them to the wild animals.
- Evil shepherds (metaphorically speaking) have trampled down the vineyard that God had planted in Judah and Jerusalem. They've ruined the land.
- God isn't just going to punish Judah, but all the neighbors who've led them astray.
- Then God will have compassion on the people of these different neighboring nations and Judah, and will let them return.
- If they can worship God as they used to worship Baal, he'll have mercy on them. But if they don't, he'll tear them up and throw them out.
Q: How Are the Judeans Like Dirty Underwear?
- God tells Jeremiah to buy a linen loincloth and wear it, but tells him not to wash it.
- Then he tells Jeremiah to take the loincloth and hide it in a cleft in some rocks by the Euphrates.
- After a while, God sends Jeremiah to get the loincloth, which is totally filthy and disgusting.
- God says that this is what's happened to Judah and Jerusalem. They were originally supposed to be like God's own loincloth, clinging to him in righteousness. But their disobedience has rendered them useless and ruined.
- This may be the only underwear analogy in the Hebrew bible. We sure hope so.
- God gives Jeremiah another fun task: this time, he is supposed to tell the people that every wine-jar should be full of wine.
- When they're like, "Yeah—tell us something we don't know," Jeremiah's to tell them that God's going to fill everyone in the land with a mad drunkenness, and then smash them all together, parents and children. There'll be no mercy.
- Again, Jeremiah begs the people to change their ways before it's too late.
- He says that he'll secretly weep for them if they don't repent.
- He sees all of Judah taken into exile, and sees the crown of the king and the queen mother knocked off their heads.
- If the people ask why all these bad things are happening, they should know that it's punishment for their sins. Jeremiah compares what's happening to Judah to a rape.
- Jeremiah asks if Ethiopians can change the color of their skins or leopards can change their spots. (So that's where that expression comes from…)
- Obviously the answer is no, and that applies to the evil Judeans, too. They're incapable of change.
- God says he'll scatter his people and publicly expose Judah to the world, lifting up its skirts for everyone to see.
- The chapter concludes with God saying that he's seen Jerusalem's adulteries and lust and wondering if it will ever make itself clean.
- God sends a message through Jeremiah: Judah's under siege totally demoralized. When nobles send their servants to get water from the cistern, they find it dry.
- A drought is just making everything worse. Even the wild asses are hungry and exhausted.
- In the voice of Israel as a whole, Jeremiah asks God why he's like a stranger towards Israel. He knows God could help if he wanted to.
- At the same time, he says he can't deny that Israel's sins have been pretty bad.
- God responds, saying that he's had it with Israel because they love to stray (and he does not love the way they lie).
- God tells Jeremiah not to pray for his people. He won't accept their fasts and their offerings. Instead, he's going to slaughter them with war, famine, and pestilence.
- Jeremiah asks God why the other prophets are all telling the people that there will be peace.
- God says that he didn't send these prophets; they're a pack of misguided liars, spreading false info, all that "don't worry, be happy" stuff.
- Those prophets will all die by the sword, and their relatives and followers will be consumed by war and famine, with no one to bury their corpses.
- But Jeremiah's supposed to tell the people that he weeps for them, seeing their dead bodies scattered everywhere he looks.
- The people (or Jeremiah speaking in their voice) end the chapter by begging for mercy.
- They admit they've been pretty impossible to deal with, and ask God to keep up his side of the covenant.
Too Little Too Late?
- God explains that at this point he wouldn't forgive his people even if Moses and Samuel themselves came back and begged for mercy for them.
- The people should simply suffer their fate.
- Partly as punishment for the evil king Manasseh's wrongdoing, God will send wild animals and birds to drag away and eat the bodies of those killed during the war.
- No one will have pity on Judah, since they've rejected God.
- The women and mothers have all been destroyed, and the same will happen to their children.
- Jeremiah wishes he was never born. People curse him and see him as just a troublemaker.
- God says that he's going to continue to protect him. It'll get better.
- But not for everyone else. They'll be plundered and destroyed, and whoever's left will be sent into exile.
- Jeremiah asks God to have mercy on him and kill all his persecutors and enemies.
- Jeremiah liked God's words, but he's also had to deal with insults about being a Debbie Downer for breaking the bad news to everyone on God's behalf. Nobody wants him around.
- He tells God he's been like a "deceitful brook" to him; he's been unreliable.
- Yowza. Way to insult the God of Israel to his face.
- Again, God reassures Jeremiah that he won't let his persecutors harm him. Sticks and stones…
- Since the children of Judah are going to die from deadly diseases, war, and famine, God tells Jeremiah to be celibate and to never get married or have kids.
- He also prohibits Jeremiah from visiting people to mourn or celebrate with them..
- All happiness and merry-making and wedding celebrations are cancelled.
- When the people ask Jeremiah why all this is happening, he's to say that it's because they followed the evil practices of their ancestors.
- But wait. There's a light at the end of the tunnel: God says that eventually people will praise him not only for bringing them out of Egypt but also out of the kingdom in the north (Babylon).
- The invaders God's sending now are like hunters and fishermen trying to kill and catch the people of Judah. He'll punish them for their love of idolatry.
- The nations of the earth will eventually all gather to worship God. But first he's gonna teach everyone a lesson.
- The people's sin is inscribed on their hearts with an iron pen or a diamond point (ouch), as they run around worshipping hills and trees.
- This has made God very angry, of course.
- People who trust in mere mortals instead of in God will be dry and thirsty like desert shrubs.
- But those who trust in God's will be like flourishing trees planted by a stream. Even drought won't affect them.
- People who get rich unjustly are like partridges trying to hatch the eggs of another bird—the baby birds will abandon them once they hatch.
- The people who turn from God are—wait for it—in for a terrible punishment and a future life in the underworld. Who knew?
- Jeremiah prays to God: he says he's been a faithful servant, and wants to be saved from his enemies and healed from his sufferings.
- He asks God to make sure that his persecutors are destroyed.
- God tells Jeremiah to head out to the city gates of Jerusalem and urge the people to keep the Sabbath holy, telling them not to do any work on the Sabbath.
- Their ancestors received the same instructions but apparently ignored them.
- If they can keep the Sabbath day holy, good kings from the line of David will enter their city, and people will come from all around to make offerings and worship God in Jerusalem.
- But if they don't do this, God's wrath will burn up the city and devour it. He really means it this time.
Bring Your Prophet to Work Day
- God sends Jeremiah to the potter's house to see how clay pots are made (like in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood).
- Jeremiah sees that the potter takes the clay pots he's messed up and remakes them into better ones.
- God tells him that this is what he's doing with Judah. They're clay in his hands and he'll ruin them if he has to.
- But the people say that they'll continue to do whatever they please.
- God says that what Israel's doing by abandoning God is just unnatural. Would snow leave the crags of Sirion in Lebanon or the mountain streams run dry? Unthinkable!
- But the people keep worshipping other gods.
- God will turn his back to them, leaving them scattered in front of their enemies.
- Bulletin: People have hatched a plot against Jeremiah to try to shut him up.
- Jeremiah pleads with God, saying that he tried to ask for mercy for these people, but now they're trying to kill him.
- Now it's personal. So Jeremiah asks God to make their children die by famine and to make their wives childless widows. Their men should die by disease, and their youths should die in battle.
- He wants God to deal with them while he's still angry enough to do some serious damage.
- Jeremiah sounds like he's had it with these people already.
- God tells Jeremiah to take an earthenware jug, gather some elders and priests, and head out to the Potsherd Gate in the valley of Topheth (where child sacrifice was done).
- Then Jeremiah will tell them that God's bringing vengeance against Judah for worshipping other gods like Baal, and sacrificing their children in fire.
- The valley won't be known as Topheth anymore but as the Valley of Slaughter. Tons of people from Judah will die there in retribution.
- People will hiss at the city as they go by, since it will be such a place of horror.
- God will make people starve so badly during the siege that they'll eat the flesh of their own sons and daughters and neighbors.
- Then Jeremiah's supposed to symbolically break the earthenware jug, and say that this is the same way God will break the people of Jerusalem, like a potter destroying a badly made jar.
- Jerusalem will be just as horrible and full of death as Topheth.
- Jeremiah does everything God told him to do. When he returns from Topheth, he tells the people that God's about to rain down pain on them for their disobedience.
- A priest named Pashur hears Jeremiah making these dire prophecies. So he has Jeremiah flogged and puts him in the stocks.
- The next morning Pashur lets him go, but Jeremiah says that God has changed Pashur's name to "Terror All Around," because his wickedness will cause terror to him and all his friends. Best nickname since "The Italian Stallion."
- The people of Judah will all be captured by the Babylonians, and their cities will be plundered. Pashur and his friends will be taken captive as well, and they'll die in Babylon.
- Jeremiah says that God has overpowered him. He's now a laughingstock, since the word of God keeps making him prophesy about violence and destruction.
- If he tries to avoid prophesying, his bones feel like they're on fire—he can't stop it and he can't hold it in.
- Poor guy. Everyone's plotting against him at this point, even his friends.
- But God defends Jeremiah and makes sure that his foes are shamed, defeated, and eternally dishonored. What more could a prophet ask?
- Suddenly, Jeremiah goes from praising God for saving him to lamenting having even been born in the first place.
- He curses the day he was born, and says that the man who told his father that he was born should be cursed.
- He wishes he'd died in the womb and that his mother would've been his grave.
- Why was he born only to see sorrow and devastation, and have to go around telling people things they don't want to hear?
- King Zedekiah of Judah sends the priests Pashur and Zephaniah to ask Jeremiah for God's advice about how to deal with King Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian invasion.
- Zedekiah's hoping God will save them with a miracle.
- Nope. God says that he's going to fight on the side of the Babylonians against Judah.
- God will kill the people and animals in Jerusalem through war, pestilence and famine.
- The people who survive (including Zedekiah) will be captured by Nebuchadnezzar, who will kill a lot of them.
- God says that they're better off surrendering—if they don't, they'll likely get killed, and Nebuchadnezzar will burn down the city.
- Another prophecy from God warns the House of David, telling them to be righteous and to punish robbers, or else God will wreak vengeance on them.
- The people living in the valley around Jerusalem will have no hope of saving themselves, so they shouldn't kid themselves about their refuges and hiding places.
- God's going to kindle a fire that will devour everyone; there's no place to hide.
- God tells Jeremiah to go to the King of Judah and bring him a message.
- Jeremiah's supposed to go through the usual repentance spiel: change your ways and stop oppressing widows and orphans, don't shed innocent blood, and make sure you punish robbers, yadda yadda.
- If they heed this advice, they'll have righteous kings in the future. But if they don't, the city will be demolished.
- Right now, things in the palace might seem as lush as Gilead or Lebanon. But God will turn the land into a desolate waste if the rulers don't pay attention.
- The destroyers will cut down their best cedars and burn them.
- All the nations will see Judah's destruction and gossip about how they were destroyed for disobeying God.
- Don't weep for the dead, says God—weep for the people being sent into exile.
- God says that King Shallum will die in exile and never see Jerusalem again.
How to Die like a Donkey
- God says that rulers who exploit their workers to build fancy palaces for themselves will end up suffering.
- A bigger palace doesn't make someone a true king—ruling righteously does.
- Regarding King Jehoiakim, God says that people won't lament his death and he'll be buried like a donkey. How are donkeys buried again?
- The people should go cry in Lebanon and other places since their lovers (allies) have been crushed.
- The people have never obeyed God; it's been like this since they were kids.
- So they'll all get taken into captivity along with their allies.
- As for the next king after Jehoiakim, Coniah (or Jehoiachin), God says that even if Coniah were the signet ring on his hand, he'd tear him off. He and his mother will both be sent into exile in Babylon, where they'll eventually die.
Opening a New Branch of David, Inc.
- God reprimands the leaders (and prophets and priests) who should have shepherded his flock.
- Instead they've scattered the flock, but God will eventually gather the flock together and lead it back into the Promised Land. They'll have better leaders this time and won't have to live in fear.
- God will raise up a "Branch" from the House of David, and this good king will rule righteously over Judah and Israel.
- In the future, the people will see God not only as their savior from Egypt but from Babylon also.
- Next, Jeremiah says that he feels drunk and overwhelmed because of the word of the Lord within him.
- The (figurative) adulterers in Judah are causing the land to dry up. The prophets and priests are giving the people false hope.
- The prophets in Samaria were prophesying through Baal and misleading people, but the prophets in Jerusalem are worse: they've committed adultery and strengthened evil people. They're as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah. That's bad.
- In retribution, God will make them eat wormwood and drink poisonous water and die in agony.
- God continues to pile it on against the false prophets: they're just speaking about their own fantasies and delusions. They're not bringing true messages from God.
- None of these people have ever stood before the Lord, and now his wrath is coming against Judah like a whirlwind.
- The purpose of God's anger will become clear in the future.
- The prophets refused to stand before God and take his counsel and now the people are a mess because of it.
- God asks if he isn't a God who's nearby (implying he is). He also can see anyone who tries to hide and he also fills heaven and earth, in case we forgot that.
- The prophets mistakenly believe that they're having prophetic dreams and waste time telling people about them.
- God's word is like a hammer that can smash these false prophets and their bad advice.
- I think we all now understand how much God hates false prophets.
- If people ask what God's burden is, God says Jeremiah should say in response "You are."
- God wants people to stop complaining about "the burden of the Lord." He'll cast them out forever if they keep doing it.
- They'll have to deal with eternal shame and disgrace. Eternal. Shame. And. Disgrace.
- After Nebuchadnezzar takes Coniah into exile, God shows Jeremiah two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple.
- The one basket has really good figs in it, and the other has rotten figs that can't be eaten.
- God asks Jeremiah what he sees, and Jeremiah says that he sees good figs and horrible figs that you can't eat. (Eye roll.)
- God says that the good figs are the people who will survive and go into exile. He'll eventually let them return and give them a heart that will love God.
- But King Zedekiah and his officials, and the people who remain in the land or who leave for Egypt are the rotten figs.
- All the kingdoms of the world will see them as a horror and a disgrace.
- They'll all be utterly destroyed by sword, famine, and disease.
- In the fourth year of King Jehoiakim's rule, God gives a message to Jeremiah which he relays to the people.
- Jeremiah says that he's been prophesying for thirteen years but no one's listened to him.
- They're all guilty of refusing to listen to the prophets who warned them and told them to turn away from idolatry and evil deeds.
- So God's sending Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians to destroy everybody. Judah will be a wasteland.
- The people will serve Babylon for seventy years.
- But at the end of that time, God will bring down wrath against Babylon. It will be destroyed and become a wasteland as retribution for the bad things they've done, too.
- God tells Jeremiah to take a cup of wrath from his hands and let the nations drink from it, so that they'll stagger around drunk in the midst of their destruction.
- So in a vision of sorts, Jeremiah does this: Judah and its officials and king drink from it; the Egyptians and their Pharaoh all drink from it; the people of mixed nationality, the people of Uz, the Philistines, the Edomites, the Moabites, and the Ammonites all drink from it.
- The kings of Tyre, Sidon, and coastlands across the sea drink from it. The Arabians and the people from towns who have shaven temples drink from it.
- The kings of Elam, Zimri, Media, and Sheshach drink from it.
- Actually, all the kingdoms of the earth drink from it (so why didn't Jeremiah just say that?)
- Everyone should get drink until they vomit. God will force everyone to drink from the cup.
- God will roar out his vengeance against his people and shout like someone trampling on grapes to make wine.
- The noise will be heard throughout the entire world. A storm will spread through the nations.
- The dead will be spread around the whole world, lying like dung in the fields.
- They won't be buried or lamented.
- They'll all be massacred, and their pastures and flocks will be destroyed.
Dire Straits (Not the Band)
- At the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, God tells Jeremiah to stand in the court of the temple and speak to all the people and cities of Judah. They're getting another chance to repent. Maybe they'll actually listen this time.
- If the people don't finally come to their senses, God's going to do the same thing to Jerusalem that he did to Shiloh up north: it'll be devastated.
- But the priests and prophets don't want to hear it, and they threaten to kill Jeremiah.
- The king's officials come to the temple, and the priests and prophets tell them about what Jeremiah had just prophesied. They think he should die for it.
- Jeremiah says that he's only saying what God has made him say. If they want to kill him they can go right ahead, but innocent blood will be on their hands.
- The officials and the people agree that Jeremiah shouldn't be put to death. Some of the elders point out that Micah prophesied about Jerusalem's destruction during Hezekiah's reign and Hezekiah didn't kill him.
- And besides, God changed his mind and actually didn't destroy Jerusalem that time. Maybe that'll happen again.
- But there's another prophet named Uriah son of Shemaiah who isn't as lucky as Jeremiah. He prophesies against Judah and Jerusalem in the same way and is threatened with death by Jehoiakim.
- Uriah tries to escape to Egypt but is captured. Jehoiakim personally kills him with his own sword.
- But Ahikam son of Shaphan protects Jeremiah so that no one can kill him.
- God tells Jeremiah to put a yoke around his neck and to send a message to all the kingdoms that Nebuchadnezzar's about to conquer (Edom, Moab, Tyre, Sidon, and the Ammonites).
- Jeremiah explains that God's giving their land to the Babylonians, but that the Babylonians will eventually become the slaves of other powers.
- But for now, they should all submit and serve Babylon. They should ignore the words of the false prophets and anyone else who tells them to resist.
- If they fight back, they're done for.
- Jeremiah sends the same message to King Zedekiah.
- No one needs to die by war, disease, or famine, says Jeremiah, and Zedekiah should ignore the false prophets who are urging him to fight.
- He tells the people and priests the same thing. The false prophets are lying when they say that the holy vessels the Babylonians have stolen will be returned to the temple.
Judean Prophet Smackdown
- In the fourth year of Zedekiah's reign, a false prophet named Hananiah speaks to Jeremiah in the temple in front of the priests and all the people.
- He says that God has broken Babylon's yoke, and will return God's holy vessels to the temple and release the ex-King Coniah and the other exiles.
- Jeremiah says that it would be great if God did those things. But he says that the real prophets in the past had predicted war, famine, and disease.
- If a prophet who predicts peace somehow managed to be right—well, then it would really be impressive, and you'd know God sent that prophet.
- Hananiah then symbolically breaks the yoke from around Jeremiah's neck, the one that God had ordered him to wear.
- He says this is how God will break the Babylonians' yoke from Judah. He thinks he's clever.
- Jeremiah goes away, but the word of God comes to him. It says to tell Hananiah that he's broken off the wooden yoke only to have it replaced with an iron yoke. Judah and the other nations will most definitely fall to Nebuchadnezzar.
- Jeremiah goes to Hananiah and tells him that he's made the people believe in a lie. As punishment, God's planning on killing him within the year.
- He does. Jeremiah 1, Hananiah 0.
Keep Calm and Carry On
- This chapter records a letter that Jeremiah sent to the priests and prophets who've already been exiled to Babylon: King Coniah, the queen mother, the royal officials, the artisans and smiths.
- (It was sent by a guy named Elasah, for the record).
- Basically, it tells everyone to keep trying to lead a normal life—build houses, plant and eat from gardens, have your sons and daughters get married, replace your smoke detector batteries, etc.
- They should try to help make Babylon a nice place. God wants them to benefit themselves by making Babylon better.
- They shouldn't listen to the false prophets who are still hanging around.
- When seventy years are up, God will release the people and send them home.
- However, the people who didn't go into exile are going to deal with calamity and death. War, disease, and famine are coming for them any minute.
- Because they didn't obey their true prophets and change their ways, they'll be destroyed.
- Nebuchadnezzar will kill the false prophets, Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, in front of the people.
- A prophet named Shemaiah son of Nehelam sent a letter to Zephaniah the priest, asking him why he hasn't punished Jeremiah for spouting insane prophecies in the temple.
- Zephaniah reads the letter to Jeremiah, and then the word of God comes to Jeremiah.
- It tells him to write to the exiles, telling them that Shemaiah prophesied falsely to them and made them believe lies.
- God will punish Shemaiah by making sure that none of his descendants will live to see the end of the exile and the restoration of Judah.
- This chapter begins on a more positive note. That shouldn't be too hard, since the other chapters have been non-stop disaster.
- God tells Jeremiah to write down in a scroll everything God's told him.
- The day will come when God will restore the fortunes of all the people from Judah and Israel and let them go back to their homeland.
- At the moment, men are in so much pain that they look like they're going into childbirth. But Jacob's people will be liberated in the end. They'll serve God and the righteous king like David instead.
- God will bring the other nations to an end, but they themselves will be saved (though they'll have been punished pretty well beforehand).
- Things may be bad for the people now, but God will restore them to health and punish all the nations and peoples who've been plundering and exploiting them.
- God will have compassion on Jacob, Jerusalem will be rebuilt, merrymaking will begin again, and things will be like they used to be. They'll even have their own prince and six months of free HBO.
- They'll be God's people and he'll be their God again.
- God's wrath might not make sense now when they're suffering through it, but in the future the reasons will be clear. It's that "God works in mysterious ways" thing, we guess.
- God continues to talk about how great the future will be. He'll be the God of all the families of Israel.
- The people who've survived life in exile will find God again, like Jacob encountering God in a dream.
- God will reaffirm his love for Israel, and build it up again. People will plant vineyards and be merry. (Vineyards seem to be the key to happiness in ancient Israel.)
- So now they should celebrate, praising God and asking him to save them from exile.
- God will gather together all the Israelites from Babylon and from every part of the world and lead them all back to Judah and Israel—the blind and the lame, women and children: everyone.
- He'll treat them like a first-born child.
- Everywhere, people should talk about how God will soon bring Israel home.
- The people will get their oil and wine and flocks back; they'll be like a well-watered garden.
- The young women will dance and everyone will be happy again.
- The priests and everyone else will be satisfied with the bounty God's given them.
God Gets a Do-Over
- Metaphorically, Rachel (Jacob's wife) can be heard weeping for her lost children. God comforts her, telling her not to cry: her children will be brought back from exile.
- Again, Israel as a whole is represented by another Biblical character, Ephraim. Ephraim says that God's taught him a lesson and that he finally learned it.
- God agrees, says that Ephraim/Israel is still his beloved son, and promises to have some mercy on him.
- God advises Israel to consider the way back home, setting up signs and posts and breadcrumbs along the highway.
- He also says he's created a new thing on earth: a woman who encompasses a man. (Whatever that means; maybe a female Israel surrounding a male God? It's unclear, much debated. One translation suggests "a woman courts a man," like Sadie Hawkins Day.)
- The farmers and all the people who've been wandering will return to their land, and people will be filled with energy even before their morning Starbucks.
- God will replant Israel and Judah with people and animals, watching them grow instead of destroying them.
- Children won't have to pay for their parents' sins in the future. That would be like having to taste sourness if your parents were eating sour grapes.
- God's going to make a new covenant with the people, different from the covenant that they broke.
- This time the covenant will be an inner covenant. The law will be written on the people's hearts.
- They won't need to tell each other to "know the Lord," because they'll all know God.
- God says that Israel will be like his children unless the whole natural order fell apart, like if the sun and moon fell out of their courses, and the sea covered up all the land.
- Jerusalem will be totally rebuilt and improved. The valley that's now filled with corpses and ashes will be made sacred to God.
- In the tenth year of Zedekiah's reign, a message reaches Jeremiah from God.
- This is in the middle of the Babylonian invasion, and Zedekiah asks Jeremiah why he keeps prophesying about how Judah will be defeated.
- Jeremiah's been saying that Zedekiah will be taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar.
- God tells Jeremiah that his cousin Hanamel is going to ask him to buy a field he owns in Anathoth.
- So Jeremiah buys the field. He takes the deed and gives it to his good buddy and scribe, Baruch, in front of Hanamel and a bunch of officials.
- Jeremiah tells Baruch to put the deed in a clay jar and save it, because someday their family members' descendants (or whoever) will be able to return to Judah after the exile ends and show that they own the field.
- This is a kind of vote of confidence in God's promise that the people will get back to Judah. Not to mention Jeremiah's real-estate savvy. Can you imagine how much that land will be worth in 70 years?
- After doing this, Jeremiah prays. He praises God for his power and might and justice, but also for his mercy. He praises him for bringing them out of Egypt in the past.
- But Jeremiah notes that they didn't obey the covenant they made with God coming out of Egypt, so that's why the Babylonians are besieging them. He marvels at how God still instructed him to buy that field anyway.
- God says yeah—it's a piece of cake for him to pull these things off.
- But the Babylonians are still going to capture Jerusalem, burn it down, and punish the people for their various sins and for worshipping Baal. It's all been set in motion.
- Everyone in Israel has provoked God to anger and they're all guilty, from the kings and priests to the rest of the populace.
- He's mad at them (in case you didn't know yet) for building altars to Baal, sacrificing their kids to Moloch, etc. That's why he's let them fall into the hands of the Babylonians and suffer war, famine, and disease.
- But he'll bring them back because he has everlasting love for them despite their flaws.
- God tells Jeremiah he'll restore the people's fortune, and fields will be sold and deeds will be signed and sealed once again. Finally—the real estate market rebounds.
- While Jeremiah's imprisoned in the court of the guard, God's word comes to him.
- God says to call on him and learn the secrets that God knows. He predicts that the houses in Jerusalem will be filled with dead bodies once the Babylonians get into the city.
- God's hidden his face from his people, but he'll reveal it again and guide them and have mercy on them. Healing, prosperity, and security will eventually return.
- Even though the city's now an empty wasteland, it'll be filled again with merriment, marriages, and people bringing offerings to God.
- Judah and Jerusalem will become safe, holy, and righteous. God will send a "Branch" from the House of David to rule the people with justice and righteousness.
- David will always have a descendant on the throne, and the Levitical priests will always be ready to offer sacrifice.
- The offspring of David and the Levites will increase exponentially.
- Again, God says that even though the people think he's permanently forsaken Judah and Israel, he hasn't. He'll definitely make it up to them someday.
- During the war with Nebuchadnezzar, God sends his word to Jeremiah.
- He tells him to go to King Zedekiah and tell him that God's going to burn down the city and kill everyone.
- Zedekiah himself will be captured, but he won't die in the fighting. He'll die in peace and people will at least lament his passing. That's the good news.
- Jeremiah tells all this to Zedekiah.
- Jeremiah/the narrator notes that Lachish and Azekah were the only fortified cities the Babylonians hadn't defeated yet.
- Zedekiah makes a proclamation telling everyone to free their Hebrew slaves. They all obey at first, but afterwards people begin to re-enslave the slaves they'd just freed.
- God speaks to Jeremiah, and tells him that the people are again violating their covenant with him. When he led them out of Egypt, he'd told them they needed to free their Hebrew slaves but now they're refusing.
- Even with the Babylonian army on their doorstep, the people keep disobeying. Maybe they need their slaves to pack for the trip.
- Anyway, look out, slave owners. God's going to punish you with war, disease, and famine.
- The people who took back their slaves will end up being like a calf cut into pieces.
- Everyone's going to be either captured or made into food for wild animals and scavengers.
- King Zedekiah and his officials will be captured, and the Babylonians will capture and burn Jerusalem and all the towns in Judah.
Desert Dwelling Teetotalers
- In the days of King Jehoiakim, a word comes to Jeremiah from God. It tells him to go see the Rechabites, bring them to the temple, and offer them some wine.
- So Jeremiah takes the Rechabites to the chambers of a man of God named Hanan in the Temple, and offers them wine.
- They refuse because their ancestor, Jonadab, told them not to ever drink wine. He also told them never to plant a vineyard, build houses, or settle down and practice agriculture. They're supposed to live a nomadic existence in tents.
- The Rechabites are only living in Jerusalem because of Nebuchadnezzar's invasion, so they're stuck in one place for now.
- God speaks to Jeremiah again and tells him to go to the people of Judah. He's supposed to tell them to learn a lesson from the Rechabites.
- The Rechabites continue to obey their ancestor's laws, but the people of Judah can't obey God even when he commands them right to their faces.
- So in punishment, God's going to bring disaster on Judah (somewhat predictably, at this point).
- But God promises the Rechabites that they'll always have God's favor.
The King Burned My Homework
- God tells Jeremiah to take a scroll and write down all the prophecies he's spoken so far against Judah, Israel, and the nations, from Josiah's reign up to the present. Maybe it'll get people to mend their ways.
- Jeremiah dictates his prophecies to his faithful scribe, Baruch.
- Jeremiah isn't allowed in the temple anymore because the priests have had it with his jeremiads, so he sends Baruch to read it to the people gathered there during a fast day. Baruch reads them the scroll in the chamber of this guy named Gemariah.
- (This happens during Jehoiakim's reign, by the way. Kind of a flashback.)
- Gemariah's son, Michaiah, tells a bunch of palace officials about the words read by Baruch.
- So the officials send a dude named Jehudi to fetch Baruch and to have him read the scroll to them.
- Baruch reads to them and tells them Jeremiah dictated the book. The officials decide that the king definitely should hear these prophecies.
- But first they make sure that Baruch and Jeremiah are safely hidden away.
- They leave the scroll with the king and tell Jehudi to retrieve it when King Jehoiakim's ready to hear it.
- But as Jehudi reads the scroll, the king cuts off pieces and throws them in the fire until the whole scroll's burned up.
- The officials urge him not to burn the scroll but Jehoiakim won't listen. He orders Jeremiah and Baruch arrested, but God's already hidden them.
- God tells Jeremiah to dictate the scroll to Baruch over again (which he does). This time Jeremiah adds in some more prophecies.
- Years later, King Zedekiah and his officials also ignore the words of Jeremiah.
- But at the same time, Zedekiah sends a guy named Jehucal and the priest Zephaniah to go ask Jeremiah to pray for them.
- (Jeremiah hadn't yet been put in prison.)
- Also, the Babylonians have just retreated from Jerusalem because they heard that the army of the Egyptians is coming for them, so what's up with that?
- Jeremiah tells the two men not to kid themselves—the Egyptian army will return home, and the Babylonians will take over Jerusalem and burn it. This would happen even if the Babylonians only had wounded soldiers left in their tents. It's fated.
- With the Babylonians temporarily out of the picture, Jeremiah goes to the land of Benjamin to try to claim some property.
- But a guard named Irijah arrests him at the Benjamin gate, claiming that Jeremiah was going to surrender to the Babylonians.
- Jeremiah protests his innocence, but Irijah has him taken to the officials who beat him and imprison him in the secretary Jonathan's house.
- He sits around in the prison for days and days.
- When Zedekiah asks Jeremiah if there's any message for him, Jeremiah replies that Zedekiah will be captured by the king of Babylon.
- Jeremiah then asks why Zedekiah threw him in prison, since he's the only prophet who predicted this disaster. He pleads with the king not to send him back to the secretary's house to die in prison.
- Instead, the king holds him in a better part of the prison compound where he gets a loaf of bread every day, until all the bread in the city runs out.
Ebed-melech to the Rescue
- A group of officials hear Jeremiah telling the people that they'll be able to save their lives if they surrender to the Babylonians.
- They consider this treason, plus it's lowering everyone's morale, so they take him and throw him in a pit belonging to the king's son, Malchiah. Jeremiah sinks down into the mire, muddy but alive.
- An Ethiopian named Ebed-melech goes to the king and tells him about what the officials did to Jeremiah. Zedekiah tells him to get three men and pull Jeremiah out before he dies.
- They manage to rig up a way of retrieving Jeremiah with some rope and old rags and successfully get him out of the pit, but he stays in prison.
- Zedekiah goes to Jeremiah for advice. But first, Jeremiah makes Zedekiah swear that he won't put him to death or hand him over to the officials who want to kill him. We think that's reasonable, right?
- Jeremiah tells Zedekiah that he needs to surrender to the Babylonians. Otherwise they'll burn the city down and kill everyone. Even Zedekiah himself will be captured.
- Zedekiah's worried he'll be handed over to the Judeans who deserted and that they'll torture him. Jeremiah says not to worry. Just surrender. Resistance is futile.
- Jeremiah says that he can see the women and children in the palace all being paraded out by the Babylonians if Zedekiah can't bring himself to surrender.
- But Zedekiah's scared, and tells Jeremiah not to tell anyone about the conversation they just had.
- Jeremiah keeps his word. When the officials quiz him about it, he says he was just asking the king to free him and throwing around some ideas for an online Bible study course.
- Jeremiah continues to be imprisoned in the court of the guard.
Told You So
- Eventually, the Babylonians breach Jerusalem's walls and enter the city.
- All the Babylonian officials sit in the middle gate, and Zedekiah and his soldiers see them and flee toward Arabah.
- But they're not quick enough and they get captured.
- The Babylonians bring Zedekiah to Nebuchadnezzar in Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar passes sentence on him.
- They kill Zedekiah's sons in front of him, and slaughter all the nobles of Judah.
- Then they put out Zedekiah's eyes. It's hard not to feel for the guy. You just know he was pretty conflicted about whether to believe Jeremiah or not.
- The Babylonians burn down all the houses in Jerusalem (including the king's) and the Babylonian captain of the guard, Nebuzaradan, orders a mass exile of everyone from Jerusalem. Even those who had defected to him are sent off. He leaves some of the poor people to work the ground and what's left of the vineyards.
- Nebuchadnezzar frees Jeremiah and orders Nebuzaradan to protect him.
- He's put under the care of Gedaliah, the Babylonian appointed Hebrew governor, and left to live with the remaining people in Jerusalem.
- God sends a message to Jeremiah, telling him to tell Ebed-melech not to worry: although the city's falling and people are dying, he will survive since he trusted in God and helped the prophet.
(Avoiding) Exile on Main Street
- Nebuzaradan releases Jeremiah from the other captives who are being exiled. He takes him aside and says that God's clearly brought this disaster on Judah and Jerusalem.
- If Jeremiah wants to come with him to Babylon, he can—he'll be provided for. But if he wants to go back to Jerusalem and stay with Gedaliah, he can do that, too.
- Jeremiah decides to go back to Jerusalem and Nebuzaradan gives him some food. So Jeremiah stays with Gedaliah.
- Gedaliah tells the Hebrew soldiers and commanders to live in peace under Babylonian rule and everything will be OK. They can lead a normal life, gathering fruits and wine and oil, catching up on the HIMYM episodes they've missed during the siege.
- Judeans from Moab, Edom, and other places return to Judah now that Gedaliah's the governor.
- The commander Johanan and the remaining Hebrew forces tell Gedaliah that the king of the Ammonites hired one of their fellow Judean commanders, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, to kill him (Gedaliah), which will just cause more trouble and violence in Judah.
- But Gedaliah doesn't believe them, and won't give Johanan permission to kill Ishmael.
- You can probably guess what happens next.
Let's Do Lunch
- Ishmael brings ten men to Gedaliah's house in Mizpah.
- They begin by having a pleasant meal, but then Ishmael and his posse assassinate Gedaliah, rebelling against Babylon in the process. Johanan was right.
- They also kill all the Judean and Babylonian soldiers with Gedaliah at Mizpah.
- The next day, eighty men from Samaria, Shiloh, and Shechem arrive, bedraggled-looking pilgrims with torn clothes and beat-up bodies bringing offerings for the Temple.
- Ishmael pretends to invite them to see Gedaliah. Then he slaughters them in the middle of the city, sparing ten of them who bribe Ishmael by promising him wheat, barley, oil, and honey that they had hidden in a field.
A Narrow Escape
- Ishmael tosses all the bodies into a cistern, takes everyone else captive—including all the deceased king-governor's daughters—and heads out to join up with his sponsors, the Ammonites.
- But when Johanan hears what happened, he takes his men and rides out after them.
- They catch up with Ishmael at the pool of Gibeon, and Ishmael's captives rush over to Johanan's side.
- Ishmael somehow escapes with eight of his men and reaches the Ammonites.
- Johanan and his people are worried that the Babylonians are going to try to kill them even though they were on Gedaliah's side, so they decide to flee to Egypt for refuge.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
- Johanan and all his people first go to Jeremiah and ask him what to do.
- Jeremiah says he'll pray about it, and the people swear to follow whatever course of action God advises, even if it seems bad.
- After ten days, God speaks to Jeremiah.
- Jeremiah gathers Johanan and all his people and gives them the divine scoop: God says if they remain in their own land, he'll build them up. They shouldn't worry about repercussions from Babylon. God will have mercy.
- But God also says that if they decide to go ahead and move to Egypt, they won't escape war. They'll end up dying from war, disease, and famine in Egypt. No survivors.
- God says that the punishment for going to Egypt will be just as bad as the punishment just inflicted on Jerusalem.
- They'll become a cursed people and will never see their homeland again.
- Jeremiah reminds them that they promised to obey God. But he also says that he doesn't expect them to, since they've never listened to him before. Why start now?
- He repeats that they'll all die from war, disease, and famine when they go to Egypt.
- When Jeremiah finishes, Johanan and Azariah accuse him of lying: they don't believe God really advised them to stay. Typical.
- They claim that Baruch is encouraging Jeremiah to get them to stay so they'll be handed over to the Babylonians.
- So Johanan takes most of the people who remained in Judah (including Jeremiah and Baruch) and heads for Egypt.
- They disobey God and arrive at Tahphanes in Egypt.
More Performance Art
- God tells Jeremiah to take some large stones and bury them at the entrance to the Pharaoh's palace.
- He tells Jeremiah to announce to everyone that Nebuchadnezzar will ravage Egypt and build a throne above the stones. He'll also send people to their destined punishments of war, famine, or disease.
- Nebuchadnezzar will burn the temples of the Egyptian gods and take them (probably meaning their idols) captive.
"Those Who Fail To Learn Lessons from History Are Doomed to Repeat Them"
- God continues to reprimand the Judeans who fled to Egypt. He tells them that they've seen what happened to Judah for being disobedient and failing to listen to the prophets.
- He asks them why they're abandoning their homeland, leaving Judah without a remnant of its people. And now they're worshipping Egypt's gods and refusing to learn any lessons from how their ancestors and contemporary Hebrews were punished.
- No one seems to get it.
- It gets worse: the people who've been worshipping the Egyptian gods say that the disasters that have befallen them are because they've stopped worshipping a great goddess, the "queen of heaven."
- Jeremiah tells them that the opposite is true: God punished Judah for worshipping other gods in the first place. This is the problem, not the solution.
- Jeremiah relays another message from God: he says, fine—go ahead and keep worshipping the "queen of heaven."
- But God swears on his own great name that none of the Judeans left in Egypt will ever remember God's name or call on him.
- God will make sure that a terrible fate befalls them: they'll all die by war and famine. And he'll have Pharaoh Hophra get captured by the Babylonians just as he'd allowed them to capture King Zedekiah. So there.
- In this really short chapter, God contacts Jeremiah with a promise for Baruch (made during Jehoiakim's reign).
- He's heard Baruch complaining about the sorrow and suffering he's been forced to endure while he's been copying and recopying the scroll of Jeremiah's prophecies.
- God says it's not necessarily going to get much better, so he shouldn't expect much.
- But he promises Baruch that he'll survive wherever he goes.
- This chapter is a prophecy in poetic form against Egypt. It begins with God speaking about Pharaoh Neco, who gets defeated by Nebuchadnezzar at the River Euphrates in Mesopotamia.
- It's kind of like, "Get on your horses, Egyptians! Put on your armor and shields! Oh wait, you're retreating? You're getting slaughtered? What a shame."
- Like the floodwaters of the Nile, Egypt tries to spread over the earth and destroy cities.
- God urges the Egyptian warriors and their allies to get ready for battle. Then he says that they're just another sacrifice to his glory. They're next up to get clobbered by Babylon.
- God sarcastically tells Egypt to seek a medicinal balm in Gilead. But there's no healing for them: they're toast.
- God predicts that Nebuchadnezzar will invade and destroy Egypt.
- God says to tell the Egyptians to get ready for their slaughter.
- He also mocks their bull god, Apis, who's zero help to them.
- The Egyptians stumble home in defeat and the Pharaoh earns the nickname "Braggart Who Missed His Chance." Oh, snap!
- Egypt should pack its bags for exile—they're in for it.
- Egypt's like a "beautiful heifer" who gets stung and driven nuts by a gadfly from the north (Babylon).
- Egypt will be put to shame, slithering away in retreat like a snake, and being flattened like a forest cut down by the Babylonian war axes.
- God's bringing punishment on Amon of Thebes, Pharaoh, and all the Egyptian gods and kings.
- Pharaoh and those who trust in him will be captured, but afterwards Egypt will be inhabited again like it used to be.
- In concluding the chapter, God again promises Israel that it will be freed from captivity. God will destroy the nations that have oppressed Israel, but not Israel itself. The people will return to their homeland under God's protection.
- More poetry. God also predicts disaster for the Philistines.
- Water will come out of the north and flood and destroy the land and the cities and people who live in them (meaning the Babylonians will invade like a flood).
- Parents won't be able to save their children.
- Ashkelon, Tyre, Gaza, Sidon, and the remaining Philistines on the coastland will be destroyed with God's help.
- A voice cries out asking God for mercy, but he's on a roll.
- His sword won't go back into its scabbard until it's been satisfied with destruction.
Another Moabite Bites the Dust
- Next God/Jeremiah prophesies destruction for Moab.
- The fortified Moabite cities are in ruins. In Heshbon, people had plotted Moab's destruction, but they'll be destroyed too.
- Cities like Horonaim cry out about the destruction. They're warned—they should fly away and live like wild animals in the desert.
- The god Chemosh will go into exile and the people will be destroyed for trusting in their wealth.
- The towns, valleys, and plains will all be devastated.
- The warriors shouldn't hold back in devastating Moab, either. Bloodshed is a divine duty, and they'll be cursed if they don't do it.
- Right now, Moab's still unspoiled—it's like a full jug of wine.
- So it's the perfect time for invaders to drink that wine and smash its jug. Moab will be ashamed of its god, Chemosh.
- God continues with some more generic predictions of destruction for Moab. Cities like Dibon and Aroer will be devastated in the invasion.
- Jeremiah lists all the cities in Moab that are on God's hit list.
- Moab should get drunk and wallow in its own vomit, says God. Nice.
- Israel was once a laughingstock to Moab, but what goes around comes around.
How Many References to "Another one Bites the Dust" Can We Manage?
- Moab should flee and take refuge like a dove that lives in a craggy gorge.
- God mocks the pride and insolence of Moab, although another voice (Jeremiah's?) says he mourns for it.
- The invaders destroy its fruits and wreck its wine presses. There's shouting, but not shouts of joy.
- The Moabites will be totally eliminated, since they're a bunch of people who worship many gods.
- But the prophet's heart laments for Moab.
- All the Moabites are shaved and gashed and wearing sackcloth.
- God sweeps down on Moab like an eagle casting its shadow over them. Everyone gets creamed and the warriors are terrified.
- The Moabite sons and daughters are captured, and the worshippers of Chemosh all die.
- But actually, God says that he will restore Moab in the future.
- See a pattern here?
- Next up: the Ammonites. God asks why the Ammonites have dispossessed Israelites who were living in their lands.
- It's time for the Ammonites to be destroyed. The people will wail and wear sackcloth.
- The Ammonites have trusted in the wrong things, so God's getting his vengeance.
- They'll be scattered, but also restored in the future.
- Now God sets his sights on Edom: they'll meet misfortune like their ancestor Esau.
- God has totally stripped Esau and uncovered his hiding places, he says.
- God will kill most people, but he'll spare orphans and widows.
- A messenger from God orders everyone to attack the Edomites. It will be despised by everyone.
- Even if they hide in the clefts of the rock like eagles, they'll still be destroyed.
- It'll be as bad as the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. Meaning, really bad.
- Edom's little ones will be dragged away and killed. The cries of terror will be heard as far as the Red Sea.
- Edom's warriors will be in pain like a woman in labor.
And a Bunch of Other Places God Wants to Casually Destroy as an Afterthought
- Oh, and also—Damascus, bad news for you, too. It's a vulnerable place that'll definitely be destroyed.
- Young men will die in the squares, and a fire will destroy the stronghold of Ben-hadad.
- God cheers on the Babylonians in destroying Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor, urging pillage and plunder.
- God says it'd be an awesome country to spoil since it's poorly defended. You can walk right in. Easy as ABC. Or Aleph-Bet-Gimel.
- The Babylonians will take all the camels and cattle, and the people of those lands will be scattered.
- Also Elam will be destroyed, and the four winds will come and crush it, etc.
- But in the end, it'll also be restored.
But Wait, There's More
- Finally, God gets around to proclaiming judgment against Babylon. Just when you thought it was safe to be the conqueror…
- Babylon and its gods Bel and Merodach will be put to shame.
- Another nation will come out of the north to destroy it.
- The people of Israel and Judah will be freed and they'll go back to Zion with a new everlasting covenant.
- They'll be led back home like lost sheep with God as their shepherd.
- God's going to stir up a great (Persian-Median) army against them. Babylon will be plundered.
- Although Judah's plunderers are happy now, they'll soon be punished. Babylon will be devastated and uninhabitable.
- Everyone should go attack Babylon and turn it into a wasteland.
- Israel's been persecuted and exiled by both Assyria and Babylon. God will punish Babylon like he did Assyria, and the Hebrews will all return home and live without sin.
- God continues to get riled up about Babylon—he'll bring out his full armory to destroy them. Its bulls will get killed and its grain will be plundered.
- Refugees from Babylon will even come to Jerusalem, which is ironic given what they did to that city and its Temple.
- God will set Israel free from its captors, saving Israel and crushing Babylon in the process.
- What they did to others will now be done to them.
- God lists all the people who are going to get it: Babylonians, their officials, their sages, their diviners, their warriors, and their horses and chariots. He also curses the foreigners fighting for them, saying they'll become like women, i.e. ravaged.
- He curses Babylon's treasures and water supply, and says the people there have been a bit too infatuated with their idols.
- Wild animals and ostriches will take over Babylon, and it'll never be inhabited by humans again.
New Kids on the Block
- God tells everyone to look to the north where the new conquerors (the Persians) are getting ready for battle, riding toward Babylon like a roaring sea.
- The King of Babylon feels like a woman in labor hearing the news.
- God will appoint whoever he chooses over Babylon's ruined empire. He asks who else is like him or can accomplish all this. Yeah, who?
- The little ones of the Babylonian flock will be dragged away, and the sound of Babylon's cries will be heard everywhere.
- But wait, there's still more. God's going to send a destructive wind against Babylon.
- The land will be emptied. The young men shouldn't be spared, and the army needs to be totally annihilated.
- But Israel should be remembered and it should get far away from Babylon before God drops the boom on it.
- Babylon's like a cup of wine that God used to make everyone else drunk, but now he's destroying it.
- The Medes will destroy Babylon, providing God with vengeance for his ruined temple.
- God urges military preparations against the Babylonians with troops as numerous and destructive as locusts.
- God made the world by power and wisdom and understanding. He makes lightning, rain, wind, etc.
- Oh, and idols are bad (in case you didn't remember).
- God says that Israel is his war club (though this would make more sense if addressed to the Medes, actually).
- He's used them to crush kingdoms and people: old men, young men, farmers, soldiers, shepherds, and so on and so forth.
- God hates Babylon now and he'll turn it into a burned-out mountain.
- God imagines how sweet victory will be, with the Babylonian messengers running to tell the king about their loss and destruction. The Babylonian warriors become "like women."
- The people of Zion all ask for revenge against Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, which was like a monster that ate and digested them. Godzillanezzar, we believe.
- God will dry up and defeat Babylon. It'll become ruins and only jackals will live there.
- He'll lead the Babylonians like lambs to the slaughter after making them drunk with carelessness.
- The Babylonian god Bel will be punished too. Oh yeah.
- God's going to punish Babylon's idols. The heavens and earth will rejoice over Babylon's destruction.
- God tells the Hebrew survivors to run away from this destruction and set their minds on Jerusalem.
More Show and Tell
- But back to Jeremiah: Jeremiah wrote all his prophecies against Babylon and gave them to a guy named Seraiah.
- He told Seraiah (who was headed into exile in Babylon), to read the scroll in Babylon, remind God of his promise to destroy Babylon, and to finally drop the scroll into the Euphrates with a stone tied to it. As he does this, Seraiah is to say, "Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more."
- Jeremiah sure has a thing for the dramatic gesture.
Rewind and Recap: Zedekiah's Defeat
- This chapter begins by criticizing King Zedekiah: he ruled for eleven years, was the son of a woman named Hamutal, and did what was evil in God's eyes, like his predecessor Jehoiakim.
- During Zedekiah's reign, the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar besiege Jerusalem from the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign to the eleventh.
- At one point, everyone in Jerusalem is out of food: they're all starving.
- Eventually, the Babylonians take the city. Zedekiah and the soldiers flee towards Arabah but are finally captured.
It All Falls Down
- Nebuchadnezzar orders Zedekiah's sons killed in front of him and orders that Zedekiah be blinded and led into imprisonment in Babylon.
- The captain of the Babylonian guard, Nebuzaradan, burns down God's temple, destroys all the important houses in the city, breaks down the walls, and then sends everyone into exile except for the poorest people.
- The Babylonians totally raid the temple, stealing all the vessels, pots, shovels, bronze pillars with pomegranates on them, ladles, CDs of King David playing the harp, and other important Temple stuff.
- The Babylonians kill the chief priest Seraiah, the second priest Zephaniah, the three guardians of the threshold, and a lot of other important people.
- Nebuchadnezzar gradually takes more and more people into exile until eventually four thousand six hundred Judeans are exiled.
- But on a brighter note, a later Babylonian king, Evil-merodach, lets the exiled King Jehoiachin (Coniah) out of prison. He's allowed to eat at Evil-merodach's table, and he receives a regular daily allowance up until the day he dies.
- And that's all they wrote.