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Jeremiah Counsels Submission to Babylon
1 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah#sn The names of Jeremiah and of Nebuchadnezzar are spelled differently in the Hebrew of chapter 27-29. That and other literary features show that these three chapters are all closely related. The events of these three chapters all take place within the space of one year (cf. 28:1; 29:17). early in the reign of Josiah’s son, King Zedekiah of Judah.#tc The reading here is based on a few Hebrew mss and the Syriac and Arabic versions. The majority of Hebrew mss and most of the versions read “At the beginning of the reign of Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim king of Judah” as in 26:1. The LXX does not have this whole verse. It has long been recognized that the text of 27:1 is textually corrupt. The date formula in the majority of Hebrew mss at 27:1 is contradictory both with the context of the passage which deals with an event in the reign of Zedekiah (see vv. 3, 13 and v. 20 which presupposes that Jeconiah, Jehoiakim’s son, has been taken captive [i.e., after the death of Jehoiakim!]) and the date formula in 28:1 which refers to an event “in that same year” and then qualifies it with “Early in the reign of Zedekiah.” Hence it is preferable to read “Zedekiah” here in place of “Jehoiakim” and explain the error in the Hebrew manuscripts as an erroneous copying of 26:1.sn If the text of 28:1 is correct, the date here would be sometime in the fourth year of Zedekiah which would be 594/3 b.c. Zedekiah had been placed on the throne as a puppet king by Nebuchadnezzar after he deposed Zedekiah’s nephew, Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) and sent him, his family, some of the temple treasures, and some of the Judean leaders away to Babylon (2 Kgs 23:8-17). The author does not state directly why the envoys from the nations mentioned in v. 3 were in Jerusalem, but the implication is that they were there trying to interest Zedekiah in rebelling. Modern scholars have used the data here and in 28:1 and in the Babylonian Chronicles (it contains a record of major events of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign) to suggest a plausible background for such a meeting. Nebuchadnezzar had to put down an uprising in the east and quell a rebellion in Babylon itself in the two years prior to this meeting. Some “prophets” in the nation of Israel and in these other nations (see vv. 9-10) saw in these events hopes for not having to pay tribute to (i.e., submit to the yoke of) Nebuchadnezzar and were counseling rebellion. Jeremiah saw this as foolhardy and counseled otherwise. Again, there is a conflict between “prophets” which is what this whole section (Jer 27–29) is all about. 2 The Lord told me,#tn There is some disjunction in the narrative of this chapter. The introduction in v. 1 presents this as a third person narrative. But the rest of the passage reports the narrative in first person. Thus the text reads here “Thus the Lord said to me…” In vv. 12, 16 the narrative picks up in first person report and never indicates that Jeremiah carried out the command in vv. 2-4 that introduces the message which he repeats in summary form himself to Zedekiah. The report is thus an “unedited” first person report. This may create some confusion for some readers, but it is best to leave it in first person here because of the continuation in vv. 12, 16. “Make a yoke#sn The yoke is a common biblical symbol of political servitude (see, e.g., Deut 28:48; 1 Kgs 12:4, 9, 10). From the context of 1 Kgs 12 it is clear that it applied to taxation and the provision of conscript labor. In international political contexts it involved the payment of heavy tribute which was often conscripted from the citizens (see, e.g., 2 Kgs 15:19-20; 23:34-35) and the furnishing of military contingents for the sovereign’s armies (see, e.g., 2 Kgs 24:2). Jeremiah’s message here combines both a symbolic action (the wearing of a yoke) and words of explanation as in Jer 19:1-13. (See Isa 20:1-6 for an example outside of Jeremiah.) The casting off of the yoke has been used earlier in Jer 2:20, 5:5 to refer to Israel’s failure to remain spiritually “subject” or faithful to God. out of leather straps and wooden crossbars and put it on your neck. 3 Use it to send messages to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre,#map For location see Map1-A2; Map2-G2; Map4-A1; JP3-F3; JP4-F3. and Sidon.#sn The nations of Edom, Moab, and Ammon were east of Judah. They were sometimes allies and sometimes enemies. The nations of Tyre and Sidon were on the sea coast north and west of Judah. They are best known for their maritime trade during the reign of Solomon. They were more commonly allies of Israel and Judah than enemies.map For the location of Sidon see Map1-A1; JP3-F3; JP4-F3. Send them through#tn Heb “send by means of them” [i.e., the straps and crossbars made into a yoke] to…through.” The text is broken up in conformity with contemporary English style. Many English versions ignore the suffix on the end of “send” and find some support for this on the basis of its absence in the Lucianic Greek text. However, it is probably functioning metonymically here for the message which they see symbolized before them and is now explained clearly to them. the envoys who have come to Jerusalem#map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. to King Zedekiah of Judah. 4 Charge them to give their masters a message from me. Tell them, ‘The Lord God of Israel who rules over all#tn Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.”sn See study notes on 2:19 and 7:3 for the significance of this title. says to give your masters this message.#tn Heb “Give them a charge to their masters saying, ‘Thus says Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel, “Thus you shall say unto your masters…”’” The sentence is broken up in conformity with contemporary English style. 5 “I made the earth and the people and animals on it by my mighty power and great strength,#tn Heb “by my great power and my outstretched arm.” Again “arm” is symbolical for “strength.” Compare the similar expression in 21:5. and I give it to whomever I see fit.#sn See Dan 4:17 for a similar statement. 6 I have at this time placed all these nations of yours under the power#tn Heb “have given…into the hand of.” of my servant,#sn See the study note on 25:9 for the significance of the application of this term to Nebuchadnezzar. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. I have even made all the wild animals subject to him.#tn Heb “I have given…to him to serve him.” The verb “give” in this syntactical situation is functioning like the Hiphil stem, i.e., as a causative. See Dan 1:9 for parallel usage. For the usage of “serve” meaning “be subject to” compare 2 Sam 22:44 and BDB 713 s.v. עָבַד 3.sn This statement is rhetorical, emphasizing the totality of Nebuchadnezzar’s dominion. Neither here nor in Dan 2:38 is it to be understood literally. 7 All nations must serve him and his son and grandson#sn This is a figure that emphasizes that they will serve for a long time but not for an unlimited duration. The kingdom of Babylon lasted a relatively short time by ancient standards. It lasted from 605 b.c. when Nebuchadnezzar defeated Necho at Carchemish until the fall of Babylon in 538 b.c. There were only four rulers. Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son, Evil Merodach (cf. 52:31), and two other rulers who were not descended from him. until the time comes for his own nation to fall.#tn Heb “until the time of his land, even his, comes.” The independent pronoun is placed here for emphasis on the possessive pronoun. The word “time” is used by substitution for the things that are done in it (compare in the NT John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20 “his hour had not yet come”).sn See Jer 25:12-14, 16. Then many nations and great kings will in turn subjugate Babylon.#tn Heb “him.” This is a good example of the figure of substitution where the person is put for his descendants or the nation or subject he rules. (See Gen 28:13-14 for another good example and Acts 22:7 in the NT.) 8 But suppose a nation or a kingdom will not be subject to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Suppose it will not submit to the yoke of servitude to#tn Heb “put their necks in the yoke of.” See the study note on v. 2 for the figure. him. I, the Lord, affirm that#tn Heb “oracle of the Lord.” I will punish that nation. I will use the king of Babylon to punish it#tn Heb “The nation and/or the kingdom which will not serve him, Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and which will not put its neck in the yoke of the king of Babylon, by sword, starvation, and disease I will punish [or more literally, “visit upon”] that nation, oracle of the Lord.” The long complex Hebrew sentence has been broken up in conformity with contemporary English style and the figures interpreted for the sake of clarity. The particle אֵת, the sign of the accusative, before “which will not put…” is a little unusual here. For its use to introduce a new topic (here a second relative clause) see BDB 85 s.v. אֵת 3.α. with war,#tn Heb “with/by the sword.” starvation, and disease until I have destroyed it.#tc The verb translated “destroy” (תָּמַם, tamam) is usually intransitive in the stem of the verb used here. It is found in a transitive sense elsewhere only in Ps 64:7. BDB 1070 s.v. תָּמַם 7 emends both texts. In this case they recommend תִּתִּי (titi): “until I give them into his hand.” That reading is suggested by the texts of the Syriac and Targumic translations (see BHS fn c). The Greek translation supports reading the verb “destroy” but treats it as though it were intransitive “until they are destroyed by his hand” (reading תֻּמָּם [tummam]). The MT here is accepted as the more difficult reading and support is seen in the transitive use of the verb in Ps 64:7.tn Heb “I will punish that nation until I have destroyed them [i.e., its people] by his hand.” “Hand” here refers to agency. Hence, “I will use him.” 9 So do not listen to your prophets or to those who claim to predict the future by divination,#sn Various means of divination are alluded to in the OT. For example, Ezek 21:26-27 alludes to throwing down arrows to see which way they fall and consulting the shape of the liver of slaughtered animals. Gen 44:5 alludes to reading the future through pouring liquid in a cup. The means alluded to in this verse were all classified as pagan and prohibited as illegitimate in Deut 18:10-14. The Lord had promised that he would speak to them through prophets like Moses (Deut 18:15, 18). But even prophets could lie. Hence, the Lord told them that the test of a true prophet was whether what he said came true or not (Deut 18:20-22). An example of false prophesying and the vindication of the true as opposed to the false will be given in the chapter that follows this. by dreams, by consulting the dead,#sn An example of this is seen in 1 Sam 28. or by practicing magic. They keep telling you, ‘You do not need to be#tn The verb in this context is best taken as a negative obligatory imperfect. See IBHS 508-9 §31.4g for discussion and examples. See Exod 4:15 as an example of positive obligation. subject to the king of Babylon.’ 10 Do not listen to them,#tn The words “Don’t listen to them” have been repeated from v. 9a to pick up the causal connection between v. 9a and v. 10 that is formally introduced by a causal particle in v. 10 in the original text. because their prophecies are lies.#tn Heb “they are prophesying a lie.” Listening to them will only cause you#tn Heb “lies will result in your being taken far…” (לְמַעַן [lÿma’an] + infinitive). This is a rather clear case of the particle לְמַעַן introducing result (contra BDB 775 s.v. מַעַן note 1. There is no irony in this statement; it is a bold prediction). to be taken far away from your native land. I will drive you out of your country and you will die in exile.#tn The words “out of your country” are not in the text but are implicit in the meaning of the verb. The words “in exile” are also not in the text but are implicit in the context. These words have been supplied in the translation for clarity. 11 Things will go better for the nation that submits to the yoke of servitude to#tn Heb “put their necks in the yoke of.” See the study note on v. 2 for the figure. the king of Babylon and is subject to him. I will leave that nation#tn The words “Things will go better for” are not in the text. They are supplied contextually as a means of breaking up the awkward syntax of the original which reads “The nation which brings its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and subjects itself to him, I will leave it…” in its native land. Its people can continue to farm it and live in it. I, the Lord, affirm it!”’”#tn Heb “oracle of the Lord.”
12 I told King Zedekiah of Judah the same thing. I said,#tn Heb “I spoke to Zedekiah…according to all these words, saying.” “Submit#sn The verbs in this verse are all plural. They are addressed to Zedekiah and his royal advisers (compare 22:2). to the yoke of servitude to#tn Heb “put their necks in the yoke of.” See the study note on v. 2 for the figure. the king of Babylon. Be subject to him and his people. Then you will continue to live. 13 There is no reason why you and your people should die in war#tn Heb “with/by the sword.” or from starvation or disease!#tn Heb “Why should you and your people die…?” The rhetorical question expects the answer made explicit in the translation, “There is no reason!” That’s what the Lord says will happen to any nation#tn Heb “…disease according to what the Lord spoke concerning the nation that…” that will not be subject to the king of Babylon. 14 Do not listen to the prophets who are telling you that you do not need to serve#tn The verb in this context is best taken as a negative obligatory imperfect. See IBHS 508 §31.4g for discussion and examples. See Exod 4:15 as an example of positive obligation. the king of Babylon. For they are prophesying lies to you. 15 For I, the Lord, affirm#tn Heb “oracle of the Lord.” that I did not send them. They are prophesying lies to you. If you#sn The verbs are again plural referring to the king and his royal advisers. listen to them, I will drive you and the prophets who are prophesying lies out of the land and you will all die in exile.”#tn Heb “…drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying lies.”sn For the fulfillment of this prophecy see Jer 39:5-7; 52:7-11; 2 Kgs 25:4-7.
16 I also told the priests and all the people, “The Lord says, ‘Do not listen to what your prophets are saying. They are prophesying to you that#tn Heb “don’t listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you….” The sentence has been broken up for the sake of English style and one level of embedded quotes has been eliminated to ease complexity. the valuable articles taken from the Lord’s temple will be brought back from Babylon very soon.#sn This refers to the valuable articles of the temple treasury which were carried off by Nebuchadnezzar four years earlier when he carried off Jeconiah, his family, some of his nobles, and some of the cream of Judean society (2 Kgs 24:10-16, especially v. 13 and see also vv. 19-20 in the verses following). But they are prophesying a lie to you. 17 Do not listen to them. Be subject to the king of Babylon. Then you#tn The imperative with vav (ו) here and in v. 12 after another imperative are a good example of the use of the imperative to introduce a consequence. (See GKC 324-25 §110.f and see Gen 42:18. This is a common verb in this idiom.) will continue to live. Why should this city be made a pile of rubble?’”#tn According to E. W. Bullinger (Figures of Speech, 954) both this question and the one in v. 13 are examples of rhetorical questions of prohibition / “don’t let this city be made a pile of rubble.” 18 I also told them,#tn The words “I also told them” are not in the text, but it is obvious from the fact that the Lord is spoken about in the third person in vv. 18, 19, 21 that he is not the speaker. This is part of Jeremiah’s own speech to the priests and the people (v. 16). These words are supplied in the translation for clarity. “If they are really prophets and the Lord is speaking to them,#tn Heb “the word of the Lord is with them.” let them pray earnestly to the Lord who rules over all.#tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”sn For the significance of this title see the study note on 2:19. Let them plead with him not to let the valuable articles that are still left in the Lord’s temple, in the royal palace, and in Jerusalem be taken away#tn Heb “…speaking to them, let them entreat the Lord…so that the valuable articles…will not go to Babylon.” The long original sentence has been broken up for the sake of English style. to Babylon. 19 For the Lord who rules over all#tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.” For the significance of this title see the note at 2:19. has already spoken about the two bronze pillars,#tn The words “two bronze” are not in the text. They have been supplied in the translation to help identify the referent.sn The two bronze pillars are the two free-standing pillars at the entrance of the temple (Jakin and Boaz) described in 1 Kgs 7:15-22. the large bronze basin called ‘The Sea,’#tn The words “the large bronze basin called” are not in the text. They have been supplied in the translation to help identify the referent.sn “The Sea” refers to the large basin that was mounted on twelve bronze bulls. It stood in front of the temple and contained water for the priests to bathe themselves (2 Chr 4:6; cf. Exod 30:17-21). It is described in 1 Kgs 7:23-26. and the movable bronze stands.#tn The words “movable bronze” are not in the text. They have been supplied in the translation to help identify the referent. See the study note for further reference.sn The bronze stands are the movable bronze stands described in 1 Kgs 7:27-37. They were the stands for the bronze basins described in 1 Kgs 7:38-39. According to 2 Chr 4:6 the latter were used to wash the burnt offerings. The priests would have been very concerned especially about the big bronze basin and the movable stands and their basins because they involved their ritual purification apart from which they would have had no sanctity. These articles (or furnishings in this case) were broken up and the bronze carried away to Babylon along with all the other bronze, silver, and gold furnishings when the temple and the city were destroyed in 587 b.c. (see 2 Kgs 25:13-15; Jer 52:17-19). He has already spoken about the rest of the valuable articles that are left in this city. 20 He has already spoken about these things that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon did not take away when he carried Jehoiakim’s son King Jeconiah of Judah and the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem away as captives.#tn 27:19-20 are all one long sentence in Hebrew. It has been broken up for the sake of English style. Some of the sentences still violate contemporary English style (e.g., v. 20) but breaking them down any further would lose the focus. For further discussion see the study note on v. 21. 21 Indeed, the Lord God of Israel who rules over all#tn Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.” For the significance of this title see the note at 2:19. has already spoken#sn Some of the flavor of the repetitive nature of Hebrew narrative is apparent in vv. 19-21. In the Hebrew original vv. 19-20 are all one long sentence with complex coordination and subordinations. I.e., all the objects in v. 19 are all objects of the one verb “has spoken about” and the description in v. 20 is one long relative or descriptive clause. The introductory “For the Lord…has already spoken” is repeated in v. 21 from v. 19 and reference is made to the same articles once again, only in the terms that were used in v. 18b. By this means, attention is focused for these people (here the priests and the people) on articles which were of personal concern for them and the climax or the punch line is delayed to the end. The point being made is that the false prophets are mistaken; not only will the articles taken to Babylon not be returned “very soon” but the Lord had said that the ones that remained would be taken there as well. They ought rather pray that the Lord will change his mind and not carry them off as well. about the valuable articles that are left in the Lord’s temple, in the royal palace of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 22 He has said, ‘They will be carried off to Babylon. They will remain there until it is time for me to show consideration for them again.#tn This verb is a little difficult to render here. The word is used in the sense of taking note of something and acting according to what is noticed. It is the word that has been translated several times throughout Jeremiah as “punish [someone].” It is also used in the opposite of sense of taking note and “show consideration for” (or “care for;” see, e.g., Ruth 1:6). Here the nuance is positive and is further clarified by the actions that follow, bringing them back and restoring them. Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.’ I, the Lord, affirm this!”#tn Heb “oracle of the Lord.”