John T. Willis

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jeremiah's Conflict with Shemaiah--Jeremiah's Letter to the Judean Exiles in Babylon--Jeremiah 29

The third conflict of Jeremiah is his conflict with Shemaiah, related in Jeremiah
29. This chapter contains Jeremiah's letter and two responses. Thus Jeremiah 29 falls into three paragraphs.

I. Jeremiah sends a letter to the Judean exiles under Jehoiachin, assuring them that Yahweh will bring back the faithful remnant of Judah to the land of Israel after seventy years. Jeremiah 29:1-23.
a. The composer of the Book of Jeremiah explains that Jeremiah sent a letter from Jerusalem to the Judean exiles in Babylon under king Jehoiachin, which occurred a little later than 598 or 597 BCE. Elasah and Gemariah carried this letter under the instruction of King Zedekiah of Judah. 29:1-3. [Note that the accounts of Jeremiah's conflicts in Jeremiah 26-28 date respectively from 609-605 BCE for chapter 26, and 594 BCE for chapters 27-28, as outlined in previous blogs].
b. Jeremiah's message to the exiles is as follows:
*Build houses, plant gardens, marry, and multiply in Babylon. 29:4-6.
*Seek the welfare of the Babylonians. Support and encourage and help the Babylonians where you are now living. Pray to the Lord in behalf of the Babylonians. In these ways, Yahweh will bless you. 29:7.
*Do not listen to or accept the messages of the false prophets of Judah living in Babylon, because their messages are lies. 29:8-9.
*You Judean exiles must live in Babylon for 70 years, as I have already announced [see 25:11-12]. I have great plans for you "to give you a future with hope." If you will follow my instructions, when you pray to me, I will hear you and answer your prayers if you seek me with ALL YOUR HEART. I will RESTORE YOUR FORTUNES and gather you from all the nations and bring you back to Jerusalem and the land of Israel. 29:10-14.
*At the same time, I will bring "sword, famine, and pestilence" on Zedekiah and the Judeans still living in Jerusalem and the land of Judah, who have decided to oppose and rebel against Yahweh's instructions and guidance, and reject the messages of Yahweh's "servants the prophets."I will make them like "rotten figs"--a reference to Jeremiah 24:1-10. 29:15-20.
*Now, specifically, Yahweh through Jeremiah announces that he will deliver the false prophets Ahab and Zedekiah into the hands of Nebuchadrezzar and the Babylonians and kill them as an example for all the people of Judah. Ahab and Zedekiah perpetrated outrage in Israsl, committed adultery with their neighbors' wives, and spoken lying words in the name of Yahweh. 29:21-23.

II. Shemaiah sends a letter back to the priest Zephaniah at the Jerusalem temple, demanding that he rebuke Jeremiah strongly. Jeremiah 29:24-28.
a. Shemaiah reminds Zephaniah that Yahweh had made him priest instead of Jehoiada the priest "to control any madman who plays the prophet, and put him in the stocks and the collar." 29:24-26.
b. So Shemaiah confronts Zephaniah and asks him why he had not rebuked Jeremiah, who declared the Judean exiles would be in Babylon "a long time"=70 years. 29:27-28.

III. Zephaniah reports to Jeremiah the letter of Shemaiah. Yahweh declares through Jeremiah that Yahweh will destroy Shemaiah and his family because he is a false prophet. Jeremiah 29:29-32.
a. When Zephaniah receives Shemaiah's threatening letter, Zephaniah reads this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah. 29:29.
b. Yahweh comes to Jeremiah and tells Jeremiah to send another letter to the Judean exiles in Babylon, declaring that Shemaiah's letter was not from Yahweh. Therefore, Yahweh is going to punish Shemaiah and his descendants because Shemaiah "led the exiles to trust in a lie." 29:30-32.

Yahweh's messages through Jeremiah are certainly not ultimately messages of doom, but messages of hope. But Yahweh will give his people a future with hope in Yahweh's own time. God's people must be patient. It will take God 70 years to accomplish his promises. There is a powerful, relevant message for all of us today. God will ultimately prevail, but he may take many years, decades, centuries to carry out his plans. Let us trust in him daily.

Share YOUR thoughts and dreams to others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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