Jeremiah 21


This context takes us to the end of Judah and Jerusalem that occurred in 586 B.C. It was then that the Babylonians laid siege to the city and destroyed it, Jeremiah 37:3–38:28, taking into captivity the remainder of the Israelites.

‘The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. They said: ‘Inquire now of the LORD for us because Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the LORD will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us.’ Jeremiah 21:1-2

Zedekiah was the last king of Israel before the captivity. In view of the idolatry into which the nation had fallen by this time, and Pashhur’s persecution of Jeremiah, we would assume that Zedekiah’s plea to the Lord was the last resort after he had consulted all his false gods. The plea, therefore, would reveal a belittlement of the God of heaven in the mind of Zedekiah.

He belittled God by considering Him to be the last ‘god’ to which he would plead for the deliverance of the nation. We cannot believe that he had now become a monotheist and true believer in the God of heaven. We would also suppose that this was a humiliating command in reference to what Pashhur was to do. He now was commanded by the king to request prayer from Jeremiah whom he had formerly beaten and publicly mocked.

‘But Jeremiah answered them, ‘Tell Zedekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against you the weapons of war that are in your hands, which you are using to fight the king of Babylon and the Babylonians who are outside the wall besieging you. And I will gather them inside this city. I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in furious anger and in great wrath. I will strike down those who live in this city—both man and beast—and they will die of a terrible plague. After that, declares the LORD, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the people in this city who survive the plague, sword and famine, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who want to kill them. He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion.’ Jeremiah 21:3-7

Destruction and death were certain. The historical calamity that would befall Jerusalem, and was unchangeably written with a stylus of iron, had now come to fulfilment. No request would turn the course of history. They had waited too long to repent.

‘Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the LORD says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives. I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the LORD. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.’ Jeremiah 21:8-10

God set two options before the people. They could surrender and give themselves over to the Babylonians. Or, they could stay in the city and fight. If one gave himself over to the Babylonians, a person’s booty from the battle would be his own life.

Those who remained in the city would die from the natural catastrophes and war that came with a city under siege. Those who would surrender would thus begin the hard road to cultural rehabilitation. It would start with total submission to the enemy, and thus humiliation that would crush the arrogance that brought them to this point in history.

Their children would thus be born to parents who had suffered the humiliation of captivity. In growing up in captivity, the children, therefore, would begin the spiritual road back to submission to God. On the other side of the captivity, a new generation would come forth in service to God.

‘Moreover, say to the royal house of Judah, ‘Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the LORD says to you, house of David: ‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it. I am against you, Jerusalem, you who live above this valley on the rocky plateau, declares the LORD—you who say, ‘Who can come against us? Who can enter our refuge?’ I will punish you as your deeds deserve, declares the LORD. I will kindle a fire in your forests that will consume everything around you.’ Jeremiah 21:11-14

This exhortation is a general message to the kings of Judah. Those material things that were acquired by the exploitation of the oppressed, and which the rich oppressors cherished so much, would be taken from them by their captors. The corrupt rulers would lose all they had taken from the people through corruption.

Although the city of Jerusalem is mentioned here, in view of the context, it could be to the royal family that lived in Jerusalem. Whether Jerusalem or the royal family, self-sufficient arrogance was their character. God would come down to them in judgment.

When people deal harshly with others, with the same harshness God will deal with them. We will be judged according to our deeds, 2 Corinthians 5:10.

Go To Jeremiah 22



"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."