Jeremiah 23


This is a prophecy concerning shepherds or leaders. These false shepherds had scattered the flock. They hadn’t cared for the people. God says, ‘you have driven them into captivity. You are responsible.’

Note that James says, ‘let us not all be teachers because teachers will be judged more severely than others’.

Responsibility brings accountability. But there is hope for the future. God will bring the remnant back and new shepherds will be appointed who will do the job properly.

But by far the most important thing in this chapter is the glorious prophecy of Jesus Christ in verses 5-6. Jeremiah had just severely denounced the sins of the kings Jeremiah 22. Zedekiah, the last king to reign before the captivity, was not mentioned in Jeremiah 22.

Coffman says, ‘since he was the reigning monarch, it is not surprising that his name does not occur here.’

Tony Ash says that scholars generally agree in dating this chapter to the reign of Zedekiah. Some believe that the prophecy of the Messiah came before Zedekiah came to the throne, which probably influenced Zedekiah in the choice of his ‘throne name’, which resembles the glorious title of ‘The Lord our Righteousness’, which is mentioned in verse 6, because Zedekiah means, ‘The Lord is righteous.’

I have a problem with that anyway. 2 Kings 24:17 says that Nebuchadnezzar ‘made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah’.

It was therefore Nebuchadnezzar that gave him the new name. Not that it matters, but you can take your choice if you are that interested.

‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the LORD. Therefore, this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: ‘Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,’ declares the LORD. ‘I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,’ declares the LORD.’ Jeremiah 23:1-4

Here we see that the sheep are scattered by false shepherds, but God also says that He will scatter them. This is the prophecy that the ‘righteous remnant’ will return from Babylon to Judah. And we know that this happens.

‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Saviour. ‘So then, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.’ Jeremiah 23:5-8

A king is promised the righteous branch. This is mentioned again in Jeremiah 38:15, and also in Isaiah 11:1-5 / Isaiah 11:10-11. This is, of course, Messianic. The New Testament tells us that this is so. Is there any question about this? Not at all. This is, without doubt, the promise of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. These words cannot possibly refer to anyone else.

Who else, of all the people who have ever been born, could be called ‘The Lord our Righteousness’?

Strangely enough, one of the only scholars I can find who questions this is a teacher from Abilene University. Tony Ash says, ‘The concept of the coming king is not of major importance in Jeremiah. The Christian is tempted to find a reference to Christ here.’

Coffman says, ‘It seems strange that such a comment as this should come from a former Bible professor in a Christian university.’

Tony Ash seems to imply that there is no reference to Jesus Christ in this passage.

Who other than Jesus could ever hold this title of ‘The Lord of Righteousness’?

‘Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a strong man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and his holy words. The land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land lies parched and the pastures in the wilderness are withered. The prophets follow an evil course and use their power unjustly. ‘Both prophet and priest are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness,’ declares the LORD. ‘Therefore, their path will become slippery; they will be banished to darkness and there they will fall. I will bring disaster on them in the year they are punished,’ declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:9-12

The prophets and the priests have made God so angry that he shakes with anger. They are going to pay for it. God says, again, ‘I haven’t sent these false prophets’.

The first three words of verse 9 say this, ‘Concerning the prophets.’ You could call this the title for the rest of the chapter. These false prophets delivered their messages ‘in the name of God.’

They claimed to be speaking for God. They called Jeremiah a liar. Their message was, ‘We are the prophets of God, and God has told us that Jerusalem is safe.’

‘Among the prophets of Samaria, I saw this repulsive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that not one of them turns from their wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.’ Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty says concerning the prophets: ‘I will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water, because from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has spread throughout the land.’ Jeremiah 23:13-15

In a nutshell, these verses say that the evil prophets will suffer the judgment of God. The mention of Sodom and Gomorrah is pretty significant. Ezekiel also, in Ezekiel 16, said that the people had become ‘worse’ than Sodom and Gomorrah.

‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The LORD says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly. I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.’ Jeremiah 23:16-22

Verse 16 tells us that these false prophets preached thoughts from their own heart. They promised peace when there was no peace. They also promised prosperity for the people, not punishment. False prophets and teachers often promise only good things. Today’s false preachers know all about grace, love, mercy and forgiveness, they know nothing about the obedience of God’s Word.

‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the LORD, ‘and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD. ‘I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the LORD.’ Jeremiah 23:23-28

This is a warning to the false prophets, you can’t hide from God. God has heard all of their lies, now He will punish them for their lies. The false prophets will tell a dream, which is merely a dream, and not the word of God.

‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? ‘Therefore,’ declares the LORD, ‘I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes,’ declares the LORD, ‘I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The LORD declares.’ Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,’ declares the LORD. ‘They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,’ declares the LORD.’ Jeremiah 23:29-32

The word of God will consume the lies of men, Hebrews 4:12. The word of God will smash to pieces the false dreams of those who are led about by their own fantasies. Those who claim that ‘God spoke to them’ are actually counterfeiting the word of God. They claim to speak a word from God when actually they are relying on the imagination of their own minds. These are false prophets who fashion themselves after a pretence of religiosity in order to gain a following of people. 2 Corinthians 11:12-15.

‘When these people, or a prophet or a priest, ask you, ‘What is the message from the LORD?’ say to them, ‘What message? I will forsake you, declares the LORD.’ If a prophet or a priest or anyone else claims, ‘This is a message from the LORD,’ I will punish them and their household. This is what each of you keeps saying to your friends and other Israelites: ‘What is the LORD’s answer?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ But you must not mention ‘a message from the LORD’ again, because each one’s word becomes their own message. So, you distort the words of the living God, the LORD Almighty, our God. This is what you keep saying to a prophet: ‘What is the LORD’s answer to you?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ Although you claim, ‘This is a message from the LORD,’ this is what the LORD says: You used the words, ‘This is a message from the LORD,’ even though I told you that you must not claim, ‘This is a message from the LORD.’ Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along with the city I gave to you and your ancestors. I will bring on you everlasting disgrace—everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.’ Jeremiah 23:33-40

The message here is, that God sees everything. But this is a confusing section. The people were mocking Jeremiah by saying, ‘What’s your burden today then? To which Jeremiah would reply, ‘You are’.

Coffman says, ‘Many of the prophecies of Jeremiah began with the words, ‘The burden of the Jehovah.’ We know that the people didn’t believe Jeremiah’s prophecies, so they called him the burden of God. Whenever they saw him they said, ‘What’s your burden today then?

God believed this to be scandalous behaviour, and in verse 33 said, ‘I will punish them.’ The last verse has God saying, ‘I will bring upon you everlasting disgrace, everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.’

Go To Jeremiah 24



"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."