Category Archives: Jeremiah

The Book of Jeremiah

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem by Rembrandt van Rijn 1630

Jeremiah is the first large work of scripture I worked through on this blog and this early work on Jeremiah remains influential on my thinking. Early in my experience in blogging there are some lessons I’ve learned about the process but below is a table of contents to make the posts on Jeremiah more accessible.

Review of Jeremiah: The Fate of a Prophet by Binyamin Lau
An Introduction to the Prophet Jeremiah
The Calling: Jeremiah 1
The Wounded God: Jeremiah 2: 1-19
Rhetorical Overkill: Jeremiah 2: 20-37
The God Who Wouldn’t Give Up: Jeremiah 3
God the Wounded Lover: Jeremiah 4: 1-4
The Siren Call: Jeremiah 4: 5-10
The Poetry of Death and Destruction: Jeremiah 4: 11-18
The Prophet’s Agony: Jeremiah 4: 19-31
Searching for the Righteous One: Jeremiah 5: 1-6
The End of the World as They Know It: Jeremiah 5: 7-17
Corrupted Justice: Jeremiah 5: 18-31
The World Turned Upside Down: Jeremiah 6: 1-8
Peace, Peace When There Is No Peace: Jeremiah 6: 9-14
The Disconnect Between Worship and Obedience: Jeremiah 6: 15-21
Not Precious Metal, Fools Gold: Jeremiah 6: 22-30
Railing Against the Temple: Jeremiah 7: 1-5
The Prophet Who Hears and the People Who Don’t: Jeremiah 7: 16-26
The City Becomes a Desolation: Jeremiah 7:27-8:3
Jeremiah 8:4-9:1 The Headstrong People and the Heartsick Prophet and God
Jeremiah 9: 2-26 Death in and of the Land
The Things that Deceive: Jeremiah 10
Jeremiah 11: From Blessing to Curse
Jeremiah 12: The Disillusioned Prophet and the God who Listens
Jeremiah 13: Weeping for Those who do not Hear
Jeremiah 14: The Broken Covenant and the Death of the Land
Jeremiah 15: Ready to Walk Away
Jeremiah 16: A Vision of Resurrection, but only through Death
Jeremiah 17: States of the Heart
Jeremiah 18: A Misshapen People
Jeremiah 19: Broken Jugs
Jeremiah 20: The Abused Prophet
Jeremiah 21: A Kingdom Laid Low
Jeremiah 22: Justice, the King, and Judgment
Jeremiah 23: A Righteous Branch and Unrighteous Prophets
Jeremiah 24: Exiles, Figs and Reversals
Jeremiah 25: Drinking the Cup of Wrath
Jeremiah 26: The Prophet, The Temple, and the Elders
Jeremiah 27: The Yoke of Babylon
Jeremiah 28: The True and False Prophets
Jeremiah 29: A Letter to the Exiles and the Recurring False Prophets
Jeremiah 30: Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness
Jeremiah 31: Out of the Nightmare A Dream for the Future
Jeremiah 32: Purchasing a Field During a Siege
Jeremiah 33: Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness
Jeremiah 34: A Broken Covenant
Jeremiah 35: The Example of the Rechabites
Jeremiah 36: The Consumed Scroll and the Indestructible Words
Jeremiah 37: The People Who Do Not Hear
Jeremiah 38: The Officials, the Prophet, the Eunuch, and the King
Jeremiah 39: The City Falls
Jeremiah 40: The Remnant
Jeremiah 41: The Murder of Gedaliah and a Shattered Hope
Jeremiah 42: A Final Prayer and a Final Response
Jeremiah 43: The Flight to Egypt
Jeremiah 44: Plummeting to the End
Jeremiah 45: The Scribe and the World Endure the Ending
Jeremiah 46: Judgment for Egypt and Hope for Jacob
Jeremiah 47: Philistia Caught in the Flood
Jeremiah 48: Against Moab
Jeremiah 49: Judgment on Other Nations
Jeremiah 50-51: The Cry Against Babylon
Jeremiah 52: Ending the Journey
A Major Completion and Transition

Jeremiah 52 Ending the Journey

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem by Rembrandt van Rijn 1630

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem by Rembrandt van Rijn 1630

                Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign; he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 2 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, just as Jehoiakim had done. 3 Indeed, Jerusalem and Judah so angered the LORD that he expelled them from his presence. Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

 4 And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and they laid siege to it; they built siegeworks against it all around. 5 So the city was besieged until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.

 6 On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine became so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. 7 Then a breach was made in the city wall; and all the soldiers fled and went out from the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king’s garden, though the Chaldeans were all around the city. They went in the direction of the Arabah. 8 But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered, deserting him. 9 Then they captured the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he passed sentence on him. 10 The king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and also killed all the officers of Judah at Riblah. 11 He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in fetters, and the king of Babylon took him to Babylon, and put him in prison until the day of his death.

12 In the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month– which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon– Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard who served the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. 13 He burned the house of the LORD, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. 14 All the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down all the walls around Jerusalem. 15 Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile some of the poorest of the people and the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the artisans. 16 But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left some of the poorest people of the land to be vinedressers and tillers of the soil.

 17 The pillars of bronze that were in the house of the LORD, and the stands and the bronze sea that were in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried all the bronze to Babylon. 18 They took away the pots, the shovels, the snuffers, the basins, the ladles, and all the vessels of bronze used in the temple service. 19 The captain of the guard took away the small bowls also, the firepans, the basins, the pots, the lampstands, the ladles, and the bowls for libation, both those of gold and those of silver. 20 As for the two pillars, the one sea, the twelve bronze bulls that were under the sea, and the stands, which King Solomon had made for the house of the LORD, the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weighing. 21 As for the pillars, the height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, its circumference was twelve cubits; it was hollow and its thickness was four fingers. 22 Upon it was a capital of bronze; the height of the one capital was five cubits; latticework and pomegranates, all of bronze, encircled the top of the capital. And the second pillar had the same, with pomegranates. 23 There were ninety-six pomegranates on the sides; all the pomegranates encircling the latticework numbered one hundred.

 24 The captain of the guard took the chief priest Seraiah, the second priest Zephaniah, and the three guardians of the threshold; 25 and from the city he took an officer who had been in command of the soldiers, and seven men of the king’s council who were found in the city; the secretary of the commander of the army who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land who were found inside the city. 26 Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them, and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 27 And the king of Babylon struck them down, and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah went into exile out of its land.

 28 This is the number of the people whom Nebuchadrezzar took into exile: in the seventh year, three thousand twenty-three Judeans; 29 in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar he took into exile from Jerusalem eight hundred thirty-two persons; 30 in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadrezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took into exile of the Judeans seven hundred forty-five persons; all the persons were four thousand six hundred.

 31 In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, King Evil-merodach of Babylon, in the year he began to reign, showed favor to King Jehoiachin of Judah and brought him out of prison; 32 he spoke kindly to him, and gave him a seat above the seats of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. 33 So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes, and every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table. 34 For his allowance, a regular daily allowance was given him by the king of Babylon, as long as he lived, up to the day of his death.


In its own strange way the book of Jeremiah as we have it today comes to an end. In an almost words for word parallel of 2 Kings24:18-25:30 , with the addition of the comments about the number of people deported in verses 28-30 and the omission of the appointment and execution of Gedeliah in 2 Kings 25:22-26 (which is dealt with at length in Jeremiah 40-41). There is a tradition that the Book of Kings (which we divide into 1 & 2 Kings) and the Book of Jeremiah both originate with Jeremiah and do share a similar theological judgment to explain why the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah collapsed, but regardless of who composed or edited each work the ending of 2 Kings and Jeremiah almost certainly share a common source. So why end here, even going back and retelling once more in a short summary narrative the collapse of Jerusalem.

The book of Jeremiah attempts to make sense of the what seems senseless, the ending of the world as the people of Judah and Jerusalem knew it in the emergence of the Babylonian empire and the conquering multiple times and eventual decimation of the land, the city, the people, the temple and all the markers that made them who they are. The pride of the people is shattered, the riches of the temple are cut up and carried off, the items that the false prophet Hananiah said would be returned in Jeremiah 28 are not only not returned but everything else is carried off. So much time is spent dwelling on the vessels of the temple which are carried away perhaps to catalog the way things were for some future day when they can be reclaimed, but the volume of description for the vessels and articles of the temple vastly outweigh the sparcity of the description of those taken into exile.

Those who go into exile is another puzzling feature. The decimation of Judah and Jerusalem must have led to many, many deaths by war, starvation and pestilence (as we heard echoed throughout the book) and certainly seventy four Judeans, many if not all bearing specific titles or ranks, who were executed is an act which created horror among the people as well as the arrest, blinding and public shaming of Zedekiah, would have created a trauma among many of the people, but to look at the numbers talked about in the deportation(a total of 4,600 people and only 832 in the deportation of the story immediately providing context) seems like a very small part of the Judean population or even the population of Jerusalem. The Babylonian exile is one of the defining events of the Jewish identity and yet the numbers don’t seem to match the impact or the number of people that would become dispersed in the diaspora. It is from those who are deported and go into exile in Babylon that the future will come out of, and yet to me this number seems smaller than I had expected to see.

The story does end on a small note of hope, Jehoiachin the first king deported is eventually shown favor and perhaps there is an entry of hope for the rest of those in captivity in Babylon. Perhaps the people who heeded Jeremiah’s plea to settle in the land where they find themselves allows for the birth of a new hope and a new beginning. It is during this time that many of the writings of the Hebrew Bible will be compiled and collected and brought together to be used to continue to form the identity of this people now in exile in a foreign land.

So my long journey with the book that bears Jeremiah’s name comes to an end. It has been at times a challenging journey and it means walking through the depression and questions that come with the ending of all the things that once defined a people. The very things that occupy space in this last chapter, the humiliation and imprisonment of the Davidic king, the loss of the land and the city of Jerusalem, the loss of the temple built under Solomon no longer provide identity and meaning for the people and now as they go into exile they have to find a new way to construct their identity as the chosen people of the LORD. The anguished cries of Jeremiah are a part of that process of reconstruction as are the process of collecting together the stories and memories of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. For the people to understand who they are going forward it appears they first have to look back into the past and evaluating their story theologically determine what went wrong in the past to make a way for a new future after the exile.


Jeremiah 50-51 The Cry Against Babylon


Detail from the Ishtar Gate (Reconstruction in Berlin's Pergamon Museum)

Detail from the Ishtar Gate (Reconstruction in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum)

I am going to break with my normal pattern with Jeremiah and put the text after the reflections. It didn’t make sense to me to cover these two chapters as separate because they are both a part of a long conglomeration of oracles against Babylon, set by the text in the fourth year of King Zedekiah (in the time between the first exile where leadership are taken into exile and the main exile where the largest group is taken into exile in Babylon). To place this oracle against Babylon coming from the mouth of Jeremiah combined with the sign act of throwing the scroll into the Euphrates by Seraiah seems to run against everything else Jeremiah is saying at this time. Many historical critical scholars would argue against this being composed by Jeremiah but the reality is that we have this massive book which we now receive as the book of Jeremiah and there is no way to go back to the ‘authentic words of Jeremiah’ or to tell exactly what Jeremiah the prophet wrote and some later compiler.

I take this long scream against the Babylonian empire about its coming destruction much the same way I take Psalm 137 which is a cry out of pain. The people of Judah after encountering the destruction of all that they know need some hope that God has not abandoned them to their fate, that Babylon is far from blameless and must also answer for its sins. The images and idols of Babylon are not more powerful than the LORD of hosts and will be put to shame and the armies which were viewed as an instrument in the LORD’s hands throughout the rest of the book now will have other armies from the north that come an terrorize them. The poetic language of disasters follows patterns seen throughout Jeremiah: beasts, arrows, clubs, violence. Warriors in misogynistic language become women, walls become leveled, honor becomes dishonor. Just as there was no balm for Judah and Jerusalem, now there is no balm for healing Babylon.

Babylon would fall to the Persian empire under Cyrus the Great, who the book of Isaiah lifts up as a messiah-which literally means anointed one as it is typically translated in English (see Isaiah 45:1).  It is in the continuing movement of armies and the realignment of power in the Middle East that the people in Babylon would be able to return to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, the temple and re-settle Jerusalem. Perhaps a part of this oracle which encourages people to leave Babylon also speaks to the reality of those born and raised in Babylon that have become accustomed to life in the Babylonian empire and an encouragement to return back to Judah.

Things are never as neat and tidy as they come out in oracles. Babylon would be conquered, but like Judah it never truly becomes a haunt of jackals, a place uninhabited that people avoid for all times. Babylon will be integrated into the next empire and the chain continues. Jerusalem and Judah are never the same again as well with the majority of the Jewish people being dispersed across the region from Egypt to Babylon to Asia Minor. In these chapters a powerless people hope for powerful actions by their God to deliver them again from their captivity. Much as in the founding story of the Exodus, now the hope is that God will see and hear God’s people’s plight in a foreign land and act to bring them back home again.

Jeremiah 50
The word that the LORD spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by the prophet Jeremiah:
 2 Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim,
do not conceal it, say: Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed.
Her images are put to shame, her idols are dismayed.
            3 For out of the north a nation has come up against her; it shall make her land a desolation, and no one shall live in it; both human beings and animals shall flee away.
 4 In those days and in that time, says the LORD, the people of Israel shall come, they and the people of Judah together; they shall come weeping as they seek the LORD their God. 5 They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, and they shall come and join themselves to the LORD by an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.
 6 My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains; from mountain to hill they have gone, they have forgotten their fold.7 All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, “We are not guilty, because they have sinned against the LORD, the true pasture, the LORD, the hope of their ancestors.”
8 Flee from Babylon, and go out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be like male goats leading the flock. 9 For I am going to stir up and bring against Babylon a company of great nations from the land of the north; and they shall array themselves against her; from there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like the arrows of a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. 10 Chaldea shall be plundered; all who plunder her shall be sated, says the LORD.
11 Though you rejoice, though you exult, O plunderers of my heritage,
though you frisk about like a heifer on the grass, and neigh like stallions,
12 your mother shall be utterly shamed, and she who bore you shall be disgraced.
Lo, she shall be the last of the nations, a wilderness, dry land, and a desert.
13 Because of the wrath of the LORD she shall not be inhabited,
but shall be an utter desolation; everyone who passes by Babylon
shall be appalled and hiss because of all her wounds.
14 Take up your positions around Babylon, all you that bend the bow; shoot at her,
spare no arrows, for she has sinned against the LORD.
 15 Raise a shout against her from all sides, “She has surrendered;
 her bulwarks have fallen, her walls are thrown down.”
For this is the vengeance of the LORD: take vengeance on her, do to her as she has done.
 16 Cut off from Babylon the sower, and the wielder of the sickle in time of harvest;
because of the destroying sword all of them shall return to their own people,
and all of them shall flee to their own land.
17 Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured it, and now at the end King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon has gnawed its bones. 18 Therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I punished the king of Assyria. 19 I will restore Israel to its pasture, and it shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and on the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead its hunger shall be satisfied. 20 In those days and at that time, says the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and none shall be found; for I will pardon the remnant that I have spared.
21 Go up to the land of Merathaim; go up against her,
and attack the inhabitants of Pekod and utterly destroy the last of them, says the LORD;
do all that I have commanded you.
 22 The noise of battle is in the land, and great destruction!
 23 How the hammer of the whole earth is cut down and broken!
How Babylon has become a horror among the nations!
 24 You set a snare for yourself and you were caught, O Babylon,
but you did not know it; you were discovered and seized,
because you challenged the LORD.
 25 The LORD has opened his armory, and brought out the weapons of his wrath,
for the Lord GOD of hosts has a task to do in the land of the Chaldeans.
 26 Come against her from every quarter; open her granaries;
pile her up like heaps of grain, and destroy her utterly; let nothing be left of her.
 27 Kill all her bulls, let them go down to the slaughter.
Alas for them, their day has come, the time of their punishment!
28 Listen! Fugitives and refugees from the land of Babylon are coming to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, vengeance for his temple.
            29 Summon archers against Babylon, all who bend the bow. Encamp all around her; let no one escape. Repay her according to her deeds; just as she has done, do to her– for she has arrogantly defied the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 30 Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on that day, says the LORD.
31 I am against you, O arrogant one, says the Lord GOD of hosts;
for your day has come, the time when I will punish you.
32 The arrogant one shall stumble and fall, with no one to raise him up,
and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it will devour everything around him.
33 Thus says the LORD of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and so too are the people of Judah; all their captors have held them fast and refuse to let them go. 34 Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon.
35 A sword against the Chaldeans, says the LORD,
and against the inhabitants of Babylon, and against her officials and her sages!
36 A sword against the diviners, so that they may become fools!
A sword against her warriors, so that they may be destroyed!
37 A sword against her horses and against her chariots,
and against all the foreign troops in her midst, so that they may become women!
A sword against all her treasures, that they may be plundered!
38 A drought against her waters, that they may be dried up!
For it is a land of images, and they go mad over idols.
39 Therefore wild animals shall live with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall inhabit her; she shall never again be peopled, or inhabited for all generations. 40 As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbors, says the LORD, so no one shall live there, nor shall anyone settle in her.
41 Look, a people is coming from the north;
a mighty nation and many kings are stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.
42 They wield bow and spear, they are cruel and have no mercy.
The sound of them is like the roaring sea;
they ride upon horses, set in array as a warrior for battle, against you, O daughter Babylon!
43 The king of Babylon heard news of them, and his hands fell helpless;
anguish seized him, pain like that of a woman in labor.
44 Like a lion coming up from the thickets of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly chase them away from her; and I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who can summon me? Who is the shepherd who can stand before me? 45 Therefore hear the plan that the LORD has made against Babylon, and the purposes that he has formed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the little ones of the flock shall be dragged away; surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. 46 At the sound of the capture of Babylon the earth shall tremble, and her cry shall be heard among the nations.
 Jeremiah 51
Thus says the LORD:
I am going to stir up a destructive wind against Babylon
and against the inhabitants of Leb-qamai;
2 and I will send winnowers to Babylon, and they shall winnow her.
They shall empty her land when they come against her from every side on the day of trouble.
3 Let not the archer bend his bow, and let him not array himself in his coat of mail.
Do not spare her young men; utterly destroy her entire army.
4 They shall fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans, and wounded in her streets.
5 Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts,
though their land is full of guilt before the Holy One of Israel.
6 Flee from the midst of Babylon, save your lives, each of you!
Do not perish because of her guilt, for this is the time of the LORD’s vengeance;
he is repaying her what is due.
7 Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD’s hand, making all the earth drunken;
the nations drank of her wine, and so the nations went mad.
8 Suddenly Babylon has fallen and is shattered; wail for her!
Bring balm for her wound; perhaps she may be healed.
9 We tried to heal Babylon, but she could not be healed.
Forsake her, and let each of us go to our own country;
for her judgment has reached up to heaven and has been lifted up even to the skies.
10 The LORD has brought forth our vindication;
come, let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God.
 11 Sharpen the arrows! Fill the quivers!
The LORD has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the LORD, vengeance for his temple.
12 Raise a standard against the walls of Babylon;
make the watch strong; post sentinels; prepare the ambushes;
for the LORD has both planned and done what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon.
13 You who live by mighty waters, rich in treasures, your end has come,
the thread of your life is cut.
14 The LORD of hosts has sworn by himself:
Surely I will fill you with troops like a swarm of locusts,
and they shall raise a shout of victory over you.
15 It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
16 When he utters his voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightnings for the rain, and he brings out the wind from his storehouses.
17 Everyone is stupid and without knowledge;
goldsmiths are all put to shame by their idols;
for their images are false, and there is no breath in them.
18 They are worthless, a work of delusion; at the time of their punishment they shall perish.
19 Not like these is the LORD, the portion of Jacob, for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the LORD of hosts is his name.
20 You are my war club, my weapon of battle: with you I smash nations; with you I destroy kingdoms;
21 with you I smash the horse and its rider; with you I smash the chariot and the charioteer;
22 with you I smash man and woman; with you I smash the old man and the boy; with you I smash the young man and the girl;
23 with you I smash shepherds and their flocks; with you I smash farmers and their teams; with you I smash governors and deputies.
24 I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the wrong that they have done in Zion, says the LORD.
 25 I am against you, O destroying mountain, says the LORD, that destroys the whole earth;
I will stretch out my hand against you, and roll you down from the crags,
and make you a burned-out mountain.
26 No stone shall be taken from you for a corner and no stone for a foundation,
but you shall be a perpetual waste, says the LORD.
27 Raise a standard in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations;
prepare the nations for war against her, summon against her the kingdoms, Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz; appoint a marshal against her, bring up horses like bristling locusts.
28 Prepare the nations for war against her, the kings of the Medes,
with their governors and deputies, and every land under their dominion.
29 The land trembles and writhes, for the LORD’s purposes against Babylon stand,
to make the land of Babylon a desolation, without inhabitant.
30 The warriors of Babylon have given up fighting, they remain in their strongholds;
their strength has failed, they have become women;
her buildings are set on fire, her bars are broken.
31 One runner runs to meet another, and one messenger to meet another,
to tell the king of Babylon that his city is taken from end to end:
32 the fords have been seized, the marshes have been burned with fire, and the soldiers are in panic.
33 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
Daughter Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time when it is trodden;
yet a little while and the time of her harvest will come.
34 “King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon has devoured me, he has crushed me;
he has made me an empty vessel, he has swallowed me like a monster;
he has filled his belly with my delicacies, he has spewed me out.
35 May my torn flesh be avenged on Babylon,” the inhabitants of Zion shall say.
“May my blood be avenged on the inhabitants of Chaldea,” Jerusalem shall say.
36 Therefore thus says the LORD: I am going to defend your cause and take vengeance for you.
I will dry up her sea and make her fountain dry;
37 and Babylon shall become a heap of ruins, a den of jackals,
an object of horror and of hissing, without inhabitant.
38 Like lions they shall roar together; they shall growl like lions’ whelps.
39 When they are inflamed, I will set out their drink and make them drunk,
until they become merry and then sleep a perpetual sleep and never wake, says the LORD.
40 I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams and goats.
41 How Sheshach is taken, the pride of the whole earth seized!
How Babylon has become an object of horror among the nations!
42 The sea has risen over Babylon; she has been covered by its tumultuous waves.
43 Her cities have become an object of horror, a land of drought and a desert,
a land in which no one lives, and through which no mortal passes.
44 I will punish Bel in Babylon, and make him disgorge what he has swallowed.
The nations shall no longer stream to him; the wall of Babylon has fallen.
45 Come out of her, my people! Save your lives, each of you, from the fierce anger of the LORD!
46 Do not be fainthearted or fearful at the rumors heard in the land– one year one rumor comes,
the next year another, rumors of violence in the land and of ruler against ruler.
47 Assuredly, the days are coming when I will punish the images of Babylon;
her whole land shall be put to shame, and all her slain shall fall in her midst.
48 Then the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, shall shout for joy over Babylon;
for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north, says the LORD.
49 Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel, as the slain of all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.
50 You survivors of the sword, go, do not linger!
Remember the LORD in a distant land, and let Jerusalem come into your mind:
51 We are put to shame, for we have heard insults; dishonor has covered our face,
for aliens have come into the holy places of the LORD’s house.
52 Therefore the time is surely coming, says the LORD, when I will punish her idols,
and through all her land the wounded shall groan.
53 Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify her strong height,
from me destroyers would come upon her, says the LORD.
54 Listen!– a cry from Babylon! A great crashing from the land of the Chaldeans!
55 For the LORD is laying Babylon waste, and stilling her loud clamor.
Their waves roar like mighty waters, the sound of their clamor resounds;
56 for a destroyer has come against her, against Babylon; her warriors are taken,
their bows are broken; for the LORD is a God of recompense, he will repay in full.
57 I will make her officials and her sages drunk, also her governors, her deputies, and her warriors;
they shall sleep a perpetual sleep and never wake, says the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.
58 Thus says the LORD of hosts: The broad wall of Babylon shall be leveled to the ground,
and her high gates shall be burned with fire.
The peoples exhaust themselves for nothing, and the nations weary themselves only for fire.
59 The word that the prophet Jeremiah commanded Seraiah son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, when he went with King Zedekiah of Judah to Babylon, in the fourth year of his reign. Seraiah was the quartermaster. 60 Jeremiah wrote in a scroll all the disasters that would come on Babylon, all these words that are written concerning Babylon. 61 And Jeremiah said to Seraiah: “When you come to Babylon, see that you read all these words, 62 and say, ‘O LORD, you yourself threatened to destroy this place so that neither human beings nor animals shall live in it, and it shall be desolate forever.’ 63 When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it, and throw it into the middle of the Euphrates, 64 and say, ‘Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disasters that I am bringing on her.'”
Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.


Jeremiah 49: Judgment on the Other Surrounding Nations

Edvard Munch, The Scream (Der Schrei der Natur) 1893

Edvard Munch, The Scream (Der Schrei der Natur) 1893


Concerning the Ammonites.
Thus says the LORD: Has Israel no sons? Has he no heir?
Why then has Milcom dispossessed Gad, and his people settled in its towns?
 2 Therefore, the time is surely coming, says the LORD,
when I will sound the battle alarm against Rabbah of the Ammonites;
it shall become a desolate mound, and its villages shall be burned with fire;
 then Israel shall dispossess those who dispossessed him, says the LORD.
 3 Wail, O Heshbon, for Ai is laid waste! Cry out, O daughters of Rabbah!
Put on sackcloth, lament, and slash yourselves with whips!
For Milcom shall go into exile, with his priests and his attendants.
 4 Why do you boast in your strength? Your strength is ebbing, O faithless daughter.
You trusted in your treasures, saying, “Who will attack me?”
 5 I am going to bring terror upon you, says the Lord GOD of hosts,
from all your neighbors, and you will be scattered, each headlong,
with no one to gather the fugitives.
 6 But afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, says the LORD.
 7 Concerning Edom.
Thus says the LORD of hosts: Is there no longer wisdom in Teman?
Has counsel perished from the prudent? Has their wisdom vanished?
 8 Flee, turn back, get down low, inhabitants of Dedan!
For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him, the time when I punish him.
 9 If grape-gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings?
If thieves came by night, even they would pillage only what they wanted.
 10 But as for me, I have stripped Esau bare, I have uncovered his hiding places,
and he is not able to conceal himself.
His offspring are destroyed, his kinsfolk and his neighbors; and he is no more.
 11 Leave your orphans, I will keep them alive; and let your widows trust in me.
 12 For thus says the LORD: If those who do not deserve to drink the cup still have to drink it, shall you be the one to go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished; you must drink it. 13 For by myself I have sworn, says the LORD, that Bozrah shall become an object of horror and ridicule, a waste, and an object of cursing; and all her towns shall be perpetual wastes.
 14 I have heard tidings from the LORD, and a messenger has been sent among the nations:
 “Gather yourselves together and come against her, and rise up for battle!”
 15 For I will make you least among the nations, despised by humankind.
 16 The terror you inspire and the pride of your heart have deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rock, who hold the height of the hill.
Although you make your nest as high as the eagle’s,
from there I will bring you down, says the LORD.
 17 Edom shall become an object of horror; everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its disasters. 18 As when Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbors were overthrown, says the LORD, no one shall live there, nor shall anyone settle in it. 19 Like a lion coming up from the thickets of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly chase Edom away from it; and I will appoint over it whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who can summon me? Who is the shepherd who can stand before me? 20 Therefore hear the plan that the LORD has made against Edom and the purposes that he has formed against the inhabitants of Teman: Surely the little ones of the flock shall be dragged away; surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. 21 At the sound of their fall the earth shall tremble; the sound of their cry shall be heard at the Red Sea. 22 Look, he shall mount up and swoop down like an eagle, and spread his wings against Bozrah, and the heart of the warriors of Edom in that day shall be like the heart of a woman in labor.
23 Concerning Damascus.
Hamath and Arpad are confounded, for they have heard bad news;
they melt in fear, they are troubled like the sea that cannot be quiet.
 24 Damascus has become feeble, she turned to flee, and panic seized her;
anguish and sorrows have taken hold of her, as of a woman in labor.
 25 How the famous city is forsaken, the joyful town!
 26 Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares,
and all her soldiers shall be destroyed in that day, says the LORD of hosts.
 27 And I will kindle a fire at the wall of Damascus,
and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.
28 Concerning Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor that King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon defeated.
Thus says the LORD: Rise up, advance against Kedar!
Destroy the people of the east!
 29 Take their tents and their flocks, their curtains and all their goods;
carry off their camels for yourselves, and a cry shall go up: “Terror is all around!”
 30 Flee, wander far away, hide in deep places, O inhabitants of Hazor! says the LORD.
For King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon has made a plan against you and formed a purpose against you.
 31 Rise up, advance against a nation at ease, that lives secure, says the LORD,
 that has no gates or bars, that lives alone.
 32 Their camels shall become booty, their herds of cattle a spoil.
I will scatter to every wind those who have shaven temples,
and I will bring calamity against them from every side, says the LORD.
 33 Hazor shall become a lair of jackals, an everlasting waste;
no one shall live there, nor shall anyone settle in it.
 34 The word of the LORD that came to the prophet Jeremiah concerning Elam, at the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah.
 35 Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am going to break the bow of Elam, the mainstay of their might; 36 and I will bring upon Elam the four winds from the four quarters of heaven; and I will scatter them to all these winds, and there shall be no nation to which the exiles from Elam shall not come. 37 I will terrify Elam before their enemies, and before those who seek their life; I will bring disaster upon them, my fierce anger, says the LORD. I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them; 38 and I will set my throne in Elam, and destroy their king and officials, says the LORD.
 39 But in the latter days I will restore the fortunes of Elam, says the LORD.


As I have gone through these chapters where we hear the judgment of the nations being place in the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah and proceeding from the voice of the LORD, I have to admit that these passages are deeply unsettling to me. Perhaps it is because I stand in such a different place that the hearers of these words, I am a white middle class male who lives in the relative security and comfort of the United States and the hearers of these words would’ve been Jewish people taken into exile and perhaps needing a word of vengeance. Perhaps in their powerlessness they were willing to endure if the could trust that their suffering would have meaning and they would be avenged. As St. Paul could say in his letter to the Romans:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12.19

And I can identify with what Miroslav Volf can discuss in the last chapter of his incredible work Exclusion and Embrace where he discusses the need for God’s judgment as he writes from his own experience of trying to discuss reconciliation in the contexts of his native Bosnia. I can understand the need to give a voice to the pain that one encounters and the loss of identity, and even to use the language I’ve used throughout this blog of the wounded God who is grieving the loss of God’s relationship to Judah because of their inability or refusal to live in the covenant. I can understand all these things and yet still this is an uncomfortable section to work through, and it isn’t that Jeremiah in general is easy to work through, there is the language of judgment and the ending of the world the Jewish people knew which continually makes the book a challenge, but I think it hit me hear in these last chapters because it is directed towards the outsiders. Most of Jeremiah is directed inwardly towards the people of Judah and trying to get them to return to their covenant relationship, but in these final chapters Jeremiah turns towards all the other nations, in Chapter 49 it rails against Ammon, Edom, Damascus (and by extension Syria), Kedar and Hazor (Arabia), and Elam. This is a consistent pattern among the prophets which also occurs in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos and yet to me it is still uncomfortable.

The primary reason for my discomfort is its external direction. The judgment that each of these nations is no greater than what Judah/Israel receives, but these are not nations that were ever in a covenant with God. I’m always a little uncomfortable when a group, a community or a congregation identifies all the evil or all the judgment that is going to occur on everyone but themselves. Certainly there has been plenty of judgment on Israel and in particular with all these nations there is no way to know what sins, real and perceived, they perpetrated against the nation of Judah, the exiles in Babylon or Egypt, how they played in the political intrigue that led Judah into its confrontation with Babylon or really anything. Perhaps they are innocent bystanders, perhaps not. I am troubled by the quick and easy resolution of each section how afterwards God will restore the fortunes as if after all the bloodshed and destruction it suddenly makes it all better.

One of the struggles in the Bible is it is not one picture of God but more like a mosaic of pictures from different people at different times with different experiences. Christians from very early have always had a struggle reconciling the judgment of God with the love of God and several of the earliest heresies of the church wanted to separate the judging God they perceived in the Old Testament from the God of love in the New Testament, but things are rarely that simple. I value Jeremiah and the picture of the passionately engaged and wounded God he portrays even if at times that picture makes me uncomfortable and I know there are times where my own perspective needs to be stretched.

One of the nice things about writing reflections rather than a verse by verse commentary is that while I can talk about the individual judgments and go into greater detail, I think for the few people who read this far into Jeremiah they are pretty familiar with this type of language. Others can probably do more justice to the relatively sparse historical references we have to these verses, and at this point it is not where my heart is. Walking with Jeremiah for the last year and a half has been insightful but I also am aware that as I near the end of this long walk into the destruction of Judah and the convulsions of the struggles of empires that I come to the end longing for an end to the cycle of destruction and judgment and to enter into the long process that the people of Judah will go through of reconstructing their identity as the people of God.

Jeremiah 48: Against Moab

William Blake, Naomi Entreating Ruth and Orpah

William Blake, Naomi Entreating Ruth and Orpah

Concerning Moab.
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
Alas for Nebo, it is laid waste!
Kiriathaim is put to shame, it is taken;
the fortress is put to shame and broken down;
 2 the renown of Moab is no more.
In Heshbon they planned evil against her:
“Come, let us cut her off from being a nation!”
You also, O Madmen, shall be brought to silence;
the sword shall pursue you.
 3 Hark! a cry from Horonaim,
“Desolation and great destruction!”
 4 “Moab is destroyed!” her little ones cry out.
 5 For at the ascent of Luhith they go up weeping bitterly;
for at the descent of Horonaim they have heard the distressing cry of anguish.
 6 Flee! Save yourselves! Be like a wild ass in the desert!
 7 Surely, because you trusted in your strongholds and your treasures, you also shall be taken;
Chemosh shall go out into exile, with his priests and his attendants.
 8 The destroyer shall come upon every town, and no town shall escape;
the valley shall perish, and the plain shall be destroyed, as the LORD has spoken.
 9 Set aside salt for Moab, for she will surely fall;
 her towns shall become a desolation, with no inhabitant in them.
 10 Accursed is the one who is slack in doing the work of the LORD;
and accursed is the one who keeps back the sword from bloodshed.
 11 Moab has been at ease from his youth, settled like wine on its dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile;
therefore his flavor has remained and his aroma is unspoiled.
 12 Therefore, the time is surely coming, says the LORD, when I shall send to him decanters to decant him,
and empty his vessels, and break his jars in pieces. 13 Then Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh,
as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.
 14 How can you say, “We are heroes and mighty warriors”?
 15 The destroyer of Moab and his towns has come up,
and the choicest of his young men have gone down to slaughter,
says the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.
 16 The calamity of Moab is near at hand and his doom approaches swiftly.
 17 Mourn over him, all you his neighbors, and all who know his name;
say, “How the mighty scepter is broken, the glorious staff!”
 18 Come down from glory, and sit on the parched ground, enthroned daughter Dibon!
For the destroyer of Moab has come up against you; he has destroyed your strongholds.
 19 Stand by the road and watch, you inhabitant of Aroer!
Ask the man fleeing and the woman escaping; say, “What has happened?”
 20 Moab is put to shame, for it is broken down; wail and cry!
Tell it by the Arnon, that Moab is laid waste.
 21 Judgment has come upon the tableland, upon Holon, and Jahzah, and Mephaath, 22 and Dibon, and Nebo, and Beth-diblathaim, 23 and Kiriathaim, and Beth-gamul, and Beth-meon, 24 and Kerioth, and Bozrah, and all the towns of the land of Moab, far and near. 25 The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, says the LORD.
 26 Make him drunk, because he magnified himself against the LORD; let Moab wallow in his vomit; he too shall become a laughingstock. 27 Israel was a laughingstock for you, though he was not caught among thieves; but whenever you spoke of him you shook your head!
 28 Leave the towns, and live on the rock, O inhabitants of Moab!
Be like the dove that nests on the sides of the mouth of a gorge.
 29 We have heard of the pride of Moab—
he is very proud– of his loftiness, his pride, and his arrogance, and the haughtiness of his heart.
 30 I myself know his insolence, says the LORD; his boasts are false, his deeds are false.
 31 Therefore I wail for Moab; I cry out for all Moab; for the people of Kir-heres I mourn.
 32 More than for Jazer I weep for you, O vine of Sibmah!
Your branches crossed over the sea, reached as far as Jazer;
 upon your summer fruits and your vintage the destroyer has fallen.
 33 Gladness and joy have been taken away from the fruitful land of Moab;
I have stopped the wine from the wine presses; no one treads them with shouts of joy;
the shouting is not the shout of joy.
 34 Heshbon and Elealeh cry out; as far as Jahaz they utter their voice, from Zoar to Horonaim and Eglath-shelishiyah. For even the waters of Nimrim have become desolate. 35 And I will bring to an end in Moab, says the LORD, those who offer sacrifice at a high place and make offerings to their gods. 36 Therefore my heart moans for Moab like a flute, and my heart moans like a flute for the people of Kir-heres; for the riches they gained have perished.
 37 For every head is shaved and every beard cut off; on all the hands there are gashes, and on the loins sackcloth. 38 On all the housetops of Moab and in the squares there is nothing but lamentation; for I have broken Moab like a vessel that no one wants, says the LORD. 39 How it is broken! How they wail! How Moab has turned his back in shame! So Moab has become a derision and a horror to all his neighbors.
 40 For thus says the LORD:
 Look, he shall swoop down like an eagle, and spread his wings against Moab;
 41 the towns shall be taken and the strongholds seized.
The hearts of the warriors of Moab, on that day, shall be like the heart of a woman in labor.
 42 Moab shall be destroyed as a people, because he magnified himself against the LORD.
 43 Terror, pit, and trap are before you, O inhabitants of Moab! says the LORD.
 44 Everyone who flees from the terror shall fall into the pit,
and everyone who climbs out of the pit shall be caught in the trap.
For I will bring these things upon Moab in the year of their punishment, says the LORD.
 45 In the shadow of Heshbon fugitives stop exhausted;
for a fire has gone out from Heshbon, a flame from the house of Sihon;
it has destroyed the forehead of Moab, the scalp of the people of tumult.
 46 Woe to you, O Moab! The people of Chemosh have perished,
 for your sons have been taken captive, and your daughters into captivity.
 47 Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in the latter days, says the LORD.
Thus far is the judgment on Moab.


Moab is Judah’s neighbor and has had its role to play in the region. Unlike the Philistines, the Moabites are mentioned as one of the players in the regional conference mentioned in Jeremiah 27. Perhaps Moab has been one of the forces manipulating the opinions in Israel toward the pro-Egyptian/anti-Babylonian policy that led to so much destruction, but we will never know how exactly the politics and promises played in the events around the exile. Moab receives more direct condemnation than any of the other nations in this long and winding and repetitive poem. Moab is not a regional powerhouse and so it too finds themselves caught up between the two major players (Egypt and Babylon). But as is always the case in Jeremiah it is not just the movement of armies, but it is the LORD of armies, the God of Israel that is behind all the movements in the region around Judah. Jeremiah sees the LORD as not just the LORD of Israel but the LORD of nations.

This judgment on Moab utilizes a repetitive usage of images around Viticulture. Moab is wine, Moab is a vine, Moab is the vessel to hold the wine, and Moab is drunk. The wine presses and the merriment around them have stopped and Moab who has been spared from the consequences of exile and destruction in the past now shares with everyone else in the region in the destruction both at the hands of Babylon, and ultimately in Jeremiah’s view, at the hands of the LORD.

Coming up to the end of Jeremiah, these last judgments on the kingdoms around Judah are both similar to the judgment that Judah receives and the probably does serve a need to vent around the frustration of their own nation’s powerlessness. How these were used and what purpose they serve is  hard to know, but they stand here at the end of the book and are probably a part of how the people of Jeremiah make sense of their world. The God of Jeremiah is wild and uncontainable, incredibly powerful and in contrast to the people of Judah’s weakness this God is passionate and strong. Even though it makes me a little uncomfortable, and the entire direction of this unrelenting judgment is difficult as I have made my way through Jeremiah, it is a part of the people’s experience of God and their world and we continue to wrestle today with how active God is in our world and identifying where things are chance or destiny, divine providence or divine judgment or a series of causes and effects in the natural world.

Jeremiah 47: Philistia Caught in the Flood

Osmar Schilndler, David und Goliath (1888)

Osmar Schilndler, David und Goliath (1888)

 The word of the LORD that came to the prophet Jeremiah concerning the Philistines, before Pharaoh attacked Gaza:
 2 Thus says the LORD:
See, waters are rising out of the north and shall become an overflowing torrent;
they shall overflow the land and all that fills it, the city and those who live in it.
People shall cry out, and all the inhabitants of the land shall wail.
 3 At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions,
at the clatter of his chariots, at the rumbling of their wheels,
parents do not turn back for children, so feeble are their hands,
                4 because of the day that is coming to destroy all the Philistines,
to cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper that remains.
For the LORD is destroying the Philistines,
the remnant of the coastland of Caphtor.
                5 Baldness has come upon Gaza, Ashkelon is silenced.
O remnant of their power! How long will you gash yourselves?
 6 Ah, sword of the LORD! How long until you are quiet?
Put yourself into your scabbard, rest and be still!
                7 How can it be quiet, when the LORD has given it an order?
Against Ashkelon and against the seashore– there he has appointed it.


The Philistines, Israel’s ancient enemy, has not played a role in Jeremiah up to this point. There is no reason given for Philistia being caught up in the destruction that is playing itself out in the conflicts of empires, in the rise of Babylon and the fall of Assyria and the diminishment of the power and influence that Egypt could exert in the region. The Philistines are not even a part of the regional powers that are mentioned in Jeremiah 27 and perhaps are plotting together how to throw off the yoke of Babylon. Philistia from her absence in the narrative up to this point seems merely to be caught up in the conflict going on around her. Pharaoh does come up from the South to oppose Babylon and Babylon in its pacification of Judah and Egypt and most major armies when they march show little discrimination about cities, towns and fields that can be plundered. As so many times before the Chaldean/Babylonian forces are portrayed as an irresistible force that cut down all in their way. The poetic language captures this in the desperation of parents who do not turn back for their own children, of two of traditional five cities of Philistia (Gaza and Ashkelon are mentioned, Ashdod is implied in the chapter and Gath and Ekron are not mentioned in this chapter) are shown as mourning (bald heads and cutting themselves) but the mourning is to no effect. Perhaps the sack of Ashkelon in 604 BCE by Nebuchadrezzar is reflected in this text, but again there is no reason other than Babylon as extension of the sword of the LORD has been loosed from its scabbard and it will not be still.

There is really no information to understand how the cities of Philistia play into the events of this time, whether they are active players or merely innocent bystanders that become casualties of much larger more powerful forces. Unfortunately war often doesn’t discriminate between innocent and guilty, between civilian and military and all are caught up together in the deluge. Perhaps the Philistines see their children die for someone else’s sins and the end of the chapter is a cry against the seemingly non-discriminatory judgment where guilty and innocent are caught up in the forces that are unleashed.

Jeremiah 46: Judgment for Egypt and Hope for Jacob

Jeremiah 46:1-26 Words for Egypt

The word of the LORD that came to the prophet Jeremiah concerning the nations.  2 Concerning Egypt, about the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah:
 The word of the LORD that came to the prophet Jeremiah concerning the nations.
 3 Prepare buckler and shield, and advance for battle!
 4 Harness the horses; mount the steeds!
Take your stations with your helmets,
whet your lances, put on your coats of mail!
 5 Why do I see them terrified? They have fallen back;
their warriors are beaten down, and have fled in haste.
They do not look back– terror is all around! says the LORD.
                6 The swift cannot flee away, nor can the warrior escape;
in the north by the river Euphrates they have stumbled and fallen.
                7 Who is this, rising like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge?
 8 Egypt rises like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge.
It said, Let me rise, let me cover the earth,
let me destroy cities and their inhabitants.
                9 Advance, O horses, and dash madly, O chariots!
Let the warriors go forth:
Ethiopia and Put who carry the shield,
the Ludim, who draw the bow.
                10 That day is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts,
a day of retribution, to gain vindication from his foes.
The sword shall devour and be sated, and drink its fill of their blood.
For the Lord GOD of hosts holds a sacrifice in the land of the north by the river Euphrates.
                11 Go up to Gilead, and take balm, O virgin daughter Egypt!
In vain you have used many medicines; there is no healing for you.
                12 The nations have heard of your shame, and the earth is full of your cry;
for warrior has stumbled against warrior; both have fallen together.
 13 The word that the LORD spoke to the prophet Jeremiah about the coming of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon to attack the land of Egypt:
14 Declare in Egypt, and proclaim in Migdol; proclaim in Memphis and Tahpanhes;
Say, “Take your stations and be ready, for the sword shall devour those around you.”
                15 Why has Apis fled? Why did your bull not stand?—
because the LORD thrust him down.
                16 Your multitude stumbled and fell, and one said to another,
“Come, let us go back to our own people and to the land of our birth,
because of the destroying sword.”
                17 Give Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the name
“Braggart who missed his chance.”
                18 As I live, says the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts,
one is coming like Tabor among the mountains, and like Carmel by the sea.
                19 Pack your bags for exile, sheltered daughter Egypt!
For Memphis shall become a waste, a ruin, without inhabitant.
                20 A beautiful heifer is Egypt– a gadfly from the north lights upon her.
                21 Even her mercenaries in her midst are like fatted calves;
they too have turned and fled together, they did not stand;
for the day of their calamity has come upon them, the time of their punishment.
                22 She makes a sound like a snake gliding away;
for her enemies march in force,
and come against her with axes, like those who fell trees.
                23 They shall cut down her forest, says the LORD, though it is impenetrable,
because they are more numerous than locusts; they are without number.
 24 Daughter Egypt shall be put to shame;
she shall be handed over to a people from the north.
                25 The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, said: See, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh, and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him. 26 I will hand them over to those who seek their life, to King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and his officers. Afterward Egypt shall be inhabited as in the days of old, says the LORD.


For the first forty five chapters of Jeremiah the focus has been almost exclusively centered on narrating the events of the end of the first temple period of Judah, from the final attempt at reform under Josiah, to the multiple defeats of Judah at the hand of Babylon, the eventual destruction of the city and exile of much of the population and then finally the chaos among the small remnant that eventually flees to Egypt. Yet from the beginning Jeremiah was called as a prophet to the nations (see Jeremiah 1: 5, 10). The events that have happened in Judah are not isolated from the nations that surround them, they are caught up in the tide of the politics and intrigue of empires and that if the LORD of hosts, literally the LORD of armies, which is one of Jeremiah’s favorite constructs using the name of the LORD, is involved in the movement of the forces of the Chaldeans as the Babylonian empire ascends, then the LORD must also be involved in the disposition of all the events going on in the surround region. To pull on the broader narratives of the Hebrew people about God as the creator and God in the Exodus, the LORD is not a regional god, who only has purview over the terrain of Israel or only has power on Israel’s soil (this type of belief for example is why Naaman asks Elisha for two barrels of oil so that Naaman can worship the LORD on Israel’s soil, see 2 Kings 5: 17) and so like Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos, Jeremiah now announces God’s words to the nations.

The judgment on Egypt here in these words is focused on the military power of Egypt. Egypt, in contrast to the relatively tiny kingdom of Judah, was one of the ‘super-powers’ of the day and they were heavily involved in projecting their influence through their economic and military might. Judah often found itself making alliances with either Egyptian, Assyrian, or Babylonian might in the previous generation precisely because they were not militarily a threat to any of these empires. Egypt, once viewed as the oppressor of Israel, the place from which they emerged from slavery to become the chosen people, now has become the benefactor, the ally. Egypt’s judgment, in comparison to many of the oracles spoken against Judah and Israel as a whole, are relatively calm. There is little mention of destruction taking place within the Egyptian homeland and what destruction is mentioned is precisely in the areas where the Judean refugees settled (Migdol, Memphis and Tahpanhes) and it causes the causes the refugees there to desire to return back to their own home.

T.E. Lawrence and L. Wooley at Carchemish (1913)

T.E. Lawrence and L. Wooley at Carchemish (1913)

It is military defeat and humiliation that receives the lion share of this oracle. The pride of Egypt is shattered as its military is defeated, first probably referring to the Battle of Carchemish (605 BCE) which has numerous connections with the story of Jeremiah. As Babylon rose to power and continued to drive the Assyrian empire further and further into submission conquering their capitol at Ninevah in 612 BCE and then Harran in 610 BCE the Assyrians moved their capitol to Carchemish. In 609 BCE Pharaoh Neco II marched his forces to aid his ally, Assyria, in resisting the advance of the Babylonian armies. As Pharaoh’s army advance out of Egypt the armies of Judah, led by King Josiah, resisted the advance of Egypt and King Josiah was killed in the battle. When the Egyptian and Assyrian armies met the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar II the combined Egyptian and Assyrian forces were soundly defeated and this marked the eclipse of the Assyrian empire and the decline of influence of Egypt in the Middle East. As we have seen throughout the journey in Jeremiah there continues to be battles for influence within Judah and the surrounding region’s area, and Jehoiachim embraces a pro-Egyptian policy that leads into conflict with Babylon and then in the time of Zedekiah’s appointed reign there are still internal and external forces encouraging a pro-Egyptian/anti-Babylonian stance.

Map of the Assyrian Empire

Map of the Assyrian Empire

Egypt would have several other confrontations with the Babylonian forces between 604 and 568 BCE, and while Egypt never lost its independence to Babylon it continued to lose its dominance over the region. The imagery of Egypt’s military falling back in disarray, including its proud mercenaries from Ethiopia (Cush), Put, and Ludim which at one time seemed invincible are not merely the result of the military prowess of the Chaldean (Babylonian) forces but in Jeremiah’s eye a sign of the LORD of host at work in the events of the nations. Egypt’s military defeat is tied to the Egyptian gods being put to shame, to her beauty being lost and her impenetrable forests being cut away. Yet, the word of judgment is not final. For Egypt there is also the promise that it shall be inhabited as in days of old. The LORD cares not only for Judah but also for Egypt and the judgment will pass and prosperity return.

Jeremiah 46: 27-28 Words of Comfort for the Exiles

 27 But as for you, have no fear, my servant Jacob,
and do not be dismayed, O Israel; for I am going to save you from far away,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and no one shall make him afraid.
 28 As for you, have no fear, my servant Jacob, says the LORD, for I am with you.
I will make an end of all the nations among which I have banished you,
but I will not make an end of you!
I will chastise you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.


Here again at the beginning of the judgment of the nations there is the reassurance to Israel that there is a future for them as well. Much like the words of hope beginning in Jeremiah 30, the judgment that is coming on the nations is a part of God’s work to return the people of Israel home and to shelter them. After so much judgment on the God’s people, after so much death and pain, after so much disappointment and desolation the time of judgment is passed and the people have a hope for the future.

Jeremiah 45 The Scribe and The Word Endure the Ending

Baruch ben Neriah from Promptuerri Iconum Insigniorum, Published by Guillaume Rouille 1553

Baruch ben Neriah from Promptuerri Iconum Insigniorum, Published by Guillaume Rouille 1553

The word that the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Baruch son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah: 2 Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: 3 You said, “Woe is me! The LORD has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.” 4 Thus you shall say to him, “Thus says the LORD: I am going to break down what I have built, and pluck up what I have planted– that is, the whole land. 5 And you, do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for I am going to bring disaster upon all flesh, says the LORD; but I will give you your life as a prize of war in every place to which you may go.”


This little chapter which marks a closing of this part of the story, after all the desolation there is a small word of hope to Baruch. Like Jeremiah’s offer in the time of Zedekiah and the promise to Ebed-Melech, now Baruch also receives this consolation prize. There is no promise of wealth, riches, power or prosperity, greatness and good fortune-do not seek that in this book, in this time, in this story. This is a story of endings, of pain, of collapse and relationships that come to an end, and death. Yet in the midst of the death there is life for those who hear, who work with God, who are willing to take the more difficult path. It is perhaps important to notice that the opening line takes us way back in the story, to the time of chapter 36 and not in sequence with what has come before, and yet here at the dark end with the people in Egypt turning away from God and God’s prophet, perhaps it is the only way to end this part-to go back to the promise to Baruch, the one who took the spoken word and recorded them and to allow us to know that the words of the LORD, the life of the prophet and the scribe who stood by him will endure beyond the ending of this tragic story. That in the midst of all the harshness that Jeremiah and Baruch go through in being caught between God and the people that there is life in their path. Perhaps the mere existence of this book in all its dark and painful story do indeed bring hope in the midst of hopelessness. The book of Jeremiah is not complete, even though this is culmination of the words to Judah and Israel, there are still words to be spoken to the nations and a final attempt at this book which cannot end with a happily ever after. With the collapse of the world that the people of Judah knew there are no easy answers in their relationship with their God and as Kathleen O’Connor states:

By not settling matters prematurely, by refusing to reduce disaster to one final, settled interpretation. Jeremiah’s three endings honor victims of the Babylonian disaster. They acknowledge the difficulties of closing matters, at least not quickly, not clearly, not finally. The endings leave readers with a set of questions about justice, about Judah’s relationship with God, and about whether or not the nation will have a future. (O’Conner, 2011, p. 116)

Or to end in a more poetic way I will close this section with the words of the poet Uri Zvi Greenberg

                Like chapters of prophecy my days burn, in all the revelations,
                And my body between them’s a block of metal for smelting,
                And over me stands my god, the Smith, who hits hard:
                Each wound that Time has opened in me opens its mouth to him
                And pours forth in a shower of sparks the intrinsic fire.
                This is my just lot—until dusk on the road.
                And when I return to throw my beaten block on a bed,
                My mouth is an open wound,
                And naked I speak with my god: You worked hard.
                Now it is night; come let us both rest. (Lau, 2013, p. 98.)

 Jeremiah 44 Plummeting to the End

Athur Kacker, By the Waters of Babylon (1888)

Athur Kacker, By the Waters of Babylon (1888)

Jeremiah 44: 1-14 Forty Years and Nothing Changed

The word that came to Jeremiah for all the Judeans living in the land of Egypt, at Migdol, at Tahpanhes, at Memphis, and in the land of Pathros, 2 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: You yourselves have seen all the disaster that I have brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Look at them; today they are a desolation, without an inhabitant in them, 3 because of the wickedness that they committed, provoking me to anger, in that they went to make offerings and serve other gods that they had not known, neither they, nor you, nor your ancestors. 4 Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, “I beg you not to do this abominable thing that I hate!” 5 But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their wickedness and make no offerings to other gods. 6 So my wrath and my anger were poured out and kindled in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they became a waste and a desolation, as they still are today.

 7 And now thus says the LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel: Why are you doing such great harm to yourselves, to cut off man and woman, child and infant, from the midst of Judah, leaving yourselves without a remnant? 8 Why do you provoke me to anger with the works of your hands, making offerings to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have come to settle? Will you be cut off and become an object of cursing and ridicule among all the nations of the earth? 9 Have you forgotten the crimes of your ancestors, of the kings of Judah, of their wives, your own crimes and those of your wives, which they committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 10 They have shown no contrition or fear to this day, nor have they walked in my law and my statutes that I set before you and before your ancestors.The word that came to Jeremiah for all the Judeans living in the land of Egypt, at Migdol, at Tahpanhes, at Memphis, and in the land of Pathros, 2 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: You yourselves have seen all the disaster that I have brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Look at them; today they are a desolation, without an inhabitant in them, 3 because of the wickedness that they committed, provoking me to anger, in that they went to make offerings and serve other gods that they had not known, neither they, nor you, nor your ancestors. 4 Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, “I beg you not to do this abominable thing that I hate!” 5 But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their wickedness and make no offerings to other gods. 6 So my wrath and my anger were poured out and kindled in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they became a waste and a desolation, as they still are today.

 11 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I am determined to bring disaster on you, to bring all Judah to an end. 12 I will take the remnant of Judah who are determined to come to the land of Egypt to settle, and they shall perish, everyone; in the land of Egypt they shall fall; by the sword and by famine they shall perish; from the least to the greatest, they shall die by the sword and by famine; and they shall become an object of execration and horror, of cursing and ridicule. 13 I will punish those who live in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, 14 so that none of the remnant of Judah who have come to settle in the land of Egypt shall escape or survive or return to the land of Judah. Although they long to go back to live there, they shall not go back, except some fugitives.


The book of Jeremiah really doesn’t have just one ending but three, one coming in chapter 45, one at the end of 51 at the conclusion of the judgments on the nations and then chapter 52 gives a final ending narrating what happens back in Babylon. Maybe this reflect the unresolved nature of the people and their relationship with God in the light of the disaster of the destruction of Jerusalem, the kingdom of Judea, the Davidic line of kings, the temple and all these markers of identity that made them the people of the LORD. But as we plummet towards the end of the story of the last remaining group not in Babylon, a group that once sought Jeremiah’s word and now rather than a small remnant we find settlements in three cities and perhaps a larger emigration to Egypt after the confusion of the last several years. It is a group that has already heard and ignored Jeremiah’s words that their actions of turning to Egypt will mean famine, the sword and pestilence. In the midst of this refugee group in Egypt we see Jeremiah dealing with some of the same issues as the beginning of his ministry.

Forty years earlier, when Josiah was king and led a reformation of the temple and worship in Jerusalem and turned the people back to the LORD and away from the practices of adopting the customs and worship of the Assyrians now returns again as they encounter Egypt and its lifestyle, culture and religions. As Benyamin Lau describes it:


Jeremiah wanders around his people in shock. All the reformations of his beloved Josiah are instantly forgotten. The idolatry he had witnessed in his childhood, the legacy of Manasseh, has been resurrected in a different form. He finds himself back where he started forty years earlier, only now he is weary, broken, and drained of all hope. For the last time he summons the strength to warn the people against going astray in Egypt to learn from the sins of their forefathers. (Lau, 2013, p. 216)


At stake are different readings of history and the times. Jeremiah reads the events of the past in light of the LORD’s judgment on the people for turning away from the covenant, law, decrees and worship of the LORD. The group of people who are gathered together one last time to hear the prophet’s final recorded words to them read the events of the last several years in a different light.

Jeremiah 44: 15-23 Different Readings of Reality

 15 Then all the men who were aware that their wives had been making offerings to other gods, and all the women who stood by, a great assembly, all the people who lived in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: 16 “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we are not going to listen to you. 17 Instead, we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out libations to her, just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials, used to do in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. We used to have plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no misfortune. 18 But from the time we stopped making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out libations to her, we have lacked everything and have perished by the sword and by famine.” 19 And the women said, “Indeed we will go on making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out libations to her; do you think that we made cakes for her, marked with her image, and poured out libations to her without our husbands’ being involved?”

 20 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, men and women, all the people who were giving him this answer: 21 “As for the offerings that you made in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your ancestors, your kings and your officials, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them? Did it not come into his mind? 22 The LORD could no longer bear the sight of your evil doings, the abominations that you committed; therefore your land became a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is to this day. 23 It is because you burned offerings, and because you sinned against the LORD and did not obey the voice of the LORD or walk in his law and in his statutes and in his decrees, that this disaster has befallen you, as is still evident today.”


The people answer Jeremiah’s prophecy with a very different reading of reality. From their perspective, prior to Jeremiah’s prophecies, prior to the reformation of Josiah and under the reign of Manasseh forty years ago things were pretty good. The people had adopted a pro-Assyrian policy, adopted their customs and practices and along with that portions of their religious practice. Until that time, in the memory of the people, things went well for Judah. After Josiah’s death at the hands of Egypt and the rise of the Babylonian empire, while they had ceased worshipping the Assyrian gods/goddesses (although apparently the remembrance of the practice and probably the practices themselves lingered). The queen of heaven probably referred to Astarte, a fertility goddess but could also refer here in Egypt to Isis, but somehow there is an amalgamation between the worship of the LORD the God of Israel and this other deity.  The people defiantly resist Jeremiah, claiming ‘we will go on making offerings.’

It is easy to imagine the allure of the culture and worship in Egypt as well as the practices from the past when times seemed easier and more secure being very attractive to the people. It’s also not hard to imagine the allure of a fertility cult at any point in society. Yet, in the midst of these final words between the people and Jeremiah we see the people interpreting reality in light of their prosperity of the past while doing these practices and Jeremiah seeing the judgment of the recent past in light of these practices. Judaism probably was not as monotheistic throughout its history prior to the exile as it became when it emerged again from the exile in Babylon. Yet in the book of Jeremiah this is a new low point, the people feel no need to apologize for their actions or cover them up. They are claiming a new identity in the new land, they are choosing to no longer be the people of the LORD. Perhaps this is that moment where something so drastic has happened that the parent has disowned the child and this is the counter story to the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.  Regardless for this portion of the exiles, who disobeyed Jeremiah’s prophetic words against going to Egypt and now are adopting new practices in this new land the dissolution in nearly complete.


Byzantine Fresca of Joshua from Hosias Loukas Monastery in Boetian, Greece

Byzantine Fresca of Joshua from Hosias Loukas Monastery in Boetian, Greece

Jeremiah 44: 24-30: Choose This Day Who You Will Serve

                24 Jeremiah said to all the people and all the women, “Hear the word of the LORD, all you Judeans who are in the land of Egypt, 25 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: You and your wives have accomplished in deeds what you declared in words, saying, ‘We are determined to perform the vows that we have made, to make offerings to the queen of heaven and to pour out libations to her.’ By all means, keep your vows and make your libations! 26 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all you Judeans who live in the land of Egypt: Lo, I swear by my great name, says the LORD, that my name shall no longer be pronounced on the lips of any of the people of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, ‘As the Lord GOD lives.’ 27 I am going to watch over them for harm and not for good; all the people of Judah who are in the land of Egypt shall perish by the sword and by famine, until not one is left. 28 And those who escape the sword shall return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah, few in number; and all the remnant of Judah, who have come to the land of Egypt to settle, shall know whose words will stand, mine or theirs! 29 This shall be the sign to you, says the LORD, that I am going to punish you in this place, in order that you may know that my words against you will surely be carried out: 30 Thus says the LORD, I am going to give Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt, into the hands of his enemies, those who seek his life, just as I gave King Zedekiah of Judah into the hand of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, his enemy who sought his life.”


At the end of a very different story in the book of Joshua, Joshua presents the people with a choice:


Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24: 14f)


At the end of Jeremiah the people have made a choice, and it is a different choice. Every action has consequences in the world of Jeremiah, but Jeremiah has played his part and done his job. Jeremiah is finished with this people. “By all means, keep your vows and make your libations!” but the consequence of this choice is that the people are no longer to use the name of the LORD. They are no longer Israel, or Judah without their relationship to the God of Israel. Once again the words come prophesying the war, famine, and disease that will reduce the people in Egypt greatly. These words are followed up by a series of events that unfold in the near future when Pharoah Hophra is killed in a rebellion in 569 BCE and then Nebuchadrezzar invades in 568/67 BCE shattering the illusion of the safety of the Egyptian empire. (Elizabeth Actemeir, et. al., 1994, p. VI: 874) From the brokenhearted prophet there is one more word of promise not for the people but for Baruch as the story closes and then inhales for a final scream of judgment against the nations. Light will re-emerge, there will be a hope for the future but it will not be seen by those in Egypt, nor quickly by those in Babylon. The Judean refugees in Babylon will go through a long process of reconstructing their identity as a people no longer identified by land, the temple and its worship or the Davidic king. Now they must begin the long process of gathering their stories, figuring out who they are and imagining a new future for themselves and their LORD.

Jeremiah 43 The Flight to Egypt


Cry Of Prophet Jeremiah on the Ruins of Jerusalem by Ilya Repin 1870

Cry Of Prophet Jeremiah on the Ruins of Jerusalem by Ilya Repin 1870

When Jeremiah finished speaking to all the people all these words of the LORD their God, with which the LORD their God had sent him to them, 2 Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the other insolent men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie. The LORD our God did not send you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to settle there’; 3 but Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us, to hand us over to the Chaldeans, in order that they may kill us or take us into exile in Babylon.” 4 So Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of the LORD, to stay in the land of Judah. 5 But Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces took all the remnant of Judah who had returned to settle in the land of Judah from all the nations to which they had been driven– 6 the men, the women, the children, the princesses, and everyone whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan; also the prophet Jeremiah and Baruch son of Neriah.
 7 And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the LORD. And they arrived at Tahpanhes. 8 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes: 9 Take some large stones in your hands, and bury them in the clay pavement that is at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes. Let the Judeans see you do it, 10 and say to them, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to send and take my servant King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he will set his throne above these stones that I have buried, and he will spread his royal canopy over them. 11 He shall come and ravage the land of Egypt,
giving those who are destined for pestilence, to pestilence,
and those who are destined for captivity, to captivity,
and those who are destined for the sword, to the sword.
 12 He shall kindle a fire in the temples of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them and carry them away captive; and he shall pick clean the land of Egypt, as a shepherd picks his cloak clean of vermin; and he shall depart from there safely. 13 He shall break the obelisks of Heliopolis, which is in the land of Egypt; and the temples of the gods of Egypt he shall burn with fire.

 Everything in the book of Jeremiah seems to work against the hope that the people will hear and listen and be obedient. Every time Jeremiah has spoken before the listeners have not responded, and yet there was perhaps a small hope that this time, since the leaders and the people had sought him out that the response might be different. Yet, the response by Azariah and Johanan (and I find the fact that Azariah son of Hoshaiah is mentioned first intriguing since in the chapters that proceed Johanan is apparently the dominant leader and when Azariah is mentioned, which isn’t often, it is after Johanan) is not only negative but accusatory. First is the accusation that Jeremiah’s prophecy is a lie, that in Jeremiah’s persistence in telling the people what they do not want to hear that somehow the inconvenient truth is shouted down as the lie. Second, interestingly, is the accusation that Baruch son of Neriah is behind this believed subversion. Other than his role as the scribe of Jeremiah we know very little about Baruch, but in this interconnected and politically charged world it isn’t surprising that Baruch is probably more than a mere scribe and that he (like Gedeliah and his father and grandfather) probably represented the present opposition to the policy of the officials in Jerusalem that led to the cities overthrow by Babylon. Perhaps he, and probably others as well, had been public voices critical of the pro-Egyptian policies of the past and as the people look to flee for safety in Egypt, perhaps Baruch makes a convenient scapegoat. Now the remnant who escaped exile by hiding away in foreign lands is now entering into a self-chosen exile in the land of Egypt. The land is left deserted since the text gives the impression that everyone left is taken away by Johanan and the forces remaining. Interesting that we see that the princesses are also left in Jerusalem and they along with the rest of the people, including Jeremiah and Baruch are carried off into to Tahpanhes (also known as Daphanae by the Greeks).

Once in Egypt, the LORD again calls on Jeremiah to perform a visual representation of the coming judgment in the sight of the people. Taking large stones and burying them in the front of the entrance of the palace of the pharaoh at Tahpanhes (Tahpanhes is not the capitol but this is probably one of many palaces throughout the nation) symbolically marking a place where the feared king of Babylon will again set up his court in the front yard of his biggest challenger in the region. The prophecy points out again that Egypt will not bring safety, that captivity, sword and pestilence will not be avoided and that the Chaldeans are instruments of the LORD of hosts, and that the Egyptians are no more a threat to them than a rat or insect on a shepherd’s robe. This tragic part of the story is approaching its end and not only do the people bring judgment upon themselves, but also upon Egypt and her gods for being the place they have come to for security.