Devotional Commentary on Jeremiah 29


Rabbi Abarbanel said that after Hananiah died (my dating in 593 BCE), he sent a scroll to those in Exile from Jerusalem in 597 BCE. These were the good figs from the pot in the vision earlier. Jechoian, the queen-mother, officers, princes, craftsmen and gate sentries went there (verse 2).


When Jeremiah finished this positive message, Zedekiah smiled and was willing to let two of his officials, Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah, the son of Hilkiah, carry the scroll to Babylon (verse 3). It was late in 593 or early in 592 BCE. The names Shaphan and Gemariah appeared also in Jeremiah 36:10-12 but there it is Gemariah the son of Shaphan. Shaphan was a scribe in Jeremiah 36. The seal was found in the city of David. On the 2nd of July 1990 I was bending over seals found in the City of David by Y. Shiloh in the Israel Museum: Ḥananyah; Gemaryahu; Shema`yahu; Elishama; `zryahu. Then a number of names were interesting to me: “(Belonging) [to `U]zziahu [Eli]shama`”; (Belonging) to syl’ son of `Elishama; (Belonging) to Elishama` son of Shemachyah[u]; (Belonging) to Elishama` son of Yeho`ab; (Belonging) to ‘Aḥi`ab son of Yeho`ab. I looked at it and thought: is it possible that people had more than one name so that when the father dies before the grandfather, the son is mentioned in connection with his grandfather on his father side or even grandfather on his mother side? While I was musing over this possibility  I noticed somebody that looked like prof. Nahman Avigad coming in my direction. I walked up to him: “Excuse me,” I said nervously but in good manners, “I have seen somebody yesterday at the archaeological conference that looked like you but it was prof. Nahman Avigad.” “What about him?” he asked, disassociating himself from himself for a moment. “Well, he presented an excellent paper.” “That,s me,” he said with a smile. I congratulate him for his talk on the Siloam Tunnel Inscription that Hezekiah [my idea: took the inscription out of the public eye by not patting himself on the shoulder for his accomplishment as other rulers did] and did not praise himself but his laborers.” “That is true”. When our information ran out I quickly invented something: “I want to show you something” and then walked over to the Arad ostraca and to the City of David Bullae on display which Y. Shiloh published. “Look,” I said pointing to the Bullae of seals, “those are similar names than in the Arad ostraca.” “Do you know the publication of the Arad Ostraca?” Avigad asked me. “Yes,” I said. “Can you read them?” he asked. “Yes”. I said. The police arrived to show us the way for it was time to close. He waited for me to get my backpack. As we walked out I told him about my research on the Moabite Seals. We took a picture together and talked outside the Museum and we separated with a hearty greeting. I could see that the seal yhw’b was the same name as on Arad Ostracon 3 reverse line 2 and that Ḥananyah on the seal also appeared on Arad Ostracon (10) line 1 and on Ostracon (7) line 3. The seal Shema`yahu also appeared on Arad Ostracon (3) line 2 and on Arad Ostracon 4 lines 1-3 the name Gemar[yahu] appears. In sum: Jeremiah is reality and not just fake inventions or constructions of someone who wrote centuries later and used his name.


After been carried away in verse 3, I notice that Jeremiah’s message to the people in Babylon is that they should build houses and dwell there (verse 5). They should normalize (verse 6). They should not shrink in population numbers so they should get married. They had to be careful that the prophets in their midst do not mislead them (verse 8). “Neither shall you heed your dreams which you cause to dream” which means self-generated dreams that are not messages from the Lord. Ever had people going to dream-interpreters? It is like reading future from a tea-cup with the direction the leaves lies in the Victorian and Colonial Africa times. What does your stars say is a no-no for the Lord. He has nothing to do with it. This was very popular in Babylon and so they had to be warned against it. Magic and superstition is still a live topic today and there are academics who only take on doctorates if they study topics in magic or superstition since that is what interest them. Especially in Scandinavian countries the cuneiformists are hooked on magical text research. Some openly admit that they are part of modern clubs for astrology and the like. Israelite fake prophets operated with the same commercial objectives in mind as in modern days. “For they prophesy to you falsely in My name, I have not sent them, says the Lord” (verse 9).


The Lord said that when 70 years is completed He will remember them and “I will fulfill My good word toward you and restore you to this place” (verse 10). How is that for specific determination by the Lord? For function and the accomplishing of His schedule or program God sometimes use people who made the decision by themselves but His foreknowledge knows that and use them for a task to fulfill. Neb had his time. Do they have a chance to turn to God any time? In 1986 a book appeared by two editors who concluded by themselves that election in the Bible is a “mystery”. They presented four views by two Calvinists: John Feinberg and Norman Geisler and by two Arminian protagonists: Bruce Reichenbach and Clark Pinnock. Said Geisler: “God determines reality in accord with what He foreknows (timelessly sees) will freely be done by humans” (page 13). What humans do is still within the specific pre-ordained plan of God. Pinnock said that “Human freedom is incompatible with divine foreknowledge”. John Feinstein said that it is like soft determinism or compatibilism which is like a teacher pleading with the student that it is in his best interest to leave the class and the student decides by himself to leave without constraints although he was caused to leave. The first two held that God determines specifically but the last two scholars felt that God determines just in general.


“For I know the thoughts that I think about you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (verse 11). The people who went first in 597 BCE were the good ones who were faithful and in good standing with the Lord fearing Him and with a strong yearning for salvation. The bad figs remained behind and were hardnecked despite repeated calls for return.


When they call the Lord He will listen to them and that is what Daniel did in his prayer when he remembered that the 70 years of Jeremiah was over. He earnestly prayed (verse 12). The attitude is described as one that “will seek Me and find, for you seek Me with all your heart” (verse 13). “I will be found by you” (verse 14). Just like when Adam and Eve had sinned. God found them because He was standing closeby anyway. Children sometimes look for their parents who are constantly within sight of the kid. What will God do? He will return their captivity, gather them, return them from where they were exiled in 597 BCE. They said that the Lord had set up for them prophets in Babylon. Daniel was one. (verse 15). The Jewish exegetes thought it is referring to the false prophets. But Daniel was not a false prophet and he was there set-up by God.


The Lord has a message for those who did not leave for the exile or Jeremiah’s bad figs scheduled to be shipped 586 BCE by God: “Your brethren who have not left with you into exile” (verse 16). Zedekiah’s explains that Jeremiah said in this scroll that those figs there who went earlier will be blessed and return later but there is a message that is closer at home for King Zedekiah.


They are the “loathsome figs” and the Lord is going to send a sword, famine and pestilence among them (verse 17). “They are so bad.” When God says a person is bad it is not a good person that is called bad. God will never do that. Commandment keepers are those who seek to do all His commandments not just 9. As someone said: jails are full of people who just broke one commandment. A bad person is one who broke one commandment and the whole house of commandments come down. The relationship with God is gone and so the relationship with people. It is not just one event and return to the Lord, it is a lifestyle of habitual sinning. There is no interest to get out of the mess. Just like one would expect, the Greek translators after Antiochus Epiphanes after 150 BCE did not want a text that is redundant with repetitive long phrases, which was the style of a prophet preaching to a very patient audience listening him out but who take a nap and he has to repeat so that all ears cannot say: we did not hear him say that. Shortening of the Word of God as they did with the Iliad of Homer in the same time at the Library of Ptolemaic or Hellenistic Alexandria (See M. Frazer 1972 Volume II). So what did the LXX do? Left out parts of verses 16-20. It was very common in those days to speak like this. Daniel also have this style with the repetition of the exact musical instruments in the decree for his friends testing. I write sometimes repetitive on purpose since I think that the audience may not fully understand so that if I want to make sure they understand they need to have the full data at hand to grasp. Mothers sometimes talk to their children like that in repetitive style to make sure the ones who need to hear the message did. But secularized Jews were now in Elite Academics, the Harvard of Ptolemaic times, and they did not want to let their literature appear “backward”, “farmish”, “common”. The LXX of Jeremiah is a case of Academic snobbism. Red card. You cannot cut the Word of God with scissors and wastebasket. Higher criticism is doing it similarly as higher criticism was doing it in the Ptolemaic times with the Iliad of Homer. The method is the scissors, glue and wastebasket. What you like you keep, cut out the rest and either repaste it somewhere else or delete it completely in a wastebasket. We are talking about the Revelation of God of Himself in His Word to us in the hands of humans with agnostic and secular intentions or religious scholars trying to please those who are agnostic and secular.


God then presented his blacklist: Ahab; Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah who prophesied falsely in His name. Neb is waiting for them (verse 21). An idiom went then around afterwards in the form of a curse including these two men: “May the Lord make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab”. A scary word to say to someone in exile. (verses 22). These men did not only spoke falsely the lived falsely: they committed adultery which is a “disgrace in Israel” (verse 23). They also spoke false things that the Lord did not say to them as if the Lord did.


Second on the list is Shemaiah (verse 24). One of the seals I saw at the City of David exhibition in the Israel Museum is the name Shemaiah. He wrote letters in his name to all the people in Jerusalem and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest and to all the priests (verse 25). He acted as the General Conference President and said that “the Lord made you a priest instead of Jehoida the priest” (verse 26). A president acting as a pope. They say that in Adventism George Butler is said to have acted, president as pope. I hope it was after his 1886 The Law in Galatians and not before this good book. It is really a scholarly work with some slips granted but mostly worth looking into for our Sabbath School Quarterlies on Galatians.


The function of this newly instituted official Zephaniah is that he was to act presumably “similar to a Jesuit spy” to see who is “mad” and who makes himself a prophet and then to mete out punishment of putting someone in prison or into the stocks (verse 26). If you study the Book of Revelation among the Francisans of the 12th and 13th centuries and the papal bulls announced as a result of that and their “church manual with canine teeth” you know exactly what Shemaiah had in mind.


Hardly appointed in this spy-police-punishment function by Shemaiah, he blamed Zephaniah of not doing his job: “Why have you not rebuked Jeremiah”. Red card. The anointed of the Lord. Zephaniah heard Jeremiah but did nothing to punish him: “Not good. Not good.” (verse 27). The reason is that Jeremiah said it is going to be a long exile of 70 years (verse 28).


Zephaniah’s self-appointed boss told him to speak to Jeremiah and he took the letter and read it to Jeremiah (verse 29).


But God had a message to Jeremiah to them (verse 30). The word was to go to all the good ones in the exile: Punishment from the Lord. (verse 31).

Shemaiah prophesied although the Lord did not send him and thus it was based on selfish assumptions and a lie (verse 31). He spoke a perversion against the Lord (verse 32).

Therefore, he and his seed will not see the good that the Lord is going to do with His remnant.


Dear God

Help us to ascertain what Your Word really says and not speaking what You never said. In Jesus Name. Amen