II Kin. 24:18, 19; II Chron. 36:11, 12; Jer. 52:1, 2; 27:1-22
Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king of Judah. His eleven year reign was wicked like that of his father and other ancestors. He also ignored Jeremiah’s prophecies.
The Lord commanded Jeremiah to construct yokes that represented bondage and take them to the kings of Judah and her neighbors. They signified their upcoming captivity under Nebuchadnezzar. Because of their evil ways, God was punishing them by allowing Babylon to control them for a period of time. At the end of that time, Babylon would be defeated and serve others. God does not allow sin to be unpunished. He used the wicked Babylonians to punish those nations, but Babylon’s punishment was also inevitable. Jesus died on the cross as punishment for our sins if we will accept him in faith and obedience.
There have always been scoffers and naysayers who refuse to accept the word of the Lord. Jeremiah spoke out against those false prophets in Judah who said, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon.” Judah’s captivity had been promised, but their neighboring nations, who would surrender to Babylon, would be permitted to remain in their land, “and they shall till it and dwell in it.”
Jeremiah went to King Zedekiah and seemingly on bent knees pleaded with the king to listen to the words of God instead of those false prophets. He urged the king to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar and live. “Why will you die, you and your people…Therefore, do not listen to the words…for they prophesy a lie to you…” The prophet also repeated his plea to the priests and the people.
Vessels of worship that had been taken from the earlier raid by Babylon would soon be returned, according to the false prophets. Jeremiah stated that would not happen, but also the remaining vessels and other treasures would be taken if the king did not surrender.
Nebuchadnezzar was like many of today’s people who praise and honor God. He recognized God as the true God, but he also held on to his false god.
The king had another dream and in humility, related the details of it, including its interpretation and consequences. After his interpreters had failed to understand the meaning of the dream, he again called for Daniel. In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar had seen a tall tree standing in the middle of the earth. As it continued to grow stronger and reach up to the heavens, it provided fruit for all. The beasts of the field cooled under its shade and the birds built their nests on its branches. However, “a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven,” ordered the tree to be cut down with its branches cut off and its leaves and fruit scattered. All who had depended upon it for comfort and fruit would be without its benefits. Its stump and roots would be left and banded with an iron and bronze band. The tree would be wet with the dew and it would become as a beast and eat grass with them.
Nebuchadnezzar sensed that Daniel was disturbed and probably fearful for his life as he realized the end result of his dream. At his insistence, Daniel relayed the message. The tree represented the king and the decree regarding him had come from, “the Most High.” Nebuchadnezzar would be driven from his palace and would eat grass with the beasts of the field. He would be wet with the dew of heaven for “seven times” (years or seasons). The stump and roots signified that his kingdom would continue to be his after he had, “come to know that Heaven reigns.”
The calamity that the dream portrayed to Nebuchadnezzar could possibly be averted if he would turn from his sins and show mercy to the poor. After twelve months, it happened. Power and prestige overloaded his pride. “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” As he was speaking, a voice from heaven informed him that his dream was coming true. The king did, indeed eat “grass with the oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.”
After the set time, Nebuchadnezzar did return to his kingdom and all was restored to him. He had learned a lesson in the “school of hard knocks.” “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” We must not allow pride to interfere with our lives as Christians.
Nebuchadnezzar constructed a giant image of gold about ninety feet tall and about nine feet wide. He ordered all of the people of the land to fall down and worship his golden image upon hearing the prescribed musical instruments playing in symphony with all kinds of music. Anyone disobeying that order was to be immediately thrown into a fiery furnace and be destroyed.
When he was informed that the Jews, (That is the first or one of the first times that God’s people were referred to as Jews.) Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego had refused to bow down to the image, the king called them for confirmation of the report. They answered, “O Nebuchadnezzar…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace and He will deliver us from your hand, O king…nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” The infuriated king ordered the fire to be burning seven times hotter than usual to consume those defiant men.
Because the fire was so hot, the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego into it were killed by the heat. BUT, by the power of God, the three men along with a fourth who appeared in the fire with them were protected to the extent that even their clothing did not smell of the fire.
The king was impressed. He spoke, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him…Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or language which speaks anything amiss against the God…shall be cut in pieces…because there is no other God who can deliver like this.” That pronouncement did not indicate a belief in God as the only true God, but that He was God among many other gods. Instead of dying because of their faith, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were promoted in the province of Babylon.
II Kin. 24:10-17; II Chron. 36:10; Jer. 24:1-10
The prophecies of Jeremiah did not all come to pass at the same time. Judah had previously suffered defeats and was in a weakened condition as the teenaged king ascended to the throne. After only about fifteen weeks, Nebuchadnezzar’s people stormed Jerusalem and King Jehoiachin and his household surrendered and were taken captive to Babylon. Ten thousand of the most valiant and able bodied men were also carried away leaving only the poorest people of the land. The temple and the king’s house were looted of their treasures. With Jerusalem under his control, Nebuchadnezzar made Mattaniah, an uncle of Jehoiachin and another of Josiah’s sons his puppet king. In a show of his authority the Babylonian king changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah.
Sometime after Jehoiachin had been carried away from Jerusalem and Zedekiah had been made king of Judah, Jeremiah saw a vision of two baskets of figs set in front of the temple. The Lord explained that the one basket of good figs represented a part of Judah who would turn to God and eventually return to their homeland. They were the ones who had just been captured and would be protected from the final siege of the land. The other basket contained bad figs which represented Zedekiah and the people who had remained in the city and would continue refusing to return to God. They would suffer that final calamity along with a future of sword, famine and pestilence until they had been destroyed. The coming of Christ would eventually spring from those represented by the good basket of figs.
II Kin. 24:5-9; II Chron. 36:8, 9; Jer. 22:18-30; 13:15-27
Jehoiakim’s death ended an evil reign in Judah. It is customary to lament and mourn for even a wicked one who has passed from this life. However, Jehoiakim’s wickedness was so great that the Lord forbade lamenting for him. He was also denied what would be considered a proper burial—only to be, “Dragged and cast out beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”
One would hope that with a new king there would be improved spiritual changes. However, Jehoiachin, the eighteen-year-old son of Jehoiakim continued in the evil ways of his father. Judah’s chief ally, Egypt had fallen to the Babylonians and they refused to hear the Lord, their only hope for salvation. God spoke to Jeremiah regarding the new king that he and his mother would be cast out of the land and into a country where he had not been born. He would have no child to succeed him on the throne of David. His reign only lasted for three months and ten days.
Jeremiah continued to warn the heads of the Judean government, but because of their pride, his words fell upon deaf ears. They had the power and authority to lead their people back to God, but refused to accept that responsibility. The cities of the south would be carried away into captivity by the cities of the north. Even in their deep sinful state, God would have still made them clean if they would have turned back to Him in sincere repentance.
The people of Judah continued their anger against Jeremiah as they laid out plans against him. They denied the truth of his prophesies. The heartbreak in him turned into anger. Jeremiah called upon the Lord to swiftly administer His wrath upon the people. Before we condemn him for his anger, let us stop and consider the attitude that we would have under the same circumstances.
Instead of bringing swift destruction upon the people, God instructed Jeremiah to present a visual aid to some of the elders. He was to take a potter’s earthen flask to represent Jerusalem. Upon the completion of another series of warnings and declarations, the prophet was to break the flask and conclude God’s message, “Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel…”
After hearing of the words spoken by Jeremiah, Pashhur, the chief governor (probably police chief) in the house of the Lord struck him and placed him into the stocks overnight. The next day Jeremiah spelled out the doom that would befall Pashhur—that he would die and be buried in Babylon.
His despondency continued. He blamed God for his derision and misery, even considering refusing to continue to prophesy. A true child of God when confronted with doubts and uncertainties cannot quit. “But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not…” Still, he had swings of emotion from singing praises to the Lord to cursing the day that he was born and wishing that he had died in his mother’s womb. Godly people sometimes have ungodly thoughts and emotions. We can take comfort when we feel those pains that great Bible characters before us have survived the same issues.
Just because a person proclaims to be a prophet does not give reason to believe and obey his messages. As Jeremiah continued to preach to the people, he was confronted with false messages from those who were teaching that all was well and that there would be peace. The people believed the pleasant words of the false prophets instead of the harsh words from the true prophet Jeremiah. As water takes the path of least resistance, man has the tendency to also roll with the flow of ease. Many years later, the apostle Paul warned Timothy, a young preacher of those who would speak words that would soothe “itching ears.”
Jeremiah was heartbroken by the deception of those false prophets. Imagine being inside a burning building calling for its occupants to flee to safety while someone else was reassuring them that they would not be destroyed and to remain in place. That same problem is faced by preachers and teachers of God’s word today. False prophets/teachers proclaim that if one will only believe in Christ, he will be saved—that obeying God is trying to “earn one’s salvation” and is useless. (Please look ahead to Rom. 6:15-18 to see that refuted by the apostle Paul.) Jeremiah was speaking of physical salvation whereas; Paul was addressing eternal salvation of the soul.