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Here begins a new part of the book. We are here in the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. After Jeremiah 1, Zedekiah is mentioned here again for the first time (Jer 1:1; Jer 21:1). In the following chapters we hear of him frequently. He is a wicked man, but also one who still wants a message from the LORD. It is the time when the king of Babylon has already laid siege to the city.
The Envoy of Zedekiah
Jeremiah is visited by two priests, Pashhur and Zephaniah (Jer 21:1). Zedekiah has sent them to him. Possibly this is an encouragement to Jeremiah, who is so depressed, that at least to Zedekiah he is a true prophet of the LORD. Zedekiah wants Jeremiah to inquire of the LORD for him, that is, pray for him (Jer 21:2). He has been cornered by Nebuchadnezzar and now wants outcome from the LORD. The name of Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned here for the first time.
Zedekiah wants the LORD to do a wonder for him, or deliver him in a wonderous way. He knows that the LORD has done many wonderful acts in the past, such as with his ancestor Hezekiah who also had to deal with a siege. Hezekiah then also sent an envoy to a prophet and was then delivered by the LORD from his enemies (2Chr 32:20-21; Isa 37:1-4; 36-37). Would He “perhaps” want to do it now as well and, for their benefit, cause Nebuchadnezzar to go away?
Here we have a prayer from a wicked person that is an abomination to God and to which He does not listen (Pro 28:9). It is the kind of prayer that Pharaoh desires from Moses when he asks him to pray to be delivered from the plagues with which the LORD is striking his land (Exo 10:17). The knowledge of God’s wonders that Zedekiah possesses is an intellectual knowledge and is not accompanied by faith in the God of wonders.
Jeremiah sends the two men back to Zedekiah with three answers, one for Zedekiah, one for the people, and one for the house of David. He tells the two men what to say (Jer 21:3). The answer through Jeremiah’s mouth comes from “the LORD God of Israel” (Jer 21:4). It is not the answer they have been hoping for, but a repetition of what Zedekiah already knows.
In this answer we often hear the LORD say “I will”. He will make the weapons they use against the enemy into weapons that turn against them. He will render them powerless against the enemy who is now outside the wall of the city, and He will bring the enemy into the center of the city. They will experience that He Himself will fight against them (Jer 21:5). Nebuchadnezzar is not the real enemy, but the LORD! It must be a huge shock to Zedekiah to hear that.
The LORD fights against him in anger and wrath and great indignation because of his apostasy and that of the people. The “outstretched hand” and the “mighty arm” that once redeemed the people (Deu 4:34; Deu 5:15; Deu 26:8), now give the people over to misery, subjection and exile. The LORD in His anger has utterly turned against His people. Instead of a wonder of deliverance, the wrath of God unloads. This message is in stark contrast to what the false prophets have always said, who have always presented God as the Helper of Israel. Now He turns out to be their Adversary.
The inhabitants of the city will not only die by the sword of the enemy, but also by a pestilence that He will send (Jer 21:6). Man and beast will be affected by it. Those who are still alive after the previous disasters, including Zedekiah and his servants, should not think that they have escaped God’s judgment (Jer 21:7). The hand of Nebuchadnezzar is the hand of the enemy and is the hand of those who are after them. He will not spare them, but kill them by the sword without mercy. They need not expect pity nor compassion.
Jeremiah also gives a message from the LORD for the people (Jer 21:8). Among them there are those who still want to be faithful, while the king is not. It is a message of hope. That message is the gospel, as it were, and connected to a choice. That choice is the way to life or the way to death (Jer 21:9; Deu 11:26-28; Deu 30:15-20).
First, the way to death is presented. For this they do not have to do anything. The word “who” indicates that it is a personal choice and that the whole city is not expected to bow to God’s judgment. Each is personally responsible for the choice he makes. Those who remain in the city will die.
Whoever chooses the way of life must do something. He must leave the place, on which God’s anger rests and about which God’s anger will soon erupt, and go out and falls away to the enemy. Whoever does so will live and have his life as booty. To defect to the enemy means to bow to God’s judgment and that is always the way to life.
Judgment comes irrevocably (Jer 21:10). The city is before the LORD’s face not for good, but for harm. It will be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, who will burn it with fire. It is clear. The choice can be made.
Exhortation to the House of David
Then there is another word from the LORD “to the household of the king of Judah” (Jer 21:11). It is called upon to listen to the LORD. To that house, which is then addressed as the “house of David”, it is told to administer justice in the morning (Jer 21:12; cf. Psa 101:8; 2Sam 15:2). The call comes to a dilapidated house, a house where corruption and injustice reign supreme.
Who has been robbed, that is the widow, orphan and stranger, must be given justice. They are without support, without property and without freedom. Such socially vulnerable people easily fall into the hand of a ruthless man. Therefore, the house of David must administer justice. Failure to administer justice is a thing that causes the LORD’s wrath to go forth like fire. If justice is not administered, the wrath of the LORD will burn unquenchably over those evil deeds.
In their pride, those who dwell in the valley think that no one sees them and that no one will come to them to deal with them (Jer 21:13). The rock in which they dwell, they believe, is untraceable and also impregnable. But they are not reckoning with the LORD. He will come to judge them and will deal with them in a perfectly righteous manner (Jer 21:14). They will be punished according to the fruit of their deeds. Everything they have surrounded themselves with as with a forest will be devoured by the fire of His judgment.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 21". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27