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Bible: What Does Jeremiah 34-36 Teach Us About The Consequences of Obedience and Disobedience to the Word of God?

Updated on August 5, 2016

Zedekiah Taken to Babylon




Zedekiah Captured and Jerusalem Destroyed

Jeremiah 34

When seemingly the whole world opposes Jerusalem, Yahweh sends Jeremiah to King Zedekiah to inform him that the Babylonians will destroy the city as well as capture him and take him to Babylon (vv. 1-3; cf. 2 Kings 24:17).

Yet God says that Zedekiah would die there in peace, and not by violence (vv. 4-5).

Verses six and seven summarize where and at what stage of the conquest the prophet uttered these words.

Jeremiah records an incident in which the LORD hands down a decision in a certain case regarding slavery in Israel.

Zedekiah covenants with the people to release their Jewish brothers and sisters who had become debtors (vv. 8-9).

Initially, the covenant succeeds (v. 10); however, the masters eventually revert to their old ways (v. 11).

For this reason God steps in to rectify the situation.

After reviewing the appropriate history and law regarding slaves (vv. 12-14; cf. Ex. 21:2), and taking into account Israel's most recent obedience to that law and then their reversion (vv. 15-16), He proclaims a different type of "liberty": “freedom” from a lack of trouble will descend upon the people in the form of the sword, famine, and pestilence (v. 17).

To the princes, priests, and people who "passed between the parts of the calf"—a covenant ritual not unlike the one God once "cut" unilaterally with Abraham (see Gen. 15:17)—He issues a proclamation of horror.

As covenant-breakers, they would suffer the consequences of their transgressions (vv. 18-20).

Zedekiah will also endure captivity at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar's army, and the cities of Judah will become deserted (vv. 21-22).

Rechabite Virtue

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The Rechabites

Jeremiah 35

[During “the days of Jehoiakim, the LORD gave the following revelation to Jeremiah.]

By bringing the Rechabites to the temple—Why does the prophet spell out so precisely the location in the temple where he brought the Rechabites? (v. 4)—and commanding Jeremiah to serve them bowls of wine (vv. 1-5),

Yahweh tests their obedience to their father Jonadab (who had told them not to drink wine and to live as nomads) [vv. 6-7].

After refusing the wine, they also profess their obedience to the other dictates of their father (vv. 8-10).

However, for fear of the Babylonian invasion, the Rechabites confess that they temporarily halted their nomadic ways and decided to dwell in Jerusalem (v. 11).

[Interestingly, David executed Rechab (their ancestor) for murdering Ishbosheth (see 2 Samuel 4), and Jehonadab (their father) was complicit with Jehu in killing Ahab’s family and the worshipers of Baal in Samaria (see 2 Kings 10).]

God proceeds to chastise Judah and Jerusalem by contrasting the Rechabite obedience with the waywardness of His people (vv. 12-14).

The prophets had continually brought the same message to the nation—return, amend your ways, and stop your idolatry—but the latter continually rejected it (v. 15).

Yahweh reiterates this contrast (v. 16), and then issues a message of doom upon Judah (v. 17).

On the other hand, He rewards the Rechabites for obeying their father (vv. 18-19).

The Word of the LORD


Writing and Proclaiming the Word of the LORD

Jeremiah 36

The events of this chapter occur at nearly the same time as those of chapter twenty-five (the fourth year of Jehoiakim) [v. 1]. Yahweh commands Jeremiah to write on a scroll every message that He had given to him since the beginning of his ministry (v. 2; cf. 1:2, 3). Why? En masse, all of his words may drive home more poignantly to the house of Judah "all the adversities which I propose to bring upon them," and thus move the people to repent (v. 3). Calling in Baruch the scribe, Jeremiah dictates ''all the words of the LORD which He had spoken to him'' (v. 4).

[To do so accurately, the prophet needed to be under the control of the Holy Spirit (cf. the Lord's directions to His apostles in John 16:13). Baruch also had to be kept from error in his transcription of these messages].

Since Jeremiah is under house arrest, he instructs Baruch to go to the temple in his place and proclaim the LORD’s words there on the day of fasting with the hope that the populace might repent (vv. 6-7). Verse eight records the scribe's obedience.

[Apparently he continued to read on each fast day for over a year; just reading it on that one fast day certainly would not have sufficed].

Verses nine and ten introduce another special fast—this time in the ninth month and fifth year of Jehoiakim's reign—during which Baruch read the prophet's messages. Note the very specific location of this reading (v. 10; cf. 35:4).

A Tender Conscience

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Michaiah and the Princes of Judah

Michaiah, the grandson of the scribe Shaphan, gives the princes a verbal synopsis of the prophet's words (vv. 11-13), motivating them to send for Baruch to hear the whole scroll (vv. 14-15). Frightened by the word of the LORD, they decide to tell Jehoiakim about it; however, knowing that the king would undoubtedly not accept God’s message, they warn Baruch and Jeremiah to hide (vv. 16-19).

[Why did they ask Baruch how he came to write the words? Were they suspicious, thinking him a deceiver? Apparently, they wanted to assure themselves that the scroll’s contents were inspired of God (“from Jeremiah’s mouth”)].

The princes' next behavior here is courageous. Wishing to honor the message of God, they stored the scroll itself in the chamber of Elishama the scribe; nevertheless, they still delivered the content of the scroll to Jehoiakim (v. 20). After hearing Jeremiah’s message, Jehoiakim, desiring to have this scroll in his presence, orders Jehudi to retrieve it and read it before him (v. 21).

[Apparently Elishama and Zedekiah were the only ones from the original crowd (v. 12) who did not visit Jehoiakim. Perhaps they wanted to avoid the controversy, hoping the incident would just pass away].

Note the arrogance of Jehoiakim and his servants, as they show complete disdain for the warnings from the word of God (vv. 23-24). [No fear of punishment or sign of repentance appeared]. Some of the spiritual leaders present feared the word of Yahweh enough to implore the king not to burn the scroll, but their counsel has no effect upon him (v. 25). After Jehoiakim burns the scroll--[the writer mentions where and when this burning took place (v. 22)]--, he sends out a posse to arrest the prophet and his scribe. The “lawmen,” however, do not find them, for the LORD had safely hidden His servants (v. 26).

Jehoiakim's insolence does not escape Yahweh's notice. The LORD simply orders Jeremiah to prepare a new scroll having the same words on it, plus “many similar words” (vv. 27-28, 32). In addition, He presents the king with a personal word of doom:

(1) No descendant of his would ever be king (v. 30; cf. 35:19),

(2) He will receive a dishonorable burial (v. 30), and

(3) Both his family members and all Judah will be punished (v. 31).

What a horrific price of unbelief and pride!

© 2013 glynch1


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