Prophecies Against the Kings of Judah (Jer. 21:1-23:8)
This section contains a series of prophecies against the latter kings of Judah. For the historical background of this section, see 2 Kings 23:31-25:21.
-Prophecies against Zedekiah (21:1-14). The final king of Judah, Zedekiah, asks Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord during the siege of the Babylonians. The Lord says that He is fighting against Israel (instead of for it as in the days of the Exodus, Ex. 6:6), and that Jerusalem will be destroyed and Zedekiah will be taken captive. As in Deut. 30:15, the Lord is setting life and death before the people, life to those who surrender, but death to those who stay and fight. Jer. 21 concludes with a plea to the house of David to practice justice, and a warning against the “rock of the plain,” Jerusalem (as in the NIV of 21:13). It will be set ablaze like a forest fire (perhaps an allusion to the name of Solomon’s palace – see 1 Kings 7:2).
-Prophecies against “the king of Judah” (22:1-10). The king here is unnamed – perhaps the subject is still Zedekiah. There is once more a call for justice, especially for the poor and the alien (cf. Ps. 72:1-4). There is also a warning about shedding “innocent blood” (v. 3; cf. Deut. 27:25; 2 Kings 21:16; 24:4). Though the house of David is like the beautiful forests of Gilead and Lebanon, it will be destroyed if the nation forsakes the covenant.
-Prophecies against Shallum/Jehoahaz (22:11-17). The prophet warns Shallum (see 1 Chron. 3:15 for this name; otherwise he is known as Jehoahaz) that he will be displaced because of exploiting the people to build his palaces. In 2 Kings 23:31-34 we learn that he was deposed by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt.
-Prophecies against Jehoiakim (22:18-23). Jehoiakiam reigned from 609-597 BC before rebelling against Babylon. The Lord says that he will not be mourned when he dies, not given an honorable burial.
-Prophecies against Coniah/Jehoiachin (22:24-30). Coniah reigns just long enough to be carried off in 597 BC and replaced by Zedekiah. Here the prophet tells him that he will be taken by Babylon, and that none of his children would rule in his place (see 1 Chron. 3:17).
-The “Branch” (23:1-8). While the rulers of Israel, its “shepherds”, proved faithfulness, God promises to raise up a “Branch” from the house of David to rule over Judah and Israel. This terminology may originate in 2 Sam. 23:5, where David is sure God will make him fruitful (related word to “branch” in Hebrew). This term is also found in Isa. 4:1 and Zech. 6:12.
Prophecies Against the Prophets (23:9-40)
In addition to the problem of corrupt kings, the nation also faced the obstacle of false prophets, who assured the people that everything was going to be ok when in fact the nation was facing judgment. At the end of this chapter (23:33-40), there is an interesting wordplay. Sometimes the message of the prophets is called a “burden” (masa), a weighty message of judgment. When the people ask for a burden, or message, they will learn, “You are the burden!” (23:33). The people are a burden that God is about to cast off!
The Figs (24:1-10)
In Jer. 24 the prophets sees two baskets of figs, early figs that are very good, and a basket of bad figs that cannot be eaten. The first basket represents the earlier captives taken in the time of Jehoiachin, who will be brought back (24:4-7) and built up (as in 1:10). But the latter basket represents the latter captives of the day of Zedekiah, who will be utterly destroyed. Perhaps they learned nothing from the chastisement of the Lord.