These chapters focus on the message of judgment, and especially in contrast to the reassuring messages the false prophets were giving the people. Jeremiah already had a tough job – such false prophets only made it more difficult!
The Yoke of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 27)
This prophecy is dated “in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah” (27:1). Later in 28:1 we are given more specific information, “the fifth month of the fourth year.” This would be Aug/Sept of 593 BC. In Jer. 51:59 we learn that Nebuchadnezzar summoned Zedekiah to Babylon, perhaps because he already sensed a rebellion could be in motion.
In 27:2 Jeremiah is told to make straps and put yoke-bars on his neck. He then is to give a word of warning to the following groups:
-The kings of the surrounding nations (27:3-11). The small nations surrounding Judah may have been conspiring with Judah to rebel against Babylon. The Lord tells the nations that He has control over kingdoms (cf. Dan. 4:17ff), and that he has given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. Those who will not submit will be punished with the familiar triad of sword, famine and pestilence (27:8; cf. 14:12; 15:2; 18:21; 21:7; 24:10). They are warned not to listen to the various sorts of prognosticators who claimed to know the future. Instead, if they will bring their necks under the yoke of Babylon, they can remain in their own land in peace.
-Zedekiah (27:12-15). Zedekiah receives a similar warning to submit to the yoke of Babylon, and not to listen to the false prophets who offer false hope of independence.
-The priests and all this people (27:16-22). They are warned not to listen to the false prophets who say that the vessel’s of the Lord’s house will be brought back from Babylon shortly. These were taken in the second stage of the captivity during the time of Jehoiachin (see 2 Kings 24:13). In fact, even the larger items from the temple, such as the pillars (1 Kings 7:15-22), the sea (1 Kings 7:23-26), and the stands (1 Kings 7:27-37), will be taken into Babylon, until the time when the Lord brings them back. You can read the account of the capture of these items in Jer. 52:17-23, and the return of the various items in Ezra 1:9-11.
Jeremiah Vs the False Prophets (Jeremiah 28-29)
These two chapters describe Jeremiah’s encounters with several false prophets. We have seen allusions to these prophets earlier in the book. Now we actually learn some names.
-Hananiah (Jer. 28:1-17). “In that same year” (28:1), a prophet named Hananiah spoke to Jeremiah in the temple and claimed that God had broken the yoke of Babylon, and that within two years the vessels from the temple would return from Babylon, along with Jeconiah. At first Jeremiah seems supportive (“Amen!” – v. 6), but says that this message is out of keeping with the announcement of judgment given by earlier prophets. Only of this word comes to pass can Hananiah be considered a genuine prophet (cf. Deut. 18:20-22). Hananiah then took the yoke-bars from Jeremiah and broke them to emphasize his message. Some time later Jeremiah was informed by the Lord that Hananiah had only made matters worse (from wooden bars to bars of iron), and that he would die in that very year. Two months later, in the seventh month, he died.
-The letter concerning Ahab and Zedekiah (29:1-23). After the second deportation, Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon. The instructions were to live long and prosper in Babylon, seeking its welfare (29:4-7), and not to listen to the false prophets who were giving them false hope (29:8-9). They will serve the full 70 years, and then as they truly repent the Lord will bring them back (29:10-14). The people have believed that God raised up prophets in Babylon, and as a result there will be a further judgment on Jerusalem (29:15-19). In 29:20-23, we learn the names of two of these prophets, Ahab and Zedekiah, who the Lord says will be “roasted in the fire” (v. 22, cf. Daniel 3) for two crimes, adultery and false prophecy.
-Shemaiah’s false prophecy (29:24-32). The chapter concludes with reference to another letter or letters, sent by Shemaiah to the priest (Zephaniah), upbraiding him for failing to put Jeremiah in stocks (cf. 20:2-3). The Lord replies that this man and his descendants will not live to see the good that He will do for the people.
The reference to the “good” that God will do for the people sets the stage for the next section of Jeremiah, chapters 30-33, often referred to as “The Book of Consolation.”