The Letters of Jeremiah
Nebuchadnezzar deported 10,000 elders, priests, prophets, and leading craftsman from Jerusalem in 597 B.C. and exiled them to Babylon. In this deportation, King Jehoiachin and the queen mother Nehushta were exiled (2 Kings 24:8-17). Jeremiah sent a letter to those who had survived the trip. He sent the letter by the hand of Elasah, son of Shaphan and Gemariah. The letter was carried secretly to the exiles by these two men, while they were also carrying official dispatches from King Zedekiah to Nebuchadnezzar (1-3).
Jeremiah's Letter; Yahweh's Plan (4-14)
The letter was a prophetic word given for the ears of those exiles who had been forced to emigrate to Babylon.
a) Yahweh told those exiles, through Jeremiah, that the God of Israel had sent them to Babylon (4).
b) Jeremiah told the exiles to build their homes and plant vineyards and live off the land, as though it was now their inheritance (5).
c) Jeremiah told the exiles to take wives and have children and then give their children in marriage and begin to multiply in Babylon; they were not to diminish in numbers (6).
d) Jeremiah told the exiles to figure out how to make the city prosper and add to the peace of the city (seek the welfare).
e) Jeremiah told the exiles to pray for Babylon, for the prosperity of the exiles was directly connected to the prosperity of the city (7).
f) Jeremiah warned the exiles to beware of the false prophets among them, who were yet seeking to deceive them by conjuring up spirits through their dreaming, and then prophesying in Yahweh's name as though Yahweh had sent them. Those prophets believed Babylon would be overthrown quickly and those exiled should aid the overthrow through non-cooperation with Babylon, in order to speed their quick return home (8-9).
g) Jeremiah told the exiles that they would remain in Babylon for seventy years and then Yahweh would visit them, overthrow Babylon, and bring them back to Jerusalem (10).
h) Jeremiah explained that Yahweh had plans, and His intention for them and their future was positive and full of purposed good, but those plans would not be experienced immediately (11).
i) Jeremiah told the exiles that their experience in Babylon would lead to a true conversion of heart, where they would seek Yahweh for help, not other gods. They would pray and wait on Yahweh, and then they would know for certain Yahweh had heard them. In their seeking, they would find Yahweh because they would learn to pursue Him with all their heart (12-13).
j) Jeremiah, lastly, told the exiles that in their true conversion of heart, they would seek Yahweh and find Yahweh, and He would begin to restore their fortunes; one day, He would regather them from not only Babylon but all the nations where they had been driven. After a season of revival, Yahweh would regather Israel from their international homes and bring them back to Palestine (14).
Jeremiah's Letter; Anticipating Arguments (15)
Jeremiah then anticipated an argument from those who read his prophetic letter. They would be well-versed in false theology, which essentially stated that Yahweh would cease to exist before He would allow Jerusalem and the temple to be destroyed. Jeremiah anticipated the prophets there in Babylon would chime in and give their deceptive prophetic vision of the future, filled with a standing temple and city, as Babylon would be destroyed before the sacred city would fall (15).
Jeremiah's Letter; Yahweh's Future for the Captives (16-19)
Jeremiah then prophesied the future for those who remained in Jerusalem, including the king, the people, and the relatives of the exiles whom they had left behind (16).
They would experience hostilities, hunger, and health catastrophes. They were the rotten figs so vile and pungent that they could not be eaten (17).
They would not just experience war, lack, and disease; they would feel like that trilogy of horrors was chasing, cursing, and terrorizing them. They would be made an object of mockery. Their surviving relatives would be an embarrassment in the nations where they had been driven (18).
All of this horror, Jeremiah confirmed, was a result of Judah's inability to be attentive to the prophets He had sent to warn them against their lust-raving madness in pursuing idols of other gods (19).
In all of this, Jeremiah was pleading with the exiles to tenderize their hearts and listen to and follow Yahweh. They were to accept the truth that Yahweh had ordained the destruction of their city, and their exile in Babylon was imminent.
Jeremiah's Letter; Yahweh's Proof (20-23)
Jeremiah then predicted an event whereby the exiles could know he was telling the truth and equally know the other false prophets among them were liars (20). Two lead prophets, Ahab and Zedekiah, announced the temple could not be destroyed and Babylon would be defeated. Not only were these men filled with lying prophecies, but they were taking advantage of the stress on marriages among the exiles by sleeping with the wives of those who’d been deported (21).
Jeremiah then prophesied in regard to those two disgusting prophets: they were to be taken prisoner by the Babylonians and then slow-roasted in fire for all to watch. So gruesome would be their execution that the exiles would devise a curse based upon it to use when cursing others of heinous deeds. Jeremiah then claimed that, as always, Yahweh was witness to all deeds (22-23).
Shemaiah's Letter (24-28)
Shemaiah authorized himself to fire a letter back to Jerusalem and address it to Zephaniah the priest, who had oversight of the temple. He then had copies of the same letter sent to other influential people (25).
Shemaiah wrote stating Yahweh had appointed Zephaniah to replace Jehoiada as the head priest of the temple. It would therefore be Zephaniah's responsibility to put in stocks and neck-irons any unhinged, deranged person who claimed to be a prophet but had not been authorized by him (26).
Shemaiah chided Zephaniah for being derelict in his duties in not stopping Jeremiah, a man who Shemaiah officially dubbed a pretend prophet (27).
Shemaiah then laid out his accusation against Jeremiah: he had sent a prophetic letter to the exiles by a secret but official courier, telling the exiles to build homes, produce food, and plan to stay a while (28).
Shemaiah's Letter Received (29-32)
As soon as Zephaniah received Shemaiah's letter, he took it to Jeremiah and read the letter to him without any thought to implementing Shemaiah's demands (29).
Then Yahweh gave Jeremiah a prophetic word to send to Shemaiah in Babylon (24,30). While the letter was addressed to Shemaiah, it was open for all to read. Shemaiah was a lying prophet, using all sorts of prophetic gimmicks to get the exiles to put confidence in his prophecies (31).
Jeremiah then prescribed a punishment for his rebellious and deceiving ways:
a) He would not have any male offspring;
b) He would not see the conversion of the Israelites to Yahweh and their restoration to the land (32).