Jeremiah 23 – The Branch of Righteousness and the Unrighteous Prophets
A. The Branch of Righteousness.
1. (1-2) Woe to the shepherds who destroy.
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the LORD.
a. Woe to the shepherds: In the previous chapter God pronounced His judgment and doom against several kings of Judah. Now in a general sense He condemned such unfaithful shepherds. In those days kings and other leaders were often called shepherds; the term didn’t necessarily have a spiritual context.
i. Though Jeremiah spoke to leaders in a general sense (political leaders, business leaders, military leaders, education leaders, and spiritual leaders) we might place first emphasis in our day upon the shepherds as being spiritual leaders.
b. Who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture: These leaders were worthy of special woe because they did not benefit (destroy) or keep together (scatter) the people of God.
i. The flock of Jeremiah’s day was indeed scattered. Some were carried away to Babylon and the nations as captives, and others went as refugees to Egypt. This could all be traced back to ungodly and poor leaders for the people of God.
c. Against the shepherds who feed My people: This speaks mostly to the spiritual aspect of leadership, which the kings of Judah were expected to fulfill. It could be said that none of the last kings of Judah (since Josiah: Jehoahaz, Jehoakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah) had any spiritual concern for God’s people (My people).
i. In the modern setting this speaks to the great need for spiritual leaders among God’s people to feed God’s people. Jesus emphasized this in the restoration of Peter (John 21), twice telling him to feed His sheep.
d. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings: God would address the evil work of the unfaithful shepherds. He would hold them accountable.
2. (3-4) The promise to restore the wounded and scattered flock.
“But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the LORD.
a. I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them: One reason God scattered His people in exile was because of their unspiritual and ineffective leadership. Yet God promised that one day He would gather His sheep from all countries of their exile.
i. This is an aspect of the New Covenant God promised to Israel. The promises to gather Israel back into the Promised Land are found in many prophecies of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 32:37-41, Ezekiel 11:16-20, Ezekiel 36:16-28, Ezekiel 37:21-28).
ii. The modern-day miracle of Israel becoming an independent nation once again, after some 2,500 years, is an initial fulfillment of these great promises. We say initial because Israel is definitely gathered back to the land, but presently in unbelief.
b. They shall be fruitful and increase: Not only would God bring them back into His Promised Land, they would also be blessed there. Their population would grow rapidly.
c. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them: One of the blessings God promised to a gathered Israel was godly leadership. The godly leaders (especially in a spiritual sense) would feed them, bring them security, and prosperity (nor shall they be lacking).
i. This was a promise to bring things to a better place than they were before exile, when Israel was in the land but suffered under ungodly leaders. “The promise of restoration to the same state of affairs that obtained before the Exile was hardly adequate. There was a better hope.” (Thompson)
ii. In an immediate sense, this was fulfilled in the good and godly leaders Israel had after the exile; men such as Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Joshua the high priest, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
iii. We can see an initial, partial fulfillment of this in modern-day Israel. We can expect a complete fulfillment when they turn to Jesus as their Messiah.
3. (5-6) The King to come.
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS
a. I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness: Long before this God promised that the Messiah would come from the line of David (2 Samuel 7:5-16). This is a confirmation of that prior prophecy. The Branch of righteousness would come from the line of David.
i. At the end of the previous chapter God had promised that none from the royal line of Jeconiah would sit on the throne of David (Jeremiah 22:30). It seemed as if the royal line of David was cut down like a tree and only a stump remained. Yet God would take that stump and bring forth a green shoot, a Branch.
ii. “The metaphor is of a shoot bursting forth from the Davidic tree (i.e., the dynasty), which, though cut off, is not dead.” (Thomspon)
iii. “The shoot is that which sprouts from the roots of a fallen tree. New life will thus spring forth from the fallen dynasty.” (Harrison)
b. A King shall reign and prosper: This Branch of righteousness will lead God’s people as a successful King. Prosperity, justice, and righteousness will mark His reign. This reign will extend to the earth, not only the boundaries of Israel.
i. A King shall reign: “Moreover, he will reign as a true king, not as a puppet like Zedekiah and his immediate predecessors.” (Feinberg)
c. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely: Rescue and security would be for all God’s people; for Judah and Israel both. It would be a united monarchy once again.
i. “Israel here refers to the northern kingdom. She too would live in safety.” (Thompson)
d. THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS: Jeremiah announced that this would be the name by which He will be called. He will be the way that the righteousness of Yahweh is given unto His people, so that He Himself is our righteousness.
i. The phrase THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS is only two words in Hebrew. “Jehovah Tsidkenu. This is a most mellifluous and sweet name of our Lord Jesus Christ, importing his Godhead, as the righteous Branch of David did his manhood.” (Trapp)
ii. Yahweh Tsidkenu “is probably a play on the name of Zedekiah [which means], My righteousness is Yahweh.” (Thompson) “Jeremiah switched Zedekiah’s name around to make his pun. Zedekiah was called ‘Righteousness is the Lord,’ but the Messiah would be called ‘the LORD our Righteousness.’“ (Ryken)
iii. As a Messianic reference, Yahweh Tsidkenu is strong evidence of the deity of the Messiah – He is Yahweh. “The Jews understood the name in v.6b to be that of the Messiah. The Targum reads, ‘The Messiah of the righteous,’ or ‘The Messiah of righteousness’… They acknowledged the two words to be the name of the Messiah.” (Feinberg)
iv. Jesus is the Lord Our Righteousness: Righteousness is something positive. The work of Jesus in His people is not only to clean the stain of sin. The perfect obedience and righteousness of Jesus is ours in Him. “It speaks of one who will not only reflect the righteousness of God but will convey it to his people, making it their own possession.” (Kidner)
v. “Paul may have had this promise in mind when he spoke of ‘Christ Jesus….our righteousness…’ (1 Corinthians 1:30, cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).” (Kidner)
vi. Rest in Jesus as Our Righteousness is a great strength. “You, Sir Satan, your menaces and terrors trouble me not. For why? There is one whose name is called the Lord our righteousness, on whom I believe. He it is who hath abrogated the law, condemned sin, abolished death, destroyed hell, and is a Satan to thee, O Satan.” (Luther, cited in Trapp)
4. (7-8) The greatness of God’s work of gathering and restoring.
“Therefore, behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land.”
a. They shall no longer say: Israel rightly celebrated the deliverance from Egypt. Jeremiah announced that an even more wonderful deliverance would happen in connection with the gathering of Israel presented as an aspect of the New Covenant.
i. Israel was created in the Exodus out of Egypt and they were restored in the gathering out of Babylon and the nations. God promised that the restoration of Israel would be greater than the creation of Israel. This connects to the principle that restored or redeemed man is greater than created or innocent man.
b. They shall dwell in their own land: The emphatic promise is repeated again. God will bring His people back into the Promised Land. Even after the great judgment and exile to come, He would not be finished with them, nor would He be finished with them in the land.
B. The pain brought with false prophets.
1. (9-10) Jeremiah’s broken heart over false prophets.
My heart within me is broken
Because of the prophets;
All my bones shake.
I am like a drunken man,
And like a man whom wine has overcome,
Because of the LORD,
And because of His holy words.
For the land is full of adulterers;
For because of a curse the land mourns.
The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up.
Their course of life is evil,
And their might is not right.
a. My heart within me is broken because of the prophets: Jeremiah was distressed because of the presence and work of other prophets in his day. His heart was not broken because he didn’t like the competition, but because of the damage they did to honor of God and the people of God.
i. “Heart, as used here, denotes a profoundly disturbed mental rather than emotional state. His mind cannot grasp the way in which these prophets have chose to abuse their professional vocation.” (Harrison)
b. All my bones shake. I am like a drunken man: This was not because he was overcome with a pleasant sense of intoxication because of the work of the Holy Spirit. This was in dread and indignation at the work of the other prophets as he compared their supposed word from God with the holy words that Jeremiah brought in God’s name.
i. The great contrast between their message and his message made Jeremiah nauseous. His main message was repent; their main message was relax. They couldn’t possibly both be right.
c. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of a curse the land mourns: The other prophets promised blessing and abundance, but the evidence was on Jeremiah’s side. The heavy presence of sin in the land (adultery probably in both its literal and figurative senses) and the curse upon the land itself proved that it was time to repent and not to relax.
2. (11-12) Profane prophets and priests.
“For both prophet and priest are profane;
Yes, in My house I have found their wickedness,” says the LORD.
“Therefore their way shall be to them
Like slippery ways;
In the darkness they shall be driven on
And fall in them;
For I will bring disaster on them,
The year of their punishment,” says the LORD.
a. For both prophet and priest are profane: Jeremiah could see the fundamental lack of holiness among those who were supposed to be spiritual leaders. To be profane is the opposite of holiness. They weren’t different from the idol worshipping people surrounding Judah.
i. “Next to the ungodly kings, the false prophets were most responsible for bringing about the nation’s ruin.” (Feinberg)
b. In My house I have found their wickedness: It wasn’t just that the personal lives of these prophets and priests lacked holiness. Their profane hearts and ways were also evident in the house of God. Whatever effort they made to compartmentalize their lack of holiness did not work.
c. Their way shall be to them like slippery ways: Their profane ways made them destined to slip and fall. Not everyone falls on a slippery path, but most do.
3. (13-15) Judgment promised against the corrupt prophets.
“And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria:
They prophesied by Baal
And caused My people Israel to err.
Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem:
They commit adultery and walk in lies;
They also strengthen the hands of evildoers,
So that no one turns back from his wickedness.
All of them are like Sodom to Me,
And her inhabitants like Gomorrah.
“Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets:
‘Behold, I will feed them with wormwood,
And make them drink the water of gall;
For from the prophets of Jerusalem
Profaneness has gone out into all the land.’”
a. I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria…Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: God compared the prophets of Jerusalem and Judah to be like the prophets of Samaria that led the northern kingdom to spiritual and social ruin some 150 years before.
b. So that no one turns back from his wickedness: Because their own lives were filled with spiritual compromise (they commit adultery and walk in lies), the prophets and priests of Judah had no place or power to turn others back from their wickedness.
i. With no one being turned back from his wickedness, there was no spiritual or moral restraint upon the people. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes and the men of God who should have said stop did not.
ii. With the atmosphere of no restraint, the people of God had become like Sodom and like Gomorrah to God. “By their worldliness they are secularizing the house of God (23:11), that bastion of holiness; and by their laxity (23:14), whether practiced or preached, they are taking the shame out of sin (especially, it seems, sins of lust, both heterosexual, 23:14a, and homosexual, 23:14b; cf. Genesis 19:4-5).” (Kidner)
c. I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: There was a sour, bitter future for these corrupt and compromised prophets.
i. “Because they had poisoned the nation’s spiritual springs, the Lord was to inflict drastic judgment on them – portrayed by ‘bitter food’ (‘wormwood’; i.e., strong smelling and bitter tasting) and ‘poisoned water.’“ (Feinberg)
d. From the prophets of Jerusalem, profaneness has gone out into all the land: God’s desire was that His people would be messengers of His holiness and righteousness. Instead, through these corrupt prophets, they had become messengers of profaneness, the opposite of holiness.
4. (16-17) Don’t listen to the corrupt prophets.
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you.
They make you worthless;
They speak a vision of their own heart,
Not from the mouth of the LORD.
They continually say to those who despise Me,
‘The LORD has said, “You shall have peace”‘;
And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say,
‘No evil shall come upon you.’”
a. Do not listen to the words of the prophets: God Himself told them this. Normally God wanted His people to pay strict attention to those who brought forth His word. This shows how detached these supposed prophets were from the real Word of God.
b. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart: These corrupt prophets spoke, but it was not from the mouth of the LORD. It was merely a vision of their own heart. The effect of these man-made words masquerading as the word of the LORD was to make those who believed them worthless.
i. Not from the mouth of the LORD: “This was a bold claim from Jeremiah since it implied that his own message came from Yahweh directly.” (Thompson)
c. They continually say to those who despise Me: The corrupt prophets were afraid to speak a word of rebuke and repentance to those who despised God. Instead they spoke smooth words of peace, promising no evil shall come upon you to everyone who followed their own heart (who walks according to the dictates of his own heart).
i. You shall have peace: “The heart of false prophecy was that it always held our false hope.” (Feinberg)
ii. They could not or would not rebuke those who lived according to the dictates of his own heart. The failure or inability to confront evil is a mark of bad or corrupt leadership.
iii. Our modern culture thinks follow your heart is supreme wisdom for living. The Bible says, there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12 – repeated for emphasis in Proverbs 16:25).
5. (18-20) The serious nature of God’s judgments.
For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD,
And has perceived and heard His word?
Who has marked His word and heard it?
Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury—
A violent whirlwind!
It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.
The anger of the LORD will not turn back
Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart.
In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.
a. A whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury: The corrupt prophets did what they did without fear of punishment. They had forgotten that God’s judgments would one day come and come as a violent whirlwind.
i. Whirlwind: “The simoom: the hot pestilential wind blowing from the south, frequently mentioned or referred to in the sacred writings.” (Clarke)
b. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart: God’s anger against the corrupt prophets was not just a matter of personal irritation. It was righteous and would be performed against them until His justice was accomplished.
i. In the previous verses God spoke against those who walk according to the dictate of his own heart (Jeremiah 23:17). Here God promised to carry out the thoughts of His heart against those who followed their own heart. It would be evident which heart was supreme.
6. (21-22) The corrupt prophets were not sent by God.
“I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran.
I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in My counsel,
And had caused My people to hear My words,
Then they would have turned them from their evil way
And from the evil of their doings.
a. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: The corrupt prophets were not called or sent by God, yet they ran with great energy to proclaim their self-generated words.
i. “They never received a divine commission; yet they ran, with their false messages, eagerly and energetically trying to accomplish their own objectives.” (Feinberg)
b. If they had stood in My counsel… then they would have turned them from their evil way: If these were true prophets and sent prophets they would have called people to repent. They did not. Instead of repent, their message was relax.
7. (23-24) The foolishness of resisting or rejecting God.
“Am I a God near at hand,” says the LORD,
“And not a God afar off?
Can anyone hide himself in secret places,
So I shall not see him?” says the LORD;
“Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD.
a. Am I a God near at hand: Asking rhetorical questions, God reminded Judah that He was near. There was no use in trying to hide in secret places to avoid the sight of God.
i. “Atheists are apt to think that because they see none, therefore none see them.” (Trapp)
b. Do I not fill heaven and earth: The same God who fills the universe can also see what we do. This was something that the corrupt prophets and those who went uncorrected because of the corrupt prophets chose to forget.
8. (25-27) Prophetic lies.
“I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.
a. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name: This alone should have terrified the corrupt prophets. Even if no man would judge and discern their supposed prophetic words, God heard them. He would judge.
i. In a New Testament context, God commands that any supposed prophetic word be judged in the congregation.
· Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. (1 Corinthians 14:29)
· Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)
· Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
ii. It is a great failing among many Christians that any purported prophecy is accepted without any testing or discernment. Yet if they will not judge, God will in some way or another.
b. I have dreamed, I have dreamed: The corrupt prophets loved to speak about dreams and great, swelling things. The problem was that these were lies. Perhaps the lie was that they even had such a dream, or perhaps they really had a dream but it was not a true message from God. Instead of being from God, these messages were the deceit of their own heart.
i. “Man is so constituted that he ever seeks in some form for direction from the spiritual world that lies behind all material manifestations and forms. This quest creates the opportunity of evil men, who having no true light from that world, yet speak as though they had, and so mislead those who hear them.” (Morgan)
c. Who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams: The corrupt prophets loved to focus on spiritual phenomena such as dreams. Though this pretended to be a spiritual focus, it drew attention away from God Himself, from His holy character represented by his name.
i. My people forget My name: “Once men forgot the character of Yahweh they could be persuaded to accept all kinds of doctrines.” (Thompson)
9. (28-29) The low place of spiritual phenomena compared to the Word of God.
“The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream;
And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully.
What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD.
“Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD,
“And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?
a. The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream: God invited those obsessed with spiritual phenomena to lay it out. Tell the dream. Present your best case.
i. “He clearly regarded dreams as very subjective experiences which had nothing to do with Yahweh’s word. There was a difference. Let the dreamer tell his dream if he wished, but it should be made clear that it was a dream and not a word from Yahweh.” (Thompson)
b. And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully: God gave a second invitation, this one to the one who had His word. That one was invited to speak God’s word faithfully, to not be silent despite the number and popularity of the corrupt prophets.
i. In Jeremiah’s day there were many more corrupt prophets than those who would speak God’s word faithfully.
c. What is the chaff to the wheat: Clearly, the dream of the corrupt prophet was like the chaff; something, but of little substance and of no help. God’s word, faithfully presented was like wheat; of substance, nourishment, giving life, and having the power of multiplication.
d. Is not My word like a fire: God’s word has power like fire, power to benefit and to judge. Chaff has no power against fire.
· God’s Word is like a fire that can warm and comfort.
· God’s Word is like a fire that can burn and cause pain.
· God’s Word is like a fire that can melt the hardest materials.
· God’s Word is like a fire that refines and consumes impurity.
e. And like a hammer that breaks the rocks in pieces: God’s word is as powerful as a hammer, with the power to build or break. Chaff has no power against a hammer.
i. Like a hammer: “Whenever a minister has the gospel to use, this simile should teach him how he ought to use it; with his whole might let him strike with it mighty blows for his Lord.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “I should think that it does not require any great education to learn how to use a hammer; I do not know, it may do; but it seems that to use a hammer aright, one has nothing to do but to strike with it. Brethren, when you preach, take the gospel hammer, and strike as hard as ever you can with it.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Adam Clarke wrote a wise caution against the thought that the Word of God can do its work without the Spirit of God. “Let us take heed lest we think, as some have thought and affirmed, that the sacred writings are quite sufficient of themselves to enlighten, convince, and convert the soul, and that there is no need of the Holy Spirit. Fire itself must be applied by an agent in order to produce its effects; and surely the hammer cannot break the rock in pieces, unless wielded by an able workman. And it is God’s Spirit alone that can thus apply it; for we find it frequently read and frequently spoken, without producing any salutary effects.” (Clarke)
10. (30-32) God against the corrupt prophets.
“Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the LORD, “who steal My words every one from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the LORD, “who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the LORD, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the LORD.
a. I am against the prophets: Just because someone claimed to be a prophet did not mean that God was for them or approved them. In Jeremiah’s day and our own there were many prophets whom God was against.
b. Who steal My words every one from his neighbor: When the true word of God was ignored or neglected because people were attracted to the chaff-like spiritual phenomena of the corrupt prophets, God said it was like stealing His words. God was against them.
c. Who use their tongues and say, “He says”: God was against those who claimed to speak for God and really only spoke from their own heart.
i. Who use their tongues and say, “He says”: “There is a wordplay here which is difficult to capture in English, literally, ‘they take up (use) their (own) tongue and oracle an oracle’… The meaning is that the message of the false prophets originated from themselves and was presented in their own words with something of a flourish as though it were a word from Yahweh.” (Thompson)
d. Those who prophesy false dreams: God was against those who promoted dreams and spiritual phenomena above His word.
e. Cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness: Deceptive and reckless words spoken in the name of God let God’s people into err. God was against these reckless ones with little regard for truth.
f. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all: Because God did not send them they would do no real good for the people of God, even if they had good intentions. There might be some froth or some excitement, but no true profit.
11. (33-40) No longer mention the oracle (burden) of the LORD.
“So when these people or the prophet or the priest ask you, saying, ‘What is the oracle of the LORD?’ you shall then say to them, ‘What oracle?’ I will even forsake you,” says the LORD. “And as for the prophet and the priest and the people who say, ‘The oracle of the LORD!’ I will even punish that man and his house. Thus every one of you shall say to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, ‘What has the LORD answered?’ and, ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ And the oracle of the LORD you shall mention no more. For every man’s word will be his oracle, for you have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God. Thus you shall say to the prophet, ‘What has the LORD answered you?’ and, ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ But since you say, ‘The oracle of the LORD!’ therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Because you say this word, “The oracle of the LORD!” and I have sent to you, saying, “Do not say, ‘The oracle of the LORD!’” therefore behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you and forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and will cast you out of My presence. And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.’”
a. The oracle of the LORD: This section is somewhat difficult because of a pun and wordplay in Hebrew. The key word is massa which meant both burden and oracle (in the sense of revelation from God). Sometimes one sense of the word is intended, sometimes the other, and sometimes both.
i. “By usage the word came to mean that which was placed as a burden on the heart of a prophet, having already been such on the heart of God.” (Feinberg)
ii. “The whole argument comes to us as rather complex, probably because the pun is developed in such a sustained manner. The two senses of massa, ‘prophetic utterance’ and ‘burden,’ and the verb nasa occur a number of times. The massa of Yahweh is that the people are a massa.” (Thompson)
b. What is the oracle of the LORD: This was probably a mocking question from the corrupt prophets to Jeremiah. Since most of Jeremiah’s prophetic work was to announce doom and call for repentance they jokingly wanted to know what heavy word they had for them today.
i. “Jeremiah indicates that the people, the priests, and the prophets (Jeremiah 23:33) had begun to use this important word mockingly and derisively. They would ask Jeremiah, ‘What is the oracle [burden] now?’ ‘What is the heavy word from the Lord now?’“ (Feinberg)
ii. “When these people, or a prophet or a priest ask you, ‘What burden has the Lord laid on your heart?’ say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the Lord.’“ (Ryken)
c. You shall say to them, “What oracle”: God told Jeremiah to respond with this phrase. It either meant that his words should not be thought of as heavy as much as true; or (perhaps more likely) the idea is that the mocking corrupt prophets were the burden.
i. You shall say to them, “What oracle?” “It is much better to follow LXX, Vulgate, and RSV and translate it ‘You are the burden!’ This requires no change of consonants in the Hebrew text but only another division of them.” (Feinberg)
d. I will punish that man and his house: God promised to punish those who did presume to speak an oracle and take attention away from God’s Word. As far as God was concerned, the oracle of the LORD you shall mention no more.
e. For every man’s word will be his oracle, for you have perverted the words of the living God: The institution of prophecy had become so corrupt in Jeremiah’s day that anyone who did claim to speak an oracle of the LORD could be assumed to be speaking for himself, and speaking words perverted from God’s true message.
f. I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten: This was the end result of their attraction to oracles, dreams, and other spiritual phenomena.
i. Cast you out of My presence: “Finally in verses 39-40 he takes and emphasizes the parent verb of ‘burden’ in its literal sense, to visualize these men picked up and thrown away in irretrievable disgrace.” (Kidner)
ii. “Contempt of the Word is such an engaging sin that God cannot easily satisfy himself in saying what he will do to such as are guilty of it.” (Trapp)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission