Jeremiah 33 – Promises from the Prison
A. From destruction to restoration.
1. (1-3) Great and mighty things.
Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the prison, saying, “Thus says the LORD who made it, the LORD who formed it to establish it (the LORD is His name): ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’”
a. While he was still shut up in the court of the prison: As in Jeremiah 32, this word came to Jeremiah during the terrible final siege of the Babylonians against Jerusalem in the last years of King Zedekiah’s reign. Zedekiah put Jeremiah in the royal prison for preaching in the name of the LORD that Babylonians would succeed (Jeremiah 32:1-5).
b. Thus says the LORD who made it, the LORD who formed it: In this section there is a strong emphasis on the name Yahweh (LORD), the name of God emphasizing His covenant relationship with Israel. God will speak of His faithfulness to the covenant.
c. Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know: God invited Jeremiah and all who heard to come to Him in faith-filled prayer, confident of His answer. This promise is especially remarkable considering the circumstances: enduring the terror of a siege and the soon fulfillment of promised judgment. As the judgment was even at the door, God spoke a word of hope and invitation and faith to Jeremiah and Jerusalem.
i. “He cries to us, Call unto Me, call unto me. Little prayer, little blessing; more prayer, more blessings; much prayer, much blessing.” (Meyer)
ii. Mighty things: “The MT besurot (RSV hidden things) usually means ‘that which is inaccessible’, and here that which is beyond the normal reach of human knowledge.” (Harrison)
iii. “The things to be revealed are ‘unsearchable’ (basur, literally, ‘inaccessible’) because they are beyond the grasp of human knowledge. The principle adjective basur is used of the strongly fortified cities of Canaan in Deuteronomy 1:28 (‘walled up’); here it refers to matters so far beyond human insight that they require divine revelation.” (Feinberg)
2. (4-9) Restoration to a ruined city.
For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah, which have been pulled down to fortify against the siege mounds and the sword: “They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but only to fill their places with the dead bodies of men whom I will slay in My anger and My fury, all for whose wickedness I have hidden My face from this city. Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. And I will cause the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel to return, and will rebuild those places as at the first. I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me. Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it.”
a. Concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah, which have been pulled down to fortify: God spoke this with an eye to the houses in Jerusalem that were now rubble, having been dismantled to make defensive works against the attacking Babylonians. This was a distressing and depressing sight – but didn’t take away the truth of God’s promise to restore.
b. They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but only to fill their places with the dead bodies: They put a lot of work and people into defending the city, but it would amount to nothing. They should have listened to the previous word of the LORD, announcing the inevitability of God’s judgment through the Babylonians.
c. Behold, I will bring it health and healing: Jerusalem was filled with destruction and death, and to this city God promised to bring health and healing, to reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. The promises are stated in ways that include the nearer restoration under Nehemiah and Ezra, but are only truly fulfilled in the new covenant.
· I will cause the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel to return: In the new covenant, God will one day gather His scattered people from both the southern and northern kingdoms.
· I will cleanse them from all their iniquity: In the new covenant, God will grant a special forgiveness of sin, where sins are not merely covered, but taken away.
· They shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor: In the new covenant, God will bring such restored relationship that Israel will bring honor to Him instead of defaming His name.
i. “The great and unsearchable things are now revealed. Yahweh will bring healing, peace, security, restoration, cleansing, and forgiveness.” (Thompson)
ii. I will cleanse them…I will pardon: “Cleansing removes guilt, pollution, defilement, morally. Pardon brings the offender back into relationship of favour and fellowship. God never pardons polluted souls; He first cleanses them. Pardon, apart from the communication of purity, would perpetuate pollution, and so violate the moral order beyond remedy.” (Morgan)
d. They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it: The contrast is remarkable. At the time Jeremiah delivered this prophecy, God’s people were full of fear and trembling because of destruction and death. Here they would fear and tremble because of the greatness of God’s blessing in restoring His people.
3. (10-11) The voice of gladness.
Thus says the LORD: “Again there shall be heard in this place—of which you say, ‘It is desolate, without man and without beast’—in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say:
‘Praise the LORD of hosts,
For the LORD is good,
For His mercy endures forever’—
and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,” says the LORD.
a. There shall be heard in this place: In Jerusalem under siege, the sounds of the city were terrible. One can imagine the miserable screams, cries, groans, and the sound of crashing and destruction. Those terrible sounds were eventually replaced by a terrible quiet – of a desolate Jerusalem, without inhabitant and without beast. God promised better sounds would come.
b. The voice of joy and the voice of gladness: Instead of the terrible sounds or more terrible quiet, restored Jerusalem would be filled with the happy sounds of blessed, prosperous people. The sound would be like that heard at the best party ever – a wedding, with the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.
i. “The sounds of joy and gladness and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride would be heard again, in a reversal of Jeremiah’s words of judgment in 7:34; 16:9; 25:10.” (Thompson)
c. Praise the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for His mercy endures forever: Instead of the anguished cries of a city under judgment, they would hear the sound of people praising God for His goodness and ever-enduring mercy.
i. “Joy and gladness will not only mark the relationships of God’s people but will also mark their worship in his temple. The liturgical words were those used by the Levitical singers in the temple service (Psalm 106:1) and showed that the temple would be rebuilt and the ministry restored as in pre-exilic days.” (Feinberg)
4. (12-13) The wonderful extent of the restoration.
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “In this place which is desolate, without man and without beast, and in all its cities, there shall again be a dwelling place of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down. In the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the lowland, in the cities of the South, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, the flocks shall again pass under the hands of him who counts them,” says the LORD.
a. There shall again be a dwelling place of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down: Instead of a chaos and despair of a city under siege, there would be the peace and goodness of the restored city.
b. In the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the lowlands: God described different geographical regions of the land of Israel, explaining that the restoration promised would extend to all of these regions. It wouldn’t only be Jerusalem restored, but all the land.
i. Under the hands of him who counts them: “Strangely, the Targum has a messianic interpretation here and substitutes the word ‘Messiah’ for ‘the one who counts them.’” (Feinberg)
ii. “He may even have touched each one as it passed through the entrance.” (Thompson)
5. (14-17) The certainty of the promise to the house of David.
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah:
In those days and at that time
I will cause to grow up to David
A Branch of righteousness;
He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In those days Judah will be saved,
And Jerusalem will dwell safely.
And this is the name by which she will be called:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS”
For thus says the LORD: “David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually.”
a. I will perform that good thing which I have promised: These promises of restoration – fulfilled in part under Ezra and Nehemiah, fulfilled in whole with the completion of the new covenant – these promises were a remarkable contrast to the present state of destruction in Judah and Jerusalem. God repeats them for assurance and emphasis.
i. “This beautiful passage (vv. 14-26) is not in the LXX and has therefore been subject to many commentators.” (Feinberg)
b. In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness: In the context of the new covenant promises, God promised that a descendant of the line of David would be the Branch of righteousness (as in Isaiah 4:2 and 11:1; as in Jeremiah 23:5).
i. “Jeremiah does not reveal as much about the coming Messiah as Isaiah does, but nevertheless provides glimpses of Christ as the Fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13), the good Shepherd (Jeremiah 23:4; 31:10), the righteous Branch (Jeremiah 23:5), the Redeemer (Jeremiah 50:34), the Lord our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6) and David the king (Jeremiah 30:9).” (Harrison)
c. He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth: The great promises of restoration and blessing under the completion of the new covenant would come about through an appointed Man, the Branch of righteousness, who would be a descendant of David. He will reign not only over Jerusalem and Israel, but also over the earth, bringing judgment and righteousness.
d. This is the name by which she will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness: This would be the title of restored Jerusalem under her Messiah, the Branch from the line of David. No more would it be a place of idolatry, rebellion, shame, and the destruction that came from all those. It would be a city and a people who truly found their righteousness in the LORD.
i. “Salvation and safety are in store for Judah and Jerusalem because of the presence of justice and righteousness personified. The name given the Messiah in Jeremiah 23:6 is here given to Jerusalem. She can have the same name as the Messiah because she reflects that righteousness the Messiah bestows on her.” (Feinberg)
ii. “There is, however, no need to allegorize the name of the city as though it were the NT church. On what grounds could the impartation of such a concept be justified here? Jerusalem will be called by his name because she will partake of his nature, which has been graciously imparted to her.” (Feinberg)
B. The permanent character of God’s covenant.
1. (19-22) The covenant to David is as certain as day and night.
And the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so will I multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’”
a. If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night: God’s covenant with David – the promise to bring the Messiah who will reign from his line (2 Samuel 7:12-16) – was as certain as the reliability of day and night.
b. A son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers: The promised Messiah would reign on David’s throne, and with many around Him to reign with Him.
i. “However prosperous, a people kingless and without a priesthood would consider itself no better than a rabble: so here is the climax of the promise.” (Kidner)
ii. “The promised dynasty will be permanent, and will have a succession of levitical priests who will constitute a valid ministry.” (Harrison)
iii. These words do not claim a constant reign of David’s line and service of Levitical priests; it claims an unending reign and service.
c. So will I multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me: God promised innumerable servants to come alongside of the Messiah to come from David’s line. This is fulfilled in the multitudes who reign with Jesus under the new covenant (Revelation 7:9-10).
i. “As for the pledge that David would never lack a man to sit on the throne … of Israel (Jeremiah 33:17, 21a), we can see how profoundly the fulfillment in the person of Christ transcends the expectation (Revelation 11:15; 22:16). The same is true of the promise to the Levitical priests, since all their atoning work was done to perfection and for eternity by him, and their role in offering ‘the sacrifice of praise’ has been perpetuated and extended in the royal priesthood of believers.” (Kidner)
ii. “In our passage, however, the promise contains no hint of the hidden elements in its fulfillment, but (as a. W. Streane puts it) is ‘clothed in a Jewish dress, the only form in which it could present any meaning to those to whom it was delivered’.” (Kidner)
iii. “Monarchy and priesthood were the two bases of the OT theocracy. When these appeared to be most in danger of extinction in Jeremiah’s day, we find their continuance couched in sure and irrevocable terms.” (Feinberg)
2. (23-24) The words of those who despise His people.
Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, “Have you not considered what these people have spoken, saying, ‘The two families which the LORD has chosen, He has also cast them off’? Thus they have despised My people, as if they should no more be a nation before them.”
a. The two families which the LORD has chosen, He has also cast them off: The two families are those of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. There were some (and are some today) who say that though God once chose them, He has now cast them off.
b. Thus they have despised My people as if they should no more be a nation before them: God said of those who thought that Israel was cast off from His love or plan that they despised His people and therefore sinned. They denied that Israel continued as a nation, a collective people with whom God had a special plan and purpose, and a nation before them – not only before God, but also before the world.
i. In the new covenant, the purpose of God extends far beyond Israel but never forsakes Israel. Those who say God has cast them off and that He is finished with them as a nation commit the great sin of despising His people.
3. (25-26) The promise repeated.
“Thus says the LORD: ‘If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will cause their captives to return, and will have mercy on them.’”
a. If My covenant is not with day and night: For emphasis, God repeated the same figure used in Jeremiah 33:19-21 to communicate the permanence of the covenant.
i. “God placed the sun and the moon on the bargaining table. He offered the heavenly bodies as a security deposit for his covenant promise. If God ever fails to provide an eternal King or a permanent priest, then the sun and the moon will be yours to keep!” (Ryken)
ii. “Nature will utterly collapse before God will go back on the slightest promise to his people.” (Feinberg)
iii. “It should be noted, if only in passing, that these verses form part of the foundation for the modern study of science. They assert that the regularity of day and night is not the product of evolutionary chance. Rather, God has established a covenant with the sun and the moon.” (Ryken)
b. Over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: God spoke regarding the genetic descendants of Israel, not only spiritual descendants. Again, the new covenant reaches out to the whole world, not only to Israel; but it does not ignore or set aside Israel.
i. “This passage has been a crux interpretum for expositors. It is especially difficult for those who hold an amillennial position in eschatology. The only resort for them is in allegorization of the text or the use of a dual hermeneutic.” (Feinberg)