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Lowell Brueckner

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King Zedekiah’s Fate



Chapter 21


God is Jerusalem’s enemy

      1.      The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, saying, 

      2.      "Please inquire of the LORD for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon makes war against us. Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all His wonderful works, that the king may go away from us." 

      3.      Then Jeremiah said to them, "Thus you shall say to Zedekiah, 

 4.      'Thus says the LORD God of Israel: "Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, with which you fight against the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans who besiege you outside the walls; and I will assemble them in the midst of this city. 

 5.      I Myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger and fury and great wrath. 

 6.      I will strike the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; they shall die of a great pestilence. 

 7.   And afterward," says the LORD, "I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, his servants and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence and the sword and the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those who seek their life; and he shall strike them with the edge of the sword. He shall not spare them, or have pity or mercy." ' 

 Chapter 21 is a comparatively short lesson in our study of Jeremiah. I remind you of what we saw from the very beginning of this book; that is, that Jeremiah did not organize his book chronologically. What we find in this chapter, relates to what is in chapter 37 and 38. There these same two priests, Pashhur, the son of Melchiah (38:1) and Zephaniah, the son of Maaseiah (37:3), are mentioned. Jeremiah’s message is identical here in verse 9, with chapter 38:2.

 In the two cases of these priests, we do not have the biblical introduction of father and son, as is common throughout the Scriptures. The priests are presented by their orders. In the last chapter, Pashhur was called the son of Immer, meaning that he belonged, by ancestry, to the 16th order of priests, that of Immer. Immediately, we recognize that this is a different Pashhur, who belonged to the fifth order of Melchiah. Zephaniah, the son of Maaseiah, belonged to the twenty-fourth order (see the orders in 1 Chr.24:7-18). 


 Nebuchadnezzar, himself, had appointed the youngest son of good King Josiah, Mattaniah, to be king and changed his name to Zedekiah. He was 21-years-old, when he became king and reigned eleven years. Zedekiah took a solemn oath to be loyal to Nebuchadnezzar, but later revolted (2 Ch.36:10-13). This chapter occurs in the ninth year of his reign.

 Before the Lord, Jeremiah held the same position as Isaiah in Judah, but the difference in his day was that Zedekiah was king, not Hezekiah, who reigned in Isaiah’s day. To understand the attitude of Zedekiah, I will show a few events in his affairs with the prophet. He held a certain respect for Jeremiah and his position, but political expediency overcame his fear of God and His prophet. Here he sends priests to hear from Jeremiah, hoping to get a positive assurance of the Lord’s protection of Judah and Jerusalem.

 Zedekiah later took him out of a dungeon to speak secretly and personally with him (37:17), but in the next chapter, yields to the political pressure of the princes (38:4-5). As a result, Jeremiah is lowered into a cistern, but then, an Ethiopian intercedes for him before the king. The king sends a contingent of thirty men to help this man rescue Jeremiah.  In 38:14, Zedekiah once again sends for the prophet, who now roams in the court of the prison. The king meets with him at the third entrance of the temple, another private interview for fear of his princes, which we will cover, when we come to chapter 38.

 In this chapter, it is humbling to these two priests, opponents to Jeremiah, to be sent by the king to inquire of the prophet. Outranked by the king they come, and deliver his petition. It is too late to hope for the Lord’s “wonderful works”, in causing Nebuchadnezzar to turn away from Jerusalem (2). No longer can Israel expect the favor of His salvation, which occurred so often in their history. Jeremiah belongs to God, faithfully delivers His word, and it is a direct contradiction to the aspirations of Zedekiah (3).   

God’s word is in favor of the invaders: Judah’s weapons will be ineffective, they will be driven back inside their walls, and come under a Babylonian siege (4). Not only His word is against them, He will fight personally against them “with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm”. How awful is this situation, when their God, the Almighty God, rejects them, becomes their enemy and turns in “anger and fury and great wrath” against them! It will not be the fury of men or demons, it will be a triple demonstration of unequaled, immeasurable wrath (5).

 We have already studied the results in earlier chapters, but the king himself, now will be informed of a great plague, a famine, and the Babylonian sword (6). It will be followed by his surrender, with all the citizens of Jerusalem, into hands that are eager to kill. There is nothing in their godless, pagan culture or history that knows anything of pity or mercy (7).     


The one escape - surrender

 8.      "Now you shall say to this people, 'Thus says the LORD: "Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. 

 9.      He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes out and defects to the Chaldeans who besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be as a prize to him. 

 10.  For I have set My face against this city for adversity and not for good," says the LORD. "It shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire." ' 

 11.  "And concerning the house of the king of Judah, say, 'Hear the word of the LORD, 

 12.  O house of David! Thus says the LORD: "Execute judgment in the morning; And deliver him who is plundered Out of the hand of the oppressor, Lest My fury go forth like fire And burn so that no one can quench it, Because of the evil of your doings. 

 13.  "Behold, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley, And rock of the plain," says the LORD, "Who say, 'Who shall come down against us? Or who shall enter our dwellings?' 

 14.  But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings," says the LORD; "I will kindle a fire in its forest, And it shall devour all things around it." ' " 

 An escape, however, is offered by the merciful God of Israel. They can yet avoid a fearsome catastrophe, if they will surrender to His will. It is a way of life, in the face of a certain death (8). To rely on the walls of Jerusalem is the way of sword, famine and pestilence. We need to reflect on the futility of relying on natural, common defenses. That which kept out the enemy previously, will do so no longer.

 In this case, submission to the Lord, is surrender to the invading army, a way, which we know, that Judah rejected. How hard it is for proud man to wave the white flag of surrender! In the last chapter, we studied the surrender of Jeremiah, noting that every servant of God is a conquered foe. I repeat what I stated there, that the way of salvation is a confession that Jesus is Lord (Ro.10:9). We heard Saul of Tarsus make that confession, trembling and astonished: Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Ac.9:6).  

 The salvation for the Jew of Jeremiah’s day was to go out of Jerusalem and defect to the Chaldeans. There is no option or bargaining, no additional terms or benefits in this surrender, only their lives will be spared. Keep this principle in mind: Salvation is not striking a bargain with the Lord, but a total surrender to His sovereign will. The text states, “His life shall be as a prize to him” (9). The city will be sieged, bringing famine and then pestilence, will be conquered by the sword, killing those still alive, and then burned with fire. The city is doomed and so is everyone found within its walls (10).

 God speaks in accordance with His awesome, eternal purpose, saying to the house of the descendant of King David: “Hear the word of the Lord” (11). Zedekiah must act in the spirit of his ancient father, chosen by the Lord, in rejection of the unrighteous reign of King Saul. The man after His own heart “delivered the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor”, from Goliath to Ammon, Moab, Amalek, Zobah, Syria and Edom.  

 Whoever would find God’s favor must turn from his own way and walk in the way of righteousness. King Zedekiah, who has totally degenerated from the ways of his great forefather, must repent of his unjust rule, be compassionate to the oppressed, and restrain the hand of the oppressor. He must turn immediately… in the morning. Without repentance, there is no forgiveness or escape from the fury of the Lord. The fire that Nebuchadnezzar will light in Jerusalem is only a token of His fire that never shall be quenched (12). John Baptist warned of it: “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Mt.3:12).  

 We have another reference to the false security found in Jerusalem. In the previous one, they relied on its walls; here they lean on its natural defenses. In the poetic language of the Lord, the inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain is a personification of Jerusalem. Even before it was conquered by David’s army, it was a city, thought impregnable. It is built upon Mount Zion and higher mountains surrounding it, but the city descended down into the valley. The ones who are deceived by a false security have an enemy in the Lord. The Judeans, in verse 13, are echoing the centuries-old cry of the Jebusites, “who spoke to David, saying, ‘You shall not come in; but the blind and the lame will repel you,’ thinking, ‘David cannot come in here” (2 S.5:6).  

 God’s punishment is always just, according to the fruit of your doings (14). No one can blame circumstances, environment, parents, friends, or other influences. The enlightened sinner sees only his sin. The thief on the cross is a wonderful example. He declared to his fellow sufferer: “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds” (Lk.23:40,41).

 Self-justification is an effective means of condemnation, as is self-righteousness. These two loom over other sins, abominable fortresses of human arrogance, built in an attempt to ward off guilt. So often, the evangelist must tear these bulwarks down, if the sinner is ever going to come to repentance. It is a formidable task, met with fierce resistance, but is this not the opposition that Jeremiah is facing? It brought him flogging, imprisonment, a deep dungeon, and finally ended his life. This is the cost of faithfulness for all of us, who desire the salvation of sinners. It is well worth it, to see one here, another there, like the thief, humble himself before His Lord and plead, “Lord, remember me…” (Lk.23:42).




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