Our reading today begins with a prophecy of Jeremiah from early in the reign of Jehoiakim (25:1). Since we have already seen events from the reign of Zedekiah (see Chapters 21-24), we are now back in time between 7 and 16 years (depending on when in Zedekiah’s reign the events of the previous chapters occurred). Yet the prophecy is the same. In fact, this is 23 years into Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry (v. 3). And yet, Judah has not listened to his consistent message or repented (vv. 3-7). Therefore, Babylon is coming to “devote to destruction” the nation of Judah (among others – v. 9). This is the holy herem God pronounced against the nations Israel dispossessed when they took the land (see Deut 7:2). It was also, according to the Law, the punishment for worshiping any god other than YHWH (Ex 22:20).
This gives us a fuller understanding of what devoting to destruction means. While God often commanded the complete destruction of pagan cities and the death of everyone in them, herem is more about removal from God’s presence. Like Jericho was devoted to destruction, yet Rahab was allowed to live and even join herself to God’s people. The point is the removal of false worship – of the worship of any god other than YHWH. Here, Judah is devoted to destruction, yet many are not going to be killed, but taken to Babylon to be removed from God’s presence. And there they will be refined, and return as worshipers of YHWH.
In verse 11, we see the prediction that the Babylonian captivity will last for seventy years.1 Then, Babylon will be punished (v. 12 – see Isa 13:19). God used Israel to punish the inhabitants of the land by devoting them to destruction. Then Israel turned away from God, and He will use Babylon to destroy them by devoting them to destruction. Then, He will destroy Babylon. Israel and Judah are just like all other nations because of their worship of other gods.
This is why they are to drink the cup of the wine of God’s wrath (v. 15 – see Isa 51:17, Hab 2:15-16, Ps 75:8) just like the rest of the nations. Judah will drink (v. 18) as will all the nations (vv. 19-27). Just as there will be some from every nation that God will call as His own (see 3:17 and our discussion of 23:3-8), so there will be some of every nation that are rejected and judged by Him. The distinction between Judah and everyone else is no more. And if God is willing to destroy the physical people He had called as His own (v. 29), so all the nations of the earth ought to repent and turn to YHWH, because they will not be spared otherwise!
This is pointing us to the final judgment, which is in view in verses 30-38. In verse 30, that grape/wine/vine motif is used to describe the final judgment (as in 2:21, 5:10, 6:9 – see Joel 3:13, Rev 14:17-30). This judgment is for all nations and all flesh (v. 31) – for the whole earth (v. 32)! All the wicked will be destroyed (v.31) in a most gruesome manner (v. 33) – in the same manner God is going to judge Judah (see 8:2)! This is why Jeremiah was called as a prophet to the nations (see 1:4-10).
In verses 34-38, God addresses the rulers of the world. As with Judah, God holds all of those in positions of leadership responsible for those under their care (see 10:21, 12:10, 22:22). The people are responsible for themselves, but leaders are responsible for themselves and those in their care (see Acts 20:28, Eph 5: 25-29, Heb 13:17, Rom 13:1-7).2 Note that God is described in judgment as a lion that has left His lair. This is a picture of Christ’s Second Coming (see Rev 10:3).
Chapter 26 records some of that opposition that has caused Jeremiah such despair (see 18:20). This brings us back even further in time (this is the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign – v. 26 – whereas the last chapter recorded a prophecy from during his fourth year – 25:1). God sends Jeremiah to the Temple (v. 2) to preach repentance (v. 3) and the judgment for failure to repent (vv. 4-6). Jeremiah is obedient, and when the people hear him (v. 7), they have a simple reaction, and it isn’t repentance. Rather, they tell Jeremiah they are going to kill him (v. 8). They assumed (like all fallen men) that God would certainly not punish them (v. 9)!
In verse 10, the officials sitting in the gate means that this is a legal proceeding (see Ruth 4:1-6). The prosecution sets forth their case in verse 11. Then, Jeremiah makes his defense: he spoke YHWH’s words (v. 12). He implores them to repent (v. 13). In verses 14-15, Jeremiah is really entrusting himself to God, not these men. He knows what God’s promise to him is (15:19-21). And God keeps His promise! The officials find Jeremiah to be in the right (v. 16). They remind the people of the ministry of Micah and his pronouncement of judgment (v. 18 – see Mic 3:12), and how Hezekiah and the people repented and God relented (v. 19).
Verses 20-23, however, remind us that serving God does not always mean we will not suffer for it. Jehoiakim went to great lengths to persecute and kill Uriah the prophet. But God is also able to preserve His servants. Here in verse 24, we see how God sovereignly saved Jeremiah. We see that a man named Ahikam advocated for Jeremiah. He served king Josiah and took part in his reforms (see 2 Kings 22:12-14). His father, Shaphan, did the same and was even the man to bring the Law to Josiah when it was found (2 Kings 22:8-10). Josiah’s sons (Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim) and grandsons (Jehoiachin and Zedekiah) may have been wicked, but God preserved faithful men and kept them in positions of influence that His will might be done. We will see this family help Jeremiah again. We may not be Jeremiahs, but our faithfulness to God will be used to support the ministries of men like him!
1 It is important to understand that the seventy years is based on Israel’s/Judah’s failure to observe the Sabbath Years (see 2 Chronicles 36:20-23). There is a bigger picture than just the captivity and return. There is a whole history of redemption that is part of this. We will see this more clearly when we get to Daniel chapter 9.
2 This is why those in Adam are in sin because of his works, and those in Christ are saved because of His (see Romans 5:12-21)