Our reading today begins during the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah (27:1). While some manuscripts here read “Jehoiakim” instead of “Zedekiah,” this has to be a scribal error, because even in those manuscripts, verses 3 and 12 read “Zedekiah,” and verse 20 shows this is after Jehoiakim’s reign.
We see here that God gives Jeremiah another act prophecy to carry out. He is to put himself in a yoke (v. 2). Why? Because envoys from Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon were visiting Jerusalem (v. 3 – see 25:21-22). And Jeremiah has a message for them all. They need to put themselves in a yoke (metaphorically). God is giving all of their nations over to Nebuchadnezzar (v. 6). They are to be his captives. God is calling them to submit to him and willingly become captives (v. 8). If they don’t, then they will be killed (see 21:9). God warns these nations not to listen to their false prophets (vv. 9-10). If they will become willing captives, they will be subjects of Babylon, but be able to stay in their own land (v. 11).
Jeremiah then speaks the prophecy to Zedekiah (vv. 12-13). Neither should he listen to false prophets (vv. 14-15). Jeremiah then prophesies to the people, warning them about false prophets (v. 16), and encouraging them to submit to the yoke of Babylon (v. 17). God then tells the people that those prophesying that the vessels taken from the Temple will be returned will be proven so wrong – not only will those vessels not return, but Nebuchadnezzar is coming for the rest of them vv. 21-22)! But God also offers that glimmer of hope and says He will bring them back to Jerusalem.
In chapter 28, we see one of the false prophets, Hananiah (28:1). He prophesies the opposite of what Jeremiah did. He says that God has not encouraged submission to Babylon, but actually broken the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar (v. 2). Also, the rest of the vessels in the Temple aren’t going anywhere, and God is bringing back those that have already been taken (v. 4). Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) will be coming back, too (see 22:10-12)!
So Jeremiah says he would love for this to all come true (v. 6). However, he also has something else to say. There have been those before either of them that have prophesied what Jeremiah is saying (v. 8). Let the people see what happens and then determine who is right: Jeremiah and those other prophets, or Hananiah (v. 9 – see Deut 18:22). Now Hananiah goes even further. He takes the yoke off of Jeremiah and performs his own act prophecy (v. 10), and doubles down on his prediction (v. 11). God then tells Jeremiah to go back to Hananiah and tell him that he just made things worse (v. 13)! Judah and all these other nations (see 27:3) will indeed be given into the hands of Babylon. But because he has lied in the name of God, Hananiah is now going to die. And he did (v. 17). God proved who the true prophet was…
In chapter 29, Jeremiah now sends a letter to those who are already in captivity in Babylon (29:1-2 – see 2 Kings 24:10-16). Note that another son of Shaphan is used by God here (v. 3 – see 26:24). God tells the captives to, in essence, make the best of a “bad” situation. Live your lives and increase in number (vv. 5-6). Seek the good of Babylon (v. 7). Pray for Babylon. You are not coming back anytime soon regardless of what your false prophets are telling you (v. 9!)
But God also promises a restoration. He will bring them back after 70 years (v. 10 – see 25:11-12). Then we have a top-3 misapplied verse in all of Scripture (along with Philippians 4:13 and Romans 8:28). This is not a verse to claim for ourselves. This is a declaration by God of His sovereignty over His plan of redemption, including the suffering of His people. It is a corporate promise, not a promise to any individual. This is a promise to God’s spiritual people that were in captivity. God is saying: “there is a reason for your suffering.”
And when they are refined and return to Him in repentance, He will save His remnant (vv. 12-14). And God is telling them that they should be grateful for His sovereign plan, even though it doesn’t seem so good right now. Because they have been sent to Babylon to be spared! Those that have remained in Judah are going to die (vv. 16-18), because they have not repented even after God sent some of them into captivity and called them to repentance (v. 19).
God then calls out two false prophets, and tells these captives that He will prove they are false when He kills them right in front of them (v. 21). God will prove that He is the One Who knows the future (v. 23). The letter also contains a word for another false prophet, Shemaiah (v. 24). He has sent letters to Jerusalem to the priests to put Jeremiah in stocks (vv. 25-28). Jeremiah knows about the letters (v. 29). So Jeremiah prophesies that Shemaiah will be punished for prophesying lies (v. 31). His name will be cut off, and he will not be part of the restored remnant (v. 32).