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Jeremiah 21:1 The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, when king Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchijah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest saying- We noted on Jer. 20:3-6 that Jerusalem's judgments were blamed upon Pashhur son of Immer. This is probably the same as this Passhur ben Malchijah. It seems too unusual that two men of the same name occur in two chapters which follow on from each other. This man had a huge role to play in the false prophecies. That Zedekiah should send this false prophet to Jeremiah to ask for God's true word, and to ask him to pray for the people... would indicate that at best Zedekiah was out of touch, and yet more realistically it seems Zedekiah went along with a plan by Pashhur to get Jeremiah to say things for which they would further condemn and punish him. "Malchijah" is literally "Yah's king". It could be that this person was both in the kingly line and also the priestly line (Jer. 20:1). He could have been the Messianic king-priest of the restored Kingdom; but he chose not to be. This would explain the extraordinary condemnation of him in Jer. 20.

Jeremiah 21:2 Please inquire of Yahweh for us; for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon makes war against us: perhaps Yahweh will deal with us according to all His wondrous works, that He may go up from us-
This is the typical human tendency, to ask someone else to pray for us, to engage with God on our behalf. God wanted to deal directly with Israel, speaking personally to them; but they wanted Moses to go and talk with Him and then tell them. We see the same mentality in 1 Kings 13:6; Acts 8:28. It is classic religion, and is on the opposite pole of personal relationship with God which the Bible seeks to inculcate. We note that they are now recognizing that Egypt is not going to help them; Ezekiel pictures them as a prostitute now desperately going to all and any man for help against Babylon, and that included going to Yahweh. Perhaps this incident is after the battle of Carchemish when Egyptian military power was destroyed by Babylon. "All His wondrous works" is quoting Ex. 3:20 of Yahweh's deliverance of the people from the Egyptians. They were aware of Yahweh's historical salvation, and were asking for it to be repeated. But they were to be treated like Egypt, and smitten along with their animals with a great plague (:6).  

Jeremiah 21:3 Then Jeremiah said to them, You shall tell Zedekiah-
We might imagine that his response could have been that God had told him not to pray for them. But God does respond, although not with the message they expected and hoped for.

Jeremiah 21:4 Thus says Yahweh the 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 against the Chaldeans who besiege you without the walls-
This continues the great prophetic theme that all human strength and military technology is brought down beneath God's judgment. See on :13.

And I will gather them into the midst of this city- The implication is that God is within the city, the shekinah glory was still present in the temple according to Ezekiel's visions. And yet instead of this meaning that they would therefore have the protection of their God, He would in fact gather the besiegers into the city, "into the midst" of it, that is to Zion, the temple itself.

Jeremiah 21:5 I Myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, wrath and great indignation-
This contradicts the common understanding that a national god, or the god of a city, would always fight for and not against that people or city; for to do otherwise would seem so illogical, to as it were destroy himself. But the God of Israel was so different; He would Himself fight against His own people, city and nation. And this implied that He would do so to His own personal hurt and loss. His wrath was therefore not painless for Him. It was the duty of the priests to discharge their office so that there would not be the "indignation" of Yahweh against His people (Num. 1:53; 18:5 s.w.). This statement is therefore tantamount to saying that the priesthood had not done their work. Jeremiah was himself a priest; no wonder his own relatives, who were also priests, were so incensed against him. "Anger... wrath... and indignation" is a quote from the curses for breaking the covenant (Dt. 29:28).

Jeremiah 21:6 I will strike the inhabitants of this city, both man and animal: they shall die of a great plague-
It seems that one prophetic scenario was that God would create "a great [specific] plague" which would destroy both people and animals within Jerusalem. As noted on :2, the people thought God would deliver them as He had Israel from Egypt; but they were to be treated like the Egyptians, to whom they had returned in their hearts and whom they had looked to for deliverance from Babylon. And yet it seems that this particular scenario didn't happen; there is no mention of such a great plague. In wrath God remembered mercy, or chose to work through one of the other possible paths of judgment which Jeremiah has elsewhere outlined. All the time we see God's flexibility and openness to working with men.

Jeremiah 21:7 Afterward, says Yahweh, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people, even such as are left in this city from the plague, from the sword and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and 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, neither have pity, nor have mercy-
I noted on :6 that this "great plague" which was to destroy most of the people and animals in the city didn't apparently happen. And likewise the remnant were not all killed by the sword nor were all the people taken to Babylon (see on Jer. 10:18). Zedekiah wasn't slain by Nebuchadnezzar, but rather died in captivity (Jer. 52:11). Perhaps he repented; or God chose to work out another path of judgment with Zedekiah which would achieve more glory for Him and His objectives than simply having him slain by the sword. The statement that Nebuchadnezzar would not show him "pity nor have mercy" and not spare him was therefore not fulfilled; because he was reflecting the God who had also said He would not spare or pity, but yet He did.   

Jeremiah 21:8 To this people you shall say, Thus says Yahweh: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death-
Although they had broken the covenant (see on :5), they are now invited to see themselves as facing again the choice of accepting or rejecting it. For these are the words which God presented to Israel as they entered the land (Dt. 31:27). Even at this point there was the possibility that they could enter a reestablished land and Kingdom of God.

As Yahweh was with Moses- not just in power, but in wondrous patience and gentleness- so He will be with us too. Not only did God encourage Joshua to see himself as in Moses' shoes; He inspired Jeremiah likewise (Jer. 21:8 = Dt. 30:15,19), and Ezekiel (Ez. 2:3 = Dt. 31:27; Neh. 9:17; Num. 17:10); and He wishes us to also see Moses' God as our God. But if Moses' God is to be ours in truth in the daily round of life, we must rise up to the dedication of Moses; as he was a faithful steward, thoroughly dedicated to God's ecclesia (Heb. 3:5), so we are invited follow his example (1 Cor. 4:2; Mt. 24:45).


Jeremiah 21:9 He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; but he who goes out, and passes over to the Chaldeans who besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be to him for a prey-
The prediction of death by plague in Jer. 21:6 was therefore conditional. Those prophetic words need not have come true if Israel had been obedient to this call to surrender. "Passes over" is literally "to fall down". They were to accept their condemnation, and thereby save their lives. Their lives would be to them "for a prey", literally, as booty taken from a conquered city. This was and is the great paradox- that surrender, acceptance of defeat, was the great spiritual victory.
In the future, at the Lord's return, we will be saved from wrath (i.e. condemnation) through Christ (Rom. 5:9). Whilst this has already been achieved in a sense, it will be materially articulated in that day- in that we will feel and know ourselves to be worthy of God's wrath, but then be saved from it. We are all to some extent in the position of Zedekiah and the men of Judah, who was told that if they accepted God’s condemnation of them as just, and served the King of Babylon, then they would ultimately be saved; but if they refused to accept that condemnation, then they would be eternally destroyed (Jer. 21:9; 27:12). And the Babylonian invasion was a type of the final judgment.

Jeremiah 21:10 For I have set My face against this city for evil and not for good, says Yahweh: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire-
A pagan god looked after his own people against their enemies. But Yahweh of Israel sent and empowered Israel’s enemies against them, and gave them victory against His own people; He encamped against His very own people (Is. 29:2-4). The archenemy of Israel, Assyria, was revealed as a rod in the God of Israel’s hand (Is. 10:5 etc.), and the King of Babylon was Yahweh’s servant who would come against Yahweh’s own people (Jer. 25:9; 27:6 etc.). The will of Israel’s God was that the capital city, seen by the people as the symbol and nerve center of a god’s power and control, was to be destroyed by Israel’s enemies (Jer. 34:1-5; 21:3-7). In the surrounding culture of Israel, capital cities were portrayed as women, the wives of the gods. They are always presented as pure and wonderful. But the prophets represent cities like Jerusalem and Samaria as fallen women, whores. It was all so counter-cultural. Yahweh’s prophet even appealed for Israel to surrender when under siege (Jer. 21:8-10). Try to enter into how radical and counter-cultural all this was. The prophets were trying to share the feelings and positions of a God so vastly different to the imaginations and understandings of His very own people. The nervous stress of this, the psychological pressure, can’t be underestimated. And we are asked to share the spirit / mind / disposition of those prophets. Not only was God on the side of Israel’s enemies; yet through all that, He somehow was with Israel; quite simply, “God is with us”, even though it is He who encamps against them too (Is. 8:9,10; 18:4). The God of Auschwitz is somehow still the God of Israel. The very torment, even torture, of understanding that was etched clearly in the prophets, and it will be in us too.

Jeremiah 21:11 Touching the house of the king of Judah, hear the word of Yahweh-
The family of Zedekiah were guilty of injustice and abusing people (:12), and he clearly was involved in this himself. He was not simply weak minded and manipulated by his courtiers; he was himself guilty.

Jeremiah 21:12 House of David, thus says Yahweh, Execute justice in the morning, and deliver him who is robbed out of the hand of the oppressor-
They went into captivity because the princes and priests oppressed the people (Jer. 22:3,17); in the new temple, this was not to be so (Ez. 45:8). And yet, in Nehemiah’s time the princes of the people did again oppress them, e.g. through making them mortgage their lands to them. This is the tragedy of Israel’s refusal to learn… The intention was that they would “bear the punishment of their iniquity… that the house of Israel go no more astray” (Ez. 14:11). The call to execute justice "in the morning" may not simply refer to how courts were typically held in the morning; it could be an urgent call to immediately reform, from tomorrow morning. They were acting as "the oppressor" to God's people, and so they too were to be oppressed by the Babylonians (Jer. 50:33 s.w.). How they treated their brethren was directly related to how they would be treated in their judgment, and this principle applies for all time.  

Lest My wrath go forth like fire, and burn so that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings- At the beginning of Jeremiah's ministry, the implication was that the wrath could be quenched still (Jer. 4:4); but the time would come when it could not be. By the time of Jer. 7:20, God was saying that His wrath could no longer be quenched (as 2 Kings 22:17; 2 Chron. 34:25). And yet even after this point, God still speaks as if it could be quenched by repentance (Jer. 21:12). Even to the point of self-contradiction, God was so eager to have His wrath quenched. And this God is our God. His eagerness for human repentance should be reflected in our attitudes, both to others and to our own sins. Breaking relationship with people by casting them out of fellowship is not reflective of that.

Jeremiah 21:13 Behold, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley and of the rock of the plain, says Yahweh; you that say, who shall come down against us? Or who shall enter into our habitations?-
LXX "that dwellest in the valley of Sor". It could be that :13,14 speak of the judgment of Moab in similar terms to Jer. 48:8,21 and they have become added here out of place. Yet :14 can be clearly understood as referring to Jerusalem. But GNB likely has the sense right: "You, Jerusalem, are sitting high above the valleys, like a rock rising above the plain. But I will fight against you. You say that no one can attack you or break through your defense". This continues the theme that all human might and apparent advantage is as nothing before God's judgment; see on :4. These were likely the words of the false prophets, who taught [as some evangelicals do today] that Jerusalem is inviolate and will always be protected by Yahweh. But that is to argue on the level of mere religion and not spirituality. God's historical actions against Jerusalem clearly show that she is not inviolate. 

Jeremiah 21:14 I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, says Yahweh; and I will kindle a fire in her forest, and it shall devour all that is around her
- Jerusalem being like a forest destroyed by a forest fire is the language of Is. 9:18. The "forest" of Jerusalem may refer to the temple, famed for its cedar paneling from the forests of Lebanon  (see on Zech. 11:1).
The prophetic word in Jeremiah's mouth was like fire, and it was the people who were to be "devoured" by it (Ez. 15:5; s.w. Jer. 5:14; 17:27; 21:14). The amazing grace explained in Ez. 15 was in the fact that the 'devoured by fire' vine twig would be refined in Babylon and still used by God to reestablish His Kingdom.