New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

Jeremiah 29:1 Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the residue of the elders of the captivity, and to the priests, to the prophets, and to all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon- This prophecy is in line with that of the good and bad figs of Jer. 24. The good figs were to be those who had first gone into captivity, who were to repent and then return; the bad figs referred to Zedekiah and his courtiers, and he is referred to as this in :17. But as noted on Jer. 24, that prophecy had only potential fulfillment and did not come true as potentially possible. That must be remembered in interpreting what follows here.

Jeremiah 29:2 (after that Jeconiah the king, the queen mother, the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem)-
These craftsmen may have been deported because they had helped build defences against the Babylonians. But the words are also used for the formers of idols; perhaps they were taken away so that those who remained would have less chance of committing idolatry and would repent.

Jeremiah 29:3 by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), saying-
Zedekiah was Babylon's puppet king and so there was regular sending of messengers between the two cities.

Jeremiah 29:4 Thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, to all the captivity, whom I have caused to be carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon-
The reminder was that the carrying into captivity had been done by God; the Babylonians were His servants, their armies controlled by Yahweh of armies. They were to realize this, and serve Babylon as if serving Yahweh.

Jeremiah 29:5 Build houses and dwell in them; and plant gardens and eat their fruit-
This was a direct quotation from Is. 65:21 and Am. 9:14 about the situation in the Kingdom of God. Whilst waiting for the restoration of that Kingdom, they were to live the kingdom life as far as possible in exile; just as we are to live the life of the Kingdom, the eternal life, in this life. See on Jer. 30:18.

Jeremiah 29:6 Take wives, and father sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there, and don’t be diminished-
This would be stating the obvious unless we understand it as meaning that the Jews were being encouraged to intermarry with the people of Babylon. This was a special dispensation for a special occasion; because as noted on :7, the Divine intention was that Babylon should repent, and along with repentant Judah become part of a restored Kingdom of God on earth based in Zion.

Jeremiah 29:7 Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to Yahweh for it; for in its peace you shall have peace-
"Peace" is often peace with God. Babylon could have repented; see on :6 and Jer. 51:8,9. Jer. 33:6; 43:12 can be read as meaning that it was God's intention that Babylon too should find peace with Him; Babylon's peace was to be that of Judah.  From Zion, peace would be spoken to the Gentiles (Zech. 9:10). They were to pray for "peace" upon Babylon in the sense of peace with God; but either they didn't pray for this, returning to their nationalism and racial elitism; or Babylon didn't want it. Hence the predictions of the destruction of Babylon in later Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 29:8 For thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel: Don’t let your prophets who are in the midst of you, and your diviners, deceive you; neither listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed-
The prophets were "in the midst" of Jerusalem, in Zion itself. The common people caused the false prophets to dream their dreams; the expectations and hopes of the masses were perceived by the false prophets, and they perhaps genuinely dreamed what the people wanted; but those dreams were not of God but just the usual outcome of subconscious psychological forces in the Freudian sense.

Jeremiah 29:9 For they prophesy falsely to you in My name: I have not sent them, says Yahweh-
As explained on :8, it is one thing to have a dream, as the normal outcome of unconscious psychological forces; but it is quite another to falsely claim that this is from God. It is a playing God in the worst way.

Jeremiah 29:10 For thus says Yahweh, After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you and perform My word of grace towards you, in causing you to return to this place-
The 70 year period of Jer. 25:11,12 didn't come true exactly. The 70 years of Babylon's mastery and Judah's captivity were not strictly fulfilled to the letter. See on :32 and Jer. 27:7; 31:22. That period was to involve the surrounding nations being subject to Babylon for that period. It was a potential, one of many possible scenarios. The nations around Judah didn't serve Babylon for 70 years. If the exiles had repented as intended, and had brought the other nations to accept Yahweh, then this may have been the scenario. But that didn't happen, and so as explained on Jer. 25:12, the period was recalculated and reinterpreted. And as noted on Jer. 10:18, the land was not completely desolate for the 70 year period. A 70 year period of desolation for Tyre in Is. 23:17 likewise didn't have a literal fulfillment because various unstated preconditions weren't met. From BC606, the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jer. 25:1), to the fall of Babylon in BC539, is 67 years, not 70. So there was some flexibility in the time period. Yet the same 70 year period is mentioned here in Jer. 29:10 in a prophecy apparently given 11 years later than that of Jer. 25:12. 

So the 70 years of Babylon's mastery and Judah's captivity were not strictly fulfilled to the letter. From the fall of Nineveh (612) to the fall of Babylon (539) was 73 years; or from Nebuchadnezzar's accession (605) to Babylon's fall (539) was 66 years (Dates taken from John Bright, Jeremiah (New York: Doubleday, 1965) p. 209). Was there a degree to which the period was prolonged or decreased, due to unstated variables- perhaps prayer, Judah's repentance, Babylon's repentance...?

Closer study reveals the variableness of outworking of the time periods. Jer. 25:11,12 and Jer. 29:10 speak of a 70 year period of Babylonian rule over Judah, beginning with the invasion of BC597. But Babylon only ruled over Judah for 49 years, before Babylon fell to the Persians. This would connect with the way that Zech. 4:3 speaks of 7 menorah candlesticks each with 7 lamps, making 49 lamps. 49 is the cycle of 7 Sabbath years that culminated in the jubilee year, and the jubilee year, the proclamation of liberty to the land (Lev. 25:8-12; 27:7-24) is a figure used so often in Isaiah to describe the freedom of Judah once released from Babylon. Lev. 26:34,43 speak of the land enjoying her Sabbaths whilst Israel were in exile for their sins- i.e. for 49 years. So it seems that there could have been some restoration after 49 years- but it didn't happen. But Dan. 9:2 and 2 Chron. 36:21 seem to reinterpret those 70 years of Jeremiah's prophecies as speaking of a 70 year period during which Jerusalem and the temple would be desolate. And yet there again, Ezekiel was asked to prophecy that Judah would suffer for their sins for 40 years (Ez. 4:6). Perhaps something could've happened after 40 years... Perhaps some restoration could have happened to the ten tribes after 390 years (Ez. 4:5), although there's no sign it ever did. And then, the starting point of the 70 or 40 years was somewhat flexible- for Ez. 22:3,4 records Ezekiel's prophecy that the desolation of Jerusalem by the Babylonians [the starting point of the time periods] was actually being hastened, brought forward, by the terrible behaviour of the Jews living there after the initial Babylon invasion of the land. In fact, if a person had been found who would have powerfully interceded for Jerusalem, 'stood in the gap' (Ez. 22:30), God wouldn't have destroyed Jerusalem - "that I should not destroy it" is an allusion to Abraham interceding for Sodom in Gen. 18:28. There were simply so many possible scenarios!

Baruch 6:2 is perhaps the most serious example of misquoting and willfully misunderstanding God’s word. Here, Baruch [as Jeremiah’s scribe] changes the prophecy of Jer. 29:10, that Israel were to be 70 years in Babylon and then return: “When you reach Babylon you will be there many years, a period seven generations long, after which I will bring you back”. The 70 years are turned into seven generations. This was precisely the mindset spoken against in Haggai 1:2, whereby the Jews reasoned that the time had not yet come to rebuild the temple. “The time” referred to the time spoken of by Jeremiah- but Baruch had re-interpreted the 70 years as meaning seven generations. And yet all this was done with a surface-level reverence for God’s word- the exiles considered themselves blessed because they had God’s law (Baruch 4:4). Indeed, much of Baruch is a condemnation of idols and a demand to worship Yahweh. See on Jer. 27:12.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil-
The same words are found in Jer. 18:8; God will indeed think evil towards His people if they do not repent; but He says now that He thinks not evil but peace. This could be a reflection of His desperate hope and assumption that they would repent; or it could simply be that the pole of His desire for peace with men is finally stronger than His legitimate need to bring the evil of judgment upon them.

To give you hope and a future- God gave Judah in captivity “hope in your latter end” (RV)- a hope of restoration at the end of the 70 years. Yet they preferred the Babylon life, and rejected this hope. “Ye shall seek me…and I will be found of you” (Jer. 29:14) then becomes a conditional statement- then, if they sought the Lord, they would have been found of Him.

Stand and watch a stream of people passing along a busy street. The eager young woman, the tired, worried business man, the young father, the old, sick man, the middle aged woman with the blank eyes... the greatest tragedy to me is not so much death, that one day relatively soon these faces will all be face down or face up in the dust of death, but rather... the tragedy is surely that they are living life without purpose. But for us, we recognize that God has a plan for us- and that plan is positive, to do us good and not harm in our latter end. Nothing is insignificant in our lives. Even the smallest incidents have significance for our character development. No meeting with anyone is a chance; we have the power of eternal life in our clumsy hands, through knowing the Gospel of life. Whoever we meet we are surely intended to meet, and extend the hope of life to them. Having a sense of purpose simplifies life. There are less choices; we don’t over-extend ourselves trying to do too much, with all the stress and conflict which this results in. It is meaningless work rather than overwork that wears us down and robs us of our joy.

Jeremiah 29:12 You shall call on Me, and you shall go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you-
As explained on :11, God is assuming Israel's repentance. Here we have His fantasy, if you like, of God for Israel. They would call upon Him and want to "go and pray to Me", in Jerusalem; and He would confirm that desire by miraculously returning them to Zion. But they didn't repent. And yet He still caused Cyrus to give the decree encouraging them to return- such was His desire to as it were force through His saving purpose with His people. That most of them didn't respond even to that is terrible, just as it is today.

Jeremiah 29:13 You shall seek Me and find Me, when you shall search for Me with all your heart-
Repentance and seeking God are related; thus Israel's restoration came when they were seeking  God and (i.e.) repented (Jer. 29:12-14). However, there is good reason to think that Israel at this time were still spiritually weak; some of them had a desire to seek righteousness, and God accepted this. The connection between repentance and seeking God means that to withdraw fellowship from someone for not repenting enough, is to disfellowship them for not seeking God enough. The implication is that the rest of us have sought God enough- and therefore found Him. This is pure self-righteousness. In conclusion, God wants us to be seeking Him, but this seeking God does not imply complete repentance and forsaking of sin. There seems no reason to think that we should break fellowship with someone for not seeking God enough, if we admit that they are not seeking evil.


The LXX suggests that the praying and seeking was perhaps a condition of fulfillment: “And do ye pray to me, and I will hearken...and do ye earnestly seek me, and ye shall find me”. But the next verses go on to say that because they had false prophets in Babylon, the wrath of God was against them all, and even those in the land would suffer because of them. And further (29:23-26), they committed adultery and vied for leadership amongst themselves. Judah did return, but evidently they didn’t seek Yahweh with all their hearts beforehand. And thus they were not fully found of Him, and He did not therefore fully turn away their captivity. Indeed, by choosing to remain in Babylon, they themselves disallowed this turning away of their captivity.

Jeremiah 29:14 I will be found by you, says Yahweh, and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places where I have driven you, says Yahweh; and I will bring you again to the place from where I caused you to be carried away captive-
As explained on :11,12, God is assuming Israel's repentance. Here we have His fantasy, if you like, of God for Israel. They would call upon Him and want to "go and pray to Me", in Jerusalem (:12); and He would confirm that desire by miraculously returning them to Zion. God gave Judah in captivity “hope in your latter end” (:11 RV)- a hope of restoration at the end of the 70 years. Yet they preferred the Babylon life, and rejected this hope. “Ye shall seek me…and I will be found of you” (Jer. 29:14) then becomes a conditional statement- then, if they sought the Lord, they would have been found of Him.

Jeremiah 29:15 Because you have said, Yahweh has raised us up prophets in Babylon-
Just as the faith of others can lead to forgiveness and salvation of third parties in some cases (see on Mk. 2:5), so the opposite can be the case. Because the exiles in Babylon chose to believe their false prophets and disbelieve Ezekiel who was there with them, therefore the "bad figs" would indeed be bad figs; those left in Judah were to receive judgment. Whereas in the Divine economy, those "bad figs" could have been saved by the repentance of the exiles who were already in Babylon. A lot depended upon that group, as Ezekiel often reminds them. See on :22.

Jeremiah 29:16 thus says Yahweh concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your brothers who haven’t gone forth with you into captivity-
As explained on :15, although these men were evil, God was prepared to avert or ameliorate their judgment for the sake of the spirituality and repentance of the exiles already in Babylon.

Jeremiah 29:17 thus says Yahweh of Armies; Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that can’t be eaten, they are so bad-
See on :1. As explained on :15, the "vile figs" were indeed "vile", but their judgment could have been averted or ameliorated for the sake of the spirituality and repentance of the exiles already in Babylon.

Jeremiah 29:18 I will pursue after them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be tossed back and forth among all the kingdoms of the earth, to be an object of horror, and an astonishment-
This removing / tossing to and from of Judah from their land uses the same word as in Dt. 28:25; in response to their breaking of the covenant, they would be "removed (s.w.) into all the kingdoms of the eretz, throughout the land promised to Abraham. But this curse could have been turned into a blessing; for the restoration prophets envisaged the nations of the eretz repenting and converting to Yahweh. This could have been achieved by the exiles witnessing to the various peoples and languages within the Babylonian / Persian empire. But this didn't happen as was potentially possible. The exiles didn't repent, and so their repentance and experience of the grace of forgiveness was not the powerful pattern of conversion to their neighbours which it could have been.

And a hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations where I have driven them- The hissing and mocking was because Jerusalem had been praised in David's psalms (e.g. Ps. 48:2; 50:2) as the joy of the whole earth and perfect in beauty (Lam. 2:15). Those Psalms of David were well known; for David after the Bathsheba incident had vowed to preach the good news of Yahweh's grace to the entire world. He had done so through his Psalms. His music ministry had been successful; the nations knew the songs about Zion being the joy of the whole earth and the perfection of beauty. And so they mocked it as it lay in ruins.

Jeremiah 29:19 because they have not listened to My words, says Yahweh, with which I sent to them My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but you would not hear, says Yahweh-
Those left in Jerusalem were indeed "vile figs" and had refused the prophetic word of Jeremiah and other true prophets. But they could have been forgiven for that for the sake of the repentance of the exiles in Babylon. Likewise the paralyzed man of Mk. 2:5 had his sins forgiven for the sake of the friends. Just as happened when Job prayed for his friends.

Jeremiah 29:20 Hear therefore the word of Yahweh, all you of the captivity, whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon-
As noted on :1, this prophecy is addressing the same two groups as in Jer. 24; the captives were intended to repent and become the good figs, whereas Zedekiah and his courtiers who remained in Jerusalem would become the bad figs (Jer. 29:17). But that prophecy was only potentially true. Because now in Jer. 29:21-32 Jeremiah warns the exiles, those who were supposed to become good figs, that they were tolerating false prophets and following them.

Jeremiah 29:21 Thus says Yahweh of Armies the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and concerning Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who prophesy a lie to you in My name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he shall kill them before your eyes-
The "lie" was that of the serpent, "you will not really die", you have not sinned and will not sin, it is Yahweh who is being unreasonable with you... These false prophets were presumably targeted by Nebuchadnezzar because they predicted his overthrow and the restoration of the Jewish kingdom. But that was precisely the message of Jeremiah; but he was treated well by the Babylonians, because he saw these things as dependent upon Jewish servitude to Nebuchadnezzar, who he presented as a servant of Yahweh. 

Jeremiah 29:22 and of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captives of Judah who are in Babylon saying, Yahweh make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire-
Again we see the fickleness of God's people when they act en masse. They eagerly believed these men (:15), and then cursed them when they were burnt to death in the fiery furnace. Daniel's faithful friends had been saved out of that same furnace; perhaps they had blasphemously claimed to be equal to them, and certain of preservation likewise.

Jeremiah 29:23 because they have worked folly in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives, and have spoken words in My name falsely, which I didn’t command them; and I am He who knows, and am witness, says Yahweh-
The uninspired apocryphal book of Susanna claims that two false prophets who were her neighbours tried to rape her in a park in Babylon, but she resisted them. She complained of their behaviour, but they falsely accused her and she was condemned to death- to be saved by the intervention of Daniel the prophet, who had the two rapists condemned to death. Whether this is true or not can never be known, but it would slot in at this point with the inspired account. And again we see that false teaching is nearly always associated with immorality, often in the sexual sense- rather than being a genuine intellectual misunderstanding.

Jeremiah 29:24 Concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite you shall speak saying-
"Nehelamite" is literally a dreamer, a false prophet.

Jeremiah 29:25 Thus speaks Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, saying, Because you have sent letters in your own name to all the people who are at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests saying-
He wrote probably in the name of God; but God knew that he wrote only in his own name. Just as the prophets had their own dreams, but played God by claiming they were speaking in God's Name. This confusion between our name and God's Name is just as tempting today; e.g. the pastor who claims he has had a word from the Lord which requires his congregation to buy him an expensive luxury item.

Jeremiah 29:26 Yahweh has made you priest in the place of Jehoiada the priest, that there may be officers in the house of Yahweh, for every man who is mad, and makes himself a prophet, that you should put him in the stocks and in shackles-
If Zephaniah son of Maaseiah (:25) was the brother of the false prophet in Babylon, Zedekiah son of Maaseiah (:21), then the political intrigue and nepotism is clear. This was of men and not God. The supposed command from Yahweh to put false prophets who were mad into the stocks runs quite contrary to the spirit of the law of Moses. Death was the punishment for false prophets, not public mockery. And mental instability was never a cause for punishment under Yahweh's law; that is the stuff of pure paganism. We note that both the Lord and Paul were likewise accused of madness, just as we too are viewed as "crazy" and "fools" by secular society.

Jeremiah 29:27 Now therefore, why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth, who makes himself a prophet to you-
Jeremiah accused the false prophets likewise of making themselves prophets. Clearly one side was right and the other wrong. The whole thing was set up like this so that the spiritually minded would intuitively perceive where the truth was.

Jeremiah 29:28 because he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, The captivity is long: build houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat their fruit?-
By implication, the message therefore of the false prophets was that the captivity would be short, and perhaps instead of submitting to Babylon as a sign of their repentance and settling in there, the false prophets were teaching rebellion against Babylon.

Jeremiah 29:29 Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet-
This was all in public, at the temple, in some kind of public trial.

Jeremiah 29:30 Then came the word of Yahweh to Jeremiah, saying-
This was presumably at the same time as the public trial (:29). Or maybe Jeremiah walked away with nothing more to say, leaving the people to perceive intuitively where truth lay. And then Yahweh spoke.

Jeremiah 29:31 Send to all them of the captivity saying, Thus says Yahweh concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Because Shemaiah has prophesied to you, and I didn’t send him, and he has caused you to trust in a lie-
Causing to trust in a lie was the essence of the sin in Eden; the events there are the prototype of all subsequent human failure. The accusation that they had willingly trusted in lies is found throughout Jeremiah (s.w. Jer. 7:4,8; 13:25; 28:15). The people willingly believed his lies, because it was a message they were predisposed to accept. This is why false teaching is listened to. It is a question of moral rather than intellectual failure.

Jeremiah 29:32 therefore thus says Yahweh, Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his seed; he shall not have a man to dwell among this people, neither shall he see the good that I will do to My people, says Yahweh, because he has spoken rebellion against Yahweh
- The implication is that that generation would "see the good that I will do to My people"; but Shemaiah would die prematurely and would not see it. This is further evidence that the idea of 70 years captivity was not the only possible prophetic scenario at the time; see on :10.