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Jeremiah's Letter To The Captives (Jeremiah 29)

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CHAPTER 29 Aug. 8 
Jeremiah's Letter to the People in Babylon
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, 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), 3by 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, 4Thus 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: 5Build houses and dwell in them; and plant gardens and eat their fruit. 6Take 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. 7Seek 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. 8For 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. 9For they prophesy falsely to you in My name: I have not sent them, says Yahweh.
 The People's Return Promised
10For 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. 11For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. 12You shall call on Me, and you shall go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13You shall seek Me and find Me, when you shall search for Me with all your heart. 14I 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. 15Because you have said, Yahweh has raised us up prophets in Babylon; 16thus 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; 17thus 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. 18I 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, and a hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations where I have driven them; 19because 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. 20Hear therefore the word of Yahweh, all you of the captivity, whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon.
Punishment for False Prophets
21Thus 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; 22and 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; 23because 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. 24Concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite you shall speak saying, 25Thus 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, 26Yahweh 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. 27Now therefore, why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth, who makes himself a prophet to you, 28because 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? 29Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet. 30Then came the word of Yahweh to Jeremiah, saying, 31Send 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; 32therefore 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.


29:5,6 By doing so, the exiles would be expressing their faith that God’s word about a 70 year captivity was going to be true. The Jewish false prophets in Babylon were telling them that the captivity would soon be over and they would be back in the land of Judah (:8). False teaching tries to tell us that we can have the restored Kingdom now, with no need to wait long, no need to accept our sinfulness nor truly repent.
29:7 Pray to Yahweh for it; for in its peace you shall have peace- Alluded to in 1 Tim. 2:1,2 about how we should pray for the nations in which we live, that we might be able to live in peace.
29:15 The sin of the Jewish captives in exile would bring about suffering on the Jews who then remained in the land (:16,17). Again we see that sin is about the damage we do to others.
29:23 And have committed adultery- Repeatedly, the false prophets of both Old and New Testaments are associated with immoral behaviour. Wrong beliefs about God often lead to wrong behaviour; false teaching is often wrong teaching about way of life, rather than being simply honestly mistaken in theological interpretation of the Bible.
I am He who knows, and am witness- It’s not painless to simply say that we believe God’s Name is Yahweh and that this means “I am”. He therefore sees and knows all things because He “is” in all ways, and our lives must be appropriate to Him being as He is. Note that God is presented as both witness and judge. Our lives are as it were played out before the Divine courtroom. 
29:26 The whole tremendous experience of having God’s mind in them, sharing His perspective, seeing the world through His eyes, made the prophets appear crazy to others. There’s a marked emphasis upon the fact that they were perceived as madmen (:24,26; Hos. 9:7; 2 Kings 9:11). For us to walk down a street for even ten minutes, feeling and perceiving and knowing the sin of every person in those rooms and houses and yards, feeling the weeping of God over each of them… would send us crazy. And yet God strengthened the prophets, and there’s no reason to think that He will not as it were strengthen us in our sensitivity too.