The Word Made Fresh
1In the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of King Josiah of Judah, Jeremiah received the LORD’s word concerning all the people of Judah. This was the first year of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign in Babylon. 2The prophet Jeremiah then addressed all the people of Judah and Jerusalem: 3“From the thirteenth year of the rule of King Josiah (Amon’s son) of Judah down to this very day, twenty-three years have passed, and then the LORD’s word came to me. I have told you over and over, but you won’t listen. 4Tirelessly, the LORD has sent the prophets, the LORD’s servants, to you, but you haven’t paid any attention to them. 5They told you to turn away from your wickedness and live freely in the land the LORD your God gave your ancestors, passed down to you forever. 6They warned you not to follow or worship other gods, and not to anger the LORD by making little idols. If you obey, God won’t bring disaster upon you. 7But you wouldn’t listen and made the LORD angry with your disobedience. You brought disaster on yourselves,” says the LORD.
8So this is what the LORD of all the armies of heaven has to say to you: “Because you have ignored my words, 9I am going to gather the northern tribes together with my servant, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and bring them against this country and its people and the nations around. I will destroy them altogether, and I will make them examples of shock and horror and ruin from now on. 10I will silence the joy and laughter of the brides and grooms. I will break the millstones and put out the lamps. 11This whole countryside will become a wasteland and will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. 12When the seventy years are done, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation because of the wrongs they committed, declares the LORD. I will turn the land of the Babylonians into a desert for all time. 13I will attack that land with everything I have decreed, all the words written in this scroll which Jeremiah prophesied to all the nations. 14They will be enslaved by powerful kings of great nations, and that is how I will repay them in full for what they have done and for the things they have made with their hands.”
15The LORD God of Israel told me to take the cup of wine seething in God’s hands and make all the nations to whom you are being sent to drink it. 16Yes, they will drink it and stumble about half drunk because of the disaster I am sending against them. 17So, I took the cup from the LORD’s hand and made all the nations to whom the LORD sent me drink it, 18including Jerusalem and all the towns of Judah along with kings and officers. This would surely make them a deserted land, an object of horror and shock and cursing, as it is today. 19Egypt’s king, Pharaoh, along with his servants and officials and all his people 20who live there; all the kings of the land of Uz; all the kings of the land of the Philistines – Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and what is left of Ashdod; 21Edom, Moab, and the Ammonites; 22all the kings of Tyre and Sidon and the kings of the coastlands facing the sea; 23Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all those who shave their heads; 24all the kings of Arabia and their tribes; 25all the kings of Zimri, Elam, and Media; 26all the kings of the north, nearby and far away, each one, including all the empires of the earth – all of them. And after them the king of Sheshak/Babylon will drink from it.
27Then you will tell them, “The LORD of the armies of heaven, the God of Israel, orders you to drink this cup of wine prepared for you, and become drunk. It will make you vomit and collapse, and you will not arise again because of the sword I am thrusting into you.” 28If they refuse to drink from the cup you hand them, tell them, “This is what the LORD of the armies of heaven says to you: ‘You must drink it! 29Don’t you see that I am bringing disaster upon the city that bears my name? How do you think you will escape unpunished? You will not! I am calling forth the sword against everyone on earth,’” 7says the LORD of the armies of heaven.
30“Now, prophesy all these things. Tell them that the LORD roars and thunders from the holy place on high. The LORD roars fiercely against God’s own flock, like the shouting of those treading on grapes, against everyone on earth. 31The uproar is heard near and far because the LORD is bringing accusations against the nations entering into judgment against all people and sentencing the guilty to death.” Thus says the LORD! 32The LORD of the heavenly armies declares disaster from nation to nation, a terrible storm summoned from the far ends of the world.
33When that happens, those who were struck down by the LORD will fill the earth, and no one will mourn for them or prepare their bodies for burial. They will become like garbage lying on the ground.
34Weep, you shepherds. Cry out.
Roll in the dirt, you who tend the flocks.
The day of your slaughter has come.
You will fall and shatter like a fragile vase.
35The shepherds have nowhere to hide;
the keepers of the flock cannot escape.
36Hear the shepherds weep.
Hear the masters of the flock sob
because the LORD is destroying their pastures.
37A strange silence covers the peaceful pastures
because of the LORD’s terrible anger.
38The lion is prowling and the land is reduced to nothing
because of the terrible sword and the fierce anger of the LORD.
1-7: Once again the clock is turned back and we are looking at the years before the first exile, when Jehoiakim is the king in Jerusalem. It is the fourth year of his reign, which would be about 605-604 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar is in his first year as king of Babylon. When King Josiah died, his son Jehoahaz was named king, but Pharaoh Neco deposed him immediately and placed his brother Jehoiakim on the throne. Jehoiakim laid a heavy tax on the people in order to pay the tribute Neco demanded. In the midst of this unsettled time Jeremiah steps forward to explain that all that has happened has been due to the wrath of God in response to the people’s refusal to listen to the prophets.
8-14: Jeremiah’s prophesy is that the Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar (whom he calls God’s servant!), will come and lay waste to the land and they will serve the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar ruled 43 years until 562 B.C. He was succeeded by Evil-Merodach who ruled for two years and is the one credited with releasing Jehoiachin from prison (2 Kings 25:27-28). He was murdered and succeeded by Nergal-Sharezer, a high-ranking officer in Nebuchadnezzar’s administration (Jeremiah 39:13), who ruled until 556 B.C. Nergal-Sharezer was succeeded by Nabonidus, who ruled until 539 B.C. when Babylon was overthrown by Cyrus the Persian. Cyrus is the one who issued the decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem (see Ezra 1:1).
15-26: Jeremiah is to take the “cup of God’s wrath” to the nations. It is a symbolic journey, of course, with just about all the known nations mentioned from verses 18 to 26. Sheshach is another name for Babylon.
27-29: If they refuse to drink, he is to tell them they have no choice: if Jerusalem must drink God’s wrath, how can they think to escape?
30-38: He describes God swarming over the earth in anger, wielding a sword with which he smites the nations. God is going to judge the whole earth, he says, and none will be exempt. The shepherds (verse 36) are the kings and generals and provincial rulers. The pastures (verse 36) are the territories they rule; the peaceful folds (verse 37) are the cities.
God is in charge. No matter how the nations of the earth strive to be in charge, God will put up with only so much before stepping in to set things right.