IDOLATRY AND SPIRITUAL ADULTERY PERVERT GOD’S APPOINTED LEADERS FROM THE MANDATED PATH OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
We all would like to end well. We would like the summary of our life and ministry to read like a praiseworthy eulogy. Instead, in this series of oracles directed against very specific kings of Judah we find that God has nothing good to say about their administrations. Their leadership style has been self-indulgent and exploitative and they have failed to meet the essential standard of performing justice and righteousness.
IDOLATRY AND SPIRITUAL ADULTERY PERVERT GOD’S APPOINTED LEADERS FROM THE MANDATED PATH OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
I. (:1-5) GOD MANDATES SOCIAL JUSTICE AS A PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS RULERS –
GENERAL PRESCRIPTION = DO JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
A. (:1-2) Message for God’s Delegated Rulers
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and there speak this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, who sits on David’s throne, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates.’”
B. (:3) Mandate for Social Justice
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.’”
Components of Social Justice:
1. Overall Summary – “Do justice and righteousness”
Parunak: “Do judgment” refers explicitly to the responsibility of the judge to make fair decisions in cases presented before the court.
2. Free the Oppressed / Set Wrongs Right – “deliver the one who has been robbed from the power oppressor”
3. Protect the Vulnerable – “do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow”
Thompson: The protection of these three classes is part of the covenant stipulation (Exod. 22:21-26; 23:9; Lev. 19:33-34; Deut. 10:18-19; 24:17). The king was as much obligated to fulfil the demands of the Sinai Covenant as were the people. The Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7) was no different in this respect form the Mosaic covenant.
4. Do No Harm – “do not shed innocent blood”
Feinberg: The Lord demands that the Davidic throne make justice its primary responsibility. The king was to be addressed publicly in the midst of his court. There is no question that the sins mentioned were present in the reigns of most Judean kings, but in Jehoiakim’s time they were especially rife (cf. 2 Kings 23:35).
Longman: It was the king’s duty to protect those who could not protect themselves and also create a society that was harmonious for law-abiding citizens. That God through Jeremiah felt it necessary to issue such a proclamation about a requirement found in the law (Exod. 22:22; Deut. 10:18; 27:19), implies that the kings of Judah were not taking care of their responsibilities in this regard.
C . (:4-5) Measuring Stick of Obedience vs. Disobedience
1. (:4) Blessing for Obedience
“For if you men will indeed perform this thing, then kings will enter the gates of this house, sitting in David’s place on his throne, riding in chariots and on horses, even the king himself and his servants and his people.”
Parunak: Picture of Messianic Restoration:
2. (:5) Cursing for Disobedience
“’But if you will not obey these words, I swear by Myself,’ declares the LORD, ‘that this house will become a desolation.’”
II. (:6-9) SPIRITUAL ADULTERY DECRIED –
GENERAL PROHIBITION = DON’T FORSAKE THE COVENANT
A. (:6-7) The Fate of the Royal Palace in Jerusalem
1. (:6) Transformation from Precious to Desolate
“For thus says the LORD concerning the house of the king of Judah: ‘You are like Gilead to Me, Like the summit of Lebanon; Yet most assuredly I shall make you like a wilderness, Like cities which are not inhabited.’:
2. (:7) Trees Destined for the Fire
“For I shall set apart destroyers against you, each with his weapons; And they will cut down your choicest cedars And throw them on the fire.”
B. (:8-9) The Forsaking by God Justified
1. (:8) Astonishment on the Part of the Watching Nations
“And many nations will pass by this city; and they will say to one another, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this great city?’”
Longman: Foreigners who pass by the future ruins will ask each other the reason for such a horrific destruction.
2. (:9) Adultery in the Form of Idolatry Offered Up as Justification
“Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the covenant of the LORD their God and bowed down to other gods and served them.'”
III. (:10-12) PERMANENT SEPARATION FROM THE PROMISED LAND IS A CAUSE FOR GREAT MOURNING –
THE FATE OF SHALLUM (JEHOAHAZ)
A (:10) Sad Legacy
“Do not weep for the dead or mourn for him, But weep continually for the one who goes away; For he will never return Or see his native land.”
Feinberg: Jeremiah tells the nation at large that they need not mourn the death of the godly king Josiah (v. 10), who had been slain at the Battle of Megiddo in 609 B.C. (cf. 2 Kings 23:29-35; 2 Chron 35:25; Zech 12:11). It had become customary among God’s people to sing dirges for departed rulers. But now they were to reserve their weeping for Josiah’s son Shallum-Jehoahaz (v. 11), who was to be forever exiled from the land.
B. (:11-12) Permanent Rejection
“For thus says the LORD in regard to Shallum the son of Josiah, king of Judah, who became king in the place of Josiah his father, who went forth from this place, ‘He will never return there; but in the place where they led him captive, there he will die and not see this land again.’”
MacArthur: Name Shallum was given to him in irony, because the people called him Shalom (“peace”), but Shallum means “retribution.”
IV. (:13-19) GOD VALUES SOCIAL JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS OVER PERSONAL PALATIAL SPLENDOR – THE FATE OF JEHOIAKIM
Thompson: This passage is almost completely poetic. It probably comprises two short oracles, the first condemning Jehoiakim for his injustice, avarice, and tyranny (vv. 13-17), and the second (vv. 18b, 19) introduced by a brief prose section (v. 18a), announcing a terrible judgment on him. Jehoiakim was condemned by Jeremiah more severely than any other king.
Mackay: The section has a chiastic structure. The oracle of vv. 13-15a exposes and criticizes the actions of the unnamed king, and is followed by a positive statement of his father’s conduct (vv. 15b-16). This is completed by further criticism of the king in v. 17 before a sentence of condemnation in vv. 18-19 is explicitly uttered against Jehoiakim.
A. (:13-15a) God Condemns Self Indulgent Leaders Who Try to Look Impressive at the Expense of Justice and Compassion
1. Three Common Leadership Failures
a. Self Advancement at the Expense of Righteousness and Justice
“Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness and his upper rooms without justice,”
b. Burdensome Exploitation and Oppression
“Who uses his neighbor’s services without pay and does not give him his wages, “
c. Substituting Personal Agendas for God’s Kingdom Purposes
“Who says, ‘I will build myself a roomy house With spacious upper rooms, And cut out its windows, Paneling it with cedar and painting it bright red.’”
2. Fundamental Error in Perspective – Confusing Impressive External Glitz for the Heart Righteousness that God Values and Wants to See Implemented
“Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar?”
[“But a beautiful palace does not make a great king.” — Living Bible ]
B. (:15b-16) God Commends Leaders Who Live in Moderation While Ruling with Justice and Compassion
1. Practicing Justice and Righteousness Compels God to Provide for Your Needs
“Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him.”
2. Putting the Priority on Justice and Compassion Ensures the Corporate Well-Being
“He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; Then it was well.”
3. Practicing Justice and Righteousness is Consistent with Knowing God
“Is not that what it means to know Me? Declares the LORD.”
C. (:17) God Calls Out Leaders Who Pervert Justice and Righteousness to Feather Their Own Nests – In 3 Specific Areas
1. Bankrupting the People – Seeking Dishonest Personal Gain at the Expense of Others
“But your eyes and your heart are intent only upon your own dishonest gain,”
2. Bleeding the People – Intimidating and Harming People by a Domineering Rule
“And on shedding innocent blood”
3. Burdening the People – Using Political Power to Take Advantage of the Weak
“And on practicing oppression and extortion.”
D. (:18-19) God Consigns Self Indulgent Leaders to an Ignominous Burial – No Valued Legacy
Def. of ignominious — marked with or characterized by disgrace or shame : dishonorable. deserving of shame or infamy : despicable. humiliating, degrading
1. (:18) Good Riddance
“Therefore thus says the LORD in regard to Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, ‘They will not lament for him: Alas, my brother! or, Alas, sister! They will not lament for him: Alas for the master! or, Alas for his splendor!’”
2. (:19) Disrespect and Shame
“He will be buried with a donkey’s burial,
Dragged off and thrown out beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”
Longman: Jehoiakim’s death will not be met with mourning. . . Jeremiah envisions that his death will be greeted with indifference at best and joy at worst. Also he will have a contemptible funeral like that of a donkey.
V. (:20-23) CALL TO MOURNING FOR STUBBORN REBELLION LEADING TO SHAME, HUMILIATION, CAPTIVITY AND SUFFERING – FATE OF JERUSALEM
Mackay: Verses 20-23 follow up the implications for the land of having kings of the caliber of Jehoiakim. Divine speech is addressed in the feminine singular to Daughter Zion, the people of Jerusalem and Judah. Their conduct is shown not to have changed since the days of Jeremiah’s early ministry, with the obstinate defiance of v. 21 reminding one of their earlier responses in 2:20, 213, 25, 31, 35.
A. (:20) Widespread Mourning Throughout the Land
“Go up to Lebanon and cry out, and lift up your voice in Bashan;
Cry out also from Abarim, for all your lovers have been crushed.”
Feinberg: This is a call to mourning. Jeremiah is calling on his contemporaries (included in Jerusalem, for the verbs are in the feminine gender) to mourn the disastrous results brought on the land by the foolish international policy of Jehoikim. The occasion was probably the eve of Nebuchadnezzar’s expedition against Judah. The regions mentioned – Lebanon, Bashan, and Abarim – represent the land in its entirety, from north to northeast to southeast. The invaders would overrun the whole land.
Thompson: The lovers are her political allies, who have been broken (cf. Hos. 8:9).
Feinberg: Scholars differ widely about the identity of the “allies” in vv. 20, 22. Some claim they are Jerusalem’s faithful patriots, such as Ezekiel the prophet (so Bewer). Others hold that the leaders of the nation are probably intended (so Cunliffe-Jones). Still others see them as Egypt and other nations Jehoiakim relied on for aid against the Babylonians. All three views are held by reputable scholars. The last one, however, is preferable because of the immediate context (v. 22, where there is a contrast with the nation’s leaders – “your shepherds”) and the broad context (cf. 4:30); so NIV translates the word as “allies,” not “lovers.”
B. (:21) Persistent Stubborn Rebellion Throughout Your Days
“I spoke to you in your prosperity; But you said, ‘I will not listen!’
This has been your practice from your youth, that you have not obeyed My voice.”
Thompson: It was only a matter of time before the divine judgment would fall.
C. (:22) Shame and Humiliation and Captivity
“The wind will sweep away all your shepherds, and your lovers will go into captivity; Then you will surely be ashamed and humiliated Because of all your wickedness.”
Mackay: “Wind” refers to God’s judgment in the form of invading armies (4:11-12; 13:24; 18:17). “Shepherds” relates principally to the rulers of the nation (2:8; 10:21; 23:1-4), who are no longer going to be around to provide pasture for the people where they can feel secure.
D. (:23) Extreme Pain and Suffering
“You who dwell in Lebanon, nested in the cedars, How you will groan when pangs come upon you, Pain like a woman in childbirth!”
Wiersbe: The king and his nobles, living carelessly in the cedar palace (“Lebanon”), would soon suffer terrible pain like a woman in travail. The Lord had warned them, but they felt so secure that they wouldn’t listen.
VI. (:24-30) PERMANENT SEPARATION FROM THE PROMISED LAND AND REMOVAL FROM THE DAVIDIC DYNASTY CONSTITUTE THE ULTIMATE ROYAL CONDEMNATION — FATE OF CONIAH (JEHOIACHIN)
A. (:24-27) Separated
1. (:24-25) Controlled by Your Dreaded Enemies
“’As I live,’ declares the LORD, ‘even though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were a signet ring on My right hand, yet I would pull you off; and I shall give you over into the hand of those who are seeking your life, yes, into the hand of those whom you dread, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.’”
Constable: The Lord affirmed that even if Coniah (Jehoiachin) was the signet ring on His hand, He would still remove him. The signet ring of a king was something a king did not part with, because it was the instrument with which he conducted business and manifested his authority.
2. (:26-27) Captive in a Foreign Land Where You Will Die
“I shall hurl you and your mother who bore you into another country where you were not born, and there you will die. But as for the land to which they desire to return, they will not return to it.”
Thompson: An important part of any man’s basic security was to live in his own land. A land and a people belonged together. Any separation of the two was a disaster. A land needs a people and a people needs a land. Little wonder that Jeremiah referred to the desperate yearning to return.
B. (:28-30) Shattered
1. (:28) Broken and Unwanted Vessel
“Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar? Or is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out and cast into a land that they had not known?”
Thompson: Coniah and his family have been cast out as something unwanted and sent to a land unknown. The parallel with the rejected flask of ch. 19 is clear enough.
2. (:29-30) Broken Off From the Davidic Dynasty
“O land, land, land, Hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the LORD, ‘Write this man down childless, A man who will not prosper in his days; For no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.’”
Mackay: The emphatic threefold repetition of the word shows the prophet expressing his anguish, bewilderment and exasperation at the spiritual hardness of the people. Will they never listen and learn?
Constable: The Lord promised that none of Coniah’s sons would sit on Judah’s throne. It was a shame and a disgrace for a king to have no son to succeed him. Coniah had seven sons (1 Chronicles 3:17-18; Matthew 1:12), but none of them ruled as Davidic kings. Zerubbabel, his grandson (1 Chronicles 3:19), returned to the land as one of the foremost leaders of the restoration community (cf. Ezra 1-6), but he was not a king.
MacArthur: The curse continued in his descendants down to Joseph, the husband of Mary. How could Jesus then be the Messiah when His father was under this curse? It was because Joseph was not involved in the blood line of Jesus since He was virgin born (Mt 1:12). Jesus’ blood right to the throne of David came through Mary from Nathan, Solomon’s brother, not Solomon (Jeconiah’s line) thus bypassing this curse.
Feinberg: Jehoiachin was thus the last of the Judean kings. In him the royal line became extinct. So chapter 23 goes on to speak of the new King to be raised up by the Lord (cf. 23:5-6).