For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

21:1.  “The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, when Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying,”


For an explanation as to why Jeremiah’s message to Zedediah, the last king of Judah, is out of chronological order, see the last section of the introduction; and for the historical background of the kings of Judah at that time, see 2 Ki 23:28-24:20.  This message is generally believed to have been delivered in the days of the final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, i.e., in 588-587 BC.  Having apparently learned the folly of listening to the lies of the false prophets, king Zedekiah sent Pashur (not the Pashur of chapter 20), the son of Melchiah, meaning my king is Jehovah, and Zephaniah meaning treasured of Jehovah, the son of Maaseiah meaning work of Jehovah, to inquire of Jeremiah.  Zephaniah was put to death by Nebuchadnezzar after the capture of Jerusalem, see ch 52:24-27.


21:2.  “Inquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us, for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the Lord will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.”


The spelling Nebuchadrezzar approximates the Babylonian spelling.


Having seen the first part of Jeremiah’s warnings fulfilled in Jerusalem’s being besieged, the awakened and frightened Zedekiah realized that if the city was to be delivered it must be by God’s intervention.  The cavalier attitude that had greeted Jeremiah’s earlier warnings was gone.  Now the former mockers realized that their very lives were at stake; and they who had turned from Jehovah to worship idols, now acknowledged “all his wondrous works,” but their recognition of His power had come too late.  They probably hoped for a deliverance similar to that which had been granted in the days of Hezekiah when God destroyed the host of Sennacherib as recorded in 2 Ki 19.


Their concern was to save their lives, but salvation is available only to those who not only acknowledge God’s authority and power, but who also repent of their sins in God’s time, and foolish Judah had let that time pass unheeded.  Conspicuously absent is any hint of repentance on Judah’s part.  What most people fail to understand is that the repentance which saves must be exercised in God’s time, He Himself hardening the heart and making repentance impossible once that time is past, and for Judah it was past.  They were doomed.


21:3.  “Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah:”


21:4.  “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without (outside) the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.”


The Chaldeans were a people so closely associated with the Babylonians that the name Chaldea was frequently used as a synonym for Babylon.


Judah’s case was hopeless.  Not only would God refuse to help her: He would aid her enemies, and help them to capture the city, in spite of the assurances that had been given by the lying prophets that He would never abandon the city where He had placed His name.


21:5.  “And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.”


“... anger” is associated with rapid breathing in passionate rage; “fury” with fervent heat, and with poison; and “wrath” with rage or strife.  These nouns combine to present a picture of indescribable fury, that should make men tremble even at the thought of provoking God’s anger.


It is a dreadful thing when a nation or a man makes God his enemy, as had Judah.


21:6.  “And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great (frightful) pestilence.”


More to be feared than all the fury of the ruthless Babylonians was the wrath of the God they had despised, and from Whom they had turned to give to idols the worship due to Him alone, in spite of His having showered countless blessings upon the ungrateful nation. 


Nor were His weapons those against which they had any hope of defending themselves.  He would destroy them with sickness: the plague.  The fact that the animals within the city would also die of the plague reminds us that man’s rebellion against the Creator affects the whole earthly creation over which man in Adam has been appointed as federal head, as it is written in Ro 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”


The dreadful condition of the city during the siege, is but a foreshadowing of that which befell it in the later siege of AD 70, both of those sieges being the precursors of the yet more terrible judgments that will devastate the Tribulation age earth, see e.g., Rev 6.


21:7.  “And afterward saith the Lord, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.”


All of this was fulfilled during the siege of Jerusalem, in the closing days of which famine and plague raged in the city; and when it fell to the Babylonians, Zedekiah, attempting to escape, was overtaken, and saw his sons slain, before he himself was blinded, and carried off to Babylon to die, see 2 Ki 24-25, and 2 Chr 36.  His death, however, was not by the sword, but by natural causes, see ch 34:4-5.


The same conditions prevailed in the siege of AD 70, and as noted already, both sieges were but dress rehearsals for the still more terrible catastrophes that will be experienced world-wide in the Great Tribulation.


The counterpart of the lying prophets of OT times are today’s false teachers who preach a God too loving to consign anyone to eternal torment.  Hell, however, is filled with countless multitudes of those teachers and their dupes, who have preferred to ignore such passages as this because they have chosen to believe in a god who is a figment of their own deluded minds, rather than the God presented in Scripture, the God Who will by no means clear the guilty, apart from repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, Nu 14:18.


21:8.  “And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.”


No verse of Scripture more clearly refutes the false teaching of Calvanism that some are predestinated to salvation, and the remainder to eternal perdition.  Whether a man will be in heaven eternally, or in the lake of fire eternally is a choice he himself makes.  He who accepts God’s indictment that, “There is none righteous, no, not one,” Ro 3:10, “For all have sinned,” Ro 3:23, and who accepts the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, will enter heaven; and all who reject that indictment will just as surely suffer eternal torment in the lake of fire, Re 20:11-15. 


The error of Calvanism lies in failure to recognize the difference between Divine omniscience and foreknowledge.  God’s foreknowing who will believe and who will not believe is a very different thing from His predestinating some to believe and others not to believe.  Further refutation of Calvin’s error is furnished by two other Scriptures, “God is longsuffering ... not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Pe 3:9, and “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life,” Jn 5:40.  If these two verses don’t declare man’s freedom to choose his own eternal destination, heaven or hell, then language no longer has meaning.


God’s offering the people the choice of the way of life or death does not contradict the fact that the doom of that generation of Judah was irrevocable.  This offer translates into the truth that where there was individual repentance and faith, that individual would save his soul, but not necessarily his life.


21:9.  “He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey (prize).”


It would be difficult to find a clearer picture of the Gospel.  The doomed city is a typological picture of this doomed world.  All who remain in and of it will perish eternally; but those who leave it by trusting in Christ, thereby making themselves citizens of heaven, may lose everything that pertains to this world, but in addition to saving their lives, will make themselves heirs of heaven’s imperishable riches and blessing.


The willingness to submit to the besiegers speaks symbolically of  abandonment of every effort to save oneself by good works.


The promise that he who surrendered to the Babylonians would save his life, was fulfilled in the days of Jehoiachin, see 2 Ki 24; and 25:27-30.


21:10.  “For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.”


Continuing the allegory of doomed Jerusalem as a type of this world, God’s delivering the city into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar for destruction points to the fact that in the Great Tribulation the type will be fulfilled when Satan, cast out of heaven, comes down to earth “having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time,” Re 12:12.  Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem is a figure of the destruction that will be wrought here on earth by Satan, using the Beast and the false prophet, and earth’s rebellious masses, as his agents to bring the world to ruin.  As the destruction of Jerusalem was God’s punishment of Judah’s idolatry, so will His coming destruction of the world be for a similar reason: men have rejected the knowledge of God, turning to idolatry and the gratification of every lust, in brazen defiance of the Creator.


21:11.  “And touching the house of the king of Judah, say, Hear ye the word of the Lord;”


21:12.  “O house of David, thus saith the Lord; Execute judgment (justice) in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.”


The reference to the “house of David” indicates that while this  was addressed to the king and his advisers, it may well have had an application also to the believing remnant within the apostate mass of the nation, the need of the instruction revealing that they too had failed to live according to God’s standards.  Evil is contagious!


While “... in the morning” is understood by some to relate to the custom of trying cases in the morning before the oppressive heat of the afternoon, it may also indicate the urgency of obeying the command.  Little time remained for them to make things right with those they had wronged, for the fall of the city would preclude the possibility of making such amends. 


We are missing the point, however, if we fail to read the application to ourselves.  We are the counterparts of those believers, and like them we too are guilty of much wrongdoing; and like them we have little time left in which to make amends.

Death or the imminent “rapture” will end for ever our opportunity to “execute judgment in the morning,” leaving us to stand at the Bema with our eternal reward diminished in proportion as we failed to right the wrongs we have done to others.


The mention of God’s fury going out like unquenchable fire should surely remind us of what is written in 1 Cor 3:12-13, “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”


21:13.  “Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the Lord; which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations?”


The reference is to Jerusalem perched on the hill surveying the valley, like a rock in the middle of a plain, imagining itself doubly impregnable: first, too strong to be captured; and second, impervious because God had made it His city, and had caused His

Temple to be built there.  What an awakening awaited them!


Christendom’s confidence rests on a similar crumbling foundation.  An occasional brief visit to “church,” the parroted phrase, “In God we trust,” an ornamental cross worn around the neck, a smudge of ashes on the forehead once a year, etc., are relied on to guarantee God’s favor, and permit the dupes to indulge in every form of sin with impunity.  What an awakening awaits them!  God’s “I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain,” is as applicable to Christendom as to Judah.  The one will be destroyed just as surely as was the other, and the time for individual repentance in Christendom is also as brief as it was for Judah.  The Rapture and ensuing Tribulation judgments are imminent.  The Rapture could occur today!


21:14.  “But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the Lord; and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.”


“... a fire in the forest thereof” is understood by some to refer to the many houses in Jerusalem that were constructed of cedarwood from Lebanon; but since trees are used in Scripture as symbols of men, the reference to God’s kindling a fire in Judah may be the symbolic announcement of judgment upon them proportionate to the degree of their sin, that judgment beginning with their slaughter at the hand of the Babylonians, and continuing in the torment of hell until “the resurrection of damnation” and their final consignment to the lake of fire.


Believers will worship God eternally for the love and grace and mercy that impelled Him to mete out to the Lord Jesus Christ the punishment due to their sins, so that they live, not in anticipation of condemnation and corresponding eternal punishment, but in the joyous expectation of eternal blessing in heaven proportionate to the faithfulness of their service on earth. 


It is very different, however, with unbelievers.  Satan has blinded them to spiritual realities so that they have no realization of what awaits them when they pass from time into eternity.  Instead of eternal reward there will be eternal torment, first in hell, and then eternally in the lake of fire.

[Jeremiah 22]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough