Life-Study of Jeremiah and Lamentations, by Witness Lee

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As Jeremiah went forth to fulfill God’s commission, he spoke to the king, the princes, the priests, and to the people. Jeremiah told the king that he was sinful and that if he did not repent and return to God, he would be taken captive. He rebuked the princes and the rulers for deceiving the people and for wrongly taking things from them. He exposed the prophets for prophesying falsely and the priests for ruling by their own authority and not by the divine revelation. He told the people that they were not executing justice or seeking faithfulness. Rather, they were treating the needy ones unjustly. Instead of heeding Jeremiah’s word, they hated him and even put him in prison. The priests arrested Jeremiah and handed him over to the princes, who then cast him into prison. This indicates that Israel had no regard for God’s law, for His revelation.

At that time Israel was in the sunset of the divine revelation. When Israel was at Mount Sinai, that was the dawn of the divine revelation. That was the time of sunrise. But afterward, concerning the divine revelation, Israel was in a situation of decline. Eventually, by the time of Jeremiah, Israel was in the sunset. They had given up everything concerning God and His revelation, and eventually they came to be in a dark night.

Jehovah the Husband
Chastising Israel the Unfaithful Wife

Israel’s situation forced God to chastise them, to punish them. When God chastised Israel, He regarded Himself as the Husband and Israel as the wife who had fallen into fornication. For this reason, in chapters two through six God’s tone in rebuking Israel is that of a husband speaking to an unfaithful wife.

The Case of Zedekiah

The case of Zedekiah, the last king, is an illustration of God’s chastisement of His people. One day Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah, who was in prison. The king questioned him secretly in his house, asking, "Is there any word from Jehovah?" (37:17a). Zedekiah was inquiring concerning Israel and himself as king. Jeremiah told Zedekiah that there was a word from Jehovah, and the word was that Zedekiah would be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon (v. 17b).

On another occasion Zedekiah had Jeremiah brought to him that he might speak privately with him (38:14). He told Jeremiah that he wanted to ask him something and that Jeremiah should not hide anything from him. Jeremiah replied, "If I tell you, indeed will you not put me to death? And if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me" (v. 15). Assured by the king that he would not be put to death, Jeremiah went on to say, "Thus says Jehovah, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, If you will indeed surrender to the princes of the king of Babylon, you will live, and this city will not be burned with fire, and you and your house will live. But if you do not surrender to the princes of the king of Babylon, this city will be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they will burn it with fire, and you will not escape out of their hand" (vv. 17-18). The king knew that he should obey this word. However, he was afraid of what might be done to him by the Jews who had deserted to the Chaldeans. Although Jeremiah told him that they would not do anything to harm him, Zedekiah did not take Jeremiah’s word, but instead dismissed him with the charge that he not tell anyone about what he had said to the king.

Instead of listening to Jeremiah, Zedekiah continued to resist the Babylonian army, which was besieging Jerusalem. After the city was captured, Zedekiah fled (39:4). The army of the Babylonians pursued him and overtook him. Zedekiah was brought before Nebuchadnezzar, who pronounced judgments on him. Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. After this, he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him in bronze fetters to bring him to Babylon (vv. 5-7).

Jerusalem Being Destroyed
and Jeremiah Being Preserved

Eventually the Babylonian army burned the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Jeremiah witnessed these things. Regarding Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar commanded that they look after him and do no evil to him (vv. 11-12). Jeremiah was bound in chains among the exiles of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon (40:1). However, he was released from his chains. The captain of the guard said to him, "Now, behold, I release you today from the chains which are on your hands. If it is good in your sight to come to Babylon with me, come, and I will look after you; but if it is evil in your sight to come with me to Babylon, let it be so. See, all the land is before you; wherever it is good and right in your sight to go, there go" (v. 4). Thus, Jeremiah the prophet was set free.

Jeremiah 6:9 says, "Thus says Jehovah of hosts, / They will thoroughly glean like a vine / The remnant of Israel; / Pass your hand again over the branches / Like a grape gatherer." This word has been fulfilled. Some years after Zedekiah was captured and Jeremiah was released, the Babylonians came again to "glean" the land of Israel, taking more people into captivity. This was the situation of Israel in the sunset of the divine revelation.

(Life-Study of Jeremiah and Lamentations, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)