Jeremiah 27 The Bonds And Yokes Of Exile.
These events occurred in the fourth year of Zedekiah’s reign (v. 1a 593 B.C. Cf. vv. 3, 12). The majority of the texts are consistent with the reference to Jehoiakim here being a copyist’s error in the MT (Masoretic text). It would appear that the copyist was influenced by 26:1, when the real comparison is with 28:1, which is what places it in the fourth year of Zedekiah’s reign. He was another son of Josiah (1 Chr. 3:15). Again, this is a word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, telling him and others, to make for themselves “bonds and yokes” to put them on Jeremiah’s neck, and send them to the kings of Edom, Moab, Tyre, and Sidon by the hand of the messengers who came to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah (vv. 1b-4 Cf. 25:21-22). These messengers probably “had come to discuss rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, in league with Egypt.” (NGSB. 1196)
Accompanying the bonds and yokes was the message for their masters that they were to take from the LORD through Jeremiah – a command actually, the LORD of hosts saying, “I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me” (v. 5). For the LORD at this time, it seemed proper to him to give it all to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, his “servant; and the beasts of the field I have also given to serve him. So all the nations shall serve him and his son’s son, until the time of his land comes; and then many nations and great kings shall make him serve them.” (vv. 6-7). The LORD God controls history, and everything he has made in the whole of heaven and earth. Whether national leaders choose to recognize it or not, they all exist to serve him.
Nebuchadnezzar was chosen to carry forward the cultural creation mandate first given to Adam, with the added consequence of the fall (Gen. 1:26; 2:8; 3). As he served the LORD, the animals and other nations would serve him. Sin is what brings the bonds and yokes of foreign rule. All who rejected or rebelled against the LORD’s servant, he would punish “with the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand” (v. 8). There were but two options, serve the one raised up by the LORD, or be destroyed. We then come to the crux of the matter, when we meet the ‘therefore’ of verse nine, and ask ourselves what is the ‘therefore’ there for? Therefore, since the LORD is sovereign over all, it is futile for a person or a people to revert to their pagan sources of revelation to divine the present and the future. Present actions are the prologue of the future.
Their rebellion is what determined their future. This is not a mystery. But they did not like the message they heard through Jeremiah, so they turned to their false prophets, who are grouped together with the pagan diviners, dreamers, soothsayers, and sorcerers who, to keep their own employment, delivered a message of peace, when there would be no peace. In collectively saying that the nation would not serve the king of Babylon, they were preaching a lie. In fact, these persons were working for their adversary, for they prophesied this lie to remove them from the land, all according to the sovereign activity of the LORD of hosts (vv. 9-10). Those speaking the lie to them would, by the sovereign will and purpose of the LORD, “remain in their own land, and they shall till it and dwell in it” (v. 11). In other words, these nations would fulfill the cultural mandate, however imperfectly.
Zedekiah was commanded to lead the nation by submitting to “the yoke of the king of Babylon and his people if they wanted to live (v. 12). As already noted, any who rebelled would die “by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence” (v. 13 Cf. v. 8). Jeremiah then returns to focus on that one biblical office which did speak, at times, concerning the future, namely the prophets, in this case the false prophets (v. 14a Cf. 23:9ff.; 26). Not only were they preaching a lie (v. 14b), but they had not been sent from the LORD’s council presence (v. 15 Cf. 23:21-22). Nevertheless, it was that very preaching of the lie from these false prophets that the LORD of hosts used to help drive the people out of the land, and to their own shared destruction (v. 15). The prophets were to be the vehicle for the giving of the word of the LORD. The false prophets claimed this but instead preached a lie.
The priests, on the other hand, refers to those who were the minsters of word and sacrament, called to teach and expound the word that was given. To them, and the people, the LORD, through the true prophet Jeremiah, were commanded to not listen to the false prophets. They are not the LORD’s prophets, but are referred to as “your prophets,” those they had accepted without divine approbation (v. 16a). The vessels leaving the temple were symbolic of the departure of the LORD from them, along with their own exile. The false prophets preached that these vessels would return from Babylon, when in fact it is they who would follow the vessels (v. 16b). They were commanded not to listen to the false prophets, but instead to serve the king of Babylon, if they wanted to live (v. 17). Sometimes the church is called to live as a remnant under a yoke.
The exile happened in stages, so it would appear that the false prophets were given the opportunity to predict that the vessels that remained would not be taken, as a test as to whether they were true prophets (v. 18). This test goes back to the law, and was also a prerequisite for inclusion in the canon of scripture. “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ – when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Dt. 18:21-22). Of course, if a sign or wonder did come to pass, but they were being led into idolatry, then that would also prove a prophet’s falsehood, and a barring of entry into the canon (Dt. 13:2).
In the next chapter we come to a case in point, in the dispute between Jeremiah and Hananiah (v. 9). However, the remaining vessels being referred to here, would either not be taken and those already taken returned, or else the reality of both would prove to be a double witness against the prophets that they were false. It may be the case that the LORD only needs to speak or act once, but the biblical pattern is that, since his word ultimately concerns matters of life and death, that he chose to follow the pattern he himself established, of two or three witnesses (v. 19 Cf. Dt. 17:6; 19:15). The vessels and the people would remain in exile until the LORD would later “visit” them. Then he would “bring them up and restore them to this place” (vv. 20-22). In other words, they were given a test in their immediate present, that would be indicative of their future.