Jeremiah Chapter 23  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Jeremiah 23
Jer 23:1

“the shepherds.” Here in Jeremiah 23:1-4, as in other places in the Bible, the word “shepherds” is used for the rulers and leaders (see commentary on Jer. 2:8).

Jer 23:2(top)
Jer 23:3

“I will gather.” There are many verses that prophesy Israel’s return to the land of Israel, most of which will happen at the first resurrection, the Resurrection of the Righteous (cp. Ezek. 37:12-28). Although Israel did return from Babylon, these prophecies will be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom, as is clear from the context (Jer. 23:3-8). [For more information on Israel’s return to the Promised Land, see commentary on Jeremiah 32:37].

Jer 23:4

“I will set up shepherds over them.” When Jesus Christ reigns as king on earth, he will be assisted in his reign by people who were faithful to God in their first life. These “shepherds” will genuinely care for God’s people and will keep law and order over the earth. Among those who will be judges in the Millennial Kingdom will be the twelve apostles (Matt. 19:28). Isaiah and Micah prophesy of the law going forth from Mount Zion (Isa. 2:3; Micah 4:2), and that is in part because the Lord and some of his appointed judges will be there. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament indicate that people who have been faithful in their first life on earth will help rule the future earth (Isa. 1:26; 32:1; Jer. 3:15; 23:4; Ezek. 44:24; Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30; 1 Cor. 6:2; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26). God will reward each person for what they have done in this life, and part of that reward for godly people is helping Christ rule the future earth (see commentary on 2 Cor. 5:10, “good or evil”).

Jer 23:5

“for David.” The Messiah will be raised up “for David,” that is in fulfillment of the prophecy that the Messiah would come from the seed of David (2 Sam. 7:12; 1 Chron. 17:11-12), and as a blessing to David and “his house.” “David” is put by metonymy for “the house of David,” and then by extension includes all the people of God, who will be blessed by the Messiah.

“a righteous Branch.” This is one of the titles of the Messiah, Jesus Christ (see commentary on Zech. 3:8).

“justice and righteousness.” In this context, “righteousness” is doing what is right toward God and people, and in effect is “justice.” In Jeremiah 23:5, “justice” means more like “judgment,” that is fair and equitable judgment, thus justice. The emphasis is the effect: justice. In contrast, “righteousness” has more emphasis on the action; doing what is right to God and to fellow humans. There is no justice on earth now, but there will be in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom on earth. [For more on “righteousness” having the meaning of doing what is right or just (“justice”), see commentary on Matt. 5:6. For more on Christ’s future Millennial Kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].

Jer 23:6

“this is his name by which he will be called.” When someone is “called” a certain name it does not mean the person is what the name means. In this Messianic prophecy, Jesus is prophetically referred to as being called “Yahweh our Righteousness.” This does not mean that Jesus is being literally identified as Yahweh (“LORD”) simply because Jesus is being called that name. For example, about ten chapters later in Jeremiah, Jerusalem is also called, “Yahweh our Righteousness,” and Jerusalem is obviously not Yahweh (Jer. 33:16). So, calling something a certain name does not mean it is what the name says it is, or even that two things that have the same name have identical attributes in all respects.

Being “called” a certain name is often done simply because the object shares some similarity, likeness, connection, or representation of the name it is called. For example, when Abraham called the mountain on which he was about to sacrifice Isaac “Yahweh will provide,” he was not literally calling the mountain Yahweh. Similarly, calling an altar “Yahweh my banner” does not mean that the altar is Yahweh either, even if Moses called it that: “Moses built an altar and called it ‘Yahweh is my Banner’” (Exod. 17:15). Furthermore, Gideon also built an altar, but gave it a different Yahweh name. He called it “Yahweh is Peace.” Judges 6:24 says, “So Gideon built an altar to Yahweh there and called it ‘Yahweh is Peace.’” These verses show that just because something is called Yahweh (“LORD”), that does not make it literally Yahweh.

An important clarification in the verse is that the Messiah will be called (not will be) “Yahweh our Righteousness” because God Almighty will work His righteousness through His anointed one, Jesus the Christ. The city of Jerusalem will also be called “Yahweh our Righteousness” because God will work His righteousness there and that righteousness will extend over the entire world. [For more on the subject of “names” and being “called,” see commentary on Matt. 1:23].

[For more information on Jesus being the fully human Son of God and not being “God the Son,” see Appendix 10, “Jesus is the Son of God, Not God the Son.” For more on “the Holy Spirit” being one of the designations for God the Father and “the holy spirit” being the gift of God’s nature, see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit?”].

Jer 23:7(top)
Jer 23:8(top)
Jer 23:9

“the prophets.” In this context, “the prophets” are the false prophets. Sadly, there were so many false prophets that Jeremiah could just call them “the prophets.” In those days of trouble when Judah had been under threat and assault by Babylon, and would end up being destroyed by her, the number of false prophets grew like weeds. For example, the word “prophet” occurs over 90 times in Jeremiah, whereas in Isaiah, which is a longer book, it occurs less than ten times.

In times of danger it is natural for people to want to know what is going to happen and so arrogant people step forward and claim to speak for God even though God has not spoken to them. The Devil assists in that deception because many of those “prophets” acquire a demon that feeds them information, some of which is false and misleading, although some of it is true, which is how they get credibility in the first place (cp. the slave girl who had a “python spirit” and prophesied about the future; Acts 16:16-18). According to Jeremiah 23, the false prophets were not sent by God and were ungodly, wicked, liars, and adulterers. They prophesied by Baal and led Judah astray, and they filled people with false hope as they spoke from their own minds, not from Yahweh. Zephaniah 3:4 adds that these false prophets were arrogant and treacherous. They were deceivers, and a person who believed their words and followed their advice eventually was ruined.

It is sad that so many times in history the sound of the large number of ungodly and misleading voices is a huge roar while the godly voices seem to be a quiet whisper in comparison, but that is the nature of our fallen world, which is mostly controlled by the Devil and his people (1 John 5:19). Truth is available, and although it can sometimes seem hard to find it can be found. But that is why the Bible has kept repeating the message that godly people must seek and keep seeking God and truth, and that if they do seek Him from the heart, they will find Him (Deut. 4:29; Prov. 2:3-6; 8:17; Jer. 29:13; Matt. 7:7). God-seekers and truth-seekers must be courageous, however, because once you find truth you will find that living it openly in the world can be very challenging (2 Tim. 3:12).

Jer 23:10

“land mourns” This is the figure of speech personification, speaking of the land as if it was a person. The figure magnifies the emotion of the situation.

“the curse.” This refers to the curse of Deuteronomy 27-28, which stated that if Israel obeyed God the people would be blessed, and if the people disobeyed God they and the land would be cursed.

“the pastures of the wilderness are dried up.” One of the great lessons of the Bible is that the behavior of people affects the land that they live on. This lesson is throughout the Old Testament (cp. Deut. 11:13-17; 28:1, 12, 15, 22-25, 38-40; Lev. 18:24-25; Ps. 107:33-34; Jer. 3:2-3; 12:4; 23:10; Amos 4:6-10). (See commentary on Lev. 18:25).

Jer 23:11

“in my house.” The house of God is the temple in Jerusalem. The false prophets and evil priests were so brazen and hard-hearted that they were not concerned about doing evil even in the temple of God.

Jer 23:12(top)
Jer 23:13(top)
Jer 23:14

“Strengthen the hands.” This is an idiom for strengthen the power and authority.

Jer 23:15(top)
Jer 23:16(top)
Jer 23:17(top)
Jer 23:18

“for who has stood in the council of Yahweh.” This council of Yahweh is His inner divine council of spirit beings who help Him administer His creation. The word “council” is translated from the Hebrew word sōd (#05475 סוֹד), and it refers to a “council, secret council, intimate council, circle of familiar friends, assembly.” In this context it refers to God’s intimate inner divine council in contrast to large general assemblies of spirit beings such as we see in Job 1:6 and 1 Kings 22:19.

In Jeremiah 23:16-22, the false prophets spoke from their own minds and had not “stood in the council [sōd] of Yahweh” (Jer. 23:18). If they had stood in the divine council of Yahweh, Jer. 23:22 says that they would have heard the truth and been able to tell it to the people of Israel. These verses show that Yahweh has a divine council with whom He confers, and those who stand in that council hear the truth. God’s prophets sometimes are given access to the information in those council meetings, which is why they can speak the truth. In Job 15:8, Eliphaz, who thought Job was hiding some secret sin and whose wisdom was false, asked Job if he had gotten to sit in on the divine council [sōd] of the Lord. [For more on God’s divine council, see commentary on Genesis 1:26. For more on God’s holding general assemblies for all His spirit beings, see commentary on Job 1:6].

Jer 23:19(top)
Jer 23:20(top)
Jer 23:21(top)
Jer 23:22

“council.” This is a reference to God’s divine council. See commentary on Jeremiah 23:18.

Jer 23:23(top)
Jer 23:24(top)
Jer 23:25(top)
Jer 23:26(top)
Jer 23:27(top)
Jer 23:28

“What is straw to the wheat.” The process of threshing and winnowing left the grain divided into the straw (the broken pieces of shaft that was straw and chaff) and the wheat, the edible part that sustained life. God is making the point that just as there is a huge difference between the straw, which cannot be eaten, and the wheat, which is the very “staff of life,” so too there is a huge difference between His Word, which are the words of life, and the lies of the false prophets, which lead to death.

Jer 23:29(top)
Jer 23:30(top)
Jer 23:31(top)
Jer 23:32(top)
Jer 23:33

“burdensome message.” The word of the Lord can be a burden to the prophet, and then, when it is spoken, can be a burden to the people. The Hebrew word means “burden,” but some scholars say it refers to a message, an oracle. In this context, as in many others in the Old Testament, it was the word of Yahweh that was the burden because of its weight and severity. The NET translation, “burdensome message,” seems to catch the sense well. [For more information on “burden,” see commentary on Malachi 1:1].

“You are the burden.” This translation follows the Septuagint and Latin (cp. ESV, NAB, NET, NLT, NRSV, RSV). The Hebrew reads “What burden” and is much less clear in this context and does not connect the two final sentences in the verse. The ungodly priests and false prophets were being a burden to God, so He decided to cast them away and not carry them anymore.

Jer 23:34(top)
Jer 23:35(top)
Jer 23:36(top)
Jer 23:37(top)
Jer 23:38(top)
Jer 23:39(top)
Jer 23:40(top)

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