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27 Early in the reign of Zedekiah (son of Josiah), king of Judah, the word from the Eternal came to Jeremiah. This is what He said to me.

Eternal One: Make a yoke out of leather straps and wooden bars, and place it upon your neck as you would upon an ox. Then send word to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon through the royal envoys they sent to Jerusalem to King Zedekiah of Judah. Intercept them, and give them a message for their masters: “This is what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies and God of Israel, says to your masters: ‘By My great power and with My outstretched arm, I made the earth, along with all the people and animals that live on it. I am the ruler of all creation, and I give it to anyone I choose. Watch now, as I have given all these lands over to Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon), who does My bidding. I will make even the wild animals serve him. All the nations will serve him, his son, and his grandson until that empire’s time is up. Only then will many nations and great kings rise up and make Babylon their slave. Any nation or kingdom that refuses to serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon or put its neck under his yoke will be punished with war, famine, and disease. I promise you I will destroy it, and My weapon will be the conquering hand of Nebuchadnezzar himself. So do not listen to your false prophets, your fortunetellers, your dreamers, your mediums, or your sorcerers who tell you, “Do not worry, for you will never have to serve the king of Babylon.” 10 Their prophecies are lies that will only separate you from your lands, for I will take you far from your home—I will drive you out, and you will die there. 11 However, any nation that will put its neck under the yoke of Babylon’s king and serve him will remain in their land. I will allow them to live there and to farm the land.’”

So declares the Eternal.

12 I delivered a similar message to King Zedekiah of Judah.

Jeremiah: Put your neck under the yoke of Babylon’s king. Serve him and his people so you and your people can live! 13 Why do you and your people insist on dying by war, famine, and disease? Do you not realize the Eternal has threatened any nation that refuses to serve the king of Babylon? 14 So do not listen to the false prophets who tell you, “Do not worry, you will never serve the king of Babylon.” Their prophecies are lies! 15 The Eternal declares, “I did not send these prophets to you. They are telling lies in My name. Therefore, I will drive you out and you will die—you who believe these lies and the prophets who speak them to you.”

The next three chapters are a collection of stories and prophetic sayings from the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, who suffers from the same weaknesses and mistakes as his predecessors. These are challenging times for Judah: Jerusalem has already been invaded once by Nebuchadnezzar. It was then that the previous king was deported, along with thousands of necessary leaders, to Babylon. The people long for freedom from this empire and yearn for the day when the exiles will return home. But this new king, Zedekiah, does not lead his people back to God as they live through this time of judgment. Rather, he listens to false prophets and is eventually convinced by the surrounding nations to join a coalition that will attempt to revolt against Nebuchadnezzar. This mistake will lead to the siege of Jerusalem in 587 b.c. and to the destruction of the city itself in 586 b.c. During these restless years leading up to that revolt, Jeremiah continues to take the unpopular side on this very public debate. Now that Babylon is a part of God’s plan for Judah, it is critical for the king and his people not to revolt against the empire.

16 (to the priests and people) This is what the Eternal says: “Do not listen to the prophets who are trying to reassure you by saying, ‘It won’t be long before the articles stolen from the temple will be brought back from Babylon.’ They are lying to you! 17 Do not listen to them. Serve the king of Babylon, and you will survive. Why would you sacrifice this city because you won’t listen? Why should it become a ruin to the destructive forces of your pride? 18 If they are truly My prophets and have My word, let them pray to the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, that what treasures are left in the temple and in the palace of Judah’s king will stay in Jerusalem and not be taken to Babylon.” 19-21 For this is surely what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, declares about the bronze pillars of the temple, the bronze sea, the bronze stands, and all the other treasured items King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon did not take from Jerusalem when he took Jeconiah (son of Jehoiakim), king of Judah, into exile away from Jerusalem and into Babylon, along with the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem: 22 “They will all be carried away to Babylon and will stay there until the day I come for them. This is what I, the Eternal One, promise. But the day will come when I will bring all these treasures back and restore them to this place.”

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