New English Translation
Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles
29 The prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles Nebuchadnezzar had carried off from Jerusalem to Babylon. It was addressed to the elders who were left among the exiles, to the priests, to the prophets, and to all the other people who were exiled in Babylon.[a] 2 He sent it after King Jeconiah, the queen mother, the palace officials,[b] the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had been exiled from Jerusalem.[c] 3 He sent it with Elasah son of Shaphan[d] and Gemariah son of Hilkiah.[e] King Zedekiah of Judah had sent these men to Babylon to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.[f] The letter said:
4 “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel,[g] says to all those he sent into exile[h] to Babylon from Jerusalem, 5 ‘Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and allow your daughters to get married so that they too can have sons and daughters. Grow in number; do not dwindle away. 7 Work to see that the city where I sent you as exiles enjoys peace and prosperity. Pray to the Lord for it. For as it prospers you will prosper.’
8 “For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel,[i] says, ‘Do not let the prophets among you or those who claim to be able to predict the future by divination[j] deceive you. And do not pay any attention to the dreams that you are encouraging them to dream. 9 They are prophesying lies to you and claiming my authority to do so.[k] But I did not send them. I, the Lord, affirm it!’[l]
10 “For the Lord says, ‘Only when the seventy years of Babylonian rule[m] are over will I again take up consideration for you.[n] Then I will fulfill my gracious promise to you and restore[o] you to your homeland.[p] 11 For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord.[q] ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you[r] a future filled with hope.[s] 12 When you call out to me and come to me in prayer,[t] I will hear your prayers.[u] 13 When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul,[v] 14 I will make myself available to you,’[w] says the Lord.[x] ‘Then I will reverse your plight[y] and will regather you from all the nations and all the places where I have exiled you,’ says the Lord.[z] ‘I will bring you back to the place from which I exiled you.’
15 “You say, ‘The Lord has raised up prophets of good news[aa] for us here in Babylon.’ 16 But just listen to what the Lord has to say about[ab] the king who occupies David’s throne and all your fellow countrymen who are still living in this city of Jerusalem[ac] and were not carried off into exile with you. 17 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies[ad] says, ‘I will bring war,[ae] starvation, and disease on them. I will treat them like figs that are so rotten[af] they cannot be eaten. 18 I will chase after them with war,[ag] starvation, and disease. I will make all the kingdoms of the earth horrified at what happens to them. I will make them examples of those who are cursed, objects of horror, hissing scorn, and ridicule among all the nations where I exile them. 19 For they have not paid attention to what I said to them through my servants the prophets whom I sent to them over and over again,’[ah] says the Lord.[ai] ‘And you exiles[aj] have not paid any attention to them either,’ says the Lord.[ak] 20 ‘So pay attention to the Lord’s message,[al] all you exiles whom I have sent to Babylon from Jerusalem.’
21 “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel,[am] also has something to say about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying lies to you and claiming my authority to do so.[an] ‘I will hand them over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and he will execute them before your very eyes. 22 And all the exiles of Judah who are in Babylon will use them as examples when they put a curse on anyone. They will say, “May the Lord treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab whom the king of Babylon roasted to death in the fire!”[ao] 23 This will happen to them because they have done what is shameful[ap] in Israel. They have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives and have spoken lies while claiming my authority.[aq] They have spoken words that I did not command them to speak. I know what they have done. I have been a witness to it,’ says the Lord.”[ar]
A Response to the Letter and a Subsequent Letter
24 The Lord told Jeremiah, “Tell[as] Shemaiah the Nehelamite[at] 25 that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel,[au] has a message for him.[av] Tell him,[aw] ‘On your own initiative[ax] you sent a letter[ay] to the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah[az] and to all the other priests and to all the people in Jerusalem. In your letter you said to Zephaniah,[ba] 26 “The Lord has made you priest in place of Jehoiada.[bb] He has put you in charge in the Lord’s temple of controlling[bc] any lunatic[bd] who pretends to be a prophet.[be] And it is your duty to put any such person in the stocks[bf] with an iron collar around his neck.[bg] 27 You should have reprimanded Jeremiah from Anathoth who is pretending to be a prophet among you![bh] 28 For he has even sent a message to us here in Babylon. He wrote and told us,[bi] ‘You will be there a long time. Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what they produce.’”’”[bj]
29 Zephaniah the priest read that letter to the prophet Jeremiah.[bk] 30 Then the Lord’s message came to Jeremiah: 31 “Send a message to all the exiles in Babylon. Tell them, ‘The Lord has spoken about Shemaiah the Nehelamite: “Shemaiah has spoken to you as a prophet even though I did not send him. He is making you trust in a lie.[bl] 32 Because he has done this,”[bm] the Lord says, “I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his whole family. There will not be any of them left to experience the good things that I will do for my people. I, the Lord, affirm it! For he counseled rebellion against the Lord.”’”[bn]
- Jeremiah 29:1 tn Jer 29:1-3 are all one long sentence in Hebrew containing a parenthetical insertion. The text reads, “These are the words of the letter which the prophet Jeremiah sent to the elders…people whom Nebuchadnezzar had exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon after King Jeconiah…had gone from Jerusalem, by the hand of Elasah…whom Zedekiah sent…saying, ‘Thus says the Lord…’” The sentence has been broken up for the sake of contemporary English style and clarity.
- Jeremiah 29:2 tn This term is often mistakenly understood to refer to a “eunuch.” It is clear, however, in Gen 39:1 that “eunuchs” could be married. On the other hand, it is clear from Isa 59:3-5 that some who bore this title could not have children. In this period, it is possible that the persons who bore this title were high officials like the rab saris, who was a high official in the Babylonian court (cf. Jer 39:3, 13; 52:25). For further references see HALOT 727 s.v. סָרִיס 1.c.
- Jeremiah 29:2 sn See 2 Kgs 24:14-16 and compare the study note on Jer 24:1.
- Jeremiah 29:3 sn Elasah son of Shaphan may have been the brother of Ahikam, who supported Jeremiah when the priests and the prophets in Jerusalem sought to kill Jeremiah for preaching that the temple and the city would be destroyed (cf. 26:24).
- Jeremiah 29:3 sn This individual is not the same as the Gemariah mentioned in 36:10, 11, 12, 25, who was one of the officials who sought to have the first scroll of Jeremiah’s prophecies preserved. He may, however, have been a son or grandson of the high priest during the reign of Josiah who discovered the book of the law (cf., e.g., 2 Kgs 22:8, 10) that was so instrumental in Josiah’s reforms.
- Jeremiah 29:3 sn It is unclear whether this incident preceded or followed those in the preceding chapter. It is known from 52:5-9 that Zedekiah himself had made a trip to Babylon in the same year mentioned in 28:1 and that Jeremiah had used that occasion to address a prophecy of disaster to Babylon. It is not impossible that Jeremiah sent two such disparate messages at the same time (see Jer 25:8-11, 12-14, 17-18, 26).
- Jeremiah 29:4 tn Heb “Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel.”sn See study notes on 2:19 and 7:3 for the explanation of this title.
- Jeremiah 29:4 tn Heb “I sent.” This sentence exhibits a rapid switch in person, here from the third person to the first. Such switches are common to Hebrew poetry and prophecy (cf. GKC 462 §144.p). Contemporary English, however, does not exhibit such rapid switches, and they create confusion for the careful reader. Such switches have regularly been avoided in the translation.sn Elsewhere Nebuchadnezzar is seen as the one who carried them into exile (cf. 27:20; 29:1). Here and in v. 14 the Lord is seen as the one who sends them into exile. The Lord is the ultimate cause, and Nebuchadnezzar is his agent or servant (cf. 25:9; 27:6; and notes).
- Jeremiah 29:8 tn Heb “Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel.”sn See study notes on 2:19 and 7:3 for the explanation of this title.
- Jeremiah 29:8 sn See the study notes on 27:9 for this term.
- Jeremiah 29:9 tn Heb “prophesying lies to you in my name.”sn For the significance of “in my name,” see the study notes on 14:14 and 23:27.
- Jeremiah 29:9 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”
- Jeremiah 29:10 sn See the study note on Jer 25:11 for the reckoning of the seventy years.
- Jeremiah 29:10 tn See the translator’s note on Jer 27:22 for this term.
- Jeremiah 29:10 tn Verse 10 is all one long sentence in the Hebrew original: “As soon as the fullfilment to Babylon of seventy years, I will take thought of you and I will establish my gracious word to you by bringing you back to this place.” The sentence has been broken up to conform better to contemporary English style.
- Jeremiah 29:10 tn Heb “this place.” The text has probably been influenced by the parallel passage in 27:22. The term appears fifteen times in Jeremiah and is invariably a reference to Jerusalem or Judah.sn See Jer 27:22 for this promise.
- Jeremiah 29:11 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”
- Jeremiah 29:11 tn Heb “I know the plans that I am planning for you, oracle of the Lord, plans of well-being and not for harm, to give to you….”
- Jeremiah 29:11 tn Or “the future you hope for”; Heb “a future and a hope.” This is a good example of hendiadys, where two formally coordinated nouns (adjectives, verbs) convey a single idea because one of the terms functions as a qualifier of the other. For this figure see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 658-72. This example is discussed on p. 661.
- Jeremiah 29:12 tn Heb “come and pray to me.” This is an example of verbal hendiadys, where two verbs formally joined by “and” convey a main concept, with the second verb functioning as an adverbial qualifier.
- Jeremiah 29:12 tn Or “You will call out to me and come to me in prayer, and I will hear your prayers.” The verbs are vav consecutive perfects and can be taken either as unconditional futures or as contingent futures. See GKC 337 §112.kk and 494 §159.g, and compare the usage in Gen 44:22 for the use of the vav consecutive perfects in contingent futures. The conditional clause in the middle of 29:13 and the deuteronomic theology reflected in both Deut 30:1-5 and 1 Kgs 8:46-48 suggest that the verbs are continent futures here. For the same demand for wholehearted seeking in these contexts that presuppose exile, see especially Deut 30:2 and 1 Kgs 8:48.
- Jeremiah 29:13 tn Or “If you wholeheartedly seek me”; Heb “You will seek me and find [me] because you will seek me with all your heart.” The translation attempts to reflect the theological nuances of “seeking” and “finding” and the psychological significance of “heart,” which refers more to intellectual and volitional concerns in the OT than to emotional ones.
- Jeremiah 29:14 tn Heb “I will let myself be found by you.” For this nuance of the verb see BDB 594 s.v. מָצָא Niph.1.f, and compare the usage in Isa 65:1 and 2 Chr 15:2. The Greek version already noted that nuance when it translated the phrase as “I will manifest myself to you.”
- Jeremiah 29:14 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”
- Jeremiah 29:14 tn Heb “restore your fortune.” Alternately, “I will bring you back from exile.” This idiom occurs twenty-six times in the OT and in several cases it is clearly not referring to return from exile but restoration of fortunes (e.g., Job 42:10; Hos 6:11-7:1; Jer 33:11). It is often followed as here by “regather” or “bring back” (e.g., Jer 30:3; Ezek 29:14) so it is often misunderstood as “bringing back the exiles.” The versions (LXX, Vulg., Tg., Pesh.) often translate the idiom as “to go away into captivity,” deriving the noun from שְׁבִי (shevi, “captivity”). However, the use of this expression in Old Aramaic documents of Sefire parallels the biblical idiom: “the gods restored the fortunes of the house of my father again” (J. A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sefire [BibOr], 100-101, 119-20). The idiom means “to turn someone’s fortune, bring about change” or “to reestablish as it was” (HALOT 1386 s.v. 3.c). In Ezek 16:53 it is paralleled by the expression “to restore the situation which prevailed earlier.” This amounts to restitutio in integrum, which is applicable to the circumstances surrounding the return of the exiles.
- Jeremiah 29:14 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”
- Jeremiah 29:15 tn The words “of good news” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Jeremiah 29:16 tn Heb “But thus says the Lord about.” The words “just listen to what” are supplied in the translation to help show the connection with the preceding.sn Jeremiah answers their claims that the Lord has raised up prophets to encourage them that their stay will be short by referring to the Lord’s promise that the Lord’s plans are not for restoration but for further destruction.
- Jeremiah 29:16 tn The words “of Jerusalem” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to identify the referent and avoid the possible confusion that “this city” refers to Babylon.
- Jeremiah 29:17 tn Heb “Yahweh of Armies.” See the study note on 2:19 for explanation of this title.
- Jeremiah 29:17 tn Heb “the sword.”
- Jeremiah 29:17 tn The meaning of this word is somewhat uncertain. It occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible. BDB 1045 s.v. שֹׁעָר relates it to the noun “horrible thing” (translated “something shocking”) in Jer 5:30 and 23:14 and defines it as “horrid, disgusting.” HALOT 1495 s.v. שֹׁעָר relates it to the same noun and defines it as “rotten; corrupt.” That nuance is accepted here.sn Cf. Jer 24:8-10 in its context for the figure here.
- Jeremiah 29:18 tn Heb “with the sword.”
- Jeremiah 29:19 tn See the translator’s note on 7:13 for an explanation of this idiom.
- Jeremiah 29:19 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”
- Jeremiah 29:19 tn The word “exiles” is not in the text. It is supplied in the translation to clarify the referent of “you.”
- Jeremiah 29:19 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”
- Jeremiah 29:20 sn The shift from third person to first person is common in Hebrew poetry and prophecy but not in English style. The Lord uses “the Lord’s message” as a technical term, probably to emphasize its authority.
- Jeremiah 29:21 tn Heb “Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel.”sn See study notes on 2:19 and 7:3 for the explanation of this title.
- Jeremiah 29:21 tn Heb “prophesying lies in my name.” For an explanation of this idiom see the study notes on 14:14 and 23:27.
- Jeremiah 29:22 sn Being roasted to death in the fire appears to have been a common method of execution in Babylon. See Dan 3:6, 19-21. The famous law code of the Babylonian king Hammurabi also mandated this method of execution for various crimes a thousand years earlier. There is a satirical play on words involving their fate, “roasted them to death” (קָלָם, qalam), and the fact that that fate would become a common topic of curse (קְלָלָה, qelalah) pronounced on others in Babylon.
- Jeremiah 29:23 tn It is commonly assumed that this word is explained by the two verbal actions that follow. The word (נְבָלָה, nevalah) is rather commonly used of sins of unchastity (cf., e.g., Gen 34:7; Judg 19:23; 2 Sam 13:12), which would fit the reference to adultery. However, the word is singular and not likely to cover both actions that follow. The word is also used of the greedy act of Achan (Josh 7:15), which threatened Israel with destruction, and the churlish behavior of Nabal (1 Sam 25:25), which threatened him and his household with destruction. It is used of foolish talk in Isa 9:17 (9:16 HT) and Isa 32:6. It is possible that here it refers to a separate act, one that would have brought the death penalty from Nebuchadnezzar, i.e., the preaching of rebellion in conformity with the message of the false prophets in Jerusalem and other nations (cf. 27:9, 13). Hence it is possible that the translation should read, “This will happen because they have carried out vile rebellion in Israel. And they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives and have spoken lies while claiming my authority. They have spoken words that I did not command them to speak.”
- Jeremiah 29:23 tn Heb “prophesying lies in my name.” For an explanation of this idiom see the study notes on 14:14 and 23:27.
- Jeremiah 29:23 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”
- Jeremiah 29:24 tn The words “The Lord told Jeremiah” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation here to indicate the shift in topic and the shift in addressee (the imperative “tell” is second singular). The introduction supplied in the translation here matches that in v. 30, where the words are in the text.
- Jeremiah 29:24 tn It is unclear whether this is a family name or a place name. The word occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible.
- Jeremiah 29:25 tn Heb “Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel.”sn See study notes on 2:19 and 7:3 for the explanation of this title.
- Jeremiah 29:25 tn Heb “Tell Shemaiah the Nehelamite, ‘Thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel….” The indirect quotation is used in the translation to avoid the complexity of embedding a quotation within a quotation.
- Jeremiah 29:25 sn Jer 29:24-32 are concerned with Jeremiah’s interaction with a false prophet named Shemaiah. The narrative in this section is not in strict chronological order and is somewhat elliptical. It begins with a report of a message that Jeremiah appears to have delivered directly to Shemaiah and refers to a letter that Shemaiah sent to the priest Zephaniah, encouraging him to reprimand Jeremiah for what Shemaiah considered treasonous words in his letter to the exiles (vv. 24-28; compare v. 28 with v. 5). However, Jeremiah is in Jerusalem, and Shemaiah is in Babylon. The address must then be part of a second letter Jeremiah sent to Babylon. Following this the narrative refers to Zephaniah reading Shemaiah’s letter to Jeremiah and Jeremiah sending a further letter to the captives in Babylon (vv. 29-32). This is probably not a third letter but part of the same letter in which Jeremiah reprimands Shemaiah for sending his letter to Zephaniah (vv. 25-28; the same letter referred to in v. 29). So here is the order of events. Jeremiah sent a letter to the captives counseling them to settle down in Babylon (vv. 1-23). Shemaiah sent a letter to Zephaniah asking him to reprimand Jeremiah (vv. 26-28). After Zephaniah read that letter to Jeremiah (v. 29), Jeremiah wrote a further letter to Babylon reprimanding Shemaiah (vv. 25-28, 31) and pronouncing judgment on him (v. 32). The elliptical nature of the narrative is reflected in the fact that vv. 25-27 are part of a long causal sentence that sets forth an accusation but has no corresponding main clause or announcement of judgment. This kind of construction involves a rhetorical figure (called aposiopesis) where what is begun is not finished for various rhetorical reasons. Here the sentence that is broken off is part of an announcement of judgment that is not picked up until v. 32 after a further (though related) accusation (v. 31b).
- Jeremiah 29:25 tn Heb “In your [own] name.” See the study note on 23:27 for the significance of this idiom.
- Jeremiah 29:25 tn Heb “letters.” Though GKC 397 §124.b, n. 1 denies it, this is probably a case of the plural of extension. For a similar usage see Isa 37:14, where the plural “letters” is referred to later as an “it.” Even if there were other “letters,” the focus is on the letter to Zephaniah.
- Jeremiah 29:25 sn According to Jer 52:24 and 2 Kgs 25:18, Zephaniah son of Maaseiah was second in command to the high priest. He was the high ranking priest who was sent, along with a civic official, by Zedekiah to inquire of the Lord’s will from Jeremiah on two separate occasions (Jer 21:1; 37:3).
- Jeremiah 29:25 tn The words “In your letter you said to Zephaniah” are not in the text: Heb “you sent a letter to…, saying.” The sentence has been broken up to conform better to contemporary English style, and these words have been supplied in the translation to make the transition to the address to Zephaniah in vv. 26-28.
- Jeremiah 29:26 tn Heb “in place of Jehoiada the priest.” The word “the priest” is unnecessary to the English sentence.
- Jeremiah 29:26 tc Heb “The Lord has appointed you priest in place of the priest Jehoiada to be overseer in the house of the Lord for/over.” The translation is based on a reading presupposed by several of the versions. The Hebrew text reads, “The Lord has…to be overseers [in] the house of the Lord for/over.” The reading here follows that of the Greek, Syriac, and Latin versions in reading פָּקִיד בְּבֵית (paqid bevet) in place of פְּקִדִים בֵּית (peqidim bet). There has been a confusion of the ם (mem) and בּ (bet) and a transposition of the י (yod) and ד (dalet).
- Jeremiah 29:26 sn The Hebrew term translated lunatic applies to anyone who exhibits irrational behavior. It was used for example of David, who drooled and scratched on the city gate to convince Achish not to arrest him as a politically dangerous threat (1 Sam 21:14). It was often used contemptuously of the prophets by those who wanted to play down the significance of their words (2 Kgs 9:11; Hos 9:7, and here).
- Jeremiah 29:26 tn The verb here is a good example of what IBHS 431 §26.2f calls the estimative-declarative reflexive, where a person presents himself in a certain light. For examples of this usage see 2 Sam 13:5 and Prov 13:7.
- Jeremiah 29:26 tn See the translator’s note on 20:2 for this word, which only occurs here and in 20:2-3.
- Jeremiah 29:26 tn This word only occurs here in the Hebrew Bible. All the lexicons are agreed that it refers to a collar placed around the neck. The cognate languages are the basis for this definition (see, e.g., HALOT 958-59 s.v. צִינֹק for the most complete discussion).
- Jeremiah 29:27 tn Heb “So why have you not reprimanded Jeremiah…?” The rhetorical question functions as an emphatic assertion made explicit in the translation.
- Jeremiah 29:28 tn Heb “For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying….” The quote, however, is part of the earlier letter.
- Jeremiah 29:28 sn See v. 5.
- Jeremiah 29:29 tn Heb “in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet.”
- Jeremiah 29:31 tn Or “is giving you false assurances.”
- Jeremiah 29:32 tn Heb “Therefore.”
- Jeremiah 29:32 sn Compare the same charge against Hananiah in Jer 28:16 and see the note there. In this case, the false prophecy of Shemaiah is not given, but it likely had the same tenor, since he wants Jeremiah reprimanded for saying that the exile will be long and the people are to settle down in Babylon.