Chapter 7: Jeremiah’s Mysterious Commission
We come now to one of the most fascinating and gripping phases of this strange story of Israel—indeed, the very connecting link between prophecy and present-day fulfillment—yet totally unrecognized by theologians.
After the house of Israel, the northern kingdom whose capital was Samaria, was driven into Assyrian captivity, 721-718 b.c., the kingdom of Judah continued on in the southern part of Palestine known as Judea. At that time Judah, as a nation, had not yet rejected the government and religion of God. God had continued to keep His covenant with David. David’s dynasty had continued on the throne over part of the Israelites—the house of Judah—the Jews.
But after Israel had become lost from view, Judah turned from the ways and government of God, going after the ways of the Gentile nations, sinning even worse than Israel, until finally the Eternal drove Judah, too, into national captivity and slavery.
Before Judah’s apostasy, God had said, through the Prophet Hosea: “Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend …” (Hosea 4:15). But later, the Eternal said to Jeremiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she … played the harlot? … [A]nd her false sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the harlot ….Faithless Israel has shown herself less guilty than false Judah” (Jeremiah 3:6-11, rsv).
Here, again, it is made distinctly plain that the 12 tribes of Israel were divided into two totally separate nations. And yet opponents of the truth revealed in this book deny these plain scriptures—and attempt to discredit those who reveal it.
Now see how Judah (the Jews)—more than 130 years after Israel’s captivity—also was removed from their land. They were taken as slaves to Babylon—not to Assyria, where Israel had been taken.
“And the [Eternal] said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (2 Kings 23:27).
And so, more than 130 years after Israel’s captivity, the time came when God caused the Jews also to be driven out of their land in national captivity and slavery.
Jeremiah’s Strange Commission
For this purpose God raised up a very special prophet whose real call and commission few indeed understand. This prophet was Jeremiah. Jeremiah played a strange and little realized role in this captivity.
Something of the importance of this mission may be gleaned from this significant fact: The Bible mentions three men only who were sanctified for their respective offices before they were born—and of these three Jeremiah was the first. The other two were John the Baptist and Jesus Christ!
The Eternal first spoke to Jeremiah when he was but a young lad about, some evidence indicates, 17 years of age. By the time his mission was completed he was an aged, white-haired patriarch.
This vital yet little-known call and commission is described in the opening verses of the first chapter of the book of Jeremiah. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” the Eternal said to him, “and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5, rsv).
But Jeremiah was frightened—afraid! “Ah, [Eternal] God!” he replied. “Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.”
But the Eternal answered, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak. Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you …” (verses 6-8).
Then the Eternal put forth His hand and touched Jeremiah’s mouth. “See,” said God, “I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (verses 9-10). Or, as this tremendous commission is worded in the Authorized Version: “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”
Notice, Jeremiah was set over nations—more than one kingdom. He was a Jewish lad, living in Judah. He was set a prophet over Judah—but not Judah alone. Over nations—over kingdoms! He was set over these kingdoms to do two things: first, to “pluck up,” or “root out,” to “pull down,” or to “overthrow,” and second, to build, and to plant.
Not Realized Today
Look at it in your own Bible! Jeremiah was used of God as a prophet to warn the nation Judah of their transgressions against God’s government and ways. He was sent to warn this rebellious nation of impending punishment—their invasion and captivity at the hands of the Chaldean armed forces—unless they acknowledged their guilt and changed their ways. He was used as a go-between—an intermediary—between the kings of Judah and Babylon.
It is well known that Jeremiah was used in warning Judah of the impending captivity, and the “pulling down” or “overthrowing” of the throne of David in the kingdom of Judah.
It is generally understood that the house of Judah was invaded by the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar; that the Jews were taken captive to Babylon; that they ceased from being a kingdom; that there no longer existed a ruler of David’s dynasty on the throne over the kingdom of Judah.
What, then, does this mean? Did God, at last, forget His covenant promise to David that David’s dynasty should never cease—that David’s throne was established in Solomon to continue through all generations forever? Had God Almighty now forgotten that He had sworn that He would not alter this promise—even though the kings and the people rebelled and sinned? The faithfulness of God is at stake. The inspiration of the Holy Bible as His revealed Word is at stake!
But note it! See it in your own Bible! Jeremiah was divinely commissioned to pull down and to overthrow that very throne of David in Judah—but notice the second half of the commission. To build and to plant! To build and to plant what?
Why, naturally, that which he was used in “rooting out” of Judah—the throne of David which God swore He would preserve forever! Jeremiah was set over not just the one nation, Judah—but over nations. Over the kingdoms—the kingdom of Israel as well as Judah!
He was used in “rooting out” that throne from Judah. Then what was Jeremiah commissioned to do in Israel? Notice the second half of his strange and little-understood commission—to build and to plant!
So far as the world knows, the last king to sit on that throne of David was Zedekiah of Judah. He was thrown down off the throne and the throne rooted out of Judah in the year 585 b.c.—nearly 600 years before Christ!
What happened to that throne? Where was that throne between 585 b.c. and the time of Christ, 600 years later? We know Jeremiah did not plant and rebuild it in Babylon. God had promised that David’s throne should rule over Israelites through all generations—not over Gentiles. We have the history of the continuance of the Gentile throne in Babylon.
David’s throne was never again planted or built among the Jews! It was not reigning over the Jews in the time of Christ. The Jews were then under the Roman rule. Jesus did not ascend any such throne. The throne was not functioning in Judah—it was not existing at that place or over that people—it was not there for Jesus to take over. And Jesus said plainly that His Kingdom was not of this present age! Yet He was born to sit upon this very throne of His father David! (Luke 1:32).
But that throne was divinely commissioned to be planted and rebuilt by the Prophet Jeremiah—during his lifetime! Jeremiah was set over both Judah and Israel. To be used in rooting out David’s throne in Judah. But more! To plant and to build, then, of necessity, among the house of Israel, lo, these many days without a king—among lost Israel, now supposing herself to be Gentile! Therefore the identity and location of the replanting must remain hidden to the world until this time of the end in which we live.
Tearing Down the Throne
The life and work of Jeremiah is a most fascinating story. The first chapters of the book of Jeremiah are devoted to his ministry, warning of the impending captivity of the Jews. He warned the kings, the priests, prophets and people of Judah, delivering God’s message. They threw him in prison—and they refused to heed or obey God. Then God caused their captivity.
It is generally known that Babylon took Judah in three different stages. The first siege was in 604 b.c., a date about two years later than has been commonly reckoned, but a date now firmly established. The land did not completely pass into the hands of these Gentile Babylonians, however, until a full time-cycle of 19 years later, or 585 b.c. You can read the part played by Jeremiah in this captivity in the book of Jeremiah.
But now notice an interesting fact. The last and final king recorded either in Bible or secular history as having sat on the throne of David was King Zedekiah of Judah. Remember his name. Now notice 2 Kings 24:18: “Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.”
Now notice briefly a description of the final tearing down and rooting out of this throne of David: “In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it. And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was broken up. … And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then they fled …. But the Chaldeans’ army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he gave judgment upon him. Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. Moreover he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon” (Jeremiah 39:1-7).
In the 52nd chapter, first 11 verses, we find almost a word-for-word description of the same events with the added phrase: “… and put him [Zedekiah] in prison till the day of his death.”
These passages bring out these points:
1) The king of Babylon slew all the sons of Zedekiah who were heirs to the throne of David.
2) He also slew all the nobles of Judah so as to leave no possible heirs for that throne.
3) Finally, after putting out Zedekiah’s eyes, the king who sat on David’s throne was himself taken to Babylon where he died in prison.
4) Thus, as it appears, and as the whole world has believed, the throne of David ceased, with no possible heirs, or sons, to keep the dynasty alive. Certain it is that from that day on, the throne never again has existed in Judah, in Jerusalem, or among the Jews!
What About Jeconiah?
It is true that a former king of Judah was at that time in the dungeons of Babylon—and he had sons to continue David’s line. Former King Jeconiah (Jehoiachin), taken to Babylon in chains, was restored to honor 37 years after the captivity (see 2 Kings 25:27-30). He was even given the title “king” along with numerous other captive, vassal “kings.”
One of Jeconiah’s sons was Salathiel, who was the father of Zorobabel, the son of royal seed through whom Jesus Christ Himself traced His royal ancestry back to David! (Matthew 1:12). And Zorobabel—or Zerubbabel—was the man God caused Cyrus, king of Persia, to make a decree giving him the governorship—not the crown of a king—to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of God, the temple, seventy years after the captivity.
Yet neither Jeconiah nor any of his sons or grandsons reigned as king in Judah. Why?
If there was a descendant of the line of David who lived through the captivity, why wasn’t he restored to the throne when he was returned to Jerusalem? Why? Simply because God would not permit it!
It is God who makes kings—and unmakes them! God was determined to remove the crown of David from the ruling line of Pharez and place it on the head of a son of Zarah. Yet a royal line straight from David had to remain in the area so the Christ could be born of David’s seed yet hundreds of years in the future. And God also had to keep His promise to David that he, David, would never lack a descendant to sit on the throne! Many intricate and fascinating prophecies had to be carried out—some seemingly contradictory—a difficult job to perform, an awesome commission from God to Jeremiah!
“As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah [Jeconiah] the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence”! (Jeremiah 22:24). God had determined an end for this line of kings. He was removing the crown—not permitting Jeconiah’s sons to reign on Judah’s throne! God was turning over (overturning) the throne to another branch of Judah’s family.
God told Jeremiah forcefully, “Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah”! (verse 30).
God spoke! Jeremiah wrote! History was designed and done as God said! Jeconiah had children—God Himself caused this fact to be recorded (see 1 Chronicles 3:17; Matthew 1:12), but as far as the throne of David was concerned he was childless—none of his children ever occupied that throne!
The crown had now been removed from the Pharez line, uprooted from Judah, any immediate candidates to the throne killed, and Jeconiah incarcerated in a Babylonian prison, written childless as far as the throne was concerned by the command of God Almighty!
Jeremiah had now accomplished the first part of his great commission. The throne had been rooted out, the kingdom torn completely down. Judah was now beginning her national punishment.
Where Did Jeremiah Go?
But what about the second part of Jeremiah’s important commission?
Jeremiah was among these captive Jews. He must be free to carry out the second part of his commission.
So, “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard, saying, Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee” (Jeremiah 39:11-12). “And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him …. [B]ehold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go. … So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward [money], and let him go” (Jeremiah 40:2-5).
So Jeremiah was left absolutely free to do as he pleased, supplied even with expense money, and given complete freedom, so that he might perform the second half of his mission. Where did he go?
We come now to an amazing, fascinating, thrilling part of the book of Jeremiah which has been almost entirely overlooked. “Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land” (verse 6).
Now this Gedaliah had been made governor over a remnant of Jews in the land by the king of Babylon, and since Jerusalem was destroyed, he had made Mizpah his headquarters. But the king of Ammon plotted with a Jew named Ishmael to assassinate Gedaliah. The plot was executed; the governor and part of the Jews were slain. Jeremiah was among the survivors.
“Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were in Mizpah, even the king’s daughters, and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard [from Babylon] had committed to Gedaliah … and … carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the Ammonites” (Jeremiah 41:10).
Ah! Did you catch it? Read that passage again. Among these Jews were the king’s daughters! Daughters of Zedekiah, king of Judah, and of David’s dynasty!
King Zedekiah had died in prison in Babylon (Jeremiah 52:11). All his sons had been killed. All the nobles of Judah had been killed. All possible heirs of Zedekiah to David’s throne had been killed—except the king’s daughters! Now we see why Jeremiah went to Mizpah!
Soon a man named Johanan replaced Ishmael as leader. And in fear of reprisals from Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldean army, Johanan and the captains appealed to the prophet, “And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the Lord thy God … That the Lord thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk …” (Jeremiah 42:2-3). They were like so many professing Christians today. They come to God’s minister with solemn assurances that they surely do want to know God’s will; they promise, as did these, “we will obey the voice of the [Eternal] our God” (verse 6).
But did they mean it? Such people seldom do. Human nature wants to be good—or think it is good—but it does not want to do good.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, and He told them not to fear, that He would protect and deliver them. But the people wanted to flee to Egypt. This the Lord warned them not to do. If they did, the sword of Nebuchadnezzar which they feared would overtake them there, and they would die. “… If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt,” God said, “and go to sojourn there; Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there … and there ye shall die” (verses 15-16).
But, as people usually do, they rejected God’s warning. “Thou speakest falsely,” Johanan answered, “the [Eternal] our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt …” (Jeremiah 43:2-3). “So Johanan … and all the people, obeyed not the voice of the [Eternal]” (verse 4). People who loudly profess to want to do God’s will usually will not accept God’s Word as being His will, unless it is their will!
And so Johanan “took all the remnant of Judah … Even men, and women, and children, and the king’s daughters … and Jeremiah the prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah [Jeremiah’s scribe, or secretary]. So they came into the land of Egypt …” (verses 5-7).
On reaching Egypt, God warned these Jews again through Jeremiah that they should die there by the sword and famine, and “none shall return but such as shall escape”! (Jeremiah 44:12-14). Yes, a few in this company are under divine protection. A divine mission is to be performed. They shall escape! The Eternal continues: “Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah …” (verse 28).
Under Divine Protection
Baruch was Jeremiah’s constant companion and secretary. It is important to note here God’s promise of protection to him: “Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch …. Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. … [B]ut thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (Jeremiah 45:2-5). Baruch’s life, like Jeremiah’s, was under divine protection!
Now previously the Eternal had said to Jeremiah, “Verily it shall be well with thy remnant.” The only “remnant” left for Jeremiah’s mission of transplanting the throne was the king’s daughters. “Verily,” continued the Eternal, same verse, “I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction” (Jeremiah 15:11). This God literally did, as described in chapter 39:11-12 and chapter 40:2-6, which I have covered previously.
Notice, it is to be well with the royal material given to Jeremiah with which to build and to plant—and Jeremiah is to be protected and to go to a land that he knows not! Who else was to go to a land they knew not? The 10-tribed birthright kingdom, Israel!
So Jeremiah and his little royal remnant are to escape out of Egypt, return to Judah, and then—where? To the place where the “lost 10 tribes” had gone, as we shall see!
Now let Isaiah complete this prophecy: “For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this. And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward” (Isaiah 37:32, 31).
This same prophecy is found also in 2 Kings 19:30-31. It is a prophecy given through Isaiah in the 14th year of the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah, when King Sennacherib of Assyria threatened invasion of Judah. It was a prophecy to happen later—not during Hezekiah’s reign. Some critics, seeking to overthrow this basic and important truth, argue that this same remnant is mentioned also in 2 Chronicles 30:6. But that event is not a prophecy, but a historic account of an event in the first year of Hezekiah—and that remnant did not escape from Jerusalem, but they were Jews who escaped from Sennacherib’s forces threatening invasion of Judah—they escaped into, not out of Judah. And nothing is said here about “taking root downward, and bearing fruit upward,” as in both Isaiah 37 and 2 Kings 19.
This prophecy is so important it is recorded twice! It does refer to the remnant to escape later—to Jeremiah’s escape. This remnant with Jeremiah—at least one of the king’s daughters—shall take root downward! That is, be replanted!
And then bear fruit upward! Be built! Has God failed in His solemn covenant to keep alive David’s throne? Where was this planting and building? Can we find it in God’s Word? We can! The place and the people among whom the throne was reestablished are clearly identified!