Yirmiyahu 46-52

These are the final six chapters of Yirmiyahu.

With chapter 46, as with 45, we read the words of a prophecy given in the time of Yehoyakim (Jehoiakim).  After all the chapters about the events of the Exile and the time of Zedekiyahu, it may seem strange or disjointed to read prophecy given years earlier.  However, chapter 44 ends with Yirmiyahu in Egypt with the disobedient partisans of Beit David, and he prophecies that the pharaoh will meet the same fate as Zedekiyahu.  Here, in chapter 46, during the reign of Yehoyakim, we see that Yirmiyahu had already delivered such a prophecy against Egypt, even though Pharaoh Hophra (Apries) was not yet on the throne.  The prophecy of 46 is actually a prophecy against Necho II, who lost significant territory to the Chaldeans, but also placed Yehoyakin on the throne.  However, the accuracy of the prophecies against Necho’s reign is noteworthy–noteworthy enough to place them after the prophecy against Apries for emphasis and dramatic effect.  It also serves as a relevant warning to the idolatrous Yehudim in Egypt, as the idolatry of Egypt is cited in 46 as a reason for their defeat by the Chaldeans during the reign of Necho II.

Chapter 47 is a brief prophecy against Philistia, followed by a prophecy against Moab in 48.  Chapter 49 condemns Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor and Elam, and is dated to the beginning of Zedekiyahu’s reign.  Chaldea will destroy all of them.

Then, in chapter 50, Hashem turns his attention to Chaldea itself.  Chaldea and Babylon may ride high for the moment, but they too will be destroyed:

“For, lo, I will stir up and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country; and they shall set themselves in array against her, from thence she shall be taken; their arrows shall be as of a mighty man that maketh childless; none shall return in vain.” -Yirmiyahu 50:9

The “assembly of great nations from the north country” is Persia.  Here, Yirmiyahu returns to the metaphor of the sheep and the shepherd.  The people of Israel and Yehudah are sheep who have been led astray by wicked shepherds (Beit David).  They have been devoured by lions (Assyria and Chaldea, both of which used the lion as a royal symbol).  Soon, though,

“Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the thickets of the Jordan against the strong habitation; for I will suddenly make them run away from it, and whoso is chosen, him will I appoint over it; for who is like Me? and who will appoint Me a time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before Me?” -Yirmiyahu 50:44

The answer, although not given here, is Cyrus of Persia.

The prophecy of  Chaldea’s destruction and dispersion continues in chapter 51.  Interestingly, for all the talk among the prophets of harlotry and the comparisons of Yehudah’s idolatry to adultery, Yirmiyahu makes a complimentary point:

“For Israel is not widowed, nor Judah, of his God, of the LORD of hosts; for their land is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel” -Yirmiyahu 51:5

Israel was conquered and Yehudah subjugated, not because Hashem was conquered, but because He made it happen.  They were given their “bill of divorce”.  Israel is not a widow, her husband is alive, and this lover’s quarrel will come to an end.  His instrument?

“Prepare against her the nations, the kings of the Medes, the governors thereof, and all the deputies thereof, and all the land of his dominion.” -Yirmiyahu 51:28

This whole prophecy against Chaldea, we are told, is put in the care of Seraiah ben Neriah (the brother of Baruch ben Neriah the scribe), who is the quartermaster.  He is instructed to read this prophecy in Babylon, and then use a stone to sink it in the Euphrates as a symbol of the “sinking” of Babylon (51:59-64).

Chapter 52 recounts the final conquest of Jerusalem and details who was taken into captivity and who was left behind.  Note that Zedekiyahu’s wickedness is of the same nature as his brother Yehoyakim’s, unlike other kings who are condemned for wickedness like their fathers’.  Both Zedekiyahu and Yehoyakim were puppets, who tried to balance competing political interests, rather than leaders.  Eventually, though, Yeconiyahu was taken out of prison by Nebuchadnezzar’s son and heir, Amel-Marduk (rendered Evil-Merodach in 52:31), who brings Yeconiyahu to court and places him in charge of the other exiled kings in the Chaldean Empire.

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