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This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.  

Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  GOD IS:

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus of this week’s study is our need to ask God to help us trust Him when things don’t go the way we think they should. We need to wait on Him and trust Him to work His plan for our lives. After all, He has our best interests at heart.


Mar. 04

Our Provider (Gen. 22:1-14)


Mar. 11

Our Healer (Ex. 14:29-31; 15:22-27)


Mar. 18

Our Banner (Ex. 17:8-16)


Mar. 25

Our Peace (Judg. 6:11-16,22-24)


Apr. 01

God Is Faithful (Luke 24:1-12)


Apr. 08

Our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1-6)


Apr. 15

Our Righteousness (Jer. 33:3-8,14-16)



Gecause God is righteous, He will ultimately make all things right.


Jeremiah 33:3-8,14-16





God Will Display His Wrath Against Evil (Jer. 33:3-5)

God Will Purify & Forgive His Children (Jer. 33:6-8)

God Will Administer His Justice & Righteousness (Jer. 33:14-16)


The seventh and sixth centuries before Christ (ca.  700586 B.C.) were tumultuous times in the history of the world. At the beginning of that period the Assyrian Empire was the world’s greatest power. Its capital was Nineveh (“the great city”; see Jonah 1:2) located on the Tigris River. But late in the seventh century the Babylonian Empire posed a major threat to the Assyrians. In 612 B.C. the Babylonians, led by King Nebuchadnezzar II, destroyed Nineveh. In 608 B.C. the remnant Assyrian army routed Judah and killed King Josiah at the Battle of Megiddo. His successor, Jehoahaz, was quickly deposed. He was followed by Jehoiakim that same year. By 606 B.C. Babylon occupied Judah and nearly all of the Assyrian Empire. The Babylonians replaced Jehoiakim with Jehoiachin (597 B.C.) and Zedekiah (597-586 B.C.).

Fearing for their survival the Egyptians allied with the Assyrians to try to stop the Babylonian conquests. However, in 605 B.C., the Babylonians defeated the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco II at the Battle of Carchemish (now northern Syria). As a result, the Babylonians became the world’s superpower. By the beginning of the sixth century, Babylon controlled most of the middle eastern world including Judah.

The final siege of Jerusalem came in August 586 B.C. The city was ransacked, which began the seventy-year Babylonian captivity. Most of the Judahites were taken into exile but some remained under the puppet leadership of Gedeliah. In October 586 B.C., Gedeliah was assassinated, so many Judahites fled to Egypt. Into this complex international crisis God sent Jeremiah to warn His people of the dangers they faced unless they turned to Him.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


It is certainly true that bad things happen to good and innocent people for no explainable reasons. Conversely, people with questionable character and who act dissolutely, with little or no remorse, often seem to prosper. Meanwhile, many decent and moral people sometimes fail miserably and/or suffer. Often people are mistreated because of their good conduct, for standing up for a righteous cause, or just because of what they believe. Some are killed. Even today, as I write this session, the murder of twenty-nine innocent Christians in Egypt headlines the world news.

We might be tempted to think, like the above-mentioned skeptic, that God does not exist, or that He is indifferent to human suffering. After all, if He cared, why would He allow these things to happen? Through it all, we must never forget that the Bible asserts that God is righteous and will ultimately bring justice to bear on all things. I

n this session, we will examine the message of one of God’s greatest prophets, Jeremiah. We will hear his warning to the people of his nation that judgment was coming. But, despite it all, Jeremiah promised, “The Lord is our righteousness!”

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.









God Will Display His Wrath Against Evil (Jer. 33:3-5)

3 Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know. 4 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the houses of this city and the palaces of Judah’s kings, the ones torn down for defense against the assault ramps and the sword: 5 The people coming to fight the Chaldeans will fill the houses with the corpses of their own men that I strike down in my wrath and rage. I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil.

  1.   As a kid, what made you say, “That’s not fair!”?

  2.   How would you explain the meaning of the phrase: “That’s just not fair!”?

  3.   How would you summarize the historical context of the seventh & sixth centuries BC as the setting for this study? (See “The Setting,” on pg. 1.)

  4.   What are the highlights of Jeremiah’s biography? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “Jeremiah was born about . . . “ )

  5.   What invitation and promise are at the heart of verse 3? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “The main theme of Jeremiah’s . . . “ )

  6.   How would you explain the “great and incomprehensible things . . .  in terms of “special revelation”? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “In verse 3, the Lord . . . “ )

  7.   What did the Lord reveal about the fate of Jerusalem (v, 5)?

  8.   Who were the people would God use to administer His judgment? (See Digging Deeper.)

  9.   Why were Judah and Israel subject to God’s judgment? (See Adv. Comm., pg; 4, “The Lord again identifies . . . “ )

10.    How would you describe what God said He would do because of the sin and evil in Jerusalem? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “God gave a gruesome . . . “ )

11.   What else does verse 5 tell us about God’s coming judgment upon Jerusalem? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “He also said He has . . . “ )

12.   Why do you think God would tell His people what was going to happen if it was too late for them to repent? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “Why did God make . . . “ )

13.   When has God shown you “great and incomprehensible things”?

14.   When have you seen a negative consequence be of benefit in the long run?


Lasting Lessons in Jer. 33:3-5:

1. God hears the prayers of His people and answers.

2. There are consequences to sin, sometimes devastating.



God Will Purify & Forgive His Children (Jer. 33:6-8)

6 Yet I will certainly bring health and healing to it and will indeed heal them. I will let them experience the abundance of true peace. 7 I will restore the fortunes of Judah and of Israel and will rebuild them as in former times. 8 I will purify them from all the iniquity they have committed against me, and I will forgive all the iniquities they have committed against me, rebelling against me.

  1.   Who would be the recipients of the blessing described in these verses?

  2.   How would you explain why God would purify and forgive His sinful and disobedient children?

  3.   What does God tell them in verse 6? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “The Lord’s message in . . . “ )

  4.   What do you think God meant when He used the word health in verse 6? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, ““Health” literally . . . “ )

  5.   What did the Lord mean in using the word “healing” in verse 6? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “As difficult as it . . . “ )

  6.   What are some of the words used to describe what God would accomplish?

  7.   How would you describe the Hebrew meaning of the word shalom?

  8.   How would you explain God’s replacement of sufferings of the Israelites? (See Adv. Comm., pg 5, “Furthermore, God promised . . . ” & God additionally . . . “ )

  9.   How would you explain the three different words in verse 8 God used for sin? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “The Lord used three different . . . “ )

10.   How would you describe the crucial point of this passage? (See Adv., Comm., pg. 5, “The crucial point the . . . “ )

11.   How was the forgiveness promised in these verses a glimpse of God’s greater plan yet to come?

12.   How is justice satisfied in the forgiveness provided through Jesus Christ? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “The New Testament . . . “ )

13.   How have you experienced God’s restoration?

14.   When have you seen God bring healing out of a bad situation? Explain your answer!


Lasting Lessons in Jer. 33:6-8:

1. God disciplines His people to make them holy.

2. The Lord forgives and restores His people.



God Will Administer His Justice & Righteousness (Jer. 33:14-16)

14 “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will fulfill the good promise that I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a Righteous Branch to sprout up for David, and he will administer justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely, and this is what she will be named: The Lord Is Our Righteousness.

  1.   What do you think God meant when He said, “Look, the days are coming” ? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “Verse 14 begins . . . “ )

  2.   What do you think God meant when He promised to “fulfill the good promise” for “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (v. 14)? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “. God said the time . . . “ )

  3.   What is the “good promise” (v. 14)?

  4.   How is God’s good promise fulfilled in Jesus?

  5.   How would you explain what God meant when He promised a “Righteous Branch” for Israel and Judah? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “Verses 14 and 15 are a . . . “ )

  6.   What are some of the words used to describe what God would accomplish in this passage?

  7.   How would you explain the message of hope and assurance found in verse 14?

  8.   Who would be the recipients of the blessings described in these verses?

  9.   What did the Lord promise in verse 15?

10.   How does that promise have meaning for us?

11.   What other titles of the Lord are suggested b the words saved and dwell safely?

12.   What is the name given in verse 16, to whom does it apply, and what is its significance?

13.   How would you explain how some of the tasks of the Righteous Branch, when He comes?

14.   How your describe the future of Jerusalem as the city called “The Lord Is Our Righteousness (v. 16)?

15.   How can our actions and attitudes demonstrate that we follow God as our righteousness?

16.   : In light of these verses, how would you explain God’s grace?


Lasting Lessons in Jer. 33:14-16:

1. God’s promises have come true in and through Jesus.

2. Our righteousness and hope come from Jesus.



Most of us like to be “right” in the sense of being correct. We may argue passionately to prove our point in order to proudly proclaim we were “right.”

Another kind of “being right” is more important and that is being approved as right before God, having right standing with Him. This kind of being right is not something we can achieve on our own; we cannot argue ourselves into it. We only become right before the Lord through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who is our righteousness. In Him we are cleansed, forgiven, delivered, and find refuge that makes us fit and secure for all eternity.

So the question is: “Are You Right?”  If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are not “right” and can look forward to spending eternity in a devil’s hell! No question about it! A Devil’s Hell will be your eternal home, separated from God forever. Our prayer is that you will become “right” even, today, by accepting Christ as your personal Savior.

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version 

Jeremiah 33:3-8, 14-16 (KJV)

3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. 4 For thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah, which are thrown down by the mounts, and by the sword; 5 They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but it is to fill them with the dead bodies of men, whom I have slain in mine anger and in my fury, and for all whose wickedness I have hid my face from this city. 6 Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth. 7 And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. 8 And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.

14 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. 15 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.  


New King James Version 

Jeremiah 33:3-8 (NKJV)

3 'Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.' 4 "For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah, which have been pulled down to fortify against the siege mounds and the sword: 5 'They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but only to fill their places with the dead bodies of men whom I will slay in My anger and My fury, all for whose wickedness I have hidden My face from this city. 6 Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. 7 And I will cause the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel to return, and will rebuild those places as at the first. 8 I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me.

Jeremiah 33:14-16 (NKJV)

14 'Behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD, 'that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah: 15 'In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.'


New Living Translation  

Jeremiah 33:3-8 (NLT)

3 Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come. 4 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: You have torn down the houses of this city and even the king’s palace to get materials to strengthen the walls against the siege ramps and swords of the enemy. 5 You expect to fight the Babylonians, but the men of this city are already as good as dead, for I have determined to destroy them in my terrible anger. I have abandoned them because of all their wickedness. 6 “Nevertheless, the time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace. 7 I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel and rebuild their towns. 8 I will cleanse them of their sins against me and forgive all their sins of rebellion. 

Jeremiah 33:14-16 (NLT)

14 “The day will come, says the LORD, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them. 15 “In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. 16 In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: ‘The LORD Is Our Righteousness.’


(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from four sources: “Advanced Bible Study Commentary,” Bible Studies For Life Commentary,and The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)


Lesson Outline — “Our Righteousness” — Jeremiah 33:3-8, 14-16:




God Will Display His Wrath Against Evil (Jer. 33:3-5)

God Will Purify & Forgive His Children (Jer. 33:6-8)

God Will Administer His Justice & Righteousness (Jer. 33:14-16)


Advanced Bible Study Commentary:  Jeremiah 33:3-8, 14-16

I. God Will Display His Wrath Against Evil (Jer. 33:3-5): Jeremiah was born about 646 B.C. in the town of Anathoth, four miles northeast of Jerusalem. He was the son of Hilkiah, a Levitical priest (1:1), who named him Jeremiah, meaning “the Lord hurls” or “the Lord shoots.” The Lord called him as a prophet during the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign in 626 B.C. (vv. 2-10). Verse 5 of chapter 1 indicates that Jeremiah’s call was established by God even before he was conceived! He continued his ministry until after the final exile of Judah to Babylon in 586. He has been called “the weeping prophet” because of his deep love for his people. Some people compared Jesus to him (Matt. 16:14).

One side note should be mentioned here. In 1:2,4,11,13, and 2:1 et. al., Jeremiah asserted, “The word of the Lord came to me.” “Word” (Hebrew: dabar) is defined as a spoken utterance, a command, a speech, or any linguistic communication in general. “The word of the Lord” is supernatural communication from God to humanity. Jeremiah’s was clearly prophetic (1:9-10) and it burned inside him to proclaim it. He spoke for God and demanded a response from God’s people.

The main theme of Jeremiah’s message was the promise that God would fulfill His desired plan for Judah, but only after a time of judgment in exile. They had repeatedly violated the covenant God made with them. Their leaders were spiritually unfaithful, ignored idolatry, and got entangled in foreign alliances. Corrupt kings neglected maintaining justice and persecuted the true prophets of God while listening to false teachers who promised prosperity despite their sins. Jeremiah proclaimed God’s impending judgment saying they should have heeded His word (7:25; 26:4; 29:17-19; 35:13).1 Nonetheless, Jeremiah was also a prophet of hope who preached salvation would eventually come. Chapters 30–33 describe the ultimate outlook as bright and secure for God’s people (31:31; 32:36-41).

Chapter 33 opens with Jeremiah detained in a guard’s courtyard. Though he was held prisoner, God’s word cannot be bound. The text indicates “the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time” (v. 1). This chapter’s theme is a promised restoration of Jerusalem and the reestablishment of its worship there. It was probably written the second year of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem (587 B.C., in King Zedekiah’s ninth year of rule). Jerusalem fell the next year in August 586 B.C.

The Lord identifies Himself in verse 2: He is the Lord (Yahweh) God who made and formed the earth. Those two terms equate Him with the God of creation in Genesis. 

In verse 3, the Lord tells Jeremiah to call on Him and He will reveal great and incomprehensible things you do not know. “Incomprehensible” is besurot and is also translated as “unsearchable” (NIV) or “hidden” (NRSV). It carries the meaning of inaccessible or impregnable, as with a fortified city (34:7). God can and does reveal through the prophets timeless truths that are beyond the grasp of mere human knowledge. Theologians call this “special revelation”; it is only available supernaturally to certain individuals to whom God speaks. It has been transmitted to us through the Scriptures. It surpasses the more limited “general revelation,” which is what can be known about God from nature or reason (Rom. 1:18-20).

Note the relationship between Jeremiah’s praying—Call to me—and God’s response—I will answer you and tell you. In this case, if he humbly asks, God will tell him what is going to be the fate of Judah and Jerusalem. Judah (“praise Yahweh”) was the southern kingdom of the Hebrews that was established after Israel split following the death of Solomon (circa 932 B.C.).

The Lord again identifies Himself as the Lord, the God of Israel. He makes known in no uncertain terms what was soon going to happen to the houses of the city (Jerusalem) and to the palaces of Judah’s kings. The residents would demolish their houses and heap up rubble to fill open gaps and reinforce the city wall. These were desperate measures to defend against the “assault ramps” (ramps built to breach the wall) and “sword” of the Chaldeans (v. 5).

The Chaldeans were the ancient inhabitants of central and southeastern Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (modern Iraq). Eventually they were absorbed by the Babylonians. So, by the time of Jeremiah, the two terms were used interchangeably. The city of Babylon was founded on the Euphrates in unknown antiquity and is often identified with Babel. The Hebrew word babel means “confusion,” as in the languages of mankind (Gen. 11:1-9).

God gave a gruesome and dreadful warning about what would happen to the people of Jerusalem. He said that those who fight against the Chaldeans will fill the houses with the corpses of their own men that I will strike down in my wrath and rage. Those are corpses of Jerusalem’s people, not the Chaldeans. He also said He has hidden His face from this city. The image of God hiding His face is found frequently in the Old Testament. Obviously, God does not have a literal face, but it vividly portrays His anger and withdrawal of protection (Deut. 31:17; Job 13:24; Ps. 44:24; Isa. 45:15; 59:2; Mic. 3:4).2

Why did God make this terrible prediction? Because of all their evil. God is absolutely holy. He cannot and will not tolerate sin and evil. When people reject or ignore God’s will, they separate themselves from His care and protection.

Just as Judah faced judgment for their sins and idolatry, so even today, sin has its consequences, both in this life and in the next.

II. God Will Purify and Forgive His Children (Jer. 33:6-8): The Lord’s message in verses 1-5 was bleak, but the outlook changed in verse 6. He revealed several very favorable promises about the future of Jerusalem. He started by assuring Jeremiah He would bring them health and healing. “Health” literally means “new flesh.” It is the condition of people who are sound in body, mind, and spirit.  Furthermore, God promised that the sufferings of the exile in Babylon would be replaced. They will experience the abundance of true peace (shalom) or “peace and truth” (NASB, KJV). As difficult as it was, the exile would have a healing effect on the nation. Their wounds would be bound up in peace and security. God additionally vowed that Judah and Israel (the Northern Kingdom) would be brought back out of captivity and their fortunes restored as in former times, likely a reference to the glory days of Kings David and Solomon.

The Lord then made His most significant promise and the most revealing truth about His character. He said He would purify and forgive them from all sins committed against Him. The Lord used three different Hebrew words in this verse to describe their sins. First is iniquity, a singular term that means “twisted or bent.” Second is iniquities, meaning “miss the mark.” Third, He referred to their rebelling against me, meaning they were rebels.

Human nature has not changed and every sin committed is against God Himself. He has perfect righteousness and cannot tolerate that which violates His character. Sin is still a serious danger today and has terrible consequences. Persons and nations who ignore their sin will become enslaved to it and descend into spiritual depravity. Sin produces spiritual blindness which obscures the truths of God’s Word and blurs the distinction of right and wrong. Ultimately sin creates guilt and leads to death and separation from God. It also affects relationships between people leading to hatred, violence, and war.

But sin does not have the last word.

The crucial point the Lord made in this passage is not only would His people return from captivity and rebuild the nation, but He would also cleanse them from the sins they committed against Him (31:34; 50:20). God promised that His face, which was hidden by their iniquity, would someday be shown and He would save His people. God would forgive, heal, and rebuild the nation. Many Christian interpreters see this restoration of Judah and Israel ultimately taking place in the last days in the messianic era after Christ’s return. In any case, the future for Jerusalem and the Jews will be glorious and the nations will stand in awe and tremble at their greatness (v. 9).

The New Testament makes this principle even clearer. We can experience the same joy and peace of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus. His sacrificial death on the cross covers our sins. “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). This “atoning sacrifice” is what theologians call “propitiation” (KJV; NASB; see also Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2). That term refers to Jesus being the perfect “Lamb of God” (John 1:29), hearkening back to the sacrifices made on the Day of Atonement in the Jerusalem temple. Jesus is the perfect and final sacrifice for mankind’s sin. There can be no other, nor is any other necessary. Why did God do it? Love. “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8). Therefore, we can know our sins are cleansed and forgiven through our faith in Jesus’ and His sacrifice. Just as the Lord forgave the Hebrews time and again, even though they did not deserve it, He restores our relationship to Him even though we do not deserve it! “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8).

III. God Will Administer His Justice and Righteousness (Jer. 33:14-16): Jeremiah continued to recite God’s words in the remainder of chapter 33. Verses 10-13 repeat His paradoxical predictions of dire judgment and joyful restoration. Verses 10 and 12 both state that the cities of Judah, especially Jerusalem, would be in desolation “without people or animals.” However, in verse 11, He again promised they would be filled with sounds of joy and gladness. The people would again celebrate marriages and take offerings to the temple. They would sing praises to the “Lord of Armies,” God’s heavenly armies, probably angels. The new age would bring peace in the secure lands around Judah where shepherds and their flocks will find plenty of green grazing grounds and safe places to rest.

Verse 14 begins this section with a common prophetic phrase, Look, the days are coming. This is intended to direct the reader’s attention from the present circumstances to what was going to happen. God said the time would come when He would fulfill the good promise or “the gracious promise” (NIV) (literally “the good word’) that He made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. The rule of the good kings and the religious duties of the priests that were interrupted by the exile would eventually return. Verses 14 and 15 are a prosaic restating of a messianic poem in Jeremiah 23:5-6. In that earlier passage the Lord promised to “raise up a Righteous Branch for David.” Verse 15 likewise says, I will cause a Righteous Branch to sprout up for David. The word “branch” actually translates several Hebrew words in the Old Testament. It literally refers to branches on a tree or vine but also is used for the branches on a lampstand in the tabernacle or temple. The term has symbolic meanings in both the Old and New Testaments. A palm branch may denote noblemen (Isa. 9:14-15; 19:15). “Being a branch” is used for a member of the people of God (John 15:1-8; Rom. 11:16-21). “Spreading branches” epitomizes fruitfulness and prosperity (Gen. 49:22; Job 8:16; Ps. 80:11). Branches that are withered, burned, or cut often signify destruction (Isa. 9:14; Jer. 11:16). And, as in these verses, a “branch” or “shoot” can symbolize the coming of a king of Israel (Isa. 11:1; Zech. 3:8; 6:12).3 In Jeremiah’s writings it foreshadowed a particularly special king who was to come.

Since all the previous kings of Judah and Israel had not lived up to God’s expectations, He would provide a greater ruler (a Righteous Branch) from King David’s ancestors. He would be the Messiah (“Anointed One”). The kings from the family of David, the divinely established dynastic line, were all called “anointed ones.” However, after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. there was great consternation when the Lord’s anointed one (Zedekiah) was taken into exile. Thus, Jews during the exile, and for centuries later, hoped and prayed for the ultimate restoration of the Davidic line, i.e. the true Messiah. God told Jeremiah that the Messiah would be so great that he would combine both royal and priestly offices (see vv. 17-18).

This coming king’s reign is depicted in varying other ways in Jeremiah: It will be like a “fountain of living water” (2:13); He will be a “good shepherd” (23:4; 31:10); He will be “the Redeemer” (50:34); and He will usher in a “new covenant” (31:31-34). Most important, the Righteous Branch will administer justice and righteousness in the land. In other words, the king from David’s line would, like him, do what was right and just in contrast to the failed and evil kings who had ruled since his death.

When this Messianic reign is realized Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. Jerusalem would finally become what God intended her to be all along—a shining citadel of righteousness. Safety and salvation will be in the future for Judah and Jerusalem because justice and righteousness will be personified in them. The Holy City would share the name of the Messiah as she reflects and embodies the righteousness of the Messiah. Her name will forever be The Lord Is Our Righteousness (Yahweh Zidkenu)! (See also 23:6.)

As Christians, we understand that the “Righteous Branch” messianic prophecy has its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The New Testament affirms that Jesus was the promised ancestor of David. Matthew began his Gospel identifying, “Jesus Christ, the Son of David” (Matt. 1:1). Both Matthew and Luke traced Jesus’ genealogy back to David and his father Jesse (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38). Both presented Jesus as a descendant of David and that Joseph was His legal father, but not His birth father. He was often called the “Son of David,” a clear reference to the Messiah (Matt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9; Mark  10:47-48; 12:35; Luke  18:38-39; 20:41). The apostle Paul said He comes from “the root of Jesse” (Rom. 15:12, quoting Isa. 11:10).

We know that Jesus is the true Messiah of all mankind. He was, is, and will be the “Righteous Branch.” He has, and will, fulfill all the promises made through Jeremiah and the prophets. Indeed, in Jesus Christ, “The Lord Is Our Righteousness!”

1. Hans Mallau, “Jeremiah,” in Holman Bible Dictionary, ed. Trent C. Butler (Nashville: B&H, 1991), 757.

2. F. B. Huey Jr., Jeremiah, Lamentations, vol. 16 in The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 1993), 298.

3 Ralph P. Martin, “Branch,” in Holman Bible Dictionary, 208.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Bible Studies For Life Commentary:  Jeremiah 33:3-8, 14-16

I. God Will Display His Wrath Against Evil (Jer. 33:3-5):

Verse 3. After God had freed the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage, He gave them the Law to guide them in how to worship and honor Him. He promised great blessings if the people would obey His Law (Deut. 28:114). However, God is just, and He will display His wrath against evil. So, He also promised terrible judgments if they refused to obey Him (Deut. 28:1568). The people failed to see that what God wanted was a relationship based on adoring love characterized by obedience (6:46). Time and time again God sent His prophets to remind them of the foundation of the covenant He had made with them (Mic. 6:78; Amos 5:2124).

One of the prophets God sent was Jeremiah. God called him about 627 BC to announce His judgment on the people of Judah because they had refused to worship and serve Him from their hearts. Jeremiah served as God’s messenger for forty years. Though he was often persecuted because of his unpopular message and viewed as a traitor to his people, Jeremiah continued to declare God’s judgment on the nation, calling the people to repent of their idolatry and other sins. In 597 BC Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians and remained under their control. Judah’s king Jehoiachin and thousands of Judeans were exiled to Babylon, including the prophet Ezekiel. Around 588 BC King Zedekiah and the people of Judah rebelled again. The result was that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Judah and surrounded Jerusalem, beginning a fatal assault that lasted for eighteen months. During this siege Jeremiah continued to speak out. Jeremiah 32–34 details his ministry during the last days before Jerusalem fell and was destroyed.

Chapter 33 begins with the words, “While he was still confined in the guard’s courtyard” (Jer. 33:1). The guard’s courtyard was part of the king’s palace (32:2). Jeremiah had been imprisoned “in the tenth year of King Zedekiah,” which was 587 BC (v. 1). King Zedekiah had ordered Jeremiah to be confined there because he had disliked Jeremiah’s prophecy that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians and Zedekiah would be taken to Babylon as a prisoner. Jeremiah had also pronounced to the people the futility of fighting against the Babylonians (vv. 35). While Jeremiah was confined, God gave him two important messages. In the first message God told Jeremiah to buy a field from his family’s inheritance (vv. 67). Buying a field after you have just prophesied the fall of the nation might seem a little strange. However, God intended this act as a sign to confirm His word that though Judah would be punished for their disobedience, God in His mercy would one day restore the people to their land (vv. 13-15).

Some time shortly after this first message, God spoke to Jeremiah a second time (33:1). After clearly emphasizing His authority as Yahweh, the sovereign Creator “who made the earth” (v. 2), God challenged Jeremiah, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.” God invited Jeremiah to ask for a divine revelation; the answer would be too great and incomprehensible for mere mortals to know. The Hebrew term translated incomprehensible means inaccessible or impregnable. In Deuteronomy 1:28 a form of the word is used to describe the cities of Canaan as fortified with great walls. God was describing to Jeremiah knowledge that is too difficult for human beings to attain on their own.  

Verses 4-5. Without waiting for Jeremiah to ask, God delivered His revelation to Jeremiah. The first part focused on the utter destruction that was coming on Jerusalem. God prefaced His revelation with the phrase, “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says.” Even though destruction was coming upon Judah at the hands of a foreign army, ultimately the judgment was that of Yahweh, the God of Israel, on the nation for its sins.

The agents of Judah’s destruction would be the Chaldeans. The term Chaldea refers to an area that is located in modern day Iraq near its border with Iran. In Old Testament times this area was part of ancient Mesopotamia. The Babylonians were another group of people in this region and were known for their great cities. Over time the Chaldeans came to dominate the Babylonians, and assumed their name as well. The combined peoples were known as the Babylonians or Neo-Babylonians. They conquered the Assyrians and defeated the Egyptians, becoming the dominate world power—the Neo-Babylonian Empire, ruling from 626 to 539 BC.

The Chaldeans may have attacked the walls of Jerusalem for as long as a year (2 Kings 25:1). The walls were thick, but the enemy had built assault ramps so they could use battering rams and other devices to gradually tear away at the protecting walls. As small holes were torn in the walls, the people of Jerusalem would demolish parts of their own houses and even the palaces of Judah’s kings so they could use those materials to fill the holes and reinforce the walls. However, all their efforts ultimately would prove to be useless. When God’s people were faithful and obedient, they could call out to God in prayer and He would hear and answer their prayers. Through Jeremiah God said, “my people have exchanged their Glory for useless idols” (Jer. 2:11). Instead of trusting, loving, and obeying their glorious God, they had bowed to false gods. They had broken their part of God’s covenant. Therefore God had hidden His face and refused to answer their prayers for deliverance from their enemies. God responded with wrath and rage against them because of their sins. God pronounced Judah’s doom, saying He would strike down the defenders of Jerusalem. Since the city was under siege and all the cemeteries were outside the city, the people would have no way to bury the dead during the battle. Therefore, the corpses of the city’s defenders would fill up what was left of their houses. All this would happen because of all their evil.

II. God Will Purify and Forgive His Children (Jer. 33:6-8):

Verses 6-7. Though the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC, and the destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians was assured by God’s word, God promised redemption and restoration for all His chosen people (Judah and Israel). Although He had visited them with judgment, God would purify and forgive His children. God stressed that He would provide health and healing to Jerusalem. His people would experience true peace. Peace would mean not only the absence of war but also personal well-being, the opportunities to work, worship, and raise families.

Verse 8. At the core of God’s healing process would be His forgiving and cleansing of His covenant people from the guilt of all their sin. God did not downplay the seriousness of their disobedience. In the original Hebrew three different terms are used to emphasize the scope of their wrongdoing. The first word (iniquity) translates a Hebrew term referring to something that is twisted, bent, or distorted. The people had twisted and distorted their relationship with God. The second word (iniquities) translates a Hebrew word that pictures an archer missing his intended target or a person missing the way. The people’s aim should have been a life of holiness before God (Lev. 11:44). The third term (rebelling) translates a Hebrew word that stresses the deliberateness of their sinful actions. Though they had the Law and its warnings, as well as God’s prophets calling them to repent and return to God, they still refused to obey.

In spite of all their sins, God promised He would purify and forgive His people. God is always ready to heal and purify His people when they confess and repent (1 John 1:9). Though the overarching theme of God’s word through Jeremiah was the coming judgment that would mean destruction and exile, God’s message also included forgiveness and renewal based on a new covenant (Jer. 31:3134).

Instead of a city filled with corpses, Jerusalem would become a place filled with “joy, praise, and glory” (v. 9). Though one day soon Jerusalem and the surrounding cities would become “a ruin, without people or animals” (v. 10), God would eventually restore the people and their land so that they would hear the “sound of joy and gladness” (v. 11). Shepherds would be able to graze their flocks in peace and security (vv. 1213).

God’s message of judgment and hope has never changed. For those who refuse to acknowledge their sin and rebellion and put their faith in His Son Jesus, He promises condemnation (John 3:18) and death (Rom. 6:23). But for those who confess their guilt and repent, through His new covenant of grace He offers forgiveness and eternal life (John 3:16; Eph. 2:19)

III. God Will Administer His Justice and Righteousness (Jer. 33:14-16):

Verse 14. The hope of and promise to all believers is not only that they will receive mercy and grace from God, but also that God will administer justice and righteousness. The Hebrew phrase translated as the days are coming occurs fourteen times in the Book of Jeremiah. Most of the occurrences introduce coming judgment on Judah and the surrounding nations. In the other places where this phrase is found, it serves to introduce a time in the future when God would restore and bless His people.

God’s promised judgment came to pass when the Babylonians broke through Jerusalem’s walls in 586 BC. The city and the temple were destroyed, and many of those not killed in the siege were taken into exile in Babylon. Many of Jeremiah’s prophecies in the second group of blessings were also literally fulfilled in the succeeding years. Around 538 BC, the exiled Jews were allowed to return to Israel after King Cyrus of Persia captured Babylon and issued a edict allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:1-4). The rebuilding of the temple was completed around 515 BC (6:15). The people began to rebuild their homes and eventually rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem in 445 BC (Neh. 6:15).

After God’s introductory phrase in Jeremiah 33:14 pointing to some time in the future, Jeremiah inserted the words this is the Lord’s declaration to stress that what followed was not merely his hope for the future but the authoritative declaration of God. God stressed that He would fulfill the good promise spoken through Jeremiah to both the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

Verse 15. After His word of assurance and again focusing on a time in the future (in those days and at that time), God announced that as part of fulfilling His promises He would cause to sprout up someone from the house of King David, identified as a Righteous Branch. This Righteous Branch is mentioned in Jeremiah 23:5, where he is identified as a king who will reign over God’s people.

The last king to rule over Judah before its destruction was Zedekiah. His name meant, “The Lord is my righteousness.” However, he was unfaithful to God and to the people he ruled over. Unlike Zedekiah and the many evil, faithless kings who had ruled over God’s people in the past, the new king whom God would send, the Righteous Branch from the line of David, would be completely faithful to God and would rule over God’s people with justice and righteousness. For the Jews, the term righteous described people who were faithful and loyal to God and to others. God Himself is righteous by His very nature; His righteousness is seen in His perfect faithfulness to His covenant with Israel and His perfect judgments—both rewards and punishments. God’s Messiah would demonstrate these same qualities. The Righteous Branch’s kingdom will endure forever (2 Sam. 7:1216; Jer. 33:17).

God fulfilled this prophecy of the promise of the Righteous Branch when He sent His Son Jesus into the world (Luke 2:11), to live a perfectly righteous life, and to die on the cross in order to provide complete atonement for our sins (Heb. 9:11-14). Jesus is the Righteous Branch, born of the line of David (Matt. 1:1). Before Jesus came many Jews thought of being “righteous” as being good. They defined “good” as keeping the Law that God had given them through Moses. However, when the Scriptures speak of God as being “righteous,” this does not mean that God conforms to some moral or ethical standard. He is the standard. He is always loving. He is always faithful to His covenant and promises. He is always just. And no one can ever come close to God’s standard of righteousness, which is perfection. When we place our faith in Jesus, confess our sin to Him, seek His forgiveness and repent of our sins, He forgives all our sins (Col. 2:1314) and gives us His perfect righteousness once and for all (Rom. 4:5; 5:1,9). We cannot earn or deserve this status; its simply a gift that God offers us in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).

Verse 16. Again echoing the future nature of this prophecy (in those days), God added one more element to His promise of restoration for His people. In the days of the reign of the Righteous Branch, God would restore Judah and Jerusalem and guarantee the safety and security of their inhabitants. Most importantly, God would give Jerusalem a new name: The Lord Is Our Righteousness. In Jeremiah 23:56, the same title is given to the coming Davidic ruler, the Righteous Branch. Lord is the English translation of the Hebrew name for God usually transliterated as Jehovah or Yahweh, the name of God by which He revealed Himself to and established His covenant relationship with Israel.

The Jews have returned to Jerusalem twice as a people since the time of Jeremiah, but the city never has been typified by righteousness under the rule of the Messiah. Some Christians believe that the final fulfillment of this prophecy will come when Jesus returns and sets up His millennial kingdom in Jerusalem. Old Testament prophecies such as Isaiah 60:1122 reflect the concept of a restored and righteous Jerusalem. The book of Ezekiel ends with the promise that “the name of the city from that day on will be, The Lord Is There” (Ezek. 48:30-35) . Other Christians believe that these prophecies will be fulfilled in “the holy city, the new Jerusalem” that comes down from heaven after the final judgment and the creation of the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:2). Revelation 21:22 says that the Lord God Almighty and Jesus the Lamb will be in this city as its temple.

One day Jesus will return and will bring righteousness to all the world. This time of perfect righteousness will include all of God’s people—not only the faithful of Judah and Israel, but all who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. Until Jesus returns as the conquering King to rule and reign over all the earth (Rev. 19–22), we are to allow the Holy Spirit to continue to transform us into Jesus’ image so that we can reflect His righteousness and His glory (2 Cor. 3:18).

SOURCE: Bible Studies For Life Commentary; Leader Guide; Senior Adults; One LifeWay Plaza; Nashville, TN 37234-0175

The Moody Bible Commentary:  Jeremiah 33:3-8, 14-16

The Coming Judgment and Future Restoration (33:1-13)

(1) The Judgment (33:1-5)

33:1-3. While he was still confined in the guardhouse (cf. 32:2), the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the second time with a message similar to the first he received while in custody (chap. 32). God again reminded Jeremiah of who He was, stressing both His power and His character as the Lord who made the earth (cf. 32:17). This emphasized His covenant-keeping faithfulness to Israel by stating that the Lord is His name, it is the Lord who created the earth, and He is able to answer when called upon (cf. 32:18; Ex 3:13-15).

Jeremiah did not understand how God could restore a nation that was destined for doom (cf. Jr 32:24-25), so God challenged the prophet to call to Him for understanding. God promised to answer by revealing great and mighty things. The word for mighty (b'surot) means "something that is made impenetrable by fortifying it or enclosing it." It is used to describe heavily fortified cities (cf. Nm 13:28; Dt 3:5; 28:52; Ezk 21:20). God's plans for the future are inscrutable to ordinary people. Only God can unlock the secrets of the future, and He offered this knowledge to Jeremiah. God would share with Jeremiah information the prophet did not know or understand about Israel's future. Likewise, God wants us to come to Him for understanding and insight. All true wisdom ultimately begins with Him (Pr 1:7) and in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2:3).

33:4-5. As Babylon's siege wore away at Jerusalem's outer resistance, the defenders of Jerusalem used houses and the royal palaces to provide wood and stone to strengthen the walls against the siege ramps to prevent the sword of Babylon's soldiers from making a breach in the walls and entering the city. God revealed that all these defensive plans would fail because of His anger and... wrath. God would hide His face from this city, refusing to deliver it from this destruction because of all their wickedness (cf. 18:17; Ezk 4:1-3). Jerusalem had to be destroyed because of all their wickedness.

(2) The Restoration (33:6-13)

33:6-9. The key to understanding God's seemingly contradictory prophecies of judgment and blessing is to realize that the judgment was to be only temporary. After the time of judgment God will, in days to come, bring health and healing to His city and His people with abundant peace and truth.

God spoke to Jeremiah about three elements of this blessing. First, the blessing will involve a restoration to the land (cf. 31:8-11; 32:37). God will bring both Judah and Israel back from captivity, and restore (shuv, "return") their fortunes (shavuth, "captivity" or "captives"). They will be rebuilt, reestablished. Second, the blessing will involve a restoration to the Lord (cf. 31:31-34; 32:33-40). God will cleanse the people from all their iniquity and pardon them of their transgressions. Third, the blessing will involve a restoration to a special place of honor among the nations (cf. 31:10-14; Dt 28:13). Jerusalem will bring renown, joy, praise, and glory to God before all the nations of the earth. Nations will be in awe and will tremble as they marvel at the good and peace God will lavish on His people (Jr 33:6, 9). The fulfillment of this prophecy did not occur following the exile and awaits an eschatological realization.

33:10-13. God drew two pictures that contrasted Israel's present judgment and her future blessing. Each picture began with similar phrases, including the words Thus says the Lord, again, and in this place, and the theme of various cities being a waste (vv. 10, 12).

God emphasized that this is what the Lord (or Lord of hosts) says. In each picture the scene in Jeremiah's day was similar (vv. 10, 12). Jerusalem was a desolate waste, without man or beast (cf. 32:44). Though the siege was still in progress, the fall of Jerusalem was so sure that God pictured it as if it had already happened. However, these events are yet in the future, when King Messiah reigns over his people, who will be cleansed from all their iniquity (v. 8).

At this point the two pictures changed. First, God illustrated the joy and gladness that will again return to Judah and Jerusalem (vv. 10-11). Next, He illustrated the peace and prosperity of the people, where flocks... pass under the hands of good shepherds, throughout all of Israel from the hill country to the lowland to the Negev in the south, to Benjamin, Jerusalem, and Judah (vv. 12-13; 17:26). The streets of Jerusalem that were desolate after its destruction by Babylon (cf. Lm 1:1-4) will again be filled with the voice of joy and... gladness. This joyful sound will be typified by the voices of a bride and bridegroom in a wedding ceremony (cf. Jr 7:34; 16:9; 25:10) and the voices of worshipers who bring a thank offering into the house of the Lord (cf. Ps 100:1-2, 4; Jr 17:26). The song to be sung by the worshipers, Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, For the Lord is good, recorded by Jeremiah, resembled the refrain of several psalms (cf. Pss 100:4-5; 106:1; 107:1; 136:1-3). Joy will come when God restores Judah's fortunes (cf. Jr 30:18; 32:44; 33:26; Dt 30:3).

Throughout the land flocks will again pass under the hands of the one who numbers them, as a shepherd counts his sheep to be sure none is absent. Return of flocks of sheep points to a time of prosperity. Possibly Jeremiah was using shepherd and sheep in a metaphorical sense to refer to the leaders of Israel and the people. He had already compared the leaders to shepherds (cf. comments on 3:15) and the restored nation to a regathered flock (cf. 23:3; 31:10). Ultimately the Lord is the Shepherd of Israel and will care for His flock (Ps 80:1; Eccl 12:11; Ezk 34:11-31; Jn 10:11; Heb 13:20; 1Pt 5:4).

b. The Covenants with David and the Levitical Priests (33:14-26)

Jeremiah had also used this imagery of future blessing to introduce his message on the "righteous Branch" of David (23:1-6; 33:14-26).

(1) The Covenants (33:14-18)

The second section of this chapter is introduced with the phrase "Behold, the days are coming" (hinneh yamim ba'im, cf. comments on 31:27) when God would "fulfill the good word... concerning... Israel and... Judah." Although the monarchy and the priesthood were suspended during the exile, Jeremiah proclaimed there would be both an eternal Davidic kingship and an eternal Levitical priesthood (vv. 17-18) in the coming days. However, the fulfillment was not realized at the return from Babylon (Ezk 1:8; 2:2). The "good word," a phrase that captures the entire breadth of the glorious promises made to both parts of the nation (16:14-15; 23:3-6; 29:10-14; 31:1-14, 27-40; 32:37-44; Hs 1:10-11; 2:14-23; Am 9:11-15; Mc 7:18-20; Zph 3:10, 14-17; Zch 8:3-8, 10:6, 14:9-20) will be fulfilled in the Messianic Age.

33:14-16. The first aspect of this fulfillment will be the restoration of the monarchy (cf. 23:5). The righteous Branch of David (cf. 23:5-6; 33:15; Isa 11:1-4) will rule as King over the nation. This was a prophecy about Jesus Christ who descended from the line of David and was promised David's throne (cf. Mt 1:1; Lk 1:31-33). His reign is characterized by justice and righteousness and extends to the whole earth.

The second aspect of this fulfillment will be the restoration of Jerusalem as God's dwelling place. The city that was about to be destroyed by Babylon (Jr 33:4-5) will, in the coming days, dwell in safety, and she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness. This verse is similar to 23:6, but here a significant change gives it a new meaning. In 23:6 Jeremiah pictured the safety of Israel and Judah through the ministry of the Messiah who was called "The Lord Our Righteousness." However, by changing "Israel" to "Jerusalem" and by changing the pronoun "He" to "she," Jeremiah here applied the title, the Lord Our Righteousness, to the city of Jerusalem instead of to the Messiah. Under the kingship of Messiah, Jerusalem will take on the same holy characteristics as the Lord who will dwell in her (cf. Ezk 48:35).

It is significant that Jeremiah singled out the royal (Jr 33:15) and religious (v. 16) aspects of God's restoration. Both were vital to Israel's existence as God's covenant community. With the certain destruction by Babylon, the people would be carried into exile and the promised land reduced to rubble, and all God's covenants with His people seemed to be at the point of annulment. The series of message to Jeremiah (vv. 17-26) confirms that the ancient covenant is secure, based on the character God.

SOURCE: The Moody Bible Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2015 WORDsearch.



The Lord Is Our Righteousness (v. 16)—In the Bible, the giving of a new name reflects a change in status. God foretold He would one day make Jerusalem (His chosen people) righteous.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

CHALDEA (chal dee’ uh): refers either to a geographical locality (Chaldea) or to the people who lived there (Chaldeans). Chaldea was situated in central and southeastern Mesopotamia, i.e., the land between the lower stretches of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Today Chaldea lies in the country of Iraq, very close to its border with Iran, and touching upon the head of the Persian Gulf.

The Chaldeans: In Old Testament times different peoples occupied southeastern Mesopotamia at various times. One such group was the Chaldeans, whose name derives from the ancient term Kaldai, which refers to several Aramean tribes who moved into lower Mesopotamia between 1000 and 900 B.C. Their new homeland was a flat, alluvial plain of few natural resources, many marshes, spring flooding, and very hot summers.

Relation to Babylonia: At first the Chaldeans lived in tribal settlements, rejecting the urban society of the Babylonians to the northwest—so-called after the leading city-state of the region, Babylon, to which the Old Testament refers over 300 times. Babylon was once the capital city of the great King Hammurabi (ca. 1763-1750 B.C.), remembered for the empire he created, and for the famous law code which bears his name.

As time passed, the Chaldeans gradually acquired domination in Babylonia. In the process they also took on the title “Babylonians,” or more exactly, “Neo-Babylonians.” As a result, the terms Chaldea(ns) and (Neo-) Babylonia(ns) may be used interchangeably (Ezek. 1:3, RSV, NIV; 12:13, NIV).

In the eighth century B.C., the Chaldeans emerged as the champions of resistance against Assyria, a dangerous, aggressive imperial force in upper Mesopotamia. At this time the Chaldeans begin to appear in the Old Testament, first, as possible allies with Judah against Assyria, but later, as a direct threat to Judah and Jerusalem.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.


(‏כַּשְׂדִּים‎, kasdīm, ‏אֶרֶץ כַּשְׂדִּים‎, ʾereç kasdīm; Χαλδαία, Chaldaía, Χαλδαῖοι, Chaldaíoi):

"Kasdīm," "land of Kasdīm" or "the Chaldeans," is the usual designation, in the Old Testament, for the land and the people (Jeremiah 50:10; Jeremiah 51:24; Jeremiah 24:5; Jeremiah 25:12). The corresponding Greek form with l for s follows the Assyr-Bab Kaldu, mat Kaldi, "Chaldean, land of the Chaldeans." Kasdīm is possibly connected with the name of Kesed (Kesedh), nephew of Abraham (Genesis 22:22), and may be derived from the Assyr-Bab root kasadu, "to capture," suggesting that the Chaldeans were originally tribes of nomadic plunderers (compare Job 1:17).

1. Geographical Position:

Seats of the Chaldeans:

In its widest acceptation, Chaldea is the name of the whole of Babylonia, owing to the fact that the Chaldeans had given more than one king to the country. In the strict sense, however, their domain was the tract at the Northwest end of the Persian Gulf, which was often called by the Assyro-Babylonians mat Tamtim, "the Land of the Sea," a province of unknown extent. When these tribes migrated into Babylonia is uncertain, as is also their original home; but as they are closely related to the Arameans, it is possible that their first settlements lay in the neighborhood of the Aramean states bordering on the Holy Land. Tiglath-pileser IV (742 BC) speaks of the ra'asani or chiefs of the Kaldu, and the mention of numerous Aramean tribes in Babylonia itself shows that their example of settling there soon found imitators, as did the Anglo-Saxons when they invaded Britain. Among the Chaldean tribes in Babylonia may be mentioned Bit Amukkani, whose capital was Sapia; Bit Yakin which furnished the dynasty to which Merodach-baladan II belonged; and probably also Bit Dakkuri, as all three lay near the Persian Gulf. Sargon of Assyria excludes Bit-Amukkani and Bit-Dakkuri, and speaks of "the whole of the land of Chaldea, as much as there is; the land of Bit-Yakini, on the shore of the Salt River (the Persian Gulf), to the border of Tilmun" (the island of Bahrein and the adjacent mainland) (Pavement Inscr., IV, ll. 82, 83, 85, 86). It was probably the influence of theBabylonians among whom they settled which changed these nomads into city-dwellers. Sennacherib refers to 75 (var. 89) strong cities and fortresses of Chaldea, and 420 (var. 800) smaller towns which were around them; and there were also Chaldeans (and Arameans) in Erech, Nippur (Calneh), Kis, Hursag-kalama, Cuthah, and probably Babylon.

2. Originally Sumero-Akkadian:

The "land of the sea" (mat Tamtim)is mentioned in the chronicle of the early Babylonian kings (rev. 14) as being governed by Ea-gamil, contemporary of Samsu-Titana (circa 1900 BC), but at that period it was apparently one of the original Sumero-Akkadian states of Babylonia. It is doubtful whether, at that early date, the Chaldeans had entered Babylonia and founded settlements there, though the record mentions Arameans somewhat later on.

3. History of the Chaldean Tribes:

One of the earliest references to the Chaldeans is that of Shalmaneser II of Assyria, who, on invading Babylonia in the eponymy of Belbunaya (851 BC), captured the city Baqani, which belonged to Adini of the Chaldean tribe of Dakuri. After plundering and destroying the place, Shalmaneser attacked Enzudi, the capital, whereupon Adini submitted and paid tribute. On this occasion Yakini of "the Land of the Sea," also paid tribute, as did Musallim-Marduk, son of Amukkani (the Bit-Amukkani mentioned above). The next Assyrian ruler to mention the country is Adadnirari III (810 BC), who speaks of all the kings of the Chaldeans, which evidently refers to the various states into which the Chaldean tribes were divided. Later on, Sargon of Assyria, in his 12th year, decided to break the power of Merodach-baladan, who had made himself master of Babylon. To effect this, he first defeated the Gambulians, who were the Chaldean king's supporters, and the Elamites, his allies over the border. The Chaldean, however, did not await the Assyrian king's attack, but escaped to Yatburu in Elam, leaving considerable spoil behind him.

4. Merodach-baladan and Sargon of Assyria:

Though extensive operations were carried out, and much booty taken, the end of the campaign seems only to have come two years later, when Dur-Yakin was destroyed by fire and reduced to ruins. In the "Annals of Hall XIV" Sargon claims to have taken Merodach-baladan prisoner, but this seems doubtful. Merodach-baladan fled, but returned and mounted the throne again on Sargon's death in 705 BC. Six months later Sennacherib, in his turn, attacked him, and he again sought safety in flight.

5. Suzubu:

A Chaldean chief named Suzubu, however, now came forward, and proclaimed himself king of Babylon, but being defeated, he likewise fled. Later on, Sennacherib attacked the Chaldeans at Nagitu and other settlements in Elamite-territory which Merodach-baladan and his followers had founded.

6. Musezib-Marduk:

After the death of Merodach-baladan, yet another Chaldean, whom Sennacherib calls likewise Suzubu, but whose full name was Musezib-Marduk, mounted the Babylonian throne. This ruler applied for help against Sennacherib of Assyria to Umman-menanu, the king of Elam, who, taking the bribe which was offered, supported him with an armed force, and a battle was fought at Chalule on the Tigris, in which Sennacherib claims the victory—probably rightly. Musezib-Marduk reigned 4 years, and was taken prisoner by his whilom ally, Umman-menanu, who sent him to Assyria.

7. Merodach-baladan's Son:

In the reign of Esarhaddon, Nabu-zer-napistilisir, one of the sons of Merodach-baladan, gathered an army at Larsa, but was defeated by the Assyrians, and fled to Elam. The king of that country, however, wishing to be on friendly terms with Esarhaddon, captured him and put him to death.

8. Na'id-Marduk:

This prince had a brother named Na'id-Marduk, who, not feeling himself safe in the country which had acted treacherously toward his house, fled, and made submission to Esarhaddon, who received him favorably, and restored to him the dominion of the "Land of the Sea." This moderation secured the fidelity of the Chaldeans, and when the Elamite Urtaku sent inviting them to revolt against their suzerain, they answered to the effect that Na'id-Marduk was their lord, and they were the servants of the king of Assyria. This took place probably about 650 BC, in the reign of Esarhaddon's son Assur-bani-apli.

9. Palia:

Hostility to Assyria, however, continued to exist in the tribe, Palia, grandson of Merodach-baladan, being one of the prisoners taken by Assur-bani-apli's troops in their operations against the Gambulians (a Babylonian, and perhaps a Chaldean tribe) later on. It was only during the struggle of Samas-sumukin (Saosduchimos), king of Babylon, Assur-banl-apli's brother, however, that they took sides against Assyria as a nationality. This change was due to the invitation of the Babylonian king—who may have been regarded, rather than Assur-bani-apli, as their overlord.

10. Nabu-bel-sumati:

The chief of the Chaldeans was at that time another grandson of Merodach-baladan, Nabu-bel-sumati, who seized the Assyrians in his domain, and placed them in bonds. The Chaldeans suffered, with the rest, in the great defeat of the Babylonian and allied forces, when Babylon and the chief cities of the land fell. Mannu-ki-Babili of the Dakkurians, Ea-sum-ikisa of Bit-Amukkani, with other Chaldean states, were punished for their complicity in Samas-sum-ukin's revolt, while Nabu-bel-sumati fled and found refuge at the court of Indabigas, king of Elam. Assur-bani-apli at once demanded his surrender, but civil war in Elam broke out, in which Indabigas was slain, and Ummanaldas mounted the throne.

His Tragic End:

This demand was now renewed, and Nabu-bel-sumati, fearing that he would be surrendered, decided to end his life. He therefore directed his armor-bearer to dispatch him, and each ran the other through with his sword. The prince's corpse, with the head of his armor-bearer, were then sent, with some of the Chaldean fugitives, to Assyria, and presented to the king. Thus ended, for a time, Chaldean ambition in Babylonia and in the domain of eastern politics.

11. The Chaldeans Forge Ahead:

With the death of Assur-bani-apli, which took place about 626 BC, the power of Assyria fell, his successors being probably far less capable men than he. This gave occasion for many plots against the Assyrian empire, and the Chaldeans probably took part in the general movement. In the time of Saracus (Sin-sarra-iskun of Assyria, circa 620 BC) Busalossor would seem to have been appointed general of the forces in Babylonia in consequence of an apprehended invasion of barbarians from the sea (the Persian Gulf) (Eusebius, Chronicon, book i).

12. Nabopolassar's Revolt against Assyria:

The new general, however, revolted against the Assyrians, and made himself master of Babylonia. As, in other cases, the Assyrians seem to have been exceedingly faithful to their king, it has been thought possible that this general, who was none other than Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadpolassar's rezzar, was not really an Assyrian, but a Babylonian, and probably a Chaldean. This theory; if correct, would explain how Babylonia, in its fullest sense, obtained the name of Chaldea, and was no longer known as the land of Shinar (Genesis 10:10). The reputation of Merodach-baladan, the contemporary of Hezekiah, may have been partly responsible for the change of name.

13. The Chaldeans as Learned Men:

It was not in the restricted sense, but as a synonym of Babylonian, that the name Chaldean obtained the signification of "wise man." That the Chaldeans in the restricted and correct sense were more learned than, or even as learned as, the Babylonians in general, is unlikely. Moreover, the native inscriptions give no indication that this was the case. The Babylonians in general, on the other hand, were enthusiastic students from very early times. From their inscriptions, it is certain that among their centers of learning may be classed Sippar and Larsa, the chief seats of sun-worship; Nippur, identified with the Calneh of Genesis 10:10; Babylon, the capital; Borsippa in the neighborhood of Babylon; Ur of the Chaldees; and Erech. There is, also, every probability that this list could be extended, and will be extended, when we know more; for wherever an important temple existed, there was to be found also a priestly school. "The learning of the Chaldeans" (Daniel 1:4; Daniel 2:2; Daniel 4:7; Daniel 5:7, 11) comprised the old languages of Babylonia (the two dialects of Sumerian, with a certain knowledge of Kassite, which seems to have been allied to the Hittite; and other languages of the immediate neighborhood); some knowledge of astronomy and astrology; mathematics, which their sexagesimal system of numeration seems to have facilitated; and a certain amount of natural history. To this must be added a store of mythological learning, including legends of the Creation, the Flood (closely resembling in all its main points the account in the Bible), and apparently also the Temptation and the Fall. They had likewise a good knowledge of agriculture, and were no mean architects, as the many celebrated buildings of Babylonia show—compare not only the descriptions of the Temple of Belus and the Hanging Gardens, but also the remains of Gudea's great palace at Lagas (Tel-loh), where that ruler, who lived about 2500 BC, is twice represented as an architect, with plan and with rule and measure. (These statues are now in the Louvre.) That their architecture never attained the elegance which characterized that of the West, is probably due to the absence of stone, necessitating the employment of brick as a substitute (Genesis 11:3).

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.



Jeremiah His Life and Lessons

By Janice Meier

Janice Meier, a former professor of Hebrew at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, is a retired editor for Explore the Bible at LifeWay in Nashville, Tennessee.


T WAS THE BEST OF TIMES.  That time—the time of Jeremiah’s ministry—fell in the latter part of the seventh century and the early part of the sixth century BC in the tiny nation of Judah.  More precisely, Jeremiah served as the Lord’s prophet from 627 BC until sometime after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.  The good King Josiah had ascended Judah’s throne in 640 BC at the age of eight.  In the eighth year of his reign, he began to seek the Lord in earnest (2 Chron. 34:3) and in his twelfth year to purge the nation of its idolatrous worship.

It was also the best of times in that Judah was experiencing a brief period of freedom from domination by foreign powers.  During the twelfth year of Josiah’s reign, Assyria’s King Ashurbanipal died.  At that time Josiah seized the opportunity to throw off the vassalage that had kept Judah subject to Assyria for approximately a century.  The faithful king not only destroyed idolatrous worship sites, he also expanded Judah’s borders.  Such expansion was possible because Assyria was fighting a losing battle with the Babylonians and the Medes.1

The time of Jeremiah’s ministry was also the worst of times.  Although Assyrian power in the ancient Near East was waning, Babylonian power was on the rist.  That empire would become dominant at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC.  At the hands of Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar, Judah experienced a series of invasions, resulting in deportations of its inhabitants in 605, 597, and 586 BC.  In 586 BC, the nation completely fell to the Babylonians.  Before the final collapse, Jerusalem experienced horrific conditions as a city under Babylonian attack.  During an 18-montth siege, famine became so severe that the city’s inhabitants resorted to eating their own offspring (Lam. 4:10).  Ultimately the Babylonians pillaged, destroyed, and burned Jerusalem and its sacred temple.  Only the poorest classes of society were left in the land.  The lack of chronological order in the Book of Jeremiah reflects the turbulence of these times.

Into this chaotic climate the Lord hurled a reluctant young man to deliver a message of judgment and later hope to His people.  One possible meaning of the name Jeremiah is “the Lord hurls.”2  Although a descendant of the priestly line that Solomon had exiled to Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth, Jeremiah received the Lord’s call to be a prophet.  He would minister primarily in Judah.  When Jerusalem ultimately fell, however, the people fled to Egypt and took Jeremiah with them.  Although the people’s action directly violated the Lord’s command and brought His judgment, the Lord continued to speak through His prophet in Egypt (Jer. 44:11-14).  We do not know where or when the prophet died.3

Jeremiah’s call experience is recorded in Jeremiah 1:1-19.  The prophet’s call occurred in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign (627 BC).  The Lord announced He had set Jeremiah apart before his birth and chosen him to prophesy not only to Judah but also to the nations (1:5).  As did Moses, Jeremiah protested that he did not know how to speak.  In response the Lord filled the prophet’s mouth with His words.

The Lord assigned Jeremiah a sixfold mission expressed in the verbs of Jeremiah 1:10b.  Four of those verbs are destructive in nature (“uproot,” “tear down,” “destroy,” “demolish”4) indicating Jeremiah’s message would primarily be one of judgment.  Two constructive verbs (“build,” “pland”) point out the prophet would also deliver a message of hope after the Lord’s judgment fell on the sinful nation.  Those two positive verbs further emphasize that God’s judgment on His people is always redemptive in nature.  It is designed to bring His people back to Him.

Two visions accompanied Jeremiah’s call (vv. 11:16).  The visions of the almond branch contains a wordplay in the original language.  Just as the almond tree blossoms early in the spring, so the Lord was alert and watching over His word to accomplish His purpose.  The second vision, the boiling pot tilted toward the south, prophesied disaster to come on Judah from the north.  That enemy from the north ultimately proved to be the Babylonian army.

Finally, the Lord prepared Jeremiah for a difficult ministry (vv. 17-19).  He commanded Jeremiah to brace himself for an unresponsive audience.  The Lord would enable His prophet to prevail in the face of strong opposition as Jeremiah depended on Him.  Yet even though the prophet faced severe opposition from his people, he grieved deeply for them.  The prophet’s words recorded in Jeremiah 9:1 probably are the primary reason he has been designated the “weeping prophet.”5 

What can we learn through a study of Jeremiah’s life and times?  The prophet’s personal experiences reveal that the Lord can speak to us through everyday objects and ordiary events in our lives.  For example, when He called the prophet, the Lord communicated with Jeremiah through the branch of an almond tree and a tilted boiling pot (1:11-16).  On another occasion the Lord spoke to Jeremiah through a visit to the potter’s housoe where the prophet observed a flawed jar on the potter’s wheel (18:1-12).

Through the life and ministry of Jeremiah we also learn that the sovereign Lord has a plan for His children’s lives.  That teaching is clearly evident in Jeremiah 1:5, where the Lord revealed He had set Jeremiah apart for a special task before the prophet’s birth.  Jeremiah 29:11, a key verse in the book, emphasizes that God’s plans for His people always have their best interests at heart.  While discipline is essential when we err, the Lord’s goal for His people is to give them “a future and a hope.”

Another key teaching from Jeremiah’s life is that we can be honest with God.  The prophet revealed his heart.  He showed his humanity in a way few prophets did.  A sensitive individual, Jeremiah experienced both emotional highs and lows in his service to God, yet he remained faithful to his divinely appointed mission.  His complaints (sometime called confessions) portray some of his emotional lows.  Such struggles are normal for a person engaged in difficult ministry.  The Lord had warned His prophet to prepare for a challenging ministry, and Jeremiah repeatedly faced crises in his service.  On one occasion, the people of Anathoth, his hometown, plotted to take his life (11:21-23).  At another time the religious leaders and people in Jerusalem wanted to kill him (26:8-11).  The prophet was regarded as a traitor because he faithfully delivered the Lord’s message that the nation should surrender to the Babylonians.

Jeremiah complained that the Lord was like a mirage or an unfaithful brook—a wadi that could not be depended on to supply water in a time of desperate need (15:18).  He laments show that we can pour out our hearts to God in honest prayer.  Such prayers keep the lines of communication open and can be a means of settling our doubts.

The times in whick  the prophet lived influenced his message.  For example, one key message was that external forms of religion are no substitute for a genuine relationship with God.  The message comes across clearly in Jeremiah’s temple sermon (7:1-15).  In that message, the Lord warned His people that coming to His house of worship and leaving to engage in behavior that breaks His commandments brings His discipline.  In Judah’s case, that discipline ultimately involved the nation’s demise.  The Lord announced that the people had made His temple “a den of robbers” (v. 11), a place where thieves lie low after they have committed their evil deeds.  Jesus quoted these words when He cleaned the temple (Matt. 21:13).

In a culture that blamed its ancestors for its woes, the Lord revealed to Jeremiah that each individual is personally responsible or accountable for his or her own sins (Jer. 17:10; 31:29-30).  A common proverb of the time proclaimed, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (31:29).  By quoting this proverb, the people expressed their belief that they were being unfairly punished for the sins of previous generations.  Through His prophet, the Lord clearly announced that each individual is accountable for his or her wrongdoing.

Finally, in a time when the nation was suffering acutely for its sins, Jeremiah received a pinnacle revelation regarding the nrw covenant (31:31-34).  According to this new covenant, the time was coming when the Lord would forgive His people’s sins and write His law on their hearts.  Each individual could know the Lord, that is, have an intimate personal relationship with Him.

On the night He was betrayed, after eating with His disciples, Jesus “took the cup after supper and said, ‘This cup is the covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you” (Luke 22:20).  By referring to Jeremiah 31:31, Jesus emphasized that the new covenant prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled in His life and death.  Thus approximately 600 years after Jeremiah’s prophecy, in the fullness of time, Jesus made possible a new covenant relationship between God and man (Gal. 4:4-5).       

1.  See J.A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 18-19.

2.  The meaning of Jeremiah’s name is uncertain.  Other suggestions include “the Lord loosens,” “the Lord exalts,” or “the Lord establishes.” See F.B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations, vol. 16 in The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1993), 23, note 7.

3.  Ibid., 370.

4.  All Scripture quotations are from the HCSB.

5.  F.M. Wood & R. McLaren, Jeremiah, Lamentations, vol. 16 in Holman Old Testament Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006), 89.

SOURCE:  Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234, Fall 2016.

Babylon The Land of the Chaldeans

W. Wayne VanHorn

W. Wayne VanHorn is dean of the School of Christian Studies and the Arts at Mississippi College, Clinton, Mississippi.


hat was life like when Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar deported the people of Judah into exile?  The purpose of this article is to explore the living conditions in Babylon for the Jewish exiles during the period 605-539 BC. This period of Babylonian history is also known as the Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean period, which began with Babylon’s King Nabopolassar successfully overthrowing Assyria’s capital, Nineveh, in 612 BC. When Nabopolassar died in 605 BC, his son Nebuchadnezzar became the king of this revitalized Babylonian Empire.  Shortly thereafter he subjugated the small nations of ancient Canaan, forcing them to pay tribute money and taking their best citizens into Babylonian exile. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were taken into captivity at this time. Eight years later, Nebuchadnezzar, responding to Judah’s King Jehoiakim withholding tribute money, attacked Jerusalem, “the city of Judah” mentioned in the Babylonian Chronicle.1 Jehoiakim died before the Babylonians broke through the city’s defenses on March 16, 597 BC, but his son Jehoiachin and approximately 10,000 people of Judah were taken into exile in Babylon.2 Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s uncle and last remaining son of Josiah, was elevated to ruler of the remaining truncated kingdom of Judah. Ezekiel referred to him by a title meaning “chief” or “prince” but not king (Ezek. 19). This signifies Ezekiel thought of King Jehoiachin as the legitimate king, even though he was an émigré with Judah’s other exiles.


Babylon was a city of great size and importance located on the Euphrates River over 500 miles east of Jerusalem and about 50 miles south of modern Baghdad.3 The journey from Jerusalem took approximately four months (Ezra 7:9).  No one traveled directly to Babylon from Jerusalem due to the vast Arabian Desert, but rather followed the fresh water rivers around the so-called Fertile Crescent, taking them north from Jerusalem to Haran and then along the Euphrates southeast to Babylon, covering an arduous distance of roughly 800 miles.  According to Ezekiel 1:1, Ezekiel the prophet, was among the exiles in 597 BC, was with other captives near the River Chebar, a tributary or irrigation canal off the Euphrates River, used to irrigate crops.

Exile—Under Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BC )

For the exiled Jews, so far from their homeland, Babylon seemed like a strange place.  The Babylonians’ apparent defeat of Yahweh shook the Jews’ own covenant monotheism to its foundatioins.4  Was Marduk, the chief Babylonian god, superior to Yahweh?  Would the exile last long?  This theological tension was resolved when the exiles accepted their captivity as Yahweh’s punishment for their sins.

Apparently, life in Babylon varied among the Jews. We gleam from Ezekiel 3:15 that some exiles were allowed to live in small, homogenous communities.  God was active among His exiled people, inspiring them through Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s messages.  In fact, Ezekiel saw visions of God by the River Chebar in Babylon (Ezek. 1:1).  As mentioned above, the Babylonians took Daniel and his three friends into exile around 605 BC.  They were raised in the king’s court and trained to conduct royal business.  Daniel excelled in wisdom and eventually rose to a prominent position.

Regarding religious practices, the Jews maintained their devotion to Yahweh.  Daniel opened his window toward Jerusalem to pray.  His three friends, known popularly by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol.  For the thousands of other Jews resettled in Jewish communities around Babylon, studying the Torah took on a heightened importance since the temple had been destroyed and the attendant sacrifices halted.  The exiles maintained to some degree their socio-religious structure with elders representing the people.  These elders often sought Ezekiel’s counsel (8:1).  During this time, Judah’s scholars developed the square script of Hebrew and adopted Babylonian month names.5  Aramaic began to replace Hebrew as the everyday language.  Religious practices like circumcision and observing the Sabbath aided the Hebrews in maintaining some ethnic uniformity.  The development of synagogues for conducting community business and worship began to take shape.6 

From the story of Daniel and his friends, we conjecture skilled craftsmen among the exiles were conscripted for service to the state, some under favorable conditions.  Other exiles, however, dreamed of home and sought to hasten their return by force if necessary.  Jeremiah condemned two Jewish men for serving as false prophets (Jer. 29:21).  These false prophets, Ahab ben Kolaiah and Zedekiah ben Maaseiah (not to be confused with Prince Zedikiah), apparently prophesied the captives would soon return to Jerusalem.  Nebuchadnezzar viewed their comments as seditious and had both men “roasted in the fire” (v. 22, HCSB).  The news from Egypt that the new pharaoh (Psammetichus II) was offering military support to Judah around 594 BC may have been what motivated Ahab and Zedekiah to make such prophecies.7 

Around this time Judah’s Prince Zedekiah called a conference of vassal nations, hoping to create an anti-Babylonian alliance.8 Nebuchadnezzar successfully thwarted all such attempts at revolt.  Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon (likely by withholding tribute money), a fateful decision that brought the full force of Babylon’s army against Jerusalem.  In 586 BC, the city fell.  The Babylonians tore down Jerusalem’s walls and destroyed the major buildings including Solomon’s temple.  The Babylonians took a third wave of captives into exile.

The Jewish settlements’ precise locations in Babylon are unclear, but they would have been located near the capital city.  Probably, the Jews became a servant class, farming irrigated fields in order to provide food for the Babylonian populace.  Their hearts longed for home as revealed in the exile Psalm 137.  Yet with the passing of time, the death of the older population, and the increase of Jews born in Babylon, a predictable normalization of life took place.  When Cyrus conquered Babylon and issued his famous decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple, many Jews chose to stay in Babylon.  They had taken Jeremiah’s advice to build houses, plant gardens, take wives, have children, allow their children to get married, have grandchildren, and seek and pray for the peace of the city (Jer. 29:1-7).  Seeking the peace or welfare of the city required the Jews to cooperate with their overlords.  Praying for the peace of Babylon meant accepting their lot in life as being from the land of the Lord, punishment for their sins.

Exile—Under Nabonidus (556-539 BC )

When the great King Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC, his son was not prepared to take the reins of power.  Amel-Marduk, or Evil-merodach, is notable to Bible students only because he released King Jehoiachin from prison and gave him rations of food and let him eat at the king’s table (Jer. 52:31-34; 2 Kings 25:27-30).  Jehoiachin’s release came in the 17th year of exile, 560 BC.  This momentous occasion no doubt signaled to the Jews in exile that the time of punishment was nearing an end. Nergal-sharusur, or Neriglissar, killed and replace his brother-in-law, Evil-merodach.  Nergal-sharusur’s son, Labashi-Marduk reigned only a short while before Nabonidus replaced him and served as Babylon’s last king.  Bible students are more familiar with Nabonidus’s son, Belshazzar, from the story of the man’s hand writing on the wall (Dan. 5:1-30).  Belshazzar served as a Babylonian administrator while his father remained preoccupied with military campaigns or with building projects in his adopted home of Tema, several hundred miles southwest of Babylon.

The political intrigues of the Babylonian palace coupled with growing dissatisfaction among the priests of Marduk, whom Nabonidus snubbed in favor of his mother’s moon god, Sin, no doubt caused the Jews in exile to wonder about their own security.  Around 559 BC, a warrior king, known to history as Cyrus the Great, came to Persia’s throne.  In 550 BC, he issued an emancipation proclamation, allowing the Jews in return to Judah and to rebuild the temple.  The great Babylonian captivity was over.  Many Jews chose to remain in Babylon, a testament to the fact their lives and their futures were tied to the land of their conquerors.  While the Babylonians were fading into history, however, the Hebrews continued as a unique people held together by their distinctive religion, a religion nurtured and perpetuated in Babylon.9        

1.  B.T. Arnold & B.E. Beyer, Readings From the Ancient Near East (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 159; J.B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East, vol. 1, An Anthology of Texts & Pictures (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1958), 203.

2.  See 2 Kings 24:14,16. The 8,000 mentioned in v. 16 might be included in the total of 10,000 mentioned in v. 14, a round number that included the women only and children as well. The 4,600 mentioned in Jeremiah 52:30 probably represented men only and included exiles from 582 BC; the total figure would be three or four times as large.  See J. Bright, A History of Israel, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), 345.

3.  D.C. Browing, Jr., “Babylon” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, gen. ed. C.Brand, C.Draper, & A.England (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 155.

4.  Bright, 348.

5.  M.I. Gruber, ”Babylonian Exile” in The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1997), 94.

6.  M. Cogan, “Into Exile: From the Assyrian Conquest of Israel to the Fall of Babylon” in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, ed. M.D. Coogan (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998), 360.

7.  J.D. Newsome, Jr., By the Waters of Babylon: An Introduction to the History & Theology of the Exile (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979), 54.

8.  Cogan, 351.

9.  W.G. Lambert, “The Babyloians & Chaldaeans” in Peoples of Old Testament Times, ed. D.J. Wiseman (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1973), 194.

SOURCE:  Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234, Summer 2011.

A City Under Siege

By Daniel P. Caldwell

Daniel P. Caldwell is vice president of church relations and dean of the Cooper School of Missions and Biblical Studies at William Carey University, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.


INCE THE DAWN of history, men have attempted to impose their will over others through war.  From the Hebrews’ beginnings in Genesis until the time of the exile, civil and international strife impacted their lives.  The act of war led to the development and use of a variety of weapons and battle tactics.  Much of our knowledge of these weapons and tactics comes from three sources: pictorial representations in murals and reliefs, artifacts from archaeological excavations, and some written documents.

Some of the early weapons included long-range arms (bow and arrow, spear, and slingshot), midrange arms (javelin), and close-range arms (sword, mace, battle ax, and battering ram).1  Battle tactics generally included hand-to-hand combat in the open field and the more common siege of a walled city.

Siege warfare was well known and practiced in the biblical world.  While many people groups (the Egyptians, Syrians, and Chaldeans) used the tactic, the Assyrians were the most effective in using this battle strategy.

Preliminaries of a Siege

Deuteronomy offers insight into the preliminaries of siege warfare.  Before the Israelite army engaged in battle against a city, they offered the city an opportunity to surrender.2  If the city yielded to the offer, the battle was avoided and the inhabitants became servants to the Israelites and performed forced labor (Deut. 20:10-11).  Further, some would pay a heavy tribute to the invading army’s king (2 Kings 18:14-16).

If the city refused the offer of peace and engaged in war, the Israelites were to “lay siege to that city” (Deut. 20:12, NIV).  In order to avoid a prolonged siege, spies sometimes went in advance to discover a city’s weaknesses (Josh. 2:1; Judg. 1:22-26).

During the time of a siege, some invading armies would consume or destroy the enemy’s natural resources.  This included the practice of denuding the land of trees.3  The attacking army used wood from the trees for fuel, for siege instruments, or to simply apply additional pressure to force a surrender.4 

The Hebrews had a law tempering this practice.  The law prohibited the use of fruit trees for siege purposes.  All other trees could be used for building siege works “until the city at war with you falls” (Deut. 20:19-20, NIV).  Regretfully, the people of God did not always heed this teaching (Judg. 9:46-49).  Sometimes God Himself made an exception (2 Kings 3:19-25; Jer. 6:6). 

Siege Tactics

Siege warfare began when an opposing military force encamped against a city.  If the city refused the terms of surrender, however, the military force would not begin battle immediately.  They had many tasks to complete prior to an attack.

An effective siege would begin by cutting off all communications of a city from outside help.  Once surrounded, a city could communicate with other places of defense only by using signal fires.  An example of this practice (“watching for the signals of Lachish”) appears in the writings of the siege of Lachish (589-588 BC ) in southern Israel.5 

The invading army would also attempt to cut off the city’s supplies, mainly food and water.  Preparing for a siege, people would store water within the walls of their city, primarily in a cistern, and also food (Nah. 3:14).  Rather than attack the city, the invading army could simply wait for the supplies to dwindle.  This method could force a surrender.  Assyria’s King Sennacherib reminded the Israelites of this outcome when he surrounded Jerusalem.  He proclaimed that unless they surrendered, they would “die by hunger and by thirst” (2 Chron. 32:11, NASB).

A walled city offered an important defense.  It provided protection to the surrounding people during times of siege.  If the siege lasted too long, however, the walls became a trap and the people inside would experience misery.  The Old Testament describes many horrific acts that took place in the city during a siege.

The Lord forewarned the Israelites of a siege’s atrocities.  Deuteronomy 28:15,51-57 vividly contrasts the natural appetites of the invaders and the unnatural appetites of the Israelites who would eat their children to avoid starvation during a siege.6

Once an invading army had successfully encamped against a city, they would build a siege wall (also called siege works, mounds, or siege mounds) with towers around the city.7  Such an earthen mound served as a protective barrier.  From the wall they erected, the besiegers would batter the upper and weaker parts of the city wall.  They would man the towers with archers or would use them as stations from which they would throw missiles of war down into the city (Jer. 52:4; Ezek. 17:17).

If the city was on a high hill, the invaders would build an inclined ramp of earth or stones, reaching to the top of the hill (Job 19:12; Isa. 29:3).  This ramp was sometimes overlaid with bricks, forming a partially paved road.  This enabled the invading army to attack the city with greater efficiency.  It also eased the mobility of their war machines.

Babylon’s Kind Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city of Tyre by building a dam across the narrow strait, which granted his army access to the city walls (Ezek. 26:8).  Some cities would have a trench, often filled with water, at the foot of the wall, which the invading army had to deal with prior to an assault.  An Egyptian inscription on the siege of Megiddo by Thutmose III (1490-1436 BC ) describes how his officers encountered a trench around the city.8 

Armies developed and used numerous weapons and war machines for siege warfare.  They usually constructed war machines using materials around the city they were attacking, mainly trees in the vicinity (Jer. 6:6).  The invaders would mount the siege machines on wooden wheels (four to six) and would roll it up to the area of the wall or gate structure they wanted to attack.9

The Assyrians employed two types of siege machines.  The first was the siege platform from which soldiers could shoot directly at the enemy defending the city walls.  The second was the battering ram, which soldiers operated by hand.  With it, armies would weaken the city wall or gates by repeated blows of a heavy beam outfitted with a huge metal head.  Its design also allowed room for archers in its tower.10 

The defenders would try to reduce the effect of the battering ram.  They would throw down debris in front of the machine to hinder it from reaching the wall.  Both archers and slingers hurling stones attempted to keep the siege machines from being set up.  Defenders would use chains or ropes with hooks to slow down the swinging beam.  From atop the wall, they also poured boiling water and oil on the men working the device.  They even attempted to destroy the machine by fire.11

Other means of weakening the city’s defenses included either tunneling beneath the wall or setting fire to the gates or breaking them open with axes (Judg. 9:52; Neh. 1:3; 2:3, Ezek. 26:9).  Jeremiah alludes to the breach in the city that the Babylonians made when they captured Jerusalem (Jer. 39:2). 

Once the city walls were adequately weakened, the invaders would assault the city wall.  The first to advance were the heavily armed soldiers who carried shields and spears.  These soldiers would mount ladders and attempt to climb over the wall.12  In order to provide protection to these soldiers, archers would hunker down behind a moveable roof or screen.  Thus protected, the archers would shoot arrows continuously at any defenders on the wall and protect the invading soldiers.

Capture of the City

As long as a city’s defenders held and the provisions were plentiful, the inhabitants faced greater hardships than the aforementioned.

The besiegers would plunder the city (2 Kings 25:9-10; see Ezra 1:7-10 for items taken from Jerusalem), and in many instances burn and destroy it.  Typically the captured people would be deported for captivity and slavery (2 Kings 17:6).   The men would be tortured (25:7) or sometimes killed (1 Kings 11:15).  The women were ravished (Zech. 14:2) and often, those who were pregnant were disemboweled (2 Kings 8:12; 15:16; Amos 1:13).

Such atrocities instilled horror in people.  For someone to speak of being besieged, therefore, indicated feelings of helplessness and impeding defeat.  The psalmist spoke of a time he was besieged.  Even while in such a helpless situation, though, he sensed the comfort of God’s unfailing love and his troubles lifted (Ps. 31:21).13  Thus the psalmist could proclaim with confidence, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth” (v. 5, NKJV).                         Bi

1.   For further information about weaponry of the Old Testament Era and supporting scriptural passages, see “Arms and Armor” by Daniel C. Fredericks in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, gen. ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, and Archie England (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 115-18.

2.   This practice was common among ancient Near Eastern nations.  An example is Rabshakeh’s bringing an offer of peace to King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:17-35).

3.   T. Nicol, “Siege” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, gen. ed. James Orr, (Chicago: Howard-Severance, 1915), 4:2786.

4.   Duane L. Christensen, Deuteronomy 1:1—21:9  in Word Biblical Commentary,  vol. 6B, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 448.

5.   James B. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East,  vol. 1 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), 213.

6.   Lev. 26:29; 2 Kings 6:24-29; Jer. 19:9; Lam. 2:20; 4:10; and Ezek. 5:10 have similar descriptions of this horror.

7.   Israel Eph’al, The City Besieged: Siege and Its Manifestations in the Ancient Near East  (Boston: Brill, 2009), 36-39.

8.   Pritchard, 180.

9.   Nicol, 2787.

10. Eph’al, 97-99.

11. Nicol, 2788.

12. The prophet Joel may have envisioned this scene in his writings.  In his description of an army of locusts that devastated the land, he characterized them as, “they scale walls like soldiers” (Joel 2:7, NIV).

13. See mesura  under (sur) II, bind, besiege”  in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:761.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 37, No. 3; Spring 2011.




(34,15 What is the Answer To & Where in the Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found: What king of Israel reigned only seven days and killed himself by burning down his palace around him?  Answer Next Week:

Last Week’s Question: What Canaanite king of the time of the judges was noted for having nine hundred iron chariots?  Answer:  Jabin; Judges 4:2-3.