Fairview Baptist Church
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
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Spring, 2018
Study Theme: GOD
What This Lesson Is About:
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.
Our Provider (Gen. 22:1-14)
Our Healer (Ex. 14:29-31; 15:22-27)
Our Banner (Ex. 17:8-16)
Our Peace (Judg. 6:11-16,22-24)
God Is Faithful (Luke 24:1-12)
Our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1-6)
Our Righteousness (Jer. 33:3-8,14-16)
Gecause God is righteous, He
will ultimately make all things right.
God Will Display His Wrath Against Evil (Jer.
God Will Purify & Forgive His Children (Jer.
God Will Administer His Justice &
Righteousness (Jer. 33:14-16)
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.).
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.
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
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
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
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!”
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
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
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.
Lessons in Jer. 33:6-8:
God disciplines His people to make them holy.
The Lord forgives and restores His people.
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.
Lessons in Jer. 33:14-16:
God’s promises have come true in and through Jesus.
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.
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
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
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
God Will Display His
Wrath Against Evil (Jer. 33:3-5)
God Will Purify & Forgive His Children (Jer.
God Will Administer His Justice &
Righteousness (Jer. 33:14-16)
Advanced Bible Study Commentary: Jeremiah
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.
For Life Commentary: Jeremiah
God Will Display His Wrath Against Evil (Jer. 33:3-5):
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. 28:1‑14). 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. 28:15‑68). The people failed to see that what God
wanted was a relationship based on adoring love characterized by obedience (6:4‑6).
Time and time again God sent His prophets to remind them of the foundation of
the covenant He had made with them (Mic. 6:7‑8; Amos 5:21‑24).
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. 3‑5). 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. 6‑7). 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
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.
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
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.
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. 31:31‑34).
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. 12‑13).
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;
III. God Will Administer His Justice and Righteousness (Jer. 33:14-16):
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.
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).
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.
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.
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. 7:12‑16; 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. 2:13‑14) 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 23:5‑6, 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.
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 60:11‑22
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.
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
The Moody Bible Commentary: Jeremiah 33:3-8, 14-16
The Coming Judgment and Future
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
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)
also used this imagery of future blessing to introduce his message on the
"righteous Branch" of David (23:1-6; 33:14-26).
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.
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.
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
(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,
(כַּשְׂדִּים, kasdīm, אֶרֶץ
Χαλδαία, Chaldaía, Χαλδαῖοι,
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons
Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
His Life and Lessons
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
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
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
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
See J.A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 18-19.
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.
All Scripture quotations are from the HCSB.
F.M. Wood & R. McLaren, Jeremiah,
Lamentations, vol. 16 in Holman Old Testament Commentary (Nashville:
Broadman & Holman, 2006), 89.
Babylon The Land of the Chaldeans
W. Wayne VanHorn is dean
of the School of Christian Studies and the Arts at Mississippi College, Clinton,
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.
(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.
(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
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),
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.
D.C. Browing, Jr., “Babylon” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, gen. ed. C.Brand, C.Draper,
& A.England (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 155.
M.I. Gruber, ”Babylonian Exile” in The
Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion (New York: Oxford Univ. Press,
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.
J.D. Newsome, Jr., By the Waters of Babylon: An Introduction to the History & Theology
of the Exile (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979), 54.
W.G. Lambert, “The Babyloians &
Chaldaeans” in Peoples of Old Testament
Times, ed. D.J. Wiseman (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1973), 194.
A City Under Siege
By Daniel P. Caldwell
P. Caldwell is vice president of church relations and dean of the Cooper School
of Missions and Biblical Studies at William Carey University, Hattiesburg,
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
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
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
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 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,
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
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).
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.
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).
T. Nicol, “Siege” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, gen. ed. James Orr,
(Chicago: Howard-Severance, 1915), 4:2786.
Duane L. Christensen, Deuteronomy 1:1—21:9 in
Word Biblical Commentary,
vol. 6B, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 448.
James B. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East, vol.
1 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), 213.
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.
Israel Eph’al, The City Besieged: Siege and Its Manifestations in the Ancient Near East
(Boston: Brill, 2009), 36-39.
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).
under (sur) II, bind, besiege” in Theological
Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris (Chicago: Moody Press,
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:
Week’s Question: What
Canaanite king of the time of the judges was noted for having nine hundred iron
chariots? Answer: Jabin; Judges