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Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE


JEREMIAH CHAPTER 23

Vv 1-2: The "shepherds" are the last kings and leaders of Judah , whose failures brought exile and dispersal upon the people.

V 3: God himself will eventually gather in the exiled "flock" at the end of days and establish leaders who will bring about their restoration.

V 5 refers to King Mashiach: "and a king will RULE." - unlike the kings in Jeremiah's time, whose sovereignty was limited, King Mashiach will truly RULE (RaDaK).

V 6: "In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely." This verse prophesies that the Ten Tribes will be restored in the time of Mashiach, unlike in the time of the Second Temple , when they did not return (Metzudas David). "This is the name people will call him: HaShem is our righteousness." The commentators are at pains to emphasize that Mashiach will not be called by the Name of HaShem, but that he will be described as the one in whose days HaShem will cause us to become righteous (Rashi, Metzudas).

Vv 7-8: The future redemption and ingathering of the exiles will be so striking that it will outweigh even the redemption from Egypt .

Vv 9-15: The glorious future that awaits Israel at the end of days can only come about after the cleansing of the people through the tribulations of exile. But the false prophets of Jeremiah's time were telling the people that the evil foretold by the true prophets would not materialize and that they would not suffer, thus encouraging them not to repent (see v 17).

Vv 10-11: If the land was full of adulterers, it was because of the influence of the false prophets and the priests, who were "flatterers," telling people what they wanted to hear rather than what they needed to hear.

Vv 13-14: "I saw fraudulence in the prophets of Shomron." The false prophets of the regime of the Ten Tribes had set a precedent that was later followed by the false prophets of Jerusalem .

Vv 21-22: "I did not send the prophets, but they ran, I did not speak to them but they prophesied." The false prophets were not sent by God: they were self-appointed and pushed themselves forward with pure CHUTZPAH ("impudence"). If they were true prophets, they would address the people with the unpopular message that they had to repent.

V 23: "Am I a God only from nearby - says HaShem - and not a God from afar?" - "Do I only see what is near to Me? Do I not have the power to judge the lower realms that are far from Me? Do I not know their deeds?" (Rashi).

V 24: "Can a man hide in concealments.?" - "This can be compared to an architect who built an entire city complete with all kinds of underground passageways, caves and cellars. Afterwards the tax collectors went around the city. The people started hiding their silver and gold in the underground cellars. But the architect said to them, I built the city and I made the cellars - you want to hide from me???" (Tanchuma).

V 25: "I have had a dream! I have had a dream!" The false prophets considered their dreams, which were the products of their own imaginations, to have the status of prophetic visions.

Vv 28-9: There is no comparison between the fantasies of the false prophets and the Word of God, which is like fire, and like a hammer that smashes a rock, causing sparks to fly in all directions. Rashi explains that true prophecy is compared to fire because it comes through the attribute of GEVURAH (=might). "It was in my heart like a raging fire" (Jeremiah 20:9). True prophecy is like a hammer that causes sparks to fly in all directions, because every word and letter of true prophecy contain infinite aspects of meaning and allusion, on all the levels of PARDES -- PSHAT (the "simple" meaning), REMEZ ("allusion"), DRUSH ("allegorical significance") and SOD ("mystical, esoteric meaning).

Vv 33ff: "If this people, or a prophet or a priest, should ask you, What is the BURDEN (MASA) of HaShem." In numerous passages, prophecy is called a BURDEN (cf. Zechariah 9:1; 12:1 Malachi 1:1 etc. etc.). The people made a mockery of this, taunting Jeremiah by asking him what new burden of prophecy he had received. God's answer is that the people themselves have become a "burden" that He will cast off.

CHAPTER 24

THE TWO BASKETS OF FIGS

V 1: Yechoniah (=King Yeho-achin) was taken into exile in Babylon eighteen years before the destruction of the Temple . Thus the Temple was still standing when God showed Jeremiah the vision of the two baskets of figs positioned ready to eat in front of the Sanctuary. Yechoniah had gone into exile together with "the officers of Judah and the ARTISANS (CHARASH) and GATEKEEPERS (MASGEIR)". The rabbis explained that the ARTISANS and GATEKEEPERS were the outstanding Torah sages. When one would begin to speak, this would cause all the others to become silent (CHARASH), and if one closed and sealed matters (MASGEIR), nobody could open up again (Gittin 88a; Sanhedrin 38a).

Vv 4-10: Interpretation of the vision. The "good figs" were the righteous sages who submitted to the decree of exile and went peaceably to Babylon . God "put His eye upon them for good" (v 6) and would eventually restore them to their land, as happened in the time of Zerubavel and Ezra.

The "bad figs" were Tzedekiah and his officers and the remainder of the people who stayed in Jerusalem or fled to Egypt . They believed that they had the power to flout God's decree and resist the Babylonians, and they were harshly requited for their rebellion.

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