Avraham ben Yaakov


V 1: "The word that came to Jeremiah. in the fourth year of Yeho-yakim. that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar." Rashi writes that this was the year in which the decree was sealed that Judah would go into exile and that they would drink the cup of anger. Prior to the sealing of the decree He told the prophet to rebuke the people in order to give them the opportunity to repent in order to avoid the sealing of the decree.

The saintly King Josiah had endeavored to promote collective repentance and revival in order to avoid the coming calamity, but after his death at Meggido, Yeho-ahaz, his son, who was the people's choice as his successor, was rapidly deposed by Pharaoh Necho and replaced with Yeho-yakim, who appears to have been outwardly ascetic and pious but was in fact wicked. It was in Yeho-yakim's fourth year that Nebuchadnezzar rose to power. The latter is called God's "servant" (v 9) in the sense that he was His chosen instrument to execute the judgment on Judah . This was to affect all of the surrounding nations as well, since Nebuchadnezzar was victorious over the two existing "superpowers" of the time, Egypt and Assyria , and his forces swept over all the other peoples in the region as well, incorporating them into his world empire.

Vv 3ff: "From the thirteenth year of Josiah. until today": Jeremiah recounts his long prophetic ministry of 19 years in the reign of King Josiah and 4 under Yeho-yakim, repeatedly calling on the people to repent.

Vv 8ff: It is because the people would not listen that the decree would be sealed with the appointment of Nebuchadnezzar to mobilize "all the families of the north" against Jerusalem .

V 10: "I shall eliminate from them.the sound of the mill and the light of the lamp". The "mill" and the "light of the lamp" allude to the celebration of a circumcision of a newborn baby boy, the hoped for result of the joy of bride and groom mentioned earlier in the same verse. The mill would be used to grind the herbs for the necessary medications, while the lamp would be kindled at the celebratory feast (Rashi).

V 12: At the very beginning of Nebuchadnezzar's ascent to power, Jeremiah is already prophesying that the dominion of Babylon would last only seventy years, after which the land of the Chaldeans would become "eternal devastation". [Present-day Iraq seems still to be in the grips of this prophesied "eternal devastation".] When Belshazzar fell seventy years after Nebuchadnezzar's ascent, many of the sages misunderstood Jeremiah's prophecy, thinking that with the fall of Babylon the Temple would immediately be rebuilt. They were bitterly disappointed when it was not, causing many to fall into despair. They did not realize that the First Temple had not been destroyed until eighteen years after Nebuchadnezzar came to power, and that it could not be rebuilt until after the elapse of seventy years after its destruction. The rebuilding thus took place eighteen years after the fall of Babylon with the ascent of Darius to the throne of Persia .


V 15: The "cup of the wine of anger" that the prophet was to take was the actual prophecy he was now given about the coming "world war" that would bring not only Jerusalem but all of the other surrounding nations into servitude to Nebuchadnezzar. The prophet would "make the nations drink" from the cup by delivering his prophecy to them, thereby sealing the decree. The divine blueprint contained within the words of the prophecy would then begin to unfold through the expansionist war that Nebuchadnezzar would unleash.

Vv 18ff: Nebuchadnezzar's whirlwind would not only destroy Jerusalem but would throw the entire world of the " Middle East " and beyond into turmoil. The countries and peoples mentioned in these verses include Egypt , the entire Arab peninsula, the whole of the Promised Land "from river to river", the nations to its east ( Edom , Moab and Ammon) and north ( Tyre , Sidon , Cyprus ) as well as the Greek Islands and present-day Turkey , Iraq and Iran .

V 26: ".and the king of Sheshach will drink after them" - Sheshach is Babylon . In the AT-BASH cipher (where the letter ALEPH is replaced by TAV, BEIT by SHIN, etc.) SHESHACH = BABEL (Rashi).

Vv 28ff: The surrounding nations may be unwilling to drink from the cup of anger and get sucked into God's dealings with Judah and Jerusalem , but they will have no option, for they too are not clean of evil.

V 30: "HaShem roars from on high." - "The night-time consists of three watches, and over each watch the Holy One blessed be He sits and roars like a lion, as it says [in our verse] 'HaShem roars from on high.' [the word 'roars' appears 3 times in the verse], saying, 'Woe to the children because of whose sins I have destroyed My House and burned My Sanctuary and exiled them among the nations of the world'" (Berachos 3a).

Vv 32-8: The prophet depicts the coming cataclysm that will fill the entire region with the corpses of the slain. The shepherds - the leaders - will be horrified when they find themselves engulfed in disaster with nowhere to flee, and the beautiful places that once enjoyed peace will be devastated because of God's anger.


V 1: "In the BEGINNING of the reign of Yeho-yakim." Rashi (ad loc.) notes that the prophecy in the present chapter predates by four years the prophecy of the cup of anger recorded in the previous chapter (Jer. 25:1-38), which came to Jeremiah in Yeho-yakim's FOURTH YEAR. At the beginning of Yeho-yakim's reign, the new post-Josiah regime was perhaps not yet bent on its path and there was still hope that the people might repent.

V 2: "Stand in the courtyard of the House of HaShem." Jeremiah was now to confront the people in the most conspicuous of all places. He was to stand in the middle of the nation's most holy site and state clearly that if they would not repent, it would be destroyed just as the Sanctuary in Shilo had been destroyed by the Philistines.

Vv 8ff: "The priests and the prophets and all the people seized him". It is evident from this passage that there were different factions in Jerusalem . The priests were clearly the most offended by the prophecy of the coming destruction of the Temple , since their role in life was to serve as its functionaries. The establishment priests had the backing of the false prophets, who were flattering the people with soothing prophecies that all would be well. Jeremiah's prophecies to the contrary were deemed traitorous and this is why the priests and false prophets wanted to have him killed in order to eliminate his threat to their authority. They themselves, however, were unable to execute him since they were subject to the king and his ministers.

V 16: "The ministers and all the people then said." The ministers and the people were not convinced by the arguments of the priests and the prophets. By this time Jeremiah had been a respected prophet for fifteen years and could not be discounted so easily.

V 17: "Then some of the elders of the land arose." This minority faction among the elders still had the courage to express their dissent from the prevailing "politically correct" opinions of the corrupt priests and false prophets, citing the prophecy of Micah the Morashtite (identical with Micah of the 12 "Minor" Prophets) that Zion would be "plowed like a field" (Micah 3:12). They pointed out that the appropriate reaction to prophecies like that of Jeremiah was not to seek to kill the prophet but to entreat God and repent as Hezekiah had done in response to Micah's words.

Vv 20-23: The fate of the true prophet Uriah at the hands of Yeho-yakim and his henchman shows just how dangerous was Jeremiah's position in Jerusalem as he took a position directly contrary to that of the king and the entrenched establishment.

V 24: The name of Ahikam son of Shafan, who appears here as having saved Jeremiah from the hands of the people, is also found in II Kings 22:12. There Ahikam son of Shafan is mentioned as one of the contingent sent by King Josiah to entreat God through the prophetess Huldah after the discovery of the Torah scroll in the Temple. Having heard Huldah's prophecy of the calamity that would befall Jerusalem surely strengthened Ahikam in the belief that Jeremiah's prophecies, which foretold the same, were not untrue.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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