Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 27
THE YOKE OF SUBJUGATION
V 1: "In the beginning of the reign of Yeho-yakim." - "Three years before Nebuchadnezzar ruled Jeremiah already prophesied that he would become king" (Rashi).
RaDaK states that in this prophecy God informed Jeremiah that Tzedekiah would rule after Yeho-yakim and Yeho-yachin, and He instructed him that when this would come about, Jeremiah was to send his "straps and bars" (symbols of the yoke of exile) to the kings enumerated in verse 3 and to tell them the contents of this prophecy. It appears that after Tzedekiah became king, these kings send him messengers to persuade him to join them in a collective rebellion against Babylon . This was why Jeremiah was instructed to tell Tzedekiah and these other kings that they must submit to Nebuchadnezzar if they wanted to survive. The rabbis stated that when Nebuchadnezzar appointed Tzedekiah as king (after the exile and death of Yeho-yakim), he gave him power over the other kings in the region. The purpose of sending this prophecy to Jeremiah at the beginning of the reign of Yeho-yakim, fifteen years before it would be actualized in the reign of Tzedekiah, was so that Yeho-yakim would know that Nebuchadnezzar was destined to rule in order that he himself should not put his trust in the king of Egypt, who had appointed him as king of Judah (see RaDaK on Jer. 27:1).
V 2: "Make for yourself straps and bars and put them on your neck." Rashi states that Jeremiah had these straps and bars on his neck for FIFTEEN YEARS from the first year of the reign of Yeho-yakim until the fourth year of Tzedekiah, until Hananiyah ben Azoor broke them (as related in the next chapter, Jer. 28:10).
V 7: All the nations would be forced to serve Nebuchadnezzar and his offspring for the full duration of God's decree. Nebuchadnezzar's son was Eveel Merodach and his grandson was Belshazzar.
V 9: "Do not listen to your prophets and your magicians and your dreamers and your wizards and sorcerers." Evidently it was only the priests and false prophets of Judah who were in denial: the entire establishment of gurus and diviners in all the surrounding nations could not accept that the whole face of the world as they had known it until that time was destined to change decisively as a result of the onslaught of the Babylonians.
V 11: Only the peoples that were willing to submit to Babylon would remain in their own lands. All the others would be deported.
Vv 18ff: The false prophets of Judah were soothing the people by prophesying that Babylon's ascent was only temporary and that the Judean exiles and Temple vessels that had been taken there when Nebuchadnezzar exiled King Yeho-yachin would soon be returned (see ch 28 vv 3-4). Jeremiah challenges the false prophets to entreat God to avert the even greater disaster that he foresaw, in which all the Temple treasures that still remained in Jerusalem would also be seized and taken to Babylon.
"And it was in that year, at the BEGINNING of the reign of Tzedekiah." Rashi states that this was in fact in the FOURTH year of Tzedekiah. This was the "beginning" of his reign in the sense that in that year Tzedekiah visited Babylon to appear before Nebuchadnezzar, who then appointed him over the other kingdoms enumerated in the previous chapter (Jer. 27:3: Edom, Moab, Amon, Tyre and Sidon). It was after this that the rulers of these kingdoms sent to Tzedekiah trying to persuade him to join them in rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar. In the prophecy in the previous chapter (Jer. 27:2ff) Jeremiah had been instructed that when this juncture would arrive fifteen years after that prophecy was delivered, he was to send his "straps and bars" to these kings as a warning not to rebel (see Rashi on v 1). It was then that the false prophet Hananiyah ben Azur directly challenged Jeremiah in the Temple in front of the priests and all the people.
V 2: "Thus says HaShem of Hosts." The false prophet uses exactly the same phraseology that we find in the true prophets.
V 9: "When a prophet speaks of peace, it is only when the word of that prophet comes about that it is known that that prophet was indeed sent by HaShem." Jeremiah here states the basic rule as to how to determine if a prophet is true or false (see Rambam, Hilchos Yesodey HaTorah 10:4). If a prophet prophesies a disaster and the disaster does not come about, this in itself does not make him a false prophet - because God could make a decree against a people and send the prophet to warn them, but if the people repent, He might revoke that very decree because His compassion has no limits. This happened in the case of Jonah's prophecy that Nineveh would be overturned. The fact that it was not overturned - because the people repented - did not turn Jonah into a false prophet. But if a prophet says that something GOOD will happen and it does not, this proves that he is a false prophet, because in His compassion God would never revoke a good decree! Only when the prophet announces good tidings and they are actually fulfilled does this show that he is a true prophet. [By this criterion all those Israeli leaders and pundits who prophesied that peace would reign in the Middle East after the Oslo agreement have been exposed as false, yet many of them still occupy leading positions in the country.]
V 10: "And Hananiyah the prophet took the yoke from upon the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke it." In imitation of the true prophets, the false prophet likes to indulge in dramatic theatricals in order to emphasize his points.
V 14: ".And I have also given him the wild beasts of the field." The rabbis tell that Nebuchadnezzar rode on a lion and tied a crocodile around his head (Shabbos 150a).
V 17: "And Hananiyah the prophet died IN THAT YEAR in the seventh month." Rashi points out that the "seventh month" (Tishri) is already part of the New Year, making the verse seemingly contradict itself. Rashi tells us that in fact Hananiyah died on the very eve of Rosh HaShanah, the New Year, but he instructed his sons to bury him only after Rosh HaShanah and not before. This was in order to conceal the fact of his death until after the New Year had begun so as to make it appear that Jeremiah had prophesied falsely when he said that he would die in THAT YEAR, i.e. the year of his prophecy.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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