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Jeremiah 27:1-2

Jeremiah Counsels Submission to Babylon

27:1 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah 1  early in the reign of Josiah’s son, King Zedekiah of Judah. 2  27:2 The Lord told me, 3  “Make a yoke 4  out of leather straps and wooden crossbars and put it on your neck.

1 sn The names of Jeremiah and of Nebuchadnezzar are spelled differently in the Hebrew of chapter 27-29. That and other literary features show that these three chapters are all closely related. The events of these three chapters all take place within the space of one year (cf. 28:1; 29:17).

2 tc The reading here is based on a few Hebrew mss and the Syriac and Arabic versions. The majority of Hebrew mss and most of the versions read “At the beginning of the reign of Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim king of Judah” as in 26:1. The LXX does not have this whole verse. It has long been recognized that the text of 27:1 is textually corrupt. The date formula in the majority of Hebrew mss at 27:1 is contradictory both with the context of the passage which deals with an event in the reign of Zedekiah (see vv. 3, 13 and v. 20 which presupposes that Jeconiah, Jehoiakim’s son, has been taken captive [i.e., after the death of Jehoiakim!]) and the date formula in 28:1 which refers to an event “in that same year” and then qualifies it with “Early in the reign of Zedekiah.” Hence it is preferable to read “Zedekiah” here in place of “Jehoiakim” and explain the error in the Hebrew manuscripts as an erroneous copying of 26:1.

sn If the text of 28:1 is correct, the date here would be sometime in the fourth year of Zedekiah which would be 594/3 b.c. Zedekiah had been placed on the throne as a puppet king by Nebuchadnezzar after he deposed Zedekiah’s nephew, Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) and sent him, his family, some of the temple treasures, and some of the Judean leaders away to Babylon (2 Kgs 23:8-17). The author does not state directly why the envoys from the nations mentioned in v. 3 were in Jerusalem, but the implication is that they were there trying to interest Zedekiah in rebelling. Modern scholars have used the data here and in 28:1 and in the Babylonian Chronicles (it contains a record of major events of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign) to suggest a plausible background for such a meeting. Nebuchadnezzar had to put down an uprising in the east and quell a rebellion in Babylon itself in the two years prior to this meeting. Some “prophets” in the nation of Israel and in these other nations (see vv. 9-10) saw in these events hopes for not having to pay tribute to (i.e., submit to the yoke of) Nebuchadnezzar and were counseling rebellion. Jeremiah saw this as foolhardy and counseled otherwise. Again, there is a conflict between “prophets” which is what this whole section (Jer 27–29) is all about.

3 tn There is some disjunction in the narrative of this chapter. The introduction in v. 1 presents this as a third person narrative. But the rest of the passage reports the narrative in first person. Thus the text reads here “Thus the Lord said to me…” In vv. 12, 16 the narrative picks up in first person report and never indicates that Jeremiah carried out the command in vv. 2-4 that introduces the message which he repeats in summary form himself to Zedekiah. The report is thus an “unedited” first person report. This may create some confusion for some readers, but it is best to leave it in first person here because of the continuation in vv. 12, 16.

4 sn The yoke is a common biblical symbol of political servitude (see, e.g., Deut 28:48; 1 Kgs 12:4, 9, 10). From the context of 1 Kgs 12 it is clear that it applied to taxation and the provision of conscript labor. In international political contexts it involved the payment of heavy tribute which was often conscripted from the citizens (see, e.g., 2 Kgs 15:19-20; 23:34-35) and the furnishing of military contingents for the sovereign’s armies (see, e.g., 2 Kgs 24:2). Jeremiah’s message here combines both a symbolic action (the wearing of a yoke) and words of explanation as in Jer 19:1-13. (See Isa 20:1-6 for an example outside of Jeremiah.) The casting off of the yoke has been used earlier in Jer 2:20, 5:5 to refer to Israel’s failure to remain spiritually “subject” or faithful to God.

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