Letters to the captives in Babylon (29:1-32)
In 597 BC several thousand of Jerusalem’s most capable people were taken captive to Babylon.
Among them were some false prophets who began to predict, as Hananiah had done, that Babylon was about to fall and that the Judean captives were about to return to Jerusalem. Jeremiah, on hearing of this, wrote a letter to the community of captives (29:1-3).
The advice Jeremiah gives to the exiles is that they settle down to a more or less permanent way of life, as they will not be returning to Judah in the near future. They should try also to increase their numbers, for this would help them build towards a strong future (4-6). They should work for the good of the nation under whose government they live, and should not believe the predictions of the false prophets (7-9). The people will be in captivity for seventy years, but these will be years of discipline, during which God will prepare them for a better future (10-11). After this time of discipline, they will be in a better condition to enjoy true fellowship with God in their homeland again (12-14).
Turning from the exiles who were deceived by false prophets, Jeremiah has a few words concerning those still in Jerusalem who were similarly deceived (15-16). The Jerusalemites had made no attempt to reform in spite of God’s warnings, and therefore they too will be punished. Some will die at the hand of the enemy, and others will be taken to join their fellow Judeans in captivity (17-19). The two false prophets, who by their deceptive announcements and immoral behaviour have been leading the exiles astray, will be publicly executed by the Babylonian rulers (20-23).
On hearing Jeremiah’s letter read in Babylon, another of the false prophets among the exiles, Shemaiah, was furious. He wrote a letter to the priests in Jerusalem, accusing Jeremiah of being a madman and demanding that he be arrested and imprisoned (24-28).
Jeremiah then sent a letter back to the exiles, accusing Shemaiah of being a self-appointed prophet and a deceiver. As punishment, neither he nor any of his offspring would live to see the fulfilment of God’s promise in the people’s return to their homeland (29-32).