Opening Prayer

Loving Father, wherever I walk today, help me to walk where you lead me; whatever I do, let it be according to your will.


God Rejects Zedekiah’s Request

21 The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. They said: “Inquire now of the Lord for us because Nebuchadnezzar[a] king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the Lord will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us.”

But Jeremiah answered them, “Tell Zedekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against you the weapons of war that are in your hands, which you are using to fight the king of Babylon and the Babylonians[b] who are outside the wall besieging you. And I will gather them inside this city. I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in furious anger and in great wrath. I will strike down those who live in this city—both man and beast—and they will die of a terrible plague. After that, declares the Lord, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the people in this city who survive the plague, sword and famine, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who want to kill them. He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion.’

“Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives. 10 I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the Lord. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.’

11 “Moreover, say to the royal house of Judah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord. 12 This is what the Lord says to you, house of David:

“‘Administer justice every morning;
    rescue from the hand of the oppressor
    the one who has been robbed,
or my wrath will break out and burn like fire
    because of the evil you have done—
    burn with no one to quench it.
13 I am against you, Jerusalem,
    you who live above this valley
    on the rocky plateau, declares the Lord—
you who say, “Who can come against us?
    Who can enter our refuge?”
14 I will punish you as your deeds deserve,
    declares the Lord.
I will kindle a fire in your forests
    that will consume everything around you.’”


  1. Jeremiah 21:2 Hebrew Nebuchadrezzar, of which Nebuchadnezzar is a variant; here and often in Jeremiah and Ezekiel
  2. Jeremiah 21:4 Or Chaldeans; also in verse 9

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


‘Praise the Lord, the God of Israel! He alone does these wonderful things. Praise his glorious name forever! May his glory fill the whole world.’1

Think Further

Jeremiah 21–24 represents a new block of material, in which God announces judgment against the kings of Judah for their injustice and against the false prophets for their lies. It is bracketed by two sections (21:1–10; 24:1–10), in which Jeremiah announces that God is bringing sword, famine, and plague against them (21:9; 24:10). These paragraphs do not say why God is doing this, but it is clear that it is because of the injustice of the kings and the lies of the prophets.

The Babylonians have Jerusalem under siege and Zedekiah sends two messengers2 to Jeremiah asking if God would act as he had in the past and cause the Babylonians to withdraw. This request reflects Israel’s holy war traditions, where God fought on behalf of his people.3 The response is only terrifying judgment. The holy war traditions are turned upside down, with God coming against the king (vs 1–7), the people (vs 8,9) and the city (v 10). Surrender is the only way to escape with their lives.

The Lord addresses king, city, and people in the prophetic word that follows (vs 11-14). The descendants of David are called back to faithfulness to the royal charter4, or they will suffer God’s anger. The city that relied on its geography for protection from enemy attack would be attacked by God and the people would be punished with fire kindled by the Lord for their evil deeds. These words are troubling, as we see God turning against his people. They do remind us, however, that we too need to take care with the way we live.


They asked Jeremiah to ask the Lord to save his people. The troubling response was unrelenting judgment. God still calls his people to continual repentance today.

Closing prayer

Lord God, author of justice, open my eyes, not just to see inequity, but to acknowledge wrongdoing and fight against it in ways that please you.

Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by kingstar

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