Jeremiah’s sermons were not popular with the other prophets and spiritual leaders of his day. The messages recorded in chs. 26-29 were preached during the days of Jehoiakim (2 Kgs 23:34-24:5) and Zedekiah (2 Kgs 24:17-25:7), when Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon encroached upon Jerusalem. Despite the threat Nebuchadnezzar posed, and the truthful prophecies of Jeremiah, many prophets claimed that the Lord was yet with Judah and that the people need not fear the Babylonians. Despite receiving death threats, Jeremiah continued to preach the word of the Lord, even writing to those whom Nebuchadnezzar captured in his first approach (2 Kgs 24:10-14).
When the Lord commanded Jeremiah to prophesy the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the prophet did so faithfully (Jeremiah 26). Once Jeremiah had finished his address, the priests, prophets and all the people who heard him exclaimed, “You must surely die! How dare you prophesy in the name of the LORD, ‘This temple will become like Shiloh and this city will become an uninhabited ruin!’” (Jer 26:8-9). Although King Jehoiakim killed the prophet Uriah for prophecies that mirrored those of Jeremiah, the latter was spared (Jer 26:16-24).
Jeremiah urged the leaders of Judah and the surrounding nations to submit to the Babylonian threat (chs. 27-28). According to Jeremiah, the LORD had elevated Nebuchadnezzar and given him authority to display His anger against Judah and the nations that surrounded her. Jeremiah thus prophesied that the only way to survive was to submit to the Babylonian king, since he was under the Lord’s dominion and would only reign supreme until the Lord arranged for other nations to enslave him (Jer 27:1-7). The Lord had placed Judah, indeed all nations, in an iron yoke under the king of Babylon. Jeremiah proclaimed that only by submitting to the Babylonian leader would any nation endure. Jeremiah’s status as a prophet of truth was confirmed when Hananiah died that very year. Hananiah’s death fulfilled a prophecy Jeremiah had made according to the word of the Lord (Jer 28:12-17).
While Jeremiah confronted the spiritual leadership that remained in Judah, he sent a letter to encourage the exiles that had been deported to Babylon (ch. 29). Jeremiah encouraged the exiles to populate the land and not decrease in stature. The prophet argued that God had plans to prosper them and restore them to the Promised Land (Jer 29:10-15). Jeremiah wrote that at the conclusion of seventy years in exile, the people would seek the Lord with all their heart and receive the future God had promised them.
Jeremiah gave his famous temple speech at the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, the king who had been placed on the throne of Judah by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt (2 Kgs 23:34). Jeremiah proposed that if the people did not repent and obey the law, they would be doomed; the Lord would raze the city just as He did Shiloh in the north (Jer 26:1-6). The people of Judah ignored the prophetic warning and the city was eventually destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25). While Jeremiah’s prophecy was thus fulfilled in his own day, Jesus’ use of the prophet’s theme advances the storyline of Scripture. Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and warned His disciples that God’s vengeance would come upon the city. Those in the city would need to get out and those in Judea would need to find refuge in the mountains and desolate regions (Matt 24:15-22//Mark 13:14-20//Luke 21:20-24). In Jesus’ thinking, the destruction Nebuchadnezzar brought upon Jerusalem was a foreshadowing of the annihilation that would come upon the city within a generation of the time He was crucified.