Jeremiah 29

Chapter twenty-nine is the story of three letters. In Jeremiah 29:1-23 God had Jeremiah send a letter from Jerusalem to the exiles in Babylon, telling them to plan for a long life there. “Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and allow your daughters get married so that they too can have sons and daughters. Grow in number; do not dwindle away” (Jeremiah 29:5-6). This is reminiscent of what Israel did during their captivity in Egypt. God promised that, as they helped their captors prosper, they would prosper as well (Jeremiah 29:7). Even though there were still false prophets promising their soon release, God once again declared that would not happen until the 70 years was completed, at which time he would certainly return them to Israel (Jeremiah 29:10).

One of the most misused verses of Old Testament (there are many) is verse 11: “‘For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.’” Christians often claim that this verse means that God will not allow anything to hurt them but instead will cause them to prosper, usually financially. In reality, this is a promise from God to those Jews in captivity that he would not allow them to stay there beyond his predetermined time of seventy years. Ultimately, it will be Israel’s return to God that will initiate Jesus’ return and their gathering into his kingdom.

No matter what good news the false prophets promised, God would certainly use this exile to punish Israel, while protecting them at the same time. Those false prophets, however, would not be protected from his wrath and would be utterly destroyed (Jeremiah 29:15-23). One of those false prophets even sent a letter to the chief security guard of the Temple, stating that he should have arrested Jeremiah for saying that Jerusalem would fall (Jeremiah 29:24-32). Because of this, God promised to punish him as well.