Jeremiah Wears an Ox Yoke
Jeremiah gives Judah an object lesson from God.
This message came to Jeremiah from the Lord early in the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah, king of Judah.
2 This is what the Lord said to me: “Make a yoke, and fasten it on your neck with leather straps.
A yoke was wood, tied with leather thongs, that went under and above the neck of a large animal so the beast could pull a plow.
3 Then send messages to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon through their ambassadors who have come to see King Zedekiah in Jerusalem. 4 Give them this message for their masters: ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: 5 With my great strength and powerful arm I made the earth and all its people and every animal. I can give these things of mine to anyone I choose. 6 Now I will give your countries to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who is my servant. I have put everything, even the wild animals, under his control. 7 All the nations will serve him, his son, and his grandson until his time is up.
My servant: “It is a most condescending way to speak about the most powerful man on the face of the earth: ‘my servant Nebuchadnezzar.’ It is the kind of language an ancient king would used to describe one of his vassals.” (Ryken)
Shall serve him and his son and his son’s son: “And all nations shall serve him (Nebuchadnezzar), and his son, (Evil-merodach, Jeremiah 52:31), and his son’s son (Belshazzar, Daniel 5:11). All which was literally fulfilled.” (Clarke)
Then many nations and great kings will conquer and rule over Babylon. 8 So you must submit to Babylon’s king and serve him; put your neck under Babylon’s yoke! I will punish any nation that refuses to be his slave, says the Lord. I will send war, famine, and disease upon that nation until Babylon has conquered it.
9 “‘Do not listen to your false prophets, fortune-tellers, interpreters of dreams, mediums, and sorcerers who say, “The king of Babylon will not conquer you.” 10 They are all liars, and their lies will lead to your being driven out of your land.
“In a time of national crisis, religious fakers always flourish because many people want to hear only comforting messages, which may often be untrue.”
–Charles L. Feinberg
I will drive you out and send you far away to die. 11 But the people of any nation that submits to the king of Babylon will be allowed to stay in their own country to farm the land as usual. I, the Lord, have spoken!’”
12 Then I repeated this same message to King Zedekiah of Judah. “If you want to live, submit to the yoke of the king of Babylon and his people.
It sounds like a strange message — Serve the conquering king and live! It certainly puts King Zedekiah in an awkward position. Jeremiah calls on him to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar at a time when many of the other leaders wanted him to form an alliance and fight. It would be disgraceful for a king to surrender and he would look like a coward. This was a great opportunity for the false prophets, who kept saying that the Babylonians would not defeat the great city of Jerusalem and that God would never allow the magnificent, holy temple to be destroyed. (The Life Application Bible)
13 Why do you insist on dying—you and your people? Why should you choose war, famine, and disease, which the Lord will bring against every nation that refuses to submit to Babylon’s king? 14 Do not listen to the false prophets who keep telling you, ‘The king of Babylon will not conquer you.’ They are liars. 15 This is what the Lord says: ‘I have not sent these prophets! They are telling you lies in my name, so I will drive you from this land. You will all die—you and all these prophets, too.’”
16 Then I spoke to the priests and the people and said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not listen to your prophets who claim that soon the gold articles taken from my Temple will be returned from Babylon. It is all a lie!
In the ancient world, conquering kings would take the images of the defeated people’s gods and put them in their own temples. Since there were no images of God, Nebuchadnezzar took the temple vessels instead.
17 Do not listen to them. Surrender to the king of Babylon, and you will live. Why should this whole city be destroyed? 18 If they really are prophets and speak the Lord’s messages, let them pray to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Let them pray that the articles remaining in the Lord’s Temple and in the king’s palace and in the palaces of Jerusalem will not be carried away to Babylon!’
19 “For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has spoken about the pillars in front of the Temple, the great bronze basin called the Sea, the water carts, and all the other ceremonial articles. 20 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon left them here when he exiled Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, to Babylon, along with all the other nobles of Judah and Jerusalem. 21 Yes, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says about the precious things still in the Temple and in the palace of Judah’s king: 22 ‘They will all be carried away to Babylon and will stay there until I send for them,’ says the Lord. ‘Then I will bring them back to Jerusalem again.’”
And they will be returned, in Ezra 7.
HERE is the wonderful Robert Shaw Chorale with “His Yoke Is Easy” from Handel’s Messiah.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.