The safe reinstatement in Israel (Ezek 28:26-28:26)

“The Israelites

Shall live

In safety

In the land.

They shall

Build houses.

They shall

Plant vineyards.

They shall live

In safety.

I will execute

Judgments

Upon all their neighbors

Who have treated them

With contempt.

Then they shall know

That I am Yahweh,

Their God.”

These Israelites would live in safety in their own land. They would build houses and plant vineyards. They would be safe, because Yahweh was going to execute his judgments on all their neighbors who have treated them contemptuously. They would all know that Yahweh was their God.

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The Spirit speaks (Ezek 11:2-11:4)

“The Spirit said to me.

‘Son of man!

These are the men

Who devise iniquity!

They give wicked counsel

In this city!

They say.

‘The time is not near

To build houses.

This city is the pot.

We are the meat.’

Therefore prophesy

Against them!

Prophesy!

O son of man!’”

This Spirit of Yahweh spoke to Ezekiel. As in chapter 8, these 25 men were full of iniquity. They gave wicked advice in the city of Jerusalem. They even cited a proverb that it was not time to build houses. They were the meat to be cooked in the pot of Jerusalem. This Holy Spirit wanted Ezekiel, the son of man, to prophesize against these evil men.

The live style of the Rechabites (Jer 35:7-35:10)

“‘You shall not

Build a house!

You shall not

Sow seed!

You shall not

Plant a vineyard!

You shall not

Own a vineyard!

You shall live

In tents

All your days!

Thus you may live many days

In the land where you reside.’

We have obeyed

This charge

Of our ancestor Jonadab

The son of Rechab,

In all that he commanded us.

Thus we ourselves,

Our wives,

Our sons,

Our daughters

Do not drink wine

All our days.

We do not build houses

To live in.

We have no vineyard.

We have no field.

We have no seed.

But we have lived in tents.

We have obeyed Jonadab.

We have done

All that our ancestor Jonadab

Commanded us.”

These Rechabites followed the commandments of Jonadab the son of Rechab. Thus they lived a unique nomad live style. Jonadab had commanded them not to build houses or sow seeds. They were to live in tents. They did not practice any kind of agriculture, so that they neither planted nor owned any vineyards or fields. They would live a long life, as long as they abstained from intoxicants, as they, their wives, and their children did not drink any wine. Since they did not cultivate grapes, they drank the milk of their animals. Thus they seem to be closer to the Hebrew Nazirites, who vowed a sacred separate life style, but only for a set time period, not cutting their hair, not drinking intoxicating liquids, and not touching unclean things. These Rechabites seem to be like a religious order or communal monks, actually like wandering desert Arabs.

The response of Shemaiah to Jeremiah’s letter (Jer 29:24-29:28)

“Shemaiah of Nehelam

Sent a letter to

All the people

Who are in Jerusalem,

The priest Zephaniah,

The son of Maaseiah,

As well as to all the priests.

Saying.

‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

Yahweh has made you priest

Instead of the priest Jehoiada.

Thus there may be officers

In the house of Yahweh

To control any madman

Who plays the prophet.

Thus you can put him

In the stocks

With a collar.

Now why have you not rebuked

Jeremiah of Anathoth

Who plays the prophet for you?

He has actually sent to us

In Babylon,

Saying.

‘It will be a long time.

Build houses!

Live in them!

Plant gardens!

Eat what they produce!’”

Apparently this prophet Shemaiah of Nehelam in Babylon was upset at the letter that Jeremiah sent. So he responded with another letter to the priests at Jerusalem, especially Zephaniah, who had the same father as the slain prophet Zedekiah, so that he would have been his brother. He indicated that Zephaniah had replaced Jehoiada as the chief priest. Thus he had the power to control mad men who pretended to be prophets. In particular, he named Jeremiah as this kind of mad man who told them in Babylon to stay there, build houses, live in them, plant gardens, and eat from them. Shemaiah thought that this was a crazy idea.

The letter suggests that they assimilate into Babylon (Jer 29:4-29:7)

“The letter said.

‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

To all the exiles

Whom I have sent

Into exile

From Jerusalem

To Babylon.

Build houses!

Live in them!

Plant gardens!

Eat what they produce!

Take wives!

Have sons!

Have daughters!

Take wives for your sons!

Give your daughters

In marriage!

Thus they may bear sons.

Thus they may bear daughters.

Multiply there!

Do not decrease!

But seek the welfare

Of the city

Where I have sent you

Into exile.

Pray to Yahweh

On its behalf.

In its welfare

You will find your welfare.’”

Interesting enough, this letter is very favorable to the Babylonians. After all, it was going to the king of Babylon. Once again it is the classical Jeremiah oracle with Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, as the source of this letter. They were to build houses, live in them, plant gardens, and eat from their produce. They were to have wives and children. They were to take wives for their sons and give their daughters in marriage, so that they could become grandparents. They should multiply there, not decrease. In fact, they were to get involved in the city there by praying to Yahweh for its welfare. After all, if the city did well, so would they. This seems like a clear attempt to assimilate into the Babylonian culture and society.