The end of Israelite slavery (Jer 30:8-30:8)

“On that day!

Says Yahweh of hosts!

I will break

The yoke

From off their neck.

I will burst their bonds.

Strangers shall no more

Make servants of them.”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, was clear. He was going to break the yoke from their necks on that coming day. He was also going to burst their chains. No longer would they be servants to strangers.

The word of Yahweh comes to Jeremiah (Jer 28:12-28:12)

Sometime after

The prophet Hananiah

Had broken the yoke

From the neck

Of the prophet Jeremiah,

The word of Yahweh

Came to Jeremiah.”

Sometime after the speech by the prophet Hananiah, the word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah. Hananiah had broken the yoke that Jeremiah had been wearing on his neck, but now a new word from Yahweh came to Jeremiah.

Hananiah predicts the end of the exile in two years (Jer 28:11-28:11)

“Hananiah spoke

In the presence

Of all the people.

Saying.

‘Thus says Yahweh.

This how I will break

The yoke

Of King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

From the neck

Of all the nations

Within two years.’

At this,

The prophet Jeremiah

Went his way.”

Hananiah the prophet boldly proclaimed in the presence of all the people that Yahweh said that he was going to break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from the neck of all the countries during the next 2 years. With that, Jeremiah had no response. He just left.

 

Hananiah breaks the yoke of Jeremiah (Jer 28:10-28:10)

“Then the prophet Hananiah

Took the yoke

From the neck

Of the prophet Jeremiah.

He broke it.”

In a real symbolic efficacious action, the prophet Hananiah took the yoke off the neck of Jeremiah. Remember from the preceding chapter that Jeremiah wore a yoke around his neck to symbolize the power of King Nebuchadnezzar had over him and the people of Judah. Now this prophet Hananiah took the yoke off of Jeremiah and broke it.

The prophet Hananiah speaks (Jer 28:2-28:4)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

‘I have broken the yoke

Of the king of Babylon.

Within two years,

I will bring back

To this place

All the vessels

Of Yahweh’s house

That King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

Took away from this place.

He carried them

To Babylon.

I will also bring back

To this place

King Jeconiah,

The son of King Jehoiakim

Of Judah,

With all the exiles

From Judah

Who went to Babylon.

I will break

The yoke

Of the king of Babylon.’

Says Yahweh.”

Hananiah, the prophet from Gibeon, then uttered an oracle of Yahweh, the God of Israel, much like Jeremiah had done. He claimed that he had broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. He said that within 2 years all the vessels from the Temple sanctuary would be returned to Jerusalem. He was also going to bring back the deposed King Jeconiah or King Jehoiachin or King Coniah as he was known as, who had been king for only a couple of months in 598 BCE after his father King Jehoiakim or King Eliakim (609-598 BCE) had been killed. In the meantime, King Nebuchadnezzar had put King Jeconiah’s uncle on the throne, King Zedekiah or King Mattaniah (598-587 BCE). The exiled King Jeconiah was in Babylon in captivity. He was part of the first captivity of 598 BCE, when the sacred vessels and the other exiles also went to Babylon. Clearly, Hananiah the prophet said that Yahweh wanted to break the yoke of the king of Babylon. However, Jeremiah the prophet had said that Yahweh was in favor of this yoke. Let’s see what happens as these 2 prophets interpret the will of Yahweh as regards Babylon.

King Zedekiah was to serve the Babylonian king (Jer 27:12-27:13)

“I spoke to King Zedekiah

Of Judah

In the same way.

‘Bring your necks

Under the yoke

Of the king of Babylon.

Serve him!

Serve his people!

Live!

Why should you,

With your people,

Die

By the sword,

By famine,

By pestilence?

Yahweh has spoken

Concerning any nation

That will not serve

The king of Babylon.”

Jeremiah says that he spoke to King Zedekiah or King Mattaniah (598-587 BCE) who had been put on the throne by the King of Babylon. Jeremiah told King Zedekiah to put his neck unde the yoke of this Babylonian king. He was to serve him and his people. Thus he would live. Why should they die by the sword, famine, or pestilence? Yahweh had said that this was to be the fate of those who did not serve the king of Babylon.

The threat of Yahweh (Jer 27:8-27:8)

“‘But if any nation or kingdom

Will not serve this king,

Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon,

I will punish that nation or kingdom.

If they will not put their necks

Under the yoke

Of the king of Babylon,

I will punish that nation

With the sword,

With famine,

With pestilence,

Until I have completed

Its destruction

By his hand.’

Says Yahweh.”

In this oracle of Yahweh, via Jeremiah, if any country would not serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (605-562 BCE), Yahweh was going to punish them. If they were not willing to wear the yoke of the Babylonian king, Yahweh would punish them either by the sword, famine, or pestilence. This punishment would exist as long as it took for the Babylonian king to destroy them. This was a clear mandate of Yahweh in favor of the good King Nebuchadnezzar. Those who rebelled against him would be punished.

Unfaithful Israel (Jer 2:20-2:22)

“‘Long ago you broke your yoke.

You burst your bonds.

You said.

‘I will not serve.’

On every high hill,

Under every green tree,

You sprawled.

You played the whore.

Yet I planted you

As a choice vine.

You were from the purest stock.

How then did you turn degenerate?

How did you become a wild vine?

Though you wash yourself with lye,

Even if you use much soap,

The stain of your guilt is still before me.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Jeremiah has another oracle of Yahweh about the unfaithfulness of Israel. It is just not recently. Long ago, they threw off the yoke of Yahweh and burst out of their bonds, since they said that they would not serve. They ran to every high mountain and under the green oak trees to worship false gods. They lay there sprawling and playing the whore or prostitute. Yahweh had planted them as a vineyard from the purest stock. However, they had become degenerate and a wild vine. No amount of lye or soap could cleanse them from this stain of guilt. What was he to do with these unfaithful Israelites?

Good conduct (Isa 58:9-58:12)

“If you remove the yoke

From among you,

Then your light shall rise in the darkness.

If you remove the pointing of the finger,

Then your light shall rise in the darkness.

If you stop speaking of evil,

Then your light shall rise in the darkness.

If you offer your food to the hungry,

Then your light shall rise in the darkness.

If you satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

Then your light shall rise in the darkness.

Your gloom will be

Like the noonday.

Yahweh will guide you continually.

He will satisfy your needs in parched places.

He will make your bones strong.

You shall be

Like a watered garden,

Like a spring of water,

Whose waters do not fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt.

You shall raise up

The foundations of many generations.

You shall be called

The repairer of the breach,

The restorer of streets to live in.”

Third Isaiah points out how the Israelites could become the light in the darkness. They had to remove the yoke from those around them. They had to stop pointing their fingers in a derisive contemptuous way. They had to stop speaking evil. Instead they should offer their food to the hungry and help the afflicted. Gloom could be turned to a noonday sun. Yahweh would guide them continually as their needs would be satisfied. Their bones would grow strong. They would become like watered gardens or unfailing spring waters. They were to rebuild the ancient ruins, thus becoming the foundation for many generations to come. They will be known as those who repaired the streets after the Exile in Jerusalem.

The importance of good relationships (Isa 58:6-58:9)

“Is not this the fast that I choose?

You must loose the bonds of injustice!

You must undo the thongs of the yoke!

Let the oppressed go free!

Break every yoke!

Is it not to share your bread

With the hungry?

Is it not to bring the homeless poor

Into your house?

When you see the naked,

Cover them!

Do not hide yourself

From your own relatives!

Then your light shall break forth

Like the dawn.

Your healing shall spring up quickly.

Your vindicator shall go before you.

The glory of Yahweh

Shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call.

Now Yahweh will answer.

You shall cry for help.

He will say.

‘Here I am.’”

Third Isaiah has Yahweh explain what kind of relationships that they should have while fasting. They should try to do away with injustice. They should try to lift the yoke of those who are oppressed. They should share their bread with the hungry. They should provide housing for the homeless. They should clothe the naked. In some sense, this sounds like the later Christian beatitudes in the gospel stories. They should take care of their relatives or next of kin. If they did all these things, then their light would be like the dawning of a new day. They would heal quickly. Their vindicator would lead them, while the glory of God would be behind them. If they called him, obviously the Lord, Yahweh, would answer their cry for help with a simple saying that he was here.  How you treat others has an impact on how you treat God.