And the beat goes on… Jeremiah 29:11 is one of those controversial and taken out of context verses. Jeremiah empowered by God’s promises to Israel is speaking of Israel in this verse using as present and far-future tense. Using the YLT (Young’s Literal Translation) it reads:
29:11… “For I have known the thoughts that I am thinking towards you–an affirmation of Jehovah; thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give to you posterity and hope.”
Let’s however begin with the 29:1 then explain the controversy of verse 11 a bit later.
Jeremiah laments that he is “left in Jerusalem” while his brethren and fellow Judeans have been taken as captives to Babylon. The royalty, skilled labor/craftsmen, and the brightest of the youth (including Daniel) have been removed to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar hopes to leverage their skills, contacts, and *governing potentials. These are mostly men of value to any economy, politics, and society.
*Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed Nego became government officials of Babylon. So did many others whose names have not been recorded in scripture.
King Jehoiachin and the royal leaders/family are no long residents of Jerusalem and never will be again. This includes a truck load of prophets, priests, and religious leaders. Jehoiachin’s (aka: Jeconiah) uncle Zedekiah is placed on the throne in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. This eventually becomes another issue for Nebuchadnezzar but we will address it later in our study. A letter is sent to Nebuchadnezzar and the captives in Babylon that points out that it was God who allowed ol’ Neb to even capture Israel and the people of Jerusalem…”Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all the captivity, whom I have caused to be carried away captive from Jerusalem unto Babylon.” In a very real sense, this letter reminds all of them that Jeremiah warned and they refused to listen. He (God) is also putting Nebuchadnezzar on notice. We find this in the Book of Daniel.
Basically God tells these captives to dig in and thrive because they will be there for quite a while (70 years). God even explains that HE does not want their numbers to diminish but increase while there. Let’s go back several lessons for a minute. God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the Promised Land. It included a much greater territory than they ever conquered or occupied through the Judges, Saul, David and Solomon, and the divided kingdoms; about 800 years by this time. He promised that if they follow and worship him, HE will expand their borders. Well, Israel did not follow God but God is not slack in his covenants in either the Old or the New Testaments.
The Assyrian captivity and dispersion of the northern Kingdom of Israel 120 years earlier spread these people into lands that were to be Israel’s if they kept their end of the covenant. They didn’t. So they (Judean-Israelites) do occupy the land but are not rulers within them the same is true of the southern borders of the covenant with Israel. Sooooo, Babylon takes them captive moving large numbers of Judean-Israelis east of their small homeland. By doing so, they now occupy lands God had promised them; BUT…they are not rulers within this territory. God actually tells his chosen people to work with not against their captives. He tells them to pray to him for the welfare of their captivity people in Babylon. WOW!
At the same time God through this letter and Jeremiah once again cautions these Judeans to not lend listening ears to the false doctrines and prophecies of those within their midst. Go back to our article on chapter 28 and re-read how Jeremiah dealt with on of them named Hananiah. It cost him his life for his false statements. You can believe several of these false prophets moved with them into captivity. God had ill plans for them but they are not recorded in scripture. Prophesying is one thing but to do so (lie) in God’s name….!!!! (See 29:21 to 26; 30 to 32). God will deal with all false teachers of the Old Testament and today per the New Testament. Vengeance is HIS!
Now we get into the controversial discussions of Jeremiah 29:; i.e. verses 10, 11, and 12. Here they are in the ESV:
Jer 29:10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.
Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jer 29:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
The primary issue is that it appears according to history as we know it, God did NOT make things better for them. Fact is, they got even worse after returning to Jerusalem 70 years later. There were the Greeks, Romans, Turks (Ottomans), WW I, WW II, Arabs and eventually Islamists. So where is the promised prosperity? This is where one must understand that God is referring to a distant future meaning when Jesus returns and sets up his millennial kingdom in Israel. Things are still going to get even worse for these people, i.e. Jacob’s Trouble in the latter half of the Great Tribulation. That is at least 2,700 years in the future from this time Jeremiah is lettering.
Author and blogger Mary DeMuth has another worthy opinion. She says, Jeremiah 29:11 Doesn’t Mean What You Think. As she explains, “the heart of the verse is “not that we would escape our lot, but that we would learn to thrive” in the midst of it.” There is some value to her thoughts but the fact is Jeremiah is referencing a prophecy yet to be fulfilled even today. Of course this is not what the new captives wanted to hear. They wanted to make it a short tenure in Babylon then return to the “prosperity” of their home in Judah. Therefore, it is easy to conclude that they didn’t even fulfill this commandment; i.e. to pray for the prosperity of Babylon, not just their personal health and wealth. Most of those taken into captivity would die during the 70 years. (More on this in a later blog)
Dr. Coffman puts it: “The crowd of false prophets similar to Hananiah were circulating the same falsehoods in Babylon; and the letter in this chapter was written by Jeremiah in order to counteract and frustrate the evil campaign of the false prophets.” It is no easy task to accept what one does not want and then learn how to live with it in praying for the prosperity of one’s enemies; in this case, the Babylonians.
Jeremiah 29:14 makes verse 11 clearer and more obvious. God restates that he will regather all of Israel from all of the nations where they have and continue to this day to be scattered. What is the condition? ”When you finally decide to follow me” says God. This explains the WHY in the second half of the Great Tribulation; aka: Jacob’s Trouble. God needs to FORCE these bull-headed people into finally accepting and seeking HIM.
God even tells these exiles, through Jeremiah, that those who remain in Jerusalem, the poor farmers and undesired of Nebuchadnezzar, he will (verses 17-19) bring upon them the things that later bible writers like Daniel and John of Patmos (Book of Revelation) prophesied; pestilence, the great sword, make them a horror, a curse, burden and reproach to “all” other nations. We see this in the daily news today. It is a prophecy yet to be completed. This is another example of this author’s often noted statement… “God says, if you ____, then I will ____.
Today we are at the threshold of seeing this Jeremiah 29:11. We are opening the door of this End Time history soon to be played out. It is all around us; nation against nation (meaning territorial and political fighting) and kingdom against kingdom (meaning political, racial, religious, petty family feuds, political and literal fighting and sabotage, fake news, spreading of the soon to be southern kingdom of Daniel prophesies; i.e. Islam, border wars, … You name it. This is what the passage in Matthew 24:6 means when correctly translated.