Jeremiah’s view of the Davidic Covenant
How did Jeremiah view the Davidic Covenant? We will see that his view was no different from that which was already revealed up to this point in time, see this post. The psalms and the prophet Isaiah have shown us that the Davidic Covenant would be fulfilled by one man, the Messiah, being born of the Davidic line who would rule from the throne of David in Jerusalem. This is how the terms of the Davidic line ruling forever would be brought to fruition by the LORD. Jeremiah saw the downfall of the line of David, yet in the midst of that darkness, he saw the light of the Messiah. Before looking at Jeremiah 33, I want to look at one other important passage.
Jeremiah 22-23 is pivotally placed in regards to the continuation of the line of David ruling from Jerusalem. First, let me point out that while Jeremiah 21 seems at first glance to be from the same time frame as 22-23, it is not. Jeremiah 21 is directed toward the one ruling from the throne of David, which at that time was Zedekiah. Jeremiah 22 is also directed toward the one ruling from the throne of David, but examining the rest of the chapter shows that Jehoiakim was presently ruling. The translators rightly placed the chapter division at the point where the prophecy chronologically shifted. As I’ve noted before, Jeremiah is not chronologically arranged, but thematically arranged. Both prophecies directed at the throne of David (21 and 22-23) are evidence in the divine court that God is justified in bringing correction against the line of David for their repeated sins. Remember that it is God Himself who must punish the line of David according to the terms of the Davidic Covenant.
In chapters 22-23, Jehoiakim is on the throne, Shallum (Jehoahaz) has just been taken into captivity but is not yet dead, and Jeconiah (Coniah) is being groomed to take the throne. God is pronouncing judgment upon all three. God pronounces that Shallum will not return, but will die in the place where he is. Jehoiakim will shortly be disposed of with not so much as a decent burial. Jeconiah will be carried captive to Babylon and die there. In addition to this, no son of Jeconiah will ever rule from the throne of David. That’s a fairly complete way of removing the line of David from Jerusalem altogether. Yet Zedekiah ruled for 11 more years, which was not foreseen in this particular prophecy. Since these three prophecies were fulfilled so precisely, this alone should have validated Jeremiah’s unction as being from the LORD. One other point of interest concerning Jeconiah is the mention of the signet ring. This was the symbol of authority for the king in those days. With Jehoiakim currently on the throne, God states that even though Jeconiah would shortly be the signet ring on His right hand, God would tear him off and throw him away. In short, God’s patience was completely exhausted with the line of David. No longer would the Davidic line represent His authority ruling from Jerusalem.
For a few minutes, focus on 22:3-4 and the promise contained therein. God is castigating the line of David, but it is with the hope that they will repent. If they repent, the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant will come to fruition. Here the repentance is in the form of executing justice, something that the sons of Josiah had not done. The parallel passage to this is in Jeremiah 17:24-26. Like this passage, it is directed at the line of David, see 17:19-23. Here the repentance is in the form of observing the Sabbath which was God’s covenant sign to the nation of Israel. The repentance of the line of David would result in the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. In this passage the promise of Jerusalem being inhabited forever is intertwined with the rule of the Davidic kings from the throne of David. God is giving the kings of Judah fair warning before proceeding with the disciplinary measures promised in II Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 89:30-32. Repent and you will reign from Jerusalem as God promised to David. Continue in wickedness and you will be through. I point out that human sinfulness stood in the way of the line of David fulfilling the mandate to repent. The only way these terms could be fulfilled is if the heart of the nation were circumcised according to the prediction in the Palestinian Covenant, Deuteronomy 30:6, also known as God writing His laws on their hearts according to the New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:33, or known as God giving them one heart according to the Everlasting Covenant, Jeremiah 32:39 and Ezekiel 11:19-20.
In spite of the fact that this passage is primarily about God’s righteous judgment upon the Davidic line, God placed a word of hope in this prophecy . Jeremiah 23 continues the oracle by referring to the kings as shepherds. Remember that the kings of David were chosen to shepherd the nation of Israel. Not only were the kings of Israel sinning by performing wickedness, they were also sinning by omitting the acts of righteousness for which they were appointed. Shepherding the nation of Israel was their chief duty at which they had utterly failed. The word of hope comes in 23:5-8. Nothing in this prophecy is anything which had not been already revealed. The poignant position of the prophecy is what is to be noted. The kings in Jerusalem are about to be deposed as chapter 22 tells us. Yet the Messiah will still shoot forth from the line of David as Psalm 89 and other prophecies in Isaiah had foretold. Since these shepherds had failed, God would set up the ultimate shepherd, the righteous Branch, the Messiah.
Jeremiah’s entire prophecy is filled with doom and gloom. The nation of Israel will go into captivity. All nations in the entire region will come under the harsh yoke of Babylon. To top it off, the kings of David will not rule from Jerusalem any more. Yet there are days coming when a righteous king will rule. This Branch of David will execute justice, deal wisely, and perform righteousness, all the things that the sons of Josiah had not done. During the Messiah’s reign, Judah will be delivered and the nation of Israel will dwell securely. He will be responsible for the second exodus of the people of Israel. Instead of leading them from bondage in Egypt, they will be regathered from all the nations of the earth into the promised land of rest. He will be called “The LORD is our righteousness,” which means that the righteousness of His people will be vested in His very person. When you read the darkness of the prophecy in Jeremiah 22, it stands in stark contrast with the hope in Jeremiah 23:5-8. And that is exactly what we see in Jeremiah 33 as well.
The prophecy of the second exodus proves that there is a future reality in which the children of Israel will exist as a nation under the rule of the Messiah. The peace and security which exist during the days of the Messiah will be a future covenant arrangement for the nation of Israel. They will find their identity in the fact that God has regathered them from all nations. (The mention of “all nations” should help us to see past the Babylonian captivity which was a deportation to just one nation.) Just as the nation of Israel found their identity in the redemption from the land of Egypt in the past, so in the future, God’s deliverance from all nations back into the promised land will demonstrate to the world who they are. “The LORD lives” is the oath which one would take to show one’s faith in Him. The identity of the living God in those days will be that of the God who keeps His covenant promises to the nation of Israel.
Jeremiah 33 is set during the reign of Zedekiah. Jeremiah 32 was given almost at the end of Zedekiah’s reign as Jerusalem was in the final siege. Jeremiah 33 states that this prophecy was given after Jeremiah 32 while he was still imprisoned. So now we are even closer to the time when Jerusalem will be broken up, Zedekiah blinded and carried captive, and the temple burned to the ground. Apparently, some of the king’s personal houses had to be torn down in order to provide materials to temporarily fend off the siege. I’m sure the citizens of Jerusalem saw this as a sign of fear and weakness on the part of their Israelite leaders. Being in the prison, Jeremiah saw these things transpiring before him. Yet in the face of the inevitable destruction of the city of Jerusalem, Jeremiah foretold that the city would one day be praiseworthy to the LORD, 33:6-9. At that time the guilt and sin of Israel will be gone. The rebellion against the LORD will be over. The city of Jerusalem will be glorious before all the nations of the earth.
As this prophecy begins, it is directed toward the nation of Israel as a whole. There are parallels here to the two previous oracles on the future of God’s covenant plan. In 33:7, God promises to restore the fortunes of Israel which was previously foretold in 30:18. God also tells that He will cleanse His people from their sins, which also was mentioned when God revealed the nature of the New Covenant, 31:34. So this prophecy will occur at the same time that Israel enters into the New Covenant relationship with the LORD. Further on, God uses language that reflects Jeremiah 32 when He gave the oracle on the Everlasting Covenant. In 32:43 God drew the contrast between the present desolation and the future blessing. Now in 33:10 God does the exact same thing. The present desolation will not stop God’s covenant plan for the nation of Israel from being fulfilled. The future blessing here is explained in terms of people living happily, singing to God, and bringing thanksgiving offerings to His temple. Then beginning in 33:14, God states that the days are coming when He will fulfill the promise the He had made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah, showing that both kingdoms will be united in the future. He then reveals the future of the Davidic Covenant. The Davidic Covenant was not simply a joy and blessing for those descendants of David, but for the nation of Israel as a whole. Think of the joy during the days of Joash to have the Davidic line restored to power, II Chronicles 23, the whole chapter.
As we have previously seen, the future of the city of Jerusalem is intertwined with the rule of the lineage of David. Here in this prophecy of the Davidic Messiah, there is no change in this peculiarity. Jerusalem will be restored, and in the same vein, the Davidic Messiah will rule, 33:14-16. The wording is almost identical to Jeremiah 23:5-6. One slight change is that instead of Israel dwelling securely, Jeremiah prophesies that Jerusalem will dwell securely. This shows that the Messiah will rule from Jerusalem keeping it secure. In spite of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, there will still come a righteous Branch from David sometime in the future and reign from a restored Jerusalem.
But there is something more in this section that cannot be overlooked. In addition to the continuation of the Davidic Covenant through the future reign of the Messiah, another facet of David’s authority will continue. David had set up the temple worship in Jerusalem even before the temple was erected. The Chronicler goes to great lengths to show that David had organized the Levitical priesthood when he established the temple worship, I Chronicles 23-26. When Israel returned from captivity, this temple worship was restored at Zerubbabel’s temple, but it was clearly documented as being originally authorized by King David, Ezra 3:10, Nehemiah 12:24, 36, 45-46. So the continuation of the Davidic rule would naturally include the continuation of temple worship.
Here in Jeremiah 33:17-18 God foretells that as the Davidic rule will continue through the Messiah, that the priests will offer up sacrifices continually through the Levitical ministry, mentioning both in the same sentence. Another section of this oracle begins in verse 19 in which God expounds what He has just revealed. In language that is very similar to Jeremiah 31:35-36, God promises that His covenant with David cannot be broken. Remember how the original promise to David did not contain the word “covenant”, but later Psalm 89 did; now we see another use of the phraseology of God’s covenant with David. The peculiarities of future fulfillment of this covenant are that David will always have a son ruling on the throne, and that the Levites will always minister unto the LORD. As if to drive the point home even further, God speaks to Jeremiah again beginning in verse 23. He asks Jeremiah to consider the two families of which He has spoken. The two families that have been mentioned are that of the family of David and the family of Levi. So the family of David is intertwined with the family of Levi in the future fulfillment of God’s promises for the Messiah to rule.
God compares His covenant with David to His covenant with the cycle of day and night. The idea of the diurnal order being unalterable makes me wonder about the possibility of day and night continuing perpetually. We shouldn’t get too hung up on God’s language here. Perhaps the time will come when day and night will cease and there will be only day. Perhaps God will allow this order to continue infinitely. The idea that God is conveying here is that the continuation of day and night is something that man cannot ever interfere with. This is set in God’s plan such that no man (however powerful) could alter. So it is with the Davidic Covenant. No man will ever be able to alter God’s plan for the Davidic Covenant to be fulfilled on God’s terms. Let’s not get hung up on whether or not day and night will one day come to an end thereby allowing God to be released from His faithfulness to the Davidic Covenant. This language was meant to convey God’s unalterable purposes.
When God threw away the signet ring from His right hand, He still had in mind that He would fulfill the Davidic Covenant, just not through Jeconiah any longer. God threw away the signet ring when He removed Jeconiah from ruling in Jerusalem. Yet after the 70 years were fulfilled and Israel was allowed to return, God demonstrated His faithfulness to His covenant by prophesying through Haggai. When the remnant returned to Jerusalem, Zerubbabel returned with them, who was grandson to Jeconiah. When Jehoahaz was deposed, Jehoiakim was ruling vicariously in his place until Jehoahaz died. Then after his death, Jehoiakim no longer ruled as regent, but as king. When Jeconiah was taken captive, Zedekiah was ruling as regent until he might return, Jeremiah 28:4. Jeconiah never returned, but he never died while Zedekiah ruled either. So when Zedekiah was taken captive to Babylon, the rightful heir to the throne was still Jeconiah, even though he only reigned for three months. Zerubbabel came to Jerusalem as the grandson of Jeconiah and heir to the throne of David. While he never took that throne, he served as governor over the city of Jerusalem. This was Haggai’s post-exilic prophecy for Zerubbabel.
2:21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms, I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdom of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.”
The ring that God cast off from His finger in the days of Jeconiah, He put back on in the days of Zerubbabel. The kingly lineage would not rule from Jerusalem, but the days would come when that same authority promised to the Davidic line would overthrow the kingdoms of this world through the seed of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel would be the signet ring on His right hand since He would bring forth the Messiah.
To sum up, Jeremiah saw the future of the Davidic Covenant as such. Even though the Davidic rule was coming to an end, God would be faithful to His promise and bring forth the Messiah from the line of David. This Messiah would rule as the Great Shepherd over the completely forgiven and cleansed nation of Israel after He regathers His people from all nations from which they had been scattered. In His days there would be peace and security for the nation of Israel and for Jerusalem which would be the place of His royal rule. The temple worship would continue during His reign as the priests continue to offer up sacrifices with the Levites as their ministers. The Messiah would execute justice and righteousness over His joyful people in the land during His rule.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
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