Looking at an outline of the book of Jeremiah.
Chapter 1-25 Warnings to Judah
Chapters 26-29 Historical Narrative during reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah
Chapters 30-33 Hope for Israel
Chapters 34-45 Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem
Chapters 46-51 Judgement of the Nations
Chapter 52 Fall of Jerusalem
Chapter 29 is the end of the historical narrative during the reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah. The question must be asked “What is the purpose of Jeremiah’s ministry? Often Christians will attempt to overlay their dispensational calling of faith in Jesus and salvation apart from works into the books of the prophets. Yet the words for faith and belief in Jeremiah are almost nonexistent. Perhaps the use of the word salvation in Jeremiah is telling” Jeremiah 3:23
Truly, in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills,
And from the multitude of mountains;
Truly, in the Lord our God
Is the salvation of Israel.
The salvation of Israel is a political salvation from the nations coercing and taking Israel captive. This is not a salvation from eternal damnation for the souls of individual persons in Israel. This dispensation of Jeremiah, the obligations of Israel and the blessings promised as a result of the failure or success of Israel, should be kept in mind.
What does Yahweh expect from Israel? He expects to do deeds in keeping with the covenant given in Deuteronomy.
do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, 7 then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know,
26 “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.
Jeremiah’s call was a warning to the people to follow the commandments of God. The reward was a temporal reward of land and prosperity. This was the Deuteronomic covenant modified slightly by the promises made to David; the Davidic covenant. Jeremiah 29 begins as a reminder to Israel of their punishment for forsaking their covenant responsibilities. They are facing the curse of Deuteronomy.
29 Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive—to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 (This happened after Jeconiah[a] the king, the queen mother, the [b]eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem.) 3 The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, saying,
This is a letter from Jeremiah, that was carried by the hand of two couriers who also carried official business letters from Zedekiah, the king of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. Doubtless the primary purpose of the couriers was delivering some message between Zedekiah and Nebuchadnezzar. It is not known if Jeremiah’s letter was delivered with the knowledge of Zedekiah or simple a favor between Jeremaih and the house of Shaphan. Since this was before the rebellion of Zedekiah, this dates the letter in the early years of Zedekiah’s reign from 598-595 BC. This is the only mention of these two people but their families have a full history in Judah.
The father Hilkiah was the high priest who found the “Book of the Law” in the temple during Josiah’s temple renovation. Hilkiah then gave the scroll to the scribe Shaphan, who read the scroll and delivered it to King Josiah. King Josiah whose subsequent repentance and reformation made him perhaps the best king outside of David that Israel ever had.
2 Kings 22:8
Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.
The sons of Shaphan (Hbr rat), Elasah (Hbr the doings of God), Gemariah (Hbr perfection of the Lord) and Ahikam (Hbr brother who raises up) were to play an instrumental role in the ministry of Jeremiah(Hbr exaltation of the Lord). The family functioned as part of the ruling class but offered overt and covert support to Jeremiah. Elasah is not mentioned again. Ahikam saved Jeremiah from a lynching previously.
Jer 2624 Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, so that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.
Another brother of Elasah, Gemariah was an official in Zedekiah’s court. His son Michaiah ( the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan) heard the words of the book that Jeremiah’s scribe Baruch had written of Jeremiah’s prophesy. The family hid Baruch and perhaps Jeremiah, then forwarded the book to Zedekiah the king. In an act of defiance Zedekiah cut the book into pieces and threw it into the fire. To his credit Gemariah protested the burning but he was given a subtle admonishment. He did not tear his garments.
11 When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, heard all the words of the Lord from the book, 12 he then went down to the king’s house, into the scribe’s chamber; and there all the princes were sitting—Elishama the scribe, Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, Elnathan the son of Achbor, Gemariah the son of Shaphan, Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the princes…
23 And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth… 25 Nevertheless Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah implored the king not to burn the scroll; but he would not listen to them.”
Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, the son of Shapham was made governor of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem.
2 Kings 25:22 Then he made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, governor over the people who remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left.
Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard committed him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, that he should take him home. So he dwelt among the people.
The sons and grandsons of Shaphan seem to be allies of Jeremiah.
Now back to the letter. Jeremiah’s commission was over the nation to (Jeremiah 1:10)
To root out and to pull down,
To destroy and to throw down,
To build and to plant.”
To those who were deported to Babylon he promises to build and to plant. He encourages them to take wives, bear children and build vineyards and homes. The famous plan to spend seventy years in Babylon was repeated in this letter. After the seventy years God will gather Israel back to Jerusalem. To those who were still in Jerusalem and resisting Babylon he promises to root out, pull down, and destroy. He promises to pursue them with sword, famine and pestilence.
There is a problem with the captives in Babylon. Some false prophets are promising a quick return to Jerusalem. These false prophets include Ahab the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah. Zedekiah may be the brother of the current high priest of Jerusalem who is Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest. As with the false prophet of Hananiah in Jeremiah 28 the Lord promises death to these men. In addition to their false prophesies the Lord accuses them of adultery with their neighbor’s lives. Jeremiah prophesies the awful death by fire in the revenge of Nebuchadnezzar.
Another false prophet or elder sends a letter back with Shemaiah the Nehelamite in the hands of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah. He requests the high priest of Jerusalem to use his power to imprison and force into stocks, the prophet Jeremiah. Shemiah calls Jeremiah demented. The high priest Zephaniah, the brother of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, reads the letter to Jeremiah but does not imprison Jeremiah. Perhaps he remembers Hananiah the last false prophet, who died as a result from the prophesy of Jeremiah.
25 Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: You have sent letters in your name to all the people who are at Jerusalem, to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, 26 “The Lord has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, so that there should be officers in the house of the Lord over every man who is demented and considers himself a prophet, that you should put him in prison and in the stocks.
The Lord not only sentences Shemaiah to death but curses his descendants. This is the last chapter in an historical series of chapters in Jeremiah 29 to 29. The rejection of the word of the Lord has consequences. Yahweh choses his own prophets and those prophets who self proclaim are condemned. In every case judgment follows rejection and blessings follow obedience. The covenant of Yahweh with Israel is a national covenant of cursing and blessing. This is not a covenant of salvation or damnation for the individual.
29 Now Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah the prophet. 30 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying: 31 Send to all those in captivity, saying, Thus says the Lord concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Because Shemaiah has prophesied to you, and I have not sent him, and he has caused you to trust in a lie— 32 therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his [c]family: he shall not have anyone to dwell among this people, nor shall he see the good that I will do for My people, says the Lord, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord.