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To be planted in Israel

Here is what the latter part of Jeremiah's commission was all about. Remarkably, he must have been responsible for transplanting the throne of David to Israel by taking a daughter of King Zedekiah to the 10 lost tribes. Yet where did the Israelites live at this time?

The very fact that Jeremiah was outside the country in the company of the king's daughters, the only apparent successors to the Davidic throne, with a commission "to build and to plant" should give us pause. This was no mere coincidence—especially when we consider the unbreakable covenant God had made with David.

God had even said that if the Jewish remnant stayed in Judah as He told them to, He would have used Jeremiah to replant and build up the kingdom right where they were (Jeremiah 42:10). But, as we've seen, they instead went to Egypt—where God had explicitly said not to go.

So now that they were being driven out of Egypt, where would Jeremiah go at this time with the king's daughters? They weren't supposed to be where they were. And indeed, it is quite possible that they had already left Egypt even prior to Hophra's death. In either case, to where did they travel?

No longer would God rebuild the kingdom in Judah—as the people had violated the terms of this offer by fleeing to Egypt.

Moreover, Judah or any other land under Babylonian dominion would seem a highly unlikely choice. If Nebuchadnezzar had not known about the king's daughters before, he certainly did now. News undoubtedly reached him of their being placed under special guard and care by his enemy, Pharaoh Hophra. And even Jeremiah himself, who had previously been accorded favor by the Babylonian invaders of Jerusalem, would now be mistakenly perceived as an accomplice of Hophra.

Furthermore, we know the throne was not replanted in Judah because the Bible gives us information about the Jewish homeland during the time of the captivity. And when the captives later return from Babylon, it is obvious that there is no Jewish king reigning over anyone there. Thus, while Jeremiah and the royal daughters may have briefly passed through Judah at this time, they did not resettle there.

So did they hide out in a cave in obscurity for the rest of their lives? Or, more reasonably, did they settle down somewhere with their important status acknowledged by others? And if so, was it somewhere that the prophet could fulfill his commission?

Jeremiah himself provides us with a powerful clue. He had earlier prophesied that from his time forward, David would "never lack a man [i.e., a person] to sit on the throne of the house of Israel" (Jeremiah 33:17). This verse is crucial to understanding the whole subject. Read it again. Notice—it does not say Judah, but rather the house of Israel, which had gone into captivity around 150 years before. So from Jeremiah's time on, David would never lack a descendant to reign over, again, not Judah but Israel. Incidentally, those who see this as just a prophecy of Christ's future reign should realize that it then speaks of "rulers" from David's line (verse 26)—not just a singular "Ruler." What this is telling us is that the throne of David had to somehow be transferred to Israel at the time of Jeremiah!

Through the prophet Ezekiel, contemporary with Jeremiah, God fills in more details. Prior to Jerusalem's fall, he posed a riddle to the house of Israel (Ezekiel 17:2)—again, not Judah—which He afterward explained. "A great eagle . . . came to Lebanon and took from the cedar the highest branch" (verse 3). Meaning: "The king of Babylon went to Jerusalem and took its kings and princes" (verse 12). Then: "He cropped off the top of his young twigs" (verse 4, KJV). Meaning: "And he took of the king's offspring" (verse 13).

Having explained these symbols, God, through Ezekiel, gave the following clear parable: "I will take also [a sprig, NRSV] of the highest branches [Zedekiah and princes] of the high cedar [Judah] and set it out. I will crop off from the topmost of its young twigs [Zedekiah's children] a tender one [female], and will plant it on a high and prominent mountain [a great kingdom]. On the mountain height [top of the kingdom—the throne] of Israel [not Judah!] I will plant it; and it will bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a majestic cedar. Under it will dwell birds of every sort [all manner of peoples] . . . And all the trees of the field [nations of the earth] shall know that I, the LORD, have brought down the high tree [Judah] and exalted the low tree [Israel]" (vv. 22-24).

Here, then, is what the latter part of Jeremiah's commission was all about. Remarkably, he must have been responsible for transplanting the throne of David to Israel by taking a daughter of King Zedekiah to the 10 lost tribes. Yet where did the Israelites live at this time?

Yet this arrangement was not to last. "The Greeks continued to play a prominent role during the reigns of Psammeticus II and Apries (the Pharaoh Hophra of Jeremiah). Under the latter, however, a national movement among the Egyptians led to a revolt [ca. 570 B.C.] against the [Egyptian] king and the Greek element, with the result that the throne passed to the general Amasis (Ahmosis II), who withdrew the Greeks from Daphnai" ( Chamber's Encyclopedia , 1959, Vol. 5)—evidently expelling many of them whom he considered loyal to Hophra.

Adding to the need for expulsion was the fact that although Ahmose confined the remaining Greek mercenaries near his capital, making many of them part of a royal guard, "an element within Egyptian culture . . . resisted this; and the presence of foreigners in Egypt, both as invaders and settlers, led to the rise of a nationalism" that wanted the foreigners out ("Egypt," Encyclopaedia Britannica , Macropaedia, Vol. 18, 1985, p. 165; "Ahmose II," Micropaedia, Vol. 1, p. 168).

It was now about 16 years after the fall of Jerusalem, and up to this point things had apparently gone rather well in Egypt for those who had fled there. But God had warned of the calamity to befall Hophra (Jeremiah 44:30). And He had warned the Jewish remnant seeking refuge in Egypt that they would be consumed there (verse 27). Clearly, then, the turn of events was from Him. The Egyptians drove many of the Greco-Israelite mercenaries from the country. And most of the Jewish remnant was probably slaughtered around this time, if not in the uprising then probably in Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Egypt two years later in 568 B.C., which laid waste most of the Nile valley.

Based on God's prophecies, a few evidently made it back to Judah (verse 28). But what about Jeremiah, Baruch and the kings daughters? Where did they go? The book of Jeremiah doesn't actually tell us, although it contains some hints.

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