The prophet Jeremiah prophesied during the last forty years of Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel. His ministry era included Judah’s defeat at the hands of the Babylonians as well as Babylon’s deportation of the majority of the citizens to Babylon. Jeremiah himself was never deported to Babylon, but he continued to fulfill his role as God’s messenger to those captives.
Jeremiah chapter 29 is the record of a letter that Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to those captives (Jeremiah 29:1-2). He sent the letter by way of Elasah (Jeremiah 29:3), a delegate Judah’s King Jeconiah dispatched to Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar. Following the Babylonian conquering of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar had allowed Jeconiah to remain on the throne of Judah as a vassal king.
The prophetic council that Jeremiah gave those Jewish captives by way of that letter was interesting in that it did not call for revolt, uprising, or insurrection on their part. Much to the contrary, the letter advised those Jews to settle down in Babylon, build houses, plant gardens, get married, bear children, and even seek the peace of Babylon. The section in question reads as follows:
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters — that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. (Jeremiah 29:4-7, N.K.J.V.)
Needless to say, that advice wasn’t exactly what many of those Jews wanted to hear from Jeremiah. After all, they wanted to return home to Jerusalem rather than make Babylon their new home. But Jeremiah was quick to point out to them that it was God, not Nebuchadnezzar, who had caused them to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon (Jeremiah 29:4). Nebuchadnezzar had merely been the vessel through whom God had worked to bring about His plan. As for why God had caused Judah to fall and those citizens to be deported to Babylon, Jeremiah had previously explained that God was going to punish the people of Judah because of their idolatry and their refusal to heed his prophets (Jeremiah 25:1-14). This punishment would come through the Babylonians and would last for seventy years. (Additionally, 2 Chronicles 36:15-21 teaches that the seventy years was also the result of the people of Judah refusing to give their land a Sabbath rest every seventh year for a period of 490 years: Leviticus 25:1-7, 26:27-46.)
In his letter, Jeremiah reiterated to the captives that the seventy years of punishment had to be fulfilled. Once those years were completed, however, God Himself would turn on the Babylonians, judge them, and do a new work in Judah (Jeremiah 29:10-14). But in the meantime it was God’s will for those captives to make the best lives they could in Babylon. By doing so, they could multiply in number just as their ancestors had once done in captivity in Egypt (Exodus 1:8-20).
Actually, the advice that God gave those captives through Jeremiah describes the general plan He has always had for living life on earth. That plan has been on display ever since He created Adam and Eve, married them, gave Adam the work of tending the land, and gave Eve the work of motherhood. So, while it’s true that there are times when God approves of His people going to battle (Psalm 144:1), and it’s equally true that it isn’t His will for everyone to get married (Matthew 19:12; 1 Corinthians 7:32-40), it is undeniable that God’s stereotypical template for how He wants people to live life on earth involves: getting married, having a home, bearing children, working, enjoying the bounty brought about by the work, and praying for the peace of the nation in which they live.
Sadly, we are now living in an age in which this general plan is becoming increasingly out of vogue. Many men today want to become the heads of companies rather than the heads of homes. Many women want careers rather than children. Many couples chose to live together rather than get married. And as for large families, well, birth control and abortion have just about made them extinct. Oh, and let’s not forget the recent assault on the United States capital building, which was an act that stood in stark contrast to anything resembling seeking the peace of the land in which you are living. Surely these are all indicators of a nation that has lost its way, and we, like the people of Judah, stand ripe for God’s chastisement and judgment. If it’s true that the more unscriptural we become, the more unspiritual we become, we Americans must surely be an unspiritual lot. And we know what ultimately happens to unspiritual nations, don’t we? As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to learn that there are some Babylonians at our door right now.