8-10 “And then tell the people at large, ‘God’s Message to you is this: Listen carefully. I’m giving you a choice: life or death. Whoever stays in this city will die—either in battle or by starvation or disease. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who have surrounded the city will live. You’ll lose everything—but not your life. I’m determined to see this city destroyed. I’m that angry with this place! God’s Decree. I’m going to give it to the king of Babylon, and he’s going to burn it to the ground.’
These words are very similar to those found in Deuteronomy 30:15-20, which were part of Moses’ farewell address to the children of Israel. Moses point then is the same as Jeremiah’s now: “God has declared what He will do. The only question is how will you respond—and the consequences are directly tied to the response.”
Countless warnings had been given to God’s people about their sinfulness, but they had not been successfully heeded. God had decreed the inevitable destruction of Jerusalem because of the wickedness of the people, but it was nothing but what the people themselves had ordered by their rejection of God’s will and their utter disobedience.
*Regarding the ultimate decision of life—whether to accept or reject God’s salvation, through Jesus—the same matter-of-fact reality prevails. God has declared that salvation is available only through Jesus. The remaining question is, “How will we respond?”
11-14 “To the royal house of Judah, listen to God’s Message! House of David, listen—God’s Message to you: ‘Start each day by dealing with justice. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Prevent fire—the fire of my anger—for once it starts, it can’t be put out. Your evil regime is fuel for my anger. Don’t you realize that I’m against you, yes, against you. You think you’ve got it made, all snug and secure. You say, “Who can possibly get to us? Who can crash our party?” Well, I can—and will! I’ll punish your evil regime. I’ll start a fire that will rage unchecked, burn everything in sight to cinders.’”
Some scholars suggest that the end of the message to Zedekiah came in verse 10, and that these verses are a prophecy regarding the House of David, being a part of a number of similar prophecies in this four-chapter section. While this is possible, it is unlikely. The words here are an appropriate continuation of the message to Zedekiah.
The burning of Jerusalem mentioned in the 14th verse would occur within 18 months of Jeremiah's response to the delegation from the king. Additionally, verse 12 relates that all the punishment to come upon Jerusalem would be because of the evil of Zedekiah. His wickedness is seen here in that he repudiated the prophetic warnings of God's prophet.
God makes it clear through the prophet that it was the king’s duty to dispense justice. Thus, along with the false prophets and the immoral cultic-priests, the monarchy itself must share in the responsibility for the moral and social collapse of the people and the resulting divine punishment that fell upon them.
*It is quite appropriate, at this point in our nation’s history, that we are reminded of the direct relationship between corrupt leadership and corrupt people. Even in America, where there is a supposed separation between Church and state, our leadership should rise to some level of moral and ethical accountability, providing an appropriate example to the people—and to peoples around the world. Too fail in this responsibility carries terrible consequences.