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Jeremiah 23:1-8 and 33:14-16 – The Righteous Branch

Summary

God announces a positive future for Israel and the Davidic king. God will raise up a shepherd, a righteous Branch, who will rule as God himself would rule.

Analysis

The text breaks into a string of judgment oracles with words of promise. The text begins with a condemnation of Israel's shepherds (kings). They have misled the people, causing them to stray off the paths of righteousness and justice, not leading them in caring ways. God then proceeds to attend to the sheep that have been scattered across the landscape of ancient Near Eastern nations (that is, the remnant), claiming them as God's people. God will gather them and bring them back into the fold in their own land, where they will be fruitful and multiply.

When the people have been returned to their own land, God will raise up shepherds who will truly shepherd them. Because of such divine action, the people will not be fearful again. Then the text moves to a single leader from the line of David that God will raise up, who will rule in justice and righteousness. This shepherd/king is referred to with the image "righteous Branch" (also 33:15; compare Isaiah 11:1) and is given the name "The Lord is our righteousness." That is, God's rule would be exercised in and through this individual, and Israel will dwell in safety. The word "branch" is used as a messianic title in Zechariah 3:8; 6:12. The imagery drawn from vegetation suggests fresh growth from dead roots (see Isaiah 6:13; 11:1), a newness that is possible only by a creative act of God. While this image is not used in the New Testament, the image of vine and branches (John 15:1-8) may be drawn from these roots.

Jeremiah 23:7-8 (see also 16:14-15) speaks of a basic change in Israel's confessional orientation when it has returned to the land. No longer will the exodus from Egypt be the center of Israel's confession of faith. Rather, their confession will be centered in God's gathering of the remnant from all lands and establishing them on the land--a new exodus (see Isaiah 43:15-21; 51:9-11).

Jeremiah 23:1-8 and 33:14-16

Restoration after Exile

23Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.

The Righteous Branch of David

5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

7 Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt’, 8but ‘As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he* had driven them.’ Then they shall live in their own land.

The Righteous Branch and the Covenant with David

14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

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10 February 2011

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