The prophet Jeremiah gave a prophecy against the false prophets or the civil rulers of Judah as well as the priests (Jeremiah 23; 2:8). He pointed to the evil of the false prophets of the northern kingdom of Israel and emphasized the greater judgement upon those of the southern kingdom of Judah for their sinful condition (Jeremiah 3:6–10). It is noteworthy that about this same period, in the land of exile, Ezekiel also contrasted the false shepherds with the true ones (Ezekiel 34).
The unfaithful spiritual leaders
These false prophets were like self-appointed speakers who, without the ruler’s permission, declared to the people in his name what they wanted to day (2 Samuel 18:22–29). They used in their false messages the same language of Gods prophets to deceive the people. The evil shepherds “fed themselves, and fed not the flock” (Ezekiel 34:8). So wicked had these priests and prophets become that they did their sins in the Temple, the “house of the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:8–11; 32:31–34; Ezekiel 8:3–16). The hypocritical nature of the false prophets made them speak in the Lord’s name while they broke His very law. This was more “terrible” to Jeremiah than their public adoration of Baal. These spiritual leaders were so corrupt that Isaiah, Jeremiah likened them to people of the Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10).
Contrasting the evil with the good
The prophet presented (Jeremiah 23:1–8) the contrast between these false shepherds and the true ones that God will raise up. He showed the difference between the true and the false prophets. The first rebuked the people for their sins, declaring upon them God’s judgments if they did not forsake their evil ways. The second calmed the people with false messages of security, which did not come “out of the mouth of the Lord” (Jeremiah 14:13). Whereas the true prophets carried on their work with the belief that the Lord was with them (Ps. 73:23–26; 139:7–12), the false prophets acted as if the Lord was far and uncaring (Psalms 10:11; 73:11; 94:7).
As a result of the neglect of giving God’s messages, oppression and apostasy of their rulers, the Israelites were overcome and taken captive to Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, etc. If only the priest gave the right message, the Lord would have led His flock to green pastures (Psalm 23; 79:13; 100:3; John 10:11–15). “He would have ruled them with “judgment and justice” (Isaiah 9:6, 7; Daniel 7:13, 14; Revelation 11:15). He would have allowed His shepherds to lead them following the example of the “chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:2–4). Therefore, God’s judgements will destroy the wicked and consumes as chaff the words of the false prophets (Jeremiah 5:14; 20:9; Psalms. 39:3; 1 Corinthians 3:12, 13).
A message of hope to the flock
Though final judgement will fall upon the “false prophets,” there was hope for “the remnant” of the flock. The prophet gave messages of hope to Judah at the very time when the besieging soldiers of Babylon were surrounding Jerusalem, probably at the time Jehoiachin in 597 b.c. (Jeremiah 23: 1). And thus, the promise of restoration to those who were obedient to God was given to all the people, both the house of Judah and the house of Israel (Jeremiah 3:18).
In His service,