Judah was under the
dominion of evil rulers, both political and
religious during the life of Jeremiah. The Hebrew
prophet broke out with a cry, "Woe to the
shepherds." Kings and all civil rulers in Israel
were referred to as shepherds. They were the civil
rulers who had oversight of the affairs of the
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
The evil shepherds were
motivated by their self-interests and therefore
"scattered" and drove away the people into Exile
(Jeremiah 23:2). Jeremiah executes a beautiful play
on words in verse two as The New English Bible
brings this out: "You have not watched over them,
but I am watching you to punish you for your
evil-doings." Moffatt translates: "You scattered my
flock and drove them away, you took no care of them;
so I will take good care to punish you for the evil
you have done." The New American Standard Bible
reads: "You have scattered My flock and driven them
away, and have not attended to them; behold I am
about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds."
Yahweh was actively bringing judgment upon these
evil kings responsible for the national life in
Judah. The LORD would bring a remnant out of the
captivity (cf. Chapters 24, 40-44; Isaiah 1:9; 37:4;
Micah 4:7; 7:18).
The LORD declared that He
would gather together a "remnant of My flock out of
all the countries where I have driven them and shall
bring them back to their pasture; and they will be
fruitful and multiply" (v. 3). God will deliver them
from captivity and return them to their land in
Israel. In contrast to the evil shepherds of Israel
God will raise up "a righteous Branch" from David
(vv. 5-6). They were all absorbed in the ministry to
self. Self-interest groups controlled the
government. They sought only their own enrichment,
security, comfort, etc. They forgot spiritual
realities and trusted in material prosperity. The
leaders were trusting in their own cunning rather
than the living God.
The last four kings in
Judah were evil. Zedekiah was the current evil
"shepherd" and he scattered the people. "Woe to the
shepherds who are destroying and scattering the
sheep of My pasture!" declares the LORD" (Jeremiah
The LORD's intervention
would bring good "shepherds" to rule over His sheep.
The good shepherd that
Jeremiah longed to see come and deliver his people
was realized in the person and leadership of Jesus
Christ. He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14-16;
Acts 17:1; Luke 1:78; John 18:37). He is the
righteous one from the Branch of David. The Good
Shepherd would "act wisely and do justice and
righteousness in the land" (Jeremiah 23:5).
Moreover, He is "the LORD our righteousness" (v. 6).
He will save His people from their sins (Matthew
1:21-23), and He will not lose a single one of His
sheep (John 6:39; 10:28; 1 Peter 1:5).
THE RIGHTEOUS BRANCH
There were two facets of
the doctrine of the Messiah in the Old Testament and
rabbinical writings. Both of these ideas are found
in verses five and six. We see the Messiah as a
person in verse five, and the teaching concerning
the Messianic Age in verse six. These facets are
also found in Isaiah (11:1-5, 6-16; 9:5-6; 11:1-9;
Micah 5:1-5; Amos 9:11; Hosea 3:5, etc.). These and
other verses describe the coming New Age when the
Messiah would restore David's dynasty.
God promised Jeremiah
that He would raise up from David's line a righteous
Branch (23:5). The shepherds of Israel have
corrupted God's flock. Yahweh will restore the
nation from exile and will provide true "shepherds"
who will care for His flock. In this passage the
LORD promises the coming of the ideal king, "a
righteous Branch" in the line of David.
"Behold, the days are
coming," declares the Lord,
"When I will raise up for
David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king
and act wisely
And do justice and
righteousness in the land."
This passage in Jeremiah
is clearly messianic and was one of many such
utterances by the Hebrew prophets that contributed
to the developing messianic belief in ancient
Israel. Verses five and six are full of messianic
thinking as well as 33:15-16. The English word
"Messiah" is derived from the Hebrew word Mashach
meaning, "to anoint." The term Messiah in the sense
of the ideal king is not used in the Old Testament
even though the idea is clearly present.
It is only through the
ideal king Messiah David whose just and victorious
rule the hopes of Judah will ever be realized. No
other dynasty will have everlasting rule. The Royal
Psalms give emphasis to this same idealism (Psalm 2,
4, 72, 89-110).
The "Branch" is a
"growth," or literally "sprout" and is used in the
ancient Near East to describe the rightful heir to
the throne (33:15; Isaiah 4:2; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12).
Isaiah uses a different word in 11:1 but with the
same idea. This heir will be an ideal king. He will
act wisely and do what is just and right. During His
reign "Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell
securely; and this is His name by which he will be
called, 'the LORD our righteousness'" (vv. 5-6; cf.
3:17; 33:16; Ezekiel 48:35; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
No matter how gloomy and
desperate the present situation was in Judah, Yahweh
promised to raise up to David a righteous branch.
This one branch of David will sit on the throne
forever and He will reign in righteousness. The
second David, the Messiah's dominion will last
forever. Only the one Good Shepherd of Yahweh stands
in contrast to evil shepherds in Ezekiel 34:23. This
is the one to whom the promise was made to David in
2 Samuel 7:12; 1 Chronicles 7. The name of this
branch of David is Yahweh our Righteousness.
Ezekiel wrote, "Then I
will set over them one shepherd, My servant David,
and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and
be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their
God, and My servant David will be prince among them;
I, the LORD, have spoken" (34:23-24).
Jeremiah says, they will
call Him "Yahweh our Righteousness" because He is
righteous. He will lead His people into
righteousness (Isaiah 11:1; Matthew 2:23). This
ruler will spring forth or bud forth as a Righteous
Plant. He is the blossom of the Jewish nation that
will spring forth from what appears to be an almost
The Messiah is here
called Yahweh and He is our righteousness. The
righteous Branch obtains our righteousness (Romans
5:18; 3:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Mark 10:18; 1
Corinthians 1:30; 1 Peter 3:18; Romans 10:4;
Philippians 3:9). Jesus Christ is the Righteous One
(Acts 3:14; Hebrews 1:8, 9; Romans 3:22).
The meaning of "saved" is
"rescued," "delivered," "liberated." This ideal king
would provide safety for His people. Jeremiah will
develop the idea of salvation in chapters 30-31.
The righteous "shoot" (semah)
appeared to be dead, but it was not. This dynasty of
David's tree would burst forth like a shoot. Most of
our English translations read "Branch" or literally
"Sprout" in the margin. During the postexilic times
Branch became the technical term for the expected
ideal king (Zechariah 3:8; 6:12). This true shoot
that comes from the line of David will be a wise
ruler. "He will reign as king and act wisely."
Literally, "and a king will rule and act wisely." He
will "act wisely" and "have success." He will ably
reign in contrast to the current ruler.
How can a man be just
with God? The answer is in the Lord that men are
justified. Is it the Lord their righteousness that
righteousness resides; the Lord Himself is their
righteousness. This is the high point in the Old
Testament revelation respecting justification.
It is from the writings
of the Old Testament that we come to understand the
full meaning of the apostle Paul’s teaching on the
righteousness of God. In Paul’s mind the Lord
Himself is our righteousness, and it comes from
faith to faith (cf. Rom. 1:17; 3:21, 22; 10:3; 2
Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). His mind and heart were
saturated with the lofty theology of the Hebrew
THE NEW AGE OF THE
Branch, the Messiah, would usher in the New Age.
Jeremiah says the coming
"second Exodus" would be much greater than the first
Exodus from Egypt (23:7-8). "Therefore behold, the
days are coming," declares the Lord, "when they will
no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up
the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As
the Lord lives, who brought up and led back the
descendants of the household of Israel from the
north land and from all the countries where I had
driven them.’ Then they will live on their own
Jeremiah builds on the
same idea in Jeremiah 30:8-9, 21. The context is
panic and terror because the awful Day of Yahweh has
arrived. Other prophets mention this same event
(Amos 5:18-20; Isaiah 2:12-21; Zephaniah 1:14-18).
Imagine, Jeremiah says, men having birth pangs! It
is a great day of distress. On the backdrop of this
chaos we find another messianic promise (vv. 8-9).
The shift is from judgment to deliverance. The
purpose here is the nation willingly serves the LORD
under the leadership of their new king (v. 9). Verse
21 doesn't specifically mention the messiah king;
however the magnitude of such a restoration
visualized can only lead to the greater David.
These verses like Isaiah
chapter eleven have a distinctive messianic ring. No
human Davidic king ever regained the throne after
the Exile. Therefore, these events have not yet
taken place. However, the Davidic king is the key to
the day of the Lord.
The Hebrew prophets
always speak of the Day of the Lord as near at hand
(Isa. 13:6), much as the New Testament speaks of the
Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In the book of
Revelation, the apostle John gives prominence to the
concept of the Day of the Lord and brings it to its
magnificent glorious fulfilment.
The focus of the New
Testament writers is to show that Jesus is the
Christ from the family of David. He is the eternal
Son of God, and therefore the fulfillment of the
promises of a Davidic king that were first made to
David (2 Samuel 7). Some Jews have individually
accepted Christ as the fulfillment of these great
Jeremiah 33:15-17 is a
parallel messianic passage based upon 23:5-6. Here
the focus is on both Israel and Judah and the "good
word" the LORD will perform (v. 14). The ideal king,
Messiah, will rule justly and rightly. He will
deliver or "save" Judah, and Jerusalem will "dwell
in safety." Again the emphasis is on
"righteousness." He will "be right, straight, just,
righteous in dispensing justice, upright."
Righteousness is that which is right and is
essential to truth. "Yahweh is our righteousness"
(v. 16). He will "cause a righteous Branch of David
to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and
righteousness on the earth" (v. 15). His very name
reveals God's method of restoration.
"For thus says the Lord,
‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne
of the house of Israel'" (33:17). This is the same
promise given to David in which a throne would be
established forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Despite the
judgment and exile God's promise to David still
stood true. This strengthened the Messianic ideal.
Again, the prophet takes us back to the original
promise of the LORD to King David. The division of
the kingdom after Solomon was not a part of God's
will. David's son will sit on the throne, and the
Levitical priests will serve Yahweh (v. 21). An
ideal king will come who is the essence of
righteousness and He will be a king who is to be a
priest and He will sit on a throne of David. He will
be a King-Priest.
Let keep in mind the
consummation has not arrived. Literally and locally
Jerusalem has never been rebuilt as described by
Jeremiah. Judah has never known these marvelous
conditions. Israel has not yet dwelt in peace by the
side of Judah, as said the prophet that she should.
Every week the news from the Middle East describe
the very opposite. However, the Branch has come, the
King-Priest has appeared; and God is still moving
with certainly, quietly, with focused determination
toward that goal.
Jesus Christ fulfilled
all these grand promises to Jeremiah. Before He was
born the angel told Mary, "you shall name Him
Jesus." You will call Him Yeshua, "salvation." He is
Yahweh saves. But he went on, "He will be great, and
will be called the son of the Most High; and the
Lord God will give Him the throne of His father
David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob
forever; and His kingdom will have no end" (Luke
1:32-33). For further study: Luke 1:69; Acts 2:30;
13:23, 34, 38; Revelation 5:5; 22:16; Romans
Jesus Christ alone is the
fulfillment of this prophecy of Jeremiah. He is our
righteousness. He rules forever as the heir of the
promises of David.
Is He your
23:5-8; 30:8-9, 21; 33:14-18 A Righteous Branch of
Christ in the Old Testament