“Jeremiah the prophet” wrote a “letter” and sent it from Jerusalem to the remnant of (or surviving) “elders of the exiles,” the priests, the prophets (“false prophets” [LXX]), and “all the [rest] of the people” whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken as captives from Jerusalem to Babylon. (29:1 [36:1, LXX])) This was after King Jeconiah (Jehoiachin), the queen mother (Nehushta [2 Kings 24:8]), the “eunuchs” (or court officials), the “princes [or high officials] of Judah and Jerusalem” (“every noble” or free person [LXX] “and prisoner”), craftsmen, and metal workers had left Jerusalem as captives. A cuneiform inscription (British Museum 21946) refers to this event. “The seventh year [of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign]: In the month Kislev [mid-November to mid-December] the king of Akkad mustered his army and marched to Hattu. He encamped against the city of Judah [Jerusalem] and on the second day of the month Adar [mid-February to mid-March] he captured the city and seized the king [Jehoiachin]. A king of his own choice [Zedekiah] he appointed in the city.” The commonly accepted date for this campaign against Jerusalem is 597 BCE. (29:2 [36:2, LXX])
The letter was sent “by the hand of” (or entrusted for delivery to) “Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah the king of Judah sent to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon.” In the biblical account, the reason for their being sent is not disclosed. (29:3 [36:3, LXX]) The letter that Jeremiah sent had the following content: “Thus says YHWH of hosts [the God with hosts of angels in his service (the Lord [LXX])], the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” The sending into exile is attributed to YHWH, for he permitted it to occur, and it served his purpose to punish his disobedient people. (29:4 [36:4, LXX]) Regarding what the exiles should do, the message from YHWH was, “Build houses and occupy [them], and plant gardens and eat their produce.” (29:5 [36:5, LXX]) “Take wives, and father sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to men [in marriage], that they may bear sons and daughters and multiply there, and do not decrease.” (29:6 [36:6, LXX]) “And seek the peace [or welfare] of the city [Babylon (the land [LXX])] where I have sent you into exile, and pray on its behalf to YHWH [on their (the people’s) behalf to the Lord (LXX)], for in its peace [or welfare] there will be your peace [or welfare].” (29:7 [36:7, LXX])
“For thus says YHWH of hosts [the Lord (LXX)], the God of Israel, Do not let your prophets [false prophets (LXX)] who are among you and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to your dreams that you are dreaming [probably meaning the interpretations of the dreams as pointing to a favorable outcome].” (29:8 [36:8, LXX]) “For it is in falsehood [corrupt things (LXX)] they [the false prophets] are prophesying to you in my name [claiming to represent me]. I did not send them, says YHWH.” (29:9 [36:9, LXX]) “For thus says YHWH when seventy years are completed [about to be completed (LXX)] for Babylon [apparently the some seventy years of Babylonian dominance that began with the defeat of the Egyptians in the battle at Carchemish], I will visit you [grant you my favorable attention], and I will fulfill my good word [or promise] and bring you [your people (LXX)] back to this place [Jerusalem].” (29:10 [36:10, LXX]) “For I know the thoughts that I have for you, says YHWH, thoughts of peace [for your welfare] and not for evil [or calamity], to give you a future and a hope [for a favorable outcome]” or, according to the Septuagint, “and not to give you these evils” or calamities that they had previously experienced. (29:11 [36:11, LXX]) “And you will call upon me and come [to me, apparently as a repentant people], and pray to me, and I will hear you [respond favorably to you].” (“And you should pray to me, and I will hear you.” [LXX]) “You will seek me and find [me], for you will seek me with all your heart” (sincerely wanting my approval). (29:13 [36:13, LXX]) “And I will be found by you [as having my favorable recognition], says YHWH, and I will restore your captivity [or your body of captives] and gather you from all the nations and all the places to which I have driven you, says YHWH, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” (“And I will appear to you” or show myself to you. [LXX]) (29:14 [36:14, LXX])
“For you have said, YHWH has raised up prophets for us in Babylon.” In reality, they were not prophets whom YHWH commissioned, but they were proclaimers of falsehood. (29:15 [36:15, LXX]) At this point, the Septuagint omits the text in verses 16 through 20, and makes a direct link to the false prophets “Achiab [Ahab] and Sedekias [Zedekiah]. (36:21, LXX]) The Masoretic Text continues the wording of the letter in a manner that does not relate to these prophets. “For thus says YHWH regarding the king sitting on the throne of David and regarding all the people residing in this city [Jerusalem], your brothers [or kinsmen] who did not go out with you into exile.” (29:16) “Thus says YHWH of hosts [the God with hosts of angels in his service], Look, I am sending upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and I will make them like the rotten figs that cannot be eaten” because they are so bad. (29:17) “And I will pursue them with sword, with famine, and with pestilence, and I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse and a terror and a hissing and a reproach among all the nations to which I have driven them.” The sword of warfare would be wielded against them, and the people would experience the accompanying lack of food and fall victim to infectious disease on account of the conditions brought about by siege and conquest. Any survivors would become objects of derision and reproach wherever they might come to be. (29:18) This would happen because they did not heed “my words, says YHWH, [the words] which I sent to them by my servants the prophets, rising early and sending [or repeatedly sending], and you did not listen, says YHWH.” (29:19)
The Hebrew text of the letter is directed specifically to the exiles and then focuses attention on their false prophets. “And hear the word of YHWH, all you exiles whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon.” (29:20) “Thus says YHWH of hosts [the God with hosts of angels in his service (the Lord [LXX]), the God of Israel, regarding Ahab the son of Koliah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah [regarding Achiab and regarding Zedekias (LXX)] who are prophesying falsehood to you in my name [as representing me]. Look, I am giving them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and he will slay them before your eyes.” (29:21 [36:21, LXX]) “And a curse will be taken up of them [because of their fate] by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon, saying, ‘May YHWH make you like Zedekiah and Ahab whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire [29:22 (36:22, LXX)],’ for they have committed folly [lawlessness (LXX)] in Israel, and they have engaged in adultery with the wives of their fellows, and they have spoken a lying word in my name [as representing me], which I did not command them. And I am the one who knows, and [I am] a witness [apparently to what Zedekiah and Ahab said and did], says YHWH.” (29:23 [36:23, LXX])
Next a message was to be given to “Shemaiah of Nehelam [either the name of a place from which Shemaiah originated or a family designation (the Nelamite [LXX]). (29:24 [36:24, LXX]) “Thus says YHWH of hosts [the God with hosts of angels in his service], the God of Israel, You have sent letters in your name [your own authority] to all the people who are in Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, and to all the priests.” (29:25 [36:25, LXX]; see the Notes section.) Shemaiah said the following to the priest Zephaniah: “YHWH has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, to become one having oversight duties in the house [or temple] of YHWH, [including] over every man, maddened [or frenzied] and prophesying, and you [should] put him into the stocks [prison or guard house (LXX)] and the pillory [(a means of) confinement or restraint (LXX)].” (29:26 [36:26, LXX]; see the Notes section.) “Now why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who is prophesying to you?” With his portrayal of Jeremiah as a raving prophet, Shemaiah indicated that he should have been dealt with severely for false prophesying in a frenzied state. (29:27 [36:27, LXX]) “For he [Jeremiah] has sent to us in Babylon, saying, It [apparently the exile] [will be] long. Build houses and reside [in them], and plant gardens and eat their produce.” (29:28 [36:28, LXX])
Instead of rebuking Jeremiah as Shemaiah indicated he should do, Zephaniah the priest read the letter to him (literally, “in the ears [or the hearing] of Jeremiah the prophet”). (29:29 [36:29, LXX]) Thereafter Jeremiah received a “word” or message from YHWH. (29:30 [36:30, LXX]) “Send to all the exiles, saying, Thus says YHWH regarding Shemaiah of Nehelam [the Nelamite (LXX)], Because Shemaiah has prophesied to you [exiles in Babylon], yet I did not send him, and he made you trust in falsehood” (“corrupt things” [LXX]) (29:31 [36:31, LXX]), “therefore, thus says YHWH, Look, I am visiting [punishment on] Shemaiah of Nehelam and upon his seed [or offspring (family [LXX])]. He will not come to have a man residing in the midst of this people, and he will not see the good I will do for my people, says YHWH, for he has spoken rebellion against YHWH,” contradicting his word as Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed it. (29:32 [36:32, LXX])
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 25 in chapter 36, God did not send Samaias [Shemaiah] as his prophet. He was to be told, “I did not send you in my name.” These words are followed by what was to be said to Sophonias (Zephaniah) the son of Maasaias (Masseiah), the priest.
The thought expressed in verse 26 of chapter 36 in the Septuagint is basically the same as that of the Hebrew text, but it is not as clear as the Hebrew text in indicating that Samaias (Shemaiah) wrote the words. In the Septuagint, this can be determined from the wording of verse 27.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 32 of chapter 36 is shorter than the Hebrew text. It concludes with the words, “And [there] will not be for him a man in your midst to see the good things, which I will do for you. They will not see [the good things].”