To Build and to Plant

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To Build and to Plant

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In searching for an answer, we begin with the prophet Jeremiah, to whom God had given a mysterious commission: “See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10 Jeremiah 1:10See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
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, NRSV). Oddly enough, even though Judah was the only nation or kingdom in the Promised Land at this time, notice that Jeremiah was set over “nations” and “kingdoms”—plural.

Setting that fact aside for now, based on Jeremiah’s life after the prophecy was given it is easy to ascertain what God meant by plucking up, pulling down, destroying and overthrowing. This great prophet repeatedly warned the Jews to repent of their disobedience—but they scorned him. So God used him to pronounce judgment on the nation: the people and the kings of David’s line would be overthrown in the Babylonian conquest and uprooted—to Babylon. But did all of them go there?

The latter part of the prophet’s commission yet remained: “to build and to plant.” But what did this involve? From Jeremiah 45:4 Jeremiah 45:4Thus shall you say to him, The LORD said thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land.
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we can see that building and planting in this context originally entailed God’s planting His people in the land and building a kingdom of them there—now to be pulled up and destroyed. So the commission would seem to involve planting people in another place in order to establish a kingdom elsewhere. But did this have anything to do with the house of David?

Intriguingly, Jeremiah did prophesy regarding David’s dynasty, as we have already seen and will soon see more of. And a prophecy from Ezekiel will answer the question of who was to be planted—and where. Yet first note this amazing fact: Following the carrying away of Judah’s people, a remnant left in the land included the “king’s daughters” (Jeremiah 41:10 Jeremiah 41:10Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were in Mizpah, even the king’s daughters, and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the Ammonites.
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)—who were evidently young girls since their father Zedekiah was only 32 when he died (compare 2 Chronicles 36:11 2 Chronicles 36:11Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.
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).

But could the royal line continue through a daughter? According to Israel’s law of inheritance, the answer would certainly appear to be yes (compare Numbers 27:1-11 Numbers 27:1-11 1 Then came the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah. 2 And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, 3 Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons. 4 Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he has no son? Give to us therefore a possession among the brothers of our father. 5 And Moses brought their cause before the LORD. 6 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 7 The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: you shall surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brothers; and you shall cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them. 8 And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter. 9 And if he have no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 And if he have no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 And if his father have no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shall be to the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the LORD commanded Moses.
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)—though Nebuchadnezzar may not have realized this initially. (In fact, if kingship could not pass through a woman then it could not have passed through Mary to Jesus Christ.)

What, then, happened to the remnant? Against God’s commands (Jeremiah 42:1-19 Jeremiah 42:1-19 1 Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even to the greatest, came near, 2 And said to Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech you, our supplication be accepted before you, and pray for us to the LORD your God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as your eyes do behold us:) 3 That the LORD your God may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do. 4 Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray to the LORD your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatever thing the LORD shall answer you, I will declare it to you; I will keep nothing back from you. 5 Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD your God shall send you to us. 6 Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send you; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God. 7 And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah. 8 Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces which were with him, and all the people from the least even to the greatest, 9 And said to them, Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your supplication before him; 10 If you will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done to you. 11 Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid; be not afraid of him, said the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. 12 And I will show mercies to you, that he may have mercy on you, and cause you to return to your own land. 13 But if you say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God, 14 Saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell: 15 And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, you remnant of Judah; Thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If you wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; 16 Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which you feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof you were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you shall die. 17 So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring on them. 18 For thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As my anger and my fury has been poured forth on the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall my fury be poured forth on you, when you shall enter into Egypt: and you shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach; and you shall see this place no more. 19 The LORD has said concerning you, O you remnant of Judah; Go you not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this day.
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), they fled from the Babylonian invaders to Egypt to seek the protection of Pharaoh Hophra. The Encyclopedia Britannica explains: “Apries … Hebrew Hophra (d. 567 B.C.), fourth king (reigned 589-570 B.C.) of the 26th dynasty of Egypt; he succeeded his father Psamtik II. Apries failed to help his ally King Zedekiah of Judah against Babylon, but after the fall of Jerusalem he received many Jewish refugees into Egypt” (“Apries,” Micropaedia, 1985, Vol. 1., p. 496).

According to the Bible, the Jewish remnant took with them “men, women, children, the king’s daughters and … Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch”—the last name referring to Jeremiah’s secretary or scribe (Jeremiah 43:6 Jeremiah 43:6Even men, and women, and children, and the king’s daughters, and every person that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah.
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). The majority of these, according to God, would die by sword or famine (Jeremiah 42:15-16 Jeremiah 42:15-16 15 And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, you remnant of Judah; Thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If you wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; 16 Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which you feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof you were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you shall die.
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). But a few would escape and some would return (Jeremiah 44:12-14 Jeremiah 44:12-14 12 And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even to the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach. 13 For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: 14 So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return but such as shall escape.
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; Jeremiah 44:28 Jeremiah 44:28Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or their’s.
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). We know that Baruch and Jeremiah, who did not go to Egypt by choice, survived (Jeremiah 45:2-5 Jeremiah 45:2-5 2 Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: 3 You did say, Woe is me now! for the LORD has added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest. 4 Thus shall you say to him, The LORD said thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. 5 And seek you great things for yourself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh, said the LORD: but your life will I give to you for a prey in all places where you go.
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). And, as we will see, so did at least one of the king’s daughters.