Jeremiah's False prophecies

O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I,
and thou hast prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day;
every one mocks me. (Jer. 20:7)

As with the other prophetic books, we examine the accuracy of Jeremiah's prophecies to see if he has a pipeline to some undetectable source. With the benefit of hindsight, the answer is categorically no. This is not to imply that all his prophecies were all wrong; sometimes he got it right. The most significant correct prophecy was in foreseeing the invasion by Babylonians.

15Behold, I am bringing upon you a nation from afar, O house of Israel, says the LORD. It is an enduring nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say. (Jer. 5:15)

It wasn't as though the Babylonians came out of the nowhere. They had already completed the takeover of Assyria by defeating Assyria's Egyptian allies in 605 BCE. Shortly thereafter they took Syria. In 601, Nebuchadrezzar marched against Egypt, but was beaten back. Judah was much easier prey.

2About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: (Jer. 46:2)

Then again, Jeremiah had motive for expecting Nebuchadrezzar to take Jerusalem: divine punishment. Or was it wishful thinking? Would it have made any difference if the Hebrews gave up worshipping other gods and turned to Yahweh? I'm willing to bet any amount it wouldn't.

8"Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words,
9behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, says the LORD, and for Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these nations round about; I will utterly destroy them, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting reproach. (Jer. 25:8-9)

An occasional correct prophecy doesn't prove divine providence any more than if it was a good prediction by a stock market prognosticator. Even if we don't expect a perfect record, they would at least have to be almost never wrong for Jeremiah to be credible. I haven't kept a tally, but in my estimation, his record is nowhere close.

There is an explanation. Our minds are capable of an infinite variety of thoughts, ideas and beliefs. We can grammatically string words together to communicate anything on our minds. But when it comes to truth, there can only be one standard: reality. Not only is its understanding indispensable to our survival and prosperity, it can't be changed by human thought.

In a religious sense it is everywhere; it is pure; it cannot be corrupted; it treats every living thing equally according to its nature; it is the embodiment of perfection because nothing can supersede it. All the words in the world cannot prove there is something superior to reality or anything outside reality.

Reality is synonymous with existence. A thing either exists or it does not. A thing that exists on our minds does not have to exist in reality. Truth can only be determined by comparing what is in our minds to reality. This is what Jeremiah's predictions ask us to do.

Expressions like the ones below are all over the book. That Jeremiah believed his prophecies came from Yahweh doesn't make it so. If he believes that this is the means by which he can see future events in the real world, then it is reasonable to compare them with what we know about the real world. When we do, we find that his system can't be true because the output from them is largely false.

1The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: (Jer. 7:1)

19Thus said the LORD to me. (Jer. 17:19)

11But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior . (Jer. 20:11)

4For thus says the LORD . (Jer. 20:4)

1Then the LORD said to me . (Jer. 15:1)

12. The LORD sent me to prophesy . (Jer. 26:12)

What we are left with is that Jeremiah was expressing his opinions, framed as if he was a medium. He is confusing what is inside him as coming from outside him. Some on this list can't be proven right or wrong. I included them to show that though he wasn't a violent man in his actions, he was a violent man in his thoughts. We also see remnants of Jeremiah believing Yahweh controls the weather, natural disasters, disease, animals and even destroyer angels.

1. All nations shall embrace Judaism.

17At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. (Jer. 3:17)

2and if you swear, 'As the LORD lives,' in truth, in justice, and in uprightness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory." (Jer. 4:2)

2. Yahweh will turn earth into desolation.

23I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
For thus says the LORD, "The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. (Jer. 4:23-27)

3. Yahweh will send snakes to bite the Israelites.

17For behold, I am sending among you serpents, adders which cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you," says the LORD. (Jer. 8:17)

4. Yahweh will feed the Israelites the poisonous plant wormwood, and poisonous water to drink.

15Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will feed this people with wormwood, and give them poisonous water to drink. (Jer. 9:15)

5. Yahweh will kill children and young men. Their dead bodies shall fall like dung in the open field.

21For death has come up into our windows, it has entered our palaces, cutting off the children from the streets and the young men from the squares.
Speak, "Thus says the LORD: 'The dead bodies of men shall fall like dung upon the open field, like sheaves after the reaper, and none shall gather them. (Jer. 9:21-22)

6. Other nations fear Yahweh? He makes earthquakes?

10But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. (Jer. 10:10)

7. Yahweh can make rain or cause drought.

22Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Art thou not he, O LORD our God? We set our hope on thee, for thou doest all these things. (Jer. 14:22)

8. Yahweh appoints supernatural creatures in the form of swords, dogs, birds and beasts.

3"I will appoint over them four kinds of destroyers, says the LORD: the sword to slay, the dogs to tear, and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. (Jer. 15:3)

9. Yahweh cannot predict whether or not the Israelites will return to him.

19Therefore thus says the LORD: "If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them. (Jer. 15:19)

10. Yahweh causes disease.

4They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried; they shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth. (Jer. 16:4)

11. If he predicts doom for a kingdom and it doesn't come to pass, it is because they repented. If he predicts good for a kingdom and it is destroyed, it is because they turned to evil. With logic like that, he can never be wrong.

7If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it,
8and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the evil that I intended to do to it.
9And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it,
10and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will repent of the good which I had intended to do to it. (Jer. 18:7-10)

12. Yahweh will make idolaters eat the flesh of their sons and daughters.

9And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and every one shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.' (Jer. 19:9)

13. Yahweh will send supernatural creatures called destroyers to cut down cedars and burn them.

7I will prepare destroyers against you, each with his weapons; and they shall cut down your choicest cedars, and cast them into the fire. (Jer. 22:7)

14. Jehoiakim would be buried with the burial of an ass, dragged and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.

18Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: "They shall not lament for him, saying, 'Ah my brother!' or 'Ah sister!' They shall not lament for him, saying, 'Ah lord!' or 'Ah his majesty!'
With the burial of an ass he shall be buried, dragged and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem." (Jer. 22:18-19)

Jehoiakim died a peaceful death and his son reigned in his place.

6So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead. (2 Kings 24:6)

15. He will bring them back and not uproot them. -They were uprooted by the Romans

6I will set my eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not uproot them.
7I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. (Jer. 24:6-7)

16. Those slain on that day will extend from one end of the earth to the other.

33"And those slain by the LORD on that day shall extend from one end of the earth to the other. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall be dung on the surface of the ground. (Jer. 25:33)

17. The Hebrews will be in Babylon for seventy years. -It was 48 years.

10"For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place. (Jer. 29:10)

18. Yahweh can restore health and heal wounds.

17For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, says the LORD, because they have called you an outcast: 'It is Zion, for whom no one cares!' (Jer. 30:17)

19. Yahweh gives the sun by day and the order of the moon and stars by night.

35Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar- the LORD of hosts is his name:
"If this fixed order departs from before me, says the LORD, then shall the descendants of Israel cease from being a nation before me for ever." (Jer. 31:35-36)

20. The heavens can be measured and earth has foundations.

37Thus says the LORD: "If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the descendants of Israel for all that they have done, says the LORD." (Jer. 31:37)

21. Zedekiah would die a peaceful death.

4Yet hear the word of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah! Thus says the LORD concerning you: 'You shall not die by the sword.
5You shall die in peace. And as spices were burned for your fathers, the former kings who were before you, so men shall burn spices for you and lament for you, saying, "Alas, lord!"' For I have spoken the word, says the LORD." (Jer. 34:4-5)

Zedekiah died a rather unmerciful death. His sons were slain in front of him before he had his eyes taken out, and then he was kept in prison to the day he died.

10The king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and also slew all the princes of Judah at Riblah.
11He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in fetters, and the king of Babylon took him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death. (Jer. 52:10-11)

22. Jeremiah dictated his prophecies of death and destruction to his scribe Baruch.

2"Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today.
3It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin." (Jer. 36:2-3)

When they were read to the king, he threw them in the fire. Neither the king nor his servants were afraid of Isaiah. -This tells us that neither the king nor his servants believed Jeremiah spoke for God.

23As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a penknife and throw them into the fire in the brazier, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier.
24Yet neither the king, nor any of his servants who heard all these words, was afraid, nor did they rend their garments. (Jer. 36:23)

Whereupon, Jeremiah predicted King Jehoiakim would not have any descendents.

30Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah, He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. (Jer. 36:30)

But according to 2 Kings, Jehoiakim was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin.

6So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead. (2 Kings 24:6)

23. All Jews who go to Egypt will die by sword, famine and by pestilence, and leave no survivors. Alexandria Egypt was founded 330 BCE and became a center of Jewish learning.

17All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; they shall have no remnant or survivor from the evil which I will bring upon them. (Jer. 42:17)

24. Wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas and ostriches in Babylon. It will no longer be inhabited for all generations. Babylon has always been inhabited. It might have a zoo.

39"Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her; she shall be peopled no more for ever, nor inhabited for all generations. (Jer. 50:39)

Prophet verses prophet

Jeremiah's stridency earned him enemies who were plotting to kill him. These two passages represent a case of special pleading where Jeremiah wanted Yahweh to intercede.

Let those be put to shame who persecute me; bring upon them the day of evil; destroy them with double destruction.

18Let those be put to shame who persecute me, but let me not be put to shame; let them be dismayed, but let me not be dismayed; bring upon them the day of evil; destroy them with double destruction! (Jer. 17:18)

Deliver their children to famine; kill them with the sword; make their wives widows.

21Therefore deliver up their children to famine; give them over to the power of the sword, let their wives become childless and widowed. May their men meet death by pestilence, their youths be slain by the sword in battle.
May a cry be heard from their houses, when thou bringest the marauder suddenly upon them! For they have dug a pit to take me, and laid snares for my feet.
Yet, thou, O LORD, knowest all their plotting to slay me. Forgive not their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from thy sight. Let them be overthrown before thee; deal with them in the time of thine anger. (Jer. 20:21-23)

Jeremiah argued more extensively against other prophets than any other in the Bible. He consistently believed he was right and they were wrong. It didn't matter whether they were prophets of Baal or prophets of Yahweh.

1. The prophets of Baal went after things that do not profit.

8The priests did not say, 'Where is the LORD?' Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit. (2:8)

2. Their prophets, priests etc. will be shamed.

26"As a thief is shamed when caught, so the house of Israel shall be shamed: they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets (Jer. 2:26)

3. The prophets will become wind.

13The prophets will become wind; the word is not in them. Thus shall it be done to them! (Jer. 5:13)

4. The prophets prophesy falsely.

31the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? (Jer. 5:31)

5. Prophet and priest are greedy for unjust gain.

13"For from the least to the greatest of them, every one is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, every one deals falsely. (Jer. 6:13)

6. How can you say we are wise and Yahweh is with us? The false pen of scribes has made it into a lie.

8"How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us'? But behold, the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. (Jer. 8:8)

7. Jechoniah shall have no offspring.

28Is this man [Jechoniah] Coniah a despised, broken pot, a vessel no one cares for? Why are he and his children hurled and cast into a land which they do not know?
Thus says the LORD: "Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days; for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David, and ruling again in Judah." (Jer. 22:28, 30)

Either Jeremiah or Matthew is wrong.

12And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of She-alti-el, and She-alti-el the father of Zerubbabel, (Matt. 1:12)

8. Both prophet and priest are ungodly and thus deserve to have evil brought upon them.

9Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me, all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and because of his holy words.
For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right.
"Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their wickedness, says the LORD.
Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall; for I will bring evil upon them in the year of their punishment, says the LORD. (Jer. 23:9-12)

9. The prophets of Jerusalem commit adultery and walk in lies. God will poison them. Do not listen to them.

13In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray.
But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah."
15Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: "Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and give them poisoned water to drink; for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone forth into all the land."
Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes; they speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. (Jer. 23:13-16)

Yahweh did not speak to the prophets, yet they prophesied.

21"I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. (Jer. 23:21-22)

10. He has heard other prophets who lie in his name saying "I have dreamed, I have dreamed."

25I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' (Jer. 23:25)

Though Numbers tells us visions and dreams were a prescribed manner of prophesizing.

6And he said, "Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. (Num. 12:6)

11. How long shall there be prophets who lie.

26How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, (Jer. 23:26)

12. He was against other prophets who steal his words from one another.

30Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, says the LORD, who steal my words from one another. (Jer. 23:30)

13. He is against the prophets who speak in the name of the Lord.

31Behold, I am against the prophets, says the LORD, who use their tongues and say, 'Says the LORD.' (Jer. 23:31)

14. He is against those who prophesy lying dreams.

32Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, says the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them; so they do not profit this people at all, says the LORD. (Jer. 23:32)

15. Punish anyone who says "The burden of the Lord."

34And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, 'The burden of the LORD,' I will punish that man and his household. (Jer. 23:34)

16. Do not listen to the other prophets; they are lying.

9So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, 'You shall not serve the king of Babylon.'
10For it is a lie which they are prophesying to you, with the result that you will be removed far from your land, and I will drive you out, and you will perish. (Jer. 27:9-10)

17. The ancient prophets prophesied bad things. When a prophet correctly prophesizes peace, it will be known he was sent by God.

8The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.
9As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet." (Jer. 28:8-9)

Jeremiah made mistakes too

After all that criticizing of other prophets, it should be no surprise that Jeremiah made his share of mistakes. Of course he always had an excuse.

It was good for Yahweh to deceive his people; to deprive them of any sense of danger and make them feel good, then suddenly destroy them.

9"In that day, says the LORD, courage shall fail both king and princes; the priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded."
10Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD, surely thou hast utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, 'It shall be well with you'; whereas the sword has reached their very life." (Jer. 4:9-10)

Yet he believed that Yahweh deceived him too, making him a laughingstock.

7O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I, and thou hast prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; every one mocks me. (Jer. 20:7)

Other gods

Jeremiah never missed an opportunity to condemn the worship of foreign gods. Since we know that Jewish monotheism came into vogue at this time, it leaves to question whether Jeremiah thought that there was only one god, ever. The answer is no. Of significance, Jeremiah does not blame Satan, nor does he mention him. That's because he wasn't invented yet.

We'll see verses like these where he maintains that there are no gods.

11Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? (Jer. 2:11)

28But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you, in your time of trouble; for as many as your cities are your gods, O Judah. (Jer. 2:28)

7"How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me, and have sworn by those who are no gods. When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of harlots. (Jer. 5:7)

9Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, (Jer. 7:9)

Then we'll see verses like these which mention other gods, though which may or may not exist.

19And when your people say, 'Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?' you shall say to them, 'As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve strangers in a land that is not yours.'" (Jer. 5:19)

18The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. (Jer. 7:18)

9And they will answer, "Because they forsook the covenant of the LORD their God, and worshiped other gods and served them."'" (Jer. 22:9)

This is the one that does it: "the gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish." We are not told how they would perish. But if he did not believe them to exist, they could not perish.

11Thus shall you say to them: "The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens." (Jer. 10:11)


All Prophets Were False!

Skeptics Annotated Bible