Jeremiah 23:1-8 and 33:14-16 – The Righteous Branch


Jeremiah 23:1-8, 33:14-16


God announces a positive future for Israel and the Davidic king. God will raise up a shepherd, a righteous Branch, who will rule as God himself would rule.


The text breaks into a string of judgment oracles with words of promise. The text begins with a condemnation of Israel’s shepherds (kings). They have misled the people, causing them to stray off the paths of righteousness and justice, not leading them in caring ways. God then proceeds to attend to the sheep that have been scattered across the landscape of ancient Near Eastern nations (that is, the remnant), claiming them as God’s people. God will gather them and bring them back into the fold in their own land, where they will be fruitful and multiply.

When the people have been returned to their own land, God will raise up shepherds who will truly shepherd them. Because of such divine action, the people will not be fearful again. Then the text moves to a single leader from the line of David that God will raise up, who will rule in justice and righteousness. This shepherd/king is referred to with the image “righteous Branch” (also 33:15; compare Isaiah 11:1) and is given the name “The Lord is our righteousness.” That is, God’s rule would be exercised in and through this individual, and Israel will dwell in safety. The word “branch” is used as a messianic title in Zechariah 3:8; 6:12. The imagery drawn from vegetation suggests fresh growth from dead roots (see Isaiah 6:13; 11:1), a newness that is possible only by a creative act of God. While this image is not used in the New Testament, the image of vine and branches (John 15:1-8) may be drawn from these roots.

Jeremiah 23:7-8 (see also 16:14-15) speaks of a basic change in Israel’s confessional orientation when it has returned to the land. No longer will the exodus from Egypt be the center of Israel’s confession of faith. Rather, their confession will be centered in God’s gathering of the remnant from all lands and establishing them on the land–a new exodus (see Isaiah 43:15-21; 51:9-11).