Jeremiah 29:11 may be one of the most popular verses in the Bible. People have it tattooed on themselves. They keep it on their refrigerators and social media bios. It’s everywhere. But what does it mean? The verse itself says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares theLord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Sounds pretty straight forward, but is it?

Good hermeneutic practices demand that we understand the context of the original message. So, what is the context of Jeremiah 29:11? Turns out it’s not as straight forward as you might think. The message is written God’s people as they enter captivity. Listen to the surrounding verses for context.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you (Jeremiah 29:10-12).’

The message is this: You are going into captivity. You are losing your homes and your way of life. It even appears in verse twelve that God is saying that He won’t listen to their prayers for a season. Jeremiah 29:11 is reminding them that despite the fact that things look bad, He still cares about their people.

The problem is simple. People often interpret this as a motto for their personal life. God is using this to communicate to a people who are in captivity. He tells them they will remain there for 70 years (that’s a generation). Basically, the whole generation will die in captivity (save for maybe some very young children). This verse is not a promise for people’s personal deliverance. In fact, God is promising them that they won’t be personally delivered.

These verses are written about suffering and hardship. Jeremiah 29:10 essentially promises that everyone in the generation being spoken to will die in captivity and 29:11 is God saying that He still has good plans for your progeny. The problem is that people listen to ear-tickling preachers instead of truth speakers. They read soft devotionals instead of studying how to rightly divide the word for themselves. They don’t read passages, they read verses (and therefore miss the context and meaning of the verses that they do read). FOR MORE LIKE THIS READ “WHY EVERY CHURCH NEEDS TO PRIORITIZE HERMENEUTICS

In conclusion, God does have plans for His people to prosper. However, sometimes His definition of prosper is different than ours. Furthermore, sometimes we won’t “prosper” in this life. The verse is not a blanket statement written to all mankind. It was written to a specific group of people at a specific time for a specific purpose.

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  • Johan
    Posted at 17:15h, 05 November Reply

    Very true. I have heard people say this verse does not apply to Christians, as it was spoken to the Jewish people. Christians are now also “God’s people”, however, so I think that promise applies to “us” as well. God’s principles, I believe, always apply. BUT: You are right – this has to be seen in context. The promise is for those who find themselves apparently “outside” God’s blessings – in other words, in difficulty/trouble/hardship/etc. God will still let us prosper – maybe not soon, but eventually. We will look back at some stage and find that we have prospered – not the way we had initially thought we would, but nevertheless.

  • mttorley (@mttorley)
    Posted at 16:30h, 06 December Reply

    Sometimes there are valleys, but in the end, there will always be the bright future promised to us in the redemption of Christ. That’s a hope and a future that far exceeds Jeremiah 29:11.

  • Amanda Schwab
    Posted at 23:31h, 06 December Reply

    Interesting. You put it right into the context in which most people do use it. Most people are, throughout life, at differing times of life, in a form of bondage. What better verse to hold onto when we are going through those difficult times. This is a promise for every individual who believes and trusts God.

  • Peter Simmons
    Posted at 08:31h, 07 December Reply

    Maybe because I’m older but when I read that verse I cried knowing in eternity I will be loved, taken care of and have a purpose. I will not be floating on a cloud doing nothing. Because all believers have the Holy Spirit in them if they find solace in the word of God or the Holy Spirit is leading them to accomplish Godly goals I wouldn’t be rash and tell them they’re wrong.

  • Al Simmons
    Posted at 16:38h, 07 December Reply

    I am in agreement! The Cross is a done deal. We have been set free and no longer under the law or the old covenant. The OT is good according 2 Timothy 3:16. I am living in accordance Galatians Chapters 2 and 3 and Ephesians chapters 1-3 just to mention a few! I am neither Jew nor Gentile Ephesians 3:14-21. I am not a free slave!but a son of the Living God!

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