The only way of deliverance is to be surrendering to the Babylonians. (1-10) The wickedness of the king and his household. (11-14)
Verses 1-10 When the siege had begun, Zedekiah sent to ask of Jeremiah respecting the event. In times of distress and danger, men often seek those to counsel and pray for them, whom, at other times, they despise and oppose; but they only seek deliverance from punishment. When professors continue in disobedience, presuming upon outward privileges, let them be told that the Lord will prosper his open enemies against them. As the king and his princes would not surrender, the people are exhorted to do so. No sinner on earth is left without a Refuge, who really desires one; but the way of life is humbling, it requires self-denial, and exposes to difficulties.
Verses 11-14 The wickedness of the king and his family was the worse because of their relation to David. They were urged to act with justice, at once, lest the Lord's anger should be unquenchable. If God be for us, who can be against us? But if he be against us, who can do any thing for us?
Jeremiah 21:1-14 . ZEDEKIAH CONSULTS JEREMIAH WHAT IS TO BE THE EVENT OF THE WAR: GOD'S ANSWER.
Written probably when, after having repulsed the Egyptians who brought succors to the Jews ( Jeremiah 37:5-8 , 2 Kings 24:7 ), the Chaldees were a second time advancing against Jerusalem, but were not yet closely besieging it ( Jeremiah 21:4 Jeremiah 21:13 ) [ROSENMULLER]. This chapter probably ought to be placed between the thirty-seventh and thirty-eight chapters; since what the "princes," in Jeremiah 38:2 , represent Jeremiah as having said, is exactly what we find in Jeremiah 21:9 . Moreover, the same persons as here ( Jeremiah 21:1 ) are mentioned in Jeremiah 37:3 , 38:1 , namely, Pashur and Zephaniah. What is here more fully related is there simply referred to in the historical narrative. Compare Jeremiah 52:24 , 2 Kings 25:18 [MAURER].
1. Zedekiah--a prince having some reverence for sacred things, for which reason he sends an honorable embassy to Jeremiah; but not having moral courage to obey his better impulses.
Pashur--son of Melchiah, of the fifth order of priests, distinct from Pashur, son of Immer ( Jeremiah 20:1 ), of the sixteenth order ( 1 Chronicles 24:9 1 Chronicles 24:14 ).
Zephaniah--of the twenty-fourth order. They are designated, not by their father, but by their family ( 1 Chronicles 24:18 ).
2. Nebuchadrezzar--the more usual way of spelling the name in Jeremiah than Nebuchadnezzar. From Persiac roots, meaning either "Nebo, the chief of the gods," or, "Nebo, the god of fire." He was son of Nabopolassar, who committed the command of the army against Egypt, at Carchemish, and against Judea, to the Brown prince.
according to all his wondrous works--Zedekiah hopes for God's special interposition, such as was vouchsafed to Hezekiah against Sennacherib ( 2 Kings 19:35 2 Kings 19:36 ).
go up from us--rise up from the siege which he sat down to lay ( Jeremiah 37:5 Jeremiah 37:11 , Margin; Numbers 16:24 Numbers 16:27 , 1 Kings 15:19 , Margin).
4. God of Israel--Those "wondrous works" ( Jeremiah 21:2 ) do not belong to you; God is faithful; it is you who forfeit the privileges of the covenant by unfaithfulness. "God will always remain the God of Israel, though He destroy thee and thy people" [CALVIN].
turn back the weapons--I will turn them to a very different use from what you intend them. With them you now fight against the Chaldees "without the walls" (the Jewish defenders being as yet able to sally forth more freely, and defend the fountains outside the walls in the valley under Mount Zion; see Jeremiah 21:13 , Jeremiah 19:6 Jeremiah 19:7 ); but soon ye shall be driven back within the city [MAURER], and "in the midst" of it, I will cause all your arms to be gathered in one place ("I will assemble them," namely, your arms) by the Chaldean conquerors [GROTIUS], who shall slay you with those very arms [MENOCHIUS].
5. The Jews shall have not merely the Chaldees, but Jehovah Himself in wrath at their provocations, fighting against them. Every word enhances the formidable character of God's opposition, "I myself . . . outstretched hand . . . strong arm (no longer as in Exodus 6:6 , and in the case of Sennacherib, in your behalf, but) in anger . . . fury . . . great wrath."
7. the people, and such--rather, explanatory, "the people," namely, "such as are left."
seek their life--content with nothing short of their death; not content with plundering and enslaving them.
smite with . . . sword--This was the fate of Zedekiah's sons and many of the Jewish nobles. Zedekiah himself, though not put to a violent death, died of grief. Compare as to the accurate fulfilment, Jeremiah 34:4 , Ezekiel 12:13 , 2 Kings 25:6 2 Kings 25:7 .
8. "Life," if ye surrender; "death," if ye persist in opposing the Chaldees (compare Deuteronomy 30:19 ). The individuality of Jeremiah's mission from God is shown in that he urges to unconditional surrender; whereas all former prophets had urged the people to oppose their invaders ( Isaiah 7:16 , Isaiah 37:33 Isaiah 37:35 ).
9. ( Jeremiah 38:2 Jeremiah 38:17 Jeremiah 38:18 ).
falleth to--deserts to.
life . . . a prey--proverbial, to make one's escape with life, like a valuable spoil or prey that one carries off; the narrowness of the escape, and the joy felt at it, are included in the idea ( Jeremiah 39:18 ).
10. set . . . face against--determined to punish
12. house of David--the royal family and all in office about the king. He calls them so, because it was the greater disgrace that they had so degenerated from the piety of their forefather, David; and to repress their glorying in their descent from him, as if they were therefore inviolable; but God will not spare them as apostates.
in the morning--alluding to the time of dispensing justice ( Job 24:17 , Psalms 101:8 ); but the sense is mainly proverbial, for "with promptness" ( Psalms 90:14 , 143:8 ). MAURER translates, "every morning."
lest my fury . . . like fire--Already it was kindled, and the decree of God gone forth against the city ( Jeremiah 21:4 Jeremiah 21:5 ), but the king and his house may yet be preserved by repentance and reformation. God urges to righteousness, not as if they can thereby escape punishment wholly, but as the condition of a mitigation of it.
13. inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain--Jerusalem personified; situated for the most part on hills, with valleys at the bottom of them, as the valley of Hinnom, &c.; and beyond the valleys and mountains again, a position most fortified by nature, whence the inhabitants fancied themselves beyond the reach of enemies; but since God is "against" them, their position will avail nothing for them. The "valley" between Mount Zion and Moriah is called Tyropoeon. ROBINSON takes, "rock of the plain" as Mount Zion, on which is a level tract of some extent. It is appropriately here referred to, being the site of the royal residence of the "house of David," addressed ( Jeremiah 21:12 ).
14. fruit of your doings--( Proverbs 1:31 , Isaiah 3:10 Isaiah 3:11 ).
forest thereof--namely of your city, taken from Jeremiah 21:13 . "Forest" refers to the dense mass of houses built of cedar, &c. brought from Lebanon ( Jeremiah 22:7 , 52:13 , 2 Kings 25:9 ).