Two letters to the captives in Babylon; In the first, they are recommended to be patient and composed. (1-19) In the second, judgments are denounced against the false prophets who deceived them. (20-32)
Verses 1-7 The written word of God is as truly given by inspiration of God as his spoken word. The zealous servant of the Lord will use every means to profit those who are far off, as well as those who are near him. The art of writing is very profitable for this end; and by the art of printing it is rendered most beneficial for circulating the knowledge of the word of God. God's sending to the captives by this letter would show that he had not forsaken them, though he was displeased, and corrected them. If they live in the fear of God, they may live comfortably in Babylon. In all conditions of life, it is our wisdom and duty not to throw away the comfort of what we may have, because we have not all we would have. They are directed to seek the good of the country where they were captives. While the king of Babylon protected them, they must live quiet and peaceable lives under him, in all godliness and honesty; patiently leaving it to God to work deliverance for them in due time.
Verses 8-19 Let men beware how they call those prophets whom they choose after their own fancies, and how they consider their fancies and dreams to be revelations from God. False prophets flatter people in their sins, because they love to be flattered; and they speak smoothly to their prophets, that their prophets may speak smoothly to them. God promises that they should return after seventy years were accomplished. By this it appears, that the seventy years of the captivity are not to be reckoned from the last captivity, but the first. It will be the bringing to pass of God's good word to them. This shall form God's purposes. We often do not know our own minds, but the Lord is never at an uncertainty. We are sometimes ready to fear that God's designs are all against us; but as to his own people, even that which seems evil, is for good. He will give them, not the expectations of their fears, or the expectations of their fancies, but the expectations of their faith; the end he has promised, which will be the best for them. When the Lord pours out an especial spirit of prayer, it is a good sign that he is coming toward us in mercy. Promises are given to quicken and encourage prayer. He never said, Seek ye me in vain. Those who remained at Jerusalem would be utterly destroyed, notwithstanding what the false prophets said to the contrary. The reason has often been given, and it justifies the eternal ruin of impenitent sinners; Because they have not hearkened to my words; I called, but they refused.
Verses 20-32 Jeremiah foretells judgments upon the false prophets, who deceived the Jews in Babylon. Lying was bad; lying to the people of the Lord, to delude them into a false hope, was worse; but pretending to rest their own lies upon the God of truth, was worst of all. They flattered others in their sins, because they could not reprove them without condemning themselves. The most secret sins are known to God; and there is a day coming when he will bring to light all the hidden works of darkness. Shemaiah urges the priests to persecute Jeremiah. Their hearts are wretchedly hardened who justify doing mischief by having power to do it. They were in a miserable thraldom for mocking the messengers of the Lord, and misusing his prophets; yet in their distress they trespass still more against the Lord. Afflictions will not of themselves cure men of their sins, unless the grace of God works with them. Those who slight the blessings, deserve to lose the benefit of God's word, like Shemaiah. The accusations against many active Christians in all ages, amount to no more than this, that they earnestly counsel men to attend to their true interest and duties, and to wait for the performance of God's promises in his appointed way.
Jeremiah 29:1-32 . LETTER OF JEREMIAH TO THE CAPTIVES IN BABYLON, TO COUNTERACT THE ASSURANCES GIVEN BY THE FALSE PROPHETS OF A SPEEDY RESTORATION.
1. residue of the elders--those still surviving from the time when they were carried to Babylon with Jeconiah; the other elders of the captives had died by either a natural or a violent death.
2. queen--Nehushta, the queen mother, daughter of Elnathan ( 2 Kings 24:8 2 Kings 24:15 ). (Elnathan, her father, is perhaps the same as the one mentioned in Jeremiah 26:22 ). She reigned jointly with her son.
princes--All the men of authority were taken away lest they should organize a rebellion. Jeremiah wrote his letter while the calamity was still recent, to console the captives under it.
3. Zedekiah . . . sent unto Babylon--In Jeremiah 51:59 , Zedekiah himself goes to Babylon; here he sends ambassadors. Whatever was the object of the embassy, it shows that Zedekiah only reigned at the pleasure of the king of Babylon, who might have restored Jeconiah, had he pleased. Hence, Zedekiah permitted Jeremiah's letter to be sent, not only as being led by Hananiah's death to attach greater credit to the prophet's words, but also as the letter accorded with his own wish that the Jews should remain in Chaldea till Jeconiah's death.
Hilkiah--the high priest who found the book of the law in the house of the Lord, and showed it to "Shaphan" the scribe (the same Shaphan probably as here), who showed it to King Josiah ( 2 Kings 22:8 , &c.). The sons of Hilkiah and Shaphan inherited from their fathers some respect for sacred things. So in Jeremiah 36:25 , "Gemariah" interceded with King Jehoiakim that the prophet's roll should not be burned.
5. Build . . . houses--In opposition to the false prophets' suggestions, who told the captives that their captivity would soon cease, Jeremiah tells them that it will be of long duration, and that therefore they should build houses, as Babylon is to be for long their home.
6. that ye . . . be . . . not diminished--It was God's will that the seed of Abraham should not fail; thus consolation is given them, and the hope, though not of an immediate, yet of an ultimate, return.
7. ( Ezra 6:10 , Romans 13:1 , 1 Timothy 2:2 ). Not only bear the Babylonian yoke patiently, but pray for your masters, that is, while the captivity lasts. God's good time was to come when they were to pray for Babylon's downfall ( Jeremiah 51:35 , Psalms 137:8 ). They were not to forestall that time. True religion teaches patient submission, not sedition, even though the prince be an unbeliever. In all states of life let us not throw away the comfort we may have, because we have not all we would have. There is here a foretaste of gospel love towards enemies ( Matthew 5:44 ).
8. your dreams which ye caused to be dreamed--The Latin adage says, "The people wish to be deceived, so let them be deceived." Not mere credulity misleads men, but their own perverse "love of darkness rather than light." It was not priests who originated priestcraft, but the people's own morbid appetite to be deceived; for example, Aaron and the golden calf ( Exodus 32:1-4 ). So the Jews caused or made the prophets to tell them encouraging dreams ( Jeremiah 23:25 Jeremiah 23:26 , Ecclesiastes 5:7 , Zechariah 10:2 , John 3:19-21 ). Jeremiah 25:12
, Daniel 9:2
). This proves that the seventy years date from Jeconiah's captivity, not from the last captivity. The specification of time was to curb the impatience of the Jews lest they should hasten before God's time. good word
--promise of a return.
11. I know--I alone; not the false prophets who know nothing of My purposes, though they pretend to know.
thoughts . . . I think--( Isaiah 55:9 ). Glancing at the Jews who had no "thoughts of peace," but only of "evil" (misfortune), because they could not conceive how deliverance could come to them. The moral malady of man is twofold--at one time vain confidence; then, when that is disappointed, despair. So the Jews first laughed at God's threats, confident that they should speedily return; then, when cast down from that confidence, they sank in inconsolable despondency.
expected end--literally, "end and expectation," that is, an end, and that such an end as you wish for. Two nouns joined by "and," standing for a noun and adjective. So in Jeremiah 36:27 , "the roll and the words," that is, the roll of words; Genesis 3:16 , "sorrow and conception," that is, sorrow in conception. Compare Proverbs 23:18 , where, as here "end" means "a happy issue."
12. Fulfilled ( Daniel 9:3 , &c.). When God designs mercy, He puts it into the hearts of His people to pray for the mercy designed. When such a spirit of prayer is poured out, it is a sure sign of coming mercy.
go--to the temple and other places of prayer: contrasted with their previous sloth as to going to seek God.
13. ( Leviticus 26:40-42 Leviticus 26:44 Leviticus 26:45 ).
14. to be found--( Psalms 32:6 , Isaiah 55:6 ).
turn . . . captivity--play upon sounds, shabti . . . shebith.
15. Because--referring not to the preceding words, but to Jeremiah 29:10 Jeremiah 29:11 , "Jehovah saith this to you" (that is, the prophecy of the continuance of the captivity seventy years), "because ye have said, The Lord hath raised us up prophets in Babylon," namely, foretelling our speedy deliverance (this their prophecy is supposed, not expressed; accordingly, Jeremiah 29:16-19 contradict this false hope again, Jeremiah 29:8 Jeremiah 29:9 Jeremiah 29:21 ). He, in this fifteenth verse, turns his address from the godly ( Jeremiah 29:12-14 ) to the ungodly listeners, to false prophets.
16. people . . . in this city . . . not gone forth--So far from your returning to Jerusalem soon, even your brethren still left dwelling there shall themselves also be cast into exile. He mentions "the throne of David," lest they should think that, because David's kingdom was to be perpetual, no severe, though temporary, chastisements could interpose ( Psalms 89:29-36 ).
17. vile figs--Hebrew, "horrible," or nauseous, from a root, "to regard with loathing" (see Jeremiah 24:8 Jeremiah 24:10 ).
18. removed to all . . . kingdoms--( Jeremiah 15:4 , Deuteronomy 28:25 ).
curse, &c.--( Jeremiah 29:6 , 18:16 , 19:8 ).
21. Zedekiah--brother of Zephaniah ( Jeremiah 29:25 ), both being sons of Maaseiah; probably of the same family as the false prophet under Ahab in Israel ( 1 Kings 22:11 1 Kings 22:24 ).
22. shall be taken . . . a curse--that is, a formula of imprecation.
Lord make thee like Zedekiah--(Compare Genesis 48:20 , Isaiah 65:15 ).
roasted in the fire--a Chaldean punishment ( Daniel 3:6 ).
23. villainy--literally, "sinful folly" ( Isaiah 32:6 ).
24-32. A second communication which Jeremiah sent to Babylon, after the messenger who carried his first letter had brought a letter from the false prophet Shemaiah to Zephaniah, &c., condemning Jeremiah and reproving the authorities for not having apprehended him.
Nehelamite--a name derived either from his father or from a place: alluding at the same time to the Hebrew meaning, "a dreamer" (compare Jeremiah 29:8 ).
25. in thy name--without sanction of "the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel," which words stand in antithesis to "thy name" ( John 5:43 ).
Zephaniah--the second priest, or substitute (Sagan) of the high priest. He was one of those sent to consult Jeremiah by Zedekiah ( Jeremiah 21:1 ). Slain by Nebuchadnezzar at the capture of Jerusalem ( 2 Kings 25:18-21 ). Zephaniah was in particular addressed, as being likely to take up against Jeremiah the prophet's prediction against his brother Zedekiah at Babylon ( Jeremiah 29:21 ). Zephaniah was to read it to the priests, and in the presence of all the people, in the temple.
26. thee . . . in the stead of Jehoiada--Zephaniah's promotion as second priest, owing to Jehoiada's being then in exile, was unexpected. Shemaiah thus accuses him of ingratitude towards God, who had so highly exalted him before his regular time.
ye should be officers . . . for every man--Ye should, as bearing rule like Jeremiah.
mad--Inspired prophets were often so called by the ungodly ( 2 Kings 9:11 , Acts 26:24 , Acts 2:13 Acts 2:15 Acts 2:17 Acts 2:18 ). Jeremiah is in this a type of Christ, against whom the same charge was brought ( John 10:20 ).
prison--rather, "the stocks"
stocks--from a root, "to confine"; hence rather, "a narrow dungeon." According to Deuteronomy 17:8 Deuteronomy 17:9 , the priest was judge in such cases, but had no right to put into the stocks; this right he had assumed to himself in the troubled state of the times.
27. of Anathoth--said contemptuously, as "Jesus of Nazareth."
maketh himself--as if God had not made him one, but he himself had done so.
28. Referring to Jeremiah's first letter to Babylon ( Jeremiah 29:5 ).
29. Zephaniah . . . read . . . in the ears of Jeremiah--He seems to have been less prejudiced against Jeremiah than the others; hence he reads the charge to the prophet, that he should not be condemned without a hearing. This accords with Shemaiah's imputation against Zephaniah for want of zeal against Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 29:26 Jeremiah 29:27 ). Hence the latter was chosen by King Zedekiah as one of the deputation to Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 21:1 , 37:3 ).
30. This resumes the thread of the sentence which began at Jeremiah 29:25 , but was left there not completed. Here, in this thirtieth verse, it is completed, not however in continuity, but by a new period. The same construction occurs in Romans 5:12-15 .
32. not . . . a man to dwell--( Deuteronomy 28:18 ).
not . . . behold the good--As he despised the lawful time and wished to return before the time God had expressly announced, in just retribution he should not share in the restoration from Babylon at all.
rebellion--going against God's revealed will as to the time ( Jeremiah 28:16 ).