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Jeremiah 29 commentary


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A verse by verse commentary on Jeremiah 29 dealing with the letter Jeremiah sent to those in exile saying to live and prosper with many children in Babylon for after 70 years God will bring you back to Jerusalem,

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Jeremiah 29 commentary

  1. 1. JEREMIAH 29 COMMENTARY EDITED BY GLENN PEASE A Letter to the Exiles 1 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. BARNES, "The residue of the ciders - i. e., such of the elders as were still alive. CLARKE, "Now these are the words of the letter - This transaction took place in the first or second year of Zedekiah. It appears that the prophet had been informed that the Jews who had already been carried into captivity had, through the instigations of false prophets, been led to believe that they were to be brought out of their captivity speedily. Jeremiah, fearing that this delusion might induce them to take some hasty steps, ill comporting with their present state, wrote a letter to them, which he entrusted to an embassy which Zedekiah had sent on some political concerns to Nebuchadnezzar. The letter was directed to the elders, priests, prophets, and people who had been carried away captives to Babylon. GILL, "Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem,.... The argument and tenor, the sum and substance, of an epistle, which the prophet Jeremiah, being at Jerusalem, wrote, under the inspiration of God, to his countrymen abroad, afterwards described; so the prophets under the Old Testament instructed the people, sometimes by their sermons and discourses delivered by word of mouth to them, and sometimes by letters and epistles; as did the apostles of the New Testament; and they were both ways useful and profitable to men: unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captive; some perhaps 1
  2. 2. dying by the way, and others quickly after they came to Babylon; some were left, who had been rulers or civil magistrates in Judea, and perhaps of the great sanhedrim: and to the priests, and to the prophets: false prophets, as the Syriac version; for we read only of one true prophet that was carried captive, and that was Ezekiel; but of false prophets several: and to all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon; which was eleven or twelve years before their last captivity thither. This was a catholic epistle, common to all the captives of every rank and class, age or sex. HENRY 1-3, "We are here told, I. That Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon, in the name of the Lord. Jeconiah had surrendered himself a prisoner, with the queen his mother, the chamberlains of his household, called here the eunuchs, and many of the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, who were at that time the most active men; the carpenters and smiths likewise, being demanded, were yielded up, that those who remained might not have any proper hands to fortify their city or furnish themselves with weapons of war. By this tame submission it was hoped that Nebuchadnezzar would be pacified. Satis est prostrasse leoni - It suffices the lion to have laid his antagonist prostrate; but the imperious conqueror grows upon their concessions, like Benhadad upon Ahab's, 1Ki_20:5, 1Ki_20:6. And, not content with this, when these had departed from Jerusalem he comes again, and fetches away many more of the elders, the priests, the prophets, and the people (Jer_29:1), such as he thought fit, or such as his soldiers could lay hands on, and carries them to Babylon. The case of these captives was very melancholy, the rather because they, being thus distinguished from the rest of their brethren who continued in their own land, looked as if they were greater sinners than all men who dwelt at Jerusalem. Jeremiah therefore writes a letter to them, to comfort them, assuring them that they had no reason either to despair of succour themselves or to envy their brethren that were left behind. Note, 1. The word of God written is as truly given by inspiration of God as his word spoken was; and this was the proper way of spreading the knowledge of God's will among his children scattered abroad. 2. We may serve God and do good by writing to our friends at a distance pious letters of seasonable comforts and wholesome counsels. Those whom we cannot speak to we may write to; that which is written remains. This letter of Jeremiah's was sent to the captives in Babylon by the hands of the ambassadors whom king Zedekiah sent to Nebuchadnezzar, probably to pay him his tribute and renew his submission to him, or to treat of peace with him, in which treaty the captives might perhaps hope that they should be included, Jer_29:3. By such messengers Jeremiah chose to send this message, to put an honour upon it, because it was a message from God, or perhaps because there was no settled way of sending letters to Babylon, but as such an occasion as this offered, and then it made the condition of the captives there the more melancholy, that they could rarely hear from their friends and relations they had left behind, which is some reviving and satisfaction to those that are separated from one another. JAMISON, "Jer_29:1-32. Letter of Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon, to counteract the assurances given by the false prophets of a speedy restoration. 2
  3. 3. 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. K&D 1-3, "A Letter from Jeremiah to the Captives in Babylon, together with Threatenings against their False Prophets. - As in Jerusalem, so too in Babylon the predictions of the false prophets fostered a lively hope that the domination of Nebuchadnezzar would not last long, and that the return of the exiles to their fatherland would soon come about. The spirit of discontent thus excited must have exercised an injurious influence on the fortunes of the captives, and could not fail to frustrate the aim which the chastisement inflicted by God was designed to work out, namely, the moral advancement of the people. Therefore Jeremiah makes use of an opportunity furnished by an embassy sent by King Zedekiah to Babel, to address a letter to the exiles, exhorting them to yield with submission to the lot God had assigned to them. He counsels them to prepare, by establishing their households there, for a long sojourn in Babel, and to seek the welfare of that country as the necessary condition of their own. They must not let themselves be deceived by the false prophets' idle promises of a speedy return, since God will not bring them back and fulfil His glorious promises till after seventy years have passed (Jer_29:4-14). Then he tells them that sore judgments are yet in store for King Zedekiah and such as have been left in the land (Jer_29:15-20); and declares that some of their false prophets shall perish miserably (Jer_29:21-32). Heading and Introduction. - The following circular is connected, in point of outward form, with the preceding discourses against the false prophets in Jerusalem by means of the words: "And these are the words of the letter," etc. The words of the letter, i.e., the main contents of the letter, since it was not transcribed, but given in substance. "Which the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders of the captives, and to the priests and prophets, and to the whole people, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon." "The residue of the elders," Hitz. and Graf understand of those elders who were not at the same time priests or prophets. On this Näg. pronounces: "It is impossible that they can be right, for then 'the residue of the elders of the captivity' must have stood after the priests and prophets." And though we hear of elders of the priests, there is no trace in the O.T. of elders of the prophets. Besides, the elders, whenever they are mentioned along with the priests, are universally the elders of the people. Thus must we understand the expression here also. "The residue of the elders" can only be the remaining, i.e., still surviving, elders of the exiles, as ‫ר‬ ֶ‫ֶת‬‫י‬ is used also in Jer_39:9 for those still in life. But there is no foundation for the assumption by means of which Gr. seeks to support his interpretation, namely, that the place of elders that died was immediately filled by new appointments, so that the council of the elders must always have been regarded as a whole, and could not come to be a residue or remnant. Jeremiah could not possibly have assumed the existence of such an organized governing authority, since in this very letter he exhorts them to set about the establishment of regular system in their affairs. The date given in Jer_29:2 : "after that Jechoniah the king, and the sovereign lady, and the courtiers, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the workmen and smiths, were gone away from Jerusalem," points to the beginning of Zedekiah's reign, to the first or second year of it. With this the advice given to the captives in the letter harmonizes well, namely, the counsel to build houses, plant gardens, etc.; since this makes it clear that they had not been long there. The despatch of 3
  4. 4. this letter is usually referred to the fourth year of Zedekiah's reign, because in Jer_28:1 this year is specified. But the connection in point of matter between the present chapter and Jer 28 does not necessarily imply their contemporaneousness, although that is perfectly possible; and the fact that, according to Jer_51:59, Zedekiah himself undertook a journey to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign, does not exclude the possibility of an embassy thither in the same year. The going away from Jerusalem is the emigration to Babylon; cf. Jer_24:1, 2Ki_24:15. ‫ה‬ ָ‫יר‬ ִ‫ב‬ְ‫גּ‬ ַ‫,ה‬ the queen-mother, see on Jer_13:18. ‫ים‬ ִ‫יס‬ ִ‫ר‬ ָ‫ס‬ are the officials of the court; not necessarily eunuchs. Both words are joined to the king, because these stood in closest relations to him. Then follows without copula the second class of emigrants, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, i.e., the heads of the tribes, septs, and families of the nation. The artisans form the third class. This disposes of the objections raised by Mov. and Hitz. against the genuineness of the words "princes of Judah and Jerusalem," their objections being based on the false assumption that these words were an exposition of "courtiers." Cf. against this, 2Ki_24:15, where along with the ‫סריסים‬ the heads of tribes and families are comprehended under the head of ‫י‬ֵ‫אוּל‬ ‫ץ‬ ֶ‫ר‬ ָ‫א‬ ָ‫.ה‬ Jer_29:3. "By the hand" of Elasah is dependent on "sent," Jer_29:1. The men by whom Jeremiah sent the letter to Babylon are not further known. Shaphan is perhaps the same who is mentioned in Jer_26:24. We have no information as to the aim of the embassy. CALVIN, "Here the Prophet begins a new discourse, even that he not only cried out constantly at Jerusalem, that the Jews who still remained there should repent, but that he also mitigated the grief of the exiles, and exhorted them to entertain the hope of returning, provided they patiently endured the chastisement allotted to them. The design of the Prophet was at the same time twofold; for he not only intended to mitigate by comfort the sorrow of the exiles, but designed also to break down the obstinacy of his own nation, so that they who still remained at Jerusalem and in Judea might know that nothing would be better for them than to join themselves to their other brethren. The Jews, as it has already appeared, and as we shall hereafter in many places see, had set their minds on an unreasonable deliverance; God had fixed on seventy years, but they wished immediately to break through and extricate themselves from the yoke laid on them. Hence Jeremiah, in writing to the captives and exiles, intended to accommodate what he said to the Jews who still remained at Jerusalem, and who thought their case very fortunate, because they were not driven away with their king and the rest of the multitude. But at the same time his object was to benefit also the miserable exiles, who might have been overwhelmed with despair, had not their grief been in some measure mitigated. The Prophet, as we shall see, bids them to look forward to the end of their captivity, and in the meantime exhorts them to patience, and desires them to be quiet and peaceable, and not to raise tumults, until the hand of God was put forth for their deliverance. he says that he wrote a book (201) to the remaining elders; (202) for many of that age had died; as nature requires, the old who approach near the goal of life, die first, he then says that he wrote to them who still remained alive. We hence conclude that his prophecy was designed for them all; and yet he afterwards says, “Take 4
  5. 5. wives and propagate;” but this, as we shall see, is to be confined to those who were at that time in a fit age for marriage. He did not however wish to exclude the aged from the comfort of which God designed them to be partakers, and that by knowing that there would be a happy end to their captivity, provided they retained resignation of mind and patiently bore the punishment of God justly due to them for having so often and in such various ways provoked him. Then he adds, the priests, and the prophets, and then the whole people. (203) But we must notice that he not only exhorts the people to patience, but also the priests and the prophets. And though, as we shall hereafter see, there were among them impostors, who falsely boasted that they were prophets, (204) it is yet probable that they are also included here who were endued with God’s Spirit, either because the spirit was languid in them, or because God did not always grant to them the knowledge of everything. It might then be that the prophets, to whom God had not made known this, or whose minds were oppressed with evils, were to be taught. As to the priests, we hence conclude that they had from the beginning neglected their office, for they would have been God’s prophets, had they faithfully performed their sacerdotal office; and it was, as it were, an extraordinary thing when God chose other prophets, and not without reproach to the priests; for they must have become degenerated and idle or deceptive, when they gloried in the name alone, when they were destitute of the truth. This then was the reason why they were to be taught in common with the people. It now follows, — COFFMAN, "Verse 1 JEREMIAH 29 JEREMIAH'S LETTER TO THE EXILES The date of this chapter is some time after the first wave of captives had been carried to Babylon following the first Babylonian capture of the city in 597 B.C. Jehoiachin was deposed after a very brief three months on the throne; and the puppet king Zedekiah, an uncle of his, had been installed as the vassal king of his overlord the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. The false prophets were busy spreading the falsehood that the captivity would shortly end; Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) would be restored, and all the vessels of the temple would be restored to Jerusalem. This was the message of Hananiah (of the preceding chapter) who had promised all of these wonderful things would take place in a mere couple of years. The crowd of false prophets similar to Hananiah were circulating the same falsehoods in Babylon; and the letter in this chapter was written by Jeremiah in order to counteract and frustrate the evil campaign of the false prophets. 5
  6. 6. It was simply not the will of God that Israel's captivity should be over within so short a time as the false prophets were saying. Yet it is easy to understand why the false prophets believed that the captivity would soon end. There still remained in the person of Zedekiah a representative of the house of David on the throne in Jerusalem; the temple still stood, despite the robbing of many of its treasures; and upon these grounds, the false prophets imagined that the complete independence of Judah might soon be restored. God had ordained and commanded the captivity of Judah as a punishment upon the rebellious, apostate nation; it was God's intention to humble and discipline his people, and bring them at last to an acceptable relationship to Himself; and, if their captivity had been nothing but an extended intrigue against their captors, the purpose of God would surely have been frustrated. The captivity would not be short, but long, (Jeremiah 29:4); it would last into the third generation; and the vast majority of the captives would never see Jerusalem again! Jeremiah's letter was for the purpose of destroying the campaign of the false prophets. This chapter is somewhat complex; and some scholars find as many as "four separate letters"[1] in it; some would follow the LXX and remove most of the chapter; others would make the prophecy of the further destruction of Judah a separate letter that somehow became incorporated into this chapter, basing their postulation upon the premise that Zedekiah would not have allowed a prophecy like that to go to Babylon, etc., etc. There are not four letters here. The first words of the chapter state that, "These are the words of THE LETTER" that Jeremiah wrote to the captives from Jerusalem. It was a delegation from Zedekiah that bore the letter to Babylon, and there is no need to suppose that Zedekiah ever saw Jeremiah's letter. Besides that, even if he had seen it, the primary thrust of it was clearly in line with Zedekiah's own kingly interests. If some kind of a rebellion in Babylon had resulted in the restoration of Jehoiachin to his throne, it would have meant the fall of Zedekiah. Jeremiah 29:1-4 "Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders of the captivity, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon (after that Jeconiah the king, and the queen-mother, and the eunuchs, and the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the craftsmen, and the smiths, were deported from Jerusalem), by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all the captivity, whom I have caused to be carried away captive from Jerusalem unto Babylon." "The queen-mother, and the eunuchs, and the princes ..." (Jeremiah 29:2). The 6
  7. 7. queen-mother's name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan (2 Kings 24:8); and in the Jewish system she was a very important person who seems to have worn a crown and occupied a throne adjacent to that of the king. Scholars have a lot of trouble with the word "eunuchs" in this passage; and Cheyne even called it a gloss;[2] but the Bible fully explains it. The princes of Judah and Jerusalem had already been captured and carried away to Babylon, among whom were Daniel and his friends; and they had been emasculated, given new names, and given into the charge of Nebuchadnezzar's "prince of the eunuchs" (Daniel 1:7). Therefore, the word "eunuchs" in this place is absolutely appropriate. As Thompson said, "The essential historicity of this material cannot be doubted."[3] "The craftsmen and the smiths ..." (Jeremiah 29:2). It was the policy of Nebuchadnezzar to bring skilled artisans and persons with technical knowledge into Babylon in order to help him, "build and beautify the city."[4] God later identified Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom as "the head of gold," as it pertained to lesser kingdoms which would follow his; and this was surely one of the reasons for that preference. Nebuchadnezzar did not import young women to satisfy his lust, but skilled workers to help him build and beautify. "Elasah the son of Shaphan ..." (Jeremiah 29:3). "This man was probably a brother of Ahikam (See Jeremiah 26:24)."[5] He was therefore a friend and protector of Jeremiah; and, if it had been necessary to shield the contents of Jeremiah's letter from the eyes of Zedekiah, Elasah was surely the person who could and would have done so. The exact date and purpose of this embassy to Babylon is not known; but, "as Zedekiah himself went to Babylon in his fourth year,"[6] this embassy might have been preparatory to that visit. "The captives, whom I have caused to be carried away ..." (Jeremiah 29:4). God here reveals himself as the cause of the captivity. "God Himself has brought about the exile; and, since the Lord's will was behind it, the better part of wisdom for Judah was submission."[7] COKE, "Introduction CHAP. XXIX. Jeremiah sendeth a letter to the captives in Babylon, to be quiet there, and not to believe the dreams of their prophets, and that they shall return with grace after seventy years. He foretelleth the destruction of the rest for their disobedience: he sheweth the fearful end of Ahab and Zedekiah, two lying prophets. Shemaiah writeth a letter against Jeremiah. Jeremiah readeth his doom. 7
  8. 8. Before Christ 597. Verse 1 Jeremiah 29:1. Now these are the words— Neither the year nor the cause of this deputation are precisely known; but it is thought to have been at the beginning of Zedekiah's reign. By the residue of elders some understand the remnant of the members of the sanhedrin, carried away captive in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, many of whom died of the hardships which they suffered in their transportation. Houbigant however, not content with this interpretation, renders it, unto the principal elders. By the prophets, the Chaldee understands the scribes or doctors of the law; while others think that Ezekiel, Daniel, and other prophets of the captivity, may be meant. Jeremiah 29:5-7. Build ye houses, and dwell in them— The prophet gives them this advice to check their hopes of a speedy return from Babylon, with which they had been flattered by the false prophets; and the advice is remarkable; teaching us in what manner we ought to live among foreign powers, and how we ought to consider those whom Providence has placed over us. See Baruch 1:11-12. 1 Timothy 2:1-2. EXPOSITOR'S BIBLE COMMENTARY, "CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE EXILES Jeremiah 29:1-32 "Jehovah make thee like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire."- Jeremiah 29:22 NOTHING further is said about the proposed revolt, so that Jeremiah’s vigorous protest seems to have been successful. In any case, unless irrevocable steps had been taken, the enterprise could hardly have survived the death of its advocate, Hananiah. Accordingly Zedekiah sent an embassy to Babylon, charged doubtless with plausible explanations and profuse professions of loyalty and devotion. The envoys were Elasah ben Shaphan and Gemariah ben Hilkiah. Shaphan and Hilkiah were almost certainly the scribe and high priest who discovered Deuteronomy in the eighteenth year of Josiah, and Elasah was the brother of Ahikam ben Shaphan, who protected Jeremiah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, and of Gemariah ben Shaphan, in whose chamber Baruch read the roll, and who protested against its destruction. Probably Elasah and Gemariah were adherents of Jeremiah, and the fact of the embassy, as well as the choice of ambassadors, suggests that, for the moment, Zedekiah was acting under the influence of the prophet. Jeremiah took the opportunity of sending a letter to the exiles at Babylon. Hananiah had his allies in Chaldea: Ahab ben Kolaiah, Zedekiah ben Maaseiah, and Shemaiah the Nehelamite, with other prophets, diviners, and dreamers, had imitated their brethren in Judah; they had prophesied without being sent and had caused the people to believe a lie. We are not expressly told what they prophesied, but the narrative takes for granted that they, like Hananiah, promised the exiles a speedy 8
  9. 9. return to their native land. Such teaching naturally met with much acceptance, the people congratulating themselves because, as they supposed, "Jehovah hath raised us up prophets in Babylon." The presence of prophets among them. was received as a welcome proof that Jehovah had not deserted His people in their house of bondage. Thus when Jeremiah had confounded his opponents in Jerusalem he had still to deal with their friends in Babylon. Here again the issue was one of immediate practical importance. In Chaldea as at Jerusalem the prediction that the exiles would immediately return was intended to kindle the proposed revolt. The Jews at Babylon were virtually warned to hold themselves in readiness to take advantage of any success of the Syrian rebels, and, if opportunity offered, to render them assistance. In those days information travelled slowly, and there was some danger lest the captives should be betrayed into acts of disloyalty, even after the Jewish government had given up any present intention of revolting against Nebuchadnezzar. Such disloyalty might have involved their entire destruction. Both Zedekiah and Jeremiah would be anxious to inform them at once that they must refrain from any plots against their Chaldean masters. Moreover the prospect of an immediate return had very much the same effect upon these Jews as the expectation of Christ’s Second Coming had upon the primitive Church at Thessalonica. It made them restless and disorderly. They could not settle to any regular work, but became busybodies-wasting their time over the glowing promises of their popular preachers, and whispering to one another wild rumours of successful revolts in Syria; or were even more dangerously occupied in planning conspiracies against their conquerors. Jeremiah’s letter sought to bring about a better state of mind. It is addressed to the elders, priests, prophets, and people of the Captivity. The enumeration reminds us how thoroughly the exiled community reproduced the society of the ancient Jewish state-there was already a miniature Judah in Chaldea, the first of those Israels of the Dispersion which have since covered the face of the earth. This is Jehovah’s message by His prophet:- "Build houses and dwell in them; Plant gardens and eat the fruit thereof; Marry and beget sons and daughters; Marry your sons and daughters, That they may bear sons and daughters, That ye may multiply there and not grow few. Seek the peace of the city whither I have sent you into captivity: 9
  10. 10. Pray for it unto Jehovah For in its peace, ye shalt have peace." There was to be no immediate return; their captivity would last long enough to make it worth their while to build houses and plant gardens. For the present they were to regard Babylon as their home. The prospect of restoration to Judah was too distant to make any practical difference to their conduct of ordinary business. The concluding command to "seek the peace of Babylon" is a distinct warning against engaging in plots, which could only ruin the conspirators. There is an interesting difference between these exhortations and those addressed by Paul to his converts in the first century. He never counsels them to marry, but rather recommends celibacy as more expedient for the present necessity. Apparently life was more anxious and harassed for the early Christians than for the Jews in Babylon. The return to Canaan was to these exiles what the millennium and the Second Advent were to the primitive Church. Jeremiah having bidden his fellow countrymen not to be agitated by supposing that this much longed for event might come at any moment, fortifies their faith and patience by a promise that it should not be delayed indefinitely. "When ye have fulfilled seventy years in Babylon I will visit you, And will perform for you My gracious promise to bring you back to this place." Seventy is obviously a round number. Moreover the constant use of seven and its multiples in sacred symbolism forbids us to understand the prophecy as an exact chronological statement. We should adequately express the prophet’s meaning by translating "in about two generations." We need not waste time and trouble in discovering or inventing two dates exactly separated by seventy years, one of which will serve for the beginning and the other for the end of the Captivity. The interval between the destruction of Jerusalem and the Return was fifty years (B.C. 586-536), but as our passage refers more immediately to the prospects of those already in exile, we should obtain an interval of sixty-five years from the deportation of Jehoiachin and his companions in B.C. 601. But there can be no question of approximation, however close. Either the "seventy years" merely stands for a comparatively long period, or it is exact. We do not save the inspiration of a date by showing that it is only five years wrong, and not twenty. For an inspired date must be absolutely accurate; a mistake of a second in such a case would be as fatal as a mistake of a century. Israel’s hope is guaranteed by God’s self-knowledge of His gracious counsel:- "I know the purposes which I purpose concerning you, is the utterance of Jehovah, Purposes of peace and not of evil, to give you hope for the days to come." 10
  11. 11. In the former clause "I" is emphatic in both places, and the phrase is parallel to the familiar formula "by Myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah." The future of Israel was guaranteed by the divine consistency. Jehovah, to use a colloquial phrase, knew His own mind. His everlasting purpose for the Chosen People could not be set aside. "Did God cast off His People? God forbid." Yet this persistent purpose is not fulfilled without reference to character and conduct:- "Ye shall call upon Me, and come and pray unto Me, And I will hearken unto you. Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, Because ye seek Me with all your heart. I will be found of you-it is the utterance of Jehovah. I will bring back your captivity, and will gather you from all nations and Places whither I have scattered you-it is the utterance of Jehovah. I will bring you back to this place whence I sent you away to captivity." As in the previous chapter, Jeremiah concludes with a personal judgment upon those prophets who had been so acceptable to the exiles. If Jeremiah 29:23 is to be understood literally, Ahab and Zedekiah had not only spoken without authority in the name of Jehovah, but had also been guilty of gross immorality. Their punishment was to be more terrible than that of Hananiah. They had incited the exiles to revolt by predicting the imminent ruin of Nebuchadnezzar. Possibly the Jewish king proposed to make his own peace by betraying his agents, after the manner of our own Elizabeth and other sovereigns. They were to be given over to the terrible vengeance which a Chaldean king would naturally take on such offenders, and would be publicly roasted alive, so that the malice of him who desired to curse his enemy might find vent in such words as:- "Jehovah make thee like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted alive." We are not told whether this prophecy was fulfilled, but it is by no means unlikely. The Assyrian king Assurbanipal says, in one of his inscriptions concerning a viceroy of Babylon who had revolted, that Assur and the other gods "in the fierce burning 11
  12. 12. fire they threw him and destroyed his life" - possibly through the agency of Assurbanipal’s servants. One of the seven brethren who were tortured to death in the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes is said to have been "fried in the pan." Christian hagiology commemorates St. Lawrence and many other martyrs, who suffered similar torments. Such punishments remained part of criminal procedure until a comparatively recent date; they are still sometimes inflicted by lynch law in the United States, and have been defended even by Christian ministers. Jeremiah’s letter caused great excitement and indignation among the exiles. We have no rejoinder from Ahab and Zedekiah; probably they were not in a position to make any. But Shemaiah the Nehelamite tried to make trouble for Jeremiah at Jerusalem. He, in his turn, wrote letters to "all the people at Jerusalem and to the priest Zephaniah ben Maaseiah and to all the priests" to this effect:- "Jehovah hath made thee priest in the room of Jehoiada the priest, to exercise supervision over the Temple, and to deal with any mad fanatic who puts himself forward to prophesy, by placing him in the stocks and the collar. Why then hast thou not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth, who puts himself forward to prophesy unto you? Consequently he has sent unto us at Babylon: It (your captivity) will be long; build houses and dwell in them, plant gardens and eat the fruit thereof." Confidence in a speedy return had already been exalted into a cardinal article of the exiles’ faith, and Shemaiah claims that any one who denied this comfortable doctrine must be, ipso facto, a dangerous and deluded fanatic, needing to be placed under strict restraint. This letter travelled to Jerusalem with the returning embassy, and was duly delivered to Zephaniah. Zephaniah is spoken of in the historical section common to Kings and Jeremiah as "the second priest," [Jeremiah 52:24;, 2 Kings 25:18] Seraiah being the High Priest; like Pashhur ben Immer, he seems to have been the governor of the Temple. He was evidently well disposed to Jeremiah, to whom Zedekiah twice sent him on Important missions. On the present occasion, instead of acting upon the suggestions made by Shemaiah, he read the letter to Jeremiah, in order that the latter might have an opportunity of dealing with it. Jeremiah was divinely instructed to reply to Shemaiah, charging him, in his turn, with being a man who put himself forward to prophesy without any commission from Jehovah, and who thus deluded his hearers into belief in falsehoods. Personal sentence is passed upon him, as upon Hananiah, Ahab, and Zedekiah: no son of his shall be reckoned amongst God’s people or see the prosperity which they shall hereafter enjoy. The words are obscure: it is said that Jehovah will "visit Shemaiah and his seed," so that it cannot mean that he will be childless; but it is further said that "he shall not have a man to abide amongst this people." It is apparently a sentence of excommunication against Shemaiah and his family. Here the episode abruptly ends. We are not told whether the letter was sent, or how it was received, or whether it was answered. We gather that, here also, the last word rested with Jeremiah, and that at this point his influence became dominant both at 12
  13. 13. Jerusalem and at Babylon, and that King Zedekiah himself submitted to his guidance. Chapters 28 and 29 deepen the impression made by other sections of Jeremiah’s intolerance and personal bitterness towards his opponents. He seems to speak of the roasting alive of the prophets at Babylon with something like grim satisfaction, and we are tempted to think of Torquemada and Bishop Bonner. But we must remember that the stake, as we have already said, has scarcely yet ceased to be an ordinary criminal punishment, and that, after centuries of Christianity, More and Cranmer, Luther and Calvin, had hardly any more tenderness for their ecclesiastical opponents than Jeremiah. Indeed the Church is only beginning to be ashamed of the complacency with which she has contemplated the fiery torments of hell as the eternal destiny of unrepentant sinners. One of the most tolerant and catholic of our religious teachers has written: "If the unlucky malefactor, who in mere brutality of ignorance or narrowness of nature or of culture has wronged his neighbour, excite our anger, how much deeper should be our indignation when intellect and eloquence are abused to selfish purposes, when studious leisure and learning and thought turn traitors to the cause of human well-being and the wells of a nation’s moral life are poisoned." The deduction is obvious: society feels constrained to hang or burn "the unlucky malefactor"; consequently such punishments are, if anything, too merciful for the false prophet. Moreover the teaching which Jeremiah denounced was no mere dogmatism about abstruse philosophical and theological abstractions. Like the Jesuit propaganda under Elizabeth, it was more immediately concerned with politics than with religion. We are bound to be indignant with a man, gifted in exploiting the emotions of his docile audience, who wins the confidence and arouses the enthusiasm of his hearers, only to entice them into hopeless and foolhardy ventures. And yet we are brought back to the old difficulty, how are we to know the false prophet? He has neither horns nor hoofs, his tie may be as white and his coat as long as those of the true messenger of God. Again, Jeremiah’s method affords us some practical guidance. He does not himself order and superintend the punishment of false prophets: he merely announces a Divine judgment, which Jehovah Himself is to execute. He does not condemn men by the code of any Church, but each sentence is a direct and special revelation from Jehovah. How many sentences would have been passed upon heretics, if their accusers and judges had waited for a similar sanction? PETT, "Verse 1-2 Introductory words. Jeremiah 29:1-2 13
  14. 14. ‘Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the residue of the elders of the captivity, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon, (after that Jeconiah the king, and the queen-mother, and the eunuchs, and the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the craftsmen, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem),’ The introduction informs us that this chapter contains words which Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in Babylon. ‘The residue (or remnant) of the elders’ may indicate that many had been executed, possibly because their especially rebellious attitude was known to Nebuchadnezzar with the result that he had determined to get rid of the hardliners. Nebuchadnezzar had no doubt had his spies in Jerusalem and the elders would certainly have borne the brunt of the blame for Jehoiakim’s rebellion. Nebuchadnezzar was not noted for his clemency (see 2 Kings 25:18-20). Alternately ‘residue’ may be intended to be read in throughout (although not made clear in the text) simply indicating those who had survived the siege and its aftermath. The priests and prophets would include among them Ezekiel. The exile in mind is that under Jehoiachin when Jerusalem had had to submit to Nebuchadnezzar (c.597 BC). Along with Jehoiachin had gone the queen mother (a figure of great authority in Judah), the high officials (the word, used of the married Potiphar in Genesis, doe not necessarily strictly mean eunuch), the ‘princes’ of the tribes (the order of precedence would seem to indicate that it was not blood princes who were in mind), along with all the skilled craftsmen and smiths, and so on. They represented the cream of the nation (the good figs, not because they were better than the essentially others, but because of what God was going to make of them - Jeremiah 24:5). Verses 1-32 Jeremiah’s Letter To The Exiles (Jeremiah 29:1-32). Correspondence by letter was a constant feature of those days, and indicates that the world was not static (compare the prophetic letters from Shemaiah to the religious authorities in Jerusalem - Jeremiah 29:25; David to Joab - 2 Samuel 11:14; Elijah to Jehoram - 2 Chronicles 21:12-15; Sennacherib to Hezekiah - 2 Kings 19:9-14; etc). There were always people who were on the move, such as traders and ambassadors, who could carry such messages along the trading routes, or between country and country, and kings themselves would have special messengers.. We are not, of course, to think of an established postal service, although we need not doubt that great kings would undoubtedly arrange for relays of messengers who could be relied on to take their words to their underlings. But in this case Jeremiah took the opportunity of King Zedekiah sending messengers in order to communicate with Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, to enable him to communicat with God’s exiled people. It is clear from the letter that Jeremiah had received information that false prophets 14
  15. 15. were at work in Babylonia among the exiles who had been exiled along with Jehoiachin (c. 597 BC, as opposed to those exiled earlier with Daniel in c. 605 BC), proclaiming a similar message to that of Hananiah, and thus unsettling them, and further, that one of these prophets had actually written to Jerusalem calling for Jeremiah to be ‘rebuked’ (dealt with severely). Thus Jeremiah urged the exiles not to listen to them, but to recognise that they were to settle in for a good long stay, for at least another fifty years or so. Furthermore he warned them that the false prophets in question who were stirring up trouble would themselves be summarily dealt with, either by Nebuchadnezzar or by circumstances. The letter can be divided up into five sections: · The call for the exiles to settle down in Babylon and recognise that deliverance will not come until his previously prophesied seventy years was over (Jeremiah 29:1-9). A promise that then, when that seventy years is over, YHWH will restore His people from all parts of the world if they seek Him with all their hearts (Jeremiah 29:10-14). A warning not to listen to the false prophets as, rather than experiencing quick restoration, Zedekiah and Jerusalem are doomed because they have not listened to YHWH’s words (Jeremiah 29:15-19). A declaration of the forthcoming doom of the false prophets who have arisen among them, at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 29:20-23). A special word concerning the doom of Shemaiah, a prophet who had written to Jerusalem seeking for Jeremiah to be dealt with severely (Jeremiah 29:24-32). BI, "Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent. Messages to exiles I. The very fact that a message was sent to them under an express Divine appointment was consolatory. Wherever God’s children are scattered, the written Word is to them a source of permanent encouragement. In the severest ways of justice God does not forget His own children, but has in reserve ample consolations for them, when they lie under the common judgment II. The particular providence of God, appearing on their behalf under all their calamities, was a source of consolation. 1. He is the Lord of hosts, of all the armies above and below, and yet is the God of Israel; and though He permits their captivity, He does not break His relation to them—their covenant-God still, though under a cloud. 2. He assumes the active agency in their dispersion. “I have caused them to be carried away.” Certainly it must be a great sin which induces a loving father to cast his child out of doors. But sin is a great scatterer, and is always followed by a driving away and a casting out. Yet the fact of God’s being the agent in their dispersion is 15
  16. 16. referred to as a ground of consolation; since it reconciles us to our troubles to see the hand of God in them, and to trace an all-gracious and merciful design in them. III. The promise of the stability and security of their social and domestic interests was given. IV. The prospect of a certain and favourable issue to their trials (verse 11). (S. Thodey.) 2 (This was after King Jehoiachin[a] and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.) BARNES, "The queen - The queen-mother. GILL, "After that Jeconiah the king,.... Of Judah; the same with Jehoiachin, who was carried captive into Babylon when he had reigned but three months: and the queen; not Jeconiah's wife, for he had none; but his mother, whose name was Nehushta, and who was carried captive with him, 2Ki_24:8; and the eunuchs; or "chamberlains" to the queen; the Targum calls them princes; these were of the king's household, his courtiers; and such persons have been everywhere, and in all ages, court favourites: and the princes of Judah and Jerusalem; the noblemen and grandees of the nation: and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem; whom Nebuchadnezzar took with him, partly for his own use in his own country; and partly that the Jews might be deprived of such artificers, that could assist in fortifying their city, and providing them with military weapons; See Gill on Jer_24:1. HENRY, " JAMISON, "queen — Nehushta, the queen mother, daughter of Elnathan (2Ki_ 24:8, 2Ki_24:15). (Elnathan, her father, is perhaps the same as the one mentioned in 16
  17. 17. Jer_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. CALVIN, "He mentions the time when the book was sent, even after the calamity which had happened, when King Jeconiah and his mother were driven into exile, and Zedekiah, his successor, was made governor in his place, as we shall presently see. It was then during these beginnings of a change that Jeremiah wrote. All things were then in such a ferment, that some feared more than what was necessary, and others entertained vain hopes, as the case usually is in a disordered state of things. It was then after this fresh calamity that Jeremiah wrote, as his words most especially shew. He might indeed, as in other instances, have mentioned the year; but as he plainly declares that this happened after the departure of Jeconiah, his purpose is sufficiently evident, even that he wished in due time to give some relief to their sorrow, who might have succumbed under it, had not God in a manner stretched forth his hand to them. For we know that fresh grief is difficult to be borne; and hence it is that it is called a bitter grief; for it was a grievous novelty, when they were violently and suddenly dragged out of their quiet nests. It was then Jeremiah’s object at that time to give them some comfort; he also saw that those who were left in Judea were greatly disturbed and continually agitating new schemes; for Zedekiah’s kingdom was not as yet established, and they despised him and were ever looking for their own king. As, then, things were thus in disorder at home, and as the miserable exiles especially, were at first very grievously afflicted, Jeremiah set before them a seasonable remedy. This then is the reason why he points out the time. The mother of Jeconiah, we know, was led away with him into captivity; and she is called, ‫,הגבירה‬ egebire; (205) for though she was not properly the queen, she yet ruled in connection with her son. Some render ‫,סריסים‬ sarisim, eunuchs; (206) but I prefer the word “chiefs;” and hence is added the word ‫,שרי‬ shari, princes, that is, the courtiers, who governed the people, not only in Jerusalem, but through the whole of Judea. He also adds the artificers and sculptors, (207) for Nebuchadnezzar had chosen the best of them; he had deprived the city of its nobles, that there might be none of authority among the Jews to venture on any new attempt; and then he had taken away those who were useful and ingenious, so that he left them no sculptors nor artificers. It now follows, — 3 He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom 17
  18. 18. Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said: BARNES, "Elasah - Probably brother of Ahikam Jer_26:24, and therefore an acceptable person at the Chaldaean court. As Zedekiah had to go in person to Babylon in his fourth year Jer_51:59, this embassy was probably sent two or three years earlier. Its date, however, was subsequent to the vision in Jer_24:1-10. It is appended therefore to Jer. 28, not as later in point of time, but because of the similarity of subject. GILL, "By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan,.... Perhaps the brother of Ahikam, and of Jaazaniah, Jer_26:24; and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah; to distinguish him from Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, Jer_36:10; whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; as his ambassadors, on what account it is not certain; perhaps to pay the tribute money to him; or to treat with him about the restoration of some of the captives; or to cultivate friendship, and promise submission, and that he would faithfully keep the covenant he had made with him: and perhaps he might be jealous of Jeconiah using his interest with the king of Babylon for his restoration, which could not be acceptable to Zedekiah; and this might be one reason why he admitted his messengers to carry Jeremiah's letter to the captives, if he knew of it, or saw it; since it exhorted them not to think of a returns, but provide for a long continuance where they were; however, by the hand of these messengers Jeremiah sent his letter to them: saying; as follows: JAMISON, "Zedekiah ... sent unto Babylon — In Jer_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 (2Ki_22:8, etc.). The sons of Hilkiah and Shaphan inherited from their fathers some respect for sacred things. So in Jer_36:25, “Gemariah” interceded with King Jehoiakim that the prophet’s roll should not be burned. 18
  19. 19. CALVIN, "This is the substance of the message, which the Prophet, no doubt, explained to them at large; but here he touches but briefly on what he wrote to the captives, even that they were patiently to endure their exile until the time of their deliverance, which was not to be such as many imagined, but such as God had fixed. Well known indeed at that time was Jeremiah’s prophecy, not only in Judea, but also to the captives, that their exile could not be completed in a shorter time than seventy years. It is said that he sent his letter by the hand of the king’s ambassadors. It is probable that this was done by the permission of Zedekiah; for there is no doubt but that in sending his ambassadors he intended to obtain favor with King Nebuchadnezzar, by whose nod he had come to the throne; for he was not of such dignity as to be made king, though of the royal seed, had not Nebuchadnezzar thought that it would be more advantageous to himself. For had he appointed any other governor over the Jews, a sedition might have been easily raised; he therefore intended in a measure to pacify them, for he knew that they were a very refractory people. However, Zedekiah ruled only by permission, not through his own power, nor on account of his wealth, but through the good pleasure of a conqueror. He then sent his ambassadors to promise all kinds of homage, and to know what was to be done in future. As, then, he did not wish the return of Jeconiah, he permitted his ambassadors to carry the letter of Jeremiah, not indeed that he wished to obey God. It was not, then, owing to any sincere regard for religion, but because he thought that it would be advantageous to him, that the Jews should remain in Chaldea till the death of Jeconiah; for he thus hoped that his kingdom would be confirmed, for Jeconiah was, as it were, his rival. Nor is there a doubt, but that Nebuchadnezzar wished to hold Zedekiah bound by this fetter; for he could any day restore Jeconiah, who was his captive, to his former state. Now, then, we understand why Zedekiah did not prohibit Jeremiah’s letter to be carried to the captives: he thought that it would serve to tranquilize his kingdom. But the holy Prophet had another thing in view; for his anxious object was, not to gain the favor of the king, but to shew, as God had commanded him, how long the captivity would be. Zedekiah indeed might have wished that a permission should be given to the exiles to return; for those who remained in Judea were only the dregs and offscourings of society; it was not an honorable state of things: and it may be that he had also this in view, in sending ambassadors to Nebuchadnezzar, that Jerusalem might not remain desolate, but that a portion at least of the exiles might return, and that there might also be some to cultivate the land which had been nearly stripped of its inhabitants. But Jeremiah declared what he knew was by no means acceptable to the king, that a return was in vain expected before the termination of seventy years. We hence see that he spoke nothing to gain the favor of the king; and yet the king did not regard with displeasure, that the letter was sent to allay all commotions, and to restrain all the violence of those who would have been otherwise too prone to make some new attempts. This accounts for the circumstance, that the letter was sent by the hand of Elasah and Gemariah 19
  20. 20. He adds, at the same time, that they were sent by Zedekiah to Babylon, that is, to gain the favor of King Nebuchadnezzar, or, at least, to secure his friendship. I now come to the message itself: PETT, "Verse 3 ‘By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), saying,’ His letter was sent by the hand of messengers who were going in Zedekiah’s name to Nebuchadnezzar, no doubt with other more official correspondence. It is very probable that part of the aim was to renew Zedekiah’s submission and assure Nebuchadnezzar of his loyalty, no doubt also delivering tribute. These would be prominent men, and may even have been the sons of Shaphan the Scribe (2 Kings 22:8), and Hilkiah the High Priest (2 Kings 22:4), although this is not certain. Elasah may have been brother to Ahikam who had aided Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:24). This probably took place not long after the exile had begun in c.597 BC, at a time when Zedekiah had no thought of rebellion, and thus earlier than the previous chapter. 4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: BARNES, "As the exile was God’s doing for their good, they were to make the best of their position, and acquire wealth and influence; whereas if they were always restlessly looking out for the opportunity of returning home, they would rapidly fall into poverty and dwindle away. CLARKE, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts - This was the commencement of the letter. GILL, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,.... For the letter was 20
  21. 21. written by the order of the Lord, was endited by him, and was sent in his name, the prophet was only his amanuensis; and the titles which the Lord here takes are worthy of notice: "the Lord of hosts": of the armies above and below, that does according to his pleasure in heaven and in earth, with whom nothing is impossible; who could easily destroy the enemies of his people, and deliver them, either immediately by his power, or mediately by means of armies on earth, whom he could assemble, and send at pleasure; or by legions of angels at his command: "the God of Israel"; their covenant God; who still continued to be so, notwithstanding their sins and transgressions, and though in captivity in a foreign land; and a good him this, to preserve them from the idolatry of the country they were in, and to observe unto them that he only was to be worshipped by them: unto all that are carried away captives: or, "to all of the captivity"; or, "to the whole captivity" (r); high and low, rich and poor; this letter was an interesting one to them all: whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; for though their sins and iniquities were the moving, meritorious, and procuring causes of their captivity; and Nebuchadnezzar and his army the instruments; yet God was the efficient cause: the Chaldeans could never have carried them captive, if the Lord had not willed it, or had not done it by them; for there is no "evil of this kind in a city, and the Lord hath not done it", Amo_3:6. HENRY 4-7, "We are here told what he wrote. A copy of the letter at large follows here to Jer_29:24. In these verses, 1. He assures them that he wrote in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, who indited the letter; Jeremiah was but the scribe or amanuensis. It would be comfortable to them, in their captivity, to hear that God is the Lord of hosts, of all hosts, and is therefore able to help and deliver them; and that he is the God of Israel still, a God in covenant with his people, though he contend with them, and their enemies for the present are too hard for them. This would likewise be an admonition to them to stand upon their guard against all temptations to the idolatry of Babylon, because the God of Israel, the God whom they served, is Lord of hosts. God's sending to them in this letter might be an encouragement to them in their captivity, as it was an evidence that he had not cast them off, had not abandoned them and disinherited them, though he was displeased with them and corrected them; for, if the Lord had been pleased to kill them, he would not have written to them. 2. God by him owns the hand he had in their captivity: I have caused you to be carried away, Jer_29:4 and again, Jer_29:7. All the force of the king of Babylon could not have done it if God had not ordered it; nor could he have any power against them but what was given him from above. If God caused them to be carried captives, they might be sure that he neither did them any wrong nor meant them any hurt. Note, It will help very much to reconcile us to our troubles, and to make us patient under them, to consider that they are what God has appointed us to. I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it. 3. He bids them think of nothing but settling there; and therefore let them resolve to make the best of it (Jer_29:5, Jer_29:6): Build yourselves houses and dwell in them, etc. By all this it is intimated to them, (1.) That they must not feed themselves with hopes of a speedy return out of their captivity, for that would keep them still unsettled and 21
  22. 22. consequently uneasy; they would apply themselves to no business, take no comfort, but be always tiring themselves and provoking their conquerors with the expectations of relief; and their disappointment at last would sink them into despair and make their condition much more miserable than otherwise it would be. Let them therefore reckon upon a continuance there, and accommodate themselves to it as well as they can. Let them build, and plant, and marry, and dispose of their children there as if they were at home in their own land. Let them take a pleasure in seeing their families built up and multiplied; for, though they must expect themselves to die in captivity, yet their children may live to see better days. If they live in the fear of God, what should hinder them but they may live comfortably in Babylon? They cannot but weep sometimes when they remember Zion. But let not weeping hinder sowing; let them not sorrow as those that have no hope, no joy; for they have both. Note, In all conditions of life it is our wisdom and duty to make the best of that which is, and not to throw away the comfort of what we may have because we have not all we would have. We have a natural affection for our native country; it strangely draws our minds; but it is with a nescio qua dulcedine - we can give no good account of the sweet attraction; and therefore, if providence remove us to some other country, we must resolve to live easy there, to bring our mind to our condition when our condition is not in every thing to our mind. If the earth be the Lord's, then, wherever a child of God goes, he does not go off his Father's ground. Patria est ubicunque bene est - That place is our country in which we are well off. If things be not as they have been, instead of fretting at that, we must live in hopes that they will be better than they are. Non si male nunc, et olim sic erit - Though we suffer now we shall not always. (2.) That they must not disquiet themselves with fears of intolerable hardships in their captivity. They might be ready to suggest (as persons in trouble are always apt to make the worst of things) that it would be in vain to build houses, for their lords and masters would not suffer them to dwell in them when they had built them, nor to eat the fruit of the vineyards they planted. “Never fear,” says God; “if you live peaceably with them, you shall find them civil to you.” Meek and quiet people, that work and mind their own business, have often found much better treatment, even with strangers and enemies, than they expected; and God has made his people to be pitied of those that carry them captives (Psa_106:46), and a pity it is but that those who have built houses should dwell in them. Nay, 4. He directs them to seek the good of the country where they were captives (Jer_ 29:7), to pray for it, to endeavour to promote it. This forbids them to attempt any thing against the public peace while they were subjects to the king of Babylon. Though he was a heathen, an idolater, an oppressor, and an enemy to God and his church, yet, while he gave them protection, they must pay him allegiance, and live quiet and peaceable lives under him, in all godliness and honesty, not plotting to shake off his yoke, but patiently leaving it to God in due time to work deliverance for them. Nay, they must pray to God for the peace of the places where they were, that they might oblige them to continue their kindness to them and disprove the character that had been given their nation, that they were hurtful to kings and provinces, and moved sedition, Ezr_4:15. Both the wisdom of the serpent and the innocency of the dove required them to be true to the government they lived under: For in the peace thereof you shall have peace; should the country be embroiled in war, they would have the greatest share in the calamitous effects of it. Thus the primitive Christians, according to the temper of their holy religion, prayed for the powers that were, though they were persecuting powers. And, if they were to pray for and seek the peace of the land of their captivity, much more reason have we to pray for the welfare of the land of our nativity, where we are a free people under a good 22
  23. 23. government, that in the peace thereof we and ours may have peace. Every passenger is concerned in the safety of the ship. K&D 4-14, "At Jer_29:4 the contents of the letter begin. Jeremiah warns the people to prepare for a lengthened sojourn in Babylonia, and exhorts them to settle down there. Jer_29:5. "Build houses and dwell (therein), and plant gardens and eat the fruit of them. Jer_29:6. Take wives and beget sons and daughters, and take for your sons wives and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and increase there and not diminish. Jer_29:7. And seek the safety of the city whither I have carried you captive, and pray for it to Jahveh, and in its safety shall be safety to you." The imperatives "increase and not diminish" give the consequence of what has been said just before. "The city whither I have carried you captive" is not precisely Babylon, but every place whither separate companies of the exiles have been transported. And pray for the city whither you are come, because in this you further your own welfare, instead of looking for advantage to yourselves from the fall of the Chaldean empire, from the calamity of your heathen fellow-citizens. - With this is suitably joined immediately the warning against putting trust in the delusive hopes held out by the false prophets. "For thus saith Jahve of hosts, the God of Israel: Let not your prophets, that are in the midst of you, and your soothsayers, deceive you, and hearken not to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed; for falsely they prophesy to you in my name; I have not sent them, saith Jahveh." ‫ים‬ ִ‫מ‬ ְ‫ל‬ ְ‫ח‬ ַ‫מ‬ is somewhat singular, since we have no other example of the Hiph. of ‫ם‬ ַ‫ל‬ ָ‫ח‬ in its sig. dream (in Isa_38:16 the Hiph. of the same root means to preserve in good health); but the Hiph. may here express the people's spontaneity in the matter of dreams: which ye cause to be dreamed for you (Hitz.). Thus there would be no need to alter the reading into ‫ים‬ ִ‫מ‬ ְ‫ל‬ֹ‫;ח‬ a precedent for the defective spelling being found in ‫ים‬ ִ‫ר‬ְ‫ז‬ ְ‫ע‬ ַ‫,מ‬ 2Ch_28:23. What the false prophets gave out is not expressly intimated, but may be gathered from the context Jer_29:10, namely, that the yoke of Babylon would soon be broken and captivity come to an end. - This warning is justified in Jer_29:10-14, where God's decree is set forth. The deliverance will not come about till after seventy years; but then the Lord will fulfil to His people His promise of grace. Jer_29:10. "For thus saith Jahveh: When as seventy years are fulfilled for Babylon, I will visit you, and perform to you my good word, to bring you back to this place. Jer_29:11. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jahveh, thoughts of peace and not for evil, to give you (a) destiny and hope. Jer_29:12. And ye will call upon me, and go and pray unto me, and I will hear you. Jer_29:13. And ye will seek me, and find me, if ye search for me with all your heart. Jer_29:14. And I will let myself be found of you, saith Jahve, and will turn your captivity, and gather you out of all the peoples and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith Jahveh, and will bring you again to the place whence I have carried you away." - ‫י‬ ִ‫פ‬ ְ‫ל‬ ‫ֹאת‬ ‫ל‬ ְ‫,מ‬ according to the measure of the fulfilment of seventy years for Babel. These words point back to Jer_25:11., and we must reckon from the date of that prediction. ‫ד‬ ַ‫ק‬ָ‫פּ‬ c. accus. sig. to visit in a good sense, to look favourably on one and take his part. "My good word" is expounded by the following infinitive clause. Jer_29:11. "I know my thoughts" is not to be taken, as by Jerome, J. D. Mich., etc., as in contrast with the false prophets: I know, but they do not. This antithesis is not in keeping with what follows. The meaning is rather: Although I appoint so long a term for the fulfilment of the plan of redemption, 23
  24. 24. yet fear not that I have utterly rejected you; I know well what my design is in your regard. My thoughts toward you are thoughts of God, not of evil. Although now I inflict lengthened sufferings on you, yet this chastisement but serves to bring about your welfare in the future (Chr. B. Mich., Graf, etc.). - To give you ‫ית‬ ִ‫ר‬ֲ‫ח‬ ַ‫,א‬ lit., last, i.e., issue or future, and hope. For this sig. cf. Job_8:7; Pro_5:4, etc. This future destiny and hope can, however, only be realized if by the sorrows of exile you permit yourselves to be brought to a knowledge of your sins, and return penitent to me. Then ye will call on me and pray, and I will hear you. "And ye will go," Jer_29:12, is not the apodosis to "ye will call," since there is no further explanation of it, and since the simple ַ‫ל‬ ָ‫ה‬ can neither mean to go away satisfied nor to have success. "Go" must be taken with what follows: go to the place of prayer (Ew., Umbr., Gr. Näg.). In Jer_29:13 ‫י‬ ִ‫ת‬ֹ‫א‬ is to be repeated after "find." Jer_29:12 and Jer_29:13 are a renewal of the promise, Deu_4:29-30; and Jer_ 29:14 is a brief summary of the promise, Deu_30:3-5, whence is taken the graphic expression ‫שׁוּב‬ ‫בוּת‬ ְ‫ת־שׁ‬ ֶ‫;א‬ see on that passage. - Thereafter in PETT, "Verses 4-9 The Call For The Exiles To Settle Down In Babylon And Pay No Heed To The False Prophets (Jeremiah 29:4-9). Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the captivity, whom I have caused to be carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon,’ The letter is written as from YHWH, giving His full title as found elsewhere. Notice the deliberate implication that the exile is YHWH’s doing. The indication is that they must not rebel against what He has brought about. It would appear from what follows that many had high hopes of a quick return to Judah. This was partly because among them were some prophets who were proclaiming such a return, possibly connected with stirrings of trouble in Babylonia, and partly resulting from man’s eternal optimism, especially as concerning their conviction that YHWH must, at some stage, step in as their God, just as He had delivered them from Egypt so long ago. How could He allow His house to continue to be denuded because of the vessels stolen by Nebuchadnezzar, they would have asked, and how could he allow the true ‘son of David’ not to be on the throne in Jerusalem? The thought would therefore be that ‘God had to act’. 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 24
  25. 25. CLARKE, "Build ye houses - Prepare for a long continuance in your present captivity. Provide yourselves with the necessaries of life, and multiply in the land, that ye may become a powerful people. GILL, "Build ye houses, and dwell in them,.... Intimating hereby that they must not expect a return into their own land in any short time, but that they should continue many years where they were; suggesting also, that as they had ability, so they should have liberty, of building themselves houses; nor should they be interrupted by their enemies; nor would their houses be taken from them, when built; but they should dwell peaceably and quietly in them, as their own; which they might assure themselves of from the Lord, who gives these, and the following directions: and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; and live as comfortably as you can in a foreign country; plant your gardens with vines and pomegranates, and all sorts of fruitful trees the country produces; and fear not the fruit being taken away from you; depend upon it, you shall eat the fruit of your own labour, and not be deprived of it. JAMISON, "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. CALVIN, "God commanded the captives to build houses in Chaldea, to plant vineyards, and also to marry wives, and to beget children, as though they were at home. It was not, indeed, God’s purpose that they should set their hearts on Chaldea, on the contrary, they were ever to think of their return: but until the end of the seventy years, it was God’s will that they should continue quiet, and not attempt this or that, but carry on the business of life as though they were in their own country. As to their hope, then, it was God’s will that their minds should be in a state of suspense until the time of deliverance. At the first view these two things seemed inconsistent, — that the Jews were to live seventy years as though they were the natives of the place, and that their habitations were not to be changed, — and yet that they were ever to look forward to a return. But these two things can well agree together: it was a proof of obedience when they acknowledged that they were chastised by God’s hand, and thus became willingly submissive to the end of the seventy years. But their hope, as I have just observed, was to remain in suspense, in order that they might not be agitated with discontent, nor be led away by some violent feeling, but that they might so pass their time as to bear their exile in such a way as to please God; for there was a sure hope of return, provided they looked forward, according to God’s will, to the end of the seventy 25
  26. 26. years. It is then this subject on which Jeremiah now speaks, when he says, Build houses, and dwell in them; plant vineyards, and eat of their fruit For this whole discourse is to be referred to the time of exile, he having beforehand spoken of their return; and this we shall see in its proper place. But the Jews could not have hoped for anything good, except they were so resigned as to bear their correction, and thus really proved that they did not reject the punishment laid on them. We now see that Jeremiah did not encourage the Jews to indulge in pleasures, nor persuade them to settle for ever in Chaldea. It was, indeed, a fertile and pleasant land; but he did not encourage them to live there in pleasure, to indulge themselves and to forget their own country; by no means: but he confined what he said to the time of the captivity, to the end of the seventy years. During that time, then, he wished them to enjoy the land of Chaldea, and all its advantages, as though they were not exiles but natives of the place. For what purpose? not that they might give themselves up to sloth, but that they might not, by raising commotions, offend God, and in a manner close up against themselves the door of his grace, for the time which he had fixed was to be expected. For when we are driven headlong by a vehement desire, we in a manner repel the favor of God; we do not then suffer him to act as it becomes him: and when we take away from him his own rights and will, it is the same as though we were unwilling to receive his grace. This would have been the case, had they not quietly and resignedly endured their calamity in Chaldea to the end of the time which had been fixed by God. We now perceive that the Prophet’s message referred only to the time of exile; and we also perceive what was the design of it, even to render them obedient to God, that they might thus shew by their patience that they were really penitent, and that they also expected a return in no other way than through God’s favor alone. COFFMAN, "Verse 5 "Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them. Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters: and multiply there, and be not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto Jehovah for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace." What a marvelous anticipation of New Testament teaching is in this paragraph. The wholehearted cooperation with the governmental powers under which one may chance to live is spoken as a cardinal principle of the gospel of Christ in Romans 13:1-12. Praying for authorities is specifically commanded in 1 Timothy 2:1-3. If the Jewish nation had properly received and obeyed this commandment, the Roman destruction of 70 A.D. would have been averted. 26
  27. 27. Of course, instructions such as these infuriated the false prophets. "Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters ..." (Jeremiah 29:6). "The wives Jeremiah encouraged them to marry were Jewish wives, not foreign (Deuteronomy 7:3)."[8] "The Hebrew exiles in Babylon were not slaves but deportees, and free to leave about as they pleased. Some became wealthy, and some, like Daniel, attained high places in government; and the commandments of Jeremiah 29:7 were made out of regard for the welfare of Israel."[9] As a matter of fact, the prosperity of many of the exiles was so great that when the command finally came for them to return to the Holy Land, countless numbers of them elected to remain in Babylon. It was indeed only "a remnant" that returned to Jerusalem. PETT, "Jeremiah 29:5 “Build you houses, and dwell in them, and plant gardens, and eat the fruit from them.” But Jeremiah assures them that there would be no quick return. Thus they are to make the best of the situation, building permanent houses, living in them with a sense of permanency, planting gardens and eating the resultant fruit (which in some cases would not be available for four years). There is an indication here that, having suffered the undoubted hardship of the journey to Babylon, conditions there were not too bad for them. Indeed they were good enough for many not to want to return home when the opportunity arose (Ezra 8:15). They appear to have been free to do whatever they desired, apart from return to Judah. Compare the similar picture presented in Ezekiel of an established and relatively free community (Daniel was presumably still governing Babylonia - Daniel 2:48-49). 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 27
  28. 28. GILL, "Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters,.... That is, such as had no wives, who were either bachelors or widowers; not that they were to take wives of the Chaldeans, but of those of their own nation; for intermarriages with Heathens were forbidden them; and this they were to do, in order to propagate their posterity, and keep up a succession: and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands; or "men" (s); preserving and establishing the right of parents to give their children in marriage, and pointing to them their duty to provide suitable yoke fellows for them; and hereby is signified, that not only they, but their children after them, should continue in this state of captivity: that they may bear sons and daughters, that ye may be increased there; and not diminished; like their ancestors in Egypt, who grew very numerous amidst all their afflictions and bondage. JAMISON, "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, retur CALVIN, "In bidding them to take wives for their sons, and to give their daughters in marriage, he speaks according to the usual order of nature; for it would be altogether unreasonable for young men and young women to seek partners for themselves, according to their own humor and fancy. God then speaks here according to the common order of things, when he bids young men not to be otherwise joined in marriage than by the consent of parents, and that young women are not to marry but those to whom they are given. He then adds, Be ye multiplied there and not diminished; as though he had said, that the time of exile would be so long, that except they propagated, they would soon come to nothing: and God expressed this, because it was not his will that Abraham’s seed should fail. It was indeed a kind of death, when he had driven them so far, as though he had deprived them of the inheritance which he had promised to be perpetual: he, however, administers comfort here by commanding them to propagate their kind: for they could not have been encouraged to do so, except they had their eyes directed to the hope of a return. He then afforded them some taste of his mercy when he bade them not to be diminished in Chaldea. He then adds, — PETT, "Jeremiah 29:6 “Take you wives, and beget sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons, and 28
  29. 29. give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters, and multiply yourselves there, and do not be diminished.” They were to make their home in Babylonia with the longer term future in mind, marrying, having children who would also marry, and ensuring that rather than their numbers diminishing they multiplied. (He might have added, just as they had in Egypt so long ago. There is a genuine parallel between the two situations which would not go unnoticed). 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” BARNES, "Jer_29:7 Seek the peace of the city ... - Not only because their welfare for seventy years was bound up with that of Babylon, but because it would have degraded their whole moral nature to have lived as conspirators, banded together against the country that was for the time their home. CLARKE, "Seek the peace of the city - Endeavor to promote, as far as you can, the prosperity of the places in which ye sojourn. Let no disaffection appear in word or act. Nothing can be more reasonable than this. Wherever a man lives and has his nourishment and support, that is his country as long as he resides in it. If things go well with that country, his interest is promoted by the general prosperity, he lives at comparative ease, and has the necessaries of life cheaper; and unless he is in a state of cruel servitude, which does not appear to have been the case with those Israelites to whom the prophet writes, (those of the first captivity), they must be nearly, if not altogether, in as good a state as if they had been in the country that gave them birth. And in this case they were much better off than their brethren now in Judea, who had to contend with famine and war, and scarcely any thing before them but God’s curse and extermination. 29
  30. 30. GILL, "And seek the peace of the city,.... The prosperity and happiness of Babylon, or any other city in Chaldea, were they were placed: this they were to do by prayer and supplication to God, and by all other means that might be any ways conducive to the good of the state where they were: whither I have caused you to be carried away captives; and as long as they continued so; for being under the protection of the magistrates of it, though Heathens, they owed them submission, and were under obligation to contribute to their peace and welfare: and pray unto the Lord for it; the city, where they dwelt; for the continuance, safety, peace, and prosperity of it; and therefore much more ought the natives of a place to seek and pray for its good, and do all that in them lies to promote it; and still more should the saints and people of God pray for the peace of Jerusalem, or the church of God, where they are born, and brought up in a spiritual sense; see 1Ti_2:1; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace; which is an argument taken from self-interest; intimating, that while the city in which they were was in safety and prosperity, was in a flourishing condition, as to its health and trade, they would partake more or less with them of the same advantages; and on the other hand, should they be distressed with the sword, famine, or pestilence, or any grievous calamity, they would be involved in the same. HENRY, "He directs them to seek the good of the country where they were captives (Jer_29:7), to pray for it, to endeavour to promote it. This forbids them to attempt any thing against the public peace while they were subjects to the king of Babylon. Though he was a heathen, an idolater, an oppressor, and an enemy to God and his church, yet, while he gave them protection, they must pay him allegiance, and live quiet and peaceable lives under him, in all godliness and honesty, not plotting to shake off his yoke, but patiently leaving it to God in due time to work deliverance for them. Nay, they must pray to God for the peace of the places where they were, that they might oblige them to continue their kindness to them and disprove the character that had been given their nation, that they were hurtful to kings and provinces, and moved sedition, Ezr_ 4:15. Both the wisdom of the serpent and the innocency of the dove required them to be true to the government they lived under: For in the peace thereof you shall have peace; should the country be embroiled in war, they would have the greatest share in the calamitous effects of it. Thus the primitive Christians, according to the temper of their holy religion, prayed for the powers that were, though they were persecuting powers. And, if they were to pray for and seek the peace of the land of their captivity, much more reason have we to pray for the welfare of the land of our nativity, where we are a free people under a good government, that in the peace thereof we and ours may have peace. Every passenger is concerned in the safety of the ship. JAMISON, "(Ezr_6:10; Rom_13:1; 1Ti_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 (Jer_51:35; Psa_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 30
  31. 31. away the comfort we may have, because we have not all we would have. There is here a foretaste of gospel love towards enemies (Mat_5:44). CALVIN, "Jeremiah goes still farther, even that the Jews had been led to Babylon, on the condition of rendering willing obedience to the authority of King Nebuchadnezzar, and of testifying this by their prayers. He not only bids them patiently to endure the punishment laid on them, but also to be faithful subjects of their conqueror; he not only forbids them to be seditious, but he would have them to obey from the heart, so that God might be a witness of their willing subjection and obedience. He says, Seek the peace of the city; this may be understood of prayers; for ‫דרש‬ , daresh, often means to pray: but it may suitably be taken here, as I think, in reference to the conduct of the people, as though he had said, that the Jews were to do what they could, to exert themselves to the utmost, so that no harm might happen to the Chaldean monarchy; for they are afterwards directed to pray It may indeed be, that the same thing is repeated in other words; but if any one weighs the subject more fully, he will, I think, assent to what I have stated, that in the first clause the Prophet bids them to be faithful to King Nebuchadnezzar and to his monarchy. Seek, then, the peace of the city: (208) by peace, as it is well known, is to be understood prosperity. But he was not satisfied with external efforts, but he would have them to pray to God, that all things might turn out prosperously and happily to the Babylonian king, even to the end of their exile; for we must bear in mind that the Prophet had ever that time in view. We hence learn that he exhorted the exiles to bear the yoke of the king of Babylon, during the time allotted to the captivity, for to attempt anything rashly was to fight against God, and that he thus far commanded them quietly to bear that tyrannical government. He repeats again what he had said, (though I had passed it by,) that they had been carried away captives: for he had spoken of it, “all the captivity which,” he says, “I made to migrate,” or removed, or led captive, “from Jerusalem.” Now, again, he repeats the same thing, that he had carried them away captives, ‫הגליתי‬ ‫אשו‬ , asher egeliti; (209) and he said this, that they might not regard only the avarice, or the ambition, or the pride of King Nebuchadnezzar, but that they might raise up their eyes to heaven, and acknowledge Nebuchadnezzar as the scourge of God, and their exile as a chastisement for their sins. God thus testified that he was the author of their exile, that the Jews might not think that they had to do with a mortal man, but on the contrary, understand that they were kicking against the goad, if they murmured and complained, because they lived under the tyranny of a foreign king. That they might not then be agitated with vain thoughts, God comes forth and says, that the exile was imposed on them by his just judgment, in order that they might know that they would gain nothing by their perverseness, and that they might not be 31
  32. 32. disturbed by an anxious disquietude, nor dare to attempt anything new, for this would be to resist God, and as it were to carry on war with heaven. I will finish here. PETT, "Jeremiah 29:7 “And seek the peace of the city to which I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to YHWH for it, for in its peace you will have peace.” And they were also to pray to YHWH for the peace and well-being of Babylon, so that thereby they too would enjoy peace. This remarkable command, unparalleled elsewhere in the Old Testament, demonstrated quite clearly that His favour and blessing were not to be seen as tied to ‘the promised land’. The hunger for them to return would not be His, but theirs. He was content for them to worship Him in Babylonia and to pray for peace and wellbeing for Babylon. It was also a reminder that their presence there was His doing and His will. It was He, not Nebuchadnezzar, Who had ‘caused you to be carried away captive’. They should therefore not rebel against His will, but rather pray along with it. He wanted them ‘in whatever state they were, to be content’. They would remain there until they had learned their lesson, and until their idolatrous attitudes had been purged from them. (Many would continue in idolatry. For them there would be no return). BI, "Seek the peace of the city. The best Christians the best citizens 1. They know that the prosperity of the whole is their own prosperity. They o not, therefore, selfishly seek their own advantage. 2. They actually labour with all diligence for the furtherance of the common good. 3. They employ for this end the power of Christian prayer. (Naegelsbach.) The duties of Christians to their country I. What are the things absolutely necessary to the security and prosperity, the true glory and happiness, of our country? 1. The true honour of a nation, like that of the individual, lies in character. 2. The security and prosperity of our nation are inseparably associated with the advancement of religion among the people. II. What are the best means for securing those things which are essential to our country’s highest welfare? 1. General diffusion of education. “Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” 2. Equally essential that the people be virtuous. Knowledge is power, but 32
  33. 33. unsanctified power is power for evil. 3. The general distribution of the Bible—the great instrument for enlightening the conscience and purifying the heart. 4. Preaching the Gospel Our nature is a wreck, a chaos, which the Cross of Christ alone can adjust. 5. Prayer (2Ch_7:13-14; Psa_106:23; Exo_32:10). III. What arguments may enforce the duties of personal and combined activity in seeking the highest good of our land? 1. Because our own individual good is intimately connected with its general happiness and prosperity. “For in the peace thereof ye shall have peace.” 2. We shall thereby recommend the religion we profess. 3. The work of supplying our land with the preached Gospel, and with religious institutions, is the most important work to which Christians can devote their energies. (Samuel Baker, D. D.) The civil obligations of Christian people When a man becomes a Christian does he cease to be a member of civil society? Allowing that he be not the owner of the ship, but only a passenger in it, has he nothing to awaken his concern in the voyage? If he be only a traveller towards a better country, is he to be told that because he is at an inn which he is soon to leave, it should not excite any emotion in him, whether it be invaded by robbers, or consumed by flames before the morning? “In the peace thereof ye shall have peace.” Is not religion variously affected by public transactions? Can a Christian, for instance, be indifferent to the cause of freedom, even on a pious principle? Does not civil liberty necessarily include religious, and is it not necessary to the spreading of the Gospel? (W. Jay.) 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 33
  34. 34. BARNES, "Your prophets and your diviners - The evils from which the people had suffered so cruelly at home followed them in their exile. Dreams which ye cause to be dreamed - As long as there was a market for dreams, so long there would be plenty of impostors to supply them. CLARKE, "Neither hearken to your dreams - Rather, dreamers; for it appears there was a class of such persons, who not only had acquired a facility of dreaming themselves, but who undertook to interpret the dreams of others. GILL, "For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,.... See Gill on Jer_ 29:4; let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you; their false prophets, as the Targum; and there were many such in the captivity; see Eze_13:2; and such who pretended to divine and foretell future things, and so impose upon the people, who were too apt to believe them; these insinuated, that in a little time they should have their liberty, and return to their own land again, contrary to the prophecies that came from the Lord himself: neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed; for that of a speedy return to their own land was no other than a dream, which they both dreamed themselves; their thoughts running on it in the daytime, they dreamed of it at night; and fancied it was from the Lord; a divine dream; and so built much upon it; and also which they encouraged the false prophets and diviners to dream, and tell their dreams, by their listening to them, and being pleased with them, giving credit to them as if they came from God. HENRY 8-14, "To make the people quiet and easy in their captivity, I. God takes them off from building upon the false foundation which their pretended prophets laid, Jer_29:8, Jer_29:9. They told them that their captivity should be short, and therefore that they must not think of taking root in Babylon, but be upon the wing to go back: “Now herein they deceive you,” says God; “they prophesy a lie to you, though they prophesy in my name. But let them not deceive you, suffer not yourselves to be deluded by them.” As long as we have the word of truth to try the spirits by it is our own fault if we be deceived; for by it we may be undeceived. Hearken not to your dreams, which you cause to be dreamed. He means either the dreams or fancies which the people pleased themselves with, and with which they filled their own heads (by thinking and speaking of nothing else but a speedy enlargement when they were awake they caused themselves to dream of it when they were asleep, and then took that for a good omen, and with it strengthened themselves in their vain expectations), or the dreams which the prophets dreamed and grounded their prophecies upon. God tells the people, They are your dreams, because they pleased them, were the dreams that they desired 34
  35. 35. and wished for. They caused them to be dreamed; for they hearkened to them, and encouraged the prophets to put such deceits upon them, desiring them to prophesy nothing but smooth things, Isa_30:10. They were dreams of their own bespeaking. False prophets would not flatter people in their sins, but that they love to be flattered, and speak smoothly to their prophets that their prophets may speak smoothly to them. II. He gives them a good foundation to build their hopes upon. We would not persuade people to pull down the house they have built upon the sand, but that there is a rock ready for them to rebuild upon. God here promises them that, though they should not return quickly, they should return at length, after seventy years be accomplished. By this it appears that the seventy years of the captivity are not to be reckoned from the last captivity, but the first. Note, Though the deliverance of the church do not come in our time, it is sufficient that it will come in God's time, and we are sure that that is the best time. The promise is that God will visit them in mercy; though he had long seemed to be strange to them, he will come among them, and appear for them, and put honour upon them, as great men do upon their inferiors by coming to visit them. He will put an end to their captivity, and turn away all the calamities of it. Though they are dispersed, some in one country and some in another, he will gather them from all the places whither they are driven, will set up a standard for them all to resort to, and incorporate them again in one body. And though they are at a great distance they shall be brought again to their own land, to the place whence they were carried captive, Jer_29:14. Now, 1. This shall be the performance of God's promise to them (Jer_29:10): I will perform my good word towards you. Let not the failing of those predictions which are delivered as from God lessen the reputation of those that really are from him. That which is indeed God's word is a good word, and therefore it will be made good, and not one iota or tittle of it shall fall to the ground. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? This will make their return out of captivity very comfortable, that it will be the performance of God's good word to them, the product of a gracious promise. 2. This shall be in pursuance of God's purposes concerning them (Jer_29:11): I know the thoughts that I think towards you. Known unto God are all his works, for known unto him are all his thoughts (Act_15:18) and his works agree exactly with his thoughts; he does all according to the counsel of his will. We often do not know our own thoughts, nor know our own mind, but God is never at any uncertainty within himself. We are sometimes ready to fear that God's designs concerning us are all against us; but he knows the contrary concerning his own people, that they are thoughts of good and not of evil; even that which seems evil is designed for good. His thoughts are all working towards the expected end, which he will give in due time. The end they expect will come, though perhaps not when they expect it. Let them have patience till the fruit is ripe, and then they shall have it. He will give them an end, and expectation, so it is in the original. (1.) He will give them to see the end (the comfortable termination) of their trouble; though it last long, it shall not last always. The time to favour Zion, yea, the set time, will come. When things are at the worst they will begin to mend; and he will give them to see the glorious perfection of their deliverance; for, as for God, his work is perfect. He that in the beginning finished the heavens and the earth, and all the hosts of both, will finish all the blessings of both to his people. When he begins in ways of mercy he will make an end. God does nothing by halves. (2.) He will give them to see the expectation, that end which they desire and hope for, and have been long waiting for. He will give them, not the expectations of their fears, nor the expectations of their fancies, but the expectations of their faith, the end which he has promised and which will turn for the best to them. 3. This shall be in answer to their prayers and supplications to God, Jer_29:12-14. (1.) God will stir them up to pray: Then 35