JEREMIAH CHAPTER 29
Jeremiah’s letter to the captives in Babylon, to be quiet there, Jeremiah 29:1-7: not to believe false prophets; nor expect to return till after seventy years, Jeremiah 29:8-14. The destruction of those who remained in Judah for their disobedience, Jeremiah 29:15-19. The fearful end of two lying prophets, Jeremiah 29:20-23. Shemaiah’s letter against Jeremiah, Jeremiah 29:24-29, who readeth his doom, Jeremiah 29:30-32.
There were two carryings into the captivity of Babylon, the latter about eleven or twelve years after the former; the first was in the time of Jehoiachin, of which we read in 2 Kings 24:14, when the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths, were carried away, as we read there, amongst whom were some priests and prophets.
After this captivity.
Zedekiah the king of Judah having some occasion to send two messengers, named Elasah and Gemariah, to Babylon, whether to carry his tribute money or upon what other errand is not expressed; Jeremiah, knowing that as there were some false prophets at Jerusalem, who fed people with hopes of a speedy return, so there were some with them in Babylon who did the like, (two of which he afterwards in this chapter reflecteth upon,) writeth the following letter, and sends it by these two messengers, to quiet the people’s minds, and to help to compose their spirits, disturbed by these false prophets, and raised up to vain and idle hopes, for which there was no ground at all.
So as this letter was not wrote from himself, advising them charitably, but he had commission from God, by whom he mindeth them, as the principal efficient cause they were ordered to be carried away by, though their own sins were the meritorious cause, and Nebuchadnezzar with his captains and soldiers where the instrumental cause.
That is, Be not uneasy in your minds, not resolving what to do, through the prophecies of the false prophets, that tell you the captivity shall be but two years, or at least very short; but do all things which you would do if Babylon were to be your fixed habitation (as it is like to be for seventy years, say the prophets what they please); marry, and give and take in marriage, do whatsoever it becometh prudent men to do, who would accommodate themselves in a place where they are like to abide, and preserve their families, that they might not be utterly extinguished. The words must not be understood as a precept, obliging all in the captivity to do every of these things, which it may be they were not able all to do, but as a counsel and advice not to forbear any thing of this nature, which they would do, if they did fully believe they were to abide in a place seventy years.
That is, Seek to God for it, or rather live peaceably in it, and by all lawful means seek the welfare of it; do not raise any tumults or seditions, nor take part with those that do. And while your captivity lasts do you pray for it; (from whence those who think that Christ hath added new moral precepts, and reckon this precept of praying for enemies as one, may understand that praying for enemies was but a branch of that love to our neighbour which God required under the Old Testament;) for it was lawful for them to pray against Babylon at other times, Psalms 137:8 Jeremiah 51:35; but when God hath put a yoke upon our necks, we must patiently wait until he takes it off. The lawyers say that protection requireth allegiance to governors. This text lets us know also that it requireth our prayers for them, though they be conquerors and tyrants.
For in the peace thereof shall ye have peace; for God having by his providence cast us under their power, our peace dependeth upon theirs.
The Lord knows that you have a company of false prophets that tell you other things, and promise you a sudden return out of your captivity, pretending to know it by revelation from God, or by divination, &c., or to have it discovered to them in dreams. It is the will of God that you should not hearken to them, for they do but deceive you, and ye are accessory to your own ruin; they see you are pleased to hear such stories, and that causeth them to dream, as Jeremiah 5:31, The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and my people love to have it so. Thus, Isaiah 30:10, they said to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not to us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits. False teachers and guides of people’s souls are the greatest plague can befall a nation, people from them expecting to hear the mind of God, and for the most part people are accessory to their own ruin in them. It can indeed hardly be imagined what other temptation persons whose office it is to reveal the mind of God should have to do otherwise, but the humouring and pleasing of a corrupt people, who through their fondness of their lusts are not patient of sound doctrine; so as though the church of God hath in all ages been troubled with dreamers, yet it is a wicked people that causeth them to dream.
From this text appears that the seventy years’ captivity was to be accounted from the first carrying into captivity in the time of Jehoiachin, so that eleven years of it were elapsed before Zedekiah was carried away. Whatever, saith the prophet, these dreamers tell you, you must abide seventy years in Babylon, accounted from your first going thither; it is therefore your wisdom to acquiesce in the will of God, and to compose yourselves; and, to encourage you, the Lord by me assureth you, that after those seventy years shall be expired, as he hath now visited you with evil, so he will visit you for good, and fulfill the promise he hath made to you, and you shall return again to Jerusalem. We have the fulfilling of this recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:21,22 Ezr 1:1. The promise was before, Jeremiah 25:12 27:22. Daniel understood it from the words of this prophecy, Daniel 9:2, which put him upon prayer at the expiration of that time.
This deliverance will not depend upon your merits, but upon my own mercy and kind thoughts and purposes. I have for the seed of Abraham my servant, and I am resolved in my own thoughts what to do; I intend not the blotting out of the name of Israel from the earth, but to give such an end to their trouble as themselves expect and desire, though not so soon as they may expect it, being deceived by their prophets. There shall be an end of your captivity in my time, and that is after you shall have fulfilled seventy years in that captivity.
I will not only give you a temporal salvation and deliverance, and bring you into your own land, but you shall go thither with new hearts; you shall worship idols no more, but you shall worship me, and be serious and diligent in your addresses and applications to me, and I will listen to you in those applications.
That is, sincerely, as Psalms 119:2.
This verse containeth no more than was said before, only it is repeated in a little different phrase, for the further confirmation of their faith, and the promise is a little enlarged. God saith he will be found of them, that is, he will answer them. It is expressed in this nation to correspond with the term seeking, by which prayer is expressed, and to let us know that those that will have God’s favour must find it; which implieth a seeking and inquiry after it. The promise, which before mentioned only their return from Babylon, is enlarged, and made here to extend to all places whither they were driven; for though the body of the people were carried to Babylon, yet it is more than probable that many of them shifted for themselves into other countries, and were in exile, but not in captivity. Cyrus’s proclamation, 2 Chronicles 36:22,23, extended to his whole empire.
The prophet here turneth his speech to some wicked Jews that were in Babylon, or in Judea, and more believed some false prophets, who told them of a much quicker return, than Jeremiah telling them the truth from the mouth of God,
know is, as some think, needlessly supplied, for the following particle might be as well translated for, or because, or therefore. By the king he meaneth Zedekiah, whom he chooseth to express under the notion of him
that sitteth upon the throne of David, to take away the vain hopes which the Jews conceived from the promises which God had made to David, and to his seed.
These verses contain no more than the threatening which we have had more than once before. He had compared them to vile figs, Jeremiah 24:8,9,10 there threatened them with being made a reproach, a proverb, a taunt, and a curse; and consuming them with the sword, famine, and pestilence: the same thing before delivered by word of mouth to those in Judea, is here repeated in a letter to that part of the Jews in Babylon, to take them off from giving credit to their false prophets, whether in Judea or in Babylon, who deluded them with the promises of a speedy return. Believe it, (saith the prophet,) you shall be so far from returning, whatever your idle prophets tell you, that your brethren that are here shall be brought to you, or destroyed with the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, or scattered into other kingdoms, where they shall be made
a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach.
A contempt of the word of the Lord was the cause of this people’s ruin, and will be the cause of ruin to any people. See Jeremiah 7:26 11:7,8 17:23. Lest they should say that they only disobeyed the prophets, God mindeth them that in not hearkening to them they did not hearken to him. The same thing Christ saith of the gospel ministers, Luke 10:16. The not believing, or not obeying, what ministers teach not in a due discharge of their office of revealing the will of God, is no contempt of God, but of them, who for that cause deserve to be contemned; but supposing that what ministers deliver be the mind and will of God revealed in holy writ, and but a true explication and application of that, not to hearken to God and not to hearken to them is the same thing.
Ye would not hear, saith the Lord; ye wilfully refused to believe them, speaking the truth to you in my name, and to obey those monitions they gave you by my direction. All this was a not hearing God.
Those phrases, I have sent,
and I have driven, &c., are diligently to be observed by us. There is no evil in cities or nations which is an evil of punishment, but, whoever be the instruments to bring it, God is the author of it. These phrases also signified to those Jews that God was likeliest to know best how long they should stay there, because he sent them thither.
Of these two persons we read no more in holy writ: that they pretended to be prophets, that they abused the name of God, pretending to reveal his will, wheras what they said was not the will of God, but a falsehood, we learn out of this verse; and that they were both of them burnt by the king of Babylon we find in Jeremiah 29:22. What the falsehoods they published were is not expressed, but it is most probable they were some of those that pretended that God had revealed to them, that within two years, or a short time, the captives carried away with Jehoiakim should return out of Babylon. God here tells those that were of the captivity, that those two wretches should themselves be slain by the king of Babylon.
As false teachers are of the highest sort of transgressors, speaking lies in the name and under pretence of the authority of the God of truth; so God in his providence ordinarily makes them the greatest examples of his vengeance. God threateneth to bring them to an end that should turn into a proverb, that when men had a mind to curse others, wishing them the greatest evils, they should pray to God to make them like Ahab and Zedekiah, whom the king of Babylon burnt, or roasted in the fire; the word Mlq signifieth both, Leviticus 2:14; and roasting signifieth only to burn by degrees, which probably was the specifical punishment of these two false prophets, for we learn from the instance of the three children, Daniel 3:19, that the consuming of persons slowly in a fiery furnace was a kind of punishment in use amongst the Chaldeans.
The reason here given must not be understood as the reason of the king of Babylon’s punishment of them, but why God gave them up into his hands, because they had committed villany or folly in Israel; which is expounded by the next words, they had
committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives. All sin is folly, and so called in Scripture, uncleanness particularly, Genesis 34:7; here it is called villany, to denote the heinousness of it, especially in those whose office it was to teach others that they ought not to do it, Romans 2:22. Falsehood in discharge of a trust is ordinarily attended with debauchery of life, nor indeed can it be reasonably imagined that those who, to humour men, have debauched their consciences, and declared things as the will of God, which they know are not so, should be more true and honest in their conversation towards men. The second crime of these false prophets was, what gave them their denomination, teaching people what God never bid them speak. Now this, saith the Lord,
I know, and am a witness to; their adulteries are in secret, but I am a witness to them; the poor people do not know that they teach them lies, but I know it. God will deal with men not according to what men like themselves know of them, and can prove against them, but according to what he knows and can witness against them.
We have no guidance from any other scripture to teach us who this
Shemaiah was, but it is very probable that he was one of those who at this time were in the captivity of Babylon, and so came to the knowledge of Jeremiah’s letter, mentioned in the beginning of the chapter, and wrote what followeth to Zephaniah, the son of Masseiah the priest, and the rest of the priests, to have Jeremiah punished; but why he is called the
Nehelamite is not so evident, for that the word is derived from Mlwx a dreamer, is not very probable; we read of no such place in Judea as Nehelain or Halem, but we cannot imagine that the names of all the towns in Judah are to be found in Scripture: he is thrice in this chapter called the Nehelamite; so as it is probable that there was such a place as Nehelam, from whence he was.
Priest, that is, high priest, as some have thought; but it appears from 2 Kings 25:18, that Seraiah was at this time the high priest, and this Zephaniah was the second priest, as he is there styled, as also Jeremiah 52:24; nor must any think that the Jehoiada here meant was the immediate predecessor of Zephaniah, for besides that Jehoiada was high priest, which Zephaniah never was, there were near two hundred years betwixt the death of Jehoiada and this time; in the stead therefore here signifieth, that thou shouldst be like the good high priest Jehoiada; unless some other Jehoiada was meant, who was turned out, and this Zephaniah put in his room.
That ye should be officers in the house of the Lord, for every man that is mad; that thou mightest have a care of religion, and particularly take care of persons who being mad or phrenetic make themselves prophets. The priests had a power to restrain such persons by imprisoning them, or putting them in the stocks, by which most agree a particular punishment is expressed, but for the nature and way of it is not determined. Those who in so uncertain a thing have a mind to read what hath been said, may find it both in Mr. Pool’s Synopsis Criticorum, and the English Annotations upon this verse, but the learned author of them reciting what authors have said, concludes it at last not with any certainty to be determined.
He means it of an active, real reproof, as appears by what went before; he would have had Jeremiah imprisoned, or put to that punishment which they called the stocks, the nature of which we cannot determine, concluding him to be but a madman, and one who was not made a prophet by any immediate mission from God, but had only made himself a prophet.
The matter of fact was true, as appeared Jeremiah 29:5,6, but it was false that this was the effect of phrensy, or that he spake this of his own head without commission from God; for he wrote nothing of this nature but by order from God, as appeareth from Jeremiah 29:4, where he began his letter with, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel.
It is uncertain whether Zephaniah did this out of kindness to Jeremiah, for we read he was sent to Jeremiah upon messages, Jeremiah 21:1 37:3, from the king, or because he would not apprehend him before he heard him, and let him know that he did nothing against him but upon information, &c.
This is the great mischief of false teachers, they are the causes of people’s trusting in lies; and from hence the sins of false prophets are ordinarily aggravated.
I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: punishments of this life ordinarily are extended to the children of sinful parents, for the parents’ sake, who are punished in their children, being res parentum, a considerable part of their parents’ goods and portion. He shall not have a man to dwell among this people; he and his whole posterity shall be rooted out;
neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people; and neither he nor they shall live to the time of my people’s return from the captivity of Babylon.
Because he hath taught rebellion against the Lord; because by the falsehoods which he hath taught he hath been an instrument to make people disobey the commands of God. We had the same clause Jeremiah 28:16, and such a kind of threatening we find Amos 7:17, denounced by that prophet against Amaziah the priest of Beth-el, forbidding him to prophesy at Beth-el, because it was the king’s court and chapel. To obstruct the revelation of God’s will to people, or to publish what is contrary to it, to seduce people from believing it, or yielding obedience, are both crimes that have been and will be of fatal consequence to them and their families who are so hardy as to incur the guilt of them.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 29". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26