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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 34

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-22

IX

THE PROPHECIES OF JEREMIAH IN THE REIGN OF ZEDEKIAH

Jeremiah 21; 24, 27-29; 34; 37-39

We have here the prophecies of Jeremiah, during the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of the Jewish people. These prophecies are to be found as indicated at the head of this chapter. They are not all the prophecies that Jeremiah uttered or that were written during this reign, but they are the prophecies that he uttered relative to that period and bearing upon the events of that reign. During Zedekiah’s reign he also wrote the messianic prophecy that we shall discuss in the next chapter.


When Jehoiakim burned the roll of his prophecies, he commanded his officers to go and take Jeremiah and Baruch. The Lord hid them or they would have lost their lives as Uriah had. Jeremiah and Baruch remained in hiding during the remainder of Jehoiakim’s wicked reign, four or five years. The latter part of this reign, as given in our books of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, was a troublous time. Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. That king stirred up bands of the Moabites and the Edomites to come and trouble his kingdom. His cities were besieged and he himself was slain and his body cast forth as refuse outside the walls of the city. His son, Jehoiachin, succeeded him to the throne. Jehoiachin was quite young, some authorities say eight years, other authorities, eighteen years of age. His mother reigned with him, and was probably the power behind the throne. Jehoiachin continued the rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, and the result was that in a little over three months, that great king buried his hosts against Jerusalem and besieged the holy city. Jehoiachin, acting on good and wise advice, surrendered the city, and so he himself with his queen mother and the royal family were deported. Nebuchadnezzar, convinced that he was not a safe man to have upon the throne, had him and his royal family taken to Babylon and confined there. On the succession of "Evil Merodac" to the throne he was given a certain amount of liberty.


About 597 B.C. something over 7,000 of the best blood of Jerusalem, including the princes, the nobles, and the elders, with their wives, their slaves, and the most valuable and choice vessels of the Temple were carried away to Babylon. Ezekiel was carried away with them and began his prophecy in the fifth year of this captivity.


We can readily see that the removal of 7,000 of the best people from Jerusalem, such a thinning of the people, would give an opportunity to the many that were left. These nobles, princes, and elders, who were left in Jerusalem, were congratulating themselves that they were much better than those unfortunates who were carried off into exile. Such a conclusion would be perfectly natural. They were saying, "Those who had to go away and suffer such hardships are bad and so are suffering for their sins. We are left here in peace and so the Lord is with us." That resulted in pride, and was a very foolish state of mind for this people. Jeremiah knows that destruction is awaiting them, if they continue in their ways of wickedness.


The theme of Jeremiah 24 is Jeremiah’s comparison between those in exile and those left behind. Note the following points:


1. The vision (Jeremiah 24:1-3). Jeremiah is shown in a vision two baskets of figs, set before the Temple of the Lord. He goes on to explain the occasion and the time when this occurred. The description is found in verse Jeremiah 24:2: "One basket of very good figs, like the figs that are first ripe; and the other basket had very bad figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad." Jeremiah 24:3 continues the description, as given to Jehovah by the prophet.


2. The fate of the good figs (Jeremiah 24:4-7). "Like these good figs so will I regard the captives of Judah." Those in exile are the ones referred to, and so he says he will take care of them: "I will bring them again into this land: I will set mine eyes upon them for good."


3. The fate of the bad figs (Jeremiah 24:8-10). These bad figs were the people living in Jerusalem, those who were puffed up, regarding themselves better than others because they were so fortunate as to escape deportation. "These bad figs are so bad that they cannot be eaten. So will I give up Zedekiah and the kings of Judah, and his princes and the residue of Jerusalem and those that remain in this land and them that dwell in the land of Egypt. I will even give them up to be tossed to and fro among all the kingdoms of the earth for evil; to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse in all the places whither I shall drive them."


Naturally the effect of that kind of preaching upon the people of Jerusalem was not very gratifying. Jeremiah did not make friends very fast by that kind of comparison and application. But he was a true prophet. He preached God’s truth, whether welcome or not.


The theme of Jeremiah’s 27-29 is Jeremiah’s exhortation to submit to the yoke of Babylon. This prophecy occurred during the first or second year of the reign of Zedekiah, who had been put upon the throne by Nebuchadnezzar as his vassal. The date is about 596 B.C., certainly within two years after the exile under Jehoiachin. There was a movement among the various small nations surrounding Judah, a sort of revival of their political interests. The kings and the princes of these sections had conceived the idea that they could league together and revolt against Babylon. The kings of these various nations had sent their ambassadors to Zedekiah at Jerusalem to form a league, or a conspiracy, by which they could throw off the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah was but a weakling, a mere tool in the hands of his chief princes. He had a certain reverence for Jeremiah and therefore he consulted him about it. But he feared the princes. He wanted to do right, but being a weak king, he was led to ruin and destruction by bad advice. He was afraid of Jeremiah, afraid of Nebuchadnezzar, afraid of his princes, and afraid of the prophets. To such a man all these nations came for consultation. They held their convention in Jerusalem, and to such a conference Jeremiah came as adviser. He advised that they all submit to Babylon.


Now, in Jeremiah 27:1 there is an interpretation. It says, "In the reign of Jehoiachin," and it should be, "The reign of Zedekiah." Compare Jeremiah 27:12. Somehow that mistake has crept into the text. Jeremiah is commanded to make a yoke. He sets the yoke upon the heads of these ambassadors as a symbol. It is something like his symbolic action with the girdle. He puts the yoke on the heads of these envoys of Moab, Tyre, and the rest; also Zedekiah, the king of Judah, and gives his message. It is in verse Jeremiah 27:6: "And now have I given all these lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, my servant. The beasts of the field I have given him also." Verse Jeremiah 27:7: "And all the nations shall serve him and his sons’ sons till the time of his own land come." Then destruction shall come upon him: Verse Jeremiah 27:8: "And it shall come to pass that the nation and the kingdom that shall not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith Jehovah, with the sword and with famine and with pestilence till I have consumed them by his hand." Then he throws out this warning: Don’t listen to the preaching of your prophets for they are false. They have not the word of God. Listen to me and submit. No better advice was ever given to a king. Jeremiah was a man who had divine wisdom and gave advice that would have saved the people. He was called to be the savior of his country, and to be the prophet of the nations, the nations mentioned here. He would have saved them all, if they had listened to him.


We have some specific advice of the prophet to Zedekiah, the king, in Jeremiah 27:12-15. Notice what he says: "And I spake to Zedekiah, the king of Judah, according to all these words, saying, bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him and his people and live." But this advice to Zedekiah was to a weakling. He was respectful to the prophet, but afraid of his princes.


In Jeremiah 27:16 he says, "I spake to the priests and the people, saying, Thus [He warns them against these false prophets, which had doubtless been inciting this revolt among the nations by prophesying that they could succeed.] . . . Serve the king of Babylon and live." These prophets are prophesying a lie unto you. Why should this land become a desolation? These prophets had been preaching to the people that this exile would soon be over; that they would soon bring back the beautiful vessels of the Temple. This was fine talk to the people, for they wanted those vessels back. That suited the people fine, and the prophets knew it, so they just preached what the people wanted. These vessels will not come back. Just wait a little while and see if their prophecies come true. Thus saith the Lord concerning you: You shall be carried to Babylon and you shall be there until the day that I visit that land. Not only are these vessels not coming back, but you are going into exile also. Now, that was not a popular kind of talk, but it was divine wisdom.


A conflict with Hananiah, the false prophet, is described in Jeremiah 28. Here was a strange incident. We have a conflict between two men, able men, influential men, men of high position and rank; one a false prophet, the other a true prophet. Externally both are good men. Hananiah was the son of a prophet, of the priestly line. Doubtless this Hananiah had been hired by the enemies of Jeremiah to counteract his influence with the people. They hired this man to make the people believe that these vessels would come back. So Hananiah comes forward. He stands in the gate of the Temple and thus addresses the people: "Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon; within two full years I will bring into this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, took away from this place. I will bring back Jehoiachin and the royal family within two years and everything will be restored within that two years."


Now, that was delightful preaching. That was just what the people wanted. But there was Jeremiah and he had to be reckoned with. Hananiah had all the marks of truth in him. Jeremiah seems to have wavered. He treats this man with all the courtesy of a gentleman. He stands there and listens to his message. He stood with the people that stood in the house of the Lord. When Hananiah had finished he said: "Amen: the Lord do so; may it be as you have said." Jeremiah would have been glad if it had been true. He was patriotic and loyal. Nothing would have rejoiced him more than for this to have happened. "Oh, that it might be so!"


But in Jeremiah 28:7-8 he says, "Nevertheless hear thou this that I speak unto thee. The prophets that spake in the olden time prophesied against many countries and against many kingdoms." What did he mean by that? That the prophets who were true prophets prophesied destruction; that the punishment was coming. He means to say that the criterion by which one could determine a true prophet was that he prophesied evil. Now this man Hananiah was a false optimist. The true prophet sees the evil as well as the good. So by that process of reasoning he proved that Hananiah was a false prophet. He prophesied only good, hence he could not be a true prophet. I have prophesied evil and therefore I am in line with the tried and true prophets. How did the people like that?


We may well suppose that the majority of them did not like it. When Hananiah saw that the tide was coming his way, that the people were with him, he seized the yoke that Jeremiah was wearing before the people and smashed it to pieces. This is what he says: "Even so will I break the yoke of the king of Babylon before two full years end." That was a bold stroke. Jeremiah was silenced for the time. But he did not give it up entirely; he went his way and talked to Jehovah about it. God gave him his answer. In Jeremiah 28:13 we have it: "Go, tell Hananiah, saying, Thus saith Jehovah: Thou hast broken the bars of wood; but thou hast made in their stead bars of iron." This kingdom shall be suddenly destroyed, as for Hananiah the Lord said, "Thou makest this people to trust in a lie. . . Behold, I will send thee away from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast spoken rebellion against Jehovah." And Hananiah died the same year in the seventh month, two months after this incident.


An account of a letter of Jeremiah to the exiles is found in Jeremiah 29. Zedekiah was the vassal of Nebuchadnezzar and in order to assure him that he was true he sent two messengers to him. Their names are given in Jeremiah 29:3. These two messengers took letters from Zedekiah to the king in Babylon. Jeremiah took occasion to send a letter by these messengers to the exiles in Babylon. False prophets were over there, too.


They had been predicting that they would soon return to their own land. So Jeremiah sent them a letter, the substance of which is to be found from Jeremiah 29:4 on to the end of the chapter. This we will discuss briefly. He advised the people to settle down, to marry, to be true to the king of Babylon and after seventy years, that is, about two generations, God’s will concerning the king of Babylon would be accomplished, and then they should return to their own place. In Jeremiah 29:13 we have a beautiful statement: "Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." In Jeremiah 29:21-22 we have this statement regarding two false prophets in Babylon, Ahab and Zedekiah, who were prophesying the destruction of Babylon and the immediate return. Word of this comes to the ears of Nebuchadnezzar. That king was not a man to be trifled with. Here were two exiles stirring up an insurrection in his realm. Jeremiah says, "He roasted them in the fire." He tried to do the same thing with the three Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It was not an uncommon thing for a man to burn people to death then. That was the fate of these two false prophets.


But we come to another incident in Jeremiah 29:24. There was one Shemaiah who sent letters from Babylon to the princes and guardians of the Temple about Jeremiah, and said that this man, this Jeremiah ought not to be at large. Verse Jeremiah 29:26: "Every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in the stocks. . . Now therefore, why hast thou not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth, who maketh himself a prophet to you, for as much as he hath sent unto us in Babylon, saying, The captivity is long," and thus and so. Then the men of the Temple read the letter to Jeremiah, and he responds, verse Jeremiah 29:32: "Behold, I will punish Shemaiah and his seed; he shall not have a man to dwell among this people, neither shall he behold the good that I will do unto my people, saith Jehovah, because he hath spoken rebellion against Jehovah."


Jeremiah’s advice to Zedekiah during the siege is given in Jeremiah 21. This chapter is very much out of chronological order. This weak king is still in the hands of his princes, who are trying to throw off the yoke of Babylon. They have been all this time expecting help from Egypt. PharaohNecho who had slain Josiah, king of Judah, had been succeeded by Pharaoh-Hophra. He had overthrown his adversaries at home and was now ready for Asia. There was an Egyptian party in Jerusalem and they soon had their plans ready for Zedekiah. They proposed to form an alliance with this Pharaoh against Nebuchadnezzar. This they did against the advice of Jeremiah. The outcome of the matter was that Nebuchadnezzar swept down upon Judah and Jerusalem to subdue them.


Zedekiah sent an anxious message to Jeremiah inquiring if there was any message from the Lord. His answer was brief. He simply told him that the Lord would not save the city as he did when Isaiah was the prophet. But he says in verse Jeremiah 21:5: "I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm even in anger and in wrath and in great indignation, and I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beasts and they shall die of great pestilence." This siege was to end in the downfall of the city. In Jeremiah 21:8 he says, "Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword and by famine and by the pestilence, but he that goeth out and falleth away to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live and his life shall be unto him for a prey."


The incidents of the siege are described in Jeremiah 34. Under the preaching of Jeremiah and the stress and strain of the siege, the people’s consciences were awakened and they gave heed to the law of Moses and made a covenant that they would liberate all the slaves according to the law of Moses, which said that when a Hebrew became a slave to another that he should be such only six years. That is recorded in the law as found in Exodus 21:2 and Deuteronomy 15:12. That law was given by Moses. They usually neglected it, but they did it now while there was pressure on them, but as soon as the pressure was removed they went back to their old ways again, Jeremiah 34:11: "But afterward, they turned and caused the servants and handmaidens, whom they had caused to go free to return and brought them into subjection for servants and handmaidens." This occurred while Pharaoh-Hophra was coming up to Jerusalem to relieve the city. Nebuchadnezzar defeated him and drove him back. When the pressure was removed their conscience grew calloused again. Jeremiah broke out in great bitterness against this, Jeremiah 34:17: "You granted liberty, then you took it back. I proclaim to you a liberty to the sword and to famine. I will make you to be a curse among the nations of the earth." In spite of all the solemnity with which you made the covenant you broke it. I will cause the Chaldeans to return to the city and make it without inhabitants.


The effect of Jeremiah’s preaching is recorded in Jeremiah 37-39. Jeremiah’s forty years and more of preaching had verily been in vain. The people would not heed. There seemed to be a fixedness in their perverseness. They evidently hardened their hearts to go after idols. There is a saying, "Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad." It was so with these people. They were mad after idolatry. The siege had now been on more than a year. It lasted eighteen months altogether, accompanied with all the horrors of a siege. These events are recorded in Jeremiah 37-39. We take them up in order:


Jeremiah 37:2: "Neither he, nor the people of the land, hearkened unto the words of the Lord." This general statement is followed by the details:


Zedekiah was a weakling. He wanted to do what Jeremiah said, and if he had been stronger he would have done so. So he sent for him and asked his advice. He says, Jeremiah 37:3: "Pray now unto the Lord our God for us." Jeremiah answered him, Jeremiah 37:7: "Behold, Pharaoh’s army that is come forth to help you shall return into their own land; the Chaldeans shall come again and fight against this city. They shall take it and burn it with fire."


At the time the siege was raised and the Chaldeans went to meet the Egyptians, many people broke out of the city. Jeremiah was one of them. He started to go to his home at Anathoth to take charge of a certain piece of property he had bought, verse Jeremiah 37:12: "Jeremiah went out of Jerusalem at the gate of Benjamin." He came in collision with the captain of the ward whose name was Irijah and he said to Jeremiah, "Thou goeth to the Chaldeans; thou art falling away to the Chaldeans." Many others were doing the same thing and nothing was said about it, but these people now had a chance to get in a blow at Jeremiah, because he had been stoutly counseling the people to surrender to the Chaldeans. Jeremiah said, "I do not fall away to the Chaldeans." Irijah did not believe him, but seized him and brought him before the princes, "and the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan, the scribe." This is the second time Jeremiah had been arrested, but the first time he was imprisoned.


The king called for Jeremiah and asked him, "Is there any word from the Lord?" "No," said Jeremiah, "The only word is this: Thou shalt be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon." Then he pleads for himself: "Cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan, the scribe, lest I perish there." Zedekiah, the king, was kindly disposed toward him. He gave him some liberty. He remained in the court of the guard six months or more, guarded by the king.


Then the princes put him in the dungeon. These princes were the real cause of the fall of Jerusalem. They hated Jeremiah. They had been treating with Egypt, and he had advised against them; his counsel had weakened many of the people in their loyalty to the plans of the princes; so they hated him, and now that they had him in their hands they wreaked their vengeance on him. Verse Jeremiah 37:4: "Then the princes said to the king, Let this man we pray thee be put to death, forasmuch as he hath weakened the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people."


That the king was a weakling is shown in verse Jeremiah 37:5: "Then Zedekiah, the king, said, Behold he is in your hands; do as you will, for the king is one that can do nothing against you." There was a certain Justification for these princes who saw only the military aspect of it. If any man had done as did Jeremiah, in connection with the siege of Richmond or Vicksburg, he would have been promptly dealt with as a traitor. So they took Jeremiah and threw him into a deep cistern, or pit. It had no water in it, but it was deep with mud and he sank down into that, and they left him thinking that would be the last of him. At last, they thought, his tongue was silenced. But he was rescued by a slave, an Ethiopian, named Ebedmelech. He felt kindly toward Jeremiah, so he went to the king and the king gave him liberty to rescue him (Jeremiah 38:7-13).


Another audience with the king is allowed Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:14-28). This is Jeremiah’s last audience with Zedekiah. Verse Jeremiah 38:17: "If thou go forth to the king of Babylon thou shalt live, and the people." He could yet save the city. Then the king told him not to tell anybody about the interview. If there had been a man on the throne, he would have saved the city. Then follows an account of the capture of the city and its destruction (Jeremiah 39:1-10). A careful reading of this passage will be sufficient.


Jeremiah was saved by the command of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. He had heard about Jeremiah and his services, how he had counseled the people to surrender, and spared his life; told them to take good care of him and let him do as he would.


The prophecy in Jeremiah 39:15-18 is concerning Ebed-melech, the slave who had saved Jeremiah’s life. It is beautiful to see how Jeremiah remembered this man. He writes down in the word of God what should be his reward, thus: "I will surely save thee, saith Jehovah."


Jerusalem is now a smoking ruin, and the people are scattered far and wide. The nobles and the princes are slain before the king, and his own sons are slaughtered before his own eyes. Zedekiah’s eyes are put out and he is carried captive to Babylon. If he had only followed the advice of Jeremiah, all would have been well. The position of a prophet in the state is supreme; it is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon any man.

QUESTIONS

1. What is the theme of this chapter of this INTERPRETATION and what the historical setting?

2. What is the theme of Jeremiah 24 and how is it presented? Explain fully.

3. What is the theme of Jeremiah 27-29 and what the general condition in Judah and the surrounding nations at this time?

4. How do you explain the name "Jehoiachim" in Jeremiah 27:1, what the symbolic action of the prophet here and what its meaning? (Jeremiah 27:1-11.)

5. What is the specific advice of the prophet to Zedekiah, the king, in Jeremiah 27:12-15?

6. What is his advice to the priests and the people and how does he meet the prophecies of the false prophets?

7. Give an account of the conflict between Hananiah and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 28).

8. Give an account of the letter of Jeremiah to the exiles (Jeremiah 29).

9. What is Jeremiah’s advice to Zedekiah during the siege? (Jeremiah 21.)

10. What are the incidents of the siege? (Jeremiah 34.)

11. What is the effect of Jeremiah’s preaching and how are the people characterized? (Jeremiah 37-39.)

12. What is the general statement of this in Jeremiah 37:1-2?

13. Give an account of the king’s request of Jeremiah and his response (Jeremiah 37:3-10).

14. Give an account of Jeremiah’s second arrest and first imprisonment (Jeremiah 37:11-15).

15. Give an account of his deliverance from the prison (Jeremiah 37:16-21).

16. What was next done with him and what the particulars (Jeremiah 38:4-6)?

17. How did he escape and what the particulars?

18. Give an account of Jeremiah’s last audience with the king (Jeremiah 38:14-28).

19. Give an account of the capture of the city and its destruction (Jeremiah 39:1-10).

20. How was Jeremiah saved and what the particulars? (Jeremiah 39:11-14.)

21. What is the prophecy in Jeremiah 39:15-18?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 34". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/jeremiah-34.html.
 
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