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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 21

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying,

Written probably when, after having repulsed the Egyptians who brought assistance to the Jews (Jeremiah 37:5-8; 2 Kings 24:7), the Chaldees were a second time advancing against Jerusalem, but were not yet closely besieging it (Jeremiah 21:4; Jeremiah 21:13). (Rosenmuller.) This chapter, in point of time, stands between Jeremiah 37:1-21; Jeremiah 38:1-28; since what the "princes," in Jeremiah 38:2, represent Jeremiah as having said is exactly what we find in Jeremiah 21:9. Moreover, the same persons as here (Jeremiah 21:1) are mentioned in Jeremiah 37:3; Jeremiah 38:1 - namely, Pashur and Zephaniah. What is here more fully related is there simply referred to in the historical narrative. (Compare Jeremiah 52:24; 2 Kings 25:18, where "Zephaniah the second priest" is mentioned as put to death by Nebuchadnezzar, along with "Seraiah, the chief priest," after the capture of the city.)

Zedekiah - a prince having some reverence for sacred things, for which reason he sends an honourable embassy to Jeremiah; but not having moral courage to obey his better impulses.

Pashur - son of Melchiah, of the 5th order of priests, distinct from Pashur, son of Immer (Jeremiah 20:1), of the 16th order (1 Chronicles 24:9; 1 Chronicles 24:14).

Zephaniah - of the twenty-fourth order. They are designated, not by their father, but by their family (1 Chronicles 24:18).

Verse 2

Inquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.

Nebuchadrezzar - the more usual way of spelling the name in Jeremiah than Nebuchadnezzar: from Persean roots, meaning either 'Nebo, the chief of the gods,' or 'Nebo, the god of fire.' He was son of Nabopolassar, who committed the command of the army against Egypt, at Carchemish, and against Judea, to the crown-prince.

If so be that the Lord will deal with us according to all his wondrous works - Zedekiah hopes for God's special interposition, such as was vouchsafed to Hezekiah against Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35-36).

That he-Nebuchadnezzar-may go up from us - rise up from the siege which he sat down to lay (Jeremiah 37:5; Jeremiah 37:11, margin, 'made to ascend;' Numbers 16:24; Numbers 16:27; 1 Kings 15:19, margin, 'go up').

Verse 3

Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah:

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 4

Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.

Thus saith the Lord God of Israel - those "wondrous works" (Jeremiah 21:2) do not belong to you; God is faithful; it is you who forfeit the privileges of the covenant by unfaithfulness. 'God will always remain the God of Israel, though He destroy thee and thy people' (Calvin).

I will turn back the weapons - I will turn them to a very different use from what you intend them. You now with them, fight against the Chaldees "without the walls" (the Jewish defenders being as yet able to sally forth more freely, and defend the fountains outside the walls in the valley under Mount Zion: see Jeremiah 21:13; Jeremiah 19:2; Jeremiah 19:6-7), but soon ye shall be driven back within the city (Maurer).

And I will assemble them into the midst of this city - and "in the midst" of it I will cause all your arms to be gathered in one place by the Chaldean conquerors (Grotius), who shall slay you with those very arms (Menochius).

Verse 5

And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.

I myself will fight against you - the Jews shall have not merely the Chaldees, but Yahweh Himself, in wrath at their provocations, fighting against them. Every word enhances the formidable character of God's opposition: "I myself, with outstretched hand, and with strong arm (no longer "stretched out" to "redeem you," as in Exodus 6:6. and in the case of Sennacherib but) in anger ... fury, and great wrath."

Verse 6

And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 7

And afterward, saith the LORD, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.

I will deliver Zedekiah ... and ... the people, and such - rather, explanatory, 'the people, namely, such as are left,' etc.

Into the hand of those that seek their life - content with nothing short of their death; not content with plundering and enslaving them.

He shall smite ... with the edge of the sword - this was the fate of Zedekiah's sons and many of the Jewish nobles. Zedekiah himself, though not put to a violent death, died of grief. (Compare as to the accurate fulfillment Jeremiah 34:4; Ezekiel 12:13; 2 Kings 25:6-7).

Verse 8

And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.

I set before you the way of life, and the way of death - "life," if ye surrender; "death," if ye persist in opposing the Chaldees. Jeremiah has in view Moses' words to Israel (Deuteronomy 30:19). The individuality of Jeremiah's mission from God is shown in that he urges to unconditional surrender; whereas all former prophets had urged the people to oppose their invaders (Isaiah 7:16; Isaiah 37:33; Isaiah 37:35).

Verse 9

He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.

He that abideth in this city shall die ... but he that ... falleth to the Chaldeans ... shall live - repeated in Jeremiah 38:2; Jeremiah 38:17-18.

Falleth to - deserts to.

His life shall be unto him for a prey - proverbial, to make one's escape with life, like a valuable spoil or prey that one carries off: the narrowness of the escape, and the joy felt at it, are included in the idea (Jeremiah 39:18).

Verse 10

For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.

I have set my face against this city for evil - determined to punish (Leviticus 17:10).

Verse 11

And touching the house of the king of Judah, say, Hear ye the word of the LORD;

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 12

O house of David, thus saith the LORD; Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

O house of David - the royal family, and all in office about the king. He calls them so, because it was the greater disgrace that they had so degenerated from the piety of their forefather David: and to repress their glorying in their descent from him, as if they were therefore inviolable; but God will not spare them as apostates.

Execute judgment in the morning - alluding to line of dispensing justice (Job 24:17; Psalms 101:8); but the sense is mainly proverbial for 'with promptness' (Psalms 90:14; Psalms 143:8). Maurer translates, 'every morning.' Lest my fury go out like fire - already it was kindled, and the decree of God gone forth against the city (Jeremiah 21:4-5); but the king and his house may yet be preserved by repentance and reformation. God urges to righteousness, not as if they can thereby escape punishment wholly, but as the condition of a mitigation of it.

Verse 13

Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the LORD; which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations?

O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain - Jerusalem personified: situated for the most part on hills, with valleys at the bottom of them, as the valley of Hinnom, etc.; and, beyond the valleys, mountains again-a position most fortified by nature, whence the inhabitants fancied themselves beyond the reach of enemies; but since God is "against" them, their position will avail nothing for them. The "valley" between mount Zion and Moriah is called Tyropoeon, 'the valley of the cheese-makers.' Robinson takes "rock of the plain" as mount Zion, on which is a level tract of some extent. It is appropriately here referred to, being the site of the royal residence of the "house of David," addressed Jeremiah 21:12.

Verse 14

But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the LORD: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.

I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings - (Proverbs 1:31; Isaiah 3:10-11).

Forest thereof - namely, of your city, taken from Jeremiah 21:13. "Forest" refers to the dense mass of houses built of cedar, etc., from Lebanon, and "burned with fire" by Nebuzaradan at the taking of the city (Jeremiah 22:7; Jeremiah 52:13; 2 Kings 25:9).


(1) In times of calamity the ungodly are glad to apply to the servants of God, as Zedekiah did to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 21:2), to counsel and pray for them, though in times of prosperity they had neglected and disregarded the godly. What they really seek is escape from punishment, not deliverance from sin. Zedekiah's conscience told him that the prophet was in the right, but he was too weak and vacillating, in the face of the determined opposition of his nobles, to act on his convictions. There are multitudes like him, who know the truth intellectually, but who want the moral courage to do what they know. Too late-like the five foolish virgins-they shall apply to the godly for a share in that grace which is to be obtained by direct application, in repentance and faith, to God alone; and that in good time, not when the lamp of life is all but gone out.

(2) There is no promise of "the God of Israel" (Jeremiah 21:4) available to those who persevere in impenitence and (2) There is no promise of "the God of Israel" (Jeremiah 21:4) available to those who persevere in impenitence and disobedience. His promises belong to the true Israel of God alone. God's omnipotent arm, which is engaged to be stretched out in defense of His people, is "outstretched in anger, fury, and wrath" (Jeremiah 21:4) against hollow professors who presume upon their outward privileges. Their earthly confidences, the arms in which they trust, will be turned against the sinners themselves.

(3) If the great and noble, as King Zedekiah, will not hearken to God's message (Jeremiah 21:3), it must be addressed to the masses of the people, the poor and humble (Jeremiah 21:8). The sinner must make an unconditional, unreserved surrender of himself, body, soul, and spirit, to the will of God, if he is to live spiritually and eternally: he must accept salvation on terms which cut to the root all pride; "his life shall be to him for a prey" (Jeremiah 21:9). His danger is imminent-his escape must be an escape for his life-a narrow escape-in which he is stripped of every rag of fancied merit, and receives life as a mere act of grace. At the same time he must be willing henceforth to "execute judgment" (Jeremiah 21:12) - that is, "to bring forth fruits meet for repentance" (Matthew 3:8). On the other hand lies the awful alternative, "death" (Jeremiah 21:8) to the unhumbled sinner, the necessary "fruit of his own doings" (Jeremiah 21:14). May each reader and hearer of God's message have grace given to "choose life" and its "way," rather than "death" and its "way," that so he may live everlastingly!

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/jeremiah-21.html. 1871-8.
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