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by Joseph Sutcliffe
THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH.
INTRODUCTION. Jeremiah was a native of Anathoth, a city of priests four miles from Jerusalem, where he possessed a landed estate. He was son of Hilkiah, of the priestly line; and during his minority was called to the prophetic office. Messiah, the Word of Jehovah, came to him in person, and called him from the treasures of his providence to be his faithful witness and minister in an evil age. In the assertion that the Messiah divinely conversed with the prophets, the Chaldaic paraphrase, and other targums of the Jews, coincide, in not less than a hundred places. Nil impedit, quo minus, id ipsius Personæ Divinæ oratio sit. COCCEIUS. Some say he was called to this high office and ministry in his fourteenth year: be that as it might, his first vision was in the thirteenth year of king Josiah; and he continued to prophesy until the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in which year Jerusalem fell into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, a space of forty years.
Five years after his first vision, or in the eighteenth year of that religious king, he attended the great passover, saw the promised reformation, and the princes walk between the parts of the sacrifice, when they swore to keep the covenant of the Lord: Jeremiah 34:18. But alas, with the oath in their mouth, they had idols at home! Nevertheless religion flourished during the thirteen remaining years of this reign: but after the king was slain, imprudently fighting with Pharaoh, the moral spark of David’s house seemed to become extinct.
In the contracted reign of Jehoiakim, of Jechoniah, and of Zedekiah, the ministry of Jeremiah assumes a severely admonitory character, clothed with terrors, but ever closing with the radiance of grace to encourage reformation. For their gods were numerous as their streets, and the court was destitute of a single character that could be called wise, or just, or good: Jeremiah 5:1. It was a dark and gloomy day for this prophet to fight single-handed the battles of the Lord. In argument he was cogent, in figures most impressive, in courage excelled by none, and in perseverance unremitting; yet the roots of crime were too obstinate for his arm.
The character of the nation, as Isaiah had foreseen, Jeremiah 6:9-12, was incorrigible. The priesthood identified themselves with the false prophets; the altar of Moloch in the valley of Jehoshaphat smoked with infant victims; all these were revolting, and presented a formidable opposition to the labours of the holy seer.
The completion of calamities was the infatuation of the court in resisting the growing power of Chaldea, without either strength or leader; in placing its reliance on the broken spear of Egypt; and in rejecting and stoning the prophets of the Lord, till there was no more remedy. The house of David had been raised to the throne by religion; and now, by the loss of religion, the crown departed from their heads.
The repeated invasions of the Chaldean armies, compared to leopards and wolves, destroying the glory of the land, scattering the bones of princes in hope of finding treasures in their tombs, Jeremiah 8:1, and carrying away the finest of the people, open fresh sources of grief to the weeping prophet. The concluding scenes of the tragedy were, the filling of the courts with the slain, profaning the sanctuary, and burning the city and temple, which caused the prophet’s eyes to overflow like fountains of water.
Though dark and louring was the obscuration of Israel’s sun, though bloody was the wane of her moon, and general the fall of her stars, there was yet a remnant that sighed for the sins of the nation; and these had full claims on the prophet’s labours. For these he looked through all gloom to the Messiah, to whom he makes the most reverent and delicate approaches. He ever kept before his eyes, the glorious high throne, the place of their sanctuary from the beginning: Jeremiah 17:12. He cried for the hope of Israel to come out of Zion: Jeremiah 14:8-9. He saw Him as the flourishing branch, under whose shadow Israel should dwell, and as Jehovah our righteousness: Jeremiah 23:5-6. He saw him born of a virgin, producing a new creation in the earth, and renewing the everlasting covenant with the children of Zion in the latter day: Jeremiah 31:15. These views, the never-failing supports of the church, encouraged him to persevere, fearless of chains, of dungeons, and of prisons. He carried the final message of grace, in which God said, “It may be that the house of Judah will hearken:” Jeremiah 36:3. And had Zedekiah hearkened to Jeremiah, speaking from the mouth of God, even then the city and the nation had been spared: Jeremiah 37:17.
His fame as a prophet had reached to distant nations. Nebuchadnezzar commanded his general Nebuzaradan to treat Jeremiah with kindness, and give him a choice of residence. The prison was to the prophet an asylum while the sword of the Chaldeans went through the rebel city.
Jeremiah was, in fact, carried away with his family into Egypt, by the Jews who took refuge there. In this country he sowed the seeds of divine knowledge. His system was embraced by the Hierophantes, so called by the Athenians, as being guardians of sacred mysteries, as is noted by Erasmus.
Of his death we have no certain account. Jerome reports that after some years he was stoned by the Jews at Taphnis in Egypt, who were enraged against him by the sharpness of his reproofs. In support of this opinion they cite Hebrews 11:37, “they were stoned;” and consider it as relating to the death of this prophet. The Hebrew chronological book, SEDER-ÔLAM, says that he returned with Baruch into Judea; but if the report of Moschus (chap. 77.) be correct, Alexander the great took up his bones from Taphnis, and gave them a more honourable burial in Alexandria.
The prophecies of Jeremiah, like those of Isaiah, were written as the ancients say, on distinct sheets of parchment; and the persons into whose hands they fell did not put them together in the order of chronology. This was a delicate point which Ezra durst not touch. He might possibly have chronological doubts, which could not be relieved. Add to this, that copies in his time being widely spread, a new arrangement might have created confusion in the synagogues.
The Greek versions have left the difficulty as they found it; and so have the Paraphrases. Professor J. G. Dahler, of the university of Strasburgh, has given in French a new translation of Jeremiah, with notes, expletive, historical, and critical, and attempted the following arrangement: but who can now speak with certainty? He has endeavoured to improve on the version of Dr. Blaney, by giving the poetical parts of the book in hemistichs.
Prophecies under Josiah.
Jeremiah 4:1 to Jeremiah 6:30
Jeremiah 2:1 to Jeremiah 3:5
Jeremiah 3:6 to Jeremiah 4:4
Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 9:25
Jeremiah 14:1 to Jeremiah 15:21
Jeremiah 16:1 to Jeremiah 17:18
Jeremiah 19:1 to Jeremiah 20:13
Jeremiah 22:1 to Jeremiah 23:8
Jeremiah 11:18 to Jeremiah 12:13
Jeremiah 27:1 to Jeremiah 28:17
After the fall of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 40:1 to Jeremiah 41:18
Jeremiah 42:1 to Jeremiah 43:7
Jeremiah 35:1 to Jeremiah 31:40.
Delivered in Egypt.
Relative to strange nations.
Jeremiah 46:1; Jeremiah 49:1-6
Jeremiah 50:1 to Jeremiah 51:64.
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