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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter. About three years earlier than the prophecy of preceding chapter. Cf. chapter 7 with this, and it is evident that they are synchronous. Evidently this narrative records the dangers to which Jeremiah exposed himself by the delivery of that faithful protest against his nation’s iniquity. Jehoiakim had just ascended the throne, and forthwith inaugurated a course of public apostasy which called forth from Jeremiah this pungent and fearless remonstrance. Naturally enough it greatly incensed the “priests and the prophets” (Jeremiah 26:8); though the “princes” spoke out boldly for his defence (Jeremiah 26:16); and through the interposition of Ahikam, Jeremiah escaped violence (Jeremiah 26:24). Cf. critical notes to chapter 7.
For—2. Contemporary Scriptures; 3. National Affairs; and 4. Contemporaneous History, cf. chap. 7, in loc.
5. Geographical References.—Jeremiah 26:6. “Shiloh:” cf. note, chap. Jeremiah 7:12, in loc. Jeremiah 26:10. “The entry of the new gate:” i.e., the gate originally erected by Jotham (2 Kings 15:35), “the higher gate,” and now recently restored. The Targum reads, the new gate. Jeremiah 26:20. “Kirjath-jearim:” cir. nine miles north west of Jerusalem, where the ark rested after the destruction of Shiloh, on its return from Philistia.
6. Personal Allusions.—Jeremiah 26:18. “Micah the Morasthite:” cf. Micah 1:1; Micah 3:12. The text here is מִכָיָה Michayah; the full form of his name meaning, Who is like Jah? But many MSS. omit the Yod, and read simply, מִכָה, Micah. His native village, Moresheth [Heb. Morashti], near Elutheropolis, in Philistia (Jerome). He was contemporary with Isaiah in Judah, and with Amos and Hosea in Israel.
Jeremiah 26:20. “Urijah the son of Shemaiah:” nothing more is known of Urijah than is here recorded.
Jeremiah 26:22. “Elnathan the son of Achbor:” Achbor was one of the princes sent to Huldah by Josiah (2 Kings 22:12). Elnathan was father of Nehushta, the mother of King Jehoiachin, therefore Jehoiakim’s father-in-law.
Jeremiah 26:24. “Ahikam the son of Shaphan:” one of Josiah’s messengers to Huldah after the discovery of the copy of the law in the Temple by Hilkiah the priest (2 Kings 22:12-14). Hilkiah made known the discovery to Shaphan the scribe, most probably this Shaphan. Ahikam was father to Gemariah, who lent Jeremiah his room for the public reading of the prophet’s roll; and of Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar afterwards made governor of the land (chap. Jeremiah 39:14), indicating that the attachment of the father, Ahikam, to Jeremiah was inherited by his sons.
7. Manners and Customs.—Jeremiah 26:2. “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house:” see Homiletic Outlines, preliminary note, p. 149. “Unto all the cities of Judah which come to worship:” at one of the three great yearly festivals, perhaps that of Tabernacles, which was the greatest.
Jeremiah 26:9. “All the people were gathered together against Jeremiah:” properly, “unto Jeremiah,” forming themselves into a court or congregation to take part in his trial. Jeremiah 26:23. “Graves of the sons of the people:” see chap. Jeremiah 17:19 : “common people.” Some have thought the Jews had a cemetery for the prophets separate from that of the people. The place of burial for the common people was in the Kidron valley.
8. Literary Criticisms.—Jeremiah 26:19. “Besought the Lord,” lit., Soothed by prayer the face of the Lord. חִלָּה אֶת־פְּנֵי, Stroke the face [Keil]. Cf. Exodus 32:11.
General topic of the chapter: “SO PERSECUTED THEY THE PROPHETS.”
This present life is often one of severity and suffering to God’s servants. Yet it is astonishing to find earnest and holy men persecuted and slain for no offence other than that of calling the wicked to desert their sins and care for their spiritual good! We may well ask, “Why, what evil hath he done?” For “a good work” surely men should not rise in hostility to a man of God. Wrong may deserve punishment; but too often right is persecuted and wrong is condoned. So perverse is the human heart.
I. Prevalent sin called for faithful rebuke. There was enough wrongdoing and corruption in Zion to constrain a godly soul to vehement protestation. God sent the prophet to remonstrate.
1. The rebuke of a prophet, therefore, should be accepted as an appeal from God (Jeremiah 26:2-5).
2. Such faithful rebukes are designed to avert heavy and threatening judgments (Jeremiah 26:6; Jeremiah 26:12-13).
II. Faithful rebuke aroused violent resentment. In Jeremiah’s protest there was no element of provocation. His message was delivered in no rancorous and vexing words, yet it awoke resentment.
1. Sinners love their sins too well to desire disturbance, even though such disturbance is essential to their salvation (Jeremiah 26:7-9).
2. Warnings of impending doom created violent hostility to God’s messenger (Jeremiah 26:10-11). Angry men must have a victim on whom to expend their hatred. Incensed at God’s message, they would avenge themselves on His innocent messenger! This explains persecution. Men cling to their sins, and hate the prophet, as Ahab did Elijah, whose faithful words—“trouble Israel”—disturb them in their evil ways.
III. Violent resentment faced with courageous fidelity. The prophet did not quail before their violence. “The righteous is bold as a lion.” Yet withal there was no corresponding violence; rather “in meekness he instructed those that opposed” (2 Timothy 2:25).
1. He used the hour of his arraignment for one more appeal to his erring persecutors (Jeremiah 26:12-13).
2. He resigned himself to the consequences of his fidelity, knowing that God would requite their deeds (Jeremiah 26:14-15).
Even so, when our Lord “suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him who judgeth righteously.” “Vengeance is Mine.”
IV. Godly fidelity incurring persecution and death. Jeremiah’s renewed appeal proved effective with the “princes” (Jeremiah 26:16) and “elders” (Jeremiah 26:17), and won him their protection. Yet—
1. Fidelity imperilled Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 26:24); and he would have lost it but for Ahikam’s befriending. Faithful work is always done amid peril. Men become our enemies when we tell them the truth. So Jeremiah found it. Micah was a rare exception (Jeremiah 26:18-19).
2. Fidelity cost Urijah his life (Jeremiah 26:20-23). Such unrighteous and iniquitous deeds against God’s servants assuredly will be punished. “The dead shall be raised;” and then, confronted by those they have killed, the wicked shall be judged. There is a judgment to come. Men may silence God’s messengers in death now, but God will be heard in the day of judgment.
HOMILIES AND COMMENTS ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 26
Jeremiah 26:1-2. See Homily on chap. Jeremiah 7:1-2.
Jeremiah 26:2. Theme: PREACH THE WHOLE TRUTH. “Diminish not a word,”
Neither preacher nor prophet is the author of what he teaches. If his “commands” are his own, they should never be uttered; for he has no right to speak aught which God has not commanded, and no permission to silence aught which God has commanded. “Speak all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word.”
I. Inspired commands are the outcome of Divine Wisdom and human necessity. Much in Scripture we do not care to hear, or do not think wise to teach. Doctrines over which critics stumble. Some severe doctrines do not seem concordant with the gospel of love, &c. But—
1. God’s wisdom frames the messages. That ought to check our solicitude for the integrity of Revelation. Critics should learn that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.”
2. Man’s necessity calls forth the message. God sees our case, our need, our sins, our perils, and sends the commands which are suitable.
Hence every word of God is important and imperative.
II. Preachers have no liberty of silence or selection. If any haste to preach without a Divine commission, God will put them to silence. But if God has sent a prophet or preacher, He must “speak all,” &c., and “not diminish a word.”
1. God’s messenger may not silence Divine commands.
2. God’s messenger may not select Divine commands. He has no liberty allowed to forbear speaking; neither has he liberty allowed to choose and discriminate between the commands, taking out one from among the rest, and speaking only such as he deems fit and right. He has to “declare all the counsel of God.”
III. God’s messages may not be minimised either in quantity or emphasis. “Diminish not a word.”
A preacher may indeed go through all the commands, and yet by frequent reiteration of a few may give them a prominence which overshadows the rest, and thus “diminishing” those he overshadows.
Or, he may preach some with more emphasis and eloquence than others, thereby “diminishing” the others.
1. This may be through prejudice or preference. Then he makes his own limited mental bias the test of the comparative value and importance of revealed truths!
2. He may do this through mistaken solicitude or sentimental charity. There are preachers who cannot allow themselves to speak the stern teachings of Scripture; because (in their poor fancy) they disagree with the tender love of God, and the sweet grace of the Gospel of Christ; because, also, they wound the gentle hearts of their hearers, and make appeal to fears in men rather than filial trust and love.
3. He may do this for fear or favour of men. Then he prostrates God’s truth before the time-serving spirit which seeks to “please men.” This is sacrilegious! But we may not suppress nor soften any teaching or command for fear of giving offence; neither may we set forth coldly and indirectly what can only by forcible statement do good.
God says: “Speak all” … “diminish not a word.” Compare Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Acts 20:27; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Revelation 22:19.
See Addenda: PREACH THE WHOLE TRUTH.
Jeremiah 26:3-6. Compare Homily on chap. Jeremiah 18:7-10. Theme: CONDITIONAL COVENANTS.
Jeremiah 26:6. “THIS HOUSE LIKE SHILOH.” Comp. Homily on chap. Jeremiah 7:12-14. “Violated sanctuaries doomed.”
Jeremiah 26:8. “THOU SHALT SURELY DIE.” The charge against Jeremiah was that of uttering falsehood in Jehovah’s name, an act punishable with death (Deuteronomy 18:20). The tumult against him was raised by the priests and false prophets.
Jeremiah 26:11. “SPAKE THE PRIESTS AND THE PROPHETS UNTO THE PRINCES.” Jeremiah was both a priest and a prophet, and should therefore have received generous treatment at the hands of “priests and prophets;” but “a man’s foes are they of his own household,” while “jealousy is as cruel as the grave.”
The “princes” were members of the king’s household, and formed part of the Council of State. Jeremiah is careful to discriminate here, and to record that he received acts of kindness from the “princes” and also from the “elders” (Jeremiah 26:17), who were rulers of the whole land. In like manner Luke discriminates between the generous conduct of Gamaliel and the injustice of other members of the Sanhedrim (Acts 5:34).
Jeremiah 26:12-15. Theme: HOW TO ANSWER CAVILLERS AND ACCUSERS. The prophet was arraigned before the highest tribunal, charged with a political offence—he had “prophesied against this city.” Here it will be noticeable that our Lord was similarly indicted before Pilate. See how Jeremiah bore himself in this scene of great excitement and irritation.
I. His unfaltering assurance of a Divine commission. Cavil though they might against his message, and threaten him with death for delivering it, yet—
1. He knew that God had sent him to them with this message. “The Lord sent,” &c. (Jeremiah 26:12); “Of a truth the Lord hath sent me,” &c. (Jeremiah 26:15).
2. He knew that his prophecy had been faithfully delivered. He had uttered nought in malice, nor suppressed aught through timidity; but “all the words ye have heard” (Jeremiah 26:12) were literally God’s words through him to them. Thus he was sustained by—
(a.) Assured authority from Jehovah.
(b.) Conscious integrity in his work.
II. His importunate earnestness in pleading with his accusers. Having thus far vindicated himself, Jeremiah now—
1. Seizes the opportunity to plead with his hearers (Jeremiah 26:13). It might be his final chance of a direct appeal to his sinning nation. What ardour of religious feeling! what godly patriotism is thus manifested!
2. Fearlessly exhorts his audience to repentance and reformation. He was arraigned because he had charged their sins upon them. Yet now even, before this angry assembly, he appeals again to them to desert their sins, and thus avert God’s displeasure. “Reform your life, and hearken to the voice of the Lord, and it will be better for you.” “You do not wish me to thunder away at you; reform, then, and I can let it alone.”—(Zinzendorf.)
III. His grand resignation to the consequences of fidelity. His faithful pleading might incense them the more; yet—
1. He is ready to die rather than keep silence (Jeremiah 26:14).
2. He dare not let any concern for self hinder him in his witness. “As for me”—as if what became of him were wholly unimportant in the presence of his nation’s perils. It equals Paul’s martyrlike spirit: “I am ready to die also at Jerusalem;” “I could wish myself accursed for my brethren.” Note—
(a.) His splendid indifference to life and policy. It argues possession of highest religious assurance, conscious safety in God, and blessed hopes of a future world.
(b.) His all-absorbing eagerness for his people. Self cannot have a thought when his people are nearing destruction. Such all-consuming seal naturally impresses and conquers hearts. It did so here (Jeremiah 26:16).
IV. His solemn warnings against criminal conduct (Jeremiah 26:15).
1. Knowing God was with him in his work, he realised then that Jehovah would avenge any violence done to him.
2. Knowing that he was innocent of any crime, having only faithfully discharged a Divine commission, he reminded them that on them would fall the curse of his blood.
Note: Men do not escape the punishment of sin by silencing God’s preacher, or by getting rid of the obnoxious witness against their sins. They double the crime by such conduct.
There was a yearning pathos in Jeremiah’s warning: no anger, no menacing; but “knowing the terror of the Lord, he persuaded men.” Thus may cavillers be silenced and adversaries won.
See Addenda: FEARLESSNESS.
On “AMEND YOUR WAYS,” see Homily on chap. Jeremiah 7:3.
Jeremiah 26:16. “THIS MAN IS NOT WORTHY TO DIE.” Jeremiah’s address secured—
(i.) THEIR CONVICTION: for they recognised that he had “spoken to them in the name of the Lord.” Instead of convicting Jeremiah. “the princes and people” unanimously convicted the “priests and prophets” of falsely charging him.
(ii.) HIS OWN ACQUITTAL. “This man is not worthy of death.” Instead of condemning Jeremiah, they sent him forth from the tribunal freed from all charges.
Matthew Henry here reflects thus—
“And are they willing to own that he did indeed speak to them ‘in the name of the Lord,’ and that that Lord was their God? Why then did they not amend their ways and doings, and take the method he prescribed to prevent the ruin of their country? (Matthew 21:25.) Note: It is a pity that those who are so far convinced of the Divine original of gospel preaching as to protect it from the malice of others, do not submit to the power and influence of it themselves.”
Jeremiah 26:17-19. Theme: A PRECEDENT JUSTIFYING THE PROPHET’S ACQUITTAL. Certain elders arose and put the audience in mind of a former case, as is usual with us in going to judgment; for the wisdom of our predecessors is a direction to us.
(i.) Was it thought strange that Jeremiah prophesied against this city and the temple? Micah did so before him, even in the reign of Hezekiah, that reign of reformation. (See Micah 3:12.)
By this it appears that a man may be, as Micah was, a true prophet of the Lord, and yet may prophesy the destruction of Zion. When we threaten secure sinners with the taking the Spirit of God and the kingdom of heaven away from them, and declining Churches with the removal of the candlestick, we say no more than what has many a time been said before, and what we have the warrant of God’s Word to say.
(ii.) Was it thought fit by the princes to justify Jeremiah in what he had done? It was what Hezekiah had done in like case.
(a.) Was Micah impeached for his prophecy? No; the king and nation took the warning he gave them.
(b.) Hezekiah got good by the preaching, and therefore certainly could do no harm to the preacher.
(c.) It is good to deter ourselves from sin, by the consideration of the mischief we shall incur thereby. “Thus might we procure great evil against our souls.” Comp. Matthew Henry.
Jeremiah 26:20-23. Theme: URIJAH’S PERSECUTION AND DEATH. Doubtless this Urijah came some time after Jeremiah; this incident is added to the foregoing to show the ferocity of Jehoiakim against faithful prophets.
Note: Urijah re-uttered Jeremiah’s words (Jeremiah 26:20); he “prophesied,” &c., “according to the words of Jeremiah;” and this repetition determined the king to silence the prophets at any cost.
I. Guilty men hate to hear Divine denunciations. Jehoiakim grew uncontrollably violent when Jeremiah’s words were repeated (Jeremiah 26:20).
II. Earnest preachers of God fulfil their work amid dangers (Jeremiah 26:21). They expose their lives to the violence of those they denounce. He who proclaims against men’s sins provokes their antagonism. “Genuine ministers of God have no favour to expect from those who are His enemies.”—(Clark.)
III. The courage which defies perils is not always possessed by even faithful witnesses of God. Urijah fled to Egypt (Jeremiah 26:21). Jeremiah did not flee, and was spared; Urijah hastened to protect himself, and was slain. Our running and anxiety are of no use. It is better to act faithfully and fearlessly, risking the result.
IV. Angry men, incensed against God’s witness, will take great trouble to avenge themselves (Jeremiah 26:22). Comp. Ahab’s efforts to find Elijah.
V. Death and degradation may prove the earthly penalty of godly work (Jeremiah 26:23). It was so with the Christian martyrs; and is now sometimes the penalty of missionary devotion. But such sufferers for truth and righteousness are canonised in God’s martyrology, and “great is their reward in heaven.”
See Addenda: PERSECUTION.
Jeremiah 26:24. Theme: HEROIC FRIENDSHIP. On “Ahikam” see Personal References at head of chapter.
Note 1. Since Ahikam’s son, Gedaliah, showed attention to the prophet, and another son of the same name was afterwards made governor of the land by the Chaldeans (chap. Jeremiah 39:14), we may suppose this family agreed with Jeremiah’s political policy and counsels.
Note 2. The son’s friendship for the prophet was the result of the father’s (Ahikam’s) attachment. Good parents hand down a patrimony of generous sympathy to their children, which provokes them to “love and good works.” Thus the good deeds of the father reappeared in his sons.
I. Valorous allegiance with a persecuted prophet. “The hand of Ahikam was with Jeremiah.” This friendship was—
1. Open and avowed: it was well known in the land that Ahikam befriended Jeremiah. Obadiah (1 Kings 18:0) secreted his friendship.
2. Influential. For Ahikam had sufficient influence at court and in the country to counter-check Jehoiakim’s malicious designs against the prophet. God’s servants have not been without powerful friends.
3. Resolute. He resisted the clamour of “the people.” Thus he faced king and country fearlessly as Jeremiah’s friend. All this showed—(a) great heroism; (b) noble piety; (c) fearless fidelity. Such friendship is not frequent, but it is worthy highest praise.
II. Valuable attachment to God’s servant. Ahikam’s friendship proved specially helpful to Jeremiah.
1. It asserted itself in a perilous hour. He who flees in adversity is not a true friend.
2. It prevailed against popular clamour. It is not easy to become unpopular for our friends. But Christ’s servants have to face popular contumely for His sake; and many disciples have had to brave public scorn and hate for their attachment to Christ’s followers.
3. It preserved to the nation its truest benefactor. Had the people put Jeremiah to death, they would have slain the man who gave wisest counsels, and proved at last its noblest leader. We impoverish and harm ourselves by antagonism to God’s messengers. So, in withstanding the people’s clamour, Ahikam acted as the nation’s friend, as well as Jeremiah’s champion.
Application.—Matthew Henry suggests that God can raise up great men to protect good men; and this should encourage us amid the dangers incident to duty.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 26: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jeremiah 26:2. PREACH THE WHOLE TRUTH. “Luther, of whom Richter has said that ‘his words were half battles,’ when he first began to preach, suffered unheard agony. ‘O Dr. Staupitz, Dr. Staupitz!’ said he to the Vicar General of his order, ‘I cannot do it, I shall die in three months; indeed I cannot do it.’ Dr. Staupitz replied, ‘Well, Sir Martin, if you must die, you must; preach, man, preach; and then live or die as it happens.’ So Luther preached, and lived; and he became one great whirlwind of energy to work without resting in this world.”—Spurgeon.
“An iron key is better than one made of gold if it will better open the door, for that is all the use of a key.”—Augustine.
“The words of a preacher ought purgere non palpare, to prick the heart, not smooth and coax.”—Jerome.
Somerfield, just before his death, speaking of his recovery, said, “Oh, if I might be raised again! How I could preach! I could preach as I never preached before. I have taken a look into eternity!”
Jeremiah 26:12-15. FEARLESSNESS. “What can I fear?” asked Chrysostom before the Pro-consul. “Will it be death? but you know that ‘Christ is my life,’ and that I shall gain by death. Will it be exile? but ‘the earth with all its fulness is the Lord’s.’ Will it be the loss of wealth? but ‘we brought nothing into this world, and we can carry nothing out.’ Thus, all the terrors of the world are contemptible in my eyes, and I smile at all its good things. Poverty I do not fear; riches I do not sigh for; from death I do not shrink; and life I do not desire except for the progress of your souls.”
Jeremiah 26:20-23. PERSECUTION. Seeing a Christian woman go cheerfully to prison, an observer said to her, “Oh, you have not yet tasted of the bitterness of death.” She as cheerfully replied, “No, nor ever shall; for Christ hath promised that those who keep His sayings shall not see death.”
Jeremiah 26:24. NOBLE FRIENDSHIP.
“Great souls by instinct to each other turn,
Demand allegiance, and in Friendship burn.”
“Friendship hath a power
To soothe affliction in her darkest hour.”
—H. KIRKE WHITE.
“Deliberate in all things with thy friend.
But, since friends grow not thick on every bough,
Nor every friend unrotten at the core,
First on thy friend deliberate with thyself;
Pause, ponder, sift; not eager in the choice,
Nor jealous of the chosen; fixing, fix;
Judge before friendship, then confide till death.
Well for thy friend, but nobler far for thee:
How gallant danger for earth’s highest prize!
A friend is worth all hazards we can run.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 26". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26