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He exhorteth to repentance with promises and threats. The judgment of Shallum, of Jehoiakim, and of Coniah.
Before Christ 598.
THE prophesy which follows to ch. Jer 23:9 was evidently delivered in the reign of Jehoiakim; for it speaks of his immediate predecessor as already gone into captivity, and foretels the death of Jehoiakim himself. It is likewise probable, that it followed immediately after what is said in the 19th and 20th chapters to have passed in the temple precincts; whence, as from higher ground, the prophet is ordered to go down to the house of the king of Judah. Compare ch. Jeremiah 36:12.
The beginning of this prophesy is an address to the king of Judah, his servants, and people, recommending an inviolable adherence to right and justice as the only means of establishing the throne, and preventing the ruin of both prince and people; Jeremiah 21:1-9. The captivity of Shallum is declared to be irreversible; Jeremiah 21:10-12. Jehoiakim is severely reproved for his tyrannical oppressions, and his miserable end foretold; Jeremiah 21:13-14. His family is threatened with a continuance of the like calamities; the fall and captivity of his son Jeconiah are explicitly set forth, and the perpetual exclusion of his seed from the throne; Jeremiah 21-22. The name of Zedekiah is not mentioned, for obvious reasons; but he is, no doubt, principally intended in the two first verses of ch. 23. under the general character of those evil shepherds, who should be punished for dispersing, instead of feeding the flock. In the six following verses, with which the prophesy concludes, the people are consoled with gracious promises of future blessings; of their return from captivity, and of happier times under better governors; of the glorious establishment of the Messiah's kingdom; and of the subsequent restoration of all the dispersed Israelites to dwell once more in their own land.
Jeremiah 22:1. Thus saith the Lord— This happened long before what is mentioned in the preceding chapter.
Jeremiah 22:2. That enter in by these gates— That is to say, the gates of the palace. The king was evidently at the gate of his palace, with his principal officers, when Jeremiah presented himself before him.
Jeremiah 22:6. Thou art Gilead, &c.— Thou art to me as Gilead; thou art as the head of Lebanon; yet surely, &c. That is, "though thou art most precious in my sight, though as valuable for riches and plenty as the fat pastures of Gilead, and thy buildings as stately as the tall cedars of Lebanon; yet, unless thy princes and people reform, they shall become nothing but ruin and desolation." See the two next verses, and Houbigant.
Jeremiah 22:10-12. Weep ye not for the dead— "Weep not for Josiah, for he is buried in peace, and taken away from the evil to come; but rather lament his successor Jehoahaz (who is here called Shallum), whom Pharaoh Necho hath carried captive into Egypt, whence he shall never return." It is not easy to conjecture why he is called Shallum. Some suppose, that this name was given him by way of reproach, because of the shortness of his reign, in which he resembled king Shallum, mentioned 2 Kings 13:0 as Jeconiah is called Coniah by way of contempt, Jeremiah 22:24.
Jeremiah 22:13-14. Woe unto him that buildeth, &c.— The prophet proceeds to denounce God's judgments against Jehoiakim, who had built himself a stately palace in those calamitous times, and took no care to pay the wages of his workmen, but supported his own luxury by oppressing those who were to live by their labour. See Leviticus 19:13. We may observe, respecting these upper chambers, that there was generally but one hole or window which looked towards the temple. The meaning of this place, which was as spoken of a king, is, "If a man shall raise up to himself a vast and stately pile of building, and proportionably erect an upper room to my honour and service, and cut me out a window towards the place of my sanctuary, and ceil it with vermillion, yet if this be done by oppression and unrighteousness, woe be to that man and his magnificence!" See Gregory's Works, p. 13. Mar 14:15 and Judges 3:20. The author of the Observations remarks, that the chief and most ornamented apartments of the palace which Jehoiakim set himself to build, are represented as upper rooms. "I believe (says he) none of our authors would express themselves after this manner; the lower rooms would be the chief objects of their attention. It was perfectly natural, however, in Jeremiah, there is reason to think; for the chief rooms of the houses of Aleppo, at this day, are those above; the ground-floor there being principally made use of for their horses and chariots." See Observations, p. 95 and Amos 9:6.
Jeremiah 22:15. Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar?— Because thou frettest thyself in cedar? מתחרה methachareh from חרה charah, to fret and grieve, signifies one that is a prey to the uneasy passions of discontent and remorse. The question, therefore, is somewhat of a sarcastic nature, which asks, Shalt thou reign, because thou frettest thyself in cedar? As if it had been said, Is this the inestimable privilege of royalty, this the circumstance which constitutes thy happiness as a king, to carry continually about thee the pangs of guilt, anxiety, and remorse in a splendid palace? In like manner speaks Horace of
————miseros tumultus Mentis, et curas laqueata circum Tecta volantes.* Lib. II. od. Jeremiah 16:10.
*———neither wealth nor pow'r control The sickly tumults of the soul; Or bid the cares to stand aloof Which hover round the vaulted roof. FRANCIS.
And it is obvious, how well this suits with the following context, which places in a striking contrast the happiness of the good Josiah resulting from the consciousness of having fulfilled the duties of his station with pious integrity. "Did not thy father eat and drink, that is, partake of all real comforts and conveniences which human life requires, in as great a degree as thyself? But at the same time governing with impartial justice and equity, he enjoyed in consequence thereof that solid and true felicity, which nothing but the practice of virtue, holiness, and religion, emphatically called 'the knowing of God,' can bestow."
Jeremiah 22:18-19. They shall not lament for him, &c.— The prophet here repeats part of the funeral song, which the public mourners used to sing at funerals; indicating, that neither Jehoiakim nor his queen or family should be buried with those solemn lamentations, with which the memory of his predecessors, particularly that of his father, had been honoured. On the contrary, the prophet foretels that his dead body should be treated with great indignity, and should be cast out like the carcase of the vilest animal.
Jeremiah 22:20. And cry from the passages— And cry to the passengers. Houbigant.
Jeremiah 22:22. The wind shall eat up all thy pastors— "All thy pastors shall find themselves mere wind and smoke; they flattered themselves with succours which they shall not find." By pastors he means princes, kings, and great men. Hosea makes use of the same manner of speaking, ch. Jeremiah 12:1. Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: "He satisfies himself with vain hopes." The Chaldee, which is followed by many interpreters, renders the passage, You pastors, you leaders, shall be dispersed by all the winds; shall be dispersed into all parts of the world; which well agrees with the next clause, Thy lovers shall go into captivity. See Calmet.
Jeremiah 22:23. O inhabitant of Lebanon, &c.— The prophet apostrophizes Jerusalem, under the idea of a bird building her nest on the topmost cedars of Lebanon, on account of the sumptuousness of her palaces, and the advantage of her situation. Instead of how gracious shalt thou be, Houbigant and many others have it, how shalt thou groan.
Jeremiah 22:24. Though Coniah, &c.— Houbigant reads Jeconiah instead of Coniah, See the note on Jeremiah 22:11. The expression though he were the signet, &c. is proverbial, and signifies, "Though he were most dear and valuable to me, yet would I not spare him, on account of his iniquity." See Haggai 2:23. The ring was frequently worn in ancient days as a mark of sovereignty. When Alexander died, he gave his ring to Perdiccas, thus as it were marking him out for a successor.
Jeremiah 22:27. Whereunto they desire— To which they have set their hearts, or souls, to return.
Jeremiah 22:28. Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol?— Potsherd? Houbigant, who renders the latter clause, that they have cast out him and his seed into a land, &c. "Would any one have thought that this man, who was invested with royal dignity, should be rendered no better than a broken image of royalty, a mere potsherd, utterly contemptible and useless?"
Jeremiah 22:29. O earth, &c.— See ch. Jeremiah 7:4.
Jeremiah 22:30. Write ye this man childless—— I cannot agree with the generality of commentators, who suppose that God hereby declares it as a thing certain, and as it were orders it to be inserted among the public acts of his government, that Jeconiah should die absolutely childless. Other parts of Scripture positively assert him to have had children, 1 Chronicles 3:17-18. Matthew 1:12. And both Jer 22:28 and the subsequent part of this verse imply that he either had, or should have seed. But the historians and chroniclers of the times are called upon, and directed to set him down childless; not as being literally so, but yet the same to all intents and purposes of public life; for he was to be the last of his race that should sit upon the throne of David; and his descendants were no more to figure as kings, but to be reduced to the rank and obscurity of private persons. And in this sense the prophesy was actually fulfilled; for, allowing Zerubbabel, who is called governor of Judah, Hag 1:1 to have been a lineal descendant of Jeconiah, yet he could not be said to sit upon the throne of David, and reign, or rule, in Judah, seeing he was but a provincial governor, a mere servant to the king of Persia, in whom the sovereignty resided; nor were any of those kings who afterwards reigned in Judah, even of the family of David, until the time of Christ, who, though of David's seed, was not the seed of Jeconiah, but descended from the same ancestor in a collateral line.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Kings are God's vicegerents, and accountable to him for their conduct; and when they abuse the power wherewith they are entrusted, or neglect the duties of their station, they may expect his rebukes. Jeremiah is here sent to the king of Judah, Jehoiakim the successor of David, and sitting on his throne, but grievously degenerated from his virtues. He and his servants are summoned to attend.
1. Their duty is set before them: to administer judgment with impartiality; to vindicate the oppressed and injured; to do no wrong themselves, nor permit others to do it with impunity; to protect the stranger, the fatherless, and widow; and shed no innocent blood, either by lawless violence, or under the cloak of justice. Very opposite to which had hitherto been their conduct.
2. This would secure their prosperity, and entail a blessing upon their posterity; preserving long the crown of Judah to the royal race of David, and enabling them to live in splendor answerable to their high dignity.
3. On the contrary, if they persisted in their disobedience, God, by an oath, to make the sentence more awful and tremendous, swears to make the house of the king of Judah a desolation, and that his kingdom should be involved in his ruin. Though thou art Gilead unto me, and the head of Lebanon, full of riches, and strongly fortified, yet such ravages should be made in the land, that it should be wholly depopulated, and its fertile plains become a howling wilderness: nor should instruments be wanting to execute the threatened vengeance; I will prepare, or sanctify destroyers, raise them up, and give them a commission of most righteous judgment: in consequence of which, they shall as easily cut down and destroy the mighty men of Judah, as the cedars fall before the axe of the hewer, and are cast into the fire. With astonishment the neighbouring nations behold the destruction, and inquire into the cause, that a people once so favoured of Jehovah should now be so abandoned; and the answer is ready, because they have apostatized from the worship of Jehovah, and sunk into foul idolatry. Note; They who forsake God are justly forsaken of him.
2nd, Kings are not too high for God to humble, nor for his prophets to reprove. We have here the sad doom of two read, who reigned successively in Judah, the sons of good Josiah, from whose steps they shamefully departed.
1. Shallum, the same as Jehoahaz, the immediate successor of Josiah, 2 Chronicles 36:1. After a short reign of three months, see 2Ki 23:34 he was carried captive into Egypt, and thence he must, by the divine decree, never return, but die in ignominy. Him, therefore, the people are called upon to bewail, and rather to weep over the captive son, than bedew with their tears the corpse of his pious father, who was at rest, and removed from beholding the evil to come. Note; Dying saints may be justly envied, while living sinners are to be pitied.
2. Jehoiakim his successor has not a more favourable judgment. His sins were great; and, though he now sat on his throne, the prophet faithfully dares to rebuke him. Proud, and affecting to rival the greatness of his most illustrious predecessors, during the most flourishing state of their kingdom; though himself no better than a viceroy, first to the king of Egypt, and then to the Babylonish monarch, he was building or enlarging his palace in the most magnificent taste, and with the most expensive decorations; and as the revenues of his kingdom probably were insufficient, he became tyrannical and oppressive, extorting money from his subjects, or constraining them to serve and supply him with materials, without paying them for their labour. Secure, and self-confident, he promised himself many long years to enjoy his house of cedar, and that his pomp would be his protection: unjust and cruel withal, unlike his pious father, who lived in sobriety and temperance, and administered justice with impartiality. Was not this to know me? saith the Lord; it shewed true regard to God, and consequently was attended with the divine blessing; then it was well with him. But he with harpy talons stopped at no violence to gratify the insatiate covetousness of his heart, and shed the blood of the innocent, that he might seize their substance. In consequence of which his doom is read: he shall die unlamented; neither his subjects nor relations shall express the least concern for his fate; his corpse shall not have a tear dropped over it, and even want a grave, buried with the burial of an ass; drawn with ignominy, and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem; which, though not observed in the history of the kings, was no doubt literally accomplished. Note; (1.) That great men should dwell in palaces, is becoming; but when pride rears the structure, condemnation lies against the soul. (2.) The chambers built by wrong will cry out for vengeance against the oppressor; and God will not let the defrauded labourer's complaint pass by unheard. (3.) They who place dependence on prosperity and the enjoyment of the fruits of iniquity, will find their hopes terribly disappointed. (4.) Covetousness is the root of all evil: hence spring rapine, bloodshed, and every evil work. (5.) The way to prosper is to know God, and serve him; while destruction inevitable must be the portion of those who forget and forsake him. (6.) It is an aggravation of sin to have lived under pious parents, and in the face of their instructions and examples to prove rebellious. (7.) They who are lifted up the highest in pride, will shortly fall the lowest in misery.
3rdly, We have line upon line, and warning upon warning, yet all insufficient to alarm a stupid people.
1. Their misery and distress are painted in lively colours. When their enemies were advancing, they are represented as running to the mountain-tops, and calling out for help to the neighbouring nations; but in vain; for all thy lovers are destroyed, and none willing to shew them the least kindness in the day of their calamity. They had been deaf to the warnings of the prophets, from the day when they came out of Egypt, and disobedient to the voice of God; vain of their prosperity, and confident that they should never be removed. But now their desolation approaches, when they should be ashamed and confounded for all their wickedness; as destitute of help within, as of assistance from without; because the wind shall eat up all thy pastors, the governors in church and state, kings, nobles, priests, and prophets, as weak to resist the Chaldean hosts, as stubble to oppose the furious whirlwind. Though lofty in pride as Lebanon, and dwelling in houses ceiled with cedar, these would be no security, but be food for the devouring flames; while from their enemies they might expect to find no favour, in the day when their deepest anguish should seize them as the pangs of a travailing woman. The words, נחנת מה mah neichant, How gracious shalt thou be, some render, What favour wilt thou find? others, How shalt thou groan? (see the notes) and intimates the desperateness of their case, which seems most agreeable to the context; though they may also be interpreted of the effects which these judgments should have upon them, when their distresses should drive them in penitence to God, and they should find mercy with him in the land of their captivity. Note; (1.) Prosperity is a dangerous state: they who live at ease too often care not to attend the warnings of God. (2.) Creature-dependence will fail in the day of calamity. (3.) It is well for us, if what we suffer brings us at last in pangs of real repentance to God.
2. Their king's judgment is pronounced. He is called Coniah, instead of Jeconiah, in contempt. His name is shortened, intimating that his reign should be cut short, and his regal honour depart from him. Doomed to a miserable servitude, God threatens to give him up into the hands of the king of Babylon, whom he feared, and who sought his life, with his mother and family; and, pining in vain for the land of their nativity, they should long drag their ignominious chain, and die in the place of their captivity. His pious fathers had been as a signet on God's right hand; so dear to him, and valued by him as the ring which bears the picture, or is the gift, of the person whom we love: but his ill conduct had cast him out of favour, and therefore God in high displeasure threatens that he will pluck him thence, and abandon him to ruin: and this his determination is irrevocable, confirmed with an oath: As I live, saith the Lord, who, since he can swear by no greater, swears by himself. Note; (1.) They are undone for ever whom God abandons. (2.) The greatest must not be too confident: they know not what strange calamities may await them.
3. All who beheld this monarch fallen would tauntingly say, Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? Yes: so despicable is he grown, who late was idolized. Is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? he that was late the people's darling, is now disregarded, and cast by as a broken vessel; led, with all that pertained to him, into a strange land, there to suffer the punishment of his iniquities.
4. The earth is summoned to mark his judgment: either the people of Judah in particular, or of the world in general: or, as if the clod under their feet would be more attentive than the hardened hearts of the men of that generation, it is called upon to hear the solemn sentence. Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days; after a short reign of three month's, he spent his whole life in captivity in Babylon: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 22". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany