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Jeremiah, by promises and threatenings, exhorteth to repentance: he is therefore apprehended and arraigned: his apology: he is acquitted in judgment by the example of Micah, and by the care of Ahikam.
Before Christ 609.
Jeremiah 26:1. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoakim— This prophesy is prior in time to that in the preceding chapter. That was delivered in the fourth year of king Jehoiakim; and this at the beginning, or some time in the first year of his reign. See Calmet.
Jeremiah 26:2. Stand in the court, &c.— The great court, where both men and women worshipped when they brought no sacrifice; for when they did so, they were to carry it into the inner-court, called The court of Israel. Jeremiah frequently spoke in the temple, because of the great concourse of people in that place. It is also very probable, that he chose the days of the great festivals. See Lightfoot.
Jeremiah 26:6. Then will I make this house like Shiloh— "I will forsake it, as I have forsaken Shiloh." See ch. Jeremiah 7:12.
Jeremiah 26:7. The prophets, &c.— The prophets, as is manifest from many passages in Scripture, were an order of men among the Jews devoted to sacred literature, and qualified by their attainments in religious knowledge to advise and instruct the people, who came to consult them in cases of doubt and difficulty. They appear to have been trained in seminaries and schools under the direction of some prophet eminent for wisdom and piety, as those mentioned 1Sa 19:20 were under Samuel, and those 2 Kings 2:3; 2Ki 6:1 under Elijah and Elisha. That they were numerous, appears from this circumstance, that when Jezebel slew all the prophets of JEHOVAH whom she could meet with, Obadiah hid a hundred of them, and saved their lives; 1 Kings 18:4.: and afterwards there appeared no less than four hundred of them prophesying in that character before Ahab and Jehoshaphat, 1 Kings 22:6. It is not to be supposed that these were all of them, or at all times, divinely inspired, but ordinarily gave their advice as men versed in the law and in the other Scriptures. Sometimes, however, they were enabled to answer those that consulted them by immediate revelation from God. And out of this body God generally perhaps chose those whom he sent as his ambassadors, and messengers extraordinary, to notify the designs of his providence, and to warn his people to repent and turn from the ways which displeased him. I say, generally, but not always; for Amos expressly says of himself, that he was "neither a prophet," meaning by profession, "nor a prophet's son," one bred up in the schools of the prophets; but an illiterate herdsman, when JEHOVAH sent him to prophesy unto Israel; Amos 7:14. But neither did the sacredness of their character secure them from bearing a part in the general corruption of the times; on the contrary, Jeremiah in particular complains bitterly of them for having prostituted themselves to the worst of purposes, deceiving the people by false pretences, and being greatly instrumental in promoting the cause of impiety and wickedness. See chap. Jer 5:31 Jer 14:13-14 Jeremiah 23:14, &c. Jer 28:15 Jeremiah 29:8-9, &c. See also Ezekiel 13:2; Ezekiel 13:23.Micah 3:5; Micah 3:5; Micah 3:11.Zephaniah 3:4; Zephaniah 3:4. After a total cessation of prophesy, the Scribes, who are often mentioned in the Gospels, seem to have stepped into the place of the prophets, and by their acquired skill in the sacred writings, without any claim to supernatural gifts, to have taught the people, and instructed them in all matters of religious concernment. See Matthew 23:2-3.
Jeremiah 26:10. When the princes of Judah— That is, the king's counsellors or chief officers of the state, who were also members of the Sanhedrin. By the prophets, mentioned in these verses, are meant the false prophets, who were extremely irritated against Jeremiah. The intelligent reader will observe a great similarity between the conduct of these priests and prophets towards Jeremiah, and in that of the priests, the Scribes and Pharisees, towards Jesus Christ, of whom Jeremiah was a type. See particularly Mark 14:58. Matthew 26:61.
Jeremiah 26:15. But know ye for certain— This is Jeremiah's justification of himself. He reduces all to the proof that God had sent him; and his adversaries were able to make no reply. "If God hath sent me, you can have nothing to say against me." It is upon this that he is declared innocent, Jeremiah 26:16. This man is not worthy to die. See Calmet.
Jeremiah 26:18. Micah the Morasthite— The village of Morasthus or Maresa, was in the tribe of Judah. Micah was the author of that prophesy which we have now among the twelve minor prophets. The Jews supposed his prophesy to have been fulfilled in the utter destruction of the second temple by Titus, when Terentius razed the very foundations of the city and temple, and by that means fulfilled the prediction of our Blessed Saviour, that there should not be one stone left upon another.
Jeremiah 26:20. There was also a man—Urijah— The discourse of the elders being finished, a history of those times is here added, and, as many think, by Jeremiah; hence it was plain in how great danger he was under a wicked king. Others think that this example of Urijah was produced by the enemies of Jeremiah, to counteract what was said in his favour from the example of Micah. See Houbigant and Calmet.
Jeremiah 26:24. Ahikam— Ahikam was an ancient prince of Judah, who bore a considerable employment under Josiah. Compare 2 Kings 22:12-14. Gedaliah was his son; see 2Ki 25:22 who, as well as his father, had a great regard for Jeremiah. See ch. Jer 39:14 Jeremiah 40:5.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, They who would be faithful to God in the discharge of their ministry, must set their faces like a flint, and be above the fear of man.
1. Jeremiah is sent into the courts of the Lord's house, where, on one of their solemn feasts, the people of the land were assembled out of the cities of Judah, and there, in the midst of that great congregation, he must deliver his message; and lest their greatness, their multitude, or their known enmity against such faithful warnings, might daunt his courage, or warp him to palliate the severity of the threatening, he is charged not to diminish a word. When we speak for God, we must neither be afraid nor ashamed to declare his whole counsel, and resolutely abide by the consequences.
2. The purport of his discourse is, to advise them of the danger of their sins, and the purpose of God to punish them; to exhort them to a speedy and unfeigned repentance; to assure them that then God would turn away his anger from them; but that if they persisted in their impenitence, disobedience to his holy law, and disregard of his divinely appointed ministers, the consequences would be inevitably fatal, and their ruin ensue; Jerusalem with the temple, like Shiloh and the tabernacle there pitched of old, would be given into the hands of her enemies, and her judgment be so terrible, that it should be the deepest imprecation to say, The Lord make thee like Jerusalem! Now nothing here could give reasonable offence. God graciously waited; he offered mercifully to receive them; they had only to return to him, and then the message breathed nothing but peace and pardon: but they, who resolved to persist in their iniquities, could not bear to be told of the issue of them. Note; (1.) There is nothing in the most terrible denunciations of wrath to quarrel with, especially when the gracious God previously condescends to make known to us these terrors, in order to lead us to pardon and everlasting peace. But, (2.) If men will not be warned, they must be damned.
2nd, The plainest and most reasonable admonitions, delivered with the tenderest affection, and urged with the most solemn weight of God's authority, have no effect upon the hardened sinner, but to exasperate his corruptions.
1. Jeremiah is arrested for his preaching, and dragged before the magistrates, that he may be condemned and executed. The ungodly priests and false prophets, who in all ages and places have been the bitterest enemies and persecutors of the pious, arose, exasperated at what they heard, and the people, at their instigation, readily followed them; they seize the poor prophet, and threaten him with immediate death, either in the rage of pretended zeal, or by form of law. The charge against him is for falsehood, and blasphemous words spoken against that holy place, because in the name of the Lord he had said, this house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant. Such an uproar raised a vast tumult, and all the people ran together; the tidings of which soon brought up the princes from the king's house into the temple, and before them, as judges, the criminal is produced, at the entry of the new gate of the Lord's house, where they sat to hear the cause. The false prophets and priests, whose hand was ever first in the transgression of opposing the ministers of truth, stand forth to accuse him, not doubting but to gain a verdict in their favour, appealing for the truth of their charge to all the people who had heard Jeremiah's discourse, and demanding judgment against him as most worthy to die. Note; They who will be zealous for God must sometimes put their lives in their hand. How often since this have the true preachers of Christ been in danger by tumultuous mobs, instigated by apostate priests!
2. Jeremiah vindicates himself from the charge, not by denying it, but by maintaining the truth of what he had spoken. The words were not his own. God had sent him, and how could he then be silent? Besides, the threatenings only affected the impenitent. So far therefore from desisting, he urges the admonition that he had given; Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, who yet did not disclaim the relation, and was ready instantly, on their repentance, to reverse the threatenings issued against them. What was urged with so kind an intention surely deserved not punishment, but praise. However, he submits to whatever sentence they thought fit to pronounce, but warns them of the danger of shedding the blood of an innocent man, which would cry for vengeance; and the still more atrocious guilt of slaying a prophet solely for delivering the words which of a truth the Lord had sent him to speak, who would not fail condignly to avenge such a flagrant insult upon himself, as well as such cruel injustice done to his servant. Note; (1.) To preach boldly, and suffer patiently for well-doing, is the true spirit of a Christian minister. (2.) We must abide by God's word, nor ever recede a step, though the greatest loss and damage, yea, though death itself, threaten us for our fidelity.
3rdly, God knoweth how to deliver his people out of temptation, and, when their case appears most desperate, to rescue them from the jaws of the lion.
1. Jeremiah is acquitted, notwithstanding the malicious accusations of his enemies. Such an evidence attended his defence, such a noble simplicity appeared in it, such approved fidelity, and God himself put such an awe upon the princes and people, that, though they strangely hardened their hearts against the admonition given, yet they own God's authority, and dare not condemn the innocent prophet. Note; There are many on whom the word of God hath so far an influence, as to extort their assent to its truth, who nevertheless continue unhumbled in their sins.
2. Some of the court, from among the princes, and perhaps with Ahikam at their head, rose up in the prophet's defence; and, as a precedent, quoted the case of Micah, who a little before, in the days of Hezekiah, had prophesied as severe things as ever Jeremiah had done; that Jerusalem should become heaps, the city plowed like a field, and the temple utterly demolished; yet so far were Hezekiah and his princes from condemning him to death for his fidelity, that they trembled at God's word, besought the Lord, repented of their evil deeds; and this was the lengthening of their prosperity, God accepting their repentance, and withholding the threatened judgments. And such conduct, they insinuate, in the present case, would be most fit and becoming; whereas to act otherwise, in shedding innocent blood at the instigation of exasperated priests, incensed at having their pride, hypocrisy, and falsehood detected, would procure great evil against their souls, lay them under heavy guilt, and expose them to God's awful vengeance. Note; (1.) The greatest men shew their wisdom in hearing and obeying the admonitions of God. (2.) The dreadful consequences of sin, if nothing else, should deter us from it; if we have little sense of its evil and malignity, the fear of hell at least should restrain us.
3. Another instance is quoted of a prophet put to death in the present reign, which some suppose to be a case in point urged by Jeremiah's persecutors in reply to the former, and in order to obtain his condemnation. Others, that it is the continuation of the same person's discourse, urging the guilt already brought upon the land by the murder of one prophet; and that to increase it, by a repetition of the like crime, could not but hasten their destruction. Others suppose that this anecdote was added by Jeremiah himself, or whoever collected his prophesies, as an instance of God's extraordinary interposition in the present case, when so lately, in the same reign, another holy man, Urijah, met his fate in the discharge of his office; and for the very same words which Jeremiah had spoken: provoked by his preaching, the king and his nobles sought to slay him; and, to avoid it, the prophet either prudently absconded, or rather timorously deserted his post; for men of real grace may at times be overcome with fear; though usually little is to be got by flight, as in the present case. Cowardice often exposes those to ruin whom courage might have extricated from danger. The king sent after him to Egypt, whither he had fled, got him delivered up as a state-criminal, and slew him, probably with his own hand, at least commanded it to be done; and, to make the ignominy the greater, and his prophesies the more disregarded, cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.
4. Notwithstanding all the pleas of his accusers, Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, 2 Kings 22:12 a man who had lived under pious Josiah, a great man, yet a good man, and the prophet's friend, stood by him, and prevailed upon the princes not to deliver him into the hands of the enraged people, whom the priests had inflamed, and were ready to murder him, as soon as they could obtain permission. Note; God hath in his hands the hearts of all men, and can raise us up friends in the day of trial, where we least expected to find them.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 26". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17