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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Jeremiah 29

Introduction

CHAP. XXIX.

Jeremiah sendeth a letter to the captives in Babylon, to be quiet there, and not to believe the dreams of their prophets, and that they shall return with grace after seventy years. He foretelleth the destruction of the rest for their disobedience: he sheweth the fearful end of Ahab and Zedekiah, two lying prophets. Shemaiah writeth a letter against Jeremiah. Jeremiah readeth his doom.

Before Christ 597.

Verse 1

Jeremiah 29:1. Now these are the words Neither the year nor the cause of this deputation are precisely known; but it is thought to have been at the beginning of Zedekiah's reign. By the residue of elders some understand the remnant of the members of the sanhedrin, carried away captive in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, many of whom died of the hardships which they suffered in their transportation. Houbigant however, not content with this interpretation, renders it, unto the principal elders. By the prophets, the Chaldee understands the scribes or doctors of the law; while others think that Ezekiel, Daniel, and other prophets of the captivity, may be meant.

Jeremiah 29:5-24.29.7. Build ye houses, and dwell in them The prophet gives them this advice to check their hopes of a speedy return from Babylon, with which they had been flattered by the false prophets; and the advice is remarkable; teaching us in what manner we ought to live among foreign powers, and how we ought to consider those whom Providence has placed over us. See Bar 1:11-12. 1 Timothy 2:1-54.2.2.

Verse 12

Jeremiah 29:12. Ye shall go and pray unto me Ye shall pray unto me more and more.

Verse 14

Jeremiah 29:14. I will gather you from all the nations, &c.— Though this prophesy has its primary completion in the restoration of the Jews under Cyrus; yet, like many others of the same kind, it can have its full completion only in that general restoration of the Jews so frequently spoken of.

Verse 21

Jeremiah 29:21. Ahab—and—Zedekiah Two false prophets, who seduced the Jews at Babylon. The rabbies, followed by many interpreters, believe that there were the two persons who attempted to seduce Susanna. See Jeremiah 29:23.

Verse 22

Jeremiah 29:22. Roasted in the fire This horrid punishment was frequent in the East, especially among the Chaldeans, as appears from Dan 3:6 and Amo 2:1 and was often practised in the persecution of the Christians in Dioclesian's time. Under Antiochus Epiphanes, the seven brethren were tried by this torture. See 2 Maccabees 7 :

Verse 26

Jeremiah 29:26. The Lord hath made thee priest Shemaiah directs the words of his letter to Zephaniah, as being סגן segan, or next in order to the high priest; and tells him that God had appointed him to supply the place of the high priest, who was probably absent at that time. His name was either Azariah or Seraiah his son, but called Jehoiada from the remarkable zeal and courage of that pontiff. The Roman law condemned those to be scourged who pretended to be prophets, and boasted of inspiration, Qui se Deo plenos simularent; upon which principle they frequently scourged and punished the first Christians. See Calmet and Paulin. lib. 5: tit. 21: De Vaticinio.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here the letter of Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon, written by divine authority. It is directed to the prophets, priests, and people carried away captive by Nebuchadnezzar, after Jeconiah had surrendered himself, whose case seemed most peculiarly miserable; and perhaps they envied their brethren who were left; though their own lot, if they knew how to improve it, was far more desirable. The letter was sent by Zedekiah's messengers, who went with the tribute, or to cultivate the friendship of the king of Babylon; and the contents of it were designed to encourage their hopes in God; to comfort them under their afflictions; to exhort them patiently to wait God's appointed time, and to prevent their being deluded by false prophets to expect a deliverance sooner than the expiration of the seventy years.

1. He addresses them in God's name, and by his authority, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, able to save to the uttermost, and the God of Israel, who still acknowledged his relation to them, and had not cast them from his regard, though he had cast them out of their land: thus, though perplexed, they must not be in despair. I have caused you to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon, God's hand was in it; without which no human power could have prevailed against them. Note; The consideration from whose hand all our sufferings come, should silence every murmuring thought.

2. He encourages them to sit down content in their present state, to wait patiently God's time of deliverance; and in the meanwhile settle themselves as comfortably as might be; to build and plant, and marry, that they might not be diminished either in wealth or numbers, when they should return again unto their own land; and intimates, that God would give them a peaceable abode, and comfortable enjoyment of their possessions, even in the land of their captivity. Note; Wherever we are cast by God's providence, or into whatever state of affliction, it is our wisdom, not only to submit, but make the best of our situation, and live in hopes of better days.

3. He exhorts them to be peaceable under the government of the king of Babylon, though a heathen, and an enemy to God; to shew all good fidelity; and, so far from plotting against the state in order to recover their liberty, to seek the prosperity of the country in which they were captives, and pray to God to preserve and increase it, for in the peace thereof should they have peace. It was their interest to do so; seeing that in every calamity of that land they would be involved, and in the prosperity of it find their advantage. Note; If we must submit to the power of oppressors, and pray for the peace of the land of our captivity, how much more are we bound to be loyal subjects under the mildest government, and in this our land of liberty to seek and pray for the peace thereof!

2nd, To engage them to patient waiting upon God,
1. He warns them to pay no regard to the false prophets, who promised them a speedy return to their own land, and thereby discouraged them from settling in Babylon. Their dreams were the fancies of their own imagination, and never to be encouraged or listened to; since, though they used the name of God, they lied, and never had a revelation from him. Note; When people love to be deceived, they will readily find flatterers to their ruin.

2. He assures them, that, though their prophets were false, God's promises would be found true, and accomplished in due season. When the seventy years were ended, his purposes concerning them were all gracious, yea, even their captivity was designed for their good, chap. Jer 24:5 and the expected end should assuredly come; only let them with patience wait for it, and in earnest prayer and supplication seek the fulfilment of the divine promises; searching after God with all their heart, in fervency and simplicity, and then he will assuredly be found of them in mercy, and turn their captivity into a blessed restoration unto their own land. Note; (1.) They who trust in the promises of God shall never be disappointed. (2.) God's promises should excite, not supersede, our prayers. (3.) They who search for God with all their heart are sure to find him near to hear and answer them.

3rdly, Though there were some gracious souls among the captives, yet were there many who paid no regard to the words of Jeremiah, but hearkened to the false prophets, and received them as sent from God; and boasted that they needed not look to Judaea for advice, when they had prophets of their own in Babylon, on whom they might depend. To these therefore the prophet addresses himself.
1. He warns them of the falsehood of the declarations of their prophets. They flattered the people with a speedy return to Judea; whereas, so far from it, the residue of those who were left in Jerusalem were doomed to the most grievous devastations by famine, pestilence, and the sword; and the few who survived should be scattered into all kingdoms! and made the objects of derision, scorn, and detestation in every place, like vile figs unfit to be eaten, and cast as refuse on the dunghill; and this because of their impenitence and rejection of the repeated and earnest warnings which God, by his prophets, had vouchsafed them, as had been threatened before, chap. 24: Note; (1.) They who flatter sinners with hopes contrary to God's word are infallibly false prophets. (2.) When men make themselves vile by their sins, God, in just judgment, will make them viler in their sufferings.

2. He denounces judgment on two of the false prophets, Ahab and Zedekiah; whose abominable lives, as well as atrocious lies, called for vengeance. They were horrible adulterers, and yet dared to take God's name in their lips, and pretend that he had sent them, when they knew that he never commanded them, and, under the cloak of profound hypocrisy, practised every villainy. But, though men might not discover their wickedness, God saw, and will recompense them according to their deeds. Detected, probably, in some seditious practices, the king of Babylon would seize them, and burn them alive before the eyes of the people for a terror to others: a catastrophe so dreadful, that when any would with the heaviest curse on their enemies, they should not be able to conceive a worse imprecation, than the Lord make thee like Zedekiah, and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire. Note; (1.) They who live in the practice of lewdness and adultery, and the like villainy themselves, must needs belie their pretentious to a mission from God, and will have no boldness to rebuke the like practices in others. (2.) Secretly as men's sins may be committed, the day is near when no darkness or shadow of death shall hide the workers of iniquity. (3.) Though wicked prophets and wicked men may escape the judgments of God in this life, there is a fire kindled for them where they must burn eternally, and none shall quench it.

4thly, Whatever effect Jeremiah's letter had upon the people, we are not to wonder if the false prophets, whose sins he so faithfully rebuked, were exasperated. We have,
1. The endeavours used by one of them to get Jeremiah severely punished. His name is Shemaiah the Nehelamite, or the dreamer; one of those lying prophets who deceived the people, and who, in revenge for the reproofs contained in Jeremiah's letter, by the return of the messengers probably who had brought it, he writes in his own name, without consulting his brethren, to the people in general, and to Zephaniah in particular, who seems to have been in some chief station in the temple, well knowing that the church rulers bore no good will to the reforming prophets. He suggests to him the necessity of exerting the authority with which he was invested: The Lord hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest. Either he would insinuate, that he was, in zeal for God's glory, such another; or rather Jehoiada might be another name of Seraiah the high-priest, whose segan or deputy he might be, or in some other chief office in the temple, see chap. Jeremiah 52:24. He therefore, with the priests his brethren, should take cognizance of every enthusiastic fellow, that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet. Such ill names do God's faithful ministers often bear, and to such insolent reproaches are they exposed, as if intruders into the sacred service, disturbed in mind, or under diabolical possession: That thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks; both to expose and punish such delinquents, of which number he affirms Jeremiah to be, and blames Zephaniah for not proceeding against him as a false prophet; the proof of which he supposes would be no longer doubted, when he repeated but one line of Jeremiah's letter, that this captivity is long, and that, instead of hoping for a speedy restoration, the captives should settle themselves peaceably in Babylon. Note; (1.) They who will be faithful to men's souls, must expect often to be treated as deceivers or madmen. (2.) Church power has been often employed in tormenting her best friends. (3.) The accusations generally brought against the ministers of zeal are by their adversaries looked upon as carrying evidence incontestable of their enthusiasm and delusion; yet when their words and preaching are calmly considered and examined, they contain nothing but the true sayings of God.

2. Shemaiah's doom is read. Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah; either privately, out of kindness, to warn him of his enemies (for when known they are more easily guarded against); or, to acquaint him with the charge, before he proceeded to judgment upon the case. And God gives Jeremiah an answer, which he is commanded to send to all those of the captivity, that they might be warned against the impostor, and mark his punishment for daring to pretend a divine mission, and teaching rebellion against the Lord, by dissuading the people from paying regard to his prophets. Shemaiah shall not only perish himself, but his family be utterly cut off, his name be buried in oblivion, and none of his race ever see or taste of the goodness that God hath still in store for his people. Note; None perish under such aggravated guilt as those false teachers, at whose hands God will require the souls which they have deceived and flattered to their ruin.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 29". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/jeremiah-29.html. 1801-1803.