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1. The words of the letter The Substance or import of the letter. The exact form of words does not seem to be given.
Residue of the elders Those still surviving of the original company carried away. The time had not, indeed, been long, but it had doubtless been, for these people thus violently torn away from their homes and all ordinary conditions of safety and comfort, a time of unusual mortality. And they had not yet become so well organized in the land of their exile as that the places of these elders were promptly filled at their death.
LETTER TO THE EXILES, 1-23.
To complete the history of this conflict between Jeremiah and those like Hananiah, who promised to the Jews the speedy downfall of Nebuchadnezzar’s power and the consequent restoration of those who had gone into captivity, there is given in this chapter the letter which Jeremiah wrote to those in Babylon to correct the false hopes which had sprung up there. As was to be expected, there was the same uneasiness at Babylon as at Jerusalem. The eager desire of these captives that the assurances of speedy release should come true, joined with an original impatience of foreign rule, doubtless created a dangerous tendency toward revolt. To correct this, to enlarge their view of God’s plans, and to lead them into his purposes more fully, this letter was written.
2, 3. The queen Rather, the queen-mother, Nehushta, daughter of Elnathan. See Jeremiah 13:18, and 2 Kings 24:8; 2 Kings 24:15.
The eunuchs, the princes The absence of the conjunction between these nouns would seem to imply that they are in apposition. If so, instead of “eunuchs” we ought to read officers, a sense which, according to Furst, but not to Gesenius, the original word has in several places: e,g., Jeremiah 20:7; Jeremiah 41:16; 2Ki 24:12 ; 2 Kings 25:19. But it is possible that Keil’s conception of this sentence is correct, in that he finds here enumerated three general classes: 1) The court class, namely, the king, queen, and eunuchs. 2) The official class the princes of Judah and Jerusalem. 3) The artisan class carpenters and smiths; and, hence, the copula is omitted, marking the transition from the first to the second.
Elasah the son of Shaphan In chap. Jeremiah 26:24, Ahikam is so called, indicating that they were brothers. One of Ahikam’s sons was made governor by the Chaldeans. Jeremiah 39:14. It would hence appear that this was an influential family, and one sympathizing with Jeremiah. Of Gemriah we know nothing outside of this passage. But we must not confound him with that Gemariah, “son of Shaphan,” out of the window of whose room Jeremiah read Jehoiakim’s roll. Jeremiah 39:14.
Whom Zedekiah… sent Zedekiah himself went to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. That he should also, on this occasion, have sent a formal embassy but illustrates how completely dependent he felt himself on the king of Babylon. As to the time of this embassy we have no knowledge.
4. Whom I have caused to be carried away Thus laying the firm foundation for their faith and contentment with their providential allotment. In any place where God sends his people they ought to be content.
5. Build ye houses A command which stands in bold antagonism to the prophecy of Hananiah the prophet. A majority of them would live and die in that land; hence, the more stable their life there the better for them. The command to take wives involves the same assumption that at least for the present generation, this land of exile is their home.
7. In the peace thereof shall ye have peace A truth so fundamental as to be well nigh universal. The life of the individual is laid in that of the community. Only in extremely exceptional cases can he be prosperous while “the city” is in ferment and wretchedness.
8. Your diviners, that be in the midst of you Even in Babylon false prophets were stimulating the delusive hope of a speedy restoration.
Which ye cause to be dreamed The translation here has been objected to, but is to be approved. It expresses the people’s morbid appetite for these prophecies. So, in later times, have the “itching ears” of the people often originated a low and unworthy type of religious teaching.
10. Seventy years See Jeremiah 25:11.
11. An expected end Literally, a destiny (a future) and a hope; that is, a desirable future.
12. Go and pray The simple and obvious meaning is the true one. Go to the place of prayer, suggesting an organized religious life. Devout souls will be sure to find places of holy convocation. See Deuteronomy 4:29-30; Deuteronomy 30:1-5.
15. Ye have said The connexion here is evident, though some have denied that there is any, and have decided this verse to be an interpolation. The fact that there was still a king sitting on the throne of David was doubtless urged as a proof that the reverses which had come to the kingdom were merely temporary. They themselves were unfortunately prisoners and exiles, but the throne of David and the services of the temple were visible sacraments of God’s favour and presence with his people. Hence, in the land of their exile their prophets were busy in flattering their hopes of a speedy deliverance. And so, in this passage, the prophet takes the very ground from beneath their feet by predicting the complete overthrow of the government at Jerusalem.
16. King… all the people… your brethren The third noun is in apposition with the first and second, and hence the and of the translators is misleading. Omit it.
17. Vile figs See Jeremiah 24:2, etc. The adjective is very expressive in the original shuddering such figs as make one shudder to taste them.
18. I have driven them God was the wind; man, the winnowing shovel. Compare Jeremiah 19:8; Jeremiah 24:9; and Jeremiah 25:18.
19. Ye would not hear The prophet classes those in exile with those among whom he has laboured at home, and says of them all, “ye would not hear.” But it is probable that to many of these leading captives he had personally ministered, and received from them only resistance and persecution.
21. Ahab… Zedekiah Of these men we have no knowledge outside of this passage. But the manner in which they are mentioned here attests their influence and their infamy. For two crimes, adultery and false prophesying, they would be roasted in the fire by the king of Babylon. The mention of prophesying a lie as one of the crimes for which they suffered may be explained by reference to Jehovah. The king of Babylon punished them for crimes against society; God, for rebellion and sacrilege. But it may be that even the king punished them for speaking lying words, because these words tended to produce uneasiness and incite to revolt.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE LETTER, Jeremiah 29:24-32.
24. This passage is separated from the preceding by sufficient time for Jeremiah’s letter to be carried to Babylon, and for this retaliatory letter of Shemaiah to reach Jerusalem. It is, of course, quite possible that the same men who took Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon brought back this of Shemaiah. The close historical connexion of these two letters of Jeremiah fully vindicates the arrangement which brings them here side by side. Of this Shemaiah we know nothing but what we learn in this passage.
It is probable that his title, the Nehelamite, is derived from the place of his birth or former residence.
Zephaniah Not the high priest, but probably the governor of the temple, and hence one who had special facilities for punishing Jeremiah. See also Jeremiah 21:1.
26. The Lord hath made thee priest An adroit appeal to his fanatical zeal. Jeremiah charges his failure to punish him as ingratitude to God.
Officers Literally, overseers, men in charge; the police force of the temple.
Prison, and in the stocks As Pashur had already done to Jeremiah. Jeremiah 20:2.
27. Jeremiah of Anathoth This sounds almost like an anticipatory echo of “Jesus of Nazareth.” It sounds as if spoken contemptuously.
Maketh himself a prophet In this sentence is concentrated all pharisaic bitterness. He is a sacrilegious pretender, called by himself and not by God.
29. Read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah For what purpose we are not told, but it would seem that Zephaniah was friendly to him.
32. I will punish Shemaiah, etc. He said that the day of deliverance was near, but it is so distant that his race will become extinct before it arrives. Rejecting God’s time, and setting up one of his own, he will see neither the one nor the other. The day of redemption will never dawn on him.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 29". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12