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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Jeremiah 29

 

 

Verse 1

Jeremiah 29:1. Now these are the words of the letter — Hebrew, דברי הספר, the words of the book, or writing, as both the LXX. and the Vulgate translate it. Although this title announces but one, Blaney gives it as his opinion that this chapter undeniably contains the substance of two writings sent at different times, which, he says, “is evident from comparing Jeremiah 29:28 with Jeremiah 29:4-5, and that the distinction between them is at the end of Jeremiah 29:20. For in the first the prophet exhorts the captives to accommodate themselves to their present circumstances, under an assurance that their captivity would last to the end of seventy years; after which period, and not before, God would visit and restore them. And to prevent their listening to any false suggestions that might flatter them with hopes of a speedier return, he informs them of what would happen to their brethren that were left behind at Jerusalem, for whom a harder fate was reserved than for those that had been carried away. After this, finding, as it should seem, upon the return of the messengers, the little credit the first message had met with, he sends a second to the same persons, denouncing the divine judgments against three of their false prophets, by whose influence chiefly the people had been prevented from hearkening to his good advice.” The time when one or both of these written declarations of the divine will was sent to Babylon is not known, but it is thought to have been at the beginning of Zedekiah’s reign. By the residue of the elders, Lowth thinks that the remnant of the members of the Sanhedrim is intended, who were carried away captive in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign, (Daniel 1:3,) or in Jeconiah’s captivity, (see 2 Kings 24:14,) many of whom might die by the hardships they suffered in their transportation. These, being persons of authority, were more likely to influence the rest of the people, and induce them to hearken to the prophet’s advice. Houbigant, however, not content with this interpretation, renders it, Unto the principal elders. Instead of prophets, here the LXX. read ψευδοπροφητας, false prophets: but the Chaldee understands by the word the scribes or doctors of the law; while others again think that Ezekiel, (carried away with Jeconiah,) Daniel, and other prophets of the captivity, may be meant.


Verse 2-3

Jeremiah 29:2-3. After that Jeconiah and the queen, &c. — By the queen is meant Jeconiah’s mother: see 2 Kings 24:12-15, where an account is given of this captivity. And the eunuchs — Or court-officers, as Dr. Waterland renders it; and the princes of Judah and Jerusalem — Men of authority and influence among the people. By the hand of Elasah, &c. — Zedekiah having some occasion to send two messengers to Babylon, Jeremiah, knowing that as there were false prophets at Jerusalem who fed the people with hopes of a speedy return, so there were some with them in Babylon, writes and sends the following prophecy by these two messengers, to quiet the people’s minds, disturbed by these false prophets, and excited to vain hopes, for which there was no ground at all.


Verses 4-7

Jeremiah 29:4-7. Thus saith the Lord, Build ye houses, and plant gardens, &c. — It appears by the advice which the prophet here gives, that many of the captive Jews neglected to cultivate and plant the places allotted to them about Babylon; because they were not willing to bestow cost and pains for the advantage of others; since they flattered themselves that they were soon to return into Judea: and therefore, Jeremiah here admonishes them that their continuance in their captivity would be long enough for them, their sons and their grandsons, to enjoy the fruit of their labours there; and that, therefore, if they regarded their own ease and accommodation, they should set about making the places of their captivity as convenient and agreeable to them as they could. And seek the peace of the city, &c. —

Pray and desire, and do all that lies in your power, that Babylon may enjoy peace, and remain in safety, because you yourselves must be partakers of its prosperity or adversity, as it is appointed by God for you to remain there seventy years. The word peace here, as elsewhere, signifies safety and plenty of all things. Observe here, reader, it is the duty of all private persons to submit to the government that protects them, and to pray for the prosperity of it: see Ezra 6:10; 1 Timothy 2:1-2. And if the governing powers are persecutors or enemies to the truth, it must be left to God to execute upon them the judgments he has denounced against tyrants and oppressors; which judgments the Jews expected that God would execute upon Babylon in due time, Psalms 137:8-9.


Verse 8

Jeremiah 29:8. For thus saith the Lord of hosts — The prophet continues to speak by the authority of God; Let not your prophets, &c., deceive you — Suffer not yourselves to be deluded by them. While we have the word of God, by which to try the spirits, it is our own fault if we be deceived; for by it we may be directed. Neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed — The LXX. render this clause, και μη ακουετε εις τα ενυπνια υμων, α υμεις ενυπνιαζεσθε, hearken not, or attend not, to your dreams which you dream. Thus also the Vulgate. Blaney, however, prefers translating the words, Neither hearken ye to your dealers in dreams, whom ye cause to dream; observing, “These dreamers might be said to be made, or encouraged, to dream, by the easy credit given to their impostures, and the reputation and respect they thereby acquired.” Some have thought it probable that those who interpreted dreams (which sort of people abounded in Babylon) used to interpret all the dreams of Jews, on which they were consulted, to signify their speedy return to their own country; as they knew that this was what the Jews earnestly wished for, and would be glad to hear, and consequently be induced to consult these interpreters the more frequently; who therein found their profit.


Verses 10-14

Jeremiah 29:10-14. After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon — Hebrews, לפי מלאת שׁבעים שׁנה, literally, At the mouth of the accomplishment of seventy years. “And as the mouth of a river, metaphorically, denotes the extremity of its course, where it discharges its waters into the sea; so, by a farther metaphor drawn from hence, לפיseems to denote being at the full end of a certain period or limited course of time, where it is just going to lose itself in, and mix with, the ocean of eternity. Here therefore we are to understand that, ‘at the very instant of, or immediately upon, the completion of seventy years,’ the restoration of the Jews should take place.” — Blaney. These seventy years of the captivity, it appears, are to be computed from the fourth year of Jehoiakim, which, in the Scripture account, is the first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign: see note on Jeremiah 25:1. I will visit you and perform my good word — My promise, in causing, rather, of causing you to return, &c. — There were but few, comparatively speaking, of those captives that returned in person into their own country, Ezra 3:12. Therefore, this promise was chiefly fulfilled in their posterity; and it is common in Scripture to speak of blessings bestowed upon the children, as if they had been actually fulfilled to their progenitors. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you — And God’s works agree exactly with his thoughts; for he doeth all things according to the counsel of his own will. Thoughts of peace, or good, and not of evil — Even that which seems evil is designed for good, and will at last appear to have actually wrought for good: to give you an expected end — Hebrew, אחרית ותקוה, literally, to give you an end and expectation, or, as Blaney translates it, to make your latter end even an object of hope: see chap. Jeremiah 31:17. Then shall ye call upon me — That is, when you place your hope in me only, and that with assurance, and not wavering; and I will hearken unto you — A sure token of God’s favour Jeremiah 33:3, as his rejecting men, and casting them off, is expressed by his hiding his face and refusing to hear their prayers, Jeremiah 14:12; Lamentations 3:8; Lamentations 3:44. And ye shall seek me and find me — According to my promises made Leviticus 26:40-45; Deuteronomy 30:2-3; Psalms 32:6. When ye shall search for me with all your heart — Observe, reader, in seeking God, we must search for him, that we may find him; must search for directions in seeking him, &c., for encouragements to our faith and hope: we must continue, and take pains in seeking him, namely, in seeking his favour, his image, and communion with him; and this we must do with our heart — That is, in sincerity and uprightness, and with all our heart, that is with vigour and fervency, putting forth all that is within us in prayer: and those who thus seek God shall find him, and know, by experience, that he is their bountiful rewarder, Hebrews 11:6, for he never said to such, Seek ye me in vain.


Verse 15

Jeremiah 29:15. Because ye have said, &c. — The LXX. have transposed this verse, and placed it “where,” says Blaney, “it undoubtedly ought to stand,” immediately before Jeremiah 29:21; “this emendation,” says he, “I have adopted, as by it a due order and connection are restored, both in the place from whence the verse is removed, and in that to which it is transferred, a sufficient proof of its authenticity.” The Lord hath raised us up prophets in Babylon — This is meant of the false prophets who foretold nothing but peace and prosperity. The reader will easily observe how properly this sentence, as Blaney has just observed, would follow Jeremiah 29:20, and precede Jeremiah 29:21, and how well it would connect with both.


Verses 16-19

Jeremiah 29:16-19. Thus saith the Lord of the king and all the people, &c. — See Jeremiah 24:8-10; that dwell in this city — Namely, the city of Jerusalem, which is the city spoken of. I will make them like vile figs — Rather like sour figs, that cannot be eaten — The meaning is, I will deal with them as men deal with bad figs. They have made themselves vile and hateful, and I will use them accordingly. This refers to the vision, chap. 24., and the prophecy which we had there upon it. And I will deliver them to be a curse, &c. — A more severe punishment is denounced upon these than upon those of the two former captivities; because though warned by the example of Jehoiakim and Jeconiah, who suffered heavily for their perfidy, they yet again, a third time, broke the faith which they had pledged to the king of Babylon in the name of God, and despised all the admonitions and counsels of God by Jeremiah, as is observed in the next verse.


Verses 20-23

Jeremiah 29:20-23. Hear all ye of the captivity whom I have sent, &c. — These phrases, I have sent, I have driven, &c., should be well observed by us. There is no evil or punishment in cities or nations, but, whoever be the instruments in bringing it on, God is the author of it. Thus saith the Lord of Ahab and of Zedekiah — Of these two persons we read no more in holy writ. That they pretended to be prophets, and to reveal God’s will, although he had not called them to any such office, nor had made known his will to them, and that therefore they had abused God’s name, we learn in this verse, and that they came to a miserable end we find in Jeremiah 29:22. He shall slay them before your eyes — As persons that disturbed the minds of the Jews, his subjects, and made them unwilling to submit to his government, by giving them hopes of a speedy deliverance from under it: see Jeremiah 29:7-8. And of them shall be taken up a curse — That is, an imprecation shall be used, namely, The Lord make thee like Zedekiah, &c., or, May thou meet with punishment similar to that which these persons met with. Whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire — Casting persons into the fire was a punishment used in that country, as appears from the history of Shadrach and his companions, Daniel 3. There was likewise in use a way of roasting persons by a gentle fire, to make them die by a more lingering death, such as Antiochus practised upon the seven brethren, 2 Maccabees 7:5. The word here properly denotes this sort of punishment. Because they have committed villany in Israel, &c. — The Jewish rabbins, as Grotius here observes, have a traditionary notion, that these were the two elders who attempted the chastity of Susannah; the story of which they think to be true in part, though not altogether such as it is represented in the Greek. Some translate the words, Because they HAD committed villany, or, evil in Israel, and HAD committed adultery, &c., understanding them as assigning the cause why Nebuchadnezzar had roasted these persons alive, namely, because they had committed adultery, it being a custom among some of the eastern nations, and they suppose also among the Babylonians, to punish that crime in the most severe manner.


Verses 24-28

Jeremiah 29:24-28. Thus shalt thou speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite — Or, the dreamer, as the word הנחלמי, is rendered in the margin: see Jeremiah 29:8. The termination, however, rather shows it to be a word expressing Shemaiah’s family or country, and we find such a place as Helam mentioned, 2 Samuel 10:16-17. The prophet, it seems, was commanded to send this message to Shemaiah after the messengers who delivered the forementioned writing to the captives at Babylon were returned home, who brought along with them Shemaiah’s letter, mentioned in the following verse. Because thou hast sent letters to Zephaniah, (see Jeremiah 21:1,) saying, The Lord hath made thee priest — Shemaiah directs his letter to Zephaniah in the first place, as being next in order to the high-priest, and therefore called the second priest, Jeremiah 52:24, and tells him that God has appointed him to supply the place of the high- priest, being probably absent at that time, who was either Azariah, or Seraiah his son. But who then, it may be asked, was Jehoiada? “Perhaps,” says Blaney, “he was one that had been superseded in his office of second priest, for being remiss in his duty; and therefore Zephaniah may have been here reminded of him, by way of intimation that, as they had been both appointed for the same purposes, so Zephaniah might expect the same fate as his predecessor, if he copied the example of his negligence. The second priest officiated as substitute of the high-priest, in case of absence or indisposition, and perhaps was always invested with subordinate authority.” That ye should be officers, &c., for every man that is mad, &c. — The prophets and inspired persons were often accused of madness, or of being possessed with an evil spirit, by their enemies. See the margin. For therefore, rather, because, he sent unto us in Babylon — See Jeremiah 29:5.


Verse 32

Jeremiah 29:32. He shall not have a man to dwell among his people, &c. — None of his posterity shall remain to see my people restored to their own land again. See Jeremiah 29:11. Because he hath taught rebellion — Or, prevarication, as Blaney translates סרה, observing, “It properly signifies a declining, or turning aside from the straight path, the path of truth and right. Here, and Jeremiah 28:16, it means the presumption of uttering, as a revelation from God, what the man who uttered it knew to be not so.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 29:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/jeremiah-29.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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