Jeremiah 29
Clarke's Commentary
This chapter contains the substance of two letters sent by the prophet to the captives in Babylon. In the first he recommends to them patience and composure under their present circumstances, which were to endure for seventy years, Jeremiah 29:1-14; in which, however, they should fare better than their brethren who remained behind, Jeremiah 29:15-19. But, finding little credit given to this message, on account of the suggestions of the false prophets, Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and Zedekiah, the son of Maaseiah, who flattered them with the hopes of a speedy end to their captivity, he sends a second, in which he denounces heavy judgments against those false prophets that deceived them, Jeremiah 29:20-23; as he did afterwards against Shemaiah the Nehelamite, who had sent a letter of complaint against Jeremiah, in consequence of his message, Jeremiah 29:24-32.

Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon;
Now these are the words of the letter - This transaction took place in the first or second year of Zedekiah. It appears that the prophet had been informed that the Jews who had already been carried into captivity had, through the instigations of false prophets, been led to believe that they were to be brought out of their captivity speedily. Jeremiah, fearing that this delusion might induce them to take some hasty steps, ill comporting with their present state, wrote a letter to them, which he entrusted to an embassy which Zedekiah had sent on some political concerns to Nebuchadnezzar. The letter was directed to the elders, priests, prophets, and people who had been carried away captives to Babylon.

(After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;)
By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) saying,
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
Thus saith the Lord of hosts - This was the commencement of the letter.

Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
Build ye houses - Prepare for a long continuance in your present captivity. Provide yourselves with the necessaries of life, and multiply in the land, that ye may become a powerful people.

Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.
And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
Seek the peace of the city - Endeavor to promote, as far as you can, the prosperity of the places in which ye sojourn. Let no disaffection appear in word or act. Nothing can be more reasonable than this. Wherever a man lives and has his nourishment and support, that is his country as long as he resides in it. If things go well with that country, his interest is promoted by the general prosperity, he lives at comparative ease, and has the necessaries of life cheaper; and unless he is in a state of cruel servitude, which does not appear to have been the case with those Israelites to whom the prophet writes, (those of the first captivity), they must be nearly, if not altogether, in as good a state as if they had been in the country that gave them birth. And in this case they were much better off than their brethren now in Judea, who had to contend with famine and war, and scarcely any thing before them but God's curse and extermination.

For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.
Neither hearken to your dreams - Rather, dreamers; for it appears there was a class of such persons, who not only had acquired a facility of dreaming themselves, but who undertook to interpret the dreams of others.

For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.
For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
For thus saith the Lord - It has been supposed that a very serious transposition of verses has taken place here; and it has been proposed to read after Jeremiah 29:9 the sixteenth to the nineteenth inclusive; then the tenth, and on to the fourteenth inclusive; then the twentieth, the fifteenth, the twenty-first, and the rest regularly to the end.

That after seventy years be accomplished - לפי מלאת lephi meloth, "at the mouth of the accomplishment," or "fill to the mouth." Seventy years is the measure which must be filled; - fill this to the brim; - complete this measure, and then you shall be visited and released. The whole seventy must be completed; expect no enlargement before that time.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Thoughts of peace - Here God gives them to understand,

1. That his love was moved towards them.

2. That he would perform his good word, his promises often repeated, to them.

3. That for the fulfillment of these they must pray, seek, and search.

4. That he would hearken, and they should find him; provided,

5. They sought him with their whole heart, Jeremiah 29:10-13.

Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
I will gather you from all the nations - A quotation from Deuteronomy 30:3, and see also Deuteronomy 4:7.

Because ye have said, The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon;
Because ye have said - The Septuagint very properly insert this verse between the twentieth and the twenty-first, and thus the connection here is not disturbed, and the connection below completed.

Know that thus saith the LORD of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity;
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.
Behold, I will send upon them the sword - Do not envy the state of Zedekiah who sits on the throne of David, nor that of the people who are now in the land whence ye have been carried captive, (Jeremiah 29:16), for "I will send the sword, the pestilence, and the famine upon them;" and afterwards shall cause them to be carried into a miserable captivity in all nations, (Jeremiah 29:18); but ye see the worst of your own case, and you have God's promise of enlargement when the proper time is come. The reader will not forget that the prophet is addressing the captives in Babylon.

And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them:
Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.
Hear ye therefore the word of the LORD, all ye of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon:
Hear ye therefore the word - Dr. Blayney thinks there were two letters written by the prophet to the captives in Babylon, and that the first ends with this verse. That having heard, on the return of the embassy (Elasah and Gemariah, whom Zedekiah had sent to Babylon, and to whom the prophet entrusted the above letter, Jeremiah 29:3), that the captives had not received his advises favourably, because they were deceived by false prophets among them, who promised them a speedier deliverance, he therefore wrote a second letter, beginning with the fifteenth verse, and going on with the twenty-first, etc., in which he denounces God's judgments on three of the chief of those, Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemaiah.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, which prophesy a lie unto you in my name; Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall slay them before your eyes;
He shall slay them before your eyes - Nebuchadnezzar would be led by political reasons to punish these pretended prophets, as their predictions tended to make his Israelitish subjects uneasy and disaffected, and might excite them to rebellion. He therefore slew them; two of them, it appears, he burnt alive, viz., Ahab and Zedekiah, who are supposed by the rabbins to be the two elders who endeavored to seduce Susanna, see Jeremiah 29:23. Burning alive was a Chaldean punishment, Daniel 3:6, and Amos 2:1. From them other nations borrowed it.

And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire;
Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.
Have committed adultery with their neighbors' wives - This is supposed to refer to the case of Susanna. See above.

Thus shalt thou also speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite, saying,
Speak to Shemaiah - Zephaniah was the second priest, sagan, or chief priest's deputy, and Seraiah, high priest, when Jerusalem was taken. See Jeremiah 52:24. Shemaiah directs his letter to the former, and tells him that God had appointed him to supply the place of the high priest, who was probably then absent. His name was either Azariah or Seraiah his son, but called Jehoiada from the remarkable zeal and courage of that pontiff. See the passages in the margin. - Dodd. After the taking of Jerusalem, Zephaniah was put to death by Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah, see Jeremiah 37:3. The history of Jehoiada may be seen 2 Kings 11:3, etc.

Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Because thou hast sent letters in thy name unto all the people that are at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying,
The LORD hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the LORD, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks.
For every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet - Mad, משגע meshugga, in ecstatic rapture; such as appeared in the prophets, whether true or false, when under the influence, the one of God, the other of a demon. See 2 Kings 9:11; Hosea 9:7.

Now therefore why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a prophet to you?
For therefore he sent unto us in Babylon, saying, This captivity is long: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
And Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet.
Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,
Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite; Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie:
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: he shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the LORD; because he hath taught rebellion against the LORD.
I will punish Shemaiah -

1. He shall have no posterity to succeed him.

2. His family, i.e., relations, etc., shall not be found among those whom I shall bring back from captivity.

3. Nor shall he himself see the good that I shall do for my people.

And all this shall come upon him and his because he hath taught rebellion against the Lord. He excited the people to reject Jeremiah, and to receive the lying words of the false prophets; and these led them to rebel.

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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