Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,XXVII.
(1) In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim.—The mention of the name of Zedekiah as king of Judah in Jeremiah 27:3 shows that the Hebrew text has here perpetuated an error, due probably to the transcriber or first editor of the collected prophecies. We have to think, accordingly, of the state of things which followed on the death of Jehoiakim, and the deposition and exile of Jehoiachin. The tone of the prophecy seems to indicate a time about the middle of Zedekiah’s reign. His position was that of a tributary sovereign, subject to Nebuchadnezzar. He and the neighbouring kings, who were in a like position, had not quite renounced the hope of throwing off the yoke, and asserting their independence.
Thus saith the LORD to me; Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck,(2) Make thee bonds and yokes.—This method of vivid symbolic prediction had a precedent in the conduct of Isaiah when he walked “naked and barefoot” (Isaiah 20:2). We have to realise the infinitely more vivid impression which the appearance of the prophet in this strange guise, as though he were at once a captive slave and a beast of burden, would make on the minds of men, as compared with simply warning them of a coming subjugation. The principle on which the prophet acted was that of Horace (Ep. ad Pis. 180):—
“Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures, Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus, et quæ Ipse sibi tradit spectator.”
Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus, et quæ
Ipse sibi tradit spectator.”
“Things that we hear less stir the inmost soul,
Than what the eye sees dramatised in act.”
So Agabus bound himself with Paul’s girdle (Acts 21:11). So Ezekiel dug through the wall of his house and carried out his stuff (Ezekiel 12:5-7). We find from Jeremiah 28:10 that the prophet obeyed the command quite literally.
And send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyrus, and to the king of Zidon, by the hand of the messengers which come to Jerusalem unto Zedekiah king of Judah;(3) And send them to the king of Edom.—The princes that are named had, as the context shows, sent their ambassadors to Zedekiah, proposing an alliance against Nebuchadnezzar. They are named in the same order as in the prophecy of Jeremiah 25:21-22, which had been delivered fifteen years before. The prophecy then delivered had been in part fulfilled, but these princes were still struggling against it, encouraged, apparently, by the difficulties which in Media and elsewhere seemed to delay the complete triumph of the Chaldæan king; and the prophet is commissioned to tell all of them alike that their efforts are in vain, and that the supremacy of Babylon was, for the time, part of God’s order, for the chastisement of the nations. In Jeremiah 49 we have a fuller, and probably later, development of the same strain of prediction.
And command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say unto your masters;(4) Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel.—As addressed to the outlying heathen nations, who were not His worshippers, the proclamation of the message, as coming from Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Israel, had a special force, which we hardly appreciate as we read the English. They, with their hosts of earth, were setting themselves against the Lord of the hosts alike of heaven and of earth.
I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me.(5) I have made the earth . . .—The pronoun is emphatic. For “upon the ground” read on the face of the earth, and for “it seemed meet unto me” it seemed meet to my eyes. The “stretched-out arm” is a phrase specially characteristic of the Book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 26:8), and may be noted among the many traces of its influence on Jeremiah’s language. The whole preface, which rises to a height of rhythmic loftiness not common in Jeremiah’s writings, asserts the truth that the Creator of the material world is also the ruler over the kingdoms of the earth. For a like utterance of the same thought, see Amos 4:13; Amos 9:6.
And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.(6) Nebuchadnezzar . . . my servant.—See Note on Jeremiah 25:9 for the title thus given. The special stress laid on “the beasts of the field” is, perhaps, connected with the resistance of the nations to the levies made by the Babylonian officers upon their horses and cattle, or their claim to use the land they had subdued, after the manner which we see depicted on Assyrian sculptures, as a hunting-ground. Compare especially the account of Tiglath-Pileser I.’s hunting expedition in Records of the Past, xi., p. 9.
And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him.(7) And his son, and his son’s son.—The words may have had the meaning that this was to be the farthest limit of Nebuchadnezzar’s dynasty, as defined by the “seventy years” of Jeremiah 25:11. The use of the phrase, however, in Exodus 34:7, Deuteronomy 4:25, points rather to an undefined prolongation, subject only to the fact that there was an appointed limit. Historically we may note the fact that Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son, Evil-merodach (Jeremiah 52:31); he by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar, and he by Nabouahid and his son Belshazzar. (See Introduction.)
Shall serve themselves of him.—Better, shall make him to serve. It lies in the nature of the case that the pronoun refers to the King of Babylon for the time being. The confederacy of nations which shall overthrow the Babylonian monarchy, Medes and others, is described more fully in Jeremiah 51:11; Jeremiah 51:27-28. The words were clearly meant to point both ways. They warn the nations not to resist the Chaldæan king then. They warn the king not to think that he is founding a dynasty of long duration. The whole verse is wanting in the LXX., perhaps because they imagined that the “son’s son” of Jeremiah 27:7 was inconsistent with the facts of history, as they read them.
And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the LORD, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.(8) That nation will I punish.—Better, I will visit. The three forms of punishment go naturally together. In Ezekiel 14:21 they appear, with the addition of the “noisome beast,” as the four sore judgments of God.
Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:(9) Therefore hearken ye not to your prophets.—The almost exhaustive list of the names given to the men who claimed the power of prevision, may have had its ground in the fact that each of the five names was characteristic of this or that among the five nations to whom the message was sent. Of the names themselves, the prominent idea in “prophet” is that of full-flowing utterance; in “diviners,” that of casting lots, as in Ezekiel 21:21; in “dreamers,” what the English word indicates; in enchanters, that of practising “veiled” or “secret” arts (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10); in “sorcerers,” that of muttered and whispered spells (Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 47:9-13; 2Kings 9:22). It is clear that the five nations of the confederacy were sustained in their rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar by a unanimity of prediction from men of all these classes like that which lured Ahab to his destruction (1Kings 22:22). Every oracle was tuned, as it were, in favour of the policy of resistance.
For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish.(10) To remove you far from your land.—The prophet speaks of what he foresees will be the result of the rebellion to which soothsayers and diviners were urging men, as if it were actually contemplated by them. They are to him like the lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets persuading him to go up to Ramoth Gilead to battle, in order that he might perish.
But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those will I let remain still in their own land, saith the LORD; and they shall till it, and dwell therein.(11) But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke . . .—The advice thus given to the five nations that were seeking an alliance with Judah before the actual invasion, is specifically addressed to Judah in the next verse, and is repeated more fully after the population of Judæa had been carried into captivity, in Jeremiah 29. The first warning had been despised, and the exiles were then reaping the fruit of their self-will, but the principle that obedience was better than resistance remained the same.
I spake also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live.(12) I spake also to Zedekiah . . .—There was, as we see in Jeremiah 28:13, a party of resistance in Judah also, and they, too, were trusting in delusive prophecies of the overthrow of the Chaldæan monarchy. Sadly and earnestly the prophet pleads with them in the question, “Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by the sword . . .?
Also I spake to the priests and to all this people, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Hearken not to the words of your prophets that prophesy unto you, saying, Behold, the vessels of the LORD'S house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you.(16) Behold the vessels of the Lord’s house . . .—The importance attached to this specific prediction, on which apparently the false prophets staked their credit, can easily be understood. The vessels referred to are those which had been carried off by Nebuchadnezzar in his first invasion, and before the accession of Zedekiah (2Kings 24:13; 2Chronicles 36:7). The people mourned over the absence of what they had so prized among the treasures of the Temple, and the prophets accordingly soothed them with predictions that they would before long be brought back. In marked contrast to these prophecies of their restoration “shortly,” we find them brought out for use at Belshazzar’s feast, towards the close of the Babylonian exile (Daniel 1:2; Daniel 5:2), and restored to the Jews by Cyrus, after the capture of Babylon (Ezra 1:7). In the apocryphal book of Baruch (1:8) we find a tradition that some of them (silver, not gold) were restored in the reign of Zedekiah, but this can hardly be regarded as historical. It is noticeable that the restoration is connected, in that narrative, with the agency of Baruch himself, and it is scarcely probable that he would have brought about a fulfilment of the prediction of the false prophets, who were his Master’s enemies.
Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and live: wherefore should this city be laid waste?(17) Hearken not unto them.—The prophecy of the restoration of the vessels of the Temple was clearly not a mere prediction. It had been used as an incentive to rebellion. “Make one last effort,” the prophets virtually said, “and the spoiler shall be compelled to disgorge his booty.” The prophet saw that such an effort would but hasten the utter destruction of the Temple and the city.
But if they be prophets, and if the word of the LORD be with them, let them now make intercession to the LORD of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the LORD, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, go not to Babylon.(18) But if they be prophets . . .—The rivals of Jeremiah had, as has been said, staked their credit upon the return of the vessels that had already been taken. He stakes his On the prediction that what had been spared in the first invasion should be taken on the second. They had better use their gift of the Spirit, if they had any, in interceding for their preservation.
For thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the pillars, and concerning the sea, and concerning the bases, and concerning the residue of the vessels that remain in this city,(19) For thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the pillars . . .—The “pillars” referred to were probably the two bronze columns known as Jachin and Boaz, on each side of the porch of the Temple (1Kings 7:21). The molten “sea,” standing on twelve oxen as its supporters, is described in 1Kings 7:23-26. The ten “bases” for the ten lavers, with their engraved work of cherubim, lions, and palm-trees, are described in 1Kings 7:27-37. The work of plunder was apparently confined, in the first instance, to the more portable vessels—cups, flagons, and the like. The absence of the specific list of the vessels in the LXX. version has led some critics to the conclusion that it was a later addition to the Hebrew text.
They shall be carried to Babylon, and there shall they be until the day that I visit them, saith the LORD; then will I bring them up, and restore them to this place.(22) They shall be carried to Babylon.—The fulfilment of the prediction is recorded in 2Kings 25:13-17.
Until the day that I visit them.—The date is not given definitely, but seventy years had been already named as the period between the plunder and the restoration (Jeremiah 25:12). Here the undefined vagueness of “the day that I will visit them” is contrasted with the equally indefinite but more exciting “shortly” of the false prophets (Jeremiah 27:16).