Jeremiah 17:20
And say to them, Hear you the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:
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17:19-27 The prophet was to lay before the rulers and the people of Judah, the command to keep holy the sabbath day. Let them strictly observe the fourth command. If they obeyed this word, their prosperity should be restored. It is a day of rest, and must not be made a day of labour, unless in cases of necessity. Take heed, watch against the profanation of the sabbath. Let not the soul be burdened with the cares of this world on sabbath days. The streams of religion run deep or shallow, according as the banks of the sabbath are kept up or neglected. The degree of strictness with which this ordinance is observed, or the neglect shown towards it, is a good test to find the state of spiritual religion in any land. Let all; by their own example, by attention to their families, strive to check this evil, that national prosperity may be preserved, and, above all, that souls may be saved.This prophecy on the observance of the Sabbath, is the first of a series of short predictions. arranged probably in chronological order among themselves, but in other respects independent of one another. Its tone is mild, and dissuasive rather of future neglect than condemnatory of past misconduct; and it may be assigned to the commencement of Jehoiakim's reign. Its similarity to the prophecy contained in Jeremiah 22:1-5 makes it probable that they were contemporaneous.

Jeremiah 17:19

The gate of the children of the people - Perhaps the principal entrance of the outer court of the temple. Very probably there was traffic there, as in our Lord's time, in doves and other requisites for sacrifice, and so the warning to keep the Sabbath was as necessary there as at the city gates.

20. kings—He begins with the kings, as they ought to have repressed such a glaring profanation. The word of the Lord equally concerneth the highest and the lowest, the greatest princes as well as the meanest subjects. And say unto them, hear ye the word of the Lord,.... Concerning the sanctification of the sabbath; for this was not of human, but of divine institution:

ye kings of Judah; which must be understood either, as Kimchi thinks, of the then present king and his sons, so called because they would reign after him; for, there was but one king at a time; and who, perhaps, at this time, was Josiah: or else the king and his nobles, the princes of the land, are meant:

and all Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates; the people in the several parts of the land of Judea, that came to Jerusalem either for trade and merchandise, or for worship, and all that dwelt in the metropolis; for the business the prophet had to charge them with concerned them all.

And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:
20. kings] The plural is certainly strange. Cp. the sing, in Jeremiah 22:2. As Co. says, we have here not a concrete situation but a model and abstraction.Verse 20. - Jeremiah addresses himself first of all to the kings of Judah. As it would be very unnatural for a public orator to appeal to the yet unborn members of the reigning dynasty, and as there are several indications that the "house of David" was able at this period, as also in that of Isaiah, to exercise a decisive political and civil influence, even, as appears from Jeremiah 21:11, 12, monopolizing the judicial functions, it is natural to suppose that "kings of Judah" is here used in a very special sense, via. of the members of the various branches of the royal family ("The sons of the king," Zephaniah 1:8; comp. Jeremiah 36:26, "Jerahmeel, a king's son"), and their descendants, who received the royal title by courtesy (parallels for this will be found in Gesenius's 'Hebrew Thesaurus,''lek). The queen-mother was probably the leader of this plan; "the mistress," as she was called (see on Jeremiah 13:18), and the royal princes (among whom the "house of Nathan," Zechariah 12:12, would doubtless be reckoned), constituted in fact a body almost as numerous as they did (according to Brugsch Bey) in Egypt, and politically much more influential; so much so indeed that only a king of unusual force of character, like Hezekiah or Josiah, could venture, and that timidly, to oppose them. The weak-principled Zedekiah seems to have been entirely dominated by this powerful caste, and to have been little more than a maire du palais (the same sense of the phrase is required in Jeremiah 19:8, and probably in Jeremiah 25:18). The prophet's prayer for rescue from his enemies. - Jeremiah 17:14. "Heal me, Jahveh, that I may be healed; help me, that I may be holpen, for Thou art my praise. Jeremiah 17:15. Behold, they say to me, Where is the word of Jahveh? let it come, now. Jeremiah 17:16. I have not withdrawn myself from being a shepherd after Thee, neither wished for the day of trouble, Thou knowest; that which went forth of my lips was open before Thy face. Jeremiah 17:17. Be not to me a confusion, my refuge art Thou in the day of evil. Jeremiah 17:18. Let my persecutors be put to shame, but let not me be put to shame; let them be confounded, but let not me be confounded; bring upon them the day of evil, and break them with a double breach."

The experience Jeremiah had had in his calling seemed to contradict the truth, that trust in the Lord brings blessing (Jeremiah 17:7.); for his preaching of God's word had brought him nothing but persecution and suffering. Therefore he prays the Lord to remove this contradiction and to verify that truth in his case also. The prayer of Jeremiah 17:14, "heal me," reminds one of Psalm 6:3; Psalm 30:3. Thou art תּהלּתי, the object of my praises; cf. Psalm 71:6; Deuteronomy 10:21. - The occasion for this prayer is furnished by the attacks of his enemies, who ask in scorn what then has become of that which he proclaims as the word of the Lord, why it does not come to pass. Hence we see that the discourse, of which this complaint is the conclusion, was delivered before the first invasion of Judah by the Chaldeans. So long as his announcements were not fulfilled, the unbelieving were free to persecute him as a false prophet (cf. Deuteronomy 18:22), and to give out that his prophecies were inspired by his own spite against his people. He explains, on the contrary, that in his calling he has neither acted of his own accord, nor wished for misfortune to the people, but that he has spoken by the inspiration of God alone. 'לא אצתּי cannot mean: I have not pressed myself forward to follow Thee as shepherd, i.e., pressed myself forward into Thy service in vain and overweening self-conceit (Umbr.). For although this sense would fall very well in with the train of thought, yet it cannot be grammatically justified. אוּץ, press, press oneself on to anything, is construed with ל, cf.Josh. Jeremiah 10:13; with מן it can only mean: press oneself away from a thing. מרעה may stand for מהיות , cf. Jeremiah 48:2, 1 Samuel 15:23; 1 Kings 15:13 : from being a shepherd after Thee, i.e., I have not withdrawn myself from following after Thee as a shepherd. Against this rendering the fact seems to weigh, that usually it is not the prophets, but only the kings and princes, that are entitled the shepherds of the people; cf. Jeremiah 23:1. For this reason, it would appear, Hitz. and Graf have taken רעה in the sig. to seek after a person or thing, and have translated: I have not pressed myself away from keeping after Thee, or from being one that followed Thee faithfully. For this appeal is made to places like Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 28:7; Psalm 37:3, where רעה does mean to seek after a thing, to take pleasure in it. But in this sig. רעה is always construed with the accus. of the thing or person, not with אחרי, as here. Nor does it by any means follow, from the fact of shepherds meaning usually kings or rulers, that the idea of "shepherd" is exhausted in ruling and governing people. According to Psalm 23:1, Jahveh is the shepherd of the godly, who feeds them in green pastures and leads them to the refreshing water, who revives their soul, etc. In this sense prophets, too, feed the people, if they, following the Lord as chief shepherd, declare God's word to the people. We cannot in any case abide by Ng.'s rendering, who, taking רעה in its literal sense, puts the meaning thus: I have not pressed myself away from being a shepherd, in order to go after Thee. For the assumption that Jeremiah had, before his call, been, like Amos, a herd of cattle, contradicts Jeremiah 1:1; nor from the fact, that the cities of the priests and of the Levites were provided with grazing fields (מגרשׁים), does it at all follow that the priests themselves tended their flocks. "The day of trouble," the ill, disastrous day, is made out by Ng. to be the day of his entering upon the office of prophet - a view that needs no refutation. It is the day of destruction for Jerusalem and Judah, which Jeremiah had foretold. When Ng. says: "He need not have gone out of his way to affirm that he did not desire the day of disaster for the whole people," he has neglected to notice that Jeremiah is here defending himself against the charges of his enemies, who inferred from his prophecies of evil that he found a pleasure in his people's calamity, and wished for it to come. For the truth of his defence, Jeremiah appeals to the omniscience of God: "Thou knowest it." That which goes from my lips, i.e., the word that came from my lips, was נך פּניך, before or over against thy face, i.e., manifest to Thee.

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