Jeremiah 21:8
And to this people you shall say, Thus said the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.
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(8) The way of life, and the way of death.—The words are not unlike those of Deuteronomy 11:26-27; Deuteronomy 30:15; Deuteronomy 30:19, but there is something like a solemn irony in their application here. They obviously present themselves, not with the wide spiritual application with which they meet us there, but are to be taken in their lowest and most literal sense. The “way of life” is no longer that way of righteousness which the men of Judah had forsaken, leading to the life of eternal blessedness, but simply submission to the Chaldæans, and the life so gained was one of exile and poverty, if not of bondage also.

Jeremiah 21:8-10. And unto this people thou shalt say, &c. — By the civil message which the king sent to Jeremiah it appeared that both he and the people began to have respect for him; but the reply which God obliged him to make was sufficient to crush that little respect, and to exasperate them against him more than ever. Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death — Both the law and the prophets had often set before them life and death in another sense; life, if they would obey the voice of God; death, if they should persist in disobedience, Deuteronomy 30:19. But they had slighted that way of life which would have made them truly happy; to upbraid them with which the prophet here uses similar expressions, which signify, not as those of Moses, a fair proposal, but a melancholy dilemma, advising them, of two evils, to choose the least. And that lesser evil, a shameful and wretched captivity, is all the life now left for them to propose to themselves. He that abideth in this city — And trusts to it to secure him; shall die by the sword — Without the city; or by the famine, or pestilence within it. But he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans — Giving up his vain hopes of safety in the city, and bringing his spirit down to his condition; shall live — God had declared it to be his purpose to give up Judea and the neighbouring countries to the dominion of the Chaldeans: so they who would comply with his declared will should have their lives spared, the rest should be destroyed as fighting against God. And his life shall be unto him for a prey — That is, he shall save his life with as much difficulty and hazard as a prey is taken from the mighty: he shall escape but very narrowly. Or, he shall think himself a considerable gainer by escaping with his life in so general a destruction. For I have set my face against this city — To lay it waste and not to protect it; for evil — Which shall have no good mixed with it, no mitigation, or merciful allay; and, therefore, you have no way of safety, but begging quarter of the Chaldeans, and surrendering yourselves prisoners of war. In vain did Rabshakeh persuade the Jews to do this, while they had God for them, Isaiah 36:16. But it was the best course they could take now, God being against them.21:1-10 When the siege had begun, Zedekiah sent to ask of Jeremiah respecting the event. In times of distress and danger, men often seek those to counsel and pray for them, whom, at other times, they despise and oppose; but they only seek deliverance from punishment. When professors continue in disobedience, presuming upon outward privileges, let them be told that the Lord will prosper his open enemies against them. As the king and his princes would not surrender, the people are exhorted to do so. No sinner on earth is left without a Refuge, who really desires one; but the way of life is humbling, it requires self-denial, and exposes to difficulties.Compare the marginal reference; but here the alternative is a life saved by desertion to the enemy, or a death by famine, pestilence, and the sword within the walls. 8. "Life," if ye surrender; "death," if ye persist in opposing the Chaldees (compare De 30:19). The individuality of Jeremiah's mission from God is shown in that he urges to unconditional surrender; whereas all former prophets had urged the people to oppose their invaders (Isa 7:16; 37:33, 35). I tell you the way that you should take if you would save your lives, and the course which if you take you will certainly lose your lives. And unto the people thou shalt say, thus saith the Lord,.... These are the words, not of the prophet to the messengers of the king, ordering or advising them what they each of them should say to the people; for the message by them is finished; but they are the words of the Lord to the prophet, directing him what he should say to the people at this critical juncture:

behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death; the way how to preserve their lives; and which, if they did not choose to take, would be inevitable death. The allusion seems to be to a phrase used by Moses, when he gave the law; obedience to which would issue in life, and disobedience in death, Deuteronomy 30:15.

And to this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the {c} way of life, and the way of {d} death.

(c) By yielding yourselves to Nebuchadnezzar.

(d) By resisting him.

8. the way of life and the way of death] Somewhat similar expressions in Deut. (Deuteronomy 30:15; Deuteronomy 30:19, or, more probably, the words of Deuteronomy 11:26, though the language there is a less close parallel) may have suggested these words to Jeremiah. “Life,” however, here does not mean prosperity, as there, but the mere avoidance of death.

8–10. See introd. note to section. Owing to such advice Jeremiah was later charged with lack of patriotism, and in fact with treachery (Jeremiah 37:13 ff., Jeremiah 38:2 ff.).The Taking of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. - Jeremiah 21:1 and Jeremiah 21:2. The heading specifying the occasion for the following prediction. "The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah when King Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Malchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying: Inquire now of Jahveh for us, for Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the Lord will deal with us according to all His wondrous works, that he may go up from us." The fighting of Nebuchadrezzar is in Jeremiah 21:4 stated to be the besieging of the city. From this it appears that the siege had begun ere the king sent the two men to the prophet. Pashur the son of Malchiah is held by Hitz., Graf, Ng., etc., to be a distinguished priest of the class of Malchiah. But this is without sufficient reason; for he is not called a priest, as is the case with Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, and with Pashur the son of Immer (Jeremiah 21:1). Nor is anything proved by the circumstance that Pashur and Malchiah occur in several places as the names of priests, e.g., 1 Chronicles 9:12; for both names are also used of persons not priests, e.g., Malchiah, Ezra 10:25, Ezra 10:31, and Pashur, Jeremiah 38:1, where this son of Gedaliah is certainly a laic. From this passage, where Pashur ben Malchiah appears again, it is clear that the four men there named, who accused Jeremiah for his speech, were government authorities or court officials, since in Jeremiah 38:4 they are called שׂרים. Ros. is therefore right in saying of the Pashur under consideration: videtur unus ex principibus sive aulicis fuisse, cf. Jeremiah 38:4. Only Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah is called priest; and he, acc. to Jeremiah 29:25; Jeremiah 37:3; Jeremiah 52:24, held a high position in the priesthood. Inquire for us of Jahveh, i.e., ask for a revelation for us, as 2 Kings 22:13, cf. Genesis 25:22. It is not: pray for His help on our behalf, which is expressed by התפּלּל בּעדנוּ, Jeremiah 37:3, cf. Jeremiah 52:2. In the request for a revelation the element of intercession is certainly not excluded, but it is not directly expressed. But it is on this that the king founds his hope: Peradventure Jahveh will do with us (אותנוּ for אתּנוּ) according to all His wondrous works, i.e., in the miraculous manner in which He has so often saved us, e.g., under Hezekiah, and also, during the blockade of the city by Sennacherib, had recourse to the prophet Isaiah and besought his intercession with the Lord, 2 Kings 19:2., Isaiah 37:2. That he (Nebuch.) may go up from us. עלה, to march against a city in order to besiege it or take it, but with מעל, to withdraw from it, cf. Jeremiah 37:5; 1 Kings 15:19. As to the name Nebuchadrezzar, which corresponds more exactly than the Aramaic-Jewish Nebuchadnezzar with the Nebucadurriusur of the inscriptions (נבו כדר אצר, i.e., Nebo coronam servat), see Comm. on Daniel at Daniel 1:1.
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