Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Certain of the elders of the land.—The word is probably to be taken rather in the literal than in an official sense—or, if officially, then as including the literal meaning also. The elders speaking in the time of Jehoiakim (cir. B.C. 608) remembered the tradition of what had passed, a century or so before, in the reign of Hezekiah (B.C. 726-698), and could appeal to it as a precedent in favour of the prophet. The word for “assembly” (elsewhere rendered “congregation”) corresponds to the Ecclesia of a Greek city.Jeremiah 26:17-19. Then rose up certain of the elders — Either the princes before mentioned, or the more intelligent men of the people, stood up, and put the assembly in mind of a former case, as is usual with us in giving judgment, the wisdom of our predecessors being a direction to us. The case referred to is that of Micah, the book of whose prophecies we have among those of the minor prophets. Was it thought strange that Jeremiah prophesied against this city and the temple? Micah did so before him, even in the reign of Hezekiah, that reign of reformation, Jeremiah 26:18. Micah said as publicly, as Jeremiah had now spoken to the same purpose, Zion shall be ploughed like a field — The buildings shall be all destroyed, so that nothing shall hinder but it may be ploughed; Jerusalem shall become heaps — Of ruins; and the mountain of the house — On which the temple is built; shall be as the high places of the forest — Overrun with briers and thorns. This Micah not only spoke, but wrote, and left it upon record, Micah 3:12. Now did Hezekiah and all Judah put him to death? — Did the people come together in a body to accuse Micah, and demand sentence against him, as they had now done in the case of Jeremiah? Did they and their king make an act to silence him, or take away his life? No: on the contrary, they took the warning he gave them. Hezekiah, that renowned prince, set a good example before his successors; for he feared the Lord, as Noah, who, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, was moved with fear. He besought the Lord — To turn away the judgment threatened, and to be reconciled to them; and he found it was not in vain to do so; for the Lord repented him of the evil — Returned in mercy to them, and even sent an angel, who routed the army of the Assyrians that then threatened to destroy Jerusalem. These elders conclude, that it would be of dangerous consequence to the state if they should gratify the importunity of the priests and prophets in putting Jeremiah to death; saying, Thus we might procure great evil against our souls — Observe, reader, it is well to deter ourselves from sin, with the consideration of the mischief we should certainly do to ourselves by it, and the irreparable damage we should thereby bring upon our own souls.
elders—some of the "princes" mentioned (Jer 26:16) those whose age, as well as dignity, would give weight to the precedents of past times which they adduce.
elders were some of the court, or else advocates, for they were wont to rise up, either to plead or to judge, Isaiah 3:13 Acts 5:34. They rise up and apply themselves to the people to justify their absolutory sentence.
and spake to all the assembly of the people: to justify the vote of the court, and to confirm the people in a good opinion of it, by giving them examples and instances of the like kind:Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)17. the elders of the land] Certain elders support this proceeding by the precedent of Micah. We find frequent mention of the employment of leading men for administrative or judicial purposes (Deuteronomy 19:12; Deuteronomy 21:2 ff.; 1 Samuel 16:4; 1 Kings 21:8; 1 Kings 21:11), or simply as representatives of the people. See Numbers 11:16 (C.B.), also Exodus 3:16; Exodus 3:18; Exodus 4:29; Exodus 17:5 f., Jeremiah 18:12.Verse 17. - The elders of the land add their voice in favor of Jeremiah, not, however, without first of all consulting the people whose representatives they are. The whole verse is thoroughly technical in its phraseology. The word (qahal) rendered "assembly" is the traditional legal term for the "congregation of Israel" (Deuteronomy 31:30); comp. ver. 9, where the verb is the corresponding one to qahal. Thus, with all the faults of the government of Judah, which Jeremiah himself reveals to us, it was very far removed from the Oriental despotisms of our day. The "elders" are still an important element in the social system, and form a link with that earlier period in which the family was the leading power in the social organization. Originally the term denoted, strictly and in the full sense, heads of families; they have their analogue in the councils of the Aryan village communities. "References to their parliamentary status (if the phrase may be used) occur in Exodus 3:16; 2 Samuel 19:11; 1 Kings 8:1; 1 Kings 20:7. The institution lingered on during and after the Babylonian Exile (Jeremiah 29:1; Ezekiel 14:1; Ezekiel 20:1; Ezra 5:5; Ezra 6:7; Ezra 10:14; Matthew 26:3, 47; Mark 14:43; Acts 4:5, etc.)." We find another reference to their quasi-judicial authority in Deuteronomy 21:2. Deuteronomy 19:6), condemnation to death, is due to this man; "for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears." With these last words they appeal to the people standing round who had heard the prophecy, for the princes had not reached the temple till after Jeremiah had been apprehended. Jeremiah 26:12. To this Jeremiah answered in his own defence before the princes and all the people: "Jahveh hath sent me to prophesy against (אל for על) this house and against this city all the words which ye have heard. Jeremiah 26:13. And now make your ways good and your doings, and hearken to the voice of Jahveh your God, and Jahveh will repent Him of the evil that He hath spoken against you. Jeremiah 26:14. But I, behold, I am in your hand; do with me as seemeth to you good and right. Jeremiah 26:15. Only ye must know, that if ye put me to death, ye bring innocent blood upon you, and upon this city, and upon her inhabitants; for of a truth Jahveh hath sent me to you to speak in your ears all these words." - As to "make your ways good," cf. Jeremiah 7:3. This defence made an impression on the princes and on all the people. From the intimation that by reform it was possible to avert the threatened calamity, and from the appeal to the fact that in truth Jahveh had sent him and commanded him so to speak, they see that he is a true prophet, whose violent death would bring blood-guiltiness upon the city and its inhabitants. They therefore declare to the accusers, Jeremiah 26:16 : "This man is not worthy of death, for in the name of Jahveh our God hath he spoken unto us."
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