Jeremiah 32:9
And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.
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(9) Weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.—The Hebrew presents the singular combination, seven shekels and ten [pieces of] silver, and is followed by the LXX. and Vulg. There is no ground for thinking that there is any difference between the coins or bullion so described, and the formula was probably one of the technicalities of Jewish conveyancing. As regards the price it is not easy, in the absence of any measurement of the field, to form an estimate of its value; but, speaking roughly, as compared with the four hundred shekels paid by Abraham for the field of Ephron (Genesis 23:16), or the fifty paid by David for the threshing-floor and oxen of Araunah (2Samuel 24:24; in 1Chronicles 21:25 the price is fixed at six hundred shekels of gold), or to the thirty shekels paid for the potter’s field in Matthew 27:9, or to the market price of a slave varying from fifteen (Hosea 3:2) to thirty shekels (Zechariah 11:12), the price, under £2 sterling, would seem to have been far below its average market value, and in this respect the story falls short of the dignity of its Roman parallel (see Note on Jeremiah 32:7). Hanameel, as said above, was probably glad to part with it at any price. It is possible, however, that the smallness of the sum was owing to the fact that the sale, as above suggested, conveyed possession only for the unexpired term of a tenancy which was to end with the next year of Jubilee. On that assumption the prophet’s motive in purchasing may have been to keep it in the family instead of letting it pass to a stranger who might be unwilling to surrender it when the year of Jubilee arrived. As the prophet was unmarried he had no son to inherit it. The precise sum fixed, perhaps even the form in which the sum is stated, may have originated in Jeremiah’s wish to connect in this way the two numbers, ten and seven, which when multiplied together produced the number which he had fixed for the years of captivity, and therefore for the term of restoration. Such an elaborate artifice of symbolism would, at least, be quite in character in a prophet who adopts the acrostic form in his Lamentations and the cypher of an inverted alphabet known as the Athbash. (See Note on Jeremiah 25:26.)

Jeremiah 32:9. I weighed him the money — In ancient times all money was paid by weight, a custom still used in several countries; even seventeen shekels of silver — A sum which, in our money, is not much above forty shillings; a small price for a field or piece of ground. It must be considered, however, “that the quantity of land is uncertain, and that the circumstances of the times must have greatly tended to lessen the value of land. The field in question was at the time of the purchase in the enemy’s possession; and the purchaser well knew that he or his heirs had no chance of entering upon it till after the expiration of the seventy years’ captivity. Besides, the seller, it is likely, was in the immediate want of the money, and could get no one else to purchase in the precarious situation things were in. He might therefore be glad to take what the prophet, who, doubtless, was not rich, was able to give, and who would not have thought of making the purchase at any rate had he not acted under the divine direction for a special purpose.” — Blaney. 32:1-15 Jeremiah, being in prison for his prophecy, purchased a piece of ground. This was to signify, that though Jerusalem was besieged, and the whole country likely to be laid waste, yet the time would come, when houses, and fields, and vineyards, should be again possessed. It concerns ministers to make it appear that they believe what they preach to others. And it is good to manage even our worldly affairs in faith; to do common business with reference to the providence and promise of God.Seventeen shekels of silver - literally, as in the margin, probably a legal formula. Jeremiah bought Hanameel's life-interest up to the year of Jubilee, and no man's life was worth much in a siege like that of Jerusalem. As Jeremiah had no children, at his death the land would devolve to the person who would have inherited it had Jeremiah not bought it. He therefore bought what never was and never could have been of the slightest use to him, and gave for it what in the growing urgency of the siege might have been very serviceable to himself. Still, as the next heir. it was Jeremiah's duty to buy the estate, independently of the importance of the act as a sign to the people; and evidently he gave the full value. 9. seventeen shekels of silver—As the shekel was only 2s. 4d.., the whole would be under £2, a rather small sum, even taking into account the fact of the Chaldean occupation of the land, and the uncertainty of the time when it might come to Jeremiah or his heirs. Perhaps the "seven shekels," which in the Hebrew (see Margin) are distinguished from the "ten pieces of silver," were shekels of gold [Maurer].

Ver. 9
. That is, about 2l. 2s. 6d., a small purchase, which argues the field here mentioned to be but some orchard or garden; though we must allow the price of land strangely fallen at this time, when the enemy was besieging the chief city of the country. It should seem they were wont there to make their payments more by weight than by tale. And I bought the field of Hanameel mine uncle's son; that was in Anathoth,.... The prophet agreed with his cousin to take his field of him, at a certain price hereafter mentioned; which may seem strange in one that was a poor prophet, now a prisoner, and the land just going to be subject to the Chaldeans: but the design of this was to show that there would be a return from captivity, when houses and fields should be bought and sold again, of which this was a pledge:

and weighed him the money; agreed upon, which was reckoned not by tale, but by weight:

even seventeen shekels of silver; which, reckoning a shekel at half a crown, were no more than two pounds, two shillings, and sixpence; a small sum of money to make a purchase of a field with; though this may be accounted for by the scarcity of money, the field in the hand of the enemy, there being only his kinsman's life in it, the prophet bought the reversion, being his of right; and, besides, it might be only an orchard or garden that is so called. In the Hebrew text it is, "seven shekels and ten pieces of silver": and Kimchi and Ben Melech say, that by "shekels" are meant minas or pounds; and by "pieces of silver", selahs or shekels: and so the Targum renders it,

"seven minas, and ten shekels of silver.''

Now a minah or maneh, according to Ezekiel 45:12; was equal to sixty shekels, and so of the value of seven pounds, ten shillings; seven of these made fifty two pounds, ten shillings; and the other ten shekels being one pound, five shillings, the whole amounted to fifty three pounds, fifteen shillings, which would purchase a considerable field.

And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen {f} shekels of silver.

(f) Which amounts to about ten shillings six pence in our money if this shekel were the common shekel, see Geneva Ge 23:15, for the shekel of the temple was of double value, and ten pieces of silver were half a shekel, for twenty made the shekel.

9. that was in Anathoth] Omit with LXX.

weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver] The shekel weighed about 220 of our grains. The amount may appear small (about £2. 6s. 6d. of our money), but we do not know the size of the field. It is clear from the aim of the whole transaction that it was a fair price in ordinary times. We must remember also that in those days the purchasing power of silver was much greater. Araunah’s threshing floor, oxen, and implements were bought at a time of great prosperity for fifty shekels (2 Samuel 24:24).Verse 9. - Seventeen shekels of silver; i.e. about £2 5s. 4d. (taking the shekel at 2s. 8d.). This has been thought a small price. Thirty shekels were paid for the potter's field (Matthew 27:7); fifty by David, for Araunah's threshing floor and oxen (2 Samuel 24:4). The Hebrew has "seven shekels and ten of silver;" hence the Targum increases the price by supplying "minas" before "of silver," bringing up the sum to one hundred and seven shekels. This, however, seems too much. Even if Jeremiah wished to be liberal, he would hardly have been able to go so far (probably) in excess of the market price. Who would have purchased the land on speculation, if Jeremiah had refused? The famine made life, the siege, a continuance of personal liberty, terribly uncertain. And, putting this out of the question, there may have been but a short time to elapse before the year of jubilee, when the land would revert to its original occupant (see above). The singular form of expression in the Hebrew, at which the Targum stumbled, may, perhaps, be the usual style of legal documents. The time and the circumstances of the following message from God. - The message came to Jeremiah in the tenth year of Zedekiah, i.e., in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar (cf. Jeremiah 25:1 and Jeremiah 52:12), when the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah was kept in confinement in the fore-court of the royal palace. These historical data are inserted (Jeremiah 32:2-5) in the form of circumstantial clauses: 'ואז חיל וגו, "for at that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem." The siege had begun in the ninth year of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 39:1; Jeremiah 52:4), and was afterwards raised for a short time, in consequence of the approach of an auxiliary corps of Egyptians; but, as soon as these had been defeated, it was resumed (Jeremiah 37:5, Jeremiah 37:11). Jeremiah was then kept confined in the court of the prison of the royal palace (cf. Nehemiah 3:25), "where Zedekiah, king of Judah, had imprisoned him, saying: Why dost thou prophesy, 'Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, so that he shall take it; Jeremiah 32:4. And Zedekiah, the king of Judah, shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall assuredly be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and his mouth shall speak with his mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes; Jeremiah 32:5. And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the Lord. Though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not succeed?'" - We have already found an utterance of like import in Jeremiah 21:1-14, but that is not here referred to; for it was fulfilled at the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem, and did not bring on Jeremiah the consequences mentioned here. From Jeremiah 37 we learn that Jeremiah, during the siege of Jerusalem, on till the time when it was raised through the approach of the Egyptian army, had not been imprisoned, but went freely in and out among the people (Jeremiah 37:4.). Not till during the temporary raising of the siege, when he wanted to go out of the city into the land of Benjamin, was he seized and thrown into a dungeon, on the pretence that he intended to go over to the Chaldeans. There he remained many days, till King Zedekiah ordered him to be brought, and questioned him privately as to the issue of the conflict; when Jeremiah replied, "Thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon." On this occasion Jeremiah complained to the king of his imprisonment, and requested that he might not be sent back into the dungeon, where he must soon perish; the king then ordered him (Jeremiah 37:11-21) to be taken into the court of the prison-house (חצר , Jeremiah 37:21), where he remained in confinement till the city was taken (Jeremiah 38:13, Jeremiah 38:28; Jeremiah 39:14). The statement in our verses as to the cause of this imprisonment does not contradict, but agrees with the notice in Jeremiah 37, as soon as we perceive that this account contains merely a brief passing notice of the matter. The same holds true of the utterance of the prophet in Jeremiah 32:3-5. Jeremiah, even at the beginning of the siege (Jeremiah 21:3.), had sent a message of similar import to the king, and repeated the same afterwards: Jeremiah 34:3-5; Jeremiah 37:17; Jeremiah 38:17-23. The words of our verses are taken from these repeated utterances; Jeremiah 32:4 agrees almost verbatim with Jeremiah 34:3; and the words, "there shall he remain עד־פּקדי אתו, till I regard him with favour," are based upon the clearer utterance as to the end of Zedekiah, Jeremiah 34:4-5. - The circumstances under which Jeremiah received the following commission from the Lord are thus exactly stated, in order to show how little prospect the present of the kingdom of Judah offered for the future, which was portrayed by the purchase of the field. Not only must the kingdom of Judah inevitably succumb to the power of the Chaldeans, and its population go into exile, but even Jeremiah is imprisoned, in so hopeless a condition, that he is no longer sure of his life for a single day.
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