Jeremiah 37:12
Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself there in the middle of the people.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem . . .—The prophet’s motive in leaving the city may well have been his apprehension that the answer he had sent would move the king’s anger, and lead, as it actually led, to an order for his arrest. The fact that the Chaldæans had raised the siege gave him free egress.

To separate himself thence in the midst of the people.—More accurately, to take a share from thence in the midst of the people. This gives probably the ostensible reason of his journey. As a priest belonging to Anathoth, he had property (like that which he afterwards bought of his uncle, Jeremiah 32) in the land of Benjamin, and he now went to look after it, either in the way of ploughing and sowing, or to receive his share of its produce during his sojourn in Jerusalem. If, as seems probable from Jeremiah 34:8-16, this was a Sabbatical year, the former, assuming the siege to have been raised when the year was over, would be the more probable alternative, and would better explain, as in Ruth 4:2; Ruth 4:9, the addition of the clause “in the midst of the people,” as showing that there was nothing clandestine in his proceedings. Other meanings that have been given to the words, “to buy bread,” “to till a field,” “to separate a field,” to conciliate,” “to divide the spoil,” are less satisfactory. At such a time all the owners of land would be eager to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the departure of the Chaldæan army to transact any business connected with it.

Jeremiah 37:12. Then Jeremiah went forth, &c., to go into the land of Benjamin — Jeremiah, having no further revelation from God to communicate, and knowing the city would soon be taken, resolves to go to his own country to Anathoth. To separate himself thence, &c. — The Hebrew, בתוךְ העם

לחלק משׁם, is rendered by Houbigant, “That he might have there a possession for himself with the people;” by Dr. Waterland, “To take rents from thence,” &c.; and by Blaney, “To receive a portion thereof among the people.” “This,” says the last-mentioned critic, “seems a more natural interpretation of the words, than to understand them, as our translators seem to have done, of the prophet’s withdrawing himself, or slipping away, (as it is expressed in the margin,) for fear of being shut up again in the city, on the renewal of the blockade. For the case appears to have been this, Jeremiah had been cut off from his patrimony in the land of Benjamin, by the Chaldeans having been masters there. But, upon their retreat, he meant to return, with a view of coming in for a share of the produce of the land with the rest of his neighbours. For that he was likely to want some means for his support is evident from his having been obliged to be subsisted in prison afterward upon a public allowance.”37:11-21 There are times when it is the wisdom of good men to retire, to enter into their chambers, and to shut the doors, Isa 26:20. Jeremiah was seized as a deserter, and committed to prison. But it is no new thing for the best friends of the church to be belied, as in the interests of her worst enemies. When thus falsely accused, we may deny the charge, and commit our cause to Him who judges righteously. Jeremiah obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful, and would not, to obtain mercy of man, be unfaithful to God or to his prince; he tells the king the whole truth. When Jeremiah delivered God's message, he spake with boldness; but when he made his own request, he spake submissively. A lion in God's cause must be a lamb in his own. And God gave Jeremiah favour in the eyes of the king. The Lord God can make even the cells of a prison become pastures to his people, and will raise up friends to provide for them, so that in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.To separate himself thence ... - To receive a share thence. When the siege was temporarily raised, the first object would be food, and, accordingly, Jeremiah accompanied by others, who, like himself, had a right to share in the produce of the priests' lands at Anathoth, started there to see whether any stores remained which might be available for their common use. 12. Benjamin—to his own town, Anathoth.

to separate himself—Margin translates, "to slip away," from a Hebrew root, "to be smooth," so, to slip away as a slippery thing that cannot be held. But it is not likely the prophet of God would flee in a dishonorable way; and "in the midst of the people" rather implies open departure along with others, than clandestine slipping away by mixing with the crowd of departing people. Rather, it means, to separate himself, or to divide his place of residence, so as to live partly here, partly there, without fixed habitation, going to and fro among the people [Ludovicus De Dieu]. Maurer translates, "to take his portion thence," to realize the produce of his property in Anathoth [Henderson], or to take possession of the land which he bought from Hanameel [Maurer].

The word we translate

separate signifieth to divide, soften, or make slippery, which hath made interpreters vary in the exposition of it. But the general use of it, especially in Pihel, (the conjugation in which it is here used,) being to signify a dividing or separating, and the latter signification being secondary, it seemeth most reasonably here translated to separate, or to withdraw. Jeremiah had no further revelation from God which he was under an obligation to communicate; and knowing the city would suddenly be taken, and that he could be no further useful to the people, taking advantage of the withdrawing of the Chaldean army, resolves to provide for himself, designing to go to his own country, to Anathoth, which was in the land of Benjamin; and because he was a noted person, who might probably be stopped (as he was) if known, he attempts to slip out in the crowd of people that were going out. This seemeth to me the most probable sense. Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem,.... At least he attempted to do so, taking the opportunity of the siege of the city being broke up: what were his reasons for it are not certain; whether that he might not be put into prison, which he might fear for what he had just prophesied of concerning the return of the Chaldean army, that should take the city, and burn it; or to save himself from the destruction which he was sure would come upon it; or because he found he could do no good by his preaching and prophesying in it: however his view was

to go into the land of Benjamin; his native country, the tribe he belonged to; and very likely to Anathoth in that tribe, where he was born, and had lived. Josephus (e) is express for it, which he says was twenty furlongs from Jerusalem:

to separate himself thence in the midst of the people: or, "to slip away thence in the midst of the people" (f); the siege being raised, the people that had fled to Jerusalem for safety crowded out again to go into their own countries, which the prophet thought to take the advantage of, and slip away in a crowd unobserved; though the words may be rendered, "to take part from thence in the midst of the people" (g); either to take part of the spoil left there by the Chaldean army; or with the priests there, of what belonged to them, of whose number he was, Jeremiah 1:1. The Targum is,

"to divide an inheritance which he had there in the midst of the people;''

and to the same sense are the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions (h).

(e) Antiqu. l. 10. c. 7. sect. 3.((f) "ad lubrificandum seipsum", Montanus; "ad delabendum", Junius & Tremellius; "elabendo", Piscator; "ut subduecret se", Grotius. (g) "Ut partem acciperet ibi in medio populi", Schmidt. (h) Vid. Gloss. in T. Bab. Sota, fol. 42. 1. & Pesikta apud Yalkut in loc.

Then Jeremiah went out of Jerusalem to go into the {f} land of Benjamin, to separate himself from there in the midst of the people.

(f) As some think, to go to Anathoth his own town.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. the land of Benjamin] presumably to Anathoth.

to receive his portion] The Heb. is obscure, but probably his object was in some way connected with his purchase as related ch. Jeremiah 32:9 ff. Other conjectures are, to secure his share in a re-allotment of communal lands, or, to get his portion of the produce of the priests’ lands at Anathoth.Verse 12. - As soon as communication with the outside world was possible, Jeremiah took the opportunity of going to his native country, to obtain something or other which he could only obtain "thence." The Authorized Version says that his object was to separate himself thence. But

(1) the rendering is linguistically untenable; and

(2) the assumed object is incongruous with the circumstances and Character of Jeremiah, who was neither inclined to seek safety in isolation nor had any motive at present for doing so. The only safe rendering is, to claim his share thence. Whether there was just then a reallotment of communal lands must be left undecided; this would, however, be the most plausible hypothesis, if we could be sure that the present was a sabbatical year. The additional words, in the midst of the people, would then acquire a special significance. The "people" would be the representatives of families who had an equal right to allotments with Jeremiah. Then came the word of the Lord to this effect: Jeremiah 37:7. "Thus saith Jahveh, the God of Israel: Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah who hath sent you to me to ask at me, Behold, the army of Pharaoh, which marched out to your help, will return to Egypt, their own land. Jeremiah 37:8. And the Chaldeans shall return and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire. Jeremiah 37:9. Thus saith Jahveh: Do not deceive yourselves by thinking, The Chaldeans will quite withdraw from us; for they will not withdraw. Jeremiah 37:10. For, even though he had beaten the whole army of the Chaldeans who are fighting with you, and there remained of them only some who had been pierced through and through, yet they would rise up, every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire." In order to cut off every hope, the prophet announces that the Egyptians will bring no help, but withdraw to their own land before the Chaldeans who went out to meet them, without having accomplished their object; but then the Chaldeans will return, continue the siege, take the city and burn it. To assure them of this, he adds: "Ye must not deceive yourselves with the vain hope that the Chaldeans may possibly be defeated and driven back by the Egyptians. The destruction of Jerusalem is so certain that, even supposing you were actually to defeat and repulse the Chaldeans, and only some few grievously wounded ones remained in the tents, these would rise up and burn the city." In הלוך ילכוּ the inf. abs. is to be observed, as strengthening the idea contained in the verb: "to depart wholly or completely;" הלך is here to "depart, withdraw." אנשׁים in contrast with חיל are separate individuals. מדקּר, pierced through by sword or lance, i.e., grievously, mortally wounded.
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