Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Jeremiah 26:1-24. Solemn warning addressed to the people and its results
This ch. as a whole gives us a rapid sketch of the circumstances under which Jeremiah had uttered the prophecies that went before. The more definite he had become in his warnings, the more he excited the wrath of the false prophets and of those who sided with them; and now that he had explicitly announced (Jeremiah 25:11) a seventy years’ captivity, their indignation boiled over, and they sought to compass his death. From the contents of this ch. then we can realise better under what conditions and with what courage the prophet continued his fore-castings of definite calamity in the chapters which follow. “The beginning” will naturally denote some date earlier than the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign, when the crisis came about, and Jeremiah was no longer listened to nor tolerated (ch. 36).
The ch. may be summarized thus. (i) Jeremiah 26:1-6. Jeremiah declares publicly that in the absence of amendment the Temple shall share the fate of Shiloh. (ii) Jeremiah 26:7-15. He is in consequence attacked by priests and prophets, and speaks in his own defence. (iii) Jeremiah 26:16-19. The princes and people rescue and defend him. Micah’s case is adduced in his support. (iv) Jeremiah 26:20-24. Jeremiah’s danger is illustrated by the compiler by means of the story of Uriah.
In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD, saying,1–6. For a discussion as to the relation of these vv. to chs. 7–10 see introductory note there.
Gi. points out that the use of the 3rd person with reference to Jeremiah as well as other features of the ch. indicate the probability that it is a compilation made by Baruch, upon which the following chs. also to 45 evidently draw considerably. We may note that owing to Baruch’s habit of dating the events which he mentions, a light is thrown upon them which is often lacking in regard to the prophet’s discourses.
Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD'S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD'S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word:2. the court of the Lord’s house] probably the outer court, as that in which the people would assemble; so ch. Jeremiah 19:14.
the cities of] LXX omit; introduced perhaps to harmonize with Jeremiah 11:6.
keep not back a word] The temptation in the way of suppression would be through natural shrinking from the danger involved. Cp. Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32.
If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.3. repent] See on Jeremiah 18:8.
And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you,4. my law] See on Jeremiah 8:8. Here the reference, as the following clause indicates, is to the doctrinal rather than the ritual teaching.
I have set before you] See on Jeremiah 9:13.
To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened;5. rising up early and sending] See Jeremiah 7:13.
Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.6. Shiloh] See on Jeremiah 7:12.
will make this city a curse to] will make all nations use it as an example when imprecating curses on their enemies. Cp. Jeremiah 24:9 and contrast Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18.
So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.7. prophets] The LXX, in order to make the sense clearer, render the Hebrew here, as in Jeremiah 26:8; Jeremiah 26:11; Jeremiah 26:16, “false prophets.”
7–16. See introd. summary to ch.
Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.8. Thou shalt surely die] That prophet who spoke without God’s command was according to Deuteronomy 18:20 to be put to death. The charge against Jeremiah then was of this nature, and the alleged proof, that it was impossible in the nature of things that such a calamity could be allowed to happen to the people of God.
Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.
When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king's house unto the house of the LORD, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the LORD'S house.10. the princes of Judah … came up from the king’s house] The powers of these persons are not clear. Evidently, however, their employment about the court and the constantly increasing weakness of the monarchy would help them to the acquisition of such authority as we find them here exercising.
came up] See on Jeremiah 22:1.
the new gate] probably the same as the “upper gate” of ch. Jeremiah 20:2, where see note.
of the Lord’s house] The MT. omits “house.” Possibly we should reject both substantives. They are unnecessary after Jeremiah 26:9. LXX MSS., agreeing as to “house,” are divided with regard to “the Lord.”
Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.11. hath prophesied against this city] Cp. Acts 6:12 ff.
Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.12. Jeremiah’s defence is that the message is from God and therefore true. His conviction is unshaken. Let his accusers beware, lest in putting him to death they be really fighting against God. Cp. Gamaliel in Acts 5:39.
Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.13. your ways and your doings] See on Jeremiah 7:3.
As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.
But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.
Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.16. The princes, not being prejudiced as were Jeremiah’s accusers, give a fair decision and carry the people with them.
16–19. See introd. summary to ch.
Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying,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.
Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.18. Micaiah] So MT. reads in its text. Micah in its mg. is of course the Minor Prophet.
Morashtite] native of Morésheth, a small town near Gath, about 23 miles S.W. of Jerusalem.
Zion shall be plowed, etc.] Micah 3:12; the only citation by name of another prophet’s utterance in the whole of prophetic literature.
the mountain of the house] i.e. the Temple, as standing on Mount Moriah.
as the high places of a forest] better, wooded heights. “The temple mount shall be overgrown with low brushwood.” C.B. (Cheyne) on Micah, l.c.
Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the LORD, and besought the LORD, and the LORD repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls.19. Did Hezekiah … put him at all to death? [The words of Micah had been to the full as harsh-sounding as any that had been uttered by Jeremiah. Jeremiah was attacked for predicting the fall of the Temple and city; but Micah had said the same thing and no action was taken against him. The precedent supplied by the case of the former prophet therefore, the elders argue, is in favour of him who is now attacked. The passage is important as shewing that the reforms of Hezekiah were far from being attributable to the influence of Isaiah alone.
intreat the favour] lit. smooth the face, i.e. remove the frown (of an offended deity), appease; an anthropomorphism. Cp. Zechariah 7:2; Zechariah 8:21 f.; Malachi 1:9.
the Lord repented] The LXX here, as in Jeremiah 26:3; Jeremiah 26:13, render ceased, from dislike to any expression savouring to their minds of anthropomorphism. But the word serves at any rate to remind us that “all prophecy is conditional. The prophets declare the great principles of God’s moral government, and apply them to individual cases. But, if the moral conditions of the cases to which these principles are applied be altered, the threatening or the promise is postponed, modified, or recalled.” C.B. (Cheyne) on Micah, l.c. In the present case the destruction here described was never altogether fulfilled. Co. points out the special interest that attaches to the above episode, as indicating what a deep impression the utterances of a prophet made upon the people, even after the lapse of a century.
And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the LORD, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjathjearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah:20. Kiriath-jearim] perhaps Karyet-el-Enab seven miles N.W. of Jerusalem on the road to Joppa (Jaffa).
20–24. See introd. summary to ch. The story is introduced by the compiler (probably Baruch) to illustrate the risk to which Jeremiah was exposed; perhaps also to contrast Jeremiah’s courage and Uriah’s cowardice. Du. suggests that the occurrence took place at the same Feast, but at a moment when the king was himself present, and that Uriah’s words may have specially pointed at him as the protégé of Egypt. Co. holds that, as the incident can hardly have occurred before Jeremiah’s prophecy—otherwise the latter would not have produced such an excitement—it must be considered to have been subsequent to it. He places Jeremiah 26:24, as being the natural ending of the narrative concerning Jeremiah himself, before Jeremiah 26:20-23; but against such transposition we may hold that the point of Jeremiah 26:24 is the contrast between the case of the friendless Uriah and that of Jeremiah. In 21–23 the LXX omit various names and otherwise abbreviate.
And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death: but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt;21. with all his mighty men] The LXX omit, and the expression is not found elsewhere in the Book.
And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt.22. Elnathan … into Egypt] omitted by LXX and perhaps a gloss. Gi. points out that what we read of him in Jeremiah 36:12; Jeremiah 36:25 would make such an act as this on his part unlikely. On the other hand it is difficult for this very reason to understand his name being inserted here by a copyist. If he is to be identified with the E. mentioned in 2 Kings 24:8, he was father-in-law to Jehoiakim.
And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him unto Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.23. they fetched forth Uriah out of Egypt] As Jehoiakim was a vassal of Egypt (2 Kings 23:34), the extradition of a man accused of treason was easily effected.
common people] For mg. sons of the people cp. Jeremiah 17:19.
Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.24. Ahikam the son of Shaphan] He was one of the five sent by Josiah (2 Kings 22:12) to consult Huldah. His son Gedaliah, as governor of the land (Jeremiah 39:14, Jeremiah 40:5), stood the prophet’s friend subsequently. It was in the chamber of another son of Shaphan, Gemariah, that Baruch read Jeremiah’s Roll in the ears of the people (Jeremiah 36:12).
The exact connexion of this v. with the rest of the story is not clear. It may refer back to the outburst of popular indignation mentioned in Jeremiah 26:8, and so may mean that, in contrast to Uriah’s fate, Jeremiah was on this occasion saved by Ahikam.