Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chs. 27–29. Speedy deliverance from Babylon is not to be hoped for
These three chapters belong to the time of Zedekiah. The power of Babylon had already been demonstrated as to Judah. Some of the people had been carried captive, and the present king existed as such only upon sufferance. Under these circumstances the neighbouring nations were willing to make common cause with the Jews against their foe, while in Palestine there were still many who would not believe that the danger from Babylon was anything more than a passing one. In these three chs. therefore Jeremiah sets himself to correct the most pressing evil, namely this notion of the possibility of getting rid of the power which had become paramount in the Eastern world. In this ch. he addresses on the subject (Jeremiah 27:1-11) the neighbouring nations; (12–15) Zedekiah; (16–22) the priests and people concerning the false prophets; (in ch. 28) the false prophets themselves; (in ch. 29) the exiles in Babylon.
These three chapters were apparently placed immediately after ch. 26, as dealing with the same topic, viz. Jeremiah’s vehement controversy with the false prophets. They have marked characteristics, differentiating them from the main part of the Book, and suggesting that they once existed independently. Thus (i) the MT. has a much fuller text than the LXX, and appears to have received considerable amplification, especially in chs. 27 and 29; (ii) differences of spelling appear in the proper names Jehoiakim, Josiah, Jeremiah, Zedekiah, Jechoniah, Hananiah (for Nebuchadnezzar’s name in this connexion see on Jeremiah 21:2); (iii) “the prophet” is here added to Jeremiah’s name much more frequently than in the rest of the Book. If all three chs. were, as Gi. suggests, copied out and sent to Babylon for the special behoof of the exiles, it is easy to understand that just such divergencies might appear from the influence of the errors and additions (e.g. the greater part of Jeremiah 27:22) naturally arising in MSS. transcribed in Babylon, if these were brought into comparison with the copies remaining in Palestine. Again, considering the general agreement of chs. 27 and 28 as regards aim, we find their mutual relations somewhat perplexing. Ch. 27 is diffuse and somewhat vague, ch. 28 on the whole definite and concise; the former is in the first person, the latter almost altogether in the third. To this we may add that ch. 27 was originally (see below) without a time-heading, while ch. 28 has one of an unusually definite character. It is likely, however, that this last should stand at the head of ch. 27, embracing both chs., and thus forming an additional link between them. Co., emphasizing the closeness of connexion in the two chs., accounts for the difference in style by attributing the latter to Baruch, while ch. 27 and ch. 29 also have been worked up and expanded by a later hand. Du. also considers that parts of 27 and 28 are to be ascribed to Baruch, but that the remainder of both chs. is later. He compares the relation of the additional parts of ch. 27 and the nucleus by Baruch to that between chs. 7 ff. and ch. 26.
Ch. Jeremiah 27:1-22. Warning to neighbouring nations and to the Jews
In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,1. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim] It is clear from Jeremiah 27:3; Jeremiah 27:12; Jeremiah 27:20 that for Jehoiakim we must read (with mg.) Zedekiah (so Syr.). The LXX omit the verse. It is a later insertion in the text either in its present form, or more probably with Zedekiah’s name, as in ch. Jeremiah 28:1, whence the time-heading should probably be transposed here (see above). The substitution of “Jehoiakim” may have arisen through the influence of Jeremiah 26:1.
Thus saith the LORD to me; Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck,2. bands and bars] The former were to fasten the bars together, thus forming a yoke. For the symbolic action cp. 1 Kings 22:11.
2–11. Certain kings having sent to invite Zedekiah to join them in an attempt to overthrow the power of Babylon, Jeremiah warns them to desist as the attempt would be futile. Du. points out that Zedekiah’s visit to Babylon (Jeremiah 51:59) about this time, whether voluntary or at the requisition of Nebuchadnezzar, may have had for one purpose the clearing himself from suspicion of being implicated in the proposed revolt, an unrest that may well have received a stimulus from the change of ruler in Egypt, Psammetichus II. succeeding his father Pharaoh-necoh in b.c. 594.
And send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyrus, and to the king of Zidon, by the hand of the messengers which come to Jerusalem unto Zedekiah king of Judah;3. and send them] We should probably omit the pronoun, which (being in the Hebrew only one letter attached to the end of the verb) seems to have crept in under the influence of the preceding clause. It was the warning only that Jeremiah was to send. Du. points out that it was nothing unusual that an Israelitish prophet should be listened to with respect, when addressing a foreign nation (Jdg 3:20; 1 Kings 19:15 ff.; Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 21:11 f.).
the messengers] rather (with LXX), their messengers. Ezekiel (Jeremiah 17:15) charges Zedekiah with taking the initiative in negotiations with Egypt against Babylon.
And command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say unto your masters;
I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me.5. The terms of the message are these:—God, as Creator of the world and of all that is in it, has the right to give it to whomsoever He will. He has therefore placed Nebuchadnezzar in power for such time as it shall please Him, and none may resist His will.
the man … of the earth] LXX omit.
my outstretched arm] See on Jeremiah 32:17.
And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.6. all these lands] Gi. omits “these,” as inserted with a view to the countries just mentioned. The LXX has simply “the earth,” which is probably (Co. says “undoubtedly”) right (Du. hesitates). Subsequent scruples as to attributing a world-wide dominion to the king of Babylon induced MT. and various versions to modify the statement.
the king of Babylon, my servant] See on Jeremiah 25:9.
and the beasts of the field] Cp. Jeremiah 28:14; Daniel 2:38.
And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him.7. him, and his son, and his son’s son] If this prophecy be meant to be taken literally, it will signify that the power of Babylon would last for two generations of rulers after Nebuchadnezzar. According to profane history however it was more prolonged. Evil-Merodach (Amil-Marduk, man or servant of Marduk the chief Babylonian divinity), son and successor to Nebuchadnezzar (b.c. 561), reigned two years, or two years and a few months, according to the tablets dated in his reign. He was killed in a rebellion led by his sister’s husband, Neriglissar (Nergal-Sharezer), who in three or four years was succeeded by a young son Laborosoarchod, murdered after a nine months’ reign. Thus, unless the v. merely means that for the Jews or other nations there was to be no speedy riddance of Babylon, as the false prophets taught, it is at variance with history. It is possible that this fact may be the cause of its omission by LXX, but a view much to be preferred is that the apparently definite fixing of a termination to the power of Babylon, an announcement quite out of harmony with the context (cp. end of note on Jeremiah 25:11), stamps it as a gloss. As Co. (Heb. p. 70) says “The idea that the dominion of the Chaldæns is to be merely transitory … is decidedly inappropriate in this place, where it is much more to the interest of the prophet to depict the power of Nebuchadnezzar as terribly as possible.”
the time of his own land come] As he acted, so shall he in like manner suffer.
many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him] See on Jeremiah 25:14.
And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the LORD, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.8. which … N. king of Babylon] not found in LXX, which also omits “and with the pestilence.”
until I have consumed them by] It is best (so Gi.) by the change of one letter in MT. (a change deriving some support from the Targ.) to render, until I have given them into.
Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:9. dreams] those which the diviners, etc. professed to have had. Cp. Jeremiah 23:25, Jeremiah 29:8. We should have expected rather dreamers (so LXX Syr. Targ.), and MT. may have been introduced here from the analogy of the latter passage.
For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish.10. to remove you] not of course that this was the false prophets’ aim, but that it would be the result of their advice, if adopted.
But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those will I let remain still in their own land, saith the LORD; and they shall till it, and dwell therein.
I spake also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live.12–15. The warning to Zedekiah. The LXX, apparently through an accident in copying, omit much of these vv. They correspond in the main to the previous passage, the warning against the false prophets in Jeremiah 27:14-15 answering to that of Jeremiah 27:9-10. The plural is used throughout on account of many sympathisers among all ranks.
Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the LORD hath spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?
Therefore hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you.
For I have not sent them, saith the LORD, yet they prophesy a lie in my name; that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, ye, and the prophets that prophesy unto you.
Also I spake to the priests and to all this people, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Hearken not to the words of your prophets that prophesy unto you, saying, Behold, the vessels of the LORD'S house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you.16. the priests] who took the side of the false prophets against Jeremiah. See Jeremiah 26:8 ff.
16–22. The same message is addressed to the priests and the people concerning the false prophets. More than half the contents of this part of the ch. are lacking in LXX, the main difference between them and MT. being that the latter includes the promise of the restoration of the sacred vessels to Jerusalem. Co. grants the LXX a relative originality, considering that the process of amplification is shewn in their Version in an earlier stage than that which is presented by the Hebrew.
Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and live: wherefore should this city be laid waste?
But if they be prophets, and if the word of the LORD be with them, let them now make intercession to the LORD of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the LORD, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, go not to Babylon.18. that the vessels … Babylon] omitted in LXX, and thus omitting any actual mention of a subject for their prayer. This harshness would naturally lead to such an addition as that in MT. For the idea of prophets as intercessors cp. Genesis 20:7.
19–22 are much briefer in LXX, viz.: “For thus saith the Lord, And of the rest of the vessels, which the king of Babylon took not, when he carried away Jechonias from Jerusalem, they shall go to Babylon, saith the Lord.”
For thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the pillars, and concerning the sea, and concerning the bases, and concerning the residue of the vessels that remain in this city,19. The pillars, the sea (1 Kings 7:23 ff.), and the bases (1 Kings 7:27 ff.; 2 Chronicles 4:6) were broken up by the Chaldaeans at Jerusalem (Jeremiah 52:17), and thus could not in any case be restored. Various other treasures were restored by Cyrus (Ezra 1:7 ff.). Bar 6:8, however, speaks of “silver vessels which Sedekias the son of Josias king of Judah had made” as sent back in the lifetime of Jehoiachin.
Which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took not, when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem;20. nobles] The word is not pure Hebrew but Aramaic, and thus may indicate that the clause is a later insertion. It occurs again in Jeremiah 39:6, and in 1 Kings 21:8, etc., but is found chiefly in Neh.
Yea, thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that remain in the house of the LORD, and in the house of the king of Judah and of Jerusalem;
They shall be carried to Babylon, and there shall they be until the day that I visit them, saith the LORD; then will I bring them up, and restore them to this place.