Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah.The Punishment of Evil
The great teaching of the text is that we must not allow appearances to mislead us respecting the fact and certainty of the law of retribution.
I. We mark some illustrations of the law of retribution furnished by the history of the nations. The Old Testament records many instances of the fact that God makes the law of retribution to act by unlikely instruments, in unlikely ways, and at unlikely times. Very memorable was the retribution that Israel brought on Egypt. At the other end of their national history, Israel itself furnishes a most striking illustration of the working of the law of retribution through all improbabilities. When the Christ was crucified through weakness, the people cried, 'His blood be upon us, and upon our children'. How unlikely did it seem that the Victim of Calvary could ever be avenged upon an unjust nation! And yet that 'wounded Man' rose up invested with strange powers, and burned their city with fire. Let us not think that these instances of retribution are to be placed in the category of the miraculous; they were the natural consequences of great denials of truth and justice. Men unjustly 'pierced through' are terrible avengers in all ages and nations.
II. We note the law of retribution as exemplified in the individual life. What is true of the mass is first true of the atom; what is true of the ocean is first true of the drop. It is easy to see the law of retribution when it is exemplified in the broad effects of national calamity, but not so easy to apprehend its action in the individual fortune. 'Deceive not yourselves.' God has wonderful ways of confounding us, and we may be sure that our sins will find us out.
1. Let us not permit ourselves to be deceived by flattering prophets. God is merciful, but fire does not forget to burn, teeth to tear, water to drown, and no transgression of the Law can pass without detection and punishment.
2. Let us not deceive ourselves because appearances seem to promise immunity. When Joseph's brethren had thrown their young brother into a pit and left him there, how utterly hopeless seemed the lad's condition! He was to all intents and purposes buried alive, and it seemed absolutely impossible that he should ever avenge himself upon the fratricides. But in due time the wounded man was on the throne of Egypt, and the strong-handed clever sinners were lamenting, 'Verily we are guilty concerning our brother'.
3. Let us not deceive ourselves because judgment is delayed. As the Hindoos say, 'When men are ripe for slaughter, even straws turn into thunderbolts'.
4. Let us improve the gracious respite. Many rebel altogether against the doctrine of grace, sternly insisting on inexorable law, justice, retribution; they utterly reprobate the ideas of repentance, forgiveness!, and salvation. But mercy is a fact as much as justice is. The death of Calvary is the most solemn and tremendous sanction ever given to law, and yet it opens a door of escape to a world of sinners. There is forgiveness with Him, and plenteous redemption.
—W. L. Watkinson, The Transfigured Sackcloth, p. 181.
References.—XXXVII. 11-21.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 361. XXXVII. 17.—J. Paterson, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 597. XXXVIII.—T. Champness, New Coins from Old Gold, p. 206. XXXVIII. 3, 4; XL. 4; XL. 6.—F. W. Aveling, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. 1899, p. 324. XXXVIII. 5.—A. Ramsay, Studies in Jeremiah, p. 221. XXXVIII. 7.—D. T. Young, Neglected People of the Bible, p. 165. XXXVIII. 24-26.—A. Ramsay Studies in Jeremiah, p. 221. XXXIX. 1-10.—A. Maclaren Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 367. XXXIX. 18.—Ibid. p. 374. XL. 4-6.—A. Ramsay, Studies in Jeremiah, p. 47. XLIII.—13 (R.V.).—C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 142. XLIV. 4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvi. No. 2684. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 377. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 3. W. M. Taylor, Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 248. W. Michell, Plain Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 236. Hugh Black, University Sermons, p. 9. XLV. 1-5.—A. Ramsay, Studies in Jeremiah, p. 159. Stopford A. Brooke, The Old Testament and Modern Life, p. 319.
But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the LORD, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah.
And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the LORD our God for us.
Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison.
Then Pharaoh's army was come forth out of Egypt: and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem.
Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying,
Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to inquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh's army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land.
And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire.
Thus saith the LORD; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart.
For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire.
And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh's army,
Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people.
And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans.
Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes.
Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison.
When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days;
Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the LORD? And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.
Moreover Jeremiah said unto king Zedekiah, What have I offended against thee, or against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in prison?
Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?
Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray thee, be accepted before thee; that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there.
Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers' street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.