Jeremiah 22:13
Woe to him that builds his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that uses his neighbor's service without wages, and gives him not for his work;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) Woe unto him that buildeth . . .—The prophet now turns to Jehoiakim, and apparently reproduces what he had before uttered in denouncing the selfish bearing of that king. The feelings of the people, already suffering from the miseries of foreign invasion, were outraged by the revival of the forced labour of the days of Solomon, pressing in this instance not on the “strangers” of alien blood (1Kings 5:13-15; 2Chronicles 2:17-18), but on the Israelites themselves. We are reminded of the general characteristics of Eastern, and perhaps of all other, despotism. Like the modern rulers of Constantinople, Jehoiakim went on building palaces when his kingdom was on the verge of ruin, and his subjects were groaning under their burdens.

His chambers.—Strictly speaking, the upper storeys of the house. This is dwelt on as aggravating the severity of the work.

Without wages.—The labourers were treated as slaves, and, like the Israelites in their Egyptian bondage (Exodus 16:3), received their food, but nothing more.

Jeremiah 22:13-16. Wo unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, &c. — “The prophet proceeds to denounce God’s judgments against Jehoiakim, (see Jeremiah 22:18,) who, it seems, built himself a stately palace in those calamitous times, and took no care to pay the wages of the workmen; but maintained his own luxury by the oppression of those who were to live by their labour: a crying sin, and too common among the great men of the world, severely prohibited both in the Old and New Testament.” — Lowth. See Deuteronomy 24:14-15; James 5:4. That saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers — Hebrew, עליות מרוחים, chambers to the wind; that is, exposed, or open, to wind on every side. They used to enjoy the cool air in these chambers; the windows being so placed that they might receive the wind from whatever quarter it came. Shalt thou reign because thou closest thyself in cedar? — Will a house, finely adorned and furnished, be a fortress and defence to thee against thy enemies, that come to deprive thee of thy kingdom? Did not thy father eat and drink, and do justice, &c. — Did not Josiah live, and enjoy comfort in life as well as thou dost, though he did not indulge himself in such delicacies, and had not such magnificent apartments? Did he not live in sufficient plenty, and in a state suitable to his character, and yet strictly observed justice, both in his private and public capacity, and not betake himself to such sordid methods of injustice and oppression for the support of his grandeur? He did no wrong to any of his subjects, never oppressed them, or put any hardship upon them, but was careful to preserve to all their just rights and properties. Nay, he not only did not abuse his power for the support of wrong, but used it for the maintaining of right; he judged the cause of the poor and needy — Was ready to hear the cause of the meanest of his subjects, and do them justice; and then it was well with him — The blessing of God was upon him as the reward of his justice and integrity. He was comfortable in himself, and was useful to and respected by his subjects, and prospered in all that he put his hand to. Was not this to know me, saith the Lord? — Did he not hereby make it appear, that he rightly knew, worshipped, and served me, and consequently was known and owned by me? Observe, reader, the right knowledge of God implies the doing our duty to our fellow-creatures, as well as to God, particularly that duty which our place and station in the world require us to perform.22:10-19 Here is a sentence of death upon two kings, the wicked sons of a very pious father. Josiah was prevented from seeing the evil to come in this world, and removed to see the good to come in the other world; therefore, weep not for him, but for his son Shallum, who is likely to live and die a wretched captive. Dying saints may be justly envied, while living sinners are justly pitied. Here also is the doom of Jehoiakim. No doubt it is lawful for princes and great men to build, beautify, and furnish houses; but those who enlarge their houses, and make them sumptuous, need carefully to watch against the workings of vain-glory. He built his houses by unrighteousness, with money gotten unjustly. And he defrauded his workmen of their wages. God notices the wrong done by the greatest to poor servants and labourers, and will repay those in justice, who will not, in justice, pay those whom they employ. The greatest of men must look upon the meanest as their neighbours, and be just to them accordingly. Jehoiakim was unjust, and made no conscience of shedding innocent blood. Covetousness, which is the root of all evil, was at the bottom of all. The children who despise their parents' old fashions, commonly come short of their real excellences. Jehoiakim knew that his father found the way of duty to be the way of comfort, yet he would not tread in his steps. He shall die unlamented, hateful for oppression and cruelty.Far worse is the second example. Shallum was no heartless tyrant like Jehoiakim, who lived in splendor amid the misery of the nation, and perished so little cared for that his body was cast aside without burial.

His chambers - Really, his upper chambers. From the absence of machinery the raising of materials for the upper stories was a difficult task, especially when massive stones were used.

His work - Giveth him not his wages.

13. Not only did Jehoiakim tax the people (2Ki 23:35) for Pharaoh's tribute, but also took their forced labor, without pay, for building a splendid palace; in violation of Le 19:13; De 24:14, 15. Compare Mic 3:10; Hab 2:9; Jas 5:4. God will repay in justice those who will not in justice pay those whom they employ. We have not here any certain guidance to let us know whether the prophet intended Jehoahaz or Jehoiakim; both of them did evil in the sight of the Lord, as we read in their story. The sin here reflected upon is manifestly injustice and oppression, but possibly, in the former part of the verse, all unjust and oppressive acts by which either of these princes endeavoured to promote their grandeur may be understood; for we need not take building his house in a strict, literal sense, but signifying the promotion of his family, or establishing his state and dignity. In the latter part, a special oppression, withholding workmen’s wages, is the sin upon which the woe is denounced; a sin contrary to the law, Leviticus 19:13 Deu 24:14,15, and against which the judgment of God is also denounced under the New Testament, Jam 5:4. An evident demonstration of God’s love to mankind, securing by his law just dealings between man and man, and revenging acts of injustice, and particularly where men take advantage of their greatness above and superiority over others, to trample them under their feet, and to withhold their just rights from them: though such persons may be out of the reach of human justice, yet God hath denounced a woe against them. Woe unto him that buildeth his house by righteousness, and his chambers by wrong,.... This respects Jehoiakim, the then reigning king; who, not content with the palace the kings of Judah before him had lived in, built another; or however enlarged that, and made great alterations in it; but this he did either with money ill gotten, or perverted to a wrong use, which ought to have been otherwise laid out; or by not paying for the materials of whom they were bought, or the workmen for their workmanship; and perhaps this may be the reason why so much notice is taken of the king's house or palace in the former part of the chapter, and why it is threatened with desolation, Jeremiah 22:1;

that useth his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work; or, "that serveth himself of his neighbour freely"; or, "makes him serve freely" (g); "and giveth him not his work" (h); makes him, work for nothing; gives him no wages for it, but keeps back the hire of the labourers; which is a crying sin in any person, and much more in a king; see James 5:4.

(g) "qui socium suum servire facit gratis", Schmidt; "amici sui servitutem exigenti gratis", Junius & Tremellius. (h) "et opus ejus non dabit ei", Montanus; "mercedem operis", Pagninus.

Woe to him that buildeth his house by {i} unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work;

(i) By bribes and extortion.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. that buildeth his house by unrighteousness] Jehoiakim, as though it were not enough to involve the land in a heavy tribute to the king of Egypt (2 Kings 23:35), exacted forced labour from his own subjects that he might have a sumptuous palace built for himself.

chambers] upper chambers, and so in Jeremiah 22:14. They were on the flat roof of the house, had latticed windows (see 2 Kings 1:2), and so enjoyed free circulation of air.

13–19. See introd. summary to section. It probably belongs to the early years of Jehoiakim, but see on Jeremiah 22:18-19.Verse 13. - Shallum, or Jehoahaz, in his short reign of three months, had no opportunity of distinguishing himself for good or for evil It was otherwise with Jehoiakim, whose eleven years were marked by the worst characteristics of idolatry and despotism. He "had, besides, a passion for building splendid and costly houses; and as he esteemed his own position secure under the protection of a superior power, he did not scruple severely to oppress his helpless subjects, and wring from them as much money as possible" (Ewald, 'History of Israel,' 4:252; see 2 Kings 23:33-35). The building mania, to which Oriental sovereigns have always been prone, had seized upon Jehoiakim. The architecture of the original palace no longer, perhaps, suited the higher degree of civilization; the space was as confined as that of a Saxon mansion would have appeared to a Norman. That buildeth his house by unrighteousness; i.e., as the second half-verse explains, by not paying the workmen (comp. Habakkuk 2:12). The king is warned against injustice, and the violent oppression of the poor and defenceless. - Jeremiah 22:1. "Thus said Jahveh: Go down to the house of the king of Judah and speak there this word, Jeremiah 22:2. And say: Hear the word of Jahveh, thou king of Judah, that sittest upon the throne of David, thou, and thy servants, and thy people, that go in by these gates. Jeremiah 22:3. Thus hath Jahveh said: Do ye right and justice, and save the despoiled out of the hand of the oppressor; to stranger, orphan, and widow do no wrong, no violence; and innocent blood shed not in this place. Jeremiah 22:4. For if ye will do this word indeed, then by the gates of this place there shall come in kings that sit upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people. Jeremiah 22:5. But if ye hearken not to these words, by myself have I sworn, saith Jahve, that this house shall become a desolation. Jeremiah 22:6. For thus hath Jahveh said concerning the house of the king of Judah: A Gilead art thou to me, a head of Lebanon; surely I will make thee a wilderness, cities uninhabited; Jeremiah 22:7. And will consecrate against thee destroyers, each with his tools, who shall hew down the choice of thy cedars and cast them into the fire. Jeremiah 22:8. And there shall pass may peoples by this city, and one shall say to the other: Wherefore hath Jahveh done thus unto this great city? Jeremiah 22:9. And they will say: Because they have forsaken the covenant of Jahveh their God, and worshipped other gods and served them."

Go down into the house of the king. The prophet could go down only from the temple; cf. Jeremiah 36:12 and Jeremiah 26:10. Not only the king is to hear the word of the Lord, but his servants too, and the people, who go in by these gates, the gates of the royal castle. The exhortation: to do right and justice, etc., is only an expansion of the brief counsel at Jeremiah 21:12, and that brought home to the heart of the whole people in Jeremiah 7:6, cf. Ezekiel 22:6. The form עשׁוק for עושׁק, Jeremiah 21:12, occurs only here, but is formed analogously to גּדול, and cannot be objected to. אל־תּנוּ is strengthened by "do no violence." On "kings riding," etc., cf. Jeremiah 17:25. - With Jeremiah 22:5 cf. Jeremiah 17:27, where, however, the threatening is otherwise worded. בּי , cf. Genesis 22:16. כּי introduces the contents of the oath. "This house" is the royal palace. לחרבּה as in Jeremiah 7:34, cf. Jeremiah 27:17. The threatening is illustrated in Jeremiah 22:6 by further description of the destruction of the palace. The royal castle is addressed, and, in respect of its lofty situation and magnificence, is called a Gilead and a head of Lebanon. It lay on the north-eastern eminence of Mount Zion (see on 1 Kings 7:12, note 1), and contained the so-called forest-house of Lebanon (1 Kings 7:2-5) and various other buildings built of cedar, or, at least, faced with cedar planks (cf. Jeremiah 22:14, Jeremiah 22:23); so that the entire building might be compared to a forest of cedars on the summit of Lebanon. In the comparison to Gilead, Gilead can hardly be adduced in respect of its great fertility as a pasturing land (Numbers 32:1; Micah 7:14), but in virtue of the thickly wooded covering of the hill-country of Gilead on both sides of the Jabbok. This is still in great measure clothed with oak thickets and, according to Buckingham, the most beautiful forest tracts that can be imagined; cf. C. v. Raumer, Pal. S. 82.

(Note: In 1834 Eli Smith travelled through it, and thus writes: "Jebel 'Ajlun presents the most charming rural scenery that I have seen in Syria. A continued forest of noble trees, chiefly the evergreen oak, covers a large part of it, while the ground beneath is clothed with luxuriant grass and decked with a rich variety of wild flowers. As we went from el-Husn to 'Ajlun our path lay along the summit of the mountain; and we often overlooked a large part of Palestine on one side and the whole of Haurn." - Rob. Phys. Geog. p. 54.)

אם לא is a particle of asseveration. This glorious forest of cedar buildings is to become a מדבּר, a treeless steppe, cities uninhabited. "Cities" refers to the thing compared, not to the emblem; and the plural, as being the form for indefinite generality, presents no difficulty. And the attachment thereto of a singular predicate has many analogies in its support, cf. Ew. 317, a. The Keri נושׁבוּ is an uncalled for emendation of the Chet. נושׁבה, cf. Jeremiah 6:5. - "I consecrate," in respect that the destroyers are warriors whom God sends as the executors of His will, see on Jeremiah 6:4. With "a man and his weapons," cf. Ezekiel 9:2. In keeping with the figure of a forest, the destruction is represented as the hewing down of the choicest cedars; cf. Isaiah 10:34. - Thus is to be accomplished in Jerusalem what Moses threatened, Deuteronomy 29:23; the destroyed city will become a monument of God's wrath against the transgressors of His covenant. Jeremiah 22:8 is modelled upon Deuteronomy 29:23., cf. 1 Kings 9:8., and made to bear upon Jerusalem, since, along with the palace, the city too is destroyed by the enemy.

From Jeremiah 22:10 onwards the exhortation to the evil shepherds becomes a prophecy concerning the kings of that time, who by their godless courses hurried on the threatened destruction. The prophecy begins with King Jehoahaz, who, after a reign of three months, had bee discrowned by Pharaoh Necho and carried captive to Egypt; 2 Kings 23:30-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4.

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