Jeremiah 22:15
Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him?
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(15) Thou closest thyself in cedar.—Better, thine ambition is in cedar. The verb means strictly, as in Jeremiah 12:5, “to vie with” or “to contend,” and Jehoiakim is reproached for endeavouring to outdo the magnificence even of his greatest predecessors. A various reading, followed by the LXX., gives, “thou viest with Ahaz,” or “Ahab,” probably, in this latter case, with reference to the ivory palace built by that king (1Kings 22:39).

Did not thy father eat and drink . . .?—The words are obviously those of praise, and paint a healthy, blameless enjoyment like that of Ecclesiastes 2:24; like those, we may add, which the Son of Man used to describe the outward portion of His own life (Matthew 11:19). Josiah was not an ascetic, devotee king, but lived his life happily, and did his work—the true kingly work of judgment and justice—well. There was a truer greatness in that than in the stateliness of Jehoiakim’s palaces. “Then it was well with him” s repeated with the emphasis of iteration.

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.i. e., Will thy buildings make thy reign continue? These words imply that Jehoiakim was looking forward to, and taking measures to secure, a long continuance of power (compare Habakkuk 2:9-13. If so, Jeremiah probably wrote this prophecy before Jehoiakim revolted 2 Kings 24:1; and it, therefore, probably belongs to the same date as Jeremiah 36:30, written in the interval between Nebuchadnezzars first conquest of Jerusalem, and Jehoiakim's rebellion, and when Jeremiah was out of the reach of the tyrant's power.

Closest thyself in cedar - Rather, viest "in cedar;" i. e., viest with Solomon.

Did not thy father eat and drink ... - i. e., he was prosperous and enjoyed life. There is a contrast between the life of Josiah spent in the discharge of his kingly duties, and that of Jehoiakim, busy with ambitious plans of splendor and aggrandisement.

15. closest thyself—rather, "thou viest," that is, art emulous to surpass thy forefathers in the magnificence of thy palaces.

eat and drink—Did not Josiah, thy father, enjoy all that man really needs for his bodily wants? Did he need to build costly palaces to secure his throne? Nay, he did secure it by "judgment and justice"; whereas thou, with all thy luxurious building, sittest on a tottering throne.

then—on that account, therefore.

Art thou so vain as to think that brave houses will continue thy kingdom? Thou art mistaken; magnificent buildings are not those things which establish a prince’s throne. How was it with thy father? he lived prosperously, yet had no such stately edifices; his throne was established by justice and judgment; that were the right way for thee to sit sure upon thy throne.

Shalt thou reign because thou closest thyself in cedar?.... Dost thou think that thou shalt reign long, and thy throne be established firm and secure, because of thy cedar wainscot? as if that was a protection to thee, and were like the fortifications of a city or tower; when it may easily be broke to pieces, or burnt with fire; and must be a poor defence against a powerful enemy. The Targum is,

"dost thou think to be as the first king?''

as David; to be as great a prince, to keep as grand a court, and live in as splendid a manner, as he? The Septuagint version, instead of "ares", a cedar, reads "Ahaz", and takes it for the proper name of a king of Judah; and the Arabic version reads "Ahab"; and so the Alexandrian copy of the Septuagint; and both confound it with the next clause; the former rendering the words thus, "shalt thou reign, that thou provokest in", or "after the manner of Ahaz thy father?" and the latter thus,

"thou shalt not reign, because thou imitatest the original of Ahab thy father;''

but both wrong; though Grotius seems to approve of this reading:

did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice? that is, Josiah his father, who ate and drank in moderation, and lived cheerfully and comfortably; and kept a good table like a prince, without such a magnificent palace as he, his son, had built; and without oppressing his subjects, and detaining the hire of the labourer: living in a grand manner, becoming a king, may be done consistent with doing justice and judgment; let but that be done, and a prince will not be blamed for living like himself, and for supporting the dignity of his character and office, as Josiah did:

and then it was well with him; or, "therefore it was well with him" (u) he was blessed of God, and was prosperous and successful; he was happy himself as a prince, and his people under him, both enjoying peace and prosperity; there are never better times than when justice is done; by it the throne is established.

(u) "ideo bene fuit ei"; so Noldius renders the particle, Concord. Par. Ebr. p. 7.

Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy {k} father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him?

(k) Meaning Josiah, who was not given to ambition and superfluity, but was content with mediocrity, and only delighted in setting forth God's glory, and to do justice to all.

15. Shalt thou reign] Dost thou think that ostentation and luxury constitute a king?

strivest to excel in cedar] mg. (less well), viest with the cedar. For “cedar” LXX (supported by the Arabic) have Ahaz (the two words resembling one another in Hebrew), but Codex A (Alexandrinus) of the LXX reads Ahab, apparently with a reference to 1 Kings 22:39, and Co. (Heb. p. 62) accepts this as the original, on the ground that the context requires a proper name.

thy father] Josiah.

eat and drink, etc.] enjoyed life, but did not omit the fulfilment of the duties for which, as king, he was responsible.

Verse 15. - Shalt thou reign - rather, dost thou reign; i.e. dost thou prove thy royal qualities) - because thou closest thyself in cedar? The second part of the clause must at any rate be. altered. Some render, "because thou viest (with thy forefathers) in cedar" (i.e. in building cedar palaces). Hitzig would strike out "in cedar," as having intruded from the preceding line (such a phenomenon meets us occasionally in the received Hebrew text), but this does not help us to a 'connected translation of the passage. Graf's rendering is grammatical, and not against usage; it is, "Dost thou reign because thou art eager about cedar-wood?" and yet the impression left on the mind is that there is some error in the text. The Septuagint finds a reference to one of Jehoiakim's predecessors, "because thou viest with Ahaz" (so the Vatican Codex), or, "... with Ahab" (so the Alexandrine and the Sinaitic or Friderico-Augustan). The latter king is celebrated in the Old Testament on account of his buildings, especially his ivory palace (2 Kings 22:39). The former was at any rate addicted to the imitation of foreign ways (2 Kings 16:11; 2 Kings 20:11). Did not thy father eat and drink? There was no call upon Jehoiakim to live the life of a Nazarite. "Eating and drinking," i.e. enjoying the good things within his reach, was perfectly admissible (Ecclesiastes 2:24); indeed, the Old Testament view of life is remarkable for its healthy naturalness. There was, however, one peremptory condition, itself as much in accordance with nature as with the Law of God, that the rights of other men should be studiously regarded. Josiah "ate and drank," but he also "did judgment and justice," and so "it was well with him." Jeremiah 22:15In Jeremiah 22:15 Jeremiah pursues the subject: kingship and kingcraft do not consist in the erection of splendid palaces, but in the administration of right and justice. The reproachful question התמלך has not the meaning: wilt thou reign long? or wilt thou consolidate thy dominion? but: dost thou suppose thyself to be a king, to show thyself a king, if thy aim and endeavour is solely fixed on the building of a stately palace? "Viest," as in Jeremiah 12:5. בּארז, not: with the cedar, for תחרה is construed with the accus. of that with which one vies, but: in cedar, i.e., in the building of cedar palaces. It was not necessary to say with whom he vied, since the thought of Solomon's edifices would suggest itself. The lxx have changed בארז by a pointless quid pro quo into באחז, ἐν ̓́Αχαζ, for which Cod. Alex. and Arabs have ἐν ̓Αχαάβ. The fact that Ahab had built a palace veneered with ivory (1 Kings 22:39) is not sufficient to approve this reading, which Ew. prefers. Still less cause is there to delete בארז as a gloss (Hitz.) in order to obtain the rendering, justified neither by grammar nor in fact, "if thou contendest with thy father." To confirm what he has said, the prophet sets before the worthless king the example of his godly father Josiah. "Thy father, did not he eat and drink," i.e., enjoy life (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:13)? yet at the same time he administered right and justice, like his forefather David; 2 Samuel 8:15. Then went it well with him and the kingdom. אז, Jeremiah 22:16, is wider than אז טו: in respect that he did justice to the poor and wretched, things went well, were well managed in the kingdom at large. In so doing consists "the knowing of me." The knowledge of Jahveh is the practical recognition of God which is displayed in the fear of God and a pious life. The infinitive nomin. דּעת has the article because a special emphasis lies on the word (cf. Ew. 277, c), the true knowledge of God required to have stress laid on it. - But Jehoiakim is the reverse of his father. This thought, lying in Jeremiah 22:16, is illustrated in Jeremiah 22:17. For thine eyes are set upon nothing but gain. בּצע, gain with the suggestion of unrighteousness about it, cf. Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 8:10. His whole endeavour was after wealth and splendour. The means of attaining this aim was injustice, since he not only withheld their wages from his workers (Jeremiah 22:13), but caused the innocent to be condemned in the judgment that he might grasp their goods to himself, as e.g., Ahab had done with Naboth. He also put to death the prophets who rebuked his unrighteousness, Jeremiah 26:23, and used every kind of lawless violence. "Oppression" is amplified by המרוּצה (from רצץ, cf. Deuteronomy 28:33; 1 Samuel 12:3), crushing, "what we call flaying people" (Hitz.); cf. on this subject, Micah 3:3.
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