Jeremiah 23:4
And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, said the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) I will set up shepherds . . .—The words imply, in one sense, a return to the theocracy, the breaking off the hereditary succession of the house of David, and the giving of power to those who, like Ezra and Nehemiah, and, later on in history, the Maccabees, were called to rule because they had the capacity for ruling well. The plural is noticeable, as in Jeremiah 3:15, as not limiting the prophecy to the Christ who is yet the “chief Shepherd” (1Peter 5:4). In the verb for “set up” there is an allusive reference to the names of Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin, into both of which it entered. Jehovah would “raise up” shepherds, but not such as they had proved themselves to be.

Neither shall they be lacking.i.e., the flock would be so cared for that not one sheep should be lost. Care extending even to every individual member was the true ideal of the Shepherd’s work (John 10:3; John 17:12), and therefore of the ruler’s.

23:1-8 Woe be to those who are set to feed God's people, but take no concern to do them good! Here is a word of comfort to the neglected sheep. Though only a remnant of God's flock is left, he will find them out, and they shall be brought to their former habitations. Christ is spoken of as a branch from David's family. He is righteous himself, and through him all his people are made righteous. Christ shall break the usurped power of Satan. All the spiritual seed of believing Abraham and praying Jacob shall be protected, and shall be saved from the guilt and dominion of sin. In the days of Christ's government in the soul, the soul dwells at ease. He is here spoken of as the Lord our Righteousness. He is so our Righteousness as no creature could be. His obedience unto death is the justifying righteousness of believers, and their title to heavenly happiness. And their sanctification, as the source of all their personal obedience is the effect of their union with him, and of the supply of this Spirit. By this name every true believer shall call him, and call upon him. We have nothing to plead but this, Christ has died, yea, rather is risen again; and we have taken him for our Lord. This righteousness which he has wrought out to the satisfaction of law and justice, becomes ours; being a free gift given to us, through the Spirit of God, who puts it upon us, clothes us with it, enables us to lay hold upon it, and claim an interest in it. The Lord our Righteousness is a sweet name to a convinced sinner; to one that has felt the guilt of sin in his conscience; seen his need of that righteousness, and the worth of it. This great salvation is far more glorious than all former deliverances of his church. May our souls be gathered to Him, and be found in him.Shepherds - Men like Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Maccabees, raised up especially by God. It is a revocation of the promise made to David 2 Samuel 7:12-16 so far as the earthly throne was concerned.

They shall fear no more ... - The effect of good government will be general security.

Neither shall they be lacking - Not one sheep shall be missing or lost.

3, 4. Restoration of Judah from Babylon foretold in language which in its fulness can only apply to the final restoration of both "Judah" and "Israel" (compare Jer 23:6); also "out of all countries," in this verse and Jer 23:8; also, "neither shall they be lacking," that is, none shall be missing or detached from the rest: a prophecy never yet fully accomplished. It holds good also of the spiritual Israel, the elect of both Jews and Gentiles (Mal 3:16, 17; Joh 10:28; 17:12). As to the literal Israel also, see Jer 32:37; Isa 54:13; 60:21; Eze 34:11-16.

shepherds … shall feed them—(Jer 3:15; Eze 34:23-31). Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Maccabees were but typical of the consummating fulfilment of these prophecies under Messiah.

And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: some think this prophecy was fulfilled in Nehemiah and Zerobabel, who were pious and good governors, and consulted in their government the good of the people committed to their trust, Nehemiah 2:10 5:14. Others rather understand it of Christian princes and governors under the gospel.

And they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed; under whom they shall live peaceably and securely.

Neither shall they be lacking; and none of them shall perish. The two last passages of this verse incline interpreters to think that this promise doth not so much refer to their coming out of Babylon, as to their spiritual deliverance by Christ, for after their return out of Babylon they were not secure long, but feared Sanballat and Tobiah, the Grecians, and Romans, and other enemies; besides that the last words exactly agree with John 10:28, when Christ saith his sheep should not perish, and it appears Jeremiah 23:6 that the prophet is speaking of a time when not Judah only, but Israel also, should be saved, and the next verse doth manifestly refer unto Christ. And I will set shepherds over them, which shall feed them,.... Good shepherds, rulers and governors, that shall rule them with wholesome laws, and protect and defend them; such as Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, and others, after the captivity: or Christian kings and princes, when the Gospel came to be published and established in many kingdoms and provinces, and the sheep of Christ were gathered out of them. Jerom interprets these shepherds of the apostles of Christ; and it may include other ministers of the Gospel, who feed Christ's sheep with knowledge and understanding; see Jeremiah 3:15;

and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed; not the shepherds, as Jerom understands it, but the sheep. This looks as if this prophecy had respect to more future times than those immediately following the return from the Babylonish captivity; since the Jews were made to fear, and were dismayed by Sanballat and Tobiah, and, in later times, by the Greeks and Romans; even to the times of Christ, and the Gospel dispensation; in which the saints receive not the spirit of bondage again to fear, but, through the blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, of Christ, have much spiritual peace and boldness of faith, and fear no enemy;

neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord; not one of the sheep brought back, or of the remnant gathered, shall be missing or lost; this is exactly true of Christ's sheep, John 10:28.

And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. shepherds] The picture is probably that of righteous rulers, such as princes and judges, placed in authority under the ideal king. Cp. Isaiah 1:26; Isaiah 32:1.

lacking] missing, like sheep which in the absence of the shepherd have become the prey of wild beasts.Verse 4. - And I will set up shepherds; e.g. rulers, not necessarily kings (see on next verse). Which shall feed them. For the evil shepherds "fed themselves, and fed not my flock" (Ezekiel 34:8). And they shall fear no more. Ezekiel again contributes an essential feature to the description. The neglect of the shepherds left the flock exposed to the ravages of wild beasts (Ezekiel 34:8). Neither shall they be lacking. A speaking phrase. Too many of the sheep had fallen down precipices or been carried off by lions. Yet the context rather favors a slight and palaeographically natural emendation of Hitzig, "Neither shall they be terrified." The Septuagint omits the word altogether, which favors the supposition that they read as Hitzig would read, for they are apt to condense by omitting synonyms. Against Jehoiachin or Jechoniah. - Jeremiah 22:24. "As I live, saith Jahveh, though Conjahu, the son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, yet would I pluck him thence, Jeremiah 22:25. And give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them of whom thou art afraid, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans; Jeremiah 22:26. And will cast thee and thy mother that bare thee into another land where ye were not born; and there shall ye die. Jeremiah 22:27. And into the land whither they lift up their soul to return, thither shall they not return. Jeremiah 22:28. Is this man Conjahu a vessel despised and to be broken, or an utensil wherein one has no pleasure? Jeremiah 22:29. O land, land, land, hear the word of Jahveh! Jeremiah 22:30. Thus hath Jahveh said: Write down this man as childless, as a man that hath no prosperity in his life; for no man of his seed shall prosper that sitteth upon the throne of David and ruleth widely over Judah."

The son and successor of Jehoiakim is called in 2 Kings 24:6., 2 Chronicles 36:8., Jeremiah 52:31, Jehojachin, and in Ezekiel 1:2, Jojachin; here, Jeremiah 22:24, Jeremiah 22:28, and Jeremiah 37:1, Conjahu; in Jeremiah 24:1, Jeconjahu; and in Jeremiah 27:20; Jeremiah 28:4; Jeremiah 29:2, Esther 2:6; 1 Chronicles 3:16, Jeconjah. The names Jeconjahu and abbreviated Jeconjah are equivalent to Jojachin and Jehojachin, i.e., Jahveh will establish. Jeconjah was doubtless his original name, and so stands in the family register, 1 Chronicles 3:16, but was at his accession to the throne changed into Jehojachin or Jojachin, to make it liker his father's name. The abbreviation of Jeconjahu into Conjahu is held by Hgstb. Christol. ii. p. 402, to be a change made by Jeremiah in order by cutting off the y (will establish) to cut off the hope expressed by the name, to make "a Jeconiah without the J, a 'God will establish' without the will." For two reasons we cannot adopt this as the true view: 1. The general reason, that if Jeremiah had wished to adumbrate the fate of the three kings (Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Jehoiachin) by making changes in their names, he would then have changed the name of Jehoiakim in like manner as he did that of Jehoahaz into Shallum, and that of Jehoiachin into Conjahu. The argument by which Hgstb. seeks to justify the exception in the one case will not hold its own. Had Jeremiah thought it unseemly to practise a kind of conceit, for however solemn a purpose, on the name of the then reigning monarch, then neither could he have ventured on the like in the case of Jehoiachin; for the present prediction was not, as Hgstb. assumed, uttered before his accession, but, as may be seen from the title king of Judah, Jeremiah 22:24, after he had ascended the throne, was actually king. Besides. 2. the name Conjahu occurs also at Jeremiah 37:1, in a historical heading, as of equal dignity with Jeconjahu, Jeremiah 29:2; Jeremiah 28:4, etc., where a name proper only to prophetic discourse would not have been in place. The passages in which the prophets express the character and destiny of a person in a name specially formed for the purpose, are of another kind. There we have always: they shall call his name, or: his name shall be; cf. Jeremiah 33:16; Isaiah 9:5; Isaiah 62:4; Ezekiel 48:35. That the name Jeconjah has not merely the prophet's authority, is vouched for by 1 Chronicles 3:15; Esther 2:6, and by the historical notices, Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 27:20; Jeremiah 28:4; Jeremiah 29:2. And the occurrence of the name Jojachin only in 2 Kings 24; 2 Chronicles 36:1; Jeremiah 52:31, and Ezekiel 1:2 is in consequence of the original documents used by the authors of these books, where, so to speak, the official names were made use of; whereas Jeremiah preferred the proper, original name which the man bore as the prince-royal and son of Jehoiakim, and which was therefore the current and best known one.

The utterance concerning Jechoniah is more distinct and decided than that concerning Jehoiakim. With a solemn oath the Lord not only causes to be made known to him that he is to be cast off and taken into exile, but further, that his descendants are debarred from the throne for ever. Nothing is said of his own conduct towards the Lord. In 2 Kings 24:9 and 2 Chronicles 36:9 it is said of him that he did that which was displeasing to the Lord, even as his father had done. Ezekiel confirms this sentence when in Ezekiel 19:5-9 he portrays him as a young lion that devoured men, forced widows, and laid cities waste. The words of Jahveh: Although Conjahu were a signet ring on my right hand, convey no judgment as to his character, but simply mean: Although he were as precious a jewel in the Lord's eyes as a signet ring (cf. Haggai 2:23), the Lord would nevertheless cast him away. כּי before אם introduces the body of the oath, as in Jeremiah 22:5, and is for rhetorical effect repeated before the apodosis, as in 2 Samuel 3:9; 2 Samuel 2:27, etc. Although he were, sc. what he is not; not: although he is (Graf); for there is no proof for the remark: that as being the prince set by Jahveh over His people, he has really as close a connection with Him. Hitz.'s explanation is also erroneous: "even if, seeking help, he were to cling so closely to me as a ring does to the finger." A most unnatural figure, not supported by reference to Sol 8:6. As to אתּקנךּ, from נתק with ן epenth., cf. Ew. 250, b. - From Jeremiah 22:25 on, the discourse is addressed directly to Jechoniah, to make his rejection known to him. God will deliver him into the hand of his enemies, whom he fears, namely, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans, and cast him with his mother into a strange land, where he shall die. The mother was called Nehushta, 2 Kings 24:8, and is brought forward in 29:2 as גּבירה. On the fulfilment of this threatening, see 2 Kings 24:12, 2 Kings 24:15; Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2. The construction הארץ is like that of הגּפן נכריּה, Jeremiah 2:21; and the absence of the article from אחרת is no sufficient reason for holding it to be a gloss (Hitz.), or for taking the article in הארץ to be a slip caused by על הארץ, Jeremiah 22:27. To lift up their souls, i.e., to direct their longings, wishes, towards a thing, cf. Deuteronomy 24:15; Hosea 4:8, etc. - The further sentence on Jechoniah was not pronounced after he had been carried captive, as Ng. infers from the perfects הוּטלוּ and השׁלכוּ. The perfects are prophetic. The question: Is this man a vessel despised and to be broken (עצב, vas fictile)? is an expression of sympathising regret on the part of the prophet for the unhappy fate of the king; but we may not hence conclude that Jeremiah regarded him as better than his father. The prophet's sympathy for his fate regarded less the person of the unfortunate king than it did the fortunes of David's royal seed, in that, of Jechoniah's sons, none was to sit on the throne of David (Jeremiah 22:30). Ew. has excellently paraphrased the sense: "Although there is many a sympathising heart in the land that bitterly laments the hard fate of the dear young king, who along with his infant children has been (? will be) dragged away, yet it is God's unchangeable decree that neither he nor any of his sons shall ascend the throne of David." נפוּץ, not: broken, but: that shall be broken (cf. Ew. 335, b). Wherefore are they - he and his seed - cast out? At his accession Jehoiachin was eighteen years old, not eight, as by an error stands in 2 Chronicles 36:9, see on 2 Kings 24:8; so that when taken captive, he might well enough have children, or at least one son, since his wives are expressly mentioned in the account of the captivity, 2 Kings 24:15. That the sons mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:16 and 1 Chronicles 3:17 were born to him in exile, cannot be inferred from that passage, rightly understood, see on that passage. The fact that no sons are mentioned in connection with the carrying captive is simply explained by the fact that they were still infants.

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