Jeremiah 29:26
The LORD has made you priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that you should be officers in the house of the LORD, for every man that is mad, and makes himself a prophet, that you should put him in prison, and in the stocks.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) The Lord hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada . . .—The priest so named had apparently been deposed, as not favouring the stringent policy of the party of revolt. As Sagan, it was probably his special duty to maintain order in the Temple, and punish pretenders to the gift of prophecy, and the letter reproaches him for his lukewarm timidity in discharging that duty. In the word “mad,” as in 2Kings 9:11, Hosea 9:7, we have the habitual term of scorn applied to such pretenders. On the punishment of the stocks, see Note on Jeremiah 20:2. The word translated “prison” is probably another form of punishment like that of the stocks.

29:20-32 Jeremiah foretells judgments upon the false prophets, who deceived the Jews in Babylon. Lying was bad; lying to the people of the Lord, to delude them into a false hope, was worse; but pretending to rest their own lies upon the God of truth, was worst of all. They flattered others in their sins, because they could not reprove them without condemning themselves. The most secret sins are known to God; and there is a day coming when he will bring to light all the hidden works of darkness. Shemaiah urges the priests to persecute Jeremiah. Their hearts are wretchedly hardened who justify doing mischief by having power to do it. They were in a miserable thraldom for mocking the messengers of the Lord, and misusing his prophets; yet in their distress they trespass still more against the Lord. Afflictions will not of themselves cure men of their sins, unless the grace of God works with them. Those who slight the blessings, deserve to lose the benefit of God's word, like Shemaiah. The accusations against many active Christians in all ages, amount to no more than this, that they earnestly counsel men to attend to their true interest and duties, and to wait for the performance of God's promises in his appointed way.Officers - Deputy high priests who had the oversight of the temple.

Mad - See 2 Kings 9:11 note. Many of the symbolic actions of the prophets, such as that of Jeremiah going about with a yoke on his neck, would be mocked at by the irreverent as passing the line between prophecy and madness.

Prisons - Rather, the stocks Jeremiah 20:2.

The stocks - Rather, collar.

26. thee … in the stead of Jehoiada—Zephaniah's promotion as second priest, owing to Jehoiada's being then in exile, was unexpected. Shemaiah thus accuses him of ingratitude towards God, who had so highly exalted him before his regular time.

ye should be officers … for every man—Ye should, as bearing rule in the temple (see on [936]Jer 20:1), apprehend every false prophet like Jeremiah.

mad—Inspired prophets were often so called by the ungodly (2Ki 9:11; Ac 26:24; 2:13, 15, 17, 18). Jeremiah is in this a type of Christ, against whom the same charge was brought (Joh 10:20).

prison—rather, "the stocks" (see on [937]Jer 20:2).

stocks—from a root, "to confine"; hence rather, "a narrow dungeon." According to De 17:8, 9, the priest was judge in such cases, but had no right to put into the stocks; this right he had assumed to himself in the troubled state of the times.

Priest, that is, high priest, as some have thought; but it appears from 2 Kings 25:18, that Seraiah was at this time the high priest, and this Zephaniah was the second priest, as he is there styled, as also Jeremiah 52:24; nor must any think that the Jehoiada here meant was the immediate predecessor of Zephaniah, for besides that Jehoiada was high priest, which Zephaniah never was, there were near two hundred years betwixt the death of Jehoiada and this time; in the stead therefore here signifieth, that thou shouldst be like the good high priest Jehoiada; unless some other Jehoiada was meant, who was turned out, and this Zephaniah put in his room.

That ye should be officers in the house of the Lord, for every man that is mad; that thou mightest have a care of religion, and particularly take care of persons who being mad or phrenetic make themselves prophets. The priests had a power to restrain such persons by imprisoning them, or putting them in the stocks, by which most agree a particular punishment is expressed, but for the nature and way of it is not determined. Those who in so uncertain a thing have a mind to read what hath been said, may find it both in Mr. Pool’s Synopsis Criticorum, and the English Annotations upon this verse, but the learned author of them reciting what authors have said, concludes it at last not with any certainty to be determined. The Lord hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest,.... The same with Seraiah, who might have more names than one, and Jehoiada be one of them, who either was removed, or carried captive; and this Zephaniah, his sagan of deputy, succeeded him. Some think he refers to the famous Jehoiada in the times of Joash, a great reformer; and that this man was another such an one for his zeal, or at least ought to be, which he would have him exert against Jeremiah; but the former seems most probable:

that ye should be officers in the house of the Lord; or "visitors", or "overseers" (i) there; that is, Zephaniah, and the rest of the priests; or that he should see to it, that there were proper officers set there, to take care of it, and suffer none to come in and prophesy there, to the hurt of the people, as he would insinuate:

for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet; or, "against every man" (k); to prevent all enthusiastic persons, and such as are troubled with a frenzy in their brain, and set up themselves for prophets, from speaking in the name of the Lord; so the true prophets of old, and the apostles of Christ, and faithful ministers of the word, have always been represented as beside themselves, and as taking upon them an office that did not belong to them; and therefore should be restrained and persecuted by the higher powers:

that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks; the former of these words, according to the Hebrew, signifies an engine or instrument, in which the neck was put, like our pillory; and the latter an iron instrument for the hands, a manacle, or handcuff, as Kimchi; see Jeremiah 20:2; though this rather better agrees with the pillory, being a strait narrow place, in which the hands, feet, and neck, were put (l).

(i) "inspectores", Cocceius, Gataker. (k) "adversus omnem virum", Calvin; "contra omnem virum", Schmidt. (l) Vid. Hottinger. Smegma Orientale, l. 1. c. 7. p. 190.

The LORD hath made thee priest in the stead of {o} Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the LORD, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks.

(o) Shemaiah the false prophet flatters Zephaniah the chief priest as though God had given him the spirit and zeal of Jehoiada to punish whoever trespassed against the word of God, of that he would have made Jeremiah one, calling him a raver and a false prophet.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. This and the two following verses give us the words of Shemaiah’s letter to Zephaniah, as quoted in Jeremiah’s reply.

thee] Zephaniah.

in the stead of Jehoiada] See on Jeremiah 20:1. The title “officers” here is the same in the original as the one given there to Pashhur. It is possible that the reference may be to the high-priest in the days of Joash (2 Kings 9:4 ff.), who “appointed officers over the house of the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:18). It is best here, however, with LXX, Targ. and other authorities to read “to be an officer.”

that is mad] Madness was looked on in the East as a sort of gift of prophecy perverted. Cp. “mad” (same Heb.) in 2 Kings 9:11; Hosea 9:7.

the stocks] See on ch. Jeremiah 20:2.

shackles] mg. rightly, the collar. The word is found here only in the Heb., but a cognate Arabic word indicates that it is an iron band fastened round the neck.Verse 26. - In the stead of Jehoiada the priest. Some (Grotius, Hitzig, Graf) think that this Jehoiada was the famous high priest of that name, who is said to have "appointed officers over the house of the Lord" (2 Kings 11:18; 2 Chronicles 23:18). It is true that Zephaniah was not literally the successor of Jehoiada, but he was so in the same metaphorical sense in which the scribes are said by our Lord to "sit in Moses' seat" (Matthew 23:2). It is safer, however, to suppose that another Jehoiada is meant, of whom we have no further information. It is not said that either Jehoiada or Zephaniah was high priest, and as the special object of the elevation of the latter is said to be the supervision of the temple police, it is more probable that Jehoiada and he were successively "second priests," or, to use a phrase which seems to be synonymous, "deputy governors in the house of the Lord" (Jeremiah 20:1). The passage may thus without violence be harmonized with Jeremiah 52:24; 2 Kings 25:18, where Seraiah is called "the chief priest" and Zephaniah "the second priest." It is possible that Jehoiada 'had been favorable to the better class of prophets. In this case there will be a delicate hint to Zephaniah that God had his own purpose in promoting him to honor, viz. that unruly prophets like Jeremiah might be held in with a tighter hand (Ewald). That ye should be officers; rather, that there should be officers. Zephaniah himself was an "officer" or "deputy" (see above); but he was also "chief in the house of the Lord," and had the appointment of inferior "officers," whose duty it was to preserve order in the temple. To understand the following words, we must remember that the outer court of the temple was a favorite place for prophetic teaching (comp. Jeremiah 7:2; Jeremiah 26:2). For every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet; i.e. to keep an eye upon "madmen" and prophetizers. The term "mad" is used in a disparaging sense (as 2 Kings 9:11; comp. Hosea 9:7), with regard to the apparently senseless behavior of those who were overpowered by the spirit of prophecy. In earlier times, no doubt, the phenomena of prophecy were more violently opposed to everyday life than in Jeremiah's time; but such symbolic acts as appearing in public with a yoke upon his neck would at least excuse the application of the epithet even to Jeremiah. It is more than probable, however, that it was not so much the abnormal actions as the contents of Jeremiah's prophecies which stirred up such vehement opposition; observe how in the next verse only the sound of these descriptive nouns is retained ("which maketh himself a prophet"). It was the making prophecy a reality which disturbed the men of routine, and Shemaiah well knew this when he made this appeal to Zephaniah. There was no harm in being nominally a "prophet," but to "make," or rather, "show one's self as a prophet," to be an energetic prophet, a prophetizer (if the word may be invented), - this was wormwood to those who cried, "Peace, peace," when there was no peace. In prison, and in the stocks; rather, in the stocks (see on Jeremiah 20:2) and in the collar. The meaning seems to be that Jeremiah was subjected to both forms of punishment at once. Jeremiah informs the captives of the judgments that is to gall on such as are still left in the land. Jeremiah 29:15. "If ye say: Jahveh hath raised us up prophets in Babylon - Jeremiah 29:16. Yea, thus saith Jahveh of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity, Jeremiah 29:17. Thus saith Jahveh of hosts: Behold, I send amongst them the sword, famine, and pestilence, and make them like horrible figs, that cannot be eaten for badness, Jeremiah 29:18. And hunt after them with the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and give them to be abused to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and a hissing, and a reproach among all the peoples whither I have driven them; Jeremiah 29:19. Inasmuch as they have not hearkened to my words, saith Jahveh, wherewith I sent to them my servants the prophets, from early morning on sending them, and ye have not hearkened, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 29:20. But ye, hear the word of Jahveh, all ye captives whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon." - The design with which Jeremiah tells the captives of this judgment may be gathered from the terms of Jeremiah 29:15, with which this prophecy is introduced: God had raised up to us prophets in Babel (בּבלה, lit., as far as Babel, i.e., extending His agency so far beyond the bounds of Judah). Hence it is clear that the announcement of judgment to come on those left in the land is in direct opposition to the predictions of the prophets that had appeared in Babylon. these prophesied a swift end to Chaldean domination and an immediate return of the exiles to their fatherland. So long as one of David's posterity sat on his throne in Jerusalem, and so long as the kingdom of Judah was maintained, the partial captivity of the people and removal of the plundered treasures of the temple would appear as a calamity which might soon be repaired. The false prophets in Babylon laid, therefore, great stress on the continued existence of the kingdom, with its capital and the temple, in their efforts to obtain belief amongst the exiles. As Ng. justly remarks, it was to take this ground from beneath their feet that Jeremiah predicted expulsion and destruction against the people of Jerusalem. The prophecy does indeed bear upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, "but not in the first reference; its immediate purpose was to overthrow the foundations on which the false prophets of the exile stood" (Ng.). Taken thus, these verses form and integral part of the message sent by Jeremiah to the exiles, which was of no small weight for quieting the excitement, nourished by the false prophets, which reigned amongst them. One is struck by the want of connection between Jeremiah 29:15 and Jeremiah 29:16. The beginning of Jeremiah 29:16, "Yea, thus saith," comes directly after the end of Jeremiah 29:15 without any joining link. Ng. holds the כּי to be the pleonastic כּי which often introduces a saying. But its position before the "thus saith" makes this impossible. Here it serves to strengthen the asseveration: yea, thus fitly introducing what Jahveh says to the contrary; and Jeremiah 29:15 and Jeremiah 29:16 are, tersely and immediately, set over against one another. "If ye say" means: as regards your saying that Jahveh hath raised you up prophets in Babylon, the answer is: Thus hath Jahveh said. This is the connection of Jeremiah 29:16 with Jeremiah 29:15.

(Note: By the above exposition of the connection and progress of the thought, are disposed of all the objections that have been brought by Houb., Lud. Capp., Ven., etc., against the genuineness of these verses, or, at least, against the true position for them. The fact of their being wanting in the lxx, on which Hitz. mainly grounds his charge of spuriousness, proves nothing more than that these translators were unable to understand the train of thought in the verses, especially seeing that the substance of them has several times been expressed by Jeremiah, particularly Jeremiah 29:17 and Jeremiah 29:18; Jeremiah 24:9-10, cf. Jeremiah 15:4; Jeremiah 19:8; with Jeremiah 29:19 cf. Jeremiah 7:13, Jeremiah 7:25. Against the attempts to alter the text, Graf's remarks are admirable: "It is much easier to explain how the passage was omitted as out of place by the lxx than to show how it could have been introduced as an interpolation. It is too long for a mere marginal gloss that had at a later time found its way into the text; and why it should have been placed here, would remain all the more incomprehensible if it were so wholly unconnected with the body of the text. We cannot admit that it is merely an erroneous displacement of b. 15, which originally stood before Jeremiah 29:21; since it is less likely that Jeremiah 29:16 could have come directly after Jeremiah 29:14. In respect of form, Jeremiah 29:16-20 is connected with and forms a continuation of what precedes. Jeremiah 29:20 implies the presence of Jeremiah 29:16 as an antithesis, and at the same time completes again the connection that had been interrupted with Jeremiah 29:15, and leads on to Jeremiah 29:21. Connection in thought seems to be wanting only because Jeremiah 29:16 does not express the connecting idea, and because the contrast is so abrupt." - The other arguments adduced by Hitz. to throw suspicion on the passage, we can afford to pass over as wholly without force.)

"Your brethren that," etc., is co-ordinate with "all the people." The words: "I make them like horrible figs," make allusion to the vision in Jeremiah 24:2., but do not imply that this vision was known to the exiles, for they are quite intelligible to him who knows nothing of Jeremiah 24:1-10 (Ng.). The adject. שׁער is found only here, from שׁער, shudder; horrible, that on tasting which one shudders. With Jeremiah 29:18, cf. Jeremiah 24:9. "Wherewith I sent my servants," i.e., commissioned them. This verb construed with double accus. as in 2 Samuel 11:22; Isaiah 55:11. "Ye have not hearkened," the 2nd pers. instead of the 3rd, is hardly to be explained by the fact that the prophet here cites in full an often quoted saying (Hitz., Ng., etc.). The reason is that the prophet is thinking of the exiles also as having been equal to their brethren remaining in Judah in the matter of not hearkening. Thus the way is prepared for the summons: But ye, hear, Jeremiah 29:20.

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