Now when all the princes, and all the people, which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one should let his manservant, and every one his maidservant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Jeremiah 34:10-11. Now when all the princes, &c., heard — This verse is better translated by Blaney and others thus, And all the princes hearkened, or, consented, and all the people who entered into covenant to let every one his bondman, and every one his bond-woman go free, and not to exact service of them any more, they hearkened, I say, and let them go. That is, they conformed to the obligations of the covenant, which they had entered into at the instigation of their prince. But afterward they turned, and brought them into subjection, &c. — Namely, upon the advance of the Egyptian army, which caused Nebuchadnezzar to raise the siege of Jerusalem. When they thought themselves safe from their enemies, as if they had also got out of God’s hand, they repented of their repentance, and returned to their old oppressions. Now this was not only a contempt of the divine law, as if it were of no force at all, but they might either keep it or break it as they thought fit; but it was a contempt of the covenant which they had, in a very solemn manner, (see Jeremiah 34:18-20,) made with him, and of that wrath which they had imprecated upon themselves in case they should break that covenant. It was jesting with God Almighty, as if he could be imposed on by fallacious promises, which, when they had gained their point, they would think themselves no longer obliged by. It was lying to God with their mouths, and flattering him with their tongues. It was likewise a contempt of the judgments of God, and setting them at defiance; as if when once the course of them was stopped a little, and interrupted, they would never proceed again, nor be revived: whereas, reprieves are so far from being pardons, that if they be abused thus, and sinners take encouragement from them to return to sin, they are but preparatives for heavier strokes of divine vengeance.Jeremiah 25:14).
heard that everyone should let his manservant, and everyone his maidservant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more; or any longer, which they had done, contrary to law: when they understood that this was the sum of the covenant they had entered into, and this the intent of the proclamation they agreed unto; or when they heard the law read and explained by the prophet, concerning the manumission of the Hebrew servants, when the time of their servitude was expired,
then they obeyed, and let them go; dismissed them from their service, in obedience to the law of God, agreeably to their own covenant, and the proclamation of liberty they assented to. The whole might be rendered thus, "and all the princes and all the people obeyed, which had entered into the covenant, to let everyone his manservant, and everyone his maidservant, go free, not to serve themselves of them any more, and they obeyed, I say, to let them go"; so far they did well, and were praiseworthy, that they kept the law of God, and their own covenant.Now when all the princes, and all the people, which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one should let his manservant, and every one his maidservant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10, 11. The MT. is somewhat awkward, and the LXX (preferred by Co. and Du.) clearer and briefer. But we cannot accept the latter with entire confidence.Verse 10. - Now when all the princes, etc. This verse should rather be rendered thus: Then all the princes, and all the people, etc., obeyed, every one letting his slave, and every one his handmaid, go free, not serving them. selves of them any more; they even obeyed, and let them go. Jeremiah 34:3. And thou shalt not escape from his hand, but shalt certainly be seized and delivered into his hand; and thine eyes shall see the eyes of the king of Babylon, and his mouth shall speak with thy mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon. Jeremiah 34:4. But hear the word of Jahveh, O Zedekiah, king of Judah. Thus saith Jahveh concerning thee: Thou shalt not die by the sword. Jeremiah 34:5. In peace shalt thou die; and as with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings who were before thee, so shall they make a burning for thee, and they shall wail for thee, [crying,] 'Alas, lord!' for I have spoken the word, saith Jahveh. - On Jeremiah 34:2, Jeremiah 34:3, cf. Jeremiah 32:3-5. "But hear," Jeremiah 34:4, introduces an exception to what has been said before; but the meaning of Jeremiah 34:4, Jeremiah 34:5 is disputed. They are usually understood in this say: Zedekiah shall be carried into exile to Babylon, but shall not be killed with the sword, or executed, but shall die a peaceful death, and be buried with royal honours. But C. B. Michaelis, Venema, Hitzig, and Graf take the words as an exception that will occur, should Zedekiah follow the advice given him to deliver himself up to the king of Babylon, instead of continuing the struggle. Then what is denounced in Jeremiah 34:3 will not happen; Zedekiah shall not be carried away to Babylon, but shall die as king in Jerusalem. This view rests on the hypothesis that the divine message has for its object to induce the king to submit and give up himself (cf. Jeremiah 38:17.). But this supposition has no foundation; and what must be inserted, as the condition laid before Zedekiah, "if thou dost willingly submit to the king of Babylon," is quite arbitrary, and incompatible with the spirit of the word, "But hear the word of Jahveh," for in this case Jeremiah 34:4 at least would require to run, "Obey the word of Jahveh" (שׁמע בּדבר ), as Jeremiah 38:20. To take the words שׁמע דברin the sense, "Give ear to the word, obey the word of Jahveh," is not merely inadmissible grammatically, but also against the context; for the word of Jahveh which Zedekiah is to hear, gives no directions as to how he is to act, but is simply an intimation as to what the end of his life shall be: to change or avert this does not stand in his power, so that we cannot here think of obedience or disobedience. The message in Jeremiah 34:4, Jeremiah 34:5 states more in detail what that was which lay before Zedekiah: he shall fall into the hands of the king of Babylon, be carried into exile in Babylon, yet shall not die a violent death through the sword, but die peacefully, and be buried with honour - not, like Jehoiakim, fall in battle, and be left unmourned and unburied (Jeremiah 22:18.). This intimation accords with the notices given elsewhere as to the end of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 32:5; Jeremiah 39:5-7). Although Zedekiah died a prisoner in Babylon (Jeremiah 52:11), yet his imprisonment would not necessarily be an obstacle in the way of an honourable burial after the fashion of his fathers. When Jehoiachin, after an imprisonment of thirty-seven years, was raised again to royal honours, then also might there be accorded not merely a tolerably comfortable imprisonment to Zedekiah himself, but to the Jews also, at his death, the permission to bury their king according to their national custom. Nor is anything to be found elsewhere contrary to this view of the words. The supposition that Zedekiah caused the prophet to be imprisoned on account of this message to him, which Ngelsbach has laboured hard to reconcile with the common acceptation of the passage, is wholly devoid of foundation in fact, and does not suit the time into which this message falls; for Jeremiah was not imprisoned till after the time when the Chaldeans were obliged for a season to raise the siege, on the approach of the Egyptians, and that, too, not at the command of the king, but by the watchman at the gate, on pretence that he was a deserter. "Thou shalt die in peace," in contrast with "thou shalt die by the sword," marks a peaceful death on a bed of sickness in contrast with execution, but not (what Graf introduces into the words) in addition, his being deposited in the sepulchre of his fathers. "With the burnings of thy fathers," etc., is to be understood, according to 2 Chronicles 16:14; 2 Chronicles 21:19, of the burning of aromatic spices in honour of the dead; for the burning of corpses was not customary among the Hebrews: see on 2 Chronicles 16:14. On "alas, lord!" see Jeremiah 22:18. This promise is strengthened by the addition, "for I have spoken the word," where the emphasis lies on the אני: I the Lord have spoken the word, which therefore shall certainly be fulfilled. - In Jeremiah 34:6, Jeremiah 34:7 it is further remarked in conclusion, that Jeremiah addressed these words to the king during the siege of Jerusalem, when all the cities of Judah except Lachish and Azekah were already in the power of the Chaldeans. ערי is not in apposition to ערי יהוּדה, but belongs to נשׁארוּ: "they were left among the towns of Judah as strong cities;" i.e., of the strong cities of Judah, they alone had not yet been conquered.
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