Jeremiah 34:4
Yet hear the word of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah; Thus said the LORD of you, You shall not die by the sword:
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(4) Thou shalt not die by the sword.—The tone is one of comparative mildness, the motive apparently being the wish to persuade the king to abandon his useless resistance, and to court the favour of the conqueror. His going to Babylon would not necessarily shut him out from a life of comparative ease and an honourable burial. Jeconiah, it is true, had been thrown into prison (Jeremiah 51:31), and remained there during the whole reign of Nebuchadnezzar, but that was the result of his obstinate resistance, and Zedekiah might avert that doom by a timely submission.

34:1-7 Zedekiah is told that the city shall be taken, and that he shall die a captive, but he shall die a natural death. It is better to live and die penitent in a prison, than to live and die impenitent in a palace.People - Peoples, i. e., tribes, races, under the rule of one man. 4, 5. Mitigation of Zedekiah's punishment. No text from Poole on this verse. Yet hear the word of the Lord, O Zedekiah king of Judah,.... Which, though a king, he ought to hearken to; and, besides, what follows was for comfort, being a mitigation of his sentence, and containing in it mercy, as well as judgment:

thus saith the Lord of thee, thou shalt not die by the sword: of the king of Babylon; or a violent death; and therefore fear not to deliver up thyself and city into his hands; which he might be twelfth to do, fearing he would put him to death immediately.

Yet hear the word of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of thee, Thou shalt not die by the sword:
4, 5. Du. challenges the statement in these vv. as not in consonance with the troublous ending of Zedekiah’s life in exile. If the text be sound, “in peace” can only mean a natural death, as opposed to one by violence or by the executioner’s sword. But there is likelihood in Co.’s view that some words may have fallen out, and that the utterance (“Yet hear, etc.”) was conditional on the king’s timely submission to Babylon.Verse 4. - Yet hear the word of the Lord, etc. Clearly this introduces a limitation of the foregoing threat. Zedekiah will, it is true, be carried to Babylon, but he will not suffer a violent death; he will "die in peace," and be buried with all customary royal honours. A difficulty, however, has been felt in admitting this view. How could Zedekiah be said to die in peace, when he was "in prison till the day of his death" (Jeremiah 52:11)? and how could the deposed king of a captive people be honoured with a public mourning? The reply is

(1) that, as compared with a cruel death by flaying or impalement, it was "peace" to live in the obscure quiet of a prison; and

(2) that, as the Jews appear to have been left very much to themselves (see Ezekiel, passim), it is credible enough that they were allowed to show the customary honours to a deceased representative of David. At any rate, the alternative view seems not in accordance with sound exegesis, viz. that the verse means this, "If thou obey the word of the Lord, and surrender thyself to Nebuchadnezzar, thou shalt live and die in peaceable possession of the throne." What parallel can be produced for this violent interpretation? In order to make still more impressive the pledge given, that the covenant with David and the Levitical priesthood can never be broken, the Lord adds the promise of a numerous increase of the seed of David and the Levites. אשׁר as correlative to כּן stands for כּאשׁר; for in the accusative lies the general reference to place, time, kind, and manner; cf. Ew. 360 a, 333 a. The comparison with the innumerable host of stars and the immeasurable quantity of the sand reminds us of the patriarchal promises, Genesis 15:5; Genesis 22:17. In this way, the promises that apply to all Israel are specially referred to the family of David and the Levites ("the Levites," Jeremiah 33:22, is abbreviated from "the Levites, the priests," Jeremiah 33:21). This transference, however, is not a mere hyperbole which misses the mark; for, as Jahn observes, an immense increase of the royal and priestly families would only have been a burden on the people (Graf). The import of the words of the verse is simply that the Lord purposes to fulfil the promise of His blessing, made to the patriarchs in favour of their whole posterity, in the shape of a numerous increase; but this promise will now be specially applied to the posterity of David and to the priests, so that there shall never be wanting descendants of David to occupy the throne, nor Levites to perform the service of the Lord. The question is not about a "change of the whole of Israel into the family of David and the tribe of Levi" (Hengstenberg); and if the increase of the family of David and the Levites correspond in multitude with the number of all the people of Israel, this increase cannot be a burden on the people. But the question, whether this promise is to be understood literally, of the increase of the ordinary descendants of David and the Levites, or spiritually, of their spiritual posterity, cannot be decided, as Hengstenberg and Ngelsbach think, by referring to the words of the Lord in Exodus 19:6, that all Israel shall be a kingdom of priests, and to the prophetic passages, Isaiah 66:6, Isaiah 66:23., according to which the whole people shall be priests to God, while Levites also shall be taken from among the heathen. For this prophecy does not treat of the final glory of the people of God, but only of the innumerable increase of those who shall attain membership in the family of David and the Levitical priests. The question that has been raised is rather to be decided in accordance with the general promises regarding the increase of Israel; and in conformity with these, we answer that it will not result from the countless increase of the descendants of Jacob according to the flesh, but from the incorporation, among the people of God, of the heathen who return to the God of Israel. As the God-fearing among the heathen will be raised, for their piety, to be the children of Abraham, and according to the promise, Isaiah 66:20., even Levitical priests taken from among them, so shall the increase placed in prospect before the descendants of David and Levi be realized by the reception of the heathen into the royal and sacerdotal privileges of the people of God under the new covenant.

This view of our verse is confirmed by the additional proof given of the promised restoration of Israel, Jeremiah 33:23-26; for here there is assurance given to the seed of Jacob and David, and therefore to all Israel, that they shall be kept as the people of God. The occasion of this renewed confirmation was the allegation by the people, that the Lord had rejected the two families, i.e., Israel and Judah (cf. Jeremiah 31:27, Jeremiah 31:31; Jeremiah 32:20), called, Isaiah 8:14, the two houses of Israel. With such words they despised the people of the Lord, as being no longer a people before them, i.e., in their eyes, in their opinion. That those who spoke thus were Jews, who, on the fall of the kingdom of Judah, despaired of the continuance of God's election of Israel, is so very evident, that Hengstenberg may well find it difficult to understand how several modern commentators could think of heathens - Egyptians (Schnurrer), Chaldeans (Jahn), Samaritans (Movers), or neighbours of the Jews and of Ezekiel on the Chebar (Hitzig). The verdict pronounced on what these people said, "they despise, or contemn, my people," at once relieves us from any need for making such assumptions, as soon as we assign the full and proper force to the expression "my people" equals the people of Jahveh. Just as in this passage, so too in Jeremiah 29:32, "this people" is interchanged with "my people" as a designation of the Jews. Moreover, as Graf correctly says, the expression "this people" nowhere occurs in the prophets of the exile as applied to the heathen; on the contrary, it is very frequently employed by Jeremiah to designate the people of Judah in their estrangement from the Lord: Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 5:14, Jeremiah 5:23; Jeremiah 6:19; Jeremiah 7:33; Jeremiah 8:5; Jeremiah 9:14; Jeremiah 13:10; Jeremiah 14:10; Jeremiah 15:1, Jeremiah 15:20, and often elsewhere. "My people," on the other hand, marks Judah and Israel as the people of God. In contrast with such contempt of the people of God, the Lord announces, "If my covenant with day and night does not stand, if I have not appointed the laws of heaven and earth, then neither shall I cast away the seed of Jacob." The לא is repeated a second time before the verb. Others take the two antecedent clauses as one: "If I have not made my covenant with day and night, the laws of heaven and earth." This construction also is possible; the sense remains unchanged. בּריתי יומם ולילה is imitated from Jeremiah 33:20. "The laws of heaven and earth" are the whole order of nature; cf. Jeremiah 31:35. The establishment, institution of the order of nature, is a work of divine omnipotence. This omnipotence has founded the covenant of grace with Israel, and pledged its continuance, despite the present destruction of the kingdom of Judah and the temporary rejection of the guilty people. But this covenant of grace includes not merely the choosing of David, but also the choosing of the seed of Jacob, the people of Israel, on the ground of which David was chosen to be the ruler over Israel. Israel will therefore continue to exist, and that, too, as a nation which will have rulers out of the seed of David, the servant of the Lord. "The mention of the three patriarchs recalls to mind the whole series of the promises made to them" (Hengstenberg). The plural משׁלים does not, certainly, refer directly to the promise made regarding the sprout of David, the Messiah, but at the same time does not stand in contradiction with it; for the revival and continued existence of the Davidic rule in Israel culminates in the Messiah. On כּי cf. Jeremiah 31:23; Jeremiah 30:3, Jeremiah 30:18, and the explanations on Jeremiah 32:44. The Qeri אשׁיב rests on Jeremiah 33:11, but is unnecessary; for אשׁוּב makes good enough sense, and corresponds better to ורחמתּים, in so far as it exactly follows the fundamental passage, Deuteronomy 30:3, where רחם is joined with שׁוּב את־שׁבוּת.

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