Jeremiah 45:5
And seek you great things for yourself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh, said the LORD: but your life will I give to you for a prey in all places where you go.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
45:1-5 An encouragement sent to Baruch. - Baruch was employed in writing Jeremiah's prophecies, and reading them, see ch. Jer 36, and was threatened for it by the king. Young beginners in religion are apt to be discouraged with little difficulties, which they commonly meet with at first in the service of God. These complaints and fears came from his corruptions. Baruch had raised his expectations too high in this world, and that made the distress and trouble he was in harder to be borne. The frowns of the world would not disquiet us, if we did not foolishly flatter ourselves with the hopes of its smiles, and court and covet them. What a folly is it then to seek great things for ourselves here, where every thing is little, and nothing certain! The Lord knows the real cause of our fretfulness and despondency better than we do, and we should beg of him to examine our hearts, and to repress every wrong desire in us.land - Or, earth. Baruch's lot was cast in one of those troublous times when God enters into judgment with all flesh Jeremiah 45:5. It was not Judaea only but the whole known world that was thrown into turmoil by Nebuchadnezzars energy Jeremiah 25:26. 5. seekest thou great things for thyself—Thou art over-fastidious and self-seeking. When My own peculiar people, a "whole" nation (Jer 45:4), and the temple, are being given to ruin, dost thou expect to be exempt from all hardship? Baruch had raised his expectations too high in this world, and this made his distresses harder to be borne. The frowns of the world would not disquiet us if we did not so eagerly covet its smiles. What folly to seek great things for ourselves here, where everything is little, and nothing certain!

all flesh—the whole Jewish nation and even foreign peoples (Jer 25:26).

but thy life … for a prey—Esteem it enough at such a general crisis that thy life shall be granted thee. Be content with this boon of life which I will rescue from imminent death, even as when all things are given up to plunder, if one escape with aught, he has a something saved as his "prey" (Jer 21:9). It is striking how Jeremiah, who once used such complaining language himself, is enabled now to minister the counsel requisite for Baruch when falling into the same sin (Jer 12:1-5; 15:10-18). This is part of God's design in suffering His servants to be tempted, that their temptations may adapt them for ministering to their fellow servants when tempted.

What great things Baruch was seeking is not expressed, and impossible to be determined with any certainty; they could not be honour or riches, the time of Jehoiakim’s reign was no time for any pious rational man to expect any thing of that nature; he might expect to have been a prophet, as Elisha was, who first was but a servant to Elijah. Or at least he might expect rest and protection, when others met with disturbance. But it may be the meaning is no more than, Dost thou expect what none meeteth with, or is like to meet with who feareth God? Never think of it.

I will bring evil upon all flesh; I am bringing calamities and misery upon the whole nation wherein thou livest.

But thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest; I will preserve thy life, that is all thou art to expect, and thou shalt live to see the time that thou wilt judge that a great booty, that thou shalt have lent thee, whithersoever the wind of my providence shall happen to drive thee. This message of God to Baruch teacheth us that God expects from his people a spirit suited to his dispensations, and that they should keep their spirits low in a time of public judgments, not making to themselves any great promises of freedom from their share in the public calamities of that nation or kingdom in which they are; but contenting themselves with such allowances as God proportioneth to them at such a time without discontent or murmuring, and blessing God for any marks of gracious providence which he in such times will please to set upon them, being thankful for them and satisfied with them. Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not,.... Riches and wealth honour and esteem, peace and prosperity; these were not to be sought after and expected, when the whole nation would be involved in such a general calamity. Baruch perhaps expected that his reading the roll to princes would have been a means of preferring him at court, of advancing him to some post or office, in which he might have acquired wealth, and got applause, and lived in peace and plenty all his days; but this was not to be looked for; when, if he observed, the very roll he wrote and read contained in it prophecies of the general ruin of the nation. The Jews restrain this to the gift of prophecy they suppose Baruch sought after, which was not to be enjoyed out of the land of Canaan:

for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh; not upon every individual person in the world; but upon all the inhabitants of Judea, who should either die by the sword or by famine, or by pestilence, or be carried captive, or be in some distress or another:

but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest; suggesting that he should be obliged to quit his native place and country, and go from place to place; as he did, after the destruction of Jerusalem, along with the prophet; and even into Egypt with the Jews that went there; where his life would be in danger, and yet should be preserved; he should be snatched as a brand out of the burning, when Jerusalem was taken; and in other places, when exposed, though he should lose everything, yet not his life; which should be as dear to him as a rich spoil taken by the soldier, being a distinguishing mercy.

And seekest {e} thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give to thee for {f} a prize in all places where thou goest.

(e) Do you think to have honour and credit? in which he shows his infirmity.

(f) Read Jer 21:9.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. seek them not] What form Baruch’s aspirations took can only be matter of conjecture. It has been suggested that as grandson of Maaseiah who was governor of Jerusalem in Josiah’s reign (2 Chronicles 34:8) he may have aspired to high office, or, as ch. Jeremiah 43:3 may be thought to hint, that he was “Chaldaïzing” and looking in that direction for promotion.

thy life will I give unto thee for a prey] See on Jeremiah 21:9.Verse 5. - Seekest thou great things, etc.? All around is passing through a sore crisis, and canst thou expect a better lot? It is no time for personal ambition, when the very foundations of the state are crumbling. In all places whither thou goest. This seems to indicate that Baruch's time of exile would be a restless one; it would nowhere be safe for him to take up a settled habitation.



In confirmation of this threatening, the Lord gives them another sign which, when it is fulfilled, will let them know that the destruction announced to them shall certainly befall them. The token consists in the giving up of King Hophra into the hand of his enemies. As certainly as this shall take place, so certainly shall the extermination of the Jews in Egypt ensue. The name חפרע is rendered Οὐάφρις in Manetho, in the classical writers ̓Απρίης, Apris, who, according to Herodotus (ii. 161), reigned twenty-five years, but nineteen according to Manetho (cf. Boeckh, Manetho, etc., p. 341ff.). His death took place in the year 570 b.c. This date is reached by a comparison of the following facts: - Cambyses conquered Egypt in the year 525; and in the preceding year Amasis had died, after a reign of forty-four years (Herod. iii. 10). Hence Amasis - who took Apris prisoner, and gave him up to the common people, who killed him (Herod. ii.-161-163, 169) - must have commenced his reign in the year 570. On the death of Apris, or Hophra, cf. the explanation given on p. 353f., where we have shown that the words, "I will give him into the hand of his enemies, and of those who seek his life," when compared with what is said of Zedekiah, "into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar his enemy," do not require us to assume that Hophra was killed by Nebuchadnezzar, and can very well be harmonized with the notice of Herodotus regarding the death of this king.

Hitzig and Graf have taken objection to this sign given by Jeremiah, and regard Jeremiah 44:29, Jeremiah 44:30 as a spurious vaticinium ex eventu, the work of another hand. The reasons they urge are, that it is scarcely possible Jeremiah could have lived till 570; that Jeremiah 44:29. would be the only place where Jeremiah offered such a criterion; and that, even as it is, these verses contain nothing original, but, by their stiff and lifeless parallelism, are easily seen to be an artificial conclusion. Of these three arguments, the last can prove nothing, since it is merely a subjective opinion on an aesthetic point. The second, again, rather declares for than against the genuineness. For "if it were not Jeremiah's usual, elsewhere, to offer some criterion, then such an interpolation would have been all the more carefully avoided" (Ngelsbach). Of course we do not find any other signs of this kind in Jeremiah; but it does not follow from this that he could not offer such a thing in a special case. Yet the ground taken up by Ngelsbach, as sufficient to establish this position, seems quite untenable, viz., that the announcement of the fate in store for the king must have been the answer of the true God to the presumptuous boast of Apris, mentioned by Herodotus, "that even God could not dethrone him, so firmly did he think he was established:" this view of the matter seems too remote from the object of Jeremiah's address. And finally, the first-named objection receives importance only on the supposition that "an event which was intended to serve as אות, a sign or criterion, must be something that was to happen immediately, or within a brief appointed period of time, so that a person might be able, from the occurrence of the one, to conclude that what had been foretold about a later period would as certainly take place" (Graf). But there are no sufficient grounds for this hypothesis. If no definite time be fixed for the occurrence of this sign, then it may not appear till a considerable time afterwards, and yet be a pledge for the occurrence of what was predicted for a still later period. That Jeremiah 54ed till the year 570 is certainly not inconceivable, but it is not likely that he uttered the prophecy now before us at the advanced age of nearly eighty years. Now, if his address is allowed to be a real prophecy, and not a mere vaticinium ex eventu, as Hitzig, looking from his dogmatic standpoint, considers it, then it must have been uttered before the year 570; but whether this was two, or five, or ten years before, makes no material difference. The address itself contains nothing to justify the assumption of Graf, that it is closely connected with the prophecy in Jeremiah 43:8-13, and with the warning against the migration into Egypt, Jeremiah 42. That the Jews spoken of had not been long in Egypt, cannot be inferred from Jeremiah 44:8, Jeremiah 44:12, and Jeremiah 44:18; on the contrary, the fact that they had settled down in different parts of Egypt, and had assembled at Pathros for a festival, shows that they had been living there for a considerable time before. Nor does it follow, from the statement in Jeremiah 44:14 that they longed to return to Judah, that they had gone to Egypt some months before. The desire to return into the land of their fathers remains, in a measure, in the heart of the Jew even at the present day. After all, then, no valid reason can be assigned for doubting the genuineness of these verses.

On the fulfilment of these threatenings Ngelsbach remarks: "Every one must be struck on finding that, in Jeremiah 44, the extermination of the Jews who dwelt in Egypt is predicted; while some centuries later, the Jews in Egypt were very numerous, and that country formed a central point for the Jewish exiles (cf. Herzog, Real-Encycl. xvii. S. 285). Alexander the Great found so many Jews in Egypt, that he peopled with Jews, in great measure, the city he had founded and called after himself (cf. Herzog, i. S. 235). How did these Jews get to Egypt? Whence the great number of Jews whom Alexander found already in Egypt? I am inclined to think that we must consider them, for the most part, as the descendants of those who had come into the country with Jeremiah. But, according to this view of the matter, Jeremiah's prophecy has not been fulfilled." Ngelsbach therefore thinks we must assume that idolatrous worship, through time, almost entirely ceased among the exiled Jews in Egypt as it did among those in Babylon, and that the Lord then, in return, as regards the penitents, repented of the evil which He had spoken against them (Jeremiah 26:13, Jeremiah 26:19). But this whole explanation is fundamentally wrong, since the assertion, that Alexander the Great found so many Jews in Egypt, that with them mainly he peopled the city of Alexandria which he had founded, is contrary to historic testimony. In Herzog (Real-Encycl. i. S. 235), to which Ngelsbach refers for proof on the point, nothing of the kind is to be found, but rather the opposite, viz., the following: "Soon after the foundation of Alexandria by Alexander the Great, this city became not merely the centre of Jewish Hellenism in Egypt, but generally speaking the place of union between Oriental and Occidental Jews. The external condition of the Jews of Alexandria must, on the whole, be characterized as highly prosperous. The first Jewish settlers had, indeed, been compelled by Alexander the Great to take up their residence in the city (Josephus, Antt. xv. 3. 1); so, too, were other Jews, by Ptolemy I. or Lagi (ibid. xii. 2. 4). But both of these monarchs granted them the same rights and privileges as the Macedonians, including Greek citizenship; and in consequence of the extremely advantageous position of the city, it speedily increased in importance. A still larger number, therefore, soon went thither of their own accord, and adopted the Greek language." In this account, the quotation from Josephus, Antt. xv. 3. 1, is certainly incorrect; for neither is there in that passage any testimony borne to the measures attributed to Alexander, nor are there any other historical testimonies given from antiquity. But as little can we find any proofs that Alexander the Great found so many Jews in Egypt that he could, to a large extent, people with them the city he had founded. It is merely testified by Josephus (Antt. xi. 8. 5), and by Hecataeus in Josephus (contra Ap. i. 22; p. 457, ed. Haverc.), that Alexander had Jewish soldiers in his army; it is further evident, from a notice in Josephus, de bell. Jud. ii. 18. 7, contra Ap. ii. 4) cf. Curtius Rufus, iv. 8), that the newly founded city, even under Alexander, immediately after it was commenced, and still more under Ptolemy Lagi (cf. Josephus, Antt. xii. 1, and Hecataeus in Jos. contra Ap. i. 22, p. 455), attracted a constantly increasing multitude of Jewish immigrants. This same Ptolemy, after having subdued Phoenicia and Coele-Syria in the year 320, and taken Jerusalem also, it would seem, by a stratagem on a Sabbath day, transported many captives and hostages out of the whole country into Egypt; many, too, must have been sold at that time as slaves to the inhabitants of such a wealthy country as Egypt: see a statement in the book of Aristeas, at the end of Havercamp's edition of Josephus, ii. p. 104. In the same place, and in Josephus' Antt. xii. 1, Ptolemy is said to have armed 30,000 Jewish soldiers, placed them as garrisons in the fortresses, and granted them all the rights of Macedonian citizens (ἰσοπολιτεία). Ewald well says, History of the People of Israel, vol. iv. of second edition, p. 254: "When we further take into consideration, that, in addition to all other similar disasters which had previously befallen them, many Jews were removed to Egypt (especially by Ochus, after Egypt had been reconquered), we can easily explain how Ptolemy Philadelphus can be said to have liberated 100,000 Egyptian Jews. Aristeas' Book, p. 105." This much, at least, is proved by these various notices, - that, in order to understand how such a vast increase took place in the number of the Jews in Egypt, we do not need to regard them as the descendants of those who removed thither with Jeremiah, and so to question the fulfilment of the prophecy now before us. Jeremiah does not, of course, threaten with destruction all those Jews who live in Egypt, but only those who at that time went thither against the divine will, and there persevered in their idolatry. We do not know how great may have been the number of these immigrants, but they could hardly exceed two thousand, - perhaps, indeed, there were not so many. All these, as had been foretold them, may have perished in the conquest of Egypt by the Chaldeans, and afterwards, through the sword, famine, and pestilence; for the myriads of Jews in Egypt at the time of Ptolemy Lagi could easily have removed thither during the period of 250 years intermediate between the immigration in Jeremiah's time and the foundation of Alexandria, partly as prisoners and slaves, partly through voluntary settlement.

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