Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying,
Jer 21:1-44. Zedekiah Consults Jeremiah What Is to Be the Event of the War: God's Answer.
Written probably when, after having repulsed the Egyptians who brought succors to the Jews (Jer 37:5-8; 2Ki 24:7), the Chaldees were a second time advancing against Jerusalem, but were not yet closely besieging it (Jer 21:4, 13) [Rosenmuller]. This chapter probably ought to be placed between the thirty-seventh and thirty-eight chapters; since what the "princes," in Jer 38:2, represent Jeremiah as having said, is exactly what we find in Jer 21:9. Moreover, the same persons as here (Jer 21:1) are mentioned in Jer 37:3; 38:1, namely, Pashur and Zephaniah. What is here more fully related is there simply referred to in the historical narrative. Compare Jer 52:24; 2Ki 25:18 [Maurer].
1. Zedekiah—a prince having some reverence for sacred things, for which reason he sends an honorable embassy to Jeremiah; but not having moral courage to obey his better impulses.
Pashur—son of Melchiah, of the fifth order of priests, distinct from Pashur, son of Immer (Jer 20:1), of the sixteenth order (1Ch 24:9, 14).
Zephaniah—of the twenty-fourth order. They are designated, not by their father, but by their family (1Ch 24:18).
Inquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.
2. Nebuchadrezzar—the more usual way of spelling the name in Jeremiah than Nebuchadnezzar. From Persiac roots, meaning either "Nebo, the chief of the gods," or, "Nebo, the god of fire." He was son of Nabopolassar, who committed the command of the army against Egypt, at Carchemish, and against Judea, to the crown prince.
according to all his wondrous works—Zedekiah hopes for God's special interposition, such as was vouchsafed to Hezekiah against Sennacherib (2Ki 19:35, 36).
go up from us—rise up from the siege which he sat down to lay (Jer 37:5, 11, Margin; Nu 16:24, 27; 1Ki 15:19, Margin).
Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah:
Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.
4. God of Israel—Those "wondrous works" (Jer 21:2) do not belong to you; God is faithful; it is you who forfeit the privileges of the covenant by unfaithfulness. "God will always remain the God of Israel, though He destroy thee and thy people" [Calvin].
turn back the weapons—I will turn them to a very different use from what you intend them. With them you now fight against the Chaldees "without the walls" (the Jewish defenders being as yet able to sally forth more freely, and defend the fountains outside the walls in the valley under Mount Zion; see Jer 21:13; Jer 19:6, 7); but soon ye shall be driven back within the city [Maurer], and "in the midst" of it, I will cause all your arms to be gathered in one place ("I will assemble them," namely, your arms) by the Chaldean conquerors [Grotius], who shall slay you with those very arms [Menochius].
And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.
5. The Jews shall have not merely the Chaldees, but Jehovah Himself in wrath at their provocations, fighting against them. Every word enhances the formidable character of God's opposition, "I myself … outstretched hand … strong arm (no longer as in Ex 6:6, and in the case of Sennacherib, in your behalf, but) in anger … fury … great wrath."
And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.
And afterward, saith the LORD, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.
7. the people, and such—rather, explanatory, "the people," namely, "such as are left."
seek their life—content with nothing short of their death; not content with plundering and enslaving them.
smite with … sword—This was the fate of Zedekiah's sons and many of the Jewish nobles. Zedekiah himself, though not put to a violent death, died of grief. Compare as to the accurate fulfilment, Jer 34:4; Eze 12:13; 2Ki 25:6, 7.
And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.
8. "Life," if ye surrender; "death," if ye persist in opposing the Chaldees (compare De 30:19). The individuality of Jeremiah's mission from God is shown in that he urges to unconditional surrender; whereas all former prophets had urged the people to oppose their invaders (Isa 7:16; 37:33, 35).
He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.
9. (Jer 38:2, 17, 18).
falleth to—deserts to.
life … a prey—proverbial, to make one's escape with life, like a valuable spoil or prey that one carries off; the narrowness of the escape, and the joy felt at it, are included in the idea (Jer 39:18).
For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.
10. set … face against—determined to punish (See on Le 17:10).
And touching the house of the king of Judah, say, Hear ye the word of the LORD;
O house of David, thus saith the LORD; Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
12. house of David—the royal family and all in office about the king. He calls them so, because it was the greater disgrace that they had so degenerated from the piety of their forefather, David; and to repress their glorying in their descent from him, as if they were therefore inviolable; but God will not spare them as apostates.
in the morning—alluding to the time of dispensing justice (Job 24:17; Ps 101:8); but the sense is mainly proverbial, for "with promptness" (Ps 90:14; 143:8). Maurer translates, "every morning."
lest my fury … like fire—Already it was kindled, and the decree of God gone forth against the city (Jer 21:4, 5), but the king and his house may yet be preserved by repentance and reformation. God urges to righteousness, not as if they can thereby escape punishment wholly, but as the condition of a mitigation of it.
Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the LORD; which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations?
13. inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain—Jerusalem personified; situated for the most part on hills, with valleys at the bottom of them, as the valley of Hinnom, &c.; and beyond the valleys and mountains again, a position most fortified by nature, whence the inhabitants fancied themselves beyond the reach of enemies; but since God is "against" them, their position will avail nothing for them. The "valley" between Mount Zion and Moriah is called Tyrop�on. Robinson takes, "rock of the plain" as Mount Zion, on which is a level tract of some extent. It is appropriately here referred to, being the site of the royal residence of the "house of David," addressed (Jer 21:12).
But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the LORD: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.
14. fruit of your doings—(Pr 1:31; Isa 3:10, 11).
forest thereof—namely of your city, taken from Jer 21:13. "Forest" refers to the dense mass of houses built of cedar, &c., brought from Lebanon (Jer 22:7; 52:13; 2Ki 25:9).