Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD, saying,
Jer 26:1-24. Jeremiah Declared Worthy of Death, but by the Interposition of Ahikam Saved; the Similar Cases of Micah and Urijah Being Adduced in the Prophet's Favor.
The prophecies which gave the offense were those given in detail in the seventh, eighth, and ninth chapters (compare Jer 26:6 here with Jer 7:12, 14); and summarily referred to here [Maurer], probably pronounced at one of the great feasts (that of tabernacles, according to Ussher; for the inhabitants of "all the cities of Judah" are represented as present, Jer 26:2). See on Jer 7:1.
Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD'S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD'S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word:
2. in the court—the largest court, from which he could be heard by the whole people.
come to worship—Worship is vain without obedience (1Sa 15:21, 22).
all the words—(Eze 3:10).
diminish not a word—(De 4:2; 12:32; Pr 30:6; Ac 20:27; 2Co 2:17; 4:2; Re 22:19). Not suppressing or softening aught for fear of giving offense; nor setting forth coldly and indirectly what can only by forcible statement do good.
If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.
3. if so be—expressed according to human conceptions; not as if God did not foreknow all contingencies, but to mark the obstinacy of the people and the difficulty of healing them; and to show His own goodness in making the offer which left them without excuse [Calvin].
And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you,
To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened;
5. prophets—the inspired interpreters of the law (Jer 26:4), who adapted it to the use of the people.
Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.
6. like Shiloh—(see on Jer 7:12, 14; 1Sa 4:10-12; Ps 78:60).
curse—(Jer 24:9; Isa 65:15).
So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.
Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.
8. priests—The captain (or prefect) of the temple had the power of apprehending offenders in the temple with the sanction of the priests.
prophets—the false prophets. The charge against Jeremiah was that of uttering falsehood in Jehovah's name, an act punishable with death (De 18:20). His prophecy against the temple and city (Jer 26:11) might speciously be represented as contradicting God's own words (Ps 132:14). Compare the similar charge against Stephen (Ac 6:13, 14).
Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.
When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king's house unto the house of the LORD, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the LORD'S house.
10. princes—members of the Council of State or Great Council, which took cognizance of such offenses.
heard—the clamor of the popular tumult.
came up—from the king's house to the temple, which stood higher than the palace.
sat—as judges, in the gate, the usual place of trying such cases.
new gate—originally built by Jotham ("the higher gate," 2Ki 15:35) and now recently restored.
Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.
Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.
12. Lord sent me—a valid justification against any laws alleged against him.
against … against—rather, "concerning." Jeremiah purposely avoids saying, "against," which would needlessly irritate. They had used the same Hebrew word (Jer 26:11), which ought to be translated "concerning," though they meant it in the unfavorable sense. Jeremiah takes up their word in a better sense, implying that there is still room for repentance: that his prophecies aim at the real good of the city; for or concerning this house … city [Grotius].
Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.
13. (Jer 26:3, 19).
As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.
14. Jeremiah's humility is herein shown, and submission to the powers that be (Ro 13:1).
But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.
15. bring … upon yourselves—So far will you be from escaping the predicted evils by shedding my blood, that you will, by that very act, only incur heavier penalties (Mt 23:35).
Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.
16. princes … all the people—The fickle people, as they were previously influenced by the priests to clamor for his death (Jer 26:8), so now under the princes' influence require that he shall not be put to death. Compare as to Jesus, Jeremiah's antitype, the hosannas of the multitude a few days before the same people, persuaded by the priests as in this case, cried, Away with Him, crucify Him (Mt 21:1-11; 27:20-25). The priests, through envy of his holy zeal, were more his enemies than the princes, whose office was more secular than religious. A prophet could not legally be put to death unless he prophesied in the name of other gods (therefore, they say, "in the name of the Lord"), or after his prophecy had failed in its accomplishment. Meanwhile, if he foretold calamity, he might be imprisoned. Compare Micaiah's case (1Ki 22:1-28).
Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying,
17. Compare Gamaliel's interposition (Ac 5:34, &c.).
elders—some of the "princes" mentioned (Jer 26:16) those whose age, as well as dignity, would give weight to the precedents of past times which they adduce.
Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.
18. (Mic 3:12).
Morasthite—called so from a village of the tribe Judah.
Hezekiah—The precedent in the reign of such a good king proved that Jeremiah was not the only prophet, or the first, who threatened the city and the temple without incurring death.
mountain of the house—Moriah, on which stood the temple (peculiarly called "the house") shall be covered with woods instead of buildings. Jeremiah, in quoting previous prophecies, never does so without alteration; he adapts the language to his own style, showing thereby his authority in his treatment of Scripture, as being himself inspired.
Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the LORD, and besought the LORD, and the LORD repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls.
19. Hezekiah, so far from killing him, was led "to fear the Lord," and pray for remission of the sentence against Judah (2Ch 32:26).
Lord repented—(Ex 32:14; 2Sa 24:16).
Thus—if we kill Jeremiah.
And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the LORD, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjathjearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah:
20. As the flight and capture of Urijah must have occupied some time, "the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim" (Jer 26:1) must not mean the very beginning, but the second or third year of his eleven years' reign.
And … also—perhaps connected with Jer 26:24, as the comment of the writer, not the continuation of the speech of the elders: "And although also a man that prophesied … Urijah … (proving how great was the danger in which Jeremiah stood, and how wonderful the providence of God in preserving him), nevertheless the hand of Ahikam," &c. [Glassius]. The context, however, implies rather that the words are the continuation of the previous speech of the elders. They adduce another instance besides that of Micah, though of a different kind, namely, that of Urijah: he suffered for his prophecies, but they imply, though they do not venture to express it, that thereby sin has been added to sin, and that it has done no good to Jehoiakim, for that the notorious condition of the state at this time shows that a heavier vengeance is impending if they persevere in such acts of violence [Calvin].
And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death: but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt;
And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt.
22. Jehoiakim sent … into Egypt—He had been put on the throne by Pharaoh of Egypt (2Ki 23:34). This explains the readiness with which he got the Egyptians to give up Urijah to him, when that prophet had sought an asylum in Egypt. Urijah was faithful in delivering his message, but faulty in leaving his work, so God permitted him to lose his life, while Jeremiah was protected in danger. The path of duty is often the path of safety.
And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him unto Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.
23. graves of the common people—literally, "sons of the people" (compare 2Ki 23:6). The prophets seem to have had a separate cemetery (Mt 23:29). Urijah's corpse was denied this honor, in order that he should not be regarded as a true prophet.
Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.
24. Ahikam—son of Shaphan the scribe, or royal secretary. He was one of those whom King Josiah, when struck by the words of the book of the law, sent to inquire of the Lord (2Ki 22:12, 14). Hence his interference here in behalf of Jeremiah is what we should expect from his past association with that good king. His son, Gedaliah, followed in his father's steps, so that he was chosen by the Babylonians as the one to whom they committed Jeremiah for safety after taking Jerusalem, and on whose loyalty they could depend in setting him over the remnant of the people in Judea (Jer 39:14; 2Ki 25:22).
people to put him to death—Princes often, when they want to destroy a good man, prefer it to be done by a popular tumult rather than by their own order, so as to reap the fruit of the crime without odium to themselves (Mt 27:20).