Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon;
Jer 29:1-32. Letter of Jeremiah to the Captives in Babylon, to Counteract the Assurances Given by the False Prophets of a Speedy Restoration.
1. residue of the elders—those still surviving from the time when they were carried to Babylon with Jeconiah; the other elders of the captives had died by either a natural or a violent death.
(After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;)
2. queen—Nehushta, the queen mother, daughter of Elnathan (2Ki 24:8, 15). (Elnathan, her father, is perhaps the same as the one mentioned in Jer 26:22). She reigned jointly with her son.
princes—All the men of authority were taken away lest they should organize a rebellion. Jeremiah wrote his letter while the calamity was still recent, to console the captives under it.
By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) saying,
3. Zedekiah … sent unto Babylon—In Jer 51:59, Zedekiah himself goes to Babylon; here he sends ambassadors. Whatever was the object of the embassy, it shows that Zedekiah only reigned at the pleasure of the king of Babylon, who might have restored Jeconiah, had he pleased. Hence, Zedekiah permitted Jeremiah's letter to be sent, not only as being led by Hananiah's death to attach greater credit to the prophet's words, but also as the letter accorded with his own wish that the Jews should remain in Chaldea till Jeconiah's death.
Hilkiah—the high priest who found the book of the law in the house of the Lord, and showed it to "Shaphan" the scribe (the same Shaphan probably as here), who showed it to King Josiah (2Ki 22:8, &c.). The sons of Hilkiah and Shaphan inherited from their fathers some respect for sacred things. So in Jer 36:25, "Gemariah" interceded with King Jehoiakim that the prophet's roll should not be burned.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
5. Build … houses—In opposition to the false prophets' suggestions, who told the captives that their captivity would soon cease, Jeremiah tells them that it will be of long duration, and that therefore they should build houses, as Babylon is to be for long their home.
Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.
6. that ye … be … not diminished—It was God's will that the seed of Abraham should not fail; thus consolation is given them, and the hope, though not of an immediate, yet of an ultimate, return.
And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
7. (Ezr 6:10; Ro 13:1; 1Ti 2:2). Not only bear the Babylonian yoke patiently, but pray for your masters, that is, while the captivity lasts. God's good time was to come when they were to pray for Babylon's downfall (Jer 51:35; Ps 137:8). They were not to forestall that time. True religion teaches patient submission, not sedition, even though the prince be an unbeliever. In all states of life let us not throw away the comfort we may have, because we have not all we would have. There is here a foretaste of gospel love towards enemies (Mt 5:44).
For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.
8. your dreams which ye caused to be dreamed—The Latin adage says, "The people wish to be deceived, so let them be deceived." Not mere credulity misleads men, but their own perverse "love of darkness rather than light." It was not priests who originated priestcraft, but the people's own morbid appetite to be deceived; for example, Aaron and the golden calf (Ex 32:1-4). So the Jews caused or made the prophets to tell them encouraging dreams (Jer 23:25, 26; Ec 5:7; Zec 10:2; Joh 3:19-21).
For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.
For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
10. (See on Jer 25:11; Jer 25:12; Da 9:2). This proves that the seventy years date from Jeconiah's captivity, not from the last captivity. The specification of time was to curb the impatience of the Jews lest they should hasten before God's time.
good word—promise of a return.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
11. I know—I alone; not the false prophets who know nothing of My purposes, though they pretend to know.
thoughts … I think—(Isa 55:9). Glancing at the Jews who had no "thoughts of peace," but only of "evil" (misfortune), because they could not conceive how deliverance could come to them. The moral malady of man is twofold—at one time vain confidence; then, when that is disappointed, despair. So the Jews first laughed at God's threats, confident that they should speedily return; then, when cast down from that confidence, they sank in inconsolable despondency.
expected end—literally, "end and expectation," that is, an end, and that such an end as you wish for. Two nouns joined by "and," standing for a noun and adjective. So in Jer 36:27, "the roll and the words," that is, the roll of words; Ge 3:16, "sorrow and conception," that is, sorrow in conception. Compare Pr 23:18, where, as here "end" means "a happy issue."
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
12. Fulfilled (Da 9:3, &c.). When God designs mercy, He puts it into the hearts of His people to pray for the mercy designed. When such a spirit of prayer is poured out, it is a sure sign of coming mercy.
go—to the temple and other places of prayer: contrasted with their previous sloth as to going to seek God.
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
13. (Le 26:40-42, 44, 45).
And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
14. to be found—(Ps 32:6; Isa 55:6).
turn … captivity—play upon sounds, shabti … shebith.
Because ye have said, The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon;
15. Because—referring not to the preceding words, but to Jer 29:10, 11, "Jehovah saith this to you" (that is, the prophecy of the continuance of the captivity seventy years), "because ye have said, The Lord hath raised us up prophets in Babylon," namely, foretelling our speedy deliverance (this their prophecy is supposed, not expressed; accordingly, Jer 29:16-19 contradict this false hope again, Jer 29:8, 9, 21). He, in this fifteenth verse, turns his address from the godly (Jer 29:12-14) to the ungodly listeners, to false prophets.
Know that thus saith the LORD of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity;
16. people … in this city … not gone forth—So far from your returning to Jerusalem soon, even your brethren still left dwelling there shall themselves also be cast into exile. He mentions "the throne of David," lest they should think that, because David's kingdom was to be perpetual, no severe, though temporary, chastisements could interpose (Ps 89:29-36).
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.
17. vile figs—Hebrew, "horrible," or nauseous, from a root, "to regard with loathing" (see Jer 24:8, 10).
And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them:
18. removed to all … kingdoms—(Jer 15:4; De 28:25).
curse, &c.—(Jer 29:6; 18:16; 19:8).
Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.
Hear ye therefore the word of the LORD, all ye of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, which prophesy a lie unto you in my name; Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall slay them before your eyes;
21. Zedekiah—brother of Zephaniah (Jer 29:25), both being sons of Maaseiah; probably of the same family as the false prophet under Ahab in Israel (1Ki 22:11, 24).
And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire;
22. shall be taken … a curse—that is, a formula of imprecation.
Lord make thee like Zedekiah—(Compare Ge 48:20; Isa 65:15).
roasted in the fire—a Chaldean punishment (Da 3:6).
Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.
23. villainy—literally, "sinful folly" (Isa 32:6).
Thus shalt thou also speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite, saying,
24-32. A second communication which Jeremiah sent to Babylon, after the messenger who carried his first letter had brought a letter from the false prophet Shemaiah to Zephaniah, &c., condemning Jeremiah and reproving the authorities for not having apprehended him.
Nehelamite—a name derived either from his father or from a place: alluding at the same time to the Hebrew meaning, "a dreamer" (compare Jer 29:8).
Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Because thou hast sent letters in thy name unto all the people that are at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying,
25. in thy name—without sanction of "the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel," which words stand in antithesis to "thy name" (Joh 5:43).
Zephaniah—the second priest, or substitute (Sagan) of the high priest. He was one of those sent to consult Jeremiah by Zedekiah (Jer 21:1). Slain by Nebuchadnezzar at the capture of Jerusalem (2Ki 25:18-21). Zephaniah was in particular addressed, as being likely to take up against Jeremiah the prophet's prediction against his brother Zedekiah at Babylon (Jer 29:21). Zephaniah was to read it to the priests, and in the presence of all the people, in the temple.
The LORD hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the LORD, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks.
26. thee … in the stead of Jehoiada—Zephaniah's promotion as second priest, owing to Jehoiada's being then in exile, was unexpected. Shemaiah thus accuses him of ingratitude towards God, who had so highly exalted him before his regular time.
ye should be officers … for every man—Ye should, as bearing rule in the temple (see on Jer 20:1), apprehend every false prophet like Jeremiah.
mad—Inspired prophets were often so called by the ungodly (2Ki 9:11; Ac 26:24; 2:13, 15, 17, 18). Jeremiah is in this a type of Christ, against whom the same charge was brought (Joh 10:20).
prison—rather, "the stocks" (see on Jer 20:2).
stocks—from a root, "to confine"; hence rather, "a narrow dungeon." According to De 17:8, 9, the priest was judge in such cases, but had no right to put into the stocks; this right he had assumed to himself in the troubled state of the times.
Now therefore why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a prophet to you?
27. of Anathoth—said contemptuously, as "Jesus of Nazareth."
maketh himself—as if God had not made him one, but he himself had done so.
For therefore he sent unto us in Babylon, saying, This captivity is long: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
28. Referring to Jeremiah's first letter to Babylon (Jer 29:5).
And Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet.
29. Zephaniah … read … in the ears of Jeremiah—He seems to have been less prejudiced against Jeremiah than the others; hence he reads the charge to the prophet, that he should not be condemned without a hearing. This accords with Shemaiah's imputation against Zephaniah for want of zeal against Jeremiah (Jer 29:26, 27). Hence the latter was chosen by King Zedekiah as one of the deputation to Jeremiah (Jer 21:1; 37:3).
Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,
30. This resumes the thread of the sentence which began at Jer 29:25, but was left there not completed. Here, in this thirtieth verse, it is completed, not however in continuity, but by a new period. The same construction occurs in Ro 5:12-15.
Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite; Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie:
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: he shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the LORD; because he hath taught rebellion against the LORD.
32. not … a man to dwell—(De 28:18).
not … behold the good—As he despised the lawful time and wished to return before the time God had expressly announced, in just retribution he should not share in the restoration from Babylon at all.
rebellion—going against God's revealed will as to the time (Jer 28:16).