Matthew Poole's 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,King Zedekiah in the siege sendeth to Jeremiah to inquire of the event, Jeremiah 21:1,2. He foretelleth a hard siege and miserable captivity, Jeremiah 21:3-7. He counselleth the people to fall to the Chaldeans, Jeremiah 21:8-10; and upbraideth the king’s house, Jeremiah 21:11-14.
God at sundry times, and in diver’s manners, spake in times past to the fathers by the prophets, Hebrews 1:1. The two principal were visions and dreams, Numbers 12:6. How the following word came to Jeremiah is not expressed, it is enough that he knew it came from the Lord. It is apparent some prophecies in this book are not put in the right order as they were delivered. Jeremiah 25$, we have an account of the word of the Lord which came to Jeremiah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, who was the second son of Josiah, made king by Pharaoh-necho, pursuing his victory mentioned 2 Chronicles 35:22 upon the battle, in which Josiah was killed, as we read there. The people made Jehoahaz king, but he reigned but three months; and the conqueror carrying him away, made Eliakim his brother king, changing his name to Jehoiakim, who reigned eleven years, that is, seven after the word of the Lord, mentioned Jeremiah 25, came to Jeremiah; after whom Jehoiachin his son reigned three months and ten days: Zedekiah was his uncle, the son of Josiah, he reigned eleven years. So that it is plain that Jeremiah’s prophecy mentioned Jeremiah 25 was seven years and three months before this, besides the number of years that Zedekiah had reigned. But some think that Jeremiah 23 Jer 24 Jer 25, doth but make a repetition to Zedekiah’s messengers of what he had before prophesied. This message was (as appeareth by the next verse) when Nebuchadrezzar was come up to make war against Jerusalem, Jeremiah 39:1. Jeremiah was at liberty when the word of the Lord at this time came to him, so as it was some time before the city was taken. The fatal siege held about a year and half, as appears by Jeremiah 39:1,2. The
Pashur mentioned here was another from him mentioned Jeremiah 20:1: he was the son of Immer, of the sixteenth course of the priests, and of a more rugged, ill temper; this was
the son of Melchiah, and so of the fifth course. See 1 Chronicles 24:9,14.
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.Zedekiah, as he was none of the best, so he was none of the worst, of the kings of Judah; be had some convictions and impressions (possibly from his education) not worn off; and having some reverence of God, he sends to the prophet to inquire of the Lord, because the
king of Babylon was come up to make war against them. It is true, the greatest contemners of God and his faithful ministers will sometimes, in great straits, choose to send for them rather than those who in their prosperity pleased them. Hence we read of Saul, when he went to the witch at Endor, desiring that Samuel might be raised up. But in Zedekiah’s whole story we read no such eminent contempt of God, but a disobedience to the commands of God, proceeding rather from his easiness to be ruled by his corrupt court, than from a stubbornness in himself. By mentioning God’s former
wondrous works, possibly he may have a respect to God’s raising Sennacherib’s siege in the time of his grandfather Hezekiah. The remembering of God’s former wondrous works is of use to raise in us a hope and confidence in God for further deliverances, supposing ourselves under the same circumstances of obedience to God’s will; otherwise not, as we shall see in the case of Judah and its king at this time; therefore Zedekiah saith,
if so be. Guilt of sin hinders confidence and holy boldness in the best: but as the guilt is greater, so the hope or confidence of any is justly less.
Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah:No text from Poole on this verse.
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.The honour that the king of Judah had put upon the prophet, in sending these special messengers to him, is no temptation to this good prophet to prophesy smooth and pleasing things, for which he had no warrant from God. The prophet styleth God
the God of Israel, because the whole posterity of Jacob were in covenant with God; notwithstanding which, ten parts of twelve were at this time carried into a captivity from which they never returned; yet God was the God of Israel, for all were not Israel that were descended from Israel, but those only who were Israelites indeed, without guile; so that the prophet by this name given to God doth both assert God’s faithfulness to his covenant, and also show the consistency of that faithfulness with those judgments which he was now bringing upon that remnant of Israel which yet were in their own land. Tile message which God by the prophet sendeth to Zedekiah is exceeding terrible. The sum of it is, that as they had not dealt with God according to the works of Israel, and the former generation that descended from him, or those at least who were the true Israel of God; so they must not expect that God should deal with them according to his former wondrous works, but that as he with the pure had showed himself upright, so with the froward he should show himself froward. For God had determined to turn into their own bowels, and against themselves, the weapons they had in their hands taken up
against the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans that were now besieging them (by which we may learn that this message was sent during the time of the siege, probably about the beginning of it, for it lasted eighteen months).
I will assemble them into the midst of this city; God threateneth to bring the Chaldeans into the midst of the holy city, that their city should be broken up, their arms taken from them, and they killed with their own swords. There is a great emphasis in the pronoun
I. It is not an enemy that is to be feared, but God’s being our enemy.
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.I will fight against you, ( as a prince is said to fight against a nation whose captains fight against it, though himself stirreth not from his royal palace; yea, more than so,) animating and influencing the Babylonians and Chaldeans, whom I have sent to fight against you, and discouraging and dispiriting your armies.
With an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath; with such a hand and power as I manifested for my ancient Israel, Exodus 6:6. God is here spoken of in a dialect which maketh him more intelligible to us. He hath no hands, no arms, neither are anger and fury in him considered as turbulent passions, as they are in us; but as men stretch out their hands and arms when they intend to give smart and terrible strokes, and are egged to such blows from their passions and excessive wrath, so God is set out to us by expressions proper to men, and in him significative only of his just will to be revenged severely upon a sinful people. The sense is no more, than that an end was now come, and God was resolved no longer to bear with such a provoking people, but to bring his utmost wrath upon them, and to deal with them no longer according to his wondrous works of mercy, but in wondrous works of justice, which in men would look like the effects of wrath and fury.
And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.Still God proclaimeth himself this people’s enemy. Pestilences are but the usual consequents of long sieges, through the scantness and unwholesomeness of food; but God is the first cause of such sore judgments, though there be other second causes. The murrain of beasts bears proportion to the pestilence amongst men, and the beasts are threatened as well as men, not because of any sin in them, but because men are punished in them, they being part of their substance; and this is a part of that bondage of corruption from which the creature groaneth to be delivered, of that vanity to which they are subject, which maketh the irrational part of the creation to be brought in by the apostle, Romans 8:20-22, like as a woman travailing in pain, and desiring the day of judgment.
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.Afterward; after that many of the people of this city shall be destroyed, some by the enemy assaulting and skirmishing with them; others by the famine that shall be amongst them through a want of victuals, being all spent with the long siege; others by the pestilence. Zedekiah, who shall escape these three judgments, together with his courtiers, and the residue of the people, shall be delivered into the power of the king of Babylon, and into the power of such as will not be content with the plunder of their houses, but thirst after their blood; and these enemies (set on by Nebuchadnezzar) shall smite them with the sword, without showing them any mercy or pity. This is not to be understood of king Zedekiah himself, for God let him know, Jeremiah 34:4, that he should not die by the sword, but in peace, as he did afterward in Babylon, though in prison; but it was true of his sons and courtiers, and a great part of the people, Jeremiah 49:6,8 52:10. Those who went into captivity were only such as had revolted during the siege, and many of those that were of the poor of the land, for the rest there was little pity had of them, or mercy showed to them, as may be seen, Jeremiah 39, Jer 52 2 Chronicles 36:17.
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.I tell you the way that you should take if you would save your lives, and the course which if you take you will certainly lose your lives.
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.But certainly, if ever any man spake high treason, this prophet now did it, when there was an enemy besieging them, telling them, that if they would save their lives, they must revolt from their king, and join with their enemies. All that can be said in excuse for the prophet is, that this was a Divine revelation to him, and a message sent to the king himself.
His life shall be given him for a prey, appeareth to have been a proverbial expression, either signifying.
1. A man’s possession of his life, as a prey or booty recovered from death, or the hand of the enemy; or,
2. A man’s rejoicing in the saving of his life, as if he had got some notable booty.
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.I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good; that is, I will set myself against it, I will be an enemy to it. See the like phrase Leviticus 17:10 20:5. It is a phrase signifying not only God’s aversion from them, and the taking his affection off them, but his determination to bring ruin upon them, and choosing methods of providence tending and conducive thereunto; and so it is opened in the following words, which are rather to be understood of the structure of the city than of the inhabitants, for that not the people were burnt with fire, though probably many of the people perished in so great burnings.
And touching the house of the king of Judah, say, Hear ye the word of the LORD;By
the house of the king of Judah he means the house of Zedekiah, the court, or those (as appeareth by the next verse) who were the magistrates. These, how great soever, are not excused from the common obligation upon all to listen to and to obey the revelations of the Divine will.
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.He calls these the
house of David, either checking them, who were indeed so in a lineal descent, or minding them what they ought to be in imitation of their father, David. The only way they had to keep off those Divine judgments which now hanged over their heads was to
execute judgment, that is, justice, without partiality; the prophet’s advice to them
to execute judgment in the morning either lets them know they must do it quickly, or else it hath respect to the time when the courts of justice sat. One species of justice was the deliverance of the oppressed from the hands, that is, from the power and malice, of the oppressors; which if it were not done, God threateneth certain ruin and destruction to them, which none should be able to hinder or avoid. The cause of which was, their wicked doings; for that God who doth people good, and showeth them favour, not for their sake, but for his own name’s sake, yet never punisheth them but for a cause found in them.
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?Inhabitant of the valley; the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem are those here intended, Psalm 125:2. The mountains were round about Jerusalem, yea, Jerusalem itself was builded in part upon the rocky mountain of Zion; but a great part was in the valley, and the higher mountains about Mount Zion made that mountain itself, in comparison with them, as a valley.
And rock of the plain; though also a rock of the plain, that is, near to the plain. Which situation of this place made the Jews think it to be impregnable, and to mock at dangers, or threats of enemies, saying,
Who shall, that is, Who can or who will, dare to come against us? or, Who will be able to enter into our city? Saith the Lord, I am against you; I will come down against you, and I, by such as I shall employ, will enter into your habitations. No natural position or situation of places, no artificial fortifications, are sufficient against an almighty God.
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.I will punish you; in the Hebrew it is, I will visit upon you. God’s visitations are either of mercy, Psalm 80:14 106:4, or of judgment; therefore the sense is here rightly given by our translators punish. According to the fruit of your doings; the fruit of men’s doings is the product of their actions; God punisheth the fruit of our doings. In showing mercy, he acts from prerogative; in punishments, he doth but fill men with their own ways, and give them according to the fruit of their doings; so Jeremiah 21:12.
I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof; by the forest he either meaneth the forest of Lebanon, or their houses made up of wood cut out of that forest, or their idolatrous groves.
And it shall devour all things round about it; and this fire he saith should not determine in the destruction only of this city, but in the total destruction of all the country adjacent to Jerusalem.