Matthew Poole's Commentary
In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD, saying,The prophet, by God’s command, in the court of the temple, threateneth that the temple shall be as Shiloh, and the land a curse: exhorteth to repentance, Jeremiah 26:1-7. He is apprehended and arraigned, Jeremiah 26:8-11. His apology, Jeremiah 26:12-15. The princes clear him by the example of Micah, Jeremiah 26:16-19, and of Urijah, Jeremiah 26:20-23, and by the care of Ahikam, Jeremiah 26:24.
The prophecy, Jeremiah 25, is said to have been revealed in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, this in the beginning of his reign, which makes learned men think it ought to have been placed before that. The affairs of the Jews were then in a very desperate condition; Pharaoh-nechoh king of Egypt had overcome Josiah, and killed him in battle, Jehoahaz or Shallum being made king in his stead, 2 Kings 23:30; he had reigned but three months, and Pharaoh-nechoh taketh him, and imprisoned him, and lays a tribute upon the land of three hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold, and makes Eliakim king, changing his name to Jehoiakim, 2 Kings 23:33,34. Now in the beginning of this king’s reign cometh this word of God to Jeremiah, the people being still hardened and going on in their sinful practices.
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:Stand in the court of the Lord’s house; in the largest court of the temple, where the most may hear what thou sayest, and there speak to all those that dwell in any of the cities of Judah (from whence they were wont to come up, more especially thrice in a year to the temple to worship, Psalm 122:4). In the gate or court of that house wherein they have such a confidence do thou stand, so Jeremiah 7:2 and declare unto them what I command thee. Diminish not a word; neither smoothing what may appear rough, nor suppressing what may offend them, entirely delivering my will unto them, not shunning to declare unto them the whole counsel of God, as Paul, Acts 20:27.
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.Not that God was ignorant of their obstinacy and the hardening of their hearts, which was the future event; but to let us know that their destruction would be of themselves, he would give them both a time and space, and also means, for repentance, and the prevention of the judgments of God coming on them. He did give them time, for it was after this eleven years before the captivity of Jehoiakim, and two and twenty before that of Zedekiah; and for means, God afforded them the ministry of this prophet. Repentance applied to man signifieth a change of heart and counsels, as well as of his course of actions: in the unchangeable God it only signifieth the turning of the course of his providence, not bringing that evil upon them for the evil of their doings which, supposing their progress and obstinacy in their sinful courses, he had fully resolved to bring upon them.
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,A course of actions in Scripture is ordinarily called a way; in which sense we often read of
the way of the Lord, the way of the wicked, the way of the righteous, & c.; and a motion in this course is usually called walking, Psalm 1:1 Ezekiel 18:9, and applied both to God and men. To walk in God’s laws is expounded by hearkening unto them, or (as in other places) by observing, keeping, and doing them. God is said to have set his laws before them, both in respect of their first promulgation to them at Sinai, and writing them in tables; and the daily expositions and urging of them upon their practice by his servants the prophets, as it followeth.
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;My servants the prophets; those prophets who in prophesying were my servants, revealing my will unto you. Hearkening here is the same with hearkening unto God’s laws mentioned Jeremiah 26:4.
Whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them; whom I have made my business to send unto you; and to whom you ought therefore to have hearkened, as unto me, but you have not done it hitherto, 2 Chronicles 36:12,16.
Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.Shiloh was the city where the tabernacle was pitched, and the ark, the symbol of God’s presence, was, Judges 18:31 21:19 1 Samuel 1:3,9,24 3:21. Out of it the ark was carried, 1 Samuel 4:3, when it was taken by the Philistines, and was carried no more thither, but rested in Kirjath-jearim, 1 Samuel 7:2, where it rested twenty years. David fetched it from thence, 2 Samuel 6:2. So that, as the psalmist tells us, Psalm 78:60,61, God forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh; here he threateneth to do the like as to the temple, because of which they had such a confidence. Jeremiah, Jeremiah 7:12, had spoken much the same thing; it is a threatening that God would deprive them of his ordinances. To which he addeth a threatening of destruction to the city, to that degree, that when men should curse any place, they should say, God do unto thee as he did to Jerusalem. We had the like phrase Jeremiah 24:9, and have it again Jeremiah 29:18,22, &c.
So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.All the people present at that time heard the prophet, who, according to the command of God, came into the court of the Lord’s house, and discharged his office, speaking these words.
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.Either they had a reverence for the prophet, or the terror of God fell upon them, so as they did not interrupt him till he had fully despatched his errand. Then the chief of the priests, with the assistance of the people, apprehend him, and tell him he should be put to death.
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.They charge him with being a false prophet, speaking false things in the name of God; their pretence seemeth to have been from the promises of God; such as that, Psalm 132:13,14, For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. Which they interpreted into such a sense, as if they could not by their sin drive God away from them, and therefore Jeremiah must prophesy falsely against the will of God before revealed. This caused a seditious tumult of the people in the temple, which alarmed the civil magistrates.
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.When the nobles and other civil magistrates heard of the tumult, occasioned by Jeremiah’s unpleasing prophecy, they came from the king’s court, where the nobles and great officers in nations usually are, to the temple; and sat down at the entry of the new gate in the Lord’s house. Some think it was called the new gate because repaired by Jotham, 2 Kings 15:35 2 Chronicles 27:3. Some say it was the eastern, others that it was the western gate. It was certainly the place where their sanhedrim, who were to judge of false prophets, were wont to sit.
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.In the corrupt state of all kingdoms and cities, the ecclesiastical officers always were the greatest enemies to the faithful ministers of God, as we shall find in the whole story both of the Old and New Testament. They speak to the members of the great court, who are called princes, and also to the people who were in the court, charging Jeremiah with sedition, by prophesying falsely, which was a capital crime. It was the charge against Stephen, Acts 6:13, that he spake blasphemous words against the holy place. To prove this they appeal to those of the people that had heard him.
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.The priests having given Jeremiah his charge, he makes his defence. The sum of which was, he acknowledgeth that he had prophesied against the temple, and against the city, and tacitly acknowledgeth their power to take cognizance of seditious persons and false prophets, and doth not deny but such persons deserved to die; but denieth that he was a false prophet, or guilty of any design to stir up sedition, for he had said nothing but what God had sent him to speak; and therefore could not prophesy what was false, nor was to be charged with any seditious design.
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.It is not I that have pronounced evil against you, but the Lord, who made both you and me: you rage against me, who am but God’s instrument, by whom he lets you know his mind and will; it were more advisable for you to reform your wicked lives and practices; and that by a full obedience to what the Lord hath commanded you in his law, and by me speaketh to you. If you will do this, the Lord will change the course of his providence, and do that which in men is called a repenting, and not bring those evil things upon you which he, by me his servant, hath pronounced against you.
As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.I am in your hand; that is, I am in your prover (as hand often signifieth in Scripture). Jeremiah doth not by this acknowledge any power they had justly thus to restrain and question him. Nor doth he dare them to do what they had a natural power to do, by saying,
Do with me what seemeth good unto you; the phrase imports no more than that he could not hinder their doing with him what they pleased. The hands in which he was were the hands of violence, not of justice; for though they had a just power against false prophets, yet they had no such power against any prophet sent by God, let the matter of his prophecy be never so threatening and ungrateful to them. Therefore he addeth,
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.If you make this sedition, and put me to death for it, you have a natural power to do it, but you will get nothing by it, but further bring down the vengeance of God upon you by shedding my blood without a cause, the guilt of which will be added to your other guilt, and lie upon you, and upon your city: for you may think and talk what you please, it is a certain truth, that I spake nothing out of any evil design, nor of my own head; but only what the Lord sent me to speak.
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.The judges in this case, with the assent of the people, acquit the prophet, and vindicate him from the charge of sedition given against him by the corrupt priests and false prophets, distinguishing betwixt one who of his own head spreadeth false news, and threateneth evil to a place, and one who doth it by authority from God, or by Divine revelation, which is here meant by
in the name of our Lord God. Thus the civil magistrates taught the priests and prophets a point of divinity, which they ought not to have been ignorant of. Some may inquire how the princes knew that Jeremiah spake what he spake in the name of the Lord. To which it may be replied, that Jeremiah had been a prophet now about twenty years, for he began in the thirteenth of Josiah, Jeremiah 1:1,2. Josiah reigned thirty-one years, 2 Kings 22:1. Then Shallum or Jehoahaz reigned three months; this was in the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign, in which time they had had a large experience both of his doctrine and conversation; and though the priests and prophets, who had had the like experience, were filled with malice and prejudice, yet the princes and a part of the people were more equal; and though the people were many of them led away with the priests, yet hearing the prophet’s defence, and the princes’ judgment upon it, they concur with them to acquit the prophet.
Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying,Probably these
elders were some of the court, or else advocates, for they were wont to rise up, either to plead or to judge, Isaiah 3:13 Acts 5:34. They rise up and apply themselves to the people to justify their absolutory sentence.
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.This was that
Micah whose prophecies are part of holy writ, as appeareth by Micah 1:1 3:12, where are the very words of the prophecy here mentioned. The substance of that prophecy was the same with this of Jeremiah, that Zion should be ploughed up, and the place where the temple stood should become so desolate that trees should grow there, as in a wood or forest.
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.The interrogation here hath the force of a negation; that is, Hezekiah, and the sanhedrim in his time, did not go about to call him in question for his life, nor put him to death; his prophecy had a quite contrary effect on him; it begat in him an awe and dread of that God in whose name the prophet spake, and quickened him to apply himself to God by earnest prayer: and the course he took had a very good issue; the Lord did not do what he threatened to do. Now if we should take a quite contrary course, and put this man to death, we should do contrary to what that good prince did, (and that with good success,) do ourselves no good, but
procure great evil against our souls; that is, against ourselves, both bodies and souls strictly taken.
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:This is a piece of story which we have recorded in no other part of Scripture. Some judge these words were the words of the same that spake before; but this is not likely, for then they had brought one instance for acquitting him, another for the condemning of him. They are therefore rather to be interpreted as the words of some others, either of the court, who were enemies to Jeremiah, or of his accusers, or their counsel, urging a later precedent, in the time of Jehoiakim, the king that at this time reigned, who also pretended to speak in the name of the Lord, and whose prophecy was the same in substance with this of Jeremiah.
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;When Jehoiakim, our present king, and all his great men, heard of it, (probably by the information of others,) they judged it a capital crime, and used means to apprehend him, in order to the putting him to death, upon which the prophet being advertised of it, and fearing the issue, fled into Egypt.
And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt.The innocent prophet considered not the king of Judah’s alliance with the king of Egypt, (obliging him upon demand to deliver up any of his subjects who, being charged with capital crimes, should flee into his country for sanctuary,) and fled thither; but the king sent after him one of his great men, (mentioned also Jeremiah 36:12) with some others to his assistance.
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.These persons sent by Jehoiakim brought back the prophet by force; he was tried and cast, judged worthy to die, and put to death, and ignominiously buried, not in the sepulchres of the prophets, or any men of repute and fashion, but amongst the vulgar people; which, as also his diligence to send for Urijah, (fled into a foreign country to save his life,) showed the great malice of this prince against the Lord’s true prophets; though it had but very ill effects. The sum is, (if we take these words as the speech of Jeremiah’s enemies,) What do you tell us of what Hezekiah did, you have a later instance of it in our present king’s time, the cases of Urijah and of Jeremiah are fully parallelled. So as the case is a judged case.
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.Though Jeremiah’s enemies pleaded this instance of Urijah, which had this advantage of the other, because it was matter of fact done lately, and a case judged in this very king’s reign; yet the hand, that is, the power and interest, of one
Ahikam, who, as appears from 2 Kings 22:12, was one of Josiah’s counsellors, and the father of Gedaliah, Jeremiah 39:14, who upon the taking of the city was made governor, Jeremiah 40:5,
was with Jeremiah. So as, through the good providence of God, Jeremiah was not delivered into the hands of the people, some of whom were mutable, and malicious enough, ready to do any thing the priests put them upon. And the after-advancement of the son of this Ahikam to be governor of Judah may justly be interpreted a reward in this life, which God gave him for his kindness to his prophet.