Thus saith the LORD; Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word,
Verse 1. - Go down. Not literally, for the royal palace was probably the highest building in the city (comp. ver. 6); but because of the spiritual eminence of the temple (comp. Jeremiah 26:10, "They came up from the king's house unto the house of the Lord").
And say, Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, that sittest upon the throne of David, thou, and thy servants, and thy people that enter in by these gates:
Verse 2. - And thy people. The Septuagint reads, "And thy house and thy people;" thus the passage will agree with Jeremiah 21:11, 12.
Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.
For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people.
Verse 4. - Parallel passage, Jeremiah 17:25.
But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation.
Verse 5. - I swear by myself. "Because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself" (Hebrews 6:13). A synonymous expression is, "As I live, saith Jehovah" (ver. 24).
For thus saith the LORD unto the king's house of Judah; Thou art Gilead unto me, and the head of Lebanon: yet surely I will make thee a wilderness, and cities which are not inhabited.
Verse 6. - Unto the king's house of Judah; rather, concerning the house of the King of Judah; i.e. the royal palace, which, on account of its height and its being constructed so largely out of cedar-weed (comp. vers. 14, 23), is called "Gilead, and the summit of Lebanon," just as Solomon's palace was called "the house of the forest of Lebanon" (1 Kings 7:2). Of Gilead in general, Canon Tristram writes, "No one can fairly judge of Israel's heritage who has not seen the luxuriant exuberance of Gilead, as well as the bard rocks of Judaea." And again, "Lovely knolls and dells open out at every turn, gently rising to the wooded plateau above. Then we rise to higher ground and ride through noble forests of oak. Then for a mile or two through luxuriant green corn, or perhaps through a rich forest of scattered olive trees, left untended and uncared for, with perhaps patches of corn in the open glades" ('Bible Places,' p. 322). The cedars of Lebanon, however diminished, still bear witness to the ancient fame of this splendid mountain district. A wilderness, and cities which are not inhabited. The comparison has a terrible significance when read in the light of De Vogue's and Freshfield's discoveries. For Gilead itself is full of ruined cities of massive stone architecture. "It is no uncommon thing," says Mr. F.A. Eaton, "to see these houses in a complete state of preservation, built of huge blocks of black basalt, with slabs of the same for the roof, twelve feet long, a foot and a half wide, and half a foot thick, and entrance doors also of basalt... great solid stones of the same material being used as lintels at the top and bottom" (Speech at the meeting for setting on foot the survey of Eastern Palestine, November 30, 1880: Statement of Palestine Exploration Fund, January, 1880, p. 11). Cities which are not inhabited; not, indeed, the cities of Gilead of the time of Jeremiah, but constructed of materials which may reasonably be presumed to have been chiseled in a far more remote antiquity. (The date of the cities in their present state is subsequent to the Christian era.)
And I will prepare destroyers against thee, every one with his weapons: and they shall cut down thy choice cedars, and cast them into the fire.
Verse 7. - I will prepare; literally, I will consecrate; the Babylonians being instruments of the Divine vengeance (see on Jeremiah 6:4).
And many nations shall pass by this city, and they shall say every man to his neighbour, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this great city?
Then they shall answer, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them.
Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him: but weep sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country.
Verses 10-12. - There is a fate worse than that of the dead Josiah. Weep not, in comparison, for him, but weep sore for him that goeth away (or rather, that is gone away). The king referred to is probably Jehoahaz, who, though two years younger than Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:31; comp. 36), was preferred to him by the people on the death of Josiah. The counsel to "weep sore" for this royal exile was carried out, as Mr. Samuel Cox observes (and we have, perhaps, a specimen of the popular elegies upon him in Ezekiel 19:1-4): "A young lion of royal strain, caught untimely, and chained and carried away captive, - this was how the people of Israel conceived of Shallum" ('Biblical Expositions,' p. 120). The conjecture is incapable of proof; and Ezekiel, we know, was fond of imaginative elegies. But probably enough he was in harmony with popular feeling on this occasion. The identification of Shallum with Jehoahaz is confirmed by 1 Chronicles 3:15 (Shallum, the youngest son of Josiah); the name appears to have been changed on his accession to the throne, just as Eliakim was changed to Jehoiakim (2 Chronicles 36:4). There is, therefore, no occasion to suppose an ironical allusion to the short reign of Jehoahaz, which might be compared to that of the Israelitish king Shallum (somewhat as Jezebel addresses Jehu as "O Zimri, murderer of his lord," 2 Kings 9:31). This view has the support of F. Junius (professor at Leyden, 1592), of Graf, and Rowland Williams; but why should not the Chronicler, though writing in the Persian period, have drawn here, as well as elsewhere in the genealogies, from ancient traditional sources? There is nothing in ver. 11 to suggest an allusion to the fate of the earlier Shallum.
For thus saith the LORD touching Shallum the son of Josiah king of Judah, which reigned instead of Josiah his father, which went forth out of this place; He shall not return thither any more:
But he shall die in the place whither they have led him captive, and shall see this land no more.
Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work;
Verse 13. - Shallum, or Jehoahaz, in his short reign of three months, had no opportunity of distinguishing himself for good or for evil It was otherwise with Jehoiakim, whose eleven years were marked by the worst characteristics of idolatry and despotism. He "had, besides, a passion for building splendid and costly houses; and as he esteemed his own position secure under the protection of a superior power, he did not scruple severely to oppress his helpless subjects, and wring from them as much money as possible" (Ewald, 'History of Israel,' 4:252; see 2 Kings 23:33-35). The building mania, to which Oriental sovereigns have always been prone, had seized upon Jehoiakim. The architecture of the original palace no longer, perhaps, suited the higher degree of civilization; the space was as confined as that of a Saxon mansion would have appeared to a Norman. That buildeth his house by unrighteousness; i.e., as the second half-verse explains, by not paying the workmen (comp. Habakkuk 2:12).
That saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows; and it is cieled with cedar, and painted with vermilion.
Verse 14. - A wide house; literally, a house of extensions. Large chambers. The Hebrew specifies "upper chambers " - the principal rooms in ancient houses. Cutteth him out windows; and it is ceiled with cedar; rather... his windows, roofing it with cedar. (This involves no change of letters, but a very slight rearrangement, and the alteration of one point; grammar gains greatly by the change.) "Cutteth out" is, literally, rend-eth; it is the word used in Jeremiah 4:30 of the apparent enlargement of the eyes by putting powdered antimony upon the eyelids. Windows are, as it were, the eyes of a building (Graf compares Ecclesiastes 12:3). Beams of cedar wood were used for the roof of the palace, as being the most costly and durable (comp. Isaiah 9:10). And painted - rather, and painting it - with vermilion; a taste derived from the Egyptians rather than the Babylonians, who seem to have had a difficulty in procuring red.
Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him?
Verse 15. - Shalt thou reign - rather, dost thou reign; i.e. dost thou prove thy royal qualities) - because thou closest thyself in cedar? The second part of the clause must at any rate be. altered. Some render, "because thou viest (with thy forefathers) in cedar" (i.e. in building cedar palaces). Hitzig would strike out "in cedar," as having intruded from the preceding line (such a phenomenon meets us occasionally in the received Hebrew text), but this does not help us to a 'connected translation of the passage. Graf's rendering is grammatical, and not against usage; it is, "Dost thou reign because thou art eager about cedar-wood?" and yet the impression left on the mind is that there is some error in the text. The Septuagint finds a reference to one of Jehoiakim's predecessors, "because thou viest with Ahaz" (so the Vatican Codex), or, "... with Ahab" (so the Alexandrine and the Sinaitic or Friderico-Augustan). The latter king is celebrated in the Old Testament on account of his buildings, especially his ivory palace (2 Kings 22:39). The former was at any rate addicted to the imitation of foreign ways (2 Kings 16:11; 2 Kings 20:11). Did not thy father eat and drink? There was no call upon Jehoiakim to live the life of a Nazarite. "Eating and drinking," i.e. enjoying the good things within his reach, was perfectly admissible (Ecclesiastes 2:24); indeed, the Old Testament view of life is remarkable for its healthy naturalness. There was, however, one peremptory condition, itself as much in accordance with nature as with the Law of God, that the rights of other men should be studiously regarded. Josiah "ate and drank," but he also "did judgment and justice," and so "it was well with him."
He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the LORD.
But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it.
Verse 17. - But thou, O Jehoiakim, art the opposite of thy father. For (not, But) thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness. "Covetousness" includes the ideas of injustice and violence (comp. Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 8:10); hence the second half of the verse emphasizes the cruel tyranny which marked the internal policy of Jehoiakim.
Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory!
Verse 18. - Josiah had been bitterly missed and universally lamented (2 Chronicles 35:25); and so, only perhaps with less heartiness in most cases, Jehoiakim's other predecessors (Jeremiah 34:5). The Babylonian kings, too, received the honors of public mourning, e.g. even the last of his race, who surrendered to Cyrus, according to the British Museum inscription translated by Mr. Pinches. Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! The Septuagint omits the latter part of this phrase, apparently because it seemed inappropriate to the death of Jehoiakim; but the parallelism requires a two-membered clause. According to Movers, the funeral procession is to be conceived of as formed of two parts, condoling with each other on having to share the same fate ('Die Phonizier,' 2. 248). Or perhaps mythology may supply a reason; it is possible that the formulae of public mourning were derived from the ceremonies of the Adonia; Adonis was an androgynous deity (Lenormant, 'Lettres assyriologiques,' 2:209), and might be lamented by his devotees as at once "brother" and "sister." (For another view, see Sayco's edition of G. Smith's 'Chaldean Genesis,' p. 267). Ezekiel (Ezekiel 8:13) testifies to the worship of Tammuz, or Adonis, and the highest compliment a king could receive might be to be lamented in the same terms as the sun-god. Jeremiah does not approve this; he merely describes the popular custom. The recognition of the deeply rooted heathenism of the Jews before the Exile involves no disparagement to Old Testament religion; rather it increases the cogency of the argument for its supernatural origin. For how great was the contrast between Jeremiah and his semi-heathen countrymen! And yet Jeremiah's religion is the seed of the faith which overcame the world. Ah lord! or, Ah his glory! Lord is in the Hebrew adon (comp. Adonis and see above). His glory is against the parallelism; we should expect "lady" or "queen."
He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.
Verse 19. - Jehoiakim's miserable death, without even the honor of burial. The prediction is repeated in Jeremiah 36:30, where the statement is made in plain language. At first sight it appears to conflict with 2 Kings 24:6, "So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead;" but it is only appearance, and when we remember that the complete formula for describing the natural death of a king of Judah is, "slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David" (1 Kings 14:31; 1 Kings 15:24; 1 Kings 22:50; 2 Kings 8:24; 2 Kings 15:7, 38; 2 Kings 16:20), and that the phrase, "slept with his fathers," is used of Ahab, who fell on the field of battle (1 Kings 22:40), we are naturally led to the conjecture that Jehoiakim did not die a natural death, but fell in battle in some sally made by the besieged. Buried with the burial of an ass; i.e. cast out unburied. Beyond the gates; rather, far from the gates.
Go up to Lebanon, and cry; and lift up thy voice in Bashan, and cry from the passages: for all thy lovers are destroyed.
Verse 20. - A new strophe begins here, relative to Jehoiachin, the son and successor of Jehoiakim. Go up to Lebanon, and cry. The people of Judah is addressed, personified as a woman (comp. Jeremiah 7:29). The penetrating character of the long-toned cry of an Arab has been mentioned by Dr. Thomson. In Isaiah 40:9 a similar command is given to Zion; but in what different circumstances! From the passages; rather, from Abarim. The range of Abarim - Nebo, from which Hoses surveyed the land of Israel, belonged to it (Deuteronomy 32:49) - completes the circle of mountain stations; Lebanon was in the north, Bashan in the northeast, Abarim in the southeast. All thy lovers; viz. the nations whom self-interest had combined against Nebuchadrezzar, and between whom and Judah negotiations had from time to time been entered into (Jeremiah 2:36; Jeremiah 27:3). "Lovers" (comp. Jeremiah 4:30; Jeremiah 30; Ezekiel 16:33, 37).
I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear. This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice.
Verse 21. - From thy youth; i.e. from the time that thou didst become a nation (comp. Jeremiah 2:2; Hosea 2:15). It is the Exodus which is referred to.
The wind shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness.
Verse 22. - Shall eat up all thy pastors. The verb is that connected with the participle rendered "pastors;" strictly, therefore, shall pasture upon all thy pastors. The wind referred to is doubtless the parching east wind, the symbol of calamity, which is actually called a "sharp" wind in Jeremiah 4:11.
O inhabitant of Lebanon, that makest thy nest in the cedars, how gracious shalt thou be when pangs come upon thee, the pain as of a woman in travail!
Verse 23. - O inhabitant - rather, O inhabitress - of Lebanon. It is the people of Jerusalem which is meant; the "Lebanon" are the palaces of cedar-wood which together are called" the house of the King of Judah" (ver. 6). How gracious shalt thou be; rather, How wilt thou sigh!
As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence;
Verse 24. - Coniah. A shorter form of Jeconiah (1 Chronicles 3:1), found again in Jeremiah 37:1. Perhaps this was the name this king bore prior to his accession, after which it was certainly Jehoiachin; Jeremiah has already spoken of one king by his earlier name in ver. 11. The Divine speaker solemnly announces that though, as the representative of Israel's invisible King, Coniah were - or rather, be - the signet upon his right hand (a most valued jewel), yet would - or rather, will - he pluck him thence; i.e. depose him from his high dignity. The same figure is used in Haggai 2:23, "I will take thee, O Zerubbabel, and make thee as a signet;" and Ezekiel 28:12, where there is a well-attested reading, "Thou (O King of Type) art a deftly made signet-ring." (For the fulfillment of the prediction in this verse, see 2 Kings 24:12, 15; Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2.)
And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.
And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die.
Verse 26. - Cast thee out. The Hebrew is stronger - "hurl thee" (comp. Isaiah 22:17, Hebrew). And thy mother; i.e. the queen-mother Nehushta (comp. Jeremiah 29:2; 2 Kings 24:8). She seems to have been particularly influential (see introduction to Jeremiah 13.)
But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return.
Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not?
Verse 28. - Is this man Coniah, etc.? The prophet's human feelings are stirred; he cannot withhold his sympathy from the sad fate of his king. What! he exclaims; is it possible that this Coniah is treated as a piece of ill-wrought pottery ware (comp. Jeremiah 18:4), and "hurled" into a strange land? He and his seed. These words have caused some difficulty, owing to the youth, of Jehoiachin. According to 2 Kings 24:8 he was only eighteen when he was carried captive, while 2 Chronicles 36:9 makes him still younger, only eight (Josiah's age on his accession). Hitzig thinks the latter number is to be preferred; his chief reasons are the prominence given to the queen-mother, and the fact that the length of Jehoiachin's reign is given with more precise accuracy in 2 Chronicles than in 2 Kings. It is true that the king's wives are mentioned in 2 Kings 24:15. But that he had wives may, according to Hitzig, have been inferred by the late compiler of Kings from the passage before us; or the "wives" may have been those of Jehoiachin's predecessor (comp. 2 Samuel 16:21). Graf's conjecture is, perhaps, the safest view of the case, whether we accept the number eighteen or the number eight; it is that the "seed" spoken of as born to Jehoiachin in his captivity, and is reckoned to him by anticipation. It should be mentioned, however, that the Septuagint omits "he and his seed" altogether.
O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD.
Verse 29. - O earth, earth, earth. The repetition is for solemnity's sake (comp. Jeremiah 7:4).
Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.
Verse 30. - Write ye this man childless; i.e. enter him in the register of the citizens (comp. Isaiah 4:3) as one who has no heirs. He may have children, but none of them shall succeed to his place in the community. This is all that the passage means; there is no discrepancy with history: how should there be, when Jeremiah himself has mentioned the posterity of Jehoiachin (ver. 28 and the latter part of this verse)? Yet the Septuagint thought it necessary to avoid the appearance of such a discrepancy by rendering, not "childless," but "one proscribed" (ἐκκήρυκτον).