In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD, saying,
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:
Verse 2. - Jeremiah is to take his stand in the court of the Lord's house; i.e. the outer court, where the people assembled (comp. Jeremiah 19:14), and preach unto all the cities of Judah; i.e. to the pilgrims who had come from the provincial towns (comp. Jeremiah 11:12). His discourse is not to be an eloquent appeal to the feelings, but a strict and peremptory announcement; he is to diminish (or, subtract) not a word (comp. Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Revelation 22:19).
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.
Verse 3. - That I may repent; literally, and I will repent; the idea or object is derived from the context. (On the Divine repentance, see note on Jeremiah 18:8.)
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,
Verses 4-6. - The contents of the discourse (see especially on Jeremiah 7:12-15). The priests and the prophets interfere, arrest Jeremiah, and accuse him of a capital crime. It would appear that some at least of the "false prophets" were priests; thus Pashur, we are told, was a priest (Jeremiah 20:6).
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;
Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.
So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.
Verses 7-11. - To all devout Jews this prediction of the destruction of the temple must have been startling; but to those who placed their confidence in the mere exist-once of a consecrated building (Jeremiah 7:4), it was like a blow aimed at their very life. Besides, were not the majority of the prophets of Jehovah of entirely another way of thinking? Did they not promise peace? And what could justify Jeremiah in announcing not merely war, but the downfall of the Divine habitation itself? Hence no sooner had the prophet concluded his discourse, than he was arrested, accused, and condemned to death.
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.
Verse 8. - Had made an end of speaking. They allowed Jeremiah to finish his discourse (of which we have here only the briefest summary), either from a lingering reverence for his person and office, or to obtain fuller materials for an accusation (comp. the trial of Stephen, Acts 6:12-14). All the people. The "people" appear to have been always under some constraint. As long as the priests and prophets were alone, they dominated the unofficial classes, but when the princes appeared (ver. 11), the new influence proved superior. In ver. 16 princes and people together go over to the side of Jeremiah. Thou shalt surely die. Death was the legal penalty both for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16) and for presuming to prophesy without having received a prophetic revelation (Deuteronomy 18:20). Jeremiah's declaration ran so entirely counter to the prejudices of his hearers that he may well have been accused of both these sins, or crimes. True, Isaiah and Amos had already predicted the destruction of Jerusalem (Isaiah 5:5, 6; Isaiah 6:11; Amos 2:4, 5; Amos 6:1, 2); but it may have been contended that the timely repentance of Judah under Hezekiah and Josiah had effectually cancelled the threatened doom, and though Isaiah 64:10, 11 evidently refers to a time later than Josiah, and represents the ruin of Jerusalem as practically certain, it would seem that the prophetic book (Isaiah 40-66.) to which this belongs (to say the least) was not generally known.
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.
Verse 9. - Were gathered against; rather, assembled themselves unto; i.e. constituted themselves into a legal qahal, or assembly (see on ver. 17).
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.
Verse 10. - The princes. The term will include the members of the various branches of the royal family, who acted as judges (see on Jeremiah 21:12), and the "elders," or heads of families (see ver. 17). Without the presence of the former, Jeremiah could only have had a mock-trial. Came up, etc. (see on Jeremiah 22:1). Of the Lord's house; better simply, of the Lord. The gate is the same which is referred at Jeremiah 20:2.
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.
Verse 11. - This man is worthy to die; literally, a sentence of death (belongs) to this man.
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.
Verses 12-15. - Jeremiah's defense. He is conscious that he has not spoken uncommissioned, and leaves the result. He urges the people to amendment of life, while there is time, and warns them that his own unmerited death will bring a curse upon themselves.
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.
As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.
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.
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.
Verses 16-19. - The truth makes an impression upon the princes and the people, who declare Jeremiah to be a true prophet, and therefore innocent.
Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying,
Verse 17. - The elders of the land add their voice in favor of Jeremiah, not, however, without first of all consulting the people whose representatives they are. The whole verse is thoroughly technical in its phraseology. The word (qahal) rendered "assembly" is the traditional legal term for the "congregation of Israel" (Deuteronomy 31:30); comp. ver. 9, where the verb is the corresponding one to qahal. Thus, with all the faults of the government of Judah, which Jeremiah himself reveals to us, it was very far removed from the Oriental despotisms of our day. The "elders" are still an important element in the social system, and form a link with that earlier period in which the family was the leading power in the social organization. Originally the term denoted, strictly and in the full sense, heads of families; they have their analogue in the councils of the Aryan village communities. "References to their parliamentary status (if the phrase may be used) occur in Exodus 3:16; 2 Samuel 19:11; 1 Kings 8:1; 1 Kings 20:7. The institution lingered on during and after the Babylonian Exile (Jeremiah 29:1; Ezekiel 14:1; Ezekiel 20:1; Ezra 5:5; Ezra 6:7; Ezra 10:14; Matthew 26:3, 47; Mark 14:43; Acts 4:5, etc.)." We find another reference to their quasi-judicial authority in Deuteronomy 21:2.
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.
Verses 18, 19. - Micah the Morasthite, etc. The "elders" appeal for a precedent to the case of Micah (called after his native place, Moresheth-Gath, to distinguish him from other Micahs), who had been equally explicit in his declarations of woe to Jerusalem, without incurring the charge of blasphemy. The prediction referred to is in Micah 3:12, the form of which agrees verbally with our passage.
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.
Verse 19. - Thus might we procure, etc.; rather, and we are about to commit a great evil against our souls (not merely "against ourselves"). The blood of the slain would cry for vengeance against his murderers, who would come to an untimely end, their "souls" being sent down to lead a miserable parody of a life (βίος ἄβιος) in Sheol or Hades.
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:
Verses 20-23. - The murder of the prophet Urijah. At first sight, these four verses appear to belong to the speech of the elders, but the appearance is delusive,
(1) because the issue of the affair of Urijah cannot possibly have taken place "in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim" (ver. 1); and
(2) because the passage stands in no connection with what precedes, whereas it is related, and that very closely, to ver. 24 (see below). The case is similar to that of certain passages in St. John's Gospel, where the reflections of the evangelist are put side by side with the sayings of our Lord. Jeremiah, writing down his experiences at a later time, introduces the story of Urijah to show the magnitude of the danger to which he had been exposed. The notice of Urijah has an additional importance, as it shows incidentally how isolated a spiritual prophet like Jeremiah was, and how completely the order of prophets had fallen below its high ideal. We have no further knowledge of the prophet Urijah. Verse 20. - Kirjath-jearim; a city in the territory of Judah, on the west frontier of Benjamin.
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;
Verse 21. - His mighty men. The "mighty men" (gibborim) are not mentioned again in Jeremiah, and the Septuagint omits the word. But it is clear from Isaiah 3:2 that the "mighty men" were recognized as an important part of the community. From 1 Chronicles 10:10 it appears that the term indicates a position of high command in the army, which is in accordance with the notice in 2 Kings 24:16. Went into Egypt. Egypt was the natural refuge for a native of Palestine (comp. 1 Kings 11:17, 40 Matt, 2:14), just as Palestine was for a native of Egypt. The latter, however, proved to be not a safe asylum for Urijah, as Pharaoh was the liege lord of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34), and the extradition of Urijah as a criminal naturally followed.
And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt.
Verse 22. - Elnathan. The name occurs again in Jeremiah 36:12, 25. Possibly this man was the "Elnathan of Jerusalem" mentioned in 2 Kings 24:8 as the father-in-law of Jehoiakim.
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.
Verse 23. - Into the graves of the common people; literally, of the sons of the people (comp. Jeremiah 17:19; 2 Kings 23:6). "The graves" is equivalent to "the graveyard," as Job 17:1.
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.
Verse 24. - Nevertheless the hand of Ahi-kant, etc.; i.e. in spite of the prepossession against prophets like Jeremiah which this incident reveals, Ahikam threw all his influence into the scale of toleration.' The same Ahikam is mentioned in circumstances which reflect credit on his religion in 2 Kings 22:12-14. One of his sons, Gemariah, lent Baruch his official room for the reading of the prophecies of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:10); another was the well-known Gedaliah, who became governor of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem, and who was himself friendly to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:14; Jeremiah 40:5).