The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar.
Verses 1-5. - Time and circumstances of the following revelation. It took place in the tenth year of Zedekiah, the eighteenth of Nebuchadnezzar (comp. Jeremiah 25:1; Jeremiah 52:12). The siege of Jerusalem had Begun in the preceding year (Jeremiah 39:1), but had been temporarily raised on the approach of an Egyptian army (Jeremiah 37:5, 11). Jeremiah, who had declared resistance hopeless, had been accused of treason, and imprisoned (Jeremiah 37:13), and in prison he remained till the close of the siege. Like St. Paul at Rome, however, he was allowed free communication with visitors, as appears from ver. 8 and Jeremiah 38:1. Vers. 2-5 are parenthetical (see on ver. 6).
For then the king of Babylon's army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah's house.
Verse 2. - In the court of the prison; or, the court of the guard, which adjoined the royal palace (Nehemiah 3:25).
For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it;
Verse 3. - Had shut him up. A brief and general account of the circumstances related more in full in ch. 37. For the prophecies referred to, see Jeremiah 34:3-5; Jeremiah 37:17; Jeremiah 38:17-23 (the following verse is almost identical with Jeremiah 34:3).
And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes;
And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the LORD: though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper?
Verse 5. - Until I visit him; i.e. until I take notice of him. "To visit" is used in a good (Jeremiah 27:22; Jeremiah 29:10) as well as in a bad sense (Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 49:8), so that no definite announcement is made respecting Zedekiah's future. There was no object to gain by extending the scope of the revelation beyond the immediate present, and Zedekiah's offences did not require such an anticipative punishment as the clear prediction of the details of his fate (Jeremiah 39:6, 7; Jeremiah 52:11).
And Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Verses 6-15. - The purchase of the field. Ver. 6 resumes ver. 1, after the long parenthesis in vers. 2-5.
Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it.
Verse 7. - Hanameel. Another form of Hananeel; comp. Γεσάμ, in the Septuagint = Goshen, Μαδιάμ = Midian. In Jeremiah 31:38 the Authorized Version has Hananeel, and the Septuagint Ἀναμεήλ (of course, the persons referred to are different). The son of Shallum thine uncle. It is strange that Hanameel should be called at once Jeremiah's uncle's son and his uncle; and yet this is the case - the former in vers. 8, 9, the latter in ver. 12. There is, therefore, no reason why we should deviate (as most commentators do) from the ordinary Hebrew usage, and suppose "thine uncle" in this verse to refer to Shallum, and not rather to Hanameel. But how are we to explain this singular variation in phraseology? Either from the fact that the Hebrew for "uncle" is simply a word expressive of affection (it means "beloved," see e.g. Isaiah 5:1), and might, therefore, just as well be applied to a cousin as to an uncle: or else. upon the supposition that the word for "son (of)" has fallen out of the text before "mine uncle," both in this verse and in ver. 12.
So Hanameel mine uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.
Verse 8. - The right of inheritance (or rather, of taking possession) is thine. The right, however, was dependent on the previous right of redeeming the land. Hence the speaker continues: The redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. The Law directs, "If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold" (Leviticus 25:25). Jeremiah's kinsman, however, ascribes to him the right of pre-emption. This is not mentioned in Leviticus; hut, of course, no one would care to purchase a property till he was sure that the next kinsman would not insist on redeeming it. No one, it may be remarked, could purchase land unconditionally - the usufruct of it till the year of jubilee was all that was legally transferable; and even the original occupant had only a life interest in his land, the ownership of which was, strictly speaking, vested in the commune. This seems to Be the necessary inference from a comprehensive view of the passages relative to land in the Old Testament (see Mr. Fenton's 'Early Hebrew Life; ' and an article in the Church Quarterly Review, July, 1880). Then I knew, etc. We may, perhaps, interpret this notice combined with that in ver. 6 thus: Jeremiah had had a presentiment, founded, perhaps, upon the distress to which his cousin had been reduced, that the latter would invite him to carry out the provisions of the Law; and his presentiments were generally so ordered by the Divine Spirit of prophecy as to be ratified by the event. Still, he had a measure of uncertainty till Hanameel actually came to him, and so demonstrated "that this had been the word of the Lord." In recording the circumstances, he not unnaturally reflects his later feeling of certitude in his description of the presentiment.
And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.
Verse 9. - Seventeen shekels of silver; i.e. about £2 5s. 4d. (taking the shekel at 2s. 8d.). This has been thought a small price. Thirty shekels were paid for the potter's field (Matthew 27:7); fifty by David, for Araunah's threshing floor and oxen (2 Samuel 24:4). The Hebrew has "seven shekels and ten of silver;" hence the Targum increases the price by supplying "minas" before "of silver," bringing up the sum to one hundred and seven shekels. This, however, seems too much. Even if Jeremiah wished to be liberal, he would hardly have been able to go so far (probably) in excess of the market price. Who would have purchased the land on speculation, if Jeremiah had refused? The famine made life, the siege, a continuance of personal liberty, terribly uncertain. And, putting this out of the question, there may have been but a short time to elapse before the year of jubilee, when the land would revert to its original occupant (see above). The singular form of expression in the Hebrew, at which the Targum stumbled, may, perhaps, be the usual style of legal documents.
And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.
Verses 10-14. - The Authorized Version is here so far wrong, on technical terms, that it seems best to retranslate the whole passage: "And I wrote (the circumstances) in the deed, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed the money in the balance. And I took the purchase deed, that which was sealed (containing the offer and the conditions), and that which was open; and I gave the purchase deed unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah (rather, Makhseiah), in the sight of Hanameel my uncle, and in the sight of the witnesses who subscribed the purchase deed, in the sight of all the Jews who were sitting in the court of the guard. And I charged Baruch before them, saying, Thus saith Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Israel, Take these deeds, this sealed purchase deed, and this open deed; and put them into an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days." The deed was made in two copies, so that if the open one were lost, or suspected of having been tampered with, an appeal might always be made to the sealed copy. The latter was to be placed in an earthen vessel, to preserve it from injury by damp. It ought to be added that the words in ver. 11, rendered "containing the offer and the conditions," are difficult. "Containing" is not expressed in the Hebrew, and "offer" is not the ordinary meaning, though etymologically justifiable.
So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open:
And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.
And I charged Baruch before them, saying,
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.
For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.
Verse 15. - Shall be possessed; rather, shall be bought.
Now when I had delivered the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed unto the LORD, saying,
Verses 16-25. - Jeremiah obeys the Divine command, but is so besieged by misgivings that he applies for a further revelation of God's purposes.
Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:
Verse 17. - Ah, Lord God! rather, Alas! O Lord Jehovah (as Jeremiah 1:6). Too hard for thee. It is the word usually rendered "wonderful," but rather indicating that thing or person lies outside the common order (comp. Genesis 18:14).
Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the LORD of hosts, is his name,
Verse 18. - Into the bosom, etc. The ample dress of an Eastern rendering a bag or basket unnecessary (comp. Ruth 3:15).
Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings:
Which hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day, and in Israel, and among other men; and hast made thee a name, as at this day;
Verse 20. - Even unto this day. A loose expression. Jeremiah simply means that signs and wonders equal to those wrought in Egypt have continued to the present time. And in Israel; rather, both in Israel.
And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror;
Verse 21. - Almost identical with Deuteronomy 26:8. The great terror which the Israelites inspired is constantly referred to (see Deuteronomy 2:25; Exodus 23:27; Joshua 5:1).
And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey;
And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them:
Behold the mounts, they are come unto the city to take it; and the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans, that fight against it, because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence: and what thou hast spoken is come to pass; and, behold, thou seest it.
Verse 24. - Behold the mounts (see as Jeremiah 6:6). Is given. Resistance being hopeless, Jerusalem was virtually in the hands of its besiegers.
And thou hast said unto me, O Lord GOD, Buy thee the field for money, and take witnesses; for the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.
Verse 25. - For the city is given; rather, whereas. It is a reflection of the prophet's.
Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,
Verses 26-44. - The Divine answer. This falls into two parts. First, Jehovah repeats the burden of so many prophecies, that Israel has only to blame himself for his punishment (vers. 26-35); and then a bright future is disclosed beyond the gloomy interval of conquest and captivity - a future when men shall buy fields, and comply with all the legal formalities, precisely as Jeremiah has done (vers. 36-44).
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it:
Verse 28. - I will give; rather, I am on the point of giving (present participle).
And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to anger.
Verse 29. - And burn it. A still more significant prediction to Jewish hearers than to us, for it implies that Jerusalem had become utterly rebellious, and deserved the punishment of the old Canaanitish cities. It was to be made a cherem (Deuteronomy 3:6).
For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD.
Verse 30. - From their youth (see on Jeremiah 3:24, 25; 22:21). The children of Israel, in the first half of the verse, must have a narrower sense than in the second half. The fall of Jerusalem is the climax of the series of punishments which the two separated and yet (in God's sight) united portions of the people of Israel have had to undergo.
For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face,
Verse 31. - From the day that they built it. It is useless to tell an impassioned orator that his words are not strictly consistent with primitive history. The Israelites may not have built Jerusalem, but Jeremiah was not to be debarred from the strongest form of expression open to him for such a reason. He means "from the earliest times."
Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.
But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it.
Verses 34, 35. - Repeated, with slight variations, from Jeremiah 7:30, 31. "Baal" and "Molech" are identified as in Jeremiah 19:5 ( = Jeremiah 7:31), and even more distinctly.
And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
And now therefore thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence;
Verse 36. - And now therefore. This introduces the strange and lovely contrast to the gloomy picture which has gone before. It will be observed that there is no direct reference to Jerusalem, but the capital was only emphasized before as the heart of the nation, and it would, of course, be no comfort to say that Jerusalem's inhabitants (alone) would be restored.
Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely:
And they shall be my people, and I will be their God:
And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them:
Verse 39. - One heart, and one way. Unity is always given as the "note" of the ideal, Messianic period (comp. Zephaniah 3:9; Zechariah 14:9; John 10:16). That they may fear me forever. This reminds us of a phrase in the exhortation in Deuteronomy 4:10, as the next clause does of Deuteronomy 6:24.
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.
Verse 40. - An everlasting covenant. It is the "new covenant" of Jeremiah 31:31, etc., which is meant (for the phrase, comp. Isaiah 55:3; Ezekiel 37:26). That I will not turn... to do them good. The comma in the Authorized Version impairs the sense. The prophet means, "That I will not cease to show them favour" (comp. Isaiah 54:10).
Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.
Verse 41. - Assuredly; literally, with faith. fulness; i.e. with perfect sincerity, without an arriere pensee, as the next words explain it; comp. 1 Samuel 12:24; Isaiah 38:3 (Graf).
For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them.
Verse 42. - Like as I have brought, etc. The prophet still has in his mind the thought expressed in Jeremiah 31:28, that the brighter part of his revelations must as surely be accomplished as the darker.
And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.
Verse 43. - Fields; rather, land; the Hebrew has "the field," i.e. the open country (as Jeremiah 4:17, etc.). We must then continue "in this country," and in ver. 44, "men shall buy lands."
Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the LORD.
Verse 44. - Subscribe evidences; rather, write (particulars of their purchase)in the deed (as ver. 10). In the land of Benjamin, etc. The catalogue of the districts of the Jewish kingdom heightens the realistic effect (see on Jeremiah 17:26). Everywhere the old social system will be reproduced in its entirety. The land of Benjamin is mentioned first, on account of the property of Jeremiah at Anathoth.