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Jeremiah 26:20-23

20. 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:

20. Atque etiam vir fuit prophetans in nomine Jehovae, Urias, filius Semeah ex Cariath-iarim, et prophetavit contra urbem hanc et contra terram hanc secundum sermones Jeremiae:

21. 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;

21. Et audivit rex Joakim et omnes magnates ejus et Proceres sermones ejus, et quaesivit rex interficere ipsum, et audivit Urias et timuit, et fugit et transivit (vel, concessit) in Egyptum;

22. And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt.

22. Et misit rex Joakim viros in Egyptum, Elnathan filium Achobor et viros cure eo in Egyptum:

23. 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.

23. Et eduxerunt Uriam ex Egypto, et adduxerunt eum ad regem Joakim, qui percussit eum gladio, et projecit cadaver ejus in sepulchra populi (vel, plebis potius.)

 

Another example is brought forward, partly different, and partly alike, — different as to the king, the like as to a Prophet. Uriah, mentioned here, faithfully discharged his office; but Jehoiakim could not bear his preaching, and therefore slew him. Some explain the whole in the same manner, as though the elders designed to shew that the wicked can gain nothing by resisting God’s prophets, except that by contending they make themselves more and more guilty. But others think that this part was brought forward by the opposite party, and the words, “And also,” וגם, ugam, favor this opinion; for they may be taken adversatively, as though they said, “But there was another Prophet, who did not speak of the ruin of the city and of the destruction of the Temple with impunity.” And this opinion seems to be confirmed by what follows in the last verse of the chapter, Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam, etc.; the particle אך, ak, is properly nevertheless; but it means sometimes, at least, or only. But in this place, as I shall shew again presently, it retains, I think, its proper meaning; for the Prophet declares, that though he was in great danger, yet Ahikam fought so bravely for him, that at length he gained his cause.

But as to the present passage, both expositions may be admitted; that is, either that the malignants adduced the death of Uriah in order to overwhelm Jeremiah, — or that God’s faithful followers intended to shew that there was no reason of acting in this manner, for the state of things had become worse, since King Jehoiakim had cruelly slain God’s servant.

But the time ought especially to be noticed. We have seen that this prophecy was committed to Jeremiah, and also promulgated at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign; but this beginning is not to be confined either to the first or second year; but as he became tributary to the king of Babylon, he afterwards endeavored to throw off the yoke and was at length disgracefully dethroned; hence the beginning of his reign must be during the time that his power was entire. While then Jehoiakim retained his dignity, Jeremiah was bidden to proclaim this message. However this may have been, the King Jehoiakim thus enjoyed a tranquil reign; he was at Jerusalem. It is not therefore said here, that Uriah had threatened the city in his days; but the history is given as of a present thing. One thing then is evident, that this discourse was delivered, when King Jehoiakim was not afar off. His palace was nigh the Temple; his counsellors were present who had come down, as we have seen, on account of the tumult. For the affair could not be hidden; since the priests and the false prophets everywhere inflamed the rage of the people. The king’s counsellors therefore came to quell the disturbances. If this part of the address is to be ascribed to the defenders of Jeremiah, then they must have been endued with great courage and firmness, to allege against the king a nefarious murder, and also to condemn him for a sacrilege, for he had not only done an injury to a holy Prophet, but had directly opposed God himself. There are on both sides probable conjectures; for if we follow this opinion, that the servants of God, who favored Jeremiah and sought to deliver him from danger, spoke these words, it might be objected and said, that no such thing is expressed But the narrative goes on continuously, And there was also a man, etc. Now when different persons speak and oppose one another, it is usual to mark the change. It seems then that the whole is to be read connectedly, so that they who first adduced the example of Micah, then added on the other hand, that Uriah indeed suffered punishment, but that thus a crime was added to a crime, so that Jehoiakim gained nothing by furiously persecuting God’s Prophet. And that they did not speak of the consequences, ought not to appear strange, for the condition of the city and of the people was known to all, and a more grievous danger was nigh at hand. Hence a simple narrative might well have been given by them; and as they did not dare to exasperate the mind of the king, it was the more necessary to leave that part untouched.

But if the other view be more approved, that the enemies of Jeremiah did here rise against him, and alleged the case of Uriah, there is also some appearance of reason in its favor; the king was living, his counsellors were present, as we have said. It might then be, that those who wished the death of Jeremiah, referred to this recent example in order to have him destroyed, — “Why should he escape, since Uriah was lately put to death, for the cause is exactly the same? Uriah did not go any farther than Jeremiah; he seems indeed to have taken the words from his mouth. As, then, the king did slay him, why should Jeremiah be spared? Why should he escape the punishment the other underwent, when his crime is more grievous?” It hence appears that this view can without absurdity be defended, that is, that the enemies of Jeremiah endeavored to aggravate his case by referring to the punishment the king inflicted on Uriah, whose case was not dissimilar; and I do not reject this view. If any approve of the other, that this part was spoken by the advocates of Jeremiah, I readily allow it; but I dare not yet reject wholly the idea, that Jeremiah was loaded with prejudice by having the case of Uriah brought forward, who was killed by the king for having prophesied against the city and the Temple. 174174     There are two other views taken of this subject; some say that the second example, that of Uriah, was introduced by the writer of the narrative, whether Jeremiah himself or Baruch, and that this was mentioned to shew, that according to this precedent, Jeremiah would have been killed, had it not been for the interposition of Ahikam. This is the view taken by Gataker and Blayney.
   But what appears most consistent with the whole passage is the view given by Venema; he considers that the 17th verse (Jeremiah 26:17) has been removed from its place between the 19th and the 20th (Jeremiah 26:19-20), and that the “princes” mentioned the case of Micah in favor of Jeremiah, and that “the elders of the land” adduced the case of Uriah against him, and that notwithstanding this it is at last added, that Ahikam, one of the princes, succeeded in his deliverance. That chapters have been transposed in this book is indubitable; the same thing may also have happened as to verses.

   Then the passage would read thus, —

   16. Then said the princes and all the people to the priests and to the prophets, “Against this man there is no judgment of death, for in

   18. the name of Jehovah hath he spoken to (or against) us. Micah the Morasthite was a prophet in the days of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, and he spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, ‘Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Sion, being a field, shall be plowed, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house like the heights of

   19. a forest.’ Slaying, did Hezekiah, the king of Judah, and all Judah, slay him? did he not fear Jehovah and intreat the favor of Jehovah? then Jehovah repented as to the evil which he had pronounced against them; but we are doing a great evil against our own souls.”

   17. Then rose up men from the elders of the land and spoke to the

   20. whole assembly of the people, saying, “But there was also a man, who prophesied in the name of Jehovah, Uriah, the son of Shemaiah,” etc. etc.

   This arrangement makes the whole narrative plain, regular, and consistent. The conclusion comes in naturally, that notwithstanding the adverse speech of the “elders” Jeremiah was saved by the influence of Ahikam, one of the princes. — Ed.

Let us now consider the words; There was also a man who prophesied in the name of Jehovah, etc. If we receive the opinion of those who think that Jeremiah’s enemies speak here, then the name of Jehovah is to be taken for a false pretense, as though they had said, “It is a very common thing to pretend the name of God; for every one who claims to himself the office of teaching, boasts that he is sent from above, and that what he speaks has been committed to him by God.” Thus they indirectly condemned Jeremiah; for it was not enough for him to pretend God’s name, as Uriah, of whom they spoke, had also professed most loudly that he was God’s prophet, that he brought nothing as his own, and that he had a sure call. But if this part is to be ascribed to God’s true worshippers, whose object it was to protect and defend Jeremiah, to speak in the name of Jehovah, as we said yesterday, was not only to glory on account of the prophetic office, but also to give evidence of faithfulness and of integrity, so as really and by the effect to prove that he was God’s prophet, such as he wished to be thought.

They then added, he prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah If the adversaries of Jeremiah were the speakers, we see that he was so overpowered, that it was afterwards superfluous to know anything more of his cause; for another had already been condemned, whose case was in no way dissimilar or different; “He spoke according to the words of Jeremiah, and he was condemned, why then should we now hesitate respecting Jeremiah?” We see how malignantly they turned against Jeremiah this example, as though he was condemned beforehand in the person of another. But if these were the words of the godly, they are to be accounted for in another way; what is intimated is, that if Jeremiah was slain, God’s vengeance would be provoked; for it was more than enough to shed the innocent blood of one Prophet.

It then follows, And when, Jehoiakim the king, and all his mighty men and the princes, heard his words, etc. This verse seems to favor the opinion of those who conclude that godly men were the speakers; for they spoke dishonorably of the king and his counsellors; the king heard and his mighty men, (powerful men, literally,) and also all the princes; and the king sought to slay him These words, however, may also be ascribed to the ungodly and the wicked, for they wished to terrify the common people by first mentioning the king and then the mighty men and the princes. And to seek to kill him, might also have been excused, even that the king could not bear such a reproach without revenging it; for he saw that the Prophet had taken such a liberty as not, to spare the holy city nor the Temple: The king then heard, and his mighty men and princes; and then, the king sought to slay him

But when Uriah heard it, he feared and fled This passage teaches us that even the faithful servants of God, who strive honestly to fulfill their office, are yet not always so courageous as boldly to despise all dangers; for it is said that the Prophet feared; but he was not on this account condemned. This fear was not indeed blameless; but his fear was such, that he yet continued in his vocation. He might indeed have pleased the king, but he dreaded such perfidy more than death. He, therefore, so feared, that he turned not aside from the right course, nor denied the truth., nor admitted anything unworthy of his dignity or of the character he sustained. His fear then, though wrong, did not yet so possess the Prophet, but that he was ever faithful to God in his vocation. It then follows, that he went into Egypt We hence conclude, that the king’s wrath and cruelty were so great, that the holy man could not find a corner to hide himself in through the whole land of Judea, nor even in other regions around. He was therefore forced to seek a hiding place in Egypt.

It is afterwards added that the king sent men, even Elnathan, the chief of the legation, with others. 175175     To avoid what may seem a tautology in this verse, Blayney renders the word for Egypt, adversaries, — “But Jehoiakim the king sent adversaries, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him, into Egypt.” Were the words rendered literally, the repetition would not appear different from many that we meet with; “Then sent the king Jehoiakim men into Egypt with Elnathan the son of Achbor, even men with him into Egypt.” The repetition seems to have been intended to shew that there was a strong force, and not one man, sent to take the Prophet, and that this force was to go even as far as Egypt. The version of the Sept. is, “And the king sent men into Egypt;” the Vulg. and the Targ. are the same with our version; but the Syr. is, “And the king Jehoiakim sent a certain Egyptian, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and some with him, into Egypt.”
   It is singular that in one MS. the word מרגלים, searchers, spies, is found instead of מצרים, rendered often Egypt, though it comes from a root which means to bind close, to environ, to beset; and so as a hyphil participle it would be besetters, or catchers — in modern language, bumbailiffs, which is a corruption for bound bailiffs. This meaning would exactly suit the passage, “Then the king Jehoiakim sent men, catchers, with Elnathan the son of Achbor, even these men with him into Egypt.” — Ed
There is no doubt but that Jehoiakim sent to the king of Egypt and complained that a turbulent man had fled, and that he asked him to deliver him up as a fugitive. So then he was brought back, not through power, but through a nefarious compact, for he was betrayed by the king of Egypt.

It is at length added, that they led up Uriah from Egypt, and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people, by way of dishonor; for Jeremiah here calls them the graves of the common people, as we in French call shambles des charniers. The rich are honorably and splendidly buried at this day, and every one has his own grave; but when there is a vast number, the bodies are thrown together, for it would be too expensive to dig a grave for each. It seems also that there was such a practice in Judea, and that God’s Prophet was buried in this ignominious manner.

Thus they who spoke intimated that the king’s wrath so burned, that he not only put him to death, but followed up his vengeance, so that a new disgrace awaited the Prophet, even when dead, for he was cast among the obscure and ignoble common people.

I have hitherto so explained this passage as to leave it doubtful whether the probability is that the speakers were Jeremiah’s enemies or his advocates. And though, as I have declared twice or three times, I reject not the view which is different from that which I embrace, yet it seems most probable to me that the words were spoken by the godly men who defended the cause of Jeremiah. All the various reasons which lead me to this conclusion I will not here specify; for every one may himself see why I prefer this view. The common consent of almost all interpreters also influences me, from which I wish not to depart, except necessity compels me, or the thing itself makes it evident that they were mistaken. But we have seen from the beginning, that the two examples consecutively follow one another, and that nothing intervenes; it may hence be supposed, that the enemies of Jeremiah had previously performed their part. The words themselves then shew that those who commenced the discourse were those who carried it on. And that they did not mention the reason why they adduced this example is not to be wondered at; for the displeasure of the king was feared, and he had given no common proof, in his treatment of the holy Prophet, how impatiently he bore anything that trenched on his own dignity. They therefore cautiously related the matter, and left what they did not express to be collected by those who heard them. But it was easy from their words to know what they meant, — that God’s vengeance was to be dreaded; for one Prophet had been slain; what if there was to be no end to cruelty? would not God at length arise to execute judgment when his servants were so unworthily treated? As, then, the words are not completed, it seems probable to me that God’s true servants spoke thus reservedly and cautiously, because they dared not to express their thoughts openly.

Further, these words, the king sought to slay him, and the king sent men, etc., are more suitable when considered as spoken by the defenders of Jeremiah than by the ungodly and the wicked; and they also named Elnathan, that they might hand down his name with infamy to future ages. And they lastly added that the Prophet was brought up from Egypt What was very shameful seems certainly to be set here before us, that he was forcibly brought back from that land to which he had fled for an asylum, and also that he was brought to the king, that he smote him with the sword, that is, cruelly killed him; and further, that being not satisfied with this barbarous act, he caused him to be ignominiously buried. All these particulars, as I have said, seem to shew that these words may be more suitably applied to the holy men who defended the cause of Jeremiah than to his enemies. It now follows, —


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