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Jeremiah 37:3-8

3. And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the LORD our God for us.

3. Et misit rex Zedechias Jucal filium Selemiae, et Zephaniam filium Maassiae sacerdotem (vel, sacerdotis) ad Jeremiam Prophetam, dicendo, Ora agedum pro nobis Jehovam Deum nostrum.

4. Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison.

4. Et Jeremias (autem) ibat et egrediebatur in medio populi; necdum posuerant eum in domum clausurae (vel, carceris)

5. Then Pharaoh’s army was come forth out of Egypt: and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem.

5. Et exercitus Pharaonis egressus erat ex Egypto, et audierant Chaldmi qui oppugnabant Jerusalem famam de illis, et ascenderant a Jerusalem.

6. Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying,

6. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam Prophetam, dicendo,

7. Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to enquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land.

7. Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, Ita dicetis regi Jehudab, qui misit vos ad me ut me interrogaretis, Ecce exercitus Pharaonis, qui egressus est vobis in auxilium, reversus est (revertatur, potius) in terram Egypti;

8. And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire.

8. Et redibunt Chaldaei et oppugnabunt hanc urbem (proeliabuntur contra urbem hanc) et capient eam et comburent eam igni.

 

Jeremiah had briefly explained what was the state of the city and the land, that though they had been already severely chastised by God’s scourges, they yet remained obstinate in their wickedness. He now adds, that messengers were sent to him by King Zedekiah, when danger arose from the Chaldeans; and it is probable that this message came to Jeremiah when the siege was raised, or if the siege still continued, it was at a time when the Jews, no doubt, flattered themselves with the hope of receiving some aid, while yet they saw that the power of the king of Babylon was very great. For though they hoped for some help from the Egyptians, they were yet perplexed, and fear constrained the king to send messengers to the Prophet Jeremiah. But it appears from the answer that the Egyptians were already in arms, and had also come out for the purpose of raising the siege, and driving the Chaldeans from Judea. We hence see that the king was, in a measure, elated with vain confidence, seeing that the Egyptians were coming with a strong army to assist him, and yet he was full of anxiety, as the ungodly must ever be: while they seek to confirm themselves in a state of security, they are still tossed here and there, for God’s judgment is upon them. They are fearful, though they try to shake off fear. Hence Zedekiah, though he thought that he should soon be freed from all danger, yet could not wholly divest himself of anxiety, and therefore sent to Jeremiah: for the ungodly are wont to seek God, but not in earnest; they wish to discharge the outward duty, but they bring neither faith nor repentance, by which alone access to God is opened.

But Jeremiah tells us that he was then at liberty, coming in and going out among the people It may be that he had been in prison, but that after the rage of the king and of the people had cooled, he might have been set free. It is hence said that he was among the people, that is set at liberty, and at his own disposal, so that he could safely walk through the city; for to come and to go implies that he was free to follow his own business. He is said to come and to go who undertakes this or that concern as he pleases; for men, we know, are not engaged always in the same thing, but do various things as necessity requires. Such, then, was the condition of Jeremiah; he enjoyed common liberty. It is then added, that he was not as yet cast into prison, as it happened soon after. It is further said, that the army of Pharaoh was come out from Egypt to give aid to the Jews, and that thus the siege was raised, for the Chaldeans went forth to meet the Egyptians. At this time, then, Jeremiah received an answer from God. It seems not, therefore, probable that the messengers were sent, when the report spread through the city of the coming of the enemy, but rather when the city was relieved, for the condition of the people was still doubtful, as the liberty of the city and the land depended on the uncertain issue of the war. The Chaldeans had not yet come unto an engagement with the Egyptians. A victory gained by Pharaoh would have given the prospect of peace and safety to Zedekiah and the whole people; but if the Chaldeans gained the day, they saw that the greatest danger was at hand, for they would then be deprived of every assistance.

It was in this state of things that Zedekiah sent messengers to Jeremiah, to solicit his prayers. Thus we see that hypocrites are driven by the fear of God, whom yet they proudly despise, to seek his aid when forced to do so; nor is this done, that they may appear to do so before men, but because God brings them to such straits, that they cannot but feel that they stand in need of his help. They wish, indeed, as I have said, to obliterate every recollection of God, and were they also able to do so, they would rob him of all power and authority; but as they are forced, willing or unwilling, to know that God so reigns in heaven that the whole world is subject to his power, necessity constrains them formally to pray, and, in a manner, to conciliate his favor, or, at least, to try to do so. But as I have already said, they ought to begin with repentance and faith. Hypocrites withdraw themselves as far as they can, both from the promises of God and from the duty of repentance. They so seek God that they at the same time shun him.

We must also observe, that Zedekiah felt himself so guilty, that he could not pray himself. As, then, he was conscious of his own unworthiness, he put the Prophet, as it were, between himself and God, that he might suppliantly intercede for him. This also is what the faithful often do, for they seek aid here and there that they may be more readily heard by God; and this they do according to God’s command. But there is a great difference between the godly and hypocrites. The true worshippers of God, as I have said, are not content with their own prayers, but ask others to join them, while, at the same time, they pray God themselves. But hypocrites, what do they do? As they think that an access is forbidden them, and know that they are unworthy of being heard by God, they substitute others in their place to pray for them. Thus they do not seek themselves to know whether God will be propitious to them; and though they wish the whole world to pray for them, they do not yet pray themselves. Such, then, was the sottishhess of Zedekiah, who asked the holy Prophet to pray for him to God, while he himself was lying torpid in his own dregs; for he did not acknowledge that he was suffering a just punishment, nor had he recourse to the true remedy, that is, to return to God’s favor, to embrace his mercy and the promises of salvation. All these principal things he omitted, and only attended to what is, as they say, accessory.

Now as to the time, we ought carefully to notice that it was when the Egyptians came to raise the siege. Thus God for a time permitted hypocrites to be deceived by a fortunate event; for the Jews then began to praise their own prudence in forming a league with the Egyptians, for that kingdom, as it is well known, was powerful, and at the same time populous, so that a large army could be raised. As, then, they saw that their treaty turned out beneficially to them, they, no doubt, assumed to themselves great credit, and thus their boldness increased. But God, however, so touched their liearts, that they continued in suspense, and, by turns, greatly feared: for Zedekiah would not have sent to Jeremiah, except, constrained by some great necessity; and yet, as it has been said, success might have inebriated him; but God rendered him anxious, so as to feel that the prayer of the Prophet was needed.

Now follows the answer: Jeremiah says that the word of Jehovah came to him, and that he was to tell the messengers of Zedekiah, that the Chaldeans would shortly return. He then says, Behold the army of Pharaoh, which has come forth to deliver you, shall return to their own land; that is, being compelled to do so, the Egyptians being either conquered in battle or smitten with fear, and returning of their own accord to secure themselves in their own cities. The Prophet says, that no advantage could be expected from the Egyptians, for the soldiers of Pharaoh would return to their own land; and then he adds, and the Chaldeans shall return and fight against this city, until they take and burn it This was a hard answer, and Zedekiah was, no doubt, greatly exasperated at hearing the message, and also very angry with the Prophet, who thus dared plainly to threaten the city and the people with final ruin. But here the Prophet disregarded the pride of the king, for it was necessary for him to obey God’s command, he therefore boldly performed his office; and, at the same time, he touched the king Zedekiah to the quick, say to the king who sent you to inquire of me, etc

The word דרש daresh, means indeed to ask in general, but the Prophet means here that he was to inquire; and yet this was not said before; for he only told us that messengers had been sent to ask him to pray for the safety of the king and the people. But Scripture, we know, often omits one of the two things that are included; and we may easily conclude, that the king had not only sent to Jeremiah to pray, but also to bring some favorable prophecy from the Lord. For why did he apply to him rather than to the chief priest or some others, except that he knew him to be the true Prophet of God? Then Zedekiah requested Jeremiah to pray, but he tried also to draw from him some favorable prophecy, by which he might be relieved. Hence Jeremiah indirectly reproved him, because he feignedly sent to him as though he was ready to hear whatever God might declare by the mouth of his servant, — “He sent you to inquire of me; he is mistaken, for he will not get what he seeks; for thus saith God, ‘The Egyptians shall avail you nothing, and the Chaldeans shall return and take and burn the city.’”

We now perceive that when hypocrites pretend in a circuitous way to seek God, they do not obtain what they wish; for God justly disappoints them, inasmuch as they do not come to him with sincere hearts and desires; for they wish to transform God into their own nature and character, and they bend not themselves to his service nor submit to his word. Thus it comes that God will not answer their prayers; but the faithful, who seek God sincerely and from the heart, always find him propitious; and though he may not hear them immediately, yet he really shews that he cares for their safety. But hypocrites, whose confidence God regards with disdain, deserve that it should be empty and vain. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet gave such a severe answer to Zedekiah and his messengers. It now follows, —

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