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Jeremiah 37:11-14

11. And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army,

11. Et aceidit postquam ascenderat exercitus Chaeldmorum ab Jerosolyma propter exercitum Pharaonis;

12. Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people.

12. Tunc egressus est Jeremias Jerosolyma, ut proficisceretur in terram Benjamin, ut divideret illinc in medio populi.

13. And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans.

13. Quum esset in porta Benjamin, illic erat magister custodiae, cujus nomen liria, filius Selemiae, filii Chananiae, qui apprehendit Jeremiam Prophetam, dicendo, Ad Chaldaeos tu cadis (aut, dilaberis, hoc enim significat verbum לפנ)

14. Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes.

14. Et dixit Jeremias, Mendacium, non dilabor ad Chaldaeos; sed non audivit eum, et apprehendit Iiria Jeremiam, et deduxit eum ad principes.

 

Here Jeremiah tells us how, and on what occaision, he was cast into prison. He had said shortly before, that he was in the middle of the people, or among them; but now he gives an account of the cruelty of the princes, that they not only cast him into prison, but even into a grave, for they put him, as we shall see, in a dungeon, so that it was a miracle that he did not die there; and this was not done only once; but we shall hereafter see, before the end of the chapter, that he was unhumanly treated, so that he was afraid to return to the same place, lest it should prove fatal to him. He mentions the time when this was done, that is, when the Chaldean army went forth to meet the Egyptians. He was then free to leave the city: no one before could have gone out, because the gates were closed, and the city was also surrounded by enemies. It was then, he says, that he went out, that he might go to the land of Benjamin, where, as it has elsewhere appeared, he was born.

But he then adds, that he was intercepted by the prefect of the ward in the gate of Benjamin That gate had its name from its situation, for a part of Jerusalem belonged to the tribe of Benjamin; and hence it was not strange that the gate which led to the heritage of the tribe of Benjamin was so called. There then was Jeremiah intercepted by Irijah, the prefect of the ward, and not without a grievous charge, that he was escaping to the Chaldeans. The Prophet attempted to clear himself, but with no effect; for an opinion had prevailed, that he was already in league with the enemies. He thus gained nothing by defending himself, but was taken to the princes, the king’s counsellors.

This passage teaches us that God’s servants cannot escape without being exposed to many calumnies and false suspicions. Jeremiah might at the beginning have evaded this, and according to the perception of the flesh, his exemption or immunity might have been viewed as lawful, for there was now before his eyes the danger, not only of losing his life, but also of his name and reputation, which, to ingenuous and wise men, is of much more value. Had Jeremiah then chosen to evade, he might have made this pretense, — “I am indeed ready to offer my life as a sacrifice a hundred times, but what will it avail me, if I am to be regarded as a revolter?” For he must have thus exposed the very name of God to many blasphemies: they might have said,” This is the Prophet who boasted that he had been sent from above, but he is now become perfidious and a traitor to his own countw, and has tried to deliver up the city into the hands of enemies.” Jeremiah then might have shaken off this burden laid on him; but it was nccessary for him to bear this reproach, with which he was falsely charged. Faithful teachers ought indeed to remove, as far as they can, all calumnies, and to check the wicked and malicious, so that they may not have the occasion to speak evil; but when they have done all, they will not yet exempt themselves from calumny; for their words and their deeds will be misconstrued. Thus Jeremiah was loaded with false charges; for all had persuaded themselves, that as he had so much extolled the power of King Nebuchadnezzar, he had been hired by him for the purpose of depressing the people by fear; and it may be that the violent among them did wilfully and knowingly make his case to appear worse to the ignorant, even by false reports. As then this conviction respecting him prevailed everywhere, he was apprehended as a revolter, as he was going out of the city.

But he says, that he intended to go into the land of Benjamin, so as to separate himself. The verb חלק, chelak, means to divide, to scatter, to dissipate; and hence some have given this meaning, that he went into the land of Benjamin in order to divide his heritage; but this seems harsh and forced. They add, “In the midst of the people,” as though Jeremiah wished to make his land common, and to give it to the people: but in this explanation there is nothing probable or suitable. I therefore doubt not but that Jeremiah sought this as a quiet place, as it is understood by most interpreters, he then went forth towards the land of Benjamin, that he might separate himself; that is, that he might be secluded there in the midst of his people. It is, indeed, a brief mode of speaking, but the meaning is not ambiguous, that he might be there, where he might separate himself from the people, as the places were distant from one another. 107107     The idea of trafficking or buying is given by the Sept., “to buy thence in the midst of the people.” The Vulg. is, “that he might divide there his possession in the sight of the citizens;” and materially the same meaning is given by the Syr. and the Targ. The literal rendering is, “For a portion from thence (or, there) among the people;” which seems to mean, that he intended to go to the land of Benjanmin, that he might get his portion or share from the inheritance he had among his people. So that Blayney’s version appears to be right, “to receive a portion thereof among the people.” The Chaldeans had deprived him of his patrimony in the land of Benjamin: when they retreated he purposed to go there, “with the view,” as Blayney observes, “of coming in for a share of the produce of the land with the rest of his neighbors.” — Ed. For he was tired with the city, because he saw that he spent his labor in vain. Some think that he was afraid of being cast into prison, because he had just announced a command greatly disliked; but it is more probable that, he was worn out with weariness, because he saw that he made no impression on men so hard and refractory. Hence then it was, that he wished to withdraw from the presence of the whole people.

Then follows what we have already mentioned, that he was taken in the gate by the keeper Irijah, as though he were revolting to the Chaldeans. We have stated how this suspicion arose, even because he had faithfillly proclaimed the commands of God. We hence see how God tried his servant, when he thus constrained him to speak, so that his words became suspected. And hence also we may gather how thoroughly fixed in the minds of men was that false opinion, for Jeremiah was not heard in his own defense. He indeed said openly that he was not fleeing away, nay, that this was a false charge. It is a lie, he says, I am not fleeing to the Chaldeans

I have already reminded you that the verb נפל nuphal, found here, means properly to fall, but it is to be taken here metaphorically, as signifying to fall away, or to incline to another side. Thou then fallest away or inclinest to the Chaldeans, which was the same thing as to revolt. We see that the Prophet was not charged with a common offense, for it would have been the highest to forsake his own country and to pass over to the enemies: it would have been better for him to die a hundred deaths. But, as I have already said, the servants of God ought to be so courageous as to despise the slanders of the unprincipled, and, when it so pleases God, to prepare themselves for patience whenever any reproach is to be undergone, only let their conscience be always clear before God and angels; and let also their integrity confute all slanders, and let them disprove them too, provided there be those who can bear to hear them: but if a defense be not always admitted, let them patiently bear this indignity. And this also we ought to notice, that God’s servants, though ready to clear themselves of crimes ascribed to them, and to defend their innocence at the peril of life, are yet often repelled and condemned unheard. This is, indeed, a great indignity; but yet as Jeremiah met with such a treatment, it ought not at this day to appear to us unendurable or new. It now follows —


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