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Jeremiah 34:1-2

1. The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and all his army, and all the kingdoms of the earth of his dominion, and all the people, fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities thereof, saying,

1. Sermo qui fuit ad Jeremiam a Jehova, cum Nebuchadnezer rex Babylonis et totus excreitus ejus et omnia regna terrae, quae sub dominatione marius ejus erant, et omnes populi pugnarent contra Jerusalem (hoc est, oppugnarent Jerosolymam) et cunctas urbes, dicendo,

2. Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire:

2. Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, Vade et dices Zedechiae regi Jehudah, dices, inquam, illi, Sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego trado urbem hanc in manum regis Babylonis, et incendet eam igni.

 

It is no wonder, nor ought it to be deemed useless, that the Prophet so often repeats the same things, for we know how great was the hardness of the people with whom he had to do. Here, then, he tells us that he was sent to King Zedekiah when the city was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar and his whole army. The Prophet mentions the circumstances, by which we may understand how formidable that siege was, for Nebuchadnezzar had not brought a small force, but had armed many and various people. Hence the Prophet here expressly mentions the kingdoms of the earth and the nations who were, under his dominion

Zedekiah was then the king at Jerusalem, and there remained two other cities safe, as we shall hereafter see; but it is evident how unequal he must have been to contend with an army so large and powerful. Nebuchadnezzar was a monarch; the kingdom of Israel had been cut off, which far exceeded in number the kingdom of Judah; and he had subdued all the neighboring nations. Such a siege then ought to have immediately taken away from the Jews every hope of deliverance; and yet the Prophet shews that the king was as yet resolute, and there was still a greater obstinacy among the people. But Zedekiah was not overbearing; we find that he was not so proud and so cruel as tyrants are wont to be: as then he was not of a ferocious disposition, we hence see how great must have been the pride of the whole people, and also their perverseness against God, when they made the king to be so angry with the Prophet. Yet the state of things as described ought to have subdued his passion; for as ungodly men are elevated by prosperity, so they ought to be humbled when oppressed with adversity. The king himself, as well as the people, were reduced to the greatest extremities, and yet they would not be admonished by God’s Prophet; and hence it is expressly said in 2 Chronicles 36:16, that Zedekiah did not regard the word of the Prophet, though he spoke from the mouth of the Lord, by whom he had been sent.

The sum of this prophecy is as follows: — He first says that the word was given him by Jehovah; and secondly, he points out the time, for what reason we have already stated. For if he had reproved Zedekiah when there was peace and quietness, and when there was no fear of danger, the king might have been easily excited, as it is usual, against the Prophet. But when he saw the city surrounded on every side by so large and powerful an army, — when he saw collected so many from the kingdoms of the earth, — so many nations, that he could hardly muster up the thousandth part of the force of his enemies, wthat he could not and would not, notwithstanding all this, submit to God and acknowledge his vengeance just, — this was an instance of extreme blindness, and a proof that he was become as it were estranged in mind. But God had thus blinded him, because his purpose was, as it is said elsewhere, to bring an extreme punishment on the people. The blindness, then, and the madness of the king, was an evidence of God’s wrath towards the whole people; for Zedekiah might have appeased God if he had repented. It was then God’s will that he should have been of an intractable disposition, in order that he might by such perverseness and obstinacy bring on himself utter ruin.

He mentions Nebuchadnezzar and his whole army; he afterwards describes the army more particularly, with all the kingdoms under his dominion, and all nations When Jerusalem was in this condition, the Prophet was sent to the king. The substance of the message follows, even that the city was doomed to destruction, because God had resolved to deliver it into the hand of the enemy. This was a very sad message to Zedekiah. Hypocrites, we know, seek flatteries in their calamities; while God spares them they will not bear to be reproved, and they reject wise counsels, and even become exasperated when God’s Prophets exhort them to repent. But when God begins to smite them, they wish all to partake of their misfortunes; and then also they accuse God’s servants of cruelty, as though they insulted their misery by setting their sins before them.

This is what we are taught by daily experience. When any one of the common people, at the time when God does not chasten them either by disease or poverty, or any other adversity, is admonished, the petulant answer is, “What do you mean? in what respect am I worthy of blame? I am conscious of no evil.” Thus hypocrites boast as long as God bears with them, and though his kindness spares them. But when any adversity happens to them, when any one is laid on his bed, when another is bereaved of a son or a wife, or in any way visited with afltietion, — if then God’s judgment is set before them, they think that a grievous wrong is done to them: “What! have I not evils enough without any addition? I expected comfort from God’s servants, but they exaggerate my calamities.” In short, hypocrites are never in a fit condition to receive God’s reproofs.

There is then no doubt but that Jeremiah knew that his message would be intolerable to King Zedekiah, and to his people. However, he boldly declared, as we shall see, what God had committed to him. And we further perceive how stupid and hardened Zedekiah must have been, for he hesitated not to cast God’s Prophet into prison, even at the time when things were come into extremity. It was the same thing as though God with a stretched out arm and a drawn sword had shewn himself to be his enemy; yet he ceased not to manifest his rage against God; and as he could do nothing worse, he cast God’s servant into prison; and though he did this, not so much through the impulse of his own mind as that of others, he yet could not have been excused from blame.

Now the Prophet says, Behold, I will deliver this city into the hand of the king of Babylon Had he simply said that the city would in a short time be taken, it would have been a general truth, not effectual but frigid. It was therefore necessary to add this, — that the ruin of the city was a just punishment inflicted by God. And Zedekiah was also thus reminded, that though he were stronger than his enemy, yet he could not effectually resist him, for the war was carrid on under the authority of God, as though he had said, “Thou thinkest that thou contendest with men; it would be difficult enough for thee and more than enough, to contend with the eastern monarchy and so many nations and kingdoms; farther than this, God himself is thine enemy; have regard to him, that thou mayest learn to dread his judgment.” And that the words might be more forcible, God himself speaks in his own person, Behold, he says, I will deliver this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire This last sentence was a dreadful aggravation; for it often happens that cities are taken, and the conquerors are satisfied with the spoils. When, therefore, Nebuchadnezzar came against the city of Jerusalem with so much rage that he burnt it, it was a proof of the dreadful vengeance of God. It now follows —

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