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Jeremiah's Letter to the Exiles
1These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem. 3The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: 4“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,11Hebrew your dreams, which you cause to dream 9for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.
10“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare22Or peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
15“Because you have said, ‘The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,’ 16thus says the Lord concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your kinsmen who did not go out with you into exile: 17‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten. 18I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, 19because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the Lord, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the Lord.’ 20Hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles whom I sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon: 21‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall strike them down before your eyes. 22Because of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” 23because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors' wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the Lord.’”
Shemaiah's False Prophecy
24To Shemaiah of Nehelam you shall say: 25“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You have sent letters in your name to all the people who are in Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, 26‘The Lord has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, to have charge in the house of the Lord over every madman who prophesies, to put him in the stocks and neck irons. 27Now why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who is prophesying to you? 28For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, “Your exile will be long; build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their produce.”’”
29Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah the prophet. 30Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 31“Send to all the exiles, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: Because Shemaiah had prophesied to you when I did not send him, and has made you trust in a lie, 32therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants. He shall not have anyone living among this people, and he shall not see the good that I will do to my people, declares the Lord, for he has spoken rebellion against the Lord.’”
Jeremiah goes still farther, even that the Jews had been led to Babylon, on the condition of rendering willing obedience to the authority of King Nebuchadnezzar, and of testifying this by their prayers. He not only bids them patiently to endure the punishment laid on them, but also to be faithful subjects of their conqueror; he not only forbids them to be seditious, but he would have them to obey from the heart, so that God might be a witness of their willing subjection and obedience.
He says, Seek the peace of the city; this may be understood of prayers; for דרש, daresh, often means to pray: but it may suitably be taken here, as I think, in reference to the conduct of the people, as though he had said, that the Jews were to do what they could, to exert themselves to the utmost, so that no harm might happen to the Chaldean monarchy; for they are afterwards directed to pray It may indeed be, that the same thing is repeated in other words; but if any one weighs the subject more fully, he will, I think, assent to what I have stated, that in the first clause the Prophet bids them to be faithful to King Nebuchadnezzar and to his monarchy. Seek, then, the peace of the city: 208208 To, “seek the peace of the city” was, no doubt, to promote it by their efforts, to be careful in preserving it. To “seek the land,” in Deuteronomy 11:12, was to care for it; “not to seek the day,” in Job 3:4, was not to regard it. Hence, to “seek the peace of the city,” was to care for, or regard it, so as to do everything to promote it. It is said of Mordecai that he was “seeking the wealth (rather, the good) of his people.” (Esther 10:3) His whole conduct was a proof of this. To “seek one’s hurt,” as in Psalm 38:12, was not to pray for it, but to use all means to effect it. Therefore the first sense given by Calvin is the right one. — Ed. by peace, as it is well known, is to be understood prosperity.
But he was not satisfied with external efforts, but he would have them to pray to God, that all things might turn out prosperously and happily to the Babylonian king, even to the end of their exile; for we must bear in mind that the Prophet had ever that time in view. We hence learn that he exhorted the exiles to bear the yoke of the king of Babylon, during the time allotted to the captivity, for to attempt anything rashly was to fight against God, and that he thus far commanded them quietly to bear that tyrannical government.
He repeats again what he had said, (though I had passed it by,) that they had been carried away captives: for he had spoken of it, “all the captivity which,” he says, “I made to migrate,” or removed, or led captive, “from Jerusalem.” Now, again, he repeats the same thing, that he had carried them away captives, אשו הגליתי, asher egeliti; 209209 It is literally, “whom I have removed,” or transplanted; “moved from home,” is the Sept.; “transferred,” the Vulg.; “made to migrate,” the Targ. — Ed. and he said this, that they might not regard only the avarice, or the ambition, or the pride of King Nebuchadnezzar, but that they might raise up their eyes to heaven, and acknowledge Nebuchadnezzar as the scourge of God, and their exile as a chastisement for their sins. God thus testified that he was the author of their exile, that the Jews might not think that they had to do with a mortal man, but on the contrary, understand that they were kicking against the goad, if they murmured and complained, because they lived under the tyranny of a foreign king. That they might not then be agitated with vain thoughts, God comes forth and says, that the exile was imposed on them by his just judgment, in order that they might know that they would gain nothing by their perverseness, and that they might not be disturbed by an anxious disquietude, nor dare to attempt anything new, for this would be to resist God, and as it were to carry on war with heaven. I will finish here.