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Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles in Babylon

29

These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among 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 court officials, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem. 3The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom King Zedekiah of Judah sent to Babylon to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It said: 4Thus 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 what they 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.


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Jer 29:1-32. Letter of Jeremiah to the Captives in Babylon, to Counteract the Assurances Given by the False Prophets of a Speedy Restoration.

1. residue of the elders—those still surviving from the time when they were carried to Babylon with Jeconiah; the other elders of the captives had died by either a natural or a violent death.

2. queen—Nehushta, the queen mother, daughter of Elnathan (2Ki 24:8, 15). (Elnathan, her father, is perhaps the same as the one mentioned in Jer 26:22). She reigned jointly with her son.

princes—All the men of authority were taken away lest they should organize a rebellion. Jeremiah wrote his letter while the calamity was still recent, to console the captives under it.

3. Zedekiah … sent unto Babylon—In Jer 51:59, Zedekiah himself goes to Babylon; here he sends ambassadors. Whatever was the object of the embassy, it shows that Zedekiah only reigned at the pleasure of the king of Babylon, who might have restored Jeconiah, had he pleased. Hence, Zedekiah permitted Jeremiah's letter to be sent, not only as being led by Hananiah's death to attach greater credit to the prophet's words, but also as the letter accorded with his own wish that the Jews should remain in Chaldea till Jeconiah's death.

Hilkiah—the high priest who found the book of the law in the house of the Lord, and showed it to "Shaphan" the scribe (the same Shaphan probably as here), who showed it to King Josiah (2Ki 22:8, &c.). The sons of Hilkiah and Shaphan inherited from their fathers some respect for sacred things. So in Jer 36:25, "Gemariah" interceded with King Jehoiakim that the prophet's roll should not be burned.

5. Build … houses—In opposition to the false prophets' suggestions, who told the captives that their captivity would soon cease, Jeremiah tells them that it will be of long duration, and that therefore they should build houses, as Babylon is to be for long their home.

6. that ye … be … not diminished—It was God's will that the seed of Abraham should not fail; thus consolation is given them, and the hope, though not of an immediate, yet of an ultimate, return.

7. (Ezr 6:10; Ro 13:1; 1Ti 2:2). Not only bear the Babylonian yoke patiently, but pray for your masters, that is, while the captivity lasts. God's good time was to come when they were to pray for Babylon's downfall (Jer 51:35; Ps 137:8). They were not to forestall that time. True religion teaches patient submission, not sedition, even though the prince be an unbeliever. In all states of life let us not throw away the comfort we may have, because we have not all we would have. There is here a foretaste of gospel love towards enemies (Mt 5:44).




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