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29. Letter to the Exiles

1Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders of the captivity, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon, 2(after that Jeconiah the king, and the queen-mother, and the eunuchs, and the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the craftsmen, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem,) 3by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,) saying, 4Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all the captivity, whom I have caused to be carried away captive from Jerusalem unto Babylon: 5Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them. 6Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply ye there, and be not diminished. 7And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto Jehovah for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. 8For thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Let not your prophets that are in the midst of you, and your diviners, deceive you; neither hearken ye to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. 9For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith Jehovah. 10For thus saith Jehovah, After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. 11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end. 12And ye shall call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. 14And I will be found of you, saith Jehovah, and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places wither I have driven you, saith Jehovah; and I will bring you again unto the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive. 15Because ye have said, Jehovah hath raised us up prophets in Babylon; 16thus saith Jehovah concerning the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and concerning all the people that dwell in this city, your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity; 17thus saith Jehovah of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so bad. 18And I will pursue after them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be tossed to and fro among all the kingdoms of the earth, to be an execration, and an astonishment, and a hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them; 19because they have not hearkened to my words, saith Jehovah, wherewith I sent unto them my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith Jehovah. 20Hear ye therefore the word of Jehovah, all ye of the captivity, whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. 21Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and concerning Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who prophesy a lie unto you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall slay them before your eyes; 22and of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captives of Judah that are in Babylon, saying, Jehovah make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire; 23because they have wrought folly in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbors' wives, and have spoken words in my name falsely, which I commanded them not; and I am he that knoweth, and am witness, saith Jehovah. 24And concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite thou shalt speak, saying, 25Thus speaketh Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Because thou hast sent letters in thine own name unto all the people that are at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, and to all the priests, saying, 26Jehovah hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that there may be officers in the house of Jehovah, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in the stocks and in shackles. 27Now therefore, why hast thou not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth, who maketh himself a prophet to you, 28forasmuch as he hath sent unto us in Babylon, saying, The captivity is long: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them? 29And Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet. 30Then came the word of Jehovah unto Jeremiah, saying, 31Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith Jehovah concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he hath caused you to trust in a lie; 32therefore thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed; he shall not have a man to dwell among this people, neither shall he behold the good that I will do unto my people, saith Jehovah, because he hath spoken rebellion against Jehovah.

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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.




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