Jeremiah 29:15-17

15. Because ye have said, The Lord hath raised us up prophets in Babylon;

15. Quoniam dixistis, Excitabit nobis Jehova prophetas in Babylone;

16. Know that thus saith the Lord of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity;

16. Ideo sic dicit Jehova regi sedenti super solium Davidis et toti populo sedenti in hac urbe (hoc est, habitanti, nam bswy hic diversis modis accipitur,) fratribus vestris, qui non egressi sunt vobiscum in exilium;

17. Thus saith the Lord 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 evil.

17. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Ecce ego mitto in eos gladium, famem, pestem; et ponam eos tanquam ficus sordidas (aut, foetidas,) quae non comeduntur prae malitia ( id est, prae amaritudine.)


Many interpreters connect the first of these verses with the preceding ones, and they seem not to think so without reason; for the reason given is not unsuitable, if we refer to what the Prophet had said, even that the Jews were by no means to hope for a return until the end of seventy years. But the meaning I adopt is more probable; the particle yk, ki, is repeated; the first is causal, and the second an illative;1 and consistently with the usage of Scripture the learned and the experienced think that this is the real meaning of the Prophet. He then says, that the captives were very foolish who hoped for a quick end to their exile, because they had false prophets who gave them such a promise; ye have then said, that prophets have been given you, in Chaldea, and that God had there pitied you, because there are those who prophesy of a return in a short time. As then ye are so foolishly credulous, Thus saith Jehovah to your brethren, he then turns his discourse to the exiles, and exhorts them not to suffer themselves to be led astray. But here he indirectly reproves them, because they could not bear a condition which was even better than that of the residue, as though he had said, "What means this your unreasonableness! that when all your ways are closed up against you, and the power of your conqueror is so great that ye cannot move a finger without his nod, ye should yet think that you shall be set free in two years! and surely if you were before foolishly secure and confident, your calamities ought now to make you humble. But your brethren, who seem yet to enjoy liberty because they dwell at Jerusalem, (for those alone were then remaining,) even these your brethren suffer far more grievously than ye do."

We now perceive for what purpose the Prophet, after having addressed the captives, turned his discourse to King Zedekiah and to the Jews, who as yet remained at home or in their own country; it was, that the captives might hence know how great was their madness to promise to themselves a return, after having been driven to remote lands, when final ruin was nigh both the king and the people, who as yet remained at Jerusalem; Thus then saith Jehovah to the king who sits on the throne of David, and to all the people who sit in this city, etc.

To sit, as I have already said, is to be taken here in two different senses; the king is said to sit on his throne while he retains his dignity; but the people are said to sit while they rest and dwell quietly in any place. It is not without reason that the word king is here expressly mentioned, for the exiles were ever wont to connect it with the hope of their return; "The Temple still remains, God is there worshipped, and the kingdom still exists; these things being secure, it cannot be all over with our nation." The safety of the people depended on the kingdom and the priesthood. When therefore, on the one hand, they fixed their eyes on royalty, and on the other hand, on the priesthood and sacrifices, they felt persuaded that it could not be otherwise but that God would soon restore them; for God had promised that the kingdom of David would be perpetual, as long as the sun and moon would shine in heaven. Except then this splendor or glory had been extinguished, the Israelites could not have been humiliated, especially as those who had been led into exile were of the tribe of Judah. We now understand why the word king was expressly mentioned. Though, then, a king still sat on the throne of David, he yet declares that his condition and that of his people was harder than that of the captive multitude.

He says, I will pursue them with the sword, and famine, and pestilence. The surrender of Jeconiah, as we have elsewhere seen, was voluntary; he was therefore more kindly received by the king of Babylon. At length the city was attacked, and as the siege was long, there was more rage felt against the king and the whole people, for the Chaldeans had been wearied by their obstinacy. Hence it was, that they dealt more severely with them. But nothing happened except through the just vengeance of God; for though they exasperated the Chaldeans, there is no doubt but that God blinded their minds so that they procured for themselves a heavier judgment. It was, then, a punishment inflicted on them by God; and hence rightly does Jeremiah testify that God was the author of those calamities, for the Chaldeans, as we have seen elsewhere, were only ministers and executioners of God's vengeance; Jehovah of hosts then says, Behold, I will pursue you, etc.

He then adds, And I will make them like worthless figs. He calls the figs here Myres, sherim, worthless; but in the twenty-fourth chapter he called them bad; still the meaning is the same. There is no doubt but that he refers to the prophecy which we there explained. For the Prophet saw two baskets of figs, in one of which were sweet figs, and in the other bitter. God asked, "What seest thou?" he said, "Good figs, very good, and bad figs, very bad." God afterwards added, "The good and sweet figs are the captives; for I will at length shew mercy to them, and liberty to return shall be given them. They shall then be good figs, though now a different opinion is formed; for they who still lived at Jerusalem, think themselves more happy than the exiles; but the bad and bitter figs," he says, "are this people who pride themselves, because they have not been led into captivity; for I will consume them with the pestilence, and the famine, and the sword." This was the Prophet's language in that passage. He now again declares that King Zedekiah and all the people would be like bitter and putrid figs, which, being so bad, are not fit to be eaten. He then adds, --

1 Gataker approves of this and says, evidently referring to Calvin, "So an interpreter of prime note rendereth it." That yk is sometimes an iliative is generally admitted; and here the connection cannot otherwise be seen. There is a large gap after the 15th verse (Jeremiah 29:15) in the Sept., the verses 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 (Jeremiah 29:16-20), are omitted, but not in the other versions nor in the Targ.; and Blayney has thereby been led to put the 15th verse out of its place and set it between the 20th and the 21st, but without sufficient reason. The connection, as shewn by Calvin, is suitable as the verse now is, and by removing it, the drift of what follows is not so clearly seen.

Another thing advanced by Blayney, though countenanced by Houbigant and Horsley, two rival innovators, is not to be admitted, -- that the letter terminates at the end of the 20th verse (Jeremiah 29:20), and not at the end of the 23d (Jeremiah 29:23), and that what follows forms another letter. It is evident that what is contained in the 24th (Jeremiah 29:24) and in the following verses to the end, was written in consequence of an answer from Babylon to this letter. Compare verse 5th (Jeremiah 29:5) with the 28th (Jeremiah 29:28). -- Ed.