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Jeremiah Buys a Field During the Siege


The word that came to Jeremiah from the L ord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, “Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the L ord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; 4King Zedekiah of Judah shall not escape out of the hands of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye; 5and he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I attend to him, says the L ord; though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed?”

6 Jeremiah said, The word of the L ord came to me: 7Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” 8Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the L ord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the L ord.

9 And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. 13In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14Thus says the L ord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15For thus says the L ord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Jeremiah Prays for Understanding

16 After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the L ord, saying: 17Ah Lord G od! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. 18You show steadfast love to the thousandth generation, but repay the guilt of parents into the laps of their children after them, O great and mighty God whose name is the L ord of hosts, 19great in counsel and mighty in deed; whose eyes are open to all the ways of mortals, rewarding all according to their ways and according to the fruit of their doings. 20You showed signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all humankind, and have made yourself a name that continues to this very day. 21You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror; 22and you gave them this land, which you swore to their ancestors to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; 23and they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or follow your law; of all you commanded them to do, they did nothing. Therefore you have made all these disasters come upon them. 24See, the siege ramps have been cast up against the city to take it, and the city, faced with sword, famine, and pestilence, has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has happened, as you yourself can see. 25Yet you, O Lord G od, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans.

God’s Assurance of the People’s Return

26 The word of the L ord came to Jeremiah: 27See, I am the L ord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me? 28Therefore, thus says the L ord: I am going to give this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he shall take it. 29The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city shall come, set it on fire, and burn it, with the houses on whose roofs offerings have been made to Baal and libations have been poured out to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 30For the people of Israel and the people of Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; the people of Israel have done nothing but provoke me to anger by the work of their hands, says the L ord. 31This city has aroused my anger and wrath, from the day it was built until this day, so that I will remove it from my sight 32because of all the evil of the people of Israel and the people of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger—they, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the citizens of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33They have turned their backs to me, not their faces; though I have taught them persistently, they would not listen and accept correction. 34They set up their abominations in the house that bears my name, and defiled it. 35They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter my mind that they should do this abomination, causing Judah to sin.

36 Now therefore thus says the L ord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, “It is being given into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence”: 37See, I am going to gather them from all the lands to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation; I will bring them back to this place, and I will settle them in safety. 38They shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for all time, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to draw back from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, so that they may not turn from me. 41I will rejoice in doing good to them, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

42 For thus says the L ord: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good fortune that I now promise them. 43Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, It is a desolation, without human beings or animals; it has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans. 44Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, of the hill country, of the Shephelah, and of the Negeb; for I will restore their fortunes, says the L ord.

He now adds, Thou shewest mercy to thousands, and repayest the iniquity of the fathers to the bosom of their children Here the Prophet acknowledges God’s judgments to be right, though the reason for them escapes human minds. Both these things were necessary, that is, that Jeremiah should set before himself the awful power of God, and that he should also regard God’s judgments as right, though men often think otherwise. For God has hidden reasons for his judgments; and so it happens, that various thoughts disturb us, and every one is disposed to set himself up against God. Hence the Prophet, after having spoken of the immeasurable power of God, now declares also that he is a just judge of the world; and he again restrains himself by another bridle, lest he should pronounce a judgment on God’s works according to his own perceptions.

Thou, he says, shewest mercy to thousands This is taken from the Law of Moses, (Exodus 20:6) for the Prophets often borrowed their chief sentences from Moses, of whom they were the interpreters. Since God then under the Law declared that he is merciful to thousand generations, though it appears unnaccountable to us, yet nothing remains for us to do, but to learn reverently to receive what we cannot comprehend. The Prophet then here confesses that the method which God adopts as to his mercy is hid from the human mind. But the latter clause seems, however, less reasonable, — that God should repay the iniquity of fathers to their children Shortly before we saw that this was set forth as an impious blasphemy, (Jeremiah 31:29) when they said that their fathers had eaten sour grapes, and that their children’s teeth were set on edge; for it is always true that the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:2, 20; Deuteronomy 24:16) But if God repays the iniquity of fathers to their children, he punishes the innocent, and transfers to children what he ought to have rendered to their fathers. But the Prophet, regarding it a wicked thing to contradict what God had spoken by Moses, adores here this mystery, and thus brings himself to humility and meekness, so that he might not break forth into extremes when speaking of the hidden works of God.

We must at the same time briefly observe, that the innocent are not punished when God includes children with their fathers, and casts the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children, for he does not refer to the innocent and the righteous, but to the wicked. Some, when they saw that this truth militated against the common feelings of mankind, have laid hold of an evasion, that is, that God by a temporal punishment renders to children what their fathers had deserved. But God speaks without exception, that he repays to the bosom of children the reward due to their fathers. But how ought this to be understood? It is a part of this punishment, that God withholds from them his Spirit. When, therefore, his purpose is to punish the vices of fathers in their posterity, he withholds from their posterity the light and grace of his Spirit. It cannot then be but that they will ever accumulate evils on evils, and thus they are entangled in the guilt of their fathers. God then proceeds by degrees in the work of punishing sins; for when it is his purpose to forgive the son the punishment which he together with his father has deserved, he draws him to himself by his Spirit, so that he is freed from punishment; but if his purpose is to execute vengeance on sons and grandsons, he withholds from them, as I have already said, the gift of the Spirit, so that they do nothing but provoke his wrath more and more, and thus they become involved in the same guilt with their fathers; hence fathers and children receive in common the same punishment.

This indeed seems not at the first view to be just and right; but let us remember that God’s judgments are hid from us, and for this reason, — that we may cultivate meekness and humility and learn to be soberly wise, and so confess God to be a just judge as to know that our minds cannot penetrate into this deep abyss. But still the solution given seems plain enough, that is, that God never punishes the innocent. For when he visits the sins of fathers on their children, a part of that punishment is, as I have already stated, that he withholds from the children the light of his Spirit; being blind, they ever run headlong to their own ruin, and thus by the continual commission of new sins they provoke God’s vengeance against themselves. When therefore God renders to them the reward due to their fathers, he punishes them at the same time for what they themselves have deserved; nor have they any reason to complain, because they have been guilty in common with their fathers: there is, therefore, nothing strange that they share with them in their punishment. But it, however, depends on the hidden mercy of God, that. he favors some with pardon, and thus delivers them from ruin, while he forsakes others; and as they are wicked, they deserve all the punishment he inflicts on them: Thou, then, repayest into the bosom of their sons after them, that is, after their death.

He afterwards exclaims, God, strong and mighty! Jehovah of hosts is his name He again declares the greatness of God’s power, that he might restrain himself, and not rashly undertake any new inquiry, as the ease is with curious men, who indulge themselves in speculations, and thus summon God as it were to an account, as though there could be appointed a tribunal before which he might be found guilty. As then the insolence and arrogance of human nature are so great, the Prophet here sets barriers around himself, so that he might keep within the bounds of humility and soberness.

He afterwards changes the person, which is a proof of vehemence and ardor; for it is, as we have seen, a prayer. He does not now address God directly, but says, Jehovah of hosts is his name, speaking in the third person. 6565     The change of person seems to begin at the 18th verse (Jeremiah 32:18), and includes the first clause in the 19th, —
   18. He who sheweth mercy to thousands, And who returns the iniquity of fathers To the bosom of their children after them, Is God, the great, the powerful; Jehovah is his name, —

   19. Great in counsel and mighty in his doings: Who — thine eyes are open On the ways of the sons of men, To give to each according to his ways, And according to the fruit of his doings;

   20. Who, etc., etc.

   “God, the great,” etc., is connected with shewing mercy and requiting iniquity. His greatness is in counsel or wisdom, and his power or might is manifested in his doings. The ה after doings is the Chaldee for ו Then his omniscience is referred to, as necessary for carrying to effect his purposes and directing his doings. Here he returns to the second person, and the “who” is idiomatic, and the Welsh is exactly the same, Yr hwn y mae dy lygaid, etc.; and the “Who” is continued in the Jeremiah 32:20. In saying that each is to have “according to his ways,” he intimates what Calvin says, that the children like the fathers are guilty. — Ed
Had he continued in the same strain, he would have said, “Thou art God, strong and mighty,” etc., but he says, “Jehovah of hosts is his name.” We then see that the Prophet as it were turns aside; and this change of person, as I have stated, proceeded from the vehemence and ardor of his mind. And it often happens to the faithful, that they break off their direct address when they pray, while they contemplate God’s works, as displaying, now his power, then his goodness, or his wisdom. The faithful then do not always pray in a continued strain; but as feeling guides them, they now address God, then they turn aside and blend apostrophes. It follows, —

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