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32. Jeremiah Buys a Field

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2For then the king of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house. 3For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; 4And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes; 5And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the Lord: though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper?

6And Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 7Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it. 8So Hanameel mine uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the Lord, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. 9And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle’s son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver. 10And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances. 11So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open: 12And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.

13And I charged Baruch before them, saying, 14Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days. 15For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.

16Now when I had delivered the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed unto the Lord, saying, 17Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: 18Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is his name, 19Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings: 20Which hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day, and in Israel, and among other men; and hast made thee a name, as at this day; 21And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror; 22And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; 23And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them: 24Behold the mounts, they are come unto the city to take it; and the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans, that fight against it, because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence: and what thou hast spoken is come to pass; and, behold, thou seest it. 25And thou hast said unto me, O Lord GOD, Buy thee the field for money, and take witnesses; for the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.

26Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah, saying, 27Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? 28Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it: 29And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to anger. 30For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the Lord. 31For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face, 32Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction. 34But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it. 35And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

36And now therefore thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; 37Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: 38And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: 39And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: 40And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. 41Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. 42For thus saith the Lord; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. 43And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans. 44Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the Lord.

Here then at length the Prophet discovers his own perplexity. We have already stated the reason why he made so long an introduction before he came to the main thing: it was necessary for him to put on as it were a bridle; for except we restrain our thoughts, we shall become petulant against God, and there will be no moderation. The Prophet then, that he might not peevishly expostulate with God, set before himself his immeasurable power, and then he added that nothing happens except through his righteous vengeance. He now however asks, how it was, that he was bidden to buy the field when the city and the whole country were delivered up into their enemies. He then mentions here this inconsistency, and confesses that his mind was embarrassed, for he could not discover why God had bidden him to buy the field, and yet had determined to drive the people into exile and to scatter them into remote lands. But we have said that the Prophet was fully persuaded of God’s truth; and hence it was that he was so willing and ready to obey; for he made no delay in buying the field; and he afterwards laid up with Baruch the writings of the purchase. But after having performed all this, he brought a complaint against God; and as the thing appeared unreasonable, he desired this knot to be untied.

He then says, Behold the mounts, or, the warlike engines, for the word may mean either. The word סללות sallut, often means mounts; but as mention is made here of a siege, the Prophet seems to refer, as we have said in the sixth chapter, to warlike engines or battering rams. And there were engines to beat down walls; great stones or a number of stones were also cast. I am therefore inclined to the opinion of those who consider that they were either engines to shoot stones and darts, or battering rams. Behold, then, he says, there are moved to the city battering rams to take it, and the city is delivered up to the Chaldeans It was, it seems, the tenth year of Zedekiah, and at the beginning of the eleventh month the city was taken. But the Prophet is the best interpreter of his own words, and what he means may be easily gathered from the context, for he says that the city was taken by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; as though he had said, that though the enemies had not as yet entered into the city, yet it was all over with it, that there was no hope remaining, because it was not only assailed by arms and a powerful force, but it had also enemies within, which pressed hard on it, even famine and the pestilence As then a great number had already been consumed by pestilence and famine, the Prophet says, that though, the enemies should cease to assail it, and make no forcible entrance into it, yet it was all over with it, because the pestilence and famine had so prevailed, that there was no hope of deliverance. By these words he intimates an extremity of despair; and hence also arose the thought which tormented the mind of the Prophet, that it appeared wholly unreasonable that God should bid him to buy the field when the city had been already delivered up into the power of enemies.

He adds, and what thou hast spoken is come to pass; and, behold, thou seest it He confirms what he had just said, even that the destruction of the city did not otherwise happen than through God’s judgment. And he confirms it, because whatever then happened, had already been testified during the time of the Prophet himself. And it hence appeared, that the city was not distressed through chance, because God had foretold nothing by his servants but what he had decreed and resolved to do. Then the ruin of Jerusalem was the work of God, of which he had foretold by his servants. For these two things ought to be joined together — the mouth of God and the hand of God. Nor is it lawful to imagine such a thing as some fanatics do, that God sees from heaven whatever is done on earth, and yet continues in an idle state. But he decrees what is right, and then when it is necessary, he testifies it by his servants the Prophets. However, the mouth of God ought not to be separated from his hand. The Prophet then shews that the destruction of the city was the righteous judgment of God, because the Prophets had previously spoken of it.

The words, thou seest it, refer to the preceding sentence, or to that which immediately follows, even because it seemed inconsistent or unreasonable that the Prophet should buy the field as God commanded, and yet that God knew that the land was possessed by enemies, and that the people were to be driven into exile. Since then God had resolved to cast out the people from the land, how was it that he had bidden his servant to buy the field? Had all this been unknown to God, the inconsistency would not have been so evident But when God perfectly knew that what he had so often proclaimed as to the exile by his Prophets could not be changed, what could be his purpose in bidding the field to be bought and the purchase to be confirmed by witnesses, when yet the city was delivered up to enemies? Jeremiah, after having mentioned the substance of his prayer, now adds the answer he received from God, in which is seen the fruit of his prayer, even that he had been taught what had regard to the deliverance and return of the people, in order that the faithful might entertain hope, and also that they, relying on the promise, might cheerfully bear their exile until the prefixed time came. The words are these, —


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