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26. Jeremiah Threatened With Death

In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the Lord, saying, 2Thus saith the Lord; Stand in the court of the Lord’S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word: 3If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings. 4And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, 5To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened; 6Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth. 7So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord.

8Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die. 9Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

10When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king’s house unto the house of the Lord, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the Lord’S house. 11Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.

12Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard. 13Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. 14As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you. 15But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.

16Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God. 17Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying, 18Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. 19Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls. 20And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the Lord, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjathjearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah: 21And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death: but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt; 22And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt. 23And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him unto Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people. 24Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.

Having now related what Micah had denounced, they added, Slaying, did Hezekiah the king of Judah and all Judah slay him? By the example of the pious King Hezekiah, they exhorted the people to shew kindness and docility, and shewed that it was an honor done both to God and to his prophets, not to be incensed against his reproofs and threatenings, however sharply they might have been goaded or however deeply they might have been wounded. But they further added, Did he not fear Jehovah? and supplicate the face of Jehovah? and did not Jehovah repent? They confirmed what Jeremiah had previously said, that there was no other remedy but to submit themselves calmly to prophetic instruction, and at the same time to flee to the mercy of God; for by the fear of God here is meant true conversion; what else is God’s fear than that reverence by which we shew that we are submissive to his will, because he is a Father and a Sovereign? Whosoever, then, owns God as a Father and a Sovereign, cannot do otherwise than to submit from the heart, to his good pleasure. Therefore the elders meant that Hezekiah and the whole people really turned to God. Now repentance, as it must be well known, contains two parts — the sinner becomes displeased with himself on account of his vices — and forsaking all the wicked lusts of the flesh, he desires to form his whole life and his actions according to the rule of God’s righteousness.

But they added, that they supplicated, etc. Though Jeremiah uses the singular number, he yet includes both the people and the king; he seems however to have used the singular number designedly, in order to commend the king, whose piety was extraordinary and almost incomparable. There is no doubt but that he pointed out the right way to others, that they might repent, and also that he humbly deprecated that vengeance, which justly filled their minds with terror. He, indeed, ascribed this especially to the pious king; but the same concern is also to be extended to the chief men and the whole body of the people, as we shall presently see; did he not then supplicate the face of Jehovah?

This second clause deserves special notice; for a sinner will never return to God except he has the hope of pardon and salvation, as we shall ever dread the presence of God, except the hope of reconciliation be offered to us. Hence the Scripture, whenever it speaks of repentance, at the same time adds faith. They are indeed things wholly distinct, and yet not contrary, and ought never to be separated, as some inconsiderately do. For repentance is a change of the whole life, and as it were a renovation; and faith teaches the guilty to flee to the mercy of God. But still we must observe that there is a difference between repentance and faith; and yet they so unite together, that he who tears the one from the other, entirely loses both. This is the order which the Prophet now follows in saying that Hezekiah supplicated the face of Jehovah For whence is the desire to pray, except from faith? It is not then enough for one to feel hatred and displeasure as to his sins, and to desire to be conformed to God’s will, except he thinks of reconciliation and pardon. The elders then pointed out the remedy, and shewed it as it were by the finger; for if the people after the example of Hezekiah and of others repented, then they were to flee to God’s mercy, and to testify their faith by praying God to be propitious to them.

Hence it follows, that Jehovah repented of the evil which he had spoken against them The Prophet now makes use of the plural number; we hence conclude that under the name of King Hezekiah alone he before included the whole people. God then repented of the evil 173173     Both the Sept. and the Syr. and also the Targ. give the meaning, but not the proper word, “And the Lord abstained from the evils,” etc. — Ed. As to this mode of speaking, I shall not now speak at large. We know that no change belongs to God; for whence comes repentance, except from this, — that many things happen unexpectedly which compel us to change our purpose? one had intended something; but he thought that that would be which never came to pass; it is therefore necessary for him to revoke what he had determined. Repentance then is the associate of ignorance. Now, as nothing is hid from God, so it can never be that he repents. How so? because he has never determined anything but according to his certain foreknowledge, for all things are before his eyes. But this kind of speaking, that God repents, that is, does not execute what he has announced, refers to what appears to men. It is no wonder that God thus condescendingly speaks to us; but, while this simplicity offends delicate and tender ears, we on the contrary wonder at God’s indulgence in thus coming down to us, and speaking according to the comprehension of our weak capacities. We now perceive how God may be said to repent, even when he does not execute what he had denounced. His purpose in the meantime remains fixed, and as James says,

“There is in him no shadow of turning.” (James 1:17.)

But a question may again be raised, How did God then repent of the evil which he had threatened both to the king and to the people? even because he deferred his vengeance; for God did not abrogate his decree or his proclamation, but spared Hezekiah and the people then living. Then the deferring of God’s vengeance is called his repentance; for Hezekiah did not experience what he had feared, inasmuch as he saw not the ruin of the city nor the sad and dreadful event which Micah had predicted.

Now this also is to be noticed, — that the pious king is here commended by the Holy Spirit, that he suffered himself to be severely reproved, though, as I have already said, he was not himself guilty. He had, indeed, a burning zeal, and was prepared to undergo any troubles in promoting the true worship of God; and yet he calmly and quietly bore with the Prophet, when he spoke of the destruction of the city and Temple, for he saw that he had need of such a helper. For however wisely may pious princes exert themselves in promoting the glory of God, yet Satan resists them. Hence they ever desire, as a matter of no small importance, to have true and faithful teachers to help, to assist and to strengthen them, and also to oppose their adversaries; for if teachers are silent or dissemble, a greater ill-will is entertained towards good princes and magistrates; for when with the drawn sword they defend the glory of God and his worship, while the teachers themselves are dumb dogs, all will cry out, “Oh! what does this severity mean? Our teachers spare our ears, but these do not spare even our blood.” It is, therefore, ever a desirable thing for good and pious kings to have bold and earnest teachers, who cry aloud and confirm the efforts of their princes. Such was the feeling of pious Hezekiah, as we may conclude from this passage. The rest I must defer.


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