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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.

In this verse God briefly shows for what end he sent his Prophet. For it would not have been sufficient for him to announce what he taught, except it was known to have been the will of God. Here then God asserts that he would not be propitious to the people, except they complied with what he required, that is, to repent. Thus he testifies that what was taught would be useful to them, because it had reference to their safety; and a truth cannot be rendered more entitled to our love than when we know that it tends to promote our wellbeing. Therefore God, when he saw the people rushing headlong through blind despair into all kinds of impiety, designed to make the trial whether or not some of them were healable; as though he had said, “What are ye doing, ye miserable beings? It is not yet wholly over with you; only obey me, and the remedy for all your evils is ready at hand.” We now see what God’s design was, even that he wished to give those Jews the hope of mercy who were altogether irreclaimable, so that they might not reject what he taught on hearing that it would be for their good.

But we may hence gather a general doctrine; that when God is especially displeased with us, it is yet an evidence of his paternal kindness when he favors us with the prophetic teaching, for that will not be without its fruit, except it be through our own fault. But at the same time we are rendered more and more inexcusable, if we reject that medicine which would certainly give us life. Let us then understand that the Prophet says here, that he was sent that he might try whether the Jews would repent; for God was ready to receive them into favor.

By saying אולי, auli, “if peradventure,” he made use of a common mode of speaking. God indeed has perfect knowledge of all events, nor had he any doubt respecting what would take place, when the prophets had discharged their duties; but what is pointed out here, and also condemned, is the obstinacy of the people; as though he had said, that it was indeed difficult to heal those who had grown putrid in their evils, yet he would try to do so. And thus God manifests his unspeakable goodness, that he does not wholly cast away men who are almost past remedy, and whose diseases seem to be unhealable. He also strengthens his Prophet; for he might from long experience have been led to think that all his labor would be in vain; therefore God adds this, that he might not cease to proceed in the course of his calling; for what seemed incredible might yet take place beyond his expectation. We now see why it was said, If so be that they will hear

It is then added, and turn, etc. From the context we learn, that repentance as well as faith proceeds from the truth taught: for how is it that those alienated from God return, confess their sins, and change their character, minds, and purposes? It is the fruit of truth; not that truth in all cases is effectual, but he treats here of the elect: or were they all healable, yet God shews that the use and fruit of his truth is to turn men, as it is said also by the Prophet, (Malachi 4:6,) and repeated in the first chapter of Luke,

“He will turn many of the children of Israel.” (Luke 1:6.)

What follows is not without its weight, every one from his evil way; for God intimates that it was not enough that the whole people should ostensibly confess their sins, but that every one was required to examine himself: for when we seek God in a troop, and one follows another, it is often done with no right feeling. Repentance therefore is only true and genuine, when every one comes to search his own case; for its interior and hidden seat is in the heart. This is the reason why he says, If a man, that is, if every one turns from his evil way

As to God’s repentance, of which mention is made, there is no need of long explanation. No change belongs to God; but when God is said to turn away his wrath, it is to be understood in a sense suitable to the comprehension of men: in the same way also we are to understand the words, that he repents. (Psalm 85:5; 110:4.) It is at the same time sufficiently evident what God means here, even that he is reconcilable, as soon as men truly turn to him: and thus we see that men cannot be called to repent, until God’s mercy is presented to them. Hence also it follows, that these two things, repentance and faith, are connected together, and that it is absurd and an impious sacrilege to separate them; for God cannot be feared except the sinner perceives that he will be propitious to him: for as long as we are apprehensive of God’s wrath, we dread his judgment; and thus we storm against him, and must necessarily be driven headlong into the lowest abyss, hence under the Papacy they speak not only foolishly, but also coldly of repentance; for they leave souls doubtful and perplexed, nay, they take away every kind of certainty. Let us then understand the reason why the Holy Spirit teaches us, that repentance cannot be rightly and profitably taught, unless it be added, that God will be propitious to miserable men whenever they turn to him.

With regard to the word I think, I have already said, that God forms no contrary purposes; but this refers to those men who deserved his dreadful vengeance; it is the same as though he had said, — “Their iniquity has already ripened; I am therefore now ready to take vengeance on them: nevertheless let them return to me, and they shall find me to be a Father. There is, then, no reason for them to despair, though I have already manifested tokens of my vengeance.” This is the meaning; but he repeats the reason of his wrath, On account of the wickedness of their doings; for we know that they were proud and obstinate; it was therefore necessary to close their mouths, otherwise they would have raised a clamor, and said, that God was unjustly angry, or that he exceeded all bounds. Whatever evils then were at hand, God briefly shews that they came from themselves, that the cause was their own wickedness, 161161     I render the verse as follows, —
   3. It may be they will hear and turn every one from his way that is evil; then I will repent as to the evil which I purpose to bring on them for the evil of their doings.

   Here is “evil for evil,” the evil of punishment for the evil of sin. The word is often used in these two senses. It is changed in the Sept., κάκων and πονήρων; and in the Vulg., “malum“ and “malitia.” “Thus evil,” says Gataker, “begetteth evil, a just retaliation of evil for evil. The evil of iniquity and the evil of penalty are as the needle and the thread; the one goeth before and maketh way for the other; and when one hath found a passage it draweth on the other.” — Ed
It follows, —


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