1. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, came this word unto Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,
1. Principio regni Jehoiakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah fuit sermo hic ad jeremiam a Jehova, dicendo,
2. Thus saith the Lord to me, Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck,
2. Sic dicit jehova ad me (mihi,) fac tibi vincula et juga, et pone ea super collum tuum;
3. And send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyrus, and to the king of Zidon, by the hand of the messengers which come to Jerusalem unto Zedeldah king of Judah;
3. Et mitte ad regem Edom, et ad regem Moab, et ad regem filiorum Ammon, et ad regem Tyri, et ad regem Sidonis, per manum nuntiorum, qui venient Jerusalem ad Zedechiam regem Jehudah;
4. And command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Thus shall ye say unto your masters;
4. Et mandata dabis illis ad dominos suos, dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Sic dicetis ad dominos vestros,
5. I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power, and by my out-stretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me.
5. Ego feci terram, hominem et jumentum quod super faciem terrae est, in virtute mea magna, et brachio meo extento; et dedi eam illi qui placeret in oculis meis.
Jeremiah prefaces this prediction by saying, that it was delivered to him at the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign. But this beginning, as we have said, extended to the whole of his reign while it was prosperous and entire. While, then, Jehoiakim enjoyed a quiet possession of the kingdom, Jeremiah was bidden to make known what had been committed to him, not to Jehoiakim himself, but, as we learn from the third verse, to Zedekiah who had not immediately succeeded him, but became at last king after various changes. God, then, committed this prophecy to his servant, but did not design it to be immediately promulgated. If it be asked, why God designed what he purposed to be made known to be concealed for so long a time? the answer is this, -- that it was done for the sake of the Prophet himself, in order that he might with more alacrity perform his office, knowing of a certainty that no one thought that it could ever happen, and certainly the thing was incredible.1
God's design then was to communicate this to his Prophet himself, that he might see afar off what no one, as I have just said, had thought could ever come to pass. This is the reason, as I think, why this prophecy was not immediately published, but was like a treasure deposited in the Prophet's bosom, until the ripened time came. I shall defer till tomorrow the explanation of this prophecy.
Grant, Almighty God, that when at any time thou grievously threatenest us, we may not, on that account, become angry, but learn to acknowledge our sins, and truly to humble ourselves under thy mighty hand, and also to deprecate thy wrath, and to prove by true repentance, that we profit by thy word, and believe thy denunciations, so that we may become partakers of that mercy, through which thou promisest to be propitious to all who turn to thee: and may we thus advance more and more, and persevere in the right course of repentance, until having at length put off all the vices of the flesh, we shall attain to a perfection of righteousness and the fruition of that glory which has been laid up for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. -- Amen.
Lecture one Hundred and Third
We explained yesterday why this command was given to Jeremiah at the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, which was not yet to be executed until the time of Zedekiah: it was God's design to strengthen him in the meantime, lest he should faint in his course. Let us now see what was the object of this prophecy and what is its meaning.
The Prophet seems to have addressed the ambassadors who were sent by neighboring kings to King Zedekiah; and he was bidden to command them to declare each to his master, that they were all to come under the yoke of the king of Babylon. There is, moreover, no doubt but that God designed especially and chiefly to give a lesson to Zedekiah and to the Jews; for these legations mentioned here might have so emboldened them as to despise all prophecies, and to think themselves beyond all danger. For the purpose for which these legations were sent by the king of Sidon, by the king of Tyrus, by the king of Moab and Ammon, ought to be particularly observed: when they saw that the king of Babylon would not spare them, they began to join their forces. Every one at first consulted his own advantage, and saw no need of mutual help; and so it was that the Chaldeans easily overcame them while they were disunited. Experience at length taught them, that neither the king of Judah nor ally of the neighboring kings could sustain the contest unless they formed a confederacy. Thus, then, it happened that the king of Tyrus, the king of Sidon, the king of Moab, and the king of Ammon, offered their forces and their money to the king of Judah, and that he also promised to help them in return, if the Chaldean attacked them. It was therefore a new occasion for confidence to the Jews, so that they gathered courage, and thus were emboldened to resist, relying on so many neighboring kings.
The Chaldeans had been hitherto successful, for they had assailed each by himself; but when all of them were ready by their united forces to oppose and restrain their attacks, it was hardly credible that they could be conquered. It was therefore God's purpose to remove this false confidence, and to warn Zedekiah and the whole people, lest they should be deceived by such allurements, but that they might know that they were patiently to endure the punishment inflicted on them by God. This therefore was the reason why the Prophet was sent to the ambassadors who had come to Jerusalem. He was not set a teacher over them; but this was done with reference to Zedekiah and the people. It is yet probable that these commands were set forth before the king, that the king might know that he had been wholly deceived, and that he still foolishly trusted to the subsidies which had been offered.
We may easily imagine how grievous it must have been to the king and to the people to hear this prophecy. The ambassadors were in a manner dishonored; the kings, by whom they had been sent, might have complained that they were treated with great indignity. Hence the king and the people must have been very incensed against Jeremiah. But the Prophet boldly performed what God commanded him, as it behoved him. And we shall hereafter see, that his words were addressed to King Zedekiah rather than to these heathens.
We now understand the reason why God would have his Prophet to give these commands to the ambassadors, who had been sent by heathen kings to King Zedekiah: it was that the king might know that it was wholly useless for these kings to promise their assistance; for he had to do, not with the Chaldean king, but rather with the judgment of God, which is irresistible, and which men in vain struggle with.
Though the Prophet was bidden to command the ambassadors to say to the kings by whom they had been sent,
"Declare, ye ambassadors, to your masters what God has spoken, even that ye must submit to the yoke of the king of Babylon."
And a visible symbol was added in order to confirm the prediction: the Prophet was bidden to put a yoke on his neck, or yokes, for he speaks in the plural number.
We then perceive the reason why the Prophet applied to his neck the symbol of future bondage: were there any teachable among the people, to see such a sign with their eyes must have been useful to them. But as the greater part had hardened themselves in their obstinacy, what ought to have done them good, by humbling them in time before God, so as to anticipate his judgment, had no other effect but to render their punishment more grievous.
Then follow these words,
As, then, kings are so inflated with pride, the Lord used this preface, that he
This doctrine, then, ought to be applied to ourselves: for Jeremiah did not speak generally and indiscriminately of God's power, but accommodated to the subject in hand what he said of God's power, that men might, know that there is nothing fixed or permanent in this world, but that God preserves men and animals, and yet in such a way, that at any moment he can by a single breath reduce to nothing all those who exist and all that they have. It follows --
1 The manner in which Calvin accounts for this prophecy being so long kept hid is ingenious; but modern authors are not satisfied. Lightfoot says, that Jeremiah was ordered to make these yokes in Jehoiakim's time to signify the subjection of Judah to the king of Babylon, but that he was ordered to send them to foreign kings in the reign of Zedekiah. The first verse is omitted in the Sept.; the Greek version as given by Theodoret, has "Jehoiakim," and so the Vulg. and the Targ., but the Syr. and Arab. have "Zedekiah;" and there are three Hebrew MSS. in which the same is found. What seems most decisive is the beginning of the next chapter, where Hananiah comes forward in "the fourth year" of Zedekiah and breaks the yoke of Jeremiah. Gataker, Henry, Lowth, Scott, and Blayney, are all inclined to think that the mistake originally was that of the scribe. -- Ed.
2 The fourth verse in our version is not correct, "And command them to say to their masters," it ought to be, "And command them as to their masters (or lords,) saying," -- ; for the Hebrew will not admit of such a transposition. -- Ed.
3 Whenever the pronouns are set down in Hebrew, they are emphatic: the beginning of this verse ought to be rendered, "I myself," or "made have I, even I, the earth, the man also and the beast that are on the face of the earth," (not as in our version, "upon the ground,") etc. The last clause, "and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me," according to Calvin and our version, ought rather to be, "and I will give it to whom it shall seem right in my eyes." So Venema and Blayney; and it is according to the Sept., though the other versions are the same with our own. The verb indeed is in the past tense, but it is preceded by
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