1. The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying,
1. Sermo qui datus fuit Jeremiae (factus fuit ad Jeremiam) a Jehova, cum misisset ad eum rex Zedekias Phassur filium Malchiah et Zephaniam filiam Maassiah sacerdotem (vel, sacerdotis) dicendo,
2. Enquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.
2. Interroga (inquire) nunc pro nobis (aut, consule pro nobis) Jehovam; quia Nebuchadnezer rex Babylonis praeliatur contra nos, si faciat Jehova nobiscum secundum omnia mirabilia sua, et ascendat a notis.
3. Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah:
3. Et dixit Jeremias illis, Sic dicetis Zedekiae,
4. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.
4. Sic dicit Jehovah Deus Israel, Ecce ego reduco (alii vertunt, convertam; quidam minus apte, congregabo; bene vertetur, contraham, vel, prohibebo) onmia vasa (id est, instrumenta) bellica (belli) quae sunt in manibus vestris, quibus yes praeliamini (in ipsis, sed abundat) adversus regem Babylonis et Chaldaeos, qui obsident vos ab extra murum (hoc est, foris extra murum,) et colligam ipsos in medium urbis hujus.
Jeremiah relates how he received the king's messengers, who sought from him an answer, whether he could bring any comfort in a state of things so perplexed and almost hopeless, he then says, that two had been sent to him; one was Pashur, not the priest mentioned in the last chapter, for he was the son of Immer but this was the son of Melchiah; and the other was Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah. But he shews that the king and his counsellors were disappointed of their hope, for they expected a favor-able answer, as though God would be propitious to Jerusalem; but the Prophet answered as he was commanded by God, that it was all over with the city, the kingdom, and the whole nation.
We shall also see from other passages that Zedekiah was not one of the worst; though he did not really fear God and was led away by false counsels, there was yet in him some regard for religion, so that he did not avowedly despise God as Epicureans do. Many such are found even at this day in the world, who think it enough to cherish a half-buried fear of God, and to retain some little regard for religion; but it is very fading, and disappears on even the least occasion. So it was with Zedekiah; he was as it were neutral, for he neither seriously worshipped God nor yet despised him.
Hence it was, that he sent messengers to Jeremiah. He knew that while God was displeased with them no safety could be hoped for; but he did not understand the way of appeasing God, nor had he any real desire to be reconciled to him; as the case is with hypocrites, who, though they wish God to be kind to them, yet when God's mercy is offered to them, either openly reject it, or are unwilling to embrace it, because they cannot bear to surrender themselves to God. Such was the state of mind in which Zedekiah was; and hence it was, that he asked the Prophet to consult God. But we must also observe that this was an honorable message; and it hence more fully appears that Zedekiah was not one of those furious tyrants, who like the giants seek to fight with God. For by sending two messengers to the Prophet, and employing him as an advocate to seek some favor from God, he proved that religion was not wholly suppressed and extinguished in him.
And hence also it may be seen how bold and courageous was the Prophet; for he was not softened by the honor paid to him, but gave such answer as was calculated to exasperate the king, and to drive him into great rage. But we ought especially to notice, that they did not flatter the Prophet so as to induce him to give a false answer, but wished God to be consulted. It hence appears that they were convinced of Jeremiah's integrity, that he would say nothing rashly or from himself, but would be a faithful interpreter and herald of heavenly oracles. And yet we see, and shall hereafter see in several passages, that the king was very incensed against God's Prophet. But hypocrites, though they are forced to reverence God, are yet carried here and there, and maintain no consistency, especially when they perceive that God is against them; for they are not turned by threatenings. They cannot, therefore, but make tumult, and strive like refractory horses to shake off their rider. Such an instance we find in Zedekiah; for he acknowledged Jeremiah as God's faithful servant; for he did not say, |Tell a lie for us, or in our favor but, inquire of God for us.
He then adds, If Jehovah will deal with us according to all his wondrous works We again see that Zedekiah had some sense of religion; but it was very evanescent; for he was not influenced by any real impression, being like hypocrites who wish, as it has been said, to have peace with God, provided it be on their own terms. But as they are unwilling wholly to surrender themselves to God, they take a circuituous course, and seek to allure God to themselves, at least they come not to him except through various windings, and not in a direct way. Hence Zedekiah refers here to God's miraculous works which had been wrought in behalf of the Israelites in all ages; as though he had said, |God has hitherto dealt; in a wonderful manner with his chosen people, and whenever he brought help to our fathers, he manifested wonderful proofs of his power; will he not deal with us at this day in the same manner?| He assumes the principle, that God's covenant remained inviolable; and this was quite true, but the application was false; for Zedekiah and the whole people ought to have kept faith with God. For if they wished God to be propitious to them, why did they not in return worship and serve him as their God? But as they were covenant-breakers, how foolishly and vainly did they allege God's covenant, which they themselves had rendered void? But it is usual with hypocrites to apply to themselves every favor which God shews to his own children; for they falsely assume the name as a covering, and say, that they are members of the Church because God had adopted them. This was the reason why Zedekiah asked whether God would do according to his wonderful works, as though he had said, |Surely God is ever like himself, and we are his people; and as he has so often delivered his Church, and in such various ways, his power has always been wonderfully displayed; why, then, will he not deal with us in the same manner?|
He at last, adds, that he may ascend from us, that is, that the King Nebuchadnezzar may raise the siege and leave us free.
Now follows the answer of Jeremiah, say ye to Zedekiah, etc.; he did not go to the king himself, but by way of contempt delivered the message to be borne by the messengers. The Prophet no doubt did this designedly, and through the impulse of the Holy Spirit. He did not, indeed, proudly despise his king; but it was necessary for him by his magnanimity to cast down the pride of the king, so that he might know that he had to do with the living God, whom he had very insolently treated. Say ye to Zedekiah, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, etc. He adds the words, the God of Israel, that Zedekiah might know that the wonderful works, in reliance on which he still thought that their condition was safe, did not belong to him and the people; as though the Prophet had said, |Though God did not help thee and thy people, he would not yet be inconsistent with himself, or depart from his covenant; but he would remain ever the God of Israel, though he destroyed thee and all thy people.|
He says, Behold I, etc.; it was said before, Nebuchadnezzar is come to make war with us: now he says, |I am God;| as though he had said, |Nebuchadnezzar may be conquered, he may change his counsel, he may leave you through weariness; but know ye that Nebuchadnezzar fights under my authority.| Behold, he says, I prohibit (for so ought msk to be rendered) all the warlike instruments which are in your hands, and with which ye fight against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans; as though he had said, |However furnished ye may be with weapons and forces, and whatever may be necessary to defend the city, I forbid the use of these weapons, that is, I will cause that they will avail you nothing.| Some, as I have said, render the word, |I will turn them against you.| But the meaning seems more suitable to the etymology of the word, when we say, that the weapons which the Jews had would avail them nothing, because God would prevent them from producing any effect.
He afterwards adds, the Chaldeans, who fight without the wall against you He described their state at that time, for the city was besieged by the Chaldeans; there was a wall between them, and the Jews thought that they could repel the attacks of their enemies. But God says, |the Chaldeans are this day shut out by the wall, but I will gather them, he says, into the middle of this city; that is, I will make a breach, so that the wall may not be a hinderance to prevent, the Chaldeans from occupying the very bosom of the city.| It follows, --