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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Appended to this history of the struggle with the false prophets at home is a letter addressed to the exiles at Babylon Jeremiah 29. There was at Babylon as at Jerusalem the same determination of the Jews never to submit quietly to a foreign rule. This Jeremiah sought to quell. His words found credence, but not without resistance on the part of the false prophets.
1Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon;
The residue of the ciders - i. e., such of the elders as were still alive.
2(After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;)
The queen - The queen-mother.
3By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) saying,
Elasah - Probably brother of Ahikam Jeremiah 26:24, and therefore an acceptable person at the Chaldaean court. As Zedekiah had to go in person to Babylon in his fourth year Jeremiah 51:59, this embassy was probably sent two or three years earlier. Its date, however, was subsequent to the vision in Jeremiah 24:1-10. It is appended therefore to Jeremiah 28, not as later in point of time, but because of the similarity of subject.
4Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
As the exile was God's doing for their good, they were to make the best of their position, and acquire wealth and influence; whereas if they were always restlessly looking out for the opportunity of returning home, they would rapidly fall into poverty and dwindle away.
5Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
6Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.
7And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
Seek the peace of the city ... - Not only because their welfare for seventy years was bound up with that of Babylon, but because it would have degraded their whole moral nature to have lived as conspirators, banded together against the country that was for the time their home.
8For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.
Your prophets and your diviners - The evils from which the people had suffered so cruelly at home followed them in their exile.
Dreams which ye cause to be dreamed - As long as there was a market for dreams, so long there would be plenty of impostors to supply them.
9For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.
10For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
After seventy years - literally, according to the measure of the fulfillment of 70 years for Babylon. The 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11 note) are primarily the length of the Babylonian empire, and only in a secondary sense that of the Jewish exile.
11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
An expected end - Rather, a future and a hope. The nation shall not come to an end; the exile shall be followed by a restoration.
12Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
14And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
Turn away your captivity - Or, "restore your prosperity."
15Because ye have said, The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon;
16Know that thus saith the LORD of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity;
These verses are not in the Septuagint. But the text of the Septuagint is here throughout so brief and confused as to be explicable only on the supposition, that it represents what was left behind in Egypt when Jeremiah died, copied probably with extreme haste, and with no opportunity of careful collation afterward. On the other hand the Hebrew text represents no hurried transcript, but the original manuscript, and is especially trustworthy in the case of these letters sent to Babylon (see also Jeremiah 51), because the originals of them would be available for collation with the text preserved by Jeremiah himself. The verses were probably intended to allay excitement in Babylon consequent upon the knowledge that the representatives of various kings were assembled at that very time at Jerusalem to form a coalition against Babylon Jeremiah 27:3.
17Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.
Vile - The word does not occur elsewhere, but comes from a root signifying to shudder, and thus has an intense meaning.
18And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them:
19Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.
20Hear ye therefore the word of the LORD, all ye of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon:
21Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, which prophesy a lie unto you in my name; Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall slay them before your eyes;
22And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire;
A curse - There is a play here of words. which probably was the cause why the death of these men passed into a proverb. One of them was named ben-Kolaiah; and they are to be made a curse (קללה qelâlâh), because Nebuchadnezzar had roasted (קלה qâlâh) them. Compare the marginal reference note.
23Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.
Villany - Elsewhere folly, in the sense of lewdness Judges 20:6, unchastity.
24Thus shalt thou also speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite, saying,
A narrative showing the effects of Jeremiah's letter. Shemaiah the leader of the false prophets wrote to Zephaniah, urging him to restrain the prophet's zeal with the prison and the stocks.
To Shemaiah - Rather, concerning.
The Nehelamite - Not as in the margin; but one belonging to the village of Nehlam (unknown).
25Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Because thou hast sent letters in thy name unto all the people that are at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying,
26The LORD hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the LORD, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks.
Officers - Deputy high priests who had the oversight of the temple.
Mad - See 2 Kings 9:11 note. Many of the symbolic actions of the prophets, such as that of Jeremiah going about with a yoke on his neck, would be mocked at by the irreverent as passing the line between prophecy and madness.
Prisons - Rather, the stocks Jeremiah 20:2.
The stocks - Rather, collar.
27Now therefore why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a prophet to you?
28For therefore he sent unto us in Babylon, saying, This captivity is long: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
This captivity is long - Rather, It is long. God's anger, their punishment, the exile, the time necessary for their repentance - all is long to men who will never live to see their country again.
29And Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet.
30Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,
31Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite; Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie:
32Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: he shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the LORD; because he hath taught rebellion against the LORD.