« PreviousContinue »
JE RE MI A H.
THE prophet Jeremiah was of the sacerdotal race, being, as he re
cords himself, one of the priests that dwelt at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, a city appropriated out of that tribe to the use of the priests the sons of Aaron (Josh. xxi. 18.) and situate, as we learn from Jerome, about three miles north of Jerusalem. Some have supposed his father to have been that Hilkiah the high priest, by whom the book of the law was found in the temple in the reign of Josiah; but for this there is no better ground than his having borne the same name, which was no uncommon one among the Jews ; whereas had he been in reality the high priest, he would doubtless have been mentioned by that distinguishing title, and not put upon a level with priests of an ordinary and inferior class. Jeremiah appears to have been very young, when he was called to the exercise of the prophetical office, from which he modestly endeavoured to excuse himself, by pleading his youth and incapacity ; but being overruled by the divine authority, he set himself to discharge the duties of his function with unremitted diligence and fidelity during a period of at least 42 years, reckoned from the 13th year of Josiah's reign. In the course of his ministry he met with great difficulties and opposition from his countrymen of all degrees, whose persecution and ill usage sometimes wrought so far upon his mind, as to draw from him expressions in the bitterness of his soul, which many have thought hard to reconcile with his religious principles ; but which, when-duly weighed, may be found to demand our pity rather than censure. He was in truth a man of unblemished piety and conscientious integrity; a warm lover of his country, whose miseries he pathetically deplores ; and so affectionately attached to his countrymen, notwithStanding their injurious treatment of him, that he chose rather to abide with them, and undergo all hardships in their company, than separately to enjoy a state of ease and plenty, which the favour of the king of Babylon would have secured to him.” At length, after the destruction of Jerusalem, having followed the remnant of the Jews into Egypt,
whither they had resolved to retire, though contrary to his advice, upon the murder of Gedaliah, whom the Chaldeans had left governor
in Judea, he there continued warmly to remonstrate against their idolatrous practices, foretelling the consequences that would inevitably follow. But his freedom and zeal are said to have cost him his life ; for the Jews at Tahpanhes, as tradition goes, took such offence thereat, that they stoned him to death, which account of the manner of his exit, though not absolutely certain, is at least very likely to be true, considering the temper and disposition of the parties concerned. Their wickedness, however, did not long pass without its reward; for in a few years after, they were miserably destroyed by the Babylonian armies which invaded Egypt, according to the prophet's prediction, chap. xliv. 27, 28.
The idolatrous apostasy, and other criminal enormities of the people of Judah, and the severe judgments which God was prepared to inflict upon them, but not without a distant prospect of future restoration and deliverance, are the principal subject matters of the following prophecies ; excepting only the 45th Chapter, which relates personally to Baruch; and the six succeeding chapters, which respect the fortunes of some particular heathen nations. It is observable however, that though many of these prophecies have their particular dates annexed to them, and others may be tolerably well guessed at from certain internal marks and circumstances, there appears a strange disorder in the arrangement, not easy to be accounted for on any principle of regular design. There is indeed a variation between the Hebrew copies and those of the LXX. Version, in the arrangement of those particular prophecies concerning the heathen nations, which in the Hebrew are disposed all together, and as I conceive in their proper order of time with respect to each other, at the end of the book, intentionally, as it should seem, not to interrupt the course of Jewish history; whilst the authors of the LXX. have inserted them, with some difference of order among themselves, though perhaps no very material one, after the 13th verse of the 25th chapter. But the disorder complained of lies not here, it is common to both the Hebrew and Greek arrangements, and consists in the preposterous jumbling together of the prophecies of the reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, in the seventeen chapters which follow the 20th according to the Hebrew copies ; so that without any apparent reason, many of the latter reign precede those of the former, and in the same reign, the last delivered are put first, and the first last. As such an unnatural disposition could not have been the result of judgment, nor searcely of inattention in the compiler of these prophecies, it follows that the original order has most probably by some accident or other been disturbed. To restore which, as it may be of some use to the reader, I shall venture to transpose the chapters, where it appears needful, without altering the numerals, and shall assign the motives of every such transposition in the particular place where it is made.
The following historical sketch of the times in which Jeremiah lived, is given with a view to throw light upon his prophecies in general, and inay help to explain sundry circumstances and allusions that are found therein.
In the reign of Manasseh every species of impiety and moral corruption had been carried to the highest pitch under the encouragement of royal example. And
And so thoroughly tainted were the minds of men by this corrupt influence, as to baffle all the endeavours of the good Josiah to bring about a reformation. This well disposed prince, having in the 18th
year of his reign accidentally met with the book of the law, was stricken with horror at the danger, to which he found himself and his kingdom exposed by the violations of it. He therefore immediately set about removing all the abominations that were in the land, and engaged his subjects to join with him in a solemạ covenant to be more dutifully observant of the divine.commands for the time to come. But though the king's heart was right, and his zeal fervent and sincere, it was all hypocrisy and dissimulation on the part of the people; their hearts were incorrigibly turned the wrong way ; and God, who saw clearly the real bent of their dispositions, was not to be diverted from his designs of vengeance. He began with depriving them by a sudden stroke of their
excellent prince, under whose government they had enjoyed much happiness and tranquillity, of which they were altogether unworthy. He was slain in a battle with Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt, whạm Josiah had gone out to oppose on his march against the Babylonian dominions, being himself in alliance with the king of Babylon; and his death, however fatal to his kingdom, was as to his own particular a merciful disposition of providence, that his eyes might not see all the evil that was coming upon his land. The twelve first Chapters of this book seem to contain all the prophecies delivered in this reign.
Josiah being dead, his sons who succeeded him were not of a character to impede or delay the execution of God's judgments. It is said in general of them all, that they did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah. The first that mounted the throne was Shallum, or Jehoahaz, the second son, by designation of the people. But his elevation was not of a long continuance. Pharaoh Necho having defeated the Babylonian forces, and taking Carchemish, on his return deposed Jehoahaz, after a reign of three months, and putting him in chains, carried him to Egypt, from whence he never returned. - In this short reign Jeremiah does not appear to bave had any revelation.
Pharaoh Necho made use of his victory to reduce all Syria under his subjection ; and having imposed a fine upon the kingdom of Judah of one hundred talents of silver and one talent of gold, he received the money from Jehoiakim, the eldest son of Josiah, whom he appointed king in his brother's stead. Jehoiakim was one of the worst and wickedest of all the kings of Judah ; a man totally destitute of all regard for religion, and unjust, rapacious, cruel, and tyrannical in his
government. In the beginning of his reign he put Urijah a prophet of God to death, for having prophesied, as was his duty to do, of the impending calamities of Judah and Jerusalem. And having either built for himself a new palace, or enlarged the old one that belonged to the kings of Ju
dah, by a strain of authority not less mean than wicked, he withheld from the workmen the wages they had earned in building it. In short he set no bounds to his evil inclinations and passions; and his people, freed from the wholesome discipline which had restrained them in his father's time, were not behindhand with him in giving way to every sort of licentious extravagance. Three years he reigned without molestation or disturbance from abroad. But towards the latter end of his third year Nebuchadnezzar being associated in the government by his father Nabopollassar king of Babylon, was sent into Syria to recover the dismembered provinces of the Babylonish empire. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim he beat the Egyptian army at the river Euphrates, retook Carchemish, and having subdued all the intermediate country, he appeared before Jerusalem, of which he soon made himself master. Jehoiakim was at first loaded with chains, with an intention of sending him to Babylon *. He was however released upon his submission, and again suffered to reign on taking an oath to be a true servant of the king of Babylon. But numbers of his people were sent captives to Babylon, together with several children of the blood royal, and of the first families of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar proposed to breed up in his own court, in order to employ them afterwards in the affairs of his empire. At the same time many of the sacred vessels were taken away, and deposited in the temple of Belus at Babylon ; so that from this date the desolation of Judah may fairly be reckoned to have had its beginning.
After the king of Babylon's departure Jehoiakim continued to pay him homage and tribute for three years. In the mean time both he and his people persisted in their evil courses, undismayed by the mischiefs which had already befallen them, and making light of the threatenings, which God by the ministry of his prophets repeatedly denounced against them. At length Jehoiakim refused to pay any longer the tribute assigned him, and broke out into open revolt. To chastise him, the king of Babylon, not being at leisure to come in person, directed his vassals of the neighbouring provinces, the Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites, to join with the Chaldean troops that were on the frontiers, and to ravage the land of Judah. They did so for three years together, and carried off abundance of people from the open country, who were sent to Babylon. Jehoiakim, in some attempt, as it should seem, made by him to check these depredations, was himself slain without the gates of Jerusalem ; and his dead body having been dragged along the ground with the greatest ignominy, was suffered to remain without burial in the open fields. The prophecies of this reign are continued on from the 13th to the 20th Chapter inclusively, to which we must add the 22d, 230, 25th, 26th, 35th and 36th Chapters, together with the 45th, 46th, 47th, and most probably the 48th, and as far as to ver. 34. of the 49th Chapter.
Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, a youth of 18 years old, succeeded his father in the throne, and followed his evil example, as far as the
Our Author found himself mistaken here, and rectifies it in his note on Chap.