Page images
PDF
EPUB

person, and

shortness of his reign would admit. From the beginning of it Jerusalem was closely blocked up by the Babylonian generals. At the end of three months Nebuchadnezzar joined his army

in

upon his arrival Jeconiah surrendered himself and his city at discretion. He was transported directly to Babylon with his mother, his family, and friends, and with them all the inhabitants of the land of any note or account. The treasures also of the temple, and of the king's house, and all the golden vessels which Solomon had provided for the temple service, were at this time carried away.. We read of no prophecy that Jeremiah actually delivered in this king's reign ; but the fate of Jeconiah, his being carried into captivity, and continuing an exile till the time of his death, was early foretold in his father's reign, as may be particularly seen in the 22d Chapter.

The last king of Judah was Zedekiah, the youngest son of Josiah, whom Nebuchadnezzar made king, and exacted from him a solemn oath of allegiance and fidelity. He was not perhaps quite so bad a man as his brother Jehoiakim, but his reign was a wicked one, and completed the misfortunes of his country. His subjects seem to have but little respected him, whilst they considered him in no other light than as the lieutenant or viceroy of the king of Babylon, whose sovereignty they detested, and were continually urging him to throw off the yoke. Nor had he been long in possession of the kingdom, before he received Ambassadors from the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyrus, and Sidon, soliciting him to join in a confederacy against the Babylonish power. But he was wise enough at this time to hearken to the prophet Jeremiah's advice, and to reject their propositions ; and for some years continued to send regularly his presents and ambassadors to Babylon in token of his obedience. But the iniquities of his people were now ripe for punishment, and their idolatries, as the prophet Ezekiel describes them, (Chap. viii.) were become so enormously profligate, that the stroke of vengeance could no longer be suspended. Zedekiah therefore was at last prevailed on by evil counsel, and the promise of assistance from Egypt, to break his oath, and renounce his allegiance ; by which he drew upon himself the arms of the king of Babylon, who invaded Judah, took most of its cities, and invested Jerusalem. The Egyptians made a shew of coming to his relief; and the Chaldean army, informed of their approach, broke off the siege, and advanced to meet them ; having first sent off the captives that were in their camp.

This produced a signal instance of the double dealing of the Jews. For in the first moments of terror they had affected to return to God, and in compliance with his law had proclaimed the year of release to their Hebrew bondservants, and let them go free. But on the retreat of the Chaldeans, when they believed the danger was over, and not likely to return, they repented of their good deed, and compelled those whom they had discharged to return to their former servitude. The Egyptians however durst not abide the encounter of the enemy, but faced about, and returned to their own land, leaving the people of Judah exposed to the implacable resentment of the king of Babylon. The siege was immediately renewed with vigour, and the city taken, according to the circumstantial account which is given of it in the 52d Chapter. The prophecies which were delivered in the reign of Zedekiah, are contained in the 21st and 24th Chapters, the 27th to the 34th, and the 37th to the 39th inclusively, together with the six last verses of Chap. 49. and the 50th and 51st Chapters concerning the fall of Babylon.

The subsequent transactions of the murder of Gedaliah, of the retreat of the Jews that remained into Egypt, and of their ill behaviour there, are so particularly related Ch. xl. xliv. that it were needless here to repeat them. But it may be of use to observe, that in the 2d year

after the taking of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre; and in the course of that siege, which lasted 13 years, he sent part of his forces against the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Philistines, and other neighbouring nations, to desolate and lay waste the country, as the prophets of God had foretold. At the same time Nebuzaradan the Babylonish general again entered the land of Judah, and carried off a few miserable gleanings of inhabitants that were found there. In the next year after the taking of Tyre the king of Babylon invaded Egypt, which he plundered and ravaged from one end to the other; and on this occasion all the Jews that had fled into that kingdom for refuge, were almost entirely cut off, or made prisoners. Such was the state of affairs in general, till in the course of time, and precisely at the period which had been foretold, the Babylonian monarchy was itself overturned by the prevailing power of the Medes and Persians ; and the Jewish nation once more returned to their own land.

It may be expected, that something should be said concerning the discriminating style and genius of this prophet's writing. But instead of offering an opinion of my own, which in point of judgment may be questionable, the public in general will perhaps be better gratified, if I present them with the translation of a Character already drawn by a very superior hand, to which I doubt not every reader of discernment will heartily subscribe. " Jeremiah," says this admirable Critic, “ is s by no means wanting either in elegance or sublimity, although, ge“ nerally speaking, inferior to Isaiah in both. Jerome has objected to 66 him a certain rusticity in his diction, of which I must confess I do “ not discover the smallest trace. His thoughts indeed are somewhat « less elevated, and he is commonly more large and diffuse in his sen

tences ; but the reason of this may be, that he is mostly taken up " with the gentler passions of grief and pity, for the expression of which - he has a peculiar talent. This is most evident in the Lamentations, “ where those passions altogether predominate ; but it is often visible “ also in his Prophecies, in the former part of the book more especially, $6 which is principally poetical; the middle are for the most part his"torical ; but the last part, consisting of six Chapters, is entirely poeti56 cal; and contains several oracles distinctly marked, in which this * Prophet falls very little short of the lofty style of Isaiah. But of the 66 whole book of Jeremiah it is hardly the one half which I look upon w as poetical." Lowth de sacra Poesi Hebræorum, Prælec. xxi,

С НАР. І.

1. The words of Jeremiah-] This Chapter forms an entire Section by itself. It contains the Call of Jeremiah, and the Commission given him by God; the purport of which is explained by two symbolical images. God encourages him to proceed in the execution of it by assuring him of protection and support.

2. I knew thee -] That is, “ I had thee in my view,” or “ approv" ed thee as a fit and proper object ;” in the same sense as it is said, Acts xv. 18. “ Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world;" he contemplated the plan of them, and approved it in his mind, before he created and brought them into being. Agreeably to this premeditated purpose concerning him, God proceeded at an early period to set him apart or separate him from the rest of mankind to be employed in that peculiar office, to which now in the fulness of time he appointed him. Exactly in this manner St Paul says of himself, Gal. i. 15, 16. that God separated him from his mother's womb, and afterwards called him to preach the gospel of his Son unto the Gentiles.

10.- and to build] The LXX. Syr. and Vulg. read miayn: and so likewise four MSS, one of which is the ancient Bodleian, No. 1*. 11.

-a rod of an almond tree] The Almond tree is one of the first trees that blossom in the spring; and from that circumstance is supposed to have received its name 7pw, as being intent and as it were on the watch to seize the first opportunity; which is the proper sense of the Hebrew verb now. So that here is at once an allusion to the property of the Almond tree, and in the original a Paranomasia ; which makes is more striking there, than it can be in a translation.

13.its face turned from the north] It is very manifest that 073198 son must signify " from the north,” or “ from the face of the north,” as it is expressed in the margin of our Bible, and not, " towards the “ north,” as it is improperly rendered in the Text. From the next verse it appears, that the evil was to come from the north ; and there. fore the steam, which was designed for an emblem of that evil, must bave issued from that quarter too. The pot denoted the empire of the Babylonians and Chaldeans, lying to the north of Judea, and pouring forth its multitudes like a thick vapour to overspread the land.

14.-shall pour forth] anon, Literally, “ shall be opened;" that is, shall pass freely out, as having the door open.

15.-shall set every one his throne] To set up a throne in or over any place denotes taking full possession of it, and exercising authority and dominion there. See ch. xliii. 10. xlix. 38.

16. And I will pronounce my judgments against them] Or " And

* N. B. When any particular MS. or Edition is referred to, it will be distinguished by its Number in Dr Kennicoti's Catalogue.

[ocr errors]

“ I will discourse. my judgments with them :" Dhown 19277; a phrase that implies all the severa!" steps of a judicial process, in which the rules of law, are applied and brought home to the particular case in band. Thus it is said of Zedekiah, Ch. xxxix. 5. lii. 9. that the king of Babylon discoursed judgments with him," Sowpinx 727; that is, he had him arraigned, tried, convicted, and condemned according to the laws of the empire. for the high treason which he had committed. Compare also Ch.iv. 12. xii. i. wwwn may be the singular or plural noun with the affix , “ my rule” or “ my rules of judgment," meaning that system of just laws, which God had established for the regulation of his people's conduct, and guarded by suitable sanctions and penalties. In 2 Kings xxv. 6. we read down in the singular number ; in the places above cited, brown in the plural. The LXX. render, Και λάλησω προς αυτες μετα κρισεως ; but with this variation in ΜS. Pachom. Και λιλησω μετα κρισεως με προς αυτ8ς..

17.--lest I should suffer thee to be crushed before them. There is no threat implied here, as the generality of Commentators are inclined to suppose. The particle po points out the danger which might possi. bly alarm the prophet's fears, that of being overborne by the opposition he was likely to meet with. He therefore receives special assurances of God's immediate protection and support. Inni is in the Conjug. Hiphil, which indeed commonly imports to make or cause to be broken or dismayed. But God is often said to make or cause to be done, what he only permits and suffers. ; 18. and like a wall.] The LXX. Syr. Chald. Vulg. all render in the singular number, a wall.” And fifty two MSS. with twelve

.

.לחומת or לחמת Printed Editions read either

CHAP. II.

BPM

That some of the following Prophecies are in metre is as obvious, as that othets are not there being evidently to be discerned d in the one, and not in the other, those characteristic marks of metrical composition, more especially the corresponding or parallel lines or verses, and the relation of the sentences and parts of sentences to each other, which Lowth has described and treated of at large in his preliminary Disser tation on Isaiah. It has been already noticed (pag. 226.) that the same judieious Critic has pronounced nearly one half of the book of Jeremiah to be poetical. And as the same reasons will hold good for attending to this peculiar form of construction in all parts of the sacred writings where it occurs, I have endeavoured to point'it out, after the Bishop's example, to the Reader's notice, by distributing the lines according to their due measure, as far as my judgment would carry me"; vin which F hope to be serviceable on the whole, though I may sometimes, and per baps not seldom, be mistaken. r

The prophecy begun in this Chapter is continued to the end of the 5th verse of the next Chapter, In it God professethsto retain the same kindness and favourable disposition towards Israel, which he, bad mani

[ocr errors]

fested in their earlier days. He expostulateth with them on their ungrateful returns for his past goodness, and sheweth that it was not want of affection in him, but their own extreme and unparalleled wickedness and disloyalty, which had already subjected, and would still subject them to calamities and misery. He concludes with a pathetic address, exhorting them to return to him, with an implied promise of acceptance : and laments the necessity he was under, through their continued obstinacy, of giving them further marks of his displeasure. - This prophecy may not improbably have been delivered soon after the beginning of the Prophet's mission.

2. I have called to mind in thy behalf the kindness, &c.] Our En. glish version now 'in use, and most of the ancient Interpreters, seem to

-as the regard and affec חסד נעוריך אהבת כלולתיך have considered

me

tion which the Israelites bore to God in the infancy of their constitution, when they first became his covenanted people, and followed his guidance in the wilderness of Sinai. But that they had very little rit of this kind to boast of, is evident from their history at this period, as recorded by Moses, and alluded to by other sacred writers.

See Deut. ix. 5, &c. Ps. lxxviii. 6, &c. Ezek. xx. 5-26. The kindness was all shewn on the part of God, and was perfectly gratuitous, as the word yon properly signifies; and it was his affection for them, and not theirs for him, that led him to espouse them, that is, to engage in a special contract with them to be their God, and to take them for his peculiar people. And thus the words are explained in the margin of our ancient English Bible (1583. Folio) to be “that grace and favour, which I shewed thee from the beginning, when I did first choose thee to be my people, and married thee to myself.” And by God's remembering for them, or calling to mind in their behalf, this lovingkindness and affection, is implied, that he still continued to retain the same cordial regard for them, whenever they were disposed to return to him, and to avail themselves of his good will. So it is said, Ps. cvi. 45. 10.992 Ons 931, “ And he remembered for them his covenant." See also Isai. Ixiii. 11. Ezek xvi. 60.

3. Israel is a hallowed thing unto JEHOVAH] These words I consider as spoken in those ancient times, when God out of his special favour to Israel appropriated them unto himself, as the first fruits of mankind, and forbade any to molest them, under pain of being considered and treated as sacrilegious invaders of sacred property. is rendered, " said JEHOVAH," and not “saith."

Ibid.-his increase] Fourteen MSS. and two Editions read inxian for anxin in the text, and seven MSS. give it as a marginal Keri: but of is in use for the masculine affix as well as 1, and seems often to be purposely introduced for the sake of distinguishing between two masculine

pronouns in the same period, which refer to different antece dents; as in the present instance the tefers to 171879, and the , in

, 6. Through a land of wide waste, and a pit] By the words 77278 pana oniws it was undoubtedly meant to characterize the wilderness

Gg

נאם יהוה And therefore

,ישראל to אכלין

« PreviousContinue »