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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Nebuchadnezzar being come up against Jerusalem, Zedekiah sends Pashur and Zephaniah to the prophet to request him to intercede with God in behalf of his people, Jeremiah 21:1, Jeremiah 21:2. But he is declared to be against Jerusalem, and the whole land of Judah; and the only mitigation of their punishment must proceed from their surrendering to the king of Babylon, Jeremiah 21:3-10. Prophecy concerning the house of the king of Judah, Jeremiah 21:11, Jeremiah 21:12. Notwithstanding the amazing fortifications round about Jerusalem, in which the people vainly trust, the Lord will most assuredly visit them for their iniquities; the city shall be taken by the Chaldeans, Jeremiah 21:13, Jeremiah 21:14.
1The 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,
The word which came unto Jeremiah - The chapters in the remaining parts of this prophecy seem strangely interchanged. This subject has been mentioned in the introduction, and some tables given; and to these the critical reader is requested to refer. The discourse here was delivered about the ninth year or the reign of Zedekiah. This chapter, observes Dr. Blayney, contains the first of those prophecies which were delivered by Jeremiah, subsequent to the revolt of Zedekiah, and the breaking out of the war thereupon; and which are continued on to the taking of Jerusalem, related in chap. 29, in the following order: Jeremiah 21:1-14, 34, 37, 32, 33, 38, 39.
Pashur the son of Melchiah - There can be little doubt that this Pashur was a different person from him who was called the son of Immur in the preceding chapter.
2Inquire, 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.
Inquire, I pray thee - See whether God intends to deliver us into or out of the hand of the Chaldeans.
3Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah:
4Thus 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.
I will turn back the weapons - Every attempt you make to repel the Chaldeans shall be unsuccessful.
I will assemble them into the midst of this city - I will deliver the city into their hands.
5And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.
6And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.
They shall die of a great pestilence - The sword may appear to be that of man, though I have given the Chaldeans their commission; but the pestilence shall appear to be the immediate act of God.
7And afterward, saith the LORD, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.
Nebuchadrezzar - This name is spelt as above in twenty-six places of this book; and in ten places it is spelt Nebuchadnezzar, which is the common orthography. The difference is only a ר resh for a נ nun; but the MSS. are various on this point. It is the same person who is intended by both names; and here all the Versions, except the Arabic, which omits the name, have it in the usual form.
8And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.
Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death - Meaning escape or destruction in the present instance. This is explained in the next verse.
9He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.
10For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.
He shall burn it with fire - What a heavy message to all; and especially to them who had any fear of God, or reverence for the temple and its sacred services!
11And touching the house of the king of Judah, say, Hear ye the word of the LORD;
12O house of David, thus saith the LORD; Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
Execute judgment in the morning - Probably the time for dispensing judgment was the morning, when the people were going to their work; but the words may mean, Do justice promptly, do not delay. Let justice be administered as soon as required.
13Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the LORD; which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations?
O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain - Dr. Blayney translates: "O thou inhabitant of the levelled hollow of a rock." With all his explanation I cannot see the good sense of this translation. Jerusalem itself, though partly on two hills, was also extended in the valley; and Zion, the city of David, was properly a rock, strongly fortified both by nature and art; and by its ancient possessors, the Jebusites, was deemed impregnable.
Who shall come down against us? - Probably the words of those courtiers who had persuaded Zedekiah to rebel against the king of Babylon.
14But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the LORD: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.
I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof - I will send destruction into its center, that shall spread to every part of the circumference, and so consume the whole.
The beginning of the thirty-fourth chapter should follow here. See the arrangement on Jeremiah 34:1 (note).