Jeremiah 34

CHAPTER XXXIV

This chapter contains two prophecies: the first, delivered

during the siege of Jerusalem, predicts to Zedekiah the taking

and burning of the city, with his own peaceful death and

honourable burial, 1-7.

The second was delivered when the Chaldeans had for some time

broken up the siege. It reproves the Jews for their conduct

towards their brethren of the poorer sort, whom they released,

by a solemn covenant, from bondage, in the extremity of their

danger; but compelled to return to it when they thought that

danger over, 8-11.

For this God threatens them with the sword, pestilence, and

famine; and with the return of the Chaldeans, who should take

the city, destroy it and the other cities by fire, and make an

utter desolation of the whole land of Judea, 12-22.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXXIV

Verse 1. The word which came unto Jeremiah] This discourse was

delivered in the tenth year of the reign of Zedekiah. The chapter

contains two discourses; one, Jer 34:1-7, which concerns the

taking of the city, and Zedekiah's captivity and death; the other,

Jer 34:8-22, which is an invective against the inhabitants of

Jerusalem for having Hebrew male and female slaves. These, having

been manumitted at the instance of the prophet, were afterwards

brought back by their old masters, and put in the same thraldom;

for which God threatens them with severe judgments.

Nebuchadnezzar-and all his army, and all the kingdoms of the

earth of his dominion] That is, his army was composed of soldiers

gathered out of Babylon, and out of all his tributary dominions:

one hundred and twenty provinces.

Verse 2. He shall burn it with fire] This was a newly-added

circumstance. Among many ancient nations they burned the bodies of

the more illustrious dead. Odours were used in the burning: they

then gathered the ashes, and put them into an urn or pitcher,

sometimes into a strong vessel, and buried them. Many of these

have been digged up in different parts of England, where the

Romans had stations.

Verse 3. Thou shalt not escape] This, however, he had attempted,

but was taken in his flight. See Jer 39:4; 52:7, &c.

Verse 5. Thou shalt die in peace] Thou shalt not die a violent

death; and at thy death thou shalt have all those funereal

solemnities which were usual at the demise of kings. See

2Ch 16:14.

So shall they burn odours for thee] Scented wood and other

odoriferous substances are placed on the funeral pile of the rich

Hindoos, and burned with the body.

And they will lament thee, saying, Ah lord!] They will recite

the funeral dirge that begins with those words.

See Clarke on Jer 22:18.

Verse 6. Spake all these words unto Zedekiah] He delivered this

message at the hazard of his life. Jeremiah feared God, and had no

other fear.

Verse 7. Against Lachish, and against Azekah] These were two

cities of Judah of considerable importance: they had been strongly

fortified by Rehoboam, 2Ch 11:9-11; 2Ch 32:9.

Verse 8. The word that came unto Jeremiah] Here the second

discourse begins, which was delivered probably a short time, even

a few days, after the former.

Zedekiah had made a covenant] We find no account elsewhere of

this covenant: "Every man should let his man-servant and his

maid-servant go free;" i.e., as we learn from Jer 34:14, on the

sabbatical year; for the seventh year was the year of release.

See De 15:12.

Verse 11. But afterward they turned] They had agreed to manumit

them at the end of the seventh year; but when the seventh year was

ended, they recalled their engagement, and detained their

servants. This, I believe, is what is here meant.

Verse 16. Ye-polluted my name] Had made the covenant in my name,

calling me to witness it; now ye have dishonoured my name, by

breaking that covenant, and acting contrary to my law.

Verse 17. I proclaim a liberty for you] Ye proclaimed liberty to

your slaves, and afterward resumed your authority over them; and I

had in consequence restrained the sword from cutting you off: but

now I give liberty to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the

famine, and to the captivity, to destroy and consume you, and

enslave you: for ye shall be removed to all the kingdoms of the

earth. The prophet loves to express the conformity between the

crime and its punishment. You promised to give liberty to your

enslaved brethren; I was pleased, and bound the sword in its

sheath. You broke your promise, and brought them again into

bondage; I gave liberty to the sword, pestilence, and famine, to

destroy multitudes of you, and captivity to take the rest. Thus

you are punished according to your crimes, and in the punishment

you may see the crime. Sword, pestilence, and famine are

frequently joined together, as being often the effects of each

other. The sword or war produces famine; famine, the

pestilence.

Verse 18. When they cut the calf in twain, and passed between

the parts thereof] This was the ancient and most solemn way of

making a covenant. 1. A calf as sacrifice was offered to God to

secure his approbation and support. 2. The victim was then exactly

divided from the nose to the rump; the spinal marrow being divided

longitudinally, in the most careful manner, that the half of it

might remain on each side. 3. These divided parts were laid

opposite to each other, a passage being left between them. 4. The

contracting parties entered this passage at each end, met in the

middle, and there took the covenant oath; adjudging themselves to

death should they break this covenant. 5. Then they both feasted

on the victim. In reference to this last circumstance, God says he

will give their bodies for meat to the fowls of heaven and to the

beasts. This is a farther conformity between the crime and the

punishment. See my notes on Ge 15:9-17.

Verse 21. The king of Babylon's army, which are gone up from

you.] Nebuchadnezzar, hearing that there was an Egyptian army

coming to the relief of Jerusalem, raised the siege, went out, and

met and defeated the Egyptians. It was in the interim this

prophecy was delivered.

Verse 22. I will-cause them to return] They did return;

re-invested the city; and, after an obstinate defence, took it,

plundered it, and burned it to the ground, taking Zedekiah and his

princes captive.

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