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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 26

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-6


The temple speech in Jeremiah 26:1-Joshua : can be seen as a summary of the temple speech in Jeremiah 7. There, the content of Jeremiah’s message is at issue, whereas the main focus of this chapter is on the reaction of all the hearers, which is described next.

The Temple Speech

The events in this chapter take place “in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim” (Jeremiah 26:1). Those in the previous chapter take place in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 25:1). We go back in time. Jeremiah is to go to the temple and preach in the court to the people who come there to worship in the LORD (Jeremiah 26:2). The court is a gathering place of people. There Jeremiah has a great audience.

He must speak to them all the words that the LORD has commanded him to speak. He is not allowed to omit a word. The LORD says this because the message is hard and Jeremiah may be tempted to soften it by omitting something. Every servant of the Word has that tendency. It has also often happened that the message of God’s Word has been adapted to the natural man. That must not happen. We must proclaim the whole counsel of God and withhold nothing (cf. Acts 20:27).

God's purpose with the preaching of Jeremiah is the conversion of His people (Jeremiah 26:3). “Perhaps” they will listen. The LORD presumes that they will listen anyway. If they listen and turn from their evil way, He will repent of the calamity He intends to bring upon them. We see here the intention of God to punish evildoers. We also see here that He gives opportunity to escape that punishment. The condition is also clear: repentance.

What God is going to do if they do not repent is presented just as clearly by Jeremiah. He is to tell them what will happen if they do not listen to the LORD (Jeremiah 26:4). To listen is not only to hear, but also to obey, which will be shown by walking according to the law of the LORD that He has set before them. The LORD has made an effort to hold the law before His people, for He has continually sent His servants, the prophets, to them (Jeremiah 26:5). However, He must conclude that they did not want to listen.

If this remains the case, He will make the house where they came to worship (Jeremiah 26:1) – that is, the temple – as Shiloh (Jeremiah 26:6; Jeremiah 7:14). Jerusalem, instead of being a blessing (cf. Genesis 12:3), will become a curse to all the nations of the earth.

Verses 7-11

Arrest and Condemnation of Jeremiah

The company of listeners who are in the court of the temple hear Jeremiah speak (Jeremiah 26:7). We would think that such a company of worshipers would be open to the word of the LORD. However, the opposite is the case. They are deeply offended. They let Jeremiah speak, but then they seize him, shouting that he must die (Jeremiah 26:8). Even before the trial has taken place, the condemnation is already in place. The priests and the prophets are at the forefront of this. Those who should be leading the people in serving the LORD are leading the people in rejecting His prophet. To all of them Jeremiah is a false prophet and they want to try him as such (cf. Deuteronomy 18:20). This is also how it went with the Lord Jesus.

The charge is made directly by the priests and the prophets. They find it intolerable that Jeremiah announced the demise of the temple and the city, their national pride (Jeremiah 26:9). He even dared to do this in the Name of the LORD. Such a thing can never be from the LORD, they claim. They do not say a word about Jeremiah’s call to repentance.

Then we read for the first, but not the last time, that Jeremiah’s life is threatened. The whole furious crowd gather about him, which must be a terrifying experience for him. Paul and Stephen, and above all the Lord Jesus, also stood in the midst of enraged crowds who wanted to kill them in their religious fanaticism. In the case of Stephen, his words about the temple were decisive for the leaders of the people in deciding to put him to death (Acts 6:13).

The political leaders of the people hear the uproar and come up from the king’s house to the temple (Jeremiah 26:10; cf. Acts 21:31-Jonah :). They take their seats in the New Gate of the temple to administer justice (cf. Deuteronomy 21:18-Psalms :; Ruth 4:1-1 Kings :). The priests and prophets address the judges and all the people and demand that Jeremiah be put to death, for he has offended their national pride (Jeremiah 26:11). Surely this does not require further explanation, for surely the princes heard it for themselves, didn’t they?

Verses 12-15

Defense of Jeremiah

Jeremiah defends himself against the charge of the priests and prophets, addressing all the officials and all the people (Jeremiah 26:12). He speaks without hesitation, boldly and earnestly, without asking for him to be merciful. He appeals to his calling by the LORD. His first defense is that he was sent by no one but the LORD. He has spoken His words. He is at peace with that himself and therefore he can continue to testify fearlessly. Undaunted, he repeats, the LORD will not let evil come if they listen to His voice (Jeremiah 26:13). They can still repent.

As for himself, he knows that his life is in the hand of the LORD. Therefore, he can say that he is in their hand and that they may do with him according to what is right in their eyes (Jeremiah 26:14), for with the will of the LORD they do not reckon anyway. He does not try to evade their power or plead for his life. He boldly looks death in the eye.

However, he does let them know that they shed innocent blood when they kill him and therefore bring that blood upon themselves, the city, and the inhabitants (Jeremiah 26:15). The same thing happened with the killing of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 27:25). Jeremiah continues to confess without fear that he has spoken the truth. The LORD sent him with the words he spoke. Killing him does not change that.

Verses 16-19

Release of Jeremiah

The officials and all the people are convinced of Jeremiah’s innocence (Jeremiah 26:16). Here again the people agree with the officials. The popular masses change their minds so easily (cf. Jeremiah 26:9). We also see this in their assessment of the Lord Jesus, but in reverse. First they shout “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD” (John 12:13), and five days later they cry out “Away with [Him], away with [Him], crucify Him!” (John 19:15).

The officials turn to the accusers, the priests and the prophets. They acquit Jeremiah before them of the charges and affirm the truth of what he said. They acknowledge him as a man who spoke to them in the Name of the LORD. This is different from how it went with the Lord Jesus. Although Pilate says several times of Him that He has done nothing that deserves death, the people, led by the priests, demand that He will be put to death. Pilate grants that demand.

The officials are joined in their assessment of Jeremiah by men from among the elders of the land (Jeremiah 26:17). These point to a similar case from the history of God’s people in which also was preached against the temple. We would say: they know their Bible and know how to quote from it the right thing at the right time. They recall the prophet Micah from Moresheth (Micah 1:1), who prophesied in the days of Hezekiah with words very similar to what Jeremiah said (Jeremiah 26:18). In doing so, they quote the words of Micah (Micah 3:12). Like the elders, we too should not reject a faithful preacher of the Word, but receive him, even if his message does not immediately please us.

The elders point to Hezekiah’s response to Micah’s preaching. They do so in the form of a few questions to which only one answer is possible. Doing it this way forces the hearers to give that answer themselves. Hezekiah and all Judah did not put Micah to death, because he feared the LORD (Jeremiah 26:19). Hezekiah also took the message to heart, for he sought the LORD’s favor to avert evil.

The last words of the elders are a warning. They acknowledge that they are in the process of doing themselves a great harm by their rejection of Jeremiah. The question is whether there is also a real work in the conscience. Quoting God’s Word is good. It preserves from committing a crime. But is this done so as not to get into trouble themselves or is it done out of a convinced conscience before God? They are indeed doing a great evil to themselves. But where is the awareness that they are in the process of doing great dishonor to God by not listening to Him?

Verses 20-24

The Murder of Uriah

Another prophet is pointed out and that is Uriah (Jeremiah 26:20). Like Micah from the previous section, he too preached a message similar to that of Jeremiah. Like Jeremiah, Uriah did not endear himself to the people. When Jehoiakim hears Uriah’s words, he wants to kill him (Jeremiah 26:21). This makes clear the contrast with Hezekiah, who bowed to the words Micah spoke. Micah did not have to flee. His words receive a positive response. Uriah is forced to flee because his words meet with great resistance. Sometimes servants have to flee.

Uriah flees to Egypt. There he is not safe, however, because Jehoiakim is so angry with him that he sends a group of men led by Elnathan after him (Jeremiah 26:22). They bring Uriah to Jehoiakim who kills him with the sword and treats his dead body with contempt (Jeremiah 26:23). He throws his dead body in the cemetery for the common people. He is not buried in his family tomb.

Jeremiah, however, is spared (Jeremiah 26:24). To rescue him from the hand of his accusers the LORD uses Ahikam, the son of Shaphan [see about Shaphan and his sons and grandsons at the end of the chapter]. Ahikam still served under Josiah (2 Kings 22:12). He is the father of Gedaliah, who is appointed governor over Judah by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 39:14; Jeremiah 40:13-Nehemiah :Jeremiah 41:1-Leviticus :; 2 Kings 25:22). Ahikam puts himself on Jeremiah’s side and thus prevents him from being given into the hand of the people to kill him.

We cannot ascertain why Uriah is killed and Jeremiah is spared. It is with it as with James who is killed by Herod with the sword, while the Lord frees Peter from prison and thus prevents Herod from killing him too with the sword (Acts 12:1-2 Samuel :).

Shaphan and his sons and grandsons

Shaphan and (some of) his sons and grandsons play an important role in the final years of Judah. Shaphan is the scribe of King Josiah, who reports to Josiah the finding of the book of the law (2 Kings 22:3-1 Chronicles :). Of four sons we are informed in Scripture:
1. Ahikam. This son is sent by Josiah to the prophetess Huldah to inquire about the meaning of the found book of the law (2 Kings 22:12-Proverbs :). He prevents Jeremiah from being killed.
2. Gemariah. This son urges Jehoiakim not to destroy Jeremiah’s scroll (Jeremiah 36:12; Jeremiah 36:25).
3. Elasah. This son takes Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles (Jeremiah 29:1-Leviticus :).
4. Jaazaniah. This son takes part in the idolatry in the temple (Ezekiel 8:11-2 Kings :).
We are also told of two grandsons of Shaphan:
1. Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam. This grandson is appointed governor of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 39:14; Jeremiah 40:5).
2. Micah, the son of Gemariah. This grandson informs the princes that the scroll of Jeremiah will be read by Baruch (Jeremiah 36:11-Lamentations :).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 26". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/jeremiah-26.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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