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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter. In the tenth and eleventh year of Zedekiah. Later than chap. 21, for that embassy was sent when Nebuchadnezzar was marching against Jerusalem; this, during the crisis when the Egyptian army came and temporarily drew off Nebuchadnezzar’s from the siege (Jeremiah 37:5). In notes on chap. 34 will be seen the mood of the nation at this moment. But as the interval passed, while the armies of Egypt and Chaldea struggled together outside of the city, Zedekiah was moved to solicit the prophet’s intercession with God for his people.
For other notes cf. on chaps. 21 and 34.
2. Literary Criticisms. Jeremiah 37:10. “Wounded men:” men thrust through. Jeremiah 37:12. “To separate himself thence in the midst of his people.” The Syriac, “To divide thence share with the people;” Vulgate, “To divide thence a possession in the sight of the citizens;” Targum, “To divide an inheritance he had there with the people;” Septuagint, “To purchase thence.” Kimchi, Rosenmüller, Dahler, and others construe the meaning thus: Jeremiah slipped away, &c. (as in A.V. margin). But חָלַק, to be smooth, in its form here, means to make smooth or divide: hence Henderson, “that he might take his portion thence among the people;” and Naegelsbach, “that he might divide his inheritance.”
Jeremiah 37:15. “Into the dungeons and into the cabins.” Some interpret חֲנֻיוֹת, curved posts or stocks; but the word rather describes arched vaults. “Dungeon” is lit. house of a cistern. Great excavations existed under the palace and temple at Jerusalem, as reservoirs for water.
SECTIONAL DIVISION OF CHAPTER 37
Jeremiah 37:1-10. PRAYERS ASKED, BUT IN VAIN
i. A disobedient hearer (Jeremiah 37:1), though warned by sad example (Jeremiah 37:2), asking the prophet’s prayers (Jeremiah 37:3) in an hour of distress (Jeremiah 37:5).
ii. A self-willed suppliant (Jeremiah 37:7) answered with a message of judgment (Jeremiah 37:7-8) and words of solemn admonition (Jeremiah 37:9-10).
Jeremiah 37:11-15. A PRUDENT USE OF OPPORTUNITY MALICIOUSLY THWARTED
i. A judicious effort. The prophet’s intention was wise (Jeremiah 37:12); the brief interval was auspicious (Jeremiah 37:11). See Lit. Crit. supra.
ii. A false charge. Maliciously made (Jeremiah 37:13); emphatically repudiated (Jeremiah 37:14); eagerly believed (Jeremiah 37:14).
iii. A foul injustice. Angry antagonists (Jeremiah 37:14); abusive treatment; unwarrantable imprisonment.
Jeremiah 37:16-21. WRONGFUL SUFFERINGS ALLEVIATED
i. Royal leniency. Waited for patiently (Jeremiah 37:16); exercised more from personal anxiety than righteous regret (Jeremiah 37:17).
ii. Troubled inquiry. Sought secretly, eagerly, tremblingly (Jeremiah 37:17); answered emphatically (Jeremiah 37:17).
iii. Righteous expostulation. Against personal wrong (Jeremiah 37:18); against heeding delusive teachers (Jeremiah 37:19).
iv. Sufferings ameliorated. The pathetic pleadings of distress (Jeremiah 37:20); the royal exercise of compassion (Jeremiah 37:21).
HOMILETIC OUTLINES ON CHAPTER 37
Jeremiah 37:3. Theme: A BAD MAN ASKING A GOOD MAN’S PRAYERS.
I. What led to this bad man needing this good man’s prayers?
1. Neglect of the warning of example (Jeremiah 37:2). All the woes which came upon Jechoniah and his people afforded Zedekiah no effectual admonition of the miseries which follow disobedience.
2. Imminent perils were gathering (Jeremiah 37:5.) He sought Jeremiah’s counsel once before (chap. 21), when the king of Babylon’s army first approached; and now asked his prayers when his hopes and fears struggled within him as the Egyptians and Chaldeans warred outside the city’s walls. He was in anxiety; and it is then that bad people come for the sympathy and help of the godly.
II. What mood was this bad man in while asking the good man’s prayers?
1. He cared not to hear the Lord’s messages and commands (comp. Pharaoh, Exodus 8:28-29).
2. He dared not to intercede the Lord himself (comp. Exodus 10:16-17).
3. And he craved not the Lord Himself but only His help.
III. What facts are suggested by bad men asking a good man’s prayers?
1. It is urgent for every man to have a way open by which to reach God in prayer. Even bad men, prayerless men, will come to need this; and the moment will be urgent in their history: in trouble, in death.
2. Intercessory prayers for others have power with God. Scripture instances—Moses, Elijah, &c. Even evil persons seem to know this, and cherish the thought, and use the prayers of others in their own extremity. Wicked people, in alarm, will ask such prayers.
3. Prayers in which God Himself is rejected from the soul, and merely His help selfishly and sordidly asked, are an affront to Jehovah. Jeremiah would not carry such prayers before the Throne.
4. Sinners defeat the prayers of good men by their own wicked lives. They war against the pleadings of the godly.
5. Bad men dare not venture before God themselves, and therefore seek the intercession of the good. Penitents, though sinners, have sought God, for in their penitence they cease to be included among bad persons: their hearts are in grief for their sin. There is a Way to God for even the guilty, and the Way is open always: it is through Jesus; for “if any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father,” and none shall seek His intercession in vain.
See Addenda: USELESS PRAYEES.
Jeremiah 37:9. Theme: DECEPTIVE HOPE. “Thus saith the Lord, Deceive not yourselves,” &c.
I. Delusive helps rise in our despair.
They are the will-o’-wisps on the swamp decoying the lost traveller into deeper misery.
1. Misery makes us ready to be deceived. We hunger then for any faint hope of help. The desert travellers, expiring with thirst, see the mirage: it is an illusion of their fevered vision. A shipwrecked crew sight a vessel, but it is the creation of their mad imagination. In the hour of worldly misfortune we seize the frailest promise of relief. Sinners dying in their sins call for the minister, the sacrament—grasp at any help; will take man’s lying words, “Peace, peace!” while they are still unforgiven by God, unreconciled through Christ.
2. Delusions come upon all who turn from God. These Jews trusted and sought help from the Egyptians, and would not heed God’s messages through Jeremiah that the Chaldean power should scatter the forces of Pharaoh. No! they turned from God, and trusted in Egypt.
At a crisis when the Chaldean army was besieging the city, the army of Pharaoh came to their succour.
Yes; and lying comforters will appear to souls who reject God. The atheist, assuring them there is no future, no judgment to come, no penalty for sin. The sacramentarian or sacerdotalist, with their false theories of the efficacy of the Church’s sacraments, and the priestly functions of confessors and clergymen. The moralist, who will urge that, though religion has been neglected, the Spirit “grieved,” Christ “passed by,” yet “he can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.”
God sometimes gives disobedient souls over to their delusions, so that they “believe a lie.” They resolutely reject Him, and He says to all awakening agencies of grace, “He has turned to idols, let them alone!”
II. Deceptive hopes leave us in deeper distress. The darkness is more blinding for the momentary flash of light. The silence is more ghostly for the swiftly-gone voice of pity.
By Pharaoh-Hophra’s approach, Nebuchadnezzar’s army was temporarily drawn off from the siege of Jerusalem, but Jeremiah 37:9; see Jeremiah 37:7-8.
1. They bring a temporary delight. The city went into jubilation at the sight of the Egyptian banners. A man in mental wretchedness rushes into exhilarating company and indulgences; and lo! he laughs the laughter of fools. Conscience smitten with the pangs of conviction seeks the opiate of a thrilling book, and soul-misery is forgotten in the enchantment of exciting fiction.
Souls consciously needing a Saviour attend the routine of Ritualism, and get lulled into something of quietude; or betake themselves to self-righteous efforts, and gather a new pleasure from these adopted reformatory habits.
2. They fail to fulfil their promises. The tower of Babel did not lift its builders up to heaven! The inflated boastings of Goliath did not fulfil the proud hopes of the Philistines. The army of Egypt did not effect the deliverance of the city from Nebuchadnezzar’s siege.
Then follows a melancholy disillusionising. No misery can exceed that of being, for a brief respite, raised up from the black depths of despair only to be cast down again into profounder deeps.
And “the hope of the hypocrite shall perish.” Indeed, every hope which rejects God shall mock the soul with its falsity. In death or in eternity. The storm shall beat upon the house reared on sand, and great shall be its fall. Oh, “deceive not yourselves;” literally, your souls. There is “a Hope sure and steadfast:” Christ is our Hope.
3. They defeat not the purposes of God. Deceptive hopes are powerless to avert facts. It is as if attempting to arrest Omnipotence with a spider’s web. God intended Nebuchadnezzar’s victory, yet the Jews cherished the hope of Pharaoh’s triumph. But God is ruling human events. He has a will mightier than our desires. “The Chaldeans shall not depart.”
a. Nor will the horrors of death “depart” from the dying sinner.
b. Nor will the terrors of judgment be evaded by those who despise God and reject His grace in Jesus.
c. Nor will the purposes of God yield to our schemings, for “He doeth according to His will among the armies of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth,” and “none shall stay His hand.”
d. Nor will the Divine terms of salvation be altered for man’s caprice, or any other means of securing God’s mercy be accepted. For “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”
Therefore, “deceive not yourselves.”
Jeremiah 37:12. Theme: SEEKING RETIREMENT. “Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem, to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people.” Various interpretations of his reason and purpose—
I. His wearied heart craved quietude amid family scenes. Benjamin was his birthplace. He was tired with the tumult and antagonism of the city, for he saw that he spent himself in fruitless labours. So, worn out with weariness, burdened at heart over the refractoriness and hardness of those among whom he had laboured so long and in vain, he sought retirement and rest.
Perhaps, too, he might there find his people more ready to heed his messages, and, by repentance, to avert the Divine judgments.
1. Labours abundant justify God’s servants in seeking temporary repose. “Come ye apart and rest a while.”
2. From scenes of official life the human yearnings turn to the tenderer associations of home.
II. In despair of further usefulness in the city, he sought more congenial surroundings. We know how he shrank from the prophet’s ministry in Jerusalem (see on chap. Jeremiah 12:5). His experience there had been very adverse and disappointing. The luxurious dream of a rural ministry allured him. And now, that evidently his work at Jerusalem had failed, he seized the opportunity for retiring to Anathoth.
1. Service in forefront scenes becomes very harassing and exhausting.
2. Failure in work naturally impels the worker to ask an altered sphere of ministry.
III. Disasters gathering on the nation impelled him to concern for personal safety. The siege would bring ruin and famine. Now was the favourable moment to quit Jerusalem and hide from the miseries which were imminent.
1. Family interests claimed his attention. He was needed in Benjamin for some division of the family inheritance, which the siege rendered desirable (see Lit. Crit.)
2. In times of common trouble we strongly covet the surroundings of family affection.
Jeremiah 37:14. Theme: FALSE CHARGES. “Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans.”
False charges, false witnesses, false words, false pretences, have been so common in this deceitful world, that no marvel David said in his haste, “All men are liars.”
But there are lovers of truth in the world, who scorn a lie; disciples of Him who said, “I am the Truth.”
I. When wrongly charged it is right to falsify the accusation. To be silent under a false charge is tacitly to admit its truth. All such untruths should be indignantly refuted. In this we have warrant not only from Jeremiah’s example, but also in our Lord and His apostles.
But while it is sad to see good men falsely accused—
II. It is sadder to see men so depraved as to be guilty of knowingly bringing false accusation. Better be the accused than the false accuser; the slave than the slave-owner.
“Dear as freedom is, and in my heart’s
Just estimation, prized above all price,
I had much rather be myself the slave
And wear the bonds than fasten them on him.”
III. Christianity distinguishes its disciples with genuineness and truth. Yet none have had grosser charges laid against them. The apostles were charged with encouraging sin that grace might abound. The early Christians were charged with fostering sedition and “turning the world upside down.” The Protestant martyrs were charged with “heresy.”
IV. Current errors need to be confronted with the cry, “It is false!”
1. Ecclesiastical theories of apostolic succession, of baptismal regeneration, of transubstantiation, of the sinner’s annihilation, of universal restoration, of the Universal Fatherhood of God—Socinian in its origin and tendency. “To the law and the testimony,” and so test Church politics, creeds, rites, and customs.
2. Errors are being disseminated by the press which should impel us to “search the Scriptures daily, to see if these things are so.” And wherever we meet an unscriptural theory, let us boldly cry, “It is false!”
Time will ensure the triumph of truth. “The greatest friend of truth is Time.”—Condensed and arranged from “Walks with Jeremiah,” by Rev. D. Pledge.
Jeremiah 37:15. Theme: INJUSTICE TO THE JUST. Though prepared to defend and exculpate himself, he was not allowed to explain or plead.
I. Disqualified judges “were wroth.”
1. Anger renders men incapable of judgment.
2. Prejudice proves fatal to administration of justice.
3. Hatred gives no place to rectitude or humanity.
II. Unproved accusations.
1. Malice cares not to wait for justification.
2. Wicked men allow passion to hurry them on to indulge their wrath.
3. Innocence has no hope of fair treatment from guilty men.
III. Lawless cruelty. “Smote him.”
1. Pity for God’s servants is absent from the hearts of those who hate God.
2. Violence, regardless of righteousness, has often been the cruel lot of the godly.
3. Indignation against a faithful witness for God carries men to shameful extremes and criminal brutality. “For the wicked hateth the righteous and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.”
IV. Foul imprisonment.
1. It gratified them to hinder his further witnessing against their iniquity.
2. In their revenge they added barbarity to indignity. “The dungeon.”
3. Weary days spent in vileness and darkness: “remained there many days.”
1. A heavy cross for a consciously innocent man to bear.
2. Only the comforts of God’s Spirit could have sustained him amid this cruel usage.
3. How light are our sufferings for Christ compared with these!
See Addenda: INJUSTICE.
Jeremiah 37:17. Theme: A SECRET INQUIRER. “The king sent … and asked him secretly in his house, Is there any word from the Lord?”
I. An inquirer, anxious about a Divine message.
1. Fearing lest it should be one of doom.
2. Curious to learn, though unwilling to obey, the word of the Lord.
3. Wishful that there might come a “word” which would give sanction to his own predetermined course.
II. An inquirer, solicitous for his Own dignity.
1. Ashamed to openly show himself an inquirer.
2. Contriving a secret interview, in order to avoid inconvenience.
3. Devoid alike of courage and of self-abasement.
III. An inquirer, touched by a sentiment of tenderness and mercy. The king—
1. Relieved the prophet from his unjust imprisonment.
2. Showed him consideration in bringing him into his house.
3. Doubtless felt some compunction for the wrong done to him, and some conviction of his own wrong course of action—this prompting his kindlier conduct.
IV. An inquirer answered by an uncongenial word from God.
1. Denouncing his false hopes in Egypt.
2. Foretelling his personal overthrow. Why such a message sent from God to an inquirer?
i. Because, though an inquirer, he was determined upon a disobedient course of action.
ii. Because, though an inquirer, he was in no humble and contrite spirit.
iii. Because, though an inquirer, he was time-serving and cowardly.
iv. Because, though an inquirer, he ought not to have been an inquirer at all; for he had already heard enough from God through Jeremiah, and ought long ago to have ceased asking for “any word” additional, and obeyed what God had already said to him.
Jeremiah 37:19. Theme: DELUSIONS REFUTED. “Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come,” &c.?
Not only had false prophets risen, but both kings and people had shown eagerness to heed their misleading prophecies. (See on Jeremiah 28:14, p. 489; and Jeremiah 28:15, p. 494.)
I. Men covet congenial teachers. “Your prophets.”
1. A delusive wish to hear only pleasant prophesyings.
2. A rash readiness to hear only pleasant prophesyings.
3. A fatal proneness to believe the prophesyings we covet.
II. Time is fatal to falsity. “Where now?”
1. False words fascinate and gratify for the moment.
2. Gilded hopes charm so long as they endure.
3. Cherished delusions have an ominously brief existence.
III. Experience supplies the test of truth.
1. Man wants safe, rather than mere pleasant, teaching.
2. Deceitful words will, in due time, meet their certain refutation.
3. The day of adversity will shatter all refuges of lies.
IV. God’s refutation of false hopes. “The king of Babylon,” &c. But—
1. The derided event is actually realised. So Satan’s lie, “In the day … ye shall not surely die.”
2. God will see that truth is vindicated against falsity.
3. Sinners will find that God’s messages, though reviled, turn out true.
V. Beguiled souls deserted by their leaders. “Where now are your prophets?”
1. They who ruin others will wish to shun their dupes in the day of calamity.
2. Baffled prophets hide from their own shame in the hour of defeat.
3. Deceivers, and those they deceived, must bear the doom of their delusions. “All liars shall have their part in the lake,” &c., as these wicked prophets had to share the misery of Jerusalem’s ruin.
See Addenda: FALSITY.
ADDENDA TO CHAP. 37: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
VALUELESS PRAYERS. Scarcely any ministers, and many a Christian, but can recall instances of their prayers being asked by persons who have been prayerless themselves. One will suffice. I went to see a woman in G——. She was dying, but without a gleam of hope.
“Oh, pray for me; I cannot, cannot pray for myself, sir.”
“Indeed; but why not for yourself?”
“My state is too hard; I have known all about religion since childhood, but have insulted my conscience, rejected God, resisted the Spirit, neglected Christ. And oh, I dare not, I cannot speak to Heaven now!”
All my pleading failed to awaken hope in her, or to induce her to an effort to pray. It seemed awful. No! She should be thankful if I would pray for her; but she could not even frame in her thoughts a petition; prayer in her was dead.
Although I did kneel and earnestly plead for her, yet when I asked her if she had joined in any one of my direct and urgent cries, she answered—
“No, I have no power to bring my mind into any definite desire; I have killed prayer in my soul; I can’t now speak a thought to God.”
“His camrade too arose,
And with the outward forms
Of righteousness and prayer insulted God.”
“We are told
How much the prayers of righteous men avail,
And yet ’tis strange how very few believe
Those blessed words, or act as were they true.
One reason of this incredulity
May be, that conscience whispers to their souls,
‘Not righteous men are ye.’ And thus they think
That useless it would be to strive in prayer
For other’s good, when scarcely for themselves
They hope for mercy. Lukewarm hearts and faint,
Lift up your feeble hands and bend the knee;
A Mightier than ye your guilt hath borne,
And for His sake, not yours, all prayer is heard.”
INJUSTICE. When Athens was ruled by the thirty tyrants, Socrates the philosopher was summoned to the Senate House and ordered, together with others, to seize one Sevon, a man of rank and fortune, whom they determined to destroy that they might possess his estate. This commission Socrates flatly refused; and boldly replied, “I will never willingly assist in an unjust act.”
Cherides sharply replied, “Dost thou think, Socrates, to talk always in this style, and not to suffer?”
“Far from it,” he answered. “I expect to suffer a thousand ills, but none so great as to do unjustly.”
“A wise man never goes the people’s way;
But as the planets still move contrary
To the world’s motion, so doth he to opinion:
He will examine if those accidents
Which common fame calls injuries, happen to him
Deservedly or no? Come they deservedly?
They are no wrongs then, but punishments.
If undeservedly, and he not guilty?
The doer of them first should blush, not he.”
FALSITY. “The essence of a lie is the intention to deceive.”
A very capital painter in London exhibited a work of art representing a friar habited in his canonicals. Viewing the painting at a distance, you would think the friar to be in a praying attitude, for his hands are clasped together, and held horizontally to his breast; his eyes seem meekly closed like those of the publican in the Gospel; before him lies what looks like a book, over which prayerfully he bends as in devout meditation. But take a nearer survey, and the deception vanishes. The book is discovered to be a punch-bowl; in the hands pressed together is a lemon whose juice he is squeezing into the bowl; and the half-closed eyes are for protection from the spurting juice, and not for prayer.
Get nearer liars and their falsity is manifest.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 37". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13