Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Accusation and Acquittal of Jeremiah in the Matter of His Prophesying Threatenings. The Prophet Urijah Put to Death
This chapter is separated from the discourses that precede and follow by a heading of its own, and dates from the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim; whereas the following Jer 27-29 fall into the earlier years of Zedekiah's reign. In point of matter, however, the present chapter is closely connected with these latter, though the connection between them is certainly not that held to exist by Ew. His view is, that Jer 27-29 furnish "three historical supplements regarding true and false prophethood," in each of which we are told in the first place how the prophet himself acted, the account being concluded with notices of prophets who either prophesied what was directly false, or who vindicated the truth with but insufficient stedfastness. As again this, Graf justly observes, "that this is in keeping neither with the real contents of Jer 27-29 nor with Jer 26; for Micah was far from being a false prophet, and Urijah was as little wanting in courage as was Jeremiah, who hid himself from Jehoiakim, Jer 36:19, Jer 36:26." - Jer 27-29 are related in the closest possible manner to Jer 25; for all that is said by Jeremiah in these chapters has manifestly for its aim to vindicate the truth of his announcement, that Judah's captivity in Chaldea would last seventy years, as against the false prophets, who foretold a speedy return of the exiles into their fatherland. To this the contents of Jer 26 form a sort of prelude, inasmuch as here we are informed of the attitude assumed by the leaders of the people, by the priests and prophets, and by King Jehoiakim towards the prophet's announcement of judgment about to fall on Judah. Thus we are put in a position to judge of the opposition on the part of the people and its leaders, with which his prophecy of the seventy years' bondage of Judah was likely to meet. For this reason Jer 26, with its historical notices, is inserted after Jer 25 and before Jer 27-29.
Accusation and Acquittal of Jeremiah. - Jer 26:1-7. His prophecy that temple and city would be destroyed gave occasion to the accusation of the prophet. - Jer 26:1. "In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah king of Judah, came this word from Jahveh, saying: Jer 26:2. Thus said Jahveh: Stand in the court of the house of Jahveh, and speak to all the cities of Judah which come to worship in Jahveh's house, all the words that I have commanded thee to speak to them; take not a word therefrom. Jer 26:3. Perchance they will hearken and turn each from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil which I purpose to do unto them for the evil of their doings. Jer 26:4. And say unto them: Thus saith Jahveh: If ye hearken not to me, to walk in my law which I have set before you, Jer 26:5. To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets whom I sent unto you, from early morning on sending, but ye have not hearkened. Jer 26:6. Then I make this house like Shiloh, and this city a curse to all the peoples of the earth. Jer 26:7. And the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of Jahveh."
In the discourse of Jer 7, where he was combating the people's false reliance upon the temple, Jeremiah had already threatened that the temple should share the fate of Shiloh, unless the people turned from its evil ways. Now, since that discourse was also delivered in the temple, and since Jer 26:2-6 of the present chapter manifestly communicate only the substance of what the prophet said, several comm. have held these discourses to be identical, and have taken it for granted that the discourse here referred to, belonging to the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, was given in full in Jer 7, while the history of it has been given in the present chapter by way of supplement (cf. the introductory remarks to Jer 7). But considering that it is a peculiarity of Jeremiah frequently to repeat certain of the main thoughts of his message, the saying of God, that He will do to the temple as He has done to Shiloh, is not sufficient to warrant this assumption. Jeremiah frequently held discourses in the temple, and more than once foretold the destruction of Jerusalem; so that it need not be surprising if on more than one occasion he threatened the temple with the fate of Shiloh. Between the two discourses there is further this distinction: Whereas in Jer 7 the prophet speaks chiefly of the spoliation or destruction of the temple and the expulsion of the people into exile, here in brief incisive words he intimates the destruction of the city of Jerusalem as well; and the present chapter throughout gives the impression that by this, so to speak, peremptory declaration, the prophet sought to move the people finally to decide for Jahveh its God, and that he thus so exasperated the priests and prophets present, that they seized him and pronounced him worthy of death. - According to the heading, this took place in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim. The like specification in the heading of Jer 27 does not warrant us to refer the date to the fourth year of this king. "The beginning" intimates simply that the discourse belongs to the earlier period of Jehoiakim's reign, without minuter information as to year and day. "To Jeremiah" seems to have been dropped out after "came this word," Jer 26:1. The court of the house of God is not necessarily the inner or priests' court of the temple; it may have been the outer one where the people assembled; cf. Jer 19:14. All the "cities of Judah" for their inhabitants, as in Jer 11:12. The addition: "take not a word therefrom," cf. Deu 4:2; Deu 13:1, indicates the peremptory character of the discourse. In full, without softening the threat by the omission of anything the Lord commanded him, i.e., he is to proclaim the word of the Lord in its full unconditional severity, to move the people, if possible, to repentance, acc. to Jer 26:3. With Jer 26:3, cf. Jer 18:8, etc. - In Jer 26:4-6 we have the contents of the discourse. If they hearken not to the words of the prophet, as has hitherto been the case, the Lord will make the temple as Shiloh, and this city, i.e., Jerusalem, a curse, i.e., an object of curses (cf. Jer 24:9), for all peoples. On this cf. Jer 7:12. But ye have not hearkened. The Chet. הזּאתה Hitz. holds to be an error of transcription; Ew. 173, g, and Olsh. Gramm. 101, c, and 133, a paragogically lengthened form; Bttcher, Lehrb. 665. iii. and 897, 3, a toneless appended suffix, strengthening the demonstrative force: this (city) here.
The behaviour of the priests, prophets, and princes of the people towards Jeremiah on account of this discourse. - Jer 26:7-9. When the priests and prophets and all the people present in the temple had heard this discourse, they laid hold of Jeremiah, saying, "Thou must die. Wherefore prophesiest thou in the name of Jahveh, saying, Like Shiloh shall this house become, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant? And all the people gathered to Jeremiah in the house of Jahveh." This last remark is not so to be understood, when compared with Jer 26:7 and Jer 26:8, as that all the people who, according to Jer 26:7, had been hearing the discourse, and, according to Jer 26:8, had with the priests and prophets laid hold on Jeremiah, gathered themselves to him now. It means, that after one part of the people present had, along with the priests and prophets, laid hold on him, the whole people gathered around him. "All the people," Jer 26:9, is accordingly to be distinguished from "all the people," Jer 26:8; and the word כּל, all, must not be pressed, in both cases meaning simply a great many. When it is thus taken, there is no reason for following Hitz., and deleting "all the people" in Jer 26:8 as a gloss. Jeremiah's special opponents were the priests and prophets after their own hearts. But to them there adhered many from among the people; and these it is that are meant by "all the people," Jer 26:8. But since these partisans of the priests and pseudo-prophets had no independent power of their own to pass judgment, and since, after Jeremiah was laid hold of, all the rest of the people then in the temple gathered around him, it happens that in Jer 26:11 the priests and prophets are opposed to "all the people," and are mentioned as being alone the accusers of Jeremiah. - When the princes of Judah heard what had occurred, they repaired from the king's house (the palace) to the temple, and seated themselves in the entry of the new gate of Jahve, sc. to investigate and decide the case. The new gate was, according to Jer 36:10, by the upper, i.e., inner court, and is doubtless the same that Jotham caused to be built (Kg2 15:35); but whether it was identical with the upper gate of Benjamin, Jer 20:2, cannot be decided. The princes of Judah, since they came up into the temple from the palace, are the judicial officers who were at that time about the palace. the judges were chosen from among the heads of the people; cf. my Bibl. Archol. ii. 149.
Before these princes, about whom all the people gathered, Jeremiah is accused by the priests and prophets: "This man is worthy of death;" literally: a sentence of death (cf. Deu 19:6), condemnation to death, is due to this man; "for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears." With these last words they appeal to the people standing round who had heard the prophecy, for the princes had not reached the temple till after Jeremiah had been apprehended. Jer 26:12. To this Jeremiah answered in his own defence before the princes and all the people: "Jahveh hath sent me to prophesy against (אל for על) this house and against this city all the words which ye have heard. Jer 26:13. And now make your ways good and your doings, and hearken to the voice of Jahveh your God, and Jahveh will repent Him of the evil that He hath spoken against you. Jer 26:14. But I, behold, I am in your hand; do with me as seemeth to you good and right. Jer 26:15. Only ye must know, that if ye put me to death, ye bring innocent blood upon you, and upon this city, and upon her inhabitants; for of a truth Jahveh hath sent me to you to speak in your ears all these words." - As to "make your ways good," cf. Jer 7:3. This defence made an impression on the princes and on all the people. From the intimation that by reform it was possible to avert the threatened calamity, and from the appeal to the fact that in truth Jahveh had sent him and commanded him so to speak, they see that he is a true prophet, whose violent death would bring blood-guiltiness upon the city and its inhabitants. They therefore declare to the accusers, Jer 26:16 : "This man is not worthy of death, for in the name of Jahveh our God hath he spoken unto us."
To justify and confirm this sentence, certain of the elders of the land rise and point to the like sentence passed on the prophet Micah of Moresheth-Gath, who had foretold the destruction of the city and temple under King Hezekiah, but had not been put to death by the king; Hezekiah, on the contrary, turning to prayer to the Lord, and thus succeeding in averting the catastrophe. The "men of the elders of the land" are different from "all the princes," and are not to be taken, as by Graf, for representatives of the people in the capacity of assessors at judicial decisions, who had to give their voice as to guilt or innocence; nor are they necessarily to be regarded as local authorities of the land. They come before us here solely in their character as elders of the people, who possessed a high authority in the eyes of the people. The saying of the Morasthite Micah which they cite in Jer 26:18 is found in Mic 3:12, verbally agreeing with Jer 26:18; see the exposition of that passage. The stress of what they say lies in the conclusion drawn by them from Micah's prophesy, taken in connection with Hezekiah's attitude towards the Lord, Jer 26:19 : "Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear Jahveh and entreat Jahveh, and did not Jahveh repent Him of the evil which He had spoken concerning them? and we would commit a great evil against our souls?" Neither in the book of Micah, nor in the accounts of the books of Kings, nor in the chronicle of Hezekiah's reign are we told that, in consequence of that prophecy of Micah, Hezekiah entreated the Lord and so averted judgment from Jerusalem. There we find only that during the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, Hezekiah besought the help of the Lord and protection from that mighty enemy. The elders have combined this fact with Micah's prophecy, and thence drawn the conclusion that the godly king succeeded by his prayer in averting the mischief. Cf. the remarks on this passage at Mic 4:10. 'חלּה , lit., stroke the face of Jahveh, i.e., entreat Him, cf. Exo 32:11. "And we would commit," are thinking of doing, are on the point of doing a great evil against our souls; inasmuch as by putting the prophet to death they would bring blood-guiltiness upon themselves and hasten the judgment of God. - The acquittal of Jeremiah is not directly related; but it may be gathered from the decision of the princes: This man is not worthy of death.
The prophet Urijah put to death. - While the history we have just been considering gives testimony to the hostility of the priests and false prophets towards the true prophets of the Lord, the story of the prophet Urijah shows the hostility of King Jehoiakim against the proclaimers of divine truth. For this purpose, and not merely to show in how great peril Jeremiah then stood (Gr., Nהg.), this history is introduced into our book. It is not stated that the occurrence took place at the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, nor can we infer so much from its being placed directly after the events of that time. The time is not specified, because it was irrelevant for the case in hand. Jer 26:20. A man, Urijah the son of Shemaiah - both unknown - from Kirjath-Jearim, now called Kuriyet el 'Enab, about three hours to the north-west of Jerusalem, on the frontiers of the tribe of Benjamin (see on Jos 9:17), prophesied in the name of Jahveh against Jerusalem and Judah very much in the same terms as Jeremiah had done. When King Jehoiakim and his great men heard this, discourse, he sought after the prophet to kill him. Urijah, when he heard of it, fled to Egypt; but the king sent men after him, Elnathan the son of Achbor with some followers, and had him brought back thence, caused him to be put to death, and his body to be thrown into the graves of the common people. Hitz. takes objection to "all his mighty men," Jer 26:21, because it is not found in the lxx, and is nowhere else used by Jeremiah. But these facts do not prove that the words are not genuine; the latter of the two, indeed, tells rather in favour of their genuineness, since a glossator would not readily have interpolated an expression foreign to the rest of the book. The "mighty men" are the distinguished soldiers who were about the king, the military commanders, as the "princes" are the supreme civil authorities. Elnathan the son of Achbor, according to Jer 36:12, Jer 36:25, one of Jehoiakim's princes, was a son of Achbor who is mentioned in Kg2 22:12-14 as amongst the princes of Josiah. Whether this Elnathan was the same as the Elnathan whose daughter Nehushta was Jehoiachin's mother (Kg2 24:8), and who was therefore the king's father-in-law, must remain an undecided point, since the name Elnathan is of not unfrequent occurrence; of Levites, Ezr 8:16. בּני העם (see on Jer 17:19) means the common people here, as in Kg2 22:6. The place of burial for the common people was in the valley of the Kidron; see on Kg2 22:6.
The narrative closes with a remark as to how, amid such hostility against the prophets of God on the part of king and people, Jeremiah escaped death. This was because the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with him. This person is named in Kg2 22:12, Kg2 22:14, as one of the great men sent by King Josiah to the prophetess Hulda to inquire of her concerning the book of the law recently discovered. According to Jer 39:14; Jer 40:5, etc., he was the father of the future Chaldean governor Gedaliah.