Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
With the last verse of Jer. 20 ended the scroll of Jehoiakim: with the first verse of Jer 21:1-14 begins a digest of various prophecies Jer. 21-24 addressed to Zedekiah in his ninth year, and called Zedekiah's scroll. The occasion of this prophecy was the embassy sent by Zedekiah to Jeremiah, asking his prayers when the Chaldaean army was advancing upon Jerusalem. So clearly did the prophet foresee the result that he could give the king no hope. His answer, contained in the scroll, divides itself into two parts, in the first Jer. 20-22, the prophet reviews the conduct of the royal house: in the second Jer. 23:9-40, that of the priests and prophets; closing with a vision Jer 24:1-10 in which he shows the pitiable condition of Zedekiah and his people.
By sending this embassy Zedekiah acknowledged that Jeremiah held the same position in the kingdom which Isaiah had held under Hezekiah Kg2 19:2. Pashur and Zephaniah belonged to the party who were for resisting Nebuchadnezzar by force of arms.
Nebuchadrezzar - A more correct way of spelling the name than Nebuchadnezzar.
According to all his wondrous works - The king and his envoys expected some such answer as Isaiah had given on a former occasion Isa 37:6.
Without the walls - These words are to be joined to wherewith ye fight.
A great pestilence - As the result of the excessive crowding of men and animals in a confined space with all sanitary regulations utterly neglected.
Compare the marginal reference; but here the alternative is a life saved by desertion to the enemy, or a death by famine, pestilence, and the sword within the walls.
He that ... falleth to the Chaldeans - This was to counsel desertion, and would have been treason in an ordinary man: but the prophets Spoke with an authority above that even of the king, and constantly interfered in political matters with summary decisiveness. Compare Mat 24:16-18.
A prey - Something not a man's own, upon which he seizes in the midst of danger, and hurries away with it. So must the Jews hurry away with their lives as something more than they had a right to, and place them in the Chaldaean camp as in a place of safety.
Rather, And as to the royal house of Judah, Hear ye. Omit say. The words are no command to the prophet, but form his introduction to the discourse which extends to the end of Jer 23:8. The king and his officers are to hear the gist of all the messages sent to the royal house since the accession of Jehoiakim.
Execute judgment - As the administration of justice was performed in old time in person, the weal of the people depended to a great degree upon the personal qualities of the king (see Sa2 15:4). And as "the oppressor" was generally some powerful noble, it was especially the king's duty to see that the weaker members of the community were not wronged.
Inhabitant - is feminine, the population of Jerusalem being always personified as a woman, the daughter of Zion. Omit and. Jerusalem is at once a valley and a rock Jer 17:3. The people are described as priding themselves on the impregnability of their city.
The forest - This suggested to the Jew the idea of everything grand and stately.