Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Jeremiah, now confined for his faithful admonitions, foretells the fate of the king and city, Jer 32:1-5. According to the direction of God, he buys of his cousin Hanameel a field in Anathoth; the contract, or deed of sale, being subscribed, sealed, and witnessed, and delivered to Baruch, together with a duplicate not sealed, who is commanded to put them into an earthen vessel that they may remain there for many days, Jer 32:6-14. This transaction of the prophet, which is entered and subscribed in the public register, God constitutes a sign or pledge of the Jews' return from the Babylonish captivity, and of their again possessing houses, fields, and vineyards, in their own land, and by their own right, according to their tribes and families, Jer 32:15. Jeremiah's prayer, in which he recounts God's marvellous acts towards the children of Israel, and deeply deplores the lamentable state of the country, and the numerous provocations which have led to it, Jer 32:16-25. After which God is introduced declaring his purpose of giving up his people into the hands of their enemies, Jer 32:26-35; promising, however, to restore them in due time to their ancient possessions, and to make with them an everlasting covenant, Jer 32:36-44.
The word that came - This prophecy bears its own date: it was delivered in the tenth year of Zedekiah, which answered to the eighteenth of Nebuchadnezzar. It appears from Kg2 25:8, that the eleventh year of Zedekiah was the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar; and consequently, that the eighteenth of that monarch must have been the tenth of the Jewish king.
Then the king of Babylon's army besieged Jerusalem - The siege had commenced the year before, and continued a year after ending in the fifth month of the following year; consequently, the siege must have lasted about eighteen months and twenty-seven days. See Kg2 25:18.
And shall speak with him mouth to mouth - He shall be reduced to a state of the most abject servitude. The slave was obliged to fix his eyes on every motion of the master whilst giving his orders, who often condescended to give them only by dumb signs.
The right of redemption is thine - The law had established that the estates of a family should never be alienated. If, therefore, a man through poverty was obliged to sell his patrimony, the nearest relative had a right to purchase it before all others, and even to redeem it, if it had been sold to another. This is what is called the right of goel, or kinsman, Lev 25:25. And in the year of jubilee the whole reverted to its ancient master Lev 25:13.
This was the word of the Lord - It was by his appointment that I was to make this purchase. The whole was designed as a symbolical act, to show the people that there would be a return from Babylon, that each family should re-enter on its former possessions, and that a man might safely purchase on the certainty of this event.
Weighed him the money - It does not appear that there was any coined or stamped money among the Jews before the captivity; the Scripture, therefore, never speaks of counting money, but of weighing it.
Seventeen shekels of silver - The shekel at this time must have been a nominal coin; it was a thing of a certain weight, or a certain worth. Seventeen shekels was the weight of the silver paid: but it might have been in one ingot, or piece. The shekel has been valued at from two shillings and threepence to two shillings and sixpence, and even at three shillings; taking the purchase-money at a medium of the value of the shekel, it would amount only to about two pounds two shillings and sixpence. But as estates bore value only in proportion to the number of years before the jubilee, and the field in question was then in the hands of the Chaldeans, and this cousin of Jeremiah was not likely to come back to enjoy it after seventy years, (nor could he then have it, as a jubilee would intervene and restore it to the original family), and money must now be very scarce and high in its value, the seventeen shekels might have been a sufficient sum for a field in those circumstances, and one probably not large in its dimensions.
I subscribed the evidence - We have here all the circumstances of this legal act:
1. An offer is made of the reversion of the ground, till the jubilee, to him who would then of right come into possession.
2. The price is agreed on, and the silver weighed in the balances.
3. A contract or deed of sale is drawn up, to which both parties agreeing,
4. Witnesses are brought forward to see it signed and sealed; for the contract was both subscribed and sealed.
5. A duplicate of the deed was drawn, which was not to be sealed, but to lie open for the inspection of those concerned in some public place where it might be safe and always to be seen.
6. The original, which was sealed up, was put in an earthen pitcher in order to be preserved from accidents.
7. This was delivered by the purchaser into the hands of a third party, to be preserved for the use of the purchaser, and witnesses were called to attest this delivery.
8. They subscribed the book of the purchase, perhaps a town book, or register, where such purchases were entered. Baruch was a scribe by profession; and the deeds were delivered into his hands, before witnesses, to be preserved as above.
Perhaps the law, in this case, required that the instrument should be thus lodged. But, in the present case, both the deeds, the original and the duplicate, were put into the earthen pitcher because the city was about to be burnt; and if lodged as usual, they would be destroyed in the general conflagration. See Jer 32:14.
Houses and fields - shall be possessed again - That is, this is an evidence that the captivity shall not last long: houses, etc., shall here be possessed again, either by their present owners or immediate descendants.
The young might return; at least, all under ten years of age: there was no natural impossibility that they should not live till they should be fourscore.
I prayed unto the Lord - And what a prayer! What weight of matter, sublimity of expression, profound veneration, just conception, Divine unction, powerful pleading, and strength of faith! Historical, without flatness; condensed, without obscurity; confessing the greatest of crimes against the most righteous of Beings, without despairing of his mercy, or presuming on his goodness: a confession that, in fact, acknowledges that God's justice should smite and destroy, had not his infinite goodness said, I will pardon and spare.
Thine eyes are open upon all the ways of - men - Thou art omniscient, and knowest all things; thou art omnipresent, and seest all things.
Behold the mounts - The huge terraces raised up to plant their engines on, that they might throw darts, stones, etc., into the city.
Because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence - The city was now reduced to extreme necessity; and from the siege continuing nearly a year longer, we may conclude that the besieged made a noble defense.
With the houses, upon whose roofs - As it is most probable that Baal was the sun, they might have chosen the tops of the houses, which were always flat, with battlements around, to offer incense and sacrifice to him at his rising, and while he was in sight above the horizon.
For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil - They have all been transgressors from their earliest history.
For the children of Israel - The ten tribes.
Have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands - They have been sinners beyond all others, being excessive idolaters. Their hands have formed the objects of their worship.
Though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them - From the frequent reference to this, we may naturally conclude that morning preaching prevailed much in Judea.
Behold, I will gather them out of all countries - A promise often repeated. See Jer 29:14, and the notes on Jer 31:8 (note), etc.
I will give them one heart - And that a clean one.
And one way - And that a holy and safe one: and to have this clean heart, and to walk in this good way, will be for the good of them and their children after them. God's blessing is a profitable inheritance. They shall have but one object of worship, and one way of salvation; and being saved from sin, idolatry, and destruction, they must necessarily be happy within and happy without.
Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good - Nothing can please God better than our coming to him to receive the good which, with his whole heart and his whole soul, he is ready to impart. How exceedingly condescending are these words of God!
Will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised - God's word cannot fail. The Jews have never yet received the good that God has promised. Nothing like the fulfillment of these promises took place after their return from Babylon; therefore there remaineth yet a rest for these ancient people of God; and it is under the Christian dispensation that they are to have it.
Men shall buy fields for money - This is a reference to the symbolical purchase mentioned at the beginning of the chapter; that may be considered by them as a sure sign of their restoration, not only to the same land, but to their respective inheritances in that land. This the power of God could alone perform.