Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Yoke of Babylon upon Judah and the Neighbouring Peoples - Jeremiah 27-29
These three chapters are closely connected with one another. They all belong to the earlier period of Zedekiah's reign, and contain words of Jeremiah by means of which he confirms and vindicates against the opposition of false prophets his announcement of the seventy years' duration of the Chaldean supremacy over Judah and the nations, and warns king and people patiently to bear the yoke laid on them by Nebuchadnezzar. The three chapters have besides an external connection. For Jer 28 is attached to the event of Jer 27 by its introductory formula: And it came to pass in that year, at the beginning, etc., as Jer 29 is to Jer 28 by ואלּה. To this, it is true, the heading handed down in the Masoretic text is in contradiction. The date: In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah king of Judah, came this word to Jeremiah (Jer 27:1), is irreconcilable with the date: And it came to pass in that year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, in the fifth month. The name "Jehoiakim the son of Josiah" in Jer 27:1 is erroneous. It is without doubt the blunder of a copyist who had in his mind the heading of the 26th chapter, and should have been "Zedekiah;" for the contents of Jer 27 carry us into Zedekiah's time, as plainly appears from Jer 27:3, Jer 27:12, and Jer 27:20. Hence the Syr. translation and one of Kennicott's codd. have substituted the latter name.
(Note: Following the example of ancient comm., Haevernick in his Introd. (ii. 2) has endeavoured to defend the date: "In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah." To this end he ventures the hypothesis, that in Jer 27 there are placed beside one another three discourses agreeing in their subject-matter: "one addressed to Jehoiakim (Jer 27:2-11), a second to Zedekiah (Jer 27:12-15), a third to the priests and people;" and that the words: "by the hand of the ambassador that came to Zedekiah the king of Judah," are appended to show how Zedekiah ought to have obeyed the older prophecy of Jehoiakim's time, and how he should have borne himself towards the nations with which he was in alliance. but this does not solve the difficulty. The prophecy, Jer 27:4-11, is addressed to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon; but since the envoys of these kings did not come to Jerusalem till Zedekiah's time, we are bound, if the prophecy dates from the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, to assume that this prophecy was communicated to Jeremiah and published by him eleven years before the event, upon occasion of which it was to be conveyed to the kings concerned. An assumption that would require unusually cogent reasons to render it credible. Vv. 4b-21 contain nothing whatever that points to Jehoiakim's time, or give countenance to the hypothesis that the three sections of this chapter contain three discourses of different dates, which have been put together on account merely of the similarity of their contents.
Beyond this one error of transcription, these three chapters contain nothing that could throw any doubt on the integrity of the text. There are no traces of a later supplementary revision by another hand, such as Mov., Hitz., and de W. profess to have discovered. The occurrence of Jeremiah's name in the contracted form ירמיה, as also of other names compounded with Jahu in the form Jah, does not prove later retouching; for, as Graf has shown, we find alongside of it the fuller form also (Jer 28:12; Jer 29:27-30), and have frequently both longer and shorter forms in the same verse (so in Jer 27:1; Jer 28:12; Jer 29:29-31). And so long as other means for distinguishing are wanting, it will not do to discriminate the manner of expression in the original text from that of the reviser by means of these forms alone. Again, as we have shown at p. 194, note, there is a good practical reason for Jeremiah's being called "the prophet" (הנּביא); so that this too is not the reviser's work. Finally, we cannot argue later addition from the fact that the name of the king of Babylon is written Nebuchadnezzar in Jer 27:6, Jer 27:8,Jer 27:20; Jer 28:3, Jer 28:11, Jer 28:14; Jer 29:1, Jer 29:3; for the same form appears again in Jer 34:1 and Jer 39:5, and with it we have also Nebuchadrezzar in Jer 29:21 and Jer 39:1. Elsewhere, it is true, we find only the one form Nebuchadnezzar, and this is the unvarying spelling in the books of Kings, Chron., Ezra, Dan., and in Est 2:6; whereas Ezekiel uniformly writes Nebuchadrezzar (Eze 26:7; Eze 29:18-19, and Eze 30:10), and this form Jeremiah uses twenty-seven times (Jer 21:2, Jer 21:7; Jer 22:25; Jer 24:1; Jer 25:1, Jer 25:9; Jer 29:21; Jer 32:1, Jer 32:28; Jer 35:11; Jer 37:1; Jer 39:1, Jer 39:11; Jer 43:10; Jer 44:30; Jer 46:2, Jer 46:13, Jer 46:26; Jer 49:28, 40; Jer 50:17; Jer 51:34; Jer 52:4, Jer 52:12, Jer 52:28-30 - not merely in the discourses, but in the headings and historical parts as well). But though the case is so, we are not entitled to conclude that Nebuchadnezzar was a way of pronouncing the name that came into use at a later time; the conclusion rather is, as we have remarked at p. 203, and on Dan 1:1, that the writing with n represents the Jewish-Aramaean pronunciation, whereas the form Nebuchadrezzar, according to the testimony of such inscriptions as have been preserved, expresses more fairly Assyrian pronunciation. The Jewish way of pronouncing would naturally not arise till after the king of Babylon had appeared in Palestine, from which time the Jews would have this name often on their lips. Hence it is in the book of Jeremiah alone that we find both forms of the name (that with r 27 times, that with n 10 times). How it has come about that the latter form is used just three times in each of Jer 27 and 28 cannot with certainty be made out. But note, (1) that the form with n occurs twice in 28 (Jer 28:3 and Jer 28:11) in the speech of the false prophet Hananiah, and then, Jer 28:14, in Jeremiah's answer to that speech; (2) that the prophecy of Jer 27 was addressed partly to the envoys of the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, and Phoenicia, while it is partly a warning to the people against the lying speeches of the false prophets, and that it is just in these portions, Jer 27:6, Jer 27:8, and Jer 27:20, that the name so written occurs. If we consider this, we cannot avoid the conjecture, that by changing the r for n, the Jewish people had accommodated to their own mode of utterance the strange-sounding name Nabucudurusur, and that Jeremiah made use of the popular pronunciation in these two discourses, whereas elsewhere in all his discourses he uses Nebucahdrezzar alone; for the remaining cases in which we find Nebuchadnezzar in this book are contained in historical notices.)
The Yoke of Babylon. - In three sections, connected as to their date and their matter, Jeremiah prophesies to the nations adjoining Judah (Jer 27:2-11), to King Zedekiah (Jer 27:12-15), and to the priests and all the people (Jer 27:16-22), that God has laid on them the yoke of the king of Babylon, and that they ought to humble themselves under His almighty hand.
According to the (corrected) heading, the prophecy was given in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah. If we compare Jer 28 we find the same date: "in that year, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah," more fully defined as the fourth year of his reign. Graf has made objection, that in the case of a reign of eleven years, one could not well speak of the fourth year as the beginning of the reign. But the idea of beginning is relative (cf. Gen 10:10), and does not necessarily coincide with that of the first year. The reign of Zedekiah is divided into two halves: the first period, or beginning, when he was elevated by Nebuchadnezzar, and remained subject to him, and the after or last period, when he had rebelled against his liege lord.
The yoke of the king of Babylon upon the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon. - Jer 27:2. "Thus said Jahveh to me: Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck, Jer 27:3. And send them to the king of Edom, the king of Moab, the king of the sons of Ammon, the king of Tyre, and the king of Sidon, by the hand of the messengers that are come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. Jer 27:4. And command them to say unto their masters, Thus hath Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel, said: Thus shall ye say unto your masters: Jer 27:5. I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched hand, and give it to whom it seemeth meet unto me. Jer 27:6. And how have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field also have I given him to serve him. Jer 27:7. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the time of his land come, and many nations and great kings serve themselves of him. Jer 27:8. And the people and the kingdom that will not serve him, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and that will not put its neck into the yoke of the king of Babylon, with sword, with famine, and with pestilence I will visit that people, until I have made an end of them by his hand. Jer 27:9. And ye, hearken not to your prophets, and your soothsayers, and to your dreams, to your enchanters and your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying: Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon. Jer 27:10. For they prophesy a lie unto you, that I should remove you far from your land, and that I should drive you out and ye should perish. Jer 27:11. But the people that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and will serve him, that will I let remain in its land, saith Jahveh, to till it and to dwell therein."
The yoke Jeremiah is to make and lay on his neck is a plain emblem of the Babylonian yoke the nations are to bear. The words "bonds and yokes" denote together one yoke. מטות are the two wooden beams or poles of the yoke, which were fastened together by means of the מוסרות, bonds, ropes, so that the yoke might be laid on the beast's neck; cf. Lev 26:13. That Jeremiah really put such a yoke on his neck and wore it, we see from Jer 28:10, Jer 28:12, where a false prophet breaks it for him. He is to send the yoke to the kings of Edom, Moab, etc., by means of envoys of those kings, who were come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah. And since Jeremiah laid a yoke on his own neck, and so carried out the commanded symbolical action in objective reality, there is no reason to doubt that he made yokes for the five kings named and gave them to their respective envoys. Chr. B. Mich., Hitz., Graf, hold this to be improbable, and suppose that Jeremiah only made a yoke for himself and put it on his neck; but by appearing abroad with it, he set before the eyes of the ambassadors, the yoke that was to be laid on their kings, and, in a certain sense, emblematically gave it to them. But even though this might have sufficed to accomplish the aim of the prophecy, it is difficulty to reconcile it with the wording of the text; hence Hitz. seeks arbitrarily to change שׁלּחתּם into שׁלּחתּה. And it is a worthless argument that Jeremiah cannot possibly have believed that the envoys would carry the yokes with them and deliver them to their masters. Why should not he have believed they would do so? And if they did not, it was their concern. The plur. "bands and yokes" may indeed mean a single yoke, but it may also mean many; and the verbs נתתּם and שׁלּחתּם, both with plural suffixes, indicate clearly that he was to make not merely one yoke for himself, but yokes for himself and the kings. In Jer 28:10 and Jer 28:12, where one yoke is spoken of, the singular המּוטה is used; while, Jer 28:13, "yokes of wood hast thou broken," does not prove that this plural has the same force as the singular.
We are not told for what purpose ambassadors from the kings named had come to Jerusalem; but we can discover what it was from the message Jeremiah gives them for their lords. From this it appears, without a doubt, that they were come to take counsel as to a coalition with the view of throwing off the Chaldean supremacy. By God's command Jeremiah opposes this design with the announcement, that the God of Israel, the Creator of the world and of all creatures, has given all these lands (those of the kings named in Jer 27:3) into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar; that men, and even beasts, should serve him, i.e., that he might exercise unbounded dominion over these lands and all that belonged to them, cf. Jer 28:14. "My servant," as in Jer 25:9. All nations are to serve him, his son and his grandson. These words simply express the long duration of the king of Babylon's power over them, without warranting us in concluding that he was succeeded on the throne by his son and his grandson, cf. Deu 6:2; Deu 4:25. For, as we know, Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son Evil-Merodach; then came his brother-in-law Neriglissar, who murdered Evil-Merodach, who was followed by his son Laborosoarchod, a child, murdered after a nine months' reign by conspirators. Of these latter, Neboned ascended the throne of Babylon; and it was under his reign that the time for his land came that it should be made subject by many nations and great kings, cf. Jer 25:14. גּם הוּא serves to strengthen the suffix on ארצו; and the suffix, like בּו, refers to Nebuchadnezzar.
(Note: Jer 27:7 is wanting in the lxx, and therefore Mov. and Hitz. pronounce it spurious. But, as Graf remarked, they have no sufficient reason for this, since, reference being had to Jer 27:16 and to Jer 28:3, Jer 28:11, this verse is very much in place here. It is not a vaticinium ex eventu, as Hitz. asserts, but was rather omitted by the lxx, simply because its contents, taken literally, were not in keeping with the historical facts. The lxx omit also the clause from "that will not serve" to "king of Babylon and," which is accordingly, and for other subjective reasons of taste, pronounced spurious by Hitz.; but Graf justly opposes this.)
What is said in Jer 27:6 and Jer 27:7 is made sterner by the threatening of Jer 27:8, that the Lord will punish with sword, famine, and pestilence the people and kingdom that will not serve Nebuchadnezzar. ואת introduces a second relative clause, the את being here quite in place, since "the people and the kingdom" are accusatives made to precede absolutely, and resumed again by the 'על הגּוי ה, which belongs directly to the verb "visit." With עד־תּמּי, cf. Jer 24:10 and אתם עד־כּלּותי, corresponding in meaning, in Jer 9:15.
Therefore they must not hearken to their prophets, soothsayers, and sorcerers, that prophesy the contrary. The mention of dreams between the prophets and soothsayers on the one hand, and the enchanters and sorcerers on the other, strikes us as singular. It is, however, to be explained from the fact, that prophets and soothsayers often feigned dreams and dream-revelations (cf. Jer 23:25); and other persons, too, might have dreams, and could give them out as significant. Cf. Jer 29:8, where dreams are expressly distinguished from the discourse of the prophets and soothsayers. Whether the reckoning of five kinds of heathen prophecy has anything to do with the naming of five kings (Hitz.), appears to us to be questionable; but it is certain that Jeremiah does not design to specify five different, i.e., distinct and separate, kinds of heathen divination. For there was in reality no such distinction. Heathen prophecy was closely allied with sorcery ad soothsaying; cf. Deu 18:9., and Oehler on the Relation of Old Testament Prophecy to Heathen Divination (Tb. 1861). The enumeration of the multifarious means and methods for forecasting the future is designed to show the multitude of delusive schemes for supplying the lack of true and real divine inspiration. כּשּׁפים, equivalent to מכשּׁפים , the same which in Deu 18:10 is used along with מעונן. The explanation of the last-mentioned word is disputed. Some take it from ענן, cloud = cloud-maker or storm-raiser; others from עין, eye = fascinator, the idea being that of bewitching with the evil eye; see on Lev 19:26. The use of the word along with מנחשׁ וּמכשּׁף, Deu 18:10, favours the latter rendering, whereas no passage in which the word is used in the Old Testament supports the sig. storm-raiser. "That I should remove you," as is shown by the continuation of the infinitive by והדּחתּי. The false prophets delude the people, inducing them to rise in rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, contrary to God's will, and thus simply bringing about their expulsion from their land, i.e., removal into banishment. למען shows, as frequently, that the inevitable consequence of these persons' proceedings is designed by them.
The people, on the other hand, that bends under the yoke of the king of Babylon shall remain in its own land. For the great Asiatic conquerors contented themselves, in the first place, with thoroughly subjecting the vanquished nations and imposing a tribute; only in the case of stubborn resistance or of insurrection on the part of the conquered did they proceed to destroy the kingdoms and deport their populations. This Zedekiah and the ambassadors that had come to him might have learnt from Nebuchadnezzar's course of action after the capture of Jerusalem under Jehoiachin, as compared with that in Jehoiakim's time, had they not been utterly infatuated by the lying spirit of the false prophets, whose prophecies accommodated themselves to the wishes of the natural heart.
To King Zedekiah Jeremiah addressed words of like import, saying: "Bring your necks into the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and ye shall live. Jer 27:13. Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by sword, famine, and pestilence, as Jahveh hath spoken concerning the people that will not serve the king of Babylon? Jer 27:14. And hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you: Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon; for they prophesy a lie unto you. Jer 27:15. For I have not sent them, saith Jahveh, and they prophesy in my name falsely, that I might drive you out and ye might perish, ye and the prophets that prophesy unto you." - The discourse addressed to the king in the plural, "bring your necks," etc., is explained by the fact that, as Jer 27:13 shows, in and along with the king of his people are addressed. The imperative וחיוּ intimates the consequence of the preceding command. Jer 27:13 gives the application of the threat in Jer 27:8 to King Zedekiah and his people; and Jer 27:14. gives the warning corresponding to Jer 27:9 and Jer 27:10 against the sayings of the lying prophets; cf. Jer 14:14 and Jer 23:16, Jer 23:21.
The priests and all the people are warned to give no belief to the false prophesyings of a speedy restoration of the vessels carried off to Babylon. - Jer 27:16. "Thus hath Jahveh said: Hearken not to the sayings of your prophets that prophesy unto you: Behold, the vessels of Jahveh's house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon; for they prophesy a lie unto you. Jer 27:17. Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon and live; wherefore should this city become a desert? Jer 27:18. But if they be prophets, and if the word of Jahveh be with them, let them now make intercession to Jahveh of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of Jahveh, and in the king's house, and in Jerusalem, go not to Babylon. Jer 27:19. For thus saith Jahveh of hosts concerning the pillars and the [brazen] sea and the frames, and concerning the other vessels that are left in this city, Jer 27:20. Which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took not away when he carried away captive Jechoniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah from Jerusalem to Babylon, with all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem. Jer 27:21. For thus saith Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that are left in the house of Jahveh, and in the house of the king of Judah, and in Jerusalem: Jer 27:22. To Babylon shall they be brought, and there shall they remain until the day that I visit them, saith Jahveh, and carry them up, and bring them back to this place."
Here Jeremiah gives King Zedekiah warning that the prophecies of a speedy end to Chaldean bondage are lies, and that confidence in such lies will hurry on the ruin of the state. He at the same time disabuses the priests of the hope raised by the false prophets, that the vessels of the temple and of the palace that had been carried off at the time Jechoniah was taken to Babylon will very soon be restored; and assures them that such statements can only procure the destruction of the city, since their tendency is to seduce king and people to rebellion, and rebellion against the king of Babylon means the destruction of Jerusalem - a prophecy that was but too soon fulfilled. The vessels of the temple, Jer 27:16, are the golden vessels Solomon caused to be made (Kg1 7:48.), which Nebuchadnezzar had carried to Babylon, Kg2 24:13. מבּבלה, from towards Babylon, i.e., from Babylon, whither they had been taken; cf. Ew. 216, b. "Now shortly," lit., hastily or speedily, i.e., ere long, cf. Jer 28:3, where the prophet Hananiah foretells the restoration of them within two years, in opposition to Jeremiah's affirmation that the exile will last seventy years.
(Note: These words are not given in lxx, and so Mov. and Hitz. pronounce them spurious. Haev., on the other hand, and with greater justice, says (Introd. ii. 2), that the lxx omitted the words, because, according to an Alexandrian legend, the temple furniture was really very soon restored, even in Zedekiah's time, cf. Baruch 1:8ff.; so that the false prophets were in the right. The passage cited from Baruch does not indeed give a very rigorous proof of this. It alleges that the silver vessels which Zedekiah had caused to be made after Jechoniah's exile had been brought back by Baruch. But considering the innumerable arbitrary interferences of the lxx with the text of Jeremiah, the omission of the words in question cannot justify the slightest critical suspicion of their genuineness.)
To show more clearly the irreconcilableness of his own position with that of the false prophets, Jeremiah further tells what true prophets, who have the word of Jahveh, would do. They would betake themselves in intercession to the Lord, seeking to avert yet further calamity or punishment, as all the prophets sent by God, including Jeremiah himself, did, cf. Jer 7:16. They should endeavour by intercession to prevent the vessels that are still left in Jerusalem from being taken away. The extraordinary expression לבלתּי באוּ has probably come from the omission of Jod from the verb, which should be read יבאוּ. As it stands, it can only be imperative, which is certainly not suitable. לבלתּי is usually construed with the infinitive, but occasionally also with the temp. fin.; with the imperf., which is what the sense here demands, in Exo 20:20; with the perf., Jer 23:14. - Of the temple furniture still remaining, he mentions in Jer 27:19 as most valuable the two golden pillars, Jachin and Boaz, Kg1 7:15., the brazen sea, Kg1 7:23., and המּכונות, the artistic waggon frames for the basins in which to wash the sacrificial flesh, Kg1 7:27.; and he declares they too shall be carried to Babylon, as happened at the destruction of Jerusalem, Kg2 25:13. (בּגלותו for בּהגלותו.)
(Note: The statement in Jer 27:19-22 is wide and diffuse; it is therefore condensed in the lxx, but at the same time mutilated. From the fact Mov., with Hitz. agreeing thereto, concludes that the Hebr. text has been expanded by means of glosses. Graf has already shown in reply to this, that the hand of a later glossator interpolating materials from Jer 52:17; Kg2 24:13 and Kg2 24:1 is not betrayed in the extended account of the furniture remaining, and of the occasion on which it was left behind. He goes on to show that it is rather the editorial hand of Baruch than the hand of the glossator that is to be presumed from the fact that, in consequence of the narrative part of Jer 27:20, Jer 27:19 is repeated in Jer 27:21; and from the further fact that it is impossible here to discriminate the interpolated from the original matter. Graf has also so conclusively proved the worthlessness of the distinguishing marks of the glossator adduced by Mov. and Hitz., that we adopt in full his argument. Such marks are (we are told), (1) the scriptio plena of מכונות here, as contrasted with Jer 52:17; Kg2 25:13; Ch2 4:14, and of יכוניה, as against Ch2 24:1; Ch2 28:4; Ch2 29:2; and yet the interpolations in Jer 27:19 and Jer 27:20 are said to have been taken directly from Jer 52:17 and Jer 24:1. (2) The expression חרים, which is alleged not to have come into use till the exile. But the fact of its standing here and in Jer 39:6 is enough to show it to have been earlier in use; cf. also Kg1 21:8, Kg1 21:11; and since it is not used in Jer 24:1 and Jer 29:2, it is certain that it has not been got from there. (3) The "slip-shod" וירושׁלים, Jer 27:21, for ובירושׁלים, Jer 27:18, which is, however, occasioned simply by the preceding accusative of place, 'בית יהוה וגו (Jer 27:18 also בּבית יהוה).)