Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 21
Vv 1-2: Tzedekiah sends envoys to Jeremiah asking him to pray for salvation from Nebuchadnezzar. (The first envoy - Pashhur son of Malkiyah - is NOT the same as Passhur son of Imeir priest, who imprisoned Jeremiah as recounted in the previous chapter, Jer. 20:1.). Our text gives no indication of the date when Tzedekiah - who was the last king of Judah - sent requesting Jeremiah to pray, but this was evidently AFTER the prophecies recorded in the next chapter (Jer. ch 22), since the latter relate to the previous two kings of Judah as well as to Tzedekiah. Thus the prophecies contained in these chapters are not necessarily in chronological order.
Vv 3ff: Jeremiah's answer to the king's envoys was the very opposite of what Tzedekiah was hoping to hear. God would "turn around" the weapons in the hands of Judah (v 4): their war efforts would "boomerang" against them, and God Himself would fight against them (v 5-6) and the king, his servants and any survivors among the people would fall into the hands of the Babylonians.
Vv 8ff: Jeremiah offered the people a choice - to resist the Babylonians and die, or to capitulate, submit to the decree of exile and live. It was precisely this line that made Jeremiah seem like a traitor in the eyes of the establishment of priests and leaders of Judah who thought their resistance against the Babylonians could succeed.
Vv 11-14: Despite his grim warnings, Jeremiah continues to hold out the prospect that the king could still save Jerusalem if only he would bring his kingdom back to the Davidic pathway of justice and mercy for the poor and oppressed (v 12). If not, the entire city would go up in flames.
V 1: "Go down to the palace of the king of Judah ." Verses 1-5 are a direct continuation of the section that began in the previous chapter v 11 calling on the king to return to the pathway of justice and mercy. The prophet promises that if he would do so, the dynasty of King David would be securely established in Jerusalem (v 4). This promise is parallel to that in ch 17 v 24ff promising the establishment of the Davidic dynasty if the Sabbath would be properly observed in Jerusalem .
V 6: "Even if you are like Gilead to me or like the summit of Lebanon , I would transform you into a desert." Gilead is the name of the entire region northeast of the River Jordan encompassing the kingdoms of Sichon king of the Emorites and Og king of Bashan (=Golan Heights and surrounding areas). " Lebanon " is an expression for the whole Land of Israel (Metzudas David). Regardless of the importance of Jerusalem as the capital of the Holy Land , it would not escape God's punishment.
V 10: "Do not weep for the dead. weep rather for the one who went away." Rashi (ad loc.) explains that "the dead" refers to Yeho-yakim king of Judah , who died outside the gates of Jerusalem as he was being dragged off into exile, while "the one who went away" refers to Yeho-yachin, who was exiled to Babylon .
For fuller understanding of this prophecy, it will be helpful to review briefly the sequence of the last kings of Judah (see II Kings ch 24). After the saintly King Josiah died in battle at Meggido at the hands of Pharaoh Necho, the throne was occupied successively by two of his sons, then by his grandson, and then by another of his sons. (1) On Josiah's death, his son YEHO-AHAZ was crowned by the people in Jerusalem and ruled there for 3 months until he was deposed and deported by Pharaoh Necho, who replaced him with (2) Josiah's son EL-YAKIM, whom Pharaoh renamed YEHO-YAKIM. Yeho-yakim ruled for eleven years and initially submitted to Nebuchadnezzar but then rebelled, after which he was exiled from Jerusalem and died. Yeho-yakim was succeeded by (3) his son YEHO-YACHIN (=YECHONIAH), who ruled for three months before being exiled by Nebuchadnezzar together with leading members of the people to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar then appointed (4) Yeho-yachin's "uncle" MATAN-YAH, son of Josiah, whom Nebuchadnezzar renamed TZEDEKIAH, and who ruled for eleven years until the destruction of the Temple .]
V 11: "Shaloom son of Josiah" is Tzedekiah (cf. I Chronicles 3:15, where Shaloom is called FOURTH on the throne out of the sons of Josiah (see Rashi on Jer. 22:11).
Vv 13ff: "Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness." Rashi says that this refers to Yeho-yakim (cf. v 18), who was wicked. Yeho-yakim is compared unfavorably with his "father". This is Josiah (Rashi, Metzudas David), who "ate and drank" - i.e. he lived in a royal manner - yet was humble and practiced justice. Metzudas David suggests that Yeho-yakim practiced fasting and asceticism as if they could atone for his wickedness. Targum Yonasan on this verse indicates that Yeho-yakim is being unfavorably compared with his righteous forebear King David.
V 19: ".with the burial of a donkey will he be buried" - Yeho-yakim died outside the gates of Jerusalem as he was being dragged off into exile for the second time, and the Babylonians would not permit him to be buried.
V 20: "Cry out from all sides, because all your paramours have been crushed" - Judah had looked to Egypt and Assyria to save them from the Babylonians, but the latter defeated both of them.
Vv 24-30: King Yeho-yachin, who was taken into exile and imprisoned in solitary confinement in Babylon , is singled out for a particularly harsh prophecy of retribution. Since King Yeho-yakim left no heirs and King Tzedekiah's sons were slaughtered in front of his eyes, the decree that Yeho-yachin would be childless (v 30) would have meant the end of the Davidic line. However, as discussed in the commentary on Ezra ch 2, the decree was mitigated through a miracle in which the exiled Sanhedrin in Babylon prevailed on Nebuchadnezzar's wife to persuade her husband to allow Yeho-yachin - who repented in prison - to be with his wife, and she gave birth to She'alti-el, the father of Zerubavel, who led the returnees to Jerusalem and built the Second Temple. Thus verse 30 states that Yeho-yachin is "a man that will not succeed IN HIS DAYS": in his own lifetime he did not succeed, but he did so after his death as the decree was mitigated and his descendents were the leaders of Judah.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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