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BOOK THE SIXTH.
EFORE Nebuzaradan had commenced the demolition of the city, the king of Babylon having understood what pains the prophet Jeremiah had taken to incline the king of Judah and his princes to a timely surrender, and what hardships he had suffered for so doing, gave a strict charge* to Nebuzaradan to pay particular attention to him, and to grant him whatever he should desire. But in the heat of the action he had neglected to inquire after him, and they who had the charge of transporting the captives, had carried him away among the rest as far as Ramah. Upon which, Nebuzaradan sent for him back, and gave him his liberty. Jeremiah understanding by Nebuzaradan, that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah governor of the land, he went to him, by Nebuzaradan's advice, and dwelt with him at Mizpah, as did several of king Zedekiah's officers, who upon the taking of the city had fled, and were dispersed about the country. Among these were Ishmael, who was of the royal blood, and Johanan and Jonathan, two brothers, and other
Charge. See Jeremiah xxxix. 40.
principal men. All of whom Gedaliah took into his protection, on condition, that they would be subject to the king of Babylon, giving them leave to settle in what towns they pleased, and to furnish themselves with winter stores. The same liberty he gave to all the Jews that returned from the countries, to which, in the common danger, they had fled.
But notwithstanding the generosity of Gedaliah, Ishmael was discontented; for envying the promotion of Gedaliah, who was an obscure person in comparison of himself, he with ten more conspired to murder him, which base design was secretly encouraged by the king of Ammon. Johanan discovered this conspiracy to Gedaliah, and offered his service to dispatch Ishmael. The generous governor, who was a man of honour himself, and not ready to entertain ill thoughts of others, would not believe Johanan, nor permit him to kill Ishmael. But his incredulity soon cost him dear; for the conspirators pretending to pay a visit to the governor, murdered him; and to secure themselves, took advantage of the people's being unprovided for defence, fell upon them too, and slew not only the Jews, but the Chaldeans also. This they kept so private for some days, that fourscore Israelites, who were carrying offerings and incense to Jerusalem,* fell into their hands, whom they barbarously murdered, except ten, whom they saved for the purpose of discovering their treasures in the field,
Ishmael not thinking himself secure here, leaves Mizpah, and taking what people were left as captives with him, (among whom were king Zedekiah's daughters) † he makes the best of his way to the king of Ammon, who had put him upon this treacherous enterprise. But Johanan, having intelligence of the late massacre, collecting what forces he had, marched after Ishmael, whom he
Jerusalem. It is to be supposed that these Israelites had not heard that the temple and city were destroyed, when they came from home.
+ Daughters. See Jeremiah xli. 10.
found at the pool of Gibeon. The people whom Ishmael had carried off from Mizpah, seeing Johanan and the rest come to rescue them, ran over to their deliverers; which Ishmael perceiving, fled, with only eight men in his. company, to the Ammonites. Ishmael thus gone, Johanan and his company take up their dwelling at Chimham* near Bethlehem, which they chose, the rather, that if they should be attacked by the Chaldeans for Ishmael's conspiracy, they might the more readily take refuge in Egypt.
Jeremiah the prophet having taken up his dwelling with Gedaliah at Mizpah,+ was carried from thence by Ishmael the conspirator, after the death of the governor, among the rest of the captives; and Ishmael being routed, he accompanied Johanan to their new habitation at Chimham. Here Johanan and his company addressed the prophet, and intreated him to pray to the Lord for them, to direct them what course to take. The prophet promised them he would, and faithfully return them the answer which the Lord should give. Upon which they entered into a covenant of obedience to the prophet, and he supplicated God for them: but ten days elapsed before he obtained an answer; when calling Johanan and the people together, he told them, that if they would live in subjection to the king of Babylon, and tarry in Judea till his appointed time, the Lord would skreen them from all danger, and raise them up again; but if they offered to go to Egypt, the sword, famine and pestilence, should pursue them. This advice, being contrary to their inclinations, they refused to receive,
* Chimbam. This place may be supposed from 2 Sam. xix. 38, to have been anciently given by king David to Chimham, the son of old Barzillai the Gileadite, and which yet bore his name, though near five hundred years
f Chose. See Jeremiah xli. 16.
Chimbam. See Jeremiah xlii. 12.
Mizpah. See Jer. xl. 6.
and rudely charged the prophet with speaking falsely in the name of the Lord; and notwithstanding he urged in his defence that they had dissembled with him, when they intreated him to pray to the Lord for them, and gave a confirmation of the judgments that would attend them, they persisted in their former resolution of going to Egypt, and removed thither with all the remnant of Judah, taking the men, women and children, with all the late king's daughters, the prophet Jeremiah, and Baruch
They had not been long in Egypt, before the Lord, by his prophet, admonished them of the destruction of that country, and the extirpation of their false gods, by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. But the stubborn Jews did not regard him, for they resolutely told him they would do what they thought fit, and would, according to the idolatry of the Egyptians, offer incense to the queen* of heaven: the women, with equal insolence, said the same. This conduct provoked the Lord to denounce against them, by his prophet, the most fearful judgments† in positive terms: at the same time assuring them, that Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt (under whose protection they lived secure, as they supposed) should be delivered into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, as Zedekiah had been before.
And now the prophet Jeremiah having discharged his duty to his own people the Jews, addressed himself, in the rest of his book, for the most part, to the gentiles as did his cotemporary, the prophet Eze
Queen. By which is meant the moon at least, if not all the planets. See Jeremiah xliv. 17.
t Judgments. Jeremiah xliv. 26, 27.
And, &c. About this time both Jeremiah and his cotemporary Ezekiel, left off historical matter, and foretel the wickedness and misfortunes of the heathen.
Gentiles. Thus Jeremiah prophesied against Egypt, ch. xlvi. the Philistines, ch. xlvii. Moabites, ch. xlviii. Ammon, Edom, and other people, ch. xlix. Babylon, ch. 1. and li. with some prophecies here and there interspersed; especially in ch. 1. concerning the redemption of Israel.
who was earnestly engaged in the like service in Chaldea. In which prophetic office they continued till the time of their death.†
Truly honourable and dignified was the character supported by the prophet Jeremiah. He commenced his work at a very early age, and was indeed, sanctified and ordained to it from his birth. From a modest diffidence he would have excused himself from the arduous office, saying, Ah! Lord God! I cannot speak, for I am a child!' But his objections were over-ruled by the divine assurance that he should be duly qualified for, and assisted in his work. "I have made thee," said the Lord to him, "a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land: and they shall fight against
* Ezekiel. He prophesied against the Ammonites, ch. xxv. against Tyrus, ch. xxvi. against those that supported her, and traded with her, ch. xxvii. against the prince of Tyrus, ch. xxviii. against Egypt, ch. xxix. xxx. xxxi. and xxxii. against the shepherds of Israel, ch. xxxiv. against mount Seir, or Edom, ch. xxxv. against the lofty ones of Israel, ch. xxxvi. with a promise of their restoration to their own country, by the emblem of the dry bones, ch. xxxvii. against other enemies of the church of God, under the name of Gog and Magog, ch. xxxviii, xxxix. And from thence he describes the rebuilding of the temple, as a sure confirmation to his captive countrymen, that their captivity should have an end, and that they should return to their own country.
+ Death. The Holy Scripture makes no mention of the death of these two great prophets, either as to time, place, or manner. But St. Jerom, in the life of Jeremiah, and Dorotheus, bishop of Tyre, in his Synopsis of the lives and deaths of the prophets and apostles, says, that Jeremiah was stoned to death in Egypt by the people; most likely by his renegado countrymen the Jews, that fled to Egypt against his advice and God's command, and took him with them against his will, For the Egyptians being freed by the prophet's prayers from Crocodiles, which very much infested them, had him in very great honour and esteem, which they testified by burying him in one of the royal sepulchres. As for the prophet Ezekiel, he is said to have been slain in Chaldea, by a prince of the children of Israel, whom he reproved for worshipping images. Towards the latter end of their time, Obadiah prophesied. His prophecy is directed against Edom, the posterity of Esau, against whom those other two prophets also denounced the judgments of God, Jeremiah xlix. and Ezek. xxv.