Some difficulty occurs in the date of this prophecy. This word is said to come to Jeremiah in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim (Jer. 27:1), and yet the messengers, to whom he is to deliver the badges of servitude, are said (Jer. 27:3) to come to Zedekiah king of Judah, who reigned not till eleven years after the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign. Some make it an error of the copy, and think that it should be read (Jer. 27:1), In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah, for which some negligent scribe, having his eye on the title of the foregoing chapter, wrote Jehoiakim. And, if one would admit a mistake any where, it should be here, for Zedekiah is mentioned again (Jer. 27:12), and the next prophecy is dated the same year, and said to be in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah, Jer. 28:1. Dr. Lightfoot solves it thus: In the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign Jeremiah is to make these bonds and yokes, and to put them upon his own neck, in token of Judah’s subjection to the king of Babylon, which began at that time; but he is to send them to the neighbouring kings afterwards in the reign of Zedekiah, of whose succession to Jehoiakim, and the ambassadors sent to him, mention is made by way of prediction.
I. Jeremiah is to prepare a sign of the general reduction of all these countries into subjection to the king of Babylon (Jer. 27:2): Make thee bonds and yokes, yokes with bonds to fasten them, that the beast may not slip his neck out of the yoke. Into these the prophet must put his own neck to make them taken notice of as a prophetic representation; for every one would enquire, What is the meaning of Jeremiah’s yokes? We find him with one on, Jer. 28:10. Hereby he intimated that he advised them to nothing but what he was resolved to do himself; for he was not one of those that bind heavy burdens on others, which they themselves will not touch with one of their fingers. Ministers must thus lay themselves under the weight and obligation of what they preach to others.
II. He is to send this, with a sermon annexed to it, to all the neighbouring princes; those are mentioned (Jer. 27:3) that lay next to the land of Canaan. It should seem, there was a treaty of alliance on foot between the king of Judah and all those other kings. Jerusalem was the place appointed for the treaty. Thither they all sent their plenipotentiaries; and it was agreed that they should bind themselves in a league offensive and defensive, to stand by one another, in opposition to the growing threatening greatness of the king of Babylon, and to reduce his exorbitant power. They had great confidence in their strength thus united, and were ready to call themselves the high allies; but, when the envoys were returning to their respective masters with the ratification of this treaty, Jeremiah gives each of them a yoke to carry to his master, to signify to him that he must either by consent or by compulsion become a servant to the king of Babylon, let him choose which he will. In the sermon upon this sign, 1. God asserts his own indisputable right to dispose of kingdoms as he pleases, Jer. 27:5. He is the Creator of all things; he made the earth at first, established it, and it abides: it is still the same, though one generation passes away and another comes. He still by a continued creation produces man and beast upon the ground, and it is by his great power and outstretched arm. His arm has infinite strength, though it be stretched out. Upon this account he may give and convey a property and dominion to whomsoever he pleases. As he hath graciously given the earth to the children of men in general (Ps. 115:16), so he give to each his share of it, be it more or less. Note, Whatever any have of the good things of this world, it is what God sees fit to give them; we ourselves should therefore be content, though we have ever so little, and not envy any their share, though they have ever so much. 2. He publishes a grant of all these countries to Nebuchadnezzar. Know all men by these presents. Sciant praesentes et futuri—Let those of the present and those of the future age know. “This is to certify to all whom it may concern that I have given all these lands, with all the wealth of them, into the hands of the king of Babylon; even the beasts of the field, whether tame or wild, have I given to him, parks and pastures; they are all his own.” Nebuchadnezzar was a proud wicked man, an idolater; and yet God, in his providence, gives him this large dominion, these vast possessions. Note, The things of this world are not the best things, for God often gives the largest share of them to bad men, that are rivals with him and rebels against him. He was a wicked man, and yet what he had he had by divine grant. Note, Dominion is not founded in grace. Those that have not any colourable title to eternal happiness may yet have a justifiable title to their temporal good things. Nebuchadnezzar is a very bad man, and yet God calls him his servant, because he employed him as an instrument of his providence for the chastising of the nations, and particularly his own people; and for his service therein he thus liberally repaid him. Those whom God makes use of shall not lose by him; much more will he be found the bountiful rewarder of all those that designedly and sincerely serve him. 3. He assures them that they should all be unavoidably brought under the dominion of the king of Babylon for a time (Jer. 27:7): All nations, all these nations and many others, shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son. His son was Evil-merodach, and his son’s son Belshazzar, in whom his kingdom ceased: then the time of reckoning with his land came, when the tables were turned, and many nations and great kings, incorporated into the empire of the Medes and Persians, served themselves of him, as before, Jer. 25:14. Thus Adonibezek was trampled upon himself, as he had trampled on other kings. 4. He threatens those with military execution that stood out and would not submit to the king of Babylon (Jer. 27:8): That nation that will not put their neck under his yoke I will punish with sword and famine, with one judgment after another, till it is consumed by his hand. Nebuchadnezzar was very unjust and barbarous in invading the rights and liberties of his neighbours thus, and forcing them into a subjection to him; yet God had just and holy ends in permitting him to do so, to punish these nations for their idolatry and gross immoralities. Those that would not serve the God that made them were justly made to serve their enemies that sought to ruin them. 5. He shows them the vanity of all the hopes they fed themselves with, that they should preserve their liberties, Jer. 27:9, 10. These nations had their prophets too, that pretended to foretell future events by the stars, or by dreams, or enchantments; and they, to please their patrons, and because they would themselves have it so, flattered them with assurances that they should not serve the king of Babylon. Thus they designed to animate them to a vigorous resistance; and, though they had no ground for it, they hoped hereby to do them service. But he tells them that it would prove to their destruction; for by resisting they would provoke the conqueror to deal severely with them, to remove them, and drive them out into a miserable captivity, in which they should all be lost and buried in oblivion. Particular prophecies against these nations that bordered on Israel severally, the ruin of which is here foretold in the general, we shall meet with, Jer. 48:1-49:39; Ezek. 25:1-17, which had the same accomplishment with this here. Note, When God judges he will overcome. 6. He puts them in a fair way to prevent their destruction by a quiet and easy submission, Jer. 27:11. The nations that will be content to serve the king of Babylon, and pay him tribute for seventy years (ten apprenticeships), those will I let remain still in their own land. Those that will bend shall not break. Perhaps the dominion of the king of Babylon may bear no harder upon them than that of their own kings had done. It is often more a point of honour than true wisdom to prefer liberty before life. It is not mentioned to the disgrace of Issachar that because he saw rest was good, and the land pleasant, that he might peaceably enjoy it, he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant to tribute (Gen. 49:14, 15), as these are here advised to do: Serve the king of Babylon and you shall till the land and dwell therein. Some would condemn this as the evidence of a mean spirit, but the prophet recommends it as that of a meek spirit, which yields to necessity, and by a quiet submission to the hardest turns of Providence makes the best of bad: it is better to do so than by struggling to make it worse.
--Levius fit patientia Quicquid corrigere est nefas.--HOR. --When we needs must bear, Enduring patience makes the burden light. CREECH.Many might have prevented destroying providences by humbling themselves under humbling providences. It is better to take up a lighter cross in our way than to pull a heavier on our own head.