This prophecy seems to have been calculated for the ungracious inglorious reign of Jeconiah, or Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, who succeeded him in the government, reigned but three months, and was then carried captive to Babylon, where he lived many years, Jer. 52:31. We have, in these verses, a prophecy,
I. Of the desolations of the kingdom, which were now hastening on apace, Jer. 22:20-23. Jerusalem and Judah are here spoken to, or the Jewish state as a single person, and we have it here under a threefold character:—1. Very haughty in a day of peace and safety (Jer. 22:21): “I spoke unto thee in thy prosperity, spoke by my servants the prophets, reproofs, admonitions, counsels, but thou saidst, I will not hear, I will not heed, thou obeyedst not my voice, and wast resolved that thou wouldst not, and hadst the front to tell me so.” It is common for those that live at ease to live in contempt of the word of God. Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked. This is so much the worse that they had it by kind: This has been thy manner from thy youth. They were called transgressors from the womb, Isa. 48:8. 2. Very timorous upon the alarms of trouble (Jer. 22:20): “When thou seest all thy lovers destroyed, when thou findest thy idols unable to help thee and thy foreign alliances failing thee, thou wilt then go up to Lebanon, and cry, as one undone and giving up all for lost, cry with a bitter cry; thou wilt cry, Help, help, or we are lost; thou wilt lift up thy voice in fearful shrieks upon Lebanon and Bashan, two high hills, in hope to be heard thence by the advantage of the rising ground. Thou wilt cry from the passages, from the roads, where thou wilt ever and anon be in distress.” Thou wilt cry from Abarim (so some read it, as a proper name), a famous mountain in the border of Moab. “Thou wilt cry, as those that are in great consternation use to do, to all about thee; but in vain, for (Jer. 22:22) the wind shall eat up all thy pastors, or rulers, that should protect and lead thee, and provide for thy safety; they shall be blasted, and withered, and brought to nothing, as buds and blossoms are by a bleak or freezing wind; they shall be devoured suddenly, insensibly, and irresistibly, as fruits by the wind. Thy lovers, that thou dependest upon and hast an affection for, shall go into captivity, and shall be so far from saving thee that they shall not be able to save themselves.” 3. Very tame under the heavy and lasting pressures of trouble: “When there appears no relief from any of thy confederates, and thy own priests are at a loss, then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness,” Jer. 22:22. Note, Many will never be ashamed of their sins till they are brought by them to the last extremity; and it is well if we get this good by our straits to be brought by them to confusion for our sins. The Jewish state is here called an inhabitant of Lebanon, because that famous forest was within their border (Jer. 22:23), and all their country was wealthy, and well-guarded as with Lebanon’s natural fastnesses; but so proud and haughty were they that they are said to make their nest in the cedars, where they thought themselves out of the reach of all danger, and whence they looked with contempt upon all about them. “But, how gracious wilt thou be when pangs come upon thee! Then thou wilt humble thyself before God and promise amendment. When thou art overthrown in stony places thou wilt be glad to hear those words which in thy prosperity thou wouldst not hear, Ps. 141:6. Then thou wilt endeavour to make thyself acceptable with that God whom, before, thou madest light of.” Note, Many have their pangs of piety who, when the pangs are over, show that they have no true piety. Some give another sense of it: “What will all thy pomp, and state, and wealth avail thee? What will become of it all, or what comfort shalt thou have of it, when thou shalt be in these distresses? No more than a woman in travail, full of pains and fears, can take comfort in her ornaments while she is in that condition.” So Mr. Gataker. Note, Those that are proud of their worldly advantages would do well to consider how they will look when pangs come upon them, and how they will then have lost all their beauty.
II. Here is a prophecy of the disgrace of the king; his name was Jeconiah, but he is here once and again called Coniah, in contempt. The prophet shortens or nicks his name, and gives him, as we say, a nickname, perhaps to denote that he should be despoiled of his dignity, that his reign should be shortened, and the number of his months cut off in the midst. Two instances of dishonour are here put upon him:—
1. He shall be carried away into captivity and shall spend and end his days in bondage. He was born to a crown, but it should quickly fall from his head, and he should exchange it for fetters. Observe the steps of this judgment. (1.) God will abandon him, Jer. 22:24. The God of truth says it, and confirms it with an oath: “Though he were the signet upon my right hand (his predecessors have been so, and he might have been so if he had conducted himself well, but he being degenerated) I will pluck him thence.” The godly kings of Judah had been as signets on God’s right hand, near and dear to him; he had gloried in them, and made use of them as instruments of his government, as the prince does of his signet-ring, or sign manual; but Coniah has made himself utterly unworthy of the honour, and therefore the privilege of his birth shall be no security to him; notwithstanding that, he shall be thrown off. Answerable to this threatening against Jeconiah is God’s promise to Zerubbabel, when he made him his people’s guide in their return out of captivity (Hag. 2:23): I will take thee, O Zerubbabel! my servant, and make thee as a signet. Those that think themselves as signets on God’s right hand must not be secure, but fear lest they be plucked thence. (2.) The king of Babylon shall seize him. Those know not what enemies and mischiefs they lie exposed to who have thrown themselves out of God’s protection, Jer. 22:25. The Chaldeans are here said to be such as had a spite to Coniah; they sought his life; no less than that, they thought, would satisfy their rage; they were such as he had a dread of (they are those whose face thou fearest) which would make it the more terrible to him to fall into their hands, especially when it was God himself that gave him into their hands. And, if God deliver him to them, who can deliver him from them? (3.) He and his family shall be carried to Babylon, where they shall wear out many tedious years of their lives in a miserable captivity—he and his mother (Jer. 22:26), he and his seed (Jer. 22:28), that is, he and all the royal family (for he had no children of his own when he went into captivity), or he and the children in his loins; they shall all be cast out to another country, to a strange country, a country where they were not born, nor such a country as that where they were born, a land which they know not, in which they have no acquaintance with whom to converse or from whom to expect any kindness. Thither they shall be carried, from a land where they were entitled to dominion, into a land where they shall be compelled to servitude. But have they no hopes of seeing their own country again? No: To the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return, Jer. 22:27. They conducted themselves ill in it when they were in it, and therefore they shall never see it more. Jehoahaz was carried to Egypt, the land of the south, Jeconiah to Babylon, the land of the north, both far remote, the quite contrary way, and must never expect to meet again, nor either of them to breathe their native air again. Those that had abused the dominion they had over others were justly brought thus under the dominion of others. Those that had indulged and gratified their sinful desires, by their oppression, luxury, and cruelty, were justly denied the gratification of their innocent desire to see their own native country again. We may observe something very emphatic in that part of this threatening (Jer. 22:26), In the country where you were not born, there shall you die. As there is a time to be born and a time to die, so there is a place to be born in and a place to die in. We know where we were born, but where we shall die we know not; it is enough that our God knows. Let it be our care that we die in Christ, and then it will be well with us, wherever we die, though it should be in a far country. (4.) This shall render him very mean and despicable in the eyes of all his neighbours. They shall be ready to say (Jer. 22:28), “This is Coniah a despised broken idol? Yes, certainly he is, and much debased from what he was.” [1.] Time was when he was dignified, nay, when he was almost deified. The people who had seen his father lately deposed were ready to adore him when they saw him upon the throne, but now he is a despised broken idol, which, when it was whole, was worshipped, but, when it is rotten and broken, is thrown by and despised, and nobody regards it, or remembers what it has been. Note, What is idolized will, first or last, be despised and broken; what is unjustly honoured will be justly contemned, and rivals with God will be the scorn of man. Whatever we idolize we shall be disappointed in and then shall despise. [2.] Time was when he was delighted in; but now he is a vessel in which is not pleasure, or to which there is no desire, either because grown out of fashion or because cracked or dirtied, and so rendered unserviceable. Those whom God has no pleasure in will, some time or other, be so mortified that men will have no pleasure in them.
2. He shall leave no posterity to inherit his honour. The prediction of this is ushered in with a solemn preface (Jer. 22:29): O earth, earth, earth! hear the word of the Lord. Let all the inhabitants of the world take notice of these judgments of God upon a nation and a family that had been near and dear to him, and thence infer that God is impartial in the administration of justice. Or it is an appeal to the earth itself on which we tread, since those that dwell on earth are so deaf and careless, like that (Isa. 1:2), Hear, O heavens! and give ear, O earth! God’s word, however slighted, will be heard; the earth itself will be made to hear it, and yield to it, when it, and all the works that are therein, shall be burnt up. Or it is a call to men that mind earthly things, that are swallowed up in those things and are inordinate in the pursuit of them; such have need to be called upon again and again, and a third time, to hear the word of the Lord. Or it is a call to men considered as mortal, of the earth, and hastening to the earth again. We all are so; earth we are, dust we are, and, in consideration of that, are concerned to hear and regard the word of the Lord, that, though we are earth, we may be found among those whose names are written in heaven. Now that which is here to be taken notice of is that Jeconiah is written childless (Jer. 22:30), that is, as it follows, No man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David. In him the line of David was extinct as a royal line. Some think that he had children born in Babylon because mention is made of his seed being cast out there (Jer. 22:28) and that they died before him. We read in the genealogy (1 Chron. 3:17) of seven sons of Jeconiah Assir (that is, Jeconiah the captive) of whom Salathiel is the first. Some think that they were only his adopted sons, and that when it is said (Matt. 1:12), Jeconiah begat Salathiel, no more is meant than that he bequeathed to him what claims and pretensions he had to the government, the rather because Salathiel is called the son of Neri of the house of Nathan, Luke 3:27, 31. Whether he had children begotten, or only adopted, thus far he was childless that none of his seed ruled as kings in Judah. He was the Augustulus of that empire, in whom it determined. Whoever are childless, it is God that writes them so; and those who take no care to do good in their days cannot expect to prosper in their days.
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