It appears by the date of this chapter that we are now coming very nigh to that fatal year which completed the desolations of Judah and Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. God’s judgments came gradually upon them, but, they not meeting him by repentance in the way of his judgments, he proceeded in his controversy till all was laid waste, which was in the eleventh year of Zedekiah; now what is here recorded happened in the tenth. The king of Babylon’s army had now invested Jerusalem and was carrying on the siege with vigour, not doubting but in a little time to make themselves masters of it, while the besieged had taken up a desperate resolution not to surrender, but to hold out to the last extremity. Now,
I. Jeremiah prophesies that both the city and the court shall fall into the hands of the king of Babylon. He tells them expressly that the besiegers shall take the city as a prize, for God, whose city it was in a peculiar manner, will give it into their hands and put it out of his protection (Jer. 32:3),—that, though Zedekiah attempt to make his escape, he shall be overtaken, and shall be delivered a prisoner into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, shall be brought into his presence, to his great confusion and terror, he having made himself so obnoxious by breaking his faith with him, he shall hear the king of Babylon pronounce his doom, and see with what fury and indignation he will look upon him (His eyes shall behold his eyes, Jer. 32:4),—that Zedekiah shall be carried to Babylon, and continue a miserable captive there, until God visit him, that is, till God put an end to his life by a natural death, as Nebuchadnezzar had long before put an end to his days by putting out his eyes. Note, Those that live in misery may be truly said to be visited in mercy when God by death takes them home to himself. And, lastly, he foretels that all their attempts to force the besiegers from their trenches shall be ineffectual: Though you fight with the Chaldeans, you shall not prosper; how should they, when God did not fight for them? Jer. 32:5. See Jer. 34:2, 3.
II. For prophesying thus he is imprisoned, not in the common gaol, but in the more creditable prison that was within the verge of the palace, in the king of Judah’s house, and there not closely confined, but in custodia libera—in the court of the prison, where he might have good company, good air, and good intelligence brought him, and would be sheltered from the abuses of the mob; but, however, it was a prison, and Zedekiah shut him up in it for prophesying as he did, Jer. 32:2, 3. So far was he from humbling himself before Jeremiah, as he ought to have done (2 Chron. 36:12), that he hardened himself against him. Though he had formerly so far owned him to be a prophet as to desire him to enquire of the Lord for them (21:2), yet now he chides him for prophesying (Jer. 32:3), and shuts him up in prison, perhaps not with design to punish him any further, but only to restrain him from prophesying any further, which was crime enough. Silencing God’s prophets, though it is not so bad as mocking and killing them, is yet a great affront to the God of heaven. See how wretchedly the hearts of sinners are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Persecution was one of the sins for which God was now contending with them, and yet Zedekiah persists in it even now that he was in the depth of distress. No providences, no afflictions, will of themselves part between men and their sins, unless the grace of God work with them. Nay, some are made worse by those very judgments that should make them better.
III. Being in prison, he purchases from a near relation of his a piece of ground that lay in Anathoth, Jer. 32:6, 7
1. One would not have expected, (1.) That a prophet should concern himself so far in the business of this world; but why not? Though ministers must not entangle themselves, yet they may concern themselves in the affairs of this life. (2.) That one who had neither wife nor children should buy land. We find (Jer. 16:2) that he had no family of his own; yet he may purchase for his own use while he lives, and leave it to the children of his relations when he dies. (3.) One would little have thought that a prisoner should be a purchaser; how should he get money beforehand to buy land with? It is probably that he lived frugally, and saved something out of what belonged to him as a priest, which is no blemish at all to his character; but we have no reason to think that the people were kind, or that his being beforehand was owing to their generosity. Nay, (4.) It was most strange of all that he should buy a piece of land when he himself knew that the whole land was now to be laid waste and fall into the hands of the Chaldeans, and then what good would this do him? But it was the will of God that he should buy it, and he submitted, though the money seemed to be thrown away. His kinsman came to offer it to him; it was not of his own seeking; he coveted not to lay house to house and field to field, but Providence brought it to him, and it was probably a good bargain; besides, the right of redemption belonged to him (Jer. 32:8), and if he refused he would not do the kinsman’s part. It is true he might lawfully refuse, but, being a prophet, in a thing of this nature he must do that which would be for the honour of his profession. It became him to fulfil all righteousness. It was land that lay within the suburbs of a priests’ city, and, if he should refuse it, there was danger lest, in these times of disorder, it might be sold to one of another tribe, which was contrary to the law, to prevent which it was convenient for him to buy it. It would likewise be a kindness to his kinsman, who probably was at this time in great want of money. Jeremiah had but a little, but what he had he was willing to lay out in such a manner as might tend most to the honour of God and the good of his friends and country, which he preferred before his own private interests.
2. Two things may be observed concerning this purchase:—
(1.) How fairly the bargain was made. When Jeremiah knew by Hanameel’s coming to him, as God had foretold he would, that it was the word of the Lord, that it was his mind that he should make this purchase, he made no more difficulty of it, but bought the field. And, [1.] He was very honest and exact in paying the money. He weighted him the money, did not press him to take it upon his report, though he was his near kinsman, but weighed it to him, current money. It was seventeen shekels of silver, amounting to about forty shillings of our money. The land was probably but a little field and of small yearly value, when the purchase was so low; besides, the right of inheritance was in Jeremiah, so that he had only to buy out his kinsman’s life, the reversion being his already. Some think this was only the earnest of a greater sum; but we shall not wonder at the smallness of the price if we consider what scarcity there was of money at this time and how little lands were counted upon. [2.] He was very prudent and discreet in preserving the writings. They were subscribed before witnesses. One copy was sealed up, the other was open. One was the original, the other the counterpart; or perhaps that which was sealed up was for his own private use, the other that was open was to be laid up in the public register of conveyances, for any person concerned to consult. Due care and caution in things of this nature might prevent a great deal of injustice and contention. The deeds of purchase were lodged in the hands of Baruch, before witnesses, and he was ordered to lay them up in an earthen vessel (an emblem of the nature of all the securities this world can pretend to give us, brittle things and soon broken), that they might continue many days, for the use of Jeremiah’s heirs, after the return out of captivity; for they might then have the benefit of this purchase. Purchasing reversions may be a kindness to those that come after us, and a good man thus lays up an inheritance for his children’s children.
(2.) What was the design of having this bargain made. It was to signify that though Jerusalem was now besieged, and the whole country was likely to be laid waste, yet the time should come when houses, and fields, and vineyards should be again possessed in this land, Jer. 32:15. As God appointed Jeremiah to confirm his predictions of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by his own practice in living unmarried, so he now appointed him to confirm his predictions of the future restoration of Jerusalem by his own practice in purchasing this field. Note, It concerns ministers to make it to appear in their whole conversation that they do themselves believe that which they preach to others; and that they may do so, and impress it the more deeply upon their hearers, they must many a time deny themselves, as Jeremiah did in both these instances. God having promised that this land should again come into the possession of his people, Jeremiah will, on behalf of his heirs, put in for a share. Note, It is good to manage even our worldly affairs in faith, and to do common business with an eye to the providence and promise of God. Lucius Florus relates it as a great instance of the bravery of the Roman citizens that in the time of the second Punic war, when Hannibal besieged Rome and was very near making himself master of it, a field on which part of his army lay, being offered to sale at that time, was immediately purchased, in a firm belief that the Roman valour would raise the siege, lib. ii. cap. 6. And have not we much more reason to venture our all upon the word of God, and to embark in Zion’s interests, which will undoubtedly be the prevailing interests at last? Non si male nunc et olim sic erit—Though now we suffer, we shall not suffer always.