The title of this part of the book, which begins the chapter, seems misapplied (The word which came to Jeremiah), for here is nothing of prophecy in this chapter, but it is to be referred to Jer. 42:7; where we have a message that God sent by Jeremiah to the captains and the people that remained. The story between is only to introduce that prophecy and show the occasion of it, that it may be the better understood, and Jeremiah, being himself concerned in the story, was the better able to give an account of it.
In these verses we have Jeremiah’s adhering, by the advice of Nebuzar-adan, to Gedaliah. It should seem that Jeremiah was very honourably fetched out of the court of the prison by the king of Babylon’s princes (Jer. 39:13), but afterwards, being found among the people in the city, when orders were given to the inferior officers to bind all they found that were of any fashion, in order to their being carried captives to Babylon, he, through ignorance and mistake, was bound among the rest and hurried away. Poor man! he seems to have been born to hardship and abuse—man of sorrows indeed! But when the captives were brought manacled to Ramah, not far off, where a council of war, or court-martial, was held for giving orders concerning them, Jeremiah was soon distinguished from the rest, and, by special order of the court, was discharged. 1. The captain of the guard solemnly owns him to be a true prophet (Jer. 40:2, 3): “The Lord thy God, whose messenger thou has been and in whose name thou hast spoken, has by thee pronounced this evil upon this place; they had fair warning given them of it, but they would not take the warning, and now the Lord hath brought it, and, as by thy mouth he said it, so by my hand he hath done what he said.” He seems thus to justify what he had done, and to glory in it, that he had been God’s instrument to fulfil that which Jeremiah had been his messenger to foretell; and upon that account it was indeed the most glorious action he had ever done. He tells all the people that were now in chains before him It is because you have sinned against the Lord that this thing has come upon you. The princes of Israel would never be brought to acknowledge this, though it was as evident as if it had been written with a sun-beam; but this heathen prince plainly sees it, that a people that had been so favoured as they had been by the divine goodness would never have been abandoned thus had they not been very provoking. The people of Israel had been often told this from the pulpit by their prophets, and they would not regard it; now they are told it from the bench by the conqueror, whom they dare not contradict and who will make them regard it. Note, Sooner or later men shall be made sensible that their sin is the cause of all their miseries. 2. He gives him free leave to dispose of himself as he thought fit. He loosed him from his chains a second time (Jer. 40:4), invited him to come along with him to Babylon, not as a captive, but as a friend, as a companion; and I will set my eye upon thee (so the word is), not only, “I will look well to thee,” but “I will show thee respect, will countenance thee, and will see that thou be safe and well provided for.” If he was not disposed to go to Babylon, he might dwell where he pleased in his own country, for it was all now at the disposal of the conquerors. He may go to Anathoth if he please, and enjoy the field he has purchased there. A great change with this good man! He that but lately was tossed from one prison to another may now walk at liberty from one possession to another. 3. He advised him to go to Gedaliah and settle with him. This Gedaliah, made governor of the land under the king of Babylon, was an honest Jew, who (it is probably) betimes went over with his friends to the Chaldeans, and approved himself so well that he had this great trust put into his hands, Jer. 40:5. While Jeremiah had not yet gone back, but stood considering what he should do, Nebuzar-adan, perceiving him neither inclined to go to Babylon nor determined whither to go, turned the scale for him, and bade him by all means go to Gedaliah. Sudden thoughts sometimes prove wise ones. But when he gave this counsel he did not design to bind him by it, nor will he take ill if he do not follow it: Go wheresoever it seemeth convenient unto thee. It is friendly in such cases to give advice, but unfriendly to prescribe and to be angry if our advice be not take. Let Jeremiah steer what course he pleases, Nebuzar-adan will agree to it, and believe he does for the best. Nor does he only give him his liberty, and an approbation of the measures he shall take, but provides for his support: He gave him victuals and a present, either in clothes or money, and so let him go. See how considerate the captain of the guard was in his kindness to Jeremiah. He set him at liberty, but it was in a country that was laid waste, and in which, as the posture of it now was, he might have perished, though it was his own country, if he had not been thus kindly furnished with necessaries. Jeremiah not only accepted his kindness, but took his advice, and went to Gedaliah, to Mizpah, and dwelt with him, Jer. 40:6. Whether we may herein commend his prudence I know not; the event does not commend it, for it did not prove at all to his comfort. However, we may commend his pious affection to the land of Israel, that unless he were forced out of it, as Ezekiel, and Daniel, and other good men were, he would not forsake it, but chose rather to dwell with the poor in the holy land than with princes in an unholy one.