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Jeremiah Chapter Twenty-one                            


Jeremiah 21

Chapter Contents

The only way of deliverance is to be surrendering to the Babylonians. (1-10) The wickedness of the king and his household. (11-14)

Commentary on Jeremiah 21:1-10

(Read Jeremiah 21:1-10)

When the siege had begun, Zedekiah sent to ask of Jeremiah respecting the event. In times of distress and danger, men often seek those to counsel and pray for them, whom, at other times, they despise and oppose; but they only seek deliverance from punishment. When professors continue in disobedience, presuming upon outward privileges, let them be told that the Lord will prosper his open enemies against them. As the king and his princes would not surrender, the people are exhorted to do so. No sinner on earth is left without a Refuge, who really desires one; but the way of life is humbling, it requires self-denial, and exposes to difficulties.

Commentary on Jeremiah 21:11-14

(Read Jeremiah 21:11-14)

The wickedness of the king and his family was the worse because of their relation to David. They were urged to act with justice, at once, lest the Lord's anger should be unquenchable. If God be for us, who can be against us? But if he be against us, who can do any thing for us?

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Jeremiah


Jeremiah 21

Verse 2

[2] Enquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.

Enquire — Zedekiah, as he was none of the best, so he was none of the worst of the kings of Judah. Having some reverence of God, he sends the prophet to enquire of the Lord.

Verse 8

[8] And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.

Behold — I tell you the way you should take, if you would save your lives.

Verse 9

[9] He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.

His life — This is a proverbial expression, signifying a man's possession of his life as a prey, or booty recovered from the enemy.

Verse 12

[12] O house of David, thus saith the LORD; Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Execute judgment — That is, justice, without partiality, and do it quickly.

Verse 13

[13] Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the LORD; which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations?

Of the valley — The inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem are here intended. Jerusalem itself was built in part upon the rocky mountain of Zion, but a great part was in the valley, and the higher mountains, about mount Zion, made that mountain itself, in comparison with them, as a valley.

The plain — Though also a rock of the plain, that is, near to the plain. Which situation of this place, made the Jews think it to be impregnable.

Verse 14

[14] But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the LORD: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.

The forest — By the forest he either means the forest of Lebanon or their houses, made of wood cut out of that forest.

And it — And this fire shall not end in the destruction of this city, but in the total destruction of all the country round Jerusalem.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Jeremiah


21 Chapter 21


Verses 1-10

Verse 1-2

Jeremiah 21:1-2

Inquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us.

A distressed king seeks Divine counsel

Of Galba the emperor, as also of our Richard III, it is recorded that they were bad men but good princes. We cannot say so much of Zedekiah. Two things he is chiefly charged with--

1. That he brake his oath and faith plighted to the King of Babylon (Ezekiel 17:16).

2. That he humbled not himself before Jeremiah, speaking from the mouth of the Lord. Hitherto he had not: but now in his distress he seeketh to this prophet; yea, sendeth an embassage. Kings care not for soldiers, said a great commander, till their crowns hang on the one side of their heads. Sure it is that some of them slight God’s ministers till they cannot tell what to do without them. (John Trapp.)

Kings have their cares

Kingdoms have their cares, and thrones their thorns. Antigonus cried of his diadem, “O base rag,” not worth taking up at a man’s feet. Julian complained of his own unhappiness in being made emperor. Diocletian laid down the empire as weary of it. Thirty of the ancient kings of this our land, said Capgrave, resigned their crowns; such were their cares, crosses, and emulations. Zedekiah now could gladly have done as much. But since that might not be, he sendeth to Jeremiah, whom in his prosperity he had slighted, and, to gratify his wicked counsellors, wrongfully imprisoned. (John Trapp.)

Verse 6

Jeremiah 21:6

They shall die of a great pestilence.


In a romance, “The End of an Epoch,” by A. Lincoln Green, the hero, Adam Godwin, makes the acquaintance of a German professor, bearing the ominous name of Azrael Falk, who comes to London, bringing with him a large quantity of an active and deadly germ poison, which would depopulate any country where it might be turned loose. His idea is to make an enormous fortune by selling it to either Russia or Germany, between whom at the time discords had arisen. The catastrophe is brought on in a simple way. The professor, with his jars in his possession (he is too jealous and suspicious ever to part from them), carries out a long-cherished fancy to see the Derby, and on Epsom Downs is taken for a welsher, and set upon by the mob. His precious jars are broken, and he himself is removed insane and dying to a neighbouring asylum. The death dealing contents of the jars rise in a brown mist and float in the air. Adam Godwin knows that London is in mortal peril, but he has not been told the secret of the anti-toxin, and Falk dies without recovering his reason. The most exciting pages are those in which we watch the slow creeping of the plague over London. It attacks all except aged persons, and there is no remedy. The calamity which in this book is merely fictitious was, in dire fact, to befall Jerusalem Disobedience, stubbornness, and impenitence were the deadly germ poison by which the inhabitants of the city were to be swept away.

Verse 7

Jeremiah 21:7

He shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.

No mercy in war

The exploits of Surrey in Scotland are thus recorded in a letter of Wolsey: “The Earl of Surrey so devastated and destroyed all Tweedale and March, that there is left neither house, fortress, village, tree, cattle, corn, nor other succour for man; insomuch that some of the people that fled from the same, afterward returning and finding no sustenance, were compelled to come into England begging bread, which oftentimes when they do eat they die incontinently for the hunger passed. And with no imprisonment, cutting off their ears, burning them in the faces, or otherwise, can be kept away.” (Knights England.)

Verse 8

Jeremiah 21:8

I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.

God’s message of life and death

I. It is God’s prerogative to mark the path in which He would have us go for both worlds.

1. In His written Word.

2. By providence and mercies: examples and instances.

II. The path to life is clothed with many attractions.

1. It is a plain way, though narrow. Only difficult and perplexed to those who are reluctant to renounce the burden of their sins and the corruption of this evil world, or would fain invent some method to reconcile the discordant claims of God and mammon, earth and heaven.

2. It is an old way, and well trodden. From Abel’s time.

3. It is a safe way; for, though much contested, it is Divinely guarded.

4. It is a pleasant way.

III. We are daily advancing in one or other of these paths. There can be amidst the diversities to the race but two broad divisions: wise and foolish; wheat and tares. A worldly man is one that has his chief treasure upon earth, while God and eternity are forgotten. Whereas the Christian is one who has been converted from the error of his ways; his mind has been enlightened to discern the evil of sin and the love and loveliness of Christ, and he is anxious to lay up his treasure and hopes in heaven.

IV. The doom on the impenitent will be aggravated by weighty considerations.

1. The path of life and death was clearly set before you, and rejected by deliberate choice.

2. The solemn providences and warnings you have abused.

3. The vanity and worthlessness of pursuits for which salvation was rejected.

4. The changeless eternity of the state to which you go. (S. Thodey.)

Verse 12

Jeremiah 21:12

Execute Judgment ill the morning.

Justice must be prompt

“Execute judgment in the morning,” as David your progenitor and pattern did (Psalms 101:8). Be up and be at it bedtime, and make quick despatch of causes, that poor men may go home about their business, who have other things to do besides going to law. It is a lamentable thing that a suit should depend ten or twenty years in some courts through the avarice of some pleaders, to the utter undoing of their poor clients. This made one such (when he was persuaded to patience by the example of Job) to reply, “What do you tell me of Job? Job never had suits in chancery.” Jethro adviseth Moses (Exodus 18:1-27) to dismiss those timely, whom he cannot despatch presently. (John Trapp.)

──The Biblical Illustrator