(1) Thus saith the Lord . . .—The message, delivered in continuation of Jeremiah 21, and therefore probably as following up the answer to the messengers of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 21:1), reviews the history of the three preceding reigns, and apparently reproduces the very words of the warnings which he had uttered in each to the king who then ruled, and which had been but too terribly fulfilled. It was delivered, we are told, in the very palace of the king.
Do no wrong . . .—The Hebrew order connects both verbs with the substantives—to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, do no wrong, no violence—and gives the latter the emphasis of position. The whole verse paints but too vividly a reign which presented the very reverse of all that the prophet describes as belonging to a righteous king.
This house.—The context determines the application of the word as meaning the king’s palace, not the Temple.
They shall cut down thy choice cedars.—The metaphor of the preceding verse is carried further, and the “choice cedars” are the princes of the royal house of Judah, and the chief counsellors and generals, as well as the actual columns of cedar-wood.
For him that goeth away.—This is obviously Jehoahaz, the son and successor of Josiah, who was deposed by Pharaoh-nechoh, and carried into Egypt (2 Kings 23:31-34; 2 Chronicles 36:2-4). The latter passage shows that he was younger than his successor, Jehoiakim, by two years. The doom of the exile who was to return no more was a fitter subject for lamentation than the death of the righteous king who died a warrior’s death (2 Kings 23:29), and was thus “taken away from the evil to come.”
His chambers.—Strictly speaking, the upper storeys of the house. This is dwelt on as aggravating the severity of the work.
Without wages.—The labourers were treated as slaves, and, like the Israelites in their Egyptian bondage (Exodus 16:3), received their food, but nothing more.
Cutteth him out windows.—The verb is the same as that used in Jeremiah 4:30 for dilating the eyes by the use of antimony, and implies accordingly the construction of windows of unusual width. These, after the Eastern fashion, were fitted with lattice-work, or shielded by curtains.
Vermilion.—Probably the red pigment (sulphuret of mercury?) still conspicuous in the buildings of Egypt. The word meets us again in Ezekiel 23:14. The king was probably impelled by a vainglorious desire to imitate the magnificence of the Egyptian king (Pharaoh-nechoh) who had placed him on the throne.
Did not thy father eat and drink . . .?—The words are obviously those of praise, and paint a healthy, blameless enjoyment like that of Ecclesiastes 2:24; like those, we may add, which the Son of Man used to describe the outward portion of His own life (Matthew 11:19). Josiah was not an ascetic, devotee king, but lived his life happily, and did his work—the true kingly work of judgment and justice—well. There was a truer greatness in that than in the stateliness of Jehoiakim’s palaces. “Then it was well with him” s repeated with the emphasis of iteration.
Cry from the passages.—It is better to take the word Abarim as a proper name. As in Numbers 27:12; Numbers 33:47; Deuteronomy 32:49, it was part of the range of Nebo, south of Gilead and Bashan, and coming therefore naturally after the last of those two mountains.
All thy lovers.—The word points, as in the corresponding language of Ezekiel 23:5; Ezekiel 23:9, to the Egyptians and other nations with whom Judah had made alliances. The destruction reached its climax in the overthrow of Pharaoh-nechoh’s army by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish (Jeremiah 46:2).
How gracious shalt thou be . . .!—Better, how wilt thou sigh! or, how wilt thou groan! as connected with the pangs of travail. No pomp or majesty could save the royal house from the inevitable doom.
The signet upon my right hand.—The seal-ring was, as in Haggai 2:23, the symbol of kingly power (Genesis 41:42; Esther 3:10; Esther 8:2), authenticating every edict, and was therefore the type of all that was most precious. (Comp. Song of Solomon 8:6.)