« AnteriorContinuar »
exasperates priests and false prophets alike by the very truth of the charges which he brings. They accuse him before the princes and people of disloyalty and demand his death; while he replies that the message does not consist of his own words, "The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house, and against this city, all the words that ye have heard" (xxvi. 11,12). The judges, probably appointed in the days of Josiah, at any rate persons willing to deliver a righteous decision, gave the lie direct to the accusation, saying, 1 this man is not worthy to die.' In so doing they followed the precedent adduced to them of Hezekiah's conduct towards the prophet Micah in a similar case, rather than conform to the arbitrary and cruel procedure of the present king in the murder of Urijah the prophet (xxvi. 17—24).
11. During the two years which followed, Jeremiah continued to declare the signs of the times, and to maintain in opposition to those who still advocated alliance with Egypt against Babylon, that the latter kingdom would assuredly prevail. He affirmed, as did Ezekiel later (Ezek. xxix. 18—20), that "all these lands are given into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar," the " servant" of God. He illustrated his words by the symbols of the moulding and remoulding of the potter's clay, and by the solemn breaking of an earthen vessel in the valley of Hinnom in presence of the chief of the priests and people (chaps. xviii. xix.). This excited the wrath of Pashur, son of Immer (to be distinguished from the son of Melchiah of chap. xxi.), who appears to have been like Jeremiah both priest and prophet, but who prophesied lies in the name of the Lord (chap. xx. 6). At his hands Jeremiah underwent ignominious treatment (chap. xx. 2), including apparently imprisonment for a time.
12. About this period occurred the first and partial fulfilment of his prophecies concerning the supremacy to be asserted by Babylon. In the 4th year of Jehoiakim's reign Nebuchadnezzar smote the army of Pharaoh-nechoh in Carchemish, an ancient fortress which commanded the passage of the river Euphrates (see note on chap. xlvi. a)1. He then advanced into Palestine,
1 Stanley's Jewish Church, II. 451.
driving many of its inhabitants to seek refuge within the walls of Jerusalem. Among others who thus came within reach of Jeremiah's words were the Rechabites, and this was accordingly the occasion of the interview which the prophet had with them, and from which he pointed a moral for his countrymen (chap. xxxv.). Nebuchadnezzar advanced to Jerusalem, and carried away Daniel and others as well as vessels from the Temple to Babylon (2 Chron. xxxvi. 6, 7; Dan. i. 1). Nebuchadnezzar's father Nabopolassar, joined with Cyaxares the Mede, as leader of the insurrection at Babylon, had just succeeded in overthrowing the ancient Empire of Nineveh, of which Assurbanipal, mentioned above (§ 3), was the last monarch. Nebuchadnezzar was in command of the army, and would doubtless have taken more effectual measures for the subjugation of Judaea, but for the report of his father's illness, which caused him to return hastily in order to secure his succession to the throne.
13. The Jews failed to profit by the warning which God thus > granted them. In the course of the year following the withdrawal of Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah, himself hidden in some retreat from the wrath of the king which he knew would be excited by what he was about to do, sent Baruch his follower with a roll to be read in the Temple on a solemn feast day in the ears of all the people. The substance of it was reported to the king; the roll was fetched by his order, read before him, and in spite of the intercession of certain of the princes who were present, was burned piece by piece in the fire that was upon the hearth. Whereupon there was written by Baruch at the prophet's dictation and communicated to the king another roll containing in addition to the contents of the former a rebuke to him for his impious act and further announcements of God's coming vengeance. -These words, though received by the king with a mixture of anger and contempt, had no doubt the effect which God designed in preserving the salt of the people during those evil times, and supporting them through the captivity which was approaching in the reign of Jehoiakim's two successors. So when Luther's books were publicly burned by order of the Papal Nuncio, the remark made to the Emperor Charles's ministers
was 'Do you imagine that Luther's doctrines are found only in those books that you are throwing into the fire? They are written where you cannot reach them, in the hearts of the nation1.' To this time are most naturally to be referred Jeremiah's absence from Jerusalem, and the symbol of the linen girdle which he was commanded (chap. xiii.) to take to the river Euphrates and hide in a hole of the rock2. Jeremiah and Baruch would probably find it unsafe to return to Jerusalem for some years, in fact until towards the close of Jehoiakim's reign. The king received no more warnings. It would appear from the indignation and dismay with which Jeremiah's words were greeted, that up to that date the Chaldaeans had not actually come to Jerusalem. The time of judgment however at length arrived, and from the brief notices we have of this period, we can but gather that Jehoiakim after three years of unwilling payment as tribute of the money which he yearned to spend upon his own luxurious indulgences, rebelled against Babylon (2 Kings xxiv. 1), was attacked (Nebuchadnezzar being too much occupied to come in person) by numerous bands of Chaldaeans, Ammonites, Moabites, and Syrians, the subjects of Babylon (2 Kings xxiv. 2), and, probably in an engagement with some of these, came to a violent end and a dishonoured burial. His body was cast out and exposed ignominiously, dragged away and in accordance with Jeremiah's prophecy (xxii. 18,19, where see notes; compare xxxvi. 30) buried with the burial of an ass beyond the gates of Jerusalem.
14. Jehoiachin ( = Jeconiah, chaps. xxiv. I, xxvii. 20, xxviii. 4, xxix. 2, and = Coniah, chaps. xxii. 24, 28, xxxvii. 1), son and successor of Jehoiakim, and set up by Nebuchadnezzar, reigned like Jehoahaz but three months (b. C. 597). At the end of that time, the city being besieged by Nebuchadnezzar, he yielded himself up. The king himself, the people of the land, except the poorest, the treasures of the Temple and of the king's house,
1 D'Aubigne, Bk. VI. chap. XI. (White's Translation, Vol. II. p.
2 See further in the notes.
were taken to Babylon, where Jehoiachin was detained in prison for thirty-six years, till Evil-Merodach, son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar, released him. Of Jeremiah's prophecies undoubtedly belonging to this reign we have but a few sentences (xxii. 24—30).
15. Zedekiah (B.C. 597—586), who received this name in place of Mattaniah from Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings xxiv. 17), differed much from Jehoiakim. He was well-meaning, but weak. As Nebuchadnezzar's nominee he was more inclined than his predecessors had been to listen to that doctrine of submission to the Babylonian power which Jeremiah preached. But on the other hand he had no real zeal for the service of God, and he was essentially vacillating in disposition, yielding now to the suggestions of the prophet, now to those of the princes of the people, who advocated resistance single-handed or in alliance with Egypt. It was as in the days described in Isaiah i. 21— 23. Through the overthrow of lawful authority in the Chaldaean invasions, certain of the most energetic spirits got the rule of the city virtually into their own hands. Zedekiah did what he could for the preservation of Jeremiah, but was practically powerless against the stronger wills and more vigorous leaders opposed to him. To this time belongs the vision of the good and evil figs (chap, xxiv., where see notes). All the best and worthiest part of the nation had been carried captive. Those left were like the " naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad," and they also, the prophet announced, were shortly to be consumed from off the land. To this time belongs also chap. xxix., containing his letter of advice to the exiles, viz. to submit to their captivity and await restoration to their land. There was a false prophet at Babylon at this time, Shemaiah, who sought to stir up the priests and people at Jerusalem against Jeremiah as a madman. In another letter written at the same time Jeremiah foretells this man's punishment (xxix. 32).
16. At the beginning of the ninth year of Zedekiah a Chaldaean army approached Jerusalem. The wealthiest of the people, who had taken advantage of the prevailing distress to make slaves of their brethren, consented under this pressure to release them. But on the departure of the besieging army to meet that of Pharaoh-Hophra, which was thought to be about to attempt to raise the siege, the princes withdrew this boon from those lately manumitted. To this withdrawal Zedekiah was opposed, but was, or considered himself to be, powerless to prevent it, while Jeremiah denounced in the strongest terms the act and those concerned in it, including the king (xxxiv. 17—22). The prophet had already several years previously appeared in the streets with a yoke upon his neck to symbolize the impending servitude of the nation; and when Hananiah, who prophesied deliverance, had broken the yoke, he received the sentence of speedy death at the mouth of Jeremiah, because he had "spoken rebellion against the Lord." It was natural for self-reliant irreligious men to be highly displeased with such acts and words as these, and now Jeremiah's attempt during the temporary absence of the Chaldaeans to go forth to Anathoth in order to obtain provisions1 gave his enemies the opportunity they desired to seize and imprison him as a deserter. From this after "many days" he was delivered by Zedekiah, . who gave him liberty and a daily supply of food (xxxvii. 21). Although still declaring the speedy overthrow of Jerusalem, he now also prophesied plainly of the future restoration, and like the Roman, the report of whose having purchased at full value the ground on which Hannibal's army was encamped, carried dismay to that general's heart (Livy, xxvi. 11), he gave practical proof of his belief in the brighter days in store for his countrymen2. But the captains, unmoved by the distant visions of hope, again seized him, Zedekiah shewing once more his weakness (chap. xxxviii. 5). Each house in Jerusalem had a cistern for storing up water to be used in the dry season. Into one of these, damp and miry as it was, they let down the prophet, who was