Jeremiah Attacks Social Evils in Judea
I am here, Jesus:
But as I have pointed, out such a defeat could not deter Jeremiah from his purpose; since as he knew, God was with him; he dictated another book to Baruch. And as for Jehoikim, he uttered his prophecy of the King's death, and dishonor to his body; which I showed, almost, but did not come to pass, nor did Jeremiah predict correctly that he would not be succeeded by a son; for in 597 B.C. at his death, his son Jehoiakim reigned only three months, for the Babylonians captured the city and took Jehoiakim prisoner, carrying him off to Babylon where he died as an old man. At this point, however, Jeremiah stopped preaching for seven years.
Shortly before Jehoiakim's death, when the Babylonians commenced their attack upon Jerusalem, a group of Rechabites, cultists who swore not to drink liquor, and who lived as nomads in tents, took refuge from the hill country of Judah, open to the devastation of Nebuchadnezzar's advancing armies, into the city of Jerusalem, where they would be safe as long as the city would resist siege. These people, in their aversion to strong drink, were thus like the Nazarites, who produced Samson, in the days of the Judges, and they were very pious in their beliefs and tenets. Jeremiah learned of their coming and brought them into the Temple, for the ban against him had been lifted, and he gave them wine to drink. But they refused, recalling the pledge which they had given. In admiration of their faith, Jeremiah lifted his silence and felt moved by the voice of God to acclaim:
"Whereas the words of a man, the son of Rechab, who
his sons not to drink wine, are obeyed, for they hearken to their father's
commandment, but I your God, have spoken unto you often
and again, and ye have not hearkened unto Me,
through My servants and My prophets; therefore, saith the Lord, behold, I will bring
upon Judah and Jerusalem all the evil I have pronounced against them . . ." (Jeremiah, Chapt. 35, verses 14 - 18).
And in other sermons Jeremiah denounced the evil of the false prophets and the evil priests, and held contraversy with a false prophet. Meanwhile, Nebuchadnezzar consolidated his power and empire, and in 600 B.C. invaded Syria and Palestine. All the small nations in that area recognized him as master, including Judah, and Jehoiakim raided the Temple treasury to pay tribute to him. Finally, against the advise of Jeremiah, who saw in Babylonia the hand of God for the scourge of nations:
"Therefore, saith the Lord of hosts; Because ye have not
words, behold, I will take all the families of the north . . . I will send
unto Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon, My servant and I will
bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and
against all these nations round about, and I will utterly destroy them . . .
(Jeremiah, Chapt. 25, verses 8 & 9).
Jehoiakim rebelled and died soon thereafter and in short order Jerusalem was taken by the mighty empire from the north and the conquerors placed Zedekiah, an uncle, on the throne. The Babylonians looted the city, emptied the Temple treasury, took anything of value found therein and departed to Babylonia with thqusands of the upper classes, as well as craftsmen and workers, and men fit to wage war, the royal house and the chief men of the land. This was the first captivity of Judah, and the end was in sight.
Jeremiah thus saw that, though delayed, his prophecies were to come true. He therefore preached vehemently and often not to rebel against the conquerors, but to remain faithful to them. Zedekiah was the brother of Jehoiakim, and was 21 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar had been advised by his spies that Zedekiah had not been active in fomenting revolt against him, as the sons of Jehoiakim had been, and thus chose him to rule under his suzerainty.
Now Zedekiah (he had been named Mattaniah by his father) was pressed both by the pro-Egyptian party, those of the priests and prophets, and by those who, like Jeremiah, favored peace with Babylonia. In fact the King had great respect for Jeremiah, whose writings he was familiar with and whom he had heard preaching, and he was impressed by the fact that his prophecies of Jerusalem's fall to Babylonia had been fulfilled. But Jerusalem had not been destroyed, and there were false prophets who pointed out and affirmed that in a short time the exiles from Babylonia would return. For this to happen, of course, there would have to be waged a successful war of rebellion against Babylonia -- and Jeremiah knew from God that such a revolt could only end in the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. To emphasize and constantly remind the people that they must be subservient to Babylonia, Jeremiah used to wear a wooden yoke on his neck.
The last dozen or more chapters in the book of Jeremiah pertain to the reign of Zedekiah, the anguish suffered by Jeremiah because of his certainty of Jerusalem's destruction due to hesitation, the doubts and the inability of the King to understand Jeremiah's message -- even though he respected and feared the prophet who spoke in the name of the Lord. Here, too, is found the hope, the optimism, that a remnant would abide, who chastened by the experience of exile and loss of homeland, would conform to the commandments of God -- with a new heart to know God and be His children.
The Scriptures relate that one of the popular false prophets of the day, Hananiah ben Azzur, from Gideon, came to Jerusalem to speak to the priests and the people in the Temple. This took place in the fourth year of Zedekiah, 593 B.C., in the fifth month, that is in summer. Hananiah declared that God had broken the yoke of Babylonia and in two years would bring back the treasures of the Temple, as well as the royal house and all the captives. And when Jeremiah answered him that the history of prophecy was a declaration against wars, and evil behavior, and one that stood for peace, then Hananiah took the wooden yoke from Jeremiah's neck and broke it. Jeremiah went to a blacksmith's shop, and had an iron one made, put it around his neck and, when next he saw Hananiah in the Temple, retorted.
"For thus saith the Lord; Thou hast broken the bars of
But thou shalt make in their stead bars of iron.
For thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel;
I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that
they may serve Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon.
Hear now, Hananiah; the Lord hath sent thee not;
But thou makest this people to trust in a lie."
(Jeremiah, Chapt. 28, verses 12 - 15).
And he predicted Hananiah's death that same year for preaching rebellion against God - - and Hananiah died two months later. This report is true, as Hananiah had not the faith and the inward conviction of what he was saying; he was a party man, a politician and he spoke as he did because it was profitable, though he did not realize he was mainly a tool in the hands of the pro-Egyptian party throughout the land. He was struck with terror by Jeremiah's words, because Jeremiah was absolutely sincere and he spoke from the heart; therefore his words clung to Hananiah's brain, and they assumed the shape of truth, and this instance of the power of suggestion, here in death, as it could be for healing, is one which shows the might of the words of God, for they are like fire and burn in the heart, and bring unquenchable courage, as they can strike terror into those who know they have worked iniquity. God did not want Hananiah's death, but his repentance; yet the burden of his conscience brought him death, as it did in centuries to come, to Judas, my companion.
Jesus of the Bible
Master of the Celestial Heavens
Go to Table of Contents
Return to Home Page