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26. Jeremiah Threatened With Death

In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the Lord, saying, 2Thus saith the Lord; Stand in the court of the Lord’S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word: 3If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings. 4And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, 5To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened; 6Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth. 7So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord.

8Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die. 9Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

10When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king’s house unto the house of the Lord, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the Lord’S house. 11Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.

12Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard. 13Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. 14As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you. 15But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.

16Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God. 17Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying, 18Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. 19Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls. 20And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the Lord, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjathjearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah: 21And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death: but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt; 22And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt. 23And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him unto Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people. 24Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.

Jeremiah pleads only his own calling and the command of God; and thus he confutes the preposterous charge which they most impudently brought against him. There is no doubt but that he might have spoken at large, but he deemed it enough to include the substance of his defense. Had he made a long discourse, the main point might have been more obscure. He now clearly makes known the state of the question on both sides. The priests by their own authority condemned Jeremiah, because he reduced to nothing [as they thought] God’s promises, for he had threatened destruction to the city and to the temple; but Jeremiah on the other side answers, that he had declared nothing but what God had enjoined. There was need of proof, when the priests held that God was inconsistent with himself in denouncing destruction on that city, which he had undertaken to defend and protect. But the confutation of this was ready at hand, — that God had never bound himself to hypocrites and ungodly men; nay, the whole glory of the city and the majesty of the Temple were dependent on his worship; nor is there any doubt but that Jeremiah had alleged these things. But as it was the main thing, he was satisfied with stating that he had been sent by God.

Thus he indirectly condemned their vain boastings, — that God was on their side; but he says, “I come not except by God’s command.” Now, though he declares briefly and distinctly that he had been sent by God, he yet presents himself as ready to prove everything; and as I have already said, there is no doubt but that he answered and discussed that frivolous question on which the priests so much insisted.

It is further worthy of being noticed, that he addressed both the princes and the people; and thus he intimated that the priests and the prophets were deaf, and not worthy of being spoken to; for it was their determination proudly to despise God, and to carry on war, as it were avowedly, with his servants; for he would have otherwise no doubt gladly endeavored to restore them to the way of safety. But as he saw that they had closed the door against themselves, he passed them by. This is the reason why he says, that he spoke to the princes and to the people, having passed by those, on whom he must have spent labor in vain. And surely when they said that he was worthy of death, they proved by such a presumption that they would not be taught by him; and also their cruelty prevented them from being teachable. But the Prophet had regard to the very source of evil, because their object was obstinately to resist God and all his prophets.

By saying, that he was sent to prophesy all that they had heard, he made them judges, though he did not address them together with the princes; for we have seen that the latter were in the king’s palace, and had been sent for when there was a fear of some commotion. But there is no doubt but that the address was repeated again. Jeremiah then made them judges and arbitrators, when he said that he retracted nothing, but that what they had heard, he had faithfully declared according to the command of God. It follows, —


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