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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 shews here that the sentence pronounced on him by the priests and false prophets was soon changed. They had indeed heard him, and had given some appearance of docility, as it is the case with hypocrites who for a time attend; but they exasperated themselves against God, and as their minds were previously malignant, they were rendered much worse by hearing. So it happened to the priests and false prophets, and in their blind rage they doomed the holy Prophet to death. He now says that he was acquitted by the princes and the king’s counsellors, and also by the votes of the people. The people had, indeed, lately condemned him, but they had been carried away by the vain pomp and splendor of the priests and prophets; when they saw these so incensed against Jeremiah, they could not bring themselves to inquire into the cause. Thus the common people are always blinded by prejudices, so that they will not examine the matter itself. So it was when Jeremiah was condemned. We have said that the people were of themselves quiet and peaceable; but the prophets and priests were the farmers, and hence it was that the people immediately gave their consent. But in the presence of the princes they went in a contrary direction.

This passage, in short, teaches us how mischievous are rulers when there is no regard had for equity or justice; and it also teaches us how desirable it is to have honest and temperate rulers, who defend what is good and just, and aid the miserable and the oppressed. But we see that there is nothing steady or fixed in the common people; for they are carried here and there like the wind, which blows now from this quarter and then from that.

But we must notice this clause, that Jeremiah was not worthy of death, 169169     The phrase literally is, “Not to this man the judgment of death.” So nearly is the Sept. and the Vulg., “There is not to this man the judgment of death.” Our version is the Syr. — Ed because he had spoken in the name of Jehovah They thus confessed, that whatever came from God ought to have been received, and that men were mad who opposed the servants of God, for they hurried themselves headlong into their own destruction.

We may hence deduce a useful truth, that whatever God has commanded ought, without exception, to be reverently received, and that his name is worthy of such a regard, that we ought to attempt nothing against his servants and prophets. Now, to speak in the name of Jehovah is no other thing than faithfully to declare what God has commanded. The false prophets, indeed, assumed the name of God, but they did so falsely; but the people acknowledge here that Jeremiah was a true prophet, who did not presumptuously thrust in himself, nor falsely pretended God’s name, but who in sincerity performed the duties of his office. It follows, —


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