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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.

Another example is brought forward, partly different, and partly alike, — different as to the king, the like as to a Prophet. Uriah, mentioned here, faithfully discharged his office; but Jehoiakim could not bear his preaching, and therefore slew him. Some explain the whole in the same manner, as though the elders designed to shew that the wicked can gain nothing by resisting God’s prophets, except that by contending they make themselves more and more guilty. But others think that this part was brought forward by the opposite party, and the words, “And also,” וגם, ugam, favor this opinion; for they may be taken adversatively, as though they said, “But there was another Prophet, who did not speak of the ruin of the city and of the destruction of the Temple with impunity.” And this opinion seems to be confirmed by what follows in the last verse of the chapter, Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam, etc.; the particle אך, ak, is properly nevertheless; but it means sometimes, at least, or only. But in this place, as I shall shew again presently, it retains, I think, its proper meaning; for the Prophet declares, that though he was in great danger, yet Ahikam fought so bravely for him, that at length he gained his cause.

But as to the present passage, both expositions may be admitted; that is, either that the malignants adduced the death of Uriah in order to overwhelm Jeremiah, — or that God’s faithful followers intended to shew that there was no reason of acting in this manner, for the state of things had become worse, since King Jehoiakim had cruelly slain God’s servant.

But the time ought especially to be noticed. We have seen that this prophecy was committed to Jeremiah, and also promulgated at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign; but this beginning is not to be confined either to the first or second year; but as he became tributary to the king of Babylon, he afterwards endeavored to throw off the yoke and was at length disgracefully dethroned; hence the beginning of his reign must be during the time that his power was entire. While then Jehoiakim retained his dignity, Jeremiah was bidden to proclaim this message. However this may have been, the King Jehoiakim thus enjoyed a tranquil reign; he was at Jerusalem. It is not therefore said here, that Uriah had threatened the city in his days; but the history is given as of a present thing. One thing then is evident, that this discourse was delivered, when King Jehoiakim was not afar off. His palace was nigh the Temple; his counsellors were present who had come down, as we have seen, on account of the tumult. For the affair could not be hidden; since the priests and the false prophets everywhere inflamed the rage of the people. The king’s counsellors therefore came to quell the disturbances. If this part of the address is to be ascribed to the defenders of Jeremiah, then they must have been endued with great courage and firmness, to allege against the king a nefarious murder, and also to condemn him for a sacrilege, for he had not only done an injury to a holy Prophet, but had directly opposed God himself. There are on both sides probable conjectures; for if we follow this opinion, that the servants of God, who favored Jeremiah and sought to deliver him from danger, spoke these words, it might be objected and said, that no such thing is expressed But the narrative goes on continuously, And there was also a man, etc. Now when different persons speak and oppose one another, it is usual to mark the change. It seems then that the whole is to be read connectedly, so that they who first adduced the example of Micah, then added on the other hand, that Uriah indeed suffered punishment, but that thus a crime was added to a crime, so that Jehoiakim gained nothing by furiously persecuting God’s Prophet. And that they did not speak of the consequences, ought not to appear strange, for the condition of the city and of the people was known to all, and a more grievous danger was nigh at hand. Hence a simple narrative might well have been given by them; and as they did not dare to exasperate the mind of the king, it was the more necessary to leave that part untouched.

But if the other view be more approved, that the enemies of Jeremiah did here rise against him, and alleged the case of Uriah, there is also some appearance of reason in its favor; the king was living, his counsellors were present, as we have said. It might then be, that those who wished the death of Jeremiah, referred to this recent example in order to have him destroyed, — “Why should he escape, since Uriah was lately put to death, for the cause is exactly the same? Uriah did not go any farther than Jeremiah; he seems indeed to have taken the words from his mouth. As, then, the king did slay him, why should Jeremiah be spared? Why should he escape the punishment the other underwent, when his crime is more grievous?” It hence appears that this view can without absurdity be defended, that is, that the enemies of Jeremiah endeavored to aggravate his case by referring to the punishment the king inflicted on Uriah, whose case was not dissimilar; and I do not reject this view. If any approve of the other, that this part was spoken by the advocates of Jeremiah, I readily allow it; but I dare not yet reject wholly the idea, that Jeremiah was loaded with prejudice by having the case of Uriah brought forward, who was killed by the king for having prophesied against the city and the Temple. 174174     There are two other views taken of this subject; some say that the second example, that of Uriah, was introduced by the writer of the narrative, whether Jeremiah himself or Baruch, and that this was mentioned to shew, that according to this precedent, Jeremiah would have been killed, had it not been for the interposition of Ahikam. This is the view taken by Gataker and Blayney.
   But what appears most consistent with the whole passage is the view given by Venema; he considers that the 17th verse (Jeremiah 26:17) has been removed from its place between the 19th and the 20th (Jeremiah 26:19-20), and that the “princes” mentioned the case of Micah in favor of Jeremiah, and that “the elders of the land” adduced the case of Uriah against him, and that notwithstanding this it is at last added, that Ahikam, one of the princes, succeeded in his deliverance. That chapters have been transposed in this book is indubitable; the same thing may also have happened as to verses.

   Then the passage would read thus, —

   16. Then said the princes and all the people to the priests and to the prophets, “Against this man there is no judgment of death, for in

   18. the name of Jehovah hath he spoken to (or against) us. Micah the Morasthite was a prophet in the days of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, and he spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, ‘Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Sion, being a field, shall be plowed, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house like the heights of

   19. a forest.’ Slaying, did Hezekiah, the king of Judah, and all Judah, slay him? did he not fear Jehovah and intreat the favor of Jehovah? then Jehovah repented as to the evil which he had pronounced against them; but we are doing a great evil against our own souls.”

   17. Then rose up men from the elders of the land and spoke to the

   20. whole assembly of the people, saying, “But there was also a man, who prophesied in the name of Jehovah, Uriah, the son of Shemaiah,” etc. etc.

   This arrangement makes the whole narrative plain, regular, and consistent. The conclusion comes in naturally, that notwithstanding the adverse speech of the “elders” Jeremiah was saved by the influence of Ahikam, one of the princes. — Ed.

Let us now consider the words; There was also a man who prophesied in the name of Jehovah, etc. If we receive the opinion of those who think that Jeremiah’s enemies speak here, then the name of Jehovah is to be taken for a false pretense, as though they had said, “It is a very common thing to pretend the name of God; for every one who claims to himself the office of teaching, boasts that he is sent from above, and that what he speaks has been committed to him by God.” Thus they indirectly condemned Jeremiah; for it was not enough for him to pretend God’s name, as Uriah, of whom they spoke, had also professed most loudly that he was God’s prophet, that he brought nothing as his own, and that he had a sure call. But if this part is to be ascribed to God’s true worshippers, whose object it was to protect and defend Jeremiah, to speak in the name of Jehovah, as we said yesterday, was not only to glory on account of the prophetic office, but also to give evidence of faithfulness and of integrity, so as really and by the effect to prove that he was God’s prophet, such as he wished to be thought.

They then added, he prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah If the adversaries of Jeremiah were the speakers, we see that he was so overpowered, that it was afterwards superfluous to know anything more of his cause; for another had already been condemned, whose case was in no way dissimilar or different; “He spoke according to the words of Jeremiah, and he was condemned, why then should we now hesitate respecting Jeremiah?” We see how malignantly they turned against Jeremiah this example, as though he was condemned beforehand in the person of another. But if these were the words of the godly, they are to be accounted for in another way; what is intimated is, that if Jeremiah was slain, God’s vengeance would be provoked; for it was more than enough to shed the innocent blood of one Prophet.


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