76 Sermons On The Old Testament Given By Jesus
Sermon 52 - Jeremiah’s tribulations as an anti-war prophet.
August 12th, 1960
Received by Dr Samuels
I am here, Jesus.
Meanwhile, from 597 B.C. Zedekiah held to his wavering course of vassalage to Babylonia, despite the opposition of many of his advisers and princes of the royal house of Judah, but when Pharoah Hophra of Egypt entered Palestine to wage war on Babylonia, he was persuaded to join him. In the tenth month, Nebuchadrezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, then lifted it temporarily to meet Hophra. The people rejoiced, thinking that danger had been averted, and that they would be free, but Jeremiah, with his unwavering trust in the Babylonians as the scourge of God, declared they would return and conquer Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 37: 5 - 9)
As the Babylonians broke camp to meet the Egyptian army, Jeremiah decided to leave Jerusalem, to receive his land in Anathoth that, as I have said elsewhere, he had bought from his nephew. He was arrested at the gate of Benjamin as a deserter to the enemy. Though Jeremiah protested his innocence, he was brought before certain of the princes who sustained the charges, had him flogged and placed him in a dungeon beneath the house of Jonathan, the Scribe. He was held there for many days, while the Babylonians, who had in the meanwhile driven off the Egyptians, returned, as Jeremiah had predicted, and began to besiege the city in earnest.
Zedekiah, realizing that Jeremiah had prophesied accurately, decided to ask him what might be the result of the siege, and had him brought from the dungeons to ask him alone, “Is there any word from the Lord?” Jeremiah could only repeat his admonitions of submission to Babylonia and pointed out his prophecies were of God, and that he had not sinned in any way to have been condemned to prison. He pleaded with the king not to send him back to that terrible dungeon, or he would die there. The king had mercy on the old man, and had him transferred to a more tolerable prison, called the court of the guards, with provision of a loaf of bread daily as long as food was available in Jerusalem.
I do not care to linger on the vicissitudes and hardships which Jeremiah endured during this time, nor before, for it is a subject that brings forth only sorrow, nor is Jeremiah himself anxious that these things be dwelt upon; they merely show that, like other prophets before him, and afterwards, spokesmen for God had to pay for their mission to the people by those who found God’s Will not to their liking and against their earth plane desires. These princes were of the military caste who also felt that God would not permit His holy city to be taken.
Briefly, Jeremiah was accused again of treason for preaching submission to Babylonia, and, when Zedekiah threw up his hands, saying, “Behold, he is in your hand; the king can do nothing against you,” they had Jeremiah lowered with cords into a pit, or grave, that was in the court of the guard, and the prophet sank into the mire of this grave, left to die of starvation and exposure. He was rescued by a Negro, Eben-Melech, of Ethiopia, an officer in the king’s house, who protested to the king that “evil” had been done unto him. Zedekiah, who could not control his cousins or others in his family who were with him, neither had any wish to be responsible for Jeremiah’s death, and he ordered Eben-Melech to take thirty men and rescue him. The Book of Jeremiah relates the Negro’s kindness to the prophet, providing him with worn rags and cloths to be placed under his armpits so that the ropes would not tear his skin in the process of pulling him up.
Yet Zedekiah was afraid of the princes surrounding him. I have spoken with Zedekiah and he tells me that he was in fear of their assassinating him if he yielded to the Babylonians. He had no choice but to continue in the defense of Jerusalem and depend upon the mercy of Nebuchadrezzar, and he says that, considering the fact that the siege lasted two years and cost the conqueror many thousands of his soldiers’ lives, he got off with not too much severity. Though his eyes were put out with irons and he was sent in chains to prison, yet he was allowed to live and he did not die a violent death. I have spoken to Nebuchadrezzar about Zedekiah and the siege of Jerusalem and he tells me that he realized all along that the main enemy was Egypt, and that Judah’s revolt was not a serious attempt on his kingdom, being a tiny outpost, but that he felt burning of the city and deportation of most of the people to Babylonia would act as a deterrent to other possible rebellions. At the same time he expressed astonishment at the tenacity and fanaticism shown by the Judean soldiers.
The city was taken on the 9th of Ab, 586 B.C., the city burned, the Temple destroyed, and the fleeing king and the nobles were captured in the plains of Jericho and brought to Nebuchadrezzar’s headquarters at Riblah where the monarch executed judgment upon the rebels. Zedekiah’s sons were slain before his eyes, and the nobility as well. Most of the survivors of the siege, and the dwellers of the countryside, were marched to Babylon as captives to be treated as enslaved people. Only the very poor of the rural areas were permitted to remain on the farms and vineyards so that the land would not become a desert.
Jeremiah was taken from his prison in the court of the guard by Nebuzaradan, captain of the Babylonian guard, to Ramah, with many other captives, but was released by orders of Nebuchadrezzar, and given a choice of going with the people or remaining in Judah. Jeremiah chose to stay behind, and he was told to dwell with Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, who had saved the prophet’s life at his trial before the princes. Gedaliah, descendant of the Royal House of David, had been appointed governor of Judah by Nebuchadrezzar because he had shared Jeremiah’s view that it was better to submit than to fight Babylonia. On Rosh Hashanah of that year, a few princes who had escaped to Moab came back to Mizpah and, at the feast of this holy day, killed Gedaliah with the sword, the foremost one being Ismael, the son of Nethaniah, of the royal house, and rabidly pro-Egyptian. For Gedaliah, a good man, could not believe the warning of Johanan, son of Kareah, that Ismael or anyone else would come to kill him at table. The people were profoundly heartbroken at the news of Gedaliah’s death, and they instituted the holiday of the Fast of Gedaliah, the 3rd of Tishri, the day after Rosh Hoshanah.
In the massacres and confusion that followed Gedaliah’s death, the few remnants abiding in Judah fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians, and they took Jeremiah and Baruch with them, despite their advice and warnings. And they went down to Egypt, in Taphanhes, and it was there that Jeremiah ended his days, through violence, still preaching against Egypt and the disaster to follow those that remained there.
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