A creative look at the biblical story of Jeremiah. Jerusalem 587 BCE.
By: Terence R. Schilstra
Yesterday a man named Jeremiah was found beaten in the stocks at the Upper Gate of the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem. Charges were brought against him by the temple official Pashhur, son of Immer, who alleged Jeremiah was spreading hate speech and terror. It’s reported that Jeremiah was projecting radical religious statements saying, “The Lord Almighty…God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and all the villages around it disaster.’ ” When Jeremiah was asked why this impending “disruption” was coming, he said it was because the people in Israel were “far from God and stiff-necked.”
When we reached Jeremiah for comment after his release from the stocks he had his regrets. He admitted, “The word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long!” He told us that “everyone mocks him,” whenever he proclaims the impending disruption to come on Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. “But if I say: ‘I will not mention His word (God’s message) or speak anymore in God’s name,” Jeremiah continued, “all his heart and bones will burn like fire within him.” So Jeremiah insisted that he would not stop “preaching” this warning to the nation. When asked to comment where the disaster that was to befall Israel would come from, Jeremiah pointed and replied, “North.”
We met the locals this morning near a temple of Baal for comment on Jeremiah’s arrest. The room where we met was full of aromatic incense being burned to the false gods. Many of the people there were indignant, saying, Jeremiah has done this before. They asserted he has a loose grip on reality. When asked to explain, one local stated, “There is something that everyone in the nation of Israel knows, but Jeremiah has forgotten.” He continued, “The land of Israel was promised to our ancestors as our inheritance. What’s more, David, our founding monarch, has established a throne and kingdom here that can never be taken away!” We asked about this “inheritance” and we were directed to a prophet in the city temple
At the temple we met with an esteemed prophet scholar who is a senior fellow in Jerusalem. When asked about Jeremiah’s arrest he said that Jeremiah was “out of his mind.” The old sage explicitly stated that the nation of Israel “will not see the sword or suffer famine.” He gave a very different “true” teaching from God, contrary to what was coming from Jeremiah. “Our inheritance,” the senior fellow announced is “by God, lasting peace in this place.” He was saying that “God would never allow harm to our city or the nation of Israel.” We were left in a cloud of confusion. Why are there competing messages coming concerning the state of the city and her people?
We reached out to the sage’s colleagues and fellow prophets to fact check this assertions. Like their colleagues, they said Jeremiah has lost the respect of the council of God’s prophets and the community. Further they stated, like the sage, that they have received very real visions in the name of Lord that, “No harm will fall on Jerusalem.” So the majority opinion is that the unrest or disruption declared by Jeremiah is, perhaps, a delusion.
Each assessment from the community and the religious leaders showed Jeremiah’s arrest and beating to be warranted, and his message of “impending disruption” to be mere inference. The revelation and perception of the prophet scholars is consistent: They maintain the city and land of Israel will be preserved, and that David’s line will reign forever. The community shows no indication of disruption. They exhibit only a quiet peace, and reverential desire to worship their idols. Jeremiah’s message, while concerning at first blush, seems to have no physical or tangible implications to suggest disruption is near.
The king of Judah, and his government, who sits on the throne established by David was brought up to speed on Jeremiah’s apocalyptic message and his arrest later that morning. We met them at the palace gate. While they had little comment, they were aware of Jeremiah’s “rhetoric.” They later released a statement saying that the king’s office has been made aware of the incident, and will be conducting an independent investigation. The government would not comment directly, however there are rumors swirling that Jeremiah had been to the palace to proclaim a message swearing by God that “the palace and city will become a ruin.” The leaders insisted, rather, “this is a time of peace for our community” — a proclamation very much like the ones made by the populous.
We contacted the government for further comment on Jeremiah’s rhetoric, which several government officials pushed aside as “madness.” “This seems to be far fetched,” expressed one official “the Davidic covenant bestowed to this community and the royal throne will never be taken away.” By implication of this covenant destruction of the city, palace or royal throne appear to be an impossibility.
Warning of the throne’s destruction according to Jeremiah comes at a time when the government is suspected of violent acts permitted on foreigners, orphans, and widows. Jeremiah asserts that the Davidic throne was founded on “defending the poor and needy,” whereas the current government has set their eyes and hearts on “dishonest gain, shedding innocent blood, oppression, and extortion of the people.” Jeremiah contends that this in part, is the reason God would bring “due measure of discipline.” There is conjecture that the king’s rule is corrupt, however it is questionable whether this government will respond to the hard rebuke. A case of “Every country has the government it deserves.” While there appears to be indications of political oppression and corruption, Jeremiah’s message still seems to be inherently ambiguous.
We sat down with Jeremiah to get clarity. For starters he told us about his God. He described Him as almighty and powerful. A God who is worthy of praise and worship. Jeremiah said that when we are “rooted” in this almighty and powerful God there is no reason to fear, or worry. Jeremiah told us that God has promised that when His people live by His Word, they will be “filled with His bounty.” We asked why God would allegedly bring this “disruption and destruction” on the city and the nation of Israel if God is so good? Jeremiah was straightforward. “We should alone worship God. The Lord has a perfect law to live by, and when we don’t live by that law we as people will live in turmoil.” That sounded fair enough, but we pushed Jeremiah to connect the dots between that understanding of God, and the current state and reality of Jerusalem and the Israelite people. How do they fit in here? They seem like a peaceful people? Jeremiah got serious. He said there is a problem. “The Lord Almighty,” he started, “examines the heart and mind.” He explained that while the people of Jerusalem “think” and “appear” to be living a life of peace, they are in fact desperately wicked in their hearts and minds. Rather than praising and acknowledging their God, and obeying His law, they have worshiped other gods, and worthless idols. The nation of Israel has forgotten the love and salvation of God. They have failed to live according to God’s laws. As a result they would be punished. That’s when we asked the question of the day: What will be the punishment? Jeremiah looked in both directions to make sure we were alone. He said one word, “Babylon.”
Jeremiah said the Israelites will be destroyed by their enemies. “We as people of this nation have two options,” he spread out his hands. “God has set before us a way of life, and a way of death.” He explained that Babylon, without question, is coming to take Israel and her city captive. Whoever stays in the city would die by the sword, famine, or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians, will escape with their lives. As for the city it would be destroyed by fire.
If Israel is carried away into Babylon, neither their worst fears nor our highest hopes will be realized. What has passed for normal may in fact exact a price. What has appeared to be regular in Israel, will bring destruction. The words Jeremiah spoke started to ring out.
We searched for some details on how this destruction from the “North” would first of all fit in with God’s promised covenant to give the nation of Israel this land forever. Second, we needed clarity on how God was going to maintain His covenant promise that David’s throne would endure forever. Was God breaking those covenants? We needed some explanation. Jeremiah reported that God would not permanently expel the nation of Israel from the land and city, but “send them into the hands of the Babylonians for a period of seventy years.” So there was a time frame for the disruption and captivity. He said “God would still watch over his people in captivity, for their good, and would bring them back to the land of Israel.” He continued, “God has promised to give his people a heart to know Him in exile, and they would return with their heart and mind in a relationship with Him.”
The covenant that was established on David’s throne had a surprising twist. It seemed partly veiled, however it was loaded with intrigue. Jeremiah went on, “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, when I will raise up from David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” He said there would be a New King that would rescue and restore Israel from captivity forever. Now it was our turn to make sure we were alone. We leaned in towards Jeremiah, “a political insurrection?” “ Who is this New King?” He moved in close, “The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” There would be a new King, much greater than David.
Late last night thirty men pulled an emaciated and muddied Jeremiah from the pit of an old cistern that served a his prison. The charges levied against him are synonymously indicative of his previous fanatical utterances. “Israel and the city will fall into the hands of Babylon!” His familiar prophetic cry.
With every heave by the men on the rope that pulled Jeremiah up from the cylindrical dungeon, the feet of Babylon’s armies edged one step closer to the gates of Jerusalem. A trumpet blast splintered the day in two. What has passed for normal has finally exacted a price. Israel’s worst fears were realized. In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. All of Israel, save a remnant, where carried off into captivity. The disruption. Those who surrendered wept bitterly as they were stripped from their homes. Their world crashed in around them. The illusion of peace was shattered. Every hope for their children, and a future was stripped away in an instant. Many tried to flee, or fight for their lives against the armies of king Nebuchadnezzar. Resistance was hopeless. They were swallowed up by death.
As Israel’s children faded into captivity they looked up to their parents saying, “Why has the Lord done such a thing to this great city?” The word of the Lord from Jeremiah punctured their hearts. “Because we have forsaken the covenant of the Lord our God and have worshiped and served other gods.” They wept bitterly.
How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations. She was queen among the provinces has now become a slave. — Lamentations 1
Author of Peace of the City. peaceofthecity.ca
1. Jeremiah 19:1-15, 20:1-6 Holy Bible (NIV)
2. Jeremiah 14:13-16 Holy Bible (NIV)
3. Jeremiah 14:13-16 Holy Bible (NIV)
4. Jeremiah 22:1-7 Holy Bible (NIV)
5. Jeremiah 22:13-17 Holy Bible (NIV)
6. Quote by: Joseph de Maistre, Savoyard Philosopher, Writer, Lawyer, and Diplomat
7. Jeremiah 31:14 Holy Bible (NIV)
8. Jeremiah 21:1-10 Holy Bible (NIV)
9. N.R. Kleinfield The Reckoning. York Times.
10. N.R. Kleinfield The Reckoning. New York Times.
11. Jeremiah 23:5-6 Holy Bible (NIV)
12. N.R. Kleinfield The Reckoning, A. New York Times.
13. Jeremiah 22:8-9 Holy Bible (NIV)
14. Lamentations 1:1 Holy Bible (NIV)