Papers on Jeremiah




[UNTO THE NATIONS” (verse 5)]




The character and work of Jeremiah, as well as the political position in which he was placed, need a few introductory remarks.



The priest of Anathoth succeeded the scion of the Royal House of Judah as chief of the prophetic office.



Isaiah, son of Amos, had guided national affairs for sixty years, during the reigns of four kings - Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  And of the last king he was the close friend and esteemed adviser.  His policy all along was resistance to Assyria; he spoke to a people ready to obey, and whose principles of true religion were kept firm by a faithful government.



Jeremiah, on the contrary, was persecuted by Court, priests, prophets and people during the reigns of the last four kings of Judah - Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah.  Feared and hated alike, for his antagonism to their depravity and idolatry, and to their foreign policy of resistance to Chaldea, his life among them was one long martyrdom.



Regarded by the ancient Jews as a type of the Messiah, surely no man ever approached so near to Him as he in the fellowship of His sufferings.



Witness the tears and pain of heart over the sins of his countrymen, Jer. 8: 18; 15: 18; 23: 9; 13: 17; Lam. 2: 11; 3: 48-51: the reproach and curses he had to bear for his faithfulness, Jer. 15: 10, 15: the slanders and general ill-treatment he endured, Jer. 26: 10-24; 11: 18, 19; 12: 6; 18: 18; 20: 10; Lam. 3: 52-4: isolation, Jer. 15: 17; 16: 1-8: the plots laid to kill him, Jer. 11: 18, 19, 23: the necessity of hiding from his foes, 36: 19; the ridicule cast upon him, 20: 7, 8: his bodily anguish, Lam. 3: 1-15: his mental anguish, revealed so pathetically, in his ten prayers, Jer. 10: 23-5; 11: 20; 12: 1-3; 14: 7-9; 14: 19-22; 15: 15-18; 17: 13-18; 18: 19-23; 20: 7-13; 32: 17-25: and, perhaps the hardest thing of all to bear - snares laid to make him fall into sin - My familiar friends watch for my halting” (Jer. 20: 10; compare Luke 20: 20).



But he, too, had a small band of loyal friends who nobly, stood by his side through the worst crisis: the family of Shaphan, and Baruch, and Ebed-melech were men worthy of any hero’s friendship.



Had Jeremiah merely denounced sin, while foretelling deliverance from national danger as Isaiah had done, princes and nobles would have ignored his plain speaking certainly, but he would have been popular.  As it was, they showed him the most vindictive hatred on account of his persistent prophecies of ruin to Judah in Nebuchadnezzar’s victorious campaigns.



Why then, did Jeremiah preach submission to Babylonia when Isaiah had enforced resistance to Assyria? Daniel answers this question in his prayer (chap. 9).



The history of ancient dynasties teaches us that the rise of one meant the downfall of the others; all subordinate kingdoms being gradually absorbed into that Power which happened to have the ascendancy.  There was one important exception to this general rule, and this exception makes all the difference between sacred and profane history.  The independence of the Hebrews as assured on condition of their faithfulness to God; and archaeological discoveries have made the very stones cry out in vindication of Bible truth.  The story engraved on Assyrian monuments corroborate sacred history and reveal the long buried past.



We now know that Assyria, originally a colony of Babylonia, led the van of power from the commencement of the 14th century B.C., to the year 1120 - the time of Samuel’s rule in Israel.  It was then the foremost monarchy in the world: but, from that period, for some inexplicable reason, it fell into obscurity for 150 years.  This decline, therefore, occurred at the same time as the rise of the Hebrew State in Palestine.  King David subdued the kings of the Syrian Confederacy, and he and his son Solomon, who succeeded him, took the place of supremacy.



After Solomon’s death, Palestine sank, and Assyria again began to rise.  From B.C. 940 the records abound in accounts of Assyria’s encroachments, until at last the Syrian League was broken up, Damascus taken, 732, and the trans-Jordanic tribes of Israel carried captive (2 Kings 15: 29).



In the year 730 B.C. the ascendancy of Assyria was supreme.  Its monarch, Tiglath-Pileser III. (Pul, 2 Kings 15: 19), had extended his empire from Persia to Egypt (1,200 miles), and from the Persian Gulf to Armenia (800 miles).  He was also proclaimed king of Babylonia; but although frequently worsted in its long struggles with Assyria, Babylonia was never long in subjection.



Hezekiah was now on the throne of Judah.  At first under tribute, he threw off the Assyrian yoke B.C. 702.  He had witnessed the downfall of Israel, when Samaria was taken in B.C. 721 by Sargon (successor to Shalmaneser, who died during its siege).  Sennacherib marched into Palestine, took 46 cities and 200,000 captives.  The Bible account gives a different ending to his campaign from that of the records, the reason being that it was not the custom of ancient nations to record their own disasters.  Otherwise there is a close agreement between the Assyrian and Biblical records.



In the year 676, Judah, under Manasseh, was again in submission, and he, attempting to revolt, was ignominiously banished to Babylon.



From 670 to 626 reigned Assur-bani-pal, called by the Greeks Sardanapolis, and by Ezra Asnapper.  He was the greatest of Assyrian monarchs.  After his death Assyrian history is obscure.  Media had become, out of a mere collection of tribes, an organised power, and revolted against Assyria.  The Median king, Cyaxares (Ahasuerus, Daniel 9: 1), invaded the country and besieged Nineveh; but his enterprise was delayed by the descent of hordes of Scythians on his kingdom, compelling him to withdraw for a while.



In B.C. 610, Nabopolassar, an Assyrian general, and father of Nebuchadnezzar, was made king of Babylon.  He joined Media, Egypt, and Armenia against Assyria.  The following year, Necho, king of Egypt, on his way to join his allies, was met in battle by Josiah, king of Judah, at Megiddo.  This was a terrible mistake for Josiah to make, for through this unfortunate interference the best of kings lost his life and ruined his country.  Josiah’s death scaled the fate of Judah (2 Kings 23: 29).



It was not until four years after the battle of Megiddo that a crushing defeat came to Assyria at Carchemish (Jer. 46: 2); and after the fall of Nineveh, B.C. 606, it was finally overthrown.



Assyria was now merged into the Babylonian Empire.







Period I. - From the 13th year to the 31st or the end of Josiah’s Reign - 18 years.

2 Kings 22. 23: 30; 2 Chron. 34. 35.; Zephaniah; Jer. 1. - 4.



Period II. - From the 1st to the 3rd year of Jehoiakim’s Reign - 3 years.

2 Kings 23: 31-37; 2 Chron. 36: 1-5; Habakkuk; Jer. 26: 1-7; 7. -10.;

27: 8-24.; 11.; 12.; 14. to 20.; 22.; 23.



Period III. - From the 3rd year to the 11th, or the end of Jehoiakim’s Reign - 8 years.

2 Kings 24: 1-17; 2 Chron. 36: 6-12; Psalms 71; Jer. 46. - 49: 33; 35.; 25.; 36.; 14.; 13.



Period IV. - From the 1st year of Zedekiah’s Reign to the Siege of Jerusalem - 11 years.

2 Kings 24: 18-20; 2 Chron. 36: 11-16; Jer. 24.; 29.; 49: 34-39; 27.; 28.; 50.; 51.; Ezek. 1. - 23.



Period V. - The Siege and Fall of Jerusalem, B.C. 588.

2 Kings 25.; 2 Chron. 36: 17-21; Jer. 21.; Ezek. 24.; Jer. 34.; 37.; 32.; 30.;

32. 33.; 38.; 39: 15-18; Lamentations.



Period VI. - From the Fall of Jerusalem to the Migration into Egypt - 4 months.

Jer. 39: 1-14; 52.; Psalms 74.; 79.; Obadiah; Jer. 40. - 44.; Psalms 130.; 129.; Ezek. 33.



*       *       *






From the 13th Year to the End of Josiah’s Reign.  Eighteen Years.



                                                   2 Kings 22. - 23: 30.        Zephaniah.


                                                   2 Chron. 34., 35.               Jer. 1. to 4.



Fifty years before the fall of Jerusalem (B.C. 588), the measure of Judah’s iniquity was almost filled up.



The city swarmed with idolatrous priests, burning incense to Baal, and to the twelve signs of the zodiac.  Altars of the Baalim and sun-images abounded in the very streets, upon the housetops, and throughout the whole land.



The Temple was desecrated by the open wickedness of men and women.  Its courts were polluted with Baal’s altars and vessels, and its precincts were used as stables for the horses and chariots of the sun.



Society was abominably corrupt.  Three classes of people were distinguished by Zephaniah.



(1) Worshippers of false gods.


(2) Worshippers of Jehovah, along with other gods.


(3) Generally godless men.



One might even traverse the city without meeting a citizen who had kept faithful to God (Jer. 5: 1.).



But at the worst of times God never leaves Himself without true witnesses.  One or two He will choose as leaders, and around them will rally all the good, who otherwise might not have the courage to stem the tide of evil.



In the 13th year of Josiah’s reign, and the 21st of his age, Jeremiah received his first call.  History repeats itself in the lives of God’s servants as in everything else.  Like Samuel, he was a child; like St. Paul, he was a chosen vessel from his birth; and he was like Moses and Isaiah in his first objection, I cannot speak.”



The first lesson that this child prophet received was that God always keeps his promises.  And when a child, great or small, learns that, he has learned the initial step to a life of trust.  It was fixed on his memory by an object lesson, What seest thou?”  I see a rod of an almond tree (shaked).”  Thou hast well seen; for I watch over (shoked) my word to perform it.”



Such was the beginning of Jeremiah’s call; but we know very little about him for the next eighteen years (Jer. 1: 2; 26: 1).  All his prophecy during this period is comprised in the first six chapters of the Book called after his name.



For further information of contemporary events we turn to the historical books and to the prophet Zephaniah.



During these eighteen years there were four great witnesses and leaders of righteousness.  A woman’s name stands first, by right of her superior age, prophetic gift, and the position of authority she must have held; for even the high priest submitted to her words, and her fellow-witnesses were probably her pupils.



(1) Huldah, the prophetess (2 Kings 22: 14).



(2) Josiah, the young king who, at sixteen, began to seek the Lord.



(3) Zephaniah, his second cousin, the young prophet prince.*

* See Genealogical Table of the Kings of Judah.  Notes, Period 1



(4) Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, the young prophet priest.



Josiah, at the age of twenty, commenced vigorously to carry out his reforms in City, State, and Temple, putting down all external signs of idolatry, breaking up altars, and smashing images throughout the land.



But his reformation wrought only outwardly on the nation (Jer. 3: 10.).  Princes and prophets were all alike corrupt (Jer. 2: 27); the city was full of wickedness (Jer. 4: 14; 5: 1); and the whole land as bad (Jer. 3: 6).



For six years he continued his drastic reforms on Jerusalem, Judah, and the desolated land of Israel.  Then he commenced the restoration of the Temple.  During the process of repairing it, Hilkiah, the high priest, discovered a copy of the Book of the Law, apparently lost since the days of Jehoshaphat, 300 years before.  This happened five years after Jeremiah’s first call; but it was not to him, but to Huldah, that the deputation was sent by the king.  Her answer to Josiah was this: Evil from the LORD on a wicked nation, but mercy to its pious king.”



For a while there was a semblance of true religion.  The people flocked to Josiah’s great Passover, and attended the Temple services; but at best, it was only a semblance of the real thing.  In the Psalmist’s words, “they submitted to the LORD;” which really means, in the original, “a feigned obedience” (Psa. 18: 44; 66: 3; R. V. m g.)



At last there came that disastrous expedition of Josiah against Pharoah-Necoh, which ended in his death at Megiddo, four years before Pharaoh was himself defeated at Carchemish, B.C. 605.



With him perished the last hope of deferring the doom of Judah.  His four successors were weak and wicked princes.  During their reigns there were seven deportations of captives; one to Egypt, of Jehoahaz, deposed by Necho, after a reign of three months, and six deportations to Babylon.



*       *       *






From the 1st to the 3rd year of Jehoiakim’s reign.  Three years.



                                        2 Kings 23: 31-37.           Jer. 26: 1-7; 7. to 10.;


                                         2 Chron. 37: 1-5.              27: 8-24.; 11.; 12.; 14.


                                         Habakkuk.                         to 20.; 22.; 23.



Josiah was dead, Zephaniah’s prophecy had ceased, Josiah’s son Jehoahaz was an exiled prisoner in Egypt, Josiah’s son Jehoiakim was on the throne, and the word of the Lord came again to Jeremiah.



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.”



At first sight, such a message sounded hopeful as if the people had taken to heart the reforms of Josiah’s reign. But the hypocrisy of their worship was quickly unveiled.  Yet the Lord is ever ready to give, when possible, another chance: so He said: It may be they will hearken and turn every man from his evil way.”  But the message was stern.  City and Temple would be destroyed if there was no true repentance.  The place would become like Shiloh.



An angry crowd gathered round to listen - people, priests, and princes.  The priests, prototypes of Christ’s accusers, shouted treason: This man is worthy of death.”  Jeremiah retorted that the Lord had sent him, and appealed to the people to mend their ways.  Then there was a division amongst his listeners.  Some of the princes and people took his part against the priests and prophets, saying: This man is not worthy of death; for he hath spoken unto us in the name of the LORD.”



This sturdy defence of Jeremiah had weight.  Certain elders took courage to remind the people that Micah the prophet had said the very same things in Hezekiah’s reign, and that king did not put him to death; he rather besought the Lord for His favour, and was graciously heard.



Then a contrary case was cited.  Uriah had a short time previously corroborated all Jeremiah’s words, and had, in consequence, to fly for his life to Egypt.  Thither King Jehoiakim had sent Elnatham to fetch him back, and had cruelly put him to death.  Jeremiah’s life would also have been taken had he not been saved by Ahikam, son of Shaphan.



Shaphan, his sons and grandsons, were all, with one exception, on the side of Jehovah.



Shaphan was scribe, or minister of finance, under Josiah.  His four sons were Ahikam, Elasah, Gemariah, and Jaazaniah, and his two grandsons were the famous Gedeliah (son of Ahikam), and Micaiah (son of Gemariah).



Jaazaniah was the only apostate of the family (Ezek. 8: 11).



It was Shaphan who brought the recovered Law of the Lord to king Josiah.  Ahikam, as we have seen, saved Jeremiah’s life at a critical moment.



Elasah was entrusted by Jeremiah with an important letter to the exiles in Babylon (Jer. 29: 3).



It was in Gemariah’s room that the last terrible message was first read that Jehoiakim was to hear; and it was his son Micaiah who courageously paved the way for the king to listen to it (Jer. 36).



And after the fall of Jerusalem, Gedeliah was the hope of the Jewish remnant; his murder was their despair and their subsequent ruin.



Cursed be he that confirmeth not the words of this law to do them” (Deut. 27: 26).



When this last curse was sounded on the heights of Ebal, all the people said Amen.  It was mow repeated by the Lord in the ears of His prophet: And I said, Amen, O LORD” (Jer. 11: 5).



A conspiracy had been already set on foot to restore the worship of Baal, and now his altars were again as many as the streets of Jerusalem.



The LORD gave me knowledge of it and I knew it” (verse 18).



Something else, too, Jeremiah discovered which concerned himself.  His own townsfolk, of Anathoth, were seeking to take his life.  For the third time he was in danger; but he naturally felt this the more bitterly, coming from such a quarter.  He pleaded with God to maintain his cause, and the answer came immediately, with a special pronouncement of judgment upon that town.  God knew how treacherous were even the prophet’s own family (12: 6), and He took care that none should hurt him until his work was done.*


*A modern hero of the mission-field, the Rev. T. Paton, said amid his hairbreadth escapes from death: “I felt immortal till my work was done!”



A great drought now came upon the land of Judah.  The nobles of Jerusalem were reduced to such a pass that they even sent out their little ones to search for water; but in vain.  Their children returned with empty vessels.



Jeremiah interceded for them unsuccessfully; for he wrote: The LORD said unto me, Pray not for this people for their good ... I will not hear their cry ... I will not accept them; but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.”



Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD Behold the prophets say, Ye shall not see the sword ...” Then said the Lord unto me: The prophets prophesy lies in My Name.”  And their punishment would come - sword and famine, upon them and their dupes (Jer. 14: 16).



Another prayer, for forgiveness of sin: Do not abhor us for Thy Name’s sake;” and another answer from the LORD: Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people.”  They would go into captivity; the sword and beasts would devour and destroy.



The awful theme of his mission seemed to bear down Jeremiah to the earth: Woe is me, my mother,” he cried, for thou hast borne me a man of strife ... everyone of them doth curse me.”  And he found relief again in prayer: O Lord, Thou knowest ... for Thy sake I have suffered reproach ... Thy words were unto me a joy and the rejoicing of my heart ... I sat alone because of Thy hand ... Why is my pain perpetual?  Wilt Thou indeed be unto me as a deceitful brook?”



The answer, as always, immediately succeeded his prayer: If thou take forth the precious from the vile thou shalt be as My mouth ... I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD.”



From this revelation given to us of Jeremiah’s habitual communion with God, we have an insight into the very. heart of Divine Love as the Hearer and Answerer of prayer.  We see the workings of Jeremiah’s inward man;” his cry in the dark, amid the mysteries of pain, loneliness, mental depression, vicarious suffering, and man’s injustice, and above all, of God’s unfathomable ways.  As in job’s case, Satan’s part in the problem of life is left out of account, and the mischief due to him is attributed to the wrong source.  Hence doubt creeps in and shows itself even in prayer; its earthliness spoils the beauty of the precious ore of fellowship, and of joy in His presence, His Word, and His Goodness.



Contrast with this prayer of Jeremiah that of Habakkuk written about the same time: Although everything should fail, yet I will rejoice in the LORD.”  A disinterested joy: not merely because of His goodness to us; but because He is Good.



Three severe restrictions were laid upon Jeremiah by the Lord:



(1). He was to remain a wifeless, childless man - a witness to the evil parents who would soon see their children suffer for their guilt.



(2). He was forbidden to enter any house of mourning, or to sympathise with the bereaved.



(3). He was forbidden to enter any house of rejoicing, or to join in their feasts.



If they inquired, What is our iniquity?” his answer was to be that their fathers departed from God, but they were worse than their fathers.



It happens very frequently in the prophets that in the midst of awful judgments there shines out of the cloud a glorious hope for the future - the Coming Messiah, and the final restoration of the nation.



After such a vision (16: 15) Jeremiah prayed.  His faith at once laid hold on God’s faithfulness, and endorsed the promise in His own words: Unto thee shall the nations come from the ends of the earth.”



But future glory never condones present evil.  National sin must be punished in the fire of God’s anger (17: 1-4).  Individual sin brings its own retribution on the sinner (17: 5-11).  Religion is a very personal thing.  All souls are Mine.”  God deals with every soul separately.  Each has to choose - life or death; blessing or cursing; a well-watered land or a parched place in the wilderness; a life of trust in God or of confidence in the flesh.  The deceitful brook is the human heart; not the fountain of living waters.”  And Jeremiah now prays aright, as he now recognises the source of all fruitfulness: Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved: for Thou art my praise.”



But contempt is hard to bear, and the hardest taunt of all is that God does not confirm our testimony.  The mere possibility of it was the secret of Jonah’s cowardice (Jonah 4: 2), and its reality the cause of so much anguish to Jeremiah: Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the LORD? let it come now.”  And for the first time the limits of his forbearance is past, and he cries to God to punish his persecutors.



The sole answer he received was a command to bear fresh testimony, first at the gates of Jerusalem, against the Sabbath-breakers, and secondly, after a visit to the potter’s house (17: 19).



The potter was making a vessel, Jeremiah was watching the process, and the LORD taught Jeremiah as he watched.  And when the vessel that he made of the clay was marred in the hand of the potter, he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.”  The Lord was the potter, and His people the clay.  He could do what He liked, and change His methods if they changed their ways.  When the vessel was marred, the fault was not in the workman but in the clay; but for all that, the marred vessel was not thrown away: a vessel of another pattern was made (18: 1).



The lesson learned at the potter’s house was delivered to the citizens of Jerusalem.  Another of Jeremiah’s prayers shows how badly it was received.  Finding their efforts a failure to be rid of him by the sword, they tried the sword of the tongue, and in some way to condemn him to death by a false charge (18: 18).



He had interceded for them on a former occasion: Remember how I stood before Thee to speak for them;” but now his prayer was exactly the reverse words of Moses: Forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from Thy sight.”



The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah to testify in the valley of Tophet against the horrible rites performed there of child dedication to Baal (19: 1, 2.).



Jeremiah bought an earthen bottle, according to command, on his way to it through the potter’s gate, where vessels were made for the Temple close by, and he also took with him some of the Sanhedrin members.  There, in their presence, he broke the bottle, saying: Thus saith the LORD of hosts: Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again ...”



From Tophet he returned to the Temple, and renewed his prophesies against the city and her towns (19: 14).



Pasher, a descendant of Immer, one of the original governors of the Sanctuary (1 Chron. 24: 14), was amongst his listeners, and he was the first to offer personal violence to the prophet.  He struck Jeremiah and put him in the stocks, an instrument of torture with five holes - two each for the hands and feet, and one for the neck- and left him there for a day and a night.  Upon his release Jeremiah gave him a personal message from the LORD, changing his name from Pasher (security on every side) to Magor-miss-abib (terror on every side), and foretelling the place of his death and the fate of his friends.



Jeremiah felt this cruelty and indignity very sorely, coming as it did from one of the same family and order as himself: and he showed it in the following prayer: O LORD, Thou hast enticed (R.V. mg,) me (to undertake my prophetic office) ... Thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed (Jer. 1: 7): I am become a laughing stock all the day, everyone mocketh me.  For as often as I speak I cry out; I cry, Violence and spoil! because the word of the LORD is made a reproach unto me, and a derision all the day.  And if I say, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His Name, then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with forbearing; I cannot contain.  For I have heard the defaming of many; terror on every side.  Denounce, and we will denounce him, say all my familiar friends, they that watch for my halting; peradventure he will be enticed, and we will prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.”



A very sorrowful prayer, with Job’s curse on the day of his birth at the end of it.  But again we see, encased within it, the precious ore of trust and praise in God (20: 12, 13).



The most favoured saints of God have all had to learn the same hard lesson.  Moses, Job, David, Paul, the Divine Son Himself, must take up the cross of unpopularity.  The same expressions were used by them to illustrate the same experiences: A laughing-stock,” - Job 12: 4; “A reproach,” Psa. 22: 6; 80: 20; “A burning fire within,” Job 32: 18, 19; Psa. 39: 3; 2 Cor. 5: 14; “Familiar friends,” Psa. 41: 9; “Watch for my halting,” Psa. 35: 15.



It is a good sign when all men do not speak well of us (Luke 6: 26).



King Jehoiakim must next receive his message.  The LORD told Jeremiah to go to the king’s house and deliver it there.  King and princes were to hear what the LORD’S will was for them to do, and if they did not fulfil it their blood would be upon their own heads.  The lamentations for Josiah had not yet ceased: Weep not for the dead,” cried the prophet, but weep sore for the exiled Jehoahaz, he shall not return any more” (22: 10).



Two messages of woe end the prophesies of this period, one to Jehoiakim, for his oppression of the poor.  He was at that very time building a spacious palace on forced labour with no wages.  The manner of his death was told him, and he heard God’s summary of his life (22: 21).  As for Jehoiachin, the future captive in Babylon, he would have no successor to the throne.  In the midst of the judgments to false shepherds appears the glorious hope of the True Shepherd, a righteous branch of David’s line.



*       *       *






From the 3rd year to the end of Jehoiakim’s Reign.  Eight years.



                                              2 Kings 24: 1-17.                           Jer. 46. to 49: 33,


                                              2 Ch. 36: 6-10.                               35.; 25.; 36.


                                               Psalm 6.                                         45.; 13.



More than twenty years had now elapsed since his first call, and during this period Jeremiah delivered the Word of the LORD concerning the surrounding nations - Egypt, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, and Kedar (the Ishmaelites).



The incident of the Rechabites originated in one of Nebuchadnezzar’s threatening movements on Jerusalem. They had come into the city for safety, and the LORD told Jeremiah to test their obedience to their forefather Jonadab (2 Kings 10: 15), who, 300 years ago, forbade them to touch wine or to settle in cities.  These Rechabites belonged to the Kenites of the family of Jethro, and, as Jonadab commanded, they were always a nomadic tribe dwelling in tents.  Jeremiah brought them into the temple, into the room of the grandsons of Igdaliah, the man of God, and set wine before them.  Upon their refusal to take it, they were dismissed with a commendation, and their example of obedience set in contrast to disobedient Judah (Jer. 35.).



In the latter part of the third (Dan. 1: 1), or early in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar was preparing for an attack on Jerusalem, but did not actually besiege it for nineteen or twenty months.  This period was commenced by Jeremiah giving the first definite prophecy of the seventy years captivity in Babylon (25: 2).  All these years the Word of the LORD had come to him.  He had spoken and they had not hearkened.  Now he was bidden to write down all the LORD’S words against Israel, Judah, and the other nations, from the time of his call (Jer. 36: 1).  It may be (said the LORD) that the House of Judah ... will return ... that I may forgive.”



Jeremiah employed Baruch as his amanuensis, and when the roll was finished he said, I cannot go to the LORDS House: I am shut up (excluded), therefore go thou and read in the roll which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people in the LORD’S House upon the fast day ... It may be they will present their supplication before the LORD, and will return everyone from his evil way.”



It may be.”  Again and again is this sorrowful refrain concerning a people whose heart would not turn.  I would,” said their Messiah, when He came in the flesh, I would ... but ye would not.”



Baruch obeyed and read aloud the words in the Temple.



In the fifth year and ninth month of Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar came down upon Jerusalem.  The result was a panic; and, all the people flocking into the capital, proclaimed a fast before the LORD.  The princes sat for deliberation in the king’s house.  Shaphan was probably dead, for Elishama was now scribe; and it was in his room that the princes met.  At the same time there was another party assembling in Gemariah’s room, in the upper court of the Temple, and here Baruch was reading aloud Jeremiah’s roll to the people gathered beneath.  Gemariah’s son, Micaiah, volunteered to go down to the princes and tell them about it.  He went, and the princes sent for Baruch to come and read it to them.  Sit down now,” they said, and read it in our ears.”  The words frightened them.  They turned in fear to each other, and finally asked how was it they were written.  Baruch explained: The prophet spoke, and he wrote down his words with pen and ink.  Then said the princes, Go hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye be.”



Then leaving the roll behind them, they went into the king’s winter house to tell the king.  He sent off Jehudi to fetch it, and made him read it aloud.  Jehoiakim listened as he sat warming himself by the fire burning in the brazier; but three or four columns were all that he heard.  Snatching the roll from Jehudi, he cut it with his penknife and threw it into the fire.  Three men rushed forward to intercede for its preservation, but the king was deaf to their entreaties.  He commanded Baruch and Jeremiah to be delivered up “but, the LORD hid them.”



After the destruction of the roll, Jeremiah was bidden by the LORD to re-write it, adding a special clause concerning Jehoiakim’s fate.



Jeremiah did so, dictating to Baruch all the words of the first roll, and there were added besides unto them many like words” (36: 32).



Baruch’s heart grew sad as he repeated his former task, and the LORD saw it and read his thoughts, Thou didst say, woe is me now! for the LORD hath added sorrow to my pain!  I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest” (45: 3).  The LORD reminded him that to Him belonged the power to undo whatever he did; that, in this awful time of coming trial, all personal ambition must be laid low, even though the great things desired might be for the good of others; evil was near, and his life alone would be the only thing secured to him.



This incident recorded of the burning of the roll in the last connected with Jehoiakim.  All we know of him further is from a few words in the historical books, and in Dan. 1: 1.  Directly afterwards he was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, and with Daniel and other members of the royal family was brought to Babylon; but, on taking the oath of allegiance he was allowed to return.  He remained tributary three years (2 Kings 24: 1), and then withheld it.  Nebuchadnezzar was on his way to punish him when he died - perhaps killed in a conflict with his nobles, for his body was cast out and buried without the city walls (22: 19; 36: 30).



The remaining four years of this period were spent by Jeremiah near the Euphrates (Jer. 13.), so he must have gone to Babylon at the same time as the others, when Jehoiakim was taken captive.  This, very likely, was the Lord’s hiding-place for him during the rest of Jehoiakim’s reign.  The Chaldeans were friendly to a prophet who had always preached submission, and he was well known to Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuzar-adan (39: 11; 40: 1-5)



The LORD told him to buy a linen girdle, wear it for a while, and then hide it in a hole by the Euphrates.  A long time elapsed, and then he was bidden to take it out again, only to find it spoiled and fit for nothing.  This object lesson was to teach that as the girdle did cleave to Jeremiah before it was spoiled, so did the LORD make His people cleave to Him, to be a praise and a glory; but they would not” (13: 11).



His son Jehoiachin was on the throne three months when Nebuchadnezzar arrived at Jerusalem, deposed him, and put his uncle Zedekiah on the throne instead, making him swear by Jehovah to keep his allegiance. Jehoiachin, the queen-mother, Nehushta, with many thousands of captives were carried to Babylon, Ezekiel and Mordecai being among them.  Jeremiah breaks out into lamentations over them - My soul shall weep in secret for your pride.”  And over Jerusalem he cried: O Jerusalem, thou wilt not be made clean: how long shall it yet be?”



*       *       *






From the 1st year of Zedekiah’s reign to the Siege of Jerusalem.  Eleven years.



                                        2 Kings 24., 18-20.                                Jer. 24., 24., 49.,


                                        2 Chron. 36., 11-16                                34-39; 27., 28.,


                                        Ezek. 1. - 23.                                          50., 51.



Jeremiah was once again at Jerusalem, and he saw a vision of two baskets of figs set before the Temple (Jer. 24.).



What seest thou, Jeremiah?” and I said, Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad, very bad, that cannot be eaten, they are so bad.”



Then the LORD showed him that the good figs represented the captives in Babylon.  I will give them a heart to know Me,” and, they shall return to their own land.”  But the bad figs were those that remained in Judah, Zedekiah and his subjects.



At the commencement of his reign, Zedekiah had occasion to send an embassage to Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah took this opportunity to send with the embassage a letter to the captives in Babylon.  He told them that it was the LORD’S command for them to settle down contentedly in the land of their captivity, and await the seventy years of His appointment, until the time should come for their return.  Referring to the vile figs of his vision, he told them that the remnant at Jerusalem would only be the prey of sword, famine and pestilence.  His letter also contained a warning against the false prophets at Babylon who were contradicting his (Jeremiah’s) words. Two of them, Ahab and Zedekiah, would be burnt alive by Nebuchadnezzar’s orders.  A third, Shemaiah, would never behold the good that would come to his people, and would die without posterity.



Shemaiah’s punishment was owing to his audacity.  He had sent letters in his own name to the citizens of Jerusalem, and one of them was addressed to the priest Zephaniah as representing the priestly party.  Zephaniah read it out to Jeremiah.  It profanely gave the LORD as the writer’s authority, appointed Zephaniah to the high priesthood, and suggested the stocks for Jeremiah (Jer. 29.).



It was also early in Zedekiah’s reign (27: 1, R.V. mg.), when the Word of the LORD came again to Jeremiah. This time it was to teach the surrounding nations an object-lesson.  He was to make a number of wooden neckbands and distribute them to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Zidon, through their envoys, who were then in audience with Zedekiah at Jerusalem.



Nebuchadnezzar was at this time engaged in a struggle with the Elamites, and Zedekiah thought it a good opportunity to break his oath of allegiance.  He was encouraged by the Egyptians, and plans were now being formed to unite, under the leadership of Egypt, in a revolt against Babylon.



But the King of all these kings, unacknowledged as their God, would not leave them in the dark about His Will, and His servant gave His message, the LORD, of Sabaoth, Owner of the earth, had given all these nations into the hands of the Babylonian kings; Nebuchadnezzar, his son, Evil-Merodach, and his grandson, Nabonadius (who associated his son Belshazzar with him in the kingdom (27: 6-7; 2 Kings 25: 27; Dan. 5: 1).



They were not to hearken to their false prophets, and that nation who submitted to the Chaldean yoke, would be kept in peace in their own land.



Zedekiah received the same warning and the same promise if he too would submit.  He was told not to listen to the prophets who prophesied of the speedy return of the spoil of the Temple.  It would remain where it was until the LORD’S time.  One of these prophets, Hananiah, was present in the Temple as Jeremiah spoke.  He immediately repeated his lying prediction, saying, that within two years everything would come back from Babylon, the ex-king also, and all the captives.



Hananiah had taken the LORD’S name on his lips, therefore Jeremiah answered him solemnly, Amen; the LORD do so ... Nevertheless ... when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known that the LORD had truly sent him.”  Hananiah was not done with his farce.  He took the bar of wood off Jeremiah’s neck, and broke it, saying: Thus saith the LORD, even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar within two full years from off the neck of all the nations.”  Silence followed this. falsehood, and Jeremiah went his way.  It was not for him to retort.  He waited until God spoke, and soon, the command came to him to go and tell Hananiah Thus saith the LORD, Thou hast broken the bars of wood, but thou shalt make in their stead bars of iron; I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these nations that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar.”



Jeremiah was now free to tell Hananiah that the LORD had not sent him; that he made the people to trust in a lie; and that he would die that very year as a sign of his rebellion against God.  In two months Hananiah was dead (Jer. 28.).



In the fourth year of Zedekiah, Jeremiah wrote the LORD’S judgments upon Babylon (Jer. 51.).  His first prophecy against it had been eight or nine years previously (Jer. 25: 12).  Chaldea was not to escape the fate of other nations.  The ten tribes had been absorbed by Assyria 126 years ago.  The Syrian League was at an end for ever; Assyria had, in its turn, to succumb to Chaldea; Judah, and all the small surrounding kingdoms were doomed; and Egypt’s ruin was soon to follow.  Babylon was Queen of the world; but her time was yet to come when she too must fall, and Persia prevail (49: 34).  The “battle-axe” of the LORD would work His will as His instrument of punishment, and would then, in its turn, be punished.  The prophetic description of the surprised city, taken by Cyaxares in B.C. 538, is very graphic.  Judgment upon Babylon and upon her idols (1: 2).  Jeremiah twice mentions God’s definition of an idol as a work of delusion,” and God’s definition of Himself as the former of all things” (10: 15, 16; 51: 18).  The Persian conquerors of Babylon were Zoroastrians and Iconoclasts, as Isaiah also had foretold 150 years before (Isa. 21: 9; 46: 1, 2).



This prophecy was written upon a separate roll, and given into the care of Baruch’s brother Seraiah, the chief chamberlain, who accompanied Zedekiah on a visit to Babylon a short time before he openly rebelled.  Seraiah received injunctions to bind a stone to the roll after first reading it in Babylon, and then sink it in the Euphrates, saying: Thus shall Babylon sink and shall not rise again.”



Two hundred miles north of Babylon, Ezekiel the captive had been prophesying for the last five years.  He was, like Jeremiah, a prophet priest; and while the one was God’s witness in Jerusalem, the other was His witness in the captivity.  Five more years were yet to run before the Fall of Jerusalem, and all those ten years he was exhorting, without avail, to repentance (Ezek. 1. - 23.).



*       *       *









                                       2 Kings 25.                                                  Jer. 24.; 37.; 32.;


                                       2 Chron. 36: 17-21.                                      30.; 31.; 33.; 38.;


                                       Jer. 21.; Ezek. 24.                                         39: 15-18 & Lamentations



In the 9th year of Zedekiah’s reign, the 10th day of the 10th month, the siege of Jerusalem commenced, and lasted until the fall of the city- exactly one year and six months.



The most detailed account is given to this period which proved to Jeremiah one long tremendous strain on mind and body.  It was a forecast of another period to come, in which the last terrible week of his Messiah’s life-story would be the most minutely recorded in the Gospel Narratives.



The last king of Judah was more ready to listen to Jeremiah than his predecessors, and would have followed his counsel only he was afraid to do so.  He sent Pashur and Zephaniah to request him to enquire of the LORD, and Jeremiah’s answer was definite.  God was against both city and people, and Nebuchadnezzar would succeed.  All hope of saving the city was at an end; but its, inhabitants would be secure if they deserted to the Chaldeans, and a last appeal was made to the House of David to act righteously (Jer. 21.).



Far away in Mesopotamia Ezekiel was writing the name of the day on which the Babylonians commenced the siege.  As a sign of the approaching desolation, he was told that the desire of his eyes would be taken from him at a stroke.  In the morning he spoke to the people, and in the evening his wife died.  By command he showed no external signs of grief.  The mystified people asked:-Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us that thou doest so?”  He replied to them that when the news would reach them of the destruction of the desire of their eyes they would be unable to mourn outwardly in the conqueror’s country, but should moan one toward another.”



During the whole of the siege, eighteen months, Ezekiel spoke no more concerning Judah by the LORD’S appointment (Ezek. 24.).



And now the Chaldean army had closed round the fated city, and the word of the LORD came again to Jeremiah with another message for Zedekiah.  He was told that the city would be taken and set on fire, and that he himself would be caught and taken a prisoner to Babylon; but the mode of his death would not be attended with the indignities that happened to Jehoiakim.  He would die in peace and be buried with honour.



These words were spoken to the king just when all the cities had fallen into the enemies’ hands, except Lachish, Azekah, and Jerusalem.



Zedekiah, now thoroughly aroused and frightened, endeavoured to propitiate the people who had been so miserably oppressed under him and his predecessors.  They were leaving the city in numbers and falling off to the enemy, preferring the protection of the Chaldeans to the tender mercies of a proud and cruel nobility.  The broken Law of Moses was re-enacted, and liberty to all Hebrew slaves was proclaimed; but this leniency was of short duration.  News came in that the Egyptian army was advancing to the relief of the city, and that the Chaldeans were withdrawing their forces in order to go and meet it.  This change in the aspect of affairs without, changed also the conduct of the nobles within; the masses were again enslaved, and their insincere covenant with God broken (Jer. 34).



Jeremiah was, at present, free to go in and out among the people.  For the second time he received a message from the king, saying:- Pray now unto the LORD our God for us.”  Zedekiah, weak and wicked as he was, by no means despised the word of God through His servant, and would have followed Jeremiah’s counsel had he not been in servile fear of his own subjects.  His only answer was that the Egyptians would soon retreat back to their own country, the Chaldeans resume the siege, and finally take the city and bum it with fire.



During the short time the siege was raised, Jeremiah took the opportunity to attempt to get to his native Anathoth, about three miles distant, upon business matters connected with his property there.  The way to it led through the gate of Benjamin, and here he was seized by one of his enemies, Irijah, grandson of that Hananiah who had died by his prediction.  Irijah, delighted to have an excuse to bring a charge against him, accused him of falling away to the enemy, and Jeremiah’s denial, “It is false,” was not listened to.



He was brought before the princes, who wreaked their malice upon him by a cruel beating and imprisonment in the house of Jonathan the scribe.  He remained here in the worst part of the prison, the dungeon house, for many days, until Zedekiah sent to him for the third time.  He did this secretly, for fear of the princes, and fetched the prophet in to his own house.



Then he asked him, was there any word, from the LORD?  Jeremiah said: “There is,” and he told him that he would fall into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.  It speaks well for the king, inasmuch as he never resented Jeremiah’s plain speaking, or ever treated him badly; on the contrary, he befriended him whenever he could. On this occasion he did so.  The miseries endured by Jeremiah in the dungeon had been so dreadful that he implored the king not to send him back to it.  Zedekiah accordingly gave orders for him to be placed in the court of the guard, and that he was to receive daily a loaf from the bakers’ street so long a there was bread to be had in the city (Jer. 37).



But the king, although secretly favouring Jeremiah dared not seem to befriend him openly, so shut him up in the court of the guard in pretended anger, saying:- Wherefore dost thou prophesy ... ye shall not prosper?”



While he was here, Jeremiah had a visit from his cousin, Hanamel, who came to ask him to buy his land at Anathoth, as the right of redemption was his, being the nearest kinsman.  Jeremiah bought the land from Hanamel, and then, having signed the deed of purchase he gave it to Baruch, saying:-Thus saith the LORD, take these deeds ... and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.  For thus saith the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel - ‘Houses and fields and vineyards shall yet again be bought in this land.’”



The prayer that followed his signing of the deed of purchase is a model of a prayer in perplexity.  We would do well to imitate it when the ways of God seem especially incomprehensible.  He communed with God about His Majesty and power:- There is nothing too hard for Thee;” His past mercies and wonderful works; His fulfilment of His promises, and of His threatenings of woe to the city by the Chaldeans; “and now Thou hast said unto me, O Lord GOD, ‘Buy thee the field for money, and call witnesses; whereas the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.’”



In answer, the Lord repeated Jeremiah’s words in the form of a question: Behold, I am Jehovah, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for Me?”  It was quite true the fate of the city was scaled on account of the iniquity of Judah.  They have turned unto Me the back, and not the face;” but there would come a time when I will gather them out of all the countriesand I will bring them again unto this place [land’ R.V.]and I will put My fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from Me ... and fields shall be bought in this land ... for I will cause their captivity to return, saith Jehovah’” (Jer. 32.).



Yet deeper revelations were unfolded to the prophet while still imprisoned in the court of the guard. (Jer. 30., 31. & 33.). Visions, not only of the Restoration to the land, but to the favour of God through the Mediatorship of their Prince (Glorious One), of themselves;” “of David’s Line;” His name, Jehovah our Righteousness” (chap. 23: 5).



Messianic predictions of a Divine Man were indeed great and difficult things to Jeremiah (33: 3).  The most difficult of paradoxes and yet the explanation of them all.  The solution of God’s healing power over against incurable hurt;” of His tempest of furysweeping to destruction, over against His everlasting Love drawing on to Salvation.



TheGreat Light that has arisen upon us has cleared away this mist of perplexity - why the God of Love, in the midst of His people, became their destroying Angel; while the Son of LOVE rebuked his disciples for their reference to that very attribute (Luke 9: 54).



If Christ had not taken our humanity upon Him, His holy nature could not have endured that daily contact with sin (Mark 9: 19) without an outburst of wrath upon the sinner (Deut. 9. Psalm 78: 31.  1 Cor. 10: 9, 10).  He became Man to save men; but He also became Man as the only way He could live in the presence of man’s sin without becoming a consuming fire (Heb. 12: 29).



Jeremiah was now openly preaching the policy of non-resistance, and advising the people to save their lives by joining the deserters outside.  Four of his enemies listened to his words and reported them to the princes.  They appealed to the king: Let this man, we pray thee, be put to death; forasmuch as he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city.”  Desertions were growing alarmingly frequent, even among its defenders.  Zedekiah was too weak to go against them, and told them so.  Then they took the prophet and threw him into the dungeon of Malchiah, the king’s son.  It was a filthy hole under the floor of the court of the guard, and into this was he lowered by cords and sank in its mire.  He was left there to die; but one friend he had, brave enough to face consequences for his sake - an African, with a hero’s heart.  This man, Ebed-melech, hunted the city for the king.  He found him, sitting in the gate of Benjamin, where Jeremiah had been arrested as a deserter, and informed him of the prophet’s danger.  There was now no more bread to be had in the city, and he would soon die of hunger.  The king at once gave him leave to rescue him, bidding him take thirty men to help him in case of opposition.  Ebed-melech was a man of thought.  He guessed that the poor prisoner was by this time too faint to help himself; so first he went into the king’s house to search for old pieces of cloth which he found under the treasury: by his directions they were fixed to the loops of the cords and let down to Jeremiah, who placed them under his arms, and in this way he was drawn up out of his living death (Jer. 38.).



His terrible experience was not easy to be forgotten and in his great Threnody, he alludes to the time when he was gasping for breath in that horrible pit, the name of which in the original means “to bend oneself.”



But so long as there was life at all in Jeremiah there too was the spirit of prayer, and the consciousness of the Divine Presence: “I called upon Thy Name, O LORD, out of the lowest dungeon.  Thou heardest my voice; hide not Thine ear at my breathing at my cry.  Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon Thee: Thou saidst, Fear not” (Lam. 3: 53-57)



For the fourth and last time, Zedekiah summoned Jeremiah to a private interview, choosing the Temple that they might be free from observation.  I will ask thee a thing, hide nothing from me.”  If I declare it unto thee,” said Jeremiah, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I give thee counsel thou wilt not hearken unto me.”  The king replied with a solemn asseveration, As the LORD liveth that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hands of these men that seek thy life.”  The conversation between the two is most interesting and pathetic.  If Zedekiah had only taken this, his best friend’s advice, even now, all would have been well.  The king acknowledged Jehovah as his true God, and He who listens to all mens’ words, graciously warned him once more: Thus saith the LORD, If thou wilt go forth unto the king of Babylon’s princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; but if thou wilt not go forth ... then shall this city be given into the hands of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand.”  I am afraid,” answered Zedekiah, of the Jews that are fallen away to the Chaldeans lest they deliver me into their hands and the mock me.”   Jeremiah insisted that they would not do so, and besought the king, at all costs, to obey God, pointing out the disastrous results of the siege.



It was all of no use; the king would not make up his mind; and so the conversation ended, with a glimpse into the real cause of his vacillation.  He was, in truth, afraid of the princes, and cautioned Jeremiah to keep silent.  If he were asked any questions he was to say that he made petition to the king not to send him back to die in Jonathan’s house.  No sooner had Jeremiah left the king’s presence than he was seized upon by the princes on the alert to cross-question him: and he told them what the king bade him.  He remained in the court of the guard till the city was taken (Jer. 38.).



The last incident recorded before its fall relates to the faithful Ethiopian who saved Jeremiah’s life.  I will deliver thee in that day,” said the LORD to Ebed-melech, and thou shalt not be delivered into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid.”  King and eunuch both received the same promise; but only the one proved its truth: Because thou hast put thy trust in Me saith the LORD” (Jer. 39: 15-18).



The state of the city was appalling.  Famine stalked the streets.  The nobles, haggard and withered, with hollow-checked discoloured faces, were unrecognisable in the thoroughfares.  The children fell for weakness, and died of hunger as they lay.  Their mothers, crazed with want, fed upon the poor little corpses.  And exactly the same scenes, the same horrors, were described by Josephus, 660 years later, as were depicted by Jeremiah in Lamentations.



Oh, self-willed nation: the world learns a lesson from such needless suffering: the Messiah’s tears over that self-same city, His anguish and death, re-echo the same truth as it ever did through the past ages: I would ... but ye would not.”



The great Lord of Love, having done his utmost to save, must stand aside weeping when man’s will rushes him blindly on to ruin.



*        *       *






From the Fall of Jerusalem to the Migration into Egypt.  Four months.



                                                       Jer. 39: 1-14; 52.                                  Jer. 40. - 44.


                                                       Psa. 74.; 79.                                         Psa. 130.; 129.


                                                       Obadiah.                                               Ezek. 33.



In the 11th year of Zedekiah, the 4th month, and the 9th day, the first breach was made in the city.  Nergal-sharezer (Neriglassar, who afterwards usurped the throne of Babylon) was commander-in-chief, and he and his officers at last entered the city.  But Zedekiah and the remaining garrison had effected their escape the night before, through an opening made in the wall of the king’s garden.  Three hundred miles away, Ezekiel had described the whole scene ten years before it happened (Ezek. 12.).



The escape was made in great haste.  As many valuables as they could carry were secretly removed by day into the garden, and they digged through the wall in the dark.  This opening let out the fugitives into a narrow passage between two walls which ran alongside the king’s garden.  At the end of it was a gate, and through it they went on their way to the plains of Jericho.  So far they reached before the Chaldean pursuers overtook them.



Nebuchadnezzar had not conducted the siege in person.  He had stationed himself at Riblah, north of Damascus.  To him therefore was Zedekiah brought.  Judgment was passed upon him for his determined resistance.  His two sons were killed in his presence, and then his eyes were put out.  All the princes that were with him were slain, but he was carried to Babylon.



A month after the Fall of the city, Nebuzaradan, Captain of the Guard, arrived at Jerusalem, and finished the work of destruction.  The Temple furnishings were all sent on to Babylon, and then he set on fire all the chief buildings - Temple, palace, great houses, and broke down the city walls.  The total city population, including the poorest classes, were sent on to Babylon.  The country poor were given fields to cultivate, and left behind under the governorship of Gedeliah.



Seventy-four of the most determined resisters were also put to death at Riblah - amongst them, Seraiah, chief priest; Zephaniah, second priest; three Temple door-keepers; a chief officer; the general’s scribe; and seven of the king’s personal attendants.



To the captives settled in the conqueror’s country, and to the peoples who readily submitted, the Chaldeans were usually lenient; but they were the cruellest nation on earth to prisoners who had exasperated them by a lengthy resistance.  No mercy was then shown, even to women and children.  Women captives, even of high rank, had to endure awful hardships and indignities (Isa. 3: 24; 47.; 10: 6).  Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk all allude to their cruelty (Jer. 6: 23).



The author of Psalms 74. and 78. was probably Jeremiah himself, being an eye-witness of the destruction of the Temple.  He describes, how, before they fired it, they hacked down its beautiful carved work.



There was one nation, and that the nearest to her in ties of blood, that acted unconscionably towards the vanquished Judah.  The prophets unite in expressing the special vengeance of God on Edom (Isa. 63: 1-6), and Obadiah who wrote shortly before its conquest (B.C. 583), expressed, as Dean Stanley said, “the Divine malediction on the sin most difficult to be forgiven, the desertion of kinsmen by kinsmen, of friends by friends, the readiness to take advantage of the weaker side, hounding on the victorious party, and standing on the other side in the day of the sorest need.”



As soon as the Babylonians had effected an entrance into Jerusalem, some of the officers sought for Jeremiah, apparently by direct orders of Nebuchadnezzar.  The best thing for his protection was to chain him along with the other captives on their way to Ramah, five miles north.  Here Nebuzaradan found him a month later, when he arrived from Riblah (2 Kings 25: 8) charged with a special message concerning him from Nebuchadnezzar, and treated him with marked favour and respect.  The king’s charge was to look well after him and do whatever he wished; he accordingly knocked off Jeremiah’s chains, and gave him leave to go where he pleased - if to Babylon, he himself would take care of him; or if to remain in his own country, he would provide him with food and money.  As Jeremiah chose to remain, Nebuzaradan advised him to put himself under the protection of Gedeliah, who was only three miles off, at Mizpah.



This most interesting interview between Jeremiah and the Chaldean general is only one of many other incidents illustrating, not only the importance of individual life, but of heathen individual life in the eyes of the God of nations.  Monarchs of Egypt, Gen. 20.; of Tyre, 1 Kings 5.; of Arabia, 1 Kings 10.; of Assyria, Jonah 3.; of Chaldea, Dan. 4.; and of Media, Dan. 6.; priests of Philistia, 1 Sam. 6.; women of Canaan, Josh. 2.; of Moab, Ruth; and of Phenicia, 1 Kings 17.; an Egyptian steward, Gen. 43: 23; an Ethiopian eunuch, Jer. 38., 39.; a Syrian general, 2 Kings 5.; all gave more or less testimony as to their belief in the God of Israel.  But of them all, none realised so clearly as he the evil of sin and its sure punishment by Jehovah - The LORD thy God pronounced this evil upon this place: and the LORD hath brought it, and done according as He spake; because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed His voice, therefore this thing is come upon you” (Jer. 38: 1-14; 40: 1-6).



Gedeliah, at Mizpah, was soon joined by all the fugitives who had taken refuge in Moab, Ammon, and Edom.  Amongst them was Ishmael, a member of the royal family, who had fled to Baalis, king of Ammon.  He, jealous of Gedeliah’s authority, very soon set on foot a conspiracy against him.  Johanan and the other captains warned Gedeliah of his danger, and the former even went so far as to offer to put Ishmael to death before he had time to do further mischief.  But Gedeliah, unfortunately, would not believe in Ishmael’s treachery.  In two month’s time the plot was ripe: Ishmael, with ten other conspirators, arrived at Mizpah, ostensibly to pay a visit to the Governor, and while being entertained by him, rose up and killed him, together with his other guests - Jews and Chaldeans.  This was done so secretly that it was not discovered at once.  The next day there arrived at Mizpah eighty Israelites on their way to Jerusalem to offer meal offerings on the site of the ruined Temple.   They had all the signs upon them of mourning for the national woe, and Ishmael also pre-intended to weep as he advanced to meet them.  He led the way to the Governor’s house, but as soon as they were well inside the town they were surrounded and killed.  Ten of them, however, saved their lives by divulging the whereabouts of hidden stores of food.  The bodies of the slain were thrown into a trench which had been made three hundred years ago when King Asa built the town (2 Chron. 16: 6).



Before the news of the massacre reached the other towns Ishmael carried off all the residents of Mizpah, including some of the king’s daughters who had been left under Gedeliah’s care.  He intended to make his way back to King Baalis, but was circumvented by Johanan who overtook him with a strong force at Gibeon.  The captives with Ishmael deserted him for Johanan’s camp, and he made his escape, with eight others, to the Ammonites.



Johanan, being afraid to return for fear of the Chaldeans’ vengeance for the men killed by Ishmael, went to Bethlehem and there made plans with his captains as to their future course (Jer. 40: 7; 41: 18).



Egypt seemed their only hope in this extremity, and to Egypt they determined to go; but first, they might as well enquire of God through Jeremiah.  They all therefore appealed to the prophet: “Pray for us ... that the LORD thy God may show us ... the thing that we should do.”  I will pray,” said Jeremiah,and what the Lord shall answer you ... I will keep nothing back.”  They were keeping back their real mind.  Outwardly they professed obedience to the Word of the Lord, and waited for His answer.  It came in ten days.  They were to remain in the land where they were; the Babylonians would not be allowed to hurt them; they were not to go to Egypt; and if they disobeyed, they would only meet with fresh disaster.



Ye have dealt deceitfully against your own souls,” thundered Jeremiah, “for ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God, and according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare it unto us and we will do it: and I have this day declared it unto you, but ye have not obeyed” (Jer. 42.).



The same scene repeated itself here as it did at Shechem, eight hundred years before (Josh. 24.).  Joshua had the same experience as Jeremiah had.  They presented themselves before God, but not unto God (Rom. 6: 13, R.V.). They gave pious ejaculations and good resolutions which were not kept; for they were not made with a perfect heart.  And both servants of God knew that they did not want to keep them.



When Jeremiah had ceased speaking, it was quickly seen that he spoke the truth about them.  They burst out into proud resentment: Thou speakest falsely,” they said, the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, ‘Ye shall not go into Egypt to sojourn there: but Baruch the son of Neriah setteth thee on against us, for to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans’ ...” Many a good man has to bear unjust slander as a cover for other people’s wrongdoing.  The end of it was that Johanan compelled Jeremiah and Baruch to go with him and all the people into Egypt, and they settled at Tahpanhes, a frontier town.*


* They returned to Egypt by ship, as foretold in Deut, 28: 68.


Here the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah concerning Egypt.  He was to take some large stones and hide them in mortar in the brickwork which was at the entrance of Pharaoh’s house while in process of some repair.   This was done in sight of the Judean refuge as a sign that Nebuchadnezzar’s throne would be set on the very spot of those hidden stones, which came pass four years later, when Egypt was conquered by the Babylonians (Jer. 43.).



The last act of Jeremiah, by command of the LORD was to visit the various places in Egypt wherever the Jews had a settlement.  They had kept up their idolatry especially the worship of Astarte, queen of Heaven, which the women were particularly devoted.  Jeremiah’s words were listened to by a vast crowd in Pathos (Upper Egypt).  He reminded them that they were living witnesses of God’s truth; that all His threatenings were fulfilled upon them because of their wickedness; that He had pleaded with them through his prophets saying: O do not this abominable thing that I hate;” and they would not hear: that all of them would share in the ruin of Egypt, save those few who, like himself and Baruch, were there against their will.



For answer, the people deliberately said that they would pay no heed to his words; that when in the moonlit streets of Jerusalem they offered up the crescent-shaped cakes to Astarte all went well with them, and that evil came upon them when they ceased her worship.



Jeremiah vainly pointed out that all their disasters were the consequences of sin, and he gave them, for the last time the word of the LORD. They and their wives had vowed allegiance to Ashtaroth:- Therefore I have sworn by My great Name saith the LORD, that My Name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in the land of Egypt, saying, As the Lord God liveth and they shall know whose word shall stand, Mine or theirs” (Jer. 44.).



Of Jeremiah’s further history, we know no more than what tradition tells us - that he was stoned by the Jew at Tahpanhes.  Psalms 129., 130., were possibly penned by him in the darkest hour of the captivity. 



Ezekiel shows that the state of the lives of the captives elsewhere, were not much better than those in Egypt. The few left in Palestine did not reform their ways, and the captives in Babylonia, although attracted by his eloquence, had no desire to amend.  Their sensibilities were pleased; but their heart was untouched.  And, lo, thou art unto them as a love-song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words but they do them not” (Ezek. 33: 32).



The story of Jeremiah, and of this sad epoch, is finished.  To Jeremiah and Ezekiel was given a sad and disheartening task.  But against the dark background of their prophecies of woe there flashes out in relief the bright visions of future good - not merely the brief interval of Maccabean rule, but what is yet to happen in the days to come, of their Messiah’s [millennial] reign upon earth – a time when they shall dwell IN THE LAND that the Lord gave them from of old and even for evermore.”