VINDICATION OF THE PERSONAL PROMISES TO JEREMIAH
Before we can gather up even the first link in the chain of history as regards the building and planting" which Jeremiah must accomplish, we must take a glance at some of the facts concerning the prophet's own history.
We have already noticed that when the Lord was instructing Jeremiah in the work which he was to do, he said to him, regarding those that should oppose or fight against him, "Be not afraid of their faces, for I am with thee to deliver thee."
But Jeremiah seems not to have met with any special opposition until during the reign of Jehoiakim. This was at a time when the Lord commanded him to go into the court of the temple and speak to the people as they gathered from all the cities of Judah to worship; at the same time he told him to speak all the words which he, the Lord, had commanded him, and to "diminish not a word."
He was true to God, and faithfully delivered the Divine message. The message itself was full of mercy, and accompanied with a proviso that if every man would turn from his evil way then the Lord would avert the impending calamities which hung over the nation as judgments in consequence of their numerous and manifold sins. But it only resulted in the prophets, the priests, and the people gathering themselves into an excited, surging and howling mob, which made a prisoner of Jeremiah, saying unto him, "Thou shalt surely die."
Later, when the princes of Judah heard these things, they came up to the temple, and in order that they might hear and judge for themselves, Jeremiah was permitted to speak again. This he did, still faithfully giving the unwelcome message of the Lord. In conclusion, he said: "The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house [the temple] and against this city all the words that ye have heard. Therefore now amend your ways and doings and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of all the evil that he hath pronounced against you.
"As for me, behold, I am in your hand; do with me as seemeth good unto you. But know ye for a 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." The princes were evidently touched somewhat by this appeal, and the people with them; for after this, both princes and people stood against the prophets and the priests, and said, "This man is not worthy to die." So a division arose among them, which resulted in Jeremiah's being spared for the time and set at liberty. But he continued his earnest expostulations with the people because of their sins, and continued just as before his startling annunciations concerning the impending ruin of temple, city and nation.
These truths were so unwelcome and painful for the people to hear, that other prophets soon began to appear who uttered contrary predictions, no doubt for the sake of the popularity which they should acquire among the people by prophesying the return of peace and prosperity. Hananiah was the name of one of these false prophets. On one occasion he broke a small wooden yoke which Jeremiah wore upon his neck, which had been put there as an object lesson by Divine direction. When this false prophet broke that yoke, he told the people that the Lord said that the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, which was not only upon the neck of Judah, but upon all nations, should be broken within two years. But the Lord spoke to Hananiah, through his true prophet, Jeremiah, and told him that, because he had made the people trust in a lie, he should die that same year. And the record reads, "So Hananiah, the prophet, died the same year in the seventh month."
Shemeniah was another of those lying prophets who was dealt with in a manner which condemned him and exonerated Jeremiah. But still Jeremiah's enemies, the priests, false prophets, and certain elders, were not at rest, but continued their persecutions until the result was that Jeremiah was thrown into prison. With his liberty thus restricted he could not publicly deliver his messages, so he called Baruch, the scribe, to his assistance, and he wrote as Jeremiah dictated. This matter was inscribed upon a roll of parchment, with the view of having it read to the people in some public and frequented part of the city.
The favorable opportunity occurred on the occasion of a great festival, which was a feasting day, and which brought the inhabitants of the land from all parts of Judea together at Jerusalem. On the day of the festival Baruch took the roll and stationed himself at the entry of the new gate of the temple, and, calling upon the people to hear him, began to read. A great concourse of people soon gathered around him who listened, apparently with honest attention.
But one of the by-standers, Michaiah, went down into the city to the king's palace, and reported to the king's scribes and princes, who were assembled in the council chamber, that Baruch had gathered the people together in one of the courts of the temple, and that he was reading to them a discourse on prophecy which had been written by Jeremiah. He also told them all he himself had heard, as Baruch read the book in the hearing of the people.
This aroused such an interest and anxiety among them that they immediately sent Jehudi, an attendant at the palace, to tell Baruch to come to them and bring the roll with him. As soon as he arrived, they asked him to read what he had written. He did so, and they were evidently much impressed, for the Scripture statement is, "When they had heard all the words they were afraid, both one and the other."
Their fear must have been great, because they felt a conviction that these words were from the Lord, and that these predictions would surely come to pass. This very fear created in them a tender regard for both Baruch and Jeremiah, for they told him that they would be obliged to report the matter to the king; but they advised Baruch, saying: "Go hide thee; thou and Jeremiah, and let no man know where ye be."
When the matter was reported to the king, the subject matter of the book so angered him that when he had read only three or four leaves, he took out his pen-knife and cut the entire roll to pieces and threw it in the fire, and then ordered his officers to "take Baruch, the scribe, and Jeremiah, the prophet; but the Lord hid them," (Jer. 36:26).
Strange, isn't it, that they should have Jeremiah in prison, and yet, when they come to look for him he cannot be found? But then, we believe that when the Lord does a thing it is well done. One thing we do know about this, that the Lord took him out of prison to hide him, and that when he again appeared among men, they did not imprison him on the old charge, for the Scripture saith: "Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people; for they had not put him in prison."
Meanwhile, King Jehoiakim had received his promised burial, that of "an ass, drawn and cast outside the gates of Jerusalem," "and his dead body," as Jeremiah says, was "cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost."
The next time in which we find Jeremiah a prisoner is during the reign of Zedekiah, who, as we have before mentioned, was the prophet's own grandson. At this time Jeremiah's enemies represented to the King that the predictions which were uttered by the prophet were so gloomy and terrible that they depressed and discouraged the hearts of the people to such an extent that they were weakened in their power to resist, and that accordingly he must be regarded as a public enemy. So persistently were these claims urged that finally the King gave Jeremiah into the hands of his enemies and told them that they might do with him as they pleased.
There was a dungeon in the prison, to which there was no access except from above. The bottom was wet and miry and covered with filth and slime. It was the custom to let prisoners down into its gloomy depths and leave them there to starve. Into this filthy dungeon Jeremiah was cast and was left to die of misery and hunger. But God brought Jeremiah into this world to accomplish a work, for the accomplishment of which he himself had pledged his reputation as God; consequently he could not afford to let that man die then and there.
So the Lord began to trouble Zedekiah. His heart smote him, his fears confronted him, and he trembled with misgivings lest he had delivered a true prophet of God into the hands of those who, he knew, would surely put him to death. So he inquired what had been done with the prisoner, and learned that he had been practically buried alive. Then, with fear-tortured haste, be commanded an officer to take thirty men and get Jeremiah out of that horrible pit "before he die."
When they went to the dungeon and opened the mouth of it they found that he had sunk deep into the mire. They threw down some old clothes, which he was to fold and place under his arms and about those parts of his body where the ropes were to pass, and where the greatest weight would come in pulling him out of the mire and up out of that dismal pit.
After that Jeremiah had the freedom of the court of the prison, and the King secretly sought him and begged him to reveal the truth concerning his own fate and that of the kingdom of Judah. Jeremiah did this faithfully, and the King found out all that he sought to know; which proved to be much more than he cared to learn, especially concerning his own fate.
While Jeremiah was shut up in the court of that prison the word of the Lord came to him for the last time conceiving the destruction of the city. At the same time the promise concerning the preservation of his own life was given, and was as follows: "But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the Lord, and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey [booty or prize] upon thee," (Jer. 39:17, 18).
Jeremiah remained shut up in that prison until the Babylonish forces captured the city, broke down the walls, burned the Royal palaces and the houses of the people, thus making the inside of those prison walls the only place of safety in all that city.
Now, it is a remarkable fact, one well worthy of God and certainly one most worthy of note, that the Lord had promised not only that the prophet should be delivered from his enemies among his own people, but also that the enemies of his people should treat him well, and that amidst it all his life should be spared. It is also a remarkable fact that, in view of all this, we read: "Now Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, saying, ‘Take him and look well to him, but do him no harm, but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee’," (Jer. 39:11, 12).
The effect of this command from the conquering king was so wonderful in its results, and the result was so absolutely essential in order that Jeremiah might be free to finish his Divinely-appointed task, that we are moved to give this result just as it is recorded in the Word of God
"And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said unto him . . . Behold I loose thee this day from the chains that were upon thy hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come and I will look well unto thee; but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear; behold all the land is before thee; whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go. . . . So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward [money] and let him go."
Query: Where did he go and why?