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Title: Expositor's Bible: The Book of Jeremiah - Chapters XXI.-LII.
Author: Bennett, William Henry
Language: English
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                         THE EXPOSITOR'S BIBLE

                           EDITED BY THE REV.
                    W. ROBERTSON NICOLL, M.A., LL.D.
                      _Editor of "The Expositor"_

                          THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
                           CHAPTERS XXI.-LII.

                          W. H. BENNETT, M.A.

                          HODDER AND STOUGHTON
                          27, PATERNOSTER ROW


                         THE EXPOSITOR'S BIBLE.

              _Crown 8vo, cloth, price 7s. 6d, each vol._

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                         EIGHTH SERIES, 1895-6.

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    By Prof. W. H. BENNETT, M.A.

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    By Prof. W. F. ADENEY, M.A.

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    By Prof. G. A. SMITH, D.D.
    Two Vols.

                            BOOK OF JEREMIAH

                           CHAPTERS XXI.-LII.

                          W. H. BENNETT, M.A.

                        HACKNEY AND NEW COLLEGES

                          HODDER AND STOUGHTON
                          27, PATERNOSTER ROW


    _Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury._


The present work deals primarily with Jeremiah xxi.-lii., thus forming
a supplement to the volume of the _Expositor's Bible_ on Jeremiah by
the Rev. C. J. Ball, M.A. References to the earlier chapters are only
introduced where they are necessary to illustrate and explain the
later sections.

I regret that two important works, Prof. Skinner's _Ezekiel_ in this
series, and Cornill's _Jeremiah_ in Dr. Haupt's _Sacred Books of the
Old Testament_, were published too late to be used in the preparation
of this volume.

I have again to acknowledge my indebtedness to the Rev. T. H. Darlow,
M.A., for a careful reading and much valuable criticism of my MS.


 (_The larger figures in black type are the chief references. Passages
 in i.-xx. are only noticed by way of illustration of later sections_)

    CHAP.                                        PAGE

  i.     7                                        295
         10                                  295, 308
         10-12                                    340
         15                                       295
         18                                        82

  ii.    10, 11                                    51
         27                                       290
         34                                       272

  iii.   14                                       352
         15                                       324

  iv.    19                                       327
         21                                       302

  v.     31                                        15

  vi.    28                                       275

  vii.    4                                        20
         5-9                                      272
         12-14                                     14

  ix.    11, x. 22                                306

  xi.    19                                         6

  xii.   14                                       323

  xiii.  18                                        90

  xiv.    8                                       308

  xv.     1                                       296
         1-4                                      240
          4                                       202

  xvi.    1                                         6
         10                                       274
         13                                       308
         14, 15                                   320

  xvii.   1                                       353
         23                                       291

  xix.    4                                       272
         15                                       304

  xx.     2                                       272

  xxi.    1-10                                    141
          3-6                                     303

  xxii.   1-9                                     295
          10-12                                     3
          13-19                                    63
          17                                      272
          20-30                                    80

  xxiii., xxiv.                                    96

  xxiii.  3-8                                     319
          12                                 299, 302
          14                                      272
          25-27                                   288
          25-32                                   340
          33, 34                                  304
          40                                      307

  xxiv.                                            99
          6, 7                                    319

  xxv.    5                                       297
          9                                       215
          10                                 306, 307
          12                                      316
          15-38                                   211
          34-38                                   101
  xxvi.                                            10
          3                                       298
          6                                       307

  xxvii., xxviii.                                 115

  xxvii.  9                                       340

  xxix.                                           131
          8                                       340
          10                                      316
          4-14                                    259
          23                                      273

  xxx., xxxi.                                     319

  xxxi.   31-38                                   346

  xxxii.                                          308
          26-35                                   274
          34, 35                                  285

  xxxiii.                                         319

  xxxiv.                                          141
          2                                       305
          21                                      304
          22                                      305

  xxxv.                                            44
          15                                      297
          17                                      304

  xxxvi.                                           28
          2                                       298
          30, 31                                   63
          31                                  83, 304

  xxxvii. 1-10                                    141
          8                                       305
          11-21                                   155
          12                                      309

  xxxviii.                                        155

  xxxix.                                          172
          15-18                                   155

  xl.                                             172

  xli.                                            172

  xlii., xliii.                                   187
          8-13                                    220

  xliv.                                           197
          30                                 220, 229

  xlv.                                             54

  xlvi.                                           220
          25                                      229

  xlvii.                                          230

  xlviii.                                         234

  xlix.   1-6                                     242
          7-22                                    243
          23-27                                   248
          28-33                                   251
          34-39                                   255

  l., li.                                         258

  lii.                                            172

                          CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE

In the present stage of investigation of Old Testament Chronology,
absolute accuracy cannot be claimed for such a table as the following.
Hardly any, if any, of these dates are supported by a general
consensus of opinion. On the other hand, the range of variation is,
for the most part, not more than three or four years, and the table
will furnish an approximately accurate idea of sequences and
synchronisms. In other respects also the data admit of alternative
interpretations, and the course of events is partly a matter of
theory--hence the occasional insertion of (?).

  SYNCHRONISMS|                      |                 |               |
  Traditional |                      |                 |               |
  date of the |      MANASSEH (?)    |                 |               |
  foundation  |                      |=Esarhaddon=, 681|               |
  of Rome, 753|                      |=Assurbanipal=,  |               |
              |                      | 668             |XXVIth Dynasty |
              |                      |                 | Psammetichus  |
              |      Jeremiah born,  |                 |    I., 666    |
              | probably between 655 |                 |               |
              | and 645              |                 |               |
              |           AMON, 640  |                 |               |
              |          JOSIAH, 638 |                 |               |
              |                      |Last kings of    |               |
              |Jeremiah's call in the| Assyria, number | =Psammetichus=|
              | 13th year of Josiah, | and names       |besieges Ashdod|
              | 626                  | uncertain,      |for twenty-nine|
              |       Scythian inroad| 626-607-6       |years          |
              |     into Western Asia|                 |               |
              |Habakkuk              |-----------------|               |
              |Zephaniah             |      BABYLON.   |               |
              |  Publication of      |=Nabopolassar=,  |               |
              |  Deuteronomy, 621    |  626            |               |
              |Josiah slain at       |                 | =Necho=,      |
              |  Megiddo, 608        |                 |   612         |
              |JEHOAHAZ, 608         |_FALL OF         |               |
              |(xxii. 10-12, Ch. I.) |  NINEVEH,_      |               |
              |                      |  607-6          |               |
              |Deposed by Necho, who |                 |               |
              |  appoints            |                 |               |
              |JEHOIAKIM,            |                 |               |
              |  608                 |                 |               |
              |(xxii. 13-19, xxxvi.  |                 |               |
              |  30, 31, VI.)        |                 |               |
              |Jeremiah predicts ruin|                 |               |
              |  of Judah and is     |                 |               |
              |  tried for blasphemy |                 |               |
              |  (xxvi., II.)        |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |_FOURTH YEAR OF_      |   _BATTLE OF CARCHEMISH_        |
              |_JEHOIAKIM_, 605-4    |            (xlvi., XVII.)       |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |Nebuchadnezzar[1]     |                 |               |
              |  advances into Syria,|                 |               |
              |  is suddenly recalled|=Nebuchadnezzar,=|               |
              |  to Babylon--        |   604           |               |
              |  _before_            |                 |               |
              |  subduing Judah (?)  |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |Baruch writes         |                 |               |
              | Jeremiah's prophecies|                 |               |
              | in a roll, which is  |                 |               |
              | read successively to |                 |               |
              | the people, the      |                 |               |
              | nobles, and          |                 |               |
              | Jehoiakim, and       |                 |               |
              | destroyed by the king|                 |               |
              | (xxxvi., III.; xlv., |                 |               |
              | V.)                  |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |Nebuchadnezzar invades|                 |               |
              | Judah (?), the       |                 |               |
              | Rechabites take      |                 |               |
              | refuge in            |                 |               |
              | Jerusalem (?), the   |                 |               |
              | Jews rebuked by their|                 |               |
              | example (xxxv., IV.) |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |Jehoiakim submits to  |                 |               |
              | Nebuchadnezzar,      |                 |               |
              | revolts after three  |                 |               |
              | years, is attacked by|                 |               |
              | various "bands," but |                 |               |
              | dies before          |                 |               |
              | Nebuchadnezzar       |                 |               |
              | arrives              |                 |               |
              |JEHOIACHIN, 597       |                 |               |
              |   (xxii. 20-30, VII.)|                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |Continues revolt, but |                 |               |
              | surrenders to        |                 |               |
              | Nebuchadnezzar on his|                 |               |
              | arrival; is deposed  |                 |               |
              | and carried to       |                 |               |
              | Babylon with many of |                 |               |
              | his subjects.        |                 |               |
              | Nebuchadnezzar       |                 |               |
              | appoints             |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |ZEDEKIAH, 596         |                 |=Psammetichus= |
              |                      |                 |=II.=, 596     |
              |Jeremiah attempts to  |                 |               |
              | keep Zedekiah loyal  |                 |               |
              | to Nebuchadnezzar,   |  Ezekiel        |               |
              | and contends with    |                 |               |
              | priests and prophets |                 |               |
              | who support Egyptian |                 |               |
              | party (xxiii., xxiv.,|                 |               |
              | VIII.)               |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
  Solon's     |Proposed confederation|                 |               |
  legislation,| against              |                 |               |
  594         | Nebuchadnezzar       |                 |               |
              | denounced by         |                 |=Hophra=,      |
              | Jeremiah, but        |                 | 591           |
              | supported by         |                 |               |
              | Hananiah; proposal   |                 |               |
              | abandoned; Hananiah  |                 |               |
              | dies (xxvii.,        |                 |               |
              | xxviii., IX.), 593-2 |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |Controversy by letter |                 |               |
              | with hostile prophets|                 |               |
              | at Babylon (xxix.,   |                 |               |
              | X.)                  |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |Judah revolts,        |                 |               |
              | encouraged by Hophra.|                 |               |
              | Jerusalem is besieged|                 |               |
              | by Chaldeans. There  |                 |               |
              | being no prospect of |                 |               |
              | relief by Egypt,     |                 |               |
              | Jeremiah regains his |                 |               |
              | influence and pledges|                 |               |
              | the people by        |                 |               |
              | covenant to release  |                 |               |
              | their slaves.        |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |On the news of        |                 |               |
              | Hophra's advance, the|                 |               |
              | Chaldeans raise the  |                 |               |
              | siege; the Egyptian  |                 |               |
              | party again become   |                 |               |
              | supreme and annul the|                 |               |
              | covenant (xxi. 1-10, |                 |               |
              | xxxiv., xxxvii. 1-10,|                 |               |
              | XI.)                 |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |Jeremiah attempts to  |                 |               |
              | leave the city, is   |                 |               |
              | arrested and         |                 |               |
              | imprisoned           |                 |               |
              |Hophra retreats into  |                 |               |
              | Egypt and the        |                 |               |
              | Chaldeans renew the  |                 |               |
              | siege (xxxvii. 11-21,|                 |               |
              | xxxviii., xxxix.     |                 |               |
              | 15-18, XII.)         |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |While imprisoned      |                 |               |
              | Jeremiah buys his    |                 |               |
              | kinsman's inheritance|                 |               |
              | (xxxii., XXX.)       |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |_DESTRUCTION OF       |  Siege of Tyre  |               |
              |  JERUSALEM_, 586     |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |Jeremiah remains for a|                 |               |
              | month a prisoner     |                 |               |
              | amongst the other    |                 |               |
              | captives. Nebuzaradan|                 |               |
              | arrives; arranges for|                 |               |
              | deportation of bulk  |                 |               |
              | of population;       |                 |               |
              | appoints Gedaliah    |                 |               |
              | governor of residue; |                 |               |
              | releases Jeremiah,   |                 |               |
              | who elects to join   |                 |               |
              | Gedaliah at Mizpah.  |                 |               |
              | Gedaliah murdered.   |                 |               |
              | Jeremiah carried off,|                 |               |
              | but rescued by       |                 |               |
              | Johanan (xxxix.-xli.,|                 |               |
              | lii., XIII.)         |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |Johanan, in spite of  |                 |               |
              | Jeremiah's protest,  |                 |               |
              | goes down to Egypt   |                 |               |
              | and takes Jeremiah   |                 |               |
              | with him (xlii.,     |                 |               |
              | xliii., XIV.)        |                 |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |Jews in Egypt hold    |                 |               |
              | festival in honour of|                 |               |
              | Queen of Heaven.     |                 |=Amasis=,      |
              | Ineffectual protest  |                 | 570           |
              | of Jeremiah (xliv.,  |                 |               |
              | XV.)                 |                 |               |
              |                      |Nebuchadnezzar invades Egypt, (?)|
              |                      |             568                 |
  Pistratus,  |                      |=Evil-Merodach=, |               |
  560-527     |Release of Jehoiachin | 561             |               |
              |                      |                 |               |
              |_CYRUS CONQUERS BABYLON AND GIVES_      |               |
              |_THE JEWS PERMISSION TO RETURN,_        |               |
              |_538_                                   |               |


[1] For spelling see note, page 4



  PREFACE                                                              v

  INDEX OF CHAPTERS                                                  vii

  CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE                                                 ix

                                 BOOK I

                        _PERSONAL UTTERANCES AND

                               CHAPTER I

  INTRODUCTORY: JEHOAHAZ. xxii. 10-12                                  3

    "Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him: but weep sore for
    him that goeth away: for he shall return no more."--xxii, 10

                               CHAPTER II

  A TRIAL FOR HERESY. xxvi.: cf. vii.-x.                              10

    "When Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that Jehovah had
    commanded him to speak unto all the people, the priests and the
    prophets and all the people laid hold on him, saying, Thou shalt
    surely die."--xxvi. 8

                              CHAPTER III

  THE ROLL. xxxvi.                                                    28

    "Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that
    I have spoken unto thee."--xxxvi. 2

                               CHAPTER IV

  THE RECHABITES. xxxv.                                               44

    "Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before Me
    for ever."--xxxv. 19

                               CHAPTER V

  BARUCH. xlv.                                                        54

    "Thy life will I give unto thee for a prey."--xlv. 5

                               CHAPTER VI

  THE JUDGMENT ON JEHOIAKIM. xxii. 13-19, xxxvi. 30, 31               63

    "Jehoiakim ... slew him (Uriah) with the sword, and cast his dead
    body into the graves of the common people."--xxvi. 23

    "Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning Jehoiakim, ... He shall
    be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond
    the gates of Jerusalem."--xxii. 18, 19

    Jehoiakim ... did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah,
    according to all that his fathers had done.--2 KINGS xxiii. 36, 37

                              CHAPTER VII

  JEHOIACHIN. xxii. 20-30                                             80

    "A despised broken vessel."--xxii. 28

    "A young lion. And he went up and down among the lions, he became
    a young lion and he learned to catch the prey, he devoured
    men."--EZEK. xix. 5, 6

    "Jehoiachin ... did evil in the sight of Jehovah, according to all
    that his father had done."--2 KINGS xxiv. 8, 9

                              CHAPTER VIII

  BAD SHEPHERDS AND FALSE PROPHETS. xxiii.; xxiv.                     96

    "Woe unto the shepherds that destroy and scatter the sheep of My
    pasture!"--xxii. 1

    "Of what avail is straw instead of grain?... Is not My word like
    fire, ... like a hammer that shattereth the rocks?"--xxiii. 28, 29

                               CHAPTER IX

  HANANIAH. xxvii., xxviii.                                          115

    "Hear now, Hananiah; Jehovah hath not sent thee, but thou makest
    this people to trust in a lie."--xxviii. 15

                               CHAPTER X

  CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE EXILES. xxix.                              131

    "Jehovah make thee like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of
    Babylon roasted in the fire."--xxix. 22

                               CHAPTER XI

  A BROKEN COVENANT. xxi. 1-10, xxxiv.; xxxvii. 1-10                 141

    "All the princes and people ... changed their minds and reduced to
    bondage again all the slaves whom they had set free."--xxxiv. 10,

                              CHAPTER XII

  JEREMIAH'S IMPRISONMENT. xxxvii. 11-21, xxxviii.,
  xxxix. 15-18                                                       155

    "Jeremiah abode in the court of the guard until the day that
    Jerusalem was taken."--xxxviii. 28

                              CHAPTER XIII

  GEDALIAH. xxxix.-xli., lii.                                        172

    "Then arose Ishmael ben Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with
    him, and smote with the sword and slew Gedaliah ben Ahikam ben
    Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon had made king over the
    land."--xli. 2

                              CHAPTER XIV

  THE DESCENT INTO EGYPT. xlii., xliii.                              187

    "They came into the land of Egypt, for they obeyed not the voice
    of Jehovah."--xliii. 7

                               CHAPTER XV

  THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN. xliv.                                         197

    "Since we left off burning incense and offering libations to the
    Queen of Heaven, we have been in want of everything, and have been
    consumed by the sword and the famine."--xliv. 18

                                BOOK II


                              CHAPTER XVI

  JEHOVAH AND THE NATIONS. xxv. 15-38                                211

    "Jehovah hath a controversy with the nations."--xxv. 31

                              CHAPTER XVII

  EGYPT. xliii. 8-13, xliv. 30, xlvi.                                220

    "I will visit Amon of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods
    and their kings; even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in
    him."--xlvi. 25

                             CHAPTER XVIII

  THE PHILISTINES. xlvii.                                            230

    "O sword of Jehovah, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up
    thyself into thy scabbard; rest, and be still."--xlvii. 6

                              CHAPTER XIX

  MOAB. xlviii.                                                      234

    "Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath
    magnified himself against Jehovah."--xlviii. 42

    "Chemosh said to me, Go, take Nebo against Israel ... and I took
    it ... and I took from it the vessels of Jehovah, and offered them
    before Chemosh."--MOABITE STONE.

    "Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter
    days."--xlviii. 47

                               CHAPTER XX

  AMMON. xlix. 1-6                                                   242

    "Hath Israel no sons? hath he no heir? why then doth Moloch
    possess Gad, and his people dwell in the cities thereof?"--xlix. 1

                              CHAPTER XXI

  EDOM. xlix. 7-22                                                   243

    "Bozrah shall become an astonishment, a reproach, a waste, and a
    curse."--xlix. 13

                              CHAPTER XXII

  DAMASCUS. xlix. 23-27                                              248

    "I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, and it shall devour
    the palaces of Benhadad."--xlix. 27

                             CHAPTER XXIII

  KEDAR AND HAZOR. xlix. 28-33                                       251

    "Concerning Kedar, and the kingdoms of Hazor which Nebuchadnezzar
    king of Babylon smote."--xlix. 28

                              CHAPTER XXIV

  ELAM. xlix. 34-39                                                  255

    "I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might."--xlix.

                              CHAPTER XXV

  BABYLON. l., li.                                                   258

    "Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in
    pieces."--l. 2

                                BOOK III

                           ISRAEL AND JUDAH_

                              CHAPTER XXVI

  INTRODUCTORY                                                       267

    "I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall
    be My people."--xxxi. 1

                             CHAPTER XXVII

  SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS CORRUPTION                                    270

    "Very bad figs, ... too bad to be eaten."--xxiv. 2, 8, xxix. 17

                             CHAPTER XXVIII

  PERSISTENT APOSTASY                                                283

    "They have forsaken the covenant of Jehovah their God, and
    worshipped other gods, and served them."--xxii. 9

    "Every one that walketh in the stubbornness of his heart."--xxiii.

                              CHAPTER XXIX

  RUIN. xxii. 1-9, xxvi. 14                                          295

    "The sword, the pestilence, and the famine."--xxi, 9 _and passim_.

    "Terror on every side."--vi. 25, xx. 10, xlvi. 5, xlix. 29; _also
    as proper name_, MAGOR-MISSABIB, xx. 3

                              CHAPTER XXX

  RESTORATION--I. THE SYMBOL. xxxii.                                 308

    "And I bought the field of Hanameel."--xxxii. 9

                              CHAPTER XXXI

  RESTORATION--II. THE NEW ISRAEL. xxiii. 3-8, xxiv.
  6, 7, xxx., xxxi., xxxiii.                                         319

    "In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell
    safely: and this is the name whereby she shall be called, Jehovah
    our Righteousness."--xxxiii. 16

                             CHAPTER XXXII

  RESTORATION--III. REUNION. xxxi.                                   329

    "I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the
    seed of man, and with the seed of beast."--xxxi. 27

                             CHAPTER XXXIII

  cf. Hebrews viii.                                                  346

    "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house
    of Judah."--xxxi. 31

                             CHAPTER XXXIV

  RESTORATION--V. REVIEW. xxx.-xxxiii.                               357


                              CHAPTER XXXV

  JEREMIAH AND CHRIST                                                367

    "Jehovah thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from amongst
    thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him shall ye
    hearken."--DEUT. xviii. 15

    "Jesus ... asked His disciples, saying, Who do men say that the
    Son of Man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptist; some,
    Elijah: and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."--MATT. xvi.
    13, 14

                                 BOOK I


                               CHAPTER I

                     _INTRODUCTORY:_[2] _JEHOAHAZ_

                              xxii. 10-12.

    "Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him: but weep sore for
    him that goeth away: for he shall return no more."--JER. xxii. 10.

As the prophecies of Jeremiah are not arranged in the order in which
they were delivered, there is no absolute chronological division
between the first twenty chapters and those which follow. For the most
part, however, chapters xxi.-lii. fall in or after the fourth year of
Jehoiakim (B.C. 605). We will therefore briefly consider the situation
at Jerusalem in this crisis. The period immediately preceding B.C. 605
somewhat resembles the era of the dissolution of the Roman Empire or
of the Wars of the French Revolution. An old-established international
system was breaking in pieces, and men were quite uncertain what form
the new order would take. For centuries the futile assaults of the
Pharaohs had only served to illustrate the stability of the Assyrian
supremacy in Western Asia. Then in the last two decades of the seventh
century B.C. the Assyrian Empire collapsed, like the Roman Empire
under Honorius and his successors. It was as if by some swift
succession of disasters modern France or Germany were to become
suddenly and permanently annihilated as a military power. For the
moment, all the traditions and principles of European statesmanship
would lose their meaning, and the shrewdest diplomatist would be
entirely at fault. Men's reason would totter, their minds would lose
their balance at the stupendous spectacle of so unparalleled a
catastrophe. The wildest hopes would alternate with the extremity of
fear; everything would seem possible to the conqueror.

Such was the situation in B.C. 605, to which our first great group of
prophecies belongs. Two oppressors of Israel--Assyria and Egypt--had
been struck down in rapid succession. When Nebuchadnezzar[3] was
suddenly recalled to Babylon by the death of his father, the Jews
would readily imagine that the Divine judgment had fallen upon Chaldea
and its king. Sanguine prophets announced that Jehovah was about to
deliver His people from all foreign dominion, and establish the
supremacy of the Kingdom of God. Court and people would be equally
possessed with patriotic hope and enthusiasm. Jehoiakim, it is true,
was a nominee of Pharaoh Necho; but his gratitude would be far too
slight to override the hopes and aspirations natural to a Prince of
the House of David.

In Hezekiah's time, there had been an Egyptian and an Assyrian party
at the court of Judah; the recent supremacy of Egypt had probably
increased the number of her partisans. Assyria had disappeared, but
her former adherents would retain their antipathy to Egypt, and their
personal feuds with Jews of the opposite faction; they were as tools
lying ready to any hand that cared to use them. When Babylon succeeded
Assyria in the overlordship of Asia, she doubtless inherited the
allegiance of the anti-Egyptian party in the various Syrian states.
Jeremiah, like Isaiah, steadily opposed any dependence upon Egypt; it
was probably by his advice that Josiah undertook his ill-fated
expedition against Pharaoh Necho. The partisans of Egypt would be the
prophet's enemies; and though Jeremiah never became a mere dependent
and agent of Nebuchadnezzar, yet the friends of Babylon would be his
friends, if only because her enemies were his enemies.

We are told in 2 Kings xxiii. 37 that Jehoiakim did evil in the sight
of Jehovah according to all that his father had done. Whatever other
sins may be implied by this condemnation, we certainly learn that the
king favoured a corrupt form of the religion of Jehovah in opposition
to the purer teaching which Jeremiah inherited from Isaiah.

When we turn to Jeremiah himself, the date "the fourth year of
Jehoiakim" reminds us that by this time the prophet could look back upon
a long and sad experience; he had been called in the thirteenth year of
Josiah, some twenty-four years before. With what sometimes seems to our
limited intelligence the strange irony of Providence, this lover of
peace and quietness was called to deliver a message of ruin and
condemnation, a message that could not fail to be extremely offensive
to most of his hearers, and to make him the object of bitter hostility.

Much of this Jeremiah must have anticipated, but there were some from
whose position and character the prophet expected acceptance, even of
the most unpalatable teaching of the Spirit of Jehovah. The personal
vindictiveness with which priests and prophets repaid his loyalty to
the Divine mission and his zeal for truth came to him with a shock of
surprise and bewilderment, which was all the greater because his most
determined persecutors were his sacerdotal kinsmen and neighbours at
Anathoth. "Let us destroy the tree," they said, "with the fruit
thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his
name may be no more remembered."[4]

He was not only repudiated by his clan, but also forbidden by Jehovah
to seek consolation and sympathy in the closer ties of family life:
"Thou shalt not take a wife, thou shalt have no sons or daughters."[5]
Like Paul, it was good for Jeremiah "by reason of the present
distress" to deny himself these blessings. He found some compensation
in the fellowship of kindred souls at Jerusalem. We can well believe
that, in those early days, he was acquainted with Zephaniah, and that
they were associated with Hilkiah and Shaphan and King Josiah in the
publication of Deuteronomy and its recognition as the law of Israel.
Later on Shaphan's son Ahikam protected Jeremiah when his life was in
imminent danger.

The twelve years that intervened between Josiah's Reformation and his
defeat at Megiddo were the happiest part of Jeremiah's ministry. It is
not certain that any of the extant prophecies belong to this period.
With Josiah on the throne and Deuteronomy accepted as the standard of
the national life, the prophet felt absolved for a season from his
mission to pluck up and break down, and perhaps began to indulge in
hopes that the time had come to build and to plant. Yet it is
difficult to believe that he had implicit confidence in the permanence
of the Reformation or the influence of Deuteronomy. The silence of
Isaiah and Jeremiah as to the ecclesiastical reforms of Hezekiah and
Josiah stands in glaring contrast to the great importance attached to
them by the Books of Kings and Chronicles. But, in any case, Jeremiah
must have found life brighter and easier than in the reigns that
followed. Probably, in these happier days, he was encouraged by the
sympathy and devotion of disciples like Baruch and Ezekiel.

But Josiah's attempt to realise a Kingdom of God was short-lived; and,
in a few months, Jeremiah saw the whole fabric swept away. The king
was defeated and slain; and his religious policy was at once reversed
either by a popular revolution or a court intrigue. The people of the
land made Josiah's son Shallum king, under the name of Jehoahaz. This
young prince of twenty-three only reigned three months, and was then
deposed and carried into captivity by Pharaoh Necho; yet it is
recorded of him, that he did evil in the sight of Jehovah, according
to all that his fathers had done.[6] He--or, more probably, his
ministers, especially the queen-mother[7]--must have been in a hurry
to undo Josiah's work. Jeremiah utters no condemnation of Jehoahaz; he
merely declares that the young king will never return from his exile,
and bids the people lament over his captivity as a more grievous fate
than the death of Josiah:--

          "Weep not for the dead,
           Neither lament over him:
           But weep sore for him that goeth into captivity;
           For he shall return no more,
           Neither shall he behold his native land."[8]

Ezekiel adds admiration to sympathy: Jehoahaz was a young lion skilled
to catch the prey, he devoured men, the nations heard of him, he was
taken in their pit, and they brought him with hooks into the land of
Egypt.[9] Jeremiah and Ezekiel could not but feel some tenderness
towards the son of Josiah; and probably they had faith in his personal
character, and believed that in time he would shake off the yoke of
evil counsellors and follow in his father's footsteps. But any such
hopes were promptly disappointed by Pharaoh Necho, and Jeremiah's
spirit bowed beneath a new burden as he saw his country completely
subservient to the dreaded influence of Egypt.

Thus, at the time when we take up the narrative, the government was in
the hands of the party hostile to Jeremiah, and the king, Jehoiakim,
seems to have been his personal enemy. Jeremiah himself was somewhere
between forty and fifty years old, a solitary man without wife or
child. His awful mission as the herald of ruin clouded his spirit with
inevitable gloom. Men resented the stern sadness of his words and
looks, and turned from him with aversion and dislike. His unpopularity
had made him somewhat harsh; for intolerance is twice curst, in that
it inoculates its victims with the virus of its own bitterness. His
hopes and illusions lay behind him; he could only watch with
melancholy pity the eager excitement of these stirring times. If he
came across some group busily discussing the rout of the Egyptians at
Carchemish, or the report that Nebuchadnezzar was posting in hot haste
to Babylon, and wondering as to all that this might mean for Judah,
his countrymen would turn to look with contemptuous curiosity at the
bitter, disappointed man who had had his chance and failed, and now
grudged them their prospect of renewed happiness and prosperity.
Nevertheless Jeremiah's greatest work still lay before him. Jerusalem
was past saving; but more was at stake than the existence of Judah and
its capital. But for Jeremiah the religion of Jehovah might have
perished with His Chosen People. It was his mission to save Revelation
from the wreck of Israel. Humanly speaking, the religious future of
the world depended upon this stern solitary prophet.


[2] Cf. Preface.

[3] We know little of Nebuchadnezzar's campaigns. In 2 Kings xxiv. 1
we are told that Nebuchadnezzar "came up" in the days of Jehoiakim,
and Jehoiakim became his servant three years. It is not clear whether
Nebuchadnezzar "came up" immediately after the battle of Carchemish,
or at a later time after his return to Babylon. In either case the
impression made by his hasty departure from Syria would be the same.
Cf. Cheyne, _Jeremiah_ (Men of the Bible), p. 132. I call the Chaldean
king Nebuchadnezzar--not Nebuchadrezzar--because the former has been
an English household word for centuries.

[4] xi. 19.

[5] xvi. 2.

[6] 2 Kings xxiii. 30-32.

[7] Cf. xxii. 26.

[8] xxii. 10-12.

[9] Ezek. xix. 3, 4.

                               CHAPTER II

                          _A TRIAL FOR HERESY_

                           xxvi.: cf. vii.-x.

    "When Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that Jehovah had
    commanded him to speak unto all the people, the priests and the
    prophets and all the people laid hold on him, saying, Thou shalt
    surely die."--JER. xxvi. 8.

The date of this incident is given, somewhat vaguely, as the beginning
of the reign of Jehoiakim. It was, therefore, earlier than B.C. 605,
the point reached in the previous chapter. Jeremiah could offer no
political resistance to Jehoiakim and his Egyptian suzerain; yet it
was impossible for him to allow Josiah's policy to be reversed without
a protest. Moreover, something, perhaps much, might yet be saved for
Jehovah. The king, with his court and prophets and priests, was not
everything. Jeremiah was only concerned with sanctuaries, ritual, and
priesthoods as means to an end. For him the most important result of
the work he had shared with Josiah was a pure and holy life for the
nation and individuals. Renan--in some passages, for he is not always
consistent--is inclined to minimise the significance of the change
from Josiah to Jehoiakim; in fact, he writes very much as a cavalier
might have done of the change from Cromwell to Charles II. Both the
Jewish kings worshipped Jehovah, each in his own fashion: Josiah was
inclined to a narrow puritan severity of a life; Jehoiakim was a
liberal, practical man of the world. Probably this is a fair modern
equivalent of the current estimate of the kings and their policy,
especially on the part of Jehoiakim's friends; but then, as unhappily
still in some quarters, "narrow puritan severity" was a convenient
designation for a decent and honourable life, for a scrupulous and
self-denying care for the welfare of others. Jeremiah dreaded a
relapse into the old half-heathen ideas that Jehovah would be pleased
with homage and service that satisfied Baal, Moloch, and Chemosh. Such
a relapse would lower the ethical standard, and corrupt or even
destroy any beginnings of spiritual life. Our English Restoration is
an object-lesson as to the immoral effects of political and
ecclesiastical reaction; if such things were done in sober England,
what must have been possible to hot Eastern blood! In protesting
against the attitude of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah would also seek to save
the people from the evil effects of the king's policy. He knew from
his own experience that a subject might trust and serve God with his
whole heart, even when the king was false to Jehovah. What was
possible for him was possible for others. He understood his countrymen
too well to expect that the nation would continue to advance in paths
of righteousness which its leaders and teachers had forsaken; but,
scattered here and there through the mass of the people, was Isaiah's
remnant, the seed of the New Israel, men and women to whom the
Revelation of Jehovah had been the beginning of a higher life. He
would not leave them without a word of counsel and encouragement.

At the command of Jehovah, Jeremiah appeared before the concourse of
Jews, assembled at the Temple for some great fast or festival. No
feast is expressly mentioned, but he is charged to address "all the
cities of Judah"[10]; _all_ the outlying population would only meet at
the Temple on some specially holy day. Such an occasion would
naturally be chosen by Jeremiah for his deliverance, just as Christ
availed Himself of the opportunities offered by the Passover and the
Feast of Tabernacles, just as modern philanthropists seek to find a
place for their favourite topics on the platform of May Meetings.

The prophet was to stand in the court of the Temple and repeat once
more to the Jews his message of warning and judgment, "all that I have
charged thee to speak unto them, thou shalt not keep back a single
word." The substance of this address is found in the various
prophecies which expose the sin and predict the ruin of Judah. They
have been dealt with in the former volume[11] on Jeremiah in this
series, and are also referred to in Book III.

According to the universal principle of Hebrew prophecy, the
predictions of ruin were conditional; they were still coupled with the
offer of pardon to repentance, and Jehovah did not forbid his prophet
to cherish a lingering hope that "perchance they may hearken and turn
every one from his evil way, so that I may repent Me of the evil I
purpose to inflict upon them because of the evil of their doings."
Probably the phrase "every one from his evil way" is primarily
collective rather than individual, and is intended to describe a
national reformation, which would embrace all the individual citizens;
but the actual words suggest another truth, which must also have been
in Jeremiah's mind. The nation is, after all, an aggregate of men and
women; there can be no national reformation, except through the
repentance and amendment of individuals.

Jeremiah's audience, it must be observed, consisted of worshippers on
the way to the Temple, and would correspond to an ordinary congregation
of church-goers, rather than to the casual crowd gathered round a street
preacher, or to the throngs of miners and labourers who listened to
Whitfield and Wesley. As an acknowledged prophet, he was well within his
rights in expecting a hearing from the attendants at the feast, and men
would be curious to see and hear one who had been the dominant influence
in Judah during the reign of Josiah. Moreover, in the absence of evening
newspapers and shop-windows, a prophet was too exciting a distraction to
be lightly neglected. From Jehovah's charge to speak all that He had
commanded him to speak and not to keep back a word, we may assume that
Jeremiah's discourse was long: it was also avowedly an old sermon[12];
most of his audience had heard it before, all of them were quite
familiar with its main topics. They listened in the various moods of a
modern congregation "sitting under" a distinguished preacher. Jeremiah's
friends and disciples welcomed the ideas and phrases that had become
part of their spiritual life. Many enjoyed the speaker's earnestness and
eloquence, without troubling themselves about the ideas at all. There
was nothing specially startling about the well-known threats and
warnings; they had become

          "A tale of little meaning tho' the words were strong."

Men hardened their hearts against inspired prophets as easily as they
do against the most pathetic appeals of modern evangelists. Mingled
with the crowd were Jeremiah's professional rivals, who detested both
him and his teaching--priests who regarded him as a traitor to his own
caste, prophets who envied his superior gifts and his force of
passionate feeling. To these almost every word he uttered was
offensive, but for a while there was nothing that roused them to very
vehement anger. He was allowed to finish what he had to say, "to make
an end of speaking all that Jehovah had commanded him." But in this
peroration he had insisted on a subject that stung the indifferent
into resentment and roused the priests and prophets to fury.

"Go ye now unto My place which was in Shiloh, where I caused My name
to dwell at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of
My people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith
Jehovah, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye
heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not: therefore will I do
unto the house, that is called by My name, wherein ye trust, and unto
the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to

The Ephraimite sanctuary of Shiloh, long the home of the Ark and its
priesthood, had been overthrown in some national catastrophe.
Apparently when it was destroyed it was no mere tent, but a
substantial building of stone, and its ruins remained as a permanent
monument of the fugitive glory of even the most sacred shrine.

The very presence of his audience in the place where they were met
showed their reverence for the Temple: the priests were naturally
devotees of their own shrine; of the prophets Jeremiah himself had said,
"The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule in accordance with
their teaching."[14] Can we wonder that "the priests and the prophets
and all the people laid hold on him, saying, Thou shalt surely die"? For
the moment there was an appearance of religious unity in Jerusalem; the
priests, the prophets, and the pious laity on one side, and only the
solitary heretic on the other. It was, though on a small scale, as if
the obnoxious teaching of some nineteenth-century prophet of God had
given an unexpected stimulus to the movement for Christian reunion; as
if cardinals and bishops, chairmen of unions, presidents of conferences,
moderators of assemblies, with great preachers and distinguished laymen,
united to hold monster meetings and denounce the Divine message as
heresy and blasphemy. In like manner Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians
found a basis of common action in their hatred of Christ, and Pilate and
Herod were reconciled by His cross.

Meanwhile the crowd was increasing: new worshippers were arriving, and
others as they left the Temple were attracted to the scene of the
disturbance. Doubtless too the mob, always at the service of
persecutors, hurried up in hope of finding opportunities for mischief
and violence. Some six and a half centuries later, history repeated
itself on the same spot, when the Asiatic Jews saw Paul in the Temple
and "laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the
man, that teacheth all men everywhere against the people and the law
and this place, ... and all the city was moved, and the people ran
together and laid hold on Paul."[15]

Our narrative, as it stands, is apparently incomplete: we find Jeremiah
before the tribunal of the princes, but we are not told how he came
there; whether the civil authorities intervened to protect him, as
Claudius Lysias came down with his soldiers and centurions and rescued
Paul, or whether Jeremiah's enemies observed legal forms, as Annas and
Caiaphas did when they arrested Christ. But, in any case, "the princes
of Judah, when they heard these things, came up from the palace into the
Temple, and took their seats as judges at the entry of the new gate of
the Temple." The "princes of Judah" play a conspicuous part in the last
period of the Jewish monarchy: we have little definite information about
them, and are left to conjecture that they were an aristocratic
oligarchy or an official clique, or both; but it is clear that they were
a dominant force in the state, with recognised constitutional status,
and that they often controlled the king himself. We are also ignorant as
to the "new gate"; it may possibly be the upper gate built by
Jotham[16] about a hundred and fifty years earlier.

Before these judges, Jeremiah's ecclesiastical accusers brought a
formal charge; they said, almost in the very words which the high
priest and the Sanhedrin used of Christ, "This man is worthy of death,
for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your
ears"--_i.e._ when he said, "This house shall be like Shiloh, and this
city shall be desolate without inhabitant." Such accusations have been
always on the lips of those who have denounced Christ and His
disciples as heretics. One charge against Himself was that He said, "I
will destroy this Temple that is made with hands, and in three days I
will build another that is made without hands."[17] Stephen was
accused of speaking incessantly against the Temple and the Law, and
teaching that Jesus of Nazareth would destroy the Temple and change
the customs handed down from Moses. When he asserted that "the Most
High dwelleth not in temples made with hands," the impatience of his
audience compelled him to bring his defence to an abrupt
conclusion.[18] Of Paul we have already spoken.

How was it that these priests and prophets thought that their princes
might be induced to condemn Jeremiah to death for predicting the
destruction of the Temple? A prophet would not run much risk nowadays
by announcing that St. Paul's should be made like Stonehenge, or St.
Peter's like the Parthenon. Expositors of Daniel and the Apocalypse
habitually fix the end of the world a few years in advance of the
date at which they write, and yet they do not incur any appreciable
unpopularity. It is true that Jeremiah's accusers were a little afraid
that his predictions might be fulfilled, and the most bitter
persecutors are those who have a lurking dread that their victims are
right, while they themselves are wrong. But such fears could not very
well be evidence or argument against Jeremiah before any court of law.

In order to realise the situation we must consider the place which the
Temple held in the hopes and affections of the Jews. They had always
been proud of their royal sanctuary at Jerusalem, but within the last
hundred and fifty years it had acquired a unique importance for the
religion of Israel. First Hezekiah, and then Josiah, had taken away
the other high places and altars at which Jehovah was worshipped, and
had said to Judah and Jerusalem, "Ye shall worship before this
altar."[19] Doubtless the kings were following the advice of Isaiah
and Jeremiah. These prophets were anxious to abolish the abuses of the
local sanctuaries, which were a continual incentive to an extravagant
and corrupt ritual. Yet they did not intend to assign any supreme
importance to a priestly caste or a consecrated building. Certainly
for them the hope of Israel and the assurance of its salvation did not
consist in cedar and hewn stones, in silver and gold. And yet the
unique position given to the Temple inevitably became the
starting-point for fresh superstition. Once Jehovah could be
worshipped not only at Jerusalem, but at Beersheba and Bethel and many
other places where He had chosen to set His name. Even then, it was
felt that the Divine Presence must afford some protection for His
dwelling-places. But now that Jehovah dwelt nowhere else but at
Jerusalem, and only accepted the worship of His people at this single
shrine, how could any one doubt that He would protect His Temple and
His Holy City against all enemies, even the most formidable? Had He
not done so already?

When Hezekiah abolished the high places, did not Jehovah set the seal
of approval upon his policy by destroying the army of Sennacherib? Was
not this great deliverance wrought to guard the Temple against
desecration and destruction, and would not Jehovah work out a like
salvation in any future time of danger? The destruction of Sennacherib
was essential to the religious future of Israel and of mankind; but it
had a very mingled influence upon the generations immediately
following. They were like a man who has won a great prize in a
lottery, or who has, quite unexpectedly, come into an immense
inheritance. They ignored the unwelcome thought that the Divine
protection depended on spiritual and moral conditions, and they clung
to the superstitious faith that at any moment, even in the last
extremity of danger and at the eleventh hour, Jehovah might, nay, even
_must_, intervene. The priests and the inhabitants of Jerusalem could
look on with comparative composure while the country was ravaged, and
the outlying towns were taken and pillaged; Jerusalem itself might
seem on the verge of falling into the hands of the enemy, but they
still trusted in their Palladium. Jerusalem could not perish, because
it contained the one sanctuary of Jehovah; they sought to silence
their own fears and to drown the warning voice of the prophet by
vociferating their watchword: "The Temple of Jehovah! the Temple of
Jehovah! The Temple of Jehovah is in our midst!"[20]

In prosperous times a nation may forget its Palladium, and may
tolerate doubts as to its efficacy; but the strength of the Jews was
broken, their resources were exhausted, and they were clinging in an
agony of conflicting hopes and fears to their faith in the
inviolability of the Temple. To destroy their confidence was like
snatching away a plank from a drowning man. When Jeremiah made the
attempt, they struck back with the fierce energy of despair. It does
not seem that at this time the city was in any immediate danger; the
incident rather falls in the period of quiet submission to Pharaoh
Necho that preceded the battle of Carchemish. But the disaster of
Megiddo was fresh in men's memories, and in the unsettled state of
Eastern Asia no one knew how soon some other invader might advance
against the city. On the other hand, in the quiet interval, hopes
began to revive, and men were incensed when the prophet made haste to
nip these hopes in the bud, all the more so because their excited
anticipations of future glory had so little solid basis. Jeremiah's
appeal to the ill-omened precedent of Shiloh naturally roused the
sanguine and despondent alike into frenzy.

Jeremiah's defence was simple and direct: "Jehovah sent me to prophesy
all that ye have heard against this house and against this city. Now
therefore amend your ways and your doings, and hearken unto the voice
of Jehovah your God, that He may repent Him of the evil that He hath
spoken against you. As for me, behold, I am in your hands: do unto me
as it seems good and right unto you. Only know assuredly that, if ye
put me to death, ye will bring the guilt of innocent blood upon
yourselves, and upon this city and its inhabitants: for of a truth
Jehovah sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears." There
is one curious feature in this defence. Jeremiah contemplates the
possibility of two distinct acts of wickedness on the part of his
persecutors: they may turn a deaf ear to his appeal that they should
repent and reform, and their obstinacy will incur all the
chastisements which Jeremiah had threatened; they may also put him to
death and incur additional guilt. Scoffers might reply that his
previous threats were so awful and comprehensive that they left no
room for any addition to the punishment of the impenitent. Sinners
sometimes find a grim comfort in the depth of their wickedness; their
case is so bad that it cannot be made worse, they may now indulge
their evil propensities with a kind of impunity. But Jeremiah's
prophetic insight made him anxious to save his countrymen from further
sin, even in their impenitence; the Divine discrimination is not taxed
beyond its capabilities even by the extremity of human wickedness.

But to return to the main feature in Jeremiah's defence. His accusers'
contention was that his teaching was so utterly blasphemous, so
entirely opposed to every tradition and principle of true
religion--or, as we should say, so much at variance with all
orthodoxy--that it could not be a word of Jehovah. Jeremiah does not
attempt to discuss the relation of his teaching to the possible limits
of Jewish orthodoxy. He bases his defence on the bare assertion of his
prophetic mission--Jehovah had sent him. He assumes that there is no
room for evidence or discussion; it is a question of the relative
authority of Jeremiah and his accusers, whether he or they had the
better right to speak for God. The immediate result seemed to justify
him in this attitude. He was no obscure novice, seeking for the first
time to establish his right to speak in the Divine name. The princes
and people had been accustomed for twenty years to listen to him, as
to the most fully acknowledged mouthpiece of Heaven; they could not
shake off their accustomed feeling of deference, and once more
succumbed to the spell of his fervid and commanding personality. "Then
said the princes and all the people unto the priests and the prophets,
This man is not worthy of death; for he hath spoken to us in the name
of Jehovah our God." For the moment the people were won over and the
princes convinced; but priests and prophets were not so easily
influenced by inspired utterances; some of these probably thought that
they had an inspiration of their own, and their professional
experience made them callous.

At this point again the sequence of events is not clear; possibly the
account was compiled from the imperfect recollections of more than one
of the spectators. The pronouncement of the princes and the people
seems, at first sight, a formal acquittal that should have ended the
trial, and left no room for the subsequent intervention of "certain of
the elders," otherwise the trial seems to have come to no definite
conclusion, and the incident simply terminated in the personal
protection given to Jeremiah by Ahikam ben Shaphan. Possibly, however,
the tribunal of the princes was not governed by any strict rules of
procedure; and the force of the argument used by the elders does not
depend on the exact stage of the trial at which it was introduced.

Either Jeremiah was not entirely successful in his attempt to get the
matter disposed of on the sole ground of his own prophetic authority, or
else the elders were anxious to secure weight and finality for the
acquittal, by bringing forward arguments in its support. The elders were
an ancient Israelite institution, and probably still represented the
patriarchal side of the national life; nothing is said as to their
relation to the princes, and this might not be very clearly defined. The
elders appealed, by way of precedent, to an otherwise unrecorded
incident of the reign of Hezekiah. Micah the Morasthite had uttered
similar threats against Jerusalem and the Temple: "Zion shall be
ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain
of the house as the high places of the forest."[21] But Hezekiah and his
people, instead of slaying Micah, had repented, and the city had been
spared. They evidently wished that the precedent could be wholly
followed in the present instance; but, at any rate, it was clear that
one of the most honoured and successful of the kings of Judah had
accepted a threat against the Temple as a message from Jehovah.
Therefore the mere fact that Jeremiah had uttered such a threat was
certainly not _primâ facie_ evidence that he was a false prophet. We are
not told how this argument was received, but the writer of the chapter,
possibly Baruch, does not attribute Jeremiah's escape either to his
acquittal by the princes or to the reasoning of the elders. The people
apparently changed sides once more, like the common people in the New
Testament, who heard Christ gladly and with equal enthusiasm clamoured
for His crucifixion. At the end of the chapter we find them eager to
have the prophet delivered into their hands that they may put him to
death. Apparently the prophets and priests, having brought matters into
this satisfactory position, had retired from the scene of action; the
heretic was to be delivered over to the secular arm. The princes, like
Pilate, seemed inclined to yield to popular pressure; but Ahikam, a son
of the Shaphan who had to do with the finding of Deuteronomy, stood by
Jeremiah, as John of Gaunt stood by Wyclif, and the Protestant Princes
by Luther, and the magistrates of Geneva by Calvin; and Jeremiah could
say with the Psalmist:--

          "I have heard the defaming of many,
           Terror on every side:
           While they took counsel together against me,
           They devised to take away my life.
           But I trusted in Thee, O Jehovah:
           I said, Thou art my God.
           My times are in Thy hand:
           Deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that
                    persecute me.

                 *       *       *       *       *

           Let the lying lips be dumb,
           Which speak against the righteous insolently,
           With pride and contempt.
           Oh, how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for
                    them that fear Thee,
           Which Thou hast wrought for them that put their trust in
                    Thee, before the sons of men."[22]

We have here an early and rudimentary example of religious toleration,
of the willingness, however reluctant, to hear as a possible Divine
message unpalatable teaching, at variance with current theology; we
see too the fountain-head of that freedom which since has "broadened
down from precedent to precedent."

But unfortunately no precedent can bind succeeding generations, and both
Judaism and Christianity have sinned grievously against the lesson of
this chapter. Jehoiakim himself soon broke through the feeble restraint
of this new-born tolerance. The writer adds an incident that must have
happened somewhat later,[23] to show how real was Jeremiah's danger, and
how transient was the liberal mood of the authorities. A certain Uriah
ben Shemaiah of Kirjath Jearim had the courage to follow in Jeremiah's
footsteps and speak against the city "according to all that Jeremiah had
said." With the usual meanness of persecutors, Jehoiakim and his
captains and princes vented upon this obscure prophet the ill-will which
they had not dared to indulge in the case of Jeremiah, with his
commanding personality and influential friends. Uriah fled into Egypt,
but was brought back and slain, and his body cast out unburied into the
common cemetery. We can understand Jeremiah's fierce and bitter
indignation against the city where such things were possible.

This chapter is so full of suggestive teaching that we can only touch
upon two or three of its more obvious lessons. The dogma which shaped
the charge against Jeremiah and caused the martyrdom of Uriah was the
inviolability of the Temple and the Holy City. This dogma was a
perversion of the teaching of Isaiah, and especially of Jeremiah
himself,[24] which assigned a unique position to the Temple in the
religion of Israel. The carnal man shows a fatal ingenuity in sucking
poison out of the most wholesome truth. He is always eager to discover
that something external, material, physical, concrete--some building,
organisation, ceremony, or form of words--is a fundamental basis of
the faith and essential to salvation. If Jeremiah had died with
Josiah, the "priests and prophets" would doubtless have quoted his
authority against Uriah. The teaching of Christ and His apostles, of
Luther and Calvin and their fellow-reformers, has often been twisted
and forged into weapons to be used against their true followers. We
are often tempted in the interest of our favourite views to lay undue
stress on secondary and accidental statements of great teachers. We
fail to keep the due proportion of truth which they themselves
observed, and in applying their precepts to new problems we sacrifice
the kernel and save the husk. The warning of Jeremiah's persecutors
might often "give us pause." We need not be surprised at finding
priests and prophets eager and interested champions of a perversion of
revealed truth. Ecclesiastical office does not necessarily confer any
inspiration from above. The hereditary priest follows the traditions
of his caste, and even the prophet may become the mouthpiece of the
passions and prejudices of those who accept and applaud him. When men
will not endure sound doctrine, they heap to themselves teachers
after their own lusts; having itching ears, they turn away their ears
from the truth and turn unto fables.[25] Jeremiah's experience shows
that even an apparent consensus of clerical opinion is not always to
be trusted. The history of councils and synods is stained by many foul
and shameful blots; it was the Œcumenical Council at Constance that
burnt Huss, and most Churches have found themselves, at some time or
other, engaged in building the tombs of the prophets whom their own
officials had stoned in days gone by. We forget that _Athanasius
contra mundum_ implies also _Athanasius contra ecclesiam_.


[10] The expression is curious; it usually means all the cities of
Judah, except Jerusalem; the LXX. reading varies between "all the
Jews" and "all Judah."

[11] See especially the exposition of chaps. vii.-x., which are often
supposed to be a reproduction of Jeremiah's utterance on this occasion.

[12] The Hebrew apparently implies that the discourse was a repetition
of former prophecies.

[13] vii. 12-14. Even if chaps. vii.-x. are not a report of Jeremiah's
discourse on this occasion, the few lines in xxvi. are evidently a
mere summary, and vii. will best indicate the substance of his
utterance. The verses quoted occur towards the beginning of vii.-x.,
but from the emphatic reference to Shiloh in the brief abstract in
xxvi., Jeremiah must have dwelt on this topic, and the fact that the
outburst followed his conclusion suggests that he reserved this
subject for his peroration.

[14] v. 31.

[15] Acts xxi. 27-30.

[16] 2 Kings xv. 35.

[17] Mark xiv. 58.

[18] Acts vi. 13, 14, vii. 48.

[19] 2 Kings xviii. 4, xxiii.; Isa. xxxvi. 7.

[20] vii. 4.

[21] Micah iii. 12. As the quotation exactly agrees with the verse in
our extant Book of Micah, we may suppose that the elders were
acquainted with his prophecies in writing.

[22] Psalm xxxi. 13-15, 18, 19. The Psalm is sometimes ascribed to
Jeremiah, because it can be so readily applied to this incident. The
reader will recognise his characteristic phrase "Terror on every side"

[23] This incident cannot be part of the speech of the elders; it would
only have told against the point they were trying to make. The various
phases--prophesy, persecution, flight, capture, and execution--must have
taken some time, and can scarcely have preceded Jeremiah's utterance "at
the beginning of the reign of King Jehoiakim."

[24] Assuming his sympathy with Deuteronomy.

[25] 2 Tim. iv. 3.

                              CHAPTER III

                                THE ROLL


    "Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that
    I have spoken unto thee."--JER. xxxvi. 2.

The incidents which form so large a proportion of the contents of our
book do not make up a connected narrative; they are merely a series of
detached pictures: we can only conjecture the doings and experiences
of Jeremiah during the intervals. Chapter xxvi. leaves him still
exposed to the persistent hostility of the priests and prophets, who
had apparently succeeded in once more directing popular feeling
against their antagonist. At the same time, though the princes were
not ill-disposed towards him, they were not inclined to resist the
strong pressure brought to bear upon them. Probably the attitude of
the populace varied from time to time, according to the presence among
them of the friends or enemies of the prophet; and, in the same way,
we cannot think of "the princes" as a united body, governed by a
single impulse. The action of this group of notables might be
determined by the accidental preponderance of one or other of two
opposing parties. Jeremiah's only real assurance of safety lay in the
personal protection extended to him by Ahikam ben Shaphan. Doubtless
other princes associated themselves with Ahikam in his friendly
action on behalf of the prophet.

Under these circumstances, Jeremiah would find it necessary to restrict
his activity. Utter indifference to danger was one of the most ordinary
characteristics of Hebrew prophets, and Jeremiah was certainly not
wanting in the desperate courage which may be found in any Mohammedan
dervish. At the same time he was far too practical, too free from morbid
self-consciousness, to court martyrdom for its own sake. If he had
presented himself again in the Temple when it was crowded with
worshippers, his life might have been taken in a popular tumult, while
his mission was still only half accomplished. Possibly his priestly
enemies had found means to exclude him from the sacred precincts.

Man's extremity was God's opportunity; this temporary and partial
silencing of Jeremiah led to a new departure, which made the influence
of his teaching more extensive and permanent. He was commanded to
commit his prophecies to writing. The restriction of his active
ministry was to bear rich fruit, like Paul's imprisonment, and
Athanasius' exile, and Luther's sojourn in the Wartburg. A short time
since there was great danger that Jeremiah and the Divine message
entrusted to him would perish together. He did not know how soon he
might become once more the mark of popular fury, nor whether Ahikam
would still be able to protect him. The roll of the book could speak
even if he were put to death.

But Jeremiah was not thinking chiefly about what would become of his
teaching if he himself perished. He had an immediate and particular end
in view. His tenacious persistence was not to be baffled by the
prospect of mob violence, or by exclusion from the most favourable
vantage-ground. Renan is fond of comparing the prophets to modern
journalists; and this incident is an early and striking instance of the
substitution of pen, ink, and paper for the orator's tribune. Perhaps
the closest modern parallel is that of the speaker who is howled down at
a public meeting and hands his manuscript to the reporters.

In the record of the Divine command to Jeremiah, there is no express
statement as to what was to be done with the roll; but as the object
of writing it was that "perchance the house of Judah might hear and
repent," it is evident that from the first it was intended to be read
to the people.

There is considerable difference of opinion[26] as to the contents of
the roll. They are described as: "All that I have spoken unto thee
concerning[27] Jerusalem[28] and Judah, and all the nations, since I
(first) spake unto thee, from the time of Josiah until now." At first
sight this would seem to include all previous utterances, and therefore
all the extant prophecies of a date earlier than B.C. 605, _i.e._ those
contained in chapters i.-xii. and some portions of xiv.-xx. (we cannot
determine which with any exactness), and probably most of those dated in
the fourth year of Jehoiakim, _i.e._ xxv. and parts of xlv.-xlix.
Cheyne,[29] however, holds that the roll simply contained the striking
and comprehensive prophecy in chapter xxv. The whole series of chapters
might very well be described as dealing with Jerusalem, Judah, and the
nations; but at the same time xxv. might be considered equivalent, by
way of summary, to all that had been spoken on these subjects. From
various considerations which will appear as we proceed with the
narrative, it seems probable that the larger estimate is the more
correct, _i.e._ that the roll contained a large fraction of our Book of
Jeremiah, and not merely one or two chapters. We need not, however,
suppose that every previous utterance of the prophet, even though still
extant, must have been included in the roll; the "all" would of course
be understood to be conditioned by relevancy; and the narratives of
various incidents are obviously not part of what Jehovah had spoken.

Jeremiah dictated his prophecies, as St. Paul did his epistles, to an
amanuensis; he called his disciple Baruch[30] ben Neriah, and dictated
to him "all that Jehovah had spoken, upon a book, in the form of a

It seems clear that, as in xxvi., the narrative does not exactly
follow the order of events,[31] and that verse 9, which records the
proclamation of a fast in the ninth month of Jehoiakim's fifth year,
should be read before verse 5, which begins the account of the
circumstances leading up to the actual reading of the roll. We are not
told in what month of Jehoiakim's fourth year Jeremiah received this
command to write his prophecies in a roll, but as they were not read
till the ninth month of the fifth year, there must have been an
interval of at least ten months or a year between the Divine command
and the reading by Baruch. We can scarcely suppose that all or nearly
all this delay was caused by Jeremiah and Baruch's waiting for a
suitable occasion. The long interval suggests that the dictation took
some time, and that therefore the roll was somewhat voluminous in its
contents, and that it was carefully compiled, not without a certain
amount of revision.

When the manuscript was ready, its authors had to determine the right
time at which to read it; they found their desired opportunity in the
fast proclaimed in the ninth month. This was evidently an extraordinary
fast, appointed in view of some pressing danger; and, in the year
following the battle of Carchemish, this would naturally be the advance
of Nebuchadnezzar. As our incident took place in the depth of winter,
the months must be reckoned according to the Babylonian year, which
began in April; and the ninth month, Kisleu, would roughly correspond to
our December. The dreaded invasion would be looked for early in the
following spring, "at the time when kings go out to battle."[32]

Jeremiah does not seem to have absolutely determined from the first
that the reading of the roll by Baruch was to be a substitute for his
own presence. He had probably hoped that some change for the better in
the situation might justify his appearance before a great gathering in
the Temple. But when the time came he was "hindered"[33]--we are not
told how--and could not go into the Temple. He may have been
restrained by his own prudence, or dissuaded by his friends, like Paul
when he would have faced the mob in the theatre at Ephesus; the
hindrance may have been some ban under which he had been placed by the
priesthood, or it may have been some unexpected illness, or legal
uncleanness, or some other passing accident, such as Providence often
uses to protect its soldiers till their warfare is accomplished.

Accordingly it was Baruch who went up to the Temple. Though he is said
to have read the book "in the ears of all the people," he does not
seem to have challenged universal attention as openly as Jeremiah had
done; he did not stand forth in the court of the Temple,[34] but
betook himself to the "chamber" of the scribe,[35] or secretary of
state, Gemariah ben Shaphan, the brother of Jeremiah's protector
Ahikam. This chamber would be one of the cells built round the upper
court, from which the "new gate"[36] led into an inner court of the
Temple. Thus Baruch placed himself formally under the protection of
the owner of the apartment, and any violence offered to him would have
been resented and avenged by this powerful noble with his kinsmen and
allies. Jeremiah's disciple and representative took his seat at the
door of the chamber, and, in full view of the crowds who passed and
repassed through the new gate, opened his roll and began to read aloud
from its contents. His reading was yet another repetition of the
exhortations, warnings, and threats which Jeremiah had rehearsed on
the feast day when he spake to the people "all that Jehovah had
commanded him"; and still both Jehovah and His prophet promised
deliverance as the reward of repentance. Evidently the head and front
of the nation's offence had been no open desertion of Jehovah for
idols, else His servants would not have selected for their audience
His enthusiastic worshippers as they thronged to His Temple. The fast
itself might have seemed a token of penitence, but it was not accepted
by Jeremiah, or put forward by the people, as a reason why the
prophecies of ruin should not be fulfilled. No one offers the very
natural plea: "In this fast we are humbling ourselves under the mighty
hand of God, we are confessing our sins, and consecrating ourselves
afresh to service of Jehovah. What more does He expect of us? Why does
He still withhold His mercy and forgiveness? Wherefore have we fasted,
and Thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and Thou
takest no knowledge?" Such a plea would probably have received an
answer similar to that given by one of Jeremiah's successors: "Behold,
in the day of your fast ye find your own pleasure, and oppress all
your labourers. Behold, ye fast for strife and contention, and to
smite with the fist of wickedness: ye fast not this day so as to make
your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I have chosen?
the day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a
rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this
a fast, and a day acceptable to Jehovah?"

"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bonds of
wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go
free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the
hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not
thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the
morning, and thy healing shall spring forth speedily: and thy
righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of Jehovah shall be thy

Jeremiah's opponents did not grudge Jehovah His burnt-offerings and
calves of a year old; He was welcome to thousands of rams, and ten
thousands of rivers of oil. They were even willing to give their
firstborn for their transgression, the fruit of their body for the sin
of their soul; but they were not prepared "to do justly, and to love
mercy, and to walk humbly with their God."[38]

We are not told how Jeremiah and the priests and prophets formulated the
points at issue between them, which were so thoroughly and universally
understood that the record takes them for granted. Possibly Jeremiah
contended for the recognition of Deuteronomy, with its lofty ideals of
pure religion and a humanitarian order of society. But, in any case,
these incidents were an early phase of the age-long struggle of the
prophets of God against the popular attempt to make ritual and sensuous
emotion into excuses for ignoring morality, and to offer the cheap
sacrifice of a few unforbidden pleasures, rather than surrender the
greed of grain, the lust of power, and the sweetness of revenge.

When the multitudes caught the sound of Baruch's voice and saw him
sitting in the doorway of Gemariah's chamber, they knew exactly what
they would hear. To them he was almost as antagonistic as a Protestant
evangelist would be to the worshippers at some great Romanist feast;
or perhaps we might find a closer parallel in a Low Church bishop
addressing a ritualistic audience. For the hearts of these hearers
were not steeled by the consciousness of any formal schism. Baruch and
the great prophet whom he represented did not stand outside the
recognised limits of Divine inspiration. While the priests and
prophets and their adherents repudiated his teaching as heretical,
they were still haunted by the fear that, at any rate, his threats
might have some Divine authority. Apart from all theology, the prophet
of evil always finds an ally in the nervous fears and guilty
conscience of his hearer.

The feelings of the people would be similar to those with which they had
heard the same threats against Judah, the city and the Temple, from
Jeremiah himself. But the excitement aroused by the defeat of Pharaoh
and the hasty return of Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon had died away. The
imminence of a new invasion made it evident that this had not been the
Divine deliverance of Judah. The people were cowed by what must have
seemed to many the approaching fulfilments of former threatenings; the
ritual of a fast was in itself depressing; so that they had little
spirit to resent the message of doom. Perhaps too there was less to
resent: the prophecies were the same, but Baruch may have been less
unpopular than Jeremiah, and his reading would be tame and ineffective
compared to the fiery eloquence of his master. Moreover the powerful
protection which shielded him was indicated not only by the place he
occupied, but also by the presence of Gemariah's son, Micaiah.

The reading passed off without any hostile demonstration on the part of
the people, and Micaiah went in search of his father to describe to him
the scene he had just witnessed. He found him in the palace, in the
chamber of the secretary of state, Elishama, attending a council of the
princes. There were present, amongst others, Elnathan ben Achbor, who
brought Uriah back from Egypt, Delaiah ben Shemaiah, and Zedekiah ben
Hananiah. Micaiah told them what he had heard. They at once sent for
Baruch and the roll. Their messenger, Jehudi ben Nethaniah, seems to
have been a kind of court-usher. His name signifies "the Jew," and as
his great-grandfather was Cushi, "the Ethiopian," it has been suggested
that he came of a family of Ethiopian descent, which had only attained
in his generation to Jewish citizenship.[39]

When Baruch arrived, the princes greeted him with the courtesy and even
deference due to the favourite disciple of a distinguished prophet. They
invited him to sit down and read them the roll. Baruch obeyed; the
method of reading suited the enclosed room and the quiet, interested
audience of responsible men, better than the swaying crowd gathered
round the door of Gemariah's chamber. Baruch now had before him
ministers of state who knew from their official information and
experience how extremely probable it was that the words to which they
were listening would find a speedy and complete fulfilment. Baruch must
almost have seemed to them like a doomster who announces to a condemned
criminal the ghastly details of his coming execution. They exchanged
looks of dismay and horror, and when the reading was over, they said to
one another,[40] "We must tell the king of all these words." First,
however, they inquired concerning the exact circumstances under which
the roll had been written, that they might know how far responsibility
in this matter was to be divided between the prophet and his disciple,
and also whether all the contents rested upon the full authority of
Jeremiah. Baruch assured them that it was simply a case of dictation:
Jeremiah had uttered every word with his own mouth, and he had
faithfully written it down; everything was Jeremiah's own.[41]

The princes were well aware that the prophet's action would probably be
resented and punished by Jehoiakim. They said to Baruch: "Do you and
Jeremiah go and hide yourselves, and let no one know where you are."
They kept the roll and laid it up in Elishama's room; then they went to
the king. They found him in his winter room, in the inner court of the
palace, sitting in front of a brasier of burning charcoal. On this
fast-day the king's mind might well be careful and troubled, as he
meditated on the kind of treatment that he, the nominee of Pharaoh
Necho, was likely to receive from Nebuchadnezzar. We cannot tell whether
he contemplated resistance or had already resolved to submit to the
conqueror. In either case he would wish to act on his own initiative,
and might be anxious lest a Chaldean party should get the upper hand in
Jerusalem and surrender him and the city to the invader.

When the princes entered, their number and their manner would at once
indicate to him that their errand was both serious and disagreeable. He
seems to have listened in silence while they made their report of the
incident at the door of Gemariah's chamber and their own interview with
Baruch.[42] The king sent for the roll by Jehudi, who had accompanied
the princes into the presence chamber; and on his return the same
serviceable official read its contents before Jehoiakim and the princes,
whose number was now augmented by the nobles in attendance upon the
king. Jehudi had had the advantage of hearing Baruch read the roll, but
ancient Hebrew manuscripts were not easy to decipher, and probably
Jehudi stumbled somewhat; altogether the reading of prophecies by a
court-usher would not be a very edifying performance, or very gratifying
to Jeremiah's friends. Jehoiakim treated the matter with deliberate and
ostentatious contempt. At the end of every three or four columns,[43] he
put out his hand for the roll, cut away the portion that had been read,
and threw it on the fire; then he handed the remainder back to Jehudi,
and the reading was resumed till the king thought fit to repeat the
process. It at once appeared that the audience was divided into two
parties. When Gemariah's father, Shaphan, had read Deuteronomy to
Josiah, the king rent his clothes; but now the writer tells us, half
aghast, that neither Jehoiakim nor any of his servants were afraid or
rent their clothes, but the audience, including doubtless both court
officials and some of the princes, looked on with calm indifference. Not
so the princes who had been present at Baruch's reading: they had
probably induced him to leave the roll with them, by promising that it
should be kept safely; they had tried to keep it out of the king's hands
by leaving it in Elishama's room, and now they made another attempt to
save it from destruction. They entreated Jehoiakim to refrain from open
and insolent defiance of a prophet who might after all be speaking in
the name of Jehovah. But the king persevered. The alternate reading and
burning went on; the unfortunate usher's fluency and clearness would not
be improved by the extraordinary conditions under which he had to read;
and we may well suppose that the concluding columns were hurried over in
a somewhat perfunctory fashion, if they were read at all. As soon as the
last shred of parchment was shrivelling on the charcoal, Jehoiakim
commanded three of his officers[44] to arrest Jeremiah and Baruch. But
they had taken the advice of the princes and were not to be found:
"Jehovah hid them."

Thus the career of Baruch's roll was summarily cut short. But it had
done its work; it had been read on three separate occasions, first
before the people, then before the princes, and last of all before the
king and his court. If Jeremiah had appeared in person, he might have
been at once arrested, and put to death like Uriah. No doubt this
threefold recital was, on the whole, a failure; Jeremiah's party among
the princes had listened with anxious deference, but the appeal had
been received by the people with indifference and by the king with
contempt. Nevertheless it must have strengthened individuals in the
true faith, and it had proclaimed afresh that the religion of Jehovah
gave no sanction to the policy of Jehoiakim: the ruin of Judah would
be a proof of the sovereignty of Jehovah and not of His impotence. But
probably this incident had more immediate influence over the king than
we might at first sight suppose. When Nebuchadnezzar arrived in
Palestine, Jehoiakim submitted to him, a policy entirely in accordance
with the views of Jeremiah. We may well believe that the experiences
of this fast-day had strengthened the hands of the prophet's friends,
and cooled the enthusiasm of the court for more desperate and
adventurous courses. Every year's respite for Judah fostered the
growth of the true religion of Jehovah.

The sequel showed how much more prudent it was to risk the existence
of a roll rather than the life of a prophet. Jeremiah was only
encouraged to persevere. By the Divine command, he dictated his
prophecies afresh to Baruch, adding besides unto them many like words.
Possibly other copies were made of the whole or parts of this roll,
and were secretly circulated, read, and talked about. We are not told
whether Jehoiakim ever heard this new roll; but, as one of the many
like things added to the older prophecies was a terrible personal
condemnation of the king,[45] we may be sure that he was not allowed
to remain in ignorance, at any rate, of this portion of it.

The second roll was, doubtless, one of the main sources of our
present Book of Jeremiah, and the narrative of this chapter is of
considerable importance for Old Testament criticism. It shows that a
prophetic book may not go back to any prophetic autograph at all; its
most original sources may be manuscripts written at the prophet's
dictation, and liable to all the errors which are apt to creep into
the most faithful work of an amanuensis. It shows further that, even
when a prophet's utterances were written down during his lifetime, the
manuscript may contain only his recollections[46] of what he said
years before, and that these might be either expanded or abbreviated,
sometimes even unconsciously modified, in the light of subsequent
events. Verse 32 shows that Jeremiah did not hesitate to add to the
record of his former prophecies "many like words": there is no reason
to suppose that these were all contained in an appendix; they would
often take the form of annotations.

The important part played by Baruch as Jeremiah's secretary and
representative must have invested him with full authority to speak for
his master and expound his views; such authority points to Baruch as
the natural editor of our present book, which is virtually the "Life
and Writings" of the prophet. The last words of our chapter are
ambiguous, perhaps intentionally. They simply state that many like
words were added, and do not say by whom; they might even include
additions made later on by Baruch from his own reminiscences.

In conclusion, we may notice that both the first and second copies of
the roll were written by the direct Divine command, just as in the
Hexateuch and the Book of Samuel we read of Moses, Joshua, and Samuel
committing certain matters to writing at the bidding of Jehovah. We
have here the recognition of the inspiration of the scribe, as
ancillary to that of the prophet. Jehovah not only gives His word to
His servants, but watches over its preservation and transmission.[47]
But there is no inspiration to _write_ any new revelation: the spoken
word, the consecrated life, are inspired; the book is only a record of
inspired speech and action.


[26] See Cheyne, Giesebrecht, Orelli, etc.

[27] R.V. "against." The Hebrew is ambiguous.

[28] So Septuagint. The Hebrew text has Israel, which is a less
accurate description of the prophecies, and is less relevant to this
particular occasion.

[29] _Jeremiah_ (Men of the Bible), p. 132.

[30] Cf. Chap. V. on "Baruch."

[31] Verses 5-8 seem to be a brief alternative account to 9-26.

[32] 1 Chron. xx. i.

[33] _'ĀCÛR_: A.V., R.V., "shut up"; R.V. margin, "restrained." The
term is used in xxxiii. 1, xxxix. 15, in the sense of "imprisoned,"
but here Jeremiah appears to be at liberty. The phrase _'ĀC̦ÛR W
ĀZÛBH_, A.V. "shut up or left" (Deut. xxxii. 36, etc.), has been
understood, those under the restraints imposed upon ceremonial
uncleanness and those free from these restraints, _i.e._ everybody;
the same meaning has been given to _'ĀC̦ÛR_ here.

[34] xxvi. 2.

[35] So Cheyne; the Hebrew does not make it clear whether the title
"scribe" refers to the father or the son. Giesebrecht understands it
of Shaphan, who appears as scribe in 2 Kings xxii. 8. He points out
that in verse 20 Elishama is called the scribe, but we cannot assume
that the title was limited to a single officer of state.

[36] Cf. xxvi. 10.

[37] Isa. lviii. 3-8.

[38] Micah vi. 6-8.

[39] So Orelli, _in loco_.

[40] Hebrew text "to Baruch," which LXX. omits.

[41] In verse 18 the word "with ink" is not in the LXX., and may be an
accidental repetition of the similar word for "his mouth."

[42] The A.V. and R.V. "all the words" is misleading: it should rather
be "everything"; the princes did not recite all the contents of the

[43] The English tenses "cut," "cast," are ambiguous, but the Hebrew
implies that the "cutting" and "casting on the fire" were repeated
again and again.

[44] One is called Jerahmeel the son of Hammelech (A.V.), or "the
king's son" (R.V.); if the latter is correct we must understand merely
a prince of the blood-royal and not a son of Jehoiakim, who was only

[45] For verses 29-31 see Chap. VI., where they are dealt with in
connection with xxii. 13-19.

[46] The supposition that Jeremiah had written notes of previous
prophecies is not an impossible one, but it is a pure conjecture.

[47] Cf. Orelli, _in loco_.

                               CHAPTER IV

                            _THE RECHABITES_


    "Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before Me
    for ever."--JER. xxxv. 19.

This incident is dated "in the days of Jehoiakim." We learn from verse
11 that it happened at a time when the open country of Judah was
threatened by the advance of Nebuchadnezzar with a Chaldean and Syrian
army. If Nebuchadnezzar marched into the south of Palestine
immediately after the battle of Carchemish, the incident may have
happened, as some suggest, in the eventful fourth year of Jehoiakim;
or if he did not appear in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem till after
he had taken over the royal authority at Babylon, Jeremiah's interview
with the Rechabites may have followed pretty closely upon the
destruction of Baruch's roll. But we need not press the words
"Nebuchadnezzar ... came up into the land"; they may only mean that
Judah was invaded by an army acting under his orders. The mention of
Chaldeans and Assyrians suggests that this invasion is the same as
that mentioned in 2 Kings xxiv. 1, 2, where we are told that Jehoiakim
served Nebuchadnezzar three years and then rebelled against him,
whereupon Jehovah sent against him bands of Chaldeans, Syrians,
Moabites, and Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it.
If this is the invasion referred to in our chapter it falls towards
the end of Jehoiakim's reign, and sufficient time had elapsed to allow
the king's anger against Jeremiah to cool, so that the prophet could
venture out of his hiding-place.

The marauding bands of Chaldeans and their allies had driven the
country people in crowds into Jerusalem, and among them the nomad clan
of the Rechabites. According to 1 Chron. ii. 55, the Rechabites traced
their descent to a certain Hemath, and were a branch of the Kenites,
an Edomite tribe dwelling for the most part in the south of Palestine.
These Kenites had maintained an ancient and intimate alliance with
Judah, and in time the allies virtually became a single people, so
that after the Return from the Captivity all distinction of race
between Kenites and Jews was forgotten, and the Kenites were reckoned
among the families of Israel. In this fusion of their tribe with
Judah, the Rechabite clan would be included. It is clear from all the
references both to Kenites and to Rechabites that they had adopted the
religion of Israel and worshipped Jehovah. We know nothing else of the
early history of the Rechabites. The statement in Chronicles that the
father of the house of Rechab was Hemath perhaps points to their
having been at one time settled at some place called Hemath near Jabez
in Judah. Possibly too Rechab, which means "rider," is not a personal
name, but a designation of the clan as horsemen of the desert.

These Rechabites were conspicuous among the Jewish farmers and
townsfolk by their rigid adherence to the habits of nomad life; and it
was this peculiarity that attracted the notice of Jeremiah, and made
them a suitable object-lesson to the recreant Jews. The traditional
customs of the clan had been formulated into positive commands by
Jonadab, the son of Rechab, _i.e._ the Rechabite. This must be the
same Jonadab who co-operated with Jehu in overthrowing the house of
Omri and suppressing the worship of Baal. Jehu's reforms concluded the
long struggle of Elijah and Elisha against the house of Omri and its
half-heathen religion. Hence we may infer that Jonadab and his
Rechabites had come under the influence of these great prophets, and
that their social and religious condition was one result of Elijah's
work. Jeremiah stood in the true line of succession from the northern
prophets in his attitude towards religion and politics; so that there
would be bonds of sympathy between him and these nomad refugees.

The laws or customs of Jonadab, like the Ten Commandments, were
chiefly negative: "Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye nor your sons
for ever: neither shall ye build houses, nor sow seed, nor plant
vineyards, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents;
that ye may live many days in the land wherein ye are strangers."

Various parallels have been found to the customs of the Rechabites. The
Hebrew Nazarites abstained from wine and strong drink, from grapes and
grape juice and everything made of the vine, "from the kernels even to
the husk."[48] Mohammed forbade his followers to drink any sort of wine
or strong drink. But the closest parallel is one often quoted from
Diodorus Siculus,[49] who, writing about B.C. 8, tells us that the
Nabatean Arabs were prohibited under the penalty of death from sowing
corn or planting fruit trees, using wine or building houses. Such
abstinence is not primarily ascetic; it expresses the universal contempt
of the wandering hunter and herdsman for tillers of the ground, who are
tied to one small spot of earth, and for burghers, who further imprison
themselves in narrow houses and behind city walls. The nomad has a not
altogether unfounded instinct that such acceptance of material
restraints emasculates both soul and body. A remarkable parallel to the
laws of Jonadab ben Rechab is found in the injunctions of the dying
highlander, Ranald of the Mist, to his heir: "Son of the Mist! be free
as thy forefathers. Own no lord--receive no law--take no hire--give no
stipend--build no hut--enclose no pasture--sow no grain."[50] The
Rechabite faith in the higher moral value of their primitive habits had
survived their alliance with Israel, and Jonadab did his best to protect
his clan from the taint of city life and settled civilisation.
Abstinence from wine was not enjoined chiefly, if at all, to guard
against intoxication, but because the fascinations of the grape might
tempt the clan to plant vineyards, or, at any rate, would make them
dangerously dependent upon vine-dressers and wine-merchants.

Till this recent invasion, the Rechabites had faithfully observed
their ancestral laws, but the stress of circumstances had now driven
them into a fortified city, possibly even into houses, though it is
more probable that they were encamped in some open space within the
walls.[51] Jeremiah was commanded to go and bring them into the
Temple, that is, into one of the rooms in the Temple buildings, and
offer them wine. The narrative proceeds in the first person, "I took
Jaazaniah," so that the chapter will have been composed by the prophet
himself. In somewhat legal fashion he tells us how he took "Jaazaniah
ben Jeremiah, ben Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and
all the clan of the Rechabites." All three names are compounded of the
Divine name Iah, Jehovah, and serve to emphasise the devotion of the
clan to the God of Israel. It is a curious coincidence that the
somewhat rare name Jeremiah[52] should occur twice in this connection.
The room to which the prophet took his friends is described as the
chamber of the disciples of the man of God[53] Hanan ben Igdaliah,
which was by the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber
of the keeper of the threshold, Maaseiah ben Shallum. Such minute
details probably indicate that this chapter was committed to writing
while these buildings were still standing and still had the same
occupants as at the time of this incident, but to us the topography is
unintelligible. The "man of God" or prophet Hanan was evidently in
sympathy with Jeremiah, and had a following of disciples who formed a
sort of school of the prophets, and were a sufficiently permanent body
to have a chamber assigned to them in the Temple buildings. The
keepers of the threshold were Temple officials of high standing. The
"princes" may have been the princes of Judah, who might very well have
a chamber in the Temple courts; but the term is general, and may
simply refer to other Temple officials. Hanan's disciples seem to have
been in good company.

These exact specifications of person and place are probably designed
to give a certain legal solemnity and importance to the incident, and
seem to warrant us in rejecting Reuss' suggestion that our narrative
is simply an elaborate prophetic figure.[54]

After these details Jeremiah next tells us how he set before his
guests bowls of wine and cups, and invited them to drink. Probably
Jaazaniah and his clansmen were aware that the scene was intended to
have symbolic religious significance. They would not suppose that the
prophet had invited them all, in this solemn fashion, merely to take a
cup of wine; and they would welcome an opportunity of showing their
loyalty to their own peculiar customs. They said: "We will drink no
wine: for our father Jonadab the son of Rechab commanded us, saying,
Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye nor your sons for ever." They
further recounted Jonadab's other commands and their own scrupulous
obedience in every point, except that now they had been compelled to
seek refuge in a walled city.

Then the word of Jehovah came unto Jeremiah; he was commanded to make
yet another appeal to the Jews, by contrasting their disobedience with
the fidelity of the Rechabites. The Divine King and Father of Israel had
been untiring in His instruction and admonitions: "I have spoken unto
you, rising up early and speaking." He had addressed them in familiar
fashion through their fellow-countrymen: "I have sent also unto you all
My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them." Yet they
had not hearkened unto the God of Israel or His prophets. The Rechabites
had received no special revelation; they had not been appealed to by
numerous prophets. Their Torah had been simply given them by their
father Jonadab; nevertheless the commands of Jonadab had been regarded
and those of Jehovah had been treated with contempt.

Obedience and disobedience would bring forth their natural fruit. "I
will bring upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, all
the evil that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken
unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but
they have not answered." But because the Rechabites obeyed the
commandment of their father Jonadab, "Therefore thus saith Jehovah
Sabaoth, Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand
before Me for ever."

Jehovah's approval of the obedience of the Rechabites is quite
independent of the specific commands which they obeyed. It does not
bind us to abstain from wine any more than from building houses and
sowing seed. Jeremiah himself, for instance, would have had no more
hesitation in drinking wine than in sowing his field at Anathoth. The
tribal customs of the Rechabites had no authority whatever over him.
Nor is it exactly his object to set forth the merit of obedience and
its certain and great reward. These truths are rather touched upon
incidentally. What Jeremiah seeks to emphasise is the gross, extreme,
unique wickedness of Israel's disobedience. Jehovah had not looked for
any special virtue in His people. His Torah was not made up of
counsels of perfection. He had only expected the loyalty that Moab
paid to Chemosh, and Tyre and Sidon to Baal. He would have been
satisfied if Israel had observed His laws as faithfully as the nomads
of the desert kept up their ancestral habits. Jehovah had spoken
through Jeremiah long ago and said: "Pass over the isles of Chittim,
and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if
there be any such thing. Hath a nation changed their gods, which are
yet no gods? but My people have changed their glory for that which
doth not profit."[55] Centuries later Christ found Himself constrained
to upbraid the cities of Israel, "wherein most of His mighty works
were done": "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if
the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and
Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.... It
shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than
for you."[56] And again and again in the history of the Church the
Holy Spirit has been grieved because those who profess and call
themselves Christians, and claim to prophesy and do many mighty works
in the name of Christ, are less loyal to the gospel than the heathen
to their own superstitions.

Buddhists and Mohammedans have been held up as modern examples to
rebuke the Church, though as a rule with scant justification. Perhaps
material for a more relevant contrast may be found nearer home.
Christian societies have been charged with conducting their affairs by
methods to which a respectable business firm would not stoop; they are
said to be less scrupulous in their dealings and less chivalrous in
their honour than the devotees of pleasure; at their gatherings they
are sometimes supposed to lack the mutual courtesy of members of a
Legislature or a Chamber of Commerce. The history of councils and
synods and Church meetings gives colour to such charges, which could
never have been made if Christians had been as jealous for the Name of
Christ as a merchant is for his credit or a soldier for his honour.

And yet these contrasts do not argue any real moral and religious
superiority of the Rechabites over the Jews or of unbelievers over
professing Christians. It was comparatively easy to abstain from wine
and to wander over wide pasture lands instead of living cooped up in
cities--far easier than to attain to the great ideals of Deuteronomy
and the prophets. It is always easier to conform to the code of
business and society than to live according to the Spirit of Christ.
The fatal sin of Judah was not that it fell so far short of its
ideals, but that it repudiated them. So long as we lament our own
failures and still cling to the Name and Faith of Christ, we are not
shut out from mercy; our supreme sin is to crucify Christ afresh, by
denying the power of His gospel, while we retain its empty form.

The reward promised to the Rechabites for their obedience was that
"Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before Me for
ever"; to stand before Jehovah is often used to describe the exercise
of priestly or prophetic ministry. It has been suggested that the
Rechabites were hereby promoted to the status of the true Israel, "a
kingdom of priests"; but this phrase may merely mean that their clan
should continue in existence. Loyal observance of national law, the
subordination of individual caprice and selfishness to the interests
of the community, make up a large part of that righteousness that
establisheth a nation.

Here, as elsewhere, students of prophecy have been anxious to discover
some literal fulfilment; and have searched curiously for any trace of
the continued existence of the Rechabites. The notice in Chronicles
implies that they formed part of the Jewish community of the
Restoration. Apparently Alexandrian Jews were acquainted with
Rechabites at a still later date. Psalm lxxi. is ascribed by the
Septuagint to "the sons of Jonadab." Eusebius[57] mentions "priests of
the sons of Rechab," and Benjamin of Tudela, a Jewish traveller of the
twelfth century, states that he met with them in Arabia. More recent
travellers have thought that they discovered the descendants of Rechab
amongst the nomads in Arabia or the Peninsula of Sinai that still
practised the old ancestral customs.

But the fidelity of Jehovah to His promises does not depend upon our
unearthing obscure tribes in distant deserts. The gifts of God are
without repentance, but they have their inexorable conditions; no
nation can flourish for centuries on the virtues of its ancestors. The
Rechabites may have vanished in the ordinary stream of history, and
yet we can hold that Jeremiah's prediction has been fulfilled and is
still being fulfilled. No scriptural prophecy is limited in its
application to an individual or a race, and every nation possessed by
the spirit of true patriotism shall "stand before Jehovah for ever."


[48] Num. vi. 2.

[49] xix. 94.

[50] Scott, _Legend of Montrose_, chap. xxii.

[51] The term "house of the Rechabites" in verse 2 means "family" or
"clan," and does not refer to a building.

[52] Eight Jeremiahs occur in O.T.

[53] Literally "sons of Hanan."

[54] Jeremiah, according to this view, had no interview with the
Rechabites, but made an imaginary incident a text for his discourse.

[55] ii. 10, 11.

[56] Matt. xi. 21, 22.

[57] _Ch. Hist._, ii. 23.

                               CHAPTER V



    "Thy life will I give unto thee for a prey."--JER. xlv. 5.

The editors of the versions and of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament
have assigned a separate chapter to this short utterance concerning
Baruch; thus paying an unconscious tribute to the worth and importance
of Jeremiah's disciple and secretary, who was the first to bear the
familiar Jewish name, which in its Latinised form of Benedict has been a
favourite with saints and popes. Probably few who read of these great
ascetics and ecclesiastics give a thought to the earliest recorded
Baruch, nor can we suppose that Christian Benedicts have been named
after him. One thing they may all have in common: either their own faith
or that of their parents ventured to bestow upon a "man born unto
trouble as the sparks fly upward" the epithet "Blessed." We can scarcely
suppose that the life of any Baruch or Benedict has run so smoothly as
to prevent him or his friends from feeling that such faith has not been
outwardly justified and that the name suggested an unkind satire.
Certainly Jeremiah's disciple, like his namesake Baruch Spinoza, had to
recognise his blessings disguised as distress and persecution.

Baruch ben Neriah is said by Josephus[58] to have belonged to a most
distinguished family, and to have been exceedingly well educated in his
native language. These statements are perhaps legitimate deductions from
the information supplied by our book. His title "scribe"[59] and his
position as Jeremiah's secretary imply that he possessed the best
culture of his time; and we are told in li. 59 that Seraiah ben Neriah,
who must be Baruch's brother, was chief chamberlain (R.V.) to Zedekiah.
According to the Old Latin Version of the Apocryphal Book of Baruch (i.
1) he was of the tribe of Simeon, a statement by no means improbable in
view of the close connection between Judah and Simeon, but needing the
support of some better authority.

Baruch's relation to Jeremiah is not expressly defined, but it is
clearly indicated in the various narratives in which he is referred
to. We find him in constant attendance upon the prophet, acting both
as his "scribe," or secretary, and as his mouthpiece. The relation was
that of Joshua to Moses, of Elisha to Elijah, of Gehazi to Elisha, of
Mark to Paul and Barnabas, and of Timothy to Paul. It is described in
the case of Joshua and Mark by the term "minister," while Elisha is
characterised as having "poured water on the hands of Elijah." The
"minister" was at once personal attendant, disciple, representative,
and possible successor of the prophet. The position has its analogue
in the service of the squire to the mediæval knight, and in that of an
unpaid private secretary to a modern cabinet minister. Squires
expected to become knights, and private secretaries hope for a seat in
future cabinets. Another less perfect parallel is the relation of the
members of a German theological "seminar" to their professor.

Baruch is first[60] introduced to us in the narrative concerning the
roll. He appears as Jeremiah's amanuensis and representative, and is
entrusted with the dangerous and honourable task of publishing his
prophecies to the people in the Temple. Not long before, similar
utterances had almost cost the master his life, so that the disciple
showed high courage and devotion in undertaking such a commission. He
was called to share with his master at once the same cup of
persecution--and the same Divine protection.

We next hear of Baruch in connection with the symbolic purchase of the
field at Anathoth.[61] He seems to have been attending on Jeremiah
during his imprisonment in the court of the guard, and the documents
containing the evidence of the purchase were entrusted to his care.
Baruch's presence in the court of the guard does not necessarily imply
that he was himself a prisoner. The whole incident shows that
Jeremiah's friends had free access to him; and Baruch probably not
only attended to his master's wants in prison, but also was his
channel of communication with the outside world.

We are nowhere told that Baruch himself was either beaten or
imprisoned, but it is not improbable that he shared Jeremiah's
fortunes even to these extremities. We next hear of him as carried
down to Egypt[62] with Jeremiah, when the Jewish refugees fled thither
after the murder of Gedaliah. Apparently he had remained with Jeremiah
throughout the whole interval, had continued to minister to him
during his imprisonment, and had been among the crowd of Jewish
captives whom Nebuchadnezzar found at Ramah. Josephus probably makes a
similar conjecture[63] in telling us that, when Jeremiah was released
and placed under the protection of Gedaliah at Mizpah, he asked and
obtained from Nebuzaradan the liberty of his disciple Baruch. At any
rate Baruch shared with his master the transient hope and bitter
disappointment of this period; he supported him in dissuading the
remnant of Jews from fleeing into Egypt, and was also compelled to
share their flight. According to a tradition recorded by Jerome,
Baruch and Jeremiah died in Egypt. But the Apocryphal Book of Baruch
places him at Babylon, whither another tradition takes him after the
death of Jeremiah in Egypt.[64] These legends are probably mere
attempts of wistful imagination to supply unwelcome blanks in history.

It has often been supposed that our present Book of Jeremiah, in some
stage of its formation, was edited or compiled by Baruch, and that
this book may be ranked with biographies--like Stanley's Life of
Arnold--of great teachers by their old disciples. He was certainly the
amanuensis of the roll, which must have been the most valuable
authority for any editor of Jeremiah's prophecies. And the amanuensis
might very easily become the editor. If an edition of the book was
compiled in Jeremiah's lifetime, we should naturally expect him to use
Baruch's assistance; if it first took shape after the prophet's death,
and if Baruch survived, no one would be better able to compile the
"Life and Works of Jeremiah" than his favourite and faithful
disciple. The personal prophecy about Baruch does not occur in its
proper place in connection with the episode of the roll, but is
appended at the end of the prophecies,[65] possibly as a kind of
subscription on the part of the editor. These data do not constitute
absolute proof, but they afford strong probability that Baruch
compiled a book, which was substantially our Jeremiah. The evidence is
similar in character to, but much more conclusive than, that adduced
for the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews by Apollos.

Almost the final reference to Baruch suggests another aspect of his
relation to Jeremiah. The Jewish captains accused him of unduly
influencing his master against Egypt and in favour of Chaldea. Whatever
truth there may have been in this particular charge, we gather that
popular opinion credited Baruch with considerable influence over
Jeremiah, and probably popular opinion was not far wrong. Nothing said
about Baruch suggests any vein of weakness in his character, such as
Paul evidently recognised in Timothy. His few appearances upon the scene
rather leave the impression of strength and self-reliance, perhaps even
self-assertion. If we knew more about him, possibly indeed if any one
else had compiled these "Memorabilia," we might discover that much in
Jeremiah's policy and teaching was due to Baruch, and that the master
leaned somewhat heavily upon the sympathy of the disciple. The qualities
that make a successful man of action do not always exempt their
possessor from being directed or even controlled by his followers. It
would be interesting to discover how much of Luther is Melanchthon. Of
many a great minister, his secretaries and subordinates might say
safely, in private, _Cujus pars magna fuimus_.

The short prophecy which has furnished a text for this chapter shows
that Jeremiah was not unaware of Baruch's tendency to self-assertion,
and even felt that sometimes it required a check. Apparently chapter
xlv. once formed the immediate continuation of chapter xxxvi., the
narrative of the incident of the roll. It was "the word spoken by
Jeremiah the prophet to Baruch ben Neriah, when he wrote these words
in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah in the fourth year of
Jehoiakim." The reference evidently is to xxxvi. 32, where we are told
that Baruch wrote, at Jeremiah's dictation, all the words of the book
that had been burnt, and many like words.

Clearly Baruch had not received Jeremiah's message as to the sin and
ruin of Judah without strong protest. It was as distasteful to him as
to all patriotic Jews and even to Jeremiah himself. Baruch had not yet
been able to accept this heavy burden or to look beyond to the
brighter promise of the future. He broke out into bitter complaint:
"Woe is me now! for Jehovah hath added sorrow to my pain; I am weary
with my groaning, and find no rest."[66] Strong as these words are,
they are surpassed by many of Jeremiah's complaints to Jehovah, and
doubtless even now they found an echo in the prophet's heart. Human
impatience of suffering revolts desperately against the conviction
that calamity is inevitable; hope whispers that some unforeseen
Providence will yet disperse the storm-clouds, and the portents of
ruin will dissolve like some evil dream. Jeremiah had, now as always,
the harsh, unwelcome task of compelling himself and his fellows to
face the sad and appalling reality. "Thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I am
breaking down that which I built, I am plucking up that which I
planted."[67] This was his familiar message concerning Judah, but he
had also a special word for Baruch: "And as for thee, dost thou seek
great things for thyself?" What "great things" could a devout and
patriotic Jew, a disciple of Jeremiah, seek for himself in those
disastrous times? The answer is at once suggested by the renewed
prediction of doom. Baruch, in spite of his master's teaching, had
still ventured to look for better things, and had perhaps fancied that
he might succeed where Jeremiah had failed and might become the
mediator who should reconcile Israel to Jehovah. He may have thought
that Jeremiah's threats and entreaties had prepared the way for some
message of reconciliation. Gemariah ben Shaphan and other princes had
been greatly moved when Baruch read the roll. Might not their emotion
be an earnest of the repentance of the people? If he could carry on
his master's work to a more blessed issue than the master himself had
dared to hope, would not this be a "great thing" indeed? We gather
from the tone of the chapter that Baruch's aspirations were unduly
tinged with personal ambition. While kings, priests, and prophets were
sinking into a common ruin from which even the most devoted servants
of Jehovah would not escape, Baruch was indulging himself in visions
of the honour to be obtained from a glorious mission, successfully
accomplished. Jeremiah reminds him that he will have to take his
share in the common misery. Instead of setting his heart upon "great
things" which are not according to the Divine purpose, he must be
prepared to endure with resignation the evil which Jehovah "is
bringing upon all flesh." Yet there is a word of comfort and promise:
"I will give thee thy life for a prey in all places whither thou
goest." Baruch was to be protected from violent or premature death.

According to Renan,[68] this boon was flung to Baruch
half-contemptuously, in order to silence his unworthy and unseasonable

"Dans une catastrophe qui va englober l'humanité tout entière, il est
beau de venir réclamer de petites faveurs d'exception! Baruch aura la
vie sauve partout où il ira; qu'il s'en contente!"

We prefer a more generous interpretation. To a selfish man, unless
indeed he clung to bare life in craven terror or mere animal tenacity,
such an existence as Baruch was promised would have seemed no boon at
all. Imprisonment in a besieged and starving city, captivity and exile,
his fellow-countrymen's ill-will and resentment from first to
last--these experiences would be hard to recognise as privileges
bestowed by Jehovah. Had Baruch been wholly self-centred, he might well
have craved death instead, like Job, nay, like Jeremiah himself. But
life meant for him continued ministry to his master, the high privilege
of supporting him in his witness to Jehovah. If, as seems almost
certain, we owe to Baruch the preservation of Jeremiah's prophecies,
then indeed the life that was given him for a prey must have been
precious to him as the devoted servant of God. Humanly speaking, the
future of revealed religion and of Christianity depended on the survival
of Jeremiah's teaching, and this hung upon the frail thread of Baruch's
life. After all, Baruch was destined to achieve "great things," even
though not those which he sought after; and as no editor's name is
prefixed to our book, he cannot be accused of self-seeking. So too for
every faithful disciple, his life, even if given for a prey, even if
spent in sorrow, poverty, and pain, is still a Divine gift, because
nothing can spoil its opportunity of ministering to men and glorifying
God, even if only by patient endurance of suffering.

We may venture on a wider application of the promise, "Thy life shall
be given thee for a prey." Life is not merely continued existence in
the body: life has come to mean spirit and character, so that Christ
could say, "He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it." In
this sense the loyal servant of God wins as his prey, out of all
painful experiences, a fuller and nobler life. Other rewards may come
in due season, but this is the most certain and the most sufficient.
For Baruch, constant devotion to a hated and persecuted master,
uncompromising utterance of unpopular truth, had their chief issue in
the redemption of his own inward life.


[58] _Antt._, x. 9, 1.

[59] xxxvi. 26, 32.

[60] In order of time, ch. xxxvi.

[61] xxxii.

[62] xliii.

[63] _Antt._, x. 9, 1.

[64] Bissell's Introduction to Baruch in Lange's Commentary.

[65] So LXX., which here probably gives the true order.

[66] The clause "I am weary with my groaning" also occurs in Psalm vi.

[67] The concluding clause of the verse is omitted by LXX., and is
probably a gloss added to indicate that the ruin would not be confined
to Judah, but would extend "over the whole earth." Cf. Kautzsch.

[68] _Hist. of Israel_, iii., 293.

                               CHAPTER VI

                      _THE JUDGMENT ON JEHOIAKIM_

                      xxii. 13-19, xxxvi. 30, 31.

    "Jehoiakim ... slew him (Uriah) with the sword, and cast his dead
    body into the graves of the common people."--JER. xxvi. 23.

    "Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning Jehoiakim, ... He shall be
    buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the
    gates of Jerusalem."--JER. xxii. 18, 19.

    "Jehoiakim ... did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah,
    according to all that his fathers had done."--2 KINGS xxiii. 36, 37.

Our last four chapters have been occupied with the history of Jeremiah
during the reign of Jehoiakim, and therefore necessarily with the
relations of the prophet to the king and his government. Before we
pass on to the reigns of Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, we must consider
certain utterances which deal with the personal character and career
of Jehoiakim. We are helped to appreciate these passages by what we
here read, and by the brief paragraph concerning this reign in the
Second Book of Kings. In Jeremiah the king's policy and conduct are
specially illustrated by two incidents, the murder of the prophet
Uriah and the destruction of the roll. The historian states his
judgment of the reign, but his brief record[69] adds little to our
knowledge of the sovereign.

Jehoiakim was placed upon the throne as the nominee and tributary of
Pharaoh Necho; but he had the address or good fortune to retain his
authority under Nebuchadnezzar, by transferring his allegiance to the
new suzerain of Western Asia. When a suitable opportunity offered, the
unwilling and discontented vassal naturally "turned and rebelled
against" his lord. Even then his good fortune did not forsake him;
although in his latter days Judah was harried by predatory bands of
Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites, yet Jehoiakim "slept with
his fathers" before Nebuchadnezzar had set to work in earnest to
chastise his refractory subject. He was not reserved, like Zedekiah,
to endure agonies of mental and physical torture, and to rot in a
Babylonian dungeon.

Jeremiah's judgment upon Jehoiakim and his doings is contained in the
two passages which form the subject of this chapter. The utterance in
xxxvi. 30, 31, was evoked by the destruction of the roll, and we may
fairly assume that xxii. 13-19 was also delivered after that incident.
The immediate context of the latter paragraph throws no light on the
date of its origin. Chapter xxii. is a series of judgments on the
successors of Josiah, and was certainly composed after the deposition
of Jehoiachin, probably during the reign of Zedekiah; but the section
on Jehoiakim must have been uttered at an earlier period. Renan indeed
imagines[70] that Jeremiah delivered this discourse at the gate of the
royal palace at the very beginning of the new reign. The nominee of
Egypt was scarcely seated on the throne, his "new name" Jehoiakim--"He
whom Jehovah establisheth"--still sounded strange in his ears, when
the prophet of Jehovah publicly menaced the king with condign
punishment. Renan is naturally surprised that Jehoiakim tolerated
Jeremiah, even for a moment. But, here as often elsewhere, the French
critic's dramatic instinct has warped his estimate of evidence. We
need not accept the somewhat unkind saying that picturesque anecdotes
are never true, but, at the same time, we have always to guard against
the temptation to accept the most dramatic interpretation of history
as the most accurate. The contents of this passage, the references to
robbery, oppression, and violence, clearly imply that Jehoiakim had
reigned long enough for his government to reveal itself as hopelessly
corrupt. The final breach between the king and the prophet was marked
by the destruction of the roll, and xxii. 13-19, like xxxvi. 30, 31,
may be considered a consequence of this breach.

Let us now consider these utterances. In xxxvi. 30_a_ we read,
"Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah, He
shall have none to sit upon the throne of David." Later on,[71] a like
judgment was pronounced upon Jehoiakim's son and successor Jehoiachin.
The absence of this threat from xxii. 13-19 is doubtless due to the
fact that the chapter was compiled when the letter of the prediction
seemed to have been proved to be false by the accession of Jehoiachin.
Its spirit and substance were amply satisfied by the latter's
deposition and captivity after a brief reign of a hundred days.

The next clause in the sentence on Jehoiakim runs: "His dead body
shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the
frost." The same doom is repeated in the later prophecy:--

          "They shall not lament for him,
            Alas my brother! Alas my brother!
          They shall not lament for him,
            Alas lord! Alas lord![72]
          He shall be buried with the burial of an ass,
            Dragged forth and cast away without the gates of Jerusalem."

Jeremiah did not need to draw upon his imagination for this vision of
judgment. When the words were uttered, his memory called up the murder
of Uriah ben Shemaiah and the dishonour done to his corpse. Uriah's
only guilt had been his zeal for the truth that Jeremiah had
proclaimed. Though Jehoiakim and his party had not dared to touch
Jeremiah or had not been able to reach him, they had struck his
influence by killing Uriah. But for their hatred of the master, the
disciple might have been spared. And Jeremiah had neither been able to
protect him, nor allowed to share his fate. Any generous spirit will
understand how Jeremiah's whole nature was possessed and agitated by a
tempest of righteous indignation, how utterly humiliated he felt to be
compelled to stand by in helpless impotence. And now, when the tyrant
had filled up the measure of his iniquity, when the imperious impulse
of the Divine Spirit bade the prophet speak the doom of his king,
there breaks forth at last the long pent-up cry for vengeance:
"Avenge, O Lord, Thy slaughtered saint"--let the persecutor suffer the
agony and shame which he inflicted on God's martyr, fling out the
murderer's corpse unburied, let it lie and rot upon the dishonoured
grave of his victim.

Can we say, Amen? Not perhaps without some hesitation. Yet surely, if
our veins run blood and not water, our feelings, had we been in
Jeremiah's place, would have been as bitter and our words as fierce.
Jehoiakim was more guilty than our Queen Mary, but the memory of the
grimmest of the Tudors still stinks in English nostrils. In our own
days, we have not had time to forget how men received the news of
Hannington's murder at Uganda, and we can imagine what European
Christians would say and feel if their missionaries were massacred in

And yet, when we read such a treatise as Lactantius wrote _Concerning
the Deaths of Persecutors_, we cannot but recoil. We are shocked at the
stern satisfaction he evinces in the miserable ends of Maximin and
Galerius, and other enemies of the true faith. Discreet historians have
made large use of this work, without thinking it desirable to give an
explicit account of its character and spirit. Biographers of Lactantius
feel constrained to offer a half-hearted apology for the _De Morte
Persecutorum_. Similarly we find ourselves of one mind with Gibbon,[73]
in refusing to derive edification from a sermon in which Constantine the
Great, or the bishop who composed it for him, affected to relate the
miserable end of all the persecutors of the Church. Nor can we share the
exultation of the Covenanters in the Divine judgment which they saw in
the death of Claverhouse; and we are not moved to any hearty sympathy
with more recent writers, who have tried to illustrate from history the
danger of touching the rights and privileges of the Church. Doubtless
God will avenge His own elect; nevertheless _Nemo me impune lacessit_ is
no seemly motto for the Kingdom of God. Even Greek mythologists taught
that it was perilous for men to wield the thunderbolts of Zeus. Still
less is the Divine wrath a weapon for men to grasp in their differences
and dissensions, even about the things of God. Michael the Archangel,
even when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses,
durst not bring against him a railing judgment, but said, The Lord
rebuke thee.[74]

How far Jeremiah would have shared such modern sentiment, it is hard
to say. At any rate his personal feeling is kept in the background; it
is postponed to the more patient and deliberate judgment of the Divine
Spirit, and subordinated to broad considerations of public morality.
We have no right to contrast Jeremiah with our Lord and His
proto-martyr Stephen, because we have no prayer of the ancient prophet
to rank with, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,"
or again with, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Christ and
His disciple forgave wrongs done to themselves: they did not condone
the murder of their brethren. In the Apocalypse, which concludes the
English Bible, and was long regarded as God's final revelation, His
last word to man, the souls of the martyrs cry out from beneath the
altar: "How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost Thou not judge and
avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?"[75]

Doubtless God will avenge His own elect, and the appeal for justice
may be neither ignoble nor vindictive. But such prayers, beyond all
others, must be offered in humble submission to the Judge of all. When
our righteous indignation claims to pass its own sentence, we do well
to remember that our halting intellect and our purblind conscience
are ill qualified to sit as assessors of the Eternal Justice.

When Saul set out for Damascus, "breathing out threatening and
slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," the survivors of his
victims cried out for a swift punishment of the persecutor, and
believed that their prayers were echoed by martyred souls in the
heavenly Temple. If that ninth chapter of the Acts had recorded how
Saul of Tarsus was struck dead by the lightnings of the wrath of God,
preachers down all the Christian centuries would have moralised on the
righteous Divine judgment. Saul would have found his place in the
homiletic Chamber of Horrors with Ananias and Sapphira, Herod and
Pilate, Nero and Diocletian. Yet the Captain of our salvation,
choosing His lieutenants, passes over many a man with blameless
record, and allots the highest post to this blood-stained persecutor.
No wonder that Paul, if only in utter self-contempt, emphasised the
doctrine of Divine election. Verily God's ways are not our ways and
His thoughts are not our thoughts.

Still, however, we easily see that Paul and Jehoiakim belong to two
different classes. The persecutor who attempts in honest but misguided
zeal to make others endorse his own prejudices, and turn a deaf ear
with him to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, must not be ranked with
politicians who sacrifice to their own private interests the
Revelation and the Prophets of God.

This prediction which we have been discussing of Jehoiakim's shameful
end is followed in the passage in chapter xxxvi. by a general
announcement of universal judgment, couched in Jeremiah's usual
comprehensive style:--

"I will visit their sin upon him and upon his children and upon his
servants, and I will bring upon them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem
and the men of Judah all the evil which I spake unto them and they did
not hearken."

In chapter xxii. the sentence upon Jehoiakim is prefaced by a
statement of the crimes for which he was punished. His eyes and his
heart were wholly possessed by avarice and cruelty; as an
administrator he was active in oppression and violence.[76] But
Jeremiah does not confine himself to these general charges; he
specifies and emphasises one particular form of Jehoiakim's
wrong-doing, the tyrannous exaction of forced labour for his
buildings. To the sovereigns of petty Syrian states, old Memphis and
Babylon were then what London and Paris are to modern Ameers,
Khedives, and Sultans. Circumstances, indeed, did not permit a Syrian
prince to visit the Egyptian or Chaldean capital with perfect comfort
and unrestrained enjoyment. Ancient Eastern potentates, like mediæval
suzerains, did not always distinguish between a guest and a hostage.
But the Jewish kings would not be debarred from importing the luxuries
and imitating the vices of their conquerors.

Renan says[77] of this period: "L'Egypte était, à cette époque, le
pays où les industries de luxe étaient le plus développées. Tout le
monde raffolaient, en particulier, de sa carrosserie et de ses meubles
ouvragés. Joiaquin et la noblesse de Jérusalem ne songeaient qu'à se
procurer ces beaux objets, qui réalisaient ce qu'on avait vu de plus
exquis en fait de goût jusque-là."

The supreme luxury of vulgar minds is the use of wealth as a means of
display, and monarchs have always delighted in the erection of vast
and ostentatious buildings. At this time Egypt and Babylon vied with
one another in pretentious architecture. In addition to much useful
engineering work, Psammetichus I. made large additions to the temples
and public edifices at Memphis, Thebes, Sais, and elsewhere, so that
"the entire valley of the Nile became little more than one huge
workshop, where stone-cutters and masons, bricklayers and carpenters,
laboured incessantly."[78] This activity in building continued even
after the disaster to the Egyptian arms at Carchemish.

Nebuchadnezzar had an absolute mania for architecture. His numerous
inscriptions are mere catalogues of his achievements in building. His
home administration and even his extensive conquests are scarcely
noticed; he held them of little account compared with his temples and
palaces--"this great Babylon, which I have built for the royal
dwelling-place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my
majesty."[79] Nebuchadnezzar created most of the magnificence that
excited the wonder and admiration of Herodotus a century later.

Jehoiakim had been moved to follow the notable example of Chaldea and
Egypt. By a strange irony of fortune, Egypt, once the cynosure of
nations, has become in our own time the humble imitator of Western
civilisation, and now boulevards have rendered the suburbs of Cairo "a
shabby reproduction of modern Paris." Possibly in the eyes of Egyptians
and Chaldeans Jehoiakim's efforts only resulted in a "shabby
reproduction" of Memphis or Babylon. Nevertheless these foreign luxuries
are always expensive; and minor states had not then learnt the art of
trading on the resources of their powerful neighbours by means of
foreign loans. Moreover Judah had to pay tribute first to Pharaoh Necho,
and then to Nebuchadnezzar. The times were bad, and additional taxes for
building purposes must have been felt as an intolerable oppression.
Naturally the king did not pay for his labour; like Solomon and all
other great Eastern despots, he had recourse to the _corvee_, and for
this in particular Jeremiah denounced him.

          "Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness
              And his chambers by injustice;
           That maketh his neighbour toil without wages,
             And giveth him no hire;
           That saith, 'I will build me a wide house
             And spacious chambers,'
           And openeth out broad windows, with woodwork of cedar
             And vermilion painting."

Then the denunciation passes into biting sarcasm:--

          "Art thou indeed a king,
           Because thou strivest to excel in cedar?"[80]

Poor imitations of Nebuchadnezzar's magnificent structures could not
conceal the impotence and dependence of the Jewish king. The
pretentiousness of Jehoiakim's buildings challenged a comparison which
only reminded men that he was a mere puppet, with its strings pulled now
by Egypt and now by Babylon. At best he was only reigning on sufferance.

Jeremiah contrasts Jehoiakim's government both as to justice and
dignity with that of Josiah:--

          "Did not thy father eat and drink?"[81]

(He was no ascetic, but, like the Son of Man, lived a full, natural,
human life.)

          "And do judgment and justice?
           Then did he prosper.
           He judged the cause of the poor and needy,
           Then was there prosperity.
           Is not this to know Me?
           Jehovah hath spoken it."

Probably Jehoiakim claimed by some external observance, or through
some subservient priest or prophet, to "know Jehovah"; and Jeremiah
repudiates the claim.

Josiah had reigned in the period when the decay of Assyria left Judah
dominant in Palestine, until Egypt or Chaldea could find time to
gather up the outlying fragments of the shattered empire. The wisdom
and justice of the Jewish king had used this breathing space for the
advantage and happiness of his people; and during part of his reign
Josiah's power seems to have been as extensive as that of any of his
predecessors on the throne of Judah. And yet, according to current
theology, Jeremiah's appeal to the prosperity of Josiah as a proof of
God's approbation was a startling anomaly. Josiah had been defeated
and slain at Megiddo in the prime of his manhood, at the age of
thirty-nine. None but the most independent and enlightened spirits
could believe that the Reformer's premature death, at the moment when
his policy had resulted in national disaster, was not an emphatic
declaration of Divine displeasure. Jeremiah's contrary belief might be
explained and justified. Some such justification is suggested by the
prophet's utterance concerning Jehoahaz: "Weep not for the dead,
neither bemoan him: but weep sore for him that goeth away." Josiah had
reigned with real authority, he died when independence was no longer
possible; and therein he was happier and more honourable than his
successors, who held a vassal throne by the uncertain tenure of
time-serving duplicity, and were for the most part carried into
captivity. "The righteous was taken away from the evil to come."[82]

The warlike spirit of classical antiquity and of Teutonic chivalry
welcomed a glorious death upon the field of battle:--

          "And how can man die better
             Than facing fearful odds,
           For the ashes of his fathers,
             And the temples of his Gods?"

No one spoke of Leonidas as a victim of Divine wrath. Later Judaism
caught something of the same temper. Judas Maccabæus, when in extreme
danger, said, "It is better for us to die in battle, than to look upon
the evils of our people and our sanctuary"; and later on, when he
refused to flee from inevitable death, he claimed that he would leave
behind him no stain upon his honour.[83] Islam also is prodigal in its
promises of future bliss to those soldiers who fall fighting for its

But the dim and dreary Sheôl of the ancient Hebrews was no glorious
Valhalla or houri-peopled Paradise. The renown of the battle-field was
poor compensation for the warm, full-blooded life of the upper air.
When David sang his dirge for Saul and Jonathan, he found no comfort
in the thought that they had died fighting for Israel. Moreover the
warrior's self-sacrifice for his country seems futile and inglorious,
when it neither secures victory nor postpones defeat. And at Megiddo
Josiah and his army perished in a vain attempt to come

          "Between the pass and fell incensed points
           Of mighty opposites."

We can hardly justify to ourselves Jeremiah's use of Josiah's reign as
an example of prosperity as the reward of righteousness; his
contemporaries must have been still more difficult to convince. We
cannot understand how the words of this prophecy were left without any
attempt at justification, or why Jeremiah did not meet by anticipation
the obvious and apparently crushing rejoinder that the reign
terminated in disgrace and disaster.

Nevertheless these difficulties do not affect the terms of the
sentence upon Jehoiakim, or the ground upon which he was condemned. We
shall be better able to appreciate Jeremiah's attitude and to discover
its lessons if we venture to reconsider his decisions. We cannot
forget that there was, as Cheyne puts it, a duel between Jeremiah and
Jehoiakim; and we should hesitate to accept the verdict of Hildebrand
upon Henry IV. of Germany, or of Thomas à Becket on Henry II. of
England. Moreover the data upon which we have to base our judgment,
including the unfavourable estimate in the Book of Kings, come to us
from Jeremiah or his disciples. Our ideas about Queen Elizabeth would
be more striking than accurate if our only authorities for her reign
were Jesuit historians of England. But Jeremiah is absorbed in lofty
moral and spiritual issues; his testimony is not tainted with that
sectarian and sacerdotal casuistry which is always so ready to
subordinate truth to the interests of "the Church." He speaks of facts
with a simple directness which leaves us in no doubt as to their
reality; his picture of Jehoiakim may be one-sided, but it owes
nothing to an inventive imagination.

Even Renan, who, in Ophite fashion, holds a brief for the bad
characters of the Old Testament, does not seriously challenge
Jeremiah's statements of fact. But the judgment of the modern critic
seems at first sight more lenient than that of the Hebrew prophet: the
former sees in Jehoiakim "un prince libéral et modéré,"[84] but when
this favourable estimate is coupled with an apparent comparison with
Louis Philippe, we must leave students of modern history to decide
whether Renan is really less severe than Jeremiah. Cheyne, on the
other hand, holds[85] that "we have no reason to question Jeremiah's
verdict upon Jehoiakim, who, alike from a religious and a political
point of view, appears to have been unequal to the crisis in the
fortunes of Israel." No doubt this is true; and yet perhaps Renan is
so far right that Jehoiakim's failure was rather his misfortune than
his fault. We may doubt whether any king of Israel or Judah would have
been equal to the supreme crisis which Jehoiakim had to face. Our
scanty information seems to indicate a man of strong will, determined
character, and able statesmanship. Though the nominee of Pharaoh
Necho, he retained his sceptre under Nebuchadnezzar, and held his own
against Jeremiah and the powerful party by which the prophet was
supported. Under more favourable conditions he might have rivalled
Uzziah or Jeroboam II. In the time of Jehoiakim, a supreme political
and military genius would have been as helpless on the throne of Judah
as were the Palæologi in the last days of the Empire at
Constantinople. Something may be said to extenuate his religious
attitude. In opposing Jeremiah he was not defying clear and
acknowledged truth. Like the Pharisees in their conflict with Christ,
the persecuting king had popular religious sentiment on his side.
According to that current theology which had been endorsed in some
measure even by Isaiah and Jeremiah, the defeat at Megiddo proved that
Jehovah repudiated the religious policy of Josiah and his advisers.
The inspiration of the Holy Spirit enabled Jeremiah to resist this
shallow conclusion, and to maintain through every crisis his unshaken
faith in the profounder truth. Jehoiakim was too conservative to
surrender at the prophet's bidding the long-accepted and fundamental
doctrine of retribution, and to follow the forward leading of
Revelation. He "stood by the old truth" as did Charles V. at the
Reformation. "Let him that is without sin" in this matter "first cast
a stone at" him.

Though we extenuate Jehoiakim's conduct, we are still bound to condemn
it; not however because he was exceptionally wicked, but because he
failed to rise above a low spiritual average: yet in this judgment we
also condemn ourselves for our own intolerance, and for the prejudice
and self-will which have often blinded our eyes to the teachings of
our Lord and Master.

But Jeremiah emphasises one special charge against the king--his
exaction of forced and unpaid labour. This form of taxation was in
itself so universal that the censure can scarcely be directed against
its ordinary and moderate exercise. If Jeremiah had intended to
inaugurate a new departure, he would have approached the subject in a
more formal and less casual fashion. It was a time of national danger
and distress, when all moral and material resources were needed to
avert the ruin of the state, or at any rate to mitigate the sufferings
of the people; and at such a time Jehoiakim exhausted and embittered
his subjects--that he might dwell in spacious halls with woodwork of
cedar. The Temple and palaces of Solomon had been built at the expense
of a popular resentment, which survived for centuries, and with which,
as their silence seems to show, the prophets fully sympathised. If
even Solomon's exactions were culpable, Jehoiakim was altogether
without excuse.

His sin was that common to all governments, the use of the authority of
the state for private ends. This sin is possible not only to sovereigns
and secretaries of state, but to every town councillor and every one who
has a friend on a town council, nay, to every clerk in a public office
and to every workman in a government dockyard. A king squandering public
revenues on private pleasures, and an artisan pilfering nails and iron
with an easy conscience because they only belong to the state, are
guilty of crimes essentially the same. On the one hand, Jehoiakim as the
head of the state was oppressing individuals; and although modern states
have grown comparatively tender as to the rights of the individual, yet
even now their action is often cruelly oppressive to insignificant
minorities. But, on the other hand, the right of exacting labour was
only vested in the king as a public trust; its abuse was as much an
injury to the community as to individuals. If Jeremiah had to deal with
modern civilisation, we might, perchance, be startled by his passing
lightly over our religious and political controversies to denounce the
squandering of public resources in the interests of individuals and
classes, sects and parties.


[69] 2 Kings xxiii. 34-xxiv. 7.

[70] iii. 274.

[71] xxii. 30.

[72] R.V., "Ah my brother! or Ah sister!... Ah lord! or Ah his glory!"
The text is based on an emendation of Graetz, following the Syriac.

[73] Chap. xiii.

[74] Jude 9.

[75] Apc. vi. 10.

[76] xxii. 17. The exact meaning of the word translated "violence" (so
A.V., R.V.) is very doubtful.

[77] _Hist._, etc., iii. 266.

[78] Rawlinson, _Ancient Egypt_ (Story of the Nations).

[79] Dan. iv. 30.

[80] I have followed R.V., but the text is probably corrupt. Cheyne
follows LXX. (A) in reading "because thou viest with Ahab": LXX. (B) has
"Ahaz" (so Ewald). Giesebrecht proposes to neglect the accents and
translate, "viest in cedar buildings with thy father" (_i.e._ Solomon).

[81] According to Giesebrecht (cf. however the last note) this clause
is an objection which the prophet puts into the mouth of the king. "My
father enjoyed the good things of life--why should not I?" The prophet
rejoins, "Nay, but he did judgment," etc.

[82] Isa. lvii. (English Versions).

[83] Macc. ii. 59, ix. 10.

[84] iii. 269.

[85] P. 142.

                              CHAPTER VII


                              xxii. 20-30.

    "A despised broken vessel,"--JER. xxii. 28.

    "A young lion. And he went up and down among the lions, he became
    a young lion and he learned to catch the prey, he devoured
    men."--EZEK. xix. 5, 6.

    "Jehoiachin ... did evil in the sight of Jehovah, according to all
    that his father had done."--2 KINGS xxiv. 8, 9.

We have seen that our book does not furnish a consecutive biography of
Jeremiah; we are not even certain as to the chronological order of the
incidents narrated. Yet these chapters are clear and full enough to
give us an accurate idea of what Jeremiah did and suffered during the
eleven years of Jehoiakim's reign. He was forced to stand by while the
king lent the weight of his authority to the ancient corruptions of
the national religion, and conducted his home and foreign policy
without any regard to the will of Jehovah, as expressed by His
prophet. His position was analogous to that of a Romanist priest under
Elizabeth or a Protestant divine in the reign of James II. According
to some critics, Nebuchadnezzar was to Jeremiah what Philip of Spain
was to the priest and William of Orange to the Puritan.

During all these long and weary years, the prophet watched the ever
multiplying tokens of approaching ruin. He was no passive spectator,
but a faithful watchman to the house of Israel; again and again he
risked his life in a vain attempt to make his fellow-countrymen aware
of their danger.[87] The vision of the coming sword was ever before
his eyes, and he blew the trumpet and warned the people; but they
would not be warned, and the prophet knew that the sword would come
and take them away in their iniquity. He paid the penalty of his
faithfulness; at one time or another he was beaten, imprisoned,
proscribed, and driven to hide himself; still he persevered in his
mission, as time and occasion served. Yet he survived Jehoiakim,
partly because he was more anxious to serve Jehovah than to gain the
glorious deliverance of martyrdom; partly because his royal enemy
feared to proceed to extremities against a prophet of Jehovah, who was
befriended by powerful nobles, and might possibly have relations with
Nebuchadnezzar himself. Jehoiakim's religion--for like the Athenians
he was probably "very religious"--was saturated with superstition, and
it was only when deeply moved that he lost the sense of an external
sanctity attaching to Jeremiah's person. In Israel prophets were
hedged by a more potent divinity than kings.

Meanwhile Jeremiah was growing old in years and older in experience.
When Jehoiakim died, it was nearly forty years since the young priest
had first been called "to pluck up and to break down, and to destroy
and to overthrow; to build and to plant"; it was more than eleven
since his brighter hopes were buried in Josiah's grave. Jehovah had
promised that He would make His servant into "an iron pillar and
brasen walls."[88] The iron was tempered and hammered into shape
during these days of conflict and endurance, like--

          " ... iron dug from central gloom,
              And heated hot with burning fears
              And dipt in baths of hissing tears,
          And battered with the shocks of doom,
          To shape and use."

He had long lost all trace of that sanguine youthful enthusiasm which
promises to carry all before it. His opening manhood had felt its happy
illusions, but they did not dominate his soul and they soon passed away.
At the Divine bidding, he had surrendered his most ingrained prejudices,
his dearest desires. He had consented to be alienated from his brethren
at Anathoth, and to live without home or family; although a patriot, he
accepted the inevitable ruin of his nation as the just judgment of
Jehovah; he was a priest, imbued by heredity and education with the
religious traditions of Israel, yet he had yielded himself to Jehovah,
to announce, as His herald, the destruction of the Temple, and the
devastation of the Holy Land. He had submitted his shrinking flesh and
reluctant spirit to God's most unsparing demands, and had dared the
worst that man could inflict. Such surrender and such experiences
wrought in him a certain stern and terrible strength, and made his life
still more remote from the hopes and fears, the joys and sorrows of
common men. In his isolation and his inspired self-sufficiency he had
become an "iron pillar." Doubtless he seemed to many as hard and cold as
iron; but this pillar of the faith could still glow with white heat of
indignant passion, and within the shelter of the "brasen walls" there
still beat a human heart, touched with tender sympathy for those less
disciplined to endure.

We have thus tried to estimate the development of Jeremiah's character
during the second period of his ministry, which began with the death
of Josiah and terminated with the brief reign of Jehoiachin. Before
considering Jeremiah's judgment upon this prince we will review the
scanty data at our disposal to enable us to appreciate the prophet's

Jehoiakim died while Nebuchadnezzar was on the march to punish his
rebellion. His son Jehoiachin, a youth of eighteen,[89] succeeded his
father and continued his policy. Thus the accession of the new king
was no new departure, but merely a continuance of the old order; the
government was still in the hands of the party attached to Egypt, and
opposed to Babylon and hostile to Jeremiah. Under these circumstances
we are bound to accept the statement of Kings that Jehoiakim "slept
with his fathers," _i.e._ was buried in the royal sepulchre.[90] There
was no literal fulfilment of the prediction that he should "be buried
with the burial of an ass." Jeremiah had also declared concerning
Jehoiakim: "He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David."[91]
According to popular superstition, the honourable burial of Jehoiakim
and the succession of his son to the throne further discredited
Jeremiah and his teaching. Men read happy omens in the mere observance
of ordinary constitutional routine. The curse upon Jehoiakim seemed so
much spent breath: why should not Jeremiah's other predictions of ruin
and exile also prove a mere _vox et præterea nihil_? In spite of a
thousand disappointments, men's hopes still turned to Egypt; and if
earthly resources failed they trusted to Jehovah Himself to intervene,
and deliver Jerusalem from the advancing hosts of Nebuchadnezzar, as
from the army of Sennacherib.

Ezekiel's elegy over Jehoiachin suggests that the young king displayed
energy and courage worthy of a better fortune:--

          "He walked up and down among the lions,
             He became a young lion;
           He learned to catch the prey,
             He devoured men.
           He broke down[92] their palaces,
             He wasted their cities;
           The land, was desolate, and the fulness thereof,
             At the noise of his roaring."[93]

However figurative these lines may be, the hyperbole must have had some
basis in fact. Probably before the regular Babylonian army entered
Judah, Jehoiachin distinguished himself by brilliant but useless
successes against the marauding bands of Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites,
and Ammonites, who had been sent to prepare the way for the main body.
He may even have carried his victorious arms into the territory of Moab
or Ammon. But his career was speedily cut short: "The servants of
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem and besieged the
city." Pharaoh Necho made no sign, and Jehoiachin was forced to retire
before the regular forces of Babylon, and soon found himself shut up in
Jerusalem. Still for a time he held out, but when it was known in the
beleaguered city that Nebuchadnezzar was present in person in the camp
of the besiegers, the Jewish captains lost heart. Perhaps too they hoped
for better treatment, if they appealed to the conqueror's vanity by
offering him an immediate submission which they had refused to his
lieutenants. The gates were thrown open; Jehoiachin and the Queen
Mother, Nehushta, with his ministers and princes and the officers of his
household, passed out in suppliant procession, and placed themselves and
their city at the disposal of the conqueror. In pursuance of the policy
which Nebuchadnezzar had inherited from the Assyrians, the king and his
court and eight thousand picked men were carried away captive to
Babylon.[94] For thirty-seven years Jehoiachin languished in a Chaldean
prison, till at last his sufferings were mitigated by an act of grace,
which signalised the accession of a new king of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar's successor Evil Merodach, "in the year when he began to
reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison, and
spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings
that were with him in Babylon. And Jehoiachin changed his prison
garments, and ate at the royal table continually all the days of his
life, and had a regular allowance given him by the king, a daily
portion, all the days of his life."[95] At the age of fifty-five, the
last survivor of the reigning princes of the house of David emerges from
his dungeon, broken in mind and body by his long captivity, to be a
grateful dependent upon the charity of Evil Merodach, just as the
survivor of the house of Saul had sat at David's table. The young lion
that devoured the prey and caught men and wasted cities was thankful to
be allowed to creep out of his cage and die in comfort--"a despised
broken vessel."

We feel a shock of surprise and repulsion as we turn from this
pathetic story to Jeremiah's fierce invectives against the unhappy
king. But we wrong the prophet and misunderstand his utterance if we
forget that it was delivered during that brief frenzy in which the
young king and his advisers threw away the last chance of safety for
Judah. Jehoiachin might have repudiated his father's rebellion against
Babylon; Jehoiakim s death had removed the chief offender, no personal
blame attached to his successor, and a prompt submission might have
appeased Nebuchadnezzar's wrath against Judah and obtained his favour
for the new king. If a hot-headed young rajah of some protected Indian
state revolted against the English suzerainty and exposed his country
to the misery of a hopeless war, we should sympathise with any of his
counsellors who condemned such wilful folly; we have no right to find
fault with Jeremiah for his severe censure of the reckless vanity
which precipitated his country's fate.

Jeremiah's deep and absorbing interest in Judah and Jerusalem is
indicated by the form of this utterance; it is addressed to the
"Daughter of Zion"[96]:--

          "Go up to Lebanon, and lament,
           And lift up thy voice in Bashan,
           And lament from Abarim,[97]
           For thy lovers are all destroyed!"

Her "lovers," her heathen allies, whether gods or men, are impotent,
and Judah is as forlorn and helpless as a lonely and unfriended woman;
let her bewail her fate upon the mountains of Israel, like Jephthah's
daughter in ancient days.

          "I spake unto thee in thy prosperity;
           Thou saidst, I will not hearken.
           This hath been thy way from thy youth,
           That thou hast not obeyed My voice.
           The tempest shall be the shepherd to all thy shepherds."

Kings and nobles, priests and prophets, shall be carried off by the
Chaldean invaders, as trees and houses are swept away by a hurricane.
These shepherds who had spoiled and betrayed their flock would
themselves be as silly sheep in the hands of robbers.

          "Thy lovers shall go into captivity.
           Then, verily, shalt thou be ashamed and confounded
           Because of all thy wickedness.
           O thou that dwellest in Lebanon!
           O thou that hast made thy nest in the cedar!"

The former mention of Lebanon reminded Jeremiah of Jehoiakim's halls
of cedar. With grim irony he links together the royal magnificence of
the palace and the wild abandonment of the people's lamentation.

          "How wilt thou groan[98] when pangs come upon thee,
           Anguish as of a woman in travail!"

The nation is involved in the punishment inflicted upon her rulers. In
such passages the prophets largely identify the nation with the
governing classes--not without justification. No government, whatever
the constitution may be, can ignore a strong popular demand for
righteous policy, at home and abroad. A special responsibility of
course rests on those who actually wield the authority of the state,
but the policy of rulers seldom succeeds in effecting much either for
good or evil without some sanction of public feeling. Our revolution
which replaced the Puritan Protectorate by the restored Monarchy was
rendered possible by the change of popular sentiment. Yet even under
the purest democracy men imagine that they divest themselves of civic
responsibility by neglecting their civic duties; they stand aloof, and
blame officials and professional politicians for the injustice and
crime wrought by the state. National guilt seems happily disposed of
when laid on the shoulders of that convenient abstraction "the
government"; but neither the prophets nor the Providence which they
interpret recognise this convenient theory of vicarious atonement: the
king sins, but the prophet's condemnation is uttered against and
executed upon the nation.

Nevertheless a special responsibility rests upon the ruler, and now
Jeremiah turns from the nation to its king.

          "As I live--Jehovah hath spoken it--
           Though Coniah ben Jehoiakim king of Judah were a signet ring
                    upon My right hand----"

By a forcible Hebrew idiom Jehovah, as it were, turns and confronts
the king and specially addresses him:--

          "Yet would I pluck thee thence."

A signet ring was valuable in itself, and, as far as an inanimate object
could be, was an "_alter ego_" of the sovereign; it scarcely ever left
his finger, and when it did, it carried with it the authority of its
owner. A signet ring could not be lost or even cast away without some
reflection upon the majesty of the king. Jehoiachin's character was by
no means worthless; he had courage, energy, and patriotism. The heir of
David and Solomon, the patron and champion of the Temple, dwelt, as it
were, under the very shadow of the Almighty. Men generally believed that
Jehovah's honour was engaged to defend Jerusalem and the house of David.
He Himself would be discredited by the fall of the elect dynasty and the
captivity of the chosen people. Yet everything must be sacrificed--the
career of a gallant young prince, the ancient association of the sacred
Name with David and Zion, even the superstitious awe with which the
heathen regarded the God of the Exodus and of the deliverance from
Sennacherib. Nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of the Divine
judgment. And yet we still sometimes dream that the working out of the
Divine righteousness will be postponed in the interests of
ecclesiastical traditions and in deference to the criticisms of ungodly

          "And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy
           Into the hand of them of whom thou art afraid,
           Into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the
           And I will hurl thee and the mother that bare thee into
                    another land, where ye were not born:
           There shall ye die.
           And unto the land whereunto their soul longeth to return,
           Thither they shall not return."

Again the sudden change in the person addressed emphasises the scope
of the Divine proclamation; the doom of the royal house is not only
announced to them, but also to the world at large. The mention of the
Queen Mother, Nehushta, reveals what we should in any case have
conjectured, that the policy of the young prince was largely
determined by his mother. Her importance is also indicated by xiii.
18, usually supposed to be addressed to Jehoiachin and Nehushta:---

          "Say unto the king and the queen mother,
           Leave your thrones and sit in the dust,
           For your glorious diadems are fallen."

The Queen Mother is a characteristic figure of polygamous Eastern
dynasties, but we may be helped to understand what Nehushta was to
Jehoiachin if we remember the influence of Eleanor of Poitou over
Richard I. and John, and the determined struggle which Margaret of
Anjou made on behalf of her ill-starred son.

The next verse of our prophecy seems to be a protest against the
severe sentence pronounced in the preceding clauses:--

          "Is then this man Coniah a despised vessel, only fit to be
           Is he a tool, that no one wants?"

Thus Jeremiah imagines the citizens and warriors of Jerusalem crying
out against him, for his sentence of doom against their darling prince
and captain. The prophetic utterance seemed to them monstrous and
incredible, only worthy to be met with impatient scorn. We may find a
mediæval analogy to the situation at Jerusalem in the relations of
Clement IV. to Conradin, the last heir of the house of Hohenstaufen.
When this youth of sixteen was in the full career of victory, the Pope
predicted that his army would be scattered like smoke, and pointed out
the prince and his allies as victims for the sacrifice. When Conradin
was executed after his defeat at Tagliacozzo, Christendom was filled
with abhorrence at the suspicion that Clement had countenanced the
doing to death of the hereditary enemy of the Papal See. Jehoiachin's
friends felt towards Jeremiah somewhat as these thirteenth-century
Ghibellines towards Clement.

Moreover the charge against Clement was probably unfounded; Milman[99]
says of him, "He was doubtless moved with inner remorse at the
cruelties of 'his champion' Charles of Anjou." Jeremiah too would
lament the doom he was constrained to utter. Nevertheless he could not
permit Judah to be deluded to its ruin by empty dreams of glory:--

          "O land, land, land,
           Hear the word of Jehovah."

Isaiah had called all Nature, heaven and earth to bear witness against
Israel, but now Jeremiah is appealing with urgent importunity to Judah.
"O Chosen Land of Jehovah, so richly blessed by His favour, so sternly
chastised by His discipline, Land of prophetic Revelation, now at last,
after so many warnings, believe the word of thy God and submit to His
judgment. Hasten not thy unhappy fate by shallow confidence in the
genius and daring of Jehoiachin: he is no true Messiah."

          "For saith Jehovah,
           Write this man childless,
           A man whose life shall not know prosperity:
           For none of his seed shall prosper;
           None shall sit upon the throne of David,
           Nor rule any more over Judah."

Thus, by Divine decree, the descendants of Jehoiakim were
disinherited; Jehoiachin was to be recorded in the genealogies of
Israel as having no heir. He might have offspring,[100] but the
Messiah, the Son of David, would not come of his line.

Two points suggest themselves in connection with this utterance of
Jeremiah; first as to the circumstances under which it was uttered,
then as to its application to Jehoiachin.

A moment's reflection will show that this prophecy implied great courage
and presence of mind on the part of Jeremiah--his enemies might even
have spoken of his barefaced audacity. He had predicted that Jehoiakim's
corpse should be cast forth without any rites of honourable sepulture;
and that no son of his should sit upon the throne. Jehoiakim had been
buried like other kings, he slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his
son reigned in his stead. The prophet should have felt himself utterly
discredited; and yet here was Jeremiah coming forward unabashed with new
prophecies against the king, whose very existence was a glaring disproof
of his prophetic inspiration. Thus the friends of Jehoiachin. They would
affect towards Jeremiah's message the same indifference which the
present generation feels for the expositors of Daniel and the
Apocalypse, who confidently announce the end of the world for 1866, and
in 1867 fix a new date with cheerful and undiminished assurance. But
these students of sacred records can always save the authority of
Scripture by acknowledging the fallibility of their calculations. When
their predictions fail, they confess that they have done their sum wrong
and start it afresh. But Jeremiah's utterances were not published as
human deductions from inspired data; he himself claimed to be inspired.
He did not ask his hearers to verify and acknowledge the accuracy of his
arithmetic or his logic, but to submit to the Divine message from his
lips. And yet it is clear that he did not stake the authority of Jehovah
or even his own prophetic status upon the accurate and detailed
fulfilment of his predictions. Nor does he suggest that, in announcing a
doom which was not literally accomplished, he had misunderstood or
misinterpreted his message. The details which both Jeremiah and those
who edited and transmitted his words knew to be unfulfilled were allowed
to remain in the record of Divine Revelation--not, surely, to illustrate
the fallibility of prophets, but to show that an accurate forecast of
details is not of the essence of prophecy; such details belong to its
form and not to its substance. Ancient Hebrew prophecy clothed its ideas
in concrete images; its messages of doom were made definite and
intelligible in a glowing series of definite pictures. The prophets were
realists and not impressionists. But they were also spiritual men,
concerned with the great issues of history and religion. Their message
had to do with _these_: they were little interested in minor matters;
and they used detailed imagery as a mere instrument of exposition.
Popular scepticism exulted when subsequent facts did not exactly
correspond to Jeremiah's images, but the prophet himself was
unconscious of either failure or mistake. Jehoiakim might be
magnificently buried, but his name was branded with eternal dishonour;
Jehoiachin might reign for a hundred days, but the doom of Judah was not
averted, and the house of David ceased for ever to rule in Jerusalem.

Our second point is the application of this prophecy to Jehoiachin.
How far did the king deserve his sentence? Jeremiah indeed does not
explicitly blame Jehoiachin, does not specify his sins as he did those
of his royal sire. The estimate recorded in the Book of Kings
doubtless expresses the judgment of Jeremiah, but it may be directed
not so much against the young king as against his ministers. Yet the
king cannot have been entirely innocent of the guilt of his policy and
government. In chapter xxiv., however, Jeremiah speaks of the captives
at Babylon, those carried away with Jehoiachin, as "good figs"; but we
scarcely suppose he meant to include the king himself in this
favourable estimate, otherwise we should discern some note of sympathy
in the personal sentence upon him. We are left, therefore, to conclude
that Jeremiah's judgment was unfavourable; although, in view of the
prince's youth and limited opportunities, his guilt must have been
slight compared to that of his father.

And, on the other hand, we have the manifest sympathy and even
admiration of Ezekiel. The two estimates stand side by side in the
sacred record to remind us that God neither tolerates man's sins
because there is a better side to his nature, nor yet ignores his
virtues on account of his vices. For ourselves we may be content to
leave the last word on this matter with Jeremiah. When he declares
God's sentence on Jehoiachin, he does not suggest that it was
undeserved, but he refrains from any explicit reproach. Probably if he
had known how entirely his prediction would be fulfilled, if he had
foreseen the seven-and-thirty weary years which the young lion was to
spend in his Babylonian cage, Jeremiah would have spoken more tenderly
and pitifully even of the son of Jehoiakim.


[86] Also called Coniah and Jeconiah.

[87] Considerable portions of chaps. i.-xx. are referred to the reigns
of Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin: see previous volume on Jeremiah.

[88] i. 18.

[89] The Chronicler's account of Jehoiakim's end (2 Chron. xxviii.
6-8) is due to a misunderstanding of the older records. According to
Chronicles Jehoiachin was only eight, but all our data indicate that
Kings is right.

[90] In LXX. of 2 Chron. xxxvi. 8, Jehoiakim, like Manasseh and Amon,
was "buried in the garden of Uzza": B, Ganozæ; A, Ganozan. Cheyne is
inclined to accept this statement, which he regards as derived from

[91] xxxvi. 30.

[92] So A. B. Davidson in Cambridge Bible, etc., by a slight
conjectural emendation; there have been many other suggested
corrections of the text. The Hebrew text as it stands would mean
literally "he knew their widows" (R.V. margin); A.V., R.V., by a
slight change, "he knew their (A.V. desolate) palaces."

[93] Ezek. xix. 5-7.

[94] 2 Kings xxiv. 8-17.

[95] 2 Kings xxv. 27-30; Jer. lii. 31-34.

[96] The Hebrew verbs are in 2 s. fem.; the person addressed is not
named, but from analogy she can only be the "Daughter of Zion," _i.e._
Jerusalem personified.

[97] Identified with the mountains of Moab.

[98] R.V. margin, with LXX., Vulg., and Syr.

[99] Milman's _Latin Christianity_, vi. 392.

[100] 1 Chron. iii. 17 mentions the "sons" of Jeconiah, and in Matt.
i. 12 Shealtiel is called his "son," but in Luke iii. 27 Shealtiel is
called the son of Neri.

                              CHAPTER VIII


                             xxiii., xxiv.

    "Woe unto the shepherds that destroy and scatter the sheep of My
    pasture!"--JER. xxiii. 1.

    "Of what avail is straw instead of grain?... Is not My word like
    fire, ... like a hammer that shattereth the rocks?"--JER. xxiii.
    28, 29.

The captivity of Jehoiachin and the deportation of the flower of the
people marked the opening of the last scene in the tragedy of Judah and
of a new period in the ministry of Jeremiah. These events, together with
the accession of Zedekiah as Nebuchadnezzar's nominee, very largely
altered the state of affairs in Jerusalem. And yet the two main features
of the situation were unchanged--the people and the government
persistently disregarded Jeremiah's exhortations. "Neither Zedekiah, nor
his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of
Jehovah which He spake by the prophet Jeremiah."[101] They would not
obey the will of Jehovah as to their life and worship, and they would
not submit to Nebuchadnezzar. "Zedekiah ... did evil in the sight of
Jehovah, according to all that Jehoiakim had done; ... and Zedekiah
rebelled against the king of Babylon."[102]

It is remarkable that though Jeremiah consistently urged submission to
Babylon, the various arrangements made by Nebuchadnezzar did very little
to improve the prophet's position or increase his influence. The
Chaldean king may have seemed ungrateful only because he was ignorant of
the services rendered to him--Jeremiah would not enter into direct and
personal co-operation with the enemy of his country, even with him whom
Jehovah had appointed to be the scourge of His disobedient people--but
the Chaldean policy served Nebuchadnezzar as little as it profited
Jeremiah. Jehoiakim, in spite of his forced submission, remained the
able and determined foe of his suzerain, and Zedekiah, to the best of
his very limited ability, followed his predecessor's example.

Zedekiah was uncle of Jehoiachin, half-brother of Jehoiakim, and own
brother to Jehoahaz.[103] Possibly the two brothers owed their bias
against Jeremiah and his teaching to their mother, Josiah's wife
Hamutal, the daughter of another Jeremiah, the Libnite. Ezekiel thus
describes the appointment of the new king: "The king of Babylon ...
took one of the seed royal, and made a covenant with him; he also put
him under an oath, and took away the mighty of the land: that the
kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by
keeping of his covenant it might stand."[104] Apparently
Nebuchadnezzar was careful to choose a feeble prince for his "base
kingdom"; all that we read of Zedekiah suggests that he was weak and
incapable. Henceforth the sovereign counted for little in the
internal struggles of the tottering state. Josiah had firmly
maintained the religious policy of Jeremiah, and Jehoiakim, as firmly,
the opposite policy; but Zedekiah had neither the strength nor the
firmness to enforce a consistent policy and to make one party
permanently dominant. Jeremiah and his enemies were left to fight it
out amongst themselves, so that now their antagonism grew more bitter
and pronounced than during any other reign.

But whatever advantage the prophet might derive from the weakness of
the sovereign was more than counterbalanced by the recent deportation.
In selecting the captives Nebuchadnezzar had sought merely to weaken
Judah by carrying away every one who would have been an element of
strength to the "base kingdom." Perhaps he rightly believed that
neither the prudence of the wise nor the honour of the virtuous would
overcome their patriotic hatred of subjection; weakness alone would
guarantee the obedience of Judah. He forgot that even weakness is apt
to be foolhardy--when there is no immediate prospect of penalty.

One result of his policy was that the enemies and friends of Jeremiah
were carried away indiscriminately; there was no attempt to leave
behind those who might have counselled submission to Babylon as the
acceptance of a Divine judgment, and thus have helped to keep Judah
loyal to its foreign master. On the contrary Jeremiah's disciples were
chiefly thoughtful and honourable men, and Nebuchadnezzar's policy in
taking away "the mighty of the land" bereft the prophet of many
friends and supporters, amongst them his disciple Ezekiel and
doubtless a large class of whom Daniel and his three friends might be
taken as types. When Jeremiah characterises the captives as "good
figs" and those left behind as "bad figs,"[105] and the judgment is
confirmed and amplified by Ezekiel,[106] we may be sure that most of
the prophet's adherents were in exile.

We have already had occasion to compare the changes in the religious
policy of the Jewish government to the alternations of Protestant and
Romanist sovereigns among the Tudors; but no Tudor was as feeble as
Zedekiah. He may rather be compared to Charles IX. of France, helpless
between the Huguenots and the League. Only the Jewish factions were
less numerous, less evenly balanced; and by the speedy advance of
Nebuchadnezzar civil dissensions were merged in national ruin.

The opening years of the new reign passed in nominal allegiance to
Babylon. Jeremiah's influence would be used to induce the vassal king to
observe the covenant he had entered into and to be faithful to his oath
to Nebuchadnezzar. On the other hand a crowd of "patriotic" prophets
urged Zedekiah to set up once more the standard of national
independence, to "come to the help of the Lord against the mighty." Let
us then briefly consider Jeremiah's polemic against the princes,
prophets, and priests of his people. While Ezekiel in a celebrated
chapter[107] denounces the idolatry of the princes, priests, and women
of Judah, their worship of creeping things and abominable beasts, their
weeping for Tammuz, their adoration of the sun, Jeremiah is chiefly
concerned with the perverse policy of the government and the support it
receives from priests and prophets, who profess to speak in the name of
Jehovah. Jeremiah does not utter against Zedekiah any formal judgment
like those on his three predecessors. Perhaps the prophet did not regard
this impotent sovereign as the responsible representative of the state,
and when the long-expected catastrophe at last befell the doomed people,
neither Zedekiah nor his doings distracted men's attention from their
own personal sufferings and patriotic regrets. At the point where a
paragraph on Zedekiah would naturally have followed that on Jehoiachin,
we have by way of summary and conclusion to the previous sections a
brief denunciation of the shepherds of Israel.

"Woe unto the shepherds that destroy and scatter the sheep of My
pasture!... Ye have scattered My flock, and driven them away, and have
not cared for them; behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your

These "shepherds" are primarily the kings, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and
Jehoiachin, who have been condemned by name in the previous chapter,
together with the unhappy Zedekiah, who is too insignificant to be
mentioned. But the term shepherds will also include the ruling and
influential classes of which the king was the leading representative.

The image is a familiar one in the Old Testament and is found in the
oldest literature of Israel,[108] but the denunciation of the rulers of
Judah as unfaithful shepherds is characteristic of Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
and one of the prophecies appended to the Book of Zechariah.[109]
Ezekiel xxxiv. expands this figure and enforces its lessons:--

          "Woe unto the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves!
           Should not the shepherds feed the sheep? Ye eat the fat, and
                    ye clothe you with the wool.
           Ye kill the fatlings; but ye feed not the sheep.
           The diseased have ye not strengthened,
           Neither have ye healed the sick,
           Neither have ye bound up the bruised,
           Neither have ye brought back again that which was driven
           Neither have ye sought for that which was lost,
           But your rule over them has been harsh and violent.
           And for want of a shepherd, they were scattered,
           And became food for every beast of the field."[110]

So in Zechariah ix., etc., Jehovah's anger is kindled against the
shepherds, because they do not pity His flock.[111] Elsewhere[112]
Jeremiah speaks of the kings of all nations as shepherds, and pronounces
against them also a like doom. All these passages illustrate the concern
of the prophets for good government. They were neither Pharisees nor
formalists; their religious ideals were broad and wholesome. Doubtless
the elect remnant will endure through all conditions of society; but the
Kingdom of God was not meant to be a pure Church in a rotten state. This
present evil world is no manure heap to fatten the growth of holiness:
it is rather a mass for the saints to leaven.

Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel turn from the unfaithful shepherds whose
"hungry sheep look up and are not fed" to the true King of Israel, the
"Shepherd of Israel that led Joseph like a flock, and dwelt between
the Cherubim." In the days of the Restoration He will raise up
faithful shepherds, and over them a righteous Branch, the real Jehovah
Zidqenu, instead of the sapless twig who disgraced the name
"Zedekiah." Similarly Ezekiel promises that God will set up one
shepherd over His people, "even My servant David." The pastoral care
of Jehovah for His people is most tenderly and beautifully set forth
in the twenty-third Psalm. Our Lord, the root and the offspring of
David, claims to be the fulfilment of ancient prophecy when He calls
Himself "the Good Shepherd." The words of Christ and of the Psalmist
receive new force and fuller meaning when we contrast their pictures
of the true Shepherd with the portraits of the Jewish kings drawn by
the prophets. Moreover the history of this metaphor warns us against
ignoring the organic life of the Christian society, the Church, in our
concern for the spiritual life of the individual. As Sir Thomas More
said, in applying this figure to Henry VIII., "Of the multitude of
sheep cometh the name of a shepherd."[113] A shepherd implies not
merely a sheep, but a flock; His relation to each member is tender and
personal, but He bestows blessings and requires service in fellowship
with the Family of God.

By a natural sequence the denunciation of the unfaithful shepherds is
followed by a similar utterance "concerning the prophets." It is true
that the prophets are not spoken of as shepherds; and Milton's use of
the figure in _Lycidas_ suggests the New Testament rather than the
Old. Yet the prophets had a large share in guiding the destinies of
Israel in politics as well as in religion, and having passed sentence
on the shepherds--the kings and princes--Jeremiah turns to the
ecclesiastics, chiefly, as the heading implies, to the prophets. The
priests indeed do not escape, but Jeremiah seems to feel that they are
adequately dealt with in two or three casual references. We use the
term "ecclesiastics" advisedly; the prophets were now a large
professional class, more important and even more clerical than the
priests. The prophets and priests together were the clergy of Israel.
They claimed to be devoted servants of Jehovah, and for the most part
the claim was made in all sincerity; but they misunderstood His
character, and mistook for Divine inspiration the suggestions of their
own prejudice and self-will.

Jeremiah's indictment against them has various counts. He accuses them
of speaking without authority, and also of time-serving, plagiarism,
and cant.

First, then, as to their unauthorised utterances: Jeremiah finds them
guilty of an unholy licence in prophesying, a distorted caricature of
that "liberty of prophesying" which is the prerogative of God's
accredited ambassadors.

          "Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto
           They make fools of you:
           The visions which they declare are from their own hearts,
           And not from the mouth of Jehovah.

                 *       *       *       *       *

           Who hath stood in the council of Jehovah,
           To perceive and hear His word?
           Who hath marked His word and heard it?
           I sent not the prophets--yet they ran;
           I spake not unto them--yet they prophesied."

The evils which Jeremiah describes are such as will always be found in
any large professional class. To use modern terms--in the Church, as
in every profession, there will be men who are not qualified for the
vocation which they follow. They are indeed not called to their
vocation; they "follow," but do not overtake it. They are not sent of
God, yet they run; they have no Divine message, yet they preach. They
have never stood in the council of Jehovah; they might perhaps have
gathered up scraps of the King's purposes from His true councillors;
but when they had opportunity they neither "marked nor heard"; and yet
they discourse concerning heavenly things with much importance and
assurance. But their inspiration, at its best, has no deeper or richer
source than their own shallow selves; their visions are the mere
product of their own imaginations. Strangers to the true fellowship,
their spirit is not "a well of water springing up unto eternal life,"
but a stagnant pool. And, unless the judgment and mercy of God
intervene, that pool will in the end be fed from a fountain whose
bitter waters are earthly, sensual, devilish.

We are always reluctant to speak of ancient prophecy or modern
preaching as a "profession." We may gladly dispense with the word, if
we do not thereby ignore the truth which it inaccurately expresses.
Men lived by prophecy, as, with Apostolic sanction, men live by "the
gospel." They were expected, as ministers are now, though in a less
degree, to justify their claims to an income and an official status,
by discharging religious functions so as to secure the approval of the
people or the authorities. Then, as now, the prophet's reputation,
influence, and social standing, probably even his income, depended
upon the amount of visible success that he could achieve.

In view of such facts, it is futile to ask men of the world not to
speak of the clerical life as a profession. They discern no ethical
difference between a curate's dreams of a bishopric and the
aspirations of a junior barrister to the woolsack. Probably a refusal
to recognise the element common to the ministry with law, medicine,
and other professions, injures both the Church and its servants. One
peculiar difficulty and most insidious temptation of the Christian
ministry consists in its mingled resemblances to and differences from
the other professions. The minister has to work under similar worldly
conditions, and yet to control those conditions by the indwelling
power of the Spirit. He has to "run," it may be twice or even three
times a week, whether he be sent or no: how can he always preach only
that which God has taught him? He is consciously dependent upon the
exercise of his memory, his intellect, his fancy: how can he avoid
speaking "the visions of his own heart"? The Church can never allow
its ministers to regard themselves as mere professional teachers and
lecturers, and yet if they claim to be more, must they not often fall
under Jeremiah's condemnation?

It is one of those practical dilemmas which delight casuists and
distress honest and earnest servants of God. In the early Christian
centuries similar difficulties peopled the Egyptian and Syrian deserts
with ascetics, who had given up the world as a hopeless riddle. A full
discussion of the problem would lead us too far away from the exposition
of Jeremiah, and we will only venture to make two suggestions.

The necessity, which most ministers are under, of "living by the
gospel," may promote their own spiritual life and add to their
usefulness. It corrects and reduces spiritual pride, and helps them to
understand and sympathise with their lay brethren, most of whom are
subject to a similar trial.

Secondly, as a minister feels the ceaseless pressure of strong
temptation to speak from and live for himself--his lower, egotistic
self--he will be correspondingly driven to a more entire and persistent
surrender to God. The infinite fulness and variety of Revelation is
expressed by the manifold gifts and experience of the prophets. If only
the prophet be surrendered to the Spirit, then what is most
characteristic of himself may become the most forcible expression of his
message. His constant prayer will be that he may have the child's heart
and may never resist the Holy Ghost, that no personal interest or
prejudice, no bias of training or tradition or current opinion, may dull
his hearing when he stands in the council of the Lord, or betray him
into uttering for Christ's gospel the suggestions of his own self-will
or the mere watchwords of his ecclesiastical faction.

But to return to the ecclesiastics who had stirred Jeremiah's wrath.
The professional prophets naturally adapted their words to the itching
ears of their clients. They were not only officious, but also
time-serving. Had they been true prophets, they would have dealt
faithfully with Judah; they would have sought to convince the people
of sin, and to lead them to repentance; they would thus have given
them yet another opportunity of salvation.

          "If they had stood in My council,
           They would have caused My people to hear My words;
           They would have turned them from their evil way,
           And from the evil of their doings."

But now:--

          "They walk in lies and strengthen the hands of evildoers,
           That no one may turn away from his sin.

                 *       *       *       *       *

           They say continually unto them that despise the word of
           Ye shall have peace;
           And unto every one that walketh in the stubbornness of his
                    heart they say,
           No evil shall come upon you."

Unfortunately, when prophecy becomes professional in the lowest sense
of the word, it is governed by commercial principles. A sufficiently
imperious demand calls forth an abundant supply. A sovereign can "tune
the pulpits"; and a ruling race can obtain from its clergy formal
ecclesiastical sanction for such "domestic institutions" as slavery.
When evildoers grow numerous and powerful, there will always be
prophets to strengthen their hands and encourage them not to turn away
from their sin. But to give the lie to these false prophets God sends
Jeremiahs, who are often branded as heretics and schismatics,
turbulent fellows who turn the world upside-down.

The self-important, self-seeking spirit leads further to the sin of

          "Therefore I am against the prophets, is the utterance of
           Who steal My word from one another."

The sin of plagiarism is impossible to the true prophet, partly
because there are no rights of private property in the word of
Jehovah. The Old Testament writers make free use of the works of their
predecessors. For instance, Isaiah ii. 2-4 is almost identical with
Micah iv. 1-3; yet neither author acknowledges his indebtedness to the
other or to any third prophet.[115] Uriah ben Shemaiah prophesied
according to all the words of Jeremiah,[116] who himself owes much to
Hosea, whom he never mentions. Yet he was not conscious of stealing
from his predecessor, and he would have brought no such charge against
Isaiah or Micah or Uriah. In the New Testament 2 Peter and Jude have
so much in common that one must have used the other without
acknowledgment. Yet the Church has not, on that ground, excluded
either Epistle from the Canon. In the goodly fellowship of the
prophets and the glorious company of the apostles no man says that the
things which he utters are his own. But the mere hireling has no part
in the spiritual communism wherein each may possess all things because
he claims nothing. When a prophet ceases to be the messenger of God,
and sinks into the mercenary purveyor of his own clever sayings and
brilliant fancies, then he is tempted to become a clerical Autolycus,
"a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles." Modern ideas furnish a curious
parallel to Jeremiah's indifference to the borrowings of the true
prophet, and his scorn of the literary pilferings of the false. We
hear only too often of stolen sermons, but no one complains of
plagiarism in prayers. Doubtless among these false prophets charges of
plagiarism were bandied to and fro with much personal acrimony. But it
is interesting to notice that Jeremiah is not denouncing an injury
done to himself; he does not accuse them of thieving from him, but
from one another. Probably assurance and lust of praise and power
would have overcome any awe they felt for Jeremiah. He was only free
from their depredations, because--from their point of view--his words
were not worth stealing. There was nothing to be gained by repeating
his stern denunciations, and even his promises were not exactly suited
to the popular taste.

These prophets were prepared to cater for the average religious
appetite in the most approved fashion--in other words, they were
masters of cant. Their office had been consecrated by the work of true
men of God like Elijah and Isaiah. They themselves claimed to stand in
the genuine prophetic succession, and to inherit the reverence felt
for their great predecessors, quoting their inspired utterances and
adopting their weighty phrases. As Jeremiah's contemporaries listened
to one of their favourite orators, they were soothed by his assurances
of Divine favour and protection, and their confidence in the speaker
was confirmed by the frequent sound of familiar formulæ in his
unctuous sentences. These had the true ring; they were redolent of
sound doctrine, of what popular tradition regarded as orthodox.

The solemn attestation NE'UM YAHWE, "It is the utterance of Jehovah,"
is continually appended to prophecies, almost as if it were the
sign-manual of the Almighty. Isaiah and other prophets frequently use
the term MASSA (A.V., R.V., "burden") as a title, especially for
prophecies concerning neighbouring nations. The ancient records loved
to tell how Jehovah revealed Himself to the patriarchs in dreams.
Jeremiah's rivals included dreams in their clerical apparatus:--

          "Behold, I am against them that prophesy lying dreams--
               _Ne'um Yahwe_--
           And tell them, and lead astray My people
           By their lies and their rodomontade;
           It was not I who sent or commanded them,
           Neither shall they profit this people at all,
               _Ne'um Yahwe_"

These prophets "thought to cause the Lord's people to forget His name,
as their fathers forgot His name for Baal, by their dreams which they
told one another."

Moreover they could glibly repeat the sacred phrases as part of their
professional jargon:--

          "Behold, I am against the prophets,
           It is the utterance of Jehovah (_Ne'um Yahwe_),
           That use their tongues
           To utter utterances (_Wayyin'amu Ne'um_)."

"To utter utterances"--the prophets uttered them, not Jehovah. These
sham oracles were due to no Diviner source than the imagination of
foolish hearts. But for Jeremiah's grim earnestness, the last clause
would be almost blasphemous. It is virtually a caricature of the most
solemn formula of ancient Hebrew religion. But this was really
degraded when it was used to obtain credence for the lies which men
prophesied out of the deceit of their own heart. Jeremiah's seeming
irreverence was the most forcible way of bringing this home to his
hearers. There are profanations of the most sacred things which can
scarcely be spoken of without an apparent breach of the Third
Commandment. The most awful taking in vain of the name of the Lord God
is not heard among the publicans and sinners, but in pulpits and on
the platforms of religious meetings.

But these prophets and their clients had a special fondness for the
phrase "The burden of Jehovah," and their unctuous use of it most
especially provoked Jeremiah's indignation:--

          "When this people, priest, or prophet shall ask thee,
           What is the burden of Jehovah?
           Then say unto them, Ye are the burden.[117]
           But I will cast you off, _Ne'um Yahwe_.
           If priest or prophet or people shall say, The burden of
           I will punish that man and his house.
           And ye shall say to one another,
           What hath Jehovah answered? and, What hath Jehovah spoken?
           And ye shall no more make mention of the burden of Jehovah:
           For (if ye do) men's words shall become a burden to

                 *       *       *       *       *

           Thus shall ye inquire of a prophet,
           What hath Jehovah answered thee?
           What hath Jehovah spoken unto thee?
           But if ye say, The burden of Jehovah,
           Thus saith Jehovah: Because ye say this word, The burden of
           When I have sent unto you the command,
           Ye shall not say, The burden of Jehovah,
           Therefore I will assuredly take you up,
           And will cast away from before Me both you and the city which
                    I gave to you and to your fathers.
           I will bring upon you everlasting reproach
           And everlasting shame, that shall not be forgotten."

Jeremiah's insistence and vehemence speak for themselves. Their moral
is obvious, though for the most part unheeded. The most solemn
formulæ, hallowed by ancient and sacred associations, used by inspired
teachers as the vehicle of revealed truths, may be debased till they
become the very legend of Antichrist, blazoned on the _Vexilla Regis
Inferni_. They are like a motto of one of Charles's Paladins flaunted
by his unworthy descendants to give distinction to cruelty and vice.
The Church's line of march is strewn with such dishonoured relics of
her noblest champions. Even our Lord's own words have not escaped.
There is a fashion of discoursing upon "the gospel" which almost
tempts reverent Christians to wish they might never hear that word
again. Neither is this debasing of the moral currency confined to
religious phrases; almost every political and social watchword has
been similarly abused. One of the vilest tyrannies the world has ever
seen--the Reign of Terror--claimed to be an incarnation of "Liberty,
Equality, and Fraternity."

Yet the Bible, with that marvellous catholicity which lifts it so high
above the level of all other religious literature, not only records
Jeremiah's prohibition to use the term "Burden," but also tells us that
centuries later Malachi could still speak of "the burden of the word of
Jehovah." A great phrase that has been discredited by misuse may yet
recover itself; the tarnished and dishonoured sword of faith may be
baptised and burnished anew, and flame in the forefront of the holy war.

Jeremiah does not stand alone in his unfavourable estimate of the
professional prophets of Judah; a similar depreciation seems to be
implied by the words of Amos: "I am neither a prophet nor of the sons
of the prophets."[118] One of the unknown authors whose writings have
been included in the Book of Zechariah takes up the teaching of Amos
and Jeremiah and carries it a stage further:--

          "In that day (it is the utterance of Jehovah Sabaoth) I will
                    cut off the names of the idols from the land,
           They shall not be remembered any more;
           Also the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness
           Will I expel from the land.
           When any shall yet prophesy,
           His father and mother that begat him shall say unto him,
           Thou shalt not live, for thou speakest lies in the name of
           And his father and mother that begat him shall thrust him
                    through when he prophesieth.
           In that day every prophet when he prophesieth shall be
                    ashamed of his vision;
           Neither shall any wear a hairy mantle to deceive:
           He shall say, I am no prophet;
           I am a tiller of the ground,
           I was sold for a slave in my youth."[119]

No man with any self-respect would allow his fellows to dub him
prophet; slave was a less humiliating name. No family would endure the
disgrace of having a member who belonged to this despised caste;
parents would rather put their son to death than see him a prophet. To
such extremities may the spirit of time-serving and cant reduce a
national clergy. We are reminded of Latimer's words in his famous
sermon to Convocation in 1536: "All good men in all places accuse your
avarice, your exactions, your tyranny. I commanded you that ye should
feed my sheep, and ye earnestly feed yourselves from day to day,
wallowing in delights and idleness. I commanded you to teach my law;
you teach your own traditions, and seek your own glory."[120]

Over against their fluent and unctuous cant Jeremiah sets the terrible
reality of his Divine message. Compared to this, their sayings are like
chaff to the wheat; nay, this is too tame a figure--Jehovah's word is
like fire, like a hammer that shatters rocks. He says of himself:--

          "My heart within me is broken; all my bones shake:
           I am like a drunken man, like a man whom wine hath overcome,
           Because of Jehovah and His holy words."

Thus we have in chapter xxiii. a full and formal statement of the
controversy between Jeremiah and his brother-prophets. On the one
hand, self-seeking and self-assurance winning popularity by orthodox
phrases, traditional doctrine, and the prophesying of smooth things;
on the other hand, a man to whom the word of the Lord was like a fire
in his bones, who had surrendered prejudice and predilection that he
might himself become a hammer to shatter the Lord's enemies, a man
through whom God wrought so mightily that he himself reeled and
staggered with the blows of which he was the instrument.

The relation of the two parties was not unlike that of St. Paul and
his Corinthian adversaries: the prophet, like the Apostle, spoke "in
demonstration of the Spirit and of power"; he considered "not the word
of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is
not in word, but in power." In our next chapter we shall see the
practical working of this antagonism which we have here set forth.


[101] xxxvii. 2.

[102] 2 Kings xxiv. 18-20.

[103] 2 Chron. xxxvi. 10 makes Zedekiah the brother of Jehoiachin,
possibly using the word in the general sense of "relation." Zedekiah's
age shows that he cannot have been the son of Jehoiakim.

[104] Ezek. xvii. 13, 14.

[105] xxiv.

[106] vii.-xi.

[107] viii.

[108] Gen. xlix. 24, J. from older source. Micah v. 5.

[109] ix.-xi., xiii. 7-9.

[110] Ezek. xxxiv. 2-5.

[111] Zech. x. 3, xi. 5.

[112] xxv. 34-38.

[113] Froude, i. 205.

[114] LXX. See R.V. margin.

[115] Possibly, however, the insertion of this passage in one of the
books may have been the work of an editor, and we cannot be sure that,
in Jeremiah's time, collections entitled Isaiah and Micah both
included this section.

[116] xxvi. 20.

[117] So LXX. and modern editors: see Giesebrecht, _in loco_. R.V.
"What burden!"

[118] vii. 14; but cf. R.V.; "I was," etc.

[119] Zech. xiii. 2-5. Post-exilic, according to most critics
(Driver's _Introduction, in loco_).

[120] Froude, ii. 474.

                               CHAPTER IX


                            xxvii., xxviii.

    "Hear now, Hananiah; Jehovah hath not sent thee, but thou makest
    this people to trust in a lie."--JER. xxviii. 15.

The most conspicuous point at issue between Jeremiah and his opponents
was political rather than ecclesiastical. Jeremiah was anxious that
Zedekiah should keep faith with Nebuchadnezzar, and not involve Judah
in useless misery by another hopeless revolt. The prophets preached
the popular doctrine of an imminent Divine intervention to deliver
Judah from her oppressors. They devoted themselves to the easy task of
fanning patriotic enthusiasm, till the Jews were ready for any
enterprise, however reckless.

During the opening years of the new reign, Nebuchadnezzar's recent
capture of Jerusalem and the consequent wholesale deportation were
fresh in men's minds; fear of the Chaldeans together with the
influence of Jeremiah kept the government from any overt act of
rebellion. According to li. 59, the king even paid a visit to Babylon,
to do homage to his suzerain.

It was probably in the fourth year of his reign[121] that the
tributary Syrian states began to prepare for a united revolt against
Babylon. The Assyrian and Chaldean annals constantly mention such
combinations, which were formed and broken up and reformed with as
much ease and variety as patterns in a kaleidoscope. On the present
occasion the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Zidon sent their
ambassadors to Jerusalem to arrange with Zedekiah for concerted
action. But there were more important persons to deal with in that
city than Zedekiah. Doubtless the princes of Judah welcomed the
opportunity for a new revolt. But before the negotiations were very
far advanced, Jeremiah heard what was going on. By Divine command, he
made "bands and bars," _i.e._ yokes, for himself and for the
ambassadors of the allies, or possibly for them to carry home to their
masters. They received their answer, not from Zedekiah, but from the
true King of Israel, Jehovah Himself. They had come to solicit armed
assistance to deliver them from Babylon; they were sent back with
yokes to wear as a symbol of their entire and helpless subjection to
Nebuchadnezzar. This was the word of Jehovah:--

          "The nation and the kingdom that will not put its neck beneath
                    the yoke of the king of Babylon,
           That nation will I visit with sword and famine and pestilence
                    until I consume them by his hand."

The allied kings had been encouraged to revolt by oracles similar to
those uttered by the Jewish prophets in the name of Jehovah; but:--

          "As for you, hearken not to your prophets, diviners, dreams,
                    soothsayers and sorcerers,
           When they speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king
                    of Babylon.
           They prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your
           That I should drive you out, and that you should perish.
           But the nation that shall bring their neck under the yoke of
                    the king of Babylon, and serve him,
           That nation will I maintain in their own land (it is the
                    utterance of Jehovah), and they shall till it and
                    dwell in it."

When he had sent his message to the foreign envoys, Jeremiah addressed
an almost identical admonition to his own king. He bids him submit to
the Chaldean yoke, under the same penalties for disobedience--sword,
pestilence, and famine for himself and his people. He warns him also
against delusive promises of the prophets, especially in the matter of
the sacred vessels.

The popular doctrine of the inviolable sanctity of the Temple had
sustained a severe shock when Nebuchadnezzar carried off the sacred
vessels to Babylon. It was inconceivable that Jehovah would patiently
submit to so gross an indignity. In ancient days the Ark had plagued
its Philistine captors till they were only too thankful to be rid of
it. Later on a graphic narrative in the Book of Daniel told with what
swift vengeance God punished Belshazzar for his profane use of these
very vessels. So now patriotic prophets were convinced that the golden
candlestick, the bowls and chargers of gold and silver, would soon
return in triumph, like the Ark of old; and their return would be the
symbol of the final deliverance of Judah from Babylon. Naturally the
priests above all others would welcome such a prophecy, and would
industriously disseminate it. But Jeremiah "spake to the priests and
all this people, saying, Thus saith Jehovah:--

          "Hearken not unto the words of your prophets, which prophesy
                    unto you,
           Behold, the vessels of the house of Jehovah shall be brought
                    back from Babylon now speedily:
           For they prophesy a lie unto you."

How could Jehovah grant triumphant deliverance to a carnally minded
people who would not understand His Revelation, and did not discern
any essential difference between Him and Moloch and Baal?

          "Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon and live.
           Why should this city become a desolation?"

Possibly, however, even now, the Divine compassion might have spared
Jerusalem the agony and shame of her final siege and captivity. God
would not at once restore what was lost, but He might spare what was
still left. Jeremiah could not endorse the glowing promises of the
prophets, but he would unite with them to intercede for mercy upon the
remnant of Israel.

          "If they are prophets and the word of Jehovah is with them,
           Let them intercede with Jehovah Sabaoth, that the rest of the
                    vessels of the Temple, the Palace, and the City may
                    not go to Babylon."

The God of Israel was yet ready to welcome any beginning of true
repentance. Like the father of the Prodigal Son, He would meet His
people when they were on the way back to Him. Any stirring of filial
penitence would win an instant and gracious response.

We can scarcely suppose that this appeal by Jeremiah to his
brother-prophets was merely sarcastic and denunciatory. Passing
circumstances may have brought Jeremiah into friendly intercourse with
some of his opponents; personal contact may have begotten something
of mutual kindliness; and hence there arose a transient gleam of hope
that reconciliation and co-operation might still be possible. But it
was soon evident that the "patriotic" party would not renounce their
vain dreams; Judah must drink the cup of wrath to the dregs: the
pillars, the sea, the bases, the rest of the vessels left in Jerusalem
must also be carried to Babylon, and remain there till Jehovah should
visit the Jews and bring them back and restore them to their own land.

Thus did Jeremiah meet the attempt of the government to organise a
Syrian revolt against Babylon, and thus did he give the lie to the
promises of Divine blessing made by the prophets. In the face of his
utterances, it was difficult to maintain the popular enthusiasm
necessary to a successful revolt. In order to neutralise, if possible,
the impression made by Jeremiah, the government put forward one of
their prophetic supporters to deliver a counter-blast. The place and
the occasion were similar to those chosen by Jeremiah for his own
address to the people and for Baruch's reading of the roll--the court
of the Temple where the priests and "all the people" were assembled.
Jeremiah himself was there. Possibly it was a feast-day. The incident
came to be regarded as of special importance, and a distinct heading
is attached to it, specifying its exact date, "in the same year"--as
the incidents of the previous chapter--"in the beginning of the reign
of Zedekiah, in the fourth year, in the fifth month."

On such an occasion, Jeremiah's opponents would select as their
representative some striking personality, a man of high reputation for
ability and personal character. Such a man, apparently, they found in
Hananiah ben Azzur of Gibeon. Let us consider for a moment this
mouthpiece and champion of a great political and ecclesiastical party,
we might almost say of a National Government and a National Church. He
is never mentioned except in chapter xxviii., but what we read here is
sufficiently characteristic, and receives much light from the other
literature of the period. As Gibeon is assigned to the priests in
Joshua xxi. 17, it has been conjectured that, like Jeremiah himself,
Hananiah was a priest. The special stress laid on the sacred vessels
would be in accordance with this theory.

In our last chapter we expounded Jeremiah's description of his
prophetic contemporaries, as self-important and time-serving, guilty
of plagiarism and cant. Now from this dim, inarticulate crowd of
professional prophets, an individual steps for a moment into the light
of history and speaks with clearness and emphasis. Let us gaze at him,
and hear what he has to say.

If we could have been present at this scene immediately after a
careful study of chapter xxvii. even the appearance of Hananiah would
have caused us a shock of surprise--such as is sometimes experienced
by a devout student of Protestant literature on being introduced to a
live Jesuit, or by some budding secularist when he first makes the
personal acquaintance of a curate. We might possibly have discerned
something commonplace, some lack of depth and force in the man whose
faith was merely conventional; but we should have expected to read
"liar and hypocrite" in every line of his countenance, and we should
have seen nothing of the sort. Conscious of the enthusiastic support
of his fellow-countrymen and especially of his own order, charged--as
he believed--with a message of promise for Jerusalem, Hananiah's face
and bearing, as he came forward to address his sympathetic audience,
betrayed nothing unworthy of the high calling of a prophet. His words
had the true prophetic ring, he spoke with assured authority:--

          "Thus saith Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Israel,
           I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon."

His special object was to remove the unfavourable impression caused by
Jeremiah's contradiction of the promise concerning the sacred vessels.
Like Jeremiah, he meets this denial in the strongest and most
convincing fashion. He does not argue--he reiterates the promise in a
more definite form and with more emphatic asseveration. Like Jonah at
Nineveh, he ventures to fix an exact date in the immediate future for
the fulfilment of the prophecy. "Yet forty days," said Jonah, but the
next day he had to swallow his own words; and Hananiah's prophetic
chronology met with no better fate:--

"Within two full years will I bring again to this place all the
vessels of the Temple, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away."

The full significance of this promise is shown by the further

"And I will bring again to this place the king of Judah, Jeconiah ben
Jehoiakim, and all the captives of Judah that went to Babylon (it is
the utterance of Jehovah); for I will break the yoke of the king of

This bold challenge was promptly met:--

"The prophet Jeremiah said unto the prophet Hananiah before the
priests and all the people that stood in the Temple." Not "the true
prophet" and "the false prophet," not "the man of God" and "the
impostor," but simply "the prophet Jeremiah" and "the prophet
Hananiah." The audience discerned no obvious difference of status or
authority between the two--if anything the advantage lay with
Hananiah; they watched the scene as a modern churchman might regard a
discussion between ritualistic and evangelical bishops at a Church
Congress, only Hananiah was their ideal of a "good churchman." The
true parallel is not debates between atheists and the Christian
Evidence Society, or between missionaries and Brahmins, but
controversies like those between Arius and Athanasius, Jerome and
Rufinus, Cyril and Chrysostom.

These prophets, however, display a courtesy and self-restraint that
have, for the most part, been absent from Christian polemics.

"Jeremiah the prophet said, Amen: may Jehovah bring it to pass; may He
establish the words of thy prophecy, by bringing back again from Babylon
unto this place both the vessels of the Temple and all the captives."

With that entire sincerity which is the most consummate tact, Jeremiah
avows his sympathy with his opponents' patriotic aspirations, and
recognises that they were worthy of Hebrew prophets. But patriotic
aspirations were not a sufficient reason for claiming Divine authority
for a cheap optimism. Jeremiah's reflection upon the past had led him to
an entirely opposite philosophy of history. Behind Hananiah's words lay
the claim that the religious traditions of Israel and the teaching of
former prophets guaranteed the inviolability of the Temple and the Holy
City. Jeremiah appealed to their authority for his message of doom:--

"The ancient prophets who were our predecessors prophesied war and
calamity and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms."

It was almost a mark of the true prophet that he should be the herald
of disaster. The prophetical books of the Old Testament Canon fully
confirm this startling and unwelcome statement. Their main burden is
the ruin and misery that await Israel and its neighbours. The
presumption therefore was in favour of the prophet of evil, and
against the prophet of good. Jeremiah does not, of course, deny that
there had been, and might yet be, prophets of good. Indeed every
prophet, he himself included, announced some Divine promise, but:--

"The prophet which prophesieth of peace shall be known as truly sent
of Jehovah when his prophecy is fulfilled."

It seemed a fair reply to Hananiah's challenge. His prophecy of the
return of the sacred vessels and the exiles within two years was
intended to encourage Judah and its allies to persist in their revolt.
They would be at once victorious, and recover all and more than all
which they had lost. Under such circumstances Jeremiah's criterion of
"prophecies of peace" was eminently practical. "You are promised these
blessings within two years: very well, do not run the terrible risks
of a rebellion; keep quiet and see if the two years bring the
fulfilment of this prophecy--it is not long to wait." Hananiah might
fairly have replied that this fulfilment depended on Judah's faith and
loyalty to the Divine promise; and their faith and loyalty would be
best shown by rebelling against their oppressors. Jehovah promised
Canaan to the Hebrews of the Exodus, but their carcasses mouldered in
the desert because they had not courage enough to attack formidable
enemies. "Let us not," Hananiah might have said, "imitate their
cowardice, and thus share alike their unbelief and its penalty."

Neither Jeremiah's premises nor his conclusions would commend his
words to the audience, and he probably weakened his position by
leaving the high ground of authority and descending to argument.
Hananiah at any rate did not follow his example: he adheres to his
former method, and reiterates with renewed emphasis the promise which
his adversary had contradicted. Following Jeremiah in his use of the
parable in action, so common with Hebrew prophets, he turned the
symbol of the yoke against its author. As Zedekiah ben Chenaanah made
him horns of iron and prophesied to Ahab and Jehoshaphat, "Thus saith
Jehovah, With these shalt thou push the Syrians until thou have
consumed them,"[122] so now Hananiah took the yoke off Jeremiah's neck
and broke it before the assembled people and said:--

"Thus saith Jehovah, Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar
king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within two full years."

Naturally the promise is "for all nations"--not for Judah only, but
for the other allies.

"And the prophet Jeremiah went his way." For the moment Hananiah had
triumphed; he had had the last word, and Jeremiah was silenced. A public
debate before a partisan audience was not likely to issue in victory for
the truth. The situation may have even shaken his faith in himself and
his message; he may have been staggered for a moment by Hananiah's
apparent earnestness and conviction. He could not but remember that the
gloomy predictions of Isaiah's earlier ministry had been followed by the
glorious deliverance from Sennacherib. Possibly some similar sequel was
to follow his own denunciations. He betook himself anew to fellowship
with God, and awaited a fresh mandate from Jehovah.

"Then the word of Jehovah came unto Jeremiah, ... Go and tell
Hananiah: Thou hast broken wooden yokes; thou shalt make iron yokes in
their stead. For thus saith Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Israel: I have
put a yoke of iron upon the necks of all these nations, that they may
serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon."[123]

We are not told how long Jeremiah had to wait for this new message, or
under what circumstances it was delivered to Hananiah. Its symbolism
is obvious. When Jeremiah sent the yokes to the ambassadors of the
allies and exhorted Zedekiah to bring his neck under the yoke of
Nebuchadnezzar, they were required to accept the comparatively
tolerable servitude of tributaries. Their impatience of this minor
evil would expose them to the iron yoke of ruin and captivity.

Thus the prophet of evil received new Divine assurance of the abiding
truth of his message and of the reality of his own inspiration. The
same revelation convinced him that his opponent was either an impostor
or woefully deluded:--

"Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto the prophet Hananiah, Hear now,
Hananiah; Jehovah hath not sent thee, but thou makest this people to
trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith Jehovah: I will cast thee away
from on the face of the earth; this year thou shalt die, because thou
hast preached rebellion against Jehovah."

By a judgment not unmixed with mercy, Hananiah was not left to be
convicted of error or imposture, when the "two full years" should have
elapsed, and his glowing promises be seen to utterly fail. He also was
"taken away from the evil to come."

"So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh
month"--_i.e._ about two months after this incident. Such personal
judgments were most frequent in the case of kings, but were not
confined to them. Isaiah[124] left on record prophecies concerning the
appointment to the treasurership of Shebna and Eliakim; and elsewhere
Jeremiah himself pronounces the doom of Pashhur ben Immer, the
governor of the Temple; but the conclusion of this incident reminds us
most forcibly of the speedy execution of the apostolic sentence upon
Ananias and Sapphira.

The subjects of this and the preceding chapter raise some of the most
important questions as to authority in religion. On the one hand, on
the subjective side, how may a man be assured of the truth of his own
religious convictions; on the other hand, on the objective side, how
is the hearer to decide between conflicting claims on his faith and

The former question is raised as to the personal convictions of the
two prophets. We have ventured to assume that, however erring and
culpable Hananiah may have been, he yet had an honest faith in his
own inspiration and in the truth of his own prophecies. The conscious
impostor, unhappily, is not unknown either in ancient or modern
Churches; but we should not look for edification from the study of
this branch of morbid spiritual pathology. There were doubtless Jewish
counterparts to "Mr. Sludge the Medium" and to the more subtle and
plausible "Bishop Blougram"; but Hananiah was of a different type. The
evident respect felt for him by the people, Jeremiah's almost
deferential courtesy and temporary hesitation as to his rival's Divine
mission, do not suggest deliberate hypocrisy. Hananiah's "lie" was a
falsehood in fact but not in intention. The Divine message "Jehovah
hath not sent thee" was felt by Jeremiah to be no mere exposure of
what Hananiah had known all along, but to be a revelation to his
adversary as well as to himself.

The sweeping condemnation of the prophets in chapter xxiii. does not
exclude the possibility of Hananiah's honesty, any more than our
Lord's denunciation of the Pharisees as "devourers of widows' houses"
necessarily includes Gamaliel. In critical times, upright, earnest men
do not always espouse what subsequent ages hold to have been the cause
of truth. Sir Thomas More and Erasmus remained in the communion which
Luther renounced: Hampden and Falkland found themselves in opposite
camps. If such men erred in their choice between right and wrong, we
may often feel anxious as to our own decisions. When we find ourselves
in opposition to earnest and devoted men, we may well pause to
consider which is Jeremiah and which Hananiah.

The point at issue between these two prophets was exceedingly simple
and practical--whether Jehovah approved of the proposed revolt and
would reward it with success. Theological questions were only
indirectly and remotely involved. Yet, in face of his opponent's
persistent asseverations, Jeremiah--perhaps the greatest of the
prophets--went his way in silence to obtain fresh Divine confirmation
of his message. And the man who hesitated was right.

Two lessons immediately follow, one as to practice, the other as to
principle. It often happens that earnest servants of God find
themselves at variance, not on simple practical questions, but on the
history and criticism of the remote past, or on abstruse points of
transcendental theology. Before any one ventures to denounce his
adversary as a teacher of deadly error, let him, like Jeremiah, seek,
in humble and prayerful submission to the Holy Spirit, a Divine
mandate for such denunciation.

But again Jeremiah was willing to reconsider his position, not merely
because he himself might have been mistaken, but because altered
circumstances might have opened the way for a change in God's
dealings. It was a bare possibility, but we have seen elsewhere that
Jeremiah represents God as willing to make a gracious response to the
first movement of compunction. Prophecy was the declaration of His
will, and that will was not arbitrary, but at every moment and at
every point exactly adapted to conditions with which it had to deal.
Its principles were unchangeable and eternal; but prophecy was chiefly
an application of these principles to existing circumstances. The true
prophet always realised that his words were for men as they were when
he addressed them. Any moment might bring a change which would
abrogate or modify the old teaching, and require and receive a new
message. Like Jonah, he might have to proclaim ruin one day and
deliverance the next. A physician, even after the most careful
diagnosis, may have to recognise unsuspected symptoms which lead him
to cancel his prescription and write a new one. The sickening and
healing of the soul involve changes equally unexpected. The Bible does
not teach that inspiration, any more than science, has only one
treatment for each and every spiritual condition and contingency. The
true prophet's message is always a word in season.

We turn next to the objective question: How is the hearer to decide
between conflicting claims on his faith and obedience? We say the right
was with Jeremiah; but how were the Jews to know that? They were
addressed by two prophets, or, as we might say, two accredited
ecclesiastics of the national Church; each with apparent earnestness and
sincerity claimed to speak in the name of Jehovah and of the ancient
faith of Israel, and each flatly contradicted the other on an immediate
practical question, on which hung their individual fortunes and the
destinies of their country. What were the Jews to do? Which were they to
believe? It is the standing difficulty of all appeals to external
authority. You inquire of this supposed divine oracle and there issues
from it a babel of discordant voices, and each demands that you shall
unhesitatingly submit to its dictates on peril of eternal damnation; and
some have the audacity to claim obedience, because their teaching is
"_quod semper_, _quod ubique_, _quod ab omnibus_."

One simple and practical test is indeed suggested--the prophet of evil
is more likely to be truly inspired than the prophet of good; but
Jeremiah naturally does not claim that this is an invariable test.
Nor can he have meant that you can always believe prophecies of evil
without any hesitation, but that you are to put no faith in promises
until they are fulfilled. Yet it is not difficult to discern the truth
underlying Jeremiah's words. The prophet whose words are unpalatable
to his hearers is more likely to have a true inspiration than the man
who kindles their fancy with glowing pictures of an imminent
millennium. The divine message to a congregation of country squires is
more likely to be an exhortation to be just to their tenants than a
sermon on the duty of the labourer to his betters. A true prophet
addressing an audience of working men would perhaps deal with the
abuses of trades unions rather than with the sins of capitalists.

But this principle, which is necessarily of limited application, does
not go far to solve the great question of authority in religion, on
which Jeremiah gives us no further help.

There is, however, one obvious moral. No system of external authority,
whatever pains may be taken to secure authentic legitimacy, can
altogether release the individual from the responsibility of private
judgment. Unreserved faith in the idea of a Catholic Church is quite
consistent with much hesitation between the Anglican, Roman, and Greek
communions; and the most devoted Catholic may be called upon to choose
between rival anti-popes.

Ultimately the inspired teacher is only discerned by the inspired
hearer; it is the answer of the conscience that authenticates the
divine message.


[121] The close connection between xxvii. and xxviii. shows that the
date in xxviii. 1, "the fourth year of Zedekiah," covers both
chapters. "Jehoiakim" in xxvii. 1 is a misreading for "Zedekiah": see
R.V. margin.

[122] 1 Kings xxii. 11.

[123] The rest of this verse has apparently been inserted from xxvii.
6 by a scribe. It is omitted by the LXX.

[124] xxii. 15-25.

                               CHAPTER X



    "Jehovah make thee like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of
    Babylon roasted in the fire."--JER. xxix. 22.

Nothing further is said about the proposed revolt, so that Jeremiah's
vigorous protest seems to have been successful. In any case, unless
irrevocable steps had been taken, the enterprise could hardly have
survived the death of its advocate, Hananiah. Accordingly Zedekiah
sent an embassy to Babylon, charged doubtless with plausible
explanations and profuse professions of loyalty and devotion. The
envoys were Elasah ben Shaphan and Gemariah ben Hilkiah. Shaphan and
Hilkiah were almost certainly the scribe and high priest who
discovered Deuteronomy in the eighteenth year of Josiah, and Elasah
was the brother of Ahikam ben Shaphan, who protected Jeremiah in the
fourth year of Jehoiakim, and of Gemariah ben Shaphan, in whose
chamber Baruch read the roll, and who protested against its
destruction. Probably Elasah and Gemariah were adherents of Jeremiah,
and the fact of the embassy, as well as the choice of ambassadors,
suggests that, for the moment, Zedekiah was acting under the influence
of the prophet. Jeremiah took the opportunity of sending a letter to
the exiles at Babylon. Hananiah had his allies in Chaldea: Ahab ben
Kolaiah, Zedekiah ben Maaseiah, and Shemaiah the Nehelamite, with
other prophets, diviners, and dreamers, had imitated their brethren in
Judah; they had prophesied without being sent and had caused the
people to believe a lie. We are not expressly told what they
prophesied, but the narrative takes for granted that they, like
Hananiah, promised the exiles a speedy return to their native land.
Such teaching naturally met with much acceptance, the people
congratulating themselves because, as they supposed, "Jehovah hath
raised us up prophets in Babylon." The presence of prophets among them
was received as a welcome proof that Jehovah had not deserted His
people in their house of bondage.

Thus when Jeremiah had confounded his opponents in Jerusalem he had
still to deal with their friends in Babylon. Here again the issue was
one of immediate practical importance. In Chaldea as at Jerusalem the
prediction that the exiles would immediately return was intended to
kindle the proposed revolt. The Jews at Babylon were virtually warned to
hold themselves in readiness to take advantage of any success of the
Syrian rebels, and, if opportunity offered, to render them assistance.
In those days information travelled slowly, and there was some danger
lest the captives should be betrayed into acts of disloyalty, even after
the Jewish government had given up any present intention of revolting
against Nebuchadnezzar. Such disloyalty might have involved their entire
destruction. Both Zedekiah and Jeremiah would be anxious to inform them
at once that they must refrain from any plots against their Chaldean
masters. Moreover the prospect of an immediate return had very much the
same effect upon these Jews as the expectation of Christ's Second Coming
had upon the primitive Church at Thessalonica. It made them restless and
disorderly. They could not settle to any regular work, but became
busybodies--wasting their time over the glowing promises of their
popular preachers, and whispering to one another wild rumours of
successful revolts in Syria; or were even more dangerously occupied in
planning conspiracies against their conquerors.

Jeremiah's letter sought to bring about a better state of mind. It is
addressed to the elders, priests, prophets, and people of the
Captivity. The enumeration reminds us how thoroughly the exiled
community reproduced the society of the ancient Jewish state--there
was already a miniature Judah in Chaldea, the first of those Israels
of the Dispersion which have since covered the face of the earth.

This is Jehovah's message by His prophet:--

          "Build houses and dwell in them;
           Plant gardens and eat the fruit thereof;
           Marry and beget sons and daughters;
           Marry your sons and daughters,
           That they may bear sons and daughters,
           That ye may multiply there and not grow few.
           Seek the peace of the city whither I have sent you into
           Pray for it unto Jehovah;
           For in its peace, ye shall have peace."

There was to be no immediate return; their captivity would last long
enough to make it worth their while to build houses and plant gardens.
For the present they were to regard Babylon as their home. The
prospect of restoration to Judah was too distant to make any practical
difference to their conduct of ordinary business. The concluding
command to "seek the peace of Babylon" is a distinct warning against
engaging in plots, which could only ruin the conspirators. There is an
interesting difference between these exhortations and those addressed
by Paul to his converts in the first century. He never counsels them
to marry, but rather recommends celibacy as more expedient for the
present necessity. Apparently life was more anxious and harassed for
the early Christians than for the Jews in Babylon. The return to
Canaan was to these exiles what the millennium and the Second Advent
were to the primitive Church. Jeremiah having bidden his
fellow-countrymen not to be agitated by supposing that this
much-longed event might come at any moment, fortifies their faith and
patience by a promise that it should not be delayed indefinitely.

          "When ye have fulfilled seventy years in Babylon I will visit
           And will perform for you My gracious promise to bring you
                    back to this place."[125]

Seventy is obviously a round number. Moreover the constant use of
seven and its multiples in sacred symbolism forbids us to understand
the prophecy as an exact chronological statement.

We should adequately express the prophet's meaning by translating "in
about two generations." We need not waste time and trouble in
discovering or inventing two dates exactly separated by seventy years,
one of which will serve for the beginning and the other for the end of
the Captivity. The interval between the destruction of Jerusalem and the
Return was fifty years (B.C. 586-536), but as our passage refers more
immediately to the prospects of those already in exile, we should obtain
an interval of sixty-five years from the deportation of Jehoiachin and
his companions in B.C. 601. But there can be no question of
approximation, however close. Either the "seventy years" merely stands
for a comparatively long period, or it is exact. We do not save the
inspiration of a date by showing that it is only five years wrong, and
not twenty. For an inspired date must be absolutely accurate; a mistake
of a second in such a case would be as fatal as a mistake of a century.

Israel's hope is guaranteed by God's self-knowledge of His gracious

          "I know the purposes which I purpose concerning you, is the
                    utterance of Jehovah,
           Purposes of peace and not of evil, to give you hope for the
                    days to come."

In the former clause "I" is emphatic in both places, and the phrase is
parallel to the familiar formula "by Myself have I sworn, saith
Jehovah." The future of Israel was guaranteed by the divine
consistency. Jehovah, to use a colloquial phrase, knew His own mind.
His everlasting purpose for the Chosen People could not be set aside.
"Did God cast off His people? God forbid."

Yet this persistent purpose is not fulfilled without reference to
character and conduct:--

          "Ye shall call upon Me, and come and pray unto Me,
             And I will hearken unto you.
           Ye shall seek Me, and find Me,
             Because ye seek Me with all your heart.
           I will be found of you--it is the utterance of Jehovah.

           I will bring back your captivity, and will gather you from
                    all nations and places whither I have scattered
                    you--it is the utterance of Jehovah.
           I will bring you back to this place whence I sent you away to

As in the previous chapter, Jeremiah concludes with a personal
judgment upon those prophets who had been so acceptable to the exiles.
If verse 23 is to be understood literally, Ahab and Zedekiah had not
only spoken without authority in the name of Jehovah, but had also
been guilty of gross immorality. Their punishment was to be more
terrible than that of Hananiah. They had incited the exiles to revolt
by predicting the imminent ruin of Nebuchadnezzar. Possibly the Jewish
king proposed to make his own peace by betraying his agents, after the
manner of our own Elizabeth and other sovereigns.

They were to be given over to the terrible vengeance which a Chaldean
king would naturally take on such offenders, and would be publicly
roasted alive, so that the malice of him who desired to curse his
enemy might find vent in such words as:--

"Jehovah make thee like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon
roasted alive."

We are not told whether this prophecy was fulfilled, but it is by no
means unlikely. The Assyrian king Assurbanipal says, in one of his
inscriptions concerning a viceroy of Babylon who had revolted, that
Assur and the other gods "in the fierce burning fire they threw him
and destroyed his life"--possibly through the agency of Assurbanipal's
servants.[127] One of the seven brethren who were tortured to death in
the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes is said to have been "fried in
the pan."[128] Christian hagiology commemorates St. Lawrence and many
other martyrs, who suffered similar torments. Such punishments
remained part of criminal procedure until a comparatively recent date;
they are still sometimes inflicted by lynch law in the United States,
and have been defended even by Christian ministers.

Jeremiah's letter caused great excitement and indignation among the
exiles. We have no rejoinder from Ahab and Zedekiah; probably they
were not in a position to make any. But Shemaiah the Nehelamite tried
to make trouble for Jeremiah at Jerusalem. He, in his turn, wrote
letters to "all the people at Jerusalem and to the priest Zephaniah
ben Maaseiah and to all the priests" to this effect:--

"Jehovah hath made thee priest in the room of Jehoiada the priest, to
exercise supervision over the Temple, and to deal with any mad fanatic
who puts himself forward to prophesy, by placing him in the stocks and
the collar. Why then hast thou not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth, who
puts himself forward to prophesy unto you? Consequently he has sent
unto us at Babylon: It (your captivity) will be long; build houses and
dwell in them, plant gardens and eat the fruit thereof."

Confidence in a speedy return had already been exalted into a cardinal
article of the exiles' faith, and Shemaiah claims that any one who
denied this comfortable doctrine must be _ipso facto_ a dangerous and
deluded fanatic, needing to be placed under strict restraint. This
letter travelled to Jerusalem with the returning embassy, and was duly
delivered to Zephaniah. Zephaniah is spoken of in the historical
section common to Kings and Jeremiah as "the second priest,"[129]
Seraiah being the High Priest; like Pashhur ben Immer, he seems to
have been the governor of the Temple. He was evidently well disposed
to Jeremiah, to whom Zedekiah twice sent him on important missions. On
the present occasion, instead of acting upon the suggestions made by
Shemaiah, he read the letter to Jeremiah, in order that the latter
might have an opportunity of dealing with it.

Jeremiah was divinely instructed to reply to Shemaiah, charging him,
in his turn, with being a man who put himself forward to prophesy
without any commission from Jehovah, and who thus deluded his hearers
into belief in falsehoods. Personal sentence is passed upon him, as
upon Hananiah, Ahab, and Zedekiah; no son of his shall be reckoned
amongst God's people or see the prosperity which they shall hereafter
enjoy. The words are obscure: it is said that Jehovah will "visit
Shemaiah and his seed," so that it cannot mean that he will be
childless; but it is further said that "he shall not have a man to
abide amongst this people." It is apparently a sentence of
excommunication against Shemaiah and his family.

Here the episode abruptly ends. We are not told whether the letter was
sent, or how it was received, or whether it was answered. We gather
that, here also, the last word rested with Jeremiah, and that at this
point his influence became dominant both at Jerusalem and at Babylon,
and that King Zedekiah himself submitted to his guidance.

Chapters xxviii., xxix., deepen the impression made by other sections
of Jeremiah's intolerance and personal bitterness towards his
opponents. He seems to speak of the roasting alive of the prophets at
Babylon with something like grim satisfaction, and we are tempted to
think of Torquemada and Bishop Bonner. But we must remember that the
stake, as we have already said, has scarcely yet ceased to be an
ordinary criminal punishment, and that, after centuries of
Christianity, More and Cranmer, Luther and Calvin, had hardly any more
tenderness for their ecclesiastical opponents than Jeremiah.

Indeed the Church is only beginning to be ashamed of the complacency
with which she has contemplated the fiery torments of hell as the
eternal destiny of unrepentant sinners. One of the most tolerant and
catholic of our religious teachers has written: "If the unlucky
malefactor, who in mere brutality of ignorance or narrowness of nature
or of culture has wronged his neighbour, excite our anger, how much
deeper should be our indignation when intellect and eloquence are
abused to selfish purposes, when studious leisure and learning and
thought turn traitors to the cause of human well-being and the wells
of a nation's moral life are poisoned."[130] The deduction is obvious:
society feels constrained to hang or burn "the unlucky malefactor";
consequently such punishments are, if anything, too merciful for the
false prophet. Moreover the teaching which Jeremiah denounced was no
mere dogmatism about abstruse philosophical and theological
abstractions. Like the Jesuit propaganda under Elizabeth, it was more
immediately concerned with politics than with religion. We are bound
to be indignant with a man, gifted in exploiting the emotions of his
docile audience, who wins the confidence and arouses the enthusiasm of
his hearers, only to entice them into hopeless and foolhardy ventures.

And yet we are brought back to the old difficulty, how are we to know
the false prophet? He has neither horns nor hoofs, his tie may be as
white and his coat as long as those of the true messenger of God.
Again, Jeremiah's method affords us some practical guidance. He does
not himself order and superintend the punishment of false prophets; he
merely announces a divine judgment, which Jehovah Himself is to
execute. He does not condemn men by the code of any Church, but each
sentence is a direct and special revelation from Jehovah. How many
sentences would have been passed upon heretics, if their accusers and
judges had waited for a similar sanction?


[125] Doubts have been expressed as to whether this verse originally
formed part of Jeremiah's letter, or was ever written by him; but in
view of his numerous references to a coming restoration those doubts
are unnecessary.

[126] The Hebrew Text inserts a paragraph (vv. 16-20) substantially
identical with other portions of the book, especially xxiv. 8-10,
announcing the approaching ruin and captivity of Zedekiah and the Jews
still remaining in Judah. This section is omitted by the LXX., and
breaks the obvious connection between verses 15 and 21.

[127] Smith's _Assurbanipal_, p. 163.

[128] 2 Macc. vii. 5.

[129] lii. 24; 2 Kings xxv. 18.

[130] _Ecce Homo_, xxi.

                               CHAPTER XI

                          _A BROKEN COVENANT_

                    xxi. 1-10, xxxiv., xxxvii. 1-10.

    "All the princes and people ... changed their minds and reduced to
    bondage again all the slaves whom they had set free."--JER. xxxiv.
    10, 11.

In our previous chapter we saw that, at the point where the fragmentary
record of the abortive conspiracy in the fourth year of Zedekiah came to
an abrupt conclusion, Jeremiah seemed to have regained the ascendency he
enjoyed under Josiah. The Jewish government had relinquished their
schemes of rebellion and acquiesced once more in the supremacy of
Babylon. We may possibly gather from a later chapter[131] that Zedekiah
himself paid a visit to Nebuchadnezzar to assure him of his loyalty. If
so, the embassy of Elasah ben Shaphan and Gemariah ben Hilkiah was
intended to assure a favourable reception for their master.

The history of the next few years is lost in obscurity, but when the
curtain again rises everything is changed and Judah is once more in
revolt against the Chaldeans. No doubt one cause of this fresh change
of policy was the renewed activity of Egypt. In the account of the
conspiracy in Zedekiah's fourth year, there is a significant absence
of any reference to Egypt. Jeremiah succeeded in baffling his
opponents partly because their fears of Babylon were not quieted by
any assurance of Egyptian support. Now there seemed a better prospect
of a successful insurrection.

About the seventh year of Zedekiah, Psammetichus II. of Egypt was
succeeded by his brother Pharaoh Hophra, the son of Josiah's
conqueror, Pharaoh Necho. When Hophra--the Apries of Herodotus--had
completed the reconquest of Ethiopia, he made a fresh attempt to carry
out his father's policy and to re-establish the ancient Egyptian
supremacy in Western Asia; and, as of old, Egypt began by tampering
with the allegiance of the Syrian vassals of Babylon. According to
Ezekiel,[132] Zedekiah took the initiative: "he rebelled against him
(Nebuchadnezzar) by sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they
might give him horses and much people."

The knowledge that an able and victorious general was seated on the
Egyptian throne, along with the secret intrigues of his agents and
partisans, was too much for Zedekiah's discretion. Jeremiah's advice
was disregarded. The king surrendered himself to the guidance--we
might almost say, the control--of the Egyptian party in Jerusalem; he
violated his oath of allegiance to his suzerain, and the frail and
battered ship of state was once more embarked on the stormy waters of
rebellion. Nebuchadnezzar promptly prepared to grapple with the
reviving strength of Egypt in a renewed contest for the lordship of
Syria. Probably Egypt and Judah had other allies, but they are not
expressly mentioned. A little later Tyre was besieged by
Nebuchadnezzar; but as Ezekiel[133] represents Tyre as exulting over
the fall of Jerusalem, she can hardly have been a benevolent neutral,
much less a faithful ally. Moreover, when Nebuchadnezzar began his
march into Syria, he hesitated whether he should first attack
Jerusalem or Rabbath Ammon:--

"The king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, ... to use
divination: he shook the arrows to and fro, he consulted the teraphim,
he looked in the liver."[134]

Later on Baalis, king of Ammon, received the Jewish refugees and
supported those who were most irreconcilable in their hostility to
Nebuchadnezzar. Nevertheless the Ammonites were denounced by Jeremiah
for occupying the territory of Gad, and by Ezekiel[135] for sharing
the exultation of Tyre over the ruin of Judah. Probably Baalis played
a double part. He may have promised support to Zedekiah, and then
purchased his own pardon by betraying his ally.

Nevertheless the hearty support of Egypt was worth more than the
alliance of any number of the petty neighbouring states, and
Nebuchadnezzar levied a great army to meet this ancient and formidable
enemy of Assyria and Babylon. He marched into Judah with "all his
army, and all the kingdoms of the earth that were under his dominion,
and all the peoples," and "fought against Jerusalem and all the cities

At the beginning of the siege Zedekiah's heart began to fail him. The
course of events seemed to confirm Jeremiah's threats, and the king,
with pathetic inconsistency, sought to be reassured by the prophet
himself. He sent Pashhur ben Malchiah and Zephaniah ben Maaseiah to
Jeremiah with the message:--

"Inquire, I pray thee, of Jehovah for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of
Babylon maketh war against us: peradventure Jehovah will deal with us
according to all His wondrous works, that he may go up from us."

The memories of the great deliverance from Sennacherib were fresh and
vivid in men's minds. Isaiah's denunciations had been as
uncompromising as Jeremiah's, and yet Hezekiah had been spared.
"Peradventure," thought his anxious descendant, "the prophet may yet
be charged with gracious messages that Jehovah repents Him of the evil
and will even now rescue His Holy City." But the timid appeal only
called forth a yet sterner sentence of doom. Formidable as were the
enemies against whom Zedekiah craved protection, they were to be
reinforced by more terrible allies; man and beast should die of a
great pestilence, and Jehovah Himself should be their enemy:--

"I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith
ye fight against the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans.... I Myself
will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a strong arm, in
anger and fury and great wrath."

The city should be taken and burnt with fire, and the king and all
others who survived should be carried away captive. Only on one
condition might better terms be obtained:--

"Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He
that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, the famine, and the
pestilence; but he that goeth out, and falleth to the besieging
Chaldeans, shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a

On another occasion Zephaniah ben Maaseiah with a certain Tehucal ben
Shelemiah was sent by the king to the prophet with the entreaty, "Pray
now unto Jehovah our God for us." We are not told the sequel to this
mission, but it is probably represented by the opening verses of chapter
xxxiv. This section has the direct and personal note which characterises
the dealings of Hebrew prophets with their sovereigns. Doubtless the
partisans of Egypt had had a severe struggle with Jeremiah before they
captured the ear of the Jewish king, and Zedekiah was possessed to the
very last with a half-superstitious anxiety to keep on good terms with
the prophet. Jehovah's "iron pillar and brasen wall" would make no
concession to these royal blandishments: his message had been rejected,
his Master had been slighted and defied, the Chosen People and the Holy
City were being betrayed to their ruin; Jeremiah would not refrain from
denouncing this iniquity because the king who had sanctioned it tried to
flatter his vanity by sending deferential deputations of important
notables. This is the Divine sentence:--

          "I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon,
           And he shall burn it with fire.
           Thou shalt not escape out of his hand;
           Thou shalt assuredly be taken prisoner;
           Thou shalt be delivered into his hand.
           Thou shalt see the king of Babylon, face to face;
           He shall speak to thee, mouth to mouth,
           And thou shalt go to Babylon."

Yet there should be one doubtful mitigation of his punishment:--

          "Thou shalt not die by the sword;
           Thou shalt die in peace:
           With the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings that were
                    before thee,
           So shall they make a burning for thee;
           And they shall lament thee, saying, Alas lord!
           For it is I that have spoken the word--it is the utterance of

King and people were not proof against the combined terrors of the
prophetic rebukes and the besieging enemy. Jeremiah regained his
influence, and Jerusalem gave an earnest of the sincerity of her
repentance by entering into a covenant for the emancipation of all
Hebrew slaves. Deuteronomy had re-enacted the ancient law that their
bondage should terminate at the end of six years,[138] but this had
not been observed: "Your fathers hearkened not unto Me, neither
inclined their ear."[139] A large proportion of those then in slavery
must have served more than six years;[140] and partly because of the
difficulty of discrimination at such a crisis, partly by way of
atonement, the Jews undertook to liberate all their slaves. This
solemn reparation was made because the limitation of servitude was
part of the national Torah, "the covenant that Jehovah made with their
fathers in the day that He brought them forth out of the land of
Egypt"--_i.e._ the Deuteronomic Code. Hence it implied the renewed
recognition of Deuteronomy, and the restoration of the ecclesiastical
order established by Josiah's reforms.

Even Josiah's methods were imitated. He had assembled the people at
the Temple and made them enter into "a covenant before Jehovah, to
walk after Jehovah, to keep His commandments and testimonies and
statutes with all their heart and soul, to perform the words of this
covenant that were written in this book. And all the people entered
into the covenant."[141] So now Zedekiah in turn caused the people to
make a covenant before Jehovah, "in the house which was called by His
name,"[142] "that every one should release his Hebrew slaves, male and
female, and that no one should enslave a brother Jew."[143] A further
sanction had been given to this vow by the observance of an ancient
and significant rite. When Jehovah promised to Abraham a seed
countless as the stars of heaven, He condescended to ratify His
promise by causing the symbols of His presence--a smoking furnace and
a burning lamp--to pass between the divided halves of a heifer, a
she-goat, a ram, and between a turtle-dove and a young pigeon.[144]
Now, in like manner, a calf was cut in twain, the two halves laid
opposite each other, and "the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the
eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land, ... passed
between the parts of the calf."[145] Similarly, after the death of
Alexander the Great, the contending factions in the Macedonian army
ratified a compromise by passing between the two halves of a dog. Such
symbols spoke for themselves: those who used them laid themselves
under a curse; they prayed that if they violated the covenant they
might be slain and mutilated like the divided animals.

This covenant was forthwith carried into effect, the princes and
people liberating their Hebrew slaves according to their vow. We
cannot, however, compare this event with the abolition of slavery in
British colonies or with Abraham Lincoln's Decree of Emancipation. The
scale is altogether different: Hebrew bondage had no horrors to
compare with those of the American plantations; and moreover, even at
the moment, the practical results cannot have been great. Shut up in a
beleaguered city, harassed by the miseries and terrors of a siege, the
freedmen would see little to rejoice over in their new-found freedom.
Unless their friends were in Jerusalem they could not rejoin them, and
in most cases they could only obtain sustenance by remaining in the
households of their former masters, or by serving in the defending
army. Probably this special ordinance of Deuteronomy was selected as
the subject of a solemn covenant, because it not only afforded an
opportunity of atoning for past sin, but also provided the means of
strengthening the national defence. Such expedients were common in
ancient states in moments of extreme peril.

In view of Jeremiah's persistent efforts, both before and after this
incident, to make his countrymen loyally accept the Chaldean supremacy,
we cannot doubt that he hoped to make terms between Zedekiah and
Nebuchadnezzar. Apparently no tidings of Pharaoh Hophra's advance had
reached Jerusalem; and the non-appearance of his "horses and much
people" had discredited the Egyptian party, and enabled Jeremiah to
overthrow their influence with the king and people. Egypt, after all her
promises, had once more proved herself a broken reed; there was nothing
left but to throw themselves on Nebuchadnezzar's mercy.

But the situation was once more entirely changed by the news that
Pharaoh Hophra had come forth out of Egypt "with a mighty army and a
great company."[146] The sentinels on the walls of Jerusalem saw the
besiegers break up their encampment, and march away to meet the
relieving army. All thought of submitting to Babylon was given up.
Indeed, if Pharaoh Hophra were to be victorious, the Jews must of
necessity accept his supremacy. Meanwhile they revelled in their respite
from present distress and imminent danger. Surely the new covenant was
bearing fruit. Jehovah had been propitiated by their promise to observe
the Torah; Pharaoh was the instrument by which God would deliver His
people; or even if the Egyptians were defeated, the Divine resources
were not exhausted. When Tirhakah advanced to the relief of Hezekiah, he
was defeated at Eltekeh, yet Sennacherib had returned home baffled and
disgraced. Naturally the partisans of Egypt, the opponents of Jeremiah,
recovered their control of the king and the government. The king sent,
perhaps at the first news of the Egyptian advance, to inquire of
Jeremiah concerning their prospects of success. What seemed to every one
else a Divine deliverance was to him a national misfortune; the hopes he
had once more indulged of averting the ruin of Judah were again dashed
to the ground. His answer is bitter and gloomy:--

          "Behold, Pharaoh's army, which is come forth to help you,
           Shall return to Egypt into their own land.
           The Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city;
           They shall take it, and burn it with fire.
           Thus saith Jehovah:
           Do not deceive yourselves, saying,
           The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us:
           They shall not depart.
           Though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that
                    fight against you,
           And there remained none but wounded men among them,
           Yet should they rise up every man in his tent,
           And burn this city with fire."

Jeremiah's protest was unavailing, and only confirmed the king and
princes in their adherence to Egypt. Moreover Jeremiah had now formally
disclaimed any sympathy with this great deliverance, which Pharaoh--and
presumably Jehovah--had wrought for Judah. Hence it was clear that the
people did not owe this blessing to the covenant to which they had
submitted themselves by Jeremiah's guidance. As at Megiddo, Jehovah had
shown once more that He was with Pharaoh and against Jeremiah. Probably
they would best please God by renouncing Jeremiah and all his works--the
covenant included. Moreover they could take back their slaves with a
clear conscience, to their own great comfort and satisfaction. True,
they had sworn in the Temple with solemn and striking ceremonies, but
then Jehovah Himself had manifestly released them from their oath. "All
the princes and people changed their mind, and reduced to bondage again
all the slaves whom they had set free." The freedmen had been rejoicing
with their former masters in the prospect of national deliverance; the
date of their emancipation was to mark the beginning of a new era of
Jewish happiness and prosperity. When the siege was raised and the
Chaldeans driven away, they could use their freedom in rebuilding the
ruined cities and cultivating the wasted lands. To all such dreams there
came a sudden and rough awakening: they were dragged back to their
former hopeless bondage--a happy augury for the new dispensation of
Divine protection and blessing!

Jeremiah turned upon them in fierce wrath, like that of Elijah against
Ahab when he met him taking possession of Naboth's vineyard. They had
profaned the name of Jehovah, and--

          "Therefore thus saith Jehovah:
           Ye have not hearkened unto Me to proclaim a release every one
                    to his brother and his neighbour:
           Behold, I proclaim a release for you--it is the utterance of
                    Jehovah--unto the sword, the pestilence, and the
           And I will make you a terror among all the kingdoms of the

The prophet plays upon the word "release" with grim irony. The Jews
had repudiated the "release" which they had promised under solemn oath
to their brethren, but Jehovah would not allow them to be so easily
quit of their covenant. There should be a "release" after all, and
they themselves should have the benefit of it--a "release" from
happiness and prosperity, from the sacred bounds of the Temple, the
Holy City, and the Land of Promise--a "release" unto "the sword, the
pestilence, and the famine."

          "I will give the men that have transgressed My covenant into
                    the hands of their enemies....
           Their dead bodies shall be meat for the fowls of heaven and
                    for the beasts of the earth.
           Zedekiah king of Judah and his princes will I give into the
                    hand of ... the host of the king of Babylon, which
                    are gone up from you.
           Behold, I will command--it is the utterance of Jehovah--and
                    will bring them back unto this city:
           They shall fight against it, and take it, and burn it with
           I will lay the cities of Judah waste, without inhabitant."

Another broken covenant was added to the list of Judah's sins,
another promise of amendment speedily lost in disappointment and
condemnation. Jeremiah might well say with his favourite Hosea:--

          "O Judah, what shall I do unto thee?
           Your goodness is as a morning cloud,
           And as the dew that goeth early away."[147]

This incident has many morals; one of the most obvious is the futility
of the most stringent oaths and the most solemn symbolic ritual.
Whatever influence oaths may have in causing a would-be liar to speak
the truth, they are very poor guarantees for the performance of
contracts. William the Conqueror profited little by Harold's oath to
help him to the crown of England, though it was sworn over the relics
of holy saints. Wulfnoth's whisper in Tennyson's drama--

          "Swear thou to-day, to-morrow is thine own"--

states the principle on which many oaths have been taken. The famous
"blush of Sigismund" over the violation of his safe-conduct to Huss
was rather a token of unusual sensitiveness than a confession of
exceptional guilt. The Christian Church has exalted perfidy into a
sacred obligation. As Milman says[148]:--

"The fatal doctrine, confirmed by long usage, by the decrees of
Pontiffs, by the assent of all ecclesiastics, and the acquiescence of
the Christian world, that no promise, no oath, was binding to a
heretic, had hardly been questioned, never repudiated."

At first sight an oath seems to give firm assurance to a promise; what
was merely a promise to man is made into a promise to God. What can
be more binding upon the conscience than a promise to God? True; but
He to whom the promise is made may always release from its
performance. To persist in what God neither requires nor desires
because of a promise to God seems absurd and even wicked. It has been
said that men "have a way of calling everything they want to do a
dispensation of Providence." Similarly, there are many ways by which a
man may persuade himself that God has cancelled his vows, especially
if he belongs to an infallible Church with a Divine commission to
grant dispensations. No doubt these Jewish slaveholders had full
sacerdotal absolution from their pledge. The priests had slaves of
their own. Failing ecclesiastical aid, Satan himself will play the
casuist--it is one of his favourite parts--and will find the traitor
full justification for breaking the most solemn contract with Heaven.
If a man's whole soul and purpose go with his promise, oaths are
superfluous; otherwise, they are useless.

However, the main lesson of the incident lies in its added testimony
to the supreme importance which the prophets attached to social
righteousness. When Jeremiah wished to knit together again the bonds
of fellowship between Judah and its God, he did not make them enter
into a covenant to observe ritual or to cultivate pious sentiments,
but to release their slaves. It has been said that a gentleman may be
known by the way in which he treats his servants; a man's religion is
better tested by his behaviour to his helpless dependents than by his
attendance on the means of grace or his predilection for pious
conversation. If we were right in supposing that the government
supported Jeremiah because the act of emancipation would furnish
recruits to man the walls, this illustrates the ultimate dependence of
society upon the working classes. In emergencies, desperate efforts
are made to coerce or cajole them into supporting governments by which
they have been neglected or oppressed. The sequel to this covenant
shows how barren and transient are concessions begotten by the terror
of imminent ruin. The social covenant between all classes of the
community needs to be woven strand by strand through long years of
mutual helpfulness and goodwill, of peace and prosperity, if it is to
endure the strain of national peril and disaster.


[131] li. 59, Hebrew Text. According to the LXX., Zedekiah sent
another embassy and did not go himself to Babylon. The section is
apparently a late addition.

[132] xvii. 15.

[133] xxvi. 2.

[134] Ezek. xxi. 21.

[135] xxv. 1-7.

[136] xxi. 1-10. The exact date of this section is not given, but it is
closely parallel to xxxiv. 1-7, and seems to belong to the same period.

[137] xxi. 1-10.

[138] Deut. xv. 12. Cf. Exod. xxi. 2, xxiii. 10.

[139] xxxiv. 14.

[140] xxxiv. 13.

[141] 2 Kings xxiii. 3.

[142] xxxiv. 15.

[143] xxxiv. 9.

[144] Gen. xv.

[145] xxxiv. 19.

[146] Ezek. xvii. 17.

[147] Hosea vi. 4.

[148] Milman's _Latin Christianity_, viii. 255.

                              CHAPTER XII

                       _JEREMIAH'S IMPRISONMENT_

                 xxxvii. 11-21, xxxviii., xxxix. 15-18.

    "Jeremiah abode in the court of the guard until the day that
    Jerusalem was taken."--JER. xxxviii. 28.

"When the Chaldean army was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of
Pharaoh's army, Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land
of Benjamin" to transact certain family business at Anathoth.[149]

He had announced that all who remained in the city should perish, and
that only those who deserted to the Chaldeans should escape. In these
troubled times all who sought to enter or leave Jerusalem were
subjected to close scrutiny, and when Jeremiah wished to pass through
the gate of Benjamin he was stopped by the officer in charge--Irijah
ben Shelemiah ben Hananiah--and accused of being about to practise
himself what he had preached to the people: "Thou fallest away to the
Chaldeans." The suspicion was natural enough; for, although the
Chaldeans had raised the siege and marched away to the south-west,
while the gate of Benjamin was on the north of the city, Irijah might
reasonably suppose that they had left detachments in the
neighbourhood, and that this zealous advocate of submission to
Babylon had special information on the subject. Jeremiah indeed had
the strongest motives for seeking safety in flight. The party whom he
had consistently denounced had full control of the government, and
even if they spared him for the present any decisive victory over the
enemy would be the signal for his execution. When once Pharaoh Hophra
was in full march upon Jerusalem at the head of a victorious army, his
friends would show no mercy to Jeremiah. Probably Irijah was eager to
believe in the prophet's treachery, and ready to snatch at any pretext
for arresting him. The name of the captain's grandfather--Hananiah--is
too common to suggest any connection with the prophet who withstood
Jeremiah; but we may be sure that at this crisis the gates were in
charge of trusty adherents of the princes of the Egyptian party.
Jeremiah would be suspected and detested by such men as these. His
vehement denial of the charge was received with real or feigned
incredulity; Irijah "hearkened not unto him."

The arrest took place "in the midst of the people."[150] The gate was
crowded with other Jews hurrying out of Jerusalem: citizens eager to
breathe more freely after being cooped up in the overcrowded city;
countrymen anxious to find out what their farms and homesteads had
suffered at the hands of the invaders; not a few, perhaps, bound on
the very errand of which Jeremiah was accused, friends of Babylon,
convinced that Nebuchadnezzar would ultimately triumph, and hoping to
find favour and security in his camp. Critical events of Jeremiah's
life had often been transacted before a great assembly; for instance,
his own address and trial in the Temple, and the reading of the roll.
He knew the practical value of a dramatic situation. This time he had
sought the crowd, rather to avoid than attract attention; but when he
was challenged by Irijah, the accusation and denial must have been
heard by all around. The soldiers of the guard, necessarily hostile to
the man who had counselled submission, gathered round to secure their
prisoner; for a time the gate was blocked by the guards and
spectators. The latter do not seem to have interfered. Formerly the
priests and prophets and all the people had laid hold on Jeremiah, and
afterwards all the people had acquitted him by acclamation. Now his
enemies were content to leave him in the hands of the soldiers, and
his friends, if he had any, were afraid to attempt a rescue. Moreover
men's minds were not at leisure and craving for new excitement, as at
Temple festivals; they were preoccupied, and eager to get out of the
city. While the news quickly spread that Jeremiah had been arrested as
he was trying to desert, his guards cleared a way through the crowd,
and brought the prisoner before the princes. The latter seem to have
acted as a Committee of National Defence; they may either have been
sitting at the time, or a meeting, as on a previous occasion,[151] may
have been called when it was known that Jeremiah had been arrested.
Among them were probably those enumerated later on:[152] Shephatiah
ben Mattan, Gedaliah ben Pashhur, Jucal ben Shelemiah, and Pashhur ben
Malchiah. Shephatiah and Gedaliah are named only here; possibly
Gedaliah's father was Pashhur ben Immer, who beat Jeremiah and put him
in the stocks. Both Jucal and Pashhur ben Malchiah had been sent by
the king to consult Jeremiah. Jucal may have been the son of the
Shelemiah who was sent to arrest Jeremiah and Baruch after the reading
of the roll. We note the absence of the princes who then formed
Baruch's audience, some of whom tried to dissuade Jehoiakim from
burning the roll; and we especially miss the prophet's former friend
and protector, Ahikam ben Shaphan. Fifteen or sixteen years had
elapsed since these earlier events; some of Jeremiah's adherents were
dead, others in exile, others powerless to help him. We may safely
conclude that his judges were his personal and political enemies.
Jeremiah was now their discomfited rival: a few weeks before he had
been master of the city and the court. Pharaoh Hophra's advance had
enabled them to overthrow him. We can understand that they would at
once take Irijah's view of the case. They treated their fallen
antagonist as a criminal taken in the act: "they were wroth with him,"
_i.e._ they overwhelmed him with a torrent of abuse; "they beat him,
and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the secretary." But
this imprisonment in a private house was not mild and honourable
confinement under the care of a distinguished noble, who was rather
courteous host than harsh gaoler. "They had made that the prison,"
duly provided with a dungeon and cells, to which Jeremiah was
consigned and where he remained "many days." Prison accommodation at
Jerusalem was limited; the Jewish government preferred more summary
methods of dealing with malefactors. The revolution which had placed
the present government in power had given them special occasion for a
prison. They had defeated rivals whom they did not venture to execute
publicly, but who might be more safely starved and tortured to death
in secret. For such a fate they destined Jeremiah. We shall not do
injustice to Jonathan the secretary if we compare the hospitality
which he extended to his unwilling guests with the treatment of modern
Armenians in Turkish prisons. Yet the prophet remained alive "for many
days"; probably his enemies reflected that even if he did not succumb
earlier to the hardships of his imprisonment, his execution would
suitably adorn the looked-for triumph of Pharaoh Hophra.

Few however of the "many days" had passed, before men's exultant
anticipations of victory and deliverance began to give place to anxious
forebodings. They had hoped to hear that Nebuchadnezzar had been
defeated and was in headlong retreat to Chaldea; they had been prepared
to join in the pursuit of the routed army, to gratify their revenge by
massacring the fugitives and to share the plunder with their Egyptian
allies. The fortunes of war belied their hopes; Pharaoh retreated,
either after a battle or perhaps even without fighting. The return of
the enemy was announced by the renewed influx of the country people to
seek the shelter of the fortifications, and soon the Jews crowded to the
walls as Nebuchadnezzar's vanguard appeared in sight and the Chaldeans
occupied their old lines and re-formed the siege of the doomed city.

There was no longer any doubt that prudence dictated immediate
surrender. It was the only course by which the people might be spared
some of the horrors of a prolonged siege, followed by the sack of the
city. But the princes who controlled the government were too deeply
compromised with Egypt to dare to hope for mercy. With Jeremiah out of
the way, they were able to induce the king and the people to maintain
their resistance, and the siege went on.

But though Zedekiah was, for the most part, powerless in the hands of
the princes, he ventured now and then to assert himself in minor
matters, and, like other feeble sovereigns, derived some consolation
amidst his many troubles from intriguing with the opposition against
his own ministers. His feeling and behaviour towards Jeremiah were
similar to those of Charles IX. towards Coligny, only circumstances
made the Jewish king a more efficient protector of Jeremiah.

At this new and disastrous turn of affairs, which was an exact
fulfilment of Jeremiah's warnings, the king was naturally inclined to
revert to his former faith in the prophet--if indeed he had ever really
been able to shake himself free from his influence. Left to himself he
would have done his best to make terms with Nebuchadnezzar, as Jehoiakim
and Jehoiachin had done before him. The only trustworthy channel of
help, human or divine, was Jeremiah. Accordingly he sent secretly to the
prison and had the prophet brought into the palace. There in some inner
chamber, carefully guarded from intrusion by the slaves of the palace,
Zedekiah received the man who now for more than forty years had been the
chief counsellor of the kings of Judah, often in spite of themselves.
Like Saul on the eve of Gilboa, he was too impatient to let disaster be
its own herald; the silence of Heaven seemed more terrible than any
spoken doom, and again like Saul he turned in his perplexity and despair
to the prophet who had rebuked and condemned him. "Is there any word
from Jehovah? And Jeremiah said, There is: ... thou shalt be delivered
into the hand of the king of Babylon."

The Church is rightly proud of Ambrose rebuking Theodosius at the
height of his power and glory, and of Thomas à Becket, unarmed and
yet defiant before his murderers; but the Jewish prophet showed
himself capable of a simpler and grander heroism. For "many days" he
had endured squalor, confinement, and semi-starvation. His body must
have been enfeebled and his spirit depressed. Weak and contemptible as
Zedekiah was, yet he was the prophet's only earthly protector from the
malice of his enemies. He intended to utilise this interview for an
appeal for release from his present prison. Thus he had every motive
for conciliating the man who asked him for a word from Jehovah. He was
probably alone with Zedekiah, and was not nerved to self-sacrifice by
any opportunity of making public testimony to the truth, and yet he
was faithful alike to God and to the poor helpless king--"Thou shalt
be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon."

And then he proceeds, with what seems to us inconsequent audacity, to
ask a favour. Did ever petitioner to a king preface his supplication
with so strange a preamble? This was the request:--

"Now hear, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I
pray thee, be accepted before thee; that thou do not cause me to
return to the house of Jonathan the secretary, lest I die there.

"Then Zedekiah the king commanded, and they committed Jeremiah into
the court of the guard, and they gave him daily a loaf of bread out of
the bakers' street."

A loaf of bread is not sumptuous fare, but it is evidently mentioned as
an improvement upon his prison diet: it is not difficult to understand
why Jeremiah was afraid he would die in the house of Jonathan.

During this milder imprisonment in the court of the guard occurred
the incident of the purchase of the field at Anathoth, which we have
dealt with in another chapter. This low ebb of the prophet's fortunes
was the occasion of Divine revelation of a glorious future in store
for Judah. But this future was still remote, and does not seem to have
been conspicuous in his public teaching. On the contrary Jeremiah
availed himself of the comparative publicity of his new place of
detention to reiterate in the ears of all the people the gloomy
predictions with which they had so long been familiar: "This city
shall assuredly be given into the hand of the army of the king of
Babylon." He again urged his hearers to desert to the enemy: "He that
abideth in this city shall die by the sword, the famine, and the
pestilence; but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live." We
cannot but admire the splendid courage of the solitary prisoner,
helpless in the hands of his enemies and yet openly defying them. He
left his opponents only two alternatives, either to give up the
government into his hands or else to silence him. Jeremiah in the
court of the guard was really carrying on a struggle in which neither
side either would or could give quarter. He was trying to revive the
energies of the partisans of Babylon, that they might overpower the
government and surrender the city to Nebuchadnezzar. If he had
succeeded, the princes would have had a short shrift. They struck back
with the prompt energy of men fighting for their lives. No government
conducting the defence of a besieged fortress could have tolerated
Jeremiah for a moment. What would have been the fate of a French
politician who should have urged Parisians to desert to the Germans
during the siege of 1870?[153] The princes' former attempt to deal
with Jeremiah had been thwarted by the king; this time they tried to
provide beforehand against any officious intermeddling on the part of
Zedekiah. They extorted from him a sanction of their proceedings.

"Then the princes said unto the king, Let this man, we pray thee, be put
to death: for he weakeneth the hands of the soldiers that are left in
this city, and of all the people, by speaking such words unto them: for
this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt."
Certainly Jeremiah's word was enough to take the heart out of the
bravest soldiers; his preaching would soon have rendered further
resistance impossible. But the concluding sentence about the "welfare of
the people" was merely cheap cant, not without parallel in the sayings
of many "princes" in later times. "The welfare of the people" would have
been best promoted by the surrender which Jeremiah advocated. The king
does not pretend to sympathise with the princes; he acknowledges himself
a mere tool in their hands. "Behold," he answers, "he is in your power,
for the king can do nothing against you."

"Then they took Jeremiah, and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah
ben Hammelech, that was in the court of the guard; and they let
Jeremiah down with cords. And there was no water in the cistern, only
mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud."

The depth of this improvised oubliette is shown by the use of cords to
let the prisoner down into it. How was it, however, that, after the
release of Jeremiah from the cells in the house of Jonathan, the
princes did not at once execute him? Probably, in spite of all that
had happened, they still felt a superstitious dread of actually
shedding the blood of a prophet. In some mysterious way they felt that
they would be less guilty if they left him in the empty cistern to
starve to death or be suffocated in the mud, than if they had his head
cut off. They acted in the spirit of Reuben's advice concerning
Joseph, who also was cast into an empty pit, with no water in it:
"Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit in the wilderness, and lay
no hand upon him."[154] By a similar blending of hypocrisy and
superstition, the mediæval Church thought to keep herself unstained by
the blood of heretics, by handing them over to the secular arm; and
Macbeth having hired some one else to kill Banquo was emboldened to
confront his ghost with the words:--

          "Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake
           Thy gory locks at me."

But the princes were again baffled; the prophet had friends in the
royal household who were bolder than their master: Ebed-melech the
Ethiopian, an eunuch, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the cistern.
He went to the king, who was then sitting in the gate of Benjamin,
where he would be accessible to any petitioner for favour or justice,
and interceded for the prisoner:--

"My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done
to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the cistern; and he
is like to die in the place where he is because of the famine, for
there is no more bread in the city."

Apparently the princes, busied with the defence of the city and in
their pride "too much despising" their royal master, had left him for
a while to himself. Emboldened by this public appeal to act according
to the dictates of his own heart and conscience, and possibly by the
presence of other friends of Jeremiah, the king acts with unwonted
courage and decision.

"The king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, Take with thee
hence thirty men, and draw up Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern,
before he die. So Ebed-melech took the men with him, and went into the
palace under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts and rotten
rags, and let them down by cords into the cistern to Jeremiah. And he
said to Jeremiah, Put these old cast clouts and rotten rags under
thine armholes under the cords. And Jeremiah did so. So they drew him
up with the cords, and took him up out of the cistern: and he remained
in the court of the guard."

Jeremiah's gratitude to his deliverer is recorded in a short paragraph
in which Ebed-melech, like Baruch, is promised that "his life shall be
given him for a prey." He should escape with his life from the sack of
the city--"because he trusted" in Jehovah. As of the ten lepers whom
Jesus cleansed only the Samaritan returned to give glory to God, so
when none of God's people were found to rescue His prophet, the
dangerous honour was accepted by an Ethiopian proselyte.[155]

Meanwhile the king was craving for yet another "word of Jehovah."
True, the last "word" given him by the prophet had been, "Thou shalt
be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon." But now that he
had just rescued Jehovah's prophet from a miserable death (he forgot
that Jeremiah had been consigned to the cistern by his own authority),
possibly there might be some more encouraging message from God.
Accordingly he sent and took Jeremiah unto him for another secret
interview, this time in the "corridor of the bodyguard,"[156] a
passage between the palace and the Temple.

Here he implored the prophet to give him a faithful answer to his
questions concerning his own fate and that of the city: "Hide nothing
from me." But Jeremiah did not respond with his former prompt frankness.
He had had too recent a warning not to put his trust in princes. "If I
declare it unto thee," said he, "wilt thou not surely put me to death?
and if I give thee counsel, thou wilt not hearken unto me. So Zedekiah
the king sware secretly to Jeremiah, As Jehovah liveth, who is the
source and giver of our life, I will not put thee to death, neither will
I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life.

"Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of hosts,
the God of Israel: If thou wilt go forth unto the king of Babylon's
princes, thy life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned,
and thou and thine house shall live; but if thou wilt not go forth, then
shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall
burn it, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand.

"Zedekiah said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that have
deserted to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and
they mock me."

He does not, however, urge that the princes will hinder any such
surrender; he believed himself sufficiently master of his own actions
to be able to escape to the Chaldeans if he chose.

But evidently, when he first revolted against Babylon, and more
recently when the siege was raised, he had been induced to behave
harshly towards her partisans: they had taken refuge in considerable
numbers in the enemy's camp, and now he was afraid of their vengeance.
Similarly, in _Quentin Durward_, Scott represents Louis XI. on his
visit to Charles the Bold as startled by the sight of the banners of
some of his own vassals, who had taken service with Burgundy, and as
seeking protection from Charles against the rebel subjects of France.

Zedekiah is a perfect monument of the miseries that wait upon weakness:
he was everybody's friend in turn--now a docile pupil of Jeremiah and
gratifying the Chaldean party by his professions of loyalty to
Nebuchadnezzar, and now a pliant tool in the hands of the Egyptian party
persecuting his former friends. At the last he was afraid alike of the
princes in the city, of the exiles in the enemy's camp, and of the
Chaldeans. The mariner who had to pass between Scylla and Charybdis was
fortunate compared to Zedekiah. To the end he clung with a pathetic
blending of trust and fearfulness to Jeremiah. He believed him, and yet
he seldom had courage to act according to his counsel.

Jeremiah made a final effort to induce this timid soul to act with
firmness and decision. He tried to reassure him: "They shall not
deliver thee into the hands of thy revolted subjects. Obey, I beseech
thee, the voice of Jehovah, in that which I speak unto thee: so it
shall be well with thee, and thy life shall be spared." He appealed to
that very dread of ridicule which the king had just betrayed. If he
refused to surrender, he would be taunted for his weakness and folly
by the women of his own harem:--

"If thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that Jehovah hath showed
me: Behold, all the women left in the palace shall be brought forth to
the king of Babylon's princes, and those women shall say, Thy familiar
friends have duped thee and got the better of thee; thy feet are sunk in
the mire, and they have left thee in the lurch." He would be in worse
plight than that from which Jeremiah had only just been rescued, and
there would no Ebed-melech to draw him out. He would be humiliated by
the suffering and shame of his own family: "They shall bring out all thy
wives and children to the Chaldeans." He himself would share with them
the last extremity of suffering: "Thou shalt not escape out of their
hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon."

And as Tennyson makes it the climax of Geraint's degeneracy that he
was not only--

          "Forgetful of his glory and his name,"

but also--

          "Forgetful of his princedom and its cares,"

so Jeremiah appeals last of all to the king's sense of responsibility
for his people: "Thou wilt be the cause of the burning of the city."

In spite of the dominance of the Egyptian party, and their desperate
determination, not only to sell their own lives dearly, but also to
involve king and people, city and temple, in their own ruin, the power
of decisive action still rested with Zedekiah; if he failed to use it,
he would be responsible for the consequences.

Thus Jeremiah strove to possess the king with some breath of his own
dauntless spirit and iron will.

Zedekiah paused irresolute. A vision of possible deliverance passed
through his mind. His guards and the domestics of the palace were
within call. The princes were unprepared; they would never dream that
he was capable of anything so bold. It would be easy to seize the
nearest gate, and hold it long enough to admit the Chaldeans. But no!
he had not nerve enough. Then his predecessors Joash, Amaziah, and
Amon had been assassinated, and for the moment the daggers of the
princes and their followers seemed more terrible than Chaldean
instruments of torture. He lost all thought of his own honour and his
duty to his people in his anxiety to provide against this more
immediate danger. Never was the fate of a nation decided by a meaner
utterance. "Then said Zedekiah to Jeremiah, No one must know about our
meeting, and thou shalt not die. If the princes hear that I have
talked with thee, and come and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what
thou hast said unto the king; hide it not from us, and we will not put
thee to death: declare unto us what the king said unto thee: then thou
shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication unto the king, that
he would not cause me to return to Jonathan's house, to die there.

"Then all the princes came to Jeremiah, and asked him; and he told them
just what the king had commanded. So they let him alone, for no report
of the matter had got abroad." We are a little surprised that the
princes so easily abandoned their purpose of putting Jeremiah to death,
and did not at once consign him afresh to the empty cistern. Probably
they were too disheartened for vigorous action; the garrison were
starving, and it was clear that the city could not hold out much longer.
Moreover the superstition that had shrunk from using actual violence to
the prophet would suspect a token of Divine displeasure in his release.

Another question raised by this incident is that of the prophet's
veracity, which, at first sight, does not seem superior to that of the
patriarchs. It is very probable that the prophet, as at the earlier
interview, had entreated the king not to allow him to be confined in
the cells in Jonathan's house, but the narrative rather suggests that
the king constructed this pretext on the basis of the former
interview. Moreover, if the princes let Jeremiah escape with nothing
less innocent than a _suppressio veri_, if they were satisfied with
anything less than an explicit statement that the place of the
prophet's confinement was the sole topic of conversation, they must
have been more guileless that we can easily imagine. But, at any rate,
if Jeremiah did stoop to dissimulation, it was to protect Zedekiah,
not to save himself.

Zedekiah is a conspicuous example of the strange irony with which
Providence entrusts incapable persons with the decision of most
momentous issues; It sets Laud and Charles I. to adjust the Tudor
Monarchy to the sturdy self-assertion of Puritan England, and Louis
XVI. to cope with the French Revolution. Such histories are after all
calculated to increase the self-respect of those who are weak and
timid. Moments come, even to the feeblest, when their action must have
the most serious results for all connected with them. It is one of the
crowning glories of Christianity that it preaches a strength that is
made perfect in weakness.

Perhaps the most significant feature in this narrative is the
conclusion of Jeremiah's first interview with the king. Almost in the
same breath the prophet announces to Zedekiah his approaching ruin and
begs from him a favour. He thus defines the true attitude of the
believer towards the prophet.

Unwelcome teaching must not be allowed to interfere with wonted respect
and deference, or to provoke resentment. Possibly if this truth were
less obvious men would be more willing to give it a hearing and it might
be less persistently ignored. But the prophet's behaviour is even more
striking and interesting as a revelation of his own character and of the
true prophetic spirit. His faithful answer to the king involved much
courage, but that he should proceed from such an answer to such a
petition shows a simple and sober dignity not always associated with
courage. When men are wrought up to the pitch of uttering disagreeable
truths at the risk of their lives, they often develop a spirit of
defiance, which causes personal bitterness and animosity between
themselves and their hearers, and renders impossible any asking or
granting of favours. Many men would have felt that a petition
compromised their own dignity and weakened the authority of the divine
message. The exaltation of self-sacrifice which inspired them would have
suggested that they ought not to risk the crown of martyrdom by any such
appeal, but rather welcome torture and death. Thus some amongst the
early Christians would present themselves before the Roman tribunals and
try to provoke the magistrates into condemning them. But Jeremiah, like
Polycarp and Cyprian, neither courted nor shunned martyrdom; he was as
incapable of bravado as he was of fear. He was too intent upon serving
his country and glorifying God, too possessed with his mission and his
message, to fall a prey to the self-consciousness which betrays men,
sometimes even martyrs, into theatrical ostentation.


[149] Cf. xxxii. 6-8.

[150] xxxvii. 12; so R.V., Streane (Camb. Bible), Kautzsch, etc.

[151] xxvi. 10.

[152] xxxviii. 1.

[153] Cf. Renan, iii. 333.

[154] Gen. xxxvii. 22-24.

[155] xxxix. 15-18.

[156] So Giesebrecht, _in loco_; A.V., R.V., "third entry." In any
case it will naturally be a passage from the palace to the Temple.

                              CHAPTER XIII


                          xxxix.-xli., lii.[157]

    "Then arose Ishmael ben Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with
    him, and smote with the sword and slew Gedaliah ben Ahikam ben
    Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon had made king over the
    land."--JER. xli. 2.

We now pass to the concluding period of Jeremiah's ministry. His last
interview with Zedekiah was speedily followed by the capture of
Jerusalem. With that catastrophe the curtain falls upon another act in
the tragedy of the prophet's life. Most of the chief _dramatis personæ_
make their final exit; only Jeremiah and Baruch remain. King and
princes, priests and prophets, pass to death or captivity, and new
characters appear to play their part for a while upon the vacant stage.

We would gladly know how Jeremiah fared on that night when the city
was stormed, and Zedekiah and his army stole out in a vain attempt to
escape beyond Jordan. Our book preserves two brief but inconsistent
narratives of his fortunes.

One is contained in xxxix. 11-14. Nebuchadnezzar, we must remember, was
not present in person with the besieging army. His headquarters were at
Riblah, far away in the north. He had, however, given special
instructions concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan, the general commanding
the forces before Jerusalem: "Take him, and look well to him, and do him
no harm; but do with him even as he shall say unto thee."

Accordingly Nebuzaradan and all the king of Babylon's princes sent and
took Jeremiah out of the court of the guard, and committed him to
Gedaliah ben Ahikam ben Shaphan, to take him to his house.[158] And
Jeremiah dwelt among the people.

This account is not only inconsistent with that given in the next
chapter, but it also represents Nebuzaradan as present when the city
was taken, whereas later on[159] we are told that he did not come upon
the scene till a month later. For these and similar reasons, this
version of the story is generally considered the less trustworthy. It
apparently grew up at a time when the other characters and interests
of the period had been thrown into the shade by the reverent
recollection of Jeremiah and his ministry. It seemed natural to
suppose that Nebuchadnezzar was equally preoccupied with the fortunes
of the great prophet who had consistently preached obedience to his
authority. The section records the intense reverence which the Jews of
the Captivity felt for Jeremiah. We are more likely, however, to get a
true idea of what happened by following the narrative in chapter xl.

According to this account, Jeremiah was not at once singled out for
any exceptionally favourable treatment. When Zedekiah and the soldiers
had left the city, there can have been no question of further
resistance. The history does not mention any massacre by the
conquerors, but we may probably accept Lamentations ii. 20, 21, as a
description of the sack of Jerusalem:--

          "Shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of
                    the Lord?
           The youth and the old man lie on the ground in the streets;
           My virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword:
           Thou hast slain them in the day of Thine anger;
           Thou hast slaughtered, and not pitied."

Yet the silence of Kings and Jeremiah as to all this, combined with
their express statements as to captives, indicates that the Chaldean
generals did not order a massacre, but rather sought to take
prisoners. The soldiers would not be restrained from a certain
slaughter in the heat of their first breaking into the city; but
prisoners had a market value, and were provided for by the practice of
deportation which Babylon had inherited from Nineveh. Accordingly the
soldiers' lust for blood was satiated or bridled before they reached
Jeremiah's prison. The court of the guard probably formed part of the
precincts of the palace, and the Chaldean commanders would at once
secure its occupants for Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah was taken with other
captives and put in chains. If the dates in lii. 6, 12, be correct, he
must have remained a prisoner till the arrival of Nebuzaradan, a month
later on. He was then a witness of the burning of the city and the
destruction of the fortifications, and was carried with the other
captives to Ramah. Here the Chaldean general found leisure to inquire
into the deserts of individual prisoners and to decide how they should
be treated. He would be aided in this task by the Jewish refugees from
whose ridicule Zedekiah had shrunk, and they would at once inform him
of the distinguished sanctity of the prophet and of the conspicuous
services he had rendered to the Chaldean cause.

Nebuzaradan at once acted upon their representations. He ordered
Jeremiah's chains to be removed, gave him full liberty to go where he
pleased, and assured him of the favour and protection of the Chaldean

"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; go
whithersoever it seemeth to thee good and right."

These words are, however, preceded by two remarkable verses. For the
nonce, the prophet's mantle seems to have fallen upon the Chaldean
soldier. He speaks to his auditor just as Jeremiah himself had been
wont to address his erring fellow-countrymen:--

"Thy God Jehovah pronounced this evil upon this place: and Jehovah
hath brought it, and done according as He spake; because ye have
sinned against Jehovah, and have not obeyed His voice, therefore this
thing is come unto you."

Possibly Nebuzaradan did not include Jeremiah personally in the "ye" and
"you"; and yet a prophet's message is often turned upon himself in this
fashion. Even in our day outsiders will not be at the trouble to
distinguish between one Christian and another, and will often denounce a
man for his supposed share in Church abuses he has strenuously combated.

We need not be surprised that a heathen noble can talk like a pious Jew.
The Chaldeans were eminently religious, and their worship of Bel and
Merodach may often have been as spiritual and sincere as the homage paid
by most Jews to Jehovah. The Babylonian creed could recognise that a
foreign state might have its own legitimate deity and would suffer for
disloyalty to him. Assyrian and Chaldean kings were quite willing to
accept the prophetic doctrine that Jehovah had commissioned them to
punish this disobedient people. Still Jeremiah must have been a little
taken aback when one of the cardinal points of his own teaching was
expounded to him by so strange a preacher; but he was too prudent to
raise any discussion on the matter, and too chivalrous to wish to
establish his own rectitude at the expense of his brethren. Moreover he
had to decide between the two alternatives offered him by Nebuzaradan.
Should he go to Babylon or remain in Judah?

According to a suggestion of Gratz, accepted by Cheyne,[160] xv. 10-21
is a record of the inner struggle through which Jeremiah came to a
decision on this matter. The section is not very clear, but it
suggests that at one time it seemed Jehovah's will that he should go
to Babylon, and that it was only after much hesitation that he was
convinced that God required him to remain in Judah. Powerful motives
drew him in either direction. At Babylon he would reap the full
advantage of Nebuchadnezzar's favour, and would enjoy the order and
culture of a great capital. He would meet with old friends and
disciples, amongst the rest Ezekiel. He would find an important
sphere for ministry amongst the large Jewish community in Chaldea,
where the flower of the whole nation was now in exile. In Judah he
would have to share the fortunes of a feeble and suffering remnant,
and would be exposed to all the dangers and disorder consequent on the
break-up of the national government--brigandage on the part of native
guerilla bands and raids by the neighbouring tribes. These guerilla
bands were the final effort of Jewish resistance, and would seek to
punish as traitors those who accepted the dominion of Babylon.

On the other hand, Jeremiah's surviving enemies, priests, prophets,
and princes, had been taken _en masse_ to Babylon. On his arrival he
would find himself again plunged into the old controversies. Many if
not the majority of his countrymen there would regard him as a
traitor. The _protégé_ of Nebuchadnezzar was sure to be disliked and
distrusted by his less fortunate brethren. And Jeremiah was not a born
courtier like Josephus. In Judah, moreover, he would be amongst
friends of his own way of thinking; the remnant left behind had been
placed under the authority of his friend Gedaliah, the son of his
former protector Ahikam, the grandson of his ancient ally Shaphan. He
would be free from the anathemas of corrupt priests and the
contradiction of false prophets. The advocacy of true religion amongst
the exiles might safely be left to Ezekiel and his school.

But probably the motives that decided Jeremiah's course of action
were, firstly, that devoted attachment to the sacred soil which was a
passion with every earnest Jew; and, secondly, the inspired conviction
that Palestine was to be the scene of the future development of
revealed religion. This conviction was coupled with the hope that the
scattered refugees who were rapidly gathering at Mizpah under Gedaliah
might lay the foundations of a new community, which should become the
instrument of the divine purpose. Jeremiah was no deluded visionary,
who would suppose that the destruction of Jerusalem had exhausted
God's judgments, and that the millennium would forthwith begin for the
special and exclusive benefit of his surviving companions in Judah.
Nevertheless, while there was an organised Jewish community left on
native soil, it would be regarded as the heir of the national
religious hopes and aspirations, and a prophet, with liberty of
choice, would feel it his duty to remain.

Accordingly Jeremiah decided to join Gedaliah.[161] Nebuzaradan gave
him food and a present, and let him go.

Gedaliah's headquarters were at Mizpah, a town not certainly
identified, but lying somewhere to the north-west of Jerusalem, and
playing an important part in the history of Samuel and Saul. Men would
remember the ancient record which told how the first Hebrew king had
been divinely appointed at Mizpah, and might regard the coincidence as
a happy omen that Gedaliah would found a kingdom more prosperous and
permanent than that which traced its origin to Saul.

Nebuzaradan had left with the new governor "men, women, and children,
... of them that were not carried away captive to Babylon." These were
chiefly of the poorer sort, but not altogether, for among them were
"royal princesses" and doubtless others belonging to the ruling classes.
Apparently after these arrangements had been made the Chaldean forces
were almost entirely withdrawn, and Gedaliah was left to cope with the
many difficulties of the situation by his own unaided resources. For a
time all went well. It seemed at first as if the scattered bands of
Jewish soldiers still in the field would submit to the Chaldean
government and acknowledge Gedaliah's authority. Various captains with
their bands came to him at Mizpah, amongst them Ishmael ben Nethaniah,
Johanan ben Kareah and his brother Jonathan. Gedaliah swore to them that
they should be pardoned and protected by the Chaldeans. He confirmed
them in their possession of the towns and districts they had occupied
after the departure of the enemy. They accepted his assurance, and their
alliance with him seemed to guarantee the safety and prosperity of the
settlement. Refugees from Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, and all the
neighbouring countries flocked to Mizpah, and busied themselves in
gathering in the produce of the oliveyards and vineyards which had been
left ownerless when the nobles were slain or carried away captive. Many
of the poorer Jews revelled in such unwonted plenty, and felt that even
national ruin had its compensations.

Tradition has supplemented what the sacred record tells us of this
period in Jeremiah's history. We are told[162] that "it is also found
in the records that the prophet Jeremiah" commanded the exiles to take
with them fire from the altar of the Temple, and further exhorted them
to observe the law and to abstain from idolatry; and that "it was
also contained in the same writing, that the prophet, being warned of
God, commanded the tabernacle and the ark to go with him, as he went
forth unto the mountain, where Moses climbed up, and saw the heritage
of God. And when Jeremiah came thither, he found an hollow cave,
wherein he laid the tabernacle and the ark and the altar of incense,
and so stopped the door. And some of those that followed him came to
mark the way, but they could not find it: which when Jeremiah
perceived he blamed them, saying, As for that place, it shall be
unknown until the time that God gather His people again together and
receive them to His mercy."

A less improbable tradition is that which narrates that Jeremiah
composed the Book of Lamentations shortly after the capture of the
city. This is first stated by the Septuagint; it has been adopted by
the Vulgate and various Rabbinical authorities, and has received
considerable support from Christian scholars.[163] Moreover as the
traveller leaves Jerusalem by the Damascus Gate, he passes great stone
quarries, where Jeremiah's Grotto is still pointed out as the place
where the prophet composed his elegy.

Without entering into the general question of the authorship of
Lamentations, we may venture to doubt whether it can be referred to any
period of Jeremiah's life which is dealt with in our book; and even
whether it accurately represents his feelings at any such period. During
the first month that followed the capture of Jerusalem the Chaldean
generals held the city and its inhabitants at the disposal of their
king. His decision was uncertain; it was by no means a matter of course
that he would destroy the city. Jerusalem had been spared by Pharaoh
Necho after the defeat of Josiah, and by Nebuchadnezzar after the revolt
of Jehoiakim. Jeremiah and the other Jews must have been in a state of
extreme suspense as to their own fate and that of their city, very
different from the attitude of Lamentations. This suspense was ended
when Nebuzaradan arrived and proceeded to burn the city. Jeremiah
witnessed the fulfilment of his own prophecies when Jerusalem was thus
overtaken by the ruin he had so often predicted. As he stood there
chained amongst the other captives, many of his neighbours must have
felt towards him as we should feel towards an anarchist gloating over
the spectacle of a successful dynamite explosion; and Jeremiah could not
be ignorant of their sentiments. His own emotions would be sufficiently
vivid, but they would not be so simple as those of the great elegy.
Probably they were too poignant to be capable of articulate expression;
and the occasion was not likely to be fertile in acrostics.

Doubtless when the venerable priest and prophet looked from Ramah or
Mizpah towards the blackened ruins of the Temple and the Holy City, he
was possessed by something of the spirit of Lamentations. But from the
moment when he went to Mizpah he would be busily occupied in assisting
Gedaliah in his gallant effort to gather the nucleus of a new Israel
out of the flotsam and jetsam of the shipwreck of Judah. Busy with
this work of practical beneficence, his unconquerable spirit already
possessed with visions of a brighter future, Jeremiah could not lose
himself in mere regrets for the past.

He was doomed to experience yet another disappointment. Gedaliah had
only held his office for about two months,[164] when he was warned by
Johanan ben Kareah and the other captains that Ishmael ben Nethaniah
had been sent by Baalis, king of the Ammonites, to assassinate him.
Gedaliah refused to believe them. Johanan, perhaps surmising that the
governor's incredulity was assumed, came to him privately and proposed
to anticipate Ishmael: "Let me go, I pray thee, and slay Ishmael ben
Nethaniah, and no one shall know it: wherefore should he slay thee,
that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered,
and the remnant of Judah perish? But Gedaliah ben Ahikam said unto
Johanan ben Kareah, Thou shalt not do this thing: for thou speakest
falsely of Ishmael."

Gedaliah's misplaced confidence soon had fatal consequences. In the
second month, about October, the Jews in the ordinary course of events
would have celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles, to return thanks for
their plentiful ingathering of grapes, olives, and summer fruit.
Possibly this occasion gave Ishmael a pretext for visiting Mizpah. He
came thither with ten nobles who, like himself, were connected with
the royal family and probably were among the princes who persecuted
Jeremiah. This small and distinguished company could not be suspected
of intending to use violence. Ishmael seemed to be reciprocating
Gedaliah's confidence by putting himself in the governor's power.
Gedaliah feasted his guests. Johanan and the other captains were not
present; they had done what they could to save him, but they did not
wait to share the fate which he was bringing on himself.

"Then arose Ishmael ben Nethaniah and his ten companions and smote
Gedaliah ben Ahikam ... and all the Jewish and Chaldean soldiers that
were with him at Mizpah."

Probably the eleven assassins were supported by a larger body of
followers, who waited outside the city and made their way in amidst
the confusion consequent on the murder; doubtless, too, they had
friends amongst Gedaliah's _entourage_. These accomplices had first
lulled any suspicions that he might feel as to Ishmael, and had then
helped to betray their master.

Not contented with the slaughter which he had already perpetrated,
Ishmael took measures to prevent the news getting abroad, and lay in
wait for any other adherents of Gedaliah who might come to visit him.
He succeeded in entrapping a company of eighty men from Northern
Israel: ten were allowed to purchase their lives by revealing hidden
stores of wheat, barley, oil, and honey; the rest were slain and
thrown into an ancient pit, "which King Asa had made for fear of
Baasha king of Israel."

These men were pilgrims, who came with shaven chins and torn clothes,
"and having cut themselves, bringing meal offerings and frankincense
to the house of Jehovah." The pilgrims were doubtless on their way to
celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles: with the destruction of Jerusalem
and the Temple, all the joy of that festival would be changed to
mourning and its songs to wailing. Possibly they were going to lament
on the site of the ruined temple. But Mizpah itself had an ancient
sanctuary. Hosea speaks of the priests, princes, and people of Israel
as having been "a snare on Mizpah." Jeremiah may have sanctioned the
use of this local temple thinking that Jehovah would "set His name
there" till Jerusalem was restored, even as He had dwelt at Shiloh
before He chose the City of David. But to whatever shrine these
pilgrims were journeying, their errand should have made them
sacrosanct to all Jews. Ishmael's hypocrisy, treachery, and cruelty in
this matter go far to justify Jeremiah's bitterest invectives against
the princes of Judah.

But after this bloody deed it was high time for Ishmael to be gone and
betake himself back to his heathen patron, Baalis the Ammonite. These
massacres could not long be kept a secret. And yet Ishmael seems to
have made a final effort to suppress the evidence of his crimes. In
his retreat he carried with him all the people left in Mizpah,
"soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs," including the royal
princesses, and apparently Jeremiah and Baruch. No doubt he hoped to
make money out of his prisoners by selling them as slaves or holding
them to ransom. He had not ventured to slay Jeremiah: the prophet had
not been present at the banquet and had thus escaped the first fierce
slaughter, and Ishmael shrank from killing in cold blood the man whose
predictions of ruin had been so exactly and awfully fulfilled by the
recent destruction of Jerusalem.

When Johanan ben Kareah and the other captains heard how entirely
Ishmael had justified their warning, they assembled their forces and
started in pursuit. Ishmael's band seems to have been comparatively
small, and was moreover encumbered by the disproportionate number of
captives with which they had burdened themselves. They were overtaken
"by the great waters that are in Gibeon," only a very short distance
from Mizpah.

However Ishmael's original following of ten may have been reinforced,
his band cannot have been very numerous and was manifestly inferior to
Johanan's forces. In face of an enemy of superior strength, Ishmael's
only chance of escape was to leave his prisoners to their own
devices--he had not even time for another massacre. The captives at
once turned round and made their way to their deliverer. Ishmael's
followers seem to have been scattered, taken captive, or slain, but he
himself escaped with eight men--possibly eight of the original
ten--and found refuge with the Ammonites.

Johanan and his companions with the recovered captives made no attempt
to return to Mizpah. The Chaldeans would exact a severe penalty for the
murder of their governor Gedaliah, and their own fellow-countryman:
their vengeance was not likely to be scrupulously discriminating. The
massacre would be regarded as an act of rebellion on the part of the
Jewish community in Judah, and the community would be punished
accordingly. Johanan and his whole company determined that when the day
of retribution came the Chaldeans should find no one to punish. They set
out for Egypt, the natural asylum of the enemies of Babylon. On the way
they halted in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem at a caravanserai[165]
which bore the name of Chimham,[166] the son of David's generous friend
Barzillai. So far the fugitives had acted on their first impulse of
dismay; now they paused to take breath, to make a more deliberate survey
of their situation, and to mature their plans for the future.


[157] Chapter lii. = 2 Kings xxiv. 18-xxv. 30, and xxxix. 1-10 = lii.
4-16, in each case with minor variations which do not specially bear
upon our subject. Cf. Driver, _Introduction, in loco_. The detailed
treatment of this section belongs to the exposition of the Book of

[158] Literally "the house"--either Jeremiah's or Gedaliah's, or
possibly the royal palace.

[159] lii. 6, 12.

[160] _Pulpit Commentary, in loco._ Cf. the previous volume on
Jeremiah in this series.

[161] The sequence of verses 4 and 5 has been spoilt by some
corruption of the text. The versions diverge variously from the
Hebrew. Possibly the original text told how Jeremiah found himself
unable to give an immediate answer, and Nebuzaradan, observing his
hesitation, bade him return to Gedaliah and decide at his leisure.

[162] 2 Macc. ii. 1-8.

[163] Cf. Professor Adeney's _Canticles and Lamentations_ in this

[164] Cf. lii. 12, "fifth month," and xli. 1, "seventh month." Cheyne
however points out that no year is specified in xli. 1, and holds that
Gedaliah's governorship lasted for over four years, and that the
deportation four years (lii. 30) after the destruction of the city was
the prompt punishment of his murder.

[165] The reading is doubtful; possibly the word (geruth) translated
"caravanserai," or some similar word to be read instead of it, merely
forms a compound proper name with Chimham.

[166] 2 Sam. xix. 31-40.

                              CHAPTER XIV

                        _THE DESCENT INTO EGYPT_

                             xlii., xliii.

    "They came into the land of Egypt, for they obeyed not the voice
    of Jehovah."--JER. xliii. 7.

Thus within a few days Jeremiah had experienced one of those sudden
and extreme changes of fortune which are as common in his career as in
a sensational novel. Yesterday the guide, philosopher, and friend of
the governor of Judah, to-day sees him once more a helpless prisoner
in the hands of his old enemies. To-morrow he is restored to liberty
and authority, and appealed to by the remnant of Israel as the
mouthpiece of Jehovah. Johanan ben Kareah and all the captains of the
forces, "from the least even unto the greatest, came near" and
besought Jeremiah to pray unto "Jehovah thy God," "that Jehovah thy
God may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing we may do."
Jeremiah promised to make intercession and to declare faithfully unto
them whatsoever Jehovah should reveal unto him.

And they on their part said unto Jeremiah: "Jehovah be a true and
faithful witness against us, if we do not according to every word that
Jehovah thy God shall send unto us by thee. We will obey the voice of
Jehovah our God, to whom we send thee, whether it be good or evil, that
it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of Jehovah our God."

The prophet returned no hasty answer to this solemn appeal. As in his
controversy with Hananiah, he refrained from at once announcing his
own judgment as the Divine decision, but waited for the express
confirmation of the Spirit. For ten days prophet and people were alike
kept in suspense. The patience of Johanan and his followers is
striking testimony to their sincere reverence for Jeremiah.

On the tenth day the message came, and Jeremiah called the people
together to hear God's answer to their question, and to learn that
Divine will to which they had promised unreserved obedience. It ran

          "If you will still abide in this land,
           I will build you and not pull you down,
           I will plant you and not pluck you up."

The words of Jeremiah's original commission seem ever present to his

          "For I repent Me of the evil I have done unto you."

They need not flee from Judah as an accursed land; Jehovah had a new
and gracious purpose concerning them, and therefore:--

          "Be not afraid of the king of Babylon,
           Of whom ye are afraid;
           Be not afraid of him--it is the utterance of Jehovah--
           For I am with you,
           To save you and deliver you out of his hand.
           I will put kindness in his heart toward you,
           And he shall deal kindly with you,
           And restore you to your lands."

It was premature to conclude that Ishmael's crime finally disposed of
the attempt to shape the remnant into the nucleus of a new Israel.
Hitherto Nebuchadnezzar had shown himself willing to discriminate;
when he condemned the princes, he spared and honoured Jeremiah, and
the Chaldeans might still be trusted to deal fairly and even
generously with the prophet's friends and deliverers. Moreover the
heart of Nebuchadnezzar, like that of all earthly potentates, was in
the hands of the King of Kings.

But Jeremiah knew too well what mingled hopes and fears drew his
hearers towards the fertile valley and rich cities of the Nile. He
sets before them the reverse of the picture: they might refuse to obey
God's command to remain in Judah; they might say, "No, we will go into
the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of
the trumpet, nor hunger for bread, and there will we dwell." As of
old, they craved for the flesh-pots of Egypt; and with more excuse
than their forefathers. They were worn out with suffering and toil,
some of them had wives and children; the childless prophet was
inviting them to make sacrifices and incur risks which he could
neither share nor understand. Can we wonder if they fell short of his
inspired heroism, and hesitated to forego the ease and plenty of Egypt
in order to try social experiments in Judah?

          "Let what is broken so remain.
           The Gods are hard to reconcile:
           'Tis hard to settle order once again.

                 *       *       *       *       *

           Sore task to hearts worn out by many wars."

But Jeremiah had neither sympathy nor patience with such weakness.
Moreover, now as often, valour was the better part of discretion, and
the boldest course was the safest. The peace and security of Egypt
had been broken in upon again and again by Asiatic invaders; only
recently it had been tributary to Nineveh, till the failing strength
of Assyria enabled the Pharaohs to recover their independence. Now
that Palestine had ceased to be the seat of war the sound of Chaldean
trumpets would soon be heard in the valley of the Nile. By going down
into Egypt, they were leaving Judah where they might be safe under the
broad shield of Babylonian power, for a country that would soon be
afflicted by the very evils they sought to escape:--

          "If ye finally determine to go to Egypt to sojourn there,
           The sword, which ye fear, shall overtake you there in the
                    land of Egypt,
           The famine, whereof ye are afraid, shall follow hard after
                    you there in Egypt,
           And there shall ye die."

The old familiar curses, so often uttered against Jerusalem and its
inhabitants, are pronounced against any of his hearers who should take
refuge in Egypt:--

          "As Mine anger and fury hath been poured forth upon the
                    inhabitants of Jerusalem,
           So shall My fury be poured forth upon you, when ye shall
                    enter in Egypt."

They would die "by the sword, the famine, and the pestilence"; they
would be "an execration and an astonishment, a curse and a reproach."

He had set before them two alternative courses, and the Divine judgment
upon each: he had known beforehand that, contrary to his own choice and
judgment, their hearts were set upon going down into Egypt; hence, as
when confronted and contradicted by Hananiah, he had been careful to
secure divine confirmation before he gave his decision. Already he
could see the faces of his hearers hardening into obstinate resistance
or kindling into hot defiance; probably they broke out into
interruptions which left no doubt as to their purpose. With his usual
promptness, he turned upon them with fierce reproof and denunciation:--

          "Ye have been traitors to yourselves.
           Ye sent me unto Jehovah your God, saying,
           Pray for us unto Jehovah our God;
           According unto all that Jehovah our God shall say,
           Declare unto us, and we will do it.
           I have this day declared it unto you,
           But ye have in no wise obeyed the voice of Jehovah your God.

                 *       *       *       *       *

           Ye shall die by the sword, the famine, and the pestilence,
           In the place whither ye desire to go to sojourn."

His hearers were equally prompt with their rejoinder; Johanan ben
Kareah and "all the proud men" answered him:--

"Thou liest! It is not Jehovah our God who hath sent thee to say, Ye
shall not go into Egypt to sojourn there; but Baruch ben Neriah
setteth thee on against us, to deliver us into the hand of the
Chaldeans, that they may slay us or carry us away captive to Babylon."

Jeremiah had experienced many strange vicissitudes, but this was not
the least striking. Ten days ago the people and their leaders had
approached him in reverent submission, and had solemnly promised to
accept and obey his decision as the word of God. Now they called him a
liar; they asserted that he did not speak by any Divine inspiration,
but was a feeble impostor, an oracular puppet, whose strings were
pulled by his own disciple.[167]

Such scenes are, unfortunately, only too common in Church history.
Religious professors are still ready to abuse and to impute unworthy
motives to prophets whose messages they dislike, in a spirit not less
secular than that which is shown when some modern football team tries
to mob the referee who has given a decision against its hopes.

Moreover we must not unduly emphasise the solemn engagement given by
the Jews to abide Jeremiah's decision. They were probably sincere, but
not very much in earnest. The proceedings and the strong formulæ used
were largely conventional. Ancient kings and generals regularly sought
the approval of their prophets or augurs before taking any important
step, but they did not always act upon their advice. The final breach
between Saul and the prophet Samuel seems to have been due to the fact
that the king did not wait for his presence and counsel before
engaging the Philistines.[168] Before the disastrous expedition to
Ramoth Gilead, Jehoshaphat insisted on consulting a prophet of
Jehovah, and then acted in the teeth of his inspired warning.[169]

Johanan and his company felt it essential to consult some divine
oracle; and Jeremiah was not only the greatest prophet of Jehovah, he
was also the only prophet available. They must have known from his
consistent denunciation of all alliance with Egypt that his views were
likely to be at variance with their own. But they were consulting
Jehovah--Jeremiah was only His mouthpiece; hitherto He had set His
face against any dealings with Egypt, but circumstances were entirely
changed, and Jehovah's purpose might change with them, He might
"repent." They promised to obey, because there was at any rate a
chance that God's commands would coincide with their own intentions.
Butler's remark that men may be expected to act "not only upon an even
chance, but upon much less," specially applies to such promises as the
Jews made to Jeremiah. Certain tacit conditions may always be
considered attached to a profession of willingness to be guided by a
friend's advice. Our newspapers frequently record breaches of
engagements that should be as binding as that entered into by Johanan
and his friends, and they do so without any special comment. For
instance, the verdicts of arbitrators in trade disputes have been too
often ignored by the unsuccessful parties; and--to take a very
different illustration--the most unlimited professions of faith in the
infallibility of the Bible have sometimes gone along with a denial of
its plain teaching and a disregard of its imperative commands. While
Shylock expected a favourable decision, Portia was "a Daniel come to
judgment": his subsequent opinion of her judicial qualities has not
been recorded. Those who have never refused or evaded unwelcome
demands made by an authority whom they have promised to obey may cast
the first stone at Johanan.

After the scene we have been describing, the refugees set out for Egypt,
carrying with them the princesses and Jeremiah and Baruch. They were
following in the footsteps of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of Jeroboam and
many another Jew who had sought protection under the shadow of Pharaoh.
They were the forerunners of that later Israel in Egypt which, through
Philo and his disciples, exercised so powerful an influence on the
doctrine, criticism, and exegesis of the early Christian Church.

Yet this exodus in the wrong direction was by no means complete. Four
years later Nebuzaradan could still find seven hundred and forty-five
Jews to carry away to Babylon.[170] Johanan's movements had been too
hurried to admit of his gathering in the inhabitants of outlying

When Johanan's company reached the frontier, they would find the
Egyptian officials prepared to receive them. During the last few months
there must have been constant arrivals of Jewish refugees, and rumour
must have announced the approach of so large a company, consisting of
almost all the Jews left in Palestine. The very circumstances that made
them dread the vengeance of Nebuchadnezzar would ensure them a hearty
welcome in Egypt. Their presence was an unmistakable proof of the entire
failure of the attempt to create in Judah a docile and contented
dependency and outpost of the Chaldean Empire. They were accordingly
settled at Tahpanhes and in the surrounding district.

But no welcome could conciliate Jeremiah's implacable temper, nor could
all the splendour of Egypt tame his indomitable spirit. Amongst his
fellow-countrymen at Bethlehem, he had foretold the coming tribulations
of Egypt. He now renewed his predictions within the very precincts of
Pharaoh's palace, and enforced them by a striking symbol. At
Tahpanhes--the modern Tell Defenneh--which was the ancient Egyptian
frontier fortress and settlement on the more westerly route from Syria,
"the word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah, saying, Take great stones in
thine hand, and hide them in mortar in the brick pavement, at the entry
of Pharaoh's palace in Tahpanhes, in the presence of the men of Judah;
and say unto them, Thus saith Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Israel:--

          "Behold, I will send and take My servant Nebuchadnezzar king
                    of Babylon:
           I will set his throne upon these stones which I have hid,
           And he shall spread his state pavilion over them."

He would set up his royal tribunal, and decide the fate of the
conquered city and its inhabitants.

          "He shall come and smite the land of Egypt;
           Such as are for death shall be put to death,
           Such as are for captivity shall be sent into captivity,
           Such as are for the sword shall be slain by the sword.
           I will kindle a fire in the temples of the gods of Egypt;
           He shall burn their temples, and carry them away captive:
           He shall array himself with the land of Egypt,
           As a shepherd putteth on his garment."

The whole country would become a mere mantle for his dignity, a
comparatively insignificant part of his vast possessions.

          "He shall go forth from thence in peace."

A campaign that promised well at the beginning has often ended in
despair, like Sennacherib's attack on Judah, and Pharaoh Necho's
expedition to Carchemish. The invading army has been exhausted by its
victories, or wasted by disease and compelled to beat an inglorious
retreat. No such misfortunes should overtake the Chaldean king. He
would depart with all his spoil, leaving Egypt behind him subdued into
a loyal province of his empire.

Then the prophet adds, apparently as a kind of afterthought:--

          "He also shall break the obelisks of Heliopolis, in the land
                    of Egypt."

(so styled to distinguish this Beth-Shemesh from Beth-Shemesh in

          "And shall burn with fire the temples of the gods of Egypt."

The performance of this symbolic act and the delivery of its
accompanying message are not recorded, but Jeremiah would not fail to
make known the divine word to his fellow-countrymen. It is difficult
to understand how the exiled prophet would be allowed to assemble the
Jews in front of the main entrance of the palace, and hide "great
stones" in the pavement. Possibly the palace was being repaired,[171]
or the stones might be inserted under the front or side of a raised
platform, or possibly the symbolic act was only to be described and
not performed. Mr. Flinders Petrie recently discovered at Tell
Defenneh a large brickwork pavement, with great stones buried
underneath, which he supposed might be those mentioned in our
narrative. He also found there another possible relic of these Jewish
_émigrés_ in the shape of the ruins of a large brick building of the
twenty-sixth dynasty--to which Pharaoh Hophra belonged--still known as
the "Palace of the Jew's Daughter." It is a natural and attractive
conjecture that this was the residence assigned to the Jewish
princesses whom Johanan carried with him into Egypt.

But while the ruined palace may testify to Pharaoh's generosity to the
Royal House that had suffered through its alliance with him, the
"great stones" remind us that, after a brief interval of sympathy and
co-operation, Jeremiah again found himself in bitter antagonism to his
fellow-countrymen. In our next chapter we shall describe one final
scene of mutual recrimination.[172]


[167] Cf. chapter on "Baruch."

[168] 1 Sam. xiii.

[169] 1 Kings xxii.

[170] lii. 30.

[171] So Orelli, _in loco_.

[172] For the prophecy against Egypt and its fulfilment see further
chapter XVII.

                               CHAPTER XV

                         _THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN_


    "Since we left off burning incense and offering libations to the
    Queen of Heaven, we have been in want of everything, and have been
    consumed by the sword and the famine."--JER. xliv. 18.

The Jewish exiles in Egypt still retained a semblance of national life,
and were bound together by old religious ties. Accordingly we read that
they came together from their different settlements--from Migdol and
Tahpanhes on the north-eastern frontier, from Noph or Memphis on the
Nile south of the site of Cairo, and from Pathros or Upper Egypt--to a
"great assembly," no doubt a religious festival. The list of cities
shows how widely the Jews were scattered throughout Egypt.

Nothing is said as to where and when this "great assembly" met; but
for Jeremiah, such a gathering at all times and anywhere, in Egypt as
at Jerusalem, became an opportunity for fulfilling his Divine
commission. He once again confronted his fellow-countrymen with the
familiar threats and exhortations. A new climate had not created in
them either clean hearts or a right spirit.

Recent history had added force to his warnings. He begins therefore by
appealing to the direful consequences which had come upon the Holy
Land, through the sins of its inhabitants:--

          "Ye have seen all the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem,
                    and upon all the cities of Judah.
           Behold, this day they are an uninhabited waste,
           Because of their wickedness which they wrought to provoke Me
                    to anger,
           By going to burn incense and to serve other gods whom neither
                    they nor their fathers knew."

The Israelites had enjoyed for centuries intimate personal relations
with Jehovah, and knew Him by this ancient and close fellowship and by
all His dealings with them. They had no such knowledge of the gods of
surrounding nations. They were like foolish children who prefer the
enticing blandishments of a stranger to the affection and discipline
of their home. Such children do not intend to forsake their home or to
break the bonds of filial affection, and yet the new friendship may
wean their hearts from their father. So these exiles still considered
themselves worshippers of Jehovah, and yet their superstition led them
to disobey and dishonour Him.

Before its ruin, Judah had sinned against light and leading:--

          "Howbeit I sent unto you all My servants the prophets,
           Rising up early and sending them, saying,
           Oh do not this abominable thing that I hate.
           But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ears, so as to
                    turn from their evil,
           That they should not burn incense to other gods.
           Wherefore My fury and My anger was poured forth."

Political and social questions, the controversies with the prophets
who contradicted Jeremiah in the name of Jehovah, have fallen into the
background; the poor pretence of loyalty to Jehovah which permitted
His worshippers to degrade Him to the level of Baal and Moloch is
ignored as worthless: and Jeremiah, like Ezekiel, finds the root of
the people's sin in their desertion of Jehovah. Their real religion
was revealed by their heathenish superstitions. Every religious life
is woven of many diverse strands; if the web as a whole is rotten, the
Great Taskmaster can take no account of a few threads that have a form
and profession of soundness. Our Lord declared that He would utterly
ignore and repudiate men upon whose lips His name was a too familiar
word, who had preached and cast out devils and done many mighty works
in that Holy Name. These were men who had worked iniquity, who had
combined promising externals with the worship of "other gods," Mammon
or Belial or some other of those evil powers, who place

          "Within His sanctuary itself their shrines,
           Abominations; and with cursed things
           His holy rites and solemn feasts profane;
           And with their darkness dare affront His light."

This profane blending of idolatry with a profession of zeal for Jehovah
had provoked the divine wrath against Judah: and yet the exiles had not
profited by their terrible experience of the consequences of sin; they
still burnt incense unto other gods. Therefore Jeremiah remonstrates
with them afresh, and sets before their eyes the utter ruin which will
punish persistent sin. This discourse repeats and enlarges the threats
uttered at Bethlehem. The penalties then denounced on disobedience are
now attributed to idolatry. We have here yet another example of the
tacit understanding attaching to all the prophet's predictions. The most
positive declarations of doom are often warnings and not final
sentences. Jehovah does not turn a deaf ear to the penitent, and the
doom is executed not because He exacts the uttermost farthing, but
because the culprit perseveres in his uttermost wrong. Lack of faith and
loyalty at Bethlehem and idolatry in Egypt were both symptoms of the
same deep-rooted disease.

On this occasion there was no rival prophet to beard Jeremiah and
relieve his hearers from their fears and scruples. Probably indeed no
professed prophet of Jehovah would have cared to defend the worship of
other gods. But, as at Bethlehem, the people themselves ventured to
defy their aged mentor. They seem to have been provoked to such
hardihood by a stimulus which often prompts timorous men to bold
words. Their wives were specially devoted to the superstitious burning
of incense, and these women were present in large numbers. Probably,
like Lady Macbeth, they had already in private

          "Poured their spirits in their husbands' ears,
           And chastised, with the valour of their tongues,
           All that impeded"

those husbands from speaking their minds to Jeremiah. In their
presence, the men dared not shirk an obvious duty, for fear of more
domestic chastisement. The prophet's reproaches would be less
intolerable than such inflictions. Moreover the fair devotees did not
hesitate to mingle their own shrill voices in the wordy strife.

These idolatrous Jews--male and female--carried things with a very
high hand indeed:--

"We will not obey thee in that which thou hast spoken unto us in the
name of Jehovah. We are determined to perform all the vows we have made
to burn incense and other libations to the Queen of Heaven, exactly as
we have said and as we and our fathers and kings and princes did in the
cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem."[173]

Moreover they were quite prepared to meet Jeremiah on his own ground
and argue with him according to his own principles and methods. He had
appealed to the ruin of Judah as a proof of Jehovah's condemnation of
their idolatry and of His power to punish: they argued that these
misfortunes were a divine _spretæ injuria formæ_, the vengeance of the
Queen of Heaven, whose worship they had neglected. When they duly
honoured her,--

"Then had we plenty of victuals, and were prosperous and saw no evil;
but since we left off burning incense and offering libations to the
Queen of Heaven, we have been in want of everything, and have been
consumed by the sword and the famine."

Moreover the women had a special plea of their own:--

"When we burned incense and offered libations to the Queen of Heaven,
did we not make cakes to symbolise her and offer libations to her with
our husbands' permission?"

A wife's vows were not valid without her husband's sanction, and the
women avail themselves of this principle to shift the responsibility for
their superstition on the men's shoulders. Possibly too the unfortunate
Benedicts were not displaying sufficient zeal in the good cause, and
these words were intended to goad them into greater energy. Doubtless
they cannot be entirely exonerated of blame for tolerating their wives'
sins, probably they were guilty of participation as well as connivance.
Nothing however but the utmost determination and moral courage would
have curbed the exuberant religiosity of these devout ladies. The prompt
suggestion that, if they have done wrong, their husbands are to blame
for letting them have their own way, is an instance of the meanness
which results from the worship of "other gods."

But these defiant speeches raise a more important question. There is an
essential difference between regarding a national catastrophe as a
divine judgment and the crude superstition to which an eclipse expresses
the resentment of an angry god. But both involve the same practical
uncertainty. The sufferers or the spectators ask what god wrought these
marvels and what sins they are intended to punish, and to these
questions neither catastrophe nor eclipse gives any certain answer.

Doubtless the altars of the Queen of Heaven had been destroyed by
Josiah in his crusade against heathen cults; but her outraged majesty
had been speedily avenged by the defeat and death of the iconoclast,
and since then the history of Judah had been one long series of
disasters. Jeremiah declared that these were the just retribution
inflicted by Jehovah because Judah had been disloyal to Him; in the
reign of Manasseh their sin had reached its climax:--

"I will cause them to be tossed to and fro among all the nations of
the earth, because of Manasseh ben Hezekiah, king of Judah, for that
which he did in Jerusalem."[174]

His audience were equally positive that the national ruin was the
vengeance of the Queen of Heaven. Josiah had destroyed her altars, and
now the worshippers of Istar had retaliated by razing the Temple to
the ground. A Jew, with the vague impression that Istar was as real as
Jehovah, might find it difficult to decide between these conflicting

To us, as to Jeremiah, it seems sheer nonsense to speak of the
vengeance of the Queen of Heaven, not because of what we deduce from
the circumstances of the fall of Jerusalem, but because we do not
believe in any such deity. But the fallacy is repeated when, in
somewhat similar fashion, Protestants find proof of the superiority of
their faith in the contrast between England and Catholic Spain, while
Romanists draw the opposite conclusion from a comparison of Holland
and Belgium. In all such cases the assured truth of the disputant's
doctrine, which is set forth as the result of his argument, is in
reality the premise upon which his reasoning rests. Faith is not
deduced from, but dictates an interpretation of history. In an
individual the material penalties of sin may arouse a sleeping
conscience, but they cannot create a moral sense: apart from a moral
sense the discipline of rewards and punishments would be futile:--

          "Were no inner eye in us to tell,
             Instructed by no inner sense,
           The light of heaven from the dark of hell,
             That light would want its evidence."

Jeremiah, therefore, is quite consistent in refraining from argument
and replying to his opponents by reiterating his former statements
that sin against Jehovah had ruined Judah and would yet ruin the
exiles. He spoke on the authority of the "inner sense," itself
instructed by Revelation. But, after the manner of the prophets, he
gave them a sign--Pharaoh Hophra should be delivered into the hand of
his enemies as Zedekiah had been. Such an event would indeed be an
unmistakable sign of imminent calamity to the fugitives who had sought
the protection of the Egyptian king against Nebuchadnezzar.[175]

We have reserved for separate treatment the questions suggested by the
references to the Queen of Heaven.[176] This divine name only occurs
again in the Old Testament in vii. 18, and we are startled, at first
sight, to discover that a cult about which all other historians and
prophets have been entirely silent is described in these passages as an
ancient and national worship. It is even possible that the "great
assembly" was a festival in her honour. We have again to remind
ourselves that the Old Testament is an account of the progress of
Revelation and not a History of Israel. Probably the true explanation is
that given by Kuenen. The prophets do not, as a rule, speak of the
details of false worship; they use the generic "Baal" and the collective
"other gods." Even in this chapter Jeremiah begins by speaking of "other
gods," and only uses the term "Queen of Heaven" when he quotes the reply
made to him by the Jews. Similarly when Ezekiel goes into detail
concerning idolatry[177] he mentions cults and ritual[178] which do not
occur elsewhere in the Old Testament. The prophets were little inclined
to discriminate between different forms of idolatry, just as the average
churchman is quite indifferent to the distinctions of the various
Nonconformist bodies, which are to him simply "dissenters." One might
read many volumes of Anglican sermons and even some English Church
History without meeting with the term Unitarian.

It is easy to find modern parallels--Christian and heathen--to the
name of this goddess. The Virgin Mary is honoured with the title
_Regina Cœli_, and at Mukden, the Sacred City of China, there is a
temple to the Queen of Heaven. But it is not easy to identify the
ancient deity who bore this name. The Jews are accused elsewhere of
worshipping "the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven," and one
or other of these heavenly bodies--mostly either the moon or the
planet Venus--has been supposed to have been the Queen of Heaven.

Neither do the symbolic cakes help us. Such emblems are found in the
ritual of many ancient cults: at Athens cakes called σελῆναι, and
shaped like a full-moon were offered to the moon-goddess Artemis; a
similar usage seems to have prevailed in the worship of the Arabian
goddess Al-Uzza, whose star was Venus, and also of connection with the
worship of the sun.[179]

Moreover we do not find the title "Queen of Heaven" as an ordinary and
well-established name of any neighbouring divinity. "Queen" is a
natural title for any goddess, and was actually given to many ancient
deities. Schrader[180] finds our goddess in the Atar-samain
(Athar-Astarte) who is mentioned in the Assyrian ascriptions as
worshipped by a North Arabian tribe of Kedarenes. Possibly too the
Assyrian Istar is called Queen of Heaven.[181]

Istar, however, is connected with the moon as well as with the planet
Venus.[182] For the present therefore we must be content to leave the
matter an open question,[183] but any day some new discovery may solve
the problem. Meanwhile it is interesting to notice how little
religious ideas and practices are affected by differences in
profession. St. Isaac the Great, of Antioch, who died about A.D. 460,
tells us that the Christian ladies of Syria--whom he speaks of very
ungallantly as "fools"--used to worship the planet Venus from the
roofs of their houses, in the hope that she would bestow upon them
some portion of her own brightness and beauty. His experience
naturally led St. Isaac to interpret the Queen of Heaven as the
luminary which his countrywomen venerated.[184]

The episode of the "great assembly" closes the history of Jeremiah's
life. We leave him (as we so often met with him before) hurling
ineffective denunciations at a recalcitrant audience. Vagrant fancy,
holding this to be a lame and impotent conclusion, has woven romantic
stories to continue and complete the narrative. There are traditions
that he was stoned to death at Tahpanhes, and that his bones were
removed to Alexandria by Alexander the Great; that he and Baruch
returned to Judea or went to Babylon and died in peace; that he
returned to Jerusalem and lived there three hundred years,--and other
such legends. As has been said concerning the Apocryphal Gospels,
these narratives serve as a foil to the history they are meant to
supplement: they remind us of the sequels of great novels written by
inferior pens, or of attempts made by clumsy mechanics to convert a
bust by some inspired sculptor into a full-length statue.

For this story of Jeremiah's life is not a torso. Sacred biography
constantly disappoints our curiosity as to the last days of holy men.
We are scarcely ever told how prophets and apostles died. It is
curious too that the great exceptions--Elijah in his chariot of fire
and Elisha dying quietly in his bed--occur before the period of
written prophecy. The deaths of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, Peter,
Paul, and John, are passed over in the Sacred Record, and when we seek
to follow them beyond its pages, we are taught afresh the unique
wisdom of inspiration. If we may understand Deuteronomy xxxiv. to
imply that no eye was permitted to behold Moses in the hour of death,
we have in this incident a type of the reticence of Scripture on such
matters. Moreover a moment's reflection reminds us that the inspired
method is in accordance with the better instincts of our nature. A
death in opening manhood, or the death of a soldier in battle or of a
martyr at the stake, rivets our attention; but when men die in a good
old age, we dwell less on their declining years than on the
achievements of their prime. We all remember the martyrdoms of Huss
and Latimer, but how many of those in whose mouths Calvin and Luther
are familiar as household words know how those great Reformers died?

There comes a time when we may apply to the aged saint the words of
Browning's _Death in the Desert_:--

          "So is myself withdrawn into my depths,
           The soul retreated from the perished brain
           Whence it was wont to feel and use the world
           Through these dull members, done with long ago."

And the poet's comparison of this soul to

              "A stick once fire from end to end;
          Now, ashes save the tip that holds a spark."

Love craves to watch to the last, because the spark may

                      "Run back, spread itself
          A little where the fire was....
                  And we would not lose
          The last of what might happen on his face."

Such privileges may be granted to a few chosen disciples, probably
they were in this case granted to Baruch; but they are mostly withheld
from the world, lest blind irreverence should see in the aged saint
nothing but

              "Second childishness, and mere oblivion;
          Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."


[173] Combined from verses 16, 17, and 25.

[174] xv. 4.

[175] As to the fulfilment of this prophecy see Chap. XVII.

[176] MELEKHETH HASHSHAMAYIM. The Masoretic pointing seems to indicate
a rendering "service" or work of heaven, probably in the sense of
"host of heaven," _i.e._ the stars, מְלֶכֶת being written defectively
for מְלֶאכֶת, but this translation is now pretty generally abandoned.
Cf. C. J. Ball, Giesebrecht, Orelli, Cheyne, etc., on vii. 18, and
especially Kuenen's treatise on the Queen of Heaven--in the
_Gesammelte Abhandlungen_, translated by Budde--to which this section
is largely indebted.

[177] Ezek. viii.

[178] The worship of Tammuz and of "creeping things and abominable
beasts" etc.

[179] Kuenen, 208.

[180] Schrader (Whitehouse's translation), ii. 207.

[181] Kuenen, 206.

[182] Sayce, _Higher Criticism_, etc., 80.

[183] So Giesebrecht on vii. 18. Kuenen argues for the identification
of the Queen of Heaven with the planet Venus.

[184] Kuenen, 211.

                                BOOK II


                              CHAPTER XVI

                       _JEHOVAH AND THE NATIONS_

                              xxv. 15-38.

    "Jehovah hath a controversy with the nations."--JER. xxv. 31.

As the son of a king only learns very gradually that his father's
authority and activity extend beyond the family and the household, so
Israel in its childhood thought of Jehovah as exclusively concerned
with itself.

Such ideas as omnipotence and universal Providence did not exist;
therefore they could not be denied; and the limitations of the national
faith were not essentially inconsistent with later Revelation. But when
we reach the period of recorded prophecy we find that, under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, the prophets had begun to recognise
Jehovah's dominion over surrounding peoples. There was, as yet, no
deliberate and formal doctrine of omnipotence, but, as Israel became
involved in the fortunes first of one foreign power and then of another,
the prophets asserted that the doings of these heathen states were
overruled by the God of Israel. The idea of Jehovah's Lordship of the
Nations enlarged with the extension of international relations, as our
conception of the God of Nature has expanded with the successive
discoveries of science. Hence, for the most part, the prophets devote
special attention to the concerns of Gentile peoples. Hosea, Micah,
Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are partial exceptions. Some of the minor
prophets have for their main subject the doom of a heathen empire. Jonah
and Nahum deal with Nineveh, Habbakuk with Chaldea, and Edom is
specially honoured by being almost the sole object of the denunciations
of Obadiah. Daniel also deals with the fate of the kingdoms of the
world, but in the Apocalyptic fashion of the Pseudepigrapha. Jewish
criticism rightly declined to recognise this book as prophetic, and
relegated it to the latest collection of canonical scriptures.

Each of the other prophetical books contains a longer or shorter
series of utterances concerning the neighbours of Israel, its friends
and foes, its enemies and allies. The fashion was apparently set by
Amos, who shows God's judgment upon Damascus, the Philistines, Tyre,
Edom, Ammon, and Moab. This list suggests the range of the prophet's
religious interest in the Gentiles. Assyria and Egypt were, for the
present, beyond the sphere of Revelation, just as China and India were
to the average Protestant of the seventeenth century. When we come to
the Book of Isaiah, the horizon widens in every direction. Jehovah is
concerned with Egypt and Ethiopia, Assyria and Babylon.[185] In very
short books like Joel and Zephaniah we could not expect exhaustive
treatment of this subject. Yet even these prophets deal with the
fortunes of the Gentiles: Joel, variously held one of the latest or
one of the earliest of the canonical books, pronounces a divine
judgment on Tyre and Sidon and the Philistines, on Egypt and Edom; and
Zephaniah, an elder contemporary of Jeremiah, devotes sections to the
Philistines, Moab and Ammon, Ethiopia and Assyria.

The fall of Nineveh revolutionised the international system of the
East. The judgment on Asshur was accomplished, and her name disappears
from these catalogues of doom. In other particulars Jeremiah, as well
as Ezekiel, follows closely in the footsteps of his predecessors. He
deals, like them, with the group of Syrian and Palestinian
states--Philistines, Moab, Ammon, Edom, and Damascus.[186] He dwells
with repeated emphasis on Egypt, and Arabia is represented by Kedar
and Hazor. In one section the prophet travels into what must have
seemed to his contemporaries the very far East, as far as Elam. On the
other hand, he is comparatively silent about Tyre, in which Joel,
Amos, the Book of Isaiah,[187] and above all Ezekiel display a lively
interest. Nebuchadnezzar's campaigns were directed against Tyre as
much as against Jerusalem; and Ezekiel, living in Chaldea, would have
attention forcibly directed to the Phœnician capital, at a time when
Jeremiah was absorbed in the fortunes of Zion.

But in the passage which we have chosen as the subject for this
introduction to the prophecies of the nations, Jeremiah takes a
somewhat wider range:--

          "Thus saith unto me Jehovah, the God of Israel:
           Take at My hand this cup of the wine of fury,
           And make all the nations, to whom I send thee, drink it.
           They shall drink, and reel to and fro, and be mad,
           Because of the sword that I will send among them."

First and foremost of these nations, pre-eminent in punishment as in
privilege, stand "Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with its kings
and princes."

This bad eminence is a necessary application of the principle laid
down by Amos[188]:--

          "You only have I known of all the families of the earth:
           Therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities."

But as Jeremiah says later on, addressing the Gentile nations,--

          "I begin to work evil at the city which is called by My name.
           Should ye go scot-free? Ye shall not go scot-free."

And the prophet puts the cup of God's fury to their lips also, and
amongst them, Egypt, the _bête noir_ of Hebrew seers, is most
conspicuously marked out for destruction: "Pharaoh king of Egypt, and
his servants and princes and all his people, and all the mixed
population of Egypt."[189] Then follows, in epic fashion, a catalogue of
"all the nations" as Jeremiah knew them: "All the kings of the land of
Uz, all the kings of the land of the Philistines; Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron,
and the remnant of Ashdod;[190] Edom, Moab, and the Ammonites; all the
kings[191] of Tyre, all the kings of Zidon, and the kings of their
colonies[192] beyond the sea; Dedan and Tema and Buz, and all that have
the corners of their hair polled;[193] and all the kings of Arabia, and
all the kings of the mixed populations that dwell in the desert; all the
kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of the Medes."
Jeremiah's definite geographical information is apparently exhausted,
but he adds by way of summary and conclusion: "And all the kings of the
north, far and near, one after the other; and all the kingdoms of the
world, which are on the face of the earth."

There is one notable omission in the list. Nebuchadnezzar, the servant
of Jehovah,[194] was the divinely appointed scourge of Judah and its
neighbours and allies. Elsewhere[195] the nations are exhorted to
submit to him, and here apparently Chaldea is exempted from the
general doom, just as Ezekiel passes no formal sentence on Babylon. It
is true that "all the kingdoms of the earth" would naturally include
Babylon, possibly were even intended to do so. But the Jews were not
long content with so veiled a reference to their conquerors and
oppressors. Some patriotic scribe added the explanatory note, "And the
king of Sheshach (_i.e._ Babylon) shall drink after them."[196]
Sheshach is obtained from Babel by the cypher 'Athbash, according to
which an alphabet is written out and a reversed alphabet written out
underneath it, and the letters of the lower row used for those of the
upper and _vice versâ_. Thus

                       Aleph    B           K  L
                       T        SH          L  K

The use of cypher seems to indicate that the note was added in
Chaldea during the Exile, when it was not safe to circulate documents
which openly denounced Babylon. Jeremiah's enumeration of the peoples
and rulers of his world is naturally more detailed and more exhaustive
than the list of the nations against which he prophesied. It includes
the Phœnician states, details the Philistine cities, associates with
Elam the neighbouring nations of Zimri and the Medes, and substitutes
for Kedar and Hazor Arabia and a number of semi-Arab states, Uz,
Dedan, Tema, and Buz.[197] Thus Jeremiah's world is the district
constantly shown in Scripture atlases in a map comprising the scenes
of Old Testament history, Egypt, Arabia, and Western Asia, south of a
line from the north-east corner of the Mediterranean to the southern
end of the Caspian Sea, and west of a line from the latter point to
the northern end of the Persian Gulf. How much of history has been
crowded into this narrow area! Here science, art, and literature won
those primitive triumphs which no subsequent achievements could
surpass or even equal. Here, perhaps for the first time, men tasted
the Dead Sea apples of civilisation, and learnt how little accumulated
wealth and national splendour can do for the welfare of the masses.
Here was Eden, where God walked in the cool of the day to commune with
man; and here also were many Mount Moriahs, where man gave his
firstborn for his transgression, the fruit of his body for the sin of
his soul, and no angel voice stayed his hand.

And now glance at any modern map and see for how little Jeremiah's
world counts among the great Powers of the nineteenth century. Egypt
indeed is a bone of contention between European states, but how often
does a daily paper remind its readers of the existence of Syria or
Mesopotamia? We may apply to this ancient world the title that Byron
gave to Rome, "Lone mother of dead empires," and call it:--

                "The desert, where we steer
          Stumbling o'er recollections."

It is said that Scipio's exultation over the fall of Carthage was
marred by forebodings that Time had a like destiny in store for Rome.
Where Cromwell might have quoted a text from the Bible, the Roman
soldier applied to his native city the Homeric lines:--

                      "Troy shall sink in fire,
          And Priam's city with himself expire."

The epitaphs of ancient civilisations are no mere matters of
archæology; like the inscriptions on common graves, they carry a
_Memento mori_ for their successors.

But to return from epitaphs to prophecy: in the list which we have just
given, the kings of many of the nations are required to drink the cup of
wrath, and the section concludes with a universal judgment upon the
princes and rulers of this ancient world under the familiar figure of
shepherds, supplemented here by another, that of the "principal of the
flock," or, as we should say, "bell-wethers." Jehovah would break out
upon them to rend and scatter like a lion from his covert. Therefore:--

          "Howl, ye shepherds, and cry!
           Roll yourselves in the dust, ye bell-wethers!
           The time has fully come for you to be slaughtered.
           I will cast you down with a crash, like a vase of
           Ruin hath overtaken the refuge of the shepherds,
           And the way of escape of the bell-wethers."

Thus Jeremiah announces the coming ruin of an ancient world, with all
its states and sovereigns, and we have seen that the prediction has
been amply fulfilled. We can only notice two other points with regard
to this section.

First, then, we have no right to accuse the prophet of speaking from a
narrow national standpoint. His words are not the expression of the
Jewish _adversus omnes alios hostile odium_;[199] if they were, we
should not hear so much of Judah's sin and Judah's punishment. He
applied to heathen states as he did to his own the divine standard of
national righteousness, and they too were found wanting. All history
confirms Jeremiah's judgment. This brings us to our second point.
Christian thinkers have been engrossed in the evidential aspect of
these national catastrophes. They served to fulfil prophecy, and
therefore the squalor of Egypt and the ruins of Assyria to-day have
seemed to make our way of salvation more safe and certain. But God did
not merely sacrifice these holocausts of men and nations to the
perennial craving of feeble faith for signs. Their fate must of
necessity illustrate His justice and wisdom and love. Jeremiah tells
us plainly that Judah and its neighbours had filled up the measure of
their iniquity before they were called upon to drink the cup of wrath;
national sin justifies God's judgments. Yet these very facts of the
moral failure and decadence of human societies perplex and startle us.
Individuals grow old and feeble and die, but saints and heroes do not
become slaves of vice and sin in their last days. The glory of their
prime is not buried in a dishonoured grave. Nay rather, when all else
fails, the beauty of holiness grows more pure and radiant. But of what
nation could we say:--

          "Let me die the death of the righteous,
           Let my last end be like his"?

Apparently the collective conscience is a plant of very slow growth;
and hitherto no society has been worthy to endure honourably or even
to perish nobly. In Christendom itself the ideals of common action are
still avowedly meaner than those of individual conduct. International
and collective morality is still in its infancy, and as a matter of
habit and system modern states are often wantonly cruel and unjust
towards obscure individuals and helpless minorities. Yet surely it
shall not always be so; the daily prayer of countless millions for the
coming of the Kingdom of God cannot remain unanswered.


[185] Doubts however have been raised as to whether any of the
sections about Babylon are by Isaiah himself.

[186] Doubts have been expressed as to the genuineness of the Damascus

[187] The Isaianic authorship of this prophecy (Isa. xxiii.) is
rejected by very many critics.

[188] Amos iii. 2.

[189] So Giesebrecht, Orelli, etc.

[190] Psammetichus had recently taken Ashdod, after a continuous siege
of twenty-nine years.

[191] The plural may refer to dependent chiefs or may be used for the
sake of symmetry.

[192] Lit. "the coasts" (_i.e._ islands and coastland) where the
Phœnicians had planted their colonies.

[193] See on xlix. 28-32.

[194] xxv. 9.

[195] xxvii. 8.

[196] Sheshach (Sheshakh) for Babel also occurs in li. 41. This
explanatory note is omitted by LXX.

[197] As to Damascus cf. note on p. 213.

[198] This line is somewhat paraphrased. Lit. "I will shatter you, and
ye shall fall like an ornamental vessel" (KELI HEMDA).

[199] Tacitus, _History_, v. 5.

                              CHAPTER XVII


                      xliii. 8-13, xliv. 30, xlvi.

    "I will visit Amon of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods
    and their kings; even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in
    him."--JER. xlvi. 25.

The kings of Egypt with whom Jeremiah was contemporary--Psammetichus
II., Pharaoh Necho, and Pharaoh Hophra--belonged to the twenty-sixth
dynasty. When growing distress at home compelled Assyria to loose her
hold on her distant dependencies, Egypt still retained something of
her former vigorous elasticity. In the rebound from subjection under
the heavy hand of Sennacherib, she resumed her ancient forms of life
and government. She regained her unity and independence, and posed
afresh as an equal rival with Chaldea for the supremacy of Western
Asia. At home there was a renascence of art and literature, and, as of
old, the wealth and devotion of powerful monarchs restored the ancient
temples and erected new shrines of their own.

But this revival was no new growth springing up with a fresh and
original life from the seeds of the past; it cannot rank with the
European Renascence of the fifteenth century. It is rather to be
compared with the reorganisations by which Diocletian and Constantine
prolonged the decline of the Roman Empire, the rally of a strong
constitution in the grip of mortal disease. These latter-day Pharaohs
failed ignominiously in their attempts to recover the Syrian dominion of
the Thothmes and Rameses; and, like the Roman Empire in its last
centuries, the Egypt of the twenty-sixth dynasty surrendered itself to
Greek influence and hired foreign mercenaries to fight its battles. The
new art and literature were tainted by pedantic archaism. According to
Brugsch,[200] "Even to the newly created dignities and titles, the
return to ancient times had become the general watchword.... The stone
door-posts of this age reveal the old Memphian style of art, mirrored in
its modern reflection after the lapse of four thousand years." Similarly
Meyer[201] tells us that apparently the Egyptian state was reconstituted
on the basis of a religious revival, somewhat in the fashion of the
establishment of Deuteronomy by Josiah.

Inscriptions after the time of Psammetichus are written in archaic
Egyptian of a very ancient past; it is often difficult to determine at
first sight whether inscriptions belong to the earliest or latest
period of Egyptian history.

The superstition that sought safety in an exact reproduction of a remote
antiquity could not, however, resist the fascination of Eastern
demonology. According to Brugsch,[202] in the age called the Egyptian
Renascence the old Egyptian theology was adulterated with Græco-Asiatic
elements--demons and genii of whom the older faith and its purer
doctrine had scarcely an idea; exorcisms became a special science, and
are favourite themes for the inscriptions of this period. Thus, amid
many differences, there are also to be found striking resemblances
between the religious movements of the period in Egypt and amongst the
Jews, and corresponding difficulties in determining the dates of
Egyptian inscriptions and of sections of the Old Testament.

This enthusiasm for ancient custom and tradition was not likely to
commend the Egypt of Jeremiah's age to any student of Hebrew history. He
would be reminded that the dealings of the Pharaohs with Israel had
almost always been to its hurt; he would remember the Oppression and the
Exodus--how, in the time of Solomon, friendly intercourse with Egypt
taught that monarch lessons in magnificent tyranny, how Shishak
plundered the Temple, how Isaiah had denounced the Egyptian alliance as
a continual snare to Judah. A Jewish prophet would be prompt to discern
the omens of coming ruin in the midst of renewed prosperity on the Nile.

Accordingly at the first great crisis of the new international system,
in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, either just before or just after the
battle of Carchemish--it matters little which--Jeremiah takes up his
prophecy against Egypt. First of all, with an ostensible friendliness
which only masks his bitter sarcasm, he invites the Egyptians to take
the field:--

          "Prepare buckler and shield, and draw near to battle.
           Harness the horses to the chariots, mount the chargers, stand
                    forth armed cap-à-pie for battle;
           Furbish the spears, put on the coats of mail."

This great host with its splendid equipment must surely conquer. The
prophet professes to await its triumphant return; but he sees instead
a breathless mob of panic-stricken fugitives, and pours upon them the
torrent of his irony:--

          "How is it that I behold this? These heroes are dismayed and
                    have turned their backs;
           Their warriors have been beaten down;
           They flee apace, and do not look behind them:
           Terror on every side--is the utterance of Jehovah."

Then irony passes into explicit malediction:--

          "Let not the swift flee away, nor the warrior escape;
           Away northward, they stumble and fall by the river

Then, in a new strophe, Jeremiah again recurs in imagination to the
proud march of the countless hosts of Egypt:--

          "Who is this that riseth up like the Nile,
           Whose waters toss themselves like the rivers?
           Egypt riseth up like the Nile,
           His waters toss themselves like the rivers.
           And he saith, I will go up and cover the land"

(like the Nile in flood);

          "I will destroy the cities and their inhabitants"

(and, above all other cities, Babylon).

Again the prophet urges them on with ironical encouragement:--

          "Go up, ye horses; rage, ye chariots;
           Ethiopians and Libyans that handle the shield,
           Lydians that handle and bend the bow"

(the tributaries and mercenaries of Egypt).

Then, as before, he speaks plainly of coming disaster:

          "That day is a day of vengeance for the Lord Jehovah Sabaoth,
                    whereon He will avenge Him of His adversaries"

(a day of vengeance upon Pharaoh Necho for Megiddo and Josiah).

          "The sword shall devour and be sated, and drink its fill of
                    their blood:
           For the Lord Jehovah Sabaoth hath a sacrifice in the northern
                    land, by the river Euphrates."

In a final strophe, the prophet turns to the land left bereaved and
defenceless by the defeat at Carchemish:--

          "Go up to Gilead and get thee balm, O virgin daughter of
           In vain dost thou multiply medicines; thou canst not be
           The nations have heard of thy shame, the earth is full of thy
           For warrior stumbles against warrior; they fall both

Nevertheless the end was not yet. Egypt was wounded to death, but she
was to linger on for many a long year to be a snare to Judah and to
vex the righteous soul of Jeremiah. The reed was broken, but it still
retained an appearance of soundness, which more than once tempted the
Jewish princes to lean upon it and find their hands pierced for their
pains. Hence, as we have seen already, Jeremiah repeatedly found
occasion to reiterate the doom of Egypt, of Necho's successor, Pharaoh
Hophra, and of the Jewish refugees who had sought safety under his
protection. In the concluding part of chapter xlvi., a prophecy of
uncertain date sets forth the ruin of Egypt with rather more literary
finish than in the parallel passages.

This word of Jehovah was to be proclaimed in Egypt, and especially in
the frontier cities, which would have to bear the first brunt of

          "Declare in Egypt, proclaim in Migdol, proclaim in Noph and
           Say ye, Take thy stand and be ready, for the sword hath
                    devoured round about thee.
           Why hath Apis[203] fled and thy calf not stood? Because
                    Jehovah overthrew it."

Memphis was devoted to the worship of Apis, incarnate in the sacred
bull; but now Apis must succumb to the mightier divinity of Jehovah,
and his sacred city become a prey to the invaders.

          "He maketh many to stumble; they fall one against another.
           Then they say, Arise, and let us return to our own people and
                    to our native land, before the oppressing sword."

We must remember that the Egyptian armies were largely composed of
foreign mercenaries. In the hour of disaster and defeat these
hirelings would desert their employers and go home.

          "Give unto Pharaoh king of Egypt the name[204] Crash; he hath
                    let the appointed time pass by."

The form of this enigmatic sentence is probably due to a play upon
Egyptian names and titles. When the allusions are forgotten, such
paronomasia naturally results in hopeless obscurity. The "appointed
time" has been explained as the period during which Jehovah gave
Pharaoh the opportunity of repentance, or as that within which he
might have submitted to Nebuchadnezzar on favourable terms.

          "As I live, is the utterance of the King, whose name is
                    Jehovah Sabaoth,
           One shall come like Tabor among the mountains and like Carmel
                    by the sea."

It was not necessary to name this terrible invader; it could be no
other than Nebuchadnezzar.

          "Get thee gear for captivity, O daughter of Egypt, that
                    dwellest in thine own land:
           For Noph shall become a desolation, and shall be burnt up and
                    left without inhabitants.
           Egypt is a very fair heifer, but destruction is come upon her
                    from the north."

This tempest shattered the Greek phalanx in which Pharaoh trusted:--

          "Even her mercenaries in the midst of her are like calves of
                    the stall;
           Even they have turned and fled together, they have not stood:
           For their day of calamity hath come upon them, their day of

We do not look for chronological sequence in such a poem, so that this
picture of the flight and destruction of the mercenaries is not
necessarily later in time than their overthrow and contemplated
desertion in verse 15. The prophet is depicting a scene of bewildered
confusion; the disasters that fell thick upon Egypt crowd into his
vision without order or even coherence. Now he turns again to Egypt

          "Her voice goeth forth like the (low hissing of) the serpent;
           For they come upon her with a mighty army, and with axes like

A like fate is predicted in Isaiah xxix. 4 for "Ariel, the city where
David dwelt":--

          "Thou shalt be brought low and speak from the ground;
           Thou shalt speak with a low voice out of the dust;
           Thy voice shall come from the ground, like that of a familiar
           And thou shalt speak in a whisper from the dust."

Thus too Egypt would seek to writhe herself from under the heel of the
invader; hissing out the while her impotent fury, she would seek to
glide away into some safe refuge amongst the underwood. Her
dominions, stretching far up the Nile, were surely vast enough to
afford her shelter somewhere; but no! the "woodcutters" are too many
and too mighty for her:--

          "They cut down her forest--it is the utterance of Jehovah--for
                    it is impenetrable;
           For they are more than the locusts, and are innumerable."

The whole of Egypt is overrun and subjugated; no district holds out
against the invader, and remains unsubjugated to form the nucleus of a
new and independent empire.

          "The daughter of Egypt is put to shame; she is delivered into
                    the hand of the northern people."

Her gods share her fate; Apis had succumbed at Memphis, but Egypt had
countless other stately shrines whose denizens must own the
overmastering might of Jehovah:--

          "Thus saith Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Israel:
           Behold, I will visit Amon of No,
           And Pharaoh, and Egypt, and all her gods and kings,
           Even Pharaoh and all who trust in him."

Amon of No, or Thebes, known to the Greeks as Ammon and called by his
own worshippers Amen, or "the hidden one," is apparently mentioned
with Apis as sharing the primacy of the Egyptian divine hierarchy. On
the fall of the twentieth dynasty, the high priest of the Theban Amen
became king of Egypt, and centuries afterwards Alexander the Great
made a special pilgrimage to the temple in the oasis of Ammon and was
much gratified at being there hailed son of the deity.

Probably the prophecy originally ended with this general threat of
"visitation" of Egypt and its human and divine rulers. An editor,
however, has added,[205] from parallel passages, the more definite
but sufficiently obvious statement that Nebuchadnezzar and his
servants were to be the instruments of the Divine visitation.

A further addition is in striking contrast to the sweeping statements
of Jeremiah:--

          "Afterward it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old."

Similarly, Ezekiel foretold a restoration for Egypt:--

"At the end of forty years, I will gather the Egyptians, and will
cause them to return ... to their native land; and they shall be there
a base kingdom: it shall be the basest of the kingdoms."[206]

And elsewhere we read yet more gracious promises to Egypt:--

"Israel shall be a third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the
midst of the land: whom Jehovah Sabaoth shall bless, saying, Blessed
be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine

Probably few would claim to discover in history any literal fulfilment
of this last prophecy. Perhaps it might have been appropriated for the
Christian Church in the days of Clement and Origen. We may take Egypt
and Assyria as types of heathendom, which shall one day receive the
blessings of the Lord's people and of the work of His hands. Of
political revivals and restorations Egypt has had her share. But less
interest attaches to these general prophecies than to more definite
and detailed predictions; and there is much curiosity as to any
evidence which monuments and other profane witnesses may furnish as to
a conquest of Egypt and capture of Pharaoh Hophra by Nebuchadnezzar.

According to Herodotus,[208] Apries (Hophra) was defeated and
imprisoned by his successor Amasis, afterwards delivered up by him to
the people of Egypt, who forthwith strangled their former king. This
event would be an exact fulfilment of the words, "I will give Pharaoh
Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of
them that seek his life,"[209] if it were not evident from parallel
passages[210] that the Book of Jeremiah intends Nebuchadnezzar to be the
enemy into whose hands Pharaoh is to be delivered. But Herodotus is
entirely silent as to the relations of Egypt and Babylon during this
period; for instance, he mentions the victory of Pharaoh Necho at
Megiddo--which he miscalls Magdolium--but not his defeat at Carchemish.
Hence his silence as to Chaldean conquests in Egypt has little weight.
Even the historian's explicit statement as to the death of Apries might
be reconciled with his defeat and capture by Nebuchadnezzar, if we knew
all the facts. At present, however, the inscriptions do little to fill
the gap left by the Greek historian; there are, however, references
which seem to establish two invasions of Egypt by the Chaldean king, one
of which fell in the reign of Pharaoh Hophra. But the spiritual lessons
of this and the following prophecies concerning the nations are not
dependent on the spade of the excavator or the skill of the decipherers
of hieroglyphics and cuneiform script; whatever their relation may be to
the details of subsequent historical events, they remain as monuments of
the inspired insight of the prophet into the character and destiny alike
of great empires and petty states. They assert the Divine government of
the nations, and the subordination of all history to the coming of the
Kingdom of God.


[200] Second edition, ii. 291, 292.

[201] Meyer, _Geschichte des alten Ägypten_, 371, 373.

[202] ii. 293.

[203] Giesebrecht, with LXX.

[204] Giesebrecht, Orelli, Kautzsch, with LXX., Syr., and Vulg., by an
alteration of the pointing.

[205] LXX. omits verse 26. Verses 27, 28 = xxx. 10, 11, and probably
are an insertion here.

[206] Ezek. xxix. 13-15.

[207] Isa. xix. 25.

[208] Herodotus, II. clxix.

[209] xliv. 30.

[210] xlvi. 25.

                             CHAPTER XVIII

                           _THE PHILISTINES_


    "O sword of Jehovah, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up
    thyself into thy scabbard; rest, and be still."--JER. xlvii. 6.

According to the title placed at the head of this prophecy, it was
uttered "before Pharaoh smote Gaza." The Pharaoh is evidently Pharaoh
Necho, and this capture of Gaza was one of the incidents of the
campaign which opened with the victory at Megiddo and concluded so
disastrously at Carchemish. Our first impulse is to look for some
connection between this incident and the contents of the prophecy:
possibly the editor who prefixed the heading may have understood by
the northern enemy Pharaoh Necho on his return from Carchemish; but
would Jeremiah have described a defeated army thus?

          "Behold, waters rise out of the north, and become an
                    overflowing torrent;
           They overflow the land, and all that is therein, the city and
                    its inhabitants.
           Men cry out, and all the inhabitants of the land howl,
           At the sound of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions,
           At the rattling of his chariots and the rumbling of his

Here as elsewhere the enemy from the north is Nebuchadnezzar. Pharaohs
might come and go, winning victories and taking cities, but these
broken reeds count for little; not they, but the king of Babylon is
the instrument of Jehovah's supreme purpose. The utter terror caused
by the Chaldean advance is expressed by a striking figure:--

          "The fathers look not back to their children for slackness of

Their very bodies are possessed and crippled with fear, their palsied
muscles cannot respond to the impulses of natural affection; they can
do nothing but hurry on in headlong flight, unable to look round or
stretch out a helping hand to their children:--

          "Because of the day that cometh for the spoiling of all the
           For cutting off every ally that remaineth unto Tyre and
           For Jehovah spoileth the Philistines, the remnant of the
                    coast of Caphtor.[211]
           Baldness cometh upon Gaza; Ashkelon is destroyed:
           O remnant of the Anakim,[212] how long wilt thou cut

This list is remarkable both for what it includes and what it omits.
In order to understand the reference to Tyre and Zidon, we must
remember that Nebuchadnezzar's expedition was partly directed against
these cities, with which the Philistines had evidently been allied.
The Chaldean king would hasten the submission of the Phœnicians, by
cutting off all hope of succour from without. There are various
possible reasons why out of the five Philistine cities only
two--Ashkelon and Gaza--are mentioned; Ekron, Gath, and Ashdod may
have been reduced to comparative insignificance. Ashdod had recently
been taken by Psammetichus after a twenty-nine years' siege. Or the
names of two of these cities may be given by way of paronomasia in the
text: Ashdod may be suggested by the double reference to the
_spoiling_ and the _spoiler_, _Shdod_ and _Shoded_; Gath may be hinted
at by the word used for the mutilation practised by mourners,
_Tithgoddadi_, and by the mention of the Anakim, who are connected
with Gath, Ashdod, and Gaza in Joshua xi. 22.

As Jeremiah contemplates this fresh array of victims of Chaldean
cruelty, he is moved to protest against the weary monotony of ruin:--

          "O sword of Jehovah, how long will it be ere thou be quiet?
           Put up thyself into thy scabbard; rest, and be still."

The prophet ceases to be the mouthpiece of God, and breaks out into
the cry of human anguish. How often since, amid the barbarian inroads
that overwhelmed the Roman Empire, amid the prolonged horrors of the
Thirty Years' War, amid the carnage of the French Revolution, men have
uttered a like appeal to an unanswering and relentless Providence!
Indeed, not in war only, but even in peace, the tide of human misery
and sin often seems to flow, century after century, with undiminished
volume, and ever and again a vain "How long" is wrung from pallid and
despairing lips. For the Divine purpose may not be hindered, and the
sword of Jehovah must still strike home.

          "How can it be quiet, seeing that Jehovah hath given it a
           Against Ashkelon and against the sea-shore, there hath He
                    appointed it."

Yet Ashkelon survived to be a stronghold of the Crusaders, and Gaza to
be captured by Alexander and even by Napoleon. Jehovah has other
instruments besides His devastating sword; the victorious endurance
and recuperative vitality of men and nations also come from Him.

          "Come, and let us return unto Jehovah:
           For He hath torn, and He will heal us;
           He hath smitten, and He will bind us up."[213]


[211] Referring to their ancient immigration from Caphtor, probably

[212] Kautzsch, Giesebrecht, with LXX., reading 'Nqm for the Masoretic
'Mqm; Eng. Vers., "their valley."

[213] Hosea vi. 1.

                              CHAPTER XIX



    "Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath
    magnified himself against Jehovah."--JER. xlviii. 42.

    "Chemosh said to me, Go, take Nebo against Israel ... and I took
    it ... and I took from it the vessels of Jehovah, and offered them
    before Chemosh."--MOABITE STONE.

    "Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter
    days."--JER. xlviii. 47.

The prophets show a very keen interest in Moab. With the exception of
the very short Book of Joel, all the prophets who deal in detail with
foreign nations devote sections to Moab. The unusual length of such
sections in Isaiah and Jeremiah is not the only resemblance between the
utterances of these two prophets concerning Moab. There are many
parallels[214] of idea and expression, which probably indicate the
influence of the elder prophet upon his successor; unless indeed both of
them adapted some popular poem which was early current in Judah.[215]

It is easy to understand why the Jewish Scriptures should have much
to say about Moab, just as the sole surviving fragment of Moabite
literature is chiefly occupied with Israel. These two Terahite
tribes--the children of Jacob and the children of Lot--had dwelt side
by side for centuries, like the Scotch and English borderers before
the accession of James I. They had experienced many alternations of
enmity and friendship, and had shared complex interests, common and
conflicting, after the manner of neighbours who are also kinsmen. Each
in its turn had oppressed the other; and Moab had been the tributary
of the Israelite monarchy till the victorious arms of Mesha had
achieved independence for his people and firmly established their
dominion over the debatable frontier lands. There are traces, too, of
more kindly relations: the House of David reckoned Ruth the Moabitess
amongst its ancestors, and Jesse, like Elimelech and Naomi, had taken
refuge in Moab.

Accordingly this prophecy concerning Moab, in both its editions,
frequently strikes a note of sympathetic lamentation and almost
becomes a dirge.

          "Therefore will I howl for Moab;
           Yea, for all Moab will I cry out.
           For the men of Kir-heres shall they mourn.
           With more than the weeping of Jazer
           Will I weep for thee, O vine of Sibmah.

                 *       *       *       *       *

           Therefore mine heart soundeth like pipes for Moab,
           Mine heart soundeth like pipes for the men of Kir-heres."

But this pity could not avail to avert the doom of Moab; it only
enabled the Jewish prophet to fully appreciate its terrors. The
picture of coming ruin is drawn with the colouring and outlines
familiar to us in the utterances of Jeremiah--spoiling and
destruction, fire and sword and captivity, dismay and wild
abandonment of wailing.

          "Chemosh shall go forth into captivity, his priests and his
                    princes together.
           Every head is bald, and every beard clipped;
           Upon all the hands are cuttings, and upon the loins
           On all the housetops and in all the streets of Moab there is
                    everywhere lamentation;
           For I have broken Moab like a useless vessel--it is the
                    utterance of Jehovah.
           How is it broken down! Howl ye! Be thou ashamed!
           How hath Moab turned the back!
           All the neighbours shall laugh and shudder at Moab.

                 *       *       *       *       *

           The heart of the mighty men of Moab at that day
           Shall be like the heart of a woman in her pangs."

This section of Jeremiah illustrates the dramatic versatility of the
prophet's method. He identifies himself now with the blood-thirsty
invader, now with his wretched victims, and now with the
terror-stricken spectators; and sets forth the emotions of each in
turn with vivid realism. Hence at one moment we have the pathos and
pity of such verses as we have just quoted, and at another such stern
and savage words as these:--

          "Cursed be he that doeth the work of Jehovah negligently,
           Cursed be he that stinteth his sword of blood."

These lines might have served as a motto for Cromwell at the massacre
of Drogheda, for Tilly's army at the sack of Magdeburg, or for Danton
and Robespierre during the Reign of Terror. Jeremiah's words were the
more terrible because they were uttered with the full consciousness
that in the dread Chaldean king[216] a servant of Jehovah was at hand
who would be careful not to incur any curse for stinting his sword of
blood. We shrink from what seems to us the prophet's brutal assertion
that relentless and indiscriminate slaughter is sometimes the service
which man is called upon to render to God. Such sentiment is for the
most part worthless and unreal; it does not save us from epidemics of
war fever, and is at once ignored under the stress of horrors like the
Indian Mutiny. There is no true comfort in trying to persuade
ourselves that the most awful events of history lie outside of the
Divine purpose, or in forgetting that the human scourges of their kind
do the work that God has assigned to them.

In this inventory, as it were, of the ruin of Moab our attention is
arrested by the constant and detailed references to the cities. This
feature is partly borrowed from Isaiah. Ezekiel too speaks of the
Moabite cities which are the glory of the country;[217] but Jeremiah's
prophecy is a veritable Domesday Book of Moab. With his epic fondness
for lists of sonorous names--after the manner of Homer's catalogue of
the ships--he enumerates Nebo, Kiriathaim, Heshbon, and Horonaim, city
after city, till he completes a tale of no fewer than twenty-six,[218]
and then summarises the rest as "all the cities of the land of Moab,
far and near." Eight of these cities are mentioned in Joshua[219] as
part of the inheritance of Reuben and Gad. Another, Bozrah, is usually
spoken of as a city of Edom.[220]

The Moabite Stone explains the occurrence of Reubenite cities in
these lists. It tells us how Mesha took Nebo, Jahaz, and Horonaim from
Israel. Possibly in this period of conquest Bozrah became tributary to
Moab, without ceasing to be an Edomite city. This extension of
territory and multiplication of towns points to an era of power and
prosperity, of which there are other indications in this chapter. "We
are mighty and valiant for war," said the Moabites. When Moab fell
"there was broken a mighty sceptre and a glorious staff." Other verses
imply the fertility of the land and the abundance of its vintage.

Moab in fact had profited by the misfortunes of its more powerful and
ambitious neighbours. The pressure of Damascus, Assyria, and Chaldea
prevented Israel and Judah from maintaining their dominion over their
ancient tributary. Moab lay less directly in the track of the
invaders; it was too insignificant to attract their special attention,
perhaps too prudent to provoke a contest with the lords of the East.
Hence, while Judah was declining, Moab had enlarged her borders and
grown in wealth and power.

And even as Jeshurun kicked, when he was waxen fat,[221] so Moab in
its prosperity was puffed up with unholy pride. Even in Isaiah's time
this was the besetting sin of Moab; he says in an indictment which
Jeremiah repeats almost word for word:--

          "We have heard of the pride of Moab, that he is very proud,
           Even of his arrogancy and his pride and his wrath."[222]

This verse is a striking example of the Hebrew method of gaining
emphasis by accumulating derivatives of the same and similar roots.
The verse in Jeremiah runs thus: "We have heard of the pride (Ge'ON)
of Moab, that he is very proud (GE'EH); his loftiness (GABHeHO), and
his pride (Ge'ONO), and his proudfulness (GA'aWATHO)."

Jeremiah dwells upon this theme:--

          "Moab shall be destroyed from being a people,
           Because he hath magnified himself against Jehovah."

Zephaniah bears like testimony[223]:--

          "This shall they have for their pride,
           Because they have been insolent, and have magnified
           Against the people of Jehovah Sabaoth."

Here again the Moabite Stone bears abundant testimony to the justice
of the prophet's accusations; for there Mesha tells how in the name
and by the grace of Chemosh he conquered the cities of Israel; and
how, anticipating Belshazzar's sacrilege, he took the sacred vessels
of Jehovah from His temple at Nebo and consecrated them to Chemosh.
Truly Moab had "magnified himself against Jehovah."

Prosperity had produced other baleful effects beside a haughty spirit,
and pride was not the only cause of the ruin of Moab. Jeremiah applies
to nations the dictum of Polonius--

          "Home-keeping youths have ever homely wits,"

and apparently suggests that ruin and captivity were necessary
elements in the national discipline of Moab:--

          "Moab hath been undisturbed from his youth;
           He hath settled on his lees;
           He hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel;
           He hath not gone into captivity:
           Therefore his taste remaineth in him,
           His scent is not changed.

           Wherefore, behold, the days come--it is the utterance of
           That I will send men unto him that shall tilt him up;
           They shall empty his vessels and break his[224] bottles."

As the chapter, in its present form, concludes with a note--

          "I will bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter
                    days--it is the utterance of Jehovah"--

we gather that even this rough handling was disciplinary; at any rate,
the former lack of such vicissitudes had been to the serious detriment
of Moab. It is strange that Jeremiah did not apply this principle to
Judah. For, indeed, the religion of Israel and of mankind owes an
incalculable debt to the captivity of Judah, a debt which later writers
are not slow to recognise. "Behold," says the prophet of the Exile,--

          "I have refined thee, but not as silver;
           I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction."[225]

History constantly illustrates how when Christians were undisturbed
and prosperous the wine of truth settled on the lees and came to taste
of the cask; and--to change the figure--how affliction and persecution
proved most effectual tonics for a debilitated Church. Continental
critics of modern England speak severely of the ill-effects which our
prolonged freedom from invasion and civil war, and the unbroken
continuity of our social life have had on our national character and
manners. In their eyes England is a perfect Moab, concerning which
they are ever ready to prophesy after the manner of Jeremiah. The
Hebrew Chronicler blamed Josiah because he would not listen to the
advice and criticism of Pharaoh Necho. There may be warnings which we
should do well to heed, even in the acrimony of foreign journalists.

But any such suggestion raises wider and more difficult issues; for
ordinary individuals and nations the discipline of calamity seems
necessary. What degree of moral development exempts from such
discipline, and how may it be attained? Christians cannot seek to
compound for such discipline by self-inflicted loss or pain, like
Polycrates casting away his ring or Browning's Caliban, who in his
hour of terror,

          "Lo! 'Lieth flat and loveth Setebos!
           'Maketh his teeth meet through his upper lip,
           Will let those quails fly, will not eat this month
           One little mess of whelks, so he may 'scape."

But though it is easy to counsel resignation and the recognition of a
wise loving Providence in national as in personal suffering, yet
mankind longs for an end to the period of pupilage and chastisement
and would fain know how it may be hastened.


[214] _E.g._ xlviii. 5, "For by the ascent of Luhith with continual
weeping shall they go up; for in going down of Horonaim they have
heard the distress of the cry of destruction," is almost identical
with Isa. xv. 5. Cf. also xlviii. 29-34 with Isa. xv. 4, xvi. 6-11.

[215] Verse 47 with the subscription, "Thus far is the judgment of
Moab," is wanting in the LXX.

[216] The exact date of the prophecy is uncertain, but it must have
been written during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.

[217] Ezek. xxv. 9.

[218] Some of the names, however, may be variants.

[219] Josh. xiii. 15-28 (possibly on JE. basis).

[220] xlix. 13, possibly this is not the Edomite Bozrah.

[221] Deut. xxxii. 15.

[222] Isa. xvi. 6.

[223] ii. 10.

[224] Kautzsch, Giesebrecht, with LXX.; A.V., R.V., with Hebrew Text,
"their bottles."

[225] Isa. xlviii. 10.

                               CHAPTER XX


                               xlix. 1-6.

    "Hath Israel no sons? hath he no heir? why then doth Moloch
    possess Gad, and his people dwell in the cities thereof?"--JER.
    xlix. 1

The relations of Israel with Ammon were similar but less intimate than
they were with his twin-brother Moab. Hence this prophecy is, _mutatis
mutandis_, an abridgment of that concerning Moab. As Moab was charged
with magnifying himself against Jehovah, and was found to be occupying
cities which Reuben claimed as its inheritance, so Ammon had presumed
to take possession of the Gadite cities, whose inhabitants had been
carried away captive by the Assyrians. Here again the prophet
enumerates Heshbon, Ai, Rabbah, and the dependent towns, "the
daughters of Rabbah." Only in the territory of this half-nomadic
people the cities are naturally not so numerous as in Moab; and
Jeremiah mentions also the fertile valleys wherein the Ammonites
gloried. The familiar doom of ruin and captivity is pronounced against
city and country and all the treasures of Ammon; Moloch,[226] like
Chemosh, must go into captivity with his priests and princes. This
prophecy also concludes with a promise of restoration:--

          "Afterward I will bring again the captivity of the children of
                    Ammon--it is the utterance of Jehovah."


[226] xlix. 3: A.V., "their king"; R.V., "Malcam," which here and in
verse 1 is a form of Moloch.

                              CHAPTER XXI


                              xlix. 7-22.

    "Bozrah shall become an astonishment, a reproach, a waste, and a
    curse."--JER. xlix. 13.

The prophecy concerning Edom is not formulated along the same line as
those which deal with the twin children of Lot, Moab and Ammon. Edom was
not merely the cousin, but the brother of Israel. His history, his
character and conduct, had marked peculiarities, which received special
treatment. Edom had not only intimate relations with Israel as a whole,
but was also bound by exceptionally close ties to the Southern Kingdom.
The Edomite clan Kenaz had been incorporated in the tribe of Judah;[227]
and when Israel broke up into two states, Edom was the one tributary
which was retained or reconquered by the House of David, and continued
subject to Judah till the reign of Jehoram ben Jehoshaphat.[228]

Much virtuous indignation is often expressed at the wickedness of
Irishmen in contemplating rebellion against the dominion of England: we
cannot therefore be surprised that the Jews resented the successful
revolt of Edom, and regarded the hostility of Mount Seir to its former
masters as ingratitude and treachery. In moments of hot indignation
against the manifold sins of Judah Jeremiah might have announced with
great vehemence that Judah should be made a "reproach and a proverb";
but when, as Obadiah tells us, the Edomites stood gazing with eager
curiosity on the destruction of Jerusalem, and rejoiced and exulted in
the distress of the Jews, and even laid hands on their substance in the
day of their calamity, and occupied the roads to catch fugitives and
deliver them up to the Chaldeans,[229] then the patriotic fervour of the
prophet broke out against Edom. Like Moab and Ammon, he was puffed up
with pride, and deluded by baseless confidence into a false security.
These hardy mountaineers trusted in their reckless courage and in the
strength of their inaccessible mountain fastnesses.

          "Men shall shudder at thy fate,[230] the pride of thy heart
                    hath deceived thee,
           O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest
                    the height of the hill:
           Though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the
           I will bring thee down from thence--it is the utterance of

Pliny speaks of the Edomite capital as "oppidum circumdatum montibus
inaccessis,"[232] and doubtless the children of Esau had often watched
from their eyrie Assyrian and Chaldean armies on the march to plunder
more defenceless victims, and trusted that their strength, their good
fortune, and their ancient and proverbial wisdom would still hold them
scatheless. Their neighbours--the Jews amongst the rest--might be
plundered, massacred, and carried away captive, but Edom could look on
in careless security, and find its account in the calamities of
kindred tribes. If Jerusalem was shattered by the Chaldean tempest,
the Edomites would play the part of wreckers. But all this shrewdness
was mere folly: how could these Solons of Mount Seir prove so unworthy
of their reputation?

          "Is wisdom no more in Teman?
           Has counsel perished from the prudent?
           Has their wisdom vanished?"

They thought that Jehovah would punish Jacob whom He loved, and yet
spare Esau whom He hated. But:--

          "Thus saith Jehovah:
           Behold, they to whom it pertained not to drink of the cup
                    shall assuredly drink.
           Art thou he that shall go altogether unpunished?
           Thou shalt not go unpunished, but thou shalt assuredly drink"

Ay, and drink to the dregs:--

          "If grape-gatherers come to thee, would they not leave
           If thieves came by night, they would only destroy till they
                    had enough.
           But I have made Esau bare, I have stripped him stark naked;
                    he shall not be able to hide himself.
           His children, and his brethren, and his neighbours are given
                    up to plunder, and there is an end of him" (9, 10).
          "I have sworn by Myself--is the utterance of Jehovah--
           That Bozrah shall become an astonishment, a reproach, a
                    desolation, and a curse;
           All her cities shall become perpetual wastes.
           I have heard tidings from Jehovah, and an ambassador is sent
                    among the nations, saying,
           Gather yourselves together and come against her, arise to
                    battle" (13, 14).

There was obviously but one leader who could lead the nations to achieve
the overthrow of Edom and lead her little ones away captive, who could
come up like a lion from the thickets of Jordan, or "flying like an
eagle and spreading his wings against Bozrah" (22)--Nebuchadnezzar, king
of Babylon, who had come up against Judah with all the kingdoms and
peoples of his dominions.[233]

In this picture of chastisement and calamity, there is one apparent
touch of pitifulness:--

          "Leave thine orphans, I will preserve their lives;
           Let thy widows put their trust in Me" (11).

At first sight, at any rate, these seem to be the words of Jehovah.
All the adult males of Edom would perish, yet the helpless widows and
orphans would not be without a protector. The God of Israel would
watch over the lambs of Edom,[234] when they were dragged away into
captivity. We are reluctant to surrender this beautiful and touching
description of a God, who, though He may visit the iniquity of the
fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation, yet
even in such judgment ever remembers mercy. It is impossible, however,
to ignore the fact that such ideas are widely different from the tone
and sentiment of the rest of the section. These words may be an
immediate sequel to the previous verse, "No Edomite survives to say to
his dying brethren, Leave thine orphans to me," or possibly they may
be quoted, in bitter irony, from some message from Edom to Jerusalem,
inviting the Jews to send their wives and children for safety to Mount
Seir. Edom, ungrateful and treacherous Edom, shall utterly
perish--Edom that offered an asylum to Jewish refugees, and yet shared
the plunder of Jerusalem and betrayed her fugitives to the Chaldeans.

There is no word of restoration. Moab and Ammon and Elam might revive
and flourish again, but for Esau, as of old, there should be no place of
repentance. For Edom, in the days of the Captivity, trespassed upon the
inheritance of Israel more grievously than Ammon and Moab upon Reuben
and Gad. The Edomites possessed themselves of the rich pastures of the
south of Judah, and the land was thenceforth called Idumea. Thus they
earned the undying hatred of the Jews, in whose mouths Edom became a
curse and a reproach, a term of opprobrium. Like Babylon, Edom was used
as a secret name for Rome, and later on for the Christian Church.

Nevertheless, even in this prophecy, there is a hint that these
predictions of utter ruin must not be taken too literally:--

          "For, behold, I will make thee small among the nations,
           Despised among men" (15).

These words are scarcely consistent with the other verses, which imply
that, as a people, Edom would utterly perish from off the face of the
earth. As a matter of fact, Edom flourished in her new territory till
the time of the Maccabees, and when the Messiah came to establish the
Kingdom of God, instead of "saviours standing on Mount Zion to judge
the Mount of Esau,"[235] an Edomite dynasty was reigning in Jerusalem.


[227] Cf. the designation of Caleb "ben Jephunneh the Kenizzite," Num.
xxxii. 12, etc., with the genealogies which trace the descent of Kenaz
to Esau, Gen. xxxvi. 11, etc. Cf. also _Expositor's Bible, Chronicles_.

[228] Cf. 1 Kings xxii. 47 with 2 Kings viii. 20.

[229] Obadiah 11-15. The difference between A.V. and R.V. is more
apparent than real. The prohibition which R.V. gives must have been
based on experience. The short prophecy of Obadiah has very much in
common with this section of Jeremiah: Obad. 1-6, 8, are almost
identical with Jer. xlix. 14-16, 9, 10_a_, 7. The relation of the two
passages is a matter of controversy, but probably both use a common
original. Cf. Driver's _Introduction_ on Obadiah.

[230] Lit. "thy terror," _i.e._ the terror inspired by thy fate. A.V.,
R.V., "thy terribleness," suggests that Edom trusted in the terror
felt for him by his enemies, but we can scarcely suppose that even the
fiercest highlanders expected Nebuchadnezzar to be terrified at them.

[231] Obad. 4: "Though thou set thy nest among the stars."

[232] _Hist. Nat._, vi. 28. Orelli.

[233] xxxiv. 1.

[234] Verse 20.

[235] Obadiah 21.

                              CHAPTER XXII


                              xlix. 23-27.

    "I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, and it shall devour
    the palaces of Benhadad."--JER. xlix. 27.

We are a little surprised to meet with a prophecy of Jeremiah
concerning Damascus and the palaces of Benhadad. The names carry our
minds back for more than a couple of centuries. During Elisha's
ministry, Damascus and Samaria were engaged in their long, fierce duel
for the supremacy over Syria and Palestine. In the reign of Ahaz these
ancient rivals combined to attack Judah, so that Isaiah is keenly
interested in Damascus and its fortunes. But about B.C. 745, about a
hundred and fifty years before Jeremiah's time, the Assyrian king
Tiglath-Pileser[236] overthrew the Syrian kingdom and carried its
people into captivity. We know from Ezekiel,[237] what we might have
surmised from the position and later history of Damascus, that this
ancient city continued a wealthy commercial centre; but Ezekiel has no
oracle concerning Damascus, and the other documents of the period and
of later times do not mention the capital of Benhadad. Its name does
not even occur in Jeremiah's exhaustive list of the countries of his
world in xxv. 15-26. Religious interest in alien races depended on
their political relations with Israel; when the latter ceased, the
prophets had no word from Jehovah concerning foreign nations. Such
considerations have suggested doubts as to the authenticity of this
section, and it has been supposed that it may be a late echo of
Isaiah's utterances concerning Damascus.

We know, however, too little of the history of the period to warrant
such a conclusion. Damascus would continue to exist as a tributary
state, and might furnish auxiliary forces to the enemies of Judah or
join with her to conspire against Babylon, and would in either case
attract Jeremiah's attention. Moreover, in ancient as in modern times,
commerce played its part in international politics. Doubtless slaves
were part of the merchandise of Damascus, just as they were among the
wares of the Apocalyptic Babylon. Joel[238] denounces Tyre and Zidon
for selling Jews to the Greeks, and the Damascenes may have served as
slave-agents to Nebuchadnezzar and his captains, and thus provoked the
resentment of patriot Jews. So many picturesque and romantic
associations cluster around Damascus, that this section of Jeremiah
almost strikes a jarring note. We love to think of this fairest of
Oriental cities, "half as old as time," as the "Eye of the East" which
Mohammed refused to enter--because "Man," he said, "can have but one
paradise, and my paradise is fixed above"--and as the capital of
Noureddin and his still more famous successor Saladin. And so we
regret that, when it emerges from the obscurity of centuries into the
light of Biblical narrative, the brief reference should suggest a
disaster such as it endured in later days at the hands of the
treacherous and ruthless Tamerlane.

          "Damascus hath grown feeble:
           She turneth herself to flee;
           Trembling hath seized on her.

                 *       *       *       *       *

           How is the city of praise forsaken,[239]
           The city of joy!
           Her young men shall fall in the streets,
           All the warriors shall be put to silence in that day."

We are moved to sympathy with the feelings of Hamath and Arpad, when
they heard the evil tidings, and were filled with sorrow, "like the
sea that cannot rest."

Yet even here this most uncompromising of prophets may teach us, after
his fashion, wholesome though perhaps unwelcome truths. We are reminded
how often the mystic glamour of romance has served to veil cruelty and
corruption, and how little picturesque scenery and interesting
associations can do of themselves to promote a noble life. Feudal
castles, with their massive grandeur, were the strongholds of avarice
and cruelty; and ancient abbeys which, even in decay, are like a dream
of fairyland, were sometimes the home of abominable corruption.


[236] 2 Kings xvi. 9.

[237] Ezek. xxvii. 18.

[238] Joel iii. 4.

[239] So Giesebrecht, with most of the ancient versions. A.V., R.V.,
with Masoretic Text, "not forsaken ... my joy," possibly meaning, "Why
did not the inhabitants forsake the doomed city?"

                             CHAPTER XXIII

                           _KEDAR AND HAZOR_

                              xlix. 28-33.

    "Concerning Kedar, and the kingdoms of Hazor which Nebuchadnezzar
    king of Babylon smote."--JER. xlix. 28.

From an immemorial seat of human culture, an "eternal city" which
antedates Rome by centuries, if not millenniums, we turn to those Arab
tribes whose national life and habits were as ancient and have been as
persistent as the streets of Damascus. While Damascus has almost
always been in the forefront of history, the Arab tribes--except in
the time of Mohammed and the early Caliphs--have seldom played a more
important part than that of frontier marauders. Hence, apart from a
few casual references, the only other passage in the Old Testament
which deals, at any length, with Kedar is the parallel prophecy of
Isaiah. And yet Kedar was the great northern tribe, which ranged the
deserts between Palestine and the Euphrates, and which must have had
closer relations with Judah than most Arab peoples.

"The kingdoms of Hazor" are still more unknown to history. There were
several "Hazors" in Palestine, besides sundry towns whose names are
also derived from _Hāçēr_, a village; and some of these are on or
beyond the southern frontier of Judah, in the wilderness of the
Exodus, where we might expect to find nomad Arabs. But even these
latter cities can scarcely be the "Hazor" of Jeremiah, and the more
northern are quite out of the question. It is generally supposed that
Hazor here is either some Arabian town, or, more probably, a
collective term for the district inhabited by Arabs, who lived not in
tents, but in _Hāçērîm_, or villages. This district would be in Arabia
itself, and more distant from Palestine than the deserts over which
Kedar roamed. Possibly Isaiah's "villages (_Hāçērîm_) that Kedar doth
inhabit" were to be found in the Hazor of Jeremiah, and the same
people were called Kedar and Hazor respectively according as they
lived a nomad life or settled in more permanent dwellings.

The great warlike enterprises of Egypt, Assyria, and Chaldea during
the last centuries of the Jewish monarchy would bring these desert
horsemen into special prominence. They could either further or hinder
the advance of armies marching westward from Mesopotamia, and could
command their lines of communication. Kedar, and possibly Hazor too,
would not be slack to use the opportunities of plunder presented by
the calamities of the Palestinian states. Hence their conspicuous
position in the pages of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

As the Assyrians, when their power was at its height, had chastised
the aggressions of the Arabs, so now Nebuchadnezzar "smote Kedar and
the kingdoms of Hazor." Even the wandering nomads and dwellers by
distant oases in trackless deserts could not escape the sweeping
activity of this scourge of God. Doubtless the ravages of Chaldean
armies might serve to punish many sins besides the wrongs they were
sent to revenge. The Bedouin always had their virtues, but the wild
liberty of the desert easily degenerated into unbridled licence. Judah
and every state bordering on the wilderness knew by painful experience
how large a measure of rapine and cruelty might coexist with primitive
customs, and the Jewish prophet gives Nebuchadnezzar a Divine
commission as for a holy war:--

          "Arise, go up to Kedar;
           Spoil the men of the east.
           They (the Chaldeans) shall take away their tents and flocks;
           They shall take for themselves their tent-coverings,
           And all their gear and their camels:
           Men shall cry concerning them,
           Terror on every side."[240]

Then the prophet turns to the more distant Hazor with words of

          "Flee, get you far off, dwell in hidden recesses of the land,
                    O inhabitants of Hazor--
           It is the utterance of Jehovah--
           For Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon hath counselled a counsel
                    and purposed a purpose against you."

But then, as if this warning were a mere taunt, he renews his address
to the Chaldeans and directs their attack against Hazor:--

          "Arise, go up against a nation that is at ease, that dwelleth
                    without fear--it is the utterance of Jehovah--
           Which abide alone, without gates or bars"--

like the people of Laish before the Danites came, and like Sparta
before the days of Epaminondas.

Possibly we are to combine these successive "utterances," and to
understand that it was alike Jehovah's will that the Chaldeans should
invade and lay waste Hazor, and that the unfortunate inhabitants
should escape--but escape plundered and impoverished: for

          "Their camels shall become a spoil,
           The multitude of their cattle a prey:
           I will scatter to every wind them that have the corners of
                    their hair polled;[241]
           I will bring their calamity upon them from all sides.
           Hazor shall be a haunt of jackals, a desolation for ever:
           No one shall dwell there,
           No soul shall sojourn therein."


[240] Magor-missabib: cf. xlvi. 5.

[241] _I.e._ cut off.

                              CHAPTER XXIV


                              xlix. 34-39

    "I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might."--JER.
    xlix. 35.

We do not know what principle or absence of principle determined the
arrangement of these prophecies; but, in any case, these studies in
ancient geography and politics present a series of dramatic contrasts.
From two ancient and enduring types of Eastern life, the city of
Damascus and the Bedouin of the desert, we pass to a state of an
entirely different order, only slightly connected with the
international system of Western Asia. Elam contended for the palm of
supremacy with Assyria and Babylon in the farther east, as Egypt did
to the south-west. Before the time of Abraham Elamite kings ruled over
Chaldea, and Genesis xiv. tells us how Chedorlaomer with his
subject-allies collected his tribute in Palestine. Many centuries
later, the Assyrian king Ashur-bani-pal (B.C. 668-626) conquered Elam,
sacked the capital Shushan, and carried away many of the inhabitants
into captivity. According to Ezra iv. 9, 10, Elamites were among the
mingled population whom "the great and noble Asnapper" (probably
Ashur-bani-pal) settled in Samaria.

When we begin to recall even a few of the striking facts concerning
Elam discovered in the last fifty years, and remember that for
millenniums Elam had played the part of a first-class Asiatic power,
we are tempted to wonder that Jeremiah only devotes a few conventional
sentences to this great nation. But the prophet's interest was simply
determined by the relations of Elam with Judah; and, from this point
of view, an opposite difficulty arises. How came the Jews in Palestine
in the time of Jeremiah to have any concern with a people dwelling
beyond the Euphrates and Tigris, on the farther side of the Chaldean
dominions? One answer to this question has already been suggested: the
Jews may have learnt from the Elamite colonists in Samaria something
concerning their native country; it is also probable that Elamite
auxiliaries served in the Chaldean armies that invaded Judah.

Accordingly the prophet sets forth, in terms already familiar to us, how
Elamite fugitives should be scattered to the four quarters of the earth
and be found in every nation under heaven, how the sword should follow
them into their distant places of refuge and utterly consume them.

          "I will set My throne in Elam;
           I will destroy out of it both king and princes--
           It is the utterance of Jehovah."

In the prophecy concerning Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar was to set his throne
at Tahpanhes to decide the fate of the captives; but here Jehovah
Himself is pictured as the triumphant and inexorable conqueror, holding
His court as the arbiter of life and death. The vision of the "great
white throne" was not first accorded to John in his Apocalypse.
Jeremiah's eyes were opened to see beside the tribunals of heathen
conquerors the judgment-seat of a mightier Potentate; and his inspired
utterances remind the believer that every battle may be an Armageddon,
and that at every congress there is set a mystic throne from which the
Eternal King overrules the decisions of plenipotentiaries.

But this sentence of condemnation was not to be the final "utterance
of Jehovah" with regard to Elam. A day of renewed prosperity was to
dawn for Elam, as well as for Moab, Ammon, Egypt, and Judah:--

          "In the latter days I will bring again the captivity of Elam--
           It is the utterance of Jehovah."

The Apostle Peter[242] tells us that the prophets "sought and searched
diligently" concerning the application of their words, "searching what
time and what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them
did point unto." We gather from these verses that, as Newton could not
have foreseen all that was contained in the law of gravitation, so the
prophets often understood little of what was involved in their own
inspiration. We could scarcely have a better example than this
prophecy affords of the knowledge of the principles of God's future
action combined with ignorance of its circumstances and details. If we
may credit the current theory, Cyrus, the servant of Jehovah, the
deliverer of Judah, was a king of Elam. If Jeremiah had foreseen how
his prophecies of the restoration of Elam and of Judah would be
fulfilled, we may be sure that this utterance would not have been so
brief, its hostile tone would have been mitigated, and the concluding
sentence would not have been so cold and conventional.


[242] 1 Peter i. 10, 11.

                              CHAPTER XXV


                                l., li.

    "Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in
    pieces."--JER. l., 2.

These chapters present phenomena analogous to those of Isaiah
xl.-lxvi., and have been very commonly ascribed to an author writing
at Babylon towards the close of the Exile, or even at some later date.
The conclusion has been arrived at in both cases by the application of
the same critical principles to similar data. In the present case the
argument is complicated by the concluding paragraph of chapter li.,
which states that "Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should
come upon Babylon, even all these words that are written against
Babylon," in the fourth year of Zedekiah, and gave the book to Seraiah
ben Neriah to take to Babylon and tie a stone to it and throw it into
the Euphrates.

Such a statement, however, cuts both ways. On the one hand, we seem to
have--what is wanting in the case of Isaiah xl.-lxvi.--a definite and
circumstantial testimony as to authorship. But, on the other hand,
this very testimony raises new difficulties. If l. and li. had been
simply assigned to Jeremiah, without any specification of date, we
might possibly have accepted the tradition according to which he spent
his last years at Babylon, and have supposed that altered,
circumstances and novel experiences account for the differences
between these chapters and the rest of the book. But Zedekiah's fourth
year is a point in the prophet's ministry at which it is extremely
difficult to account for his having composed such a prophecy. If,
however, li. 59-64 is mistaken in its exact and circumstantial account
of the origin of the preceding section, we must hesitate to recognise
its authority as to that section's authorship.

A detailed discussion of the question would be out of place here,[243]
but we may notice a few passages which illustrate the arguments for an
exilic date. We learn from Jeremiah xxvii.-xxix. that, in the fourth
year of Zedekiah,[244] the prophet was denouncing as false teachers
those who predicted that the Jewish captives in Babylon would speedily
return to their native land. He himself asserted that judgment would not
be inflicted upon Babylon for seventy years, and exhorted the exiles to
build houses and marry, and plant gardens, and to pray for the peace of
Babylon.[245] We can hardly imagine that, in the same breath almost, he
called upon these exiles to flee from the city of their captivity, and
summoned the neighbouring nations to execute Jehovah's judgment against
the oppressors of His people. And yet we read:--

          "There shall come the Israelites, they and the Jews together:
           They shall weep continually, as they go to seek Jehovah their
           They shall ask their way to Zion, with their faces
                    hitherward"[246] (l. 4, 5).

                 *       *       *       *       *

          "Remove from the midst of Babylon, and be ye as he-goats
                    before the flock" (l. 8).

These verses imply that the Jews were already in Babylon, and
throughout the author assumes the circumstances of the Exile. "The
vengeance of the Temple," _i.e._ vengeance for the destruction of the
Temple at the final capture of Jerusalem, is twice threatened.[247]
The ruin of Babylon is described as imminent:--

          "Set up a standard on the earth,
           Blow the trumpet among the nations,
           Prepare the nations against her."

If these words were written by Jeremiah in the fourth year of
Zedekiah, he certainly was not practising his own precept to pray for
the peace of Babylon.

Various theories have been advanced to meet the difficulties which are
raised by the ascription of this prophecy to Jeremiah. It may have
been expanded from an authentic original. Or again, li. 59-64 may not
really refer to l. 1-li. 58; the two sections may once have existed
separately, and may owe their connection to an editor, who met with l.
1-li. 58 as an anonymous document, and thought he recognised in it the
"book" referred to in li. 59-64. Or again, l. 1-li. 58 may be a
hypothetical reconstruction of a lost prophecy of Jeremiah; li. 59-64
mentioned such a prophecy and none was extant, and some student and
disciple of Jeremiah's school utilised the material and ideas of
extant writings to supply the gap. In any case, it must have been
edited more than once, and each time with modifications. Some support
might be obtained for any one of these theories from the fact that l.
1-li. 58 is _primâ facie_ partly a cento of passages from the rest of
the book and from the Book of Isaiah.[248]

In view of the great uncertainty as to the origin and history of this
prophecy, we do not intend to attempt any detailed exposition.
Elsewhere whatever non-Jeremianic matter occurs in the book is mostly
by way of expansion and interpretation, and thus lies in the direct
line of the prophet's teaching. But the section on Babylon attaches
itself to the new departure in religious thought that is more fully
expressed in Isaiah xl.-lxvi. Chapters l., li., may possibly be
Jeremiah's swan-song, called forth by one of those Pisgah visions of a
new dispensation sometimes granted to aged seers; but such visions of
a new era and a new order can scarcely be combined with earlier
teaching. We will therefore only briefly indicate the character and
contents of this section.

It is apparently a mosaic, complied from lost as well as extant
sources; and dwells upon a few themes with a persistent iteration of
ideas and phrases hardly to be paralleled elsewhere, even in the Book
of Jeremiah. It has been reckoned[249] that the imminence of the
attack on Babylon is introduced afresh eleven times, and its conquest
and destruction nine times. The advent of an enemy from the north is
announced four times.[250]

The main theme is naturally that dwelt upon most frequently, the
imminent invasion of Chaldea by victorious enemies who shall capture
and destroy Babylon. Hereafter the great city and its territory will
be a waste, howling wilderness:--

          "Your mother shall be sore ashamed,
           She that bare you shall be confounded;
           Behold, she shall be the hindmost of the nations,
           A wilderness, a parched land, and a desert.
           Because of the wrath of Jehovah, it shall be uninhabited;
           The whole land shall be a desolation.
           Every one that goeth by Babylon
           Shall hiss with astonishment because of all her

The gods of Babylon, Bel and Merodach, and all her idols, are involved
in her ruin, and reference is made to the vanity and folly of
idolatry.[252] But the wrath of Jehovah has been chiefly excited, not
by false religion, but by the wrongs inflicted by the Chaldeans on His
Chosen People. He is moved to avenge His Temple[253]:--

          "I will recompense unto Babylon
           And all the inhabitants of Chaldea
           All the evil which they wrought in Zion,
           And ye shall see it--it is the utterance of Jehovah"
                    (li. 24).

Though He thus avenge Judah, yet its former sins are not yet blotted
out of the book of His remembrance:--

          "Their adversaries said, We incur no guilt,
           Because they have sinned against Jehovah, the Pasture of
           Against the Hope of their fathers, even Jehovah" (l. 7).

Yet now there is forgiveness:--

          "The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall
                    be none;
           And the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found:
           For I will pardon the remnant that I preserve" (l. 20).

The Jews are urged to flee from Babylon, lest they should be involved
in its punishment, and are encouraged to return to Jerusalem and enter
afresh into an everlasting covenant with Jehovah. As in Jeremiah
xxxi., Israel is to be restored as well as Judah:--

          "I will bring Israel again to his Pasture:
           He shall feed on Carmel and Bashan;
           His desires shall be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and in
                    Gilead" (l. 19).


[243] See against the authenticity Driver's _Introduction, in loco_;
and in support of it _Speaker's Commentary_, Streane (C.B.S.). Cf.
also Sayce, _Higher Criticism_, etc., pp. 484-486.

[244] In xxvii. 1 we must read, "In the beginning of the reign of
_Zedekiah_," not Jehoiakim.

[245] xxix. 4-14.

[246] "Hitherward" seems to indicate that the writers local standpoint
is that of Palestine.

[247] l. 28, li. 11.

[248] Cf. l. 8, li. 6, with Isa. xlviii. 20; l. 13 with xlix. 17; l.
41-43 with vi. 22-24; l. 44-46 with xlix. 19-21; li. 15-19 with x.

[249] Budde ap. Giesebrecht, _in loco_.

[250] l. 3, 9, li. 41, 48.

[251] l. 12, 13: cf. l. 39, 40, li. 26, 29, 37, 41-43.

[252] li. 17, 18.

[253] l. 28.

                                BOOK III

                           ISRAEL AND JUDAH_

                              CHAPTER XXVI


    "I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall
    be My people."--JER. xxxi. 1.

In this third book an attempt is made to present a general view of
Jeremiah's teaching on the subject with which he was most
preoccupied--the political and religious fortunes of Judah.
Certain[254] chapters detach themselves from the rest, and stand in no
obvious connection with any special incident of the prophet's life.
These are the main theme of this book, and have been dealt with in the
ordinary method of detailed exposition. They have been treated
separately, and not woven into the continuous narrative, partly
because we thus obtain a more adequate emphasis upon important aspects
of their teaching, but chiefly because their date and occasion cannot
be certainly determined. With them other sections have been
associated, on account of the connection of subject. Further material
for a synopsis of Jeremiah's teaching has been collected from chapters
xxi.-xlix. generally, supplemented by brief[255] references to the
previous chapters. Inasmuch as the prophecies of our book do not form
an ordered treatise on dogmatic theology, but were uttered with
regard to individual conduct and critical events, topics are not
exclusively dealt with in a single section, but are referred to at
intervals throughout. Moreover, as both the individuals and the crises
were very much alike, ideas and phrases are constantly reappearing, so
that there is an exceptionally large amount of repetition in the Book
of Jeremiah. The method we have adopted avoids some of the
difficulties which would arise if we attempted to deal with these
doctrines in our continuous exposition.

Our general sketch of the prophet's teaching is naturally arranged under
categories suggested by the book itself, and not according to the
sections of a modern treatise on Systematic Theology. No doubt much may
legitimately be extracted or deduced concerning Anthropology,
Soteriology, and the like; but true proportion is as important in
exposition as accurate interpretation. If we wish to understand
Jeremiah, we must be content to dwell longest upon what he emphasised
most, and to adopt the standpoint of time and race which was his own.
Accordingly in our treatment we have followed the cycle of sin,
punishment, and restoration, so familiar to students of Hebrew prophecy.

       *       *       *       *       *



This note is added partly for convenience of reference, and partly to
illustrate the repetition just mentioned as characteristic of
Jeremiah. The instances are chosen from expressions occurring in
chapters xxi.-lii. The reader will find fuller lists dealing with the
whole book in the _Speaker's Commentary_ and the _Cambridge Bible for
Schools and Colleges_. The Hebrew student is referred to the list in
Driver's _Introduction_, upon which the following is partly based.

1. _Rising up early_: vii. 13, 25; xi. 7; xxv. 3, 4; xxvi. 5; xxix. 19;
xxxii. 33; xxxv. 14, 15; xliv. 4. This phrase, familiar to us in the
narratives of Genesis and in the historical books, is used here, as in 2
Chron. xxxvi. 15, of God addressing His people on sending the prophets.

2. _Stubbornness of heart_ (A.V. imagination of heart): iii. 17; vii.
24; ix. 14; xi. 8; xiii. 10; xvi. 12; xviii. 12; xxiii. 17; also found
Deut. xxix. 19 and Ps. lxxxi. 15.

3. _The evil of your doings_: iv. 4; xxi. 12; xxiii. 2, 22; xxv. 5;
xxvi. 3; xliv. 22; also Deut. xxviii. 20; 1 Sam. xxv. 3; Isa. i. 16;
Hos. ix. 15; Ps. xxviii. 4; and in slightly different form in xi. 18
and Zech. i. 4.

_The fruit of your doings_: xvii. 10; xxi. 14; xxxii. 19; also found
in Micah vii. 13.

_Doings, your doings_, etc., are also found in Jeremiah and elsewhere.

4. _The sword, the pestilence, and the famine_, in various orders, and
either as a phrase or each word occurring in one of three successive
clauses: xiv. 12; xv. 2; xxi. 7, 9; xxiv. 10; xxvii. 8, 13; xxix. 17,
18; xxxii. 24, 36; xxxiv. 17; xxxviii. 2; xlii. 17, 22; xliv. 13.

_The sword and the famine_, with similar variations: v. 12; xi. 22;
xiv. 13, 15, 16, 18; xvi. 4; xviii. 21; xlii. 16; xliv. 12, 18, 27.

Cf. similar lists, etc., "death ... sword ... captivity" in xliii. 11;
"war ... evil ... pestilence," xxviii. 8.

5. _Kings_ ... _princes_ ... _priests_ ... _prophets_, in various
orders and combinations: ii. 26; iv. 9; viii. 1; xiii. 13; xxiv. 8;
xxxii. 32.

Cf. _Prophet_ ... _priest_ ... _people_, xxiii. 33, 34. _Prophets_ ...
_divines_ ... _dreamers_ ... _enchanters_ ... _sorcerers_, xxvii. 9.


[254] xxx., xxxi., and, in part, xxxiii.

[255] Brief, in order not to trespass more than is absolutely
necessary upon the ground covered by the previous _Expositor's Bible_
volume on Jeremiah.

                             CHAPTER XXVII


    "Very bad figs, ... too bad to be eaten."--JER. xxiv. 2, 8, xxix.

Prophets and preachers have taken the Israelites for God's helots, as
if the Chosen People had been made drunk with the cup of the Lord's
indignation, in order that they might be held up as a warning to His
more favoured children throughout after ages. They seem depicted as
"sinners above all men," that by this supreme warning the heirs of a
better covenant may be kept in the path of righteousness. Their sin is
no mere inference from the long tragedy of their national history,
"because they have suffered such things"; their own prophets and their
own Messiah testify continually against them. Religious thought has
always singled out Jeremiah as the most conspicuous and uncompromising
witness to the sins of his people. One chief feature of his mission
was to declare God's condemnation of ancient Judah. Jeremiah watched
and shared the prolonged agony and overwhelming catastrophes of the
last days of the Jewish monarchy, and ever and anon raised his voice
to declare that his fellow-countrymen suffered, not as martyrs, but as
criminals. He was like the herald who accompanies a condemned man on
the way to execution, and proclaims his crime to the spectators.

What were these crimes? How was Jerusalem a sink of iniquity, an
Augean stable, only to be cleansed by turning through it the floods of
Divine chastisement? The annalists of Egypt and Chaldea show no
interest in the morality of Judah; but there is no reason to believe
that they regarded Jerusalem as more depraved than Tyre, or Babylon,
or Memphis. If a citizen of one of these capitals of the East visited
the city of David he might miss something of accustomed culture, and
might have occasion to complain of the inferiority of local police
arrangements, but he would be as little conscious of any extraordinary
wickedness in the city as a Parisian would in London. Indeed, if an
English Christian familiar with the East of the nineteenth century
could be transported to Jerusalem under King Zedekiah, in all
probability its moral condition would not affect him very differently
from that of Cabul or Ispahan.

When we seek to learn from Jeremiah wherein the guilt of Judah lay,
his answer is neither clear nor full: he does not gather up her sins
into any complete and detailed indictment; we are obliged to avail
ourselves of casual references scattered through his prophecies. For
the most part Jeremiah speaks in general terms; a precise and
exhaustive catalogue of current vices would have seemed too familiar
and commonplace for the written record.

The corruption of Judah is summed up by Jeremiah in the phrase "the
evil of your doings,"[256] and her punishment is described in a
corresponding phrase as "the fruit of your doings," or as coming upon
her "because of the evil of your doings." The original of "doings" is
a peculiar word[257] occurring most frequently in Jeremiah, and the
phrases are very common in Jeremiah, and hardly occur at all
elsewhere. The constant reiteration of this melancholy refrain is an
eloquent symbol of Jehovah's sweeping condemnation. In the total
depravity of Judah, no special sin, no one group of sins, stood out
from the rest. Their "doings" were evil altogether.

The picture suggested by the scattered hints as to the character of
these evil doings is such as might be drawn of almost any Eastern
state in its darker days. The arbitrary hand of the government is
illustrated by Jeremiah's own experience of the bastinado[258] and the
dungeon,[259] and by the execution of Uriah ben Shemaiah.[260] The
rights of less important personages were not likely to be more
scrupulously respected. The reproach of shedding innocent blood is
more than once made against the people and their rulers;[261] and the
more general charge of oppression occurs still more frequently.[262]

The motive for both these crimes was naturally covetousness;[263] as
usual, they were specially directed against the helpless, "the
poor,"[264] "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow"; and the
machinery of oppression was ready to hand in venal judges and rulers.
Upon occasion, however, recourse was had to open violence--men could
"steal and murder," as well as "swear falsely";[265] they lived in an
atmosphere of falsehood, they "walked in a lie."[266] Indeed the word
"lie" is one of the keynotes of these prophecies.[267] The last days
of the monarchy offered special temptations to such vices. Social
wreckers reaped an unhallowed harvest in these stormy times.
Revolutions were frequent, and each in its turn meant fresh plunder
for unscrupulous partisans. Flattery and treachery could always find a
market in the court of the suzerain or the camp of the invader.
Naturally, amidst this general demoralisation, the life of the family
did not remain untouched: "the land was full of adulterers."[268]
Zedekiah and Ahab, the false prophets at Babylon, are accused of
having committed adultery with their neighbours' wives.[269] In these
passages "adultery" can scarcely be a figure for idolatry; and even if
it is, idolatry always involved immoral ritual.

In accordance with the general teaching of the Old Testament, Jeremiah
traces the roots of the people's depravity to a certain moral stupidity;
they are "a foolish people, without understanding," who, like the idols
in Psalm cxv. 5, 6, "have eyes and see not" and "have ears and hear
not."[270] In keeping with their stupidity was an unconsciousness of
guilt which even rose into proud self-righteousness. They could still
come with pious fervour to worship in the temple of Jehovah and to claim
the protection of its inviolable sanctity. They could still assail
Jeremiah with righteous indignation because he announced the coming
destruction of the place where Jehovah had chosen to set His name.[271]
They said that they had no sin, and met the prophet's rebukes with
protests of conscious innocence: "Wherefore hath Jehovah pronounced all
this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin
that we have committed against Jehovah our God?"[272]

When the public conscience condoned alike the abuse of the forms of
law and its direct violation, actual legal rights would be strained to
the utmost against debtors, hired labourers, and slaves. In their
extremity, the princes and people of Judah sought to propitiate the
anger of Jehovah by emancipating their Hebrew slaves; when the
immediate danger had passed away for a time, they revoked the
emancipation.[273] The form of their submission to Jehovah reveals
their consciousness that their deepest sin lay in their behaviour to
their helpless dependents. This prompt repudiation of a most solemn
covenant illustrated afresh their callous indifference to the
well-being of their inferiors.

The depravity of Judah was not only total, it was also universal. In
the older histories we read how Achan's single act of covetousness
involved the whole people in misfortune, and how the treachery of the
bloody house of Saul brought three years' famine upon the land; but
now the sins of individuals and classes were merged in the general
corruption. Jeremiah dwells with characteristic reiteration of idea
and phrase upon this melancholy truth. Again and again he enumerates
the different classes of the community: "kings, princes, priests,
prophets, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem." They had all
done evil and provoked Jehovah to anger; they were all to share the
same punishment.[274] They were all arch-rebels, given to slander;
nothing but base metal;[275] corrupters, every one of them.[276] The
universal extent of total depravity is most forcibly expressed when
Zedekiah with his court and people are summarily described as a basket
of "very bad figs, too bad to be eaten."

The dark picture of Israel's corruption is not yet complete--Israel's
corruption, for now the prophet is no longer exclusively concerned
with Judah. The sin of these last days is no new thing; it is as old
as the Israelite occupation of Jerusalem. "This city hath been to Me a
provocation of My anger and of My fury from the day that they built it
even unto this day"; from the earliest days of Israel's national
existence, from the time of Moses and the Exodus, the people have been
given over to iniquity. "The children of Israel and the children of
Judah have done nothing but evil before Me from their youth up."[277]
Thus we see at last that Jeremiah's teaching concerning the sin of
Judah can be summed up in one brief and comprehensive proposition.
Throughout their whole history all classes of the community have been
wholly given over to every kind of wickedness.

This gloomy estimate of God's Chosen People is substantially confirmed
by the prophets of the later monarchy, from Amos and Hosea onwards.
Hosea speaks of Israel in terms as sweeping as those of Jeremiah. "Hear
the word of Jehovah, ye children of Israel; for Jehovah hath a
controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth,
nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. Swearing and lying and
killing and stealing and committing adultery, they cast off all
restraint, and blood toucheth blood."[278] As a prophet of the Northern
Kingdom, Hosea is mainly concerned with his own country, but his casual
references to Judah include her in the same condemnation.[279] Amos
again condemns both Israel and Judah: Judah, "because they have despised
the law of Jehovah, and have not kept His commandments, and their lies
caused them to err, after the which their fathers walked"; Israel,
"because they sold the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of
shoes, and pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor and
turn aside the way of the meek."[280] The first chapter of Isaiah is in
a similar strain: Israel is "a sinful nation, a people laden with
iniquity, a seed of evil-doers"; "the whole head is sick, the whole
heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no
soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores." According
to Micah, "Zion is built up with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. The
heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire,
and the prophets thereof divine for money."[281]

Jeremiah's older and younger contemporaries, Zephaniah and Ezekiel,
alike confirm his testimony. In the spirit and even the style afterwards
used by Jeremiah, Zephaniah enumerates the sins of the nobles and
teachers of Jerusalem. "Her princes within her are roaring lions; her
judges are evening wolves.... Her prophets are light and treacherous
persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done
violence to the law."[282] Ezekiel xx. traces the defections of Israel
from the sojourn in Egypt to the Captivity. Elsewhere Ezekiel says that
"the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of
violence";[283] and in xxii. 23-31 he catalogues the sins of priests,
princes, prophets, and people, and proclaims that Jehovah "sought for a
man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap
before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none."

We have now fairly before us the teaching of Jeremiah and the other
prophets as to the condition of Judah: the passages quoted or referred
to represent its general tone and attitude; it remains to estimate its
significance. We should naturally suppose that such sweeping
statements as to the total depravity of the whole people throughout
all their history were not intended to be interpreted as exact
mathematical formulæ. And the prophets themselves state or imply
qualifications. Isaiah insists upon the existence of a righteous
remnant. When Jeremiah speaks of Zedekiah and his subjects as a basket
of very bad figs, he also speaks of the Jews who had already gone into
captivity as a basket of very good figs. The mere fact of going into
captivity can hardly have accomplished an immediate and wholesale
conversion. The "good figs" among the captives were presumably good
before they went into exile. Jeremiah's general statements that "they
were all arch-rebels" do not therefore preclude the existence of
righteous men in the community. Similarly, when he tells us that the
city and people have always been given over to iniquity, Jeremiah is
not ignorant of Moses and Joshua, David and Solomon, and the kings
"who did right in the eyes of Jehovah"; nor does he intend to
contradict the familiar accounts of ancient history. On the other
hand, the universality which the prophets ascribe to the corruption of
their people is no mere figure of rhetoric, and yet it is by no means
incompatible with the view that Jerusalem, in its worst days, was not
more conspicuously wicked than Babylon or Tyre; or even, allowing for
the altered circumstances of the times, than London or Paris. It would
never have occurred to Jeremiah to apply the average morality of
Gentile cities as a standard by which to judge Jerusalem; and
Christian readers of the Old Testament have caught something of the
old prophetic spirit. The very introduction into the present context
of any comparison between Jerusalem and Babylon may seem to have a
certain flavour of irreverence. We perceive with the prophets that the
City of Jehovah and the cities of the Gentiles must be placed in
different categories. The popular modern explanation is that
heathenism was so utterly abominable that Jerusalem at its worst was
still vastly superior to Nineveh or Tyre. However exaggerated such
views may be, they still contain an element of truth; but Jeremiah's
estimate of the moral condition of Judah was based on entirely
different ideas. His standards were not relative but absolute, not
practical but ideal. His principles were the very antithesis of the
tacit ignoring of difficult and unusual duties, the convenient and
somewhat shabby compromise represented by the modern word
"respectable." Israel was to be judged by its relation to Jehovah's
purpose for His people. Jehovah had called them out of Egypt, and
delivered them from a thousand dangers. He had raised up for them
judges and kings, Moses, David, and Isaiah. He had spoken to them by
Torah and by prophecy. This peculiar munificence of Providence and
Revelation was not meant to produce a people only better by some small
percentage than their heathen neighbours.

The comparison between Israel and its neighbours would no doubt be
much more favourable under David than under Zedekiah, but even then
the outcome of Mosaic religion as practically embodied in the national
life was utterly unworthy of the Divine ideal; to have described the
Israel of David or the Judah of Hezekiah as Jehovah's specially
cherished possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,[284]
would have seemed a ghastly irony even to the sons of Zeruiah, far
more to Nathan, Gad, or Isaiah. Nor had any class, as a class, been
wholly true to Jehovah at any period of the history. If for any
considerable time the numerous order of professional prophets had had
a single eye to the glory of Jehovah, the fortunes of Israel would
have been altogether different, and where prophets failed, priests and
princes and common people were not likely to succeed.

Hence, judged as citizens of God's Kingdom on earth, the Israelites
were corrupt in every faculty of their nature: as masters and
servants, as rulers and subjects, as priests, prophets, and
worshippers of Jehovah, they succumbed to selfishness and cowardice,
and perpetrated the ordinary crimes and vices of ancient Eastern life.

The reader is perhaps tempted to ask: Is this all that is meant by the
fierce and impassioned denunciations of Jeremiah? Not quite all.
Jeremiah had had the mortification of seeing the great religious
revival under Josiah spend itself, apparently in vain, against the
ingrained corruption of the people. The reaction, as under Manasseh,
had accentuated the worst features of the national life. At the same
time the constant distress and dismay caused by disastrous invasions
tended to general licence and anarchy. A long period of decadence
reached its nadir.

But these are mere matters of degree and detail; the main thing for
Jeremiah was not that Judah had become worse, but that it had failed
to become better. One great period of Israel's probation was finally
closed. The kingdom had served its purpose in the Divine Providence;
but it was impossible to hope any longer that the Jewish monarchy was
to prove the earthly embodiment of the Kingdom of God. There was no
prospect of Judah attaining a social order appreciably better than
that of the surrounding nations. Jehovah and His Revelation would be
disgraced by any further association with the Jewish state.

Certain schools of socialists bring a similar charge against the
modern social order; that it is not a Kingdom of God upon earth is
sufficiently obvious; and they assert that our social system has
become stereotyped on lines that exclude and resist progress towards
any higher ideal. Now it is certainly true that every great
civilisation hitherto has grown old and obsolete; if Christian society
is to establish its right to abide permanently, it must show itself
something more than an improved edition of the Athens of Pericles or
the Empire of the Antonines.

All will agree that Christendom falls sadly short of its ideal, and
therefore we may seek to gather instruction from Jeremiah's judgment
on the shortcomings of Judah. Jeremiah specially emphasises the
universality of corruption in individual character, in all classes of
society and throughout the whole duration of history. Similarly we
have to recognise that prevalent social and moral evils lower the
general tone of individual character. Moral faculties are not set
apart in watertight compartments. "Whosoever shall keep the whole law,
and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all," is no mere forensic
principle. The one offence impairs the earnestness and sincerity with
which a man keeps the rest of the law, even though there may be no
obvious lapse. There are moral surrenders made to the practical
exigencies of commercial, social, political, and ecclesiastical life.
Probably we should be startled and dismayed if we understood the
consequent sacrifice of individual character.

We might also learn from the prophet that the responsibility for our
social evils rests with all classes. Time was when the lower classes
were plentifully lectured as the chief authors of public troubles; now
it is the turn of the capitalist, the parson, and the landlord. The
former policy had no very marked success, possibly the new method may
not fare better.

Wealth and influence imply opportunity and responsibility which do not
belong to the poor and feeble; but power is by no means confined to
the privileged classes; and the energy, ability, and self-denial
embodied in the great Trades Unions have sometimes shown themselves as
cruel and selfish towards the weak and destitute as any association of
capitalists. A necessary preliminary to social amendment is a General
Confession by each class of its own sins.

Finally, the Divine Spirit had taught Jeremiah that Israel had always
been sadly imperfect. He did not deny Divine Providence and human
hope by teaching that the Golden Age lay in the past, that the Kingdom
of God had been realised and allowed to perish. He was under no
foolish delusion as to "the good old times"; in his most despondent
moods he was not given over to wistful reminiscence. His example may
help us not to become discouraged through exaggerated ideas about the
attainments of past generations.

In considering modern life it may seem that we pass to an altogether
different quality of evil to that denounced by Jeremiah, that we have
lost sight of anything that could justify his fierce indignation, and
thus that we fail in appreciating his character and message. Any such
illusion may be corrected by a glance at the statistics of congested
town districts, sweated industries, and prostitution. A social
reformer, living in contact with these evils, may be apt to think
Jeremiah's denunciations specially adapted to the society which
tolerates them with almost unruffled complacency.


[256] Characteristic Expressions (1), p. 269.

[257] מצלל.

[258] xx. 2, xxxvii. 15.

[259] xxxvii., xxxviii.

[260] xxvi. 20-24.

[261] ii. 34, xix. 4, xxii. 17.

[262] v. 25, vi. 6, vii. 5.

[263] vi. 13.

[264] ii. 34.

[265] vii. 5-9.

[266] xxiii. 14.

[267] Characteristic Expressions (2), p. 269.

[268] xxiii. 10, 14.

[269] xxix. 23.

[270] v. 21, quoted by Ezekiel, xii. 2. The verse is also the
foundation of the description of Israel as "the blind people that have
eyes, and the deaf that have ears," in Isa. xlii. 18 ff., xliii. 8.
Cf. Giesebrecht on Jer. v. 21.

[271] vii., xxvi.

[272] xvi. 10.

[273] xxxiv.

[274] xxxii. 26-35: cf. p. 269, Characteristic Expressions (3).

[275] Literally "copper and iron."

[276] vi. 28.

[277] xxxii. 26-35.

[278] Hosea iv. 1, 2; also Hosea's general picture of the kingdom of

[279] The A.V. translation of xi. 12 ("Judah yet ruleth with God, and
is faithful with the saints") must be set aside. The sense is obscure
and the text doubtful.

[280] Amos ii. 4-8.

[281] Micah iii. 10, 11.

[282] Zeph. iii. 3, 4.

[283] Ezek. vii. 23: cf. vii. 9, xxii. 1-12.

[284] Exod. xix. 6.

                             CHAPTER XXVIII

                         _PERSISTENT APOSTASY_

    "They have forsaken the covenant of Jehovah their God, and
    worshipped other gods, and served them."--JER. xxii. 9.

    "Every one that walketh in the stubbornness of his heart."--JER.
    xxiii. 17.

The previous chapter has been intentionally confined, as far as
possible, to Jeremiah's teaching upon the moral condition of Judah.
Religion, in the narrower sense, was kept in the background, and
mainly referred to as a social and political influence. In the same
way the priests and prophets were mentioned chiefly as classes of
notables--estates of the realm. This method corresponds with a stage
in the process of Revelation; it is that of the older prophets. Hosea,
as a native of the Northern Kingdom, may have had a fuller experience
and clearer understanding of religious corruption than his
contemporaries in Judah. But, in spite of the stress that he lays upon
idolatry and the various corruptions of worship, many sections of his
book simply deal with social evils. We are not explicitly told why the
prophet was "a fool" and "a snare of a fowler," but the immediate
context refers to the abominable immorality of Gibeah.[285] The
priests are not reproached with incorrect ritual, but with conspiracy
to murder.[286] In Amos, the land is not so much punished on account
of corrupt worship, as the sanctuaries are destroyed because the
people are given over to murder, oppression, and every form of vice.
In Isaiah again the main stress is constantly upon international
politics and public and private morality.[287] For instance, none of
the woes in v. 8-24 are directed against idolatry or corrupt worship,
and in xxviii. 7 the charge brought against Ephraim does not refer to
ecclesiastical matters; they have erred through strong drink.

In Jeremiah's treatment of the ruin of Judah, he insists, as Hosea had
done as regards Israel, on the fatal consequences of apostasy from
Jehovah to other gods. This very phrase "other gods" is one of
Jeremiah's favourite expressions, and in the writings of the other
prophets only occurs in Hosea iii. 1. On the other hand, references to
idols are extremely rare in Jeremiah. These facts suggest a special
difficulty in discussing the apostasy of Judah. The Jews often combined
the worship of other gods with that of Jehovah. According to the analogy
of other nations, it was quite possible to worship Baal and Ashtaroth,
and the whole heathen Pantheon, without intending to show any special
disrespect to the national Deity. Even devout worshippers, who confined
their adorations to the one true God, sometimes thought they did honour
to Him by introducing into His services the images and all the
paraphernalia of the splendid cults of the great heathen empires. It is
not always easy to determine whether statements about idolatry imply
formal apostasy from Jehovah, or merely a debased worship. When the
early Mohammedans spoke with lofty contempt of image-worshippers, they
were referring to the Eastern Christians; the iconoclast heretics
denounced the idolatry of the Orthodox Church, and the Covenanters used
similar terms as to prelacy. Ignorant modern Jews are sometimes taught
that Christians worship idols.

Hence when we read of the Jews, "They set their abominations in the
house which is called by My name, to defile it," we are not to
understand that the Temple was transferred from Jehovah to some other
deities, but that the corrupt practices and symbols of heathen worship
were combined with the Mosaic ritual. Even the high places of Baal, in
the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, where children were passed through the fire
unto Moloch, professed to offer an opportunity of supreme devotion to
the God of Israel. Baal and Melech, Lord and King, had in ancient
times been amongst His titles; and when they became associated with
the more heathenish modes of worship, their misguided devotees still
claimed that they were doing homage to the national Deity. The inhuman
sacrifices to Moloch were offered in obedience to sacred tradition and
Divine oracles, which were supposed to emanate from Jehovah. In three
different places, Jeremiah explicitly and emphatically denies that
Jehovah had required or sanctioned these sacrifices: "I commanded them
not, neither came it into My mind, that they should do this
abomination, to cause Judah to sin."[288] The Pentateuch preserves an
ancient ordinance which the Moloch-worshippers probably interpreted
in support of their unholy rites, and Jeremiah's protests are partly
directed against the misinterpretation of the command "the first-born
of thy sons shalt thou give Me." The immediate context also commanded
that the firstlings of sheep and oxen should be given to Jehovah. The
beasts were killed; must it not be intended that the children should
be killed too?[289] A similar blind literalism has been responsible
for many of the follies and crimes perpetrated in the name of Christ.
The Church is apt to justify its most flagrant enormities by appealing
to a misused and misinterpreted Old Testament. "Thou shalt not suffer
a witch to live" and "Cursed be Canaan" have been proof-texts for
witch-hunting and negro-slavery; and the book of Joshua has been
regarded as a Divine charter, authorising the unrestrained indulgence
of the passion for revenge and blood.

When it was thus necessary to put on record reiterated denials that
inhuman rites of Baal and Moloch were a divinely sanctioned adoration
of Jehovah, we can understand that the Baal-worship constantly
referred to by Hosea, Jeremiah, and Zephaniah[290] was not generally
understood to be apostasy. The worship of "other gods," "the sun, the
moon, and all the host of heaven,"[291] and of the "Queen of Heaven,"
would be more difficult to explain as mere syncretism, but the
assimilation of Jewish worship to heathen ritual and the confusion of
the Divine Name with the titles of heathen deities masked the
transition from the religion of Moses and Isaiah to utter apostasy.

Such assimilation and confusion perplexed and baffled the
prophets.[292] Social and moral wrongdoing were easily exposed and
denounced; and the evils thus brought to light were obvious symptoms
of serious spiritual disease. The Divine Spirit taught the prophets
that sin was often most rampant in those who professed the greatest
devotion to Jehovah and were most punctual and munificent in the
discharge of external religious duties. When the prophecy in Isaiah i.
was uttered it almost seemed as if the whole system of Mosaic ritual
would have to be sacrificed, in order to preserve the religion of
Jehovah. But the further development of the disease suggested a less
heroic remedy. The passion for external rites did not confine itself
to the traditional forms of ancient Israelite worship. The practices
of unspiritual and immoral ritualism were associated specially with
the names of Baal and Moloch and with the adoration of the host of
heaven; and the departure from the true worship became obvious when
the deities of foreign nations were openly worshipped.

Jeremiah clearly and constantly insisted on the distinction between
the true and the corrupt worship. The worship paid to Baal and Moloch
was altogether unacceptable to Jehovah. These and other objects of
adoration were not to be regarded as forms, titles, or manifestations
of the one God, but were "other gods," distinct and opposed in nature
and attributes; in serving them the Jews were forsaking Him. So far
from recognising such rites as homage paid to Jehovah, Jeremiah
follows Hosea in calling them "backsliding,"[293] a falling away from
true loyalty. When they addressed themselves to their idols, even if
they consecrated them in the Temple and to the glory of the Most High,
they were not really looking to Him in reverent supplication, but with
impious profanity were turning their backs upon Him: "They have turned
unto Me the back, and not the face."[294] These proceedings were a
violation of the covenant between Jehovah and Israel.[295]

The same anxiety to discriminate the true religion from spurious
imitations and adulterations underlies the stress which Jeremiah lays
upon the Divine Name. His favourite formula, "Jehovah Sabaoth is His
name,"[296] may be borrowed from Amos, or may be an ancient liturgical
sentence; in any case, its use would be a convenient protest against
the doctrine that Jehovah could be worshipped under the names of and
after the manner of Baal and Moloch. When Jehovah speaks of the people
forgetting "My name," He does not mean either that the people would
forget all about Him, or would cease to use the name Jehovah; but that
they would forget the character and attributes, the purposes and
ordinances, which were properly expressed by His Name. The prophets
who "prophesy lies in My name" "cause My people to forget My
name."[297] Baal and Moloch had sunk into fit titles for a god who
could be worshipped with cruel, obscene, and idolatrous rites, but the
religion of Revelation had been for ever associated with the one
sacred Name, when "Elohim said unto Moses, Thou shalt say unto the
Israelites: Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the
God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is My
name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations." All
religious life and practice inconsistent with this Revelation given
through Moses and the prophets--all such worship, even if offered to
beings which, as Jehovah, sat in the Temple of Jehovah, professing to
be Jehovah--were nevertheless service and obedience paid to other and
false gods. Jeremiah's mission was to hammer these truths into dull
and unwilling minds.

His work seems to have been successful. Ezekiel, who is in a measure
his disciple,[298] drops the phrase "other gods," and mentions "idols"
very frequently.[299] Argument and explanation were no longer
necessary to show that idolatry was sin against Jehovah; the word
"idol" could be freely used and universally understood as indicating
what was wholly alien to the religion of Israel.[300] Jeremiah was too
anxious to convince the Jews that all syncretism was apostasy to
distinguish it carefully from the avowed neglect of Jehovah for other
gods. It is not even clear that such neglect existed in his day. In
chap. xliv. we have one detailed account of false worship to the Queen
of Heaven. It was offered by the Jewish refugees in Egypt; shortly
before, these refugees had unanimously entreated Jeremiah to pray for
them to Jehovah, and had promised to obey His commands. The punishment
of their false worship was that they should no longer be permitted to
name the Holy Name. Clearly, therefore, they had supposed that
offering incense to the Queen of Heaven was not inconsistent with
worshipping Jehovah. We need not dwell on a distinction which is
largely ignored by Jeremiah; the apostasy of Judah was real and
widespread, it matters little how far the delinquents ventured to
throw off the cloak of orthodox profession.[301] The most lapsed
masses in a Christian country do not utterly break their connection
with the Church; they consider themselves legitimate recipients of its
alms, and dimly contemplate as a vague and distant possibility the
reformation of their life and character through Christianity. So the
blindest worshippers of stocks and stones claimed a vested interest in
the national Deity, and in the time of their trouble they turned to
Jehovah with the appeal "Arise and save us."[302]

Jeremiah also dwells on the deliberate and persistent character of the
apostasy of Judah. Nations have often experienced a sort of satanic
revival when the fountains of the nether deep seemed broken up, and
flood-tides of evil influence swept all before them. Such, in a
measure, was the reaction from the Puritan Commonwealth, when so much
of English society lapsed into reckless dissipation. Such too was the
carnival of wickedness into which the First French Republic was
plunged in the Reign of Terror. But these periods were transient, and
the domination of lust and cruelty soon broke down before the
reassertion of an outraged national conscience. But we noticed, in the
previous chapter, that Israel and Judah alike steadily failed to
attain the high social ideal of the Mosaic dispensation. Naturally,
this continuous failure is associated with persistent apostasy from
true religious teaching of the Mosaic and prophetic Revelation.
Exodus, Deuteronomy and the Chronicler agree with Jeremiah that the
Israelites were a stiff-necked people;[303] and, in the Chronicler's
time at any rate, Israel had played a part in the world long enough
for its character to be accurately ascertained; and subsequent history
has shown that, for good or for evil, the Jews have never lacked
tenacity. Syncretism, the tendency to adulterate true teaching and
worship with elements from heathen sources, had been all along a
morbid affection of Israelite religion. The Pentateuch and the
historical books are full of rebukes of the Israelite passion for
idolatry, which must for the most part be understood as introduced
into or associated with the worship of Jehovah. Jeremiah constantly
refers to "the stubbornness of their evil heart":[304] "they ... have
walked after the stubbornness of their own heart and after the
Baalim." This stubbornness was shown in their resistance to all the
means which Jehovah employed to wean them from their sin. Again and
again, in our book, Jehovah speaks of Himself as "rising up
early"[305] to speak to the Jews, to teach them, to send prophets to
them, to solemnly adjure them to submit themselves to Him; but they
would not hearken either to Jehovah or to His prophets, they would not
accept His teaching or obey His commands, they made themselves
stiff-necked and would not bow to His will. He had subjected them to
the discipline of affliction, instruction had become correction;
Jehovah had wounded them "with the wound of an enemy, with the
chastisement of a cruel one"; but as they had been deaf to
exhortation, so they were proof against chastisement--"they refused to
receive correction." Only the ruin of the state and the captivity of
the people could purge out this evil leaven.

Apostasy from the Mosaic and prophetic religion was naturally
accompanied by social corruption. It has recently been maintained that
the universal instinct which inclines man to be religious is not
necessarily moral, and that it is the distinguishing note of the true
faith, or of religion proper, that it enlists this somewhat neutral
instinct in the cause of a pure morality. The Phœnician and Syrian
cults, with which Israel was most closely in contact, sufficiently
illustrated the combination of fanatical religious feeling with gross
impurity. On the other hand, the teaching of Revelation to Israel
consistently inculcated a high morality and an unselfish benevolence.
The prophets vehemently affirmed the worthlessness of religious
observances by men who oppressed the poor and helpless. Apostasy from
Jehovah to Baal and Moloch involved the same moral lapse as a change
from loyal service of Christ to a pietistic antinomianism. Widespread
apostasy meant general social corruption. The most insidious form of
apostasy was that specially denounced by Jeremiah, in which the
authority of Jehovah was more or less explicitly claimed for practices
and principles which defied His law. The Reformer loves a clear issue,
and it was more difficult to come to close quarters with the enemy
when both sides professed to be fighting in the King's name. Moreover
the syncretism which still recognised Jehovah was able without any
violent revolution to control the established institutions and orders
of the state--palace and temple, king and princes, priests and
prophets. For a moment the Reformation of Josiah, and the covenant
entered into by king and people to observe the law as laid down in the
newly discovered Book of Deuteronomy, seemed to have raised Judah from
its low estate. But the defeat and death of Josiah and the deposition
of Jehoahaz followed to discredit Jeremiah and his friends. In the
consequent reaction it seemed as if the religion of Jehovah and the
life of His people had become hopelessly corrupt.

We are too much accustomed to think of the idolatry of Israel as
something openly and avowedly distinct from and opposed to the worship
of Jehovah. Modern Christians often suppose that the true worshipper
and the ancient idolater were as contrasted as a pious Englishman and
a devotee of one of the hideous images seen on missionary platforms;
or, at any rate, that they were as easily distinguishable as a native
Indian evangelist from his unconverted fellow-countrymen.

This mistake deprives us of the most instructive lessons to be derived
from the record. The sin which Jeremiah denounced is by no means outside
Christian experience; it is much nearer to us than conversion to
Buddhism--it is possible to the Church in every stage of its history.
The missionary finds that the lives of his converts continually threaten
to revert to a nominal profession which cloaks the immorality and
superstition of their old heathenism. The Church of the Roman Empire
gave the sanction of Christ's name and authority to many of the most
unchristian features of Judaism and Paganism; once more the rites of
strange gods were associated with the worship of Jehovah, and a new
Queen of Heaven was honoured with unlimited incense. The Reformed
Churches in their turn, after the first "kindness of their youth," the
first "love of their espousals," have often fallen into the very abuses
against which their great leaders protested; they have given way to the
ritualistic spirit, have put the Church in the place of Christ, and have
claimed for human formulæ the authority that can only belong to the
inspired Word of God. They have immolated their victims to the Baals and
Molochs of creeds and confessions, and thought that they were doing
honour to Jehovah thereby.

Moreover we have still to contend like Jeremiah with the continual
struggle of corrupt human nature to indulge in the luxury of religious
sentiment and emotion without submitting to the moral demands of
Christ. The Church suffers far less by losing the allegiance of the
lapsed masses than it does by those who associate with the service of
Christ those malignant and selfish vices which are often canonised as
Respectability and Convention.


[285] Hosea ix. 7-9: cf. Judges xix. 22.

[286] Hosea vi. 9.

[287] Isaiah xl.-lxvi. is excluded from this statement.

[288] xxxii. 34, 35, repeating vii. 30, 31, with slight variations. A
similar statement occurs in xix. 4, 5. Cf. 2 Kings xvi. 3, xxi. 6,
xxiii. 10; also Giesebrecht and Orelli _in loco_.

[289] Exod. xxii. 29 (JE.). Exod. xxxiv. 20 is probably a later
interpretation intended to guard against misunderstandings.

[290] Baal is not mentioned in the other prophetical books.

[291] vii. 2.

[292] Here and elsewhere, "prophet," unless specially qualified by the
context, is used of the true prophet, the messenger of Divine
Revelation, and does not include the mere professional prophets. Cf.
Chap. VIII.

[293] ii. 19, etc.

[294] xxxii. 33, etc.

[295] xxii. 9: cf. xi. 10, xxxi. 32, and Hosea vi. 7, viii. 1.

[296] x. 16: cf. Amos iv. 13.

[297] xxiii. 25-27: cf. Giesebrecht, _in loco_.

[298] Cheyne, _Jeremiah: Life and Times_, p. 150.

[299] Jeremiah hardly mentions idols.

[300] Cf. on this whole subject, Cheyne, _Jeremiah: Life and Times_,
p. 319.

[301] The strongest expressions are in chap. ii., for which see
previous volume on Jeremiah.

[302] ii. 27.

[303] xvii. 23: cf. Exod. xxxii. 9, etc. (JE.); Deut. ix. 6; 2 Chron.
xxx. 8.

[304] Characteristic Expressions, p. 269.

[305] _Ibid._, p. 269.

                              CHAPTER XXIX


                          xxii. 1-9, xxvi. 14.

    "The sword, the pestilence, and the famine."--JER. xxi. 9 _and

    "Terror on every side."--JER. vi. 25, xx. 10, xlvi. 5, xlix. 29;
    _also as proper name_, MAGOR-MISSABIB, xx. 3.

We have seen, in the two previous chapters, that the moral and
religious state of Judah not only excluded any hope of further
progress towards the realisation of the Kingdom of God, but also
threatened to involve Revelation itself in the corruption of His
people. The Spirit that opened Jeremiah's eyes to the fatal
degradation of his country showed him that ruin must follow as its
swift result. He was elect from the first to be a herald of doom, to
be set "over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to
break down, and to destroy and to overthrow."[307] In his earliest
vision he saw the thrones of the northern conquerors set over against
the walls of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah.[308]

But Jeremiah was called in the full vigour of early manhood;[309] he
combined with the uncompromising severity of youth its ardent
affection and irrepressible hope. The most unqualified threats of
Divine wrath always carried the implied condition that repentance
might avert the coming judgment;[310] and Jeremiah recurred again and
again to the possibility that, even in these last days, amendment
might win pardon. Like Moses at Sinai and Samuel at Ebenezer, he
poured out his whole soul in intercession for Judah, only to receive
the answer, "Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind
could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight and let
them go forth."[311] The record of these early hopes and prayers is
chiefly found in chapters i.-xx., and is dealt with in the previous
volume on Jeremiah. The prophecies in xiv. 1-xvii. 18 seem to
recognise the destiny of Judah as finally decided, and to belong to
the latter part of the reign of Jehoiakim,[312] and there is little in
the later chapters of an earlier date. In xxii. 1-5 the king of Judah
is promised that if he and his ministers and officers will refrain
from oppression, faithfully administer justice, and protect the
helpless, kings of the elect dynasty shall still pass with magnificent
retinues in chariots and on horses through the palace gates to sit
upon the throne of David. Possibly this section belongs to the earlier
part of Jeremiah's career. But there were pauses and recoils in the
advancing tide of ruin, alternations of hope and despair; and these
varying experiences were reflected in the changing moods of the court,
the people, and the prophet himself. We may well believe that Jeremiah
hastened to greet any apparent zeal for reformation with a renewed
declaration that sincere and radical amendment would be accepted by
Jehovah. The proffer of mercy did not avert the ruin of the state, but
it compelled the people to recognise that Jehovah was neither harsh
nor vindictive. His sentence was only irrevocable because the obduracy
of Israel left no other way open for the progress of Revelation,
except that which led through fire and blood. The Holy Spirit has
taught mankind in many ways that when any government or church, any
school of thought or doctrine, ossifies so as to limit the expansion
of the soul, that society or system must be shattered by the forces it
seeks to restrain. The decadence of Spain and the distractions of
France sufficiently illustrate the fruits of persistent refusal to
abide in the liberty of the Spirit.

But, until the catastrophe is clearly inevitable, the Christian, both
as patriot and as churchman,[313] will be quick to cherish all those
symptoms of higher life which indicate that society is still a living
organism. He will zealously believe and teach that even a small leaven
may leaven the whole mass. He will remember that ten righteous men
might have saved Sodom; that, so long as it is possible, God will work
by encouraging and rewarding willing obedience rather than by
chastising and coercing sin.

Thus Jeremiah, even when he teaches that the day of grace is over,
recurs wistfully to the possibilities of salvation once offered to
repentance.[314] Was not this the message of all the prophets: "Return
ye now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings,
and dwell in the land that Jehovah hath given unto your fathers"?[315]
Even at the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign Jehovah entrusted Jeremiah
with a message of mercy, saying: "It may be they will hearken, and
turn every man from his evil way; that I may repent Me of the evil,
which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their
doings."[316] When the prophet multiplied the dark and lurid features
of his picture, he was not gloating with morbid enjoyment over the
national misery, but rather hoped that the awful vision of judgment
might lead them to pause, and reflect and repent. In his age history
had not accumulated her now abundant proofs that the guilty conscience
is panoplied in triple brass against most visions of judgment. The
sequel of Jeremiah's own mission was added evidence for this truth.

Yet it dawned but slowly on the prophet's mind. The covenant of
emancipation[317] in the last days of Zedekiah was doubtless proposed
by Jeremiah as a possible beginning of better things, an omen of
salvation, even at the eleventh hour. To the very last the prophet
offered the king his life and promised that Jerusalem should not be
burnt, if only he would submit to the Chaldeans, and thus accept the
Divine judgment and acknowledge its justice.

Faithful friends have sometimes stood by the drunkard or the gambler,
and striven for his deliverance through all the vicissitudes of his
downward career; to the very last they have hoped against hope, have
welcomed and encouraged every feeble stand against evil habit, every
transient flash of high resolve. But, long before the end, they have
owned, with sinking heart, that the only way to salvation lay through
the ruin of health, fortune, and reputation. So, when the edge of
youthful hopefulness had quickly worn itself away, Jeremiah knew in
his inmost heart that, in spite of prayers and promises and
exhortations, the fate of Judah was sealed. Let us therefore try to
reproduce the picture of coming ruin which Jeremiah kept persistently
before the eyes of his fellow-countrymen. The pith and power of his
prophecies lay in the prospect of their speedy fulfilment. With him,
as with Savonarola, a cardinal doctrine was that "before the
regeneration must come the scourge," and that "these things will come
quickly." Here again, Jeremiah took up the burden of Hosea's
utterances. The elder prophet said of Israel, "The days of visitation
are come";[318] and his successor announced to Judah the coming of
"the year of visitation."[319] The long-deferred assize was at hand,
when the Judge would reckon with Judah for her manifold infidelities,
would pronounce sentence and execute judgment.

If the hour of doom had struck, it was not difficult to surmise whence
destruction would come or the man who would prove its instrument. The
North (named in Hebrew the hidden quarter) was to the Jews the mother of
things unforeseen and terrible. Isaiah menaced the Philistines with "a
smoke out of the north,"[320] _i.e._ the Assyrians. Jeremiah and Ezekiel
both speak very frequently of the destroyers of Judah as coming from the
north. Probably the early references in our book to northern enemies
denote the Scythians, who invaded Syria towards the beginning of
Josiah's reign; but later on the danger from the north is the restored
Chaldean Empire, under its king Nebuchadnezzar. "North" is even less
accurate geographically for Chaldea than for Assyria. Probably it was
accepted in a somewhat symbolic sense for Assyria, and then transferred
to Chaldea as her successor in the hegemony of Western Asia.

Nebuchadnezzar is first[321] introduced in the fourth year of
Jehoiakim; after the decisive defeat of Pharaoh Necho by
Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish, Jeremiah prophesied the devastation of
Judah by the victor; it is also prophesied that he is to carry
Jehoiachin away captive,[322] and similar prophecies were repeated
during the reign of Zedekiah.[323] Nebuchadnezzar and his Chaldeans
very closely resembled the Assyrians, with whose invasions the Jews
had long been only too familiar; indeed, as Chaldea had long been
tributary to Assyria, it is morally certain that Chaldean princes must
have been present with auxiliary forces at more than one of the many
Assyrian invasions of Palestine. Under Hezekiah, on the other hand,
Judah had been allied with Merodach-baladan of Babylon against his
Assyrian suzerain. So that the circumstances of Chaldean invasions and
conquests were familiar to the Jews before the forces of the restored
empire first attacked them; their imagination could readily picture
the horrors of such experiences.

But Jeremiah does not leave them to their unaided imagination, which
they might preferably have employed upon more agreeable subjects. He
makes them see the future reign of terror, as Jehovah had revealed it
to his shuddering and reluctant vision. With his usual frequency of
iteration, he keeps the phrase "the sword, the famine, and the
pestilence" ringing in their ears. The sword was the symbol of the
invading hosts, "the splendid and awful military parade" of the
"bitter and hasty nation" that were "dreadful and terrible."[324] "The
famine" inevitably followed from the ravages of the invaders, and the
impossibility of ploughing, sowing, and reaping. It became most
gruesome in the last desperate agonies of besieged garrisons, when, as
in Elisha's time and the last siege of Jerusalem, "men ate the flesh
of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and ate every one the
flesh of his friend."[325] Among such miseries and horrors, the stench
of unburied corpses naturally bred a pestilence, which raged amongst
the multitudes of refugees huddled together in Jerusalem and the
fortified towns. We are reminded how the great plague of Athens struck
down its victims from among the crowds driven within its walls during
the long siege of the Peloponnesian war.

An ordinary Englishman can scarcely do justice to such prophecies; his
comprehension is limited by a happy inexperience. The constant
repetition of general phrases seems meagre and cold, because they carry
few associations and awaken no memories. Those who have studied French
and Russian realistic art, and have read Erckmann-Chatrain, Zola, and
Tolstoï, may be stirred somewhat more by Jeremiah's grim rhetoric. It
will not be wanting in suggestiveness to those who have known battles
and sieges. For students of missionary literature we may roughly
compare the Jews, when exposed to the full fury of a Chaldean attack, to
the inhabitants of African villages raided by slave-hunters.

The Jews, therefore, with their extensive, first-hand knowledge of the
miseries denounced against them, could not help filling in for
themselves the rough outline drawn by Jeremiah. Very probably, too,
his speeches were more detailed and realistic than the written
reports. As time went on, the inroads of the Chaldeans and their
allies provided graphic and ghastly illustrations of the prophecies
that Jeremiah still reiterated. In a prophecy, possibly originally
referring to the Scythian inroads and afterwards adapted to the
Chaldean invasions, Jeremiah speaks of himself: "I am pained at my
very heart; my heart is disquieted in me; I cannot hold my peace; for
my soul heareth[326] the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war....
How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the
trumpet?"[327] Here, for once, Jeremiah expressed emotions that
throbbed in every heart. There was "terror on every hand"; men seemed
to be walking "through slippery places in darkness,"[328] or to
stumble along rough paths in a dreary twilight. Wormwood was their
daily food, and their drink maddening draughts of poison.[329]

Jeremiah and his prophecies were no mean part of the terror. To the
devotees of Baal and Moloch Jeremiah must have appeared in much the
same light as the fanatic whose ravings added to the horrors of the
Plague of London, while the very sanity and sobriety of his utterances
carried a conviction of their fatal truth.

When the people and their leaders succeeded in collecting any force of
soldiers or store of military equipment, and ventured on a sally,
Jeremiah was at once at hand to quench any reviving hope of effective
resistance. How could soldiers and weapons preserve the city which
Jehovah had abandoned to its fate? "Thus saith Jehovah, the God of
Israel: Behold, I will turn back the weapons in your hands, with which
ye fight without the walls against your besiegers, the king of Babylon
and the Chaldeans, and will gather them into the midst of this city. I
Myself will fight against you in furious anger and in great wrath, with
outstretched hand and strong arm. I will smite the inhabitants of this
city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence."[330]

When Jerusalem was relieved for a time by the advance of an Egyptian
army, and the people allowed themselves to dream of another
deliverance like that from Sennacherib, the relentless prophet only
turned upon them with renewed scorn: "Though ye had smitten the whole
hostile army of the Chaldeans, and all that were left of them were
desperately wounded, yet should they rise up every man in his tent and
burn this city."[331] Not even the most complete victory could avail
to save the city.

The final result of invasions and sieges was to be the overthrow of
the Jewish state, the capture and destruction of Jerusalem, and the
captivity of the people. This unhappy generation were to reap the
harvest of centuries of sin and failure. As in the last siege of
Jerusalem there came upon the Jews "all the righteous blood shed on
the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of
Zachariah son of Barachiah,"[332] so now Jehovah was about to bring
upon His Chosen People all the evil that He had spoken against
them[333]--all that had been threatened by Isaiah and his
brother-prophets, all the curses written in Deuteronomy. But these
threats were to be fully carried out, not because predictions must be
fulfilled, nor even merely because Jehovah had spoken and His word
must not return to Him void, but because the people had not hearkened
and obeyed. His threats were never meant to exclude the penitent from
the possibility of pardon.

As Jeremiah had insisted upon the guilt of every class of the community,
so he is also careful to enumerate all the classes as about to suffer
from the coming judgment: "Zedekiah king of Judah and his princes";[334]
"the people, the prophet, and the priest."[335] This Last Judgment of
Judah, as it took the form of the complete overthrow of the State,
necessarily included all under its sentence of doom. One of the
mysteries of Providence is that those who are most responsible for
national sins seem to suffer least by public misfortunes. Ambitious
statesmen and bellicose journalists do not generally fall in battle and
leave destitute widows and children. When the captains of commerce and
manufacture err in their industrial policy, one great result is the
pauperism of hundreds of families who had no voice in the matter. A
spendthrift landlord may cripple the agriculture of half a county. And
yet, when factories are closed and farmers ruined, the manufacturer and
the landlord are the last to see want. In former invasions of Judah,
the princes and priests had some share of suffering; but wealthy nobles
might incur losses and yet weather the storm by which poorer men were
overwhelmed. Fines and tribute levied by the invaders would, after the
manner of the East, be wrung from the weak and helpless. But now ruin
was to fall on all alike. The nobles had been flagrant in sin, they were
now to be marked out for most condign punishment--"To whomsoever much is
given, of him shall much be required."

Part of the burden of Jeremiah's prophecy, one of the sayings constantly
on his lips, was that the city would be taken and destroyed by
fire.[336] The Temple would be laid in ruins like the ancient sanctuary
of Israel at Shiloh.[337] The palaces[338] of the king and princes would
be special marks for the destructive fury of the enemy, and their
treasures and all the wealth of the city would be for a spoil; those who
survived the sack of the city would be carried captive to Babylon.[339]

In this general ruin the miseries of the people would not end with
death. All nations have attached much importance to the burial of the
dead and the due performance of funeral rites. In the touching Greek
story Antigone sacrificed her life in order to bury the remains of her
brother. Later Judaism attached exceptional importance to the burial
of the dead, and the Book of Tobit lays great stress on this sacred
duty. The angel Raphael declares that one special reason why the Lord
had been merciful to Tobias was that he had buried dead bodies, and
had not delayed to rise up and leave his meal to go and bury the
corpse of a murdered Jew, at the risk of his own life.[340]

Jeremiah prophesied of the slain in this last overthrow: "They shall
not be lamented, neither shall they be buried; they shall be as dung
on the face of the ground; ... their carcases shall be meat for the
fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth."

When these last had done their ghastly work, the site of the Temple, the
city, the whole land would be left silent and desolate. The stranger,
wandering amidst the ruins, would hear no cheerful domestic sounds; when
night fell, no light gleaming through chink or lattice would give the
sense of human neighbourhood. Jehovah "would take away the sound of the
millstones and the light of the candle."[341] The only sign of life
amidst the desolate ruins of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah would be
the melancholy cry of the jackals round the traveller's tent.[342]

The Hebrew prophets and our Lord Himself often borrowed their symbols
from the scenes of common life, as they passed before their eyes. As
in the days of Noah, as in the days of Lot, as in the days of the Son
of Man, so in the last agony of Judah there was marrying and giving in
marriage. Some such festive occasion suggested to Jeremiah one of his
favourite formulæ; it occurs four times in the Book of Jeremiah, and
was probably uttered much oftener. Again and again it may have
happened that, as a marriage procession passed through the streets,
the gay company were startled by the grim presence of the prophet, and
shrank back in dismay as they found themselves made the text for a
stern homily of ruin: "Thus saith Jehovah Sabaoth, I will take away
from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of
the bridegroom and the voice of the bride." At any rate, however, and
whenever used, the figure could not fail to arrest attention, and to
serve as an emphatic declaration that the ordinary social routine
would be broken up and lost in the coming calamity.

Henceforth the land would be as some guilty habitation of sinners,
devoted to eternal destruction, an astonishment and a hissing and a
perpetual desolation.[343] When the heathen sought some curse to
express the extreme of malignant hatred, they would use the formula,
"God make thee like Jerusalem."[344] Jehovah's Chosen People would
become an everlasting reproach, a perpetual shame, which should not be
forgotten.[345] The wrath of Jehovah pursued even captives and
fugitives. In chapter xxix. Jeremiah predicts the punishment of the
Jewish prophets at Babylon. When we last hear of him, in Egypt, he is
denouncing ruin against "the remnant of Judah that have set their
faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there." He still
reiterates the same familiar phrases: "Ye shall die by the sword, by
the famine, and by the pestilence"; they shall be "an execration, and
an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach."

We have now traced the details of the prophet's message of doom.
Fulfilment followed fast upon the heels of prediction, till Jeremiah
rather interpreted than foretold the thick-coming disasters. When his
book was compiled, the prophecies were already, as they are now, part
of the history of the last days of Judah. The book became the record
of this great tragedy, in which these prophecies take the place of the
choric odes in a Greek drama.


[306] Characteristic Expressions, p. 269.

[307] i. 10.

[308] i. 15.

[309] i. 7. The word for "child" (na'ar) is an elastic term, equalling
"boy" or "young man," with all the range of meaning possible in
English to the latter phrase.

[310] Cf. the Book of Jonah.

[311] xv. 1.

[312] Driver, _Introduction_, p. 242.

[313] "Church" is used, in the true Catholic sense, to embrace all

[314] xxvii. 18.

[315] xxv. 5, xxxv. 15.

[316] xxvi. 3, xxxvi. 2.

[317] Chap. XI.

[318] Hosea ix. 7.

[319] xxiii. 12.

[320] Isa. xiv. 31.

[321] xxv. 1-14: "first," _i.e._, in time, not in the order of
chapters in our Book of Jeremiah.

[322] xxii. 25. Jehoiachin (Kings, Chronicles, and Jer. lii. 31) is
also called Coniah (Jer. xxii. 24, 28, xxxvii. 1) and Jeconiah
(Chronicles, Esther, Jer. xxiv. 1, xxvii. 20, xxviii. 4, xxix. 2).
They are virtually forms of the same name, the "Yah" of the Divine
Name being prefixed in the first and affixed in the last two.

[323] xxi. 7, xxviii. 14.

[324] Habakkuk i. 6, 7.

[325] xix. 9.

[326] R.V. margin.

[327] iv. 21.

[328] xxiii. 12.

[329] xxiii. 15.

[330] xxi. 3-6.

[331] xxxvii. 10.

[332] Matt. xxiii. 35.

[333] xxxv. 17: cf. xix. 15, xxxvi. 31.

[334] xxxiv. 21.

[335] xxiii. 33, 34.

[336] xxxiv. 2, 22, xxxvii. 8.

[337] vii. and xxvi.

[338] vi. 5.

[339] xx. 5.

[340] Tobit xii. 13: cf. ii.

[341] xxv. 10.

[342] ix. 11, x. 22.

[343] xxv. 9, 10.

[344] xxvi. 6.

[345] xxiii. 40.

                              CHAPTER XXX

                      _RESTORATION--I. THE SYMBOL_


    "And I bought the field of Hanameel."--JER. xxxii. 9.

When Jeremiah was first called to his prophetic mission, after the
charge "to pluck up and to break down, and to destroy and to
overthrow," there were added--almost as if they were an
afterthought--the words "to build and to plant."[346] Throughout a
large part of the book little or nothing is said about building and
planting; but, at last, four consecutive chapters, xxx.-xxxiii., are
almost entirely devoted to this subject. Jeremiah's characteristic
phrases are not all denunciatory; we owe to him the description of
Jehovah as "the Hope of Israel."[347] Sin and ruin, guilt and
punishment, could not quench the hope that centred in Him. Though the
day of Jehovah might be darkness and not light,[348] yet, through the
blackness of this day turned into night, the prophets beheld a radiant
dawn. When all other building and planting were over for Jeremiah,
when it might seem that much that he had planted was being rooted up
again in the overthrow of Judah, he was yet permitted to plant shoots
in the garden of the Lord, which have since become trees whose leaves
are for the healing of the nations.

The symbolic act dealt with in this chapter is a convenient
introduction to the prophecies of restoration, especially as chapters
xxx., xxxi., have no title and are of uncertain date.

The incident of the purchase of Hanameel's field is referred by the
title to the year 587 B.C., when Jeremiah was in prison and the
capture of the city was imminent. Verses 2-6 are an introduction by
some editor, who was anxious that his readers should fully understand
the narrative that follows. They are compiled from the rest of the
book, and contain nothing that need detain us.

When Jeremiah was arrested and thrown into prison, he was on his way
to Anathoth "to receive his portion there,"[349] _i.e._, as we gather
from this chapter, to take possession of an inheritance that devolved
upon him. As he was now unable to attend to this business at Anathoth,
his cousin Hanameel came to him in the prison, to give him the
opportunity of observing the necessary formalities. In his enforced
leisure Jeremiah would often recur to the matter on which he had been
engaged when he was arrested. An interrupted piece of work is apt to
intrude itself upon the mind with tiresome importunity; moreover his
dismal surroundings would remind him of his business--it had been the
cause of his imprisonment. The bond between an Israelite and the
family inheritance was almost as close and sacred as that between
Jehovah and the Land of Promise. Naboth had died a martyr to the duty
he owed to the land. "Jehovah forbid that I should give thee the
inheritance of my fathers,"[350] said he to Ahab. And now, in the
final crisis of the fortunes of Judah, the prophet whose heart was
crushed by the awful task laid upon him had done what he could to
secure the rights of his family in the "field" at Anathoth.

Apparently he had failed. The oppression of his spirits would suggest
that Jehovah had disapproved and frustrated his purpose. His failure
was another sign of the utter ruin of the nation. The solemn grant of
the Land of Promise to the Chosen People was finally revoked; and
Jehovah no longer sanctioned the ancient ceremonies which bound the
households and clans of Israel to the soil of their inheritance.

In some such mood, Jeremiah received the intimation that his cousin
Hanameel was on his way to see him about this very business. "The word
of Jehovah came unto him: Behold, thine uncle Shallum's son Hanameel
is coming to thee, to say unto thee, Buy my field in Anathoth, for it
is thy duty to buy it by way of redemption." The prophet was roused to
fresh perplexity. The opportunity might be a Divine command to proceed
with the redemption. And yet he was a childless man doomed to die in
exile. What had he to do with a field at Anathoth in that great and
terrible day of the Lord? Death or captivity was staring every one in
the face; land was worthless. The transaction would put money into
Hanameel's pocket. The eagerness of a Jew to make sure of a good
bargain seemed no very safe indication of the will of Jehovah.

In this uncertain frame of mind Hanameel found his cousin, when he
came to demand that Jeremiah should buy his field. Perhaps the
prisoner found his kinsman's presence a temporary mitigation of his
gloomy surroundings, and was inspired with more cheerful and kindly
feelings. The solemn and formal appeal to fulfil a kinsman's duty
towards the family inheritance came to him as a Divine command: "I
knew that this was the word of Jehovah."

The cousins proceeded with their business, which was in no way
hindered by the arrangements of the prison. We must be careful to
dismiss from our minds all the associations of the routine and
discipline of a modern English gaol. The "court of the guard" in which
they were was not properly a prison; it was a place of detention, not
of punishment. The prisoners may have been fettered, but they were
together and could communicate with each other and with their friends.
The conditions were not unlike those of a debtors' prison such as the
old Marshalsea, as described in _Little Dorrit_.

Our information as to this right or duty of the next-of-kin to buy or
buy back land is of the scantiest.[351] The leading case is that in
the Book of Ruth, where, however, the purchase of land is altogether
secondary to the levirate marriage. The land custom assumes that an
Israelite will only part with his land in case of absolute necessity,
and it was evidently supposed that some member of the clan would feel
bound to purchase. On the other hand, in Ruth, the next-of-kin is
readily allowed to transfer the obligation to Boaz. Why Hanameel sold
his field we cannot tell; in these days of constant invasion, most of
the small landowners must have been reduced to great distress, and
would gladly have found purchasers for their property. The kinsman to
whom land was offered would pretty generally refuse to pay anything
but a nominal price. Formerly the demand that the next-of-kin should
buy an inheritance was seldom made, but the exceptional feature in
this case was Jeremiah's willingness to conform to ancient custom.

The price paid for the field was seventeen shekels of silver, but,
however precise this information may seem, it really tells us very
little. A curious illustration is furnished by modern currency
difficulties. The shekel, in the time of the Maccabees, when we are
first able to determine its value with some certainty, contained about
half an ounce of silver, _i.e._ about the amount of metal in an
English half-crown. The commentaries accordingly continue to reckon
the shekel as worth half-a-crown, whereas its value by weight
according to the present price of silver would be about fourteenpence.
Probably the purchasing power of silver was not more stable in ancient
Palestine than it is now. Fifty shekels seemed to David and Araunah a
liberal price for a threshing-floor and its oxen, but the Chronicler
thought it quite inadequate.[352] We know neither the size of
Hanameel's field nor the quality of the land, nor yet the value of the
shekels;[353] but the symbolic use made of the incident implies that
Jeremiah paid a fair and not a panic price.

The silver was duly weighed in the presence of witnesses and of all
the Jews that were in the court of the guard, apparently including the
prisoners; their position as respectable members of society was not
affected by their imprisonment. A deed or deeds were drawn up, signed
by Jeremiah and the witnesses, and publicly delivered to Baruch to be
kept safely in an earthen vessel. The legal formalities are described
with some detail; possibly they were observed with exceptional
punctiliousness; at any rate, great stress is laid upon the exact
fulfilment of all that law and custom demanded. Unfortunately, in the
course of so many centuries, much of the detail has become
unintelligible. For instance, Jeremiah the purchaser signs the record
of the purchase, but nothing is said about Hanameel signing. When
Abraham bought the field of Machpelah of Ephron the Hittite there was
no written deed, the land was simply transferred in public at the gate
of the city.[354] Here the written record becomes valid by being
publicly delivered to Baruch in the presence of Hanameel and the
witnesses. The details with regard to the deeds are very obscure, and
the text is doubtful. The Hebrew apparently refers to two deeds, but
the Septuagint for the most part to one only. The R.V. of verse 11
runs: "So I took the deed of the purchase, both that which was sealed,
according to the law and the custom, and that which was open." The
Septuagint omits everything after "that which was sealed"; and, in any
case, the words "the law and the custom"--better, as R.V. margin,
"_containing_ the terms and the conditions"--are a gloss. In verse 14
the R.V. has: "Take these deeds, this deed of the purchase, both that
which is sealed, and this deed which is open, and put _them_ in an
earthen vessel." The Septuagint reads: "Take this book of the purchase
and this book that has been read,[355] and thou shalt put _it_ in an
earthen vessel."[356] It is possible that, as has been suggested, the
reference to two deeds has arisen out of a misunderstanding of the
description of a single deed. Scribes may have altered or added to the
text in order to make it state explicitly what they supposed to be
implied. No reason is given for having two deeds. We could have
understood the double record if each party had retained one of the
documents, or if one had been buried in the earthen vessel and the
other kept for reference, but both are put into the earthen vessel.
The terms "that which is sealed" and "that which is open" may,
however, be explained of either of one or two documents[357] somewhat
as follows: the record was written, signed, and witnessed; it was then
folded up and sealed; part or the whole of the contents of this
sealed-up record was then written again on the outside or on a
separate parchment, so that the purport of the deed could easily be
ascertained without exposing the original record. The Assyrian and
Chaldean contract-tablets were constructed on this principle; the
contract was first written on a clay tablet, which was further
enclosed in an envelope of clay, and on the outside was engraved an
exact copy of the writing within. If the outer writing became
indistinct or was tampered with, the envelope could be broken and the
exact terms of the contract ascertained from the first tablet.
Numerous examples of this method can be seen in the British Museum.
The Jews had been vassals of Assyria and Babylon for about a century,
and thus must have had ample opportunity to become acquainted with
their legal procedure; and, in this instance, Jeremiah and his
friends may have imitated the Chaldeans. Such an imitation would be
specially significant in what was intended to symbolise the
transitoriness of the Chaldean conquest.

The earthen vessel would preserve the record from being spoilt by the
damp; similarly bottles are used nowadays to preserve the documents
that are built up into the memorial stones of public buildings. In
both cases the object is that "they may continue many days."

So far the prophet had proceeded in simple obedience to a Divine
command to fulfil an obligation which otherwise might excusably have
been neglected. He felt that his action was a parable which suggested
that Judah might retain its ancient inheritance,[358] but Jeremiah
hesitated to accept an interpretation seemingly at variance with the
judgments he had pronounced upon the guilty people. When he had handed
over the deed to Baruch, and his mind was no longer occupied with
legal minutiæ, he could ponder at leisure on the significance of his
purchase. The prophet's meditations naturally shaped themselves into a
prayer; he laid his perplexity before Jehovah.[359] Possibly, even
from the court of the guard, he could see something of the works of
the besiegers; and certainly men would talk constantly of the progress
of the siege. Outside the Chaldeans were pushing their mounds and
engines nearer and nearer to the walls, within famine and pestilence
decimated and enfeebled the defenders; the city was virtually in the
enemy's hands. All this was in accordance with the will of Jehovah and
the mission entrusted to His prophet. "What thou hast spoken of is
come to pass, and, behold, thou seest it." And yet, in spite of all
this, "Thou hast said unto me, O Lord Jehovah, Buy the field for money
and take witnesses--and the city is in the hands of the Chaldeans!"

Jeremiah had already predicted the ruin of Babylon and the return of
the captives at the end of seventy years.[360] It is clear, therefore,
that he did not at first understand the sign of the purchase as
referring to restoration from the Captivity. His mind, at the moment,
was preoccupied with the approaching capture of Jerusalem; apparently
his first thought was that his prophecies of doom were to be set
aside, and at the last moment some wonderful deliverance might be
wrought out for Zion. In the Book of Jonah, Nineveh is spared in spite
of the prophet's unconditional and vehement declaration: "Yet forty
days and Nineveh shall be overthrown." Was it possible, thought
Jeremiah, that after all that had been said and done, buying and
selling, building and planting, marrying and giving in marriage, were
to go on as if nothing had happened? He was bewildered and confounded
by the idea of such a revolution in the Divine purposes.

Jehovah in His answer at once repudiates this idea. He asserts His
universal sovereignty and omnipotence; these are to be manifested,
first in judgment and then in mercy. He declares afresh that all the
judgments predicted by Jeremiah shall speedily come to pass. Then He
unfolds His gracious purpose of redemption and deliverance. He will
gather the exiles from all lands and bring them back to Judah, and
they shall dwell there securely. They shall be His people and He will
be their God. Henceforth He will make an everlasting covenant with
them, that He will never again abandon them to misery and destruction,
but will always do them good. By Divine grace they shall be united in
purpose and action to serve Jehovah; He Himself will put His fear in
their hearts.

And then returning to the symbol of the purchased field, Jehovah
declares that fields shall be bought, with all the legal formalities
usual in settled and orderly societies, deeds shall be signed, sealed,
and delivered in the presence of witnesses. This restored social order
shall extend throughout the territory of the Southern Kingdom,
Benjamin, the environs of Jerusalem, the cities of Judah, of the hill
country, of the Shephelah and the Negeb. The exhaustive enumeration
partakes of the legal character of the purchase of Hanameel's field.

Thus the symbol is expounded: Israel's tenure of the Promised Land
will survive the Captivity; the Jews will return to resume their
inheritance, and will again deal with the old fields and vineyards and
oliveyards, according to the solemn forms of ancient custom.

The familiar classical parallel to this incident is found in Livy,
xxvi. 11, where we are told that when Hannibal was encamped three
miles from Rome, the ground he occupied was sold in the Forum by
public auction, and fetched a good price.

Both at Rome and at Jerusalem the sale of land was a symbol that the
control of the land would remain with or return to its original
inhabitants. The symbol recognised that access to land is essential to
all industry, and that whoever controls this access can determine the
conditions of national life. This obvious and often forgotten truth
was constantly present to the minds of the inspired writers: to them
the Holy Land was almost as sacred as the Chosen People; its right use
was a matter of religious obligation, and the prophets and legislators
always sought to secure for every Israelite family some rights in
their native soil.

The selection of a legal ceremony and the stress laid upon its forms
emphasise the truth that social order is the necessary basis of morality
and religion. The opportunity to live healthily, honestly, and purely is
an antecedent condition of the spiritual life. This opportunity was
denied to slaves in the great heathen empires, just as it is denied to
the children in our slums. Both here and more fully in the sections we
shall deal with in the following chapters, Jeremiah shows that he was
chiefly interested in the restoration of the Jews because they could
only fulfil the Divine purpose as a separate community in Judah.

Moreover, to use a modern term, he was no anarchist; spiritual
regeneration might come through material ruin, but the prophet did not
look for salvation either in anarchy or through anarchy. While any
fragment of the State held together, its laws were to be observed; as
soon as the exiles were re-established in Judah, they would resume the
forms and habits of an organised community. The discipline of society,
like that of an army, is most necessary in times of difficulty and
danger, and, above all, in the crisis of defeat.


[346] i. 10.

[347] xiv. 8, xvii. 13.

[348] Amos v. 18, 20.

[349] xxxvii. 12 (R.V.).

[350] 1 Kings xxi. 3.

[351] Lev. xxv. 25, Law of Holiness; Ruth iv.

[352] 2 Sam. xxiv. 24: cf. 1 Chron. xxi. 25, where the price is six
hundred shekels of _gold_. It is scarcely necessary to point out that
"threshing-floor" (Sam.) and "place of the threshing-floor" (Chron.)
are synonymous.

[353] By _value_ here is meant purchasing power, to which the weight
denoted by the term shekel is now no clue.

[354] Gen. xxiii. (_P._).

[355] ἀνεγνωσμένον probably a corruption of ἀνεωγμένον.

[356] The text varies in different MSS. of the LXX.

[357] Cf. Cheyne, etc., _in loco_.

[358] Verse 15 anticipates by way of summary verses 42-44, and is
apparently ignored in verse 25. It probably represents Jeremiah's
interpretation of God's command at the time when he wrote the chapter.
In the actual development of the incident, the conviction of the
Divine promise of restoration came to him somewhat later.

[359] What was said of verse 15 partly applies to verses 17-23 (with
the exception of the introductory words: "Ah, Lord Jehovah!"). These
verses are not dealt with in the text, because they largely anticipate
the ideas and language of the following Divine utterance. Kautzsch and
Cornill, following Stade, mark these verses as a later addition;
Giesebrecht is doubtful. Cf. v. 20 ff. and xxvii. 5 f.

[360] xxv. 12, xxix. 10.

                              CHAPTER XXXI

                   _RESTORATION--II. THE NEW ISRAEL_

            xxiii. 3-8, xxiv. 6, 7, xxx., xxxi., xxxiii.[361]

    "In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell
    safely: and this is the name whereby she shall be called."--JER.
    xxxiii. 16.

The Divine utterances in chapter xxxiii. were given to Jeremiah when
he was shut up in the "court of the guard" during the last days of the
siege. It may, however, have been committed to writing at a later
date, possibly in connection with chapters xxx. and xxxi., when the
destruction of Jerusalem was already past. It is in accordance with
all analogy that the final record of a "word of Jehovah" should
include any further light which had come to the prophet through his
inspired meditations on the original message. Chapters xxx., xxxi.,
and xxxiii. mostly expound and enforce leading ideas contained in
xxxii. 37-44 and in earlier utterances of Jeremiah. They have much in
common with II. Isaiah. The ruin of Judah and the captivity of the
people were accomplished facts to both writers, and they were both
looking forward to the return of the exiles and the restoration of the
kingdom of Jehovah. We shall have occasion to notice individual points
of resemblance later on.

In xxx. 2 Jeremiah is commanded to write in a book all that Jehovah
has spoken to him; and according to the present context the "all," in
this case, refers merely to the following four chapters. These
prophecies of restoration would be specially precious to the exiles;
and now that the Jews were scattered through many distant lands, they
could only be transmitted and preserved in writing. After the command
"to write in a book" there follows, by way of title, a repetition of
the statement that Jehovah would bring back His people to their
fatherland. Here, in the very forefront of the Book of Promise, Israel
and Judah are named as being recalled together from exile. As we read
twice[362] elsewhere in Jeremiah, the promised deliverance from
Assyria and Babylon was to surpass all earlier manifestations of the
Divine power and mercy. The Exodus would not be named in the same
breath with it: "Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that it shall
no more be said, As Jehovah liveth, that brought up the Israelites out
of the land of Egypt; but, As Jehovah liveth, that brought up the
Israelites from the land of the north, and from all the countries
whither He had driven them." This prediction has waited for fulfilment
to our own times: hitherto the Exodus has occupied men's minds much
more than the Return; we are now coming to estimate the supreme
religious importance of the latter event.

Elsewhere again Jeremiah connects his promise with the clause in his
original commission "to build and to plant":[363] "I will set My eyes
upon them (the captives) for good, and I will bring them again to this
land; and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant
them, and not pluck them up."[364] As in xxxii. 28-35, the picture of
restoration is rendered more vivid by contrast with Judah's present
state of wretchedness; the marvellousness of Jehovah's mercy is made
apparent by reminding Israel of the multitude of its iniquities. The
agony of Jacob is like that of a woman in travail. But travail shall be
followed by deliverance and triumph. In the second Psalm the subject
nations took counsel against Jehovah and against His Anointed:--

          "Let us break their bands asunder,
           And cast away their cords from us";

but now this is the counsel of Jehovah concerning His people and their
Babylonian conqueror:--

          "I will break his yoke from off thy neck,
           And break thy bands asunder."[365]

Judah's lovers, her foreign allies, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and all
the other states with whom she had intrigued, had betrayed her; they
had cruelly chastised her, so that her wounds were grievous and her
bruises incurable. She was left without a champion to plead her cause,
without a friend to bind up her wounds, without balm to allay the pain
of her bruises. "Because thy sins were increased, I have done these
things unto thee, saith Jehovah." Jerusalem was an outcast, of whom
men said contemptuously: "This is Zion, whom no man seeketh
after."[366] But man's extremity was God's opportunity; because Judah
was helpless and despised, therefore Jehovah said, "I will restore
health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds."[367]

While Jeremiah was still watching from his prison the progress of the
siege, he had seen the houses and palaces beyond the walls destroyed by
the Chaldeans to be used for their mounds; and had known that every
sally of the besieged was but another opportunity for the enemy to
satiate themselves with slaughter, as they executed Jehovah's judgments
upon the guilty city. Even at this extremity He announced solemnly and
emphatically the restoration and pardon of His people. "Thus saith
Jehovah, who established the earth, when He made and fashioned
it--Jehovah is His name: Call upon Me, and I will answer thee, and will
show thee great mysteries, which thou knowest not."[368]

"I will bring to this city healing and cure, and will cause them to
know all the fulness of steadfast peace.... I will cleanse them from
all their iniquities, and will pardon all their iniquities, whereby
they have sinned and transgressed against Me."[369]

The healing of Zion naturally involved the punishment of her cruel and
treacherous lovers.[370] The Return, like other revolutions, was not
wrought by rose-water; the yokes were broken and the bands rent
asunder by main force. Jehovah would make a full end of all the
nations whither He had scattered them. Their devourers should be
devoured, all their adversaries should go into captivity, those who
had spoiled and preyed upon them should become a spoil and a prey.
Jeremiah had been commissioned from the beginning to pull down foreign
nations and kingdoms as well as his native Judah.[371] Judah was only
one of Israel's evil neighbours who were to be plucked up out of their
land.[372] And at the Return, as at the Exodus, the waves at one and
the same time opened a path of safety for Israel and overwhelmed her

Israel, pardoned and restored, would again be governed by legitimate
kings of the House of David. In the dying days of the monarchy Israel
and Judah had received their rulers from the hands of foreigners.
Menahem and Hoshea bought the confirmation of their usurped authority
from Assyria. Jehoiakim was appointed by Pharaoh Necho, and Zedekiah
by Nebuchadnezzar. We cannot doubt that the kings of Egypt and Babylon
were also careful to surround their nominees with ministers who were
devoted to the interests of their suzerains. But now "their nobles
were to be of themselves, and their ruler was to proceed out of their
midst,"[373] _i.e._ nobles and rulers were to hold their offices
according to national custom and tradition.

Jeremiah was fond of speaking of the leaders of Judah as shepherds. We
have had occasion already[374] to consider his controversy with the
"shepherds" of his own time. In his picture of the New Israel he uses
the same figure. In denouncing the evil shepherds, he predicts that,
when the remnant of Jehovah's flock is brought again to their folds,
He will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them,[375]
shepherds according to Jehovah's own heart, who should feed them with
knowledge and understanding.[376]

Over them Jehovah would establish as Chief Shepherd a Prince of the
House of David. Isaiah had already included in his picture of
Messianic times the fertility of Palestine; its vegetation,[377] by
the blessing of Jehovah, should be beautiful and glorious: he had also
described the Messianic King as a fruitful Branch[378] out of the root
of Jesse. Jeremiah takes the idea of the latter passage, but uses the
language of the former. For him the King of the New Israel is, as it
were, a Growth (çemaḥ) out of the sacred soil, or perhaps more
definitely from the roots of the House of David, that ancient tree
whose trunk had been hewn down and burnt. Both the Growth (çemaḥ) and
the Branch (neçer) had the same vital connection with the soil of
Palestine and the root of David. Our English versions exercised a wise
discretion when they sacrificed literal accuracy and indicated the
identity of idea by translating both "çemaḥ" and "neçer" by "Branch."

"Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will raise up unto David a
righteous Branch; and He shall be a wise and prudent King, and He shall
execute justice and maintain the right. In His days Judah shall be saved
and Israel shall dwell securely, and His name shall be Jehovah
'Çidqenu,' Jehovah is our righteousness."[379] Jehovah Çidqenu might
very well be the personal name of a Jewish king, though the form would
be unusual; but what is chiefly intended is that His character shall be
such as the "name" describes. The "name" is a brief and pointed censure
upon a king whose character was the opposite of that described in these
verses, yet who bore a name of almost identical meaning--Zedekiah,
Jehovah is my righteousness. The name of the last reigning Prince of the
House of David had been a standing condemnation of his unworthy life,
but the King of the New Israel, Jehovah's true Messiah, would realise in
His administration all that such a name promised. Sovereigns delight to
accumulate sonorous epithets in their official designations--Highness,
High and Mighty, Majesty, Serene, Gracious. The glaring contrast between
character and titles often only serves to advertise the worthlessness of
those who are labelled with such epithets: the Majesty of James I., the
Graciousness of Richard III. Yet these titles point to a standard of
true royalty, whether the sovereign be an individual or a class or the
people; they describe that Divine Sovereignty which will be realised in
the Kingdom of God.[380]

The material prosperity of the restored community is set forth with
wealth of glowing imagery. Cities and palaces are to be rebuilt on their
former sites with more than their ancient splendour. "Out of them shall
proceed thanksgiving, and the voice of them that make merry: and I will
multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and
they shall not be small. And the children of Jacob shall be as of old,
and their assembly shall be established before Me."[381] The figure
often used of the utter desolation of the deserted country is now used
to illustrate its complete restoration: "Yet again there shall be heard
in this place ... the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice
of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride." Throughout all the land
"which is waste, without man and without beast, and in all the cities
thereof," shepherds shall dwell and pasture and fold their flocks; and
in the cities of all the districts of the Southern Kingdom (enumerated
as exhaustively as in xxxii. 44) shall the flocks again pass under the
shepherd's hands to be told.[382]

Jehovah's own peculiar flock, His Chosen People, shall be fruitful and
multiply according to the primæval blessing; under their new shepherds
they shall no more fear nor be dismayed, neither shall any be
lacking.[383] Jeremiah recurs again and again to the quiet, the
restfulness, the freedom from fear and dismay of the restored Israel. In
this, as in all else, the New Dispensation was to be an entire contrast
to those long weary years of alternate suspense and panic, when men's
hearts were shaken by the sound of the trumpet and the alarm of
war.[384] Israel is to dwell securely at rest from fear of harm.[385]
When Jacob returns, he "shall be quiet and at ease, and none shall make
him afraid."[386] Egyptian, Assyrian, and Chaldean shall all cease from
troubling; the memory of past misery shall become dim and shadowy.

The finest expansion of this idea is a passage which always fills the
soul with a sense of utter rest. "He shall dwell on high: his refuge
shall be the inaccessible rocks: his bread shall be given him; his
waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty:
they shall behold a far-stretching land. Thine heart shall muse on the
terror: where is he that counted, where is he that weighed the
tribute? where is he that counted the towers? Thou shalt not see the
fierce people, a people of a deep speech that thou canst not perceive;
of a strange tongue that thou canst not understand. Look upon Zion,
the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet
habitation, a tent that shall not be removed, the stakes whereof shall
never be plucked up, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.
There Jehovah will be with us in majesty, a place of broad rivers and
streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant
ship pass thereby."[387]

For Jeremiah too the presence of Jehovah in majesty was the only
possible guarantee of the peace and prosperity of Israel. The voices of
joy and gladness in the New Jerusalem were not only those of bride and
bridegroom, but also of those that said, "Give thanks to Jehovah
Sabaoth, for Jehovah is good, for His mercy endureth for ever," and of
those that "came to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving in the house of
Jehovah."[388] This new David, as the Messianic King is called,[389] is
to have the priestly right of immediate access to God: "I will cause Him
to draw near, and He shall approach unto Me: for else who would risk his
life by daring to approach Me?"[390] Israel is liberated from foreign
conquerors to serve Jehovah their God and David their King; and the Lord
Himself rejoices in His restored and ransomed people.

The city that was once a desolation, an astonishment, a hissing, and a
curse among all nations shall now be to Jehovah "a name of joy, a
praise and a glory, before all the nations of the earth, which shall
hear all the good that I do unto them, and shall tremble with fear for
all the good and all the peace that I procure unto it."[391]


[361] Vatke and Stade reject chapters xxx., xxxi., xxxiii., but they
are accepted by Driver, Cornill, Kautzsch (for the most part).
Giesebrecht assigns them partly to Baruch and partly to a later
editor. It is on this account that the full exposition of certain
points in xxxii. and elsewhere has been reserved for the present
chapter. Moreover, if the cardinal ideas come from Jeremiah, we need
not be over-anxious to decide whether the expansion, illustration, and
enforcing of them is due to the prophet himself, or to his disciple
Baruch, or to some other editor. The question is somewhat parallel to
that relating to the discourses of our Lord in the Fourth Gospel.

[362] xvi. 14, 15, xxiii. 7, 8.

[363] i. 10.

[364] xxiv. 6.

[365] xxx. 5-8.

[366] xxx. 12-17.

[367] The two verses xxx. 10, 11, present some difficulty here.
According to Kautzsch, and of course Giesebrecht, they are a later
addition. The ideas can mostly be paralleled elsewhere in Jeremiah.
Verse 11 _b_, "I will correct thee with judgment, and will in no wise
leave thee unpunished," seems inconsistent with the context, which
represents the punishment as actually inflicted. Still, the verses
might be a genuine fragment misplaced. Driver (_Introduction_, 246)
says: "The title of honour 'My servant' ... appears to have formed the
basis upon which II. Isaiah constructs his great conception of
Jehovah's ideal servant."

[368] xxxiii. 2, 3; "earth" is inserted with the LXX. Many regard these
verses as a later addition, based on II. Isaiah: cf. Isa. xlviii. 6. The
phrase "Jehovah is His name" and the terms "make" and "fashion" are
specially common in II. Isaiah. xxxiii. so largely repeats the ideas of
xxx. that it is most convenient to deal with them together.

[369] xxxiii. 6-8, slightly paraphrased and condensed.

[370] xxx. 8, 11, 16, 20. Cf. also the chapters on the prophecies
concerning foreign nations.

[371] i. 10.

[372] xii. 14. xxx. 23, 24, is apparently a gloss, added as a suitable
illustration of this chapter, from xxiii. 19, 20, which are almost
identical with these two verses.

[373] xxx. 21.

[374] Cf. Chap. VIII.

[375] xxiii. 3, 4.

[376] iii. 15.

[377] Isa. iv. 2, çemaḥ; A.V. and R.V. Branch, R.V. margin Shoot or Bud.

[378] Isa. xi. 1.

[379] xxv. 5, 6; repeated in xxxiii. 15, 16, with slight variations.

[380] In xxxiii. 14-26 the permanence of the Davidic dynasty, the
Levitical priests, and the people of Israel is solemnly assured by a
Divine promise. These verses are not found in the LXX., and are
considered by many to be a later addition; see Kautzsch, Giesebrecht,
Cheyne, etc. They are mostly of a secondary character--15, 16, =
xxiii. 5, 6; here Jerusalem and not its king is called Jehovah
C̦idqenu, possibly because the addition was made when there was no
visible prospect of the restoration of the Davidic dynasty. Verse 17
is based on the original promise in 2 Sam. vii. 14-16, and is
equivalent to Jer. xxii. 4, 30. The form and substance of the Divine
promise imitate xxxi. 35-37.

[381] xxx. 18-20.

[382] xxxiii. 10-13.

[383] xxiii. 3, 4.

[384] iv. 19.

[385] xxiii. 6.

[386] xxx. 10.

[387] Isa. xxxiii. 16-21: cf. xxxii. 15-18.

[388] xxxiii. 11.

[389] xxx. 9.

[390] xxx. 21, as Kautzsch.

[391] xxxiii. 9.

                             CHAPTER XXXII

                      _RESTORATION--III. REUNION_


    "I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the
    seed of man, and with the seed of beast."--JER. xxxi. 27.

In his prophecies of restoration, Jeremiah continually couples
together Judah and Israel.[392] Israel, it is true, often stands for
the whole elect nation, and is so used by Jeremiah. After the
disappearance of the Ten Tribes, the Jewish community is spoken of as
Israel. But Israel, in contrast to Judah, will naturally mean the
Northern Kingdom or its exiled inhabitants. In this chapter Jeremiah
clearly refers to this Israel; he speaks of it under its distinctive
title of Ephraim, and promises that vineyards shall again be planted
on the mountains of Samaria. Jehovah had declared that He would cast
Judah out of His sight, as He had cast out the whole seed of
Ephraim.[393] In the days to come Jehovah would make His new covenant
with the House of Israel, as well as with the House of Judah.
Amos,[394] who was sent to declare the captivity of Israel, also
prophesied its return; and similar promises are found in Micah and
Isaiah.[395] But, in his attitude towards Ephraim, Jeremiah, as in so
much else, is a disciple of Hosea. Both prophets have the same
tender, affectionate interest in this wayward child of God. Hosea
mourns over Ephraim's sin and punishment: "How shall I give thee up,
Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee to thine enemies, O Israel? how
shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim?"[396]
Jeremiah exults in the glory of Ephraim's restoration. Hosea barely
attains to the hope that Israel will return from captivity, or
possibly that its doom may yet be averted. "Mine heart is turned
within Me, My compassions are kindled together. I will not execute the
fierceness of Mine anger, I will not again any more destroy Ephraim:
for I am God, and not man; the Holy One of Israel in the midst of
thee."[397] But Jehovah rather longs to pardon than finds any sign of
the repentance that makes pardon possible; and similarly the
promise--"I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall blossom as the
lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread,
and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as
Lebanon"--is conditioned upon the very doubtful response to the appeal
"O Israel, return unto Jehovah thy God."[398] But Jeremiah's
confidence in the glorious future of Ephraim is dimmed by no shade of
misgiving. "They shall be My people, and I will be their God," is the
refrain of Jeremiah's prophecies of restoration; this chapter opens
with a special modification of the formula, which emphatically and
expressly includes both Ephraim and Judah--"I will be the God of all
the clans of Israel, and they shall be My people."

The Assyrian and Chaldean captivities carried men's thoughts back to
the bondage in Egypt; and the experiences of the Exodus provided
phrases and figures to describe the expected Return. The judges had
delivered individual tribes or groups of tribes. Jeroboam II. had been
the saviour of Samaria; and the overthrow of Sennacherib had rescued
Jerusalem. But the Exodus stood out from all later deliverances as the
birth of the whole people. Hence the prophets often speak of the
Return as a New Exodus.

This prophecy takes the form of a dialogue between Jehovah and the
Virgin of Israel, _i.e._ the nation personified. Jehovah announces that
the Israelite exiles, the remnant left by the sword of Shalmaneser and
Sargon, were to be more highly favoured than the fugitives from the
sword of Pharaoh, of whom Jehovah sware in His wrath "that they should
not enter into My rest; whose carcases fell in the wilderness." "A
people that hath survived the sword hath found favour in the wilderness;
Israel hath entered into his rest,"[399]--_hath_ found favour--_hath_
entered--because Jehovah regards His purpose as already accomplished.

Jehovah speaks from his ancient dwelling-place in Jerusalem, and, when
the Virgin of Israel hears Him in her distant exile, she answers:--

          "From afar hath Jehovah appeared unto me (saying),
           With My ancient love do I love thee;
           Therefore My lovingkindness is enduring toward thee."[400]

His love is as old as the Exodus, His mercy has endured all through
the long, weary ages of Israel's sin and suffering.

Then Jehovah replies:--

          "Again will I build thee, and thou shalt be built, O Virgin of
           Again shalt thou take thy tabrets, and go forth in the dances
                    of them that make merry;
           Again shalt thou plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria,
                    while they that plant shall enjoy the fruit."

This contrasts with the times of invasion when the vintage was
destroyed or carried off by the enemy. Then follows the Divine
purpose, the crowning mercy of Israel's renewed prosperity:--

          "For the day cometh when the vintagers[401] shall cry in the
                    hill-country of Ephraim,
           Arise, let us go up to Zion, to Jehovah our God."

Israel will no longer keep her vintage feasts in schism at Samaria and
Bethel and her countless high places, but will join with Judah in the
worship of the Temple, which Josiah's covenant had accepted as the one
sanctuary of Jehovah.

The exultant strain continues stanza after stanza:--

          "Thus saith Jehovah:
           Exult joyously for Jacob, and shout for the chief of the
           Make your praises heard, and say, Jehovah hath saved His
                    people,[402] even the remnant of Israel.
           Behold, I bring them from the land of the north, and gather
                    them from the uttermost ends of the earth;
           Among them blind and lame, pregnant women and women in
                    travail together."

None are left behind, not even those least fit for the journey.

          "A great company shall return hither.
           They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I
                    lead them."

Of old, weeping and supplication had been heard upon the heights of
Israel because of her waywardness and apostasy;[403] but now the
returning exiles offer prayers and thanksgiving mingled with tears,
weeping partly for joy, partly for pathetic memories.

          "I will bring them to streams of water, by a plain path,
                    wherein they cannot stumble:
           For I am become once more a father to Israel, and Ephraim is
                    My first-born son."

Of the two Israelite states, Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom, had long
been superior in power, wealth, and religion. Judah was often little
more than a vassal of Samaria, and owed her prosperity and even her
existence to the barrier which Samaria interposed between Jerusalem
and invaders from Assyria or Damascus. Until the latter days of
Samaria, Judah had no prophets that could compare with Elijah and
Elisha. The Jewish prophet is tenacious of the rights of Zion, but he
does not base any claim for the ascendency of Judah on the
geographical position of the Temple; he does not even mention the
sacerdotal tribe of Levi. Jew and priest as he was, he acknowledges
the political and religious hegemony of Ephraim. The fact is a
striking illustration of the stress laid by the prophets on the unity
of Israel, to which all sectional interests were to be sacrificed. If
Ephraim was required to forsake his ancient shrines, Jeremiah was
equally ready to forego any pride of tribe or caste. Did we, in all
our different Churches, possess the same generous spirit, Christian
reunion would no longer be a vain and distant dream. But, passing on
to the next stanza,--

          "Hear the word of Jehovah, O ye nations, and make it known in
                    the distant islands.
           Say, He that scattered Israel doth gather him, and watcheth
                    over him as a shepherd over his flock.
           For Jehovah hath ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the
                    hand of him that was too strong for him.
           They shall come and sing for joy in the height of Zion;
           They shall come in streams to the bounty of Jehovah, for corn
                    and new wine and oil and lambs and calves."

Jeremiah does not dwell, in any grasping sacerdotal spirit, on the
contributions which these reconciled schismatics would pay to the
Temple revenues, but rather delights to make mention of their share in
the common blessings of God's obedient children.

          "They shall be like a well-watered garden; they shall no more
                    be faint and weary:
           Then shall they rejoice--the damsels in the dance--the young
                    men and the old together.
           I will turn their mourning into gladness, and will comfort
                    them, and will bring joy out of their wretchedness.
           I will fill the priests with plenty, and My people shall be
                    satisfied with My bounty--
           It is the utterance of Jehovah."

It is not quite clear how far, in this chapter, Israel is to be
understood exclusively of Ephraim. If the foregoing stanza is, as it
seems, perfectly general, the priests are simply those of the restored
community, ministering at the Temple; but if the reference is
specially to Ephraim, the priests belong to families involved in the
captivity of the ten tribes, and we have further evidence of the
catholic spirit of the Jewish prophet.

Another stanza:--

          "Thus saith Jehovah:
           A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping,
                    Rachel weeping for her children.
           She refuseth to be comforted for her children, for they are

Rachel, as the mother of Benjamin and Joseph, claimed an interest in
both the Israelite kingdoms. Jeremiah shows special concern for
Benjamin, in whose territory his native Anathoth was situated.[404]

"Her children" would be chiefly the Ephraimites and Manassites, who
formed the bulk of the Northern Kingdom; but the phrase was doubtless
intended to include other Jews, that Rachel might be a symbol of
national unity.

The connection of Rachel with Ramah is not obvious; there is no
precedent for it. Possibly Ramah is not intended for a proper name,
and we might translate "A voice is heard upon the heights." In Gen.
xxxv. 19, Rachel's grave is placed between Bethel and Ephrath,[405]
and in 1 Sam. x. 2, in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; only here has
Rachel anything to do with Ramah. The name, however, in its various
forms, was not uncommon. Ramah, to the north of Jerusalem, seems to
have been a frontier town, and debatable territory[406] between the
two kingdoms; and Rachel's appearance there might symbolise her
relation to both. This Ramah was also a slave depot for the
Chaldeans[407] after the fall of Jerusalem, and Rachel might well
revisit the glimpses of the moon at a spot where her descendants had
drunk the first bitter draught of the cup of exile. In any case, the
lines are a fresh appeal to the spirit of national unity. The prophet
seems to say: "Children of the same mother, sharers in the same fate,
whether of ruin or restoration, remember the ties that bind you and
forget your ancient feuds." Rachel, wailing in ghostly fashion, was
yet a name to conjure with, and the prophet hoped that her symbolic
tears could water the renewed growth of Israel's national life.
Christ, present in His living Spirit, lacerated at heart by the bitter
feuds of those who call Him Lord, should temper the harsh judgments
that Christians pass on servants of their One Master. The Jewish
prophet lamenting the miseries of schismatic Israel contrasts with the
Pope singing _Te Deums_ over the massacre of St. Bartholomew.

Then comes the answer:--

          "Thus saith Jehovah:
           Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears.
           Thou shalt have wages for thy labour--it is the utterance of
                    Jehovah--they shall return from the enemy's land.
           There is hope for thee in the days to come--it is the
                    utterance of Jehovah--thy children shall return to
                    their own border."[408]

The Niobe of the nation is comforted, but now is heard another voice:--

          "Surely I hear Ephraim bemoaning himself: Thou hast chastised
                    me; I am chastised like a calf not yet broken to the
           Restore me to Thy favour, that I may return unto Thee, for
                    Thou art Jehovah my God.
           In returning unto Thee, I repent; when I come to myself, I
                    smite upon my thigh in penitence."[409]

The image of the calf is another reminiscence of Hosea, with whom
Israel figures as a "backsliding heifer" and Ephraim as a "heifer that
has been broken in and loveth to tread out the corn"; though
apparently in Hosea Ephraim is broken in to wickedness. Possibly this
figure was suggested by the calves at Bethel and Dan.

The moaning of Ephraim, like the wailing of Rachel, is met and
answered by the Divine compassion. By a bold and touching figure,
Jehovah is represented as surprised at the depth of His passionate
affection for His prodigal son:--

          "Can it be that Ephraim is indeed a son that is precious to
                    Me? is he indeed a darling child?
           As often as I speak against him, I cannot cease to remember
           Wherefore My tender compassion is moved towards him: verily I
                    will have mercy on him--
           It is the utterance of Jehovah."

As with Hosea, Israel is still the child whom Jehovah loved, the son
whom He called out of Egypt. But now Israel is called with a more
effectual calling:--

          "Set thee up pillars of stone,[411] to mark the way; make thee
                    guide-posts: set thy heart toward the highway
                    whereby thou wentest.
           Return, O Virgin of Israel, return unto these thy cities."

The following verse strikes a note of discord, that suggests the
revulsion of feeling, the sudden access of doubt, that sometimes
follows the most ecstatic moods:--

          "How long wilt thou wander to and fro, O backsliding daughter?
           Jehovah hath created a new thing in the earth--a woman shall
                    compass a man."

It is just possible that this verse is not intended to express doubt
of Israel's cordial response, but is merely an affectionate urgency
that presses the immediate appropriation of the promised blessings.
But such an exegesis seems forced, and the verse is a strange
termination to the glowing stanzas that precede. It may have been
added when all hope of the return of the ten tribes was over.[412]

The meaning of the concluding enigma is as profound a mystery as the
fate of the lost tribes, and the solutions rather more unsatisfactory.
The words apparently denote that the male and the female shall
interchange functions, and an explanation often given is that, in the
profound peace of the New Dispensation, the women will protect the men.
This portent seems to be the sign which is to win the Virgin of Israel
from her vacillation and induce her to return at once to Palestine.

In Isaiah xliii. 19 the "new thing" which Jehovah does is to make a
way in the untrodden desert and rivers in the parched wilderness. A
parallel interpretation, suggested for our passage, is that women
should develop manly strength and courage, as abnormal to them as
roads and rivers to a wilderness. When women were thus endowed, men
could not for shame shrink from the perils of the Return.

In Isaiah iv. 1 seven women court one man, and it has been
suggested[413] that the sense here is "women shall court men," but it
is difficult to see how this would be relevant. Another parallel has
been sought for in the Immanuel and other prophecies of Isaiah, in
which the birth of a child is set forth as a sign. Our passage would
then assume a Messianic character; the return of the Virgin of Israel
would be postponed till her doubts and difficulties should be solved
by the appearance of a new Moses.[414] This view has much to commend
it, but does not very readily follow from the usage of the word
translated "compass." Still less can we regard these words as a
prediction of the miraculous conception of our Lord.

The next stanza connects the restoration of Judah with that of
Ephraim, and, for the most part, goes over ground already traversed in
our previous chapters; one or two points only need be noticed here. It
is in accordance with the catholic and gracious spirit which
characterises this chapter that the restoration of Judah is expressly
connected with that of Ephraim. The combination of the future fortunes
of both in a single prophecy emphasises their reunion. The heading of
this stanza, "Thus saith Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Israel," is
different from that hitherto used, and has a special significance in
its present context. It is "the God of Israel" to whom Ephraim is a
darling child and a first-born son, the God of that Israel which for
centuries stood before the world as Ephraim; it is this God who
blesses and redeems Judah. Her faint and weary soul is also to be
satisfied with His plenty; Zion is to be honoured as the habitation of
justice and the mountain of holiness.

"Hereupon," saith the prophet, "I awaked and looked about me, and felt
that my sleep had been pleasant to me." The vision had come to him, in
some sense, as a dream. Zechariah[415] had to be aroused, like a man
wakened out of his sleep, in order to receive the Divine message; and
possibly Zechariah's sleep was the ecstatic trance in which he had
beheld previous visions. Jeremiah, however, shows scant
confidence[416] in the inspiration of those who dream dreams, and it
does not seem likely that this is a unique exception to his ordinary
experience. Perhaps we may say with Orelli that the prophet had become
lost in the vision of future blessedness as in some sweet dream.

In the following stanza Jehovah promises to recruit the dwindled
numbers of Israel and Judah; with a sowing more gracious and fortunate
than that of Cadmus, He will scatter[417] over the land, not dragons'
teeth, but the seed of man and beast. Recurring[418] to Jeremiah's
original commission, He promises that as He watched over Judah to
pluck up and to break down, to overthrow and to destroy and to
afflict, so now He will watch over them to build and to plant.

The next verse is directed against a lingering dread, by which men's
minds were still possessed. More than half a century elapsed between
the death of Manasseh and the fall of Jerusalem. He was succeeded by
Josiah, who "turned to Jehovah with all his heart, and with all his
soul, and with all his might."[419] Yet Jehovah declared to Jeremiah
that Manasseh's sins had irrevocably fixed the doom of Judah, so that
not even the intercession of Moses and Samuel could procure her
pardon.[420] Men might well doubt whether the guilt of that wicked
reign was even yet fully expiated, whether their teeth might not still
be set on edge because of the sour grapes which Manasseh had eaten.
Therefore the prophet continues: "In those days men shall no longer
say, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are
set on edge; but every man shall die for his own transgression, all
who eat sour grapes shall have their own teeth set on edge." Or to use
the explicit words of Ezekiel, in the great chapter in which he
discusses this permanent theological difficulty: "The soul that
sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the
father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the
righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness
of the wicked shall be upon him."[421] With the fall of Jerusalem, a
chapter in the history of Israel was concluded for ever; Jehovah
blotted out the damning record of the past, and turned over a new leaf
in the annals of His people. The account between Jehovah and the
Israel of the monarchy was finally closed, and no penal balance was
carried over to stand against the restored community.

The last portion of this chapter is so important that we must reserve
it for separate treatment, but we may pause for a moment to consider
the prophecy of the restoration of Ephraim from two points of
view--the unity of Israel and the return of the ten tribes.

In the first place, this chapter is an eirenicon, intended to consign
to oblivion the divisions and feuds of the Chosen People. After the
fall of Samaria, the remnant of Israel had naturally looked to Judah
for support and protection, and the growing weakness of Assyria had
allowed the Jewish kings to exercise a certain authority over the
territory of northern tribes. The same fate--the sack of the capital
and the deportation of most of the inhabitants--had successively
befallen Ephraim and Judah. His sense of the unity of the race was too
strong to allow the prophet to be satisfied with the return of Judah
and Benjamin, apart from the other tribes. Yet it would have been
monstrous to suppose that Jehovah would bring back Ephraim from
Assyria, and Judah from Babylon, only that they might resume their
mutual hatred and suspicion. Even wild beasts are said not to rend one
another when they are driven by floods to the same hill-top.

Thus various causes contributed to produce a kindlier feeling between
the survivors of the catastrophes of Samaria and Jerusalem; and from
henceforth those of the ten tribes who found their way back to Palestine
lived in brotherly union with the other Jews. And, on the whole, the
Jews have since remained united both as a race and a religious
community. It is true that the relations of the later Jews to Samaria
were somewhat at variance both with the letter and spirit of this
prophecy, but that Samaria had only the slightest claim to be included
in Israel. Otherwise the divisions between Hillel and Shammai, Sadducees
and Pharisees, Karaites, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, Reformed and
Unreformed Jews, have rather been legitimate varieties of opinion and
practice within Judaism than a rending asunder of the Israel of God.

Matters stand very differently with regard to the restoration of
Ephraim. We know that individual members and families of the ten
tribes were included in the new Jewish community, and that the Jews
reoccupied Galilee and portions of Eastern Palestine. But the
husbandmen who had planted vineyards on the hills of Samaria were
violently repulsed by Ezra and Nehemiah, and were denied any part or
lot in the restored Israel. The tribal inheritance of Ephraim and
Manasseh was never reoccupied by Ephraimites and Manassites who came
to worship Jehovah in His Temple at Jerusalem. There was no return of
the ten tribes that in any way corresponded to the terms of this
prophecy or that could rank with the return of their brethren. Our
growing acquaintance with the races of the world seems likely to
exclude even the possibility of any such restoration of Ephraim. Of
the two divisions of Israel, so long united in common experiences of
grace and chastisement, the one has been taken and the other left.

Christendom is the true heir of the ideals of Israel, but she is
mostly content to inherit them as counsels of perfection. Isaiah[422]
struck the keynote of this chapter when he prophesied that Ephraim
should not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim. Our prophet, in the
same generous spirit, propounds a programme of reconciliation. It
might serve for a model to those who construct schemes for Christian
Reunion. When two denominations are able to unite on such terms that
the one admits the other to be the first-born of God, His darling
child and precious in His sight, and the latter is willing to accept
the former's central sanctuary as the headquarters of the united body,
we shall have come some way towards realising this ancient Jewish
ideal. Meanwhile Ephraim remains consumed with envy of Judah; and
Judah apparently considers it her most sacred duty to vex Ephraim.

Moreover the disappearance of what was at one time the most
flourishing branch of the Hebrew Church has many parallels in Church
History. Again and again religious dissension has been one of the
causes of political ruin, and the overthrow of a Christian state has
sometimes involved the extinction of its religion. Christian thought
and doctrine owe an immense debt to the great Churches of Northern
Africa and Egypt. But these provinces were torn by the dissensions of
ecclesiastical parties; and the quarrels of Donatists, Arians, and
Catholics in North Africa, the endless controversies over the Person
of Christ in Egypt, left them helpless before the Saracen invader.
To-day the Church of Tertullian and Augustine is blotted out, and the
Church of Origen and Clement is a miserable remnant. Similarly the
ecclesiastical strife between Rome and Constantinople lost to
Christendom some of the fairest provinces of Europe and Asia, and
placed Christian races under the rule of the Turk.

Even now the cause of Christians in heathen and Mohammedan countries
suffers from the jealousy of Christian states, and modern Churches
sometimes avail themselves of this jealousy to try and oust their
rivals from promising fields for mission work.

It is a melancholy reflection that Jeremiah's effort at reconciliation
came too late, when the tribes whom it sought to reunite were hopelessly
set asunder. Reconciliation, which involves a kind of mutual repentance,
can ill afford to be deferred to the eleventh hour. In the last agonies
of the Greek Empire, there was more than one formal reconciliation
between the Eastern and Western Churches; but they also came too late,
and could not survive the Empire which they failed to preserve.


[392] xxxiii., 7, etc.

[393] vii. 15.

[394] Amos ix. 14.

[395] Micah ii. 12; Isa. xi. 10-16.

[396] Hosea xi. 8.

[397] Hosea xi. 9.

[398] Hosea xiv.

[399] So _Giesebrecht_, reading with Jerome and Targum _l'margô'ô_ for
the obscure and obviously corrupt _l'hargî'ô_. The other versions vary
widely in their readings.

[400] R.V. "with lovingkindness have I drawn thee," R.V. margin "have
I continued lovingkindness unto thee"; the word for "drawn" occurs
also in Hosea xi. 4, "I drew them ... with bands of love."

[401] So Giesebrecht's conjecture of _bocerim_ (vintages), for the
_nocerim_ (watchmen, R.V.). The latter is usually explained of the
watcher who looked for the appearance of the new moon, in order to
determine the time of the feasts. The practice is stated on negative
grounds to be post-exilic, but seems likely to be ancient. On the other
hand "vintagers" seems a natural sequel to the preceding clauses.

[402] According to the reading of the LXX. and the Targum, the Hebrew
Text has (as R.V.) "O Jehovah, save Thy people."

[403] iii. 21.

[404] Isaiah does not mention Benjamin.

[405] "Which is Bethlehem," in Genesis, is probably a later
explanatory addition; and the explanation is not necessarily a
mistake. Cf. Matt. ii. 18.

[406] 1 Kings xv. 17.

[407] xl. 1.

[408] LXX. omits verse 17 _b_, _i.e._ from "Jehovah" to "border."

[409] Slightly paraphrased.

[410] More literally as R.V., "I do earnestly remember him still."

[411] The Hebrew Text has the same word, "tamrurim," here that is used
in verse 15 in the phrase "bekhi tamrurim," "weeping of bitternesses" or
"bitter weeping." It is difficult to believe that the coincidence is
accidental, and Hebrew literature is given to paronomasia; at the same
time the distance of the words and the complete absence of point in this
particular instance are remarkable. The LXX., not understanding the
word, represented it _more suo_ by the similar Greek word τιμωρίαν,
which may indicate that the original reading was "timorim," and the
assimilation to "tamrurim" may be a scribe's caprice. In any case, the
word here connects with "tamar," a palm, the post being made of or like
a palm tree. Cf. Giesebrecht, Orelli, Cheyne, etc.

[412] Giesebrecht treats verses 21-26 as a later addition, but this
seems unnecessary.

[413] So Kautzsch.

[414] Cf. Streane, Cambridge Bible.

[415] Zech. iv. 1.

[416] xxiii, 25-32, xxvii. 9, xxix. 8: cf. Deut. xiii. 1-5.

[417] Cf. Hosea ii. 23, "I will sow her unto Me in the earth" (or
land), in reference to _Jezreel_, understood as "Whom God soweth"
(R.V. margin).

[418] i. 10-12.

[419] 2 Kings xxiii. 25.

[420] xv. 1-4.

[421] Ezek. xviii. 20: cf. Cheyne, _Jeremiah_ (Men of the Bible), p.

[422] Isa. xi. 13.

                             CHAPTER XXXIII


                     xxxi. 31-38: cf. Hebrews viii.

    "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house
    of Judah."--JER. xxxi. 31.

The religious history of Israel in the Old Testament has for its
epochs a series of covenants: Jehovah declared His gracious purposes
towards His people, and made known the conditions upon which they were
to enjoy His promised blessings; they, on their part, undertook to
observe faithfully all that Jehovah commanded. We are told that
covenants were made with Noah, after the Flood; with Abraham, when he
was assured that his descendants should inherit the land of Canaan; at
Sinai, when Israel first became a nation; with Joshua, after the
Promised Land was conquered; and, at the close of Old Testament
history, when Ezra and Nehemiah established the Pentateuch as the Code
and Canon of Judaism.

One of the oldest sections of the Pentateuch, Exodus xx. 20-xxiii. 33,
is called the "Book of the Covenant,"[423] and Ewald named the
Priestly Code the "Book of the Four Covenants." Judges and Samuel
record no covenants between Jehovah and Israel; but the promise of
permanence to the Davidic dynasty is spoken of as an everlasting
covenant. Isaiah,[424] Amos, and Micah make no mention of the Divine
covenants. Jeremiah, however, imitates Hosea[425] in emphasising this
aspect of Jehovah's relation to Israel, and is followed in his turn by
Ezekiel and II. Isaiah.

Jeremiah had played his part in establishing covenants between Israel
and its God. He is not, indeed, even so much as mentioned in the account
of Josiah's reformation; and it is not clear that he himself makes any
express reference to it; so that some doubt must still be felt as to his
share in that great movement. At the same time indirect evidence seems
to afford proof of the common opinion that Jeremiah was active in the
proceedings which resulted in the solemn engagement to observe the code
of Deuteronomy. But yet another covenant occupies a chapter[426] in the
Book of Jeremiah, and in this case there is no doubt that the prophet
was the prime mover in inducing the Jews to release their Hebrew slaves.
This act of emancipation was adopted in obedience to an ordinance of
Deuteronomy,[427] so that Jeremiah's experience of former covenants was
chiefly connected with the code of Deuteronomy and the older Book of the
Covenant upon which it was based.

The Restoration to which Jeremiah looked forward was to throw the
Exodus into the shade, and to constitute a new epoch in the history of
Israel more remarkable than the first settlement in Canaan. The nation
was to be founded anew, and its regeneration would necessarily rest
upon a New Covenant, which would supersede the Covenant of Sinai.

"Behold, the days come--it is the utterance of Jehovah--when I will
enter into a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of
Judah: not according to the covenant into which I entered with your
fathers, when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of

The Book of the Covenant and Deuteronomy had both been editions of the
Mosaic Covenant, and had neither been intended nor regarded as
anything new. Whatever was fresh in them, either in form or substance,
was merely the adaptation of existing ordinances to altered
circumstances. But now the Mosaic Covenant was declared obsolete, the
New Covenant was not to be, like Deuteronomy, merely a fresh edition
of the earliest code. The Return from Babylon, like the primitive
Migration from Ur and like the Exodus from Egypt, was to be the
occasion of a new Revelation, placing the relations of Jehovah and His
people on a new footing.

When Ezra and Nehemiah established, as the Covenant of the
Restoration, yet another edition of the Mosaic ordinances, they were
acting in the teeth of this prophecy--not because Jehovah had changed
His purpose, but because the time of fulfilment had not yet come.[428]

The rendering of the next clause is uncertain, and, in any case, the
reason given for setting aside the old covenant is not quite what
might have been expected. The Authorised and Revised Versions
translate: "Which My covenant they brake, although I was an husband
unto them";[429] thus introducing that Old Testament figure of
marriage between Jehovah and Israel which is transferred in Ephesians
and the Apocalypse to Christ and the Church. The margin of the Revised
Version has: "Forasmuch as they brake My covenant, although I was lord
over them." There is little difference between these two translations,
both of which imply that in breaking the covenant Israel was setting
aside Jehovah's legitimate claim to obedience. A third translation, on
much the same lines, would be "although I was Baal unto _or_ over
them";[430] Baal or ba'al being found for lord, husband, in ancient
times as a name of Jehovah, and in Jeremiah's time as a name of
heathen gods. Jeremiah is fond of paronomasia, and frequently refers
to Baal, so that he may have been here deliberately ambiguous. The
phrase might suggest to the Hebrew reader that Jehovah was the true
lord or husband of Israel, and the true Baal or God, but that Israel
had come to regard Him as a mere Baal, like one of the Baals of the
heathen. "Forasmuch as they, on their part, set at nought My covenant;
so that I, their true Lord, became to them as a mere heathen Baal."
The covenant and the God who gave it were alike treated with contempt.

The Septuagint, which is quoted in Hebrews viii. 9, has another
translation: "And I regarded them not."[431] Unless this represents a
different reading,[432] it is probably due to a feeling that the form
of the Hebrew sentence required a close parallelism. Israel neglected
to observe the covenant, and Jehovah ceased to feel any interest in
Israel. But the idea of the latter clause seems alien to the context.

In any case, the new and better covenant is offered to Israel, after
it has failed to observe the first covenant. This Divine procedure is
not quite according to many of our theories. The law of ordinances is
often spoken of as adapted to the childhood of the race. We set
children easy tasks, and when these are successfully performed we
require of them something more difficult. We grant them limited
privileges, and if they make a good use of them the children are
promoted to higher opportunities. We might perhaps have expected that
when the Israelites failed to observe the Mosaic ordinances, they
would have been placed under a narrower and harsher dispensation; yet
their very failure leads to the promise of a better covenant still.
Subsequent history, indeed, qualifies the strangeness of the Divine
dealing. Only a remnant of Israel survived as the people of God. The
Covenant of Ezra was very different from the New Covenant of Jeremiah;
and the later Jews, as a community,[433] did not accept that
dispensation of grace which ultimately realised Jeremiah's prophecy.
In a narrow and unspiritual fashion the Jews of the Restoration
observed the covenant of external ordinances; so that, in a certain
sense, the Law was fulfilled before the new Kingdom of God was
inaugurated. But if Isaiah and Jeremiah had reviewed the history of
the restored community, they would have declined to receive it as, in
any sense, the fulfilling of a Divine covenant. The Law of Moses was
not fulfilled, but made void, by the traditions of the Pharisees. The
fact therefore remains, that failure in the lower forms, so to speak,
of God's school is still followed by promotion to higher privileges.
However little we may be able to reconcile this truth with _a priori_
views of Providence, it has analogies in nature, and reveals new
depths of Divine love and greater resourcefulness of Divine grace.
Boys whose early life is unsatisfactory nevertheless grow up into the
responsibilities and privileges of manhood; and the wilful,
disobedient child does not always make a bad man. We are apt to think
that the highest form of development is steady, continuous, and
serene, from good to better, from better to best. The real order is
more awful and stupendous, combining good and evil, success and
failure, victory and defeat, in its continuous advance through the
ages. The wrath of man is not the only evil passion that praises God
by its ultimate subservience to His purpose. We need not fear lest
such Divine overruling of sin should prove any temptation to
wrongdoing, seeing that it works, as in the exile of Israel, through
the anguish and humiliation of the sinner.

The next verse explains the character of the New Covenant; once
Jehovah wrote His law on tables of stone, but now:--

          "This is the covenant which I will conclude with the House of
                    Israel after those days--it is the utterance of
           I will put My law within them, and will write it upon their
           And I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

These last words were an ancient formula for the immemorial relation
of Jehovah and Israel, but they were to receive new fulness of
meaning. The inner law, written on the heart, is in contrast to Mosaic
ordinances. It has, therefore, two essential characteristics: first,
it governs life, not by fixed external regulations, but by the
continual control of heart and conscience by the Divine Spirit;
secondly, obedience is rendered to the Divine Will, not from external
compulsion, but because man's inmost nature is possessed by entire
loyalty to God. The new law involves no alteration of the standards of
morality or of theological doctrine, but it lays stress on the
spiritual character of man's relation to God, and therefore on the
fact that God is a spiritual and moral being. When man's obedience is
claimed on the ground of God's irresistible power, and appeal is made
to material rewards and punishments, God's personality is obscured and
the way is opened for the deification of political or material Force.
This doctrine of setting aside of ancient codes by the authority of
the Inner Law is implied in many passages of our book. The superseding
of the Mosaic Law is set forth by a most expressive symbol,[434] "When
ye are multiplied and increased in the land, 'The Ark of the Covenant
of Jehovah' shall no longer be the watchword of Israel: men shall
neither think of the ark nor remember it; they shall neither miss the
ark nor make another in its place." The Ark and the Mosaic Torah were
inseparably connected; if the Ark was to perish and be forgotten, the
Law must also be annulled.

Jeremiah moreover discerned with Paul that there was a law in the
members warring against the Law of Jehovah: "The sin of Judah is written
with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon
the table of their heart, and upon the horns of their altars."[435]

Hence the heart of the people had to be changed before they could
enter into the blessings of the Restoration: "I will give them an
heart to know Me, that I am Jehovah: and they shall be My people, and
I will be their God: for they shall return unto Me with their whole
heart."[436] In the exposition of the symbolic purchase of Hanameel's
field, Jehovah promises to make an everlasting covenant with His
people, that He will always do them good and never forsake them. Such
continual blessings imply that Israel will always be faithful. Jehovah
no longer seeks to ensure their fidelity by an external law, with its
alternate threats and promises: He will rather control the inner life
by His grace. "I will give them one heart and one way, that they may
fear Me for ever; ... I will put My fear in their hearts, that they
may not depart from Me."[437]

We must not, of course, suppose that these principles--of obedience from
loyal enthusiasm, and of the guidance of heart and conscience by the
Spirit of Jehovah--were new to the religion of Israel. They are implied
in the idea of prophetic inspiration. When Saul went home to Gibeah,
"there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched."[438]
In Deuteronomy, Israel is commanded to "love Jehovah thy God with all
thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these
words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart."[439]

The novelty of Jeremiah's teaching is that these principles are made
central in the New Covenant. Even Deuteronomy, which approaches so
closely to the teaching of Jeremiah, was a new edition of the Covenant
of the Exodus, an attempt to secure a righteous life by exhaustive
rules and by external sanctions. Jeremiah had witnessed and probably
assisted the effort to reform Judah by the enforcement of the
Deuteronomic Code. But when Josiah's religious policy collapsed after
his defeat and death at Megiddo, Jeremiah lost faith in elaborate
codes, and turned from the letter to the spirit.

The next feature of the New Covenant naturally follows from its being
written upon men's hearts by the finger of Jehovah:--

          "Men shall no longer teach one another and teach each other,
                    saying, Know ye Jehovah!
           For all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest--it is
                    the utterance of Jehovah."

In ancient times men could only "know Jehovah" and ascertain His will by
resorting to some sanctuary, where the priests preserved and transmitted
the sacred tradition and delivered the Divine oracles. Written codes
scarcely altered the situation; copies would be few and far between, and
still mostly in the custody of the priests. Whatever drawbacks arise
from attaching supreme religious authority to a printed book were
multiplied a thousandfold when codes could only be copied. But, in the
New Israel, men's spiritual life would not be at the mercy of pen, ink,
and paper, of scribe and priest. The man who had a book and could read
would no longer be able, with the self-importance of exclusive
knowledge, to bid his less fortunate brethren to know Jehovah. He
Himself would be the one teacher, and His instruction would fall, like
the sunshine and the rain, upon all hearts alike.

And yet again Israel is assured that past sin shall not hinder the
fulfilment of this glorious vision:--

          "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I
                    remember no more."

Recurring to the general topic of the Restoration of Israel, the
prophet affixes the double seal of two solemn Divine asseverations. Of
old, Jehovah had promised Noah: "While the earth remaineth, seedtime
and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall
not cease."[440] Now He promises that while sun and moon and stars and
sea continue in their appointed order, Israel shall not cease from
being a nation. And, again, Jehovah will not cast off Israel on
account of its sin till the height of heaven can be measured and the
foundations of the earth searched out.[441]


[423] Exod. xxiv. 7.

[424] _I.e._ in the sections generally acknowledged.

[425] Hosea ii. 18, vi. 7, viii. 1.

[426] xxxiv.

[427] Cf. xxxiv. 14 with Deut. xv. 12 and Exod. xxi. 2.

[428] Cf. Prof. Adeney's _Ezra_, _Nehemiah_, etc., in this series.

[429] So also Kautzsch, Reuss, Sugfried, and Stade. The same phrase is
thus translated in iii. 14.

[430] "I was Baal" = "ba'alti."

[431] ἠμέλησα.

[432] נצלתי; נצל occurs in xiv. 19, and is translated by A.V. and R.V.

[433] We usually underrate the proportion of Jews who embraced
Christianity. Hellenistic Judaism disappeared as Christianity became
widely diffused, and was probably for the most part absorbed into the
new faith.

[434] iii. 16, slightly paraphrased.

[435] xvii. 1.

[436] xxiv. 7.

[437] xxxii. 39, 40.

[438] 1 Sam. x. 26.

[439] Deut. vi. 5, 6.

[440] Gen. viii. 22 (J.).

[441] Verses 35-37 occur in the LXX. in the order 37, 35, 36. They are
considered by many critics to be a later addition. The most remarkable
feature of the paragraph is the clause translated by the Authorised
Version "which divideth [Revised Version, text "stirreth up," margin
"stilleth"] the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of Hosts is
His name." This whole clause is taken word for word from Isa. li. 15,
"I am Jehovah thy God, which stirreth up," etc. It seems clear that
either this clause or 35-37 as a whole were added by an editor
acquainted with II. Isaiah. The prophecy, as it stands in the
Masoretic text, is concluded by a detailed description of the site of
the restored Jerusalem. The contrast between the glorious vision of
the New Israel and these architectural specifications is almost
grotesque. Verses 38-40 are regarded by many as a later addition; and
even if they are by Jeremiah, they form an independent prophecy and
have no connection with the rest of the chapter. Our knowledge of the
geographical points mentioned is not sufficient to enable us to define
the site assigned to the restored city. The point of verse 40 is that
the most unclean districts of the ancient city shall partake of the
sanctity of the New Jerusalem.

                             CHAPTER XXXIV

                        _RESTORATION--V. REVIEW_


In reviewing these chapters we must be careful not to suppose that
Jeremiah knew all that would ultimately result from his teaching. When
he declared that the conditions of the New Covenant would be written,
not in a few parchments, but on every heart, he laid down a principle
which involved the most characteristic teaching of the New Testament and
the Reformers, and which might seem to justify extreme mysticism. When
we read these prophecies in the light of history, they seem to lead by a
short and direct path to the Pauline doctrines of Faith and Grace.
Constraining grace is described in the words: "I will put My fear in
their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me."[442] Justification by
faith instead of works substitutes the response of the soul to the
Spirit of God for conformity to a set of external regulations--the
writing on the heart for the carving of ordinances on stone. Yet, as
Newton's discovery of the law of gravitation did not make him aware of
all that later astronomers have discovered, so Jeremiah did not
anticipate Paul and Augustine, Luther and Calvin: he was only their
forerunner. Still less did he intend to affirm all that has been taught
by the Brothers of the Common Life or the Society of Friends. We have
followed the Epistle to the Hebrews in interpreting his prophecy of the
New Covenant as abrogating the Mosaic code and inaugurating a new
departure upon entirely different lines. This view is supported by his
attitude towards the Temple, and especially the Ark. At the same time we
must not suppose that Jeremiah contemplated the summary and entire
abolition of the previous dispensation. He simply delivers his latest
message from Jehovah, without bringing its contents into relation with
earlier truth, without indeed waiting to ascertain for himself how the
old and the new were to be combined. But we may be sure that the Divine
writing on the heart would have included much that was already written
in Deuteronomy, and that both books and teachers would have had their
place in helping men to recognise and interpret the inner leadings of
the Spirit.

In rising from the perusal of these chapters the reader is tempted to
use the prophet's words with a somewhat different meaning: "I awaked
and looked about me, and felt that I had had a pleasant dream."[443]
Renan, with cynical frankness, heads a chapter on such prophecies with
the title "Pious Dreams." While Jeremiah's glowing utterances rivet
our attention, the gracious words fall like balm upon our aching
hearts, and we seem, like the Apostle, caught up into Paradise. But as
soon as we try to connect our visions with any realities, past,
present, or in prospect, there comes a rude awakening. The restored
community attained to no New Covenant, but was only found worthy of a
fresh edition of the written code. Instead of being committed to the
guidance of the ever-present Spirit of Jehovah, they were placed under
a rigid and elaborate system of externals--"carnal ordinances,
concerned with meats and drinks and divers washings, imposed until a
time of reformation."[444] They still remained under the covenant
"from Mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. Now
this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to the Jerusalem
that now is: for she is in bondage with her children."[445]

For these bondservants of the letter, there arose no David, no glorious
Scion of the ancient stock. For a moment the hopes of Zechariah rested
on Zerubbabel, but this Branch quickly withered away and was forgotten.
We need not underrate the merits and services of Ezra and Nehemiah, of
Simon the Just and Judas Maccabæus; and yet we cannot find any one of
them who answers to the Priestly King of Jeremiah's visions. The new
Growth of Jewish royalty came to an ignominious end in Aristobulus,
Hyrcanus, and the Herods, Antichrists rather than Messiahs.

The Reunion of long-divided Israel is for the most part a misnomer;
there was no healing of the wound, and the offending member was cut off.

Even now, when the leaven of the Kingdom has been working in the lump
of humanity for nearly two thousand years, any suggestion that these
chapters are realised in Modern Christianity would seem cruel irony.
Renan accuses Christianity of having quickly forgotten the programme
which its Founder borrowed from the prophets, and of having become a
religion like other religions, a religion of priests and sacrifices,
of external observances and superstitions.[446] It is sometimes
asserted that Protestants lack faith and courage to trust to any law
written on the heart, and cling to a printed book, as if there were no
Holy Spirit--as if the Branch of David had borne fruit once for all,
and Christ were dead. The movement for Christian Reunion seems thus
far chiefly to emphasise the feuds that make the Church a kingdom
divided against itself.

But we must not allow the obvious shortcomings of Christendom to blind
us to brighter aspects of truth. Both in the Jews of the Restoration
and in the Church of Christ we have a real fulfilment of Jeremiah's
prophecies. The fulfilment is no less real because it is utterly
inadequate. Prophecy is a guide-post and not a mile-stone; it shows
the way to be trodden, not the duration of the journey. Jews and
Christians have fulfilled Jeremiah's prophecies because they have
advanced by the road along which he pointed towards the spiritual city
of his vision. The "pious dreams" of a little group of enthusiasts
have become the ideals and hopes of humanity. Even Renan ranks himself
among the disciples of Jeremiah: "The seed sown in religious tradition
by inspired Israelites will not perish; all of us who seek a God
without priests, a revelation without prophets, a covenant written in
the heart, are in many respects the disciples of these ancient
fanatics (_ces vieux égarés_)."[447]

The Judaism of the Return, with all its faults and shortcomings, was
still an advance in the direction Jeremiah had indicated. However
ritualistic the Pentateuch may seem to us, it was far removed from
exclusive trust in ritual. Where the ancient Israelite had relied upon
correct observance of the forms of his sanctuary, the Torah of Ezra
introduced a large moral and spiritual element, which served to bring
the soul into direct fellowship with Jehovah. "Pity and humanity are
pushed to their utmost limits, always of course in the bosom of the
family of Israel."[448] The Torah moreover included the great commands
to love God and man, which once for all placed the religion of Israel
on a spiritual basis. If the Jews often attached more importance to
the letter and form of Revelation than to its substance, and were more
careful for ritual and external observances than for inner
righteousness, we have no right to cast a stone at them.

It is a curious phenomenon that after the time of Ezra the further
developments of the Torah were written no longer on parchment, but, in
a certain sense, on the heart. The decisions of the rabbis
interpreting the Pentateuch, "the fence which they made round the
law," were not committed to writing, but learnt by heart and handed
down by oral tradition. Possibly this custom was partly due to
Jeremiah's prophecy. It is a strange illustration of the way in which
theology sometimes wrests the Scriptures to its own destruction, that
the very prophecy of the triumph of the spirit over the letter was
made of none effect by a literal interpretation.

Nevertheless, though Judaism moved only a very little way towards
Jeremiah's ideal, yet it did move, its religion was distinctly more
spiritual than that of ancient Israel. Although Judaism claimed finality
and did its best to secure that no future generation should make further
progress, yet in spite of, nay, even by means of, Pharisee and Sadducee,
the Jews were prepared to receive and transmit that great resurrection
of prophetic teaching which came through Christ.

If even Judaism did not altogether fail to conform itself to
Jeremiah's picture of the New Israel, clearly Christianity must have
shaped itself still more fully according to his pattern. In the Old
Testament both the idea and the name of a "New Covenant,"[449]
superseding that of Moses, are peculiar to Jeremiah, and the New
Testament consistently represents the Christian dispensation as a
fulfilment of Jeremiah's prophecy. Besides the express and detailed
application in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Christ instituted the
Lord's Supper as the Sacrament of His New Covenant--"This cup is the
New Covenant in My blood";[450] and St. Paul speaks of himself as "a
minister of the New Covenant."[451] Christianity has not been unworthy
of the claim made on its behalf by its Founder, but has realised, at
any rate in some measure, the visible peace, prosperity, and unity of
Jeremiah's New Israel, as well as the spirituality of his New
Covenant. Christendom has its hideous blots of misery and sin, but, on
the whole, the standard of material comfort and intellectual culture
has been raised to a high average throughout the bulk of a vast
population. Internal order and international concord have made
enormous strides since the time of Jeremiah. If an ancient Israelite
could witness the happy security of a large proportion of English
workmen and French peasants, he would think that many of the
predictions of his prophets had been fulfilled. But the advance of
large classes to a prosperity once beyond the dreams of the most
sanguine only brings out in darker relief the wretchedness of their
less fortunate brethren. In view of the growing knowledge and enormous
resources of modern society, any toleration of its cruel wrongs is an
unpardonable sin. Social problems are doubtless urgent because a large
minority are miserable, but they are rendered still more urgent by the
luxury of many and the comfort of most. The high average of prosperity
shows that we fail to right our social evils, not for want of power,
but for want of devotion. Our civilisation is a Dives, at whose gate
Lazarus often finds no crumbs.

Again Christ's Kingdom of the New Covenant has brought about a larger
unity. We have said enough elsewhere on the divisions of the Church.
Doubtless we are still far from realising the ideals of chapter xxxi.,
but, at any rate, they have been recognised as supreme, and have worked
for harmony and fellowship in the world. Ephraim and Judah are
forgotten, but the New Covenant has united into brotherhood a worldwide
array of races and nations. There are still divisions in the Church, and
a common religion will not always do away with national enmities; but in
spite of all, the influence of our common Christianity has done much to
knit the nations together and promote mutual amity and goodwill. The
vanguard of the modern world has accepted Christ as its standard and
ideal, and has thus attained an essential unity, which is not destroyed
by minor differences and external divisions.

And, finally, the promise that the New Covenant should be written on
the heart is far on the way towards fulfilment. If Roman and Greek
orthodoxy interposes the Church between the soul and Christ, yet the
inspiration claimed for the Church to-day is, at any rate in some
measure, that of the living Spirit of Christ speaking to the souls of
living men. On the other hand, a predilection for Rabbinical methods
of exegesis sometimes interferes with the influence and authority of
the Bible. Yet in reality there is no serious attempt to take away the
key of knowledge or to forbid the individual soul to receive the
direct teaching of the Holy Ghost. The Reformers established the right
of private judgment in the interpretation of the Scriptures; and the
interpretation of the Library of Sacred Literature, the spiritual
harvest of a thousand years, affords ample scope for reverent
development of our knowledge of God.

One group of Jeremiah's prophecies has indeed been entirely
fulfilled.[452] In Christ, God has raised up a Branch of Righteousness
unto David, and through Him judgment and righteousness are wrought in
the earth.


[442] xxxii. 40.

[443] xxxi. 26.

[444] Heb. ix. 10.

[445] Gal. iv. 24, 25.

[446] _Histoire du Peuple d'Israel_, iii., 340.

[447] Renan, iii., 340.

[448] Renan, iii., 425.

[449] We have the idea of a spiritual covenant in Isa. lix. 21, "This
is My covenant with them: ... My spirit that is upon thee, and My
words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy
mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy
seed's seed, ... from henceforth and for ever"; but nothing is said as
to a _new_ covenant.

[450] Luke xxii. 20; 1 Cor. xi. 25. The word "new" is omitted by Codd.
Sin. and Vat. and the R.V. in Matt. xxvi. 28 and Mark xiv. 24.

[451] 2 Cor. iii. 6.

[452] xxxiii. 15.


                              CHAPTER XXXV

                         _JEREMIAH AND CHRIST_

    "Jehovah thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from amongst
    thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him shall ye
    hearken."--DEUT. xviii. 15.

    "Jesus ... asked His disciples, saying, Who do men say that the
    Son of Man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptist; some,
    Elijah: and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."--MATT. xvi.
    13, 14.

English feeling about Jeremiah has long ago been summed up and
stereotyped in the single word "jeremiad." The contempt and dislike
which this word implies are partly due to his supposed authorship of
Lamentations; but, to say the least, the Book of Jeremiah is not
sufficiently cheerful to remove the impression created by the linked
wailing, long drawn out, which has been commonly regarded as an
appendix to its prophecies. We can easily understand the unpopularity
of the prophet of doom in modern Christendom. Such prophets are seldom
acceptable, except to the enemies of the people whom they denounce;
and even ardent modern advocates of Jew-baiting would not be entirely
satisfied with Jeremiah--they would resent his patriotic sympathy with
sinful and suffering Judah. Most modern Christians have ceased to
regard the Jews as monsters of iniquity, whose chastisement should
give profound satisfaction to every sincere believer. History has
recorded but few of the crimes which provoked and justified our
prophet's fierce indignation, and those of which we do read repel our
interest by a certain lack of the picturesque, so that we do not take
the trouble to realise their actual and intense wickedness. Ahab is a
by-word, but how many people know anything about Ishmael ben
Nethaniah? The cruelty of the nobles and the unctuous cant of their
prophetic allies are forgotten in--nay, they seem almost atoned for
by--the awful calamities that befell Judah and Jerusalem. Jeremiah's
memory may even be said to have suffered from the speedy and complete
fulfilment of his prophecies. The national ruin was a triumphant
vindication of his teaching, and his disciples were eager to record
every utterance in which he had foretold the coming doom. Probably the
book, in its present form, gives an exaggerated impression of the
stress which Jeremiah laid upon this topic.

Moreover, while the prophet's life is essentially tragic, its drama
lacks an artistic close and climax. Again and again Jeremiah took his
life in his hand, but the good confession which he witnessed for so
long does not culminate in the crown of martyrdom. A final scene like
the death of John the Baptist would have won our sympathy and
conciliated our criticism.

We thus gather that the popular attitude towards Jeremiah rests on a
superficial appreciation of his character and work; it is not
difficult to discern that a careful examination of his history
establishes important claims on the veneration and gratitude of the
Christian Church.

For Judaism was not slow to pay her tribute of admiration and
reverence to Jeremiah as to a Patron Saint and Confessor. His prophecy
of the Restoration of Israel is appealed to in Ezra and Daniel; and
the Hebrew Chronicler, who says as little as he can of Isaiah, adds
to the references made by the Book of Kings to Jeremiah. We have
already seen that apocryphal legends clustered round his honoured
name. He was credited with having concealed the Tabernacle and the Ark
in the caves of Sinai.[453] On the eve of a great victory, he appeared
to Judas Maccabæus, in a vision, as "a man distinguished by grey
hairs, and a majestic appearance; but something wonderful and
exceedingly magnificent was the grandeur about him," and was made
known to Judas as a "lover of the brethren, who prayeth much for the
people and for the holy city, to wit, Jeremiah the prophet of God. And
Jeremiah stretching forth his right hand delivered over to Judas a
sword of gold."[454] The Son of Sirach does not fail to include
Jeremiah in his praise of famous men;[455] and there is an apocryphal
epistle purporting to be written by our prophet.[456] It is noteworthy
that in the New Testament Jeremiah is only mentioned by name in the
Judaistic Gospel of St. Matthew.

In the Christian Church, notwithstanding the lack of popular sympathy,
earnest students of the prophet's life and words have ranked him with
some of the noblest characters of history. A modern writer enumerates
as amongst those with whom he has been compared Cassandra, Phocion,
Demosthenes, Dante, Milton, and Savonarola.[457] The list might easily
be enlarged, but another parallel has been drawn which has supreme
claims on our consideration. The Jews in New Testament times looked
for the return of Elijah or Jeremiah to usher in Messiah's reign; and
it seemed to some among them that the character and teaching of Jesus
of Nazareth identified him with the ancient prophet who had been
commissioned "to root out, pull down, destroy and throw down, to build
and to plant." The suggested comparison has often been developed, but
undue stress has been laid on such accidental and external
circumstances as the prophet's celibacy and the statement that he was
"sanctified from the womb." The discussion of such details does not
greatly lend itself to edification. But it has also been pointed out
that there is an essential resemblance between the circumstances and
mission of Jeremiah and his Divine Successor, and to this some little
space may be devoted.

Jeremiah and our Lord appeared at similar crises in the history of
Israel and of revealed religion. The prophet foretold the end of the
Jewish monarchy, the destruction of the First Temple and of ancient
Jerusalem; Christ, in like manner, announced the end of the restored
Israel, the destruction of the Second Temple and of the newer
Jerusalem. In both cases the doom of the city was followed by the
dispersion and captivity of the people. At both eras the religion of
Jehovah was supposed to be indissolubly bound up with the Temple and
its ritual; and, as we have seen, Jeremiah, like Stephen and Paul and
our Lord Himself, was charged with blasphemy because he predicted its
coming ruin. The prophet, like Christ, was at variance with the
prevalent religious sentiment of his time and with what claimed to be
orthodoxy. Both were regarded and treated by the great body of
contemporary religious teachers as dangerous and intolerable heretics;
and their heresy, as we have said, was practically one and the same.
To the champions of the Temple, their teaching seemed purely
destructive, an irreverent attack upon fundamental doctrines and
indispensable institutions. But the very opposite was the truth; they
destroyed nothing but what deserved to perish. Both in Jeremiah's time
and in our Lord's, men tried to assure themselves of the permanence of
erroneous dogmas and obsolete rites by proclaiming that these were of
the essence of Divine Revelation. In either age to succeed in this
effort would have been to plunge the world into spiritual darkness:
the light of Hebrew prophecy would have been extinguished by the
Captivity, or, again, the hope of the Messiah would have melted away
like a mirage, when the legions of Titus and Hadrian dispelled so many
Jewish dreams. But before the catastrophe came, Jeremiah had taught
men that Jehovah's Temple and city were destroyed of His own set
purpose, because of the sins of His people; there was no excuse for
supposing that He was discredited by the ruin of the place where He
had once chosen to set His Name. Thus the Captivity was not the final
page in the history of Hebrew religion, but the opening of a new
chapter. In like manner Christ and His Apostles, more especially Paul,
finally dissociated Revelation from the Temple and its ritual, so that
the light of Divine truth was not hidden under the bushel of Judaism,
but shone forth upon the whole world from the many-branched
candlestick of the Universal Church.

Again, in both cases, not only was ancient faith rescued from the ruin
of human corruption and commentary, but the purging away of the old
leaven made room for a positive statement of new teaching. Jeremiah
announced a new covenant--that is, a formal and complete change in
the conditions and method of man's service to God and God's
beneficence to men. The ancient Church, with its sanctuary, its
clergy, and its ritual, was to be superseded by a new order, without
sanctuary, clergy, or ritual, wherein every man would enjoy immediate
fellowship with his God. This great ideal was virtually ignored by the
Jews of the Restoration, but it was set forth afresh by Christ and His
Apostles. The "New Covenant" was declared to be ratified by His
sacrifice, and was confirmed anew at every commemoration of His death.
We read in John iv. 21-23: "The hour cometh, when neither in this
mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father.... The hour
cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father
in spirit and truth."

Thus when we confess that the Church is built upon the foundation of
the Prophets and Apostles, we have to recognise that to this
foundation Jeremiah's ministry supplied indispensable elements, alike
by its positive and in its negative parts. This fact was manifest even
to Renan, who fully shared the popular prejudices against Jeremiah.
Nothing short of Christianity, according to him, is the realisation of
the prophet's dream: "Il ajoute un facteur essentiel à l'œuvre
humaine; Jérémie est, avant Jean-Baptiste, l'homme qui a le plus
contribué à la fondation du Christianisme; il doit compter, malgré la
distance des siècles, entre les précurseurs immédiats de Jésus."[458]

    _Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury._


[453] 2 Macc. ii. 1-8.

[454] 2 Macc. xv. 12-16.

[455] Ecclus. xlix. 6, 7.

[456] Sometimes appended to the Book of Baruch as a sixth chapter.

[457] Smith's _Dictionary of the Bible_, art. "Jeremiah."

[458] _Hist._, iii., 251, 305.

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation and spelling errors have been fixed throughout.

Inconsistent hyphenation left as in the original text.

Footnote 101: Anchor was missing from original text, added anchor.

Footnote 452: Anchor was missing from original text, added anchor.

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