Monday, April 14, 2014

Jeremiah 26 -- The People vs. Jeremiah

So let's see, where were we?

Rembrandt - Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1630
Jeremiah 26 is a self-contained chapter which tells of an incident in the life of our Judean prophet.  At the beginning of the chapter, God tells Jeremiah to go around Judah and tell people on their way to the temple that because they have broken his laws and commandments, he will destroy their civilization.  Jeremiah obeys, and the people become very angry with him.  By the time the guard is sent in, there are a lot of people calling for him to be put to death for what amounts to treason, the preaching of doom against his own country.

Jeremiah's defense is twofold.  First, he says that he didn't predict an inevitable doom; Judah can opt to reform your ways and your actions (13) and still come out all right.  Secondly, he was just saying what God told him to.  They can execute him if they want to, but that would be spilling innocent blood and only make things worse for them.

There follows a brief debate.  People remember how Micah prophesied doom in the time of King Hezekiah, but Hezekiah let him off the hook.  On the other hand, Uriah son of Shemaiah prophesied doom in the time of King Jehoiakim, and Jehoiakim actually sent goons down to drag him back from hiding in Egypt so he could have him ignominiously executed.  In the end, the leadership decides on forebearance, and so Jeremiah was not handed over to the people to be put to death. (24)

The story ends there, and you kind of have to wonder what happened next.  If you represent what's left of the civil authority in fast-declining Judah, and you've got a public pariah on your hands, what do you do with him?  Keep him under lock and key for a few weeks to give everybody a chance to cool down, maybe?  We're not told, and we're certainly not likely to find out.

No comments: