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Jeremiah and the nervous king

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posted on Dec, 2 2016 @ 05:04 PM
Zedekiah was the last king of Judah.
He was not expecting to get the job, and probably did not want it.
He was the much younger brother of Jehoiakim, who withheld the tribute which Nebuchadnezzar expected from him, and so set in motion the first Babylonian siege.
Jehoiakim escaped the consequences by dying just before the Babylonians arrived.
His teenage son, Jehoiachin, surrendered the city and was taken into exile, along with ten thousand captives who were the cream of Jerusalem society- all the princes and mighty men of valour, all the craftsmen and smiths.
The boy’s uncle, Mattaniah, was only twenty-one years old himself. Nebuchadnezzar set him up as the new king, and changed his name to Zedekiah at the same time.
(Evidently overlord rulers liked to do this to show their authority. Jehoiakim himself had been called Eliakim, until the Pharaoh had appointed him in his father’s place).

Zedekiah would have been conscious that his throne was insecure. The patriots left in Jerusalem would have thought of his exiled nephew as the true king.
He was in a situation which he could not win.
If he led another rebellion against Babylon, the Babylonians would depose and kill him.
If he stayed loyal to Babylon, his own nobility would depose and kill him.

What he heard from Jeremiah would not have been encouraging.
The Lord showed Jeremiah a vision of two baskets of figs. The figs in one basket were very good, while the figs in the other were so bad that they could not be eaten.
The good figs represented the exiles in Babylon, the bad figs represented the remnant in Jerusalem.
This was not about the real qualities of the two communities. In their lack of judgement and righteousness, there was probably little to choose between them.
It was a prophecy about their fates.
The exile community would be treated like the basket of good figs, something to be conserved and protected.
The community in Jerusalem would be treated like the basket of bad figs, something to be thrown away. (Jeremiah ch24)

The first known official contact between king and prophet comes nearly nine years later.
Once Zedekiah had made the fateful decision to repeat his brother’s mistake, he sent two men on a mission to Jeremiah.
“Inquire of the Lord, for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us; perhaps the Lord will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds, and will make him withdraw from us” (ch21 v2).
Once a man has jumped off the edge of a cliff, it is a little late to be asking for help and advice.
If Zedekiah had inquired of the Lord before he made his decision, the prophet would have told him that he was making the wrong choice.
He was now obliged to tell the king that the Lord himself would be fighting against him. The city would fall after suffering pestilence and famine. The people’s only hope of escaping with their lives was to go out now and make their surrenders.

Another mission asking for prayer was sent when the siege had been suspended by the advance of the Egyptian army.
But Jeremiah could only tell them that Pharaoh’s help would have no value, and the siege would be resumed.
A little later, he was going out of the city on family affairs.
One of the sentries at the gate stopped him, and accused him of intending to defect to the Babylonians. If his enemies really believed that, then letting him go would have been the simplest way of getting rid of him. However, he was taken to the princes, beaten, and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary.
The king sent for him and questioned him secretly; was there any word from the Lord? “Only that you will be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon”.
Jeremiah complained that he had done the king no wrong, in comparison with those who had wrongly prophesied that the Babylonians would not come. Nonetheless, his only request was not to be returned to Jonathan’s house, which would kill him, and he was committed instead to “the court of the guard”. (ch37)

His new place of confinement was more like an “open prison”, in comparison. He could receive visitors there and conduct more family business (ch32).
He could even continue addressing his prophecies to the people at large;
“Thus says the Lord; He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live… This city shall be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon” (ch38 vv1-3).
His words were reported by some of the leading men, and the princes demanded that the king allow him to be put to death.
The king’s reply is very revealing; “Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you”.
There was an empty cistern within the court of the guard, and they threw him into it, or at least they let him down with ropes.
This was a virtual death sentence; if Jeremiah escaped being suffocated in the mire, he would certainly starve. In effect, they had invented the oubliette.
One of the servants of the king took it upon himself to save Jeremiah’s life. He is close to being anonymous, because the name given, Ebed-Melech, means “servant of the king”.
We are given the itinerary of his rescue mission. He went from the king’s house to the Benjamin gate, where the king was sitting. The king would have been giving legal judgements and doing other business. When the servant appealed for the life of Jeremiah, the king allowed him to take three of the other servants and lift the prophet out of the cistern. But first they went back to the king’s house and collected some rags and old clothes. Then they lowered the rags down to Jeremiah, to protect his armpits while the ropes pulled him out.

Once Jeremiah was safely out of the cistern, he returned to the main court of the guard.
Zedekiah summoned him to a private meeting “at the third entrance of the Temple of the Lord”.
This king was always hungry to hear what the Lord had to say, even though he lacked the courage to act on the advice.
As Jeremiah observed; “If I give you counsel, you will not listen to me”.
Unsurprisingly, the message was exactly the same as before. If he surrendered to the king of Babylon, his life and the city would be spared. If he did not, they would be destroyed.
The king professed to be anxious about being in the power of the Jews who had already deserted.
In fact he was more nervous about the nobility remaining in the city, as demonstrated by his final request.
He did not want the princes to know that he had even heard the defeatist advice which Jeremiah was giving.
So if anyone asked, Jeremiah was to say that he had only been repeating his request not to be returned to the house of Jonathan.

The end of the story was as Jeremiah predicted (ch39)
The king and those around him broke out of the city and tried to escape.
They were chased and caught.
The king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, then blinded him and took him in chains to a life-imprisonment in Babylon.
To no avail, he had been living in fear of those who “can only kill the body”, as Jesus puts it
(Matthew ch10 v28).
He would have been better advised to have given fear and obedience to the one who could have saved his soul.

posted on Dec, 4 2016 @ 05:02 AM

edit on 4-12-2016 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 4 2016 @ 05:38 PM
This thread is a sequel to
Jeremiah and the stubborn king
(which deals with Zedekiah's brother and predecessor).

edit on 4-12-2016 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

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