Jeremiah – examples in the narrative

The theology that we have seen preached by Jeremiah is punctuated by two accounts of people resisting Nebuchadnezzar’s rule after the conquest. First, Ishmael kills the appointed governor, and flees to the Ammonites. The men who initially pursue him then become afraid of Nebuchadnezzar’s possible reprisals and ask Jeremiah what to do. He tells them that if they stay in Judah then God will protect them, but if they go to Egypt they will be destroyed. They ignore his prophesy, go to Egypt (against 1000 years of commands to the contrary) and are destroyed when Nebuchadnezzar conquers Egypt (Jer 41-44). The second incident is the final account of the book, in which Zedekiah rebels against Babylon, resulting in Jerusalem being conquered, the walls being broken down, the temple being sacked and destroyed and the people being deported. Zedekiah’s armed resistance caused the final execution of God’s judgement. At the same time Jehoiachin, who had submitted to Babylon, was released and treated kindly (Jer 52). In both accounts, men seek revolution against the rulers whom God appointed over them, and in both accounts, their actions bring disaster.

Finally, there is also the example of the Prophet himself. A number of times he encounters violent resistance to his ministry. In chapter 20, he is beaten, in chapter 26, people call for his death, and one of his compatriots is killed by King Jehoiakim. In chapter 37, Jeremiah is thrown into prison. In Chapter 38, he is thrown into a dry well and left to die. At no time did Jeremiah resist these attacks, even when they were from his own king. Instead, his constant response was to proclaim God’s word:

11 Then the priests and prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man deserves the death sentence because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”  12 Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and the people, “The LORD sent me to prophesy all the words that you have heard against this temple and city.  13 So now, correct your ways and deeds and obey the voice of the LORD your God so that He might relent concerning the disaster that He warned about.  14 As for me, here I am in your hands; do to me what you think is good and right.  15 But know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, on this city, and on its residents, for it is certain the LORD has sent me to speak all these things directly to you.” (Jer 26:11-15)

In all these examples, we can see that God’s people are not called to fight against evil kings with force but, through the prophets, by declaring God’s word to them. This is true both of evil Israelite kings (c.f. Elijah and Elisha) and evil kings of other nations (Babylon, Assyria etc). God is both able and willing to deal with these people and nations. The prophet’s role is to proclaim his words.

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