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Jeremiah 26:1-19 – Jeremiah’s Arrest and Release

Summary

Jeremiah is brought to trial for what he has had to say, and his life is threatened by the people and authorities.

Analysis

Jeremiah 26-29 consists of a series of narratives that portray Jeremiah in times of persecution and conflict because of the message he brings. Chapter 26 recalls Jeremiah's temple sermon in chapter 7. God calls Jeremiah to preach to the people in the hopes that they will repent of their evil and God can then change his mind about the disaster that God intends to bring upon them for their evil doings. If the people will repent, God will repent (see 18:7-10). Yet, the people's refusal to listen heretofore makes such a positive future unlikely.

The resistance of the people is made evident in what follows (26:7-19). They charge Jeremiah with false prophecy, for which he must die (see Deuteronomy 18:20). Indeed, they claim that Jeremiah is treasonous for saying that the temple and city would be destroyed. The palace officials respond by initiating a court proceeding, and charges are brought against him. Jeremiah responds in his own defense, not by backing down, but by reinforcing his message that the people should amend their ways. Because he is speaking the word of God, he is innocent of their charges.

Jeremiah's defense is persuasive, and the people and officials come to his defense. Perhaps they think that by so doing they are responding as Jeremiah has called them to do. They also call on historical precedent; they quote from the prophet Micah (Micah 3:12), who spoke in comparable terms a century earlier (Jeremiah 26:18). King Hezekiah had responded positively to Micah's message, and that response had proved decisive for God, who changed his mind about the destruction. The text leaves hanging the question of whether the people's repentance at this time would produce the same divine decision, though Jeremiah 26:19c suggests that such a response would be too late.

Jeremiah 26:1-19

Jeremiah’s Prophecies in the Temple

26At the beginning of the reign of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came from the Lord: 2Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word. 3It may be that they will listen, all of them, and will turn from their evil way, that I may change my mind about the disaster that I intend to bring on them because of their evil doings. 4You shall say to them: Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, 5and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently—though you have not heeded— 6then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.

7 The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. 8And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, ‘You shall die! 9Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, “This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant”?’ And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord. 11Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, ‘This man deserves the sentence of death because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.’

12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, ‘It is the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. 13Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you. 14But as for me, here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.’

16 Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, ‘This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.’ 17And some of the elders of the land arose and said to all the assembled people, 18‘Micah of Moresheth, who prophesied during the days of King Hezekiah of Judah, said to all the people of Judah: “Thus says the Lord of hosts,
Zion shall be ploughed as a field;
   Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
   and the mountain of the house a wooded height.”
19Did King Hezekiah of Judah and all Judah actually put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord and entreat the favour of the Lord, and did not the Lord change his mind about the disaster that he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great disaster on ourselves!’

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v 2.2.7
10 February 2011

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