Jeremiah 26:1-24 (33:1-24, LXX)

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At the start of the reign of “Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, Jeremiah received a “word” or message from YHWH. (26:1 [33:1, LXX]) This message directed him to “stand in the courtyard of the house [or temple] of YHWH” and to speak to the people (“all the Judeans” [LXX]) who came from “all the cities of Judah” to bow down in worship. The words Jeremiah was to proclaim were the ones YHWH had commanded him to speak. He was not to “hold back” or take away a word, not weakening the full force of the message in any respect. (26:2 [33:2, LXX]) The message was one that provided the people with an opportunity to repent. YHWH is quoted as telling Jeremiah, “Possibly they will listen and each one turn from his evil way and I will repent of the evil that I purposed to do to them because of the evil of their doings.” If they ceased to conduct themselves in ways that incurred his anger, YHWH would not bring the “evil,” calamity, or punishment that he had threatened to bring upon them. He would “repent,” changing his position toward them in view of their changed condition. (26:3 [33:3, LXX])

The people could prove that they were listening to YHWH by conducting themselves according to the law he had given to them. If they did not listen to him in this way (26:4 [33:4, LXX]) and refused to listen to the words of his “servants the prophets,” whom he sent to them and who rose early to proclaim his words (26:5 [33:5, LXX]), he would make the temple “like Shiloh,” abandoning it as his representative place of dwelling just as he did when the ark of the covenant was removed from the sanctuary at Shiloh, never to be returned there. YHWH also would make Jerusalem a “curse to all the nations of the earth.” This indicated that Jerusalem would be destroyed and that people who came to know what had happened to the city would use the name Jerusalem as a swearword when expressing a malediction. (26:6 [33:6, LXX])

The priests, prophets (false prophets (LXX)], and all the people in the temple courtyard heard the words Jeremiah spoke. (26:7 [33:7, LXX]) After Jeremiah finished speaking all that “YHWH had commanded” him “to speak to all the people,” the priests, prophets (“false prophets” [LXX]), and “all the people laid hold of him” and said, “You will certainly die [literally, dying you will die].” In this context, “all the people” probably were the people who sided with the priests and false prophets in their hostile action. That the priests and false prophets were primarily responsible for wanting to have Jeremiah put to death is evident from verse 16. (26:8 [33:8, LXX])

“Why,” Jeremiah was asked, “have you prophesied in the name of YHWH” that “this house [temple] will be like Shiloh [an abandoned sanctuary site] and that “this city [Jerusalem] will be desolate without inhabitant?” The question suggests that the questioners did not believe that Jeremiah proclaimed the word of YHWH and that this enraged them. According to the Septuagint rendering, Jeremiah merited death because he had prophesied “in the name of the Lord” that the temple “will be like Selo [Shiloh]” and that “this city” (Jerusalem) will be empty of inhabitants. “All the people gathered about Jeremiah” in the temple precincts. This apparently was an assembling of the people who opposed him. (26:9 [33:9, LXX])

A report appears to have reached the “princes [rulers (LXX)] of Judah” (members of the royal household or high officials) about what Jeremiah had said. They “came up” from the lower elevation of the “house [or palace] of the king” to the higher elevation of the “house [or temple] of YHWH.” They seated themselves at the “entrance of the new gate of YHWH” or the “new gate” of the house or temple of YHWH. The “new gate” may have been the same as the upper gate that Judean king Jotham built. (26:10 [33:10, LXX]; see 2 Kings 15:32, 35; 2 Chronicles 27:3.) Then the “priests and the prophets [false prophets (LXX)] said to the princes (“rulers” [LXX]) and all the people there, “A judgment of death to this man [Jeremiah], for he has prophesied against this city as you have heard with your [own] ears.” (26:11 [33:11, LXX])

Directing his words to “all the princes” (“ the rulers” [LXX]) and “all the people” there, Jeremiah responded, “YHWH sent me to prophesy against this house [or temple] and this city [Jerusalem] all the words you have heard.” (26:12 [33:12, LXX]) He urged all who heard his words to “make good” their “ways and doings,” changing their conduct to conform to what YHWH required of them and dealing in a just and honest manner, and to “hear,” listen to, or obey the “voice of YHWH [their] God.” This would have included their obeying everything he had made known through his prophets. If they did so, they would cease to be the people against whom punishment was threatened. YHWH would “repent of the evil” or calamity he had pronounced against them. His position toward them would correspond to their ceasing to be a people who acted contrary to his commands and who merited severe punishment. (26:13 [33:13, LXX])

Regarding himself, Jeremiah said, “Look, I am in your hand [hands (LXX)]” or power. “Do to me [what is] good [advantageous (LXX)] and right in your eyes [better for you (LXX)].” With these words , he made them personally responsible for their action toward him. (26:14 [33:14, LXX]) Jeremiah, however, warned them that, if they killed him, they should know for a certainty (literally, “knowing you will know”) that they were bringing “innocent blood” upon themselves, Jerusalem, and the city’s inhabitants. This was because, “in truth” or undeniably, YHWH had sent him to speak in their “ears” or directly in their hearing “all these words” that he had commanded him to proclaim. (26:15 [33:15, LXX])

After Jeremiah had finished speaking, the “princes” (“rulers” [LXX]) and “all the people” (apparently all the people who took his words seriously) said to the priests and the prophets (“false prophets” [LXX]) that he did not merit death, for he had spoken to them “in the name of YHWH” their God or as a prophet who directly represented him. (26:16 [33:16, LXX])

Men from among the “elders of the land” (respected men of advanced age who were then in the temple precincts) stood up and began to speak to all the assembled people. (26:17 [33:17, LXX]) They called attention to the much earlier prophetic activity of Micah of Moresheth (a town that has been linked to Tell- el-Judeideh [Tel Goded], some 22 miles [c. 35 kilometers] southwest of Jerusalem) in the “days” or the time of “Hezekiah the king of Judah.” To “all the people of Judah” or in the realm of the kingdom of Judah, Micah had proclaimed, “Thus says YHWH of hosts [the God with hosts of angels in his service (the Lord [LXX])], Zion will be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem will become piles of ruins, and the mountain of the house [the temple] will become like the high places of a forest.” The words regarding the “mountain of the house” may mean that the temple site would come to resemble nearly treeless areas above the dense forest covering the side of a mountain. The Septuagint refers to a “grove of a thicket” or a grove of small trees. Translators have variously interpreted the words “high places of a forest” to mean a height covered with “thorns” (CEV) or “overgrown with thickets” (NIV), “rough heath” (REB), “a forest ridge” (NAB), “a wooded height” (NRSV), and “a shrine in the woods.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) (26:18 [33:18, LXX])

The elders raised rhetorical questions. “Did Hezekiah the king of Judah and all [the people] of Judah kill him? Did he [Hezekiah] not fear YHWH and entreat the favor of YHWH [literally, mollify the face of YHWH]?” Hezekiah and his subjects heeded the words of the prophet Micah, “and YHWH repented of the evil [or calamity] that he had pronounced against them,” not bringing it upon them because they had repented. Drawing the vital lesson from this historical example, the elders concluded, “We are about to bring great evil [or a great calamity] upon ourselves [literally, our souls]” (if they killed Jeremiah). (26:19 [33:19, LXX])

With “words like those” Jeremiah had proclaimed when prophesying, so also in the “name of YHWH” or as representing YHWH as his prophet, Urijah (Uriah) the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim (a city commonly identified with a site about eight miles (c. 13 kilometers) west of Jerusalem) prophesied against Jerusalem and against the “land” (the realm of the kingdom of Judah). (26:20 [33:20, LXX]) King Jehoiakim, all his warriors, and “all the princes” (members of the royal household or high officials [“rulers” (LXX)] heard the words of Urijah (Uriah), and the king wanted to kill him. When Urijah (Uriah) heard about the murderous intent, he became afraid and fled, making his escape to Egypt. (26:21 [33:21, LXX]) According to the Septuagint, Jehoiakim “sent men to Egypt.” The Hebrew text is more specific in naming Elnathan the son of Achbor as one of the men sent to Egypt with other men. Elnathan may have been the father of Nehushta (2 Kings 24:8), the mother of Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin. (26:22 [33:22, LXX]) Elnathan and the men with him apprehended Urijah (Uriah) and brought him back from Egypt to King Jehoiakim. Urijah (Uriah) was then slain with a sword and his corpse cast into the “burial place of the sons of the people [his people (LXX)]” or the graveyard of the common people. The incident involving Urijah (Uriah) indicated the seriousness of the threat to Jeremiah’s life. (26:23 [33:23, LXX])

The “hand [or strong support] of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah,” preventing his being given into the “hand [or power] of the people” to have him killed. During the reign of Jehoiakim’s father Josiah, Shaphan served as the royal secretary, and he and his son and three other men were sent to the prophetess Huldah to inquire of YHWH regarding the judgments recorded in the recently discovered scroll that contained the law. (2 Kings 22:12-14; 2 Chronicles 34:20-22) This suggests that Ahikam occupied a prominent position in the kingdom of Judah and used his influence to uphold justice. (26:24 [33:24, LXX])