Jeremiah 26

Jeremiah Is Put on Trial as a False Prophet

Beginning with Jer 26 up to Jer 45 the book narrates in third person style incidents in the life of Jeremiah and prophecies (or sermons) he gave in obedience to the Lord’s commands. Baruch is the probable narrator, passing on information gleaned from Jeremiah himself. (See Jer 36:4, 18, 32; 45:1 and also 32:13–14 where it is clear that Baruch is Jeremiah’s scribe or secretary.) Chapters 26–29 contain narratives concerning reactions to Jeremiah’s prophecies and his conflict with the prophets who were prophesying that things would be all right (see, e.g., 14:14–15; 23:21).
The Lord spoke to Jeremiah
The words “to Jeremiah” are not in the Hebrew text. They are added by the Old Latin (not the Vulgate) and the Syriac versions. They are implicit, however, to the narrative style which speaks of Jeremiah in the third person (cf. vv. 7, 12). They have been supplied in the translation for clarity.
at the beginning of the reign
It is often thought that the term here is equivalent to a technical term in Akkadian (reshsharruti) which refers to the part of the year remaining from the death or deposing of the previous king until the beginning of the calendar year when the new king officially ascended the throne. In this case it would refer to the part of the year between September, 609 b.c. when Jehoiakim was placed on the throne as a puppet king by Pharaoh Necho (2 Kgs 23:34–35) and April, 608 b.c. when he would have been officially celebrated as king. However, it will be suggested below in conjunction with the textual problems in 27:1 and 28:1 that the term does not necessarily refer to this period.
of Josiah’s son, King Jehoiakim of Judah.
The Lord said, “Go stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple.
It is generally agreed that the incident recorded in this chapter relates to the temple message that Jeremiah gave in 7:1–15. The message there is summarized here in vv. 3–6. The primary interest here is in the response to that message.
Speak out to all the people who are coming from the towns of Judah to worship in the Lord’s temple. Tell them everything I command you to tell them. Do not leave out a single word!
Maybe they will pay attention and each of them will stop living the evil way they do.
Heb “will turn from his wicked way.”
If they do that, then I will forgo destroying them
For the idiom and translation of terms involved here see 18:8 and the translator’s note there.
The Lord is being consistent in the application of the principle laid down in Jer 18:7–8 that reformation of character will result in the withdrawal of the punishment of “uprooting, tearing down, destroying.” His prophecies of doom are conditional threats, open to change with change in behavior.
as I had intended to do because of the wicked things they have been doing.
Heb “because of the wickedness of their deeds.”
Tell them that the Lord says,
Heb “thus says the Lord, ‘…’.” The use of the indirect quotation in the translation eliminates one level of embedded quotation to avoid confusion.
‘You must obey me! You must live according to the way I have instructed you in my laws.
Heb “by walking in my law which I set before you.”
Examples of those laws are found in Jer 7:5–6, 9. The law was summarized or epitomized in the ten commandments which are called the “words of the covenant” in Exod 34:28, but it contained much more. However, when Israel is taken to task by God, it often relates to their failure to live up to the standards of the ten commandments (Heb “the ten words”; see Hos 4:1–3; Jer 7:9).
You must pay attention to the exhortations of my servants the prophets. I have sent them to you over and over again.
See the translator’s note on 7:13 for the idiom here.
But you have not paid any attention to them.
If you do not obey me,
26:4–6 are all one long sentence containing a long condition with subordinate clauses (vv. 4–5) and a compound consequence in v. 6: Heb “If you will not obey me by walking in my law…by paying attention to the words of the prophets which…and you did not pay heed, then I will make…and I will make…” The sentence has been broken down in conformity to contemporary English style but an attempt has been made to reflect all the subordinations in the English translation.
then I will do to this temple what I did to Shiloh.
See the study note on Jer 7:13.
And I will make this city an example to be used in curses by people from all the nations on the earth.’”

The priests, the prophets, and all the people heard Jeremiah say these things in the Lord’s temple. Jeremiah had just barely finished saying all the Lord had commanded him to say to all the people. All at once some
The translation again represents an attempt to break up a long complex Hebrew sentence into equivalent English ones that conform more to contemporary English style: Heb “And as soon as Jeremiah finished saying all that…the priests…grabbed him and said…” The word “some” has been supplied in the translation, because obviously it was not all the priests, the prophets, and all the people, but only some of them. There is, of course, rhetorical intent here to show that all were implicated, although all may not have actually participated. (This is a common figure called synecdoche where all is put for a part – all for all kinds or representatives of all kinds. See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 614–19, and compare usage in Acts 10:12; Matt 3:5.)
of the priests, the prophets, and the people grabbed him and shouted, “You deserve to die!
Or “You must certainly die!” The construction here is again emphatic with the infinitive preceding the finite verb (cf. Joüon 2:423 #123.h, and compare usage in Exod 21:28).
How dare you claim the Lord’s authority to prophesy such things! How dare you claim his authority to prophesy that this temple will become like Shiloh and that this city will become an uninhabited ruin!”
Heb “Why have you prophesied in the Lord’s name, saying, ‘This house will become like Shiloh and this city will become a ruin without inhabitant?’” It is clear from the context here and in 7:1–15 that the emphasis is on “in the Lord’s name” and that the question is rhetorical. The question is not a quest for information but an accusation, a remonstrance. (For this figure see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 953–54, who calls a question like this a rhetorical question of remonstrance or expostulation. For good examples see Pss 11:1; 50:16.) For the significance of “prophesying in the Lord’s name” see the study note on 14:14. The translation again utilizes the indirect quote to eliminate one level of embedded quotation.
They are questioning his right to claim the Lord’s authority for what they see as a false prophecy. They believed that the presence of the Lord in the temple guaranteed their safety (7:4, 10, 14) and that the Lord could not possibly be threatening its destruction. Hence they were ready to put him to death as a false prophet according to the law of Moses (Deut 18:20).
Then all the people crowded around Jeremiah.

10  However, some of the officials
These officials of Judah were officials from the royal court. They may have included some of the officials mentioned in Jer 36:12–25. They would have been concerned about any possible “illegal” proceedings going on in the temple.
of Judah heard about what was happening
Heb “these things.”
and they rushed up to the Lord’s temple from the royal palace. They set up court
Heb “they sat” or “they took their seats.” However, the context is one of judicial trial.
The gateway or gate complex of an ancient Near Eastern city was often used for court assemblies (cf. Deut 21:19; 22:15; Ruth 4:1; Isa 29:21). Here the gate of the temple was used for the convening of a court to try Jeremiah for the charge of being a false prophet.
at the entrance of the New Gate of the Lord’s temple.
The translation follows many Hebrew mss and ancient versions in reading the word “house” (= temple) here. The majority of Hebrew mss do not have this word. It is, however, implicit in the construction “the New Gate of the Lord.”
The location of the New Gate is uncertain. It is mentioned again in Jer 36:10 where it is connected with the upper (i.e., inner) court of the temple. Some equate it with the Upper Gate that Jotham rebuilt during his reign (2 Kgs 15:35; Jotham reigned from 750–735 b.c.). That gate, however, has already been referred to as the Upper Gate of Benjamin in Jer 20:2 (for more detail see the study note there) and would not likely have been called something different here.
11 Then the priests and the prophets made their charges before the officials and all the people. They said,
Heb “the priests and prophets said to the leaders and the people….” The long sentence has been broken up to conform better with contemporary English style and the situational context is reflected in “laid their charges.”
“This man should be condemned to die
Heb “a sentence of death to this man.”
because he prophesied against this city. You have heard him do so
Heb “it.”
with your own ears.”

12  Then Jeremiah made his defense before all the officials and all the people.
Heb “Jeremiah said to all the leaders and all the people….” See the note on the word “said” in the preceding verse.
“The Lord sent me to prophesy everything you have heard me say against this temple and against this city.
13 But correct the way you have been living and do what is right.
Heb “Make good your ways and your actions.” For the same expression see 7:3, 5; 18:11.
Obey the Lord your God. If you do, the Lord will forgo destroying you as he threatened he would.
For the idiom and translation of terms involved here see 18:8 and the translator’s note there.
The Lord is being consistent in the application of the principle laid down in Jer 18:7–8 that reformation of character will result in the withdrawal of the punishment of “uprooting, tearing down, destroying.” His prophecies of doom are conditional threats, open to change with change in behavior.
14 As to my case, I am in your power.
Heb “And I, behold I am in your hand.” Hand is quite commonly used for “power” or “control” in biblical contexts.
Do to me what you deem fair and proper.
15 But you should take careful note of this: If you put me to death, you will bring on yourselves and this city and those who live in it the guilt of murdering an innocent man. For the Lord has sent me to speak all this where you can hear it. That is the truth!”
Heb “For in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak in your ears all these words/things.”

16  Then the officials and all the people rendered their verdict to the priests and the prophets. They said,
Heb “Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets…”
“This man should not be condemned to die.
Contrast v. 11.
For he has spoken to us under the authority of the Lord our God.”
Heb “For in the name of the Lord our God he has spoken to us.” The emphasis is on “in the name of…”
The priests and false prophets claimed that they were speaking in the Lord’s name (i.e., as his representatives and with his authority [see 1 Sam 25:9; 1 Kgs 21:8 and cf. the study note on Jer 23:27]) and felt that Jeremiah’s claims to be doing so were false (see v. 9). Jeremiah (and the Lord) charged that the opposite was the case (cf. 14:14–15; 23:21). The officials and the people, at least at this time, accepted his claims that the Lord had sent him (vv. 12, 15).
17 Then some of the elders of Judah
Heb “elders of the land.”
The elders were important land-owning citizens, separate from the “heads” or leaders of the tribes, the officers and the judges. They were very influential in both the judicial, political, and religious proceedings of the cities and the state. (See, e.g., Josh 24:1; 2 Sam 19:11; 2 Kgs 23:1 for elders of Israel/Judah, and Deut 21:1–9; Ruth 4:1–2 for elders of the cities.)
stepped forward and spoke to all the people gathered there. They said,
18 “Micah from Moresheth
Micah from Moresheth was a contemporary of Isaiah (compare Mic 1:1 with Isa 1:1) from the country town of Moresheth in the hill country southwest of Jerusalem. The prophecy referred to is found in Mic 3:12. This is the only time in the OT where an OT prophet is quoted verbatim and identified.
prophesied during the time Hezekiah was king of Judah.
Hezekiah was co-regent with his father Ahaz from 729–715 b.c. and sole ruler from 715–686 b.c. His father was a wicked king who was responsible for the incursions of the Assyrians (2 Kgs 16; 2 Chr 28). Hezekiah was a godly king, noted for his religious reforms and for his faith in the Lord in the face of the Assyrian threat (2 Kgs 18–19; 2 Chr 32:1–23). The deliverance of Jerusalem in response to his prayers of faith (2 Kgs 19:14–19, 29–36) was undoubtedly well-known to the people of Jerusalem and Judah and may have been one of the prime reasons for their misplaced trust in the inviolability of Zion/Jerusalem (see Ps 46, 76) though the people of Micah’s day already believed it too (Mic 3:11).
He told all the people of Judah,

‘The Lord who rules over all
Heb “Yahweh of armies.”
For an explanation of this title for God see the study note on 2:19.
Zion was first of all the citadel that David captured (2 Sam 5:6–10), then the city of David and the enclosed temple area, then the whole city of Jerusalem. It is often in poetic parallelism with Jerusalem as it is here (see, e.g., Ps 76:2; Amos 1:2).
will become a plowed field.
Jerusalem will become a pile of rubble.
The temple mount will become a mere wooded ridge.”’
There is irony involved in this statement. The text reads literally “high places of a forest/thicket.” The “high places” were the illicit places of worship that Jerusalem was supposed to replace. Because of their sin, Jerusalem would be like one of the pagan places of worship with no place left sacrosanct. It would even be overgrown with trees and bushes. So much for its inviolability!

19  King Hezekiah and all the people of Judah did not put him to death, did they? Did not Hezekiah show reverence for the Lord and seek the Lord’s favor?
This Hebrew idiom (חָלָה פָּנִים, khalah panim) is often explained in terms of “stroking” or “patting the face” of someone, seeking to gain his favor. It is never used in a literal sense and is found in contexts of prayer (Exod 32:11; Ps 119:158), worship (Zech 8:21–22), humble submission (2 Chr 3:12), or amendment of behavior (Dan 9:13). All were true to one extent or another of Hezekiah.
Did not
The he interrogative (הַ)with the negative governs all three of the verbs, the perfect and the two vav (ו) consecutive imperfects that follow it. The next clause has disjunctive word order and introduces a contrast. The question expects a positive answer.
the Lord forgo destroying them
For the translation of the terms involved here see the translator’s note on 18:8.
as he threatened he would? But we are on the verge of bringing great disaster on ourselves.”
Or “great harm to ourselves.” The word “disaster” (or “harm”) is the same one that has been translated “destroying” in the preceding line and in vv. 3 and 13.

20  Now there was another man
This is a brief parenthetical narrative about an otherwise unknown prophet who was executed for saying the same things Jeremiah did. It is put here to show the real danger that Jeremiah faced for saying what he did. There is nothing in the narrative here to show any involvement by Jehoiakim. This was a “lynch mob” instigated by the priests and false prophets which was stymied by the royal officials supported by some of the elders of Judah. Since it is disjunctive or parenthetical it is unclear whether this incident happened before or after that in the main narrative being reported.
who prophesied as the Lord’s representative
Heb “in the name of the Lord, ” i.e., as his representative and claiming his authority. See the study note on v. 16.
against this city and this land just as Jeremiah did. His name was Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath Jearim.
Heb “Now also a man was prophesying in the name of the Lord, Uriah son of…, and he prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah.” The long Hebrew sentence has been broken up in conformity with contemporary English style and the major emphasis brought out by putting his prophesying first, then identifying him.
21 When the king and all his bodyguards
Heb “all his mighty men/soldiers.” It is unlikely that this included all the army. It more likely was the palace guards or royal bodyguards (see 2 Sam 23 where the same word is used of David’s elite corps).
and officials heard what he was prophesying,
Heb “his words.”
the king sought to have him executed. But Uriah found out about it and fled to Egypt out of fear.
Heb “But Uriah heard and feared and fled and entered Egypt.”
22 However, King Jehoiakim sent some men to Egypt, including Elnathan son of Achbor,
Elnathan son of Achbor was one of the officials who urged Jeremiah and Baruch to hide after they heard Jeremiah’s prophecies read before them (Jer 36:11–19). He was also one of the officials who urged Jehoiakim not to burn the scroll containing Jeremiah’s prophecies (Jer 36:25). He may have been Jehoiakim’s father-in-law (2 Kgs 24:6, 8).
23 and they brought Uriah back from there.
Heb “from Egypt.”
A standard part of international treaties at this time was a stipulation of mutual extradition of political prisoners. Jehoiakim was a vassal of Pharaoh Necho (see 2 Kgs 23:34–35) and undoubtedly had such a treaty with him.
They took him to King Jehoiakim, who had him executed and had his body thrown into the burial place of the common people.
The burial place of the common people was the public burial grounds, distinct from the family tombs, where poor people without any distinction were buried. It was in the Kidron Valley east of Jerusalem (2 Kgs 23:6). The intent of reporting this is to show the ruthlessness of Jehoiakim.

24  However, Ahikam son of Shaphan
Ahikam son of Shaphan was an official during the reign of Jehoiakim’s father, Josiah (2 Kgs 22:12, 14). He was also the father of Gedaliah who became governor of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem (Jer 40:5). The particle at the beginning of the verse is meant to contrast the actions of this man with the actions of Jehoiakim. The impression created by this verse is that it took more than just the royal officials’ opinion and the elders’ warnings to keep the priests and prophets from swaying popular opinion to put Jeremiah to death.
used his influence to keep Jeremiah from being handed over and executed by the people.
Heb “Nevertheless, the hand of Ahikam son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah so that he would not be given (even more literally, ‘so as not to give him’) into the hand of the people to kill him.” “Hand” is often used for “aid,” “support,” “influence,” “power,” “control.”

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