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B. Controversies concerning false prophets chs. 26-29
These chapters contrast the true prophet of Yahweh with the false prophets. Distinguishing between them was difficult for Jeremiah’s contemporaries, but their essential difference is clear. The true prophets proclaimed the Lord’s words, and the false prophets announced their own messages (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21). It is the response to Jeremiah’s preaching that these chapters stress, rather than the content of his preaching, which is the emphasis in chapters 1-25.
"The subject of the previous five chapters has been the certainty of judgment to come. In the next four chapters attention is directed to the man Jeremiah, who preached the message of judgment." [Note: Jensen, p. 76.]
1. Conflict with the people ch. 26
This section consists of four parts: a summary of Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon (Jeremiah 26:2-6), the prophet’s arrest and trial (Jeremiah 26:7-16), the elders’ plea for his life (Jeremiah 26:17-19; Jeremiah 26:24), and the incident involving Uriah and his execution (Jeremiah 26:20-23). As the other chapters in 26-45, this one contains an incident out of Jeremiah’s life.
Another message from Yahweh came to Jeremiah at the beginning of King Jehoiakim’s reign. Jehoiakim began reigning over Judah in 609 B.C. The terminology used to describe the date is technical, referring to the time between the king’s accession to the throne and the first full year of his reign. [Note: Thompson, p. 524.] This is the earliest date mentioned in the book, with the exception of Jeremiah’s call (Jeremiah 1:2).
"Little more than three months had seen King Josiah killed in battle, his successor deported to Egypt, and this third king, a man of no scruples, imposed on the country. At such a moment, to give strong warnings of potentially worse things in store was to take one’s life in one’s hands, especially when these warnings touched the temple and the holy city, popularly thought to be inviolable." [Note: Kidner, p. 96.]
The Lord commanded His prophet to stand in the temple courtyard and deliver every word of this message to the people who came there. He was not to omit one word for fear of the consequences of his preaching or to trim his message to please his hearers. The occasion may have been a special festival, since people from many parts of Judah came to the temple at that time. What follows is a summary of the Temple Sermon previously recorded in Jeremiah 7:1-15, but here the reaction that the sermon created is the main point. This message also summarizes the essential content of chapters 7-10.
"Jeremiah frequently held discourses in the temple, and more than once foretold the destruction of Jerusalem; so that it need not be surprising if on more than one occasion he threatened the temple with the fate of Shiloh. . . . Whereas in chap. vii. the prophet speaks chiefly of the spoliation or destruction of the temple and the expulsion of the people into exile, here in brief incisive words he intimates the destruction of the city of Jerusalem as well . . ." [Note: Keil, 1:390.]
There was still hope that the people would repent, and avoid the judgment that God would bring upon them for their sins, when Jeremiah preached these words.
Jeremiah’s message was basically this: If the people continued to refuse to listen to the Lord through His prophets, and to disobey the Mosaic Covenant, He would destroy the temple and Jerusalem. The temple would suffer complete destruction as the town of Shiloh had, and Jerusalem would become a curse, namely, an object of ridicule and an example of horrible suffering (cf. Genesis 12:3). Making the temple like Shiloh would involve three things: desecration of the sanctuary, removal of the holy furniture, and withdrawal of Yahweh’s name. [Note: Pamela J. Scalise, Jeremiah 26-52, p. 16. This commentary appears under Keown, Scalise, and Smothers in the bibliography.] The Philistines evidently destroyed the town of Shiloh about 1104 B.C. during the battle of Aphek (cf. Jeremiah 7:12; Jeremiah 7:14; 1 Samuel 4).
When the priests, prophets, and people heard this message, they grabbed ahold of Jeremiah and threatened to put him to death. Jeremiah 26:8-16 contain the only complete trial account in the Old Testament. [Note: Ibid., p. 7.]
His accusers asked why he had given such a prophecy against the temple and Jerusalem. They believed that, in view of God’s promises, He would never forsake the temple or the capital. Thus, Jeremiah appeared to them to be a false prophet, and to be blaspheming God-capital offenses in Israel.
When the princes of Judah heard what had happened, they left the palace complex and assembled at the New Gate of the temple (cf. Jeremiah 20:2; 2 Kings 15:35). Gates were the normal sites of court sessions (cf. Genesis 23:10-20; Deuteronomy 21:19; Ruth 4:1; 2 Samuel 15:2; Proverbs 31:23; Amos 5:10-12). The exact location of the New (Benjamin, Altar, Upper, North) Gate is unknown, though it was an opening in the barrier that separated the outer and inner courtyards on the north side of the temple (cf. Jeremiah 36:10; Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 8:5; Ezekiel 9:2). [Note: See the diagram of the temple near 20:2 above.]
Jeremiah’s accusers demanded that the princes pass a death sentence against the prophet for saying what he did. The Book of Jeremiah records no face-to-face encounter between Jeremiah and King Jehoiakim.
"When a man stands up in the communist or other totalitarian countries today and really speaks of the judgment of God, he gets the same treatment as Jeremiah. Even in the West the results are similar. Men say, ’You’re against our culture, you’re against the unity of our culture, you’re against the progress of our culture, you’re against the optimism of our culture, and we’re going to do what we can against you.’ Our culture may do little if we preach only the positive message but if we are faithful and also preach judgment in state or church, the result will be the same as with Jeremiah." [Note: Schaeffer, p. 60.]
Jeremiah responded with a threefold defense. He said that he had simply preached a message that Yahweh had sent him to deliver; he had not spoken presumptuously (cf. Deuteronomy 18:20). [Note: The Apostle Paul similarly defended his message in his epistle to the Galatians.]
He then underlined the importance of all the people repenting. If they did, they could avert the Lord’s threatened judgment (cf. Jeremiah 18:1-12).
Finally, Jeremiah surrendered himself to the will of the people, but warned them that if they killed him they would be guilty of shedding innocent blood, since Yahweh really had sent him with his message.
The officials and some of the people then defended Jeremiah, saying that he had brought a message from Yahweh, and should not die for having done so. They concluded that he was neither a false prophet nor a blasphemer (cf. John 19:4).
Some of the older men reminded those gathered that the prophet Micah had previously predicted a similar fate for Jerusalem, and King Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.) had not put him to death (cf. Micah 1:1; Micah 3:12). Hezekiah had prayed to the Lord and the Lord had relented (2 Kings 19:1; 2 Kings 19:15-19). They would be doing something wicked if they killed Jeremiah. This is the only direct citation of another prophet’s words in the prophetic literature of the Old Testament. [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 128.]
". . . while the people and the princes recognized Jeremiah’s divine authority, they apparently still refused to amend their ways and obey God’s voice, or this would have been the beginning of spiritual awakening in the nation, a change which Jeremiah longed to see." [Note: Jensen, p. 78.]
Another prophet, Uriah ben (the son of) Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim, about 8 miles west of Jerusalem, preached against Judah and Jerusalem in the Lord’s name, as Jeremiah did.
When Jehoiakim and his soldiers and administrators heard what Uriah said, they tried to execute the prophet. But he became afraid and fled to Egypt. [Note: Earlier Elijah had become afraid of Queen Jezebel and had fled to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:1-8).] This official action illustrates two facts: Israel’s leaders opposed all true prophets, and Jeremiah faced grave danger.
The king sent a delegation of representatives to Egypt and brought Uriah back to Jerusalem. Elnathan ben Achbor had been one of Josiah’s officials, and he may have been Jehoiakim’s father-in-law (2 Kings 22:12; 2 Kings 22:14; 2 Kings 24:8). He later tried to stop Jehoiakim from destroying Jeremiah’s prophecies (Jeremiah 36:25).
"The extradition of political refugees was frequently inserted as one of the clauses in the treaties of the second millennium B.C. We may conjecture that there was a suzerain-vassal treaty between Egypt and Judah since Necho placed Jehoiakim on the throne in 609 B.C. and required him to pay tribute (2 Kings 23:34-35). Such extradition clauses were reciprocal, becoming part of international law." [Note: Thompson, p. 527.]
The king put Uriah to death and gave his body an undistinguished burial, probably in the valley of Kidron (cf. 2 Kings 23:6). The prophet Zechariah is the only other prophet whose execution the Old Testament records (Matthew 23:35; cf. 2 Chronicles 24:20-22). However, there appear to have been other martyrs among the prophets (cf. Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34). Perhaps the writer included the information about Uriah’s death to help us appreciate the great danger in which Jeremiah stood. God does not protect all His faithful servants from death at the hands of their enemies.
However, Ahikam exercised his influence and Jeremiah escaped death. Ahikam and his family came to Jeremiah’s aid more than once (cf. Jeremiah 36:10; Jeremiah 36:25; Jeremiah 39:14; Jeremiah 40:5-16; 2 Kings 22:3-14; 2 Kings 25:22).
The priests of Jerusalem later brought Jesus Christ and the apostles to trial and charged them with preaching the destruction of the temple (cf. Matthew 24:2; Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:58; Acts 6:12-14; Acts 21:28-36).
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 26". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17