Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

heart within me is broken, because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord and because of the words of his holiness.” With a vehemence which his enemies might ascribe to the excitement of wine, he poured forth his indignation against their false pretences to be the messengers of heaven, and rebuked their wickedness with a severity which some may think borders on bitterness. He was too earnest a lover of truth to dally or temporize with falsehood—too intent on the welfare of his country to spare those who were sacrificing its glory and safety to their own selfishness. He knew there is an essential difference between truth and error; that God has given the former a work to accomplish which the latter can never perform. He knew, too, that charity does not consist in treating all sentiments as about equally good ; and that liberality does not forbid one to take a decided part with the God of truth.

Jeremiah had repeatedly predicted that evil was arising "out of the north" against the kingdom of Judah.

"Set up a standard in Sion,
Retire in a body, make no stand;
For I am about to bring evil from the north,
Even a great destruction.
A lion is gone up from his thicket,
And a destroyer of nations is on his way.

Behold, like clouds shall he come up,
And as a whirlwind his chariots;
Swifter than eagles are his horses :
Woe unto us! for we are laid waste."

A while later he predicted that Jerusalem should be taken, and all its precious things should be carried to Babylon. The false prophets, on the other hand, insisted that no evil would befall the nation. The time was now approaching to test which of these predictions was true.

In the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, having defeated the king of Egypt on the Euphrates, Nebuchadnezzar advanced against Judah and besieged its capital. Just before the siege began, Jeremiah was commanded to stand in the court of the Lord's house, and proclaim to all the people of Judah who came thither to worship, that if they refused to obey his law, Jehovah would destroy the temple and make the city “a curse to all the nations of the earth.” It must have cost the prophet a bitter pang to be the bearer of such a message, and as if the omniscient eye detected a struggle in his heart, he was straitly charged to diminish not a word. He had scarcely done speaking when the priests and the prophets and all the people set upon him furiously, and threatened him with instant death.

When the princes of Judah heard of this excitement, they came up hastily from the king's palace

to the house of the Lord. The priests and the prophets demanded of them violently that Jeremiah should be killed. But, undaunted by their threats, instead of softening his words, the prophet fearlessly declared that the Lord sent him to deliver such a message. With an intrepidity which seems more noble in one of his tender spirit, he exhorted them to amend their ways and obey the voice of Jehovah. He told them he was in their power, and they could wreak their vengeance on him, if such was their pleasure ; but he assured them in that case they would only incur deeper guilt, and the city meet a severer overthrow. The princes, restrained by their own consciences, or daunted by his bold defence, decided that he had done nothing worthy of death. Certain elders of the land taking his part, reminded the people that Micah, unharmed, uttered a similar prophecy in the days of Hezekiah; and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, a man of some note, also interposing in his behalf, Jeremiah escaped with his life. He seems, however, to have been placed under restraint of some kind, Jer. 36:5, or not to have thought it prudent, for a time, to appear in public.

CHAPTER XXV.

JEREMIAH'S BOOK OF PROPHECIES.

WHILE Nebuchadnezzar, probably on his way to invade Egypt, was marching upon the kingdom of Judah, many of the inhabitants retired for safety to Jerusalem. Among these were the Rechabites, who were originally Kenites from the land of Midian, and, as many suppose, descendants of Jethro the father-in-law of Moses. They had settled in the tribe of Judah, near the Dead sea.

Their ancestor Jonadab, who is thought to have lived three hundred years before, in the time of Jehu, commanded them to avoid cities and populous places, and to dwell in the open country in tents. He also forbade them to drink wine, or sow seed, or plant vineyards. Perhaps it was, in part, that they might be free from collisions with the people of the country among whom they resided.

At the command of God, Jeremiah brought the Rechabites into one of the chambers around the temple, and in this public place gave them wine to drink. But true to the solemn charge of their forefather, “they said, We will drink no wine,” alleging that in every generation since the days of Jonadab, his whole posterity, men, women, and children, had abstained from its use; and that they were now

dwelling in Jerusalem only through fear of the Chaldean army.

This example of respect for the wishes of an ancestor Jeremiah holds up before the Jews, to rebuke their disobedience and neglect of divine admonitions : “ Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel ; Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father's commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me.” The prophet, after denouncing heavy judgments against the Jews, is commanded to say to the Rechabites, “ Thus saith the Lord, Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever." Some branches of this family returned from the captivity. 1 Chron. 2-55.* How varied are God's methods to remind

* Wolff states that the Jews of Jerusalem and Yeman are still existing near Mecca. At Jalooka, in Mesopotamia, one was pointed out to him “dressed and wild like an Arab, holding the bridle of his horse in his hands.” He could read both Hebrew and Arabic, and rejoiced to see the Bible in those languages. Wolff having asked whose descendant he was, he read Jeremiah 35:5–11. He said that his people resided in the deserts around Samar, Mecca, and Sanaa, and added, "We drink no wine, and plant no vineyards, and sow no Hezekiah,

14

« ForrigeFortsæt »