Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

kim king of Judah, He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David ; and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost." As if this high-handed wickedness had closed the gates of mercy, no further attempt appears to have been made to check Jehoiakim in his mad career.

The pages

of the prophet record no more rebukes of this reckless transgressor. The prediction was in due time fulfilled, when the Chaldeans “ bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon," on the journey to which city he probably died. "Who hath hardened himself against the Lord and prospered ?”

During the short reign of Jeconiah, who succeeded Jehoiakim and imitated his evil example, Jeremiah uttered but one prediction : that was a message of wrath ; which was speedily fulfilled in the captivity of the king and his mother, who never returned from Babylon.*

* The prophecies of Jeremiah in the reign of Jehoiakim, are, according to Blaney, from the 13th to the 20th chapter inclusively, to which must be added chapters 22–26, 35, 36, 45-47, and most probably 48, and as far as to verse 34 of the 49th chapter.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XXVI.

THE CAPTIVITY.

Of

EARLY in the reign of Zedekiah the Lord showed the prophet “two baskets of figs,” set before the temple, such as it was customary to offer up for first-fruits. One basket had very good figs, like the figs which are first ripe. The figs in the other basket were not fit to be eaten. The one represented the Jews that were in captivity; the other, the Jews that were still left in their own country. the former, the Lord said, “I will set my heart on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord; for they shall return unto me with all their heart.”

Many pious Jews during their captivity enjoyed distinguished respect and honor, in consequence of their knowledge of the true God and their devotedness to his service. It was because the Lord had “set his heart on them for good,” that Daniel, interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, was elevated to the highest office at the court of Babylon; and that his three friends, saved from the devouring flames, were raised to important stations in the government. It was because the Lord had " set his heart on them for good,” that he wrought such

gave them "

wonders in their behalf as to compel their proud conqueror to own that the gods of no other nation could be compared with the God of the Hebrews, and we may even hope to become at length his worshipper. This reverence of Jehovah, on the part of the Babylonish monarch, would lighten the yoke of the captive Jews. And it was because the Lord

a heart to know” him, that, tempted as they were to renounce their religion, the exiles clung to the institutions of their law; while their brethren in Judah, proceeding from bad to worse in the service of idols, were about to be scattered abroad,“ a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse,” among all the kingdoms of the earth.

To keep up a good understanding with Nebuchadnezzar, to whom he had sworn allegiance, Zedekiah, in the beginning of his reign, sent an embassy to Babylon. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Jeremiah addressed a letter of advice and consolation to the Jewish captives in that city. There was more need of such a friendly correspondence, as there appears to have been at that time no true prophet in Babylon, except Daniel, who was occupied with the management

public affairs.

Ezekiel did not enter on the prophetic office until several years later.

The captives, deluded by a belief that they should soon return from exile, were disinclined to make provision for a permanent residence in that land.

The prophecy of Isaiah concerning the destruction of Babylon, for its oppression of the Jews, was in their hands, and they were looking for its speedy overthrow. This made them restless under the yoke, and excited a spirit of insubordination which only increased their miseries.

To bring them to a state of feeling more in accordance with their condition and prospects, Jeremiah assures them that the captivity would continue seventy years; and that the expectation of an earlier release, cherished by the dreams of the false prophets, was vain. He commands them, therefore, in the name of the Lord, to build houses and plant gardens and settle down quietly in the country, until the time arrived for their deliver

They were to act as good subjects while they remained in Babylon, and pray for the peace of the city, as thus they would secure their own. They were not exiles by chance, for the Lord had caused them "to be carried away captives." He had thoughts of good towards them; and if they sought him with all their heart, he would restore them again to their own land.

To make them more contented with their lot, the prophet declares that the Lord would send upon those still remaining in Judah the sword, the famine, and the pestilence; and that, scattered among all nations, they would " be a curse and an astonishment and a hissing."

ance.

By some pious captives who had often listened to Jeremiah's voice, this judicious and affectionate epistle was no doubt received with gladness. That remote as they were from their native land, they were not forgotten by good men at home, cheered their drooping spirits. But the false prophets were offended by this message. They feared it would weaken their influence. Two of them, Ahab and Zedekiah, who seem to have been specially active in exciting disaffection among the people, Jeremiah predicted would be slain by the king of Babylon. They were soon after put to death in a cruel manner, by his order, to deter others from such seditious attempts.

Shemaiah sent back word to Jerusalem, by the embassy, to have Jeremiah put in prison for the advice given to the captives; but as a punishment for his offence, neither Shemaiah nor any of his family were permitted to return from exile.

From this letter of Jeremiah, and another prediction of the same prophet, Jer. 25:11, Daniel, in the first year of Darius, understanding that the captivity was limited to seventy years, fasted and offered supplication to God in behalf of his country.

About this time, Jeremiah was cheered with a vision not only of the return of the captives from Babylon, but of a state of prosperity among the Jews at a remote period, far greater than had

« ForrigeFortsæt »