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CHAPTER XXIX.

JEREMIAH'S SUBSEQUENT LIFE.

The siege of Jerusalem was carried on with vigor. The inhabitants, shut within the walls and deprived of their usual supplies from the country around, were suffering from famine. Pestilence, its attendant, began to rage,

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many habitations were filled with the bodies of the victims. The engines of the enemy, from the tops of the mounts they had cast up, were battering down the houses of the people, and the palace itself; and dismal forebodings spread a dark cloud over the city. Confined within the court of the royal prison, Jeremiah, anticipating the speedy destruction of the government and temple, must have shared in the general gloom.

But, “unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness.” The Lord disclosed to the prophet the glories in reserve for his country in the latter day. “ Again there shall be in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts; for the Lord is good ; for his mercy endureth for ever; and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.”

“ In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely; and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.”

With these bright visions of future blessings for his country, and the visits of Jehovah to cheer his loneliness, the prophet might calmly await the issue of the siege, the apprehension of which overwhelmed his persecutors with dismay.

Abandoned as the Jewish nation was at this time, there were undoubtedly some who had not bowed the knee to idol-gods. When these resorted to the prophet, notwithstanding the hazard, he continued to speak to them the message of life and of death which he had been directed to deliver. Jer. 21 : 8, 9. They repeated his words to others, and thus he could preach to the people indirectly, even while a prisoner of the Lord.” Determined to silence Jeremiah by extreme measures, since he was not frightened into silence by imprisonment, the princes besought the king that he might be put to death. They alleged that his words discouraged the men of war from defending the city, and that he sought not the welfare of the people, but their hurt. Zedekiah knew that this charge of a traitorous intent in Jeremiah was false, but he had not courage enough to avow his conviction. The irresolute monarch, with a mean sacrifice of conscience and principle to his fears, replied, “Behold, he is

in your hand; for the king is not he who can do any thing against you."

Armed with this power, the princes seized Jeremiah ; but afraid even now to kill him outright, they cast him into a deep miry dungeon, where they expected he would soon perish. Lam.3:52–58. They hoped in this way to escape the odium, if not the guilt, of murdering a prophet of the Lord. They did not apprehend that the king, whatever misgivings he might have for yielding up Jeremiah so tamely, would venture to order his reprieve; nor that any

of the chief men would interfere for his relief. They felt that the prophet was at last in their grasp, and were exulting over his ruin.

But, “out of the mouth of babes and sucklings," God can ordain strength “to still the enemy and the avenger.”

In his hands, a feeble instrument sometimes becomes 'more powerful from its very weakness. If none of the eourtiers will sue for the life of Jeremiah, God will effect that service through some humbler medium. The Jews may stand by in silent apathy or terror, while a messenger of Jehovah is put to a cruel death; but God is able of the stones to raise up children unto Abraham. Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian of some distinction in the royal household, approaches Zedekiah. He does not, after the cowardly manner of that monarch when about to perform a good deed, shrink from public view; but“ in the gate of Benjamin," where many were congregated, boldly declares the wrong done to the prophet by the evil-minded princes. “My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done unto Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have caused to be thrown into the dungeon; for he will die upon the spot for hunger, when there is no longer any bread in the city.” Stung with remorse, or pity overcoming his pusillanimity, Zedekiah ordered Ebed-melech to take thirty men from the by-standers, and raise Jeremiah from the dungeon before he should perish. The noble-hearted Ethiopian executed his commission with alacrity, and Jeremiah was soon placed in the court of the prison.

Ebed-melech neither sought nor expected a reward for this humane act. It was one of those generous impulses which sometimes prompt persons in humble life to relieve suffering or to avenge wrong, when men of higher station and more cultivated manners stand aloof, from indifference or policy. No voice heralded his deed through the streets of Jerusalem, for he was only an Ethiopian, but God looked down upon it with complacence. “Now the word of the Lord came unto remiah, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, Go and speak to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel : Behold, I will bring my words upon

this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be

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accomplished in that day before thee. But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the Lord; and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee; because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord.”

With what joy would Jeremiah communicate this message, and how would his thanks ascend to heaven for such kindness to his benefactor!

It must have cost Zedekiah a struggle to ask aid of one whom he had so recently surrendered to the malice of his enemies, and whom he was even now unjustly detaining as a prisoner ; but reduced to straits by the besieging army, he sought an interview with Jeremiah in a secret place at.the temple. By requesting such a conference, the unstable monarch tacitly confessed that he regarded Jeremiah as a prophet of Jehovah. He had already been told that the only safety for himself and his kingdom was in submitting to Nebuchadnezzar; but unwilling to take such a step, he wished to learn of the prophet if there was no alternative. Jeremialı, would not reply to the king until he had solemnly engaged not to put him to death, nor to deliver him into the hand of the men who were seeking his ruin. On this occasion the prophet had no special message for the king, and he was not bound to expose his life when there could be

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