The lost hunted one (Lam 3:52-3:54)

Cade

“My enemies,

Without cause,

Have hunted me

Like a bird.

They flung me

Alive

Into a pit.

They hurled stones

On me.

Water closed

Over my head.

I said.

‘I am lost.’”

This personal story continues. The author’s enemies have hunted him down like a bird, even though there was no reason to do so. They have flung him alive into a pit and threw stones over him. Then water closed over his head in this pit. He finally said that he was lost with no way out. This is reminiscent of Jeremiah in the cistern well under King Zedekiah in Jeremiah, chapter 38. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Cade in this acrostic poem.

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Ishmael kills the pilgrim worshippers (Jer 41:6-41:8)

“Ishmael,

The son of Nethaniah,

Came out from Mizpah

To meet

The weeping pilgrims.

As he met them,

He said to them.

‘Come to Governor Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam.’

When they reached

The middle of the city,

Ishmael,

The son of Nethaniah,

With his men

Slaughtered them.

He threw them into a cistern.

But there were ten men

Among them

Who said to Ishmael,

‘Do not kill us!

We have stores

Of wheat,

Of barley,

Of oil,

Of honey

Hidden in the fields.’

So he refrained.

He did not kill them

Along with their companions.”

Ishmael went out to meet these 80 mourning crying pilgrims as they approached Mizpah. He told them to come and meet the new governor of Judah, Gedaliah. When they got to the center of Mizpah, Ishmael and his 10 men killed these 80 pilgrims. He saved 10 of these northern pilgrims because they said that they hidden provisions of wheat, barley, oil, and honey in the fields. However, the other dead people were thrown into a cistern well. It is amazing how strong these 10 men with Ishmael were.

The oracle about Ebed-melech (Jer 39:15-39:18)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to Jeremiah

While he was confined

In the court of the guard.

‘Go!

Say to Ebed-melech,

The Ethiopian.

Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

‘I am going to fulfill my words

Against this city

For evil,

Not for good.

They shall be accomplished

In your presence

On that day.

But I will save you

On that day.’

Says Yahweh.

‘You shall not be

Handed over

To those whom you dread.

I will surely save you.

You shall not fall

By the sword.

But you shall have

Your life

As a prize of war.

Because you have trusted

In me.’

Says Yahweh.”

Perhaps this oracle should have been at the end of chapter 38, but it is here. Jeremiah is still in the royal prison as he gets this oracle about the Ethiopian eunuch Ebed-melech, who had saved him from starvation and death in the cistern well. Jeremiah was to go to Ebed-melech to tell him what Yahweh had told him. Yahweh was going to destroy Jerusalem because of its evil ways, in the sight of this Ethiopian. However, the God of Israel was going to save him as he would not be handed over to the Babylonians to die by the sword. Ebed-melech was going to save his life as a prize of war. This usually meant that he would be taken into captivity with the king of Judah. His life would be saved because he trusted in Yahweh.

Secrecy (Jer 38:24-38:26)

“Then Zedekiah said

To Jeremiah.

‘Do not let anyone else

Know of this conversation!

Otherwise you will die!

If the officials should hear

That I have spoken

With you,

They would come to you.

They would say to you.

‘Just Tell us

What you said

To the king!

Do not conceal it from us!

Otherwise we will put you

To death!

What did the king say to you?

Then you shall say to them.

‘I was presenting my plea

To the king

Not to send me back

To the house of Jonathan

To die there.’”

Once again, the wishy-washy King Zedekiah wanted Jeremiah to keep this conversation with him a secret. If Jeremiah told anyone about this exchange of views, he would be killed. The problem was that the king’s officials might come to Jeremiah and force him to talk under the same threat of death. They would want to know all of what they said to each other. The king had a plan for Jeremiah to tell anyone who asked what they talked about.   Jeremiah was to say that he just did not want to go back to the dungeon prison at the house of Jonathan, mentioned early in the preceding chapter during his arrest by the king’s officials. In other words, the whole conversation was about what prison Jeremiah should be in. No one seemed to worry about how Jeremiah got out of the cistern well.

The judgments of the Holy One of Israel (Isa 30:12-30:14)

“Therefore thus says

The Holy One of Israel.

‘Because you reject this word,

You put your trust in oppression.

You put your trust in deceit.

You rely on oppression.

You rely on perverseness.

Therefore this iniquity

Shall become for you

Like a break in a high wall.

It will bulge out,

About to collapse.

The crash comes suddenly,

In an instant.

Its breaking is

Like that of a potter’s vessel.

It is smashed so ruthlessly

That among its fragments

Not a shred is found

For taking fire from the hearth,

Or dipping water out of the cistern.’”

The Holy One of Israel, not Yahweh, delivers this oracle, via Isaiah, in the second person plural. The Israelites have rejected the word of God. Instead they have relied on deceit, oppression, and perversion to get things done. Thus they will be punished. They are like a high wall with bulges in it about to collapse. Suddenly, in an instant, the whole wall will come crashing down like a potter’s vessel. This wall will be smashed so badly, that not a shred will be found. They will be like a broken vase that will not be able to be brought back to the fire to be reformed. This broken container will not be able to hold any water at all from the cistern well.