The response of Shemaiah to Jeremiah’s letter (Jer 29:24-29:28)

“Shemaiah of Nehelam

Sent a letter to

All the people

Who are in Jerusalem,

The priest Zephaniah,

The son of Maaseiah,

As well as to all the priests.

Saying.

‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

Yahweh has made you priest

Instead of the priest Jehoiada.

Thus there may be officers

In the house of Yahweh

To control any madman

Who plays the prophet.

Thus you can put him

In the stocks

With a collar.

Now why have you not rebuked

Jeremiah of Anathoth

Who plays the prophet for you?

He has actually sent to us

In Babylon,

Saying.

‘It will be a long time.

Build houses!

Live in them!

Plant gardens!

Eat what they produce!’”

Apparently this prophet Shemaiah of Nehelam in Babylon was upset at the letter that Jeremiah sent. So he responded with another letter to the priests at Jerusalem, especially Zephaniah, who had the same father as the slain prophet Zedekiah, so that he would have been his brother. He indicated that Zephaniah had replaced Jehoiada as the chief priest. Thus he had the power to control mad men who pretended to be prophets. In particular, he named Jeremiah as this kind of mad man who told them in Babylon to stay there, build houses, live in them, plant gardens, and eat from them. Shemaiah thought that this was a crazy idea.

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The people in Jerusalem (Jer 29:16-29:16)

“Thus says Yahweh

Concerning the king

Who sits

On the throne of David.

This concerns

All the people

Who live in this city.

This concerns

Your kinsmen

Who did not go out

With you into exile.”

This and the following verses are lacking in the Greek Septuagint translation, since they are like a comment on Jeremiah’s letter. Yahweh seems to be talking about the king in Jerusalem as well as the people who were not sent into captivity. These are the people who were left behind in Jerusalem, their relatives. They were the people favored by the Babylonians, since they were not sent to Babylon in the first purge and captivity of 598 BCE.

Seek and you shall find (Jer 29:12-29:14)

“Then when you call

Upon me,

I will listen.

When you come,

I will see you.

When you pray to me,

I will hear you.

When you search for me,

You will find me.

When you seek me

With all your heart,

I will let you find me.’

Says Yahweh.”

In somewhat beautiful poetic terms, Yahweh, via Jeremiah’s letter, says that if they called on him, he would hear them. If they prayed to him, he would listen to them. If they searched for him, they would find him. If they sought him with their whole hearts, he would let himself be found. Yahweh was ready and willing to help them. They just had to reach out to him with calls, prayers, and sincere searching.

Beware of false prophets (Jer 29:8-29:9)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

‘Do not let the prophets

Who are among you

Deceive you!

Do not let the diviners

Who are among you

Deceive you!

Do not listen

To the dreams

That they dream!

It is a lie

That they are prophesying

To you

In my name.

I did not send them.’

Says Yahweh.”

This Jeremiah letter has another classic Yahweh oracle title, as Yahweh of hosts and the God of Israel are invoked as the source of this warning. They should not be deceived by the prophets and the diviners among them. They should not listen to their dreams, since they are a lie. They prophesy lies in the name of Yahweh, since he did not send these false prophets.

King Antiochus IV appoints a successor (2 Macc 9:23-9:27)

“But I observed that my father,

On the occasions

When he made expeditions into the upper country,

He appointed his successor.

So that, if anything unexpected happened

Or any unwelcome news came,

The people throughout the realm would not be troubled.

They would know to whom the government was left.

Moreover, I understand how the princes along the borders

And the neighbors to my kingdom

Keep watching for opportunities

And waiting to see what will happen.

So I have appointed my son Antiochus to be king,

I have often entrusted and commended him to most of you,

When I hastened off to the upper provinces.

I have written to him what is written here.

I therefore urge and beg you to remember

The public and private services rendered to you.

Maintain your present good will,

Each of you,

Toward me and my son.

I am sure that he will follow my policy

He will treat you with moderation and kindness.’”

This letter of King Antiochus IV is really not a letter with all the conditions and wishes for the Jew that was mentioned above. Instead, it is a succession letter or last will and testament. Basically, since everyone was so kind to him, he wanted everyone to listen to his son who would succeed him if he did not get over this illness that occurred to him when he was in Persia. The idea of writing a letter of succession was not new, since his father King Antiochus III had done this. He had appointed King Seleucid IV, his brother, as the successor. King Antiochus IV wanted everyone to know that his son King Antiochus V would be his rightful moderate and kind successor. He did not trust the neighboring princes on the borders since they might try to raise havoc about who was in charge. He told them to remember the good times.

Jonathan releases the men at the citadel in Jerusalem (1 Macc 10:7-10:9)

“Then Jonathan came to Jerusalem. He read the letter in the hearing of all the people, including the men in the citadel. They were greatly alarmed when they heard that the king had given Jonathan authority to recruit troops. However, the men in the citadel released the hostages to Jonathan as he returned them to their parents.”

The first thing that Jonathan did was to go to Jerusalem to get the release of all the prisoners from the citadel there, which was still held by the Syrians. The guards were astonished and alarmed that the king had given Jonathan the authority to recruit troops. Nevertheless, the people in the prison were released to Jonathan and their families.

The dire message from the north (1 Macc 5:14-5:20)

“While the letter was still being read, other messengers, with their garments torn, came from Galilee. They made a similar report. They said that the people of Ptolemais, Tyre, Sidon, and all Galilee of the gentiles had gathered together against them, ‘to annihilate us.’ When Judas and the people heard these messages, a great assembly was called to determine what they should do for their kindred who were in distress. They were being attacked by enemies. Then Judas said to his brother Simon.

‘Choose your men.

Go and rescue your kindred in Galilee.

Jonathan my brother and I will go to Gilead.’

But he left Joseph son of Zechariah, and Azariah, a leader of the people, with the rest of the forces, in Judea to guard it. He gave them this command.

‘Take charge of this people.

But do not engage in battle with the gentiles until we return.’

Then three thousand men were assigned to Simon to go to Galilee, and eight thousand to Judas for Gilead.”

Suddenly, there is a problem to the north and west. Ptolemais, Tyre, and Sidon were seacoast towns that had not been involved in wars with Israel previously. Galilee had mostly Samaritans who were Israelites. Thus it was a surprise that this group should be picking on Israelites, especially to annihilate them. Judas Maccabeus made a decision. His brother Simon would go to Galilee with 3,000 troops, while he and his brother Jonathan would go to Gilead with 8,000 troops. Joseph and Azariah would be in charge in Judea, but they would not fight in any battles.