The idol worship service of the seventy Jerusalem elders (Ezek 8:10-8:11)

“So I went in.

I looked.

There portrayed

On the wall,

All around,

Were all kinds

Of creeping things,

Loathsome animals,

With all the idols

Of the house of Israel.

Before them

Stood seventy

Of the elders

Of the house

Of Israel,

With Jaazaniah,

The son of Shaphan,

Standing among them.

Each had his censer

In his hand.

The fragrant cloud

Of incense

Was ascending.”

Ezekiel went into the worship service room on the other side of the wall. He saw various inscriptions or pictures all around the walls that included creeping things, despicable animals, and all kinds of idols from the house of Israel. This must have indicated some kind of Egyptian or Babylonian idol gods, perhaps the god Osiris. However, this might be a mishmash of various idol gods. Even more shocking was to see the 70 Jerusalem elders of Israel, including Jaazaniah, the son of Shaphan, standing there with lit censers in their hands as the fragrant smell of incense ascended in the air. This was a shocking sight to see.

Jeremiah stays in Judah (Jer 40:5-40:6)

“‘If you remain,

Then return to Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan.

The king of Babylon

Has appointed him governor

Of the towns of Judah.

Stay with him

Among the people!

Or go wherever

You think it right to go.’

So the captain of the guard

Gave him an allowance

Of food

With a present.

He let him go.

Then Jeremiah went

To Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

At Mizpah.

He stayed with him

Among the people

Who were left in the land.”

Nebuzaradan, the captain of the troops, told Jeremiah that if he stayed in Judah that he would be better off with Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam. The King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah the governor for the towns of Judah, since there was no longer a king. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Gedaliah’s father and grandfather, Ahikam and Shaphan had been loyal to the various prophets. Shaphan went back to the days of King Josiah (640-609 BCE) and his religious reform. Ahikam had protected Jeremiah during the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) as in chapter 26 of this book. His brother Gemariah had helped Jeremiah in chapter 36. Thus Ahikam’s son Gedaliah seemed like the right person to protect Jeremiah. Still Jeremiah was free to go wherever he wanted. The captain of the troops gave Jeremiah some food and a present, maybe some money. Jeremiah then went to Gedaliah, who was at Mizpah, about 6 miles north of Jerusalem, in the Benjamin territory. Thus Jeremiah stayed with all these people who were left in Israel. These were either the so-called poor people or collaborators with the Babylon king and his emissaries.

Jeremiah is sent to Gedaliah (Jer 39:13-39:14)

“So Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Nebu-shazban the Rabsaris,

Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag,

With all the chief officers

Of the king of Babylon

Sent for Jeremiah.

They took him

From the court of the guard.

They entrusted him

To Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan.

They brought him home.

So he stayed

With his own people.”

Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, and presumably the man in charge on the ground in Jerusalem, gathered the other Babylonian officials together. Two are named here. One is the same as mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag, who was in charge of the Assyrian priests or religious element of Babylon. On the other hand, Nebu-shazban the Rabsaris has the same title as Sarsechim, Rabsaris, earlier in this chapter. The Rabsaris was in charge of the eunuchs, but the name is different here. Are they the same people with different names or two different people? Anyway, they take Jeremiah from the royal prison, presumably before they burn the royal palace down. They hand him over to Gedaliah. His father and grandfather, Ahikam and Shaphan had been loyal to the various prophets. Shaphan went back to the days of King Josiah (640-609 BCE) and his religious reform. Ahikam had protected Jeremiah during the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) as in chapter 26 of this book. His brother Gemariah had helped Jeremiah in chapter 36. Thus Ahikam’s son Gedaliah seemed like the right person to protect Jeremiah.

Micaiah informs other officials (Jer 36:11-36:13)

“When Micaiah,

The son of Gemariah,

The son of Shaphan,

Heard all the words

Of Yahweh

From the scroll,

He went down

To the king’s house.

He went into

The secretary’s chamber.

All the officials

Were sitting there.

That is

Elishama the secretary,

Delaiah the son of Shemaiah,

Elnathan the son of Achbor,

Gemariah the son of Shaphan,

Zedekiah the son of Hananiah,

With all the officials.

Micaiah told them

All the words

That he had heard,

When Baruch read

The scroll

In the hearing

Of the people.”

Apparently not everyone was listening to Baruch in the Temple. Micaiah, the son of Gemariah and grandson of Shaphan, was there listening to Baruch. When the reading of the scroll was over, he went to the royal palace to meet with all the other royal officials in the secretary’s chamber. All the officials were there, since they had not been at the reading in the Temple, including Elishama, Delaiah, Elnathan, and Gemariah himself. Elnathan may have been the same one who King Jehoiakim sent to Egypt to get the prophet Uriah in chapter 26 of this work. Micaiah then told them everything that he heard during Baruch’s reading of the scroll in the Temple courtyard. It is hard to believe that he memorized everything, so he must have just presented the highlights.

Baruch reads the scroll at the great fast (Jer 36:8-36:10)

“Baruch,

The son of Neriah,

Did all

That the prophet Jeremiah

Ordered him

About reading

From the scroll

The words of Yahweh

In Yahweh’s house.

In the fifth year

Of King Jehoiakim,

The son of King Josiah,

Of Judah,

In the ninth month,

All the people in Jerusalem,

With all the people

Who came from the towns

Of Judah to Jerusalem,

Proclaimed a fast

Before Yahweh.

Then,

In the hearing

Of all the people,

Baruch read

The words of Jeremiah

From the scroll,

In the house of Yahweh,

In the chamber of Gemariah,

The son of Shaphan,

The secretary,

Which was in the upper court,

At the entry

Of the New Gate

Of Yahweh’s house.”

Baruch did exactly as Jeremiah had told him to do. He read the scroll of Jeremiah that had the words of Yahweh that had been dictated to him by Jeremiah, in Yahweh’s Temple. This occasion was a great fast that had been called to ward off the king of Babylon. This was about a little over a year after the original oracle of Yahweh to Jeremiah, about 604 BCE. Thus at this assembly, Baruch read from the scroll in the chamber of Gemariah, the son of a friend of Jeremiah, Shaphan, who was a secretary. All this took place in the upper court at the entry to the New Gate at the Temple.

Messengers brought the letter to Babylon (Jer 29:3-29:3)

“The letter was sent

By the hand of Elasah,

The son of Shaphan,

With Gemariah,

The son of Hilkiah,

Whom King Zedekiah

Of Judah

Sent to Babylon

To King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon.”

There two official messengers took this letter of Jeremiah from King Zedekiah or King Mattaniah (598-587 BCE) of Judah to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (605-562 BCE). The two messengers were named Elasah and Gemariah. Elasah whose father was Shaphan may have been the brother of Ahikam mentioned earlier in chapter 26 who had helped Jeremiah, since they both had the same father named Shaphan. Perhaps Gemariah was the son of the high priest Hilkiah. Anyway, King Zedekiah trusted them with the letter of Jeremiah to bring to the king of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar. They would be well received in Babylon.

Jeremiah was protected (Jer 26:24-26:24)

“But the hand of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan,

Was with Jeremiah.

Thus he was not given over

Into the hand of the people

To be put to death.”

Based on the story of Uriah, Jeremiah was lucky to get away. Ahikam, the son of an important official and friend of Jeremiah, named Shaphan, protected Jeremiah. He then made sure that Jeremiah was not turned over to the people to be killed.