The distressed city of Nineveh (Nah 2:6-2:9)

“The river gates

Are opened.

The palace trembles.

It is decreed

That the city

Be exiled.

Its slave women were

Led away,

Moaning

Like doves,

Beating their breasts.

Nineveh is

Like a pool

Whose waters

Run away.

‘Halt!

Halt!’

They cry.

But no one turns back.

Plunder the silver!

Plunder the gold!

There is no end

Of treasure.

There is an abundance

Of every precious thing.

Devastation!

Desolation!

Destruction!

Hearts faint!

Knees tremble!

All loins quake!

All faces grow pale!”

Nahum painted this picture of chaos in Nineveh.  He said that the river gates were opened, so that the palace and the people in it were trembling.  The people of this city were going to go into exile.  The slave women were led away, moaning like doves and beating their breasts.  The whole city of Nineveh had become like an overflowing pool.  People were saying stop, but no one was listening.  No one turned back as they keep on fleeing.  Meanwhile, there was a great plunder of their treasures of gold, silver, and the other abundant precious things.  Everywhere there was devastation, desolation, and destruction in this great city.  Hearts were fainting, while kneels were trembling.  Their faces grew pale as their loins shook.

The destruction of Jerusalem (Jer 52:13-52:14)

“Nebuzaradan burned

The house of Yahweh

As well as the king’s house.

He also burned

All the houses of Jerusalem.

He burned down

Every great house.

All the army

Of the Chaldeans,

Who were with

The captain of the guard,

Broke down

All the walls

Around Jerusalem.”

This is exactly word for word like 2 Kings, chapter 25, but slightly different than the earlier chapter 39 description of Jeremiah. There was no mention about the burning of the Temple in the earlier Jeremiah description. Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard of the Babylonian king, had his Chaldean fighters burn the Temple of Yahweh and the palace of the king, as well as all the great houses of Jerusalem. They also broke down all the walls around Jerusalem.

The oracle about the stones for King Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 43:8-43:10)

“Then the word of Yahweh

Came to Jeremiah

In Tahpanhes.

‘Take some large stones

In your hands!

Bury them

In the clay pavement

At the entrance

To Pharaoh’s palace

In Tahpanhes!

Let the Judeans

See you do it!

Then say to them.

‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

I am going to send

King Nebuchadnezzar.

I am going to take

King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon,

My servant.

He will set his throne

Above these stones

That I have buried.

He will spread

His royal canopy

Over them.’”

Yahweh utters an oracle to Jeremiah, even though he is in the Egyptian northeastern border town of Tahpanhes, where the Suez Canal is today. Once again Yahweh wants Jeremiah to do some symbolic action to get a point across. Jeremiah was to take large stones and then bury them in the pavement at the entrance to the palace of the Egyptian Pharaoh. He was to do this in front of all his fellow Judean expatriates. Then he uttered God’s prophetic oracle that King Nebuchadnezzar, his servant like his own servant prophets, would put his throne on top of these stones. He would then spread out his royal canopy over them. In other words, the Babylonian king was going to take over Egypt. It actually happened in 568 BCE, about 20 years after this action.

The punishment for the people of Jerusalem (Jer 39:8-39:10)

“The Chaldeans burned

The king’s house

With the houses of the people.

They broke down

The walls of Jerusalem.

Then Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Exiled to Babylon

The rest of the people

Who were left in the city.

This included

Those who had deserted to him,

As well as the people who remained.

Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Left in the land of Judah

Some of the poor people

Who owned nothing.

He gave them vineyards.

He gave them fields

At the same time.”

Once again, this is similar to 2 Kings, chapter 25. However, here there is no mention of an exact date. The Chaldean fighters burned the palace of the king and other houses in Jerusalem. There is no mention about the burning of the Temple as in 2 Kings. They also broke down the walls of Jerusalem. The king of Babylon did not come himself, but he sent the captain of his bodyguard, Nebuzaradan, to take all the people as captives. This included those who had deserted to the Chaldeans as well as those left in the city. However, he gave the poor people the vineyards and fields. This might be a problem when the exiles return. Thus, the Judean kingdom lasted 134 years after the fall of the northern Israelite kingdom at Samaria.

Ebed-melech rescues Jeremiah from the cistern (Jer 38:10-38:13)

“Then the king commanded

The Ethiopian Ebed-melech.

‘Take three men with you

From here!

Pull the prophet Jeremiah

Up from the cistern

Before he dies.’

So Ebed-melech took the men

With him.

They went

To the house of the king,

To a wardrobe

Of the storehouse.

They took from there

Old rags

With worn-out clothes.

Then he let them down

To Jeremiah

In the cistern

By ropes.

Then the Ethiopian Ebed-melech

Said to Jeremiah.

‘Just put the rags

With the clothes

Between your armpits

And the ropes.’

Jeremiah did so.

Then they drew Jeremiah up

By the ropes.

They pulled him

Out of the cistern.

Jeremiah remained

In the court of the guard.”

The vacillating King Zedekiah responded to the Ethiopian Ebed-melech by telling him to take 3 men with him in order to pull Jeremiah from the cistern well. The king had told the men who put Jeremiah in the well that they could do with him whatever they wanted to do. So then Ebed-melech took the 3 men. They went to the royal wardrobe in the palace. He then took some old rags and worn out clothes. When he arrived at the pit, he told Jeremiah to put these old rags or clothes between the rope and his arm pits. Thus he would not hurt himself coming out of this well. Then the 4 of them pulled him up out of the well. However, Jeremiah was then sent back to the house arrest jail in the royal court of the guard. King Zedekiah had let his officials try to kill Jeremiah, yet he sent his eunuch to save him. The result was that Jeremiah was back in jail again, as if nothing had happened.

Jeremiah speaks to the priests and the people (Jer 27:16-27:18)

“Then I spoke

To the priests,

To all this people,

Saying.

‘Thus says Yahweh!

Do not listen

To the words

Of your prophets

Who are prophesying to you!

Saying.

‘The vessels of Yahweh’s house

Will soon be brought back

From Babylon.’

They are prophesying

A lie to you.

Do not listen to them!

Serve the king of Babylon!

Live!

Why should this city

Become a desolation?

If indeed they are prophets,

If the word of Yahweh

Is with them,

Then let them

Intercede with Yahweh of hosts,

That the vessels

Left in the house of Yahweh,

In the house of the king of Judah,

In Jerusalem,

May not go to Babylon.’”

Jeremiah repeats what he said to the king of Judah earlier in this chapter. Now he speaks to the priests and all the people, as much as that is possible, but the message is the same. They were not to listen to the false lying prophets who were saying not to serve the King of Babylon. Here the question is about the vessels that had been taken to Babylon. Were they coming back? Once again, they were not to listen to these false prophets who were telling them to revolt against the Babylonian king. Rather, they should live and not become a desolation by serving the king of Babylon. If these were true prophets of Yahweh, why not let them intercede with Yahweh to make sure that the vessels left in the Temple, the palace of the king, and in Jerusalem itself not be taken to Babylon.

The Lebanon lamentation (Jer 22:20-22:23)

“Go up to Lebanon!

Cry out!

Lift up your voice

On Bashan!

Cry out

From Abarim!

All your lovers

Are crushed!

I spoke to you

In your prosperity.

But you said.

‘I will not listen.’

This has been your way

From your youth.

You have not obeyed

My voice.

The wind shall shepherd

All your shepherds.

Your lovers shall go

Into captivity.

Then you will be ashamed.

You will be dismayed

Because of all your wickedness.

O inhabitant of Lebanon!

Nested among the cedars!

How you will groan

When pangs come upon you!

You will have the pain

Of a woman in labor!”

Apparently, Jeremiah wanted the people in the high mountains of Lebanon, on the Bashan mountains in the south, as well as on the Abarim mountains in the north to cry out for their lost lovers. These would have been the various allies that they thought that they had, but were now all crushed. The prosperous people had not listened or obeyed Yahweh from their youth. Their shepherd leaders and their lover friends will all be sent into captivity, ashamed and dismayed because of their wickedness. The people of Lebanon, those living among the built cedars in the palace, will feel the pain of a woman in labor about to give birth.