The listeners of Jeremiah (Jer 38:1-38:1)

“Now Shephatiah,

The son of Mattan,

Gedaliah,

The son of Pashhur,

Jucar,

The son of Shelemiah,

With Pashhur,

The son of Malchiah,

Heard the words

That Jeremiah was saying

To all the people.”

People went to hear what Jeremiah had to say even while he was in prison. Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jucar, and Pashhur were royal officials among the visitors who were listening to the words of Jeremiah.   Shephatiah is only mentioned here.   Gedaliah may be the son of Pashhur, who beat up Jeremiah in chapter 20. But he was a priest and not a royal official. Jucar is probably the same Jehucal mentioned in the preceding chapter as a messenger from the king to Jeremiah. Pashhur was the same royal messenger mentioned in chapter 21. Apparently while in the prison at the royal palace, Jeremiah could receive visitors. Like the preceding chapter, this is a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapter 45, not chapter 38 as here.

The king reacts (Jer 36:24-36:26)

“Yet neither the king,

Nor any of his servants,

Who heard

All these words,

Was afraid.

They did not tear

Their garments.

Even when Elnathan,

Delaiah,

With Gemariah

Urged the king

Not to burn the scroll,

He would not listen to them.

The king commanded

Jerahmeel,

The king’s son,

With Seraiah,

The son of Azriel,

To arrest

The secretary Baruch

With the prophet Jeremiah.

But Yahweh hid them.”

Neither the king of Judah, King Jehoiakim, nor his servants, was alarmed by the words of the scroll. They did not tear their garments as a sign of sorrow or repentance. Instead, the king burned the scroll in its various pieces as mentioned above, despite the protests of some of his senior officials like Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah, who had demanded the first reading, earlier in this chapter. They did not want the king to burn the scroll, but he would not listen to them. Instead, he sent his son Jerahmeel with his friend Seraiah, someone in the royal service, to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah. However, Yahweh hid them, but it is not clear where or how.

Baruch explains his writing (Jer 36:17-36:19)

“Then they asked Baruch.

‘Tell us now!

How did you write

All these words?

Was it at his dictation?’

Baruch answered them.

‘He dictated

All these words to me.

I wrote them

With ink on the scroll.’

Then the officials said

To Baruch.

‘Go!

Hide!

You!

As well as Jeremiah!

Let no one know

Where you are.’”

These royal officials interrogated Baruch. They wanted to know if he wrote this himself or had someone dictated it to him. Baruch answered that Jeremiah had dictated the words to him. He wrote them down on the scroll with ink. Then the officials told Baruch to hide, both he and Jeremiah, so that no one would know where they were. They thought that the king might have an adverse reaction to this news.

The fight in the fortified cities of Judah (Jer 34:6-34:7)

“Then the prophet Jeremiah

Spoke all these words

To King Zedekiah

Of Judah,

In Jerusalem.

Meanwhile the army

Of the king of Babylon

Was fighting

Against Jerusalem.

They were also fighting

Against all the cities

Of Judah

That were left.

Lachish,

With Azekah

Were the only fortified cities

Of Judah

That remained.”

As usual, Jeremiah had done what Yahweh wanted him to do. He repeated all the words that Yahweh had told him to say to King Zedekiah. At the same time, that the Babylonian army was attacking Jerusalem, they were also fighting against the only two other remaining fortified cities in Judah, Lachish, about 23 miles southwest of Jerusalem, and Azekah, about 11 miles north of Lachish. Everything else had already been conquered by the Babylonians except for these two cities and Jerusalem.

Jeremiah explains the role of a prophet (Jer 28:6-28:9)

“The prophet Jeremiah said.

‘Amen!

May Yahweh do so!

May Yahweh fulfill

The words

That you have prophesied.

May he bring back

To this place

From Babylon

The vessels

Of the house of Yahweh,

With all the exiles.

But listen now

To this word

That I speak in your hearing,

In the hearing of all the people.

The prophets

Who preceded you,

As well as me,

From ancient times

Prophesied war,

Prophesied famine,

Prophesied pestilence

Against many countries,

Against great kingdoms.

As for the prophet

Who prophesies peace,

When the word of

That prophet comes true,

Then it will be known

That Yahweh

Has truly sent this prophet.’”

Jeremiah admitted that maybe Yahweh would fulfill the words of Hananiah that the exiles and the sacred vessels would return to Jerusalem from Babylon. However, Jeremiah reminded everybody that the prophets of the past quite often prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and kingdoms. If there was a true peace, then they would all know that Yahweh had sent this prophet of peace.

Yahweh informs Jeremiah what to say (Jer 26:4-26:6)

“You shall say to them,

‘Thus says Yahweh.

If you will not listen to me,

To walk in my law

That I have set before you,

Then there will be a curse.

If you do not heed the words

Of my servants,

The prophets,

Whom I send to you urgently,

Even though you

Have not heeded them,

Then I will make this house

Like Shiloh.

I will make this city

A curse

For all the nations of the earth.’”

Yahweh tells Jeremiah exactly what to say to the people of Judah. If they do not listen to Yahweh and walk in the law that he gave them, he will curse them. If they do not heed the words of his servants, his prophets that he sent to them, then he would make their Temple like that of Shiloh in Samaria. Both the ancient Canaanites and the Israelites had used Shiloh as a cultic worship center, until the Temple was built in Jerusalem during the time of King David (1010-970 BCE) and King Solomon (970-931 BCE). Since they had not listened to the prophets of Yahweh, he was going to curse this city of Jerusalem in a way that all the countries of the world would know about it.

Yahweh speaks to Jeremiah (Jer 26:2-26:3)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Stand in the court

Of Yahweh’s house!

Speak

To all the cities

Of Judah!

To all those

Who come to worship

In the house of Yahweh!

Speak to them

All the words

That I command you!

Do not hold back a word!

It may be

That they will listen.

Maybe they will turn

From their evil ways.

Then I may change

My mind

About the disaster

That I intend to bring

On them,

Because of their evil doings.’”

Yahweh told Jeremiah to stand in the Temple court. He was to speak to all the people from the cities of Judah who came to worship Yahweh in the Temple. Jeremiah was, as usual, to say only the words that Yahweh was going to tell him to say. However, he was not to hold back any words. Maybe the people of Judah would listen to him and turn from their evil ways. Then Yahweh would change his mind about the impending disaster that he intended to bring to the people of Judah because of their evil actions.

Jeremiah and the jug (Jer 19:1-19:2)

“Thus said Yahweh.

‘Go!

Buy a potter’s earthenware jug!

Take with you

Some of the elders of the people,

As well as some of the senior priests.

Go out to

The valley of the son of Hinnom,

At the entry of the Potsherd Gate!

Proclaim there the words

That I tell you.’”

Yahweh tells Jeremiah to buy an earthen jug. He was supposed to take some of the elders and the senior priests with him. He was to go to the valley of Hinnom at the Potsherd Gate that might be the garbage area around the Dung Gate mentioned in Nehemiah, chapter 4, just outside Jerusalem. There Jeremiah was to proclaim the words that Yahweh would tell him.

The pride of Judah and Jerusalem (Jer 13:8-13:11)

“Then the word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘Thus says Yahweh.

I will ruin the pride of Judah.

I will ruin the great pride of Jerusalem.

This is an evil people.

They refuse to hear my words.

They stubbornly follow their own will.

They have gone after other gods.

They serve them.

They worship them.

They shall be like this loincloth,

That is good for nothing.

Just as the loincloth clings

To one’s loins,

So I made the whole house of Israel

With the whole house of Judah

Cling to me.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Thus they might be for me

A people,

A name,

A praise,

A glory.

But they would not listen.’”

Now Yahweh explains to Jeremiah the problem and story of the loincloth. Just as the loincloth was ruined, so too would the great pride of Judah and Jerusalem also be ruined. These were evil people who would not listen to the words of Yahweh. They would rather follow their own will and ways. Besides, they have gone after other gods serving and worshipping them. Thus they will be like Jeremiah’s ruined loincloth, good for nothing. Just as the loincloth clung to Jeremiah’s loins, both the house of Judah and Israel had clung to Yahweh. He wanted to make them a great people with a great name that everyone would praise and glory, but they would not listen.

The failed conspiracy (Jer 11:9-11:11)

“Yahweh said to me.

‘Conspiracy exists

Among the people of Judah,

Among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

They have turned back

To the iniquities of their ancestors.

They have refused to hear my words.

They have gone after other gods

To serve them.

The house of Israel,

The house of Judah,

Both have broken the covenant

That I made with their ancestors.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘Therefore,

Assuredly I am going to bring

Disaster upon them.

They cannot escape.

Though they cry out to me,

I will not listen to them.’”

Once again, Yahweh speaks in the first person singular directly to Jeremiah. He said that there was a conspiracy among the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. This terminology persists throughout Jeremiah with an emphasis on the city of Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah. They are acting like their iniquitous ancestors, because they refuse to listen to the words of Yahweh. Instead they are going after other idol gods to serve them. But this applies both to the northern house of Israel and the southern house of Judah. They have both broken the covenant that was made with their ancestors. Therefore Yahweh was going to bring disaster upon them that they would not be able to escape. Even if they cried out to him, he was not going to listen to them.  The result is set in stone.