Broken Pot, Night in the Stocks

Jeremiah’s most barbed and exacting statements are recorded in chapter 19. The episode is not dated, but it could have been soon after Temple Mob incident.[1]

Jeremiah was somehow able to persuade leaders of the people and leaders of the priests to follow him to the loathsome “garbage dump”, the place called Topheth in the valley of Ben-Hinnom.[2] What he said to get them there we do not know.[3] We do know he carried a brand new clay pot[4] and spoke harsh words of condemnation.

Listen to what the prophet said on the LORD’s behalf:

I will bring a terrible disaster on this place, and the ears of those who hear about it will ring! 19:3.

For Israel has forsaken me and turned this valley into a place of wickedness. The people burn incense to foreign gods – idols never before acknowledged by this generation, by their ancestors, or by the kings of Judah. And they have filled this place with the blood of innocent children. They have built pagan shrines to Baal, and there they burn their sons as sacrifices to Baal. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing! 19:4-5.

The time is coming… when this garbage dump will no longer be called Topheth… but the Valley of Slaughter. 19:6.

I will upset the careful plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will allow the people to be slaughtered by invading armies, and I will leave their dead bodies as food for the vultures and wild animals. 19:7[5].

I will reduce Jerusalem to ruins, making it a monument to their stupidity.[6] All who pass by will be astonished and will gasp at the destruction they see there. 19:8.

I will see to it that your enemies lay siege to the city until all the food is gone. Then those trapped inside will eat their own sons and daughters and friends. They will be driven to utter despair. 19:9.

While the leaders watch, he raised the clay pot and forcefully smashed it to the ground, shattering it to pieces beyond all hope of repair. Then he continued to speak:

Then say to them, “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: As this jar lies shattered, so I will shatter the people of Judah and Jerusalem beyond all hope of repair. 19:11a.

They will bury the bodies here in Topheth, the garbage dump, until there is no more room for them. 19:11b.

This is what I will do to this place and its people, says the LORD. I will cause this city to become defiled like Topheth.” 19:12.

And in all of this prophetic message no escape clause is either stated or inferred. After he was done, he left them and returned to Jerusalem.[7]

The prophet was held in high enough regard that he was not lynched on the spot. But he returned to the city and repeated some of the words at the front of the temple for everyone to hear. Was he asking for trouble?[8] This is when a certain priest’s anger boiled over.[9] He lashed out and insulted and physically abused the prophet to the fullest measure allowable in his situation.

An Eyewitness Account[10]

Why did I stay and watch? The scene is now indelibly imprinted in my brain. Every time I close my eyes I see the pain, anguish, blood, and the flies. I hear shrieks of pain, and groans of the prophet and also the insults, jeers, and hatred of priests and temple officials. It was all so horrible.

Stripped of his clothes, his hands were tied tightly to a post. They whipped, and whipped, and whipped him without mercy. After 20 or 25 lashes he was so weakened that his legs could no longer support him; his weight hung by his wrists tied to the post. At some point, I can’t say when, the groans ceased. Later still, I can’t recall when, the involuntary jerks also stopped. Still, the lashes came and came, reaching the maximum allowed of 39.

Certainly other men have been whipped, but never had I seen it done with such vengeance, such malice as this.

His limp body was then dragged a short distance, raised up, and placed in stocks[11].

I feel absolutely awful; dirty, no, filthy on the inside.

How I wish I could have drummed up the courage to go forward and give him a sip of water. I should have given him a little soup for nourishment. I wish I could have been by his side, swatting away the flies, chasing the pesky dogs away through the night; do whatever I could to help him survive. But I, like everyone else, let fear of the priests rule my behavior. It was the Priest in charge of the Temple who charged him and punished him without a trial. And as far as I know, God’s prophet was alone the whole night in those stocks.

Horrible, cruel inhumanity; this great and noble man treated in such a way as to become a household joke.[12]

The stories and laughs continue around nightly fires in all directions.

We all failed this upright spokesman for God.

Who will defend this most noble man?

Things to Note

1. The Lord had his spokesperson round up some dignitaries and take to them to the heart of the worst cesspool of pagan practices. Located outside the wall, just below the holy Temple. He spoke the harshest, most damning words. He made the point by smashing the perfectly good clay pot into pieces (who cares if some pieces shatter into the faces of these dignitaries). There was no harsher confrontation Spokesperson could offer.

2. Demonic[13] idols called for the murder of beautiful innocent children; and the people and priests were answering that call.

3. As offensive as the words about cannibalism of children sounds (19:9), this was nothing new to the priests and leaders. It is the bottom rung on the ladder, the deepest, severest level of punishment prescribed in the Mosaic Covenant (Lev. 27:16, 18, 21, 24, 28-29). It was absolutely, unequivocally avoidable. And the prophet’s words should have shaken them into recognition of their precipitous condition. But their hearts were stone cold.

4. This telling of the events assumes that Jeremiah acted on his own volition and not under God’s command when he repeated the private words (from the valley) to the general public in front of the Temple. Commentators are divided on this.

For example, Michael Brown states, “We can assume that he does this at the Lord’s bidding, since on other occasions the Lord sent him to the temple to deliver messages (see, e.g., 7:1; 26:1 – 2); moreover, it is difficult to imagine that Jeremiah would take it on himself to do this on his own, as he would be asking for the very trouble he so wishes to avoid (see, e.g., 15:10; 20:9).”[14]

People in the Bible were flawed humans just like us, not bigger than life. It is very possible that anger overcame this fiery man, and he maybe went a step further than directed.

Reasons for this opinion are as follows:

A. The Lord gave specific instructions regarding what was to be said and done before a specific group of people. The instructions did not include the temple and the common people.

B. The speech at the Temple did not honor the Lord, it only berated the leaders.

C. The speech at the Temple did not serve a purpose. Rather, it prompted an “I feel sorry for myself” lament that any man or woman can easily succumb to.

D. Jeremiah went too far in his personal, self-centered lament. These words are not God-honoring:

O LORD, you misled me, and I allowed myself to be misled. You are stronger than I am, and you overpowered me. Now I am mocked every day; everyone laughs at me. When I speak, the words burst out. “Violence and destruction!” I shout. So these messages from the LORD have made me a household joke. Jer. 20:7-8.

Yet I curse the day I was born! May no one celebrate the day of my birth. I curse the messenger who told my father, “Good news – you have a son!” Let him be destroyed like the cities of old that the LORD overthrew without mercy. Terrify him all day long with battle shouts, because he did not kill me at birth. Oh, that I had died in my mother’s womb, that her body had been my grave! Why was I ever born? My entire life has been filled with trouble, sorrow, and shame. Jer. 20:14-18.

These words are a true and Biblical (therefore Divinely Inspired) record of what Jeremiah felt and prayed, but Spokesperson was caught up in himself and felt he was under a landslide, even though in the middle of these two quotes above he expressed the highest of praise (verses 11-13). He was complaining about problems he had brought upon himself and was blaming his Commander for it.

5. Commander saw it fitting to answer his spokesperson with complete silence.


[1] It was during Jehoiakim’s reign that the authorities most clearly opposed the purposes of God and would have elicited such strong rebuke (however, there may be other reasons to place this closer to the final destruction). Much of the first audience of the book would have recognized the time clue given in 20:1, but we don’t have the data to interpret it.

[2] People groups throughout history in all parts of the world value and protect their children. Children hold the future. The practice of child sacrifice was demonic insanity. That the Lord’s people did this, and did it just outside the temple walls, shows how hard those demons were working. King Manasseh took the lead in this, murdering even his own sons, the princes of the land, and only a son of his old age survived to succeed him (2 Chr. 33:5-6). Manasseh would have had many more sons before his 45th birthday, he was 45 when his successor, Amon, was born.

[3] The text leaves this question unanswered, “Why would these VIPs follow him to a despicable place like that?” Perhaps two things are involved: First, he was doing something unusual by carrying this brand-new clay pot and he must have expressed urgency. Secondly, they perhaps figured he was going there to denounce the foreign, idolatrous priests. Something they could support. They could let him be the spokesman (and suffer any reprisals) while they looked on from a distance. Fretheim believes they hoped to entrap the prophet, “No question is raised whether these leaders will accompany him; unbeknownst to them, they will function as witnesses, though they may think they can entrap him.” Fretheim, P. 282. But things went otherwise.

[4] It is curious to note that during the span of his ministry the Lord told Jeremiah to buy three things. A linen ephod (13:1), this clay pot (19:1), and a piece of land (32:8-12). The Lord instructed Jeremiah to abandon the ephod and it was completely ruined (13:3-7), to smash the pot (19:10), and even the land was seen by the prophet as a public insult (32:25).

[5] The leaders would not have felt comfortable from the start, but they could still have been trying to attribute the evil to others (i.e. foreign priests). However, by verses 6 and 7 there is no denying that all the harsh words are pointed against them and they are being blamed for the horrible plague of war that is soon coming.

[6] This is a superb translation of the Hebrew phrase.

[7] Another question is, “why were there no physical reprisals for such offensive statements against the leaders and the priests?” They must have been livid at his words, but Jeremiah actually trapped them in their own pride and heaped shame on them. They went to this horrible place feeling offended by the idolatry (including child sacrifice) and feeling prideful condemnation against the idolaters. Jeremiah, however, shifted the blame for the evil upon “the leaders of the people and the leaders of the priests” for allowing these horrific practices to continue right outside the holy city. They were truly guilty and had no way to deny it.

[8] Jeremiah was human, very much a man. Going to that horrible place, speaking such sharp words and smashing the pot as a visible demonstration of wrath, only elicited a “ho-hum” response. He was angry! Is it surprising if he failed to ask his God for permission, and he went on to give his scathing message for the general population to hear? This is the kind of response the human beings have to such frustrating situations.

[9] It was bad enough that Jeremiah criticized the group there in the ugly valley, but it was a greater offence (in the eyes of the priests) to publicly shame the priests in front of the “much inferior” common people. Pashhur was not carrying out a personal vendetta so much as acting on behalf of the whole class of priests.

[10] This again is creative nonfiction in action.

[11] Stocks are very intentionally a public punishment. “Individuals are to be placed in the stocks (a wooden framework with holes for head and hands), which would expose him to public ridicule and contempt.” Fretheim p. 408.

[12] Jer. 20:8. This was indeed the intent of the public shaming.

[13] Biblical writers unequivocally accept the existence and extensive activity of demons on earth, Due. 2:17, Psa. 106:37, 1 Tim. 4:1, Jam. 3:5.

[14] Brown, Kindle Location 9491.

God’s Social Concern

The Bible, as a book, has always been millenniums ahead of its time. An example is the area of social concern. Incredible.

Throughout history it has been the oppressed and disadvantaged that have championed social activism, social concern, social justice. But what we find in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Jeremiah is very different. The Greatest, most abundant Being in the universe pushes for, and even requires social concern, including meeting the physical needs of foreigners and locals alike.

Terms of the Covenant

The Bible tells us that God founded a nation and he set it up with laws for its operation. Built into the law-code are instructions for all Israelis to provide for all the disadvantaged.

“You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. You must not exploit a widow or an orphan. If you exploit them in any way and they cry out to me, then I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will blaze against you.” Exo. 22:21-24.

This advanced code of social justice is not based on a sociological view of fairness or equality. It is based on a highly superior basis – the very nature of the Creator Himself.

“For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners.” Deu. 10:17-19.

Obedience to the Lord’s law involved active, intentional helping of all needy people.

“But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight fisted toward them… Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.” Due. 15:7, 10-11.

“When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all you do. When you beat the olives from your olive trees, don’t go over the boughs twice. Leave the remaining olives for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. When you gather the grapes in your vineyard, don’t glean the vines after they are picked. Leave the remaining grapes for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.” Due. 24:19-21.

“Every third year you must offer a special tithe of your crops. In this year of the special tithe you must give your tithes to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that they will have enough to eat in your towns. Then you must declare in the presence of the LORD your God, ‘I have taken the sacred gift from my house and have given it to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, just as you commanded me. I have not violated or forgotten any of your commands.” Due. 26:12-13.

The Enforcer

Jeremiah, like all the legitimate prophets before and after, was an enforcer of this Covenant. The Covenant between the Lord and his people. And he was most certainly a defender of the disadvantaged: The widows and orphans and foreigners and poor.

Here is what he told all the people:

“But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols. Then I will let you stay in this land that I gave to your ancestors to keep forever.” Jer. 7:5-7.

This is what he told kings:

“This is what the LORD says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent! If you obey me, there will always be a descendant of David sitting on the throne here in Jerusalem.” Jer. 22:3-4.

And in his message to the kings he linked social activism for the disadvantaged to something very great indeed:

“But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king! Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know me? says the LORD.” Jer. 22:15-16.

Spokesperson’s Platform

God’s spokesperson definitely used his platform to promote social change: to help the poor, orphans, widows, slaves and foreigners:

“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken!” Jer. 9:23-24.

The way things are stated here, we could almost say that justice is God’s “middle name.”

Jeremiah’s Early Naivety

Everyone grows up in social, moral and religious environments. It’s natural to accept one’s surroundings as the norm.[1] Same for young Jeremiah. A godly king was ruling on the throne. King Josiah removed the idols, purified the temple and reestablished God’s law as the focus of civil and religious life. From outward appearances the nation was in good spiritual shape; far better than before. And young Jeremiah was oblivious to what lurked under the surface until forced by his Commander to face the facts.

The Challenge

Early on, God gave a challenge to his rookie prophet with a hefty reward if successful. Perhaps he could set aside his mantle and retire before he hardly even started!

“Run up and down every street in Jerusalem,” says the LORD. “Look high and low; search throughout the city! If you can find even one just and honest person, I will not destroy the city.” 5:1.

Wow. No destruction. Life as we know it goes on. “The pot boiling in the North” can be dismissed, if only Jeremiah can find one person of integrity.

But no. Not even one just person. So, empty-handed and out of breath he kind of blames God[2] and says:

“LORD, you are searching for honesty. You struck your people, but they paid no attention. You crushed them, but they refused to be corrected. They are determined, with faces set like stone; they have refused to repent.” 5:3

Rationalization

Jeremiah thinks harder and has a brilliant thought: The common people simply don’t know better, they are ignorant, can’t expect too much from them. But the leaders know God’s ways; surely some must qualify as “honest”.

Then I said, “But what can we expect from the poor? They are ignorant. They don’t know the ways of the LORD. They don’t understand God’s laws. So I will go and speak to their leaders. Surely they know the ways of the LORD and understand God’s laws.” 5:4-5.

The Discovery

However, his naivety quickly becomes obvious. The leaders are detaining the people in ignorance and disobedience.

“But the leaders, too, as one man, had thrown off God’s yoke and broken his chains.” 5:5.

The young man is hit with a jarring truth. These fellow priests and prophets are acting all righteous and godly, but “Their rebellion is great.” 5:6.

To understand the book of Jeremiah, we must meet a truly evil people.

Jerusalem “is wicked through and through. She spouts evil like a fountain.” Jer. 6:6-7.

To understand the book of Jeremiah, we must meet a ferocious God.[3]

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “I will pour out my terrible fury on this place. Its people, animals, trees, and crops will be consumed by the unquenchable fire of my anger.” Jer. 7:20.

Family

The result of standing on the side of truth and righteousness, and speaking the forceful words of God, was that Jeremiah made many enemies. He spoke publicly. He spoke privately. He confronted sins that were hidden and sins that were public.

His family turned against him and literally wanted him gone:

The men of Anathoth… wanted me dead. They had said, “We will kill you if you do not stop prophesying in the LORD’s name.” 11:21.

Even your brothers, members of your own family, have turned against you. They plot and raise complaints against you. Do not trust them. Jer. 12:6.[4]

Co-workers

The prophets and priests, who should have been his allies, also worked to get rid of him:

The priests and prophets presented their accusations to the officials and the people. “This man should die!” they said. 26:11.

Kings and Palace Officials

Even kings saw him as a pesky nuisance and wanted him gone:

So these officials went to the king and said, “Sir, this man must die! … This man is a traitor!” King Zedekiah agreed. “All right,” he said. “Do as you like.” 38:4-5.

Summary

This is the environment, the severity of conflict that Jeremiah endured. It stretched his coping powers to the limit. He suffered battle scars. He ended up saying,

“I am hated everywhere I go. I am neither a lender who threatens to foreclose nor a borrower who refuses to pay – yet they all curse me.” Jer. 15:10.

The rest of this section focusses on these battles or escapades and their resultant scars. Jeremiah recorded these episodes not to gain notoriety or sympathy for himself, but for the truths they reveal about the wickedness of the people and leaders, and the incredible longsuffering of his God.


[1] The old “Frog in a pot” syndrome.

[2] “You struck your people… You crushed them…” i.e. Your strategy only made things worse!

[3] But Divine anger is a vastly different breed from human anger, so different that it deserves an entirely different term.

[4] For a Jew in Jeremiah’s day, rejection by your family had to be the severest of hardships. Everyone grew up among a very large extended family which provided a sense of stability, longevity, and belonging; a safety net no one wanted to be without.

Philip Yancey

I met this man some years ago in Atlanta. Fumbling for something to say, I mentioned the interest of his books across the world in Papua New Guinea. He looked me in the eyes and talked with me like I was a normal human being. A memorable moment for sure.

NOW HE IS READING MY BOOK

Did he really say that he is learning “a lot” from it?

.

That ugly sounding “thud” followed by the squealing siren?

My fainting head hitting the floor followed by an ambulance rescue.

Typing from the E.R. right now…

Wave after Wave of Opposition

Last section, Stumbling onto the National Stage, emphasized a major tragedy. The death of King Josiah brought stark repercussions to the nation and God’s Spokesperson. The “glory” days of Josiah were swallowed up by the “gory” days of his four offspring. A mere twenty-two years of compromise caused total failure of the state, and deportation of its citizens.

After Josiah’s funeral, opposition comes to Jeremiah in waves.

“Conflict” in the book of Jeremiah is not just a series of random events. It is an environment within which the prophet lives and breathes daily. Always swimming upstream. Continually walking a steep incline. It took extra-human effort to trudge on.

This level of conflict was disclosed when God first enlisted Spokesperson:

You will stand against the whole land – the kings, officials, priests, and people of Judah. They will fight you… 1:18-19.

Former prophets faced similar opposition,[1] but Jeremiah experienced an acute dosage to the point of inhumane abuse.[2] This was due to the obstinate rebellion of God’s people, and unrelenting efforts by God and his Spokesperson to win them back.

This section presents several major events in Jeremiah’s life. Let it serve as a window to understanding the oppressive environment in which he lived, served, and wrote. The man’s strength of purpose and character shine bright amidst the darkness surrounding him. He withstood each opposition and fulfilled his duties as the true spokesperson for God.

This section includes seven parts:

  1. His Early Naivety
  2. Temple Mob Pacified[3]
  3. Broken Pot, Night in Stocks
  4. Prophet on the Run – Burnt Scroll
  5. Showdown of Two Prophets
  6. Stuck in the Mud
  7. Reluctant Landowner

“Conflict” is an amazing and enlightening storyline woven throughout the book of Jeremiah. The man is caught in the crossfire between truly obstinate people and their ferocious, unyielding God. Jeremiah is attacked by family, common people, fellow priests, fellow prophets, and by the kings and their officials. He is threatened, mocked, whipped, put in stocks, beaten, thrown in jail, had his hard work destroyed, and was even thrown into a muddy pit to die.

The Book of Jeremiah gives us a portal or window not only into the events of the day, but also deep into the heart and thoughts of God’s abused Spokesperson.

“Among the most moving – and startling – passages in Scripture are Jeremiah’s forthright complaints to God, his tender confessions and prayers, mingled with expostulation and challenge, protesting God’s having snared him into a prophet’s responsibilities, tensions, and anguish.

Yet for over forty years Jeremiah maintained his obedience, reiterated his message, and fulfilled his mission.”[4]


[1] See Exo. 5:20-21; 6:9; 14:11-12; 16:2-3; Num. 14:1-4; 1 Kin. 18:4a; 19:2; 2 Kin. 17:13-14; Mat. 23:20, 37; Luk. 11:50; Act 7:52.

[2] Perhaps the worst two physical abuses inflicted on Spokesperson were the night in the stocks and imprisonment in a muddy cistern. Both occasions are covered later in this section.

[3] This story, along with the next five in this section, is told using the genre of Creative Nonfiction. If you are new to this genre, please see Appendix 1. What is Creative Nonfiction? The Bibliography includes resources that explain, regulate and teach these techniques. But the Biblical record is what really counts and should always be both the first and last words studied.

[4] White, p. 11.

Mobbed was Jeremiah, After Co-worker Murdered

Temple Mob Pacified

This story took place a couple years after king Josiah died. Judah was subservient to a foreign power[1], paying heavy taxes to insure their “independence.” The 100% true and accurate account of this incident is found in Jeremiah 26. An elaborated version is offered below in the form of an ancient newspaper article. It had to be, of course, an underground newspaper because of the volatile monarch on the throne.

Underground Newspaper: Clandestine Communiqués, Jerusalem[2]

Article Title: Turmoil outside the Temple

King Jehoiakim is quickly establishing himself as an enemy of Israel’s God![3] Details have come to light which solve the mystery of that dead body reported recently; the one that was dragged out of the palace, taken out of the city, and buried in the middle of nowhere. Our king is guilty of murder! And not just murder of anyone, murder of an anointed prophet of God! Here are the details.

Prophet Uriah,[4] son of Shemaiah of Kiriath-jearim, was performing his duties as a prophet of the LORD. He denounced the wickedness of the people and announced that God planned to punish the whole nation of Judah, and even destroy the Hoy City. When the king learned of this “slander” and “treason” he sent some unnamed thug to kill him. Uriah was forewarned and escaped to Egypt. This upset the king even more, so he sent the trusted son of Acbor, Elnathan by name, with a posse that hunted him down. They tied him up and dragged the poor man before the king. Without further ado our king took a sword and shot it through (literally) the “rebellious” prophet.

Horrible as this was, it spurred a different, most remarkable event that took place yesterday. Here are the details.

Prophet Jeremiah, bold and unflinching, went to the temple steps yesterday and drew a large crowd. Hundreds of people listened to him as he bravely spoke these words:

This is what the LORD says: If you will not listen to me and obey my word I have given you, and if you will not listen to my servants, the prophets – for I sent them again and again to warn you, but you would not listen to them – then I will destroy this Temple as I destroyed Shiloh,[5] the place where the Tabernacle was located. And I will make Jerusalem an object of cursing in every nation on earth. 26:4-6.

These accusations and threats were even more barbed and inflammatory than what spurred Uriah’s murder. He was stating that “Jerusalem will be so badly decimated it will become a swear word for all other nations!”

There were rabble-rousers in the crowed, emboldened by the king’s obvious stance against such public pronouncements, and they worked at stirring up the crowd. They started shouting “traitor”, “infidel”, and “blasphemer.” And the whole crowd joined the hostility.

The priests and prophets and all the people at the Temple mobbed him. “Kill him!” they shouted. 26:8.

This ruckus was loud enough to reach ears in the palace. Officials rushed over before things escalated beyond repair. They quickly set up a formal court hearing right there at New Gate, hoping to keep control.

The priests and prophets looked confident and excited as they presented their accusations against the solitary prophet. They were seeking nothing less than a death sentence.

“This man should die!” they said. “You have heard with your own ears what a traitor he is, for he has prophesied against this city.” 26:11.

The crowds gave their boisterous support.

This could easily have been the end of the prophet. Certainly the king won’t interfere with a second kill. Might as well exterminate all the troublemakers.

One thing saved Jeremiah; the Hebrew law that guarantees the accused an opportunity to defend himself. [6]

Jeremiah didn’t back down one inch. No placating, no apologies, and no humming and hawing. He made direct eye contact with each accuser and everyone in the crowd. This is what he said:

“The LORD sent me to prophesy against this Temple and this city,” he said. “The LORD gave me every word that I have spoken. But if you stop your sinning and begin to obey the LORD your God, he will change his mind about this disaster that he has announced against you. As for me, I am in your hands – do with me as you think best. But if you kill me, rest assured that you will be killing an innocent man! The responsibility for such a deed will lie on you, on this city, and on every person living in it. For it is absolutely true that the LORD sent me to speak every word you have heard.” 26:12-15.

Transformation in the crowd was remarkable. One eye witness expressed it well:

Was it his stance? His willingness to look everyone in the eye, unashamed and unafraid? Was it the fearless authority and surety of his voice? Or was it the words themselves, that he was indeed ready to die but the guilt of innocent blood would remain on all of us?

I cannot figure it out. I cannot forget the scene.

His last sentence was, “For it is absolutely true the LORD sent me to speak every word you have heard.” Never in my life have I seen such magnetism, maybe even hypnotism. The crowds and officials were mesmerized. The animosity they started with went full-swing to support and loyalty. The royal court seemed bewitched into forgetting even to consider the wishes of our king!

The officials gave their verdict by saying to the priests and prophets for everyone to hear:

This man does not deserve the death sentence, for he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God. 26:16.[7]

Some elders stepped up to support the judges and related an incident of 100 years ago. Prophet Micah spoke much the same words as Jeremiah. The elders gave this advice:

But did King Hezekiah and the people kill him for saying this? No, they turned from their sins and worshiped the LORD. They begged him for mercy. Then the LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had pronounced against them. So we are about to do ourselves great harm. 26:19.

If any doubt remained, it was silenced when the most honorable Ahikam, son of the late King Josiah’s close friend, Shaphan,[8] took matters into his own hands. He personally guaranteed refuge for the battered prophet of the LORD.

The mob was pacified. The prophet escaped certain death. The priests were stung by this public defeat; a lost opportunity to eliminate their arch enemy. Inflamed. Not willing to forget the defamatory words uttered against them.

 One priest we interviewed had this to say:

Horrible! How long will this disbarred priest, this insufferable windbag, be allowed to rant and rave and, above all things, abuse us priests of the Most High God? He accuses us of greed,[9] pretense,[10] superficiality,[11] bullying the people,[12] and even used the word “wicked” of us, and accuses us of committing “despicable acts right in the temple.”[13] Our only road to sanity is to find another way to snuff him.

So, what a remarkable day in the heart of the city: A near death experience. Narrow escape by a speech of conviction. Fickle mob doing a 180-degree turnaround. Government officials contradicting a murderous precedent set by the king. And the priests and prophets having a proverbial “pie” thrown in their face.

Things to Note:

1. The prologue[14] in this story is very significant. The time is mentioned, “early in the reign of Jehoiakim.”[15] The Lord tells Jeremiah exactly where to stand, “in the courtyard in front of the Temple of the Lord.” And pedantically tells him exactly what to say, “Give them my entire message; include every word.”

2. The Lord tells Jeremiah His precise motive in giving this assignment: “Perhaps they will listen and turn from their evil ways. Then I will change my mind about the disaster I am ready to pour out on them because of their sins.”[16]

3. These detailed instructions, along with God’s stated motive, must have boosted the prophet’s confidence as he addressed the nobles in the outdoor courtroom by the gate of the Temple. Note his final line, “It is absolutely true that the Lord sent me to speak every word you have heard.”

4. Jeremiah’s rebuttal was so powerful that it persuaded the nobles and the crowd.

5. The whole story is superbly written and stands as a unified whole.

Prologue 1-3

Content of the message, 4-6

Riotous response to the message, 7-9

Court in session, accusations, 10-11

The accused rebuts, 12-15

Pinnacle verse, 16

A case study presented, 17-19

Relevant back-story provided, 20-23

Final resolution, 24.

Jeremiah may not have experienced physical harm, but the acute intensity of the incident had to leave emotional scars. The mob wanted him dead! (Much like a later mob wanted an even greater prophet crucified). It may have been soon after this “angry mob” event when Jeremiah did suffer severe physical harm and public humiliation. See the next incident.


[1] The incident is dated as taking place “early in the reign of Jehoiakim” and either Egypt or Babylon held domination over them.

[2] We are extremely fortunate to have obtained a copy of this article since only 3 copies were ever made (they had to be copied by hand and were dangerous if ever discovered by the authorities).

[3] These events took place “early” in his reign, Jer. 26:1.

[4] There is nothing fictitious about this character, mentioned only one place in scripture, Jer. 26:20-23.

[5] Shiloh was only 20 miles north of Jerusalem. From the time of Joshua to the time a Solomon, Shiloh was the religious center of the nation, and the people gathered there three times a year for the major feasts. But now it was obviously in a state of ruins.

[6] Hebrew law led the way in judicial fairness around the globe, Due. 19:16-19.

[7] Truly amazing.

[8] 2 Chr. 34:8, 16-18; Jer. 26:24.

[9] Jer. 6:13; 8:10.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Jer. 6:14; 8:11.

[12] Jer. 5:31.

[13] Jer. 23:11.

[14] Jer. 26:1-3.

[15] The severity of response against Jeremiah in this incident shows how quickly the spiritual condition of the nation changed after the passing of Josiah. This was probably within the four years of the good king’s death.

[16] Sounds like the outcome is unknown, and the Lord Himself will react to the people’s choices.

A Well Read Book

So encouraged this past weekend to hear from several people who have been touched by my book.

I asked one of them how many times he fell asleep reading it, he said, “Not at all!” and commented on things that have greatly challenged his thinking.

Another said he always skips introductions, “But man, this introduction is incredible.”

Someone else told me the book opened up discussions with his brother about some of the deepest spiritual things.

These happenings are the greatest reward for an author.

Incredible Jeremiah

A life changer, this book ushers you before a hurting God and his wounded prophet. “Night and day my eyes overflow with tears. I cannot stop weeping, for my virgin daughter-my precious people- has been struck down…” (Jer. 14:17).

As a reader said, “But, again and again, Reggie, I see now just why you wrote this book. I feel in many ways a very foolish and self-centered slob in the realization of how I, like most of us I guess, am so self-centered in never ever thinking about the Lord’s deep hurt and pain for being ignored and not treated as a Father, as I long myself to be treated by my own daughter.”

260 pages of challenging, transformational presentation of an outstanding historical figure, and his ultra-outstanding God.

“I simply don’t have the words, Reggie, to express my gratitude to you for opening up my understanding of God’s heart towards His “Chosen People” and us, His kids grafted into His Olive Tree.”

Available on Amazon and all other book and eBook sellers worldwide.

For a discount on the print book, click the link below and enter the code “5off” and it will be shipped direct from the printer.

Happy encounters with incredible Jeremiah!

The Champion

Amidst darkness, confusion, and uncertainty, who do you want with you as you enter the new year?  May I offer a suggestion? Let’s go with the CHAMPION!

The newly announced “Beloved Son of God”[1] was handed over to the Diabolical One.[2]

Jesus … was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days. Luke 4:1-2.

Understand! This adversary is a thoroughly venomous, maniacal, self-consumed “hater of God” (and all that is good). His hatred burned especially toward God’s perfect Son.

There must have been parameters set by God, as we find he did regarding Job (Job 1:8-12; 2:3-6). But Diabolos was given 5 ½ weeks to wear Jesus down, emaciate him, and hit him hard from every angle.

We can read about the final three attacks that took place on the 40th day.

First of all, think for a minute what was required for this 40-day fast to happen.  Jesus had to be super healthy: physically, mentally and spiritually. It is possible for people to fast for 40 days or more, but it is an extremely rare – and very fit person – who can handle it.  Jesus was fit, strong and disciplined.[3] 

Imagine being alone for 40 days.  No conversations.[4] No stories, jokes, news, no media, nothing.  It is a rare person who can handle such isolation, let alone when accompanied by 40 days without food.  Add to this a hostile environment: Rugged, barren, burning during the day, cold during the nights.  Hyena’s howling, scorpions hiding, vipers brooding… Jesus was put through a real test![5]  

The curious, active mind we catch a glimpse of at age 12[6] certainly didn’t shut down during these 40 days of testing.  He had no scrolls to read.  No newspaper deliveries, no sports magazines.  Oh yes, and no social media. But he no doubt had a disciplined regimen of meditation which he followed through that long period of time.  He knew large contents of the Old Testament by rote and could work progressively through chapter and verse as he meditated on such grand things as his identity, his mission, and of course, the character and grace of His Father.

This was an opportune time to think through all these things.

During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Note: Satan’s challenge (If you are the Son of God) is directly related to perhaps the last words Jesus had heard spoken (from heaven 40 days earlier), “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

There is strong innuendo in the Tempter’s question/statement/challenge: “That Father of yours has forgotten all about you! He doesn’t respect you enough to treat you the way you deserve!  Why should the “Son of God” be left destitute like this?  Do something about it!  Assert yourself!  Here’s some stones, at least make yourself some bread to eat!”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 

Jesus directly answered the innuendo. “I’m doing just fine!  My Father is supplying exactly what I need.  I am being fed, morning through night, on the bread of life, my Father’s word.  I am not looking for some silly bread to eat.  When my body absolutely needs it, I can trust my Father to provide in whatever way he chooses.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, 

We don’t know the mechanics involved, but the sudden relocation from the barren, desolate no-mans-land of Judea to a high point overlooking the big city of Jerusalem had to have been a shock to Jesus’ already depleted system!  Visual stimulation, noise, smells, humans!  Internally, emotionally, Jesus could not have been prepared for this sudden and dramatic change.

and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off”

And did Satan encourage that jumping by standing him right on the edge, with a strong unsteady wind (and even rain?) blowing at his back?  Did he leave him in that dangerous position for a long time?  Did he time it so that crowds of people were down there waiting?  We don’t know. But in his weakened physical and emotional state Jesus must have been dizzy, somewhat confused, and groping for help in knowing what to do.

The Tempter continues, “…For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” 

The innuendo is again almost deafening: “So you say the word of God is all that is important to you.  Why don’t you show the whole world how much you trust in that word.  Jump!  God says he will catch you.  Let’s see how much you trust him!”  (Satan is wily).

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” 

This answer of Jesus is most clever.  He didn’t just extract a scripture text to answer the situation, he addresses the very heart of Satan’s challenge.  “I don’t need to prove that I trust God’s word.  I trust my Father implicitly – always have and always will.  For me to jump here is totally unnecessary, it would be a lack of faith on my part, it would be a “test” of God. That is unbelief, not faith.” (Consider Gideon in Judges 6:36-40).

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain

Another sock to the system.  Another sudden change of environment, climate, stimulation.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Evil One took his time here (as well as on the temple).  Why should he hurry?   This was his chance to get the upper hand.  Let Jesus feel the cold.  His emaciated body with no resistance; shivering, shaking, looking for warmth and protection. 

and showed him the kingdoms of the world and all their glory.  

I would think Satan started this diabolical video presentation with scenes of warmth, comfort, hot freshly-cooked food, (even if the video didn’t come complete with smells – and I wouldn’t put it past him to provide such a thing – Jesus’ human system would add the smells, the sounds, and create the cravings that Satan aimed for).  Satan is cruel, vicious, vindictive.  He was raving mad at being defeated twice already.  There is nothing good about him.  He had no mercy on our Lord.  After racking Jesus’ system with such sights and sounds and smells as would make any of us go mad in that situation, he must have continued to show wealth, comfort, opulence, and companionship, with the message being “join me and you will never suffer again!”

“I will give it all to you,” he said,

Innuendo: “Unlike your neglectful father, who raised your hopes at Jordan only to abandon you, I, yes I, will give you all of this.  You will never be short of food, clothes, and companionship ever again. No more suffering for you! The whole world is mine and I give it all to you for one small price.”

“…if you will kneel down and worship me.” 

The Tempter has given his best shot.  He weakened Jesus as much as he possibly could.  He offered him all that he could deliver, and packaged it in the best way.  The future of the universe now laid in the hands of the second Adam.  The first Adam was the one who handed control of the world over to Satan in the first place (1 John 5:19), Jesus is being asked to accept that ownership as legitimate.  Something that even in his tortured, weakened, very vulnerable state Jesus was not willing to do.

“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”  Then the devil went away,

Do we appreciate what a great victory this was?  God allowed these 40 days for Satan to test Jesus.  Satan used all that was in his power to break him down, weaken him, and set him up for the fall.  Satan had witnessed starving Esau give up his birthright for a bowl of soup (Gen 25:29-34).  He arranged for Jesus to get more physically and emotionally desperate than Esau ever was, then he pumped him with visual stimuli to whip up all sorts of cravings, and then he offered Him far, far more than soup.  Satan tried his very best to bribe Him, to crack Him, but he failed totally, and had to leave in shame and rage.

and angels came and took care of Jesus.

Why the angels?  This shows how weakened and needy Jesus had become.  His very life was on the line.  He was in desperate need of help, of warmth, nourishment, and rest (Psa. 91:9-16).  Satan left him up there on the mountain.  Why should he have done otherwise?  But as soon as Jesus completed the test, God sent Him the help He needed (as he did with Elijah in 1 Kings 19:5-8, and countless other heroes through the ages and around the world).  This victory was no small accomplishment on Jesus’ part.  It exhausted Him, brought him near death.  But Jesus conquered! What a man Jesus is!  If you don’t have the utmost respect for Jesus then you don’t yet really know Him.

We are about to enter a new year. Amidst darkness, confusion, uncertainty,  who do you want to enter the new year with?  I choose Jesus, the champion over all that is contrary to God.

N.B. Lest you get a wrong idea from this story, Jesus was not a loner, he was the ultimate people-person. He will not attach himself to just you. He will give you his full attention, yes. But he will also give his full attention to your family members, your neighbors, the homeless, the widow, the orphan, your rivals or “enemies.” No one can walk with Jesus and not be challenged into massive transformation. The most annoying and obnoxious person in your life is loved by Jesus just as much as you are. You need to love that person too.


[1] Mat. 3:16-17, Luk. 3:21-22.

[2] Briefly described below.

[3] It is very unlikely this was the first time he fasted. Fasting is something that is learned through repeated practice, and Jesus was ready when this very long fast came up.

[4] And Jesus was no introvert. He was a people person in a society of people persons.

[5] If you don’t have the highest respect for Jesus then you really don’t know him. 

[6] Luke 2:46,47.

No Recluse

Jeremiah was no recluse. His upbringing as a priest, and his calling to be a prophet, rules out such behavior. His business, his focus, his attention was people.

Yes. He was commanded to not marry (16:1-4). He was forced to stay away from funeral gatherings (16:5-7) and happy feasts (16:8-9). The Lord had specific reasons for this,[1] but it may have given him a reputation as uncaring and self-absorbed.[2]  His writing and his prayers, however, show otherwise (4:19, 8:18, 9:1,[3] 13:17,[4] 14:17, 23:9).

Jeremiah functioned amidst political turmoil, religious delusion, social unrest, severe injustice,[5] and wide-spread fear and suspicion. Rather than going “high brow” and judgmental, he did the opposite and identified with the people on all levels.[6]

Five different kings warmed the throne during his time of service. Two foreign powers invaded, deposed kings, and imposed taxes on their vassal state. And things got worse. The events surrounding Jeremiah’s lifetime formed one continuous downward spiral. His first assignment was to scour the streets of Jerusalem to find one honest person (5:1); he came up empty-handed.  For 40 years he fought with all his wisdom and strength to avert Judah and Jerusalem from destruction. But his efforts were not enough (25:3; 32:1-5), due to the impetulance of his people (32:30-31).  He wept and grieved not for himself, but for his beloved people.


[1] His life was to be a living picture of the severity of God’s deserved anger. Jeremiah was told the reasons behind the restrictions. The people were digging their own graves and the Lord wanted them to see this and change their ways. He had better plans for them but they were refusing to cooperate (16:12-18).

[2] Us modern people probably can’t understand the full burden and strain these restrictions caused him.

[3] In the next verse Jeremiah vents the feelings that could drive him away from society, but he did not act on it.

[4] “And if you still refuse to listen, I will weep alone because of your pride. My eyes will overflow with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be led away into exile.” 13:17.

[5] One example: The laws God gave his people called for mercy and justice. Those who went bankrupt would indenture themselves to a wealthy person. They served in a slave-like capacity, but this situation could only last a maximum of 6 years, because every sabbath (7th) year, slaves were to be freed with pay (Exo. 21:2, Deu. 15:2). But the wealthy of Jeremiah’s days refused to do so, and no leaders enforced it. (34:13-16).

[6] “My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken. Listen to the weeping of my people; it can be heard all across the land. ‘Has the Lord abandoned Jerusalem?’ the people ask. ‘Is her King no longer there?’” “I hurt with the hurt of my people. I mourn and am overcome with grief… Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people?” 8:18-19, 21-22.