Intro to the Book

Where to start?

This book portrays a most remarkable human being: Vulnerable, strong, brash, funny.[1] Derided then, misjudged today.

Meet him. Get to know him. You won’t regret the plunge.

Indomitable?

He is called “indomitable” and here is why. His Divine message enraged the powers of his day. They burned and boiled. Religious leaders publicly insulted him, stripped him, whipped him, locked him in stocks. Neighbors he grew up with wanted him gone. Crowds rioted for his death. Kings hunted him, jailed him, destroyed his work, threw him in a muddy pit, jailed him again. But he never quit!

What motivated him?

He was desperately trying to prevent his nation and people from extinction.

Does Deity Communicate?

Yes, the Bible describes God as a communicator. He speaks in the Bible as early as the third verse (Gen. 1:3, “Let there be light.”) and is still speaking in the second to last verse (Rev. 22:20, “Yes, I am coming soon”).

Why?

He, amazingly, pursues connection; meaningful, interactive engagement with His human creatures. He craves to bless everyone through mutually beneficial, interactive relationships.[2] Yes, God is above all else a Relational Being.[3] His relational nature permeates Jeremiah’s prophetic work. Meet the Living God!

Deity weeps. Deity pleads. Deity rebukes. Deity warns and disciplines. And through his spokesperson he repeatedly, tirelessly, works for reconciliation with his rebellious people.[4]

Note a few of the Lord’s statements:

“She [Jerusalem] spouts evil like a fountain. Her streets echo with the sounds of violence and destruction. I always see her sickness and sores.” 6:7.[5]

“Am I the one they are hurting? Most of all they hurt themselves to their own shame.” 7:19.

“Why do these people stay on their self-destructive path?” 8:5.

And responses the people fired back:

“Save your breath. I’m in love with these foreign gods, and I can’t stop loving them now!” 2:25.

“At last we are free from God! We don’t need him anymore!” 2:31.

“Let’s destroy this man [Jeremiah] and all his words… Let’s cut him down, so his name will be forgotten forever.” 11:19.

The Lord, through his chosen spokesperson, spoke for decades, reaching out in love and compassion; aiming to woo his beloved people back to relationship. “With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” 31:3.

Tug-a-war

The Divine Communicator is passionate[6], relentless[7], and demanding.[8] His spokesperson is swept into the harrowing task of mediating between Him and the belligerent recipients[9] of these communications.

There is a dynamic, massive, 3-party “tug-a-war” erupting throughout the book of Jeremiah. Recognizing and tracking these dynamics illuminates the book and the parties involved. There is nothing flat or boring when the book of Jeremiah is permitted to speak for itself.[10]

What’s Ahead?

Comprehensive study of Jeremiah’s scroll awaits later publication.[11] It is a massive labyrinth that takes courage and endurance to scope out. Yet, it is packed with gold, diamonds and precious stones that demand multiple coverage.

The starting point is to get to know the remarkable man himself. The environment where he lived and breathed and served. The duties he was asked to perform. And the callus, vengeful responses of those in power and in all strata of society.

Let’s endeavor to encounter the wily character himself, spokesperson for Israel’s God, Prophet Jeremiah.

“Although it is not an easy task simply to read the Book of Jeremiah… nevertheless it is an indisputable fact that… a partial but striking picture of the prophet emerges from the pages of the book named after him. Unlike many of the biblical prophets, who remain perpetually as figures in the shadows of history, Jeremiah stands out as a truly human figure. He is torn between faith and doubt, he is deeply involved in the contemporary affairs of his time, and, in the pages of this book, he passes from youth to old age against the backdrop of the history of his era.”[12]

Three Parts of This Book

Jeremiah “the man” is ample study. His life was unique and diverse; its study is therefore multifaceted. This book comprises three major sections:

I. Stumbling onto the National Stage

Jeremiah started his work with a sterling ally sitting on Judah’s throne.[13] But catastrophe struck, and he was asked to contribute to the late king’s funeral by composing the dirges. Now he finds himself in the national spotlight.

This section gives an easy-access “brief” on the life and times of Jeremiah. Areas of background include the historical, political, social, religious, and economic conditions of those times. Creative Nonfiction[14] is used in chapters 1, 4, 5, and 7, for enjoyable reading and better retention.

II. Waves of Opposition

God’s spokesperson met trauma and abuse for much of his 40 years of service. It came from his Master’s rebellious people and their leaders. Priests, prophets and kings. Creative Nonfiction is again the medium for chapters 2-7. The prophet never withdrew from his people or society, nor from speaking out on behalf of the marginalized and neglected. His predicaments drew him closer to the Living God; the theme of the next section.

III. Dialogues with Deity

Nowhere else in scripture is there such a gold mine; cataloging 40 years of interactive, growing relationship between the Living God and his fallible ambassador. These interactions are interlaced deliberately into the text of Jeremiah; but overlooked by most of the Christian world.[15]

Here lies a 2-party dialogue that progresses throughout Jeremiah’s large book. Relationships have difficulties, ebbs and flows, but mature individuals value relationships above the “costs” involved. And this is what we find, both parties commit to success in the relationship. Turbulence strains, conflict arises, but the relationship supersedes.

Appendices

These three sections are followed by 10 Appendices, covering a range of important and related topics.

“Let’s try to discover Jeremiah, this deeply human and attractive prophet, whose oracles comprise struggle and courage, torments and happiness, rejection and solidarity, disappointment and hopes, doubts and passion.”[16]


[1] Yes, funny.

[2] God is by nature one who “blesses”. He seeks relationships not for selfish reasons but because he desires to bless and improve everyone’s existence.

[3] “The relational God of Jeremiah is no aloof God, somehow present but detached. God is a God of great passions (pathos); deep and genuine divine feelings and emotions are manifest again and again. Sorrow, lament, weeping, wailing, grief, pain, anguish, heartache, regret, and anger all are ascribed to God in Jeremiah.” Fretheim, Terence E. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary: Jeremiah. Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys, 2008. p. 33. To ponder the complexities involved here, please read Appendix 7, Two Sticky Issues: Weeping and a Conditional Future.

[4] “God is jealous for your heart, not because he is petty or insecure, but because he loves you. The reason why God has such a huge problem with idolatry is that his love for you is all-consuming. He loves you too much to share you.” Kyle Idleman, @KyleIdleman [Twitter], 11, 26, 2018.

[5] Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from: New Living Translation, second edition. Copyright © 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

[6] Jer. 14:17; 44:6.

[7] Jer. 31:3; 44:4.

[8] Jer. 7:5-7.

[9] Jer. 44:16-17.

[10] “It is often easy for us to read millennia-old accounts that describe death and devastation, misery and grief, suffering and tears, and to remain unmoved. After all, the written text can seem so impersonal and distant, and we do not actually hear the cries of the wounded and dying – in reality, the people involved are complete strangers to us – nor do we smell the smoke rising from the flames of destruction … We tend to demonize the villains, lionize the heroes, and seek primarily to gain theological or practical insight from the (sometimes) stern dealings of God with his people, forgetting that these were real people, too, with real hopes and dreams and all too human disappointments and hurts.” Brown, Michael L.; Ferris, Paul W. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, Lamentations. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010, Kindle Edition, Location 1742.

[11] This book is produced as part 1 of a trilogy. The second book title: Masterful Communication from DEITY – The Book of Jeremiah. Third title: Urgent, Critical, Paradigm-Shifting Communiques from DEITY – Via Jeremiah.

[12] Craigie, Peter c., Kelly, Page H., Drinkard, Jr., Joel F. Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 26, Jeremiah 1-25. Dallas TX: Word Inc., 1991, p. xxxvii.

[13] King Josiah receives the highest endorsement of all the kings of Israel and Judah. “Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.” 2 Kin. 23:25.

[14] This is a well-documented genre in modern literature, with guidelines, code of ethics, and taught in Universities. For further information see Appendix 1, What is Creative Nonfiction?

[15] Indeed, these dialogues are among the more difficult threads to uncover and follow in scripture.

[16] Prevost, Jean-Pierre. How to Read the Prophets. NY, NY: Continuum Publishing Company, 1997, p. 73.

The Dust from which Jeremiah’s Scroll Arose

Scholars find the Book of Jeremiah to be an obstinate specimen; disinclined to reveal its progression and inner cohesion.[1]  They say its chronology is messed up.[2] Its themes (supposedly) are limited, overly negative, and too often repeated.[3]  They postulate that many authors and editors at various stages of its development created the garbled, confusing text that we have today.[4] Mountains of ink and paper (and of course time) have been spent postulating which authors/redactors contributed to this portion or that part; and at what time in the text’s evolution.[5]

Such “scholarship” [sorry to be blunt] is built on a scaffold of outdated assumptions and falsehoods.

Please consider a fresh approach.

This book[6] offers an explanation of the structure of Jeremiah’s scroll as seen through the following five assumptions:

  1. The author[7] of Jeremiah was a very adept thinker and writer.[8]
  2. The author of Jeremiah was intentional in his arrangement.[9]
  3. The content, arrangement, and progression of the book was driven by the following motivations:
    1. Driven by the immediate and long-term needs of its target audience: The Jewish captives scattered throughout many nations over a huge geographical area.
    2. Their greatest need (as individuals and especially as communities) was heart-change and life-change through a radical move to repentance and reconciliation with their Living God.[10]
    3. They also had great hurts, and perhaps anger and bitterness, but especially communal shame, through and because of the tragic events that they as a people had suffered. They needed help. Help to face these issues head-on. So that, with God’s help, they could find healing and be restored to spiritual, emotional, and mental health.
    4. They were no doubt confused over what, how and why these tragedies happened. They needed to face these cognitive issues, discuss them thoroughly, and gain an apologetic regarding who they are and especially who their God is.
  4. The author of Jeremiah could organize the material free of restrictions, such as chronology or pedantic progression. His audience was well aware of their long-term and immediate history.[11] So much knowledge was “shared-knowledge” or “common knowledge” among his readers that he could assume their comprehension.[12] Also, the relevance of the messages was unquestioned.
  5. The intended audience read/heard it through radically different eyes/ears than us. They saw and felt everything in 3D. Their wounds were real and emotions raw. Public readings of the lengthy scroll became a momentous event in their lives. The written words spoke to the very heart of their deepest issues and concerns. And it is indeed conceivable that the words in the scroll delivered them from drudgery and hopelessness, and brought them to the light, to purpose, and to the hope of a future community. A community planned and waiting to be actioned by their amazing God.

Greatest Insight

The greatest insight into the organization of the Book of Jeremiah will come through a well-studied and well-prepared empathetic reading of the text. The goal? To crawl into the skin of the original hearers and absorb it through their eyes and ears and needy hearts.

  • What passages of Jeremiah produced the highest interest of the original readers?
  • What passages of Jeremiah incited the greatest pain, shame, and anger?
  • What passages in Jeremiah were the hardest for the original audience to believe?
  • Which passages spoke so loudly they were never forgotten?

It is perhaps not possible to answer these questions with certainty; but keeping these issues in mind while reading the text definitely pays high dividends.

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope … I will bring you home again to your own land.” Jer. 29:11-14.


[1] “The modern reader of the Book of Jeremiah is faced at the outset with a difficult task. What has survived is not a book, in the normal sense of that word; it does not move from beginning to end, following a clear logic and inner development. Indeed, the major portion of the substance of this “book” was never designed for the literary context in which it has survived” Craigie, Peter C. et all, p xxxi.

[2] One commentator in his introduction uses the heading: “The Disorder of the Book”.  “No one can pretend that the book of Jeremiah is an orderly book. It could only be made so by severe pruning away of additional material and by drastic rearrangement to present a relatively accurate chronological scheme.” Cunliffe-Jones, p. 15. [Why is chronology so important? Cunliffe-Jones].

[3] “Parke-Taylor… finds the prose to be “monotonously repetitive” and “pedantic.” Brown, Kindle Location 1974.

[4] “The disorder of the book comes, indeed, from accumulated additional material added without editorial supervision.” Cunliffe-Jones, P. 20.

[5] An example: “This chapter [24] has the form of a prose vision report. Although prose, Mowinckel placed it with his “A” material. Although some commentators have assumed that the passage is Deuteronomistic (Nicholson and Hyatt), and others put it as later (Duhm and May), many take it to be largely Jeremianic (Rudolph, Bright, Holladay). The passage appears to have several later expansions.” Craigie, Peter C., p.357.

[6] The title of the book, when completed, will be Masterful Communication from Deity – The Book of Jeremiah.

[7] Authorship of the scroll is covered in another paper. Basically, it is believed by this writer that almost the entirety of the Masoretic text was composed by Jeremiah and Baruch in Egypt. At a later date, the final 4 verses where added by leaders of the faith community. They were happy to add this addendum, bringing completeness and a final note of hope to the scroll.

[8] Evidence is displayed in each column of the scroll.

[9] He ordered and arranged his material for a Specific Audience. As readers and students of this document, we are obligated as best we can to crawl into the skins of that audience. Hear it with their ears. Evaluate it with their experiences and needs and expectations. And feel its message with their hurting, disillusioned, and needy hearts. The Book of Jeremiah is excellent material for testing (and experiencing) Relevance Theory. (See Appendix ?TBD).

[10] This assumption is made based on the contents of Jeremiah and the Captivity Psalms. See Other Original Documents, pp TBD.

[11] History for these people was not a subject taken in school, it was their binding heritage, their unique identity, their strength for the present and their hope moving forward. History was “taught” through story telling every night around the fires, the elderly teaching the younger ones who there are, where they came from, and where they want to go. Events like Yom Kippur and the Feast of Booths.

[12] The shared cognitive environment was very broad and very deep, and not only knowledge was shared, but also experiences and interests and hopes overlapped greatly between writer and receptors.

Conclusion: Waves of Opposition

Few on planet earth endure a range of hardships like Jeremiah.

  • Death threats from family and townsfolk.
  • Angry, anonymous mob demanding death by stoning.
  • Public whipping and a night in stocks.
  • Months of work destroyed and need to flee.
  • Strange acted-out dual leading to death.
  • Cast into a stinking muddy pit.
  • Forced to make a repulsive purchase.

One episode remains. Something entirely different. In this one, Jeremiah becomes somewhat a trouble maker.

Jeremiah the Tempter

Jeremiah sought out the leaders of a certain family clan and invited all the men to join him inside the temple. At the appointed time they came. Jeremiah had reserved a room and set it up to host them. He welcomed them in the traditional way with cups and jugs of wine.

All the social norms, all the accepted behavior, etiquette, decency, in that day placed a strong obligation on these guests to receive the drink with gratitude. The host honored them by going personally to invite them. The host prepared everything in advance. They came as guests and were obliged to return honor to their host. Refusing the welcoming drink is a breach of etiquette, an unforgivable offense. But this is what they did. They brought shame on Jeremiah by refusing his welcome. In normal circumstances, Jeremiah would be hotly offended.

The problem? These men, along with their whole clan for generations, were under oath to not drink from the fruit of the vine. They were teetotalers from birth to death. Even God’s spokesperson in a private temple room would not get them to change.

Jeremiah breathed a sigh of relief. The Recabites’ unswerving obedience to their forefathers became powerful ammunition for rebuking the populace and the leaders of Judah.

Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me. The Recabites do not drink wine to this day because their ancestor Jehonadab told them not to. But I have spoken to you again and again, and you refuse to obey me. Time after time I sent you prophets, who told you, “Turn from your wicked ways, and start doing things right. Stop worshiping other gods so that you might live in peace here in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.” But you would not listen to me or obey me. The descendants of Jehonadab son of Recab have obeyed their ancestor completely, but you have refused to listen to me. Jer. 35:13-16.

A Clear Contrast

The contrasts are powerful:

In terms of loyalty, the Almighty, Living, Covenant God of Israel is certainly worthy of greater allegiance than any ancestor.

In terms of self-help, the benefits derived by obeying their Covenant God are exponentially greater than the Recabites were to gain through family loyalty.

But in all the places Jeremiah journeyed, and rebuked, and called for change, the people spat in his face, refusing to listen. The Recabites proved noble, all the others were ignoble.

“My people are foolish and do not know me,” says the LORD. “They are stupid children who have no understanding. They are clever enough at doing wrong, but they have no idea how to do right!” Jer. 4:22.

Therefore, their land will become desolate, a monument to their stupidity. All who pass by will be astonished and will shake their heads in amazement. Jer. 18:16.

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

These are the people Jeremiah spent 40 years trying to educate, awaken, and rescue from the consequences of their folly.

Respect

It is unfortunate that Jeremiah’s most famous title among popular circles is “the weeping prophet.” There is even the term “jeremiad” coined in his “honor.” Yes Jeremiah wept, but not out of self-pity and weakness. His weeping spawned out of concern for his people. He joined the “Weeping God.”

Now, Jeremiah, say this to them: “Night and day my eyes overflow with tears. I cannot stop weeping, for my virgin daughter – my precious people – has been struck down and lies mortally wounded.” Jer. 14:17.

This point is stated well by Paul House, “This emphasis on his weeping may mislead readers regarding his toughness. Jeremiah was a determined, dedicated, long-suffering, and visionary follower of God. His courage and stamina serves as examples to even the most faithful of all God’s embattled servants.”[1]

God’s spokesperson, Jeremiah, deserves a gold medal. As a man, servant of The Most High, citizen of a small, troubled nation, an activist for social concern,[2] and a bastion of hope for the future – very few human beings should stand in honor with him. God gifted us not only with a historical record of Jeremiah, we also have his writing in which he expresses many of his feelings and thoughts in an ongoing communication with his Divine Commander.

This is the focus of the third and largest section of this book, Dialogues with Deity. It is up next.


[1] ESV Study Bible. Crossway Bibles, Wheaton IL, 2008, p. 1364.

[2] This is covered in Appendix 8, Spokesperson’s Social Concern.

Stuck in the Mud

Introduction

The following event is another true story. The 100% accurate account can be found at Jeremiah 38:1 – 13. This elaborated account is presented through the eyes of an unnamed “participant”.

Unnamed Palace Servant

I was on my knees busily polishing the marble floor when my top boss came marching past. Worry etched his extra-dark face as he headed off to Benjamin Gate where King Zedekiah sat, enjoying the fresh air.

Has Ebed Melech been summoned by the king? Has this good man offended His Majesty? But this is not proper protocol, what was his hurry? My boss must be panicked about something and seeks help from the king.

Peeking around the corner I could see I was right. Mr. Melech was in animated conversation with King Zedekiah himself. What could be so important?

He bows to the king and turns to come back, so I rush back to work. As he entered the palace he called my name and barked out, “Put that stuff away, we have to rescue the Prophet!”

I was confused but followed his orders. I put the polish and cloths in their proper place while Mr. Melech rounded up two others[1] and grabbed a rope from the storeroom. He threw it to me and without explanation he went downstairs. I am confused. He came back up carrying a bunch of old rags and worn-out clothes and he barked, “Let’s move it!”

Now I am totally confused. Rope, old clothes, big hurry to “save” the prophet. What will Boss Melech come up with next?

We marched to the temple yard with no chance for conversation.

My boss stops and calls down into the dark, damp cistern of the king’s son.[2] “Are you O.K., sir?”

The faint answer returns, “The Lord lives.”

Mr. Melech grabs the rope from me, ties up some of the cloths, and lowers it down the cistern.

“Put these rags and cloths under your arms.” He called down, “When we pull you out, these rags will pad your underarms and the ropes will not hurt you.”[3]

So, we pulled the prophet out. He was covered by smelly mud from waist to feet. How did he manage to breath down there? Who could have done this to such a man of God? Has he been down there all night?

We helped him get washed off and gave him a change of clothes. He gulped down water and tried to swallow some bread, then fell into exhausted sleep almost in our arms.

“What happened, Mr. Melech?” I asked as we cleaned the rope and removed the dirty rags. “Who could do such a terrible thing?”

So he told me the story.

He was in the king’s palace inspecting the rooms when he heard several nobles talking and laughing. He listened in and learned that they had reported Prophet Jeremiah to the king (no doubt speaking lies and false accusations). The king told them they could do whatever they saw fit. So they were laughing at the old prophet floundering in the mud “where all unclean animals (pigs) belong.”

So this explains the worry etched on Mr. Melech’s face as he rushed to see the king. But what made him, a foreigner from Ethiopia, care so much to risk his job, and maybe his life, to save him? So I pondered this old man, Jeremiah.

He is called “The Prophet.” Respected by most people but hated by a few. Unfortunately, these few are the ones in power. Jeremiah has been speaking on God’s behalf for 40 years. He has been beaten, jailed, ridiculed, and now thrown into a muddy cistern for his faithful service to the Living God. I decided then and there that if anyone is looking for a hero, brave and true, this is the man! Praise the Living God!

Things to Note

1. At the beginning of the Biblical account, four palace officials are mentioned by name. They were obsessed with permanently closing God’s spokesperson’s mouth. This is what they said to King Zedekiah, “Sir, this man must die! That kind of talk will undermine the morale of the few fighting men we have left, as well as that of all the people. This man is a traitor!” 38:4.

They admit that they have just “a few fighting men” while thousands of professional, fully armed enemy soldiers surround the city. On what source were they placing their hope for deliverance?

2. This story portrays Zedekiah as the wimpy king he was. He answered the four men’s request with these words: “All right. Do as you like. I can’t stop you.”38:5. But when another man makes a contrary request he does a 1800 turn: “Take thirty of my men with you, and pull Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies” (38:10).

3. Ebed-Melech was a brilliant thinker. He approached the king as if the king didn’t know what was happening, saying, “these men have done a very evil thing.” Then, he mentions that Jeremiah might starve to death and added the strange words, “For almost all the bread in the city is gone.” There was a reason for this comment. King Zedekiah had recently made a very specific, unconditional promise that was now in danger of being forgotten, because Jeremiah was now “out of sight, out of mind.”

“The king also commanded that Jeremiah be given a loaf of fresh bread every day as long as there was any left in the city.” 37:21. Ebed-Melech indirectly called the king’s attention to this promise while not directly confronting his superior. This spurred the king’s action. Well Done E.M.


[1] Some manuscripts say “3 men”, some say “30 men.” The king was a weak leader. He wanted to assist this upright man to rescue the prophet, but he was not strong enough to confront the men who did the imprisoning. If he authorized “3” men, it means it was for a quick, stealth mission. If he authorized “30” men, it was intended as a show of force in case of confrontation.

[2] The ownership of the cistern is quite a remarkable detail. “It belonged to Malkijah, a member of the royal family.” Jer. 38:6. No one would want a human being (especially one of note) dying in their cistern, even if it was no longer used. This may have been a reason for King Zedekiah’s about-face and call to action. Had the officers intended to insult the king and his family?

[3] Nice little tidbit of information.

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!