Meeting in God’s Temple
The Message that Jeremiah received from God ten years earlier, during the time of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Israel:
“Go visit the Recabite community. Invite them to meet with you in one of the rooms in God’s Temple. And serve them wine.”
So I went and got Jaazaniah son of Jeremiah, son of Habazziniah, along with all his brothers and sons—the whole community of the Recabites as it turned out—and brought them to God’s Temple and to the meeting room of Hanan son of Igdaliah, a man of God. It was next to the meeting room of the Temple officials and just over the apartment of Maaseiah son of Shallum, who was in charge of Temple affairs.
Then I set out chalices and pitchers of wine for the Recabites and said, “A toast! Drink up!”
But they wouldn’t do it. “We don’t drink wine,” they said. “Our ancestor Jonadab son of Recab commanded us, ‘You are not to drink wine, you or your children, ever. Neither shall you build houses or settle down, planting fields and gardens and vineyards. Don’t own property. Live in tents as nomads so that you will live well and prosper in a wandering life.’
“And we’ve done it, done everything Jonadab son of Recab commanded. We and our wives, our sons and daughters, drink no wine at all. We don’t build houses. We don’t have vineyards or fields or gardens. We live in tents as nomads. We’ve listened to our ancestor Jonadab and we’ve done everything he commanded us.
“But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded our land, we said, ‘Let’s go to Jerusalem and get out of the path of the Chaldean and Aramean armies, find ourselves a safe place.’ That’s why we’re living in Jerusalem right now.”
Why Won’t You Learn Your Lesson?
Then Jeremiah received this Message from God: “God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, wants you to go tell the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem that I say, ‘Why won’t you learn your lesson and do what I tell you?’ God’s Decree. ‘The commands of Jonadab son of Recab to his sons have been carried out to the letter. He told them not to drink wine, and they haven’t touched a drop to this very day. They honored and obeyed their ancestor’s command. But look at you! I have gone to a lot of trouble to get your attention, and you’ve ignored me. I sent prophet after prophet to you, all of them my servants, to tell you from early morning to late at night to change your life, make a clean break with your evil past and do what is right, to not take up with every Tom, Dick, and Harry of a god that comes down the pike, but settle down and be faithful in this country I gave your ancestors.
“‘And what do I get from you? Deaf ears. The descendants of Jonadab son of Recab carried out to the letter what their ancestor commanded them, but this people ignores me.’
“So here’s what is going to happen. God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘I will bring calamity down on the heads of the people of Judah and Jerusalem—the very calamity I warned you was coming—because you turned a deaf ear when I spoke, turned your backs when I called.’”
Then, turning to the Recabite community, Jeremiah said, “And this is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says to you: Because you have done what Jonadab your ancestor told you, obeyed his commands and followed through on his instructions, receive this Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: There will always be a descendant of Jonadab son of Recab at my service! Always!’”
Reading God’s Message
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, Jeremiah received this Message from God:
“Get a scroll and write down everything I’ve told you regarding Israel and Judah and all the other nations from the time I first started speaking to you in Josiah’s reign right up to the present day.
“Maybe the community of Judah will finally get it, finally understand the catastrophe that I’m planning for them, turn back from their bad lives, and let me forgive their perversity and sin.”
So Jeremiah called in Baruch son of Neriah. Jeremiah dictated and Baruch wrote down on a scroll everything that God had said to him.
Then Jeremiah told Baruch, “I’m blacklisted. I can’t go into God’s Temple, so you’ll have to go in my place. Go into the Temple and read everything you’ve written at my dictation. Wait for a day of fasting when everyone is there to hear you. And make sure that all the people who come from the Judean villages hear you.
“Maybe, just maybe, they’ll start praying and God will hear their prayers. Maybe they’ll turn back from their bad lives. This is no light matter. God has certainly let them know how angry he is!”
Baruch son of Neriah did everything Jeremiah the prophet told him to do. In the Temple of God he read the Message of God from the scroll.
It came about in December of the fifth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah that all the people of Jerusalem, along with all the people from the Judean villages, were there in Jerusalem to observe a fast to God.
Baruch took the scroll to the Temple and read out publicly the words of Jeremiah. He read from the meeting room of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary of state, which was in the upper court right next to the New Gate of God’s Temple. Everyone could hear him.
The moment Micaiah the son of Gemariah heard what was being read from the scroll—God’s Message!—he went straight to the palace and to the chambers of the secretary of state where all the government officials were holding a meeting: Elishama the secretary, Delaiah son of Shemaiah, Elnathan son of Achbor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah, and all the other government officials.
Micaiah reported everything he had heard Baruch read from the scroll as the officials listened.
Immediately they dispatched Jehudi son of Nethaniah, son of Semaiah, son of Cushi, to Baruch, ordering him, “Take the scroll that you have read to the people and bring it here.” So Baruch went and retrieved the scroll.
The officials told him, “Sit down. Read it to us, please.” Baruch read it.
When they had heard it all, they were upset. They talked it over. “We’ve got to tell the king all this.”
They asked Baruch, “Tell us, how did you come to write all this? Was it at Jeremiah’s dictation?”
Baruch said, “That’s right. Every word right from his own mouth. And I wrote it down, word for word, with pen and ink.”
The government officials told Baruch, “You need to get out of here. Go into hiding, you and Jeremiah. Don’t let anyone know where you are!”
The officials went to the court of the palace to report to the king, having put the scroll for safekeeping in the office of Elishama the secretary of state. The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll. He brought it from the office of Elishama the secretary. Jehudi then read it to the king and the officials who were in the king’s service.
It was December. The king was sitting in his winter quarters in front of a charcoal fire. After Jehudi would read three or four columns, the king would cut them off the scroll with his pocketknife and throw them in the fire. He continued in this way until the entire scroll had been burned up in the fire.
Neither the king nor any of his officials showed the slightest twinge of conscience as they listened to the messages read. Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah tried to convince the king not to burn the scroll, but he brushed them off. He just plowed ahead and ordered Prince Jerahameel, Seraiah son of Azriel, and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Jeremiah the prophet and his secretary Baruch. But God had hidden them away.
After the king had burned the scroll that Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, Jeremiah received this Message from God: “Get another blank scroll and do it all over again. Write out everything that was in that first scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up.
“And send this personal message to Jehoiakim king of Judah: ‘God says, You had the gall to burn this scroll and then the nerve to say, “What kind of nonsense is this written here—that the king of Babylon will come and destroy this land and kill everything in it?”
“‘Well, do you want to know what God says about Jehoiakim king of Judah? This: No descendant of his will ever rule from David’s throne. His corpse will be thrown in the street and left unburied, exposed to the hot sun and the freezing night. I will punish him and his children and the officials in his government for their blatant sin. I’ll let loose on them and everyone in Jerusalem the doomsday disaster of which I warned them but they spit at.’”
So Jeremiah went and got another scroll and gave it to Baruch son of Neriah, his secretary. At Jeremiah’s dictation he again wrote down everything that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. There were also generous additions, but of the same kind of thing.
In an Underground Dungeon
King Zedekiah son of Josiah, a puppet king set on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the land of Judah, was now king in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim. But neither he nor his officials nor the people themselves paid a bit of attention to the Message God gave by Jeremiah the prophet.
However, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, son of Maaseiah, to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “Pray for us—pray hard!—to the Master, our God.”
Jeremiah was still moving about freely among the people in those days. This was before he had been put in jail. Pharaoh’s army was marching up from Egypt. The Chaldeans fighting against Jerusalem heard that the Egyptians were coming and pulled back.
Then Jeremiah the prophet received this Message from God: “I, the God of Israel, want you to give this Message to the king of Judah, who has just sent you to me to find out what he should do. Tell him, ‘Get this: Pharaoh’s army, which is on its way to help you, isn’t going to stick it out. No sooner will they get here than they’ll leave and go home to Egypt. And then the Babylonians will come back and resume their attack, capture this city and burn it to the ground. I, God, am telling you: Don’t kid yourselves, reassuring one another, “The Babylonians will leave in a few days.” I tell you, they aren’t leaving. Why, even if you defeated the entire attacking Chaldean army and all that was left were a few wounded soldiers in their tents, the wounded would still do the job and burn this city to the ground.’”
When the Chaldean army pulled back from Jerusalem, Jeremiah left Jerusalem to go over to the territory of Benjamin to take care of some personal business. When he got to the Benjamin Gate, the officer on guard there, Irijah son of Shelemiah, son of Hananiah, grabbed Jeremiah the prophet, accusing him, “You’re deserting to the Chaldeans!”
“That’s a lie,” protested Jeremiah. “I wouldn’t think of deserting to the Chaldeans.”
But Irijah wouldn’t listen to him. He arrested him and took him to the police. The police were furious with Jeremiah. They beat him up and threw him into jail in the house of Jonathan the secretary of state. (They were using the house for a prison cell.) So Jeremiah entered an underground cell in a cistern turned into a dungeon. He stayed there a long time.
Later King Zedekiah had Jeremiah brought to him. The king questioned him privately, “Is there a Message from God?”
“There certainly is,” said Jeremiah. “You’re going to be turned over to the king of Babylon.”
Jeremiah continued speaking to King Zedekiah: “Can you tell me why you threw me into prison? What crime did I commit against you or your officials or this people? And tell me, whatever has become of your prophets who preached all those sermons saying that the king of Babylon would never attack you or this land? Listen to me, please, my master—my king! Please don’t send me back to that dungeon in the house of Jonathan the secretary. I’ll die there!”
So King Zedekiah ordered that Jeremiah be assigned to the courtyard of the palace guards. He was given a loaf of bread from Bakers’ Alley every day until all the bread in the city was gone. And that’s where Jeremiah remained—in the courtyard of the palace guards.