Jeremiah 26 – Jeremiah Spared from Death
A. Jeremiah in danger of death.
1. (1-3) The command to speak.
In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the LORD, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word. Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.’”
a. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim: King Jehoiakim came to the throne in 609 BC, about four years before the first Babylonian invasion. This prophecy apparently came before that invasion, when many of the leaders of Judah felt they could avoid the Babylonian conquest.
i. Jeremiah’s message described in chapter 26 seems to be the same message he preached in Jeremiah 7. In Jeremiah 26, the emphasis is on the hostile response to this sermon at the temple.
ii. “A longer account or a longer version of this sermon, but without the furore that now followed it, appears in chapter 7, undated.” (Kidner)
b. Do not diminish a word: God told Jeremiah to stand in the temple court and to preach a message to all the cities of Judah and all those who come to worship in the LORD’s house. It was important that Jeremiah say everything God told him to say (all the words I command you to speak to them).
i. John Trapp on do not diminish a word: “Here is a mirror for ministers.”
c. Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way: God did not wonder if Judah would listen and repent or not do so. God knew, but Jeremiah did not. God wanted Jeremiah to preach the message with the hope that they might listen and that God might relent from the promised judgment.
2. (4-6) The words to speak.
“And you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you, to heed the words of My servants the prophets whom I sent to you, both rising up early and sending them (but you have not heeded), then I will make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.”’”
a. If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you: God just told Jeremiah to preach as if it were possible that the people of Judah might in fact listen. God then told Jeremiah to warn the people what would happen if they did not listen in the sense of not hearing and obeying.
b. Then I will make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse: The city of Shiloh was the place conquered and destroyed by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4, Psalm 78:56-64). The Philistines killed the priests and captured the ark of the covenant, and Israel felt as if God’s glory had departed. God promised to make Jerusalem and the temple like Shiloh if Judah continued to not listen to Him.
3. (7-9) Opposition from the priests, the prophets, and the people.
So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. Now it happened, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, “You will surely die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without an inhabitant’?” And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.
a. The priests and the prophets and all the people: Jeremiah spoke from the temple court (Jeremiah 26:2), making the message as public as possible. It isn’t a surprise that both important people and common people heard him. They were angry at what he said and they seized him.
b. This house shall be like Shiloh: When Jeremiah prophesied about the coming destruction of the temple and conquest of Jerusalem, most people thought he was disloyal to Judah and all that happened at the temple. Perhaps they thought that he wanted these things to happen.
i. “Shiloh was evidently destroyed about 1050 BC by the Philistine incursion into the land referred to in 1 Samuel 4. There is archaeological evidence to support this.” (Thompson)
ii. “Shiloh was not far from Jerusalem; the people could see the evidences of its destruction (c. 1050 BC) — a destruction that overtook it even though it had been the first resting place of the ark of the covenant in the land.” (Feinberg)
iii. The people were gathered against Jeremiah: “It would seem that the people crowded about Jeremiah. The verb qahal normally refers to a gathering for religious purposes but it is also used for war (2 Samuel 20:14), or for hostile intentions (Numbers 16:3). Such a scene in the temple precincts indicates how angry the people were.” (Thompson)
4. (10-11) The charge against Jeremiah brought to the princes of Judah.
When the princes of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the LORD and sat down in the entry of the New Gate of the LORD’s house. And the priests and the prophets spoke to the princes and all the people, saying, “This man deserves to die! For he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears.”
a. When the princes of Judah heard these things: The priests and the prophets and the people had condemned Jeremiah. Now they brought him for judgment to the political leaders of Judah.
b. This man deserves to die! For he has prophesied against this city: Jeremiah’s message was bad news about Jerusalem – that judgment was on the way. Therefore the priests and the prophets and the people felt he was against the city and a traitor to Jerusalem. They believed that Jeremiah dangerously weakened morale and helped the cause of those who threatened Jerusalem.
5. (12-15) Jeremiah defends and explains his message.
Then Jeremiah spoke to all the princes and all the people, saying: “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city with all the words that you have heard. Now therefore, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; then the LORD will relent concerning the doom that He has pronounced against you. As for me, here I am, in your hand; do with me as seems good and proper to you. But know for certain that if you put me to death, you will surely bring innocent blood on yourselves, on this city, and on its inhabitants; for truly the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”
a. Then Jeremiah spoke: Formally accused of treason, Jeremiah defended himself before the princes and all the people. Obviously, the accusing priests and prophets heard his response, but he did not really direct it toward them.
i. “Note the admirable courage and quiet dignity of Jeremiah. There was no modification of his message to create a less-prejudicial atmosphere, for he was convinced of the divine source of his message.” (Cundall)
ii. “The prophet defended the message directly, courageously, and appropriately. Nowhere in the book does he appear in a better light than here. He did not trim his message. He did not cower and beg for mercy.” (Feinberg)
b. The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city: Jeremiah made it clear that his ministry and his message were not a matter of choice. This was God’s command and he only did what God sent him to do.
i. “My commission is from him, and my words are his own. I sought not this painful office. I did not run before I was sent.” (Clarke)
c. Therefore, amend your ways and your doings: Jeremiah was on trial for his life. Yet he still courageously spoke his message and spoke as if they were on trial and not he – because there was a real sense in which that was true. Their only hope was that God might relent from the promised judgment in response to their repentance.
d. As for me, here I am, in your hand; do with me as seems good and proper to you: Jeremiah was determined to speak what God told him to say and to take whatever punishment it might bring. In a remarkable way, Jeremiah put the message God gave him above and before his personal safety.
i. Jeremiah spoke very much in the same spirit that the apostles would speak centuries later when they stood before a council: Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20).
ii. Here I am, in your hand: “See here how God gave his holy prophet a mouth and wisdom, such as his adversaries were not able to resist. The like he did to other of his martyrs and confessors, as were easy to instance. If the queen will give me life, I will thank her; if she will banish me, I will thank her; if she will burn me, I will thank her, said Bradford to Cresswell, offering to intercede for him.” (Trapp)
e. Know for certain that if you put me to death, you will surely bring innocent blood on yourselves: The choice was left to them, but Jeremiah wanted them to know it was a choice with consequences. Killing God’s prophet would only add to the guilt of the leaders and the city.
f. For truly the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing: Jeremiah was steadfast before this council of the princes of Judah. He didn’t display any doubt about his call or his message.
i. By nature, Jeremiah seemed to be somewhat shy and hesitant. Here he stood with great courage to give an account for his call and his work, just as God promised he would in Jeremiah 1:18-19. “Had John the Baptist spoken thus, or John Knox, we had not been surprised. But for this sensitive, retiring man to speak thus is due to the transforming power of the grace of God.” (Meyer)
ii. John Trapp mentioned an unnamed expositor that noted “five noble virtues” in Jeremiah’s brief defense.
· Prudence in proclaiming his divine mission.
· Love in exhorting his enemies to repent.
· Humility in acknowledging their power over him.
· Courage in telling them God would avenge his death.
· Fearlessness before death.
B. Jeremiah spared from death.
1. (16) Jeremiah will not be condemned to death.
So the princes and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve to die. For he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.”
a. This man does not deserve to die: No doubt moved by the courage of Jeremiah, the ruling of the council of the princes and the opinion of all the people was that Jeremiah should not die. Though the priests and prophets likely did not agree, Jeremiah would be spared death.
i. “The prophet’s honesty and conviction by the Spirit gripped the hearts of the civil officials and the people.” (Feinberg)
ii. The appeal, Know for certain that if you put me to death, you will surely bring innocent blood on yourselves (Jeremiah 26:15) seemed to work. Centuries later, another innocent messenger of God was unjustly accused by religious leaders, and in the trial they were warned that an unjust death sentence would bring bloodguilt. Yet Jesus of Nazareth was nevertheless condemned.
b. For he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God: They didn’t like Jeremiah’s message, but they had to admit that it was God’s message. It wasn’t right to blame the messenger for faithfully delivering the message.
i. “These princes soon after turned Jeremiah’s cruel enemies [Jeremiah 37:15] for his plain dealing. [Jeremiah 34:1-7].” (Trapp)
2. (17-19) Remembering when they used to listen to the prophets.
Then certain of the elders of the land rose up and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying: “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Zion shall be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins,
And the mountain of the temple
Like the bare hills of the forest.”’
Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah ever put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and seek the LORD’s favor? And the LORD relented concerning the doom which He had pronounced against them. But we are doing great evil against ourselves.”
a. Then certain of the elders of the land rose up: We don’t know exactly who these men were. They don’t seem to exactly fit in the previous categories of princes, priests, or prophets. They spoke wisdom to Jeremiah and his situation.
i. There were no elders who spoke up on behalf of Jesus when He was unjustly tried. A pagan ruler proclaimed His innocence but sent Jesus to the cross anyway.
b. Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah: The elders remembered the work of the Prophet Micah, recorded in the Book of Micah (Micah 1:1). They remembered that his message was often not pleasant and remembered what he said that was recorded in Micah 3:12 regarding the destruction of Jerusalem (Zion shall be plowed like a field).
i. It is of interest to note what Micah said right before this portion they quoted: Her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the LORD, and say, “Is not the LORD among us? No harm can come upon us” (Micah 3:11). Micah warned them of judgment specifically in the context of the assurance of false prophets and the sense that no harm could come to Jerusalem.
ii. By most chronologies, Micah carried out his prophetic work more than 100 years before the time of Jeremiah. Their exact quotation of his words is significant. “It shows how the words of the great prophets were treasured, and so remembered that they could be readily quoted.” (Cundall)
c. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah ever put him to death: The elders wisely remembered that Micah was not punished for bringing a severe message from God. Instead, King Hezekiah responded by fearing the LORD and seeking the LORD’s favor. God responded favorably when they did this when He relented concerning the doom which He had pronounced against them.
d. We are doing great evil against ourselves: In a sense of wise self-interest, the elders understood that it was wrong to oppose Jeremiah and to persecute him. Instead they should fear the LORD and seek the LORD’s favor just as Hezekiah did with Micah’s message. If they did not, they would suffer from it, not only Jeremiah.
i. “This is really a fine defense, and the argument was perfectly conclusive.” (Clarke)
3. (20-23) The faithfulness of the prophet Urijah; his persecution and death.
Now there was also a man who prophesied in the name of the LORD, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjath Jearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah. And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death; but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid and fled, and went to Egypt. Then Jehoiakim the king sent men to Egypt: Elnathan the son of Achbor, and other men who went with him to Egypt. And they brought Urijah from Egypt and brought him to Jehoiakim the king, who killed him with the sword and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.
a. There was also a man who prophesied in the name of the LORD, Urijah the son of Shemaiah: The elders remembered a second prophet whose name was Urijah. We don’t know anything of this Urijah the son of Shemaiah who also prophesied in the days of Jehoiakim the king.
b. Who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah: Jeremiah was not the only faithful prophet during his years of ministry. There were others who told the truth about the coming judgment, including this Urijah the son of Shemaiah.
c. The king sought to put him to death: Since the events of this chapter happened in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:1), the king must have tried to kill Urijah even earlier. These things had recently happened.
d. When Urijah heard it, he was afraid and fled, and went to Egypt: This faithful prophet did not stay in Jerusalem or Judah. He hoped to find safety in the large Jewish community in Egypt but did not. The king sent men to find Urijah and bring him back to Jerusalem.
i. There was no criticism of Urijah’s decision to go to Egypt. “Not out of timorousness, but prudence. Tertullian was too rigid in condemning all kinds of flight in times of persecution. God hath not made his people as standing buttmarks to be shot at.” (Trapp)
ii. They brought Urijah from Egypt: “International treaties in the ancient Near East called for extradition; it was part of the vassalage terms imposed by Egypt.” (Feinberg)
e. Who killed him with the sword and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people: The elders remembered that the prophet was brutally executed and disgraced in his death.
i. The elders did not speak against what Jehoiakim did. This was a not very hidden threat against Jeremiah: We saved you from death, but if you keep talking you’ll end up like Urijah did.
ii. “How many more prophets were frightened into silence we do not know.” (Cundall)
4. (24) Help for Jeremiah from Ahikam.
Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, so that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.
a. Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah: Perhaps Ahikam was one of the elders. Jeremiah had at least one influential friend.
i. “Ahikam had been a member of the deputation sent by Josiah to the prophetess Huldah (2 Kings 22:12ff.; 2 Chronicles 34:20), and was the father of Gedaliah, the governor of Judah appointed by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:22; Jeremiah 39:14).” (Harrison)
ii. Jesus had no Ahikam to defend Him. Jesus is our Ahikam, defending us from every accusation of the evil one and delivering us from all condemnation.
b. That they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death: Jeremiah did not only have the threat from the prophets and the priests, but also from the people. The princes would not carry out a formal execution (Jeremiah 26:16), but Jeremiah also needed protection against the mob, from the hand of the people.