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to kill him, as the princes and priests of Judah would have sacrificed the greatest prophet that had appeared since Elisha, the greatest statesman since Samuel, the greatest poet since David, if Isaiah alone be excepted. No wonder he was driven to a state of despondency and grief that reminds us of Job upon his ash-heap. “Cursed be the day,” he exclaims, in his lonely chamber, “ on which I was born! Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man-child is born to thee, making him very glad! Why did I come forth from the womb that my days might be spent in shame ?” A great and good man may be urged by the sense of duty to declare truths which he knows will lead to martyrdom; but no martyr was ever insensible to suffering or shame. All the glories of his future crown cannot sweeten the bitterness of the cup he is compelled to drain ; even the greatest of martyrs prayed in his agony that the cup might pass from him. How could a man help being sad and even bitter, if ever so exalted in soul, when he saw that his warnings were utterly disregarded, and that no mortal influence or power could avert the doom he was compelled to pronounce as an ambassador of God? And when in addition to his grief as a patriot he was unjustly made to suffer reproach, scourgings, imprisonment, and probable death, how can we wonder that his patience was exhausted ? He felt as if a burning fire consumed his very bones, and he could refrain no longer. He cried aloud in the intensity of his grief and pain, and Jehovah, in whom he trusted, appeared to him as a mighty champion and an everlasting support.
Jeremiah at this time, during the early years of the reign of Jehoiakim, the period of the most active part of his ministry, was about forty-five years of age. Great events were then taking place. Nineveh was besieged by one of its former generals, — Nabopolassar, now king of Babylon. The siege lasted two years, and the city fell in the year 606 B.C., when Jehoiakim had been about four years on the throne. The fall of this great capital enabled the son of the king of Babylonia, Nebuchadnezzar, to advance against Necho, the king of Egypt, who had taken Carchemish about three years before. Near that ancient capital of the Hittites, on the banks of the Euphrates, one of the most important battles of antiquity was fought, - and Necho, whose armies a few years before had so successfully invaded the Assyrian empire, was forced to retreat to Egypt. The battle of Carchemish put an end to Egyptian conquests in the East, and enabled the young sovereign of Babylonia to attain a power and elevation such as no Oriental monarch had ever before enjoyed. Babylon became the centre of a new empire, which embraced the countries that had bowed down to
the Assyrian yoke. Nebuchadnezzar in the pride of victory now meditated the conquest of Egypt, and must needs pass through Palestine. But Jehoiakim was a vassal of Egypt, and had probably furnished troops for Necho at the fatal battle of Carchemish. Of course the Babylonian monarch would invade Judah on his way to Egypt, and punish its king, , whom he could only look upon as an enemy.
It was then that Jeremiah, sad and desponding over the fate of Jerusalem, which he knew was doomed, committed his precious utterances to writing by the assistance of his friend and companion Baruch. He had lately been living in retirement, feeling that his message was delivered; possibly he feared that the king would put him to death as he had the prophet Urijah. But he wished to make one more attempt to call the people to repentance, as the only way to escape impending calamities; and he prevailed upon his secretary to read the scroll, containing all his verbal utterances, to the assembled people in the Temple, who, in view of their political dangers, were celebrating a solemn fast. The priests and people alike, clad in black hair-cloth mantles, with ashes on their heads, lay prostrate on the ground, and by numerous sacrifices hoped to propitiate the Deity. But not by sacrifices and fasts were they to be saved from Nebuchadnezzar's army, as Jeremiah had foretold years before. The recital by
Baruch of the calamities he had predicted made a profound impression on the crowd. A young man, awed by what he had heard, hastened to the ball in which the princes were assembled, and told them what had been read from the prophet's scroll. They in their turn were alarmed, and commanded Baruch to read the contents to them also. So intense was the excitement that the matter was laid before the king, who ordered the roll to be read to him: he would hear the words that Jeremiah had caused to be written down. But scarcely had the reading of the roll begun before he flew into a violent rage, and seizing the manuscript he cut it to pieces with the scribe's knife, and burned it upon a brazier of coals. Orders were instantly given to arrest both Jeremiah and Baruch; but they had been warned and fled, and the place of their concealment could not be found.
Jehoiakim thus rejected the last offer of mercy with scorn and anger, although many of his officers were filled with fear. His heart was hardened, like that of Pharaoh before Moses. Jeremiah having learned the fate of the roll, dictated its contents anew to his faithful secretary, and a second roll was preserved, not, however, without contriving to send to the king this awful message. “Thus saith Jehovah of thee Jehoiakim: He shall have no son to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body will be cast out to lie in the heat by day and the frost by night; and no one shall raise a lament for him when he dies. He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn out of Jerusalem, and cast down from its gates."
No wonder that we lose sight of Jeremiah during the remainder of the reign of Jehoiakim ; it was not safe for him to appear anywhere in public. For a time his voice was not heard ; yet his predictions had such weight that the king dared not defy Nebuchadnezzar when he demanded the submission of Jerusalem. He was forced to become the vassal of the king of Babylonia, and furnish a contingent to his army. But this vassalage bore heavily on the arrogant soul of Jehoiakim, and he seized the first occasion to rebel, especially as Necho promised him protection. This rebellion was suicidal and fatal, since Babylon was the stronger power. Nebuchadnezzar, after the three years of forced submission, appeared before the gates of Jerusalem with an irresistible army. There was no resistance, as resistance was folly. Jehoiakim was put in chains, and avoided being carried captive to Babylon only by the most abject submission to the conqueror. All that was valuable in the Temple and the palaces was seized as spoil. Jerusalem was spared for a while; and in the mean time Jehoiakim died, and so intensely was he hated and despised that no dirge was sung over his remains, while his dishonored body