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the nation and people that will not serve him, and that does not give its own neck to the yoke, that nation I will punish with sword, famine, and pestilence, till I have consumed them by his hand.” A similar message he sent to Zedekiah and the princes who seemed to have influenced him. “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, and ye shall live. Do not listen to the words of the prophets who say to you, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon. They prophesy a lie to you.” The same message in substance he sent to the priests and people, urging them not to listen to the voice of the false prophets, who based their opinions on the anticipated interference of God to save Jerusalem from destruction ; for that destruction would surely come if its people did not serve the king of Babylonia until the appointed time should come, when Babylon itself should fall into the hands of enemies more powerful than itself, even the Medes and Persians.
Jeremiah, thus brought into direct opposition to the false prophets, was exposed to their bitterest wrath. But he was undaunted, although alone, and thus boldly addressed Hananiah, one of their leaders and himself a priest : “Hear the words that I speak in your ears. Not I alone, but all the prophets who have been before me, have prophesied long ago war, captivity, and pestilence, while you prophesy peace.” On this, Hananiah snatched the ox-yoke from the neck of Jeremiah, and broke it, saying, “Thus saith Jehovah, Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar from the neck of all nations within two years.” Jeremiah in reply said to this false prophet that he had broken a wooden yoke only to prepare an iron one for the people ; for thus saith Jehovah : “I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they shall serve the king of Babylon. ... And further, hear this, O Hananiah! Jéhovah has not sent thee, but thou makest this people trust in a lie; therefore thou shalt die this very year, because thou hast spoken rebellion against Jehovah.” In two months the lying prophet was dead.
Zedekiah, now awe-struck by the death of his counsellor, made up his mind to resist the Egyptian party and remain true to Nebuchadnezzar, and resolved to send an embassy to Babylon to vindicate himself from any suspicion of disloyalty; and further, he sought to win the favor of Jeremiah by a special gift to the Temple of a set of silver vessels to replace the golden ones that had been carried to Babylon. Jeremiah entered into his views, and sent with the embassy a letter to the exiles to warn them of the hopelessness of their cause. It was not well received, and created great excitement and indignation, since it seemed to exhort them to settle down contentedly in their slavery. The
words of Jeremiah were, however, indorsed by the prophet Ezekiel, and he addressed the exiles from the place where he lived in Chaldæa, confirming the destruction which Jeremiah prophesied to unwilling ears. “Behold the day! See, it comes ! The fierceness of Chaldæa has shot up into a rod to punish the wickedness of the people of Judah. Nothing shall remain of them. The time is come! Forge the chains to lead off the people captive. Destruction comes; calamity will follow calamity!"
Meanwhile, in spite of all these warnings from both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, things were passing at Jerusalem from bad to worse, until Nebuchadnezzar resolved on taking final vengeance on a rebellious city and people that refused to look on things as they were. Never was there a more infatuated people. One would suppose that a city already decimated, and its principal people already in bondage in Babylon, would not dare to resist the mightiest monarch who ever reigned in the East before the time of Cyrus. But “whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.” Every preparation was made to defend the city. The general of Nebuchadnezzar with a great force surrounded it, and erected towers against the walls. But so strong were the fortifications that the inhabitants were able to stand a siege of eighteen months. At the end of this time they were driven to desperation, and fought
with the energy of despair. They could resist battering rams, but they could not resist famine and pestilence. After dreadful sufferings, the besieged found the soldiers of Chaldæa within their Temple, a breach in the walls having been made, and the stubborn city was taken by assault. The few who were spared were carried away captive to Babylon with what spoil could be found, and the Temple and the walls were levelled to the ground. The predictions of the prophets were fulfilled, — the holy city was a heap of desolation. Zedekiah, with his wives and children, had escaped through a passage made in the wall, at a corner of the city which the Chaldeans had not been able to invest, and made his way toward Jericho, but was overtaken and carried in chains to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar was encamped. As he had broken a solemn oath to remain faithful, a severe judgment was pronounced upon him. His courtiers and his sons were executed in his sight, his own eyes were put out, and then he was taken to Babylon, where he was made to work like a slave in a mill. Thus ended the dynasty of David, in the year 588 B. C., about the time that Draco gave laws to Athens, and Tarquinius Priscus was king of
As for Jeremiah, during the siege of the city he fell into the power of the nobles, who beat him and imprisoned him in a dungeon. The king was not able to
release him, so low had the royal power sunk in that disastrous age; but he secretly befriended him, and asked his counsel. The princes insisted on his removal to a place where no succor could reach him, and he was cast into a deep well from which the water was dried up, having at the bottom only slime and mud. From this pit of misery he was rescued by one of the royal guards, and once again he had a secret interview with Zedekiah, and remained secluded in the palace until the city fell. He was spared by the conqueror in view of his fidelity and his earnest efforts to prevent the rebellion, and perhaps also for his lofty character, the last of the great statesmen of Judah and the most distinguished man of the city. Nebuchadnezzar gave him the choice, to accompany him to Babylon with the promise of high favor at his court, or remain at home among the few that were not deemed of sufficient importance to carry away. Jeremiah preferred to remain amid the ruins of his country; for although Jerusalem was destroyed, the mountains and valleys remained, and the humble classes — the peasants — were left to cultivate the neglected vineyards and cornfields.
From Mizpeh, the city which he had selected as his last resting-place, Jeremiah was carried into Egypt, and his subsequent history is unknown. According to tradition he was stoned to death by his fellow-exiles