Jeremiah 26


Jeremiah 26:2  Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak

In chapter 22, Jeremiah was commanded to warn the king in the royal court.  Now it’s the temple court.  Both are dangerous assignments.  “Go tell the king that none of his sons will reign on the throne.”  Now, it is, “Go and tell the people that their temple and city will be destroyed.” The Jerusalem Temple, in any age, was a charged atmosphere.  Jesus threatened the religious establishment during his Galilean ministry, but the tension was thickest in the temple.  Jeremiah’s experience would prefigure the Master’s.  Jeremiah’s authority is in question, his source of revelation is in question, but more importantly, his message is a threat to the priests and false prophets who ran the temple.  How dare he?

“It seems that the Jews had a false sense of security in their temple. They had been enjoying relative peace and freedom from the interference of foreign nations. Possibly they felt that their worship and their temple gave them these blessings. But Jeremiah comes to the gate of the Lord's house and quickly disabuses them. His words show that the Jews had no vital moral or spiritual sense of the sacredness of the holy edifice. Their trust in the Temple had a purely material and worldly basis. They apparently did not understand that the Temple was a watch tower and a fortress for God's people only under conditions of righteousness. The Jews had falsely supposed it to be a rallying place in the days of their wickedness and indulgence. Jeremiah showed that under such conditions the Temple would share the fate of Shiloh and be destroyed.” (Sidney B. Sperry, The Voice of Israel's Prophets [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1952], 163)

Jeremiah 26:6 Then will I make this house like Shiloh

When the Israelites first settled in the land of Canaan, the tabernacle of Moses was placed in Shiloh not Jerusalem (BD: “Tabernacle”).  At the time, Shiloh was the holiest place in the land.  It was the capital like Jerusalem before King David made Jerusalem famous.  There, the tabernacle of Moses and the Ark of the Covenant were kept, except when the Israelites took it with them to battle.

But Shiloh and the Ark of the Covenant were forsaken by the Lord. Because of disobedience, the Lord allowed the Philistines to capture the Ark of the Covenant (see 1 Sam. 4).  Since the Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of Jehovah, the loss of the ark symbolized the Lord’s abandonment of Israel, and so the people lamented, “The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken” (1 Sam. 4:22).  Shiloh was never again the holy city.  It was completely destroyed in an event so traumatic to the identity of the Jewish nation that the details of the assault were not recorded.  Perhaps, the event was too traumatic to include, or perhaps, all who were witnesses were killed.  It most likely occurred in the days of Samuel (see 1 Sam 1:3, and 1 Sam. 1-8).  Shiloh had been destroyed.  The Ark was gone.  It was like the very heart of the Jewish identity had been ripped from their collective chest.

With this history in mind, Jeremiah is warning the Jews that Solomon’s temple would lose its power and glory as well.  In addition to Jerusalem becoming “a curse to all the nations of the earth,” the temple would be defiled and just as when the Ark of the Covenant was taken, the presence of the Lord would be taken from the city.

Jeremiah 26:8 the priests and the prophets

Four specific groups are mentioned which oppose Jeremiah: 1) the people, 2) the priests, 3) the prophets, and 4) the princes.  Certainly, the priests and the prophets should have led the people in righteousness but did not.  This corresponds to the Lord’s description of a people whose leaders have led them astray.

   The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit. (Jer. 2:8)

   Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.

   Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. (Jer. 23:1-2)

Notice in verse 16 that the princes and the people were more righteous than the priests and the prophets.  Isn’t that ironic? The priests and prophets are supposed to be the religious ones. Should we be surprised?  In Jesus day, who was more righteous—the common people or the scribes and Pharisees?  Corrupted authority is always more dangerous.  Hence, the people and princes sought to protect Jeremiah, “Then said the princes and the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worth to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.” (v. 16)

“Not surprisingly, Jeremiah’s words arouse immediate antagonism, especially among the priests and prophets of Jerusalem.  In the account of the arrest and trial it is they who attempt to have Jeremiah condemned to death, while the princes and many of the common people apparently take his side.  The religious leaders would have suffered greatly if the temple had been destroyed as Jeremiah predicted.  The prophets who are involved in the present account are doubtless cult (false) prophets attached to the Jerusalem temple.” (The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. by G. A. Buttrick et al [New York, Abingdon Press, 1952] 5:1006-1007)

Hugh Nibley

These princes were the sarîm. This is an interesting thing. They are always called the princes in the King James translation, but the word sarîm (the plural) is the "elders." It is used in all Semitic languages for "great and old." (Teachings of the Book of Mormon--Semester 1: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University, 1988--1990 [Provo: FARMS], 77)

Jeremiah 26:14 I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you

Remarkable parallels exist between Jeremiah and the Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi.  Particularly with respect to this episode where Jeremiah’s life hangs in the balance, we are reminded of the death-defying prophecies of Abinadi (Mosiah 12-17).

Jeremiah  (Jer. 26)

Abinadi  (Mosiah 12-17)

Specifically commanded to warn the Jews to repent (v. 1-7)

Specifically commanded to command the people to repent (Mosiah 12:1)

Priests, prophets, and people complain against Jeremiah (v. 8-9)

People bring Abinadi before Noah complaining about his prophecies (Mosiah 12:9)

Jeremiah effectively put on trial by the princes (v. 10-11)

Abinadi put on trial before Noah and his priests (Mosiah 12:17-19)

Priests and prophets proclaim, “This man is worthy to die” (v. 11).

Noah sentences Abinadi, “thou art worthy of death” (Mosiah 17:7)

Jeremiah responds, “do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you” (v. 14)

The people deliver Abinadi to Noah saying, “thou mayest do with him as seemeth thee good” (Mosiah 12:16). Abinadi doesn’t care what they do to him as long as he delivers his message (Mosiah 13:9-10)

Jeremiah warns, “if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves” (v. 15)

Abinadi says, “if ye slay me ye will shed innocent blood” (Mosiah 17:10)

Jeremiah fearlessly repeats his message while under trial by the princes (v. 12-15)

Abinadi fearlessly preaches repentance, accusing the priests of dereliction (Mosiah 12:25-29)

Jeremiah predicts death and humiliation for the king (36:30-31)

Abinadi predicts a humiliating death for king Noah (Mosiah 17:17-18)

Jeremiah’s message is believed by a minority and he is defended by some elders (v. 17-23)

Abinadi’s message is believed by Alma who tries to defend him (Mosiah 17:2)

Jeremiah 26:18 Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps

“The quotation shows that the words of the prophets were preserved and circulated during the pre-exilic period. This is the only place where an OT text quotes another OT passage verbatim and names the author.” (The Apologetics Study Bible, T. Cabal [Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007], 1127)

Jeremiah’s defenders are quoting Micah as if their repentance had averted the destruction of Jerusalem.  Perhaps it had temporarily, but what the elders don’t say is that Micah’s prophecy would still be fulfilled to the very letter.  Between Micah and Jeremiah, the people may have barely averted disaster, but the protection would not last forever.

Erastus Snow

This last prediction has been literally fulfilled. It has become a matter of history that Jerusalem has become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the house of the Lord has become as the high places of the forest, and has been ploughed as a field. It is a matter of history that the very site of that wonderful Temple was ploughed as a field, and its destruction was rendered so complete that every foundation stone was raised; and that there might be no vestige of it left, around which the Jews might cling, the Roman Emperor caused that it should be ploughed up as a field, thus literally fulfilling the words of the Prophet and the words of the Savior. This woe and destruction was predicted and overtook that people, and they were eventually scattered, because of their wickedness, and because of the corruptions of their princes, judges and rulers. But it shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord through Micah, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the tops of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and people shall flow unto it. Here is a promise around which the house of Israel may cling, and to which they may fasten their faith, for God will not forever hide his face from his people; but he will make choice of a place or places named, and there he will build his house, and people from all nations will flow unto it. (Journal of Discourses, 16:202)

Jeremiah 26:20 Urijah he son of Shemaiah of Kirjath-jearim… prophesied against this city

Do you remember the prophet Urijah?  Do you remember the Book of Urijah?  Do you remember his prophecies against Jerusalem?  Somehow, this prophet’s ministry is missing from the Old Testament record.  We should never assume that the Old Testament contains the histories of all the prophets.  From this passage, and only from this passage, we learn about the prophet Urijah.  From the Book of Mormon, we learn about Zenos, Neum, and Zenock (1 Ne. 19:10). There were many, many prophets whose ministries were never recorded.  Many of these were murdered or martyred as the Messiah would later mention, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent to the, how often would I have gathered [thee]… and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37)

“Nephi wrote that ‘there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.’ (1 Ne. 1:4.) Amos taught that the Lord God would do nothing ‘but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.’ (Amos 3:7.) The Lord always gives sufficient warning; ‘never hath any of them been destroyed save it were foretold them by the prophets of the Lord.’ (2 Ne. 25:9.)

“For such a dramatic and devastating destruction that was coming, the cast of prophets was indeed, as the Book of Mormon says, ‘many.’ Lehi, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zephaniah, Habukkuk, Ezekiel, and one Urijah of Kirjath-jearim (Jer. 26:20) were all contemporaries. ‘And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.’ (2 Chr. 36:15-16.)” (Kent P. Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 7: 1 Nephi to Alma 29 [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 20)