Prophecy at the Temple Door
At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, around 609 B.C., Jeremiah was sent with a word to Jerusalem.
The Last Five Kings of Judah
Jehoahaz (Josiah’s #4) reigned 3 months.
Jehoiakim (Josiah’s #2) reigned 11 years.
Jehoiachin (Josiah’s grandson, son of #2, Jehoiakim) reigned 3 months.
Zedekiah (Josiah’s #3) Mattaniah reigned 11 years.
Jeremiah Sent to Prophesy (1-2)
Jeremiah was to go stand in the court of the temple and speak to the cities of Judah who had come to Jerusalem for some festival or celebration. Jeremiah was to make certain he spoke word for word, without omission, without diminishing the significance of one expression Yahweh had given him to speak (1-2).
Yahweh's hope was that after the death of Josiah and the deportation of Jehoahaz to Egypt, Judah might listen. In listening they might turn completely from their harsh and without-affection treatment of each other (evil). In this way, Yahweh could be gracious and stop the impending harm with which they were on a collision course (3).
Jeremiah's Prophecy (4-6)
The prophecy was basically the same one Jeremiah gave in chapter seven. First, if they would not walk as those who had actually listened to the law so it affected the very course of their life (4); and second, if they would not listen to the words of Yahweh's real prophets who were repeatedly sent to them to express the urgency of the imminent disaster (5), then Jerusalem would become like the original worship site at Shiloh, where the Tabernacle of Moses had been set up. Their holy city would become, like Shiloh, a has-been city, broken down and deserted. Jerusalem would become a city cursed by the nations of the world (6).
The Audience's Response (7-9)
Those who gathered to listen to Jeremiah were the priests and the prophets and also some of the people who had gathered for the celebration. Jeremiah gave his word in front of Yahweh's temple. His prophetic sermon disrupted the celebration (7).
As soon as Jeremiah had given a word-for-word account of the word given to him by Yahweh and had expressed Yahweh's full heart, the crowd formed into a mob and seized Jeremiah by force. With riot-force, they began crying out for his death (8). The crowd was especially angered by his comparison of the temple grounds’ being desolated like the Shiloh site of the Tabernacle of Moses. The temerity of Jeremiah, right in the front of the temple, was more than any could stomach, so they summoned an assembly for judgment. They convened a court and jury right in front of the house of Yahweh (9).
The Trial of Jeremiah (10-11)
A deeply-rooted belief concerning the temple was that Yahweh Himself would cease to exist before He would allow His temple destroyed. For any prophet to imply otherwise would be treasonous heresy.
The officials of Judah quickly assembled, for Jeremiah was not some unknown crazy voice from the slums of Jerusalem. Jeremiah had been prophetic counsel to Josiah. Jeremiah was well-known, related to the priestly family, and his words would both ring loudly and sting deeply.
The officials came and took their seat at the New Gate of Yahweh's house. This would have been the supreme court of the city (10).
Then testimony was heard. Jeremiah was accused of violating a sacred belief and a treasured bureaucratic and theological law, “Thou shalt not speak against the city or temple." Because Jeremiah's prophetic sermon was witnessed by those who heard him as being seditious and treasonous, the mob declared Jeremiah deserving of death (11).
Jeremiah's Defense (12-15)
Jeremiah's defense was given in four parts:
a) Yahweh had authorized him to speak the word he had spoken (12).
b) The message he spoke was conditional. Yahweh sought to be gracious to them; the temple need not be destroyed. All they needed to do was make their way of life pleasing to Yahweh once again by listening to and then doing as Yahweh was leading them (13).
c) Jeremiah's life was in their hands. They could do what seemed right in their own minds and for their own political well-being, however their decision could be accompanied by the vengeance of Yahweh if they were in fact found to be shedding innocent blood.
d) Yahweh had given him the truth to speak and then commissioned him to deliver the message they had heard (14-15).
Jeremiah Spared (16-24)
Jeremiah's defense won the hearts of those judging him. They deemed his actions not worthy of death for Jeremiah had spoken in the name of Yahweh (16). Some of the officials who were involved in judging the matter sought to quell the mob by citing a former legal precedent.
They quoted Micah 3:12, a prophet who had prophesied in the days of Hezekiah. They claimed Micah had made the same claim some seventy years previous, so Jeremiah's words were not new or original, but a confirmation of what Micah had already spoken.
Yahweh had stopped a disaster in Hezekiah's day because Hezekiah had listened to the prophet and "feared Yahweh" and sought Yahweh's favor.
Micah had prophesied: Zion would be plowed like a field, heaped up in rows of ruins, and the temple would become a shanty town (17-18).
Micah had not been put to death for his prophecy, but turned the leaders to "honor and revere Yahweh" and seek His grace, and the great disaster was averted in Hezekiah's day. The officials decided that to execute Jeremiah for a similar act and prophecy as Micah had brought could bring vengeance upon their lives (19).
Others rose against Jeremiah, citing a more current legal precedent where the prophet Uriah had, just a month or so earlier, prophesied in the name of Yahweh. He predicted the same disasters on the temple and the city as Jeremiah (20). When King Jehoiakim heard him prophesying, they sent to have him executed. Uriah heard about the plot and escaped to Egypt (21).
King Jehoiakim sent Elnathan with some men to Egypt to capture Uriah. They found Uriah, brought him back to Jerusalem, put him to death, and hid his grave so as not to make a martyr out of him (22-23).
Ahikam then stood up and persuaded the court not to give in to the mob and allow Jeremiah to be slaughtered (23).
Ahikam was the son of Shaphan. Shaphan was the one who announced to Josiah that they had found the Book of the Law and then read it to Josiah. He had been the secretary for the house of Yahweh (2 Kings 23:8-13). His son gave all his power and reputation to Jeremiah and refused to give him over to the mob to be put to death (24).