The first years of Jehoiakim's reign were filled with warnings of
approaching doom. The word of the Lord spoken by the prophets was about
to be fulfilled. The Assyrian power to the northward, long supreme, was
no longer to rule the nations. Egypt on the south, in whose power the
king of Judah was vainly placing his trust, was soon to receive a
decided check. All unexpectedly a new world power, the Babylonian
Empire, was rising to the eastward and swiftly overshadowing all other
Within a few short years the king of Babylon was to be used as the
instrument of God's wrath upon impenitent Judah. Again and again
Jerusalem was to be invested and entered by the besieging armies of
Nebuchadnezzar. Company after company--at first a few only, but later on
thousands and tens of thousands--were to be taken captive to the land of
Shinar, there to dwell in enforced exile. Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin,
Zedekiah--all these Jewish kings were in turn to become vassals of the
Babylonian ruler, and all in turn were to rebel. Severer and yet more
severe chastisements were to be inflicted upon the rebellious nation,
until at last the entire land was to become a desolation, Jerusalem was
to be laid waste and burned with fire, the temple that Solomon had built
was to be destroyed, and the kingdom of Judah was to fall, never again
to occupy its former position among the nations of earth.
Those times of change, so fraught with peril to the Israelitish
nation, were marked with many messages from Heaven through Jeremiah.
Thus the Lord gave the children of Judah ample opportunity of freeing
themselves from entangling alliances with Egypt, and of avoiding
controversy with the rulers of Babylon. As the threatened danger came
closer, he taught the people by means of a series of acted parables,
hoping thus to arouse them to a sense of their obligation to God, and
also to encourage them to maintain friendly relations with the
To illustrate the importance of yielding implicit obedience to the
requirements of God, Jeremiah gathered some Rechabites into one of the
chambers of the temple and set wine before them, inviting them to drink.
As was to have been expected, he met with remonstrance and absolute
refusal. "We will drink no wine," the Rechabites firmly
declared, "for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us,
saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons forever."
"Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah, saying, Thus
saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Go and tell the men of Judah
and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to
hearken to My words? saith the Lord. The words of Jonadab the son of
Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for
unto this day they drink none, but obey their father's
commandment." Jeremiah 35:6, 12-14.
God sought thus to bring into sharp contrast the obedience of the
Rechabites with the disobedience and rebellion of His people. The
Rechabites had obeyed the command of their father and now refused to be
enticed into transgression. But the men of Judah had hearkened not to
the words of the Lord, and were in consequence about to suffer His
"I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking," the
Lord declared, "but ye hearkened not unto Me. I have sent also unto
you all My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them,
saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your
doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in
the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not
inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto Me. Because the sons of Jonadab
the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which
he commanded them; but this people hath not hearkened unto Me: therefore
thus saith the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will
bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil
that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken unto them,
but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not
answered." Verses 14-17.
When men's hearts are softened and subdued by the constraining
influence of the Holy Spirit, they will give heed to counsel; but when
they turn from admonition until their hearts become hardened, the Lord
permits them to be led by other influences. Refusing the truth, they
accept falsehood, which becomes a snare to their own destruction.
God had pleaded with Judah not to provoke Him to anger, but they had
hearkened not. Finally sentence was pronounced against them. They were
to be led away captive to Babylon. The Chaldeans were to be used as the
instrument by which God would chastise His disobedient people. The
sufferings of the men of Judah were to be in proportion to the light
they had had and to the warnings they had despised and rejected. Long
had God delayed His judgments, but now He would visit His displeasure
upon them as a last effort to check them in their evil course.
Upon the house of the Rechabites was pronounced a continued blessing.
The prophet declared, "Because ye have obeyed the commandment of
Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto
all that he hath commanded you: therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts,
the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to
stand before Me forever." Verses 18, 19. Thus God taught His people
that faithfulness and obedience would be reflected back upon Judah in
blessing, even as the Rechabites were blessed for obedience to their
The lesson is for us. If the requirements of a good and wise father,
who took the best and most effectual means to secure his posterity
against the evils of intemperance, were worthy of strict obedience,
surely God's authority should be held in as much greater reverence as He
is holier than man. Our Creator and our Commander, infinite in power,
terrible in judgment, seeks by every means to bring men to see and
repent of their sins. By the mouth of His servants He predicts the
dangers of disobedience; He sounds the note of warning and faithfully
reproves sin. His people are kept in prosperity only by His mercy,
through the vigilant watchcare of chosen instrumentalities. He cannot
uphold and guard a people who reject His counsel and despise His
reproofs. For a time He may withhold His retributive judgments; yet He
cannot always stay His hand.
The children of Judah were numbered among those of whom God had
declared, "Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy
nation." Exodus 19:6. Never did Jeremiah in his ministry lose sight
of the vital importance of heart holiness in the varied relationships of
life, and especially in the service of the most high God. Plainly he
foresaw the downfall of the kingdom and a scattering of the inhabitants
of Judah among the nations; but with the eye of faith he looked beyond
all this to the times of restoration. Ringing in his ears was the divine
promise: "I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all
countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their
folds. . . . Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise
unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and
shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall
be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He
shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." Jeremiah 23:3-6.
Thus prophecies of oncoming judgment were mingled with promises of
final and glorious deliverance. Those who should choose to make their
peace with God and live holy lives amid the prevailing apostasy, would
receive strength for every trial and be enabled to witness for Him with
mighty power. And in the ages to come the deliverance wrought in their
behalf would exceed in fame that wrought for the children of Israel at
the time of the Exodus. The days were coming, the Lord declared through
His prophet, when "they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which
brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The
Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of
Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had
driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land." Verses 7,8.
Such were the wonderful prophecies uttered by Jeremiah during the
closing years of the history of the kingdom of Judah, when the
Babylonians were coming unto universal rule, and were even then bringing
their besieging armies against the walls of Zion.
Like sweetest music these promises of deliverance fell upon the ears
of those who were steadfast in their worship of Jehovah. In the homes of
the high and the lowly, where the counsels of a covenant-keeping God
were still held in reverence, the words of the prophet were repeated
again and again. Even the children were mightily stirred, and upon their
young and receptive minds lasting impressions were made.
It was their conscientious observance of the commands of Holy
Scripture, that in the days of Jeremiah's ministry brought to Daniel and
his fellows opportunities to exalt the true God before the nations of
earth. The instruction these Hebrew children had received in the homes
of their parents, made them strong in faith and constant in their
service of the living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
When, early in the reign of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar for the first time
besieged and captured Jerusalem, and carried away Daniel and his
companions, with others specially chosen for service in the court of
Babylon, the faith of the Hebrew captives was tried to the utmost. But
those who had learned to place their trust in the promises of God found
these all-sufficient in every experience through which they were called
to pass during their sojourn in a strange land. The Scriptures proved to
them a guide and a stay.
As an interpreter of the meaning of the judgments beginning to fall
upon Judah, Jeremiah stood nobly in defense of the justice of God and of
His merciful designs even in the severest chastisements. Untiringly the
prophet labored. Desirous of reaching all classes, he extended the
sphere of his influence beyond Jerusalem to the surrounding districts by
frequent visits to various parts of the kingdom.
In his testimonies to the church, Jeremiah constantly referred to the
teachings of the book of the law that had been so greatly honored and
exalted during Josiah's reign. He emphasized anew the importance of
maintaining a covenant relationship with the all-merciful and
compassionate Being who upon the heights of Sinai had spoken the
precepts of the Decalogue. Jeremiah's words of warning and entreaty
reached every part of the kingdom, and all had opportunity to know the
will of God concerning the nation.
The prophet made plain the fact that our heavenly Father allows His
judgments to fall, "that the nations may know themselves to be but
men." Psalm 9:20. "If ye walk contrary unto Me, and will not
hearken unto Me," the Lord had forewarned His people, "I, even
I, . . . will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword
after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste."
Leviticus 26:21, 28,33.
At the very time messages of impending doom were urged upon princes
and people, their ruler, Jehoiakim, who should have been a wise
spiritual leader, foremost in confession of sin and in reformation and
good works, was spending his time in selfish pleasure. "I will
build me a wide house and large chambers," he proposed; and this
house, "ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion"
(Jeremiah 22:14), was built with money and labor secured through fraud
The wrath of the prophet was aroused, and he was inspired to
pronounce judgment upon the faithless ruler. "Woe unto him that
buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong,"
he declared; "that useth his neighbor's service without wages, and
giveth him not for his work. . . . Shalt thou reign, because thou
closest thyself in cedar? Did not thy father eat and drink, and do
judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? He judged the cause
of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know
Me? saith the Lord. But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy
covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and
for violence, to do it.
"Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of
Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my
brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord!
or, Ah his glory! He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn
and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem." Verses 13-19.
Within a few years this terrible judgment was to be visited upon
Jehoiakim; but first the Lord in mercy informed the impenitent nation of
His set purpose. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign "Jeremiah
the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the
inhabitants of Jerusalem," pointing out that for over a score of
years, "from the thirteenth year of Josiah, . . . even unto this
day," he had borne witness of God's desire to save, but that his
messages had been despised. Jeremiah 25:2, 3. And now the word of the
Lord to them was:
"Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Because ye have not heard My
words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith
the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will
bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and
against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them,
and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual
desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the
voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the
bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. And
this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these
nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years." Verses
Although the sentence of doom had been clearly pronounced, its awful
import could scarcely be understood by the multitudes who heard. That
deeper impressions might be made, the Lord sought to illustrate the
meaning of the words spoken. He bade Jeremiah liken the fate of the
nation to the draining of a cup filled with the wine of divine wrath.
Among the first to drink of this cup of woe was to be "Jerusalem,
and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof." Others were to
partake of the same cup--"Pharaoh king of Egypt, and his servants,
and his princes, and all his people," and many other nations of
earth--until God's purpose should have been fulfilled. See Jeremiah 25.
To illustrate further the nature of the swift-coming judgments, the
prophet was bidden to "take of the ancients of the people, and of
the ancients of the priests; and go forth unto the valley of the son of
Hinnom," and there, after reviewing the apostasy of Judah, he was
to dash to pieces "a potter's earthen bottle," and declare in
behalf of Jehovah, whose servant he was, "Even so will I break this
people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be
made whole again."
The prophet did as he was commanded. Then, returning to the city, he
stood in the court of the temple and declared in the hearing of all the
people. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I
will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I
have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that
they might not hear My words." See Jeremiah 19.
The prophet's words, instead of leading to confession and repentance,
aroused the anger of those high in authority, and as a consequence
Jeremiah was deprived of his liberty. Imprisoned, and placed in the
stocks, the prophet nevertheless continued to speak the messages of
Heaven to those who stood by. His voice could not be silenced by
persecution. The word of truth, he declared, "was in mine heart as
a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and
I could not stay." Jeremiah 20:9.
It was about this time that the Lord commanded Jeremiah to commit to
writing the messages he desired to bear to those for whose salvation his
heart of pity was continually yearning."Take thee a roll of a
book," the Lord bade His servant, "and write therein all the
words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah,
and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the
days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah
will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may
return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity
and their sin." Jeremiah 36:2,3.
In obedience to this command, Jeremiah called to his aid a faithful
friend, Baruch the scribe, and dictated "all the words of the Lord,
which He had spoken unto him."
Verse 4. These were carefully written out on a roll of parchment and
constituted a solemn reproof for sin, a warning of the sure result of
continual apostasy, and an earnest appeal for the renunciation of all
When the writing was completed, Jeremiah, who was still a prisoner,
sent Baruch to read the roll to the multitudes who were assembling at
the temple on the occasion of a national fast day, "in the fifth
year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth
month." "It may be," the prophet said, "they will
present their supplication before the Lord, and will return everyone
from his evil way: for great is the anger and the fury that the Lord
hath pronounced against this people." Verses 9, 7.
Baruch obeyed, and the roll was read before all the people of Judah.
Afterward the scribe was summoned before the princes to read the words
to them. They listened with great interest and promised to inform the
king concerning all they had heard, but counseled the scribe to hide
himself, for they feared the king would reject the testimony and seek to
slay those who had prepared and delivered the message.
When King Jehoiakim was told by the princes what Baruch had read, he
immediately ordered the roll brought before him and read in his hearing.
One of the royal attendants, Jehudi by name, fetched the roll and began
reading the words of reproof and warning. It was the time of winter, and
the king and his companions of state, the princes of Judah, were
gathered about an open fire. Only a small portion had been read, when
the king, far from trembling at the danger hanging over himself and his
people, seized the roll and in a frenzy of rage "cut it with the
penknife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the
roll was consumed." Verse 23.
Neither the king nor his princes were afraid "nor rent their
garments." Certain of the princes, however, "had made
intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would
not hear them." The writing having been destroyed, the wrath of the
wicked king rose against Jeremiah and Baruch, and he forthwith sent for
them to be taken; "but the Lord hid them." Verses 24-26.
In bringing to the attention of the temple worshipers, and of the
princes and king, the written admonitions contained in the inspired
roll, God was graciously seeking to warn the men of Judah for their
good. "It may be," He said, "the house of Judah will hear
all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every
man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their
sin." Verse 3. God pities men struggling in the blindness of
perversity; He seeks to enlighten the darkened understanding by sending
reproofs and threatenings designed to cause the most exalted to feel
their ignorance and to deplore their errors. He endeavors to help the
self-complacent to become dissatisfied with their vain attainments and
to seek for spiritual blessing through a close connection with heaven.
God's plan is not to send messengers who will please and flatter
sinners; He delivers no messages of peace to lull the unsanctified into
carnal security. Instead, He lays heavy burdens upon the conscience of
the wrongdoer and pierces his soul with sharp arrows of conviction.
Ministering angels present to him the fearful judgments of God, to
deepen the sense of need and to prompt the agonizing cry, "What
must I do to be saved?" Acts 16;30. But the Hand that humbles to
the dust, rebukes sin, and puts pride and ambition to shame, is the Hand
that lifts up the penitent, stricken one. With deepest sympathy He who
permits the chastisement to fall, inquires, "What wilt thou that I
shall do unto thee?"
When man has sinned against a holy and merciful God, he can pursue no
course so noble as to repent sincerely and confess his errors in tears
and bitterness of soul. This God requires of him; He accepts nothing
less than a broken heart and a contrite spirit. But King Jehoiakim and
his lords, in their arrogance and pride, refused the invitation of God.
They would not heed the warning, and repent. The gracious opportunity
proffered them at the time of the burning of the sacred roll, was their
last. God had declared that if at that time they refused to hear His
voice, He would inflict upon them fearful retribution. They did refuse
to hear, and He pronounced His final judgments upon Judah, and He would
visit with special wrath the man who had proudly lifted himself up
against the Almighty.
"Thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have
none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast
out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. And I will
punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will
bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men
of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them."
Jeremiah 36:30, 31.
The burning of the roll was not the end of the matter. The written
words were more easily disposed of than the reproof and warning they
contained and the swift-coming punishment God had pronounced against
rebellious Israel. But even the written roll was reproduced. "Take
thee again another roll," the Lord commanded His servant, "and
write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which
Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned." The record of the
prophecies concerning Judah and Jerusalem had been reduced to ashes; but
the words were still living in the heart of Jeremiah, "as a burning
fire," and the prophet was permitted to reproduce that which the
wrath of man would fain have destroyed.
Taking another roll, Jeremiah gave it to Baruch, "who wrote
therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which
Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added
besides unto them many like words." Verses 28,32. The wrath of man
had sought to prevent the labors of the prophet of God; but the very
means by which Jehoiakim had endeavored to limit the influence of the
servant of Jehovah, gave further opportunity for making plain the divine
The spirit of opposition to reproof, that led to the persecution and
imprisonment of Jeremiah, exists today. Many refuse to heed repeated
warnings, preferring rather to listen to false teachers who flatter
their vanity and overlook their evil-doing. In the day of trouble such
will have no sure refuge, no help from heaven. God's chosen servants
should meet with courage and patience the trials and sufferings that
befall them through reproach, neglect, and misrepresentation. They
should continue to discharge faithfully the work God has given them to
do, ever remembering that the prophets of old and the Saviour of mankind
and His apostles also endured abuse and persecution for the Word's sake.
It was God's purpose that Jehoiakim should heed the counsels of
Jeremiah and thus win favor in the eyes of Nebuchadnezzar and save
himself much sorrow. The youthful king had sworn allegiance to the
Babylonian ruler, and had he remained true to his promise he would have
commanded the respect of the heathen, and this would have led to
precious opportunities for the conversion of souls.
Scorning the unusual privileges granted him, Judah's king willfully
followed a way of his own choosing. He violated his word of honor to the
Babylonian ruler, and rebelled. This brought him and his kingdom into a
very strait place. Against him were sent "bands of the Chaldees,
and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the
children of Ammon," and he was powerless to prevent the land from
being overrun by these marauders. 2 Kings 24:2. Within a few years he
closed his disastrous reign in ignominy, rejected of Heaven, unloved by
his people, and despised by the rulers of Babylon whose confidence he
had betrayed--and all as the result of his fatal mistake in turning from
the purpose of God as revealed through His appointed messenger.
Jehoiachin [also known as Jeconiah, and Coniah], the son of Jehoiakim,
occupied the throne only three months and ten days, when he surrendered
to the Chaldean armies which, because of the rebellion of Judah's ruler,
were once more besieging the fated city. On this occasion Nebuchadnezzar
"carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king's mother, and the
king's wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land,"
several thousand in number, together with "craftsmen and smiths a
thousand." With these the king of Babylon took "all the
treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's
house." 2 Kings 24:15,16,13.
The kingdom of Judah, broken in power and robbed of its strength both
in men and in treasure, was nevertheless still permitted to exist as a
separate government. At its head Nebuchadnezzar placed Mattaniah, a
younger son of Josiah, changing his name to Zedekiah.
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