Images de page

be dug out of their graves ; Jerusalem shall be made heaps of stones, and the cities of Judah shall be made desolate, so that no man shall dwell therein (Jer. viii. 1). “Thirty-three years long," says Jeremiah, “ in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, have I admonished you, but ye have not hearkened. Therefore, saith the Lord of Hosts, since ye do not give ear to my word, I will take all the tribes of the North and Nebuchadnezzar my servant and will hurl them upon this land, so that the whole land shall become a wilderness, and this people shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years, but when the seventy years are accomplished, I will visit on the king of Babylon and on his people their sin" (e. XXV). Accordingly Jeremiah is commanded to give the cup of wrath to Jerusalem and its princes, to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and his people, to all the Arabian and Philistian kings, to Edom, Moab, and the Ammonites, to the kings of Tyre and Sidon, of Elam and Media (c. xxx. 15). And at the same time special minatory predictions besides are uttered against the Egyptians, Philistines, Moab, &c. (c. xlvi. xlix). In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim-it is uncertain whether in the same year or even earlier-he announces in the forecourt of the temple in still more definite phrase, that “the Lord will make this house as Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth" (c. xxvi. 6). When threatened by the priests and the people with death, he is delivered by Ahikam, an officer of the court of king Josiah's times. In this year, moreover, he receives the Divine command to write in a book by means of his scribe Baruch all his prophecies from the time of Josiah downwards, and to cause it to be read altogether in the temple. But the king, when this book was given to him also to read, committed it to the flames, and orders that the prophet and his scribe be cast into prison as disturbers of the public peace. Nevertheless the indefatigable man of God causes these oracles, together with those added at a later period, to be written down afresh by his scribe (cxxxvi.). After a reign of eleven years Jehoiakim dies a miserable death, after falling into the hands of the Chaldeans (B.c. 597).

In the place of Jehoiakim, his son Jehoiachin, at the age of eighteen, mounts the throne under the guidance of his mother. Then came the word of the Lord to Jeremiah (c. xiii. 18):-"Say unto the King and to the Queen Regent, humble yourselves, sit down; for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory. The cities of the South shall be shut up, and none shall open them ; Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive." After a reign of three months the young king and his mother are deported to Babylon (2 Kings, xxiv. 8, 15), Nebuchadnezzar raises Zedekiah, Josiah's third son, to the throne (B.C. 597). In spite of the oath of allegiance which he has sworn, and the terribleness of the Chaldean power, he nevertheless, in the fourth year of his reign, when ambassadors of the various minor powers, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, Sidon (c. xxvii. 3) come to stir him up, shows an inclination to revolt from his suzerain.* Then it was that the lying prophet Hananiah, in contradiction to the seventy years' captivity foretold by Jeremiah, announced that the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar would not be worn longer than two years. In the fifth month of the fourth year he entered upon this conflict with God's prophet. The latter speaks to him the word of the Lord, “Behold I will take thee from the face of the earth; this year shalt thou die, because thou hast turned them away from the Lord with thy speeches;"' and Hananiah dies the same year in the seventh month! With earnest entreaty Jeremiah stands before the king (c. xxvii. 12), and beseeches him not to give ear to the false prophet, and not rashly to rush headlong upon inevitable destruction. Moreover, to all those kings who were urging on an alliance against Nebuchadnezzar, the prophet sends by their ambassadors a symbolical yoke as an eloquent testimony (Jer. xxvii. 2). Even the weak king is this time not altogether unimpressed by the prophetic word; the death of the lying prophet, two months afterwards, fails not to make a powerful impression on him. He sends an embassy to Babylon (xxix. 3), and in this same fourth year he himself journeys thither—as it seems, to assure his liege lord anew of his allegiance as a vassal. Jeremiah avails himself of this opportunity to entrust to one of the princes who accompanied the king a letter addressed to those carried into exile with Jeconiah, amongst whom in like manner false prophets had appeared, who announced to the captives a successful revolt in Judea. He speaks again of the seventy years as the Divinely appointed period, and exhorts them during all this time “to pray for the well-being of the city in which they dwell, seeing that its prosperity would also be their own.” Meanwhile, he transmits also the definite predictions of Babylon's overthrow (c. 1, li.), and pronounces the divine judgment on the false prophets. To two of them, Ahab and Zedekiah, he foretels death by fire at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, and to the third, that none of his posterity shall return out of exile (c. xxix).

But a few years afterwards (B.C. 589) the warlike Hophra mounts the throne of Egypt, and now the king of Judah, urged very likely by his magnates, again allows himself to be led astray, and placing his hợpes on Egypt's unreliable aid, to break

[ocr errors]

* What is narrated in Jer. xxviii. 1, happens in the fourth year of Zedekiah, “in the same year," as what is narrated in chap. xxvii. Hence in chap. xxvii. 1 (compare v. 12) we must read Zedekiah instead of Jehoiakim.

his dath of allegiance. With holy earnestness, Ezekiel from his exile when he hears of this, makes known the Divine will :"As I live, saith the Lord, in the seat of the king who made him king, whose oath he has despised, and whose treaty he hath broken, there shall he die, viz., in Babylon; nor shall Pharaoh with his great host and mighty people be able to help him in the war.” (Ezek. xvii.) When Nebuchadnezzar is now approaching to reckon with his disloyal vassal, Zedekiah has recourse to the prophet, in the first instance through the intervention of others, that he may even yet obtain a favourable oracle :-“Yet entreat the Lord for us, that the Lord may deal with us according to all His mighty works.” The answer of the prophet is :-"I will fight against you with out-stretched hand, saith the Lord, and will give Zedekiah with his servants and the people who are left alive in this city from the pestilence, sword, and famine, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.” (Jer. xxi.) “Behold, Pharaoh's army which is come forth to help you shall return to Egypt into their own land, and the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire." (Jer. xxxvii. 7,8.) Jeremiah is now cast into prison with much violence by the enraged prince, who feared that by such prophesies the warlike spirit of the still remaining people would be damped. This dungeon he does not quit again till the capture of the city. Not yet satisfied, lowever, with having deprived him of his liberty, the princes plot to put him to death, and cast him into a pit full of mire; out of which, however, he is delivered through the compassion of the chamberlain and of the king. Upon this the king again endeavours with painful kindness to obtain a better response. The prophet meanwhile exhorts him in feeling terms to consider that in a surrender to Nebuchadnezzar lies his only hope of safety (c. xxxviii.). The destinies fulfil themselves. Jerusalem is taken, the temple and the royal palace are burnt ; the king, who had succeeded in escaping through the wall into the open country is captured, and after being blinded, is taken to Babylon, as Ezekiel from his distant exile had foreseen.

We have now to examine into the fulfilment of the judicial threatenings uttered against the neighbouring nations. The judgments against the foreign peoples are found in Jeremiah in the seven oracles from chapter xlvi. to xlix., and in Ezekiel in chapters xxv. to xxxii., dated from eight to sixteen years later than the oracles in Jeremiah, Chapter xxix. 17 is the latest amongst them. In Ezekiel we find from the dirge of Lamentation, in which the warlike powers already sunk into Hades are named as covered with reproach (c. xxxi.), that of the kingdoms

against which Jeremiah had denounced judgments. Elam (Elmais), Edom, and Sidon,* had already experienced the fulfilment. As regards Egypt, Jeremiah first lifts up the voice of triumph against her in c. xlvi. 1-13, at the time when Pharaoh Necho was just being decisively beaten at Karchemish, and in verses 14-28, spoken according to the superscription at the time when Nebuchadnezzar was on the point of penetrating into Egypt, that country was to fall into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, but (v. 26) was afterwards to “be inhabited as in the days of old.” After the overthrow of Jerusalem, the prophet, in a rebuke which he administered to the refugee Jews in Egypt for the idolatry which had crept in amongst them, announces with an express mention of the name, that Pharaoh Hophra, like'Zedekiah, is to be given into the hands of his enemy Nebuchadnezzar (c. xliv. 30). To these same refugee Jews in Egypt, who were hoping to be spared there by the flames of war, Jeremiah addresses the solemn declaration recorded in the following passage (c. xliii. 9-13), accompanied with a symbolic action:-“Take great stones in thine hand, and hide them in the clay in the brick-kiln, which is at the entry of Pharaoh's house in Tahpahnes, in the sight of the men of Judah ; and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them. And when he cometh he shall smite the land of Egypt, and deliver such as are for death, to death; and such as are for captivity to captivity; and such as are for the sword to the sword. And I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them and carry them away captives; and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt as a shepherd putteth on his garment; and he shall go forth from thence in peace. He shall break also the wings of BethShemeil that is in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire.” In like manner Lzekiel, in the tenth year of his captivity, therefore B.C. 588, Shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, announces to Egypt that from Migdol to the Ethiopian frontiers it shall become a

Alderness, and that its inhabitants shall be scattered in all lections; until after a lapse of forty years they shall return to their own land, but to be from henceforth “a base kingdom” Ezek. xxix.) Egypt's sceptre and proud dominion were to be broken (Ezek. xxx. 1-20). When the tidings reach the prophet that Hophra is hurrying to the help of Zedekiah, he repeats in the first month of the eleventh year, i.e. B.c. 587, the same threatening (c. xxx. 20-26). A short time afterwards, in the third month of the same eleventh year, and in the course of the twelfth year, the prophet receives a word of the Lord, which in the sublimest manner, and quite in accordance with what Herodotus says of Hophra (bk. ii. 169) contrasts the self-exaltation of this haughty ruler with his deepest humiliation (c. xxxi, and xxxii.) Fifteen years later, according to the superscription, and therefore in B.C. 572, falls c. xxix. 17-30, in which God gives over Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar in compensation for the hire which he had not received at the capture of Tyre.

* "All the Sidonians," is the language of Jeremiah. This designates the

Licians in general. For all these were already fallen at the outset, ugh not until they had offered a brave resistance. See Movers “ Phænicians," vol. ii., 94, 445,

Now when have these predictions been fulfilled ? Since the time of Volney such a conquest of Egypt by the Chaldeans has been asserted in many quarters to be a fact quite in contradiction to well-established history. (See Hitzig's recent Commentary on Ezekiel, c. xxix.) Other theologians and historians express themselves with at least more or less doubt upon the subject, e.g. Schlosser, Winer, Movers, and Niebuhr. That after the battle of Karchemish, the youthful conqueror Nebuchadnezzar speedily overcame Syria and Phænicia, and even crossed the frontiers of Egypt, is a fact taken for granted by many, including Duncker (Universal History, I. 103). But this would only partially satisfy the language used by Jeremiah, e. xlvi. 14-28; for the prophet pre-supposes a complete victory of the Chaldean prince. This incursion into the land of the Pharaohs may be regarded indeed as the beginning of the accomplishment. Meanwhile Ezekiel does not expect the conquest itself until after the thirteen years of the siege of Tyre, which during this space of time had hindered his advance into Egypt by sea. Doubtless no inquirer to whom the prophetic foresight of the Old Testament seers, and especially of Ezekiel, has become evident in so many cases, will readily deem it credible that their utterances with respect to Egypt and—for these are connected therewith-with regard to Tyre were empty threats spoken to the wind. Nevertheless we grant that did we know of no other resource than violent measures, we should unquestionably prefer to own the impossibility of a solution. The history of Uzza shows that the believing theologian is not to proceed according to his own self-will, when the oxen with the ark of the covenant of the Lord slipped for once on one side ; and the history of theology again teaches us how many a terrible discovery—think e.g. of that of Capellus as to the late origin of the Hebrew vowels -has gradually been made to accommodate itself to the theological system, without overthrowing its foundations, as a Buntarf

« PrécédentContinuer »