From the seventh to the tenth chapters of the Book of Jeremiah there are a number of undated passages in prose and in verse, which are generally held to have been included in the collection of the Prophet's Oracles written out by Baruch in 604-3, and of which some may have been delivered during the reign of Josiah, but the most of them more probably either upon its tragic close at Megiddo in 608, or under Jehoiakim. We have already considered the addresses reported in VII.1-15, 21-27,(364) as well as the metrical fragments VII.28, 29, and VIII.8, 9.(365) There are other prose passages describing (1) VII.16-20, the worship of the Queen, or the Host, of Heaven, which had been imposed upon Jerusalem by the Assyrians, and either survived the decay of their power from 625 onwards, or if suppressed by Josiah in obedience to Deuteronomy,(366) had been revived under Jehoiakim; (2) VII.30-34, the high-places in Topheth, upon which children were sacrificed, also condemned by Deuteronomy and recorded as destroyed by Josiah;(367) (3) VIII.1-3, the desecration of the graves of Jerusalem. It is not necessary to reproduce these prose passages, whether they be Jeremiah's or not; our versions of them, Authorised and Revised, are sufficiently clear.
But there follow, from VIII.4 onwards, after the usual introduction, a series of metrical Oracles of which the following translation is offered in observance of the irregularity of the measures of the original. Note how throughout the Prophet is, as before, testing his false people -- heeding and listening are his words -- finding no proof of a genuine repentance and bewailing the doom that therefore must fall upon them. Some of his earlier verses are repeated, and there is the reference to the Law, VIII.8 f., which we have discussed.(368) There is also a hint of exile -- which, however, is still future.
In Ch. VIII, verses 4-12 (including the repetitions they contain) seem a unity; verse 13 stands by itself (unless it goes with the preceding); 14, 15 echo one of the Scythian songs, but the fear they reflect may be that either of an Egyptian invasion after Megiddo or of a Chaldean; 16 and 17 are certainly of a northern invasion, but whether the same as the preceding is doubtful; and doubtful too is the connection of both with the incomparable elegy which follows -- VIII.18-IX.1. For IX.1 undoubtedly belongs to this, as the different division of the chapters in the Hebrew text properly shows. In Ch. IX.2-9 the Prophet is in another mood than that of the preceding songs. There the miseries of his people had oppressed him; here it is their sins. There his heart had been with them and he had made their sufferings his own; here he would flee from them to a lodge in the desert.(369) IX.10-12, is another separate dirge on the land, burned up but whether by invaders or by drought is not clear. Then 13-16 is a passage of prose. In 17-22 we have still another elegy with some of the most haunting lines Jeremiah has given us, on war or pestilence, or both. And there follow eight lines, verses 23-24, on a very different, a spiritual, theme, and then 25-26 another prose passage, on the futility of physical circumcision if the heart be not circumcised. If these be Jeremiah's, and there is no sign in them to the contrary, they form further evidence of his originality as a prophet.
The two Chs. VIII and IX are thus a collection both of prose passages and poems out of different circumstances and different moods, with little order or visible connection. Are we to see in them a number of those many like words which Jeremiah, when he dictated his Second Roll to Baruch, added to his Oracles on the First Roll?(370)
* * * * *
The first verses are in curious parallel to Tchekov's remarkable plaint about his own people and |the Russian disease| as he calls their failing: |Why do we tire so soon? And when we fall how is it that we never try to rise again?|
And thou shalt say to them,(371) Thus saith the Lord: VIII.4 |Does any one fall and not get up,
Or turn and not return?|(372)
Why then are this people turning 5
They take fast hold of deceit,
Refuse to return.
I have been heeding, been listening -- 6
They speak but untruth!
Not a man repents of his evil,
Saying, |What have I done?|
All of them swerve in their courses
Like a plunging horse in the battle.
Even the stork in the heavens 7
Knoweth her seasons,
And dove and swift and swallow
Keep time of their coming --
Only my people, they know not
The Rule(374) of the Lord.
How say ye, |We are the wise, 8
With us is the Law(375) of the Lord.|
But, lo, into falsehood hath wrought it(376)
False pen of the scribes.
Put to shame are the wise, 9
Dismayed and taken,
The Word of the Lord have they spurned --
What wisdom is theirs?
So to others I give their wives, 10
Their fields to who may take them,
For all from the least to the greatest
On plunder are bent;
From the prophet on to the priest
Everyone worketh lies.
They would heal the breach of my people 11
As though it were trifling,
Saying |It is well, it is well!| --
And well it is not!
Were they shamed of the foulness they wrought? 12
Nay, shamed not at all,
Nor knew their dishonour!
So shall they fall with the falling,
Reel in the time of their reckoning,
Sayeth the Lord.(377)
Would I harvest them? -- Rede of the Lord -- 13
No grapes on the vine,
And never a fig on the fig-tree,
Withered the leaves.(378)
For what sit we still? 14
And into the fortified cities,
For the Lord our own God
Hath doomed us to perish,
Hath drugged us with waters of bale --
To Him(379) have we sinned.
Hoping for peace? 15
'Twas no good,
For a season of healing?
From Dan the bruit(381) has been heard, 16
Hinnying of his horses,
With the noise of the neighing of his steeds
The land is aquake.
He(382) comes,(383) he devours the land and her fulness The city and her dwellers.
For behold, I am sending upon you 17
Against whom availeth no charm,
But they shall bite you.(384)
Ah! That my grief is past comfort(385) 18
Faints on me my heart,
Lo, hark to the cry of my people
Wide o'er the land.(386)
|Is the Lord not in Sion, 19
Is there no king?(387)
[Why have they vexed Me with idols,
|Harvest is past, summer is ended, 20
And we are not saved!|
For the breaking of the daughter of my people 21
I break, I blacken!
Horror hath fastened upon me
Pangs as of her that beareth.(389)
Is there no balm in Gilead, 22
Is there no healer?
Why do the wounds never close(390)
Of the daughter of my people?
Oh that my head were waters, IX.1
Mine eyes a fountain of tears,
That day and night I might weep
For the slain of my people!
There follows an Oracle in a very different mood. In the previous one the Prophet has taken his people to his heart, in spite of their sin and its havoc; in this he repels and would be quit of them.
O that I had in the desert 2
A wayfarers'(391) lodge!
Then would I leave my people,
And get away from them,
For adulterers all they be,
A bundle(392) of traitors!
Their tongue they stretch 3
Like a treacherous bow,(?)
And never for truth
Use their power in the land,
But from evil to evil go forth
And Me they know not.(393)
Be on guard with your friends, 4
Trust not your(394) brothers,
For brothers are all very Jacobs,
And friends gad about to defame.
Every one cheateth his neighbour, 5
They cannot speak truth.
Their tongues they have trained to falsehood,
They strain to be naughty --
Wrong upon wrong, deceit on deceit(?) 6
Refusing to know Me.(395)
Therefore thus saith the Lord:(396) 7
Lo, I will smelt them, will test them.
How else should I do
In face of the evil ...(397)(?)
Of the Daughter of My people?
A deadly(398) shaft is their tongue 8
The words of their mouth(399) deceit;
If peace any speak to his friend
In his heart he lays ambush.
Shall I not visit for such -- 9
Rede of the Lord --
Nor on a nation like this
Myself take vengeance?
Raise for the mountains a wail,(400) 10
For the meads of the pasture a dirge!
They are waste, with never a man(401)
Nor hear the lowing of cattle.
From the birds of heaven to the beasts
They have fled, they are gone.
I will make Jerusalem heaps, 11
Of jackals the lair,
And the townships of Judah lay waste,
With never a dweller.
Who is the man that is wise 12
To lay this to mind,
As the mouth of the Lord hath told him,
So to declare --
The wherefore the country is perished,
And waste as the desert,
With none to pass over!
13. And the Lord said unto me,(402) Because they forsook My Law which I set before them, and hearkened not to My Voice,(403) but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart, and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them.15. Therefore thus saith the Lord(404) the God of Israel, Behold I will give them wormwood to eat and the waters of poison to drink.16. And I will scatter them among the nations, whom neither they nor their fathers knew, and send after them the sword till I have consumed them.
Thus saith the Lord: 17
Call the keening women to come,
And send for the wise ones,
That they come and make haste(405) 18
To lift us a dirge,
Till with tears our eyes run down,
Our eyelids with water.
For hark! from Sion the voice of wailing, 19
|How we are undone!
|Sore abashed we, land who have left,
Our homes overthrown!|(406)
Hear, O women, the saying of the Lord, 20
Your ears take in the word of His mouth,
Teach the lament to your daughters
Each to her comrade the dirge:
|For Death has come up by our windows 21
And into our palaces,
Cutting off from the streets the children
The youths from the places;(407)
And the corpses of men are fallen 22
As dung on the field,
As sheaves left after the reaper
And nobody gathers!|
Thus saith the Lord: 23
Boast not the wise in his wisdom,
Boast not the strong in his strength,
Boast not the rich in his riches,
But he that would boast in this let him boast, 24
Insight and knowledge of Me,
That I am the Lord, who work troth,
Judgment and justice on earth,
For in these I delight.
25. Behold, the days are coming -- Rede of the Lord -- that I shall visit on everyone circumcised as to the foreskin.26. Egypt and Judah and Edom, the sons of Ammon and Moab, and all with the corner(408) clipt, who dwell in the desert; for all the nations are uncircumcised in their heart and all the house of Israel.
Which just means that Israel, circumcised in the flesh but not in the spirit, are as bad as the heathen who share with them bodily circumcision.
Ch. X.1-16 is a spirited, ironic poem on the follies of idolatry which bears both in style and substance marks of the later exile.
On the other hand X.17-23 is a small collection of short Oracles in metre, which there is no reason to deny to Jeremiah. The text of the first, verses 17-18, is uncertain. If with the help of the Greek we render it as follows it implies not an actual, but an inevitable and possibly imminent, siege of Jerusalem. The couplet in 17 may alone be original and 18, the text of which is reducible neither to metre nor wholly to sense, a prose note upon it.
Sweep in thy wares from beyond,(409) X.17
In siege that shalt sit!
18. For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will sling out them that dwell in this land,(410) and will distress them in order that they may find ...(?)
Such is the most to be made of the fragment of which there are many interpretations. The next piece, 19-22, is generally acknowledged to be Jeremiah's. It has the ring of his earlier Oracles. The Hebrew and Greek texts differ as to the speaker in 19a. Probably the Greek is correct -- the Prophet or the Deity addresses the city or nation and the Prophet replies for the latter identifying himself with her sufferings. It is possible, however, that the words But I said are misplaced and should begin the verse, in which case the Hebrew my is to be preferred to the Greek thy adopted below. If so the stoicism of 19 is remarkable.
Woe is me for thy(411) ruin, 19
Sore is thy(412) stroke!
But I said,
Well, this sickness is mine(413)
And I must bear it!
Undone is my tent and perished,(414) 20
Snapped all my cords!
My sons -- they went out from me
And they are not!
None now to stretch me my tent
Or hang up my curtains.
For that the shepherds(415) are brutish 21
Nor seek of the Lord,
Therefore prosper they shall not,
All scattered their flock.(416)
Hark the bruit, X.22
Behold it comes,
And uproar great
From land of the North,
To lay the cities of Judah waste,
A lair of jackals.
As we have seen, Jeremiah in the excitement of alarm falls on short lines, ejaculations of two stresses each, sometimes as here with one longer line.(417)
A quatrain follows of longer, equal lines as is usual with Jeremiah when expressing spiritual truths: --
Lord I know! Not to man is his way, 23
Not man's to walk or settle his steps.
Chasten me, Lord, but with judgment, 24
Not in wrath, lest Thou bring me to little!
The last verse of the chapter is of a temper unlike that of Jeremiah elsewhere towards other nations, and so like the temper against them felt by later generations in Israel, that most probably it is not his.
[Pour out Thy rage on the nations, 25
Who do not own Thee,
And out on the kingdoms
Who call not Thy Name!
For Jacob they devoured and consumed,
And wasted his homestead](418)
Another series of Oracles, as reasonably referred to the reign of Jehoiakim as to any other stage of Jeremiah's career, is scattered over Chs. XI-XX. I reserve to a later lecture upon his spiritual conflict and growth those which disclose his debates with his God, his people and himself -- XI.18-XII.6, XV.10-XVI.9, XVII.14-18, XVIII.18-23, XX.7-18, and I take now only such as deal with the character and the doom of the nation.
Of these the first in the order in which they appear in the Book is XI.15, 16, with which we have already dealt,(419) and the second is XII.7-13, generally acknowledged to be Jeremiah's own. It is undated, but of the invasions of this time the one it most clearly reflects is that of the mixed hordes let loose by Nebuchadrezzar on Judah in 602 or in 598.(420) The invasion is more probably described as actual than imagined as imminent. God Himself is the speaker: His House, as the parallel Heritage shows, is not the Temple but the Land, His Domain. The sentence pronounced upon it is a final sentence, yet delivered by the Divine Judge with pain and with astonishment that He has to deliver it against His Beloved; and this pathos Jeremiah's poetic rendering of the sentence finely brings out by putting verse 9a in the form of a question. The Prophet feels the Heart of God as moved as his own by the doom of the people.
I have forsaken My House, XII.7
I have left My Heritage,
I have given the Beloved of My Soul
To the hand of her foes.
My Heritage to Me is become 8
Like a lion in the jungle,
She hath given against Me her voice,
Therefore I hate her.
Is My Heritage to Me a speckled wild-bird 9
With wild-birds round and against her?
Go, gather all beasts of the field,
Bring them on to devour.
Shepherds so many My Vineyard have spoiled 10
Have trampled My Lot --
My pleasant Lot they have turned
To a desolate desert
They make it a waste, it mourns, 11
On Me is the waste!
All the land is made desolate,
None lays it to heart!
Over the bare desert heights 12
Come in the destroyers!
[For the sword of the Lord is devouring
From the end of the land,
And on to the end of the land,
No peace to all flesh.(421)
Wheat have they sown and reaped thorns, 13
Have travailed for nought,
Ashamed of their crop shall they be
In the heat of God's wrath.]
The last eight lines are doubtfully original: the speaker is no longer God Himself. There follows, in verses 14-17, a paragraph in prose, which is hardly relevant -- a later addition, whether from the Prophet or an editor.
The next metrical Oracles are appended to the Parables of the Waist-cloth and of the Jars in Ch. XIII.(422) We have already quoted, in proof of Jeremiah's poetic power, the most solemn warning he gave to his people, XIII.15, 16.(423) At some time these lines were added to it: --
But if ye will not hear it: XIII.17
In secret my soul shall weep
Because of your pride,
And mine eyes run down with tears
For the flock of the Lord led captive.(424)
The next Oracle in metre is an elegy, probably prospective, on the fate of Jehoiachin and his mother Nehushta.(425)
Say to the King and Her Highness, 18
Low be ye seated!
For from your heads is come down
The crown of your splendour.
The towns of the Southland are blocked 19
With none to open.
All Judah is gone into exile,
The flock of the Lord, verse 17, comes again into the next poem, addressed to Jerusalem as appears from the singular form of the verbs and pronouns preserved throughout by the Greek (but only in 20b by the Hebrew) which to the disturbance of the metre adds the name of the city -- probably a marginal note that by the hand of some copyist has been drawn into the text. In verse 21 the people, whom Judah has wooed to be her ally but who are about to become her tyrant, are, of course, the Babylonians.(427)
Lift up thine eyes and look, XIII.20
They come from the North!
Where is the flock that was given thee,
Thy beautiful flock?
What wilt thou say when they set 21
O'er thee as heads,(428)
Those whom thyself wast training
To be to thee friends?
Shall pangs not fasten upon thee,
Like a woman's in travail?
And if thou say in thine heart, 22
Why fall on me these?
For the mass of thy guilt stripped are thy skirts,
Ravished thy limbs!
Can the Ethiop change his skin, 23
Or the leopard his spots?
Then also may ye do good
Who are wont to do evil.
As the passing chaff I strew them 24
To the wind of the desert.
This is thy lot, the share I mete thee -- 25
Rede of the Lord --
Because Me thou hast wholly forgotten
And trusted in fraud.
So thy skirts I draw over thy face, 26
Thy shame is exposed.
Thine adulteries, thy neighings, 27
Thy whorish intrigues;
On the heights, in the field have I seen
Thy detestable deeds.
Jerusalem! Woe unto thee!
Thou wilt not be clean --
After how long yet?(429)
Ch. XIV.1-10 is the fine poem on the Drought which was rendered in a previous lecture.(430) It is followed by a passage in prose, 11-16, that implies a wilder |sea of troubles,| not drought only but war, famine and pestilence. Forbidden to pray for the people Jeremiah pleads that they have been misled by the prophets who promised that there would be neither famine nor war; and the Lord condemns the prophets for uttering lies in His Name. Through war and famine prophets and people alike shall perish.
And thou shalt say this word to them: XIV.17
Let your eyes run down with tears
Day and night without ceasing,
For broken, broken is the Daughter of my people,
With the direst of strokes!
Fare I forth to the field, 18
Lo the slain of the sword!
Or come into the city
Lo anguish of famine!
Yea, prophet and priest go a-begging
In a land they know not.(431)
Some see reflected in these lines the situation after Megiddo, when Egyptian troops may have worked such evils on Judah; but more probably it is the still worse situation after the surrender of Jerusalem to Nebuchadrezzar. There follows, 19-22, another prayer of the people (akin to that following the drought, 7-9) which some take to be later than Jeremiah. The metre is unusual, if indeed it be metre and not rhythmical prose.
[Hast Thou utterly cast off Judah, 19
Loathes Sion Thy soul?
Why hast Thou smitten us so
That for us is no healing?
Hoped we for peace -- no good!
For a season of healing -- lo panic!
We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, 20
The guilt of our fathers; to Thee have we sinned.
For the sake of Thy Name, do not spurn us, 21
Debase not the Throne of Thy Glory,
Remember, break not Thy Covenant with us!
'Mongst the bubbles of the nations are makers of rain, 22 Or do the heavens give the showers?
Art Thou not He for whom we must wait?
Yea, Thou hast created all these.]
As the Book now runs this prayer receives from God a repulse, XV.1-4, similar to that which was received by the people's prayer after the drought XIV.10-12, and to that which Hosea heard to the prayer of his generation.(432) Intercession for such a people is useless, were it made even by Moses and Samuel; they are doomed to perish by the sword, famine and exile. This passage is in prose and of doubtful origin. But the next lines are in Jeremiah's favourite metre and certainly his own. They either describe or (less probably) anticipate the disaster of 598. God Himself again is the speaker as in XII.7-11. His Patience which the Parable of the Potter illustrated has its limits,(433) and these have now been reached. It is not God who is to blame, but Jerusalem and Judah who have failed Him.
Jerusalem, who shall pity, XV.5
Who shall bemoan thee,
Who will but turn him to ask
After thy welfare?
'Tis thou that hast left Me -- Rede of the Lord -- 6
Still going backward.
So I stretched my hand(434) and destroyed thee
Tired of relenting.
With a winnowing fork I winnowed them 7
In the gates of the land.
I bereaved and destroyed my people
Because of their evil.(435)
I saw their widows outnumber 8
The sand of the seas.
I brought on the mother of youths(?)
Destruction at noonday,
And let fall sudden upon them
Anguish and terrors.(436)
She that bare seven hath fainted, 9
Breathes out her life,
Set is her sun in the daytime
Shamed and abashed!
And their remnant I give to the sword
In face of their foes!(437)
Through the rest of Ch. XV and through XVI and XVII are a number of those personal passages, which I have postponed to a subsequent lecture upon Jeremiah's spiritual struggles,(438) and also several passages which by outlook and phrasing belong to a later age. The impression left by this miscellany is that of a collection of sayings put together by an editor out of some Oracles by our Prophet himself and deliverances by other prophets on the same or similar themes. In pursuance of the plan I proposed I take now only those passages in which Jeremiah deals with the character of his people and their deserved doom.
Thus saith the Lord -- XVI.5
Come not to the home of mourning,
Nor go about to lament,(439)
For my Peace I have swept away --
Away from this people.(440)
Nor enter the house of feasting, 8
To sit with them eating and drinking
For thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; 9
Lo, I make to cease from this place,
To your eyes, in your days,
The voices of joy and rejoicing,
The voices of bridegroom and bride.
There follows a passage in prose, 10-13, which in terms familiar to us, recites the nation's doom, their exile. Verses 14, 15 break the connection with 16 ff., and find their proper place in XXIII.7-8, where they recur. Verses 16-18 predict, under the figures of fishers and hunters, the arrival of bands of invaders, who shall sweep the country of its inhabitants, because of the idolatries with which these have polluted it. There is no reason to deny these verses to Jeremiah. In 19, 20 we come to another metrical piece, singing of the conversion of the heathen from their idols -- the only piece of its kind from Jeremiah -- which we may more suitably consider later. Verse 21 seems more in place after 18.
The sin of Judah is writ XVII.1
With pen of iron,
With the point of a diamond graven
On the plate of their heart --
And eke on the horns of their altars,(441)
And each spreading tree,
Upon all the lofty heights 2
And hills of the wild
Thy substance and all thy treasures 3
For spoil I give,
Because of sin thy high places
Throughout thy borders.
Thine heritage thou shalt surrender(442) 4
Which I have given thee,
And thy foes I shall make thee to serve
In a land thou knowest not.
Ye have kindled a fire in my wrath
That for ever shall burn.(443)
These verses, characteristic of Jeremiah, are more so of his earliest period than of his work in the reign of Jehoiakim, and may have been among those which he added to his Second Roll. They are succeeded by the beautiful reflections on the man who does not trust the Lord and on the man who does, verses 5-8, quoted in a previous lecture.(444) The rest of the chapter consists of passages personal to himself, to be considered later, and of an exhortation to keep the Sabbath, verses 19-27, which is probably post-exilic.(445)
In Ch. XVIII the Parable of the Potter is followed by a metrical Oracle which has all the marks of Jeremiah's style and repeats the finality of the doom, to which the nation's forgetfulness of God and idolatry have brought it. Once more the poet contrasts the constancy of nature with his people's inconstancy. Neither the metre nor the sense of the text is so mutilated as some have supposed.
Therefore thus saith the Lord: XVIII.13
Ask ye now of the nations,
Who heard of the like?
The horror she hath grossly wrought,
Virgin of Israel.
Fails from the mountain rock 14
The snow of Lebanon?
Or the streams from the hills dry up,
The cold flowing streams?(446)
Yet Me have My people forgotten, 15
And burned(447) to vanity,
Stumbling from off their ways,
The tracks of yore,
To straggle along the by-paths,
An unwrought road;
Turning their land to a waste, 16
A perpetual hissing.
All who pass by are appalled,
And shake their heads.
With(448) an east wind strew them I shall, 17
In face of the foe.
My back not my face shall I show them
In their day of disaster.
Personal passages follow in verses 18-23, and in XIX-XX.6, the Symbol of the Earthen Jar and the episode of the Prophet's arrest with its consequences, which we have already considered,(449) and then other personal passages in XX.7-18. Ch. XXI.1-10 is from the reign of Sedekiah; 11, 12 are a warning to the royal house of unknown date, and 13, 14 a sentence upon a certain stronghold, which in this connection ought to be Jerusalem, but cannot be because of the epithets Inhabitress of the Vale and Rock of the Plain, that are quite inappropriate to Jerusalem. This is another proof of how the editors of the Book have swept into it a number of separate Oracles, whether relevant to each other or not, and whether Jeremiah's own or from some one else.
From Chs. XXII-XXIII.8, a series of Oracles on the kings of Judah, we have had before us the elegy on Jehoahaz, XXII.10 (with a prose note on 11, 12) and the denunciation of Jehoiakim, 13-19.(450) There remain the warning (in prose) to do judgment and justice with the threat on the king's house, XXII.1-5, and the following Oracles: --
XXII.6. For thus saith the Lord concerning the house of the king of Judah(451) --
A Gilead art thou to Me,
Or head of Lebanon,
Yet shall I make thee a desert
Of tenantless cities.
I will hallow against thee destroyers, 7
Each with his weapons,
They shall cut down the choice of thy cedars
And fell them for fuel.
8. [And(452) nations shall pass by this city and shall say each to his mate, For what hath the Lord done thus to this great city? 9. And they shall answer, Because they forsook the Covenant of the Lord their God, and bowed themselves to other gods and served them.]
Whether this piece of prose be from Jeremiah himself or from another is uncertain and of no importance. It is a true statement of his own interpretation of the cause of his people's doom. The next Oracle addressed to the nation is upon King Jeconiah, or Koniyahu. I follow mainly the Greek.
Up to Lebanon and cry, XXII.20
Give forth thy voice in Bashan,
And cry from Abarim(453) that broken
Be all thy lovers.
I spake to thee in thy prosperity, 21
Thou saidst, I hear not!
This was thy way from thy youth,
Not to hark to My Voice.
All thy shepherds the wind shall shepherd, 22
Thy lovers go captive.
Then shamed shalt thou be and confounded
For all thine ill-doing.
Thou in Lebanon that dwellest, 23
Nested on cedars,
How shalt thou groan(454) when come on thee pangs,
Anguish as hers that beareth.
As I live -- 't is the Rede of the Lord -- 24
Though Konyahu were
Upon My right hand the signet,
Thence would I tear him.(455)
25. And I shall give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life and into the hand of them thou dreadest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans; and I will hurl thee out, and thy mother who bare thee, upon another land, where ye were not born, and there shall ye die.27. And to the land, towards which they shall be lifting their soul,(456) they shall not return.
Is Konyahu then despised, 28
Like a nauseous vessel?
Why is he flung and cast out
On a land he knows not?
Land, Land, Land, 29
Hear the Word of the Lord!
Write this man down as childless, 30
A fellow ...(?)
For none of his seed shall flourish
Seated on David's throne,
Or ruling still in Judah.(457)
We can reasonably deny to Jeremiah nothing of all this passage, not even the prose by which the metre is interrupted. We have seen how natural it was for the rhapsodists of his race to pass from verse to prose and again from prose to verse. Nor are the repetitions superfluous, not even that four-fold into the hand of in the prose section, for at each recurrence of the phrase we feel the grip of their captor closing more fast upon the doomed king and people. Nor are we required to take the pathetic words, the land to which they shall be lifting up their soul, as true only of those who have been long banished. For the exiles to Babylon felt this home-sickness from the very first, as Jeremiah well knew.
* * * * *
If we are to trust the date given by its title -- and no sufficient reason exists against our doing so -- there is still an Oracle of Jeremiah, which, though now standing far down in our Book, Ch. XLV, belongs to the reign of Jehoiakim, and is properly a supplement to the story of the writing of the Rolls by Baruch in 605.(458) The text has suffered, probably more than we can now detect.
XLV.1. The Word, which Jeremiah the prophet spake to Baruch, the son of Neriah, while he was writing these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah,(459) in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, king of Judah.(460) 2. Thus saith the Lord(461) concerning thee, O Baruch, for thou didst say: --
Woe is me! Woe is me!(462)
How hath the Lord on my pain heaped sorrow!
I am worn with my groaning,
Rest I find none!
[Thus shalt thou say to him(463)] thus sayeth the Lord: 4 Lo, what I built I have to destroy,
And what I planted I have to root up.(464)
Thou, dost thou seek thee great things? 5
Seek thou them not,
For behold, on all flesh I bring evil --
Rede of the Lord --
But I give thee thy life as a prey,
Wheresoever thou goest.
The younger man, with youth's high hopes for his people and ambitions for himself in their service -- ambitions which he could honestly cherish by right both of his station in life(465) and the firmness of his character -- felt his spirit spent beneath the long-drawn weight of all the Oracles of Doom, which it was his fate to inscribe as final. Now to Baruch in such a mood the older man, the Prophet, might have appealed from his own example, for none in that day was more stripped than Jeremiah himself, of family, friends, affections, or hopes of positive results from his ministry; nor was there any whose life had been more often snatched from the jaws of death. But instead of quoting his own case Jeremiah brought to his despairing servant and friend a still higher example. The Lord Himself had been forced to relinquish His designs and to destroy what He had built and to uproot what He had planted. In face of such Divine surrender, both of purpose and achievement, what was the resignation by a mere man, or even by a whole nation, of their hopes or ambitions? Let Baruch be content to expect nothing beyond bare life: thy life shall I give thee for a prey. This stern phrase is found four times in the Oracles of Jeremiah,(466) and nowhere else. It is not more due to the Prophet than to the conditions of his generation. Jeremiah only put into words what must have been felt by all the men of his time -- those terrible years in which, through the Oracles quoted in this lecture, he has shown us War, Drought, Famine and Pestilence fatally passing over his land; when Death came up by the windows, children were cut off from their playgrounds and youths from the squares where they gathered, and the corpses of men were scattered like dung on the fields. It was indeed a time when each survivor must have felt that his life had been given him for a prey.
To the hearts of us who have lived through the Great War, with its heavy toll on the lives both of the young and of the old, this phrase of Jeremiah brings the Prophet and his contemporaries very near.
Yet more awful than the physical calamities which the prophet unveils throughout these terrible years are his bitter portraits of the character of his people, whom no word of their God nor any of His heavy judgments could move to repentance. He paints a hopeless picture of society in Jerusalem and Judah under Jehoiakim, rotten with dishonesty and vice. Members of the same family are unable to trust each other; all are bent on their own gain by methods unjust and cruel -- from top to bottom so hopelessly false as even to be blind to the meaning of the disasters which rapidly befal them and to the final doom that steadily draws near. Yet, for all the wrath he pours upon his generation and the Divine vengeance of which he is sure, how the man still loves and clings to them, and takes their doom as his own! And, greatest of all, how he reads in the heart that was in him the Heart of God Himself -- the same astonishment that the people are so callous, the same horror of their ruin, nay the same sense of failure and of suffering under the burden of such a waste -- on Me is the waste!(467) What I built I have to destroy!
Except that he does not share these secrets of the Heart of God, it is of Victor Hugo among moderns that I have been most reminded when working through Jeremiah's charges against the king, the priests, the prophets and the whole people of Judah -- Victor Hugo in his Chatiments of the monarch, the church, the journalists, the courtiers and other creatures of the Third French Empire. There is the same mordant frankness and satiric rage combined with the same desire to share the miseries of the critic's people in spite of their faults. I have already quoted Hugo's lines on Napoleon III as parallel to Jeremiah's on Jehoiakim.(468)
Here are two other parallels.
To Jeremiah's description of his people being persuaded that all was well, when well it was not, and refusing to own their dishonour, VIII.11, 12, take Hugo's |on est infame et content| and
Et tu chantais, en proie aux eclatants mensonges
And to Jeremiah's acceptance of the miseries of his people as his own and refusal to the end to part from them take these lines to France: --
Je te demanderai ma part de tes miseres,
Moi ton fils.
France, tu verras bien qu'humble tete eclipsee
Et que je n'eus jamais dans l'ame une pensee
Que pour toi.
France, etre sur ta claie a l'heure ou l'on te traine Aux cheveux,
O ma mere, et porter mon anneau de ta chaine
Je le veux!