Prophet predicted defeat, but also God’s eventual mercy

in the beginning
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

Jeremiah predicted the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and urged Zedekiah, the king of Judah, to surrender to them. 

A cynical observer might attribute this advice to Jeremiah’s astute assessment of the superior Babylonian military forces. After all, they were the foremost power in the ancient Near East.

On the other hand, Jeremiah saw a deeper meaning. He saw Judah’s impending doom as God’s punishment for their sins. It was better to acquiesce to this well-deserved punishment, to plead for mercy, than to resist. Resistance was futile.

That explains the complaint of the princes of Judah in Sunday’s first reading (Jer 38:4-6, 8-10): “Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin.”

Jeremiah’s prediction came true. In 587 B.C., the Babylonian army conquered Jerusalem.

They destroyed the Temple and demolished most of the city. They captured King Zedekiah. His sons and the princes of Judah were put to death in front of him. Then he was blinded, so that the last thing that he saw was the death of his sons. He was cast into prison for the rest of his life. He should have listened to Jeremiah.

Before the Babylonian conquest, the princes of Judah had Jeremiah thrown into a dry cistern as punishment for his seditious calls for surrender. They wanted to leave him there to die.

This was not the first time that Jeremiah had suffered because of his political views. Earlier, King Zedekiah had imprisoned Jeremiah in the quarters of the guard at the palace (Jer 32:2).

But that had not stopped Jeremiah from prophesying. While still in prison, Jeremiah had continued to predict that the Babylonians would conquer Jerusalem.  

After Jeremiah was thrown into the dry cistern, King Zedekiah had pity on him and released him from captivity. So, Jeremiah was saved.

Similarly, even though Jeremiah prophesied doom and destruction for the Israelites, he saw beyond that to a time when God would eventually have pity on them. God would not bring Israel to total destruction. 

Speaking on God’s behalf, Jeremiah assured the Israelites, “Behold, I will gather them together from all the lands to which in anger, wrath and great rage I banish them. I will bring them back to this place and settle them here in safety. . . .

“Just as I brought upon this people all this great evil, so I will bring upon them all the good I promise them” (Jer 32: 37, 42).

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