Old Nadav smoothed his thickly gray beard with his fingers and turned to his grandson, who was pestering him with questions, putting aside the silver goblet on which he was engraving the pattern.
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- Why are you bothering me, Osher? You prevent me from working. – He grumbled in a voice that did not feel any displeasure with his grandson’s behavior.
- You, grandfather, have long promised to tell me about how you ended up in Susa (Meri, 239). Everyone called me little and urged me to be patient. Now get ready to celebrate a bar mitzvah for me (Tikkanen). I am growing up and need to hear this story. If my father had been alive, he would not have delayed this conversation for so long. – Osher said with some indignation.
- My story will be long, – said Nadav, – because of how many events preceded us to be in Susa. When I was a young boy, and my grandfather was older than I am now, the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar II, ruled the country that conquered Judah, leaving Jerusalem intact. My grandfather was a member of the Sanhedrin and a very respected person in Jerusalem (Litwak). As he told us, his family descended from Aaron himself, the brother of Moses – our first high priest. The king of Judah at that time was Jeconiah, who, from the very first days of his reign, began to seek support from the Sanhedrin in throwing off the Babylonian rule from Judah (New World Encyclopedia). Gradually, all the members of the Sanhedrin leaned towards him. But there was one ardent adversary, whom the others could not persuade to their plans. This was the counselor Jeremiah.
Speaking at Sanhedrin, the king tried to put Jeremiah to shame for his indecision.
- Do you think, Jeremiah, that we are all fools here and do not understand what we are preparing ourselves for in a great secret? – Jeconiah turned to the counselor when he opened the meeting of the Sanhedrin.
- Just the opposite. I understand everything perfectly, sir. You are preparing Judea for new adversity, bloodshed, and new captivity of the people. – The adviser calmly objected.
- Everybody heard?! – The king turned to the others. – It turns out that we, fools, do not want the best, but the worst for our land! Only the clever Jeremiah sees ahead of time what is about to happen. Is it not a new prophet, by the will of our God, appeared before us?!
All those present laughed amicably and obsequiously.
Gdalia alone did not take part in this ridicule. He rose from his seat and declared:
- The people of Jerusalem have long honored Jeremiah as a prophet of our Lord. Many times, through his lips, the Lord admonished the people to correct deeds and decisions. Many people know about it. How this has not become known to you, the members of the Sanhedrin, I cannot even imagine! – Having uttered these words, Gdalia sat down in his place. – Announce to them something from the prophecy that you wrote down and gave me for familiarization. Let them listen to the words of our Lord. Maybe that will enlighten them to the desired action.
- Speak already! – The king graciously agreed.
- I’ll read my scroll. Jeremiah spoke as he pulled a scroll of parchment from his bosom. – Listen to what our Lord has commanded to convey to your ears. “… If Jeconiah, the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, had been a ring on my right hand, then from here I will tear you off and give you into the hands of those who seek your soul and into the hands of those whom you fear, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and into the hands of the Chaldeans, and I will throw you and your mother, who gave birth to you, to a foreign country, where you were not born, and there you will die; but they will not return to the land where their soul will desire to return (Bible Study Tools; Martin; Barstad). Is this man, Jeconiah, a despicable, rejected creature? Or is he an obscene vessel? Why were they thrown out – he and his tribe and thrown into a country that they did not know?” The Lord of hosts also said: “Because you did not listen to My words, behold, I will take all the tribes of the north and send them to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them to this land and to its inhabitants and to all the surrounding nations; and I will utterly destroy them and make their life a terror, a mockery, and eternal desolation (Bible Hub). And I will stop their voice of joy, the sound of millstones, and the light of a lamp. And these nations will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years (Bible Hub).
- Our Lord himself told you all this? – The king asked mockingly. – Or did the servants of Nebuchadnezzar put these in your ears so that you would contradict our decisions and our will to throw off the Babylonian power?! Guardians! To chain him and throw him into a pit, like a traitor and a spiteful critic! We don’t need him here anymore.
While Jeremiah, Gdalia, and their like-minded people were in captivity, the king summoned his vassals from Moab, Edom, and Amun to be his assistants and entered into an alliance with the Phoenician cities Tire and Sidon (Ahituv). And when it was reported to him that the Egyptian pharaoh was ready to support the event with military force, Jeconiah was filled with confidence that he was no longer afraid of Nebuchadnezzar, and it was still unknown which of them was the more powerful Sovereign. Each of his new performances with his plans in Sanhedrin was received with such noisy support that he unconditionally believed in the success of his venture. It only remained to look for a pretext for a military conflict. And he was not long in coming. When the dignitary of Babylon arrived in Jerusalem to determine the amount of tribute that Jeconiah should send to the treasury of Babylon, the king kept him for several days in the guest court without granting an audience. This alone was a deep insult to Nebuchadnezzar.
- Nervous? – The king was interested in the behavior of the dignitary.
- And how! – They reported to him with satisfaction. – The beast growls when we visit him to share a meal with him. Summons thunder, and lightning on our heads.
- Then drive him away! I do not wish to see the messenger of my enemy. At the same time, inform him that Judah will no longer pay tribute to Babylon. Never!
The dignitary of Babylon was shamefully put outside the city’s gates, which were immediately closed behind him, emphasizing in advance the impossibility of his stay in this city in the future.
When the dignitary entered the throne room, where the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar II, sat in all his majesty, with the courtiers located on both sides of the throne, by one sight it was possible to determine that something far from pleasant for the king had happened. Eyes burning with anger, the always pale face of this lean man, flooded with scarlet paint, when he bowed deeply to his master before reporting on the results of the trip to Jerusalem, already alarmed the clever king.
as little as 3 hours
- Did something happen on the way? Have you been attacked? – The king outstripped the words of the dignitary with his questions.
- It’s not so, Sovereign! – Excitedly began that report. – not robbers on the way, but the king of Israel with his deeds destroyed the peace of my heart and insulted my Lord. Jerusalem has refused to pay tribute and is threatening my master with war. Through the negligence of the nobles of Jerusalem, who were forced to visit me while waiting for the reception, I learned in a conversation with them that Jeconiah had acquired allies in his neighbors’ person and enlisted the support of the Pharaoh of Egypt.
- That’s how it is! The king of the Jews is arrogant! Apparently, I gave him too much freedom when with my own hands, I put a snake on David’s throne, which was preparing to bite me as soon as it got enough poison for it. I made him king, and I will deprive him of the throne. And at the same time, I will punish the Jews so that they will remember that punishment for a long time! Does he want war?! He will get it! Call all my generals to me now. We will not postpone the punishment for later!
- It turns out that the king of the Jews himself called for the war? – Osher interrupted the story of his grandfather with a question that worried him.
- So it turns out. – The grandfather agreed. He thought for a moment and then added. – We are Jews; we diligently memorize the commandments of the Lord, given to us by Moses, we strive to strictly fulfill them. Only some people all the time try to push us on the path of breaking these commandments. And the Lord, through the prophets, warns us of his indignation with our deeds. Only the prophets who carry the words of the Lord into the ears of disobedient people are not always honored by all. So it happened with the prophecies of Jeremiah that he reported to the king of Judah and Sanhedrin. Although there appeared in Jerusalem and other places those who urged the people to come to their senses and convince the king to avoid war with Babylon, no one listened to them. Worse, they were thrown into dungeons.
- What happened then? – Osher asked.
- Then Nebuchadnezzar led his army to the walls of Jerusalem and Jeconiah; after a short siege, he was forced to open the gates for him. After defeating the rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar took all the temple and royal treasures. Jeconiah, along with his family, nobility, and surviving soldiers and artisans, were resettled to Babylonia. Only the poor remained in Jerusalem. This is how my grandfather’s family got here. – Nadav stopped his story. – I’m tired… I will continue my story tomorrow.
Aḥituv, Shmuel. “The Origins of Ancient Israel–The Documentary Evidence.” The Origin of Early Israel–Current Debate, edited by Shmuel Aḥituv, Eliezer D. Oren. Routledge, 2017. 135-140.
Barstad, Hans M. “Jeremiah the Historian: The Book of Jeremiah As a Source for the History of the Near East in the Time of Nebuchadnezzar.” Studies on the Text and Versions of the Hebrew Bible in Honour of Robert Gordon, edited by Geoffrey Khan and Diana Lipton. Brill, 2012. 87-98.
Bible Hub. “Jeremiah 25:9.” Bible Hub, 2021.
Bible Study Tools. “Compare Translations for Jeremiah 22:26.” Biblestudytools.com, 2021.
Litwak, Kenneth D. “Synagogue and Sanhedrin.” The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts, edited by Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald. Baker Academic, 2013, 264–272.
Martin, Jesse Kay. Nebuchadnezzar. San Jose State University, 2009.
Meri, Josef W. The cult of Saints among Muslims and Jews in medieval Syria. OUP Oxford, 2002.
New World Encyclopedia. “Jeconiah.” New World Encyclopedia, 2021.
Tikkanen, Amy. “Bar Mitzvah.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2020.