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Chapter 2: Jeremiah’s Rescue

November 26, 2014 0 Comments

               Even at three o’clock in the morning, the city of Jerusalem bustled with activity. New pilgrims were arriving daily. Worshippers came to pray, sacrifice and study at the feet of the scribes at all hours of the day and night. Huddled against the chill of the night, Daniel relived the previous day’s events.

As they had planned, he and Ezekiel had gathered some of their friends into two groups. They had planned to create a disturbance on Baruch’s signal, at which time Baruch would spirit Jeremiah away and hide him in a flax basket that would be loaded on a cart and driven out of the temple courtyard. But they had miscalculated. Pashur had not allowed Jeremiah to finish his pronouncements. This was unheard of! Before Daniel could react, the temple guards had come behind Jeremiah and pulled him off of the dais. They had concealed their movements by joining the crowd that had swelled to listen to the Prophet of the Lord. Had he only reacted faster, he …

“Daniel, snap out of it, we must act quickly!” Baruch looked down at him and shook him roughly on the shoulder. “Gedaliah has come to warn us that at first light, they plan to take Jeremiah down from the stockade and throw him into the temple dungeon. If we don’t act to rescue him now, we won’t have another chance.”

“While you were dozing, we managed to gather about two dozen of our comrades to help us create a diversion,” said Ezekiel, smiling his know-it-all smile as he pulled Daniel to his feet. While they were friends, it was little things like this that Ezekial used to “put him in his place” because he came from a wealthy family. Because the prophecies of Jeremiah were unpopular with King Jehoiakim and the priests, all who followed him were in some danger. Ezekiel had his ways of questioning whether or not Daniel could take the heat. In truth, he feared the wrath of his father far more than the punishment of the authorities. But like any other seventeen year old, Daniel could not understand why his father couldn’t see how the king and his puppet priests were corrupting the people. He hadn’t yet been confronted with the need to compromise principles for immediate personal gain.

           Baruch interrupted the exchange between the two teenagers. “The guard will be changing in the next half hour. We have that long to get in position and be ready to free Jeremiah. Let’s go!” With that, Baruch marched off with Ezekiel close behind, leaving Daniel scurrying to catch up.

           Jeremiah was in the stockade at the Gate of Benjamin. Located on the north side of the temple, it was so named because the Tribe of Benjamin had settled to the north of Jerusalem. The most prominent of the gates, it was the main area through which pilgrims would pass into the Court of the Gentiles. Even at this hour, small groups were awake and celebrating Succoth. One group of thirty or so was having a particularly good time, as they ate, drank and watched several women dance.

           The stockades were an extremely uncomfortable device, used not only to embarrass the occupant, but inflict pain as well. Bending a man at the waist, his ankles and wrists were enclosed by wooden shackles, thereby exposing his back. Jeremiah had been whipped forty times, less one, as prescribed by the Law of Moses. He remained unconscious in the grip of the stockade. It was Baruch’s plan for Daniel and Ezekiel to create a diversion and draw the temple guards away long enough for him to free Jeremiah and secret him away in a cart filled with baskets of flax.

            “Behold, the Lord will send terror on you and all your friends, and you will see them die by the swords of their enemies.” On cue from Baruch, Daniel began shouting at Ezekiel to provoke a fight. As planned, the two groups of youths began to form a circle around the two friends as they prepared to stage a mock riot. “The Lord will hand over Judah to the king of Babylon, and he will take away these people as slaves to Babylon, where he will kill you and them.” Daniel looked across the courtyard to see that the temple guards had taken notice of their performance. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the small group of pilgrims continuing their festivities, more engrossed with the gyrations of several young women than with the confrontation thirty yards away.

             “Deceiver of the innocent,” shouted Ezekiel. “The temple is the Lord’s holy dwelling, and he shall allow no harm to come to it!” With that, Ezekiel and Daniel locked arms in play-wrestling fashion. At once, the youths on both sides joined in the fray, and as expected, the temple guards moved to intervene.

              Baruch knew he had only a few moments. Along with three associates, he moved quickly to free Jeremiah and carry him to the waiting cart of flax baskets. As they did so, Jeremiah stirred and looked up groggily into Baruch’s eyes. “Wha, what’s happening?” he mumbled up at him.

             “Quiet, old friend. You’re being rescued. Now, stay in this basket, and no matter what happens, don’t make a sound!” Baruch slammed the lid on the basket and gave the signal for the driver to head out the gates.

             By this time, the guards had entered into the mock-fight and were pulling the youths apart. The captain looked up to see the cart moving away from the now empty stockade. Precious seconds ticked off while the reality of what had just happened sank into his brain. Finally, he barked a command for his men to pursue the cart. Four guards disengaged themselves from the melee and took off to cross the fifty yard divide between themselves and the cart, which was quickly picking up speed. The lead guard cursed as a wagon pulled by two horses broke from the reveler’s campsite and headed straight into the pursuing soldiers. Atop the wagon were a man and woman seemingly drunk, yet at the same time guiding the vehicle into the guards, knocking two of them to the ground. After coming to a stop, the woman began to dance suggestively in the bed of the wagon, to the catcalls of the man.

             With the temple guards in momentary disarray, a small caravan entered through the Gate of Benjamin. Baruch, acting on impulse, slapped the lead horse of a team pulling a wagon filled with goods. The startled horse jumped forward and led its team toward the guards who had finally gotten around the partygoers’ cart. Three of the guards were able to dive out of the way of the errant wagon, but the fourth, already limping from the previous encounter, was unable to move quickly enough. With a scream he was crushed by the careening wagon as the horses pulling it collided with him, the left wheels rolling over his limp body as the horses veered right. The combination of the two actions caused the wagon to overturn and slide to a stop just a few feet from a stunned Daniel.

               Now the entire courtyard was in turmoil. The group of pilgrims had halted their party and were stumbling over to see what was happening. The guards who had taken after the fleeing cart were now tending to their fallen comrade. Daniel, Ezekiel and their young friends ran from the scene, managing to draw a few guards after them. Baruch jumped onto the cart carrying Jeremiah as it exited the city into the open beyond the gate.

              A league outside the city, they came to where the personal coach of Gedaliah stood waiting. “Praise the Lord, you are here! We almost didn’t get out,” Baruch said to Gedaliah as they switched the basket containing Jeremiah with one in Gedaliah’s carriage. “Had it not been for a band of drunken partiers who disrupted the guards, we would have all been caught.”

              “They weren’t drunk; those were Rechabites. They do not drink. My father contacted them while we were making our plans to free Jeremiah. He gave them orders to assist in his rescue. If they fooled you into thinking they were drunk, then they indeed performed their task well.” Gedaliah examined the basket containing Jeremiah one more time to make sure that it was secure. As he did so, his driver prepared the horse they had brought for Baruch, while the driver of the other cart began to pull away and head off away from the direction Gedaliah would take.

          “Take care of Jeremiah,” Baruch said, mounting his horse. “I will ride ahead and prepare for your coming. We will gather at the Inn of the Two Rams as we planned. God be with you.”

          “And with you,” Gedaliah replied. Baruch took off, leaving his friend to follow.

The Brotherhood of the Scroll

About the Author:

David Lantz is a self-published author, adjunct college professor and leadership consultant. Visit my online courses at https://generationselfemployed.zenler.com/ and like my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wisejargon and

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