Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on LinkedIn Connect on YouTube

Chapter One – Jeremiah Enters the Temple

November 6, 2014 0 Comments

In the third year of Jehoiakim, King of Judah, the Lord God raised up a Lion from the east, one Nebuchadnezzar.  In that same year, King Nebuchadnezzar led Babylon at a place called Carchemish, and there defeated the Egyptians.  Though he did so in the name of his god, Marduk, the king of the Babylonian gods, the God of the Hebrews had in fact ordained his steps.  Nebuchadnezzar’s  comings and goings were prophesied by the Voice of the Lord, Jeremiah of Anathoth.  Here begins the account of how the God of the Universe caused the Children of Israel to go in exile to the land of the Chaldeans.

                                                         

          The Chronicles of Belteshazzar

 

Chapter 1

 

            A steady flow of pilgrims made its way toward the Gate of Benjamin, the northern gateway to the Temple of Solomon.  Unnoticed among the throng of people, Baruch said to his companion, “It is not too late, we can still turn back.”

 

          “I told you before, the Lord has called me to speak out.  Now is the time.  This is the place.  You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to.”  Jeremiah’s gaze did not lift from the dusty ground in front of him as they proceeded.

 

          “I won’t abandon you.  I just don’t want to see you end up like Uriah,” Baruch replied.

 

          A tear escaped Jeremiah’s eye and trickled down his wrinkled sun-scorched face before being captured in the tangle of his beard.  With his head bowed to hide his sadness, thoughts of his old friend, Uriah, flashed through Jeremiah’s mind.  From the start of Jehoiakim’s reign in Jerusalem, they had both spoken out against the atrocities committed by this king – a man long suspected of having conspired with the Egyptians to gain the throne of his late father, King Josiah.  Since ascending to the throne three years ago, Jehoiakim had prostituted the faith, and sold Israel’s soul in exchange for Egyptian riches.  Uriah, older and more brash than Jeremiah, had gone into the Valley of Ben-Hinnom during the first year of Jehoiakim’s reign to deliver a withering proclamation against the king as he sacrificed to Dagon.  Uriah had spoken out for all to hear his words at the foot of the Topheth, their idol. 

 

          And for that, Uriah had paid with his life.  Never had any prophet been killed by the political powers of Israel.  But Uriah had.  Indeed, Uriah had learned of Jehoiakim’s plan to take his life and had fled to Egypt, but the king used his ties to Pharaoh to have Uriah taken prisoner and brought back to Jerusalem for execution.  And Pashur, the First Keeper of the Door, had not said a word!  So blinded by the profits from trade with the Egyptians were Jehoiakim and the Temple Priests that they would do everything to safeguard their position, including murder.

 

          Now Jeremiah was about to follow in Uriah’s footsteps.  Would the Lord protect him as he went forward to proclaim the Word that the Voice of the Lord compelled him to utter?  He said a silent prayer, ignoring the urge to turn and retrace his steps back across the viaduct over which he had just traversed.  He looked at his friend and faithful servant, Baruch, who at forty-two, was two years his senior.  Baruch had willingly followed him since their boyhood days growing up in Anathoth.  It had been Baruch’s plan that Jeremiah’s young teenage disciples, Daniel and Ezekiel, accompany them on this day.  “If you insist on going to the temple on this suicide mission, at least allow us to provide a plan of escape for you, God willing,” he had said.  As usual, Jeremiah left those concerns to Baruch.  When the Lord prompted him to action, his only thoughts were the accomplishment of the task at hand.

 

          They entered the Court of the Gentiles, a large outer area surrounding the temple proper and its inner courts.  Here, Hebrews and non-Hebrews alike gathered in a space comprising a little more than twenty acres.  Various kiosks were set up for pilgrims to purchase animals at the last minute for sacrifice by the temple priests.  Arriving just a little before noon, Jeremiah and his friends found the day’s activity at its highest.  The Hebrews were celebrating Succoth, the Feast of Tabernacles.  Many were coming to Jerusalem, and hence to the temple.  It had been a good year, and the Hebrew pilgrims enjoyed the fruits of their harvest as they gave thanks to the Lord.  Because Succoth was in the second day of a weeklong celebration, many pilgrims and their families were already here.  Small groups dotted the court, as rabbis and scribes taught from the Torah, the Book of the Law.  For those not concerned with the fate of the nation of Judah, and the spiritual state of her people, it was a joyous time. 

 

          Jeremiah and  Baruch came to the low stone wall that surrounded the inner courts of the temple.  Called the Soreq, it stood five feet tall and surrounded the consecrated Temple area.  Its purpose was to signify a barrier beyond which no Gentile might pass. As they entered the gate that would take them into the Court of the Women, Jeremiah glanced up at the inscription on the arch, which read:

 

“Any Gentile found within the enclosure of the Temple area will bear the responsibility of his own ensuing death.”

 

          Jeremiah turned to Baruch.  “For your own safety, leave me now.” 

 

          Baruch looked into his friend’s eyes, but knew that it was no use arguing.  “I will not be far away,” he replied.  Baruch looked around them.  Only the temple guards were present in this area.  Thus, anything that happened would be under the jurisdiction of the priests, not the king.  He caught the eyes of Daniel and Ezekiel.  On silent cue, the two teenagers split up and merged into the milling crowd.  He turned back to Jeremiah.  “God be with you,” he said.

 

          “And with you,” replied Jeremiah as he watched his friend blend into the crowd.  He looked up at the early autumn sun and felt its warmth on his cheek.  Slowly but intently, he began to work his way to the center of the Court of the Women.  At the western end of the court was a semi-circular staircase leading up to the Nicanor Gate, which led into the next court called the Court of the Israelites.  Within that area, no woman was allowed.  Jeremiah and Baruch had discussed this subject, and decided it was unwise to go beyond that point.  At the top of the staircase, he saw Pashur, the First Keeper of the Door.  He mentally spat on the ground, for to do so physically would be to profane the holy ground on which he walked. 

 

          The Court of the Women was crowded with people watching the priests carrying water from the pool of Siloam to the inner altar of the Priest’s Court for the water purification ceremony.  The pool trapped water which flowed from the Spring of Gihon through the tunnel King Hezekiah had dug over a century ago to insure a supply of water to the people of Jerusalem in times of attack.  Carrying palm branches, the people cried out continuously:

 

The Lord save us!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  From the House of the Lord, we bless you!  The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine upon us.  With boughs in hand, join in the festival procession up to the horns of the altar!

 

          The noise around Jeremiah was deafening.  It took time to push his way through the mass of people waving palm branches as the priests proceeded to the Nicanor Gate and into the inner recesses of the temple.  At last he came to his destination:  One of the three raised daises, about six feet in diameter, in the center of the court.  Jeremiah faced the gate leading to the inner courts of the temple.  Until now, he had walked with a stoop, but now he pulled back the hood of his cloak and stood to his full six-foot frame.  He caught Pashur’s eye and allowed a slight smile to flit briefly across his lips before lifting his face to heaven and stretching out his arms.

         

“For the last twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah, the son of Amon, King of Judah to this day, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken to you over and over, but you have not listened!”  Jeremiah paused and watched as Pashur stopped what he was doing and called an aide to his side.  The people nearest him also ceased their chanting and turned their attention to him.  Even some of the rabbis in their small groups had stopped and looked up to hear what Jeremiah would say next.

 

          “You haven’t listened to the Lord, who has commanded you, saying ‘Do not serve other gods, which are but the mere work of your hands.  Therefore I am about to pour out my wrath upon you,’ declares the Lord.”  Jeremiah paused again.  Now people were coming to him to listen to his words.  More than two hundred surrounded the dais on which he stood.  He could see temple guards begin to move on the perimeter of the court.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Daniel milling about with a group of about twenty youths of his age.  While the sight of his young friend registered with his subconscious, it did not distract him from what he had to say.

 

          “…Thus says the Lord of Hosts, ‘Because you have not obeyed My words, behold, I will exile the families of Judah.  Even now, I am gathering all the armies of the north under Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, whom I have appointed my servant.  I will bring them against this land and its people.  I will bring them against all the nations surrounding you, to destroy them.’”  The crowd was beginning to grow restless.  This was the point which Baruch had feared, had begged Jeremiah not to make.  Not here.  Not in public.  Many believed that the Lord would never allow such a thing to befall His people and His temple. 

 

          They were wrong.

 

          “This whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.  With fire he shall consume this Temple, and all …”  A roar went up from the crowd.  A hand grabbed him from behind, dragging him off the dais.  Jeremiah struggled, but his assailants wrestled him backwards, wrenching his shoulder.  Suddenly, the wind was knocked out of him as his back hit the ground below, his head slamming into the cobblestones.  As he was dragged into the midst of the crowd, darkness surrounded him.  Jeremiah struggled to retain consciousness, and failed.

 

*    *    *

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

Leave a Reply