When the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again. — Edith Hamilton

Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber




The Prophecies of Jeremiah

As Amon, the new King of Judah, was wicked and idolatrous, his reign lasted only two years, and he died the victim of a conspiracy. His son Josiah succeeded him, and reigned at Jerusalem thirty-one years. This king was a very virtuous man, and although the people all around him were terribly wicked, he remained good and chose to serve the Lord.

At twenty years of age, Josiah made a journey all through his kingdom, asking his people to put away idolatry, destroying their idols, and collecting money to repair the temple. It was at this time that the high priest again found the long-lost and nearly forgotten book of the law, and read it aloud to the king.

Josiah was so impressed when he heard the terrible punishments threatened that he tore his clothing, and called for a prophet to come and explain to him the parts he could not understand. But all the prophets had been killed, and it was only after long search that a woman was found who could tell him the meaning of the sacred words.

She said that all that was written was true, but comforted the mourning king by telling him that he should not see the downfall of Jerusalem. To save his people if possible, Josiah ordered a public reading of the law, pulled down all the idols that were left, and defiled Tophet, the hot fire kindled for the worship of Moloch.

When Jerusalem had been thoroughly purified, he put all the wizards and witches to death, and then celebrated the Passover at Jerusalem, according to the teachings of the newly found book of the law.

While all these changes were taking place in Judah, the strong Assyrian kingdom had fallen into the hands of the Babylonians and Medes; and Nineveh, the proud city, was destroyed as had been foretold by Isaiah and two lesser prophets.

Hearing that the Egyptians were on their way to attack the Babylonians, his allies, Josiah made an attempt to stop them. In this battle, however, he received a mortal wound, and he died almost as soon as he reached Jerusalem. His death was mourned by the great prophet Jeremiah, and by all the people.

Josiah was the sixteenth and last real king of Judah; for although four others bore that name, they were only the servants of the Egyptian or Babylonian kings, who ruled the people and country as they pleased.

The Egyptians, angry because Josiah had tried to stop them, came to attack Jerusalem under his successor. After pulling him down from the throne, they named his brother Jehoiakim king in his stead. This new king did evil, so Jeremiah rebuked him in the name of the Lord, and again foretold that the Jews would be taken in captivity to Babylon, whence they would return only after many years.

The king vainly tried to silence the prophet, but Jeremiah went on to foretell the destruction of the temple. This prediction so enraged the priests that they would have put him to death, had not the judges declared that a prophet had the right to say anything he pleased.

By this time the Babylonians had fought and defeated the Egyptians, and marching into Palestine, they now laid siege to Jerusalem, and took the city after a short resistance. Jehoiakim was allowed to keep the throne, on condition that he would be the vassal of Babylon; and the conquerors departed, carrying off all the vessels of the temple, and a number of noble Hebrew youths, who were to be detained at their court as hostages.

Jerusalem was left in a very sorry condition, and the humbled people kept a solemn fast, during which Jeremiah again begged them to turn from their evil ways and repent. With the help of an assistant, Jeremiah wrote down all the prophecies he had uttered, and he now ordered that they should be read aloud, so that the people might see that some of them had already been fulfilled.

Jehoiakim, the king, was not present at this solemn reading, but he sent a man to get the prophecies and read them to him. He was so displeased, however, with what he heard that he burned the roll as soon as it was read. This proved to be of no use, for, by the Lordís command, Jeremiah again made his assistant write down every word he had said, adding a prophecy about the desolation which was to happen to Judah, and about the kingís disgraceful end.