Both Sides Cite PrecedentsBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
G-d spoke to Jeremiah at the start of the reign of King Yehoyakim of Judah. (This chapter occurs four years before the previous chapter.) He told Jeremiah to stand in the Temple courtyard and to speak to the inhabitants of all the cities of Judah. Knowing that He was about to give Jeremiah a harsh message that would not be happily received by the people, G-d stressed that Jeremiah was not to leave out one word. If they would listen and change their ways, G-d would not bring upon them the evil He had planned. This was G-d’s message:
“If you do not listen, to follow My laws and heed My prophets, then I will destroy the Temple like I did the Tabernacle at Shiloh.” The priests of Baal and the false prophets heard this prophecy and seized Jeremiah, threatening him with death. They claimed that predicting the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem was treason. Jeremiah replied that he repeated what G-d had instructed him to say. “Change your ways and listen to G-d,” he said. “I am in your hands; do with me as you see fit! But if you kill me, you will have killed an innocent man.”
The officers of the people defended Jeremiah because he was a prophet, speaking the truth. Then, some elders got involved. They recounted an incident that occurred in the time of King Chizkiyahu, about a century earlier.
During the reign of King Chizkiyahu, Micha the Morashti (one of the twelve “minor” prophets) foretold that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount would become ruins. Chizkiyahu didn’t persecute him; he accepted the message and prayed to G-d, Who accepted his prayers.
While there was precedent to accept Jeremiah’s words, the prophet’s detractors also had prior cases to cite. Much more recently, during the reign of King Yehoyakim, Uriahu the son of Shmayahu similarly foretold the fate of Jerusalem and the land. King Yehoyakim and his officers sought to kill him, so Uriahu ran away to Egypt. Yehoyakim had him extradited, executed and given an unceremonious burial. Achikam, the son of Shafan, protected Jeremiah and did not let the mob get him. (Achikam was one of the messengers who visited the prophetess Chuldah in 2 Kings 22. He was the father of Gedaliah, who was assassinated in 2 Kings 25 and for whose death we fast on Tzom Gedaliah.)