Here’s a nice little morality tale involving a sect called the Recabites, descendants of Jehonadab – the guy who helped kill all of Ahab’s family back in 2 Kings 10 (although in 2 Kings he is called just Jonadab – I guess the continuity guy blew it). Anyway, Jehonadab supposedly instructed his family to never drink alcohol, never plant crops or vineyards, and always live in tents (I wonder how they managed to survive?) So now Yahweh tells Jeremiah to try to tempt them with wine, but they stand up to the challenge and refuse it. Yahweh uses them as an example of how to obey the commandments, and rues the fact that the Israelites are too ornery to follow orders. Then he promises to reward the Recabites for their obedience and self-control, and they all live happily ever after. Isn’t that nice? Here’s how Sunday School classes teach this chapter.
Jeremiah has his scribe write down all his prophesies and warnings and read them aloud at the temple. Can you imagine how annoyed and angry people would have been at this guy standing on the steps and ranting? Just as bad as street preachers today. King Jehoiakim’s staff are interested and call the king to have a listen, but the king doesn’t buy it. He tosses all the scrolls as they are read. Jeremiah isn’t daunted; he simply has his scribe make another copy. Now Yahweh is angry at the king for ignoring the warnings, and vows to punish him thus: “He will have no heirs to sit on the throne of David. His dead body will be thrown out to lie unburied—exposed to the heat of the day and the frost of the night. I will punish him and his family and his attendants for their sins. I will pour out on them and on all the people of Jerusalem and Judah all the disasters I promised, for they would not listen to my warnings.” (v 30-31) Nasty and vindictive, much? But there’s also an interesting contradiction here – 2 Kings 24:6 tells us that Jehoiakim was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin (and it doesn’t mention a violent death, either). Moreover, it was only just back in chapter 31 that god promised that he would no longer punish children for the sins of their parents, and I wondered how long that would last…. Too bad I’m not a gambler.
The timeline of this book jumps all over the place. I thought Zedekiah was king, but in the last chapter it was Jehoiakim. Now we’re back to King Zed again, but before Jeremiah was imprisoned (v 4). So hard to keep track of what’s going on! Now we have Jeremiah being flogged and imprisoned because he is suspected of defecting to Babylon (v 12-16). Nevertheless, King Zed just can’t resist asking Jeremiah for more advice and prophesy, even though Jeremiah keeps repeating the same prediction – that Jerusalem will fall to Babylon.