CLICK HERE to read Jeremiah 26.
We now jump back in time for this chapter, when Jeremiah is still prophesying the destruction of the people before it has begun to happen. It is the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah (who was a good king), about 609 BC, which means this is about four years before Bablyon invades (verse 1).
The Lord tells Jeremiah to go to the court outside the temple, where the people gather for news and culture and buying and selling, and speak to all of them without missing anything the Lord has told him to say (verse 2). He says that even now, with only four years left until Bablyon conquers the land, even now there is still time for the Lord to intervene and safe the people if they will repent (verse 3). The Lord tells Jeremiah to tell this to the people, and to urge them to listen to Him and live according to the laws and bounds the Lord has set (verse 4). He urges the people to listen to the prophets (verse 5), and they will see that the Lord can deliver them (verse 6).
Jeremiah did this, and the false priests and fake prophets heard his speech (verse 7). When he finished, they arrested Jeremiah (verse 8), saying that it is illegal to say bad things about the government or its people (verse 9). They took Jeremiah to the court outside the palace, the “gate” where cases were heard before being taken in to the king (verse 10). The false priests and fake prophets accused Jeremiah, saying his crimes deserved the death penalty (verse 11) because Jeremiah spoke out against the government (verse 12).
Jeremiah defended himself, saying he only told the people the words of the Lord, and only asked them to repent (verse 13). He submitted himself to the law, knowing that he had not broken any law, and accepting whatever they decided in his trial (verse 14). Jeremiah said that if they put him to death, they would have innocent blood on their hands because he had only spoken what the Lord had told him to say (verse 15).
This is significant in two ways: first, Jeremiah would not recant his testimony, even when his life was threatened; second, Jeremiah was acting as a metaphor for the Lord’s message. If the people would do what he had done, and not recant their testimonies, and repent and live according to the law, then the Lord Himself would defend them and they would not be destroyed.
The people sensed this enough not to kill him, for the Lord moved the Spirit in their hearts in his favor and toward the truth of his message (verse 16). The quorum leader rose to speak (verse 17), reminding the people of other prophets that had spoken the same message true enough in the past (verses 18 and 20). He also reminded the people that when the prophets spoke the truth, even when it was hard truth, their past kings did what the prophets commanded instead of attacking the prophets (verse 19).
The king was angry at this, and the man had to flee to save his life (verse 21). He fled to Egypt for safety, but the king chased him there (verse 22) and killed him there (verse 23).
This was also a metaphor the Lord used amongst them that they did not recognize. In this scenario they acted out exactly what was about to happen to them. When other nations attacked them, Israel would depend on foreign political alliances to save them instead of relying on the Lord, not ever even asking Him for help. Their alliances would betray them to save themselves, and so their own destruction would begin.
However, those who were righteous would be saved and delivered and escape destruction – even like Lehi and his family in 1 Nephi. Here, Jeremiah plays out this metaphor, where he is protected and they are not able to put him to death as they wanted (verse 24).