Some of the conflicts which have arisen between contemporaneous Prophets are interesting. I rely on the Prophets and prophecies exclusively from the Bible, not merely because I trust the Bible but because I don’t trust the way the Bible is being interpreted to suit the preacher’s priorities.
Week before last I had the opportunity of attending a service at King’s Temple, Hyderabad. The preacher, not only spoke on Tithes, but also caveated the listeners that one should Tithe only at the local church, which supports its members of the congregation and explicitly warned the congregation against contributing to the Tele-evangelists out of the Tithes. Understandably, Malachi 3:10 was pressed into service.
You may call me a forum shopping Christian, if you choose to. I would fain listen to a well read Osho on Christianity than listen to a ‘fire & brimstone’ doomsday preacher stirring up unsavoury anxieties to make the listeners submit to their agenda on their avowed ‘distributive infrastructure enabling’ programmes.
I believe, and firmly at that, that God given Liberty cannot be mindlessly squandered away at these exhortations which are neither consistent with the Bible nor with the teachings of Jesus.
Micaiah s/o Imlah and Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, stake it out in I Kings 22 chapter.
Zedekiah had mustered the support of 400 other prophets who had prophesied that if Ahab and Jehoshaphat went to war together against Syria to regain Ramoth-Gilead for Israel, Ahab along with the King of Judah Jehoshaphat would defeat the Syrians. But there is one lone voice against that prophecy by another Prophet Micaiah, who says that a ‘lying spirit’ had fallen upon the other 401 prophets and that Micaiah saw the Israelites ‘shepherdless’. The way these two prophets confront each other is dramatic and versified well:
24 But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?
25 And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.
The issue raised was not that Zedekiah had become possessed by the ‘lying spirit‘ but how did the ‘Spirit of the Lord’ get into Micaiah? That was the question of Zedekiah. Zedekiah would that all the prophets were wrong so that the blame could be laid on the King or the people. But when the prophecies are contrary to each other, and there are two camps of Prophets with two contrary prophecies, the one who turns out to be right is likely to have an upper hand post, the event. This division cannot be countenanced by Prophets. They stand united or they rise united, but never fall. Here, by hindsight we know that Zedekiah fell.
Similar situation arose in Chapter 27 of Jeremiah, wherein Jeremiah prophesied thus:
8 And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the LORD, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.
9 Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:
The interesting part of this prediction was that Zedekiah, probably a close relative of the reformer King Josiah, was the then ruler of Judah and probably wanted to become a sovereign and not continue to be a vassal King of the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar. At the same time he did not want to lose control over the king of Edom, the king of Moab, king of the Ammonites, king of Tyrus, and to the king of Zidon, who had sent messengers to Jerusalem unto Zedekiah king of Judah, either as bringers of tribute or for a conclave of the emissaries of vassal kings led by Zedekiah.
In any case the situation was not very appetising. Jeremiah makes it worse by bringing out a prophecy, which I am unable to digest.
The Almighty God makes a Jewish Prophet say that not only Nebuchadnezzar but his son and grandson would rule over their kingdom without any recourse for the Israelites to repent and gain remission for that remaining period. Has Jeremiah forgotten that Yahweh had commuted the sentence decreed on Hezekiah; has Jeremiah forgotten that Yahweh had given options to King David to choose a sentence out of three?
In the next chapter there is s counter Prophecy by Hananiah, which like the previous set of prophets, is equally dramatic:
10 Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck, and brake it.
11 And Hananiah spake in the presence of all the people, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years. And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.
12 Then the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah the prophet, after that Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying,
13 Go and tell Hananiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron.
14 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him: and I have given him the beasts of the field also.
15 Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie.
16 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD.
17 So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.
Quite curiously, Hananiah prophesies this in the fifth month of that year and dies after Jeremiah’s prophecy, in the seventh month of the same year.
Jeremiah, instead of extolling the mercies and long suffering nature of the Almighty is ‘prophesying’ that God had given the lands to Nebuchadnezzar, who in the meanwhile probably was erecting a big statue, said to be Nebuchadnezzar’s god, in Babylon, and busy decreeing that everyone should prostrate before that statue. Ridiculous. I am sure and believe that God knew what Nebuchadnezzar was doing back in Babylon when Jeremiah was making those prophecies.
I find this prophecy to be in tune with the Prophecy of Caiaphas in John 11 thus:
47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,
50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.
51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;
I find no difference between Jeremiah’s and Caiaphas’ prophecies. It was born out of expediency.
I believe in a God, who would confront me and make me go through deeds of penance either through a punishment, but never ever a God who would put the punisher above me and exalt him above me being a part of his flock.
Ezekiel 34 offers a better perspective on the goodness of God.
In any case, Jeremiah doesn’t measure up to the Prophets like Elijah, who not only withstood the might of Jezebel’s influence over Ahab but also exhorted the Israelites, in those trying times, to stick to Jehovah. Nor like John the Baptist, who resisted Herod.
Submitting to a political power that prospers, is one thing but to acquiesce to such political power doesn’t behove a Prophet. Jeremiah falls short and comes out as an expedient Prophet, who saw off his days of vassal-ship of Judah in comfort‼️ No wonder Jeremiah is called a ‘weeping prophet’ – helplessly Hopeless.
What could one expect of a contemporaneous Prophet like Jeremiah with the King Josiah, who was faultless but died in the hands of Neco, the Egyptian. Maybe his circumstances moulded him into a weeping prophet.
Me thinks that Jeremiah had been included in the canonical books of the Bible more because he supported the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar than the Egyptian Pharoahs, who went down in their quest for suzerainty over Canaan.
Unless Prophecies are written like minutes at the time of such utterances, it should be taken with a generous pinch of salt. It is even highly probable that after facts have stabilized, post facto writings could be passed off as fulfilled Prophecies, by the Baruchs and Boswells to enhance the image of their idols.