Chapter 26 begins with a sermon similar to the "Temple Sermon" in chapter 7. This time we are given a historical setting. It takes place "early in the reign of king Jehoiakim." Jeremiah's message is conditional: "If you repent, YHWH will relent." The sermon is not well-received.
But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, "You must die!'
He finds himself on trial before the city elders at the New Gate. Defiantly, Jeremiah tells them, "If you kill me, you will be liable for innocent blood" (v. 15). The elders, citing the mixed precedent of prophets Micah and Uriah, vindicate Jeremiah.The chapter ends on a curious note:
Furthermore, Ahikam son of Shaphan supported Jeremiah, and so he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.
As the New Interpreters Study Bible note on this verse says,
Mysteriously, Ahikam, son of Shaphan, rescues Jeremiah. The Shaphan family is associated with the king and helps and supports Jeremiah. But from what is Ahikam rescuing Jeremiah? Since the people and officials have already declared Jeremiah innocent, the rescue seems unnecessary. However, this rescue creates parallels to the account of Jeremiah's endangerment and rescue in chap. 36. In both chapters, it is Jeremiah's prophetic message that puts his life in peril. In both, he is accused of false prophecy and is vindicated. Chapters 26 and 36 thereby create an envelope around the intervening material.
Chapters 27 and 28 comprise one of my favorite narratives from Jeremiah. There was, apparently, a summit meeting in Jerusalem. Kings from surrounding nations came to meet with Zedekiah of Judah. They conspired to rebel against their Babylonian overlords. Jeremiah puts a yoke around his neck, a yoke like like a pair of oxen wear to plow, a symbol of submission. His message to the assembled kings:
But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its own land to till it and to live there, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 27:11)
He specifically tells Zedekiah to capitulate to the Babylonians (vv. 12-15). He also warns the king and pretty much anyone else who will listen to pay no heed to other prophets with their sunny oracles.
The temple has already been partially looted by the Babylonians. Its remaining furnishings will be taken too. They will remain in Babylon until YHWH brings them back.
Chapter 28 is a story of dueling prophets. A certain Hananiah opposes Jeremiah. The exile will only last two years, he claims. Hananiah takes the yoke that Jeremiah has been wearing around his neck and breaks it. Jeremiah admits that Hananiah's message is appealing. He might wish it were true:
[Jeremiah] said, “Amen! May the Lord do so! May the Lord fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the Lord’s house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.”
Later, YHWH sends word to Hananiah that the symbolic wooden yoke that he broke will be replaced with a symbolic iron yoke (v. 13). And, oh yeah, for speaking falsely in YHWH's name, he's going to die.
In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died.
In chapter 29 Jeremiah sends a letter to the people of Judah who are already living in exile in Babylon. Settle in, he tells them. It's going to be a long haul. Don't listen to anyone who says otherwise.
One of the letters recipients, a man named Shemaiah, is unhappy with Jeremiah's message. Shemaiah fires off an angry letter addressed to Zephaniah, the high priest in Jerusalem. "Jeremiah's nuts," he says. "Make him shut up" (vv. 24-28)
When Zephaniah shares the letter with Jeremiah, the prophet answers:
[T]his is what the Lord says: I will surely punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his descendants. He will have no one left among this people, nor will he see the good things I will do for my people, declares the Lord, because he has preached rebellion against me.
The illustration of Jeremiah wearing his yoke came from this website. Unless otherwise noted, scriptural quotations are from the New International Version. Next: Jeremiah 30-31