When the princes of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to Yahweh’s house; and they sat in the entry of the new gate of Yahweh’s house. Then the priests and the prophets spoke to the princes and to all the people, saying, “This man is worthy of death; for he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears.”
Then Jeremiah spoke to all the princes and to all the people, saying, “Yahweh sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that you have heard. Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey Yahweh your God’s voice; then Yahweh will relent from the evil that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, behold, I am in your hand. Do with me what is good and right in your eyes. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, on this city, and on its inhabitants; for in truth Yahweh has sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”
Then the princes and all the people said to the priests and to the prophets: “This man is not worthy of death; for he has spoken to us in the name of Yahweh our God.”
This was a horrible set of events for an innocent prophet that merely chose to obey God’s command, but it is a facinating study of God’s design of goverernment. The priests and prophets appear to have convinced the people that Jeremiah should be killed and when the princes came to investigate the issue, it appears that the people switched sides and with the princes determined that Jeremiah wasn’t doing anything wrong.
It’s wonderful to see Jeremiah stand strong in the face of opposition. He even said that they should decide for themselves what to do with him, but he made it clear that he was innocent because God had told him to say these words. Notice how his honest speaking to the government officials helped to convince them to do things differently. This appears to be an illustration of a proverb. Let’s look at that:
The words of the wicked are about lying in wait for blood,
but the speech of the upright rescues them.
Can you imagine what would have happened had the priest, prophet and prince been the same person? It seems quite likely that Jeremiah would have been killed, but because the government was divided into different branches, the princes were able to hear what Jeremiah said and decide for themselves. The people actually changed sides as a result. This idea of going back and reconsidering things is also in proverbs.
He who pleads his cause first seems right;
until another comes and questions him.
Even as far as Judah had deteriorated as a nation, God still had powerful traditions built in that He could use to protect Jeremiah. It may seem like everything is lost, but only God can see everything. It may very well be that God is preparing to bring salvation anyway. This is also evidence that religion can go very bad and actually be used to kill the innocent. The prophets and the priests were clearly the ones who were wrong here. The wicked princes were still used by God to stop the false prophets and priests from doing harm.