Jeremiah 26:1-19 – Jeremiah’s Arrest and Release


Jeremiah 26:1-19


Jeremiah is brought to trial for what he has had to say, and his life is threatened by the people and authorities.


Jeremiah 26-29 consists of a series of narratives that portray Jeremiah in times of persecution and conflict because of the message he brings. Chapter 26 recalls Jeremiah’s temple sermon in chapter 7. God calls Jeremiah to preach to the people in the hopes that they will repent of their evil and God can then change his mind about the disaster that God intends to bring upon them for their evil doings. If the people will repent, God will repent (see 18:7-10). Yet, the people’s refusal to listen heretofore makes such a positive future unlikely.

The resistance of the people is made evident in what follows (26:7-19). They charge Jeremiah with false prophecy, for which he must die (see Deuteronomy 18:20). Indeed, they claim that Jeremiah is treasonous for saying that the temple and city would be destroyed. The palace officials respond by initiating a court proceeding, and charges are brought against him. Jeremiah responds in his own defense, not by backing down, but by reinforcing his message that the people should amend their ways. Because he is speaking the word of God, he is innocent of their charges.

Jeremiah’s defense is persuasive, and the people and officials come to his defense. Perhaps they think that by so doing they are responding as Jeremiah has called them to do. They also call on historical precedent; they quote from the prophet Micah (Micah 3:12), who spoke in comparable terms a century earlier (Jeremiah 26:18). King Hezekiah had responded positively to Micah’s message, and that response had proved decisive for God, who changed his mind about the destruction. The text leaves hanging the question of whether the people’s repentance at this time would produce the same divine decision, though Jeremiah 26:19c suggests that such a response would be too late.