Sunday, May 21, 2017

Quote of the Day (Book of Jeremiah, on the Prophet’s Ordeal in the Cistern)

“Then the princes said to the king, ‘This man ought to be put to death. He is weakening the resolve of the soldiers left in this city and of all the people, by saying such things to them; he is not seeking the welfare of our people, but their ruin.’ King Zedekiah answered: ‘He is in your hands,’ for the king could do nothing with them. And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah, in the court of the guard, letting him down by rope. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.

“Now Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian, a court official in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the cistern. The king happened to be sitting at the Gate of Benjamin, and Ebed-melech went there from the house of the king and said to him, ‘My lord king, these men have done wrong in all their treatment of Jeremiah the prophet, throwing him into the cistern. He will starve to death on the spot, for there is no more bread in the city.’ Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Ethiopian: ‘Take three men with you, and get Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.’” —Jeremiah 38-4:10

The prophet Jeremiah had some of the most harrowing experiences of anyone asked by God to carry out a mission. (No wonder he looks so depressed, in the attached image—the famous close-up painting of him in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.) But this episode strikes me as particularly horrifying. The image of him mired in mud is a powerful symbol of the hatred of those who reject the call to stick to the path of truth. 

Salvation comes by way of an alien--an immigrant--someone who could not benefit from helping Jeremiah (and, indeed, could be at extreme risk for doing so). But, in his way, he has absorbed the life lesson of the prophet: At all costs, say and do the wrong thing.

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