Bible Review 14:4, August 1998

From the Land of the Bow

Black soldiers in the ancient Near East

By J. Daniel Hays

Jerusalem was under siege.

The Babylonian army, led by King Nebuchadnezzar, was at the city gates. The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed to the citizens of Jerusalem that it was futile to resist because YHWH had raised up the Babylonian king to judge Judah. Jerusalem, Jeremiah warned, should surrender.

Jeremiah’s words were extremely unpopular with the Hebrew officials defending Jerusalem. “Let that man be put to death,” they told the Judahite king Zedekiah, “for he [Jeremiah] disheartens the soldiers, and all the people who are left in this city, by speaking such things to them. That man is not seeking the welfare of the people, but their harm!” (Jeremiah 38:4).

King Zedekiah acquiesced: “He is in your hands; the king cannot oppose you in anything!”

“So they took Jeremiah,” the Bible continues, “and put him down in the pit of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the prison compound; they let Jeremiah down by ropes. There was no water in the pit, only mud, and Jeremiah sunk into the mud” (Jeremiah 38:6).

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