76 Sermons on the Old Testament

41 Jeremiah's Boyhood at Anathoth.


Jeremiah's Boyhood At Anathoth

I am here, Jesus:

It may seem strange to you that there was a certain relationship between Jeremiah and Joseph, who, even as a little boy, knew that he was a man after God's own heart and, who, relating these things to his brothers, incurred their jealousy and had him set apart from the others, so that they threw him into a dry well and had him sold into slavery in Egypt. The children of Anathoth were hostile to Jeremiah because of his words of closeness to the Father; they could not understand it, and resented it and Jeremiah, on his part, instead of playing with these children, took delight rather in the reading of the prophets, and he studied the preachings of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Micah and the works of Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, learning from them the demands of justice, righteousness and mercy, as well as the deep significance of God's Divine Love for His people, which, as God's prophet and spokesman of His Will, they had emphasized and insisted upon as the way of knowing God.

Jeremiah at times also visited the places where these prophets had spoken. Jerusalem, where Isaiah had preached in the market place and at the gates, was only three miles to the southwest. Samuel's home site was three miles northwest of Anathoth, and Elijah and Elisha had done their work in Ephraim, on the east bank of the Jordan, also to the north. Thus there was combined in Jeremiah a soul sensitive to the nearness of God, and to the will of God as the Hebrew prophets had known and expressed it and the era of history which had produced these prophets. He knew, too, that these prophets had suffered because of their faith in God and their uncompromising stand that His commandments be obeyed, and he felt that this would happen to him as well.

As a young lad, Jeremiah would spend some of his time, when not studying, becoming familiar with the district in which he lived. He took great interest in the birds and the animals, having compassion for them that stemmed from his sensitive soul and his regard for the forms of life which the Father had created. He learned the habits of the wild beasts like that of the lion and the wolf that inhabited the valley of the Jordan, the smaller animals that made their abode in the hill country to the north, as well as goats, cows and fowl of the farms. Jeremiah's love of nature and animals, and especially the birds of his countryside, is unmatched in the Scriptures.

Jeremiah himself has told me that the trouble he experienced with his family was due to the fact that they insisted upon his becoming a priest of Anathoth, a vocation he detested. To him, this priesthood meant the sacrificial ritual, and the slaughter of the lamb and other animals, in the prescribed fashion of the debased rites reintroduced by Manasseh, with phallic symbols and ashera and other throwbacks to the Cannanite fertility practices, both carnal and repellant and later he described these rites in the coarse language they provoked.

With his respect for animal life, and with the protests of the earlier prophets in mind against sacrifices conducted in pagan-like manner by corrupt priests, and with deep insight into the nature of God as a God of justice and mercy, he refused to become a local "high place" priest as his parents commanded. The result was that they thought he was an apostate against God, and his neighbors were also much incensed against him for his perversity in seeking to break the established pattern of things in the village.

In all this, though, one must remember that as Jeremiah grew to early manhood, the rites of all the shrines of the land had been revoltingly debased by the orders of the King, Manasseh, so that, as we have seen, religious worship was little more than Cannanite fertility rites. To this, Jeremiah, true to the worship of God in the Hebrew Spirit of Hezekiah, could never consent and as a result he became a virtual outcast in his own village. He lost the one woman in his life whom he really loved, for her parents would not consent to marriage with this rebel, and later he wrote about his affair in Anathoth, "I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies." (Jeremiah, Chapt. 12, verse 7)

As a matter of fact, those who preferred the more spiritual worship of Jehovah, as Jeremiah did, were being persecuted by Manasseh, and by the priests of the high places, like those of Anathoth, and one is not so surprised to find out that a plot was formed to poison him, discovered to come from his own family and the neighbors; "But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered." Jeremiah, Chapt. 11, verse 19). But Jeremiah escaped out of the hand of his uncompromising family, and out of the hand of hostile neighbors, and saw the death of Mannasseh in 636 B.C. and that of his son, Amon, two years later, and the reign of the child King Josiah, who, after a ten year regency, began to rule for himself in 636 B.C.

Jesus. of the Bible
Master of the Celestial Heavens


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