A Haughty Spirit Is Before Stumbling
“PRIDE is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling,” are the words of the wisest king of ancient times. This wise man recognized that the principle applied to himself as a king. It goes even farther and applies with equal force to a nation.—Prov. 16:18.
In previous issues we have discussed how the ten-tribe northern kingdom of Israel, with its capital at Samaria, broke away from the royal house of the kings of the line of David who sat on “Jehovah’s throne” at Jerusalem. In addition it pulled its people away from the worship of Jehovah at the temple in Jerusalem, thus rejecting Jehovah’s worship and his word and becoming haughty against him. Inevitably the nation began to deteriorate and decline. It began to stumble because God then permitted the enemy nations round about to come in and make inroads on its territory. This kingdom, after 257 years, stumbled to its complete crash, being taken captive by Assyria, its subjects being carried away and scattered in distant lands.
Samaria’s sister kingdom of Judah did not learn a lesson from Samaria’s fall, but similarly demonstrated haughtiness against Jehovah. Finally God sent his prophet Jeremiah with his strongest warning yet. In this prophecy he likened his rage against Judah to wine, this rage to be poured out in execution of his judgment. The cup represented the instrument he would use to accomplish the execution. To execute his rage against Judah and Jerusalem and many of the other nations, Nebuchadnezzar would be the cup. But later, for Babylon’s wickedness and haughtiness against Jehovah and his people, Babylon itself was to drink of his rage from another cup or instrument, another king. The effect of drinking this cup is described in God’s words to Jeremiah:
PROPHETIC CUP OF RAGE SERVED TO JUDAH
“You must say to them, ‘This is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said: “Drink and get drunk and puke and fall so that you cannot get up because of the sword that I am sending among you.”’ And it must occur that in case they refuse to take the cup out of your hand to drink, you must also say to them, ‘This is what Jehovah of armies has said: “You will drink without fail. For, look! it is upon the city upon which my name is called that I am starting off in bringing calamity, and should you [nations] yourselves in any way go free of punishment?’” ‘You will not go free of punishment, for there is a sword that I am calling against all the inhabitants of the earth.’”—Jer. 25:27-29.
In a symbolic way Jeremiah had to make Jerusalem and the land of Judah and their rulers first drink the cup, by serving this prophetic message of divine rage. It was distasteful to the nations to hear these words. It was like having a foretaste of the symbolic cupful of wine. This occurred specially in the reign of Jehoiakim, the third last king on the throne of Judah. Jehovah said to Jeremiah: “Take for yourself a roll of a book, and you must write in it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and against Judah and against all the nations, since the day [beginning in 647 B.C.E.] that I spoke to you, since the days of Josiah, clear down to this day. Perhaps those of the house of Judah will listen to all the calamity that I am thinking of doing to them, to the end that they may return, each one from his bad way, and that I may actually forgive their error and their sin.”—Jer. 36:1-3.
Jeremiah dictated Jehovah’s message to his secretary Baruch. Because of Jeremiah’s inability at the time, he told Baruch to take the written message to the temple at Jerusalem and read it aloud to all those there on the fast day. This fast day was called nine or more months after Jeremiah began to dictate and produce the scroll. As Baruch courageously read the prophecy in the temple’s upper courtyard, at the entrance of the new gate of the temple, Micaiah the son of Prince Gemariah was there listening.
Micaiah reported the matter, and Baruch was called before the princes to read the prophecy to them. Afterward they took the roll and told Baruch and his master Jeremiah to conceal themselves. On hearing about the prophetic roll, King Jehoiakim sent for it. Would the king now listen and honor the prophecy or would he show haughtiness by acting against what was now not only the spoken but also the inspired written word of God?
All the princes stood about as Jehudi read the scroll. “And the king was sitting in the winter house, in the ninth month [November-December], with a brazier burning before him. Then it came about that as soon as Jehudi had read three or four page-columns, he proceeded to tear it apart with the secretary’s knife, pitching it also into the fire that was in the brazier.” Three of the princes pleaded with the king not to burn Jeremiah’s roll, but he paid no attention; the whole roll was burned. Thus Jehoiakim reached a peak in his haughtiness against Jehovah, going so far as actually to burn God’s written Word. Jehoiakim even tried to arrest Jeremiah and Baruch, but in vain. “Jehovah kept them concealed.”—Jer. 36:4-26.
Here a lesson was given that should show the nations who try to destroy God’s Word by burning it or by grinding it up or by banning it from their realm that their efforts are futile and completely ineffective; that Jehovah’s Word stands forever and cannot be destroyed by wicked men. Jehovah said to Jeremiah: “Take again for yourself a roll, another one, and write on it all the first words that proved to be on the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah burned up. And against Jehoiakim the king of Judah you should say, ‘This is what Jehovah has said: “You yourself have burned up this roll, saying, ‘Why is it that you have written on it, saying: “The king of Babylon will come without fail and will certainly bring this land to ruin and cause man and beast to cease from it”?’ Therefore this is what Jehovah has said against Jehoiakim the king of Judah, ‘He will come to have no one sitting upon the throne of David, and his own dead body will become something thrown out to the heat by day and to the frost by night. And I will call to account against him and against his offspring and against his servants their error, and I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the men of Judah all the calamity that I have spoken against them, and they did not listen.’”’”
Jeremiah obeyed. He dictated to his secretary “all the words of the book that Jehoiakim the king of Judah had burned in the fire; and there were added to them many more words like those.”—Jer. 36:27-32; 5:1-5.
JUDAH BECOMES TRIBUTARY TO BABYLON
This was toward the end of the fifth year of King Jehoiakim’s rule and in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, or in 624 B.C.E. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had not yet come against Jerusalem, as is evident from the fact that Jehoiakim objected to Jeremiah’s prophecy foretelling Nebuchadnezzar’s attack. (Jer. 36:9, 29) This helps us in understanding the time of the occurrence of the events recorded at 2 Kings 24:1-6: “In his days Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon came up, and so Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. However, he turned back and rebelled against him. And Jehovah began to send against him marauder bands of Chaldeans and marauder bands of Syrians and marauder bands of Moabites and marauder bands of the sons of Ammon, and he kept sending them against Judah to destroy it, according to Jehovah’s word that he had spoken by means of his servants the prophets. It was only by the order of Jehovah that it took place against Judah . . . Finally Jehoiakim lay down with his forefathers, and Jehoiachin his son began to reign in place of him.”
It was not in 628 B.C.E., the first year of Jehoiakim’s reign, but in 620 B.C.E., that King Nebuchadnezzar made Jehoiakim his vassal or servant. In the third year of this vassalage (not the third year of his reign, but the eleventh year), Jehoiakim rebelled and stopped paying tribute to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar then came up a second time to punish Jehoiakim. That was in 618 B.C.E.—See Harper’s Bible Dictionary, by M. S. and J. L. Miller, edition of 1952, page 306, under “Jehoiakim.”
God’s prophecy had said of Jehoiakim: “With the burial of a he-ass he will be buried, with a dragging about and a throwing away, out beyond the gates of Jerusalem.” (Jer. 22:18, 19; 36:30) It was Nebuchadnezzar’s intention to take King Jehoiakim alive and in fetters to Babylon as a captive, as 2 Chronicles 36:6 states: “Against him Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon came up that he might bind him with two fetters of copper to carry him off to Babylon.” But Jehoiakim was never taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar nor did he make peace with him, but he died inside Jerusalem. How, the Bible does not disclose. Because of his “detestable” acts his body was thrown outside Jerusalem’s walls.—2 Chron. 36:8.
CAPTIVITY OF PRINCIPAL PEOPLE OF JUDAH
Jehoiachin his son reigned only three months and ten days, a period of time so short as hardly to be taken into account in Jehovah’s words at Jeremiah 36:30. (2 Chron. 36:9, 10) “During that time . . . Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon proceeded to come against the city, while his servants were laying siege against it. At length Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, . . . and the king of Babylon got to take him in the eighth year of his being king.” The eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign ran from the first month of the Jews’ calendar, Nisan, the first day, to their twelfth month Adar, the 29th day. This last day would correspond, in the Gregorian calendar, to March 19, 617 B.C.E.
In this captivity “no one had been left behind except the lowly class of the people of the land. Thus he took Jehoiachin into exile to Babylon; and the king’s mother and the king’s wives and his court officials and the foremost men of the land he led away as exiled people from Jerusalem to Babylon. . . . Further, the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his uncle king in place of him. Then he changed his name to Zedekiah.”—2 Ki. 24:8-17.
It was this event that Daniel the prophet writes about: “In the third year of the kingship of Jehoiakim the king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and proceeded to lay siege to it.” (Dan. 1:1) This “third year” of vassalage to Babylon would be the eleventh year of Jehoiakim’s entire reign and would be due to end on Adar 29, or March 19, 617 B.C.E. He died before he lived out the end of this eleventh year.a
So, then, the exile and captivity of even part of the Jews at Babylon did not begin in 625 B.C.E., at the end of the third year of independent rule of King Jehoiakim at Jerusalem. Likewise, the seventy-year period that was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah did not begin in that year of 625 B.C.E. The prophecy that the land of Judah was to be turned upside down like a vessel and emptied of all its inhabitants was certainly not fulfilled then. Even eight years later, in 617 B.C.E., the time of the captivity of Jehoiachin along with the principal men of Jerusalem, only a small portion of the people were taken along. The vast majority of the people continued to inhabit Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, and the land was by no means left an uninhabited desolation.b
It is because of making the mistake of dating the beginning of the seventy-year period for the desolation of Jerusalem and the land of Judah after King Jehoiakim reigned at Jerusalem but three years that the chronologers in Christendom throw their time schedule of history at least nineteen years out of order, shortening up the stream of time by that many years. They do this because of trying to harmonize the Bible records with the astronomical Canon of Claudius Ptolemy, an Alexandrian or Egyptian astronomer of the second century after Christ, but whose system of astronomy has long since been exploded. In this we do not go along with such chronologers.
So, at this captivity in 617 B.C.E., the beginning of Judah’s desolation had to wait until the eleventh year of the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, who was put under an oath of submission by Nebuchadnezzar.—2 Chron. 36:13; Ezek. 17:12-14.
PROPHETIC CUP OF RAGE SERVED TO BABYLON
Haughty King Jehoiakim had died a disgraceful death. But the obedient priest Jeremiah remained alive to prophesy for Jehovah. In the fourth year of King Zedekiah, or in 614 B.C.E., Jeremiah wrote a prophecy setting out in detail the coming fall of Babylon. It was in contrast to the prophecy made by the false prophet Hananiah to nullify the effect of Jeremiah’s prophecy against Jerusalem. (Jer. 28:1-4) In that same year King Zedekiah, with his quartermaster Seraiah, made a visit to Babylon for political reasons, doubtless to reassure the king of Babylon by personally bringing the tribute due to Nebuchadnezzar. At this time it appears that the governor of the city of Babylon was one Nabonidus, whom King Nebuchadnezzar was thinking of marrying to his favorite daughter Nitocris.c Jeremiah took advantage of Zedekiah’s visit to have this Seraiah take along the roll containing the prophecy on Babylon’s fall and to read it aloud at Babylon. He tells us:
“And Jeremiah proceeded to write in one book all the calamity that would come upon Babylon . . . Furthermore, Jeremiah said to Seraiah: ‘As soon as you come to Babylon and actually see her, you must also read aloud all these words. And you must say, “O Jehovah, you yourself have spoken against this place, in order to cut it off so that there may come to be in it no inhabitant, either man or even domestic animal, but that she may become mere desolate wastes to time indefinite.” And it must occur that when you will have completed reading this book, you will tie to it a stone, and you must pitch it into the midst of the Euphrates. And you must say, “This is how Babylon will sink down and never rise up because of the calamity that I am bringing in upon her; and they will certainly tire themselves out.”’”—Jer. 51:59-64.
From these events in the latter days of the kingdom of Judah, with kings of the line of David sitting on Jehovah’s throne at Jerusalem, we learn the lesson: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) Jerusalem, the city of the great King, that had been so richly blessed by Jehovah God, that had been protected by him, even many years beyond the fall of her sister kingdom of Samaria, had reached a climax in haughtiness and pride, even going so far as to burn the written Word of Jehovah God. After this the entire nation began to decline most rapidly and to stumble seriously to the point of losing her freedom and to come under servitude to a pagan king, with her fall and complete desolation imminent. How this occurred will be discussed in the next succeeding issues of this magazine.
Bible-burning governments, and those who seek to destroy God’s Word, the Bible, or who try to keep it from the people by banning it and arresting those who possess the Bible, and persecuting those who believe and proclaim its message, will stumble seriously, and, because of pride and haughtiness against Jehovah, will soon be brought down with a crash to desolation from which they will never be able to recover.
a In agreement with this, Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, Book 10, chapter 6, says, in part: “In the fourth year of Jehoiakim, one whose name was Nebuchadnezzar took the government over the Babylonians, who at the same time went up with a great army to the city Carchemish, which was at Euphrates; upon a resolution that he had taken to fight with Necho king of Egypt, under whom all Syria then was. . . . But when Nebuchadnezzar had already reigned four years, which was the eighth of Jehoiakim’s government over the Hebrews, the king of Babylon made an expedition with mighty forces against the Jews, and required tribute of Jehoiakim; threatening upon his refusal to make war against him. He was affrighted at this threatening, and bought his peace with money; and brought the tribute he was ordered to bring for three years.
“But on the third year, upon hearing that the king of Babylon made an expedition against the Egyptians, he did not pay tribute; yet was he disappointed of his hope, for the Egyptians durst not fight at this time. . . .
“A little time afterward, the king of Babylon made an expedition against Jehoiakim; . . . and made his son Jehoiachin king of the country, and of the city; he also took the principal persons in dignity for captives, three thousand in number, and led them away to Babylon. Among whom was the prophet Ezekiel, who was then but young. And this was the end of king Jehoiakim, when he had lived thirty-six years and reigned eleven. But he was succeeded in the kingdom by Jehoiachin, . . . ” [See also Ezek. 1:1-3]
b In Jeremiah 52:28 we read: “These are the people whom Nebuchadrezzar took into exile: in the seventh year, three thousand and twenty-three Jews.” This “seventh year” may mean the seventh year after the year of his victory over Pharaoh Nechoh at Carchemish in 625 B.C.E., for after his victory at that place Nebuchadnezzar had all Palestine at his mercy. Telling what followed this, 2 Kings 24:7 says: “Never again did the king of Egypt come out from his land, for the king of Babylon had taken all that happened to belong to the king of Egypt from the torrent valley of Egypt up to the river Euphrates.”
Hence, with a special threat to Jerusalem and Judah, the reign of Nebuchadnezzar as king of Babylon might be counted as starting in 624 B.C.E., or the year after his victory over Pharaoh Nechoh at Carchemish. From this standpoint the “seventh year” mentioned in Jeremiah 52:28 would be 618-617 B.C.E., which was also the eleventh year of Jerusalem’s king Jehoiakim. But, from when Nebuchadnezzar actually began to reign in Babylon, 618-617 B.C.E. would be the “eighth year” of his reign. (2 Kings 24:12) So, then, it was actually in the eighth year of his reign in Babylon that he took into exile the above-mentioned 3,023 Jews, evidently not counting in their wives and families, numbering thousands.—2 Ki. 24:14-16.
Parallel with the above, the “eighteenth year” of Nebuchadnezzar spoken of in Jeremiah 52:29 would be the “eighteenth year” of his domination over Palestine, but the “nineteenth year” of his entire reign in Babylon, as mentioned in 2 Kings 25:8.
c See the book by G. R. Tabouis entitled “Nebuchadnezzar,” and chapter four entitled “The Embassy of Zedekiah,” particularly pages 96-99.
[Picture on page 635]
Jehoiakim burns God’s written Word