« FöregåendeFortsätt »
chapter of the 2d Chronicles ; and which is, that, instead of those two kings failing in their attempt against Ahaz, king of Judah, as Isaiah had pretended to foretel in the name of the Lord, they succeeded; Abaz was defeated and destroyed; an hundred and twenty thousand of his people were slaughtered; Jerusalem was plundered; and two hundred thousand women and sons and daughters carried into captivity. Thus much for this lying prophet and impostor, Isaiah, and the book of falsehoods that bears his name. I
pass on to the book of Jeremiah. This prophet, as he is called, lived in the time that Nebuchadrezzar besieged Jerusalem, in the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah ; and the suspicion was strong against him, that he was a traitor in the interest of Nebuchadrezzar. Every thing relating to Jeremiah shows him to have been a man of an equivocal character; in his metaphor of the potter and the clay, chap. xviii., he guards his prognostications in such a crafty manner, as always to leave himself a door to escape by, in case the event should be contrary to what he had predicted.
In the 7th and 8th verses of that chapter, he makes the Almighty to say, “ At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it ; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.” Here was a proviso against one side of the case ; now for the other side.
Verse 9 and 10, “ And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” Here is a proviso against the other side ; and, according to this plan of prophesying, a prophet could never be wrong, however mistaken the Almighty might be. This sort of absurd subterfuge, and this manner of speaking of the Almighty, as one would speak of a man, is consistent with nothing but the stupidity of the Bible.
As to the authenticity of the book, it is only necessary to read it, in order to decide positively, that, though some passages recorded therein might have been spoken by Jeremiah, he is not the author of the book. The historical parts, if they can be called by that name, are in the most confused condition : the same events are several times repeated, and that in a manner different, and sometimes in contradiction to each other; and this disorder runs even to the last chapter, where the history, upon which the greater part of the book has been employed, begins anew, and ends abruptly. The book has all the appearance of being a medley of unconnected anecdotes, respecting persons and things of that time, collected together in the same rude manner, as if the various and contradictory accounts that are to be found in a bundle of news papers respecting persons and things of the present day, were put
together without date, order, or explanation. I will give two or three examples of this kind.
It appears from “he account of the 37th chapter, that the army of Nebuchadrezzar, which is called the army of the Chaldeans, had besieged Jerusalem some time; and on their hearing that the army of Pharaoh, of Egypt, was marching against them, they raised the siege, and retreated for a time. It may here be proper to mention, in order to understand this confused history, that Nebuchadrezzar bad besieged and taken Jerusalem, during the reign of Jehoiakim, the predecessor of Zedekiah ; and that it was Nebuchadrezzar who had made Zedekiah king, or rather viceroy ; and that this second seige, of which the book of Jeremiah treats, was in consequence of the revolt of Zedekiah against Nebuchad
This will, in some measure, account for the suspicion that affixes itself to Jeremiah, of being a traitor, and in the interest of Nebuchadrezzar; whom Jeremiah calls, in the 43rd chapter, ver. 10, the servant of God.
The 11th verse of this chapter (the 37th) says, " And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem, for fear of Pharaoh's army, Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem, to go, (as this account states,) into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hannaniah ; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans. Then said Jeremiah, It is false, I fall not away to the Chaldeans. Jeremiah being thus stopped and accused, was, after being examined, committed to prison, on suspicion of being a traitor, where he remained, as is stated in the last verse of this chapter.
But the next chapter gives an account of the imprisonment of Jeremiah which has no connection with this account, but ascribes his imprisonment to another circumstance, and for which we must go back to the 21st chapter. It is there stated, ver. 1, that Zedekiah sent Pashur the son of Melchia, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, to Jeremiah, to inquire of him concerning Nebuchadrezzar, whose army was then before Jerusalem; and Jeremiah said unto them, ver. 8 and 9, “ Thus saith the Lord, Behold I set before
you of life, and the way of death. He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence : but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.'
This interview and conference breaks off abruptly at the end of the 10th verse of the 21st chapter ; and such is the disorder of this book, that we have to pass over sixteen chapters, upon various subjects, in order to come at the continuation and event of this conference; and this brings us to the first verse of the 38th chapcor, as I have just mentioned
The 38th chapter opens with saying, “ Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelamiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, (here are more persons mentioned than in the 21st chapter,) heard the word that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying, Thus saith the Lord, He that remaineth in the city shall die by the sword, by the fa. mine, and by the pestilence ; but he that goeth forth to the Chuldeans shall live ; for he shall have his life for u prey, and shall live,” (which are the words of the conference.) Therefore they say to Zedekiah,“ We beseech thee, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but he hurt.” And at the 6th verse it is said,
“ Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah."
These two accounts are different and contradictory. The one ascribes bis imprisonment to his attempt to escape out of the city; the other to his preaching and prophesying in the city : the one to his being seized by the guard at the gate; the other to his being accused before Zedekiah by the conferees.*
In the next chapter (the 39th) we have another instance of the disordered state of this book ; for notwithstanding the siege of the
• I observed two chapters, 16th and 17th, in the first book of Samuel, that contradict each other with respect to David, and the manner he became acquainted with Saul; as the 37th and 38th chapters of the book of Jeremiah contradict each other with respect to the cause of Jeremiah's imprisonment.
In the 16th chapter of Samuel, it is said, that an evil spirit of God troubled Saul, and that his servants advised him (as a remedy) " to seek out a man who was a cunning player upon the harp.” “And Saul said, (verse 17,] Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold I have seen a son of Jesse the Beth-lchemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him. Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said,
“Send me David thy son. “And [verse 21,] David came to Saul, and stood before him, and he loved him greatly, and he became his armour-bearer. And when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, (ver, 23] that David took an harp, and played with his hand : so Saul was refreshed, and was well.”
But the next chapter  gives an account, all different to this, of the manner that Saul and David became acquainted. Here it is ascribed to David's encounter with Goliah, when David was sent by his father to carry provision to his brethren in the camp. In the 55th verse of this chapter it is said, “And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine [Goliah), he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell. And the king said, Enquire thou whose son the stripling is. And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Beth-lehemite." These two accounts belie each other, because cach of them supposes Saui and David not to have known each other before. This book, the Bible, is too ridiculous even for oriticism.
city, by Nebuchadrezzar, has been the subject of several of the preceding chapters, particularly the 37th and 38th, the 39th chapter begins as if not a word had been said upon the subject; and as if the reader was to be informed of every particular respecting it ; for it begins with saying, ver, 1, “ In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, and all his army, against Jerusalem, and they besieged it,” &c., &c.
But the instance in the last chapter [the 52nd] is still more glaring ; for, though the story bas been told over and over again, this chapter still supposes the reader not to know any thing of it: for it begins by saying, ver. 1, “ Zedekiah was one and-twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hammutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. (Ver. 4) And it came to pass, in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, aguinst Jerusalem, and pitched against it, and built forts against it," &c., &c.
It is not possible that any one man, and more particularly Jeremiah, could have been the writer of this book. The errors are such as could not have been committed by any person sitting down to compose a work. Were I, or any other man, to write in such a disordered manner, nobody would read what was written; and every body would suppose that the writer was in a state of insanity. The only way, therefore, to account for the disorder is, that the book is a medley of detached, unauthenticated anecdotes, put together by some stupid book-maker, under the name of Jeremiah, because many of them refer to him, and to the circumstances of the times he lived in.
Of the duplicity and of the false predictions of Jeremiah I shall inention two instances, and then proceed to review the remainder of the Bible.
It appears from the 38th chapter, that, when Jeremiah was in prison, Zedekiah sent for him : and at this interview, which was private, Jeremiah pressed it strongly on Zedekiah to surrender himself to the enemy.
“ If (says he, ver. 1,) thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live,” c. Zedekiah was apprehensive that what passed at this confer. ence should be known : and he said to Jeremiah, ver. 25, “ But if the princes (meaning those of Judah] hear that I have talked with thee, and they come unto thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king; hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death ; also what the king said unto thee: Then thou shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan's house, to die there. Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah, and asked him : and he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded.” Thus, this man of God, as he
is called, could tell a lie, or very strongly prevaricate, when he supposed it would answer bis purpose ; for certainly he did not go to Zedekiah to make his supplication, neither did he make it ; he went because he was sent for, and he employed that opportunity to advise Zedekiah to surrender himself to Nebuchadrezzar.
In the Sith chapter is a prophesy of :Jeremiah to Zedekiah, in these words, ver. 2, “ Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will give this city into the band of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire ; And thou shalt noi escape out of his hand, but shalt surely be taken, and delivered into his hand; and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon. "Yet hear the word of the Lord ; 0 Zedekiah, king of Judah, thus saith the Lord of thee, thou shalt not die by the sword : But thou shalt die in peace; and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings which were before thee, so shall they burn odours for thee, and they will lument thee, saying, Ah, Lord; for I have pronounced the word, saith the Lord."
Now instead of Zedekiah beholding the eyes of the king of Babylon, and speaking with him mouth to mouth, and dying in peace, and with the burning of odours, as at the funeral of his fathers, (as Jeremiah had declared the Lord himself had pronounced,] the reverse, according to the 52nd chapter, was the case : it is there said, ver. 10, “ And the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes; Then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah ; and the king of Babylon bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death." What then can we say of these prophets, but that they were impostors and liars?
As for Jeremiah, he experienced none of those evils. He was taken into favour by Nebuchadrezzar, who gave him in charge to the captain of the guard, chap. xxxix., ver. 12. “ Take him, (said he) and look well to him, and do him no harm : but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.” Jeremiah joined himself afterwards to Nebuchadrezzar, and went about prophesying for him against the Egyptians, who had marched to the relief of Jeru. salem while it was besieged. Thus much for another of the lying prophets, and the book that bears his name.
I have been the more particular in treating of the books ascribed to Isaiah and Jeremiah, because those two are spoken of in the books of Kings and of Chronicles, which the others are not. The remainder of the books ascribed to the men called prophets I shall not trouble myself much about; but take them collectively into the observations I shall offer on the character of the men styled prophets.
In the former part of the Age of Reason, I have said that the word prophet was the Bible word for poet, and that the flights and metaphors of the Jewish poets have been foolishly erected into what are now called prophecies. I am sufficiently justified in this