by Charles Reznikoff
Jeremiah, in the stocks in the gate of Benjamin, cried to the
princes of Judah, I have been born a man of quarrels——O
that I had a lodging-place in the wilderness that I might go
from my people! I sat alone because of the Lord; I found his
word and did eat it——it was to me joy and rejoicing. But I
was derided, all were sided against me, since I cried out——
cried violence and spoil! Then I said, I will not mention Him
any more, but bore His word like a fire shut up in my bones
——and could not keep still.
Then Pash-nut, the chief officer in the Lord's house, who had
placed Jeremiah in the stocks, faced the princes of Judah
sitting in the gate, and cried, This man should die because
he has lied and prophesied against this city, and has pro-
phesied in the name of the Lord for the house of the Lord
the same end as Shiloh's! and, pushing aside those in the
muck about the stocks, struck Jeremiah.
And one of the princes said, Jeremiah, you Benjaminite, even
your brothers, the priests in Anatoth, have said to you, Do
not prophesy or you die by our hands; what then do you
look for at the hands of others? If you have raced with the
footmen and they outpaced you, how will you run beside
horses? And if in the land of your dwelling in which you
trusted——what will you do in the swelling of Jordan? And at
this Pash-hur began to cry, This man should die! He must
One of the elders that stood beside the princes said, Micah
prophesied in the days of King Hezekiah and spoke to all
Judah, The pride of Zion shall be plowed like a field and
proud Jerusalem become heaps. Did the king put him to
death? King Hezekiah weeps, hears the Lord and fears the
Lord and does justice before the Lord——until the Lord
repented of what he was to do against Judah. Jeremiah shall
not be given to the people to be put to death! And all the
elders began to cry, He shall not die!
Pash-hut answered them, Uriah who prophesied against this
city and against this land, according to all that Jeremiah had
said, when he heard that the king was about to put him to
the sword and fled into Egypt, did not the king send a band
even into Egypt who brought out Uriah to his death? And is
Jeremiah himself to live? The man must die!
And Jeremiah said, Blow the trumpets throughout the land,
gather together, go into the walled cities, set up the stan-
dards; for the Lord has sent a fierce nation, a scowling
people, against you——lament and howl! The king and the
princes are afraid, the heart of the king shall sink and the
hearts of the princes, the priests and prophets are dismayed
because of the fierce anger of the Lord. Run through the
streets of Jerusalem, search in its broad places for a just
man, and I, said the Lord, will pardon the city. And I
answered, Surely these must be the poor——they are the
foolish; I will go to the great, for those know the way of the
Lord, to the chambers painted in vermilion, with ceilings of
cedar, smelling of incense of Sheba and the burning of sweet
cane——as a cage is full of birds, so their houses of deceit;
they have grown fat, the folds and collops of their faces
shine. Take away the battlements; they are not Mine! says
the Lord. From the least of them to the greatest they are
covetous; from the priest to the prophet——every one is false.
I will take from them, the Lord says, their mirth and
gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the
bride, the sound the millstones make and the light of the
I looked about
and there was no one; all the birds of heaven were fled;
the fruitful place was a wilderness,
and the cities of Judah were broken down.
A great people, whose language you do not know, is coming
from the north; they grasp bow and spear, their voice is
like the sea, and they ride upon horses
to mar the pride of Judah, the great pride of Jerusalem;
we shall not go into the fields
for fear of them——
Daughter of Zion,
comely and delicate woman,
the Lord has called Zion a green olive tree;
with the crash of thunder
He has kindled a fire upon it
and the branches of it are broken.
If one goes into the fields, he sees them thick with slain;
if he enters the city, he sees those that are sick with famine.
Because of the sword, because of the famine and of the
Jerusalem is given to the Chaldeans that fight against it!
At this Pash-hur shouts again, Should not men like this die?
But the elders reply, He prophesies in the name of the Lord——
he shall not die!
Last updated June 30, 2015