God’s Word for You
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, April 2, 2015
In verse 20, Jeremiah started a parenthetical note about another prophet named Uriah. Now we find out what happened to Uriah after he fled to Egypt.
22 Then king Jehoiakim sent Elnathan son of Acbor and some other men to Egypt. 23 They brought Uriah out of Egypt and took him to king Jehoiakim, who had him killed with a sword and his body thrown into the grave of the common people.)
Elnathan is mentioned three times in Jeremiah. The Elnathan in Ezra 8:16 (also mentioned in the apocryphal 1 Esdras 8:44) lived much later, after the exile. This Elnathan was an important court official and an advisor to king Jehoiakim. In fact, it seems as if Elnathan was Jehoiakim’s father-in-law: 2 Kings 24:8 says that Jehoiachin’s mother (therefore Jehoiakim’s wife) was Nehushta, daughter of Elnathan. We will hear about the way Elnathan tried to keep Jehoiakim from burning Jeremiah’s scroll in chapter 36. Perhaps this earlier incident with Uriah made him understand his son-in-law a little better. Ordered to bring Uriah back from Egypt, Elnathan complied—but then the king ordered a soldier to run the prophet through with a sword and giver him a pauper’s burial.
These actions were not Elnathan’s fault, but they helped him (and Jeremiah) discover just what kind of a man their young king was. Martin Luther reluctantly cited this account while explaining why “parents should neither compel nor hinder the marriage of their children, and that children should not become engaged without their parents’ consent” (LW 45:385-393). His conclusion (and let me emphasize the way Luther urges parents and children to do what is right in God’s sight) was that running away like Uriah running to Egypt should only be a last resort, either in the case of a young person being forced to get married against their will, or in the case of a Christian forced by a negligent or tyrannical government to behave in an unchristian way (LW 45:389).
Uriah was put to death because he was faithful to God. Such a murder was the reaction of the kings of Israel and Judah when they didn’t like the messages the prophets proclaimed. Zechariah was stoned to death in the days of king Joash (2 Chronicles 24:20-22). Others were killed in different ways (Hebrews 11:37). Jesus described Jerusalem as the city that would “kill the prophets and stone those sent to you” (Luke 13:34). So many of God’s messengers were murdered in or near the temple that Jesus also said, “Surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” (Luke 13:33).
But our task is not to force such a government to change, or to avoid the calling God gives to his people. Our task is to be faithful. Remember what Jesus said to the Christians of Smyrna: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Pastor Timothy Smith
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