The Old Testament – Book of Jeremiah III: Be Nice to Those You Use

We moved a bunch when I was kid—I started ninth grade at my 11th address—and because moving is so much fun, we tended to rely on a mix of friends and hired hands (the kind of guys you pluck from a workers corner and pay cash).  Half way through the day, Dad would go fetch food—In-N-Out was typical—and he made sure everyone was fed. When I was real young, I was unclear why you gave food to people you were also paying. “Because that’s how you treat people who help you out,” Dad said, “even if you are paying them.

Some people are not this nice to the people who pitch in; some are downright bad; some even stab you in the back once they’ve gotten what they want from you.  This is sad, for if you do this, how likely are they to be around when you need something else?

In the Book of Jeremiah, God uses Babylon to sack Jerusalem and capture Israel. It appears that the Israelites just can’t learn their lesson and God hopes some 70 years worth of captivity will impart a useful lesson. However, God seems to resent Babylon, for he decrees that the Babylonians will pay for what they did to Jerusalem.

Huh?

The people of Judah are ordered to create yokes around their necks and deliver themselves to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (27:2, 6).  Those that do not allow themselves to serve this king will be wiped out by the sword, famine, etc. (27:8).  So basically God gave Babylon a present.

But then Jeremiah has some words for those in captivity: I will pluck you from captivity and I will completely destroy all the nations in which I scattered you—which includes Babylon (30:11).  In further detail, through Jeremiah, this is what the lord has planned for Babylon: You’ll be captured, your gods shamed, you land will be decimated by an enemy from the north, all living things will flee from what is left, and  all plundered (50:2, 10).

Ouch.

Now, being in exile probably sucks—I get that—but what did the Babylonians do to the Israelites that was all that bad? I’m sure the Israelites weren’t treated well, but how does one treat an enslaved people? They weren’t exactly GUESTS in the king’s palace? God’s reasoning seems to be that they rejoiced at pillaging Israel (50:11) yet they were following God’s directions.  Should they have done so grudgingly?

For this reason is seems unfair (and cruel) to hold these people to the same fate that befalls the people who attacked and generally screwed with Israel every chance they got.  To these other people Jeremiah has some special words; specifically, for Baruch, Egypt, Philistine, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor and Elam. As you can guess, they don’t have much to look forward to (45-49).

If the Old Testament is a good gauge, then word got around well during this era (which is impressive, given their lack of technology). As such, you would think that God would be more mindful of what would be said of how he treated those he used.  If he wanted people to do his bidding, what kind of example does it set when the people who have get shafted soon after? I don’t mean talking behind someone’s back; I’m talking about being wiped out. Sort of damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right?

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About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: http://goo.gl/yvT24K His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to 5Writer.com. On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: www.BibleProjectBlog.com Follow his work at: www.BradWindhauser.com VirgoWriter@gmail.com
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