Shiur #18: The Prophecy Concerning The Exiles In Bavel - Yirmeyahu 29

  • Rav David Sabato

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This shiur is dedicated le-zekher nishmot Amelia Ray and Morris Ray

on the occasion of their ninth yahrtzeits

by their children Patti Ray and Allen Ray

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Introduction: The Exile of Yekhonya

In continuation of his struggle against the false prophets described in the previous chapters, in chapter 29 Yirmeyahu deals with the false prophecies that were current among the exiles in Bavel who were exiled with Yekhonya. In order to understand the prophecy, we must first provide sme background regarding the exile of Yekhonya.

Following the death of Yehoyakim, his son Yehoyakhin (or Yekhonya) ruled as king for only three months and ten days. After Nevuchadnetzar laid siege around Jerusalem, Yehoyakhin surrendered and opened the gates of the city before him (II Melakhim 24):

(10) At that time, the servants of Nevukhadnetzar king of Bavel came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. (11) And Nevukhadnetzar king of Bavel came against the city, and his servants besieged it. (12) And Yehoyakim the king of Yehuda went out to the king of Bavel, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers; and the king of Bavel took him in the eighth year of his reign. (13) And he carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the Lord… (14) And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty warriors, ten thousand exiles, and all the craftsmen, and the smiths; none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. (15) And he carried away Yehoyakhin to Bavel, and the king's mother, and the king’s wives and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those he took away into exile from Jerusalem to Bavel… (17) And the king of Bavel made Matanya his father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Tzidkiyahu.

Nevuchadnetzar exiled Yehoyakhin and his family to Bavel, and along with them he exiled the princes and those involved in the arms industry – "the craftsmen and smiths" – in order to weaken the military and political power in Yehuda and to break the opposition and the possibility of some future rebellion against him. Nevuchadnetzar also took some of the Temple vessels as booty, and their restoration stands at the heart of the prophecies of the false prophets.

In the interim period between the exile of Yekhonya and the exile of Yehuda in the days of Tzidkiyahu, a complex situation was created in which there were two Jewish centers: one in Bavel, which included the elite of Jerusalem, and one in Jerusalem, where the poorest of the people of the land remained. There is a king in both centers: Yehoyakhin in Bavel and Tzidkiyahu in Jerusalem. This complex situation raised the question of the status of each center and the relationship between them.

It is possible to identify several positions that arose during that period regarding these questions.[1] One position emerges from the words of the people who remained in Eretz Yisrael, as described in Sefer Yechezkel (11:15-16):[2]

(15) Son of man, your brethren, your brothers, your next of kin, and all the house of Israel entire are they to whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said: Get you far from the Lord; to us is this land given in possession. (16) Therefore say: Thus says the Lord God: Although I have cast them far off among the nations, and although I have scattered them among the countries, I have been to them a little sanctuary in the countries where they have come.  

The clear precedent that underlies this perception is that of the exile of the ten tribes, who indeed completely detached themselves from the people living in Eretz Yisrael. This perception arises also in Bavel among the elders of Israel who come to Yechezkel thinking that the covenant between God and Israel has been annulled and that they should now integrate themselves among the nations (Yechezkel 20:32-34).

In contrast stands the opposite position, expressed primarily in the words of the false prophets, which views the exile as a temporary and fleeting event that will come to a close in the near future. This view is evident, for example, in the words of Chananya son of Azur, who proclaims the end of the exile "in another two years." This perception is also expressed in the words of the false prophets in Bavel, as we will see below. The mood of the exiles was apparently affected by the optimistic view of the false prophets, who predicted the impending end of the exile and the return to Jerusalem.

The common denominator of these two positions is the perception of the exile as an absolute and final event; the difference relates to whether or not the present reality of the partial exile of Yekhonya should be viewed as an exile. In contrast to these two positions, Yirmeyahu proposes a third possibility, one that is different and more complex. Yirmeyahu argues that the exile is not a passing event, but rather a significant one. It is a long and extended process for which preparation is necessary. The people must settle into it and build upon it, while knowing that its goal is the return to Eretz Yisrael in another seventy years. This complex message stands at the center of the Yirmeyahu's prophecy in chapter 29.

Introduction (1-3) – “the Words of the Letter”

(1) Now these are the words of the letter that Yirmeya the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remnant of the elders who were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nevuchadnetzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Bavel (2) (after Yekhonya the king, and the queen mother, and the officers, the princes of Yehuda and Jerusalem, and the craftsmen and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem). (3) By the hand of El'asa the son of Shefan and Gemarya the son of Chilkiya (whom Tzidkiya king of Yehuda had sent to Nevuchadnetzar king of Bavel) to Bavel saying:

In the first part of the chapter, a presentation is made of Yirmeyahu's letter to the exiles in Bavel, which was meant, as stated, to deal with the false prophets in the exile of Bavel. In effect, the entire chapter documents the correspondence between the two sides.

One interesting point that arises from verse 3 relates to the identity of the exiles El'asa and Gemarya were sent, according to what is stated here, by Tzidkiyahu to Nevuchanetzar, and Yirmeyahu uses them to send his letter as well. El'asa is apparently the son of Shafan the scribe, into whose hands Chilkiyahu the High Priest handed over the Torah scroll that had been found in the Temple in the days of Yoshiyahu. Another son of Shafan, Achikam, saved Yirmeyahu from the hands of the priests who wished to kill him, as we learned in chapter 26. The members of Shafan's family apparently belonged to the circle of Yirmeyahu's followers. Indeed, Shafan's grandson, Mikhiyahu, will in chapter 36 pass on information about another book of Yirmeyahu's prophecies.

The letter's addressees are mentioned also in verse 4 in a slightly different formulation:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Bavel.

In verse 1, which reflects the "objective" reality, it says, "Whom Nevuchadnetzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Bavel," whereas in verse 4, which precedes the substance of the prophecy it says, "Whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Bavel." This is meant to teach the exiles that their exile is not merely a political event; rather, it is God who caused them to be exiled from Jerusalem. This is the foundation of the continuation of the prophecy – accepting the yoke of the king of Bavel and establishing themselves in the exile.

Guidelines for the Exiles

Yirmeyahu's letter to the exiles in Bavel opens with a series of guidelines, which are divided into two parts. The first part includes three guidelines (5-6):

Build houses – and dwell in them

Plant gardens – and eat the fruit of them

Take wives – and beget sons and daughters

And take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters, that you may be increased there, and not diminished.

The guidelines in verses 5-6 parallel the opposite descriptions in the Torah section recording the curses in Devarim 28:30-32 and those relating to those who are sent back from the battle front in Devarim 20: "What man is there that has built a new house, and has not dedicated it… And what man is he that has planted a vineyard, and has not yet eaten of it… And what man is there that has betrothed a wife, and has not taken her…." These are the basic measures for becoming established in the land, and in our prophecy they relate to becoming established in the exile: houses, gardens, and, primarily, marriage and having children. This last measure is described in relative detail, emphasizing how they will become established over several generations, thus teaching them that the exile is not a passing episode, but rather will continue for many years, at least until the third generation.

In verse 5, we find a command of a different kind:

(7) And seek the peace of the city into which I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace shall you have peace.

This command presents another, deeper perspective regarding the exile that the people must develop. This directive is of a spiritual, religious nature – prayer on behalf of Bavel and seeking its peace – and it expresses identification with the place.[3] Yirmeyahu emphasizes the relationship between the peace of the city and the welfare of the exiles, from which the imperative stems.[4] Here, for the first time, Yirmeyahu expresses the idea that will accompany exiled Jews for thousands of years – identification with the country in which they are found.

Yirmeyahu's words are presented in contrast to the message delivered by the false prophets in Bavel:

(8) For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Let not your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, neither hearken to the dreams which you encourage them to dream. (9) For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord. (10) For thus says the Lord: That after seventy years are accomplished at Bavel I will take heed of you, and perform My good word towards you, in causing you to return to this place. (11) For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

The dispute between Yirmeyahu and the false prophets is not just about the length of exile. This is an essential disagreement about its nature and purpose. According to Yirmeyahu, the exile is a necessary condition for salvation. The redemption must pass through a process of rehabilitation and spiritual repair in the exile. In contrast, the prophecy of immediate redemption delivered by the false prophets prevents the exiles from trying to rebuild their lives, and thus cancels the meaning of the exile, rendering it a temporary and meaningless episode. Yirmeyahu argues that in the end, God's thoughts – that is, His long-term plans – are "thoughts of peace," the purpose of which is to give the people a future and hope. This, however, will only arrive at the end of an extended period of seventy years, and it involves prayer for the city of Bavel. Exile is a necessary condition for redemption.

Verses 12-14 parallel the command in verse 7:

(12) Then shall you call upon Me, and you shall go and pray to Me, and I will hearken to you. (13) And you shall seek Me, and find Me, when you shall search for Me with all your heart. (14) And I will allow myself to be found by you, says the Lord, and I will restore you from your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places into which I have driven you, says the Lord; and I will bring you back to the place from which I caused you to be driven away.

The verses open with a prayer, which presents the other pole – preserving a connection to the Land of Israel. In addition to prayer, there is also "seeking," but here not of the city, but of God – that He should return them to their land! In verse 7, the focus is on the exile, "the city into which I have caused you to be carried away captives," whereas here the focus is Jerusalem: "to the place from which I caused you to be driven away."

The description here is similar to the account of the situation in exile in Devarim 4:27-31. In both places, the people reach the depths of exile, and precisely from there they return to God. In other words, the condition for repair and redemption is twofold. They must resign themselves to the punishment and understanding that there is a long process that they must pass through. On the other hand, from the exile they must pray and yearn for the Land of Israel and for God. Only then will it be possible to return to the Land after seventy years.

Over the course of the generations, Yirmeyahu's words to the exiles became one of the foundations of the perception of Jewish survival and adjustment in the exile. R. David Abudraham, who lived in fourteenth century Spain, considers the words of Yirmeyahu to be the basis for the blessing recited for the king that was widespread in Jewish communities:[5]

And after they finish the Torah reading, the prayer leader recites Kaddish until the word "le-eila"… And it is customary to bless the king and pray to God that He should help him and make him stronger than his enemies, as it is stated in Yirmeyahu (29:7): "And seek the peace of the city into which I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace shall you have peace." And the peace of the city is that one should pray to God that the king should defeat his enemies. And we said in the first chapter of Avoda Zara (3b): "R. Yehuda says in the name of Shemuel: Why is it written: 'And you make man as the fishes of the sea and as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them' (Chabakuk 1:4)?… Just as among fish of the sea, the greater swallow up the smaller ones, so with men, were it not for fear of the government, men would swallow each other alive. This is just what we learned: R. Chanina, the Deputy High Priest, said: Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear thereof, men would swallow each other alive."

However, the complex picture that Yirmeyahu tried to fix in the nation's consciousness in the exile was not always successful. Sometimes, Jews became overly settled in their lands and over-emphasized seeking the peace of exile; occasionally, they strongly opposed their country and preached rebellion. Yirmeyahu's complex message was difficult to absorb.[6]

The Prophecy Concerning the Figs: The Difference Between the Exiles in Bavel and the People Living in Jerusalem

Further encouragement for the exiles in Bavel is found in verses 16-20. In these verses, Yirmeyahu contrasts the fate of the exiles who were taken to Bavel in the exile of Yehoyakhin to the fate of the people who remained in Jerusalem:

(16) Thus says the Lord of the king that sits upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwell in this city, of your brethren that did not go out with you into captivity. (17) Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so bad. (18) And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and I will make them for a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations where I have driven them. (19) Because they have not hearkened to My words, says the Lord, which I sent to them by My servants the prophets, sending them from morning till night, but you would not hear, says the Lord. (20) Hear, therefore, the word of the Lord, all you of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Bavel.

The prophet compares the inhabitants of Jerusalem to vile figs and describes in detail their bitter fate – all this because they did not listen to the prophets. The obvious conclusion with respect to the exiles in Bavel is that they must hearken to God's word in order to avoid a similar fate.

This comparison is based on the prophecy to the exiles in chapter 24. The beginning of chapter 24 is similar to the beginning of chapter 29. The content of the two chapters is also similar, and this includes striking verbal and substantive parallels, and especially the comparison to figs. The section in chapter 29 is apparently a synopsis of the prophecy in chapter 24, as we find in several places in the book of Yirmeyahu. Let us then examine the prophecy in chapter 24:

(1) The Lord showed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the Temple of the Lord, after Nevuchadnetzar king of Bavel had carried away captive Yekhonyahu the son of Yehoyakim the king of Yehuda and the princes of Yehuda with the carpenters and smiths from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Bavel. (2) One basket had very good figs, like the figs that are first ripe, and the other basket had very poor figs which could not be eaten, they were so poor. (3) Then said the Lord to me: What do you see, Yirmeyahu? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the bad, very bad, that cannot be eaten, they are so poor. (4) Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so will I favorably regard those that are carried away captive of Yehuda, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Kasdim. (6) For I will set My eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them, and not pull them down, and I will plant them, and not pluck them up. (7) And I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord, and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart. (8) And as the bad figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil, surely thus says the Lord, so will I make Tzidkiyahu the king of Yehuda, and his princes, and the remnant of Jerusalem, that remain in this land and those that dwell in the land of Egypt.  (9) I will make them a horror for evil to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and curse, in all the places into which I shall drive them. (19) And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence among them, till they are consumed from off the land that I gave to them and to their fathers.

The prophetic vision in chapter 24 is similar to two other prophetic visions that Yirmeyahu saw in his prophecy of consecration – the rod of the almond tree and the boiling pot. In all three prophecies God turns to him with the question: "What do you see, Yirmeyahu." Here too, Yirmeyahu sees a vision from the natural world that symbolizes the fate of the people. However, the visions in the prophecy of consecration, according to their plain meaning, are visions of calamity, whereas the vision in the prophecy of the figs includes both calamity and consolation. This seems to be the reason that figs, which are characterized by different picking times, were chosen for this vision – to teach us that the owner of the fig tree knew to pick his figs, the exiles in Bavel, on time, before they rotted, as opposed to those who remained in the Land of Israel.[7]

There is a parallel between verse 6, "And I will build them, and not pull them down," and chapter 1, verse 10, "To pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant." The point that is stressed here is the possibility of repair that is found among the exiles in Bavel, from whom the people will grow anew. This prophecy, of course, stands in contrast to the mood prevalent among those who remained in the Land of Israel, as was described earlier in the prophecy of Yechezkel. They believed that their brothers who had been exiled from the land "went far away from the Lord," and that their fate would not affect them, and they saw themselves as heirs to the land. Yirmeyahu (along with Yechezkel) struggled against this perception, arguing that the truth is just the opposite. It is precisely the exiles, who are likened here to good figs, who will return to the land and inherit it, while those who remained in the land, who are likened to bad figs, will become diminished in numbers and disappear.

Closer examination of chapter 23 teaches that there are several lines of similarity between the vision concerning the figs in Yirmeyahu's prophecy and the dreams of Pharaoh that were interpreted by Yosef:

1. In both visions, good foods are contrasted with bad foods (ears of corn, cows, figs).

2. The vision is described twice – once in objective manner, and a second time from the perspective of the observer.

3. The bad appearance of the food is emphasized by way of the same expression: "And the other basket had very poor figs, which could not be eaten, they were so poor;" "Poor and very ill favored and lean of flesh, such as I never saw in all he land of Egypt for badness."

            These parallels join with the series of parallels between Yosef and Yirmeyahu scattered throughout the book. It seems that this broad correspondence might help decode the parallelism in the prophecy concerning the figs.

Yosef interprets Pharaoh's dream and reveals to him that a great calamity is about to fall upon Egypt, in the form of seven years of famine that are symbolized by the lean cows and ears of corn. Yosef's novel idea is that it is possible to deal with the decree by way of storing produce in the seventh year, which is symbolized by the good cows and ears of corn. In this way, Yosef, who was sold as a slave to Egypt, succeeds in saving his family in the years of famine and sustaining them in the exile of Egypt: "For God did send me before you to preserve life."

In the same way, Yirmeyahu, the prophet of destruction and exile, stands before a great calamity that is threatening to befall the people. In this vision, Yirmeyahu reveals that it is precisely in the depths of the calamity that we find a bright spot in the form of the good figs, the exile of Yekhonya, who were "picked" at an earlier stage, before they became ruined, in order to constitute a base for the renewal of the people after the destruction. This parallel is meant, then, to encourage the exiles in Bavel in light of the early exile in Egypt, in the sense of "the actions of the fathers are a sign for their children."

The Reaction to Yirmeyahu’s Prophecy

In the second part of the chapter, Yirmeyahu deals with specific prophets who were active in Bavel, and prophesies a bitter future for them. The first prophecy is directed towards two false prophets, Ach'av son of Kolaya and Tzidkiyahu son of Ma'aseya:

(21) Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ach'av, the son of Kolaya, and of Tzidkiyahu, the son of Ma'aseya, who prophesy a lie to you in My name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nevuchadnetzar king of Bavel; and he shall slay them before your eyes. (22) And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Yehuda who are in Bavel, saying: The Lord make you like Tzidkiyahu and like Ach'av, whom the king of Bavel roasted in the fire; (23) because they have committed baseness in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbors' wives, and have spoken lying words in My name, which I have not commanded them; but I am He who knows, and I am a witness, says the Lord.

Yirmeyahu accuses the false prophets Ach'av and Tzidkiyahu with a double charge. He opens by accusing them of having prophesied falsely, but at the end he adds another accusation – that they committed adultery with their neighbors' wives. As we saw in our study of chapter 23, there is a close connection between the two charges; in both cases, treachery and lies have become a way of life, and the gap between their lives as prophets and their unrestrained personal lives teaches us about the nature of their prophecies.

A surprising interpretation is found in a midrash that describes their actions:[8]

Ach'av the son of Kolaya and Tzidkiyahu the son of Ma'aseya were false prophets and they committed adultery with the wives of their neighbors… What would they do? One of them would approach a woman and say to her: I saw in my prophecy that my colleague will come to you and you will give rise to [i.e., give birth to] a prophet in Israel. (Pesikta De-Rav Kahana 24.)

According to the midrash, not only did they commit the sin of adultery, but they exploited their "prophetic" power and their standing as prophets in order to satisfy their lusts and to catch innocent women in their nets!

According to the plain sense of Scripture, these were apparently prophets who incited the people to rebel against Bavel as part of their perception of the temporary nature of the exile, and they were therefore punished by the king of Bavel.[9]

In the continuation, we learn of the reactions to Yirmeyahu's letter to Bavel, by way of the words of Shemayahu the Nechelamite:

(24) Thus shall you also speak to Shemayahu the Nechelamite, saying: (25) Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: Because you have sent letters in your name to all the people that are at Jerusalem, and to Tzefanya the son of Ma'aseya the priest, and to all the priests, saying: (26) The Lord has made you priest in the place of Yehoyada the priest, that there should be officers in the house of the Lord, for every man that is mad, and acts the prophet, that you should put him in the stocks, and in the collar. (27) Now therefore why have you not rebuked Yirmeyahu of Anatot, who acts the prophet to you? (28) Seeing that he sent to us in Bavel, saying: This captivity is long; build houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them. (29) And Tzefanya the priest read this letter in the ears of Yirmeyahu the prophet.

It is clear from here that Yirmeyahu's letter was not well received, but rather stirred up furious responses among the leadership of the exiles in Bavel. The prophets who arose in Bavel, under the leadership of Shemayahu the Nechalamite,[10] came out against him and sent a contrary letter back to Jerusalem attacking Yirmeyahu. The angry Shemayahu demands of Tzefanya, who held an official position, that he arrest Yirmeyahu in keeping with the law governing "every man that is mad, and acts the prophet,"[11] which indicates that he viewed Yirmeyahu as a false prophet.[12]

The words of Shemayahu here express profound shock. In the eyes of Shemayahu and his friends, Yirmeyahu's words concerning settling down in the exile are treason committed against the people and the land. Consider Shemayahu's citation from Yirmeyahu's letter: "This captivity is long; build houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them." The first expression, "This captivity is long," was not stated explicitly by Yirmeyahu, but it is the essence of his prophecy in the eyes of Shemayahu. In the next verse, Shemayahu cites Yirmeyahu's first guideline to the exiles. It is striking that Shemayahu does not relate at all to the meaning and reparative role of the exile in the words of Yirmeyahu, which is a condition for the redemption and for Israel's return to the land.

Tzefanya the priest, to whom the letter is sent, supported Yirmeyahu and read the letter to him. In response, Yirmeyahu sent another letter to the exile, dealing with the fate of Shemayahu:

(31) Then came the word of the Lord to Yirmeyah, saying: Send to all them of the captivity, saying: Thus says the Lord concerning Shemaya the Nechelamite: Because Shemaya has prophesied to you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie (32) Therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I will punish Shemaya the Nechelamite, and his posterity; he shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for My people, says the Lord; because he has uttered rebellion against the Lord.

The chapter closes with Yirmeyahu's reaction to the words of Shemayahu – that neither he nor his descendants would not merit to see the good that will come to Israel. Shemayahu's attempt to prophesy speedy good for Israel and their impending redemption in effect cancels the redemption. Anyone who does not understand that the exile is a condition for the redemption and that it must be accepted with submission will be punished measure for measure and not merit to see the good that God will one day do for His people.

(Translated by David Strauss)

 


[1] See Y. Elitzur, "Shenei Nevi'im Mul Arba Miflagot," in Yisrael Ve-Hamikra (Jerusalem, 5760).

[2] Similar statements are found in chapter 33; opinions are divided as to whether they refer to the period after the destruction of the Temple or to the period after the exile of Yekhonya. See Elitzur (previous note).

[3] Prayer plays a key role in Yirmeyahu's prophecies; this appears to be related to his critique of the sacrificial service in his time.

[4] “Seeking peace” has a political implication, as we find, for example, in the command in Devarim 23:7 regarding Amon and Moav: "You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity." It is therefore possible that Yirmeyahu is alluding here to loyalty in the civil and political sense, in contrast to the tendency of the false prophets to encourage rebellion among the exiles.

[5] Abudraham, Hilkhot Keri'at Ha-Torah.

[6] Note should be taken of the surprising suggestion advanced by R. Reuven Margoliot (Ha-Mikra Ve-Hamesora [Jerusalem, 5724], pp. 64-66), which eliminates the great novelty in the words of Yirmeyahu. According to him, the letter mem at the end of the word "etkhem" should be read as relating also to the following word, "(mi)shama": "And seek the peace of the city from which I have caused you to be carried away captives." According to this suggestion, Yirmeyahu is calling for prayer on behalf of Jerusalem, and not for Bavel! R. Margoliot even cites (relatively late) midrashim that explain the verse as referring to Jerusalem. A similar proposal was advanced by the Biblical scholar Perles (see M. Weinfeld, "Yirmeyahu: Ishiyuto vVe-Torato," section 4, in Iyyunim be-Sefer Yirmeyahu), who describes this as a scribal error (haplography – the accidental writing of only one letter or syllable where there should be two similar letters or syllables). However, both of these proposals are groundless and are contradicted by the context of the verse, as I have demonstrated above. R, Margoliot's proposal was accepted by R. E. Samet in his book, Iyyunim Be-Sefer Tehillim (Jerusalem 5772), pp. 503-504, where he analyzes psalm 137, which reflects the complex attitude of the exiles in Bavel toward their new country, between adjustment and normalization and forgetfulness, in light of Yirmeyahu's guidelines. As stated, the complex position in the words of Yirmeyahu is evident from the continuation, even without accepting R. Margoliot's interpretation.

In this context, it is interesting to note the beginning of R. Margoliot's words cited above: "Even before I knew how to read a Biblical verse in a proper manner, I was thoroughly familiar with these words of the prophet ("And seek the peace of the city") from the thousands of declarations made in the elections to the Austrian parliament, to the Galician State Council, and the like, in which the supporters of the ruling regime based their outlook on them. This understanding of the words of the prophet was also the foundation of those who delved more deeply into the substance of the view of the prophet, as this understanding reflects a certain compromise with the exile…"

[7] See, for example, Malbim (ad loc.): "'One basket had very good figs.' Figs, if not picked immediately upon ripening, become worm-infested, as Chazal said in the midrash. Therefore, [Yirmeyahu] likens the exiles of Yekhonya, who were plucked first from Eretz Yisrael, to ripe figs that are the first to be picked." It should be noted that Hoshea (whose prophecies are reflected in Yirmeyahu's prophecy in several places) uses first ripe figs as a metaphor for the selection of Israel (9:10): "I saw your fathers as the first ripe fruit in the fig tree at her first season."

[8] The gemara in Sanhedrin 93a brings a more developed version of this story.

[9] Attention should also be paid to the play on words connected to the name of Ach'av son of Kolaya: "And of them shall be taken up a curse (kelala)… whom the king of Bavel roasted (kalam) in the fire."

[10] Some understand this as the name of his home town – Chalam. It also could be a play on words that is meant to mock him, as the Radak writes: "He was called by this name because he would dream dreams for them that they would speedily return to Jerusalem" (see verse 8: "Neither hearken to the dream which you emcourage them to dream").

[11] The derogatory term "meshuga" (mad) is occasionally attached to prophets as mockery of their practices and as a show of contempt for their prophecies. See, for example, Hoshea 9:7: "The prophet is a fool; the man of spirit is mad." See also II Melakhim 9:11.

[12] It should be noted that Yirmeyahu had indeed been previously jailed for his prophecies by another priest (Yirmeyahu 20:1-2): "Now Pashchur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Yirmeyahu prophesied these things. Then Paschur struck Yirmeyah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Binyamin, which was by the house of the Lord." Later as well Yirmeyahu will be jailed for his prophecies.