The hypocritical bad faith of the rich and powerful people in Jerusalem was the last straw for the LORD. These rich and powerful people in Jerusalem had “called back” the freedom they gave to their slaves. In response, the LORD “called back” to Jerusalem the army of Nebuchadnezzar! The LORD “called back” Nebuchadnezzar and his army to destroy Jerusalem and its Temple, and to send the few survivors into exile in Babylon. (Jeremiah 34:15-22). Such hypocrisy is not limited to Ancient Israel. Such hypocrisy can be found in the history of the United States to this very day.
Desperate times demand desperate measures.
The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, “and all his army and all the kingdoms and peoples in the empire he ruled were fighting against Jerusalem and its surrounding towns.” (Jeremiah 34:1).
As so often happens when people are desperate, they bargain with God. For example, they do some “good deed” (or promise to do some “good deed” in the future) if only God will save them from the desperate straits caused by their previous “bad choices”.
King Zedekiah made the “bad choice” of rebelling against the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar.
Now, Zedekiah was desperate. It looked as if Jerusalem would soon be captured and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
What to do?
The Law of Moses required that all Hebrew slaves be set free every seven years. In good times, this requirement had been ignored. But in these desperate times, King Zedekiah woke and decided he needed to do whatever might convince the LORD to save him. (Jeremiah 34:15).
The Prophet Jeremiah recorded the hypocrisy of King Zedekiah, and of the rich and powerful people in Jerusalem. Jeremiah wrote:
“King Zedekiah . . . made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom for the slaves.
Everyone was to free their Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Hebrew in bondage. So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed and set them free.
But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.” (Jeremiah 34:8-11 (emphasis added)).
Keep in mind that economic selfishness—the Power of Money—drove this flip-flop. Nobody wanted to feed their slaves during a siege. So they “freed” them. But when it looked as if Nebuchadnezzar might not lay siege to Jerusalem, it became profitable to re-enslave them.
And so, the rich and powerful people stopped following the ideals of the Law of Moses and of the Prophets. They resumed following the Power of Money.
Their hypocritical bad faith was the last straw for the LORD.
The rich and powerful people in Jerusalem had “called back” the freedom they gave to their slaves. In response, the LORD “called back” to Jerusalem the army of Nebuchadnezzar!
The LORD “called back” Nebuchadnezzar and his army to destroy Jerusalem and its Temple, and to send the few survivors into exile in Babylon. (Jeremiah 34:15-22).
Such hypocrisy is not limited to Ancient Israel.
Such hypocrisy can be found in the history of the United States to this very day.
We broke countless treaties with indigenous people, leading to trails of tears.
In the Jim Crow era, we took back most of the rights recognized by the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
These Three Amendments could not be added to the Constitution of the United States until after the Civil War.
Because it took the appalling bloodshed and destruction of the Civil War to overcome the slave-holding “pharaohs” of the Confederate States of America.
A state that had rebelled by joining the Confederate States of America could only send representatives to the United States Congress after that state had ratified these Three Amendments.
Hence, the shock and anger that, in the January 6th Insurrection, rioters dared to wave the Confederate Battle Flag inside the Congress itself!
Why are these Three Amendments so essential in our democracy?
These Three Amendments were intended to ensure that the victorious United States would always be a government of ALL the people, by ALL the people, and for ALL the people.
In his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed this noble goal for the Civil War. He delivered his speech at Gettysburg to dedicate a cemetery at the site of this decisive victory of the United States of America (and its Star-Spangled Banner) over the Confederate States of America (and its Battle Flag).
Lincoln said that the United States of America was fighting to preserve a new nation “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all [people] are created equal”. He called for the people of the United States of America “to be dedicated to the unfinished work . . . and to be . . . dedicated to the great task remaining before us.”
What is this unfinished work and great task still remaining before us today?
“[T]hat this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Why does this unfinished work and great task still remain before us, more than 150 years after Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg?
Because the United States took away much of the Liberty that the Three Amendments promised to give to ALL people.
For example, we recently mourned the 100th anniversary of the terrifying, barbaric Tulsa Race Massacre that occurred more than 50 years after Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that had committed us to the unfinished work and great task of establishing a nation conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal.
Why have the goals of the Three Amendments been thwarted? Why have the Three Amendments been unable to keep us from taking back the Liberty that we gave?
The Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery. But Creative Hypocrisy created new ways to continue exploiting people of non-European ancestry!
The Fourteenth Amendment required the equal protection of the laws. But Creative Hypocrisy created new ways to continue hurting people of non-European ancestry—ranging from bad schools, to terrifying, barbaric lynchings and massacres!
The Fifteenth Amendment protected the right of ALL citizens to vote. But Creative Hypocrisy created new ways to keep people of non-European ancestry from voting—ranging from imposing unfair restrictions on registering and voting, to diluting the effectiveness of their votes by gerrymandering!
After racism, nationalism and bigotry led to the immense bloodshed and destruction of World War II and the Holocaust, the Civil Rights Movement made some progress in securing human rights in the United States and throughout Humanity.
But, in recent years, these human rights are increasingly being denied and attacked. The terrifying barbarism of racism, nationalism and bigotry is once again starting us down slippery slopes towards immense bloodshed and destruction.
This is an example of why Jesus warned us:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Wide is the gate and broad is the road of racism, nationalism and bigotry that leads to destruction, and many enter through it, establishing a government and a civilization of the pharaohs, by the pharaohs, and for the pharaohs.
But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it, establishing a government and a civilization of the people, by the people, and for the people.
This is an example of why Jesus warned us:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15).
Many “false prophets”—many hypocrites—claim to want government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
But inwardly, they lust for the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World!
Inwardly, they lust to become pharaohs in a government and a civilization of the pharaohs, by the pharaohs, and for the pharaohs.
Many “false prophets”—many hypocrites—in the United States (and throughout Humanity) are trying to take back the rights that “they” claim they “gave” us.
But no human gives other humans our rights!
No human creates human rights.
Only the amazing grace of God gives humans our rights.
God creates human rights.
Our human rights are created by the reality that each human being is created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27). And God sees that it is good. It is very good! (Genesis 1:31).
And so, whatever human rights God has given us, let no person—let no hypocrite—take away! (Mark 10:9).
For the differences between the “United States” and “America”, please read my blog “The ‘United States’ Compared to ‘America’”.
For my thoughts condemning nationalism, please read my blog “Nationalism Is Patriotism Gone Astray”.
For my thoughts about what makes America great (first published in 2004), please read my blog “How Do We Build a Civilization That Is Good—That Is Very Good?”.