January 11, 2017
There is a poem in The Christian Science Journal, entitled “Jeremiah’s question,” which begins:
“What is the chaff to the wheat?”*
What is the husk to the seed?
Is it the thing that is gathered and cherished?
Is it the thing that we need?
Is it the thing that can grow and bear fruit?
Is it the thing that can feed?
What is the chaff to the wheat—
the mortal lies to God’s thought?
Which is the one
to be gathered and cherished?
Which is the one to be taught?
(“Jeremiah’s question” by Diane Allison from the August 2014 issue of The Christian Science Journal)
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah strongly rebuked the swirling chaff of false prophets and lying prophecies. The Jews were being forced to separate themselves from the sin in believing that God (and therefore good) was limited to a particular place (Jerusalem and its Temple). The conquest of Nebuchadnezzar burnt up this sin (like the tares and the wheat), so nothing was left but the Christ-seed, which was present with them in Babylon, and which inspired them to write many of the books of our Old Testament during their captivity.
Then in the New Testament, Jesus expresses his harshest criticism for the scribes and Pharisees and their burdensome rules. “God’s glowing denunciations of man when not found in His image, the likeness of Spirit, convince reason and coincide with revelation in declaring this material creation false.” (Science and Health 522:21) I think this acronym for SIN, “Separate Individual Nature,” sums up this pride in a false creation.
There is so much in the news today about fair wages and immigration, so here’s a reminder from Jeremiah about the importance of social justice: “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbor’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work” (Jeremiah 22:13). The warning about callous “pastors” in the King James Version is translated as “shepherds” in other versions, and according to the Bible Notes, “shepherds” is a metaphor for Judah’s kings.
There is an unnamed reference to Megiddo in Jeremiah 22:10, and there is a recent two-minute video by Bible scholar Madelon Maupin on this ancient battleground which you can watch here: http://bibleroads.com/tel-megiddo/ (Madelon has a free Bible Roads e-newsletter which you can sign up for on the same link.)
Here are some more Bible Notes from The New Oxford Annotated Bible which are helpful in understanding the swirling history in Jeremiah’s verses.
Jeremiah 22:10-11: Him who is dead, Josiah was killed at Megiddo in 609 BCE in a battle with Pharaoh Neco. Neco was leading the Egyptian army northward to come to the aid of the Assyrian army, which was under critical pressure from the Babylonians. Josiah’s political program was governed by his revolt against Assyria, so he did not want Neco’s campaign to relieve Assyria to succeed. Him who goes away, Josiah’s son Jehoahaz (Shallum) reigned briefly but was taken captive by Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt who placed his brother Jehoiakim (608-598 BCE) on the throne. . . . 13-23: An oracle against Jehoiakim, who is judged to be the antithesis of his father, Josiah. 13: Work for nothing, the royal building projects were carried out by use of conscripted laborers, one of the realities of dynastic kingship as suggested by Samuel’s warning. References to elaborate building projects completed by means of uncompensated labor suggest that Jehoiakim was perceived as imitating Solomon’s grandeur and autocratic power. 14: Windows…cedar…vermillion, signs of royal ostentation and arrogance. 15: Your father, that is Josiah.