Super Excellent Master

In 598, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem, captured the city and took into captivity the King, Jehoiachin (Jeconiah). He replaced him on the throne with Mathaniah, the youngest son of Josiah, and an uncle of the former King, who was but twenty-one years old. Nebuchadnezzar changed Mathaniah’s name twice, although the reasons as to why are not clear. First to Mattaniah, which means “gift of Jehovah” and then to Zedekiah, which signifies “Jehovah is righteous.” As one of the conditions of his enthronement, there was extracted from him a solemn oath to be subject and loyal to his King and to Babylon. Being subjects of Babylon, naturally there were powerful parties in court determined to throw off the yoke of the “barbarian” ruler, and, in order to accomplish this, favored an alliance with Egypt. It is natural that this palace clique and the priestly circle should favor Egypt. The civilizations of the Nile was a dying one, but its rulers and its aristocracy were living in wealth and luxury, blind to the ominous forces threatening their existence. The royal crowd of Jerusalem was of like character, and attracted by the same glitter and pretense. Against this royal party was arrayed the strength, courage, and oratory of Jeremiah of Anatoth, the prophet, a descendant of one of the earlier High Priests of the Jews, and a small group of followers, who advised submission to Babylon as the only means of preserving national entity, and claimed for his position that he had direct command, and approval of Jehovah himself. Into this maelstrom of contending and conflicting forces was plunged a young man of twenty-one, immature, inexperienced, over-shadowed for years by his princely relatives, lacking in strength of character and resolution. To be sure, at times he showed an inclination to follow the voice of the prophet, but it was an inclination which he did not have the strength and resolution to pursue through to the bitter end, in the face of intrigues, and the influence of royal favorites. The story of his struggle with Jeremiah, his yielding to him on occasion, his later stiffening of his neck in opposition to him, his punishment of him, and of the conflict between Jeremiah and the petty dignitaries of the court, is a fascinating one, and it gains much in its appeal as it is portrayed in the degree of Super Excellent Master.

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