Reference: Jeremiah 26:20-24.
Heart of the Story: The prophet, Uriah, was murdered by King Jehoiakim. The king’s men dumped Uriah’s body into a pauper’s grave rather than letting him be buried with his family.
Backstory: Uriah was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Micah. He was from Kirjath Jearim, a town on the border between Benjamin and Judah. During the time of Samuel, the Ark of the Covenant was located there. Given the location of his up-bringing, probably Uriah was a conservative who believed in the God.
Uriah prophesied during King Jehoiakim reign, about a 10 year period. Uriah gave the same message as Jeremiah which was that the people of Judah—kings and common citizens alike— refused to repent of their idol worship and return to worship of the true God of Israel. As a result, God would bring judgement on the Temple, Jerusalem, and Judah. That judgement included being overrun by a foreign conqueror, famine, disease, pestilence, death, and captivity for some.
At the time, King Jehoiakim and Judah was a vassal state of Pharaoh Neco and Egypt. Probably the two counties had a formal suzerain-vassal treaty that included the extradition of fugitives from either country.
Story Line: When King Jehoiakim and his officials, to include the Temple priests, heard Uriah’s prophecies, the king decided to kill him. King Jehoiakim believed death was the best way to shut Uriah up. Uriah heard about the king’s death sentence on him. He was frightened and fled to Egypt. King Jehoiakim sent loyal men under the command of Elnathan ben Achor to get Uriah from Egypt and return him to the king’s court in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem Uriah was murdered. The Bible recorded that King Jehoiakim himself killed Uriah with a sword; however, the king may have ordered one of his men to kill the outspoken prophet. King Jehoiakim didn’t feel that killing Uriah was sufficient punishment for his prophecies. He ordered that Uriah’s body be put in a pauper’s grave in the Kidron Valley rather than allowing family members to take his body to Kirjath Jearim and be buried in his family’s tomb.
Pondering Relationships: Killing a prophet was an unusual occurrence even in morally corrupt Jerusalem; yet, the prophet was murdered. Uriah gave the same message as Jeremiah. Why was Jeremiah allowed to live and Uriah killed? Probably three reasons interacted to get this result.
• First, When God called Jeremiah to be his prophet, God told Jeremiah that He would protect Jeremiah. He did so throughout Jeremiah’s life.
• Second, in contrast to Uriah, Jeremiah had the powerful scribe Ahikah ben Shaphan to protect him. Uriah had little if any support from powerful or influential men in Jerusalem. King Jehoiachim decided it was safe to use Uriah as an object lesson to other prophets who spoke the same message against the Temple, royalty, and Jerusalem.
• Third, in contrast to Jeremiah who remained in Jerusalem, Uriah fled to Egypt. We can almost hear Uriah’s accusers saying, “if Uriah did nothing wrong, why did he flee the country?” Uriah’s fleeing was an indication of his guilt of sedition against the government of King Jehoiachim.
Reflection: Remember the children’s ditty, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I guess King Jehoiachim and his courtiers and priests believed that Uriah’s words would hurt them.
The lives of some of the most influential characters in the Bible are given in a so few verses! If you want to learn more about the lives of lesser known Bible characters, see my book on that topic at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/
Copyright February 1, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth