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i, "Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign,
and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem, and his mother's name was
Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah." (Ver. 4,) "And it came
to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, that
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against
Jerusalem, and pitched against it, and built forts against it," etc.

It is not possible that any one man, and more particularly Jeremiah,
could have been the writer of this book. The errors are such as could
not have been committed by any person sitting down to compose a work.
Were I, or any other man, to write in such a disordered manner, no
body would read what was written, and every body would suppose that the
writer was in a state of insanity. The only way, therefore, to
account for the disorder is, that the book is a medley of detached
unauthenticated anecdotes, put together by some stupid book-maker, under
the name of Jeremiah; because many of them refer to him, and to the
circumstances of the times he lived in.

Of the duplicity, and of the false predictions of Jeremiah, I shall
mention two instances, and then proceed to review the remainder of the
Bible.

It appears from chapter xxxviii. that when Jeremiah was in prison,
Zedekiah sent for him, and at this interview, which was private,
Jeremiah pressed it strongly on Zedekiah to surrender himself to the
enemy. "If," says he, (ver. 17,) "thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the
king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live," etc. Zedekiah was
apprehensive that what passed at this conference should be known; and
he said to Jeremiah, (ver. 25,) "If the princes [meaning those of Judah]
hear that I have talked with thee, and they come unto thee, and say unto
thee, Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king; hide it not
from us, and we will not put thee to death; and also what the king said
unto thee; then thou shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication
before the king that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan's
house, to die there. Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah, and
asked him, and "he told them according to all the words the king had
commanded." Thus, this man of God, as he is called, could tell a lie, or
very strongly prevaricate, when he supposed it would answer his purpose;
for certainly he did not go to Zedekiah to make this supplication,
neither did he make it; he went because he was sent for, and he
employed that opportunity to advise Zedekiah to surrender himself to
Nebuchadnezzar.

In chapter xxxiv. 2-5, is a prophecy of Jeremiah to Zedekiah in these
words: "Thus saith the Lord, Behold I will give this city into the hand
of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire; and thou
shalt not escape out of his hand, but thou shalt surely be taken, and
delivered into his hand; and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the
king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou
shalt go to Babylon. Yet hear the word of the Lord; O Zedekiah, king,
of Judah, thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not die by the sword, but thou
shalt die in Peace; and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former
kings that were before thee, so shall they burn odours for thee, and
they will lament thee, saying, Ah, Lord! for I have pronounced the word,
saith the Lord."

Now, instead of Zedekiah beholding the eyes of the king of Babylon,
and speaking with him mouth to mouth, and dying in peace, and with the
burning of odours, as at the funeral of his fathers, (as Jeremiah had
declared the Lord himself had pronounced,) the reverse, according to
chapter Iii., 10, 11 was the case; it is there said, that the king of
Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes: then he put out the
eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon,
and put him in prison till the day of his death.

What then can we say of these prophets, but that they are impostors and
liars?

As for Jeremiah, he experienced none of those evils. He was taken into
favour by Nebuchadnezzar, who gave him in charge to the captain of the
guard (xxxix, 12), "Take him (said he) and look well to him, and do
him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee." Jeremiah
joined himself afterwards to Nebuchadnezzar, and went about prophesying
for him against the Egyptians, who had marched to the relief of
Jerusalem while it was besieged. Thus much for another of the lying
prophets, and the book that bears his name.

I have been the more particular in treating of the books ascribed to
Isaiah and Jeremiah, because those two are spoken of in the books of
Kings and Chronicles, which the others are not. The remainder of the
books ascribed to the men called prophets I shall not trouble myself
much about; but take them collectively into the observations I shall
offer on the character of the men styled prophets.

In the former part of the 'Age of Reason,' I have said that the word
prophet was the Bible-word for poet, and that the flights and metaphors
of Jewish poets have been foolishly erected into what are now called
prophecies. I am sufficiently justified in this opinion, not only
because the books called the prophecies are written in poetical
language, but because there is no word in the Bible, except it be the
word prophet, that describes what we mean by a poet. I have also said,
that the word signified a performer upon musical instruments, of which
I have given some instances; such as that of a company of prophets,
prophesying with psalteries, with tabrets, with pipes, with harps, etc.,
and that Saul prophesied with them, 1 Sam. x., 5. It appears from this
passage, and from other parts in the book of Samuel, that the word
prophet was confined to signify poetry and music; for the person who was
supposed to have a visionary insight into concealed things, was not a
prophet but a seer, [I know not what is the Hebrew word that corresponds
to the word seer in English; but I observe it is translated into French
by Le Voyant, from the verb voir to see, and which means the person who
sees, or the seer.--Author.]

[The Hebrew word for Seer, in 1 Samuel ix., transliterated, is
chozeh, the gazer, it is translated in Is. xlvii. 13, "the
stargazers."--Editor.] (i Sam, ix. 9;) and it was not till after the
word seer went out of use (which most probably was when Saul banished
those he called wizards) that the profession of the seer, or the art of
seeing, became incorporated into the word prophet.

According to the modern meaning of the word prophet and prophesying, it
signifies foretelling events to a great distance of time; and it became
necessary to the inventors of the gospel to give it this latitude of
meaning, in order to apply or to stretch what they call the prophecies
of the Old Testament, to the times of the New. But according to the Old
Testament, the prophesying of the seer, and afterwards of the prophet,
so far as the meaning of the word "seer" was incorporated into that of
prophet, had reference only to things of the time then passing, or very
closely connected with it; such as the event of a battle they were going
to engage in, or of a journey, or of any enterprise they were going to
undertake, or of any circumstance then pending, or of any difficulty
they were then in; all of which had immediate reference to themselves
(as in the case already mentioned of Ahaz and Isaiah with respect to the
expression, Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,) and not
to any distant future time. It was that kind of prophesying that
corresponds to what we call fortune-telling; such as casting nativities,
predicting riches, fortunate or unfortunate marriages, conjuring for
lost goods, etc.; and it is the fraud of the Christian church, not that
of the Jews, and the ignorance and the superstition of modern, not that
of ancient times, that elevated those poetical, musical, conjuring,
dreaming, strolling gentry, into the rank they have since had.

But, besides this general character of all the prophets, they had also
a particular character. They were in parties, and they prophesied for
or against, according to the party they were with; as the poetical and
political writers of the present day write in defence of the party they
associate with against the other.

After the Jews were divided into two nations, that of Judah and that of
Israel, each party had its prophets, who abused and accused each other
of being false prophets, lying prophets, impostors, etc.

The prophets of the party of Judah prophesied against the prophets of
the party of Israel; and those of the party of Israel against those
of Judah. This party prophesying showed itself immediately on the
separation under the first two rival kings, Rehoboam and Jeroboam. The
prophet that cursed, or prophesied against the altar that Jeroboam had
built in Bethel, was of the party of Judah, where Rehoboam was king; and
he was way-laid on his return home by a prophet of the party of Israel,
who said unto him (i Kings xiii.) "Art thou the man of God that came
from Judah? and he said, I am." Then the prophet of the party of Israel
said to him "I am a prophet also, as thou art, [signifying of Judah,]
and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him
back with thee unto thine house, that he may eat bread and drink
water; but (says the 18th verse) he lied unto him." The event, however,
according to the story, is, that the prophet of Judah never got back
to Judah; for he was found dead on the road by the contrivance of the
prophet of Israel, who no doubt was called a true prophet by his own
party, and the prophet of Judah a lying prophet.

In 2 Kings, iii., a story is related of prophesying or conjuring that
shews, in several particulars, the character of a prophet. Jehoshaphat
king of Judah, and Joram king of Israel, had for a while ceased their
party animosity, and entered into an alliance; and these two, together
with the king of Edom, engaged in a war against the king of Moab. After
uniting and marching their armies, the story says, they were in great
distress for water, upon which Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not here a
prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him?



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