Prophet & Priest-Kinah 34-Background & Introduction
“As the nations that God makes perish before you, so shall you perish (Deuteronomy 8:20).” Infer that as these nations perished through priest and prophet, [referring to the overthrow of Jericho where Joshua, the prophet, ordered the priests to march round the wall and blow the shofar, Joshua 6], so will Israel be exiled through priest and prophet [referring to Jeremiah who was both priest and prophet].
As they were overthrown with the blast of the shofar and shouting, so will Israel be exiled with the blast of the shofar and shouting [Jeremiah 4:19], “My innards, my innards, I shudder; the walls of my heart, my heart murmurs within me; I cannot be silent, for you have heard the sound of the shofar (See: 613 Concepts-Chapter 116-Rosh Hashanah and Shofar Part 3-Laws of the Blowing of the Shofar), O my soul, the shofar blast of war.” [Midrash Eichah 1.1.3]
There are layers of meaning to this Midrash, which we must consider to fully apprectiate its depth:
- Jeremiah, prophet and priest, was a direct descendant of Joshua: “Eight prophets, who were also priests, descended from Rahab the innkeeper (of the Jericho story, who married Joshua): Neriah, Baruch, Seraiah, Mahseiah, Jeremiah… (Megillah 14b)
- The murder of Zechariah son of Yehoiadah, prophet and priest, by Yoash: See Biblical Personalities-Yoash & Haftarah-Shekalim-Background and Reading the Text.
- The story of the boiling blood of the prophet and priest: Nevuzaradan, the general of Nebuchadnezzar’s armies, saw the blood of Zechariah seething. ‘What is this?’ cried he. ‘It is the blood of sacrifices, which has been spilled,’ they answered. ‘Then,’ said he, ‘bring [some animal blood] and I will compare them, to see whether they are alike.’ So he slaughtered animals and compared them, but they were dissimilar. ‘Disclose the secret to me, or if not, I will tear your flesh with iron combs,’ he threatened. They replied: ‘This is the blood of a priest and a prophet, who foretold the destruction of Jerusalem to the Israelites, and they killed him.’ ‘I,’ said he, ‘will appease him.’ So he brought the scholars and slew them over him, yet it did not cease [to boil]. He brought schoolchildren and slew them over him, still it did not rest; he brought the young priests and slew them over him, and still it did not rest, until he had slain ninety-four thousand, and still it did not rest.
Whereupon he approached him and cried out, ‘Zechariah, Zechariah, I have destroyed the flower of them: do You desire me to massacre them all?’ Straightway it rested. Thoughts of repentance came into his mind: if they, who killed one person only, have been so [severely punished], what will be my fate? So he fled, sent his testament to his house, and became a proselyte. (Sanhedrin 96b)
- The capture of Jericho and the role of the Shofar. (See: 613 Concepts-Chapter 116-Rosh Hashanah and Shofar-Part 2-Laws of the Shofar- The Size of the Shofar):
- An instant eternity of evil and wrong: Before being canonized, Thomas Becket was the twelfth-century Archbishop of Canterbury; having clashed with England’s King Henry II he was stabbed by four hired assassins during a divine service. In T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral the women of Canterbury, simple women, not especially pious, already hardened by the severity of their lives bear witness to the crime. The anticipation of what is about to happen is beyond their ken, and the death of a minister of God shocks them. They sense that something has happened that cannot be repaired, it is an “instant eternity of evil and wrong.” To efface this moment, it would be necessary to wash the wind and sweep up the sky.
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