During the reign of Josiah, Zephaniah ben Cushi ben Gedaliah ben Amariah ben Hezekiah prophesied doom for Judah and the whole world. Zephaniah preached, God has told me that It will sweep away everything from the face of the earth! Every plant, every bug, every bird, every beast, and every cheating Hebrew who worships Baal on the side! It will punish every noble and prince who traipse about in foreign duds and every worker who cheats his boss! It will search all of Jerusalem and ferret out every cheating cheater and make them pay! A day of wrath, a day of doom, a day of destruction is at hand! God will pour out distress upon humans and the earth will drink their blood!
God said, Hey Hosea, Tell your mother Israel that she is not my girl anymore. Tell her she’s a cheating whore and I’m going to strip her down and expose her to her lovers, the Baals. I’m going to take away all my food and wine and gold and holidays. I’m going to ruin her vines and fig trees….But, then tell her, that after I’ve humiliated and debased her, I’ll take her back. Then she won’t call me by other gods’ names and it will be like the old days back when we met in Egypt.
Jeremiah continued, Woe to the false priests and prophets who have led you all astray! They are lying fools! No one who prophesied for Baal could also prophesy for the real God! They led our brothers in Samaria astray and they have led you Judeans astray as well! God did not send them. He did not tell them to promise victory. Jerusalem will fall and God’s people will be sent into exile! But one day, God will bring Its people home and set over them a righteous descendant of David. Everything will be wonderful then.
So then God told Jeremiah to convince some of the elders and priests to meet him in the Valley of Topheth and to be sure to take a bottle or a flask with him.
When everyone was gathered, Jeremiah was all, Behold, God is going to bring destruction on you all because you have let people sacrifice their children to Baal in this valley! The ground cries out with their blood! Lo, a great battle will be fought here and Judah will lose and her warriors left here to rot. Then Jerusalem will be besieged and food will become so scarce that people will eat their children to keep from starving!
Then he threw the bottle on the ground at their feet so that it broke and spattered them all with shards and shouted, God will break the Jews like I just broke that bottle!
God continued, Look, Judah is super sinful. Everywhere I look there are Asherim or temples to Baal or who even knows. All this cheating has made me so wrathful your puny little human mind can’t even fathom it.
Jeremiah then prayed, Why have you cursed me with your prophecies, God? People hate me for telling them your messages! Please punish those who persecute me!
God answered, Ok, ok, Jeremiah. I get it. Now, I want you to go down to the People’s Gate in Jerusalem and remind everyone you see about the whole keeping the Sabbath holy commandment and remind them that they’re not supposed to do any work or really even leave their houses. Tell them that if they start keeping the Sabbath, I’ll forgive everything. But–if they don’t…..well, you know.
Then Jeremiah went to the gate of the Temple in Jerusalem and accosted all the men coming in and out, saying to them, Reform! Repent! Praying in the Temple will not save you! Do you think God listens to sinners like you? To reprobates that oppress foreigners and women? Those who worship other gods? Shabbat believers like you, who burn incense to Baal on Tuesdays are as condemned as murderers! Those of you who offer cakes to Ashtoreth for fertility and childbirth rituals are no better than adulterers! You all might as well go into mourning now, because God rejects you all. God especially abhors those of you who go into the Valley of Ben Hinnon and sacrifice your children, your sons and daughters!, to Tophet! You will die wretched deaths and your carcasses will be left to rot in the streets!
So Jeremiah went forth and declared, Everyone! Everyone who’s a son of Abraham! Gather round and here what God wants you to know! God sends this message, I remember the good days, Israel, when you were my blushing bride. We were so happy. But you’ve turned from me! Found other gods! Cheated and whored, you slut! Why wasn’t the land of milk and honey and ME enough? Why did you have to chase after Baal and all those other gods? Other countries remain true to their gods and their gods are fake! And you had me, the only REAL god, the best god! Yet you cheat! You whore yourself out at every shrine and temple you find!
God continued, Seriously, guys, I live in heaven. Earth’s an afterthought. It’s like my footstool, or that little table that I sit my beer on. Nice, but not necessary. So it really annoys me when you forget your place. I only like humble, contrite, fearful followers. If you’re not afraid and sorry then your prayers are no better than when you cheat on me and pray to Baal or some other god. I hate cheaters. Seriously, everyone does. And you will die a slow, violent, bloody death. But you faithful! You I love! To you I promise that we’ll have a bright future together! I know things are tough for you right now for you little amoeba, but can ladies give birth without pain? So relax. I’ll see Zion born and your country overflowing with prosperity! A princess among nations. My princess! Everyone will be so jealous and will want me to be their god too.
(Finally, that’s the end of Isaiah. Jeremiah is next, so we’ll travel back to the years before the Babylonian takeover and another naysayer who saw it coming.)
God is so good and generous.
Its people It never despised
though they sinned and sinned
with calves and Baals and human sacrifice.
It chastised them severely
with plagues and famine and fire.
Yet It always forgave
when Its forgiveness they did inquire.
When Hezekiah’s son Manasseh inherited the throne, he brought back the other old time religion of Baal and Ashtaroth, like in II Kings 21.
Here we find out that to punish him for cheating, God let the Babylonians capture Manasseh and hold him hostage in Babylon. While there, he came to regret his cheating ways and begged God to forgive him and promised never to cheat again, so God let him go back to Jerusalem.
Once there, he reinstated his father’s religious reforms and began working on building up the city walls, and that’s why he got to die of old age instead of murder or plague or something.
However, his son Amon inherited throne, promptly cheated on God, and got murdered by servants after only a couple years.