About three miles northeast of Jerusalem, within the tribal territory of Benjamin, was the Levitical city of Anathoth (Josh. 21:18; 1 Ch. 6:60). Two of David’s mighty men, Abiezer (2 Sm. 23:27; 1 Ch. 11:28, 27:12) and Jehu (1 Ch. 12:3), came from there. Later, Solomon would send into exile the priest Abiathar, confining him to his estate at Anathoth, saying that he deserved to die (1 Kg. 2:26-27). It was also a marked city in one of Isaiah’s prophecies concerning an impending invasion of Judah by the Assyrians (Is. 10:30).
But its most famous son was the great prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 1:1; 29:27). The men of Anathoth hated the prophecies of Jeremiah and threatened to kill him for speaking God’s word (Jer. 11:21). Actually, their threats to murder him brought a specific prophecy concerning their own deaths by the hand of God (Jer. 11:22-23). Though Jeremiah’s message was so often a message of doom, it was also one of hope. For it often contained a promise that one day God would restore the people to their lands; and, of course, that meant that someday the remnant from Anathoth would once again inhabit their ancestral city. Those prophecies were faithfully fulfilled (Ezr. 2:23; Neh. 7:27, 11:32).
A remarkable thing concerning Anathoth took place in Jeremiah’s day. It was not done in Jeremiah’s hometown but in Jerusalem, and it took place at a time when the city was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar and while Jeremiah was imprisoned (within the imprisoned city) by King Zedekiah’s order. By God’s word, Jeremiah was visited by his cousin who lived in Anathoth. The nature of the visit was to try and convince Jeremiah to buy a piece of real estate in Anathoth which belonged to this cousin. Understand that property values in Anathoth could not have been good at that time. It was a good time to be selling but a terrible time to be buying, and therefore the appraisal value had to have sunk to the depths of a bottomless pit. Nevertheless, the visit and the transaction were of God’s will. So Jeremiah agreed to buy the property and at a very favorable rate in the eyes of his cousin. Jeremiah weighed 17 shekels of silver in the presence of witnesses, took the deed for his newly acquired property which bore an official deed of sale containing terms and conditions, and a second copy of the deed and gave them to Baruch. It was done in the presence of the seller and the witnesses. Jeremiah ordered him to preserve the deeds in an earthen jar that could be sealed “…that they may last a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Houses and fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land’” (Jer. 32:14- 15).
Thus, a deed of ownership of a piece of property in the little town of Anathoth became the sign of the promises of a faithful God. Not only that, but one of the most often quoted lines from the book of Jeremiah is from a prayer that he offered up to God upon completion of this transaction. “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, then I prayed to the Lord, saying, ‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jer. 32:16-17). Two weeks ago today (Wednesday, March 16), my wife was teaching a Bible lesson to our grandson Ethan on a night when he was the only student in attendance. It was about the vision of the valley of dry bones that Ezekiel had seen. She explained the meaning of the story to him; and, being a boy of that age, the gruesomeness of dismembered skeletal remains was of great interest. After class he told me all about it and just thought it was the coolest story he had ever heard. He knew that it was intended to represent God’s replenishing the land of Israel with the remnant returning from 70 years of exile. Among those returning exiles were men from the tribe of Benjamin, who once again occupied the town of Anathoth (Ezr. 2:23; Neh. 7:27, 11:32). Among them, someone now had possession of a deed, sealed and recorded, that showed them the rightful owners of an inheritance from God. We may in be in the valley of dry bones; but, if our deed is recorded in heaven, that inheritance is as certain as can be. We serve the God of impossible!
Keep studying and keep serving! DC Brown ©2016