The ministry of the prophet Jeremiah was very difficult because of the opposition he faced from the people and the leaders of the nation because of the message he proclaimed. Jeremiah was called to urge Israel to turn back to God. Israel was urged by the prophet to obey the demands of the covenant established on Mt. Sinai between God and the nation. Failure to obey would invoke the curses of the covenant against the nation and, as a result, the people would be taken into exile by Babylon.
Jeremiah believed that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was acting as God’s agent who would enforce the curses of the covenant by besieging the city and eventually taking the people into exile. Jeremiah declared to the people that rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar was rebellion against God. In order to show his intentions to the nation, the Lord commanded Jeremiah to take a scroll and write down the oracles he had been preaching since the days of Josiah as a warning to Judah (Jeremiah 36:1-4). According to Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar would conquer and subjugate the nations with God’s approval. Jeremiah said:
Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will subjugate him (Jeremiah 27:6-7).
One of the people who opposed Jeremiah was Pashhur. He was a priest, the son of Immer, and the “chief officer in the house of the LORD” (Jeremiah 20:1). His title indicates that Pashhur was the leader of those Levites who were in charge of maintaining order and decorum in the Temple area.
Unhappy with Jeremiah’s message of destruction, Pashhur struck Jeremiah and put him in prison overnight. It was a painful and humiliating experience for Jeremiah. After Jeremiah came out of prison the next day, Jeremiah told Pashhur that he and his family would experience the pain of the terrible events that would soon afflict the nation. Jeremiah told Pashhur: “And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house, shall go into captivity, and to Babylon you shall go; there you shall die, and there you shall be buried, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely” (Jeremiah 20:6).
We have no information of what happened to Pashhur’s family during the Babylonian invasion, but the book of Ezra and Nehemiah confirm that some of the descendants of Immer returned from exile. In fact, until recently, we knew nothing about Pashhur’s family.
A recent archaeological discovery in Israel has provided valuable information about Pashhur’s family. Archaeologists in Israel, doing work on tons of rubble taken from construction remains at the Temple Mount, have discovered a bulla that is related to this event in the life of Jeremiah that dates back to more than three thousand years. A bulla is a lump of clay bearing an official seal impression that is used to close a document.
According to Gabriel Barkai, an archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University, and his team of students and volunteers, the “bulla,” bears the name Gedalyahu Ben Immer Ha-Cohen. The name of the owner indicates that he probably was the brother of Pashhur Ben Immer, the same Pashhur that opposed Jeremiah and the message the prophet preached (to read the news release, click here).
This discovery is very significant for two reasons. First, the Bible does not say that Pashhur had a brother named Gedaliah, even though the Book of Jeremiah says that Pashhur had a son named Gedaliah (Jeremiah 38:1). Second, once again archaeology is providing vital information that helps biblical scholars affirm that the events in the Bible are based on actual historical events.
Biblical archaeology today is in transition. The issue of how to evaluate the findings at times faces the problem of human subjectivity in the matters of reconstruction, evaluation, and interpretation. However, the fact remains that biblical archaeology provides illustrations, and at times, confirmation, of biblical events. The integrity of the biblical message does not depend on archaeological findings. However, archaeology can provide a wealth of information that can aid us in understanding the biblical text better.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary