The desire for justice in The Eloquent Peasant (Jeremiah 21)

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Illustration: The Eloquent Peasant

Desire for justice was a major theme in many ancient writings. The Egyptians tale of the Eloquent Peasant (from the Middle Kingdom) is a prime example. An impoverished man, travelling to Egypt in search of food, was beaten and robbed of his provisions by a landholder named Nemty-nakht. When Nemty-nakht refused to return the poor man’s possessions, the peasant appealed to the high steward of the district. The peasant’s eloquent remarks concentrating justice and equity were subsequently reported to the king, who, hoping to prompt more speeches from the peasant, ordered the high steward to make no reply to him but to secretly record all of his orations praising justice and admonishing against partiality. Taking the steward’s silence as a sign of corruption, the peasant delivered nine beautifully crafted speeches regarding the duties of a righteous judge and the malignancy of currupt officials. The king was so pleased with the peasant’s articulate description of justice that he not only ordered the return of the man’s stolen goods but apparently awarded him Nemty-nakht’s possessions as well.

The cry for justice was also a common theme among the prophets of Israel, Jeremiah warned the king’s house to deliver the poor from the oppressor who was robbing them (Jeremiah 21:11-14). Refusal to execute justice would be met by the wrath of God. But God also promised a remedy for the corrupt rulers of His people. He would raise up a righteous branch from David’s line to reign as king and to administer justice. This promised Saviour would be called “The Lord our Righteousness” (23:6). Thus, Biblical Israel shared with other ancient cultures a desire for justice but received in response the promise of a unique answer to that desire.


 

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