Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"You Got People" (Jeremiah 22:1-5)



Our OT 202 Hebrew Reading class has just finished Jeremiah 22:1-5, and we were discussing the meaning of the idiom "your people" in the diction of the passage. Jeremiah is not just issuing warnings to Judah's kings. He is clear with the king that the problems in Judean society also lie with "your people" (22:2).

What does Jeremiah mean with his term "people"? Does it include all royal subjects? Are they Judah's rural elders (cf. 2 Kings 21:24)? Are they the army (cf. 1 Kings 16:16; 20:10)? None of these answers really works. The king's "people" are allowed through the gates of the royal palace (22:2, 4), something not permitted to common people, competing power blocks of society, or the army. I think a clue to Jeremiah's meaning can be found in the recent H & R Block ad campaign (see image above).

Verse 22:3 makes it pretty clear that "your people" are those with some degree of authority and social power who support the king's policies and benefit from them as his patrons. Not everyone in society counts as patrons, as "paid" supporters--as "people."

Jeremiah is defending those folks in society who cannot say, "We've got People" or "We are People." He is standing up for those who generally fall through the various nets of support that keep folks safe, warm, and alive.

This passage made the class wonder who are those today who feel that they have "no people" backing them up. To what extent do we, the well-off, participate in networks and structures of power and support that leave other folks marginal, un-nurtured, and unprotected?

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