Shiur 07: Yirmeyahu's Trial (Chapter 26)
This week’s shiurim are dedicated in memory of Israel Koschitzky zt"l, whose yahrzeit falls on the 19th of Kislev.
May the worldwide dissemination of Torah through the VBM be a fitting tribute to a man whose lifetime achievements exemplified the love of Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.
Please daven for a refua sheleima for YHE alumnus
Rav Daniel ben Miriam Chaya Rut
On rare occasions, Scripture offers us the opportunity to be exposed to an additional perspective on a particular event, which illuminates other aspects of that incident. It seems that Yirmeyahu's harsh rebuke at the Temple gates in chapter 7, which we studied in the previous shiur, is also at the heart of chapter 26, which describes the event from a different angle. Whereas chapter 7 focuses on the content of the prophecy, chapter 26 deals only briefly with the prophecy itself, shifting the focus to the context in which the prophecy was delivered and to its results – the uproar that the prophecy provoked in the Temple and the trial of Yirmeyahu that followed in its wake. In the account of the reactions to Yirmeyahu's prophecy in this chapter, we encounter the problematic perception of holiness that was widespread in Jerusalem and against which the prophet objected.
II. Yirmeyahu's prophecy: the difference between chapters 7 and 26
The chapter opens by noting the time at which the prophecy was delivered:
In the beginning of the reign of Yehoyakim son of Yoshiyahu, king of Yehuda.
Following the tragic death of Yoshiyahu, king of Yehuda, his son Yehoachaz rose to the throne for a short period of time, and immediately afterwards the king of Egypt replaced him with his brother, Yehoyakim. The book of Melakhim relates that the course of reforms initiated by Yoshiyahu stopped in the days of Yehoyakim. During the latter's reign, corruption grew, the kingdom began once again to decline morally and religiously, and the process of deterioration accelerated. Sharp criticism of Yehoyakim is sounded in Yirmeyahu's prophecy in chapter 22 (13-17), which attacks Yehoyakim with very harsh words, describing him as a hedonistic and corrupt ruler who veered from the ways of the house of David:
(13) Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by injustice; who uses his neighbor's service without wages and gives him not for his hire.
(14) Who says, “I will build me a wide house with large upper chambers,” and he cuts him out windows; and it is covered with rafters of cedar, and painted with vermillion.
(15) Shall you reign, because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him?
(16) He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him. Was not this to know Me? says the Lord.
(17) But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, and for shedding innocent blood, and for oppression, and for practicing violence.
The negative trends that became apparent in Yehoyakim's kingdom were not restricted to the royal palace, but rather seem to have spread throughout society. Yirmeyahu lashed out against them in the caustic prophecy that he directed against the entire nation in chapter 7 (5-6):
(5) If you thoroughly execute justice between a man and his neighbor;
(6) if you oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt.
In light of the historical context in which our prophecy was delivered, let us move on now to the prophecy's contents as they appear in chapter 26:
(3) Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord's house and speak to all the cities of Yehuda, which come to worship in the Lord's house, all the words that I command you to speak to them; leave nothing out.
(4) Perhaps they will hearken and turn every man from his evil way, so that I may relent of the evil that I purpose to do to them because of the evil of their doings.
(5) And you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord: If you will not hearken to Me, to walk in My Torah, which I have set before you, to hearken to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I send to you, sending from morning to night, but you have not hearkened;
(6) Then will I make the house like Shilo and I will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.
As mentioned above, apart from the ethical and religious criticism, this prophecy of Yirmeyahu is unique in its attack leveled against the assumption that the place of the Temple will never be destroyed. It should be noted in this context that during the days of Yoshiyahu, the Temple in Jerusalem became the only place in the country where sacrifices were offered, as Yoshiyahu had destroyed all of the bamot.
The verbal and substantive connections between the prophecy in chapter 7 and the prophecy in chapter 26 support the argument that we are dealing here with the same prophecy described from two different perspectives. Here is a list of the main similarities between the chapters: The prophecy is delivered in the house of the Lord to those coming to worship there; at the heart of the prophecy, a comparison is drawn between the fate of the Temple in Jerusalem and that of the Mishkan in Shilo; phrases used in the two prophecies are very similar: "From morning to night, but you have not hearkened… amend your ways and your doings."
Despite these similarities, there are also certain differences between the chapters. First, in God's words of introduction to Yirmeyahu in our chapter, we find the command, "Leave nothing out," which does not appear in chapter 7. This emphasis is understandable in light of the difficult charges leveled against Yirmeyahu in the wake of his prophecy in the chapter. As stated above, there is also a striking difference in the scope of the prophecies; here, only three verses are dedicated to the content of the prophecy, whereas in chapter 7, the prophecy extends over fourteen verses.
The words of prophecy in verses 4-5 parallel the conclusion of the prophecy in chapter 7 (13-14). It thus stands to reason that chapter 7 spells out Yirmeyahu's prophecy in full, whereas chapter 26 mentions only the last part of it, either as a synopsis of the entire prophecy or because it contains the sharpest words of the prophecy, which raised the wrath of his audience and for which Yirmeyahu was sentenced to death.
III. The difference between hearing and hearing
Let us continue reading the chapter:
(7) So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Yirmeyahu as he spoke these words in the house of the Lord.
(8) Now it came to pass, when Yirmeyahu had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took hold of him, saying, “You shall surely die.
(9) Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying: This house shall be like Shilo, and this city shall be desolate without inhabitant?”
The root shema, hearken, appears four times in Yirmeyahu's words. It connects hearing the words of the prophet to hearing the word of God and the words of the prophets who arose in Israel throughout the generations:
(3) Perhaps they will hearken and turn every man away from his evil way…
(4) Thus says the Lord: If you will not hearken to Me, to walk in My Torah, which I have set before you…
(5) To hearken to the words of My servants the prophets… but you have not hearkened….
At first, it seems that Yirmeyahu's words fell on attentive ears:
And they heard… Yirmeyahu as he spoke…
However, this hearing does not lead his audience to an internalization of his words, but rather to an attempt to do Yirmeyahu harm:
And they took hold of him… saying, “You shall surely die.”
It is even possible that they listened to all that Yirmeyahu had to say, without interrupting him, so that they could bring him to trial for the sin of sacrilege; from the outset, they listened to Yirmeyahu not for the purpose of repairing their ways, but in order to cause him harm.
Three different parties are active here: the priests, the prophets, and all the people. It is they who hear Yirmeyahu and who bring him to trial. "Taking hold" of Yirmeyahu probably means that he was arrested in order to bring him to trial for a capital offense. They already decide his fate: "You shall surely die."
IV. Yirmeyahu's trial
After leveling accusations against Yirmeyahu, two different movements take place concurrently. The people gather around Yirmeyahu – presumably to carry out a popular lynch:
(9) And all the people were gathered against Yirmeyahu in the house of the Lord.
At the same time, the princes of Yehuda hear what has happened and come to the place:
(10) When the princes of Yehuda heard these things, then they came up from the king's house unto the house of the Lord and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the Lord's house.
Like the priests and the prophets, the princes hear "these things," and in their wake they go up from the house of the king to the entry of the gate. Sitting at the entrance to the gate of God implies judgment. This raises the likelihood that the princes wished to balance the wrath of the masses and clarify Yirmeyahu's guilt in a just manner. Now, the two sides are given equal opportunity to present their views. The accusers – the priests and the prophets – open with a presentation of Yirmeyahu's guilt:
(11) Then spoke the priests and the prophets to the princes and to all the people, saying, “This man is worthy to die; for he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears.”
These words of the priests and the prophets are similar to the accusations leveled earlier against Yirmeyahu himself, but now they are addressed to the princes and the people, and they are therefore phrased in language appropriate for a court: Instead of the phrase, "You shall surely die," they say, "This man is worthy to die." A more significant difference is found in the nature of the charges. When they had addressed Yirmeyahu (9), they cited him in their accusation: "Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying: ‘This house shall be like Shilo?’" The second time, when they seek his execution before the princes, they do not repeat these words, but rather content themselves with a reference to the past: "For he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears." This discrepancy can be explained based on the assumption that the accusers dared not repeat Yirmeyahu's words in explicit manner due to their gravity.
When we examine the focus of the accusation, it seems to lie in the very raising of the possibility in the name of God that the city would be destroyed. On the face of it, we are dealing here with an accusation of false prophecy, in accordance with the law stated in Devarim (18:20):
But the prophet who shall presume to speak a word in My name which I have not commanded him to speak… that prophet shall die.
The verse cited above is similarly worded:
“You shall surely die. Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shilo, and this city shall be desolate without inhabitant?’”
This indictment indicates that the inhabitants of Jerusalem could not believe that this prophecy about the destruction of the Temple was a true prophecy. However, the "official" accusers say something different. They say: "For he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears." In their eyes, this was a sacrilege. These are words which may not be spoken, not only because they are not true, but primarily because they deliver a severe blow to the sanctity of the city and the Temple.
How does Yirmeyahu respond to this accusation?
(12) The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that you have heard.
(13) Therefore, now amend your ways and your doings and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will relent of the evil that he has pronounced against you.
(14) As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seems good and proper in your eyes.
(15) But know for certain that if you put me to death, you shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and upon its inhabitants: for of a truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.
Yirmeyahu's defense speech has a clear framework. In the opening verse (13), Yirmeyahu underscores the source of his prophecy:
The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that you have heard.
And in his closing verse he once again emphasizes this point:
For of a truth the Lord has sent me to you…
By creating this clear frame for his argument, Yirmeyahu shifts the focus of his remarks to the matter of truth and falsehood. His main argument is that his words are true because God sent him to say them.
The foundation of the claim asserted by the priests and the prophets lies in the perception of the absolute sanctity of the city and the Temple, a distorted perception that Yirmeyahu struggled against in his full prophecy in chapter 7 (4): "Saying: The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord."
Yirmeyahu's religious starting position, on the other hand, lies in his absolute commitment to the word of God (from which nothing may be omitted, as God stated at the beginning of the chapter). Therefore, he explains that if the people will sin, the sanctity of the place will not protect it, and the Temple is liable to be destroyed. At the heart of his speech, Yirmeyahu argues that the goal of his prophecy is the very opposite of what his accusers thought. His prophecy is not a final prophecy that seals the decree against the city. His prophecy is conditional, and it is meant to cause his listeners to amend their ways and thus prevent the Temple's destruction:
Therefore, now amend your ways and your doings… and the Lord will relent of the evil that he has pronounced against you.
Yirmeyahu does not seek evil for his people or the destruction of Jerusalem, but rather he seeks their good. In contrast to his goal, he asserts that harming him will only worsen the situation in the city and defile it:
You shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and upon its inhabitants.
This general formulation reflects the fact that Yirmeyahu does not consider the harm done to him personally, but only the ramifications for the entire people. This is precisely the continuation of his words in the prophecy in chapter 7, "And shed not innocent blood in this place," and of his criticism of the actions of Yehoyakim, who shed innocent blood in Jerusalem. In his defense speech, Yirmeyahu warns his accusers and judges that instead of removing the sin and the punishment, which will bring God to relent of the evil that He pronounced upon them, executing him will not only not save the city from its desecration, but it will lead to the opposite result and increase the punishment, for "you shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves (aleikhem)." This is because Yirmeyahu's mission to the people is true: "For of a truth the Lord has sent me to you (aleikhem)."
Yirmeyahu's piercing oration worked; the princes and the people were convinced of the justice of his words:
(16) Then said the princes and all the people to the priests and to the prophets, “This man is not worthy to die, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.”
V. The Legal precedents
Following Yirmeyahu's acquittal by the princes and the people, mention is made of two precedents of a prophet prophesying calamity upon Jerusalem – the case of Mikha the Morashti (18-19) and the case of Uriya the son of Shemayahu (20-23).
Let us examine the first precedent:
(17) Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying:
(18) Mikha the Morashti prophesied in the days of Chizkiyahu king of Yehuda and spoke to all the people of Yehuda, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.”
(19) Did Chizkiyahu king of Yehuda and all Yehuda put him to death? Did he not rather fear the Lord and beseech the Lord, and the Lord repented of the evil which He had pronounced against them? And shall we bring such a great evil against our souls?
This precedent was mentioned by "certain of the elders of the land." This may be an honorific term for the wise and distinguished men of the community, and it is possible that it is precisely due to their age and longevity that they remember this ancient precedent from the days of King Chizkiyahu, a hundred years earlier. They cite the prophecy of Mikha the Morashti regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. This prophecy appears in the book of Mikha in almost exactly the same words, and this is the only example of an explicit citation of the prophecy of one prophet in another prophet's prophecy. It is fitting to cite here the prophecy of Mikha in full (3:9-12):
(9) Hear this, I pray you, you heads of the house of Yaakov and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity;
(10) Who build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity.
(11) The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priest thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No evil can come upon us.”
(12) Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps of rubble, and the mountain of the house like the high places of the forest.
Like Yirmeyahu, Mikha accuses the leaders of the people, the priests, and the prophets of distorting justice, doing evil, and committing bloodshed, but the main similarity between the prophecies lies in the argument: "Is not the Lord among us? No evil shall come upon us." The elders support Yirmeyahu's argument, for according to them, Chizkiyahu did not view Mikha's words as sacrilege, but rather as a call for improvement. Indeed, his prophecy resulted in the cancellation of the punishment: "And the Lord repented of the evil which He had pronounced against them." The sequence of events was thus just as Yirmeyahu had claimed with regard to his own prophecy. For this reason, conclude "certain of the elders of the land," executing Yirmeyahu would be a "great evil against our souls," and it would only worsen the situation.
In contrast, an opposite precedent is brought immediately afterwards:
(20) And there was also a man that prophesied, Uriyahu the son of Shemayahu of Kiryat Ha-Ye'arim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Yirmeyahu.
(21) And when Yehoyakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death; but when Uriyahu heard it, he was afraid and fled, and went into Egypt;
(22) And Yehoyakim the king sent men to Egypt, namely, Elnatan the son of Akhbor and others with him to Egypt.
(23) And they fetched Uriyahu out of Egypt and brought him to Yehoyakim the king, who slew him with the sword and cast his dead body upon the graves of the common people.
This precedent relates to the recent past, the days of Yehoyakim, and hence its advantage over the first precedent. At the same time as Yirmeyahu, another prophet named Uriyahu delivered a prophecy that was similar to the words of Yirmeyahu, and he came to a bitter end: execution at the hand of Yehoyakim. This precedent, then, is entirely different: It is meant to judge Yirmeyahu for the death penalty, just as Uriyahu had been sentenced to death. How are we to explain the transition between these two precedents?
The Tosefta offers one answer (Sota 9:5). The Tosefta brings several examples from Scripture of a particular text that was stated by two different people. One of the examples is taken from our chapter:
Mikha the Morashti prophesied in the days of Chizkiyahu king of Yehuda… said the fit ones among them. The wicked among them said: "And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the Lord, Uriyahu the son of Shemayahu"…. This entire section is a mixture of arguments; he who said this did not say that.
In other words, the first precedent, in Yirmeyahu's favor, was offered by the fit elders of the people. The second precedent, to his disfavor, was brought by the wicked among them.
The Malbim proposes another solution:
"And there was also a man who prophesied" – Now the author of the book informs us that the argument of the elders of the people would not have helped to save Yirmeyahu from death, for at that very same time Uriyahu as well prophesied as did Yirmeyahu, and he too prophesied in the name of the Lord, and nevertheless he was put to death by the king.
According to this explanation, this precedent was not explicitly cited at the trial, but it stood in the background of the proceedings. This is sort of an addition that is meant to explain why in the end, despite the arguments asserted in Yirmeyahu's favor, he was almost executed. The Malbim emphasizes the difference that we mentioned above between the two precedents. The first precedent from the days of Chizkiyahu could not stand up against the negative precedent from the days of Yehoyakim, the current king, and therefore Yirmeyahu was convicted.
The chapter ends with Yirmeyahu's rescue:
(24) Nevertheless, the hand of Achikam the son of Shafan was with Yirmeyahu, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.
Against the hand of the people stood the hand of Achikam the son of Shafan, who saved Yirmeyahu from death. It is fitting to compare the bitter fate of Uriyahu, who was put to death despite his attempted escape to Egypt, and the fate of Yirmeyahu, who was saved despite his remaining in the house of God. There may be another clue here: Uriyahu, the prophet who feared the king, abandoned the Land of Israel and his prophetic mission, and escaped to Egypt was killed precisely for that reason, for it falls upon a prophet to continue his mission even at the cost of jeopardizing his life. The fact that Yirmeyahu was not afraid of the people and that he dared to speak the words of God without leaving anything out, despite the great danger to his life that this entailed, is what saved him from death.
VI. The difference between the priests and prophets and the people
Over the course of the story, the priests and the prophets stand on one side as the accusers, and Yirmeyahu is found on the other side. The people, on the other hand, swing from one side to the other over the course of the chapter. They seem to change their position at every stage in accordance with the changing mindset, thanks to the rhetoric and persuasive power of each party.
At the beginning of the story, the people identify with the harsh argument of the priests and the prophets, who incite them to attack Yirmeyahu and nearly kill him (8). The priests argue against Yirmeyahu on account of his fierce attack on the Temple, and the prophets – false prophets – want to punish him for contradicting their prophecies of peace. The people are incited against Yirmeyahu with the help of the sharp rhetoric of the priests and the prophets, who present Yirmeyahu as having desecrated the holy Temple. Afterwards, when the uproar has subsided, the people are appointed as judges together with the princes, and they listen to the arguments of both sides (11). After hearing Yirmeyahu's defense argument, the people are convinced that he is right, and they declare that he is not worthy to die, for he spoke in the name of God, and not of his own initiative (16). However, once they hear the precedent involving Uriyahu the son of Shemayahu, they once again change their minds and want to kill Yirmeyahu, who is rescued thanks only to the intervention of Achikam the son of Shafan.
That they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.
These radical changes in their position teach us about the mood of the people, who are highly impressionable and easily influenced by rhetoric, and they intensify the responsibility of the leadership who continue to lead the people down an evil road.
(Translated by David Strauss)
 This raises a question: If indeed we are dealing with the same event, why is it split between two chapters far apart from each other? The answer appears to lie in the redaction of the book of Yirmeyahu. Chapter 26 is part of the unit of chapters 26-29, which speak of Yirmeyahu's struggles and set his prophecies in historical-literary contexts, whereas the first part of the book focuses on the prophecies themselves, without noting their time or context.
 See, for example, Devarim 21:19, regarding a rebellious son: "Then shall his father and mother lay hold of him." Yirmeyahu himself (34:3) prophesies about how Tzidkiyahu will be arrested by the king of Babylonia and brought to trial.
 A similar phenomenon is found in the law governing a blasphemer where the judges try to restrict repeating the words of blasphemy that were uttered against God. See Sanhedrin 7:5: "The blasphemer is punished only if he utters [the Divine] name. R. Yehoshua ben Korcha said: The whole day [of the trial], the witnesses are examined by means of a substitute for the Divine name, thus: 'May Yose smite smite.' When the trial was finished, the accused was not executed on this evidence, but all persons were removed [from the court], and the chief witness was told: State literally what you heard. Thereupon, he did so, [using the Divine name]. The judges then arose and rent their their garments, which rent was not to be resewn. The second witness stated: I too have heard thus [but not uttering the Divine name]. And the third says: I too heard thus.
 The question of the difference between true prophecy and false prophecy arises many times in the book of Yirmeyahu, and echoes of the law governing a prophet recorded in Devarim 18 are evident in those places. This is the case, for example, in the prophecy of consecration in chapter 1 and in Yirmeyahu's confrontations with the false prophets in chapters 28-29.
 The relationship between the opening and closing verses is also evident in the parallel to the argument asserted by the princes and the prophets. They argued against him: "As you have heard with your ears." Yirmeyahu opens with: "The Lord sent me… all the words that you have heard," and he closes with: "For of a truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears."
 Yirmeyahu opens with a positive condition: "Therefore, now amend your ways and your doings and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will relent of the evil that He has pronounced against you." Thus, he cites God's words to him at the beginning of the chapter: "Perhaps they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may relent of the evil which I purpose to do to them because of the evil of their doings." However, the prophecy that Yirmeyahu was commanded to deliver to the people at the beginning of the chapter includes only the negative condition: "If you will not hearken to Me… then will I make this house like Shilo." (In contrast, in chapter 7, the positive condition appears in the body of the prophecy.) It stands to reason that in the prophecy described in our chapter, he emphasizes the threat that will be carried out in the event that the people continue in their evil path in order to frighten them and persuade them to mend their ways. Only after they focus on the threat itself and ignore the condition does Yirmeyahu emphasize that there is also an alternative and that the punishment is not absolute.
 This is one of the main arguments that Yirmeyahu repeats the entire length of the book in his (failed) attempt to show that he is truly interested in his people's welfare, as opposed to his public image as one who seeks their evil.
 The wording here is reminiscent of the wording in the story of the sin of the golden calf in Shemot 32, the foundational story of the cancellation of a punishment that was to be imposed upon the people of Israel in the wake of prayer and repair: "And Moshe besought the Lord his God… And the Lord relented of the evil which He thought to do to His people."
 On one of the ostraca recovered in Lachish, a letter was found apparently from the time of Yirmeyahu, in which it is stated that the military commander Yekhabdehu the son of Elnatan was sent to Egypt on a matter relating to the prophet. This prophet is warned to take care. Prof. N.H. Tur-Sinai, in his book Te'udot Lakhish, suggests that this letter documents the story of the prophet Uriyahu who fled to Egypt.
 I first heard this idea from my revered father and teacher, R. Dr. Mordechai Sabato.
 At this point, it is interesting to compare the story of the trial of Yirmeyahu to two other famous trials. So writes S.D. Goitein in "Yirmeyahu Lifnei Shofetav," Iyyunim 13: pp. 18-19: "Yirmeyahu lives and is ready to die for the truth, there being no value greater than this. However, the quest for truth does not deprive him of his senses. If his mission itself stemmed from his boundless love for his people, while fulfilling that mission he does not forget for a moment that the people who are trying to kill him are people. They can be mistaken. He does not seek the crown of a martyr's death… He does everything to protect him from a wreckless step, because he knows that blood can only be atoned for with the blood of him who shed it. Yirmeyahu's trial brings to mind two other more famous trials: that of Socrates before his Athenian teachers and that of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. The struggle in those trials was over great values, but we must admit that according to the available sources neither Socrates nor Jesus reached Yirmeyahu's moral level. Both of them lacked that great love, that human love for the opposing side, regarding which the prophet from Yehuda excelled. Socrates fought for the truth but he belittled his judges and provoked them to find him guilty. Jesus… deceived his judges both with his ambivalent answer and with his stubborn silence…."
 In several places in Scripture the people function as a judge and as the executor of the sentence. For example, in the story of the killing of Navot the Yirzraelite (I Melakhim 21, the witnesses testify "before the people," and it is the people who stone Navot outside the city. So too in the precedent brought from the days of Chizkiyahu, it says: "Did Chizkiyahu king of Yehuda and all Yehuda put him to death?"