It is 580 BC. Jerusalem is a ruin and Judah’s last king, Zedekiah, is blind and bound in chains in Babylon
The prophet Jeremiah is a prisoner of his own countrymen at Tahpanhes, an abandoned fortress on Egypt's eastern frontier. Jeremiah’s fellow-captives include his friend and scribe, Baruch ben Neriah and King Zedekiah’s orphaned daughters. While at Tahpanhes, Jeremiah receives a last prophecy that includes an assignment. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah saying…
“Take some large stones in your hands and hide them in the mortar in the brick terrace which is at the entrance of Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes, in the sight of some of the Jews. (Jer 43:8-9)
Evidence exists that Jeremiah, though a very old man with no resources, somehow accomplished that task. Excavations conducted in 1886 by Flinders Petrie, an English Egyptologist, unearthed a platform of brickwork at a site in Eastern Egypt which Petrie identified as ancient Tahpanhes.
The location of Petrie’s find was known to the locals as Qasr Bint al-Yahudi, the “Castle of the Jew’s Daughter,” an amazing bit of linguistic evidence supporting Petrie’s claim to have found Jeremiah’s last known home, as we know from the biblical record that “King Zedekiah's daughters” were among the remnant taken forcibly to Tahpanhes.
In Jeremiah’s Last Call, after receiving the charge to take large stones in hand, Jeremiah persuades Baruch ben Neriah to enlist help then venture into the Nile delta to find suitable stones for the ordained project.
But the nearest rock quarry is an ancient, abandoned mound known as Red Hill, so-called after the characteristic color of the sandstone once mined there, which lay some 60 miles southwest of Tahpanhes near Egypt’s ancient capital of Memphis and the site of modern Cairo.
Egypt’s famed general Amasis, future Pharaoh Amasis II, heads to Tahpanhes bent on destroying it. How will Baruch deliver the stones to his prophet and thus fulfill his mission?
Jeremiah's Last Call is available in EPUB format at many popular outlets, also in paperback and hardbound form at Amazon.com
Publisher: Cliff Keller
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Hi Cliff, thanks for your hard work and research, however, I do have a few questions after watching your promotional video. From my research in Egypt I have found that stones were transported up and down the Nile from the quarries as needed during the flooding season each year. Making use of tributaries and other water ways, the stones were more easily delivered. Secondly, from the text in Jeremiah 43 it does not appear that God was instructing Jeremiah to build anything grand, rather, to take those stones, as few as 2-3, and bury them with mortar under the brick entrance of Pharaoh’s palace. He could have easily hired a strong young man for a few shekels to bring a few large stones that have been cast aside. Curious to hear your thoughts on these points.
Thanks for your questions. Regarding your first question, I believe everyone agrees that the Egyptians used barges to transport quarry stones for monuments and building pyramids. There seem to be two problems with that approach in Jeremiah’s situation. First, he would have had to find a way to build a barge, which would have required a supply of suitable wood as well as a specific skill set. Wood was very likely scarce in that region then, as it is now. Secondly, the physical routes of the river branches and tributaries become the defacto destinations for barge deliveries. If one intended to carry the stones very far from the water an overland transport problem still exists. The Red Mountain quarry, in Egypt, is now about four or five miles from today’s Nile, and remember, in all likelihood, the Pelusiac Branch of the Nile was almost certainly unnavigable by the time Jeremiah and the remnant arrived in Tahpanhes–so there was probably no nearby stream to use to bring the stones on barges. The overland transport problem remains in any case.
Your point about the size of the required stones (and the actual stones found at Tahpanhes) is a good one. When researching the story, I tried to find information online from Petrie’s accounts regarding the actual size of the “pavilion” and stones he found in the late 19th century at what he believed to be Tahpanhes. I was not able to do so although I got the impression that Petrie’s labeling his find at the dig as suitable for Nebuchadnezzar to pitch his tents upon after an invasion suggested that there must have been more there than a few large stones that a local hired hand could easily gather and set in place. It also seems unlikely to me that Jeremiah, as a virtual prisoner in a foreign land, would have had spending money and the freedom to find and hire help. Thanks again for your questions.