The Book of Voices

Biblical Microfictions by Joseph Zitt


(Context: Jeremiah 34:23)

Another prophet. Another scroll. Another alarmist. A litany of complaint.

A wind from the south. A wind from the north. Trees bend. Fruit falls. Leaves fall. The trees still stand.

Egypt invades. Babylon invades. We pay fealty to whoever rules us. I change my name, if that is wanted. I change my loyalty, if that is needed. I remain here. My small palace stands.

Gods come in with the winds. Gods are forgotten with the seasons. The names change. The sacrifices change. Their moral absolutes drift and change as the scents of their sacrifices dissolve in the breeze. People remain. I remain.

The gold from the useless temple has been well invested. It ensures our protection under the mantle of Babylon. Our lazy youth are drafted to work in their palaces. Someday they will return as proper citizens. We are healthy. We are safe.

And yet these prophets complain, complain. They shout that what we do is somehow evil. They speak of doom at the hands of our benefactors. They shout of supposed destiny. We have no destiny. They claim that a god that no one has seen is angry. We see no acts of gods. Men rule men. Men serve men. Leave the gods in the stories of children. Let men be men.

The prophets appear with new books of supposed history, twisted to undermine their kings. They claim that these scrolls are the echoes of greater scrolls, kept invisibly, eternally. They say that we must listen to them or there will be famines and destruction. There will be famines and destruction, nonetheless. But for the moment we are happy. For the moment we are well.

They come to Jerusalem three times a year. They think that they have seen the world. They have seen nothing. I have been to Egypt. I have been to Babylon. I have seen all the greatness in this world. These cities hold more glories that can be pictured in a peasant’s dream.

And now this scroll. This complaint. This parchment whine. This prophet thinks that his words will change hearts. They will change nothing.

Let these leaves be useful. Let them clean my knife. Let them sharpen my blade. They can bring no light. Let them bring needed heat.

Let these words shred. Let them burn.

(Next: Elijah.)


June 22, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Writing this post presented interesting challenges.
    Jehoiakim was the first character that the random numbers assigned who is portrayed as an all-around Bad Guy. However, I had to write this from his point of view, and my hunch and perception is that even people that everyone would consider “bad” don’t see themselves as such. In fact, the only people that I’ve seen say “I’m a bad person” were very good people who were berating themselves for not being perfect. (Jewish legend has it that there are only thirty six perfect people in the entire world — and that they don’t realize that they are.)
    Jehoiakim comes across as having a talent for adapting. Named as king, to everyone’s surprise, by the king of Egypt who has conquered Judah and captured its previous king, he slides right into the kingship. When Babylon conquers the territory and takes him captive, he somehow gets to remain king. The king of Babylon, however, tells him to change his name, which he happily does. He then serves for many years as a “let them eat cake” level tyrant, until he himself is overthrown.
    So I got the sense from his general story, and from the anecdote of his destroying the scroll of prophecy, that he considered himself somewhat of an elitist, immune to the plight of the populace and uninterested in the words of the prophets. He may have seen himself as an eminently rational and practical man.
    His change of name, by the way, puzzles me. The king of Babylon had him change it from Eliakim to Jehoiakim. The two names are identical, from what I can see, meaning “He who God has set up”, except for the name of God used. I don’t know what effect replacing the mention of El with a mention of YHWH would have. Perhaps the king of Babylon wanted to show who was boss by forcing a trivial name change on his vassal in Judah. (Any textual critics in da house?)
    When I mentioned to a customer that I was writing about Jehoiakim, he asked about the name Joachim, wondering if it was the same name. According to Wikipedia (I know, I know, I should dig further), it is. He noted that the only people he’d seen with the name were of German Christian descent, which correlates with what I can recall. He wondered why the name had was only common there. (Is there another equivalent elsewhere?) And I wondered why anyone who might have researched the origins of the name might want to name their son after such a negative character.

    Comment by bookofvoices | June 22, 2007 | Reply


    Ask them. If they say yes, they’re a good bozo. If they say no, they’re a bad bozo. If they refuse or evade, they’re the very worst kind, and will be first against the wall when the revolution comes!

    –the alt.religion.kibology FAQ

    Comment by John Cowan | June 23, 2007 | Reply

  3. Thus spake :

    English, French, German, Polish, etc.: from the biblical Hebrew name Johoiachin, meaning “established by God”, borne by a king of Judah who was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar and carried off into Babylonian exile (2 Kings 24). Alternatively, it may be a derivative of the name of the father of this king, Jehoiakim. The reason for the great popularity of the name in Christian Europe is that in medieval Christian tradition it was the name commonly ascribed to the father of the Virgin Mary. (Other names assigned to him include Cleopas, Eliachim, Heli, Jonahir, and Sadoc.) He is not named at all in the Bible, but with the growth of the cult of Mary many legends grew up about her early life, and her parents came to be venerated as saints under the names Joachim and Anne. Cognates: Italian: Gioac(c)hino. Spanish: Joaquin. Portuguese: Joaquim. German: Jochim, Jochem, Jochen; Achim. Scandinavian: Joakim; Jokum (Danish, Norwegian); Jockum (Danish). Czech: Jáchym. Russian: Yackim, Akim.

    Pet form: Russian: Kima.

    Comment by John Cowan | June 23, 2007 | Reply

  4. The original thaler coins (or dollar, as we spell it in English) were made from silver mined near the town of Sankt Joachimsthal ‘St. Joachim’s valley’, now in the Czech Republic and known as Jáchymov.

    Comment by John Cowan | June 23, 2007 | Reply

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