(an outtake from Once More, From the Beginning. This is one of the bits that didn’t make it into the book.)
Even after the prophet Jeremiah was turned loose by the Babylonians, he stubbornly chose to remain in Jerusalem where he spent his time haranguing the few remaining inhabitants against fleeing into Egypt. This time he had God’s unreserved approval.
The Lord was already worried about the number of Jewish ex-patriots in Egypt who had converted with considerable enthusiasm to the worship of the Goddess of Heaven. They had formed a community avid in its search for Wisdom, and God was not at all eager for that recalcitrant tendency to spread any further. As usual, Jeremiah’s efforts had limited success, for many of the people in Judah and Jerusalem had continued to cherish a soft spot in their hearts for the Queen of Heaven, remembering the happiness and comfort they had enjoyed while they followed a path of self-fulfillment under her nurturing eye. It was hard to ignore the impression that their quality of life began sliding rapidly downhill when they were forced to stop honouring her. The women, particularly, had felt delegated to the sidelines, and they pined for the old days when they had been encouraged to have a thought. There was little left to bind them here, and they embraced the opportunity to emigrate to Egypt where they might be free to worship as they chose. The men, for their part, saw an immediate advantage in saving their asses from the wrath of their Babylonian conquerors and complacently agreed to tag along.
God, of course, vowed he’d kill them all – every last one of them – but by that time Jeremiah was the only one listening.
And he listened with a most sympathetic ear. The Lord raged at the betrayal, ranting that Jerusalem had become an aging harlot, lusting after every passing god. He seemed to forget once again that the Jews had always been fickle. Even when they were wandering in the wilderness, all those years ago, they had exhibited an unmistakably roving eye. But perhaps the defection appeared less forgivable in a woman or a city of a ‘certain age’ – after a god had settled into an easy complacency, and come to take their devotion for granted.
In his eagerness to be supportive, Jeremiah conjured up the most lurid mental images. “I see the whore Jerusalem starving . . . withering . . . bleeding . . . dying. She is in rags, and her bones poke through her naked flesh. In her agony, she is reduced to devouring her own children. Her gaunt jaws open . . . .”
When he lingered with such obvious relish over this notion, God began to suspect that he was enjoying himself entirely too much, and in a rather unwholesome fashion.
“That’s enough!” ordered the Lord. He rather regretted introducing the subject at all. “In the future,” he suggested curtly, “perhaps we should limit ourselves to discussing less stimulating topics.”