No one knows why Azaliah named his son Shaphan, the Rock-Badger. In Proverbs 30:26 we learn that the “Conies, or Rock-Badgers, are a feeble folk, but they make their house in the rock.” Sensible little creatures. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that God has “chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.” And where do these weak ones dwell? In Christ, the Rock! “Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee,” wrote Augustus Toplady in his famous hymn.
Now Shaphan was an aged and prominent member of the Temple fraternity in the days of good King Josiah. He was a scribe, a man of letters, well educated and reliable. He was also in charge of the Temple Treasury, and acted with fidelity to his Sovereign. And Shaphan had three sons who were equally faithful both to God and to their King. Their names were Elasah, Ahikam, and Gemariah, who was a Scribe alongside his father. And Shaphan also had two grandsons, Micaiah the son of Gemariah, and Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. They were also a tower of faithfulness to God, to the King, to Hilkiah the High Priest, to Jeremiah the Prophet, and to Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary. All these men were true of heart, and their story, intertwined with other political and religious matters, makes for uplifting reading in 2 Kings 22, 25, and Jer.36.
It was Hilkiah the High Priest who found the Book of the Law in the Temple, no doubt where it had always been, laid up by the side of the Ark of the Covenant. (Deut.31:26) He gave it to Shaphan, who took it to Josiah the King, and the King, being deeply moved, sent Shaphan and his son Ahikam to Huldah the Prophetess. Now here’s another strange thing. Huldah means Weasel. So the Rock-Badger goes to the Weasel! Huldah was Shallum’s wife, and Shallum was Jeremiah’s cousin. Her words to the King were in similar vein to those of Jeremiah, showing God’s anger with His people for past treachery, but Josiah, because of his tender heart, was spared the rod of correction, and encouraged in his godly pursuits.
At a later time, after the death of Josiah, Jeremiah had some strong words from the Lord addressed to the people of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. They were written down by Baruch, and read publicly in the Temple Court. WhenGemariah and his son Micaiah heard these words they were deeply troubled and after consultation, the scroll was taken to King Jehoiakim, who listened with a contemptuous heart, and was about to destroy the scroll. Gemariahpleaded with the King not to do it, but he would not listen. Taking his penknife he ripped the scroll to shreds and burned it on the brazier. The Lord saw that there was “no more remedy,” and His judgment scene was about to fall.
The siege of Nebuchadnezzar had begun, and many of the people of Judah had been deported to Babylon. Jeremiah wrote them a letter, explaining that it was God’s will for them to reside there, and that they should settle down rather than girding up their loins to leave. This letter was sent by the hand of Elasah, Shaphan’s son, who was accompanied by Gemariah the son of Hilkiah the High Priest.
And after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the deportation of the remainder of the people, Nebuchadnezzar causedGedaliah, Shaphan’s grandson, to be Governor of the Province, and to release Jeremiah from prison, and look after him in his own house at Mizpah. Such was the gift of God to this faithful family, who had remained ever loyal to their Lord through years of turbulence and trial. Sadly we are told that Gedaliah was murdered by some remaining members of the royal family, for refusing to go to Egypt for help.
Some critics tell us that all these stories are apocryphal, and that the individuals never actually existed, being invented later by those who wrote the Old Testament. But in 1983 a room was found deep down below the present city of Jerusalem which proved to be some sort of administrative centre in the palace of the Kings at the time of Jehoiakim, and there, among a great number of seals bearing the names of State officials was one bearing the name of “Gemariah, son of Shaphan, royal secretary”.