Introduction to the Book of Jeremiah2017-03-22T04:46:05+00:00

Jeremiah

An Introduction to the Book

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COMMENTARY:

THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT – THE GREAT POWERS:

Judah and Israel (separate kingdoms after the death of Solomon) were small states in a world dominated by several larger states, primarily Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt.  There was a period of time after Solomon’s death when none of these clearly dominated, but that changed when Tiglath-pileser III rose to power in Assyria in 745 B.C.

ASSYRIA

Assyria was located in the northern part of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley (modern-day northern Iraq).  Its principal city was Nineveh.

• Under Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 B.C.), Assyria achieved clear dominance.

• Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.) defeated the northern kingdom, Israel, and carried its people into exile in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17:3-6; 18:9-10)—thus bringing the northern kingdom to an end—permanently.

• Sargon II (721-705 B.C.) defeated an Egyptian-led coalition near Ashdod, which is located on the Mediterranean Sea not far from Jerusalem.

• Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) besieged Jerusalem in 701 B.C., but did not destroy it.

• Esarhaddon Sennacherib (681-669 B.C.) defeated the Egyptians at Memphis in 671 B.C.

• However, under Assurbanipal (668-626 B.C.), Assyria was weakened by internal strife, and in 612 B.C., Chaldeans from southern Babylonia, led by Nabopolassar (625-605 B.C.), succeeded in taking Nineveh and bringing an end to Assyrian dominance.

BABYLONIA

Babylonia was located in the northern part of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley (modern-day northern Iraq).  Its principal city was Babylon.

As noted above, Nabopolassar brought an end to Assyrian dominance.  Under Nabopolassar’s son, Nebuchadrezzar II (605-562 B.C.), Babylonia extended its dominance.  In 605 B.C., Nebuchadrezzar defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish, by which victory he gained control of Syria and Palestine.  In 597 B.C., he besieged and conquered Jerusalem but did not destroy the city.  In 589 B.C., responding to Zedekiah’s alliance with Egypt, Nebuchadrezzar once again besieged Jerusalem.  This time, in 587 B.C. he destroyed Jerusalem, killed many of its people, and took the remaining populace into exile in Babylonia.  He thus brought an end to the southern kingdom and the Davidic dynasty—but temporarily.

PERSIA

Persia was located in modern-day Iran, although at its height its rule extended eastward to the border of India and westward to Ionia (modern-day Turkey).

In 539 B.C., Cyrus II of Persia (559-530 B.C.) defeated Babylonia, and Persia replaced Babylonia as the dominant power.  Cyrus allowed all exiles, including those from Judea, to return to their homelands, thus paving the way for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple.

JEREMIAH

Jeremiah received his call in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign (627 B.C.), and continued his ministry until after the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.)  His work began, then, toward the end of Assyria’s dominance, but he lived most of his life during the period of Babylonia’s dominance.  He did not live to see Persia achieve dominance and allow the Jewish exiles to return home, but he prophesied their return.

THE BIBLICAL CONTEXT: 

The Book of Jeremiah has its roots in the long-ago request of the elders of Israel to Samuel, “Behold, you are old, and your sons don’t walk in your ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).  Samuel, understanding their request as a rejection not only of himself but also of the kingship of Yahweh, was displeased, but the Lord said to Samuel:

“Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not be king over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, in that they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also to you. Now therefore listen to their voice: however you shall protest solemnly to them, and shall show them the way of the king who shall reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:7-9).

“The king(s) who shall reign over them” were decidedly uneven in quality:

• Saul, the first king, started well but ended badly (1 Samuel 28:16-25; chapter 31).

• David, the next king, was the best of the lot, but was guilty of adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband (1 Samuel 11).

• Solomon, David’s son, was celebrated for his wisdom, but “loved many foreign women” (1 Kings 11:1) and allowed his foreign wives to turn his heart to other gods (1 Kings 11:4-8).

• Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, dealt harshly with the people, resulting in the division of the nation into Israel, under Jereboam, and Judah, under Rehoboam (1 Kings 12).

• These were followed by a succession of kings, good and bad—more bad than good.  They functioned as minor regents in the midst of great powers—Assyria, Egypt, Babylonia, and several lesser but still powerful nations—and were always tempted to look for security in great-power alliances instead of trusting Yahweh to protect them.

In the years immediately prior to Jeremiah’s call, Judah was governed in turn by five kings—three bad (Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon) and two good (Hezekiah and Josiah).

King Ahaz of Judah found himself at war with King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel (2 Kings 16:5).  Ahaz had been reigning for a number of years, and “didn’t do that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh his God” (2 Kings 16:2).  When besieged by Resin and Pekah, Ahaz (ignoring the counsel of the prophet Isaiah) called upon Tiglath-pileser of Assyria for help.  Tiglath-pileser rescued Ahaz, but then reduced Judah to the status of a vassal.  Ahaz, who had already been unfaithful to the Lord, tried to placate Tiglath-pileser by worshiping Assyrian gods (2 Kings 16:10 ff.).

When Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah, assumed the throne of Judah (2 Kings 16:20).  Hezekiah “did that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3).  It was during Hezekiah’s reign that ” Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria (the capital of Israel, the northern kingdom), and besieged it….”   and… carried Israel away to Assyria… because they didn’t obey the voice of Yahweh their God, but transgressed his covenant” (2 Kings 18:9-12).

A decade later, “Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah, and took them” (2 Kings 18:13).  Hezekiah petitioned for peace, and offered Sennacherib booty, even stripping the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord (2 Kings 18:16).  However, Sennacherib, accusing Hezekiah of relying on Egypt, humiliated Hezekiah and threatened to persist in his plans to destroy Judah.

Hezekiah consulted the prophet Isaiah, who counseled, “Thus says Yahweh, ‘Don’t be afraid of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, and he will hear news, and will return to his own land. I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land'” (2 Kings 19:6-7).  “It happened that night that the angel of Yahweh went out, and struck one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. When men arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and lived at Nineveh. It happened, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Esar Haddon his son reigned in his place” (2 Kings 19:35-37).

On the death of Hezekiah, his son Manasseh succeeded him (2 Kings 20:21).  Manasseh “did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, after the abominations of the nations whom Yahweh cast out before the children of Israel” (2 Kings 21:2).  Because of Manasseh’s evil leadership and the willingness of the people of Judah to accept his leadership, God said, “I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab; and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. I will cast off the remnant of my inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies. They will become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; because they have done that which is evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even to this day” (2 Kings 21:13-15).

God did not execute that judgment immediately.  Manasseh died and was succeeded by his son Amon, who “did which was evil in the sight of Yahweh” (2 Kings 21:20).  However, Amon reigned only a short time before he was assassinated.  He was succeeded by Josiah, his son, an eight year old boy (2 Kings 22:1).  Josiah “did what was right in the sight of Yahweh, and walked in all the way of David his father” (2 Kings 22:2).  Once Josiah was old enough to exert real leadership, Assyria’s power was waning, and he was able to break loose from Assyrian domination.

In the eighteenth year of his reign, Josiah sent emissaries to the high priest, Hilkiah, with instructions to use temple funds to restore the temple.  In the process of the restoration, Hilkiah discovered “the book of the law” (2 Kings 22:8)—assumed today to have been part or all of the Book of Deuteronomy—which he gave to Josiah’s emissaries—who took it to Josiah and read it to the king.  “It happened, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he tore his clothes” upon recognizing his guilt and the guilt of the nation in failing to follow the law (2 Kings 22:11).  Then Josiah called the people of Judah and Jerusalem together in a great assembly and read the book of the law to them.  He then “made a covenant before Yahweh, to walk after Yahweh, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and all his soul….  All the people stood to the covenant” (2 Kings 23:2-3).

Josiah made an honest attempt to live up to the covenant that he had made, but God’s response leads us to believe that there were problems.  Most likely, Josiah made an honest attempt to impose reforms on Judah, but the people accepted those reforms only at the most superficial level—gave them only lip-service.

At any rate, 2 Kings provides this summary statement:  “Like (Josiah) was there no king before him, who turned to Yahweh with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him. Notwithstanding, Yahweh didn’t turn from the fierceness of his great wrath, with which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocation with which Manasseh had provoked him. Yahweh said, ‘I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city which I have chosen, even Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there'” (2 Kings 23:25-27).

Josiah reigned 31 years (2 Kings 22:1), after which he died in battle at the hand of Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23:29).  He was succeeded by his son, Jehoahaz, who reigned only three months before being deposed by Pharaoh Neco.  Neco then made Josiah’s son, Eliakim, king and changed his name to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:31-34).  Jehoiakim reigned 12 years, doing “evil in the sight of Yahweh” (2 Kings 23:37), during which time King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon defeated Egypt and began to bring pressure on Judah.

Jehoiakim was succeeded by his son, Jehoiachin, who reigned three months and “did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh” (2 Kings 24:9).  During his short reign, Nebuchadrezzar besieged Jerusalem.  “Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign” and looted the city but did not destroy it (2 Kings 24:12-17).  The year was 597 B.C.

Jehoiachin was succeeded by Zedekiah, who “did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh” (2 Kings 24:19).  He revolted against Nebuchadrezzar, who again besieged Jerusalem in 588 B.C.  Nebuchadrezzar was forced to lift the siege temporarily to meet a threat from Egypt, giving the people of Jerusalem false hope that they would be saved.  However, Nebuchadrezzar returned after dealing with the Egyptians, laid siege to Jerusalem once more, and in 587 B.C. breached the walls, destroyed the city, killed many of the residents, and took the rest into exile in Babylonia.

THE STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK:

The Book of Jeremiah divides nicely into three major parts plus an appendix:

• The first part (chapters 1-25) is primarily prophecies by Jeremiah against Judah and Jerusalem during the reigns of four kings—Josiah, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.  This section also includes a good deal of material about Jeremiah’s call, his “confessions,” his temple sermon, and an account of the fall of Judah.

• The second part (chapters 26-45) is primarily narrative accounts of Jeremiah’s life.  Chapters 30-33 are sometimes referred to as Jeremiah’s “Little Book of Comfort,” because they promise restoration for Israel and Judah (chapter 30)—the joyful return of the exiles and a new covenant (chapter 31)—the assurance of the people’s return (chapter 32)—and healing after punishment and the establishment of a righteous branch (chapter 33).

• The third part (chapters 46-51) is composed of prophecies of judgment on foreign nations.

• The appendix (chapter 52) recounts the destruction of Jerusalem.  The material in this section was probably drawn from 2 Kings 24:18—25:26 and parallels material found in 2 Chronicles 36:11-20 and Jeremiah 39:1-10.

Fretheim prefers to divide the book into two major blocks (chapters 2-24 and 26-51 with chapter 25 as a hinge between the two).  He treats chapter 1 as an introduction and chapter 52 as an epilogue (Fretheim, 18).

THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK:

Jeremiah’s purpose is to warn the people of Judah about the catastrophe that is awaiting them because of their sin and to call them to repentance so that they might avoid the catastrophe and be saved.

In chapter 36, Jeremiah tells of dictating to Baruch “all the words of Yahweh, which he had spoken to him” (36:4).  He explained, “I am shut up; I can’t go into the house of Yahweh: therefore you go, and read in the scroll, which you have written from my mouth, the words of Yahweh in the ears of the people in Yahweh’s house on the fast day; and also you shall read them in the ears of all Judah who come out of their cities. It may be they will present their supplication before Yahweh, and will return everyone from his evil way; for great is the anger and the wrath that Yahweh has pronounced against this people” (36:5-7).

Baruch read the scroll as Jeremiah had ordered him to do.  However, the words that Baruch read so alarmed the king’s officials that they instructed Baruch to go into hiding with Jeremiah.  They then took the scroll to King Jehoiakim.  “It happened, when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, that the king cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier” (36:23).  The Lord then charged Jeremiah with making a second scroll like the first, except that he was to include also a judgment on Jehoiakim for burning the first scroll.

We know only in a general way what these two scrolls contained (“all the words of Yahweh, which he had spoken to him”), but presumably a good deal of their content was eventually incorporated into the Book of Jeremiah as we know it.  If this is the case, substantial portions of the book were written originally to warn the people of Judah of the judgment that God was preparing for them and to persuade them to repent so that they might avoid that judgment.

However, Fretheim makes the point that the book in its present form was written for the benefit of those who survived the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple—most specifically for the exiles.  It “is most basically concerned to address itself in as forthright a way as possible to pressing questions voiced by the survivors of this debacle, most of whom are probably in exile in Babylon….  Their most compelling question is…: ‘Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through?’  The responses to this and related questions…are the decisive contribution of the book of Jeremiah for its implied readers.  The reason these disastrous events took place is most basically rooted in the nature of the God-Israel relationship.  The book stakes a theological claim that these events occurred, not because Israel’s God was incompetent or uncaring, but because the people of God were unfaithful and their own God would not, indeed could not, remain indifferent, for the future of the creation was at stake” (Fretheim, 5).

JEREMIAH’S CALL:

Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, a priest (but not the high priest, Hilkiah, who discovered the book of the law during Josiah’s reign), and came from Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin—about 2-3 miles (3-5 km) northeast of Jerusalem—easy walking distance.

The introduction to the Book of Jeremiah tells us that the word of God came to Jeremiah in the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign—and that it came to him also in the reigns of Kings Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, Josiah’s son and grandson (Jeremiah 1:1-3).  We know that Josiah began his reign in 640 B.C., so the thirteenth year of his reign would have been 627 B.C.

God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you. Before you came forth out of the womb, I sanctified you. I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).  This has occasioned some dispute among scholars about whether Jeremiah received his call from God as a young man or before his birth (Thompson, 50 ff.).  It makes a difference, because Josiah assumed the throne at age eight and the nation was run by his advisors until some years later.  In the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign, he would have been 21 years old and just beginning to assert himself.

• If Jeremiah were still in the womb when he experienced his 627 B.C. call, Josiah would have been older than Jeremiah by 13 or more years, and Jeremiah would have been elderly during the reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah.

• If Jeremiah were a young man at the time of the call, he and Josiah would have been roughly contemporary in age, and Jeremiah would have been middle-aged during the reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah.  For the purposes of this introduction, I will assume that this was the case.

Jeremiah’s work involved some prediction of the future and some emphasis on social justice, but those were secondary to his central task, which was acting as God’s spokesman.  In his predictions of the future, Jeremiah was painting a picture of the doom that people could expect if they failed to repent and return to the Lord.  While Jeremiah’s writing includes concern for those in need (5:38; 7:6; 8:10; 15:8; 22:3, 16-17; 49:11), this was merely one example of the righteousness that God expected of his people and for which he would hold them accountable.  First and foremost, God expected them to repent of their sins and to become faithful to him once again.

JEREMIAH’S LIFE AND MINISTRY:

While Jeremiah was the son of a priest, he seems not to have been trained as a priest.  It does seem likely, however, that his father (and perhaps others) schooled him well in religious matters.  He understands the work of priests, and rails against their failures and their sins.

When Jeremiah received his call, he protested, “‘Ah, Lord Yahweh! Behold, I don’t know how to speak; for I am a child.’ But Yahweh said to me, ‘Don’t say, “I am a child;” for to whomever I shall send you, you shall go, and whatever I shall command you, you shall speak.  Don’t be afraid because of them; for I am with you to deliver you,’ says Yahweh” (1:6-8).

While Jeremiah received his call in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign, chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of Jeremiah make it clear that Josiah’s reformation had not accomplished its goal.  These chapters speak of Israel’s wickedness and call for Israel to repent.  The following chapters spell out the consequences of continued wickedness.

We are also told that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, “You shall not take a wife, neither shall you have sons or daughters, in this place. For thus says Yahweh concerning the sons and concerning the daughters who are born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bore them, and concerning their fathers who became their father in this land: They shall die grievous deaths: they shall not be lamented, neither shall they be buried; they shall be as dung on the surface of the ground; and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the sky, and for the animals of the earth”(16:2-4).  The Lord also forbade Jeremiah to mourn the tragedy that was about to befall the people (16:5-9).

As Josiah’s reforms began to have significant impact, Jeremiah seems to have fallen into silence, probably because he saw the course of the nation changing to a more positive direction.  Then the word of the Lord came to him again at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign, calling Jeremiah to repent “that I may repent me of the evil which I purpose to do to them because of the evil of their doings” (26:1-3).

Jeremiah did as the Lord told him to do, preaching a word of judgment and a call to repentance in what has become known as his Temple Sermon.  The priests and prophets responded by laying hold of Jeremiah and saying, “You shall surely die!” (26:8) and “This man is worthy of death; for he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears” (26:11).  Jeremiah defended himself as having said only what the Lord required him to say, and the people repented of killing him (26:16).  However, Jehoiakim did kill Uriah, a prophet who was proclaiming the same message as that which Jeremiah proclaimed (26:20-23).  “But the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death” 26:24).

But that would be neither the beginning nor the end of Jeremiah’s troubles.  The people of Anathoth, his hometown, plotted to kill him (11:18-23), and his own family was involved in this treachery (12:6).  People cursed him (15:10).  Forbidden to grieve with his people (16:5-9), he also found himself cut off from their happy celebrations (15:17).  He was persecuted by Pashhur and placed in the stocks overnight (20:1-6).  He became a laughingstock, subject to mockery (20:7).  He was opposed by the false prophet, Hananiah, who was popular because he prophesied good things for the people (28:1-17).

When Jeremiah dictated his prophecies so that they might be handed to King Jehoiakim in writing, the king cut Jeremiah’s scroll into pieces and threw it into the fire and commanded that Jeremiah and his secretary, Baruch, be arrested—but the Lord hid them (36:20-26).

Charged with supporting the Chaldeans (Babylonians), Jeremiah was beaten, cast into a cistern, and imprisoned there for many days (37:15-16).  Removed from the cistern so that he might appear before King Zedekiah, Jeremiah continued to speak of the doom of Jerusalem, so Zedekiah’s officials said, “Please let this man be put to death; because he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words to them: for this man doesn’t seek the welfare of this people, but the hurt” (38:4).  Zedekiah, a weak king, submitted to the wishes of his officials, so they threw him in a cistern that had no water but only mud, “and Jeremiah sank in the mire” (38:6).  Rescued from the cistern by Ebed-melech (38:7-13), Jeremiah continued to advise Zedekiah, who listened but refused to take Jeremiah’s advice for fear of the response of his own people (38:14-28).

Deeply compassionate, Jeremiah wept over the fate of the people who failed to listen to his warnings (9:1; 13:7; 48:32).  With no family of his own and ostracized by his people, he was lonely.

Jeremiah prophesied judgment, not only on Israel, but also on Egypt (46:1-25), the Philistines (47:1-7), Moab (48:1-47), the Ammonites (49:1-6), Edom (49:7-27), Kedar and Hazor (49:28-33), Elam (49:34-39), and Babylon (chapters 50-51).  It is no wonder that the word “jeremiad” has come to mean “a lamenting and denunciatory complaint: a doleful story: a dolorous tirade against a civilization that values knowledge above wisdom” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

JEREMIAH’S MESSAGE:

Jeremiah’s message was derived from the covenant established by God with Israel.  Israel was, indeed, God’s chosen people—the “first fruits of his increase” (2:3)—the Lord’s “beloved” (11:15)—”Yahweh’s flock” (13:17).

He presents the Lord as remembering fondly “the kindness of (Israel’s) youth, the love of your weddings; how you went after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown” (2:2).  However, they “have gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain”(2:5).  Israel has “forsaken me, the spring of living waters, and cut them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (2:13).

The people wrongly believed that they were safe because God had covenanted with them and located his temple in Jerusalem.  But the Lord counseled, “Don’t trust in lying words, saying, The temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh” (7:4).  They had been guilty of oppressing aliens, orphans, and widows, and of shedding innocent blood (7:6).  They had been guilty of stealing, murder, adultery, swearing falsely, making offerings to Baal, and going after other false gods (7:9).  He warned them not to expect that they could find safety in the temple in spite of their transgressions (7:10).

But we should not imagine these warnings as the harsh, unfeeling judgments of an unfeeling deity.  Jeremiah is a spokesperson for God, and Jeremiah’s (and God’s) grief are found in his (their) laments (11:18-20; 12:1-4; 15:15-18; 17:14-18; 20:7-18).  “It seems likely that the laments of Jeremiah need to be heard as reflecting God’s hurt and pain” (Bracke, 8).

The Lord held out the promise of mercy if the people would only repent of their sins and return to the Lord.  “Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, ‘Return, you backsliding Israel,’ says Yahweh; ‘I will not look in anger on you; for I am merciful,’ says Yahweh. ‘I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against Yahweh your God, and have scattered your ways to the strangers under every green tree, and you have not obeyed my voice,’ says Yahweh.’ ‘Return, backsliding children,’ says Yahweh; ‘for I am a husband to you. I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion'” (3:12-14).

Jeremiah’s message then was one both of judgment and of hope—but hope was possible only if the people would repent and once again become faithful to the Lord (3:6—4:4; 8:4-7; 15:19; 36:7).  As a living illustration this hope, Jeremiah bought a field in Anathoth from his cousin, Hanamel, at a time when Jerusalem was under siege and Jeremiah was prophesying doom for the city and its king.  He had the transaction duly recorded, and gave this commentary:  “Thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel: ‘Take these deeds, this deed of the purchase which is sealed, and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel; that they may continue many days.’ For thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel: ‘Houses and fields and vineyards shall yet again be bought in this land'” (32:14-15).

Jeremiah’s prophecy was important in more than way.  First, it called the people to repent and to return to the Lord so that the Lord would deliver them from the disaster that awaited them.  Second, given their refusal to heed Jeremiah’s counsel, his prophecy the people who were later exiled to Babylonia to understand their situation as it really was—a judgment of the Lord because of their sins rather than a failure of the Lord to save his people.  It helped them to recognize that the Babylonians were not more powerful than the Lord, but rather that they had been an instrument of the Lord to inflict judgment on Judah for its sins.  It also gave them hope, because Jeremiah promised that they would one day return to Jerusalem.  That promise lay far in the future, and required that the Lord raise up Cyrus of Persia to defeat the Babylonians.

SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible.  The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament.  The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Bracke, John M., Westminster Bible Companion:  Jeremiah 1-29 (Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2000)

Bright, John, The Anchor Bible: Jeremiah (Garden City: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1965)

Clements, R. E., Interpretation Commentary: Jeremiah (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988)

Craigie, Peter C.; Kelley, Page H.; and Drinkard, Joel F. Jr., Word Biblical Commentary: Jeremiah 1–25(Dallas:  Word Books, 1991)

Fretheim, Terence, E., Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary:  Jeremiah (Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Incorporated, 2002)

Huey, F. B. Jr., New American Commentary: Isaiah, Lamentations, Vol. 16 (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993)

Keown, Gerald L.; Scalise, Pamela J.; and Smothers, Thomas G., Word Biblical Commentary: Jeremiah 26-52 (Dallas:  Word Books, 1995)

Martens, E. A., Believers Church Bible Commentary: Jeremiah (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1986)

Miller, Patrick D., The New Interpreters Bible: Jeremiah, Vol.VI (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001)

Thompson, J.A., The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Jeremiah(Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980)

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