MAJOR PROPHETS: Jeremiah
“I am with you and will save you,” declares the Lord.
“Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you,
I will not destroy you.”
The book of Jeremiah is not one of the more cheerful books of the Bible, as Jeremiah prophesized the fall of Judah to Babylon and the loss of many of her people as captives in a foreign land. Jeremiah was deeply concerned with the political issues of his day (he lived through four kings) and saw the political turmoil the land was experiencing as the cost of the people’s faithlessness to God. However, the book is not completely dark in its tone— while the Judean people were to become captives, they were promised hope of release. God may discipline, but God will also save.
The writings of and about Jeremiah were begun during the prophet’s life, and are a mix of several forms of writing.
The prose is largely biographical, and we are given more personal information about him than any other prophet. Jeremiah began his prophetic career during the reign of King Josiah, a time of major political upheaval. So politics is the theme of the day, not surprisingly since the survival of the nation was in question. Jeremiah’s keen insights into politics and his predictions of disaster did not make him popular with the people or the government. Some of the most famous poetic interludes in the book are the “Laments of Jeremiah” (in chapters 11-20), seven unusually personal speeches about the rotten treatment he was getting from all sides.
The rest of the poetry of Jeremiah centers on prophecies; Jeremiah’s struggles with his calling; and consolation poems, which promise God’s eventual forgiveness and salvation to the people. After the turmoil subsides, God promises, “I will surely save you from a distant place, your descendants from the land of exile.” (Jeremiah 46:27)
Unfortunately for Judah, Jeremiah proved correct in most of his predictions, and much of the Judean population (especially the educated and elites) were taken captive to Babylon in 586 B.C. Jeremiah stayed behind in Jerusalem to encourage the survivors, but he eventually had to skedattle to Egypt with another wave of exiles. Eventually the Exile in Babylon ended (after 70 years), but it turns out not everyone went home (a not unusual situation then or now). Substantial Jewish communities remained in Babylon and Egypt.