Date Written: 627-580 BC
The book of Jeremiah is one of the longest and most challenging books in the Bible. It is a mix of prophecy and history. Jeremiah was a prophet who ministered to the nation of Judah in its final years before the Babylonian conquest and the exile. God called him at a young age (1:5-7) to preach a hard message to the nation: the sins of Judah had reached their limit and God must execute his judgment by sending the people to exile.
Political complexities fill Jeremiah. Two major events frame the book: the religious reform of Josiah at the beginning (1:3) and the fall of Jerusalem at the end (39, 52). Near the beginning of Jeremiah's ministry, King Josiah initiates a return to worship of the Lord and the eradication of the worship of false gods. After he dies in battle against the Egyptians, Jehoahaz temporarily takes the throne, but is deposed by Pharaoh Neco who makes Jehoiakim king. Babylon conquers Judah in 605 BC under Jehoiakim's reign, but Jehoiakim tries to throw off their control a few years later. Jehoiakim is then succeeded by Jehoiachin, who is reigning when the Babylonians attack again in 597 in response to Jehoiakim's rebellion. Jehoiachin is exiled and Babylon places his uncle, Zedekiah, on the throne.
Zedekiah reigns for about 10 years until he too tries to reject Babylonian power, which elicits a crushing response from Nebuchadnezzer, the king of Babylon. In 587, the Babylonians come and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. They tear down the city and gouge out Zedekiah's eyes and take the leaders of Judah into exile. The conquest is complete and the exile has begun.
In the context of these political upheavals, Jeremiah advises the kings and prophesies to them, but Josiah was the only king to respond to him positively. Jeremiah advises submission to Babylon, yet the kings of Judah rebel and bring on the total punishment of the nation. Exile has always been the consequence for disobedience to the Law of Moses (Deut 28:49-68), but now disaster is imminent. Jeremiah announced that the time has come for the Lord to execute the terms of the covenant and send his people out of the land into exile. After the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah lives among the ruins, but he is later brought to Egypt against his will (Jer 43:5-7).
Jeremiah prophesies that the exile will last 70 years (25:11). Then the people will be brought back to the land, have a new Davidic king (33:15-17) and most significantly, a new covenant (31). The prophecy of the new king and covenant finds its fulfillment in Jesus, the son of David (see Matt 1:1; Luke 22:20).
Jeremiah had two scribes who were brothers of each other: Baruch and Seraiah, sons of Neriah. They are probably responsible for the text of the book as we have it. The book of Jeremiah is not chronological. It is collected from many things that Jeremiah said and did during his ministry. Parts of Jeremiah (39, 52) are parallel to 2 Kings 25. The book begins with Jeremiah's prophecies against Judah (1-25). Then it presents a prose history of Jeremiah's life and the events of the last years of the kingdom of Judah (25-46). Next are Jeremiah's oracles against the nations (47-51). Finally, there is an historical epilogue (52).
Jeremiah brings a message of judgment and a message of hope. The prophet announces God's judgment against Judah's sins, but promises a future restoration.
By Mark Giszczak
From: Catholic News Agency