Jeremiah “the Weeping Prophet” as Ancient Historical Literature

Isaiah’s prophecies were written 700-680 BC. Hosea and Micah lived and prophesied around the same time in history. They were all witnesses to the expansion of the Assyrian Empire. Israel (the northern kingdom) was obliterated during this expansion and the southern kingdom ( Judah) was in extreme condition as they suffered severe spiritual and moral decline. The country of Israel had been divided during the reign of Rehoboam, son of King Solomon around 930 BC. The northern kingdom kept the name Israel and the southern kingdom became known as Judah. Of the 12 tribes, the northern kingdom was made up of 10 and Judah was inhabited by 2 tribes, one of which was David’s line.

Jeremiah’s ministry was during the last years of Judah’s history (626-586 BC) a half century later than Isaiah. The Assyrian Empire was on the decline and the Babylonian Empire was on the rise. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Judea in 605 BC, twenty-one years into Jeremiah’s ministry. There was a second siege in 597 BC and a final two year siege from 588- 586 BC. The fall of Jerusalem came on August 14, 586 BC.

In the book of Jeremiah, he describes the torment of being devoted to his people with compassion and commissioned by God to bring them warnings of His anger at their sinful existence. They had turned away from God and were worshiping worthless idols. To Jeremiah’s deep grief, they did not listen to his prophecies and hated him.

Jeremiah also wrote Lamentations 586-585 BC. It is an eyewitness account of the fall of Jerusalem during the final two year siege. It was a walled city where nothing was allowed to go in or out during the siege. People died of starvation, bodies piled up and rotted and disease started taking the lives of many. It was extremely traumatic for Jeremiah as he describes his disgust with the condition the people had fallen into. He becomes angry with God and in the 5 chapters of Lamentations ( each an individual poem ) he laments his emotional state and the state of the fallen people of Judah.

In Lamentations each poem (chapter) except for chapter 3 contains 22 verses. Chapter 3 contains 22 times 3, or 66 verses. The number 22 is the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The first four poems are alphabetic acrostics, meaning the first word of each verse begins with a successive letter of the alphabet starting with Aleph and ending with Taw. His construction implies that the chapters are complete and that there is a beginning and an end to his grief. This is true as one day there would be an end to their exile to Babylon. It is graphic and unsettling to read. Horrors they commit are atrocious to the reader. However, Jeremiah gives us a powerful statement (3:21-25) which tells us of God’s faithfulness and salvation. It ends with repentance and hope for restoration (5:16-22).

God does not fully relate to our humanity until He takes on human form and knows what it’s like to be human. His anger and wrath poured out against His people for breaking their covenant with Him in the book of Jeremiah is heartbreaking. Jeremiah relates that heartbreak to God in a compelling dialogue which touches the heart of the reader. He vacillates between anger and praise as he cries out to the Lord.

Jeremiah prophesies also of a “new covenant” (chapter 31: 31-34). The New Testament describes this covenant as the salvation of the people through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jeremiah, chapter 23: 1-8 proclaims the Messiah as a good shepherd and the righteous Branch of David. The New Testament: Matthew 21:8-9; Mark 11:17 and Luke 19:46 refer to Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning our Lord and Savior.

In the end Jeremiah and a small remnant of Judah are forced to exile in Egypt. Nothing further is heard from Jeremiah. It is assumed that he died there. He is known as one of the major prophets of the bible due to the length of his writings.

Below is a detailed description of the book of Jeremiah published by the Bible Project on YouTube. It is 7 minutes in length and a precise and complete review.

Resources:

NIV Bible Study Guide

Logos Bible Study

Β© Phyllis Weeks Rogers 3/29/2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

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