In the troubled period leading up to the Exile in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah pronounced his oracles. His name is often associated with pessimism; but it would probably be truer to say that he was a realist, as well as a man of deep spiritual insight.
Jeremiah's Call and Commission show him to be one who did not
readily respond (as did Isaiah of Jerusalem) to God's call. A
deeply sensitive man, he shrank from the prospect of confrontation
with his people, who would not agree with his conviction that
Jerusalem's calamities were an inevitable and just retribution
for the nation's sins. Nevertheless he found God's call overwhelming.
Jeremiah 1.vv.1-19, 2.vv.1-13, and v.19
Yet, says the prophet, God desires to show mercy if only His people
will repent; otherwise calamity will overwhelm the land.
Jeremiah 3.vv.12-22, and 4.vv.15-29
The prophet despairs of finding even one just person in Jerusalem.
Rich and poor alike have forsaken the Lord. Yet, says the Lord,
there will be mercy shown to a remnant of the people.
Jeremiah 5.vv.1-5, vv.18-31
The religious practices of the Temple are no talisman against
evil. The prophet grieves over the sin and sufferings of his
Jeremiah 7.vv.1-11, 8.vv.18-21 and 9.v.1
Jeremiah represents his people as acknowledging their sin, and
pleads their cause but is bidden to forbear. False prophets are
deceiving the people with predictions of peace and priests are
The prophet plumbs the depths of despair in his unpopularity but
is assured of God's protection and His love for all who love and
Jeremiah 15.v10, and 17.vv.7-16
In a well known parable or similitude we learn that as a potter
shapes and reshapes his vessels, so can the Lord deal with His
The unpopularity of Jeremiah continues and increases, despite
his pleas on his people's behalf. The enmity of the priesthood
is incurred and violent hands are laid upon him; but he stoutly
repeats his message of impending doom.
Jeremiah 18.vv.18-20, and 20.vv.1-6
In his grief the prophet complains to God about the unpopularity
and suffering that his oracles have brought upon him in his obedience
to the Lord.
Having denounced false prophets and a corrupt priesthood, Jeremiah
now inveighs against the royal house, which should have been a
shepherd to God's people.
The culmination of Jeremiah's prophecy was a sentence of death
passed upon him on the grounds of treason, but common sense and
Ahikam's help saved him for the time being.
Jeremiah 26.vv.1-19, v.24
Despite his personal danger, Jeremiah continues to counsel submission
to Babylon before disaster should strike the land, warning his
people that failure to submit was contrary to God's will.
One of the most optimistic oracles of Jeremiah was the letter
he sent from Jerusalem to those who in an earlier deportation
had become exiles in Babylon.
This is followed by an even more joyful oracle - the promised
restoration of all who have been taken into exile.
Jeremiah 30.vv.1-22, and 31.vv.1-17
With the restored community God will make a new Covenant based
upon individual responsibility.
Jeremiah was so confident that God would permit the exiles to
return from exile that he bought some land outside Jerusalem where
a besieging army of the Babylonians was encamped.
Jeremiah 32.vv.1-15, vv.36-41 and 33.vv.7-8, vv.10-11
There follows an interesting account of how Jeremiah's scroll
was destroyed, but through his pertinacity and the good offices
of his Scribe Baruch his oracles were preserved for posterity.
Not only was Jeremiah's scroll nearly destroyed, but he himself
was beaten, imprisoned and consigned to a muddy pit, from which
he was rescued by a servant of the king with the latter's connivance.
Meanwhile the city continued in a state of siege.
Jeremiah 37.vv.1-21 and 38.vv.1-28
Jeremiah's predictions of impending doom were justified. The
city of Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. Jeremiah's life was
spared and he was allowed to remain with the poorest people of
the land in the ruins of Jerusalem under Gedaliah who was appointed
by the Babylonians as Governor over them.
Jeremiah 39.vv.1-14 and 40.v.6
Some time after these events Gedaliah was murdered by a certain
Ishmael. Fearful of the consequences of this deed, many of the
leading Jews fled to Egypt, taking with them the reluctant Jeremiah,
who continued in Egypt to pronounce oracles of wrath and destruction
upon the fugitives who, he declared, had again disobeyed the Lord
and incurred His wrath. So ends the "Word of the Lord"
from the voice of Jeremiah and the pen of his faithful Scribe
Of the death of Jeremiah nothing is known for certain. The book
ends, as we might expect, with oracles concerning neighbouring
peoples and with a prediction that Babylon will fall and Jerusalem
Jeremiah 50.vv.1-10 and vv.17-20