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What’s in the Book: Jeremiah

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The Book of Jeremiah describes the final 40 years of the Kingdom of Judah.

Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet, whose first prophecy came when he was still young, but God said that He would put the words in Jeremiah’s mouth. Jeremiah was also aided by the scribe Baruch ben Neriya, who recorded his prophecies.

Jeremiah raged at the Judeans’ unfaithfulness to God, comparing them to an adulterous wife. He criticized the people for their inappropriate confidence in Temple sacrifices without making the necessary changes in their lives. (“Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, worship Baal … and stand before Me in this house, whereupon My name is called, and say: ‘We are delivered?’” 7:9-10)

As Babylon grew strong, Jeremiah tried to warn the people that Nebuchadnezzer was the tool of God’s vengeance and that calamity could be averted if Judah pledged its loyalty to Babylon.

King Jehoiakim fell to Babylon, as Jeremiah predicted. When Nebuchadnezzer’s handpicked ruler, Zedekiah, decided to rebel, Jeremiah openly stated that God was with the Babylonians. Jeremiah was arrested for “treason” and remained imprisoned for a portion of the final years before the Temple fell.

After all of Jeremiah’s pessimistic prophecies came true, the victorious Babylonians granted Jeremiah his freedom. When the new governor, Gedaliah, was murdered, the remaining populace fled, taking Jeremiah with them.

Like Isaiah, Jeremiah also prophesied consolation, telling the exiles that God wished them to live their lives in Babylon. He then predicted how, after 70 years, they would return and rebuild the Holy Temple.

Jeremiah’s life was difficult. He was ostracized, maligned, imprisoned and beaten, but his belief in God and love of the Jewish people did not allow him to give up on his sacred mission.

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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