Good morning! Today we start the book of Jeremiah, in my judgment second only to Isaiah for its scope and significance in the prophetic canon. Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem near the end of Judah’s independence, while it was fighting Assyrian forces and eventually losing to the overrunning armies of Babylon. The main arc of Jeremiah’s message (and of the verses which scholars think were added to it later) is that temple worship and adherence to Jerusalem will not save Judah. Only adherence to the earlier Mosaic customs and the law as set forth in Deuteronomy will help Jerusalem resist its enemies. This message comes through with chapters of poetic judgment at the beginning of the book, followed by narratives in later chapters about the events of Jeremiah’s life. In today’s passage (Jeremiah 1-2) we read of Jeremiah’s call as a young boy, and then his first utterances critiquing the leaders of Jerusalem for idolatry.
Nearly all the prophets who speak in God’s name include some sort of call story, and Jeremiah’s is notable for what it conveys by its setting. In the opening verses of chapter 1, we learn that he hails from Anathoth (where earlier priests had been banished for opposing Solomon). He also descends from the tiny tribe of Benjamin, and prophesied during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah (at the end of independent Judah). According to one introduction I read, Jeremiah’s origin in the small tribe of Benjamin suggests a possible reason for his suspicion of the political leadership in Jerusalem. Since that hierarchy stemmed from King David’s eclipse of the Benjaminite Saul, Jeremiah might have inherited tribal resistance to Judah even though he lived centuries later. The other notable thing of Jeremiah’s call from God is that it comes to him as a fearful young boy. Nevertheless, God pronounces him able and commissions him with divine words in his mouth. The prophecy starts with a vision of threat from the north (Assyria), and calls Jeremiah to warn the people of Jerusalem.
That warning begins in Jeremiah 2, and it lays the blame for coming destruction at the feet of Israel itself because of the Hebrew practices of idolatry. Judah is a cultivated vine planted by God, but which has since gone wild and unproductive. Judah’s leaders have made trees and stones their deities, and Jeremiah’s rebuke is because “you have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah”. For this reason, both the Hebrew turn to Egypt for safe harbor against the Assyrians and their seeking to barter for peace with Assyria will fail. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Jeremiah 3-4. Thanks for reading!