1. When Jerusalem’s destruction was complete, what did Jeremiah say about Jehovah’s prophecies?
JERUSALEM lay in ruins. Smoke still rose from the fires the conquering Babylonians had lit. Jeremiah could recall the ghastly shrieks of those being slain. He had been told what was to happen, and events unfolded exactly as God had said. “Jehovah has done what he had in mind,” sighed the prophet. What a tragedy Jerusalem’s downfall had been!—Read Lamentations 2:17.
2. Jeremiah saw the fulfillment of what prophecy voiced centuries earlier?
2 Yes, Jeremiah saw the fulfillment of many prophecies conveyed to God’s people, including ancient prophecies. Centuries earlier, Moses set before Israel the consequences of obeying or disobeying God—either “the blessing” or “the malediction.” Jehovah wanted the best for his people, the blessings. The maledictions resulting from disobedience, on the other hand, would be horrendous. Moses warned—and Jeremiah later repeated—that those ignoring and opposing Jehovah would even “eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters.” (Deut. 30:19, 20; Jer. 19:9; Lev. 26:29) ‘Could such an awful thing actually happen?’ some may have wondered. Well, during the Babylonian siege, when food was not to be found, that did occur. “The very hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children,” Jeremiah reported. “They have become as bread of consolation to one during the breakdown of the daughter of my people.” (Lam. 4:10) What a tragedy!
3. What was God’s purpose in sending prophets to his people?
3 Of course, Jehovah’s purpose in commissioning prophets like Jeremiah was not simply to announce impending doom. God wanted his people to return to a course of faithfulness. He wanted sinners to repent. Ezra pointed this out: “Jehovah the God of their forefathers kept sending against them by means of his messengers, sending again and again, because he felt compassion for his people and for his dwelling.”—2 Chron. 36:15; read Jeremiah 26:3, 12, 13.
4. How did Jeremiah feel about the message he delivered?
4 Like Jehovah, Jeremiah felt compassion for his people. You can see that from what he said before Jerusalem’s fall. He was deeply perturbed by that looming disaster. This was a catastrophe that could be averted if only the people would listen to and obey the message Jeremiah bore! Try to imagine Jeremiah’s emotions as he delivered God’s message. “O my intestines, my intestines!” he cried. “I am in severe pains in the walls of my heart. My heart is boisterous within me. I cannot keep silent, for the sound of the horn is what my soul has heard, the alarm signal of war.” (Jer. 4:19) He simply could not keep quiet about the approaching calamity.
HOW COULD HE BE SO SURE?
5. Why was Jeremiah confident about the message he preached?
5 Why could Jeremiah be confident that what he prophesied would occur? (Jer. 1:17; 7:30; 9:22) He was a man of faith who had studied the Scriptures and knew that Jehovah is the God of true prophecy. History testified to Jehovah’s ability to foretell events that seemed impossible from a human standpoint, such as the liberation of Israel from bondage in Egypt. Jeremiah was familiar with the Exodus account and with the words of one eyewitness. Joshua had reminded fellow Israelites: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.”—Josh. 23:14.
6, 7. (a) Why should you be interested in Jeremiah’s prophetic declarations? (b) What will help you to be confident about the message you preach?
6 Why should you continue to give attention to the prophecies Jeremiah presented? First, because he had justifiable confidence in the reliability of Jehovah’s words. Second, because some of God’s pronouncements through Jeremiah are now being fulfilled, and you will yet see the fulfillment of others. Third, because the sheer number of announcements that Jeremiah made in God’s name, as well as the vigor with which he made them, marked him as an extraordinary servant of God. “Even in the company of the prophets, Jeremiah towers as a giant,” notes one scholar. Jeremiah was recognized as such a powerful figure in God’s dealings with His people that when Jesus was speaking, some who heard him believed that he must be Jeremiah.—Matt. 16:13, 14.
7 Like Jeremiah, you live at a time when crucial Bible prophecies are being fulfilled. And like Jeremiah, you need to maintain confidence in the truthfulness of God’s promises. (2 Pet. 3:9-14) How can you do that? By continuing to build your trust in the absolute reliability of God’s prophetic Word. To that end, in this chapter we will review a number of prophecies that Jeremiah transmitted and that he saw fulfilled. Others that we will consider were fulfilled later. And still others directly affect you now and will affect your future. Let this review strengthen your trust in Jehovah’s prophetic Word so that you become even more convinced that ‘he will do what he has in mind.’—Lam. 2:17.
Why did God commission prophets? Why do you trust the prophecies about impending destruction?
PROPHECIES JEREMIAH STATED AND SAW FULFILLED
8, 9. What is one way that the Bible is an outstanding book?
8 There are many who try to predict the future. Think of economists, politicians, spiritists, and weather forecasters. No doubt, you have seen the difficulty of making even simple predictions—what might happen in a few days or weeks—with any accuracy. But accurate prophecy is one of the Bible’s hallmarks. (Isa. 41:26; 42:9) All of Jeremiah’s prophecies, whether dealing with the near or the distant future, were unerring. Many of them concerned individuals and nations. Let us first consider a few that were fulfilled during Jeremiah’s lifetime.
9 Who today can predict what the world scene will be in a year or two? For example, what analyst of international affairs can accurately foretell whether there will be some realignment of governmental powers? By divine inspiration, however, Jeremiah foretold the expansion of Babylon’s sphere of influence. Babylon, he stated, was the “golden cup” by which Jehovah would pour out his indignation against Judah and against many nearby cities and peoples, forcing them into servitude. (Jer. 51:7) That is exactly what Jeremiah and his contemporaries witnessed.—Compare Jeremiah 25:15-29; 27:3-6; 46:13.
10. What did Jehovah foretell about four Judean kings?
10 Jehovah also used Jeremiah to indicate the fate of four Judean kings. Regarding Jehoahaz, or Shallum, a son of King Josiah, God foretold that he would be exiled and would never return to Judah. (Jer. 22:11, 12) That happened. (2 Ki. 23:31-34) God proclaimed that Jehoahaz’s successor, Jehoiakim, would be buried “with the burial of a he-ass.” (Jer. 22:18, 19; 36:30) The Bible does not specify how he died or what was done with his corpse, but it does show that his son Jehoiachin succeeded him during the siege. Jeremiah predicted that Jehoiachin (also known as Coniah and Jeconiah) would be exiled to Babylon and would die there. (Jer. 22:24-27; 24:1) That came to pass. What of the last king, Zedekiah? Jeremiah foretold that Zedekiah would be given into the hands of enemies, who would show no compassion. (Jer. 21:1-10) What occurred? Those enemies did capture him. They slaughtered his young sons before his eyes, blinded him, and took him to Babylon, where he died. (Jer. 52:8-11) Yes, all these prophecies came true.
11. Who was Hananiah, and what did Jehovah foretell about him?
11 We read in Jeremiah chapter 28 that during Zedekiah’s reign, the false prophet Hananiah contradicted Jehovah’s pronouncement through Jeremiah about Babylonian dominion over Jerusalem. Ignoring God’s word, Hananiah claimed that the yoke bar of slavery that Nebuchadnezzar imposed upon Judah and other nations would be broken. However, under Jehovah’s direction, Jeremiah exposed Hananiah’s falsehood, reiterated that many nations would have to serve the Babylonians, and told the false prophet that he would be dead within the year. And thus it proved to be.—Read Jeremiah 28:10-17.
12. How did most of Jeremiah’s contemporaries react to his main prophetic message?
12 Of course, the central prophetic message that God gave to Jeremiah concerned the downfall of Jerusalem itself. Time and again, Jeremiah warned that the city would be overthrown unless the Jews repented of their idolatry, injustice, and violence. (Jer. 4:1; 16:18; 19:3-5, 15) Many of Jeremiah’s contemporaries thought that Jehovah would never do such a thing. God’s temple stood in Jerusalem. How could he allow that holy place to be destroyed? It would never happen, they thought. Yet, you know that Jehovah does not lie. He did what he had in mind.—Jer. 52:12-14.
13. (a) How is our day similar to that of Jeremiah? (b) Why should promises that God made to certain individuals in Jeremiah’s time interest you?
13 God’s people today find themselves in a situation comparable to that of those loyal to Jehovah in Jeremiah’s day. We know that Jehovah will soon bring calamity on all who refuse to heed his warnings. Still, we can take heart from his prophetic promises, as did those Jews who held to pure worship in Jeremiah’s time. Because of the Rechabites’ faithfulness to Jehovah and to the commands of their forefather, God said that they would survive Jerusalem’s fall. They did. The later mention of “Malchijah the son of Rechab,” who helped repair Jerusalem during Nehemiah’s governorship, may give evidence of that. (Neh. 3:14; Jer. 35:18, 19) Jehovah assured Ebed-melech that he too would survive because he trusted in God and supported Jeremiah. (Jer. 38:11-13; 39:15-18) Likewise, God promised that Jeremiah’s companion Baruch would receive his “soul as a spoil.” (Jer. 45:1, 5) What conclusion do you reach from the outworking of these prophecies? How do you think Jehovah will deal with you if you are faithful?—Read 2 Peter 2:9.
How did the reliability of God’s prophecies affect Ebed-melech, Baruch, and the Rechabites? How do you feel about such prophecies?
PROPHECIES FULFILLED LATER
14. Why was God’s prophecy about Babylon outstanding?
14 God foretold that Nebuchadnezzar would conquer not only Judah but also Egypt. (Jer. 25:17-19) That must have seemed most unlikely because Egypt was so powerful, even dominating Judah. (2 Ki. 23:29-35) After Jerusalem’s fall, a remnant of Jews planned to leave their land to find safety and security in Egypt. They wanted to do that despite Jehovah’s having warned them not to and his saying that he would bless them if they remained in Judah. If, on the other hand, they fled to Egypt, the sword that they feared would catch up with them there. (Jer. 42:10-16; 44:30) Whether Jeremiah saw the Babylonian invasion of Egypt is not stated in his writings. What is certain is that the fulfillment of Jehovah’s prophecies overtook the Israelite refugees when the Babylonians conquered Egypt early in the sixth century B.C.E.—Jer. 43:8-13.
15, 16. How was God’s word regarding the liberation of his people realized?
15 Jeremiah also prophesied about the end of Egypt’s conqueror, Babylon itself. A century before it occurred, Jeremiah accurately predicted the sudden fall of Babylon. How? God’s prophet foretold that her protective waters would be “dried up,” and her mighty men would not fight. (Jer. 50:38; 51:30) These prophecies were fulfilled in detail when the Medes and the Persians diverted the Euphrates River, waded across its bed, and then entered the city, taking the Babylonians by surprise. You would likely consider equally significant the declaration that the city would become an uninhabited wasteland. (Jer. 50:39; 51:26) To this day, the desolate condition of once-mighty Babylon testifies to the accuracy of divine prophecy.
16 Jehovah proclaimed through Jeremiah that the Jews would serve the Babylonians for 70 years. Then God would bring his people back to their land. (Read Jeremiah 25:8-11; 29:10.) Daniel had full confidence in this prophecy, and he used it to determine when “the devastations of Jerusalem” would end. (Dan. 9:2) “That Jehovah’s word from the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished,” stated Ezra, “Jehovah roused the spirit of Cyrus the king of Persia,” who had conquered Babylon, to restore the Jews to their land. (Ezra 1:1-4) The returnees could thereafter exult in the peace of their homeland and restore pure worship there, as Jeremiah had foretold.—Jer. 30:8-10; 31:3, 11, 12; 32:37.
17. Explain how Jeremiah’s words about “weeping” at Ramah may refer to two distinct occasions.
17 Jeremiah also recorded prophecies that find fulfillment far in the future. He stated: “This is what Jehovah has said, ‘In Ramah a voice is being heard, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping over her sons. She has refused to be comforted over her sons, because they are no more.’” (Jer. 31:15) It appears that captive Jews assembled in the city of Ramah, some five miles (8 km) north of Jerusalem, after its devastation in 607 B.C.E. Some prisoners may even have been executed at Ramah. That may have occasioned an initial fulfillment, as if it were Rachel weeping over the loss of her “sons.” More than six centuries later, though, King Herod had infants of Bethlehem slaughtered. Gospel writer Matthew explained that Jeremiah’s words foretold the bitter reaction to that massacre.—Matt. 2:16-18.
18. How was God’s prophecy concerning Edom fulfilled?
18 Another prophecy was also fulfilled in the first century C.E. God foretold through Jeremiah that Edom was among the nations that would suffer from the Babylonian invasion. (Jer. 25:15-17, 21; 27:1-7) But the divine word went beyond that. Edom would become like Sodom and Gomorrah. You know what that meant—uninhabited for all time, ceasing to exist. (Jer. 49:7-10, 17, 18) That is exactly what happened. Where do you think the names Edom and Edomites can be found today? On any modern maps? No. They are mainly found in books of ancient and Bible history or on maps reflecting that time. Flavius Josephus recounts that the Edomites were forced to accept Judaism in the second century B.C.E. Thereafter, with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., they ceased to exist as a distinct people.
19. What does the book of Jeremiah reveal as to God’s ability to fulfill prophecy?
19 As you can see, chapter after chapter of the book of Jeremiah is packed with prophecies concerning individuals and nations. The majority of these prophecies have already been fulfilled. This reality alone makes the book worth your attention and study because it confirms for you something about your great God. Jehovah has done what he had in mind, and he will yet do so. (Read Isaiah 46:9-11.) This can strengthen your confidence in what the Bible foretells. In fact, some prophecies Jeremiah recorded have fulfillments that directly affect you and your future. Let us examine some of these in the remaining section of this chapter.
What are some prophecies that were fulfilled after Jeremiah’s death, and why are these important to you?
PROPHECIES THAT AFFECT YOU
20-22. Why may it be said that Bible prophecies, including some in the book of Jeremiah, have more than one fulfillment? Illustrate.
20 A Bible prophecy may have more than one fulfillment. That is true of the answer Jesus gave to his disciples’ question about the sign of his “presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 24:3) There was a fulfillment in the years 66 to 70 C.E. It is evident, however, that in certain respects that prophecy will yet be fulfilled during the “great tribulation” to come on this entire wicked system. That will be a tribulation “such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:21) Similar parallels exist in the prophecies recorded by Jeremiah. Some of these had an initial fulfillment that occurred in 607 B.C.E. but a secondary fulfillment that would occur much later, as we noted in connection with “Rachel weeping over her sons.” (Jer. 31:15) Indeed, some of what Jeremiah foretold refers to the time in which you live, and the fulfillment affects you personally.
21 You can see that from the book of Revelation. Under inspiration, the apostle John referred back to prophecies that Jeremiah had given concerning the end of Babylon in 539 B.C.E. We find in Revelation parallels between that earlier event and what is destined to occur on a larger scale. Among the prophecies spoken by Jeremiah and fulfilled in modern times was one about the fall of a great empire—the world empire of false religion, “Babylon the Great.” (Rev. 14:8; 17:1, 2, 5; Jer. 50:2; 51:8) God’s people would have to “get out of her” so as not to share her fate. (Rev. 18:2, 4; Jer. 51:6) The waters of that city, symbolizing her peoples, or adherents, would “dry up.”—Jer. 51:36; Rev. 16:12.
22 Still to be fulfilled in our future is the promise that God will execute vengeance on false religion for her ill-treatment of his people. Jehovah will “pay back to her according to . . . all that she has done.” (Jer. 50:29; 51:9; Rev. 18:6) And the figurative lands of false religion must become a desolate waste.—Jer. 50:39, 40.
23. What spiritual restoration, foretold by Jeremiah, took place in the 20th century?
23 As you may have already noted, the prophecies that Jeremiah presented also have an optimistic tone. Accordingly, he foretold a restoration of true worship on earth in modern times. The release of Jewish captives from the ancient city of Babylon found a parallel in the release of God’s modern-day people from Babylon the Great after the Kingdom was established in heaven. In a spiritual sense, Jehovah restored his people to pure worship, their state being marked by thanksgiving and rejoicing. He has blessed their efforts to help others come to worship him and to be richly fed spiritually. (Read Jeremiah 30:18, 19.) You also know from personal experience how in modern times Jehovah has fulfilled his promise to provide his people with shepherds—spiritually mature men who really care for and protect the flock.—Jer. 3:15; 23:3, 4.
24. What dramatic words of Jeremiah are yet to be fulfilled?
24 Jeremiah’s words to God’s ancient people balanced a promise of better things for the faithful with a warning of destruction for those not holding to their relationship with Jehovah. It is similar today. We can hardly fail to see the urgency of the warning implicit in these words: “Those slain by Jehovah will certainly come to be in that day from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth. They will not be bewailed, neither will they be gathered up or be buried. As manure on the surface of the ground they will become.”—Jer. 25:33.
25. God’s people today have what responsibility?
25 Yes, like Jeremiah, we live in critical times. As in his day, people’s reaction to Jehovah’s message can mean life or death. God’s people today are not prophets. We are not inspired to add to Jehovah’s infallible words of truth found in the Bible. Still, we have been commissioned to preach the good news of the Kingdom all the days until the end of the system of things. (Matt. 28:19, 20) We certainly do not want to ‘steal away Jehovah’s words’ by concealing from people what is about to happen. (Read Jeremiah 23:30.) We are determined not to take away from his words their force and effect. Many prophecies that God had Jeremiah proclaim have already been fulfilled. This assures us that those remaining to be fulfilled are absolutely trustworthy. We must tell people that God will unfailingly do ‘what he has in mind and what he commanded from the days of long ago.’—Lam. 2:17.
26. What further prophecy remains to be considered?
26 No consideration of Jeremiah’s prophetic activity and message would be complete without giving attention to Jehovah’s grand promises of “a new covenant” with his people, the laws of which he would write in their heart. (Jer. 31:31-33) This prophecy and its fulfillment, which have a direct bearing on you, are the subject of the following chapter.
What prophecies in the book of Jeremiah have been fulfilled in modern times? How do you feel about those remaining to be fulfilled?