Jeremiah Magnifies Jehovah’s Justice
YOUNG Jeremiah was of a priestly family and lived in the village of Anathoth, just a few miles north of Jerusalem. He received his prophetic commission when, because of the great wickedness of his countrymen, it was God’s time to uproot, to kill and to break down, with resultant weeping.—Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-4.
As a consequence, much of the book bearing Jeremiah’s name is in the form of warning and censure, thus highlighting Jehovah’s attribute of justice. Because of this there has been coined the term “jeremiad,” defined as “a lamenting and denunciatory complaint.” But such a term does not accurately describe the book of Jeremiah, which also tells us of Jehovah’s other attributes, his wisdom, power and love.
The book of Jeremiah is the largest book in the Bible aside from the book of Psalms. It deals almost entirely with incidents that occurred and prophecies that were uttered during the last forty years of the kingdom of Judah. Those forty years took in the last eighteen years of the reign of the good king Josiah and the wicked reigns of Jehoahaz (three months); Jehoiakim (eleven years); Jehoiachin (three months) and Zedekiah, who reigned for eleven years.
Because the book of Jeremiah contains, in addition to inspired prophetic utterances, many historical events, particularly those involving Jeremiah himself, we know more about Jeremiah than about any other Hebrew prophet except Moses. Jeremiah tells of the prophetic actions he was commanded to take, the persecutions he endured and his feelings about the way he was being treated.
His book, however, is not written in a progressive, historical way. This could be because Jeremiah had his secretary write this record during the latter part of Jeremiah’s prophetic career. Upon King Jehoiakim’s destroying this scroll, Jeremiah dictated another, which he apparently edited later, adding further material at that time.—Jer. 36:32.
It appears that Jeremiah was a modest young man. When commissioned by Jehovah, he replied: “Alas, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah! Here I actually do not know how to speak, for I am but a boy.” Jehovah did not accept Jeremiah’s excuse, but told him: “Do not say, ‘I am but a boy.’ But to all those to whom I shall send you, you should go; and everything that I shall command you, you should speak. Do not be afraid because of their faces, for ‘I am with you to deliver you.’”—Jer. 1:4-8.
In view of the kind of people to whom he was being sent and the nature of his message, Jeremiah needed further reassurance. And Jehovah gave him such, adding: “I have made you today a fortified city and an iron pillar and copper walls . . . They will be certain to fight against you, but they will not prevail against you.”—Jer. 1:18, 19.
How much Jeremiah needed such assurance! His book tells that on one occasion his message so irritated his listeners that he was struck and put in stocks overnight. On another occasion the priests and the false prophets were so infuriated at the tenor of Jeremiah’s prophesying that they clamored for his death. He would have been killed had not the royal princes and older men intervened on his behalf. And shortly before the city of Jerusalem fell, his message so displeased his hearers that they threw him into a miry dungeon. Had not a palace eunuch interceded with King Zedekiah on his behalf it would have meant certain death for him.—Jer. 20:2, 3; 26:8-11, 16-24; 38:1-13.
How did Jeremiah react to all such treatment? True, at times he felt so discouraged that he cursed the day he was born. He tried to stop speaking, but he could not. God’s Word within him was like a fire in his bones and he just could not keep silent. As unpopular as his message was, he had to speak it out.—Jer. 20:1-9, 14-18.
Despite occasional discouragement, Jeremiah managed to maintain an unwavering course, not letting fear dominate him. He never compromised. When his enemies threatened to kill him, he stood his ground, saying: “It was Jehovah that sent me to prophesy . . . all the words that you have heard. . . . As for me, here I am in your hand. Do to me according to what is good and according to what is right in your eyes. Only you should by all means know that, if you are putting me to death, it is innocent blood that you are putting upon yourselves . . . for in truth Jehovah did send me to you to speak in your ears all these words.”—Jer. 26:12-15.
CENSURE AND WARNINGS
Jeremiah never let his hearers forget that he was speaking, not his own message, but Jehovah’s. Jehovah’s name appears in his book upward of 700 times. Over 150 times he told them that this is ‘what Jehovah has said.’ And well over seventy times he reminded them that these ‘are the words of Jehovah.’
Chapters two through twenty record nine proclamations he made, mostly during the reign of King Josiah. His people committed two sins: They forsook Jehovah, “the source of living water,” and they hewed out for themselves “cisterns, broken cisterns, that cannot contain the water.” (Jer. 2:13) Yes, “an appalling thing, an outrage, has appeared in this land: prophets prophesy lies and priests go hand in hand with them, and my people love to have it so.” Notoriously and wantonly they were breaking God’s commandments: “You steal, you murder, you commit adultery and perjury, . . . you run after other gods.”—Jer. 5:30, 31; 7:9, New English Bible.
Included in those pronouncements are some of the best-known verses of the book: “The wise ones have become ashamed. They have become terrified and will be caught. Look! They have rejected the very word of Jehovah, and what wisdom do they have?” None! (Jer. 8:9) “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom nor the valiant of his valour; let not the rich man boast of his riches; but if any man would boast, let him boast of this, that he understands and knows me. For I am [Jehovah], I show unfailing love, I do justice and right upon the earth.”—Jer. 9:23, 24, NE.
The next twelve chapters deal largely with special prophecies of judgment. Then the last four kings of Judah are singled out for censure, and judgment is pronounced on the religious leaders, the priests, the prophets and the shepherds. Chapter 25 tells of Jehovah’s controversy with the nations and that they will all come under the power of the king of Babylon and serve him seventy years.
Jeremiah told not only of Jehovah’s judgments but also of Jehovah’s restoring his people again to their own land. (Chapters 30-33) Jehovah would make a new covenant with his people, and Jerusalem would be healed. Just before the end, Jeremiah was told to buy a piece of land as a sign that Judah would again be restored and teem with men and domestic animals.
The remaining chapters of Jeremiah record further prophecies and tell of events taking place during Jerusalem’s last days. A Babylonian siege temporarily lifted is resumed, the king of Judah is taken captive and the city burned to the ground. A governor appointed to rule those that remain is assassinated and so the remaining ones flee to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them. While there Jeremiah prophesies against such nations as Ammon, Moab, Edom and particularly against Babylon. She and her gods will go into captivity. The last chapter 52 gives the details of the fall of Jerusalem.
A TRUE PROPHET
Jeremiah was indeed a true prophet. He spoke in Jehovah’s name. He pleaded with the people to repent and turn to Jehovah. And his words came true. In fact, he himself saw many of his prophecies fulfilled. Among these things foretold were the death of the false prophet Hananiah within a year, the captivity of Zedekiah and the destruction of Jerusalem.—Jer. 28:15-17; 21:3-10; 39:6-9.
Jeremiah accurately foretold the return of the Jews after seventy years. (Jer. 29:10; Dan. 9:2) He also prophesied about the making of a new covenant. Later, God made this with a spiritual Israel, Jesus Christ being the Mediator. (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:6-13) Likewise many of Jeremiah’s prophecies against ancient pagan nations were fulfilled, particularly those directed against Babylon. These find their parallel in the book of Revelation where they are directed against “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion.—Jer. 51:6-8; Rev. 18:2-8.
MAGNIFIES JEHOVAH’S GREATNESS
The book of Jeremiah magnifies Jehovah as the true God, the King to time indefinite. (Jer. 10:10) It reminds us that Jehovah is the “Maker of the earth by his power, the One firmly establishing the productive land by his wisdom, and the One who by his understanding stretched out the heavens.” (Jer. 10:12; 51:15, 19) Jehovah, “the God of all flesh,” indeed could ask, “Is anything impossible for me?”—Jer. 32:27, NE.
In perusing the book of Jeremiah we should not overlook Jehovah’s qualities of love, mercy, compassion and long-suffering. How long He put up with His wayward people! Jehovah “kept sending against them by means of his messengers, sending again and again, because he felt compassion for his people . . . But they were . . . despising his words and mocking at his prophets, until the rage of Jehovah came up against his people, until there was no healing.” (2 Chron. 36:15, 16) In spite of all of this Jehovah could say to them: “With a love to time indefinite I have loved you. That is why I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Yet shall I rebuild you.”—Jer. 31:3, 4.
Recognizing Jehovah’s great qualities and our own sinful tendencies, we do well to take to heart the word he had Jeremiah record: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it? I, Jehovah, am searching the heart, examining the kidneys [deepest emotions], even to give to each one according to his ways.” May our “ways” be such that Jehovah can give us blessings!—Jer. 17:9, 10.