Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Jeremiah
HOW shocking the catastrophes that Jeremiah proclaimed to his own people must have sounded! The glorious temple that had been a center of worship for over three centuries would be burned to the ground. The city of Jerusalem and the land of Judah would lie desolate, their inhabitants taken captive. A record of these and other judgment proclamations appears in the second-largest book of the Bible, the book of Jeremiah. It also relates what Jeremiah personally experienced as he faithfully carried out his 67-year-long ministry. The information in the book is presented, not in chronological order, but by subject.
Why is the Bible book of Jeremiah of interest to us? Its fulfilled prophecies fortify our faith in Jehovah as the Fulfiller of his promises. (Isaiah 55:10, 11) Jeremiah’s work as a prophet and the attitude of the people toward his message find parallels in our day. (1 Corinthians 10:11) Moreover, the record of how Jehovah dealt with his people highlights his qualities and should have a profound effect on us.—Hebrews 4:12.
“TWO BAD THINGS THAT MY PEOPLE HAVE DONE”
Jeremiah is commissioned as a prophet in the 13th year of the reign of Josiah, the king of Judah, 40 years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. (Jeremiah 1:1, 2) Proclamations made mostly during the remaining 18 years of Josiah’s reign expose Judah’s badness and pronounce Jehovah’s judgments against her. “I will make Jerusalem piles of stones,” declares Jehovah, “and the cities of Judah I shall make a desolate waste, without an inhabitant.” (Jeremiah 9:11) Why? “Because there are two bad things that my people have done,” he says.—Jeremiah 2:13.
The message is also about the restoration of a repentant remnant. (Jeremiah 3:14-18; 12:14, 15; 16:14-21) The messenger, though, is not well-received. “The leading commissioner in the house of Jehovah” strikes Jeremiah and puts him in stocks overnight.—Jeremiah 20:1-3.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:11, 12—Why is Jehovah’s keeping awake concerning his word associated with “an offshoot of an almond tree”? The almond tree is “one of the first trees to bloom in the spring.” (Verse 11, footnote) Jehovah figuratively kept “getting up early and sending [his prophets]” to warn his people about his judgments and was “keeping awake” until their fulfillment.—Jeremiah 7:25.
2:10, 11—What made the deeds of the unfaithful Israelites so unusual? While pagan nations westward to Kittim and eastward to Kedar might bring in deities of other nations to add to their own, the idea of totally replacing their gods with foreign ones was unheard of. However, the Israelites abandoned Jehovah, exchanging the glory of the living God for lifeless idols.
3:11-22; 11:10-12, 17—Why did Jeremiah include the northern ten-tribe kingdom in his pronouncements, even though Samaria had fallen in 740 B.C.E.? This was because the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. was an expression of Jehovah’s judgment on the entire nation of Israel, not on Judah alone. (Ezekiel 9:9, 10) Moreover, after its fall, the interests of the ten-tribe kingdom continued to be represented in Jerusalem, since the messages of God’s prophets continued to include the Israelites.
4:3, 4—What is the meaning of this command? Unfaithful Jews needed to prepare, soften, and cleanse the soil of their hearts. They had to remove “the foreskins” of their hearts, that is, get rid of unclean thoughts, feelings, and motives. (Jeremiah 9:25, 26; Acts 7:51) This called for a change in lifestyle—from carrying on what was bad to doing what brought God’s blessing.
4:10; 15:18—In what sense did Jehovah deceive his renegade people? In Jeremiah’s day, there were prophets ‘prophesying in falsehood.’ (Jeremiah 5:31; 20:6; 23:16, 17, 25-28, 32) Jehovah did not prevent them from proclaiming misleading messages.
16:16—What is implied by Jehovah’s “sending for many fishers” and “for many hunters”? This may refer to the sending forth of enemy forces to look for unfaithful Jews upon whom Jehovah would execute his judgment. In view of what Jeremiah 16:15 states, however, the verse could also allude to the searching out of the repentant Israelites.
20:7—In what way did Jehovah ‘use his strength’ against Jeremiah and fool him? Because of facing indifference, rejection, and persecution when declaring Jehovah’s judgments, Jeremiah might have felt that he did not have the strength to continue. However, Jehovah used his strength against such inclinations, empowering Jeremiah to continue. Jehovah thus fooled Jeremiah by using him to accomplish what the prophet himself thought he could not do.
Lessons for Us:
1:8. Jehovah may at times deliver his people from persecution—perhaps by raising up fair-minded judges, by replacing hostile officials with reasonable ones, or by imparting to his worshippers the strength to endure.—1 Corinthians 10:13.
2:13, 18. Unfaithful Israelites did two bad things. They left Jehovah, the sure source of blessing, guidance, and protection. And they hewed out for themselves their own figurative cisterns by seeking to make military alliances with Egypt and Assyria. In our time, to abandon the true God in favor of human philosophies and theories and worldly politics is to replace “the source of living water” with “broken cisterns.”
6:16. Jehovah exhorts his rebellious people to pause, examine themselves, and find their way back to “the roadways” of their faithful ancestors. Should we not examine ourselves from time to time to see if we are really walking in the way Jehovah wants us to walk?
15:16, 17. Like Jeremiah, we can fight discouragement. We can do so by rejoicing in meaningful personal Bible study, by exalting Jehovah’s name in the ministry, and by avoiding bad associations.
17:1, 2. The sins of the people of Judah made their sacrifices displeasing to Jehovah. Moral uncleanness makes our sacrifices of praise unacceptable.
17:5-8. Humans and institutions are worthy of our trust only to the extent that they act in harmony with God’s will and divine principles. When it comes to such matters as salvation and genuine peace and security, we are wise to put our trust in Jehovah alone.—Psalm 146:3.
“BRING YOUR NECKS UNDER THE YOKE OF THE KING OF BABYLON”
Jeremiah pronounces judgments against the last four kings of Judah as well as against false prophets, bad shepherds, and corrupt priests. Referring to the faithful remnant as good figs, Jehovah says: “I will set my eye upon them in a good way.” (Jeremiah 24:5, 6) Three prophecies in chapter 25 summarize judgments expounded on in later chapters.
The priests and the prophets scheme to put Jeremiah to death. His message is that they must serve the king of Babylon. To King Zedekiah, Jeremiah says: “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon.” (Jeremiah 27:12) However, “the One scattering Israel will himself collect him [Israel] together.” (Jeremiah 31:10) For good reason, a promise is made to the Rechabites. Jeremiah is placed “in custody in the Courtyard of the Guard.” (Jeremiah 37:21) Jerusalem is destroyed, and most of its inhabitants are taken captive. Jeremiah and his secretary, Baruch, are among those left behind. Despite Jeremiah’s warning not to do so, those frightened people go to Egypt. Chapters 46 to 51 relate the word that Jeremiah speaks concerning the nations.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
22:30—Did this decree annul Jesus Christ’s right to ascend the throne of David? (Matthew 1:1, 11) No, it did not. The decree barred any descendant of Jehoiachin from “sitting upon the throne of David . . . in Judah.” Jesus was to rule from the heavens, not from a throne in Judah.
23:33—What is “the burden of Jehovah”? In Jeremiah’s day, the weighty pronouncements uttered by the prophet regarding Jerusalem’s destruction were a burden to his fellow countrymen. In turn, the unresponsive people were such a burden to Jehovah that he would cast them off. Similarly, the Scriptural message regarding the coming destruction of Christendom is a burden to Christendom, and the people who give no heed are wearisome to God.
31:33—How is God’s law written in hearts? When a person loves God’s law so much that he has a fervent desire to do Jehovah’s will, it can be said that God’s law is written in his heart.
32:10-15—What was the purpose of making two deeds of the same transaction? The deed left open was for consultation. The sealed deed served as a backup to verify the accuracy of the open one if needed. By following reasonable legal procedures even when dealing with a relative and fellow believer, Jeremiah set an example for us.
33:23, 24—What are “the two families” spoken of here? One is the royal family through the line of King David, and the other, the priestly family of the descendants of Aaron. With the destruction of Jerusalem and Jehovah’s temple, it appeared that Jehovah had rejected these two families and would no longer have a kingdom over the earth or have his worship revived.
46:22—Why is the voice of Egypt likened to that of a serpent? This may refer either to a hissing retreat or to the lowness of her national voice because of experiencing disaster. The analogy also shows how futile it was for Egyptian Pharaohs to wear a representation of the sacred snake on their headdress for supposed protection by the serpent-goddess Uatchit.
Lessons for Us:
31:34. How comforting it is to know that Jehovah does not recall the sins of those he forgives and take action against them in the future!
45:4, 5. As was the case during the last days of Judah, “the last days” of the present system of things is no time to seek “great things,” such as wealth, prominence, or material security.—2 Timothy 3:1; 1 John 2:17.
The year is 607 B.C.E. Zedekiah is in the 11th year of his kingship. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has laid siege against Jerusalem for the past 18 months. On the seventh day of the fifth month of the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuzaradan, the chief of the bodyguard, ‘comes to,’ or arrives at, Jerusalem. (2 Kings 25:8) Perhaps from his camp outside the city walls, Nebuzaradan surveys the situation and plans a course of action. Three days later, on the tenth of the month, he ‘comes into,’ or enters, Jerusalem. And he proceeds to set the city aflame.—Jeremiah 52:12, 13.
Jeremiah gives a detailed account of the fall of Jerusalem. His description thus provides a basis for laments, or dirges. These compositions appear in the Bible book of Lamentations.
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Jeremiah’s pronouncements included Jehovah’s judgment against Jerusalem
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How did Jehovah ‘use his strength’ against Jeremiah?
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“Like these good figs, so I shall regard the exiles of Judah.”—Jeremiah 24:5