“The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah as well. All their captors hold them fast, refusing to let them go. Yet their Redeemer is strong; the Lord Almighty is His Name.” Jeremiah 50:33-34
What’s Going On?
Last week ended with a description of the Fall of Jerusalem and left Jeremiah in chains and in the care of a Babylonian guard. It’s interesting that the Hebrew people seemed to prefer the words of the false prophets over Jeremiahs, but this Babylonian starts off chapter 40 with a surprising statement that he knew that what was going on had been decreed by Jeremiah’s God and then sets him free. He stays for a while with Gedaliah just outside Jerusalem. When Gedeliah is killed, Jeremiah goes to Egypt with the other Jews where tradition holds that they turned against him and stoned him to death.
The word of the Lord as spoken through Jeremiah ends at chapter 51 and it’s fitting that it is filled with hope. I counted 42 phrases where the Lord promises “I will….” and it is clear that the story of His people is far from over. In chapter 52, as in chapter 39 and 2 Kings 24-25, the account of the Fall of Jerusalem is again given in heart wrenching detail as only someone who had experienced it first-hand could give. This week’s reading is not in chronological order but seems to be grouped in subtopics of similar form and structure. Zedekiah came before Gedaliah, but the two stories aren’t in order here.
While the book of Jeremiah consists mainly of the words of God, Lamentations is man’s response. The book of Lamentations is a book of “laments” which are just sad songs. In fact, most of the books in this section of The Prophets are all sad songs in a way. This book was probably written by Jeremiah which is why it is included here. Jeremiah would certainly have been sad about what he had seen and experienced and this book can be read as a book of poetry, not unlike the books in The Writings. There is a structure and a pattern to the way the book is written and although obvious in the English translation, it was even more so in Hebrew. In fact, in Hebrew the book is made up of a series of acrostics that correspond with the Hebrew alphabet. The theme of the book: Israel blew it and deserved what it got. Maybe it can serve as a reminder that God is at work and in this case, there is honest and earnest heartache for the actions that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the hope is that a lesson might be learned from it.
When and Where Are We?
Most of Jeremiah’s adult life was spent in and around Jerusalem. In this week’s reading we’ll see him imprisoned for a while when most of the Jews were taken away and dispersed throughout the Babylonian kingdom – or killed. There were three waves of deportations: 605, 597, and the final wave in 586 BC when Jerusalem finally fell to the Babylonians. Jeremiah and Baruch then go with many of the remaining Jews to Egypt where his story comes to an end. Again, the chapters are not in chronological order but clues can be found within the order of the kings of Judah. (Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah – then Gedeliah rules before Jehoiachin is released and honored)
- Zedekiah – the last of the kings in Judah but really a puppet to the king of Babylon. When he was captured trying to leave Jerusalem, he was forced to watch his children die, blinded, and carried away.
- Gedaliah – a governor left behind in Judah to watch over those who stayed behind in Jerusalem.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
Weekly Reading Assignment:
- Monday: Jeremiah 40-43
- Tuesday: Jeremiah 44-46
- Wednesday: Jeremiah 47-49
- Thursday: Jeremiah 50-52
- Friday: Lamentations 1-5