Jeremiah (7th-6thC BC-)

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We know more about Jeremiah than we know about the previously mentioned biblical prophets. Significant portions of the Book of Jeremiah refer directly to the sensitive political situation of Judah in the late seventh and early sixth centuries B.C. Like the other prophets, Jeremiah abhorred the sin and idolatry prevalent in the Judah of his day. Also like them, he predicted ruin for the kingdom and, more immediately, the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem if the people did not change their ways. He emphasized that such change would require individual commitment to and search for God rather than reliance on ritual attendance at the temple or the performance of physical rites such as circumcision. Because of the sins of the people, God intended for the Babylonian kings to rule over Judah, and nothing but failure could come from resistance. The Jews had to relearn obedience to heaven if they were to be restored to Yahweh's favor. These prophecies placed Jeremiah against two powerful groups: the party that favored alliance with Egypt and the party that sought independence (sometimes one and the same, depending on how close were the ties with Egypt advocated by each faction).

Jeremiah's was the most pragmatic and prudent policy, as revealed by history, but he suffered for his position nonetheless. Babylonia under Nebuchadnezzar consistently defeated Judah's efforts to become independent and was more than capable of repelling the tired efforts of a now exhausted Egypt. All that Judah got for its efforts was the deposition of its kings and more stringent controls. Ironically, to escape reprisals from his adversaries, Jeremiah was taken by his followers to Egypt, where it is said that his continuing assertions in favor of Babylon led his own men to stone him to death sometime around 570 B.C.

Many have seen in Jeremiah the clearest early expression of "personal religion," in which each individual is enjoined to come to terms with the Almighty. He predicted that God would form a new covenant with his people once the Jews accepted God's will again, and further, that this new covenant would be written on their hearts so that "they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."1




[1] Jeremiah 31:34


The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.

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