I hadn’t given much thought to this previously, but Jeremiah prophesied during the time of the final five kings of Judah. Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin held the reigns for just three months each, so they don’t even rate a mention in Jeremiah 1:1-3.
In reading 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, I always had the impression that Josiah reigned over the southern kingdom much longer prior to its fall. From this perspective, though, I see that Josiah died in 609, and Jerusalem came to its final end in 587, just 22 years later. Much of the population of Jerusalem at the time of the fall would have remembered Josiah quite clearly. Look at it this way: 22 years ago today was 1995. Bill Clinton was president. Anyone remember him?
Ch. 1 presents a disturbing picture of Jeremiah’s call, in ways similar to both Moses and Samuel. Each was called to stand up against powerful ruling authorities. God Himself points out to Jeremiah how difficult his path will be, standing in opposition to “the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land.” Basically, everyone in his home country! God promises to protect Jeremiah against them, but that doesn’t negate the extreme emotional toll this call will take on the prophet.
God via Jeremiah directly calls the nation a whore. You can thank me now for not linking to a YouTube video of Frank Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia using that word over and over again.
I’ve gotten very familiar with Isaiah over the past six weeks. By the end there I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the kinds of things he was (or they were, as the case may be) saying, and could understand the context and the message reasonably well. Now switching gears into Jeremiah’s perspective I’m feeling somewhat off balance, like I should get this better than I am, but I just don’t. Of course, that’s why I’m reading these prophetic books in the first place, to get more familiar with them and gain some connection to what God is trying to say to me, to us, His people, through them. So I’ll just press on and see what comes as I move ahead!
As in Isaiah, the JSB and HarCol have quite a bit more commentary than the ESV Reformation Study Bible (RSB), and the comments of the former two have much more depth.
I’m starting to get a glimmer of the distinction between Isaiah and Jeremiah. While Isaiah regularly prophesied against the sins of Israel and Judah, he routinely saw the blessings of the Lord coming to pass. In the early days Isaiah son of Amoz firmly believed that Jerusalem would never fall, and indeed in his lifetime the holy city was spared from the invasion of Assyria, though the northern kingdom and much of Judah fell. The latter prophecies of Isaiah concerned the return of the people to Jerusalem, and while this did not always go as well as the prophet had hoped, at least the people were being gathered rather than scattered.
Jeremiah, on the other hand, prophesies almost entirely from a perspective of destruction. His earliest visions come during the reign of Josiah, a king of grand reforms during the collapse of the Assyrian empire. Josiah re-instituted the Passover, restored temple worship, and reclaimed land in the northern territories. Surely most of the priests and prophets saw this as God “making Israel great again.” Jeremiah, however, heard the word of the Lord saying just the opposite. The people and their leaders never turned wholly back to God, in spite of the heroic efforts of Josiah. The metaphor of the sisters Israel and Judah clearly describes the situation from God’s perspective, and the first lines of that story show that this message came during Josiah’s reforms!
So Jeremiah, throughout his life, prophesied against Israel’s and Judah’s sins, and never lived to see a day of restoration. He struggled his entire life under the shadow of God’s punishment of His people.