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Form 3 CRE Notes On Jeremiah
Grade/Class: Form 3
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TOPIC 5: JEREMIAH
BACKGROUND TO PROPHET JEREMIAH
- Jeremiah was called by God when the kingdom of Judah was politically unstable.
- Socially there was moral decay as the people of Judah did not observe the laws of the covenant.
- Religiously the people had taken God’s worship for granted and were not sincere in worship.
(a) Political background
Jeremiah prophesied for a period of 40 years during the reigns of 5 kings of Judah from 626-587 BC. These kings were:
-Josiah 639-609 BCE
-Jehoahaz for 3 months in 609 BCE
- Jehoaichim 609-597 BCE.
- Jehoaichin for 3 months in 597 BCE.
- Zedekiah 597-587 BCE (Josiah’s youngest son).
- Jeremiah began his ministry in the 13th year of King Josiah in 626 BC. At this time Assyria was a super power in the region. They had conquered the Northern Kingdom in 721 BC and remained a threat to Judah.
- 14 years later after he began his prophecy, the Assyrian empire finally collapsed when Nineveh the capital city was destroyed by the Babylonians.
- In 609 BC Judah fought Egypt; Josiah was killed when an Egyptian army marched through Judah. His son Jehoahaz ruled for three months as a puppet of the Egyptians.
-He had been installed by the Egyptian king for the purpose of collecting taxes on behalf of the Egyptians. However he did not meet the Egyptians expectations and was therefore replaced by his brother Jehoiakim.
- For several years, Judah was controlled by Egypt for Egypt was gaining greater power in the Middle East.
- In 605 BC, Egypt was defeated by Babylon which was under king Nebuchadnezzar. Consequently Judah came under Babylon.
- In 597 BC Babylon invaded Judah and destroyed her in 587 BC.
- Jeremiah prophesied during this time of political instability due to weak rulers.
- He went on with his prophecy even after the destruction of Judah and the temple and during the exile period.
- Jeremiah was the last of the Major Prophets in Judah before the destruction of Judah (Southern Kingdom) by Babylonians.
- In 587 BC the city of Jerusalem was destroyed thus bringing the end to the kingdom of Judah.
- Judah experienced political instability because of not heeding Jeremiah’s warning against political alliances with foreign nations.
- Jeremiah found that the people of Judah had forgotten the covenant way of life.
- They did not live as brothers and sisters as stipulated in the Mosaic Law.
- The people were morally corrupt and this promoted idolatry.
- Fifty years later, Jeremiah noted that the situation had become worse.
- Jeremiah identified the following social evils:
- Orphans, widows and the innocent were oppressed and denied their rights.
- People used dishonest means of acquiring wealth.
- They committed adultery.
- They murdered innocent people.
- They stole and told lies e.g. priests and false prophets cheated people that all was well when it was not the case, this misleading them.
- Rulers had failed to lead the people to the covenant way of life and therefore led them astray.
- Sexual immorality was rampant.
- Bribery and corruption was widely practiced especially in the law courts.
During the time of Jeremiah religious situation in Judah had deteriorated e.g. 42
1. The worship of idols was widespread. Idols were found everywhere including in the temple of Jerusalem. The people of Judah were influenced by their neighboring countries who worshipped idols like: Baal, Asherah, Molech, Chemish and the sun and moon gods.
- Some kings like Manasseh and Solomon married foreign wives and instituted idol worship as an official religion.
-Idol worship continued until the time of King Josiah who introduced religious reforms in Judah. These reforms were supported by Jeremiah.
- Josiah’s reforms did not succeed in changing the hearts of the people.
- They stopped worshipping Canaanite gods in public but continued to worship them in private. The people of Judah continued to worship Yahweh alongside pagan gods.
2. They practiced religious hypocrisy by stressing on outward observances like sacrifices.
3. The people offered human sacrifices which was an abuse to the sacredness of life.
4. There were false prophets who preached peace when there was no peace.
5. Divination and magic were practiced.
6. Worship was centered in the temple of Jerusalem.
7. King Josiah’s attempt to carry out reforms had failed.
PERSONAL LIFE AND THE CALLOF JEREMIAH
Personal life of Jeremiah
Jeremiah was born in a small village of Anathoth near Jerusalem.
Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, descended from a priestly family but he was not a priest.
- He had deep knowledge of the history, Law of Moses and the teachings of earlier prophets.
- He was very patriotic to his people whom he did not want to suffer God’s punishment.
- He was called by God to be a prophet while he was still a young man.
- He was commanded by God not to marry or participate in social functions.
- His message was mainly on the restoration of the covenant way of life through repentance of sins.
- Jeremiah suffered rejection and opposition from his people.
- After the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile, Jeremiah and a few Jews fled to Egypt for refuge.
- Jeremiah had a scribe called Baruch who recorded his teachings and prophecies on the scroll.
- In his prophetic ministry he faced stiff opposition from his people.
- He was persecuted, imprisoned and even abducted.
- Despite these difficulties he persevered with his prophetic task.
- God encouraged and gave him strength to face the challenges until the 11th year of the reign of King Zedekiah when the people of Jerusalem were taken to exile.
- He preached against evils in society and prophesied about the coming punishment.
- His message also contained hope and the future restoration of people of Judah after exile.
- When Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 587 BCE, Jeremiah remained in Palestine but later fled to Egypt, Jeremiah probably died in Egypt.
The call of Jeremiah
-Jeremiah received his call as a young man.
- Jeremiah’s call is presented in the form of a dialogue.
- God told Jeremiah that he had appointed him as a prophet to the nations before he was born. (Jer. 1:5).
- Jeremiah was reluctant/hesitant and said he did not know how to speak because he was young.
- He was forewarned about the hostility he would encounter in his prophetic mission.
- However, God told him not to fear for he would be with him to protect him. Vs. 8.
- God touched Jeremiah’s mouth and put words in him. Vs. 9.
- God was the source of the message Jeremiah was to deliver.
This message was:
“To uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. Jer. 1:10”
-From these words God would pass judgment on the nation of Judah and other nations.
-The judgment would come to the people of Judah because of their unfaithfulness.
-There was also hope and restoration of the people of Judah who would be exiled.
-During his call, Jeremiah saw two visions:
1. A branch of an almond tree Vs 11-12.
- The almond tree was bare.
- The tree would produce leaves when the weather changed.
- The tree was “watching” for the time it would put forth its buds and leaves.
- In the same way God would be watching to see the fulfillment of the messages that he would give his prophet.
2. A pot boiling facing away from the North and it was vs. 13 about to tip over towards Judah.
- This meant that God would use a nation from the North to bring judgment on the people of Judah because of their wickedness.
- They had abandoned Yahweh and worshipped idols. They offered sacrifices to them vs. 16.
- Everybody including the kings, the priests’ court officials and ordinary people had sinned against Yahweh vs. 18.
- Jeremiah was to face opposition from Judah’s kings, priests and kinsmen.
- However, God told him not to be afraid because he was going to give him strength to resist those who opposed him and protection vs. 19.
God promised to make him like a “fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall”. (6:19).
- With this divine assurance, Jeremiah took up the task he was given and began his prophetic ministry as God’s spokesman.
Jeremiah’s response to God’s call
- He was hesitant as he did not know how to speak.
- He was afraid.
- He was not ready.
- He felt immature because he was young.
- He had a dialogue with God.
- He obeyed and did what God told him to do.
THE EVILS ADDRESSED BY PROPHET JEREMIAH
During this time of Jeremiah the people of Judah committed many social and religious evils i.e.
1. Necromancy (Jer. 14:14, 27:8-9)
-Necromancy refers to the practice of predicting future events by invoking the dead by using mystical powers.
- Other words related to necromancy are divination, magic and sorcery.
- Also refers to the practice of consulting the spirits of the dead.
- Necromancy/divination was widely practiced in ancient Mesopotamia and reached the people of Yahweh in the Northern and Southern kingdoms.
- Divinations were strictly forbidden in the Hebrew law. Those who practiced divination magic or witchcraft were to be punished by death e.g. (Lev. 19:31), (Deut. 18:10-11).
- Divination is a common practice among some traditional African communities.
- People consult diviners when sick or when they have other needs.
- God hates people who practice necromancy and will no longer consider them as “one of my people” Lev. 20:6b
2. Divination continued to be practiced by some kings and leaders of Israel e.g.
1. King Saul consulted a medium after the death of Samuel when the philistines threatened to attack the people of Israel. (1 Sam 28:3-25).
2. King Manasseh of Judah consulted fortune tellers and mediums (2 kings 21:6)
-The practice of necromancy made God angry with the people of Northern kingdom. God turned against them and used the Assyrian power to defeat them and take them to exile.
- In the same way Judah was going to be punished for practicing necromancy and consulting fortune tellers and mediums.
- Jeremiah condemned diviners, magicians, soothsayers and fortune tellers for telling lies.
- He advised King Zedekiah not to listen to those who claimed to predict the future through dreams or by calling up the spirits of the dead or through magic. Jer. 29:8-9.
- God was angry with Judah and was going to banish the people from His sight.
3. Dishonesty/Deception. (Jer. 5:30-31, 9:4-11, 14:15-16, 23:16-22
- Jeremiah observed that the people of Judah were dishonest.
- People who are dishonest do not tell the truth. Their dishonesty is reflected in their behavior.
- According to Jeremiah there was no single person who was faithful to Yahweh.
Jeremiah observed dishonesty in the following ways:
1. Prophets and priests spoke nothing but lies (Jer.23:16). These religious leaders should have led people to God but instead they led them astray. They also cheated people by telling them that God was not going to punish them for their sinfulness. They told people all was well when it was not. They spoke in God’s name and deceived people that |God had given those messages in their dreams.
2. The prophets of Jerusalem had become bad as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their evil deeds such as immorality. (Jeremiah. 23:14-15). The people of Judah accepted the lies of priests and prophets without question. They were encouraged to persist in their evil ways. The people of Judah were deceitful in their relationship with one another. No one was safe from the other. The society thrived in this and slander. They were so entrenched in evil doing that they could not come out of it. (Jeremiah 9:4-12)
3. The priests and the people of Judah were dishonest in the way they worshipped God because their outward rituals did not match with their inner piety. They worshipped him alongside the pagan gods.
4. The people of Judah offered sacrifices to pagan gods. Yahweh would reject them because of their dishonesty in worship. Jeremiah reminded them that it was better to obey God than to offer meaningless sacrifice. As a result of their dishonesty, Yahweh would punish them through an invasion by a foreign nation and exile
4. False prophecy. (Hananiah)
- Jeremiah’s prophecy was challenged by Hananiah who was a false prophet in the Temple at Jerusalem. Hananiah spoke to Jeremiah in the temple in the presence of priests and the people of Judah.
- He told Jeremiah that God was going to:
i. Bring back all the Temple treasures that King Nebuchadnezzar took to Babylon.
ii. Bring back Jeconiah who was the son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah and all the people who had been exiled.
iii. Break down the power of Babylon.
- Jeremiah as a true prophet of Yahweh held the opposite view. He proclaimed that the Babylonians were being used by God as his instrument of punishment and judgment over the people of Judah. He challenged Hannah and told him that he was a false prophet who could promise peace when there was no peace.
- Hannah then removed the wooden ox yoke that Jeremiah had put across his shoulders and broke it to show how Nebuchadnezzar’s power would be destroyed.
- Jeremiah had walked around in public with the wooden ox yoke to symbolize that Judah would be controlled by Babylon.
- This message was received with hostility by the people of Judah.
- As a true prophet of God, Jeremiah announced Hananiah’s death which came to be fulfilled. (Deut. 18:21-22).
5. Human sacrifice (Jer. 7:30-35)
- Jeremiah condemned human sacrifices as a practice which the Israelites had borrowed from the Baal religions.
- Human sacrifices were carried out in the valley of Ben Hinnom.
- The Law of Moses forbids human sacrifice for life is sacred. Ex. 20:3
- They sacrificed their sons and daughters to the pagan gods as burnt offerings. Jeremiah 7:31.
- God was angry and as a result the people of Judah would face severe punishment of God.
6. Idolatry (Jeremiah 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 23, 28)
-Idolatry refers to the worship of idols.
-An idol is an image representing a god.
-Precious materials such as gold, bronze, stone or hard wood were used to make them.
-These images are kept in places of worship. People worshipped idols and prayed to them for their needs. Those who worshipped believed that they could answer their prayers.
-The people of Israel had been warned against idolatry in the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:3-5).
- When the Israelites settled in Canaan, they became farmers and their lifestyles changed from nomadism to agriculture. As farmers they came face to face with the Canaanite religion and were attracted to it. They began worshipping the Canaanite gods alongside the worship of Yahweh.
- At the time of Jeremiah, idolatry was widespread.
Jeremiah condemned idolatry which was demonstrated in the following ways:
(i) Building of altars for idol gods.
(ii) Keeping idol images in the Temple of Yahweh.
(iii) Offering human sacrifice.
(iv) Prophesying in the name of Baal.
(v) Practicing Temple prostitution.
- Jeremiah ridiculed idols that they were powerless to answer people’s prayers and it was useless worshipping them.
He described idolatry as:
(i) Abandonment of Israel’s first love. (Jer. 2.2)
(ii) Pursuit of vanity. (Jer. 2:5).
(iii) Defilement of the holy land. (Jer. 2:20).
(iv) Rebellion against Yahweh. (Jer. 2:20).
(v) Moral corruption that led to human sacrifices. (Jer.2:31).
(vi) Harlotry. (Jer. 2:20).
(vii) Impotent gods who could not save them in the times of trouble. Jer 2:27-28.
-Jeremiah condemned the pride which was practiced by the rich, the wise and the rulers who lived in the city of Jerusalem Jer. 9:23-24.
Other things condemned by Jeremiah.
1. He spoke against murder where the innocent were killed.
2. Condemned the worship of false gods.
3. The neglect of the helpless like the orphans, widow and strangers.
4. Preached against adultery and advocated faithfulness in marriage.
5. He expected people to have mutual trust in one another.
THE TEMPLE SERMON
- The sermon was delivered by Jeremiah at the gate of the temple court to address the worshippers.
- He appealed to the worshippers to reform their ways and deeds so that God would remain with them in the Temple.
- He warned them against the false sense of security about the temple. They behaved like the temple and the city would not be destroyed. Vs 4.
He told the worshippers that God would remain with them in the temple if they stopped committing evils such as.
i. Oppression of the aliens, orphans and widows.
ii. Murder of innocent people/human sacrifice.
iii. Worship of false gods/idolatry.
vi. Telling lies/dishonesty/giving false witness/cheating.
vii. Swearing falsely.
viii. Burning incense to Baal.
ix. False belief about the temple. Vs.4.
xi. Stubbornness and rebellion, refusal to repent despite prophetic warning.
xiii. Defilement of the temple.
xiv. Human sacrifice.
- He warned them that God would destroy the temple the way he had done to the shrine at Shiloh, if they persisted in their evil ways. Vs. 11-14.
God asked Jeremiah not to intercede for the people because he had already made up his mind to punish the people for the following sins: vs. 16.
1. Worshipping false gods (Baal).
2. Practicing religious syncretism.
3. Stressing external observance like sacrifice without inner piety.
4. Setting up idols in the temple of God.
5. Offering human sacrifice.
6. Stealing, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal.
- He accused them of refusing to heed to the teachings of God’s prophets.
-Jeremiah foretold about God’s judgment and punishment when many people would lose their lives and their corpses would be unburied and ravaged by vultures. Vs. 33-34.
-The survivors who will be taken into exile would experience severe punishment and would wish to have died. Jer. 8:1-3.
The relevance of Jeremiah’s teaching on evils and false prophecy to Christians
-Christians should have absolute trust in God for his provision.
- Religious leaders should preach the truth about divine judgment on sinners instead of preaching false hope.
- Christians should be honest in their dealings with others.
- Christians should be sincere in worship and avoid hypocrisy.
- Christians should be aware of false prophets/preachers who may come in the name of Jesus to lead people astray, preach on materialism, attractive idolatries and moral permissiveness.
- Christians should condemn social evils in the society today e.g. stealing, murder, adultery, swearing false, worshiping idols.
- They should lead exemplary lives for others to emulate i.e. holy lives.
- They should call sinners to repentance and forgiveness of sin to avoid divine judgment.
- Christians should avoid idolatrous practices such as witchcraft, sorcery, magic, devil worship and divination.
- Christians need to have a personal relationship with God instead of mere outward show of religion.
- Christians learn that human sacrifice is evil and does not wipe out their sins. Life is precious to God and it is only God who can give and take it away. Human sacrifice does not please God. This is a warning on those who are involved in devil worship.
- Christians are to be faithful to their faith and know that God will listen to their prayers if they are sincere.
- Like Jeremiah Christians should have courage and be firm in their principles when faced with opposition.
- They should stand firm against and evil forces such as divination, magic, devil worship and necromancy, corruption, theft, adultery and other evils.
- Jeremiah warns priests and church leaders to be truthful and faithful to their vocations. They should be firm in their faith and be good shepherds of their flock.
What is experienced in Kenya is not different from situation in Judah in the following ways:
1. There is a lot of mistrust-people live in fear they cannot trust one another. One is never sure whether they are walking or travelling with honest people.
2. Prostitution is common, some people engage in sexual immorality in order to earn money.
NB: God is not happy with immorality and as Christians we need to guard against it.
3. There is neglect and oppression of the poor. In courts, bribery takes place meaning the poor cannot win cases since they have no money for bribery.
4. Existence of devil worship. Many people are involved and people live in fear. Many killings of children linked to ritual killings.
1. Help the suffering among them such as orphans, widows, the sick and the old.
2. Educate the youth against evils in our society.
3. As believers should stand united and live faithful lives of loving other fellow human beings.
4. Christian rulers should not involve in necromancy. They should know that God is more powerful than any diviner, witchdoctor or astrologer.
5. Leaders should learn to worship and trust God and not be like King Manasseh who consulted fortune tellers and mediums.
TEACHINGS ON JUDGEMENT AND PUNISHEMENT
Jer. :12-18, 6:1-30, 7:30, 8:1-17, 10:17-25, 14:1-18, 15:1-9, 16:16-18, 17:1-13, 21:1-14, 25:1-38, 39:1-10
The theme of judgement and punishment has been discussed in various chapters of the book of Jeremiah.
5:1-9 - The people of Judah could not believe that God would destroy Jerusalem despite their sinfulness.
Jeremiah told the people of Judah that God would bring fire that would consume them as punishment.
(vs.14) - They would be invaded by a foreign country and taken to exile. The kingdom would be destroyed but God promised restoration in future if they repented.
Jer. 6:1-30 - Punishment would come from the north of Judah. They would be attacked by the Babylonians.
- God would not accept any offering of incense from the people because they had imported the practice from Sheba a foreign land. They also offered it insincerely.
- The invasion by the Babylonians would bring grief and mourning to the people
Jer. 7:30 & 8:1-17
- Punishment was inevitable.
- The people of Judah had defiled the house of God by sacrificing their sons and daughters contrary to Gods commandments.
- The living could suffer and also those who had died in sin. Their bones would be exhumed and laid on the ground as waste material.
- The people were accused of not repenting their sins when they backslid, instead they continued to tell lies.
- Jeremiah further says that the punishment would be severe and the signs of the impending judgment would be lack of peace, terror, the sound of an approaching army and earthquakes. (Jer. 8:116)
- The attack of the Babylonians was compared to venomous snakes that would bite the people of Judah.
- Many corpses would be burnt after the destruction and others would be eaten by birds and other beasts.
- Punishment of exile for Judah because of her continued idolatry.
- He linked to the fall of Jerusalem to a tent that had collapsed.
- The judgment of the people had been contributed by the failure of the Jewish leaders to lead the people in the covenant way of life.
- They had left the flock to scatter without providing good leadership according to Gods commandments.
- Jeremiah pronounced God’s judgment on the neighbors of Judah because they had refused to recognize God as Lord.
- They had also destroyed the people of the covenant.
- Punishment depicted by drought which would bring a lot of suffering due to lack of water and food.
- Although they would cry to God for deliverance, he would not answer their pleas for rain, God would behave like a traveler who had no concern for the country through which he was just passing.
- God told Jeremiah that even though the people feasted and offered sacrifices, he would not change his mind. (vs. 11).
- The people had sinned beyond redemption.
- God could not alter the impending punishment even if righteous servants of God like Moses and Samuel intervened on their behalf.
- Punishment would come through deaths by diseases, sword, starvation and finally captivity.
- Jeremiah traced iniquities to the poor leadership of King Manasseh who polluted Jerusalem with idolatry.
- During Manasseh’s reign Judah embraced Baal worship as an official religion.
- Jeremiah continued to insist that deportation of the people of Judah would happen as prophesied.
- He compared the Babylonians to fishermen who would catch the people of Judah like fish in their nets. This would mark the beginning of captivity.
- Send for many hunters to hunt them.
- He depicts idolatry being so entrenched in Judah as if it was written in people’s hearts.
- Idol worship was done in the open and even the children participated in them.
- Jeremiah warned the people that they would lose their land following their enslavement in a foreign land.
- King Zedekiah sent Pashhur an official in the king’s palace and Zephaniah a priest to Jeremiah.
- He wanted Jeremiah to ask God to intervene and save Judah from Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.
- God’s response through Jeremiah was that Nebuchadnezzar would succeed in conquering Judah.
Causes of judgment and punishments
- Judah’s sinful life and failure to obey God’s commandments.
- Failure by Israelites to repent and turn to God.
- Priest and prophets spoke lies about peace when there was none.
- Worshipping Yahweh using foreign religious rituals e.g. burning incense
- Practicing divination or witchcraft.
- Oppression of the poor by the rich worship of idols and heavenly bodies.
- The rulers and the scribes leading people away from the covenant way of life e.g. Manasseh making idolatry state religion.
- Offering human sacrifice contrary to God’s commandments.
- Defiling the temple by placing images of idols in it contrary to God’s commandments.
- People’s failure to heed the message of the prophets.
How God would punish Judah.
- God would use foreign country from the worth to invade Judah i.e. Babylon.
- He would destroy Jerusalem with fire contrary to the beliefs and expectations of the people.
- The people would be taken to exile and Judah would remain without inhabitants.
- Judgment would be preceded by lack of peace, terror, starvation and earthquakes.
- Judgment was inevitable.
- Judah would severely attacked by her enemies from all directions.
- Bones of leaders would be exhumed and spread on the ground as a sign of humiliation.
- The attack would have many corpses unburied and others would be eaten by vultures and beast.
- There would be drought which would bring suffering to human beings and animals.
- Not even fasting and offering of sacrifices not intervention by righteous servants of God would alter the impending punishments.
- Apart from destroying Judah, God would use Babylon to also destroy other nations for disobedience by killing their leaders.
- After seventy years of captivity, God would punish the Babylonians who oppressed his people.
THE FALL OF JERUSALEM AND THE EXILE OF THE ISRAELITES
- Jerusalem was attacked and invaded by the Babylonians during the reign of King Zedekiah in 587 BC.
- In the eleventh year of King Zedekiah a breach was made in the city and all the princes of Nebuchadnezzar and the officials sat in the middle gate.
- The Babylonians set up an administrative centre at Mizpah and appointed Gedaliah to be governor of Judah.
- King Zedekiah and his court officials tried to escape to Arabbah.
- The army of the Chaldeans pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho.
- They took him to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah and he passed sentence on him.
- Nebuchadnezzar ordered the killing of the sons of Zedekiah and his government officials.
- The King had Zedekiah’s eyes gouged out.
- Zedekiah was frog-matched and dragged in humiliation to exile.
- The city was looted, houses burnt and the temple and its wall destroyed.
- The remnants, including the royal court officials, priest, army officers and craftsmen were taken to captivity in Babylon.
- Nebuchadnezzar commanded the captain of the guard to treat Jeremiah well and do what he wants.
- Jeremiah was entrusted to Gedaliah to take him home where he lived among his people.
- The land and the city, including vineyards and the fields were given to the poor of the land.
SYMBOLIC ACTS RELATED TO JUDGMENT AND PUNISHMENT
Jeremiah 13; 16; 18; 19; 24; 27
Prophet Jeremiah was commanded By God to present his prophecies of judgment and punishment through symbolic actions. These were:
1. The parable of the waist cloth. (13:1-11)
Jeremiah was instructed by God to buy a waist cloth and wear it.
- He was directed to hide it in crevices of rocks in the Euphrates.
- After some days he was instructed by god to retrieve it. He found the waist cloth rotten and rendered useless hence it was ruined.
- The waist cloth around Jeremiah’s waist symbolized Judah and Israel who had held a position of honor and praise in God’s kingdom.
- The ruined waist cloth reflects the state of idolatry in Israel. This meant that God had already passed judgment in Israel and he would punish them.
2. The parable of the wineskins or jars. (Jere.13:12-14)
- The parable was about wineskins (jars) that were empty then filled wine.
- When the jars were hit against each other, they broke due to impact.
- The empty jars represented the people of Judah and her leaders.
- The wine would fill the jar symbolized the instrument that God would use to punish them due to their wickedness.
3. Jeremiah’s life (Jere.16:1-4)
- God commanded Jeremiah not to marry or have children. (16:2)
- Jeremiah was denied a normal relationship because of the coming catastrophe that would disrupt all normal relationship.
- Jeremiah was not supposed to enter into any house where a funeral was being held nor mourn or show any sympathy to the bereaved. Jer. 16:5-7
This action had two significances.
1. It meant that God had completely withdrawn his blessing, love and pity for the people of Judah.
2. It referred to those who would die during the fall of Jerusalem.
- There would be no one to burry or to mourn them the remnants would have no one to comfort them.
- The suffering would be great like had never been before. Jer. 5-7
- Jer. 16:8-9. Jeremiah was instructed against entering a house where there was feasting.
- This meant that time for feasting and happiness was over and it would be replaced by suffering and grief. Jer.8-9
3. The parable of the potter (the potter and his clay (Jer. 18:1-10)
- Jeremiah was instructed to go to a potter’s house where he observed a potter molding clay into pots.
- He observed that, whenever the pot had defects, the potter would press the clay into a lump and mold another pot.
- The potter and his clay symbolized the relationship between God and his people.
- As the potter remolds the clay into another pot so does, God have divine authority to tear down or build a nation.
- After the destruction and exile, God would raise a new nation through who he will fulfill his promises.
5. The earthen flask. (Jer. 19:1-15)
- Jeremiah bought earthen flask carrying water.
- He was to empty the flask and break it in the presence of the elders and senior priest.
- The smashing of the flask symbolized the destruction of Judah.
- The city of Jerusalem, the royal palace and ordinary settlement would be destroyed.
6. The vision of the two baskets of figs. (Jer.27)
- Jeremiah saw a vision of two baskets of figs placed before the temple. One basket had good fruits while the other had bad fruits.
-The good fruits represented the exiles that were to be protected and restored back to their land and be made God’s people.
-The bad fruits symbolized the King of Judah and the people who went to the exile. For this group, time was coming when they would be destroyed like the bad fruits.
7. The wooden ox yoke. (Jer. 27)
-Jeremiah put a yoke in his neck and walked around with it like an oxen.
- This act symbolized the burden that would be felt in the punishment that the people would suffer.
- It affirmed that the people would be slaves in exile as God’s punishments.
- It also symbolized the need for the kind to surrender to the powers of Babylon so that they would be stored back and treated with mercy.
Summary of Jeremiah’s acts related to judgment and punishment
SUFFERING AND LAMENTATIONS OF JEREMIAH
Jeremiah11:18-23; 12:1-6; 15:10-21; 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:1-6; 26; 27;37;38.
Jeremiah faced rejection, opposition and suffering from the leaders because of his prophecies about judgment and punishment. Some of the sufferings and lamentations include;
1. The plot against Jeremiah’s life. (Jer. 11:18-23, 12:1-6).
- The people of Jeremiah’s hometown plotted to kill him.
- Jeremiah appealed to God to avenge for him and God promised to punish his adversaries.
- When Jeremiah lamented why God allowed the wicked to prosper, God encouraged him to stand firm and be ready for even more sufferings.
2. Jeremiah’s lament about his isolation. (Jer. 15:10-21)
- He suffered isolation and loneliness from his own people because of his faith in God’s work.
- He was filled with despair and felt that the work he had done was futile.
- He felt that God had abandoned him even after siding with him against his own people.
- God challenged him to repent from thinking that he had been abandoned if he was to continue to be God’s prophet. However, he was assured by God that the wicked would be punished.
3. Jeremiah’s lament on the People’s mockery (Jer. 17:14-18; 18:18-23)
- The people mocked him because his prophecies were not being fulfilled.
- The people continued to mock him and plotted to kill him claiming that God would raise other prophets and priests to replace him.
- Jeremiah lamented to God because of the mockery and conspiracy against him and appealed to divine punishment against them.
4. Jeremiah’s torture by Pashur. (Jer. 20:1-6)
- Pashur, the priest rejected Jeremiah’s prophecy on punishment and had him arrested, beaten, locked up and then chased away from the gate of the Temple.
- When Jeremiah was freed, he did not soften his message. He pronounced punishment for Pashur’s family and the people of Judah who will be exiled in Babylon.
5. Jeremiah’s arrest and trial. (Jer. 26)
- When Jeremiah prophesied destruction against the Jerusalem temple he was seized by the false prophets and priests of Jerusalem. He had condemned everything that the prophets and priests were doing such as insincere worship, social injustice and false prophecies.
- Jeremiah was brought before the princes and the people where he was accused of blasphemy which carried a death sentence.
- He defended himself by declaring that the:
1. Message he spoke was from God and not his own. He was therefore a true prophet of Yahweh.
2. His message was conditional if the people repented and reformed their ways, God would not send disaster to them.
3. He warned them that if they put him to death they would bring guilt of innocent blood on themselves. They would be guilty of the murder of an innocent person.
-The princes and the people were convinced that Jeremiah’s message was from God.
-His accusers had failed to prove that he was guilty of blasphemy and he was set free.
6. Jeremiah’s imprisonment. (Jer. 37, 38)
- Jeremiah tried to leave Jerusalem to go to Anathoth, his home area to claim his share of family land. He was arrested by Irijah the watchman at the Benjamin’s Gate. He was accused of deserting his people to join the Babylonians. This amounted to charge of treason which was punishable by death.
- The princes beat him and demanded for his execution.
- He was put in an underground cell for many days.
- When Zedekiah summoned him from the cell for advice, he remained firm on his prophecy of the Babylonians attack.
- Jeremiah lamented to the King and wondered why he was as God’s spokesman was being treated as a traitor.
- Jeremiah pleaded to be released from the dungeon but the King was afraid of his advisors. Instead he placed him in the palace courtyard under house arrest.
- Jeremiah continued to deliver God’s message to the people from the courtyard.
- The princes interpreted Jeremiah’s counsel of surrender as a means to weaken the morale of the army and therefore demanded for his death.
- Jeremiah was put in a filthy cistern to ensure that he died.
- Jeremiah was rescued by Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch, who was an official of the King to have him rescued from the well.
Ways in which Christians resolve conflicts among themselves
i. They pray over the issue/problem.
ii. They offer guidance and counseling to the affected.
iii. Paying visit/talking to the offender/fellowship.
iv. By involving church leaders as arbitrators.
v. Forgiving the one who has wronged the other/asking for forgiveness.
vi. Willingness by the offender to accept the mistakes made/accepting liability/pay for the damages.
vii. Withdrawing some privileges for a period of time so that one can reform.
viii. By sharing meals/eating together.
ix. Through sharing of hands.
The relevance of Jeremiah’s suffering and lamentations to Christians
-Christian learn that not all they preach and teach will be accepted.
-Christian need courage and willingness to proclaim the word of God without fear.
-Christians should be ready to be persecuted for the word of God. Hatred, mockery, threats to their life, arrest and imprisonment should not deter them from proclaiming the Gospel.
- Christians should be careful not to mislead by false and self-proclaimed preachers with promises of prosperity.
- Christians should pray for God’s strength and seek his guidance during times of difficulties.
- They should be confident in God’s power and tell the truth about his will.
- Christians should leave their vengeance against their enemies to God.
- Whenever the Christians are in problems, Gods divine intervention will rescue them.
- Christians should forsake family ties for the sake of serving God.
- They should advise the political, leaders on various issues affecting the stake. - Christians should know that some of their messages will not always be accepted by all people e.g. when they condemn social evils in society and criticize those in authority for their misdeeds.
- Christian leaders must be ready and willing to proclaim the word of God at all costs e.g. Jeremiah knew that talking about the destruction of Jerusalem could cost him his life; he courageously pronounced the conquering of Judah as God’s punishment for her sinfulness. Jeremiah remained obedient to God’s command.
- Christians must be aware of false prophets in their midst whose main goal is to mislead them. The false prophets preached the opposite of Jeremiah’s message with the intentions of pleasing the people.
- Christians should draw their strength from God in the face of temptations. When Jeremiah was castigated and rejected by the people, he prayed to God who reassured him of his protection.
- Christians should always tell the truth about God’s will regardless of the consequences. Jeremiah was not afraid to tell the truth because he was confident of God’s power.
- Christians should remain faithful and firm to the word of God.
Jeremiah 23:5-6; 30-33
-The Israelites had failed to keep the covenant law despite the constant reminders by the prophets to return to it. However, God was faithful to his promises and wanted to establish a new and everlasting covenant that was different from the Sinai covenant.
- Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant would give hope to the people of Judah after exile.
Jeremiah’s mission was:
“To pluck up, to break down, to destroy and to overthrow; to build and to plant. Jer. 1:10”
- In this prophecy about the new covenant, Jeremiah planted seeds of hate which began to take root during the long years of exile and found fulfillment at the last supper when Jesus declared:
“This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” Luke 22:20.
The new covenant foreseen by Jeremiah had the following characteristics:
1. God’s law would be written in people’s hearts unlike the Old Covenant where the law was written on stone tablets. (Jer. 31:31-32).
2. There would be personal knowledge of God. Each person from the least to the greatest would know God. In the old covenant there were intermediaries such as prophets and priests who taught the people about God. (Jer. 31:34, 32:39-40).
3. There would be spontaneous forgiveness of sins. There is no mention of forgiveness of sins in the old covenant.
4. Each individual would be responsible for his/her sins and the person who sins would be the one who sins would be the one to be punished. This is unlike the old covenant where there was collective responsibilities and punishment.
5. The new covenant would bring into being a new community. Yahweh’s people. “……….They shall be my people and I will be their God” Jer. 24:7b of 7:23, 11:4:31-333: 32:39-40. The “people” refer to the house of Israel and Judah.
6. Yahweh will bring about a change in human nature by giving Israel and a new heart (a new will). There will be harmony in Israel’s will and God’s will. Jer. 23:78.
7. The Israelites would be brought back to their land from exile.
8. It would be broken but would be an everlasting one.
9. God would initiate the covenant and each person would be expected to respond in faith and obedience.
10. The restored community would be ruled by an everlasting and righteous king from the house of David. God will restore the land and they shall rebuild the city and plant vineyards. Jer. 23:5-6; 30:18-22; 31:4-6.
11. There would be justice and righteous in the land of Israel.
12. God would restore peace and security in the land and city of Jerusalem.
NB: The prophecy of the new covenant is fulfilled in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.
SYMBOLIC ACTS RELATED TO HOPE AND RESTORATION.
The period of suffering in exile was meant to be a period of rejection, transformation and readiness to turn to Yahweh.
Jeremiah presented message of hope and restoration to the Israelites after exile in the following symbolic acts:
1. The two Baskets of Figs (Jer. 24:1-10)
- The good figs symbolized the people who submitted to the Babylonians and went into exile.
- God was watching over them and would preserve them a s a remnant and restore them back to their land.
- They would be given new hearts to acknowledge him as their God and they will be his people.
2. The wooden Ox Yoke. (Jer. 29)
- The wooden Ox Yoke symbolized the perseverance of the Jews in the exile in Babylon.
- After the period of exile, God would break the Babylonian yoke and restore his people back to their land.
3. The letter to the Exiles. (Jer. 29)
- The exiles in Babylon were in a state of despair as they though that Yahweh had deserted them or was powerless in the face of the Babylonia gods.
- Jeremiah therefore wrote a letter of encouragement to the exiles to counteract against false prophecies of speedy return to their land.
- In his letter he encouraged them in the following ways/message of hope:
- To build houses and settle down.
- To plant gardens and eat their produce.
- To marry and have children and increase in number.
- To live in peace in the Babylonian cities and pray for the welfare of their masters.
- Not to listen to false prophets who told them he is about the safety of the city of Jerusalem and their quick return home.
- God would restore them back to their land only after 70 years of judgment were over.
- The exiles were to trust in god and not to give up.
NB: Jeremiah informed them that Yahweh was still accessible to them even in Babylon.
4. Jeremiah purchases land. (Jer. 32:1-15)
- Jeremiah purchased a piece of land from his cousin, Hanamel in Anathoth.
- This act signified his faith in God’s promises of restoration of his people.
- Jeremiah had the title deeds sealed by Baruch and kept them in a clay jar for preservation for the future so that the land could be re-claimed. This symbolized that even if the exiles stayed for a long time, they would return to reclaim their and property and lead a normal life.
The significance of the symbolic act of buying land by prophet Jeremiah
i. It showed that the people of Judah had a future despite the coming crisis/Judah will regain freedom after the conquest.
ii. It was an assurance that the people would be restored back to their homeland/would reclaim their land.
iii. It demonstrated that the people would resume their normal lives/construct homes/cultivate land/own property.
iv. Divined judgment was not an end in itself.
v. Restoration was to take place at God’s own time/God was to determine when the people would be restored back.
vi. The people had to wait patiently for their return from exile.
vii. It showed that God was loving/faithful/was to keep His promise of restoration/bring them back to their ancestral land.
viii. It made them feel secure/they were not to lack anything.
Problems faced by the Israelites during Babylonian exile
1. Lack of adequate food.
2. Family ties were cut.
3. They had homesickness.
4. They had to fit to a new environment.
5. They had to follow the Babylonian laws.
6. Diseases and various ailments.
7. Some were executed.
8. There were false prophets among them.
9. Lowered status due to low education.
10. Living in fear of Babylonian officials.
11. Loss of identity.
12. They lost their unity due to dispersion.
13. Loyalty to God was undermined.
14. Lack of places of worship and for religious festivals.
15. They were forced to work for their Babylonian masters/oppression.
16. They were influenced by idolatry.
17. Their children didn’t have faith in God and blamed their parents.
18. Some of them were executed.
Religious life of the Jews in exile
1. Worshipped in private homes.
2. Had little faith in God due to their circumstances.
3. Some prophets gave them hope of return.
4. They observed the Sabbath.
5. They had no sacrifices.
6. They sang Psalms in worship.
7. They practiced circumcision.
8. They observed dietary laws according to Mosaic Law.
RELATING THE TEACHINGS OF JEREMIAH TO THE NEW TESTAMENT AND CHRISTIAN LIFE TODAY
The teachings and prophecies of Jeremiah were fulfilled in the New Testament and many of them are relevant to Christian life today e.g.
1. Jeremiah’s call. (Jer. 1:1-10)
- Jeremiah was called to be a prophet as a young man. He was given authority by God over nations and kingdoms to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow; to build and to plant”.
- In New Testament, Jesus Christ called the twelve disciples to prepare them to preach the Good News. During their training, Jesus sent them out on a number of missions to preach, heal and to cast out demons. Lk. 9:1-6, 10:1-16. On the day of Pentecost, the Apostles were empowered by the Holy Spirit and they went about preaching the Good News and healing the sick.
- St. Paul received a special call from Jesus on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). He changed from a persecutor of Christians to an apostle. St. Paul is known as the greatest preacher ever lived. He spread the Good News to the Gentile world. Christians are also called by God to serve him. They are expected to respond to God’s call in faith and obedience in every responsibility Christians undertake. They are called to serve God e.g. Christian leaders are expected to condemn all forms of evil and teach Christians to be the “light and salt” of the world.
2. Jeremiah’s suffering
- Jeremiah lived a life full of challenges and difficulties.
- He suffered in the hands of kings, religious leaders and his own kinsfolk because of exposing their sinfulness and pronouncing God’s judgment on them. He suffered for speaking the truth.
- Jesus suffered during his ministry even to the point of being crucified for the sins of humankind.
- Like Jeremiah, Jesus was rejected at Nazareth by his own people.
- When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was some said that he was Jeremiah. (Math. 16:13-14)
- The apostles also suffered persecution at the hands of the Sanhedrin for preaching the Gospel of Christ.
- St. Paul suffered during his missionary journeys e.g. was imprisoned flogged and even stopped from preaching the gospel.
- Christian missionaries and evangelists continue to suffer persecution for the sake of the Gospel.
3. Hypocrisy in worship
- Jeremiah condemned insincere worship of the people of Judah. He told the people that external religious practices were meaningless and useless in God’s sight.
- Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in their observance of the religious obligations.
- Some Christians in the society pretend to be pious but are wicked in their actions.
4. Jeremiah’s call for repentance
- Jeremiah lamented about the sins of the people of Judah and called upon them to repent to avoid God’s judgment and punishment.
- John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins as a way of preparing people for the Messiah.
- Jesus taught about the need to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness.
- On the day of Pentecost, Peter invited those present to be baptized and to repent.
- Christians should preach the Good News of salvation and call upon people to turn away from their sinfulness.
5. The New covenant
- Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant is fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
- During the last supper, Jesus inaugurated the new covenant which was to be observed by a new community based on faith in Christ.
- The death of Jesus removed their barrier between God and human beings which had existed in the Old covenant.
- Christians worship God in spirit and truth and have a personal relationship with him.
- Those who repent their sins are forgiven and are promised eternal life.
6. Judgment and punishment
- Because of sin, Jeremiah prophesied judgment and punishment for the people of Judah. He prophesied that they would be exiled to serve their foreign masters.
- Jerusalem, the religious and political center and the temple would be destroyed.
- In New Testament, Jesus condemned the Jewish religious leaders for their hypocrisy and sinners for their failure to repent of their sinfulness.
- Jesus taught about the Day of Judgment when the righteous will be separated from the unrighteous.
- Christians should know God will judge. They should shun evil and live according to God’s will.
- When they commit sin, they should repent and forgiveness in order to escape God’s punishment.
7. Hope and restoration
- Jeremiah prophesied about future hope and restoration of the kingdom of Judah from exile.
- Jesus gives Christians hope for the future through his resurrection, which affirms that there is life after death. He will take the righteous to live with him in the kingdom permanently.
- Christians are assured of eternal life if they believe in Jesus Christ and continue doing what is right and just in the eyes of God.
8. The Temple of Jerusalem
- Jeremiah condemned the false sense of security in the Temple and the city of Jerusalem.
- Jesus condemned the false hope and importance attached to the temple by the Jews of his time. He prophesied its destruction.
- Jesus is the living temple in the New Israel, the Christian community.
- Christians should not trust and put their hope in material things but should trust in Jesus Christ as their savior.
9. The righteous king
- Jeremiah prophesied about a new age when Israel would be restored and ruled by a righteous king from the house of David.
- Jesus is the spiritual ruler descended from the lineage of David who ushers in the messianic age.
- Christians acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah (righteous king) who establishes God’s kingdom in their hearts.