Prophecies against Judah/Jerusalem (Chapters 1-18)
[YHWH to Jeremiah]: “I selected you as my prophet even before your conception.” [Jeremiah]: ” I’m only a boy.” [YHWH]: “Don’t fear, just speak my message. You will herald both destruction and restoration. You must warn Judah about its upcoming disasters, especially the invasion from the north [ie. the Babylonian exile].”
[YHWH to Judah]: “During the Exodus you were devoted to me; what’s wrong with me that your fathers abandoned me [to idols]? Has any other nation swapped its gods for a useless thing? I planted you with noble vines; you’ve become an alien vine! You call a piece of wood your father. Idols are as numerous as towns. I withheld rain but you didn’t repent. After a divorce, if the woman marries another, her ex-husband can’t take her back [see Deuteronomy]. You’ve whored after other gods, I can’t take you back. Any repentance you did was insincere. Repent, rebellious children, I’ll forgive some of you. If you banish idols, other nations will use Judah’s name as a blessing and assemble in Jerusalem.”
[Jeremiah]: “I can see the battle standards of the invasion! My people are stupid, unable to see what’s right. The land will become desolate; yet now they still wear fine clothing as if all’s well. Not a single man acts justly. I thought it was just the poor acting foolishly but the rich act the same.” [YHWH]: ” I’m bringing invaders to besiege Jerusalem. The survivors will know it was punishment. People ignore the needy, shall I not avenge this? Even children and elders will be captured. They rejected my commands, what use to me are their hypocritical sacrifices? I’ll put a stumbling block before them.”
[Jeremiah to Israel at YHWH's request]: “If you stop idolatry and the slaughter of innocents, YHWH will avert the exile. Remember what happened in Shiloh [see Judges] because of your misdeeds. During the Exodus YHWH didn’t command about sacrifices but about obedience.” [YHWH to Jeremiah]: “In the end they won’t listen to you; even birds know their place [in nature] but not Judah. The wise men say everything’s fine; I’ll give their wives to others. How can they anger me with idols when they know I dwell in Jerusalem?” [Jeremiah]: “I see my people crying out and weep myself; is there no balm, no doctor to heal them? Yet I prefer to be in the desert away from them; they’re treacherous.” [YHWH]: “Everyone betrays each other nowadays, even family. Should I not punish this?” [Jeremiah]: “Women, teach your daughters wailing; carcasses will lie like dung in the fields.”
[YHWH]: “Don’t be proud of human achievement but only of devotion to me. I act with kindness and justice. I will punish all who are circumcised but uncircumcised in heart. Don’t copy other nations: their idols are delusions. A craftsman makes an idol with his own axe, it cannot talk yet he bows to it.” [The land of Israel]: “Woe is me: my tents are trampled, my children have left! If you punish us, don’t overdo it.”
[YHWH to Jeremiah]: ” You’ll be persecuted but I’ll protect you from death.” [Jeremiah]: “Why are the wicked at ease and the land languishing because of the evil?” [YHWH]: “Israel rejected me so I’ve abandoned them. Eventually I’ll restore them and they’ll swear by my name once more. Bury a loincloth then dig up its ruins. This is how I’ll ruin Judah’s pride.” [Jeremiah]: “Give honour to YHWH, before he brings darkness and even kings sit in lowly garments.” [YHWH]: “Can a Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard his spots? Those who’ve done evil for so long can’t mend their ways.”
YHWH sends a drought. Jeremiah begs YHWH to relent and not be like a stranger. [YHWH]: “Don’t pray for Judah; I’ve had a gutful. I’ll exterminate them through war, famine and disease.” [Jeremiah]: “Other prophets deny this.” [YHWH]: “They’re false prophets and will be first to die.” [Jeremiah]: “Have you really rejected us?” [YHWH]: “Even if Moses himself were to plead, I won’t relent because of what King Menasseh did [see 2Kings]. Widows will outnumber sand grains.”
[Jeremiah]: “Woe to my mother for bearing me, everywhere I go there’s strife [from my message]! Please remember my suffering on your account and avenge me. I used to pray for your mercy but changed my mind: let my enemies’ children die in famine, their men by sword, their wives as widows.” [YHWH]: “I will protect you. Don’t marry or have children here; I’ve decreed gruesome deaths for people here. Don’t even enter a house of mourning to give condolences. Eventually I’ll bring the Israelites back. The nations will repent for idolatry and mock the idea of idols. Cursed is he who trusts in mortals; blessed is he who trusts in me, he is like a tree by the water whose leaves are ever fresh.” [Jeremiah]: “People taunt me that my prophecy won’t come true. I’ve been loyal; let my persecutors be shamed and destroy them.”
YHWH gets Jeremiah to prophecy at the kings’ gate of Jerusalem, telling people to stop carrying burdens on the Sabbath. If they listen, Jerusalem will always be inhabited; if not YHWH will set fire to the gate. Nobody listens. YHWH tells Jeremiah to visit a potter and watch how if his vessel is spoiled, he moulds it into a different vessel. [YHWH]: “Why can’t Israel be like this and remake itself and avert punishment? Nobody would forsake the precious snows of Lebanon, yet they abandoned me.”
Incidents in Jeremiah’s life (Chapters 19-31)
YHWH tells Jeremiah to prophecy how everyone will be punished for idolatry (and will be eating their babies), then smash a jug to show how Jerusalem will be destroyed. The chief priest has Jeremiah flogged and imprisoned overnight. [YHWH]: “He will go into captivity as punishment.” [Jeremiah to YHWH]: “I wish I’d never been born. Cursed be the man who told my father ‘it’s a boy’ instead of killing me!”
King Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to intercede with YHWH to stop king Nebuchadrezzar from invading. [YHWH]: “I myself will join with the invaders and deliver him to the Babylonians. Whoever remains in Jerusalem will die, whoever goes into captivity will survive.”
[YHWH to latter king Jehoiakim]: “If you do what’s right, your dynasty will endure. Otherwise your palace might be precious to me but I’m prepared to destroy it. Do think your cedar palace makes you a good king, even though you didn’t pay the labourers a fair wage? Your father upheld the rights of the needy so I put up with him – nobody will mourn for you.”
[YHWH to false prophets]: “You gave my people no thought – I’ll give thought to you. Even in my House, they practice adultery and false dealings like Sodom and Gomorrah.” [To Judah]: “Don’t listen to false prophets: they’re deluding you. How can empty straw be compared to grain!”
During the exile, YHWH shows Jeremiah 2 baskets of figs, one good, one terrible. [YHWH]: “As with the good figs, restore the righteous from those exiled. I’ll treat king Zedekiah [who remained in Jerusalem] like the bad figs and exterminate him.”
[YHWH to Judah]: “You haven’t heeded my warnings so Babylon will rule you for 70 years. Then, I’ll destroy Babylon in turn.” Jeremiah takes a cup of wine [YHWH's wrath] and [metaphorically?] makes all the nations and kings drink it, saying: “YHWH roars from the heavens on the wicked. Howl, shepherds, the day of your slaughter draws near.”
Jeremiah prophecies outside the Temple, is seized by the priests and brought on capital charges. [Jeremiah]: “I was only relating YHWH’s words! You’d be shedding the blood of an innocent.” The officials agree and remind people of a prophet [see Micah] during King Hezekiah’s reign who prophecied similar things but was still allowed to speak. The king assassinates another dissenting prophet but Jeremiah is protected through his friends’ influence.
YHWH gets Jeremiah to make yokes and send them to the kings of Moab, Edom, Ammon, Tyre, Sidon and Judah. [Message]: “YHWH gives your lands to Babylon. You must submit to the invasion or die. Any prophet who says otherwise is lying.”During the exile, the prophet Hananiah tells Israelites to rebel against Babylon as YHWH will end the exile in 2 years. Jeremiah protests but Hananiah breaks the symbolic yoke on Jeremiah’s neck. [YHWH's rebuke]: “The yoke of Israel will be even stronger.” Hananiah dies the same year.
[Letter from Jeremiah to heads of Jewish community in exile]: “YHWH wants you to build houses, plant gardens, have families and seek the welfare of the cities you’ve been exiled to. Don’t pay attention to false prophets in your midst. After 70 years, YHWH will remember you and punish those who’ve remained in Jerusalem [contrary to his command] with sword, famine and pestilence. All Israelite prophets in Babylon are false, especially Ahab and Zedekiah who also commit adultery with other men’s wives. YHWH will deliver them to the Babylonian king, especially Shemaiah who called Jeremiah a false prophet.”
[YHWH to Israel]: “I’ve heard your suffering; even your men cry out like women in labour. I will break your yoke. I chastised you because your sin was so great, but will now restore your fortunes. There will be dancing in Jerusalem again. I who scattered you will gather you, turning mourning into joy. You’ve been chastened and are my son, I’ll receive you back with love.”
YHWH shows Jeremiah a vision of the restoration. [YHWH]: “People will no longer say ‘the children’s teeth are blunted because their parents have eaten sour grapes’ as everyone will [only] die for their own sins. I will make a new covenant with Israel and infuse the Torah into their very being so they can’t help but obey. I’d rather annul the laws governing the sun and moon than abandon Israel again. Jerusalem will never again be uprooted or overthrown.”
The fall of Jerusalem (Chapters 32-45)
King Nebuchadrezzar besieges Jerusalem. [YHWH to Jeremiah]: “Buy a field keeping the deed safe as a sign that eventually property will again be purchased in Israel.” [Jeremiah]: “But Jerusalem is about to fall!” [YHWH]: “Nothing is beyond me; David’s dynasty will be restored forever.”
[Jeremiah to Zedekiah]: “Jerusalem will fall but you’ll die a peaceful death.” Zedekiah proclaims the long-neglected septennial release of Jewish slaves [see Exodus]. Slaveholders relent and re-capture their former slaves. [YHWH to Zedekiah]: “Now I’ll release the slaves myself – by bringing war and famine to Israel.”
[YHWH to Jeremiah] “Bring the Rechab clan to the Temple and offer them wine.” [Clan]: ” We’ve been told by our ancestor to never drink”. [YHWH]: “See how obedient they are to their ancestor? Their line will never die. Israel has neglected my instructions – I won’t protect them.”
[YHWH to Jeremiah]: “Write all you’ve prophecied in a scroll, in case the Israelites repent.” Jeremiah is in hiding so his assistant Baruch reads the scroll out in public. Officials report this to king Jehoiakim, advising Baruch to hide too. Jehoiakim burns the scroll. [YHWH]: “Write it again, adding that Jehoiakim’s corpse will rot in the street.”
The Babylonians are besieging Israel. King Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to beseech YHWH. [YHWH]: “Though the Egyptian army has left to repel the Babylonians, I will turn them back [as I don't accept Israel].”
Jeremiah leaves Jerusalem on business, is accused by of defecting to the Babylonians, arrested and put in a pit. He tells the king that he’s only relating YHWH’s word and is moved to a better prison. Others convince the king that he’s disheartening the soldiers so he’s returned to the pit to starve. Eved-melech, a Ethiopian eunuch defends him (YHWH saves his life during the siege) and the king relents once more. He calls Jeremiah for a secret meeting to ask his advice. [Jeremiah]: “If you surrender, you’ll live and keep Jerusalem undamaged. Otherwise, you’ll die and Jerusalem will be burnt.” Zedekiah puts Jeremiah in a better prison so as to give a plausible reason for the secret meeting.
Jerusalem’s walls are breached. Zedekiah flees by night but is captured. His sons are killed before him, his eyes are put out and he’s brought to Babylon. The city is burnt and the remaining people exiled to Babylon, except for the poorest. Nebuchadrezzar releases Jeremiah and puts him in the care of Gedaliah (the Israelite left as regent).
Gedaliah tells the people to serve the Babylonians while he tries to improve conditions. He’s warned that the King of Ammon hired the Israelite Ishmael to kill him but dismisses these as false rumours. Ishmael and his men lure him into a trap and kill him, then lure pilgrims and kill them too (except 10 who bribe him with food). He takes captives, crossing into Ammon country. Jonathan pursues him, rescuing the captives but unable to catch him. He consults with Jeremiah and agrees to follow YHWH’s instructions.
[YHWH to Israelites]: “If you remain in Israel, I’ll protect you for I regret the punishment I imposed. But if you go to Egypt because of its peace and plenty, I’ll punish you.” [Jeremiah]: “In fact your original consultation was disingenuous [since you were intending to flee anyway] so expect punishment.” The army chieftains don’t believe Jeremiah (thinking his assistant Baruch is conspiring against them) and take the remaining population to Egypt. [YHWH]: “I am [now] sending Nebuchadrezzar to destroy Egypt.”
[Jeremiah to those in Egypt]: “Remember the destruction YHWH caused in Jerusalem for disobedience? Why would you disobey him again so blatantly? You’ll die in Egypt.” [Israelites]: “Not only will we not listen but we’ll increase our worship of the Queen of Heaven. We were better off when we worshipped her anyway.” [Jeremiah]: “That was due to YHWH who hadn’t punished you yet! ”
[Jeremiah to Baruch before the fall of Jerusalem]: ” I’m worn out with groaning and have no rest. YHWH will overthrow what he’s built. I am not to expect great things for myself, just for my life to be spared.”
Prophecies against nations (Chapters 46-52)
[YHWH on Egypt]: “Don your war clothes, for you will be crushed [by the Babylonians]. Egypt will overflow like the Nile. Her enemies are like locusts, and will cut down its forests. I’m destroying Pharaoh and Egypt’s gods. Fear not Israel, I will keep you safe and redeem you while punishing the nations that have persecuted you.” [YHWH on Philistines]: “A stream is coming from the north that will make your land wail. Gaza and Ashkelon will be laid waste.”
[YHWH on Moab]: Flee your cities to survive. You’ve relied on treasures but they’ll be plundered. Your god Chemosh will go into exile for the first time. You will become ashamed of your defeated cities like Israel is now. You’ve tried to be big before me, now you will be small; derided Israel but now you’ll be derided. But I will return you from captivity at the end of days.” [YHWH on Amnon]: “Has Israel no heirs that Amnon has settled its cities? Amnon will become a desolate mound and go into exile. Eventually, I’ll also return you from captivity.”
[YHWH on Edom]: “Flee your land; it will be destroyed. I will sustain your widows and orphans, leave them behind. Even the innocent suffer [from Babylon's conquests], how much more should you suffer? The heart of your warriors will become like that of a travailing woman.” [YHWH on Damascus]: “I’ve ensured you’re not adequately fortified so that your great city will fall.” [YHWH on Kedar]: “I’ve told Nebuchadrezzar to attack you as a peaceful, wealthy nation with few defences.” [YHWH on Elam]: “I will scatter you across the four winds and place my throne in your land. Your captivity will be returned at the end of days.”
[YHWH on Babylon]: “Your idols will be shamed. A nation [Persia] marches against you from the north. When you devoured Israel, you said it wasn’t your fault, you were only a tool of my punishment – but Israel was [only] led astray by its leaders. Now you will become the prey, having sinned against me. Israel will return to its land; I will forgive and redeem them. Your mighty men will become week, your wise men foolish. The Persians are numerous and cruel. You are a cup that has intoxicated the nations; now you will be broken. My vengeance is for my Temple and your violence. Your idols are brutish, not like the god of Israel; your land will become a desert. Israel has nothing to fear because of rumours of violence – they can flee to Jerusalem.” Jeremiah writes the prophecy against Babylon on a scroll and gives it to Saraiah to read when he goes to Babylon.
[A reprise of Jerusalem's fall]: King Zedekiah was evil in YHWH’s eyes. He tried in vain to sneak out of Jerusalem and was captured and blinded. The Temple was destroyed, its vessels plundered, the people were exiled. [A generation later] king Jehoiachin was released from prison. [A sign of Israel's hardship lightening.]