Book of Jeremiah
|Light iron-age reading
|Gabbin' with God
The Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament is a collection of the writings of the prophet by the same name. Jeremiah foresaw the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II. Jeremiah said that the disaster was ordained by God and recommended that the people offer no resistance. His messages of doom and gloom hurt morale so much that the rulers of the city threw him into a dry well. When Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem just like Jeremiah said he would, the Babylonian King was so grateful for the psychological warfare waged by Jeremiah to soften up the Jews that he had him taken up out of the cistern and Jeremiah was allowed to go anywhere he wished.
After continuing to be rather vague and unhelpful for the Jews, Jeremiah correctly predicted that they would fail if they resisted the Babylonians (a bit of a no-brainer). When this prediction came true, his compatriots forced him into exile in Egypt, where he presumably died.
Jeremiah 29:11 has been annoyingly overused as an inspirational quote. The verse comes from a letter Jeremiah wrote to the King, presumably dictated by God, essentially telling the Jews collectively that God would care for them in the future and bring them out of exile, and until then they should take care for themselves. The next time you see someone quoting it, you can remind them that it has absolutely nothing to do with either of you.
Authorship, texts, and historical basis
The book is constructed out of fragments, divided into three sections: oracular or poetic, narrative, and biographical. Mainstream Christian scholarship assumes that it contains the teachings of an actual prophet called Jeremiah, probably assembled shortly after Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II in 589 BCE. The first, oracular section is possibly edited from the words of Jeremiah, while later sections were probably the work of others: his companion Baruch is often credited.
Some of it was probably written before the destruction of Jerusalem (Jeremiah reportedly began his mission around 627 BCE), but the text may or may not have been reshaped during the Jews' exile to match the changed theological environment, when the Deuteronomists edited or rewrote much of the Old Testament. The book contains a good amount of biographical detail about Jeremiah, far more than about most prophets. But it is likely that it was edited to make his story more like that of Moses, with whom he is often associated or compared, for instance the frequent occurence of the number 40, which was also the number of years Moses was in the wilderness.
It exists in both Hebrew (Masoretic) and Greek versions, with the latter notably shorter, missing about ⅛th of the material in the Hebrew. It was almost all originally written in Biblical Hebrew, except one verse in Aramaic.