Jeremiah and Lamentations

By Wayne Jackson

Jeremiah is one of the more remarkable characters of the Bible. He might be characterized as a prophet of “tears and terror.” At one moment, his great heart throbs with anguish over the wickedness of his national kinsmen, and we behold him weeping. If tears could have washed away Judah’s sins, surely his would have done so.

At another time, we see him launching fiery rebukes at the Lord’s wayward people for the vileness of their idolatry and the stubbornness of their calloused souls. He never holds back the horrors of judgment that await wayward Israel.

An so, it was tears for their plight, and terror in their future. Such a heavy responsibility can play havoc with a man’s state of mind.

Jeremiah was so human that many of us can readily identify with him. He entertained a pure passion for serving Jehovah. The Lord’s words were like a burning fire in his holy bones. But, like other great men of God, the prophet had his moments of despair as well.

There were times when he wanted to give up and fling his preaching responsibilities to the wind. He had no family to comfort him (Jehovah forbade him to marry). In fact, his own kinsmen, as well as the other folks of his hometown, turned against him and sought to murder him.

Is it any wonder that he had periods of depression? In spite of his weak moments, he remained rock-solid in a ministry that spanned more than four decades.

There are many things about heaven that I do not understand. I therefore hope that I am not speaking irreverently when I suggest that in our final abode, it would be a supreme thrill to embrace Jeremiah and heartily thank him for the encouragement he has lent to my life.

Jeremiah & Lamentations will be a valuable edition to your Bible reference library. Each of the 187 pages is packed with information on these two Old Testament books. This commentary covers not only the fifty-two chapters of Jeremiah and the five chapters of Lamentations, but it also includes two valuable appendices: “The Nation of Israel” and “Babylon and Prophecy.” Each chapter is divided into paragraph sections, following the structure of the American Standard Version (1901).

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Excerpts from Jeremiah & Lamentations by Wayne Jackson

Chapter 1:1-3—The Historical Background

Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah lived in the city of Anathoth, about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. He was of a priestly family and a man of great piety and sensitivity. His prophetic ministry commenced in the thirteenth year of the reign of Judah’s sixteenth king, Josiah (ca. 626 B.C.), and continued in the southern kingdom until the invading Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C., thus about forty years. His concluding message (52:31) came in the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin (ca. 560 B.C.; see 2 Kings 24:10ff); his total preaching career, therefore must have spanned approximately sixty-six years. Obviously he was quite young when called to the great task of urging Judah’s return to Jehovah. The “word of Jehovah came” unto him. This phrase is found more than one hundred fifty times within the book and is a clear affirmation of the prophet’s divine commission; his message was God’s—not his own.

Chapter 19:1-9—The Clay Jar in the Valley

Jeremiah is instructed to go and purchase a potter’s clay jar. He was then to take representative “elders” from the people and the priests (civil and religious leaders) and have them accompany him to the valley of Hinnom, just south of Jerusalem. There he would proclaim a message from the Lord (vv. 1,2). Hinnom was a center of Judaistic pagan worship. A declaration from the Lord was directed to the kings of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem. God would bring “evil” upon this place of such a magnitude that it would make the ears of those who heard of it tingle (v. 3; cf. 1 Samuel 3:11). The people had forsaken God and were treating this place as an “estranged” place, i.e., a pagan place. They worshipped false gods and even sacrificed their innocent children to heathen deities (v. 4). Note that Jeremiah considers infants to be “innocent”—not totally depraved with sin. Baal worship, with its human sacrifices, was another of their sins (v. 5). The time would come when the valley of Hinnom would be called the valley of slaughter (v. 6; see comments on 7:31,32). Whatever “counsel” (i.e., plan) Judah might have for preserving the city, the Lord would “void” that and the people would fall at the hand of their enemies in great numbers (v. 7). The destruction would be so horrible that those who pass by will be astonished and gasp at the carnage (v. 8). In the seige that grips the city, famine will be so intense that cannibalism will result. Parents would consume their children and friends would kill one another for food (v. 9). The prediction was fulfilled when Jerusalem was under siege in 586 B.C. (cf. Lamentations 2:20; 4:10). Moses had prophesied this very circumstance a thousand years earlier (cf. Deuteronomy 28:53). The same gruesome conduct was repeated centuries later when the Romans conquered Jerusalem, as verified by the historian Josephus.

Chapter 33:14-18—The Righteous Branch

That “behold the days come” introduction is certainly a clue that the prophet is looking toward the Christian age. God is going to fulfill that “good word” which he had spoken regarding Israel and Judah (v. 14). In those days the righteous Branch will grow up out of the lineage of David (cf. 23:5,6; see comments there), and he will execute justice and righteousness (v. 15). There is no question but that this is a prophecy of the coming Christ. In the days of the new Israel (Galatians 6:16), the Lord’s people will dwell safely, and will be designated “Jehovah our righteousness” because it is only through the divine plan of God that we can be forgiven and viewed as though we were righteous (v. 16). Laetsch has argued that this section, though similar to 23:5ff, has significant differences, which demonstrate that there is a separate theological thrust to this section. In the former, the emphasis is upon Christ; in the latter, the church comes more fully into view (1965, 268ff).

In the coming age, the throne of David will not be vacant (v. 17). “The expression does not promise perpetuity to the political throne of Judah (cf. Hosea 3:4; Jeremiah 33:20)” (Laetsch 1965, 272); rather, it looks forward to Christ and his abiding occupation of David’s spiritual throne (Luke 1:32,33; Acts 2:30). Furthermore, there will be no lack of “priests” to offer sacrifices before the Lord. These sacred services will be operative continuously (v. 18). This language is clear evidence of the fact that terminology is symbolic of the messianic age. When Christ died the Jewish system, with its Levitical priesthood, was abrogated (cf. Hebrews 7:11). Moreover that termination was permanent. Such is the force of Paul’s perfect tense verb “hath taken away” in Colossians 2:14. In this context, therefore, the Levitical priesthood stands as a type of the perpetual priesthood of all believers within the church of God (Romans 12:1; Hebrews 9:9; 1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 1:6) (see Smith 1981, 489); Plumptre 1959, 117).

Sources/Footnotes
  • Laetsch, Theo. 1965. _Bible Commentary—Jeremiah). St. Louis, MO: Concordia.
  • Plumptre, E. H. 1959. Ellicott’s Commentaries. Vol. 5. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Smith, R. Payne. 1981. The Bible Commentary. Vol. 5. F. C. Cook, ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.