Sad Times for Jeremiah
The Saddest Prophet of All
The Result of Sin
About 600 years before Jesus was born, the city of Jerusalem, being the heart of the Hebrew nation at that time, was populated mostly by morally corrupt people according to Jeremiah, the devout prophet. He was a kind and sympathetic man who unfortunately would live to see the total destruction of his city at the hands of the Babylonians who lived 550 miles to the east.
Scholars and translators have noted that the Book of Jeremiah is not as neatly written as the rest of the Bible, suggesting it wasn't proofread or organized carefully, which is understandable considering the disorganization of Jerusalem society in the days before impending doom. But Jeremiah himself was neither killed nor taken into captivity by the Babylonians. He escaped to Egypt but later was murdered there by his own Jewish people, who thought he'd damaged their reputations by criticizing the hypocrisy and evil of the Jews of that time.
Jeremiah's book is divided into more than sixty chapters, half of which issue constant warnings and threats based on the evil of Jerusalem dwellers, and a few of which prophesy final salvation and various future events pertaining to particular individuals and nations. Jeremiah felt that he was called by God to report what happened in Jerusalem in his lifetime. Although he knew God loved Israel (Ch 2) he also knew of the tremendous sins (Ch 3) and the impending destruction (Ch 6).
As often mentioned in the Old Testament, the worshiping of idols instead of the invisible God of Israel was at the root of many sins. (Ch10) What Jeremiah was predicting by way of punishment was the ruthless Babylonian destruction that took place in 586 BC. Babylon was part of the great Assyrian (Syria today) empire, which was feared by all other nations. It can't be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that Jeremiah really was a fortune teller. The time of the writing of his book cannot be proven exactly. Although Jeremiah was hoping for Jerusalem to turn around and be good again, he felt that God rejected all his prayers. (Ch 15) The value of the book is not so much it's predictions of the future as its statements of good and evil that can come from faith, and lack thereof, in God's power.
The Book of Jeremiah is not included in the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and Talmud (extensive discussions of laws and social traditions) that form the basis of the Jewish religion. But Jeremiah is read aloud in Christian church services and masses. One reason for that is that Christian scholars insist Jeremiah predicted Christ in such wording as is found in Chapter 23: "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, and I will raise up to David a just branch: and a king shall reign, and shall be wise: and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Israel shall dwell confidently: and this is the name that they shall call him: The Lord Our Just One." But it is still a far cry from predicting Jesus directly.
Jeremiah rejects the prophesies of other contemporaries. (Ch 28) After the Jews were captured and taken away to Babylon, Jeremiah wrote to them to console them. (Ch 29) He predicted that Israel would be restored (Ch 31) and so they were, and Jerusalem rebuilt (Ch 33) and so it was.
Baruch was Jeremiah's friend who often served as an assistant and scribe. (Ch 36) The people of Jerusalem were bitter toward Jeremiah for explaining why God disapproved of them; so Jeremiah was imprisoned in a dungeon. (Ch 38) Later when he went to Egypt (Ch 43) and criticized the idolatry of the Jews who were there (Ch 44) they became very angry. But it wasn't only Jews he criticized. He also prophesied against Egypt, the Philistines, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Cedar, Asor, Elam, and Babylon. (Chs 46 to 50) All of these nations were to meet their doom as well. Thus it appears that eventually all empires fall.
After the Book of Jeremiah is a special book called the Lamentations of Jeremiah in which he weeps for the people of Jerusalem who suffered the Babylonian conquest, and prays for them. The Lamentations and another short book, the prophesy of Jeremiah's assistant Baruch, are two short continuations attached like an appendix to the main Book of Jeremiah. They both express sorrow for what happened to Jerusalem, but pray to God for forgiveness and predict the future restoration of their people.
Thus, the sadness of the killing and destruction that took place in Jerusalem when the forces of Babylon overtook Jeremiah's people is explained in terms of punishment for their sins. As much as the Jews repeatedly are depicted gloriously in the stories of the Bible as being God's chosen people, they also are criticized repeatedly by their own writers, such as Jeremiah, for their many sins, and their punishments deemed justified.