Have you had the opportunity to watch a Spanish soap opera? Talk about dramatic statements and action. Every moment in those shows seem to be full of tension and drama.
This is the kind of dialogue Juanita te amo! pero amo a tu hermano. (Juanita I love you; but I love your brother) The dialogue consistently seems almost over the top when it comes to suspense and intrigue with the Spanish soap opera. Perhaps it’s is not so different from some of the dramatic shows you might find on television in the United States. Whether it is English soap operas, such as general hospital or as the world turns, or the reality shows which are so popular, Survivor, Keeping up with the Kardashians or American idols, drama seems to be a main fixture. I guess drama is a part of life. It certainly seems to a priority, or a trending presence in shows, and perhaps in life. I think it is possible that some people enjoy the drama, thrive on the dramatic turns, whether it is life or in television and movies.
When I was in seminary, I took on a couple of classes on the Old Testament, also known also Hebrew scriptures. We spent some time looking at the Prophets which have books names after them in that portion of the Bible. And we spent some time looking at Jeremiah. I have to admit, I was not initially a huge fan of the prophet Jeremiah in seminary. Everything seemed so dramatic in the book. If you have read the book of Jeremiah, you may notice the dramatic points of this biblical book. Jeremiah spent a fair amount of time complaining to God about his situation, and what he is being called to do. He was in conflict with a number of persons during the course of this book of the bible. He was involved in dramatic events. It is scripture that is filled with tension, worry and drama.
The texts found in this book are not in chronological order so it makes it a little more challenging to follow the course of this book. From scriptural references, we learn that Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry began in approx. 626 b.c.e and ended sometime after 586 BCE (fall of kingdom of Judah). His ministry was immediately preceded by that of Habakkuk, another prophet who was a contemporary, and Obadiah may have been also. Since Ezekiel began his ministry in Babylon in 593, he too was a later contemporary of Jeremiah in Jerusalem. Jeremiah was a member of the priestly household of Hilkiah. His hometown was Anathoth (1:1), so he may have been a descendant of Abiathar (1Ki 2:26), a priest during the days of King Solomon.
Much of the words Jeremiah shared were words of condemnation and judgment. Early in the book he pleaded with the community to repent, but they do not listen. He was led by God in time to predict the invasion and the eventual fall of the kingdom of Judah. He speaks of the corruption of the people, the sins of the community and of the false prophets. Jeremiah does refer to redemption and restoration, but this will happen after the people of Judah are overthrown and exiled.
It seems as though because he offered bleak future for the community, that he encounters resistance and challenges. In chapter 18, There were people who have said that they wanted to kill Jeremiah. Scholars suggest that these people are most likely from the three offices of religious office (prophets, priests, and counselors) (Meeks 1989, 1149 footnote to verses 18:18-23). They were unsuccessful, and Jeremiah continued his ministry. In Chapter 20, he had a conflict with Pashur, one of the priest at that time. Jeremiah had been prophesying that disaster would befall the town because the people had “stiffened their necks”, refusing to hear the Lord’s words. Pashur, in response, hit him, and then made sure he was put into stocks. In time, Jeremiah was let go, but it is another instance of conflict.
In Chapter 26, he has another confrontation with the priests and the prophets their response to his prophesying against the city is they proclaim he deserves to die. The officials of the city and evidence is given that Jeremiah is faithfully connected to god. The king listens and the city is saved, and Jeremiah is let go. In Chapter 28 there is the verbal battle between Hananiah and Jeremiah(28:1-17). God again spoke to Jeremiah and gave him a command. Jeremiah heeded the voice of God and makes a yoke and puts it upon himself. He then proceeded to call out to those in the community of what would happen to them, that they would be . Hananiah, another prophet from the community intervened, proclaiming that Israel would successfully revolt under the Babylonian Kingdom and be free in two years. After giving this message, he then breaks the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck. The only thing that is noteworthy after this encounter is that God states Hananiah would be dead before the end of the year. This actually did happen. And then Babylon conquered and destroyed Judah, and Hananiah did die before the end of the year.
In Chapter 37, Jeremiah was accused of deserting the community. Despite his denial, he was beaten up and then imprisoned. He was accused by a man named Irijah. Ijijah was the grandson of a man named Hananiah. This may have been the same Hanaiah that Jeremiah prophetically battled in chapter 28. More drama as the conflict continues. The final major conflict occurs in Chapter 38. This is the reading from Jeremiah we hear today. This confrontation has to do with Jeremiah preaching to those around to submit and go with Chaldeans (Babylonians) instead of staying in the city. Those who stay in the city will “die by the sword (verse 2)”. Some of the court officials feel this kind of talk is treasonous. They approach the king and proclaim that Jeremiah should die because this will affect the mindset of the soldiers. . Then in a drama like twist, the officials decide to put him into a cistern. Jeremiah is eventually rescued by a man named Ebed-melech.
This book is similar to Isaiah in that the end of the book, there are a number of prophesies toward the countries surrounding Israel (Egypt, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom Damascus, Kedar and Hazor (Arabia), Elam, and Babylon. It is unique in that the scribe of this book is known and is mentioned. His name was Baruch, and he had a close connection to Jeremiah.
Overall, Jeremiah reveals quite a bit about his personality throughout this biblical book. He reflected about his efforts frequently was quite self critical. Although timid by nature (1:6), he received the Lord’s assurance that he would become strong and courageous (1:18; 6:27; 15:20). In his “confessions” (see 11:18-23; 12:1-4; 15:10-21; 17:12-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18 and notes) he laid bare the deep struggles of his inmost being, sometimes making startling statements about his feelings toward God (12:1; 15:18). On occasion, he engaged in calling for justice against his personal enemies (12:1-3; 15:15; 17:18; 18:19-23; see note on Ps 5:10) – he did this enough that there is actually an English word “jeremiad,” referring to a denunciatory tirade or complaint. Jeremiah, so often expressing his anguish of spirit (4:19; 9:1; 10:19-20; 23:9), has justly been called the “weeping prophet.”
SO I think it is clear we can observe the dramatic nature of this book. There are some other things to notice. Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible, containing more words than any other book. Although a number of chapters were written mainly in prose, Jeremiah was often instructed to use figurative or literal symbolism to highlight his message: a ruined and useless belt (13:1-11) wine jars, celibacy of the prophet and absence of a relationship, a potter and his clay, a smashed clay jar (19:1-12), two baskets of figs, a yoke of straps and crossbars (ch. 27), buying a field in a time of war, a scroll of Israel’s misdeeds, large stones in a brick pavement (43:8-13). not to enter a house where there is a funeral meal or where there is feasting (16:5-9),
In spite of the drama that surrounds this book. The message by Jeremiah is similar to what we have heard before. Judgment was coming unless sincere repentance took place. As the impending Babylonian was drawing closer, Jeremiah encourage the people to submit and not rebel against Babylon. God was concerned about accountability and Jeremiah spoke on that. But the underlying message or restoration and grace for the community was to occur in the future. Mercy and covenant faithfulness would triumph over wrath. Beyond the judgment would come restoration and renewal. Israel would be restored, the nations that crushed her would be crushed, and the old covenants (with Israel, David and the Levites) would be honored. God would make a new covenant with his people in which he would write his law on their hearts.
Thanks be to God and may the people of God say together, amen.