John T. Willis

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Major Themes in Jeremiah

Before working through the Book of Jeremiah, it might be helpful to attempt to SKETCH some of the major themes which appear throughout this important book.

The Septuagint (LXX)(Greek translation) of Jeremiah is quite different from the Masoretic Text (MT). The LXX is approximately one-eighth shorter than the MT. Most of these omissions are minor, representing individual verses or parts of verses. Jeremiah 39:4-13 and 51:44b-49a are clearly homoeoteleutons. The LXX omits several doublets in the MT. The LXX omits Jer. 33:14-26 for reasons unknown. The LXX puts the oracles concerning the nations in Jeremiah 46-51 immediately after Jer. 25:13, and the order of these oracles in quite different from the MT. Like most scholars, I follow the MT, and thus reject the order and omissions of the LXX. This is a technical issue, which only a few scholars spend many years attempting to reach a conclusion on this matter.

A careful study of the Book of Jeremiah leads one to understand several MAJOR THEMES in this book. This blog MERELY calls attention to SOME of these themes. Later, we will go into great detail as we work through this important book. HERE, we will only SKETCH SOME of these themes.

I. Yahweh is about to punish his people Judah. Jeremiah uses several metaphors to communicate this idea. Here are a few of these.
A. The Foe from the North=Babylon. 1:13-16; 4:5-6; 6:1, 22; 13:20; 25:1-14; and often.
B. Magor-missabib=Terror on every side. 6:25; 20:1-6, 10; 46:5; and often.
C. Lion. 4:7.
D. Hot wind. 4:11-12.
E. Woman in labor. 4:31; 13:21; 30:6; 49:24.
F. Blow the trumpet. 4:21; 6:1.
G. Heap of ruins. 9:11.
H. Drought. 14:1-6.
I. "Pestilence, Sword, Famine"--14:13; 15:2; 16:4; 18:21; 21:7, 9; 24:10; 27:8,
13; 28:8; 29:17; 32:36.
J. Broken potter's vessel. 19:1-20:6.

II. The REASON Yahweh is about to punish his people Judah is because of their sins.
A. The essential sin is PRIDE=SELF-CENTEREDNESS=INGRATITUDE. Jeremiah describes this in three major ways.
1. Unnatural [Inappropriate] Response to God's Love. Jeremiah uses NUMEROUS figures about this idea. Here are a few:
a. The thirsty traveler. 2:11-13.
b. The bride who forgot her attire. 2:32.
c. Sand as a barrier for the sea. 5:20-23.
d. The person who falls on the ice. 8:4-5.
e. Birds that do not migrate. 8:7.
f. Melting snow. 18:13-17.
g. The Rechabites. 35.
2. Trusting in things and people that are untrustworthy.
a. Foreign allies. 2:36-37.
b. Wisdom, power, wealth. 9:23-24.
c. Influential and powerful human beings. 17:5-8.
d. Strongholds and treasures. 48:7.
e. The temple [any place of worship]. 7:8-14.
3. Being false [counterfeit]. Pretending to be faithful to God, but not truly.
a. Changing one's heart and life. 7:1-11.
b. Treating other people unjustly. 9:2-9.
c. Serving "gods" other than Yahweh. 10:1-16.
B. Jeremiah often denounces specific EXPRESSIONS of this fundamental sin. Here are a few specific expressions.
1. Idolatry. 10:1-16; 44:1-30.
2. Adultery. 5:7-9; 7:9.
3. Oppressing the alien, orphans, and widows. 7:5-6.
4. Lying and slander. 9:4-6.
5. Breaking the sabbath. 17:19-27.

III. After punishing his sinful people Judah, Yahweh will redeem and restore a faithful remnant to carry on Yahweh's eternal purposes. Jeremiah gives at least FIVE specific HOPES for the future of the faithful people in Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B. C.
A. Yahweh will bring a faithful remnant back to the land of Canaan to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. 29:10-14; 30:2-3.
B. Yahweh will "heal" the spiritual wounds of his people. 30:12-17.
C. Yahweh will raise up a "new David" to serve under God to guide his people.
23:5-8; 30:8-9, 21; 33:14-26.
D. Yahweh will re-unite North Israel and South Judah as the original unified people of Israel. 31:31-34; 32:36-44; 33:14-26.
E. Yahweh will build up and plant his people. 31:27-28.

IV. Following Hosea [and additional earlier prophets], Jeremiah uses SIX figures or metaphors to emphasize Yahweh's relationship to his people.
A. Yahweh is husband--Judah is wife. 2:1-3; 3:1-18; 31:31-34.
B. Yahweh is father or parent--Judah is child. 3:19; 31:9, 20.
C. Yahweh is shepherd--Judah is flock or sheep. 23:1-4; 31:10.
D. Yahweh is vinedresser--Judah is vineyard or vine. 2:21.
E. Yahweh is physician or doctor--Judah is patient. 8:18-9:1; 30:12-17.
F. Yahweh is potter--Judah is clay. 18-20.

V. It is important to realize that Jeremiah did not CREATE a new religion, but roots his message in the Law of Moses and the prophets. Note especially 6:16-20; 7:8-11, 16-26; 11:1-17; 17:19-27; and often.

Hopefully, these themes will highlight the specific texts to follow in the blogs ahead.

Share YOUR thoughts and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


  • I'm excited to see you begin this study. I was thinking the other day that I need to spend more time in the major prophets. Your study is very timely for me.


    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

    By Blogger Tim Archer, at 6:59 AM  

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