A prophet called before his birth …

Piero della Francesca - The Prophet Jeremiah -...

The young Jeremiah

At last … Jeremiah. The longest book of the Bible and one of the most significant in the Old Testament. Jeremiah prophesied for about 45 years from 627 BC to 582. He was called as a young man, in the 13th year of King Josiah’s reign. He continued through the fall of the Assyrian empire and the beginning of the exile in Babylon. That period comprised one religious reformation, five kings, three wars, and two sieges of Jerusalem. Idolatry and covenant infidelity were Judah’s great sins, Jeremiah preached, and they called for God’s corrective judgment. He did hold out hope, however, for God’s mercy, the restoration of Israel, and a new covenant.

Jeremiah was born into a priestly family descended from Eli, explaining his high regard for Israel’s ancient traditions. Little is known of his youth other than his birthplace in Anathoth, three miles northeast of Jerusalem. Evidently it was a home of conservative piety where the Torah and words of the prophets were shared.

Jeremiah had a distinct call, recounted in Chapter 1.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you. …
Then the LORD extended his hand
and touched my mouth, saying to me,
See, I place my words in your mouth.
Today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to uproot and to tear down,
to destroy and to demolish,
to build and to plant.

Although God promised him support when his words were unpopular, Jeremiah was arrested, imprisoned, scourged, put onto trial for his life, thrown into a cistern to die. Even his relatives plotted his death.

In 587 Babylon destroyed the temple, devastated Jerusalem, and took captive most of the population. Jeremiah himself was forced into exile in Egypt. According to legend, he died there, stoned to death by the people to whom he prophesied.

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