Ultimately, Jeremiah’s message to his crushed and broken people was one of hope.
Babylon—acting, in the prophet’s view, as an agent of God’s wrath—had crushed Judah in 587-586 B.C. The Temple was looted and destroyed, the city of Jerusalem burned and torn down. Leading citizens were executed or carried off into exile with those who had been deported 10 years before. Of the people who remained, many fled to Egypt. And yet, Jeremiah insisted, a remnant of the people would survive and the covenant would be renewed. But that remnant lived not in Judah, but in Babylon.
This was the prophet’s central insight, breaking ground for Ezekiel, Second Isaiah and other prophets of the exile. The covenant remained because the covenant partners remained: Yahweh and his people.
God would bring them back from captivity. Their enemies would be punished, Israel restored, Jerusalem rebuilt. Judah and Israel would flourish again, build and plant. God would forgive their sins and write a new covenant on their hearts. Joy and gladness would return to the towns of Judah. A Davidic king would rule in right and justice.
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah … I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…. their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31, 33-34)
Until the remnant was restored to its own land, Jeremiah counseled the exiles to make a life for themselves in Babylon.