October 10, 2014

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Old Testament: Jeremiah, a model of Jesus Christ

John F. Fink(Fortieth in a series of columns)

Last week, we left the Judeans in exile in Babylon, where they remained for at least 48 years, from the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. to the edict of King Cyrus of Persia allowing them to return to Jerusalem in 539 B.C. For this series of columns, we’ll leave them there for a while because many parts of the Old Testament concern, in one way or another, that exile.

First of all, there were the prophets. I’m not going to try to summarize all 18 of the prophetic books, but you should at least know how they fit into the Jewish history.

I already mentioned that Hosea and Amos prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel (where Elijah and Elisha also spent most of their time), and that Isaiah and Micah were advisors to the kings of Judah before that kingdom fell. The prophecies of Zephaniah, Nahum and Habakkuk also date from this period.

I must pause with Jeremiah since he was such a fascinating man. The Catholic Study Bible calls him a type and model of Jesus Christ and says that it’s not surprising that when Jesus asked his Apostles who people said that he was, some said Jeremiah.

Here are only some of the similarities between Jeremiah and Jesus: They were both confirmed in grace from their mothers’ wombs, unmarried, hounded by hometown citizens, wept over Jerusalem, called the Temple “a den of thieves” (Jer 7:11; Mt 21:13 and Lk 19:46), met secretly with those who believed, and foresaw a new covenant.

The Book of Jeremiah includes biography, history and prophecy. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet when he was young, during the reign of King Josiah, whose reform of Judaism Jeremiah supported. When idolatry reappeared after Josiah’s death, Jeremiah opposed it with strong prophecies about what would happen to the country.

After Babylon conquered Jerusalem the first time, Jeremiah counseled King Zedekiah, trying to prevent him from revolting against Babylon. Zedekiah did revolt and Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, leading most of its citizens to Babylon.

Jeremiah, though, was left behind amidst the ruins. He wrote letters to the Jews in Babylon urging them to build houses, plant gardens, marry and raise families, because someday they would return to Jerusalem. Then he was forced into exile in Egypt, and tradition has it that he was murdered by his own countrymen.

Thanks to his secretary Baruch, Jeremiah’s influence grew after his death. His oracles contain sublime teachings.

The Book of Lamentations, containing five lamentations over the fall of Jerusalem, was composed by an unknown author during the Babylonian exile. The books of the prophets Ezekiel and Baruch were also composed during this time period.

Ezekiel is considered one of the major prophets, along with Isaiah and Jeremiah, because of the lengths of those books. He was exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C., after the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem the first time.

The first part of his book contains prophecies that Jerusalem would be destroyed. After that happened, he prophesied that God would lead his people back to Jerusalem. †

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