Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Reading Through Jeremiah #4 (Chapters 46-52)

31sWD6lEWeL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Today’s post concludes the read-through of the book of Jeremiah accompanied by Jeremiah: A Commentary, The Old Testament Library, by Leslie C. Allen. Jeremiah concludes with prophecies about thee surrounding nations that show that God is still in charge of the whole world and will complete his covenant and bless His people. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Chapter 46 begins a section of prophecies against the nations. The purpose of these prophecies was to announce that YHWH was in charge of all the nations and he would judge them through the sword of Nebuchadnezzar. Israel was thus instructed to trust exclusively in YHWH and to not make alliances with these nations. Sadly all these nations, like Israel failed to listen to these prophecies and were devastated and ruined by the army of Babylon.

The text implies that Egypt was itself Israel’s enemy, and so Egypt’s destruction and Israel’s salvation reflect two sides of the same theological coin. From a historical perspective the reader would more naturally have understood the oracles against Egypt as warnings to Judah not to ally itself with Egypt against Babylon and so as virtual oracles of disaster for Judah, but the coda implies an interpretation of Egypt as the enemy not only of Yahweh (v. 10) but also of the covenant people. Jeremiah 46, 469

Verse 27 finds in the disaster a tit-for-tat response for Moab’s undeserved mockery of Israel, which here stands for Judah (cf. Zeph 2:8, 10). This second reason is related to the first, challenging Yahweh, and seems to function as a definition of it. To deride Yahweh’s people was to defy Yahweh. Jeremiah 48, 482

The oracle predicts doom for Edom. Yahweh’s intervention would decisively challenge the self-sufficient sense of impregnability derived from Edom’s high mountains with their natural strongholds. Jeremiah 49, 497–498

Jeremiah ends with a set of prophecies against the main oppressor, Babylon. It pours out the grievances that Israel and the nations have against this oppressor and prophecies the devastating judgment of God upon their haughty pride, violence, abuse and idolatry. But, this judgment will have a positive result. Israel will be restored in its land. The empire will be destroyed by God through the Persians and Medes, but God will use them to restore His people. Ultimately the ambitions of every empire will be judged by God, the world will be set right and history will end with the kingdom of God in place.

A host of grief-stricken prayers find their divine amen in chs. 50–51. In a lectionary their passionate spirit on behalf of the oppressed could be matched by Luke 18:1–8 and 2 Thess 1:6–10. Jeremiah 50, 509

Its (the grateful worship) contextual relevance is Yahweh’s dealing with idols (v. 18b), which are understood as Babylon’s idols, as a reprisal for sacrilege (v. 11b). By such reprisal Yahweh would be vindicated as the true God, who acts as powerfully in history as in the creation and maintenance of the world of nature. Belief in such natural power encourages Israel’s trust in its God’s control of history yet to happen. Jeremiah 51.15-19, 528

God’s last word adds consequences to the divine intervention in v. 57. What makes it special is the reflection borrowed from Hab 2:13, itself set in a cup of wrath context (2:15–16), which by means of intertextuality (“fire”) creates a damning epitaph for a regime built on exploiting its human infrastructure by tribute and forced labor. In God’s world such a regime could not last. Jeremiah 51.58, 531

Chapter 52 forms an epilogue most likely added much later and taken largely from 2 Kgs 24:18–25:21, 27–30. It contains a long message about the death of Zedekiah and the prominent people of Jerusalem, and the total destruction of the temple and the carrying away of all its materials to Babylon. It ends with a short report of the Babylonian king Evel-Merodoch raising the status of Jehoiachin from prisoner to hostage king. Thus, there is a hint of the hope of restoration that is coming. God may exile his people, but he won't forget his covenant with them.

It invests Evil-Merodach’s action with providential value, if only in token; in particular it reminds the careful reader of 24:5–6. The tide was starting to turn. The first readers were given a hint that “salvation is nearer to us now … the night is far gone; the day is near” (Rom 13:11–12)...The polarized pair of reports in ch. 52 vindicates the messages of doom that pervade the book and points to the realization of its messages of hope. Jeremiah 52, 540–541

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