Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 23, “Jeremiah” pp. 389-406.
Lessing comments not only on Jeremiah’s length, as having the most words of any book of the Bible, but also on its complexity (Lessing 2014, 389). Jeremiah is challenging to interpreters, Yet it is very rewarding.
While historically the book has been credited to Jeremiah, more recent scholarship has given an increasing role to later redactors (Lessing 2014, 389). However, some find Jeremiah to be an author steeped in an oral tradition, but presenting a written work (Lessing 2014, 390). The book does seem disjointed at times. However, Lessing considers that the text may also be a pictoral representation of the societal turmoil it describes. The basic outline of the book shows a division into two parts, with the second starting at chapter 26 (Lessing 2014, 391). The text uses many doublets as well as recurring stock phrases (Lessing 2014, 393).
Lessing notes and comments on substantive differences between the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint (Lessing 2014, 394). This could be explained by the existence of two different editions, one of which, now lost, was used to create the Septuagint. It is unclear whether this happened or not.
Jeremiah worked as a prophet for more than 40 years (Lessing 2014, 394). During this time, Assyria fell to Babylon. Egypt took advantage of the vacuum to plunder Judah. Then Babylon defeated Egypt. Judah had swung between support of Egypt and Babylon (Lessing 2014, 395). The population of Judah and Jerusalem plummeted during the time of Jeremiah, with many deportations (Lessing 2014, 396).
Important theological themes in Jeremiah include sin (Lessing 2014, 396), seen as that which brings divine judgment. God’s word in written form is mentioned frequently in Jeremiah (Lessing 2014, 398). This is the power through which God accomplishes His will. Also prominent is God’s word acted out (Lessing 2014, 399). The prophet and others show God’s word through their actions. The land of promise is another central concept (Lessing 2014, 400). God’s people are always people of the land, according to God’s promise. We also see a conflict between true and false prophecy (Lessing 2014, 402). The false prophets focus on hope for an immediate reward. Christ is prominent in the idea of a new covenant for God’s people (Lessing 2014, 402). God has appointed his prophet to condemn sin and to show God’s grace (Lessing 2014, 404).