Kingdom of Judah. 1

History. 1

Biblical Material 9

Hezekiah. 9

Psalms related to Hezekiah. 11

Proverbs related to prophetic activity and Hezekiah. 17

Micah. 22

Isaiah. 25

Manasseh and Amon. 28

Josiah. 28

Zephaniah. 32

Nahum.. 35

Jeremiah. 35

Jehoahaz (609) 40

Jehoiakim (609-598) 40

Jeremiah. 41

Habakkuk. 43

Jehoiachin (598-597) 45

Jeremiah. 46

Zedekiah (598-587) 47

Jeremiah. 55

Lamentations. 63

Prophetic Activity in Judah. 67

Essay on Psalms and Wisdom.. 68

Psalms. 68

Wisdom.. 72

Proverbs. 72

Job. 77


Kingdom of Judah


Assyria begins this period as the dominant power.  Manasseh would give tribute to Assyria during this period in order to keep peace with the powerful neighbor to the north.  However, it loses the Battle of Carchemish against Babylon, which then becomes the dominant world power.  It advances toward Judah and the nations surrounding it.

Assyria’s troubles were reversed in the third and climactic phase of the Neo-Assyrian period, the century (744-627) of Tiglath-pileser III, Shalmaneser V, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal. Under the standard set by Tiglath-pileser, they restored royal power and established a standing army, whose constant campaigning eventually brought under Assyrian sway almost all of the Near East. The aim now was not simply spoil, but permanent conquest—an empire of provinces and vassal states backed by an increased use of deportation to control the conquered. To administer this, the bureaucracy became more complex and more dependent on non-Assyrian deportees, especially Aramaeans, whose language and culture gradually pervaded the whole. To display the new-found power, the imperial cities, especially the heartland capitals of Ashur, ucalah, Nineveh, and the short-lived Dur-Sharrukin, were made larger and more splendid.

This empire had serious flaws, however. Its heartland became increasingly dependent on tribute and deportees from the conquered areas, who, being increasingly burdened, revolted whenever they could. Israel, for example, joined revolts against Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, and Sargon and paid for its ‘disobedience’ by dismemberment into provinces and deportation (732-720 b.c.; 2 Kings 17:1-6). Judah, fearing the consequences, remained a loyal vassal through these revolts; but eventually it too yielded, joining the outbreak against Sennacherib (704-701 b.c.), who responded harshly but allowed Judah to resume its vassal status (2 Kings 18:13-20:21).

These recurring revolts strained Assyrian resources and organization and exacerbated latent tensions within the ruling elite, which resurfaced in the assassination of Sennacherib (681) and especially in the civil war between Ashurbanipal and his brother, who was regent of Babylonia, a constantly troublesome vassal (652-648 b.c.). Ashurbanipal won, but the ensuing military and political exhaustion began a loosening of imperial authority.

The process accelerated after Ashurbanipal’s death (627), in the fourth and final phase of Neo-Assyrian history. Now many subjects openly asserted their independence—Judah under King Josiah (2 Kings 21:24-23:34), Babylonia under its new Neo-Babylonian/Chaldean dynasty, the Medes—and conflict broke out again among the Assyrian elite for what power remained. Exploiting this conflict, the Medes and Chaldeans began attacking the Assyrian heartland, and between 614 and 612 the capital cities fell into their hands. The Assyrian army, always a kind of state within the state, held out a little longer in Harran to the west, apparently with Egyptian support. But in 610-609, a Chaldean army dislodged it, helped by Josiah of Judah, who at the cost of his life (2 Kings 23:29-30) delayed the arrival of Egyptian forces. With that, the Assyrian state disappeared, and the bulk of its territories were taken by the Chaldeans.[1]

Exile, a term used, often synonymously with ‘captivity,’ to refer to the period in the sixth century b.c. when part of the Judaean population was exiled to Babylonia. The term is not historically satisfactory, since it is too easily taken to suggest that the whole population was deported.

Deportation as a policy was practiced by various ancient powers: Assyria deported part of the population of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) in 722 b.c. 2 Kings 17:6 and 18:11 list places to which they were taken; their subsequent history is unknown. Sennacherib’s siege of Lachish (701 b.c.) resulted in deportation of captives. Babylon deported Jehoiachin and other members of the royal family in 597 b.c., together with leading military men, military personnel, and craftsmen (2 Kings 24:15-16); a second deportation followed in 587 b.c. consisting of survivors in Jerusalem and deserters (2 Kings 25:11). Jer. 52:30 records a third deportation in 582 b.c. The numbers are differently computed: Jer. 52:30 gives a total for all three deportations of 4,600; 2 Kings 25:14 has 10,000 for 597 b.c. alone. Similar policies are attested for the Persians and for later Greek and Roman rulers.

The Assyrians brought deportees from elsewhere to Samaria (2 Kings 17); the Babylonians appointed a Judaean notable, Gedaliah, to control the area (2 Kings 25:22-24). The parallel in Jeremiah 40 implies a considerable population in Judah; 2 Kings 24:14 and 25:12 know only of ‘some of the poorest of the land’ left to tend crops. 2 Chron. 36:21, taking up prophecies of total desolation (e.g., Jer. 7:34, cf. Lam. 1:3), clearly envisages a land emptied of population. This theological motif reflects the view that restoration came only from the exiles in Babylonia (cf. Jer. 24:5-7; 29:4-14; Ezek. 11).         

Sennacherib (Assyrian: Sin-ahhe-eriba; 704–681) was well prepared for his position as sovereign. With him Assyria acquired an exceptionally clever and gifted, though often extravagant, ruler. His father, interestingly enough, is not mentioned in any of his many inscriptions. He left the new city of Dur-Sharrukin at once and resided in Ashur for a few years, until in 701 he made Nineveh his capital.

Sennacherib had considerable difficulties with Babylonia. In 703 Marduk-apal-iddina again crowned himself king with the aid of Elam, proceeding at once to ally himself with other enemies of Assyria. After nine months he was forced to withdraw when Sennacherib defeated a coalition army consisting of Babylonians, Aramaeans, and Elamites. The new puppet king of Babylonia was Bel-ibni (702–700), who had been raised in Assyria.

In 702 Sennacherib launched a raid into western Iran. In 701 there followed his most famous campaign, against Syria and Palestine, with the purpose of gaining control over the main road from Syria to Egypt in preparation for later campaigns against Egypt itself. When Sennacherib's army approached, Sidon immediately expelled its ruler, Luli, who was hostile to Assyria. The other allies either surrendered or were defeated. An Egyptian army was defeated at Eltekeh in Judah. Sennacherib laid siege to Jerusalem, and the king of Judah, Hezekiah, was called upon to surrender, but he did not comply. An Assyrian officer tried to incite the people of Jerusalem against Hezekiah, but his efforts failed. In view of the difficulty of surrounding a mountain stronghold such as Jerusalem, and of the minor importance of this town for the main purpose of the campaign, Sennacherib cut short the attack and left Palestine with his army, which according to the Old Testament (2 Kings 19:35) had been decimated by an epidemic. The number of Assyrian dead is reported to have risen to 185,000. Nevertheless, Hezekiah is reported to have paid tribute to Sennacherib on at least one occasion.

Bel-ibni of Babylonia seceded from the union with Assyria in 700. Sennacherib moved quickly, defeating Bel-ibni and replacing him with Sennacherib's oldest son, Ashur-nadin-shumi. The next few years were relatively peaceful. Sennacherib used this time to prepare a decisive attack against Elam, which time and again had supported Babylonian rebellions. The overland route to Elam had been cut off and fortified by the Elamites. Sennacherib had ships built in Syria and at Nineveh. The ships from Syria were moved on rollers from the Euphrates to the Tigris. The fleet sailed downstream and was quite successful in the lagoons of the Persian Gulf and along the southern coastline of Elam. The Elamites launched a counteroffensive by land, occupying Babylonia and putting a man of their choice on the throne. Not until 693 were the Assyrians again able to fight their way through to the north. Finally, in 689, Sennacherib had his revenge. Babylon was conquered and completely destroyed, the temples plundered and leveled. The waters of the Arakhtu Canal were diverted over the ruins, and the inner city remained almost totally uninhabited for eight years. Even many Assyrians were indignant at this, believing that the Babylonian god Marduk must be grievously offended at the destruction of his temple and the carrying off of his image. Marduk was also an Assyrian deity, to whom many Assyrians turned in time of need. A political-theological propaganda campaign was launched to explain to the people that what had taken place was in accord with the wish of most of the gods. A story was written in which Marduk, because of a transgression, was captured and brought before a tribunal. Only a part of the commentary to this botched piece of literature is extant. Even the great poem of the creation of the world, the Enuma elish, was altered: the god Marduk was replaced by the god Ashur. Sennacherib's boundless energies brought no gain to his empire, however, and probably weakened it. The tenacity of this king can be seen in his building projects; for example, when Nineveh needed water for irrigation, Sennacherib had his engineers divert the waters of a tributary of the Great Zab River. The canal had to cross a valley at Jerwan. An aqueduct was constructed, consisting of about two million blocks of limestone, with five huge, pointed archways over the brook in the valley. The bed of the canal on the aqueduct was sealed with cement containing magnesium. Parts of this aqueduct are still standing today. Sennacherib wrote of these and other technological accomplishments in minute detail, with illustrations.

Sennacherib built a huge palace in Nineveh, adorned with reliefs, some of them depicting the transport of colossal bull statues by water and by land. Many of the rooms were decorated with pictorial narratives in bas-relief telling of war and of building activities. Considerable advances can be noted in artistic execution, particularly in the portrayal of landscapes and animals. Outstanding are the depictions of the battles in the lagoons, the life in the military camps, and the deportations.

In 681 BC there was a rebellion. Sennacherib was assassinated by one or two of his sons in the temple of the god Ninurta at Kalakh. This god, along with the god Marduk, had been badly treated by Sennacherib, and the event was widely regarded as punishment of divine origin.

Ignoring the claims of his older brothers, an imperial council appointed Esarhaddon (Ashur-aha-iddina; 680–669) as Sennacherib's successor. The choice is all the more difficult to explain in that Esarhaddon, unlike his father, was friendly toward the Babylonians. It can be assumed that his energetic and designing mother, Zakutu (Naqia), who came from Syria or Judah, used all her influence on his behalf to override the national party of Assyria. The theory that he was a partner in plotting the murder of his father is rather improbable; at any rate, he was able to procure the loyalty of his father's army. His brothers had to flee to Urartu. In his inscriptions, Esarhaddon always mentions both his father and grandfather.

Defining the destruction of Babylon explicitly as punishment by the god Marduk, the new king soon ordered the reconstruction of the city. He referred to himself only as governor of Babylonia and through his policies obtained the support of the cities of Babylonia. At the beginning of his reign the Aramaean tribes were still allied with Elam against him, but Urtaku of Elam (675–664) signed a peace treaty and freed him for campaigning elsewhere. In 679 he stationed a garrison at the Egyptian border, because Egypt, under the Ethiopian king Taharqa, was planning to intervene in Syria. He put down with great severity a rebellion of the combined forces of Sidon, Tyre, and other Syrian cities. The time was ripe to attack Egypt, which was suffering under the rule of the Ethiopians and was by no means a united country. Esarhaddon's first attempt in 674–673 miscarried. In 671 BC, however, his forces took Memphis, the Egyptian capital. Assyrian consultants were assigned to assist the princes of the 22 provinces, their main duty being the collection of tribute.

Occasional threats came from the mountainous border regions of eastern Anatolia and Iran. Pushed forward by the Scythians, the Cimmerians in northern Iran and Transcaucasia tried to gain a foothold in Syria and western Iran. Esarhaddon allied himself with the Scythian king Partatua by giving him one of his daughters in marriage. In so doing he checked the movement of the Cimmerians. Nevertheless, the apprehensions of Esarhaddon can be seen in his many offerings, supplications, and requests to the sun god. These were concerned less with his own enterprises than with the plans of enemies and vassals and the reliability of civil servants. The priestesses of Ishtar had to reassure Esarhaddon constantly by calling out to him, “Do not be afraid.” Previous kings, as far as is known, had never needed this kind of encouragement.

At home Esarhaddon was faced with serious difficulties from factions in the court. His oldest son had died early. The national party suspected his second son, Shamash-shum-ukin, of being too friendly with the Babylonians; he may also have been considered unequal to the task of kingship. His third son, Ashurbanipal, was given the succession in 672, Shamash-shum-ukin remaining crown prince of Babylonia. This arrangement caused much dissension, and some farsighted civil servants warned of disastrous effects. Nevertheless, the Assyrian nobles, priests, and city leaders were sworn to just such an adjustment of the royal line; even the vassal princes had to take very detailed oaths of allegiance to Ashurbanipal, with many curses against perjurers.

Another matter of deep concern for Esarhaddon was his failing health. He regarded eclipses of the moon as particularly alarming omens, and, in order to prevent a fatal illness from striking him at these times, he had substitute kings chosen who ruled during the three eclipses that occurred during his 12-year reign. The replacement kings died or were put to death after their brief term of office. During his off-terms Esarhaddon called himself “Mister Peasant.” This practice implied that the gods could not distinguish between the real king and a false one—quite contrary to the usual assumptions of the religion.

Esarhaddon enlarged and improved the temples in both Assyria and Babylonia. He also constructed a palace in Kalakh, using many of the picture slabs of Tiglath-pileser III. The works that remain are not on the level of those of either his predecessors or of Ashurbanipal. He died while on an expedition to put down a revolt in Egypt.

Although the death of his father occurred far from home, Ashurbanipal assumed the kingship as planned. He may have owed his fortunes to the intercession of his grandmother Zakutu, who had recognized his superior capacities. He tells of his diversified education by the priests and his training in armour-making as well as in other military arts. He may have been the only king in Assyria with a scholarly background. As crown prince he also had studied the administration of the vast empire. The record notes that the gods granted him a record harvest during the first year of his reign. There were also good crops in subsequent years. During these first years he also was successful in foreign policy, and his relationship with his brother in Babylonia was good.

In 668 he put down a rebellion in Egypt and drove out King Taharqa, but in 664 the nephew of Taharqa, Tanutamon, gathered forces for a new rebellion. Ashurbanipal went to Egypt, pursuing the Ethiopian prince far into the south. His decisive victory moved Tyre and other parts of the empire to resume regular payments of tribute. Ashurbanipal installed Psamtik (Greek: Psammetichos) as prince over the Egyptian region of Sais. In 656 Psamtik dislodged the Assyrian garrisons with the aid of Carian and Ionian mercenaries, making Egypt again independent. Ashurbanipal did not attempt to reconquer it. A former ally of Assyria, Gyges of Lydia, had aided Psamtik in his rebellion. In return, Assyria did not help Gyges when he was attacked by the Cimmerians. Gyges lost his throne and his life. His son Ardys decided that the payment of tribute to Assyria was a lesser evil than conquest by the Cimmerians.

Graver difficulties loomed in southern Babylonia, which was attacked by Elam in 664. Another attack came in 653, whereupon Ashurbanipal sent a large army that decisively defeated the Elamites. Their king was killed, and some of the Elamite states were encouraged to secede. Elam was no longer strong enough to assume an active part on the international scene. This victory had serious consequences for Babylonia. Shamash-shum-ukin had grown weary of being patronized by his domineering brother. He formed a secret alliance in 656 with the Iranians, Elamites, Aramaeans, Arabs, and Egyptians, directed against Ashurbanipal. The withdrawal of defeated Elam from this alliance was probably the reason for a premature attack by Shamash-shum-ukin at the end of the year 652, without waiting for the promised assistance from Egypt. Ashurbanipal, taken by surprise, soon pulled his troops together. The Babylonian army was defeated, and Shamash-shum-ukin was surrounded in his fortified city of Babylon. His allies were not able to hold their own against the Assyrians. Reinforcements of Arabian camel troops also were defeated. The city of Babylon was under siege for three years. It fell in 648 amid scenes of horrible carnage, Shamash-shum-ukin dying in his burning palace.

After 648 the Assyrians made a few punitive attacks on the Arabs, breaking the forward thrust of the Arab tribes for a long time to come. The main objective of the Assyrians, however, was a final settlement of their relations with Elam. The refusal of Elam in 647 to extradite an Aramaean prince was used as pretext for a new attack that drove deep into its territory. The assault on the solidly fortified capital of Susa followed, probably in 646. The Assyrians destroyed the city, including its temples and palaces. Vast spoils were taken. As usual, the upper classes of the land were exiled to Assyria and other parts of the empire, and Elam became an Assyrian province. Assyria had now extended its domain to southwestern Iran. Cyrus I of Persia sent tribute and hostages to Nineveh, hoping perhaps to secure protection for his borders with Media. Little is known about the last years of Ashurbanipal's reign.

Ashurbanipal left more inscriptions than any of his predecessors. His campaigns were not always recorded in chronological order but clustered in groups according to their purpose. The accounts were highly subjective. One of his most remarkable accomplishments was the founding of the great palace library in Nineveh (modern Kuyunjik), which is today one of the most important sources for the study of ancient Mesopotamia. The king himself supervised its construction. Important works were kept in more than one copy, some intended for the king's personal use. The work of arranging and cataloging drew upon the experience of centuries in the management of collections in huge temple archives such as the one in Ashur. In his inscriptions Ashurbanipal tells of becoming an enthusiastic hunter of big game, acquiring a taste for it during a fight with marauding lions. In his palace at Nineveh the long rows of hunting scenes show what a masterful artist can accomplish in bas-relief; with these reliefs Assyrian art reached its peak. In the series depicting his wars, particularly the wars fought in Elam, the scenes are overloaded with human figures. Those portraying the battles with the Arabian camel troops are magnificent in execution.

One reason for the durability of the Assyrian empire was the practice of deporting large numbers of people from conquered areas and resettling others in their place. This kept many of the conquered nationalities from regaining their power. Equally important was the installation in conquered areas of a highly developed civil service under the leadership of trained officers. The highest ranking civil servant carried the title of tartan, a Hurrian word. The tartans also represented the king during his absence. In descending rank were the palace overseer, the main cupbearer, the palace administrator, and the governor of Assyria. The generals often held high official positions, particularly in the provinces. The civil service numbered about 100,000, many of them former inhabitants of subjugated provinces. Prisoners became slaves but were later often freed.

No laws are known for the empire, although documents point to the existence of rules and standards for justice. Those who broke contracts were subject to severe penalties, even in cases of minor importance: the sacrifice of a son or the eating of a pound of wool and drinking of a great deal of water afterward, which led to a painful death. The position of women was inferior, except for the queen and some priestesses.

As yet there are no detailed studies of the economic situation during this period. The landed nobility still played an important role, in conjunction with the merchants in the cities. The large increase in the supply of precious metals—received as tribute or taken as spoils—did not disrupt economic stability in many regions. Stimulated by the patronage of the kings and the great temples, the arts and crafts flourished during this period. The policy of resettling Aramaeans and other conquered peoples in Assyria brought many talented artists and artisans into Assyrian cities, where they introduced new styles and techniques. High-ranking provincial civil servants, who were often very powerful, saw to it that the provincial capitals also benefited from this economic and cultural growth.

Harran became the most important city in the western part of the empire; in the neighbouring settlement of Huzirina (modern Sultantepe, in northern Syria), the remains of an important library have been discovered. Very few Aramaic texts from this period have been found; the climate of Mesopotamia is not conducive to the preservation of the papyrus and parchment on which these texts were written. There is no evidence that a literary tradition existed in any of the other languages spoken within the borders of the Assyrian empire at this time, except in peripheral areas of Syria and Palestine.

Culturally and economically, Babylonia lagged behind Assyria in this period. The wars with Assyria—particularly the catastrophic defeats of 689 and 648—together with many smaller tribal wars disrupted trade and agricultural production. The great Babylonian temples fared best during this period, since they continued to enjoy the patronage of the Assyrian monarchs. Only a few documents from the temples have been preserved, however. There is evidence that the scribal schools continued to operate, and “Sumerian” inscriptions were even composed for Shamash-shum-ukin. In comparison with the Assyrian developments, the pictorial arts were neglected, and Babylonian artists may have found work in Assyria.

During this period people began to use the names of ancestors as a kind of family name; this increase in family consciousness is probably an indication that the number of old families was growing smaller. By this time the process of “Aramaicization” had reached even the oldest cities of Babylonia and Assyria.

Apparently this era was not very fruitful for literature either in Babylonia or in Assyria. In Assyria numerous royal inscriptions, some as long as 1,300 lines, were among the most important texts; some of them were diverse in content and well composed. Most of the hymns and prayers were written in the traditional style. Many oracles, often of unusual content, were proclaimed in the Assyrian dialect, most often by the priestesses of the goddess Ishtar of Arbela. In Assyria as in Babylonia, the beginnings of a real historical literature are observed; most of the authors have remained anonymous up to the present.

The many gods of the tradition were worshiped in Babylonia and Assyria in large and small temples, as in earlier times. Very detailed rituals regulated the sacrifices, and the interpretations of the ritual performances in the cultic commentaries were rather different and sometimes very strange.

On some of the temple towers (ziggurats), astronomical observatories were installed. The earliest of these may have been the observatory of the Ninurta temple at Kalakh in Assyria, which dates back to the 9th century BC; it was destroyed with the city in 612. The most important observatory in Babylonia from about 580 was situated on the ziggurat Etemenanki, a temple of Marduk in Babylon. In Assyria the observation of the Sun, Moon, and stars had already reached a rather high level; the periodic recurrence of eclipses was established. After 600, astronomical observation and calculations developed steadily, and they reached their high point after 500, when Babylonian and Greek astronomers began their fruitful collaboration. Incomplete astronomical diaries, beginning in 652 and covering some 600 years, have been preserved.

Few historical sources remain for the last 30 years of the Assyrian empire. There are no extant inscriptions of Ashurbanipal after 640 BC, and the few surviving inscriptions of his successors contain only vague allusions to political matters. In Babylonia the silence is almost total until 625 BC, when the chronicles resume. The rapid downfall of the Assyrian empire was formerly attributed to military defeat, although it was never clear how the Medes and the Babylonians alone could have accomplished this. More recent work has established that after 635 a civil war occurred, weakening the empire so that it could no longer stand up against a foreign enemy. Ashurbanipal had twin sons. Ashur-etel-ilani was appointed successor to the throne, but his twin brother Sin-shar-ishkun did not recognize him. The fight between them and their supporters forced the old king to withdraw to Harran, in 632 at the latest, perhaps ruling from there over the western part of the empire until his death in 627. Ashur-etel-ilani governed in Assyria from about 633, but a general, Sin-shum-lisher, soon rebelled against him and proclaimed himself counter-king. Some years later (629?) Sin-shar-ishkun finally succeeded in obtaining the kingship. In Babylonian documents dates can be found for all three kings. To add to the confusion, until 626 there are also dates of Ashurbanipal and a king named Kandalanu. In 626 the Chaldean Nabopolassar (Nabu-apal-usur) revolted from Uruk and occupied Babylon. There were several changes in government. King Ashur-etel-ilani was forced to withdraw to the west, where he died sometime after 625.

About the year 626 the Scythians laid waste to Syria and Palestine. In 625 the Medes became united under Cyaxares and began to conquer the Iranian provinces of Assyria. One chronicle relates of wars between Sin-shar-ishkun and Nabopolassar in Babylonia in 625–623. It was not long until the Assyrians were driven out of Babylonia. In 616 the Medes struck against Nineveh, but, according to the Greek historian Herodotus, were driven back by the Scythians. In 615, however, the Medes conquered Arrapkha (Kirkuk), and in 614 they took the old capital of Ashur, looting and destroying the city. Now Cyaxares and Nabopolassar made an alliance for the purpose of dividing Assyria. In 612 Kalakh and Nineveh succumbed to the superior strength of the allies. The revenge taken on the Assyrians was terrible: 200 years later Xenophon found the country still sparsely populated.

Sin-shar-ishkun, king of Assyria, found death in his burning palace. The commander of the Assyrian army in the west crowned himself king in the city of Harran, assuming the name of the founder of the empire, Ashur-uballit II (611–609 BC). Ashur-uballit had to face both the Babylonians and the Medes. They conquered Harran in 610, without, however, destroying the city completely. In 609 the remaining Assyrian troops had to capitulate. With this event Assyria disappeared from history. The great empires that succeeded it learned a great deal from the hated Assyrians, both in the arts and in the organization of their states.

The Chaldeans, who inhabited the coastal area near the Persian Gulf, had never been entirely pacified by the Assyrians. About 630 Nabopolassar became king of the Chaldeans. In 626 he forced the Assyrians out of Uruk and crowned himself king of Babylonia. He took part in the wars aimed at the destruction of Assyria. At the same time, he began to restore the dilapidated network of canals in the cities of Babylonia, particularly those in Babylon itself. He fought against the Assyrian Ashur-uballit II and then against Egypt, his successes alternating with misfortunes. In 605 Nabopolassar died in Babylon.

Biblical Material

            The seventh century moves toward the fall of Jerusalem in 586 at the hands of the Babylonians. 


            In Judah, this period begins with the reign of Hezekiah from 716 to 687 BC.  Jerusalem is preserved, thought to be miraculously but probably because Sennacherib had to deal with a revolt at home in Assyria, in 701 BC. 

The additional walled space did not provide for normal housing growth. The population spread to the western hill, which was heavily populated by the eighth century. Tombs from the ninth century found in the Tyropoeon Valley side of the Temple Mount may indicate sparse settlement in the area prior to the eighth century. The western hill was known asMishneh, ‘second.’ A wall was built to enclose the Mishneh in the eighth century. A 128-foot section of this wall has been found in the middle of the Jewish Quarter. It is 22.5 feet thick and is preserved in places to a height of 10 feet. The extent of the walled area is not clear. Some would limit the walled area to three-quarters of the present Jewish Quarter with the southern limit being the Old City walls. Others would extend it farther south.

The need for strengthening Jerusalem’s defense system became acute when Assyria threatened Judah after taking the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC. Hezekiah strengthened the city walls. A tower and gate were built just north of the wall segment at the edge of the northern east-west depression, evidently to provide a double entrance at the vulnerable north side of the city. The tower still stands to a height of 25.5 feet. Some claim the wall was then extended to the top of the western hill, passing through the present citadel area and along the line of the Old City wall, then continuing around the western hill until it reached the City of David. No remains have been found.

Hezekiah sealed the Gihon spring and cut a 1,750-foot tunnel beneath the City of David to bring the water into the Tyropoeon Valley on the west side of Ophel, where it could be better protected (2 Chron. 32:2-4). The Pool of Siloam was constructed to collect the water (John 8:7). This was eventually divided into upper and lower basins. One of the earliest inscriptions found in Jerusalem is the ‘Siloam Inscription,’ which was chiseled near the tunnel’s mouth. It describes the meeting of the workers who dug from both ends of the tunnel. The pool was either protected by the newly constructed city wall or enclosed in a cistern.

Some of the stone for Hezekiah’s building projects was probably taken from a quarry located north of the Temple Mount near the present-day Damascus Gate, now called Solomon’s Quarry or Zedekiah’s Cave. This quarry was used through the Roman period (63 b.c.-a.d. 324).

When the messengers of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, approached the secured city, their offers for peaceful submission were rebuffed. Soon after, Assyria was forced to depart the land, never testing the defense preparations (2 Kings 18-19). Sennacherib’s view of the city is reflected in his description of Hezekiah as a prisoner in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage.

Jerusalem under the succeeding kings of Judah did not continue its trust in God as it had under Hezekiah. The image of the prostitute and widow became prophetic ways of describing the city as more pagan practices entered its life (Isa. 1:21; Lam. 1; Ezek. 16). Jesus would continue to use this female imagery when addressing the city (Luke 23:28). Evidence of the decadence of the city is seen in the number of fertility goddesses found in excavations. The city was warned that it would be returned to its lowly origin if it did not reform. Zion would be plowed as a field (Mic. 3:12). A century later this prophecy was fulfilled. Excavations on the Ophel and Mishneh indicate how devastating was Babylon’s plundering of the city in 598 b.c. and its leveling of it in 587 b.c. (2 Kings 25:10). Spearheads still litter the Mishneh wall area. Building walls are charred and their basements filled with ash and rubble. The supports of the millo were removed and the terraces left to erode. So complete was the destruction on the eastern slopes of the Ophel that that area would never be part of the city again. Jerusalem’s population was taken into exile.[2]

Psalms related to Hezekiah

Psalm 120-134 (NRSV)

Psalm 120

A Song of Ascents.

1 In my distress I cry to the Lord,

that he may answer me:

2 “Deliver me, O Lord,

from lying lips,

from a deceitful tongue.”

3 What shall be given to you?

And what more shall be done to you,

you deceitful tongue?

4 A warrior’s sharp arrows,

with glowing coals of the broom tree!

5 Woe is me, that I am an alien in Meshech,

that I must live among the tents of Kedar.

6 Too long have I had my dwelling

among those who hate peace.

7 I am for peace;

but when I speak,

they are for war.

Psalm 121

A Song of Ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—

from where will my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;

he who keeps you will not slumber.

4 He who keeps Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;

the Lord is your shade at your right hand.

6 The sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;

he will keep your life.

8 The Lord will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time on and forevermore.

Psalm 122

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1 I was glad when they said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

2 Our feet are standing

within your gates, O Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem—built as a city

that is bound firmly together.

4 To it the tribes go up,

the tribes of the Lord,

as was decreed for Israel,

to give thanks to the name of the Lord.

5 For there the thrones for judgment were set up,

the thrones of the house of David.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

“May they prosper who love you.

7 Peace be within your walls,

and security within your towers.”

8 For the sake of my relatives and friends

I will say, “Peace be within you.”

9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,

I will seek your good.

Psalm 123

A Song of Ascents.

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

O you who are enthroned in the heavens!

2 As the eyes of servants

look to the hand of their master,

as the eyes of a maid

to the hand of her mistress,

so our eyes look to the Lord our God,

until he has mercy upon us.

3 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

4 Our soul has had more than its fill

of the scorn of those who are at ease,

of the contempt of the proud.

Psalm 124

A Song of Ascents.

1 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side

—let Israel now say—

2 if it had not been the Lord who was on our side,

when our enemies attacked us,

3 then they would have swallowed us up alive,

when their anger was kindled against us;

4 then the flood would have swept us away,

the torrent would have gone over us;

5 then over us would have gone

the raging waters.

6 Blessed be the Lord,

who has not given us

as prey to their teeth.

7 We have escaped like a bird

from the snare of the fowlers;

the snare is broken,

and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 125

A Song of Ascents.

1 Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,

which cannot be moved, but abides forever.

2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,

so the Lord surrounds his people,

from this time on and forevermore.

3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest

on the land allotted to the righteous,

so that the righteous might not stretch out

their hands to do wrong.

4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,

and to those who are upright in their hearts.

5 But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways

the Lord will lead away with evildoers.

Peace be upon Israel!

Psalm 126

A Song of Ascents.

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,

we were like those who dream.

2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy;

then it was said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

3 The Lord has done great things for us,

and we rejoiced.

4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

like the watercourses in the Negeb.

5 May those who sow in tears

reap with shouts of joy.

6 Those who go out weeping,

bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy,

carrying their sheaves.

Psalm 127

A Song of Ascents.

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,

those who build it labor in vain.

Unless the Lord guards the city,

the guard keeps watch in vain.

2 It is in vain that you rise up early

and go late to rest,

eating the bread of anxious toil;

for he gives sleep to his beloved.

3 Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,

the fruit of the womb a reward.

4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

are the sons of one’s youth.

5 Happy is the man who has

his quiver full of them.

He shall not be put to shame

when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 128

A Song of Ascents.

1 Happy is everyone who fears the Lord,

who walks in his ways.

2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;

you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine

within your house;

your children will be like olive shoots

around your table.

4 Thus shall the man be blessed

who fears the Lord.

5 The Lord bless you from Zion.

May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem

all the days of your life.

6 May you see your children’s children.

Peace be upon Israel!

Psalm 129

A Song of Ascents.

1 “Often have they attacked me from my youth”

—let Israel now say—

2 “often have they attacked me from my youth,

yet they have not prevailed against me.

3 The plowers plowed on my back;

they made their furrows long.”

4 The Lord is righteous;

he has cut the cords of the wicked.

5 May all who hate Zion

be put to shame and turned backward.

6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops

that withers before it grows up,

7 with which reapers do not fill their hands

or binders of sheaves their arms,

8 while those who pass by do not say,

“The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

We bless you in the name of the Lord!”

Psalm 130

A Song of Ascents.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.

2      Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

to the voice of my supplications!

3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

4 But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6 my soul waits for the Lord

more than those who watch for the morning,

more than those who watch for the morning.

7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!

For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

and with him is great power to redeem.

8 It is he who will redeem Israel

from all its iniquities.

Psalm 131

A Song of Ascents.

1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,

my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

too great and too marvelous for me.

2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother;

my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord

from this time on and forevermore.

Psalm 132

A Song of Ascents.

1 O Lord, remember in David’s favor

all the hardships he endured;

2 how he swore to the Lord

and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,

3 “I will not enter my house

or get into my bed;

4 I will not give sleep to my eyes

or slumber to my eyelids,

5 until I find a place for the Lord,

a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

6 We heard of it in Ephrathah;

we found it in the fields of Jaar.

7 “Let us go to his dwelling place;

let us worship at his footstool.”

8 Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting place,

you and the ark of your might.

9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,

and let your faithful shout for joy.

10 For your servant David’s sake

do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

11 The Lord swore to David a sure oath

from which he will not turn back:

“One of the sons of your body

I will set on your throne.

12 If your sons keep my covenant

and my decrees that I shall teach them,

their sons also, forevermore,

shall sit on your throne.”

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion;

he has desired it for his habitation:

14 “This is my resting place forever;

here I will reside, for I have desired it.

15 I will abundantly bless its provisions;

I will satisfy its poor with bread.

16 Its priests I will clothe with salvation,

and its faithful will shout for joy.

17 There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David;

I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one.

18 His enemies I will clothe with disgrace,

but on him, his crown will gleam.”

Psalm 133

A Song of Ascents.

1 How very good and pleasant it is

when kindred live together in unity!

2 It is like the precious oil on the head,

running down upon the beard,

on the beard of Aaron,

running down over the collar of his robes.

3 It is like the dew of Hermon,

which falls on the mountains of Zion.

For there the Lord ordained his blessing,

life forevermore.

Psalm 134

A Song of Ascents.

1 Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

2 Lift up your hands to the holy place,

and bless the Lord.

3 May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth,

bless you from Zion.

Proverbs related to prophetic activity and Hezekiah

            I would now like to list some proverbs that appear to have come under prophetic influence and the influence of Hezekiah. These texts tend to frame wisdom in terms of the fear of the Lord. The contrast is between the righteous and the wicked, rather than the wise and foolish.


Those who trust in their own wits are fools;

              but those who walk in wisdom come through safely.  (28:26 C)

One's own folly leads to ruin,

              yet the heart rages against the Lord.  (19:3 C)

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;

              the righteous run into it and are safe.  (18:10 C)

The way of the Lord is a stronghold for the upright,

              but destruction for evildoers.  (10:29 C)

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,

              and one's children will have a refuge.  (14:26 C)

One who walks in integrity will be safe,

              but whoever follows crooked ways will fall into the Pit.  (28:18 C)

No one finds security by wickedness,

              but the root of the righteous will never be moved.  (12:3 C)

The wicked are overthrown and are no more,

              but the house of the righteous will stand.  (12:7 C)

When the tempest passes, the wicked are no more,

              but the righteous are established forever.  (10:25 C)

The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,

              but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.  (10:3 C)

The righteous have enough to satisfy their appetite,

              but the belly of the wicked is empty.  (13:25 C)

The wicked earn no real gain,

              but those who sow righteousness get a true reward.  (11:18 C)

The wage of the righteous leads to life,

              the gain of the wicked to sin.  (10:16 C)

If the righteous are repaid on earth,

              how much more the wicked and the sinner!  (11:31 C)

When wickedness comes, contempt comes also;

              and with dishonor comes disgrace.  (18:3 C)

The memory of the righteous is a blessing,

              but the name of the wicked will rot.  (10:7 C)

The blessing of the Lord makes rich,

              and he adds no sorrow with it.  (10:22 C)

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord

              is riches and honor and life.  (22:4 C)

Misfortune pursues sinners,

              but prosperity rewards the righteous.  (13:21 C)

In the path of righteousness there is life,

              in walking its path there is no death.  (12:28 C)

The fear of the Lord is life indeed;

              filled with it one rests secure and suffers no harm.  (19:23 C)

The fear of the Lord prolongs life,

              but the years of the wicked will be short.  (10:27 C)

The light of the righteous rejoices,

              but the lamp of the wicked goes out.  (13:9 C)

The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked;

              he casts the wicked down to ruin.  (21:12 C)

When the wicked are in authority, transgression increases,

              but the righteous will look upon their downfall.  (29:16 C)

Those who are attentive to a matter will prosper,

              and happy are those who trust in the Lord.  (16:20 C)


The Lord is the one who tests the heart.


The hope of the righteous ends in gladness,

              but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing.  (10:28 C)

The desire of the righteous ends only in good;

              the expectation of the wicked in wrath.  (11:23 C)

The human mind plans the way,

              but the Lord directs the steps.  (16:9 C)

The human mind may devise many plans,

              but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.  (19:21 C)     

All our steps are ordered by the Lord;

              how then can we understand our own ways?  (20:24 C)

No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel,

              can avail against the Lord.  (21:30 C)

Commit your work to the Lord,

              and your plans will be established.  (16:3 C)

All one' ways may be pure in one's own eyes,

              but the Lord weighs the spirit.  (16:2 C)

All deeds are right in the sight of the doer,

              but the Lord weighs the heart.  (21:2 C)

The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord,

              searching every innermost part.  (20:27 C)

Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord,

              how much more human hearts!  (15:11 C)


The Lord desires the character trait of humility.


It is better to be a lowly spirit among the poor

              than to divide the spoil with the proud.  (16:19 C)

The Lord tears down the house of the proud,

              but maintains the widow's boundaries.  (15:25 C)

Before destruction one's heart is haughty,

              but humility goes before honor.  (18:12 C)

All those who are arrogant are an abomination to the Lord;

              be assured, they will not go unpunished.  (16:5 C)


The Lord blesses the righteous.


By loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,

              and by the fear of the Lord one avoids evil.  (16:6 C) 

The good obtain favor from the Lord,

              but those who devise evil he condemns.  (12:2 C)


The Lord cares about the words one uses.


The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;

              the mind of the wicked is of little worth.  (10:20 C)

The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,

              but the perverse tongue will be cut off.  (10:31 C)

From the fruit of the mouth one is filled with good things,

              and manual labor has its reward.  (12:14 C)

The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,

              but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.  (10:32 C)

The wicked put on a bold face,

              but the upright give thought to their ways.  (21:29 C)

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,

              but those who act faithfully are his delight.  (12:22 C)


The Lord cares about matters of the home.


He who finds a wife finds a good thing,

              and obtains favor from the Lord.  (18:22 C)

House and wealth are inherited from parents,

              but a prudent wife is from the Lord.  (19:14 C?)

The mouth of a loose woman is a deep pit;

              he with whom  the Lord is angry falls into it.  (22:14 C)


The Lord cares about how one treats the neighbor.


Do not say, "I will repay evil";

              wait for the Lord, and he will help you.  (20:22 C)


The Lord has several concerns about work, wealth, and poverty.


Those who trust in their riches will wither,

              but the righteous will flourish like green leaves.  (11:28 C)

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,

              but righteousness delivers from death.  (11:4 C)

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord

              than great treasure and trouble with it.  (15:16 C)

Better is a little with righteousness

              than large income with injustice.  (16:8 C)

Better the poor walking in integrity

              than one perverse of speech who is a fool.  (19: 1 C)

Better to be poor and walk in integrity

              than to be crooked in one's ways even though rich.  (28:6 C)

Honest balances and scales are the Lord's;

              all the weights in the bag are his work.  (16:11 C)

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,

              but an accurate weight is his delight.  (11:1 C)

Diverse weights and diverse measures

              are both alike an abomination to the Lord.  (20:10 C)

Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord,

              and false scales are not good.  (20:23 C)

The unjust are an abomination to the righteous,

              but the upright are an abomination to the wicked.  (29:27 C)

Treasure gained by wickedness do not profit,

              but righteousness delivers from death.  (10:2 C)

The miser is in a hurry to get rich

              and does not know that loss is sure to come.  (28:22 C)

The greedy person stirs up strife,

              but whoever trusts in the Lord will be enriched.  (28:25 C)

Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households,

              but those who hate bribes will live.  (15:27 C)

The rich and the poor have this in common:

              the Lord is the maker of them all.  (22:2 C)

The poor and the oppressor have this in common:

              the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.  (29:13 C)

Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself,

              and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.  (22:16 C)

One who augments wealth by exorbitant interest

              gathers it for another who is kind to the poor.  (28:8 C)

Those who mock the poor insult their Maker;

              those who are glad at calamity will not go unpunished.  (17:5 C)

The righteous know the rights of the poor;

              the wicked have no such understanding.  (29:7 C)

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,

              and will be repaid in full.  (19:17 C)

Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing,

              but one who turns a blind eye will get many a curse.  (28:27 C)


The Lord cares about the way people run government affairs.


The way of the guilty is crooked,

              but the conduct of the pure is right.  (21:8 C)

One who justifies the wicked and one who condemns the righteous

              are both alike an abomination to the Lord.  (17:15 C)

The evil do not understand justice,

              but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.  (28:5 C)

Many seek the favor of a ruler,

              but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.  (29:26 C)

Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint,

              but happy are those who keep the law.  (29:18 C)

When one will not listen to the law,

              even one's prayers are an abomination.  (28:9 C)

Righteousness exalts a nation,

              but sin is a reproach to any people.  (14:34 C)

When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,

              but when the wicked prevail, people go into hiding.  (28:12 C)

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;

              but when the wicked rule, the people groan.  (29:2 C)

When the wicked prevail, people go into hiding;

              but when they perish, the righteous increase.  (28:28 C)

Inspired decisions are on the lips of a king;

              his mouth does not sin in judgment.  (16:10 C)

The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;

              he turns it wherever he will.  (21:1 C)


The Lord provides the means for relating to the Lord with integrity.


The eyes of the Lord are in every place,

              keeping watch on the evil and the good.  (15:3 C)

The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge,

              but he overthrows the words of the faithless.  (22:12 C)

The Lord has made everything for its purpose,

              even the wicked for the day of trouble.  (16:4 C)

The hearing ear and the seeing eye--

              the Lord has made them both.  (20:12 C)

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,

              but the Lord tests the heart.  (17:3 C)

The horse is made ready for the day of battle,

              but the victory belongs to the Lord.  (21:31 C)

Who can say, "I have made my heart clean;

              I am pure from my sin"?  (20:9 C)

No one who conceals transgressions will prosper,

              but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.  (28:13 C)

In the transgression of the evil there is a snare,

              but the righteous sing and rejoice.  (29:6 C)

The integrity of the upright guides them,

              but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.  (11:3 C)

The fear of others lays a snare,

              but one who trusts in the Lord is secure.  (29:25 C)

Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain

              are the righteous who give way before the wicked.  (25:26 C)

The Lord is far from the wicked,

              but he hears the prayer of the righteous.  (15:29 C)

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,

              but the prayer of the upright is his delight.  (15:8 C)

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination;

              how much more when brought with evil intent.  (21:27 C)

To do righteousness and justice

              is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.  (21:3 C)

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,

              so that one may avoid the snares of death.  (14:27 C)

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,

              and humility goes before honor.  (15:33 C)



            Micah, though from Judea, has much in common with the prophets to Samaria.  He was a younger contemporary of Amos and Hosea.  Isaiah had started preaching earlier.  Preaching around 730-701 BC, he restricts himself to social criticism.  The terms used of military organization suggest he may have come from this sphere of life.

            God is angered because people are being driven out of their ancestral homes. 


Micah 2:1-10 (NRSV)

 Alas for those who devise wickedness

and evil deeds on their beds!

When the morning dawns, they perform it,

because it is in their power.

2 They covet fields, and seize them;

houses, and take them away;

they oppress householder and house,

people and their inheritance.

3 Therefore thus says the Lord:

Now, I am devising against this family an evil

from which you cannot remove your necks;

and you shall not walk haughtily,

for it will be an evil time.

4 On that day they shall take up a taunt song against you,

and wail with bitter lamentation,

and say, “We are utterly ruined;

the Lord alters the inheritance of my people;

how he removes it from me!

Among our captors he parcels out our fields.”

5 Therefore you will have no one to cast the line by lot

in the assembly of the Lord.

6 “Do not preach”—thus they preach—

“one should not preach of such things;

disgrace will not overtake us.”

7 Should this be said, O house of Jacob?

Is the Lord’s patience exhausted?

Are these his doings?

Do not my words do good

to one who walks uprightly?

8 But you rise up against my people as an enemy;

you strip the robe from the peaceful,

from those who pass by trustingly

with no thought of war.

9 The women of my people you drive out

from their pleasant houses;

from their young children you take away

my glory forever.

10 Arise and go;

for this is no place to rest,

because of uncleanness that destroys

with a grievous destruction.


This is what allows the rich to enjoy a peaceful life and self-determination.  God expects mispat, but the land is devoid of it. 


Micah 6:1-8 (NRSV)

 Hear what the Lord says:

Rise, plead your case before the mountains,

and let the hills hear your voice.

2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord,

and you enduring foundations of the earth;

for the Lord has a controversy with his people,

and he will contend with Israel.

3 “O my people, what have I done to you?

In what have I wearied you? Answer me!

4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,

and redeemed you from the house of slavery;

and I sent before you Moses,

Aaron, and Miriam.

5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised,

what Balaam son of Beor answered him,

and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,

that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.”

6 “With what shall I come before the Lord,

and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?


He believes he is the only one filled with mispat.  The opposite is "rebellion and sin."  He denounces the nabis in 3:5-8, 2:6-11.  They are leading people astray.  The people oppose him in 2:6-7, 3:11, those he received a little hearing as Amos in the north.  They seem to believe Micah proclaims a new fanged God who is uncompromising in expecting mispat.  God turns away from people in 3:1-4, 7, but God is also injured and judges in 6:11-12, 16. Micah gives little hope for possible repentance.  The issue is not that they view God as a judge.  They turn away from mercy because action and destiny are being brought together.  This seems to have come from a new experience of God as they looked at history.  Social institutions were collapsing.  God is closely intertwined with reality in ways not viewed before.  None of the prophets believe everything is going to come to an end with the coming catastrophe.  He sees God in more cosmic terms than tied to the land. 

            Though many view chapters 4-6 as from an exilic date, the evidence does not demand this.  He proclaims the messianic future. He attaches what he has to say about the anointed one to a future king. He thinks of a new David who will restore the original Davidic Empire. He dismisses contemporary kings. Sennacherib had just humiliated the king of Israel. Contemporary descendents of David have lost their saving function. They have relinquished their right to the praises contained in the royal psalms. He expected Zion to be blotted out of the pages of history.


Micah 5:2-5 (NRSV)

2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,

who are one of the little clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me

one who is to rule in Israel,

whose origin is from of old,

from ancient days.

3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time

when she who is in labor has brought forth;

then the rest of his kindred shall return

to the people of Israel.

4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,

in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great

to the ends of the earth;

5 and he shall be the one of peace.

If the Assyrians come into our land

and tread upon our soil,

we will raise against them seven shepherds

and eight installed as rulers.



                The most well known prophet during this period was Isaiah, who preached from 736-701.  His preaching represents the theological high water make of the Old Testament. None of the prophets approach him in intellectual vigor or the sweep of his ideas. He was from Jerusalem. He may have grown up among the higher social classes, which gave him ready access to the king and other high officials. His words are found in Isaiah 1-39.  However, what is known as the apocalypse in 24-27 and the "little apocalypse, in 34-35, are both viewed as from the 400's, and 36-39 is from the Deuteronomic history of II Kings 18:17-20:19.  The most important portions from Isaiah are in Chapters 1, 2-12, 28-31, 33.  There are additions from the time of Josiah, and later from 587.  He had a wife who was a prophet, and there were three children.  He seems to have intimate knowledge of the king and court as well as priestly issues in Jerusalem.  Prophetic message may have taken place in worship.  There is some wisdom influence discernable. 

            Isaiah speaks with great moderation and restraint. He believed in the Davidic dynasty over all Israel.  He believed Assyria would defeat Jerusalem, and this almost happened in 701.  Though the defeat he expected did not occur when he thought, he would eventually occur in 587 BC.  He was a strong critic of what had been happening on the world and political scene. He notes every form of miscarriage of justice and exploitation of the weak. He shows strong concern for the divine law, noting the use of the terms righteousness and justice. His concern is for the kind of society whose founder is Yahweh. He sets the transgressions in the context of saving history. Yet, Yahweh hardened the hearts of the people against the message of Isaiah. However, a small group did accept his prophecy. At the point of his passionate elimination of all reliance on oneself that the zeal of Isaiah begins. He saw a great act of deliverance in the near future. He wanted his contemporaries to make their existence rest on a future action of Yahweh. His conception of faith, being still, and looking to Yahweh, has a close connection with work and purpose of Yahweh. The idea of a plan to which Yahweh gives effect in history is a new element in the preaching of prophets in the 700’s. When he thinks of purpose, he thinks of something planned for the deliverance of Zion, that is, of a saving work. Zion occupies the center stage of the plan of Yahweh. Although he appears to say that Yahweh would protect Zion from the Assyrians in all circumstances, he demonstrates some ambiguity in the matter. As to who would be affected by the salvation that the work of Yahweh would bring, the remnant is a possibility, even if he mentions it all too rarely. We must note that none of his great sayings about Zion came true. The nation showed no faith, and Yahweh did not protect the city. Did he demand too much of the people? Did he encroach upon the prerogative of God in assuring the safety of Zion? One wonders if he regarded his work as a failure. Another theme of the preaching of Isaiah is that of David and the Messiah. He does not attach what he has to say about the anointed one to a present king, but to one who is to come in the future, who is to spring from the root of Jesse. He thinks of a new David who will restore the Davidic empire. He dismisses contemporary kings. Contemporary descendents of David have lost their saving function. They have relinquished their right to the praises contained in the royal psalms. Isaiah clearly envisioned the enthronement in the immediate future, that is, with the Assyrian crisis and its defeat. The preaching of Isaiah is based on two election traditions, that of Zion and David. They were both adopted by court circles in Jerusalem as the basis of their legitimation before Yahweh.

            He invites the people to reject hypocrisy, and reason with the Lord.


Isaiah 1:10-17 (NRSV)

10 Hear the word of the Lord,

you rulers of Sodom!

Listen to the teaching of our God,

you people of Gomorrah!

11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?

says the Lord;

I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams

and the fat of fed beasts;

I do not delight in the blood of bulls,

or of lambs, or of goats.

12 When you come to appear before me,

who asked this from your hand?

Trample my courts no more;

13 bringing offerings is futile;

incense is an abomination to me.

New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—

I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.

14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals

my soul hates;

they have become a burden to me,

I am weary of bearing them.

15 When you stretch out your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you;

even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen;

your hands are full of blood.

16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your doings

from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,

17      learn to do good;

seek justice,

rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,

plead for the widow.


He looks forward to a time of deliverance.


Isaiah 9:2-7 (NRSV)

2 The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness—

on them light has shined.

3 You have multiplied the nation,

you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you

as with joy at the harvest,

as people exult when dividing plunder.

4 For the yoke of their burden,

and the bar across their shoulders,

the rod of their oppressor,

you have broken as on the day of Midian.

5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors

and all the garments rolled in blood

shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

6 For a child has been born for us,

a son given to us;

authority rests upon his shoulders;

and he is named

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 His authority shall grow continually,

and there shall be endless peace

for the throne of David and his kingdom.

He will establish and uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time onward and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.


He interprets the Fall of Samaria in 9:8ff. He offers a woe upon Assyria, from 713-711 BC, in 10:5-9, 13-15. He offers a theory of the remnant in 10:20-23. He refers to the invasion by Assyria in 10:28-32. He probably interpreted the death of Sargon II or Sennacherib of Assyria, which later editors made refer to Babylon, in 14:4-19. He understands advancing as a disaster for Judah in 17:12-14. He offers an oracle against Cush from 713-711 in 18:1-6. He offers an oracle against Egypt from 720-716 in 19:1-14. He offers thought on the capture of Ashdod by Assyria from 713-711 and 705-701 in Chapter 20. He offers an oracle against Shebna from 713-711 in 22:15-18. He offers an oracle against Tyre in 23:1-12. He offers a statement against false prophets in 28:7-13. He offers a statement against evil counselors in 28:14-21. He offers a bit of wisdom in 28:23-29. He offers a woe upon Jerusalem in 29:1-4, 9-10. He offers two several brief oracles in 29:13-14 and 29:15-16. He opposes the embassy to Egypt in 30:1-17. He is against the alliance with Egypt in 31:1-3 and is against Assyria in 31:4.


Manasseh and Amon

            In Judah, Manasseh ruled from 687-642 BC. The fact that Manasseh could reign so long and so successfully, was clearly not what the Deuteronomic historian wanted to record.  This period concluded with the disappointed hopes in Josiah, who died in 609 BC, and with the religious reforms instituted by him.  It may be that the reforms instituted by him were brought about because of the discovery of some form of the book of Deuteronomy.  The hopes of the people were further destroyed, as they believed God would protect Jerusalem from destruction because this is where God resided. 

            In Judah, Amon ruled from 642-640. His soldiers assassinated him.


            In Judah, Josiah ruled from 640-609 BC. Priests discovered the Book of the Law, which became the source of religious renewal. They renewed their covenant with God.


2 Kings 23:3 (NRSV)

3 The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant.


He destroyed the altar at Bethel, part of the Northern Kingdom. They instituted the Passover. However, Josiah made battle with Pharaoh, and they killed him at Megiddo. Josiah actually delayed Pharaoh enough to allow Babylon to have time for troop re-enforcements that gave it victory.


            There was also a Josianic redaction of Isaiah at this time. 


Isaiah 8:9-10 (NRSV)

9 Band together, you peoples, and be dismayed;

listen, all you far countries;

gird yourselves and be dismayed;

gird yourselves and be dismayed!

10 Take counsel together, but it shall be brought to naught;

speak a word, but it will not stand,

for God is with us.


Isaiah 10:16-19 (NRSV)

16 Therefore the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts,

will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,

and under his glory a burning will be kindled,

like the burning of fire.

17 The light of Israel will become a fire,

and his Holy One a flame;

and it will burn and devour

his thorns and briers in one day.

18 The glory of his forest and his fruitful land

the Lord will destroy, both soul and body,

and it will be as when an invalid wastes away.

19 The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few

that a child can write them down.


Isaiah 10:24-27 (NRSV)

24 Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts: O my people, who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they beat you with a rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. 25 For in a very little while my indignation will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. 26 The Lord of hosts will wield a whip against them, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb; his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. 27 On that day his burden will be removed from your shoulder, and his yoke will be destroyed from your neck.

He has gone up from Rimmon,


Isaiah 10:33-34 (NRSV)

33 Look, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts,

will lop the boughs with terrifying power;

the tallest trees will be cut down,

and the lofty will be brought low.

34 He will hack down the thickets of the forest with an ax,

and Lebanon with its majestic trees will fall.


Isaiah 14:24-27 (NRSV)

An Oracle concerning Assyria

24 The Lord of hosts has sworn:

As I have designed,

so shall it be;

and as I have planned,

so shall it come to pass:

25 I will break the Assyrian in my land,

and on my mountains trample him under foot;

his yoke shall be removed from them,

and his burden from their shoulders.

26 This is the plan that is planned

concerning the whole earth;

and this is the hand that is stretched out

over all the nations.

27 For the Lord of hosts has planned,

and who will annul it?

His hand is stretched out,

and who will turn it back?


Isaiah 22:19-23 (NRSV)

19 I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your post.

20 On that day I will call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah, 21 and will clothe him with your robe and bind your sash on him. I will commit your authority to his hand, and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open. 23 I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his ancestral house.


Isaiah 29:5-8 (NRSV)

5 But the multitude of your foes shall be like small dust,

and the multitude of tyrants like flying chaff.

And in an instant, suddenly,

6      you will be visited by the Lord of hosts

with thunder and earthquake and great noise,

with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.

7 And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel,

all that fight against her and her stronghold, and who distress her,

shall be like a dream, a vision of the night.

8 Just as when a hungry person dreams of eating

and wakes up still hungry,

or a thirsty person dreams of drinking

and wakes up faint, still thirsty,

so shall the multitude of all the nations be

that fight against Mount Zion.


Isaiah 30:27-33 (NRSV)

Judgment on Assyria

27 See, the name of the Lord comes from far away,

burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke;

his lips are full of indignation,

and his tongue is like a devouring fire;

28 his breath is like an overflowing stream

that reaches up to the neck—

to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction,

and to place on the jaws of the peoples a bridle that leads them astray.

29 You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel. 30 And the Lord will cause his majestic voice to be heard and the descending blow of his arm to be seen, in furious anger and a flame of devouring fire, with a cloudburst and tempest and hailstones. 31 The Assyrian will be terror-stricken at the voice of the Lord, when he strikes with his rod. 32 And every stroke of the staff of punishment that the Lord lays upon him will be to the sound of timbrels and lyres; battling with brandished arm he will fight with him. 33 For his burning place has long been prepared; truly it is made ready for the king,its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of sulfur, kindles it.


Isaiah 31:5 (NRSV)

5 Like birds hovering overhead, so the Lord of hosts

will protect Jerusalem;

he will protect and deliver it,

he will spare and rescue it.


Isaiah 32:1-5 (NRSV)

Government with Justice Predicted

32 See, a king will reign in righteousness,

and princes will rule with justice.

2 Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,

a covert from the tempest,

like streams of water in a dry place,

like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.

3 Then the eyes of those who have sight will not be closed,

and the ears of those who have hearing will listen.

4 The minds of the rash will have good judgment,

and the tongues of stammerers will speak readily and distinctly.

5 A fool will no longer be called noble,

nor a villain said to be honorable.


Isaiah 32:15-20 (NRSV)

15 until a spirit from on high is poured out on us,

and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,

and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.

16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,

and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.

17 The effect of righteousness will be peace,

and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,

in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

19 The forest will disappear completely,

and the city will be utterly laid low.

20 Happy will you be who sow beside every stream,

who let the ox and the donkey range freely.



            Zephaniah prophesied from 632-621.  He was the great-great grandson of Hezekiah, king of Judah.  A highly literate work, it shares ideas and phraseology with other parts of the Hebrew Bible to such an extent that at times it may appear as nothing more than a pastiche of borrowed verses and allusions.  Themes from the early chapters of Genesis appear in all three Chapters of Zephaniah.  Chapter 1 begins with a description that is a reversal of creation.  Chapter 2 plays on the view of the world in Gn 10.  Chapter 3 contains a reference to Gn 11, and becomes oracles against Jerusalem. There are a number of links between Zephaniah and the Book of Dt, as well as with the Dt. History, especially II Kings.  Zephaniah reflects the cultural milieu of the period from Hezekiah to Josiah and many Dt themes.  It pictures an expanded, wealthy Jerusalem.  Like the Dt writings, Zephaniah is strongly anti-syncretistic.  The language of Zephaniah is closest to that of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who prophesied shortly after Zephaniah. 

            His concern was for the immediate Scythian invasion as it affected Assyria in 632 BC, as well as the threat of Assyria itself.  He believes Judah is going to be devastated.  Yet, beyond that he sees hope for the people who survive the coming destruction.  He proclaimed the downfall of Nineveh, which would come because of the city's pride.

            He offers a reflection upon the Day of the Lord.


Zephaniah 1:7 (NRSV)

7 Be silent before the Lord God!

For the day of the Lord is at hand;

the Lord has prepared a sacrifice,

he has consecrated his guests.

Zephaniah 1:12-18 (NRSV)

12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,

and I will punish the people

who rest complacently on their dregs,

those who say in their hearts,

“The Lord will not do good,

nor will he do harm.”

13 Their wealth shall be plundered,

and their houses laid waste.

Though they build houses,

they shall not inhabit them;

though they plant vineyards,

they shall not drink wine from them.

14 The great day of the Lord is near,

near and hastening fast;

the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter,

the warrior cries aloud there.

15 That day will be a day of wrath,

a day of distress and anguish,

a day of ruin and devastation,

a day of darkness and gloom,

a day of clouds and thick darkness,

16      a day of trumpet blast and battle cry

against the fortified cities

and against the lofty battlements.

17 I will bring such distress upon people

that they shall walk like the blind;

because they have sinned against the Lord,

their blood shall be poured out like dust,

and their flesh like dung.

18 Neither their silver nor their gold

will be able to save them

on the day of the Lord’s wrath;

in the fire of his passion

the whole earth shall be consumed;

for a full, a terrible end

he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.


Before the Day of the Lord overtakes them, he encourages them to seek the Lord.


Zephaniah 2:3 (NRSV)

3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,

who do his commands;

seek righteousness, seek humility;

perhaps you may be hidden

on the day of the Lord’s wrath.


He declares disaster upon the rulers of Judah, but a conversion of the nations.


Zephaniah 3:1-9 (NRSV)

 Ah, soiled, defiled,

oppressing city!

2 It has listened to no voice;

it has accepted no correction.

It has not trusted in the Lord;

it has not drawn near to its God.

3 The officials within it

are roaring lions;

its judges are evening wolves

that leave nothing until the morning.

4 Its prophets are reckless,

faithless persons;

its priests have profaned what is sacred,

they have done violence to the law.

5 The Lord within it is righteous;

he does no wrong.

Every morning he renders his judgment,

each dawn without fail;

but the unjust knows no shame.

6 I have cut off nations;

their battlements are in ruins;

I have laid waste their streets

so that no one walks in them;

their cities have been made desolate,

without people, without inhabitants.

7 I said, “Surely the city will fear me,

it will accept correction;

it will not lose sight

of all that I have brought upon it.”

But they were the more eager

to make all their deeds corrupt.

8 Therefore wait for me, says the Lord,

for the day when I arise as a witness.

For my decision is to gather nations,

to assemble kingdoms,

to pour out upon them my indignation,

all the heat of my anger;

for in the fire of my passion

all the earth shall be consumed.

9 At that time I will change the speech of the peoples

to a pure speech,

that all of them may call on the name of the Lord

and serve him with one accord.


He offers hope for the future of Zion.


Zephaniah 3:14-17 (NRSV)

14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;

shout, O Israel!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart,

O daughter Jerusalem!

15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,

he has turned away your enemies.

The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;

you shall fear disaster no more.

16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:

Do not fear, O Zion;

do not let your hands grow weak.

17 The Lord, your God, is in your midst,

a warrior who gives victory;

he will rejoice over you with gladness,

he will renew you in his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing




            Nahum in 627-612 also proclaims the downfall of Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria.  He is the only prophet who may have had a function in organized worship life in Jerusalem. He is the first prophet inspired by the fall of Nineveh. He offers an oracle against Assyria. The king of Assyria is the embodiment of wickedness.  He captures the mood of joy and satisfaction at this manifestation of Yahweh as the avenger of wrong. He expresses a belief in the future of Judah as filled with promise.  The reforms instituted by Josiah were the reason for this hopefulness.  The joy had short life, for Josiah would be defeated and killed by Necho in 609. Given the evidence of Jonah, one might forgive a reader of the Old Testament for thinking that God is more generous than Nahum thought.

            He may offer hope for the restoration of the Northern Kingdom.


Nahum 2:2 (NRSV)

2 (For the Lord is restoring the majesty of Jacob,

as well as the majesty of Israel,

though ravagers have ravaged them

and ruined their branches.)



            Jeremiah was born around 645, and begins preaching around 627.  In 627-586, his prophecies depend upon the threat of the foe from the north, upon the exodus, covenant, and tradition of conquest, and further, he depended upon Hosea in the early phases of his career. The forms of classical prophecy are in the process of breaking up.

            In chapters 1-6, he says disaster is coming from the north upon Judah, for it has forsaken the worship of Yahweh in favor of Baal. We discover that political prediction and the threat of judgment is less prominent than in previous prophets. The mood is that of complaint and suffering. Previous prophets appear rather detached and objective in comparison. In this early stage, he did not regard the relationship of Yahweh to Jerusalem and Judah as broken beyond repair. We read of the call of Jeremiah in 627 BC.


Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV)

4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;

for you shall go to all to whom I send you,

and you shall speak whatever I command you.

8 Do not be afraid of them,

for I am with you to deliver you,

     says the Lord.”

9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,

“Now I have put my words in your mouth.

10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,

to pluck up and to pull down,

to destroy and to overthrow,

to build and to plant.”


            He offers a group of wisdom sayings.


Jeremiah 17:5-10 (NRSV)

5 Thus says the Lord:

Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals

and make mere flesh their strength,

whose hearts turn away from the Lord.

6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert,

and shall not see when relief comes.

They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,

in an uninhabited salt land.

7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,

whose trust is the Lord.

8 They shall be like a tree planted by water,

sending out its roots by the stream.

It shall not fear when heat comes,

and its leaves shall stay green;

in the year of drought it is not anxious,

and it does not cease to bear fruit.

9 The heart is devious above all else;

it is perverse—

who can understand it?

10 I the Lord test the mind

and search the heart,

to give to all according to their ways,

according to the fruit of their doings.


The story of the potter becomes an occasion for reflection upon the ways of God.


Jeremiah 18:1-11 (NRSV)

 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9 And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.


            Josiah's death in 609 was judgment on Josiah. Jeremiah becomes active again. The temple offered no security. He preached against the belief that God would always protect Jerusalem because the temple was there.  This led him to reject the concept of the Davidic dynasty as a viable hope for the future.  He was convinced this was not the case.  The Babylonians, who had defeated Assyria, would be the instruments of judgment upon Judah.  Babylonians were God's agents of judgment.  In 598 there was a partial destruction, but not yet the total destruction which he expected.  Those left behind were the righteous remnant.  He would urge submission to Babylon.

            He offers a lament after the death of Josiah, but before the first attack on Jerusalem. He has his call to prophetic ministry restored.


Jeremiah 15:10-21 (NRSV)

Jeremiah Complains Again and Is Reassured

10 Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. 11 The Lord said: Surely I have intervened in your life for good, surely I have imposed enemies on you in a time of trouble and in a time of distress. 12 Can iron and bronze break iron from the north?

13 Your wealth and your treasures I will give as plunder, without price, for all your sins, throughout all your territory. 14 I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.

15 O Lord, you know;

remember me and visit me,

and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.

In your forbearance do not take me away;

know that on your account I suffer insult.

16 Your words were found, and I ate them,

and your words became to me a joy

and the delight of my heart;

for I am called by your name,

O Lord, God of hosts.

17 I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,

nor did I rejoice;

under the weight of your hand I sat alone,

for you had filled me with indignation.

18 Why is my pain unceasing,

my wound incurable,

refusing to be healed?

Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,

like waters that fail.

19 Therefore thus says the Lord:

If you turn back, I will take you back,

and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,

not you who will turn to them.

20 And I will make you to this people

a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

to save you and deliver you,

     says the Lord.

21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.


After awareness of a plot on his life, Jeremiah offers a confession.


Jeremiah 18:19-23 (NRSV)

19 Give heed to me, O Lord,

and listen to what my adversaries say!

20 Is evil a recompense for good?

Yet they have dug a pit for my life.

Remember how I stood before you

to speak good for them,

to turn away your wrath from them.

21 Therefore give their children over to famine;

hurl them out to the power of the sword,

let their wives become childless and widowed.

May their men meet death by pestilence,

their youths be slain by the sword in battle.

22 May a cry be heard from their houses,

when you bring the marauder suddenly upon them!

For they have dug a pit to catch me,

and laid snares for my feet.

23 Yet you, O Lord, know

all their plotting to kill me.

Do not forgive their iniquity,

do not blot out their sin from your sight.

Let them be tripped up before you;

deal with them while you are angry.


We have a collection of the confessions of Jeremiah.


Jeremiah 20:7-18 (NRSV)

Jeremiah Denounces His Persecutors

7 O Lord, you have enticed me,

and I was enticed;

you have overpowered me,

and you have prevailed.

I have become a laughingstock all day long;

everyone mocks me.

8 For whenever I speak, I must cry out,

I must shout, “Violence and destruction!”

For the word of the Lord has become for me

a reproach and derision all day long.

9 If I say, “I will not mention him,

or speak any more in his name,”

then within me there is something like a burning fire

shut up in my bones;

I am weary with holding it in,

and I cannot.

10 For I hear many whispering:

“Terror is all around!

Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”

All my close friends

are watching for me to stumble.

“Perhaps he can be enticed,

and we can prevail against him,

and take our revenge on him.”

11 But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior;

therefore my persecutors will stumble,

and they will not prevail.

They will be greatly shamed,

for they will not succeed.

Their eternal dishonor

will never be forgotten.

12 O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous,

you see the heart and the mind;

let me see your retribution upon them,

for to you I have committed my cause.

13 Sing to the Lord;

praise the Lord!

For he has delivered the life of the needy

from the hands of evildoers.

14 Cursed be the day

on which I was born!

The day when my mother bore me,

let it not be blessed!

15 Cursed be the man

who brought the news to my father, saying,

“A child is born to you, a son,”

making him very glad.

16 Let that man be like the cities

that the Lord overthrew without pity;

let him hear a cry in the morning

and an alarm at noon,

17 because he did not kill me in the womb;

so my mother would have been my grave,

and her womb forever great.

18 Why did I come forth from the womb

to see toil and sorrow,

and spend my days in shame?


Jehoahaz (609)

            In Judah, Jehoahaz ruled in 609. Pharaoh Necho put him in chains and imposed tribute on Judah.

            Jeremiah prophecies against him the Autumn.


Jeremiah 22:10-12 (NRSV)

10 Do not weep for him who is dead,

nor bemoan him;

weep rather for him who goes away,

for he shall return no more

to see his native land.

Message to the Sons of Josiah

11 For thus says the Lord concerning Shallum son of King Josiah of Judah, who succeeded his father Josiah, and who went away from this place: He shall return here no more, 12 but in the place where they have carried him captive he shall die, and he shall never see this land again.


Jehoiakim (609-598)

            In Judah, Jehoiakim ruled from 609 to 598 BC. He became a vassal of Babylon. He rebelled against Babylon, and Judah was destroyed by Chaldeans, Aramaeans, Moabites, and Ammonites.

            Jeremiah offers a prophecy against Jehoiakim.


Jeremiah 22:13-19 (NRSV)

13 Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,

and his upper rooms by injustice;

who makes his neighbors work for nothing,

and does not give them their wages;

14 who says, “I will build myself a spacious house

with large upper rooms,”

and who cuts out windows for it,

paneling it with cedar,

and painting it with vermilion.

15 Are you a king

because you compete in cedar?

Did not your father eat and drink

and do justice and righteousness?

Then it was well with him.

16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy;

then it was well.

Is not this to know me?

says the Lord.

17 But your eyes and heart

are only on your dishonest gain,

for shedding innocent blood,

and for practicing oppression and violence.

18 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah:

They shall not lament for him, saying,

“Alas, my brother!” or “Alas, sister!”

They shall not lament for him, saying,

“Alas, lord!” or “Alas, his majesty!”

19 With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried—

dragged off and thrown out beyond the gates of Jerusalem.



            The narrative of Baruch in chapters 37-45 describe the outward circumstances of the way of suffering for Jeremiah. In his abandonment to his enemies, Jeremiah is powerless. Neither his words nor his sufferings make any impression upon them.

            When Jerusalem falls again in 587, Jeremiah is taken to Egypt, where 45-51 may have been written, though possibly by his disciples around 550. Yet, he also looked to the future and noticed the movements on the horizon of universal history.

            He appears to be silent in the years after the reform of Josiah in 621. We can only assume that he was initially sympathetic to the reforms of Josiah, but came to believe it was purely external.  There was not sincere repentance.  We have an example of this during the reign of Jehoiakim.


Jeremiah 7:1-8:3 (NRSV)

7 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. 3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. 4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”

5 For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7 then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.

8 Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!”—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord. 12 Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things, says the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14 therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out all your kinsfolk, all the offspring of Ephraim.

16 As for you, do not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 19 Is it I whom they provoke? says the Lord. Is it not themselves, to their own hurt? 20 Therefore thus says the Lord God: My anger and my wrath shall be poured out on this place, on human beings and animals, on the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.

21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. 22 For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.” 24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward. 25 From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; 26 yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks. They did worse than their ancestors did.

27 So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. 28 You shall say to them: This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.

29 Cut off your hair and throw it away;

raise a lamentation on the bare heights,

for the Lord has rejected and forsaken

the generation that provoked his wrath.

30 For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says the Lord; they have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name, defiling it. 31 And they go on building the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire—which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. 32 Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth until there is no more room. 33 The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of the earth; and no one will frighten them away. 34 And I will bring to an end the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of the bride and bridegroom in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for the land shall become a waste.

8 At that time, says the Lord, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs; 2 and they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have followed, and which they have inquired of and worshiped; and they shall not be gathered or buried; they shall be like dung on the surface of the ground. 3 Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, says the Lord of hosts.


During this time, Jeremiah offers a prophecy concerning the defeat of Egypt at Carchemish in 605 BC, in chapter 46. He offers an oracle against Philistia in Chapter 47, and Moab in 48: 1-28, 40-42, 45-47.


            Habakkuk wrote in 609-605 and 600 BC.  Although there are few clear indicators that allow us to pinpoint when Habakkuk was written, most scholars place the book near the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. This is based mostly on verse 1:6, which mentions God rousing the "Chaldeans" against the Israelites. It is portrayed as an event which is about to happen, however, so technically, this could apply to any year after the fall of Assyria to Babylon in 612 B.C. at which time Babylon turned its eyes toward subduing their new empire. Nothing is known about the prophet himself. We are not told traditional things like his parent's name or the town from which he came, and his own name does not even seem to be Hebrew. Aside from the deutero-canonical addition to Daniel called Bel and the Dragon, in which Habakkuk features, there is no other mention of the prophet in wider Israelite literature. Given the fact that Daniel mentions Habakkuk, one might be tempted to see the book as a very late creation. However, because of the obvious antiquity of the psalm in Habakkuk 3 and the overall tenor of the book, which seems to describe Jerusalem on the eve of its original destruction, most scholars date the prophet to the end of the pre-exilic era.

            This prophet sees the coming judgment upon Judah at the hands of Babylon.  However, he questions whether this is just.  Though he can see the sin of Judah, it appears to him that the sins of Babylon are much greater.  Thus, how can God justify using a wicked nation to punish a less wicked nation?  There are two complaints by the prophet, and there are two replies by the Lord.  The answers are not satisfying.  If he thinks the situation is bad now, it will get worse.  However, the person who is just will survive.

            The prophet offers his complaint concerning the justice of God and receives a rather unsatisfying answer.


Habakkuk 1:1-3 (NRSV)

 The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.

2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,

and you will not listen?

Or cry to you “Violence!”

and you will not save?

3 Why do you make me see wrongdoing

and look at trouble?

Destruction and violence are before me;

strife and contention arise.

Habakkuk 2:1-4 (NRSV)

 I will stand at my watchpost,

and station myself on the rampart;

I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,

and what he will answer concerning my complaint.

2 Then the Lord answered me and said:

Write the vision;

make it plain on tablets,

so that a runner may read it.

3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time;

it speaks of the end, and does not lie.

If it seems to tarry, wait for it;

it will surely come, it will not delay.

4 Look at the proud!

Their spirit is not right in them,

but the righteous live by their faith.


He offers a woe upon oppressors, especially those who amass goods that do not belong to them, ill-gotten gains, murder, drink, and idolatry. He offers a plea to the Lord to deliver Judah from the approaching menace from the East.


Jehoiachin (598-597)

            In Judah, Jehoiachin ruled in 598 to 597 BC., and brought the first deportation in 597. Nebuchadnezzar got him to surrender. Babylon brought the king and his family to the palace in Babylon. He also carried off the treasures of the Temple and palace. He carried off the nobles and other leaders into exile.

            Jeremiah offered a prophecy concerning him.


Jeremiah 13:18-19 (NRSV)

18 Say to the king and the queen mother:

“Take a lowly seat,

for your beautiful crown

has come down from your head.”

19 The towns of the Negeb are shut up

with no one to open them;

all Judah is taken into exile,

wholly taken into exile.


Jeremiah 22:20-30 (NRSV)

20 Go up to Lebanon, and cry out,

and lift up your voice in Bashan;

cry out from Abarim,

for all your lovers are crushed.

21 I spoke to you in your prosperity,

but you said, “I will not listen.”

This has been your way from your youth,

for you have not obeyed my voice.

22 The wind shall shepherd all your shepherds,

and your lovers shall go into captivity;

then you will be ashamed and dismayed

because of all your wickedness.

23 O inhabitant of Lebanon,

nested among the cedars,

how you will groan when pangs come upon you,

pain as of a woman in labor!

Judgment on Coniah (Jehoiachin)

24 As I live, says the Lord, even if King Coniah son of Jehoiakim of Judah were the signet ring on my right hand, even from there I would tear you off 25 and give you into the hands of those who seek your life, into the hands of those of whom you are afraid, even into the hands of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and into the hands of the Chaldeans. 26 I will hurl you and the mother who bore you into another country, where you were not born, and there you shall die. 27 But they shall not return to the land to which they long to return.

28 Is this man Coniah a despised broken pot,

a vessel no one wants?

Why are he and his offspring hurled out

and cast away in a land that they do not know?

29 O land, land, land,

hear the word of the Lord!

30 Thus says the Lord:

Record this man as childless,

a man who shall not succeed in his days;

for none of his offspring shall succeed

in sitting on the throne of David,

and ruling again in Judah.



He offered an oracle against the Arab tribes who joined Babylon around 598 BC in 49:28-33 and against Elam in 49:34-39. The Lord gave him a vision of what the first deportation in 597 truly meant.


Jeremiah 24 (NRSV)

 The Lord showed me two baskets of figs placed before the temple of the Lord. This was after King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon had taken into exile from Jerusalem King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, together with the officials of Judah, the artisans, and the smiths, and had brought them to Babylon. 2 One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, but the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten. 3 And the Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I said, “Figs, the good figs very good, and the bad figs very bad, so bad that they cannot be eaten.”

4 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 5 Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I have sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. 6 I will set my eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. 7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

8 But thus says the Lord: Like the bad figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten, so will I treat King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who live in the land of Egypt. 9 I will make them a horror, an evil thing, to all the kingdoms of the earth—a disgrace, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them. 10 And I will send sword, famine, and pestilence upon them, until they are utterly destroyed from the land that I gave to them and their ancestors.


Zedekiah (598-587)

            In Judah, Zedekiah ruled from 598-587 BC. He rebelled against Babylon. However, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city. Famine raged through the city.

            Jeremiah answered envoys from Zedekiah in late 589 or early 588.


Jeremiah 21:1-10 (NRSV)

 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malchiah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, saying, 2 “Please inquire of the Lord on our behalf, for King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon is making war against us; perhaps the Lord will perform a wonderful deed for us, as he has often done, and will make him withdraw from us.”

3 Then Jeremiah said to them: 4 Thus you shall say to Zedekiah: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I am going to turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands and with which you are fighting against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls; and I will bring them together into the center of this city. 5 I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and mighty arm, in anger, in fury, and in great wrath. 6 And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both human beings and animals; they shall die of a great pestilence. 7 Afterward, says the Lord, I will give King Zedekiah of Judah, and his servants, and the people in this city—those who survive the pestilence, sword, and famine—into the hands of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, into the hands of their enemies, into the hands of those who seek their lives. He shall strike them down with the edge of the sword; he shall not pity them, or spare them, or have compassion.

8 And to this people you shall say: Thus says the Lord: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. 9 Those who stay in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but those who go out and surrender to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have their lives as a prize of war. 10 For I have set my face against this city for evil and not for good, says the Lord: it shall be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.


He disputes with Hananiah concerning prophecy under Zedekiah.


Jeremiah 28:1-9 (NRSV)

 In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3 Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4 I will also bring back to this place King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, says the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”

5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; 6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. 7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”


He offers a prophecy concerning the fate of Zedekiah.


Jeremiah 34:1-7 (NRSV)

Death in Captivity Predicted for Zedekiah

 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, when King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms of the earth and all the peoples under his dominion were fighting against Jerusalem and all its cities: 2 Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Go and speak to King Zedekiah of Judah and say to him: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire. 3 And you yourself shall not escape from his hand, but shall surely be captured and handed over to him; you shall see the king of Babylon eye to eye and speak with him face to face; and you shall go to Babylon. 4 Yet hear the word of the Lord, O King Zedekiah of Judah! Thus says the Lord concerning you: You shall not die by the sword; 5 you shall die in peace. And as spices were burned for your ancestors, the earlier kings who preceded you, so they shall burn spicesfor you and lament for you, saying, “Alas, lord!” For I have spoken the word, says the Lord.

6 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah, in Jerusalem, 7 when the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the cities of Judah that were left, Lachish and Azekah; for these were the only fortified cities of Judah that remained.


Zedekiah seeks advice from Jeremiah.


Jeremiah 37:1-10 (NRSV)

 Zedekiah son of Josiah, whom King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon made king in the land of Judah, succeeded Coniah son of Jehoiakim. 2 But neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the Lord that he spoke through the prophet Jeremiah.

3 King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to the prophet Jeremiah saying, “Please pray for us to the Lord our God.” 4 Now Jeremiah was still going in and out among the people, for he had not yet been put in prison. 5 Meanwhile, the army of Pharaoh had come out of Egypt; and when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news of them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.

6 Then the word of the Lord came to the prophet Jeremiah: 7 Thus says the Lord, God of Israel: This is what the two of you shall say to the king of Judah, who sent you to me to inquire of me; Pharaoh’s army, which set out to help you, is going to return to its own land, to Egypt. 8 And the Chaldeans shall return and fight against this city; they shall take it and burn it with fire. 9 Thus says the Lord: Do not deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely go away from us,” for they will not go away. 10 Even if you defeated the whole army of Chaldeans who are fighting against you, and there remained of them only wounded men in their tents, they would rise up and burn this city with fire.


Zedekiah and Jeremiah have a final conversation.


Jeremiah 38:14-28 (NRSV)

Zedekiah Consults Jeremiah Again

14 King Zedekiah sent for the prophet Jeremiah and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the Lord. The king said to Jeremiah, “I have something to ask you; do not hide anything from me.” 15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I tell you, you will put me to death, will you not? And if I give you advice, you will not listen to me.” 16 So King Zedekiah swore an oath in secret to Jeremiah, “As the Lord lives, who gave us our lives, I will not put you to death or hand you over to these men who seek your life.”

17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, If you will only surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. 18 But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be handed over to the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand.” 19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, for I might be handed over to them and they would abuse me.” 20 Jeremiah said, “That will not happen. Just obey the voice of the Lord in what I say to you, and it shall go well with you, and your life shall be spared. 21 But if you are determined not to surrender, this is what the Lord has shown me— 22 a vision of all the women remaining in the house of the king of Judah being led out to the officials of the king of Babylon and saying,

‘Your trusted friends have seduced you

and have overcome you;

Now that your feet are stuck in the mud,

they desert you.’

23 All your wives and your children shall be led out to the Chaldeans, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand, but shall be seized by the king of Babylon; and this city shall be burned with fire.”

24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone else know of this conversation, or you will die. 25 If the officials should hear that I have spoken with you, and they should come and say to you, ‘Just tell us what you said to the king; do not conceal it from us, or we will put you to death. What did the king say to you?’ 26 then you shall say to them, ‘I was presenting my plea to the king not to send me back to the house of Jonathan to die there.’ ” 27 All the officials did come to Jeremiah and questioned him; and he answered them in the very words the king had commanded. So they stopped questioning him, for the conversation had not been overheard. 28 And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken.


We then have this account of the last days of Zedekiah, in July 587 BC. The king tried to slip away, but the Chaldaeans caught up with him. He saw both sons slaughtered, and then had his eyes cut out. They brought him in chains back to Babylon.


Jeremiah 39:1-10 (NRSV)

 In the ninth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the tenth month, King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it; 2 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, a breach was made in the city. 3 When Jerusalem was taken, all the officials of the king of Babylon came and sat in the middle gate: Nergal-sharezer, Samgar-nebo, Sarsechim the Rabsaris, Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag, with all the rest of the officials of the king of Babylon. 4 When King Zedekiah of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled, going out of the city at night by way of the king’s garden through the gate between the two walls; and they went toward the Arabah. 5 But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and when they had taken him, they brought him up to King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, at Riblah, in the land of Hamath; and he passed sentence on him. 6 The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes; also the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. 7 He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in fetters to take him to Babylon. 8 The Chaldeans burned the king’s house and the houses of the people, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. 9 Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard exiled to Babylon the rest of the people who were left in the city, those who had deserted to him, and the people who remained. 10 Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.


In October of 587 BC, Gedaliah became governor of Judah.  People assassinated him.


Jeremiah 40:7-41:18 (NRSV)

7 When all the leaders of the forces in the open country and their troops heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed to him men, women, and children, those of the poorest of the land who had not been taken into exile to Babylon, 8 they went to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, Jezaniah son of the Maacathite, they and their troops. 9 Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan swore to them and their troops, saying, “Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Stay in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall go well with you. 10 As for me, I am staying at Mizpah to represent you before the Chaldeans who come to us; but as for you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels, and live in the towns that you have taken over.” 11 Likewise, when all the Judeans who were in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom and in other lands heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan as governor over them, 12 then all the Judeans returned from all the places to which they had been scattered and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah; and they gathered wine and summer fruits in great abundance.

13 Now Johanan son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces in the open country came to Gedaliah at Mizpah 14 and said to him, “Are you at all aware that Baalis king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to take your life?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam would not believe them. 15 Then Johanan son of Kareah spoke secretly to Gedaliah at Mizpah, “Please let me go and kill Ishmael son of Nethaniah, and no one else will know. Why should he take your life, so that all the Judeans who are gathered around you would be scattered, and the remnant of Judah would perish?” 16 But Gedaliah son of Ahikam said to Johanan son of Kareah, “Do not do such a thing, for you are telling a lie about Ishmael.”

Insurrection against Gedaliah

41 In the seventh month, Ishmael son of Nethaniah son of Elishama, of the royal family, one of the chief officers of the king, came with ten men to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. As they ate bread together there at Mizpah, 2 Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the ten men with him got up and struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan with the sword and killed him, because the king of Babylon had appointed him governor in the land. 3 Ishmael also killed all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldean soldiers who happened to be there.

4 On the day after the murder of Gedaliah, before anyone knew of it, 5 eighty men arrived from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria, with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, and their bodies gashed, bringing grain offerings and incense to present at the temple of the Lord. 6 And Ishmael son of Nethaniah came out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came. As he met them, he said to them, “Come to Gedaliah son of Ahikam.” 7 When they reached the middle of the city, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them, and threw them into a cistern. 8 But there were ten men among them who said to Ishmael, “Do not kill us, for we have stores of wheat, barley, oil, and honey hidden in the fields.” So he refrained, and did not kill them along with their companions.

9 Now the cistern into which Ishmael had thrown all the bodies of the men whom he had struck down was the large cistern that King Asa had made for defense against King Baasha of Israel; Ishmael son of Nethaniah filled that cistern with those whom he had killed. 10 Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king’s daughters and all the people who were left at Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had committed to Gedaliah son of Ahikam. Ishmael son of Nethaniah took them captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites.

11 But when Johanan son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the crimes that Ishmael son of Nethaniah had done, 12 they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael son of Nethaniah. They came upon him at the great pool that is in Gibeon. 13 And when all the people who were with Ishmael saw Johanan son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him, they were glad. 14 So all the people whom Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah turned around and came back, and went to Johanan son of Kareah. 15 But Ishmael son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites. 16 Then Johanan son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him took all the rest of the people whom Ishmael son of Nethaniah had carried away captive from Mizpah after he had slain Gedaliah son of Ahikam—soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs, whom Johanan brought back from Gibeon. 17 And they set out, and stopped at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem, intending to go to Egypt 18 because of the Chaldeans; for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael son of Nethaniah had killed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.


This time, Babylon burned down the Temple, royal palace, and the homes. He took much of the rest of the population with him, leaving the city largely deserted. The Chaldeans melted down much of the valuable property and put it to their use.


Jeremiah 39:1-43:7 (NRSV)

Jeremiah, Set Free, Remembers Ebed-melech

11 King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon gave command concerning Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, saying, 12 “Take him, look after him well and do him no harm, but deal with him as he may ask you.” 13 So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, Nebushazban the Rabsaris, Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag, and all the chief officers of the king of Babylon sent 14 and took Jeremiah from the court of the guard. They entrusted him to Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan to be brought home. So he stayed with his own people.

15 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he was confined in the court of the guard: 16 Go and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian: Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to fulfill my words against this city for evil and not for good, and they shall be accomplished in your presence on that day. 17 But I will save you on that day, says the Lord, and you shall not be handed over to those whom you dread. 18 For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have trusted in me, says the Lord.

40 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he took him bound in fetters along with all the captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. 2 The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, “The Lord your God threatened this place with this disaster; 3 and now the Lord has brought it about, and has done as he said, because all of you sinned against the Lord and did not obey his voice. Therefore this thing has come upon you. 4 Now look, I have just released you today from the fetters on your hands. If you wish to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will take good care of you; but if you do not wish to come with me to Babylon, you need not come. See, the whole land is before you; go wherever you think it good and right to go. 5 If you remain, then return to Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon appointed governor of the towns of Judah, and stay with him among the people; or go wherever you think it right to go.” So the captain of the guard gave him an allowance of food and a present, and let him go. 6 Then Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah, and stayed with him among the people who were left in the land.

7 When all the leaders of the forces in the open country and their troops heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed to him men, women, and children, those of the poorest of the land who had not been taken into exile to Babylon, 8 they went to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, Jezaniah son of the Maacathite, they and their troops. 9 Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan swore to them and their troops, saying, “Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Stay in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall go well with you. 10 As for me, I am staying at Mizpah to represent you before the Chaldeans who come to us; but as for you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels, and live in the towns that you have taken over.” 11 Likewise, when all the Judeans who were in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom and in other lands heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan as governor over them, 12 then all the Judeans returned from all the places to which they had been scattered and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah; and they gathered wine and summer fruits in great abundance.

13 Now Johanan son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces in the open country came to Gedaliah at Mizpah 14 and said to him, “Are you at all aware that Baalis king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to take your life?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam would not believe them. 15 Then Johanan son of Kareah spoke secretly to Gedaliah at Mizpah, “Please let me go and kill Ishmael son of Nethaniah, and no one else will know. Why should he take your life, so that all the Judeans who are gathered around you would be scattered, and the remnant of Judah would perish?” 16 But Gedaliah son of Ahikam said to Johanan son of Kareah, “Do not do such a thing, for you are telling a lie about Ishmael.”

41 In the seventh month, Ishmael son of Nethaniah son of Elishama, of the royal family, one of the chief officers of the king, came with ten men to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. As they ate bread together there at Mizpah, 2 Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the ten men with him got up and struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan with the sword and killed him, because the king of Babylon had appointed him governor in the land. 3 Ishmael also killed all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldean soldiers who happened to be there.

4 On the day after the murder of Gedaliah, before anyone knew of it, 5 eighty men arrived from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria, with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, and their bodies gashed, bringing grain offerings and incense to present at the temple of the Lord. 6 And Ishmael son of Nethaniah came out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came. As he met them, he said to them, “Come to Gedaliah son of Ahikam.” 7 When they reached the middle of the city, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them, and threw them into a cistern. 8 But there were ten men among them who said to Ishmael, “Do not kill us, for we have stores of wheat, barley, oil, and honey hidden in the fields.” So he refrained, and did not kill them along with their companions.

9 Now the cistern into which Ishmael had thrown all the bodies of the men whom he had struck down was the large cistern that King Asa had made for defense against King Baasha of Israel; Ishmael son of Nethaniah filled that cistern with those whom he had killed. 10 Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king’s daughters and all the people who were left at Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had committed to Gedaliah son of Ahikam. Ishmael son of Nethaniah took them captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites.

11 But when Johanan son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the crimes that Ishmael son of Nethaniah had done, 12 they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael son of Nethaniah. They came upon him at the great pool that is in Gibeon. 13 And when all the people who were with Ishmael saw Johanan son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him, they were glad. 14 So all the people whom Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah turned around and came back, and went to Johanan son of Kareah. 15 But Ishmael son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites. 16 Then Johanan son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him took all the rest of the people whom Ishmael son of Nethaniah had carried away captive from Mizpah after he had slain Gedaliah son of Ahikam—soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs, whom Johanan brought back from Gibeon. 17 And they set out, and stopped at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem, intending to go to Egypt 18 because of the Chaldeans; for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael son of Nethaniah had killed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.




            Jeremiah also had conversation with Yahweh in the form of confessions. They are central to the interpretation of the book. They are the written testimony to an intercourse between Yahweh and the prophet that s both striking and unique. They grow out of his specific situation as a prophet. What lies behind them is a call to serve in a quite particular way. The intimacy he reveals, the maturity of self-expression, and the freedom to admit one’s failure and admitting the censure of God, shows the noble spirit of this prophet. He offers a personal lament concerning the fall of Jerusalem in 598 BC.


Jeremiah 4:19-21 (NRSV)

Sorrow for a Doomed Nation

19 My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!

Oh, the walls of my heart!

My heart is beating wildly;

I cannot keep silent;

for I hear the sound of the trumpet,

the alarm of war.

20 Disaster overtakes disaster,

the whole land is laid waste.

Suddenly my tents are destroyed,

my curtains in a moment.

21 How long must I see the standard,

and hear the sound of the trumpet?


He offers a lament during a famine around 598 BC.


Jeremiah 8:18-23 (NRSV)

The Prophet Mourns for the People

18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me,

my heart is sick.

19 Hark, the cry of my poor people

from far and wide in the land:

“Is the Lord not in Zion?

Is her King not in her?”

(“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,

with their foreign idols?”)

20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended,

and we are not saved.”

21 For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,

I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.

22 Is there no balm in Gilead?

Is there no physician there?

Why then has the health of my poor people

not been restored?


Around 587 BC, he offered an oracle against Ammon in 49:1-6 and Edom in 49:7-22. He offers the image of the yoke as a symbol of the condition of Judah in relation to Babylon.


Jeremiah 27 (NRSV)

 In the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah son of Josiah of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord. 2 Thus the Lord said to me: Make yourself a yoke of straps and bars, and put them on your neck. 3 Send word to the king of Edom, the king of Moab, the king of the Ammonites, the king of Tyre, and the king of Sidon by the hand of the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to King Zedekiah of Judah. 4 Give them this charge for their masters: Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: This is what you shall say to your masters: 5 It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the people and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever I please. 6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him even the wild animals of the field to serve him. 7 All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes; then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.

8 But if any nation or kingdom will not serve this king, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, then I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, says the Lord, until I have completed its destruction by his hand. 9 “You, therefore, must not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon.” 10 For they are prophesying a lie to you, with the result that you will be removed far from your land; I will drive you out, and you will perish. 11 But any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, says the Lord, to till it and live there.

12 I spoke to King Zedekiah of Judah in the same way: Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live. 13 Why should you and your people die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, as the Lord has spoken concerning any nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? 14 Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are telling you not to serve the king of Babylon, for they are prophesying a lie to you. 15 I have not sent them, says the Lord, but they are prophesying falsely in my name, with the result that I will drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying to you.

16 Then I spoke to the priests and to all this people, saying, Thus says the Lord: Do not listen to the words of your prophets who are prophesying to you, saying, “The vessels of the Lord’s house will soon be brought back from Babylon,” for they are prophesying a lie to you. 17 Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon and live. Why should this city become a desolation? 18 If indeed they are prophets, and if the word of the Lord is with them, then let them intercede with the Lord of hosts, that the vessels left in the house of the Lord, in the house of the king of Judah, and in Jerusalem may not go to Babylon. 19 For thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the pillars, the sea, the stands, and the rest of the vessels that are left in this city, 20 which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon did not take away when he took into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem— 21 thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels left in the house of the Lord, in the house of the king of Judah, and in Jerusalem: 22 They shall be carried to Babylon, and there they shall stay, until the day when I give attention to them, says the Lord. Then I will bring them up and restore them to this place.


He writes a letter to the exiles around 594 BC.


Jeremiah 29:1-14 (NRSV)

 These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 This was after King Jeconiah, and the queen mother, the court officials, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem. 3 The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom King Zedekiah of Judah sent to Babylon to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It said: 4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord.

10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Jeremiah 29:21-23 (NRSV)

21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: I am going to deliver them into the hand of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he shall kill them before your eyes. 22 And on account of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” 23 because they have perpetrated outrage in Israel and have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them; I am the one who knows and bears witness, says the Lord.


Around the same time, Jeremiah had a disagreement with another prophet, Shemaiah.


Jeremiah 29:24-32 (NRSV)

24 To Shemaiah of Nehelam you shall say: 25 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: In your own name you sent a letter to all the people who are in Jerusalem, and to the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, and to all the priests, saying, 26 The Lord himself has made you priest instead of the priest Jehoiada, so that there may be officers in the house of the Lord to control any madman who plays the prophet, to put him in the stocks and the collar. 27 So now why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who plays the prophet for you? 28 For he has actually sent to us in Babylon, saying, “It will be a long time; build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat what they produce.”

29 The priest Zephaniah read this letter in the hearing of the prophet Jeremiah. 30 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 31 Send to all the exiles, saying, Thus says the Lord concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: Because Shemaiah has prophesied to you, though I did not send him, and has led you to trust in a lie, 32 therefore thus says the Lord: I am going to punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants; he shall not have anyone living among this people to see the good that I am going to do to my people, says the Lord, for he has spoken rebellion against the Lord.


Around the years 588-587, while Babylon has put Jerusalem under siege, Jeremiah bought a field, a sign of the future prosperity of Judah.


Jeremiah 32:1-44 (NRSV)

32 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3 where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, “Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; 4 King Zedekiah of Judah shall not escape out of the hands of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye; 5 and he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I attend to him, says the Lord; though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed?”

6 Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: 7 Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” 8 Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.

9 And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11 Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12 and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. 13 In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

16 After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord, saying: 17 Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. 18 You show steadfast love to the thousandth generation, but repay the guilt of parents into the laps of their children after them, O great and mighty God whose name is the Lord of hosts, 19 great in counsel and mighty in deed; whose eyes are open to all the ways of mortals, rewarding all according to their ways and according to the fruit of their doings. 20 You showed signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all humankind, and have made yourself a name that continues to this very day. 21 You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror; 22 and you gave them this land, which you swore to their ancestors to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; 23 and they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or follow your law; of all you commanded them to do, they did nothing. Therefore you have made all these disasters come upon them. 24 See, the siege ramps have been cast up against the city to take it, and the city, faced with sword, famine, and pestilence, has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has happened, as you yourself can see. 25 Yet you, O Lord God, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans.

26 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 27 See, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me? 28 Therefore, thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he shall take it. 29 The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city shall come, set it on fire, and burn it, with the houses on whose roofs offerings have been made to Baal and libations have been poured out to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 30 For the people of Israel and the people of Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; the people of Israel have done nothing but provoke me to anger by the work of their hands, says the Lord. 31 This city has aroused my anger and wrath, from the day it was built until this day, so that I will remove it from my sight 32 because of all the evil of the people of Israel and the people of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger—they, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the citizens of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33 They have turned their backs to me, not their faces; though I have taught them persistently, they would not listen and accept correction. 34 They set up their abominations in the house that bears my name, and defiled it. 35 They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter my mind that they should do this abomination, causing Judah to sin.

36 Now therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, “It is being given into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence”: 37 See, I am going to gather them from all the lands to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation; I will bring them back to this place, and I will settle them in safety. 38 They shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for all time, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to draw back from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, so that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing good to them, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

42 For thus says the Lord: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good fortune that I now promise them. 43 Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, It is a desolation, without human beings or animals; it has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans. 44 Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, of the hill country, of the Shephelah, and of the Negeb; for I will restore their fortunes, says the Lord.


Several people, led by Ishmael, of the Davidic line, went to Egypt because of their fear of the Chaldeans. When Evil-Merodach became king, he pardoned Jehoiachin, allowing Jehoiachin to eat at the table of the king. We also discover what happened to Jeremiah.


Jeremiah 40:1-6 (NRSV)

40 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he took him bound in fetters along with all the captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. 2 The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, “The Lord your God threatened this place with this disaster; 3 and now the Lord has brought it about, and has done as he said, because all of you sinned against the Lord and did not obey his voice. Therefore this thing has come upon you. 4 Now look, I have just released you today from the fetters on your hands. If you wish to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will take good care of you; but if you do not wish to come with me to Babylon, you need not come. See, the whole land is before you; go wherever you think it good and right to go. 5 If you remain, then return to Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon appointed governor of the towns of Judah, and stay with him among the people; or go wherever you think it right to go.” So the captain of the guard gave him an allowance of food and a present, and let him go. 6 Then Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah, and stayed with him among the people who were left in the land.

Jeremiah 42:1-43:7 (NRSV)

Jeremiah Advises Survivors Not to Migrate

42 Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan son of Kareah and Azariah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, approached 2 the prophet Jeremiah and said, “Be good enough to listen to our plea, and pray to the Lord your God for us—for all this remnant. For there are only a few of us left out of many, as your eyes can see. 3 Let the Lord your God show us where we should go and what we should do.” 4 The prophet Jeremiah said to them, “Very well: I am going to pray to the Lord your God as you request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you; I will keep nothing back from you.” 5 They in their turn said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to everything that the Lord your God sends us through you. 6 Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, in order that it may go well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

7 At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. 8 Then he summoned Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, 9 and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea before him: 10 If you will only remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I am sorry for the disaster that I have brought upon you. 11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, as you have been; do not be afraid of him, says the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to rescue you from his hand. 12 I will grant you mercy, and he will have mercy on you and restore you to your native soil. 13 But if you continue to say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ thus disobeying the voice of the Lord your God 14 and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war, or hear the sound of the trumpet, or be hungry for bread, and there we will stay,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you are determined to enter Egypt and go to settle there, 16 then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there, in the land of Egypt; and the famine that you dread shall follow close after you into Egypt; and there you shall die. 17 All the people who have determined to go to Egypt to settle there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; they shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I am bringing upon them.

18 “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Just as my anger and my wrath were poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so my wrath will be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You shall become an object of execration and horror, of cursing and ridicule. You shall see this place no more. 19 The Lord has said to you, O remnant of Judah, Do not go to Egypt. Be well aware that I have warned you today 20 that you have made a fatal mistake. For you yourselves sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the Lord our God, and whatever the Lord our God says, tell us and we will do it.’ 21 So I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God in anything that he sent me to tell you. 22 Be well aware, then, that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go and settle.”

Taken to Egypt, Jeremiah Warns of Judgment

43 When Jeremiah finished speaking to all the people all these words of the Lord their God, with which the Lord their God had sent him to them, 2 Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the other insolent men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie. The Lord our God did not send you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to settle there’; 3 but Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us, to hand us over to the Chaldeans, in order that they may kill us or take us into exile in Babylon.” 4 So Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of the Lord, to stay in the land of Judah. 5 But Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces took all the remnant of Judah who had returned to settle in the land of Judah from all the nations to which they had been driven— 6 the men, the women, the children, the princesses, and everyone whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan; also the prophet Jeremiah and Baruch son of Neriah. 7 And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the Lord. And they arrived at Tahpanhes.



A little book known as Lamentations, written about 586 BC by one (the text does not Jeremiah, though tradition suggests this person) left behind after the fall of Jerusalem, is a touching response to the devastation witnessed by the author.  All five poems have connection with the Hebrew alphabet. Chapters 1 and 2 have each stanza consisting of three lines, with each stanza beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. Chapter 4 is similar, except that each stanza has two lines. Chapter 3 has each stanza with three lines, but this time each line of the stanza begins with the proper letter. Chapter 5 is not an acrostic poem, but it does have twenty-two lines, the precise number of letters in the alphabet.

            Although both Kings and Chronicles relate facts related to the Fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC, this text relates what those facts meant to the people left behind. It expresses the horror at the destruction of every external thing that gave assurance of the presence of God. The book served the survivors of the catastrophe in the first place as an expression of the almost inexpressible horror and grief they felt. Human beings often best deal with such calamity by facing it directly, by finding some form of words to order and articulate their experience.


            Lamentations 1:1-2, 12-13 (NRSV)

How lonely sits the city

that once was full of people!

How like a widow she has become,

she that was great among the nations!

She that was a princess among the provinces

has become a vassal.

2 She weeps bitterly in the night,

with tears on her cheeks;

among all her lovers

she has no one to comfort her;

all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,

they have become her enemies.

12 Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?

Look and see

if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,

which was brought upon me,

which the Lord inflicted

on the day of his fierce anger.

13 From on high he sent fire;

it went deep into my bones;

he spread a net for my feet;

he turned me back;

he has left me stunned,

faint all day long.


The book is also a confession of sin, fully in line with the above prophetic view of what happened.  The prophets of Israel had foretold with unmistakable charity the destruction of the nation, and divine punishment for the iniquity of the ancestors was the well-known, inescapable darker side of the covenant with God. What had come upon them was nothing less that the day of the Lord, the day of the wrath of the Lord. Scholars disagree as to exactly what the Israelite conception of the day of the Lord was at various times. This book is notable in that it can refer to the day of the wrath of the Lord as past. The awful events of the siege and fall were already a decisive outpouring of the wrath of the Lord, a judgment day.


Lamentations 1:12b-13

which the Lord inflicted

on the day of his fierce anger.

13 From on high he sent fire;

it went deep into my bones;

he spread a net for my feet;

he turned me back;

he has left me stunned,

faint all day long.


            Lamentations 2:1-2, 13, 15-17, 21-22 (NRSV)

 How the Lord in his anger

has humiliated daughter Zion!

He has thrown down from heaven to earth

the splendor of Israel;

he has not remembered his footstool

in the day of his anger.

2 The Lord has destroyed without mercy

all the dwellings of Jacob;

in his wrath he has broken down

the strongholds of daughter Judah;

he has brought down to the ground in dishonor

the kingdom and its rulers.

13 What can I say for you, to what compare you,

O daughter Jerusalem?

To what can I liken you, that I may comfort you,

O virgin daughter Zion?

For vast as the sea is your ruin;

who can heal you?

15 All who pass along the way

clap their hands at you;

they hiss and wag their heads

at daughter Jerusalem;

“Is this the city that was called

the perfection of beauty,

the joy of all the earth?”

16 All your enemies

open their mouths against you;

they hiss, they gnash their teeth,

they cry: “We have devoured her!

Ah, this is the day we longed for;

at last we have seen it!”

17 The Lord has done what he purposed,

he has carried out his threat;

as he ordained long ago,

he has demolished without pity;

he has made the enemy rejoice over you,

and exalted the might of your foes.

21 The young and the old are lying

on the ground in the streets;

my young women and my young men

have fallen by the sword;

in the day of your anger you have killed them,

slaughtering without mercy.

22 You invited my enemies from all around

as if for a day of festival;

and on the day of the anger of the Lord

no one escaped or survived;

those whom I bore and reared

my enemy has destroyed.


The main point of chapter 2 is that the Lord destroyed the city and people. The chapter seldom strays far from this idea. The book does not make quickly or easily promises to take away the present agony. In fact, we might read some of this struggle in the following passage, which in many ways reverses the trust and confidence expressed in Psalm 23.


            Lamentations 3:1-9 (NRSV)

 I am one who has seen affliction

under the rod of God’s wrath;

2 he has driven and brought me

into darkness without any light;

3 against me alone he turns his hand,

again and again, all day long.

4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,

and broken my bones;

5 he has besieged and enveloped me

with bitterness and tribulation;

6 he has made me sit in darkness

like the dead of long ago.

7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;

he has put heavy chains on me;

8 though I call and cry for help,

he shuts out my prayer;

9 he has blocked my ways with hewn stones,

he has made my paths crooked.


Yet, hope is equally as central to the book.


Lamentations 3:21-26, 40-41 (NRSV)

21 But this I call to mind,

and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end;

23 they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul that seeks him.

26 It is good that one should wait quietly

for the salvation of the Lord.

40 Let us test and examine our ways,

and return to the Lord.

41 Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands

to God in heaven.



Chapter 3 stands apart from the rest of the book in that it does not have a specific reference to the Fall of Jerusalem. Although tempting to relate the poem to a specific individual, such as Jeremiah or Zedekiah, the text actually uses words and themes typical of the righteous person who suffers. The poem in chapter 4 relates what the author saw in the siege and fall of the city. It relates the horrors that took place. The tone is matter-of-fact, closer to the actual events. It may refer to Zedekiah, the king at the time of the fall of Jerusalem.


Lamentations 4:20 (NRSV)

20 The Lord’s anointed, the breath of our life,

was taken in their pits—

the one of whom we said, “Under his shadow

we shall live among the nations.”


Chapter 5 gives no hint that the people in Jerusalem have yet seen any hint of the action of God on their behalf.


Lamentations 5:15 (NRSV)

15 The joy of our hearts has ceased;

            our dancing has been turned to mourning.


Prophetic Activity in Judah

                The result of the disasters of 721 and 586 was to emancipate the individual from the sacred ties of community. The prophets made a direct appeal to the conscience and voluntary decision for a new solidarity with others. The continuity of the activity of God in history provides for the setting up of the kingdom of God. God brings about the attachment of the individual to this particular people. Eschatological universalism never implies flight from the hope for the future of the nation into an individualistic ideal world. It is precisely the national ties that provide the framework within which the divine community of the future is to be realized.

            During this period, the prophets keep alive the vision of a covenant community.  Kings like Hezekiah and Josiah in particular appear to be faithful to that vision.  However, for the most important, Israelite leaders are committed to a nation based upon power.  In this, they established political and military alliances that make sense from a purely political standpoint.  Yet, the prophets bring the word of God against it.  The reason appears to be that they have a different vision for the people of God.  A trust in God to bring about a new earth means that the people dare not manipulate the world system.  There is no need.  When God is ready, the end will come.  Until then, it is up to the people of God to remain faithful covenant partners.



Essay on Psalms and Wisdom


                Most of the Psalms were written during the time of the monarchy, and thus are before the exile.  There are five books, 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, 107-150, with a doxology concluding each one, and with Psalm 150 being a doxology for the whole Psalter. Some Psalms occur twice, such as 14 with 53, 40:13-17 with 70, 57:7-11 with 108, 60:5-12 with 108.  There is what is known as the Elohistic Psalter at 42-83.  Ezra may have been responsible for the present form of the Psalter.  If so, it would explain the division into five books, to parallel the first five books of the Bible.  The Song of Ascents, Psalm 120-134, may have been organized during the period of Hezekiah as king of Judah.  Other Psalms appear to belong together, such as 9-10, 111-112, 113-118 (Hallel Psalms), 145-150 (Great Hallelujah).

            There are some isolated items of interest as we reflect upon these psalms: Psalm 8 is given a satirical twist by Job 7:17. Psalm 18 may be by David. Psalm 23 is given a satirical twist in Lamentations 3:1-9. Psalm 44, 80 and 83 may be written at the time of the fall of Samaria in 721. Psalm 51 may have been written between 586 and 444 BC. Psalm 53 may come from the northern kingdom before the fall of 721 BC. Psalm 74 and 79 may be written around 486 BC. Psalm 89 contains an addition based on the fall of Jerusalem in v. 38-51. Psalm 136 may be from 540 BC, Psalm 139 has similarities with Job and was written in the 600's.

            In the context of both covenants, Israel offered praise, asked questions, and complained about its suffering. Yahweh desired discourse with this people. In this dialogue with Yahweh, Israel revealed itself to itself. It shows how in worship it pictured itself before Yahweh.

            The Psalms arose from the communal worship experience of Israel. Certain key times Of Psalm writing seem to have been the reigns of David and Solomon and reign of Hezekiah, and the reign of Josiah, as well as several in the exilic and post-exilic period. Many are associated with festivals concerning the Ark of the Covenant, the covenant Festival at the New Year and harvest festivals. 

            There are hymns that express the people's response to an act of God, a testimony to God and proclamation of the will of God.  The presence of God becomes real in the act of worship, or at other times in the history of the people, and at still other times in creation.  In its worship, Israel extolled the acts of Yahweh in history. The hymns that take history as their subject depend on a picture of the saving history already accepted as authority in the community. Hymns also praise the action of Yahweh in nature. Earlier hymns praised God in majestic acts of nature. Later, hymns praising God in nature emphasized the gentle footsteps of the day, that is, toward the wondrous will for order and regularity that Yahweh shows in nature.

            Laments may be both communal and personal, and are at times parts of hymns. In this case, the reciting of divine acts leads to the idea of judgment, especially on the enemy.  In prayer, what the individual lamented was not exclusive to oneself. The individual found in the liturgy words and phrases that expressed one’s own suffering. One could enter the company of others who experienced sorrow. Even if they depicted their suffering in a depersonalized fashion, we cannot help but notice the beauty of their descriptions. They represent themselves as the exemplary sufferers, upon whom has come not merely this or that suffering, but the extreme suffering of abandonment by God. What is predicated of suffering in the psalms of lamentation is in fact only another form of presenting oneself before Yahweh. The person at prayer awaits the help of Yahweh. They describe themselves as wretched and poor, for Yahweh paid special attention to the less privileged in the struggle of life. The state includes being defenseless and helpless. The person at prayer casts himself or herself upon God alone and seeks help from God alone. The person could expect consolation in the assurance that Yahweh would not forsake, but would be with the person and give help.     There are thanksgivings, both personal and communal, a testimony and profession of the way God has acted.  These psalms relate closely to the hymn. They refer to an actual event of deliverance. The thanksgiving also contains in one form or another an account of things that had actually taken place. The praying person was in trouble, prayed, promised a sacrifice to Yahweh and made a vow, and Yahweh helped. The person at prayer primarily addresses the community. What the person experienced in the intimate depths of personal life can become a model for others to do as the person has done. They need to cast themselves upon God.

            There are Songs of Zion, which celebrate the centrality of worship in Jerusalem. 

            There are Royal psalms, which often celebrate the king, but also lead to messianic expectations. Their main subject is the manifestation of Yahweh as king. Their most striking characteristic is the ritual shout, “Yahweh has become king.” They revolve around a single event that is still going on and is already half present. Its full realization is still a thing in the future.

            Wisdom psalms give sensible, practical advice and seek to educate. 

            Psalms of trust or confidence are simple expressions of resting in the reality of presence of God. 

            Israel encountered the reality of the beautiful primarily in the realm of narrative and poetry. Narrative in Israel reached a spirituality of rare greatness. Its poetry stands in a close relationship to its faith. Faith creates for itself the form and the style. The intense encounter with beauty was in the contemplation of the revelation and action of Yahweh. The highest beauty was Yahweh condescending to and entering into the historical existence of Israel. We see this in the description of theophanies. We also see beauty in the saving blessing of the Promised Land. We also see beauty in humanity itself, as people came to view themselves as objects of divine pleasure.


            Pre-monarchy psalms are 82 and 29.

            Davidic,            solomonic, or unified monarchy psalms are 2, 18, 20, 29,

            41, 59, 60, 68, 72, 75, 77, 89, 93, 110, 132, 138, 144.

Pre-exilic psalms are 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 443, 44 (721 BC), 45, 46, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 70, 71, 76, 78, 80, 81, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 90, 91, 94, 95, 97, 99, 100, 101, 104, 105, 113, 114, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 120-134 (Song of Ascents), 135, 136, 139, 140, 141, 142.

Exilic psalms are 8, 47, 69, 73, 102, 103, 106, 147.

Post-exilic psalms are 1, 8, 37, 47, 51, 73, 74, 79, 96, 98, 107, 115, 126, 137.

            updateable psalms are 111-112, 143, 148, 150.


Psalm 111-112 (NRSV)

1 Praise the Lord!

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,

in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

2 Great are the works of the Lord,

studied by all who delight in them.

3 Full of honor and majesty is his work,

and his righteousness endures forever.

4 He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;

the Lord is gracious and merciful.

5 He provides food for those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works,

in giving them the heritage of the nations.

7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;

all his precepts are trustworthy.

8 They are established forever and ever,

to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.

9 He sent redemption to his people;

he has commanded his covenant forever.

Holy and awesome is his name.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;

all those who practice it have a good understanding.

His praise endures forever.

1 Praise the Lord!

Happy are those who fear the Lord,

who greatly delight in his commandments.

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches are in their houses,

and their righteousness endures forever.

4 They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;

they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

5 It is well with those who deal generously and lend,

who conduct their affairs with justice.

6 For the righteous will never be moved;

they will be remembered forever.

7 They are not afraid of evil tidings;

their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.

8 Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid;

in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

9 They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor;

their righteousness endures forever;

their horn is exalted in honor.

10 The wicked see it and are angry;

they gnash their teeth and melt away;

the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.


Psalm 143 (NRSV)

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;

give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness;

answer me in your righteousness.

2 Do not enter into judgment with your servant,

for no one living is righteous before you.

Psalm 148 (NRSV)

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord from the heavens;

praise him in the heights!

2 Praise him, all his angels;

praise him, all his host!

3 Praise him, sun and moon;

praise him, all you shining stars!

4 Praise him, you highest heavens,

and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,

for he commanded and they were created.

6 He established them forever and ever;

he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,

you sea monsters and all deeps,

8 fire and hail, snow and frost,

stormy wind fulfilling his command!

9 Mountains and all hills,

fruit trees and all cedars!

10 Wild animals and all cattle,

creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the earth!

12 Young men and women alike,

old and young together!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,

for his name alone is exalted;

his glory is above earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up a horn for his people,

praise for all his faithful,

for the people of Israel who are close to him.

Praise the Lord!


Psalm 150 (NRSV)

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;

praise him in his mighty firmament!

2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;

praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

3 Praise him with trumpet sound;

praise him with lute and harp!

4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe!

5 Praise him with clanging cymbals;

praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!



            Wisdom literature had two forms. One was practical wisdom that deals with everyday attitudes, beliefs, customs, manners, and forms of behavior one should have toward God, one’s fellows, and the world at large if one is to live fully and well as a faithful Israelite. The social context of this kind of wisdom is presumably the significant lore of family, clan, tribe, and court that eventually became part of the literary and religious heritage of Israel. Two is existential wisdom, for it attempts to provide meaning for one who is faced with such problems as natural disasters, untimely death, his lot after death, the basis of morality, the value of upright living, the dilemma of innocent sufferer, and the anomaly of the prosperous wicked. The a priori principle underlying this kind of wisdom is this: if one is to remain human, one simply cannot accept meaninglessness, ultimate absurdity, or hopelessness. Existential wisdom is in Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Wisdom of Solomon. It has its social context in a fairly wide spread crisis in faith. The goal is to supply the believer with a theodicy, or a plausible legitimation of God’s ways in view of the existence of moral and physical evil. Existential wisdom validates and exalts Israel’s unique heritage, especially the claim to be the chosen people of God and partakers of God’s own wisdom. The personification of wisdom in Job 28, Proverbs 8, and Wisdom of Ben Sira 24.


            A traditional aspect of the wisdom tradition is Proverbs.  Wisdom found a place of cultivation at the court. The newly arisen court in Jerusalem soon entered into the general cultural competition and exchange of ideas, for wisdom was a high cultural asset, and kings cultivated it. Foreign wisdom flowed into it from Edom, Babylon, and Egypt. Wisdom in Egypt played a large part in the education of the raising of the official classes. The great wisdom books all have the form of a master teaching scholars, and sometimes of the king teach his son and heir to the throne. In Israel, wisdom states and affirms, and is not limited to official classes. What might have been originally intended for aristocratic class steadily becomes the property of all. The collection of proverbs into isolated sayings in 10:1-22:16 and 25-29 contain sayings from a variety of perspectives.  There are some collections within the individual proverbs as well: 16:27-30 refer to anti-social behavior, the ways of the fool are listed in 26:1-12, the ways of the idler in v. 13-16, and malice in action in v. 20-28.The older type, possibly from the time of Solomon, gives a simple statement that acts have consequences in life.  It focuses on what is needed for successful and harmonious life.  Another group of proverbs focuses on the community, mostly upon the harmful effects on the community of various kinds of anti-social behavior.  In the time of Hezekiah this began be interpreted through the influence of the prophets as the consequence being brought about the Lord.  There is also the teacher's introduction in 1-9, a later part of the book, around 350 BC.  The Thirty Precepts of the Wise in 22:17-24:22, along with appendix in 24:23-34, are most likely from the 600’s.  There are four isolated appendixes at the close of the book, 30:1-9 being a dialogue with a skeptic, 30:10-23 being warnings, 31:1-9 being a Queen mother's instruction to a son, 31:10-31 being the ideal homemaker.

            Israel understood wisdom as practical knowledge of the laws of life and world, based upon experience. In every culture, humanity needs to understand the world and dare not cease from looking and listening to discover whether one can discern here and there in the tangle of events something like law, rule, and order. One cannot understand the maxims unless one presupposes as their background a mentality that still had vital questions to put to its world. The question is whether one can discern some hidden order. Wisdom needs a will for the rational clarification and ordering of the world in which people find themselves. Wisdom needs a will to recognize and pin down the orders in both the events of human life and natural phenomena. Wisdom consists in knowing that at the bottom of things is an order at work, silently and often in a scarcely noticeable way, making for a balance of events. One needs to wait for it to have the ability to see it.

            From the two collections of the proverbs of Solomon, we find these examples.


Proverbs 12:18-19 (NRSV)

18 Rash words are like sword thrusts,

but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

19 Truthful lips endure forever,

but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

Proverbs 12:25 (NRSV)

25 Anxiety weighs down the human heart,

but a good word cheers it up.

Proverbs 13:24 (NRSV)

24 Those who spare the rod hate their children,

but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.

Proverbs 14:13 (NRSV)

13 Even in laughter the heart is sad,

and the end of joy is grief.

Proverbs 15:2 (NRSV)

2 The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge,

but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

Proverbs 15:3 (NRSV)

3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place,

keeping watch on the evil and the good.

Proverbs 15:15 (NRSV)

15 All the days of the poor are hard,

but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.

Proverbs 16:2-3 (NRSV)

2 All one’s ways may be pure in one’s own eyes,

but the Lord weighs the spirit.

3 Commit your work to the Lord,

and your plans will be established.

Proverbs 16:9 (NRSV)

9 The human mind plans the way,

but the Lord directs the steps.

Proverbs 16:18 (NRSV)

18 Pride goes before destruction,

and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:22 (NRSV)

22 Wisdom is a fountain of life to one who has it,

but folly is the punishment of fools.

Proverbs 17:3 (NRSV)

3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,

but the Lord tests the heart.

Proverbs 17:17 (NRSV)

17 A friend loves at all times,

and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.

Proverbs 18:24 (NRSV)

24 Some friends play at friendship

but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.

Proverbs 19:21 (NRSV)

21 The human mind may devise many plans,

but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.

Proverbs 20:24 (NRSV)

24 All our steps are ordered by the Lord;

how then can we understand our own ways?

Proverbs 21:1-3 (NRSV)

 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;

he turns it wherever he will.

2 All deeds are right in the sight of the doer,

but the Lord weighs the heart.

3 To do righteousness and justice

is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Proverbs 21:9 (NRSV)

9 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop

than in a house shared with a contentious wife.

Proverbs 21:13 (NRSV)

13 If you close your ear to the cry of the poor,

you will cry out and not be heard.

Proverbs 22:1 (NRSV)

 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,

and favor is better than silver or gold.

Proverbs 22:6 (NRSV)

6 Train children in the right way,

and when old, they will not stray.

Proverbs 25:21-22 (NRSV)

21 If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;

and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;

22 for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,

and the Lord will reward you.

Proverbs 26:17 (NRSV)

17 Like somebody who takes a passing dog by the ears

is one who meddles in the quarrel of another.

Proverbs 27:1 (NRSV)

 Do not boast about tomorrow,

for you do not know what a day may bring.

Proverbs 28:1 (NRSV)

The wicked flee when no one pursues,

but the righteous are as bold as a lion.


            From the precepts of the sages in Proverbs 22:17-24:34, we find similar sayings.


Proverbs 22:22-23 (NRSV)

22 Do not rob the poor because they are poor,

or crush the afflicted at the gate;

23 for the Lord pleads their cause

and despoils of life those who despoil them.

Proverbs 23:4-5 (NRSV)

4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich;

be wise enough to desist.

5 When your eyes light upon it, it is gone;

for suddenly it takes wings to itself,

flying like an eagle toward heaven.

Proverbs 24:13-14 (NRSV)

13 My child, eat honey, for it is good,

and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.

14 Know that wisdom is such to your soul;

if you find it, you will find a future,

and your hope will not be cut off.


            Pinning down paradoxical phenomena is especially instructive, in that from one perspective an observation is true, and from another perspective its opposite is true. Thus, “look before you leap” is true from one perspective, but so is, “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” Wisdom of this sort is an elementary form of discerning hidden order. The maxims are buoys set out on the sea by which one can find one’s position. One has not so much to learn from them as to learn to live life with their help. Wisdom examines the world of appearance to discern its secrets. It allows whatever it finds to stand in its own particular character. Experiences always remain open to correction and capable of enlargement. Wisdom is always open and never brought to conclusion. The maxims also have a playful element. One might note the delight and gaiety lying behind them that often overstate the observation to the point of being funny. If the playful is given still freer vein, we meet with the riddle. They make play with the discovery of truth, even if it plays with serious realities. They seek the formation of the whole person.

            One of its major teachings is that suffering is a form of discipline or correction that God brings into the lives of people.  Thus, suffering is an expression of love from God so that humanity might learn. The seeking of wisdom is to be a priority.  The seductiveness of evil is clearly presented in the form of the prostitutes.

            There is the view that there are two ways of living, one being evil and the other being righteous.  Righteousness is the highest value in life, that upon which all life rests when one properly orders one’s life. In the Old Testament, the specific relationship in which one finds oneself is the norm. People constantly move in many relationships, each carrying its own particular law within it. Thus, one belongs to a family, has political and economic relationships, associations with foreigners, and so on. Every day may bring a new relationship. One also has a relationship that one maintains in the ritual and worship of the community. One measures up or falls short of the claims these relationships lay upon one. One could judge common life from the point of view of faithfulness to a relationship. Righteousness embraces the whole of Israelite life, wherever people found themselves in mutual relationships. Conduct loyal to a relationship includes far more than correctness from a legal perspective. Such dependence upon each other demanded showing kindness, faithfulness, and helpful compassion to the poor or the suffering. Further, Yahweh bestows on Israel the saving gift of righteousness. When people learned of divine commandments in the ritual and worship of the community, at home, and in stories in the villages, it raised the question of the righteousness of Israel, that is, its readiness to say yes to the relationship of community offered by Yahweh.

            There is then the story of Joseph in Genesis.  This is not a patriarchal story in the strict sense of that term.  It is a short novel.  Joseph becomes the ideal youth of the wisdom school.  The wise young person is at a foreign court, interpreting dreams and doing right. It was probably developed during the time of Solomon.  The theme is stated in Genesis 45:5-8, that God used tragic events, intended by his brothers for his destruction, to be for the good of their people.  The evil that the brothers planned God turned into good.

            The function of wisdom in the life of Israel was comparatively limited, for its concern was to pin-point and investigate the external and internal orders by which human life is sustained and to which people must give heed. A positive relationship to the world of the worshipping community should rather be the conclusion drawn from the limitations of the subject-matter of the wisdom teaching. For wisdom, questions of faith entered in only on the periphery of its field. It works with reason, in its simplest form as sound common sense. It is reason that must verify and admit that pride goes before a fall, and so on.

            Wisdom also held that humanity was a prisoner of its own actions. With every good and evil deed, one enters upon a nexus of fate. Good and evil alike have to fulfill themselves upon their agent, for the act is in no sense ended with the deed itself. The deed has an element of radiation. It starts a movement for good or for evil, in which the community to which the agent belongs is also interested to a high degree. The frequent assertion of the nexus between doing good and salvation, and the warnings about the nexus between sin and calamity, still stand altogether outside of theology. They are part of that teaching and pinpointing of orders and natural laws to which wisdom teaching committed itself, and which we have to understand as a secular pursuit. Some maxims teach that God is the one who weighs the heart. Other maxims teach the displeasure or pleasure that God has in certain practices or ways of human behavior. A third set of maxims speaks of the limiting of human possibilities by God and the free action of God.


Proverbs 16:9 (NRSV)

9 The human mind plans the way,

but the Lord directs the steps.

Proverbs 19:21 (NRSV)

21 The human mind may devise many plans,

but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.

Proverbs 21:2 (NRSV)

2 All deeds are right in the sight of the doer,

but the Lord weighs the heart.

Proverbs 16:2 (NRSV)

2 All one’s ways may be pure in one’s own eyes,

but the Lord weighs the spirit.

Proverbs 20:24 (NRSV)

24 All our steps are ordered by the Lord;

how then can we understand our own ways?

Proverbs 21:30-31 (NRSV)

30 No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel,

can avail against the Lord.

31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,

but the victory belongs to the Lord.



            I do not find a satisfactory account of when someone wrote this book. The latest historical reference may be to the Persian Empire. However, the author has a profound grasp of history in the period before the exile and in the period of the Patriarchs. Yet, the question is one that pervades much of human history. It contains the struggle of believing in a good and powerful God on the one hand and the realities of suffering and evil in a human world on the other. For many people, this is a deal breaker. Any God worthy of worship would not allow a world of so much evil and suffering to exist. Yet, such a view can easily lead one toward resentment concerning the real and human world, full of its imperfections. The belief in God holds out the hope of eventual reconciliation of even this tension that we find in this world.

            The prologue and epilogue tell the story of a question raised in heaven and an answer given on earth. The accuser is an official of the royal household of Yahweh, a kind of heavenly public prosecutor. The author seems to have in mind the pattern followed by Persia, where secret agents roamed the road system of the Persian Empire as part of a secret intelligence system. We note this with the use of the definite article, “the Satan,” in that the name appears a title rather than a personal name. Interestingly, I Peter 5:8 has the devil strolling about like a roaring lion and seeking prey, thereby preserving the image presented here. He had an audience with God and put the question of whether the piety of Job, renowned as completely blameless, was not in principle self-interest. After Yahweh’s conversation with the accuser, all the heavenly beings must have been eagerly waiting to see whether Job would justify the word of God, for that word was not at risk. Job knows nothing of this heavenly conversation. The author presents Job as in the time of the Patriarchs, for we find no priests attending to sacrifices. Among the disasters that fall upon him, the Chaldeans appear as unsettled semi-nomadic marauders, reflecting a situation before the 600’s. Job confines himself to the solemn assertion that he can see nothing in this suffering that must cast doubt on his loyalty to Yahweh. Job shows himself a vulnerable man. He can only ask with amazement whether one would really grant to God only the power to give, and not the power to take away as well. This form of resignation to destiny or fate is an important element of the piety of the Sumerians. Yahweh notes significantly in 2:3


                        Though you incited me against him

                        To destroy him without cause.


This observation by God that the suffering of Job has no cause is consistent with the complaint of Job in the dialogues. It also sets up a situation where the author lets the reader know that the author does not have an answer to the question of suffering in which life becomes fair. Life is not fair, either in nature or in the social world. The world is not set up in a way in which justice and morality are the outcomes of nature and the social world. Further, God has already observed that Job is innocent and blameless, consistent with the claim Job makes throughout the dialogue. In the Epilogue, Job repents, something his friends had recommended throughout their dialogue:


Job 42:3 (NRSV)

3 Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,

things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

Job 42:5-6 (NRSV)

5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,

but now my eye sees you;

6 therefore I despise myself,

and repent in dust and ashes.”


At that point, Yahweh expresses anger toward Eliphaz and his two friends. We need to pay attention to the point that the arguments of the friends do not accurately present the ways of God with humanity. As one reads the dialogues, the reader needs to keep this end in mind: God re-affirms Job and judges the friends.


Job 42:7-10 (NRSV)

7 the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

Further, God restores the fortunes of Job. To the modern mind, this seems to take away whatever gains one might have thought one had in the dialogue. However, given the cultural context, this conclusion is quite natural, for it shows that God has accepted Job completely.


Job 42:10, 12, 15, 17

10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 12 The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers.

17 And Job died, old and full of days.


            The dialogues present a different Job, one sinking into all the depths of abandonment by God, and accusing God in a blasphemous and scorning way. Our understanding of the dialogue is hindered by the lack of a clear progression of thought and a clearly fixed subject of conversation. They also have a composite character that increases the problem of interpretation. They deal with the problem by striking note after note in differing lines of thought and so move in a much wider stream towards the solution. These partners in conversation do not take up the thread of conversation from each other. They do not seem to listen to each other. Each speaks only to the problem round which they all seem to be encamped. Each speech moves from the periphery inwards without taking any notice worth mentioning of its predecessor. The poet encircles the problem, and by shedding light on it from as many sides as possible and approaching its solution from as many points of the compass as possible, he succeeds in comprehending the subject under discussion in its totality.

            It is the story of the good man who suffers.  It must be viewed as the test of an individual, through his family, health, and wealth, then through the encouragement to curse God from his wife, and finally the dialogues become a further test.  However, from the standpoint of Job, God is the one being tested.  As with Jeremiah 20:14-18, Job curses the day of his birth, where life is now so embittered that he wishes it had never begun.


Job 3:1, 3-5, 11-12 (NRSV)

 After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.

3 “Let the day perish in which I was born,

and the night that said,

‘A man-child is conceived.’

4 Let that day be darkness!

May God above not seek it,

or light shine on it.

5 Let gloom and deep darkness claim it.

Let clouds settle upon it;

let the blackness of the day terrify it.

11 “Why did I not die at birth,

come forth from the womb and expire?

12 Why were there knees to receive me,

or breasts for me to suck?


            Eliphaz offers his first speech in response to Job in Chapter 4-5. He takes the lead from among the friends, probably because he is the elder. Interestingly, he starts to acknowledge that Job is innocent, a position that becomes impossible as the dialogue develops the traditional view. He would have to change his position on the reason for suffering if he acknowledged the innocence of Job. Acknowledging the innocence of Job acknowledges the unfairness of what has happened to him, something God has already done in 2:3.


Job 4:3-8 (NRSV)

3 See, you have instructed many;

you have strengthened the weak hands.

4 Your words have supported those who were stumbling,

and you have made firm the feeble knees.

5 But now it has come to you, and you are impatient;

it touches you, and you are dismayed.

6 Is not your fear of God your confidence,

and the integrity of your ways your hope?

7 “Think now, who that was innocent ever perished?

Or where were the upright cut off?

8 As I have seen, those who plow iniquity

and sow trouble reap the same.


A Christian might say in response to the question of what innocent or upright person ever perished that Jesus might fulfill that role. Further, at least from a human perspective, those who live lives of iniquity and trouble do not always perish. Eliphaz begins that train of thought, and the friends will continue to develop it. However, he does have an interesting comment about how his words came to him.


Job 4:12-16 (NRSV)

12 “Now a word came stealing to me,

my ear received the whisper of it.

13 Amid thoughts from visions of the night,

when deep sleep falls on mortals,

14 dread came upon me, and trembling,

which made all my bones shake.

15 A spirit glided past my face;

the hair of my flesh bristled.

16 It stood still,

but I could not discern its appearance.

A form was before my eyes;

there was silence, then I heard a voice:


In fact, what has happened to Job is discipline from God, something for which Job needs to be thankful:


Job 5:17-18 (NRSV)

17 “How happy is the one whom God reproves;

therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

18 For he wounds, but he binds up;

he strikes, but his hands heal.


            Job offers a reply to Eliphaz in Chapters 6-7. The righteousness and goodness of God are tested by what has happened to this one man, Job.  The traditional view that good recoiled upon itself and evil recoiled upon itself now has doubt over its application to Job. He has an individualistic piety. He wants someone to show him the evil corresponding to his suffering. He will not allow his suffering to declare him guilty, which would have been the traditional answer. It troubles him, however, that his suffering has risen up as a witness against him. He is confident that God has caused this: “Shaddai’s barbs pierce me, God’s terrors beset me.” He again wishes for death to come:


Job 6:8-10 (NRSV)

8 “O that I might have my request,

and that God would grant my desire;

9 that it would please God to crush me,

that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!

10 This would be my consolation;

I would even exult in unrelenting pain;

for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.


From his friends, he simply wants them to be present as friends and not adversaries:


Job 6:14-15, 24-25 (NRSV)

14 “Those who withhold kindness from a friend

forsake the fear of the Almighty.

15 My companions are treacherous like a torrent-bed,

like freshets that pass away,

24 “Teach me, and I will be silent;

make me understand how I have gone wrong.

25 How forceful are honest words!

But your reproof, what does it reprove?


However, the main problem is with God. Humanity simply has hardship on the earth. In happier times, the constant providential care of God is a blessing. Yet, in times like this, the presence of God becomes an overbearing inquisitiveness and unrelenting surveillance. The author offers an ironical interpretation of Psalm 8.


Job 7:1, 3, 7-8, 17-21 (NRSV)

 “Do not human beings have a hard service on earth,

and are not their days like the days of a laborer?

3 so I am allotted months of emptiness,

and nights of misery are apportioned to me.

7 “Remember that my life is a breath;

my eye will never again see good.

8 The eye that beholds me will see me no more;

while your eyes are upon me, I shall be gone.

17 What are human beings, that you make so much of them,

that you set your mind on them,

18 visit them every morning,

test them every moment?

19 Will you not look away from me for a while,

let me alone until I swallow my spittle?

20 If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity?

Why have you made me your target?

Why have I become a burden to you?

21 Why do you not pardon my transgression

and take away my iniquity?

For now I shall lie in the earth;

you will seek me, but I shall not be.”


            Bildad offers a response in Chapter 8. In reality, the Epilogue follows the pattern offers by Bildad. Job repents, and the Lord restores him. However, we have no indication that Job repents for the reason Bildad suggests.


Job 8:4-7, 20 (NRSV)

4 If your children sinned against him,

he delivered them into the power of their transgression.

5 If you will seek God

and make supplication to the Almighty,

6 if you are pure and upright,

surely then he will rouse himself for you

and restore to you your rightful place.

7 Though your beginning was small,

your latter days will be very great.

20 “See, God will not reject a blameless person,

nor take the hand of evildoers.


            Job replies to Bildad in Chapters 9-10. He wonders how one can receive acquittal before God, for no one has either the knowledge or power of God.


Job 9:2-4 (NRSV)

2 “Indeed I know that this is so;

but how can a mortal be just before God?

3 If one wished to contend with him,

one could not answer him once in a thousand.

4 He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength

—who has resisted him, and succeeded?—

Job 9:10-12 (NRSV)

10 who does great things beyond understanding,

and marvelous things without number.

11 Look, he passes by me, and I do not see him;

he moves on, but I do not perceive him.

12 He snatches away; who can stop him?

Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’


This divine perspective is beyond anything a human being can hope to share. The point Job makes is that no moral order exists in nature or in the social world. If suffering is a just punishment for sin, and God has delivered the judgment in the form of suffering, then humanity has no answer, even if humanity is innocent. In all of this, we need to remember that Job did not hear the conversation in Chapters 1-2. God has already said he is innocent and that the suffering he experienced is unjust. This form of acquittal and judgment is in the form of an argument in a court of law.


Job 9:20-22, 32-35 (NRSV)

20 Though I am innocent, my own mouth would condemn me;

though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse.

21 I am blameless; I do not know myself;

I loathe my life.

22 It is all one; therefore I say,

he destroys both the blameless and the wicked.

32 For he is not a mortal, as I am, that I might answer him,

that we should come to trial together.

33 There is no umpire between us,

who might lay his hand on us both.

34 If he would take his rod away from me,

and not let dread of him terrify me,

35 then I would speak without fear of him,

for I know I am not what I am thought to be.


The request for a mediator in this case would mean that someone could be more powerful than God, a paradoxical idea at best. Humanity has no reasonable recourse. Job is “sick of life” in 10:1. He asks God to make a case against him in 10:2. “Bold as a lion you stalk me,” in 10:16, is an image for the devil in the New Testament. He wants God to let him alone.


Job 10:18 (NRSV)

18 “Why did you bring me forth from the womb?

Would that I had died before any eye had seen me,

Job 10:20-21 (NRSV)

20 Are not the days of my life few?

Let me alone, that I may find a little comfort

21 before I go, never to return,


            Zophar offers his first discourse in Chapter 11. He wants God to speak against Job. Of course, he did not hear what God already said in Chapter 1-2 and will say in the Epilogue. God has already declared Job innocent, and what happened to him unfair. He does make the true statement that human beings cannot fathom the depth or limits of God or Shaddai. He suggests that God has punished Job less than he deserved and that Job is wicked, even if he is not aware of how wicked he is.

            Job offers his response to Zophar in Chapters 12-14. Job begins with some sarcasm, “with you wisdom will die.” He agrees that God is the agent behind his suffering, even as God is behind any abundance.


Job 12:9-10, 12-16, 25 (NRSV)

9 Who among all these does not know

that the hand of the Lord has done this?

10 In his hand is the life of every living thing

and the breath of every human being.

12 Is wisdom with the aged,

and understanding in length of days?

13 With God are wisdom and strength;

he has counsel and understanding.

14 If he tears down, no one can rebuild;

if he shuts someone in, no one can open up.

15 If he withholds the waters, they dry up;

if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land.

16 With him are strength and wisdom;

the deceived and the deceiver are his.

25 They grope in the dark without light;

he makes them stagger like a drunkard.


Job has nothing with which to replace the older understanding of solidarity with the community. Job saw himself confronted by a theological abyss in which everything that faith was able to say about God was lost, and over which remained only Yahweh in his boundless power and holiness. Job passionately contends against the friends on behalf of the incomparable freedom of this absolute Yahweh, whose deeds are uncontrollable by any human reason. Yahweh is so free and powerful that he himself determines what is right, and is always in the right against humanity. This is the root point of Job’s supreme trial. Two opposing insights stand before him. In spite of his suffering, he cannot admit that by a grievous sin he has disturbed his hitherto intact relationship with God. On the other hand, he knows that this does not at all avail him, for God is completely free and only the judgment of God is valid. This insistence on his own righteousness is the real subject of his whole contention with God. To it, he constantly returns. The importance of this point is that it supports his basic contention of the unfairness of human life. He unfolds it in its grandest form in the famous declaration of his guiltlessness in chapter 31. This would not appear to be different from many statements in the Psalms. His question is not the meaning of suffering as such, but justification of himself, which he thinks he has lost. Since God is the owner of life, he makes his appeal to God, against God. Death is not a risk in seeking an audience with God, for he longs for death to come. He wants to defend his innocence before God. He does not have concern for the preservation of his life, deliverance from suffering, or even restoration of his former prosperity. He wants to maintain his integrity and receive justification before God.


Job 13:15-16, 18, 24 (NRSV)

15 See, he will kill me; I have no hope;

but I will defend my ways to his face.

16 This will be my salvation,

that the godless shall not come before him.

18 I have indeed prepared my case;

I know that I shall be vindicated.

24 Why do you hide your face,

and count me as your enemy?


Job briefly expresses the wish that his friend would simply be silent. I am confident that many people who have had the same feeling. They simply want friends to be present, loyal, and supportive. They do not want intellectual answers for something that is beyond answer.


Job 13:5 (NRSV)

5 If you would only keep silent,

that would be your wisdom!


Job has no hope for life after death, and in fact has a wistful hope for the enduring care of God.


Job 14:14-17 (NRSV)

14 If mortals die, will they live again?

All the days of my service I would wait

until my release should come.

15 You would call, and I would answer you;

you would long for the work of your hands.

16 For then you would not number my steps,

you would not keep watch over my sin;

17 my transgression would be sealed up in a bag,

and you would cover over my iniquity.


            Eliphaz offers his second discourse in Chapter 15. He charges that the speeches of Job are little more than hot air and subvert true religion and piety. His first speech flirted with the idea that Job may be innocent. Now, Job is a hardened sinner and rebel against God.


Job 15:2-6 (NRSV)

2 “Should the wise answer with windy knowledge,

and fill themselves with the east wind?

3 Should they argue in unprofitable talk,

or in words with which they can do no good?

4 But you are doing away with the fear of God,

and hindering meditation before God.

5 For your iniquity teaches your mouth,

and you choose the tongue of the crafty.

6 Your own mouth condemns you, and not I;

your own lips testify against you.


            Job responds in Chapters 16-17. Even if Job suddenly experienced God as a friend, he is not able to delete the reality of God as enemy. He makes solemn appeal from the one to the other. He knows that God is his surety, his redeemer, will lead his cause to victory against God as the adversary. The climax of the struggle of Job appears to come early.


Job 16:19-22 (NRSV)

19 Even now, in fact, my witness is in heaven,

and he that vouches for me is on high.

20 My friends scorn me;

my eye pours out tears to God,

21 that he would maintain the right of a mortal with God,

as one does for a neighbor.

22 For when a few years have come,

I shall go the way from which I shall not return.


Yet, he continues to lay before God how preferable death would be to his present suffering, in which he has a broken spirit, spent days, and the grave his only future. He receives no respect from his contemporaries. His days are done, his plans and heart’s desires shattered. Then he expresses a thought that reminds Christians of why we need Eternity to resolve such human questions.


Job 17:13-16 (NRSV)

13 If I look for Sheol as my house,

if I spread my couch in darkness,

14 if I say to the Pit, ‘You are my father,’

and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’

15 where then is my hope?

Who will see my hope?

16 Will it go down to the bars of Sheol?

Shall we descend together into the dust?”


Job presents the argument that without Eternity, the various struggles of human life do not find resolution in a satisfactory way. I actually find his argument quite compelling at that point.

            Bildad offers his second discourse in Chapter 18. He implies that Job is among the wicked, something that the reader already knows is not true, given the statements by God in Chapters 1-2.

            Job offers his response in Chapter 19. He acknowledges that God is the one who has made him a target.


Job 19:6, 11, 13-14, 21 (NRSV)

6 know then that God has put me in the wrong,

and closed his net around me.

11 He has kindled his wrath against me,

and counts me as his adversary.

13 “He has put my family far from me,

and my acquaintances are wholly estranged from me.

14 My relatives and my close friends have failed me;

21 Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends,

for the hand of God has touched me!


We might also note another early climax to the book.


Job 19:23-29 (NRSV)

23 “O that my words were written down!

O that they were inscribed in a book!

24 O that with an iron pen and with lead

they were engraved on a rock forever!

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,

and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;

26 and after my skin has been thus destroyed,

then in my flesh I shall see God,

27 whom I shall see on my side,

and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

My heart faints within me!

28 If you say, ‘How we will persecute him!’

and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him’;

29 be afraid of the sword,

for wrath brings the punishment of the sword,

so that you may know there is a judgment.”


Yet, they are not the solution, for the dialogue does not end there.

            Zophar offers his second discourse in Chapter 20. He assumes a moral order to the natural and social world, something that God already rejected in 2:3. He wants to believe that prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous are brief.


Job 20:4-5 (NRSV)

4 Do you not know this from of old,

ever since mortals were placed on earth,

5 that the exulting of the wicked is short,

and the joy of the godless is but for a moment?


            Job gives reply in Chapter 21. He again offers the suggestion that all his friends need to do is listen. I would also suggest the same if a friend goes through intense suffering. One lesson of the book of Job is that human beings do not have answers on this one. The best advice is to be present and listen. By the way, this is simply the respectful and courteous thing to do.


Job 21:2 (NRSV)

2 “Listen carefully to my words,

and let this be your consolation.


Job puzzles over the success of the wicked in the social world. Such a question directed at God fails to examine human agency in creating unjust social systems. It also fails to acknowledge the imperfections contained in a human world.


Job 21:7-9 (NRSV)

7 Why do the wicked live on,

reach old age, and grow mighty in power?

8 Their children are established in their presence,

and their offspring before their eyes.

9 Their houses are safe from fear,

and no rod of God is upon them.


            Eliphaz offers his third discourse in Chapter 22. He suggests that human behavior adds nothing to God, whether good or bad. He also suggests that God would not punish Job for being pious and righteous. Rather, his wickedness and iniquity are great and endless. Of course, the reader already knows this is not true, given the statements from God in Chapters 1-2. I like the advice he gives in the following verses, for they suggest that in the acceptance of the unfairness of life is wisdom concerning the realities of a human world.


Job 22:21-26 (NRSV)

21 “Agree with God, and be at peace;

in this way good will come to you.

22 Receive instruction from his mouth,

and lay up his words in your heart.

23 If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored,

if you remove unrighteousness from your tents,

24 if you treat gold like dust,

and gold of Ophir like the stones of the torrent-bed,

25 and if the Almighty is your gold

and your precious silver,

26 then you will delight yourself in the Almighty,

and lift up your face to God.


            Job replies in Chapters 23-24. Job admits that he keeps looking for God in order to present his case, but cannot find God. This admission that the presence of God is not obvious in the world is an important one. That is why belief in God will always be a matter of belief and not clear and certain knowledge.


Job 23:3-5, 8-11 (NRSV)

3 Oh, that I knew where I might find him,

that I might come even to his dwelling!

4 I would lay my case before him,

and fill my mouth with arguments.

5 I would learn what he would answer me,

and understand what he would say to me.

8 “If I go forward, he is not there;

or backward, I cannot perceive him;

9 on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;

I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.

10 But he knows the way that I take;

when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.

11 My foot has held fast to his steps;

I have kept his way and have not turned aside.


Job also makes the complaint that so much suffering goes on in the world, and God seems to think nothing is wrong about this picture.


Job 24:12 (NRSV)

12 From the city the dying groan,

and the throat of the wounded cries for help;

yet God pays no attention to their prayer.


One could suggest that God does not act directly in such matters, but rather seeks to work through people, enticing people toward justice and mercy in the social world human beings create. Direct and powerful intervention does not seem to be part of the ways of God among human beings.

            Bildad offers his third discourse in Chapters 25 and 26. He asks questions with which Paul would have some sympathy.


Job 25:4 (NRSV)

4 How then can a mortal be righteous before God?

How can one born of woman be pure?


            Job offers a reply in 27:1, 26:1-4, 27:2-23, 24:18-20, 22-25.

            Chapter 28 is a poem on the inaccessibility of wisdom. The point is that human beings do not know where wisdom is, but God does know its place.


Job 28 (NRSV)

 “Surely there is a mine for silver,

and a place for gold to be refined.

2 Iron is taken out of the earth,

and copper is smelted from ore.

3 Miners put an end to darkness,

and search out to the farthest bound

the ore in gloom and deep darkness.

4 They open shafts in a valley away from human habitation;

they are forgotten by travelers,

they sway suspended, remote from people.

5 As for the earth, out of it comes bread;

but underneath it is turned up as by fire.

6 Its stones are the place of sapphires,

and its dust contains gold.

7 “That path no bird of prey knows,

and the falcon’s eye has not seen it.

8 The proud wild animals have not trodden it;

the lion has not passed over it.

9 “They put their hand to the flinty rock,

and overturn mountains by the roots.

10 They cut out channels in the rocks,

and their eyes see every precious thing.

11 The sources of the rivers they probe;

hidden things they bring to light.

12 “But where shall wisdom be found?

And where is the place of understanding?

13 Mortals do not know the way to it,

and it is not found in the land of the living.

14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’

and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’

15 It cannot be gotten for gold,

and silver cannot be weighed out as its price.

16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,

in precious onyx or sapphire.

17 Gold and glass cannot equal it,

nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.

18 No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal;

the price of wisdom is above pearls.

19 The chrysolite of Ethiopia cannot compare with it,

nor can it be valued in pure gold.

20 “Where then does wisdom come from?

And where is the place of understanding?

21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living,

and concealed from the birds of the air.

22 Abaddon and Death say,

‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’

23 “God understands the way to it,

and he knows its place.

24 For he looks to the ends of the earth,

and sees everything under the heavens.

25 When he gave to the wind its weight,

and apportioned out the waters by measure;

26 when he made a decree for the rain,

and a way for the thunderbolt;

27 then he saw it and declared it;

he established it, and searched it out.

28 And he said to humankind,

‘Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;

and to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”


            Job offers his final speech in Chapters 29-31. He longs for the times past, when he enjoyed communion with God and with friends. Yet, God turned against Job.


Job 30:15-16, 19-21 (NRSV)

15 Terrors are turned upon me;

my honor is pursued as by the wind,

and my prosperity has passed away like a cloud.

16 “And now my soul is poured out within me;

days of affliction have taken hold of me.

Job 30:19-21 (NRSV)

19 He has cast me into the mire,

and I have become like dust and ashes.

20 I cry to you and you do not answer me;

I stand, and you merely look at me.

21 You have turned cruel to me;

with the might of your hand you persecute me.


Yet, Job goes on to discuss piety. He gives an account of what we might consider the best treatment of Old Testament piety according to standard wisdom. He rejects folly. God brings disaster upon the evil. God observes everything he did. He did not lead a life of vanity or deceit. He did not stray from the way. He respected his land and worked hard. He respected the rights of his workers. He found sexual satisfaction in his wife, and therefore did not desire the wife of another. He rejected sexual misconduct. He rejected criminal behavior. He respected the claim of the slave, for God made both the slave and the master. He responded to the need expressed by the poor, widow, and orphan. When he experienced material advantages, he used them to benefit others in need. In spite of his wealth, he did not trust in it or elevate himself over others because of it. He respected his enemies. He did not offend others with his speech. He did not allow anyone in his household to practice homosexuality (v. 31). He offered hospitality to the stranger. Even if the community wanted him to turn over the stranger to them and threatened violence, he did not so. When he did sin, he did not hide it, like Adam did in the Garden of Eden. He concludes by saying that he wants someone, preferably God, to listen to him.


Job 31:35-37, 40c (NRSV)

35 O that I had one to hear me!

(Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)

O that I had the indictment written by my adversary!

36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder;

I would bind it on me like a crown;

37 I would give him an account of all my steps;

like a prince I would approach him.”

40 The words of Job are ended.


            The Theophany, the speech of God in Chapters 38-41, cannot give an answer to Job for his suffering, for it would remove the nature of the test. God allows for chaos in this world, and thus opens the possibility of reconciliation with life. Chaos is present, but it is not all there is. The reader is surprised that God deals with something completely different from what Job had asked. The point seems to be that God has an Eternal and Infinite perspective that human beings can never have. Some questions and puzzles of human life are beyond figuring in the context of belief in God. The answer consists in a storm of counter-questions, all of which point to the ludicrous limits set to human understanding. God shows Job how many more and greater riddles lay behind life. The answer of God insists upon the marvel of the providence of God concerning the world. Yet, the point of the counter-questions is to help Job see that God turns a smiling face toward creation; God cares for those creatures of whom Job is not even able to think. The whole of creation is dependent upon God. Yahweh is innocent of all charges. The divine answer to Job glorifies the justice of God toward the individuals God created. God turns toward them to do them good and bless them. That is the answer to the questions of Job. Job held fast to his righteousness, and thus questioned God. God gives the answer by pointing to the glory of the providence of God that sustains all creation. The only answer Job gets is that in this life, with all its mystery and suffering, he has the assurance of the presence of God.  Though Job demands an audience with God that answers his questions, he does not get one.  Faith will remain the only answer when confronted with such questions of life and suffering.


            The Book of Job is in argument with the earlier views of suffering in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26, and the basic account in Judges and Kings. 

            The speech of Elihu in Chapter 32-37 reads like an insertion into the text. He offers little of value, for the friends have already made the case for the traditional view of explaining the ways of God in a human world that includes suffering of innocent people. He believed Job justified himself, and therefore found God to be unjust. He offers an interesting perspective on insight that may have some truth.


Job 32:8-9 (NRSV)

8 But truly it is the spirit in a mortal,

the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding.

9 It is not the old that are wise,

nor the aged that understand what is right.


Job 33:14-19 (NRSV)

14 For God speaks in one way,

and in two, though people do not perceive it.

15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,

when deep sleep falls on mortals,

while they slumber on their beds,

16 then he opens their ears,

and terrifies them with warnings,

17 that he may turn them aside from their deeds,

and keep them from pride,

18 to spare their souls from the Pit,

their lives from traversing the River.

19 They are also chastened with pain upon their beds,

and with continual strife in their bones,


[1]Achtemeier, P. J. (1985). Harper's Bible dictionary. Includes index. (1st ed.) (Pages 77-78). San Francisco: Harper & Row.

[2]Achtemeier, P. J. (1985). Harper's Bible dictionary. Includes index. (1st ed.) (Pages 467-468). San Francisco: Harper & Row.