Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jeremiah or Bad things are going to happen or You're an idiot, listen to what I'm saying, which is actually what God is telling me to tell you

I'm not a biblical scholar or expert in the Ancient Near East, so feel free to ignore anything I'm about to write.

Jeremiah, the 6th C BC prophet, was a major downer. You can't beat around the bush. He would've been no fun to be around, always preaching woe and doom, with the unfortunately uncanny ability to be right. When we think of Jeremiah we fit him in that general category of "prophet," meaning he walks around in the wilderness, has crazy hair, probably smells a bit funny, eats bugs and such, and is really good at raising his eyebrows. This description of Jeremiah may be completely accurate, but Jeremiah as revealed in the book named after him is a bit more than a roving prophet.

Along with acting as a conventional prophet, Jeremiah was a political commentator and foreign policy expert. He noted the moral failings of his society (especially the behavior of the political/social elites) and also advocated an alliance with Babylon. In the 6th C BC, Judah had two competing powers to align with. One was the traditional power in the Levant (Egypt) and the other was the latest Mesopotamia power (Babylon). Egypt was geographically closer and traditionally held more sway in Palestine, however, Babylon had the momentum. Jeremiah saw the shifting power structure and advocated for a close relationship to Babylon, telling the King not to put his faith in Egypt. Alas, like most prophets, Jeremiah was ignored, and the Judean King went with Egypt and Egypt did not come to rescue Judah.

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