(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Judah and Jerusalem were experiencing devastation in Jeremiah’s time by the invading Babylonian forces! It was much like Ukraine is experiencing today, especially in the city of Mariupol, located on the coast of the Sea of Azov. I found in a carefully researched weblog, (beastrabban.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/jeremiah-and-the-babylonian-conquest/), the following information concerning the destruction the Kingdom of Judah suffered in 586 BC during the last of three Babylonian invasions of Judah:
“…the horror of the Babylonian invasion is also shown in the remains of the destroyed cities and massacred people.”
- “A large number of towns were destroyed and did not recover, including Beth-Shemesh and Tell Beit Mirsim. Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple sacked.”
- “Jeremiah states [in Jeremiah 34:7] that before Jerusalem fell, there were only two towns still standing against the Babylonians. These were Lachish and Azekah. Some of the letters were written by a military officer, Hashayahu (Hosea) to his commanding officer in in Lachish, Yaush. Hoshayahu in letter four states that he was watching for the fire signals from Lachish, but they were no longer visible from Azekah. This suggests that Azekah had fallen, and dates the letter to the period just after Jeremiah reported that Azekah and Lachish were still standing.”
But Lachish did fall!
- “Excavation of Lachish found a layer – level three – where the town had been totally destroyed….The extent of the destruction is shown in the amount of debris covering this level of the city. At the town gates there was eight feet of debris between the floor of this level and the next….The palace-citadel had been razed. There was a mass of burned, calcined bricks above its foundations.”
- “Outside the city was a mass grave, into which 2,000 bodies had been thrown through a hole in the roof. Some of the bones had been partly burnt, which suggested that the bodies had been pulled away from burning buildings.”
Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah, was next to be conquered! And the destruction was complete! (Read the account of the devastation in II Kings 25:1-21; II Chronicles 36:13-21;Jeremiah 52:1-30).
It is no wonder Jeremiah is called ‘The weeping prophet’ He wept over the impending and actualized destruction of Judah, Jerusalem, and its people!
- Jeremiah 9:1 – “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.”
- Jeremiah 9:10:
I will take up a weeping and wailing for the mountains, and for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation, because they are burned up, so that no one can pass through them; nor can men hear the voice of the cattle. Both the birds of the heavens and the beasts have fled; they are gone.
- Jeremiah 13:17 – “My soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears because the LORD’s flock has been taken captive.”
Jeremiah predicted in Jeremiah 25:11 (Contemporary English Version) that the Babylonian captivity of the Jews would last 70 years! “This country will be as empty as a desert, because I will make all of you the slaves of the king of Babylonia for seventy years.” (see also Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10; Lamentations 5:48-51; Daniel 9:2).
Jeremiah not only wrote the book that bears his name; he also wrote Lamentations, the five-chapter book that follows the book of Jeremiah. This book is well-named, for in it Jeremiah laments the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of his people! In 144 verses the prophet graphically describes the horrible conditions of which he is in the midst. In Lamentation 5:10 through 15, he summarizes the horror of what he has witnessed (see also Lamentations 2:11, 12; 20-22; 4:10, 11):
Our skin is hot as an oven, because of the fever of famine. They ravished our women in Zion, the maidens in the cites of Judah. Princes were hung up by their hands, and elders were not respected. Young men ground at the millstones; boys staggered under loads of wood. The elders have ceased gathering at the gate, and young men from their music. The joy of our heart has ceased.
But in the midst of the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem; in the midst of the horror described in the book of Lamentations, we come upon just six verses in chapter three, verses 21 through 26:
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. [It is of] the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I hope in Him. The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Obviously, ‘the Weeping Prophet’ did not lose his faith in God’s mercy. It was devastation all around, yet, when he looked above, Jeremiah found faith and hope to believe in the LORD’s care for His people, even in apparent desolation! What could inspire such hope and faith in the prophet?
- He called to mind how God, centuries before, had redeemed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt! (see Exodus 12:40-43).
- He remembered that the Egyptian army pursued the fleeing Israelites, and how Moses interceded with God, and the LORD opened a path through the Red Sea! When the Egyptian army followed, they are all drowned!
- He remembered how the LORD showed mercy as He provided for His people during the forty years of wandering in the desert.
✡ Exodus 13:21 – “...the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give then light, so as to go by day and night.” ✡ Exodus 16:35 – “...the children of Israel ate manna forty years...until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.” ✡ Deuteronomy 29:5 – The LORD said to the Israelites, “...I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.” ✡ Exodus 31:18 – “...He gave to Moses two tablets of the Testimony [the Ten Commandments]...written with the finger of God.”
- Jeremiah might have read in the Deuteronomy scroll, “…as your days, so shall your stength be…The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms….” (Deuteronomy 33:25 and 27).
- He remembered so many blessings that the LORD had poured out upon His people, Did he call to mind Psalm 68:19? “Blessed be the LORD, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation.”
- Perhaps he sought out the scroll of the minor prophets, and read the last lines of the prophet Habakkuk, who wrote these words about twenty years before, when the threat of the Babylonian invasion was looming:
Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yeild no food; though the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills. (Habakkuk 3:17 through 19)
And so Jeremiah wrote “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. [it is of]…the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfullness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23).
More on Light In The Midst Of Darkness, in the next Gem.