My current read is Jeremiah: A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary; the 1965 version by John Bright.
We keep reading Jeremiah in the Office during Lent, and I found myself in the huge library here at Holy Hill looking for something on Jeremiah, and that’s what I was very lucky to find.
The times he lived in were amazingly horrible. They even bear a certain resemblance to the times we are living in.
Hmmm…. Never good news.
In the introduction Bright talks about the prophets in ancient Israel, and at some point they more or less lost focus and “we must conclude that as a group they became mere professionals, hangers-on at court and shrine, many of them timeservers interested chiefly in their fees (e.g. Mic 111 5, 11), who felt no impulse to criticize the state and the society of which they were a part.”
And Jeremiah was born during the kingship of Manasseh, when religious practices in Jerusalem were sinking to an all time low. ‘…local shrines were restored, pagan practices of all sorts were given free rein, the fertility cult with its ritual of sacred prostitution being tolerated even within the temple itself [mon Dieu!] … together with an enormous interest in the occult arts, which were currently enjoying an unprecedented popularity in Assyria as well. Most sinister of all, the barbarous rite of human sacrifice, an abomination to all true Yahwists, began on occasion to be practiced in Jerusalem, the king himself apparently taking the lead (II Kings xxi 6).
Moral laxity, human sacrifice, religious laxity and confusion, occultism… a recipe for high drama. And then of course Israel gets sacked and Jeremiah’s around for that. Drama, intrigue… I’m hooked.
I am not sure I’ll get through much of it during Holy Week. But what a great opportunity to learn and reflect more upon the prophet Jeremiah.