Here’s a handy chart showing the main themes in the book of Jeremiah that may be helpful. Just thinking about reading it is getting me depressed. But how else will I know what’s in there?
We start out with an explanation about when the book took place, but I already clarified that in the intro. Knowing the historical context will help in understanding it. The controversies begin right away in v 4, with “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.” Out of context, this line is a favorite of you-know-who what group of lobbyists. In context, it is part of an entire passage (v 4-8) in which Yahweh explains to Jeremiah that he has been pre-selected to be god’s messenger to the Israelites.
Look at v 9 for the origin of the idiom ‘put words in my mouth’. Then god continues to explain his diabolical plans to punish sinners, and tells Jeremiah that he alone must warn the people and fight against evil. To a non-believer, this whole chapter sounds like Jeremiah has some kind of delusional complex where he is hearing voices and imagining himself as a saviour.
We’ve heard all this crap before. God is mad because the Jews ignore him and don’t follow his laws. He wants their attention. He will punish them for their sin of turning away from him. Israel is in ruins, and it’s their own fault because they are wicked. Towards the end of the rant, Yahweh uses a lot of misogynistic metaphors that sound like he’s more than a little hung up on sex – see v 20, 23-25, and 33. Yawn….
Yahweh addresses the Jews, comparing them to adulterers for being unfaithful to him. His rant continues on for the entire chapter, with a lot of similar inappropriate, misogynistic sexual imagery. (I think Jeremiah has some issues.) The people are told that drought is brought on by sin (v 3), and that they only need repent etc etc etc. I’m betting this whole book’s going to continue on in the same manner. Can you imagine reading it to children? And yet, when I searched for images to fit the readings, look what came up – a page from a bible coloring book. Lovely.