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Jeremiah was born near Jerusalem in a priestly family, around 650 before Christ. His manner of life and adventures were governed by his vocation; he did not marry as a sign that children would not survive (16:1-4) nor did he take part in mourning or festivities as a sign that none would be left to mourn and that there would be no occasions for festivities in the disastrous future (16:5-8). His prophetic teaching aroused deadly hostility. There were conspiracies against his life in his own town (11:18-23; 18:18). He was confined in the stocks for one night in the temple for announcing the destruction of the city (19:14-20:6). For announcing the destruction o the temple, he was tried for blasphemy.
In the year 605, Jeremiah compiled all his discourses up to that point in as scroll which Baruch was to read in public in the temple; … when it was read to the royal officers, they realized its inflammatory character and told Jeremiah and Baruch to conceal themselves. Jehoiakim destroyed the scroll column by column as it was read. Jeremiah and Baruch escaped and Jeremiah dictated another scroll. Jeremiah deeply loved his people and his land and he suffered because his threatening oracles erected a barrier between himself and his people. He confesses that he more than once wished to abandon the message.
Perhaps more than any other prophet except Amos the idea of national guilt as deep and ineradicable dominates his words. This gives his discourses a tone of despair, it is only despair of any change in the present generation; he does not loose faith in the power and will of Yahweh to save. He is the first to see clearly that the guilt of Judah demands that Judah, the only survivor of historic Israel, must be destroyed as a nation and a people. He faces the problem of what is to survive this collapse. But the institutions of Israel, through which Israel was united to Yahweh, will all disappear: the kingship, the temple and the ark. Nor will there be any priestly instruction.
The most distinctive element in the messianic ideal of Jeremiah is the new covenant (31:31-34). In the new covenant, Yahweh will make Himself known to each person as He once made Himself know to Moses and the prophets. The "law" (instruction) which came from Moses and the priestly tradition will now be written on the heart of each Israelite and not on tablets of stone. This bold conception proposes a degree of intimate union with God which is scarcely paralleled elsewhere in the Old Testament. It is for this reason that Jeremiah has sometimes been called the beginning of "personal" as opposed to "institutional" religion. The collapse of the state and worship of Israel left a spiritual vacuum which the individual Israelite was unable to fill. Jeremiah taught that Yahweh would fill it.
Excerpts from Dictionary of the Bible by John McKenzie,
a Jesuit Priest, a wonderful Biblical scholar, a terrific, fascinating and perspicacious writer, a treasure trove for a layperson like me!