Jeremiah, Prophecies of
From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Adams, William J., Jr.
The book of Jeremiah presents a number of elements that are significant for Latter-day Saints. Such features range from important doctrinal teachings connected with Jeremiah's call to his prophecies of the latter days. Notably, his work reveals more about him as a person than most other prophetic works do about their authors. Moreover, his definition of a testimony, hard won through years of persecution, is a classic: The word of God "was in mine heart as a burning fire" (Jer. 20:9).
In calling Jeremiah to be a prophet, the Lord explained that he had known Jeremiah and ordained him to be a prophet before his conception and birth (Jer. 1:4-10). Latter-day saints believe this refers to Jeremiah's premortal life, during which the Lord ordained him and others to special assignments. Though foreordained to be a prophet, Jeremiah was not compelled to serve, and his first reaction was to object (1:6). However, it is apparent that, as Jeremiah exercised his agency, he chose to accept the responsibilities conveyed by his foreordination and subsequent earthly calling to be a prophet.
A choice feature of Jeremiah's work is his portrait of the Lord's tender responses to people. Although through Jeremiah he denounced the behavior of his people and allowed them to be taken captive, the Lord still affirmed his affection for them. This attribute is seen in the divine laments recorded in Jeremiah 4:19-22,8:18-9:3, and possibly 10:19-22. In Jeremiah 8:19,for example, the Lord says: "Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her?" The Lord then responds to his own question: "For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt" (8:21).
Another doctrinal contribution is Jeremiah's revelation of the Lord's foreknowledge of future events. Latter-day Saints see in Jeremiah's work evidence that the Lord knows the future and can reveal its relevant dimensions to his prophets. When Jeremiah was first called (627/6 B.C.), the ruling power in the Near East was Assyria. But he accurately predicted that Babylon would become dominant (Jer. 27:2-11), and warned his people that the Babylonian kings would conquer Jerusalem (32:28), take many captive (32:31-32), and then fall to another power (25:12) that would subsequently allow the Jews to return and rebuild Jerusalem (29:10).
Under inspiration, Jeremiah also saw the latter days, referring to them as "the days [to] come" (Jer. 30:3). In those days, he declared, the Lord would establish a "new" and "everlasting covenant" (31:31; 32:40). A significant feature of this new covenant would be the divinely authorized gathering of Israel to former inheritances (23:5-8).
An element of interest in Jeremiah's prophetic work is the manner in which he taught object lessons (see Teacher, Aaronic Priesthood; Teacher Development). For instance, Jeremiah called attention to the impending fall of Jerusalem and captivity of her inhabitants by wearing the yoke of an ox (Jer. 27:2). He showed his faith in the eventual restoration of Israel to her homeland by buying a piece of land (32:1-15). He conveyed some of his messages with parables. In Jeremiah 18:1-10,the Lord inspired him to ask his listeners to observe a potter who had to rework some "marred" clay. He noted that the potter represented the Lord and the marred clay the inhabitants of Jerusalem. So poignantly disturbing was this parable that some of Jeremiah's listeners began to plot against his life (18:18-23). In Jeremiah 24:1-10he declared that the Lord showed him two baskets of figs, one good and one inedible. The good figs represented those taken captive whom the Lord would "acknowledge." The inedible figs, which the Lord would discard, or have "removed," represented king Zedekiah, his princes, and those Judeans who had fled to Egypt.
Jeremiah and his writings were well respected by his contemporary, Lehi, and later Book of Mormon prophets who possessed a copy of some of Jeremiah's prophecies on the plates of brass (cf. 1 Ne. 5:13;7:14). A later Book of Mormon prophet, Nephi 2, indicates that Jeremiah had prophesied of the messiah's first coming (Hel. 8:13-20). However, current texts of Jeremiah do not have clear references to this event, underscoring the observation that in the transmission of the biblical text parts may have been lost, or that Lehi may have possessed a fuller version. This is not surprising since ancient evidence both from Dead Sea fragments and from the Septuagint version of Jeremiah suggests that the text of his book has not been well preserved.
The book of Jeremiah presents rich insights into the attributes of God, the nature of prophets and prophecy, and varied teaching techniques. The available text of Jeremiah, however, suggests that scribes or others have allowed some parts that were "plain and precious" (cf. 1 Ne. 13:20-42) to be omitted.
For Mormon thought on Jeremiah, see Sidney B. Sperry, The Spirit of the Old Testament (Salt Lake City, 1970), and S. Kent Brown, "History and Jeremiah's Crisis of Faith," in Isaiah and the Prophets, M. Nyman, ed. (Provo, Utah, 1984). For textual transmission, see William J. Adams, Jr., "Some Ways in which the "Plain and Precious Parts' Became Lost (1 Ne. 13:20-42)," Newsletter and Proceedings of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology (No. 159 [July 1985]:1-6), and Ernst Würthwein, The Text of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1979). For current views of Jeremiah, see Alexander Rofé, "Jeremiah, the book of," in Harper's Bible Dictionary, ed. P. J. Achtemeier (San Francisco, 1985), and John Bright, Jeremiah, The Anchor Bible (Garden City, N.Y., 1965).
WILLIAM J. ADAMS, JR.