Book Reviews

Jeremiah, Lamentations

Tremper Longman III Peabody, MA 2008-03-01

Longman is the Robert H. Gundry professor of biblical studies at Westmont College. He is a highly respected author of many books on the Bible, including An Introduction to the Old Testament, How to Read the Psalms, How to Read the Proverbs, and Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.

The New International Biblical Commentary (NIBC) purports to “offer the best of contemporary scholarship in a format useful both for general readers and serious students.  It presents careful section-by-section exposition with key terms and phrases highlighted and all Hebrew words transliterated. A separate section of notes at the close of each chapter provides additional textual and technical comments.”

The historical contexts impacting Jeremiah and Lamentations are discussed by Longman. In summary, Manasseh (Hezekiah’s son) had reigned from 687 to 642 B.C. and had left the moral and religious life of Judah in shambles (2 Kings 21:1–9). Josiah took the throne at the age of eight, and under him, in 622 B.C., Judah experienced her last spiritual renewal, sparked by the finding of the lost book of the Law in the temple (2 Kings 22:3–23:25). This revival was short-lived, however, and died with Josiah in his ill-fated confrontation with the Egyptian army in 609 B.C. (2 Chron. 35:20–24). This led to a series of kings in Judah and Judah’s vacillation of allegiance between Egypt and Babylon.

In 601 B.C. Jehoiakim made a fatal mistake. He had heard that Nebuchadnezzar’s army had been defeated in a battle against Egypt. Assuming Babylon’s army had been wiped out, Jehoiakim switched his support to Egypt (2 Kings 24:1). The Babylonian army, though defeated, was far from impotent and was now enraged by the loss and the insubordination of one of its vassal states. To teach Judah and others a lesson, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem in 598, and by 597 he had looted it and removed many of its chief individuals (2 Kings 24:12–16). Nebuchadnezzar replaced Jehoiakim with Jehoiachin. One last rebellion was launched against Babylon by a group of vassal states (Judah, Tyre, and Ammon). In 588 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar’s response was quick and brutal. His army surrounded Jerusalem and after a long siege took the city and destroyed it in July-August 586 B.C. (2 Kings 24:20–25:1; Jer. 52:3–4). Longman provides numerous literary and theological insights into this period of history. He fills a gap by providing for a historical, readable, and up-to-date treatment of the two books.

Jeremiah’s prophecies deal with this important period and declare that violations of the covenant would result in the removal of God's blessings and the imposition of the sanctions of the broken covenant. According to Longman, Jeremiah’s ministry both announces and witnesses the imposition of the final covenantal curse on Judah, the curse of exile. Longman also emphasizes God’s intense love for His people as evidenced in Jeremiah’s prophecy. According to Jeremiah judgment was not God’s last word for Judah, and he consoled his readers with numerous prophecies of restoration and salvation beyond exile, promising a New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Longman offers numerous literary and theological insights into this period of history, providing a readable, up-to-date treatment of the two books.

Like the other volumes in this series this book’s introductory material is brief and concise. Those interested in this area will need to look elsewhere for deeper discussion. Longman’s treatment does not deal directly with the structure of Jeremiah that often confuses readers of this biblical book. Instead he goes directly to the text and guides readers to a proper interpretation of the text. This volume is recommended for any serious student of Jeremiah and Lamentations.

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