Today, our reading of Jeremiah comes to a close. By now, you’ve noticed that this book does not always follow a chronological order. There are flashback scenes and moments of foreshadowing along the way. When it comes to weaving together an interesting narrative, Hollywood’s got nothing on this prophetic gem.
For those who like happy or tidy endings, the closing scene is less than satisfying. It may also sound quite familiar, since it closely parallels the end of the book of 2 Kings. Many scholars have concluded that a significant portion of Jeremiah, in its final form, was put together by someone other than Jeremiah himself, possibly his assistant Baruch, who is mentioned several times throughout the book. If this is the case, then we can see how the last chapter might serve as a stamp of confirmation on Jeremiah’s prophecy. The futures of Judah and Israel are left hanging in the balance. They are under the oppression of the Babylonian empire, just as Jeremiah had pronounced they would be.
Nevertheless, whoever constructed the final chapters leading up to this unsettling conclusion did not want to leave the audience without hope that the judgment on Judah and Israel would not last forever. Using Jeremiah’s own words again, the promise of judgment on Babylon and a return home for the exiles is reiterated today. You can imagine the book’s first hearers saying, “Well, his words have certainly come true so far. Maybe there’s a better future out there for us after all.”