A Treasury of Jewish Letters: Letters from the Famous and the Humble - Vol. 1

By Franz Kobler | Go to book overview
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2 The Prophet Jeremiah opens a New Epoch in Jewish History by his Epistle to the Exiles in Babylon

AT the beginning of the sixth century B.C.E. the kingdom of Judah, squeezed between the Babylonian and the Egyptian giants, was nearing its end. In 597 King Jehoiachin was carried away to Babylon, and a considerable part of the population went with him into captivity. Nebuchadnezzar placed on the throne Zedekiah, the youngest son of King Josiah, who at first submitted to Babylon. But optimistic self-styled prophets predicted speedy deliverance from the Babylonian yoke with the help of Egypt. Moreover, unscrupulous agitators working from Babylon incited the people in Jerusalem to oppose a peaceful policy. Their onslaught was directed particularly against one man: the prophet Jeremiah, who endeavoured to avert the imminent catastrophe by advocating the acceptance of the foreign rule. While he wrestled with the people of Jerusalem, he was no less anxious to warn and to encourage the perplexed exiles. For with his prophetic eye he saw that, whereas the struggle with Babylon was hopeless, there was a future and a great hope for the people in exile.

In this spirit Jeremiah maintained a correspondence with the captives in Babylon. Only one letter of this interchange has been preserved, in the twenty-ninth chapter of the book which bears the prophet's name. It was brought to Babylon by the hand of a mission sent by Zedekiah to Nebuchadnezzar in 594 B.C.E. This letter is one of Jeremiah's most impressive utterances; he was never greater than when he composed the verses of this epistle ( Jer. XXIX 4-23).


THE PROPHET JEREMIAH TO THE JEWISH CAPTIVES IN BABYLON

'Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away, and pray unto the Lord for it'

[ Jerusalem, 594 B.C.E.]

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all the captivity, whom I have caused to be carried away captive from Jerusalem unto Babylon:

-5-

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