Letter to the Exiles

Fourth of a six-week preaching series on Jeremiah.

Jeremiah, image by Holly Hayes via Flickr; licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

June 20, 2021

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Commentary on Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14

• 5/30/2021: Jeremiah 1:1-10; 7:1-11 Call and Temple Sermon
• 6/6/2021: Jeremiah 18:1-11 Potter and the Clay
• 6/13/2021: Jeremiah 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-31 Scroll Burned and Rewritten
• 6/20/2021: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14 Letter to the Exiles
• 6/27/2021: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 Planting and Building
• 7/4/2021: Jeremiah 33:14-18; 31:31-34 Messiah and New Covenant

Week 4: Letter to the Exiles

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14

Jeremiah keeps in touch with the fractured community and sets out a path for their future away from home. The notice of the deported community reminds readers of the elite group that are removed to work in service of the Babylonian Empire (29:1-2). Their experiences shape what it means to be in exile and therefore colors what a return would look like. Jeremiah seems uninterested in supporting talk of a quick end to the exile (29:8-9). Instead, he provides advice to those in Babylon that would lead to establishing a life there that would resemble their life at home (29:5-7). His advice amounts to the maintenance of the cultural and religious identity to ensure a stable community. The direction to build families, homes, and the resources to support their life provides more than simply survival strategies. Rather, Jeremiah encourages those in Babylon to make their home there. By using language from Deuteronomy associated with blessings and curses (Deut 6:10-15; 28:30, 39), he provides the reminder that divine blessings can reach them in that new place they will call home. Jeremiah’s position in the book and his advice in this chapter runs counter to other prophetic voices. His words always appear like disinformation to a community longing to only hear easy words. Recognition of the reality before the community and the frankness to put this before them characterizes Jeremiah’s posture in the book.

What truths exposed by the pandemic cannot be hidden or made palatable?