Clearly I’ve been on a Jeremiah kick lately. It’s such a long book and there are so many details to remember. One can easily become overwhelmed when looking at the longest book in the Bible. It’s always important to be able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and Michael Wilcock has written a handy commentary to keep Jeremiah’s readers afloat while they try to grasp this ocean of a book.
We must not forget Lamentations either. Throughout his book, Jeremiah portrays Israel’s response over the warning Babylonian attack as one of disbelief because of their apathetic relationship to Yahweh. Lamentations portrays Israel’s (or at least the Lamenter’s) response after the Babylonian attack as being one of fear, anguish, and sorrow. Here Wilcock summarizes the thrust of Lamentations’ message in 15 pages. It is a bleak book, but there is hope. “A new chapter was opening in the story of God’s people. They should bear that in mind… as the limited view of the fifth song can see only their present afflictions. For Yahweh is there, and they know it…. And they do at any rate believe in him sufficiently to talk to Him, even if His answers are a long time coming. Out of this present death will come a resurrection.” (29)
Wilcock divides Jeremiah into 14 chapters, each being between 10-20 pages in length. When looking at Jeremiah 30,000 feet from above, one is able to cover a lot of ground very quickly. When Wilcock arrives at Jeremiah 28, without getting much into what they said (which is quite repetitive up to this point in the book), Wilcock examines the similarities and differences between Jeremiah and Hananiah. Both have the phrase “the prophet” placed after their name, both gives specific dates and times on when Yahweh would accomplish something, and both utter the phrase “Thus says the Lord of hosts.” Yet Jeremiah sees himself in line with the other ancient prophets who correctly prophesied doom against Israel (28:8). Hananiah speaks from wishful thinking, and he has “stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear his word” (23:16-18). Hananiah had a dream. Jeremiah had a word.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a most loved verse by many Christians. Wilcock doesn’t seek to throw it out, but he does put it into context with 29.7.
Jeremiah 29:7 [“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you”] is hugely important in a different way… Babylon is all around us…. Every aspect of society needs our prayers and our witness. What is more, we notice that the responsibility was being placed not so much on Jeremiah, the ‘holy man’, the specialist, as on ‘all the exiles’ (29:4). But if the prospect seems daunting, we remember that behind the whole enterprise stands our great God, with His ‘plans for wholeness and not for evil’, plans which it is His sovereign intention to carry through. (144–45)
Wilcock’s volume is helpful as a summary of Jeremiah and Lamentations. He stresses that this work “is an exposition, not a commentary,” one that “values the work of behind-the-scenes academics,” but is “more concerned with the front-of-house public, the people in the pew. And with them in mind, I have tried to set forth not only what Scripture says but also what it is for” (13). And for that I cannot fault him. Though many of Wilcock’s sections were written too broadly for me and didn’t answer many of the questions I have over the messy details, the person in the pew, who does not want the messy spider’s web of details, is whom this is written for. Wilcock explains the overall ideas of the authors in a way that is both readable, relevant, and honest to the text. And that I can recommend. As with Kidner, I wouldn’t start with Wilcock, but his overhead view would be good to read near the end of your sermon or Bible study preparation.
The Focus on the Bible series is an excellent series for the person in the pew. It doesn’t dive into the gritty details, but gives the readers a broad sweep of the book for its place in the Christian life.
- Series: Focus on the Bible
- Author: Michael Wilcock
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Christian Focus (September 20, 2013)
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