What does it mean to be deeply in love with God and, at the same time, with a person, a group, or a nation that is at odds with God? Such is the dilemma of the prophet Jeremiah, and it is an experience not unfamiliar to many in our own day. The lesson of Jeremiah’s story is that, no matter how unfaithful humans may be, God remains always faithful, always ready to forgive and to right the wrongs humans have wrought.
Using the tools of rhetorical and narrative criticism, Carol Dempsey develops the character Jeremiah as a literary figure, a messenger not only to his own people but to all readers of his book. In keeping with the purposes of the Interfaces series, she helps us sharpen our critical skills by examining the text’s presentation of a biblical character not in isolation but interacting, interfacing, with others in his milieu and, implicitly, in ours.
Jeremiah is both prophet and poet, as Dempsey shows. She examines the prophet as both gifted and burdened by his mission and the word given to him, a word personal to himself and repugnant to his audience. Ultimately, it is Jeremiah’s relationship with God, in its depth and its tension, that shapes his character’and that of his audience as well. In the end, Jeremiah’s struggles move him from pathos to trust, from imprisonment to freedom, from desperation to conviction, leaving him and his readers with a sense of wonder at the mystery of God.
Carol J. Dempsey, OP, PhD, is Associate Professor of Theology (Biblical Studies) with particular expertise in Old Testament and Prophets at the University of Portland, OR.