One of the great Old Testament prophets, Jerremiah was noted for his repeated entreaties for the Jewish people in the Kingdom of Judah to lead simple and pure lives, and he prophesied Judah’s conquest, bondage and exile to Babylon as punishment for their corruption and disobedience. The deportations occurred in three waves, in 597 BC, 587 BC and 582 BC.
Prior to Judah’s confrontation with Babylon, Judah was a client state of the Assyrian Empire, one explanation as to why Aramaic was the lingua franca of Palestine at the time of Christ.
The Assyrians had involved themselves in the wars between the two Jewish kingdoms of Judah and Israel, having invaded Israel on Judah’s behalf and deported many Jews from Israel to other parts of the Assyrian Empire.
When the Babylonians overthrew their Assyrian overlords, the Egyptian kingdom sided with the Assyrians and sought to fight the Babylonians in Syria. This required a large Egyptian army to pass through Judah, but the Jewish King Josiah refused permission for the Pharoah, ostensibly his ally, to pass through Judah, citing the Torah’s prohibition on armed foreigners passing through Jewish lands. This resulted in a large battle at Megiddo (“Armageddon”) at which King Josiah was mortally wounded by the Egyptians, and he was mourned by the Prophet Jeremiah and the people of Judah. Judah fell under Egyptian influence to a large extent, culminating in a rebellion against Babylon in 596 that resulted in a siege and defeat in Jerusalem, and the pillaging of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar II as well as the exile to Babylon of the Prophet Ezekiel. A subsequent Jewish revolt against the Babylonians in 587 resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the levelling of the First Temple.
The Jewish people’s exile in what is now Iraq lasted for many decades until the Babylonians were in turn conquered by the Persians, and the enlightened Persian emperor Cyrus the Great permitted the Jewish exiles in Babylon, and elsewhere in his empire, to return to Judah in 539 BC. Many of Georgia’s Jewish community can trace their ancestry to Jews who settled in the Caucasus during the reign of Cyrus, more than 2500 years ago.
The Holy Prophet Jeremiah, one of the four great Old Testament prophets, was son of the priest Helkiah from the city of Anathoth near Jerusalem, and he lived 600 years before the Birth of Christ, under the Israelite king Josiah and four of his successors. He was called to prophetic service in his 15th year of life, when the Lord revealed to him, that even before his birth the Lord had assigned him to be a prophet. Jeremiah refused, pointing to his own youthfulness and lack of skill at speaking, but the Lord promised to be always with him and to watch over him. He touched the mouth of the chosen one and said: “Lo I do put Mine words into thy mouth, I do entrust unto thee from this day the fate of nations and kingdoms. By thine prophetic word wilt they fall and rise up” (Jer. 1: 9-10). And from that time Jeremiah prophesied for twenty-three years, denouncing the Jews for abandoning the True God and worshipping idols, predicting for them woes and devastating wars. He stood by the gates of the city, and at the entrance to the Temple, everywhere where the people gathered, and he exhorted them with imprecations and often with tears. But the people answered him with mockery and abuse, and they even tried to kill him.
Depicting the slavery to the king of Babylon impending for the Jews, Jeremiah at the command of God put on his own neck at first a wooden, and then an iron yoke, and thus he went about among the people. Enraged at the dire predictions of the prophet, the Jewish elders threw the Prophet Jeremiah into an imprisoning pit, filled with horrid slimy creatures, where he all but died. Through the intercession of the God-fearing royal-official Habdemelek, the prophet was pulled out of the pit but he did not cease with the prophecies, and for this he was carted off to prison. Under the Jewish king Zedekiah his prophesy was fulfilled: Nebuchadnezzar came, made slaughter of the nation, carried off a remnant into captivity, and Jerusalem was pillaged and destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar released the prophet from prison and permitted him to live where he wanted. The prophet remained at the ruins of Jerusalem and bewailed the misfortune of his fatherland. According to tradition, the Prophet Jeremiah took the Ark of the Covenant with the Law‑Tablets and hid it in one of the caves of Mount Nabath (Nebo), such that the Jews were no more able to find it (2 Mac. 2). Afterwards a new Ark of the Covenant was fashioned, but it lacked in the glory of the first.
Among the Jews remaining in their fatherland there soon arose internecine clashes: the viceroy of Nebuchadnezzar, Hodoliah, was murdered, and the Jews, fearing the wrath of Babylon, decided to flee into Egypt. The Prophet Jeremiah disagreed with their intention, predicting that the punishment which they feared, would befall them in Egypt. But the Jews would not hearken to the prophet, and taking him by force with them, they went into Egypt and settled in the city of Tathnis. And there the prophet lived for four years and was respected by the Egyptians, since with his prayer he killed crocodiles and other nasty creatures infesting these parts. But when he began to prophesy, that the king of Babylon would invade the land of Egypt and annihilate the Jews settled in it, the Jews then murdered the Prophet Jeremiah. In that very same year the prophesy of the saint was fulfilled. There exists a tradition, that 250 years later Alexander the Great of Macedonia transported the relics of the holy Prophet Jeremiah to Alexandria.
The Prophet Jeremiah wrote his Book of “Prophesies” (“Jeremiah”), and also the Book of “Lamentations”, – about the Desolation of Jerusalem and the Exile. The times in which he lived and prophesied are spoken of in the 4th (2nd) Book of Kings (Ch. 23-25) and in the 2nd Book of Chronicles (36: 12) and in 2 Maccabbees (Ch. 2).
In the Gospel of Matthew it points out, that the betrayal of Judas was foretold by the Prophet Jeremiah: “And they took thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him on Whom the sons of Israel had set a price, and they gave them over for the potter’s field, as did say the Lord unto me” (Mt. 27: 9-10).
From “Orthodox Liturgical Calendar of The St. John of Kronstadt Press“