The five poems of Lamentations respond to a catastrophe in Judah. Written in third- and first-person voices, the book both acknowledges the present as the consequence of past disobedience and challenges the adequacy of that acknowledgement to account for the current suffering. God has judged; human enemies have attacked. But the extent and relentlessness of the suffering are unbearable. Theological claims about God’s mercy and justice are not operating in life as it is currently experienced by the speakers. The content pleads for God to look, see, and act. The book consists of prayers of sufferers, not theology about suffering.
The book covers the prophecies, visions, and symbolic actions of Ezekiel, a prophet among the Jews during the exile in Babylon. This book is one of the Major Prophets, filled with deeply symbolic visions and extreme actions from a man of zealous faith and profound spiritual vision. It includes an awesome vision of the throne-chariot of God as the “glory of the Lord”; prophecies of the judgment of God on Judah and Jerusalem (including the future and final fall of the city); prophecies against the nations surrounding Israel; and many highly symbolic actions and visions. The book concludes with visions of the future restoration of the land and the temple, and the return of the glory of the Lord (God’s presence) to Israel forever.
The first part of this long book contains messages of judgment and warning similar to those of the other eighth-century prophets. Isaiah condemns hypocritical worship, complacency, and the failure to act with justice for the poor. The prophet also speaks resounding words of promise, announcing God’s coming messianic kingdom. The second part of the book brings words of comfort and hope to the exiles in Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C. This section introduces God’s suffering servant in passages that have become well known to believers in every generation. A third part of the book contains both warnings and promises for the community after its return to Jerusalem following the fall of Babylon in 538 B.C.
The book of Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible (in terms of words and verses), and it is certainly one of the most complex. The nature of its structure and flow of thought are sharply disputed among scholars, evidence that the book does not lend itself well to summary statements. Jeremiah is a prophetic book that reports the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel both before (primarily) and after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. The preaching of Jeremiah speaks sharp words of indictment and judgment to an idolatrous people. Initially Jeremiah speaks in the hope that they will turn from their wicked ways, but in the wake of a lack of repentance the prophet portrays an inevitable judgment. Jeremiah also speaks words of hope, but recognizes that such a hopeful future will be realized only on the far side of the fall of Jerusalem. The book, however, is concerned not only to report the prophet’s preaching, but also to speak a word of God to a people that has already experienced horrendous hardships in the fall of Jerusalem.
Daniel 1-6 is set in exile. The Babylonian rulers, presuming to be in charge of the affairs of the world, challenge the faith of Daniel and his three fellow Judeans. Readers are to be encouraged because of the examples of God’s care for Daniel and his friends during their ordeals. Daniel 7-12 depicts both the hardship to be experienced by those who will live after Daniel and the actions of rulers who reign after the Babylonians. The final scenes shift to Palestine, the violence escalates, and rulers directly assault the people of God. Each vision ends with the affirmation that God will prevail; evil will not have the last word.