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Editor’s Note: This series on the Bible is from the book Catholicism & Scripture. Please feel free to use the series for high schoolers or adults. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column as well.

Special Course On Catholicism And Scripture (Chapter 14)

God had been faithful to Israel for more than a thousand years, despite their infidelity and idolatry, as the cycle of sin was repeated over and over again — from sin to punishment to repentance to liberation. But God finally decided to let Israel’s enemies triumph over her, even to send them into exile in Babylon. First went the people in the North in 721 B.C. and then those from the South in 597 and 587 B.C., when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
But God raised up more prophets to persuade people to turn away from sin and back to Him. The first of these was Jeremiah, who said that he was too young to take on the burden of a prophet. But the Lord told him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” (Jer. 1:5). So, too, God had plans for each one of us before we were formed in the wombs of our mothers.
The Lord told the prophet that he would be “a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land” (1:18). So, Jeremiah went to the Temple and told the people to reform their ways and to stop putting their trust in “deceitful words” while engaging in such wicked deeds as stealing and murder, adultery and perjury, and burning incense before false gods. These abuses in the Temple caused God to ask, “Has this house which bears my name become in your eyes a den of thieves?” (7:11). Jesus would recall these words when He overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple (cf. Matt. 21:13).
It was during this time that King Josiah instituted a religious revival by repairing the Temple, ordering all the shrines to false gods destroyed, and forbidding all consultations with ghosts and spirits. The Second Book of Kings says that before Josiah “there had been no king who turned to the Lord as he did, with his whole heart, his whole soul, and his whole strength, in accord with the entire law of Moses; nor could any after him compare with him” (23:25). But Josiah’s efforts came to an end in 609 B.C. when he was killed in a battle with the Egyptians.
Meanwhile, Jeremiah continued to call the people to repentance and holiness, but their response was to scourge him, put him on trial, and threaten him with execution. At his trial, Jeremiah said that he was an innocent man and was only telling the people what the Lord wanted him to say. His accusers were persuaded by his words, and they set him free for the time being.
One of Jeremiah’s enduring images is that of a potter shaping clay into a vessel. If the vessel turned out badly, the potter would start over again. God said that He was the potter and Israel the vessel and that if Israel turned from its evil ways, “I also repent of the evil which I threatened to do” (18:6-8). St. Paul would use the same image centuries later, calling us “earthen vessels” in the hands of the Lord, “created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance” (Eph. 2:10).
When a new king took power, he was angered by Jeremiah’s predictions of defeat at the hands of the Babylonians, so he had Jeremiah arrested and put in a cistern to die. But the prophet was released and, when the Babylonians took over the country, they first treated Jeremiah well because they thought that his predictions of defeat for Israel meant that he was on their side. Some members of the Jewish community forced Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch to accompany them to Egypt where he died after incurring the enmity of the Egyptians for predicting that they would be defeated by the Babylonians.
Jeremiah was a prophet of hope because he said that God would establish a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. He also resembled Jesus in that both men were rejected by their people, both predicted the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, and both were eventually put to death by those to whom they preached.
The other great prophet of those days was Ezekiel, who preached to the exiles in Babylon. God had chosen him to be “a watchman for the House of Israel” (Ezek. 3:17). He gave him a scroll to eat, which Ezekiel said “was as sweet as honey in my mouth” (3:3), and told him to use the words on the scroll to warn people to turn from their sinful ways. God said that if Ezekiel failed to warn a wicked man to turn from his sinful conduct, and the sinful man died, “I will hold you responsible for his death if you did not warn him.” But if on the other hand, he warned the wicked man and he continued to sin and died for his sins, “you shall save your life” (3:18-19). So, today, we are not to be tolerant or indifferent to the sins of others. We are to warn them of their evil conduct, as Jesus did in Mark 7:21-22, in order to save their souls, always remembering to judge the sins and not the sinner.
Some enduring images in the Book of Ezekiel are those of the good shepherd (see also Jesus in Luke 15:1-7) who rescues his sheep “from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark” (34:12); the resurrection of the dead in his vision of a field of dry bones which came back to life when God said, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them” (37:12); the heavenly city with a river of life-giving water (cf. 47:1-12); and the replacement of our stony hearts with “a new heart” (36:26).

List of Answers:



  1. God told _____________ that “before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
  2. King _____________ tried to reform Israel, but was killed in battle.
  3. Jeremiah called the people to ___________ and holiness to avoid catastrophe.
  4. God compared the molding of his people to a potter’s ______ made out of clay.
  5. Jeremiah resembles ___________ in that both men were rejected by the people of their hometowns and predicted the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple.
  6. God chose ________________ to be “a watchman for the house of Israel.”
  7. Ezekiel ate a __ covered with writing and said it tasted like “honey in my mouth.”
  8. God told Ezekiel that even a __________ man could be saved if he repented of his sins.
  9. Ezekiel used the same image of the good _________________ that Jesus did.
  10. Ezekiel compared Israel to dry ______________ that came back to life.
  11. He also had a vision of a heavenly _________ with a river of life-giving water.
  12. He said that God promised to give us new _______ to replace our stony hearts.
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Catholic Replies

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