My first assignment as a Master of Divinity (MDiv) student at Regent College was for on Old Testament class. The prophet Jeremiah was the focus; the assignment was to write a historical review paper describing how the kings of Judah affected Jeremiah’s life and ministry.
I’ve never written a historical review paper for a biblical character, and had no idea how to start! The professor suggested many books, atlases, commentaries and other resources on the prophet Jeremiah — I was staggering under the weight of it all. Excellent books, but too much information. It took me a long time to find and read a few relevant commentaries on Jeremiah and Judah’s kings.
Actually writing the historical review was another problem. I’m an experienced freelance magazine writer, book author, and blogger…but a student writer of historical reviews for Old Testament characters? Out of my wheelhouse. It was a tough assignment, but I rose to the challenge! I’m sharing my paper with you. If you’re an MDiv student who needs essay writing tips for a college paper, you’ll find my historical review helpful.
This is a sample historical review paper, to give you an idea of what an Old Testament professor may be looking for. You are not to reproduce, copy, or use this paper for your own assignment on how the kings of Judah affected Jeremiah’s life and ministry.
If you find particular sections or sentences noteworthy, feel free to use and properly cite them.
I searched the internet of examples of historical reviews for seminary, but came up empty. I also looked for writing tips related to writing research papers, the prophet Jeremiah, and the kings of Judah, but found nothing helpful.
So I wrote my paper without having a clue what I was doing…and I received an excellent grade! That’s why I want to share my historical review with you. If you need help with an Old Testament writing assignment for seminary or college, this will help.
Jeremiah and the Kings: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah
In this paper, I review the prophet Jeremiah’s ministry during Judah’s decline, fall, and exile into Babylon (approximately 626 to 586 B.C.). The Lord called Jeremiah halfway through Josiah’s reign (640–609) and released him after Jerusalem’s destruction in Zedekiah’s time (597–586). In between reigned Jehoahaz (609), Jehoiakim (609–598), Jehoiachin (598–597).
Judah regained political independence from Assyria under King Josiah. He reformed Judah by purging foreign cults and practices, suppressing divination and magic, closing Judah’s outlying shrines of Yahweh, and centralizing public worship in Jerusalem. This resulted in a monopoly of priests and religious practices in Jerusalem, and possibly a secularization of life in rural areas.
These actions may have improved public morality and justice for a time, but did not deepen the people’s spiritual life or connection with Yahweh. In fact, “Jeremiah complained that [the reform] produced nothing but increased cultic activity without real return to the ancient paths (Jer 6:16-21) and that the sins of society continued without protest from the clergy (5:20-31).” Judah became proud of possessing Yahweh’s law, lulled into a false sense of security based on outward religious practices, and uninterested in spiritual self-examination. The Lord called Jeremiah to warn and plead with His people to repent in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign.
“Josiah was killed in battle, and brought dead in his chariot to Jerusalem amid great lamentations” (Bright, 1981, p.325). After the death of Josiah—the “last good king of Judah”—three of his sons and one grandson ascended to the throne.
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Josiah’s third son Jehoahaz’s reign marks the beginning of Judah’s decline, fall, and exile in Babylon. Jehoahaz ruled for three months, then was permanently deported to Egypt. “He [Jehoahaz] did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his predecessors had done. Pharaoh Necho put him in chains at Riblah in the land of Hamath so that he might not reign in Jerusalem, and he imposed on Judah a levy of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold” (2 Kings 23:31-35 NIV). Necho put Jehoiakim on the throne, who willingly paid the pharaoh’s head tax on all free citizens. Thus ended Judah’s twenty years of independence.
Jehoiakim reigned next, undoing most (if not all) of Josiah’s political and religious work. Jehoiakim was a “petty tyrant unfit to rule” who transferred his allegiance from the pharaoh to King Nebuchadnezzar, then—against Jeremiah’s advice—rebelled against Babylon. Jehoiakim used Judah’s funds and people as forced labour to build a more lavish palace. This provoked Jeremiah who boldly voiced his anger, contempt, and warnings of death to the king (in direct contrast with his first spoken words: “Alas, Sovereign Lord…I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (Jer 1:6 (NIV)).
Before Jehoiakim’s assassination, he and Jeremiah repeatedly clashed. The king opposed Jeremiah’s messages and Yahweh’s directions to repent. Four years into Jehoiakim’s reign, Jeremiah dictated to his scribe Baruch Yahweh’s plans to inflict disaster. He sent Baruch to the king. Jehoiakim cut the scroll, burned the pieces, and attempted to arrest them both. He failed, for they were hidden by the Lord (Jer 36:26). Jeremiah and Baruch then rewrote the scroll.
Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin began his three-month reign by quickly surrendering and facing deportment to Babylon. “The king, the queen mother, the high officials, and leading citizens, together with an enormous booty, were taken to Babylon.” This was no surprise to Jeremiah, who prophesied that Jehoiachin would be exiled north to Babylon just as his uncle Jehoahaz was exiled south to Egypt (Jer 22:11-12).
Judah’s final king Zedekiah (Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah) was enthroned by Nebuchadnezzar. However, Jehoiachin was still regarded as the legitimate king by many Babylonians and Zedekiah’s own people. This king thus had minimal public support. Zedekiah also feared popular opinion and was unable to successfully govern his officials.
Jeremiah repeatedly spoke directly to Zedekiah and the people—but his message had changed. Yahweh now commanded Judah to submit to Nebuchadnezzar’s rule because of their disobedience, accept the yoke of bondage, and serve the king of Babylon. Not only did Judah refuse, ambassadors from the surrounding areas of Moab, Edom, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon met in Jerusalem to plan a revolt against Babylon. Zedekiah reassured Nebuchadnezzar of his allegiance while pondering Jeremiah’s predictions that Judah would be destroyed unless they surrendered.
Eventually, Zedekiah went to battle. After a two-year siege the Babylonians breached the walls and destroyed Jerusalem. “Having witnessed the execution of his sons, [Zedekiah] was blinded and taken in chains to Babylon, where he died (II Kings 25:6f.; Jer 52:9-11). The state of Judah ended forever.
The book of Jeremiah is a mixture of stories, prophecies, proclamations, and conversations between Yahweh and the prophet—mostly not in chronological order. This makes it difficult to determine what happened when. However, three major themes are evident: 1) Yahweh’s people broke the covenant by repeatedly sinning and refusing to repent; 2) Terrible judgement fell upon them, as Yahweh repeatedly promised through Jeremiah; and 3) Beyond Yahweh’s judgement, there is still hope for restoration for His people, through His grace and love.
Five footnotes were deleted from this historical review.
Bright, John. A History of Israel. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981.
Hays, Daniel J. Jeremiah and Lamentations. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016.
Heschel, Abraham. The Prophets. New York: HarperPerennial, 2001.
This is a sample historical review paper, to give you an idea of what an Old Testament professor may be looking for. You are not to copy and use this paper for your own assignment on how the kings of Judah affected Jeremiah’s life and ministry.
I hope you found my sample review paper — The Prophet Jeremiah and Judah’s Kings: A Historical Review — helpful! As always, your questions and comments are welcome below. I’m currently a Master of Divinity student at Regent College in Vancouver, BC; I also welcome questions on attending seminary and studying the Bible.