I am uncertain why this is, but I have always felt a certain affinity toward the book of Jeremiah. It is loaded with amazing stories, events, and prophetic teaching/warning. Coming in at 33,002 words, Jeremiah holds the honor of being the longest book in the biblical canon.
There is one unique thing about Jeremiah – well, actually one unique verse – that it is easy to read past and think nothing of it. The thing that makes the verse unique is its language. Jeremiah is written entirely in Hebrew with the exception of this one verse. The following verse was written in Aramaic.
Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’ – Jeremiah 10:11, NIV-1978
It’s a simple statement and is not overwhelmingly profound. Why did Jeremiah switch from Hebrew to Aramaic to write this? It is clearly deliberate!
Aramaic is a Semitic language believed to have originated from the region of Syria. It served for millennia as the language of commerce and public administration, as well as a language of pagan worship and religious scholarship. At the time of Jeremiah’s writing, Aramaic was the official language of the Babylonian empire. Archaeological excavations have uncovered inscriptions that establish Aramaic as one of the earliest languages to be written down.
Jeremiah’s prophecy warns that the Babylonians are about to be used by God as a means of punishing his chosen people. The warning came to fruition in 587 BC when God’s people were carried off into Babylonian captivity as a punishment for their apostasy. The people of Yahweh had corrupted their worship of the Creator with the pagan teachings and idolatry of the Babylonians as well as that other nations around them.
In a twist of irony, God’s people were going to be punished and persecuted by the very nations whose gods they were idolizing. But the irony does not end there.
By writing the verse above in Aramaic, Jeremiah is sending notice to the foreign, idolatrous nations that this forthcoming captivity was not coming about through their strength, or by the merits and power of their gods. Jeremiah is sounding a clarion call, stating that only the true God, the God who made the heavens and the earth is in control of those heavens and that earth. The wannabe gods will perish!
It is no different for the gods we embrace whether those gods be wealth, career, possessions, academia, celebrity, really any god we can set up or imagine setting up. These Gods cannot save us and are no more worthy of our worship than were Zeus and Baal of the Babylonian age. Each of us must commit ourselves to the true Creator, Savior, and King, Jesus Christ. He alone is worthy of our devotion.