Walking the Ancient Paths: A Commentary on Jeremiah

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Phillip Chong | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Nov 20 2019 5:07 PM


Considering the Black Friday sale now includes Walking the Ancient Paths: A Commentary on Jeremiah, can anyone give any reviews about this commentary? From what I know its somewhere in between TOTC and NAC but other than that is there any other positive/negative feedback on this book? How practical is it? Does it focus on NT connections etc? 

Any thoughts are appreciated. 

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GaoLu | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 20 2019 6:07 PM

Glad you asked.  Was wondering the same.

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Rick | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Nov 21 2019 3:52 AM

I bought it and have not had time to fully evaluate it. Here are a couple of sections to try and help you evaluate it.

The first section is a part of the introduction (Jeremiah's Early Life) and the second is from the commentary portion ( Jer 3:12-18). The commentary portion looks to be representative of the rest of the book. If there is another portion that you would like to sample, please let me know.


Jeremiah was born in a priestly home in the town of Anathoth, two to three miles northeast of Jerusalem (1:1). His father was “Hilkiah, from the priests who were in Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin” (1:1). There is a good possibility that he descended from the family of Abiathar, a priest in the line of Eli, who cared for the ark of God at Shiloh (1 Sam 4:12–18). If so, then this Abiathar was the same one who served under David and Solomon but who fell into disfavor for backing the wrong candidate to the throne (1 Kgs 2:26) during the rebellion of David’s son Adonijah (instead of Solomon).
We have no information about Jeremiah’s childhood, but his later years bear witness to his knowing the law of God along with the ritual of the temple quite well. There is no word that he ever trained for the priesthood or functioned in that role, but he surely knew what the law required, as his frequent citations from the book of Deuteronomy show.
Jeremiah complained that he was too young when he was called, but God assured him of his own divine presence and help. He was also later told that he was not to marry (16:1–4), for this was to be part of his symbolic messages to Judah. This was followed by instructions that he must not attend any funerals of his loved ones or of the people of his village as a reminder that God had removed his comfort from them, and neither was he to attend any feasts, because God would remove their rejoicing (16:5–9). Needless to say, besides his unpopular messages, Jeremiah’s life as a young, single prophet who would not join in major social functions likely set him apart from those around him.
Jeremiah is best known as a preacher of righteousness. Some of his earliest recorded preaching is in 2:5 and 3:1–4:1 as he adamantly decries Judah’s idolatry, paganism, and empty ritualism. The nation was guilty of spiritual prostitution and must turn from being “faithless Israel” and immediately return to the Lord in repentance (3:12–13, 19–22; 4:1). But what troubled Jeremiah more than most things was the gross ingratitude of the people, as the nation literally changed its gods (2:11), a duplicitous trend unknown even among the Gentile nations (2:10), an event that was likewise contrary even to nature (5:20–25). God’s people were so bent on chasing after these foreign gods that they were acting like camels or wild donkeys in sexual heat that could not be diverted from their pursuit of sensual satisfaction (2:23–25). These faithless peoples could just as well forget about being delivered by any kind of political alignments with foreign nations (2:18–19), which also were unreliable. Moreover, Judah had acted as an adulterous wife who constantly betrayed her husband, the Lord, as she kept presuming time after time on God’s forgiveness as the solution to her problems (3:1–5), though she gave no evidence of repentance.
There are no precisely dated prophecies in Jeremiah for the period from the finding of the book of the law in 622/621 BC until the tragic death of King Josiah in 609 BC (though some undated prophecies could theoretically date to that period). Jeremiah would have been around twenty-two years old as Josiah launched the main part of his reform with the discovery of the book of the law in the house of God. The names of the men who assisted Josiah in carrying out the reform match the names of those who later protected Jeremiah (they are possibly the names of their sons). These men included Ahikam ben Shaphan (26:24), Gemariah ben Shaphan, and Elnathan ben Achbor (36:12).
We next hear from the prophet at the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim (26:1; the fourth year of Jehoiakim [605/604 BC]). However, it would be incorrect to assume that Jeremiah had ceased preaching during this period after he had started so well in his early ministry. In fact, Jer 25:3 counters that idea: “for twenty-three years—from the thirteen year of Josiah, son of Amon king of Judah until this very day—the word of the LORD [had] come to [him] and [he had] spoken to [Judah] again and again, but [they had] not listened” (NIV). This seems to indicate that Jeremiah had prophesied during Josiah’s reign, though those prophecies do not appear to have been recorded in this book.
After Jeremiah gives his “temple sermon” (7:1–34), more information about him begins to be included in the book (605 to 587 BC). The temple sermon became a marker in the life and ministry of the prophet, as life in Judah under a young but self-possessed King Jehoiakim was more adamantly selfish, arrogant, and openly pagan, in spite of the prophet’s urging to return to the Lord and his ways. Living under such a king brought much tension into Jeremiah’s life, and much grief and agony.



12 “Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say:
‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ declares Yahweh.
‘I will not frown on you [any longer],
For I am merciful,’ declares Yahweh,
‘I will not maintain [my anger] forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt—
For against Yahweh you have rebelled,
You have scattered your favors among foreigners, under every leafy tree,
And you have not listened to my voice,’ declares Yahweh.
14 ‘Return, apostate people,’ declares Yahweh,
‘For I am your husband;
I will take you, one from a city,
And two from a family,
And I will bring you to Zion.
15 “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have increased and multiplied in the land, in those days, declares Yahweh, they will no longer say ‘The ark of the covenant of Yahweh.’ It will not come to mind or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will it be made again.’ 17 At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘the throne of Yahweh,’ and all the nations will assemble in Jerusalem [to honor] the name of Yahweh. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. 18 In those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and together they will come from the land of the north to the land that I gave as an inheritance to your [fore] fathers.”


3:12–13 The prophet is instructed to “Go and proclaim these words toward the north” (v. 12). Not only was the north the direction from which disaster was going to come for Judah, but it also it could mean that Jeremiah is to go to the northern territory and minister to what is left of the ten tribes that had not been taken away in the 722/721 BC Assyrian exile. The Judean king Josiah had a real concern for those left in the north (2 Kgs 23:15–19; 2 Chr 34:5–7, 9, 33) as he attempted to reunite the two kingdoms under his rule, so it is possible that “the north” and “Israel” do refer to the northern Israel.
But if the prophet is being instructed to preach to the northern tribes, is the call to repentance in v. 12b real, since the divorce of northern Israel seems so absolute in the preceding text? How can Jeremiah now be calling: “Turn back, backsliding (מְשֻׁבָה) Israel?” Michael Brown cites the Talmud (Megillah 14b) as affirming that Jeremiah preached in the north, for it explains that is the reason Josiah passed over Jeremiah and went instead to the prophetess Huldah for an interpretation of the book of the law when it was found in 622/621 BC. The Talmud says, “Jeremiah was not there [in Jerusalem], as he had gone to bring back the ten tribes” (Brown, 110).
The answer to the apparent absoluteness of Israel’s divorce and the offer in v. 12 that God “will not frown on you [any longer]” (lit. “will not let my face fall against you”) is that the northern ten tribes of that day had failed to return to Yahweh. But vv. 12–18 speak of a future day in which they would be brought to “Zion” (v. 14d). This introduces the days of the messianic era, in which the promises of Yahweh are offered to both Israel and Judah (see also v. 18). Therefore, the call to repent remains open. This was not because the Lord is fickle and capricious, but rather this offer comes from his being “merciful” (חָסִיד). Although this word is rarely used of God (Ps 145:17, “loving toward all he has made”), it is one of the messianic terms used in Ps 16:10, “nor will you let your Holy One (חָסִיד) see decay.” That is why God “will not be angry forever.” Even though this willingness on Yahweh’s part not to retain his anger forever is precisely what gives Judah her false sense of security during her obstinacy, nevertheless it is the only basis for hope that sinners such as northern Israel could be restored to Yahweh or reunited with Judah. Thus, the analogy in the earlier part of this chapter is not now put into abeyance, but the former part of this chapter is addressed to the generation that had refused to return to Yahweh. In fact, that generation had been dealt with a century earlier, in 722/721 BC. But the sins of the fathers are not held against their children if they do not follow in the error of their parents’ ways. Besides, the eschatological future burns brightly for both Israel and Judah, if they repent and believe.

3:14–15 It may be literally true, in the meantime, that some Israelites remain in the north who were drawn back to Jerusalem, perhaps by the preaching of Jeremiah in the north (v. 14). They may have found that Yahweh, not a piece of stone or some kind of wood, was their “husband” (בָּעַל, bāʿal), an obvious play on the word for “Baal,” which also means “master” or “husband.” Even though there would only be a few (“I will take [לָקַח] you, one from a city and two from a family,” v. 14c), yet no aspect of the people of God, either in Israel or Judah, would be forgotten. However, they will not be returned to the old idolatrous shrines; they will all be brought to the one true place of worship in unity in “Zion.” Jerusalem would be the center of the revived and restored nation in that future day (31:6, 12; 50:5). At that time (“then,” v. 15a), Yahweh will give them “shepherds” (nationally, religiously, and politically) who will “lead [them] with knowledge and understanding,” those who are “after [God’s] own heart,” a phrase that recalls God’s approval of David in 1 Sam 13:14 (v. 15b–c). No longer will the people need to put up with self-willed leaders who mislead and consume Yahweh’s people, such as was promised in Ezek 34.

3:16 All this is set “In those days,” a time that pointed to the messianic times coming in the future, an expression distinctive to Jeremiah (3:16, 18; 5:18; 31:29; 33:15, 16; 50:4, 20; but only found four times elsewhere in the OT). Among the blessings of that future day will be a great increase in the population numbers: “they will multiply and be fruitful” (v. 16a, an allusion to the formula in Gen 1:28; 17:1–8) as they formerly did in Egypt (cf. Exod 1:7). Additionally, the “ark of the covenant,” perhaps destroyed in the Babylonian fires in Jerusalem, “will not be missed,” nor will it ever “enter their minds or be remembered” any more (v. 16c–e; see “Excursus: The Ark of the Covenant”). Two probable reasons why the ark will fade from memory and no longer be needed are:

1. Since the ark contained a copy of the law, it will no longer be useful, since the law will be written on the heart (31:31–34).
2. The ark served as the throne of God, but that too would now be surpassed by Yahweh being actually present in Jerusalem (3:17; cf. Ezek 48:35).

Anyway, all too many had come to think of the ark, as they did of the temple, as a religious talisman, a good-luck charm that reinforced an unwarranted optimism that God could never visit evil or judgment on Judah, for that would mean he would have to destroy what he had promised to keep and do in his covenant; how could God do this to his own place of residence?

3:17–18 That future day of repentance will witness “all the nations [not just Northern Israel] … assembl[ing] in Jerusalem [to honor] the name of Yahweh” (vv. 17b; 16:19–21; Isa 2:1–6; Mic 4:1–5). No longer would the nations trouble Israel, nor would they gather their thrones at her gates as her conquerors had done previously (Jer 1:15). Now they will gather in repentance and humility before Yahweh. Even more startling is that the historic division between the north and the south will be ended and the two will “join … together” in “the land [God] gave [their] forefathers as an inheritance” (v. 18b–c).
Hope for the future days when Messiah will come in all his glory back to earth was part and parcel of Israel’s and Judah’s prospect for the days to come. Jeremiah had apparently gone to minister in the northern tribes in hopes of preparing them for another day that will be brighter than the days when an earlier generation had been divorced from God. In that time the nation will multiply and increase in size, and the Lord will sit on his throne in the city of Jerusalem. What a glorious day that will be. No wonder all the nations will come annually to be taught directly by the Lord himself in that future day, as Isa 2 and Mic 4 teach. Meanwhile, the ark of the covenant will drop out of sight and memory, for the law of God found in the Ten Commandments and previously housed in the ark will be inscribed on the hearts of God’s people. There will be no need to have it inscribed on stone any longer!

Kaiser, W. C., Jr., & Rata, T. (2019). Walking the Ancient Paths: A Commentary on Jeremiah (pp. 68–72). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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Mattillo | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Nov 21 2019 3:58 AM

When this commentary first came out Jake told us on the forums: 

While this title was submitted for the EEC, we decided it would be better off as a stand-alone commentary since it's so pastoral. We are working on contracting a replacement Jeremiah volume for the EEC to be released in the future.

Not sure if that helps

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Myke Harbuck | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Nov 21 2019 7:08 AM

I have not read this volume, but have read lots by Dr. Kaiser, and can tell you he is a brilliant, godly man. I've followed him since I became a Christian 16 years ago, have spoken with him several times, and have found him to be one of the most gentle, loving, and godly people I've ever met.

His brilliance lies in the fact that, while he is a genuine academic scholar and can go head to head with any scholar alive today, he never lets his academics out shine his faithfulness and devotion to the Lord and His Word. In his 80s now, he's as much as an evangelical stalwart as he ever was.

His brilliance lies also in his ability to communication the Old Testament in a manner that emphasizes Christ greatly while at the same time steering away from the extremism of "Christ on every page" or "Christ in every word" of the Old Testament. He understands the need for interpretative balance, and applies that well! I can't imagine that this work isn't as good or better than any of his other works, thus I can, without having read it, recommend it.

Myke Harbuck
Lead Pastor, www.ByronCity.Church
Adjunct Professor, Georgia Military College

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Myke Harbuck | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Nov 21 2019 7:15 AM

Just a quick story on the kind of guy Walter Kaiser is....

I am friends with him on Facebook. I sent him a FB message a year or so ago to give some positive feedback on another of his books that I had just read, and to thank him for al of his work through the years. I asked if I could ship him one of his books to sign for me. He said, Sure.

I sent the book to him. About a week later, I received a box on my front door. Inside were about 20 of his books. As I examined each book, I realized that he had not only signed each one, but he had written notes of encouragement to me as a pastor in every one of those books.

To say that I was blessed that day is an understatement! He's a kind, humble, and gentle soul!

Myke Harbuck
Lead Pastor, www.ByronCity.Church
Adjunct Professor, Georgia Military College

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Phillip Chong | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Nov 21 2019 4:52 PM

Thanks for all the feedback and even personal stories! Looks like its hard to avoid this one! 

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Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 22 2019 1:34 AM

I am enjoying this work so far.  I like Kaiser’s insightful and personable writing style.  He seems to “get inside the head of the weeping prophet”—which means he identifies w. him.

This is a good one.

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John Bubenik | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 17 2020 7:18 AM

I second Myke Harbuck’s endorsement of Walter Kaiser as a person. I heard him 40 years ago at a retreat for college students. I couldn’t get over his approachability and his humor combined with a stalwart stand for God and His word. 

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