Original Research

Patience, presence and promise: A study of prophetic realism in Jeremiah 29:4–7

Wilhelm J. Wessels
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 37, No 1 | a1584 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v37i1.1584 | © 2016 Wilhelm J. Wessels | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 February 2016 | Published: 30 August 2016

About the author(s)

Wilhelm J. Wessels, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa


We tend to think of prophetic proclamation simply in terms of prophecies of doom or judgement and salvation or promise. Jeremiah is often regarded as a prophet of doom with rarely any positive proclamation. This view is contested by contending that Jeremiah was also a prophet of realism. He did not shy away from proclaiming prophecies of judgement but also embraced Yahweh’s promises of restoration. Jeremiah’s brief was to proclaim messages that will ‘pluck up’ and ‘break down’ and ‘overthrow’, but also ‘to build’ and ‘to plant’ (Jr 1:10). As much as this is true of Jeremiah’s ministry, the focus of this article is on a neglected aspect of his prophetic ministry namely ‘prophetic realism’. Jeremiah 29:4–7 is an example of prophetic realism as the prophet pastorally pays attention to the people of Judah in exile, calling on them to exercise patience whilst in exile and to contribute positively to their exilic society. This they should do whilst still holding onto Yahweh’s promises. Amongst the many confusing prophetic voices to the exiles, Jeremiah’s message is one of realism calling for patience, but also for constructive presence in their situation. Whilst Jeremiah’s message exudes prophetic realism, he still emphasises that Yahweh’s promise of restoration will play out in time (Jr 29:10–14).

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Traditionally prophecy is either regarded as judgement or promise. An argument is promoted for a third category of prophetic realism. This view is not only relevant for Old Testament science, but also for the disciplines of Systematic and Practical Theology. Jeremiah’s prophetic realism compels researchers to broaden their views on what prophecy entails.


Exile; prophetic realism; salvation oracles; oracles of doom; Jeremiah


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