John Mackay, the former principal of the Free Church College, Edinburgh where he taught Old Testament from 1983 to 2013, has written a two-volume work on Jeremiah. This is a careful work which a book like Jeremiah deserves (see also Jack Lundbom’s three volume work).
Structure and Content
Mackay divides Jeremiah into two volumes. Volume I (Jer 1–20) is divided into 7 chapters. Volume II (21–52) is divided into 9 chapters. An appendix on the chronology of Jeremiah is found at the end of Volume II (and is 14 pages in length). Mackay dates Jeremiah’s ministry to be around 40 years (627-587 BC).
Having reviewed six other Jeremiah commentaries, Mackay is a good combination of Lalleman and Wright, but with less application (though not without it!). For the teacher and student who want details, Mackay is right up your alley. Mackay is helpful with Hebrew wordplays, metaphors, allusions, and cross references to other parts of the Old Testament (especially when Jeremiah references Deuteronomy). There is much here to put you to work.
He gives more attention to critical details (e.g., composition, dating) than the other commentators, but not to the point where this becomes an ICC volume. The critical minutia is left out of the general discussion, leaving much of it and other Hebraic details in the footnotes. Generally, when critically issues come up, Mackay simply presents the views of other scholars before he lays out his view and his counter-reasons.
Even with his academic rigor, he keeps the gospel in view. In 30.12, Mackay says, “The language of incurable injury is used throughout Scripture to describe divine chastisement for sin (Ps. 38:3-11; Isa. 1:5-6; Nah. 3:19). The essence of the gospel message is that even in situations which are reckoned to be beyond recovery, God declares that he is able to intervene and restore (Isa. 53:4-5; 57:15-19; Hos. 6:1)” (2:195).
This looks forward to the time when Israel will be God’s people, and he will be their God (Jer 30.22; 31.1–14, 23–40), which will be fulfilled through the death and resurrection of his completely faithful Son, Jesus Christ (Luke 22.20).
To say that Christians, Gentiles, can enter the new covenant which had been promised to Israel “is not to impose on the Old Testament text an alien message, but to see in the successive fulfilments of the prophecy that which Scripture assures us is there…. With the realisation of the universal aspect of the covenant promise (Gen. 12:3; Acts 3:25) the way Jeremiah and his contemporaries understood these promises is not negated or reversed, but broadened and internationalised. The new covenant does not exclude Israel after the flesh, but includes it on the same basis as it does those from all nations who receive the mercy of God and have faith in Jesus Christ.” (2:239).
John Mackay’s two-volume work on Jeremiah comes highly recommended to the student and teacher who wants to bathe deeply in this long, prophetic book. I wouldn’t recommend beginning with Mackay’s volumes if you haven’t studied Jeremiah before, but he should eventually be on your shelf. Lalleman and Wright’s volumes come highly recommended too. If you buy Mackay’s volume’s, Wilcock’s volume is a good one to use to come up for air, catch your breath, and look around at Jeremiah’s main ideas.
- Series: Mentor Commentary
- Author: John L. Mackay
- Publisher: Mentor, 2004
- Hardback: 576 pgs; 640 pgs
- Table of Contents: Volume 1; Volume 2
- Introduction: Volume 1; Volume 2
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