Jeremiah 12:1—Do the wicked prosper or not?

Problem: Jeremiah complained, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” The same complaint is heard elsewhere in Scripture (cf. Job 12:6; Ps. 73:7). However, other passages of Scripture contend that the wicked do not prosper. Rather, “evil pursues sinners” (Prov. 13:21) and “evil shall slay the wicked” (Ps. 34:21).

Solution: Jeremiah is speaking of temporary prosperity, which the wicked often enjoy. The transitory nature of their prosperity, however, is due to the longsuffering of God, wherein He delays judgment in favor of mercy and in the hope of repentance (2 Peter 3:9). When the Bible speaks of God slaying the wicked, it does not always mean immediately, but ultimately. When understood in this way, there is no real conflict between these passages.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.