Understanding the Old Testament - Lesson 18


Jeremiah, the second of the latter prophets, hails from Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. He's depicted as a second Moses figure, sharing several similarities with Moses in his Levitical lineage, call to prophethood, ministry duration, and being despised by leaders. Notably, both had their initial works destroyed and were instructed to rewrite them. However, Jeremiah's role is distinct; he represents the reversal of Moses' work, leading the people back into captivity, contrasting Moses' liberation. The book aims to explain Judah's fall and exile, attributing it to their disobedience while offering hope for restoration. Jeremiah's ministry spans from 627 to 586 BC, prophesying through Judah's tumultuous times. 

Miles Van Pelt
Understanding the Old Testament
Lesson 18
Watching Now

I. Background and Context of Jeremiah

A. Introduction to Jeremiah

B. Authorship and Purpose

C. Date and Authorship

II. Similarities between Moses and Jeremiah

A. Levitical Background

B. Call to Prophetic Office

C. Reluctance to Prophesy

D. Promise of Divine Presence

E. Length of Ministry

F. Opposition from Leaders

G. Destruction and Rewriting of Their Works

H. Historical Appendix

III. Parallels and Contrasts with Moses

A. Reversal of Moses' Work

IV. Literary Structure of Jeremiah

A. Chiastic Arrangement

B. Overview of the Book's Structure

V. Themes in Jeremiah

A. Repentance and Redemption

B. Herald of the New Covenant

C. Hope for Restoration

D. Everlasting Covenant

VI. Message of the Book of Consolation

A. Witness and Documentation

B. Restoration of Fortunes

C. New Covenant Prophecy

D. Restoration of Davidic Kingship

  • Engage with the Old Testament to grasp its Gospel-centered nature. From Genesis to Ecclesiastes and Psalms, discover foundational truths, wisdom, and insights on suffering. Strengthen your faith and find enduring hope in God's Word.
  • Gain insight into the Old Testament's theological core, centering on Jesus Christ. Explore its diverse genres, languages, and authors, unified by Jesus as its focal point. Understand how biblical evidence supports Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, shaping interpretation.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides the thematic framework for the Old Testament. The Old Testament's thematic core is the Kingdom of God. Through this lesson, you'll understand its covenantal nature, from pre-temporal arrangements to various administrations like redemption, works, and grace, unveiling God's salvation plan in Christ.
  • Discover the intricate covenantal structure of the Bible, revealing its theological depth and unity, from the division of the Hebrew Bible to its mirroring in the New Testament, all centered around Jesus Christ.
  • Gain insight into the Pentateuch's covenantal structure, Moses' authorship debate, and evidence supporting it. Understand its significance as the foundation of Israel's relationship with God and its relevance for biblical theology.
  • Through this lesson, you will understand the theological, structural, and thematic intricacies of the book of Genesis. You'll grasp its role as a foundational text in both the Old and New Testaments, exploring themes of covenant, creation, fall, redemption, and the fulfillment of promises. You'll gain insights into the genealogical structure of Genesis, its portrayal of key biblical figures like Adam, Noah, and Abraham, and its connection to the overarching narrative of the gospel.
  • Exodus reveals Yahweh's promise—"I will be with you"—unfolding divine presence and covenant. It anticipates Jesus as fulfillment—a better Moses and Tabernacle—ushering in God's eternal presence among humanity.
  • Studying Leviticus unveils the intricate system of laws and rituals at Mount Sinai. It explains sacrificial atonement, priestly consecration, purity laws, and the theme of holiness, prefiguring Jesus as the ultimate priest, sacrifice, and source of holiness.
  • Discover the Book of Numbers' insights on Israel's journey, God's faithfulness, consequences of disobedience, and parallels to Christ, cautioning against questioning God's holiness and emphasizing His desire to dwell among His people through the Holy Spirit.
  • Gain insight into Deuteronomy's covenant renewal for Israel entering Canaan, emphasizing obedience, typology, and its relevance for Christian living.
  • Gain deep insight into the former prophets, exploring themes of Yahweh's faithfulness, Israel's unfaithfulness, and the typological significance of the Mosaic covenant. Understand its relation to the Abrahamic covenant and its fulfillment in the New Covenant under Jesus, revealing God's plan for restoration.
  • Joshua unveils Joshua's leadership, divine promise fulfillment in Canaan, obedience's significance, and Jesus as the ultimate fulfiller of God's promises.
  • Discover the Book of Judges, detailing Israel's history and faith journey. Learn about judges as deliverers from oppression and idolatry, portraying parallels with Christ's ministry. Uncover a pattern of uncreation due to idolatry, emphasizing the need for an eternal judge—Jesus Christ—to save from corruption.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides insights into the book of Samuel, exploring its characters, themes, and the transition from judgeship to kingship in Israel. Learn of the significance of the Davidic covenant, culminating in Jesus as the ultimate King of Kings.
  • Gain insights into the Book of Kings, revealing its historical and theological significance. Discover the fulfillment of Davidic covenant, reasons for Israel's exile, and anticipation of the new covenant. Recognize Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of its promises.
  • This lesson reviews latter prophets' insights into Israel's exile for breaking the Mosaic Covenant, the prophetic office's nature, diverse prophecy genres, and the execution of covenant lawsuits, all pointing to God's judgment and hope for restoration.
  • Explore Isaiah's profound prophetic themes, from redemption to impending judgment. Unravel his life and ministry's context, review the debate around authorship, and learn essential tools for study.
  • Enjoy this lesson on Jeremiah, a second Moses figure, and his prophetic message of repentance, redemption, and a new covenant. Explore the book's chiastic structure, historical context, and theological significance, offering hope amidst Judah's fall.
  • Studying Ezekiel reveals its focus on the glory of the Lord and the temple. You learn of Ezekiel's exile, his visions, and themes like covenant theology, creation, and apocalyptic elements, offering profound insights into hope amidst crisis.
  • Discover insights into the minor prophets' diverse genres and themes, from covenant infidelity to divine restoration. Witness Jonah's repentance narrative and prophetic visions culminating in Christ's fulfillment. Embrace Yahweh's justice and compassion, urging Israel's return, leading to Jesus as the ultimate authority.
  • Understand the structure and themes of the Hebrew Bible's writings section. Explore diverse literary forms, intentional divisions mirroring prophets, and the overarching theme of exile and return, illuminating Israel's covenant journey.
  • Discover the depth of the Book of Psalms: 150 songs divided into 5 books, expressing diverse emotions and worship forms. Explore themes, structure, and practical applications for personal devotion and prayer.
  • Gain insights into human suffering and theodicy through Job's trials. Explore themes of faith, resilience, and God's sovereignty amidst adversity. Discover hope in God's incomprehensible sovereignty amid life's trials.
  • Proverbs is a book of timeless wisdom from Solomon, who was gifted by God. By studying this book, you can learn to navigate life with righteousness and discernment, rooted in the fear of the Lord.
  • Journey through Ruth, where redemption, loyalty, and divine providence intertwine. Ruth, a symbol of strength, aligns with Boaz, embodying ancient customs. Their union shapes history, reflecting the enduring legacy of faith amidst life's complexities.
  • Explore the Song of Songs for insights into marriage and intimacy. It navigates the tension between true love and temptation, advocating for unwavering commitment and passionate intimacy, reflecting God's desired relationship. Discover timeless wisdom for modern-day love and marriage.
  • Ecclesiastes reveals life's futility without God, emphasizing the necessity of fearing Him. Through Solomon's wisdom, it prompts reflection on divine purpose amid existential questions.
  • In Lamentations, mourn the fall of Jerusalem and exile, finding hope in God's sovereignty.
  • The book of Esthers contains themes of providence, hiddenness of God, and faithfulness in exile. You will uncover the intricacies of Esther and Mordecai's roles in the deliverance of the Jewish people, as well as the establishment of the festival of Purim. This study will equip you with insights into how God's providence operates amidst human events, even when His presence may seem concealed, and how faithfulness in exile can lead to unexpected outcomes of deliverance and restoration.
  • Through this lesson on the book of Daniel, you'll gain insights into its structure, themes of faithfulness in exile, comparisons with Joseph, and its significance for understanding apocalyptic literature, providing a comprehensive understanding of God's sovereignty and care for His people.
  • Explore Ezra and Nehemiah for insights into post-exilic restoration, intertwining faith, governance, and cultural renewal. These books point towards a deeper longing for true and lasting restoration and echo themes found in apocalyptic literature such as the book of Revelation.
  • The Book of Chronicles traces Israel's history, emphasizing kingship, priesthood, and divine selection. It anticipates restoration, pointing to Jesus as the ultimate priest-king who fulfills God's promises.

Understanding the Old Testament 
Dr. Miles Van Pelt
Lesson Transcript

Having completed our lecture on the book of Isaiah, we're now ready to move into the second of the latter prophets, the prophet Jeremiah. This book is named after Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah. There are 52 chapters in the book of Jeremiah with a chiastic arrangement that has its center on what we will call the Book of Consolation with the new covenant at the center of the Book of Consolation. That is, Jeremiah is the one prophet who speaks about the covenant that's coming as specifically the new covenant. This is where that language comes from and we'll see that in just a minute. 

Jeremiah, who is he? He's one of the priests of Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Thus, he is a Levite stationed at Anathoth in Benjamin. While Isaiah was married to the prophetess, Jeremiah was prohibited from marriage by the Lord. Among the writing prophets, Jeremiah is distinctly portrayed as a second Moses figure, meaning this. Every prophet is technically a second Moses figure, but some of them are specifically styled as being recast as a Moses figure. For example, Gideon in the book of Judges in his call is just like Moses' call, so he's specifically styled as a second Moses figure. Jeremiah is the same way as the prophets. He's connected in a way to Moses, perhaps a degree or two more than the other prophets. How? I have eight similarities between Moses and Jeremiah that will be instructive for us. 

Number one, both Moses and Jeremiah are Levites. Number two, their call to office is very similar. Now, we don't have time here, but you can read Exodus chapter three and the call of Moses and Jeremiah chapter one, verses four to 19, and you'll see that these two calls overlap in significant ways. Number three, neither Moses nor Jeremiah wanted to be a prophet based upon their inability to speak.Number four, the answer to this inability is the promise of the divine presence. They both receive the promise, I will be with you. Number five, they both have a 40-year ministry among God's people. Number six, they were both hated by the leaders and the other prophets around them. Number seven, this one is really interesting. The first copy of their work was destroyed and they were both commanded to write a second edition. Remember Moses when he came down from the mountain and the golden calf was going on and he broke the tablets and Jeremiah wrote his words out and the king burned them. And they had to write a second edition. And finally, the inclusion, this is eight, there was included an historical appendix after the original work of Jeremiah in chapter 52, just like the historical appendix attached in Deuteronomy 32 to the life of Moses. So interesting, they both have that similarity. So eight points that connect them, they're both Levites, have a similar call to the office, don't want to be a prophet, have divine presence, have a 40-year ministry, are hated by others, first copy destroyed, had to write a second copy of their works and historical appendix. 

Now the question is, that's cool and interesting, but why the parallels? Here it is. Number one, at the most basic level, we said all prophets are second Moses figures, bringing to bear the word of God and the people of God as covenant officials. That's the most basic level. However, through Jeremiah, God reverses the work of Moses. So he's the second Moses figure, but he's kind of like, I don't want to say anti or against Moses, but he represents the antithesis of that. Moses delivered the people from Egypt and mediated the covenant with them. I will be your God and you'll be my people. Jeremiah, however, delivered the people back into Egypt and mediated God's covenant lawsuit. I will not be your God and you'll not be my people. I don't know if you know this, Jeremiah goes into exile with God's people back to Egypt in the book. And so you'll see that when you read it.And so Moses leads the people out, Jeremiah takes them back in. So he's un-Moses-ing them or he's un-Exodus-ing them.

So what we're seeing here is an intentional type of thing connected. So you can see that God is undoing what he's done. It's very similar to Elijah and Elisha. If you read their accounts, when Elijah is taken up by the fiery chariot, Elijah rolls up his cloak, puts it in the Jordan River, it divides, and he goes out of the land. He's undoing Israel's entry into the promised land. Elisha, after Elijah's death, rolls up that same cloak, parts the Jordan River, and comes back into it as the hope of returning from exile. So that's what these prophets are doing. One's doing the first thing, the other, the second. Moses led God's people out. Jeremiah is going to take them back in because they've broken the covenant. Meaning that Israel's disobedience has nullified the covenant and they're going back to be slaves in Egypt. 

The purpose of the book is to provide a theological explanation of the fall of Judah and the exile. It also served as an encouragement to maintain hope for restoration to God's favor into the land. So it explains why they went into exile. It wasn't Yahweh's impotence, but Israel's sin, but to maintain hope for restoration and favor in the land.

Date and authorship. We know from Jeremiah 1 verses 2 to 3 that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in the 13th year of the reign of Josiah, son of Ammon, king of Judah. He prophesied through the reign of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the 11th year of Zedekiah, son of Josiah, king of Judah when the people of Israel went into exile. This is extremely specific dating. He prophesied from 627 BC to 586 BC, just over 40 years. Now recall that 586 BC date, that's the date that the southern tribes went into exile and Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, the end of the theocratic kingdom.

In terms of authorship, we've already hinted at it a little bit. Internal evidence from Jeremiah 36 points to Jeremiah himself as the author of the book. For example, it says in Jeremiah 36:1, "In the fourth year of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord. Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, all the words I've spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah, and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah until now." So the Lord commands him and then it says, Jeremiah called Baruch, son of Nariah, and while Jeremiah dictated all the words the Lord had spoken to him, Baruch wrote them down. So if you're going to have any questions about the authorship of Jeremiah, you're going to have problems with the text, and I have no problems with the text. These were the so-called writing prophets, and so let them write.

In terms of the message or the nature of the ministry of Jeremiah, if you want a key verse for that, it's Jeremiah chapter 1 verse 10. This appears within the context of his call and chapter 10, I'm sorry, chapter 1 verse 10 says this. Well, I'll start with verse 9. "Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth because he thought he couldn't speak, and said to me, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms, and here we go, to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." That's the message in the ministry of Jeremiah.

Notice that there are three pairs of two. The first two pairs are destruction and condemnation, but the last pair is to build and plant. That's the message of hope. So the execution of the prophetic lawsuit, but the reverse level when Yahweh atoned for his people and atoned for his land, Deuteronomy 32. This points a little bit to the structure of the book, and I've got here a slide from a friend of mine, Peter Lee, on your screen, and this comes from the Biblical Theological Introduction of the Old Testament. He wrote the chapter on Jeremiah, and he wants you to visualize the structure of Isaiah in this particular fashion, where you get in Jeremiah 1, Jeremiah's call narrative, and the introduction to the prophetic message, which is those six verbs that I just read to you. Let me read to you the paragraph that Peter Lee uses to describe this, so you can see how this chart kind of works, and then I'll give you a kind of another outline that will help you see maybe the chiastic arrangement in the theological center of it.

Lee says, in summary, the structure of the book of Jeremiah is as follows. See the screen right there? Jeremiah 1 is the prophetic call to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. This imagery provides a thematic panorama of the entire book. So here's how Lee describes it. Jeremiah 2 to 25 is the true prophetic word of Jeremiah that speaks of the plucking up, breaking down, destroying, and overthrowing that the Lord will bring against his people. This is contra or against the next box, the false prophets who say that such condemnation and wrath will either not occur or else be brief.Isaiah 26 to 29. Jeremiah 30 to 33 is the blessed word of hope of the new covenant that will build and plant the people back in their homeland. The Lord will accomplish this through his messianic king known as the branch of David. This is again contrary in the box below, the false kings of Judah, specifically Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah, whose reigns resulted in Judah's destruction. Jeremiah 34 to 35. Finally, the cosmic scope of the work of God is envisioned in the final section of the oracle to the nations in Jeremiah 46 to 52. So these six boxes are a nice little graphic summary of how the book of Jeremiah progresses. 

But another way to look at that is to consider the macrostructure of Jeremiah, this simple chiasm. We've talked about a chiasm before. It's a literary device that allows you to see progression and movement with a theological emphasis like whatever's at the center if there is one. So you can see with this particular outline that the A and the A prime sections are the first and the last sections have oracles against Judah in the first 25 chapters and then oracles against foreign nations in chapters 46 to 51. That is, God is going to enter into global judgment.In the B sections, you have a biographical narrative. So you have trouble with the false prophets in the first B and the second B, and you have the final days of the kingdom because of that trouble. In the middle of that, you have chapters 30 and 31, the so-called book of consolation. And this is where you get the prophecy of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31 to 34. In this middle section, you have the Book of Consolation where you have Jeremiah 30 to 31 talking about a new covenant, specifically in Jeremiah 31:31 to 34. Now we'll look at a few of the major themes that will help you kind of to understand the message of the book of Jeremiah as you read through it. Remember, they're covenant lawyers executing Yahweh's covenant lawsuit against his people for their infidelity, but he's also going to bring consolation or hope. That's what these guys are doing. 

So the first major theme is repentance and redemption, repentance and redemption. In the first stage of Jeremiah's ministry, he executed the covenant lawsuit and called the people of God to repent. That first stage would have been 526 to 597 BC. In the second stage of Jeremiah's ministry, 597 to 586, he proclaimed the inevitability of the coming curses because Judah had failed to repent. The third stage centers around the destruction of the temple in 586 BC in what is perhaps the worst possible event in the long history of the land. In this context, Jeremiah boldly proclaims the message of redemption and hope. This hope for restoration was still based upon Judah's repentant heart. However, that repentance was now to be understood as a covenant blessing and a work from the Lord, a circumcised heart. Through this renewed heart, the people of God would be redeemed and receive the blessing of the new covenant that would be revealed in the last days. Repentance and redemption, that is judgment is coming, but God is going to give them a heart that is circumcised and therefore able to repent. It's a good thing, repentance, and redemption. 

Another major theme is that Jeremiah is the herald of a new covenant, a new covenant. With the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and the monarchy, the Mosaic covenant had come to an end. Upon repentance, the Lord would bring this people back, but the problem of the wicked uncircumcised heart remains for the vast majority of the nation of Israel. The answer to this problem in Jeremiah is the new covenant in Jeremiah 31, the very thing that Jeremiah will herald in the Book of Consolation. This is the only way that the Lord can bring to pass the promises of the Abrahamic covenant in all of its fullness for all of its time, an unbreakable covenant.

In the Book of Consolation, we find the famous prophecy of the new covenant located in Jeremiah 31:31-34. It's the only place we find the designation new covenant. The last thing is the message of the Book of Consolation and the new covenant. Let's take a look then, if we have repentance and redemption and we have the herald of the new covenant, then what does that new covenant look like in this last section? First, the Book of Consolation begins with the Lord's command to write down these words so they might serve as a witness for the people. That is everything the Lord is doing. He's documenting, so there's no excuse. It bears witness. The main message is summarized in Jeremiah 30, verse 3, where it says, "For behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, while I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it." Notice here that it says he's going to restore the fortunes of Israel and Judah, both the northern and the southern tribes, not just the southern tribes. The reason that's important is because when Israel returns from exile in, let's say, Ezra and Nehemiah, it's a return that is only of the southern tribes. It's not a full return, which means it's not the one we've ultimately expected. Third, this people who return will serve Yahweh, and he will raise up a Davidic king, where it says, "But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them." 

Note that this will be the same person eventually, not two different people. Yahweh will be the Davidic king in the incarnation. Chapter 30 of the Book of Consolation then closes with a strong statement on the certainty of the Lord's plan. It says this in 30:24, "The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished all the intentions of his mind. In the latter days, you will finally understand this." 

Chapter 31 continues with the theme of restoration, where it says in 31:4, "Again, I shall build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel." That's an amazing statement because we know that Israel has whored after all of the other gods of the nations and have never been virgin Israel, but the nature of the extent of restoration will be that Israel will be conceived of as a virgin bride in Jeremiah. Paul will pick up on that theme later too when he says, All I want to do is present you as a pure virgin to your Lord and Maker. 

The prophetic announcement of the covenant is included in Jeremiah 31:34 a few things here. I'm going to give you four. Number one, the renewal of the people of God as both Israel and Judah, full restoration. Number two is the writing of the law of God on the heart, that is circumcision of the heart. It will no longer be on tablets of stone but on the tablets of your heart. Number three, this new covenant will include the forgiveness of sins. And number four, because it includes the forgiveness of sins, it will be unbreakable. The new covenant is in opposition to the breakable old covenant. Israel broke the old covenant. God's people will be unable to break the new covenant. So you get the renewal of the people, the writing of the law on the heart, the forgiveness of sins, and an unbreakable covenant. That is the new covenant. 

The oracles that follow in Jeremiah 32 and 33 come to Jeremiah while he's imprisoned by Zedekiah during the siege of Nebuchadnezzar on Jerusalem in 586. These chapters further the hope of restoration after the terror of destruction and exile. Here, the new covenant is called an everlasting covenant. Remember, it's unbreakable. The following text summarizes the content of both chapters.So here's Jeremiah 32:37 to 34. "Everlasting covenant that I will not turn away from doing good to them and I will put the fear of me in their hearts that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and I will plant them in the land in faithfulness with all my heart with all my soul. For thus says the Lord, just as I have brought all this disaster upon them to uproot to tear down so I'll bring upon them all the good that I promised them to plant and to build." 

In chapter 33 this restoration includes the certain restoration of the Davidic kingship. So think about this, Jeremiah is in jail. Nebuchadnezzar is outside the wall moments away from destroying it and here Jeremiah is preaching the message of hope and restoration. Already in 33, this restoration includes the restoration of the Davidic kingship where in 33:15 to 17 it says this, "Just as the Davidic kingship is about to be destroyed in those days and at that time I will cause my righteous branch to spring up for David and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days, Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called, Yahweh is our righteousness. For thus says the Lord, David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel." 

So think about this message of hope right now that the whole theocratic kingdom of God, that God ruling over his people where he's present in his temple and his people are safe in his walls. It's going to go away and there's going to be none of that. But God is proclaiming in the midst of this that he will return and he will reign over them as their king and he'll be a Davidic king right on the evening of the destruction of the Davidic king. God reminds us that his promise is not void that a man will still sit on that throne for him. 

This is the book of Jeremiah. It's a book of Yahweh bringing to bear his covenant curses on his people because of his sinfulness but also consoling them in the book of consolation with the hope of a new covenant, a restored Zion, and the Davidic branch ruling on that throne.