Old Testament Survey - Lesson 23

Jeremiah - Doug Stuart

Jeremiah begins his ministry in 627 BCE. This is five years before the great revival under Josiah in 622 BCE. So Jeremiah spans the time from the Assyrian domination to the invasion of Judah by Babylon. Unlike other prophets who predicted a short exile, Jeremiah preached a long, though not unending exile. Because of this Jeremiah was not popular with the government establishment of Jerusalem.

Douglas Stuart
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 23
Watching Now
Jeremiah - Doug Stuart

The Last Days:  Jeremiah


I.  Orienting Data

A.  Long Career as a Prophet

B.  Emphases

1.  Prophet to the Nations

2.  God Causes the Babylonian Invasion

C.  Sub-themes

1.  Blessing / curse / blessing pattern

2.  The relationship of prophets and disciples

D.  Corrupt national leadership and its consequences

E.  Overview


II.  Prophets and Opposition

A.  From False Prophets

B.  From False Prophets

C.  From the Government

D.  From Priests

E.  From the People in General


III.  Prophetic Lament Form

A.  A Call to Mourning

B.  Direct Address to the Dead

C.  Eulogy

D.  Loss to the Survivors

  • The purpose of this overview of the Old Testament is to focus on the content of each of the Old Testament books, the historical events that give context to the books, and specific questions that help draw out the overarching principles contained in the Old Testament. There is also an emphasis on identifying ways to use this material that can help people in their daily lives.

  • Genesis narrates ten stories that describe origins or beginnings. These include the origin of the “heavens and earth,” and the origin of specific families that are significant in God’s dealings with Israel and the nations.

  • Themes from selected passages in Genesis about which there are interpretations that differ greatly. These include Genesis 2 regarding creation of women and their roles, Genesis 6 about the "Sons of God," and Genesis 9 about the "curse of Ham." Other themes are the story of Abraham, and God as a punisher of evil.

  • The three major themes in Exodus are Israel's deliverance from Egypt, establishment of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Other themes are how name repetition in a sentence is significant throughout Scripture, and how humility in the Jewish culture affects the actions and responses of many biblical characters. Exodus contains both apodictic and casuistic laws. There are also paradigmatic laws which are designed to give broad guidance for specific situations that arise. The first part of Exodus is mostly stories, and the second part is mostly a record of the laws which are the basis for how they interact with God and other people.

  • In this lesson, the concept of a covenant is defined as a legal binding agreement between two parties. In the ancient world there were many covenants. There were covenants between individuals, and even between nations. For example, a superior ruling king would make a covenant with a lesser vassal king. Covenants in the ancient near east contained the following six elements.

  • Does God punish the grandchildren for what the grandparents have done? Some people read these passages (Exodus 20:5, 34:7) and assume that they mean God punishes grandchildren based on their grandparents' sins. Unfortunately, they misinterpret these texts because they fail to understand the phenomena of numerical parallelisms. The Hebrew language favors parallelism, so that numbers which are close to other numbers will often be put in parallel to exhibit literary balance.
  • The historical books--Joshua, Judges, and Ruth--are essential reading for understanding how the bible views the progress of history. These books help us understand what the basic stages are in the progress of God’s relations with humanity. There is development, and progress in history we can refer to as epochs. This lecture provides an overview of redemptive history and a summary of the book of Joshua.

  • When discussing violence in the Old Testament it is important to discuss the concept of Holy War. This lesson does not suggest that Christians are soldiers first and nothing else since Christians are also called to be peacemakers. However, this lesson does put forward the idea that God is fighting a holy war. That is, God is seeking to promote blessing for all people by eliminating evil everywhere. The final enemy is death itself, and God is resolute on destroying evil and death. Holy war is a complex set of ideas that should be interpreted in light of the entire corpus of scripture.

  • In this lesson the extent of the conquest is discussed to frame the book of Judges. The orienting data for the book of Judges helps explain how the book recounts the decline of the people of Israel. Finally, the Dueteronomic cycle which recurs in the book is explained and helps frame Israel’s history up to the time of the exile.

  • After the division of the kingdom, 40 kings reigned during this period of the divided monarchy. Only three Kings reigned during the united monarchy—Saul, David, and Solomon. We might be able to assume the time period of the united monarch to be something like 120 years with each of the three kings reigning forty years. But the term “forty” in Hebrew means something like the English expression “several dozen.” That’s why we see the idiomatic expression “forty” so often in Hebrew literature.

  • David is a man after God’s own heart. How is this possible when he made so many moral mistakes? Being after God’s own heart does not mean David is morally upright, but that he has unwavering faith in the one true God of Israel. That is unique to David in these narratives. The narratives are clear that both Saul and Solomon conjoined belief in the God of Israel with the worship of other gods. David, however, is never portrayed as worshipping other gods or setting up altars to Idols.

  • In this lesson several key elements from the lives of Saul, David and Solomon are briefly reviewed. The rejection of Saul as King is explained. The rebellions against David are highlighted. And the disobedience of Solomon is described. Although these three kings are imperfect, God keeps the Kingdom of Israel unified throughout their successive reigns.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart provides an overview of the ten types of Psalms found in Scripture, a few suggestions regarding preaching through the Psalms, and addresses how we are to interact with the hystoricizing statements within the Psalms.

  • This lesson provides an overview of the structure of Proverbs, which seems to be the most secular book of the bible. Proverbs is a book of wise memorable sayings collected by Solomon. These sayings are collected from various individuals in Israel and the Ancient Near East and serve to provide wisdom for how to live in the world.

  • There is a chiastic structure to the book of Job that begins with the prologue and ends with the epilogue. In a chiasm, the middle portion is a convenient hinge of the book, it is not necessarily the most important piece of textual material. The main question the book is asking is, where do you find wisdom? The answer is, wisdom is found in the LORD. Proverbs is monological wisdom, whereas Job is dialogical wisdom. People are debating back and forth throughout the book about the nature of wisdom.

  • This lesson briefly describes existentialism as a philosophical movement in order to frame Ecclesiastes as an ancient type of existentialist literature. Existentialism tends to argue that this life is all there is. Ecclesiastes entertains these various perspectives in the first six chapters, which serve as a literary foil, before ending with a surprise for the reader—life does have meaning because there is a God who will judge our actions.

    There is a storyline to the Song. A clue is found in the term Shulamite, which in Hebrew can be translated as Mrs. Solomon. So this is a story about Solomon marrying his wife. It conveys some of the challenges Solomon and his wife face in coming together in covenant marriage. The beginning of the book outlines their engagement. In the middle of the book they get married, and the end discusses their honeymoon. What we see in the Song is the biblical ideal of a monogamous marriage, which, ironically, Solomon failed to live up to.

  • While it is difficult to preach through the prophets it can be done well if some basic views are taken regarding the prophetic books in general.

  • This lesson provide an overview concerning three contemporaries Prophets during the period of the divided monarchy at the end of the 8 th Century BCE.

  • The passage discusses a period of time when great materials are produced, including the Book of Isaiah. The rise of the Assyrian Empire becomes a significant concern, as they expand their territory across various regions. Tiglath-Pileser III, also known as Pul, leads the Assyrians into the domain of Israel, Palestine, and Syria. The expansion is driven by economic considerations, as kings seek wealth for grand projects through tribute, tax, and tolls. The cycle of conquering and resistance repeats itself, impacting the Israelites. The passage also highlights the importance of 2 Kings, focusing on Elijah and Elisha, Jehu’s massacre of Baal worshippers, the kings of Judah, the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, and the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.

  • Historical context is vital when one moves to reading the prophets. After Solomon’s death in 931 BCE, the kingdom of Israel undergoes an extended period of civil war as rivaling leaders take control of the northern and southern regions of the kingdom. Unfortunately, this split eventually becomes permanent. In the north the kings reigned for short periods and when compared with the southern kingdom of Judah this shows a tremendous amount of upheaval. This may have to do with the fact that the north is never ruled by a descendant of David. In addition, the north fails to worship at the Jerusalem temple, and decides instead to worship idols.

  • In this lesson an overview is provided for the prophetical books of Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum.

  • An overview of the revival under King Josiah, the fall of King Josiah, and the subsequent fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.

  • Jeremiah begins his ministry in 627 BCE. This is five years before the great revival under Josiah in 622 BCE. So Jeremiah spans the time from the Assyrian domination to the invasion of Judah by Babylon. Unlike other prophets who predicted a short exile, Jeremiah preached a long, though not unending exile. Because of this Jeremiah was not popular with the government establishment of Jerusalem.

  • Dr. Stuart provides an overview of Joel, Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah and how they each relate to end times and God’s eternal reign.

  • Lamentations is a massive, huge, compound, complex lament that seeks to help God’s people see God’s goodness in the midst of tragedy.

  • Dr. Stuart provides a brief overview of Ezekiel, his difficult message of impending judgment on Jerusalem and his uplifting message of the hope to come.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart describes the characteristics of apocalyptic literature and gives an overview of the books of Daniel. Esther, and the latter half of Isaiah.

  • An overview of the background to the post-exilic books including the necessity of the temple and the role of the Persian empire in it’s rebuilding.

  • An overview of Haggai and Zechariah, the beginning of the rebuilding of the temple, the encouragement of God’s people to put the things of God first, God’s sovereignty, the need to be faithful, the nature of God’s covenant, and God’s promises being fulfilled.

  • A look at the latter days, the closing of the prophetic cannon, and the books of Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

Did you know that the Old Testament contains more than 2/3 of the text of the Bible? Did you realize that the Old Testament timeline covers thousands of years of history and tells us the stories of people whose lives still affect world events today? Are you familiar with the Old Testament prophets that describe in detail the characteristics of the Messiah and the events that happen when he comes, hundreds of years before they take place? Have you ever read the Old Testament books of poetry and wisdom literature that contain inspirational and instructional passages that we still use today to inspire, comfort and inform our lives during life events, and are ubiquitous in both classic and contemporary literary works?

In Dr. Stuart’s Old Testament Survey class, he guides you through each of the Old Testament books by giving you the historical background, major themes and insight into the stories, characters and teaching of the book. In the historical books, you will become familiar with Old Testament Names like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph and David. In the Old Testament prophets, Dr. Stuart will introduce you to the lives and messages of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and others. When you study the Old Testament books of wisdom literature, Dr. Stuart will give you insights into the teachings, structure and creativity in Proverbs, Psalms and other books in the Writings.

From the description of Creation in Genesis, to the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, the Old Testament contains stories and teachings that can inform, inspire and transform your life. Dr. Stuart’s years of training and his skill in communicating, provides you with this opportunity to study and learn from one of the best. Now it’s up to you!

You may download a syllabus for the class including the Course Outline by clicking on the link in the Downloads section. We do not have access to the notes or the 130 exam questions that he mentions in the lectures. The Syllabus is from the SemLink class that was originally offered online through Gordon-Conwell Seminary so you can see the class outline and suggested readings. The links are not active. If you want to participate in the assignments and tests and earn credit, you may contact Gordon-Conwell Seminary to find out if they still offer this class.

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes. Note that they do not cover every lecture.

Recommended Books

Old Testament Survey: Genesis-Malachi - Student Guide

Old Testament Survey: Genesis-Malachi - Student Guide

Did you know that the Old Testament contains more than 2/3 of the text of the Bible? Did you realize that the Old Testament timeline covers thousands of years of history and...

Old Testament Survey: Genesis-Malachi - Student Guide

I. Orienting Data

We are looking at prophets who reflect, in part, the time period that we are dealing with and the Babylonian pressure and the difficulties that the Babylonians bring about. The first of these is Jeremiah.

A. Long Career as a Prophet

Jeremiah starts his ministry in 627 BC, five years before the great revival that Josiah brought about. It is not stated for us in 2 Kings, but there are lots of things are not stated. For example, the reason that Jehoiachin was so favored in exile by Evil Merodach the Babylonian king, although it probably is due to the influence of Daniel, but that is not stated because it is God who makes it happen and who He uses is a secondary issue. It is the fact that He made it happen. Likewise, God brought about the revival of Josiah.

He used Jeremiah and a number of other prophets to accomplish it, but he is the author of the revival. The role of Jeremiah is wonderful to observe and interesting and challenging to see. Here is an overview that relates to it.

Here is a prophet who prophesies for forty-two years, from 627 to 585 BC; that is a long career. He is spanning the time from the Assyrian domination, because the Assyrians were strong in 627 when he starts, to 585 when the Babylonians have destroyed Judah. He even ends up preaching to the exiles as they are heading down to Egypt. At the end of his career, Jeremiah witnessed a stupid thing that a number of Judeans tried to do: assassinate the Babylonian governor.

The Babylonians had appointed a guy name Gedaliah, the governor of Judah, because they made Judah just a district in their empire. A number of Jews thought, “Well, we will assassinate this guy and that will bring about a popular uprising and we will throw off the Babylonian yoke,” and so on. It was a crazy idea that failed completely; not the assassination but the uprising. Then they were all terrified and knew that the Babylonian troops would be coming very soon, so they decided to head for Egypt. Hundreds and hundreds of people in large groups headed down for Egypt. Jeremiah went after them basically saying, “Look, get your lives right with the Lord, keep His law, and keep His covenant. In the Lord there is hope for the future.” They basically answered, “No, we think we’ll try idolatry once again.”

The poor guy is at the end of his life, after all the faithfulness of his preaching, was once again rejected even after all his words came true. He predicted the exile and the Babylonian victory, but we see him fade out. By our knowledge, we cannot know how much longer he lived in Egypt, but we see the fade out of his ministry as the crowds of people keep asking, “Why should we?”

B. Emphases

1. Prophet to the Nations

Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations. This is a very big theme now. The great empires are changing. The Assyrian Empire will be taken over by the Babylonians during his calling. He predicts in three different places that the Babylonians will eventually come to their end; he predicts that there will be a seventy year period of Babylonian domination and then the Persians will come. He does not predict by name the Persians, but he predicts the fact that the Babylonian Empire will be swallowed up by yet another empire. We have this idea of many substantial, vast changes and all of these empires swallowing up little Judah.

So God calls Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. We have this call in Jeremiah 1:4-5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah says in a typical, formal protest that he is not unwilling to be a prophet but only that he do not have the ability. “I don’t know how to speak; I am only a child.” Of course he speaks this so he obviously knows how to speak. It is classic proof of the fact that it is a formal protest; it is a statement of unworthiness and then comes the reassurance.

“But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you to. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord. Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth.” So that is the experience he had. Presumably an angle actually did it, but that is how he words it. “Now I have put my words in your mouth. I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot, tear down, destroy, overthrow, build and plant.” Then comes various prophesies. In other words, Jeremiah understood from this calling that he would be explaining, predicting, and describing the vast, rapid changes among nations on behalf of the Lord. Nations come, nations go, empires come, empires go, and that is going to be the subject material that you will preach about a great deal. An awful lot of Jeremiah is about the vast, dramatic, political developments of his day and how God is behind them.

2. God Causes the Babylonian Invasion

God is causing the Babylonian invasion. He sent the Babylonians, it is His purpose, so do not fight the Babylonians. As you can imagine, this is not well-received in Judah. “What do you mean, don’t fight? They’re our enemy. They’re terrible to us, they’re cruel. They turned out to be as bad or worse than the Assyrians. Why wouldn’t we fight them, why would we just give in?” But he says, “No, you are supposed to give in because they are God’s agents of punishment for you, a covenant people who have not kept the covenant.” So Jeremiah is constantly in trouble for treason, he is hated by the government, and he is considered to be an underminer of the people’s confidence. He was a skillful and eloquent prophet, and when people listened to him all the fight went out of them. So naturally there is a lot of government persecution of this prophet and one reads about that in the stories about Jeremiah.

He also reassured the people that while this had to happen, it would not last forever. You are not going to just endlessly be under Babylonian domination, you are not going to endlessly have to live without hope, with no expectation of a good future, but rather, there will be positive times ahead. In chapter 29, he writes a long letter to people who are in exile. Some of these people were there in the exile of 598 and, in all likelihood, that is the main set of recipients, but it may also have been that there were some others there for whatever reason. Anyway, it is mainly people exiled in 598 along with Jehoiachin.

In verse 5, “Build houses, settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give you daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you will profit.” Then in verse 8, “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them.”

What were these prophets and deceivers prophesying? We have plenty of evidence from the text of Jeremiah of what they were doing. They were saying this will be a short exile. It was everywhere. You can see it also reflected in the Book of Ezekiel and other places. The word was, “Thus says the Lord. Thus says Yahweh, the Lord. You won’t be in exile long; I’ll bring you back to Judah, I’ll throw off the yoke of the Babylonians.” That is what was being preached in Judah; “These Babylonians will be out of here soon, don’t worry,” all kinds of positive predictions.

This people were claiming that they were speaking in the name of the Lord. They were claiming that God had given them these revelations and they were just repeating them to the crowd. People loved to hear that. “Well, if Yahweh says so, that is good.” Then you have poor Jeremiah saying, “Thus says the Lord, these other guys are not speaking for me.” It is a very difficult situation to be in. He says this in verse 10, “This is what the Lord says: ‘When the seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come back to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, I will bring you back for captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I had banished you and I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.’” It is going to happen. There is a great future. There is a wonderful hope ahead. But, it is going to be seventy years from now; a lifetime.

Imagine being fifty years old and hearing this and saying, “It is not going to be during my lifetime.” Imagine being anything but a little kid and having any expectation that maybe you would see that wonderful, glorious return back from oppressive Babylonian captivity again to the promise land. What he is saying is, “Hey, be encouraged, God has a wonderful plan, but for you who have just gone into exile with Jehoiachin, it will be your grandchildren. You guys settle down, stay there, because you’re in for the long haul. These Babylonians are not going away any time soon.” That is part of the message that he preached and that they had to understand.

C. This Sub-Themes

1. Blessing / curse / blessing pattern

He is hitting the fact that there will be a curse. It is a substantial curse they are entering upon, and they cannot assume that it will just be over in a matter of a few years. It is going to be a lifetime of terrible, oppressive disaster. The awful exile will last a “lifetime of seventy years” and people eventually took his seventy-year promise seriously. Eventually, they took it very seriously. If you count seventy years down from 586, you get 516 BC. 516 BC became a huge target date for the people of Judah, especially with regard to the completion of the second temple.

They eventually said, “You know, Jeremiah said seventy years. All his words were true.” This was a group able to see that Jeremiah was right at the end of the exile period; the immediate group did not see it, not in 586, but it sunk in more and more as some decades went by. People said, “If he said seventy years, he meant seventy years. He didn’t say sixty-eight, he didn’t say seventy-four, he said seventy. They took very seriously the fact that they had to get their act together by the end of year 70 or they might just be missing out on God’s favor. We will look further at how that translates itself into some of the statements made in Scripture and some of the actions of the post exilic community, how seriously that seventy-year period came about.

Blessing/curse/blessing and people want the restoration blessing to come in. it is a very serious thing to be told, “The curse is coming now and what you don’t want to do is to just say oh well, that’s fine, I’ll just wait for the blessing.” No, you get serious about trying to please God so that the blessing might come back because he does after all say, “You will seek me and find me when,” and it can also be translated if in verse 13, you can translate it if or when, “or if you seek me with all your heart.” In other words, there is a condition here. This is not just a “you do nothing and I will do everything.” This is “you show me repentance and I will take care of the rest.” We have the very same kind of message in the Christian Gospel when we say, “You do not have to do everything nor be something, you just have to be sorry for your sins and ask God to come into your life, and He will do it.” He does not leave you there and say, “That’s that, you’ve done enough.” No, immediately He expects progress. That certainly is true. He does not expect it before conversion, only after.

2. The relationship of prophets and disciples

The relationship of prophets and disciples. Let’s draw your attention to this: Jeremiah is our most detailed source for knowledge about the relationship of prophets and disciples. This is because of places like Jeremiah 36, but that is just one place. You can really see how Jeremiah interacts with his most prominent disciple, most prominent student and assistant, Baruch. But, I certainly want to put this in context for you and note that we see this in the relationship between Elijah and Elisha, and then Elisha and John the Baptist with their many disciples.

If you carefully look at all the Gospels, all four, they make it quite clear that Jesus took His first disciples from John. John had trained them, taught them what to expect, and recruited them. When John said, “There is the Lamb of God,” pointing to Christ, “I have to decrease and He will increase,” part of what he is doing is telling his disciples is this: “There is the guy that I prepared you for, it is time to move on to him.” So Jesus’ first disciples were originally John’s disciples.

With regard to Jeremiah and Baruch you see a focus on one particular disciple, which is something a little special. It individualizes the picture. In the other cases you do not see it as easily. The only other real parallel to that is Elijah and Elisha, which is useful to see, but it is nice to see Jeremiah with a disciple who is not necessarily himself a prophet. Baruch may have become a prophet later. There are some traditions that say he did, but they are only traditions. There is even pseudo epigraphic literature; that is literature purporting to be written by Baruch later toward New Testament times. That is not canonical, that is not Scripture, that is a type of literature that claims to be from somebody. Baruch may or may not have actually come about to be a prophet. He is more of what we would call a lay disciple. So you honestly see Jeremiah functioning something like a pastor to Baruch, which is very interesting to see.

One of the fascinating things to see is Jeremiah dictating his prophecies to Baruch. Something we always wonder about is how the prophetical books got preserved when Amos preached what he preached? How come we have those words? Who wrote them down? Did Amos write them down? Possibly. Did somebody else write them down? Possibly. Was somebody listening and coping them down as he said it, sort of taking shorthand? More likely the prophets memorized these speeches because they thought of themselves as God’s messengers. The assumption that any prophet would have said what he said only once and never repeat it seems unlikely. They probably were repeating it periodically to various crowds, maybe throughout a day, or week, or month, saying the same kind of thing.

At any rate, there is a story in Jeremiah about how King Jehoiachin is disgusted with what Jeremiah preaches and all the doom and gloom that Jeremiah gives forth and all of what the king regards as treasonous material. In chapter 36, we read about Jeremiah receiving the word of the Lord to write down the prophecies that he had previously preached. It says in Jeremiah 36:2, “Take a scroll, write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now. Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” In other words, you have been preaching all these years, put it together in a book, assemble all those sermons, and distribute it so people can read it, hear it, and the whole impact will teach them what I have been saying through you and they will get it. That is exactly what happens.

Jeremiah called Baruch and dictated the words to Baruch, his disciple scribe. Jeremiah was essentially on what we call house arrest so he could not go into the temple and had Baruch go into the temple and read the prophecies. Chances are, that is what happened lots of times. Many, many of these instances may have been repeated; this is the one that we know about. It may have been routine that you would go hear the reading of what a given prophet had preached. That is part of the way Scripture was built up and preserved. This scroll exists and people hear about it, verse 16, “We must report all these words to the king. Did Jeremiah dictate all this?” Baruch says, verse 18, “Yes, I wrote them in ink on the scroll.” “Well,” the officials say, “you and Jeremiah go hide, don’t let anyone know where you are.” They take the scroll and they bring it into the king in the courtyard and they tell the king. Then the king is sitting in a room with a fire in front of him, in a fire pot, the equivalent of a stove in those days, and this guy Jehudi reads from the scroll. Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns the king cut them off with a scribes knife and threw them into the fire pot until the entire scroll was burned. That is not a smart thing to do if the true and living God is the true and living God. Not smart at all to burn His word. But the king shows his contempt for Jeremiah and it says in verse 24, “The king and all his attendants who heard these words showed no fear and didn’t tear their clothes.” Some of them urged him not to burn it; he just burned it anyway. Verse 27, “After the king had burned the scroll, the Lord said to Jeremiah, ‘Take another scroll, write on it all the words that were on the first scroll and tell Jehoiachin,” the king who did this, “you burned the scroll and therefore all these punishments with happen to you and your family,” so the king is taken care of.

Then in verse 32, especially interesting, “Jeremiah took another scroll, gave it to Baruch, and Jeremiah dictated. Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiachin, king of Judah, had burned in the fire and many similar words were added to them.” Most interesting. So Jeremiah did repeat everything he had ever preached. He had it memorized; it was clear in his mind. He had probably preached it so often that he was like an actor who played Hamlet. A year later you do not say, “Gee was it 2B or was it 3B or not 3B.” No, you know what it says. He has it memorized and therefore to that he adds more. Not because he makes it up but because God gives him further revelations. This may be a glimpse into the way that a disciple was involved in the actual written production of Scripture. A lot of people have said, barring other evidence which we do not have a lot of, it makes sense to assume that most of the prophetical books are probably the written productions by disciples of prophets. They do not make up anything but are preserving. They write it down as it is dictated to them and preserve it. That is a reasonable possibility and one of the sub-themes of the book. Back to the main themes in terms of overview.

D. Corrupt national leadership and its consequences

That is really big, clear theme in the Book of Jeremiah. If the government will not lead righteously, the people will pretty naturally follow the misleading of the government and therefore, they will be in trouble. It is a simple breakdown of the book into four sections, really two big sections plus an appendix or two.

E. Overview

1. Prophecies against Judah and Jerusalem. In the first half roughly, these are mostly poems.

2. Then the more biographical material. Baruch could be the author of some of this biographical material. It is hard to know, but it would make perfect sense in light of his significant role in preserving material. It is not that the material in 26-45 is all biography. I do not mean it is just stories about Jeremiah. If you have read through the text, you know that is not what it is. Whatever material is there tends to be mixed in with stories about him. There is much more of a gathering of that type of thing. Things about Jeremiah and things that fit into that context of telling the story in the third person.

3. Then his many foreign nations oracles are collected together because he is a prophet to the nations and his foreign nations oracles are a very big part of what he preached.

4. Finally, the historical conclusion that reflects 2 Kings 24. What happened as described at the end of 2 Kings is appropriate for the readers of Jeremiah to appreciate.

II. Prophets and Opposition

Many prophets have to suffer opposition and Jeremiah happens to be one of our very best sources for appreciating this. But you see it also in Malachi, Haggai, Zechariah, Ezekiel and Isaiah. It is not at all that there is not a lot of opposition. I just listed here the four groups that gave prophets grief. I would like to say to you who are heading into ministry, do not think that you are not going to get plenty of grief. Any leader gets grief, any business, any organization, every politician is thrilled with a fifty-one percent approval rating. They know you live with opposition, you live with disapproval, you live with people hating your guts, and as long as it is only forty-nine percent you are thrilled. Politicians understand that. It is not that we are to have the cold hearts of politicians or to think of ourselves only in that way; I do not mean that at all. But you do need to understand that it has always been this way. The majority of people rejected Jesus Himself and wanted Him dead. It came to a point that they were happy to have Him dead, demanded that He be killed. Surely we cannot say, “Yeah, but I’m a Christian, I’m going into ministry, I have the Holy Spirit and I’m going to have a wonderful time. It is going to be all positive.” No, please, do not be that naive. That is not the way ministry works. Ministry is wonderful because God sustains you through it; not because all the people you deal with will accept every idea, every word, every proposal, every action. No, they will find things to complain about steadily. Get used to it now, it is coming. It does not mean there is no great joy. It is great satisfaction and great joy in any form of ministry or missions or whatever. However, do not be naive and say everybody has to like me because that is not going to happen. That is not the way it works.

A. From False Prophets

A bug problem for these prophets were false prophets. They had direct competition from other people who looked good.

1. Paul has the problem with false prophets; they are going all over the place and coming into his churches. These are skillful people, they are winsome, handsome, good at what they accomplish, and people just say, “They are so much more interesting than Paul. They are just so much better speakers. With Paul I feel like Eutychus; I fall asleep real easy.” Jeremiah and all the other true prophets have this same problem. The other prophets were clever, they were effective, they used better visual aides, and they had better crowds. The prophets often had musicians with them and the prophets often sang. This is something that we have not talked a lot about but I could prove it to you if I wanted to spend thirty minutes or so, as there is plenty of evidence for this in Scripture. Jeremiah may not have had a very good voice. It is very possible that he was called but actually was not that skillful. For example, Martin Luther. Luther’s sermons are so powerful and he had such great effect, but they said of him, “His voice really wasn’t that strong and his articulation wasn’t that good.” He was your average monk. They are not known for being brilliant public speakers. He was not good at what he did. He was always overcoming the weaknesses that he had to deal with. Plenty of his opponents were far more skillful. He just had to rely on the Lord to help him because his own natural talents were not the greatest. Some of that may have been the case with Jeremiah.

2. In Jeremiah 28 there is a wonderful story of his dealing with the false prophet Hananiah and all the problems. He ends up predicting Hananiah’s death which does come soon. Even then, people do not say, “Look, that guy predicted the death of Hananiah and therefore….,” No, because Hananiah was saying what they wanted to hear. Jeremiah was saying what they did not want to hear. He was saying, “You’re in for seventy years of horrible hardship.” That is not what people want to hear. Your message can be true and if it is not attractive they will manage to declare it false.

B. Opposition from government.

We saw a little of opposition from the government already. Looking at chapter 36 there was plenty of it, and these three chapters represent where we have a lot of that constant grief from the government. In many parts of the world today, this is what pastors’ experience; the government is their biggest problem. A lot of churches are technically illegal today and have great grief, so they understand this.

C. Opposition from Priests.

Many of the prophets found that the priests had a vested interest in a system. Remember, the priests got a cut of every animal, every loaf of bread, every jar of wine and oil that came into the temple. It was in the vested interest of the priests to be well-liked, to say those things that would bring people, bless them, and encourage them. If a priest says, “Wait a minute! That is not a fit animal for sacrifice. Who are you to bring that in here?” That priest is not going to have the person say, “I’m terribly sorry, take the whole animal.” No, the person is saying, “I’m out of here.” They just would not worship. That leaves the priest hungry. That is no fun to make yourself hungry by enforcing the law of God. You can see the priest had the terrible challenge.

When Jeremiah comes along and preaches righteous and keeping of the covenant, strict fidelity to it, they do not like him. He is part of the threat to their comfort, to their system that works, to the things that make them happy and so on. This is also a difficult challenge today.

I try to relate these things to you as seminarians because it may be that you will hear this lots, but you will not hear how many ways the Scripture itself is encouraging to you as pastors. It is there for everybody, so also for you as pastors. Sometimes with these prophets it is particularly useful to see it, as you may experience the same kind of thing. You may find that other clergy in your community will be very comfortable with a certain way of operating, and your preaching the Gospel may rub them the wrong way. I cannot imagine that many of you will not find that to be difficult. You will want to be their friend. You are not out to hurt them or be mean to them but they will not like it. It will not be a comfortable thing. You may also find that members of your own congregation will say, “Why can’t you be a little more like those people? Why do you have to stir things up so much? These alter calls are embarrassing or whatever.” It is a very delicate matter and some of the sort of thing that Jeremiah got from “other clergy” in this case priests. Perfectly legitimate clergy; there is nothing illegal about them, but what they are doing is wrong. You may find that you will appreciate these passages as time goes by because they really will contain things analogous to what you will experience.

D. Then from people in general.

Jeremiah was sadly unpopular because it was popular to practice idolatry, it was popular to think in terms of the Babylonians being gotten rid of and to have false hope, and the kinds of things he preached and demanded were not well-received. It was a hard situation for him. Here is a guy with an almost forty-two year ministry and his one sure ally is the Lord Himself. That is the way it ought to be. Make sure you are absolutely right with the Lord because you will need that encouragement. So often the discouragements of rejection will come. By the way, some of these discouragements in ministry are just well-intentioned.

People are not trying to be mean to you, but they will say things like, “Couldn’t you say less about the blood of Christ or the death of Christ, those are uncomfortable concepts for us.” I predict you will have people say things like that to you. It has been said so many times to me that I cannot imagine that they would not say it to you too. I do not think of myself as constantly preaching about death and blood but to them I am. Other people will say to you things like, “You know, if we could get the service down to forty-five minutes I think it would be far more effective.” They will and they are perfectly well-intentioned. They would like more people to come in, it is not cruel and unkind. Their suggestion is that “We have a little more singing and a little less preaching. I think that would do a lot for our church.” Some of it is saying that you are not as entertaining a preacher as they would like. It may be true; you may not be all that gifted and brilliant. It can hurt. It is hard to say to them, “No, you need more of me, not less of me.” So I encourage you to see Jeremiah, watch him operate, and see that the answer for all your problems is that you need to get yours kicks out of pleasing God. He is your audience. Everything else will go. Do you try to ignore people? No. Do you try to make them unhappy? No, of course not, but you are doomed to failure if you try to please everybody. If you try to please God you are doomed to success, you are slated for success.

III. Prophetic Lament Form

In Jeremiah and a number of other Prophets we observe something we call the Prophetic Lament Form. This is a literary form. This is a style of doing something and Jeremiah has a couple of dozen of these, Ezekiel has a whole bunch, and many, many others have them. Remember the Psalms where we had the lament psalms; this is not the same. That was a psalm you pray when you are in distress. This is a lament that may also be called a funerary lament. This is a form that follows the style in the ancient world of lamenting the death of someone. This is the kind of thing you say and do and even sing, because they were singers who sang funerary laments. We know this form from its clearest, easiest to follow example in 2 Samuel chapter 1 where David sings a lament over Saul and Jonathan. There are four elements you observe these.

A. A call to mourning

Everybody ought to mourn. It is a terrible thing, come and let’s mourn together. The community mourns. That is what every funeral is. People gather and they are all there to thank God for the life of someone but also to mourn. This is not just a fun time it is a time properly of solemnity and seriousness about what has happened.

B. Direct Address to the Dead

An element that we do not normally have in our culture is direct address to the dead. You will see David talking in his lament to Saul and to Jonathan. Saul you were this—Jonathan you were that.

C. Eulogy

Eulogy means good words. You always talk about the great accomplishments of those who passed on before.

D. Loss to the Survivors

You also talk about the extent of the loss to the survivors; what a big impact the passing of this individual means. What you need to appreciate is this: they do not only use these to lament Israel’s spiritual demise. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and several other prophets have lots of these, and many of the prophets have these. That is one way they use these laments. They say, “I’m at the funeral of Israel. Israel, you were a wonderful nation but you have really gone down the drain.” That is one way they use it. They also use it as a mocking for ironic funeral dirge, so sometimes it is called the mocking dirge. That is a term that you will find in the literature because dirge is an old English word for a funerary lament. They will say it to the Babylonians. They will pretend that they are at the funeral of the Babylonians or the funeral of Babylon and talk about the destruction that will come. Here is one Jeremiah does about Moab in chapter 48: “Woe to Nebo for it will be ruined,” that is one of the places in Moab, “Kiriathaim will be disgraced and captured; the stronghold will be disgraced,” he is using woe language, the language of death, “Moab praised no more; in Heshbon men will plot her downfall…. You too, madmen will be silenced….Moab will be broken…They go this way and that…” Then verse 6, direct address, “Run, flee for your lives; become like a bush in the desert. You trust in your deeds and riches you too will be taken captive…” If you go through, you can see descriptions that fit these categories so they can be given in an ironic or mocking fashion of Israel’s enemies just as they are given in a truly tragic and sad and heartfelt fashion over Israel itself. Bear this in mind because as you become more familiar with prophetic literature you will see just dozens of these examples of the funerary lament.