JEREMIAH (jĕr'ĕ-mī'a, Heb. yirmeyâhû, Jehovah founds, or perhaps, exalts), in KJV of NT “Jeremy” and “Jeremias” (
I. The Life of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was one of the greatest Hebrew prophets. He was born into a priestly family of Anathoth, a Benjamite town two and one-half miles (four km.) NE of Jerusalem. His father was Hilkiah (
Jeremiah was called to prophesy in the thirteenth year of King Josiah (626 b.c.), five years after the great revival of religion described in
Jeremiah’s call is described in
Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim, succeeded him to the throne. Jeremiah called this king Coniah and Jeconiah (
In Jehoiachin’s place Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah, who maintained a precarious position on the throne for eleven years. Although a weak character, he protected Jeremiah and asked his advice, which he was never able to carry out. Jeremiah advised submission to Babylon, but, goaded by the nobles, Zedekiah rebelled and made an alliance with Egypt. Finally the Babylonians came again, determined to stamp out the rebellious Judean state. A long siege resulted, in which Jeremiah suffered greatly. He was accused of treason and thrown into a vile prison from which the king transferred him to the more pleasant court of the guard (
After a siege of a year and a half, Jerusalem was destroyed. Zedekiah was blinded and carried in chains to Babylon. For the events in Judah after the destruction of Jerusalem we are dependent almost exclusively on
This message, coming to people whose desperate nationalism was all they had to cling to, was completely rejected, and the bearer was rejected with his message. Jeremiah was regarded as a meddler and a traitor; and leaders, nobles, and kings tried to put him to death. Although he needed the love, sympathy, and encouragement of a wife, he was not permitted to marry; and in this prohibition he became a sign that normal life was soon to cease for Jerusalem (
III. Jeremiah’s Confessions.
Jeremiah’s penetrating understanding of the religious condition of his people is seen in his emphasis on the inner spiritual character of true religion. The external theocratic state will go, as will the temple and its ritual. Even Josiah’s reform appears to have been a thing of the outward appearance—almost engineered by the king, an upsurge of nationalism more than a religious revival (
IV. The Foe From the North. Throughout, Jeremiah’s sermons refer to a foe from the north who would devastate Judah and take her captive.
IV. Other Jeremiahs. Six other Jeremiahs are briefly mentioned in the OT: a Benjamite and two Gadites who joined David at Ziklag (
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(a) yirmeyahu, or
(b) shorter form, yirmeyah, both differently explained as "Yah establishes (so Giesebrecht), whom Yahweh casts," i.e. possibly, as Gesenius suggests, "appoints" (A. B. Davidson in HDB, II, 569a), and "Yahweh looseneth" (the womb); see BDB:
(1) The prophet. See special article. Of the following, (2), (3) and (4) have form (a) above; the others the form (b).
(2) Father of Hamutal (Hamital), the mother of King Jehoahaz and King Jehoiakim (
(3) A Rechabite (
(7) Head of a Manassite family (
(8) A priest who sealed the covenant with Nehemiah (
(9) A priest who went to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel from exile and became head of a priestly family of that name (
1. Name and Person
2. Life of Jeremiah
3. The Personal Character of Jeremiah
4. The Prophecies of Jeremiah
6. Authenticity and Integrity of the Book
7. Relation to the Septuagint (Septuagint)
1. Name and Person:
The name of one of the greatest prophets of Israel. The Hebrew yirmeyahu, abbreviated to yirmeyah, signifies either "Yahweh hurls" or "Yahweh founds." Septuagint reads Iermias, and the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) Jeremias. As this name also occurs not infrequently, the prophet is called "the son of Hilkiah" (
2. Life of Jeremiah:
Jeremiah was called by the Lord to the office of a prophet while still a youth (1:6) about 20 years of age, in the 13th year of King Josiah (1:2; 25:3), in the year 627 BC, and was active in this capacity from this time on to the destruction of Jerusalem, 586 BC, under kings Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. Even after the fall of the capital city he prophesied in Egypt at least for several years, so that his work extended over a period of about 50 years in all. At first he probably lived in Anathoth, and put in his appearance publicly in Jerusalem only on the occasion of the great festivals; later he lived in Jerusalem, and was there during the terrible times of the siege and the destruction of the city.
Although King Josiah was God-fearing and willing to serve Yahweh, and soon inaugurated his reformation according to the law of Yahweh (in the 18th year of his reign), yet Jeremiah, at the time when he was called to the prophetic office, was not left in doubt of the fact that the catastrophe of the judgment of God over the city would soon come (1:11 ff); and when, after a few years, the Book of the Law was found in the temple (2Ki 22 and 23), Jeremiah preached "the words of this covenant" to the people in the town and throughout the land (11:1-8; 17:19-27), and exhorted to obedience to the Divine command; but in doing this then and afterward he became the object of much hostility, especially in his native city, Anathoth. Even his own brethren or near relatives entered into a conspiracy against him by declaring that he was a dangerous fanatic (12:6). However, the condition of Jeremiah under this pious king was the most happy in his career, and he lamented the latter’s untimely death in sad lyrics, which the author of Chronicles was able to use (
Much more unfavorable was the prophet’s condition after the death of Josiah. Jehoahaz-Shallum, who ruled only 3 months, received the announcement of his sentence from Jeremiah (22:10 ff). Jehoiakim (609-598 BC) in turn favored the heathen worship, and oppressed the people through his love of luxury and by the erection of grand structures (
Jehoiachin or Coniah (
After the capture of the city, Jeremiah was treated with great consideration by the Babylonians, who knew that he had spoken in favor of their government (39:11 ff; 40:1 ff). They gave him the choice of going to Babylon or of remaining in his native lan d. He decided for the latter, and went to the governor Gedaliah, at Mizpah, a man worthy of all confidence. But when this man, after a short time, was murdered by conscienceless opponents, the Jews who had been left in Palestine, becoming alarmed and fearing the vengeance of the Chaldeans, determined to emigrate to Egypt. Jeremiah advised against this most earnestly, and threatened the vengeance of Yahweh, if the people should insist upon their undertaking (42:1 ff). But they insisted and even compelled the aged prophet to go with them (43:1 ff). Their first goal was Tahpanhes (Daphne), a town in Lower Egypt. At this place he still continued to preach the word of God to his fellow-Israelites; compare the latest of his preserved discourses in 43:8-13, as also the sermon in
3. The Personal Character of Jeremiah:
The Book of Jeremiah gives us not only a fuller account of the life and career of its author than do the books of the other prophets, but we also learn more about his own inner and personal life and feelings than we do of Isaiah or any other prophet. From this source we learn that he was, by nature, gentle and tender in his feelings, and sympathetic. A decided contrast to this is found in the hard and unmerciful judgment which it was his mission to announce. God made him strong and firm and immovable like iron for his mission (1:18; 15:20). This contrast between his naturally warm personal feelings and his strict Divine mission not rarely appears in the heart-utterances found in his prophecies. At first he rejoiced when God spoke to him (15:16); but soon these words of God were to his heart a source of pain and of suffering (15:17 ff). He would have preferred not to utter them; and then they burned in his breast as a fire (20:7 ff; 23:9). He personally stood in need of love, and yet was not permitted to marry (16:1 f). He was compelled to forego the pleasures of youth (15:17). He loved his people as nobody else, and yet was always compelled to prophesy evil for it, and seemed to be the enemy of his nation. This often caused him to despair. The enmity to which he fell a victim, on account of his declaration of nothing but the truth, he deeply felt; see his complaints (9:1 ff; 12:5 f; 15:10; 17:14-18; 18:23, and often). In this sad antagonism between his heart and the commands of the Lord, he would perhaps wish that God had not spoken to him; he even cursed the day of his birth (15:10; 20:14-18; compare
4. The Prophecies of Jeremiah:
What Jeremiah was to preach was the judgment upon Judah. As the reason for this judgment Jeremiah everywhere mentioned the apostasy from Yahweh, the idolatry, which was practiced on bamoth, or the "high places" by Judah, as this had been done by Israel. Many heathenish abuses had found their way into the life of the people. Outspoken heathenism had been introduced by such men as King Manasseh, even the sacrifice of children to the honor of Baal-Molech in the valley of Hinnom (7:31; 19:5; 32:35), and the worship of "the queen of heaven" (7:18; 44:19). It is true that the reformation of Josiah swept away the worst of these abominations. But an inner return to Yahweh did not result from this reformation. For the reason that the improvement had been more on the surface and outward, and was done to please the king, Jeremiah charges up to his people all their previous sins, and the guilt of the present generation was yet added to this (16:11 f). Together with religious insincerity went the moral corruption of the people, such as dishonesty, injustice, oppression of the helpless, slander, and the like. Compare the accusations found in 5:1 ff,7 f,26 ff; 6:7,13; 7:5 f,9; 9:2,6,8; 17:9 ff; 21:12; 22:13 ff; 23:10; 29:23, etc. Especially to the spiritual leaders, the priests and prophets, are these things charged up.
The judgment which is to come in the near future, as a punishment for the sins of the people, is from the outset declared to be the conquest of the country through an enemy from abroad. In this way the heated caldron with the face from the North, in the vision containing the call of the prophet (
In contrast to optimistic prophets, who had hoped to remedy matters in Israel (
What characterizes this prophet is the spiritual inwardness of his religion; the external theocracy he delivers up to destruction, because its forms were not animated by God-fearing sentiments. External circumcision is of no value without inner purity of heart. The external temple will be destroyed, because it has become the hiding-place of sinners. External sacrifices have no value, because those who offer them are lacking in spirituality, and this is displeasing to God. The law is abused and misinterpreted (
As far as the form of his prophetic utterances is concerned, Jeremiah is of a poetical nature; but he was not only a poet. He often speaks in the meter of an elegy; but he is not bound by this, and readily passes over into other forms of rhythms and also at times into prosaic speech, when the contents of his discourses require it. The somewhat monotonous and elegiac tone, which is in harmony with his sad message to the people, gives way to more lively and varied forms of expression, when the prophet speaks of other and foreign nations. In doing this he often makes use of the utterances of earlier prophets.
5. The Book of Jeremiah:
The first composition of the book is reported in
It is a question whether these pieces, which are more narrative in character, and which are the product of a contemporary, probably Baruch, at one time constituted a book by themselves, out of which they were later taken and incorporated in the book of the prophet, or whether they were inserted by Baruch. In favor of the first view, it may be urged that they are not always found at their proper places chronologically; e.g. Jer 26 is a part of the temple discourse in
6. Authenticity and Integrity of the Book:
7. Relation to the Septuagint (Septuagint):
A special problem is furnished by the relation of the text of Jeremiah to the Alexandrian version of the Seventy (Septuagint). Not only does the Hebrew form of the book differ from the Greek materially, much more than this is the case in other books of the Old Testament, but the arrangement, too, is a different one. The oracle concerning the heathen nations (Jer 46-51) is in the Septuagint found in the middle of Jer 25, and that, too, in an altogether different order (namely, 49:35 ff,46; 50; 51; 47:1-7; 49:7-22; 49:1-5,28-33,13-27; 48). In addition, the readings throughout the book in many cases are divergent, the text in the Septuagint being in general shorter and more compact. The Greek text has about 2,700 Hebrew words less than the authentic Hebrew text, and is thus about one-eighth shorter.
As far as the insertion of the addresses against the heathen nations in
Calvin, Praelectiones in Librum Prophetiae Jer et Thren, Geneva, 1653; Sebastian Schmidt, Commentarii in libr. prophet. Jeremiah, Argent, 1685. Modern commentary by Hitzig, Ewald, Graf, Nagelsbach, Keil; also Cheyne (Pulpit Comm.), Peake, Duhm, and von Orelli.
JEREMIAH (the prophet) jĕr’ ə mī ə (יִרְמְיָ֖הוּ, LXX ̓Ιερεμίας, G2635, Jeremias, meaning Yahweh establishes). Jeremiah was a prophet in the southern kingdom (Judah) during the last forty years of its existence (627-586 b.c.). He lived through the period of the disintegration of the kingdom, witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and spent the remaining years of his life in Egypt. The book bearing his name offers the content of his messages as well as extensive information about the prophet during OT times.
Chronology for Jeremian times (686 B.C.-586 B.C.).
686—Manasseh assumed sole kingship
648—Birth of Josiah
642—Amon succeeded Manasseh as king
640—Josiah succeeded Amon
633—Josiah sought after God (
Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria died
Cyaxares became king of Media
628—Josiah began reforms
627—Jeremiah called to be a prophet
626—Nabopolassar became king of Babylonia
621—book of the law found in the Temple
609—Josiah slain at Megiddo
Jehoahaz ruled three months
Jehoiakim enthroned in Jerusalem
605—Babylonians defeated Egyptians at Carchemish
Daniel, other hostages, and vessels taken to Babylon (
Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon
604—Nebuchadnezzar returned to Pal. to receive tribute
601—Nebuchadnezzar defeated near Egypt
598—Jehoiakim’s reign ended
Jehoiachin ruled from 9 Dec 598 to 16 March 597 and deported 22 April 597.
597—Zedekiah began as king in Judah
588—Siege of Jerusalem began on January 15
587—Jeremiah imprisoned (
586—July 18, Zedekiah fled (
Oct. 7, Gedaliah slain and Jews migrated to Egypt.
Political and religious conditions.
About the mid-7th cent., when Jeremiah was born, the kingdom of Judah was at a very low point religiously as well as politically. Following the era of Hezekiah’s extensive religious reformation and successful resistance of Assyrian aggression, Judah was plunged into ominous reverses when Manasseh became sole ruler after Hezekiah’s death in 686 b.c.
Religiously, Manasseh plunged Judah into gross idolatry similar to that which had prevailed in the northern kingdom under Ahab and Jezebel. Altars to Baal were erected, and asherim were built. Moloch, the Ammonite deity, was acknowledged by the sacrificing of children in the Hinnom valley near Jerusalem. Worship of stars and planets was instituted. Official approval was given to astrology, divination, and occultism. The Temple itself was desecrated with graven images of Asherah, the wife of Baal. God was openly deified at altars in the court of the Temple where the host of heaven was worshiped (cf.
Innocent blood was shed under the rule of Manasseh. It is likely many prophets and pious leaders who raised their voices in protest were silenced by death (
In the course of these developments throughout the Fertile Crescent the little kingdom of Judah had three decades of relative freedom, c. 640-610 b.c. When Manasseh died in 642 b.c. he was succeeded by Amon, who was slain by his servants after a two-year reign. This left the throne to eight-year-old Josiah. As he grew to manhood and assumed leadership Josiah had the opportunity to develop religious and political policies without interference from the surrounding nations, esp. Assyria, which had exerted a continual influence upon Judah for over a cent.
Josiah reacted against the apostate conditions that had prevailed under his predecessors. At the age of sixteen, or about 632 b.c., he began to seek after God, turning away from the idolatry that surrounded him. In 621 b.c. while the Temple was being repaired the “Book of the Law” was found. Greatly concerned, Josiah sponsored an observance of the Passover that was unsurpassed in the history of Judah. Drastic measures were taken to rid the land of idolatry. Pagan practices were abolished, asherim were demolished, chambers of cult prostitution were renovated, horses dedicated to the sun and chariots in the Temple entrance were destroyed by fire. Manasseh’s altars were destroyed and high places remaining from the Solomonic times were demolished and desecrated with dead man’s bones.
Priests appointed by former kings but committed to idolatry were removed from office. This terminated the burning of incense to Baal, the sun, moon, and stars. Josiah, however, made material provision for the support of these men who could no longer serve as priests.
The political leaders associated with Josiah may have had aspirations of gaining control of the area that formerly constituted the northern kingdom to re-establish the Solomonic kingdom boundaries. How far these hopes were realized is not delineated in the scriptural accounts, but the religious reformation did extend into the northern tribes. People from numerous cities responded to invitations extended by Josiah and joined in the festivities in Jerusalem as well as the reformation program throughout the land.
The era of religious and political optimism was suddenly terminated in 609 b.c. when Josiah was fatally wounded in his attempt to stop Necho of Egypt at Megiddo. After three months, Necho returned from his military expedition to the Euphrates where he temporarily stopped the Babylonians and took Jehoahaz captive, enthroning Jehoiakim in Jerusalem as king of Judah. Since Josiah as king had prompted the religious reformation, it is likely that many leaders in Judah supported him primarily for the sake of expediency. Under Jehoiakim the Godfearing people and prophets such as Jeremiah faced opposition repeatedly and even martyrdom.
Politically, the fortunes of Judah waned rapidly. In 605 b.c. the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish so that they withdrew to the borders of Egypt. Babylonian domination of Pal. included Judah so that in 605 b.c. Jehoiakim yielded tribute and royal hostages, among whom was Daniel, to Nebuchadnezzar. In 601 b.c. the Babylonian advance was temporarily stopped on the borders of Egypt, which may have encouraged Jehoiakim to resist the Babylonians in 598 b.c. Before the latter came to Jerusalem, Jehoiakim likely was killed and was succeeded on the throne by his son Jehoiachin for only three months. The Babylonian armies arrived in Jerusalem by the spring of 597 b.c., taking the king with at least ten thousand captives to Babylonian exile. Zedekiah, another son of Josiah, was left to rule in Jerusalem, but his rebellion ultimately resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586. This represented the most extensive and severe judgment upon the nation of Israel in OT times. With the people in exile, the Israelites were regarded as a byword among the nations from the human perspective.
Biography of Jeremiah
Jeremiah was born into the priestly family of Hilkiah, who is not to be confused with Hilkiah the high priest in Jerusalem associated with the discovery of the law in the Temple (
The birth of Jeremiah, c. 652-648 b.c., may not have attracted as much attention as the birth of Josiah in the royal family. Living only about two and a half m. from Jerusalem, Jeremiah may have followed with keen interest the coronation and reign of Josiah, who grew to young manhood about the same time.
During Josiah’s reign.
Jeremiah was called to the prophetic ministry in 627 b.c. when he was approximately twenty years of age. Although the account of his call is brief, Jeremiah was divinely informed that he had been created, sanctified, and ordained to be a prophet. His ministry was not to be limited to his own people, but he was commissioned to be a prophet to the nations. Explicit was God’s message to Jeremiah that he was to be a spokesman who would convey God’s message. In addition to being specifically created and equipped as God’s messenger, Jeremiah was also assured of divine deliverance.
As a representative of God, Jeremiah was assured that he would not lose face. The fulfillment of his message was as certain as the annual budding of the almond tree that was the harbinger of spring in Pal. That this message contained divine judgment upon Jerusalem and that the invader of Judah would come from the N was also explicitly made plain to Jeremiah in his call in
In his call to service Jeremiah was also prepared for the fact that he would need to withstand much opposition. He was warned that the kings of Judah, the princes, the priests, and the common people would be against him as the Lord’s messenger. Not only was he promised divine protection, but he was assured that God would make him like a fortified city to stand successfully against them. This divine assurance must have taken on realistic significance during the period from 609-586 b.c., when he was subjected to persecution and suffering as others were martyred or exiled.
The relationship between Jeremiah and King Josiah is almost passed over in silence in the scriptural accounts. The only mention of Jeremiah in the accounts of the books of Kings and Chronicles is the fact that Jeremiah lamented the death of Josiah (
Since Jeremiah and Josiah were both Godfearing men and genuinely concerned with the reformation of idolatrous Judah, it is generally recognized that these two leaders must have worked in close harmony. The major part of
Jeremiah’s preaching undoubtedly aided Josiah in his reform program. Under the leadership of this young king, optimism may have prevailed politically as well as religiously. Nationally and internationally, conditions seemed to be favorable, so that both Josiah and Jeremiah may have enjoyed popular support with a minimum of opposition to their efforts. The fall of Nineveh in 612 b.c. may have intensified the hopes for the kingdom of Judah.
Under Jehoiakim’s rule.
For Jeremiah, the sudden and unexpected death of Josiah in 609 b.c. must have been one of the crucial periods in his entire ministry. Jeremiah lamented the king’s death. The tenuous three month’s reign of Jehoahaz ended with his captivity in Egypt. Jehoiakim, enthroned by King Necho of Egypt, was not favorably disposed toward Jeremiah nor his message. After this crisis, the disintegration of the kingdom of Judah took its course as the political and religious optimism faded away, leading to the termination of the kingdom of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 b.c.
Not too long after Josiah’s death, Jeremiah may have delivered his message against the wicked leadership exhibited by the kings of Judah (
Numerous experiences of Jeremiah that occurred are identified in his book. In the beginning of his reign when he delivered the “Temple message,” the public opposition led by the priests and prophets developed to the point of threatening Jeremiah’s life. Through the influence of Ahikam and some of the elders Jeremiah’s life was saved. Their defense brief for the prophet was the historic precedent in the days of Hezekiah, when Micah also had announced the destruction of Jerusalem but was not executed by the king. The attitude of Jehoiakim and the military leaders was apparent in the execution of the prophet Uriah, who proclaimed the same message of judgment that was given by Jeremiah. Under the godless rule of Jehoiakim it became increasingly difficult for Jeremiah to continue an effective ministry. In all likelihood, many of the religious leaders who had before cooperated with Josiah for the sake of expediency openly took issue with Jeremiah and influenced the populace to ignore God’s message of warning and reverted to idolatry.
The fourth year of Jehoiakim was a crucial and eventful year in the ministry of Jeremiah. This was the year in which Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians in the Battle of Carchemish in June, 605 b.c. By September Nebuchadnezzar was enthroned as the king of Babylonia. During these crucial months the Babylonians exacted royal hostages from Jerusalem as a token of Jehoiakim’s subservience to Nebuchadnezzar. During this fourth year of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah reminded the citizens and leaders of Israel that he had warned them for twenty-three years. Since they had not responded to God’s message, the kingdom of Judah as well as the surrounding nations would be devastated by the Babylonians (
During this crucial year Jeremiah was also instructed to provide a written record of his messages. The purpose was to make available a copy for the people to read with the hope that the citizens of Judah would be informed about God’s plan and given the opportunity to repent. Baruch served as Jeremiah’s secretary (
During the fifth year of Jehoiakim, when Baruch was reading publicly from Jeremiah’s scroll, some of the political leaders who heard Jeremiah’s message advised Baruch and Jeremiah to hide while they made known to the king the content of the message (
Once more Jeremiah was divinely commissioned to replace the scroll that the king had destroyed. Among the additional messages of Jeremiah was the specific prediction that Babylonian occupation was certain and that Jehoiakim’s body would be exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night (36:27-32). The reference to frost indicated the time of year when the king’s death would occur. War conditions would be such that this king, who had defied God’s message by burning the prophet’s scroll, would not be given a royal burial. Little seems to be known about the remaining years of Jeremiah’s ministry under Jehoiakim.
During Zedekiah’s reign.
Jeremiah apparently was less restricted in his ministry after the second Babylonian captivity, 597 b.c. Jehoiakim’s policy and the Babylonian advance resulted in Jehoiakim’s death in 598 b.c. When Jehoiachin (after a three-month reign) and 10,000 Jews were exiled, Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem and continued his ministry to the poorer class of people who were left under the rule of Zedekiah.
Soon after his deportation, Jeremiah proclaimed a message concerning good and bad figs (
To the exiles in Babylon, Jeremiah wrote letters advising them to be submissive, and warned them not to listen to the false prophets who predicted a speedy return to Jerusalem (
In 593 b.c. Jeremiah addressed a group of ambassadors from surrounding nations who were gathered in Jerusalem. He urged them to be submissive to Babylon, illustrating the power of Babylon by a wooden yoke about his neck (
In spite of the fact that Jeremiah continually advised submission to Babylon, Zedekiah concurred with the pro-Egyp. leaders in rebelling against the Babylonians (
During the serious conditions of the siege, Zedekiah secured the cooperation of the people to make a covenant to emancipate the slaves (
While the siege was temporarily lifted, Jeremiah was arrested, beaten, and imprisoned (37:11-
Last days in Egypt.
Jeremiah lived through the destruction of Jerusalem, which began on 14 August 586 b.c. (
At Tahpanhes in Egypt Jeremiah warned his people in a symbolic message that God would send Nebuchadnezzar into Egypt to execute judgment (
Judah had become a curse and a taunt among the nations because she had provoked God to anger. The people however were not moved by Jeremiah’s message and warning even in Egypt after they had seen all these developments take place. They claimed that this evil had come upon them because they ceased to worship the queen of heaven. Very likely Jeremiah died in Egypt among a people who still were not willing to repent.
The Book of Jeremiah
Authorship and text.
Although more is known about Jeremiah and the circumstances concerning the writing of the book bearing his name than about the other books of the OT, numerous questions about its composition remain. It was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, 605 b.c., that Jeremiah was specifically instructed to commit his messages to writing (
Once more Jeremiah was instructed to write down what had been consumed in the fire. Again it was Baruch who served as scribe. How much the concluding notation “and many similar words were added to them” (
The MT and the LXX texts of the Book of Jeremiah vary in length and arrangement. The latter is about one-eighth or approximately 2,700 words shorter than the Heb. text. Among the Judean scrolls there are some fragments which attest the shorter text, which may have been the vorlage of the Gr. VS (cf. Eissfeldt, p. 349). Some fragments among these scrolls reflect the longer Heb. text.
The Gr. text has the following order as related to the Heb. order, which is also commonly used in English Bibles:
Two variations are apparent in this rearrangement. The prophecies concerning foreign nations given in
That Baruch was primarily responsible for writing (recording) Jeremiah’s messages is clearly evident in the book itself. After the burning of the first scroll by Jehoiakim in 604 b.c., a second ed. was again prepared by Baruch. During the next two decades or more that remained of Jeremiah’s ministry, Baruch undoubtedly added more messages and recorded the events associated with his master in Jersualem as well as later in Egypt.
One possible explanation of the variance in the two texts is that the Heb. text represents the final ed. of this book by Baruch after Jeremiah’s death. In this would be reflected Baruch’s arrangement and additions. The shorter text—which was subsequently preserved in the Gr. VS—may have been an earlier ed. that Baruch later rearranged and edited (cf. Archer, Eissfeldt, and Young).
A number of rationalistic scholars deny considerable portions of the Book of Jeremiah both to the prophet himself as well as to Baruch. Beyond that, some consider the present text to reflect numerous editorial additions subsequent to Jeremian times. The ascription of
Since positive evidence is lacking to the contrary, it is reasonable to ascribe to Baruch the entire book in its written form. Intimately associated with Jeremiah, Baruch faithfully recorded the messages and the events as long as Jeremiah lived, and then may have completed and arranged the final ed. subsequent to the prophet’s death.
Archeological light on Jeremiah.
The Lachish letters provided interesting aspects concerning the Book of Jeremiah from historical and linguistic perspectives. At the twenty-two acre site of the ancient city of Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir), located in a strategic valley twenty-five m. SW of Jerusalem, an excavation was conducted by J. K. Starkey (from 1932-1938). In a guard room of the outer western gate were found twenty-one letters written on broken pieces of pottery. These ostraca date from the year 588 b.c. (cf. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the OT by James B. Pritchard, 2nd ed. ).
Historically, these letters reflect the wartime conditions that prevailed during these years. Lachish and Azekah were the last two cities to be conquered by the Babylonians before the fall of Jerusalem (
Linguistically, these ostraca are even more important. Written with carbon ink on broken pieces of pottery, these letters were in the ancient Heb. script. A marked similarity in the type of Heb. used in these letters and the Book of Jeremiah seems to confirm the dating of these letters in the beginning of the 6th cent. b.c.
In 587 b.c., the Babylonians used Riblah as their base of operation to direct another campaign against Jerusalem when Zedekiah rebelled. The siege of Jerusalem was temporarily interrupted when Apries, who succeeded Necho II as king of Egypt, invaded Gaza and Phoenicia (
Outline of contents.
The message and ministry of Jeremiah
The prophet and his people (
To read the messages and experiences of Jeremiah is to get acquainted with this great prophet. He revealed more of his inner feelings and personal reactions toward God and men than did any other prophet in OT times. His deep involvement with his own people was intensified by the imminence of the terrible judgment of God that was awaiting Jerusalem within his own lifetime. His theology and character emerged in his preaching.
The messages of Jeremiah reflect the response and reaction that the people had toward Jeremiah and his message. Although Jeremiah seldom recorded what the people said to him, his message can often be regarded as his part in the dialogue, leaving the reader to fill in the counterpart by the participants. Jeremiah’s messages were timely and directly related to the prevailing conditions in the political, social, and religious life of the people. Since the reproof, warnings, and admonitions of Jeremiah were so pointed and incisive, the response often was very intense—at times reaching the stage of violence as conditions permitted.
The content of
Portraying the sinful conditions existing in Judah, Jeremiah pointed out the basic problem—their love and devotion toward God was lacking (
Pointing to history, Jeremiah warned his people that the northern kingdom had been taken into captivity because the people had turned to idolatry and were guilty of religious harlotry. God’s judgment upon Judah was near at hand. Because they had forsaken God, they would be abandoned by God to exilic conditions to serve strangers in a foreign land. Priests and prophets had practiced deceit and the people had followed their examples. Because of their evil actions calamity would befall them. Like refuse silver, God had refused them, and time for judgment had come (
Jeremiah became explicit in pointing out the social evils and injustice that prevailed, as well as the fact that the Temple would be destroyed. The people oppressed the widows, orphans, and strangers, and simultaneously assumed that God’s presence was continuing among them in the Temple. They evidently reasoned from the correct theological basis that God is powerful enough to save the Temple, but were wrong in their assumption that God’s presence was limited to the building in Jerusalem. By their sins of murder, adultery, burning incense to Baal, and other idolatrous practices, they made the Temple into a den of robbers. Consequently Jerusalem and the Temple would be razed to the ground. Jeremiah warned them that the ruins of Shiloh served as an example of what would happen to Jerusalem (
Jeremiah was warned not to pray for his people who worshiped other gods on the streets of Jerusalem and throughout the cities of Judah. Repeatedly they ignored the prophets. The people assumed that they were wise but at the same time disregarded God’s written revelation as given in the law. Prophets and priests alike misinterpreted God’s message. Consequently, God’s judgment was coming upon them like serpents from whose sting they would not be able to escape (
This message so gripped Jeremiah that he was moved to deep compassion for his people (
When Jeremiah warned his people not to conform to the pattern of behavior of the heathen nations (
Once more God’s message comes through explicitly clear. Israel is God’s covenant people, but they have broken the covenant (
When suffering and threats came to Jeremiah personally, his concern for himself emerged in self-pity. The men of Anathoth, his home town, plotted to kill him if he did not stop prophesying in the name of God. Learning of this plot, Jeremiah’s reaction was expressed in his imprecatory prayer in which he requested divine vengeance upon his enemies (
Dramatically Jeremiah portrayed the reality of the Exile (
When a drought brought suffering to the people because of their erring ways, Jeremiah once more was commanded not to pray or intercede for his fellow citizens (
God’s answer was sobering indeed (
The nearness of the national doom of Judah was also realistically conveyed through word and deed in Jeremiah’s ministry. As God’s representative at that particular time he was forbidden to marry, nor was he to participate in any normal festivities or pleasure. His celibacy was to signify to the people that Jerusalem would be destroyed during his lifetime. Consequently, if he married and in the course of time had a family, Jeremiah’s children would be taken into captivity (
The gravity of Israel’s sin is vividly projected in
Keenly conscious of the sneering attitude his people had toward him because of this message of God’s judgment upon them, Jeremiah reminded God again of the fact that their enemies had dug a pit for his life. He prayed that God would not forgive their sin but subject them to his wrath (
The prophet and the leaders (
Repeatedly Jeremiah came face to face with the religious and political leaders of Judah. For better or for worse, Jeremiah faithfully confronted them with the message God had given to him. Some heeded his warning whereas others responded with persecution and hatred.
Leading some of the elders southward out of Jerusalem into the Ben-hinnom valley, Jeremiah broke the potter’s vessel before them. This signified the destruction of Jerusalem that was precipitated by their gross idolatry (
Zedekiah’s interest in Jeremiah’s advice at the time Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, c. 588 b.c., is significantly reported in
Jeremiah’s denunciation of the kings succeeding Josiah is explicit and direct (
Jeremiah’s denunciation of the false shepherds (
After Jehoiachin had been exiled to Babylon in 597 b.c., Jeremiah had a vision of two baskets of figs, which provided the basis for a very timely message (
Among the messages of Jeremiah that were given in the crucial fourth year of Jehoiakim, 605 b.c., was the explicit word that the Babylonian captivity would last seventy years (
The drastic political and religious changes in Jerusalem after Jehoiakim became king are realistically apparent in Jeremiah’s experience (
After the second captivity of the Jews in 597 b.c., Jeremiah vividly portrayed the reality of Babylonian servitude by publicly wearing “yoke-bars” around his neck (
Jeremiah continued to maintain contact with his people even after they were taken to Babylon. By letters he advised the exiles that they should plant vineyards, build houses, and adjust to the situation since their captivity would last for seventy years. Jeremiah warned that the false prophets, named
Restoration prospects (
Jeremiah was so involved in his message of warning that he seldom delineated the prospects of restoration. Ministering on the eve of Israel’s greatest judgment in OT times, Jeremiah dogmatically asserted that the Israelites would again be brought back from exile. His messages in these chs. are more specific concerning the future kingdom of Israel than those of any other prophet in the OT.
God’s purpose in sending this judgment upon Israel was to discipline them through servitude in exile. The day was coming, however, when they would no more serve other nations, but their service would be wholly devoted to God. Divine compassion and love would be manifest in Israel’s restoration. The city of Zion would be rebuilt and the people would rejoice in the fact that Israel had been redeemed. Both Judah and Israel, often identified as Ephraim, would be gathered from the distant parts of the earth where they had been scattered. God who had caused His people to be dispersed would also regather them.
Jeremiah did not minimize the severity of God’s discipline upon Judah and Israel. In this process of uprooting and destroying His people, God watched over them as they were sown with the seed of man and the seed of beasts. God, however, would also watch over them in like manner in building and planting them again.
A new covenant was to be made between God and His people. Unlike the old covenant that they had broken, the new covenant would be written upon their hearts. Teaching about God would be unnecessary since every one would be fully acquainted with God. All their sins would be forgiven.
The assurance that Israel would be restored is stated in the strongest language possible. God—who ordained the sun, moon, and stars in their courses and controls the seas and the armies—this God asserts that if the ordinances cease, if the heavens can be measured and the foundations of the earth can be explored, then God will also cast off His people.
During the siege of Jerusalem, 586 b.c., when Jeremiah had been confined to the court of the guard by King Zedekiah, the divine message was again made known that Israel would be restored after the destruction of the city. Jeremiah was given option on a field in Anathoth by the right of inheritance and redemption. Purchasing this real estate, Jeremiah meticulously sealed the purchase deeds so that they would be preserved for a long time. The divine message with this transaction was that in the future, houses, fields, and vineyards would again be bought in the land of Judah.
When Jeremiah realized what this prediction involved he was almost overwhelmed. With the Chaldeans besieging Jerusalem and the fall of the kingdom inevitable, due to the persistent disobedience of the people, Jeremiah prayed expressing his doubt about the prospects of restoration but recognized that he had acted and spoken according to divine instructions by purchasing this real estate.
Once more God’s message came to the prophet confirming that God was working out His purpose. The Chaldeans would burn the city of Jerusalem because the Jews had aroused God’s wrath and anger through their gross idolatry and had even used the Temple for their foreign gods. Consequently God abandoned Jerusalem and Judah to the invading Babylonians. However, it was God who also would gather the Israelites out of all the countries where He had scattered them. God would establish an everlasting covenant with them so that they would revere and honor Him and not turn again to idolatry. In this land that was occupied by the Chaldeans, the real estate business would thrive once more. The fortunes of Israel would be restored.
Jeremiah was still confined to the court of the guard. Another divine message came delineating to Jeremiah the hopes of restoration even more explicitly (
At that time a Branch of Righteousness would be ruling on the Davidic throne executing justice and equity for all. Peace and prosperity was to be so extensive in Jerusalem and Judah that the kingdom would be known as “The Lord our righteousness.” The fulfillment of this promise of the new covenant was as certain as God’s established order of maintaining the ordinances of day and night with regularity. Israel’s national fortunes would be restored with an innumerable multitude enjoying the blessings of the Davidic covenant and the ministry of the Levites.
Disintegration of the kingdom (
Jeremiah lived through one of the most difficult experiences that any prophet faced in his ministry. Having been active for over eighteen years during the favorable circumstances of the rule of Josiah, Jeremiah endured the discouraging developments under the reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah as the kingdom gradually disintegrated. Although these events are not in chronological order, they provide insight into the conditions that precipitated the terminal judgment upon the kingdom of Judah.
When the Babylonians began the final siege of Jerusalem in 588 b.c., Jeremiah significantly informed Zedekiah that the city would capitulate and that he would be taken into captivity. During this time of pressure Zedekiah made a covenant with the people to release the slaves. Subsequently the siege of Jerusalem was temporarily lifted while the Babylonians pursued the Egyptians. When this dramatic act of releasing the slaves was revoked as soon as the siege was lifted and the famine ended, Jeremiah announced God’s judgment upon the covenant breakers. The city of Jerusalem was doomed for burning by the Chaldeans (
The godless attitude of the leaders had already been apparent in the reign of Jehoiakim (
Jehoiakim’s attitude toward Jeremiah was pointedly expressed in his burning of the scroll (
The conditions during the siege and fall of Jerusalem did not facilitate the ministry of Jeremiah (
During this brief period of freedom Jeremiah was arrested, beaten, and imprisoned by the princes. Hearing this, Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah to inquire once more about God’s word concerning the siege. Again Jeremiah emphasized that Jerusalem would be conquered. In addition, Jeremiah reminded the king that the false prophets had predicted that the Babylonians would not even come to Jerusalem. Subsequently Zedekiah assured Jeremiah a supply of bread as long as the royal supply lasted and confined him to the court of the guard.
When Jeremiah announced safety for those who surrendered to the Babylonians, and sword, famine, and pestilence for those who resisted, some of the princes exerted pressure on Zedekiah so that they were able to cast Jeremiah into a cistern. Left to sink in the mire, Jeremiah was rescued by an Ethiopian eunuch named Ebed-melech. After this, Zedekiah requested further counsel from Jeremiah. With the verbal assurance from the king to spare his life, Jeremiah once more spoke to Zedekiah. The alternative was plainly set before him. Surrender to the Babylonians would preserve his life, whereas rebellion would precipitate the burning of Jerusalem and the capture of the king. Zedekiah, however, was not willing to comply with Jeremiah’s advice. Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard until Jerusalem was conquered by the Chaldeans.
When Jerusalem was on the verge of capitulation, Zedekiah and his associates fled as far as Jericho where they were overtaken by the Babylonians. Taken to Riblah, Zedekiah was sentenced by Nebuchadnezzar. The sons of Zedekiah were killed, after which he was blinded and then taken in chains to Babylon. Jeremiah in accordance with Nebuchadnezzar’s orders was treated with favor. Ebed-melech likewise lived through these difficult days, having been previously assured that his life would be spared.
Jeremiah’s post-Jerusalem activity (
Even though Jeremiah was taken in chains from Jerusalem, he was freed at Ramah. Given the option of joining the exiles in Babylon or remaining in Pal., he chose the latter.
The remnant of Jews remaining in Pal. settled at Mizpah, which was identified by Eusebius with Nebi Samwil located about four and one-half m. NW of Jerusalem. Contemporary Biblical scholarship is more inclined to identify Mizpah with Tell en-Nasbeh, located about eight m. N of Jerusalem. Gedaliah was appointed as governor of this remnant by Nebuchadnezzar. In a plot designed by Baalis (the chieftain of the Bedouin Ammonites E of Jordan) and executed by Ishmael, this newly appointed governor was killed. Ishmael brutally killed many of the pilgrims en route to Jerusalem and then forced the Mizpah citizens to march southward hoping to take them to Ammon across the Jordan.
At Gibeon, Johanan resued this group and put Ishmael to flight. Going southward this remnant settled temporarily at Chimham, a caravansary near Bethlehem. On their way they must have passed by the ruins of Jerusalem and the Temple, which had been burned to the ground. Seeing the desolate remains of the city where Jeremiah spent forty years of his ministry may have provided the occasion for writing the.
Uprooted from Mizpah, these Jews were determined to migrate to Egypt. They prevailed upon Jeremiah, however, to pray for divine guidance. After a ten-day period Jeremiah had an answer instructing them to remain in Pal. (
In Egypt Jeremiah continued as God’s messenger as he reflected interpretively on the developments of his life and ministry. He predicted that Nebuchadnezzar would come down into Egypt to execute divine judgment. Jerusalem was in ruins because the Israelites abandoned God and failed to heed the warnings of the prophets. Divine wrath had come because of their disobedience, so that God’s people had become a taunt and a proverb among the nations. Jeremiah’s audience, however, did not repent. They had a different interpretation. Defiantly they asserted that they would not obey, and claimed that this evil had come upon them because they ceased to worship the queen of heaven. Once more Jeremiah announced God’s wrath upon them. He warned them that when they experienced the consequences they would realize that God was fulfilling His word (
Significantly, in chapter forty-five after the reader is informed about all these developments, he learns that Baruch some twenty years earlier had been assured that his life would be spared. Intimately associated with Jeremiah, Baruch also was exposed to danger but he was assured of divine protection. This promise was fulfilled in his continued ministry even after he migrated to Egypt.
Foreign nations and cities in prophecy (
It was in the crucial fourth year of Jehoiakim that Jeremiah delivered these messages against foreign nations. The decisive defeat of the Egyptians at Carchemish advanced the Babylonians into Pal., signaling the Jews that this was the beginning of the end for the kingdom of Judah. Isaiah had predicted nearly a cent. earlier that Jerusalem would be conquered by the Babylonians (
Jeremiah predicted that Nebuchadnezzar, who began to rule that year, would ultimately conquer Amon of Thebes, five hundred m. up the Nile River. Philistia would be invaded and Moab’s national life would be destroyed because of her pride. The Ammonites would be scattered without any promise of restoration and even Edom would be demoted from her haughty position. Judgment likewise awaited Damascus, Hazor, Kedar, and Elam.
The most powerful nation of all—Babylon—would likewise be severely judged. Babylon with her idols faced destruction. This was dramatically portrayed by sending Seraiah, a brother of Baruch, to Babylon. There he read this message, tied the scroll to a rock, and then threw it into the Euphrates River. In a similar manner, Babylon was doomed, never to rise again.
This ch. seems to provide an appropriate conclusion to the ministry of Jeremiah. The predictions he had given as wanings for over forty years had actually been fulfilled. In spite of his compassionate pleas and prayers, the people had been disobedient and consequently had to face the realities of the Exile. This conclusion likely was added by Baruch.
T. Laetsch, commentary on Jeremiah (1952); D. J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings (1956); C. J. Ellicott, commentary on Jeremiah (republished in 1960 under title Laymen’s Handy Commentary Series by Zondervan); S. J. Schultz, TheSpeaks (1960), 219-228, 323-343; G. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (1964); O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament (1965), 346-365; J. Bright, Jeremiah (1966).