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JEREMIAH (jĕr'ĕ-mī'a, Heb. yirmeyâhû, Jehovah founds, or perhaps, exalts), in KJV of NT “Jeremy” and “Jeremias” (Matt.2.17; Matt.16.14).

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 (Jer.1.1), not to be confused with the high priest Hilkiah mentioned in 2Kgs.22.1-2Kgs.22.20-2Kgs.23.1-2Kgs.23.37. Because of the autobiographical nature of his book, it is possible to understand his life, character, and times better than those of any other Hebrew prophet.

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 2Kgs.23.1-2Kgs.23.37. This was a time of decision, a time filled with both hope and foreboding. Looking back, we can know it as the last religious awakening in a series that only slowed down the idolatry and apostasy of the Hebrews. Their apostasy finally plunged the nation into destruction. It was the time of the revival of the Babylonian Empire. After the fall of the city of Nineveh in 612, the Assyrian Empire disintegrated; and Babylon for a little while again ruled the world under her vigorous leader Nebuchadnezzar, who sought to subdue the whole Fertile Crescent to himself. Nebuchadnezzar’s design on Egypt inevitably included control of Palestine, and Jeremiah’s lifetime saw the fall of the Hebrew commonwealth to Babylon. This fall was preceded by a generation of unrest and decline in Judah. Many solutions to her troubles were proposed, and at court pro-Egyptian and pro-Babylonian parties vied for favor with the policy makers. A knowledge of this situation of deepening crisis is necessary if we are to understand Jeremiah and his Book. Jeremiah’s ministry continued through the reigns of five successive Judean kings, and Jeremiah saw the final destruction of Jerusalem in 587. The prophet died in Egypt, probably a few years after Jerusalem was destroyed.

Jeremiah’s call is described in Jer.1.1-Jer.1.19. The young priest pleads his youth (Jer.1.6), but God assures him that he will be given strength for his task. At this time the theme of destruction from the north (i.e., from Babylon) is already introduced (Jer.1.13-Jer.1.15). The prediction that Judah would inevitably fall because of its apostasy earned for the prophet the undying hostility of most of his contemporaries (even his fellow townsmen, Jer.11.21) and led to his being charged with treason (Jer.38.1-Jer.38.6) and to frequent imprisonments. Jeremiah’s faithfulness to his call under the most difficult circumstances makes him a prime example of devotion to God at greatest personal sacrifice.

Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim, succeeded him to the throne. Jeremiah called this king Coniah and Jeconiah (Jer.24.1; Jer.27.20; Jer.29.2 see niv footnotes). After he had reigned only three months, the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem and carried Jehoiachin off to Babylon (597 b.c.), as Jeremiah had predicted (Jer.22.24-Jer.22.30), together with many artisans and other important Jews.

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 (Jer.37.11-Jer.37.21). Now that the judgment had come, the prophet spoke of a hopeful future for the nation (Jer.32.1-Jer.32.44-Jer.33.1-Jer.33.26). As the siege wore on, he was cast into a slimy cistern, where he would have perished had not Ebed-Melech, a courtier, rescued him (Jer.38.6-Jer.38.13). He was taken again to the court of the guard, until the city fell (Jer.38.28).

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 Jer.40.1-Jer.40.16-Jer.45.1-Jer.45.5. The captors treated Jeremiah with kindness, giving him the choice of going to Babylon or remaining in Judah. He chose to stay behind with some of the common people who had been left in Judah when most of the Jews were deported. Gedaliah was made puppet governor over this little group. After civil unrest, in which Gedaliah was assassinated, the Jews fled to Egypt, forcing Jeremiah to accompany them. Jeremiah died in Egypt at an old age.

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 (Jer.16.1-Jer.16.4). Because his book is full of autobiographical sections—Jeremiah’s “Confessions”—Jeremiah’s personality can be understood more clearly than that of any other prophet. These outpourings of the human spirit are some of the most poignant and pathetic statements of the tension of a man under divine imperative to be found anywhere in Scripture. The most important are listed below. They show us a Jeremiah who was retiring, sensitive, and afraid of people’s “faces,” a man we would consider singularly unfit for the work that was given him to do. That he tenaciously clung to his assigned task through the succeeding years of rejection and persecution is both a tribute to the mettle of the man and to the grace of God, without which his personality would surely have gone to pieces.

III. Jeremiah’s Confessions.

Jer.10.23-Jer.10.24 Jer.17.9-Jer.17.11, Jer.17.14-Jer.17.18

Jer.11.18-Jer.12.6 Jer.18.18-Jer.18.23 Jer.15.10-Jer.15.21 Jer.20.7-Jer.20.18

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 (Jer.3.10). The old covenant had failed; a new and better one will take its place and then God’s law will be written on men’s hearts (Jer.31.31-Jer.31.34). God will give his renewed people a heart to know him (Jer.24.7). In this doctrine of the “new heart” Jeremiah unfolds the depth of human sin and predicts the intervention of divine grace (Heb.8.1-Heb.9.28).

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. Heb.4.1-Heb.4.16 is typical of these oracles: The foe will destroy like a lion or a whirlwind and leave the land in desolation like the primeval chaos. Who is this destroying enemy? The fulfillment indicates that the northern foe was Babylon. Although Babylon is on the same latitude as Samaria, her invasions of Palestine always came from the north, as the desert that separates the two was impassable. The view that the Scythians are referred to as the northern foe in some places of the book seems not to be held so widely today as it once was, and may be rejected.

Sometimes (Jer.50.3, Jer.50.9, Jer.50.41; Jer.51.48) “north” may be a reference to the origin of the conquerors of Babylon. This use of the term is difficult to pinpoint. The Persians, who were the principal captors of Babylon, came from the east. Probably here north has become an expression for the source of any trouble, arrived at because Israel’s troubles for so long a time had come from that direction.

IV. Other Jeremiahs. Six other Jeremiahs are briefly mentioned in the OT: a Benjamite and two Gadites who joined David at Ziklag (1Chr.12.4, 1Chr.12.10, 1Chr.12.13); the head of a family in Manasseh (1Chr.5.24); a native of Libnah and the father of Hamutal, wife of King Josiah and mother of Jehoahaz (2Kgs.23.30-2Kgs.23.31); and the son of Habazziniah, a Recabite (Jer.35.3).——JBG

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 (2Ki 23:31; 24:18 parallel Jer 52:1).

(3) A Rechabite (Jer 35:3).

(4) In 1Ch 12:13 (Hebrew 14), a Gadite.

(5) In 1Ch 12:10 (Hebrew 11), a Gadite.

(6) In 1Ch 12:4 (Hebrew 5), a Benjamite(?) or Judean. (4), (5) and (6) all joined David at Ziklag.

(7) Head of a Manassite family (1Ch 5:24).

(8) A priest who sealed the covenant with Nehemiah (Ne 10:2), probably the same as he of 12:34 who took part in the procession at the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem.

(9) A priest who went to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel from exile and became head of a priestly family of that name (Ne 12:1).


1. Name and Person

2. Life of Jeremiah

3. The Personal Character of Jeremiah

4. The Prophecies of Jeremiah

5. The Book 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" (Jer 1:1), who is, however, not the high priest mentioned in 2Ki 22 and 23, as it is merely stated that he was "of the priests that were in Anathoth" in the land of Benjamin In Anathoth, now Anata, a small village 3 miles Northeast of Jerusalem, lived a class of priests who belonged to a side line, not to the line of Zadok (compare 1Ki 2:26).

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 (2Ch 35:25), but which have not come down to our times.

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 (Jer 22:13 ). In addition, his politics were treacherous. He conspired with Egypt against his superior, Nebuchadnezzar. Epoch- making was the 4th year of Jehoiakim , in which, in the battle of Carchemish, the Chaldeans gained the upper hand in Hither Asia, as Jeremiah had predicted (46:1-12). Under Jehoiakim Jeremiah delivered his great temple discourse (Jer 7-9; 10:17-25). The priests for this reason determined to have the prophet put to death (Jer 26). However, influential elders interceded for him, and the princes yet showed some justice. He was, however, abused by the authorities at the appeal of the priests (Jer 20). According to 36:1 ff, he was no longer permitted to enter the place of the temple. For this reason the Lord commanded him to collect his prophecies in a bookroll, and to have them read to the people by his faithful pupil Baruch (Jer 36; compare Jer 45). The book fell into the hands of the king, who burned it. However, Jeremiah dictated the book a second time to Baruch, together with new additions.

Jehoiachin or Coniah (Jer 22:24 ), the son of Jehoiakim, after a reign of 3 months, was taken into captivity to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, together with a large number of his nobles and the best part of the people (Jer 24:1; 29:2), as the prophet had predicted (Jer 22:20-30). But conditions did not improve under Zedekiah (597-586 BC). This king was indeed not as hostile to Jeremiah as Jehoiakim had been; but all the more hostile were the princes and the generals, who were now in command after the better class of these had been deported to Babylon. They continually planned rebellion against Babylon, while Jeremiah was compelled to oppose and put to naught every patriotic agitation of this kind. Finally, the Babylonian army came in order to punish the faithles s vassal who had again entered into an alliance with Egypt. Jeremiah earnestly advised submission, but the king was too weak and too cowardly as against his nobles. A long siege resulted, which caused the direst sufferings in the life of Jeremiah. The commanders threw him into a vile prison, charging him with being a traitor (37:11 ff). The king, who consulted him secretly, released him from prison, and put him into the "court of the guard" (37:17 ff), where he could move around freely, and could agai n prophesy. Now that the judgment had come, he could again speak of the hopeful future (Jer 32; 33). Also Jer 30 and 31, probably, were spoken about this time. But as he continued to preach submission to the people, those in authority cast him into a slimy cistern, from which the pity of a courtier, Ebed-melech, delivered him (39:15-18). He again returned to the court of the guard, where he remained until Jerusalem was taken.

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 Jer 44, delivered at a somewhat later time but yet before 570 BC. At that time Jeremiah must have been from 70 to 80 years old. He probably died soon after this in Egypt. The church Fathers report that he was stoned to death at Daphne by the Jews (Jerome, Adv. Jovin, ii, 37; Tertullian, Contra Gnost., viii; Pseudepiphan. De Proph., chapter viii; Dorotheus, 146; Isidorus, Ort. et Obit. Patr., chapter xxxviii). However, this report is not well founded. The same is the case with the rabbinical tradition, according to which he, in company with Baruch, was taken from Egypt to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, and died there (Cedher `Olam Rabba’ 26).

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 Job 3:1 ff). Such complaints are to be carefully distinguished from that which the Lord through His Spirit communicated to the prophet. God rebukes him for these complaints, and demands of him to repent and to trust and obey Him (Jer 15:19). This discipline makes him all the more unconquerable. Even his bitter denunciations of his enemies (Jer 11:20 ff; 15:15; 17:18; 18:21-23) originated in part in his passionate and deep nature, and show how great is the difference between him and that perfect Sufferer, who prayed even for His deadly enemies. But Jeremiah was nevertheless a type of that Suffering Saviour, more than any of the Old Testament saints. He, as a priest, prayed for his people, until God forbade him to do so (7:16; 11:14; 14:11; 18:20). He was compelled more than all the others to suffer through the anger of God, which was to afflict his people. The people themselves also felt that he meant well to them. A proof of this is seen in the fact that the rebellious people, who always did the contrary of what he had commanded them, forced him, the unwelcome prophet of God, to go along with them, to Egypt, because they felt that he was their good genius.

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 (Jer 1:13 ), is to be understood. This power in the North is not named until the 4th year of Jehoiakim (Jer 25), where Nebuchadnezzar is definitely designated as the conqueror. It is often thought, that, in the earlier years of his career, Jeremiah had in mind the Scythians when he spoke of the enemies from the North, especially in Jer 4-6. The Scythians (according to Herodotus i.103 ff) had, probably a few years before Jeremiah’s call to the prophetic office, taken possession of Media, then marched through Asia Minor, and even forced their way as far as Egypt. They crossed through Canaan, passing by on their march from East to West, near Beth-shean (Scythopolis). The ravages of this fierce people probably influenced the language used by Jeremiah in his prophecies (compare 4:11 ff; 5:15 ff; 6:3 ff,22 ff). But it is unthinkable that Jeremiah expected nothing more than a plundering and a booty-seeking expedition of the Scythian nomad hordes. Chariots, such as are described in 4:13, the Scythians did not possess. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that Jeremiah from the outset speaks of a deportation of his people to this foreign land (3:18; 5:19), while an exile of Israel in the country of the Scythians was out of the question. At all events from the 4th year of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah regards the Chaldeans as the enemy who, according to his former announcement, would come from the North It is possible that it was only in the course of time that he reached a clear conviction as to what nation was meant by the revelation from God. But, upon further reflection, he must have felt almost certain on this subject, especially as Isaiah (39:6), Micah (4:10), and, soon after these, Habakkuk had named Babylon as the power that was to carry out the judgment upon Israel. Other prophets, too, regard the Babylonians as belonging to the northern group of nations (compare Zec 6:8), because they always came from the North, and because they were the legal successors of the Assyrians.

In contrast to optimistic prophets, who had hoped to remedy matters in Israel (Jer 6:14), Jeremiah from the beginning predicted the destruction of the city and of the sanctuary, as also the end of the Jewish nation and the exile of the people through these enemies from abroad. According to 25:11; 29:10, the Babylonian supremacy (not exactly the exile) was to continue for 70 years; and after this, deliverance should come. Promises to this effect are found only now and then in the earlier years of the prophet (3:14 ff; 12:14 ff; 16:14 f). However, during the time of the siege and afterward, such predictions are more frequent (compare 23:1 ff; 24:6 f; 47:2-7; and in the "Book of Comfort," chapters 30-33).

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 (Jer 8:8); the words of the prophets as a rule do not come from God. Even the Ark of the Covenant is eventually to make way for a glorious presence of the Lord. The law is to be written in the hearts of men (Jer 31:31 ). The glories of the Messianic times the prophet does not describe in detail but their spiritual character he repeatedly describes in the words "Yahweh our righteousness" (Jer 23:6; 33:16). However, we must not over-estimate the idealism of Jeremiah. He believed in a realistic restoration of theocracy to a form, just as the other prophets (compare Jer 31-32, 38-40).

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 Jer 36:1 ff. In the 4th year of Jehoiakim, at the command of Yahweh, he dictated all of the prophecies he had spoken down to this time to his pupil Baruch, who wrote them on a roll. After the destruction of this book-roll by the king, he would not be stopped from reproducing the contents again and making additions to it (Jer 36:32). In this we have the origin of the present Book of Jeremiah. This book, however, not only received further additions, but has also been modified. While the discourses may originally have been arranged chronologically, and these reached only down to the 4th year of King Jehoiakim, we find in the book, as it is now, as early as Jer 21:1 ff; 23:1 ff; 26:1 ff, discourses from the times of Zedekiah. However, the 2nd edition (Jer 36:28) contained, no doubt, Jer 25, with those addresses directed against the heathen nations extant at that time. The lack of order, from a chronological point of view, in the present book, is attributable also to the fact that historical accounts or appendices concerning the career of Jeremiah were added to the book in later times, e.g. Jer 26; 35; 36 and others; and in these additions are also found older discourses of the prophet. Beginning with Jer 37, the story of the prophet during the siege of Jerusalem and after the destruction of the city is reported, and in connection with this are his words and discourses belonging to this period.

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 Jer 7-9. However, this "Book of Baruch," which is claimed by some critics to have existed as a separate book beside that of Jeremiah, would not furnish a connected biography, and does not seem to have been written for biographical purposes. It contains introductions to certain words and speeches of the prophet and statements of what the consequences of these had been. Thus it is more probable that Baruch, at a later time, made supplementary additions to the original book, which the prophet had dictated without any personal data. But in this work the prophet himself may have cooperated. At places, perhaps, the dictation of the prophet ends in a narrative of Baruch (Jer 19:14-20:6), or vice versa. Baruch seems to have written a historical introduction, and then Jeremiah dictated the prophecy (27:1; 18:1; 32:1 ff, and others). Of course, the portions of the book which came from the pen of Baruch are to be regarded as an authentic account.

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 Jer 29 is concerned, the Greek order is certainly not more original than is the Hebrew. It rather tears apart, awkwardly, what is united in Jer 25, and has probably been caused by a misunderstanding. The words of 25:13 were regarded as a hint that here the discourses against the heathen were to follow. Then, too, the order of these discourses in the Greek text is less natural than the one in Hebrew. In regard to the readings of the text, it has been thought that the text of the Septuagint deserves the preference on account of its brevity, and that the Hebrew text had been increased by additions. However, in general, the Greek version is very free, and often is done without an understanding of the subject; and there are reasons to believe that the translator shortened the text, when he thought the style of Jeremiah too heavy. Then, too, where he met with repetitions, he probably would omit; or did so when he found trouble with the matter or the language. This does not deny that his translation in many places may be correct, and that additions may have been made to the Hebrew text.


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.

Additional Material

Colossal limestone statue of Rameses II, one of the things that remain of the once-great city of Memphis, whose destruction was prophesied by Jeremiah.
Jeremiah's Grotto, now better known as Gordon's Calvary.

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.


Jeremian 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 (2 Chron 34:3)

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

612—Nineveh destroyed

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 (Dan 1:1)

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 (Jer 32:1, 2)

586—July 18, Zedekiah fled (2 Kings 25:2, 3; Jer 39:4; 52:5-7) Aug. 14, destruction began (2 Kings 25:8-10)

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. Jer 19:13).

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 (2 Kings 21:16). The tradition that charges Manasseh with the martyrdom of Isaiah may be correct since this prophet is mentioned no more after the death of Hezekiah. If the report of Sennacherib’s death is acknowledged by Isaiah (37:38), then Isaiah lived at least until 681/80 b.c. With the martyrdom of the righteous God-fearing people, it is quite likely that the copies of the law were neglected and possibly destroyed. The religious feasts and seasons must have been curtailed, and it is doubtful that the law was ever publicly read to the people during the reign of Manasseh.

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 (2 Kings 22; 23). The city of Anathoth, though near Jerusalem, was within the borders of Benjamin and assigned to the Levites under Joshua (Josh 21:18). Abiathar, who served as priest under David, resided in Anathoth (1 Kings 2:26). It is quite reasonable to conclude that Jeremiah was from the Abiathar lineage of priests and not from the Zadokite line that had been instituted under Solomon in Jerusalem.

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 ch. 1. During the first eighteen years of Jeremiah’s ministry, when Josiah was providing leadership in religious reformation, it may not have seemed reasonable to Jeremiah that Jerusalem and the Temple would actually be destroyed. Furthermore, the Assyrian power, which for over a cent. had dominated the Fertile Crescent, had been declining since 633 b.c. and capitulated with the fall of Nineveh in 612 b.c.

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 (2 Chron 35:25). In the Book of Jeremiah, the only direct references to Josiah are in 1:2 where Jeremiah dated his call in Josiah’s thirteenth year, in 3:6 where he indicated that he was speaking in the days of Josiah, and in 25:1-3 where he pointed out that in the fourth year of Jehoiakim he had been active for twenty-three years, having begun his ministry in the days 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 chs. 1-18 is usually regarded as representing the preaching of Jeremiah during the reign of Josiah. Having the favor of the king, it was possible for Jeremiah to delineate the sins and the apostasy of the people without being molested. Illustrative of this probability is the “Temple speech.” Although there are many similarities between chs. 7 and 26, the former likely was given during Josiah’s reign when no one dared to oppose the prophet openly. The latter is definitely dated during Jehoiakim’s reign when the people and religious leaders were keenly aware of the fact that the king supported them in their opposition to Jeremiah.

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 (chs. 22; 23). He specifically admonished the people not to weep for the “dead one,” which may be a reference to Josiah. He also predicted that Jehoahaz would not return from Egyp. exile but would die in Egypt. Boldly he denounced the wickedness and injustice prevailing under Jehoiakim. The latter would be given the burial of an ass and the people would not lament his death. Jehoiachin, heir to the Davidic throne, would be taken into Babylonian exile without royal succession in the kingdom 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 (25:1-38). The enemy from the N (1:14), was now identified as Nebuchadnezzar, who was God’s servant to bring judgment upon God’s chosen people in Jerusalem. This cup of God’s fury was for Judah and all the nations mentioned in Jeremiah’s message. The fourth year marked the beginning of the end for the kingdom of Judah. The captivity, according to Jeremiah’s prediction, would last seventy years. This warning and prediction given during the year that the Judean trek into Babylonian exile began, offered little hope for the immediate future, but with it came the assurance that there would be a restoration after seventy years.

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 (36:1-8), and then was instructed to read these messages to the people who were assembled in the Temple for the annual day of fasting.

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 (36:9-19). King Jehoiakim called for the scroll, listened to the contents, and then supervised the burning of the scroll, page after page in spite of the pleas of some of his associates and servants. Jehoiakim not only ignored the solemn message of warning by the prophet but ordered the arrest of Jeremiah and Baruch, who fortunately could not be located at that particular time (36:20-26).

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 (24:1-10). The interpretation was plain. The good figs depicted the people in exile and the bad figs represented those who remained in Jerusalem. Consequently they would also be taken into exile in due time. Jeremiah’s prophecy against Elam is also dated at this time.

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 (29:1-23). After Shemaiah in Babylon sent instructions back to Jerusalem to have Jeremiah placed in stocks for writing to the exiles, Jeremiah announced God’s judgment upon Shemaiah (29:24-32).

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 (27:1-22). When Hananiah, a prophet from Gibeon, publicly broke Jeremiah’s yoke and announced that within two years the exiles would return, Jeremiah predicted Hananiah’s death within one year (28:1-17). Hananiah died before the year ended.

In spite of the fact that Jeremiah continually advised submission to Babylon, Zedekiah concurred with the pro-Egyp. leaders in rebelling against the Babylonians (34:1-7). By 15 January 588 b.c., the latter began a siege of the city of Jerusalem. As Nebuchadnezzar was advancing toward Jerusalem, Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah for advice, hoping a miraculous deliverance might be in the offing (21:1-14). Jeremiah once more pointedly predicted defeat and death, with unconditional surrender as the only way of escape.

During the serious conditions of the siege, Zedekiah secured the cooperation of the people to make a covenant to emancipate the slaves (34:8-11). When the siege was temporarily lifted, this covenant was revoked and the servants were re-enslaved (34:12-22).

While the siege was temporarily lifted, Jeremiah was arrested, beaten, and imprisoned (37:11-21). Zedekiah, however, called for Jeremiah and secretly inquired about God’s message. In response to Jeremiah’s warning and appeal, Zedekiah did not return the prophet to the prison but assigned him to the court of the guard with an allowance of bread as long as the supply in Jerusalem lasted. While held in the court of the guard, Jeremiah received an option on the purchase of Hanameel’s field in Anathoth. Divinely instructed, Jeremiah secured this piece of property, and with this transaction proclaimed the message that after the Babylonian exile the Israelites would be gathered to their own land (32:1-44).

Last days in Egypt.

Jeremiah lived through the destruction of Jerusalem, which began on 14 August 586 b.c. (2 Kings 25:8; Jer 52:12). Jeremiah was courteously treated by the Babylonians and entrusted for safety to Gedaliah, who was appointed as ruler over those who were not taken into exile (39:11-14). About two months later Gedaliah was killed. Shortly after that, Jeremiah was taken by the remnant down to Egypt in spite of the fact that he patiently advised them to remain in Pal. (42:1-43:7).

At Tahpanhes in Egypt Jeremiah warned his people in a symbolic message that God would send Nebuchadnezzar into Egypt to execute judgment (43:8-13). In ch. 44, Jeremiah reminded the people that Jerusalem was in ruins and that God’s judgment had come upon them because they had ignored the messages of warning delivered through the prophets.

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 (Jer 36:1-8). Baruch was engaged as the prophet’s scribe to record that which pertained to Jeremiah’s ministry which had begun in 627 b.c. This scroll was burned by King Jehoiakim the next year.

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” (36:32) included is difficult to ascertain. Significant also is the fact that in the year 605 b.c. Baruch was assured by Jeremiah that his life would be preserved through the perilous years that awaited Judah and Jerusalem as predicted in the prophet’s message, which was committed to writing (45:1-5).

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 chs. 46-51 are inserted in the Gr. text beginning with 25:14. The order within this series of messages has also been changed. In addition to the differences noted above is the fact that in the Gr. text some vv. in whole or part are omitted, as well as some longer passages such as 33:14-26; 39:4-13; 51:44b-49a and 52:27b-30. Although some of these minor omissions can be explained as errors in transmission, it is apparent that the LXX reflects a variant ed. from the Heb.

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 Jeremiah 10:1-16 to “Deutero-Isaiah,” warning the exilic Jews against idolatry is based on the theory that denies the unity of the Book of Isaiah. The viewpoint that Jeremiah 17:19-27 is dependent upon the Sabbath-keeping passages in Ezekiel, or the priestly code, is based on the theory that document P is postexilic. Chapters 30 and 31 are assigned to the postexilic era on the assumption of an evolutionary hypothesis concerning the development of the messianic hope, in contrast to the view that such messages were given to the prophets through divine revelation.

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. [1955]).

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 (Jer 34:7). These letters were written by a military captain named Hoshaiah to his superior, Joash, at Lachish. Although a reference in these letters to “the prophet” may be ambiguous, and other matters may be difficult to interpret, it is quite apparent that they were written during the siege of Lachish, which fell to the Babylonians in 587 b.c.

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 (47:1). Subsequent to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c., Nebuchadnezzar ordered another deportation of Jews to Babylon (52:30) in 582 b.c., which was the twenty-third year of his reign.

Outline of contents.


The message and ministry of Jeremiah

The prophet and his people (1:1-18:23).

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 Jeremiah 1-18 may well be the summary of his messages and activities during the reign of Josiah. When the book is considered as a whole, it is apparent that the events and messages are not in chronological order, esp. evident beginning with ch. 20. Consequently there may be some passages even in the first eighteen chs. that may possibly be dated later. Since there is no indication of violent opposition erupting in these chs., it seems probable that they represent the period during Josiah’s reign when Jeremiah likely enjoyed the favor of the ruling king. Although there were threats made to Jeremiah’s life by the men of Anathoth, it is quite apparent that there was no open or public interference with the prophet’s ministry as long as Josiah lived.

Portraying the sinful conditions existing in Judah, Jeremiah pointed out the basic problem—their love and devotion toward God was lacking (2:1-3:5). Positively, they had forsaken God, who had redeemed them from Egyp. bondage and entrusted them with the blessings of Canaan. They had ignored the instructions, given them by Moses in Deuteronomy, of exemplifying in their daily lives a wholehearted love for God. Negatively they had turned to idolatry and consequently they were guilty of harlotry. Fear, reverence, respect, and love for God were missing.

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 (3:6-6:30).

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 (7:1-15).

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 (7:16-8:17).

This message so gripped Jeremiah that he was moved to deep compassion for his people (8:18-9:26). Conscious of the fact that it was too late to avert this terrible judgment upon his people, Jeremiah was moved to tears. He pondered the rationale for God’s judgment. Jeremiah recognized that punishment was due because they had forsaken the law of God and had been disobedient. The time was coming when they would lament greatly because of the devastation, destruction, death, and exile that was imminent. Consequently his ultimate perspective was that man’s confidence in his own wisdom, might, and riches were all futile. Ultimate value rests in the knowledge that God is the one who exercises loving-kindness, justice, and righteousness in the earth. Israel was uncircumcised in heart—therefore divine judgment overtook them.

When Jeremiah warned his people not to conform to the pattern of behavior of the heathen nations (10:1-5), he pondered the question of who God is. He pointed out that God is the everlasting King who created all things in nature. This God who is the Lord of hosts is the God of Israel. Since Israel had not sought after God, they were to be scattered. Even though Jeremiah knew this, he still appealed to God to save them (10:6-25).

Once more God’s message comes through explicitly clear. Israel is God’s covenant people, but they have broken the covenant (11:1-13). Jeremiah was commanded not to pray for them. They had no right to be in God’s house because of their wickedness (11:14-17).

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 (11:18-12:4). Although he was assured that these enemies would be subjected to the Exile without a remnant of them remaining, he was troubled by the apparent prosperity of the wicked. For this, however, God’s servant was rebuked. Even though he was mistreated by his relatives, he was not to be enticed by them. God had forsaken His people and was abandoning them to the Exile. In the near future the entire land would be desolate, but ultimately God would have compassion on them (12:5-17).

Dramatically Jeremiah portrayed the reality of the Exile (13:1-27). In obedience to a divine command, Jeremiah purchased a linen waistcloth and deposited it in the cleft of a rock near the Euphrates. Later he recovered it, but in the meantime it was ruined. The application was cogently plain: what had happened to the garment would also occur concerning the pride of Judah in Babylonian captivity, because of their stubborn attitude and their refusal to obey God. The leaders of Judah—kings, priests, and prophets—were filled with drunkenness, even as jars filled with wine break when dashed one against another. The pride of Judah resulted in the downfall of the nation. Because of this haughty attitude, God allotted to them the humiliation of destruction and 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 (14:1-22). Moved with compassion for them, Jeremiah appealed to God again, pointing out that the false prophets and priests had misled the people. At this point Jeremiah raised the question as to whether or not God had utterly rejected His people. In his prayer the prophet reasoned that God should do something for the sake of God’s name and glory.

God’s answer was sobering indeed (15:1-21). Even if Moses and Samuel would intercede, God would not avert the fourfold judgment awaiting them. The sword and exile were divinely fixed upon them because of their sin, but with it came the assurance of restoration for some. Once more Jeremiah reflected on the fact that he as God’s messenger, proclaiming such an unpopular message, was cursed and persecuted by his people. Faithful in his service, he did not participate in the festivities of his people but suffered reproach for God’s sake. In this state of despondency Jeremiah was divinely assured that God would sustain him successfully against the opposition of the people. He would be delivered out of the hands of the wicked and the grip of the tyrants.

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 (16:1-21).

The gravity of Israel’s sin is vividly projected in 17:1-18:17. Their sins were engraved on the horns of the altar where the people came to bring their sacrifices to God. These sins were inscribed with the point of a diamond so that they could not be erased. It was their sinfulness that precipitated God’s judgment. God’s curse rested upon them because they had put their trust in man rather than God. By contrast, however, was the promise of God’s blessing upon the one who placed his trust and confidence in God. This man would prosper. Externally, the observance of the Sabbath was a sign of acknowledging God, whereas those who broke the Sabbath reflected their disregard for God. In the potter’s house, Jeremiah learned the lesson that when the clay was not pliable it had to be remolded. In a similar manner the people of Judah would have to go through the remolding process in captivity.

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 (18:18-23). It is significant, however, that Jeremiah did not assume responsibility for bringing judgment upon his enemies, but appealed to God to deal with them.

The prophet and the leaders (19:1-29:32).

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 (19:1-15). Returning to the Temple to proclaim this same message, Jeremiah was subjected to a whipping by Pashur and then confined to the prison for one night. Released the next morning, Jeremiah pointedly rebuked Pashur. In the wake of this experience, Jeremiah sank into another slough of despondency and cursed the day he was born. He was keenly sensitive to the fact that God had called him, and that God’s word within him was like a burning fire that he could not contain without sharing it with others (20:1-18).

Zedekiah’s interest in Jeremiah’s advice at the time Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, c. 588 b.c., is significantly reported in ch. 21. This must have been years or even decades after the personal experience of Jeremiah recorded in the previous chapter. It has been suggested that the sequence in the text is to assure the reader that Jeremiah did not despair when he cursed the day of his birth, but was still active when Jerusalem was about to fall to the Babylonians. Zedekiah prob. hoped for a word of encouragement, but Jeremiah warned the king that Jewish resistance was futile. God was about to deliver the king as well as the people into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.

Jeremiah’s denunciation of the kings succeeding Josiah is explicit and direct (22:1-30). Speaking during Jehoiakim’s reign, c. 609-598 b.c., he admonished the king that it was his responsibility as ruler on the throne of David to execute justice and to rule righteously. He was warned, however, that since he had forsaken the Lord in his responsibilities, he would die, and would not be accorded the honor of a decent burial. Shallum who also was known as Jehoahaz would not be restored to the throne but would die in Egypt. Coniah, also known as Jehoiachin, would be exiled to Babylon and not be succeeded by a son as ruler.

Jeremiah’s denunciation of the false shepherds (ch. 23) is not dated, but may have been given during the reign of Zedekiah. The people had been deceived and misled by the prophets who were not true representatives of God. The prophets of Samaria prophesied by Baal and the prophets in Jerusalem were guilty of adultery and evil devices. Consequently, God was against these prophets and therefore the people and the false prophets would be driven out of Jerusalem. In contrast to this denunciation, Jeremiah offers a message of hope. The Lord, the God of Israel, will gather the remnant of His people from all lands. These people shall be secure and safe under a ruler seated on the throne of David who will be identified as the “Lord our righteousness” (23:6).

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 (24:1-10). The good figs represented the exiled people from whom a remnant would return according to the divine promise. The bad figs symbolized the people who were still left in Jerusalem. Zedekiah and his people would be subjected to the curse of the sword, famine, and pestilence until they would be completely dispersed from the promised land.

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 (25:1-38). The prophet’s warning was not only to Judah but to all the surrounding nations and city-states. Babylon was compared to God’s “cup of wine of indignation.” All the nations Jeremiah listed—Judah, Egypt, Philistine cities, Moab, Edom, Tyre, and others—were to be subjected to Babylon. The seventy years allotted to the Jews has been subject to two basic interpretations. Since this message was given in 605 b.c., when the Babylonians initially invaded Judah, some have regarded the return of Zerubbabel and Joshua in 538-536 b.c. as the termination of this seventy-year period. Others consider 586 b.c. as the terminus a quo and the dedication of the rebuilt Temple in 516 b.c. as the terminus ad quem. Support for the latter is based on Zechariah 1:12, which is dated in 519 b.c. If this v. is correctly interpreted as saying that the seventy-year period is still unexpired, then it would seem logical that the resumption of sacrifice in the rebuilt Temple would be considered the terminal point.

The drastic political and religious changes in Jerusalem after Jehoiakim became king are realistically apparent in Jeremiah’s experience (Jer 26). Publicly preaching that the Temple would be destroyed, Jeremiah no more had the protection or favor of the king as he had formerly enjoyed it under Josiah (cf. ch. 7). The priests and prophets led the people in seeking the execution of Jeremiah. Fortunately some of the elders supported by Ahikam saved Jeremiah’s life, appealing to the historic precedent set by Hezekiah, who did not execute Micah for preaching a similar message of judgment concerning Jerusalem.

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 (27:1-28:17). Jeremiah warned his people not to listen to the false prophets who predicted that the Temple vessels that the Babylonians had taken would soon be returned. One of these prophets, named Hananiah, took the yoke of Jeremiah and broke it in pieces, predicting that in a similar manner the Jews would break the yoke of Babylonian bondage within two years. Although Jeremiah withdrew and “went his way” at that time, he returned, subsequently predicting that Hananiah would die that year. Hananiah died that same year, but there is no indication in this account that the people were any more favorably inclined to believe Jeremiah after this public confirmation of his prophetic ministry.

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 Ahab and Zedekiah, would be executed by Nebuchadnezzar. He also had a message of rebuke for Shemaiah who negated God’s word as Jeremiah proclaimed it (29:1-32). In this manner Jeremiah tried to counter the false prophets who were active in exile as well as those in Jerusalem. In accordance with the warning in ch. 1, Jeremiah frequently had kings, prophets, priests, and the people against him as he proclaimed the message that God had given him.

Restoration prospects (30:1-33:26).

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 (33:1-26). Because of its wickedness Jerusalem would be destroyed but God would subsequently cleanse her from her iniquity and pardon her sin. The goodness of God manifested in Israel’s restoration was to be an amazement and wonder among all the nations. Desolation and ruin would be replaced by prosperity, so that the Israelites would once more be jubilant and thankful in making their sacrifices to God.

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 (34:1-39:18).

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 (34:1-22).

The godless attitude of the leaders had already been apparent in the reign of Jehoiakim (35:1-36:32). On one occasion Jeremiah led the Rechabites into the Temple and offered them wine to drink. They, however, refused to accept this wine to be faithful to an oath that their forefathers had made over two centuries earlier. Jeremiah used this loyalty of the Rechabites as an example to warn the Jews. If the Rechabites were faithful to a promise made by their ancestors, how much more should the Israelites be to their covenant with God. In spite of the fact that prophet after prophet had been sent to them, they had disobeyed and ignored God and turned to idols. Consequently God’s blessing awaited the Rechabites whereas the citizens of Judah would be subjected to the Exile.

Jehoiakim’s attitude toward Jeremiah was pointedly expressed in his burning of the scroll (36:1-32). As king of Judah sitting on the Davidic throne, Jehoiakim failed to recognize that he had stewardship responsibility to obey the law and the messages given by the prophets. Since he was not a God-fearing man, he was alarmed at the divine judgment announced concerning Jerusalem. Demanding that Jeremiah’s scroll be read to him, Jehoiakim listened to three or four columns at a time, cut them in pieces and threw them into the brazier fire before him. Subsequent to this, Jeremiah announced that Jehoiakim would not have a successor upon his throne, and that circumstances at the time of his death would be such that his body would be exposed to the frost by night and the heat by day.

The conditions during the siege and fall of Jerusalem did not facilitate the ministry of Jeremiah (37:1-39:19). Neither the people nor the king were genuinely interested in listening to Jeremiah’s message from God. Zedekiah, however, sent to Jeremiah to request prayer. While the siege was temporarily lifted, Jeremiah warned Zedekiah not to be deceived by this relief. The Chaldeans would soon return to burn the city of Jerusalem.

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 (40:1-45:5).

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 Book of Lamentations.

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. (42:10), warning them that war, famine, and death awaited them if they migrated to Egypt. In spite of the fact that they were definitely informed what God’s will was, they went down to Egypt under the leadership of Johanan (43:1-7). Jeremiah and Baruch apparently had no choice but to go with them.

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 (43:8-44:30).

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 (46:1-51:64).

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 (Isa 39).

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.

Appendix (52:1-34).

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, The Old Testament Speaks (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).