Author & His Times
Jeremiah, priest of Anithoth (3 miles from Jerusalem) prophesied exclusively to Judah, 627-585 B.C. He is mentioned in II Chronicles 36, Ezra 1.1, and Daniel 9:2. His scribe Baruch compiled most of Jeremiah’s oracles in written form (36). He began midway through Josiah’s reign (Josiah’s great reform failed to achieve completion), and continued on through the reign of Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin (all three were under Babylonian control, yet each turned to Egypt for help), and Zedekiah.
Ezekiel is a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. Their ministries were compliments: Jeremiah served in Jerusalem with occasional letters to the exiles; Ezekiel served among the exiles with occasional letters to Jerusalem. Ezekiel was married, Jeremiah was not.
Israel is already in Assyrian captivity. Assyria is loses power to Babylon as Jeremiah’s ministry begins. Babylon controls, Judah during the reign of Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah, yet each turned to Egypt in vain for relief. False prophets in Judah are foretelling peace all throughout, considering Babylon a passing threat. Despite their idolatry, theology of the times gave Judah false security and an invincibility ego: 1) Judah is God’s people, 2) Jerusalem is God’s city, 3) the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem (125 years earlier, about the same time Samaria was destroyed by Assyria) is case and point, and 4) false prophets proclaimed peace.
Babylon invades in 598 B.C. during Jehoiachin’s rebellion. Jeremiah advocates submission and exile to Babylon from here forward to minimize inevitable casualties. King Zedekiah rebels instead of listening; Judah is crushed and taken captive by Babylon in Jeremiah’s final chapter (52). A third and final rebellion by the remnant in Judah has them taking flight to Egypt. Jeremiah and Baruch continue to minister in Egypt, yet not to Judah and not to canonized scripture.
I. (1-25) Doom from the North (Prophetic oracles in poetic form (3/2 meter) with occasional biographical/autobiographical inserts)
II. (26-29) Biographical Interlude (Narratives of hope for the Future)
III. (30-31) Book of Consolation (30-33 combine for the complete message of hope)
IV. (32-45) Biographical Interlude (Narratives about the Fall of Jerusalem)
V. (46-51) Oracles against the Nations
VI. (52) Jerusalem’s Fall & Jeremiah’s Vindication
Jeremiah’s prophetic role was unique in that he was present to experience the actual destruction most others foretold or explained in retrospect. His ministry therefore served as a last call for repentance. He is known as the weeping prophet due to the suffering he experienced under local persecution and invading siege. On many occasions he voices his pains to God. You will find this book helpful empathy material when carrying the pains of living God’s call on your life.
Jeremiah’s “unfaithfulness” theme indicates influence from Hosea and Deuteronomy.
Jeremiah’s message, as sad as it is, often points to the future hopes of exile relief, eternal reign of the Davidic line, eternal Levitical priesthood, and the new covenant which fulfills the intentions of the old – the writing of God’s word on our hearts.
How to Read It
Be aware that Jeremiah has many topical (non-chronological) arrangements. Experience the pains of the prophetic office as you read the narratives. Observe the development of the “unfaithfulness/adultery” theme. For its New Testament value, dig deep in your study of the consolation chapters (30-33) and the “new covenant” it discusses within.