The Book of Jeremiah: A Prophetic Message for a Rebellious Nation
The Book of Jeremiah is the second of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, and the second of the Prophets in the Christian Old Testament. The superscription at chapter Jeremiah 1:1â3 identifies the book as “the words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah”, one of the priests in Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.
The book preserves an account of the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah, whose personal life and struggles are shown to us in greater depth and detail than those of any other OT prophet. The meaning of his name is uncertain. Suggestions include “The Lord exalts” and “The Lord establishes,” but a more likely proposal is “The Lord throws,” either in the sense of “hurling” the prophet into a hostile world or of “throwing down” the nations in divine judgment for their sins.
Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry began in 626 b.c. and ended sometime after 586 (see notes on 1:2-3). His ministry was immediately preceded by that of Zephaniah. Habakkuk was a contemporary, and Obadiah may have been also. Since Ezekiel began his ministry in Babylon in 593, he too was a late contemporary of the great prophet in Jerusalem.
Jeremiah was a member of the priestly household of Hilkiah. His hometown was Anathoth (1:1), so he may have been a descendant of Abiathar (1Ki 2:26), a priest during the days of King Solomon. The Lord commanded Jeremiah not to marry and raise children because the impending divine judgment on Judah would sweep away the next generation (16:1-4). Primarily a prophet of doom, he attracted only a few friends, among whom were Ahikam (26:24), Gedaliah (Ahikam’s son, 39:14) and Ebed-Melech (38:7-13; cf. 39:15-18). Jeremiah’s closest companion was his faithful secretary, Baruch, who wrote down Jeremiah’s words as the prophet dictated them (36:4-32). He was advised by Jeremiah not to succumb to the temptations of ambition but to be content with his lot (ch. 45). He also received from Jeremiah and deposited for safekeeping a deed of purchase (32:11-16), and accompanied the prophet on the long road to exile in Egypt (43:6-7).
Given to self-analysis and self-criticism (10:24), Jeremiah has revealed a great deal about himself. Although timid by nature (1:6), he received the Lord’s assurance that he would become strong and courageous (1:18; 6:27; 15:20). In his “confessions” (see 11:18-23; 12:1-4; 15:10-21; 17:12-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18 and notes) he laid bare the deep struggles of his inmost being, sometimes making startling statements about his feelings toward God (12:1; 15:18).
Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible, containing more words than any other book. Although a number of chapters were written mainly in prose (chs. 7; 11; 16; 19; 21; 24-29; 32-45), including the appendix (ch. 52), most sections are predominantly poetic in form. Jeremiah’s poetry is lofty and lyrical.
The book of Jeremiah contains a prophetic message for a rebellious nation that had forsaken God to worship idols and follow other gods. Jeremiah warned Judah of the coming disaster from the north, which was Babylon, that would destroy Jerusalem and take its people into exile. He also denounced Judah’s kings, officials, priests, and people for their wickedness and unfaithfulness to God. He called them to repent and return to God before it was too late. He also predicted that God would eventually restore his people and make a new covenant with them based on his grace and forgiveness.
The book of Jeremiah is relevant for us today as it shows us