Jeremiah the Faithful Servant
Sermon: Jeremiah the Faithful Servant
HAVE YOU EVER WANTED TO GIVE UP?
How many today could continue faithfully proclaiming God’s word for over 40 years in spite of total rejection, ridicule, death threats, beatings, imprisonments, lonliness, and end you in defeat?
THE PREPARATION OF JEREMIAH FOR HIS MINISTRY
His earthly father (1:1)
His 5 kings (political climate) (1:2-3) over 41yrs…Assyria-N, Egypt-S, Babylon-E, triangle
Born under evil Manasseh, started under godly Josiah
His heavenly call (1:4-5) Adonay Jehova…….my excuses =
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.… For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:3–4).
THE EXCUSES OF JEREMIAH REGARDING HIS MINISTRY
Ability and Age (1:6)
But God exposed his false humility for what it really was: a lack of faith…..fear v.8,17
THE PROVISIONS OF GOD FOR JEREMIAH’S MINISTRY
The Words of God (1:7-10) ….the order is important
*God, promised to be with him, to deliver him, not from any difficult circumstances, but thru those circumstances (1:8).
* The basis for overcoming fear is the assurance of God’s presence.
The Visions of God (1:11-16)
v.11 almond and watching
v.13 ref to Babylon
The Promises of God (1:17-19)
*His only offensive weapon would be the word of the Lord (23:29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? ;
*Jeremiah did not understand until later the extent of the difficulties for which God was preparing him. He could not have anticipated the degree to which the political and religious leaders as well as the common people would oppose him. Jeremiah may have begun his ministry naively and with full confidence that the people would believe that his words were from the Lord
*The finding of the law book in 622 (2 Chr 34:8–28) must have affected the young prophet profoundly. It may have been those discovered Scriptures that brought Jeremiah to his unshakable conviction, so frequently reflected in his later messages
*Notice that he speaks to Jeremiah in the past tense: “I have made you.” Right from the beginning of his calling, God equipped Jeremiah with the courage he needed to finish his calling.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM JEREMIAH:
* God definition of success: Personal obedience to His revealed will
Jeremiah was a “success” because he faithfully proclaimed the word of the Lord.
God’s measuring stick of success = obedience
Measured by human standards, his ministry was a failure, but measured by the will of God, he was a great success.
* The key to perseverence: Nourishment from the Words of God
The secret of Jeremiah’s steadfastness lies in the statement, “The word of the Lord came to him” (15:16When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight,for I bear your name,O LORD God Almighty; 20:9 But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,”his word is in my heart like a fire,a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in;indeed, I cannot).
* Don’t let the difficulty of the ministry rob you of a tender heart
weeping prophet,” his tears should be interpreted not as evidence of inner weakness but as proof of his love for his people.
Jer 9:1 Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. (DHH) ¡Ojalá fueran mis ojos como un manantial,
como un torrente de lágrimas, para llorar día y noche por los muertos de mi pueblo!
Jer 9:10 I will weep and wail for the mountains and take up a lament concerning the desert pastures. They are desolate and untraveled, and the lowing of cattle is not heard. The birds of the air have fled and the animals are gone. (DHH) "Lloren y giman por las montañas, entonen un lamento por las praderas, porque están quemadas y ya nadie pasa por ellas; ya no se oye el mugir del ganado, y hasta las aves y las fieras se fueron huyendo.
Jer 13:17 But if you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive. NLT - And if you still refuse to listen, I will weep alone because of your pride. My eyes will overflow with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be led away into exile. (DHH) Si ustedes no hacen caso, lloraré en secreto a causa de su orgullo; de mis ojos correrán las lágrimas, porque se llevan preso el rebaño del Señor.
Lam 1:16 “This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears. No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit. My children are destitute because the enemy has prevailed.”
L 2:11 My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children & infants faint in the streets of the city
* Some ministries are harder than others with far less earthly rewards
book of Jeremiah does not have a happy ending. It ends with the people of Jerusalem being sent into exile (52:27). It is the sad story of the decline of God’s people from faith to idolatry to exile.
How many today could continue faithfully proclaiming God’s word for forty years in spite of total rejection, ridicule, death threats, beatings and imprisonments, branded a national traitor, lonliness, sad ending to the whole story?...and still have a tender heart toward the people who heart you
* God has a specific calling for your life
Sermón: Jeremías el Siervo Fiel
LA PREPARACION DE JEREMIAS PARA SU MINISTERIO
Su Padre (1:1)
Su situación politico (1:2-3)
Su llamado de Dios antes de que nació (1:4-5)
LAS EXCUSAS DE JEREMIAS TOCANTE A SU MINISTERIO
Edad y Abilidad
LA PROVISION DE DIOS PARA EL MINISTERIO DE JEREMIAS
Las Palabras de Dios (1:7-10)
Las Visiones de Dios (1:11-16)
Las Promesas de Dios (1:17-19)
LECCIONES QUE PARA APRENDER DE JEREMIAS
* La Definición de Dios acerca del éxito: Obediencia en lo que Dios te revela
* La Clave de la Perseverancia: Comer de las Palabras de Dios
* No dejar las dificultades del ministerio robar la ternura de tu corazón
* Algunos ministerios son más difícil que otros con mucho menos recompensa aquí en la tierra
1 - Las palabras de Jeremías hijo de Hilcías, de los sacerdotes que estuvieron [habitaban] en Anatot, en tierra de Benjamín. (DHH) Dichos y hechos de Jeremías, hijo de Hilquías. Jeremías pertenecía a una familia de sacerdotes que vivían en el pueblo de Anatot, en la región de la tribu de Benjamín.
2 - Palabra de Jehová que le vino en los días de Josías hijo de Amón, rey de Judá, en el año decimotercero de su reinado. (DHH) El Señor le habló a Jeremías cuando Josías, hijo de Amón, estaba en el año trece de su reinado en Judá.
3 - Le vino [a él la palabra] también en días de Joacim hijo de Josías, rey de Judá, hasta el fin del año undécimo de Sedequías hijo de Josías, rey de Judá, hasta la cautividad de Jerusalén en el mes quinto. (DHH) También le habló durante el tiempo en que Joaquim, hijo de Josías, era rey de Judá, y hasta que Sedequías, también hijo de Josías, cumplió once años como rey de Judá; es decir, hasta el quinto mes de aquel año, cuando los habitantes de Jerusalén fueron llevados al destierro
4 - Vino, pues, palabra de Jehová a mí, diciendo:
5 - Antes que te formase en el vientre te conocí, y antes que nacieses te santifiqué, te di por profeta a las naciones. (DHH) "Antes de darte la vida, ya te había yo escogido; antes de que nacieras, ya te había yo apartado; te había destinado a ser profeta de las naciones." (NBLH) "Antes que Yo te formara en el seno materno, te conocí, Y antes que nacieras, te consagré; Te puse por profeta a las naciones."
6 - Y yo dije: !!Ah! !!ah, Señor Jehová! He aquí, no sé hablar, porque soy niño. *(DHH) Yo contesté: "¡Ay, Señor! [mi Dios] ¡Yo soy muy joven y no sé hablar!"
7 - Y me dijo Jehová: No digas: Soy un niño; porque a todo lo que te envíe irás tú, y dirás todo lo que te mande. (DHH) Pero el Señor me dijo: "No digas que eres muy joven. Tú irás a donde yo te mande, y dirás lo que yo te ordene.
8 - No temas delante de ellos, porque contigo estoy para librarte, dice Jehová. (DHH) No tengas miedo de nadie, pues yo estaré contigo para protegerte. Yo, el Señor, doy mi palabra."
9 - Y extendió Jehová su mano y tocó mi boca, y me dijo Jehová: He aquí he puesto mis palabras en tu boca. (DHH) Entonces el Señor extendió la mano, me tocó los labios y me dijo:
10 - Mira que te he puesto en este día sobre naciones y sobre reinos, para arrancar y para destruir, para arruinar y para derribar, para edificar y para plantar. (DHH) "Yo pongo mis palabras en tus labios. Hoy te doy plena autoridad sobre reinos y naciones, para arrancar y derribar, para destruir y demoler, y también para construir y plantar."
11 - La palabra de Jehová vino a mí, diciendo: ¿Qué ves tú, Jeremías? Y dije: Veo una vara de almendro. (DHH) El Señor se dirigió a mí, y me dijo: "Jeremías, ¿qué es lo que ves?" "Veo una rama de almendro" --contesté.
12 - Y me dijo Jehová: Bien has visto; porque yo apresuro [velo, apresuro] mi palabra para ponerla por obra. (DHH) "Tienes razón --me dijo el Señor--. En efecto, voy a estar atento a que mis palabras se cumplan."
13 - Vino a mí la palabra de Jehová por segunda vez, diciendo: ¿Qué ves tú? Y dije: Veo una olla que hierve; y su faz está hacia el norte. (DHH) El Señor se dirigió a mí por segunda vez: "¿Qué es lo que ves?" --me preguntó. "Veo una olla hirviendo, a punto de derramarse desde el norte"--contesté.
14 - Me dijo Jehová: Del norte se soltará el mal sobre todos los moradores de esta tierra. (DHH) Entonces el Señor me dijo: "Desde el norte va a derramarse la calamidad sobre todos los habitantes de este país.
15 - Porque he aquí que yo convoco a todas las familias de los reinos del norte, dice Jehová; y vendrán, y pondrá cada uno su campamento a la entrada de las puertas de Jerusalén, y junto a todos sus muros en derredor, y contra todas las ciudades de Judá. (DHH) Yo, el Señor, les aseguro que voy a llamar a todos los reinos del norte. Vendrán sus reyes y pondrán sus tronos a la entrada misma de Jerusalén, frente a todas las murallas que la rodean y frente a todas las ciudades de Judá
16 - Y a causa de toda su maldad, proferiré [pronunciaré] mis juicios contra los que me dejaron, e incensaron a dioses extraños, y la obra de sus manos adoraron. (DHH) Este es el castigo que voy a decretar contra esos pecadores que me abandonaron, que quemaron incienso y adoraron a dioses extranjeros que ellos mismos hicieron.
17 - Tú, pues, ciñe tus lomos, levántate, y háblales todo cuanto te mande; no temas delante de ellos, para que no te haga yo quebrantar delante de ellos. [No sea que Yo te infunda temor delante de ellos]. (DHH) Y tú, ármate de valor; ve y diles todo lo que yo te mande. No les tengas miedo, porque de otra manera yo te haré temblar delante de ellos
18 - Porque he aquí que yo te he puesto en este día como ciudad fortificada, como columna de hierro, y como muro de bronce contra toda esta tierra, contra los reyes de Judá, sus príncipes, sus sacerdotes, y el pueblo de la tierra. (DHH) Yo te pongo hoy como ciudad fortificada, como columna de hierro, como muralla de bronce, para que te enfrentes a todo el país de Judá: a sus reyes, jefes y sacerdotes, y al pueblo en general.
19 - Y pelearán contra ti, pero no te vencerán; porque yo estoy contigo, dice Jehová, para librarte. (DHH) Ellos te harán la guerra, pero no te vencerán porque yo estaré contigo para protegerte. Yo, el Señor, doy mi palabra."
NAC - The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. 2The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, 3and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
Verses 1–3 serve as an introduction to the entire Book of Jeremiah. They give some information about Jeremiah and the names of the kings who ruled Judah during his ministry. Textual scholars are divided in their analysis of chap. 1. Some believe vv. 1–3 were added as an introduction to the entire book by a later redactor. Some believe the visions of vv. 11–16 occurred at a later time and that vv. 15–16 were an expanded addition to vv. 13–14. Others believe vv. 17–19 were added at a later time in Jeremiah’s career or even by a later editor. No firm evidence has yet been presented that would confirm that the chapter was originally composed of diverse literary units. It can just as easily be read as a unified, coherent account of Jeremiah’s call and as Jeremiah’s own introduction to the scroll dictated to Baruch in 605 B.C.
1:1 Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, not the Hilkiah who discovered the book of the law in the temple in 622 B.C. (2 Kgs 22:8) but a priest who lived in Anathoth. Anathoth was located about three miles northeast of Jerusalem in the tribal division of Benjamin (Josh 21:17–18). The nearby modern village of Anata preserves the ancient name. Abiathar was banished to Anathoth by Solomon ca. 962 for supporting Adonijah’s attempt to make himself king (1 Kgs 1:7; 2:26–27). Jeremiah may have been a descendant of Abiathar. If so, he could claim descent from the house of Eli, the priestly family in charge of the ark of the covenant when it was located at Shiloh (cf. 1 Sam 1:3; 14:3; 1 Kgs 2:27). Jeremiah used the fate of Shiloh as a warning to Jerusalem (7:14; 26:6). Scholars are uncertain whether Jeremiah ever functioned as a priest even though he was of priestly lineage. He was frequently critical of them (1:18; 2:8; 6:13; 13:13; 23:11).
1:2–3 The book affirms repeatedly that the messages of Jeremiah were not his own creation but were the Lord’s words. In Hebrew “the word of the Lord came to” (lit. “was” or “happen”) occurs 123 times in the OT and suggests self-existent power that manifests itself and is able to transform what it touches (Isa 55:11).
Jeremiah’s prophetic career began in “the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah,” which would have been 627 B.C. Some scholars argue this date was the year of Jeremiah’s birth. However, this would be an uncommon use of the expression “the word of the Lord came.” Furthermore, this understanding confuses the events of the coming word in vv. 2–4 with that of the Lord’s forming in v. 5. The latter verse only says God set him apart before birth. Therefore Jeremiah was a young man (v. 6), probably under twenty years of age, and unmarried (16:2) when called. He was born around 650–645 during the rule of the wicked King Manasseh (2 Kgs 21:1–18) and continued to labor for an undetermined period beyond the fall of Jerusalem (40:1–44:30).
How many today could continue faithfully proclaiming God’s word for forty years in spite of total rejection, ridicule, death threats, beatings and imprisonments, lonliness, sad ending to the whole story? Yet the NT leads us to expect such response from a self-seeking, self-sufficient, secular society (Matt 24:9; John 15:18–21; 17:14). The secret of Jeremiah’s steadfastness lies in the statement, “The word of the Lord came to him” (15:16When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight,for I bear your name,O LORD God Almighty; 20:9 But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,”his word is in my heart like a fire,a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in;indeed, I cannot).
Jeremiah would have been considered a failure by today’s standards of success, but in God’s evaluation he was an outstanding success. Why? Because God judges us by a different standard from the world’s criteria for success. If we are obedient to his commands for us, then we will receive his commendation (Matt 25:21). Jeremiah was a “success” because he faithfully proclaimed the word of the Lord.
II. THE CALL AND VISIONS OF JEREMIAH (1:4–19)
1. The Call of Jeremiah (1:4–10)
2. Vision of the Branch of an Almond Tree (1:11–12)
3. Vision of a Boiling Pot (1:13–16)
4. A Divine Challenge and Promise (1:17–19)
THE CALL AND VISIONS OF JEREMIAH (1:4–19)
This section is divided into 3 units by the repetition of “the word of the Lord came” in vv. 4, 11, 13. It describes the call itself and the two visions. Whether the visions occurred at the same time as the call, they are recounted in the same pattern of “word of the Lord came . . . I said . . . the Lord said.” God has a person for every task he wants accomplished. The person comes to understand that task through what is referred to as a “call” experience. A comparative study of the prophetic calls reveals that although they were different, each created an irresistible constraint on the prophet’s life. In spite of indifference, physical abuse, or rejection, each was driven to proclaim the messages he received from God. What God appoints and initiates God enables (Phil 2:13; 4:13). See the calls of Moses….Samuel….Isaiah….Ezekiel….Elijah, Jonah, Amos, Amos, Hosea…..Paul, Matthew, etc
The Call of Jeremiah (1:4–10) The word of the Lord came to me, saying,5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,before you were born I set you apart;I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”6“Ah, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”7But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.9Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. 10See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
1:4–5 The experience that changed Jeremiah’s life is described in 1:4–10. He later questioned many difficult and painful experiences, but he never doubted the authenticity of his call. It often kept him going when he was ready to renounce his ministry (20:9 But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot). God’s call to Jeremiah is contained in vv. 4–5. The rest of the book is a collection of messages and experiences over the next forty years. It is not necessary to assume that Jeremiah heard an audible voice, but the message was unmistakable. God had set him apart to be a prophet.
The Hebrew verb translated “formed” (yṣr) is the same word found in Gen 2:7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being] and is related to the word for “potter” (Jer 18:2–4). Like a composer constructing the instrument on which music will be played, God created Jeremiah as a spokesman for the word of the Lord. The meaning for the Hebrew word “knew” (yd˓) ranges from factual knowledge (Gen 27:2) to carnal knowledge (Gen 19:8; Judg 21:11). Here it involves choosing a relationship (Gen 18:19; Deut 34:10). The Lord was thinking about Jeremiah before he was born. At that time God had already designated Jeremiah to be a prophet. [Like a parent who thinks of his pre-born while still in his mom’s tummy and plans what he will be when he grows up] The Lord had already “appointed” (lit. “given”) Jeremiah’s life to the task of being a prophet without consulting him. Those who believe in God’s sovereignty are not troubled by these words, which clearly teach that God has the right as Creator to do whatever he desires with our lives (Num 8:19; John 3:16). At the same time he has allowed freedom of choice from the beginning (Gen 2:16–17). This piling up of verbs in the first person (alternating between Heb. perfect and imperfect tenses) stressing divine involvement in Jeremiah’s life from the beginning would have been a great encouragement to him throughout his difficult prophetic career.
“Prophet to the nations” does not mean that Jeremiah was to go to every known nation. It suggests the universal validity of God’s word. God’s sovereignty extends beyond the individual to the nations. Carroll suggests that Jeremiah’s commission subtly reverses the domination of other nations over Judah by “representing Yahweh’s prophet as the one with real power over those apparent dominant forces” (25:15–29; 46:1–51:64). It may also imply that Judah had become like the other nations by rebelling against God’s law.
1:6 Jeremiah’s response to his call was to offer two excuses.
1) He felt inadequate as a public speaker (an excuse shared with Moses, Exod 4:10)
2) and also immature (Solomon, 1 Kgs 3:7). Although his age is uncertain, he probably was not quite twenty. “Child” is a word in Heb. (na˓ar) that can be used of a baby (Exod 2:6), a child (1 Sam 1:24), a young man (Gen 37:2), a vigorous warrior (2 Sam 2:14), or a person past forty (Exod 3:11).
1:7–8 The Lord rejected Jeremiah’s excuses but without rancor (God’s anger with Moses, Exod 4:14). When God calls, he equips us with what is needed to carry out the assigned task. For Jeremiah it was the promise of God’s presence and deliverance from any threatening situation that the reluctant prophet needed to hear. The command “Do not be afraid” is found frequently in the Scriptures, suggesting how common is the human experience of fear. The basis for overcoming fear is the assurance of God’s presence. However, even with the assurance of God’s presence, Jeremiah continued to struggle with his calling (15:18; 20:7–8).
The concluding phrase of v. 8, “declares the Lord,” uses a word (n…˒um) that is found 176 times in Jeremiah, less frequently in Ezekiel (eighty-three times), Isaiah (twenty-three times), Amos (twenty-one times), Zechariah (twenty times), Haggai (eleven times), and rarely in the rest of the OT. From a word translated “to whisper,” it may suggest an intimate revelation (“I’m going to let you in on a secret”).
1:9–10 With a symbolic gesture of touching Jeremiah’s mouth, God commissioned him as his spokesman (Num 23:5; Deut 18:18; Isa 6:7; 51:16; Jer 15:16; Ezek 2:9–3:2). Verse 10 anticipates the twofold ministry of Jeremiah. He would announce messages of judgment (“to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow”) and messages of encouragement and hope (“to build and to plant”). There is no reason to deny as some scholars have done that the same prophet could speak both messages of judgment and hope. The order is important. Judah’s idols and immoral practices had to be purged before God could bless the nation. Erroneous beliefs and practices must be destroyed before reconstruction can take place (Eccl 3:3). A new building cannot be constructed until the old structure it will replace has been demolished. “God can speak his yes only after he has spoken a no.” It is often easy to be critical and negative toward the church and others without offering constructive alternatives. Jeremiah was commissioned to do both. His effectiveness would be dependent on God’s word, not on the prophet’s ability or cleverness. God is never limited by a person’s natural ability or experience (Exod 4:11–12; 1 Sam 16:6–7; Zech 4:6; 2 Cor 12:9).
Vision of the Branch of an Almond Tree (1:11–12) 11The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied. 12The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”
1:11–12 The text is not explicit about whether the two visions of vv. 11–16 were part of Jeremiah’s call experience or occurred after an interval of time. Their placement here suggests they were needed to confirm and reinforce his call.
The first vision was of a branch of an almond tree (šāqēd). In a play on words (Amos 8:1–2) God said he was “watching” (v. 12, šōqēd) to see that his word was fulfilled. The almond tree was called the “awake” tree because it blossoms [florece] early in the spring [primavera] while other trees remain dormant [aletargado]. Anathoth is still a center for growing almonds.
The purpose of the vision was to warn that God’s announcements of judgment through earlier prophets had not been forgotten. Whenever Jeremiah and the people of Judah saw the almond tree, they were to remember that their God was watching them (5:6; 31:28). The vision has also been interpreted as a message of encouragement to Judah that God was not unaware of the wickedness of other nations. They would be punished. Another interpretation is that God was watching over Judah with tender, protective care. The first interpretation is preferred. Judah’s false sense of security would be shattered, though it would not happen immediately.
Vision of a Boiling Pot (1:13–16) The word of the Lord came to me again: “What do you see?”“I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north,” I answered. 14The Lord said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. 15I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the Lord. “Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah. 16I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made.
1:13–14 In the second vision, which may or may not have taken place immediately after the first, Jeremiah saw a boiling pot (lit. “a pot blown upon,” i.e., a pot placed on a flame that was fanned by the wind). It was a cooking pot (2 Kgs 4:38) or wash pot (Ps 60:8), commonly found in Israelite homes. It was an object Jeremiah had seen many times, but now he saw it in a new light—as a symbol of imminent judgment. The pot tilted away from the north (that is, toward the south), with its liquid contents about to boil over. The impending disaster on Judah is compared to the spilling of the contents of a boiling pot, which would scald the people of Judah.
The meaning of the vision is unmistakable. It pictures the certainty of God’s judgment that was going to come on Jerusalem by an enemy invasion from the north and, thus, the urgency of Jeremiah’s message. At a time when Assyrian power was coming to an end with the death of its last great monarch, Ashurbanipal, in 627, the people were inclined to believe that threats from the north were at an end. They scoffed at Jeremiah’s warnings of danger. Scholars for the most part no longer identify the unnamed enemy as Scythian but as Babylonians (Hab 1:5–11). Geographically Babylonia was to the east of Judah, but its armies would not risk crossing the forbidding Arabian desert. Instead, they would follow the Euphrates River northward into Syria. From there they would invade Judah by way of Syria from the north.
At the time of the vision Jeremiah could not have known that the enemy from the north would be the Babylonians and their allies.
1:15–16 The rulers of the conquering enemy would set up thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem (fulfilled in 39:3). The meaning of this act has been interpreted in different ways. Some understand the thrones as a picture of Jerusalem and the other towns of Judah encircled and under siege (as suggested by 1:15b). They could also be interpreted as a symbol of triumph (43:8–13). Interpreted in light of v. 16, the thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem describe a place of judgment where the defeated leaders of Judah would be judged (Josh 20:4; Pss 9:4; 122:5). In that day Jerusalem’s inhabitants would ask God why the calamity had happened. He would answer by reminding them of their faithlessness in worshiping other gods, including idols made with their own hands. Their false confidence in the temple as a symbol of God’s unconditional presence and protection would be shattered with the destruction of the temple (7:4–15; 2 Kgs 25:9, 13–15). Although Jerusalem’s destruction would be inflicted by the Babylonians, v. 16 interprets it as God’s act of judgment (Ezek 9:1–10:8). When Israel accepted the terms of the covenant at Mount Sinai (Exod 19–24), the people agreed to worship no other gods (Exod 20:3) in order to be the recipients of God’s blessings. Unfortunately, almost from the beginning of that relationship they were attracted to the gods of their neighbors (Num 25:1–5). Consequently, they suffered the punishment of the Deuteronomic curse for breaching the covenant (Deut 11:26–28; 28:1–68).
Together the two visions mean that the Lord was watching over his word of threatened punishment to carry it out. That punishment would be inflicted at the hands of an enemy coming from the north. The impending calamity on Judah would not be due to economic or political factors but was theological and moral. Every generation faces a similar challenge to trust in God for its security rather than in “gods” of its own making. “It is a recurring temptation for every concentration of power to imagine itself self-sufficient and therefore free to order its life for its own purposes without the requirements of Yahweh.
A Divine Challenge and Promise (1:17–19) Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
The closing verses of chap. 1 are addressed to Jeremiah. They contain both a warning and a promise. God warned Jeremiah not to lose his courage in the face of a hostile audience and promised him the strength and resources to resist his enemies.
1:17 There is a time to be still and listen (Exod 14:14; Ps 46:10; Eccl 3:7; Ezek 3:24–26), and there is a time to act (Exod 14:15; Ezek 3:27). Jeremiah’s call was given, and now it was time for him to act on that call. He was apparently given no option about whether to accept or reject his prophetic task. In order to prepare Jeremiah for a hostile reaction to his messages, the Lord said, “Get yourself ready!” He must not back down before his adversaries lest God punish him. God warned him not to be “terrified” by threats from his own people. If Jeremiah was “shattered” by his people and backed away from his commission, then God would “shatter” him. The meaning of the threat is not clear, but it is ominous. Obedience is the only appropriate response of the servant of God (Ezek 3:18; Luke 14:28–33; 1 Cor 4:2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful).
1:18–19 Jeremiah had been uncertain about his qualifications for the prophetic office. He needed assurance, which the Lord abundantly provided. Jeremiah would be like a fortified city surrounded by attackers. His enemies would be his own people; but the Lord promised to make him as impregnable as a fortified city, as strong as an iron pillar, and as impervious to attack as a bronze wall (Deut 31:6–8; Josh 1:6–9; Jer 15:20; Ezek 3:9). We would say that Jeremiah had to be hardheaded and thick-skinned in order to defend himself against kings, priests, and all the people of the land. His only offensive weapon would be the word of the Lord (23:29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? ; Eph 6:17). Believers today need the same inner resources to withstand the hostility and ridicule of an unbelieving world (Eph 6:11; 1 Pet 5:8).
Jeremiah did not understand until later the extent of the difficulties for which God was preparing him. He could not have anticipated the degree to which the political and religious leaders as well as the common people would oppose him. Jeremiah may have begun his ministry naively and with full confidence that the people would believe that his words were from the Lord (15:16). It is to the credit of this remarkable prophet that he continued preaching God’s messages faithfully for forty years without giving up on his people.
The passage closes with further assurance that Jeremiah’s enemies would not be able to prevail against him because the Lord would be with him (Rom 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?). Later Jeremiah would undoubtedly recall these reassuring words many times to sustain him when he would have been tempted to abandon his call. He began his ministry with the assurance of God’s purpose in his life (v. 5), God’s presence in his life (vv. 8, 19), and God’s power in his life (vv. 9–10, 17–19). Someone has said that when God calls us to a task, he does not give us a road map to follow and then leave us to our resources. God walks with us.
NAC – intro
1. The World of Jeremiah
Jeremiah can never be understood apart from the historical currents that swirled about him from the time of his childhood until those tumultuous events that took him to Egypt after forty years of faithfully proclaiming God’s words. The closing years of the seventh century B.C. proved to be a turbulent era in the ANE. That period can only be described as a time of crisis and transition. The stability that had characterized the years of political and military domination by Assyria in northern Mesopotamia came to an abrupt end in 609 with Assyria’s capitulation to a coalition of nations led by the emerging city-state Babylon, fifty miles south of Baghdad. Assyria had been one of the most powerful empires of the ancient world. Few would have anticipated that its fall could come so quickly after reaching the zenith of its political and cultural achievements under the able ruler Ashurbanipal (668–627 B.C.).
Assyria was overextended, its wars were exhausting its resources, its vassals were beginning to test its power, and it was under God’s judgment (Isa 10:12; 14:24–25; Nah 2:8–3:19). Psammetichus I of Egypt (664–610) withheld tribute, ca. 655, and declared his independence from Assyria. The Medes were becoming a potential threat as were hordes of barbarian Cimmerians and Scythians. Ashurbanipal’s brother and king of Babylon, Shamash-shum-ukin, led a revolt against Assyria in 652 that was put down only after a bitter struggle. After Ashurbanipal’s death in 627, a Chaldean prince, Nabopolassar (626–605), took advantage of general unrest and civil war in the empire to declare Babylon’s independence. Nineveh fell to the Babylonians and Medes in 612, and the last Assyrian resistance ended in 609 at Haran.
Babylon’s emergence as the major world power did not go unchallenged. Egypt saw the upstart nation as an even greater threat than Assyria and challenged them at the Battle of Carchemish in 605. Babylon emerged from that conflict as the undisputed ruler of the ANE (Jer 46:2–12). Smaller nations like Judah transferred their loyalty to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, Nabopolassar’s son and general of the victorious army at Carchemish, was called home when his father died that same year and assumed rule of the now-powerful Babylonian Empire.
Judah had been under Assyrian domination since the days of King Ahaz (735–715 B.C., 2 Kgs 16:7–8; Isa 7:1–8:18). With the coming of Assyrian weakness during the days of good King Josiah (640–609), Judah was able to maintain its independence (Jer 22:1–17). Assyria was helpless to challenge Josiah’s annexation of much of Northern Israel (2 Chr 34:6–7). Then Judah became ensnared in the power struggle between Egypt and Babylon. After Josiah’s untimely death at the Battle of Megiddo (609) as he tried to halt an Egyptian army from reaching the last remnant of Assyria’s resistance at Haran (2 Chr 35:20–24), control of Judah fell to the Egyptians under Pharaoh Neco II (610–594). Neco appointed Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz, as Judah’s new king. Recognizing after three months that Jehoahaz supported the anti-Egyptian party in Judah, however, the Egyptians deposed him and took him to Egypt as a prisoner. Neco replaced him with another of Josiah’s sons, wicked Jehoiakim (609–598). After Egypt’s defeat at Carchemish in 605, Jehoiakim transferred his allegiance to Babylon (2 Kgs 24:1).
Encouraged by the promise of Egyptian military help (Jer 2:36–37), Jehoiakim renounced his vassalage to Babylon in 601 (2 Kgs 24:1). In December 598 Nebuchadnezzar sent an army to quell the revolt lest other vassals entertain similar aspirations for independence. Jehoiakim died before a protracted siege of Jerusalem became a reality. Some of his own people may have assassinated him in order to negotiate more favorable peace terms with Nebuchadnezzar. His son, Jehoiachin, occupied the throne for only three months. Nebuchadnezzar deposed him and took him to Babylon in 597 (2 Kgs 24:8). There he remained until his release in 562 by Nebuchadnezzar II’s successor Amel-Marduk (the biblical Evil-Merodach).
Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah (Mattaniah), another of Josiah’s sons, on the throne. However, Zedekiah did not learn from his brother’s disastrous attempt to sever ties with Babylon. He was encouraged to rebel by an insurrection in Babylon in 595/594 and by the promise of Egyptian help from Pharaoh Hophra (589–570), successor of Psammetichus II (594–589). Nebuchadnezzar quickly responded to the threat by sending an army to squelch the revolt. He placed Jerusalem under a siege that ended after eighteen months when the defenders, weakened by hunger, disease, and low morale, were no longer able to hold out. The walls were breached; Jerusalem was taken and destroyed, including the revered temple. Nebuchadnezzar carried away a number of the people to Babylon as hostages (2 Kgs 25:1–21).
Nebuchadnezzar was unwilling to allow the rebellious nation any further semblance of independence under its own kings. He incorporated Judah into his empire as a province and appointed Gedaliah, a member of a noble Judahite family, as governor (2 Kgs 25:22–26; Jer 40:1–12). It is uncertain how long he governed before being assassinated by a certain Ishmael (41:1–3). A number of Gedaliah’s supporters, fearing Babylonian retaliation, fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them (2 Kgs 25:26; Jer 42:1–43:7). Jeremiah 52:30 mentions a deportation in 582, which may have been Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment for Gedaliah’s murder.
Jeremiah was born and raised in Judah under Assyrian domination during the reign of wicked King Manasseh (687–642 B.C.). Manasseh could not have been unaffected by the pagan religious practices fostered there. Early in his reign Manasseh began reintroducing and multiplying the paganism his father, Hezekiah, purged from Judah. He rebuilt the high places Hezekiah had destroyed, erected altars to Baal, and made an Asherah pole. He worshiped all the starry hosts and built altars to pagan gods in the temple itself. He offered his own son as a burnt sacrifice and practiced sorcery and divination (2 Kgs 21:2–9; 24:3–4; Zeph 1:4–5).
Many of Judah’s priests were wicked, but there were surely some who lamented what they saw taking place and did all they could to protect their families from such practices. Jeremiah’s priestly parents (1:1) probably were among this minority and were careful to observe the Shema (Deut 6:4–9) in their home. Men and women with profound religious convictions can often trace the factors that molded their character to the teachings and influence of godly parents. Such may have been Jeremiah’s fortunate background. At any rate he was prepared to hear the call of God in 627 (1:2) when just a youth, probably in his late teen years. The previous year King Josiah had begun his reforms (2 Chr 34:3–7). That same year, 627, witnessed the death of Ashurbanipal and the end of Assyrian dominance in the ANE. The rapid disintegration of the Assyrian Empire after Ashurbanipal’s death must have provided Jeremiah food for thought, but he provided no record of his inner thoughts of that event. Perhaps he was too absorbed with trying to understand his call and what God was doing in his life to try to interpret international events.
The finding of the law book in 622 (2 Chr 34:8–28) must have affected the young prophet profoundly, though he left no record of his reaction to its discovery. He must have admired the efforts of King Josiah to restore the religious purity that had characterized Josiah’s great-grandfather Hezekiah. It may have been those discovered Scriptures that brought Jeremiah to his unshakable conviction, so frequently reflected in his later messages, that continued disobedience to God’s laws would spell the doom of Judah.
This became a major focus of Jeremiah’s ministry as chief spokesman for the Lord after Josiah’s death in 609 and Jehoiakim’s accession. Jeremiah became the bitter adversary of Josiah’s successors throughout the remaining years of Judah’s independent existence.
It cannot be ascertained when Jeremiah first came to understand that the upstart nation of Babylon was going to be God’s instrument of judgment on his own people. However, when he realized what was to be, he unflinchingly warned his people that judgment was imminent. His efforts to turn them back to God were of no avail. His only reward was to be branded a traitor, threatened, and imprisoned.
Jeremiah’s troubles did not end when he was vindicated as a true prophet by Jerusalem’s fall in 587. He loved his people too much to abandon them, so he made a decision to remain with them to help rebuild the nation (40:1–6). Even that desire was thwarted when he was forced to go to Egypt (43:1–6). Jeremiah’s latter days are a mystery.
The Lord wove Jeremiah’s ministry and message into the fabric of his world. In order to understand Jeremiah’s book it is necessary to understand the events surrounding the prophet. Nevertheless, Jeremiah’s message speaks beyond his world because it was the message of the transcendent Lord of all worlds. It speaks to every world in which there is pride, rebellion against God, spiritual blindness, and God’s people in need of encouragement and hope.
2. Jeremiah: A Prophet for the Times
The tumultuous period of Judah’s last days brought forth a clamor of prophetic voices warning that Judah’s time was short unless it repented and returned to the Lord. However, towering above Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Ezekiel was the lonely figure of Jeremiah. Nevertheless, his message largely went unheeded.
“Jeremiah . . . was one of the prophets of Israel.” However commonplace this statement appears, he says, it is “actually the essential statement to be made about the man.” Another way of introducing Jeremiah is to see him as the most “human” of all the prophets. More is known about the personal and inner life of Jeremiah than any other prophet. Given to alternating moods of despair and exaltation, it is easier, perhaps, for us to identify with him than with a prophet as majestic and remote as Isaiah, as self-disciplined and visionary as Ezekiel, or as fiery as Amos.
Jeremiah exhibited qualities of courage, compassion, and sensitivity. He also revealed a darker side of moodiness, introspection, loneliness, doubt, and retribution toward his personal enemies (11:20). He could call for vengeance on those who attacked him but also intercede passionately for God to spare his people. He could stand his ground against personal threats but also weep uncontrollably as he considered the suffering of his own people. Though frequently called the “weeping prophet,” his tears should be interpreted not as evidence of inner weakness but as proof of his love for his people. He must have gained a reputation for courage during his lifetime, for centuries later comparisons were made between Jesus and Jeremiah (Matt 16:14).
He was the son of Hilkiah, a priest of Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. It is not certain whether Jeremiah himself was a priest. If he was, he did not mention it. Jeremiah was not married when called to be a prophet; in fact, he was forbidden to marry (16:1–4). Since young men customarily married in their late teens, Jeremiah probably was under twenty years of age when called “in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah” (1:2), i.e., 627 B.C.
The reader is never told how Jeremiah earned his livelihood. It is unlikely that his preaching would have resulted in monetary compensation had a collection plate been passed. Perhaps those few who agreed with his message provided for his physical needs, which would have been minimal. On the other hand, he may have had independent financial resources because he was able to purchase the land of a relative when it was offered to him (32:9).
There are four distinct periods in Jeremiah’s ministry:
(1) 627–609, from the date of his call to the death of King Josiah;
(2) 609–597, from Josiah’s death to the deportation of King Jehoiachin to Babylon;
(3) 597–587, from the years of the reign of King Zedekiah to the fall of Jerusalem;
(4) from the fall of Jerusalem in 587 to Jeremiah’s involuntary flight to Egypt, where the story abruptly ends. The reader is told nothing about his final years or his death.
An evaluation of Jeremiah by most standards of success would brand him an abysmal failure. He preached for forty years without convincing the people that he was God’s prophet. He was threatened, ridiculed, and physically abused by his own people. Jerusalem was finally destroyed, and Judah ceased to exist as a nation because the people refused to accept Jeremiah’s remedy for deliverance—turn back to God and submit to the Babylonians. However, Jeremiah must not be judged by human standards. God has a different measuring stick by which he judges a person’s life. His is the test of obedience. God only required that Jeremiah obey him by proclaiming his message. Jeremiah was not responsible for a favorable response or lack of response. One who is an obedient servant of the Lord today is not held accountable for lack of response from those who hear his message. The great rulers of Jeremiah’s day—Ashurbanipal, Nebuchadnezzar, Neco, and Hophra—have largely been forgotten. Their influence is nil, whereas Jeremiah’s name and influence remain because of his obedience to God’s will for him.
Formation and Structure of the Book
The Book of Jeremiah appears to consist of four distinct parts:
chaps. 1–25; 26–45; 46–51; chap. 52.
In addition, there is evidence of smaller collections within the work (2:1–4:4; 4:5–6:30; 8:14–17; 21:11–23:8; 23:9–40). Scholars have been unable to agree on how the collections came together. L. Perdue stated that “the most complicated and controversial issue in Jeremiah studies involves the analysis of the literary composition and development of the book.” J. Bright proposed a solution for the formation of the book, but E. Achtemeier responded that his solution was only “educated guesswork.” R. K. Harrison believes the “process of transmission . . . was considerably less complex than has been assumed by the majority of liberal scholars,” but he admitted it is “almost impossible to conjecture the manner in which the prophecy was given its final form.” Nevertheless, conservative scholars affirm that God’s guiding hand was ultimately responsible.Chapter 36 reveals that the earliest collection was made by Jeremiah himself when he dictated messages to Baruch that he had delivered prior to 605. When Jehoiakim destroyed the scroll on which they were written, Jeremiah dictated them again, adding others. These messages are found in chaps. 1–25. The remainder of the book speaks of Jeremiah in the third person and was evidently collected later by someone other than the prophet, perhaps by his scribe Baruch.
Not only is there uncertainty about how the collection came about, but there also is considerable question about the arrangement of the final form. J. A. Soggin’s assessment that “the whole book gives the impression of having been assembled with almost a complete lack of criteria” is probably an overstatement. O. Eissfeldt observed, “It is quite clear that this form is the result of a planned arrangement . . . either upset or not consistently carried through.” It is evident that an overall plan was not carried out and cannot be recovered. In spite of Soggin’s statement, however, there is evidence that some criteria were used for the arrangement of certain parts of the book. Certain chapters are clearly gathered together according to subject matter, e.g., chaps. 18–19, the potter; 30–33, hope for the future; 46–51, judgment on foreign nations. Some parts are arranged according to key words, e.g., “return” in chaps. 3–4. The book appears at first glance to be arranged chronologically, i.e., beginning with Jeremiah’s call and concluding with his words from Egypt more than forty years later. However, the chronological arrangement is not strictly followed. For example, the events of chap. 25 precede those of chap. 24, and the events of 22:24–30 are prior to those in 21:1–7. Other arrangements can also be detected, e.g., 22:1–30: condemnation of the wicked rulers, and chaps. 27–29: condemnation of false prophets.
Scholars generally agree that there are three types of literary material in the book. They are (1) the poetic oracles, most from Jeremiah himself; (2) biographical prose narratives about events in the life and time of Jeremiah; and (3) sayings and prose discourses akin to the style and vocabulary found in Deuteronomy and the Historical Books (the so-called Deuteronomistic history). Arguments have been proposed for Jeremiah’s dependence on certain portions of Hosea; Amos; Isaiah; Micah; and Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk. It should not be surprising that prophets were familiar with oracles of their predecessors and of their contemporaries and sometimes reflected that familiarity in their own messages.
5. Jeremiah in the Septuagint Version No other book of the Old Testament contains as many textual variants between the Hebrew (MT) and Greek texts (LXX) as does the Book of Jeremiah. In 1862 F. Giesebracht determined that the LXX is about twenty-seven hundred words or one-eighth shorter than the MT. A more precise count by Y.-J. Min in 1977 found the LXX to be 3,097 words or one-seventh shorter than the MT. The differences include the omission of entire passages in the LXX, the longest being about 180 words. The most significant omissions are 29:16–20; 33:14–26; 39:4–13; 51:41b–49a; 52:27b–30. Other omissions may be a phrase, a sentence, or only a single word or two. The LXX has about one hundred words not found in the MT. Furthermore, some words in the LXX are different from the corresponding words in the MT (variants). Another type variant that occurs is a different arrangement of texts. The most significant one occurs in the messages against foreign nations (chaps. 46–51 in the MT). In the LXX this section appears immediately after 25:13a (LXX = 25:14–31:44) and is also arranged internally in a different sequence from the MT.Some of these differences are recensional, that is, they point to the existence of more than one edition of the Hebrew text. Others are the result of transcriptional errors, and some were introduced as revisions by the LXX translators. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, many scholars assumed the LXX was an abridgment of the MT and was thus a historically inferior text. Although some fragments of Jeremiah found at Qumran agree with the MT against the LXX (4QJera, 4QJerc, and 2QJer), two of the three fragments of 4QJerb (covering 9:22–10:18; 43:3–9) are closer to the LXX than the MT. Although the evidence is slim, it seems likely that there were at least two different Hebrew text traditions of Jeremiah in circulation at Qumran, a shorter one forming the basis for the LXX and a longer one forming the basis for the MT. Whether one or both of these originated during or shortly after Jeremiah’s lifetime or were the work of Deuteronomistic editors is a disputed matter. G. L. Archer, Jr. proposed that after producing and disseminating an earlier version of his prophecies, essentially represented by the LXX, Jeremiah continued adding prophecies to the work, which were then collected and finalized by Baruch. The final text was that found in the MT. The approach that seems best and is used by most scholars is that of J. Bright and J. A. Thompson, evaluating each passage individually to determine in each case a preference for the MT or the LXX.After examining the various theories regarding the respective merits of the LXX and MT, S. Soderlund made the following sage observation: “It is important not to lose one’s perspective: whether in the longer or shorter version, the book of Jeremiah still speaks to us with power and conviction that should not be obscured in the course of an otherwise legitimate and necessary text critical enterprise.”Some of the differences between the LXX and MT will be noted as they are encountered in the commentary that follows where they illuminate the interpretation.
6. The Theology of Jeremiah
Jeremiah was constantly at odds with his contemporaries (cf. 27–29). Their differences arose from his negative view of the future; he was unable to shake his countrymen from their smug complacency. Jeremiah was convinced that Judah would not survive because of its wickedness and refusal to repent and return to God (chaps. 2–6). He saw Babylon as God’s instrument of judgment on his people and warned that Judah would be destroyed (1:11–19; 4:5–31; 25:1–14). This kind of preaching was unpopular and almost cost his life on several occasions (18:18; 19:1–20:6; 26:1–24; 36:1–26; 37:11–16; 38:1–16).
The tension between Jeremiah and the nation was partly political because the people perceived Jeremiah as a traitor and a Babylonian sympathizer (37:11–16). The tension was also theological. Jeremiah was convinced on theological grounds that the nation was under God’s judgment and would be punished, whereas his opponents argued (6:14; 28:10–11) that God had given them the land as part of an unconditional covenant (Gen 17:1–8) and had promised that a Davidic ruler would always be on the throne (2 Sam 7). Destruction of the nation did not fit that theological view (Jer 26:1–24).
Furthermore, they believed that history had substantiated their understanding. In 722 B.C. Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was destroyed because the people rebelled against their Assyrian overlords (2 Kgs 17), but their calamity was interpreted by the prophets as God’s judgment (Amos 2:6–16; 3:1–6:14). Judah was spared at that time because it submitted to Assyrian vassalage (2 Kgs 16:7–9), but the people interpreted their deliverance as evidence of God’s favor. Then when Jerusalem was spared destruction from Sennacherib’s siege of the city in 701, they saw further proof of God’s abiding favor on them (Isa 36–38).
When Manasseh became king of Judah in 687, he repudiated Hezekiah’s reforms, encouraged Baal worship, and was a docile subject of Assyria (1 Kgs 21:1–18). Nevertheless, Judah continued to maintain an optimistic theology that had its roots in their past history. Since the temple served as a visible symbol of God’s presence, the people were confident he would protect them from all foes. Furthermore, they hoped for a king who would restore the glories of an idealized past under David and Solomon (Mic 5:2–5a; Jer 26:17–19).
Jeremiah saw the fallacy of their theology, but for a time it appeared that the timetable for calamity would be reversed because of the sweeping religious reforms of Josiah. Josiah purged all foreign cults from the land and slaughtered their priests unmercifully (2 Kgs 23:4–14). He even carried his reforms into Israel (2 Kgs 23:15–20), knowing that a weakened Assyria was unable to hold its conquered territories. These were the most thoroughgoing reforms in Judah’s history and were pressed and directed further by the discovery of the law book in the temple in 622 (2 Kgs 22:3–13; 2 Chr 34:8–18). This law book has been equated with the Book of Deuteronomy or parts of it. It was neither a new document nor a pious fraud concocted for the occasion and given Moses’ name for credibility. It was a collection of ancient laws that derived ultimately from Moses.
Many scholars believe Jeremiah’s messages were influenced by the Book of Deuteronomy, and there is no doubt he was familiar with its content. His theology was in agreement with the theology of Deuteronomy (cf. Jer 7:5–7 and Deut 10:18–20; Jer 4:4 and Deut 10:16; Jer 7:9 and Deut 5:9, 17–20). Deuteronomic theology demanded that the people give exclusive allegiance to God (Deut 6:4). The worship of other gods was forbidden and would be punished (Deut 28:15–68). It also promised restoration and future blessing (Deut 30:1–15). Deuteronomic theology can be summarized in one statement, “Obey and you will be blessed; disobey and you will be cursed” (cf. Deut 11:26–28). This was the heart of the Mosaic covenant the leaders of the cultic religion of Jerusalem had forgotten (Deut 6:4–9).
Jeremiah’s messages frequently reflected Deuteronomic thought, the necessity of obeying the law, punishment for disobedience, the internalization of the law (Deut 6:6; Jer 15:16), the necessity of wholeheartedly seeking God (Deut 4:29; Jer 29:13), and God as warrior (Deut 3:22; Jer 21:5). Deuteronomy’s promises were not unconditional. The history of the nation as recorded in Joshua–Kings testifies that the ancient Mosaic theology was true. God would bless his people if they obeyed him but would punish them if they were disobedient. It was this insistence by Jeremiah that alienated him from his people, who preferred to believe the assuring words of the false prophets (7:4; 28:10–13). Jeremiah’s earliest preaching was a severe attack on the idolatrous practices of the people (chaps. 2–3). Though Josiah’s reforms were sincere, the hearts of the people were not supportive of the reforms. They abandoned their pagan practices only by force of royal decree and returned to their old ways as soon as Josiah died (2 Kgs 23:24–35). Jeremiah must have seen that their outward piety under Josiah was counterfeit though he said little during that time. Josiah’s tragic death (2 Chr 35:20–27) may have caused profound disillusionment to many, discrediting his Deuteronomic reforms in their eyes. By the time Jehoiakim took the throne after Josiah’s death, Jeremiah’s alienation from his people was complete. Jehoiakim openly encouraged the pagan cult practices and became Jeremiah’s bitterest enemy (2 Kgs 23:36–37; Jer 36:1–32). Jeremiah’s denunciation of the petty tyrant and his disparagement of the temple as a “security blanket” brought him into conflict with the leaders and people alike (Jer 7:1–15; 26:1–24), who considered his preaching blasphemous (Jer 7:10–11, 16–19). However, it is erroneous to conclude that Jeremiah was antimonarchical or that he was hostile to the temple and its cult. His opposition was to the corruption of the kings and priests. He looked forward to a Davidic ruler whom God would raise up and to sincere worship at the temple (23:1–8). He also looked forward to the reunification of Israel and Judah (3:6–14).
Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem in 598 following Jehoiakim’s rebellion did not hinder Judah’s complacency, for the city was spared once again, and the Davidic dynasty was left intact. Though some of the people were taken into exile at that time, those remaining interpreted events as punishment on the exiles but blessings on themselves (chap. 24). Since the nation was still intact, they believed God had not revoked his eternal promises to them (2 Kgs 23:26–27), and Jeremiah could not correct their tragic interpretation. With the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587, Jeremiah’s theological position was finally vindicated (2 Kgs 24:18–25:21; Jer 52). Judah’s demise as an independent nation created a spiritual crisis of the first magnitude for which official theology had no answers. Instead of accepting Jerusalem’s fall as punishment for their wickedness, the people concluded that Josiah’s reforms had been a mistake; hence they felt they never should have abandoned their worship of the queen of heaven (7:16–20; 44:17–18). Some interpreted the disaster as proof that Marduk was more powerful than Yahweh (Jer 50:2, 38; 51:47). Others felt God had broken his covenant and abandoned his people. Only a few interpreted events from Jeremiah’s perspective, as God’s punishment on a disobedient people.
The emphasis on judgment looms large in the book, but hope is also prominent. Though it appeared that God was finished with his people, Jeremiah knew that was not so. Just as he could warn of disaster in the best of times, he could also proclaim hope when there seemed to be none (Jer 32:1–44). He could look beyond the present time of punishment and see a glorious future for God’s people when they would live in peace and safety (Jer 31). He was confident there would always be a faithful remnant. From the time of his call he knew there would be both tearing down and rebuilding (1:10, 14–16; 31:31–34). Eschatology is not a prominent concern of the book. Apocalyptic imagery is not characteristic of Jeremiah. Nevertheless, there is a forward look when the land would be rebuilt and repopulated and when God would provide a leader who would be faithful. For Jeremiah the eschatological future was not focused on temple or king but on a new covenant by which God would establish a new individualized relationship with his people (31:31–34). The new covenant would require obedience to laws written on the heart (Jer 4:4; Deut 6:4–9; 10:12–22) and would be based on God’s willingness to forgive (Jer 18:1–12). He would provide a Davidic ruler (23:1–8), and Israel and Judah would be reunited. The deliberate inclusion of the account of Jehoiachin’s release from prison in 562 B.C. as the final narrative in the book (52:31–34; cf. 2 Kgs 25) is a masterful statement that there will be a future for the people of God (Jer 32). It is difficult to categorize Jeremiah’s theology. The book that bears his name is rich in theological content and timeless truth, but it is often overlooked in theological studies since much of its theological content is “implied theology.” Jeremiah had much to say about God. He was a thoroughgoing monotheist, declaring that the Lord was the only God (10:1–16). He knew his God was in sovereign control of all events and nations, including Judah. He understood him to be holy, transcendent, righteous, loving, forgiving, but also wrathful. Jeremiah presented God as the Divine Warrior. He frequently called him “LORD of Hosts,” a military term. God would fight against sin wherever he found it, whether in Judah or in other nations. Jeremiah also saw God as the Lord of creation and Sustainer of the universe (5:22). But he also knew him to be a personal God who listens patiently to doubts, complaints, and questions. The Book of Jeremiah reflects different modes of revelation, such as the symbolic acts (see 5:1), the oral message of the prophet, and the acts of God (e.g., the destruction of Jerusalem). Jeremiah had much to say about God’s words. He ate them and delighted in them (15:16), but they also produced inner turmoil that was like fire burning in his bones (20:9). He knew from painful personal encounter there were false prophets who claimed to speak God’s words although they did not (23:9–40). God’s grace is demonstrated by his patient dealings with Judah in spite of its stubborn rebellion. He repeatedly appealed, “Return, faithless people” (3:14). Jeremiah did not minimize the seriousness of sin or hesitate to condemn it. He also knew that sin must be punished by a just God. He understood that it is deep seated, a part of human nature (13:23), engraved on the perverse human heart (17:1, 5) but that God and God alone can conquer it (31:33). The remedy for sin was not to take sacrifices to the temple or to observe its rituals. The only remedy for sin was repentance and the obedience of faith.
Jeremiah for Our Times The Book of Jeremiah is a part of God’s Word, the Bible. As such it is necessary that we discover its relevance for our lives today.
PREACHING THE WORD - A Prophet to the Nations Jeremiah 1:1-10
The rabbis called him “the Weeping Prophet.” They said he began wailing the moment he was born. When Michelangelo painted him on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he presented him in a posture of despair. He looks like a man who has wept so long he has no tears left to shed. His face is turned to one side, like a man who has been battered by many blows. His shoulders are hunched forward, weighed down by the sins of Judah. His eyes also are cast down, as if he can no longer bear to see God’s people suffer. His hand covers his mouth. Perhaps he has nothing left to say.
Sistine Chapel, Seven Prophets, Jeremiah (1511)
Get a wallpaper picture of Sistine Chapel, Seven Prophets, Jeremiah for your computer desktop. The melancholy, abstracted Jeremiah, more than any other figure, is a deeply moving moral self portrait. Sorrowful unto death, he rests from his spiritual vision, to reflect on the hardship and frustration of earthly existence. We share the artist's pity for this noble being, prematurely aged and steeped in the anguish of the universe who, alone among the Prophets, must carry the weight of earthly existence. His hand grasps his beard with a saturnine gesture that seems to be second nature to him. The genii of Jeremiah are the strangest of the whole series. The one to the left is feminine and, as it were, an image of the Prophet's afflicted soul, painfully conscious of the absence of pure goodness and beauty on the earthly plane, unless it be in art; and even that was all too often suspect to the zealous among Christian and Jewish communities where iconoclasm was forever lurking in the dark recesses of the mind. In short, the genius is a symbol of Platonism defeated in Michelangelo's youth by Savonarola. Platonism itself found expression in the most sublime among the ignudi on the Prophet's left. The shaping of the limbs the perfect torso and magnificent, calmly musing profile surpass, if that be possible, the Greek ideal of beauty. The monkish, hooded figure on the Prophet's right is an unmistakable allusion to Savonarola; to the summons of duty and conscience, to the injunction not to linger unduly in the realms of Greek art. That is why the ignudo above resembles a bent Atlas straining under the weight of his cornucopia, bearing a world that casts a shadow upon his shoulders.
Sistine Chapel, Seven Prophets, Jeremiah (Detail) (1511)
Get a wallpaper picture of Sistine Chapel, Seven Prophets, Jeremiah (Detail) for your computer desktop. Deep in sorrowful meditation and oppressed by the terrible anguish of his ominous predictions, Jeremiah leans forward, resting his bowed head on his hand and his elbows on his spread knees. The expression of the attendant on the left is also woeful, while the one on the right was repainted in the past, together with part of the prophet's hair, following serious damage caused by seepage of water.
His name was Jeremiah. His story begins like this:
The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile. (vv. 1–3)
This introduction tells us a great deal about Jeremiah. He was a preacher’s son, for his father Hilkiah was a priest. He was born in the village of Anathoth, close enough to Jerusalem to see the city walls, but at the edge of the wilderness, where the land slopes down to the Dead Sea. He labored as God’s prophet for forty years or more, from 627 b.c. to some time after 586 b.c. Four decades is a long time to be a weeping prophet.
Jeremiah lived when little Israel was tossed around by three great superpowers: Assyria to the north, Egypt to the south, and Babylon to the east. He served—and suffered—through the administrations of three  kings: Josiah the reformer, Jehoiakim the despot, and Zedekiah the puppet. He was a prophet during the cold November winds of Judah’s life as a nation, right up to the time God’s people were deported to Babylon. Jeremiah himself was exiled to Egypt, where he died.
A DIVINE CALL Jeremiah’s sufferings began with a divine call: The word of the Lord came to me, saying,“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,before you were born I set you apart;I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (vv. 4–5)
God did wonderful things for Jeremiah before he was even born. He knew him. He formed him. He set him apart and appointed him as a prophet to the nations. He did all this long before Jeremiah drew his first breath or shed his first tear.
The call of Jeremiah is rich in its doctrinal and practical content. Among its important teachings are the following:
1. God is the Lord of life. God formed Jeremiah in the womb. Jeremiah had biological parents, of course, but God himself fashioned him and knit him together in his mother’s womb. Telling children who ask where babies come from that they come from God is good theology. And it is not bad science either. The Lord of life uses the natural processes he designed to plant human life in the womb.
2. A fetus [el feto] is a person. A person is a human being, created in the image of God, living in relationship to God. This verse testifies that the personal relationship between God and his child takes place in the womb, or even earlier.
Birth is not our beginning. Not even conception is our real beginning. In some ineffable way, God has a personal knowledge of the individual that precedes conception. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” This is the strong, intimate, Hebrew word for “know” that is also used to describe sexual intimacy between husband and wife.
“I knew you.” What a beautiful thing for God to say to his children! “I loved you and cared for you in eternity past. I made a personal commitment to you even before you were born.” And what a beautiful thing for parents to say to their children: “God knows you, God loves you, and God has entered into a personal relationship with you.” This verse holds special comfort for mothers who have had miscarriages. It gives hope to parents who have lost children in infancy, and even for women who aborted their own babies. God knew your child, and he knows your child.
3. We do not choose God before God chooses us. If you want to know who you are, you have to know whose you are. For the Christian, the answer to that question is that you belong to Jesus Christ.
When did Jeremiah start belonging to God? When did God choose him? The prophet was set apart before he was born. While Jeremiah was being carried around in his mother’s womb, God was making preparations for his salvation and his ministry. To set something apart is to sanctify it or to dedicate it to holy service. Long before Jeremiah was born, God chose him and consecrated him for ministry.
Given the intimacy of God’s knowledge of Jeremiah, it is appropriate for Jeremiah to address him with the title “Sovereign Lord” (v. 6). God is sovereign. He not only forms his people in the womb, he sets them apart for salvation from all eternity.
God’s choice is not unique to Jeremiah; it is true for every believer. This is known as the doctrine of divine election. “You did not choose me,” Jesus said to his disciples, “but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit” (John 15:16a). “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.… For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:3–4). This promise is for the whole church. Therefore, it is for the comfort of every Christian. God not only knows you, he chose you; and he did so long before you were ever conceived.
Eugene Peterson offers these practical conclusions about God’s choice of Jeremiah: My identity does not begin when I begin to understand myself. There is something previous to what I think about myself, and it is what God thinks of me. That means that everything I think and feel is by nature a response, and the one to whom I respond is God. I never speak the first word. I never make the first move. Jeremiah’s life didn’t start with Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s salvation didn’t start with Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s truth didn’t start with Jeremiah. He entered the world in which the essential parts of his existence were already ancient history. So do we.
4. Every Christian has a calling. There is a general call, of course, to believe in Jesus Christ. But everyone who believes in Christ also has a special calling to a particular sphere of obedience and ministry. Jeremiah was not just set apart for salvation, he was set apart for vocation. God had work for him to do. The prophet had a mission to accomplish and a message to deliver to his generation.
Jeremiah’s unique appointment was to be a prophet to the nations. God intended his ministry to be international in scope. Part of Jeremiah’s job was to promise God’s grace to the nations, proclaiming, “all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord” (3:17).
But to be a prophet to the nations also includes announcing God’s judgment. By the time he reached the end of his ministry, Jeremiah had pronounced a divine sentence of judgment upon every nation from Ammon to Babylon. Just as all nations receive God’s sovereign grace, all nations are subject to God’s severe justice.
Jeremiah’s calling is not for everyone. The first chapter of Jeremiah is mainly about his call for his times, not your call for your times. But you do have a call. God not only knows you and chose you, he has a plan for your life. As F. B. Meyer so eloquently puts it, “From the foot of the cross, where we are cradled in our second birth, to the brink of the river, where we lay down our armor, there is a path which he has prepared for us to walk in.”
Perhaps you are still trying to figure out what God’s plan is for you. Many Christians long to know what God is calling them to do. If you are not sure, there are at least two things you ought to do.
The first is to do everything you already know God wants you to do. You cannot expect to be ready for God’s call, or even to recognize God’s call, unless you are obeying what God has already revealed to you. This includes the obvious things, such as spending time in prayer and Bible study, serving the people with whom you live, remaining active in the worship of the church, and being God’s witness in the world.
Second, ask God to reveal his will for your life. If you ask, he has promised to answer. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
A DUBIOUS CANDIDATE
Jeremiah knew what God wanted him to do. Yet even after he received his divine call, he was still a dubious candidate: “Ah, Sovereign Lord,” he said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child” (v. 6).
Jeremiah had two main objections to becoming a prophet:
his lack of eloquence and
his lack of experience.
To paraphrase: “Ahhh, wait a second, Lord, about this whole prophet-to-the-nations thing … It doesn’t sound like that great an idea. Prophecy is not one of my spiritual gifts. As you know, I am getting a C in rhetoric at the synagogue. Besides, I am just a teenager.”
Was Jeremiah being modest or faithless? Was it right for him to object to God’s call or not?
A good way to answer those questions is to compare Jeremiah with some other prophets.
Later the Lord reaches out his hand and touches Jeremiah’s mouth (v. 9). This reminds us of Isaiah’s experience when he saw “the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1).
Isaiah had one or two doubts about his calling too, but his doubts were different. Isaiah’s main problem was that he had a guilty conscience: “ ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty’ ” (v. 5). Isaiah did not doubt his ability, he doubted his integrity. When the seraph flew from the altar to touch Isaiah’s lips with a live coal, he said: “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (v. 7).
Isaiah’s experience was somewhat different from Jeremiah’s. When God touched Jeremiah’s lips, it was not to take away his sins, it was to give him God’s words.
What about the call of Moses? Was Jeremiah’s call like the call of Moses? Jeremiah’s objection sounds very much like the objection Moses made when God called him: “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10). Unlike Isaiah, Moses doubted his competence rather than his righteousness.
This was precisely Jeremiah’s objection. He was not sure what to say or how to say it. He may have even been concerned about his foreign language skills, since God was calling him to an international ministry. Perhaps his grasp of Akkadian and Ugaritic was deficient. In any case, Jeremiah had his doubts about whether he could do the job.
Jeremiah’s doubts find an echo in J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Fellowship of the Ring. A hobbit named Frodo has been chosen to make a long and dangerous quest to destroy the one ring of power, a quest he himself would not wish to choose. “I am not made for perilous quests,” cried Frodo. “I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?”
The answer Frodo is given is similar to the one God’s prophets often receive: “Such questions cannot be answered.… You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess; not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.”
When God gives his servants a clear calling, he does not accept any excuses. “The Lord said to him [Moses], ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say’ ” (Exodus 4:11–12).
God said much the same thing to Jeremiah. To put it plainly, he said, “Don’t give me that stuff!” “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you’ ” (Jeremiah 1:7). “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now, I have put my words in your mouth’ ” (v. 9).
God did not disqualify Jeremiah on the basis of his youth and inexperience. In fact, he treated him the same way he treated Moses. He did not deny the basis for the prophet’s objection. He did not argue with Jeremiah about his speaking credentials or quibble with him about his age. Jeremiah may have had reasonable doubts. But God exposed his false humility for what it really was: a lack of faith.
Jeremiah had forgotten that God is not limited by human weakness. God himself possesses everything Jeremiah needs to answer his call. In fact, enabling weak tools to do strong jobs is God’s standard operating procedure. His entire work force is comprised of dubious candidates. When God calls someone to do a job, he gives him or her all the gifts needed to get the job done. With God’s calling comes God’s gifting.
This does not mean that your gifts and abilities do not matter when you are trying to figure out what God wants you to do with your life. They do matter. If you do not know what God is calling you to do, take an honest look at the gifts he has given you. If necessary, ask others to help you figure out what your gifts are.
But once you know what God has called you to do, trust him to equip you to do it. God equipped Jeremiah to be an international prophet in some amazing ways. He was a polymath, a great scholar, a man of prodigious learning. He was able to converse in the fields of politics, economics, comparative religion, geography, theology, botany, zoology, anthropology, military strategy, architecture, industry, agriculture, fine arts, and poetry.
If God has actually called you to do a particular job, then he will do for you what he did for Jeremiah: He will give you everything you need to do that job. If you think you know what the Lord wants you to do with your life, get busy, trusting him to give you the grace to answer his call.
A DANGEROUS COMMISSION Once God had issued his divine call and dealt with his dubious candidate, he gave him a dangerous commission: “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you” (vv. 7–8).
Frankly, that sounds a little ominous! God does not spell things out, but it is easy to tell that Jeremiah’s job will be dangerous. Telling someone “Do not be afraid” is the kind of advice that tends to have the opposite effect than the one intended. The more people tell you not to be afraid, the more you start to wonder what you ought to be afraid of! It is like the king who sent one of his knights off to rescue his fair princess. Just as the knight rode away from the castle, and just as the drawbridge was closing behind him, the king yelled down from the ramparts, “Don’t be afraid of the dragon!” “Dragon? What dragon? You didn’t say anything about dragons!”
God’s promise to rescue Jeremiah is also a bit worrisome. Rescued from what? The promise suggests that the prophet will fall into grave danger. God does not promise that Jeremiah has nothing to fear or that he will not need to be rescued. But he does command him not to be afraid, and he does promise to rescue him.
The reason Jeremiah did not need to be afraid was that he had the promise of God’s presence. The Lord gave him the same promise he made to Moses, to Joshua, and to all his children: “I will be with you.”
Not only did Jeremiah have God’s presence at his side, he also had God’s words on his lips: “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now, I have put my words in your mouth’ ” (v. 9). This is another connection between Jeremiah and Moses. God promised that he would raise up a prophet for his people like Moses: “I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him” (Deuteronomy 18:18).
Whenever Jeremiah spoke in God’s name, God was the one doing the talking. Who wrote the book of Jeremiah? From one point of view, it contains the words of Jeremiah, as the Scripture says: “The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah” (1:1). From another point of view, however, these are the words of God himself: “The word of the Lord came to him” (v. 2).
The Bible is never embarrassed to speak this way. There is a meaningful sense in which the words of Jeremiah are recorded in the pages of the OT. The book of Jeremiah gives us a glimpse of the personality and experiences of the man, Jeremiah. But at the same time the Holy Spirit is the One who breathed out the words of the book of Jeremiah. “Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The book of Jeremiah is God’s words and Jeremiah’s words. When we read them, we do not just see God through Jeremiah’s lens; God speaks to us directly.
The reason Jeremiah has authority “over nations and kingdoms” (1:10) is that he is not speaking on his own behalf. God is sovereign over the nations, and he rules them by his Word. When prophets speak in his name they are mightier than kings. When preachers preach according to God’s Word they are mightier than presidents.
God rules the nations of this world by his Word. Those who have been appointed to preach that Word have a spiritual authority over the nations. The Lord instructed Jeremiah to be a bold prophet, not because of his preaching ability or because of his age and experience, but because he was called to speak God’s own words.
A DEPRESSING CONCLUSION It was not always easy for Jeremiah to speak God’s words. His commission was not only dangerous, it was often depressing. We have already been given a clue that the book of Jeremiah does not have a happy ending. It ends with the people of Jerusalem being sent into exile (52:27). It is the sad story of the decline of God’s people from faith to idolatry to exile. It is this decline that makes Jeremiah a prophet for post-Christian times. He lived in a time very much like our own, when people no longer think God matters for daily life. Public life is increasingly dominated by pagan ideas and rituals. Some people still meet their religious obligations, but they do so out of duty rather than devotion. The spiritual problems we face at the dawn of the twenty-first century were the same problems that Jeremiah found depressing 2,500 years ago. The discouragement of his ministry is evident from the verbs God uses to describe it: “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (v. 10). The prophet’s job description includes six tasks, and four of them are negative. Two to one, his words to the nations will be words of judgment.
“To uproot” is to dig up nations by the roots and turn them under. It is a word that Jeremiah uses more than all the other biblical writers combined, often to describe the uprooting of idols ( 12:14–17). To “tear down” is to tear down a standing structure, like knocking down a city wall or toppling a tower. “To destroy” is another word for knocking things down. To “overthrow” is to demolish, to bring to complete ruin. Once the Lord uproots, tears down, destroys, and overthrows a nation, there is not much left. There is a great deal of that kind of judgment in the rest of Jeremiah’s book. This verse is not only Jeremiah’s job description, it is also a helpful plot-summary of his book. He lives in such evil days that judgment will outnumber grace two to one. But grace will have the last word. When the cities of evil have been torn down and plowed under, God will start afresh. He will begin a new work. He will “build” and he will “plant.” He will bring renewal out of demolition. This is God’s plan for the kingdoms of this world (18:7–10). He is the one who is in charge of the beginnings and endings of history. He is the one who uproots some nations and plants others. He is the one who tears down some kingdoms and rebuilds others.
This is also God’s plan for salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). The temple of Jesus’ body was uprooted and torn down from the cross. It was destroyed and overthrown to the grave. But God built and planted resurrection life into the body of Jesus Christ.
Now God builds and plants that same resurrection power into the life of every believer. First the Holy Spirit uproots and tears down sin in your heart, and then he plants faith and builds obedience into your life. Like Jeremiah, you were a dubious candidate at the beginning. Yet God has known you from all eternity, and he has set you apart for new life in Christ.
If God has done all that for you, will you go wherever he tells you to go, and say whatever he wants you to say, even if it turns out to be a dangerous commission?
When the Almond Tree Blossoms Jeremiah 1:11-19 God finished his call to Jeremiah with a flourish. It was an audiovisual presentation, a spiritual show-and-tell.
The second half of Jeremiah 1 consists of three object lessons. First God shows the prophet an almond tree (vv. 11–12), a boiling pot (vv. 13–16), and an iron pillar (vv. 17–19). Then God tells Jeremiah what the tree, the pot, and the pillar mean: His word will blossom forth, his judgment will be poured out, and his prophet will stand firm.
THE ALMOND TREE
What is the sign that winter is over and spring is on the way? In the northern United States, the first harbinger of spring is the robin. In my Midwestern childhood, a better indicator of spring was the forsythia bush on the side of the house. When tiny yellow blossoms started to appear on the forsythia, spring was definitely on its way, and the urge to get out a baseball glove was irresistible. In Washington, D.C., cherry blossoms mean spring. In Oxford, England, it is daffodils. In Anathoth, where Jeremiah was born, it was almond blossoms. If they had wanted to, they could have held an almond-blossom festival there every spring. Even to this day, that region of Judea is a center for almond-growing. The almond tree is always the first to blossom. Already in January the almond trees in Jeremiah’s hometown were covered with white blossoms.
“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ” The prophet’s answer was predictable: “I see the branch of an almond tree” (v. 11). Very likely the branch was covered with white blossoms. Or perhaps it had not yet blossomed, but its tiny buds were just beginning to appear. In any case, Jeremiah understood what the branch meant. It was the first sign of spring. When the almond tree blossoms, the promise of spring is about to be fulfilled, and warm weather is on the way. The almond blossom was the show. Next comes the tell: “The Lord said to me, ‘You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled’ ” (v. 12). God used a play on words to teach Jeremiah the spiritual significance of the almond branch. This is how he stoops to the level of human understanding. He speaks—indeed, he puns—so that we might comprehend. The word for “watching” is the Hebrew shoqed. It sounds very much like the Hebrew for “almond”: shaqed. In fact, those two words—shoqed and shaqed—are different forms of the same word, the word for waking or watching. The almond tree was the waking-tree. It was the first tree to wake up after a long winter’s nap. It was also the watching-tree, the tree one watched for in the spring. God showed Jeremiah the almond tree to teach him that he is wide awake. He is not asleep. He does not slumber. He never goes into hibernation. God is still on his watch. He is wide awake, watching and waiting. What God is watching for is to make sure that everything God has promised comes to pass. He is watching to see that his Word is fulfilled. This is one of the main themes of the book of Jeremiah, “the power and inescapability of the divine word moving inexorably towards fulfilment.” God is going to do everything he has promised to do. He is bringing his plans to fruition. Even when it seems dormant, God’s Word is waiting to burst into flower. It is not dead, it is alive. Like the almond tree, it is starting to blossom. One can no more prevent God’s promise from being fulfilled than one can keep the almond tree from blossoming in springtime.
God made a similar promise to Isaiah: As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth :It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10–11)
The almond branch gives solid hope and lasting joy to every Christian. It assures us that everything God has promised will come to pass. Every last one of his very great and precious promises will be fulfilled.
It is good to recount the promises of God. There is the promise of “redemption” in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:14). There is the promise of forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:9). There is the promise of “the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17). There is the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, for this generation and the next (Acts 2:39). There is the promise that you will be comforted when you mourn, shown mercy when you are merciful, and filled with righteousness when you hunger and thirst after it (Matthew 5:4–7). There is the promise that God will give you wisdom (James 1:5–6). There is the promise that God will never leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5). These promises are only the beginning. There is the promise that “the pure in heart … will see God (Matthew 5:8). There is the promise that God’s people will be with him (Revelation 22:3). There is the promise that Jesus has gone to prepare a place in his Father’s house, and that he will come back soon to take you there (John 14:2–3). There is the promise that the Lord Jesus Christ will transform your body to be like his glorious resurrection body (Philippians 3:21). All those promises are true. Every last one of them will be fulfilled. Some have already begun to blossom, like almond-blossoms in springtime. Soon all of them will burst into full flower in the everlasting springtime of paradise. The Apostle Paul wrapped up all these promises together (and many more besides) when he wrote: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
THE BOILING POT What about words of judgment? Will they come to pass too? Does God fulfill his threats as well as his promises? Here is the show: “The word of the Lord came to me again: ‘What do you see?’ ‘I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north’ ” (Jeremiah 1:13). Once again, God used something common to teach Jeremiah. First it was an almond branch. This time it is a plain, old, ordinary cooking pot, probably made of iron or copper. The prophet must have seen this pot on an open fire. As anyone who has ever been camping knows, it does not take long for water to boil on an open flame. Imagine the pot resting on logs or coals and heating to a rolling boil. The Hebrew does not literally say “boiling”; actually, it says “blown upon.” In other words, the fire is being stoked, the flames are being fanned, and the embers are bursting into flame. As the pot resettles in the fire, it tips to one side, the boiling water bubbles over the side of the pot, and steam goes hissing up from the flames. That was the show. Here is the tell: “The Lord said to me, ‘From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,’ declares the Lord” (vv. 14–15a). Trouble is brewing, and it is not hard to tell which way the wind is blowing. The cauldron is tipping ominously away from the north. The Bible does not yet identify the northern peoples who will come spilling down toward Jerusalem, but one can round up the usual suspects. Maybe it will be the Scythians from northern Asia, whom Herodotus mentions in his history. Perhaps it will be the Assyrians, although their power was on the wane in Jeremiah’s day. Probably it will be the Babylonians, who were going from strength to strength. But the real point is that God himself will do the judging. God is summoning the northern kingdoms. When the Babylonians come, they will be marching to God’s orders. God is the one who will tip the “boiling pot” and pour it out over Judah. Judging sin is God’s prerogative. He is the righteous judge who uproots and tears down nations, who destroys and overthrows kingdoms (v. 10). As he says in verse 16, “I will pronounce my judgments on my people.” What will it be like for Jerusalem to be scalded by the boiling pot of divine judgment? The northern kings “will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah” (v. 15b). This is a hint that when judgment comes, Jerusalem will be a city under siege. Enemy armies will camp around her walls, waiting for the people of God to starve. While they are at it, these armies will have their way with the defenseless towns and villages in the surrounding countryside. But here is the real kicker: “Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem” (v. 15b). What total humiliation! When an ancient king wanted to show his complete domination over vanquished foes, he would set up his throne in the gates of their capital city. There is an ancient mural, for example, that shows Sennacherib sitting in the gates of Lachish, ruling as a judge over that city. Consider how degrading this would be for the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the city where the son of David is supposed to sit on his throne. Indeed, it is intended to be the throne of God himself (cf. 3:17). But when the boiling pot spills over Jerusalem, the Babylonian generals will park their thrones right in the middle of the city gates. This prophecy was fulfilled, of course. Later Jeremiah will recount how Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim, and another Nergal-Sharezer camped out in the Middle Gate of Jerusalem (39:3). Why would God allow his own people to experience such a defeat? And not just allow it—God will actually bring this judgment to pass! But he will do it with good reason. His people have rejected him. They have decided to follow other gods. He holds a cauldron over them, he says, “because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made” (1:16). God’s people will get no more than they deserve. They have burned incense to other gods, which was a blatant violation of the first commandment God ever gave them: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The word God uses for burning incense can include offering sacrifices. So perhaps the Jews had even tried to get atonement from other gods. They also worshiped idols they had made with their own hands, which was a blatant violation of the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an idol.… You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (Exodus 20:4–5). No wonder, then, that the tribes of Judah and Benjamin found themselves under the boiling pot! This show and tell is a warning to anyone who does not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are like the people of Jeremiah’s day, you stand under the boiling pot of divine judgment. Do not repeat their mistake. They did not believe that God punishes sin. They decided that Jeremiah was just breathing idle threats, and that Jerusalem would never be destroyed. Their dismissive attitude is summed up in this taunt: “Where is the word of the Lord?” (17:15). That is a dangerous attitude to take if God is the God of the almond tree. His threats of judgment are as certain as his promises of grace. He watches to see his Word fulfilled, as the people of Jerusalem eventually discovered.
If you do know Christ, think twice about bowing down to idols. The values of this world have a way of getting mixed up with the values of the kingdom of God. That is why the church always needs to be on its guard against worldliness. The gods of self, sex, power, luxury, popularity, and beauty are always clamoring for attention. Turn a deaf ear to them, for it is against such sins that the wrath of God is about to be revealed.
THE IRON PILLAR There was more show and tell to come, but first God repeated Jeremiah’s call: “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them” (1:17). Sometimes important things need to be repeated, especially for dubious candidates for Christian service.
Jeremiah had heard most of this before. God had already put words into his mouth and had already told him not to panic. What is new is the sense of urgency.
By telling his prophet to get ready, God was telling him to brace himself. Literally he said, “Gird up your loins.” Today Jeremiah would be told to roll up his sleeves or to put on some sweats and lace up his sneakers. Back then God told him to hike up his robe and tuck it into his belt so it would not get in his way.
The other thing that is new is the warning: “Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them” (v. 17). If Jeremiah does panic, God will give him something to really panic about. The pnt is that if Jeremiah loses his nerve in front of mere human beings, God will unnerve him
John Calvin’s commentary on this verse is worth repeating:This passage contains a useful doctrine, from which we learn that strength shall never be wanting to God’s servants, while they derive courage from the conviction that God himself is the author of their calling … for God will then supply them with strength and courage invincible, so as to render them formidable to the whole world: but if they be unhinged and timid, and turn here and there, and be influenced by the fear of men, God will render them base and contemptible, and make them to tremble at the least breath of air, and they shall be wholly broken down.…
Jesus Christ repeats this warning for the benefit of his disciples: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). Anyone who speaks a word of testimony in behalf of Christ—even in the face of ridicule or persecution—needs to do it with spiritual courage.
If Jeremiah is going to be as bold as that, he will need supernatural strength, which is exactly what God promised to give him.
“Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. (1:18–19)
How strong will Jeremiah be? God has made him a “fortified city.” He will be a metropolis of a man. He will be like a city on a hill, with high walls and strong towers, defended by a mighty army. He will be like Pharaoh Thutmose III, a man described as hero, excellent fortress of his army, a wall of iron.” Jeremiah was no military hero—he was a man of the cloth—but he was just as strong.
God also made him “an iron pillar,” a steel beam of a man. The word for “pillar” is not the word for a free-standing column; it is the word for a prop or foundation-post that supports a building. Jeremiah will be a tower of strength. He will be like a flying buttress holding up the wall of a cathedral. He will support and uphold the people of God.
God made Jeremiah “a bronze wall,” a metal bulwark of a man. Actually, there were no bronze walls in the ancient world. The British Museum in London houses bronze gates from Assyria. But they are only gates, and they are actually wooden gates with bronze overlay. They are strong gates, but imagine how much stronger they would be if they were bronze all the way through. That is how strong God made Jeremiah.
Jeremiah needed that kind of strength. He needed the triple protection of being “a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall.” God commanded him to take his stand against the kings, the officials, the priests, and the people of Judah, which did not leave him with many allies. In fact, it did not leave him with any. The kings of Judah—Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah—were against him. The courtiers, advisers, and civil servants of the kingdom were against him. So were the people of the land, meaning the regular folks, the rank-and-file working people. Even his own colleagues in ministry turned against him. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
God warned Jeremiah that he would not win many popularity contests. His warning was accompanied by strong words for confrontation. “They will fight against you,” God said, using a word for military conflict. The people would declare war on Jeremiah, ambushing him at every turn and trying to destroy his ministry. When God told Jeremiah to gird up his loins, what he was really telling him to do was to put on his combat fatigues.
Jeremiah was appointed over nations and kingdoms, to tear them down and to build them up (v. 10). This included standing up to God’s enemies, refusing to give in to political pressure. How could he do it? How can any believer, let alone a youngster who does not know how to speak, have the courage to stand against the enemies of God in a wicked world?
Courage and strength come from the Lord. Jeremiah did not construct himself into “a fortified city.” He did not fashion himself into “an iron pillar.” He did not raise himself into “a bronze wall.” Instead God said, “Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall” (v. 18). God himself is the foreman for this construction project. Notice that he speaks to Jeremiah in the past tense: “I have made you.” Right from the beginning of his calling, God equipped Jeremiah with the courage he needed to finish his calling.
The great Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides (1135–1204) had this to say about the prophetic calling: Thus, we find prophets that did not leave off speaking to the people until they were slain; it is this divine influence that moves them, that does not allow them to rest in any way, though they might bring upon themselves great evils by their action. Thus, when Jeremiah was despised, like other teachers and scholars of his age, he could not, though he desired it, withhold his prophecy or cease from reminding the people of the truths which they rejected.
It was not just Jeremiah’s call that made him indomitable, it was God’s protection. God did not just make Jeremiah strong; he promised to stay at his side, to rescue him, to help him stand and not be overcome. God kept those promises, of course. He is the God of the almond tree, the God who watches to see that his Word is fulfilled.
Derek Kidner makes a striking point about the fulfillment of these promises. He observes that verse 18 sounds like a wild exaggeration. How can one man be “a fortified city” and “an iron pillar” and “a bronze wall”? But Kidner points out that when one looks at the whole career of Jeremiah, this verse turns out to be an understatement, because the prophet held out longer than the walls of his fortified city, Jerusalem. Jerusalem cracked and crumbled before Jeremiah did.
Jeremiah was like the Puritan described in John Geree’s The Character of an Old English Puritane: “a man foursquare, immoveable in all times, so that they who in the midst of many opinions have lost the view of true religion, may return to him and there find it.”
Are you a foursquare Christian? The command to stand firm in the day of spiritual battle is not just for Jeremiah; it is a command for every follower of God. Jeremiah is a picture of the Christian who stands and is not overcome. Like Jeremiah, you must strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). You must get ready for combat, putting on “the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (v. 11). You must gird up your loins, standing firm with “the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (v. 14). Is anything in this world stronger than a believer who stands firm in the promises of God?
The calling to be strong in the Lord is not just for prophets like Jeremiah. It is for every Christian because every Christian faces spiritual danger. In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), Christian answers the call of God and embarks upon a great journey to the Celestial City. On the way he overtakes Mr. By-ends, a man who differs from what he calls Christians “of the stricter sort.” He is a fair-weather believer. He cannot be bothered with the demands of discipleship. He is not willing to hazard everything for God if that is going to include any suffering. “We never strive against wind and tide,” says Mr. By-ends. “We are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers; we love much to walk with him in the street, if the sun shines and the people applaud it.”Christian replies to Mr. By-ends with words that apply to Jeremiah and to everyone who stands with Jesus Christ for the gospel: “If you will go with us, you must go against wind and tide, the which, I perceive, is against your opinion. You must also own religion in his rags, as well as when in his silver slippers, and stand by him, too, when bound in irons, as well as when he walketh the streets with applause.”
God Files for Divorce Jeremiah 2:1-37
THE FAKE TEARS OF THE PEOPLE
Jeremiah 3:21 A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways [chosen crooked paths, turned their backs on God, lived sinful lives] and have forgotten the Lord their God. (RVR) Voz fue oída sobre las alturas, llanto de los ruegos de los hijos de Israel; porque han torcido [pervertido] su camino, de Jehová su Dios se han olvidado. (DHH) "Se oyen voces en las lomas desiertas: ¡son los israelitas, que lloran y piden compasión! Se desviaron del camino recto y se olvidaron de mí, el Señor su Dios.
*The confessions and prayers of the people are voiced in the midst of their idolatry. Their cries were but idle words, because they had forgotten their God.
*Repentance: God pleads for His people to return to Him (Jer. 3:1–4:31) The two key words in this section are “return” (3:1, 7, 12, 22; 4:1) and “backsliding” (3:6, 8, 11, 12, 14, 22). In the Hebrew, “backsliding” (“faithless,” NIV) is actually a form of the word translated “return.”
*3:21-25. It is possible that in these verses Jeremiah was painting an idealistic picture for the people of Israel. The people mourn for their condition (v. 21), God offers repentance (v. 22a), and the people feel abject and heartfelt remorse for their sin (vv. 22b-25). But the Book of Jeremiah leads one to believe that the people did not follow this example. It still awaits the future repentance of the nation when Christ returns as King (Zech. 12:10-13:1). The section opens with the people weeping and pleading. Their cry was prompted because of their transgressions (they had perverted their ways) and because they had forgotten ... their God. In Jeremiah’s ideal picture of repentance the nation finally realized the depth of the pit into which she had fallen. God responded to the nation’s cry by offering to help her if she would return. Israel’s response is a model of true repentance. She consciously determined to come to ... God because of who He is. Admitting that her idolatrous commotion which had been rampant in the land was a deception, the nation acknowledged that only in God is there salvation for Israel. The shame and disgrace of her past actions forced her to admit that she had sinned against the Lord
THE TEARS OF JEREMIAH (read 8:18-9:2)
Jeremiah 9:1 Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.
(RV60) ¡Oh, si mi cabeza se hiciese aguas, y mis ojos fuentes de lágrimas, para que llore día y noche los muertos de la hija de mi pueblo! (DHH) ¡Ojalá fueran mis ojos como un manantial,
como un torrente de lágrimas, para llorar día y noche por los muertos de mi pueblo!
*Jeremiah cared so greatly that he longed for the relief of flooding tears or a place of retreat to be free of the burden of Judah’s sins for a while
*8:18-9:2. Jeremiah responded to Judah’s plight by making a heartfelt cry to God. He asked God to listen to the cry of the people who had been deported to a land far away. Those captured by the Babylonians wondered how their city could have fallen since God’s temple was there. In anguish they questioned if Judah’s King, Yahweh, was no longer there. God responded by indicating that Jerusalem’s destruction was brought about by their sin, not by His absence. God brought the army of Babylon because Judah had provoked Him to anger with their ... idols. God gave Judah every opportunity to repent, but she continued to rebel. Jeremiah 8:20 recorded the mournful cry of those who learned the consequences of sin too late. The harvest, representing God’s opportunities to repent, was past. By not taking advantage of God’s provision for deliverance from judgment when it had been available, the people were now without hope (we are not saved). *Jeremiah’s reaction to Judah’s fate mixed sadness and despair. He so identified with his people that he was crushed by the fact of their destruction. In vain he sought for balm from Gilead to heal the wound of his people (v. 11 and 6:14). ”Balm“ was the resin of the storax tree that was used medicinally. Gilead, east of the Jordan River, was famous for its healing balm (Gen. 37:25; Jer. 46:11; 51:8; Ezek. 27:17). The grief caused Jeremiah to wish his eyes would become a fountain of tears so he could weep continually (day and night) for those who had been slain. This heartfelt empathy with his people’s suffering earned Jeremiah the nickname, ”the weeping prophet“ (Jer. 13:17; 14:17). Yet his empathy for their suffering was balanced by his revulsion at their sin. An isolated lodging place in the desert was preferable to living with the unfaithful people of Judah.
*my eyes a fountain of tears: Jeremiah, who is known as the “weeping prophet,” identified personally with the suffering of his people. Here he expresses his desire for a reserve of tears that would flow without stopping. 9:2 Jeremiah desired a wilderness refuge where he would be free from the agony, sorrow, bitterness, and degradation of Jerusalem. The word adulterers refers literally to unfaithful husbands or wives, but here to idolaters as those who are spiritually faithless.
Jeremiah 9:10 [start read in v.7-21]] I will weep and wail for the mountains and take up a lament concerning the desert pastures. They are desolate and untraveled, and the lowing of cattle is not heard. The birds of the air have fled and the animals are gone.
(RV1960) Por los montes levantaré lloro y lamentación, y llanto por los pastizales del desierto; porque fueron desolados hasta no quedar quien pase, ni oírse bramido de ganado; desde las aves del cielo hasta las bestias de la tierra huyeron, y se fueron. (DHH) "Lloren y giman por las montañas, entonen un lamento por las praderas, porque están quemadas y ya nadie pasa por ellas; ya no se oye el mugir del ganado, y hasta las aves y las fieras se fueron huyendo.
*9:10-16. Jeremiah began to weep and wail over the land of Judah because the Babylonian invasion and deportation made it desolate and untraveled. God responded by indicating He would make Jerusalem a heap of ruins that would be inhabited only by wild jackals (10:22; 49:33; 51:37). He asked the wise men of Judah to explain why the land was ruined and laid waste. Before anyone could answer, God stated the obvious. The destruction came because the people had turned from God’s Law and had followed the Baals (2:23 and Jud. 2:11). This was why God would scatter them among the nations and why many in Judah would be killed by the sword (Ezek. 5:2, 12).
Jeremiah 13:17 [read 15-27] But if you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive. NLT - And if you still refuse to listen, I will weep alone because of your pride. My eyes will overflow with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be led away into exile.
(RV1960) Mas si no oyereis esto, en secreto llorará mi alma a causa de vuestra soberbia; y llorando amargamente se desharán mis ojos en lágrimas, porque el rebaño de Jehová fue hecho cautivo. (DHH) Si ustedes no hacen caso, lloraré en secreto a causa de su orgullo; de mis ojos correrán las lágrimas, porque se llevan preso el rebaño del Señor.
*13:15-17. Because of the approaching darkness of judgment Jeremiah warned the arrogant people of Judah to acknowledge their sin and to give glory to ... God. ”Darkness“ and dark clouds often picture impending doom (Ezek. 30:3, 18; 32:7-8; 34:12; Joel 2:2; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph. 1:15). If they refused to listen ... because of their pride Jeremiah would weep bitterly (Jer. 14:17) to himself because they would surely be taken captive.
*13:16 To give glory to God is to exalt and worship Him. This verse warns of the consequences of failing to glorify God. Four Hebrew synonyms for darkness are found in this verse, deepening the impression of divine displeasure meted out against God’s people. In the rugged mountains that dominate the landscape of Judah, where walking in the dark is hazardous, no hope or light would be discerned. 13:17 Jeremiah had been told not to pray for the rebellious and unresponsive people of Judah (7:16; 11:14; 14:11), but here he expresses in secret his deep lament for the Lord’s flock, who had been carried away into exile. 13:18, 19 The king and the queen mother are Jehoiachin and his mother Nehushta, who were exiled by Nebuchadnezzar (see 2 Kin. 24:8–12) after only three months on the throne in Jerusalem. Humble yourselves: Jeremiah advised the royal household to submit to Babylon. Judah had established a series of fortresses in the South that were an important line of defense from the days of Solomon to Zedekiah. They were a source of pride for the military but were destroyed by the Assyrians and again by the Babylonians. 13:20 Those who come from the north refers to the Babylonians. 13:21 you have taught them . . . to be head over you: This verse seems to indicate that Judah had cooperated with its enemies as they began to dominate the nation. The metaphor of childbirth portrays Judah reaping the fruits of its labors in pain and anguish. 13:22 Your skirts have been uncovered: Judah would be ashamed by its conquerors in the same way that a prostitute was publicly disgraced.
13:23 The negative rhetorical question confirmed Judah’s inability to change its own ways. The nation had reinforced its habit of doing evil (4:22) for so long that it did not know how to do good. 13:24, 25 The consequence of Judah’s continual rebellion would be the scattering of its inhabitants like chaff or stubble driven by the desert wind. The word falsehood is one of the key terms Jeremiah uses to refer to the fraudulent worship of foreign deities. 13:26, 27 Uncover your skirts refers to public exposure (v. 22). Since Judah had lustfully sought adulterous relationships with foreign gods and goddesses, God would expose and bring to shame its actions. Adulteries are literally sins against marriage. Applied to Israel the term means involvement with another nation’s gods. Neighings refers to animals in heat pursuing mates. The lewdness of your harlotry describes both physical and spiritual prostitution.
Lamentations 1:16 “This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears. No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit. My children are destitute because the enemy has prevailed.”
Lamentations 2:11 My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city
A COMMAND TO WEEP
Jeremiah 22:10 Do not weep for the dead king or mourn his loss; rather, weep bitterly for him who is exiled, because he will never return nor see his native land again. NLT – Do not weep for the dead king or mourn his loss. Instead, weep for the captive king being led away! For he will never return to see his native land again. GN - People of Judah, do not weep for King Josiah;
do not mourn his death. But weep bitterly for Joahaz, his son; they are taking him away, never to return, never again to see the land where he was born.
(RV1960) No lloréis al muerto, ni de él os condoláis; llorad amargamente por el que se va, porque no volverá jamás, ni verá la tierra donde nació.
(NBLH) No lloren por el muerto ni hagan duelo por él, Lloren amargamente por el que se va cautivo , Porque jamás volverá Ni verá su tierra natal.
(NVI) No lloren por el que está muerto, ni hagan lamentaciones por él. Lloren más bien por el exiliado, por el que nunca volverá ni verá más la tierra en que nació.
(DHH) No lloren por el rey Josías, no lloren por su muerte; lloren más bien por su hijo Salum, que se va para no volver; ya no verá más su tierra natal.
*22:10 They should not continue to weep for the dead King Josiah (2 Chr. 35:25). Rather, their weeping should be for Jehoahaz who was taken from Judah by Pharaoh Necho and would return no more (vv. 11, 12)
*22:6 Gilead … Lebanon. The beautiful high mountains of the land. 22:7 cut down … choice cedars. This could primarily refer to the palaces and great houses built from such timber (Song 1:17). 22:10 the dead. Probably a reference to Josiah who died before the destruction (2 Kin. 22:20; Is. 57:1). Dying saints are to be envied, living sinners pitied. When Josiah died, and on each anniversary of his death, there was open public weeping in which Jeremiah participated (2 Chr. 35:24,25)
*22:6-9. In these verses Jeremiah was referring to the royal palace. Both Gilead and Lebanon were known for their forests (Jud. 9:15; 1 Kings 4:33; 2 Chron. 2:8), and the royal palace in Jerusalem was known as the ”Palace of the Forest of Lebanon“ (1 Kings 7:2-5; Isa. 22:8). But after God’s judgment the palace would be as desolate as a desert. The Babylonians would cut up the palace’s fine cedar beams and cast them into the fire (Jer. 52:13). As people from other nations saw the destruction of this magnificent structure, they would ask . . . why God had done such a thing. The answer was simple. God had judged the city because the people had forsaken the covenant and had worshiped . . . other gods. God had judged the people with His promised curses because of their disobedience. 22:10-12. Shallum was another name for Jehoahaz. He was a son of Josiah, and succeeded Josiah to the throne in 609 b.c. after Josiah was killed by Pharaoh Neco II (2 Kings 23:29-33). After a reign of only three months, Shallum was deposed by Pharaoh Neco. Jeremiah penned this prophecy in 609 after Shallum had gone from Jerusalem into captivity in Egypt (2 Kings 23:34). Jeremiah predicted that Shallum would never return to Jerusalem. Instead, he would die in the place where he had been deported as a captive.
WEEPING OVER THE CONSEQUENCES OF UNREPENTANT SIN
Jeremiah 25:34 Weep and wail, you [evil] shepherds; roll in the dust, you leaders of the flock [of my people]. For your time to be slaughtered has come; you will fall and be shattered like fine pottery. (RV1960) Aullad, pastores, y clamad; revolcaos en el polvo, mayorales del rebaño; porque cumplidos son vuestros días para que seáis degollados y esparcidos, y caeréis como vaso precioso. (DHH) ¡Griten, pastores, griten de dolor! ¡Ustedes, que guían el rebaño, revuélquense en el suelo! Pues ha llegado el momento de la matanza y a ustedes los matarán como a carneros gordos.
*33-38 The leaders of these many nations (pictured as shepherds) would weep and wail and roll in the dust (signs of deep grief or mourning; 6:26; Micah 1:10). They were mourning for their own lives because the time had come for them to be slaughtered. By briefly shifting his imagery from shepherds to pottery Jeremiah pictured the total destruction of these leaders. They would be shattered in pieces like a piece of fine pottery dropped on the floor. Jeremiah then returned to the pastoral image to complete his picture. The leaders (shepherds) would try to flee, but would have no place to escape. God would destroy their land (pasture) and would prowl around like a lion among the sheep (Jer. 25:30). The land of all these nations would become desolate
TEARS OF TRUE REPENTANCE
Jeremiah 31:9 [read from v1-14] They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. NTL - Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams
and on smooth paths where they will not stumble. For I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my oldest child.
(RV1960) Irán con lloro, mas con misericordia los haré volver, y los haré andar junto a arroyos de aguas, por camino derecho en el cual no tropezarán; porque soy a Israel por padre, y Efraín es mi primogénito. (DHH) Vendrán orando y llorando. Yo los llevaré a corrientes de agua, por un camino llano, donde no tropiecen. Pues soy el padre de Israel, y Efraín es mi hijo mayor. (NBLH) Con llanto vendrán, Y entre súplicas los guiaré. Los haré andar junto a arroyos de aguas, Por camino derecho en el cual no tropezarán; Porque soy un padre para Israel, Y Efraín es Mi primogénito."
*vv2–14 Here are messianic kingdom conditions.
*vv7-9. God’s restoration will be accompanied by songs of joy and the praises of the people for His deliverance. No one will be too far away for the Lord to restore him; God will gather His people from the ends of the earth. Also no one will be too insignificant for the Lord to deliver him; God will restore the blind and the lame along with expectant mothers. As God leads these people on their new Exodus into Israel He will provide for their every need. He will guide the people beside streams of water (Ex. 15:22-25; Num. 20:2-13; Ps. 23:2) and they will travel on a level path so they will not stumble. God will do all this because of His special relationship to Israel. He is Israel’s father (Deut. 32:6), and Ephraim (emphasizing the Northern tribes of Israel) is his firstborn son (Ex. 4:22). Jeremiah used the image of a father/son relationship to show God’s deep love for His people (Hosea 11:1, 8).
*31:9 weeping . . . supplications: Phrases from the Songs of Ascents (Ps. 120–134) are found here. In Ps. 126, those who are weeping are filled with gladness at the Lord’s return of exiles from captivity. rivers of waters: This imagery of God’s provision of life-sustaining water through the desert is like Is. 35:5–7. The reference to the straight way parallels Is. 40:3–5. Father: This text is one of the few cases in the OT where the fatherhood of God is portrayed directly (Deut. 32:6; Is. 63:16). Israel was familiar with the idea of God as Father, but it was not until the teaching of Jesus that the phrase took on the importance that we understand it to have in our lives today. Firstborn conveys the concept of preeminence (31:7; Deut. 32:9)
HOPE IN THE MIDST OF PAINFUL TEARS
Jeremiah 31:15 This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.” 16 This is what the Lord says: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord. “They will return from the land of the enemy. (RV1960) Así ha dicho Jehová: Voz fue oída en Ramá, llanto y lloro amargo; Raquel que lamenta por sus hijos,(A) y no quiso ser consolada acerca de sus hijos, porque perecieron. (RV1960) Así ha dicho Jehová: Reprime [déjà] del llanto tu voz, y de las lágrimas tus ojos; porque salario [pago] hay para tu trabajo, dice Jehová, y volverán de la tierra del enemigo.
*31:15 A voice … in Ramah. The reflection, for a moment, is on the distress of an Israelite mother for her children slain in the Babylonian invasion. This was a backdrop for the many contrasting promises of restoration to a joyful time (vv. 12–14,16,17) in the messianic day. Matthew saw the same description of sadness as apt, in principle, to depict something of the similar weeping of Jewish mothers when King Herod had babies slain at Bethlehem in a bid to kill the Messiah as a child (Matt. 2:17,18)
*Rachel’s bitter weeping was caused by the exile and captivity of her children. She refused to be comforted in her sorrow and loss.
*31:15-20. The nation’s future hope will contrast sharply with her present misery. The cry from Ramah was one of mourning and great weeping as Jeremiah pictured Rachel weeping for her children. To what was Jeremiah referring? Ramah was a town five miles north of Jerusalem, and Rachel was Joseph and Benjamin’s mother. Joseph was the father of Ephraim and Manasseh, who became the two major tribes in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Thus Jeremiah was picturing the weeping of the women of the Northern Kingdom as they watched their children being carried into exile in 722 b.c. However, Jeremiah could also have had the 586 b.c. deportation of Judah in view because Ramah was the staging point for Nebuchadnezzar’s deportation (cf. 40:1). In all likelihood these women were crying because they would never see their children again. But as the women of Israel and Judah wept for their exiled children, God offered a word of comfort. There was hope for their future because their children would return to their own land. God would bring about a restoration. In what sense was Herod’s slaughter of the babies (Matt. 2:17-18) a ”fulfillment“ of Jeremiah 31:15? Jeremiah pointed to an OT deportation of children from a town north of Jerusalem; Matthew used the passage to explain the New Testament slaughter of children in a village south of Jerusalem. The answer to the problem hinges on Matthew’s use of the word ”fulfilled“ (plēroō). Though Matthew did use the word to record an actual fulfillment of an Old Testament prediction (Matt. 21:4-5 with Zech. 9:9), he also used the word to indicate that the full potential of something in the OT had been realized (Matt. 3:15; 5:17). In these latter instances there is no prophetic significance to the word ”fulfill, “ which is how Matthew used the word to associate the slaughter in Bethlehem with the sadness in Ramah. Matthew used Jeremiah 31:15 in his book (Matt. 2:17-18) to explain the sadness of the mothers of Bethlehem. The pain of those mothers in Ramah who watched their sons being carried into exile found its full potential in the cries of the mothers of Bethlehem who cradled their sons’ lifeless bodies in their arms. Jeremiah ended this section by recording Israel’s cry of contrition that she will recite when she returns to the land. Though she had strayed (Jer. 31:19) she will repent. When she returns to her God she will be ashamed and humiliated because of her sin. God in turn will express His great compassion for the wayward but returning nation ( Hosea 2:16-23).
Jeremiah 48:32 I weep for you, as Jazer weeps, O vines of Sibmah. Your branches spread as far as the sea; they reached as far as the sea of Jazer. The destroyer has fallen on your ripened fruit and grapes. NLT - “You people of Sibmah, rich in vineyards, I will weep for you even more than I did for Jazer. Your spreading vines once reached as far as the Dead Sea, but the destroyer has stripped you bare! (DHH) Lloraré por ti, viñedo de Sibmá, más de lo que se lloró por Jazer.
Tus ramas pasaban más allá del mar y llegaban hasta Jazer. Pero ahora tu cosecha de uvas
ha quedado destruida. (RV60) Con llanto de Jazer lloraré por ti, oh vid de Sibma; tus sarmientos pasaron el mar, llegaron hasta el mar de Jazer; sobre tu cosecha y sobre tu vendimia vino el destruidor.
* 48:29-33. Moab’s chief problem was her pride (Isa. 16:6). Her physical security and history of relative peace had fed her arrogance. Unfortunately her insolence and boasts could do nothing to prevent her destruction. God expressed His concern for Moab as He mourned for Kir Hareseth (Isa. 16:7, 11), another of her chief cities. Borrowing from Isaiah 16:9, Jeremiah indicated that God would weep along with the city of Jazer for the vines of Sibmah which had been destroyed. The country of Moab was known for its vineyards, and Jeremiah expanded the image to picture all Moab as a vineyard. Her branches had spread as far as the Dead Sea, but now the destroyer had fallen on her ripened fruit and grapes. Moab would be ”harvested“ much as a vine is plucked of its fruit. Orchards and fields would be devoid of happiness, and the flow of wine from the presses would cease. When destruction came there would be shouts (Jer. 48:3-5) but they would not be shouts of joy like those heard before.
Lamentations 1:2 Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are upon her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is none to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies.
Jeremiah 9:18 Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids.
Jeremiah 14:17 “Speak this word to them: “ ‘Let my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasing; for my virgin daughter—my people— has suffered a grievous wound, a crushing blow.
Jeremiah 50:4 “In those days, at that time,” declares the Lord, “the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the Lord their God.
Lamentations 2:18 The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord. O wall of the Daughter of Zion, let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest.
Lamentations 3:48 Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed
Jeremiah 41:6 Ishmael son of Nethaniah went out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he went. When he met them, he said, “Come to Gedaliah son of Ahikam.”
Jeremiah 48:5 They go up the way to Luhith, weeping bitterly as they go; on the road down to Horonaim anguished cries over the destruction are heard.
OT Survey Series: Getting Acquainted with Jeremiah
The second of the Major Prophets has been called the Weeping Prophet, the Martyr Prophet, and God’s Iron Pillar. He is one of the more interesting prophets simply because so much is known about his life. His biography is a living sermon, and his book is a mini-bible. Saints throughout the ages have been challenged and inspired by his deeds and words.
THE PROPHET JEREMIAH In order to appreciate the prophet Jeremiah three types of information are vital. One must know something of his personal circumstances, his public ministry and the political context in which he lived and served.
Besides the author of this prophetic book, seven other men in the Bible wear the name Jeremiah. The name means Yahweh appoints or establishes. Verse 1 of the book gives the basic personal information about this prophet.
Jeremiah was a priest before he was a prophet. His father, Hilkiah, may have been the famous high priest who played such a significant role in the reformation of 621 b.c. (cf. 2 Chr 34:9).
As a boy, no doubt Jeremiah would have accompanied his father to the Temple from time to time. He would have learned by observation the vocation which he anticipated entering when he reached the age of thirty. Jeremiah grew up in the priestly village of Anathoth, about three miles north of Jerusalem. This village was part of the tribal area of Benjamin. Perhaps a childhood in this rural area accounts for the numerous agricultural metaphors which Jeremiah used during his ministry.
Three kings are named in the first verse of the book during whose reigns Jeremiah ministered. Two other kings, who reigned but a year between them, are omitted.
1. Reign of Josiah (640–609 b.c.). Jeremiah was called to the prophetic ministry in the thirteenth year of King Josiah, 627 b.c.. Josiah was a godly man from his youth. Some conjecture that he was tutored by the prophet Zephaniah during his boyhood. He certainly did not learn godliness from his father Amon who did evil in the eyes of the Lord (2 Chr 33:22). When Josiah began to rule, Judah was a vassal state within the great Assyrian Empire. This vassalage required the Jews to venerate Assyrian deities. So idolatry was prevalent in Judah during this period. In his eighth year of reign, when he was but sixteen years old, Josiah began to seek the God of his father David (2 Chr 34:3). In his twelfth year at the age of twenty the king began to purge Jerusalem of all the paraphernalia of idolatry. His campaign extended to the territory once occupied by the ten northern tribes, territory which had been incorporated into the Assyrian Empire. This was a direct challenge to Assyrian hegemony in the region. Since the Assyrian Empire was at this time weak, Josiah was never compelled to defend his actions on the battlefield. In the thirteenth year of Josiah, Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet to the nations. The autobiographical account of that call is recorded in the first chapter of the book. Jeremiah was reluctant to accept the challenge extended to him because he was but a youth. He surely could not have been more than a teenager at the time.
The first milestone in the ministry of the prophet was the major reformation in the eighteenth year of Josiah. A scroll of the Law of God was found by the high priest Hilkiah buried beneath debris in the Temple. After confirming that the threats and curses contained in this scroll were still valid, Josiah intensified his campaign to cleanse his land of idolatry. Jeremiah must have been an active participant in this effort. Much of the sermonic material in chapters 2–7 of the book grew out of the context of this great reformation.
For eighteen years of his ministry, until the end of Josiah’s life, Jeremiah had the support of the crown in his preaching efforts. Josiah died when he engaged Pharaoh Neco in battle at the pass of Megiddo in 609 b.c.. Neco was moving north to reinforce the remnants of the Assyrian army on the Euphrates river. He had no quarrel with Josiah. Yet Josiah felt compelled to confront him. The Judean king was mortally wounded in that battle. Jeremiah was deeply affected by the senseless death of this godly king. He wrote several lamentations which Judean singers employed for years to commemorate Josiah’s death (2 Chr 35:25 Jeremiah composed laments for Josiah, and to this day all the men and women singers commemorate Josiah in the laments. These became a tradition in Israel and are written in the Laments).
2. Reign of Jehoahaz (609 b.c.). The people of the land anointed Shallum as king in place of his father. Shallum took the throne name Jehoahaz. This king ruled but three months. He was then summoned to Riblah by Pharaoh Neco. There he was put in chains and deported to Egypt. Apparently many people regarded Jehoahaz as rightful king even after his deportation. They expected him to return to claim his throne. Jeremiah, however, announced that Shallum would die in the place where they had carried him captive (Jer 22:11f.).
3. Reign of Jehoiakim (609–598 b.c.). Pharaoh Neco selected a brother of Shallum, Eliakim, to be the new king. Neco gave the name Jehoiakim to Eliakim. The new king was placed under an enormous annual tribute obligation to Egypt. In 605 b.c. when Neco was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar in the battle of Carchemish, Jehoiakim switched allegiance to Babylon. This crafty king was able to maintain himself on the throne of Judah for eleven years. Those were miserable years for Jeremiah. The prophet’s life was in constant jeopardy. Jehoiakim was the target of some of Jeremiah’s most harsh criticism and prediction.
4. Reign of Jehoiachin (597 b.c.). Jehoiakim died a natural death, apparently, in December 598 b.c.. He was succeeded by his son Coniah who took the throne name Jehoiachin. After a reign of just over three months, this young king was forced to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar in March of 597 b.c.. At that time he was deported to Babylon with ten thousand of his subjects. Jeremiah predicted that no descendant of Jehoiachin would successfully sit upon the throne of David in Judah (Jer 22:30).
5. Reign of Zedekiah (597–586 b.c.). Nebuchadnezzar installed Mattaniah, another son of King Josiah, as his vassal king in Jerusalem. Mattaniah took the throne name Zedekiah. This last Old Testament king ruled eleven years. He was under constant pressure from his advisors to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar. On the other hand, Jeremiah consistently urged Zedekiah to surrender to Babylon. The king could not resist the pressure to seek an alliance with Egypt against Nebu chadnezzar. This political maneuvering led to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 b.c
Public Ministry: Dimensions.
Jeremiah’s ministry extended from his call in 627 b.c. to well beyond the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c., a period of over four decades. Jeremiah’s ministry was multi-dimensional.
1. Preaching. He was first and foremost a preacher. Though not as eloquent as Isaiah nor as colorful as Ezekiel, Jeremiah nonetheless was a powerful messenger. His sermons throb with emotion. His metaphors paint vivid pictures of sin and apostasy.
2. Drama. Jeremiah was an actor as well as a preacher. He dramatized his message from time to time in order to attract an audience and to underscore the truths he was preaching. Jeremiah’s action parables were not so bizarre as those of Ezekiel, but they were nonetheless strange. Among his “props” were a dirty girdle, a pottery jar, a cup of wine, and an ox yoke. To drive home his point he offered wine to a group of teetotalers, buried a stone beneath the pavement before a government building, and purchased a plot of ground in the midst of the siege of Jerusalem.
3. Writing. Jeremiah was a writer. He wrote, as noted above, a lament over the death of Josiah. He wrote a letter to Babylon (Jer 29). He wrote the book that bears his name and probably the Biblical books of Lamentations and Kings. Through his writings this prophet has inspired believers for twenty-five hundred years.
4. Prayer. Prayer was yet another dimension of Jeremiah’s ministry. He was persistent in intercession in spite of repeated indications of the hopelessness of his efforts (chap. 14; 18:20). This prophet has recorded for posterity his prayers of complaint (4:10), perception (5:3), praise (10:6f.), and clarification (32:16–23). Perhaps more teaching on prayer is found in the Book of Jeremiah than in any other book of the Bible.
5. Statesmanship. Jeremiah was a statesman. He supported the national reformation efforts of King Josiah. After the battle of Carchemish, he urged his nation to recognize Babylon as world ruler. He battled the majority in the royal court who thought that Egypt would provide relief from Babylonian oppression. Jeremiah saw clearly that Babylon would rule the world for seventy years. Although he consistently urged submission to Babylon, Jeremiah was no traitor. After Jerusalem’s fall he was given the option of spending the rest of his days under royal patronage in Babylon. He chose to remain with the tattered remnant of his people in the devastated land of Judah.
6. Counseling. Jeremiah ministered privately to individuals as well as to the masses. He was a counselor. He was equipped for this ministry by his personal victory over depression in a mid-ministry crisis. Five times Jeremiah cried out to God from the black depths of doubt and discouragement. God answered the prophet’s “confessions” in such a way that Jeremiah was was able to “get back on track” in his ministry. Using the insights which grew out of these dialogues with God, Jeremiah advised Baruch, his secretary, during one of his periods of discouragement. King Zedekiah sought Jeremiah out on numerous occasions to ask for his advice in dealing with national crises.
Public Ministry: Agony.
Not without reason has Jeremiah been called the weeping prophet. This man suffered as no other Biblical character save the Son of God himself. Three distinct aspects of his personal suffering can be identified in the book.
1. Ministerial aspect. Jeremiah experienced the agony of his message of judgment. He saw clearly in vision the total destruction of the land he loved. He saw the suffering of men, women and children. Emotionally he was drained each time he shared those dire visions with his audience (9:1; 13:17). If his message was painful to deliver, the reception which that message received was even more painful. The people he loved—the people he knew were standing on the brink of national destruction—refused to listen. The men of his own hometown plotted his demise (11:19, 21). He could not even trust members of his own family (12:6). For his assertion that Jerusalem and its temple would be destroyed Jeremiah was branded a heretic and threatened with death (26:7–9). When his predictions failed to materialize immediately, they branded him a false prophet and scoffed at his doomsday threats (17:15). To his contemporaries Jeremiah was a joke—a sad, pathetic, anachronistic joke (20:7b). The crowds cheered when a representative of the more “enlightened” clergy publicly humiliated Jeremiah in the temple courts (chap. 28).
2. Psychological aspect. Jeremiah’s personal loneliness intensified his agony. If ever a man needed a sympathetic spouse, this prophet surely did. Yet God ordered him not to marry (16:2). The preacher’s lifestyle must match his proclamation. For this preacher to marry and father children would be inconsistent with his announcement that shortly Jerusalem would be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. For the same reason God prohibited Jeremiah from attending social gatherings, whether feasts or funerals (16:5–9). This prophet was to be a “loner” and through his loneliness he would preach a sermon. This was no time for parties, for there was nothing to celebrate. On the other hand, funerals would soon be impossible. So many people would die in the imminent judgment that conducting individual memorial services would be impractical. Thus Jeremiah preached as much by what he refused to do as by what he did or said. He was a sermon in shoes!
3. Physical aspect. Jeremiah’s agony had physical as well as psychological dimensions. The chief officer of the Temple had him seized, flogged and put in the public stocks overnight (20:1ff.). During the last days of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was arrested on the charge of treason. Again he was beaten, then was thrown into a subterranean dungeon. He nearly died in that foul place (37:11ff.). Shortly after that ordeal he again was charged with treason for urging Jerusalem’s defenders to desert to the Babylonian armies. The king permitted ruthless princes to have their way with this man of God. They cast him into an empty cistern and left him there to starve to death (38:6). A humble black servant of the king risked his life to rescue the prophet from certain death (38:11ff.).
THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
By word count the Book of Jeremiah is the largest of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. Because of its size, this book was placed at the head of the Major Prophets in some ancient lists and manuscripts. In some ways Jeremiah is an easy book to read. The exciting accounts of the prophet’s vicissitudes during his forty plus years of ministry are compelling. The sermons of the prophet, filled as they are with brilliant metaphor, are pregnant with devotional application. Yet even a surface reading of the book reveals several problems which are not easily solved.
Composition of the Book.
Jeremiah had been preaching for twenty-three years before he was instructed to record his sermons on a scroll. The prophet dictated his messages to the scribe Baruch. This first edition of the Book of Jeremiah was destroyed in 604 b.c. by the tyrant King Jehoiakim. God, however, commissioned Jeremiah to produce a second edition, another scroll. This second edition of the book contained all the words of the first scroll and “many similar words” as well (36:32).
A third edition of the book must have been produced by Baruch in Egypt after the death of Jeremiah. This Egyptian edition must have been considerably larger than the second edition. It would have contained the record of the last twenty years of the prophet’s ministry. The third edition of Jeremiah was produced about 560 b.c.. A hasty copy of this edition of the book was made before Baruch emigrated to Babylon. There he produced the fourth edition of the book. Certain additional oracles of the prophet were added and all the material was reorganized. This Babylonian edition became the prototype for the standard Hebrew form of the book which has been translated into English.
Who, then, is actually responsible for the writing of this book? Baruch certainly performed the mechanical work of a stenographer. Did he do more? The last verse of chapter 51 clearly indicates that Jeremiah was not responsible for the authorship of chapter 52. Baruch most likely added that chapter in order to document the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s most dramatic and controversial prediction, viz., the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of the people of God. At some point Baruch may have functioned more like a modern editor. To what degree was he responsible for arranging the material in the book? The data available does not permit a definitive answer to this question.
The above reconstruction of the composition of the Book of Jeremiah may help to explain why the Greek translation—the Septuagint—is so different from the standard Hebrew edition of the book. This version was translated about 250 b.c. in Alexandria, Egypt. It is about one eighth shorter than the Hebrew form of the book. The major sections of the book are arranged in a different manner, and even within the various sections the material is in a different order. Some blocks of material found in the Hebrew are absent in the Greek version. Much of the repetition found in the Hebrew version is absent in the Septuagint. These facts lead to the conclusion that the Alexandrian translators had before them a very different Hebrew manuscript. Perhaps they based their translation on the Egyptian edition of the book which was hastily copied by the Jews in Egypt before Baruch emigrated to Babylon. This hypothesis would account for the rather substantial differences in the the two forms of the text.
B. The Plan of the Book.
The arrangement of materials in the Book of Jeremiah has been called the most confused in the Old Testament. Large blocks of the material are in chronological order. Here and there, however, chapters are inserted which jump forward or backward in time. Jeremiah or his editor Baruch must have grouped material at times according to a topical rather than a chronological principle. This survey does not permit an extensive discussion of all the particulars regarding the organization of the book. That chapter 1 is intended to be an introduction to the entire book is clear enough. This chapter narrates the prophetic call of Jeremiah in 627 b.c.. The remaining chapters are arranged in two main divisions.
Chapters 2–25 form the first major division of the book. These chapters are mainly pre-605 b.c.. This was the year of the battle of Carchemish, the fourth year of King Jehoiakim of Judah and the first year of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. For the most part these chapters contain excerpts from sermons and oracles delivered by Jeremiah. The title which appears in 1:1 (“the words of Jeremiah”) is appropriate to this first division. These twenty-four chapters may be subdivided according to contents as follows: (1) public pronouncements (chaps. 2–10); (2) personal discouragement (chaps. 11–20); (3) corrupt government (chaps. 21–24); and (4) coming judgment (chap. 25).
Chapters 26–51 form the second major division of the book. These chapters are more biographical in form. For the most part they are dated after 605 b.c.. Although some sermon excerpts are found here, this division might be entitled “The Deeds of Jeremiah.” The subdivisions of the second division are as follows: (1) Jeremiah’s suffering (chaps. 26–29); (2) special prophecies regarding Judah (chaps. 30–35); (3) Jeremiah’s suffering (chaps. 36–45); and (4) special prophecies regarding foreign nations (chaps. 46–51).
Chapter 52 is an appendix describing the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. and the deportation of many Jews to Babylon. The purpose here is to vindicate Jeremiah by showing that all the calamity which he had predicted concerning Jerusalem and Judah had come to pass.
|THE STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH|
|IntroductionTHE CALL627 bcChap. 1||THE WORDS OF JEREMIAHMostly before 605 bcPublic Pronouncement2–10Private Discouragement11–20Corrupt Government21–24Imminent Judgment25||THE LIFE OF JEREMIAHMostly after 605 bcJeremiah’s Suffering26–29Judah Prophecies30–35Jeremiah’s Suffering36–45Nations Prophecies46–51||AppendixTHE FALL586 bcChap. 52|
C. Predictions in the Book
According to Barton Payne, the Book of Jeremiah contains ninety different specific predictions. This total ranks second only to Isaiah. Some 812 verses, sixty per cent of the total, are predictive. The majority of these predictive verses (222) focus on the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. Among the more outstanding political prophecies of the book are the following: (1) the seventy years of service to Babylon (25:11f.); (2) Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Egypt (43:8–13); (3) the capture of Babylon by Cyrus (25:12–14); and (4) the defeat of Pharaoh Neco at Carchemish (46:5f.). The Book of Jeremiah does not contain nearly as much Messianic prophecy as does Isaiah. Yet prophecies pointing to Christ and his kingdom are not lacking. Perhaps the most important of those is the famous new covenant prophecy of 31:31. Two prophecies are noteworthy in the personal Messianic category. A future leader, the Righteous Shoot, will rule over the united tribes (23:5). This ruler will enjoy priestly as well as royal privileges (30:21).
The Call and Early Ministry Jeremiah 1:1–4:4
Background of the Unit. Jeremiah was called to prophetic ministry in the thirteenth year of King Josiah, 627 b.c. (Jer 1:2). As early as his eighth year, when he was but sixteen years of age, Josiah began “to seek the God of his father David.” In his twelfth year Josiah launched a religious reformation. He removed the Baal altars and chopped down the sacred poles (Asherim) beside them. He began to purge Judah and Jerusalem. He even carried his crusade into the territories formerly occupied by the tribes of the Northern Kingdom (2 Chr 34:1–7). The reform efforts—and especially the campaign outside his borders—were a direct challenge to the authority of the Assyrians who had dominated Judah for over half a century. Jeremiah was called to ministry to aid this last heroic effort to change the direction of Judah. While the king was attacking the external and public aspects of idolatry, the preacher would attempt to root out idolatry from the hearts of the people. Five years after the call of Jeremiah, in 621 b.c., the reformation efforts were intensified after the discovery in the Temple archives of a copy of the ancient scriptures penned by Moses (2 Chr 34:8–33).
The material in the first unit of the Book of Jeremiah comes from the earliest period of the prophet’s ministry. Josiah must have applauded, if not actively encouraged, the work of the young preacher. The sermon excerpts recorded in chapters 2–10 should be assigned to the years 627–609 b.c.. Precise dating for smaller units in this section is not possible.
Outline of the Unit.
A. Appointment of the Prophet (chap. 1). B. Accusations against Judah (chap. 2).
C. Appeals by the Lord (3:1–4:4).
APPOINTMENT OF THE PROPHET Jeremiah 1:4–19 The call of Jeremiah was not as elaborate as those of Isaiah and Ezekiel. He simply affirms that “the word of the Lord came unto me” without bothering to explain the mechanics of that process. This autobiographical narrative describes how God (1) summoned him to service, (2) assured him of support, (3) confirmed him in ministry, and (4) exhorted him to action.
Summons to Service (1:4–6). The first revelation which came to Jeremiah concerned him personally. God had “formed” him in his mother’s womb, i.e., he was a unique person, endowed with attributes to accomplish what no other man could accomplish. God “knew” him, i.e., recognized his strengths and weaknesses, yet chose him anyway. God “consecrated” him, i.e., set him apart from all others to fulfill a specific mission. This series of divine affirmations impressed upon Jeremiah’s mind the fact that he and he alone could do the job which God had in mind for him (1:5a). Jeremiah had been appointed “a prophet,” an official ambassador of God who spoke in his name and by his authority. Though other prophets spoke to and about foreign nations, Jeremiah is the only one to receive the title “a prophet to the nations.” The fate of tiny Judah was so inextricably intertwined with the superpowers that anything he would say to or about his country would of necessity involve the nations of the world (1:5b).
Jeremiah understood immediately the basic involvements of this appointment and he was intimidated by them. In an emotional outburst (“Alas Lord God!”) he expressed his keen sense of unworthiness. His age was against him (“I am a youth”). Culture dictated that young people listen but not speak in public affairs. He also did not “know how to speak,” i.e., he lacked natural abilities (1:6).
The Assurance of Support (1:7–10). To ease the apprehension of this reluctant servant, God reassured him in four areas.
First, the Lord gave to his prophet assurance of direction. Jeremiah was instructed not to focus his attention on his own weaknesses, but on God’s strength. God would direct both the where of his ministry and the what. He would go where God directed him. He would speak what God revealed to him (1:7).
Second, Jeremiah received assurance of deliverance. God looked beneath the surface excuses of Jeremiah and saw the fear in his heart. That fear was not unfounded. At times Jeremiah would need to be rescued from the machinations of those who hated the truth. God, however, promised to be with him, to deliver him, not from any difficult circumstances, but through those circumstances (1:8).
Third, God gave to the young man assurance of power. Whether in the visional or physical realm, the young man felt his lips touched by God’s hand. The touch of Isaiah’s lips was for cleansing; that of Jeremiah’s was for empowerment. From this day forward he could preach boldly because God declares: “I have put my words in your mouth” (1:9).
Fourth, God gave assurance of authority to prophesy. Jeremiah’s appointment involved the authority to verbally “pluck up, break down, destroy and overthrow” the nations of his day. This he would do by preaching God’s word of judgment against them. Once the old order had been removed, Jeremiah’s preaching would become more optimistic. He would “build and plant” the basic principles of a new era, the age of Messiah (1:10).Confirmation in Ministry (1:11–16).
On two occasions subsequent to the initial summons Jeremiah’s call was confirmed by visions. In the first vision his attention was directed to an object which he correctly identified as an almond (shaqed) rod. Since the almond was the first tree to “wake up” in the spring, it was sometimes known as the “wakeful tree.” Employing a play on words, God declared that he was watching (shoqed) over his word to perform it. The prophet could speak the divine word with the assurance that God was alert and awake, that his word would not fail (1:11f.).
In the second vision Jeremiah’s attention was directed to a boiling pot in the process of tipping over. It was “facing away from the north,” its contents were about to be spilled southward. This symbol meant that “out of the north the evil,” calamity, “would break forth” on all the inhabitants of Judah. The boiling pot symbolized the political turmoil which would arise north of Judah when the Assyrian empire fell and the Babylonian empire arose on the scene of history. God would employ “the kingdoms of the north” to conquer the cities of Judah. Through those foreign agents God would pronounce his judgments on the Jews because of their unfaithfulness (1:13–16).
Challenge to Action (1:17–19).
The call narrative concludes with a series of exhortations designed to challenge Jeremiah to begin his ministry. “Gird up your loins,” tuck your long robe into your belt so as to be prepared for strenuous activity. “Arise,” so as to be heard, and “speak to them all which I command you.” He must not only gird up, stand up, and speak up, he must also bear up. “Do not be terrified by them”. His audience would try to intimidate him, and if they sensed that they were succeeding, God would permit them to crush his ministry through fear (1:17).
God would prepare the prophet for his confrontation with a hostile audience. They would find this man to have a God-given fortitude and determined purpose. Before his adversaries he would appear to be as invincible as a fortified city, as indestructible as an iron pillar, and as impregnable as a bronze wall. Kings, princes, priests and prominent people of the land would fight against him by every means. They would not be able to overcome Jeremiah. The Lord would be with him every step of the way to deliver him out of any danger. Thus the last implied exhortation of the call narrative was to look up to God as the source of strength (1:18f.)
Wiersbe - Jeremiah was perhaps twenty years old when God’s call came to him in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign (626 B.C.). Why did he hesitate to accept God’s call? Let me suggest some reasons.
1. The task was demanding (Jer. 1:1)
Jeremiah’s father Hilkiah was a priest, as was his father before him, and young Jeremiah was also expected to serve at the altar. He may even have been at the age when he would have stepped into his place of ministry when God called him to be a prophet. Since serving as a prophet was much more demanding than serving as a priest, it’s no wonder Jeremiah demurred. If I had my choice, I’d take the priesthood! For one thing, a priest’s duties were predictable. Just about everything he had to do was written down in the Law. Thus, all the priest had to do was follow instructions. Day after day, there were sacrifices to offer, lepers to examine, unclean people to exclude from the camp, cleansed people to reinstate, official ceremonies to observe, a sanctuary to care for, and a Law to teach. No wonder some of the priests said, “Oh, what a weariness!” (Mal. 1:13, NKJV) The ministry of a prophet, however, was quite another matter, because you never knew from one day to the next what the Lord would call you to say or do. The priest worked primarily to conserve the past by protecting and maintaining the sanctuary ministry, but the prophet labored to change the present so the nation would have a future. When the prophet saw the people going in the wrong direction, he sought to call them back to the right path. Priests dealt with externals such as determining ritual uncleanness and offering various sacrifices that could never touch the hearts of the people (Heb. 10:1–18); but the prophet tried to reach and change hearts. At least sixty-six times the word “heart” is found in the Book of Jeremiah, for he is preeminently the prophet of the heart. Priests didn’t preach to the crowds very much but ministered primarily to individuals with various ritual needs. Prophets, on the other hand, addressed whole nations; and usually the people they addressed didn’t want to hear the message. Priests belonged to a special tribe and therefore had authority and respect, but a prophet could come from any tribe and had to prove his divine call. Priests were supported from the sacrifices and offerings of the people, but prophets had no guaranteed income. Jeremiah would have had a much easier time serving as a priest. Therefore, it’s no wonder his first response was to question God’s call. Offering sacrifices was one thing, but preaching the Word to hardhearted people was quite something else. When you read his book, you will see a number of pictures of his ministry that reveal how demanding it was to serve the Lord as a faithful prophet. In his ministry, Jeremiah had to be
•a destroyer and a builder—1:9–10
•a pillar and a wall—1:17–18
•a tester of metals—6:27–30
•a physician—8:11, 21–22
•a sacrificial lamb—11:19
•a long-distance runner—12:5
•a shepherd—13:17, 20–21; 17:16, 23
•a troublemaker—15:10, 15–17
Does this sound like an easy task?
2. The times were difficult (Jer. 1:2–3; 2 Kings 21–25; 2 Chron. 33–36)
I suppose there never is a time when serving God is easy, but some periods in history are especially difficult for spiritual ministry, and Jeremiah lived in such an era. Consider what the history of Judah was like during Jeremiah’s lifetime.
Rebellion instead of obedience. To begin with, Jeremiah was born during the reign of King Manasseh, the most evil man who ever reigned over the kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 21:1–18). The son of godly Hezekiah, Manasseh came to the throne when only twelve years old, and the officials around him easily influenced him toward idolatry. Manasseh “seduced them [the people of Judah] to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the Children of Israel” (v. 9, NKJV). When Manasseh died, his evil son Amon continued his father’s evil practices.
Thus, Jeremiah grew up in Anathoth at a time when idolatry flourished in Judah, children were offered in sacrifice to idols, the Law of Moses was disregarded and disobeyed, and it looked as though there was no hope for the nation. Godly priests were not greatly appreciated.
Reformation instead of repentance. In 639 B.C., some of Amon’s servants assassinated him; Josiah his son became king, reigning until his untimely death in 609. Josiah was quite young when he began to reign, but he had godly counselors like Hilkiah, and thus he sought the Lord. In the twelfth year of his reign, he began to purge the land of idolatry; six years later, he commanded the priests and workers to repair and cleanse the temple. It was during that time that Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law in the temple and had it read to the king. This document may have been the entire five books of Moses or just the Book of Deuteronomy.
When the king heard the Law of God read, he was deeply moved. He tore his robes and sent to Huldah the prophetess for instructions from the Lord (2 Kings 22). Her message was that the people had forsaken God and therefore judgment was coming, but because of Josiah’s sincere repentance, judgment would not come during his reign. Josiah didn’t wait for the temple repairs to be completed before calling the whole nation to repentance. He made a covenant with the Lord and led the people in renouncing idolatry and returning to the Law of the Lord. Unfortunately, the obedience of many of the people was only a surface thing. Unlike the king, they displayed no true repentance. Jeremiah knew this and boldly announced God’s message: “Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense” (Jer. 3:10, NKJV).
Josiah led the nation in a reformation but not in a heart-changing revival. The idols were removed, the temple was repaired, and the worship of Jehovah was restored, but the people had not turned to the Lord with their whole heart and soul.
Politics instead of principle. No sooner did Josiah die on the battlefield and his son become king than the nation quickly returned to idolatry under the rule of Jehoahaz. But Pharaoh Necho removed Jehoahaz from the throne, exiled him to Egypt where he died, and placed his brother Eliakim on the throne, giving him the name Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim, however, was no better than his brother and “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (2 Kings 23:37). He taxed the people heavily in order to pay tribute to Egypt, and then he agreed to pay tribute to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. After Jehoiakim reneged on that promise, Nebuchadnezzar took him prisoner to Babylon and took the temple vessels with him (597 B.C.). Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin reigned only three months; then his uncle Mattaniah, Josiah’s third son (1 Chron. 3:15), was made king and renamed Zedekiah. Zedekiah was the last king of Judah, a weak, vacillating man who feared his officials more than he feared the Lord (Jer. 38:19). “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord” (2 Chron. 36:12). Zedekiah would ask Jeremiah for help while at the same time courting ambassadors from neighboring nations and plotting rebellion against Babylon. He allowed his princes to persecute and even imprison Jeremiah, though he himself had secret meetings with the prophet as if he were seeking God’s will. It’s easy for political leaders to invite religious leaders in for consultation and then do exactly what they’d already planned to do. Today, it’s good public relations to give people the impression that “religion” is important; but talking to a popular preacher isn’t the same as humbling yourself before God.
Jeremiah preached to the nation for forty years, giving them God’s promises and warnings; yet he lived to see Jerusalem and his beloved temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army and his people taken captive to Babylon. Jeremiah ministered in turbulent times and yet remained faithful to the Lord. He exposed the futile foreign policy of the rulers, pleading with them to turn to the Lord with all their hearts and trust God instead of trusting their political allies. Jeremiah is one of Scripture’s greatest examples of faithfulness and decisive action in the face of physical danger and national decay.
The servant was doubtful (Jer. 1:4–10)
Jeremiah hesitated as he looked at the work before him and the wickedness around him, and when he looked at the weakness within himself, Jeremiah was certain that he wasn’t the man for the job.
When it comes to serving the Lord, there’s a sense in which nobody is adequate. “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16) asked the great Apostle Paul as he pondered the responsibilities of ministry. Paul then answered his own question. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (3:5).
When God calls us, however, He isn’t making a mistake; and for us to hesitate or refuse to obey is to act on the basis of unbelief and not faith. It’s one thing for us to know our own weaknesses, but it’s quite something else for us to say that our weaknesses prevent God from getting anything done. Instead of being an evidence of humility, this attitude reeks of pride.
God gave young Jeremiah three wonderful assurances.
God’s electing grace (vv. 4–5). God doesn’t save us, call us, or use us in His service because we’re deserving, but because in His wisdom and grace He chooses to do so. It’s grace from start to finish. “But by the grace of God I am what I am,” wrote Paul, “and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
Each of the phrases in Jeremiah 1:5 is important. To begin with, God knew Jeremiah, which refers to His sovereign election of His servant. God chose Jeremiah even before he was conceived or formed in his mother’s womb. Then God formed Jeremiah and gave him the genetic structure He wanted him to possess. This truth is expressed poetically in Psalm 139:13–16. Jeremiah wasn’t too happy about what his birth gave him (Jer. 20:14–18), but the Lord knew what He was doing. What we are is God’s gift to us; what we do with it is our gift to Him.
God sanctified Jeremiah even before he was born. This means Jeremiah was set apart by the Lord and for the Lord even before he knew the Lord in a personal way. God would later do the same with Paul (Gal. 1:15). The Lord then ordained Jeremiah to be His prophet to the nations. God’s concern from the beginning is that all nations of the earth know His salvation. That’s why He called Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3) and set apart the nation of Israel to be His special channel to bring His Word and His Son into the world.
A prophet was a chosen and authorized spokesman for God who declared God’s Word to the people. The Hebrew word probably comes from an Arabic root that means “to announce.” For example, Moses spoke to Aaron, and Aaron was his spokesman (prophet) before Pharaoh (Ex. 7:1–2). Prophets did more than reveal the future, for their messages had present application to the life of the nation. They were forthtellers more than foretellers, exposing the sins of the people and calling them back to their covenant responsibilities before God. As God’s children, we are chosen and set apart by Him and for Him (Eph. 1:3–14; Rom. 8:28–30); this truth ought to give us great courage as we confront an evil world and seek to serve the Lord. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
God’s protecting presence (vv. 6–8). God gave young Jeremiah three instructions: “Go where I send you, speak what I command you, and don’t be afraid of the people.” Then He added the great word of promise, “For I am with you to deliver you” (Jer. 1:8, NKJV). He repeated this promise at the end of His call: “ ‘They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,’ says the Lord, ‘to deliver you’ ” (v. 19, NKJV).
Please note that there was a condition attached to this encouraging promise: Jeremiah had to go where God sent him and speak what God told him to speak. He also had to believe God’s promise and prove it by not fearing the people. We call Jeremiah “the weeping prophet,” and he was (9:1), but he was also a courageous man who faced many dangers and trials and remained true to the Lord. He knew that the Lord was with him, just as we should know that the Lord is with us. “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ ” (Heb. 13:5–6)
God’s effecting Word (vv. 9–10). When the coal from the heavenly altar touched Isaiah’s lips, it purified him (Isa. 6:5–7); when God’s hand touched Jeremiah’s mouth, it gave him power and authority. God put His words into the prophet’s mouth and those words were effective to accomplish His will. God not only gave Jeremiah His words, but He also promised to “watch over” those words until they were fulfilled (Jer. 1:12).
The Word of God created the universe: “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth....For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:6, 9). The universe is upheld by the Word of God: “And [Christ] upholding all things by the Word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). But God also carries out His purposes on earth by means of His Word: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:10–11).
In too many churches today, worship has become entertainment and preaching is merely the happy dispensing of good advice. We need to hear and obey Paul’s admonition to Timothy, “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13) and works by means of the Word of truth (Ps. 119:43; 2 Tim. 2:15). Jeremiah didn’t accomplish God’s will on earth by means of clever speeches, cunning diplomacy, or skillful psychology. He heard God’s Word, took it to heart, and then proclaimed it fearlessly to the people. God did the rest.
Jeremiah’s ministry was difficult because he had to tear down before he could build, and he had to root up before he could plant. In too many ministries there are organizational “structures” that don’t belong there and should be torn down because they’re hindering progress. Some “plants” are taking up space but bearing no fruit, and they ought to be pulled up. Jesus said, “Every plant which My Heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted” (Matt. 15:13).
Any servant of God who feels himself or herself too weak to serve needs to consider these three encouragements. Has God called you? Then He will equip you and enable you. Are you obeying His commands by faith? Then He is with you to protect you. Are you sharing the Word? Then He will accomplish His purposes no matter how the people respond. Jeremiah’s name means “Jehovah establishes,” and God did establish His servant and his ministry and cared for him to the very end. “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one” (2 Thes. 3:3).
The message was dangerous (Jer. 1:11–19)
When you study the Old Testament prophets, you discover that three strands of truth wove their messages together: (1) past sin: the nation has disobeyed God’s Law; (2) present responsibility: the people must repent or God will send judgment; and (3) future hope: the Lord will come one day and establish His glorious kingdom.
The Lord didn’t give Jeremiah a joyful message of deliverance to announce but rather a tragic message of judgment. So dangerous was this message that people hearing it called Jeremiah a traitor. He would be misunderstood, persecuted, arrested, and imprisoned; and more than once, his life was in danger. The nation didn’t want to hear the truth, but Jeremiah told them plainly that they were defying the Lord, disobeying the Law, and destined for judgment.
God gave Jeremiah three promises to prepare him for this dangerous mission.
Two of the promises were in visions.
The almond tree: God’s Word will be fulfilled (vv. 11–12). In the Holy Land, the almond tree blossoms in January and gives the first indication that spring is coming. The Hebrew word for almond tree is saqed, while the word for “watch” or “be awake” is soqed. The Lord used this play on words to impress Jeremiah with the fact that He is ever awake to watch over His Word and fulfill it. Like a husband or wife breaking the marriage vows, the sinful nation had turned from the covenant they had made with the Lord, and now they were giving their love and loyalty to pagan idols. But that covenant would stand, for the Lord had not forgotten it. He had promised to bless them if they obeyed and chasten them if they disobeyed, and He was “watching to see that [His] word is fulfilled” (Jer. 1:12,; Lev. 26; Deut. 28). God had spoken to the nation through the earlier prophets, but the rulers and people wouldn’t listen. Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, namely every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the Law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.” Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them (2 Kings 17:13–15, NKJV).
The boiling pot: God’s wrath is coming (vv. 13–16). The nations in the East were often in conflict, each trying to gain supremacy. First the Jewish rulers would turn to Egypt for help, then to Assyria (Isa. 30–31; Jer. 2:18, 36); and all the while, they failed to trust the Lord and seek His help. But this vision reveals that God is in control of the nations of the world and can use them to accomplish His own purposes. The Lord was even then preparing Babylon in the north to be His servant to chasten His people. For Judah to turn to Egypt for help was futile because Egypt would also fall to Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 46). When Jeremiah began his ministry, Assyria, not Babylon, was the dominant power in the Near East, and no doubt many of the political experts thought Jeremiah foolish to worry about Babylon in the north. But the people of Judah lived to see Assyria defeated and Egypt crippled as Babylon rose to power and Jeremiah’s words came true. Indeed, the thrones of the conquering Babylonian leaders were set in the gate of Jerusalem (39:1–3), and the holy city was eventually destroyed. The sin God singled out was idolatry (1:16)—forsaking the true God and worshiping the gods they had made with their own hands. In their hypocrisy, the people of Judah maintained the temple worship, but Jehovah was only one of many gods who claimed their devotion. Some of the foreign idols were even brought into the temple! (Ezek. 8–9.) The false prophets flourished in a ministry that was shallow and popular because they promised peace and never called for repentance (Jer. 5:12–13; 8:11–12; 14:13–22).
When a nation turns from worshiping the true God, its people begin to exploit one another, and that’s what happened in Judah. The rich oppressed the poor and the courts would not defend the rights of the oppressed (2:34–35; 5:26–31; 7:1–11). Yet these evil rulers and judges went to the temple faithfully and pretended to be devoted to Jehovah! All they did was make the temple “a den of robbers” (7:11). It was this kind of sin that God was about to judge.
The city, pillar, and wall: God will protect His servant (vv. 17–19). In order to be able to run or work easily, men in that day had to tie their loose robes together with a belt (1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 4:29), so “gird up your loins” (Jer. 1:17) meant “Get ready for action!” It might be paraphrased “Tighten your belt! Roll up your sleeves!” “Gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Peter 1:13) means “Pull your mind together and have the right mental attitude in view of our Lord’s return.” God repeated the warning He gave earlier (Jer. 1:8) that Jeremiah must not be afraid of the people who would oppose him, because God would defend him. Surrounded by his enemies, the prophet would become a fortified city they couldn’t subdue. Forced to stand alone, Jeremiah would become as strong as an iron pillar. Attacked on all sides by kings, princes, priests, and people, he would be as unyielding as a bronze wall. “I am with you to deliver you” was God’s reliable promise (vv. 8, 19), and in the battle for truth, one with God is a majority. In spite of the demands of the task and the difficulties of the times, Jeremiah accepted God’s call. He knew his own deficiencies, but he also knew that God was greater and would enable him to do the job. The message God gave him was indeed dangerous, but God was watching over His Word to fulfill it and would protect His faithful servant. Jeremiah made the right decision and as a result became one of the most unpopular prophets in Jewish history. Measured by human standards, his ministry was a failure, but measured by the will of God, he was a great success. It isn’t easy to stand alone, to resist the crowd, and to be out of step with the philosophies and values of the times. Jeremiah, however, lived that kind of a life for over forty years. In the final chapter of his book Walden, Henry David Thoreau writes: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
“If anyone desires to come after Me,” said Jesus, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me....For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matt. 16:24, 26) In light of that sobering question, what decision will you make? Will you conform to the crowd or carry the cross?
JM – Title This book gains its title from the human author, who begins with “the words of Jeremiah … ” (1:1). Jeremiah recounts more of his own life than any other prophet, telling of his ministry, the reactions of his audiences, testings, and his personal feelings. His name means “Jehovah throws,” in the sense of laying down a foundation, or “Jehovah establishes, appoints, or sends
Seven other Jeremiahs appear in Scripture (2 Kin. 23:31; 1 Chr. 5:24; 1 Chr. 12:4; 1 Chr. 12:10; 1 Chr. 12:13; Neh. 10:2; Neh. 12:1), and Jeremiah the prophet is named at least 9 times outside of his book (2 Chr. 35:25; 36:12; 36:21,22; Dan. 9:2; Ezra 1:1; Matt. 2:17; 16:14; 27:9). The Old and New Testaments quote Jeremiah at least 7 times: 1) Dan. 9:2 (25:11,12; 29:10); 2) Matt. 2:18 (31:15); 3) Matt. 27:9 (18:2; 19:2,11; 32:6–9); 4) 1 Cor. 1:31 (9:24); 5) 2 Cor. 10:17 (9:24); 6) Heb. 8:8–12 (31:31–34); and 7) Heb. 10:16,17 (31:33,34).
Author and Date Jeremiah, who served as both a priest and a prophet, was the son of a priest named Hilkiah (not the High-Priest of 2 Kin. 22:8 who discovered the book of the law). He was from the small village of Anathoth (1:1), today called Anata, about 3 mi. NE of Jerusalem in Benjamin’s tribal inheritance. As an object lesson to Judah, Jeremiah remained unmarried (16:1–4). He was assisted in ministry by a scribe, named Baruch, to whom Jeremiah dictated and who copied and had custody over the writings compiled from the prophet’s messages (36:4,32; 45:1). Jeremiah has been known as “the weeping prophet” (9:1; 13:17; 14:17), living a life of conflict because of his predictions of judgment by the invading Babylonians. He was threatened, tried for his life, put in stocks, forced to flee from Jehoiakim, publicly humiliated by a false prophet, and thrown into a pit.
Jeremiah carried out a ministry directed mostly to his own people in Judah, but which expanded to other nations at times. He appealed to his countrymen to repent and avoid God’s judgment via an invader (chaps. 7,26). Once invasion was certain after Judah refused to repent, he pled with them not to resist the Babylonian conqueror in order to prevent total destruction (chap. 27). He also called on delegates of other nations to heed his counsel and submit to Babylon (chap. 27), and he predicted judgments from God on various nations (25:12–38; chaps. 46–51).
The dates of his ministry, which spanned 5 decades, are from the Judean king Josiah’s 13th year, noted in 1:2 (627 b.c.), to beyond the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 586 b.c. (Jer. 39,40,52). After 586 b.c., Jeremiah was forced to go with a fleeing remnant of Judah to Egypt (Jer. 43,44). He was possibly still ministering in 570 b.c. (44:30). A rabbinic note claims that when Babylon invaded Egypt in 568/67 b.c. Jeremiah was taken captive to Babylon. He could have lived even to pen the book’s closing scene ca. 561 b.c. in Babylon, when Judah’s king Jehoiachin, captive in Babylon since 597 b.c., was allowed liberties in his last days (52:31–34). Jeremiah, if still alive at that time, was between 85 and 90 years old.
Background and Setting Background details of Jeremiah’s times are portrayed in 2 Kin. 22–25 and 2 Chr. 34–36. Jeremiah’s messages paint pictures of: 1) his people’s sin; 2) the invader God would send; 3) the rigors of siege; and 4) calamities of destruction. Jeremiah’s message of impending judgment for idolatry and other sins was preached over a period of 40 years (ca. 627–586 b.c. and beyond). His prophecy took place during the reigns of Judah’s final 5 kings (Josiah 640–609 b.c., Jehoahaz 609 b.c., Jehoiakim 609–598 b.c., Jehoiachin 598–597 b.c., and Zedekiah 597–586 b.c.).
The spiritual condition of Judah was one of flagrant idol worship (chap. 2). King Ahaz, preceding his son Hezekiah long before Jeremiah in Isaiah’s day, had set up a system of sacrificing children to the god Molech in the Valley of Hinnom just outside Jerusalem (735–715 b.c.). Hezekiah led in reforms and clean-up (Is. 36:7), but his son Manasseh continued to foster child sacrifice along with gross idolatry, which continued into Jeremiah’s time (7:31; 19:5; 32:35). Many also worshiped the “queen of heaven” (7:18; 44:19). Josiah’s reforms, reaching their apex in 622 b.c., forced a repressing of the worst practices outwardly, but the deadly cancer of sin was deep and flourished quickly again after a shallow revival. Religious insincerity, dishonesty, adultery, injustice, tyranny against the helpless, and slander prevailed as the norm not the exception.
Politically momentous events occurred in Jeremiah’s day. Assyria saw its power wane gradually; then Ashurbanipal died in 626 b.c. Assyria grew so feeble that in 612 b.c. her seemingly invincible capital, Nineveh, was destroyed (the book of Nahum). The Neo-Babylonian empire under Nabopolassar (625–605 b.c.) became dominant militarily with victories against Assyria (612 b.c.), Egypt (609–605 b.c.), and Israel in 3 phases (605 b.c., as in Dan. 1; 597 b.c., as in 2 Kin. 24:10–16; and 586 b.c., as in Jer. 39,40,52).
While Joel and Micah had earlier prophesied of Judah’s judgment, during Josiah’s reign, God’s leading prophets were Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. Later, Jeremiah’s contemporaries, Ezekiel and Daniel, played prominent prophetic roles.
Historical and Theological Themes The main theme of Jeremiah is judgment upon Judah (chaps. 1–29) with restoration in the future messianic kingdom (23:3–8; 30–33). Whereas Isaiah devoted many chapters to a future glory for Israel (Is. 40–66), Jeremiah gave far less space to this subject. Since God’s judgment was imminent he concentrated on current problems as he sought to turn the nation back from the point of no return.
A secondary theme is God’s willingness to spare and bless the nation only if the people repent. Though this is a frequent emphasis, it is most graphically portrayed at the potter’s shop (18:1–11). A further focus is God’s plan for Jeremiah’s life, both in his proclamation of God’s message and in his commitment to fulfill all of His will (1:5–19; 15:19–21). Other themes include: 1) God’s longing for Israel to be tender toward Him, as in the days of first love (2:1–3); 2) Jeremiah’s servant tears, as “the weeping prophet” (9:1; 14:17); 3) the close, intimate relationship God had with Israel and that He yearned to keep (13:11); 4) suffering, as in Jeremiah’s trials (11:18–23; 20:1–18) and God’s sufficiency in all trouble (20:11–13); 5) the vital role that God’s Word can play in life (15:16); 6) the place of faith in expecting restoration from the God for whom nothing is too difficult (chap. 32, especially vv. 17,27); and 7) prayer for the coordination of God’s will with God’s action in restoring Israel to its land (33:3,6–18).
Interpretive Challenges A number of questions arise, such as: 1) How can one explain God’s forbidding prayer for the Jews (7:16) and saying that even Moses’ and Samuel’s advocacy could not avert judgment (15:1)? 2) Did Jeremiah make an actual trek of several hundred miles to the Euphrates River, or did he bury his loin cloth nearby (13:4–7)? 3) How could he utter such severe things about the man who announced his birth (20:14–18)? 4) Does the curse on Jeconiah’s kingly line relate to Christ (22:30)? 5) How is one to interpret the promises of Israel’s return to its ancient land (chaps. 30–33)? and 6) How will God fulfill the New Covenant in relation to Israel and the church (31:31–34)? The answers to these will be included in the study notes at the appropriate passages.
A frequent challenge is to understand the prophet’s messages in their right time setting, since the book of Jeremiah is not always chronological, but loosely arranged, moving back and forth in time for thematic effect. Ezekiel, by contrast, usually places his material in chronological order
1:1 Anathoth. A town in the territory of Benjamin, 3 mi. N of Jerusalem, assigned to the Levites (Josh. 21:18) where Abiathar had once lived (1 Kin. 2:26). 1:2 in the days of. Jeremiah’s ministry spanned at least 5 decades—from Judah’s king Josiah (13th year, 627 b.c.) to the final king, Zedekiah, in his last year (586 b.c.). 1:3 fifth month. Babylonian conquerors began deporting Judeans into captivity in the Heb. month Ab (July–Aug.) in 586 b.c. (52:12; 2 Kin. 25:8–11), shortly after breaking into Jerusalem on the fourth month and ninth day (39:2; 52:6). 1:5 Before I formed you … This is not reincarnation; it is God’s all-knowing cognizance of Jeremiah and sovereign plan for him before he was conceived (Paul’s similar Gal. 1:15). 1:6 Jeremiah’s response points out his inability and his inexperience. If as a young man he was 20–25 years old in 626 b.c., he was 60–65 in 586 b.c. when Jerusalem fell (chap. 39), and 85–90 if he lived to the time of 52:31–34 (561 b.c.). 1:7–10 The power backing Jeremiah’s service was God’s presence and provision (2 Cor. 3:5). 1:9 My words in your mouth. God used him as His mouthpiece, speaking His message (15:19); thus, Jeremiah’s fitting response was to receive God’s Word (15:16). 1:10 set you over. Because God spoke through Jeremiah, the message has divine authority. 1:11–16 Illustrations of God’s charge were twofold. First, there was the sign of the almond rod. The almond tree was literally “the wakeful tree,” because it awakened from the sleep of winter earlier than the other trees, blooming in Jan. It was a symbol of God’s early judgment, as Jeremiah announced (605–586 b.c.). Second, the boiling cauldron pictured the Babylonian invaders bringing judgment on Judah (cf. 20:4).
|21 Illustrations of God’s Judgment|
|An Almond Branch (1:11,12)|
|A Boiling Caldron (1:13–16)|
|Lions (2:15, 4:7, 5:6, 50:17).|
|A Scorching Storm Wind (4:11,12, 18:17, 23:19, 25:32)|
|Stripping Away Judah’s Branches (5:10)|
|Making This House (Worship Center) like Shiloh (7:14)|
|Serpents, Adders (8:17)|
|Destroying Olive Branches (11:16–17)|
|Linen Sash Made Worthless (13:1–11)|
|Bottles Filled with Wine and Dashed Against One Another (13:12–14)|
|A Potter’s Jar Shattered (19:10,11; cf. 22:28)|
|A Hammer [God’s Word] Crushing a Rock (23:29)|
|A Cup of Wrath (25:15)|
|Zion Plowed as a Field (26:18)|
|Wearing Yokes of Wood and Iron (27:2; 28:13)|
|A Hammer [Babylon] (50:23)|
|A Mountain of Destruction [Babylon] (51:25)|
1:17–19 Jeremiah’s part was proclamation, as God’s mouthpiece (v. 17); God’s part was preservation in defending the prophet (vv. 18, 19). God did protect him often, 11:18–23; 20:1ff., and 38:7–13
BKC - Jeremiah was the premier prophet of Judah during the dark days leading to her destruction. Though the light of other prophets, such as Habakkuk and Zephaniah, flickered in Judah at that time Jeremiah was the blazing torch who, along with Ezekiel in Babylon, exposed the darkness of Judah’s sin with the piercing brightness of God’s Word. He was a weeping prophet to a wayward people.
Authorship and Date. The author of the book is ”Jeremiah son of Hilkiah“ (1:1). The exact meaning of Jeremiah’s name (yirmeyāhû or yirmeyâh) is disputed. Suggested meanings include ”Yahweh establishes,“ ”Yahweh exalts,“ and ”Yahweh hurls down.“ Jeremiah’s father, Hilkiah, was a member of the Levitical priesthood and lived in Anathoth, a small village about three miles northeast of Jerusalem (see the map ”The World of Jeremiah and Ezekiel“). This city was one of those given to the descendants of Aaron the priest by Joshua (Josh. 21:15-19). Probably this Hilkiahis not the same as his contemporary by the same name who discovered the Law in the temple during the reign of Josiah (cf. 2 Kings 22:3-14). Like Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:3) and Zechariah (Zech. 1:1; cf. Neh. 12:1, 4, 16), Jeremiah was from the priestly line. However, no evidence indicates that he ever entered the priesthood in Jerusalem.
Jeremiah’s ministry extended from ”the 13th year of the reign of Josiah“ (Jer. 1:2) until the Exile of the Jerusalemites (1:3). Thus he prophesied from about 627 b.c. till at least 586 b.c. In fact Jeremiah 40-44 indicates that Jeremiah’s ministry continued beyond the fall of Jerusalem to at least 582 b.c. In his book Jeremiah included a large number of chronological references that help date many of his prophecies.
A major difficulty is trying to determine how the various prophecies in the Book of Jeremiah were compiled. Many scholars feel that the book is an anthology of selected sayings from Jeremiah (or his disciples) that were later collected and arranged, often rather haphazardly. Some deny that a purposeful order can be (or should be) determined in the text.
The chart ”The Dating of Jeremiah’s Prophecies“ shows how his prophecies are arranged chronologically. Three observations may be made.
(1) Obviously there is no chronological consistency. Unlike Ezekiel, whose prophecies are arranged in chronological order, Jeremiah often placed prophecies together that are dated years apart.
(2) Jeremiah’s messages were given during times of stress, upheaval, and need. Chapters 1-6 and 11-12 correspond roughly to the time of King Josiah’s reforms. The next major burst of prophetic activity (chaps. 7-10; 14-20; 22:1-19; 26) came when Nebuchadnezzar rose to power. The rest of Jeremiah’s prophecies came at the time of the first deportation to Babylon, the second deportation to Babylon, the secret plot to rebel against Babylon, and the final siege and deportation to Babylon. Chapter 52 was written at a later date.
(3) The book itself gives evidence of multiple stages of growth. That is, Jeremiah, at different stages of his ministry, collected his prophecies and rearranged them in a definite pattern (25:13; 30:2; 36:2, 32). Jeremiah could have completed the final form of chapters 1-51 after he was taken hostage to Egypt (51:64). But what about chapter 52? Jeremiah 52, nearly identical to 2 Kings 24:18-25:30, was written sometime after 561 b.c. when King Jehoiachin was released from prison in Babylon (Jer. 52:31). Apparently this last chapter was appended to Jeremiah’s prophecies by the same writer who compiled the Book of Kings. The chapter was added to show that Jeremiah’s words of judgment had been fulfilled and that Jehoiachin’s release foreshadowed God’s promises of restoration and blessing.
Historical Background. Jeremiah’s ministry spanned the final five decades of Judah’s history. His call to service came in 627 b.c. in the 13th year of King Josiah (cf. 1:2), Judah’s last good king. Josiah’s reign was the final ray of light before the darkness of idolatry and foreign intrigue settled over the Davidic throne. Josiah came to the throne when he was eight years old, and provided 31 years of relative stability for Judah.
Internally the nation of Judah was gripped by the idolatry that King Manasseh had promoted during his 55-year reign (2 Kings 21:1-9). In 622 b.c. (Josiah’s 18th year) Judah experienced her final spiritual renewal (2 Kings 22:3-23:25). Prompted by the rediscovery of a copy of the Mosaic Law in the temple, Josiah embarked on a diligent effort to rid the nation of idolatry. He succeeded in removing the outward forms, but his efforts did not reach into his subjects’ hearts. After Josiah’s untimely death, the people returned to their wicked ways.
Internationally the Assyrian Empire, which had dominated the ancient Near East for centuries, was on the brink of collapse. The capital city, Nineveh, had been destroyed in 612 b.c., and in 609 the retreating Assyrian army was defeated at Haran. The beleaguered remains of the once-great Assyrian Empire staggered to Carchemish just across the Euphrates River (see the map ”The World of Jeremiah and Ezekiel“). This collapse of Assyria was caused largely by the rise of another power-Babylon. In October 626 the Chaldean prince Nabopolassar had defeated the Assyrian army outside Babylon and claimed the throne in Babylon. The kingdom he founded came to be known as the Neo-Babylonian Empire. He consolidated his empire, and by 616 he was on the march to expand his territory. The combined army of the Babylonians and Medes destroyed Nineveh in 612. Babylon’s rise and Assyria’s collapse created a realignment of power throughout the area. Judah, under Josiah, threw off the yoke of Assyrian dominion and enjoyed a brief period of national independence. This independence was shattered, however, by events in 609 b.c.
Egypt sensed an opportunity for expansion in Assyria’s collapse. If a weakened Assyria could be maintained as a buffer state to halt Babylon’s westward advances, Egypt would be free to reclaim much of western Palestine (including Judah) which she had lost to Assyria earlier.
Though Egypt had always feared a powerful Assyria, she now feared the prospect of a powerful Babylon even more. So Egypt entered the conflict between Assyria and Babylon on Assyria’s side. In 609 Pharaoh Neco II marched with a large Egyptian army toward Haran to support the remaining Assyrian forces in a last attempt to retake their lost territory.
King Josiah knew what the consequences would be for Judah if Egypt were successful. He did not want Egypt to replace Assyria as Judah’s taskmaster. So Josiah mobilized his army to stop the Egyptian advance. A battle took place on the plain of Megiddo-and Judah lost. Josiah was killed in battle and the Egyptian army continued on toward Haran (2 Chron. 35:20-24).
Whether Josiah’s attack had an effect on the battle’s outcome is not known, but possibly he delayed the Egyptian army from arriving in time to provide the assistance Assyria needed. Assyria failed in its bid to recapture the land, and it ceased to be a major force in history.
The city of Carchemish then became the line of demarcation, and the powers facing each other were Egypt and Babylon. After the defeat of Judah, Egypt assumed control of Palestine. Judah had appointed Jehoahaz king in place of his father Josiah; but after a reign of only three months he was deposed by Neco and taken to Egypt. (See the chart ”The Last five Kings of Judah, “ near 2 Kings 23:31-32.) Neco then plundered the treasuries of Judah and appointed Jehoiakim, another son of Josiah, as his vassal king (2 Kings 23:34-35).
In 605 b.c. another major shift occurred in the balance of power. For four years the Egyptians and Babylonians had faced each other at Carchemish with neither side able to gain the upper hand. Then in 605 crown prince Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonian forces to a decisive victory. The army of Babylonia smashed through the Egyptian defenses at Carchemish and pursued the forces to Egypt.
Two other events in 605 b.c. influenced Judah’s history.
First, King Jehoiakim switched allegiance to Babylon after the Battle of Carchemish and agreed to serve as a vassal king for Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:1).
Second, on August 15, 605 Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon, died. Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to claim the throne.
Nebuchadnezzar solidified his rule over this territory by appointing kings and taking ”hostages“ to assure continued loyalty. During this campaign he took Daniel captive (Dan. 1:1-6).
Judah remained a vassal state until late in 601 b.c. At that time Nebuchadnezzar made another advance through Palestine. His objective was Egypt, but his goal was not achieved. The army of Babylon suffered a major defeat and was forced to retreat.
Jehoiakim was a political chameleon. He had switched allegiance from Egypt to Babylon in 605 when Nebuchadnezzar had defeated Egypt. After Babylon’s defeat in 601, however, he again changed sides and supported Egypt (cf. 2 Kings 24:1). This was a fatal mistake.
By December 598 Nebuchadnezzar’s army was prepared for an attack. His chief objective was to take Jerusalem to teach it (and no doubt other vassal nations too) the awful consequences of rebelling against Babylon. Jehoiakim died during the time of Babylon’s attack, and was followed to the throne by his son, Jehoiachin. Jehoiachin saw the folly in opposing Babylon, and Jerusalem surrendered in March 597.
Nebuchadnezzar replaced the new king, looted the city, and removed the chief individuals. Jehoiachin, after a three-month reign, was deported to Babylon, and his uncle, Zedekiah, was installed as Judah’s vassal king.
Along with Jehoiachin, Nebuchadnezzar also deported 10,000 of the leaders, skilled laborers, and soldiers of Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:12-16). This was probably when Ezekiel was taken to Babylon. Five years later he began his prophetic ministry in Babylon.
Because Judah’s new king, Zedekiah, was weak and vacillating, Judah eventually collapsed. His 11-year reign was marred by spiritual decline and political instability. Rather than learning from the mistakes of the past, Zedekiah repeated them.
With the enthronement of another Pharaoh (Hophra) in Egypt in 588, Judah was once again enticed to revolt from Babylon (2 Kings 24:20-25:1; Jer. 52:3-4). A coalition of vassal states (Judah, Tyre, and Ammon) refused to remain under Babylon’s control. Nebuchadnezzar’s response was swift and harsh. The army of Babylon surrounded Jerusalem and began a long siege. In July-August 586 the city fell and was destroyed.
Structure and Style. Four characteristics are evident in the Book of Jeremiah.
1. Lack of chronological arrangement. As noted earlier under ”Authorship and Date“ the book has no chronological progression. Jeremiah compiled his prophecies in stages, but not chronologically.For example, many of Jeremiah’s prophecies against the nations were written early in his ministry (cf. 25:1, 13). Yet the content of these prophecies is recorded near the end of the book (cf. 46:1-49:33). Thus one must look for some other reason for the arrangement of the prophecies in their present order.
2. Autobiographical nature. Writing an intensely personal book, Jeremiah revealed the nation’s response to his ministry and his personal feelings about his messages. He wept over the impending destruction (9:1; 13:17; 14:17) and complained about the ridicule he was forced to endure (20:7-10). He also recorded his self-doubt (1:7-8) and his doubts about God’s justice (12:1-2).
3. Different literary materials. Three types of literary materials are found in the Book of Jeremiah: poetic discourses, prose discourses, and prose narratives. The arrangement of these materials can provide a key to the underlying structure of Jeremiah. They are in the book as follows:
Chapters 1-25 Mixture of poetic and prose discourse with occasional narrative
Chapters 26-29 Mixture of prose discourse and narrative
Chapters 30-31 Poetic discourse
Chapters 32-33 Prose discourse
Chapters 34-36 Mixture of prose discourse and narrative
Chapters 37-45 Narrative in chronological order
Chapters 46-51 Poetic discourse
Chapter 52 Narrative in chronological order
These literary materials seem to offer major breaks in the content of the book. The significance of these divisions will be discussed next.
4. Logical arrangement of material. If Jeremiah did not arrange his book chronologically, how did he arrange it? The best answer seems to be that he used a broad logical arrangement of his material to convey an overall message to the people. That is, as Jeremiah compiled his subsequent collections of his prophecies, he rearranged them in a logical pattern. The arrangement developed his theme of God’s judgment. Chapters 2-45 focused on God’s judgment on Judah and chapters 46-51 focused on God’s judgment on the Gentile nations.
The various literary materials provide additional keys for dividing Jeremiah’s book. Thus chapters 2-25 (mixture of poetic and prose discourse) contain Jeremiah’s 13 messages of judgment on Judah. These were followed by chapters 26-29 (mixture of prose discourse and narrative) which indicated how the People responded to Jeremiah and his message. The Jews’ rejection assured this judgment. However, before the judgment began, Jeremiah pointed ahead to Judah’s future hope (chaps. 30-31, poetic discourse; and chaps. 32-33, prose discourse). Chapters 34-36 (mixture of prose discourse and narrative) continue the theme of rejection from chapters 26-29. Judah’s destruction was inevitable because she had rejected the Word of God. Jeremiah sketched the events that occurred before, during, and after the fall of Jerusalem in chapters 37-45 (narrative in chronological order). God accomplished His judgment on the nation because of her sin. And yet if God’s Chosen People were judged for their sin, how could the rest of the world hope to escape? In chapters 46-51 (poetic discourse) Jeremiah turned to these other nations and foretold their judgment. The different literary materials were used by Jeremiah to mold and shape his message.
Introduction (chap. 1) The Book of Jeremiah opens by introducing its readers to the prophet. His background and call into the prophetic ministry set the stage for the rest of his book.
BKC - The prophet’s background (1:1-3) 1:1. Jeremiah gives information on his family background (v. 1) during the time he ministered (vv. 2-3). He was one of the priests, descended from the priestly line of Aaron. His father, Hilkiah, was probably not the high priest Hilkiah who discovered the copy of the Law during the time of Josiah (2 Kings 22:2-14). The name ”Hilkiah“ was evidently a common name given to several men in the Old Testament who were priests or Levites (1 Chron. 6: 45-46; 26:10-11; 2 Chron. 34:9-22; Neh. 12:7; Jer. 1:1).
Jeremiah’s hometown was Anathoth which was in the territory of Benjamin. The village of Anathoth was about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. The territory of Benjamin bordered the territory of Judah, and the dividing line extended roughly east to west and passed beside Jerusalem (cf. Josh. 18:15-16). Anathoth was a city allocated by Joshua to the priests (Josh. 21:15-19). Solomon exiled Abiathar the priest to Anathoth for supporting Adonijah as David’s successor (1 Kings 1:7; 2:26-27). 1:2-3. Jeremiah was born a priest, but began functioning as a prophet when he received the word of the Lord. A prophet was one through whom God spoke directly to His people. God’s call of Jeremiah came in the 13th year of the reign of Josiah. Josiah became king of Judah in 640 b.c., so his 13th year was 627 b.c. Josiah was the last righteous king of Judah. After his untimely death in 609 b.c., every king who ascended Judah’s throne was unworthy of the task. Jeremiah continued as God’s spokesman down to the fifth month of the 11th year of Zedekiah. That date was July-August 586 b.c. Thus Jeremiah’s ministry lasted at least 41 years. However, this verse probably refers to Jeremiah’s ministry to the nation of Judah until the people of Jerusalem went into exile because 39:11-44:30 records events of Jeremiah’s ministry that occurred after August 586.
The prophet’s call (1:4-10) 1:4-5. God’s call of Jeremiah as a prophet, though brief, contained a message designed to motivate him for his task. God revealed that His selection of Jeremiah as a prophet had occurred before he had even been formed ... in the womb. The word knew (yāḏa‘ ) means far more than intellectual knowledge. It was used of the intimate relations experienced by a husband and wife (”lay, “ Gen. 4:1) and conveyed the sense of a close personal relationship (”chosen, “ Amos 3:2) and protection (”watches over, “ Ps. 1:6). Before Jeremiah was conceived God had singled him out to be His spokesman to Israel. Jeremiah had been set ... apart for this ministry. The verb translated ”set apart“ (qāḏaš ) means setting something or someone apart for a specific use. Individuals or objects ”set apart“ (or sanctified or made holy) for use by God included the Sabbath Day (Ex. 16:23; 20:8), the tabernacle and its furnishings (Ex. 29:44; 40:9), and the priests (Ex. 29:1; 30:30). God had marked Jeremiah from conception and reserved him for a special task. He was appointed to be a prophet to the nations. Though Jeremiah proclaimed God’s Word to Judah (chaps. 2-45), his ministry as God’s spokesman extended beyond Judah to Gentile nations (chaps. 46-51). 1:6. Jeremiah responded to God’s appointment with a measure of self-doubt. He first objected that he did not know how to speak. Jeremiah was not claiming that he was physically unable to talk. He was claiming a lack of eloquence and speaking ability required for such a public ministry. He also objected that he was only a child (na‘ar). This word was used of infants (Ex. 2:6; 1 Sam. 4:21) and of young men (Gen. 14:24). Jeremiah’s age is not given, but possibly he was in his late teens or early 20s at this time. By using the term ”child“ Jeremiah was emphasizing his lack of experience. He felt ill-prepared to be God’s ambassador to the nations. 1:7-10. God gave three answers to Jeremiah’s objections. First, He stressed the authority under which Jeremiah was to act. Jeremiah should not use inexperience asan excuse for evading his task. He would have no choice in the selection of his audience or his message. Rather, he was to go to everyone to whom God sent him and say whatever God commanded. Jeremiah did not have to be an eloquent elder stateman-he was simply to be a faithful messenger.
Second, God stressed that He would protect the future prophet. Evidently Jeremiah was afraid for his personal safety. Certainly his fears were based on his awareness of the times because the people did try to get rid of him (11:18-23; 12:6; 20:1-2; 26:11; 37:15-16; 38:4-6). Yet God told Jeremiah not to be afraid of them, because He would be on his side. The people would try to kill Jeremiah, but God promised to rescue him.
Third, God showed Jeremiah the source of his message. Jeremiah’s call must have come in the form of a vision (Ezek. 1:1) because he noted that the Lord reached out His hand to touch Jeremiah’s mouth. This visible manifestation of God was His object lesson to tell Jeremiah that the Lord Himself would put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth. Jeremiah need not worry what to say; God would provide the very words he would speak.
God then summarized the content of Jeremiah’s message (Jer. 1:10). It would be a message of both judgment and blessing to nations and kingdoms. God used two metaphors to describe Jeremiah’s mission (31:28 for a later use of the same two metaphors).
Comparing Jeremiah to a farmer, God said he would uproot (announce judgment) and ... plant (announce blessing). Comparing Jeremiah to an architect, God said he would tear down ... destroy, and overthrow (pronounce judgment) and build (pronounce blessing).
The prophet’s confirming visions (1:11-16) God confirmed His call to Jeremiah by giving him two visions. The first (vv. 11-12) focused on the nature of the message Jeremiah would deliver and the second (vv. 13-16) pointed out the content of that message.
the blossoming almond branch (1:11-12) 1:11. God’s first confirming vision caused Jeremiah to see the branch of an almond tree. The Hebrew word for ”almond tree“ is šāqēḏ, from the word ”to watch or to wake“ (šāqaḏ). The almond tree was named the ”awake tree“ because in Palestine it is the first tree in the year to bud and bear fruit. Its blooms precede its leaves, as the tree bursts into blossom in late January.1:12. The branch represented God who was watching to see that His word is fulfilled. God used a play on words to associate the almond branch with His activity. The word for ”watching“ is šōqēḏ, related to the Hebrew noun for ”almond tree.“ Jeremiah’s vision of the ”awake tree“ reminded him that God was awake and watching over His word to make sure it came to pass. the boiling pot (1:13-16) 1:13. God’s second confirming vision caused Jeremiah to see a boiling pot. The pot was a large kettle that was evidently sitting on a fire because it was ”boiling“, (lit., ”blown upon, “ nāp̱ûaḥ, indicating a wind or draft blowing on the fire to help bring the cauldron’s contents to a boil). The pot was tilting away from the north indicating that its contents were about to be spilled out toward the south. 1:14-16. The tilting pot represented disaster that will be poured out on those who live in Judah. The direction from which the pot was facing represented the peoples of the northern kingdoms whom God was summoning to punish the nation of Judah. Some scholars feel that God was referring to a Scythian invasion, but it seems better to understand His message as a reference to the coming invasion by Babylon and her allies (25:8-9). Though Babylon was located to the east geographically, the invading armies followed the trade routes along the Euphrates River in their march to Judah. Thus those armies did approach from the north (4:6; 6:1, 22; 10:22; 13:20; 15:12; 16:15; 23:8; 25:9, 26; 31:8; 46:24; 47:2; 50:3, 9, 41). They would set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, indicating that the city would fall to them. Jeremiah recorded the fulfillment of this prophecy in 39:2-3 after the Babylonians captured Jerusalem.
Judah’s fall to Babylon would be God’s judgment for her idolatry. In forsaking God and worshiping what their hands had made the people of Judah had violated their covenant with God (cf. Deut. 28). The sin of Judah brought about her downfall.
The prophet’s challenge (1:17-19) 1:17-19. After explaining the task, God charged Jeremiah to take up the challenge. Get yourself ready! is literally, ”gird up your loins“ (Ex. 12:11; 2 Kings 4:29; 9:1; Luke 12:35; Eph. 6:14; 1 Peter 1:13). God gave him the needed strength to stand against the people of Judah. Through God’s enablement Jeremiah would be as strong as a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall. God’s strength to withstand attack would be needed because all the people would oppose Jeremiah’s message. They would fight against Jeremiah, but God assured him that they would not overcome him.
LifeApp Note - 1. God calls Jeremiah Notes for 1:1,2 After King Solomon's death, the united kingdom of Israel had split into rival northern and southern kingdoms. The northern kingdom was called Israel; the southern, Judah. Jeremiah was from Anathoth, four miles north of Jerusalem in the southern kingdom. He lived and prophesied during the reigns of the last five kings of Judah. This was a chaotic time politically, morally, and spiritually. As Babylon, Egypt, and Assyria battled for world supremacy, Judah found itself caught in the middle of the triangle. Although Jeremiah prophesied for 40 years, he never saw his people heed his words and turn from their sins
|Climate of the times||Society was deteriorating economically, politically, spiritually.|
|Wars and captivity.|
|God's word was deemed offensive.|
|Main message||Repentance from sin would postpone Judah's coming judgment at the hands of Babylon.|
|Importance of message||Repentance is one of the greatest needs in our immoral world. God's promises to the faithful shine brightly by bringing hope for tomorrow and strength for today.|
|Contemporary prophets|| Habakkuk (612-588) |
|Jeremiah served as a prophet to Judah from 627 B.C. until the exile in 586 B.C.|
Notes for 1:5 God knew you, as he knew Jeremiah, long before you were born or even conceived. He thought about you and planned for you. When you feel discouraged or inadequate, remember that God has always thought of you as valuable and that he has a purpose in mind for you. 1:5 Jeremiah was "appointed" by God "as a prophet to the nations." God has a purpose for each Christian, but some people are appointed by God for specific kinds of work. Samson (Judges 13:3-5), David (1Samuel 16:12,13), John the Baptist (Luke 1:13-17), and Paul (Galatians 1:15,16) were also called to do particular jobs for God. Whatever work you do should be done for the glory of God (Philippians 1:11). If God gives you a specific task, accept it cheerfully and do it with diligence. If God has not given you a specific call or assignment, then seek to fulfill the mission common to all believers — to love, obey, and serve God — until his guidance becomes more clear. Notes for 1:6-8 Often people struggle with new challenges because they lack self-confidence, feeling that they have inadequate ability, training, or experience. Jeremiah thought he was "only a child" — too young and inexperienced to be God's spokesman to the world. But God promised to be with him. We should not allow feelings of inadequacy to keep us from obeying God's call. He will always be with us. When you find yourself avoiding something you know you should do, be careful not to use lack of self-confidence as an excuse. If God gives you a job to do, he will provide all you need to do it. Notes for 1:8 God promised to "rescue" Jeremiah from trouble, not to keep trouble from coming. God did not insulate him from jailings, deportation, or insults. God does not keep us from encountering life's storms, but he will see us through them. In fact, God walks through these storms with us and rescues us. Notes for 1:10
God appointed Jeremiah to bring his word to "nations and kingdoms." Jeremiah's work was to warn not only the Jews but all the nations of the world about God's judgment on sin. Don't forget in reading the Old Testament that, while God was consistently working through the people of Judah and Israel, his plan was to communicate to every nation and person. We are included in Jeremiah's message of judgment and hope, and as believers we are to share God's desire to reach the whole world for him. Notes for 1:11-14 The vision of the branch of an almond tree revealed the beginning of God's judgment because the almond tree is among the first to blossom in the spring. God saw the sins of Judah and the nations, and he would carry out swift and certain judgment. The boiling pot tilting away from the north and spilling over Judah pictured Babylon delivering God's scalding judgment against Jeremiah's people. Notes for 1:14-19 The problems we face may not seem as ominous as Jeremiah's, but they are critical to us and may overwhelm us! God's promise to Jeremiah and to us is that nothing will defeat us completely; he will help us through the most agonizing problems. Face each day with the assurance that God will be with you and see you through. Notes for 1:16 The people of Judah sinned greatly by continuing to burn incense to and worship other gods. God had commanded them specifically against this (Exodus 20:3-6) because idolatry places trust in created things rather than the Creator. Although these people belonged to God, they chose to follow false gods. Many "gods" entice us to turn away from God. Material possessions, dreams for the future, approval of others, and vocational goals compete for our total commitment. Striving after these at the expense of our commitment to God puts our heart where Judah's was — and God severely punished Judah.
Ryrie St note = 1:6 youth. The word is used of infants (Exodus 2:6) and youths (Genesis 14:24). Likely Jeremiah was in his late teens or early twenties at this time.1:7 Jeremiah's objection was overruled on the grounds that the authority for his message resided in the One who chose him (cf. John 15:16).1:8 Do not be afraid. Similar words were also spoken to Abraham (Genesis 15:1), Moses (Numbers 21:34; Deut. 3:2), Daniel (Daniel 10:12, 19), Mary (Luke 1:30), Peter (Luke 5:10), and Paul (Acts 27:24). 1:10 Jeremiah would prophesy both destruction and blessing. 1:11-12 The almond (Heb., shaqed) tree was to reassure Jeremiah that God was not asleep but that He was watching (Heb., shoqed). 1:13-16 The pot (a large vessel used for cooking or washing) about to spill its boiling contents from the north illustrates the coming invasion of Babylon (Jeremiah 3:18). 1:17-19 Jeremiah is commanded to be strong as a fortified city, which he was for more than 40 years and without losing his gentle spirit.
POSB - I. The Call of Jeremiah: A Reluctant Prophet with a Difficult Mission,
(1:1-19) DIVISION OVERVIEW: Jeremiah is known as "The Weeping Prophet." Throughout his ministry, Jeremiah witnessed one catastrophe after another and sufferings beyond measure, all of which broke his heart and flooded him with deep, intense sorrow and weeping. He even witnessed the final collapse and fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian Empire.
Jeremiah was called to the prophetic ministry during the last 40 years of Judah's history. These were years of turbulence, both nationally and internationally. Assyria lay to the north of Judah, Babylon to the west, and Egypt to the south. All three were pursuing world domination. Decades earlier the Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen to Assyria and was no longer in existence. Now, the tiny nation of Judah stood alone in the very midst of these three mighty nations, struggling to survive. Because of the wickedness of the people and the nation's leaders, the future was dark and bleak. The people were just unwilling to repent of their wickedness, stubbornly rebelling against the Lord, rejecting and denying Him. Their defiance against the Lord was tragic, for only the Lord could deliver them in the midst of such a corruptible world. During the years of Jeremiah's ministry, Judah was to witness political upheaval and assassinations, power struggles and wars, and the collapse and fall of nations, including the fall of his own beloved country.
As shocking as anything during Jeremiah's ministry were the people who claimed to be followers of the Lord but who reveled and took great pleasure in the immoral, covetous, and idolatrous ways of the wicked. Jeremiah was one of the few true believers who sincerely obeyed God's holy commandments. Thus the Lord called Jeremiah to deliver His Holy Word to the corrupt society of his day. Because of his unwavering faithfulness, Jeremiah stands as a dynamic example for all who are called by God to minister within this corrupt and dying world.
(1:1-19) Introduction: at some point in time, all nations and societies experience difficulties, whether they be moral, economical, or military issues. Economic recessions and depressions, low wages, unemployment, huge expenditures with little capital, selfishness and theft—any or all of these factors can plague entire nations as well as the smallest communities. Political upheaval, party politics, the weakening and collapse of some governments and the rise of others, the assassination of leaders and the rise of world empires—all these events take place throughout the world within every generation. In addition, every generation witnesses some societies becoming cesspools of greed and covetousness, injustice and brutality, immorality and wickedness, lawlessness and violence.
Into such a tumultuous society and world Jeremiah was born. The Lord chose him to be God’s prophet during some of the most stormy times of human history, days that were to be catastrophic for Judah. Judah and its capital Jerusalem were to be utterly destroyed during Jeremiah’s ministry. He was the prophet chosen by God to warn the world of God’s coming judgment. But he was also set apart to assure true believers of God’s eternal love and care, the hope of the promised Messiah, and the establishment of His eternal kingdom on earth.
No prophet before or after Jeremiah had a more difficult or demanding task than did this new young prophet of God. He was called to proclaim unceasingly the coming judgment of God. Despite severe and constant persecution—including being ostracized and isolated throughout most of his life—Jeremiah was faithful. And his faithfulness is a dynamic example for all believers of every generation. This is, The Call of Jeremiah: A Reluctant Prophet with a Difficult Mission, 1:1-19.
1. Jeremiah’s background: a long, steadfast ministry (vv.1-3).
2. Jeremiah’s call and mission (vv.4-19).
1. (1:1-3) Jeremiah, Background—Faithfulness, of Jeremiah—Steadfastness, of Jeremiah—Ministry, Duty, to Be Faithful: only a few facts are given concerning Jeremiah’s background. Nevertheless, these facts tell us that he lived during difficult times, an era of political upheaval, both nationally and internationally, and a period of extreme wickedness. Immorality, lawlessness, violence, brutality, idolatry, and the worship of false gods ran rampant across earth. Few people lived righteous lives or followed the only living and true God, the Lord God Himself (Jehovah, Yahweh). Although brief, the facts given about Jeremiah’s life give a comprehensive picture about the day in which he lived:
1. Jeremiah’s father was Hilkiah, a priest (v.1). Most likely this was not Hilkiah the High Priest who discovered a copy of the law during the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 22:8). Being the son of a priest means that Jeremiah himself was a priest, a descendant of Aaron, who was the brother of Moses. Whether or not Jeremiah ever functioned as a priest is unknown. Scripture seems to indicate that his call to be a prophet came about the time he would have begun his priestly ministry. He was probably around 20 years old.
2. Jeremiah’s hometown was Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Anathoth was only about three miles northeast of the capital Jerusalem, which means that Jeremiah was very familiar with the political world that swirls around a capital city government. Anathoth was what is known as a priestly city, a city that had been set aside by Joshua for the priests and their families (Josh. 21:15-19). Thus Jeremiah was born and reared among the families of other priests in a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
3. Jeremiah had a long, forty-one year ministry (vv.2-3). God called him in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign, which began in 640 B.C. Thus, Jeremiah’s call from God came in 627 B.C. This date tells us several significant facts about Jeremiah. Most likely he was born at the end of the reign of King Manasseh, who was the most wicked king ever to rule over Judah (see §outline—2 Kings 21:1-18 and §note—2 Kings 21:1-18 for more discussion). Manasseh followed the detestable practices of the surrounding nations. He built pagan worship sites, constructing altars to the false god Baal and images or poles to the false goddess Asherah. He introduced the Assyrian worship of the sun, moon, and stars. In addition, Manasseh built altars to the heavenly bodies and, shockingly, placed them in the temple of the Lord, the very sanctuary built to honor God’s name. Sadly, this evil king even practiced human sacrifice, offering his own son on an altar to a false god. Living in the world of the occult, he practiced sorcery and divination (witchcraft) and consulted mediums and spirits (psychics). Throughout his long reign of 55 years, he completely disregarded God’s commandments and showed utter contempt for God’s name and His temple. He was a constant stumbling block to the people, leading them away from the Lord. As a result, the people were guilty of more evil than the other nations of the world.
When Manasseh died, his son Amon continued to lead the people in the evil ways of his father. The people continued to forsake the Lord, living wicked lives and refusing to obey God’s commandments. They worshipped the false gods of this world. However, within two years of taking the throne, King Amon was assassinated by some of the officials in the palace. The assassins were immediately caught and executed by a popular uprising of the people. Soon thereafter, the people made Amon’s son Josiah king. Josiah was only eight years old when crowned, which means that he was under the control and guidance of others until he became old enough to govern the nation on his own. This points toward Jeremiah and Josiah being close to the same age. They were both born during days of political upheaval throughout the world. The power of Assyria was waning and soon the Assyrians were to fall to a combined force of Babylonians, Medians, and Scythians. This combined alliance was to give rise to the world empire of Babylon, whose envoys had earlier visited the court of Hezekiah, Josiah’s great-grandfather (2 Kings 20:12).
It was during such days as these that God called Jeremiah (627 B.C.) His strong preaching, as well as that of Zephaniah and Nahum, began to be heard in Judah. Although these facts are not mentioned in the introductory verses to Jeremiah, the date of Jeremiah’s call gives us a glimpse into the period of history into which he was born and called by God to be a prophet. Three facts concerning Jeremiah’s long ministry are given by the present Scripture (vv.2-3).
First, Jeremiah’s ministry began in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign (627 B.C.). King Josiah lived a righteous life and ruled the land for 31 years. During his reign, his major concern was to turn the people back to God. He sought to restore the temple and the true worship of the Lord throughout the nation. As stated above, it was during his reign that the Book of the Law was discovered by Hilkiah the High Priest (2 Kings 22:8). When King Josiah heard the Word of God read, he was deeply moved, and he rededicated his life to stirring revival throughout the nation. He called upon the people to repent and to turn away from their worship of idols and false gods. Although the people responded positively to Josiah’s reformation, their commitment to the Lord was superficial and hypocritical (Jer. 3:10).
Under Josiah, the nation grew both economically and militarily, extending its borders significantly (2 Chr. 34:6-7). Judah became a significant player in the realm of politics among the surrounding nations. The people became very prosperous and were freed from foreign invaders, able to live in peace and comfort. But based upon the preaching of Jeremiah during these years, the people were apparently materialistic, more concerned about securing wealth, possessions, position, and honor than they were about living righteously (see chs. 2-25).
Jeremiah was called to warn the people of the coming judgment of God. These were to be the last decades of the nation’s history. The judgment of God was to fall upon the materialistic, covetous, and idolatrous society that had made only a half-hearted commitment to follow the Lord.
Second, Jeremiah’s ministry continued right on through the reign of Jehoikim, whose rule brought about another evil and depraved period of history (v.3). Actually, King Josiah was the last godly ruler of Judah. Immediately after his death, three of his wicked sons and one evil grandson took the throne in rapid succession. Josiah died on the battlefield against the Egyptians, and soon thereafter, his son Jehoahaz began to reign. However, three months later Pharaoh Neco removed him from the throne and appointed Jehoikim as ruler of Judah. During his 11-year reign, Jehoikim lived a corrupt life and did evil in the sight of the Lord. He led the nation and the people back into the sins of his grandfather, King Manasseh, including the persecution and slaughter of the prophets and other believers (2 Kings 23:34-24:6, esp.3-4).
When Jehoikim died, he was succeeded by his wicked son Jehoichin. But his rule lasted only three months, for he was forced to surrender to Babylon, who then placed Zedekiah on the throne of Judah.
Third, Jeremiah’s ministry lasted up through the eleventh year of King Zedekiah’s reign (586 B.C.), the year when the tragic fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the people to Babylon took place. Jeremiah’s ministry actually included several years beyond the fall of Jerusalem, years that were spent in Egypt. But for the present the emphasis is on his long 41-year ministry in Judah. The Lord was calling him to be a prophet in the most turbulent years of the nation’s history. Yet through these stressful, chaotic years, God’s prophet would persevere to the end, remaining committed to the Lord. He would faithfully carry out the difficult task and mission given him by God.
Thought 1. Imagine living in an age such as Jeremiah’s, an age when people were materialistic, covetous, and idolatrous, all the while professing to be followers of the Lord. Imagine such hypocrisy, where people falsely profess to know the Lord but live wicked, unrighteous lives and persecute the true followers of the Lord. Sadly, the description sounds much like societies of every generation with many people living hypocritical lives.
Jeremiah was faithful in proclaiming the morality and righteousness of God to his generation. How many of us today are faithful in proclaiming God’s Word, in expressing the utter necessity of living righteous and godly lives before the Lord? How many of us issue the warnings of coming judgment against those who live wicked lives, who disobey the commandments of God? How many of us are faithful, steadfast in following the Lord? Listen to what God’s Holy Word says:
“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22).
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love” (John 15:9).
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1).
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).
“Only let your conversation [behavior, conduct] be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).
“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised” (Heb. 10:23).
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (Heb. 12:1-4).
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (Josh. 1:12).
“Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (Josh. 5:11).
“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:17-18).
“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:11).
“But cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day” (Josh. 23:8).
“If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear” (Job. 11:14-15).
“The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger” (Job. 17:9).
“But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them” (Ps. 103:17-18).
2. (1:4-19) Call, of Jeremiah—Mission, of Jeremiah—Judgment, Duty, To Preach; To Teach—Warning, of Judgment—Promise, of God’s Strength, to Jeremiah—Persecution, Deliverance from, Promised—Ministers, Promises to, God’s Presence—Message, Prophetic, Judgment and Salvation: Jeremiah’s call was to change the course of his life forever. His father Hilkiah was a priest, which means that Jeremiah was from the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe of Israel. Jeremiah was destined to become a priest when he reached the age of service. As a priest, he would live a settled, regulated life. He would be ministering to the people in one local community throughout his ministry—a life that could become very routine due to the rituals and ceremonies that had to be constantly repeated day after day.
But when God called young Jeremiah to be a prophet, his life and ministry were to be radically different. He was to become primarily a spokesman for God, a man who spends his time proclaiming the Word of God to people. God’s Word included both salvation and judgment. Unless people received the salvation of God, they would face the judgment of God. If the prophet saw the people going astray, he was to call the people to repentance: they must forsake their sins and turn back to God. If they continued to live wicked lives, they would stand condemned before God.
Being called to focus on the message of God’s judgment means that Jeremiah was called to a very difficult ministry. Pointing out the sins of the people and proclaiming the judgment of God is seldom an acceptable message. Most people reject the message of God’s judgment, and they often react against the messenger—in particular, if they are hard-hearted and unwilling to repent of their sin and turn back to God.
The years of Jeremiah’s ministry were to span the final days of the nation’s existence and the actual execution of God’s judgment on the people. Jerusalem was to fall, and most of the survivors were to be deported throughout the Babylonian empire. The people would reject the prophet’s message and severely persecute him, even attempt to kill him. But throughout the years of rejection and persecution, Jeremiah would remain faithful. As with anyone who suffers as much as he did, Jeremiah sometimes needed special encouragement and strength from the Lord. But he never doubted or wavered from God’s call. As is seen in the present Scripture, God’s call to Jeremiah was a very personal and dramatic experience for the young man—an experience that he could never forget or deny. Beyond all question—Jeremiah knew that God had called him to be a prophet. Therefore, he knew that he must be faithful and plow ahead in his prophetic ministry—no matter the obstacles, persecution, or apparent failures. Jeremiah was faithful in proclaiming the salvation and the coming judgment of God, faithful to the very end of his life. The Scripture and outline clearly describe the unmistakable call of God to the young man:
1. God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet even before his birth (vv.4-5). This is a striking statement, a statement intended to arouse confidence and assurance in Jeremiah. God informed the young man of three facts:
a. Before God formed Jeremiah in the womb, God knew him (v.5). The word knew (yada) refers to God’s perfect, timeless, all-encompassing knowledge. Before Jeremiah was ever conceived in the womb of his mother, God knew all about him. God had a full and complete knowledge of him. God knew what Jeremiah would be like in all his weaknesses and strengths, flaws and virtues, failures and successes. God knew that Jeremiah would trust the Lord, that he would establish a close, personal relationship with the Lord. For all these reasons, the Lord accepted Jeremiah and chose him before his birth (Gen. 18:19; Ps. 1:6; Amos 3:2).
b. God set apart Jeremiah to be a prophet. He was not to commit his life to any other profession nor to spend his time on other affairs (2 Tim. 2:3-4). He was set apart for a specific task, to be a very special minister of the Lord.
c. Jeremiah was ordained, appointed to be a prophet to the nations of the world. God created the whole world; therefore, His love reaches out to all the nations of the earth. God wants everyone to be saved and to live with Him eternally. This is why He chose Abraham to be the father of Israel, a people who were to be a new race through whom He could send His Son and give His Word to the world. This is why God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations of the world. Through Jeremiah, God warned the world and still warns us today: unless we repent of our sins and are saved, the hand of God’s judgment will fall on us.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:16-20).
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:24-29).
2. When the Lord issued His call to Jeremiah, a deep sense of inadequacy surged through the young man’s body (v.6). Hesitant, somewhat fearful due to the enormous task of reaching the nations with God’s Word, Jeremiah blurted out that he was not an eloquent speaker, not a public speaker at all. Moreover, he was only a child, a young man who had no experience. Considering the long ministry of Jeremiah (over 41 years), he was probably around 20 years old. Whatever the case, Jeremiah knew the awful wickedness of the people and the society in which he lived, as well as his own inadequacies and inexperience as a young man. He knew that a prophet must have the ability to speak publicly in order to preach God’s Word. Thus, it was only natural for him to shrink back from the awesome task of reaching the nations for the Lord.
Thought 1. When the Lord calls any person to serve Him, the person usually senses a deep inadequacy. More often than not, the person feels totally incapable and unqualified for the task being assigned him by God. Note the following examples of men who were called by God:
1) Moses felt inadequate, incapable when God called him:
“And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11).
“And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Ex. 4:10).
2) Gideon felt inadequate, incapable when the Lord called him.
“And he [Gideon] said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house” (Judg. 6:15).
3) Solomon felt inadequate, incapable for the task assigned him by God.
“And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in” (1 Kings 3:7).
4) Paul the Apostle felt inadequate, incapable in carrying out the task assigned him by the Lord.
“And who is sufficient for these things?...Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 2:16; 3:5).
3. Despite Jeremiah’s hesitancy, the Lord insisted he go and proclaim God’s Word (v.7). He must not make excuses. He must not use his youth, inexperience, or lack of ability as an excuse for not serving the Lord. He must surrender to the call of God. He must be God’s prophet, go to everyone and everywhere God sends him. And he must preach exactly what God commands him. He must preach God’s Word and God’s Word alone. He did not have to be an eloquent speaker, nor did he have to present new, novel ideas, or the latest theological positions. His task was to be God’s ambassador, to proclaim God’s Word to the nations of the world.
Thought 1. Every believer is called to be an ambassador for God, called to share God’s Word with the people of the world. As we walk throughout the day, we are to share the Word of God and the gospel of Christ with our neighbors, fellow workers, friends, acquaintances, and anyone else as opportunity presents itself. God has called every believer to be a witness to the salvation offered by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:19-20).
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).
“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
“And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32).
“We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak” (2 Cor. 4:13).
“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we areambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:19-20).
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8).
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name” (Mal. 3:16).
4. God met Jeremiah’s need (vv.8-10). When God calls a person to serve Him, He always provides what is needed. In Jeremiah’s case, he needed strong encouragement and assurance. He also needed the ability to speak, as well as a clear understanding of the message he was to take to the nations. God met all three needs of the young man. First, God gave Jeremiah two wonderful promises, the promise of His presence and protection. As Jeremiah went forth proclaiming God’s Word, he could rest assured that the Lord would be with him and would deliver him through all the trials, opposition, and persecution that would confront him.
Second, the Lord equipped Jeremiah by touching his mouth (v.9). This symbolized God’s Word, power, and authority being given the young man. From this point on, Jeremiah had no need to feel inadequate, for the Lord had given him His very own Word to proclaim.
Third, God actually spelled out the message to be taken to the nations (v.10). This message included God’s judgment as well as His mercy and salvation. When proclaiming the judgment of God, the prophet was to stress that the Lord would uproot, tear down, destroy, and overthrow the nations and peoples of the earth. But he was also to proclaim God’s mercy and salvation, the fact that He would rebuild and plant the nations and peoples who repented. If the people turned away from their sins and turned back to Him, God would save them. However, if the people chose to live wicked lives, having nothing to do with God, then they would be allowed to live apart from God. They would continue to be separated and alienated from Him. The day of judgment was coming against all who opposed the Lord, all who rebelled against Him and His righteous commandments. This was God’s Word that Jeremiah was to proclaim, God’s Word that included both the judgment and salvation of God.
Thought 1. When God calls us to do a particular task, He always equips us. He provides whatever we need to accomplish the task. No matter how inadequate or incapable we may feel, God will meet our need and equip us. God’s call is not based upon ability, but rather availability. His call is not based upon a person’s appearance, charisma, voice quality, descriptive personality, or flowery speech. Nor is God’s call based upon a person’s ability to think creatively, to come up with new ideas or theological concepts. God’s call is based upon a person’s heart, how open and loving and committed the heart will be. A surrendered heart is what God is after when He calls a person. If a heart is surrendered to the Lord, He can equip a person to proclaim His Word. This is seen time and again throughout Scripture:
“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12:4-12).
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13).
“And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Ex. 4:11-12).
“And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord'S anointed is before him. But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:6-7).
“Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
5. God reinforced Jeremiah’s call by giving him two visions (vv.11-16). The first vision was that of an almond tree, which was the first tree to bud and bear fruit in Palestine (vv.11-12). When asked what he saw, Jeremiah responded that he saw blossoms on the branch of the almond tree, a sure sign of spring. God explained that He was also watching the signs, the events taking place on earth in order to fulfill His Word. When certain events took place, the promises and warnings of His Word were to be executed exactly as He said. If the people continued in wickedness, His hand of judgment was to fall. But if the people repented of their sins and turned back to Him, they were to be forgiven and saved from the coming judgment. Just as Jeremiah and the people looked to the almond tree as a sign of coming spring, so God was watching the events on earth to determine when to fulfill His Word of salvation and judgment against the people.
“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18).
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35; Luke 21:33)
“Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56).
“The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure” (Ps. 111:7).
“For I am the Lord: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezek. 12:25).
The second vision given by God was that of a boiling pot or kettle that was tilting away from the north (vv.13-16). God explained that the pot represented an evil calamity that was coming from the north, a disaster that would be poured out and scald the people. To make sure the message was understood, the Lord explained that a coalition of nations from the north would invade and conquer Judah. At this particular time, the Assyrian Empire, which was in the north, was disintegrating and its power was waning, so any threat from the north seemed to be unlikely. Nevertheless, the Lord was making a clear prediction that another world empire would arise on the scene and invade Judah from the north. This was a clear reference to the Babylonian Empire that would soon become the world’s dominant power and seek to conquer the entire known world. The rulers of the nations that were part of the Babylonian Empire would actually set up their thrones in the gates of Jerusalem, determining the fate of the capital and the other cities of Judah (Josh. 20:4; Ps. 9:4; 122:5; Jer. 39:3).
God also spelled out the reasons for His coming judgment on the people (v.16). Three reasons are given:
Þ The people were living wicked lives, choosing to walk their own way in life and doing their own thing, rejecting the commandments of God.
Þ The people had forsaken the Lord, turned away from Him and broken their covenant or promise to follow Him (see §outline—Ex. 19:5-9 and §note—Ex. 19:5-9 for more discussion).
Þ The people engaged in false worship, worshipping the false gods and idols created by the imaginations of people.
When the people rejected the Lord, they broke their covenant, their promise to the Lord. Consequently, the curses of the covenant were to fall upon them (Deut. 11:26-28; see §outline—Deut. 28:15-68 and §notes—Deut. 28:15-68 for more discussion).
Thought 1. Sin has its penalty, its consequences. If we live wicked lives, we condemn ourselves to the judgment of God. We will die, be eternally separated from God. The penalty for sin is death.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).
“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Josh. 1:14-15).
“Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Josh. 5:20).
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
“As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death” (Prov. 11:19).
“Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4).
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezek. 18:20).
6. Proclaiming God’s coming judgment was to be a very difficult task for Jeremiah, so God issued a strong charge and warning to him (v.17). The young man must arise and proclaim God’s Word. His task was not to teach the philosophies, psychologies, ideas, theologies, and beliefs of people. His message was to be the Word of God, it and it alone.
God also gave a harsh warning to Jeremiah. He must not shrink back. If he feared the opposition of people and drew back or fled from his mission, God would punish him. He himself would face the terrifying judgment of the Lord.
Thought 1. God warns us against shrinking back, against backsliding and turning away from our commitments to Him. Whatever mission God has given us, we must complete that mission. We must fulfill our task on earth, or else we will face the judgment of God.
“And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30; see also 25:14-30).
“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27).
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Heb. 10:25-27).
“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him” (Heb. 10:38).
7. Finally, God gave Jeremiah a strong, reassuring promise to combat the young prophet’s sense of inadequacy and lack of experience (vv.18-19). In the future, when Jeremiah faced opposition and questioned his ability or strength to continue on, he could be reassured by remembering these two promises.
a. God would strengthen him, make him invincible, impregnable (v.18). He would be as strong as a fortified city, an iron pillar, or a bronze wall. No matter who attacked or opposed him—whether king, government official, priest, religious worker, or mobs of people—he would be empowered to stand against them all. They would not be able to break down his strength nor to overcome him.
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16).
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20).
“For thou hast girded me with strength to battle: them that rose up against me hast thou subdued under me” (2 Sam. 22:40).
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:31).
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isa. 41:10).
b. God promised to be with Jeremiah and to deliver him through all persecution and opposition (v.19). Throughout most of his ministry Jeremiah was to be opposed, by leaders and citizens alike. Both he and his message would be misunderstood and rejected, for he was to preach the coming judgment of God, a message that is unacceptable to most people. As a result, he would be persecuted, arrested, and imprisoned; furthermore, several attempts would be made on his life (see §outline—Jer. 26:1-29:32 and §notes—Jer. 26:1-29:32 for more discussion). But through all the opposition and persecution, Jeremiah had the great promise of God. The Lord would be with him and deliver him through all the attacks of persecution.
“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:8-10).
“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18).
“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations [trials], and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9).
“And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Gen. 28:15).
“And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest” (Ex. 33:14).
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars” (2 Chr. 16:9).
“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Ps. 34:7).
“Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence” (Ps. 91:3).
“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler” (Ps. 91:4).
“I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isa. 43:1-2).
WAIL vv in Jer-Lam
Jeremiah 4:8 So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned away from us.
Jeremiah 6:26 O my people, put on sackcloth and roll in ashes; mourn with bitter wailing as for an only son, for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us.
Jeremiah 9:10 I will weep and wail for the mountains and take up a lament concerning the desert pastures. They are desolate and untraveled, and the lowing of cattle is not heard. The birds of the air have fled and the animals are gone.
Jeremiah 9:17 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them.
Jeremiah 9:18 Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids.
Jeremiah 9:19 The sound of wailing is heard from Zion: ‘How ruined we are! How great is our shame! We must leave our land because our houses are in ruins.’ ”
Jeremiah 9:20 Now, O women, hear the word of the Lord; open your ears to the words of his mouth. Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament.
Jeremiah 14:2 “Judah mourns, her cities languish; they wail for the land, and a cry goes up from Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 20:16 May that man be like the towns the Lord overthrew without pity. May he hear wailing in the morning, a battle cry at noon.
Jeremiah 25:34 Weep and wail, you shepherds; roll in the dust, you leaders of the flock. For your time to be slaughtered has come; you will fall and be shattered like fine pottery.
Jeremiah 25:36 Hear the cry of the shepherds, the wailing of the leaders of the flock, for the Lord is destroying their pasture.
Jeremiah 47:2 This is what the Lord says: “See how the waters are rising in the north; they will become an overflowing torrent. They will overflow the land and everything in it, the towns and those who live in them. The people will cry out; all who dwell in the land will wail
Jeremiah 48:20 Moab is disgraced, for she is shattered. Wail and cry out! Announce by the Arnon that Moab is destroyed.
Jeremiah 48:31 Therefore I wail over Moab, for all Moab I cry out, I moan for the men of Kir Hareseth.
Jeremiah 48:39 “How shattered she is! How they wail! How Moab turns her back in shame! Moab has become an object of ridicule, an object of horror to all those around her.”
Jeremiah 49:3 Wail, O Heshbon, for Ai is destroyed! Cry out, O inhabitants of Rabbah! Put on sackcloth and mourn; rush here and there inside the walls, for Molech will go into exile, together with his priests and officials.
Jeremiah 51:8 Babylon will suddenly fall and be broken. Wail over her! Get balm for her pain; perhaps she can be healed.
V6 *(NVI) Yo le respondí: "¡Ah, Señor mi Dios! ¡Soy muy joven, y no sé hablar!"
(NBLH) Entonces dije: "¡Ah, Señor DIOS! No sé hablar, Porque soy joven."
(RV95) Yo dije: "¡Ah, ah, Señor Jehová! ¡Yo no sé hablar, porque soy un muchacho!"