The Book of Jeremiah

I. Title

        The book is called by the name of its author, in both the Hebrew original and in English translations.

II. Author and Setting

A. Introduction

        Jeremiah's name means "Yahweh establishes". Jeremiah was a priest, the son of Hilkiah, and lived in the priestly town of Anathoth, about three miles north of Jerusalem (1 Chron. 6:60). There is little disagreement over Jeremiah being the author of the book that bears his name, though its arrangement is probably due to Baruch, his amanuensis.

B. Historical Setting

        Jeremiah lived from about 627 to 580 BC, a crucial period in the history of Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Except for a brief period of independence under Josiah, Judah existed as a vassal under Assyria, Egypt and Babylon. He began writing during the thirteenth year of Josiah's reign (Jer. 1:2, 25:3).
        In the introduction to his commentary on Jeremiah, John Bright writes:

        "Before one can hope to read the words of Israel's prophets with understanding and appreciation, it is necessary first of to gain at least a general knowledge of the times in which they lived and the situation to which they addressed themselves. In view of what has already been said the reasons for this are obvious. The very nature of the prophetic office as the prophets themselves understood it demands of us a concern with history. Had the prophets been religious teachers, philosophers, or thinkers who propounded timeless truths concerning God, man, and the proper conduct of life, it might be possible to abstract their words from history and appreciate them for their intrinsic worth and their literary quality without troubling too much about the circumstances that called them forth. But the prophets, it cannot be said too often, were nothing of the sort. On the contrary, they saw themselves as messengers of their God, commissioned to convey to the people the word that their God had given them. This conviction of theirs, whatever we may think of it, must be taken with utmost seriousness if we are to understand them. Because of their function their word was always a specific word: a specific directive to a specific people, caught up in the never-to-be- repeated events of a specific and never-to-be-repeated time in their history. Moreover, it was essentially a word that interpreted events, the events through which the people were passing or were about to pass, in light of the divine demands and promises. And this is why it is only against the background of their times that the sayings of the prophets come alive -- indeed, in many instances, make sense at all." (John Bright. Jeremiah, the Anchor Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1965, p. xxvii)

        Jeremiah ministered during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah, and the governorship of Gedaliah. When he began his ministry, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had already been in captivity for nearly one hundred years; Josiah was attempting to extend his influence over the territory formerly controlled by the north.
        Manasseh's evil reign had ended fifteen years before, perhaps when Jeremiah was quite young. After Manasseh, Amon's reign, also evil, lasted barely two years.
        Jeremiah's ministry began during the early reformation by Josiah, a reformation that was mostly skin deep, affecting few beyond his immediate circle. It would be five more years before the book of the law would be found by Hilkiah, as he was cleaning the temple.
        On the world scene, Jeremiah's lifetime was a period of empires jockeying for world domination. The Assyrian empire began to disintegrate after the death of Ashurbanipal in 626 BC, with the capital, Nineveh, falling to Nebuchadnezzar in 612 BC. In 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egypt at Carchemish, thus gaining control of all of western Asia.
        In 609 BC Josiah was killed in battle at Megiddo, when he foolishly went out to fight Pharaoh Necho. Judah, at this point, became a vassal to Egypt.
        In 606/05 BC, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and took many captives (Daniel 1:1). In 603 BC, Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar; from that time on, Babylon, Moab and Ammon began systematically dismantling the Jewish state.
        In 597 BC Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem, bound Jehoiakim, and took him to Babylon, along with many of the temple vessels.
        In 588 BC, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem until 586 when famine swept the city; Nebuchadnezzar sacked the city, and burned it to the ground. The temple was destroyed.
        Jeremiah was not the only prophet at this time: preaching with him, were Zephaniah, Habakkuk, and Huldah, the prophetess in Judah. Meanwhile, Daniel and Ezekiel were busy in Babylonian captivity.
        To get a good picture of what is transpiring during Jeremiah's prophetic ministry, the interested reader should review 2 Kings 21-25 and 2 Chronicles 33-36.

III. An Outline of Jeremiah

I. Early Prophecies -- Under Josiah and Jehoiakim 1-20

A. The commission of Jeremiah 1
B. Judah, Yahweh's unfaithful wife 2-6
C. Judah, the hypocrite 7-10
D. Judah, breaker of the covenant 11-12
E. Five parables of judgment 13-20

II. Later Prophecies -- Under Jehoiakim and Zedekiah 21-39

A. Captivity in Babylon predicted 21-29
B. Restoration predicted 30-33
C. Captivity anticipated 34-39

III. Prophecies after the fall of Jerusalem 40-45

A. Gedaliah as governor 40-41
B. Johanan's rebellion 41-43
C. Jeremiah's prophecies in Egypt 43-44
D. Jeremiah's prophesy for Baruch 45

IV. Prophecies concerning foreign nations 46-51

A. Southwest 46-47
B. Southeast 48-49:22
C. North 49:23-33
D. East 49:34-51:64

V. The Fall of Jerusalem 52

Questions on Jeremiah

1. When did Jeremiah prophesy?
2. To which kingdom did he prophesy?
3. Jeremiah 52:1-34 is almost a verbatim quotation from what other section of the Bible?
4. What did the visions of the "almond sprout" and the "boiling pot" signify (1:11-16)?
5. According to chapter eleven through twelve, what is the principle reason for God's judgment against Judah?
6. What is the significance of the drought (chapters 14-15)?
7. What did the parable of the "yokes" predict?
8. Distinguish the two prophecies of the 70 years captivity as given in chapters 25 and 29.
9. Summarize the prophesy in chapter 31. Why is it significant?
10. Who were Gedaliah, Ishmael and Johanan?
11. Which nation besides Judah received predictions of divine judgment in the book of Jeremiah?