Jeremiah prophesied for more than forty years. He wrote down his material on a great scroll with the help of Baruch his scribe. The material is not arranged chronologically and it would seem he wrote down the words that came to mind when he felt that it was necessary to unravel the scroll and record more. His main words are directives concerning Judah; three cities – Jerusalem, Babylon and Damascus; seven Gentile nations; and the Messiah. A mark of Jeremiah’s prophecy is the object lessons he employs to explain God’s revelation to the people. Our imagination bubbles as we will think of him wearing a rotten girdle or yoking himself like an ox and then breaking a bottle in the presence of the king as he explains what God wants to be known.
Jeremiah is the ninth of the prophets. He prophesied to the southern kingdom of Judah before and during the days of captivity. He witnessed three major historical events in his life:
(1) The battle of Megiddo between Judah and Pharaoh-Necho the Egyptian (the battle in which king Josiah was killed).
(2) The first defeat by Nebuchadnezzar when Judah was a vassal for Egypt.
(3) The capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the exile of Israel to Babylon.
At just 21, Jeremiah tells us more than any other prophet about himself. He begins by being worried about his age, inexperience and inability to speak well. But God has his way and Jeremiah faces many attacks, insults and strong disapprovals as God’s mouthpiece. His writing is full of emotion and he seems to be a humble, tender, yet strong man.
In reading through the book you will find that chapter 1 is taken up with the call of Jeremiah. Chapter 2-38 concerns Judah before the fall of Jerusalem. With long silences between the prophecies are what was said during the reign of Josiah (2:1-12:17), Jehoiakim (13:1-20:18; 25:1-27:11) and Zedekiah (21:1-24:10; 27:12-39:18). During the reign of Josiah the prophecies mainly concern warnings and God’s knowledge of Judah’s sin with a call to repent and change. Jehoiakim’s reign saw God declaring the judgement of Judah and surrounding nations. Nebuchadnezzar places Zedekiah on the throne in place of Jehoiakim (in his 4th year as king). Chapters 39-52 are during the reign of Zedekiah and are taken up with Zedekiah’s false prophets and Jeremiah in a continual stand off. Jeremiah also predicts that Judah will be in exile longer than they think and tells them that they will definitely return, the Messiah will come, and that the scattered of Israel will recover.
Jeremiah’s word to Judah could be summarised as follows: chosen, captured, carried away, coming Messiah.
Pic: “Jeremiah” by Rembrandt van Rijn (1630)