Introduction to the Book of Jeremiah Index
Research Material

TITLE:

  • The book is named after its principal character, Jeremiah. In Hebrew the name appears in two forms:
  • The Greek equivalent for both forms is Ieremias, from which our English, "Jeremiah," is derived. The name is of uncertain meaning. The second half, Yahu, or Yah, stands for , stands for Yahweh, or Jehovah (Exodus 15:2; Psalm 68:4). According to the Aramaic papyri of the 5th century B.C.,, Yahu was a regular form of the divine name among the Jewish colonists on the island of Elephantine in Upper Egypt. The first half of the name has been variously interpreted as meaning "cast," "exalts," "establishes," and others. Hence "Jeremiah" may mean "Yahweh establishes," or "Yahweh casts," and other possibilities. (4BC 343)
  • The opening words of the prophecy constitute a title of the book: "The words of Jeremiah." In the LXX the opening phrase reads: "The Word of God that came to Jeremiah," which is similar to the introductory phrase commonly used in other prophetic books of the Old Testament (Ezekiel 1:3; Hosea 1:1;Joel 1:1). (4BC 343)

AUTHORSHIP:

  • Jeremiah was the author of at least the major portion of the book. The actual writing was done by his trusted secretary, Baruch, the son of Neriah (Jeremiah 36:4; Jeremiah 36:27, 28, 32). Baruch may also have collected, edited, and preserved the material in the book, and may possibly have contributed to the biographical narratives it contains. His position as "the scribe" and secretary of Jeremiah implies that Baruch was well educated. According to Josephus (Antiquities x. 9. 1), Baruch came from a distinguished family in Judah. It appears that his brother was Zedekiah's quartermaster, who went with the king to Babylon (Jeremiah 51:59). His high character and influence are shown by the fact that the remnant who wished to flee to Egypt charged Baruch with influencing the prophet against them (Jeremiah 43:3), also by the fact that some spurious writings were later issued under his name. One of these, the book of Baruch, is found in the Apocrypha. Ever loyal to Jeremiah, he went with him to the land of Egypt when the prophet was forced to accompany the remnant of Judah to that land (Jeremiah 43:5-7). (4BC 343)
  • The closing chapter of the book (Jeremiah 52) consists of a historical summary - not a prophecy - that extends to a time far beyond the known ministry of Jeremiah, and that was probably written by a later hand. Whoever the writer may have been, he was careful to make it clear that this chapter was not the work of the prophet Jeremiah. Before adding this historical appendix he wrote, "Thus far are the words of of Jeremiah" (Jeremiah 51:64). (4BC 344)
  • The book of Jeremiah itself contains an account of how the first two editions of this prophecy were written (Jeremiah 36). For more than a score of years Jeremiah had been seeking to persuade the people of Judah to turn to God with real heart religion. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim (604 B.C.) he was commanded by God to put the main substance of his preaching into writing so that it could be read publicly by his secretary (Jeremiah 36:1-2). In response to this command, Jeremiah dictated to Baruch the words of the first edition on a roll of parchment (Jeremiah 36:1-4, 17, 18; PK 432). Baruch was then given the dangerous task of reading these words to the people in the Temple on a fast day (Jeremiah 36:5-8). (4BC 344)
  • Later, when one of Jehoiakim's officers, Jehudi, read the scroll to the king, Jehoiakim angrily snatched it, cut it with a penknife, and threw it into the fire (Jeremiah 36:20-23). This made necessary the rewriting of the earlier messages (Jeremiah 36:27, 28, 32). Again, Baruch wrote the words at the dictation of Jeremiah. This second copy was a new and larger edition, containing not only the former messages, but additional messages as well (Jeremiah 36:32). (4BC 344)
  • In addition to this group of deeply personal passages the book of Jeremiah contains a series of biographical and historical narratives. More can be known of the life and ministry of Jeremiah tan of the life and ministry of the writers of the other prophetic books. In fact one scholar, A. B. Davidson, has affirmed that this book "does not so much teach religious truths as presents a religious personality" (Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, Vol.2, p. 576). (4BC 344)
  • Jeremiah lived at Anathoth (Jeremiah 1:1; Jeremiah 29:27). . . about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. He was of priestly descent (Jeremiah 1:1). His father was Hilkiah, who is doubtless to be distinguished from the high priest of that name who discovered the book of the law (2 Kings 22:8). Jeremiah's father is designated as "of the priests" (Jeremiah 1:1) and not "the Priest" or "the high Priest." The fact that Jeremiah lived at Anathoth implies that he was probably a descendant of Eli and belonged to the line of Abiathar, whom Solomon deposed from the high priesthood (1 Kings 2:26, 27).
  • Jeremiah's call to the prophetic office came about 627 B.C., in the 13th year of Josiah's reign (Jeremiah 1:2). Soon thereafter God bade the prophet to preach in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 2:2). He did not confine his ministry to Jerusalem, but conducted a preaching tour through the cities of Judah (Jeremiah 11:6; PK 428). Upon his return to Anathoth his fellow townsmen formed a plot to take his life (Jeremiah 11:18-23). To escape these persecutions he seems to have transferred his residence to Jerusalem. Here another attempt was made on his life. His bold prediction in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, that the Temple would become like Shiloh, angered the priests, false prophets, and people in Jerusalem, and they demanded that Jeremiah be put to death (Jeremiah 26:6-11). However, the princes arose to his defense (Jeremiah 26:16). (4BC 344-345)
  • Later, when Nebuchadnezzar's army withdrew from the final siege of Jerusalem for a time to meet the threat posed by the approach of the king of Egypt, Jeremiah was arrested when he attempted to go to Anathoth (Jeremiah 37:11-15). The prophet was accused of deserting to the Chaldeans and was again beaten and imprisoned. In fact he nearly lost his life in the miry dungeon of Malchiah (Jeremiah 38:6), but was rescued by Ebed-melech the Ethiopian (Jeremiah 38:7-13). However, Zedekiah apparently kept him in prison, where he remained until Jerusalem fell (Jeremiah 38:14-28).
  • After the desolation of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar gave the prophet his freedom and allowed him the choice of remaining in Palestine or accompanying the captives to Babylon (Jeremiah 40:1-5). Jeremiah chose to remain with the remnant in Palestine, under their newly appointed governor, Gedaliah (Jeremiah 40:6). After the murder of Gedaliah a remnant of the Jews under Johanan fled to Egypt, contrary to Jeremiah's advice, and took the prophet with them (Jeremiah 42 and Jeremiah 43). There is Tahpanhes, Jeremiah predicted the invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 45:8-13), and gave his last message of warning to the Jews who had fled there (Jeremiah 44). It was apparently in this foreign land that the career of the great prophet came to an end. (4BC 345)

HISTORICAL SETTING:

  • During the early days of Jeremiah's ministry three great powers, Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, were struggling for supremacy. Under Ashurbanipal (669-627 B.C.) Assyria had reached its peak, and was now on the decline. Egypt had thrown off the Assyrian yoke and was endeavoring to regain its former dominance in Ear Eastern Affairs. With Nabopolassar's accession to the throne of Babylon in 626/625 B.C., the rise to power of the Neo-Babylonian Empire began. The fate of Assyria was sealed by the fall of Nineveh (612 B.C.), and the new Babylonian Empire became the dominant power in Western Asia. Under Necho II, Egypt challenged the sudden rise of Babylon to power. Nebuchadnezzar II, Nabopolassar's son, successfully met that challenge at the battle of Carchemish, 605 B.C., and Babylon replaced Assyria as a world empire. (4BC 346)
  • Jeremiah, during the last 40 years of Judah's existence as a kingdom, bore messages of reform and revival to five kings: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. A brief summary of each reign follows: