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Introduction to the Book of Jeremiah

Table of Contents

General Info

The book of Jeremiah is named for its author and main character, the priest who ministered in Judah and Babylon during the last four decades before the destruction of Jerusalem in the early sixth century BC.  He was a contemporary of the prophets Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Daniel, and Ezekiel.  We actually know much more about Jeremiah’s personal life and personality than about any other OT prophet.  One reason is that he was personally and emotionally involved in his various difficult and painful messages.

In the Protestant Canon, Jeremiah is placed in the “Major Prophets” section of the Old Testament along with Isaiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel.  In the Hebrew Bible Canon, Jeremiah, along with Isaiah, Ezekiel and the twelve minor prophets, are grouped into a section called the Nevi’im Aharonim, or the “Latter Prophets”.  When measured by the number of words, Jeremiah is the longest book of the Bible.

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Brief Survey

In Progress

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Key Verses

Now the word of the LORD came to me [Jeremiah] saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations”...  Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.  See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (1:4,9-10)

Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares.  If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city. (5:1)

For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.  Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.  But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts.  They went backward and not forward.  From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets.  But they did not listen to me or pay attention.  They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors. (7:22-26)

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.” (9:23-24)

the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King.  When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath. (10:10)

This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.  That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes.  They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.  “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.  They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”  The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?  “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (17:5-10)

This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right.  Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed.  Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (22:3)

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.  This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.  So then, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’  Then they will live in their own land.” (23:5-8)

This whole country [Israel] will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. (25:11)

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.  Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (29:4-7)

“In that day,” declares the Lord Almighty, “I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them.  Instead, they will serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” (30:8-9)

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.  “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (31:31-33)

Key Chapter: 31 & 33 - The promised restoration of Israel, the Promised Savior and Messiah, and the New Covenant.

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “This is what the Lord says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.  I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars in the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.’” (33:19-22)

The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan commander of the [Babylonian] imperial guard had released him at Ramah.  He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon.  When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, “The Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place.  And now the Lord has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would.  All this happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey him.  But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists.  Come with me to Babylon, if you like, and I will look after you; but if you do not want to, then don’t come.  Look, the whole country lies before you; go wherever you please.” (40:1-4)

This is the word the Lord spoke through Jeremiah the prophet concerning Babylon and the land of the Babylonians: “Announce and proclaim among the nations, lift up a banner and proclaim it; keep nothing back, but say, ‘Babylon will be captured; Bel will be put to shame, Marduk filled with terror.  Her images will be put to shame and her idols filled with terror.’  A nation from the north [Persia] will attack her and lay waste her land.  No one will live in it; both people and animals will flee away.  “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.  They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it.  They will come and bind themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.” (50:1-5)

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Author and Date

In Progress

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Historical Background and Timeline

In Progress

See OT History and Monarchy Chronology for timeline of additional historical events.

629 BC Judah’s King Josiah Institutes Religious Reforms (2Chr 34)
627 BC Call of Jeremiah (13th Year of King Josiah of Judah)
622 BC Book of the Law Found in the Temple - King Josiah’s Additional Religious Reforms (2Kg 22-23)
612 BC The Babylonians (Chaldeans) Conquer and Destroy Nineveh (Assyrians)
609 BC Death of King Josiah
609 BC Jeremiah Prophecies in the Temple (chapter 26; probably also chapter 7)
605 BC Babylon Invades Judah, Exiles many of the Jews
~605-535 BC Daniel Prophet to Exiled Judah
597 BC Second Invasion by the Babylonians - Ezekiel Exiled
~593-570 BC Ezekiel Prophet to Exiled Judah
586 BC Fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, Exile of much of the Population, Judean King Jehoiachin Imprisoned
~586 BC Jeremiah and Baruch taken to Egypt by Jewish rebels (chapter 43)
561 BC Judean King Jehoiachin Released from Babylonian Prison
539 BC Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great) Captures Babylon and Establishes Persian Empire
538 BC Cyrus Issues Decree allowing Exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem

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Themes, Purpose and Theology

In Progress

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Interpretation Hints and Challenges

In Progress

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Outline

The Book of Jeremiah can be sub-divided into three to ten or more sections.  Our preference, and perhaps one of the most common is to divide the book into four sections.  The first section consists of chapter 1, the Introduction, or Call of Jeremiah.  The second section consists of chapters 2-45 that primarily contain Prophecies concerning Judah.  The third section consists of chapters 46-51, that contain prophecies against the surrounding nations.  Finally, the fourth section would then contain the last chapter 52, a supplemental historical review of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the resulting effect her remaining inhabitants.

1:1 – 1:28 Call and Commission of Jeremiah
2:1 - 4:4 Call for Judah to Repent
4:5 - 5:31 Prophecies of Coming Judgment upon Judah
6:1 - 6:30 Prophecies concerning the Siege and Fall of Jerusalem
7:1 - 10:25 Jeremiah’s Temple Address: False Worship
11:1 - 11:23 Judgment for Breaking the Covenant;  Jeremiah’s Life Threatened
12:1 - 12:17 Jeremiah’s Compliant and God’s Reply
13:1 - 15:21 National Corruption, Drought, Impending Exile, Object Lessons, and Prayer
16:1 - 17:27 Jeremiah’s Celibacy, Judah’s Rampant Sin, the Sabbath
18:1 - 20:6 The Potter’s House and Broken Clay
20:7 - 20:18 Jeremiah’s Complaint against his Persecutors
21:1 - 22:30 Messages to Judah’s Kings over Impending Fall to Babylon
23:1 - 23:8 Future Restoration under the Righteous Branch
23:9 - 23:40 True and False Prophets
24:1 - 25:38 Good Figs, Bad Figs, and the Cup of God’s Wrath
26:1 - 26:24 Jeremiah’s Message, Arrest, Trial and Acquittal at the Temple
27:1 - 29:32 Jeremiah’s Conflicts with False Prophets in Jerusalem and in Exile
30:1 - 33:26 Future Restoration of Judah and Israel Foretold - the New Covenant
34:1 - 34:22 Warning to Judah’s King Zedekiah
35:1 - 35:19 Loyalty of the Recabites Rewarded
36:1 - 36:32 The Scroll Written, Read, Burned, and Re-written in the Temple
37:1 - 38:28 Jeremiah Imprisoned and Rescued
39:1 - 39:18 The Fall of Jerusalem - Babylonian King Frees Jeremiah
40:1 - 42:22 Jeremiah Ministers to the Remnant in Judah
43:1 - 45:5 Jeremiah Ministers after taken to Egypt by Jewish Rebels
46:1 - 46:28 Prophecy Oracles of Judgment against Egypt
47:1 - 47:7 Prophecy Oracle of Judgment against the Philistines
48:1 - 48:47 Prophecy Oracles of Judgment against Moab
49:1 - 49:39 Prophecy Oracles of Judgment against Ammon, Edom, Damascas, Kedar, Hazor, and Elam
50:1 - 51:64 Prophecy Oracles of Judgment against Babylon, and future Restoration of Israel
52:1 - 52:34 Historical Review of the Fate of Jerusalem, the Temple, and certain Groups and Individuals

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