Can you help me with some highlights of Jeremiah’s life and ministry?
Before we, in the New Testament era, begin to study the Old Testament (and the New, for that matter), it is important that we understand the critical contexts (i.e. historical, literary, et. el.) of the writers and books. One of the greatest hermeneutical (interpretive) errors today is having a text without a context (which is a pretext). Much theological suicide is committed because we either ignore or are ignorant of the time, place, by whom, and to whom a composition was written or spoken. Many today have an agenda they wish to support (a pretext), thus they search the Scriptures to find a text (thereby removing it from its context) and end up making it appear as though God spoke only to support their claims. It is especially when one goes looking for New Testament concepts in the Old Testament that this is clearly evident, for example. We do not have to pull Scripture out of context in order to hear God speak today. His voice echoes through the ages, and in the context of the age.
Jeremiah of Anathoth (the “weeping prophet;” 8:18 – 9:3; 13:15-17), the son of Hilkiah, was a prophet in the southern kingdom of Judah about 100 years after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital, Samaria (722 B.C.). He was a priest – probably a descendent of Abiathar (priest to King David). He was called to be a prophet of God in the thirteenth year of Josiah (627 B.C.). He was probably around 20 years old when he was called and prophesied for over forty years (1:2-3).
Jeremiah first prophesied in his hometown (Anathoth), but soon angering his family and neighbors (11:21; 12:6) he moved to Jerusalem. He, at least, began his ministry in a prophetic school with other prophets who were connected to the Temple (23:11; 26:7-16-18; 28:3).
By the reign of King Jehoiakim (608 – 598 B.C.) he had collected all of his previous prophesies into one book (chapter 36). By the reign of King Zedekiah (597 – 597 B.C.), Jeremiah was an established and very well known prophet. He continuously warned the king of Judah not to revolt against the Babylonians. Jeremiah was wanted dead by the leaders of Judah, but they did not dare kill him. So, instead, they arrested him and locked him in a pit-house where he would have died if not for a rescue from the king who placed him under less harsh conditions. Jeremiah’s warnings went unheeded and Jerusalem fell in 587 B.C. after three Babylonian invasions (37:21; 38:28).
There are only two recorded converts due to Jeremiah’s preaching: his scribe, Baruch (32:12; 36:1-4; 45:1-5), and an Ethiopian servant to the king named Ebed-Melech (38:7-13; 39:15-18).The martyrdom of Jeremiah cannot be substantiated and is believed to be a legend of later Jewish traditions. History shows that many of the Judean people fled to Egypt after the assassination of the Judean governor, carrying with them Jeremiah and his assistant Baruch. Several of Jeremiah’s sayings are from this Egyptian period (43:8 – 44:30; 46:13-26). And Egypt is where he probably died.
It is believed by many scholars that Jeremiah’s assistant, Baruch, formed the original structure of the book known as Jeremiah (36:1-4, 32). Next, Deuteronomistic disciples reworked the collection according to literary and religious concepts (i.e. to update prophecies and their interpretations, and to ensure proper Jewish doctrine) of the early fifth century B.C.
Theologically, the Book of Jeremiah documents the spiritual decline and tragic downfall of Jerusalem. Jeremiah speaks of sin as the affectionless and hypocritical deceptions of the human heart; destroying not only personally, but also socially. Jeremiah continuously calls humanity to return to God. He speaks of God’s worldview concerning the judgment of sin itself – using Jerusalem and Babylon as examples – as well as God’s worldview of His sovereignty exercised in His plan and purpose to reconcile humanity to Him-self. He speaks of discerning God’s word over-against the lie. And Jeremiah speaks of the lawsuit which God brings against humanity and the graceful coming of the “not guilty” verdict in the new covenant.
For Jeremiah, royalty is not about luxury, but justice toward the oppressed; truth in prophetic sayings is tested by the personal conduct of the speaker and their attention to others repentance, which is always truly in contrition and tears; and the old religious establishment was utterly rejected by Jeremiah in favor of a complete religious revolution (which did occur in his time).
The major themes of Jeremiah are God’s judgment on religious infidelity and worldwide sin, and His determination to restore humanity for Himself through a new covenant. The final collection of Jeremiah’s sayings was purposed for those awaiting the end of Judah’s exile. It was (is) a reminder that Jerusalem’s fall was not due to any lack on God’s part but was due entirely to Jerusalem’s faithlessness and unfaithfulness.
The Book of Jeremiah is an anthology, a collection of writings drawn from a life-long ministry of Jeremiah, and (for the most part) about his beloved Jerusalem. It is divided thusly:
Chapters 1 – 24 begins and ends with visions. The key question in this section is God asking, “What do you see Jeremiah?” This section contains autobiography (1:4-19), poetic discourses (2:1 – 6:30), and reports of oral sermons (7:1 – 8:3).
Chapters 25 – 45 are bracketed by two narratives about the fourth year of Jehoiakim. It is highly biographical and pictorial. It contains oral sermons (26:1-9), reports of sermons in written form (36:1-8), historical narratives (37:1 – 43:13), and messages to individuals (45:1-5).
Chapters 46 – 51 are against the nations, beginning with Egypt and ending with Babylon (the Greek Septuagint, differing from the Masoretic Text, positions these sayings differently and after the same pattern as Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zepheniah. The entire book is also shorter in the Greek than in the Hebrew).
Chapter 52 is an historical appendix.
The Book of Jeremiah can be outlined thusly:
I. The Call (chapter 1)
II. To Judah (chapters 2 – 24)
A. Early (Chapter 2 – 6)
B. Temple Message (chapters 7 – 10)
C. Covenant and Conspiracy (chapters 11 – 13)
D. The Drought (chapters 14 – 15)
E. Disaster and Comfort (chapters 16:1 – 17:18)
F. The Sabbath (chapter 17:19-27)
G. The Potter (chapters 18 – 20)
H. Condemnation (chapters 21 – 24)
I. Babylonian Exile Coming (chapters 25 – 29)
J. Coming Restoration (chapters 30 – 33)
K. History (chapters 34 – 35)
III. The Suffering Prophet (chapters 36 – 38)
A. Burn the Scroll (chapter 36)
B. Prison (chapters 37 – 38)
IV. Jerusalem Falls (chapters 39 – 45)
A. The Fall (chapter 39)
B. Assassination (chapters 40:1 – 41:15)
C. To Egypt (chapters 41:16 – 43:13)
D. Against those in Egypt (chapter 44)
E. Promise to Baruch (chapter 45)
V. Against the Nations (chapters 46 – 51)
A. Egypt (chapter 46)
B. Philistia (chapter 47)
C. Moab (chapter 48)
D. Ammon (chapter 49:1-6)
E. Edom (chapter 49:7-22)
F. Damascus (chapter 49:23-27)
G. Arabia (chapter 49:28-33)
H. Elam (chapter 49:34-39)
I. Babylon (chapters 50 – 51)
VI. Historical Appendix (chapter 52)