Jeremiah The book of Jeremiah is the prophecy of a man divinely called in his youth from the priest-city of Anathoth. A heartbroken prophet with a heartbreaking message, Jeremiah labors for more than forty years proclaiming a message of doom to the stiff-necked people of Judah. Despised and persecuted by his countrymen, Jeremiah bathes his harsh prophecies in tears of compassion. His broken heart causes him to write a broken book, which is difficult to arrange chronologically or topically. But through his sermons and signs he faithfully declares that surrender to Yahweh's will is the only way to avoid calamity.

Author The book clearly states that Jeremiah is its author (Jer 1:1LEB). He dictated all his prophecies to his secretary Baruch from the beginning of his ministry until the fourth year of Jehoiakim, and later sections were also composed. Only chapter 52, a supplement which is almost identical to (2Ki 24:18-30LEB), was evidently not written by Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah the priest and lived about two miles north of Jerusalem in the town of Anathoth. As an object lesson to Judah, he was not allowed to marry (Jer 16:2LEB). Because of his unwelcome message of divine judgment to be brought about through Babylonian invasion, he was threatened and imprisoned. The prophet survived the Babylonian assault on the city and was later taken to Egypt where he died.

Date According to (Jer 36:1-3LEB), the writing of portions of Jeremiah may be dated with some precision to the fourth year of Jehoiakim (605 B.C.), when Jeremiah was commanded by Yahweh to write down the prophetic messages he had delivered to the people over the previous twenty years. This material apparently corresponds to chapters 1-20. The remaining chapters contain prophecies and historical accounts in topical rather than chronological order, covering the second twenty to twenty-five years of Jeremiah's ministry.

Jeremiah was a contemporary of Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Daniel, and Ezekiel, and his ministry stretched from c. 627 to c. 580 B.C. There were three stages in Jeremiah's ministry. From 627 to 605 B.C. he prophesied while Judah was threatened by Assyria and Egypt. From 605 to 586 B.C. he proclaimed Yahweh's judgment while Judah was threatened and besieged by Babylon. From 586 to about 580 B.C. he ministered in Jerusalem and Egypt after Judah's downfall.

Themes and Literary Structure Although Jeremiah is not easily arranged chronologically or thematically, its basic message is clear: the inevitable and inescapable judgment of Yahweh upon Israel for her rebellion and disobedience. The book may be divided into four main sections: the call of the prophet Jeremiah (ch. 1), prophecies to Judah (Jer 2:1-45LEB), prophecies to the Gentiles (Jer 46:1-51LEB), and the fall of Jerusalem (ch. 52).

Often known as the "weeping prophet," Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed the divine condemnation of rebellious Judah for forty years. His sympathy and concern for his nation caused him to grieve deeply over the rebelliousness and imminent doom of his people.

Often Jeremiah desired to resign the prophetic office because of the harshness of his message and the unfriendly response that it elicited. It was Jeremiah's difficult task to confront a people who seemed to become more insanely confident as the peril grew. They believed that Yahweh would not let Jerusalem fall because they possessed the temple and the one true religion. Jeremiah was required to tell them that the terms of Yahweh's covenant mandated punishment for disobedience.

The well-known section on the new covenant (chs. 30-33) reflects Jeremiah's special interest in the covenant. All the prophets based their accusations and appeals on Israel's covenant relationship with Yahweh, but Jeremiah does so much more explicitly. He does not fault the content of the old covenant, but recognizes that it must be internalized if it is to be lived out. Thus he prophesies the coming of a new covenant—one that will be written on the hearts of God's people.