April 15, 2003, Vol.3, No.8.
Two new articles every two weeks.
Bible Question? E-mail
THIS ISSUE: "Introduction
to Jeremiah" (see below)
and "If 'Faith Alone'
Saves, will Satan be Saved?"
Overview of the Bible:
by Keith Sharp
Introduction to Jeremiah
The book of Jeremiah was written by the prophet whose name
the book bears (1:1). He was a priest from the village of Anathoth
in Benjamin just a few miles northeast of Jerusalem. Jeremiah's
prophecies were written down by Baruch, his scribe (36:4,27-28,32).
Perhaps chapter fifty-two was written by Baruch after Jeremiah's
death, but at Jeremiah's previous direction.
Life of Jeremiah
More is known of the life of Jeremiah than of any other literary
prophet. He began prophesying in the thirteenth year of the reign
of King Josiah (1:2; 25:3), i.e., 627 B.C., when Jeremiah was
but a youth (1:6). Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet, but felt
compelled to speak God's word (20:9). He prophesied until after
Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (39:1-10; 43:7-8;
44:1), and his ministry lasted a total of about fifty years.
Josiah's great religious reformation came in the early part
of Jeremiah's work (cf. 2 Kings chapters 22-23), but the reforms
did not reach the hearts of the people, for they were still rebellious
The Jews opposed Jeremiah and his work from the very outset.
First, the citizens of his native Anathoth tried to stop his
work and even attempted to kill him (11:18-23). Even his kinsmen
opposed him (12:6). Jeremiah later moved to Jerusalem, but he
endured inveterate opposition there also.
When King Josiah died, Jeremiah lamented his death (2 Chron.
Jeremiah prophesied against Josiah's wicked successors: Jehoahaz
(also called "Shallum") (22:11-17), Jehoiakim (22:18-19),
and Jeconiah (i.e., Coniah or Jehoiachin) (22:24-
In the very year Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem, Jeremiah
announced both his coming and the seventy year captivity of the
Under the rule of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah preached a great sermon
in the temple in Jerusalem (chapters 7-9). After this the princes,
prophets, and priests of Judah called for his death (26:8-11).
However, Jeremiah was delivered at that time (26:24).
At the Lord's direction, Jeremiah dictated his prophecies
to Baruch, who wrote them on a scroll (36:1-8). However, when
King Jehoiakim read the scroll, he was so angry he cut it with
a scribe's knife and threw it into the fire (36:20-25). The king
commanded that Jeremiah and Baruch be seized, but the Lord hid
them (36:26). Jeremiah dictated the prophecies to Baruch again
and added others (36:27-32).
Jeremiah urged King Zedekiah to be faithful to Nebuchadnezzar,
but Zedekiah refused (27:12-22). The Babylonians besieged Jerusalem,
and great suffering resulted.
Later, Jeremiah was accused of trying to defect to the enemy
and was placed in prison (37:11-15). Subsequently the king transferred
him from the dungeon to the court of the prison and gave him
a daily ration of bread (37:17-21).
When Jeremiah again prophesied against Jerusalem, the king
turned him over to the princes, who threw him into a dungeon,
the bottom of which was filled with mud, into which Jeremiah
sank (38:1-6). Jeremiah would have died there, had he not been
rescued by Ebed-Melech, an Ethiopian eunuch of the king's house
When Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem, he let Jeremiah go free
to his own home (39:11-14).
A mutinous band of Jews murdered Gedaliah, who had been appointed
governor by Nebuchadnezzar (41:1-3). They decided to flee to
Egypt for safety, taking Jeremiah with them as a hostage (43:1-7).
They took Jeremiah to Tahpanes in Egypt, where he continued to
prophesy against them (43:8 - 44:1).
The life of Jeremiah was one of sorrow upon sorrow. His people
whom he loved and with whom he pleaded unceasingly for fifty
years continually refused to hear him, rewarded his labor with
rejection and persecution, and eventually perished as the result.
His life is well summarized in his own melancholy lament:
"I would comfort myself in sorrow; my heart is faint
in me. Listen, the voice, the cry of the daughter of my people
from a far country: 'Is not the Lord in Zion? Is not her King
in her?' 'Why have they provoked Me to anger with their carved
images and with foreign idols?' The harvest is past, the summer
is ended, and we are not saved!' For the hurt of the daughter
of my people I am hurt. I am mourning; Astonishment has taken
hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician
there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter
of my people? Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain
of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the
daughter of my people! Oh, that I had in the wilderness a lodging
place for wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go
from them! For they are all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous
men." (8:18 - 9:2)
Truly is Jeremiah called "The Weeping Prophet."
Condition of Judah
During Jeremiah's ministry Judah had rejected the Lord for
idols (2:13,32; 5:19; 7:18,31; 17:1-2; 19:4-5). They were guilty
of gross personal unrighteousness (5:1,7-8,25-28; 6:13). The
Jews hypocritically claimed to be God's people (5:2; 7:9-11),
but they refused God's word (6:16-19; 7:25-26; 25:3-7; 36:20-24),
refused to be corrected (5:3,21; 6:15; 17:23; 44:15-18), and
followed false prophets who spoke what the people wanted to hear
(5:30-31; 6:14; 7:8; 14:13-14).
The Lord's call to make Jeremiah His prophet summarized the
message of the man of God:
"See, I have set you this day over the nations and
over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and
to throw down, to build and to plant." (1:10)
It was primarily a message of doom, but it included hope.
Jeremiah was the prophet of DOOM. He called Judah to
repent (3:1; 7:4-7), but they refused (6:16-17; 20:1-2; 32:2-5;
37:11-21; 38:1-13; 43:1-7). Thus, Jeremiah foretold their destruction
(5:9-10,14-18,29; 6:22-26; 7:16,32-34; 14:15-16; 25:8-10). Israel
was to be so destroyed as a nation that they could never be made
whole again (19:10-11). This forever answers the premillennial
claim that national Israel will someday be restored.
But Jeremiah was also the messenger of HOPE. He preached
that Israel should place their trust in the Lord (9:23-24). A
faithful remnant would be restored (23:3; 31:7-9). Ezra's record
of the fulfillment of the restoration promise means this prophecy
has been fulfilled, and one should not look for a future restoration
of Israel to the land of Canaan. Jeremiah also prophesied salvation
in Christ (23:5-6; 33:15-16).
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