Jeremiah spent over 40 years as a prophet of God. He began in the 13th year of Josiah (1:2) and continued until after Gedaliah was appointed governor over Judah (40:5). His work spanned the reigns of five kings in Judah (Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah). The work of at least five other prophets (Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Joel, Daniel, and Ezekiel) intersected the work of Jeremiah.
Josiah was a good king (2 Kings 23:25) and did many good things for Judah, but the sins of his grandfather, Manasseh, were deeply rooted in the nation. After his untimely death, his son Jehoahaz took the throne for a short time, and “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 23:32). After him, his brother, Jehoiakim, served Judah as king, but was little more than a puppet of Babylon. He also “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 23:37). Then his son, Jehoiachin, was king for 3 months and “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 24:9). Then his uncle, Zedekiah, reigned after him and “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 24:19). This is the political and moral climate in which Jeremiah served Judah.
There is no indication in the book that Jeremiah ever served as a priest at the temple, but he was from a family of priests (Jeremiah 1:1). He is often referred to as “the weeping prophet.” Jeremiah was an emotional man and expressed his emotions throughout his writing (Jeremiah 4:19; 8:21; Lamentations 3:48-49).
In his service as a prophet, Jeremiah sacrificed some of the things people tend to take for granted. The LORD ordered Jeremiah to not have a family, for it was likely they would suffer greatly in the unrest, turmoil and violence of Judah (Jeremiah 16:2-4). He was not to mourn the loss the huge loss of life which would surround him in the land for God’s peace had been taken from the land (Jeremiah 16:5-7). And he was not to enjoy a feast or celebration for gladness and mirth were no more, but great disaster awaited (Jeremiah 16:8-10).
Through the course of his work as a prophet, Jeremiah faced opposition from his own people. He was called a false prophet (Jeremiah 29:27), accused of treason (Jeremiah 37:13-15), and received death threats (Jeremiah 26:8-9; 38:4). All of this parallels the Christ, who was accused of being a false prophet (Luke 7:39), accused of blasphemy (Matthew 26:65), and was put to death (Mark 15:13-20).
Here is an outline of the book of Jeremiah:
- The call of Jeremiah (ch. 1)
- The case against God’s people (ch. 2-6)
- Jeremiah’s temple address (ch. 7-10)
- The consequences of disloyalty (ch. 11-13)
- Judah’s punishment and restoration (ch. 14-17)
- Signs of the punishment (ch. 18-20)
- Prophecies against Judah & the nations (ch. 21-29)
- The book of consolation (ch. 30-33)
- Events leading to Jerusalem’s destruction (ch. 34-39)
- Events in Judah after the fall (ch. 40-42)
- Events in Egypt after the fall (ch. 43-45)
- Prophecies against the nations (ch. 46-51)
- A historical appendix (ch. 52)
Next week we continue with Ezekiel…