Having set before us the book of Isaiah as the beginning of the prophetical books, we come to this interesting book. There are different opinions as to the authorship of Jeremiah, some say that it was Jeremiah himself, and others are of the view that Baruch wrote the book of Jeremiah. The book begins with “the words of Jeremiah”. Regardless of who wrote this book, the message is to a people who had openly rejected God and refused to have anything to do with Him. Jeremiah faced total hatred and rejection, and was even imprisoned.
The time span of the prophecy of Jeremiah reaches about 47 to 50 years. He put up with a disobedient nation for almost half a century! The prophecy mainly concerns Judah and its fall due to the deliberate disobedience of the people after king Josiah’s death. Isaiah mainly dealt with the nation of Israel and in the later chapters of Isaiah, the gentile nations that affected Israel, but here, Jeremiah’s prophecy deals with Judah.
Jeremiah lived and prophesied during the reign of Josiah, who was a godly king. However, after his death, there arose a few kings in succession who were evil and refused to have anything to do with God or His word, so they persecuted the prophet. They loved to hear words of false prophets, and there were many in Jeremiah’s time. How similar is this today, when many want to hear what is false.
One interesting thing in Jeremiah is that when the Babylonians took Jerusalem, the prophet was freed out of prison. He was given the choice to either go to Babylon or to remain in the land. When Gedaliah (who was appointed governor by the king’s command) was murdered the Jews flew for fear of vengeance to Egypt (although Jeremiah had warned them not to do so) and forced Jeremiah and Baruch to go with them (Jer. 41 – 43). This is where Jeremiah continued his prophetic ministry in the city of Tahpanhes (Jer. 43:8 – 44:30). The Word of God does not mention the death of this great prophet who lived and served in the last forty years of the kingdom of Judah.
The main purpose of Jeremiah is the constant appeal to the conscience of the people of Judah to return to God. Ironically, they are called backsliding people (chapters 3, 8, 31), a term we use for a Christian who drifts away from the Lord and His Word. The prophet pleads with them and urges them to consider their low moral state and return to God, but they would not. However, he still speaks about God’s mercy for His people (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10). The verses in brackets speak about the time of the captivity of Judah and their return from captivity after 70 years.
Perhaps the clearest figure of Christ in the book of Jeremiah is found in chapter 23, who is known as the righteous Branch and King. He will reign and execute judgment and justice on earth.
Another type of Christ may be found in chapter 18 – the potter’s house. While the clay in the potter’s hand was marred, this could be a type of Christ taking the part of an offended potter, and dashing in pieces the unworthy vessels (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27).
The contents of the book of Jeremiah are not always in chronological order. It is generally assumed that chapters 1 to 20 relate to the time of Josiah’s reign (although his name is only mentioned in chap. 1:1 and 3:6). No dates are mentioned during king Jehoahaz’ reign.
Chapters 25 to 26, 35 to 36 and 45 to 49 are generally placed into king Jehoiakim’s reign in spite of the fact that only chapters 25, 26, 35, 36 and 45 are dated.
Chapters 21 to 24, 27 to 34 and 37 to 42 are placed into king Zedekiah’s reign; dates are mentioned in chapters 21, 27, 28, 29, 32, 33, 34 and 37.
Jeremiah spoke the words of chap. 43:7-8 and chap. 44 in Egypt.
Chapter 52 is an appendix corresponding nearly word-by-word with 2 Kings 24:18-25, 30. This appendix was added under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, maybe even by the prophet Jeremiah himself.
There are several prophetical actions or signs with many prophets, for example Ezekiel. 2:8 – 3:3; Hosea. 1:2-9; Zechariah. 11:7-17. But there is no other book with so many prophetical symbols as in the book of Jeremiah.
- the linen girdle (chap. 13:1-11): the rejection of Israel
- the potter and the clay (chap. 18:1-10): God’s patience
- the earthen bottle (chap. 19:1-13): destruction of Jerusalem
- the yokes (chap. 27:2-11; 28:2.10-14): subjection
- the acquisition of a field (chap. 32:6-15): faith and hope
- the hidden stones in the brick-kiln (chap. 43:8-13): humiliation
- the book cast into Euphrates (chap. 51:59-64): Babylon’s destruction
The book of Jeremiah can be divided into two major sections:
- Chapter 1 to 45 brings before us the full ministry of the prophet during the reign of Josiah, Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin and Zedekiah. This contains prophecies mainly dealing with the people of Judah. First, there is God’s appeal to the people to return, then there is a message of grace, and then the prophecy and events before and after Jerusalem’s fall.
- Chapter 46 to 52 describes prophecies against the gentile nations – Egypt, the Philistines, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, and Babylon. Chapter 52 is an appendix describing the fall of Jerusalem.
This brief outline/article is adapted from Arend Remmers outline of Jeremiah and Arno Gaebelin’s notes on Jeremiah. These can be found in http://www.biblecentre.org which is an amazing site full of spiritual resources.