Introduction to Jeremiah
Author and Date
Jeremiah was called to be a prophet c. 627 b.c., when he was young (1:6). He served for more than 40 years (1:2–3). Jeremiah had a difficult life. His messages of repentance delivered at the temple were not well received (7:1–8:3; 26:1–11). His hometown plotted against him (11:18–23), and he endured much persecution (20:1–6; 37:11–38:13; 43:1–7). At God’s command, he never married (16:1–4). Although he preached God’s word faithfully, he apparently had only two converts: Baruch, his scribe (32:12; 36:1–4; 45:1–5); and Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch who served the king (38:7–13; 39:15–18). Though the book does not reveal the time or place of Jeremiah’s death, he probably died in Egypt, where he had been taken by his countrymen against his will after the fall of Jerusalem (43:1–7). He most likely did not live to see the devastation he mentions in chs. 46–51.
Jeremiah and Baruch left a record of the difficult times in which they lived, God’s message for those times, and God’s message for the future of Israel and the nations.
- God and humanity. God alone is a living God. God alone made the world. All other so-called gods are mere idols (10:1–16). This Creator God called Israel to a special relationship (chs. 2–6), gave her his holy word, and promised to bless her temple with his name and presence (7:1–8:3). God rules both the present and the future (1:4–16; 29:1–10), protects his chosen ones (1:17–19; 29:11–14; 39:15–18; 45:1–5), and saves those who turn to him (12:14–17). Because God is absolutely trustworthy and always keeps his promises, his grace triumphs over sin and judgment when people repent and turn to him.
The human heart is sick, and no one except God can cure it (17:9–10). The nations worship idols instead of their Creator (10:1–16). Israel, God’s covenant people, went after other gods (chs. 2–6), defiled the temple by their unwillingness to repent (7:1–8:3; 26:1–11), and oppressed one another (34:8–16). Since Israel and the nations have sinned against God (25:1–26), God the Creator is also the Judge of every nation on the earth he created (chs. 46–51).
- Old covenant, Messiah, and new covenant. God made a covenant with Israel, based on his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12–50). As time passed, God’s covenant with Israel included his promise to David of an eternal kingdom (2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17). God used Jeremiah to deliver the good news that, sometime in the future, God would “make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31). This covenant would be different in one major way. The new covenant partners will not break the covenant, as most of the old partners did even though God was completely faithful (31:32). Instead, the new covenant partners will have the word of God so ingrained in their hearts through God’s power that they will know and follow God all their lives (31:33–34).
Thus, all the new covenant partners will be believers who are forgiven and empowered by God; he will “remember their sin no more” (31:34). Hebrews 8:8–12 quotes Jer. 31:31–34 as evidence that the new covenant has come through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The coming of Jesus the Messiah fulfills God’s promises to Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets.
- Introduction (1:1–19)
- Israel’s Covenantal Adultery (2:1–6:30)
- False Religion and an Idolatrous People (7:1–10:25)
- Jeremiah’s Struggles with God and Judah (11:1–20:18)
- Jeremiah’s Confrontations (21:1–29:32)
- Restoration for Judah and Israel (30:1–33:26)
- God Judges Judah (34:1–45:5)
- God’s Judgment on the Nations (46:1–51:64)
- Conclusion: The Fall of Jerusalem (52:1–34)
Israel and Judah at the Time of Jeremiah
c. 597 b.c.
The book of Jeremiah is set during the politically tumultuous times following the fall of the Assyrians and the rise of the Babylonians. During Jeremiah’s life, several groups of Judeans were deported to Babylon and the temple was destroyed. Though the precise boundaries of Judea and the surrounding regions during this period are difficult to determine, they likely resembled those that previously existed under Assyrian rule, with the exception that Edom (Idumea) was now the area formerly belonging to southern Judah.