· 1 – the call of Jeremiah
· 2-6 – poetic pronouncements of judgment and calls to repent
· 7-10 – the people’s falseness in worship
· 11-20 – falseness in the covenant, and the people’s sin
· 21-24 – the failure of Judah’s kings and prophets
· 25 – God’s judgment on all nations by Babylon, and Babylon judged in turn
· 26-29 – Babylonian supremacy is foretold
· 30-33 – ‘the Book of Consolation’, containing a promise that Judah and Israel will be restored. The phrase ‘I will bring you back from captivity’ occurs six times. There will be a new covenant (not a renewed one in the vain of Joshua or Josiah), which will include both Israel and Judah.
· 34-36 – king and people reject the word of Jeremiah; Jehoiakim burns Jeremiah’s scroll.
· 37-39 – Judah falls
· 40-45 – the fate of those who were left; the assassination of Gedaliah and the flight into Egypt
· 46-51 – the oracles against the nations
· 52 – further account of the fall of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the temple
In Prophecy and Tradition (1946) Mowinckel distinguished between poetic oracles (A), prose narrative about Jeremiah, much of it between 32-45 (B) and prose sermons (C). Nicholson (Preaching to the Exiles, 1970) thought that these C sections were sermons addressed to exiles – eg 17:19-27, which is about the Sabbath, not mentioned elsewhere, but a pertinent topic to exiles who wished to maintain their cultic distinctiveness in the absence of a temple.
Nicholson thought the sermons were deuteronomistic, because of its theology of the conditional covenant (see eg 12:16-17). More recent criticism has moved away from the distinction between poetic oracles and prose sermons, and seen the whole book as a product of deuteronomistic editing (eg J P Hyatt, ‘The Deuteronomistic Edition of Jeremiah’ (1951), McKane, Jeremiah 1-25 (1986)).
Against this, why isn’t there more deuteronomistic enthusiasm for Josiah’s reforms in the book? Jeremiah began his ministry in 626BC, and Josiah’s reforms were energised by the discovery of the book of the law in the temple in 621BC. However, Josiah is barely mentioned in the text – there is just a fleeting reference at 22:15-16.
R R Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel (1980) distinguished between a northern Ephraimite tradition of prophecy, which took its cue from the Mosaic covenant and the word of God, from a southern tradition which focused more on the presence of God, invoking ark, tabernacle and temple. Jeremiah, though he ministered in Jerusalem, hailed from Anathoth in the north of Judah, and may have been influenced by the northern prophetic tradition, and the covenantal theology of Hosea. Jeremiah’s ‘temple sermon’ (7:1-15), with its echoes of the Ten Commandments (verse 9) and its severe criticism of false temple worship, typified the northern values.
Jeremiah, ‘the weeping prophet’, expresses his grief particularly strongly at 11:18-23, 12:1-6, 15@10-21; 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-12, 14-18. These are known as Jeremiah’s ‘confessions’. In them, he protests to God about the pain and grief he is suffering, about how he has been treated, and even prays for the punishment of his enemies (17:14-18).
Prophetic blurring of boundaries:
· Jeremiah and the Lord – who is mourning in chapters 8 and 9?
· Israel and Judah – does ‘Israel’ refer to the northern kingdom, or the twelve tribes? (eg 22:6)
· Jeremiah and his people – he speaks for them in repentance in chapter 14
· Present and future time
Jeremiah is the son of Hilkiah, of the priests of Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. He prophesied from the days of Josiah to the captivity. The Lord tells him he was sanctified in the belly to serve. Jeremiah is anxious he is a child, and cannot speak. The Lord touches his mouth, so he will be a prophet unto the nations. The Lord’s plans are compared to the branch of an almond tree – comes to fruit quickly. Jeremiah sees a boiling pot facing the north – an evil shall break forth from the north against the inhabitants of Judah. Jeremiah will be protected as he prophesies.
Although pious when it first entered the promised land, Israel has forsaken the Lord and gone after other gods. Its own backslidings will be its punishment. From a right seed, Israel has become a degenerate vine. It says to wood, 'You are my father,' and to stone, 'You gave me birth.' Israel sinfully presumes itself to be innocent.
Israel is compared to an adulterous husband (deuteronomistically appealing to the written Mosaic law?). In the days of Josiah, the Lord complains about the high places in Israel, and about how Israel was punished. Judah, far from taking Israel’s as a cautionary tale, played the harlot also, and turned to the Lord only feignedly. Appeal for Israel to acknowledge transgressions, and be restored. All nations shall be gathered to Jerusalem.
The Lord appeals to the men of Judah and Jerusalem to circumcise their hearts. Mourn and repent – an evil is coming from the north. The land will be despoiled. The Lord creates the universe.
Judah’s inquities recounted. It will be destroyed by a strange nation whose tongue is unknown. The Lord will not protect it.
Jerusalem will be made desolate, and punished for its transgressions by a nation from the north. This nation is cruel and will have no mercy. Repent.
Jeremiah told to stand at the temple gates and order those entering to repent. The Lord complains that the temple has become a den of robbers. The Lord will do to the temple what he did to Shiloh. The people perform offerings in an unacceptable foreign manner. There are high places in Judah. The voice of mirth shall go from Judah and Jerusalem.
The bones of the kings, princes and priests of Judah shall be exhumed and left for dung upon the face of the earth. ‘The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord.’ The land will become barren. Serpents and cockatrices shall bite. ‘Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me’ – it is ambiguous whether Jeremiah of God says this.
‘Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!’ (Ambiguity again – God or prophet?) The people will be scattered among the heathen, and given wormwood and gall for sustenance. Let not the wise or the mighty glory in their powers. Let he who glories glory in the Lord. The circumcised will be punished alongside the uncircumcised – Israel is uncircumcised in its heart.
The house of Israel acts idolatrously, consulting the heavens, worshipping trees, making graven images. False gods have not made the heavens and the earth. The Lord both suffers (‘Woe is me for my hurt!’) and also full of destructive anger.
The Lord reminds Judah of the consequences of breaking the Mosaic covenant. Judah is a green olive tree which will be burnt, and its branches broken. The Lord will punish by sword and famine the men of Anathoth who seek Jeremiah’s life.
The wicked take root and grow. The Lord has left His heritage, which has been spoiled. His people have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns. After they have been plucked from the land, they will be restored to their heritage, however. This promise is conditional upon obedience, however.
The Lord tells Jeremiah to place his girdle in the hole of a rock at the Euphrates. After a couple of days, it is marred. After this manner the Lord will mar the pride of Judah. The house of Israel and Judah cleaved unto me as a girdle cleaves unto a man, but is now good for nothing. The elite of Judah will destroy each other in drunkenness. Give glory to the Lord, before he changes light to darkness. Can an Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?
Jeremiah surveys the famine, and admits iniquities on behalf of his people, providing a model of repentance. The Lord tells Jeremiah not to pray for his people. False prophets are rebuked. Jeremiah prays on behalf of the people once more.
The sword, famine and captivity are promised, as punishment for the sins of Manasseh, son of Hezekiah. Widows shall mourn and languish. Jeremiah complains about being made to deliver such unwelcome messages, for which too he is reproved. Jeremiah pleads his sincerity, and asks pardon. God promises to protect him.
Due to the evils which threaten, Jeremiah is forbidden to marry or have a family, or to share in the joys and sorrow of his neighbours, which will be forgotten in the calamities that their sins will bring on them. A future restoration is intimated, however, and the conversion of the Gentiles foretold.
Judah is fatally inclined to idolatry. The happiness of the man that trusts in the Lord is contrasted with the man that trusteth in man. God alone knows the deceit and wretchedness of the heart of man. A comparison is made between a bird's hatching the eggs of another species, which will soon forsake her, and the vanity of is ill-acquired riches. Jeremiah talks of his sincerity, and prays that the evil intended him by his enemies may revert on their own heads. An appeal to observe the Sabbath is made.
The house of Israel is like clay in the hands of a potter. The inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem are invited to repent; their refusal as unnatural as someone preferring the snowy Lebanon or barren rock to a fruitful plain, or other waters to the cool stream of the fountain. A conspiracy is formed against Jeremiah, who appeals to God, and curses his enemies.
Judah and Jerusalem will be broken as a potter’s vessel, because they have forsaken the Lord. The land will be made desolate, and the people will eat the flesh of their children.
Pashur, governor of the temple, smites Jeremiah and places him in the stocks. When Jeremiah is taken from the stocks, he curses Pashur, and tells him he will die in captivity. Jeremiah resolves to prophesy no more, but the word of the Lord is in his heart like a burning flame, and he is not able to forbear. In a very Job-like manner, Jeremiah curses the day he was born.
Vision when Zedekiah was king – advice to submit to Nebuchadnezzar’s forces and live, rather than fight against them and die. Those who stay in the city shall die, but those who go out and submit to the Chaldeans shall live.
The king of Judah must execute judgment and righteousness and protect the needy. If he does not, his house shall become a desolation. Thou, Judah, are Gilead to me. All nations shall marvel at the desolation. Shallum (=Jehoahaz) the son of Josiah will die a captive. Coniah (=Jeconiah) the son of Jehoiakim will be given to them that seek his life, and his seed will be forever excluded from the throne.
Woe to those that have scattered the sheep of the Lord’s pasture. A king call arise from the branch of David, and he shall be called the King of Righteousness. Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; I reel like a drunken man. The priests and prophets of Judah are wicked, and divine vengeance is hanging over them. The people should not listen to their false promises: they will face ruin, as will all scoffers of true prophecy.
A vision after Jeconiah had been taken away captive: good figs and bad figs. The good figs symbolise those the Lord shall preserve in captivity, and the bad figs Zedekiah, his princes, the residue of Jerusalem, and those that dwell in Egypt.
Word comes to Jeremiah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, and the first year of Nebuchadnezzar. Because Judah has not harkened to the prophets, it will be captive in Babylon for seventy years. After these seventy years, the king of Babylon will himself be punished. All nations are made to drink of a cup of wine, become drunken, spew, fall and rise now more. The dead shall not be lamented or buried.
Word comes to Jeremiah in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim. Jeremiah makes a call to repentance in the court of the temple. This house shall be like Shiloh. The priests and people take objection to this, but the memory of Micah, who persuades Hezekiah to repent, stays their hands. Jeremiah is protected by Ahikam the son of Shaphan. Another prophet, Urijah, prophesies against the city. He flees to Egypt, but Jehoiakim’s men bring him before the king and slay him.
Word comes to Jeremiah in the reign of Jehoiakim. The Lord tells Jeremiah to put bands and yokes upon his neck, and to send them to the neighbouring countries who want Judah to join in a war against Babylon. Submission to Babylon is advised – do not listen to false prophets and dreamers. Those who submit will be allowed to live in their own land. Zedekiah is advised not to war against the Babylonians.
Word comes to Jeremiah in the reign of Zedekiah. Hananiah breaks Jeremiah’s yoke, and says that in the same way, the Lord shall break the yoke of the Babylonians. The Lord replies that a yoke of wood may be broken, but not the yoke of iron which will be imposed. Hananiah dies as a punishment for his rebellion against the Lord.
Message to captives: build houses, have children and settle – the captivity will last for seventy years. Jeremiah speaks against two false prophets, Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and Zedekaih, the son of Maaseiah, who prophesied a speedy end to the captivity. He also rebukes Shemaiah the Nehelamite, who complains about Jeremiah’s message.
Promise of restoration. David will be restored unto Judah. Peace and propersity. ‘They that devour thee shall be devoured…Ye shall be my people, and I shall be your God.’
The northern kingdom will be restored. Rachel is represented rising from her tomb, lamenting, but then being consoled by the thought of future restoration. Ephraim repents, and is reconciled. Peace and prosperity returns to the posterity of Jacob – no more sour grapes.
Word comes to Jeremiah in the tenth year of the reign of Zedekiah, during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. Jeremiah is imprisoned, and God tells him to redeem a field in Anathoth through his cousin Hanameel. The contract is delivered to Baruch. The contract is used by God as a sign that the Jews will once more possess their land after the Babylonian captivity. An everlasting covenant will be made.
Word comes to Jeremiah in prison. Israel and Judah will be restored to the favour of God, so all the world shall be astonished. A Lord of righteousness shall gown from the branch of David, ensuring happiness and stability under his government.
Words comes to Jeremiah when Zedekiah is fighting against Babylon. Judah will be given to the Babylonians, yet Zedekiah shall die in peace. A further prophecy, reproving the Jews for their conduct towards their Hebrew slaves, whom they released in times of danger, but compelled to return to bondage when they thought the danger over. God threatens them with the sword, pestilence, and famine, and with the return of the Chaldeans.
The Lord commends and blesses the Rechabites, who obey their father in not drinking wine, sowing seed or building their own houses. Their obedience is contrasted with Judah and Jerusalem.
Word comes to Jeremiah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. Using Baruch as his scribe, Jeremiah writes down his prophecies. Baruch reads them publicly upon a fast day in the temple. The princes hear him, and resolve to tell the king, hearing of this, while advising both Jeremiah and Baruch to hide. Jehoiakim has the roll thrown into the fire, and orders Jeremiah and Baruch to be seized. The Lord conceals them, however. Jeremiah rewrites the roll, and denounces the burning of the roll.
Zedekiah succeeds Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim, in Judah, and does evil in the sight of the Lord. The kings sends a message to Jeremiah, and Jeremiah replies, foretelling the return of the Chaldean army, who will take and burn the city. Jeremiah, in attempting to leave Jerusalem, and retire to his possession in the country, is seized as a deserter, and cast into a dungeon. The king, after a conference unth him, abates the rigour of his confinement.
The princes of Judah, taking offense at Jeremiah on account of his predicting the destruction of Jerusalem, cause him to be cast into a deep and miry dungeon. Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian, gets the king's permission to take him out. Jeremiah advises the king, who consulted him privately, to surrender to the Chaldeans. The king promises that he will not put Jeremiah to death, and requires the consultation secret.
In the ninth year of Zedekiah, Jerusalem is broken up by the Babylonian forces. Zedekiah is blinded, and his sons killed. Jeremiah is spared, and sent home to dwell among his people. Ebed-melech is also spared.
Jeremiah puts himself under the jurisdiction of Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, who has been made the governor of Judah. Johanan acquaints the governor of a conspiracy against him, but he is not believed.
Ishmael (of royal seed) executes his conspiracy against Gedaliah and his companions, and attempts to carry away the Jews who were with him captives to the Ammonites. Johanan recovers them, however, and proposes fleeing with them into Egypt.
Johanan and the remnant of the people desire Jeremiah to ask counsel of God what they should do. Jeremiah says they will be safe in Judah, but face destruction in Egypt. Jeremiah reproves their hypocrisy in asking advice they have no intention of heeding.
The leading men, discrediting Jeremiah's prophecy, carry the people into Egypt. Jeremiah places stones at the entry of the Pharoah’s house, and says Nebuchadnezzar shall set his throne on them. Nebuchadnezzar shall array himself with Egypt, as a shepherd puts on his garment.
Jeremiah reproves the Jews in Egypt for continuing in idolatry (such as burning incense to the queen of heaven) after the judgments already visited by God for this sin. Jeremiah rebukes their refusal to reform, declares that they will be destroyed along with Egypt.
Baruch (who had read Jeremiah’s prophecies in the temple in chapter 36) is in anguish regarding the destruction of Judah, but is assured that the Lord will build what he has broken down, and also that his life shall be preserved.
The prophet sees the preparation of Pharaoh Necho for the battle of Carchemish. In their confidence of victory, the Egyptians are like a river overflowing its banks. However, they will be defeated, as the Lord decreed by the river Euphrates. The Egyptians will be overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar after his siege of Tyre. The Jews will be eventually returned to divine favour.
Destruction from the north (ie from Babylon) predicted for the Philistines. The Babylonians are compared to an overflowing flood.
Moab is destroyed; her little ones have caused a cry to be heard. Give wings unto Moab, that it may flee and get away. Moab punished for its complacency and pride. How is the strong staff broken! Moab has magnified itself against the Lord.
Destruction prophesied for the Ammonites, Edom (whose fall is compared to Sodom and Gomorrah), Damascus, Hazor and Elam. The Lord will appoint the time. The heart of the mighty men of Edom shall be as the heart of a woman in her pangs.
Babylon will fall at the hands of a nation from the north, and Israel restored.
Babylon will be destroyed by the Medes. All shall be broken in pieces. The daughter of Babylon is like threshing floor, it is time to thresh her. Babylon will be brought as a lamb to the slaughter; it will become a dwelling place for dragons. Jeremiah instructs Seraiah (the chief priest) to read this prophecy in Babylon, then bind a stone to the prophecy and throw it in the Euphrates to demonstrate that Babylon shall sink.
An account of the defeat of Zedekiah by the Babylonians. Sons killed, Zedekiah blinded, Jerusalem looted. The way Jehoiachin is treated in his captivity improves.