Jeremiah 1


His surroundings and ancestry

We know from the first verse of chapter 1 that Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.

‘The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.’

Anathoth was about 5 miles from Jerusalem, 1 Chronicles 6:60. Jeremiah had many enemies, from all classes of society: kings, idolatrous priests, and false prophets. The priests and prophets at that time were only out for gain.

His friends were few and far between, although he was friendly with a powerful group, influential in Josiah’s day, Gedaliah son of Ahikam being mentioned by name, Jeremiah 40:6 / Jeremiah 41:16 / Jeremiah 43:6.

Jeremiah is like Hosea the prophet. He had some conflicting emotions and He had an intense love for his country and deep convictions of sin. He didn’t have Hosea’s unwavering faith in God. Jeremiah often doubted and struggled. His weaknesses were only overcome by the power of God.

There were times when he Isolated himself from others, mainly because of messages of doom and hopelessness. And partly because he just wanted to be alone. He loved nature. He lacked self-confidence. This made it difficult for him to deal with people. He was prone to bursts of anger.

Of all the prophets he was the frailest and most human. His call came in his youth. He was about 20 years old. This was one of the main reasons why he thought himself insufficient for the task. His ministry lasted about 40 years. And we know how successful he was.

Date and Author

We cannot date the book accurately. It covers far too much ground in terms of years. And there is also some question as to authorship. Jeremiah had a scribe called Baruch and some credit the authorship to him, Jeremiah 36:32. Jewish tradition, however, has it that the author was Jeremiah himself. They also credit him as being responsible for writing 1 and 2 Kings.

The message of the Book

It’s a two-fold message:
1. A message of doom and destruction.

2. A message of hope.

Background Thoughts

1. Historical.

Nabopolassar is the king of Babylon. In 625 B.C. he declared Babylon independent, which led to war with Assyria. There was a revolt against Judah at that time. Nineveh fell in 612 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar. The war between Babylon and Egypt followed. Pharaoh Neco was the only rival left to Babylon at that time for world supremacy. So, Babylon was interested in demolishing them. With the fall of some of the areas of Assyria, Neco marched northwards to regain them. They should have met at Carchemish, but Josiah meets him halfway. 2 Chronicles 35 / 2 Kings 24 / Jeremiah 46.

The fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign is very significant. Nebuchadnezzar has become king. God has selected this man, not only to execute judgment on Judah but also on Assyria. Jeremiah tells of this in chapter 25. All of these prophesies were written on a scroll and read by Baruch. But they didn’t want to hear these unutterable things.

Judah came under Babylonian control in 606/605 B.C. This was when the first of the captives went into exile. The third deportation was about 586 B.C. No one would return until about 536 B.C. Some date the captivity from 586 to 536 and say that this is 50 years, Jeremiah must therefore have been wrong when he said 70 years. But the first captivity was in 6O6 B.C. which makes 70 years, give or take a day.

2. Biblical.

Read 2 Kings 20-25 and 2 Chronicles 34-36. Josiah began his reign when he was only 8 years old. And he reigns for about 31 years, from 640 B.C. In the 13th year of his reign, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, Jeremiah 1:2.

Josiah was a good king. The High Priest at the time was Hilkiah, it isn’t believed that this Hilkiah was the father of Jeremiah, although he too was a priest. Jeremiah 1:1. Hilkiah, the high priest, finds the book of the Law, the Law of Moses. The book is read to the people.

There was an immediate concern amongst the people. There was also an immediate investigation and inquiry of God. And there were also immediate warnings and immediate promises of peace. Josiah’s heart was tender. He humbled himself before the Lord. Because of what Josiah did, God said that he would go to his grave in peace and net see the evil that was to come upon the land.

Reformation in Josiah’s time

The covenant was made with God, from the Law of Moses. All of the people were to keep his commandments.

a. Commandments.

The Hebrew word simply meant all of God’s commandments, 46 times it is used. It usually refers to one or all the Ten Commandments. It, therefore, relates to both Man and God.

b. Testimonies.

This word occurs about 34 times. In a sense, it is a witness. Generally, laws between man and man, are close to our civil/criminal laws where witnesses are required. This, of course, relates more to man.

c. Statutes.

Things that aren’t wrong in themselves. Things one has to do because God has said so. They deal more with the functions of priests. They would relate more to God.

All of these things they were to keep in their hearts, with devotion.

The correction of the Covenant:
a. Religious reforms.
b. Moral reforms.
c. Home reforms. (Their house gods).
d. Civil reforms.

Some of the things they got involved with:

          Religion                         God that was made
Sidonians                                Ashterith
Moabites                                  Chemish
Ammonites                                 Milcum
Bethel/Samaria             Golden calves of Jeroboam

The Passover was to be kept. Some 33,000 bulls and 2,600 small cattle were sacrificed during the Passover. It’s said that a total of 41,400 beasts were killed during Passover. Josiah turned to the Lord with all of his heart, soul and mind. He diligently sought after God. But it didn’t last long. Therefore, there was going to be retribution upon the rebellious. Josiah lost his life because he didn’t listen to God. This is one of the things Jeremiah laments about in chapter 35.

Pharaoh Neco didn’t want to fight Josiah. He was journeying from Egypt to Carchemish to join the Assyrians in their battle against the Babylonians. Neco told Josiah, 2 Chronicles 35:21.

Josiah didn’t heed the warning. They met on the plain of Megiddo and Josiah loses the battle. He later dies of the wounds he received in battle.

Other Kings

a. Jehoahaz, also called Shallum.

He was Josiah’s younger son. And he was only 23 years old when he began to reign. Jehoahaz was only king for three months. His was a short but evil reign. He was taken into Egypt and, we believe, died there. This was the work of Neco who, on his way back from Carchemish, hammered Judah, took Jehoahaz, and replaced him with Jehoiakim, as king. Jehoiakim was 25 years old, 2 Kings 23:31-35.

b. Jehoiakim.
He reigned for 11 years, 2 Kings 23:36-34:7. He was also evil. Nebuchadnezzar invaded the land and Jehoiakim came subject to him. But after 3 years he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, who took him into exile. Jeremiah 22:18ff tells us that he never arrived in Babylon. He was killed.

c. Jehoiachin, also called Jeconiah.
He reigned for three months. He was also evil He was taken into captivity, Babylon.

d. Zedekiah.
He was 21 years old and reigned for 11 years. He was also evi1. 2 Kings 24:18ff. He rebelled against Babylon. He was seen working against Nebuchadnezzar and also against Jeremiah and God, 2 Chronicles 36:12ff. Egypt incited him to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar. He didn’t have a chance. His rebellion introduces us to the end of Judah.

Suffering and hunger set in, Jeremiah 25, His sons were killed before his very eyes. Then he was blinded and taken into captivity Gedaliah is appointed governor and set up to rule after Jerusalem had been destroyed. But he was seen as a traitor and was an executioner, Jeremiah 40:1-6.

The Five-Point Outline

1. His call and prophecies under Josiah to Jehoiakim. Jeremiah 1-20

2. Prophecies under Jehoiakim to Zedekiah. Jeremiah 21-39

3. Prophecies after the Fall of Jerusalem. Jeremiah 40-45

4. Prophecies concerning other nations. Jeremiah 46-51

5. Historical information. Jeremiah 52

Kings whom Jeremiah served from 627-586 B.C.

Kings of Judah                   Years of Reign                  Span of Time
Josiah                             640-609 B.C.                        31 years
Jehoahaz (Shallum, Joahaz)       609 B.C.                           3 months
Jehoiakim                         609-598(?) B.C.                     11 years
Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Coniah)     598(?) B.C.                       3 months
Zedekiah                           597-586 B.C.                        11 years

Over a span of 40 years, Jeremiah served under five kings:

Josiah. 1 Chronicles 3:14-17 / 2 Kings 21:23-22:2
Jehoahaz, Shallum. 2 Kings 23:30-37 / Jeremiah 22:11
Jehoiakim. 2 Chronicles 36:5-9
Jehoiachin, Jeconiah or Coniah. 2 Kings 24:5-12 / Jeremiah 22:24-30
Zedekiah. 2 Kings 24:17-20 / 2 Chronicles 36:10-13

Of the five kings, only Josiah properly served God and the people. 2 Kings 22:1-23:8 / 2 Chronicles 34:35.

The text

Just by reading Jeremiah 1, we learn so much about Jeremiah and the work that God has for him. We learn that God not only knew him before he was formed before he was born, but God appointed him as a prophet before he was born. Jeremiah says that he doesn’t know how to speak. God says, ‘you must go to everyone’.

God touched his mouth, now you can speak!

Jeremiah sees the branch of an almond tree. Then he sees a boiling pot tilting away from the north. And already, in this first chapter, God is telling him that the Babylonians will come from the north to punish them. Jeremiah 52 tells us about the Fall of Jerusalem. The book of Lamentations is a kind of follow-up to Jeremiah in as much as it tells the grisly story of how the people died by the famine and by the sword.

And at Jeremiah 1:16 God says, ‘I will pronounce my judgments on my people.’

God could have brought His judgment on them there and then, in which case Jeremiah’s book would only have been about two or three chapters long. But over and over again we see that God gives them opportunities to repent. He wants them to repent and come back to Him, to leave their idols behind and come back to Him. And so, we will see from the rest of the book that God is constantly telling Jeremiah to go and speak to His people and they are constantly ignoring what Jeremiah has to say. They Ignore the messages from God.

Before we look at some of the verses in Jeremiah 1 I want to remind you that there were five kings of Judah during the time period mentioned here, but the names of Jehoahaz and Jeconiah are omitted because each of these kings reigned only three months. But if we calculate the length of Jeremiah’s ministry only from the dates mentioned here, it was exactly 40 years and six months.

That is under Josiah, 18 years, under Jehoahaz, three months, under Jehoiakim, 11 years under Jechoniah, and three months, under Zedekiah. 11 years. However, later chapters, such as Jeremiah 40 and 41, record events that happened several years after the destruction of Jerusalem.

This is why some scholars believe that Jeremiah’s ministry lasted perhaps as long as 50 years. Remember, the events in this book are not in chronological order, which is why events in Jeremiah 40 and 41 occur after we read about the Fall of Jerusalem.

In Jeremiah 1:9 we’re told that the Lord touched Jeremiah’s mouth. The Bible reveals that nothing is more powerful than the touch of the Lord’s hand. Our Saviour blessed the children by a touch, placing His hands upon them, Luke 18:15.

‘The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile. The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’ Jeremiah 1:1-5

The prophetic word Is confirmed here. These are not my words, he says, they are God’s. It has to be realised that there were false prophets around. Notice the statement about when he received the word. It is repeated time and time again and gives us some very accurate dates of when to review his ministry. This is all about providential planning.

God says Jeremiah was divinely developed, he was divinely desired and, so he was divinely dispatched.

‘Alas, Sovereign LORD,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am too young.’ But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.’ Jeremiah 1:6-8

A preliminary problem here. Jeremiah has a human reaction to all of this.

I don’t know how to speak

But he did in the end. There was a fire in his bones and he had to speak what the Lord told him. He also says, ‘I am a too young’, but what difference did that make? The divine reaction was, I am going to send you and you are going to go. I am going to command you and you will speak. I am going to be with you, so do not be frightened.

‘Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.’ Jeremiah 1:9-10

To pull up means to take everything from the bottom. There is nothing left. It all has to be replaced. God says, I am going to set you up over nations. You will be able to uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow, build and plant. Whether or not Jeremiah spoke to these nations, they nevertheless got the message.

Note the following:

Jeremiah 46 is a prophecy concerning Egypt
Jeremiah 47 is a prophecy concerning Philistia, Tyre and Sidon
Jeremiah 48 is a prophecy concerning Moab
Jeremiah 49 is a prophecy concerning Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor and Elam
Jeremiah 50-51 is a prophecy concerning Babylon

‘The word of the LORD came to me: ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘I see the branch of an almond tree,’ I replied. The LORD said to me, ‘You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.’ The word of the LORD came to me again: ‘What do you see?’ ‘I see a pot that is boiling,’ I answered. ‘It is tilting toward us from the north.’ The LORD said to me, ‘From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,’ declares the LORD. ‘Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah.’ Jeremiah 1:11-15

God’s plan is shown in a series of figures. What do you see? A branch of an almond tree. God says I will see to it that my job is done. An almond tree means to be watchful and alert. God says I am watching over things, my eyes are open, Hebrews 4:13.

The writer of Hebrews is speaking of the word of God. God’s eyes are always open, that is what he is telling Jeremiah. Next, he sees a boiling pot facing away from the north. God explains that out of the north trouble will come, Ezekiel 24:3-14.

‘I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made. ‘Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.’ Jeremiah 1:16-17

The pollution that is happening. This is a warning. God always warns before anything takes place. Therefore, Jeremiah is told to gird up his loins, prepare himself, arise, go on, proceed, and do everything that I command of you.

So, he is told to Prepare, Proceed and Proclaim. God warns Jeremiah, do not be dismayed. If you are dismayed, terrified by them, I will terrify you before them. It’s going to be tough for Jeremiah. The people are going to fight against him. They will physically abuse him. They will give him a hard time. And God says, don’t let that bother you.

‘Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.’ Jeremiah 1:18-19

God is going to protect him against kings, princes and all of the people. But if he is disobedient, God will break him.

Go To Jeremiah 2