Introduction to the Book of Jeremiah
and Study of Jeremiah 1-3
August 3rd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Jeremiah (Overview)

The book of Jeremiah is the second book of Prophets in the Old Testament. Like Isaiah, Jeremiah is considered one of the Major Prophets, but he served during a later period, as indicated in the chart below.

Jeremiah was born around 645 B.C. to a priestly family from the village of Anathoth, two and a half miles northeast of Jerusalem (1). He lived during the time when exile to Babylon was imminent for most of the people of Jerusalem and the rest of Judah (although Jeremiah would eventually take exile in Egypt in circumstances that we will read about at a later date). Jeremiah had served under multiple kings, beginning with Josiah, and ending with Zedekiah, the last king before the exile. He served as a final whistle-blower on behalf of God during his years of ministry and his writings were an inspiration to those exiled in Babylon. He appears to have been an influence for some of the authors of the Psalms and for Ezekiel and Daniel, whom we will read about in coming weeks (2).

Many of these kings were immoral and paid little heed to Jeremiah. But Josiah had a heart for God and temporarily re-established the southern kingdom of Judah as an independent state during the time when Assyria had become weak, as described in 2 Kings. He subsequently died in battle against the Egyptians at Megiddo and was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz, who only served for three months.

Jehoiakim, who was another son of Josiah, replaced Jehoahaz. By that time, Babylon had incorporated Judah into its empire, but Jehoiakim rebelled and was taken into exile. He was replaced by Zedekiah who was the last king before the fall of Judah and Jerusalem.

Jeremiah continued to serve as a prophet after the final defeat of Judah and accurately forecasted the 70-year period that would pass before many of the people in exile would return. Jeremiah was not among the returnees, as he died in in Egypt circa 581 B.C.

In the text, the years are recorded according to the reign of the kings, but the chapters traverse different periods, so the book can't be read chronologically, like the books of history. Instead, to fully appreciate the book, one has to consider the themes in each section of chapters. The book can be divided into many sections for study purposes (3)(4):

    Oracles from the days of Josiah (chapters 1-6)

      Jeremiah 1-3 (Paging Jeremiah) - August 3rd
      Jeremiah 4-6 (Danger, People of Judah, Danger!) - August 4th

    Oracles Primarily from the Days of Jehoiakim (chapters 710)

      Jeremiah 7-8 (Empty Sacrifices) - August 5th
      Jeremiah 9-10 (The Tongue Is a Deadly Arrow) - August 6th

    Stories from the Prophets life (chapters 11-20)

      Jeremiah 11-13 (The Life of Jeremiah) - August 7th
      Jeremiah 14-16 (Turn To the LORD) - August 8th
      Jeremiah 17-20 (Speak Up) - August 9th

    Oracles from the time of Zedekiah and the Final Days of Jerusalem (chapters 21-25)

      Jeremiah 21-23 (Time's Up for Zedekiah) - August 10th
      Jeremiah 24-25 (King of Kings) - August 11th

    The Temple Sermon and Controversies with the False Prophets (chapters 2629)

      Jeremiah 26-29 (Plans to Prosper) - August 12th

    Oracles of the Restoration of Israel and Judah (chapters 3035)

      Jeremiah 30-33 (A New Jerusalem) - August 13th
      Jeremiah 34-36 (Are You Sure?) - August 14th

    Jeremiah and the Fall of Jerusalem (chapters 3645)

      Jeremiah 37-38 (Final Days of Jerusalem) - August 15th
      Jeremiah 39-41 (The Walls Came Tumbling Down) - August 16th
      Jeremiah 42-45 (The Aftermath) - August 17th

    Oracles against foreign nations (chapters 46-51)

      Jeremiah 46-47 (Oracles Against Other Nations) - August 18th
      Jeremiah 48-49 (More Oracles Against Other Nations) - August 19th
      Jeremiah 50-51 (Bigger and Better Oracles Against Other Nations) - August 20th

    Historical Appendix (chapter 52)

      Jeremiah 52 (Hope Persists) - August 21st

Some experts have concluded that not all of the passages were written by Jeremiah but were added in by others. Nevertheless, the truth of the message is still valid.

If you have ever felt that the past looked brighter than the future, then you can relate to Jeremiah and his contemporaries. Israel had once been a large and unified empire, but had split into two after the reign of Solomon. Subsequently, the Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and the people had been exiled about 200 years before Jeremiah's birth. The survivors in the Southern Kingdom of Judah had become vassals of Assyria, and were just one step away from being exiled. There was a sense of false hope when Assyria was defeated by the Babylonians and Medeans, but these events just changed the names and faces of future conquerors.

This shifting political and religious landscape represents the context in which Jeremiah heard God and relayed his message to others. He desperately tried to warn his countrymen and give them hope for a future, but they were not particularly skilled at listening.

As we read this book, we might ask ourselves how many warnings have been directed at us that we did not heed? Are there prophets among us who are ignored and drowned out by the noise of our world?

References used for the study of this chapter include the following:

  • Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984
  • Boadt, Lawrence, Jeremiah 1-25, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 1982
  • Boadt, Lawrence, Jeremiah 26-52, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 1982
  • Clements, R. E. Jeremiah, Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, John Knox Press, 1988, Atlanta, GA
  • Fee, Gordon D., Stuart Douglas, How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2002
  • Harrison, R.K. Jeremiah & Lamentations, an Introduction and Commentary, Inter-Varsity Press, 1973, Leicester, England, Downers Grove, IL
  • Heschel, Abraham Joshua, The Prophets, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2001, New York (originally published by Harper & Row in 1962)
  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993
  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)
  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)
  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970
  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005

Jeremiah 1-3 (Paging Jeremiah)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

The word of the LORD came to me:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

- Jeremiah 1:4-5 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

The opening chapter of Jeremiah depicts the call of this prophet, who served under Josiah and other kings in the southern kingdom of Judah. Jeremiah initially objected to his call, suggesting that he was too young, but the LORD encouraged him, touched his mouth, and put his words in Jeremiah's mouth.

The LORD said that the Southern Kingdom was going to fall soon and warned Jeremiah not to be afraid of other people. " 'Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them' (Jer 1:17 - KJV)."

In chapter 2, the LORD instructs Jeremiah to remind the people how they had forsaken him, despite all that he had done. They forgot about him and chose idols of wood and stone. In chapter 3, the LORD compares the unfaithful behavior of Israel to that of an adulterer, yet he calls his people to return to him, "your husband."

Jeremiah concludes the chapter on behalf of the people by recognizing that they have sinned:

    "We're here! We've come back to you.
       You're our own true God!
    All that popular religion was a cheap lie,
       duped crowds buying up the latest in gods.
    We're back! Back to our true God,
       the salvation of Israel.
    The Fraud picked us clean, swindled us
       of what our ancestors bequeathed us,
    Gypped us out of our inheritance
       God-blessed flocks and God-given children.
    We made our bed and now lie in it,
       all tangled up in the dirty sheets of dishonor.
    All because we sinned against our God,
       we and our fathers and mothers.
    From the time we took our first steps, said our first words,
       we've been rebels, disobeying the voice of our God."

    - Jeremiah 3:22-25 (MSG)

Reflection and Application

God is disappointed when we don't respond to his call, but he often gives us second chances. For example, we had read in 1 Samuel that God had called Samuel four times before the child understood who was calling him (See 1 Samuel 3). In this book, Jeremiah hears the call, but like Moses, believes himself to be incapable and unworthy.

Don't worry. If God calls us to do something, we can be assured that he has equipped us - or will equip as needed. One thing he calls us to do is to boldly speak up regarding his message. If we are timid in this area then we should remind ourselves to fear God more than we fear ordinary people. Who has more power? Who created the heavens and earth, who can listen into every conversation, heal every hurt, and comfort every heart? That is the one that we should fear.

Jeremiah gives us an example of one who hesitated but then accepts his role from God.

For further analysis of the beginning of this book we recommend an excellent essay by Dr. Todd Pylant, the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Benbrook and the author of Word of God Speak and If: "A Prophetic Message During the Days of Revival (Jeremiah 2:1-13)"

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. When was the last time you burned your tongue? What happened?
    2. What materials are our false idols made out of?
    3. What are the words that God is putting on your tongue today?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, you deserve to be feared. Help us to fear you more than others and share the words you have given us.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Burn victims


    (1) The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970, introduction to Jeremiah
    (2) IBID
    (3) IBID
    (4) Boadt, Lawrence, Jeremiah 1-25, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 1982

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Jeremiah 4-6 (Danger People of Judah! Danger!)

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