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

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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 the exile to Babylon was imminent and was eventually exiled to Egypt. 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, another son replaced Jehoahaz. Babylon had incorporated Judah into its empire at that time, 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 they returned. He died in exile 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):

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 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:

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:

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!)

    Comments and Questions
    Please send your comments and questions to the author at or share your comments or question via the Listening for God Twitter account