Study 0 From the Book of Jeremiah is: The Introduction of the book of Jeremiah
Anathoth, the home of Jeremiah, was a small town some three miles north-east of Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s father was a priest, possibly a descendant of Abiathar (cf. 1 Ki. 2: 26), and the family owned some property in Anathoth (32:8). Jeremiah’s fellow-townsmen were among those who turned against him and sough to slay him (11:21).
Born probably towards the end of the reign of Manasseh, Jeremiah lived through the reigns of Josiah (thirty-one years), Jehoahaz (three months, Jehoiakim (eleven years), Jehoiahim (three months), and Zedekiah (eleven years). His prophetic ministry lasted for forty years, from his call in 626 BC, the thirteenth year of Josiah, to the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC (1:2, 3). Of the five kings Josiah alone was loyal to the Lord. Jehoiakim was hostile to Jeremiah, and Zedekiah, though personally friendly, was weak and unstable. Under these two kings Jeremiah endured much physical suffering at the hands of his enemies. His life, however was preserved, and after the fall of Jerusalem he was permitted to stay with the remnant in the land, and was carried with them into Egypt (43:4-7).
In the earlier years of his ministry, though his outward lot was easier, Jeremiah suffered great mental conflict, revealed in a series of soliloquies in which he struggles to accept the burden of his prophetic calling and message. He saw more and more clearly that the nation was thoroughly corrupt, and that judgment was at hand. The false prophets’, who cried ‘Peace, Peace’, were misleading the people (14:13, 14). The inevitability of disaster filled Jeremiah’s heart with dismay and sorrow. It seemed as if God were annulling His covenant and casting off His people, and if that were to happen, what hope was left? God, however, revealed to Jeremiah that He still had a purpose of good beyond the judgment, and that He could and would make a new covenant of a different kind, in which He would give His people a new heart and put His fear in their inmost being: and the hope of this glorious future sustained him as he watched the dying agonies of his nation, and suffered with them. As a result of all this, ‘Jeremiah’s personality in the most sharply etched of any of the Old Testament prophets, and part of the distinctiveness of the book lies just here.
Jeremiah was appointed a prophet not only to Judah, but to the nations (1:5, 10) and he kept an ever-watchful eye on the movements of neighbouring peoples. In Josiah’s reign the power of Assyria was waning, and both Egypt and Babylon sought to take advantage of this for their own ends. Three events especially affected the kingdom of Judah, and had a profound influence upon Jeremiah’s life and outlook. The first was the capture of Nineveh and of the Assyrian Empire by Babylon (612-609 BC), the second, the battle of Megiddo, when King Josiah was slain (608 Bc), and the third, the battle of Carchemish, when Pharaoh-Necho of Egypt and Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon met face to face in a trial of strength and the Babylonian armies won (605 BC) from that time Jeremiah was assured that Babylon was to reign supreme for many years, and that Judah would be wise to yield submission. In fearlessly proclaiming this he seemed in the eyes of many a traitor to his own nation, and aroused great opposition and enmity against himself; but his devotion to God and to his fellow-countrymen stand out clearly on every page, though from time to time he breaks out into passionate cries for vengeance upon his persecutors.
The prophecies are not all in chronological order. In some, mention is made of the king in whose reign they were uttered, but in others the date must be judged from the contents. The following may be taken as a rough guide:
The reign of Josiah: 1-6.
The reign of Jehoiakim: 7-20, 22, 25, 26, 30, 31, 35, 34, 45.
The reign of Zedekiah: 21, 23, 24, 27-29, 32-34, 37-39.