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Introduction to Jeremiah

I. NAME OF THE BOOK

A. It was named after the prophet.

B. The meaning of his name is difficult to ascertain

1. "YHWH founded" (KB 440)

2. "YHWH loosens from the womb" (BDB 941)

3. "YHWH raises up" or "exalts" (BDB 926)

4. "YHWH hurls" (BDB 941 I, cf. Exod. 15:1)

 

II. CANONIZATION

A. It was part of the "prophet" section of the Hebrew canon.

B. The Torah or Law - Genesis-Deuteronomy

C. The Prophets:

1. Former Prophets - Joshua-Kings (except Ruth)

2. Latter Prophets - Isaiah-Malachi (except Daniel and Lamentations)

D. The Writings:

1. The Megilloth (5 scrolls):

a. Song of Songs

b. Ecclesiastes

c. Ruth

d. Lamentations

e. Esther

2. Daniel

3. Wisdom Literature:

a. Job

b. Psalms

c. Proverbs

4. I & II Chronicles

E. In rabbinical literature Jeremiah was often considered the first of the prophets (Baba Bathra 14b, cf. Matt. 27:9)

 

III. GENRE

A. This book is made up of several genres:

1. classical Hebrew poetry (Jeremiah's oracles)

2. Hebrew prose (written by Baruch in the third person)

3. summaries of Jeremiah's sermons often in prose (also from Baruch)

4. autobiographical complaints to God in poetic form (Confessions of Jeremiah, cf. 15:10-18; 17:9-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18)

B. The book of Jeremiah includes both oral and written prophecies. Also from chapter 36 we learn that some had to be redictated/recopied. Also, chapter 52 is a historical addition related to II Kgs. 224:18-25:21.

C. Jeremiah's poetry is not of the same quality as Isaiah and Hosea, but his theology is wonderful.

This is a comment by Jerome in his introduction to Jeremiah.

"Jeremiah the prophet. . .is seen to be more rustic in language than Isaiah and Hosea and certain other prophets among the Hebrew, but equal in thought" (quoted from ABD, vol. 3, p. 690).

IV. AUTHORSHIP

A. Jeremiah did not write chapter 52 because vv. 31-34 record events which occurred in Babylon. Jeremiah was taken forcibly to Egypt by renegade Jewish military units after the assassination of Gedeliah, the Jewish governor, appointed by Nebuchandezzar.

B. Possible authors/editors:

1. Jeremiah (Baba Bathra 14b)

2. Baruch, his scribe

3. compilers

4. later editor (possibly Ezra or the men of the Great Synagogue)

C. We know more about Jeremiah than any other prophet.

1. from the priestly (exiled) line of Abiathar, I Kgs. 2:26-27)

2. grew up close to Jerusalem in Anathoth (a Levitical city in the tribal allocation of Benjamin, cf. Josh. 21:17-19)

3. called by God as a young man, 1:2; 25:3 (627 b.c.)

4. influenced by the previous writings, Hosea and Deuteronomy

5. contemporary with

a. Daniel

b. Ezekiel

c. Habakkuk

d. Zephaniah

e. Nahum

6. five years after his call "the Law Book" was found in the Temple during Josiah's reform. It is surprising that their relationship is never mentioned in Scripture. When the Law Book was found the King consulted a prophetess named Huldah (II Kgs. 22:14-20), not Jeremiah.

7. his feelings can be clearly seen in his confessions or complaints

a. 11:18-12:6

b. 15:10-12

c. 17:14-18

d. 18:18-23

e. 20:7-18

8. he was taken by force to Egypt where he was killed by Jewish refugees, 43:6

 

V. DATE

A. Jeremiah was born in Anathoth between 655-640 b.c. (exact date uncertain).

B. The book of Jeremiah is dated in 1:2 and covers the time from the thirteenth year of Josiah (his call) to the time of Gedaliah, 627 b.c. (cf. 1:1; 25:3) - 582 b.c. How long Jeremiah lived in Egypt with the refugees is uncertain.

C. An ostraca found at Lachnish describes its siege in 587 b.c. The form of its Hebrew text is comparable with Jeremiah.

D. Jeremiah's messages focus on the events from the fall of Samaria (722 b.c.) to the fall of Jerusalem (586 b.c.).

 

VI. HISTORICAL SETTING

A. 686 b.c. - Manasseh (686-641 b.c.)

B. 664 b.c. - the Egyptian Empire gains strength under Psammetichus (664-610 b.c.)

C. 648 b.c. - the birth of Josiah

D. 642 b.c. - Amon, king of Judah was killed by his servants (II Kgs. 21:19-26)

E. 640 b.c. - the last effective Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanipal, dies

F. 640 b.c. - Josiah becomes a king at 8 years of age (II Kgs. 22:1)

G. 628 b.c. - Josiah initiates reform (II Chr. 34:3ff; II Kings 23)

H. 626 b.c. - the call of Jeremiah (Jer. 1:2)

I. 626 b.c. - Nabopolassar (626-605 b.c.) becomes king of neo-Babylon

J. 621 b.c. - the Book of the Law was found by workmen who were remodeling the Temple (II Chr. 34:8ff; II Kings 22)

K. 614 b.c. - the regional capital of Assyria, Ashur, fell to neo-Babylon

L. 612 b.c. - Nineveh, Assyria's primary capital was destroyed by neo-Babylon and Media

M. 609 b.c. - Josiah was killed at Meggido opposing Pharaoh Necho II (610-594 b.c.) who was  attempting to help the fleeing remnant of the Assyrian army (II Chr. 35:20-24; II  Kgs. 23:28-30)

N. 605 b.c. - neo-Babylon defeats the Egyptians and remainder of the Assyrian armies at  Carchemish

O. 605 b.c. - Nebuchadbezzar II moves through Palestine demanding tribute payments (taking  Daniel and the first deportation). There were four invasions affecting Judah and  Jerusalem, 605, 597, 586, and 582 b.c.

P. 601 b.c. - Nebuchadnezzar II lost the battle for control of Egypt (a stalemate)

 

VII. LITERARY UNITS

A. The book's structure is topical or thematic, not chronological. It is probably a collection of several different scrolls/messages by Jeremiah, 1-25,30-33, and 46-51.

The UBS' A Handbook of Jeremiah makes the comment,

"In fact, Jeremiah is not really a 'book' in the sense that most readers today would normally describe a book-it has neither an overall orderly arrangement nor clearly defined contextual settings for interpreting many of its individual parts" (p. 1).

B. The LXX and the MT differ greatly. Almost 3000 words of the MT are missing in the LXX. Also, the order of the nations in chapters 46-51 is different, as well as their placement after chapter 25. Both MSS traditions were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, which implies they are both translations of an early Hebrew text.

C. Tentative outline (basically follows R. K Harrison and E. J. Young)

1. chapter 1 - Jeremiah's call and provision

2. chapters 2-25 - Judah's sin from the early years of Jeremiah's ministry

3. chapters 26-29, 34-35 - the personal life of the prophet

a. YHWH's message to Zedekiah and Hananiah's reaction, 26-29

b. the Rechabites, 34-35

c. historical events from the reign of Jehoiakim - Zedekiah and Gedaliah and to Egypt, 36-45

4. chapters 30-33 - the promise of the restoration of God's people

a. physically

b spiritually

5. chapters 46-51 - prophecies against surrounding nations (also 25:12-38)

a. Egypt - 46 (Isaiah 19; Ezekiel 29-32)

b. Philistia - 47 (Amos 1:6-8; Isa. 14:29-32; Ezek. 25;15-17)

c. Moab - 48 (Amos 2:1-3; Isaiah 15-16; Ezek. 25:8-11)

d. Ammon - 49:1-6 (Amos 1:13-15; Ezek. 25:1-7)

e. Edom - 49:7-22 (Amos 1:11-12; Isa. 21:11-12; Ezek. 25:12-14; Obadiah)

f. Syria - 49:23-27 (Amos 1:3-5; Isa. 17:1-3)

g. Arabia - 49:28-33

h. Elam - 49:34-38

i. Babylon - 50-51 (Isa. 13:1-14; Hab. 2:6-17)

6. chapter 52 - the Fall of Jerusalem (cf. II Kgs. 24:18-25:30)

D. The UBS' A Handbook of Jeremiah makes the comment:

1."As is well known, the book of Jeremiah is not put together according to a chronological arrangement, and it is only with difficulty that we can uncover even a topical arrangement of the sayings and deeds recorded in it. However, a recent commentary by Dorsey demonstrates that there are seven fairly well-defined larger units along with an appendix. Each has its own cohesive internal organization. The outline below is based on his analysis:

a. God will punish Judah (1.1-12.17)

b. The Lord reveals his plans for the fall of Judah (13.1-20.18)

c. God will judge and punish Judah and Jerusalem (21.1-29.32)

d. God will bring his people back to their land (30.1-33.26)

e. Jeremiah delivers messages to Zedekiah and the Rechabites (34.1-35.19)

f. Jeremiah suffers because he delivers the Lord's message (36.1-45.5)

g. God will punish the nations (46.1-51.64)

h. An appendix on the fall of Jerusalem (52.1-34)" (p. 1)

2. "The seven divisions of the book are therefore arranged in a symmetrical pattern. The first and seventh have related themes, as do the second and sixth, and the third and fifth. The fourth, the central division, delivers the central message, that of hope. This is quite different from many of the other prophetic books where the central message is a call to repentance. Further, the book makes clear that God did not fail to protect Judah. Rather, it was he who decreed that Judah should be punished because they failed to obey him. The Lord is above the nations and powers; he is able to punish, but he alone can be trusted to restore the people" (p. 2).

E. It is interesting to note that in chapters 1-25 Jeremiah's messages are introduced with the phrase "the word of YHWH came to me," while in chapters 26-51 they are introduced with "the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah."

F. Chart of Jeremiah's prophecies by the reigning king:

 

  E. J. Young    R. K. Harrison
1. under Josiah (640 b.c.)
1:1-19; 2:1-3:5; 3:6-6:30; 7:1-10:25; 11:1-13:27; 14:1-15:21; 16:1-17:27; 18:1-20:18
  1:1-19; 2:1-3:5; 3:6-6:30; 7:1-10:25; 18:1-20:18
2. under Jehoahaz (609 b.c.)    
3. under Jehoiakim (609 b.c.)   11:1-13:14;1 4:1-15:21; 16:1-17:27; 22; 25; 26; 27; 35; 36; 45 23; 25; 26; 35; 36; 45; 46-48
4. under Jehoiachin (598-596 b.c.) 31:15-27    
5. Zedekiah (597 b.c.)   21:1-22:30; 23; 24; 27; 28; 29; 30-31;  21:1-22:30; 24:1-10; 27; 28; 29; 30-31; 32; 34; 37; 38; 39  32; 33; 34; 37; 38; 39; 49; 50:1-51:64
6. under Gedaliah   40; 41; 42; 43-44:30; 50-52 40:1-42; 43:1-44:30
7.     Historical Appendix
52:1-34

VIII. MAIN THEME

A. The time of judgment is imminent because Judah would not repent! Jeremiah emphasizes sin, judgment, then restoration; 1:4-10.

B. Liturgical or ritual religion without personal lifestyle faith in God is a disaster! (chapter 7; Isa. 29:13).

C. Judah had hopelessly lost her way in ritual, idolatry, and sin! She had broken God's covenant, symbolized as a marriage contract (cf. 2:1-3:5).

D. Personal repentance and faith are the basis of God's new covenant (31:31-34), not family faith (31:29; Ezekiel 18).

E. The New Covenant is permanent (31:35-37) because it is not conditioned on human performance but on God's grace and power (Ezek. 36:22-38).

 

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Bible Study Methods