The greater part of human actions have their origin
not in logical reasoning but in sentiment.
Jeremiah follows Isaiah both chronologically and in the Bible. This is the second longest book in the Bible, after Psalms. The book is hard to follow because it lacks a chronological order.
We are most interested in his life and times and how his prophecies come into play. Jeremiah was an angry man. To many of his peers he was insufferable at every turn; he hammered his peers with words like: evil, sword, death, destruction, pestilence, famine and suffering. Because he believed that Judah deserved to be punished, his calls for support of the king of Babylon had others seeing him as a traitor. Jeremiah was flat wrong in explaining Judah's demise in terms of Yahweh. There are much better realistic explanations.
Jeremiah's started his ministry on the thirteenth year of King Josiah of Judah, about 626 BCE. He spans over forty years through Josiah, Shallum, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Jeconiah, Coniah and the last king Zedekiah, to shortly after the final fall of Jerusalem in 586 BCE when he went to Egypt to live out his remaining years.
12 3 (Jer. 1:1-3)
As Isaiah's ministry coincided with the rise of the Assyrians and the fall of Israel, Jeremiah's coincided with the fall of the Assyrians and the rise of the Chaldean Empire to the north. The words Chaldean and Babylonian are used interchangeably.
He claimed to have been appointed when he was in his mother's womb. He was young when he started his ministry. His claim to not know how to speak turned out to be an understatement.
56 (Jer. 1:5-6)
No need to worry. Yahweh will put words in his mouth.
10 (Jer. 1:9-10)
At first he found joy when Yahweh spoke to him; but later he found his isolation no cause to rejoice.
17 (Jer. 15:16-17)
He believed he talked for Yahweh, as his mouth.
He claimed to speak for Yahweh when he warned the princes about amending their ways.
1213 (Jer. 26:12-13)
Yet he cursed his birth.
15 (Jer. 20:14-15)
Jeremiah vented his anger and frustration in the harshest possible terms, so much so that "jeremiad" became a name for a long lamentation of complaint. He had a compulsion to pound his subject with disastrous outcomes expressed in violent language, so much so that he was unpleasant to be around.
1. He knew he was making enemies who were willing to shut him up by force.
2. His reaction was to pray that Yahweh would take vengeance on his persecutors.
3. He writhes in pain for the walls of his heart beat wildly.
4. He is full of wrath of the lord and weary of holding it in.
5. Yahweh will feed the people to the birds and beasts.
6. He wept day and night for the slain of the daughter of his people.
7. Yahweh will feed those who have forsaken his law with wormwood and give them poisonous water to drink.
1314 15 (Jer. 9:13-15)
8. When Jeremiah followed Yahweh's instructions to wash a girdle and hide it under a rock, it was spoiled when he went to retrieve it.
12 3 4 5 6 7 (Jer. 13:1-7)
The point of verses 1 to 7 was to demonstrate that following other gods was good for nothing.
9. Whenever he speaks for Yahweh, he shouts "violence and destruction." It brings him reproach and derision all day long.
10. He wailed often.
11. He had no wife or children.
12 (Jer. 16:1-2)
12. His family didn't like him.
13. He was disliked in his home town of Anathoth. They warned him not to prophecy or they would kill him. Not to be deterred, he told them they will die by the sword and their sons and daughters shall died by famine.
2122 23 (Jer. 11:21-23)
Josiah -626-609 bce
Josiah was a reform king who had followed the idolatrous reigns of Manasseh and his father Amon. (2 Kings 21:10-16 blames Manasseh for the fall of Jerusalem.) 2 Chronicles 34 tells us how in the eighth year of his reign, Josiah began purging Judah of anything idolatrous, including the priests.
Playing off of Israel's fall to the Assyrians, Jeremiah warned Jerusalem of what happened to Israel because of their apostasy.
3 8 (Jer. 2:3, 8)
Faithless Israel is less guilty then false Judah. Return faithless Israel, a merciful Yahweh will not be angry.
1112 (Jer. 3:11-12)
Return faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.
His best days ended with the death of the pious Josiah.
25(2 Chron. 35:25)
Shallum (Jehoahaz II)
The reign of Josiah's son Jehoahaz lasted three months before he was carried off to Egypt.
12 3 4 (2 Chron. 36:1-4)
Jeremiah knew Shallum was taken captive to die.
11 12 (Jer. 22:10-12)
Jehoiakim - 609-598 BCE
Egypt's power started to increase after it broke off from the declining Assyrian 664 BCE. Pharoah Neco replaced Jehoahaz with Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim would have owed his throne to Neco and probably brought with him some of Egypt's religious practices.
34(2 Kings 23:34)
He exacted the silver and gold from the people of Judah and gave it to Pharaoh.
35(2 Kings 23:35)
He had a love for luxury, made the people build royal buildings without paying them.
15 (Jer. 22:13-15)
He was dishonest and oppressive.
17 (Jer. 22:16-17)
The Temple Controversy
Jeremiah stood in front of the temple and condemned the priests. This screed continues through chapter nine and includes 10:17-25 where he calls them stupid and jackals.
12 3 4 (Jer. 7:1-4)
When the priests, the prophets and all the people heard this, they wanted to see him dead.
78 9 (Jer. 26:7-9)
Fortunately some influential elders saved him from that fate. Instead the chief priest had him jailed. When Jeremiah was released, all he could do was condemn the priest, telling him he will be taken into captivity where he will die.
12 3 4 5 6 (Jer. 20:1-6)
Jeremiah dictates his prophecies
Jeremiah told his scribe Baruch to write down what he dictated. He wanted to warn the people of Judah what Yahweh intended to do to them if they didn't turn from their evil ways.
12 3 4 (Jer. 36:1-4)
He was barred from the temple, so he told Baruch to go there and read his dictation.
56 (Jer. 36:5-6)
When the scrolls fell into the hands of Jehoiakim, he burned them and ordered for Baruch and Jeremiah to be seized; but they got away.
2223 24 25 26 (Jer. 36:22-26)
Jeremiah told Jehoiakim that none of his bloodline would replace him on the throne.
Contrary to Jeremiah's prophecy, Jehoiakim was succeeded by his son, Jehoiachin.
6(2 Kings 24:6)
Rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar brought Jehoiakim to the end of his reign.
12 (2 Kings 24:1-2)
Uriah the prophet
In another incident, Uriah prophesied like Jeremiah. Jehoiakim wanted him killed. Uriah fled to Egypt, but Jehoiakim had him brought back and executed.
2021 22 23 (Jer. 26:20-23)
By this time, Babylon rose to power over Egypt. When Jehoiakim rebelled against the Chaldeans, Nebuchadnezzar sent bands to destroy Judah. Jehoiakim is not heard from again.
12 (2 Kings 24:1-2)
King Coniah (Jehoiachin)
Jehoiakim's son, Coniah reigned three months before Nebuchadrezzar besieged the city and carried him, his family and his servants off to Babylon, not to mention the temple treasures (2 Kings 24:7-16).
According to Jeremiah, Yahweh was responsible for the catastrophe.
2425 (Jer. 22:24-25)
Jeremiah was correct in prophesizing that Coniah would have no descendants on the throne of David. Considering the circumstances, it didn't take divine insight.
30 (Jer. 22:28-30)
Additionally, there is a question about whether Jehoiachin was eighteen years old or eight years old.
89 (2 Kings 24:8-9)
910 (2 Chron. 36:8)
Either way, he was allowed out of prison and well treated, even allowed to eat with the king of Babylon for as long as he lived.
2728 29 30 (2 Kings 25:27-30)
As to the remnant who remained in Judah, Jeremiah compared them to bad figs, too bad to be eaten, worthy of sword, famine and pestilence until they are destroyed.
89 10 (Jer. 24:8-10)
Zedekiah - 597-586 BCE
After removing Coniah, Nebuchadrezzar (or Nebuchadnezzar) king of Babylon installed Zedekiah, a son of Josiah.
17(2 Kings. 24:17)
As told in 2 Kings 24:17-25:30, Zedekiah's reign lasted eleven years until he rebelled against his Babylonian sponsor. Nebuchadrezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, cutting off their food supplies. After four months, when the city ran out of food, the Babylonians broke down the city walls and chased the king out of the city. Zedekiah was caught and sentenced to death, but not before he saw his sons hacked down and had his eyes taken out. Every building was burnt down, including the temple. All but the poorest were taken away to Babylon while priests and high officials were killed by the king personally.
Jeremiah believed Yahweh was giving Judah to Nebuchadrezzar and predicted Zedekiah would die in peace.
1 And as spices were burned for your fathers, the former kings who were before you, so men shall burn spices for you and lament for you, saying, "Alas, lord!"' For I have spoken the word, says the LORD." (Jer. 34:1-5)2 3 4 5
Jeremiah missed that call. Zedekiah died a rather unmerciful death. His sons were slain in front of him before he had his eyes taken out, and then he was kept in prison to the day he died.
1011 (Jer. 52:10-11)
Because Jeremiah believed that the people of Judah deserved divine punishment, he was consistent in believing Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon was sent by Yahweh. He even told Zedekiah at the beginning of his eleven year reign to tell other kings to submit to Nebuchadnezzar.
12 3 4 5 6 7 (Jer. 27:1-7)
This also put Jeremiah at odds with other prophets who advised Zedekiah to resist the king of Babylon.
89 10 11 (Jer. 27:8-11)
Jailed by chief priest
A place near Jerusalem called Topheth, was known for child sacrifice to the god Baal. Jeremiah went there to threaten them with impending doom.
45 6 (Jer. 19:4-7)
When Pushhur the chief priest of the Jerusalem heard this, he had Jeremiah jailed for a day. When released, Jeremiah hurled a barrage of bad predictions about him being carried off to Babylon and slain.
12 3 4 5 6 (Jer. 20:1-6)
Chapter 28 tells of a rivalry between Jeremiah and the prophet Hananiah. Jeremiah had prophesized that the king of Babylon would finish the destruction of Jerusalem, while the prophet Hananiah declared a loss for Babylon. It ends with Jeremiah declaring Hananiah a false prophet and a liar, telling him Yahweh will kill him for rebelling. He died the same year.
17 (Jer. 28:15-17)
In Chapter 29, Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles urging them not to be deceived by the prophets because the exile would be long. By cooperating with the Babylonians, Yahweh would eventually return to them.
10 11 12 (Jer. 29:7-12)
Jeremiah's Exile in Egypt
Given Jeremiah's urgings of cooperation with the Babylonians, the king ordered that he should not be harmed and be treated with consideration.
1112 (Jer. 39:11-12)
Jeremiah was allowed to move to the Babylonian province of Mizpeh under the rule of the newly appointed governor Gedaliah (40:1-6). It wasn't long when Gedialiah and the Jews with him were assassinated.
23 (Jer. 41:2-3)
This disaster had the remaining Jews living in Judah fearing the Chaldeans would take revenge on them, so they decided it would be safer to go to Egypt.
1617 18 (Jer. 41:16-18)
The turned to Jeremiah asking that he pray to Yahweh for counsel. Curiously, they describe Yahweh as his God, not their God.
12 3 (Jer. 42:1-3)
Jeremiah wanted them to remain in the land and trust that the Babylonians wouldn't harm them.
1011 12 (Jer. 42:10-12)
To those who wanted to go to Egypt, Jeremiah warned of certain destruction if they went.
1314 15 16 17 (Jer. 42:13-17)
The officers were convinced Jeremiah was a traitor, that he was leading them into a trap
12 3 (Jer. 43:1-3)
So they ignored Jeremiah's prophecy and forced him to come to Egypt with them.
45 6 7 (Jer. 43:4-7)
Undoubtedly Jeremiah was angry and frustrated. So he prophesized the direst consequence would fall upon the Egyptians.
1011 12 13 (Jer. 43:10-13)
Chapter 44 is filled with threats of vengeance towards his compatriots. This is a sample.
2728 29 (Jer. 44:27-29)
Jeremiah lived his remaining years in Egypt. We are not told when or how his life ended or whether he and his compatriots died by sword, famine or pestilence. He would have been 70 to 80 years old by that time, so he probably didn't live much longer. History does not record any such disasters coming to Egypt. Egyptian obelisks can be found standing Egypt though I know of one transported to the Vatican and one in New York City.
Jeremiah was certainly correct about the Chaldeans seizing Judah, destroying Jerusalem and exiling its prominent residents. Given that the Chaldeans' reputation preceded them, it didn't take divine revelation to anticipate what would happen to the defenseless Hebrews. On that note, he was realistic.
He was flat wrong in crediting Yahweh for appointing Nebuchadnezzar as an agent of destruction. The early history of the region is pocked by imperialist wars among rival kingdoms, from the Egyptians and the Sumerians to the Greeks and the Romans. These nations were just as conceited about the power of their gods. If there was a correlation, Yahweh was the weakest of the bunch. In just this short biography, he made enough errors to prove that by framing his opinions as though speaking for Yahweh didn't improve his foresight.
Arguably geography plays the most significant role in the history of Israel and Judah. The land is at the crossroads of every major power to dominate the region. Armies are expensive. The land has relatively little natural resources for trade; the Hebrews had no industry and commerce to speak of and the land was as rocky as it gets. The Dead Sea was useless and it doesn't rain for the five warmest months. There is a certain irony in that the land of Milk and Honey promised to Abraham and Moses amounts to the some of the poorest land in the region.
From what we see here, Jeremiah's prophetic record was no better then that of a modern economist. Perhaps that explains why so many didn't take him seriously. Jeremiah lives up to his reputation as a scold. He brings to mind a second reason why the Hebrews were too poor to afford military power. Their oppressive monotheistic theocracy constrained them from mingling with neighbors, thereby preventing them from accumulating surplus wealth from trade.
The passage below captures the essence of Jeremiah's conception of God. If there was such a God, he would have to be incredibly vain, vindictive, sadistic and stupid. Manasseh reigned from 696-642 BCE, before Jeremiah became prophet. Yahweh is said to hold a grudge for seventy years against people who had nothing to do with Manasseh. To vindicate himself, he empowered an alien kingdom that didn't recognize him. This is a god so powerful that he can bring the heathen Chaldeans to riches and power, yet he couldn't do that for his own people. He kept his people poor and oppressed, yet couldn't figure out why they turned to other gods. In the end, he blamed his failures on his people and took his frustration out on them.
3 4 (Jer. 15:1-4)
The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible