THE PROPHECY OF JEREMIAH
Jeremiah is the second of the Old Testament major prophets. He prophesied during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah, Kings of Judah, some sixty years after the death of Isaiah.The pious king, Josiah, cooperated with Jeremiah in putting down idolatry and in promoting a general reformation throughout the land. After Josiah’s death, idolatry was revived and from then on to the Babylonian captivity the prophet’s life was full of afflictions and persecutions. Jeremiah plainly foretold the seventy years of Babylonian captivity, Ch. 25:8-11, and also of the later fall of Babylon, vs. 12-14.
At the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Palestine, Jeremiah was in prison because of his fearless ministry. He was released by that monarch and given liberty to either go to Babylon in peace, or remain in the land. He chose to remain and was later taken into Egypt with the fleeing Jewish remnant, where we are told he died before the seventy years captivity ended.
The book of Jeremiah like other such writings is difficult to arrange chronologically. It may be divided, however, into four general sections containing severally the prophecies uttered in the reign of Josiah, Jehoiakim, Zedekaih, and also of Gedeliah who was appointed governor by Nebuchadnezzar.
The last chapter appears to have been added, possibly by Ezra the scribe. It is taken almost word for word from 2 Kings 24:18-20 and 2 Kings 25.New Testament recognitions of Jeremiah are given in Matthew 2:17-18; 16:14; and Hebrews 8:8-13, thus assuring us of the fact that he is an authentic historical character.
For teaching purposes we shall arrange the book in six main divisions:
1. Chs. 1 to 29. From the call of Jeremiah to his message to the first captives.
2. Chs. 30 to 36. Sundry prophecies and events.
3. Chs. 37 to 39. From the accession to the captivity of Zedekiah.
4. Chs. 40 to 42. Jeremiah’s post-captivity prophecies.
5. Chs. 43 to 44. The prophet in Egypt.
6. Chs. 45 to 52. Miscellaneous prophecies.
FROM THE CALL OF JEREMIAH TO HIS MESSAGE TO THE FIRST CAPTIVES.
Like so many others, the prophet Jeremiah, who was probably called when rather young, (Ch. 1:6) made excuses, and had to be encouraged by God who promised to be with him to deliver him. Then through a vision of an almond rod and a seething pot he was told that the Lord would hasten to perform His Word which was one of judgment for His people, by sending the northern army against them, vs. 11-16. Then follows two searching messages in Chs. 2 to 6, in which Jeremiah points out how God blessed His people Judah in the past, but that they had forsaken Him and turned to the impotent gods of the heathen. Also, that they had seen what God had done to Israel but that it had not had the effect of humbling them, and because of this they were warned that a like danger of captivity was hanging over them too. Touching appeals were made to them to return to the Lord, and a promise of their full restoration in the last days was mentioned by the prophet.
In Chs. 7 to 10 we read of a message, which Jeremiah preached in the gate of the temple. It was addressed more particularly to the religious people, those who still maintained the worship of Jehovah, Chs. 7:2, 9-10; 8:10-11. With all of their ritualistic observance the people were wicked and idolatrous at heart. So distressed was the prophet because of this that as he foresaw their coming calamities and he felt like weeping day and night for them, Ch.9:11.
Throughout the four chapters much is said about idolatry, and how great is the King of nations who is their God, Ch. 10:1-7. The people were reminded of the covenant which existed between them and God, and how they had broken it, Chs. 11-12, in spite of the warning given them by Moses in Deuteronomy 28:63-67, which was partially fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity.By the figure of the linen girdle, which was taken from the body of Jeremiah and hidden in the hole of a rock at the river Euphrates, and afterwards recovered, but in a marred condition, God taught that He would so treat the people of Judah, Ch. 13:1-11. He had kept them close to Him, but in their defilement God would cast them off and the whole of Judah would be carried into captivity, vs. 17-19. A period of drought is mentioned in Chs. 14 & 15.
Again we are reminded of the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 28:23-24, which is part of the Palestinian Covenant, and yet with such a judgement visited on the land the people failed to repent, but went right on in their sin. For this God would not be moved to mercy but pronounced His utmost displeasure against them. Jeremiah was commanded not to marry that by so refraining he might have a message for the people concerning the terrors, which would come upon the land, and bring distress to the married women and their children, Ch.16-17.
After this the prophet was told to go down to the potter’s house and there observe how a vessel was marred in the hands of the potter, but that he made it again another vessel, Ch. 18 & 19. God asks His people to let Him so work in them that they may be made into a vessel pleasing to Him. Because of their refusal, Jeremiah by breaking an earthen bottle made it clear that God would likewise break them, Ch. 19:1-13. On account of his fearlessness in prophesying about the overthrow of Jerusalem, and the coming captivity, Jeremiah was put in the stocks by Pashur , the son of Immer the priest. Instead of causing the prophet to cease, he spoke the more vehemently on the matter, and told Pashur that he would witness the calamity and both he and his family would be taken to Babylon, Ch. 19:14 to 20:6.
Then Jeremiah expressed his own feelings at the impelling power of the Word of God. Naturally he would feel like saying no more to the people because of the persecution it brought him, but it was like a burning fire shut up in his bones, and he could not cease from giving it forth, v.9. King Zedekiah sent messengers to Jeremiah to inquire concerning the invasion of Judah by the Babylonian army. He wished to know if God would be pleased to undertake for them in the matter, Ch. 12:1-2.
God’s answer was that He would not help them but would rather
hinder them if they opposed the invaders, vs.3-5. The king was advised to
surrender to Nebuchadnezzar and their lives would be spared. The prophet then
spoke about the other kings of Judah of his day and showed how God was greatly
displeased because of their sins, Ch.21.
In Chs. 22-23, Jeremiah spoke of the future restoration and conversion of Israel, and showed how God felt about the faithless shepherds of the land. A vision of two baskets of figs was given to the prophet, one filled with good fruits and the other with evil.
This was a sign to the people that even in captivity God would preserve the righteous ones among the Jews, but that those who failed to go into captivity and were not sincerely serving the Lord, would be rejected and suffer loss, even as a basket of bad figs would likewise be treated.
Following this Jeremiah told plainly of the coming seventy years captivity, Ch.25:11, and that at the same time the surrounding nations would all likewise suffer. The prophet then gave a message in the temple court where he could reach the masses, and as a result was accosted by the priests. They sent for the princes who threatened to slay Jeremiah. He again warned them of the evil of their ways, and certain men interceded for him so that his life was spared, Ch. 26.
The prophet made yokes and sent them to the kings of the neighboring peoples, advising them to submit to Nebuchadnezzar and be spared. Zedekiah was also advised to do the same, Ch. 29. At that time the prophet Hananiah gave forth a message that in two years God would break the yoke of the king of Babylon, and restore those who had already gone into captivity.
For this false message, Jeremiah pronounced a judgment on Hananiah and he died that same year, Ch. 28.
In Ch. 29, Jeremiah turns his attention to the Jews who were deported to Babylon in the first captivity. The final deportation took place eleven years later. In vs.1-11, the prophet by the word of the Lord advises the people to build houses, plant gardens, take wives for themselves and their sons, and pray for the land in which they dwelt that they might enjoy peace.
Also, that they should ignore the word of the false prophets
who tried to insist that the captivity would soon end. Seventy years would turn
to the full, and then God would lead the people back to their homeland. The
balance of the chapter is in the same strain and a judgment was passed upon the
two prophets, who were seeking to persuade the captives to believe other than
what Jeremiah had said.
SUNDRY PROPHECIES AND EVENTS.
In Chs. 30 to 36 Jeremiah deals with the near and distant future of Israel looking especially to the last days, the day of the Lord, and the Millennial reign of Christ. These subjects are not treated consecutively and are also not the only theme dealt with by the prophet. Certain events in his personal history are mentioned, including his second imprisonment. In Ch.36, we are told of a writing by Baruch to whom Jeremiah had dictated it, which when read in the hearing of Jehoiakim, the king, was destroyed, and later rewritten by Baruch at the request of Jeremiah.
FROM THE ACCESSION TO THE CAPTIVITY OF ZEDEKIAH.
In Chs. 37 to 39, we are told of another prison experience, which came to Jeremiah. The Chaldeans besieged Jerusalem, but fell back upon the approach of an army from Egypt. When Jeremiah thought to retire from the scene he was blamed for seeking to fall away to the Chaldeans and was put into prison. Zedekaih, the king gave him a temporary release and asked him what word God had given him. The prophet repeated the message of the coming captivity. The princes were wroth because of this, and claimed that such would weaken the resistance of the people. They desired that Jeremiah be slain, but he was delivered out of their hands. True to the prophecy, Jeremiah was taken by the Chaldeans in the eleventh year of Zedekiah. He was captured and his eyes were put out by Nebuchadnezzar, Ch. 39:7, and the final captivity of Judah took place.
With this event the “times of the Gentiles” began.
JEREMIAH’S POST-CAPTIVITY PROPHECIES.
When Nebuchadnezzar led the Jews into captivity he left a remnant in the land. Jeremiah had the privilege of going to Babylon or of staying in his own land, he chose to stay. He gave the word of God to the remnant and sought to encourage them to turn to God, and He would bless them and care for them. The leaders of the people were inclined to be rebellious and wanted to move down into Egypt. Jeremiah spoke against this but to no avail, Chs. 40-42.
THE PROPHET IN EGYPT.
When Jeremiah saw the people were determined to go into Egypt, he planned to go with them. He had such a burden for their welfare that he was willing to stay by them at any cost. There was no peace for the Jews in their new location. God through His prophet told them that he would bring about the overthrow of Pharaoh and then the people would be worse off than ever, Chs. 43-44.
Jeremiah was given a personal message to Baruch who had served him so faithfully through the years. God promised him that his life would be spared in all places wither he would go, Ch. 45. In the next six chapters Jeremiah gave forth a number of prophecies against Gentile nations including Egypt, Philistia, Tyre, Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Elam, and closed with a lengthy word against Babylon. The book then draws to a finish with a retrospect of the overthrow and captivity of Judah, and ends with a brief account of the last years of Jehoiakim, king of Judah. He had been in captivity for thirty-seven years, and the Evil-merdoach, king of Babylon, treated him kindly, and made special provision for him from his own
table until the day of his death, Ch. 52:31-34.