Biblical People

Jeremiah, KJV of NT Jeremy and Jeremias. [Heb. Yirmeyah and YirmeyahuÆ, “Yahweh is exalted,” or possibly “Yahweh strikes.” The name occurs on an ancient Hebrew jar handle, on ancient Hebrew seals, and in the Lachish Letters. Gr. Ieremias.]

1.   The head of a family in the tribe of Manasseh (1 Chr 5:24).

2, 3, and 4.   The name of 3 men who joined David's band at Ziklag (1 Chr 12:4, 10, 13).

5.   A native of Libnah whose daughter Hamutal became the wife of Josiah and mother of Jehoahaz (2 Ki 23:30, 31).

6.   A son of Habaziniah and father of Jaazaniah, of the Rechabites (Jer 35:3).

7.   A prophet who encourage the work of reform under King Josiah. He counseled the Jews in Jerusalem prior to and during the Babylonian captivity and wrote the book that bears his name. Jeremiah is perhaps the most colorful of all the OT prophets. Interspersed with his prophetic messages are frequent glimpses into his own soul that give a vivid picture of the feelings and experience of a prophet who was called to bear unpopular messages in a time of national crisis. Jeremiah's prophetic ministry continued for more than 40 years, beginning about 626 b.c. (Jer 1:2) and extending beyond the Captivity in 586 b.c. (ch 39:1, 2)—perhaps the most critical period of Israelite history in all OT times.

The history of the southern kingdom of Judah since the captivity of the 10 tribes a century earlier was one of deepening national apostasy. By Jeremiah's time it had become apparent that drastic measures must be taken if God's purpose for Israel was ever to be fulfilled. Canaan was theirs only by virtue of their covenant relationship with God, and by their persistent violation of the covenant provisions they forfeited their right to the land. Captivity was inevitable, not as retributive punishment but as remedial discipline, and it fell to Jeremiah to explain the reasons for the Captivity and to encourage cooperation with God's plan in that experience. Again and again, through Jeremiah, God appealed to His people to submit to the king of Babylon and to be willing to learn the lesson this bitter experience was ordained to teach. The 1st captivity came in 605 b.c., but their refusal to cooperate led to a 2d in 597 b.c., and a 3d in 586 b.c. that was accompanied by the utter desolation of the city and the Temple. Ezekiel was called to a similar role for the exiles in Babylonia, and about the same time God appointed Daniel to the court of Nebuchadnezzar for the purpose of mitigating the natural harshness and severity of the Babylonians toward the Jews. The messages of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel were designed to make clear the nature and purpose of the Captivity and to hasten the return of the exiles to their homeland.

Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, a priest of *Anathoth (Jer 1:1). He was called to the prophetic office while still a young man (vs 6, 7), At first he was reluctant to accept the call, but God assured him that although he would encounter violent opposition he could also expect divine help in the accomplishment of his mission (vs 8, 17-19). By nature Jeremiah was gentle and tenderhearted, and the conflict between his personal feelings and the stern messages of rebuke and warning he was commissioned to bear caused him great personal distress. As he foresaw the sad fate that awaited his beloved people he exclaimed, “I am pained at my very heart” (ch 4:19). Captivity was inevitable (v 28), but God comforted Jeremiah with the promise that it would not mark the “full end” of the nation as God's chosen people (Jer 4:27; 5:10). To impress upon him their hopeless moral and spiritual degeneracy, God sent him on an expedition through the streets of Jerusalem in quest of a man who sincerely sought to know and do God's will (ch 5:1). Unsuccessful, Jeremiah turned hopefully to the leaders, but found not even one to lead the nation in ways of righteousness (vs 3-5). Now realizing more fully the backslidden condition of his people, Jeremiah was instructed to “stand in the gate of the Lord's house” and warn them of the fate that awaited them unless they should repent. This sermon, commonly called “the Temple discourse,” is recorded in chs 7-10. The gravity of the message is evident from God's warning to Jeremiah, “Pray not thou for this people …: for I will not hear thee” (ch 7:16). Mourning over its solemn import, he exclaimed, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for … my people” (ch 9:1, 2). “Woe is me for my hurt my wound is grievous,” he protested to the Lord, but reconciled himself with the thought, “Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it” (ch 10:19). Acknowledging divine justice in the judgments foretold, the prophet nevertheless appealed for mercy (vs 23-25). The Lord next sent Jeremiah out into the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem with the message, “Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them,” but despite his earnestness the people paid no attention (ch 11:6-8). In fact, his own relatives, the priests of Anathoth, plotted to silence him by taking his life. When the Lord told Jeremiah of the plot the prophet appealed to the Lord for justice and vengeance, for had he done more than speak the words God gave him? See vs 9-23. Seeing in the conspiracy to take his life a reflection of the nature of Judah's conspiracy against the Lord, the prophet inquired of the Lord, “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?” (ch 12:1). The Lord replied by asking Jeremiah what he would do in the future when the whole nation turned against him if this first taste of opposition wearied him (v 5; cf. ch 1:19). As the affections of Jeremiah's own blood relatives were alienated from him to the point that they were ready to take his life, so the affections of Israel were alienated from God (ch 12:6-11). A 2d time he exclaimed, “My soul shall weep …; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock is carried away captive” (Jer 13:17). A 3d time (cf. chs 7:16; 11:14) God said to Jeremiah, “Pray not for this people for their good” (ch 14:11), and the prophet lamented, “Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease” (v 17). Jeremiah concluded that perhaps God had “utterly rejected Judah” (v 19), and like Moses of old (see Ex 32:31, 32) confessed the sin of his people and pleaded with God not to break His covenant with them (Jer 14:20-22). But God replied that it would be useless even for Moses to pray for them—captivity was inevitable (ch 15:1). He would “destroy” His people, “since they return not from their ways” (v 7). Lamenting the abuse he had suffered, Jeremiah complained again to the Lord, “Revenge me of my persecutors; … for thy sake I have suffered rebuke. … Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable?” (vs 15-18). Once more God assured the prophet of divine protection and deliverance (vs 20, 21). Jeremiah was not to take a wife (ch 16:2) or to rear a family because, in view of the Captivity, they would “die of grievous deaths” (vs 3, 4). The prophet was next commissioned to bear a solemn message of warning at the gate of Jerusalem, based on a symbolic visit to the potter's house. As he did so, the plot against his life deepened, and he pleaded once more (cf. ch 17:18) with the Lord because of his enemies (ch 18:18-23). About this time Pashhur, governor of the Temple, put Jeremiah in the stocks at the gate of Benjamin, hard by the Temple, and left him there overnight (ch 20:1-3). The prophet complained to the Lord, “I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me,” and decided to resign his prophetic commission (vs 7-9). But the Lord would not release him (v 9). In consequence the prophet cursed the day of his birth and lamented the role God had assigned him (vs 14-18).

Shouldering the prophetic yoke once more, Jeremiah did so reflecting greater maturity. No longer did he weep or complain about his lot but bore a forthright and fearless message, without hesitancy or regret. Sent first to “the court of the Lord's house,” he announced the 70 years' captivity and the utter desolation of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple (Jer 26:2). Immediately following this discourse the priests and prophets arrested Jeremiah and threatened to kill him (v 8), and would doubtless have done so had not the princes of Judah come to his rescue (vs 10-16). Jeremiah's maturity of spirit at this time is evident from his calm response to those who proposed to take his life: “As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good … unto you” (v 14). Forbidden henceforth to teach in the Temple courts, Jeremiah had his assistant, Baruch, write his messages on a scroll and read them in the Temple on a certain fast day (ch 36:1-6). Word of what was going on came to the princes, who requisitioned the scroll and took it to King Jehoiakim, who in turn burned it in the fire (vs 11-26). Thereupon the prophet had the scroll rewritten with additional material warning that the throne of Judah would become extinct and that Jehoiakim would die a violent death (vs 27-32). Jeremiah later appeared before King Jehoiachin with a stern message warning of captivity by Nebuchadnezzar and death in the land of exile (ch 22:24-30).

Early in the reign of Zedekiah, Jeremiah counseled the king to “serve the king of Babylon, and live” lest “this city be laid waste” (Jer 27:12, 17). This policy was opposed by a group of false prophets, but the death of their leader, Hananiah, within the period of time predicted by Jeremiah attested the mission and message of Jeremiah (ch 28:9, 16, 17). About this time Jeremiah also wrote to the exiles in Babylon to settle down for a long captivity (ch 29). The Jewish leaders in Babylon wrote back to Jerusalem demanding that Jeremiah be imprisoned as a false prophet (vs 24-27). Soon after this, Nebuchadnezzar again invaded Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem. Jeremiah was “shut up in the court of the prison” (ch 32:1-3), but apparently was released when the siege was lifted briefly while Nebuchadnezzar left temporarily to battle with an Egyptian army that had come to assist Zedekiah (ch 37:11). The prophet set out for his home in Benjamin to inspect a piece of property he had recently bought, but was apprehended as he left Jerusalem and was charged with defecting to the Chaldeans and was again imprisoned (vs 11-15). At this time Zedekiah secretly inquired of him what course to take (vs 16-21), and the prophet advised surrender to the Chaldeans. But the princes and army commanders demanded his death (ch 38:1-4), and Jeremiah was remanded to an empty cistern, the floor of which was covered with soft mud into which he sank (vs 5, 6). His life was spared when an Ethiopian eunuch by the name of Ebed-melech appealed to Zedekiah and received permission to draw him up out of the dungeon and place him in the courtyard of the prison (Jer 38:7-13). Here the prophet stayed until Jerusalem fell (v 28).

Upon the surrender of the city, Jeremiah enjoyed the personal protection of King Nebuchadnezzar, apparently because the prophet's policy of urging the Jews to surrender and to cooperate with the Chaldeans had become known (Jer 39;Jer 40). Permitted to choose whether he would go to Babylon or remain in Judah, Jeremiah attached himself to Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar had appointed governor of Judah (ch 40:4-16). When a group of fanatics assassinated Gedaliah, the people who remained, fearing the Chaldeans, fled to Egypt, forcing Jeremiah to accompany them (chs 41:17 to 43:13). In Egypt, Jeremiah continued his efforts to turn the people's hearts back to God, but without success (ch 44). How long his ministry in Egypt continued is not known. According to tradition, Jeremiah was stoned to death by his own countrymen at Daphnae.

Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.

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