08/07/2018 — Jeremiah Chapters 1-3
Unlike many of the “minor prophets” there is a great deal know about Jeremiah. I have always felt that knowing the background of an author helps better understand his writings. Since the details of Jeremiah are scattered throughout his prophecy I thought it would be good to start our reading with his biography, as summarized in Coffman’s commentary:
Out of Jeremiah’s records we see that he was born during the reign of impious king Manasseh (696 – 642 BC). He originated from the priestly family of Aaron. His hometown was Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, which was not far from Jerusalem (Jeremiah 1:1). In his very early years he was called by Jehovah to be a prophet (Jeremiah 1:4-10). This happened in king Josiah’s 13th year, which was in 627 BC (he reigned from 640 – 609 BC). Jeremiah’s service lasted over 40 years till after Jerusalem’s destruction through Nebuchadrezzar in the year 586 BC (Jeremiah 39). According to Jehovah’s command Jeremiah remained unmarried (Jeremiah 16:2).
To start with, Jeremiah lived in Anathoth. But soon enough the hatred of its inhabitants arose against him (chap. 11:18-23). The prophecies of chapter 1:2ff and 3:6ff were uttered during king Josiah’s time (640 – 609 BC). After Josiah’s death Jeremiah lamented for him (2 Chronicles 35:25; compare Jeremiah 22:10). He prophesied against Shallum (or Jehoahaz) the son of Josiah king of Judah in chap. 22:11.
During the following reign of Jehoiakim (609 – 598 BC) Jeremiah prophesied Jerusalem’s doom. This is why the priests wanted to kill him (Jeremiah 26). In Jehoiakim’s fourth year Jeremiah prophesied amidst other things the 70 years captivity of Judah in Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 36:1; Jeremiah 45:1). During this time the Babylonians under Nebuchadrezzar defeated the Egyptian Empire in the battle of Carchemish (606 BC). Following this Jerusalem was besieged and a part of the inhabitants were brought to Babylon (which was the first deportation to Babylon in 605 BC). Jeremiah now got the task of God to write down all his hitherto existing prophecies into a book. He did this with the help of his secretary Baruch (Jeremiah 36:1-4). When Baruch had read out these words in the temple king Jehoiakim in fury cut the roll and burnt it (Jeremiah 36:20-26). Then God had Jeremiah rewrite it all again and Jeremiah added “besides unto them many like words” (chap. 36:27-32).
The next king, Jehoiachin or Jeconiah, only reigned for three months and was brought to Babylon in 597 BC (the second deportation). His successor was Zedekiah, the third son of Josiah (597 – 586 BC). Jeremiah gave Zedekiah the advice not to rely on Egypt while opposing to Babylon (Jeremiah 37:6 ff) but to subject to the king of Babylon (chap. 27:12-22). When Jeremiah intended to go to the land of Benjamin he was captured and cast into the dungeon (Jeremiah 37:11-21; Jeremiah 38:1-6). When finally the Babylonians took Jerusalem Jeremiah was freed out of prison. He was given the choice to either go to Babylon or to remain in the land (for the king Nebuchadrezzar had given charge concerning him). When Gedaliah (who was appointed governor by the king’s command) was murdered the Jews flew for fear of the Babylonians’ vengeance to Egypt (although Jeremiah had warned them not to do so) and forced Jeremiah and Baruch to go with them (Jeremiah 41; Jeremiah 42; Jeremiah 43). This is were Jeremiah continued his prophetical service in the city of Tahpanhes (Jeremiah 43:8-13; Jeremiah 44) and this is where he shall have been stoned to death according to tradition five years after Jerusalem’s destruction. The Bible remains silent regarding the death of this great prophet who lived and served in the last forty years of the kingdom of Judah.