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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 1

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Jeremiah 1:0


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

Jeremiah's Call and CommissionSuperscriptionTitle
Jeremiah 1:1-3Jeremiah 1:1-3Jeremiah 1:1-3Jeremiah 1:1-3Jeremiah 1:1-3
The Prophet Is CalledJeremiah's Call and Related VisionsThe Call of JeremiahThe Call of Jeremiah
Jeremiah 1:4-10(vv. Jeremiah 1:4-8)Jeremiah 1:4-8(vv. Jeremiah 1:5)Jeremiah 1:4-10(vv. Jeremiah 1:5)Jeremiah 1:4-5Jeremiah 1:4-5(vv. Jeremiah 1:5)
(vv. Jeremiah 1:6)Jeremiah 1:6Jeremiah 1:6
(vv. Jeremiah 1:7-8)(vv. Jeremiah 1:7-8)Jeremiah 1:7-8Jeremiah 1:7-8(vv. Jeremiah 1:7-8)
(vv. Jeremiah 1:9-10)Jeremiah 1:9(vv. Jeremiah 1:9b)Jeremiah 1:9-10Jeremiah 1:9-10(vv. Jeremiah 1:9-10)
Jeremiah 1:10(vv. Jeremiah 1:10)(vv. Jeremiah 1:10)The Two Visions
Jeremiah 1:11-12Jeremiah 1:11-12Jeremiah 1:11-13Jeremiah 1:11Jeremiah 1:11-12
Jeremiah 1:12
Jeremiah 1:13-19Jeremiah 1:13-16Jeremiah 1:13Jeremiah 1:13-16
(vv. Jeremiah 1:14-16)Jeremiah 1:14-19Jeremiah 1:14-19(vv. Jeremiah 1:14-16)
Jeremiah 1:17-19(vv. Jeremiah 1:17-19)Jeremiah 1:17-19(vv. Jeremiah 1:17-19)

*Although not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraph divisions as they understand them. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own way. As you read the text, which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions?

In every chapter you must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs). Then compare your understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation at the paragraph level, can one truly understand the Bible. Only the original author was inspired-readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility to apply the inspired truth to their day and lives.

Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in “Brief Explanations of the Technical Resources used in This Commentary,“ “Brief Definitions of Hebrew Verbal Forms that Impact Exegesis,” and “Abbreviations Used in This Commentary.

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 1:1-3 1The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2 to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the exile of Jerusalem in the fifth month.

Jeremiah 1:1 “The words” This Hebrew word (BDB 182) has a wide semantical field and can mean “deeds,” “matters,” “affairs,” or “sayings.”

“Jeremiah” This is a very common Hebrew name, but its etymology is uncertain (see Intro. I., B); of all the prophetic books, this one mentions the author more than any other. The book reveals its author's words, thoughts, feelings, and actions more than any other OT book.

“the son of Hilkiah” This name (BDB 324) means “YHWH is my portion.” Jeremiah was a Levite, but apparently he was not an active priest because Solomon had exiled his family to Anathoth (cf. 1 Kings 2:26-27). There are two men in Jeremiah's day by the same name. His father is not the high priest mentioned in 2 Kings 22:4 or 2 Chronicles 34:9. The high priest was apparently of the lineage of Zadok, while Jeremiah's father was from the lineage of Abiathar, both descendants of Eli.

“Anathoth” This name (BDB 779) comes from the Amorite goddess, Anath, who is the sister or consort of Ba'al. She was the most active warrior goddess (i.e., Anath, Asherah, Astarte, and Astoreth) called the Queen of heaven in the Ras Shamra poetry texts (found in the city of Ugarit, north of Israel. A city by this name, Beth-anath, is mentioned in Joshua 15:59; Joshua 19:38; Judges 1:33.

“in the land of Benjamin” This was the location of Abiathar's excommunication (cf. 1 Kings 2:26-27). It is about three miles from Jerusalem, but its exact location is uncertain.

Jeremiah 1:2-3 The repeated phrase “in the days of. . .” is a way to date the prophetic messages. The opening verses serve to introduce the entire book.

1. from whom

2. to whom (cf. Jeremiah 1:7)

3. when

4. why

Jeremiah 1:2 “the word of the LORD came” The OT prophets repeatedly affirm that their message was from YHWH. This literary formula makes that very clear.


Jeremiah 1:2, Jeremiah 1:3 “in the days of Josiah. . .in the days of Jehoiakim” This forms the beginning and ending dates of Jeremiah's ministry, which is about 627 B.C. to after 586 B.C. See Special Topic: Kings of the Divided Monarchy.

“Josiah” This means “YHWH supports” (BDB 78) or “YHWH heals” (BDB 382). He was a godly king who began reigning in 640 B.C. at eight years of age (640-609 B.C.). He started a spiritual reform and the remodeling of the Temple. This was when the “Law of the Lord” was found (621 B.C., cf. Jeremiah 1:2 Kings 22-23).

“in the thirteenth year of the reign” This would be five years after the Book of the Law was found in the Temple and when Josiah began his reform. It is unusual that there is no textual connection between Josiah and Jeremiah recorded in the Bible. Even when the Book of the Law was found, it was taken to the prophetess Huldah to interpret (cf. 2 Kings 22:14-20).

Jeremiah 1:3 “Jehoiakim” This was another son of Josiah (Eliakim, cf. 2 Kings 23:34) who replaced Jehoahaz (i.e., Shallum, cf. Jeremiah 22:11) as the ruler of Judah by Pharaoh Necho (cf. 2 Kings 23:31-34; 2 Chronicles 36:4).

Notice that there are two sons of Josiah who reigned briefly for three months who are not named in this passage.

1. Jehoahaz (Shallum) who was exiled to Egypt by Pharaoh Necho II (cf. 2 Kings 23:0)

2. Jehoiachin who was exiled to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar II (cf. 2 Kings 24:0; 2 Chronicles 36:0)

“Zedekiah” Zedekiah replaced Jehoiakim on the throne of Judah as a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar II (i.e., 609 B.C., cf. 2 Kings 24:17; 2 Chronicles 36:10-13).

“the exile of Jerusalem in the fifth month” There were four deportations by Nebuchadnezzar II of the population of Judah to Babylon (i.e., 605, 597, 586, 582 B.C.). By far the most destructive was in 586 B.C., when Jerusalem itself fell and the Temple was completely destroyed (cf. 2 Kings 25:0; 2 Chronicles 36:9-21; Jeremiah 39:0 and 52).

Verses 4-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 1:4-10 4Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6Then I said, “Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.” 7But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, 'I am a youth,' Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. 8”Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD. 9Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. 10See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, To pluck up and to break down, To destroy and to overthrow, To build and to plant.”

Jeremiah 1:4 Verses 4 through 10 are the divine call of Jeremiah to prophetic ministry.


Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” This speaks of God's sovereign power over the lives of His human creation (cf. Jeremiah 43:7; Jeremiah 44:2, Jeremiah 44:24; Jeremiah 49:5). The term “formed” (Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 427, KB 428) is the exact term used in Genesis 2:7, Genesis 2:8. God has a plan and a purpose for every human person (cf. Psalms 139:13-16; Isaiah 43:7; Isaiah 49:5; Galatians 1:15).

God had a plan and purpose for this person even before he was born. I wonder how many “prophets” and servants of God America has killed in the name of expediency and the individual freedom of their selfish parents. Personal convenience and expedience give a social license to choices that depreciate human worth and dignity!

For a good brief discussion of the Bible texts on the unborn see Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed., pp. 570-572.

God selects four VERBS to describe His personal activity in Jeremiah's life.

1. I formed - Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 427, KB 428

2. I knew - Qal PERFECT, BDB 393, KB 390 (see Special Topic below)

3. I consecrated - Hiphil PERFECT, BDB 872, KB 1073

4. I appointed - Qal PERFECT, BDB 678, KB 733


“to the nations” Jeremiah was not just called to Judah, but was to proclaim God's sovereignty over all nations (cf. Jeremiah 1:10a; Jeremiah 25:15-29, Jer. 46-51). This is the theological implication of monotheism. See special topics below.



Jeremiah 1:6 “Alas” In this first chapter there are several INTERJECTIONS.

1. “alas” - אהה, BDB 13, KB 18, cf. Judges 11:35; 2 Kings 3:10; 2 Kings 6:5, 2 Kings 6:15; Joel 1:15; Jeremiah 1:6; Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 14:13; Jeremiah 32:17. It is translated “ah” in Jeremiah and denotes alarm.

2. “behold” - הנה, BDB 243, KB 252, cf. Jeremiah 1:6, Jeremiah 1:9, Jeremiah 1:18; Jeremiah 49:2; Isaiah 6:7. This is a way to call attention to a statement.

3. “behold” - הן, BDB 243, Jeremiah 1:15; Jeremiah 31:8. The UBS Handbook calls it “an emphatic transitional marker” (p. 38).

4. “see” - in Jeremiah 1:10 (Qal IMPERATIVE), also functions as an INTERJECTION

“Lord GOD” The Hebrew titles are “Adonai” and “YHWH.” Since both of these terms are translated “Lord” in English, most English translations use the title “Lord God” (cf. Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 32:17; Joshua 7:7; Judges 6:22). See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.

“I do not know how to speak” This was the same excuse that Moses used in Exodus 4:10, however, the term used here means “to speak publicly.” Moses was claiming to be a stutterer (BDB 546), but Jeremiah was claiming not to be a public speaker (BDB 180).

“because I am a youth” His exact age is uncertain, because in Exodus 33:11 Joshua is called a youth and he was 45 years old. Young people in Hebrew culture did not have the status that they do in modern American culture. Jeremiah was afraid that because of his age and because he was unmarried he would not have a strong social or religious platform from which to speak to Judeans.

God regularly uses young people. Here is just a sample.

1. the spies of Jericho, Joshua 6:23

2. Samuel

3. David and Jonathan

4. Daniel and his three friends

5. Josiah

6. Joel 2:28

It is not the age but the heart that is crucial!

Jeremiah 1:7 Notice how YHWH answered Jeremiah's reluctance.

1. do not say, “I am a youth” (Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense)

2. everywhere I send you, you shall go

3. all that I command you, you shall speak

“because everywhere I send you, you will go” God never sends anyone out alone. His greatest provision is His personal presence (cf. Jeremiah 1:8b, Jeremiah 1:19). He goes along to help (i.e., Matthew 28:20) and to equip for the task assigned (i.e., Ephesians 4:12).

Jeremiah 1:8 “Do not be afraid of them” This is a Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense. Jeremiah had a hard word to speak to his own people (i.e., exile is coming). They would attack Jeremiah both verbally and physically, but YHWH says “Fear not!” This was a frequent message to YHWH's servants.

1. Abraham, Genesis 15:1

2. Isaac, Genesis 26:24

3. Moses, Numbers 21:34; Deuteronomy 3:2, Deuteronomy 3:22

4. Joshua, Joshua 1:5-9; Joshua 8:1; Joshua 10:8

5. Gideon, Judges 6:8-10

6. Solomon, 1 Chronicles 28:20

7. Isaiah, Isaiah 8:12-15

8. national Israel, Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 41:13, Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 43:5; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 54:4

9. Daniel, Daniel 10:12, Daniel 10:19

10. Mary, Luke 1:30

11. Simon, Luke 5:16

12. Paul, Acts 27:24

13. John, Revelation 1:17

Jeremiah 1:9 “the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth” Jeremiah becomes YHWH's mouthpiece (cf. Jeremiah 15:19; Deuteronomy 18:18). Apparently Jeremiah had a vision of God similar to Isaiah's (cf. Isaiah 6:6-7). The vision is not elaborated in Jeremiah's call as it is in Isaiah's call (cf. Isaiah 6:0) or Ezekiel's call (cf. Ezekiel 1:0).

This is a very anthropomorphic phrase. God is described in human terms.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS A HUMAN (anthropomorphic language)


“Behold I put my words in your mouth” It must be remembered that this was not Jeremiah's message or thoughts, but God's (cf. Jeremiah 1:2; Deuteronomy 18:18).

Jeremiah 1:10 There is a series of six INFINITIVE CONSTRUCTS.

1. to pluck up - Qal, BDB 684, KB 737, cf. Jeremiah 31:28

2. to break down - Qal, BDB 683, KB 736, cf. Jeremiah 31:28

3. to destroy - Hiphil, BDB 1, KB 2, cf. Jeremiah 31:28

4. to overthrow - Qal, BDB 248, KB 256

5. to build - Qal, BDB 124, KB 139, cf. Jeremiah 24:6; Jeremiah 31:4, Jeremiah 31:28; Jeremiah 33:7; Jeremiah 42:10

6. to plant - Qal, BDB 642, KB 694, cf. Jeremiah 24:6; Jeremiah 31:28; Jeremiah 32:41; Jeremiah 42:10

The first four speak of judgment, but the last two of renewal and restoration (cf. Jeremiah 18:7-10; Jeremiah 31:40). It is interesting that Jeremiah repeats this phrasing in Jeremiah 31:28, where he switches to an emphasis on restoration and deliverance. This phrase then becomes a literary marker for the two opposite prophecies Jeremiah is to speak to “the nations,” because YHWH is the true “King” of all nations (cf. 1 Samuel 8:4-9).

Verses 11-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 1:11-12 11The word of the LORD came to me saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “I see a rod of an almond tree.” 12Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.”

Jeremiah 1:11 “What do you see” There are two visions (Jeremiah 1:11-12 and Jeremiah 1:13-19). The time element is uncertain, but they are placed close to Jeremiah's call.

“I see a rod of an almond tree” The term “almond,” shaqed (BDB 1052), is related to the VERB “watching” in Jeremiah 1:12, shoqed (BDB 1052). In this culture the almond tree was called “the watching tree.” Apparently this vision was a way to emphasize the surety of God's word through Jeremiah (i.e., “watching over” and “to perform it”).

Verses 13-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 1:13-19 13The word of the LORD came to me a second time saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.” 14Then the LORD said to me, “Out of the north the evil will break forth on all the inhabitants of the land. 15For, behold, I am calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north,” declares the LORD; “and they will come and they will set each one his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all its walls round about and against all the cities of Judah. 16I will pronounce My judgments on them concerning all their wickedness, whereby they have forsaken Me and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands. 17Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you before them. 18Now behold, I have made you today as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its princes, to its priests and to the people of the land. 19They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 1:13 “a boiling pot, facing away from the north” Because of Jeremiah 1:14 it is obvious that this is referring to an invasion from the north. The term “north” became a proverb for “evil” and “invasion” (cf. Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:1, Jeremiah 6:22; Jeremiah 10:22; Jeremiah 25:9) because it was the only land route into Palestine from Mesopotamia because of the desert east of Palestine. The boiling pot pours south (i.e., the advancing Babylonian army).

There are three words in close proximity that may be sound plays.

1. נפוח - boiling pot

2. ופניו - facing away from

3. צפונה - the north

These kinds of sound plays are a characteristic of Hebrew poetry (see Appendix One)

Jeremiah 1:15 This verse is describing the armies of Neo-Babylon, made up of many conscripts and mercenaries. They will come and lay siege to the walled cities of Palestine.

Jeremiah 1:16 Judah's fall came not because of the weakness of YHWH, their God, but their idolatry.

1. they have forsaken Me - Qal PERFECT, BDB 736 I, KB 806

2. they have offered (lit. “burned incense”) to other gods - Piel IMPERFECT, BDB 882, KB 1094

3. they have worshiped the work of their own hands - Hishtaphel IMPERFECT, BDB 1005, KB 295

Jeremiah 1:17 “gird up your loins” This is a Hebrew idiom for “get ready for action” (cf. 1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 4:29; 2 Kings 9:1; Ephesians 6:14; 1 Peter 1:13), which would be similar to our “roll up your sleeves.”

Girding up his loins meant to pull one's robe through the legs in front and tuck it into the sash, thereby forming tight-fitting shorts, ready for action. This is not the only preparatory action the prophet is told to do.

1. arise - Qal PERFECT, BDB 877, KB 1086

2. speak - Piel PERFECT, BDB 180, KB 210

3. do not be dismayed - Qal IMPERFECT negated (BDB 369, KB 365) used in a JUSSIVE sense

“and speak to them all which I command you” This shows the purpose of the visions for Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:11-16. It was a divine revelatory communication.

“Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you before them” God's service is a double-edged sword, privilege brings responsibility.

Jeremiah 1:18 “I have made you today” God's provision and protection are emphasized to the prophet.

1. as a fortified city

2. as a pillar of iron

3. as walls of bronze

We must not let the reception of our message affect its proclamation, once we know it is from God! Jeremiah was going to speak to the powerful and elite of his day.

1. to the kings of Judah

2. to its princes

3. to its priests

4. to the people of the land (wealthy land owners)

Jeremiah 1:19 “They will fight against you” Judah will reject God's message. God's people have always rejected His message.

“I am. . .the LORD” These are both from the same Hebrew VERB, “to be” (BDB 217, cf. Exodus 3:12-14). Their basic thrust is that God is the ever-living, only-living God. See Special Topic: Names for Deity. That great God is with Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 1:8).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How long did Jeremiah preach?

2. What does Jeremiah 1:5 have to say to the abortion issue of our day?

3. Why did Jeremiah try to excuse himself from God's will?

4. Explain the two visions and their purposes in Jeremiah 1:11-16.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 1". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/jeremiah-1.html. 2021.
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