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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

- Jeremiah

by Dr. Robert Utley

INTRODUCTION TO JEREMIAH

I. NAME OF THE BOOK

A. It was named after the prophet.

B. The meaning of his name is difficult to ascertain

1. “YHWH founded” (KB 440)

2. “YHWH loosens from the womb” (BDB 941)

3. “YHWH raises up” or “exalts” (BDB 926)

4. “YHWH hurls” (BDB 941 I, cf. Exodus 15:1)

II. CANONIZATION

A. It was part of the “prophet” section of the Hebrew canon.

B. The Torah or Law - Genesis-Deuteronomy

C. The Prophets:

1. Former Prophets - Joshua-Kings (except Ruth)

2. Latter Prophets - Isaiah-Malachi (except Daniel and Lamentations)

D. The Writings:

1. The Megilloth (5 scrolls):

a. Song of Songs

b. Ecclesiastes

c. Ruth

d. Lamentations

e. Esther

2. Daniel

3. Wisdom Literature:

a. Job

b. Psalms

c. Proverbs

4. 1 & 2 Chr.

E. In rabbinical literature Jeremiah was often considered the first of the prophets (Baba Bathra 14b, cf. Matthew 27:9)

III. GENRE

A. This book is made up of several genres:

1. classical Hebrew poetry (Jeremiah's oracles)

2. Hebrew prose (written by Baruch in the third person)

3. summaries of Jeremiah's sermons often in prose (also from Baruch)

4. autobiographical complaints to God in poetic form (Confessions of Jeremiah, cf. Jeremiah 15:10-18; Jeremiah 17:9-18; Jeremiah 18:18-23; Jeremiah 20:7-18)

B. The book of Jeremiah includes both oral and written prophecies. Also from chapter 36 we learn that some had to be redictated/recopied. Also, Jeremiah 52:0 is a historical addition related to 2 Kings 24:18-21.

C. Jeremiah's poetry is not of the same quality as Isaiah and Hosea, but his theology is wonderful.

This is a comment by Jerome in his introduction to Jeremiah.

“Jeremiah the prophet. . .is seen to be more rustic in language than Isaiah and Hosea and certain other prophets among the Hebrew, but equal in thought” (quoted from ABD, vol. 3, p. 690).

IV. AUTHORSHIP

A. Jeremiah did not write Jeremiah 52:0 because Jeremiah 52:31-34 records events which occurred in Babylon. Jeremiah was taken forcibly to Egypt by renegade Jewish military units after the assassination of Gedeliah, the Jewish governor, appointed by Nebuchandezzar.

B. Possible authors/editors:

1. Jeremiah (Baba Bathra 14b)

2. Baruch, his scribe

3. compilers

4. later editor (possibly Ezra or the men of the Great Synagogue)

C. We know more about Jeremiah than any other prophet.

1. from the priestly (exiled) line of Abiathar, 1 Kings 2:26-27)

2. grew up close to Jerusalem in Anathoth (a Levitical city in the tribal allocation of Benjamin, cf. Joshua 21:17-19)

3. called by God as a young man, Jeremiah 1:2; Jeremiah 25:3 (627 B.C.)

4. influenced by the previous writings, Hosea and Deuteronomy

5. contemporary with

a. Daniel

b. Ezekiel

c. Habakkuk

d. Zephaniah

e. Nahum

6. five years after his call “the Law Book” was found in the Temple during Josiah's reform. It is surprising that their relationship is never mentioned in Scripture. When the Law Book was found the King consulted a prophetess named Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20), not Jeremiah.

7. his feelings can be clearly seen in his confessions or complaints

a. Jeremiah 11:18-6

b. Jeremiah 15:10-12

c. Jeremiah 17:14-18

d. Jeremiah 18:18-23

e. Jeremiah 20:7-18

8. he was taken by force to Egypt where he was killed by Jewish refugees, Jeremiah 43:6

V. DATE

A. Jeremiah was born in Anathoth between 655-640 B.C. (exact date uncertain).

B. The book of Jeremiah is dated in Jeremiah 1:2 and covers the time from the thirteenth year of Josiah (his call) to the time of Gedaliah, 627 B.C. (cf. Jeremiah 1:1; Jeremiah 25:3) - 582 B.C. How long Jeremiah lived in Egypt with the refugees is uncertain.

C. An ostraca found at Lachnish describes its siege in 587 B.C. The form of its Hebrew text is comparable with Jeremiah.

D. Jeremiah's messages focus on the events from the fall of Samaria (722 B.C.) to the fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.).

VI. HISTORICAL SETTING

A. 686 B.C. - Manasseh (686-641 B.C.)

B. 664 B.C. - the Egyptian Empire gains strength under Psammetichus (664-610 B.C.)

C. 648 B.C. - the birth of Josiah

D. 642 B.C. - Amon, king of Judah was killed by his servants (2 Kings 21:19-26)

E. 640 B.C. - the last effective Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanipal, dies

F. 640 B.C. - Josiah becomes a king at 8 years of age (2 Kings 22:1)

G. 628 B.C. - Josiah initiates reform (2 Chronicles 34:3ff; 2 Kings 23:0)

H. 626 B.C. - the call of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:2)

I. 626 B.C. - Nabopolassar (626-605 B.C.) becomes king of neo-Babylon

J. 621 B.C. - the Book of the Law was found by workmen who were remodeling the Temple (2 Chronicles 34:8ff; 2 Kings 22:0)

K. 614 B.C. - the regional capital of Assyria, Ashur, fell to neo-Babylon

L. 612 B.C. - Nineveh, Assyria's primary capital was destroyed by neo-Babylon and Media

M. 609 B.C. - Josiah was killed at Meggido opposing Pharaoh Necho II (610-594 B.C.) who was attempting to help the fleeing remnant of the Assyrian army (2 Chronicles 35:20-24; 2 Kings 23:28-30)

N. 605 B.C. - neo-Babylon defeats the Egyptians and remainder of the Assyrian armies at Carchemish

O. 605 B.C. - Nebuchadbezzar II moves through Palestine demanding tribute payments (taking Daniel and the first deportation). There were four invasions affecting Judah and Jerusalem, 605, 597, 586, and 582 B.C.

P. 601 B.C. - Nebuchadnezzar II lost the battle for control of Egypt (a stalemate)

VII. LITERARY UNITS

A. The book's structure is topical or thematic, not chronological. It is probably a collection of several different scrolls/messages by Jeremiah, 1-25,30-33, and 46-51.

The UBS' A Handbook of Jeremiah makes the comment,

“In fact, Jeremiah is not really a 'book' in the sense that most readers today would normally describe a book-it has neither an overall orderly arrangement nor clearly defined contextual settings for interpreting many of its individual parts” (p. 1).

B. The LXX and the MT differ greatly. Almost 3000 words of the MT are missing in the LXX. Also, the order of the nations in Jer. 46-51 is different, as well as their placement after Jeremiah 25:0. Both MSS traditions were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, which implies they are both translations of an early Hebrew text.

C. Tentative outline (basically follows R. K Harrison and E. J. Young)

1. Jeremiah 1:0 - Jeremiah's call and provision

2. Jer. 2-25 - Judah's sin from the early years of Jeremiah's ministry

3. Jer. 26-29, 34-35 - the personal life of the prophet

a. YHWH's message to Zedekiah and Hananiah's reaction, Jer. 26-29

b. the Rechabites, Jer. 34-35

c. historical events from the reign of Jehoiakim - Zedekiah and Gedaliah and to Egypt, Jer. 36-45

4. Jer. 30-33 - the promise of the restoration of God's people

a. physically

b spiritually

5. Jer. 46-51 - prophecies against surrounding nations (also Jeremiah 25:12-38)

a. Egypt -Jeremiah 46:0; Jeremiah 46:0 (Isaiah 19:0; Ezekiel 29-32)

b. Philistia -Jeremiah 47:0; Jeremiah 47:0 (Amos 1:6-8; Isaiah 14:29-32; Ezekiel 25:0;15-17)

c. Moab -Jeremiah 48:0; Jeremiah 48:0 (Amos 2:1-3; Isaiah 15-16; Ezekiel 25:8-11)

d. Ammon -Jeremiah 49:1-6; Jeremiah 49:1-6 (Amos 1:13-15; Ezekiel 25:1-7)

e. Edom -Jeremiah 49:7-22; Jeremiah 49:7-22 (Amos 1:11-12; Isaiah 21:11-12; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Obadiah)

f. Syria -Jeremiah 49:23-27; Jeremiah 49:23-27 (Amos 1:3-5; Isaiah 17:1-3)

g. Arabia - Jeremiah 49:28-33

h. Elam - Jeremiah 49:34-38

i. Babylon - Jer. 50-51 (Isaiah 13:1-14; Habakkuk 2:6-17)

6. Jeremiah 52:0 - the Fall of Jerusalem (cf. 2 Kings 24:18-30)

D. The UBS' A Handbook of Jeremiah makes the comment:

1.”As is well known, the book of Jeremiah is not put together according to a chronological arrangement, and it is only with difficulty that we can uncover even a topical arrangement of the sayings and deeds recorded in it. However, a recent commentary by Dorsey demonstrates that there are seven fairly well-defined larger units along with an appendix. Each has its own cohesive internal organization. The outline below is based on his analysis:

a. God will punish Judah (Jeremiah 1:1-12. Jeremiah 1:17)

b. The LORD reveals his plans for the fall of Judah (Jeremiah 13:1-20. Jeremiah 13:18)

c. God will judge and punish Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 21:1-29.32)

d. God will bring his people back to their land (Jer. 30:1-33.26)

e. Jeremiah delivers messages to Zedekiah and the Rechabites (Jer. 34:1-35. Jeremiah 34:19)

f. Jeremiah suffers because he delivers the LORD'S message (Jer. 36:1-45. Jeremiah 36:5)

g. God will punish the nations (Jer. 46:1-51.64)

h. An appendix on the fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 52:1-34)” (p. 1)

2. “The seven divisions of the book are therefore arranged in a symmetrical pattern. The first and seventh have related themes, as do the second and sixth, and the third and fifth. The fourth, the central division, delivers the central message, that of hope. This is quite different from many of the other prophetic books where the central message is a call to repentance. Further, the book makes clear that God did not fail to protect Judah. Rather, it was he who decreed that Judah should be punished because they failed to obey him. The LORD is above the nations and powers; he is able to punish, but he alone can be trusted to restore the people” (p. 2).

E. It is interesting to note that in Jer. 1-25 Jeremiah's messages are introduced with the phrase “the word of YHWH came to me,” while in Jer. 26-51 they are introduced with “the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah.”

F. Chart of Jeremiah's prophecies by the reigning king:

E. J. Young R. K. Harrison
1.under Josiah (640 B.C.)Jeremiah 1:1-19; Jeremiah 2:1-5; Jeremiah 3:6-30; Jeremiah 7:1-25; Jeremiah 11:1-27; Jeremiah 14:1-21; Jeremiah 16:1-27; Jeremiah 18:1-18 Jeremiah 1:1-19; Jeremiah 2:1-5; Jeremiah 3:6-30; Jeremiah 7:1-25; Jeremiah 18:1-18
2.under Jehoahaz (609 B.C.)
3.under Jehoiakim (609 B.C.) Jeremiah 11:1-14; Jeremiah 1:1-21; Jeremiah 16:1-27; Jeremiah 22:0; Jeremiah 25:0; Jeremiah 26:0; Jeremiah 27:0; Jeremiah 35:0; Jeremiah 36:0; 45 23; Jeremiah 25:0; Jeremiah 26:0; Jeremiah 35:0; Jeremiah 36:0; Jeremiah 45:0; 46-48
4.under Jehoiachin (598-596 B.C.) Jeremiah 31:15-27
5.Zedekiah (597 B.C.) Jeremiah 21:1-30; Jeremiah 23:0; Jeremiah 24:0; Jeremiah 27:0; Jeremiah 28:0; Jeremiah 29:0; 30-31; Jeremiah 21:1-30; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Jeremiah 27:0; Jeremiah 28:0; Jeremiah 29:0; 30-31; Jeremiah 32:0; Jeremiah 34:0; Jeremiah 37:0; Jeremiah 38:0; 39 32; Jeremiah 33:0; Jeremiah 34:0; Jeremiah 37:0; Jeremiah 38:0; Jeremiah 39:0; Jeremiah 49:0; Jeremiah 50:1-64
6.under Gedaliah Jeremiah 40:0; Jeremiah 41:0; Jeremiah 42:0; 43-44:30; 50-52 40: Jeremiah 50:1-42; Jeremiah 43:1-30
7. Historical AppendixJeremiah 52:1-34

VIII. MAIN THEME

A. The time of judgment is imminent because Judah would not repent! Jeremiah emphasizes sin, judgment, then restoration; Jeremiah 1:4-10; Jeremiah 1:4-10.

B. Liturgical or ritual religion without personal lifestyle faith in God is a disaster! (Jeremiah 7:0; Isaiah 29:13).

C. Judah had hopelessly lost her way in ritual, idolatry, and sin! She had broken God's covenant, symbolized as a marriage contract (cf. Jeremiah 2:1-5).

D. Personal repentance and faith are the basis of God's new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34), not family faith (Jeremiah 31:29; Ezekiel 18:0).

E. The New Covenant is permanent (Jeremiah 31:35-37) because it is not conditioned on human performance but on God's grace and power (Ezekiel 36:22-38).

 
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