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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

- Jeremiah

by Daniel Whedon



I. The Author.






II. The Book.





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1. His Times.

THE above diagram shows the position of Jeremiah in Jewish history, which was the exact counterpart of that of Moses. The one stands in the glory of the sunrise; the other in the sombre hour of evening twilight, amid the lengthening shadows of the swiftly-coming night. The one brought to his people the evangel of liberty, and became himself the deliverer and leader out of dark and bitter thraldom; the other spoke words heavily laden with doom, and realized in his own experience the fearfulness of the calamities which he foretold. Moses was called to the difficult work of laying the foundation of an independent national existence; Jeremiah saw the splendid fabric which had been reared thereupon shattered and deserted; a ruin alike eloquent of the grandeur of the past and the more spiritual and more enduring glory of the future. Out of ignorance, degradation, and misery, Moses evolved an earthly state of which God was the sovereign and head; to Jeremiah, with other prophets of the later period, was appointed the still more difficult work of bringing out of the ruins of the temporal theocracy “the kingdom which cannot be moved,” but abideth for ever.

The time in which Jeremiah commenced his work was one of quietness, indeed, and of seeming prosperity, but of real depression and humiliation. The kingdom which, under Solomon, had proudly spread itself out from the Euphrates to the Red Sea, had shrunk to the narrow limits of Southern Palestine a mere patch of land, scarcely fifty miles square, in the hill country of Judea. So changed had it become, that its hope of safety and immunity was rather in its insignificance than in its invincible strength and resources.

In this little kingdom fearful devastation had been wrought by the army of Sennacherib in the first half of Hezekiah’s reign. The story of this is told in the inscription on the Taylor cylinder, now kept in the British Museum. In this inscription Sennacherib proudly boasts that he had captured forty-six of Hezekiah’s cities, and also his strongholds, and smaller towns in their neighbourhood without number; that he had carried away captive two hundred thousand one hundred and fifty people, together with horses, asses, camels, oxen, and sheep beyond number; that “like a bird in a cage he had shut up Hezekiah in Jerusalem, his royal city, and planted siege-towers against him; that he had diminished his kingdom by giving many of his cities to the kings of the Philistines; and finally, that he had exacted from him large tribute ’thirty talents of gold, eight hundred talents of silver, woven cloth scarlet embroidered, precious stones of large size, couches of ivory, movable thrones of ivory,’ and male and female slaves.” Records of the Past, vol. i, pp. 38, 39.

Now, when we take into consideration the merciless character of ancient warfare, we can well understand that such an inscription as this must indicate a fearful devastation for this land. The three quarters of a century which had since intervened had been for the most part years of recuperation. Returning prosperity had not been completely obstructed by the religious convulsions which marked the reign of Manasseh. Hence Josiah came to the kingdom in an era of returning good feeling and material prosperity, though it was still characterized by great and general corruption.

Many things combined to make the period of Jeremiah one of special interest and importance. He was called to the prophetic office in the time of Josiah, the glory of whose reign proved to be the sunset glow of the Judean kingdom. Psammetichus was again bringing up Egypt to the dignity of a first-rate power, thus making her at once a source of danger and of hope to Judea. In the century that was just closing Assyria had had a series of the most brilliant reigns in her entire history, embracing those of Sennacherib, Esar-haddon, and Asshur-banipal; and yet even then, because of her weakness and dissensions within and her formidable foes without, she was tottering to her fall. The Medes, who under Arbaces had thrown off the yoke of Assyrian domination, were pushing their conquests, especially to the east and southeast, and were thus keeping themselves in training for the work they were so soon to do in achieving the conquest of the world. Babylon, too, was coming into notice as a formidable independent power. Within less than a quarter of a century, namely, in 606 B.C., Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, captured and destroyed Nineveh, thereby transferring the seat of empire from the Tigris to the Euphrates.

But it was a time of peril to Judea. There were strifes and dissensions within, and dangers without. Egypt on the one hand, and Babylon on the other, were ready to swallow her up. It was with her no longer a question of independence but of existence. “The struggles of the expiring kingdom of Judea are like those of a hunted animal; now flying, now standing at bay between two huge beasts of prey, which, while their main object is to devour each other, turn aside from time to time to snatch at the smaller nation that has crossed their midway path.” The idolatrous and licentious rites of Baal and Astarte were upheld by an influential party of “the princes.” The brazen statue of the god Moloch stood in the valley of Ben-Hinnom; and here was the furnace where children were made to pass through the fire. A statue of Astarte had been set up even within the sacred precincts of the temple, and, as we learn from Ezekiel, (Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 8:5; Ezekiel 8:14,) at the gate where was this “image of jealousy” might be seen women weeping for Thammuz. A general corruption infected the prophetical and priestly orders. The prophets prophesied falsely, and the priests bore rule by their means, and the people loved to have it so. So far from purging the land thoroughly and effectually from these idolatrous corruptions, the reformation of Josiah scarcely sufficed to suppress for any considerable time the more gross and revolting features of the pagan worship, even in Jerusalem itself.

We recognise at this period three distinct parties. The first consisted of “the princes” and their followers, who supported and protected the old idolatrous worship. The second, composed of the prophets and priests, adhered to the national faith, but corrupted it with magical rites, and maintained it in a spirit of hollow and perfunctory ritualism. The third was made up of choice spirits like-minded with Josiah and Jeremiah, who realized and deplored the prevailing corruption, and were earnestly seeking to effect a reformation. The last of these parties had gained a temporary ascendency in the elevation to the throne of the young king Josiah. Conspicuous among those who surrounded him were Shaphan the scribe, Hilkiah the high priest, Huldah the prophetess, with her husband Shallum, the keeper of the temple precincts, and the prophet Jeremiah. In the twelfth year of his reign, which was the year preceding Jeremiah’s call to the prophetic office, Josiah entered upon vigorous, and indeed violent, measures of reformation, cutting down the groves and breaking down the altars of Baalim, not only in Jerusalem, but also in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali. He even went so far as to invade the sanctuary of the grave, and brought out the bones of the heathen priests and burned them on their altars in the presence of the people.

In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign occurred that wonderful awakening which resulted from the finding of a copy of the Law when engaged in repairing the temple. That this was for some reason a notable copy of the Law is indicated by the history, but for what reason does not appear. It may have been the one original copy which was at first deposited in the side of the ark, not for use but for preservation. It may have been some later official copy which had been kept in the temple for use in the days of holy convocation, about which had gathered a wealth of interesting and sacred associations. But it could hardly be, as so many have been led to believe, simply the Book of Deuteronomy, which then, for the first time, came prominently to the notice of the Jewish people. And the commotion produced does not necessarily imply that the contents of this book of the Law were unfamiliar to the king and the leaders of the people; but so pointed and so terrific were its denunciations of the very practices then prevailing, and so intense was the light cast down into the abyss of their corruption, that they were thoroughly alarmed at the revelation. The result attests the strong religious feeling of the people, whose deepest convictions were still on the side of Jehovah and his truth. The king and the people solemnly renewed their covenant with God, and the passover which followed was the most remarkable religious pageant Jerusalem had witnessed since the days of Solomon.

At about this time occurred the memorable Scythian invasion, of which Herodotus gives a vivid account, though it is not mentioned in the sacred histories. Across the mountains, which seem to have been thrown up as the ramparts and defences of the earlier civilizations, these savage hordes poured as a resistless torrent into the land of Media, and thence into Assyria, Syria, and Palestine. They plundered the famous temple of Astarte at Ascalon; but, when at the very frontier of Egypt, they were bought off by Psammetichus, and returned to Media, where they bore sway for more than half a score of years. It is possible that we catch some glimpses of this fearful invasion by strange men of fierce aspect from the distant north, in some of the imagery employed by Jeremiah, and also by Zephaniah and Habakkuk, and there is evidently a trace of it in the name Scythopolis for Beth-shean in the historic books of Judith and the Maccabees.

More significant, and sadder in its results, was the invasion of Palestine and Syria by Pharaoh-Necho, B.C. 609. His object was to anticipate the rising power of Babylon by gaining possession of the regions bordering the Mediterranean, and Upper Mesopotamia. Josiah went out to meet him, and the encounter took place at Megiddo, the very locality where Thothmes III., almost a thousand years before, met and defeated a confederacy under the lead of the prince of Kadesh on the Kishon. Though disguised as a common soldier, for his greater safety, Josiah was fatally wounded, and died before reaching Jerusalem, whither his servants sought with all haste to take him. No sadder death had ever cast its shadow over the city of God. With Josiah expired the last hope for the Judean kingdom. He was buried with extraordinary solemnities, the funeral dirge being composed by Jeremiah himself, who doubtless, in this event, experienced one of the great sorrows of his life. “And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah; and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel; and, behold, they are written in the lamentations.” 2 Chronicles 35:25.

Four years later the victorious Egyptians met their Waterloo at Carchemish, where Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, in a great and decisive battle utterly defeated and routed them, and this virtually terminated Egyptian rule in Asia and the East.

2 . The Prophet’s History.

Three principal explanations have been given of the name Jeremiah. Jerome makes it from the radical rum, ( רום ,) to be high, and hence finds the import of it to be “the exalted of Jehovah.” Gesenius makes it from the Chaldee root r’mah, ( רמה ,) which he understands to have, in Daniel 7:9, the sense of to set up. This would give the interpretation, “whom Jehovah setteth up,” or, “the appointed of Jehovah.” But most expositors agree with Hengstenberg in making the name from ramah, ( רמה ,) in its ordinary sense of to cast, or to throw. This gives the sense, “Jehovah will throw,” and finds in it a reminiscence of the triumphal song of Moses, (Exodus 15:1,) “The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea,” and a pre-intimation of his own mission, which, as stated in Jeremiah 1:10, was to be “to throw down.” Etymologies of this character are often merely fanciful, and should be taken with caution, as words much used are likely to become more or less disguised in form.

Jeremiah is described as “son of Hilkiah, of the priests of Anathoth.” From 2 Kings 22:0 and 2 Chronicles 34:0 we learn that the name of the high priest in the eighteenth year of Josiah was Hilkiah; and hence many, such as Clement of Alexandria, Jerome, Kimchi, and Eichhorn, identify him with the father of Jeremiah. The one and only positive reason for this is the identity of name, and this is of very insignificant value. Against this view several considerations have been urged.

1) The vagueness of the phrase “of the priests of Anathoth.”

2) The priests who resided at Anathoth, as we learn from 1 Kings 2:26, belonged to the house of Ithamar, while the high priests were in the line of Eleazar and of the house of Phinehas. 1 Chronicles 24:3.

3) The family of the high priest would not be likely to reside at a distance from the city. 4) There is not in the book itself, either in the words of Jeremiah or of others, any intimation of this distinguished parentage, though it is evident that Jeremiah is regarded by all parties as a person of consequence. On the whole, then, we are compelled to conclude that there is no sufficient ground for connecting the family in which Jeremiah was born with the supreme religious office in the Hebrew commonwealth.

But we do know that he was by birth a priest before he was by special call and endowment a prophet, and hence that he shared the peculiar life and special culture of the priestly class. Shallum, his uncle, was the husband of Huldah the prophetess, and, with his wife, was conspicuous in the company of faithful ones and helpers in the reformation of Josiah. It is also to be noted that Ahikam, son of Shaphan the scribe, or secretary of state, who was himself intimately associated with Huldah the prophetess and Hilkiah the high priest, was throughout a steadfast and influential friend of Jeremiah. The priests and Levites were, in a special sense, the body-guard of the commonwealth; and hence the circle in which Jeremiah moved was one of patriotism and culture. He breathed an atmosphere of devotion to Jehovah, and to that State which the religion of Jehovah had created.

In seeking to estimate correctly the conditions which moulded the character and shaped the history of Jeremiah, we must not fail to take into account the place of his residence. Anathoth was a priests’ city, situated scarcely four miles from the temple walls, and so, of course, intimately connected with the temple and the city. Hence Jeremiah lived from the first at the very heart of the nation’s life, and yet in a quiet locality where was blended what is most characteristic in the life of city and of country. The ministries of nature combined with the choicest human companionships to give a completeness to his culture. Now, when we put all these together his priestly parentage and consequent culture in things of patriotism and religion; the privileged rank of life in which he stood, and the choice spirits with whom he associated; the place of his residence, as uniting the life of the country with that of the city; the inspiring traditions coming down from the prosperous reign of Hezekiah, and darker memories of the reign of Manasseh; his familiarity with the Law and with the writings of the earlier prophets we have a general view of the forces which moulded Jeremiah’s personal character.

From his mother’s womb he was “sanctified” unto God. The news of his birth made his father “very glad.” He describes himself as but “a child” when called to the prophetic office; though this language must not be too strongly pressed. It is certain that the call of God but articulated and intensified the impulses of his own heart, which was ever filled with lively concern for the spiritual welfare of his people. Though his call came when Josiah was just entering upon his work of religious reform, it is remarkable that we find in his discourses, as preserved, no plain allusion to this work. The principal record we have of the first twenty-two years of his public ministry consists in his own words, which had been written for preservation. Scarcely any mention is made, not even by allusion, to incidents of his personal history. But we have only to recognise his tender and sympathetic nature, his loneliness, his fidelity, and his intense solicitude for the welfare of his countrymen, to realize how eloquent is this silence. What alternations of hope and depression, of rapture and of agony, must have come to this prophet of God in the reforming period of Josiah, and in the reaction of apostasy under Jehoiakim!

The turning point in his personal history was the fourth year of Jehoiakim, (605-4 B.C.) From that time his face is turned definitely toward the Babylonish captivity. In that year many of his prophecies were reduced to writing, and when the book was read before the people, the priests and prophets were so enraged that they demanded him for death, as the prophet Urijah had already been executed by the command of the king himself. But he was protected by “the princes,” who were less bitter and violent than the religious leaders.

Under Zedekiah he was arrested and shut up in prison, and remained in custody until the capture of Jerusalem, B.C. 588. Even in prison he persisted in declaring the word of God, and this led to his being thrown into a pit full of slime, where he must have speedily perished had he not been rescued through the good offices of Ebed-Melech, the Cushite royal eunuch.

When the city was taken, special directions were given by the Babylonian commander for the safety of Jeremiah, and he was finally set at liberty at Ramah. He went with the fugitives to Egypt, and the last distinct glimpse we have of him is at Tahpanes. As to his final fate we have no knowledge. One tradition is, that he was stoned by his own countrymen at Tahpanes, and this tradition is accepted by the Romish Church. Others say, that Alexander the Great brought his bones to be deposited in the new city Alexandria, which was soon to become such an influential centre of Jewish culture. The Jews have a tradition that on the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar he, with Baruch, made his escape to Judea or Babylon, where he died in peace at a good old age. But incomparably more eloquent than these traditions is the perfect silence of Scripture. It was not necessary that this man of sorrows should die a violent death in order to be entitled to wear the crown of martyrdom.

3 . The Prophet’s Character.

As there is no one of the later prophets the details of whose life are so fully given, so there is no other whose character is so clearly defined in the popular conception. Many of the other prophets are for the most part merely voices of varying sweetness, compass, and power, speaking words of good or evil import; Jeremiah is a man of like passions with ourselves. In those marvellous frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michael Angelo has expressed his conception of the most conspicuous and representative of the prophets of the Old Testament, and this work has been an admiration and a study in all the subsequent centuries. But upon no other one of these does the mind pass judgment so promptly as upon that of Jeremiah. So positive and so well defined is the conception of every thoughtful Bible student as to this man, that he is ready at once to decide on any attempt to express his character. In this instance it can hardly fail to be favourable. He sits before us a grand and melancholy figure, thoughtful and absorbed, yet “quick in every fibre with the pervading fire of inspiration.” His feet are crossed, his attitude is leaning, his long beard hangs down to his lap, his wrists are bent with that characteristic tension indicating suppressed excitement. He seems to be waiting depressed, but obedient for those awful messages which it was at once his glory and his grief to convey. He sits in the silence and gloom of the gathering storm, knowing that it will ere long burst upon the people and the land with destructive fury. August and impetuous as the organ of the divine utterance, he now sits in the darkness which is cast over him by the sufferings of others, experiencing a sorrow for their sins which they do not feel for their own.

We recognise in the character of Jeremiah a wonderful union of seemingly opposite qualities. With a heart full of tenderness and sympathy, sensitive and delicate as a woman’s, he joins a will of rock-like firmness. He combines in his character both Peter and John. He is Johannean in his simplicity, purity, spirituality, and tenderness; and Petrine in his quick human sympathies, his unquailing courage, and his resolute determination to stand in his lot. He was called to a life-and-death struggle with hoary abuses and influential and embittered foes; he came down into the deepest depths of personal suffering and humiliation; he experienced the keenest anguish in view of the calamities which were gathering thickly over Jerusalem and Judea; he was subjected to the mortification and distress of being thoroughly misunderstood by many of his countrymen, and maliciously misrepresented by others; and yet, amid it all, he stands at his post of duty faithfully and unflinchingly, though not always uncomplainingly. Of exquisite sensibility, constructed to suffer as few natures ever were, timid and desponding, “he was as fearless when he had to face the whole world as he was cast down and dispirited when alone with God.”

The quality most prominent in his character is his religious patriotism. Indeed, with him, as with many another Hebrew, patriotism and religion were one. Devotion to God and to the theocracy were never, in his consciousness, discriminated from each other. Were it possible that he should be the author of Psalms 137:0, it would be accepted as a very just expression of what was most characteristic of him. None had ever a better right than he to say, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”

When we consider the position which Jeremiah occupied at the lowest point in Jewish history when we recognise the unspeakable loneliness of his lot in this crisis-hour of his nation’s history when we consider the contumely, scorn, and persecution that came upon him, not from his heathen enemies so much as from his own countrymen, even the priests and prophets and the men of Anathoth and when we mark the spirit of fidelity to God with which he submits to it all we are prepared to say, that, more than any other man in the Old Testament, he stands before us as a type of the suffering Messiah!

4 . The Prophet’s Work.

The great work to be done in the period of Jeremiah was to disconnect the truth of Jehovah and his kingdom from the political interests of the little kingdom of Judea, and thus prepare it to go forth on its world wide mission. The material scaffolding by means of which the Jews, and humanity in them, had climbed up to a higher religious development must now be cast down. Up to this time Monotheism had been in large degree concreted with the facts and forms of life in a single land, and with the institutions planted there; the problem was, how to knock off these shackles and let the truth go absolutely free. In this work Jeremiah was the most conspicuous agent. And the fact that the results of the lives that were lived three thousand years ago in that little district east of the Mediterranean Sea, by a simple and uncultured people, have been builded into the fabric of human life all over the world, is an eloquent attestation to the faithfulness and success with which this work was done.

But no man was ever sent on a more unwelcome mission than Jeremiah. He was to be a prophet of evil to his own countrymen. Though an Israelite indeed, and an intense patriot, he was yet, under the divine direction, to give counsel and predict results which were understood to be in the interest of the enemies of his country. He is consequently charged with treachery and desertion, and his name cast out as evil. In a sense more bitter and trying than ordinarily falls to the lot of even leaders and reformers, he was misunderstood by those whose good opinion he highly prized. A prophet and a priest himself, the priests and prophets were his deadly enemies. And as his great Prototype, the suffering Son of God, entered upon his experience of rejection by men by being driven out from his native home in Nazareth, so Jeremiah is commanded by “the men of Anathoth,” “Prophesy not in the name of the Lord, that thou die not by our hand.” See Jeremiah 11:21. Thus did he become a stranger in his own land and time, in order that he might bring in a better time.

It is a satisfaction to know that this lonely and suffering worker came at last to be appreciated. The name which in his own time was cast out as evil is now one of the most illustrious in the list of distinguished worthies. In the midst of the captivity the prophecies which were at first a source of displeasure and of terror came to be a ground of hope, and were regarded with special warmth of interest. In some recensions of the Old Testament the book of Jeremiah was placed even before that of Isaiah. There seems to have been an expectation among the Jews that Jeremiah would come back to earth and complete his work; and hence, when Christ came, some said that he was Jeremias. The Jews had a tradition that he had concealed the treasures of the temple in a cave, and that they will be brought forth in the day of restoration. May it not be true that this will be fulfilled to them in a sense higher and more blessed than they have ever conceived?


1 . Its Subject Matter.

The great body of the book refers to the land and people of Judea; but, in addition to this, there are also prophecies in reference to foreign nations. These are described as prophecies “against the Gentiles.” In this we doubtless have the reason why others than the Jewish nation are referred to at all, namely, because of their relations to the theocracy. The countries thus introduced are Egypt, Babylon, Elam, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, and Kedar and Hazor. The last two names are used somewhat indefinitely; the first for the nomadic peoples of Arabia, and the second for those dwelling in towns and villages. Babylon and Egypt are not only made the subjects of special sections, but they are frequently introduced in other parts of the book because of their intimate connexion with the fortunes of the Jewish people. The portion devoted to the land and people of Judea is not, for the most part, made up of predictions, but of moral and spiritual instructions, such as might serve to keep clearly before them the fact and the character of the divine administration. Through it all, however, there is a sad refrain of impending calamity and judgment, which the prophet is very careful to connect with the religious apostasy and moral corruption of the people.

Looking at this book of prophecies in the general, we recognise: 1) Much historical material. Not only does this come to us in the headings of particular prophecies, and in the way of incidental allusion, but there are some formal statements which shed much light on the life of Jerusalem at this time. No other book of the Old Testament, which is not in its warp and woof historical, contains so much and so valuable historical matter as Jeremiah 2:0) The admonitory element. The great, struggle of the prophet seems to be to awaken in the people a sense of God and spiritual things, and to bring them to realize how widely they had departed from the purity and simplicity of the olden time. And he drags forth into the light some of the fearful abominations which had come to be practised among them, that they might see to what a depth they had fallen. 3) The minatory element. Some of the most vivid and terrific descriptions of coming evil which the Old Testament contains are in this book. 4) Prophecies of promise and encouragement. These are fewer in proportion than in the other prophetical books, but they are none the less beautiful and comprehensive. The one great truth that casts its glory over the whole picture is, the truth of God’s faithful covenant with his people. On the dark background of the people’s sin he places the glory of the Messianic salvation. And so, “in that stormy sunset of prophecy he beholds, in spirit, the dawn of a brighter and eternal day!”

2 . Its Origin.

On this point the statement of Nagelsbach is so just and so satisfactory that we transcribe it.

“Concerning its origin, the book itself gives us some, but not complete, information. According to Jeremiah 36:2, Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, dictated to Baruch the discourses which had then been delivered. In the fifth year of Jehoiakim the writing was finished, and publicly read. Jehoiakim burned it, upon which the prophet was commanded to re-write it, and this time it was severer than before. The writing consisted of prophecies which had been spoken in threatening and denunciation against Israel. Historical and consolatory passages, with prophecies against foreign nations, were excluded. This is clear both from the object of the writing and the fate to which Jehoiakim consigned it. (Jeremiah 36:23.) When the second transcription was finished we are not informed, but it is evident, from Jeremiah 1:3: ‘It came (the word of the Lord to Jeremiah) unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah,… unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month,’ that it was after the destruction of the city and the deportation of the people: for the superscription (Jeremiah 1:1-3) is suitable only for a writing which contains nothing of later date than the period mentioned. But the book does contain prophecies relating to the time subsequent to this epoch, which even pertain to the residence of the prophet in Egypt toward the close of his life. If, now, it is possible that Jeremiah, during the two months that he spent with Gedaliah in Mizpah, or, perhaps still better, (on account of the allusions to the journey to Egypt in Jeremiah 2:16; Jeremiah 2:36,) on the way to Egypt, or in Egypt itself, continued the writing begun in the fourth year of Jehoiakim to the time mentioned in Jeremiah 1:3, and concluded it, it follows that this writing forms the main body of the book, written and edited by the prophet himself, to which the superscription (Jeremiah 1:1-3) refers. The subsequent portions of the book, though the genuine production of Jeremiah, were added by a later editor, who did not venture to alter the original title, though it was no longer suitable.”

That this later editor was Jeremiah’s friend and amanuensis, Baruch, is the most natural conjecture, and one most generally accepted.

3 . Its Style.

As to this, very various opinions have been expressed. Jerome describes Jeremiah as “more rustic in speech than Isaiah, and certain other prophets.” Ewald concludes that his numerous repetitions and standing phrases give evidence of the decline of the poetic gift. Dean Smith concedes that he is “deficient in vigour and incisiveness, prone to lean upon others, and even to repeat himself,” and that he has none of that strength and warmth of imagination which characterize Isaiah and Micah. Knobel is even more severe, and speaks of him as introducing “symbolical usages of an inferior order, and symbolical actions unskilfully contrived.” More just, in some particulars, but at the same time even more unjust, is the description of the poet Campbell: “His genius seems to bend and his voice to falter under the burden of prophecy; and, though sometimes pleasingly affecting, he generally prolongs the accents of grief to monotony, and seldom avoids tautology, or reaches compression, except when he abridges the productions of other prophets.”

On the other hand, Nagelsbach “fully subscribes” to the judgment of Umbreit, who says: “The most spiritual, and therefore the greatest, poet of the desert and of suffering, is certainly Jeremiah. But we have maintained yet more than this, having boldly asserted that, of all the prophets, his genius is the most poetical.” And again: “If we compare Jeremiah’s land with the fruitful Carmel and cedar-forest of Isaiah, it is a waste, but a poetic waste, and a true image of the melancholy state of things which lay before his eyes.” “He is certainly the greatest poet of desolation and sorrow, because he most deeply feels them.” Hengstenberg speaks of Jeremiah’s style as exhibiting “a rich fulness of new images, with great tenderness in the delineation, a versatility which insinuates itself into every one of the most various objects, a pictorial distinctness, and, with all this, an unpretending simplicity, which keeps at a distance from the far more highly esteemed artificial style of his contemporary, Habakkuk.” In one most vital matter Dean Smith accords to this book unequalled praise. “Perhaps no book of Holy Scripture sets so plainly before men the great issues of right and wrong.”

Considered as to his intellect, there is much in Jeremiah which bears a striking resemblance to the apostle John. His speech is simple, clear, incisive, and vigorous. He exhibits great delicacy both of thought and feeling. His imagery is abundant, but never elaborate. His style is characterized by repetitions and favourite phrases and expressions. In single passages the poetic fire burns as brightly as anywhere in the Old Testament. If there be less of elaborateness and ornateness of style than in Isaiah, it is more perfectly consistent with the subject matter. “He that is sad and downcast in heart, whose eyes run over with tears, is not the man to deck and trick himself out in frippery and fine speeches.” Dr. Pusey’s description of the style of Hosea is not inapposite when applied to Jeremiah: “The words of upbraiding, of judgment, of woe, burst out one by one, slowly, heavily, condensed, abrupt, from the prophet’s heavy and shrinking soul,… as though each sentence burst with a groan from his heart, and he had anew to take breath before he uttered each repeated woe. Each verse forms a whole for itself, like one heavy toll in a funeral knell.”

4 . Its Plan.

There is in this book unusual distinctness in plan, and at the same time unusual difficulty and apparent confusion as to details. Many of the prophecies are carefully dated, and in the case of some a double date is given; as, for example, chap. Jeremiah 32:1: “In the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar.” Most of the difficulty in the matter comes from the blending of the logical with the chronological plan of arrangement. The time element does indeed enter prominently into the structure of the book, producing distinct marks of stratification; but still more controlling is the practice of grouping together cognate subjects. It is important, also, to recognise the fact that the book in its present form consists of two general classes of material: the original book, written by Baruch in the fourth and fifth years of Jehoiakim, (see chap. 36,) and additions which were interspersed possibly by the same hand at a later time. Finally, there is the evident fact that at least the last chapter is an editorial addition; for the previous chapter closes with the statement, “Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.”




Chap. 1. Longer Discourses, repeating substance of individualprophecies 1-34

a. Call of the prophet i

b. Rebukes, threatenings, and promises in time of Josiah 2-10

c. The same in the times of Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin 11-20

d. Those belonging, in part at least, to the time of Zedekiah 21-24

2. Special prophecies upon JUDAH AND JERUSALEM, delivered in the reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah. These are introduced by a prophecy delivered in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, foretelling judgment for all nations 25-29

3. Future redemption and glorification of Israel. Prophecies belonging to the reign of Zedekiah 30-34

4. Shorter utterances occasioned by particular occurrences in the times of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah 35-39

5. Historical, in reference to what the prophet did among the people left in the land of the Chaldeans after the destruction of Jerusalem, both prior to their flight into Egypt and after it. Together with a word of consolation for Baruch in the fourth year of Jehoiakim 40-45 II. PROPHECIES “AGAINST THE GENTILES,” chapters 46-41.

1 . Those occasioned by Nebuchadnezzar’s victory over Pharaoh-Necho, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim 46-49

a. Against Egypt 46

b. Against the Philistines 47

c. Against Moab 48

d. Against Ammon Jeremiah 49:1-6

e. Against Edom Jeremiah 49:7-22

f . Against Damascus Jeremiah 49:23-27

g . Against Kedar and Hazor Jeremiah 49:28-33

2 . Prophecy against Elam in reign of Zedekiah Jeremiah 49:34-39

3 . Prophecy against Babylon 50, 51 III. HISTORICAL APPENDIX, chapter 52.

Overthrow of Zedekiah by Nebuchadnezzar, and restoration of Jehoiachin by Evil-Merodach Jeremiah 52:0


Showing Important Differences in Arrangement Between the Hebrew Text of Jeremiah and the Septuagint Version.

SEPTUAGINT HEBREW. SUBJECT. Jeremiah 25:15, ff, answers to Jeremiah 49:34-39 Jeremiah 46:0 Jeremiah 50, 51 Elam. Jeremiah 26:0 Jeremiah 46:0 Egypt. Jeremiah 27, 28 Jeremiah 50, 51 Babylon. Jeremiah 29:1-7 Jeremiah 47:1-7 The Philistines. Jeremiah 29:7-22 Jeremiah 49:7-22 Edom. Jeremiah 30:1-5 Jeremiah 49:1-6 Ammon. Jeremiah 30:6-11 Jeremiah 49:28-33 Kedar and Hazor. Jeremiah 30:12-16 Jeremiah 49:23-27 Damascus. Jeremiah 31:0 Jeremiah 48:0 Moab. Jeremiah 32:0 Jeremiah 25:15; Jeremiah 25:38 The Wine Cup. [NOTE. The Septuagint is very much shorter than the Masoretic text. Graf estimates that two thousand seven hundred words in the latter, or one eighth of the whole, have not been expressed in the Greek Version. “Saith Jehovah,” is omitted sixty-four times. Nebuchadnezzar occurs thirty-six times in the Hebrew and only thirteen in the Septuagint. The omissions, however, are mainly of such expressions and clauses as seemed pleonastic, and indicate an enforced brevity. The only passages omitted are Jeremiah 33:14-26, and Jeremiah 39:4-13.]


Egyptian Chronology. (B.C.)

Ahmes 1520

Amenoph I 1498

Thotmes I 1478

Thotmes II. (Made an Eastern campaign to the Euphrates) 1470

Thotmes III. (Conquered Babylon) 1463

Amenoph II. (Captured Nineveh) 1416

Thotmes IV 1410

Amenoph III. (His kingdom extended from Mesopotamia to Ethiopia) 1403

Amenoph IV. (First of the “Sun worshippers.”) .…

Stranger kings, “Sun worshippers,” their records effaced from the monuments .…

Horus. (Overthrew the dynasty of “Sun worshippers”) 1367

Rameses I 1324

Sethi, or Sethos. (His the most beautiful tomb at Karnak) 1322

Rameses II. (Sesostris.) (Most illustrious of Egypt’s kings) 1307

Meneptah. (By some regarded as the Pharaoh of the Exodus) 1247

Rameses III. (Subdued Philistines, Cretans, etc.) 1200

Pharaoh of uncertain name, father of Solomon’s wife 1010

Sheshonk. (Shishak of Old Testament) 990

Jeroboam fled to him, (1 Kings 2:40,) 973: invaded Palestine, (2 Chronicles 12:0,) 969.

Oserkon I. (By some thought to be the Zerah of 2 Chronicles 14:9) 968

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Bocchoris the Wise 734

Shebek I. (By some identified with the So of 2 Kings 17:4) 728

Shebek II. (Shebatake) 716

Tehrak. (Tirhakah, the ally of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 19:9) 690

Psammeticus I. (Invaded Palestine, captured Ashdod after a siege of 29 years) 664

Pharaoh-Necho 610

Defeated and slew Josiah at Megiddo, 609: deposed Jehoahaz and set up Jehoiakim, 609: defeated at Carchemish by Nebuchadnezzar, 607. Psammeticus II 595

Pharaoh-Hophra 589

Captured Gaza and Sidon, and defeated the King of Tyre; succoured Zedekiah. Assyrian Chronology.



Asshur-bel-Nishishu, Bushur-Asshur, Asshurubalat, 15th century B.C.

Belnirari, Budiel, Binlikhish I., Shalmaneser I., Tuklat-Samdan, 14th century B.C.

Belku Surussur, Adarpolashur, Asshur-dayan, Mutakkil-Nabu, Asshur-Nishshu, Tiglath-Pileser I., 13th and 12th centuries B.C.

Asshur-bel-kala, Shamshi-Bin II., Asshur-abamar, 12th century B.C. B.C.

Beletaris 1070

Shalmaneser II…


Shalmaneser III…


Ramlikhish 956-936

Tuklat-Samdan II 935-930

Asshur-Nazirpal 930-905

Shalmaneser IV 905-970

Shamash-Bin 870-857

Binnirari 857-828

Shalmaneser V 828-818

Asshur-edililani II 818-800

Asshurlikhish (Sardanapalus) 800-789



Tiglath-Pileser II 744-727

Shalmaneser IV 727-722

Sargon 721-704

Sennacherib 704-680

Esarhaddon 679-667

Asshur-banipal 667-647

Asshur-edililani 647-625

Saracus 625-606


Babylonian Monarchy. B.C.

Nabopolassar (conqueror of Nineveh) 695-604

Nebuchadnezzar 604-561

Evil-Merodach 561-559

Nergal-Sharezer 559-555

Labusardochus (king only nine months) 555

Nabanahid 555-538


Illustrating the Verbal Coincidences of the Books of the Hebrew Old Testament.


[NOTE. This Table enumerates words only as to their primary forms, and makes no account of distinctions arising from inflection.]

Click image for full-size version


Passages in Jeremiah Substantially Repeated.

1 . Whole passages of one or more verses: Jeremiah 8:10; Jeremiah 8:12, repeats Jeremiah 6:13-15; Jeremiah 9:8, repeats Jeremiah 5:9; Jeremiah 5:29; Jeremiah 11:12-13, repeats Jeremiah 2:28; Jeremiah 20:12, repeats Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 22:4, repeats Jeremiah 17:25; Jeremiah 23:7, repeats Jeremiah 16:14; Jeremiah 26:6, repeats Jeremiah 7:14; Jeremiah 30:23-24, repeats Jeremiah 23:19-20; Jeremiah 33:25-26, repeats Jeremiah 31:35-36; Jeremiah 43:11, repeats Jeremiah 15:2; Jeremiah 46:28, repeats Jeremiah 30:11.

2 . Images, thoughts, and expressions: Jeremiah 15:20, compared with Jeremiah 1:18-19: Jeremiah 23:15, compared with Jeremiah 8:14, and Jeremiah 9:14; Jeremiah 25:10, compared with Jeremiah 16:9, and Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 32:33, compared with Jeremiah 7:24, and Jeremiah 2:27; Jeremiah 14:4, compared with Jeremiah 35:15, and Jeremiah 26:5, and Jeremiah 25:4, and Jeremiah 7:25; Jeremiah 44:13; Jeremiah 44:18, compared with Jeremiah 42:16-17, and Jeremiah 38:2, and Jeremiah 34:17, and Jeremiah 32:36, and Jeremiah 29:17, and Jeremiah 27:13, and Jeremiah 21:7; Jeremiah 21:9, and Jeremiah 18:21, and Jeremiah 15:2, and Jeremiah 14:12; Jeremiah 44:22, compared with Jeremiah 26:3, and Jeremiah 25:5. and Jeremiah 23:2; Jeremiah 23:28, and Jeremiah 21:12, and Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 49:24, compared with Jeremiah 30:6. and Jeremiah 22:23, and Jeremiah 13:21; Jeremiah 6:24.

From KEIL’S Introduction to the Old Testament.


CHAP. 1. The Superscription; Jeremiah’s Investiture with the Prophetic Office.

CHAP. 2. Introductory; Jehovah’s Faithfulness and Israel’s Apostasy; Israel’s Punishment; Grossness of Israel’s Idolatry; Israel’s Guilt and Punishment.

CHAP. 3. Israel’s Sin and Punishment; Judah Persists in Following Israel; the Call to Return; the Conditions of Restoration.

CHAP. 4. The Call to Return; Lament for the Coming Desolation and Ruin.

CHAP. 5. Universal Corruption makes Pardon Impossible; God’s Word by his Prophets will be Fulfilled in Punishment; Judah’s Obduracy will call down upon her Ruin.

CHAP. 6. Coming of the Invading Army; the Siege; Jerusalem’s and Israel’s Overthrow; Justification of their Overthrow in their Stubborn Resistance; Greatness of the Calamity.

CHAP. 7. Vanity of Trusting in the Temple; Jewish Worship of Jehovah Hypocritical, being joined with Idolatry; Jehovah’s Rejection of the Nation.

CHAP. 8. Retribution; Impenitence and Punishment; the Horrors of the Visitation; Captivity and Sorrow.

CHAP. 9. Prevailing Deceit and Wickedness; the Desolation of the Land and the Dispersion of the People; the Carnival of Death; the Only Safety.

CHAP. 10. The Nothingness of the False Gods; the Incomparable Jehovah; Manifestations of Jehovah’s Almightiness; Misery of the People.

CHAP. 11. The Covenant between Jehovah and Israel; the Breaking of the Covenant by Judah; Calamity Consequent on Breaking the Covenant; Conspiracy of the Men of Anathoth.

CHAP. 12. Complaint at the Prosperity of the Wicked; Israel’s Conspiracy Punished; Pardon and Restoration.

CHAP. 13. Probably an Anticipatory Chapter, the crews being, perhaps, attributable to the days of Jehaoiachin.

CHAP. 14. The Drought; the Prophet’s Prayer; the Prophet’s Prayer Refused.

CHAP. 15. Jeremiah’s Prayer Refused; the Prophet is Corrected and Comforted.

CHAP. 16. The Prophet’s Duty in View of the Coming Judgment; the Cause of the Coming Judgment; Some Details of the Exile.

CHAP. 17. Judah’s Sin Ineffaceably Recorded; the Sources of Ruin; Prayer for Protection and Safety; Exhortation to Hallow the Sabbath.

CHAP. 18. The Figure of the Potter; Interpretation of the Parable; Application of the Parable; the Reception of the Discourse.

CHAP. 19. The Broken Pitcher and its Lesson; Jeremiah’s Message in the Temple.

CHAP. 20. The Opposition and the Punishment of Pashur; Jeremiah’s Complaint.

CHAP. 21. The King’s Question; the Prophet’s Answer.

CHAP. 22. An Exhortation to Righteousness; Three Kings Shallum, Jehoiakim, and Coniah.

CHAP. 23. The Gathering Again of the Flock; the False Prophets. CHAP. 24. The Symbol Two Fig-Baskets; the Interpretation of the Symbol.

CHAP. 25. Introductory; the Judgment on Judah; Judgment on Babylon and other Nations; the Judgment on the World.

CHAP. 26. Destruction Threatened; Indignation of the People; the Fate of Urijah the Prophet.

CHAP. 27. The Subjugation of Neighbouring Kings; Prediction of the Subjugation of King Zedekiah; Message to the Priests and People.

CHAP. 28. Hananiah’s False Prophecy; Jeremiah’s Mild and Peaceable Answer.

CHAP. 29. Letter to the Exiles; Consequences of the Letter.

CHAP. 30. Introductory; the Theme; Judgment on the Nations; Israel’s Deliverance; Israel’s Dire Necessity and Jehovah’s Mercy; the Blessedness of Restoration.

CHAP. 31. Restoration for all the Families of Israel.

CHAP. 32. Introductory; Jeremiah Buys the Field in Anathoth; Jeremiah’s Prayer for Fuller Revelation; Jehovah’s Gracious Answer.

CHAP. 33. The Happiness of the Returning Exiles; Christ the Branch the Fulfilment of both the Kingly and the Priestly Ideas; God’s Perpetual Covenant.

CHAP. 34. The Message to Zedekiah Announcing the Futility of Resistance; Judgments Denounced against the People for Annulling the Manumission of their Slaves.

CHAP. 35. The History of the Rechabites a Counterpart of that of Israel; the Application of the Rechabites’ Example.

CHAP. 36. The Command, First Writing, and Public Reading; Particulars of the Reading; the Reading to the King; Punishment Denounced against Jehoiakim.

CHAP. 37. Jeremiah’s Personal Experiences with the King; Jeremiah’s Imprisonment; Jeremiah’s Interview with the King.

CHAP. 38. The Complaint of the Princes; Jeremiah’s Closer Confinement and Release; Jeremiah’s Subsequent Conference with the King.

CHAP. 39. Capture of Jerusalem; Faith of Zedekiah and Jeremiah; Consolatory Message to Ebed-melech.

CHAP. 40. The Release of Jeremiah; the Gathering of the People to Gedaliah; the Conspiracy against Gedaliah Reported.

CHAP. 41. The Murder of Gedaliah; Johanan’s Expedition to Avenge Gedaliah’s Death.

CHAP. 42. The Remnant Desire Jeremiah to Inquire of God; Jeremiah’s Answer, ( a) Safety in Judea; ( b) Destruction in Egypt; Jeremiah Reproves their Hypocrisy.

CHAP. 43. The Journey to Egypt; Prediction Regarding Egypt.

CHAP. 44. Judah’s Present Desolation the Result of Idolatry, Persistence in Idolatry will Bring only Ruin; Reply of the Judahites, that they were Prosperous even when Idolatrous; Jeremiah Maintains that Idolatry was the Real Cause of the People’s Misery; Jeremiah Predicts Further Distress.

CHAP. 45. The Time and Occasion; the Message.

CHAP. 46. The Caption, General and Particular; Song of Triumph for the Defeat of Egypt; Prophecy against Egypt; Message to Israel.

CHAP. 47. The Title; the Prophecy of Ruin.

CHAP. 48. Calamities in Moab: Devastation of Moab; Particulars of Moab’s Ruin; the Contrast.

CHAP. 49. Prophecy against Ammon; Prophecy against Edom. CHAP. 50. The Title; the Fall of Babylon and Deliverance of Israel, Babylon’s Humiliation and Israel’s Glory; Punishment for Sin; Pride and Humiliation; the Agents of this Destruction.

CHAP. 51. The Hostile Nation; Babylon Destroyed for Israel; God against the Idols of Babylon; the Nations Summoned against Babylon; Picture of Babylon’s Ruin; Final Summing Up.

CHAP. 52. Fulfilment of the Predictions against Jerusalem in its Destruction by Nebuchadnezzar’s Army.

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