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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
Jeremi´ah (raised up or appointed by God), was the son of Hilkiah, a priest of Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin [ANATHOTH]. Jeremiah was very young when the word of the Lord first came to him (). This event took place in the thirteenth year of Josiah (B.C. 629), while the youthful prophet still lived at Anathoth. It would seem that he remained in his native city several years, but at length, in order to escape the persecution of his fellow townsmen (), and even of his own family (), as well as to have a wider field for his exertions, he left Anathoth and took up his residence at Jerusalem. The finding of the book of the law five years after the commencement of his predictions, must have produced a powerful influence on the mind of Jeremiah, and king Josiah no doubt found him a powerful ally in carrying into effect the reformation of religious worship (). During the reign of this monarch we may readily believe that Jeremiah would be in no way molested in his work; and that from the time of his quitting Anathoth to the eighteenth year of his ministry, he probably uttered his warnings without interruption, though with little success (see Jeremiah 11). Indeed, the reformation itself was nothing more than the forcible repression of idolatrous and heathen rites, and the re-establishment of the external service of God, by the command of the king. No sooner, therefore, was the influence of the court on behalf of the true religion withdrawn, than it was evident that no real improvement had taken place in the minds of the people. Jeremiah, who hitherto was at least protected by the influence of the pious king Josiah, soon became the object of attack, as he must doubtless have long been the object of dislike to those whose interests were identified with the corruptions of religion. We hear nothing of the prophet during the three months which constituted the short reign of Jehoahaz; but 'in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim' the prophet was interrupted in his ministry by 'the priests and the prophets,' who with the populace brought him before the civil authorities, urging that capital punishment should be inflicted on him for his threatenings of evil on the city unless the people amended their ways (Jeremiah 26). The princes seem to have been in some degree aware of the results which the general corruption was bringing on the state, and if they did not themselves yield to the exhortations of the prophet, they acknowledged that he spoke in the name of the Lord, and were quite averse from so openly renouncing His authority as to put His messenger to death. It appears, however, that it was rather owing to the personal influence of one or two, especially Ahikam, than to any general feeling favorable to Jeremiah, that his life was preserved. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim (B.C. 606) he was commanded to write the predictions which had been given through him, and to read them to the people. As he was at that time 'shut up,' and could not himself go into the house of the Lord (), he deputed Baruch to write the predictions after him, and to read them publicly on the fast-day. These threatenings being thus anew made public, Baruch was summoned before the princes to give an account of the manner in which the roll containing them had come into his possession. The princes, who, without strength of principle to oppose the wickedness of the king, had sufficient respect for religion, as well as sagacity enough to discern the importance of listening to the voice of God's prophet, advised both Baruch and Jeremiah to conceal themselves, while they endeavored to influence the mind of the king by reading the roll to him. The result showed that their precautions were not needless. The bold self-will and reckless daring of the monarch refused to listen to any advice, even though coming with the professed sanction of the Most High. Having read three or four leaves, 'he cut the roll with the penknife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed,' and gave immediate orders for the apprehension of Jeremiah and Baruch, who, however, were both preserved from the vindictive monarch. Of the history of Jeremiah during the eight or nine remaining years of the reign of Jehoiakim we have no certain account. At the command of God he procured another roll, in which he wrote all that was in the roll destroyed by the king, 'and added besides unto them many like words' (). In the short reign of his successor Jehoiachin or Jeconiah, we find him still uttering his voice of warning (see; comp. , and ), though without effect. It was probably either during this reign, or at the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, that he was put in confinement by Pashur, the 'chief governor of the house of the Lord.' He seems, however, soon to have been liberated, as we find that 'they had not put him into prison' when the army of Nebuchadnezzar commenced the siege of Jerusalem. The Chaldeans drew off their army for a time, on the report of help coming from Egypt to the besieged city; and now feeling the danger to be imminent, and yet a ray of hope brightening their prospects, the king entreated Jeremiah to pray to the Lord for them. The hopes of the king were not responded to in the message which Jeremiah received from God. He was assured that the Egyptian army should return to their own land, that the Chaldeans should come again, and that they should take the city and burn it with fire (). The princes, apparently irritated by a message so contrary to their wishes, made the departure of Jeremiah from the city, during the short respite, the pretext for accusing him of deserting to the Chaldeans, and he was forthwith cast into prison. The king seems to have been throughout inclined to favor the prophet, and sought to know from him the word of the Lord; but he was wholly under the influence of the princes, and dared not communicate with him except in secret (; ); much less could he follow advice so obnoxious to their views as that which the prophet gave. Jeremiah, therefore, more from the hostility of the princes than the inclination of the king, was still in confinement when the city was taken. Nebuchadnezzar formed a more just estimate of his character and of the value of his counsels, and gave a special charge to his captain Nebuzaradan, not only to provide for him but to follow his advice (). He was accordingly taken from the prison and allowed free choice either to go to Babylon, where doubtless he would have been held in honor in the royal court, or to remain with his own people. We need scarcely be told that he who had devoted more than forty years of unrequited service to the welfare of his falling country should choose to remain with the remnant of his people rather than seek the precarious fame which might await him at the court of the king of Babylon. Accordingly he went to Mizpah with Gedaliah, whom the Babylonian monarch had appointed governor of Judea; and after his murder sought to persuade Johanan, who was then the recognized leader of the people, to remain in the land, assuring him and the people, by a message from God in answer to their inquiries, that if they did so the Lord would build them up, but if they went to Egypt the evils which they sought to escape should come upon them there (Jeremiah 42). The people refused to attend to the divine message, and under the command of Johanan went into Egypt, taking Jeremiah and Baruch along with them (). In Egypt the prophet still sought to turn the people to the Lord, from whom they had so long and so deeply revolted (Jeremiah 44); but his writings give us no subsequent information respecting his personal history. Ancient traditions assert that he spent the remainder of his life in Egypt. According to the pseudo-Epiphanius he was stoned by the people at Taphnae, the same as Tahpanhes, where the Jews were settled. It is said that his bones were removed by Alexander the Great to Alexandria.
Jeremiah was contemporary with Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, and Daniel. None of these, however, are in any remarkable way connected with him, except Ezekiel. The writings and character of these two eminent prophets furnish many very interesting points both of comparison and contrast. Both, during a long series of years, were laboring at the same time and for the same object. The representations of both, far separated as they were from each other, are in substance singularly accordant; yet there is at the same time a marked difference in their modes of statement, and a still more striking diversity in the character and natural disposition of the two. No one who compares them can fail to perceive that the mind of Jeremiah was of a softer and more delicate texture than that of his illustrious contemporary. His whole history convinces us that he was by nature mild and retiring, highly susceptible and sensitive, especially to sorrowful emotions, and rather inclined, as we should imagine, to shrink from danger than to brave it. Yet, with this acute perception of injury, and natural repugnance from being 'a man of strife,' he never in the least degree shrinks from publicity; nor is he at all intimidated by reproach or insult, or even by actual punishment and threatened death, when he has the message of God to deliver. He is, in truth, as remarkable an instance, though in a different way, of the overpowering influence of the divine energy, as Ezekiel. The one presents the spectacle of the power of divine inspiration acting on a mind naturally of the firmest texture, and at once subduing to itself every element of the soul; while the other furnishes an example, not less memorable, of moral courage sustained by the same divine inspiration against the constantly opposing influence of a love of retirement and strong susceptibility to impressions of outward evil.
The style of Jeremiah corresponds with this view of the character of his mind; though not deficient in power, it is peculiarly marked by pathos. He delights in the expression of the tender emotions, and employs all the resources of his imagination to excite corresponding feelings in his readers. He has an irresistible sympathy with the miserable, which finds utterance in the most touching descriptions of their condition. He seizes with wonderful tact those circumstances which point out the objects of his pity as the objects of sympathy, and founds his expostulations on the miseries which are thus exhibited. His book of Lamentations is an astonishing exhibition of his power to accumulate images of sorrow. The whole series of elegies has but one object—the expression of sorrow for the forlorn condition of his country; and yet he presents this to us in so many lights, alludes to it by so many figures, that not only are his mournful strains not felt to be tedious reiterations, but the reader is captivated by the plaintive melancholy which pervades the whole.
The genuineness and canonicity of the writings of Jeremiah in general are established both by the testimony of ancient writers, and by quotations and references which occur in the New Testament.
The principal predictions relating to the Messiah are found in;; .
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Jeremiah'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​j/jeremiah.html.