JEREMIAH, BOOK OF
Prophecies and a historical record written by Jeremiah at the direction of Jehovah. Jeremiah was commissioned as prophet in the 13th year of King Josiah (647 B.C.E.) to warn the southern kingdom, Judah, of her impending destruction. This was less than a century after the prophet Isaiah’s activity and the fall of Israel, the northern kingdom, to the Assyrians.
Arrangement. The book is not arranged chronologically, but, rather, according to subject matter. Dating is presented where necessary, but the majority of the prophecies are applicable to the nation of Judah throughout the general period of the reigns of Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. God repeatedly told Jeremiah that the nation was incorrigibly wicked, beyond reform. Yet those with right hearts were given full opportunity to reform and find deliverance. As to being prophetic for our day, the arrangement does not affect the understanding and application of Jeremiah’s writings.
When Written. For the most part, the book of Jeremiah was not written at the time he declared the prophecies. Rather, Jeremiah evidently did not put any of his proclamations into writing until he was commanded by Jehovah, in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim (625 B.C.E.), to dictate all the words given him by Jehovah to date. This included not only words spoken about Judah in Josiah’s time but also proclamations of judgment on all the nations. (Jer 36:1, 2) The resulting scroll was burned by Jehoiakim when Jehudi read it to him. But Jeremiah was ordered to write it over, which he did through his secretary Baruch, with many additional words.—36:21-23, 28, 32.
The remainder of the book was evidently added later, including the introduction, which mentions the 11th year of Zedekiah (Jer 1:3), other prophecies that Jeremiah wrote down at the time he was to deliver them (30:2; 51:60), and the letter to the exiles in Babylon (29:1). Additionally, the proclamations uttered during the reign of Zedekiah and the accounts of the events after Jerusalem’s fall, down to about 580 B.C.E., were added later. It may be that, although the scroll written by Baruch was the basis for a large part of the book, Jeremiah afterward edited and arranged it when adding later sections.
Authenticity. The authenticity of Jeremiah is generally accepted. Only a few critics have challenged it on the basis of the differences in the Hebrew Masoretic text and the Greek Septuagint as found in the Alexandrine Manuscript. There are more variations between the Hebrew and the Greek texts of the book of Jeremiah than in any other book of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Greek Septuagint is said to be shorter than the Hebrew text by about 2,700 words, or one eighth of the book. The majority of scholars agree that the Greek translation of this book is defective, but that does not lessen the reliability of the Hebrew text. It has been suggested that the translator may have had a Hebrew manuscript of a different “family,” a special recension, but critical study reveals that this apparently was not the case.
The fulfillment of the prophecies recorded by Jeremiah, together with their content, strongly testifies to the book’s authenticity. Among the numerous prophecies of Jeremiah are those listed on the chart on page 34.
Principles and Qualities of God. Besides the fulfillments that we have listed, the book sets forth principles that should guide us. It stresses that formalism is of no value in God’s eyes but that he desires worship and obedience from the heart. The inhabitants of Judah are told not to trust in the temple and its surrounding buildings and are admonished: “Get yourselves circumcised to Jehovah, and take away the foreskins of your hearts.”—Jer 4:4; 7:3-7; 9:25, 26.
The book furnishes many illustrations revealing God’s qualities and his dealings with his people. Jehovah’s great loving-kindness and mercy are exemplified in his delivering a remnant of his people and finally restoring them to Jerusalem, as prophesied by Jeremiah. God’s appreciation and consideration for those showing kindness to his servants and his being the Rewarder of those who seek him and show obedience are highlighted in his care for the Rechabites, for Ebed-melech, and for Baruch.—Jer 35:18, 19; 39:16-18; 45:1-5.
Jehovah is brilliantly portrayed as the Creator of all things, the King to time indefinite, the only true God. He is the only one to be feared, the Corrector and Director of those calling on his name, and the one under whose denunciation no nation can hold up. He is the Great Potter, in whose hand individuals and nations are as clay pottery, for him to work with or destroy as he pleases.—Jer 10; 18:1-10; Ro 9:19-24.
The book of Jeremiah reveals that God expects the people bearing his name to be a glory and a praise to him and that he considers them close to him. (Jer 13:11) Those who prophesy falsely in his name, saying “peace” to those with whom God is not at peace, have to account to God for their words, and they will stumble and fall. (6:13-15; 8:10-12; 23:16-20) Those standing before the people as priests and prophets have great responsibility before God, for, as he told those in Judah: “I did not send the prophets, yet they themselves ran. I did not speak to them, yet they themselves prophesied. But if they had stood in my intimate group, then they would have made my people hear my own words, and they would have caused them to turn back from their bad way and from the badness of their dealings.”—23:21, 22.
As in other books of the Bible, God’s holy nation is considered to be in relationship to him as a wife, and unfaithfulness to him is “prostitution.” (Jer 3:1-3, 6-10; compare Jas 4:4.) Jehovah’s own loyalty to his covenants, however, is unbreakable.—Jer 31:37; 33:20-22, 25, 26.
Many are the fine principles and illustrations in the book, upon which the other Bible writers have drawn for reference. And many other pictorial and prophetic patterns are found that have application and vital meaning to the modern-day Christian and his ministry.
[Box on page 33]
HIGHLIGHTS OF JEREMIAH
A record of Jehovah’s judgment proclamations through Jeremiah, as well as an account of the prophet’s own experiences and of Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem
Writing was begun about 18 years before Jerusalem fell, and was completed some 27 years after that event
Youthful Jeremiah is commissioned as a prophet
He will have “to tear down” as well as “build” and “plant”
Jehovah will strengthen him for the commission (1:1-19)
Jeremiah fulfills his commission “to tear down”
He exposes the wickedness in Judah and proclaims the certainty of Jerusalem’s destruction; the presence of the temple will not save the unfaithful nation; God’s people will be exiles for 70 years in Babylon (2:1–3:13; 3:19–16:13; 17:1–19:15; 24:1–25:38; 29:1-32; 34:1-22)
Jehovah foretells humiliating defeats of many nations, including the Babylonians (46:1–51:64)
Jeremiah carries out his assignment “to build” and “to plant”
He also announces that Jehovah will conclude a new covenant with his people (31:27-40)
At Jehovah’s direction, Jeremiah buys a field in order to illustrate the certainty that Israel will return from exile (32:1-44)
He assures the Rechabites that they will survive, because they obeyed their forefather Jehonadab; their obedience shows up Israel’s disobedience to Jehovah (35:1-19)
He reproves Baruch and strengthens him with the assurance of surviving the coming calamity (45:1-5)
Jeremiah suffers because of his bold prophesying
He is struck and placed in the stocks overnight (20:1-18)
A plot is hatched to kill him for proclaiming the destruction of Jerusalem, but the princes deliver him (26:1-24)
The king burns Jeremiah’s scroll; Jeremiah is falsely accused of deserting to the Babylonians and is arrested and confined (36:1–37:21)
Events from the fall of Jerusalem until the flight into Egypt
Jerusalem falls; King Zedekiah is captured, his sons are slain, and he is blinded and taken to Babylon (52:1-11)
Gedaliah is appointed governor over the few Israelites remaining, but he is assassinated (40:1–41:9)
Fearful, the people flee to Egypt; Jeremiah warns that Egypt itself will fall and that calamity will overtake them in that land (41:10–44:30)
[Box on page 34]
PROPHECIES RECORDED BY JEREMIAH
Ones That He Saw Fulfilled
The death, within one year, of the false prophet Hananiah (Jer 28:16, 17)
Others Concerning Which History Records Fulfillment
Ammon laid waste (Jer 49:2)
Edom cut off as a nation (Jer 49:17, 18) (With the death of the Herods, Edom became extinct as a nation.)
Those Having Significant Spiritual Fulfillment, as Indicated in the Christian Greek Scriptures
Fall of Babylon the Great an enlargement and symbolic application of Jeremiah’s words against ancient Babylon, as the following comparisons show: Jer 50:2—Re 14:8; Jer 50:8; 51:6, 45—Re 18:4; Jer 50:15, 29—Re 18:6, 7; Jer 50:23—Re 18:8, 15-17; Jer 50:38—Re 16:12; Jer 50:39, 40; 51:37—Re 18:2; Jer 51:8—Re 18:8-10, 15, 19; Jer 51:9, 49, 56—Re 18:5; Jer 51:12—Re 17:16, 17; Jer 51:13—Re 17:1, 15; Jer 51:48—Re 18:20; Jer 51:55—Re 18:22, 23; Jer 51:63, 64—Re 18:21