Book of Jeremiah
Again, just as in my Isaiah commentary, chapters and verses are color coded as to whether the prophecies are already fulfilled and in the history books in bold dark red, future Millennial Kingdom of God prophecies in bold green, or future second coming of the Messiah prophecies in bold red. Much of the book of Jeremiah is historic, but there are some stunning Millennial Kingdom prophecies as well as second coming prophecies yet to be fulfilled, tucked away in Jeremiah as well.
From Halley we learn Jeremiah lived about 100 years after Isaiah, and was called to the prophetic office around 626BC. The Northern Kingdom, called the House of Israel, had fallen to the Assyrians about 100 years earlier in 721BC, having been conquered and deported up into the Caspian Sea region, never to return as a nation. Jerusalem was partly destroyed in 606BC and further devastated in 597BC, and finally burned and desolated in 586BC. Jeremiah lived through those terrible forty years, faithfully and very boldly prophesying God’s warning to these stubborn people who would not listen. On the international scene, Assyria, Babylon and Egypt were vying for world domination. The Assyrians already had it, but it was rapidly slipping from their grasp. They had dominated the world scene for 300 years, but were growing weak now, as first the Scythians and then Babylon were becoming very powerful. Egypt, a longstanding world power, going back 1,000 years, had declined to a second-rate power who could occasionally throw some military weight around, but not always effectively. Egypt was becoming militarily ambitious during this period, but Babylon broke their power around the middle of Jeremiah’s ministry (607BC), and two years later crushed Egypt in the Battle of Carchemish (605BC). Babylon went on to rule the world for the next 70 years, the same years the Jews were in captivity in Babylon. At the end of those 70 years Babylon herself was conquered by Cyrus the Great, ruling over the Medo-Persian Empire, and the Jews were released by him, free to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.
Jeremiah’s message constantly warned the Jews that because of their sin and refusal to repent, the Babylonians were going to conquer Judea and Jerusalem, completely. Halley brings out that his message evolved over time, and he gave 5 points in this evolution of prophecied events:
“1. Judah is going to be destroyed by victorious Babylon.
2. If Judah will turn from her wickedness, somehow God will save her from destruction at the hands of the Babylonians.
3. Later, when there seemed no longer any hope of Judah’s repentance: if, only as a matter of political expedience, Judah will submit to Babylon, she shall be spared.
4. Judah, destroyed, shall recover, and yet dominate the world.
5. Babylon, destroyer of Judah, shall herself be destroyed, never to rise again.”
(It must not be forgotten that it was God who was “evolving” the message to directly suit the rebellious response of Judah to these very prophecies.)
Chronology of Jeremiah’s Times:
627BC Josiah began his reforms (cf. 2nd Chron. 14).
626BC Jeremiah’s Call.
624BC Calah destroyed by the Scythians, Scythian occupation of all Palestine to the Egyptian border occurs.
621BC Book of the Law found, Josiah’s huge Passover.
612BC Nineveh destroyed by Babylonians, assisted by Scythians.
612/611BC Scythians withdraw from Middle East northward back to Armenia and the Russian Steppes.
609/608BC Josiah slain at Megiddo, by Pharaoh Necho II,
Assyrian Empire officially ends, battle of Haran. Jehoahaz taken captive to Egypt. Jehoiakim rules 11 years.
606BC Judah subdued by Babylon, First Captivity.
605BC Battle of Carchemish: Babylon crushed Egypt.
597BC Jehoiachin’s (Jeconiah’s) Captivity.
593BC Zedekiah’s visit to Babylon.
586BC Jerusalem burned. Temporary End to David’s Kingdom. Jeremiah let go with Zedekiah’s daughters.
Other Old Testament Prophets who lived during the time of Jeremiah
One interesting thing to note about these prophets, when God is disciplining his people he keeps his servants the Prophets with them, giving them verbal teaching and messages during the disciplining, like a loving parent would do for a rebellious child.
Ezekiel: a fellow priest, somewhat younger than Jeremiah, preaching in Babylon, among the captives, the same things that Jeremiah was preaching in Jerusalem.
Daniel: a man of royal blood, ‘holding the line’ in the palace of king Nebuchadnezzar.
Habakkuk and Zephaniah: helping Jeremiah in Jerusalem.
Nahum: at the same time, predicting the fall of Nineveh.
Obediah: at the same time, predicting the ruin of Edom.
Urijah: same time as Jeremiah, killed by Jehoiakim.
J. Vernon McGee tells us “It will help our understanding of the prophets to weave them into 1 Samuel through 2 Chronicles, the historical books which cover the same period of time. The prophets prophecied during the time period covered by those historical books---with the exception of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, who prophecied after the Exile (and fit into the time period of the historical Books of Ezra and Nehemiah) [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/kings/1.html.”
The call and commission of Jeremiah by God.
This chapter is historic, Hilkiah was the father of Jeremiah and was the high priest who found the Book of the Law during Josiah’s reign (in 621BC). Josiah and Jeremiah were contemporaries, probably friends. Jeremiah prophecied for 18 years in Josiah’s reign until Josiah died trying to wage war against the same Pharaoh the Babylonians would soon defeat. Verses 2-3 gives us the time span of Jeremiah’s ministry, from the 13th year of Josiah to the 11th year on the 5th month of Zedekiah when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed and burned. (vs. 4-5) God says he knew Jeremiah before he was conceived, and before he came out of the womb he was sanctified and ordained a prophet (vs. 5). God tells him ‘Don’t worry about the effect of your message, just give the message.’ Jeremiah objects saying he’s but a child (the ministry for a priest wasn’t supposed to start until they were 30 years old, Jeremiah was only 20). Verse 10 defines Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry. Most note the “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down” part of the commission in this verse, but never the last part, “to build, and to plant”. At the very end of his ministry in the Middle East, under the protection of the Babylonians Jeremiah has custody of king Zedekiah’s daughters. Both he, Baruch and they disappear from the historic scene, it’s just like they disappear from off the map, a historic mystery. More on this later. (vs. 13) The seething pot is the coming Babylonian army, coming from the north to destroy and capture. In verse 19 God says the Jews will fight against Jeremiah, ‘but they will not succeed in harming you, for I am with you, so give your message from me.’
Anathoth, his home, was about 2.5 miles northeast of Jerusalem.
“The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 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 [ie, Josiah was 21 years old, 626BC]. It 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 carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’ Then said I, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold I cannot speak, for I am a youth.’ But the LORD said to me: ‘Do no say, I am a youth. For you shall go to all to whom I send you. And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the LORD. Then the LORD put forth his hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.” [Comment: during the lifetime of Jeremiah the Assyrian Empire was ‘pulled down and destroyed,’ while the Babylonian Empire was built up and took its place. Judah was pulled down and deported to Babylon, and then at that same period in time Jeremiah along with king Zedekiah’s daughters mysteriously historically disappear from view. Some speculate that Jeremiah had a secret commission from God to replant the crown of David somewhere else in the world through Zedekiah’s daughters. We’ll find out for sure when Jesus returns. But this verse was definitely fulfilled historically in Jeremiah’s lifetime, nations fell and rose, empires fell and rose, all following the words the LORD gave Jeremiah to speak.] “Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a branch of an almond tree.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am ready to perform my word.’ And the word of the LORD came to me the second time, saying, ‘What do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a boiling pot, and it is facing away from the north.’ Then the LORD said to me: ‘Out of the north calamity shall break forth on all the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I am calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north,’ says the LORD; ‘They shall come and each one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around, and against all the cities of Judah. I will utter my judgments against them concerning all their wickedness, because they have forsaken me, burned incense to other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. Therefore prepare yourself and arise, and speak to them all that I command you. Do not be dismayed before their faces, lest I dismay you before them. For behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land---against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,’ says the LORD, ‘to deliver you.’”
Background for chapters 2-12
J. Vernon McGee gives us this background for Jeremiah chapters 2 through 12, “Chapters 2 through 6 were given during the first five years of Jeremiah’s ministry (626-621BC). And since he began to prophesy in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah, these messages were given in those five years before the finding of the Book of the Law in the temple. The messages in chapters 7 through 9 have to do with the cleansing of the temple and the discovery of the Book of the Law, which took place in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah (621BC). Then chapters 10 through 12 are the messages which came in the period of reform and revival after the finding of the Book of the Law. We will discover that the revival was a surface-revival sort of thing because there was not proper emphasis placed on the Word of God. Friend, we need to remember that there will never be a real revival until there is a real emphasis placed upon the Word of God. In order to orient ourselves for this period of history, we need to study the historical books along with the prophetic books. Therefore we will turn back to the thirty-fourth chapter of 2 Chronicles to fit the messages of Jeremiah into this particular place in history. “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign [639BC], and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years [609BC]. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left” (2 Chronicles 34:1-2). “For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father [631BC]: and in the twelfth year [627BC] he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images” (2 Chronicles 34:3). Jeremiah’s first five years of prophesying were during this period [627-621BC].” [J. Vernon McGee, THRU THE BIBLE SERIES, Vol. III, p.358.]
Vs. 1-3, This is God’s impassioned rebuke for Israel (and this is addressed to the whole nation of Israel, even though the Northern 10 tribed House of Israel went into Assyrian captivity and never returned historically as a nation). God is calling them to remember the beginning of their relationship with him, just as Jesus does of the Ephesus era of his Church in Revelation 2. Vs. 5, God asks, ‘What did I do wrong?’ They abandoned God for idols. Verse 8, emphasis mine. This has become, sadly, a condition found amongst the pastors and ministers throughout many of the older denominations, a condition of their not knowing the God of the Bible. Jesus (cf. John 8:58) was Yahweh in the Old Testament. These pastors do not know the God of the Bible, neither Yahweh nor Jesus. It is a case of the blind leading the blind, a sad condition found amongst them and their churches. So Jeremiah 2, the whole chapter can and does apply to modern Christianity as found in our Western Judeo-Christian nations. It’s not merely a dead, historic chapter in Jeremiah, it’s alive and applies to the here and now! If you’re reading this and find you’re a member of one of these older denominations, my advice, get out fast, find a live part of the Body of Christ (your spiritual life may depend on it). Vs. 21-22 God uses the good vine verses the corrupt vine analogy. vs. 28 puts this in context with God speaking specifically to Judah “you have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah.” Judah has had Baal worship re-introduced into the fabric of their society by the two previous kings, Manasseh and Amon (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/kings/5.html for the historic background associated with these prophecies). That’s what Jeremiah’s ministry was all about, warning the nation of Judah about the dire consequences of that.
“Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holiness to the LORD, the firstfruits of his increase. All that devour him will offend; disaster will come upon them,’ says the LORD.’ Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the LORD: ‘What injustice have your fathers found in me, that they have gone far from me, have followed idols, and have become idolaters? Neither did they say, ‘Where is the LORD, who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, who led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and pits, through a land of drought and the shadow of death, through a land that no one crossed and where no one dwelt? I brought you into a bountiful country, to eat its fruit and its goodness. But when you entered, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, Where is the LORD? And those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers also transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit. Therefore I will yet bring charges against you,’ says the LORD, ‘and against your children’s children I will bring charges. For pass beyond the coasts of Cyprus and see, send to Kedar and consider diligently, and see if there has been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But my people have changed their Glory for what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; be very desolate,’ says the LORD. ‘For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewn themselves cisterns---broken cisterns that can hold no water. Is Israel a servant? Is he a homeborn slave? Why is he plundered? The young lions roared at him, and growled; they made his land waste; his cities are burned, without inhabitant. Also the people of Noph [Memphis in ancient Egypt] and Tahpanhes [Tanis?] have broken the crown of your head. [Comment: “Also the people of Noph and Tahpanhes have broken the crown of your head” is perhaps a reference to the future death of king Josiah at the hands of Pharaoh Neko II and his Egyptian army at Megiddo in 608BC.] Have you not brought this on yourself, in that you have forsaken the LORD your God when he led you in the way? And now why take the road to Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? Or why take the road to Assyria, to drink the waters of the River [Euphrates]? Your wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you. Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the Lord GOD of hosts. For of old I have broken your yoke and burst your bonds; and you said, ‘I will not transgress,’ when on every high hill and under every green tree you lay down, playing the harlot. Yet I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality. How then have you turned before me into the degenerate plant of an alien vine? For though you wash yourself with lye, and use much soap, yet your iniquity is marked before me,’ says the Lord GOD. How can you say, ‘I am not polluted, I have not gone after the Baals’? See your way in the valley; know what you have done: You are a swift dromedary breaking loose in her ways, a wild donkey used to the wilderness, that sniffs at the wind in her desire; in her time of mating, who can turn her away? All those who seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they will find her. Withhold your foot from being unshod, and your throat from thirst. But you said, ‘There is no hope. No! For I have loved aliens, and after them I will go.’ As the thief is ashamed when he is found out, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they and their kings and their princes, and their priests and their prophets, saying to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave birth to me.’ For they have turned their back to me, and not their face. But in the time of their trouble they will say, ‘Arise and save us.’ But where are your gods that you have made for yourselves? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble; for according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah. Why will you plead with me? You all have transgressed against me,’ says the LORD. ‘In vain I have chastened your children; they received no correction. Your sword has devoured your prophets like a destroying lion. O generation, see the word of the LORD! Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of darkness? Why do my people say, ‘We are lords; we will come no more to you’? Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number. Why do you beautify your way to seek love? Therefore you have also taught the wicked women your ways. Also on your skirts is found the blood of the lives of the poor innocents. I have not found it by secret search, but plainly on all these things. Yet you say, ‘Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me.’ Behold, I will plead my case against you, because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’ Why do you gad about so much to change your way? Also you shall be ashamed of Egypt as you were ashamed of Assyria. Indeed you will go forth from him with your hands on your head; for the LORD has rejected your trusted allies, and you will not prosper by them.’