By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Prophets

  • The name Jeremiah is somewhat uncertain, but scholars think it means, "the Lord founds," "the Lord exalts," or "the Lord throws down."
  • Jeremiah hailed from Anathoth, about 3 miles north of Jerusalem.
  • His father was the priest, Hilkiah, but there is no evidence that Jeremiah was ever a priest.
  • Jeremiah's ministry covered forty years and five kings.
  • Scholars think Jeremiah began his ministry in 627 BCE when he was only 16-20 years old. (This would have been the time that Josiah began his reforms. But there are those who argue that 627 was the date of Jeremiah's birth and that he didn't begin his ministry until 10-12 years later.)
  • God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet before he was born.
  • Like Moses, Jeremiah said he didn't know how to speak and that he was only a boy. Neither reason was accepted by Yahweh.
  • His call was confirmed the day he noticed a branch on an almond tree. Yahweh asked what he saw and told Jeremiah that he would be "watching" over his word.
  • Another vision involved a cauldron on a hot fire. The wind was coming from the north and was so hot that the cauldron was boiling over. Because it was slightly tipped, the liquid was running toward the south (Judah).
  • The covenant between God and his people was paramount to Jeremiah.
  • He used versions of the word "to turn" or "repent" more than any other prophet. Still the people did not listen to him.
  • Jeremiah never married because God commanded him not to.
  • Jeremiah performed many symbolic acts.
  • One was to not participate in a funeral because he wanted the people to know that in the Day of Judgment mourning would be impossible.
  • He also refrained from festivities and eating and drinking to illustrate that such happiness would no longer be seen in the land.
  • One day he smashed an earthenware jar in front of some elders and priests to indicate that as the jar was broken so was the community. Neither could be repaired.
  • At another time he gathered a group of people (Rechabites) who had been faithful and insisted they drink wine (after their father forbid them to do so). They refused and only then did he commend them for their obedience, while again pointing out to the people the difference between their behavior and that of the Rechabites.
  • Shortly after Jehoiakim became king, Jeremiah delivered his "Temple Sermon" during which time he listed all the king's evil deeds and proclaimed that he would die a shameful death. It almost cost him his life on the spot, and although he was acquitted from all charges, it set the stage for continued conflict with the elders and priests.
  • It might have been about a year later that he dictated "everything he'd been told to preach the past 23 years" to his secretary Baruch ben Shaphan. He wanted the nation to know that Yahweh's words (and hence everything he had been saying) were about to be fulfilled.
  • Baruch read the scroll to those at the temple courtyard because Jeremiah had already been forbidden to go there. The message was so inflammatory that those in attendance took it to the king, who promptly had it burned. He tried to find Jeremiah and Baruch, but by this time they were in hiding.
  • Obviously, another scroll was dictated and passed down through the ages.
  • During the siege of Jerusalem (when Jeremiah was locked up in the court of the guard), he bought some land to indicate that land would be bought and sold again in Judah.
  • After the initial siege of Jerusalem, when foreigners gathered to plot a rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, he paraded in front of them with a yoke around his neck, hoping to convince people to submit to Babylon and NOT to provoke them.
  • Later on, the prophet, Hananiah, took the yoke off from Jeremiah's neck and broke it while prophesying that Yahweh would break the yoke of Babylon. Of course, people preferred his version, and Jeremiah was mocked.
  • or these reasons, his countrymen accused him of being a traitor.
  • The Babylonians apparently knew some of what he had been saying (especially about submitting to them) and thought he was on their side.
  • But Jeremiah saw the bigger picture and knew that if Yahweh had chosen them for judgment, it was pointless to resist.
  • Indeed, he tried to convince Zedekiah to surrender early on. (In the end, of course, Jeremiah was right about everything.)
  • He gave a person on the way to exile a scroll and told him to throw it in the Euphrates to illustrate how the Babylonians would "sink, to rise no more."
  • In 587 BCE, Jerusalem was captured and the temple was destroyed. Jeremiah would have been in his late 50s.
  • When he got to Egypt (he was taken against his will), he buried some huge stones at the entrance to the government building and pronounced that one day the king of Babylon would sit upon those very stones on his throne. (This actually never happened.)
  • No one knows what happened to Jeremiah after he got to Egypt. His last act was to condemn the people who went there and who forced him to go along.
  • Jeremiah saw lessons to be learned in simple everyday things. Good and bad figs represented those in exile and those who stayed behind.
  • Watching a potter made him realize that the potter has absolute control over his work, much like Yahweh had absolute control over the future of his people.
  • Jeremiah suffered terribly and was rejected by his countrymen.
  • His preaching was very upsetting to them, so much so that they oftentimes laughed him to scorn.
  • Occasionally, Jeremiah blamed Yahweh for making him a laughingstock of the people.
  • At one point, Jeremiah cursed the day he was born. He was much like Job in his lamenting with God. Jeremiah believed that good people would prosper and wicked people would suffer. And he knew that he was carrying God's message (and therefore good), but he was still suffering terribly. This did not make sense to him.
  • He was in constant conflict with other prophets and was generally hated by a populace that didn't want to hear what he was being told to say.
  • He complained to God, and several times asked him to wreak vengeance against his enemies.
  • But at other times, Jeremiah found strength and joy in preaching God's words. He praised Him and prayed to Him.
  • Jeremiah is unique among the prophets for disclosing more of his personal feelings than any other prophet.
  • His writings are filled with emotional conflict and the cost of being God's spokesperson.
  • For his reward, he spent a night in stocks, was thrown in a cistern, and was imprisoned various times. People plotted to kill him and usually ostracized him.
  • Someone might think that Jeremiah's ministry was a failure because he lived a very conflicted life and no one listened to him. But others are quick to point out that it is because of Jeremiah that people were able to see through the judgment of the exile and disintegration of their nation to the promise of hope and restoration that lay ahead.


Brueggemann, Walter. "Jeremiah, 1-25. To Pluck Up, To Tear Down." International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1984.

Davidson, Robert. "Jeremiah." Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1984.

Harrison, R.K. "Jeremiah & Lamentations." Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973.

Herbert, A.S. "Jeremiah - 26-52." The Cambridge Bible Commentary. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

Thompson, J.A. "The Book of Jeremiah." The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1980.

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