For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough


1:1.  "The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin:"


Jeremiah means Jehovah will cast forth, and as He cast forth disobedient Israel (the ten northern tribes) into Assyrian bondage in 721 BC; and Judah (Judah and Benjamin) into Babylonian captivity in 586 BC; so did He also cast out the whole nation in AD 70, which has left the bulk of them still scattered amongst the Gentiles.


The restoration of Jewish autonomy in 1948, however, and the return of an escalating number of Jews to their homeland in the intervening years, is the assurance that the “fig tree” (a Biblical symbol of Israel) is beginning to bud again, see Mt 24:32-34, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh; so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.  Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”  (We might note, incidentally, that the vine represents Israel in the past, as a vine brought out of Egypt; the fig tree portrays her during this present Church age; and the olive, as she will be in the full enjoyment of millennial blessing).


"... son of Hilkiah, portion of Jehovah," marks Jeremiah as being of the small remnant that was faithful in the midst of general apostasy.


"... of the priests," points up the spiritual analogy between the remnant of those days, and the true believers of today.  As the one existed in the midst of a professing, but unbelieving nation, so does the other exist in the midst of a professing, but apostate church.


"... in Anathoth, affliction: answers."    True believers today dwell in what Anathoth represents: a world in which they experience affliction, but in which the find also God's answers.


"... in the land of Benjamin, son of the right hand."  Benjamin is a type of Christ in resurrection, the Son crowned with glory and honor, sitting at the Father’s right hand on the throne of heaven, He being there as our forerunner, our representative, our advocate, our great and sympathetic High Priest Who continually intercedes for us, His presence there the guarantee that we shall dwell for ever with Him in that same heaven.  As Jeremiah was a Benjamite, so are the believers of today spiritual Benjamites.  We are of the line of the true Benjamin, Jesus Christ, having been raised up out of spiritual death, possessed of His life and His nature, clothed in His righteousness, to dwell in eternal association with Him in heaven.


1:2.  “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.”


Josiah, meaning he will be sustained of Jehovah, was the good king who instituted religious reform in Judah, though sadly that reform bore no permanent fruit, for following his death the people lapsed into the same gross sins as formerly.  The thirteenth year of his reign, as noted already, was 627 BC, the year in which Jeremiah began to declare the word of the Lord.


Amon means to nourish: to be faithful, but Scripture reveals him to have been a nourisher of evil, and to have been faithful only in continuing the sins of his wicked father Manasseh.  The good therefore that Josiah did was not the result of the influence of his evil parent, but of his own obedience to God, the Spirit, not the flesh, producing good in his life, for the flesh can only produce evil.


1:3.  “It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.”


This indicates another occasion when God spoke to His servant commanding him to continue warning Judah of coming judgment.  (It is to be noted that Josiah had been succeeded by his son Jehoahaz who reigned only three months, he being succeeded by his brother, this Jehoiakim who reigned eleven years, he being succeeded by his son Jehoiachin who reigned also only three months, and was in turn succeeded by his uncle this Zedekiah.  See 2 Ki 23-25 for details of the history of this period).


1:4.  “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”


1:5.  “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”


“I knew thee” relates to God’s foreknowledge, not to what He has predestinated.  Though the two things are frequently confused, they are very different.  For example, He has predestinated believers to be conformed to the image of Christ, and to enjoy eternal bliss; and unbelievers, to endure eternal torment in the lake of fire, but He has not predestinated either the choice that leads a man to become a believer, or that leads another to remain an unbeliever.  Those are freewill choices foreknown by God, but not compelled by Him.


Relative to Jeremiah, God foreknew that the prophet would become an obedient man of faith; and on the basis of that foreknowledge He sanctified him, i.e., He set him apart as His own special instrument.


“... and I ordained thee” means that He had appointed him to a special work: that of being His prophet to the nations; and it is instructive to note the significance of his being appointed as a prophet, not only to Judah, but also to the nations.  During his lifetime, virtually all his words had been to Judah, but in the years since then, and particularly today, his warnings of impending judgment are as applicable to apostate Christendom as they were to apostate Judah, and many nations today profess to be Christian, so that they hear his voice from the Scriptures.


1:6.  “Then said I, Ah, Lord God!  behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.”


The prophet, confronted with virtually the whole nation given to idolatry, and therefore unwilling to listen to any word from God, was reluctant to speak to them.  In spite of the assurance from God, "I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations," he pleaded, "Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child."


It is the same today.  Many men, clearly gifted as teachers  (today's counterparts of the OT prophets, see 2 Pe.2:1), are equally reluctant to warn apostate Christendom, that the fate of rebellious Judah is but the foreshadowing of what awaits her in the coming Tribulation.


1:7.  “But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.”


No man today may refuse to warn apostate Christendom.  God's servants must go where He sends them, and deliver the message He gives them.  They may not, like the false prophets who opposed Jeremiah, adapt the message to please the deluded audience, nor may they withhold any part of the truth however unwilling the audience may be to receive either the message or the messenger.


That Jeremiah was afraid of them is revealed in God's assurance to him in verse 3, "Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee...."  He gives the same assurance to His servants today.  They are no more to fear to deliver God's message to an apostate church, than was Jeremiah to fear to deliver His message to an apostate Judah.


1:8.  “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord,”


The encouragement given Jeremiah is exactly the same as that given to every servant in every age.  His promise to every believer, not just to those whom He has called to a special work, is, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Heb 13:5.  We tend to forget, or to limit the application to specially gifted servants, the Lord’s parting command to His own, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (age).  Amen,” Mt 28:18-20.


1:9.  “Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth.  And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.”


God's promise went beyond the assurance of protection.  He said, "Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth," that same assurance being given to every man whom He has gifted and called.  See Isaiah’s experience, recorded in Isa 6:7.


The trouble today unfortunately is that there are many attempting to do the Lord’s work without His having either gifted or called them, and the result is confusion, for the energy behind their activity is that of the flesh, not the Holy Spirit.  It is this very thing, in fact, which has been the bane of Christendom since the end of the Apostolic age, the clerical system being the most prominent parent of this very evil, for it undertakes to give an endowment that only the Holy Spirit can give.  All the theological training in the world cannot equip a man to do God’s work.  But Christendom has been held in the grip of this deadly system so long that it can’t imagine ministry so-called coming from any other source, so that the voice of those whom God has gifted and called is drowned in what the late Doctor Tatford has very appropriately called “the clanking of ecclesiastical machinery”; or when heard, is rejected as heresy.


1:10.  “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”


The Amplified translation of this verse reads, “... appointed you to the oversight of the nations and of the kingdoms,” and Taylor has translated it, “Today your work begins, to warn the nations and the kingdoms of the world.”  Jeremiah wasn’t appointed to rule over the nations, but to watch over them as God’s representative, and to warn them that judgment was about to overtake them because of their sin.  The condition of the world today, and the applicability of the same warning to that world, make it clear that his ministry, in written form, was to extend far beyond his own day.


The nature of his work is instructive.  Four works of destruction are set against only two of construction, and the reason is apparent: while maintaining the outward form of the worship of Jehovah, the people, instead of teaching the nations about the only true God, had joined them in the licentious worship of their idols, with the result that Israel had become virtually as ignorant of Him as had their heathen neighbors.


The need to first “root out” indicates that idolatry had become a deep-rooted evil, practiced so long that it had become an accepted way of life.  The treatment must be more than cosmetic.  It required not only abandonment of the outward form, but a drastic change of heart that would make anything connected with it abhorrent to them.  Sadly, the needed change never occurred, so the judgment became inevitable; and so is it with today’s Christendom.  Warning of coming judgment falls on equally deaf ears.


We miss the point, however, if we fail to understand the application of the lesson, not only to present day apostate Christendom, but to true believers also.  The absence of literal idols shouldn’t delude us into thinking that Christendom is any less idolatrous than was the Judah of Jeremiah’s day.  The devotees of Mammon, for example, are numbered in the millions, as are also the worshipers of education, sports, theater, art, music, literature, ease and pleasure, as well as a host of lesser idols.  How often we hear even Christian parents boasting of the business or professional achievements of their children: how seldom, of their spiritual development!  And tragically it is the same with Christendom as with Judah: there will be no repentance.  The Tribulation judgments are as inevitable as was the Babylonian captivity of Judah.


The second work was to “pull down,” the literal idols and their temples, but the opposition to that work is easily imagined, for it would have involved also the pulling down of all the great commercial infrastructure that had evolved out of the evil system, e.g., the trade in sacrificial animals and food offerings, the sale of that which exceeded the needs of the priests, supporting lucrative markets in the vicinity of the temples.  An example is that of the trading carried on in the Temple and denounced by the Lord when He expelled the traders, as recorded in John 2:16.


The third work was “to destroy"; and the fourth “to throw down,” are closely allied.  What was removed was not to be put to another use, for the obvious reason that there would have been the temptation to gradually restore the evil system.  It was to be rendered incapable of any other use, a possible example being Moses’ destruction of the golden calf, see Ex 32:20.


There can be no building of the new until every vestige of the old has been destroyed, the practical lesson being that the cultivation of the fruit of the spirit can only occur when everything pertaining to the flesh is put out of the believer’s life.  But even in many assemblies today the simple Scriptural primitive order is being replaced by the gradual imposition of error that is quickly replacing the simplicity that marked the early Church, so that worship has become largely a mere ritual; and service, which is never to be anything but individual, has become largely organizational, with the Holy Spirit denied His rightful place as Director of both worship and work.


There is today, as then, a great deal that must be "rooted out... pulled down... destroyed... thrown down" before there can be spiritual building and planting, and not just the spurious growth, which like Jonah’s gourd, comes up in a night, and just as quickly perishes.


1:11.  “Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou?  And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.”


The almond is the first tree to awake from the sleep of winter, hence its colloquial name "the waker."  In the context of what follows, this may not be taken to foretell spiritual awakening and revival, but rather God’s awakening, as it were, to execute imminent judgment.


1:12.  “Then said the Lord unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.”


God thus assured His servant, and through him, disobedient Judah, that there would be no delay in His execution of the threatened judgment.


That warning is no less applicable today.  The Lord could return today to rapture His Church, leaving the professing, but apostate mass of Christendom to perish in the now imminent terrible Tribulation judgments, just as that apostate generation of Judah perished in the then imminent Babylonian captivity.


In passing, we should realize that relative to the return from Babylon at the end of seventy years, of a remnant which included some of those of the old generation who were believers, and who still lived, the Babylonian captivity is a type of the coming Tribulation, and the emergence of a believing remnant out of the Tribulation into the Millennium, is typified in the return of that believing remnant which came back from Babylon.


1:13.  “And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou?  And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.”


Other translations render this verse, “... a boiling pot; and it is turned from the north [toward the south],” ABP, “... a pot of boiling water, tipping southward, spilling over Judah,” Taylor.

It is the typological picture of the judgment, in the form of the Babylonian captivity, that was about to destroy rebel Judah.  (Babylon lay east of Judah, but the explanation for its coming from the north lies in the fact that between the two countries lay the virtually impassable desert, so that the Babylonian forces had to first go northwest and then southward into Judah).


For rebellious Judah the foe would come literally out of the north; but for apostate Christendom, the foe will come out of what the north represents in Scripture, i.e., mere natural intelligence opposed to faith.  It is the refusal to walk by faith, and the determination to walk according to the world's wisdom, that has brought God's judgment on the professing church, and that will bring a still more terrible measure of judgment on the ecumenical travesty developing today, and that will be left on earth at the Rapture, to be destroyed in the Tribulation.


He who questions whether the professing church lies today under the dominion of the world's wisdom has merely to look, for example, at those who are her ministers.  For the most part ministry is refused unless it comes from the "theologically educated" graduates of the seminaries and Bible schools, the worldly wise, but spiritually blind congregations rejecting the Divine requirement that ministry is to be only by those whom God has gifted and called. 


1:14.  “Then the Lord said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.”   


It continues to be emphasized that the agent of judgment, Babylon, would come from the north; and it is to be noted that all the inhabitants of the land would suffer, reminding us that almost invariably believers also have to endure the chastisement that falls upon their unbelieving fellows; but with one great difference: what destroys the unbeliever is the fire that refines the faith of the believer; and even if he is required to die he does so being able to say with Paul, “We are confident ... and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord,” 2 Cor 5:8.


1:15.  “For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the Lord; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah.”


The repeated use of the plural: families, kingdoms, thrones, indicates that the reference here is primarily to what will be in the Tribulation, for as has been discussed already, past judgments are but foreshadowings of those still to come; and in the Tribulation Jerusalem will be besieged, not by one enemy, but  by a coalition of nations.


1:16.  “And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands.”


“... utter” is literally “to pass sentence on,” that is, it is the equivalent of executing the pronounced punishment on their wickedness which was idolatry.  In maintaining the outward form of worshiping Jehovah while also worshiping idols, they had reduced Him to being just one of many gods which they considered His equals, if not in fact, His superiors.  And Christendom has duplicated their wickedness, for while maintaining the outward pretext of worshiping Him, the gods they really worship are, as noted already, money, education, and pleasure, together with a host of minor deities such as, art, literature, music, etc. 


And America, the leader of the nations, is the foremost offender, having the brazen effrontery to imprint on her currency, and to proclaim loudly, “In God We Trust,” while banning the public reading of His Word, and public prayer, in her schools, committing infanticide by “legalized” abortion, disgusting nations of higher moral standards by corrupting their youth through filthy TV and films, by calling pornography “adult entertainment,” by legalizing homosexuality, making a travesty of justice by hair-slitting legal definitions and a double standard for rich and poor.  Blind and deaf, as were Israel and Judah, to all but the false teachers who preach that God is too loving to send anyone to hell, she mocks those who preach the truth that His hatred of sin is as great as His love of sinners, and that He will devastate this evil world in the imminent Tribulation, she refuses to see that the catastrophe of 9/11 was His warning demonstration of what the world will be like at the end of that seven year era of judgment.


1:17.  “Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them." 


“... be not dismayed at their faces” means simply, “don’t be afraid of them”; and “lest I confound thee” is translated, “lest it scare you at the sight of them,” Moffatt; “lest I ruin you in their presence,” New Berkeley Version; “or I will send fear on you before them,” The Bible in Basic English; “and they shall have no power to daunt thee,” Knox; “or else I will make a fool of you in front of them,” Taylor.  God’s message may not be watered down.  He who would be God’s spokesman must have the courage to believe that the One he serves is omnipotent, and to believe also that death simply transports the faithful from earth into His presence, and to the enjoyment of an eternal reward in heaven.  However unpopular his message might be, the prophet was not to refuse to deliver it.  Nor may His warning to an apostate Christendom be withheld today.


1:18.  “For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.”


Whom God calls He also empowers.  However powerful the adversaries might be, Jeremiah was to go forth as God’s messenger, having the assurance that God had made him impervious to every attack.  He had been made like a city whose defenses could never be breached;  an iron pillar which men could neither damage nor remove; a city protected by walls of thick brass. 


Whether the opponent was the king himself, and all his officials, they would be impotent against God’s servant; as would be also the priests, even though they wielded great power; and as would be the massed might of all the people.  This embraces every segment of society, and reminds us that there isn’t any part of this unconverted world that isn’t bitterly antagonistic to God and those who belong to Him; but that world, with all its vaunted might, is powerless against the God it is our privilege to worship and serve. 


1:19.  “And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee."


History repeats itself.  It was apostate Judah that opposed the prophet, and proved his bitterest foe; and today, as throughout the whole Church age, it is an apostate so-called church that is the bitterest antagonist of those who would deliver God's message to a world now on the brink of destruction.


God's promised care didn't deliver Jeremiah from hatred and persecution, or even from the dungeon, but it did preserve him in the midst of all these things, and ultimately delivered him, vindicating him when his predictions came true, and apostate Judah was led captive into Babylon. 


That captivity is the figure or type of the coming Tribulation judgments that will leave this evil world in ruins; and as Jeremiah was preserved, and vindicated in the fulfillment of God’s warning to Judah, so will every faithful servant also be preserved and vindicated when the predicted and now imminent Tribulation judgments are complete. 


Relative to the preservation of God’s servants, it is to be remembered that their death doesn’t nullify their preservation: it simply transports them to eternal life in heaven.


God’s assurance to Jeremiah is the same assurance as is given every obedient servant, the Lord’s last assurance to His own, before He returned to heaven, being, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (age).  Amen,” Mt 28:20.


This part of history is also soon to repeat itself in regard to an apostate church.

[Jeremiah 2]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough