Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
Jeremiah, meaning Jehovah
will cast forth, and generally known as ďthe weeping prophetĒ because of
his tender love for his people, prophesied from c.627 till 586 BC when Judah
(Judah and Benjamin) were carried captive to Babylon; Israel, the ten northern
tribes, having been carried captive into Assyria in 721 BC. Chapters 40-44
indicate that his ministry may in fact have continued till 582 BC. He was a
contemporary of Daniel, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, and appears to have
been of a gentle, sensitive, timid, sympathetic nature.
Little is known about him
other than that he was the son of Hilkiah, a priest living in Anathoth, about
three miles north east of Jerusalem, but there is nothing to indicate that
Jeremiah himself ever exercised any priestly function. (This Hilkiah is not
the High Priest Hilkiah mentioned in 2 Ki 22:8).
After the destruction of
Jerusalem, Jeremiah was allowed to remain in the land, over which
Nebuchadnezzar had placed Gedaliah as governor. Following the murder of the
latter by a fanatical band of Jewish zealots, the remaining Jews, taking
Jeremiah with them, fled to Egypt, where he died.
His task was to warn Judah
that their sin was going to be visited with Godís judgment in the form of the
seventy year captivity in Babylon. They, however, preferred the pleasant but
lying words of the false prophets, and hated Jeremiah so much that they sought
to kill him.
It might have been expected
that the first and second deportations of some of the people to Babylon in 598
and 588 BC, would have awakened them and brought repentance, but they didnít.
Blind to their sinful state, foolishly optimistic that God would never permit
the captivity which Jeremiah foretold, confident that perfunctory observance
of a loveless religious ritual was all that was necessary to appease Jehovah,
and secure His blessing, they continued in their sin right to the end.
The state of Judah (Judah
and Benjamin) during the time of Jeremiah's ministry, corresponds to the
present state of Christendom. They were idolatrous, bowing down to the idols
of their neighbors while maintaining the outward form of worshiping Jehovah.
The gross sexual sin that was an inherent part of the cultic worship had long
since ceased to be anything but an accepted normal way of life. Divorce was
common; their social, business, political, and judicial dealings corrupt, and
of such long continuance that they had ceased to have any awareness of how
utterly vile they had become in Godís sight.
And so is it with
Christendom. The Israel of Jeremiahís day is the mirror in which all but
spiritually blind eyes may see todayís Christendom perfectly reflected; and as
judgment was impending for Israel, so is it also for todayís world; and as
Godís warning was laughed at then, so is it also today. The babblings of
todayís false teachers are accepted with the same insane credulity as were the
pronouncements of that dayís false prophets, while those who warn of impending
judgment and the need for repentance, are hated with the same intensity as
were Godís prophets of old.
The Assyrian and Babylonian
captivities were but foreshadowings of the then still future Diaspora of AD
70, and of the now impending terrible Tribulation judgments, but blind eyes
and deaf ears refused to see or hear. The generation addressed by Jeremiah
ignored the warning of the earlier Assyrian captivity of their equally evil
sister Israel (the ten northern tribes); and the wicked generation of Christís
day were equally blind and deaf to both those warnings until the Romans
destroyed them in AD 70. And today an equally evil, but outwardly religious
Christendom, is blind and deaf to those three past judgments with which an
angry God punished the sins of apostate Israel. They too love the false
teachers who preach peace, and vehemently hate those who warn of the need to
repent in view of the impending Tribulation judgments.
Judah's rejection and
persecution of Godís prophets corresponds to the professing church's rejection
of sound teaching. Their acceptance of the words of the false prophets
answers to the church's present desire to have false teachers tell them only
what they want to hear.
If therefore we read this
prophecy of Jeremiah simply as a fragment of Jewish history having no
relevance to the present, we are wasting our time, and might as well stop
reading right here.
As Godís judgment upon
Israel and Judah was to deliver them into Assyrian and Babylonian captivity
respectively; and the regathered nation into the hand of the Romans in AD 70,
so will He deliver apostate Christendom into the hand of Rome revived under
the leadership of the Beast in the impending Tribulation era.
Finally, it is necessary to
discuss what has been termed ďThe apparent chaos of the chronology,Ē and since
I have seen no better explanation than that offered by Clyde T. Francisco in
his book Studies in Jeremiah, I quote him at length:
... the book is almost a
hopeless jumble of unrelated prophecies. For instance, chapters 21 and 24 are
dated during the reign of Zedekiah, while chapter 25 is dated during the reign
of Jehoiakim. Chapters 27 and 28 are also from Zedekiahís reign, while 35 and
36 belong to the reign of Jehoiakim. The Hebrew exiles in Babylonia are
comforted in a passage (31:10 ff.) that appears long before the one where the
prediction of the exile is made to Jehoiakim (chap. 36). These are but a few
examples of the chronological confusion....
What is the explanation of
this strange state of affairs? Jeremiah was the only one of the prophets who
had a personal secretary. One would therefore expect that of all the prophets
his career would be the most carefully recorded. Yet the opposite seems
He then quotes from Dr.
Woodís unpublished doctoral thesis, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
1948, prefacing his quotation by explaining
ď... that materials found in
the book of Jeremiah must have circulated in the form of separate scrolls,
each of which contained his teachings upon certain subjects. The arrangement,
therefore, is not chronological, but topical. These various scrolls have been
combined to form the present book. Between the various scrolls have been
inserted a number of stories from the life of Jeremiah. Proceeding upon this
premise, seven major collections are found in the book.
I. The Earlier Prophecies of
Jeremiah (chaps. 1-6, delivered primarily before 622 B.C.)
II. False and True Wisdom
(8:4 to 10:25)
III. Pessimistic Messages
IV. Polemics Against Kings
and Prophets (chaps. 22-29)
V. Passages of Hope (chaps.
VI. Historical section
(chronologically arranged from the siege of Jerusalem through the flight into
Egypt, chaps 37-44)
VII. Foreign Prophecies
Between the first and second
scrolls, Jeremiahís famous Temple Sermon has been inserted (chap. 7), and
between rolls three and four a story of Jeremiahís advice during the siege of
Jerusalem appears (chap. 21). Connecting collections five and six are three
narratives dealing with Israelís reception of the word of God (chaps. 34-36).
The story of Jeremiahís personal counsel to Baruch joins the historical
section to the foreign prophecies (chap. 45), and a historical appendix is
added as the last chapter (chap. 52). Seen in this light, the book of
Jeremiah is definitely carefully put together. It is the attempt to arrange
it chronologically that produces confusion.