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
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JEREMIAH
INTRODUCTION

 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 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 true....

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 (chaps 11-20)

IV. Polemics Against Kings and Prophets (chaps. 22-29)

V. Passages of Hope (chaps. 30-33)

VI. Historical section (chronologically arranged from the siege of Jerusalem through the flight into Egypt, chaps 37-44)

VII. Foreign Prophecies (chaps 46-51)

 

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.

[Jeremiah 1]

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