The second reading from the Old Testament for the month of August takes us through the remainder of the book of the prophet Jeremiah. A brief background and overview of the book can sharpen our appreciation of Jeremiah and cause his message to spring to life as a motivating force each day as we await the return of our Master.

The Man

Jeremiah was a young man of around 18 to 21 years when he commenced his ministry, during the reign of King Josiah—a young man of about the same age as the prophet. He prophesied for a period of over 40 years, during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah. His name means “Whom Yahweh appoints and exalts”, and his father was Hilkiah, “of the priests that were in Anathoth”, a Levitical town three miles north of Jerusalem (cp 1Kings 2:26,27).

Appointed By Yahweh

Jeremiah was appointed by Yahweh to a work that he believed was beyond him, but he found that his strength lay in his family name “Hilkiah”—“Yah is protection”, and “Anathoth”—“answers to prayers”. Jeremiah’s mission was ordained of Yahweh before his birth (1:5) even as the “prophet like unto Moses”, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1: 11,20) and we ourselves are known of God (Eph 1:4,5).

The prophecy can be equated with the Gospel of Mark—the Ox/Servant (11:19): therefore the role of Jeremiah was that of a servant with no option but to obey. Indeed, the key verse of the prophecy is found in Ch 20:9: “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.

In chapter 1:11,12 Jeremiah saw the vision of a rod of an almond tree. The almond tree was known as the “awakening tree” (“almond” Hebrew shaqed means “to be ready, to hasten, to awake”) and the prophet was thus shown that Yahweh would hasten (“hasten” Hebrew shaqad) to perform the judgments which He was threatening.

The prophet was next given a vision of a boiling cauldron toward the north, indicating that Yahweh would bring a mighty host from the north to inflict His judgments upon Judah. This was fulfilled about 40 years later, when Nebuchadnezzar came against the land and destroyed the city and temple. We can well imagine how the young man Jeremiah (“I am a child” 1:6) felt as he proclaimed such a message to the rulers of his people. However, Jeremiah was given a clear and sober warning: “be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them”.

The Sorrowing, Suffering Prophet

Jeremiah, in his loving, sensitive perseverance with the people of God, typifies the Lord Jesus Christ— “the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”.

He commenced to minister about 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem—so did the Lord.

  • He was foreknown of Yahweh before birth (1:5)—so was the Lord (John 17:3)
  • He was under Divine protection (1:8)—so was Christ (John 16:32; 19:11)
  • Yahweh put the words in his mouth (1:9)—so with the Lord (John 12:49; 7:16)
  • He bore the reproach of men (15:18)—so did the Lord (Psa.69:20)
  • He proclaimed the temple a den of thieves (7:11)—so did the Lord (Mark 11:17)
  • He confirmed the covenant, travelled Judea preaching in the cities, described himself as a lamb to the slaughter (11:19), was hated by his countrymen, despised by the people of his own city and rejected by his own brethren—the Lord also found himself in such a situation (cp 11:21 and 12:6 with Luke 4:24; John 7:5)
  • He was condemned by the chief priests and scourged (Ch.20)—so was the Lord (Matt 27: 1,20, 26)
  • He was put in a pit and left for dead, and drawn out of it again, even as Yahweh’s anointed was cast into the grave and came forth again the third day.

So we see the prophet-priest as a wonderful type of the suffering Messiah, as an outstanding exponent of the newly-discovered Law, as a careful historian of one of the most significant epochs of Jewish history, as a prophet with a glorious message of hope in an age of evil and despair, as a courageous, faithful, patient witness to truth in proclaiming the Divine purpose and revealing the character of Yahweh in his life.

Exalted By Yahweh

Jeremiah was completely faithful. Though his sensitive nature shrank from the task before him, he continued to the bitter end, feeling the pain of his message, yet determined to do the bidding of his Master, Yahweh, though none should heed (ch 7:27). His exaltation is yet to come when, as sure as the ordinances of day and night, Yahweh will bring righteousness and peace to both the house of Israel and the house of Judah (ch 31:31 to 40).

Analysis of the Book

The period of his ministry covered the reigns of Josiah (19 years), Jehoahaz (3 months), Jehoiakim (11 years), Jehoiachin (3 months) and Zedekiah (11 years), making a total of approximately 40 years. It is not possible to exactly identify when all the prophecies were delivered, but the following outline suggested by Brother HP Mansfield in The Story of the Bible offers some good suggestions.

Prophecies During Josiah’s Reign—chapter 1 to 12

1:1–3 Introduction

1:4–10 Call and commission

1:11,12 First Prophecy—Almond tree

1:13–19 Second Prophecy—Boiling Cauldron

2:1–3:5 Third Prophecy—Unfaithful Wife

3:6–4:2 Fourth Prophecy—Backsliding children

4:3–6:30 Fifth Prophecy—Foolish Nation

7:1–10:25 Sixth Prophecy—Temple Prophecy

11:1–12:17 Seventh Prophecy—Conspiracy in Judah

Prophecies During Jehoiakim’s Reign

26:1–24 Jeremiah appeals to the cities of Judah

14:1–22 “Pray not for this people”

15:1–21 Death, sword, famine & captivity foretold

16:1–17:18 Jeremiah—a man apart

17:19–27 Jeremiah rebukes the King

18:1–23 Jeremiah rebukes the people

19:1–20:18 Jeremiah rebukes the Priests

22:1–30 Jeremiah rebukes the whole nation

23:1–40 Prophecy of “Yahweh our Righteousness”

25:1–38 Prophecy of “Seventy years Captivity”

35:1–19 Faithful example of the Rechabites

36:1–32 Jehoiakim burns the scroll

Prophecies During Jehoiachin’s Reign

13:1–27 The unwashed girdle by the Euphrates

24:1–10 The good and bad figs

General and Undated Prophecies Concerning Israel’s  Restoration

30:1–24 I am with thee to save thee

31:1–40 He that scattered Israel will gather him

Prophecies During Zedekiah’s Reign

29:1–32 Letter to the captives in Babylon

27:1–22 Bonds and yokes for the nations

28:1–17 Hananiah’s challenge—yokes of iron  and wood

51:59–64 Message sent to Babylon

21:1–14 Another message from Pashur  (cp ch20)

34:1–7 A message as Nebuchadnezzar sweeps  South

37:1–5 Jerusalem besieged, Egypt advances,  siege raised

34:8–22 The broken covenant

37:6–20 Jeremiah imprisoned—siege renewed

37:21 Jeremiah removed from the dungeon

32:1–44 Jeremiah purchases the field of Hanameel

33:1–26 Second message to Jeremiah in prison

38:1–28 Jeremiah in the dungeon—Ebed Melek intervenes

39:1–18 The fall of Jerusalem

40:1–16 Gedaliah at Mizpah

41:1–18 The murder of Gedaliah

42:1–22 Jeremiah’s help is sought

43:1–13 Further warning in Egypt

44:1–30 A last prophecy—“Queen of Heaven”

Prophecies Against the Gentiles

45:1–5 Baruch in the time of trouble

46:1–28 Prophecy against Egypt

47:1–7 Prophecy against Philistia

48:1–47 Prophecy against Moab

49:1–6 Prophecy against Ammon

49:7–22 Prophecy against Edom

49:23–27 Prophecy against Damascus

49:28,29 Prophecy against Kedar

49:30–33 Prophecy against Hazor

49:34–39 Prophecy against Elam

50:1–51:58 Prophecy against Babylon

Historical Summary

52:1–34 Historical appendix

The prophet Jeremiah was a “man with a  mission”, motivated and energised by the Word  of God. He proclaimed his message in a hostile,  heedless environment. Our environment is probably  more apathetic and heedless; yet the responsibility  rests upon us to “cry aloud and spare not”—to  warn an ignorant, headstrong people that “the Day  of Yahweh” is fast approaching and to prepare  ourselves for that Day also.