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Jeremiah - Prophet

Jeremiah (655 BC – 586 BC‎) meaning "Yah exalts", also called the "Weeping prophet" was one of the major prophets of the Hebrew Bible. Jeremiah is traditionally credited with authoring the Book of Jeremiah, 1 Kings, 2 Kings and the Book of Lamentations, with the assistance and under the editorship of Baruch ben Neriah, his scribe and disciple.

Judaism considers the Book of Jeremiah part of its canon, and regards Jeremiah as the second of the major prophets. Islam considers Jeremiah a prophet, and is listed as a prophet in all the collections of Stories of the Prophets. Christianity also regards Jeremiah as a prophet and he is quoted in the New Testament. It has been interpreted that Jeremiah "spiritualized and individualized religion and insisted upon the primacy of the individual's relationship with God."

About a year after King Josiah of Judah had turned the nation toward repentance from the widespread idolatrous practices of his father and grandfather, Jeremiah's sole purpose was to reveal the sins of the people and explain the reason for the impending disaster (destruction by the Babylonian army and captivity), "And when your people say, 'Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?' you shall say to them, 'As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.'" God's personal message to Jeremiah, "Attack you they will, overcome you they can't," was fulfilled many times in the Biblical narrative, Jeremiah was attacked by his own brothers, beaten and put into the stocks by a priest and false prophet, imprisoned by the king, threatened with death, thrown into a cistern by Judah's officials, and opposed by a false prophet. When Nebuchadnezzar seized Jerusalem in 586 BC, he ordered that Jeremiah be freed from prison and treated well.

Lineage and early life

Jeremiah was a kohen (Jewish priest) from a landowning family. Even though he had a joyful early life, the difficulties in the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations have prompted scholars to refer to him as "the weeping prophet." Jeremiah was called to prophetic ministry in c. 626 BC. He was the son of Hilkiah from the village of Anathoth. Jeremiah was called by Elohim to give prophesy of Jerusalem's destruction that would occur by invaders from the North. This was because Israel had been unfaithful to the laws of the covenant and had forsaken God by worshiping the Baals. The people of Israel had even gone as far as building high altars to Baal in order to burn their children in fire as offerings. This nation had deviated so far from God that they had broken the covenant, causing God to withdraw his blessings. Jeremiah was guided by God to proclaim that the nation of Israel would be faced with famine, be plundered and taken captive by foreigners who would exile them to a foreign land.


Jeremiah's ministry was active from the thirteenth year of Josiah, king of Judah (3298 HC, or 626 BC), until after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon's Temple in (3358 HC, or 587 BC). This period spanned the reigns of five kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoichin, and Zedekiah. The Hebrew-language chronology work Seder HaDoroth gives Jeremiah's final year of prophecy to be (3350 HC), whereby he transmitted his teachings to Baruch ben Neriah.

King Josiah began a religious reform in Judah at about 622 BC. "Never had there been a reform so sweeping in its aims and so consistent in execution!" Josiah was free to cut off all tribute to Assyria and even extend his power to the north, into the former territory of Israel, because after the death of Ashurbanipal (in 627 BC), the already weakened Assyrian empire began to disintegrate. Also in 627 B.C. Jeremiah received his call to be a prophet and thus with others spurred Josiah's reforms on. "By asserting that the nation was under judgment and would know the wrath of Yahweh if she did not repent, the prophets help to prepare the ground for reform."

After the death of Josiah, Jehoahaz was placed on the throne but the Egyptians took him in exile after only 3 months. The Egyptians made Jehoiakim king; he allowed the swift deterioration of Josiah's reforms and vexed Jeremiah. He wasted the kingdom's resources on a new palace. In 605 BC, the Egyptians were routed by the Babylonians at Carcamesh and thereby the Assyrian Empire vanished. The Babylonians moved into the Philistine plan the next year and devastated Ashkelon as well as causing great anxiety in Jerusalem. Jeremiah took advantages of the situation to preach his "Temple Sermon" (ch. 26). "His preaching was not merely an attack on the state, it was a call to individual men to decide for the Kingdom of God against the kingdom of Jehoiakim. And his own life was an illustration of the immense cost of that decision."

Biblical narrative


The Lord called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry in about 626 BC, about one year after Josiah king of Judah had turned the nation toward repentance from the widespread idolatrous practices of his father and grandfather. Ultimately, Josiah's reforms would not be enough to preserve Judah and Jerusalem from destruction, both because the sins of Manasseh, Josiah's grandfather, had gone too far and as a result of Judah's return to Idolatry (Jer 11.10ff.). Such was the lust of the nation for false gods that after Josiah's death, the nation would quickly return to the gods of the surrounding nations. Jeremiah was appointed to reveal the sins of the people and the coming consequences.

In contrast to Isaiah, who eagerly accepted his prophetic call, and similar to Moses who was less than eager, Jeremiah resisted the call by complaining that he was only a child and did not know how to speak. However, the Lord insisted that Jeremiah go and speak as commanded, and he touched Jeremiah's mouth and put the word of the Lord into Jeremiah's mouth. God told Jeremiah to "Get yourself ready!" The character traits and practices Jeremiah was to acquire in order to be ready are specified in Jeremiah 1 and include not being afraid, standing up to speak, speaking as told, and going where sent. Other disciplines that contributed to the training of the young prophet and confirmation of his message are described as not turning to the people, not marrying or fathering children, not going to weddings or funerals, not sitting in a house with feasting, and not sitting in the company of merrymakers. Since Jeremiah emerges well trained and fully literate from his earliest preaching, the relationship between him and the Shaphan family has been used to suggest that he may have trained at the scribal school in Jerusalem over which Shaphan presided.

In his early ministry, Jeremiah was primarily a preaching prophet, going where the Lord directed him to preach oracles throughout Israel. He condemned idolatry, the greed of priests, and false prophets. Many years later, God instructed Jeremiah to write down these early oracles and other messages.


Jeremiah's ministry prompted naysayers to plot against him. Even the people of Anathoth sought to kill him. (Jer.11) Unhappy with Jeremiah's message, possibly for concern that it would shut down the Anathoth sanctuary, his priestly kin and the men of Anathoth conspired to take his life. However, the Lord revealed the conspiracy to Jeremiah, protected his life, and declared disaster for the men of Anathoth. When Jeremiah complains to the Lord about this persecution, the Lord explains that the attacks on him will become worse.

Physical persecution started when the priest Pashur ben Immer, a temple official, sought out Jeremiah to have him beaten and put him in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin for a day. After this, Jeremiah expresses lament over the difficulty that speaking God's word has caused him and regrets becoming a laughingstock and the target of mockery. He recounts how if he tries to shut the word of the Lord inside and not mention God's name, the word becomes like fire in his heart and he is unable to hold it in.

Conflicts with false prophets

At the same time while Jeremiah was prophesying coming destruction because of the sins of the nation, a number of other prophets were prophesying peace. The Lord had Jeremiah speak against these false prophets.

For example, during the reign of King Zedekiah, The Lord instructed Jeremiah to make a yoke of the message that the nation would be subject to the king of Babylon and that listening to the false prophets would bring a much worse disaster. The prophet Hananiah opposed Jeremiah's message. He took the yoke off of Jeremiah's neck, broke it, and prophesied to the priests and all the people that within two years the Lord would break the yoke of the king of Babylon, but the Lord spoke to Jeremiah saying "Go and speak to Hananiah saying, you have broken the yoke of wood, but you have made instead a yoke of iron." (see: Jeremiah 28:13)


The Biblical narrative portrays Jeremiah as being subject to additional persecutions. After Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would be handed over to the Babylonian army, the king's officials, including Pashur the priest, tried to convince King Zedekiah that Jeremiah should be put to death because he was discouraging the soldiers as well as the people. Zedekiah answered that he would not oppose them. Consequently, the king's officials took Jeremiah and put him down into a cistern, where he sank down into the mud. The intent seemed to be to kill Jeremiah by allowing him to starve to death in a manner designed to allow the officials to claim to be innocent of his blood. A Cushite rescued Jeremiah by pulling him out of the cistern, but Jeremiah remained imprisoned until Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian army in 587 BC.

The Babylonians released Jeremiah, and showed him great kindness, allowing Jeremiah to choose the place of his residence, according to a Babylonian edict. Jeremiah accordingly went to Mizpah in Benjamin with Gedaliah, who had been made governor of Judea.


Johanan succeeded Gedaliah, who had been assassinated by an Israelite prince in the pay of Ammon "for working with the Babylonians." Refusing to listen to Jeremiah's counsel, Johanan fled to Egypt, taking with him Jeremiah and Baruch, Jeremiah's faithful scribe and servant, and the king's daughters. There, the prophet probably spent the remainder of his life, still seeking in vain to turn the people to God from whom they had so long revolted. There is no authentic record of his death.

World views

Jewish views

Commentator Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that the book is written as if Jeremiah not only heard as words but personally felt in his body and emotions the experience of what he prophesied:

"Are not all my words as fire, sayeth the LORD, and a hammer that shatters rock"

was a clue as to how difficult the overwhelming, personality-shattering experience of being a vehicle for Divine revelation was, on one of the most difficult tasks ever assigned, and how difficult it was to be able to see, in advance, one's own failure.

Rabbinic literature

In Jewish rabbinic literature, especially the aggadah, Jeremiah and Moses are often mentioned together; their life and works being presented in parallel lines. The following ancient midrash is especially interesting, in connection with Deut. xviii. 18, in which "a prophet like Moses" is promised: "As Moses was a prophet for forty years, so was Jeremiah; as Moses prophesied concerning Judah and Benjamin, so did Jeremiah; as Moses' own tribe rose up against him, so did Jeremiah's tribe revolt against him; Moses was cast into the water, Jeremiah into a pit; as Moses was saved by a slave (the slave of Pharaoh's daughter); so, Jeremiah was rescued by a slave (Ebed-melech); Moses reprimanded the people in discourses; so did Jeremiah."



Islamic views

As with many other prophets of the Hebrew Bible, Jeremiah is also regarded as a prophet in Islam by many Muslims. Jeremiah is not mentioned in the Qur'an, but Muslim exegesis and literature narrates many instances from the life of Jeremiah and tradition fleshes out his narrative. Muslim literature narrates a detailed account of the destruction of Jerusalem, which parallels the account given in the Book of Jeremiah.

Christian views

God is the one who gives a heart to His people to know Him in Jeremiah 24:7. This theme is carried through a promise of a New Covenant which rests on God. In Augustine's view even the perseverance rests on God. Augustine says, drawing from Jeremiah 32:40, "Because perseverance is much more difficult when the persecutor is engaged in preventing a man's perseverance; and therefore he is sustained in his perseverance unto death. Hence it is more difficult to have the former perseverance,-easier to have the latter; but to Him to whom nothing is difficult it is easy to give both. For God has promised this, saying, 'I will put my fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from me.' And what else is this than, "Such and so great shall be my fear that I will put into their hearts that they will perseveringly cleave to me"?" in his work , On the Gift of Perseverance 2.

Scholarly views

Scholars cannot with any certainty prove the authorship of Jeremiah, although consensus has gathered around a thesis of multiple sources, mainly because of the contrast between the poetic discourses and the prose narrative. It is possible that the Deuteronomist and/or the scribe Baruch recorded and edited the original prophecies. Some modern Scholars think the Deuteronomic School edited Jeremiah because of the similarity of phrasing between the books of Jeremiah and Deuteronomy. For example, Egypt is referred to as an "iron furnace" in both Jeremiah 11:4 and Deuteronomy 4:20. They also share a similar view of divine justice.

Nebo-Sarsekim tablet

In July 2007, Assyrologist Michael Jursa translated a cuneiform tablet dated to 595 BC, as describing a Nabusharrussu-ukin as "the chief eunuch" of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. Jursa hypothesized that this reference might be to the same individual as the Nebo-Sarsekim mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3.

Cultural influence

Jeremiah inspired the French noun jeremiade, and subsequently the English jeremiad, meaning "a lamentation; mournful complaint," or further, "a cautionary or angry harangue."

Jeremiah has periodically been a popular first name in the United States, beginning with the early Puritan settlers, who often took the names of Biblical prophets and apostles. In Ireland, Jeremiah was used to "translate" the Irish name Diarmuid.

The text in this box was generated from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the CC-BY-SA.

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