Jeremiah: The Weeping Prophet
Key Text: Chapter 1:7-9
“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. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. 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.”
Almost 100 years after God called Isaiah to be His spokesman in Judah, He raised up Jeremiah to continue this good work. For approximately forty years this man of God proclaimed the truth to Jerusalem but the people were unwilling to listen. He was well known to the Kings, conversing with them, being summonsed into their presence and at times being punished by them. If we were to measure Jeremiah by the standards of acceptability and popularity we will conclude that his ministry was an unmitigated disaster. Yet according to the divine measure of faithfulness Jeremiah is an historical colossus. He warned, he prophesied and he witnessed the fall of a nation that had rejected God. His path was distressing and heart rending. Therefore he has become known as the weeping prophet (9:1).
“Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”
For a study entitled The Tear Bottle
Biography of Jeremiah
Jeremiah is unique among the prophets in that his book contains more biographical material than any other. We learn that he was from Anathoth, a town situated northwest of Jerusalem. He was from a priestly family. He was called as a prophet when only a young man (1:6), some think he was about 20 years of age, in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign. Initially Jeremiah lived in Anathoth, travelling to Jerusalem to proclaim God’s Word, He encountered opposition, however, even in Josiah’s reign. In his native town and even among his family suffered rebuffs (11:18-23, 12:6). Eventually he moved to Jerusalem. The death of Josiah, who did much good, was particularly devastating (2nd Chronicles 35:25) although he does not specifically mention this in his prophecy.
Josiah was followed by Jehoahaz, Josiah’s son, against whom Jeremiah prophesied (22:11-17), and who only survived for three months, being slain by the Egyptians.
His brother, Jehoiakim, was placed on the throne by the Egyptian Emperor. Many of Jeremiah’s prophecies occurred at this time, including his great address in the temple (7-9). In Ch. 36 God commands Jeremiah to gather his prophecies into a book, a clear indication that Jeremiah was the author and that God intending his addresses to be perpetuated in a written form. After the King shredded them with his knife Jeremiah received a second copy from the Lord. At the end of Jehoiakim’s reign Nebuchadnezzar emerged as the strongest power in the region. He captured Jerusalem and carried the king to Babylon in chains. This was the occasion when Daniel was brought to Babylon (Daniel 1:1).
Nebuchadnezzar placed Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin, on the throne of Judah. He only lasted three months, being taken to Babylon as Jeremiah had predicted (22:24-30).
Another son of Jehoiakim’s, Zedekiah, was now placed on the throne by Nebucadnezzar. Zedekiah attempted to break the yoke of Babylon by refusing to pay tribute (2nd Chronicles 36:13). Jeremiah advised against this urging Zedekiah to be respectful towards the Imperial power (27:12-22). Finally Nebucadnezzar moved against Jerusalem for one final seige. Jeremiah was arrested at this time, being placed in a dungeon. This was in spite of the field he purchased from his cousin Hanameel which was a sign that the Jews would one day own their territory. Overall, however, Jeremiah was considered too truthful for the people of Jerusalem to stomach. Judgement was inevitable. Nevertheless recognising his status as a man of God the King enquired for a word from the word from the Lord, these were desperate times (37:17).
“Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the Lord? And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.”
The King brought Jeremiah from the dungeon allowing him the freedom of the prison court. Nevertheless his enemies cast him into a slime pit, in an effort to silence him. He would have died were it not for the endeavours of Ebed Melech, the Ethiopian (38:7-13). When Jerusalem finally fell Zedekiah was blinded and brought to Babylon as another trophy for Nebuchadnezzar to exhibit.
Jeremiah was set free by Nebuzaradan, the Babylonian general (39:11-14). Certain Jews, however, murdered Gedaliah, the Governor whom Babylon had set over affairs in Judah. These Jews fled to Egypt and took Jeremiah with them against his will (43:1-7). In the place where they settled Jeremiah continued his ministry, with his addresses being recorded in Ch. 43-44.
Outline of Jeremiah’s Prophecies
Chapters 1-25 Judgement against Judah
Chapters 26-45 Jeremiah’s personal life.
Chapters 46-51 Judgement upon the Gentile nations.
Chapters 52 Historical appendix (mirroring 2nd Kings 24-25)
Purpose of Jeremiah’s Ministry
To denounce Judah as a people who were ripe for judgement on account of their sin. This was evident from the moment when he was called. The Lord told him his path would be difficult but that he would know divine protection as he engaged in his solemn ministry (1:7-10).
Hope in the Midst of Darkness
It is in Jeremiah’s writings that we see the grace of God in being married to the backslider. Continually the people who forsook the Lord are urged to return to one who is gracious and willing to forgive (3:14).
“Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you…”
In 29:10-12 he gives God’s promise that after the period of suffering Israel would return to their homeland once again. This promise was of particular comfort to Daniel as he lived his life in captivity:
“For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you…In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”
The Messianic Nature of Jeremiah’s Ministry
Against a dark and foreboding backdrop, Jeremiah was given some of the most beautiful Old Testament prophecies of Christ. In, 23:5-6, he foretells the King who would arise as the righteous branch the one known as Jehovah Tsidkenu, or the Lord our Righteousness. Christ as the branch of David, as the holy King and the one who meets the need of our unrighteousness is set forth in these verses in all his glory. In 31:31-34 he sees a new day when God will write His law in the hearts of His people (regeneration) and will remember their sins no more. Paul verified writing to the Hebrews that this was indeed a Gospel prophecy (Hebrews 8:8-12). 33:16 affords a most beautiful climax to these Messianic prophecies when once again The Lord our Righteousness is identified:
“In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.”
Jeremiah as a Type of Christ
As one who was both priest and prophet Jeremiah is a type of Christ. His separation from his mother’s womb, his ministry which experienced wholesale rejection, his suffering and persecution and his gracious words of comfort all represent the future ministry of Christ our Messiah. As with Christ he came unto his own but his own received him not, yet still he offered hope to an undeserving people.
For Further Study read the introductions to this series of studies