Fausset's Bible Dictionary


("exalted of Jehovah") (Jerome); ("appointed of Jehovah") (Gesenius); ("Jehovah throws") (Hengstenberg); compare Jer_1:10.

1. Son of Hilkiah, a priest in Anathoth of Benjamin; not the high priest Hilkiah who discovered the book of the law in Josiah's reign (2Ki_22:8), for Jeremiah's father is not designated as "the priest" or "the high priest." Moreover, the Anathoth priests were of the line of Abiathar, who was deposed by Solomon (1Ki_2:26-35). Thenceforward the high priesthood was in Eleazar's and Zadok's line. The independent history (2Ch_35:25; 2Ch_36:12; 2Ch_36:21) mentions his "lamentation for Josiah," Zedekiah's "not humbling himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of Jehovah," and the Babylonian captivity "to fulfill Jehovah's word by the mouth of Jeremiah until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths, for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath to fulfill threescore and ten years" (Jer_27:7; Jer_25:9-12; Jer_26:6-7; Jer_29:10).

In 629 B.C., the 13th of Josiah's reign, while a mere youth at Anathoth, three miles from Jerusalem (Jer_1:2), "the word of Jehovah came to him" just as manhood was opening out to him, calling him to lay aside his natural sensitiveness and timid self distrust, and as Jehovah's minister, by the might of Jehovah's efficacious word, to "root out ... throw down, build and plant." "Before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified and ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." To his pleas of childlike inability to speak (as Moses, Exo_3:11-12; Exo_4:10-12; and Isaiah, Isa_6:5-8), Jehovah opposes His mission and His command: "thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak." To his fear of men's faces Jehovah declares "I am with thee to deliver thee." Touching Jeremiah's mouth (as Isaiah's; compare Jesus' touch, Mat_9:21-29), Jehovah put His words in the prophet's mouth, so that the prophetic word became divinely efficient to produce its own fulfillment; even as the Word was the efficient cause of creation.

Jeremiah must have at first exercised his office in contemplation rather than action, for he is not mentioned in connection with Josiah's reforms, or the great Passover held in the 18th year of his reign, five years subsequent to Jeremiah's call. It is from the prophetess Huldah, not from him, that the godly king sought counsel. Yet he must have warmly sympathized with this great revival. Indications of affinity or friendship with some of the actors in it occur in the sameness of names: Jeremiah's father bearing the name of Hilkiah, Josiah's high priest; his uncle that of Shallum, Huldah's husband (Jer_32:7; compare 2Ki_22:14); Ahikam, Jeremiah's protector (Jer_26:24), was also the fellow worker with Huldah in the revival; moreover Maaseiah, governor of Jerusalem, sent by Josiah as ally of Hilkiah in repairing the temple (2Ch_34:8), was father of Neriah, the father of both Baruch and Seraiah, Jeremiah's disciples (Jer_36:4; Jer_51:59).

The finding of the book of the law, the original temple copy (See HILKIAH) exercised a palpable effect on his later writings. (Compare Jer_11:3-5 with Deu_7:12; Deu_4:20; Deu_27:26; Jer_34:14 with Deu_15:12; Deu_32:18 with Exo_20:6; Exo_32:21 with Exo_6:6). He saw that the reformation was but a surface one, and would not ensure the permanent peace which many anticipated from it (Jer_7:4), for while "the temple" was restored the spirit of apostasy still prevailed, so that even Israel seemed just in comparison with what Judah had become (Jer_3:11), a seeker of the truth was scarcely to be found, and self seeking was the real aim, while "the prophets prophesy falsely, the priests hear rule by their means, and God's people (!) love to have it so" (Jer_5:1; Jer_5:31).

Five years after his call to prophesy the book of the law was found in the temple by Hilkiah (2Ki_22:8; 2Ki_23:25); then Jeremiah in Jehovah's name proclaimed, "Hear ye this covenant, and speak (it in your turn to others, namely,) unto the men of Judah and Jerusalem." Next Jehovah commanded Jeremiah to take a prophetic tour, proclaiming the covenant through the cities of Judah, as well as in Jerusalem (Jer_11:1-2; Jer_11:6). Apparently, he lived at first in Anathoth, repairing thence from time to time to prophesy in Jerusalem (Jer_2:2), until the enmity of his townsmen and even his brethren, because of his godly faithfulness (Jer_11:18-21; Jer_12:6), drove him to Jerusalem. He knew not of their plotting against his life until Jehovah revealed it. His personal experiences were providentially ordered to qualify him to be the type in his own person, as well as the prophet, of Messiah (compare Isa_53:7).

So His brethren, and the Nazarenes His townsmen, treated Christ (Luk_4:24-29; Joh_1:11; Joh_7:5; Psa_69:8). By Jehovah's direction Jeremiah was to have neither wife or children (Jer_16:2), in order to symbolize the coming of calamities on Judea so severe that the single state (contrary to the natural order) would be preferable to the married (1Co_7:8; 1Co_7:26; 1Co_7:29; Mat_24:19; Luk_23:29). Eighteen years after his first call king Josiah died. During this period, when others thought evil distant, the vision of the almond tree, the emblem of wakefulness, showed Jeremiah that evil was hastening, and the seething pot that it should come from the N., namely, the Babylonians entering into the Holy Land from the N. by way of Hamath (Jer_1:11-15). (See ALMOND.)

Jeremiah, like Isaiah (Isa_30:1-7), foresaw that the tendency of many to desire an alliance with Egypt, upon the dissolution of the Assyrian empire whose vassal Manasseh was, would end in sorrow (Jer_2:18): "what hast thou to do in the way of (with going down to) Egypt? to drink the waters of Sihor (to seek hosts as allies from the Nile land)?" Josiah so far molded his policy according to Jeremiah's counsel; but he forgot that it was equally against God's will for His people to lean upon Assyrian or Babylonian "confidences" as upon Egyptian (Jeremiah 36 - 37); so taking the field as ally of Assyria and Babylon against the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho he fell (2Ki_23:29). Josiah's death was one of his bitterest sorrows (Jer_22:10; Jer_22:15-16), the remembrance of his righteous reign intensified the pain of witnessing the present injustice of his successors.

Jeremiah composed the funeral dirge which "the singing men and women in their lamentations" used at the anniversary kept subsequently as an ordinance in Israel (2Ch_35:20-25). Jeremiah had also inward conflicts. Like Asaph (Psalm 73) he felt perplexed at the prosperity of the wicked (Jer_12:1-4) plotters at Anathoth against his life (Jer_11:19-21), to which Jehovah replies that even worse is before him at Jerusalem: "if thou hast run with the footmen (the Anathoth men), and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses (the men of Jerusalem)? And if (it is only) in a land of peace thou trustest (so the Hebrew is), then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?" Or else, if in the plain country alone thou art secure, how wilt thou do "in the pride (the wooded banks, the lair of beasts: Zec_11:3; 2Ki_6:2 compare Pro_24:10) of Jordan?"

Jeremiah sensitively shrank from strifes, yet the Holy Spirit enabled him to deliver his message at the certain cost of rousing enmity and having his sensitiveness wounded (Jer_15:10). His nature said, "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name; but (the Spirit made him feel) His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing" (Jer_20:9). In Jer_22:11-12 Jeremiah foretold that Josiah's son, Shallum or Jehoahaz who reigned but three months and was carried to Egypt by Pharaoh Necho, should never return. (See JEHOAHAZ.) On Jehoiakim's accession idolatry returned, combined with the worship of Jehovah; and priests, prophets, and people soon brought Jeremiah before the authorities, urging that he should be put to death for denouncing evil against the temple and the city (Jer_26:7-11).

This he had done in Jer_7:12-14; Jer_7:8-9. and more summarily in Jer_26:1-2; Jer_26:6, at the feast of tabernacles, when the law was commanded to be read, or at either of the other two great feasts, before the people of "all the cities of Judah," assembled for worship "in the court of Jehovah's house"; he "diminished not a word" through fear of offending. The "princes," including doubtless some of Josiah's counselors or their sons, interposed in his behalf (Jer_26:16), appealing to Micah's case, who had uttered a like prophecy in Hezekiah's reign with impunity; adding the implication which they durst not express, that though Urijah who prophesied similarly was brought back from his flight into Egypt, and slain by Jehoiakim, yet that the notorious prostration of the state showed that evil, not good, is the result of such persecutions.

So Ahikam his friend, the former officer of good Josiah (2Ki_22:12; 2Ki_22:14), saved him from death; however Jeremiah deemed it prudent not to appear in public then. (See AHIKAM.) In Jehoakim's (and see BARUCH; JEHUDI.) fifth year Jeremiah escaped his violence by the Lord's hiding him and Baruch (Jer_36:27-32), after the king had destroyed the prophetic roll of prophecies for the 23 years past of Jeremiah's ministry, which Jeremiah was commanded to write in Jehoiakim's fourth year, and which in the fifth Baruch, having first written them, read to the people assembled on the fast. (See JEHOIAKIM.) Jeremiah had shown his prophetic prescience by opposing as delusive what as a patriot he would have desired, the hopes cherished of his country's independence of Babylon (Jer_27:1; Jer_27:6-8): "thus saith Jehovah of hosts, I have made the earth ... and now have I given all these lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar ... My servant ... and all nations shall serve him, and his son's son, until the very time of his land come."

So in Jehoiakim's fourth year Judah's hopes from Egypt were crushed by Nebuchadnezzar's defeat of Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish (Jer_46:2, a prophecy uttered shortly before the event). Jeremiah had in this year foretold that not Judah alone, but all nations should be subject to Babylon for 70 years, having to drink God's wine cup of fury, and then Babylon itself should be made "perpetual desolations" (Jer_25:8-38). Hence, the Rechabites (See JEHONADAB) were constrained at this time to take refuge within Jerusalem through fear of the Chaldees. Jeremiah's own ascetic spirit was instinctively attracted to them, famed as they were for their abstemious, pilgrim, devout, and idolatry abhorring walk. The occurrence of the name Jeremiah among them, and their ready admission into the temple, mark previous association with Jeremiah and the priests.

Jeremiah made their filial obedience to their earthly father a condemnation of Judah's disobedience to their heavenly Father (Jeremiah 35). (In Jeremiah 45, concerning an individual, subjoined to his prophecies concerning nations, though belonging to the time just after (Jeremiah 36) the close of Jehoiakim's reign, Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 18-19 (probably in Jeconiah's reign), by the symbols of the remaking by the potter of the marred vessel, and of the breaking of the bottle in the valley of Hinnom, sets forth God's absolute power over His creatures to give reprobates to destruction, and to raise others instead of the people who prove unfaithful to His election (Isa_45:9; Isa_64:8; Rom_9:20-21). (See BARUCH.) The potter's field significantly was the purchase with the price of reprobate Judas' treachery (Mat_27:9-10, which quotes Zec_11:12-13 as Jeremiah's because Zechariah rests on Jeremiah; compare Psa_2:8-9; Rev_2:27).

Pashur, chief governor in the Lord's house, in consequence smote and put him in the stocks (Jer_20:2); when liberated, he renewed his prophecy against the city, denouncing Pashur as about to become Magor Missabib, "terror round about." Then he gave way to complaints of God, but to God, as if God had deceived him; but God had promised (Jer_1:19), not that he should escape suffering, but that God would deliver him out of it; he even, like Job (Job_3:3-11), in impatience cursed his day of birth, but better feelings prevailed soon, and he records his deep depression (Jer_1:14-18) after his believing thanksgiving only to show how great was his deliverance (Jer_1:11-13). In the three months' reign of Jehoiachin, Jeconiah, or Coriah (the omission of the Jah marking his severance from Jehovah), Jeremiah prophesied the carrying away of the king and the queen mother Nehushta, daughter of Elnathan (Jer_13:18; Jer_22:24-30; 2Ki_24:6; 2Ki_24:8; 2Ki_24:12; 2Ki_24:15).

In this reign Jeremiah gave the symbolical prophecy of the girdle on his loins taken to the Euphrates, and hidden in a hole of the rock (Jer_13:1-7). Some symbolical acts of prophets, being scarcely possible, probable, or decorous, existed only in spiritual vision; when possible and proper, they were often materialized by outward performance. The act, even when only internal, vivified the naked statement of prophetic truth. A journey twice of 200 miles to the Euphrates may have been taken only in the spiritual world wherein the seer moved (compare Jer_19:1; Jer_19:10; Jer_27:2-3; Isa_20:2). Nebuchadnezzar was evidently acquainted with him, but whether it was by an actual journey of Jeremiah to Babylon is uncertain (Jer_39:11). In spite of the warning given in Jeconiah's case, Zedekiah set at naught Jeremiah's words and revolted.

So in his ninth year, tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar began the siege of Jerusalem (Jer_39:1). Zedekiah in the tenth year, through Jehucal and Zephaniah, begged Jeremiah, "pray for us," as the issue between Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh Hophra (Apries) was at that time as yet undecided. In consequence of fear the Jews obeyed the law by temporarily emancipating their bondservants at, the end of seven years, but on the remission of the siege again enslaved them (Jeremiah 34). Jeremiah therefore foretold that Zedekiah and his princes should be given up to their enemies (Jer_32:2-5). Yet he foretold the sure repossession of Judaea by the Jews, by redeeming his uncle Hanameel's field in due form; just as at Rome the ground whereon Hannibal was encamped was put up for sale and found a purchaser. Pharaoh's advance caused the Chaldeans to withdraw temporarily from besieging Jerusalem (Jer_37:1-5).

Jeremiah warned the king that the Chaldeans would return and burn the city with fire. Therefore Zedekiah shut him up in the court of the prison. Jeremiah himself tried to escape to his native place, Anathoth of Benjamin; but Irijah arrested him at the gate of Benjamin on the charge of desertion to the Chaldeans. Then the princes smote and imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the scribe. It was a pit (dungeon) with vaulted cells ("cabins") round the sides. After many days in the dungeon Zedekiah the king took him out, and inquired secretly (compare Joh_3:2; Joh_5:44; Joh_12:43; Joh_19:38), "is there any word from Jehovah?" Jeremiah without regard to his earthly interests (contrast Jer_6:14; Isa_30:10; Eze_13:10) foretold Zedekiah's being delivered up to Nebuchadnezzar, and begged not to be left to "die" in Jonathan's house.

His natural shrinking from death (Jer_37:20) makes his spiritual firmness the more remarkable; ready to die rather than swerve from duty. Zedekiah committed him to the court of the prison (the open space occupied by the guard, Jer_32:2, where his friends had access to him: Jer_32:12; Jer_37:12-21), and commanded bread to be supplied to him until all in the city was spent (Psa_37:19; Isa_33:16). Honest reproof sometimes gains more favor than flattery (Pro_28:23). Zedekiah again sent Pashur and Zephaniah to Jeremiah to inquire of him, and received the reply that submission to the Chaldees is the only way of life (Jer_21:1-9; Jer_38:2 ff); and then the princes accused Jeremiah of weakening the hands of the warriors by such words, and the weak prince left. Jeremiah in their hand, saying "the king cannot do anything against you."

So they cast him into Malchiah's dungeon, or cistern emptied of its water during the siege, the mire alone remaining (compare Zec_9:11 and the Antitype, Psa_69:2; Psa_69:14). An Ethiopian stranger, the eunuch Ebedmelech, saved the prophet whom his own countrymen tried to destroy. (See EBEDMELECH.) "Old cast clouts and rags" were used to raise him up (compare spiritually 1Co_1:27-29). Zedekiah again secretly consulted Jeremiah, taking him to the third or N. entry of the outer or inner temple court. Fear of the mocking of the Jewish deserters deterred him from following the prophet's counsel, that he should go forth to the Chaldees; by refusing he brought on himself, as Jeremiah foretold, the mocking not only of the deserters but even of his own concubines. Jeremiah stayed in the court of the prison until Jerusalem was taken. Nebuchadnezzar directed Nebuzaradan, and he gave him liberty to stay with the remnant or go to Babylon, and added "victuals and a reward."

Notwithstanding the wrongs he had received from his countrymen for 40 years, as a true patriot he stayed with the Jews under Gedaliah, the son of his friend Ahikam (Jeremiah 39-40). After Gedaliah's murder by Ishmael, Johanan first consulted Jeremiah as to going to Egypt with a foregone conclusion, then carried Jeremiah, in spite of the prophet's warning, to Egypt (Jeremiah 41-43). (See GEDALIAH; ISHMAEL; JOHANAN.) At Tahpanhes he foretold Egypt's overthrow (Jer_43:8-13), and tradition says he was stoned there (Pseudo Epiphanius; compare Heb_11:37). The Jews expected his reappearing as the forerunner of Messiah (Mat_16:14), "that prophet" (Joh_1:21). He in a true sense did forerun Messiah, foreseeing to his own "sweet" comfort (Jer_31:26) not only His conception by a "virgin," but His kingdom, first spiritual, whereby He is "the Lord our righteousness" (Jer_23:5-6), making the "new covenant," "remembering our sin no more," and "writing His law in our hearts" (Jer_31:22; Jer_31:31-34; Heb_8:8-12; Heb_10:16-17), then visible in Jerusalem, Judah, and Israel, in the last days (Jer_33:6-26; Jer_3:16-18).

Jeremiah wrote too an epistle to the exiles at Babylon, carried away with Jeconiah (Jeremiah 29), similar in form and style to the New Testament epistles, advising them to settle quietly in Babylon and pray for its peace, for the captivity must last 70 years. The portion of the nation remaining in Judah Jeremiah saw by the Spirit was the worst (Jeremiah 24), and would fare the worst. Early in Jehoiakim's reign (Jer_27:1) he had by symbolic yokes foretold Nebuchadnezzar's subjugation of Judah, etc. But the Syriac and Arabic versions make it likely "Zedekiah" ought to be read; so Jer_27:3; Jer_27:12; Jer_27:28:1. The false prophet Hananiah broke the yokes of wood; but Jehovah declared yokes of iron should be substituted, and that Hananiah should die; he accordingly died the seventh month of the same year. Jeremiah took advantage of the embassy sent by Zedekiah to send his letter to the captives (Jeremiah 29).

Even among the captives at Babylon were false prophets, Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemaiah (the writer to Zephaniah at Jerusalem that he should imprison Jeremiah as "mad"), who held out delusive hopes of a speedy return. Therefore, Jeremiah announces their doom. Six whole years before Jerusalem's fall Jeremiah wrote the prophecy of Babylon's own doom, for Seraiah to take to Babylon when he went there on behalf of Zedekiah (margin, Jer_51:59-64), and therewith to console the captives. The Jews say, "the spirit of Jeremiah dwelt afterward in Zechariah"; Matthew (Jer_27:9) therefore quotes the words of Zechariah as Jeremiah's. His protests against the priests and prophets answer to our Lord's against the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23); his lamentations over his doomed country correspond to the Saviour's tears over Jerusalem.

The picture of his sufferings in Lam_1:12 is antitypically realized in Messiah alone. The subjective and the elegiac elements preponderate in him. His Hebrew is tinged, as was to be expected, with Chaldaism. Sheshach (which, on the Kabalistic system of making the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet express the first, would be Babel) is supposed to prove his using that mystic system (Jer_25:26); but in Jer_51:41 there can be no design of concealment, for he mentions expressly Babylon; the word is rather from Shech the Babylonian goddess, during whose feast Cyrus took the city. Pathos and sympathy with the suffering are his characteristics. As Ezekiel views the nation's sins as opposed to righteousness, so Jeremiah as productive of misery. Ezekiel is as marked by firmness as Jeremiah is by delicate sensitiveness. His heaping of phrase on phrase, and repeating of stereotyped forms, are due to his affected feelings; but in the rhythmical parts, and against foreign nations, he is concise, sublime, and energetic. Division.-The various parts are prefaced by the formula, "The word which came to Jeremiah from Jehovah." Notes of time mark other divisions more or less historical. In the poetical parts there are 23 sections, divided into strophes of seven or nine verses, market by "Jehovah said also unto me. "The five books thus are:

I. Introduction: Jeremiah 1.

II. Reproofs of the Jews, seven sections, Jeremiah 2-24:

(1) Jeremiah 2;

(2) Jeremiah 3-4;

(3) Jeremiah 7-10,

(4) Jeremiah 11-13,

(5) Jeremiah 14-17,

(6) Jeremiah 18-20,

(7) Jeremiah 21-24.

III. Review of all nations, in two sections:

(1) Jeremiah 46-49.

(2) Jeremiah 25.

IV. Historical appendix, in three sections:

(1) Jer_34:1-7,

(2) Jer_34:8-22,

(3) Jeremiah 35.

V. Conclusion, in two sections:

(1) Jer_36:2, etc.,

(2) Jeremiah 45.

Subsequently in Egypt he added Jer_46:13-26 to his previous prophecy as to Egypt; also the three sections Jeremiah 37-39; Jeremiah 40-44. A later hand (see Jer_51:64) probably appended Jeremiah 52 from 2Ki_24:18 ff; Jer_25:30. Our Hebrew text seems the latest and fullest edition from Jeremiah's own hand. The Septuagint has a different order of the prophecies against foreign nations, Jeremiah 46-51 being placed after Jer_25:13-14. Probably these prophecies were repeated more than once; in the original smaller collection (for Septuagint omit much that is in the Hebrew) they stood early, in the fuller and later one they stood in their present position, and Jeremiah inserted then the clause of Jer_25:13, which implies that they existed in some other part of the book, "all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations."

It was in this very year (compare Jer_25:1 with Jer_36:1) that Jeremiah was directed to write in a regular book all he had prophesied from the first against Judah and foreign, nations. We saw above that Jeremiah 21; Jeremiah 35-36, are out of chronological order. The whole may be divided into (1) Jeremiah 1-45, concerning Israel; (2) Jeremiah 46-51, concerning the nations. Jeremiah 1-23, are prophetic as to Israel; Jeremiah 24-45. combine prophecy and history; Jeremiah 24-29, set forth Nebuchadnezzar as God's instrument of chastising Israel and the nations, irresistible for the time, submission the wisest policy, the exiles better in position than the people at home; Jeremiah 30-33, the most Messianic portion, sets forth Israel restored under Messiah reigning upon David's throne; Jeremiah 34-45, mainly historical, illustrating from the people's unbelief the need of God's judgments. The New Testament by quotations stamps Jeremiah's canonicity (Mat_2:17; Mat_16:14; Heb_8:8-12). Philo quotes Jeremiah as an "oracle." Melito, Origen, Jerome, and the Talmud similarly include it in the canon.

2. 2Ki_23:31.

3. 1Ch_12:4; 1Ch_12:10; 1Ch_12:13.

4. 1Ch_5:24.

5. Neh_10:2-8; Neh_12:1; Neh_12:34.


Taken from: Fausset's Bible Dictionary by Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910)