Jehoiakim, king over Jerusalem, burns a scroll with the Lord’s words on it, in an act symbolic of Israel’s apostasy (Jeremiah 36).

What is in Jeremiah?
Jeremiah is the twenty-fourth book of the Bible and one of the longer Old Testament prophetic books.

The book starts out with Jeremiah’s call to ministry. The Lord tells Jeremiah that he was created specifically to be a prophet. Even though Jeremiah has reservations about public speaking, the Lord says He will provide.

In Jeremiah 2-6, Jeremiah is then commanded to speak out against Jerusalem. The city, and Judah in general, has turned to other gods after all the true God has done for them. God calls them to return, to restore their blessings. If not, Jeremiah 4:5-31 speaks of a coming invasion from the north, that will leave Judah desolated. Even though Judah is unrepentant, the Lord says the invasion will not be the final word in Judah’s history, and that they will still live on. Jeremiah 7-10 goes into detail about Judah’s unholiness, and why they are being warned.

A drought comes over Judah in Jeremiah 14, and false prophets walk freely. Even though Jeremiah tries to intercede for Judah at this point, the Lord declares that Judah is too far gone. The Lord also declares that Israel will once again be restored after their judgment has been completed. In Jeremiah 17 and 18, Jeremiah prophesies directly to the people, but nobody listens to him, and Jeremiah is even actively persecuted against in Jeremiah 20, making him begin to lose hope.

Starting in Jeremiah 21, Jeremiah begins to prophesy to kings, false prophets, and other major figures both before and after the exile from Jerusalem. In Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah delivers a letter saying that the exile will last for 70 years, but then the Lord will fulfill His promise of restoring the people of Israel and turn mourning into joy. Jeremiah 31:31-40 mentions a new covenant made between God and Israel/Judah, superior to the covenant made when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt in the book of Exodus. Additionally, in Jeremiah 33:14-26, the Lord remembers the covenant He made with David, which said that one of David’s heirs would always sit on the throne of Israel. Until the exile is over, though, the people are to seek the welfare of Babylon as if they were natives.

Jeremiah 34 goes back in time until just before Jerusalem is overthrown, and records Jeremiah’s attempts to prophesy and warn. In Jeremiah 39, Jerusalem is attacked and its people go into exile. Even when requesting God’s word, as the people of Judah did in Jeremiah 42, they reject it when it is spoken by Jeremiah and end up doing the very thing God told them NOT to do, to go into Egypt. God says to Jeremiah that Babylon will ravage Egypt too, and God’s wrath will also be poured out on other surrounding nations up to and including Babylon (Jeremiah 46-51). Finally, in Jeremiah 52, the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the people of Judah is recounted. Like in 2 Kings, however, the book ends on a curious note: Jehoiachin, who would have been king of Judah if it hadn’t fell to the Babylonians, is freed from prison and is given a high position in Babylonian society.

When does it take place?
Unlike many of the other prophets, Jeremiah is pretty specific about when he ministered, and it’s all in Jeremiah 1:1-3. Jeremiah started ministering in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign, which was 627 B.C. He also ministered through the days of Jehoiakim, and then until the eleventh year of Zedekiah, which was also the fifth month after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, which would be in 587 B.C., possibly 586.

Who wrote it?
According to Jeremiah 1:1, Jeremiah was the son of Hilikiah of the land of Benjamin (the land of one of Israel’s twelve tribes). Jeremiah had a scribe called Baruch (Jeremiah 36:4), who wrote down God’s prophecies on behalf of Jeremiah.

Who did Jeremiah prophesize to?
Jeremiah prophesized mainly to Judah, to warn them about the wrath of God and the Babylonians. He also prophesied about God’s judgment to the surrounding nations, including Egypt and Babylon.

How does Jeremiah apply to me today?
Jeremiah describes a prophet attempting to reach a nation that simply won’t hear God. The book is predominately one of oncoming disaster and judgment, but God is faithful to His prior covenants in the Old Testament. At the same time, we see a glimpse of a new covenant at the end of Jeremiah 31, one which will see God’s law put on the very hearts of the Israelites so they all will know Him. Looking forward at the New Testament, we can see how this new covenant played out in Jesus, who was sent to die for the sins of all so that everyone may be freely reconciled with God. The New Testament also says that every single person has a certain basic knowledge of God apart from the Bible (Romans 1:20-23 for example) that they can either acknowledge or deny.

Other notes:
Jeremiah is not always presented in chronological order. For example, Jeremiah 24 takes place after the exile from Jerusalem, but Jeremiah 34-45 records that exile.

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Recommended resources:

As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
The Bible Project video on Jeremiah

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Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0