The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the kingdom of Judah for forty years—from the end of the Assyrian period until Judah was destroyed by Babylon. The book mixes sermons, prophetic oracles, and biographical narratives of Jeremiah’s experiences during the last years of the Judean kingdom. We are given an intimate look into the prophet’s own heart as he brings God’s message to his fellow Judeans, who reject him and even conspire to kill him.
The book begins and ends with historical references to the event Jeremiah was best known for predicting: the fall of Jerusalem. The four main parts generally consist (in order) of oracles, narratives (two sections), and then oracles. Significantly, each of these four parts ends with a reference to Jeremiah’s words being written in a book or scroll. A long poetic oracle is inserted in the middle narrative of the book. So Jeremiah’s prophecies appear at the beginning, middle and end of the book, highlighting their importance. The middle oracle, promising a new covenant designed to change the human heart, is shown to be the most important of all. God will do more than simply punish evil—he will overcome it with good.
The book of Jeremiah carries us back and forth in place and time as we turn its pages, yet its themes are consistent. The message of judgment for wrongdoing is followed by the restorative power of forgiveness and new life: to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.