Introduction
The prophet Jeremiah lived during the last part of the seventh century b.c. and into the first part of the sixth (c. 626–587 b.c.). His prophetic ministry was long and troubled, spanning four decades. His call to be a prophet came from God in the thirteenth year of King Josiah (626 b.c.) and he continued to prophesy until he was forcibly carried away to Egypt by a pro-Egypt party fleeing the Babylonian forces. Many hearers of the prophet's oracles, especially those in the royal court, were outraged by his criticism of their self-serving priorities, their greed for material wealth (covetousness) and ignoring of justice (6.13), their ignoring the needs of the poor, and of his prophecies of doom. His life was threatened over and over (11.18-19; 26.1-24; 38.1-13), but he continued undaunted in his critiques.
The book of Jeremiah collects a variety of materials, which include prophesies, autobiography, historical records, and sermons. This long book is not organized chronologically, but loosely according to themes. Jeremiah by nature was sensitive and reluctant to be a speaker of doom and gloom for God, but confessed that the word of God was like fire in his heart and he could do nothing to restrain it from bursting forth. Chapter 36 gives clues to how this book was composed, describing how Jeremiah's secretary, Baruch, recorded all his words of prophecy. Throughout his long career, Jeremiah was faithful to his calling from God to speak truth to power, and he suffered for it because neither the leaders nor the people wanted to hear words of coming judgment and doom. They recalled that Jerusalem had been spared over a century earlier in the time of the prophet Isaiah, and they were overconfident that God would not let anything harmful happen. For saying that God was going to use Babylonia to bring judgment on them, Jeremiah was viewed as a traitor, vilified, beaten, and imprisoned. There was in Jerusalem a false sense of security and optimism in the face of Babylonia's aim for world conquest, but given his sense of calling from God, Jeremiah felt that he could do nothing else but speak the truth from God, however unpopular and however hurtful it might be to him.
Speaking to those carried into exile near the end of his career, he proclaimed the promises of God that they would yet be released from exile and that Jerusalem would be rebuilt. As a sign of this sure hope, even as the city was collapsing into ruins under the invasion, Jeremiah went to his hometown of Anathoth and purchased a field (32.1-15). This was to symbolize that a day was yet coming when it would again be possible and profitable to live in this land, restored and renewed by the grace of God, who would make a “new covenant” and a new beginning with the faithful (31.31-34).
Outline
Introducing Jeremiah, the Prophet (1.1-19)
Prophesies during the Reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (2.1—25.38)
Jeremiah Confronts the Lying Prophets (26.1—29.32)
A Homecoming and a New Beginning (30.1—33.26)
Disaster for Judah and for Jerusalem (34.1—45.5)
God's Words of Judgment against the Nations (46.1—51.64)
An Account of the Fall of Jerusalem (52.1-34)
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