By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Jeremiah, Various
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Book of Jeremiah in conjunction with this article.
The Book of Jeremiah
This month we are continuing our examination of a portion of the Old Testament. The second book in this series of studies is Jeremiah. Various people have lived during difficult times and those difficulties bring tears of burden and grief. Jeremiah is such a person, and perhaps that is why he is best remembered by the nickname “the weeping prophet”. The book of Jeremiah is moving and powerful and speaks in many ways to those who are Jehovah’s. It is to this collection of writings that we will turn our attention.
It has been stated that the Scriptures “tell us more about [the] personal experiences of Jeremiah than any other prophet.”1 To give just one instance of Jeremiah’s personal life, consider that the Sacred Writings tell us that Jehovah would not permit Jeremiah to take a wife or have children.2 While he did experience other grief, if Jeremiah did not have to be experience and witness so many different burdens, one could argue that the lack of a wife and family would be enough to make some men weep, especially knowing that the principle set forth in Genesis is that “it is not good that the man should be alone.”3 In many ways having a wife and children add much to the joy of life.
Jeremiah’s work was around 600 B.C.E.(B.C.) and is estimated to be between 626 and 585.4 It has also been stated that “Jeremiah wrote during a period of political and military unrest, during which the entire region, including the small and vulnerable state of Judah, found itself at the mercy of the day’s superpowers – Assyria, Egypt and, increasingly, Babylonia – as they vied for domination.”5 Realizing that Jeremiah lived to see the Babylonian invasion of Judah and her eventual downfall, we should stand amazed at the things he experienced. Yet, Jeremiah does not leave Jehovah’s people without hope, for it is Jeremiah that speaks of a new covenant.6
As we continue, let us consider some tidbits mentioned in the NIV Archeological Study Bible. These provide additional points of interest which can enrich one’s reading of the Book of Jeremiah. The study Bible states that the reader should give “attention to the role of symbolism and the use of visual aids in this rich book.”7 So that reader can increasingly appreciate the imagery, consider the following information (provided by the Archeological Study Bible) regarding the book of Jeremiah:8
- The ancient world considered child sacrifice a supremely religious act, since it gave the god what was most precious to the worshipper (7:31).
- “Jew” is a shortened form of “Judahite” (an inhabitant of the kingdom of Judah, where a remnant of the Israelites was still living).
- The Recabites were related to Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro the Kenite. Though not ethnic Jews, this nomadic tribe lived among or near the Israelites and zealously attempted to be faithful to the Lord (35:2).
- The Name Ben-Hadad designated a king as the adopted “son” (ben means “son”) of the Aramean god Hadad. Comparable to the term pharaoh in Eygpt, several kings from Damascus used this title/name (49:27).
- A little known fact of ancient shepherding is that a goat would often lead a flock of sheep (50:8).
- Marshes were sometimes set on fire to destroy the reeds in order to prevent fugitives from hiding among them (51:32).
As we conclude, let us spend a few moments looking at the Hebrew meaning of Jeremiah’s name. BDB identifies Jeremiah as meaning “whom Jehovah has appointed”9 and Jehovah did appoint Jeremiah to be a prophet – and the appointment took place prior to Jeremiah’s birth.10 Interestingly enough, the Holman Bible Dictionary states that Jeremiah can also have three other meanings: may Yahweh lift up; throw; or establish. Of these three, establish makes a strong connection. Because through the prophecy of Jeremiah we learn that Jehovah would establish a new covenant with all of Israel – the northern tribes of Israel and the southern tribes of Judah. For those who are believers in the new covenant, it is believed that the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah was established through the man and prophet Jesus (Yeshua).
While Jeremiah’s exhortations and admonishments are thousands of years old, they should challenge believers today. Some of his writings truly engage our spiritual status and perhaps will cause us to reflect and meditate on our own situation. May the LORD bless us as we begin our studies in Jeremiah.
1. “Jeremiah, The Prophet.” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ISBN 080542836-4, p. 882.
2. “No wife or children for Jeremiah.” Jeremiah 16.1-2, NASB.
3. “Loneliness Is Not Good.” Genesis 2.18, NASB.
4. “Jeremiah’s Work Time.” Timeline, Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 1180, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.
5. “Time Period of Jeremiah’s Writing.” Cultural Facts and Highlights, Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 1179, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.
6. “New Covenant.” Jeremiah 31.31-34, NASB.
7. Introduction to Jeremiah; “As You Read” Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 1180, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.
8. Introduction to Jeremiah; “Did You Know?” Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 1180, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.
9. “Name of Jeremiah’s and Its Meaning.” Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions, e-Sword, Version 7.9.8, April 2, 2009.
10. “Jeremiah’s Appointment.” Jeremiah 1.4-5, NASB.