Philippe R. Sterling
Jerusalem will fall if the nation does not repent. Nevertheless, God’s eventual rule on earth through his chosen people is assured in a New Covenant.
“I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (29:11). “There is hope for your future,” declares the LORD (31:17a).
Jeremiah is sometimes called the “weeping prophet”. Michelangelo portrays him in the Sistine Chapel as a man sitting in despair with his face in his hand. Though he does weep at the fate of his people, he is actually a prophet of hope.
The book is an anthology of the messages and experiences of the prophet Jeremiah. He reviews in a cyclical (not chronological) format his prophetic ministry to the leaders and people of the nation showing how again and again they failed to hear and heed God. The fall of Jerusalem is highlighted in the main narrative and in an appendix at the end of the book. The nations that mistreat God’s people also come under judgment. Jeremiah’s call is not only to prophesy concerning judgment and destruction but also to prophesy concerning restoration (1:10; 24:6; 31:28, 38-40). Before the narrative describing the fall of Jerusalem and its aftermath, he records messages of hope which include the revelation of a future ideal Davidic king, a purified priesthood and a new covenant. The theological message is one of judgment and hope.
Literary Structure and Content
I. Introduction: God calls Jeremiah to deliver messages of judgment and restoration to the Jewish nation (1:1-19).
A. Personal and National Setting: Jeremiah is a prophet who delivers God’s word from the 13th year of Josiah
in 627 BC to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC (1:1-3).
Jeremiah is the son of a priest who lived in Anathoth about three miles from Jerusalem. God calls him when he is about twenty years old. He prophesies from the 13th year of Josiah’s reign, through the reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, and into the Babylonian captivity (627 – 586 BC).
B. Call and Commission: God calls Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations concerning judgment and
God chooses Jeremiah for service even before he is conceived and consecrates him as prophet to the nations. Jeremiah thinks he is too young but God promises to be with him and speak through him. God tasks him to prophesy concerning judgment and destruction and hope and restoration.
C. Confirmation and Command: God confirms the call with two illustrating visions of an almond tree and a boiling
pot and commands Jeremiah to speak boldly relying upon His presence to overcome conflict (11-19).
II. Prophecies Concerning the Nation: Jeremiah delivers messages of judgment and restoration to the Jewish nation
as he experiences conflict and rejection (2—45).
Jeremiah arranges the messages topically not chronologically. Ultimately he presents a message of hope in God’s restoration after a period of judgment.
A. Judgment Announced: Jeremiah delivers messages of judgment for the nation’s covenant unfaithfulness
with glimpses of future restoration (2—25).
1. Nine General Messages: Jeremiah presents nine undated messages from his prophetic ministry
that denounce sin, threaten judgment, and offers hope if there is repentance (2—20).
1st Message – Jeremiah confronts Jerusalem with her waywardness (2:1—3:5).
2nd Message – Jeremiah calls the nation to repentance in light of coming judgment but the nation fails
to heed the call (3:6—6:30).
3rd Message – Jeremiah gives a Temple address that focuses on God’s punishment of the people for
their false religion (7—10).
4th Message – Jeremiah declares the people of the nation covenant breakers who will experience
God’s judgment and they conspire to put him to death (11—12).
5th Message – Since the people do not respond to Jeremiah’s message, God has him perform a
symbolic act with a linen belt to get their attention and use a parable of wineskins to gain their interest (13).
6th Message – God speaks to Jeremiah in regards to the drought He’s using to discipline His people
and states that their sinful condition is so severe that judgment is inevitable and intercessory
prayer ineffective (14—15).
7th Message – God places restrictions on Jeremiah’s life as object lessons for the people concerning
His coming judgment and also speaks of eventual restoration (16:1—17:18).
8th Message – Jeremiah preaches on the nation’s failure to observe the Sabbath, the sign of the
covenant, and specifies that blessing will follow obedience and judgment will follow disobedience (17:19-27).
9th Message – The parables of the potter and the broken jar climax the series of messages which the
nation rejects as it vilifies the messenger who then expresses his emotions of despair and trust
to God (18—20).
2. Four Specific Messages: Jeremiah directs prophecies against specific persons and groups as the
certainty of judgment approaches (21—25).
1st Specific Message – Jeremiah rebukes the wicked kings who ruled Judah in the period leading to
captivity and offers hope of a righteous king who will restore the nation (21:1—23:8).
2nd Specific Message – Jeremiah denounces the false prophets who opposed his messages of
3rd Specific Message – Jeremiah relates the vision of a basket of good figs which represent those taken
into captivity and a basket of bad figs which represent Zedekiah and his officials and the remnant
which remained in the land or went to Egypt (24).
4th Specific Message – In a capstone of all his messages, Jeremiah speaks concerning the
people’s rejection of all of God’s warnings and prophesies the 70 years of captivity and eventual judgment
of the nations (25).
Jeremiah states that for 23 years he spoke the word of God to the people without them listening (25:3). Because the nation does not obey God, he prophesies 70 years of captivity (25:11). God repeatedly calls them to internal repentance but they persist in their disobedience thinking that external rituals guarantee their security. The nation will experience desolation but there is hope – the captivity will only last 70 years.
B. Conflicts Abounding: Jeremiah experiences conflict and rejection in preaching submission to Babylon
and sends a message of hope to the exiles (26—29).
Jeremiah is opposed by everyone – people, priests, prophets, and princes – with many wanting to kill him (26:1-24). He speaks the word of God concerning submission to Babylon (27:1-22) and is opposed by Hananiah the false prophet (28:1-17). He writes an open letter to the exiles which is opposed by Shemaiah (29:1-32).
Jeremiah in the letter announces 70 years of exile and exhorts the exiles to settle down in Babylon and seek the welfare of the city in which they dwell (29:4-7). After 70 years God will fulfill his promise to restore them to their land. This is part of His plan to give them a future and a hope (29:11). The judgment is meant to prompt them to seek God wholeheartedly that He might restore them (29:12-14).
C. Restoration Anticipated: Jeremiah delivers messages of restoration with reminders of oncoming
This section is sometimes referred to as The Book of Comfort or Consolation. It may best be called the Book of Hope. It is a collection of messages that offers hope for the future (31:17). The messages look beyond the collapse and captivity of the nation to a new age of restoration.
1. God promises restoration to the land and a New Covenant (30—31).
God tells Jeremiah to write His promises of restoration in a book that would be available to the exiles after the fall of the nation (30:1-3). The book gives hope. Days are coming when God will restore Judah (30:4-24) and Israel (31:1-22) to the land. Days are coming when the nation will be forever unified under a new covenant (31:23-40). Those days have a limited near fulfillment and a complete far fulfillment. The near fulfillment is restoration to the land after 70 years. The far fulfillment is the establishment of the Messianic kingdom.
God will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the Mosaic Covenant contained in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The covenant the people had broken that led to exile. In the New Covenant God will put His Law in their minds and on their hearts, not on stones. The New Covenant will convey the ability to obey God and enjoy His blessings. God will forgive and remember their sin no more.
2. Jeremiah illustrates the promise of restoration by purchasing a field (32).
During Jeremiah’s confinement by Zedekiah, God instructs him to buy a field. His purchase of real estate at a time of captivity anticipates the future restoration of the nation. The city of Jerusalem will be destroyed and will be restored. The nation will repossess the land.
3. God reaffirms the destruction and future restoration of Jerusalem and the continuation of the covenant
with David and the Levites (33).
God reaffirms the coming destruction and future restoration of the City of Jerusalem (33:1-13). God reaffirms the covenants with David and the Levites (33:14-26). A righteous Branch of David will rule over the nation. This finds its ultimate fulfillment with the Messianic Kingdom. This is a prophecy about Jesus Christ who descends from David and who will receive David’s throne (see Luke 1:31-33).
D. Judgment Accomplished: God brings about the fall of the nation for her covenant unfaithfulness but delivers
a remnant in anticipation of restoration (34—45).
1. Before the Fall: The rulers and the people continue to reject the warnings of God – Jehoiakim burns
the scroll which contains all the words God had spoken to Jeremiah (34-36).
Jeremiah contrasts the disobedience of Judah to the obedience of the Rechabites. The people of Judah are promise-breakers while the Rechabites are promise-keepers. God instructs Jeremiah to write a scroll containing all his prophecies with the hope that Judah might yet turn back to God. Baruch writes the scroll at Jeremiah’s dictation. Baruch reads the scroll in the temple and then to the officials. The scroll is taken to Jehoiakim who cuts it up and burns it section by section as it is being read to him. God instructs Jeremiah to take a second scroll and write on it all the words of the first scroll and prophesy concerning the destruction of Jehoiakim and his lineage.
2. During the Fall: Zedekiah imprisons Jeremiah during the siege of Jerusalem and events quickly lead
to the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of survivors to Babylon with only the poor left in the
3. After the Fall: There is political instability among those who are left in the land and against Jeremiah’s
warning the people flee to Egypt where Jeremiah prophesies concerning the conquest of Egypt
and the calamity of the Jews who flee there (40—44).
4. Postscript – A Message to Baruch: God exhorts and encourages Baruch in the midst of judgment (45).
Baruch is depressed after writing all the words of Jeremiah. God has Jeremiah say to him that the nation will soon fall, that he is not to seek recognition for himself, and that he will be kept safe. The prophecy is placed here perhaps to illustrate the response God wants from the exiles during the period of captivity.
III. Prophecies Concerning the Nations: Jeremiah delivers messages of judgment upon the nations for their
wickedness with glimpses of the restoration of the Jewish nation (46—51).
God commissioned Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations (see 1:5). Now the focus of judgment shifts from Judah to her neighbor nations. God will judge them for their sin. The first nation selected for judgment is Egypt and the last is Babylon. In between are Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, and Elam. Two long chapters describe the doom of Babylon.
The statement “Thus far are the words of Jeremiah” ends the section. This may be a note made by the person who twenty-five years later adds chapter 52 to the completed work of Jeremiah. This person may be Baruch who lives to see the events of that chapter take place.
IV. Historical Appendix: The judgments on the nation that Jeremiah proclaimed fully come about but there is an
anticipation of restoration in the release of Jehoiachin (52:1-34).
A. The Fall of Jerusalem: Nebuchadnezzar lays siege to Jerusalem during Zedekiah’s wicked reign, captures
him, sacks and destroys the city and the temple, thus proving the truth of Jeremiah’s prophecies (1-23).
B. The Fate of People: The King of Babylon executes a number of the leading citizens, deports 4,600 persons to
Babylon in a series of three deportations; and one of his successor releases Jehoiachin from prison and places
him in royal service (24-34).
Jeremiah’s prophecies of judgment were fulfilled and now his prophecies of future blessing begin to come true. Jehoiachin’s release gives hope to the exiles that the promise of restoration will be fulfilled. God’s word has been fulfilled and will be fulfilled.
God judges and restores. The Book of Jeremiah is a cyclical anthology of messages of judgment and of hope that Jeremiah proclaims and expresses through his life. The messages of hope encourage God’s people of any age to trust God’s promises in their difficult times.
The Messiah is the one who will institute the New Covenant in His blood (Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:20). He is also the righteous Branch of David who will one day rule the Jewish nation and the world (Jeremiah 23:5-6; 30:9; 33:15; Luke 1:31-33).