From the Editor’s Notebook: Major Prophets, Jeremiah

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Outline Studies of The Major Prophets

Jeremiah: The Book of Judah’s Failure

Key Word: Backsliding (13 times; used nowhere else in the King James translation of the Bible except once in Proverbs and three times in Hosea).

Message: “The certainty of God’s judgment because of sin, yet the tenderness and eternity of the love of God.”1

Key Verse: Jeremiah 3:22 —”Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord, our God.”


Alexander Whyte said of Jeremiah that “this book stands to this day second only to The Psalms as the most spiritual book in the Old Testament.” While many may disagree with W. W. White, the famous American expositor, he maintains that “sofar as we have data for judgment, Jeremiah was the healthiest, youngest, bravest, grandest man of Old Testament history.” Jeremiah has been called “the weeping prophet” and “the prophet of the broken-hearted.” But he was more than a prophet, having been a priest by birth (1:1). In addition he became a statesman, a patriot and, according to Christian tradition, a martyr.

However, there is the Jewish affirmation that when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Egypt, he, with Baruch, escaped to Babylon and died there in peace.

Jeremiah was chosen of God before his birth (1:5), and as a youth he was called to the prophetic office. Unlike many of the other prophets, he has given us considerable information about himself, hence the autobiogaphical element in his book. Jeremiah’s harsh message of judgment, wherein he predicted Judah’s 70 years’ captivity, never won a convert, though he delivered his message with tears. Not only was his message unwelcome to the nation, it was totally rejected by a backsliding people. As a man, Jeremiah was self-conscious, timid, sensitive, sympathetic, faithful, fearless, plaintive, retiring, tender, severe and patient. His courage and loyalty were such that, as one has said, “He faced misrepresentation, persecution, the dungeon and death, rather than keep back one word of truth.”

Jeremiah, like Isaiah, was linked with nobility as evidenced by his intimacy with the Jewish kings of his day, having prophesied during the last period of Judah’s national history, involving the reigns of the kingdom’s final five kings — the good King Josiah and his three wicked sons and grandson, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, respectively. In the prophetic office he was preceded by Joel, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah and Nahum, and he was contemporary with Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Obadiah in the Land and, for a while, with Ezekiel and Daniel in the East. What Isaiah was to Hezekiah, Jeremiah was to Josiah (see 2 Kings 22-25; 2 Chron. 34-35). His call and commission are recorded in 1:9-10; he was commanded riot to marry (16:1-4); his ministry began in 627 B.C. and extended more than 40 years until Judah’s captivity in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar; he was utterly rejected by his family (12:6) and his own townsmen who plotted against him (11:19; see 18:18; 20:1-3, 26); he wanted to resign, but could not (20:9); he was broken-hearted (9:1); and, like Paul and Silas, he was put in stocks (20:1-3), assaulted, suffered imprisonment on various occasions (37:2-15; 38), and later on was forced to go with the remnant to Egypt, having witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian Captivity. Tradition relates that he was stoned to death.

Jeremiah was virtually alone in the world, craving love which he never received. As a sufferer perhaps no other Bible personality comes so near to the Man of Sorrows, the Lord Jesus Christ, nor do any of the other prophets come so near to us in a human way as does Jeremiah. God chose him to carry out his thankless but necessary task because it takes a tender-hearted man to deliver such a stern message of judgment.


1. The Call and Mission of Jeremiah (1)

2. The Consistent Ministry of Jeremiah (2-51)

3. The Captivity of Judah (52)

Notable Notes

Of Jeremiah, W. Graham Scroggie has summarily said: “This book yields to none in the Bible in its intensely human interest. There is a BIOGRAPHICAL interest: the characters of the period — Jeremiah, Baruch, Josiah, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah, Necho, Nebuchadnezzar. There is HISTORICAL interest: the stirring events of the period — finding the Book of the Law, the Reformation, Battles of Megiddo and Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Judah, Jeremiah’s Rolls and Jehoiakim’s Vandalism, Destruction of Jerusalem. There is PROPHETICAL interest — the seventy years’ captivity, the future of Babylon and of Israel. There is a DOCTRINAL interest — Jeremiah’s teaching on God, the Kingdom, Sin, Repentance, Judgment, the Messiah, the New Covenant. Personal Responsibility, Redemption, Destiny. This is a Book to be known and loved.”2

Jeremiah’s message was one of national condemnation because Judah had forsaken Jehovah (2:13); it was a call for national retribution, for sin pays wages whether to nations or individuals (16:9, 13; 25:2); and it included national consolation, for repentance brings blessing (30-33).

As directed by the Lord, Jeremiah used many object lessons in teaching the people: the almond rod (1); the boiling caldron (1); the marred girdle (13); the full bottle (13); the drought (14); the potter’s vessel, (18); the broken bottle (19); two baskets of figs (24); bonds and bars (27); buying a field (32); the hidden stones (43); and the book cast into the Euphrates River (51).

The book of Jeremiah abounds in texts for preachers: forsaking a fountain for a broken cistern (2:13); false and unskillful personal dealing (6:14); the old paths are the best paths (6:16); lost opportunities (8:20); what to glory in (9:24); the need of regeneration (13:13); the Lord a stranger (14:8); premature decay (15:9); the Word of God (15:16; 33:29); the condition of the human heart by nature (17:9); a second chance here (18:4); righteousness personified (23:6); and other significant texts such as 24:7; 31:16, 31-34; 33:3; and 49:11.

Jeremiah alone of all the books in the Bible declares that the Ark of the Covenant will have no place in restored Israel (3:16); “rising up early and speaking” is a phrase which occurs 11 times and is found only in Jeremiah with the exception of 2 Chronicles 36:15, which Ezra the scribe probably borrowed from Jeremiah; and it contains that unique phrase, “the generation of His wrath” (7:29). And then there is the expression, “neither could they blush” (8:12), a charge that the Israelites had lost their ability to blush, so shameless was their sin.

Jeremiah’s prayers are also worthy of study (see 1:6; 4:10; 12:1-4; 14:7, 8, 11, 21; 15; 17:13-18; 18:13-18; 20:7; 32:16-25).

While the book of Jeremiah is largely a combination of history, biography and prophecy, the various events recorded are not in chronological order.

Jeremiah himself is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ weeping over Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34-35), even as in the book itself Christ is pictured as the Fountain of Living Waters (2:13); the Great Physician (8:22); the Good Shepherd (31:10; 23:4); the Righteous Branch (23:5); David the King (30:9); the Redeemer (50:34); and the Lord our Righteousness (23:6).

1 Robert Lee, The Outlined Bible.

2 W. Graham Scroggie, Know Your Bible, I, pp. 191-92.