Jeremiah is another of the “major prophets” of the Old Testament. After God’s people divided into two nations, the northern one continued until 722 B.C. Isaiah is the “major prophet” of that time period. The southern kingdom continued from then to 586 B.C. Jeremiah was the “major prophet” of that period.
Jeremiah dates his work from the thirteenth year of king Josiah (627 B.C.).
In 609 B.C., during a foolish war with Egypt, Josiah was killed and Judah lost her independence. He was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz. Egypt, however, as the conquering nation, felt they had the right to appoint a king of their own choosing, so they forcibly removed Jehoahaz and replaced him with Eliakim, another of Josiah’s sons.
In 605 B.C., the Babylonians conquered the Egyptians and carried away a number of the princes of Judah as spoils of war. Among them was Daniel, whose story is told in the Old Testament book that bears his name. In 597 B.C., the Babylonians replaced Eliakim (whose other name is “Jehoiakim”) with Zedekiah. During all this time, Judah’s greatest threat was from the Babylonians. She was tempted to ally herself with Egypt, but Jeremiah knew her security lay in doing what she had never been able to do: submit to the will of God.
Jeremiah spoke out strongly against political corruption (5:4-5), oppression and immorality. He condemned the men of Judah for acting like “well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing after another man’s wife” (5:8). He called Judah to submit to God’s judgment against them for their sins, but his call was viewed as treason. His own people slandered him (18:18), beat him (chapter 20), threatened his life (chapter 26), threw him into prison (37) and down a well (38).
Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet. When God called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah didn’t object, he just didn’t go. Jeremiah, however, complained. And yet, he knew that the salvation of God’s people depended on the work God had given him. He wrote: “Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (20:8-9).
Jeremiah can be outlined as follows:
I) Jeremiah’s call – chapter 1
II) Jeremiah calls Judah to repent – chapters 2-12
III) Punishment for sin predicted – chapters 13-29
IV) Promise of hope – chapters 30-35
V) Judah’s fall – chapters 36 – 45
VI) Judgment against other nations – chapters 46 – 51
V) The Fall of Jerusalem – chapter 52.
Jeremiah’s story and preaching was not just for Judah. God specifically says he was to be a prophet to the nations. The book serves as a reminder to all people, whether they are God’s people or not, of the sovereignty of God. It is also a warning of judgment against all who would disregard the rules of God for living on the earth.