Exegesis of the Book of Jeremiah
by Robert Randle
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One of the important things to keep in mind when studying or reading any ancient document, inspired or not, is that the transmission of the information or historical narrative was in oral form, or storytelling. Unlike in modern times, content was probably more valuable than chronology as the teaching and reenactments of these stories had a significant affect upon the people, as well as their social, religious, cultural development and history. The past and present are as one unbreakable chain of iron and sinewy flesh to maintain an ethnic identity that will never be extinguished. So, in a broad overview of the Jeremiah scroll (book) it is worth noting that the events make more sense if arranged out of the normal order and read within a certain sequence that seems to capture the flow of the story better. This is of course, not a perfect organizational work but approximates a best guess as far as within the Biblical structure of the narrative.
Jeremiah 1: 1
The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
Jeremiah 3: 18
In those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land (??) to the land I gave to your forefathers as an inheritance (Cp. 16: 15).
Jeremiah 20: 1
The priest Pashhur son of Immer, the chief officer in the temple of the LORD.
Jeremiah 21: 1
The LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah when King Zedekiah sent Pashhur son of Malkijah, and the priest Zephaniah son of Masseiah, to Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 22: 18, 24
Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah. Jehoiachin son of Jehoiachim king of Judah.
Jeremiah 23: 3
I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture.
Jeremiah 24: 1
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took Jehoiakin (son of King Jehoiakim of Judah), the princes of Judah, the skilled workers, and the builders from Jerusalem into captivity and brought them to Babylon
Jeremiah 25: 1, 8
The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. Therefore the LORD Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the people of the north (Babylon/Iraq) and My servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (Cp. 27: 6).”
Jeremiah 26: 1
Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah.
Jeremiah 35: 1, 3-4, 6
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD during the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah. So I went to get Jaazaniah and his brothers, and all his sons-the entire family of the Recabites. I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the rooms of the sons of Hanan son of Igdaliah the man of God. It was next to the room of the officials which was over that of Maaseiah son of Shallum the doorkeeper. Our father Jonadab son of Recab.
Jeremiah 36: 1, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 22, 26
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah the word came to Jeremiah from the LORD. Baruch son of Neriah. In the ninth month of the fifth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah. Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary. Micaiah son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan. Elishama the secretary, Delaiah son of Shemiah, Elnathan son of Achor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah and all the other officials. Jehudi son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi. It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment. Instead, the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet.
Jeremiah 45: 1a
This is what Jeremiah the prophet told Baruch son of Neriah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, after Baruch had written on a scroll the words Jeremiah was then dictating.
Jeremiah 46: 2, 13-14a, 25a
Concerning Egypt: This is the message against the army of Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt, which was defeated at Carchemish on the Euphrates River by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah. This is the message the LORD spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to attack Egypt: Announce this in Egypt, and proclaim it in Migdol: proclaim it also in Memphis and Tahpanhes. The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “I am about to bring punishment on Amon god of Thebes, on Pharaoh, on Egypt and her gods and kings, and on those who rely on Pharaoh.
Jeremiah 37: 1, 3, 5, 7, 13, 15
Zedekiah son of Josiah was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He reigned in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim. King Zedekiah, however, sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah with the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah the prophet with this message: “Please pray to the LORD our God for us.” Pharaoh’s army had marched out of Egypt, and when the Babylonians who were besieging Jerusalem heard the report about them, they withdrew from Jerusalem. This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: “Pharaoh’s army, which has marched out to support you will go back to its own land, to Egypt. But when he (Jeremiah) reached the Benjamin gate, the captain of the guard, whose name was Irijah son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah, arrested him and said, “You are deserting to the Babylonians.” They were angry with Jeremiah and had him beaten and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary, which they had made into a prison.
NOTE: Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s uncle (Cp. 2 Chronicles 9-10).
Jeremiah 27: 1
Early in the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah.
Jeremiah 38: 16, 7, 19
Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah. So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. But Ebed-Melech, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will mistreat me.
Jeremiah 26: 24
Ahikam, son of Shaphat.
Jeremiah 28: 1
In the fifth month of the same year, the fourth year, early in the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, the prophet Hananiah son of Azur, who was from Gibeon.
Jeremiah 29: 10, 21, 24
This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.” Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Masseiah. Shemaiah the Nehelamite.
Jeremiah 30: 3
The days are coming, declares the LORD, “When I will bring back my people Israel from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess (Cp. 31: 23).”
Jeremiah 52: 27b-30
So Judah went into captivity, away from her land. This is the number of the people Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile. In the seventh year [of Zedekiah] 3,023 Jews: In Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year, 832 people from Jerusalem. In his twenty-third year, 745 Jews were taken into exile by Nebuzaradan the commander of the imperial guard. There were 4,600 people in all.
Ezra 2: 1, 2b, 64a
Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town). The list of the men of the people of Israel: The whole company numbered 42, 360.
NOTE: Jeremiah chapter 52 says that 4,600 people went into Babylonian captivity and 70 years later somewhere around seven times or more that number of the men returned back to the region of Jerusalem and Judea [as recorded in Nehemiah and Ezra]. The numbers of men add up to 29,818 and with the servants, singers and animals the total is 45,491. In Nehemiah chapter 7, the number of the men of Israel adds up to 31,089 (Cp. Nehemiah. 7: 6-62). If you include the servants, singers and animals the number rises to 46, 807 instead of what is given in the Biblical record (Cp. Nehemiah 7: 66-69).
2 Chronicles 24: 14-16
He (Nebuchadnezzar) captured all Jerusalem, all of the generals, all the soldiers (10,000 prisoners), and all the craftsmen and smiths. Only the poorest people of the land were left. He took the king’s mother, wives, eunuchs, and the leading citizens of the land from Jerusalem as captives to Babylon. The king of Babylon brought all 7,000 of the prominent landowners, 1,000 craftsmen and smiths, and all the men who could fight in war as captives to Babylon.
NOTE: Since there were 10,000 prisoners total, subtracting 7,000 of the prominent landowners and 1,000 craftsmen and smiths would only leave roughly 2,000 remaining of the population from Jerusalem and Judea taken captive to Babylon (including, the king’s mother, wives and royal family, court officials and nobles, eunuchs, and the leading citizens, all of the generals and soldiers who could still fight).
Jeremiah 39: 1-7, 9-10
In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. And on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, the city wall was broken through. When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled; they left the city at night by way of the king’s garden, through the gate between the two walls, and headed toward the Arabah. But the Babylonian army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. They captured him and took him to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced sentence on him. There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and also killed all the nobles of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon. Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard carried into exile to Babylon the people who remained in the city, along with those who had gone over to him, and the rest of the people. But Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard left behind in the land of Judah some of the poor people, who owned nothing; and at that time he gave them vineyards and fields.
NOTE: The fall of Jerusalem is repeated again, almost word-for-word in Chapter 52.
Jeremiah 32: 1, 7, 12
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me: Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.’” Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah (Masseiah??).
Jeremiah 39: 11-14
Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard: Take him and look after him; don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks (why??). So Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard, Nebushazban a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officers of the king of Babylon sent and had Jeremiah taken out of the courtyard of the guard. They turned him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to take him back to his house. So he remained among his own people.
NOTE: Why would the King of Babylon be concerned about the welfare of a Jewish prophet?
Jeremiah 40: 1a, 5, 8, 11-12
The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD after Nebuzaradan, commander of the imperial guard had released him at Ramah. Nebuzaradan added, “Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please. They came to Gedaliah at Mizpah-Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Eohal the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah the son of the Maacathite, and their men. When all the Jews in Moab, Ammon, Edom and all the other countries heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, as governor over them. They all came back to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, from all the countries where they had been scattered. And they harvested an abundance of wine and summer fruit.
NOTE: Are these last two verses the partial or complete fulfillment of Jeremiah 16: 15; 23: 3; 29: 10; 30: 3 and 31: 23?
Jeremiah 40: 14, 15b
Baalis king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to take your life. Why should he take your life and cause all the Jews who are gathered around you to be scattered and the remnant in Judah to perish?
Jeremiah 41: 1-4
In the seventh month Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, who was of royal blood and had been one of the king’s officers, came with ten men to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam at Mizpah. While they were eating together there, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the ten men who were with him got up and struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, with the sword, killing the one whom the king of Babylon had appointed as governor over the land. Ishmael also killed all the Jews who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, as well as the Babylonian soldiers who were there. The day after Gedaliah’s assassination before anyone knew about it, eighty men who had shaved off their beards, torn their clothes and cut themselves came from Shechem, Shiloh and Samaria, bringing grain offerings and incense with them to the house of the LORD [at Mizpah].
Jeremiah 42: 1
Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah.
Jeremiah 52: 31-34
In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah and freed him from prison on the twenty-fifth day of the eleventh month. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. Day by day the king of Babylon gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death.
NOTE: Why did Evil-Merodach treat Jehoiachin so well?
CONCLUSION: The prophesy of Jeremiah, along with references from the books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah details the last days of rebellious Jerusalem/Judah before they were chastised by God through being led captive into Babylon. The temple was ransacked and then set on fire, and the city wall was broken down. The Hebrews, Jews or children of Israel lost their national identity as their sister land of Israel was carried into Assyrian captivity earlier. Nevertheless, God promised to bring them back into the land after seventy years, and as biblical numerical goes, this number would correspond to a cycle of completion; and so it was. This was the last time that Israel was driven from the land and this experience must have make quite an impact because it transformed the people into what they are today, and their greatest contribution to the world is the preservation of the sacred writings that have reshaped the world.
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