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6.66 Jeremiah -- Jeremiah's Life

Jeremiah lived in the 7th and 6th Centuries BC, from about 645 to sometime around 580.  His prophecies began in the year 626.  He was a contemporary of other Biblical prophets:  Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Obadiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel.  He came from a small town near Jerusalem:  Anathoth was one of the towns in the territory of Benjamin set aside for Kohathite Levites (Josh 21:18).  His father Hilkiah was a priest (Jer 1:1), and it is likely that he was descended from David’s (high?) priest Abiathar, and so from Eli, the last high priest of Shiloh (1 Kings 2:27). 

          "Such an ancestry would do much to explain Jeremiah’s profound feeling for Israel’s ancient traditions" (John Bright, Jeremiah, 2d ed. The Anchor Bible, 1965. lxxxviii). 

           Abiathar was deposed by Solomon for supporting Adonijah’s rebellion, and replaced by Zadok and his descendants.  We cannot say for certain that Jeremiah was ever a practicing priest.


Jeremiah may have begun his prophetic ministry in Anathoth, since Jer 11:21 reports that the town’s inhabitants sought to kill him.  It’s not clear when he moved the three miles to Jerusalem, given the few dates in the book.   In Jer 25:2-3, in the year 605, he said to the people of Judah and Jerusalem that he had been bringing them the word of the Lord for 23 years.  From the beginning, his words were addressed to the nation and its leaders (Jer 1:18).  Forbidden to marry (Jer 16:2), and entrusted with a message that struck many of his countrymen as treasonable, Jeremiah lived a lonely and difficult life.  He called himself:

          "a man with whom the whole land strives and contends!... everyone curses me" (Jer 15:10).


Jeremiah lived through the reigns of 5 kings:

          Josiah (640-609)
          Jehoahaz (609)
          Jehoiakim or Eliakim (609-598)
          Jehoiachin or Jeconiah (598-597)
          Zedekiah or Mattaniah (597-586)


Jeremiah lived an unknown period of time after the last king was taken captive.  Chapters 41-44 describe the aftermath of Jerusalem’s fall.  Nebuchadnezzar appointed a Jewish governor of Judah, Gedaliah.  But he was assassinated after just a couple of months.  Despite a clear prophecy from Jeremiah not to do so, the other leaders fled to Egypt, taking with them Jeremiah and his scribe, Baruch (Jer 42:18-23Jer 43:1-7).  Because of their disobedience and renewed idolatry, Jeremiah declared that few of them would return to Judah (Jer 44:28). 


This is the last we hear of the prophet himself.  The next six chapters of the book (46-51) are a collection of oracles against the nations.  The final chapter is a history of the fall of Jerusalem, which is paralleled in 2 Kings 24 and 25.         

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