About the Author
J. I. Packer (1926–2020) served as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College. He authored numerous books, including the classic best seller Knowing God. Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version Bible and as theological editor for the ESV Study Bible.
Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) is chief publishing officer and Bible publisher at Crossway. He serves as an editor for the Knowing the Bible series and the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series, and is the author of several books, including Gentle and Lowly and Edwards on the Christian Life. He is an elder at Naperville Presbyterian Church in Naperville, Illinois. Dane lives with his wife, Stacey, and their five children in Wheaton, Illinois.
Lane T. Dennis (PhD, Northwestern University) is CEO of Crossway, formerly called Good News Publishers. Before joining Good News Publishers in 1974, he served as a pastor in campus ministry at the University of Michigan (Sault Ste. Marie) and as the managing director of Verlag Grosse Freude in Switzerland. He is the author and/or editor of three books, including the Gold Medallion-award-winning book Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer, and he is the former chairman of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Dennis has served as the chairman of the ESV (English Standard Version) Bible Translation Oversight Committee and as the executive editor of the ESV Study Bible. Lane and his wife, Ebeth, live in Wheaton, Illinois.
Read an Excerpt
Jeremiah was born into a priestly family and raised in the small town of Anathoth (1:1), located in the tribal allotment of Benjamin, a few miles northeast of Jerusalem. God called him to be a prophet while still a young man, in 627 BC (1:2, 6), and set him "over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant" (1:10). His repeated calls for repentance and his criticism of Judah's kings led to a life of significant persecution. Yet for more than 40 years Jeremiah spoke the word of God to the southern kingdom of Judah as it ran headlong toward God's judgment of exile in 587/586 BC.
God's condemnation of Judah's idolatry takes place on the stage of world history. The Babylonians were God's instrument of judgment on Judah for repeatedly breaking the covenant (21:8–10), but they too must pay for their wickedness (50:1–51:64). None of the surrounding nations will escape the Lord's judgment on all the earth (46:1–49:39). Yet those who turn from their sins and trust in the Lord will be saved, Jew and Gentile alike (3:6–4:4).
God's message through Jeremiah, however, was not one solely of judgment, but of hope as well. In fact, the bleakness of Judah's sin sets the backdrop for the beauty of God's promised salvation through a righteous Branch from the line of David who will not only reign in righteousness but will be our righteousness (23:5–6). Days will come when God will make a new covenant in which he will forgive sin and write his law on the hearts of his people (31:31–34).
Jeremiah shows us that the Lord truly abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness, while at the same time he remains perfectly just by punishing sin (compare Ex. 34:6–7). Through judgment God will save a faithful remnant and establish a new covenant with them through a descendant of David. (For further background, see the ESV Study Bible, pages 1363–1368; available online at www.esvbible.org.)
Placing It in the Larger Story
Jeremiah served during a significant transition in salvation history. Although his ministry began during the reign of the last faithful king (Josiah), he eventually saw God fulfill his long-standing promise of judgment on Judah for its covenant unfaithfulness. But it was during these dark days that God promised not only to bring a remnant back to the land but also to institute a new covenant through a faithful Davidic king. These promises find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the Son of David who established a new covenant through his death and resurrection.
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jer. 31:31–34)
Date and Historical Background
Jeremiah's ministry spanned more than 40 years, from his call to be a prophet in 627 BC through the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 and extending into the early years of the exile. His scribe Baruch recorded Jeremiah's messages and prophecies, likely compiled in their final form by 550 BC. King Josiah (640–609 BC), the last faithful king, instituted a number of reforms, but they were not enough to turn Judah from the path of destruction. Caught in the power struggle between Egypt and Babylon, Judah struggled to maintain its independence. In 605 BC Babylon took the first wave of exiles (including Daniel and his friends; Dan. 1:1–7), and deported a second group in 597 (including Ezekiel; Ezek. 1:1–3). The final straw came in 587/586 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, destroyed the city and its temple, and took a large number of exiles back to Babylon. Jeremiah was among those left in Jerusalem. But when a group of Judeans killed the Babylonian-appointed governor, Gedaliah, those responsible fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah and Baruch with them against their will. Jeremiah continued his prophetic ministry there, prophesying against the sins of Judah, Egypt, Babylon, and other nations, and presumably he died there as well.
I. Introduction (1:1–19)
A. Jeremiah's historical setting (1:1–3)
B. Jeremiah's call and message (1:4–16)
C. God's promised protection of Jeremiah (1:17–19)
II. Israel's Covenantal Adultery (2:1–6:30)
A. Israel as a faithless spouse (2:1–3:5)
B. Israel's need to repent (3:6–4:4)
C. The coming disaster (4:5–31)
D. Judah's unwillingness to repent and its consequences (5:1–31)
E. God's rejection of his people (6:1–30)
III. False Religion and an Idolatrous People (7:1–10:25)
A. Judah's improper reliance on the temple (7:1–8:3)
B. Judah rejects God's Torah (8:4–17)
C. Judah's deceit (8:18–9:9)
D. Jeremiah's grief (9:10–26)
E. Judah's idolatry (10:1–16)
F. Judah's future exile (10:17–25)
IV. Jeremiah's Struggles with God and Judah (11:1–20:18)
A. Jeremiah's surprise (11:1–12:17)
B. Jeremiah's lament (13:1–15:21)
C. Jeremiah's renewal (16:1–17:18)
D. Jeremiah's burden (17:19–18:23)
E. Jeremiah's suffering (19:1–20:18)
V. Jeremiah's Confrontations (21:1–29:32)
A. Judah's kings (21:1–23:8)
B. False prophets (23:9–40)
C. Judah's people (24:1–25:38)
D. False belief (26:1–29:32)
VI. Restoration for Judah and Israel (30:1–33:26)
A. Restoration (30:1–24)
B. New covenant (31:1–40)
C. Return to the Promised Land (32:1–44)
D. Davidic covenant (33:1–26)
VII. God's Judgment on Judah (34:1–45:5)
A. God's faithfulness and Judah's infidelity (34:1–35:19)
B. Rejection of God's word (36:1–32)
C. Jerusalem's last days (37:1–39:18)
D. Judah's futile rebellion against Babylon (40:1–41:18)
E. Judah's futile rebellion against God (42:1–45:5)
VIII. God's Judgment on the Nations (46:1–51:64)
A. Egypt (46:1–28)
B. Philistia (47:1–7)
C. Moab (48:1–47)
D. Many nations (49:1–39)
E. Babylon (50:1–51:64)
IX. Conclusion: The Fall of Jerusalem (52:1–34)
A. Jerusalem's fall and Zedekiah's blinding (52:1–11)
B. Destruction of the temple (52:12–23)
C. Exiling of the people (52:24–30)
D. Continuation of the Davidic lineage (52:31–34)
As You Get Started
Based on your current understanding of Jeremiah, what are some of its key themes? Are there particular passages or verses that come to mind when you think about the book?
Take some time to read through 2 Kings 22–25, which records events during the lifetime of Jeremiah. Write down some observations about key events, the leaders of Judah, and its people.
What aspects of Jeremiah are you most looking forward to studying? Are there any specific questions that you hope to have answered through this study?
As You Finish This Unit ...
Take a few minutes to ask God to bless you with increased understanding and a transformed heart and life as you begin this study of Jeremiah.
1 Exile – Several relocations of large groups of Israelites/Jews have occurred throughout history, but "the exile" typically refers to the Babylonian exile, that is, Nebuchadnezzar's relocation of residents of the southern kingdom of Judah to Babylon in 586 BC (residents of the northern kingdom of Israel had been resettled by Assyria in 722 BC). After Babylon came under Persian rule, several waves of Jewish exiles returned and repopulated Judah.
2 Covenant – A binding agreement between two parties, typically involving a formal statement of their relationship, a list of stipulations and obligations for both parties, a list of witnesses to the agreement, and a list of curses for unfaithfulness and blessings for faithfulness to the agreement.CHAPTER 2
The Place of the Passage
This opening chapter introduces us to the prophet Jeremiah and foreshadows his ministry. After the historical stage is set (1:1–3), God calls Jeremiah to be his prophet to the nations (vv. 4–16). By putting his words in Jeremiah's mouth, God appoints him "over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant" (v. 10). Fulfilling this ministry will cause Jeremiah great suffering, but God promises to protect him (vv. 17–19).
The Big Picture
Jeremiah 1:1–19 shows Jeremiah's commission to speak God's words of judgment and restoration to Judah and the nations.
Reflection and Discussion
Read through the complete passage for this study, Jeremiah 1:1–19. Then review the questions below concerning this introductory section to Jeremiah and write your notes on them. (For further background, see the ESV Study Bible, pages 1369–1371; available online at www.esvbible.org.)
1. Jeremiah's Historical Setting (1:1–3)
Like many other prophetic books, Jeremiah begins with a list of kings who reigned during his 40-year ministry. Josiah (640–609 BC) was the last good king of Judah, instituting a number of reforms (2 Kings 23:1–25). Jeremiah was called in the thirteenth year of Josiah's reign (627 BC); according to 2 Chronicles 34:1–7, what reforms had Josiah begun the year before? Based on Jeremiah 1:13–16, what should we conclude about the effectiveness of these reforms?
2. Jeremiah's Call and Message (1:4–16)
God begins his call to Jeremiah by saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you" (1:5). Why do you think God begins in this way? What effect do you think these words would have had on Jeremiah?
Jeremiah initially responds to God's call by protesting, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth" (1:6). Like Moses (Ex. 3:1–4:16) and Solomon (1 Kings 3:5–9) before him, Jeremiah was overwhelmed by God's call. How does God reassure him (Jer. 1:9)?
After reassuring Jeremiah in verses 7–8, "the LORD put out his hand and touched" the prophet's mouth (v. 9). God did a similar thing when calling the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 6:1–7). In Isaiah this act symbolizes God's cleansing Isaiah of his sin. What does this act symbolize here in Jeremiah?
According to Jeremiah 1:10, God calls Jeremiah "to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." Look up how these same word pairs are used in 18:7–11; 31:27–30; and 45:1–4. Based on these passages, what do these phrases mean?
In 1:11, God shows Jeremiah an almond (Heb. shaqed) branch, then in verse 12 he tells him, "I am watching over [Heb. shoqed] my word to perform it." As the first tree to bud in the spring, the almond tree was said to "watch for spring." What does the imagery of the almond branch tell us about God's commitment to his word and to Jeremiah his prophet? How would this reassure Jeremiah?
God shows Jeremiah a second vision, that of a "boiling pot, facing away from the north" (1:13). The boiling pot symbolizes "the tribes of the kingdom of the north" (i.e., Babylon) who will surround the cities of Judah, including Jerusalem (vv. 14–15). Why is God allowing this? What has Judah done to provoke God's judgment?
3. God's Promised Protection of Jeremiah (1:17–19)
God acknowledges that Jeremiah's commission is a difficult one. What four commands does the Lord give Jeremiah (1:17)? What is the meaning of the imagery of verse 18? What is the relationship between God's command to Jeremiah and what God promises to "make" him?
Jeremiah's commission to speak the words God puts in his mouth will not make him popular. According to 1:18–19, who will oppose Jeremiah? What two things does God promise Jeremiah in response?
Read through the following three sections on Gospel Glimpses, Whole-Bible Connections, and Theological Soundings. Then take time to consider the Personal Implications these sections may have for you.
GOD DELIVERS HIS PEOPLE. Just as the Lord promised to deliver Jeremiah from his many enemies (Jer. 1:8, 19), so too Jesus Christ delivers us from our greatest enemies — sin, death, and the Devil. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has freed us from our sins (Rom. 6:1–11), removed the sting of death (1 Cor. 15:51–57), and crushed the head of the great serpent, Satan (Gen. 3:15; Luke 4:1–13; Col. 2:15). God's promise of deliverance sustained Jeremiah amid his suffering. How much more should we draw encouragement from what God has done for us in Jesus amid our own suffering?
GOD'S PLANS ENCOMPASS THE NATIONS. God did not raise up Jeremiah as a prophet merely for Judah; instead he appointed him "over nations and over kingdoms" (Jer. 1:5, 10). God promised to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3), and that promise finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. He is the promised descendant of Abraham who received the inheritance and shares it with all who are united to him by faith, regardless of their ethnicity (Gal. 3:6–29). Through his redeemed people God will take the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:18–20).(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Knowing the Bible: Jeremiah, A 12-Week Study"
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Table of Contents
Series Preface J. I. Packer Lane T. Dennis 6
Week 1 Overview 7
Week 2 Introduction (1:1-19) 13
Week 3 Israel's Covenantal Adultery (2:1-6:30) 21
Week 4 False Religion and an Idolatrous People (7:1-10:25) 27
Week 5 Jeremiah's Struggles with God and Judah (11:1-20:18) 35
Week 6 Jeremiahs Confrontations (21:1-29:32) 43
Week 7 Restoration for Judah and Israel (30:1-33:26) 51
Week 8 God Judges Judah, Part 1: The Last Days of Judah (34:1-39:18) 59
Week 9 God Judges Judah, Part 2: The First Days of Exile (40:1-45:5) 67
Week 10 God's Judgment on the Nations (46:1-51:64) 75
Week 11 Conclusion: The Fall of Jerusalem (52:1-34) 83
Week 12 Summary and Conclusion 91
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