Jeremiah was a Jewish priest who lived in the Southern kingdom of Judah just before and during its exile to Babylon. The book of Jeremiah is a collection of the prophet’s sermons, poems and other writings, as well as Jeremiah’s scribe’s writings about him.
The book begins with God calling Jeremiah to be a prophet to both Israel and all the nations. In Jeremiah 1:10, God says that Jeremiah’s words will “uproot and tear down … destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
God’s message through Jeremiah contains both judgment and hope.
Chapters 1-24 tell of Israel’s broken covenant with God. They have failed to follow His commands and worship Him alone, and the land is full of injustice and hypocrisy. Their leaders have given into corruption and, as a result, the land is full of poverty, mistreatment of vulnerable people like orphans, widows and immigrants, and even slavery. The people go to the Temple to worship and offer sacrifices like everything is fine, but outside the Temple, they worship other gods—some even practiced child sacrifice.
Because of all this corruption, God’s judgment is coming. He will destroy His Temple and punish Israel by sending an enemy from the north (Babylon) to take them captive.
Everything that follows in Jeremiah focuses on this coming attack, first against Israel in chapters 26 to 45, and then against the other nations in chapters 46 to 51.
Chapters 26 to 45 begin and end with messages of judgment, but in the middle, Jeremiah tells stories of Israel’s hope for the future. God speaks through Jeremiah that He will renew His covenant with His people and transform their hearts.
Jeremiah proclaims that a day will come when Israel will return to their land, the Messiah King will come, and all the nations will recognize the God of Israel as the One, true God.
In chapters 50 and 51, Jeremiah pronounces God’s judgment against Babylon. Although God used this nation to execute His divine justice, He does not endorse the nation’s sin. Babylon, too, will come under God’s judgment.
In the last chapter, Jeremiah retells the story of Jerusalem’s destruction and hope for the future also found in 2 Kings 25. Babylon attacks Jerusalem and destroys the city walls and the Temple. God’s judgment foretold by Jeremiah was fulfilled. But while the Israelites are in exile in Babylon, the Babylonian king shows favor to the man who would have been king of Israel—Jehoiachin. He releases him from prison and offers him a seat at the king’s banquet table for the rest of his life.
Idolatry: Jeremiah spends a lot of time discussing Israel and the surrounding nations’ idolatry, or worshiping other gods in place of God.
Jeremiah compares their idolatry, especially Israel’s, with adultery. Like a husband and wife are bound to each other in marriage, Israel is bound to God by the covenant He made with Abraham in Genesis 12.
But over and over, Israel has broken that covenant by rejecting God and worshiping idols.
Divine justice and grace: Like the other prophets, Jeremiah’s messages contain both warnings of God’s judgment and proclamations of hope for the future.
Jeremiah’s writings help us see that God’s judgment is not cruel, but just and fair. And His future restoration of Israel is full of grace (Jeremiah 29-31).
Jeremiah 1:4-10, 25, 29-31
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
Jeremiah preaches the hope that despite Israel’s idolatry and corruption, God has not given up on them.
God does not allow sin to go unpunished; He is perfectly holy and just. But He is also the God of all faithfulness, and He will fulfill His promises.